You are the forest

by Akka Mahadevi

English version by A. K. Ramanujan
Original Language Kannada

You are the forest

you are all the great trees
     in the forest

you are bird and beast
     playing in and out
     of all the trees

     O lord white as jasmine
     filling and filled by all

     why don't you
     show me your face?

-- from Speaking of Siva, by A K Ramanujan

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I really like the image of God (in this case, Shiva) as a forest, as every tree in the forest, and simultaneously as the myriad of animals "playing in and out / of all the trees".

Contemplate this image for a moment.

First, God is the forest -- the place, the region. You might call this the field of being.

But then God is also seen as "all the great trees" -- the green and living pillars that collectively embody that field of being. This is like stepping in awareness from the unmanifest to the manifest.

And then we have this living, moving, "playing" circulation of beings -- "bird and beast" -- that constantly flows "in and out" of the trees. Akka Mahadevi is evoking an image of individual points of consciousness playfully, naturally moving between the unmanifest and the manifest, between the interior and the exterior. And God is also every one of those points of awareness, circling relatively in and out of manifestation.

An image of God as all life and all things. Not merely being all things, but at the same time permeating and flowing through all things... "filling and filled by all."

It inspires the mystic's plea: "why don't you / show me your face?" This vision of unified being within such swirling multiplicity awakens the fundamental hunger to witness the Singularity -- for that is our true Beloved and our true home!

Recommended Books: Akka Mahadevi

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Speaking of Siva The Shambhala Anthology of Women's Spiritual Poetry Women Writing in India: 600 BC to the Present: Volume 1 Sacred Voices: Essential Women's Voices Through the Ages

You are the forest