Science is yet to arrive at a final definition of life. It still
divides everything into the living and the dead. But poets of lore
treated it as a continuous flow from the life of the universe to the
life of the tiniest sub-atomic particle and back. They experienced it
and gave expression to the experience. The Vedas and the Upanishads
are collections of these expressions.
The art of yoga is the way to the experience, the essence of which is
the process and the product of integration of one’s life with the life
of the universe.
Fusion is the key word. Fusion of light with darkness, hate with love,
knowledge with ignorance and so on. It is highly rewarding. Art and
literature are means to it.
In the oriental tradition of aesthetics, beauty is the state of an
appreciable standard of integration. The greater it is, the more
beautiful. The most beautiful is the perfectly integrated. It is the
goal of life and the unmanifest persuasion behind all variations and
explorations. So poetry like any other human endeavour should aspire
to achieve it.
Dr. Balakrishnan’s poems do exactly that. His training and experience
makes him amply qualified. He is a physician, he has seen various
specimens of integration or the lack of it in terms of body parts and
emotional inputs. He has apparently had his holy bath in texts of
yore, the essence of the teachings going into him much deeper than
skin. He knows, not just by theory but by practice too.
Well, what is the eternal? None else than the only factor that
continues unchanged and unchangeable in us all through our lives and
beyond. There is proof for the existence of such a factor. It can be
discerned by four simple questions and the common-sense answers to
them. Q.1: Is it or is it not right to suppose that there is an
underlying force behind this vast and complicated universe? None can
say it is not there. Q.2: Where can that force be residing - in a
corner of the universe or everywhere in it simultaneously? Everywhere
is the natural answer. Q.3: Should that force not be in us too as we
too are in the universe? Of course, it should. Q.4: In that case,
everything else in us being ephemeral, is it not the real us? The
answer is the mahavakya ‘Tat Twam Asi’.
The problem is it is beyond words so all verbal effort to grasp it
will come to nothing. But words can take us to its door step. This is
what Dr. Balakrishnan’s poetry does. And he does it beautifully.
Mystic poets and Zen story tellers did the same in their own style.
This poet does it in the style of our time.
Dhwani (hidden import, internal echo) is considered the essence of
poetry by Ananda Vardhana the ancient Indian authority on literary
aesthetics, the author of Dhwanyaloka. He looks for dhwani at four
levels in a poem: at the word level, at the metaphor level, at the
emotional level and at last at the philosophical level or the
visionary level. Good marks at the first level is the minimum
requirement, average performance at the second level the sign of
refinement of craft, success at the third level the sign of
proficiency and merit at the fourth level is the final hall mark.
The sage then proceeds to evaluate with this yardstick all poets known
up to that day. He finds no more than two or three qualifying! A
Valmiki, a Vyasa and a Kalidasa. Note that this reckoning was made
during the first century AD – after all major works known in Sanskrit
literature had already been in vogue.
The world has had thousands of poets since then. It will be
interesting to apply this ancient acid test to them. It is obvious
that the emerging rank list is unlikely to contain more than a few.
This Indian sage of old who evaluated the entirety of then known world
of letters considered all writing as poetry. So the stock taking
covers the entire spectrum of the written word.
In this context, it is gratifying that the poems in The Waves of the
Ganga generate internal echoes of the Upanishads in various
interesting ways. They make the passage of eternal time felt within,
the waves on its surface formulating the phenomenal material world
otherwise known as Maya; science, technology and all other vessels on
the surface of the waters tending to discover the depth and quality of
the flow at long last, the sea – the final destination - echoing in
the distance, the ever-repeating cycle of creation and demolition –
the sea, the evaporation, the cloud, the mountain, the rain, the flow
and the sea again – and the eternal underlying unity.
This poet follows the footprints of Yeats and Tagore with the added
advantage of awareness of later and explosive developments in science
and technology and, together with it, first hand experience of decades
in observing, diagnosing and ameliorating pain.
I am happy that these poems have been written.
*preface to dr k g balakrishnan's waves of ganga