Damyantee Devi Dabydeen’s ‘Songs Of My Soul’: Towards the Path of Spiritual Enlightenment / Book Review by Manab Manik

Songs of My Soul: A Collection of Selected Mantras, Bhajans, Philosophy and Teachings from the Golden Ages Paperback – January 1, 2019

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: Authorspress (2019)
  • ISBN-10: 938833261X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9388332613
  • ASIN: B07NSZQCDH

Damyantee Devi Dabydeen’s ‘Songs Of My Soul’: Towards the Path of Spiritual Enlightenment

‘Songs Of My Soul’ by the Canadian author Damyantee Devi Dabydeen leads the entire humanity to spiritual knowledge and the path of spiritual enlightenment in this world of gross-like existence that has almost blinded men. The author aims at channelising humanity to the right track — a track of God-realisation. The entire book is a holy container filled with nectar or amrit. Drinking a little drop from it brings epiphanic moments, spiritual realizations in all. This article aims at highlighting multiple aspects like glory of God, devotion, worship and faith in God, invocations and heart-rending prayers to the gods and goddesses, escape motif from pain and mundane existence, union with the Divinity through devotion, spiritual enlightenment and peace through mantras, confessions and begging pardons to Divinity for wrongs, mistakes and sins, heart-rending prayers and appeals for shelter at the feet of Divinity, glories and functions of different gods and goddesses, pantheistic philosophy, immortality of human soul, spiritual humanism and so on.

  1. God’s All-Permeating Glory:

In the beginning of the preface God’s glory is felt in the whole universe — a pantheistic philosophy. God is omnipotent and omnipresent. He is infinite pervading the infinite space — an idea revealed in the first line of the opening mantra of ‘Ishopanishad’ — “Isa vasyam idam sarbam yat kinca jagatyam jagat” meaning “everything in this universe is covered with the glory of God”. In the ten incarnations of Sri Vishnu Bhagaban God’s glory is felt. God is in everything and everything is in God. In uttering the very word ‘AUM’ the glories of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadev are echoed. ‘AUM’ is everything. AUM is what one is, what one senses, does, feels, creates, thinks, knows. The glories of AUM destroy impurities of men, purify them and give them enlightenment. Lord Rama’s glory shines in different kandas. When Rama’s omnipresence is known, an atmosphere of worship with the feeling ‘awe’ comes to the readers. Rama is the Absolute, the supreme Reality, incomprehensible, beginningless, incomparable, unchangeable. He is the custodian of the bounds of the Vedas and the Lord of the universe. Jatayu sings the glory of Lord Rama as incomparable, impersonal and personal, the true master of all modes of material nature. Raghunath, the form of God, is of cosmic form and omnipresent — an idea echoed in ‘the Gita’ in the mouth of Lord Krishna — “The physical nature is known to be endlessly mutable. The universe is the cosmic form of the supreme Lord, and I am that Lord represented by the Super Soul, dwelling in the heart of every embodied being”. In Lord Shiva’s narrating the story of ‘the Ramayana’ to Parvati Rama’s infinite glory fills the readers with awe. Rama’s acts are a thousand million and beyond reckoning. He is infinite and infinite are his excellences; infinite are his births, his deeds and names. In the hymn of praise to Lord Shiva he (Shiva) is glorified. The prayer Shiva Ashtakam is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is considered to be the Lord of the universe, the Lord of Time and Lord of Deities.

  1. Devotion, Worship and Faith in God:

Life is actually a journey towards the infinity. In order to overcome all the difficulties and problems of life all must have faith and trust in Bhagvan. Devotion, according to Rama, is the most important to melt his heart. It stands by itself and on it depends all knowledge, spiritual or profane. Only by the favour of the virtuous devotion, the source of bliss, can be acquired. Rama dwells in those hearts which worship him in a disinterested way. In ‘Lanka Kanda’ Tulsidas places Rama in a higher trajectory paying homage to him. Even Shiva adores him. In order to own faith only a guileless disposition, perversity-free mind and perfect contentment are needed. The virtuous acts like prayer, austere penance, sacrifice, subjugation of the mind and the senses, undertaking sacred vows, charity, dispassion, discernment, austerity and mystic institution make one devoted to God without which one can not enjoy long lasting peace. Faith in Rama is a philosopher’s stone. He, in whose heart it abides, is all infinite radiance day and night, requiring neither lamp nor ghee nor wick to light it. Evil propensities dare not approach him in whose heart this gem of faith in Rama dwells. If God showers mercy upon individual, this jewel of faith can be found. Firm faith in him is the reward of all spiritual endeavours. Devotion to Rama is the life-giving herb and a mind full of faith. By this process the diseases will certainly be cured. When the soul bathes in pure stream of divine knowledge, the heart is filled with faith in Rama, Shiva, Brahma, Shukadeva, Sanaka, Narada and many other gods and goddesses. The Vedas and Puranas put emphasis on devotion to God to get spiritual bliss and happiness. In this Kaliyuga there is no other means of grace, neither abstract meditation, sacrifice, prayer, penance, vows, nor ritual worship. All must meditate Rama, sing of Rama and give ears only to the sum of Rama’s infinite perfection. Through heart-felt mantra chanting a spiritual awakening is felt with divine light. The deliverance of mind and soul takes place and one who chants mantras with devotion and faith bows and surrenders oneself to the Supreme Soul. The mortals bow their heads to the lotus feet of Ganesha, the destroyer of sorrows, sufferings and obstacles. The goddess Lakshmi possesses extraordinary divine power. The devotees with true hearts by word or deed get desired rewards. Lord Shiva, the incarnation of compassion, the essence of worldly existence, spiritual essence, the Third -Eyed, always resides in the lotus of the heart and tiny mortal bows with reverence. The devotees chant Shiva Chalisa prayer and surrender themselves to Shiva’s greatness with faith, love and devotion to receive infinite blessings. Even little puja or worship of a tiny mortal is not belittled by Vishnu.

  1. Invocations and Prayers to the gods and goddesses:

Invocations and prayers, recurrent, are running throughout the book ‘Songs Of My Soul’. Lord Vishnu is invoked with prayerful attitude. When the gods were bowed down in distress, He put an end to their affliction by assuming manifold forms. Even Brahma invokes Hari with glorious terms ‘abode of eternal bliss’, ‘a lion’, ‘the ocean of all perfection’, ‘the all-wise omnipresent master’, ‘ever unborn’ ‘beginningless’, ‘fountain of eternal compassion, ‘storehouse of virtue and wisdom’, ‘bounteous’, ‘Deliverer’ from the rounds of birth and death, ‘destroyer of the wicked’, ‘king of kings’ and so on. Parvati praises Rama for his glories and acts and invokes him with high esteem. Lord Shiva is equally invoked. In order to get relief from obstacles Lord Ganesha is apostrophised. The invocation to the goddess Saraswati catches the readers’ attention. Heart-rending appeal is felt when she is prayed for higher intellect, enlightenment, the enhancement of creativity, removal of lethargy, sluggishness and ignorance etc. The goddess Lakshmi is addressed with soulful prayer to remove all’s sickness, sorrows and to give the light of prosperity. Sri Mahalakshmi Chalisa is full of invocations and prayers to the goddess Lakshmi. As light of the world and Divine Maa she is invoked and hailed for knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment and for banishing woes of all the people. In ‘Lord Shiva Namaskar Mantra’ Shiva is addressed as ‘O Almighty God!’ and ‘O Supreme Father!’ who is the source of all worldly and divine pleasures and impeller of physical and spiritual development of man. Sometimes Lord Krishna is appealed to come to the prayerful man taking the divine form of Rama or Shyama —
“Kabhi Ram Banke Kabhi Shyam Banke
Chale Aana Prabhuji Chale Aana” — and at other times in the divine forms of Shiva with Gauri, Vishnu with Lakshmi, Ganesha with Riddhi and Siddhi.

  1. Prayerful Escape Motif from Pain and Mundane Existence:

Apart from the glorification of gods and goddesses Damyantee Devi Dabydeen’s ‘Songs Of My Soul’ reveals the escapistic tendency of the devotees of gods and goddesses from the troubles of the mundane world to the path of spiritual enlightenment. In one sense the heart-rending prayers of those may be of the entire humanity’s. In this sense this book is a comment on the gross-like existence.

In the prefatory chapter the author does not forget to mention the expression ‘this chaotic world’ that speaks a lot of ‘Waste Land’ to use Elliot’s term, the ending of which quite surprisingly resembles the ending of ‘Songs Of My Soul’ — “Shanti, Shanti, Shanti”. The only way to escape from worldly attachment or to cross the ocean of existence is to worship Rama, the form of God. What is needed to break the mundane knot, is the bright lustre of self knowledge, self-realization. Every mortal is suffering from diseases. The wretched afflictions like jealousy, wickedness, egoism, deceit, arrogance of pride etc can be redeemed by Raghunath, the redeemer. The ocean of turbulent worldly existence cannot be traversed without worshipping Hari. The story of Rama wipes out the sins of Kaliyuga and cleanses all the impurities of the mind and it is a life-giving remedy for the disease of birth and death on this mundane world. In singing the praises of Lord Ganesha tiny mortal appeals to take him across ‘the ocean of mundane existence’ — a recurrent expression. Saraswati Devi is not only worshipped for knowledge but also harmony in one’s life and his liberation from the wheel of existence. Again she is requested to give the mortals ‘the true and right path’, meaning ‘the path to God-realisation or path to divinity’. Lakshmi Maa, the Supreme power, is prayed and believed to bring the worldly attachment to an end –“Tu Hai Shakti Parmeshvar Ki, Kaato Bhava Ke Bandhan”. In ‘Bhavani Ashtakam’, a stotra, mortal’s confessions for wrongs are revealed and simultaneously the goddess Durga is sought for refuge from the ties of useless life. In ‘Shiva Mritunjaya Mantra’ the severance of the bondage of worldly life is revealed with the simile of a cucumber. And through this severance humanity is given knowledge that it is inseparable from immortal nature. Even in ‘Lord Shiva Aarti’ Lord Shiva is appealed to relieve man from his afflictions — a recurrent appeal. In this very appeal lies the desire for escape through God-centric mind. Sometimes like the hollow men’s groping in the dark valley in Elliot’ poem ‘The Hollow Men’ man keeps on travelling aimlessly in this world of mundane existence and to get relief from it prays to Shiva. The world today is engulfed by the darkness of ignorance. Only Lord may grant the light of wisdom to follow the correct path of life. Sometimes again Vishnu is requested to be a guide because the humans are caught in the cobweb of delusion in this material world. Only He can give them the right path — a path leading to God-realization and spiritual enlightenment.

  1. Union with the Divinity through Devotion:

In worshipping, chanting mantras and seeking shelter at the lotus feet of the gods and goddesses lies the very desire for the communion with the infinite. If one attaches his mind to God through renunciation, he will be liberated and will reach Him. The devotees who worship Lord Krishna with love, reside in Krishna and he resides in them. The easy steps to reach Krishna include the ceaseless thinking of Krishna, devotion to him, worshipping him, offering obeisance to him and dedication of mind and body. In seeking shelter to Lakshmi the mortals wish to live at the feet of the goddess —
“Maa Divine, we also seek thy shelter”.

  1. Spiritual Enlightenment and Peace through Mantras:

In the very word ‘mantra’ lies the idea of the deliverance of mind. Mantra chanting relaxes the body, calms and tranquillizes the mind and enlightens all awakening the divine light within them and leads them to a direct communion with the Almighty. The meditation on the Sun, divine in its essence, emanates light and brings enlightenment and peace. The Tulasi Mantras, Pavamana Mantra beginning with “Asato Ma Sadgamaya”, Peace Mantra, The Shanti Path’ and ‘The Moola Mantra’ lead all to a trace-like state. Through these mantra chanting a man forgets his body and becomes a living soul. It is a kind of elevation, a moral elevation, a spiritual elevation, a transcendence. In this highly elevated state all the complexities and burdens of mundane life are lightened. A similar experience was felt by Tagore and Wordsworth in their meditation and philosophization of Nature.

  1. Begging Pardons to Divinity for Wrongs and Sins:

To err is human, to forgive Divine. Here and there heart-rending appeals and confessions of sins and mistakes of mortals are felt. This suggests that the world is not fully lost, rather it tries to travel the path of divinity. An ignorant soul appeals Lord in pages 132-133 to light the lamp of wisdom of his heart and requests to pardon all for their mistakes. Almost similar line is found in Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ — “What in me is dark/Illumine”. Like john Donne’s confessing sins the ignorant soul confesses his wrongs and mistakes, involvement in material pleasures and repeatedly appeals God to forgive him. In Saraswati Chalisa the same tone of begging pardons is revealed. It is firmly believed that the goddess Saraswati may mitigate all the sins committed by men. The goddess Lakshmi is requested to shower grace and pardon the errors of man destroying all his sins. In Bhavani Ashtakam, a stotra, a devotee declares that he is in this ocean of birth and death. He confesses to Bhavani that he is a coward, fears to face sorrow and is filled with lust, sin, greed and desire. Clearly confessing all his sinful acts, he wishes for refuge in Bhavani. Even the goddess Durga is begged for forgiveness — “Oh great Goddess, I commit thousands of offences routinely. So please think me as your slave and please pardon me” — recurrent heart-rending appeal in ‘Durga Devi Kshama Prarthana Stotram’. Now comes Lord Shiva who is invoked and requested by man for mistakes, committed in many ways. In Shiva Chalisa prayer the devotee due to his limited knowledge forgets to worship Shiva and for this requests Him to forgive and shower His grace upon him. Again the devotee is seen clearly confessing to Sri Vishnu —
“I am ignorant and go after desires
I am your servant and You are my Lord
Therefore shower Your grace on me, O Master”. Towards the end of Vishnu Aarti the devotee appeals Him to remove his worldly desires and sins.

Other important aspects include the immortality of human soul revealed in the prefatory chapter(p.11), ‘Kishkinda Kanda'(p.49) and ‘Teachings from the Bhagavat Gita'(p.86), spiritual humanism, Lord Rama’a all-pervading power(pp. 62, 63, 190), Rama as guide to the fallen humanity(pp. 48, 79, 327, 330, 348, 334), impartial and heroic nature(p. 339), golden heart(p. 341), Lord Krishna as the saviour of humanity, realisation of Krishna’s divine nature — a step to His eternal abode, the omnipresence of Krishna, extraordinary respect of Ganesha to his parents, desire for spiritual knowledge and creativity to the goddess Saraswati, prayer to Lakshmi for prosperity and removal of woes for all, re-establishment of the path of righteousness through the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, varieties of the processes of self realisation in the four different Yugas like meditation on Sri Vishnu Bhagavan, yajnas, the worshipping of deities and the chanting of the names of the Lord, singing Sanatan Dharma, the eternal truth, the way of life, beyond any specific religion and glorification of its virtues like goodwill, purity, honesty, mercy, generosity, tolerance, self-restraint, self-respect, refraining from injuring any living being, forbearance, asceticism, theme song of Sanatan Dharma emphasising the preservation of Sanatan Dharma even at the cost of lives and following the eternal pathway of truth to God even in endless difficulties, the entire humanity as a single family, God’s glory in lotus, symbol of eternity, purity, plenty, good fortune, and spiritual enlightenment, ‘Hiranyagarbha’ (the golden womb or the golden egg) as the source of the creation of the universe, illusory perceptions of ‘I’, ‘mine’, ‘you’, ‘yours’ explained by Rama to Lakshmana in ‘Aranya Kanda’, ignorance, an illusion and evil, dragging soul to the pit of worldly existence, Rama’s advice to the people of the city to lead virtuous life, the glory of Lord Rama in different Kandas, Parvati’s praising Rama with enlightenment as holy, infinite, a true guide even to the sensualists to the virtuous path, singing virtuous songs of Lord Rama in the dialogic discourse of Shiva and Parvati, Brahma’s bowing head to the glory of Rama, Shiva’s singing Rama’s glory in one hand and Bhagavan’s singing the glory of Shambhu on the other, Rama’s glory in the blessed discourse of Bhushundi and Guruda, the mortals’ prayers to Ganesha for kindness to the helpless to light the lamp of wisdom in their hearts, their confessions of their misdeeds and appealing Him to pardon them, chanting Brahma Gayatri Mantra to increase the creative power, praising Sri Hanuman’s courage, loyalty, prayerful attitude to God, worshipping Ganga Mata and so on.

Damyantee Devi Dabydeen’s ‘Songs Of My Soul’ becomes a true guide to humanity through spiritual elevation. To read one line from it is to forget the troubles of the world. If Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ is next to ‘the Bible’, ‘Songs Of My Soul’ is certanly next to ‘the Gita’ or ‘the Upanishad’. My best wishes to her in her spiritual literary journey.

 

Manab Manik

Poet, short story writer and reviewer,
Midnapore, West Bengal, India,
April 30, 2020.
All copyrights reserved.

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