Author Topic: Tattuvaraya - David Godman and others - Mountain Path, Oct.-Dec. 2011:  (Read 2348 times)

Subramanian.R

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Tattuvaraya was a Tamizh saint and poet whom scholars believe flourished in the late 15th century.
He was a prolific author who wrote thousands of verses on a wide variety of spiritual topics.

Bhagavan noted in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, (648), that he was 'the first to pour forth Advaita
philosophy in Tamizh'.  Prior to his arrival on the Tamizh literary scene, Advaita texts in Tamizh seem
to have been translations of, or expositions on, texts composed in Sanskrit.

One of Tattuvaraya's compositions was mentioned several times by Bhagavan.  This is how  He narrated
the story in Day by Day with Bhagavan, 21st November 1945:

Tatttuvaraya composed a Bharani ( a kind of poetical composition in Tamizh that features military heroes
who win a great battles) in honor of his Guru Sorupananda and convened an assembly of learned pandits
to hear the work and assess its value.  The pandits raised the objection that a Bharani was only composed
in honor of great heroes capable of killing a thousand elephants, and that it was not in order to compose
such work in honor of an ascetic. Thereupon the author said, "Let us all go to my Guru and we shall have
this matter settled there."  They went to the Guru and, after all had taken their seats, the author told his
Guru the purpose of their coming there.  The Guru sat silent and all others also remained in Mouna.  The
whole day passed, night came, and some more days and nights, and yet all sat there silently, no thought
at all occurring to any of them and nobody thinking or asking why they had come there.  After three or four
days like this, the Guru moved his mind a bit and thereupon the assembly regained their thought activity.
Then they declared, 'Conquering a thousand elephants is nothing beside this Guru's power to conquer
the rutting elephants of all of our egos put together. So certainly he deserves the Bharani in his honor.!"                           

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

 

Subramanian.R

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Sorupananda, his Guru, was also his maternal uncle.  Early on in their life they had made an arrangement
whereby they would  both seek Gurus in different places.  Tattuvaraya traveled to the north of India
from Virai, their hometown.  Sorupananda to the South.  The agreement further stipulated that whichever of
the two attained the grace of the Guru first would become the Guru of the other.  Sorupananda became the
disciple of Sivaprakasa Swami and realized the Self with him.  Then, to fulfill the agreement with his nephew,
he became his Guru.

Though Tattuvaraya was a prolific author, only one work has ever been attributed to Sorupananda.
Sorupa Saram, a 102-verse poem about the nature of the experience of the Self.  This work was so
highly valued by Bhagavan, He included it on a list of six titles that He recommended to Annamalai Swami.
Since the other five were Kaivalya Navaneetam, Ribhu Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, Ellam Onre, and Yoga
Vasishta, Sorupa Saram is in distinguished company.

Tattuvaraya realized the Self quickly and effortlessly in the presence of Sorupananda.  The opening lines
of Paduturai, one of his major works, reveal just how speedily the event took place:

The feet of Sorupananda, they are the ones that, through grace, and assuming a divine form, arose and
came into this fertile world to enlighten me in the time it takes for a black gram seed to roll over.
(Tiruvadi Malai lines 1-3)

Black gram is the dhal that is one of the two principal ingredients of iddlies and dosa.  It is 2-3  mm
across and slightly asymmetrical rather than spherical.  This property led Tattuvaraya to write in
another verse, that Sorupananda granted him liberation in the time it took for a black gram seed to
wobble and turn over onto its side.  (Nanmanimalai, Verse 10).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                   

Subramanian.R

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Tattuvarya attributed this near instantaneous enlightenment wholly to the power and grace of his Guru,
rather than to any intrinsic merit, maturity or worthiness:

It is possible to stop the wind.  It is possible to flex stone.  But what can be done with our furious mind?
How marvelous is our Guru, he who granted that this mind should be totally transformed into the Self!
My tongue, repeat this without ever forgetting.

When my Lord, who took me over by bestowing his lotus feet, glances with his look of grace, the darkness
in the heart vanishes.  All things become completely clear and transform into Sivam.  All the sastras are
seen to point towards reality.

Most glorious Lord, if you had not looked upon me with your eye of divine grace, how could I, your
devotee, and the mind that inquired, experience the light that shines as the flourishing world, as many,
as Jnana, and as one?

To destroy me, you gave me one look in which there was not looking.  You uprooted the ignorance
of 'I' and 'mine'.  You brought to an end all the future births of this cruel one.  O Lord, am I fit for
the grace that you bestowed on me?

(Venba Antadi - Verses 12,14,60 and 69).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Sorupananda's  mind-silencing ability is quite evident both from the story of the Bharani that Bhagavan
told on several occasions and from the verses in which Tattuvaraya spoke of this transmission from his
own direct experience.  Tattuvaraya even stated in some places, somewhat hyperbolically, that Sorupananda,
unlike the gods, bestowed instant liberation on everyone who came into  his presence.

(In order to convince the devas), Brahma, lacking the power to make them experience directly the state
of being, held the red-hot iron in his hand and declared, 'This is the ultimate reality declared by the Vedas.
There is nothing else other than this, I swear to it.'  Siva as Dakshinamurti declared, 'In all the worlds,
only the four are fit;  they are alone mature for tattva jnana.'  Lord Krishna, holding the discus, had to
repeat eighteen times to ignorant Arjuna, who was seated on the wheeled chariot.  But here in this world
(my Guru) Sorupananda bestows Jnana on all palpably as the gem on one's palm.  (Tiruvadi Malai  117-126)

The Brahma Gita is the source of the story mentioned at the beginning of the verse.  This text was translated
from Sanskrit into Tamizh by Tattuvaraya himself.  His version of the relevant verses, taken from chapter
five, it is as follows:

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                       

Subramanian.R

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96.  The four faced One (Brahma), he who creates all the worlds and is their Lord, said, 'You (gods) who
love me well, listen!  Since it is I who declare to you that this is the meaning of the arcane Vedas, this is
the reality beyond compare.  If you are in any doubt, I will have the iron heated till it is red hot and hold
in my golden hands to prove myself free of any falsehood.'

97.  He who sits upon the lotus blossom (Brahma) said, 'Gods, you who are loving devotees of Lord Siva,
listen!  The meaning of the Vedas, as I have explained it, is just so.  There is nothing further.  In order
that you should be convinced of this in your minds, I have sworn  a threefold oath, holding on to the feet
of Lord Siva.

Holding a red hot iron in one's hand was ancient trial by ordeal way of affirming the truth.  If the flesh
of the hand did not burn, then the statements uttered was deemed to be true.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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Tattuvaraya made the claim in the Tiruvadi Malai lines that his Guru was more powerful and more capable
of granting enlightenment than the Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu in the form of Krishna, and Siva.
Elaborating on this theme, Tattuvaraya stated that Siva, appearing as Dakshinmurti, only managed to
enlighten the four sages (Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujata);  Brahma had to resort to
holding a red hot iron and taking an oath to persuade his deva followers that his teachings were true;
whereas Krishna, despite giving out the extensive teachings that are recorded in Bhagavad Gita, was not
able to enlighten even Arjuna.  Though this is a somewhat harsh assessment, the inability of Krishna to
enlighten Arjuna through his Gita teachings was mentioned by Bhagavan Himself:

Likewise, Arjuna, though he told Sri Krishna in the Gita 'Delusion is destroyed and knowledge is imbibed,'
confesses later that he has forgotten the Lord's teaching and requests Him to repeat it.  Sri Krishna's
reiteration in reply is the Uttara Gita.  (Sri Ramana's Reminiscences.)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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While all this might sound slightly blasphemous, it is a long and well established position in Saivism
that, when it comes to enlightening devotees, the human Guru is more effective and has more power
than the gods themselves.

Though Tattuvaraya knew that it was the immense power of his Guru that had granted him liberation,
he was at a loss to understand why the power had ultimately singled him out as a worthy recipient
of its liberating grace. In one of his long verses, he ruminated on the mysterious nature of prarabdha
- why events had unfolded the way they did in various narratives of the gods - before chronicling the
circumstances of his own liberation in a stirring peroration:

When even the gods despair;  when those who investigate the paths of every religion become
confused and grow weary;  when even they fail to reach the goal, they who perform great and arduous
tapas, immersing themselves in water in winter, standing in the midst of fire in summer, and foregoing
food, so that they experience the height of suffering, I do not know what it was that bestowed Jnana
upon me.  Was it through the very greatness of the noble minded one - Sorupananda? Or through the
nature of his compassion.  Or was it the effect of his own absolute freedom to choose me?  I was the lowest
of the low, knowing nothing other than the objects of sense. I was lost, limited to this foul body of eight
hands span, filled with putrid flesh.  But he bade me, 'Come, come', granting me his grace by looking
upon me with his lotus eyes.  When the spoke that single word, placing his noble hands upon my head
and crowning it wit his immaculate noble feet, my eye of Jnana opened.  Prior to this, I was without the eye
of Jnana, suffering births and deaths for countless ages.  But when he commanded me 'See!', then, for me,
there was no fate; there was no karma; there was no fiery eyed death. All the world of differentiated forms
became simply a manifestation of Sorupananda.  (Nan Mani Malai Verse 37, lines 28-50.)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.,             

Subramanian.R

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The lines that immediately precede this extract discuss destiny, karma and death, and mention a claim
that it is impossible to destroy them.  Tattuvaraya then disagrees, citing his Guru Sorupananda's
statement:  'We have routed good and evil deeds in this world; we have escaped the jaws of Yama (death).

In the portion of the verse cited here Tattuvaraya emphatically backs up this claim by saying that when
his own eye of Jnana was opened through the look and touch of his Guru, 'for me there was no fate;
there was no karma; there was no fiery eyed death.  All the  world of differentiated forms simply became
simply a manifestation of Sorupananda.'

There are other verses which reaffirm Tattuvaraya's statement that after he had been liberated by
Sorupananda he knew nothing other than the Swarupa which had taken the form of Sorupananda to
enlighten him:

All that appears is only the Swarupa of Sorupananda,  Where are the firm earth, water, and fire?
Where is the air?  Where is the ether?  Where is the mind, which is delusion?  Where indeed is the
great Maya? Where is 'I'?

contd.,

Arunachala Siva,             

Subramanian.R

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In greatness there is no one equal to Sorupan.  Of this there is no doubt.  Similarly, there is no one equal
to me in smallness.  I did not know the difference between the two of us when, in the past, I took the form
of the fleshy body not later when he had transformed me into himself by placing his honey like lotus
feet on  my head.  Now I am incapable of knowing anything. (Nan Mani Malai vv. 38,39).

Let some say that the Supreme is Siva.  Let some say that the Supreme is Brahma or Vishnu.  Let some
say that Sakti and Sivam are Supreme.  Let some say that it is with form.  Let some say that it is formless.
But we have come to know that all the forms are only our Guru.  (Venba Andati Verse 8).

Tattuvaraya wrote of the consequence of his realization in a poem entitled Pangikku Uraittal (Paduturai
Verse 64), which can be translated as "The Lady Telling Her Maid".  The second of the five verses,
which speaks of the simple, ascetic life he subsequently led, was mentioned with approval by Bhagavan
in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, 648.

Our reward was that every word we heard or said was nada (divine sound).
Our reward was to have 'remaining still' - summa iruttal, as our profession.
Our reward was to enter the company of virtuous devotees.
My dear companion, this is the life bestowed by our Guru.  (1)

Our reward was to have the bare ground as our bed.
Our reward was to accept alms in the palms of our hands.
our reward was to wear a loin cloth as our clothing.
My dear companion, for us there is nothing lacking.      (2)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

Subramanian.R

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Bhagavan's comment on this verse was:

I had no cloth spread on the floor in earlier days.  I used to sit on the floor and lie on the ground.
That is freedom.  This sofa is a bondage. It is a gaol for me. I am not allowed to sit anywhere and how
I please.  Is it not bondage? One must be free to do as one pleases, and should not be served by others.

'No want' is the greatest bliss.  It can be realized only be experience.  Even an emperor is no match for
a man with no want.  The emperor has got vassals under him.  But the other man is not aware of anyone
beside the Self.  Which is better?

The poem continues:

Our reward was to be reviled by all.
Our reward was that fear of this world, and the next died away.
Our reward  was to be crowned by the lotus feet of the Virtuous One - the Guru.
My dear companion, this life is the life bestowed by our Guru.   (3)

Our reward was the preeminent wealth that is freedom from desire.
Our reward was that the disease called 'desire'  was torn out by the roots.
Our reward was the love in which we melted, crying, 'Lord!'
Ah, my dear companion, tell me, what tapas did I perform for this.  (4)

There is an indirect reference in the first line to Tirukkural 363:  'There is no preeminent wealth in this
world like freedom from desire.  Even in the next, there is nothing to compare it.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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The final verse says:

Our reward was to wear the garment that never wears out.
Our reward was to possess as 'I' the one who is present everywhere.
Our reward was to have our false devotion become the true.
My dear companion, this is the life bestowed by our benevolent Guru.       (5)

'The garment that never wears out' is Chidakasa, the space of consciousness.

After his realization Tattuvaraya subsequently spent much of his time absorbed in the Self.
Sorupananda knew his disciple had a great talent for composing Tamizh verses and wanted him
to utilize it.  However, to accomplish this, he knew he had to coax him out of his near perpetual
Samadhi state. This is how the story unfolds in the traditional version of Tattuvaraya's life.
(See the 1953 edition of Tattuvaraya's Paduturai, published by Chidambaram Ko. Chita.
Madalayam.)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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Sorupananda thought, 'This Tattuvaraya is highly established in composing verses in Tamizh. Through 
him, we should get some sastras composed for the benefit of the world.'

He indicated his will through hints for a long time, but as Tattuvaraya was in nishta (Self absorption)
all the time, he could not act on the suggestions.

Sorupananda eventually decided to accomplish his objective by following a different course of action.

Pretending that he wanted to have an oil bath on a new moon day, he turned to his attendant and asked
'Bring oil'

Tattuvaraya, who was standing nearby, knew that it was Amavasya (new moon day). He began to
speak by saying 'Am....' and then  stopped.

It is prohibited to have an oil bath on Amavasya.  This breach with custom was sufficient to bring
Tattuvaraya out of his Self absorption.  He spontaneously uttered 'Am...: presumably as a prelude
to saying that it was Amavasya, bu then stopped because he realized that it would be improper of him
to criticize any action his Guru chose to perform.  This gave Sorupananda the opportunity he was looking
for:

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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As soon as he heard Tattuvaraya speak, Sorupananda pretended to be angry with him.

He said,'Can there be any prohibitions for me, I who am abiding beyond time, having transcended all the
sankalpas that take the form of dos and don'ts?  Do not stand before me!  Leave my presence!'

Tattuvaraya thought to himself, 'Because of my misdeed of prescribing a prohibition for my Guru, who
shines as the undivided fullness of being consciousness bliss, it is no longer proper for me to remain in this
body.  There can be no atonement other than drowning myself in the sea.'

With these thoughts in his mind, he walked backwards while still facing his Guru, shedding torrents of tears
at the thought of having to leave his presence.

Other versions of this story make it clear that Tattuvaraya walked backwards away from his Guru's presence
because he felt that it was improper to to turn back on his Guru.  Though it is not clear in this particular
retelling, he apparently walked backwards until he reached the shore of the sea where he intended to drown
himself. The narrative continues:

Through the compassion he felt for the other beings and through the power of the Self experience that
possessed him, he began to compose verses as he was walking backwards towards the ocean.

These were the eighteen works he composed in praise of both his Guru and his Paramaguru (Sivaprakasa
Swami).  These were noted down by some of Sorupananda's other disciples.
As he continued to sing these eighteen works, the disciples who were following him took down what he said,
(conveyed the verses) to Sorupananda, and read them in his presence..

Sorupananda pretended not to be interested: 'Just as woman with hair combs and ties it, this one with
a mouth is composing and sending these verses,'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                             

Subramanian.R

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Another version of Tattuavaraya's life states that Sorupananda had sent disciples to write down the verses
that Tattuvaraya was composing, so his lack of interest should not be taken to be genuine.  It was all
part of a ruse  to get his disciple to begin his literary career.

Meanwhile, Tattuvaraya was pining and lamenting:  'Alas, I have become unfit to have the darshan of my
Guru.  Henceforth, in which birth will I have his darshan?'

Like a child prevented from seeing its mother, he was weeping so much, his whole face became swollen.
At this point he was singing Tiruvadi Malai from Paduturai.  He was close to the edge of the sea and was
about to die.

When the disciples went to Sorupananda and updated him about these events, he (relented and ) said,'
'Ask the 'Guruvukku Veengi' (the one whose obsessive desire for his Guru is making him ill) to come here.'

When Tatturvaraya heard about this, he was completely freed from his bodily suffering, and he also regained
he power to walk forwards.

The Pulavar Puranam, an anthology of the biographies of Tamizh poet saints, reports in verse 13 of the Tattuvaraya chapter that he was already neck deep in the sea  when Sorupananda summoned him to return.
The story continues:

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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He (Tattuvaraya) told the disciples (who had arrived with the message, 'Sorupananda, the repository
of grace and compassion, has ordered even me, a great offender, to return.'

Expressing supreme bliss, he sang some more portions of Paduturai, and then returned to the presence
of the Guru.  He stood there, shedding tears, in ecstasy, singing the praises of his Guru.

Sorupananda merely said,  "Iru".

"Iru" is the imperative of a verb that means both 'Be' and 'Stay'.  In choosing this word Sorupananda
was ordering him both to remain physically with him and also to continue to abide in the state of being.

Tattuvaraya lived happily there, serving his Guru.

Sorupananda went through the works that Tattuvaraya had composed and was delighted with their
depth of meaning and the grandeur of their vocabulary. However, he made no sign of the joy he felt.

Then, he thought to himself, 'These sastras will be useful only for the learned and not for others.'

He told Tattuvaraya, 'Son, you have sung all these sastras for your own benefit, but not for the benefit
of the people of the world.'

The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the cooks who informed Sorupananda, 'Swami,
you should come to have your food.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.