ARUNA JAYATHILAKA                        

Recently I had the fortuitous opportunity of listening to the video songs of Charyageet conceptualized by Dr. Ramala Sarma, who teaches Philosophy at Nowgong College (Autonomous). After watching and listening to it on her YouTube channel RamalaCreates I thought I would not be serving her justice if I didn’t write a note of appreciation for her commendable work.

Dr. Ramala Sarma, in a pioneering attempt, has brought out ancient literature into focus in her work on Charyageet composed in a delightful and euphonic tone, drawing our attention to the relevance and importance of the ancient Kamrupi Buddhist monks’ contribution to the Buddhist literature.

Even though I was not familiar with this tradition until now, her work kindled my interest in Charyapada to a great extent. I began to study the Charyapada eventually. More so because of the way it was presented in such a melodious way. Had it not been presented that way, I would not have given much thought to it.

Dr. Sarma meticulously draws out some inspiration from the Charyageet-1 (Luipadanam) and Caryagit-32 (Sarahapadanam) and lays them out in an interestingly fresh exposition accentuating the Buddhist point of view with regard to the doctrine of five aggregates and the ephemerality of material things.

The Charyas are mystic and spiritually didactic songs composed in an early Apabhramsa dialect by a number of Vajrayani as well as Sahajyani Buddhist monks. The Charya songs were spontaneously composed verses that articulated the practitioner’s experience of the enlightened state. Thus these songs can be said to be an artistic description of the practice of Dhamma and the literature of the Vajrayani Sahajiya monks.

The Buddhist view of non-substantiality of self (anatta) and five aggregates (panchkhanda) can be found in some verses of the Charyageets. One such verse goes like this: Odobhuo bhavamoha re disoi por opyona// e jogo jolovimbokare sahaje sun opona (Carya-39), meaning the craving for the material world is peculiar; it creates a difference between self and other. But this world is like bubbles of water, bereft of any substantial self. This can be understood by the practice of ‘sahaj’.

The opening line of the Caryagit-1 Ka aa toruboro poncho bi dala, meaning, ‘the body is like the finest tree, with five branches’ was accentuated in her video song in the form of an expression of the five aggregates of Buddhism, viz., material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness into which the Buddha analyses the living being.

Again, the Buddhist concept of awakening is emphasized in Charyageet-32 which states that enlightenment is not to be sought outside. It is in us to explore which we need a non-judgemental insightful mind.

In the texts of these songs, we find traces of the formative stage of Bengali, Assamese, Maithili, and Oria languages.

In presenting her work, she not only highlighted the message of Charyapada but offered it in a fashion that can be embraced with relish. The presentation of the songs gives an air of tranquillity and inner calm, enhancing the message of the Charya profoundly.

I appreciate her work and hope that it can be used by those who are interested in furthering their knowledge in such areas as these as well as people like me who had no prior knowledge of similar literature.

Not only Dr. Sarma, but the excellent works of the dedication of the music composer duos, Grahadhish Sarma and Rajib Chetri must be commended, and the singer Grahadhish Sarma for providing mesmeric vocals and Gitartha Sharma for the beautiful visual effects which altogether blended everything into a coherent piece of work.

It also must be mentioned that this is not the only contribution provided by Dr. Sarma to Assamese Buddhism. Her arduous research on Buddhism in Assam as well as Northeast India has brought to light many aspects of the Buddhist philosophy and practice of this region. Her book “Buddhism in Tai Life of Assam” validates it.

It may be mentioned that she has obtained a design registration by the Patent Office, Kolkata, Government of India on September 1, 2020, for an innovative textile product that has aesthetically appealing features and can be used for many purposes, regularly and occasionally.

I wish Dr. Sarma an excellent future and hope she would continue with her good work for the benefit of all.

The author is a Buddhist futurist and meditation practitioner from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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