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Bridal mysticism: a study of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Nammalvar.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) belonged to the Cistercian order and, according to Ewert Cousins,
 played a decisive role in the monastic reform of the twelfth
 century, stimulating the development of the newly founded
 Cistercian Order and infusing into its spirituality his own
 dynamic vision.... He gave impetus to two devotions
 that flourished in the later Middle Ages, becoming major forces in
 subsequent spirituality: devotion to Mary and to the humanity of
 Christ. (1)


Cousins pointed out that Bernard "has become the classic guide for those who follow the path of love in Christian spirituality." (2) Among the several works of St. Bernard, we need to look at two of his writings to understand his love mysticism--especially bridal mysticism: "On Loving God" and "Sermons on the Song of Songs." According to Jean Leclercq, for Bernard, love was the sole object of the scriptures: "Everything comes from and must lead to love"; "Out of love God seeks us and wants us to seek him. He longs for us, draws us to himself, and is present to us through his powerful words and in his Word." (3)

The term "Alvar," meaning "those who are deep into and immersed" in their devotion to Vishnu, refers to a group of twelve poet-saints of South India, particularly the Tamil-speaking area, who lived between the fifth and sixth centuries of the Common Era. Their devotional poems, collectively called Nalayiradivyaprabhandam (Four Thousand Sacred Verses), have remained central to the life of Vaisnavas in South India and to the shaping of the philosophy of Visistadvaita Vedanta (qualified nondualistic Vedanta). The devotion of the Alvars was inspired largely by the stories of Vishnu's incarnations (avatars) narrated in the epics and the Puranas. Their devotion was expressed in the "joyful recalling" of stories of Vishnu's incarnations, particularly Rama and Krishna, and by "imitative role-playing" in which they assumed the relationships of servant, child, parent, and lover of the incarnate Lord. They "became" Yasodha, the foster mother of Krishna; Devaki and Vasudeva, Krishna's "real" parents; and gopis, the cowherd women of Brindavan, who were romantically involved with Krishna. They also "became" Kausalya, mother of Rama, and Dasaratha, father of Rama, who died of the agony of separation from his beloved exiled son. The richness of their religious experience, therefore, consisted in the realization of the love of Yasodha for Krishna, of Devaki and Vasudeva for Krishna, of the gopis, and of Kausalya and Dasaratha.

Whether in the general role of a child or a servant or in legendary roles such as those of Yasodha and others, the devotion of the Alvars consisted in fully realizing the emotional dimensions of their roles. It is interesting to see that many of these characters shared episodes of tragic separation from their focus of love. For instance, though Devaki was the "biological" mother of Krishna, Krishna was brought up by Yasodha from birth, and Devaki had no opportunity to caress baby Krishna. The gopis who sought the companionship of Krishna were often denied this privilege by Krishna. The Alvars, by assuming these roles, were in some sense striving to experience the pain and agony of separation from their beloved. The logic behind this seems to be that the more they felt separated from God, the more they yearned for God. From their point of view, the best way to sustain one's "constant remembrance of God" (the definition of bhakti, devotion, in Ramanuja) is to feel intensely the sense of separation from God.

The bridal mysticism of Nammalvar emerges in the context of the love of the gopis for Krishna, with Nammal_var assuming the form of a woman who has fallen madly in love with Kannan (Krishna). There is another side to this love mysticism; for Nammalvar, the love is triggered, so to speak, by experiencing the "beauty" of icons installed in temples of Vishnu. This is considered one form of divine manifestation (arca avatara), in which Vishnu, the transcendent and supreme being, out of grace and love for his devotees, who are entangled in the endless and apparently fruitless cycle of rebirths (karma) as a result of having lost their initial connection with the creator at the time of creation, makes himself "accessible" in iconic form to redeem them. Thus, the presence of God in the icon is real and not symbolic for the Alvars, and temple worship, therefore, is one of the most efficacious ways of gaining freedom from samsara. In Tiruvaimoli, Nammalvar highlights the efticacy of temple worship thus: "Ye, Devout man, worship the Lord with flowers fine, studded, with honey, / And salvation do attain, lovingly meditating on Tirukannapuram daily." (4)

The beauty of the icons is one of the important aspects of the divinity that draws a devout person into God's presence and sustains one's devotion. Nammalvar is drawn by the beauty of the incarnate being, and, in order to experience and enjoy the beauty of the Lord fully, he becomes a female who has fallen madly in love with a male. In Tiruvaimoli, a woman in love with God describes her state of mind as follows: "Lift I can't my mind from Nampi, the Lord exquisite, / I beheld at Tirukkurunkuti, the conch and discus / In His hands, His lotus eyes and red lips, peerless." (5) It is interesting to note that while describing the nature of the Supreme Being, Vishnu, Nammalvar highlights his blissful dimension, ananda, and names him "Aravamudhan," meaning in Tamil "Bliss Insatiable." This is indeed the very basis of Nammalvar's bridal mysticism. In this essay I will highlight the various features of the bridal mysticism of Bernard of Clairvaux, a theme that he developed especially in his "Sermons on the Song of Songs," and make comparative references to Nammalvar's Tiruvaimoli in appropriate places.

Coming under the category of "love mysticism," which emphasizes love as a means of experiencing and uniting with God, bridal mysticism is one of its modes. It provides the human model of the relationship between woman and man, lover and beloved, bride and bridegroom. It is only "natural and inevitable," according to Evelyn Underhill, "that the imagery of human love and marriage should have seemed to the mystic the best of all images of his own 'fulfillment of life'; his soul's surrender, first to the call, finally to the embrace of Perfect Love." (6) Within Christian mysticism, Underhill makes a distinction between the theocentric and christocentric forms of bridal mysticism, the former being focused on "the transcendent" divine being and the latter on the incarnate Christ. (7) It is to the christocentric form of mysticism that Bernard belongs, just as Nammalvar focuses on Krishna. A contemporary of Bernard, Hildegard of Bingen, however, belongs to the category of theocentric mysticism, focusing on God the Father instead of the Son. While there are two forms of Christian mysticism, often one can find both types intermingling, though one type may be more prominent. Underhill suggested that "they develop at their best a type of spirituality which is both lofty and homely; penetrated through and through by the awed sense of God's Eternal Being, yet balancing this by an ardent personal devotion to, and communion with, Christ." (8) Generally speaking, there was "a marked revival" of the mystical strand in Christianity during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. (9)

Though it is difficult to arrive at a precise understanding of mysticism, for the purpose of the present essay and from the standpoint of bridal mysticism we may see the goal of this endeavor to be one's union with the Supreme Being through its manifest incarnate form. The means to achieve this union is by transforming the human, passionate love of the female and male into a spiritual love of the devotee for God. For Nammalvar, the devotee became the lover, and God became the beloved (nayaki and nayaka, respectively); for Bernard, they became the bride and bridegroom in "spiritual marriage." (10) Therefore, the texts of both Nammalvar and Bernard have to be read allegorically, not literally.

The Song of Songs, for Bernard, is divinely inspired; in it, King Solomon "sang the praises of Christ and the Church, of the gift of holy love and the mystery of eternal union with God." (11) The text is in figurative language, according to Bernard: "It is a wedding song indeed, expressing the embrace of chaste and joyful souls, the concord of their lives and mutual exchange of their love." (12) In eighty-six sermons, Bernard covered only the first two chapters of the Song of Songs. (13) In his symbolic interpretation of the Song of Songs, Bernard continued the tradition of Origen. (14) The focus of the Song of Songs, according to Bernard, is the theme of love, and therefore the bride and the bridegroom remain the central characters in this "play." Explaining the centrality of the image of the bride in Bernard, Etienne Gilson writes: "A great thing is love, but it has its degrees. The Bride stands at the highest.... Pure love is not mercenary; it draws no strength from hope, nor is it weakened by any mistrust. This is the love that is felt by the Bride, for all that she is, is only love. The very being of the Bride, and her one hope, consists in love." (15) Bernard, following the interpretation of Origen, (16) saw the bride, whose marriage the Song of Songs celebrates, as a figure that represents both the church and the individual soul, (17) whereas the bridegroom stands for Christ.

However, according to Theresa Moritz, Bernard gave priority to the church, the community of believers, over individual Christians in the role of the bride:
 When he [Bernard] first identifies the subject of the Song, Bernard
 places the marriage of Christ and the Church before the union of
 Christ and the soul. Furthermore, when Bernard interprets a text
 under two explicitly different allegorical senses, be consistently
 speaks first of the Church and Christ and then uses their union as
 a model for the relationship which he urges the individual soul to
 seek." (18)


She went on to say that "the real significance of Bernard's instructions to the soul is lost if they are separated from what Bernard says about the mystical union of Christ and the Church." (19) Further, "Throughout the Sermons," for Bernard, "the personal interaction of Christ and Church provides a temporal witness and example of love God wishes to share with every soul." (20)

The focus of Bernard's bridal mysticism is on the incarnate Christ, and the goal is the ecstatic union of the bride and bridegroom; by being united with the incarnate Christ, the community of believers and the individual Christian soul become united ultimately with God. Bernard pointed out that in the Song of Songs this quest for union is expressed by the word "kiss" in the following verse: "Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth." Bernard devoted his first nine sermons to "the kiss" and "kiss of the mouth" and their allegorical meaning and implications for Christians. Leclercq wrote in this connection that, for Bernard, "The kiss of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. Christ gives the kiss to his spouse, or bride, whom he fills with his Spirit. The Spirit in turn unites the bride to the Father through the Son."(21) In the second sermon, Bernard wrote:
 Shall I not find that a richer grace is poured out upon me from him
 whom the Father has anointed with the oil of gladness more than all
 his companions, if he will deign to kiss me with the kiss of his
 mouth (Ps 44:8)? His living and effective word (Heb 4:12) is a
 kiss; not a meeting of lips, which can sometimes be deceptive about
 the state of the heart, but a full infusion of joys, a revelation
 of secrets, a wonderful and inseparable mingling of the light from
 above and the mind on which it is shed, which, when it is joined
 with God, is one spirit with him (1 Cor 6:17). (22)


Moreover, "The touch of lips signifies the bringing together of souls. But this conjoining of natures unites the human with the divine and makes peace between earth and heaven (Col 1:20)." (23) According to Leclercq, for Bernard, "the kiss is an event complete and absolute in itself: its unity would be lost were its elements separated." Therefore, "Bernard does not analyze the experience, but simply describes it." (24)

In the third sermon, Bernard elaborated further the theme of the kiss, noting that "if any one once receives the spiritual kiss of Christ's mouth he seeks eagerly to have it again and again.... It is a sealed-up fountain ... to which no stranger has access, but he who drinks from it thirsts for more." (25) There is a progression for Bernard from the kiss of the feet to the kiss of the hands and then to the mouth. Addressing fellow monks, he would urge them to begin with the kiss of the feet by being humble and free from pride. However, the ascent to the "kiss of the mouth" is irresistible. It is gained after "we grow in grace and learn to trust in the Lord." Then, "our experience of love increases until we come to feel God's kiss on the mouth." (26)

Bernard, in this context, spoke of the infrequent "visit" of the bridegroom to the bride. Such visits are sources of joy and also agony:
 The Bride pines away with love and is in cruel torment; having
 enjoyed union with the Beloved, she now finds it more painful to be
 separated from him. The Bridegroom's slowness to return is a bitter
 affliction to the Bride and his absence only heightens both her
 desire and her sorrow. However he may hurry to ease her impatience,
 she is consumed with longing until he returns. (27)


The bride's longing for the bridegroom is intensified over periods of his absence:
 "Come back, my beloved," Bernard exclaims after each visit of the
 Bridegroom Jesus comes so that the soul will cling to him; he goes
 away so that the soul will call him back. He wants us to love him
 and takes certain steps to win our love: He gives himself so that
 we will enjoy his presence; he then leaves us so that we will long
 for it even more. (28)


We find similar situations described in Tiruvaimoli in terms of the lover and her beloved. Here, the lover (nayaki) becomes a gopi and recalls her intimacy with Krishna during the rasa lila (described in the Bhagavata Purana):
 Oh, Kanna, indeed you are devoid of grace;
 When my breasts are locked in Your sweet embrace,
 Every moment is a spate of bliss which soars
 Much beyond the skies and my sense it blurts:
 But then it passes like a dream and does my desire induce
 And far exceeds the potential of my soul, alas! (29)


The lover tells her friends that she is unable to control her mind, and her mind is enslaved to God, "captivated by His ravishing beauty." (30) She complains: "My Lord with red-lotus eyes robbed me of my modesty, / With my complexion gone, my body thinning down, / The hue of my red lips and eyes black is going down." (31) The mother of the love-torn maiden also has a role to play in this drama. She describes the pitiful condition of her daughter thus: "This young dame of forehead bright / Keeps rattling, with mind worn out: / Looking out all over ... / Cries out, 'O Naracinka!' and sinks." (32) This woman appeals to the Lord directly to help her daughter, who is being tormented by "love-sickness and out of love has become 'like unto wax set on fire." (33)

P. N. Srinivasachari described the process of union and separation as samslesa and vislesa. Samslesa is the momentary experience of union, while vislesa is the longing for reunion after one has already experienced union momentarily. This process is known, according to Srinivasachari, "as the mystic paradox and its object is the transmutation of the earthly self into the godly by a process of spiritual alchemy." (34) Further, "While samslesa is the spring season when love blossoms, vislesa is the desolation of winter when the grace and the glow of love fade away, and life becomes dreary and desolate." (35)

Bernard, toward the end of his ninth sermon on the Songs, as Leclercq has pointed out, highlighted the theme of "jealous love" that "could be seen as profane and perhaps could be read in a novel." Here, the friends of the bridegroom find the bride in a bad mood and keep battering her with questions on her pining away for her lover, "to which she answers only yes or no until her love bursts out: she blurts out the words 'I love', 'I desire', and she intones a hymn to love: 'I am carried away by my desire and not by reason.... Modesty has its rights, but love is stronger.'" (36) Similarly, in Tiruvaimoli, the woman in love, frustrated by the continued absence of her beloved, goes on the offensive, giving up her modesty, and threatens to do madal urtal (meaning literally, "riding the palmyra"); this a custom known in the Tamil poetic convention in which a young man whose love is denied fulfillment because of the intervention of family mounts the palmyra and is carried through the street as a protest, making his love for the woman public and thus putting pressure on the family to allow him to marry his love. Nammalvar heightens the drama by having the woman in love ride the palmyra, instead of the man, by charging her "truant lover with desertion, [she] rebukes and exposes publicly his cruelty and treachery." (37) Thus, she forces her beloved to take proper notice of her and to satisfy her passionate love. (38)

It is interesting to note that Bernard did not consider marital love profane. According to Leclercq, "St. Bernard draws a close parallel between 'fleshly union' (carnale connubium) and 'spiritual marriage' (spirituale matrimonium). This analogy is based on constant and realistic description of conjugal love." (39) Bernard condemns those as heretics who say "that the products of sexual congress are unclean." "Nothing is unclean except to one who thinks it unclean." (40) In fact, he suggests:
 Copulation and child-bearing are a means to salvation for married
 folk: "A woman shall be 'saved through child-bearing if she
 continues in faith [1 Tm 2:15].' Children shall be strengthened by
 the new birth of baptism [see Ti 3:5]. And adults not able to
 preserve continence shall be redeemed by the thirtyfold fruit of
 marriage [see Mt 13:8]." (41)


Thus, for Bernard, "Married love is, in one sense, the most complete form of human love, since it engages all the faculties of the soul--intellect, will, and feelings--and the body as well." (42) In terms of Bernard's theology, the ecstatic experience of union can only be sustained in the afterlife, as the "union" between the bride and bridegroom is consummated fully only in "heaven," where, using the language of Bernard, the bride is transformed and "deified." Bernard wrote:
 To be thus affected is to be deified.... As a drop of water mingled
 in wine is seen to pass away utterly from itself, while it takes on
 the taste and colour of the wine; as a kindled and glowing iron
 becomes most like the fire, having put off its former and natural
 form; and as the air, when flooded with the light of the sun, is
 transformed into the same clarity of light, so that it seems to be
 not merely illumined, but the light itself: so it will needs be
 that all human affection in the Saints will then, in some ineffable
 way, melt from itself and be entirely poured over into the will of
 God. (43)


This attitude toward marital love is not stated explicitly in Tiruvaimoli. For Nammalvar, human love is to be "spiritualized," and this can happen only when one's love is turned toward God. As Professor R. Ramanujachari has pointed out, in spite of Nammalvar's use of sexual language, "there is nothing erotic, carnal, and degrading about it. All the alvars alike insist that the very first requisite of godly life is complete break with sex impulses." (44) Still, there are verses in Tiruvaimoli that seems to suggest that the union sought by the woman in love is somewhat physical. For instance, in IX.5.2, Nayaki rebukes Anril birds for mating with their male partners in her presence. She appeals to them not to torment her: "Ye, Anril birds, is it all right / That you should with your male partners mate, / Right in front of me and warble my life out?" However, it is interesting to note that Srinivasachari finds a place for marital love in Vaisnavism as Bernard finds it in Christianity.
 If kama [love] as sexual feeling is not humanized, it is bestial
 and blind, clamant and chaotic, and becomes a deadly vice. But when
 it is idealized and disciplined into married love, selfishness
 disappears, and the fleeting voluptuousness of reckless adventure
 is replaced by the lasting happiness of perfect pleasure. If it is
 further spiritualized into divine love, it loses all traces of
 selfishness and becomes ethereally ennobled. Kama is the urge of
 love. But as bhagavat-kama, it is a craving for spiritual marriage
 with the Beloved. (45)


With the final goal of spiritual union's being uniting with God the Father, Gilson pointed out that, for Bernard, there were three stages in the soul's journey into heaven. The first stage is humility, emptying oneself of one's ego, or "I-ness," the sense of being an "achiever." In this, one is guided by the Son. The second stage is that of mercy or charity, which is reached under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is in this stage that one "recovers" one's "divine likeness," since God has created human beings in God's "image" and "likeness." (46) To reach the third and highest level, one needs to be "caught up." "This is the exact sense of the word raptus," Gilson writes. "It means, therefore, that the soul thus ravished has no part of its own to play in this operation, which is effected in it without its co-operation." (47) The state of rapture cannot be sustained permanently as long we have the "body of flesh." Thence arises the situation of the bride who feels abandoned by the bridegroom and yearns to be reunited. These levels may be compared with the three kinds of kisses. The first stage corresponds to the kiss of the feet; the second, to the kiss of the hand; and the third, to the kiss of the mouth.

In the mysticism of Nammalvar, we do find an ambivalent attitude toward the world. Since the world is created by God, God's "handiwork" reminds the "lover" of her "beloved" and intensifies her love. This is brought out in the verses in Tiruvaimoli where the mother of the woman who is madly in love with the Lord describes the emotional agony of her daughter:
 Ye Ladies, with bangles bedecked, thro' earth her hand she runs
 And exclaims, it is one trodden by Vamanan,
 The sky she worships with joined palms as Vaikuntam,
 Her Lord's transcendent abode ...
 Her mental anguish finds its outlet thro' tears torrential
 And says she, her Lord is oceanic hue;
 Unto Him has my daughter entranced, what to do? (48)


According to Michael Irudayam, for Nammalvar, "each phenomenon, in its own way is a personal sign of the Great Presence, a messenger of love from the 'God-with us' who is indwelling in our midst." (49) However, as Kaylor and Venkatachri have pointed out:
 Nammalvar never makes the beauty of the created world a theme for
 his hymns, but he implies a positive attitude toward nature by his
 frequent use of symbols from nature to illustrate his own
 relationship to God. Thus the restlessness of ocean (II.1.3), the
 gentleness of breeze (II. 1.4), the mournful sounds of the anril
 bird (II.1.2), the wakefulness of heron (II.1.1) ... are among
 symbols of his yearning for God. (50)

 Nammalvar definitely expressed that the pleasures of the world
 are distractions, taking us away from seeing creation as the
 handiwork of God, when we often tend to appropriate the world for
 our own personal ends. He wrote:

 I did nothing good in the days of yore, nor desist from evil,
 Away from you strayed I and got absorbed,
 In pleasures petty.... (51)
 Caught up in worldly life dense,
 The breeding ground for dire sins,
 I missed my track and for ages groped.... (52)
 In a body by violent desires bound, neat outside
 But full of dirt within and in binding ignorance rendered weak. (53)


Regarding whether perfect union could be achieved in this life or only in an afterlife, heavenly world, Nammalvar's response could be summarized at best as ambiguous. The union in terms of the Alvar's experience is only momentary and is followed by long periods of absence. Yet, when the beloved returns in response to the fervent appeals of the lover, the woman responds with anger and temporary rejection. She charges that the Lord's delayed return is due to the fact that he has been staying elsewhere, making love to other women. She asks him to depart and to leave her alone: "You, perfect one of wondrous deeds, from here depart / And go anywhere you like but leave my playthings here." (54) He is even warned that if he does not go away quickly, he will get hurt, as everyone around her is angry with him due to his (mis)conduct in taking advantage of her. At this point, the Alvar identifies himself with one of the cowherd women (gopis), and the story here is connected to Krishna's intimacy with the gopis in rasa lila: "a mistake is a mistake even if by You committed. / Words you whisper, we dare not repeat and with us you flirt; / Surely our brethren, when they get to know, will feel hurt, / For good or bad they wouldn't care and you they might hit." (55)

After this temporary phase of rejection ends, in this love drama the gopis are willing to accept Krishna again. However, they also realize that the union is temporary, and they will be separated from Krishna: "Now You are here to redeem this shepherd clan, / But we shepherdesses are by You tormented for ever." (56) Satyamurthi Ayyangar commented: "Of course, the Gopis know that rejoining Their Lord now doesn't mean perpetual enjoyment of His company and they are in for further spells of misery, due to separation from Him. Even so, they are prepared to brave it and get back to Him at least for the time-being." (57) Hence, a permanent union, like Gilson suggests for Bernard, must wait for a heavenly union in the afterlife. However, Srinivasachari claims that, for Nammalvar, the union with God during his lifetime is as important as heavenly, long-lasting, blissful union.

The thought of oscillating between heaven and earth is deeply distressing, but earthly life with God is preferable to the afterlife of Vaikuntha [Heaven]. The Alvar is caught up in a dilemma of devotion. Love yearns for physical communion here and now and longs at the same time for transcendental life. The former is eagerly desired but not desirable on account of its impermanence and its sensuous setting and content; the latter is desirable but is not actually desired on account of its remoteness in time and space. Mystic love is tossed between the spiritual longing for release and the divine dalliance in the rasa lila love. (58)

There does appear to be a difference between Nammalvar and Bernard in their description of the effects of the experience of union with God on the spiritual aspirant. Leclercq noted that, toward the end of the last sermon on the Song of Songs, Bernard clearly stated that "the joy of union must not prevent the individual from responding to the needs of his fellow-man." Bernard's interpretation of the statement in the Song of Songs that "Your breasts are better than wine" stresses this dimension of one's responsiveness to the needs of fellow human beings. The experience of union gives rise to a life of charity and compassion that are reflected in one's interpersonal relationships. There are no such clear statements indicating a return to an active social life in Tiruvaimoli, where the goal appears to be to experience a "long-lasting" relationship with God and to remain in the ecstatic state of union, which, however, cannot be sustained without interruption in the "bodily" existente. For a devotee, there are frequent interruptions, periods of separation from the beloved in his absence. However, for Nammalvar, there is a "limited" extent of socialization, which consists in serving the devotees of God; as the devotees are very dear to God, by serving God's devotees one is able to intensify and express one's devotion to God.

By placing Nammalvar in the context of Ramanuja's theology, I would suggest that one could find a similar strand to Bernard's insistence that charity and compassion result from one's experience of union with God. Through union with God, a devotee could be said to develop "Godlike eyes" or a "Godlike consciousness," whereby he or she comes to see the world as God sees it. This Godlike consciousness could be seen as a foretaste of sarupya, the "Godlike form" that the released soul assumes in the heavenly abode, according to the Vaisnava theology. From the point of view of Ramanuja's theology, this would mean that one "regains" a playful, lila perspective of creation and the world, a view of the world that was somehow lost and displaced by "ego-centered awareness" and an "appropriation" of the world such that it is no longer God's world created for God's own enjoyment but "our own world" ready to be exploited for our personal gains. Entanglements in karma and samsara, the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, are consequences of such an ego-centered understanding of the world. There is a process common to Bernard and Nammalvar of "emptying oneself" before being "filled" with divine love, which process indeed justifies the language of human sexuality, though spiritualized, in both cases.

(1) Ewert Cousins, "Preface," Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, tr. and foreword G. R. Evans, Classics of Western Spirituality Series (New York and Mahwah, N J: Paulist Press, 1987), p. 5.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Jean Leclercq, "Introduction," Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, p. 32.

(4) Tiruvaimoli, IX. 10.2. All translations are from S. Satyamurthi Ayyangar, Tiruvaymoli English Glossary, 2 vols. (Bombay: Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute, 1981).

(5) Ibid., V.5.1.

(6) Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man 's Spirimal Consciousness (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1911), p. 136.

(7) Evelyn Underhill, The Mystics of the Church (New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926), p. 25.

(8) Ibid., p. 26.

(9) Ibid., p. 74.

(10) It is interesting to note, according to Dom Cuthbert Butler, that, though the usage of the terms "bride" and "bridegroom" can be found in Christian writings earlier than Bernard's, the imagery of "spiritual marriage" became commonplace only after the time of Bernard (Dom Cuthbert Butler, Western Mysticism: The Teaching of Augustine, Gregory, and Bernard on Contemplation and Contemplative Life, 3rd ed. [London: Constable, 1967 (orig., 1922)], p. 110).

(11) Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, "Sermons on the Song of Songs," Sermon 1, IV.8, p. 213.

(12) Ibid., VI. 11, p. 215.

(13) George A. Maloney, Singers of the New Song: A Mystical Interpretation of the Song of Songs (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 1985), p. 14.

(14) Cousins, Preface to Bernard of Clairvaux, p. 9. In terms of Origen's impact on Bernard's commentary on the Song of Songs, it is interesting to note that Bernard's contemporary, Peter Berenger, accused Bernard of plagiarizing Origen's commentary (Jean Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God: A Study of Monastic Culture [New York: Fordham University Press, 1962], p. 120).

(15) Etienne Gilson, The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, tr. A. H. C. Downes (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1940), p. 138.

(16) Cousins, Preface to Bernard of Clairvaux, pp. 9-10.

(17) Theresa Moritz, "The Church as Bride in Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons on the Song of Songs," in E. Rozanne Elder and John R. Sommerfeldt, eds., The Chimaera of His Age: Studies on Bernard of Clairvaux, Studies in Medieval Cistercian History 5, Cistercian Studies Series 63 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1980), p. 3.

(18) Ibid.

(19) Ibid.

(20) Ibid.

(21) Leclercq, "Introduction," p. 47.

(22) Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, Sermon 2, 1..2, p. 216.

(23) Ibid., II.3, p. 217.

(24) Leclercq, "Introduction," p. 47.

(25) Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, Sermon 3, p. 221.

(26) Leclercq, "Introduction," p. 47.

(27) Ibid., pp. 50-51.

(28) Ibid., p. 52.

(29) Tiruvaimoli, X.3.2. The "rasalila" is a circular dance described in the Bhagavata Purana, where Krishna is said to have danced with the cowherd women (gopis) of Vrindavan. The episode ends with Krishnan's sexual intimacy with the gopis. In the Vaisnava tradition, this episode is understood symbolically as the highest and most intimate experience of the devotee with God. P. N. Srinivasachari presents the traditional understanding of the circular dance as follows: "The centre is everywhere and the circumference nowhere. In the ecstasy of the rasa dance, the self-feeling is swept away and reflection expires in rapture. Infinity is held in the arms of love and eternal bliss is experienced in a moment as the eternal present" (P. N. Srinivasachari, The Philosophy of Visistadvaita, repr. [Adyar, Madras: Adyar Library and Research Centre, 1978 (orig., 1943)], p. 461).

(30) Ibid., VII.3.3.

(31) Ibid., V.3.2.

(32) Ibid., 11.4.1.

(33) Ibid., II.4.3.

(34) Srinivasachari, Philosophy of Visistadvaita, p. 450.

(35) Ibid., p. 451.

(36) Jean Leclercq, A Second Look at Bernard of Clairvaux, tr. Marie-Bernard Said (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1989 [orig.: Nouveau Visage de Bernard de Clairvaux Approaches Psycho-Historiques (Paris: Cerf, 1976]), pp. 113-114.

(37) Srinivasachari, Philosophy of Visistadvaita, p. 452.

(38) R. D. Kaylor and A. A. A. Venkatachari, God Far, God Near: An Interpretation of the Thought of Nammalvar (Bombay: Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute, 1987), p. 82.

(39) John R. Sommerfeldt, Bernard of Clairvaux on the Spirituality of Relationship (New York and Mahwah, NJ: The Newman Press, 2004), p. 52, citing Jean Leclercq, Monks on Marriage: A Twelfth-Century View (New York: Seabury Press, 1982), p. 79.

(40) Ibid., p. 53

(41) Ibid.

(42) Ibid., p. 55.

(43) Cited in Butler, Western Mysticism, p. 109 (from de diligendo Deo, 28). Butler noted that the similes of water, iron, and air were also used to describe the union of the soul with God in this life, in Ruysbroeck, and John of Cross and Blosius (Butler, Western Mysticism, p. 109).

(44) R. Ramanujachari, The Mysticism of Nammalvar, Indian Philosophical Congress Lectures for 1969-1970 (Madras: University of Madras, 1970), pp. 11-12.

(45) Srinivasachari, Philosophy of Visistadvaita, p. 447.

(46) It is interesting to note how Leclercq states the theological position of Bernard on this matter: "God has made us in his 'image' and 'likeness'. The first of these two favors is particularly manifest in the fact that we are endowed with free will. Inherent in our very nature, this gift is inalienable. Nevertheless, the 'likeness' was a grace which confirmed our freedom by adherence to the will of God; it was an added gift which could be lost, and in fact was lost by sin ... The grace of Christ has reestablished the 'likeness' and restored the 'image'" (Jean Leclercq, Bernard of Clairvaux and the Cistercian Spirit, tr. Claire Lavoie [Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1976 (orig.: S. Bernard et l 'esprit cistercien, Collection Maitres spirituels [Paris: Ed. du Seuil, 1966])], p. 76).

(47) Gilson, Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard, p. 106.

(48) Tiruvaimoli, IV.4.1.

(49) Cited in Kaylor and Venkatachari, God Far, God Near, p. 25.

(50) Ibid.

(51) Tiruvaimoli, III.2.6.

(52) Ibid., III.2.9.

(53) Ibid., V. 1.5.

(54) Ibid., VI.2.1

(55) Ibid., VI.2.7

(56) Ibid., VI.2.10

(57) Ayyangar, Tiruvaymoli-English Glossary, p. 535.

(58) Srinivasachari, Philosophy of Visistadvaita, p. 453.

K. R. Sundararajan (Hindu) is Professor of Theology at St. Bonaventure (NY) University, where he has taught since 1976. He holds a B.A., an M.A., and a Ph.D. (1967) from the University of Madras. He taught in the Dept. of Religious Studies at Punjabi University in Patiala, India, 1967-75. He edited (with Bithika Mukerji) Hindu Spirituality 11." Post-Classical and Modern, World Spirituality 7 (SCM and Crossroad, 1997). His articles have appeared in several religious and philosophical journals and as book or encyclopedia chapters, in India, the U.K., and the U.S., especially in the areas of the Vedanta of Ramanuja, the Sri Vaisnava tradition, and comparative studies (especially Christian and Chinese). His "The Hindu Models of Interreligious Dialogue" appeared in J.E.S. 23 (Spring, 1986). Interreligious Insight published his "Comparing the Role of the Teacher, Student, and Process of Learning in the Confucian Analects and the Upanishads" (July, 2004, special issue on the occasion of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Barcelona). Other recent articles include "The Ultimate Reality according to Ramanuja," Voice of Sankara (2005); "Ramanuja's Vedanta and the Panentheism of Hartshorne," Journal of the Department of Philosophy (Univ. of Calcutta, 2006-07); and "Field-Being and the Vedanta of Ramanuja," International Journal of Field-Being (2006).
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