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Brahma by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Discussion in 'Poetry' started by atanu, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. atanu

    atanu Member
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    Ralph Waldo Emerson said "In all my lectures I have taught one doctrine, namely, the infinitude of the private man." The poem 'Brahma' is the best example of Emerson's doctrine of Transcendentalism.

    Brahma
    BY RALPH WALDO EMERSON
    If the red slayer think he slays,
    Or if the slain think he is slain,
    They know not well the subtle ways
    I keep, and pass, and turn again.

    Far or forgot to me is near;
    Shadow and sunlight are the same;
    The vanished gods to me appear;
    And one to me are shame and fame.

    They reckon ill who leave me out;
    When me they fly, I am the wings;
    I am the doubter and the doubt,
    I am the hymn the Brahmin sings.

    The strong gods pine for my abode,
    And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
    But thou, meek lover of the good!
    Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.​


    So, how do Hindus and non Hindus see the poem?
     
    #1 atanu, Jul 9, 2019
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  2. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    It's only so-so for me.

    I like poetry that has more impact, is more emotional, or adds a new perspective on its subject matter. This is a short poem lacking strong imagery that describes non-duality in a typical manner.

    The most interesting part for me, is the last line of the last stanza:

    "Find me, and turn thy back on heaven."

    What's interesting is, why turn thy back? From a non-dual point of view, turning the back is meaningless. Maybe the line is not speaking about literally "turning thy back", but instead is speaking about turning away from the Abrahamic desire for Heaven. If so, I find that element to be a somewhat nice twist at the end. A little surprise.

    Sorry if that is discouraging, my friend. I am just being honest.

    Perhaps with a title like "Brahma" I am expecting a lot... :rolleyes:
     
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  3. atanu

    atanu Member
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    Why should I be discouraged? Not at all.

    ‘Turn back’ is a famous dictum indicating introversion of mind—to find heaven within. Furthermore, mention of meek lover of the good points to saying of Jesus. Commentators have said that this poem is a fine fusion of Eastern and Western religiosity.
     
    #3 atanu, Jul 9, 2019
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  4. sayak83

    sayak83 Well-Known Member
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    First 4 verses are plagiarized from Gita.
     
  5. atanu

    atanu Member
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    That is the Vedantic understanding of Atman. That way, we can say that Gita plagiarised from Upanishads.

    If the slayer think that he slays, if the slain think that he is slain, neither of them knows the truth. The Self slays not, nor is he slain” (Katha Upanishad 1:2:19).

     
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  6. Jedster

    Jedster Well-Known Member

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    Seems to me that the the 'speaker' is Brahman and the line
    "I am neither Hindu nor non-Hindu" would well fit in the poem.
     
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  7. The Anointed

    The Anointed Well-Known Member

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    Well what do you think of this one mate?

    BRAHM
    A spectral film that came and went,
    In its elusive way gave vent
    In some unreal words which meant;
    'I think therefore I am.'
    That phantasm only thought it thought;
    A vain conception crudely wrought;
    An egotistic sham.
    Which brings us up against the fact
    By Chunder's attestation backed —
    There is no Substance, Thought, nor Act
    Nothing exists but Brahm.

    This quaint contraption here below
    Is not a magic shadow show
    Where phantom figures come and go,
    As held by old Khayyam.
    A show has time and space enough,
    But here we only have such stuff
    As dreams are made of — mental fluff
    And visionary flam,
    Throughout the universal scheme,
    Be sure things tare not what they seem,
    (To quote a well-known psalm)
    They're only whimsies of a dream
    A transient dream of Brahm.

    All through the cycles of the Past
    At which Notation stands aghast
    He has subsisted, first and last,
    Lone, functionless and calm.
    Nothing extraneous can obtrude
    Upon his Sabbath quietude,
    Or discompose his tranquil mood,
    For nothing is but Brahm.
    'The Past and Present here unite
    Beneath Time's flowing tide' (to cite
    A Bard of Uncle Sam)
    For Time stretched out in aeons dim
    To Apprehension's very rim,
    Is insignificant to him
    A Bagetelle to Brahm.

    For once in his negation deep,
    He somehow chanced to drop asleep;
    And through that forty-wings there ran
    A flitting dream. So time began —
    He dreamed this stellar lens of ours,
    Which mocks at telescopic powers
    Innumerable suns sublime,
    At furious speed yet keeping time!
    And so remote that to the eye,
    They look like fixtures in the sky,
    But that's a trifle. Round about
    A million light-years further out,
    The wisps of nebular portend.
    Sidereal schemes without an end
    And this is no poetic flight
    Nor idiotic blatherskite,
    Nor what is termed a cram.
    However vast these plans may seem,
    They're only figments of a dream
    A trifling dream of Brahm.

    He dreamed our System's fiery gas
    Condensing into solid mass;
    And during several billion years,
    Evolving planetary spheres.
    But take this globe, alone, to prove
    How things have moved — or seemed to move.
    He dreamed some pulpy form of life:
    Mutation slow; and savage strife:
    With Nature's forces all in play,
    And Darwin's system under way;
    While bits of hide and tufts of hair
    For countless centuries fill'd the air;
    And only those were left alive
    Whose fitness caused them to survive.

    Monsters that lived in Gulfs of slime
    With names that balk and baffle rhyme
    Prodigious sloths, whose daily food
    Was half a ton of leaves and wood —
    Grim saurians of terrific strength,
    A quarter of a mile in length,
    Unsightly bats, with twelve-foot wings,
    And endless tribes of fearsome things
    Cull'd down, in point of fact, so fit
    That they should thrive in Sheol's pit
    And breathe its exhalations thick,
    Holding their own with Ancient Nick.


    And so, while ocean bottoms rose
    To stand awhile as high plateaus
    And mountains sank beneath the main,
    To rise time after time again:
    And rocks were formed, and strata rent
    And Polar ice-caps came and went;
    And geological ages pass'd
    Each an improvement on the last;
    And on the wrinkled crust of earth
    More decent forms of life had birth;

    Man was evolved a product queer;
    A breed that it would pay to sheer;
    And which it might be safe to say,
    Has reached a higher stage to-day
    Since restless generations gone
    Have passed a few ideas on.
    But, bear in mind, this human race
    Diverse in colour, smell, and face;
    These off-shoots from the simian stem
    The Sons of Japheth and of Shem,
    The progeny of Ham.
    With mongrel races that infest
    The isles and mainlands, east and west,
    From Chili to Siam,
    Are less than ripples in a stream,
    They're only ripples on a dream
    Namely the dream of BRAHM.

    Even that race, divinely nursed,
    Which for its virtues has been cursed
    And booted into seven times seven
    By every nation under Heaven
    The seed of Abraham;
    And those brave lions in their den
    Each one a match for aliens ten,
    With fist or rifle, bat or pen
    I mean God's modest Englishmen,
    Whose very fog is balm;
    These are less tangible withal
    Than shadowy rabbits on the wall
    Nothing exists but BRAHM.

    Our swarming brethren of the North
    Whatever you may judge them worth
    Sling Muck and Soogoo Ram,
    Are fantoids like yourself and me,
    Though differing somewhat in degree
    Nothing exists but BRAHM.

    That Fatman, dining at his club,
    On costly wet and sumptuous grub;
    The pilgrims in the roadside pub;
    The washerwoman at her tub;
    And Jacky in his native scrub,
    On bandicoot and yam
    Are momentary sports of thought
    That flicker out and come to nought
    In this brief dream of BRAHM.

    Illusion in the very air
    (If such an envelope were there);
    And things that seem to claim your care
    Your Wife, with her untidy hair:
    And Grandma, in her easy chair:
    And baby in the pram —
    Are all a visionary crew
    Which fact need never worry you,
    For you're an apparition too,
    Nothing exists but BRAHM.

    But flies are in the ointment sweet,
    And jumpers in the cheese we eat,
    And maggots in the treacherous meat;
    And mildew on the jam.
    That is to say, we might complain
    Of many a kink in things mundane;
    Of barbarisms that still remain
    For instance 'Sport' imposing pain;
    Monarchial 'loyalty' inane;
    The gnats at which the Wowsers strain;
    The camels that they entertain:
    Sectarian bigotry insane.
    The ruthless quest of sordid gain —
    A sad, perennial stream of bane,
    Which only in a sense profane
    We're competent to dam.
    The feckless poet's cult of grog:
    The idle bummer's cadge for prog;
    The stern official's odious 'gog'
    The flunkey's meek Salaam —
    Such provocations, daily met,
    And grounds of meddlesome regret,
    Shall find their panacea yet;
    With ratling promptitude you bet,
    In this same dream of BRAHM.

    Unquestionably, no one knows
    The likely period of his doze;
    But this we know that when he wakes
    We vanish in a brace of shakes;
    Without dismay or qualm.
    The earth, the sun, and every star
    Shall vanish like the freaks they are;
    The corn and oil, the flower and grass,
    The fig and vine, shall simply pass,
    The eucalypt and palm:
    The microbe small, the ponderous whale;
    The greyhound swift, the tardy snail;
    The lion and the lamb;
    The sand and granite, quartz and schist,
    Shall vanish like a so-called mist
    Which the fictitious sun has kiss'd
    (Of course they never did exist),
    NOTHING EXISTS BUT BRAHM.

    Joseph Furphy
     
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  8. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    Could you explain briefly how Atman is different in the Upanishads and the Gita? I've read both of them, but haven't studied them in detail. The Upanishads look diverse and inconsistent compared to the Gita, but possibly that's just an initial impression.
     
  9. sayak83

    sayak83 Well-Known Member
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    Still...a bit of cribbing for a poet :p
     
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  10. atanu

    atanu Member
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    Atman is not different in Upanishads and in Gita. The former is Sruti (what is heard by sages in space) and the latter is smriti (remembered in mind). The smriti cannot contradict the Sruti.

    Atman (self) is actually non dual and same as brahman in Vedantic Upanishads and in Gita. Both the upanishads and the Gita however present atman to seekers at three levels: dualism, qualified non dualism, and non dualism. The dualists believe that God, who is the creator of the universe and its ruler, is eternally separate from nature and eternally separate from the human soul. God is eternal; nature is eternal; so are all souls. Qualified non dualist aver that God, nature, and the soul, are one. God is, as it were, the Soul, and nature and souls are the body of God. For non dualist, God, the pure, the spirit, has become the universe only apparently. That which all ignorant people see as the universe does not really exist. What are you and I and all these things we see? Mere self-hypnotism; there is but one Existence, the Infinite, the Ever-blessed One.

    Support for all three modes can be found in both the upanishads and the Gita but the final teaching is that non dual brahman is the truth and atman is that.
     
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  11. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    Magnificent.
     
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