Frequently one hears the largely justified accusation that religion has failed to make man, moral or compassionate and that, it has divided man from man. All religions give us some code of ethics; of the love of fellow human beings and all creatures. Religion cannot be faulted if a man has misinterpreted or misused religion to serve his interest, at the cost of others. For that matter, politics and even science have been abused and misused to serve selfish interests of men. Well, this is not the subject under discussion now, though it is, we believe, not an irrelevant digression.

Thyagaraja Swami stresses the point that for a true votary of any religion, there is no division or isolation from the essentials. He stresses again and again, “bedharahita vedanthamu,” “matha bedhamuleka” and “dhaiva bedhamuleka” – all of them meaning that there should be no quarrel over deities or denominations. In other words, the seeker after realization should love god equally, devoutly, even when the deity is not the one he or his religion proclaims as the supreme one. His advice to the seeker after salvation is to find the ultimate through the purity of thought, humility, compassion, and love for all fellow human beings: and all that is in one’s environment.

Among several kritis in which he asks us to eschew bedhas, differences, and differentiation, we will cite only two here: “Krupalavala” in Nadhatarangini — “Aapavargapala kamamulanu joochi addamai animadi siddhula mosapu chedarayya,” – while I seek only mosha, people around are putting stumbling blocks in the way by trying to tempt me with ashtasiddhis and such other ersatz, the fake and the spurious. In “bhajana seyave (Kalyani), he addresses his own mind thus (of course, it is really for lesser mortals like us): “human birth endows one with the capability to learn the significance and secret of naadha, pranava, the seven swaras, the vedas, the mantras, Sastras, Puranas, etc., comprising the 64 Kalas. Why then should one seek pleasure and fulfillment in debates and dialectics instead of seeking moksha – ” modakara sareeramethi mukthi margamunu theliyani – vaadha tharkamela.”

This emphasis on right, ethical conduct, egolessness, the pursuit of truth and the need to give up purposeless learning, debate and discussion, occurs in many other kritis among which we may cite some of the well-known ones like “Manusunilpa Sakthileka pothe” (Abhogi), “Manasu Swadeenamaina (Sankarabharanam) and “Emijesithenemi.” If space permitted, we would have been happy to give a full and detailed translation of the entire kritis; kritis which compel contemplation of the meaning for those who seek the ultimate and are not interested in the divisions and spurious attractions on the way to the goal.

In “Emijesithenemi” he says that, whatever one’s learning, whatever one’s wealth and comforts, whatever the yagas one may have performed, though one may be a great guru teaching esoteric mantras to others, such a one gains nothing, at any rate, not Salvation or Grace, unless one gives up kama, moha (desire and elusion) and the like. In “Manusunilpa” and “Manasu Swadheenamaina”, he says that irrespective of all and any qualifications, it is the mind which is to be conquered, kept under control, and check. In the former – with some sarcasm, he asks, “What is the use of doing pooja, sounding the bell (for others to hear) if one cannot stop the mind (stop procession of thoughts, images, and ideas as Sri Ramana Maharishi states), how does one benefit by a bath in the Ganga or Cauvery if one has not erased the ego; what is the use of thapas if one’s mind is full of kama, krodha, etc. Will these protect me?

In “Manasu Swadeenamaina,” he categorically states that nothing will prevail unless the mind is in control. In this song, he says that there is no need for mantras and tantras for the man who has controlled and subdued his mind; there is no need to do thapas for the man who has realized that the body is not the self (dehatmabedha); there is no need to take to sanyasa or adopt different ashramas at different times for the man who has realized that God is everything (Vishishtadwaita: Saranagati and Prapatti); for the man for whom there is no attraction of wealth or woman; for him who knows that everything is blind illusion (impermanent; ephemeral); there is no need for a man to worry about the future if he has taken care of the past and the present through good conduct. Though Swami was well versed in the Sastras and puranas (or because of it, he could separate the essential from the inessential), he lays greater emphasis on a simple, truthful, dharmic life and advises us not to attach too much importance to rituals and ceremonies, differences, distinction and debates, learning and preaching. The advice he has given can be followed even by a simple-minded, unlearned person, provided he seeks sincerely and with steadfastness.

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  1. Sreenivasan and R. Krishnaswami

Do not reprint or publish without permission (contact

P. Sreenivasan and R. Krishnaswami