In the third week of February 1985, when I was at Gonda (U.P.), I was reading Luke 7:36-50. I was visualizing the scene and began to meditate upon it. The way the Lord accepted a devotee as she is melted my heart and tears began to roll down as I meditated. Immediately I wrote this song:
பரிமள தைலமோ இல்லை
பரிமளத் தைலமோ கரங்களில் இல்லை
பாவியென் கண்களில் கண்ணீரும் இல்லை
பரமனே உன்பாதம் துணிவுடன் அண்டி
பணிந்திட இன்னும் மனதுமே இல்லை
மயங்கினாள் ஒருபெண் தன்நிலை கண்டு*
தியங்கினாள் பாவத்தின் கொடுமையைக் கண்டு
அண்டினாள் அவன் பாதம் திடமனம் கொண்டு
அருளினான் மன்னிப்பு அவள் நிலை கண்டு
மாந்தரின் பழிச்சொல்லை ஏற்றிடத் துணிந்தாள்
மன்னன் முக்தேசனின் மலரடிப் பணிந்தாள்
“போக்கிடமற்ற உன் ஆக்கினை தனையே
போக்கினேன் நீ போ” சமாதானத் தோடென்றான்
என்நிலை அறிந்தே உன்னடி வந்தேன்
ஏற்றிடாயோ ஏழை என்னையும் நீயே
போக்கிடம் புகலிடம் வேறொன்றும் அறியேன்
காத்திடும் ஏழையைக் கருணையின் நாதா
*மயங்கினாள் மரியாள் தன்நிலைக் கண்டு
I don’t have the aromatic oil.
I don’t have the aromatic oil on my hand
I don’t have tears also in my eyes
Neither I have the courage or heart
to seek and bow at your feet
One woman got remorse on seeing her condition
She was shocked by the cruel nature of her sin
Taking courage she approached His feet
He bestowed forgiveness on seeing her condition
She was ready to accept the insult by others
And bowed at the feet of the King Muktesan
‘Go in peace as I have removed your punishment
Which cannot be removed otherwise’ He said
Knowing my condition I came at your feet
Won’t you accept me the poor man?
I don’t know any other place of refuge
Save me O Lord of Grace
My initial response to the gospel was the answer to my long-time inner question: Why can’t I live a perfect life even for a single day?
In spite of my limitations in my search within my Hindu tradition, I never got a pragmatic answer that satisfied my inner longing. Rationalistic explanations of failure and philosophical approaches never convinced me. But for the first time I got the direct and straight answer which pierced my atman. (See my article: ‘Found my Guru’).
Any incident that depicts my story in a different form always moves my heart. Bhakti demands and expects a direct answer and response from God and not mere philosophical explanations or theological statements.
Though bhakti in the Hindu tradition has a rich meaning and tradition, its pluralistic relativism gave a safe excuse for me to evade any confrontation in my atman about my own failures. Though karma and time are often blamed, sin rarely gets attention. In fact, as we well know, the sinful nature of the atman is never recognized explicitly in Hinduism — though there are plenty of reference about sin in our lives.
Contrastly in the Muktiveda, there is plenty of scope for anyone to get some response for their needs — healing, power encounter, unity with God, love for God and fellow human beings, social justice, etc. Yet one central theme that runs from beginning to the end is redemption and restoration from our fallen status.
Separation of every kind is agony that torments our soul. When we miss a small thing, unless we get it back or know where it went, we don’t find peace or rest within us. In human relationship I don’t need to explain the pain of separation, as we all experience it often in our lives. But when it comes to separation from God it never strikes us too much. We take God’s grace and presence for granted.
If my understanding is correct, in Hinduism, reconciliation with God after His separation from me is easy one. Through prayaschitta, repentance, vows, appeasement, etc., I can easily reconcile with God. Ready-made remedies are available if I feel that God is upset with me and moved away from my life by afflicting me through so many unfortunate events.
But when it comes to bhakti, it is a completely different picture. In the Bhakti tradition, God cannot be separated from me in spite of my shortcomings — including sin. Manikkavasagar says, ‘one who is caught in the net of bhakti’. In another song he says:
பால்நினைந் தூட்டுந் தாயினுஞ் சாலப்
பரிந்துநீ பாவியே னுடைய
ஊனினை உருக்கி உள்ளொளி பெருக்கி
உலப்பிலா ஆனந்த மாய
தேனினைச் சொரிந்து புறம்புறந் திரிந்த
யானுனைத் தொடர்ந்து சிக்கெனப் பிடித்தேன்
எங்கெழுந் தருளுவ தினியே
–ஜி. வரதராஜன், திருவாசகம், விரிவுரை, சென்னை, பழனியப்பா பிரதர்ஸ்,
நான்காம் பதிப்பு, (1971), 1995, பிடித்தப் பத்து. பாடல்
Like a mother who feeds her baby by remembering (its hunger), you, one who melt my body and increased inner light…..I caught you firmly seeking after you. Where else can you go? — Tiruvasagam, Pidittappattu, song 9.
We can quote many similar songs from other saints like Meera and others. But in all these either we can get back to God easily (through rituals) or He cannot escape from a true bhakta. Particularly in Kanta/Rati bhava, where the relationship between God and the devotee is more ‘nayaki-nayaka’ bhava (romantic), the separation from God is a dominate theme as opposed to other kinds of bhakti (parental, friendship, child, slave, etc.) (See Understanding Hinduism, in bhakti). In romantic bhakti, a devotee will not only express the pain of separation in moving words (viraha bhakti = love in separation), but will also criticise, condemn and demand the relationship back from the deity.
But in the Muktiveda it is not God’s separation from me but my separation from God because of my disobedience and sin which pains Him more than me. And He took that initiative to seek after me. Like the father in the story of the Prodigal son, he runs to meet his lost son and tries to pacify the eldest one who refuses to join the feast and also insults his father before the invited guests.
Repentance, not just remorse but a resolution not to repeat it again, is a common theme both in Hinduism and the Muktiveda, but reconciliation with the offender is crucial in the Muktiveda. Here my private bhakti with my private God is not enough. Bhakti takes a new turn for me in my faith in the Lord. As Hindu scripture is a vast ocean, anyone can quote similar concepts from various texts. But in practical life, my bhakti in the Lord demonstrated God’s love on the Cross by seeking after me.
That love also demonstrates the pain of my separation from God and helps me to turn back to Him again and again with remorse and reconciliation through repentance. As sin in one way or the other affects my relationship with my fellow human beings, mere remorse without reconciliation with the offended party, repentance is not possible. This checks my bhakti, making it a mere sentiment or a way to blackmail God to trap him in my private bhakti, treating him as my private deity. My bhakti stands or fall with my relationship with others as well as God. It will never become a ‘one man operated corporation’. In this sense, bhakti theology in the Muktiveda stands unique for me.
This new understanding, my separation from God and the pain that it creates in Him and the way he seeks to reconcile me with him, gave a new meaning to my bhakti. All my other understanding about the Muktiveda became an aid for me to understand this new concept intellectually. But when my intellect fails and when rationalism overcomes, bhakti helps me to take refuge in Him.
For me this goes beyond even the saranagati concept in Hinduism in general and Vaishnavism in particular. In Hinduism I surrender because of helplessness that I feel in spite of my efforts but in the Muktiveda God’s assurance that ‘nothing can separate me from the Love of God’ shows that He took the initiation first. This surrender is more a ‘position’ for me in the Lord than an ‘action’ from my part. At the same time it is not a mere ‘passive’ position but ‘active’ one from my side. I don’t throw up my hands and surrender but continue to do my part while positioning myself strongly in Him through surrender.