Tyagaraja’s Famous Kriti Dedicated To Sri Rama Is A Source Of Endless Bliss And Profound Knowledge
The nature of Brahman - the Ultimate Reality - the object of Moksha - is described as ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’ (the ultimate truth, the ultimately beneficial and ultimately beautiful). These three combined together, create Paramananda (the ultimate happiness).
A mumukshu (one who wants to free himself of the cycle of life and death, bonds of karma and the suffering, that, as Buddha said, is implicit in the samsara), can hold any one of these - Satyam - the pursuit of the Truth; Shivam - the pursuit of well-being; and Sundaram - the pursuit of beauty - and reach the Ultimate.
Those in the explicit pursuit of the truth are jnanamargi, the instrument is intellect and the object is knowledge. The pursuit of well-being involves practices that benefit the individual self as well as the whole humanity, along with other beings including the forests, the earth and the oceans - the instrument is Karma (Karmayoga) or Kriya (Kriyayoga) and the object is Kalyana.
The third is the pursuit of beauty. This is best characterised by the Bhakti marga. The instrument is bhava (emotions) and object is ishwara. A bhakt doesn’t want worldly success, Swarga, or even Moksha, but only the saanidhya of her beloved God.
It is important to remember that the distinction between these three paths is only from the frame of reference of samsara - for us common folks to understand. From the frame of reference of the Mumukshu and as one moves closer to the Brahman - this distinction (more aptly, the perceived difference) melts away.
It is also pertinent to clarify that the categorisation given above is not water-tight. A Yogi reaches the enlightenment through deliberate disciplining of the mind and the body, and Jnani reaches through Knowledge, and a Bhakt through Bhakti, but all three experience all three- Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram.
Only from the outsider’s perspective, the language of communication changes. The same experience of enlightenment is described in different words by different Gurus and sants.
Due to limitations of resources, mind, body and intellect, Jnana and Karma margas aren’t accessible to everyone, but Bhakti is. By the grace of out great Gurus like Tyagaraja, everyone can have a glimpse of the Ultimate, and revel in Parmananda.
Jagadānanda kārakā is the first one of the Pancharatna kritis of Tyagaraja. The rendition of the Kriti by any Carnatic music doyen - including M S Subbulakshmi - keeps brimming with bliss.
Those who aren’t aware, these renditions aren’t merely a show of vocal skills of the singer. In a video available on YouTube, Kuldeep M Pai explains the research, the understanding and the intricacies behind each and every rendition.
The result of the sadhana of these artists is a composition where the bhava of the author and the music of the musician are in complete harmony, and accentuate each other.
This creates a condition for, if I may call it so, ‘assisted experience of enlightenment’ for the listener. If listened intently, the vibrations of the song will be mirrored by the vibrations inside the listener, and she will easily experience the joy that the author- the enlightened saint, be it Meera, Tulsidas, Andal or Akkamahadevi, experienced.
Through their eyes, the viewers can see the lovely dark complexioned Lord Rama with curly hairs, his graceful holding of Shiv Dhanush in Janaka-Sabha, as well as the forever-kind and full of love for children like us- Bhagvati Sita.
This way, music becomes the language of sharing the deeply personal experience of enlightenment through appreciation of Sundaram.
At this point, something needs to be said about the instrument of beauty to reach the divine. Listeners will realise how this instrument brings out the sacredness hidden in the world around us.
A jnani carefully observes the world, travels far and wide, learning new things, reading and gathering information. He analyses, infers and concludes.
This way, he churns out the ultimate truth from his learning. The ghee of truth (which is indestructible and permanent) is extracted by the jnani from the buttermilk of samsara (which is destructible and temporary).
Similarly, a kriya-yogi extracts the Truth (again, which is indestructible and permanent) from the churning of his body (which is destructible and temporary).
In the same way, the instrument of beauty transforms our general, day-to-day pleasant experiences into those of divine nature. The pleasantness perceived by the panchendriya (the five senses) is transformed into a divine experience of beauty.
This is why, saints like Andal describe their spiritual experiences in what linguists would call ‘sensual’ terms without any restraint or shame. The shame lies in selfishness - the desire of exploiting others as well as own body for sensual pleasures - not in experience and celebration of beauty.
By listening to these songs, where our Gurus describe the beauty of the Gods and Goddesses and proclaim their love without caring about the social customs and worldly proprieties, the listener will learn to differentiate between the gratification of senses (a selfish and temporary pleasure) and the celebration of beauty (“A thing of beauty is a joy forever").
In Jagadānanda kārakā, Tyagaraja calls Lord Rama as the ‘Sajjanamanasabdhi Sudhakar”. Those who learn the divine celebration of beauty, in the sea of their hearts, Lord Rama, like the moon, will create waves of joy- Parmananda.
(An alternative and equally true interpretation is that in the hearts of sajjanas, Lord Rama, who is Parbrahma Parameshwara- unlimited and unattainable- stays, like a shadow of the moon stays with the sea).
The Sundaram - the beauty in the Jagadānanda kārakā gives way to the Satyam and Shivam in the heart of the listener, and the more physical manifestation of the divine turns more abstract, and the listener, even without explicit training of the mind and body to do so- comes to understand the nature of the divine.
A careful sevan of Jagadānanda kārakā not only will complete a manas-path of the whole Ramayana but also lay bare the essence of Ram-bhakti. I encourage the readers to read the simplified meaning of the Kriti, and corresponding Dhyana here [PDF].
The concept of Bhakti is also intricately connected with the concept of Avatara. It is my observation that a lot of ill-will and ill-characterisations of Hindus and Hinduism is due to the lack of the conceptual understanding about this connection. However, we will leave that discussion for some later time.
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