In this selection, Robert MacPhail talks to a group of young initiates about the symbolic meaning of Shiva Nataraja. My spirit prefers this version to the more academic description in the previous supplement. Huxley begins the passage with "Very quietly Dr. Robert began to talk about Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance." Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 91)

"Look at his image," he said. "Look at it with these new eyes that the moksha medicine has given you. See how it breathes and pulses, how it grows out of brightness into brightness ever more intense. Dancing through time and out of time, dancing everlastingly and in the eternal now. Dancing and dancing in all the worlds at once. Look at him." . . .

The infinite is now. It never began and never ends. Dancing in the present with the Tao, Shiva showed me I am everlasting. Was death the end or merely the flip side of life? Shiva said they were the same.

"Look closely," Dr. Robert insisted. "Look still more closely." Then, after a long minute of silence, "Dancing in all the worlds at once," he repeated. "In all the worlds. And first of all in the world of matter. Look at the great round halo, fringed with the symbols of fire, within which the god is dancing. It stands for Nature, for the world of mass and energy. Within it Shiva Nataraja dances the dance of endless becoming and passing away. It's his lila, his cosmic play."

Shiva showed me how to dance between the rational and the intuitive and between the lower and upper chakras. My flowing Tai Chi Dancer sought the balance point on the cross of life. All arms of the cross pointed to ground zero - here, now!

"Playing for the sake of playing, like a child. But this child is the Order of Things. His toys are galaxies, his playground is infinite space and between finger and finger every interval is a thousand million light years. Look at him there on the altar. The image is man made, a little contraption of copper only four feet high. But Shiva Nataraja fills the universe, is the universe. Shut your eyes and see him towering into the night, follow the boundless stretch of those arms and the wild hair infinitely flying."

The dance was all there was - why not join the rhythm of the universe! Charles Ives' trumpet in the Unanswered Question was Shiva's voice reaching across time and space to summon me into the dance of life. The answer was here and now. I was filled by and in turn filled the universe when I recognized who I really was.

"Nataraja at play among the stars and in the atoms. But also," he added, "also at play within every living thing, every sentient creature, every child and man and woman. Play for play's sake. But now the playground is conscious, the dance floor is capable of suffering. To us, this play without purpose seems a kind of insult. What we would really like is a God who never destroys what he has created. Or if there must be pain and death, let them be meted out by a God of righteousness, who will punish the wicked and reward the good with everlasting happiness. But in fact the good get hurt, the innocent suffer."

Work - play - what were those arbitrary distinctions? I encountered serious difficulties in a primary relationship as I sought to transcend the work - play distinction in my daily routine. For her they were clearly distinct and never the twain should meet. I found the dance of life did not make such distinctions.

"Then let there be a God who sympathizes and brings comfort. But Nataraja only dances. His play is a play impartially of death and of life, of all evils as well as of all goods. In the uppermost of his right hands he holds the drum that summons being out of not being. Rub-a-dub-dub - the creation tattoo, the cosmic reveille. But now look at the uppermost of his left hands. It brandishes the fire by which all that has been created is forthwith destroyed. He dances this way - what happiness! Dances that way - and oh, the pain, the hideous fear, the desolation! Then hop, skip and jump. Hop into perfect health. Skip into cancer and senility."

Ups and downs, highs and lows - the Tao asserted one does not exist without the other. Although I only saw it in retrospect, what I experienced as a low eventually turned upside down to become a high. When my companion of twenty eight years left, what pain! When followed through to the other side, what joy! For the release it evoked, I would not give up that pain for anything in the world.

"Jump out of the fullness of life into nothingness, out of nothingness again into life. For Nataraja it's all play, and the play is an end in itself, everlastingly purposeless. He dances because he dances, and the dancing is his maha sukha, his infinite and eternal bliss. Eternal bliss," Dr. Robert repeated and again, but questioningly, "Eternal bliss?" He shook his head. "For us there's no bliss, only the oscillation between happiness and terror and a sense of outrage at the thought that our pains are as integral a part of Nataraja's dance as our pleasures, our dying as our living. Let's quietly think about that for a little while." . . .

How can I know pleasure, if I have not withered in pain? How can I know joy, if I have not experienced sadness? How can I know release, if the therapist does not massage deep into the knotted tissue? The examples multiplied infinitely. I could not - it was that simple!

"Suffering and sickness," Dr. Robert resumed at last, "old age, decrepitude, death. I show you sorrow. But that wasn't the only thing the Buddha showed us. He also showed us the ending of sorrow." . . . "Open your eyes again and look at Nataraja up there on the altar. Look closely. In his upper right hand, as you've already seen, he holds the drum that calls the world into existence and in his upper left hand he carries the destroying fire. Life and death, order and disintegration, impartially."

The experience of sorrow catapulted me into the process of recovery. Without the transformation that painful experience brought, I would stumble blithely on my way without ever bringing my attention to the moment where life happened. I found the moment by having my nose vigorously rubbed in it.

"But now look at Shiva's other pair of hands. The lower right hand is raised and the palm is turned outwards. What does that gesture signify? It signifies, 'Don't be afraid; it's All Right.' But how can anyone in his senses fail to be afraid? How can anyone pretend that evil and suffering are all right, when it's so obvious that they're all wrong? Nataraja has the answer. Look now at his lower left hand. He's using it to point down at his feet. And what are his feet doing? Look closely and you'll see that the right foot is planted squarely on a horrible little subhuman creature - the demon, Muyalaka. A dwarf, but immensely powerful in his malignity, Muyalaka is the embodiment of ignorance, the manifestation of greedy, possessive selfhood."

I slowly learned that everything was OK no matter how tragic it seemed at the time. Experiencing my companions' abandonment and confronting Black Kali helped me see that I did not have to be afraid of the momentary pain. As they say, "this too shall pass." At a more subtle level, the sadness was as much an appropriate part of my journey as the joy. In that sense, both were equally all right.

"Stamp on him, break his back! And that's precisely what Nataraja is doing. Trampling the little monster down under his right foot. But notice that it isn't at this trampling right foot that he points his finger; it's at the left foot, the foot that, as he dances, he's in the act of raising from the ground. And why does he point at it? Why? That lifted foot, that dancing defiance of the force of gravity - it's the symbol of release, of moksha, of liberation. Nataraja dances in all the worlds at once - in the world of physics and chemistry, in the world of ordinary, all too human experience, in the world finally of Suchness, of Mind, of the Clear Light."

I did not have to be a victim of the prison that I and others created for me. What had been done to me by others was not the point. The issue was what I did about what had been done to me. Would I rise above and liberate myself from the baggage of the past? That was the question. Only I had the answer. None of the perpetrators had to answer for my reactions to their behavior.

"And now," Dr. Robert went on after a moment of silence, "I want you to look at the other statue, the image of Shiva and the Goddess. Look at them there in their little cave of light. And now shut your eyes and see them again - shining, alive, glorified. How beautiful! And in their tenderness what depths of meaning! What wisdom beyond all spoken wisdoms in that sensual experience of spiritual fusion and atonement! Eternity in love with time. The One joined in marriage to the many, the relative made absolute by its union with the One. Nirvana identified with samsara, the manifestation in time and flesh and feeling; of the Buddha Nature."

The divine embrace was the most potent symbol of union I knew. I learned of hieros gamos and sought that in myself so that I might recognize it in a relationship. I had high esteem for some "ideal" couples who seemed to express such a union. Was there a companion with whom I could dance the universal dance and not loose myself in projections and dysfunctional behaviors? That question remains open.