In my early walk as a bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath, I appreciated the deep meaning of the lyrics of the hymns sung in churches, but they remained alien to me due to their music. Therefore I wrote and composed songs according to my taste in the Carnatic style and used them for my personal devotion. I didn’t share them with others for a long time. One reason was that I was afraid of being misunderstood for their style and music. I observed that any kind of Hindu form was not welcomed among evangelical circles. I faced this a lot in the early days of my bhakti in the Lord.
I was also strongly criticised for remaining a strict vegetarian. Attempts were made me to eat non-veg, which ended up with serious commotion and shouting from my side. I was criticised and questioned for spontaneously using words like bhagavan for God, which were natural for me. One day, I quoted from a film song while I was sharing to the students in our worship service, and I was condemned for that. When I choose to wear saffron, other colours were highly recommended.
I could go on and on. I was expected to conform to their ‘image.’ Anything that was comfortable for me become an irritation to them and was opposed. Only the late Dr. Devadasan, the Dean of our institute stood with me and supported my cause. But I remained a stranger among evangelicals for a very long time.
I never learnt Carnatic music properly. I cannot even identify ragas. But since I was familiar with Carnatic music from my childhood, I wrote and composed songs in that style. I attempted to learn the flute when we were living in Trichy, but after ten classes that teacher suddenly died. My friends and others jovially said that he died as he listened to my poor practice and thought dying was the best way to escape further teaching. After that I stopped learning the flute.
My father can recognize any raga immediately and he would take us to Tiruvaiyaru for many years to Thyagaraja Aradhana where leading artists would perform for five days. My sister learnt the Veena. My mother is also a good singer.
Word Choice in the Songs
I only recently coined the words Muktinath and Muktiveda and use them now. But in the early days I used ‘Yesu’ for Muktinath since it was the traditional Tamil word. Now I have changed them in all my songs. But I am not dogmatic and where the music demands ‘Yesu’ I give freedom to others to use it, but I have changed the tune to accommodate ‘Muktinath’.
Similarly when others sing my songs using ‘Yesu’, I don’t object, but I continue with my words. In a few places I have shortened ‘Muktesan’ as ‘Isan’ for the sake of the music, though it is a generic name for God and also used for Siva. However such ‘Hindu’ words were liberally used in the old Tamil lyrics used in churches. I am not trying to get an endorsement from the Christians. As a Hindu I have every freedom to use my cultural/religious words and symbols, as long as it does not distort the teaching of the Muktiveda.
As the ‘name’ has a special place when it comes to Bhakti, for me a mere objective meaning or interpretation of the Name of the Lord is not enough. It should have meaning for me in my relationship with Him. Though Jesus means ‘salvation’, the Name Muktesan not only means the ‘Lord of Salvation’ but when it stands as Isan it also means my personal Lord or Master. Isan also means one who is the owner, so Jagadesan means ‘Owner/Lord/Master of this world’. So as my Lord becomes my owner, I feel some kind of personal relationship when I use Muktesa for ‘Jesus’. Of course technically the word Isvaran (Ish+varan) means one who has His own authority to assign power to others than borrowed from others.
Similarly, I use the singular form (Nee, Avan) in addressing the Lord which shows familiarity in Indian languages. It is like addressing a Westerner by using her first name. In almost every Indian language a devotee addresses her personal deity using the singular form. This is another area where I never felt at home in my sojourn among evangelicals. They used the plural form (Neengal/aap in Hindi and Avar in Tamil) in their songs and prayers. I had to consciously use this form in my prayers with them. I adapted to it, but when it comes to these songs, it felt strange to use plural form for the Lord, so I completely changed it. In a few places the plural form remains, but only because I didn’t pay close enough attention when I was going back through them.
In most Brahmin homes, the plural form is never used among siblings and also in addressing parents and very close relatives—even grandparents. Of course when we refer to them among others as a third person, we use the plural form. But when we address them as second person, we used only the singular form. So in my personal relationship with the Lord I feel at home when I use the singular form in my prayers and songs.
I will now begin sharing some of the songs I wrote for Muktinath.