Bhakti Theology Songs

I want to share my bhakti through the songs I have written ever since I become the bhakta of Bhagavan Muktinath. Though I have titled them ‘Bhakti theology’, I am not sure how ‘theological’ my views on my bhakti are. But since I cannot use the term ‘philosophy’, theology will do, although my views may not be strictly theological in the academic sense.

My songs represent a journey that is reflected in my bhakti. These songs have moulded my views, which although are not always endorsed by Muktivedic principle, are not opposed to its basic tenet1.

Since these songs represent my pilgrimage in the Lord, I will not dwell much on defining ‘bhakti’ and ‘theology’, and there are several scholarly books are available on these subjects. For me, bhakti stands for my relationship with my Lord and theology tries to comprehend it intellectually, which cannot be expressed through words. So my songs reflect both my bhakti and my limited expression of my intellectual understanding through words.

 

Inspiration Strikes

At the same time most of my songs go beyond an intellectual understanding to some kind of mysticism that often over took me as I wrote these songs. When I sit for prayer or meditation, I will suddenly feel some kind of inner compulsion or intuition to write about that ‘experience’ through a song. Several times one word or sentence will flash in my brain which I will go on repeating, not even allowing me to continue my prayer or meditation. I will immediately stop my prayer or meditation and take a paper or book and will write down that first word or sentence.

Most of the time within few minutes I will complete that song as words will naturally flow one after the other. Those who have written poetry can endorse this point. A few songs I wrote had a gap of a few days, weeks, months and even years. I have several such songs still incomplete with me now. One thing I know for sure is that however hard I tried, I never could write a song just for the sake of writing a song. Whenever I tried to write a song ‘artificially’, no matter how I strained my brain, no words would come naturally and wouldn’t fit with the lines. Thank God, I have never tried to write a song artificially this way.

 

Mysticism and Songs

For me, one main feeling for a song is emotion. But songs are not merely expression of that emotion. Next to emotion, experience also plays an important role in writing a song. At the same time experience cannot be the foundation for any theology, particularly with that of Muktiveda. Similarly, some kind of mystic feelings overcame me which compelled me to express it through words.

However I cannot claim that I am a mystic in the strict sense. Intuition is another word that could be used for all these: emotion, experience, feeling, mysticism. Such intuition came when I was consciously awakened and a few times in my dreams. I have seen a few dreams in which I was writing a song. Suddenly I wake up and, as I always keep a notebook and pencil by my bed, immediately write down those words or sentence that still echo in my brain. Later I will complete those songs.

But being a rationalistic person, I cannot accept all these terms as they are (emotion, feeling, intuition, mysticism, experience) or explain them by any words. So many of the following songs may not help others to understand my pilgrimage in the Lord. That is why I need to give some kind of background to most of the songs. The circumstance in which I wrote them are often more important for me to understand my bhakti theology, than I can communicate independently through the song. At times, the context of the song will be longer than the song itself.

 

Singing in my Mother Tongue

I wish I could write all of these only in Tamil, as my English translations will never communicated exactly what the Tamil says. I have asked other Tamilians to translate my songs in good English, but they cannot do full justice to both to the song and my journey, as some of the Tamil words cannot be translated literally. Also, most Tamilians in our group don’t have the luxury of wasting their precious time for that thankless job.

I cannot take help from outsiders, because if people in my group already see me as a confusion, then outsiders will see me as mad. Though ‘madness’ is a fitting compliment to a typical sannyasi or mystic,2 that is still a distant goal as I have yet to become a complete sannyasi in its truest sense.

 

Walking Alone with the Lord

Finally, every saint needs to learn to walk alone. Though I have not become such a saint, when it comes to writing songs, I often feel I am walking alone with my Lord. When I read books or think about doctrine, others authors are influencing me through their writing. But when I write a poem, I don’t think about others but only my relationship with the Lord, thereby being along with him and not others.

So though I welcome your critiques, questions, comments, corrections (in theology), and above all encouragement to take on this big endeavour, I am walking in this journey of songs alone with the Lord. In my study, learning, discussion and sharing, others have contributed a lot in shaping my thoughts and theology. But when it comes to the songs, I have to walk alone.

Although I never shared any of my thoughts from the two books already published (one still in manuscript level) on this forum, I have decided to share these songs first in this forum so that I can include others’ views also. So those who have time and patient to read these songs are welcome to share their views.

May 5, 2014.  Mathigiri. 8.51 pm

 

Click here for a complete list of my Bhakti Theology Songs

 

Endnotes

1. Of course the basic tenant of the Muktiveda can be debated. Our Lord said, ‘Love God and love your neighbour’ as the summary of the Law. Whereas Rabbi Hillel said, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour; that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof…..’ (Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Illinois, IVP Academic, 2008, ‘The Parable of the Good Samaritan’ p. 287.)

2. The tradition of the asceticism of dishonor involves the dishonoring of the corpse through the breaching of traditional funereal taboos and injunctions.  Socrates, Diogenes, and Gosala are all recorded to have wished to avoid any ritual honoring of their corpses.  Socrates instructed his friends just to throw his body on the dump. When Diogenes was old and nearing death he refused to make any preparations for it. When asked, “When you die, who will carry you out to burial?” he replied: “Whoever wants my room.”….—Thomas McEvilley, Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (2002), First Indian Edition, 2008. p. 230

The custom of the “beast-vow” was based on the shaman’s ability to transform himself or herself into the shape of an animal ally.  The Buddhist texts Mahanidesa and Cullaniddesa mention vows to live like an elephant, a horse, a cow, a snake, a dog, and others. Beast ascetics are also mentioned in the Buddhist Majjhima Nikaaya (I.387 ff.) and the Dhamma-sangani (261).  Bovine ascetics wear a tail and horns and bray like bulls.  The Indus Valley figures of therianthropic males with horns and tales (which go back in turn to Mesopotamian representations of bull-men) may have represented persons who had taken such vows. The Pasupata, in his first state of training, was obliged to spend a part of every day bellowing like a bull, hoping “to transform himself … into the Lord’s beast.”{M. G. Bhagat, Ancient Indian Asceticism (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1976), p. 145.}

Both animal imitation and shocking behavior are encountered in the “bull-vow.” “The Jaiminiya Brahmana specifies that the enactor of the bull-vow should have sexual congress in defiance of all human laws, that is, indiscriminately with forbidden members of his family as well as with others.”{Ibid. p. 295} Diogenes similarly advocated incest as (p.230) a part of an ideal of complete indifference to social and familial customs. Indian texts also mention dog ascetics who sit like dogs, walk and eat like dogs, sleep in the streets like and among dogs, and who eventually are to acquire the very thought patterns and feelings of dogs. Diogenes, “the Cynic,” or “the Dog,” lived in the streets of Athens among dogs and was called one by the Athenians. In India every Aghori guru was always accompanied by a dog. A Sanskrit drama refers to a madman who delighted in eating the leaving of a dog.–ibid. pp. 230-31

…Shamans round the world have employed beast-imitations for various purposes. The donning of animal skins, dancing, singing, and imitation of the cries and movements of animals are shamanic practices which go back to the Paleolithic age.  ….–ibid. p. 231

…. In India such postshamanic societies became orders of ascetics and gradually adopted spiritualistic justifications for their practices. In some cases the shamanic current may have been segregated in certain secret or sheltered priesthoods.–ibid. p. 231

…Early ascetic groups in India also stressed such issues, discriminating, for example, between those who ate from a bowl and “hand-lickers.”{See. e.g., {Haripada Chakraborti, Asceticism in Ancient India, Calcutta: Punithi Pustak, 1973.  Pp. 40 ff., etc.}  A still more advanced vow than that of the hand-licker is that of Turiyatita; the ascetic who takes this vow “eats only fruits in the way the cow takes food (i.e. without using hands).” {Sannyasa Upanisad; quoted by Chakraborti, Asceticism in Ancient India, p. 41}

Diogenes’ renunciation of the bowl, viewed from the perspective of Indian asceticism, would represent an important moment in his career, a moment at which he advanced from one category of ascetic vow to another: He became a hand-licker.–ibid. p. 232