NARRATED in a story-telling session, M. Sreekumar’s An Immortal Story is a tribute to the tantric tradition, which is being widely misunderstood due to ignorance and malpractices by certain unscrupulous persons.
Following the pattern of ancient Indian narratives of a story within a story, which is an important part of the tantric tradition, the book, which has been translated from Malayalam, works on three storylines simultaneously. It describes the spiritual journey and growth of Satish Aigal, a failed businessman; Sudheeran, a successful businessman who becomes ‘Babaji’ later in life; and Mukta Devi, a singer and famous dancer who later becomes ‘Chinmayi’. These persons from varied walks of life enter the spiritual sphere after they find that their active role in the world is ‘over’. Emphasising that supreme bliss cannot be attained in isolation, the book lays stress on the fact that it is only after an individual experiences life in full and has utilised his capacity for personal growth that he becomes one with God. So, all these persons live complete lives and later attain spirituality. In their journey, which is not limited by time, space or consciousness, men and women undergo various experiences in different lives. It is, as Chinmayi says, while narrating her story, through the medium of Bhavani:
“Each birth is a payback time for the sins and for enjoying the fruits of virtue. Till the sins and virtues are balanced as if on a scale, the cycle of birth and death will go on.”
Emphasising that the yogic state of tantrism is the quickest way to the realisation of God, it describes, as in Chinamayi’s discourse, “Yoga is the union of the Paramatma and the Jeevatma. As one enters the yogic state, all one’s sorrows—products of onemisapprehensions of the One as many—disappear.” The mystic meaning of Bhairavi Chakra Pooja, an ancient and special aspect of the tantra traditon, is described as: “It is the beginning of wisdom and the realisation of devotion. Once the wisdom of chakra is realised, one can imbibe divine power in its most perfect form. The wheel of time becomes the wheel of life and the cycle of existence.”
While at one level, it is the story of common men and women who pass through extraordinary experiences to reach the yogic state, at another it is about the harmony of man-woman relationship and how this complete understanding of each other’s body and mind can lead to supreme spiritual bliss. The book holds sexuality as an important part of spiritual attainment. In fact, tantra describes sexuality as the one and only way to one’s own release, besides being something that sustains life, and subsequently the way to a life of supreme bliss. In fact, it gives the aspiring spiritual seeker the knowledge that yoga comes after the fullness of bhoga. However, Sreekumar is careful in presenting human sexuality in a sensitive manner and keeps it free from any sensationalism.
In this spiritual journey, women are not merely objects of pleasure but have distinct identities of their own. In fact, women characters in the novel outshine the men many a time. From Rosakutty to Mukta Devi, to Dhara, besides other women characters, all have distinct characters of their own. While upholding that both men and women hold an equal place in the tantric tradition, it also dissuades from demeaning women and committing atrocities against them. In fact, an awareness of the woman’s body and mind is considered an essential aspect in the attainment of enlightenment.
Through a number of twists and turns of the narrative, the book takes the reader through the varied mysteries of tantra. From the Bhairavi Chakra Pooja to the eight steps of yoga, the book introduces one to the tantric tradition in a no-nonsense and matter-of-fact way. The glossary of words at the end of the book elucidates in detail the Sanskrit terms used in the book. Presenting well-structured steps of knowledge and wisdom, M. Sreekumar gives a detailed account of all steps in the spiritual journey towards the union with the Ultimate.
The book ends with the conclusion that tantrism is pure, which enables one to attain God without the aid of priests or temples. “Tantra not just shows but makes us experience that there is no easier way to God-realisation than from within one’s own body.” Elucidating this aspect further, it says: “It is humanity’s need that tantra be alive. A great need because the greatest truths are fixed in the Srutis. One has to be mature enough to listen to the words and imbibe their meaning.”