Bhakti Song 55 – Follow Me

On 24-08-1993 when I was meditating the verses in Matthew 8:19-22, I wrote this song.

24-08-1993 மத்தேயு 8:19-22 வாசகங்களை தியானித்தபோது எழுதிய பாடல்:

 

பின்செல்

தலைசாய்க்க இடமே இல்லை

தரணியில் இறை மைந்தனுக்கு

அனைத்தையும் படைத்த உனக்கு

அண்டிட இடமில்லை இங்கு!

உன்பின் செல்கின்ற எமக்கு

இதுவே நீ நியமித்த கணக்கு.

“எங்கே சென்றாலும் பின்னே

ஏகிடுவேன்” என்ற போதும்

“எஞ்சிய செயல் ஒன்று உண்டு

என்னை ஈந்திட்டவர்க்கு

ஈமக்கடன் செய்யும் வரை

என்னாலாகாது உன்பின் செல்ல”

என்றுரைத்து நின்றபோது

“இறந்தோரைச் சுமந்து செல்ல

எத்தனையோபேர் உண்டு உலகில்

மரித்தோரை மரித்தோர் எரிப்பர்

மாறாத மாந்தர் செயலைச்

செய்திட உனக்கில்லை நேரம்

செல்வாய் என்பின்னே நீயும்”

சொல்லிய இறைமகன் தானும்

சென்றானே தன்கடன் செய்ய

திகைத்தே நின்றிட்ட சீடன்

செய்திட்ட தீர்மானம் என்ன?

பதிலேதும் வேதத்தில் இல்லை

பரிகாரம் அவனிடம் இல்லை

பகிர்ந்திடக் காரணம் பலவே

பாங்காய் நம்மிடம் உண்டே!

ஏர்மீது கைவைத்த பின்னே

திரும்பிட நேரமே இல்லை

விரைவோமே அவன்பின் நாமும்

வெகுதூரம் செல்லும் முன்னே!

 

English Translation

There is no place to take rest

For the Son of God

You don’t have a place of your own

Who created everything here?

This is the reality for us too

As we follow you

‘I too will follow you

Wherever you would go’

Though I say this

‘yet I have one obligation

Of doing the final rites to my parents.

So unless I complete it

I cannot come after you’

When I said this

‘There are many to carry the dead

On this world

The dead will burn the dead

But you don’t have time to do this

Unchanging routine of humans

Therefore come after me’

By saying this the Son of God

Too went on His way to do His duty

 

What was the decision of that disciple?

Who was struck with such a response?

There is no answer for this in the Veda

And he too has no remedy for this

We too have many reasons

To give for our excuses

We don’t have time to turn back

Once we put our hand on the plow

Let us too follow Him

Before He goes far way

 

Comments:

In my seva for the Lord as a ‘full-time worker’ in the past (thank God now I come out from such a concept completely), I felt paralysed on several occasions caught between my responsibility towards my parents on one side and the demand of the Lord on the other. Though as a sannyasi I have the best excuse or explanation to run away from my responsibility towards my parents, yet my conscience as a Hindu has never permitted me—particularly towards my mother.

When demanded, a Hindu sannyasi too cannot deny his responsibilities towards his Mother. Technically a sannyasi should not visit his home once he takes sannyasi deeksha. One of the reasons could be that his elders, even his father and others, have to touch his feet and bow before him. Whereas, he has to touch the feet of his mother and bow to her. So a sannyasi cannot sever his relationship with his mother till the end of her life. Sri Adi Sankara, went back to see his mother on her death-bed and performed her funeral rite—in spite of the opposition from his community members. Pattinatthar promised his mother that during her death time he will come back and do the final rites. That is why he carried a sugar cane always with him; when his mother questioned how he would come to know about her death, he said that the time when the root side of the sugar would taste bitter he will understand that his mother is on her death-bed. Because the root side of the sugar cane will be the sweetest part of it. Though I read many of his poems, these few lines I can never forgot as they still move my heart:

’ஈரல் ஒதுக்கி

இடங் கொடுத்த மாதாவுக்குக்

கூந்தல் ஒதுக்கிக்

கொள்ளி வைக்க வந்த மகன்!’

பழ. கருப்பையா.பட்டினத்தார் ஒரு பார்வை. கோயம்புத்தூர், விஜயா பதிப்பகம். 2009. P. 89

Pushing the liver to a side

The mother who gave a space in her womb for me

I came to light the funeral fire for her

By removing the hair

Pzha. Karuppaiya, Pattinatthar a view, Coimbatore, Vijaya Press, 2009, p. 89

 

அரிசியோ நானிடுவேன் ஆத்தாள் தனக்கு

வரிசையிட்டுப் பார்த்து மகிழாமல்-உருசியுள்ள

தேனே அமிர்தமே செல்வத் திரவியப்பூ

மானே எனவழைத்த வாய்க்கு–தாயாருக்கு தகனக்கிரியை செய்கையில் பாடியது,

Can I put the rice to my mother

In her mouth which called me

‘Sweet honey, nectar, my rich, flower’

Instead of giving gifts to her?

–Periya Jnanakkovai, compiled by Saravanamuthu Pillai, Chennai, Ratina Nayakar & Sons. Year not mentioned. song 5

 

அள்ளி யிடுவது அரிசியோ தாய்தலைமேற்

கொள்ளிதனை வைப்பெனொ கூசாமல்–மெள்ள

முகம்மேல் முகம்வைத்து முத்தாடி என்றன்

மகனே எனவழைத்த வாய்க்கு—ibid. 6

Am I going to take rice to put in her mouth

Which keeping with my mouth and giving kiss

And calling affectionately ‘my dear son’

Can I put fire on her head without any hesitation?

–Periya Jnanakkovai, compiled by Saravanamuthu Pillai, Chennai, Ratina Nayakar & Sons. Year not mentioned. song 5

’முன்னை இட்ட தீ முப்புரத்திலே

பின்னை இட்ட தீ தென்னிலங்கையில்

அன்னை இட்ட தீ அடிவயிற்றிலே

யானும் இட்ட தீ மூள்க மூள்கவே!’-பட்டினத்தார். 395, p. 90

பழ. கருப்பையா.பட்டினத்தார் ஒரு பார்வை. கோயம்புத்தூர், விஜயா பதிப்பகம். 2009, Song 395, p. 90

The fire which Siva put was at Tiripura

The later fire by Hanuman was at Srilanka

The fire which my mother put is in my stomach (because of her death)

Therefore let the fire which I put for her also glow up quickly

By removing the hair

Pzha. Karuppaiya, Pattinatthar a view, Coimbatore, Vijaya Press, 2009, song 395, p. 90

 

So when I read such verses (Matthew 8:19-22) in Muktiveda, in those days I was tormented between my responsibility towards my parents and my commitment to the Lord. Even today with much hesitation and pain, I made the decision to move to Mathigiri from the ashram. The one reason I told to Kannan was, “I don’t want to regret after she passed away that for my selfishness to live in such a calm atmosphere I failed to fulfill her wish to go and stay at Mathigiri—which alone she thinks her ‘own’ house, which is named after my parents, where she gets some fellowship with others.

“Let the dead bury the dead and you follow me” has a different context than what we commonly think as if our Lord has no concern for the parents or denying our duty towards them—particularly doing the final rite. The context of the ‘dead bury the dead’ is that:

In the first century, the body would normally be left to rot in the tomb’s antechamber for the first year; at the end of the year, the bones would be gathered into a box, which would slide into a slot on the wall. This practice probably related to the standard Jewish hope in the resurrection of the body at the end of the age…— Craig S. Keener , BBC NEW TESTMENT, Illinois, IVP, 1993, p.129 {technically keeping the bones in a box is called burying the dead—db}

And as that disciple want to buy a long time in the name of burying the bones of his parents (till the body was rotten), the Lord gave that response and not against doing final rites as such or to shun away from any of our responsibility towards our parents. (Embalming the body and keeping in the antechamber could be the immediate final rite for a Jew and collecting the bone after a year could the first year ‘sraddha’ in our context). In fact He set the model for us by arranging His beloved disciple to take care of His mother ‘even’ from the cross.

So we should be careful to form any of our own ‘theology’ not knowing the historical context or by twisting the context and giving our own interpretation that will best serve our purpose.

Any children, that too from Hindu families, who refuse to carry out their responsibilities to their parents in the name of their bhakti/faith are not doing full justice to their faith/bhakti. Except rare exception, our parents never refuse to run away from their responsibilities for us because of our bhakti in the Lord. There is no point of saying that our Lord demands exclusive obedience to Him at the cost of everything by quoting Mt. 10:37 or Lk.14:26, which our parents cannot understand or don’t know about such (imagined or interpreted) demands on us from the Lord.

I can imagine how any parent would respond if any ‘converted’ child quotes these verses to them for not doing her/his part to them? Because, they never heard or read such demands in their faiths from their deities—expecting them not to fulfill their social dharma (obligation) in their name of bhakti. Though any ideal ethical works like Tirukkural promotes not to do anything that violates dharma1, the practical dharmasastras prescribe ‘abad-dharma’2 (emergency dharma) which allows violation of normal rule. This does not mean that when it suits us, we can take help from Hindu sastras for practical life as a Hindu bhakta of the Lord and for idealism we can quote from Muktiveda. Even to understand Muktivedic idealism, we should know the context than quoting them literally and imposing our own idealism by our own exegesis.

I am not a theologian, yet ‘exegesis’ and ‘hermeneutics’ are two important techniques for us to understand the Muktiveda.As far as my understanding goes, we cannot take Muktivedic verses literally without understanding three main contexts: Textual, theological and historical.

First we have to understand that Muktinath is addressing not only His immediate disciples but to His own community which AS A WHOLE chosen by God to be His WITNESS for Him. So anything and everything in Purva Veda (OT) is not addressed to individuals but through the individuals to the whole NATION (TRIBE). That is why when one man sins the whole family and clan was punished (see Numbers Ch. 16). So we cannot take what is said to His whole tribe for an individual cannot be taken with the face value. And ‘loving’ anything more than the Lord means, for me ‘replacing Him from the centre of our lives’. Once I keep Him at the centre of my life, then approaching any issue from God’s point of view will help me to know His mind, will and purpose for His Kingdom. For this I have to take the whole Muktiveda in its totality, though each verse given in a particular context is also important. This is known as technically ‘Muktiveda should interpret Muktiveda’.

I often say, “Commands we have to obey; suggestions/recommendations we have to see the context and apply the principle to our situation and opinions can help us to know their situation but can be ignored. Thankfully, knowing our limitations, the Lord has reduced the command to one verse: Love God; Love neighbour’.

Suggestions/recommendations are like: Greet each other with a holy kiss; it is better not to give your daughter in marriage, etc. Opinion is like: Slaves obey your masters more.

Now let us see the verse: Lk. 10:4ff. For me ‘don’t greet anyone on the road’ is more interesting. Because I have seen many non-Indians even say ‘hi’ to the strangers on the road or wave their hand to anyone just see them accidentally. Do we take it as ‘greetings’? And what does ‘greeting’ actually mean in this verse?

There are several such verses in Muktiveda. We cannot take them literally.

When we do our dharma as children we are not replacing our Lord. In fact our love for the Lord should motivate us to follow His instruction in Mt. 5:20.

27-6-14

 

Endnotes

1..ஈன்றாள் பசிகாண்பான் ஆயினும் செய்யற்கச்

சான்றோர் பழிக்கும் வினை–

பெற்ற தாயே பசியோடு இருப்பதைப் பார்த்தாலும், சான்றோர்கள் பழிக்கும் படியான செயலைச் செய்யவேண்டாம்.

Even if one sees the mother in hungry, don’t do such a thing which is condemned by the noble people.—quoted from memory

 

2.. आपत्काले तु संप्राप्ते शौचाचारं न चिन्तयेत्॥

स्वयं समुध्दरेत् पश्चात् स्वस्थो धर्मं समाचरेत्

–The Paraasarasmrti 7th chap last three verses—P. V. Kane, History of Dharmasastras, 5 vols. Vol. 1, part I, Fn. 499. P. 464

-When emergency comes don’t think about rules of good conducts; first take care of yourself. When things become normal, then think about conduct.—a free translation by me.

 

3..The following from Dr. Hoefer will help some of us to understand this clearly:

Hermeneutics is the study of exegesis, like homiletics is the study of preaching.

Hermeneutics/Exegesis addresses the question:  “What did the text mean then, and what does it mean for us now?”

It involves a knowledge of the original language (grammar, vocabulary, etc.) , the context (cultural, political, social, etc.), and literature of the time.  One also studies a particular passage in the context of the author’s other writings (e.g., how he uses a particular term) and in the context of the whole Bible.  It also involves a study of how the passage was understood by scholars all through church history, especially by early church fathers.  A common approach to exegesis of unclear passages is stated as “interpreting dark passages in the light of clear passages.”  Thus, one studies how other clear passages in Scripture speak about that same topic, and let “Scripture interpret Scripture” (another common hermeneutical principle).

Hermeneutics is generally considered the most important, difficult, complex, and controversial theological discipline since the interpretation of Scripture is the foundation for all doctrine and practice in the church.  It is the foundation for the art of preaching, applying the meaning of the text to our life today.

One interesting question is if non-believers can interpret the Bible properly and authoritatively.

(I am thankful to Dr. Hoefer for giving this explanation to my question on exegesis and hermeneutics.—db)

 

An afterthought:

When I was thinking about ‘don’t greet anyone on the road’, one social custom came to my mind. When I was in Madhubani (North Bihar), we often visited villages and stayed there. So when our acquaintances come to Madhubani they visited us. Sometimes they would come and stay and during meal time, they will ask, ‘snaan kar duun’ (can I take bath?). Actually what they ask is not some permission to use our bath room to take bath (in fact there was no bath room and we used to take bath in open courtyard). What they actually convey is ‘can we take food’? It is the way expecting hospitality from us. Similarly when I was in Keshave’s village at Kekaraha (Rewa, M.P), I noticed one Brahmin sitting under the tree very near to the house. And when the time came for meal, Sankar, (Keshave’s brother) asked that man to join. After meal when he left after receiving due honour (of receiving betel leaves with supari = regular pan), I asked Sankar who he is. In response he said, ‘I don’t know’? ‘Then why you invited him for meal’? was my question. For this Sankar said, ‘this is the custom here. When we see any Brahmin during meal time come and sit near our house with due sign (applying sandal paste on the forehead and on the lab of the ear), he took bath and expecting food from us. He won’t ask but we have to invite him to join. We cannot ignore them. This is our dharma as a family man to serve food to strangers’. When we were at Trichy during my college days, one day a Brahmin came and asked ‘Bhavati biksham dehi (O Lady give me alms)’. Immediately my mother rushed to the door and requested the Brahmin to accept food in our house. He consented and went to Kaveri to take bath. When he came my mother washed his feet and sprinkled that water on our head and with much respect served food to him.

So this ‘don’t greet anyone’ also could relate the Jewish custom of receiving guests or the strangers expecting hospitality from others. This is proved from verse 10:5. This is only my guess and others can do some research and share about it with all of us.

2-7-14