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Books > Hindu > The Mute Clay (An Epic Story of A Strong, Pure Spirit)
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The Mute Clay (An Epic Story of A Strong, Pure Spirit)
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The Mute Clay (An Epic Story of A Strong, Pure Spirit)
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About the Book

 

In this tumultuous and at the same time reflective story, the mute clay is a symbol. It represents an individual who ardently seeks her release from a life of ignorance and sin. She submits herself to her illuminator and destiny-shaper, an expert potmaker, and goes through purgatorial fires. The clay is moulded with great loving care into an auspicious pot. But this is only half of the journey and the beginning of adventures to uphold the righteous and down the devil. The passage before and after the clay's transformation is peopled with forces lined up for and against. The narrative exposes the reader to lessons from Jain scripture, nay all scripture.

 

About the Author

 

Acharya Vidyasagar (b. 10 October 1946) is Kannada by birth but uses Hindi proficiently as also Sanskrit, Prakrit, Kannada, Marathi and English. Initiated as a jain naked monk by his guru Acharya Gyansagar on 22 November 1972, in the lineage of Acharaya Shantisagar, he has numerous disciples himself. He has written extensively in Hindi and Sanskrit, and his other publications include Narmada-ke Narm Kankar (Soft Grains of the Narmada), Guruvani (Guruspeak), several collections of discourses, and a number of shataks ( collections of a hundred verses) on spiritual" themes. He has also translated about twenty religious books in verse form. Presently he grooms his disciples, discourses, and inspires religious and social activities.

 

About the Translator Omprakash Biyani Bhaarati (b. 2 June 1955) was a professor of English at SIES College, Mumbai and Dhanwate National College, Nagpur. He is an internationally published and awarded poet and fiction writer, writing in Hindi, English and Marathi. He also writes for the audio- visual media, with a strong spiritual bias. He has translated Swami Ranganathananda, Ramakrishna Mission global president's Upanishad commentary into Hindi. His religious writings include Raamaayan for Bright Young Hearts, Vandanalaya (a collection of aaratis) and Mahavir ko Smar (a collection of Jain hymns).

 

Preface

 

This epic portrays on a cosmic canvas the trials of lowly clay in trying to attain stardom of the spirit. One fine morning she laments her sin-splattered state - all too human, of course - and tearfully prays to her mother the earth for a way out. A strong will creates its own vibrations in space and authors circumstance. The mother reassuringly prophecies that her shaper, her destiny-maker, will take her in his fold within a day. And so he does. The guru is an exalted soul, free from passions, kind of heart, but an uncompromising taskmaster.

 

Then begins the process of digging the clay, transporting it on donkey-back, sifting it, kneading it, shaping it into a pitcher on a wheel, inscribing it with scriptural symbols and messages, and heating it in the dire flames of a kiln. As this takes place, we meet a gallery of characters - some cooperating, some raising heckles, some obtruding, some warring - and a constant struggle goes on all the way between favourable and adverse forces.

 

The motives and arguments of these characters enable the story to elucidate many types of false perception as well as to bring to life entities with varying degrees of spiritual aura: the donkey that carries the clay comes across as a quiet collaborator; the fish in the potter's well that wants to be metamorphosed instantly into a swan as an impatient aspirant; the sea that scents the rise of a good soul with jealous intolerance as an arch-evil in the order of things; and the sun who counterattacks the sea as a stalwart keeper of goodness. The clay is enlightened enough even at the start of her journey to preach the misarguing grains and the overeager fish. But in advising a greedy king, she oversteps her limit and comes in for a mild reproof from her guru not to preach to one's elders. This foible gives the clay another humanizing touch.

 

The asphyxiating heat in the kiln and the vicious, viscous smoke drive the very life out of the pitcher. He wails for relief, for water, for dear life. This comes as still another humanizing touch in the characterization of the epic hero who might otherwise cross into the realm of an embodiment of goody-goody perfection.

 

After the clay's transformation into a pitcher, one more major character is introduced - a rich, benign, Godward merchant. He dreams an auspicious dream about a pitcher and sends his man to buy one. This is a second instance of a worldwide web connecting our destinies in the sphere of thought. Omens and presentiments very much exist to presage what is to be. The pitcher becomes instrumental in the merchant feeding a pure saint, whereby he earns high merit. This saint is another character (after the potter) from the class of divinized souls. Significantly, the pitcher surrenders his residual ego at this saint's feet. The rest of the nail-biting story concerns the calamities that befall the merchant and his family from the quarter of terroristic forces at home and abroad, and how the victims put up a struggle with the pitcher's help.

 

Obviously, the potmaker's investment of labour and his blessings to the pitcher are meant to be a gift to the society, to uphold the righteous and put down the uppish, but in no case to reject any creature or condemn one. The victory of goodness is meant to assimilate the unfortunate forces of evil and enlighten them. Spiritual regeneration has for its aim not an escape into meditative trance but an active involvement in the woe and weal of suffering humanity, nay, imperilled creature- kind.

 

The Mute Clay as an Epic

The classical Indian criteria for defining an epic and the western ones coincide to a large extent. According to Indian aesthetics, an epic should tell of the mighty deeds of the leader of an era; should detail the life of a nation; should involve demonic or supernatural forces, though ordinary human life should predominate; should contain several subplots, incorporate warfare, long journeys, competitions, debates, discussions on destiny; and should be written in a style that is simple and straight but at the same time appealing, forceful and solemn.

 

According to Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, an epic in western aesthetics is "a narrative poem on a grand scale and in majestic style concerning the exploits and adventures of a supernatural hero (or heroes) engaged in a quest or a serious endeavour. The hero is distinguished above all men by his strength and courage, and is restrained only by a sense of honour." The Columbia Encyclopaedia says, "Some of the conventions, followed by epic writers in varying degrees, include a hero who embodies national, cultural or religious ideals and upon whose actions depends to some degree the fate of the people; a course of great and difficult deeds; the intervention of supernatural or divine powers; concern with eternal human problems; and a dignified and elaborate style."

 

In India, classical Sanskrit epics of the Ramayan and Mahabharat, which tell of the deeds of Lord Ram and Lord Krishna respectively, belong to the divine category. Kalidas's Raghuvansh also narrates the tale of Lord Ram and so does Gosvami Tulsidas's epic Sriramcharitmanas. The Mute Clay is of a different type, though. It unfolds the drama of the clay's spiritual practice - saadhanaa - and then of her adventures in her empowered state.

 

If we juxtapose The Mute Clay with the pre-Christian mega-stories such as Homer's Greek poems Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Latin poem Aeneid, the one major common feature of them all is warfare involving supernatural forces. But The Mute Clay is about the rise from ordinary to sublime. Our epic's storyline is also of a different type from that of modern epics such as Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise lost and Paradise Regained. It has inventively given a new scope to this literary form.

 

The Mute Clay is an epic according to both Indian and western criteria, though one without an exact precedent. It extends the scope of the term while incorporating its defining features. If one were to seek parallels with Lord Ram's or Krishna's story, there is in our present epic a too long and elaborate treatment of the clay's time with her guru. Such lengthy accounts of the avatars I ashram life do not occur in the divine epics. Moreover, the mute clay does not have an avataric status but is like the person next door, with a hidden potential not normally suspected in her. She turns out to be an outstanding specimen of humanity of her time and circumstance. It is a democratic epic that could happen in our time. References to contemporary newsmakers such as Indian satellites Aryabhatta and Rohini and even the Reagan-related Star Wars suggest this. And yet the imagery is taken from rustic and natural world, meticulously free from the use of technological achievements of our time in communication, transport, electricity, etc.

 

If one were to draw parallels with Wordsworth's autobiographical epic- length poem The Prelude, our epic is also an account of an "ordinary" individual's moral and spiritual growth. But Wordsworth's poem is subtly introspective all through, with a minimal of external action. In The Mute Clay, on the other hand, open wars, cataclysms, schemings and counter-schemings abound, with an array of embattled characters drawn from the natural world: elements such as the earth, the sea, the river, the wind, and creatures such as the donkey, the fish, the elephants, the snakes, the whale ... A few of the characters are drawn from the world of artifice, such as the golden ewer, rich foods, garments ... Parts of body also become characters, and so do abstractions such as silence, surprise and the valiant mood.

 

The most important antagonists appear in the human shape, though, in the form of the robbers in the wild who subvert scriptural reasoning with cussed illogic. They represent the human nadir of spiritual evolution, with their hearts full of the most resistant soil for the germination of the seed of faith such as comes naturally to the clay, the fish, the rich merchant. The message is that the ability to believe, the power to foster faith, is a gift that not everybody is endowed with, but holy company helps. But how does holy company come one's way - of its own will or through aspiration - is an eternal conundrum.

 

A Note on the Translation

The original Hindi is textured with a superabundance of verbal figures of speech - puns, alliterations, internal rhymes, inversions - which cannot obviously be translated, especially into a language from another linguistic family. No attempt has been made to twist English to achieve corresponding effects. Only, at places the word-play in the original has been brought out in plain prose, only to give a sample taste of what the Hindi is like. More of it would have hindered the flow without enriching the text. In fact even the line-breaks to give the translation " a poetic look" have been avoided. You could say therefore that this translation has the look of a novel in poetic prose, and what makes the prose poetic is the intensity of feeling and the imaginative quality. After Walt Whitman's poetry with the looks of Conventional prose, and Rabindranath Tagore’s self-translation of Gitanjali, "prose sentences" are finding greater acceptance in the poetic canon, and now there is a regular school of poetry wherein the looks are of prose. It is the librarian's lookout therefore to classify this work as poetry or prose. While the choice of the prose-form presentation derives from a desire to be simple, it equally derives from a desire to make the work look less forbidding to a poetry-shy generation!

 

To minimize the reader's awe at the prospect of negotiating a slow- moving, highly decorative, philosophically dense text, the summary - or the "argument" as in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner - has been extracted section wise and printed in bold type. Such an aid also appears in the Valmiki Ramayan published by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. The sections have been numbered, too, to facilitate referencing. The device of summerizing should, along with the simplicity of the prose, greatly enhance the reading comfort of what is universally regarded as a highly complex poem.

 

Contents

 

1.

Preface

2.

Dedication

3.

The Mute Clay

 

Canto I: Not Sinking but Rising in Caste

 

Canto II: Words are not knowledge, Knowledge is Not Realization

 

Canto III: Nurturing Merit, Washing away Sins

 

Canto IV: The Test by Fire, the Silver-like Ash

4.

Afterword-by Dr. Manju Jain

 

Sample Pages













The Mute Clay (An Epic Story of A Strong, Pure Spirit)

Item Code:
NAJ940
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2014
Publisher:
ISBN:
9788185708386
Language:
English
Size:
10.5 inch x 8.0 inch
Pages:
227 (Throughout B/W and Color Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 700 gms
Price:
$45.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

 

In this tumultuous and at the same time reflective story, the mute clay is a symbol. It represents an individual who ardently seeks her release from a life of ignorance and sin. She submits herself to her illuminator and destiny-shaper, an expert potmaker, and goes through purgatorial fires. The clay is moulded with great loving care into an auspicious pot. But this is only half of the journey and the beginning of adventures to uphold the righteous and down the devil. The passage before and after the clay's transformation is peopled with forces lined up for and against. The narrative exposes the reader to lessons from Jain scripture, nay all scripture.

 

About the Author

 

Acharya Vidyasagar (b. 10 October 1946) is Kannada by birth but uses Hindi proficiently as also Sanskrit, Prakrit, Kannada, Marathi and English. Initiated as a jain naked monk by his guru Acharya Gyansagar on 22 November 1972, in the lineage of Acharaya Shantisagar, he has numerous disciples himself. He has written extensively in Hindi and Sanskrit, and his other publications include Narmada-ke Narm Kankar (Soft Grains of the Narmada), Guruvani (Guruspeak), several collections of discourses, and a number of shataks ( collections of a hundred verses) on spiritual" themes. He has also translated about twenty religious books in verse form. Presently he grooms his disciples, discourses, and inspires religious and social activities.

 

About the Translator Omprakash Biyani Bhaarati (b. 2 June 1955) was a professor of English at SIES College, Mumbai and Dhanwate National College, Nagpur. He is an internationally published and awarded poet and fiction writer, writing in Hindi, English and Marathi. He also writes for the audio- visual media, with a strong spiritual bias. He has translated Swami Ranganathananda, Ramakrishna Mission global president's Upanishad commentary into Hindi. His religious writings include Raamaayan for Bright Young Hearts, Vandanalaya (a collection of aaratis) and Mahavir ko Smar (a collection of Jain hymns).

 

Preface

 

This epic portrays on a cosmic canvas the trials of lowly clay in trying to attain stardom of the spirit. One fine morning she laments her sin-splattered state - all too human, of course - and tearfully prays to her mother the earth for a way out. A strong will creates its own vibrations in space and authors circumstance. The mother reassuringly prophecies that her shaper, her destiny-maker, will take her in his fold within a day. And so he does. The guru is an exalted soul, free from passions, kind of heart, but an uncompromising taskmaster.

 

Then begins the process of digging the clay, transporting it on donkey-back, sifting it, kneading it, shaping it into a pitcher on a wheel, inscribing it with scriptural symbols and messages, and heating it in the dire flames of a kiln. As this takes place, we meet a gallery of characters - some cooperating, some raising heckles, some obtruding, some warring - and a constant struggle goes on all the way between favourable and adverse forces.

 

The motives and arguments of these characters enable the story to elucidate many types of false perception as well as to bring to life entities with varying degrees of spiritual aura: the donkey that carries the clay comes across as a quiet collaborator; the fish in the potter's well that wants to be metamorphosed instantly into a swan as an impatient aspirant; the sea that scents the rise of a good soul with jealous intolerance as an arch-evil in the order of things; and the sun who counterattacks the sea as a stalwart keeper of goodness. The clay is enlightened enough even at the start of her journey to preach the misarguing grains and the overeager fish. But in advising a greedy king, she oversteps her limit and comes in for a mild reproof from her guru not to preach to one's elders. This foible gives the clay another humanizing touch.

 

The asphyxiating heat in the kiln and the vicious, viscous smoke drive the very life out of the pitcher. He wails for relief, for water, for dear life. This comes as still another humanizing touch in the characterization of the epic hero who might otherwise cross into the realm of an embodiment of goody-goody perfection.

 

After the clay's transformation into a pitcher, one more major character is introduced - a rich, benign, Godward merchant. He dreams an auspicious dream about a pitcher and sends his man to buy one. This is a second instance of a worldwide web connecting our destinies in the sphere of thought. Omens and presentiments very much exist to presage what is to be. The pitcher becomes instrumental in the merchant feeding a pure saint, whereby he earns high merit. This saint is another character (after the potter) from the class of divinized souls. Significantly, the pitcher surrenders his residual ego at this saint's feet. The rest of the nail-biting story concerns the calamities that befall the merchant and his family from the quarter of terroristic forces at home and abroad, and how the victims put up a struggle with the pitcher's help.

 

Obviously, the potmaker's investment of labour and his blessings to the pitcher are meant to be a gift to the society, to uphold the righteous and put down the uppish, but in no case to reject any creature or condemn one. The victory of goodness is meant to assimilate the unfortunate forces of evil and enlighten them. Spiritual regeneration has for its aim not an escape into meditative trance but an active involvement in the woe and weal of suffering humanity, nay, imperilled creature- kind.

 

The Mute Clay as an Epic

The classical Indian criteria for defining an epic and the western ones coincide to a large extent. According to Indian aesthetics, an epic should tell of the mighty deeds of the leader of an era; should detail the life of a nation; should involve demonic or supernatural forces, though ordinary human life should predominate; should contain several subplots, incorporate warfare, long journeys, competitions, debates, discussions on destiny; and should be written in a style that is simple and straight but at the same time appealing, forceful and solemn.

 

According to Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, an epic in western aesthetics is "a narrative poem on a grand scale and in majestic style concerning the exploits and adventures of a supernatural hero (or heroes) engaged in a quest or a serious endeavour. The hero is distinguished above all men by his strength and courage, and is restrained only by a sense of honour." The Columbia Encyclopaedia says, "Some of the conventions, followed by epic writers in varying degrees, include a hero who embodies national, cultural or religious ideals and upon whose actions depends to some degree the fate of the people; a course of great and difficult deeds; the intervention of supernatural or divine powers; concern with eternal human problems; and a dignified and elaborate style."

 

In India, classical Sanskrit epics of the Ramayan and Mahabharat, which tell of the deeds of Lord Ram and Lord Krishna respectively, belong to the divine category. Kalidas's Raghuvansh also narrates the tale of Lord Ram and so does Gosvami Tulsidas's epic Sriramcharitmanas. The Mute Clay is of a different type, though. It unfolds the drama of the clay's spiritual practice - saadhanaa - and then of her adventures in her empowered state.

 

If we juxtapose The Mute Clay with the pre-Christian mega-stories such as Homer's Greek poems Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Latin poem Aeneid, the one major common feature of them all is warfare involving supernatural forces. But The Mute Clay is about the rise from ordinary to sublime. Our epic's storyline is also of a different type from that of modern epics such as Dante's Divine Comedy, Milton's Paradise lost and Paradise Regained. It has inventively given a new scope to this literary form.

 

The Mute Clay is an epic according to both Indian and western criteria, though one without an exact precedent. It extends the scope of the term while incorporating its defining features. If one were to seek parallels with Lord Ram's or Krishna's story, there is in our present epic a too long and elaborate treatment of the clay's time with her guru. Such lengthy accounts of the avatars I ashram life do not occur in the divine epics. Moreover, the mute clay does not have an avataric status but is like the person next door, with a hidden potential not normally suspected in her. She turns out to be an outstanding specimen of humanity of her time and circumstance. It is a democratic epic that could happen in our time. References to contemporary newsmakers such as Indian satellites Aryabhatta and Rohini and even the Reagan-related Star Wars suggest this. And yet the imagery is taken from rustic and natural world, meticulously free from the use of technological achievements of our time in communication, transport, electricity, etc.

 

If one were to draw parallels with Wordsworth's autobiographical epic- length poem The Prelude, our epic is also an account of an "ordinary" individual's moral and spiritual growth. But Wordsworth's poem is subtly introspective all through, with a minimal of external action. In The Mute Clay, on the other hand, open wars, cataclysms, schemings and counter-schemings abound, with an array of embattled characters drawn from the natural world: elements such as the earth, the sea, the river, the wind, and creatures such as the donkey, the fish, the elephants, the snakes, the whale ... A few of the characters are drawn from the world of artifice, such as the golden ewer, rich foods, garments ... Parts of body also become characters, and so do abstractions such as silence, surprise and the valiant mood.

 

The most important antagonists appear in the human shape, though, in the form of the robbers in the wild who subvert scriptural reasoning with cussed illogic. They represent the human nadir of spiritual evolution, with their hearts full of the most resistant soil for the germination of the seed of faith such as comes naturally to the clay, the fish, the rich merchant. The message is that the ability to believe, the power to foster faith, is a gift that not everybody is endowed with, but holy company helps. But how does holy company come one's way - of its own will or through aspiration - is an eternal conundrum.

 

A Note on the Translation

The original Hindi is textured with a superabundance of verbal figures of speech - puns, alliterations, internal rhymes, inversions - which cannot obviously be translated, especially into a language from another linguistic family. No attempt has been made to twist English to achieve corresponding effects. Only, at places the word-play in the original has been brought out in plain prose, only to give a sample taste of what the Hindi is like. More of it would have hindered the flow without enriching the text. In fact even the line-breaks to give the translation " a poetic look" have been avoided. You could say therefore that this translation has the look of a novel in poetic prose, and what makes the prose poetic is the intensity of feeling and the imaginative quality. After Walt Whitman's poetry with the looks of Conventional prose, and Rabindranath Tagore’s self-translation of Gitanjali, "prose sentences" are finding greater acceptance in the poetic canon, and now there is a regular school of poetry wherein the looks are of prose. It is the librarian's lookout therefore to classify this work as poetry or prose. While the choice of the prose-form presentation derives from a desire to be simple, it equally derives from a desire to make the work look less forbidding to a poetry-shy generation!

 

To minimize the reader's awe at the prospect of negotiating a slow- moving, highly decorative, philosophically dense text, the summary - or the "argument" as in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner - has been extracted section wise and printed in bold type. Such an aid also appears in the Valmiki Ramayan published by Gita Press, Gorakhpur. The sections have been numbered, too, to facilitate referencing. The device of summerizing should, along with the simplicity of the prose, greatly enhance the reading comfort of what is universally regarded as a highly complex poem.

 

Contents

 

1.

Preface

2.

Dedication

3.

The Mute Clay

 

Canto I: Not Sinking but Rising in Caste

 

Canto II: Words are not knowledge, Knowledge is Not Realization

 

Canto III: Nurturing Merit, Washing away Sins

 

Canto IV: The Test by Fire, the Silver-like Ash

4.

Afterword-by Dr. Manju Jain

 

Sample Pages













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