"Sacred Space" is a marvelous book by Smt. Radhika Srinivasan. The book explores the spirit of Asian art in both performing and fine forms. The exploration leads the reader to the discovery that every art form in this region of the globe is either an expression of the discovered Isvara or a means to the discovery of Isvara. No one who reads this book can remain uninitiated into the realms which give content and meaning to those experiences considered common place. After reading this book, I learnt that there is so much unexplored in our art forms.
I congratulate Smt. Radhika Srinivasan for her valuable contribution in understanding the Asian art forms and their spiritual background.
This endeavour is the result of long years of practice into the artistic traditions of the East through my training in the field of music and meditation. It all began rather simply. At several informal discussions with like-minded friends and relatives, the question always came up as to why everything, from music and dance to religion, society, and the attending values that shape a person, is driven only one thing in this day and age-commerce. Often times, the heated debate would be about priests in the temples performing rituals half-heatedly or monks very often expecting the red packets (a form of donation offering common in the Buddhist traditions of Southeast Asia).and the priests and trustees would endlessly debate over how the devotees are only interested in the peripherals, complaining about the food offerings and the hygienic standards, especially in India. And the perennial lament in all circles was how art that was once considered sacred is now viewed as an industry, a profit oriented venture.
It set me thinking. What was the real intent of these structures in space and the rituals and art forms they nourished? How could a space lose or gain sanctity? Who or what sanctifies it and why? It took me on a journey through time and space into history, architecture, sculpture, poetry, music, dance, yoga and philosophy and helped me to unravel my own sacred space. It changed the way I saw things and every piece of the puzzle fell into place, increasing my faith and intensifying my art awareness. The outcome is this endeavour, which is based on an anonvmous Sanskrit verse. Each line of the verse forms a chapter of this book and attempts to define and describe the origins and development of the sacred in Asian art space.
The nature of the field of study seemed formidable at first, with no specific reference material to rely on. Inevitably I had to restrict myself to what could be spanned by a unified study. Geographically. Its scope extended to many regions of Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand. Artistically, it covered the Tibetan chams dance and the façade of Hindu and Buddhist stereotypes and saw the continuity provided by one fountain source as the basis for expansion of inner and outer space. Therefore, heavy reliance on India source material especially when dealing with music and yoga, was inevitable. The 4th chapter combines both "In word through poetry" and "In sound through music" because the area covered is sound space, common to both poetry and music.
Since the scope of this book is defined by the lines of a particulars Sanskrit verse, areas such as pure functional spaces of the office or work place or the enormous scientific research dealing with outer space find no reference. But, if the book serves as a tiny window to the sob-stratum of Asian ethos as witnessed in the arts, even as one journey into the limitless reaches of one's own inner space, the effort is its own reward.
While every moment of my excursion has been enjoyable beyond descriptions, I realize that my attempts to put into words this stupendously vast field of art and thought, crossing over notions of boundaries of every kind seem, to say the least, audacious. But when I consciously sought to free myself from the very nation of "I, Me or Mine", the work became all consuming. Word seemed to flow unstoppably from the very source, whose instrument I am. The rest is incidental. The guru within has not only helped me to fine-tune my faculties; he has guided me all the way and freed me from the burden of my effort's outcome.
I owe my deep gratitude to the many well wishers and follow travelers. Homage first and foremost goes to my parents; both left the earth while I was still writing the third chapter of this book. I am to happy to have shared the first two chapter with them and got their blessings. I am indebted to my brother, Srirama Bharathi, whose whole-hearted commitment to the path of devotion has inspired my own understanding of the path. And, with regard to my husband, R Srinivasan, what can one say when it comes to a mirror images of one's own self? He his indeed helped me to actually experience the cosmic nature of the One splitting into two equal halves as yin-yang.
My soul mates, Edwin Bokert, Lakshmi jayachandran, Hiren Desai, Arun Mahiznan and my Internet friends, Alan Kuntz and John Mac Enulty have all been instruments of my growth in their own special ways. Last but not the least, my loving daughter and son, Vaidehi and Raghavan have been a constant source of strength and I hope they and their generation share this heritage with their children and grand children in time to come.
Yet, one single phenomenon that guided this entire exercise is my chance meeting with Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati at saylorsbourg, Pennsylvania in 1997. His insight and vision have transformed my perception so much that it is difficult to say how and when His grace prepared me for it. I own much to my maternal aunt, Mrs. Padma narasimhan, who became the instrument of an instrument of this chance encounter. Listening to Swamiji's tapes on Kenopanisad and Sri Ramana's Upadesa Saram day after day and reading his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita filled me with joy and awareness of the Divine Grace guiding me through every effort. May this book reflect that joy to all readers and art lovers!
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