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Eileen Reviews: Radha’s Cosmic Poetry

April 24, 2010 by Eileen

As the Ashram celebrates its 47th anniversary, Eileen Pearkes takes time out in her garden to savor the poetry of Swami Radha. In this review of when you first called me radha, Eileen digs deep revealing the gems of Light of Swami Radha‘s poetry and the heart questions of a woman whose life was dedicated to the Most High.

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when you first called me radha, selected verse written by Swami Sivananda Radha from the 1950s onward, offers an intimate and yet universal view of her mind and heart.  Her successor Swami Radhananda has called Swami Radha’s poems “diamond sparks.” Like that precious stone, the poems emit a Light that is at once clear and complex, direct and mysterious.

I settle in to a chair in my garden to read the poems through in one sitting.  Their simple structure and ordinary language defy their complexity.  I know I am missing much of the meaning as I read one after another, rarely pausing, allowing each poem to pile upon the one before. But I want to feel the texture of the book as a whole, to absorb a cadence in the words that rush past.

Of all forms of writing, poetry sits most closely to the soul, attempting to capture what is often too great for words to express. Working within this paradox, poetry searches at the margins of ideas, concepts or beliefs.  As a record of Radha’s spiritual search, the poems appropriately contain many questions. “Where is my heart and what happened to it? Have I lived before? Where am I to go?  Are the dewdrops tears of joy?”

I leave the chair to dig in my garden, reflecting on the curiosity that riddles these poems, a lifetime of questions distilled into a chosen handful. Radha’s curiosity moves at times into uncertainty, something that may be inevitable when human thoughts go beneath the surface of life.  The trowel in my hand digs deep, then lifts and overturns the soil. “What is my foundation?”, she asks in one poem. In another, “Are my building stones honesty, devotion, humility? Is sincerity the binding force?”

I pick out shreds of weed and small stones, fluffing the soil and bringing a damp whiff of fertility up to meet the Light.

Eileen Pearkes at her home gardening

I return to my garden chair and re-read the poems a second time, taking longer.  Then, I read them again.  when you first call me radha records so many personal moments: Swami Radha’s love affair with the Divine, her struggle and self-doubt, her soulful inquiries. Over the next several days, I read a chosen few many more times.  I experience a predictable admiration for Radha’s leadership and strength, but also something new: I now see the tender and vulnerable nature of her humanity, her brave effort to cultivate greater meaning in her life.

It has often seemed to me that Swami Radha’s accomplishments greatly exceeded her biography. On the surface, she was like many immigrants who came to Canada in the post-WWII period. She escaped difficult circumstances.  She learned a new language, managed to find work and eventually learned to call Canada home.  And yet remarkably, not long after she arrived in Canada she began to cultivate an inner life, to dig down into the cosmic soil. The result of her effort gradually overwhelmed the biographical facts of her life.  Sylvia Hellman became Radha, founder of Yasodhara Ashram and a pioneer yogini in the West.  The garden she cultivated still blooms with abandon.

The poems speak of the moon and the sun, fog and wind and rainbows.  They describe dazzling Maya, a white bird, and the pearl of Krishna.  They are rich with images that dance through my mind as I dig my way across my own humble garden, grateful for the shape of darkness, the constitution of Light.

Diamond sparks, indeed.

1 Comment »

  1. Beautifully put, Eileen. Thank you.

    Comment by Terri — April 24, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

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