TALKING TO SELF by Dillip Kumar Dash


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Internal dialogue is the key to communing with the divine, according to this rapturous but often murky volume of mystical devotions.

Dash, an Indian psychiatrist, dispenses his philosophical teachings in a series of short, one- or two-paragraph prose poems that center on august, thematic figures. One figure is the ineffable Almighty, an entity of love and righteousness that subsumes the individual: “No act is mine; no thought is mine, and no name is mine, neither is any personification,” Dash writes. Another figure, almost as awesome but more down-to-earth, is the author’s mother, a being of “sanity and saintly love” who is “closer to [him] than each drop of blood in [his] arteries.” Dash evokes his mother in tenderly specific terms, departing from his usual abstract tone: “Before dawn she would clean the utensils left dirty from the previous night…giving me some cold rice and curry to eat…do[ing] aarti [, a Hindu ritual,] around a Tulsi plant.” Soon, a “Master” emerges to impart Buddhism-inflected philosophy—“Mind is just a function, and you can make it no mind”—to a vaguely Christ-like “son of the Lord…who is hungry, hunted and weeping.” Dash further elaborates on Yogic-Buddhist principles of happiness, enjoining readers to “attain the value of nothingness,” renounce worldly desires (“sexual and sensual urges are slavery, while celibacy is freedom”) and emulate his own inward meditative journey of “talking to self.” Dash’s loose, free-associational prose shifts through a number of registers, sometimes intimately prayerful, sometimes caustically prophetic—“I shall destroy the world of cruelty, dishonesty, and of massacre”—and includes sketchy stories reminiscent of Kahlil Gibran’s parables. However, the text strains for grand, cryptic pronouncements that often misfire (“In silence the human race slowly progresses towards the time zone, moving relentlessly”). At its best, however, Dash’s poetic imagery feels vivid and fresh: “This moment is like a child carrying a lit candle and progressing towards the church, like the silence of the blue sky in the summer afternoon.”

A motley sheaf of sometimes-absorbing, sometimes-baffling spiritual stanzas.

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1482801576
Page count: 182pp
Publisher: PartridgeIndia
Program: Kirkus Indie
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