The poet calling himself the Masala Mystic is somewhat of an enigma. From his preoccupations with the kinds of questions and terms associated with Hinduism—like maya, usually though incompletely defined as “illusion”—and with Indian philosophers and mystics, one would assume that the Mystic himself was or is Indian, specifically a Hindu. However, the impressive breadth of the Mystic’s vocabulary and knowledge of different religions and spiritual traditions—often gained through travel, it would seem—leads one to wonder if indeed this is the case. The references to Greek and Egyptian gods, Jesus, and medieval Jewish philosophers may seem out of place in the work of a poet whose focus is mainly Indian ideas, but Jews have lived in India since at least about the sixth century B.C.E., Buddhism originated in India in the fifth or sixth century B.C.E., Christians may have lived in India for about two thousand years, and Zoroastrians and Muslims have lived there since the seventh century.
That said, the Mystic seems to be closely related in worldview to spiritual teachers like Sri Ramakrishna, who was Indian and a Hindu but whose teachings have a nonsectarian, universalist ring to them. More modern Indian spiritual teachers, like Paramahansa Yogananda, were great admirers of Jesus.
When did the Masala Mystic himself live, or is he still living? Although he is mentioned in The Persian Letters, another work compiled by this editor (and also available in the Books section of this Web site) and dated to the eleventh century, from the many references in the Mystic’s poems to nineteenth- and twentieth-century spiritual teachers, he most likely lived no farther back than the nineteenth century. And nothing eliminates the possibility that he is still alive in 2019, when this book is being compiled. His age, gender, birth name, religion, caste (if he was or is Hindu and living before the caste system was officially banished in 1950), and any other personal information are unknown.
Of course, it is possible the Mystic lived much longer ago and his original poems were rewritten or embellished or added to by other people along the way. Also, the Mystic could be one man, or even many poets adopting his name. But, since there is no way of supporting any of these notions, the editor has decided to leave well enough alone and assume that one man wrote the poems. As a contemporary poet writes, about a magical house:
“No one knows how old the house is, when it was built, or where. The house is like a house without a history; when you are in it the past doesn’t exist. . . . But the house has a history; it is just not in the books. . . . But the house is real. The house exists–wherever you are, whoever you are, have been, or want to be. The house, which is always on tour and has been everywhere, which never really goes anywhere, exists in every place on earth, in every time in history.”
This could apply to the Masala Mystic.
The editor came across a large collection of the Mystic’s unpublished poems in a library in Chennai, India, during one of the editor’s three trips to India in search of poetry, music, spirituality, and, curiously, masala dosas, the heavenly Indian crepes. The original poems were written in Tamil and in English, and the editor organized and edited fourteen of the English poems for this volume. The editor added the epigraphs and other quotations, based on references in the poems.
May your own spiritual path be enriched by these poems, which you can read by clicking this link: Bees in the Garden: Poems by the Masala Mystic.
Erratum: On page 46, the name of the Zoroastrian symbol should be spelled Faravahar, not Farvahar.