479The Soul of Tukarama: Saint of Maharashtra
- May 18, 2009Posted on May 16th, 2009 by SantMat_Mystic_(James)
The Soul of Tukarama: Saint of Maharashtra
By James Bean
Copyright March 2005
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading about Saint Tukarama ever since I learned of him a decade and a half ago. In fact, I've tried to collect all of the available books on the life, teachings, and poetry of Tukarama that are in English. I agree with the Indian scholar Dr. R.D. Ranade who said:
"Tukarama exhibits all the doubts and disbeliefs, the weaknesses and the sufferings, the anxieties and the uncertainties, through which every aspiring soul must pass, before he can come into the life of Light, Spirit and Harmony. There is no other instance in the whole galaxy of the Maratha Saints, barring perhaps Namadeva, which can be regarded as illustrative of this human element which we find in Tukarama."
Tukarama does have many analogues in literature: the poetry of John Bunyan, the Thanksgiving Hymns of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Psalms of King David.
Saint Tukarama (1598 - 1649 AD) was born at Dehu near Poona in the State of Maharashtra, India. He is the most famous of Maratha poets, and one of the major voices of Bhakti Marg -- the Way of Love and Devotion. His compositions of poetry, prayers and hymns (gathas and abhangas) are filled with human doubts and frailties. He also expresses words of ecstatic love and rapturous union with his Divine Beloved that filled his soul to overflowing. Tukarama was truly one of India's greatest Sants (Saints).
I highly recommend his poetry to any mystically inclined soul who's a connoisseur of the inspiring spiritual classics of the East. Think of Tukarama as another Rumi, Hafiz, or Kabir.
A Very Human Saint Who Tells God Just What He Thinks!
The largest translation of his poetry in English is, The Poems of Tukarama by J. Nelson Fraser, published in Delhi by Motilal Banarsidass Books. This is from a section titled, "Remonstrations With God:"
We are lost in a wood of anxiety: why do you still delay? Come, O Vitthala [God], our strength is spent in entreaties. Why do you not fear disgrace, thus abandoning your own children?
We are full of anxious longing: we have laid hold of God, but he seems far off.
I have not disobeyed any voice of authority: why has Narayana [God] left me? With undoubting mind I beseech him, for I have not found the peace that knows no care.
It is not right that you should forget your servants; for there is perfect justice at your feet. Tuka says, 'You are not ashamed,though we are sinking in the gulf of anguish!
Tukarama's Spiritual Practices/Sadhana
Tukarama wrote about several practices that transformed his life. He prayed for help in this way: "Take, Lord, my life Live thou thy life through me." (Oxford Books of Prayer, Oxford University Press)
He taught the principle that we are influenced by the company we keep, that spiritual community or companionship (Satsang) can be nurturing and supportive to our efforts. He writes:
Let me meet people of my own kind,
so that I may be satisfied. My mind
pants to meet those who love God.
Mere contact with the sandalwood
tree, and plants all around emanate
the same aroma. Likewise have I
embraced the feet of Sants [Saints],
and my separateness is extinguished.
Like other Nirguna Bhakti Sants, he believed that God is within all living beings, so we can see God in those that we meet - as in Namaste' ('the God in me bows to the God in you'). This realization changes everything in our consciousness, changes our universe into a place filled with living forms of God - all living things: "The Kingdom of God that is spread out upon the earth...." (Gospel of Thomas, Saying 113)
Another Important Spiritual Practice for Tukarama is the Chanting of Various Names of God (Simran), Remembering God by Repeating his Name
He who utters the Name of God while walking,
gets the merit of a sacrifice at every step.
Blessed in his body. It is itself a place of
pilgrimage. He who utters the Name of God
without ceasing receives liberation while
The Devotee Becomes God By Repeating-Merging in God's Name
Vitthala Naam Mukti
Can one be entangled in the mire of
When the Name of the Lord is constantly
on his lips?
One who ceaselessly meditates on Him,
While walking, talking, eating or sleeping,
While engaged in worldly duties,
The Lord is with him at all times.
Repeat constantly the Name of the Lord,
And know that devotion is indispensable
Thus the devotee becomes the Lord
And thus has the Lord become Tuka.
(Tukaram - Saint of Maharashtra, RS Books)
The Bhajans of Sants
Another important ingredient for the spiritual life was kirtana or bhajans, the singing of hymns of praise. I do notice that a very large number of mystics have composed their own devotional songs or poems. This creative outpouring from the heart helps to stimulate something deep inside: the Cry of the Soul. Saint Tukarama's explanation of this focuses upon the need for Bhakti, the need to engender love and devotion:
This God cannot be attained except through love.
What is required is pure devotion. That is the
way to liberation. In fact, God does not care
for anything except love. (Mysticism In India by R.D. Ranade, SUNY Press)
All these spiritual practices help to transform the body, emotions, thoughts, and one's very existence into expressions of the soul, our true identity and spiritual essence. This makes it much easier to have enough peace of mind to be able to meditate -- to enter the world of the soul during meditation.
Infinite bliss has filled my entire being,
the stream of love divine flows freely and
I sing the Lord's Name unceasingly. I lead
a life eternal that cannot ever ebb. I
repeat ever and again the Name of the Lord;
to me, this shore of the ocean of life and
the other one [eternity], are truly one and
the same. (Tukaram - Saint of Maharashtra, RS Books)
Tukarama, Speaking from the Ecstasy of Mystic Contemplation
I have found a Sea of Love, an inexhaustible flood;
I have opened a treasure of spiritual knowledge,
it diffuses the lustre of a million suns,
arisen in thy worshipper's souls.
The same Tuka, who earlier in life composed many candid and resentful prayers, lamenting over famine and misfortune, ended up being one of India's greatest poet-mystics and Saints.
The book Tukaram - Saint of Maharashtra, published by RS Books, makes available many of his mystical compositions pertaining to the experience of Inner Light, the Sound Current and the Higher Planes.
DARKNESS FLEES BEFORE THE SUN
I penetrated the Eye Center and perceived
the Light within.
Darkness has vanished,
And the sun has burst forth
in full splendor.
So long as the soul knows not itself,
The brilliance of the sun cannot be seen.
Says Tuka, I see my true self and the Lord
Pervade the whole creation as one effulgence.
INNER EXPERIENCE - THE DOOR WITHIN
Through the Eye, my vision has risen to
And my soul has cast off its coverings.
Firmly established at the Tenth Door,
I adore my Master's Radiant Form,
which I recognize by His grace.
The bubble of illusion has been pricked,
The Almighty, Merciful Lord has revealed
In the blissful state of fulfillment,
Tuka, without hands, clings to His feet.
THE SOUND CURRENT OR MUSIC OF THE CREATOR
Tuka is absorbed in the surging wave
of Sound Divine;
Its resplendence spreads through his
The Lord has made His home in me,
The lamp of eternal Light has been
The all-pervading Sound, O Tuka, is
the Lord Himself.