I am due for an operation to remove a stone in my bladder on December 1st. The surgeon, Dr. Agarwal, had asked to see me today for a pre-operation assessment at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, London. On the way I stopped off at the Royal Academy in Picadilly to see their new exhibition of ancient Indian bronzes.
The Chola dynasty ruled much of southern India for four hundred years from 850 AD onwards. Under the patronage of successive kings the arts flourished, especially the art of bronze sculpture. The Chola bronzes I saw – although there were only 40 of them at this exhibition – were stunning in their aesthetic detail and sheer antiquity. Their average date was around 950 AD. All of them were at one time utsava-murtis or ‘festival forms’ to be taken out from the temples on grand public processions. Although their temples, worshippers and processions have all now gone; and although they now gaze at visitors from their plinths in many of the world’s museums, their forms still produce feelings of wonder.
As I was examining a murti of Sri Narasimha – the half-man, half-lion form of Vishnu – I heard one woman ask her friend: “I wonder whether he is a god of grace or a god of wrath?” Hinduism is often understood to have ‘many gods’ with mutually opposing feelings towards the world of men.
Well, I couldn’t resist and proceeded to explain first that the seemingly opposite qualities – grace and wrath – are all reconciled fully in God. When, after some introductory conversation they seemed more interested, I told them the story of how Vishnu appeared from a pillar for His young devotee who was being persecuted. Yoga-Narasimha in lotus asana, the form shown to Prahlada, looked on in the form of a two-foot bronze.
<> From the perfection of grace, power and beauty, and divine bodily form, my consciousness changed to dwell upon the body of matter, inebriety and ever-decreasing power. I have a stone that has formed over several years and is now the size of a £1 coin. With the help of a laser beam it will be crumbled and removed. I tick lots of boxes on my pre-op consultation sheets with Dr. Agarwal who, fortunately for me, is a devotee and patron member of Bhaktivedanta Manor. However, it seems that even in the matter of bladder stones, as in most fields of my life, I am quite mediochre. Dr. Agarwal describes large ‘marbles,’ ‘golf balls,’ and even, astonsihingly, tennis-ball sized ones.
I await my operation, on the day of Gita Jayanti, the day Lord Krishna spoke the Gita, when, laser-beam in hand, the devotee-doctor will slash to pieces the enemy of Dharma. (Well, at least the enemy of a good night’s sleep for Kripamoya Das)