Friday, May 20, 2011

Tattuvaraya: Paduturai

This fourth installment of the series on Tattuvaraya and Sorupananda comprises extracts from Paduturai, a work of Tattuvaraya's that includes poems on his teachings, praise of his Guru Sorupananda, and many expressions of his own enlightened state. The translations are by Robert Butler, T. V. Venkatasubramanian, and David Godman.

Paduturai 29: Nenjirku Amaivurai [Advice to the Heart on Being Still]


Heart of mine! Hunger will be appeased even if one consumes unsalted, watery gruel. Thirst can be quenched by drinking water from wells, tanks and rivers. Supporting yourself in this way, be satisfied and be still. Even if you get up and rush around [looking for food], will the rewards be different or better than what is ordained for you?


Heart of mine! Even if the whole land is full of sumptuous food, consisting of rich curry, seasoned with many condiments, milk, ghee, fruits and rice – if your prarabdha does not permit you to eat them, either through illness or for other reasons, will it not speedily annul all those enjoyments for you?


Heart of mine! The six delicious flavours exist only in the tip of the tongue. Its extent is two finger breadths and no more. When you are not able to cross slowly this two-finger breadth, you will still go forth and cross the tumultuous ocean.

[‘When you are not able to cross slowly’ means ‘when you are not able to transcend or go beyond’. It is a common image in Tamil poetry that food is only attractive and appealing when it is in contact with this narrow zone on the tongue. Once it has been swallowed, processed by the body, and ejected either as vomit or excrement, it no longer holds any attraction.]


Heart of mine! Greatly desiring a well turned-out appearance, you suffer a great deal, running around to earn wealth for that purpose. Even if you get it, though, don’t you realise the trouble that will arise from washermen, rats, the need to find a safe place where they will not get stolen, and other such matters?


When cold weather comes there already exist ragged clothing, white ashes, mountain caves and many desolate temples [for shelter and warmth]. And in the sweltering heat of summer, even a loincloth is a burden. This alone is the function of clothes.

[Sadhus use wood ash to keep themselves warm in winter.]


Heart of mine! Be yourself and remain still. By running about thinking [about your food], and then being disappointed at not getting [it], you have brought a lot of trouble upon yourself. People of the lowest kind will tire their legs for the sake of [appeasing] burning hunger. But will not those who are wise remain settled in stillness?


Mind of mine! Instead of remaining satisfied with what you get, wherever you get it, thinking it sufficient, you get up, not giving yourself the time to blink, and run around. Realise that this is the seed of a poverty that can never be eradicated. It is also the veiling [that will appear in or cause] the next birth.


A cow will seek out the apparent [lushness of the] greenery on the opposing river bank, [preferring it] to the one it is on, and do this repeatedly. My heart, in much the same way, your reward for this [kind of] activity is only running about, wandering around and getting distressed.


The hallmark of greatness is to stand firm where one is, and face up to whatever comes one’s way, is it not? Wretched and foolish heart, even if you go to the doors of those who are sweet like nectar, they will not extend their hospitality. Know that this is the nature of things. See [if it is not]!


Those who have understood the world have truly declared through their understanding that for the wise the body is an affliction. Even if you renounce all of the possessions you own and are associated with, having love for the unreal body, my heart, is getting deluded again.


When we examine the conviction of the wise – that what is not cannot be, and that what is, cannot fail to be – what need is there for this agitation, my heart? All happens as it is ordained to happen. [The wise] recognise the things that are destined for them.


When in this life the embodied jiva is perceived without error, then all will be as it has been ordained. This being so, my heart, why do you run every which way, traversing forests and oceans, suffering for the sake of your body? Tell me!


If you wish to know the means for remaining at peace, my heart, seek out the company of those great Self-realised ones who have tasted the sugarcane of jnana, which engenders forbearance, and [remaining] at their feet, carry out their commands in a single-minded manner.


Even if you stand with your head on the ground and your feet in the air, nothing will happen that is not destined to happen. The best course, my heart, is to remain still, and be relaxed, viewing what comes to pass exactly as it is, without dashing about and tormenting yourself.


When there is good present in the virtuous, do not go to their presence and pay attention to negative things [you see] there. My heart, do everything as per the commands of the Guru and eschew evil ways. The way of truth is not other than this. Henceforth keep to it!


Mind of mine! It is not good for you to be distressed, imagining praise or abuse [towards yourself] in the words [of others]. Realising that these are just sounds coming from the windpipe through the medium of air, do not attach any great value [to them].


Those who lovingly praise the defective, unclean, fleshy body that generates filth through all its nine orifices, and which is therefore malodorous, are actually looked upon as abusers by those who are on the path to realisation. Those who revile them [those on the path] are regarded as friends.


Heart of mine! You neither feel love nor hatred for the effects arising from insentient causes such as air, fire, water, disease and many, many more. Therefore, regard the sentient causes also in the same way.


Do not exhibit friendship or animosity towards anyone. Taking the view that there is something to be learned from every situation, stand firm, taking care not to act contrary to the words of virtuous people of mature understanding. This is the path for you.


Contenting yourself with what you have, be not disheartened even over great calamities. Do not indulge in malicious talk about what is good, and what is evil. Furthermore, do not speak idle words. My heart, seeing the perfect behaviour of the virtuous, conduct yourself without forgetting it.


Until the body, which is like an unreal dream or a mirage, comes to its end, adorn yourself with the holy feet of the Guru, holding on tightly with a melting heart. Without letting go, remain there singing his praises, my heart, in order that you may never be born again.


Melting through dwelling over and over again on the nature of the Guru who subjected you to his rule, entreating him intensely more and more for true love, adorn yourself solely with his feet and be still, my heart, constantly sipping the rare ambrosia of peace.

Paduturai 33: Arudi Uraittal [Definitive Declarations]


If this samsara does not end before giving up this body, we will again and again come, be born as a baby, suffer and die. See!


If you do not realise your true nature so that you can put an end to the evil of birth and death, this swinging on the golden swing, going back and forth, will not cease, ever! See!


If you do not extricate yourself from birth and death with full awareness by realising your true nature, ignorance will catch hold of you in this world and the next and torment you. See!


If you do not realise your true nature as it really is, giving up the idea that your body is your [true] form, the powerful birth will not end for you, even if [Lord Siva] appears before you with deer and battle axe. See!


If, in this birth, you do not realise the [the truth] of yourself and thereby become free of all future births, you will die, repeatedly assume a body and stand with [baby] anklets on your feet [again and again]. See!


If you do not subside and abide [as the Self], knowing that consciousness is your form, thereby freeing yourself from all suffering, maya will plunder you, turn you into a body and make you dance as a leather marionette. See!


If you do not recognise your Self, without saying ‘We will know [it] later,’ the devil of desire will unbalance you and trample you down. See!


Do not suffer extreme misery by placing your head under binding sankalpas. If you wear the feet of our Lord [the Guru] on your head, then you can abide [as the Self], saying, ‘What does it matter where the sun rises!’ See!


If, without seeking the feet of the Guru, placing them on your head, and realising your true nature, you take the body as ‘I’, hosts of relatives will gather and place fire on your head [on the day of your cremation]. See!


Those who do not accept this definitive declaration of truth will be like the beast and the devil. They will, alas, never cross the ocean of birth. I swear to this, never!

Paduturai 58: Sivaprakasa Swamigal Kuravai

When Manikkavachagar composed Tiruvachakam more than a thousand years ago, he used the motifs of children’s games and women’s pastimes to express the journey that the jiva must make towards union with Siva. Tattuvaraya adopted this literary form in many of the sections of Paduturai. However, in the four examples we are giving here, the theme is not a longing for union with the divine but a celebration of the definitive final state that is attained once that union has been consummated.

The ‘Sivaprakasa Swamigal’ in the title is the Guru of Sorupananda. Kuravai is the name of a dance, performed in a circle. It is also a shrill celebratory shout exclaimed by women on auspicious or festival occasions.


Singing of the nature of those feet that,
though far beyond the Vedas’ reach,
came easily to wretched me,
raise the cry called kuravai.

That all the world may know the greatness of the grace
with which the Supreme Lord made me his,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of how he bestowed his glance of grace,
so that in a trice births which grasp and cling were rooted out,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Saying, ‘All thought has perished,
learning has been destroyed.
Jnana itself became my eye,’
raise the cry called kuravai.


Singing of the richness through which,
with a single matchless word,
he revealed the whole [truth],
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of how in an instant
he wiped out the bonds of births
that endure for aeons of time,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of the nature whereby a unique clarity,
impossible to describe,
suffused my mind with sweetness and remained there,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of the perfect nature whereby he seeking came,
thinking us poor wretches to be worthy,
and bent us to his rule,
raise the cry called kuravai.


Singing of the radiant feet that consumed even that consciousness
which is the light that swallowed up the seven worlds,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of the enduring state of Him who is the deathless reality,
which has become form, formless,
and neither with or without form,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of the grace with which he transformed my mind,
which trembled like the moon reflected in water,
into Sivam, his own nature,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Singing of how his jnana utterances and smile
abolished the [so-called] wisdom of wretched me,
raise the cry called kuravai.

Paduturai 59: Sri Sorupananda Swamigal Kunalai

Kunalai is either a dance accompanied by shouting or a warrior’s shout of valour or defiance.


Proclaiming how the reality that the Vedas speak of
came in human form, cry kunalai!

Telling how he placed upon my head his feet,
which even Vishnu in delusion [could not find], cry kunalai!

Telling how my mind, which heaved like the thundering ocean,
in an eye’s blink was destroyed, cry kunalai!

Proclaiming how impossible it is to see [the mind],
except as the form of consciousness, cry kunalai!


Telling how the path we walk twixt birth and death was blocked,
and grass grew thereupon, cry kunalai!

Telling how, even while existing with this body,
we dwelt in the state of liberation, cry kunalai!

Proclaiming how we dwelt as consciousness,
free of forgetting and remembering, cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘We shall not forget the might of the Liberal One
who granted us his grace,’ cry kunalai!


Proclaiming, ‘Even if we recite a crore of srutis,
[bliss] will not be revealed,’ cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘With a single word from Sorupananda,
bliss will appear,’ cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘We have seen with our own eyes the reality
that cannot be conceived by mind,’ cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘Seeing his fair and compassionate feet,
we have beheld a vision of delight,’ cry kunalai!


Proclaiming, ‘We have freed ourselves from the agitating net of the scriptures,
that come to us in the form of words,’ cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘We have experienced delight in the blissful ocean of the Self,
impossible to describe,’ cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘We have forgotten the mind that values
the filth-ridden body,’ cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘We value the understanding which comes
when [such a] mind is abolished,’ cry kunalai!


Proclaiming, ‘The flood of endless bliss abounds everywhere about us,’
cry kunalai!

Proclaiming, ‘The idea of “all” will not occur even though forgetfulness,’
cry kunalai!

Ever asserting his [Sorupananda’s] skill in saying
‘Remain still and see,’ cry kunalai!

Continuously praising the one who granted
that we should thus live and prosper, cry kunalai!

Paduturai 60: Pakati

Pakati is a masquerade dance, or a dance performed around a pole. The ‘he’ mentioned in all the verses is Sorupananda.


Saying, ‘He is the destroyer of the sins that, never leaving,
accompany us from age to age,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He is the great mountain of compassion,
who has raised his banner,
vowing to bring me under his rule by revealing his feet,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He is the Skilful One, who through his glance,
contrived that I should perish, becoming his own Self,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He is the hero who, despite pervading them,
is not touched by the whole that consists of bodies,
worlds and jivas, all combined,’
dance pakati.


Saying, ‘He is the Wise One, who slew religious rituals
that rise in ten crore ways,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He is the one who, for the four Vedas and the Three [trimurti],
was impossible to reach,
though they worshipped him with heads bowed low,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He is the One
who came and subjected me forcibly to his rule,
as I lived in deceit with arrogant pride as my support,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He bestowed upon me his own nature,
which no word can describe,
as clearly as the gem in my palm,’
dance pakati.


Saying, ‘Beautifully did he transmute the sorrow
that arises as the knower and the things known,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘Having revealed that the things
that are known exist in [objectified] consciousness,
he annihilated that consciousness in the knower,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘He gazed upon me so that the entities known as the senses,
the organs of sense and of action, jiva and Iswara,
assumed to be different, were all abolished,’
dance pakati.

Saying, ‘We have become the incomparable light,
the all-embracing fullness that knows no divisions,’
dance pakati.

Paduturai 62: Sorupananda Swamigal Ammanai

Ammanai is the name of an ancient game played by young girls, and also a cry that is periodically shouted during the game. It is believed that the game involved lots of clapping and was played standing in a circle. Manikkavachagar composed the original ammanai poem over a thousand years ago when he was at Adi-annamalai, on the western side of Arunachala. Muruganar has an ammanai poem in Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai.

If we adorn ourselves with the twin feet of Sorupan, ‘Ammanai!’
We can cut through the entanglement of the five senses: ‘Ammanai!’
We can remain with nothing other than us existing: ‘Ammanai!’
We can wipe off persistent births: ‘Ammanai!’

They won’t think of seeing with closed eyes: ‘Ammanai!’
Those who close their eyes will not see the Self: ‘Ammanai!’
If the jyoti that obscures space shines, ‘Ammanai!’
Then we can just be, without waking up and going to sleep: ‘Ammanai!’

We saw time, direction and space, ‘Ammanai!’
But they cannot see ‘us’ who see ‘them’: ‘Ammanai!’
Know that swarupa is not other than consciousness: ‘Ammanai!’
We put an end to accepting and rejecting: ‘Ammanai!’

We are not aware of night and day: ‘Ammanai!’
We became the form of bliss itself: ‘Ammanai!’
We transcended words and their meaning: ‘Ammanai!’
This is the freedom of Sorupananda: ‘Ammanai!’


Subramanian. R said...

Dear David,

I was reading Paduturai. I think for each verse of it, why even for the entire work, examples can be given from Sri Bhagavan's life and lives of other saints.

For example, in Nenjirku Amaivurai, 16, where the saint poet says, that a Jnani should consider all the ill-spoken words of others to him as only sounds from the windpipe. There is one story in Bhakta Vijayam. I think, it is Ekanath, he was doing puja at home and someone came to his house and from the entrance, he was shouting abusive words for about one hour or so. Ekanatha completed the puja and came out and told him: O Friend, you have been produciing Nada-brahmam for such a long time. Please take this pot of milk and drink to soothe your windpipe.

Again in Arudi Uraittal, Verse 7, where the saint poet says, 'If you say, let us see it later', [it is lost for you for ever]. Saint Manikkavachagar says in Yaathiraip Pathu, Tiruvachakam, Verse 7: 'In this world which will not stand for ever, let them stand. We shall not stand here. Let us quickly go to to the golden feet of the One who is wearing serpents as his ornament. O, all you, do not delay, come quick. If you stay back saying, 'let us think over', He will become rare to get, our Lord.

Nice poems.

David Godman said...

Yes, I had the same thought myself. As I was editing the verses, many of them reminded me of statements that Bhagavan had made at one time or another. I did think of annotating the verses with all these references from Bhagavan, but in the end I decided to let the original verses speak for themselves.

Anonymous said...

[Holding a red-hot iron in one’s hand was ancient trial-by-ordeal way of affirming the truth. If the flesh of the hand did not burn, then the statement uttered was deemed to be true.]

I am surprised at the above statement.I remember as a teenager a tribal came to my house to sell fowls.These tribals lived in India much before the Aryans and some of their features resemble Negroids.I wish there was a David Godman to record all their culture and traditions.We ended up discussing their culture and tradition and he told me that if there was problem the tribal elders from different parts of the state would converge and order the accused to walk on burning charcoal.They pray to a tribal Goddess.He said if it burned that means the charged is guilty or else he is free.I repeatedly countered how could this be and he assured me it works.I later discussed this many times mentioning about this strange practice of the Tribes.Now reading this article I am surprised how even the Gods used the same method or is it a case of a human author stepping into the shoes of the Gods while building a character in his story??We see these cases of human or saintly human authors stepping into the shoes of Gods and playing their moods in our Puranas and other Sacred texts all through India.For eg: the language of how Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma fought very cheaply in the Arunachala Purana.


Subramanian. R said...

Dear Anon.,

Sri Sankara also uses this metaphor in Viveka Chudamani. I think the idea behind it is: Truth shall save one at any circumstances. Such gory examples are given to prove this.

m said...


Thanks for translating and posting this. It is no surprise that it got sold out so soon: It is that brilliant.

best wishes,

Subramanian. R said...

Paduturai - 29.21.

There are two excellent verses in Padamlai:

Verse 941: Padam, absolute oneness, presided over me, putting an end to my forgetfulness of swarupa, making this my final birth.

Verse 1568: Padam is that fiery third eye, that dried up with his scorching heat of the desolate ocean of the long succession of briths, whihc is hard to cross over.

{Page 353 of David's English translation.}

Subramanian. R said...

Padu turai:

I was for some days wondering what could be the meaning of the words,
Padu turai. It is not tuRai, which means a shore of the ocean or river. the steps [PadithuRai] that take you to one tank. If you take it as "turai", 'turai' has no meaning directly. During English colonial period the white bosses were called as turai or durai. If one takes the words as to mean Padutu urai, then it may mean that one's words or speech or teachings after his paduthal. Paduthal is a noun, a state of remaining constantly in one place. This can give further interpretation that the saint after attaining the abode of self realization, is giving out his words of teaching.
Something like Ozhivil Odukkam.

Can you give some clarifications, David?

David Godman said...

I am also not too sure about this. The Lexicon has as its principal meaning 'Warlike exploits, worthy of being sung by poets'. This would make sense if the collection comprised the two long bharanis, which are very martial in character, but it makes less sense as a title for a collection that includes celebratory songs by village girls.

I did a bit of googling and found that 'bathing yard' might be one possible meaning. It could be an allusion to the place where the girls did their private singing and dancing.

It could also mean 'situations sung about'. 'Turai' means 'situation' in Akam poetry. If this is the interpretation, then each song is preceded by a 'turai', which explains the circumstances for the song and sets the scene for the particular poem.

Subramanian. R said...

Dear David,

Thank you very much for your clarification. Between the words turai or tuRai [idaiyinam ra and vallinam Ra], vallinam letter makes more sense. Like KalithuRai in Sangam literature. PadithuRai means a bathing ghat where you descened the steps to enter a river or a tank. Thank you,

Subramanian. R said...

I was thinking about the three dance
types kuravai, kunalai and pakati in

Kuravi dance is mentioned in Silappadikaram of Saint Poet Ilango
AdigaL. He describes what is called
Aaichiar kuravai, where the cowherdesses dance this item singing Krishna's glory. This is also called Kuravaik Koothu.

There should also be some stray references to kunalai and pakati also in Sangam literature.


Zee said...
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