Apr-10: Saint Tukkaram

10 Apr

The satsang started with Mahamantra kirtan by Sankarji and family from California.

“Although Srimad Bhagavatam is popularly known as a Bhakti Grantha, it contains everything from Yoga secrets to Vedanta. In the fith canto, Srimad Bhagavatam shows us the epitome of dispassion and Jnana through the lives of Rishaba Yogeshwara and Jadabharata. It shows the state of a Jnani. There is an episode wherein Jadabharata gives an upadesa to king Rahugana on how a Jnani is beyond duality. While it was too tough for Rahugana to comprehend, Jadabharata says,
“Oh Rahugana! You cannot attain the supreme knowledge by any amount of penance, oblations in water or fire, chanting the Vedas, yoga, sacrifices and offerings. That state is simple unattainable unless you bath yourself in the dust of the holy feet of Mahans and Jivan Muktas.”

Then he goes to say, “One has to always remain in the regular company of devotees – and this company is devoid of any kind of mundane and worldly talk. The devotees of the Lord talk about the glories of the Lord and sing His Divine Names.”

Ours is one such satsang where we don’t have any mundane talk. All we do is just sing the Divine Names and glories of the Lord.”

Then Ramyaji from San Jose talked about the life-history of Sant Tukkaram.

In our daily lives, we often use the word Dharma. When we are discussing if a particular act is right or wrong, one may ask is this act in accordance to Dharma. We use the word Dharma many times, but do we really know the exact meaning of this word Dharma. So let’s ponder on the definition of Dharma. It is a set of guidelines that have been laid by the Vedas and scriptures and our great maharishi’s for us to follow. These sages have not only given the set of rules but have also lead a life that exemplified Dharma. They sacrificed their entire life and performed years and years of penance and as a result have given us a set of guidelines that we call Dharma. As long as we follow Dharma, life is going to be joyful. It is akin to a train conforming to the rail-track. As long as the train chugs along the track, the journey is going to be pleasant. Once the train comes out of the track, it is a disaster. Isn’t it? The moment we go away from Dharma sorrow befalls us. There are two types of Dharma. The first one is called Vaidika Dharma and the second Dharma is called as Bhagavata Dharma. Vaidika Dharma is a set of rules that have been laid down by Vedas. Who is a Vaidika? Any person irrespective of any caste, creed and who accepts that the Vedas are the ultimate authority is a vaidika. Bhagavata Dharma on the other hand is another Dharma that is shown by the vedas. This Dharma is a result of the great compassion of the sages and maharishi’s who had immense for-sight due to hundreds of years of penance. The could perceive how the world would be in kaliyuga and hence bestowed the jivas with Bhagavata Dharma in order to enable the jivas to reach the holy feet of the lord. What is Bhagavata Dharma? It is all about devotion and bhakti. That unlimited and unconditional love for god is called bhakti. There is a famous verse sung by the great saint Thirumular, “Aasayai arumin aasayai arumin isanodayinum aasaiyai arumin” in which he conveys a beautiful message. His advice to the jivas is not to have any desires in life, and the word desire in this context doesn’t refer to worldly life but it only pertains to spiritual life. Let’s ponder on this by an example. One may go to the lord and pray for some wish to come true. If that wish comes true, he doesn’t go and see lord till he has another wish to be satiated by the lord. On the other hand, if the wish doesn’t come true, it itself turns into hatred the very next moment. There was a village in Tamil Nadu in which there was a Ganapathy temple. It was in dilapidated condition and resembled a haunted house. The local villagers did not bother to take care of the temple and it was closed. There was once a boy who crossed this temple in that village. He was traveling to a neighboring village on a job hunt. The boy on seeing the pitiable condition of the temple, started to make the temple tidy and in few hours, the temple wore a new look. The boy went and prayed to the lord Ganesha in that temple asking him to bestow him with a job. The lord was extremely pleased. The Lord thought that none of the local villagers in that village bothered to clean the temple and this took the initiative to clean the temple. He was very happy with this boy and made his wish come true. So what happened?? The lord’s blessing itself became a curse. The boy got his job and it was the end of the story. He never turned back to the temple. That is the difference between desire and love. When we light a lamp with a motive a mind, we would stop doing it the moment our wish is satiated. On the other hand, a devotee lights a lamp to enjoy the beautiful face of the lord. That’s why the great sage Tirumular says “Asaiyai Arumin”, which means, do not nurture desire but nurture only love. As it is said,
“Kadhalagi kasindhu kanir mulgi”, which means develop that unstinted and unconditional love and devotion to the lord. Love for the sake of love. That love is what Bhagavata Dharma is all about. The azhwars, nayanmars, and all the sants of Pandarpur have shown the path of bhagavatha Dharma.

There have many bhaktas of the highest order who have hailed from our holy land. But if we take the state of Maharashtra, there have been innumerable bhaktas. If we are reminiscing about the life-history of one devotee a day, a life-time would not be enough to talk about all the bhaktas. A kshetra (holy-place) is known to the world not by its stala purana (history), but only by the devotees who have performed bhakti to the lord in that kshetra.

The fact that makes the bhaktas of Pandarpur stand out of the list is that they were all householders and had a family. They were still the devotees of the highest order. They earned their bread by hard-work. They wouldn’t go and ask anybody for money and they would always be thinking of their lord Vittala always.

One such great sant of Pandarpur was Sant Tukkaram. He was a re-incarnation of Sant Namadev. He was born in Dehu Road in Maharashtra. In his birth as Sant Namadev he had taken a vow to sing crores of abhangs on Lord Vittala. Since it was not accomplished in that birth, he came down to the earth as Sant Tukkaram. There is yet another reason as to why the devotees of the lord would not want to stay in Vaikunta. There is neither chanting of the divine names of the lord nor any satsang and hence devotees of the highest order want to come to the earth to sing the lord’s glories.
A householder, with wife and children, he left the burden of his family on Lord Panduranga. He was forever in the thought of and singing the Praises of the Lord. Tukkaram would now and then open his shop and try to do the business of selling provisions.
One day Tukkaram’s wife somehow managed to fill the boxes with various provisions and asked Tukkaram to conduct business. He opened the shop and sat behind the counter. Soon a man came singing ‘Hari! Hari!’ He had gopi chandan mark on his forehead, tulasi mala around his neck. The highly pleased Tukkaram said to him, “Take anything that you need and as much as you need.” The man said, “I have no money on me.” Tukkarm said, “No! No! There is no need for any payment. You are uttering the Name of the Lord! You are a Sadhu. Please yourself.” The man filled his bags and went away. And so did many others finding Tukkaram behind the counter. Soon all boxes were empty. Tukkaram’s wife came to the shop and was highly pleased that her husband had done a quick business. She asked him, “How much business have you done today?” and looked into the cash box. There was not a coin there. Shocked, she questioned Tukkaram. Tukkaram said, “Oh! Madwoman! Would anyone sell provisions to those who utter the Name of the Lord? Many came today singing the Name of the Lord and I gave it all to them without charging a paise.” The poor lady went back into the house not knowing what to do. She was deeply concerned about her children who had not a morsel of food to eat.
‘Ãshada Ekadasi’ was fast approaching and Tukkaram decided to visit Pandarpur for the occasion. On ‘Ãshada Ekadasi’ lakhs and lakhs of Sadhus from all over the country gather in Pandarpur. His wife said to Tukkaram, “Please arrange for some food and clothing for the children before you leave for Pandaripur.” Tukkaram said to her, “This family is not mine. Nor is this my house. They are all Panduranga’s. He will take care of it.” Uttering these words he set out to Pandarpur. He had hardly gone a few feet when he found a big group of Sadhus, singing the Praises of the Lord, coming up the street. He rushed to them and enquired, “Where are you all coming from? Are you all proceeding to Pandarpur? Have you all had your bath and food?” The Sadhus said that they had come the previous evening and had not yet had any food. Tukkaram at once invited them home. He said to them, “My home is close by. Please do come home; have your bath and have food and rest. You may then proceed to Pandarpur. I will also accompany you all.” So the hundred or so Sadhus followed Tukkaram to his home.
Just a few minutes earlier he had disowned the home and family. But, now he had brought the hundred Sadhus to ‘his’ home. He called out to his wife and said, “Sadhus have come home. Prepare food for them.” The poor lady was baffled. But, being used to the ways of her husband, she somehow managed to get something and cooked for all the Sadhus. The Sadhus performed Nama Sankirtan. The whole house was lit up with the presence of the Sadhus singing the Name of the Lord. They stayed in Tukkaram’s home for three days. The Nama Sankirtan performed by these Sadhus filled Tukkaram’s heart. He did not feel any need to visit Pandarpur.
Once the Sadhus left their home, his wife asked Tukkaram, “I informed you that there was not a grain at home but you disowned the family and home and left for Pandarpur. But, you returned as quickly with so many Sadhus. How did you bring so many of them home when you knew that there was nothing at home?” Tukkaram said, “It is only your presence that encouraged me to invite them all home.”
Whenever Tukkaram returned home his wife used to offer water to wash his feet. But, one evening his wife was not at home when he returned. When she came home after some half-an-hour he asked her, “Where have you been?” She said hesitatingly, “The children at home have to be fed. You are unable to attend to the family needs. Therefore, I earn through cleaning the dishes in few houses.” The shocked Tukkaram said to her in an apologizing tone, “From tomorrow do not go anywhere. I will try to get some job and earn something for the family.” He went to some houses in the village to ask for some work. But, the moment he entered a house he was welcomed with honour and affection. They washed his feet and offered something to eat. When he told them the purpose of his visit they were aghast. They said, “Swami! You are a great Sadhu. How can we make you work for us? It is verily a sin. We will provide you with all your needs but do not say that you wish to work for us.” But, Tukkaram would not accept a single paise or grain from anyone. Since he was not able to procure a job in that village, he went to a distant land and there he managed to get the job of guarding a field.
Tukkaram was happy to have secured this kind of a job, which posed no block to his Namasankirtan. He happily said to his employer, “I will take good care of your field.”
He sat on the wooden platform that had been placed on a tree and singing the Name of the Lord watched over the field. Soon he lost himself in the thought of Bhagavan. Birds, goats and cows entered the field. To Tukkaram every one of them seemed to be Panduranga. He said, “Oh! Panduranga! Come! Come! Have a feast. Eat to your fill. All are verily yours!” All of them had a great day and that evening when the owner came to the field he was aghast to find everything lost. The whole field was in havoc. The furious man caught hold of Tukkaram and shook him up. He shouted angrily, “What have you done? I asked you to guard my field from animals and birds. I have lost everything. You have to make up for the loss.” Tukkaram, who was now out of his trance, realized what had happened and deeply regretted the negligence on his part. He said, “Sir! I have nothing with me to pay you. If I did, I would not have sought this job from you. I am sorry for what has happened.” The employer said, “Well! Let us go to the king and ask for justice.” The horrified Tukkaram said, “No! Let us not go to the king.” Tukkaram was not afraid of the king. Shivaji was his disciple and if they went to him this good man who had offered employment to him would have to face the wrath of the king. He wished to avoid this situation. He, therefore, said to him, “You may beat me as much as you want for the wrong done.”
The employer tied up Tukkaram to a tree and slashed him with a whip. Tukkaram exclaimed, “Vittala!” The angry employer barked, “Are you the great Tukkaram that you call out ‘Vittala’?” Tukkaram said, “I am Tukkaram.” The employer was horrified to learn that it was the great Sadhu Tukkaram whom he had employed and had now tied to a pole and whipped. He fell at Tukkaram’s feet and pleaded, “Master! What a great sin I have committed. Please say that you have forgiven me; otherwise my whole family and the generations before and after me will stand cursed for my misdeed.” Tukkaram hugged him and said, “You have not done any wrong.” The man said, “Your Lotus Feet have touched this field. What has been lost now will soon be gained in hundred folds. I have nothing to worry on this account.” He then filled a cartload of sugarcane from another field of his and offered it to Tukkaram.
Riding the cart of sugarcane Tukkaram reached home. He said to his wife, “I have earned a cartload of sugarcane today.” She said, “What can we do with this sugarcane? Please take them to the market and sell them so that we can buy food for our children.” Tukkaram turned the cart towards the market. Children are fond of sugarcane. Tukkaram had hardly gone a few yards when children came rushing to the cart singing loudly, “Ramakrishna Hari! Vittala! Panduranga!” The Name of the Lord was enough to distribute the sugarcane to the children. With just one sugarcane left in the cart, Tukkaram returned home. Tukkaram’s wife asked him, “Have all sugarcane been sold out? Where is the money? Let us buy food for our children.” Tukkaram said to her, “Oh! No! I have not sold them in the market. Children came running to the cart singing the Lord’s Name. I could not help distributing it to the children who joyously cried out the Lord’s Name.”
His wife could take it no more. She lost her temper. She was deeply distraught that her children had to go without food for another day. She picked up the last sugarcane in the cart and beat Tukkaram’s back with it. The sugarcane split into two halves. Tukkaram smilingly pointed out to her, “See! How great Bhagavan is! He has used your hand and my back to split the sugarcane into two equal halves so that we do not quarrel over our share.” Coming back to her senses, his wife fell at his feet and said with tears, “How can you smile even at this moment. Don’t you feel angry? How is it that you do not lose your temper at any point of time? What have I done in my anger? Please forgive me.” Tukkaram consoled her. He said to her, “How happy is our life! Everyday, every moment we enjoy the Name of the Lord. Sadhus visit our home frequently. There is Nama sankirtan every day.”
Tukkaram had sung innumerable kirtans on Bhagavan. Once a great Brahmin scholar Rameshwar Bhat was discoursing. Finding a lot of people moving past his place he enquired of those few who sat listening to him, “Where are all these people going?” They said that these people were going to listen to Tukkaram. Every night Tukkaram used to sing his simple kirtans and now and then stop to discourse on it. All the villagers would gather round to listen to him. This would go on until three in the morning. During the day, at work, all of them would sing Tukkaram’s kirtans that were very simple and devotion filled. Hearing this he was furious. He immediately went to Tukkaram. He told him that he knew all the Shastras. And said “You should stop your discourse from now.” Anyone else would have argued with the Brahmin. But, Sadhus are humility personified. Therefore Tukkaram said, “Sir! I am sorry. But, I have never offered any ‘upadesa’ to any one. All my kirtans only praise the Lord. They describe the Lord’s beauty and ‘gunas’. However, you are a learned scholar. As such you know better. Tell me what should I do?” Rameshwar bhat said, “Bundle up your kirtans and throw them into the Chandrabhaga river. And from now onwards stop singing your kirtans.” Tukkaram bundled all his kirtans and threw them into the Chandrabhaga. He experienced deep pain as if he had pushed into the river a child of his whom he had brought up lovingly. He then sat on the banks of the river without food or sleep.
After three days, when the Pandas (priests) in Pandarpur temple opened the doors of Lord Panduranga’s sannidhi they found a wet sack on the head of the Lord. It was dripping with water and the Lord’s garments were totally wet. Wonder struck they took the sack from the Lord’s head and opened it. They found innumerable writings with the stamp of ‘Tukkaram’ in them. They realized that it was the kirtans of the Sadhu who visited the temple from Dehu Road. They immediately took the kirtans to Tukkaram.
When Tukkaram saw them with his writings, he asked them, “It is I who had thrown them in the river. Why did you retrieve them?”
The Pandas explained, “No! We did not retrieve them from the river. We found them on the Lord’s head this morning when we opened the door to perform ‘prabodanam’. Since they all carry your stamp we realized that they are all your kirtans. We, therefore, came to return them to you.”
Tukkaram’s joy knew no bounds as he realized that Panduranga had accepted his kirtans.
He asked the Lord, “If you approve of them why this delay in bringing them to me, Oh! Lord! I have been sitting here without food and sleep these for the past three days.”
The Lord said to him, “Tukkaram! They were so wonderful that I have been reading them for the past three days!”
Learning about the incident, Rameshwar Bhat came running to Tukkaram and fell at his feet. “I did not realize your greatness. Please forgive me for the wrong done.” Tukkaram shrunk away pleading, “You are a great scholar. You know all the Shastras. How can you fall at my feet? Please do not fall at my feet.” Such is the humility of Sadhus.
Tukkaram said to Bhagavan, “It is said that one who sings Your Name reaches Vaikunta. But, I desire to reach Vaikunta with this physical body. It is only in this physical body that I have sung Your Praises since my birth. Moreover, only if I leave for Vaikunta in this physical body will people believe it. They will not know and would refuse to believe that I have attained Vaikunta if I leave in my ‘sukshma sariira’ (subtle body).” Bhagavan complied with his request and informed him the date and time when He (the Lord) would come down to the earth and take him to Vaikunta.
People gathered around Tukkaram on the prescribed date and time to watch him leave for Vaikunta. On the appointed date and time Tukkaram sat with his ‘tamboora’ singing the Praises of the Lord. Bhagavan came down in a ‘vimana’ and took Tukkaram to Vaikunta in his physical body.
In later years when Tukkaram’s grandson was performing discourse people questioned him, “Is it true that your grandfather attained Vaikunta in his physical body?” The young man prayed to the Lord, “If it is true that my grandfather attained your Lotus Feet in his physical body then let this ‘tamboora’ (one of the ‘tambooras’ used by Tukkaram) leave for Vaikunta even as people watch it.” Immediately the ‘tamboora’ floated up towards Vaikunta.
There was once a great devotee of Lord Shiva who lived in Mylapore in Tamil Nadu. He had a very devout daughter by name Poompavai. She came to know that Sri Thirunazhna Sambandar was going to visit Mylapore to have the darshan of Lord Kapaleshawar. On hearing the great news, her joy knew no bounds and she started to prepare all the papads, pickle and was planning on cooking a great feast for her lord, Sri Thirunazhnasambandar. But as fate would have it, Poompavai died before Sri Thirunazhnasambandar visited Mylapore. She took her father’s hands and told him, “Oh father! All my life I have been waiting to see my lord, Sri Thirunazhnasambandar. Now that it is not going to happen, can you please take my ashes and bones and place under his holy feet.” And saying so she died. The great day arrived and Thirunazhnasambandar came and as requested by Poompavai, her father invited him and his disciples to his home and served him the great meal which was cooked by Poompavai. After the meal, he brought in the pot which contained the bones and ashes of Poompavai and placed it at his feet. Thirunazhnasambandar listened everything from her father on what had happened and at the end of it, he sang ten hymns and at the end of the tenth verse, Poompavai was back to life. Her father requested him to marry her but he turned down the request and told her father that she re-incarnated to do service to the lord.

It is very clear that by listening to the life-histories of the devotees of the lord would instill bhakti in all of us.

The satsang wrapped up with prayers with Namasankirtan.


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