On October 3, 1985, I suddenly sank into a deep depression. I wanted to talk with someone and pour out my whole heart, but with whom could I talk? Whoever may be it, the comfort that a human gives will disappear.
Therefore I sat in the corner of the veranda where I lived at Gonda and watched a spider spinning its nest. Suddenly I felt some kind of divine presence around me. I felt someone gently touch my head. I felt some kind of peace pouring within me like morning dew. Silently I wept.
The same evening, when I recalled that incident, I wrote this song within 10 minutes. That experience still remains fresh to me today. This is one incident that I will never forget in my life, no matter how strange it looks to others.
I never claimed that I had seen a ‘vision’ of the Lord, although I longed for it in the early days of my bhakti. In late 1981, I went to a remote place and sat under a tree and began to chant some mantra that I created myself (Om namo bhagavate Yesudevaya namaha). I would go on and chant it repeatedly for a long time. I was longing to have the ‘dharsan’ of the Lord as He appeared to His disciples. When I returned in the evening, I felt the same mantra continue to echo in my brain repeatedly. It continued even when I was sleeping and doing other works. Then I realized that this kind of ‘sadhana’ is not good for me to progress in my bhakti, as it tried to ‘control’ me. It took several weeks for me to come out of it.
For me bhakti is not mere experience or sentiment or emotion but needs clear understanding. In fact, bhakti without jnana will remain mere sentiment and might create blind faiths or formulas in the name of ‘sadhana’. As ‘truth’ and ‘love’ compliment each other, bhakti and jnana guards each other without distorting their true nature. Bhakti without jnana will become mere sentiment and jnana without bhakti will become abstract intellectual understanding.
According to the Indian (Hindu) tradition ‘knowledge’ is essential for mukti and the rest (karma, bhakti) are means to attain it. There are several philosophies exclusively promoting one or the other as the only means for mukti. But on the common level the importance of all the three is not denied. It could be another attempt for a systematic presentation of the Three Margas (ways) viz., Karma, bhakti and jnana margas –particularly based on the Bhagavadgita.
When conflicting views are presented side by side in the same scripture, scholars sometimes attempt to create a synthesis by cementing them to present a uniform thought. Every synthesis in a religious tradition to minimize the contradiction looks like syncretism to outsiders. But most Hindu scriptures are more esoteric in nature and never try to present a systematic theology. Later commentators attempted it and formulate such statements like ‘true jnana is the culmination of bhakti’ (I think by Rajaji in his introduction to Bhajagovindam sung by M.S. Subbulakshmi).
So although I felt some version of God’s presence and peace, I won’t claim it some special kind of ‘vision’. At the same time I won’t say it was mere feeling because of my emotion that time. There are some experiences in life that cannot be communicated through words. At the same time this explanation is not to bring that experience within my ‘rational’ understanding. For me, reason often looks ‘irrational’.
ஆறுதல் யாரெனக் களித்திடுவார்
ஆண்டவா உன்னருள் வார்த்தை யன்றி
தேறுதல் தருவோர் யாரும் இல்லை
தேவனே திருவடி அண்டி நின்றேன்
அமைதி அமைதி உன் அமைதி
ஆண்டவா தந்தாயே நன்றி சொல்வேன்
அலைபாயும் மனதிலே அமைதி இல்லை
அன்பான மொழிசொல்வோர் யாரும் இல்லை
மனிதரின் ஆறுதல் தேடிய நான்
மாயை வீண் மாயை இது என்றுணர்ந்தேன்–அமைதி அமைதி…
தனிமையோ எனைச் சூழ நெருக்கயிலே
தள்ளாடும் மனதோடு நடக்கயிலே
தஞ்சம் என் தஞ்சம் உன்மடியே
தலை சாய்க்க எனக்கு நீ புகலிடமே–அமைதி அமைதி…
அன்னைபோல் தலைவருடி ஆறுதலாய்
அன்பான மொழி சொல்லித் தேற்றுகின்றாய்
தந்தை போல் தோளிலே எனைச் சுமந்து
தயவாக இம்மட்டும் தாங்கி வந்தாய்–அமைதி அமைதி…
தோழன் போல் தோளிலே எனைச் சேர்த்து
திருக்கரம் கொண்டென்னைத் தானணைத்து
“திக்கற்றோனாய் உன்னைக் கைவிடேன் நான்
திகையாதே கலங்காதே” என்றுரைத்தாய்–அமைதி அமைதி…
அமைதியே நீயும் எங்கே என்றே
அலைந்திடும் மனிதரே வழியும் உண்டே
அனுதினம் என்னையே நடத்துகின்ற
அன்பின் தெய்வம் உம்மை அழைக்கின்றானே–அமைதி அமைதி…
Who will give me comfort Lord
except your graceful words?
I cannot find anyone who can comfort me
God I seek your Holy feet
Peace, peace, your own peace
O Lord you gave me and I thank you for that
There is no peace in this wavering heart
There is none who will give some loving words
When I sought human comfort
I realized that it is maya
When loneliness surrounds and crushes me
As I walk with trembling heart
Your lap is my only place
And the only refuge for me to lay my head
Like a mother you comfort me by touching my head
You encourage me by your loving words
Like a father you carry me on your shoulder
And brought me up to this level
Like a friend you put me on your chest
And hugged me with your Holy hands
‘I won’t let you live without anyone,
Don’t be troubled and get frustrated’ you told
‘O Peace where are you’ (crying like this)
O Men, who wander (searching after it), there is the Way
The Loving Lord who leads me daily
Calls you too
I am strong believer in celebrating human relationship, particularly among bhaktas, yet I know that sometimes we feel very lonely. I often say that ‘every saint must learn to walk alone’. My one eternal doctrine is: We don’t have a private god or a private bhakti. Ours is not a one-man operated corporation. Either we sail together or we sink together.
I know God works only through human agency. He happily accepts our limitation and has to work with it. However several times I feel that in spite of our unity and identity in the Lord as the member of His body, because of my temperament I create my own distance from others. Though my life as a single person could be a reason for that, I think that this is the experience of every human being — irrespective of his or her faith.
Bhakti confirms my personal relationship with the Lord, yet it celebrates it with others too. It always reaches out to others, inviting them to share in this kind of bhakti both to celebrate it with fellow bhaktas and share it with others. In this song too, though initially I felt lonely, I give a call to others to seek that comfort in the Lord. Above all in showing His comfort to me, I have to imagine him in human terms like that of a ‘mother, father, friend’. Both in Hinduism and Muktiveda, when it comes to bhakti, it is explained and understood in human terms with our relationship with others. Bhakti denotes my personal relationship with the Lord but it has never remained a private one.