Chyi Yu, Voice of Innocence 2

Chyi Yu, Nana Mouskouri, Vincent Van Gogh, San Mao, and Buddhism

I had begun talking about Chinese vocalist Chyi Yu here, lamenting that I didn’t have time to cover more facets of her varied career. (See Part 1 for discussion of Chyi Yu, Li Tai-Hsiang, and the meaning of the song “The Olive Tree.”)

In this follow-up I’ll usher the reader through a whirlwind tour of three periods in the life of this fascinating artist, whose best work is infused with spiritual feeling. Music videos will guide us on our journey…

I’ve written about the close artistic collaboration between Chyi Yu and composer-arranger Li Tai-Hsiang. Chyi Yu was to some extent his protégé, and they shared a belief in music without borders. Different styles of music were not separate islands, but formed a continuum. One could therefore mix styles freely and create something more meaningful. Let’s pick up the story in 1983, when after a four-year hiatus, Chyi Yu again worked with Li Tai-Hsiang in the studio. Here’s “The Sigh of Chrysanthemum” from her album You Are All My Memories:

Even today it’s hard for me to listen to this song without tears coming to my eyes. It’s such a perfect example of the synergy between Chyi Yu, Li Tai-Hsiang, and poet Hsiang Yang. As with much great art, there’s a combining of opposites: joy and sadness, innocence and experience. The style might be called light classical, the main instruments being harp, oboe, and strings, but with the addition of electric bass. As many times as one listens to this song, it’s always perfect, with not one note or inflection out of place.

User zzenzero is active on both YouTube and DailyMotion in posting a few of Chyi Yu’s early songs, often with detailed biography, lyrics translation, and helpful links — for which we heartily thank him or her. We thus gain this translation (slightly edited by me):

Chrysanthemum Sigh

All waiting, only for the golden-haired chrysanthemum
Smiling and slowly blossoming in the cold night
Gently floating down like the leaves of the forest
The greeting is as beautiful as the sound of water
But with a little anger just like the wind,
People treading through the bracken trails
Startled by the clear yellow moonlight,
And in the evening trampling on the branches
left by the woodcutter
Cold stagnation faded dark and desolate
Always passing by with head bent and hair hanging down,
pretending not to be there
Outside the forest stream, a few teardrops
clutching the grass
Now disintegrated in the wind
You ask me about the duckweed’s logic
Ah, that is it
Dew sinks into the earth, gently sighing
Chrysanthemum, golden-haired chrysanthemum
is enduring to wait.
After the cold winter, the spring will come
I’ll wait all my life for your perfection
I have a lifetime to wait for you to
show your perfect colour
I have a lifetime to wait for you to
unfurl your colour.

— Hsiang Yang

From 1987 on into the 90s, Chyi Yu recorded mostly English songs. She reminds me a little of Greek-French chanteuse Nana Mouskouri for a few reasons: Both were influenced early on by Joan Baez; both have big hearts and like to make people happy, so they sometimes surrender to the popular taste and sing English songs which everybody knows and requests, but which aren’t the best poetry (tending toward the sentimental); and because of their kind and empathetic nature, both have been selected as ambassadors of good will.

zzenzero writes of Chyi that “one of her many ventures outside music was in 1997, when she was invited to serve as the ‘World Vision’ 1997 Hunger Ambassador, on behalf of Taiwan Asia, going to Africa to visit refugees.” (I suppose that makes her a “hunger artist”!) Nana Mouskouri was likewise appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in October 1993. Here from 1967 is a très grave Nana Mouskouri singing a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Farewell Angelina” on French television:

In both France and Taiwan, a singer is… well, a singer — an entertainer. Both Nana Mouskouri and Chyi Yu have struggled to be taken seriously as artists while also cooperating with the need for people to have their pop idols imbued with a certain cosmetic glamour. In Nana’s case, her trademark thick-rimmed glasses say “I’m an intellectual — not some bar room singer!” Chyi Yu has a degree in cultural anthropology from prestigious NTU (or was it UCLA?)) and is nobody’s fool!

So how does Vincent van Gogh fit into all this? (you’ve been dying to ask). Well, one can hardly put together a slideshow of his work without using Don McLean’s song “Vincent” for the music track. See below, except that some mischievous imp has swapped in Chyi Yu’s cover version, which is a good example of her English song period:

Now brace yourself for the big change: In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned that I always felt there was something spiritual about Chyi Yu, but it proved elusive as I tracked her career over a couple of decades. Listening to her cover versions of (often syrupy) English hits, I was smacking myself in the head asking why she wasn’t doing something more meaningful. Could she ever transcend the glamour/popularity factor? Fast forward to 2012 when I stumbled upon an amazing Buddhist music video:

The voice sounded so familiar… Oh my God, that’s Chyi converted to Buddhism and singing seven-syllable Buddhist sutras in her inimitable style! Such clarity and poise, and no artificial sweeteners. It was an astounding development that knocked me for a loop. I felt personally vindicated. She had been a folk hero of mine in the early 80s, but I’d felt a bit let down during her pop star years. Now she seems to be doing what she was born to do, which is to give voice to spiritual feelings and so awaken them in others. A 2009 article in the Chinese press says in part:

Chinese pop-ballad sensation Chyi Yu is all set to take the stage for her final solo concerts, five years after she last appeared in Beijing.

Often dubbed “China’s Enya,” the 51-year-old singer met with the media dressed in her signature Bohemian style.

While most expected to learn the details of her upcoming concerts, Chyi shocked reporters with the announcement that her November performances would be her last solo concerts ever. Then she burst into tears.

“The reason is simple: singers hold solo concerts because they have the ambition to propel their career to a higher level. I’m living a peaceful life now, devoting my time to Buddhism. I think this concert will draw a perfect conclusion to my career,” Chyi explained.

Billed as The Voice – No Boundaries, her concert will focus solely on her music, without dancing or visual effects. Artistic director Jin Zhaojun said that many concerts these days tend to be over-enhanced by technology, with the music itself marginalized.

“Because of my religion and my major in anthropology, I dislike boundaries,” Chyi added. “There are no boundaries in music, from Chinese songs to English, from classical to pop and from past to present. Therefore the title No Boundaries perfectly summarizes the content of this show.”

The music diva will present 20 timeless classics in both English and Chinese, including Amazing Grace and Vincent, the Broadway hit Memory, as well as her smash hit The Olive Tree and Swan Lake, a reprise of her collaboration with [the] Russian National Orchestra.

By her own admission, she has never been a prolific performer. The past three decades of her career only saw seven Chinese albums and seven English releases, with a number of chart-topping singles… “God gave me a good voice, but I’m not active enough. I am not a planner and I sing as I like. Singing has always been my hobby, not a means of living,” Chyi explained.

She added that the decline of China’s pop music industry, the prevalence of piracy and the change in listening trends also impacted her music.

In 2002, Chyi converted to Buddhism. She then released four albums featuring Buddhist chants.

“I got a chance to know Buddhism on a trip to Tibet and I discovered the religious music can benefit common people as well,” Chyi said. “If pop music can sooth people’s moods, then spiritual music can comfort our souls.”

Source: “Chyi Yu announces final farewell” by Xing Daiqi
Link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-11/22/content_12518327.htm

Like former New York Yankees sportscaster Phil Rizzuto, Chyi Yu has come out of retirement a couple of times, but her concerts remain rare. She recently said that the changing moods and emotions of pop music tease the senses, while soulful music precipitates quiet and encourages self-cultivation — purposes well-suited to her later years.

Not every Buddhist recording she releases is of equal quality. Some are more distinctive, while others sound more “generic.” I look at it in terms of genotype and phenotype. Much Chinese Buddhist music that’s meant to please the general public shares a common genotype or familiar sound created through traditional elements, but particular examples of the genre manage to break out of the genotype and show their own distinctive traits, their phenotype. The artist brings something of his or her own personality and life experiences to the music. This is what I look for.

An amusing side note is that Chyi is often described as a “Bohemian” — a term which may strike the Western ear as slightly archaic for someone who discovered the sixties in the late seventies. 😉 Perhaps the most famous Chinese Bohemian of the last half-century was writer San Mao, who went backpacking, married a Spaniard, wrote romantic novels and poems, and tragically committed suicide in 1991. In 1985, she collaborated with Chyi Yu and Pan Yue Yun on the album Echo.

The story goes that San Mao was looking for someone to record her poems in song form, and felt that Chyi Yu and Pan Yue Yun were Taiwan’s only true Bohemians (outside herself, of course). Evidence of Chyi’s legendary “Bohemian style of dress” is hard to come by, because she was usually pretty well dolled up and coiffed for album covers and publicity shots. But the music video for San Mao’s song “Meng Tian” (“Dream Field”) captures something of the informal Chyi (who’s on the left):

In a roughly-translated interview with the Yangcheng Evening News, Chyi talked about the purity of the burgeoning campus folk scene in the late 70s, and of reading San Mao’s work in high school. She told San Mao it may have been God arranging their fate when they later came to work together. As she and Michelle Pan were recording “Dream Field,” San Mao began sobbing because it reminded her of her husband José (who had drowned six years earlier).

Thanks to windcglider’s blog, we know the lyrics to this song say that In each person’s heart there is a field where the seeds of dreams are sown. What should I plant? What should I plant? Plant peaches, plums, and spring’s breezes… If the lyrics are upbeat and idealistic, the melody and video speak poignantly of the distance between everyday life and that special place inside our hearts.

San Mao (1943-1991). May she find release from suffering.

San Mao (1943-1991). May she find release from suffering.

Chyi Yu’s music is available from iTunes, Rock Records (Asia), and other distributors. You may also find imports for sale at Chinese music outlets in Western countries.

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Joyce Hatto and Ethics

I began this blog by pondering whether ethics is masculine and spirituality feminine. If compassion and forgiveness are significant aspects of spirituality, they’re also qualities we tend to associate more with women than men. It’s not surprising, then, that the most compassionate rendering of the back story behind the Joyce Hatto scandal comes from Victoria Wood in her BBC treatment Loving Miss Hatto.

I’m working on spec on an article about Hatto and her husband William Barrington-Coupe (known as “Barry”). There are some new factual developments concerning the U.S. side of what was a distinctly British scandal; but in this post I’m less interested in going over the facts than examining the ethics of loving (or hating?) Miss Hatto.

Wood’s treatment is based (very loosely) on “Fantasia For Piano” — Mark Singer’s definitive piece in The New Yorker. If you’re unfamiliar with the matter, that would quickly get you up to speed. The essence is that about a hundred classical piano recordings released under Hatto’s name turned out to be plagiarized in whole or in part from other artists. Head leper is William Barrington-Coupe, who had a dodgy past and is generally considered something of a con man.

Opinion about Hatto herself is more mixed, with those who knew her personally hoping against hope that she was unaware of the nature or magnitude of the fraud committed by her husband. Yet, by most accounts it was more than simple fraud; it was also a hoax (which has a somewhat different complexion than a fraud, implying an artistic playing with reality). And beyond either hoax or fraud, there remains the very real question of whether Hatto and hubby became potty in their senior years. Was the illusion that cancer-ridden septuagenarian Joyce nonetheless had a prolific recording career a form of folie à deux?

In real life, there are baffling, enigmatic, and pathological elements to the story; but sadly, to make a winning film for the Beeb, Victoria Wood had to simplify the characters and iron out many of their real world contradictions. What we get, then, is a sentimental love story in which both Hatto and hubby emerge as flawed but likeable characters. It’s them against the world, and we’re on their side:

The first of two trailers ends with Barrington-Coupe being arrested for failing to pay the purchase tax on radios he imported from Hong Kong. It’s portrayed as less of a crime and more of a typical Barry “muddle.” Joyce and Barry are middle-class folk up against a classical music establishment filled with “dessicated old shirt-lifters” (as Barry calls them). All’s fair in love and marketing, and Barry’s early mission is to “sell” Joyce as an international concert artiste to the great British public, despite her crippling stage fright and bouts with nerves:

Ethics 101 tells us that lying, cheating, and stealing from other artists is execrable behaviour; but Wood is not so much an ethicist as a romantic. In her research for the film, she plainly came to identify with Hatto and to find something heroic in her struggles. The very title “Loving Miss Hatto” may well be a defiant retort to the hatred hurled at the couple once their fraud, hoax, or call-it-what-you-will was unmasked.

Even in a country with socialized medicine, a multi-year bout with cancer must be an inconvenient and impoverishing thing. Wood depicts the couple as leading a modest lifestyle, but occasionally being able to afford cake due to the income from pirated CDs. She makes Joyce and Barry eminently real to us in the tradition of inversionist outlaw flicks like Bonnie and Clyde (to which she makes explicit reference) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The people victimized by the couple — conned, lied to, and cheated — are little seen and not given the same warm treatment.

Still, notwithstanding its upside-down ethics and inversionist outlook, Loving Miss Hatto is an enjoyable and sympathetic portrayal (though it would have been better at an hour than an hour-forty). I can’t help liking the film characters despite knowing that the reality was somewhat darker. If you don’t care to put your ethics in your back pocket, you can always watch The Great Piano Scam for a tougher appraisal:

 Michael Howard

Interesting Joyce Hatto Links

The Hatto-Howell letters:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Feb07/Hatto_Howell.htm

Promotion of Joyce Hatto — 2006 archived page:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/Jan06/Hatto2_recordings.htm

Jed Distler Reviews the Lost René Köhler BBC Recordings:
http://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-13553/

Letter published on Overgrown Path blog:
http://www.overgrownpath.com/2007/03/joyce-hatto-other-story.html

Charles Ives — “The Cage” and “Walking”

My little aside about the hamster in the cage not having learned to play the calliope reminded me of this 1906 song by Charles Ives:

The Cage

A leopard went around his cage
from one side back to the other side;
he stopped only when the keeper came around with meat;
A boy who had been there three hours
began to wonder, “Is life anything like that?”

Not a spiritual realization, but maybe an atonal precursor, since discovering how much life is like that — how much time we spend pacing our cages waiting to be thrown meat — may ultimately spur us on to seek a better way…

Charles Ives could write better (and more life-affirming) songs. Here’s a good one:

Walking

A big October morning,
the village church-bells,
the road along the ridge,
the chestnut burr and sumach,
the hills above the bridge
with autumn colors glow.
Now we strike a steady gait,
walking towards the future,
letting past and present wait,
we push on in the sun,
Now hark! Something bids us pause…
(down the valley, a church, a funeral going on.)
(up the valley, a roadhouse, a dance going on.)
But we keep on a-walking,
’tis yet not noon-day,
the road still calls us onward,
today we do not choose to die
or to dance, but to live and walk.

As a teen, I borrowed the music from the Donnell or Lincoln Center library and taped it (shhh!). I always loved the part “today we do not choose to die or to dance, but to live and walk.” Without knowing it, I was being led toward the middle path.

Welcome!

Welcome stranger, are ye here for the festival? Seriously, my first post with real content is A Study In Contrasts, but you dear reader deserve a special welcome for finding your way to this blog. While ethics and spirituality are my prime considerations, I expect there’ll be plenty of excursions into music, painting, and poetry. That’s sort of a given with me. And if I can find a way to drag in wry commentaries from britcoms, I’ll probably do that too.

The way this blog is organized, many of the most important or “featured” posts will appear in a carousel of icons near the top of the home page. Sorry, no carousel music — the little hamster in the cage doesn’t know how to play the calliope yet. It’s a thought, though…

Anyway, you can click on the icons in the carousel to read the featured posts. Other (non-featured) posts will appear in sequence on the home page like they normally do.

Thanks for visiting, and if you’re someone who cares about ethics, spirituality and art, then tell a friend about this blog. Disguise your voice if necessary, or speak in code:

Chyi Yu, Voice of Innocence 1

I first heard the music of Chyi Yu around 1986 or so. I had gotten interested in music from Taiwan and China thanks to Sounds of China, a radio show put on by Chinese students at Columbia University. That show still airs on WKCR-FM as part of its In All Languages lineup.

Music nourishes us with many qualities that we need or long for, and not all qualities are available from a purely Western diet of sounds. I felt thrilled that my aural and cultural palate was being expanded by listening to Sounds of China. I made friends with some Chinese students and learned more about the music they were playing.

From the moment I first heard her singing, I felt that Chyi Yu was a very special artist. There was a quality of purity and joy in her voice which suggested something spiritual. That quality proved elusive as I tracked her career over a couple of decades. Out of many albums she released, around seven from her early and late periods stand out in my memory. There’s a middle period not quite as interesting to me, but I’ll get to that…

Chyi Yu rose to prominence as a beloved figure in the “campus folk” movement that emerged in Taiwan in the late 70s and early 80s, coming out of schools like NTU (National Taiwan University). Campus folk was strongly influenced by the American folk music revival of the sixties, and indeed, one of Chyi Yu’s early triumphs was winning a folk-singing contest with her Joan Baez-like rendition of “Diamonds and Rust.” But most campus folk was sung in Mandarin, and Chyi Yu famously sang in that language with a clarity and purity reminiscent of Baez, but a voice uniquely her own. She still does.

Though it’s a hackneyed cliché to refer to a female vocalist as a “songbird,” Chyi Yu seems like one of those people put on earth to sing and to delight others with her voice. The naturalness of it all brings to mind these lines from Tagore:

“To the birds you gave songs, the birds gave you songs in return.
You gave me only voice, yet asked for more, and I sing.”

But how dull to listen to my praises without hearing the artist herself! Without further ado, here’s Chyi Yu singing her 1979 hit “The Olive Tree,” which became her signature song, performed around the world and known to most Mandarin speakers:

Even not knowing the meaning (as I certainly did not at the outset), one is struck by the beauty and sadness of this song. Chyi Yu had the good fortune to work with a very gifted composer/arranger named Li Tai-Hsiang. I learned only tonight that he died in January 2014 of multiple ailments. A great loss to the music world!

It was their work together which distinguished Chyi Yu’s early career; for while her voice was filled with youthful innocence and joy, there was often something venerable and tragic in the music of Li Tai-Hsiang, as if he personally had suffered through a hundred years of Chinese history filled with war, famine, and bereavement. When I first heard this 1984 example of his singing, I was completely blown away:

It was this combining of opposites which brought a depth of experience to their shared musical collaborations. Li Tai-Hsiang wrote large symphonic works, but also sensitive folk arrangements. In “The Olive Tree,” listen carefully to the oboe part and observe how he leaves a non-harmonic tone hanging for a long time so that it sounds almost dissonant. As for the meaning, here’s one translation:

The Olive Tree

Don’t ask me from where I have come,
My home is far, far away.
Why do you wander so far?
Wander so far, wander so far?
For the little bird flying in the sky,
For the blue brook running in the mountain,
For the broad meadow green and wide,
I wander, wander so far.
Then, is there more?
Yes, for the Olive Tree of my dream.
.
Don’t ask me from where I have come,
My home is far, far away.
Why do you wander?
Why do you wander so far?
Far, far away?
For the Olive Tree of my dream.
Don’t ask me from where I have come,
My home is far, far away.
Why do you wander so far?
Wander so far, wander so far?

It’s easy to see why this song became a virtual anthem among the Chinese diaspora. “Don’t ask me from where I have come” is another way of saying “Don’t ask me about the horrors I have seen and been through.” But the song is popular in both Taiwan and the Mainland, perhaps because it skirts politics and evokes an archetype of the wanderer far from home pursuing an unattainable dream. In this sense, the olive tree is a symbol of an unformed longing that drives us onward without fully knowing why. It’s not explicitly spiritual, but perhaps it will be when it ripens.

So far, only one song from Chyi Yu and we’ve barely scratched the surface! Her evolution as an artist has taken many turns. I hope to pen Part 2 soon, and talk about her explicitly spiritual phase (which she’s still in). I’ll leave you with another of her folk songs — this time a duet with Pan Yue Yun. It’s called “Dream Field,” and like “The Olive Tree” the lyrics are by San Mao, who was a passionate and tragic character in her own right.

The song says that in each person’s heart there is a field where the seeds of dreams are sown. What should I plant? What should I plant? Plant peaches, plums, and spring’s breezes… For a fuller translation, see windcglider’s blog here.

Chyi Yu’s music is available from iTunes, Rock Records (Asia), and other distributors. You may also find imports for sale at Chinese music outlets in Western countries.

Read Part 2 of “Chyi Yu, Voice of Innocence” here.

A Study In Contrasts

When designing the main graphic for this site, I already had it in the back of my mind that ethics and spirituality are related but not quite the same. We may think of ethics as having to do with moral codes, perhaps inflexible, carved in stone; while spirituality conjures up images more fluid and flowing. Then too, if we were to follow the custom of the romance languages and assign a gender even to abstract nouns, would ethics be masculine and spirituality feminine?

The challenge was to view them both within the same “frame,” and so what took shape was a study in contrasts: Socrates stone-faced and the word “ethics” tightly set in carved lettering, but the word “spirituality” done in a more flowing script, suffused with light and adjoined by a picture of Sri Sarada Devi, the consort of Sri Ramakrishna.

In the person of Sarada Devi, we’re already faced with a mini-conundrum: Sri Ramakrishna liked to remain in ecstatic trance, taking neither food nor drink. As a result, his physical health would sometimes suffer. When he was ill, Sarada Devi had to coax him to drink milk. Seeing the quantity, he would sometimes protest; but she assured him it was only “a seer or a seer and a quarter.” In fact, it was much more. She was lying! When queried about this, she said that in spiritual matters she was always completely truthful, but there was no harm in saying such about food in order to nurse Ramakrishna back to health. (A “seer” or “sihr” is a traditional unit of measurement in India.)

A similar conundrum is posed by the old parable in which a murderer is chasing an innocent man, who takes refuge in the house of a monk. The monk answers the door, and the murderer asks: “Is the man I am chasing here? If so, I must kill him.” The monk lies and says: “No, he is not here, I have not seen him.” If the monk told the truth, a murder would be committed; but by telling a lie, he protects human life. Has he acted ethically?

Socrates and Sarada Devi are a study in contrasts because the former has come to epitomize the Socratic method of seeking the truth through critical reasoning, while the latter embodies the visionary aspect of faith: to understand a thing by knowing its essence intuitively, rather than dissecting it mentally.

This suggests a theme which may recur in our peregrinations: moral codes and rules of procedure are highly fallible, subject to human error, human weakness, and the desire to rig the outcome in accordance with self-interest. A visionary approach may sometimes be superior, provided we can be certain that the vision is a true one.

Socrates himself is a figure both fascinating and tragic. At the end of his life, out of favour with Athenian citizenry, he was forced to drink hemlock. His death, described in Plato’s Phaedo, entails much weeping by friends and disciples, but little by Socrates himself, who remarks:

“I am not very likely to persuade other men that I do not regard my present situation as a misfortune, if I cannot even persuade you that I am no worse off now than at any other time in my life. Will you not allow that I have as much of the spirit of prophecy in me as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung all their life long, do then sing more lustily than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to the god whose ministers they are.”

Plato further recounts:

“Crito made a sign to the servant, who was standing by; and he went out, and having been absent for some time, returned with the jailer carrying the cup of poison. Socrates said: ‘You, my good friend, who are experienced in these matters, shall give me directions how I am to proceed.’ The man answered: ‘You have only to walk about until your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison will act.’ At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates […] Then raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could no longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered my face and wept, not for him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having to part from such a friend.”

This tragic scene nonetheless becomes charming to the ear when translated into French and set to music. For his Mort de Socrate (1919), Erik Satie used Victor Cousin’s translation, admiring it for its clarity, simplicity and beauty. Let us now listen:

As for the death of Sarada Devi, it is described by her foremost biographer, Swami Nikhilananda of the Ramakrishna Order of monks:

On Tuesday, July 21, 1920, about one o’clock in the morning, it became evident that Holy Mother’s last moments were at hand. The attendants began to chant the Lord’s name. Half an hour later the Mother breathed deeply several times and entered into deep samadhi. Peace-eyed slumber settled over her body, which, though ravaged by a long illness, suddenly relaxed and gave out a celestial light. Many of her devotees were deceived by this radiance and thought she was still with them.

Next morning, about half-past ten, the funeral procession was formed. Swami Saradananda and many devotees joined it. To the accompaniment of devotional music, the body was taken across the Ganges to the Belur Math. There the women devotees bathed it and dressed it in a new cloth. A funeral pyre of sandalwood was made on the bank of the river, to the north of Swami Vivekananda’s memorial temple. About three o’clock the fire was lighted. Before the funeral was over it began to rain heavily on the other side of the Ganges and the devotees were afraid it might interfere with the cremation. But not a drop of rain fell on their side. At last the mournful ceremony was over and Swami Saradananda poured the first pitcher of water over the slow-burning fire. Then the rain came in torrents and extinguished the last embers.

Three shrines now stand as memorials to Holy Mother, all erected by the loving care of her beloved child Swami Saradananda. One is the Udbodhan, where she spent the last eleven years of her active life. The second, a white temple, stands on the bank of the Ganges at the Belur Math where her body was consigned to fire. The third, another white temple, has been erected on the site of her birth at Jayrambati. From the top of this temple flutters a flag emblazoned with the simple word “Ma,” reminding her devotees from far and near of her repeated assurance that she would stand by them till their hour of liberation, and recalling to them her words of benediction: “I am the Mother of the virtuous, I am the Mother of the wicked. Whenever you are in distress, say to yourself: ‘I have a Mother.'”

A study in contrasts.