The Soul’s Prayer by Sarojini Naidu

The Soul’s Prayer by Sarojini Naidu: Summary

In childhood’s pride I said to Thee:
‘O Thou, who mad’st me of Thy breath,
Speak, Master, and reveal to me
Thine inmost laws of life and death.

‘Give me to drink each joy and pain
Which Thine eternal hand can mete,
For my insatiate soul would drain
Earth’s utmost bitter, utmost sweet.

‘Spare me no bliss, no pang of strife,
Withhold no gift or grief I crave,
The intricate lore of love and life
And mystic knowledge of the grave.’

Lord, Thou didst answer stern and low:
‘Child, I will hearken to thy prayer,
And thy unconquered soul shall know
All passionate rapture and despair.

‘Thou shalt drink deep of joy and fame,
And love shall burn thee like a fire,
And pain shall cleanse thee like a flame,
To purge the dross from thy desire.

‘So shall thy chastened spirit yearn
To seek from its blind prayer release,
And spent and pardoned, sue to learn
The simple secret of My peace.

‘I, bending from my sevenfold height,
Will teach thee of My quickening grace,
Life is a prism of My light,
And Death the shadow of My face.’
The Soul’s Prayer by Sarojini Naidu: Summary and Explanation

     What a beautiful prayer. Sarojini Naidu understands that both “good and bad things” in life are necessary for a satisfactory completion of one soul’s agenda. First the question Everything is perfect exactly as it is. We can’t see the other side because we are not there – but we know that within the frame of time we will get there and be able to see the whole of the mosaic image. At the moment certain things don’t make sense; but that doesn’t deter Naidu to accept life as it is: with the bitter and the sweet. 

     This shows great understanding of how the soul uses the body and the body-brain as mere tools to develop spiritually. The spiritually blind will want to reject the painful parts of life, failing to envisage that the only way the soul can be cleansed of residue or simple unorganised illusory perceptions is to have the calling of pain.

     Pains serve two important purposes: when knocking at the door they grant vision to our spiritual eyes; as the physical ones can only see the wound and the wound doesn’t always present itself when a crack in the thought system needs to be sealed (cleansed). The second purpose of the “pain calling” is to remind us, each and every time, that our little plans and designs won’t heal the root of the problem. In a chaotic world God is needed at the root; the soil surpassing any logic within our human limited comprehension of the workings of Truth and Knowledge. 

       We have been made of God’s breath, so our very essence goes further than resembling His. We are his breath and like it, when it is expired (exhalation) we experience human life as it presents itself now; when inspired (inhalation) we make an attempt to go back home through the death of the body. Each breath represents a state in our being, death the beginning of our spiritual life, birth the end of it. Human birth and death imply a simple reversal: spiritual death and birth. The never-ending moment and movement of inspiration and expiration are very much stated in the words of the song “The Windmills of your Mind”:

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel.
Never ending or beginning, 
On an ever spinning wheel

Sajorini writes this poem with the voice of a child and it is impressive to see someone so eager to go back to God (to wake up). By asking God to withhold nothing (“Withhold no gift or grief I crave”) she is delighted because the soul might not have to come back to deal with vagabond issues.  The knowledge of the grave is mystic (“And mystic knowledge of the grave”) because we simply don’t know. What happens at the grave goes beyond our ordinary senses; we can’t experience it while in this body. Neither do we remember how it was or what it was before human birth, something needed if we are to work on our toxic character defects with a full blown amount of fairness.

Purity doesn’t come at a low price; we must endure the difficulties we chose for this life as souls and live with the consequences of our choices and actions – choices and actions that define us as we go along. Then God answers. God grants Sarojini her wish, and this is interesting because it is what differentiates the boys from the men. The boys cry because God “brings” suffering to the world. The men understand that suffering is only part of the game. 

Life is just another “genre” of the Spinning or Cosmic Wheel. This particular version of “us” is played out with drama as well as through time intervals, obvious script techniques needed for our development as central characters. For the “arch” to take place, ups and downs are necessary. A good shaping of this arch determined by our behaviour will make the play more or less dynamic but that doesn’t take away the overal theme: spiritual growth expanding into an inevitable awakening.

‘Thou shalt drink deep of joy and fame,
And love shall burn thee like a fire,
And pain shall cleanse thee like a flame,
To purge the dross from thy desire.

These are part of the inevitabilities required for the awakening. First we need to go through the experience of desiring joy, fame, love. The problems are not in these very things (joy, fame, love), but in the desire we feel for them. Desire pushes us into manipulation, which comes at the price of expectation, which ends in resentment when outcomes are not met. The line fails to be linear and the ups and downs manifesting from our erroneous perception carry pain along the way. Desire, then, is not desirable. It always implies suffering as well as other dirty little tricks like judgement and punishment.

We might have to go through the pain many, many lives. But eventually the lesson is learned – pain “cleanses us like a flame, purging the dross from our desire”. The Spirit’s yearn, a seeking cry, comes not from us but from God Himself! God cries for us, His children, begging us to come home. The release is a call to the waking up that takes place when blind prayer turns into a sighted realisation: we never actually needed to learn through pain, and there was never anything to fear. Mystic mystery is a simple secret, nothing more. It’s God’s peace. The last verse discloses a loving God; a God that bends with care to teach His children that where the sun has never shone there is also light, His light. Shadow and Light are just like birth and death, like night and day, like inhaling and exhaling.  Pain and joy are just part of the windmills of your mind. And the Mind – deep and calm in its Real state – when filtered through the body is just a memory of something else. 

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