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Other versions of this story make it clear that Tattuvaraya walked backwards away from his Guru’s presence because he felt that it was improper to turn his back on his Guru. Though it is not clear in this particular retelling, he apparently walked backwards until he reached the shore of the sea where he intended to drown himself. The narrative continues:


Through the compassion he felt for other beings and through the power of the Self-experience that possessed him, he began to compose verses as he was walking [backwards towards the ocean]. These were the eighteen works he composed in praise of both his Guru and his Paramaguru [Sivaprakasa Swami]. These were noted down by some of Sorupananda’s other disciples.


As he continued to sing these eighteen works, the disciples who were following him took down what he said, [conveyed the verses to] Sorupananda, and read them in his presence.


Sorupananda pretended not to be interested: ‘Just as a woman with hair combs and ties it, this one with a mouth is composing and sending these verses.’


Another version of Tattuvaraya’s life states that Sorupananda had sent disciples to write down the verses that Tattuvaraya was composing, so his lack of interest should not be taken to be genuine. It was all part of a ruse to get his disciple to begin his literary career.


Meanwhile, Tattuvaraya was pining and lamenting: ‘Alas, I have become unfit to have the darshan of my Guru. Henceforth, in which birth will I have his darshan?’


Like a child prevented from seeing its mother, he was weeping so much, his whole face became swollen. At this point he was singing ‘Tiruvadimalai’ from Paduturai. He was close to the edge of the sea and was about to die.


When the disciples went to Sorupananda and updated him about these events, he [relented and] said, ‘Ask the ‘Guruvukku Veengi’ [the one whose obsessive desire for his Guru is making him ill] to come here’.


When Tattuvaraya heard about this, he was completely freed from his bodily suffering, and he also regained the power to walk [forwards].


The Pulavar Puranam, an anthology of the biographies of Tamil poet-saints, reports in verse thirteen of the Tattuvaraya chapter that he was already neck-deep in the sea when Sorupananda summoned him to return. The story continues:


He [Tattuvaraya] told the disciples [who had arrived with the message], ‘Sorupananda, the repository of grace and compassion, has ordered even me, a great offender, to return’.


Experiencing supreme bliss, he sang some more portions of Paduturai, and then returned to the presence of the Guru. He stood there, shedding tears, in ecstasy, singing the praises of his Guru.


Sorupananda merely said, ‘Iru’.


Iru is the imperative of a verb that means both ‘Be’ and ‘Stay’. In choosing this word Sorupananda was ordering him both to remain physically with him and also to continue to abide in the state of being.


Tattuvaraya lived happily there, serving his Guru.


Sorupananda went through the works that Tattuvaraya had composed and was delighted with their depth of meaning and the grandeur of their vocabulary. However, he made no sign of the joy he felt.


Then he thought to himself, ‘These sastras will be useful only for the learned and not for others’.


He told Tattuvaraya, ‘Son, you have sung all these sastras for your own benefit, but not for the benefit of the people of the world’.


The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the cooks who informed Sorupananda, ‘Swami, you should come to have your food’.


When Sorupananda went for his meal, Tattuvaraya, who was left alone, pondered over the words of his Guru. Concurring with his remarks, he composed Sasivanna Bodham before Sorupananda had returned from eating his meal. He placed it at the feet of his Guru [when Sorupananda reappeared] and prostrated. Sorupananda was delighted at the simplicity of its style and the speed with which Tattuvaraya composed poetry.

David Godman Books


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

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