This chapter introduces a representative poet from the late phase of the medieval bhakti (meaning “devotion”) movement in India. While there are many notable works from this period, the bhakti movement is perhaps the most representative of the meeting of two civilizations, Islam and Hinduism, a major factor in South Asia during the Middle Ages.
Arab traders brought Islam to India as early as the seventh century C.E. However, the greater influence of Islam in South Asia took place from the twelfth century on, when Muhammad of Ghor (modern-day Afghanistan) took over the northern part of India and established the Delhi Sultanate (a Sultan is a sovereign of a Muslim state). There have been interactions between Islamic and Hindu cultures from that point on, if not earlier. Further, from the early sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century, most of northern India was ruled by the Mughal (also spelled Mogul) dynasty, a Muslim dynasty of Turkic-Mongol origin. During the two centuries of rule over much of India, the Mughals, who were Muslims, made attempts to integrate Hindus and Muslims into a united Indian state.
The bhakti movement is a prominent example of the interaction between Islam and Hinduism, which began from the twelfth century. The bhakti movement, which emphasized commitment and devotion to one chosen god out of many in the Hindu religion, was a movement to reform aspects of Hinduism, for example, asserting that moksha, or liberation, is attainable by everyone, unlike the views and practices of classical Hindu religion based on caste hierarchy. Under the influence of Islam, bhakti showed characteristics of monotheism, iconoclasm, and egalitarianism. Despite the synthesis of two religions, bhakti still emphasized the Hindu concepts of moksha and karma (the idea that good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence). Whereas earlier bhakti poets like Kabir from northern India in the fifteenth century shows the mixing of Hindu and Muslim ideas, Tukaram from western Indian in the seventeenth century, while still part of the bhakti movement, focuses on reen- ergizing Hindusim in his regions.
Although Tukaram is from the seventeenth century, selected poems by Tukaram in this chapter are good examples of the medieval bhakti movement, a result of the crossroads of Islam and Hinduism in South Asia’s Middle Ages.
AS YOU READ, CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:
How do Tukaram’s poems seem to convey such Hindu concepts as karma and moksha?
Can you point out the influence of the synthesis of Hindu and Muslim ideas, or the bhakti movement, in Tukaram’s poems?
Select specific poems by Tukaram and develop your own interpretive thesis statement for each poem, along with supporting ideas.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE THE FOLLOWING SOURCES:
Go to the following website for the history, timelines, culture, and maps of India:
Go to the following website for an educational video about Hinduism:
Written by Kyounghye Kwon
TUKARAM’S SELECTED POEMS
Tukaram (1608-1649 C.E.)
Composed ca. 1621-1649 C.E.
Tukaram is a Marathi poet, born near Pune, India, who is often regarded as the greatest writer in the Marathi language. Tukaram was devoted to the Hindu god Vitthala, a local incarnation of Visnu, a principal Hindu deity that has ten avatars or incarnations. He was part of the bhakti movement that promoted the idea that moksha (or liberation) is attainable by anyone, and he came into conflict with the local Brahmins (the highest Hindu caste of priesthood) because he challenged caste hierarchy in Hindu religious practices. In the areas of Maharashtra (the western region of India), he is regarded as the most important poetic and spiritual figure; for this, he is also called “Sant Tukaram,” the epithet “Sant” noting his saintly quality. The canon of Tukaram’s poetry contains about 4600 abhangas (short “unbroken” hymns), which are among the most famous Indian poems. These poems are designed to be sung and performed with musical instruments. J. Nelson Fraser and K. B. Marathe translated his poems into English; they were published in 1909-15 and reprinted in 1981.
Written by Kyounghye Kwon
Image 9.1: Tukaram leaves for vaikuntha, Supreme Abode of God vishnu | Tukaram ascends to the heaven of Vishnu.
Author: Ravi Varma Press
Source: Wikimedia Commons
license: Public Domain
9.3.1 “Tukaram” selected from Pslams of maratha Saints: One Hundred and Eight Hymns
Tukaram, Translated by Nicol Macnicol
License: Public Domain
The Mother’s House
As the bride looks back to her mother’s house,
And goes, but with dragging feet;
So my soul looks up unto thee and longs,
That thou and I may meet.
As a child cries out and is sore distressed,
When its mother it cannot see,
As a fish that is taken from out the wave,
So ‘tis, says Tuka, with me.
How can I know the right,—
So helpless I—
Since thou thy face hast hid from me,
O thou most high!
I call and call again
At thy high gate.
None hears me; empty is the house
If but before thy door
A guest appear,
Thou’lt speak to him some fitting word,
Some word of cheer.
Such courtesy, O Lord,
And we,—ah, we’re not lost to sense
A Beggar for Love
A beggar at thy door,
Pleading I stand;
Give me an alms, O God,
Love from thy loving hand.
Spare me the barren task,
To come, and come for nought.
A gift poor Tuka craves,
“God Who is Our Home”
To the child how dull the Fair
If his mother be not there!
So my heart apart from thee,
O thou Lord of Pandharl I
Chatak turns from stream and lake,
Only rain his thirst can slake.
How the lotus all the night
Dreameth, dreameth of the light!
As the stream to fishes thou,
As is to the calf the cow.
To a faithful wife how dear
Tidings of her Lord to hear!
How a miser’s heart is set
On the wealth he hopes to get!
Such, says Tuka, such am I!
But for thee I’d surely die.
The Strife of Sense
Wearied by strife of sense,
By call and counter-call,
To thee I hie me thence,
And tell thee all.
Yea, Lord, thou knowest this;
I’ve brought my life to thee.
Cast down my burden is
And I am free!
Now all my being yearns,
Yearns with a strong desire,
My love within me burns,
A wasting fire.
If thou canst help indeed—
(Hear what I, Tuka, say)—
Narayan, help with speed,
Make no delay!
With head on hand before my door,
I sit and wait in vain.
Along the road to Pandhari
My heart and eyes I strain.
When shall I look upon my Lord?
When shall I see him come?
Of all the passing days and hours
I count the heavy sum.
With watching long my eyelids throb,
My limbs with sore distress,
But my impatient heart forgets
My body’s weariness.
Sleep is no longer sweet to me;
I care not for my bed;
Forgotten are my house and home,
All thirst and hunger fled.
Says Tuka, Blest shall be the day,
Ah, soon may it betide!
When one shall come from Pandhari
To summon back the bride.
Sobs choke my throat; my eyes
Are wet with tears,
Still waiting for my Pandurang,
Till he appears.
So long cast off by thee,
My heart despairs.
Ah, whither hast thou gone, absorbed
In other cares?
So many tasks and cares
Are thine, while I
I am forgotten thus, alas,
And left to die.
Pilgrims and saints go past
And many messages they bear
From me to thee.
Who else but thee would run
To help my need?
O come to me, my Pandurang,
O come with speed.
How long still must I wait,
To see thy face?
Thou hast forgot thy trembling child,
Thou full of grace.
Once more remember me,
I, Tuka, pray.
O come to fetch thy darling home,
Make no delay.
“Thee, Lord of Pity, I Beseech”
Thee, Lord of Pity, I beseech,
Come speedily and set me free.
Yea, when he hears my piteous speech,
All eager should Narayan be.
Lo, in the empty world apart
I hearken, waiting thy footfall:
Vitthal, thou father, mother art,
Thou must not loiter at my call.
Thou, thou alone art left to me
All else when weighed is vanity.
Now, Tuka pleads, thy gift of grace complete;
Now let mine eyes behold thy equal feet.
From the Depths
O Pandurang, this once
Hark to my cry,
For I thy servant am,
Thine only I.
Save me by whatso means
Thou best may’st deem;
No longer now I make
Or plan or scheme.
How carefully my plans
And schemes I wrought!
My falsehood and my pride
Bring all to nought.
One dull of wit am I,
Of low degree,
By selfishness possessed
An instant and on me
Ruin may fall.
Come to my help, O God,
Come to my call.
Forsake Me Not!
If far from home the poor faun roam,
With grief its heart will break.
Thus lonely I with thee not nigh
O do not me forsake!
Thy heart within, all, all my sin
Ah, hide; make no delay.
Eternal thou look on me now
In love, I, Tuka, pray.
Ah, Pandurang, if, as men say,
A sea of love thou art,
Then wherefore dost thou so delay?
take me to thy heart!
I cry for thee as for the hind
The faun makes sore lament.
Nowhere its mother it can find,
With thirst and hunger spent.
With milk of love, ah, suckle me
At thy abounding breast,
O Mother, haste—In thee, in thee
My sad heart findeth rest.
Since little wit have I,
hear my mournful cry.
Grant now, O grant to me
That I thy feet may see.
I have no steadfastness,
Narayan, I confess.
Have mercy, Tuka prays,
On my unhappy case.
Within My Heart
I know no way by which
My faith thy feet can reach
Nor e’er depart.
How, how can I attain
That thou, O Lord, shall reign
Within my heart?
Lord, I beseech thee, hear
And grant to faith sincere,
My heart within,
Thy gracious face to see,
Driving afar from me
Deceit and sin.
O come, I, Tuka, pray,
And ever with me stay,
Mine, mine to be.
Thy mighty hand outstretch
And save a fallen wretch,
Yea, even me.
The Restless Heart
As on the bank the poor fish lies
And gasps and writhes in pain,
Or as a man with anxious eyes
Seeks hidden gold in vain,—
So is my heart distressed and cries
To come to thee again.
Thou knowest, Lord, the agony
Of the lost infant’s wail,
Yearning his mother’s face to see.
(How oft I tell this tale!)
O at thy feet the mystery
Of the dark world unveil!
The fire of this harassing thought
Upon my bosom preys.
Why is it I am thus forgot?
(O, who can know thy ways?)
Nay, Lord, thou seest my hapless lot;
Have mercy, Tuka says.
“I Long to See Thy Face”
I long to see thy face,
But ah, in me hath holiness no place.
By thy strength succour me,
So only, only I thy feet may see!
Though Sadhu’s robes I’ve worn,
Within I’m all unshaven and unshorn.
Lost, lost, O God, am I,
Unless thou help me, Tuka,—me who cry!
“Keep Me From Vanity”
Keep me from vanity
Keep me from pride,
For sure I perish if
I quit thy side.
From this deceiving world
How hard to flee!
Ah, thou, Vaikuntha’s Lord,
If once thy gracious face
I look upon,
The world’s enticement then
Is past and gone.
One favour grant, O God, that now by me
My flesh may be forgot;
So shall I have (for I at last have learned)
Bliss for my lot.
Give to my heart and all its moods a place
Close by thy side;
Break, break the bond that binds me to desire,
To passion, shame and pride.
Thy name to utter and the saints to know,
I beg but this of thee.
Here is no feigning, Lor; my service take
Of faith and purity!
The Only Refuge
I am a mass of sin;
Thou art all purity;
Yet thou must take me as I am
And bear my load for me.
Me Death has all consumed;
In thee all power abides.
All else forsaking, at thy feet
Thy servant Tuka hides.
When thought of all but thee
Has from me gone,
Still by thy strength upheld
I struggle on.
Come to me, Vitthal, come!
For thee I wait.
O, wherefore hast thou me
Many oppress me sore
With cruel might;
My very enemies
Are day and night.
Ah come and take thy place
At my heart’s core;
Then shall the net of ill
Snare me no more.
“O Save Me, Save Me!”
O save me, save me, Mightiest,
Save me and set me free.
O let the love that fills my breast
Cling to thee lovingly.
Grant me to taste how sweet thou art;
Grant me but this, I pray,
And never shall my love depart
Or turn from thee away.
Then I thy name shall magnify
And tell thy praise abroad,
For very love and gladness I
Shall dance before my God.
Grant to me, Vitthal, that I rest
Thy blessed feet beside;
Ah, give me this, the dearest, best,
And I am satisfied.
Near Yet Far
There is no place, small as a sesamum,
But thou, they say, art there.
That deep in all this universe thou dwell’st
Sages and saints declare.
So, I, of old thy child, in faith of this
Come seeking help from thee.
Thou overflow’st the world, and yet, and yet,
Thy face I cannot see.
“Why should I meet this abject I to whom
There is nor bound nor end?”
Is it with such a thought thou comest not,
My father and my friend?
Ah, what shall Tuka do that he thy feet
May touch and tend?
Beyond the Mountains, God
Here tower the hills of passion and of lust,—
Far off the Infinite!
No path I find and all impassable
Fronts me the hostile height.
Ah, God is lost, my friend. Narayan now
How can I e’er attain?
Thus it appears that all my life, so dear,
I’ve spent, alas, in vain.
“I Cannot Understand: I Love”
Thy greatness none can comprehend
All dumb the Vedas are.
Forspent the powers of mortal mind;
They cannot climb so far.
How can I compass him whose light
Illumes both sun and star?
The serpent of a thousand tongues
Cannot tell all thy praise;
Then how, poor I? Thy children we,
Mother of loving ways!
Within the shadow of thy grace,
Ah, hide me, Tuka says.
Not One But Two
Advait contents me not, but dear to me
The service of thy feet.
O grant me this reward! To sing of thee
To me how sweet!
Setting us twain, lover and Lord, apart,
This joy to me display.
Grant it to Tuka—Lord of all thou art—
Some day, some day.
Ah, then, O God, the efforts all are vain
By which I’ve sought thy blessed feet to gain.
First there was loving faith, but faith I’ve none;
Nowise my restless soul can I restrain.
Then pious deeds, but no good will have I
For these; nor wealth to help the poor thereby;
I know not how to honour Brahman guests;
Alas! the springs of love in me are dry.
I cannot serve the guru or the saint;
Not mine to chant the name, with toil to faint,
Perform the sacred rites, renounce the world.
I cannot hold my senses in restraint.
My heart has never trod the pilgrim’s way;
The vows I make I know not how to pay.
“Ah, God is here,” I cry. Not so, not so.
For me distinctions have not passed away.
Therefore, I come, O God, to plead for grace,
I, worthy only of a servant’s place.
No store of merit such an one requires.
My firm resolve is taken, Tuka says.
Though He Slay Me
Now I submit me to thy will,
Whether thou save or whether kill;
Keep thou me near or send me hence,
Or plunge me in the war of sense.
Thee in my ignorance I sought,
Of true devotion knowing nought.
Little could I, a dullard, know,
Myself the lowest of the low.
My mind I cannot steadfast hold;
My senses wander uncontrolled.
Ah, I have sought and sought for peace.
In vain ; for me there’s no release.
Now bring I thee a faith complete
And lay my life before thy feet.
Do thou, O God, what seemeth best;
In thee, in thee alone is rest.
In thee I trust, and, hapless wight,
Cling to thy skirts with all my might.
My strength is spent, I, Tuka say;
Now upon thee this task I lay.
Who asks if spent and weary we?
Who else, O Pandurang, but thee?
Whom shall we tell our joy or grief?
Who to our thirst will bring relief?
Who else this fever will assuage?
Who bear us o’er the ocean’s rage?
Who will our heart’s desire impart
And clasp us to his loving heart?
What other master shall we own?
What helper else but thee alone?
Ah, Tuka says, thou knowest all,
Prostrate before thy feet I fall.
Now Pandurang I’ve chosen for my part,
None, none but his to be.
In all my thoughts he dwells, dwells in my heart,
Sleeping and waking he.
Yea, all my being’s powers before him bow;
None other faith is aught.
See, Tuka says, mine eyes behold him now,
Standing all wrapt in thought.
To Thy Dear Feet!
To thy dear feet my love I bind:
No other longing stirs my mind.
I think of thee through days and nights,
And so discharge my holy rites.
Nought know I but thy name alone:
Thus to myself myself am known.
When comes at last the hour of death
O save me, save me, Tuka saith.
He Leadeth Me
Holding my hand thou leadest me,
My comrade everywhere.
As I go on and lean on thee,
My burden thou dost bear.
If, as I go, in my distress
I frantic words should say,
Thou settest right my foolishness
And tak’st my shame away.
Thus thou to me new hope dost send,
A new world bringest in;
Now know I every man a friend
And all I meet my kin.
So like a happy child I play
In thy dear world, O God,
And everywhere—I, Tuka, say—
Thy bliss is spread abroad.
The Joy of the Name
Lord, let it be that when thy name
Into my thoughts shall come,
My love to thee shall mount like flame,
My lips with joy be dumb.
Filled are my eyes with happy tears,
With rapture every limb;
Yea, with thy love my frame appears
Filled to the very brim.
Thus all my body’s strength I’ll spend
In hymns of joyful praise;
Thy name I’ll sing nor ever end
Through all the nights and days.
Yea, Tuka says, for ever so
I’ll do, for this is best,
Since at the feet of saints, I know,
Is found eternal rest.
Bound with cords of love I go,
By Harl captive led,
Mind and speech and body, lo,
To him surrendered.
He shall rule my life for he
Is all compassionate.
His is sole authority,
And we his will await.
The Bhakta’s Duty
The duty of the man of faith
Is trust and loyalty,
A purpose hid within his heart
That cannot moved be.
A steadfast faith and passionless
In Vitthal that abides,
A faith that not an instant strays
To any god besides.
Who that is such a one as that
Was ever cast away?
Never has such a tale been told,
Never, I, Tuka, say.
Love Finds Out God
Thy nature is beyond the grasp
Of human speech or thought.
So love I’ve made the measure-rod,
By which I can be taught.
Thus with the measure-rod of love
I mete the Infinite.
In sooth, to measure him there is
None other means so fit.
Not Yoga’s power, nor sacrifice,
Nor fierce austerity,
Nor yet the strength of thought profound
Hath ever found out thee.
And so, says Tuka, graciously,
Oh Kesav, take, we pray
Love’s service that with simple hearts
Before thy feet we lay.
“God is Ours”
God is ours, yea, ours is he,
Soul of all the souls that be.
God is nigh without a doubt,
Nigh to all, within, without.
God is gracious, gracious still;
Every longing he’ll fulfil.
God protects, protects his own;
Strife and death he casteth down.
Kind is God, ah, kind indeed;
Tuka he will guard and lead.
“One Thing I Do”
I serve thee, not because
Honour I crave;
Nay, KeSav, for I am
Therefore to serve thy feet,—
For this I cry;
For naught, for naught but this
To my Lord’s service, see,
One heart I’ve brought,
Thus mine appointed task
Do I somehow;
Whether ‘tis wrong or right
He Knows Our Needs
Unwearied he bears up the universe;
How light a burden I!
Does not his care the frog within the stone
With food supply?
The bird, the creeping thing, lays up no store;
This great One knows their need.
And if I, Tuka, cast on him my load,
Will not his mercy heed?
“In Him Abide”
The mother knows her child, his secret heart,
His joy or woe.
Who holds the blind man’s hand alone can tell
Where he desires to go.
The timid suppliant at his champion’s back
Can safely hide.
Who only clings, see, the strong swimmer bears
To the stream’s further side.
Vitthal, says Tuka, knows our every need;
Only in him abide.
The Boldness Of Faith
Launch upon the sea of life;
Fear not aught that thou mayst meet.
Stout the ship of Pandurang;
Not a wave shall wet thy feet.
Many saints await thee there,
Standing on the further shore:
Haste, says Tuka, haste away,
Follow those who’ve gone before.
How couldst thou e’er have cleansed me,
But for my sinful plight?
So first come I, and then thy grace,
O mercy infinite.
The magic stone was nothing worth,
Till iron brought it fame.
Did no one by the Wish Tree wish,
Whence would it get its name?
The Snare of Pride
None skilled as I in craft of subtle speech;
But, ah, the root of things I cannot reach.
Therefore, O Lord of Pandharl, my heart
Is sore distressed. Who knows my inward part?
I proud became from honour that men paid
To me, and thus my upward growth was stayed.
Alas! The way of truth I cannot see,
Held fast by Self in dark captivity.
I Am Poor And Needy
No deeds I’ve done nor thoughts I’ve thought;
Save as thy servant, I am nought.
Guard me, O God, and O, control
The tumult of my restless soul.
Ah, do not, do not cast on me
The guilt of mine iniquity.
My countless sins, I, Tuka, say,
Upon thy loving heart I lay.
A Blind Leader of the Blind
I have grown very wise
In mine own foolish eyes,
But faith has fled.
My life is vain indeed;
But worse that rage and greed
Dwell in faith’s stead.
The world’s possessed by sin
And envy reigns within
The human breast;
And I shall teach mankind,
Though I’m myself as blind
As all the rest.
The Pride of Knowledge
Though I’m a man of lowly birth
The saints have magnified my worth.
And so within my heart to hide
Has come the great destroyer, pride.
In my fond heart the fancy dwells
That I am wise and no one else.
O, save me, save me, Tuka prays;
Spent like the wind are all my days.
The Unveiling of Love
Enlighten thou mine eyes
Making me lowly wise;
Thy love to me unveil.
Then in the world I’ll be
As, from all soilure free,
The lotus pure and pale.
Whether men praise or jeer,
Hearing I shall not hear;
Like the rapt yogi I.
To me the world shall seem
Like visions of a dream
That, with our waking, fly.
Till we that state attain
All, all our toil is vain,
I, Tuka, testify.
Ah, wherefore so unkind?
Let my sad breast
At the hid centre find
It’s place of rest.
No wind of good or ill
Shall enter there,
But peace, supremely still,
To me the flux of things
Brings sore distress;
The world’s mutation brings
Therefore I, Tuka, cry,
Clinging thy feet,
“Break, break my ‘me’ and ‘my,’
My vain conceit.”
Shall we, sham saints, the world beguile
Glutting our belly’s greed the while?
O tell thy thought, if this it be,
For I am weary utterly.
Shall we the poet’s mood rehearse
And string together endless verse?
Shall Tuka ope his shop again
And, O Narayan, ruin men?
Is there a man who says of all,
Whether upon them sorrow fall,
Or whether joy— “These, these are mine”?
That is the saint: mark well the sign.
God dwells in him. The good man’s breast
Is of all men’s the tenderest.
Is any helpless or undone?
Be he a slave, be he a son:—
On all alike he mercy shows,
On all an equal love bestows.
How oft must I this tale repeat!
That man is God’s own counterfeit.
My self I’ve rendered up to thee;
I’ve cast it from me utterly.
Now here before thee, Lord, I stand,
Attentive to thy least command.
The self within me now is dead,
And thou enthroned in its stead.
Yea, this I, Tuka, testify,
No longer now is “me” or “my.”
Dying to Live
Before my eyes my dead self lies;
O, bliss beyond compare!
Joy fills the worlds, and I rejoice,
The soul of all things there.
My selfish bonds are loosed, and now
I reach forth far and free.
Gone is the soil of birth and death,
The petty sense of “me.”
Narayan’s grace gave me this place,
Where I in faith abide.
Now, Tuka says, my task I’ve done
And spread the message wide.
The Root of Longing
Who is he would act the true gosavl’s part?
Let him dig the root of longing from his heart.
If he dare not, in his pleasures let him stay
Folly were it should he choose another way.
For when longing he hath slain victoriously,
Only then shall he from all come forth set free.
Yea, says Tuka, does thy heart for union thirst?
Crush—be sure!—the seed of longing in thee first.
The Secret of Peace
Calm is life’s crown; all other joy beside
Is only pain.
Hold thou it fast, thou shalt, whate’er betide,
The further shore attain.
When passions rage and we are wrung with woe
And sore distress,
Comes calm, and then—yea, Tuka knows it—lo!
The fever vanishes.
The Fellowship of Saints
What enters fire, its former nature lost,
Fire to itself transforms.
Touched by the magic stone, lo, iron now
Gold that the world adorns.
Into the Ganga flow the little streams,
With the great Ganga blent.
Nay, e’en its neighbour trees the sandal tree
Infects with its sweet scent.
So to the feet of saints is Tuka bound,
Linked in a blest content.
The Simple Path
Diverse men’s thoughts as are their vanities,
Distract not thou thy mind to follow these.
Cling to the faith that thou hast learned, the love
That, coming, filled thee with its fragrances.
For Hari’s worship is a mother,—rest
It is and peace, shade for the weariest.
Why, then, who ties a stone about his neck
And drowns himself, is but a fool confessed.
The Way of Love
The learned in Brahma I shall make to long
With new desire; those once so safe and strong,
Set free, I bring back glad to bondage. So,
They are made one with Brahma by a song.
God is their debtor now, O glad release.
I’ll bid the weary pilgrim take his ease.
The proud ascetic may forsake his pride.
Away with offerings and charities!
By love and true devotion life’s high goal
I’ll help men to attain—yea, Brahma’s soul.
“O, happy we, who Tuka’s face have seen”—
So men will say and Tuka they’ll extol.
I came to him in woful plight;
He, gracious, girded me with might.
His house I entered unaware
And stole the treasure hidden there.
So I have wrought a deep design
That all his riches shall be mine.
I kissed his feet and then by stealth
I, Tuka, robbed him of his wealth.
Let thy thought at all times be,—
Over life’s tempestuous sea
We must fare.
Soon the body perisheth;
Life is swallowed up of Death.
Seek the fellowship of saints;
Seek, until thy spirit faints,
Let not dust make blind thine eyes,
Dust of worldly enterprise,
By Faith Alone
In God, in God—forget him not!—
Do thou thy refuge find.
Let every other plan or plot
Go with the wind!
Why toil for nought? Wake, wake from sleep!
By learning’s load weighed down,
Thou in the world’s abysses deep
Art like to drown.
O, flee from thence. Only by faith
Canst thou to God attain.
And all thy knowledge, Tuka saith,
Will prove in vain.
A Steadfast Mind
Honour, dishonour that men may pay,
Bundle them up and throw them away.
Where there is ever a steadfast mind,
There thou the vision of God shalt find.
Whereso the fountains of peace abide,
Stayed is the passage of time and tide.
Calm thou the impulse that stirs thy breast;
Surely, says Tuka, a small request.
The Name of the Living One
Hear, O God, my supplication,—
Do not grant me Liberation.
‘Tis what men so much desire;
Yet how much this joy is higher!
Home of every Vaisnavite,
See, with glow of love alight!
By their door with folded hands
Full Attainment waiting stands.
Heavenly joy is not for me,
For it passeth speedily;
But that name how strangely dear
That in songs of praise we hear!
Yea, thou, dark as clouds that lower,
Knowest not thine own name’s power.
Ah, says Tuka, it is this
Makes our lives so full of bliss.
The Dedicated Life
Ah, wherefore fast or wherefore go
To solitude apart?
Whether thou joy or sorrow know
Have God within thy heart.
If in his mother’s arms he be
The child knows nought amiss.
Cast out, yea, cast out utterly
All other thought than this.
Love not the world nor yet forsake
Its gifts in fear and hate.
Thy life to God an offering make
And to him dedicate.
Nay, Tjukasays, ask not again,
Waking old doubts anew.
Whatever else is taught by men,
None other word is true.
The Inward Purpose
To keep the Holy Order pure,—
This ever is my purpose sure.
The Vedic statutes I proclaim;
To imitate the saints my aim.
For, with no firm resolve within,
To quit the world is deadly sin.
Vile he who does so, Tuka says,—
Evil the worship that he pays.
The Bhakta’s Task
When from Vaikuntha forth we came
This of our coming was the aim—
That what the sages taught we by our lives proclaim.
Since filled the world with sedge and weed,
To sweep the paths our lowly meed,
Trod by the saints, and on their sacred scraps 3 to feed.
Gone the old wisdom, and instead
Mere words that wide have ruin spread.
Lustful men’s minds, the way to God quite vanished.
Beat we the drum of Love, whose din
Brings terror to this age of sin.
Hail, Tuka bids, with joy the victory we win.
If the river be a mirage that I see
Then what need for me
Of a ford?
If the children buy and sell in make-believe,
Who should joy or grieve,
Gain or lose?
Are not maidens still in kinship just the same,
Though they wedded in a game,
Girl with girl?
Joy or sorrow that we meet with in our dreams
To us waking seems
So, says Tuka, births and dying,—nought is true.
Bondage, freedom too,
“The World Passeth Away”
Who dares call aught his own
As swiftly speed the days?
Time keeps the fatal score,
And not a moment strays.
Hair, ears, and eyes grow old,
As, dullard, grow they must;
The best is nigh thee, yet
Thou fill’st thy mouth with dust.
Dying and yet thou buildst
As for eternity!
Nay, haste to Pandurang!
‘Tis Tuka says it: flee!
The Way of Death.
Ah, friend, beware; see how they bear
The dead men to the ghaut.
To God on high with agony
Call and cease not.
Though ‘mong the dead not numbered,
Within thy scrip is death.
Fill up, fill up with good thy cup,
While thou hast breath.
List what I say;—the narrow way
Is dense with dying men;
‘Mong them at last thy lot is cast.
No succour then.
“The Night Cometh”
Lo, Death draws nigh; and what know I
Of rite, or vow, or prayer?
To God alone who guards his own
I flee and hide me there.
The tally’s score grows more and more,
Then night and all is done.
Hear Tuka say, dear every day
From that grim robber won.
‘Tis all for Naught
With whatso skill he may his verse refine,
‘Tis all for naught without the breath divine.
Let him put on the holy beggar’s dress;
‘Tis all for naught without unworldliness.
He paints the sun or moon upon a wall;
‘Tis all for naught without the light of all.
O, he may play, of course, a soldier’s part;
‘Tis all for naught without a warrior heart.
So, Tuka says, they’ve danced and songs they’ve sung,
‘Tis naught without the love of Pandurang.
The Divine Inspiration
‘Tis not I who speak so featly;
All my words my Lover’s are.
Hark, Salunki singing sweetly,
Taught, as I, by One afar.
How could I, abject, achieve it?
‘Tis the all-upholding One.
Deep his skill, who can conceive it?
He can make the lame to run.
For men’s saving I make known
These devices—this alone
Can my heart unmoved be
When before my eyes I see
I shall see them with my eyes
When their plight they realise
At the last.
Without and Within
Soon as the season of Simhasth comes in,
The barber and the priest—what wealth they win!
Thousands of sins may lurk within his heart,
If only he will shave his head and chin!
What is shaved off is gone, but what else, pray?
What sign that sin is gone? His evil way
Is still unchanged. Yea, without faith and love
All is but vanity, I, Tuka, say.
“And have not Charity”
Your heart from rage and lust has nowise turned
For all the rice and sesamum you’ve burned.
You’ve toiled for naught with learned words whose fruit
Is vain display—and Pandurang you’ve spurned.
By pilgrimage and grim austerity
Only your pride has grown; your “I” and “me”
Swell with your alms; the secret, Tuka says,
You’ve missed: your acts are sinful utterly.
Lust binds the preacher, fear
The doubting hearts of those his words who hear.
He knows not what he sings:
His mouth he opes for what each comer brings.
A greedy cat, he steals
From door to door, begging from men his meals.
What Tuka says is true;
The sack is empty and the measure too.
The Proud Advaitist
To such pay thou no heed: the words he saith
Are only chaff, empty of loving faith.
He praises high Advait which only brings
To speaker and to hearer pain and scaithe.
He fills his belly saying, “I am Brahm.”
Waste not thy words upon him; shamed and dumb
Is he, blasphemer, when he meets the saints.
Who scorns God’s love Tuka calls vilest scum.
The Hypocrite: I
His speech—the hypocrite’s—is well and fair,
But all his thought is how he can ensnare.
He outwardly appears a godly man;
In truth he is a very ruffian.
His forehead-mark, his beads, a saint denote,
But in the darkness he would cut your throat.
Ay, Tuka. says, a very scoundrel he;
The pains of Yama wait him certainly.
The Hypocrite: II
Possessed with devils they grow long their hair.
No saints are they, nor trace of God they bear.
They tell of omens to a gaping crowd.
Rogues are they, Tuka says; Govind’s not there.