Ramprasad : Once for all, this time

Ramprasad Sen (c. 1718 – c 1775) was a Bengali poet and mystic of the Shakta tradition, devoted to the goddess Kali. There are many stories told about his life – one is that, to the concern of his parents he showed little interest in the practical aspects of life, declining to take up his father’s profession of ayurvedic medicine. When his father died, the care of the family fell on Ramprasad’s shoulders, and he was forced to work as an accounts clerk in Kolkata. His fellow workers were shocked to see him scribbling notes in the margins of his account books, and told their master of this. When the master confronted Ramprasad, though, he found that the scribblings were deeply devoted and skilful hymns to Kali, and moved by the discovery, he told the young man to return home, where he could continue to write, and the master would continue to pay him. The word ‘bhava’ in the first verse means ‘being.’

Once for all, this time,
I have thoroughly understood;
From One who knows it well,
I have learnt the secret of bhava.
A man has come to me from a country
where there is no night,
And now I cannot distinguish
day from night any longer;
Rituals and devotions have all grown profitless for me.

My sleep is broken;
how can I slumber any more?
For now I am wide awake
in the sleeplessness of yoga.
O Divine Mother,
made one with Thee in yoga-sleep at last,
My slumber I have lulled asleep for evermore.

I bow my head, says Prasad,
before desire and liberation;
Knowing the secret that Kali
is one with the highest Brahman,
I have discarded, once for all,
both righteousness and sin.

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