Monthly Archives: March 2015

NETI NETI : A POEM ABOVE GANGOTRI (For World Poetry Day 2015)


Neti, Neti means “Not this, Not this”. It belongs to celebrated claims of the Hindu Upanishads (with affinities for Negative Mysticism in some medieval Christianity) which describes God/Ultimacy not as Creator or Person but what God isn’t. The mystic realizes there is only the being/essence, or “Suchness” like a substance into which by concentration one may yogically hope to merge. This wwareness of Suchness can however co-exist with a world of myth or even created this-worldly forms which have the status of a sort of dream/illusion (Maya) in which the gods are capricious and divided because ultimately they are not real or at least secondary to the higher realm of Brahman and Suchness.


Warm images of ancient ones rise up,
Delay and play and circle here, a dazzle
For the inner eyes. There pass the crowds,
The many thousand sons of King Sagara,
And then from him seven generations on
The greater son for whom Mount Bhagirath
Ahead not far is named.[2] Among the spirit
Train appear ascetics who it’s said
Could swallow seas or scatter wide
Whole multitudes and pulverize with breath
Or fire. Their eyes are alien wild; see
The unearthly stare amid the smiles and play
Of Ganesh and of Hanuman, one plump, one spry
And family icon gods of hearth all coloured
Friendly as a bright bazaar their shapes,
Now firm, now fragile as the eternal
Womb of myth itself which presently
Lies in this would-be yuga age at rest
Upon these valleys,”the abode of gods”.[3]

The moving arc of jostled forms,
That juggernaut of sculpted images
Tight pressed but cheerful as a noisy nursery
To ride the skies and range through earth
(For there are heavens, worlds and realms beneath)
Glows bright and lively as a sun.
Yet Sol’s own rays beam down
Less warmly on what towers ahead,
That bare reality of solemn heights
The granite eminence and glacier wall
Through which the only silence-breaking
Sound that stirs the few and ancient trees
Above the pilgrim’s path is chill,
Crisp gustings from the thin air’s winds.

Even so it’s light alone, and then fast drifted
Strands of cloud that whisper to and brush
The peaks, bring near, as though for merely
Human touch, what’s still remote from here below:
Those heights that partly hide and shelter
This wide cow’s mouth of sacred rock. [4]
From there, much like a frothing, freezing snow
Pours out the worshipped hoped for one,
The playful She that once gushed forth
From out the highest heavens and deepest earth
To fill dried ocean and to purify
Sagara’s murderous sons and resurrect
Their ashes from the ancient pyres. No will
Of gods or men could halt the impulse
Or her play nor even by Shiva’s locks
Could plunging Ganga be detained. Yet she,
By Brahma sent to purify, even shape lives
And redeem from endless circles of rebirth,
Was too soon stained, (and is those icy heights
Once left behind), dragged, drawn and tossed into
The filth and mire of earth, choked and polluted
In her deepest self, her role scarce more
Than mourner to a universe of pyres.


Now they are gone, as sudden gone as glimpsed,
Shades that imagination feeds who suck
In turn at spirit’s life for nourishment,
Ghosts of this valley, objects of desire half feared
If here adored by those few hardy pilgrim souls
Washed, frozen in the churn of rushing
Ceaseless Ganga flow. Motionless, astare
Eyes fixed or closed, what do they see?
Those Hades shades, an outer or
An inner light, a combination of all these?
What breeze from what Beyond would blow
Through mind as surely as those flags
Staked here and there to mark devotion?
What might minds feel of primal unity
Or plenum emptiness? If reaching there
Could even the devotee avoid and nowise
Sense through nature on the steep ascent
The solemn radiance that won’t reveal,
The weight of melancholic solitude
Which voiceless owns the valleys and the air?
“The gods came later than creation,
Who knows from where this world arose?” Thus
Pondered and in vain would poetize
The Vedic sage. [5] Indeed! For can those
Peaks be left to soar and mountain purity
Look down except as though to bar
From earthly Edens all remaining paths and
Every sacred conversation?

Before they enter on their final truths
It’s hearing is the last sense dying
Persons know; and surely rightly so
For what is first in the creative urge
Is sound and word, not images which
Hand may draw or mind’s eye see.
From all decay creation’s Lord withdraws
And dwells beyond, where never hand
Has touched nor fixity of concentrated
Thought has merged or can.

Go where you will, dream, chant
Or meditate, pursue the path of intellect,
Seek wisdom at a guru’s feet,
Bathe in the frozen Ganges’ waves
To claim redemption through the pores.
It’s all in vain since soul and spirit
Have not “heard”. God is not “this” or “that”,
Not “here” nor “there” unless you’ve left
The substance for the sound from where
Faith’s fountain flows into all levels
Of the holy worlds. When this is missed
So at the door of “suchness” mind remains,
Soul stays confused and nature mourns
Even though, within all things, near and
Beyond, the deity you did not know
Or long forgot, still waits.


[1] Gangotri is in India’s northern Uttarakhand province the nearest village below the source of the Ganges. Though I have visited the Himalayas I have not visited specifically Gangotri but with only the slightest help from photos I feel I can sufficiently imagine it. I would also assume that like pilgrims mentioned in Nick Fleming’s photographic record ( I would sense the melancholy (which I associate with many Asian mountain regions and sacred sites) and which for me raises metaphysical questions. So much so that what began aesthetically here as a lyrical evocation of India finished closer to a personal statement somewhat redolent of ideas expressed in my writings such as The Great Circle: Asia, David and God Consciousness with its claims about Asia’s lost, unknown God.(see
[2] Mount Bagiratha. Bagirathi was the descendant of Sagara whose labour of extreme penitence atonement for earlier family crimes attracted Brahman’s attention.
[3] Existence for Hinduism runs through repeated cycles of four vast yugas (epochs) of which the supposed current Kali Yuga is the worst. The whole area around Gangotri is dubbed Devi Bhoomi, or “abode of the gods”.
[4] Gomuck means Cow’s mouth and is the point at the end of the glacier from which the Ganges or one of its chief sources of the Ganges emerges above Gangotri.
[5] Rig Veda 129: 6-7.

ascetic    hindgods

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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Poetry, religion


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