Rama Naama Vaibhavam – Saint Thyagaraja’s Musical Insights (Part2)

The great philosopher, J Krishnamoorthy, famously said: Word is NOT the thing – the description is NOT the described. JK is basically nudging us to enjoy the essence of a word and not get hooked on to the word. This message of JK is profound in its own way in the context in which he said it ( I am not going to elaborate this further here).  However, our saints emphasized just the opposite when it came to the significance of  the Lord’s name. They maintained that His name or NAAMA is greater than the Lord Himself. Alwars also echoed the same sentiment when they said: The NAAMA is greater than the NAAMI (meaning the Lord). Saint Thyagaraja was equally passionate in bringing out this message in his own inimitable style in his famous song in the raaga BILAHARI – Naa Jeevaadharama…..(You can click on the link and listen to the Raga and the kriti sung by the great maestro Maharajapuram Santanam).

The kriti starts off in great tempo and waxes eloquent on the greatness of the Lord Srirama. A simple translation of this composition goes somewhat like this: Aren’t You the very source of  my life and the fruits of my Tapas? You are the brilliance in my sight and the source of fragrance of my nose. . and isn’t your human form the embodiment of the letters of the name that I chant. And you are the flower of my worship.

The key line in this composition is the 3rd line of the charanam: “Na Japa Varna Rupama”. A simple translation of this is:  Are you the form emerging out of  the letters constituting my Rama ‘japa’?

What a profound and significant statement this is! The more one thinks about it, the more one understands the different dimensions of  the saint’s thought processes. Let us explore this statement further.  How could a form emerge out of the letters? Isn’t it counter intuitive? It may sound so, but in matters of spirituality one has to use the heart and not the Mind to understand the significance of the words used by the saints. We will get an insight if we consider the limitations of  the form as against the Rama Japa. Look at the form. Doesn’t the form, being physical, limit the attributes and characteristics of the person described? Evidently, it does. On the other hand, Rama Naama can conjure up unlimited or infinite visions of the person or the entity described. For instance, the moment a discerning devotee utters the word Rama, he is reminded at once of all the glories and great attributes of the person described – the attributes ranging from truthfulness,virtuousness, righteousness, knowledge, prowess, firm resolve etc . Each attribute will inspire a certain image and vision in the mind of the devotee. Therefore, a limiting physical form of the Lord can never capture his limitless or infinite attributes.

Put differently, the word RAMA may be considered as the bridge connecting the NIRGUNA BRAHMAN and the SAGUNA BRAHMAN. Without this bridge, the form of the SAGUNA BRAHMAN will not have much significance. In that sense the bridge (NAAMA) is greater than the NAAMI.

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Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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