Bhakti Song 51 – Sweetness

Though the life of a single person incurs several losses, there are several blessings in it which give contentment in life. One among them is the freedom that we have to spend time with God and other sadhanas. When I was thinking about this, I wrote this song.

தனிமையான வாழ்க்கை பல இழப்புக்களைச் சந்தித்தாலும், அதில் உள்ள சில நன்மைகள் வேறுவிதமான மன நிறைவைத் தரும். அதில் ஒன்று இறைவனுடன் நாம் எப்போது வேண்டுமானாலும் தொடர்புகொள்ளும் நிலை. அதைக்குறித்து எண்ணியபோது எழுதியபாடல்:

 

இனிமை

தனிமை என்றதோர் இனிமை

என்தலைவன் தாள்பணிந்து

வணங்கும் போதெல்லாம்

அரவணைக்கும் ஓர் புதுமை

சொந்த பந்தம் நம்மைச்

சூழ்ந்து நின்ற போதும்

தேடி அவனடி பணியும்போது

நாடி வருகின்ற இன்பம்

சொல்லில் கூற முடியா

சுகமே அந்த நேரம்

சுவைத்து அறியா மூடர்

புரிந்திடாத பேரின்பம்!

26-06-1993. கோண்டா (உ.பி).

 

 

 

Sweetness

The sweetness of solitude

Which gives bliss

When I bow at the feet of my Lord

And worship Him alone.

Though relatives and friends

Surround us

Yet when we seek His feet and worship (in solitude)

The bliss that comes to us

Is a joy which cannot be described

The greatness of that joy

Cannot be understood by the fools

Who do not have that experience?

26-06-1993. Gonda. U.P.

 

Comments

I have never regretted my life as a single person. In fact I cannot even imagine how my life would be if I had not remained single. One reason could be my temperament. I have a dominating nature and don’t accept orders from others. Even this evening I thought how I always expect others to listen and obey me than question and disagree with me. Knowing my nature, my mother often tells, “Good that you remained unmarried. Fortunately one girl escaped from you.” In response I say, “It is good that I didn’t marry. Fortunately a daughter-in-law escaped from you too.” My mother too has similar nature like me. One time I was asked why I didn’t marry. In response I said jovially, “If I were married, I would have committed suicide immediately or she would have killed me within two days. Somehow I want to live and that’s why I didn’t marry.”1

Of course I never promote ‘singlehood’. For me ‘singlehood’ is a curse and not a blessing from God. I often say, “Single people are selfish people, as they don’t want to share their life with another person.” That is why when one of my shishyas (in Bihar) wanted to become sannyasi, I said ‘no’ to him. I said to him, “Don’t take such decision based on emotion or seeing me.”

There is an incorrect concept among common people that sannyasis are holier than others because they give up one important part of life. I still remember the comment from one old lady from the Kabir Panth back in 1987 at Madhubani (North Bihar), “By closing one whole out of nine in our body, sannyasis are no way better than others.” And I agreed with her.2

As a joke I say this, “If you want to become holy, remain single. But if you want to become more holy, then get married. There only can you learn what humility, love, care, concern, sharing, etc., mean.” Your character will never develop and grow if you remain single. A sannyasi might say that he never become upset or get angry. But with whom he can become upset or get angry? With the trees in his ashram or animals in the forest?

Unlike other single people, in the mandali of Muktinath, a sannyasi is completely different. In general a sannyasi is not responsible to anyone. Whereas even a sannyasi in our mandali is answerable both to God and to the fellow bhaktas to whom he committed himself totally.

For me singlehood is a different vocation but no way better than a householder. In fact a householder life is the best according to Indian ideal:

…Manu [VI.89-90] reiterates the same sentiments under a different figure ‘just as all big and small rivers find a resting place in the ocean, so men of all asramas find support in the householder and the householder is declared to be the most excellent of all the aasramas by the precepts of the Veda and smrtis, since he supports the other three'[p.640]…Saanti {parva in Mahabharata} 12.12 holds that, ‘if weighed in the balance, the order of householders is equal to all the other three put together….’—P. V. Kane, History of Dharmasastras, Vol.II. Part.I. Ch.XVII. pp. 640-41.

That is why for Bankim Chandra Chatterji, however great both Muktinath and Buddha were yet they are not equal to Krishna:

…”If Jesus or Sakya Singha {Buddha} had been householders and yet leaders of world religions, then their systems would have been more complete. Krishna as ideal man is a householder. Jesus or Sakys Singha are not ideal men” (Dharmatattva, Bankim 2:647)…3—‘ Imagining Hindurashtra: The Hindu and the Muslim in Bankim Chandra’s Writings, Tanika Sarkar, in Making India Hindu, Religion, Community, and the politics of Democracy in India, edited by David Ludden, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1996,p.178

However it is worth noting the alternative view of another famous Bengali:

His attacks on householders were often quite scathing. He suggested that the gulf between the householder and the sannyaasin was wide and unbridgeable and that the former are incapable of sincerity but of necessity must possess some selfish motive. He would not believe God to be sincere if he incarnated as a householder. He even spoke of the repulsive odour of householders. In this context, one must admit that Vivekananda appears as partisan as Sankara was with respect to caste. Views like these seem to contradict his declared aim of making Vedaanta a practical religion, accessible to all.4

One more point that I should add here is that however I feel close with several bhaktas family in our mandali, I have made it clear to them that I cannot be part of their family. One time I said to one of my shishyas, “If your relationship with me brings some friction in your family life, better to keep me away.” That is one of the main reasons for me to move from Erode to Hosur, though I was treated as a part of Kannan and Saradha’s family when I stayed with them for several years at Erode. As their children began to grow up, I realized that they need their own privacy which is not possible keeping another person as part of their home.

Those who voluntarily choose the life of a single person, have several advantages over family people. But it is more of added responsibilities than mere privilege for a bhakta of Muktinath. And though she managed to share her responsibilities with others in the mandali, in enjoying certain bliss she is her own master. Because a family person, even in solitude cannot escape from thinking about her family members and wishing them to have the same experience. Whereas a single person can most of the time remain a Nirajnan=one who enjoys herself or one is happy with herself. That is why next to God, sannyasis are called ‘niranjan’.

26-6-14

 

Notes

1..It may look funny for many. But one of the reasons in my youth for a desire to remain single was that I could read more books. From my teenage years I was obsessed with books. Even in schools days, while eating I read books and my mother will snatch the book from my hand and threw it by telling, ‘first eat and then read’. When I went to office I will keep a book and walk on the side of the road and will read. Even when I rarely went to cinema I kept a book to read while standing on the queue to buy ticket or during the interval in the dim light. Even as a sales man, while taking orders, when I get some gap, I will read a book. In a sense I was living, moving and my being was in books.

2. However see what Kabir says:

Monk aloof, householder large of heart,

If two fall short, then loss is very vast.—p.187

Bairraagii birakata bhayaa, girahiim citta udaara.

Duhuum cuukaam riitaa padai, taakuum vaara na paara.—p. 186

MC: A large-hearted householder and a monk detached from the world, both are boon for society.—SushilaMahajan,Couplets of Kabir … a Vision of Beyond. New Delhi, Deep & Deep publications. 2008. p. 187

 

  1. Bankim’s admiration for Christ was abundant, though he never accepted him as God. ‘I consider both Christ and Buddha’, wrote Bankim, ‘as great men and respect them….They are great men but not ideal men.’ Jesus is an ‘incomplete man’ and the Christian ideal represented by Christ is also incomplete. Krishna is the ideal man because in him all the faculties of man have their equal and proper growth and have achieved a harmony. The Hindu ideal, therefore, is complete by itself. Both Buddha and Christ were indifferent to the temporal world and preached asceticism. Asceticism is a negative approach to life. Krishna was not an ascetic; his attitude towards life was positive….—Sisir Kumar Das, Shadow of the Cross: Christianity and Hinduism in a Colonial Situation, New Delhi, Munshirma Manoharlal, 1974 (1973) p. 117 [no reference is given for this quotes by Bankim—db]

 

4. Anantanand Rambachan, The Limits of Scripture:Vivekananda’s Reinterpretation of the Vedas, Sri Satguru Publications A Division of Indian Books Centre, Delhi., 1995, p.52.

Somewhere I read that Vivekananda’s challenge to India that time was a request to give few youths and he will change it completely. With this ideal that a selfless sannyasis can work and bring the change that he was dreaming for. But this critic by Das is worth reading, as it endorses my view that sannyasis are the best model to be imitated and however they wish they cannot bring a change in India through their lives and seva:

…While he {Vivekananda} deserves our admiration and respect for such work, the question remains, was he unable to reconcile with what he thought about the problems of modern India and about religion? Can religion be a substitute for political and economic forces? Can a group of Sannyasis, however noble and dedicated they are, check the rapid growth of poverty in India? Is not an independent India with her own economic plans a better guarantee of the improvement of the living conditions of her people? While Vivekananda’s love for the Indian people was deep and genuine, more deep and more genuine than most of our national leaders, he did not realise the necessity of a strong political movement with a practical economic programme which alone could provide a solution to the problem which made the monk so restless.—Sisir Kumar Das , op. cit. p. 140

According to Sankara, mukti is possible only those who renounced everything as one Upanishad says:

Kaivalyopanishad: na karmana na prajaya dhanena thyagenaike amrutatvamanashu (1:3a)—neither by sacrifice (karma), or son or wealth but only through renunciation one attains this liberation (Brahadara. Upanishad. IV, 4.22)