|Mirabai, crayon wash, oil pastel, collage|
Mirabai, a luminous poet, is well-known today in Indian culture but almost unknown in the west, Like the Buddha, she left a pampered life as a princess to go into the wilderness seeking the Divine. Legend says that she (as well as other women mystics for the bhakti sect) would wander naked through rural villages singing her songs of praise to the god she calls Giridhara. Though no one can know her motivations for sure, obviously she had a profound impact. I am living proof, as through the mists of history she has inspired me like no other person! In Hinduism I have found the best examples in the historic record of appearance of the radical sanctity of the body.
So it is with sadness that I find it is Hindus who object to this painting, on the grounds that nudity = degradation (click here to read the letters). Fear of the flesh is nearly universal among Western religions, which have covered the body out of fear of its beauty and power, so this is no surprise. But how can genuine illumination come alive in a place where fear and depravity rules? How can ugliness be transformed into beauty? Unlike reading illiteracy, which can be cured with simple education, this kind of cultural illiteracy can only be cured form the inside out. The ability to care or to see beauty comes not from encouragement (though that helps) but from a deep gratitude and joy from within. Like life itself, no one can give it to anyone else!
These Hindus want me to destroy this work because they can see nothing but depravity in it. I find this tragic (and common!) and I do feel sorry but no one else can help them. All of us must find beauty by coming alive– or not– on our own.