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We cant begin to imagine that how much spiritual wealth Indian subcontinent has

brought to this world over the centuries. Only in state of Maharashtra in India alone
there were at least 50 saints over a period of four centuries between the
thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries. All of them taught the same spiritual
truth: the practice of seeking self-realization and God-realization through meditation
and devotion to a Guru.

Tukaram, a peasant farmer, was one of those saints widely regarded as the
greatest of them all in terms of popular esteem.

He was born in 1958 at a place called Deha near Pune city to a couple called
Bolhoba and Kankai. His father was a village headman, who owned quite a large
piece of farmland and a shop, and supported his family by selling his farm produce.
As a farmer and grain seller he was classed as lowborn in the hierarchical ladder of
caste system. But he was a deeply religious man highly respected in society, and
Tukaram grew up in an atmosphere of devotion.

Life went on smoothly until Tukaram was 21, when the world started falling apart.
The reason for this was a disastrous famine, in which he and his family lost
everything. Very soon both his parents were dead, and his wife and son also died of
starvation. As he became destitute, friends and relatives turned their backs on him
and his creditors started tormenting him. In addition, it seems that relationship with
his second wife wasnt exactly a happy one. He felt despised by all, without any
support anywhere. In short, life became a misery, resulting in his becoming
completely disillusioned with the whole world.

He himself described some of the trauma he was going through:

I am harassed to the extremes from all sides

Whose shelter should I seek now?
I cannot bear to know any more of worldly life;
No one belongs to me.

But in reality what was happening there? Tukaram was being stripped of every
single worldly attachment and of all worldly hopes and aspirations. He was being
shown, in the most relentless manner possible, that the joys and comforts of world
can mean nothing at any time they can be snatched from us. He came to realize
that the only lasting happiness lay in seeking and discovering the love of God. And

this brought a complete transformation in him. But what a price he had to pay for
this revolutionary transformation!

Perhaps, even in our own lives, if we look back on our darkest times, in retrospect
we see that weve grown from our sufferings. It turned us inward and made us draw
our resources that would otherwise have remained hidden. In Tukarams case
something very positive came out of despair and disillusionment: he started looking
for real meaning of life, a search that would turn him towards devotion to God.

With the complete turnaround in his life, Tukaram started to study holy books and
teachings of earlier saints such as Namdev, Dnyaneshwar and Kabir. Whenever
possible he sat in the company of holy man (Satsang). He came to recognize that
meditation is the key to God-realization and sat for hours in solitude in the hills and
jungles near his home. His most fervent prayer was that the Lord should show him
where to a find a Guru (Perfect Master). Not long after these troubles he received
initiation from a mystic called Babaji Raghavachaitnya, and from then he spent
most of his time in spiritual practice. He was then in early twenties.

Its clear from his writings though that his path to spiritual fulfilment was far from
easy, and that he faced the same struggles as we do. In one of his poem, he writes:

What shall I do with this mind?

It has no wish to give up sensual pleasures,
O Lord, only you can come to my rescue
I do not think anyone else can control it.

And like all of us, he questioned whether he would ever reach the goal:

My meditation is so weak that I am worried

Whether you will make me your own;
Whether I will get your vision (Darshan),
Whether you will talk to me and remember me.

For some years his desperate searching and pleading went on, with no apparent
response from the Lord. He often went without food for days on while he sat
meditating in some jungle retreat.

And as this all-consuming struggle continued, he complained in one of his poems:

Why dont you take pity on me, my Lord,

Though you dwell right in my heart?
O heartless God, devoid of all goodness,
I am crying my throat hoarse.
Why does my mind not obtain peace?
Why do my senses still bother me?
Why are you still angry with me, asks Tuka,
Are my sins not yet destroyed?

So like all seekers, Tukaram had to labor hard to become perfect. And for us
struggling souls, theres is something very important and quite encouraging to be
learnt here that the awareness of our own failings and our feelings of helplessness
to control the senses or check the mind can prove to be positive because in
themselves they will lead us to surrender to our Guru.

In one of his poems Tukaram lists what he says are his own failings, all of which
cause him great distress. But then he concludes:

All these weaknesses have led me to surrender to you.

I have no more worries now, says Tuka,
Since I have no need of past merits
And I have become your marked servant.

If we are our Gurus marked servants, our weaknesses themselves will eventually
make us to surrender to him. And then, at long last, the greatest part of our struggle
will be over.

For Tukaram, too, it had to come, after so much agonized spiritual yearning, his
prayers were answered and he received enlightenment. And his joy was

The supreme state of bliss soars up and around me

Like a canopy, a great shield
The heavens are thundering with the reverberating Sound divine.
Tukas Lord has installed him in His own Self.

But even though hed attained everything he ever wanted, even after Godrealization. Tukarams earthly troubles were far from over. His home life was far
from happy. And then, even as he became revered as a great spiritual teacher, he
ran into trouble with the priestly class.

The trouble was that Tukaram, like many others of the saints of Maharastra, gave
out his teachings not in Sanskrit but in the local language, Marathi which made
him very much one of the people. And he was a prolific writer. Nearly five thousand
of his poems still survive today. But this didnt endear him to the Brahmin priests,
who believed that it was their special privilege to worship God and teach others
about Him. Their attitude was that the scriptures were strictly out of bounds for a
low-caste man like Tukaram.

And as his reputation and popularity soared, orthodox Hindus were enraged that
someone of his humble stature should have such wide appeal.

On the whole Tukaram was pretty badly treated by people who resented him. One
religious leader beat him with thorny sticks, and the angry wife of one of his disciple
poured boiling water on him.

The first thing that strikes us about the poetry of Tukaram is its utter simplicity. He
talks to ordinary people like us in the most down-to-earth, ordinary language. Even
in translation the language of these poems has been kept absolutely simple. And
they remain as fresh and relevant as they must have been when they were first

He brings the teachings down to a level thats uncomplicated and direct: live a
virtuous life, dont envy others and theirs wealth, speak the truth, repeat the Lords
Namewhat more do we need to know? This poetry is completely relevant to us.

And how much more of an impact it must have had then when he was delivering
these simple and powerful teachings himself. No wonder the priests hated him! How
much simpler can the teaching be than this?

If you think of other woman as your mother

Will you lose any treasure?
If you do not slander others or desire their wealth,
Will you lose anything?
If wherever you are sitting you repeat the Lords Name,
Will you need to toil hard for it?
Why not believe what saints say?
Tell me what you will lose!
What effort is needed to speak the truth
Do you lose anything by it?
Do only these things, says Tuka.
No other efforts are needed to attach yourself to God.

Live a simple honest life of service and devotion this was what Tukaram taught his
followers. All the trimmings of conventional religion, all intellectual study, rituals
and yoga exercises would get them nowhere.

Only love and devotion would open the inner doors for them. We read in one of his

O lord, your form is beyond thought and speech

Devotion is the only means I have of knowing you.
I weigh you in the scales of love, O infinite one
There is no other means to grasp your true state.

And another of his great themes: the difficult lessons Tukaram had to learn through
his personal sufferings detachment, the detachment from absolutely everything in
this world that allowed him to rise up beyond it.

He tells us this in one of the loveliest poems:

I speak the unspoken language, I have died to live.

Though living among people I am, in truth, not with them.
I appear to enjoy the things of the world,
Yet my mind is not in it.
I am in the world but not of it
I have broken free of all attachments and desires.
I am not what I appear to be, says Tuka.
You may ask the Lord about my real condition.

Tukarams real condition must have been something so wondrous that we cant
begin to understand it. Only saints can understand. But it wasnt handed to him on
a plate. He worked for it. And he suffered for it. There are these lines in one of his

Because of the death of my ego the Lord has taken residence in me

And the unquenchable flame shines there.
But, says Tuka, do not think that all this has taken place in one stroke.

Tukarams struggle was titanic. The price he paid for God-realization was huge.

It is a principle of economics that the value of anything depends on what people are
willing to pay for it. At a relatively young age Tukaram understood the value of what
he was seeking and was prepared to sacrifice absolutely everything for it.

With all his tribulations and hardships, Tukarams life was relatively short he was
just 52 when he died. That was in the mid-seventeenth century, in about 1650. That

would have been around the time when, on the other side of world, Rembrandt was
painting the last of his magnificent canvases, and Shakespeare had just died after
writing the last of his marvelous plays. And how little did the rest of the world know
then of this simple, humble man in that western state of India who had produced
such a vast spiritual treasure.