Is it possible to look outside of Christianity to see people who carry God’s image? Can we learn from them? I think both are worthwhile.
Paul tells us in the eighth book of Romans (in the bible) that the whole of creation hopes to be set free from its bondage to corruption. Therefore we should expect to find people from every country and religion who are crying out for justice and change.
Now that I am living back in Nepal, where I run a charity that assists vulnerable women, I am trying to read as much as I can about influential women from the country. In my research, I have come across this book about Yogmaya. She was a Sanyasi, a devout Hindu who has renounced all worldly possessions and human relationships. Born in the 1800s, she founded an Ashram in eastern Nepal where she led a group of rebellious, yet pious, women who wanted to see an end to both caste oppression and political corruption.
Yogmaya expressed her calls for justice through yogbani (also called hazurbani) which are pithy verses that were, and still are, recited by her followers to induce a trance-like state. Here are a few of them; it is easy to recognise Yogmaya’s call for justice within them.
Nowadays Brahmins, live as you wish,
Like lords, you plunder the poor.
How corrupted, you sell your trust.
How deep, the roots of your greed.
Teen Sarkar was the prime minister. Yogmaya’s description of him as a lazy spider that ensnares others in his web is a powerful metaphor for corruption.
Teen Sarkar, you are so great;
Again and again, I praise you.
Like a spider who neither ploughs nor sows,
Yet swells, growing richer, and richer still.
In these excerpts, I find strong echoes of David’s Psalms, though in this case, Yogmaya calls on her political leader rather than God.
All this greed makes more injustice.
Oh Master, you promised us hope.
God, we watch the helpless die.
Oh Master, what is it you do?
How riches grow by trickery.
You say the debt still stands!
I know the dead man paid his due-
Yet to his boy, you say ‘give more.’
Eventually, Yogmaya’s call for justice went unheeded and in a desperate attempt to highlight her cause she and her devotees tragically undertook mass suicide in the River Arun.
It is such a horrible end to her life, and her well-founded calls for justice.
Her story stirs me to pray for all those who long for justice but do not know God.
How I wish that someone had told her that Jesus had already set in motion the redemption of humankind and creation. The Kingdom of God is built upon perfect justice, but she didn’t receive her invitation in time.
God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon—
so much evil and no sign of Justice.
He couldn’t believe what he saw:
not a soul around to correct this awful situation.
So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation,
fueled by his own Righteousness.
He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armour,
with Salvation on his head like a helmet,
Put on Judgment like an overcoat,
and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders.
He’ll make everyone pay for what they’ve done:
fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies.
Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full.
In the west they’ll fear the name of God,
in the east they’ll fear the glory of God,
For he’ll arrive like a river in flood stage,
whipped to a torrent by the wind of God. (Isaiah 59:15-19)
To find out more about Yogmaya, please read ‘Yogmaya and Durga Devi’ by Barbara Nimri Aziz, it is available on Amazon.
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