In Light of India


Octavio Paz(1914-1998)


        Octavio Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico City. On his father's side, his grandfather was a prominent liberal intellectual and one of the first authors to write a novel with an expressly Indian theme. Recipient of  Nobel Prize for Literarture(1990), Paz was appointed Mexican ambassador to India in 1962 : an important moment in both the poet's life and work, as witnessed in various books written during his stay in India.

        Paz was a poet and an essayist. His poetic corpus was nourished by

the belief that poetry constitutes "the secret religion of the modern age." Eliot Weinberger has written that, for Paz, "the revolution of the word is the revolution of the world, and that both cannot exist without the revolution of the body : life as art, a return to the mythic lost unity of thought and body, man and nature,  I and the other."  His  is  a    poetry


written within the perpetual motion and transparencies of the eternal present tense.

Excerpts from In Light of  India


The philosophical antecedent of Sufism, its origin, is the Spaniard Ibn 'Arabi(1165-1240) who taught the union with God through all His creations. The affinities of Ibn 'Arabi with Neoplatonism are only one aspect of his powerful thought. Love opens the eyes to understanding, and the world of appearances i.e. this world is transformed into a world of apparitions; everything that we touch and see is divine. This synthesis of pantheism and monotheism, of belief in the divinity of the creation (the world) and belief in a creator God, was the basis, centuries later, of the thought of such great mystic poets of India as Tukaram and Kabir.

A revealing fact : all these mystic poets wrote and sang in the

vernacular languages, not in Sanskrit, Persian or Arabic. Tukaram(1609-1650), who wrote in Marathi, was a Hindu poet who was unafraid to refer to Islam in terms such as these: "The first among the great names is that of Allah....".But he immediately affirms his pantheism : "You are in the One.... In [the vision of  the One] there is no I or you....". During the period of the decline of the Mughal Empire, from the beginning of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century, the coexistence of  Hindus and Muslims had become a less a matter of  entrenched opposition as it was under

Aurangzeb, but it never reached a state of reconciliation.

      There were political and military pacts between Hindu and Muslim leaders, all of them provisional and dictated by circumstances; but there were no movements of religious or cultural fusion such as those under Akbar or, at the other extreme, of a Kabir or a Tukaram.