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In the portion of the verse cited here Tattuvaraya emphatically backs up this claim by saying that when his own eye of jnana was opened through the look and touch of his Guru, ‘for me, there was no fate; there was no karma; there was no fiery-eyed death. All the world of differentiated forms became simply a manifestation of Sorupananda.’


There are other verses which reaffirm Tattuvaraya’s statement that after he had been liberated by Sorupananda he knew nothing other than the swarupa which had taken the form of Sorupananda to enlighten him:


All that appears is only the swarupa of Sorupan[anda]. Where are the firm earth, water and fire? Where is air? Where is the ether? Where is the mind, which is delusion? Where indeed is the great maya? Where is ‘I’?


[In greatness] there is no one equal to Sorupan. Of this there is no doubt. Similarly, there is no one equal to me [in smallness]. I did not know the difference between the two of us when, in the past, I took the form of the fleshy body nor later when he had transformed me into himself by placing his honey-like lotus feet [on my head]. Now I am incapable of knowing anything. (Nanmanimalai, vv. 38, 39.)


Let some say that the Supreme is Siva. Let some say that the Supreme is Brahma or Vishnu. Let some say that Sakti and Sivam are Supreme. Let some say that it is with form. Let some say that it is formless. But we have come to know that all forms are only our Guru. (Venba Antadi, v. 8.)


Tattuvaraya wrote of the consequences of his realisation in a poem entitled ‘Pangikku Uraittal’ (Paduturai, v. 64), which can be translated as ‘The Lady Telling her Maid’. The second of the five verses, which speaks of the simple, ascetic life he subsequently led, was mentioned with approval by Bhagavan in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 648:


1   Our reward was that every word we heard or said was nada [divine sound].

Our reward was to have ‘remaining still’ [summa iruttal] as our profession.

Our reward was to enter the company of virtuous devotees.

My dear companion, this is the life bestowed by our Guru.


2   Our reward was to have the bare ground as our bed.

Our reward was to accept alms in the palms of our hands.

Our reward was to wear a loincloth as our clothing.

My dear companion, for us there is nothing lacking.


Bhagavan’s comment on this verse was:


I had no cloth spread on the floor in earlier days. I used to sit on the floor and lie on the ground. That is freedom. The sofa is a bondage. It is a gaol for me. I am not allowed to sit where and how I please. Is it not bondage? One must be free to do as one pleases, and should not be served by others.


‘No want’ is the greatest bliss. It can be realised only by experience. Even an emperor is no match for a man with no want. The emperor has got vassals under him. But the other man is not aware of anyone beside the Self. Which is better?


The poem continues:


3   Our reward was to be reviled by all.

Our reward was that fear of this world, and of the next, died away.

Our reward was to be crowned by the lotus feet of the Virtuous One [the Guru].

My dear companion, this is the life bestowed by our Guru.


4   Our reward was the pre-eminent wealth that is freedom from desire.

Our reward was that the disease called ‘desire’ was torn out by the roots.

Our reward was the love in which we melted, crying, ‘Lord!’

Ah, my dear companion, tell me, what tapas did I perform for this?


There is an indirect reference in the first line to Tirukkural 363: ‘There is no pre-eminent wealth in this world like freedom from desire. Even in the next, there is nothing to compare to it.’


The final verse says:


5   Our reward was to wear the garment that never wears out.

Our reward was to possess as ‘I’ the one who is present everywhere.

Our reward was to have [our] false devotion become the true.

My dear companion, this is the life bestowed by our benevolent Guru.


‘The garment that never wears out’ is chid-akasa, the space of consciousness.


After his realisation Tattuvaraya subsequently spent much of his time absorbed in the Self. Sorupananda knew that his disciple had a great talent for composing Tamil verses and wanted him to utilise it. However, to bring him out of his samadhi and to set him on the literary path, he knew he had to coax him out of his near-perpetual samadhi state. This is how the story unfolds in the traditional version of Tattuvaraya’s life. The biographical details that follow are all taken from an introduction to a 1953 edition of Tattuvaraya’s Paduturai, published by Chidambaram Ko. Chita. Madalayam. They appear on pages 8-16.


Sorupananda thought, ‘This Tattuvaraya is highly accomplished in composing verses in Tamil. Through him, we should get some sastras composed for the benefit of the world.’


He indicated his will through hints for a long time, but as Tattuvaraya was in nishta [Self-absorption] all the time, he could not act on the suggestions.


Sorupananda eventually decided to accomplish his objective by following a different course of action. Pretending that he wanted to have an oil bath on a new-moon day, he turned to his attendant and asked, ‘Bring oil’.


Tattuvaraya, who was standing nearby, knew that it was amavasya [new-moon day]. He began to speak by saying ‘Am…’ and then stopped.


It is prohibited to have an oil bath on amavasya. This breach with custom was sufficient to bring Tattuvaraya out of his Self-absorption. He spontaneously uttered ‘Am…’, presumably as a prelude to saying that it was amavasya, but then he stopped because he realised that it would be improper of him to criticise any action his Guru chose to perform. This gave Sorupananda the opportunity he was looking for:


As soon as he heard Tattuvaraya speak, Sorupananda pretended to be angry with him.


He said, ‘Can there be any prohibitions for me, I who am abiding beyond time, having transcended all the sankalpas that take the form of dos and don’ts? Do not stand before me! Leave my presence!’


Tattuvaraya thought to himself, ‘Because of my misdeed of prescribing a prohibition for my Guru, who shines as the undivided fullness of being-consciousness-bliss, it is no longer proper for me to remain in this body. There can be no atonement other than drowning myself in the sea.’


With these thoughts in his mind, he walked backwards while still facing his Guru, shedding torrents of tears at the thought of having to leave his presence.

David Godman Books


Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings

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