One plus one equals one – Tyagaraja’s perspective on Ramayana

This may be poor Maths but it is profound Vedanta. It epitomizes the very essence of Advaita or non-dual reality. Let us see how. All experiences of ecstasy in life are experiences of Advaita. For instance, let us consider the experience of listening to some great music. The extraordinary quality of the music makes you lose yourself completely and become one with music. Mathematically speaking, you+music=music. This is an experience of advaita. This is true of any truly ecstatic experience in life. Thus the great beauty and breathtaking view of the Niagara falls or the spectacular sight of Grand Canyon can evoke an experience of oneness with the object of admiration. Extending the logic further, you plus the jagat=jagat(the world). If you replace jagat with Eswara, then you are Eswara or God Himself. This is advaita. The message of advaita is beautifully conveyed by saint Tyagaraja in the following composition depicting Ramayana.

In the brilliant composition, E VARAMADIGEDERA RAMA NI, Tyagaraja portrays a gradual transition of thought process from DVAITA to ADVAITA, that is, from Dual nature to non-dual nature of reality. Dualism proposes that God and the individual are separate and non-dualism proposes just the opposite, that is the individual is non-separate from the Lord. Let us now see how the composition develops.

Tyagaraja addresses Rama thus:
“Oh Rama! What boon should I ask of You? What role can I ask You to offer me? All my options are foreclosed by your close devotees. Hanuman has monopolized the role of carrying out all that You wish. Your brother Satrughna has assumed the role of looking after the welfare all your devotees and he takes care of them as well as You would. Bharata has taken on the happy role of worshipping Your blessed feet and living blissfully listening to Your glories. Lakshmana has the exclusive privilege of following You and Your thoughts constantly and serving You without even caring to have food or sleep.
Finally, Sita has taken the role of identifying herself with You completely transcending body and Mind. Keeping You in her heart constantly, she has become one with You.

The use of the Vedic expression “Soham” in the song while describing Sita’s role is significant. It’s translated as: I am He. This expression of Tyagaraja, taken straight from our Upanishads, is considered to convey the non-dual nature of reality.

In this composition, one can clearly see a gradual transition of roles (from Hanuman to Sita)from DVAITA to ADVAITA. Starting from Hanuman right up to Lakshmana the separate identities of Rama and His devotee are maintained. This is Dvaita. When Tyagaraja describes Sita’s role, there is a clear departure from Dvaita to Advaita. The descriptions and expressions used unambiguously point to Advaita or non-dual reality.

To me, this is a brilliant composition lending itself readily to a new perspective on Ramayana.

Published in: on October 2, 2015 at 10:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. What a simple way of understanding the essense of Advaita. In fact is not one of much simpler if one contemplates even mundane activities like Learning Cycling or Car Driving. The moment you get the cycling balance you and cycle become one – it is more like extension of your physical body like your Legs and hands – totally under your control. Before this balance it is duality (you and the cycle are different and hence all the strugle). It is very true with anything and everything. All successful people knowingly or unknowingly become successful only when they become one (Attain Advaitic state) with their project/purpose on hand.
    I understand when Rama asked Hanuman “Who are you?”, the answer from Hanuman was as follows:
    “Deha budhyatu Daasoham”
    “Amsha budhyatu Tvadamshakaha”
    “Atma budhyatu twamevaham”
    “Ithreva mama Nishchayaha”

    If everybody can really digest this, life becomes a joyous journey. The first line of his answer is Dvaita; the second Vishitadvaita; and the third Advaita. The most important is the last line where he says that he is certain about what he knows/uttering. So, it is all willing roles in the feet of Him.
    Ravi Prakash, B’lore 9845866501

    • Thanks for your kind response. Yes, hanuman said it quite eloquently as pointed out. He captured the essence of Vedanta in just 3 brief lines! With the right understanding, every experience in life is a moment of truth. Then we will stop chasing experiences for the sake of happiness

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