More Light On Options – Examples from Saint Thyagaraja’s Compositions

After the last post on Options, I would like to present here a convincing example of a great saint who demonstrated through his life how silly it is even to think of options. The saint I’m talking about is saint Thyagaraja who composed great songs full of Vedanta.

In this post I’ll dwell on 3 famous compositions of the saint to make my point. His composition, Nidhi chala sukhama’in the Raga Kalyani is a great piece for its melody as well as meaning(Click on the link and Listen to this great song sung by MS). It is full of rhetorical questions giving options to choose from. The context in which the saint composed this song forcefully conveys the message. The Maharaja of Sarabhoji sends word to the saint welcoming him to his court and promising to gift a huge landed property. Thyagaraja just needed to say ‘yes’ to get rid of his poverty. Anybody else in his place would have accepted the offer as it was quite common, in those days, for men talented in arts and poetry to serve in the courts of the kings and earn their livelihood . But what did Thyagaraja do? He replied to the king with this song in Kalyani. Let us see the meaning and message of this composition: In this composition the saint is addressing the mind to set up an inquiry into the question of priorities in one’s life. He says: Oh, mind, Pray tell what gives more happiness – wealth or the closeness to Rama? The saint, in the next few lines, puts similar rhetorical questions the answers to which are self-evident. The questions are: Which is more delicious – milk, butter , curd etc or the nectar-like worship of the Lord Rama. The next two questions are even more direct in answering the King’s invitation:
If one is given a choice between the river Ganges versus a small well for taking bath, which one would one choose? Obviously the former. The saint goes on to compare the bath in Ganges to disciplined efforts like sense-control and forbearance(SHAMA & DAMA in Sanskrit). Forbearance is a special quality which equips one to show tolerance or restraint in the face of provocation. Obviously these 2 qualities are spoken of highly in our scriptures as indicators of one’s mental purity. That is, while the bath in the Ganges cleans the body thoroughly, the qualities like Shama and Dama clean the Mind. Just as taking bath in a narrow and dirty well would dirty the body, filling up the senses with gossip and small talk would dirty the mind.
Finally, the saint is posing an even more daring comparison which effectively answers the King’s(Sarabhoji Mharaja’s)invitation to join his court: Which gives one happiness and bliss? Flattery of conceited and egotistical men or the praise of the Lord Rama as sung by Thyagaraja?
The saint’s priorities in life were made very clear. He preferred the freedom he was enjoying through the worship of the Lord composing devotional songs over the prospect of gaining huge landed property. He knew that pursuing Artha or wealth would completely deprive him of the freedom and devotional bliss.

In another composition – VARAALANDUKOMMANI – he tells Rama: Do not tempt me offering boons. My only aim in life is to compose songs praising your glory.

The third composition I have in mind is – oka mata oka baanamu. This impressively highlights Rama’s steadfastness in pursuing goals without a wavering mind. The saint uses the word OKA four times in the composition – OKA maata, OKA baanamu, OKA patni, OKA chittamu. OKA in Telugu means One(and only one). The song depicts the character of Rama as one saying one word and sticking to it, using one arrow which sticks to its path and its target, committed to the vow of monogamy and a decisive mind.

I’m sure one can find several examples of great people in history, who had one focus in life and went about achieving their goals with a clear and steadfast mind.

Published in: on November 1, 2014 at 3:00 pm  Comments Off on More Light On Options – Examples from Saint Thyagaraja’s Compositions  
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