The following decad was composed at Tiru-perun-turrai, and is probably one of the first sung by our bard. It is in some respects quite unique among his compositions, and certainly has not the flowing case and rapture of some of his subsequent verses; but perhaps it reveals more of himself than any other. It was put forth, as would seem, immediately after his conversion; and is a thankful acknowledgment of the grace that has delivered him (as he now thinks) completely, and for ever, from the bonds of sensual passion.
The three things which a Caiva saint has to get free from are sensual passion, wrath, and the infatuation that regards the phenomenal as the real. Our Sage seems never to have been troubled with wrathful tendencies; and, in fact, must have been a very gentle and sweet-tempered man; but it must be remembered that at the time of his conversion he was yet in his early youth, the Prime Minister and favourite of the great Pandiyan king, the virtual ruler of that ancient realm, boasting a pure and lofty lineage, of prepossessing appearance and manner, instinct with the glow of a poet’s enthusiasm; and, in fact, possessing all that the phenomenal world has to give. Remembering, too, the tone and manners of his time and people, it is not to be wondered at that this poem makes acknowledgement of a previous utter absorption in worldly enjoyments, and a habit of mental infatuation,- apparently absolute. From the first and third of the trio of evils, he had very little chance, humanly speaking, of ever becoming free. Yet the history tells us that he had previously sought for light, had consulted teachers of many systems, and had waited in darkness and in bonds for the coming of the Master Whose service should be ‘perfect freedom’ from sensual thraldom. This poem is his thanks giving for (what he believes to be) his final deliverance. It will be noted that he dwells with persistent monotony on one theme: he is ‘free’; the time has not yet come for the analysis of his fellings; or for considering his future career. There is here an almost entire absence of mythology,- the one idea of God that he has before him is the loving Guru Whose feet have crowned the suppliant’s head; even Uma, the mother, is not mentioned or alluded to; he utters no invitation to others to join him in praise; his is a gladness with which no stranger can intermediate.
The other poems, sung in the same place soon after, show him recovering from the overwhelming effect of his first glad surprise, and in them he finds it possible to dwell upon other topics.
The Tiruvacagam is a veritable Pilgrim’s Progress, and surely reveals the experience of a devout and godly soul. It is possible that in this and in other of the poems, lines may have been altered and even verses added; for there is a noticeable discrepancy here and there; but internal evidence justifies us in concluding that mainly we have here the unrestrained utterances of a Caiva mystic of the eighth century.
1) The Truth.
By lust bewilder’d;- in this earthly sphere
caught in the circling sea of joyous life;-
By whirling tide of woman’s charms engulf’d;-
lest I should sink with mind perturb’d,
He gave His sacred grace, that falseness all
my soul might flee, and showed His golden feet !
The TRUTH Himself,- He stood in presence there:
THIS MATCHLESS MIRACLE I TELL NOT, I ! || 4 ||
2) The King.
I gave no fitting gift with lavish hand
of full-blown flowers; nor bowed with rev’rence meet.
He grace conferr’d, lest I should tread the paths
of grief, with mind bewildered by soft dames
With fragrant bosoms fair. He came to save,
and showed to me His golden jewell’d feet;
As KING in presence manifest He stood:
THIS MATCHLESS MIRACLE I TELL NOT, I ! || 8 ||
3) The Ineffable Essence.
Busied in earth I acted many a lie;
I spake of ‘I’ and ‘mine,’- illusions old;
Nor shunned what caused me pain; while sins increased
I wandered raving. Me, that BEING RARE,-
By the great mystic Vedas sought in vain,-
held fast in presence there; to lowly me
Essential sweetness was the food He gave:
THIS MIRACLE OF GRACE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 12 ||
4) The Helper.
To ‘birth’ and ‘death’ that cling to man, I gave no thought;
and uttering merest lies went on my way.
By eyes of maids with flowing jet-black locks
disturbed, with passion filled, I helpless lay.
He came ! the anklets on His roseate feet,-
I heard their tinkling sound; nor parts the bliss!
In grace my precious HELPER made me His:
THIS MIRACLE OF LOVE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 16 ||
I wealth and kindered and all other bliss
enjoy’d; by tender maidens’ charms was stirr’d;
I wandered free in joyous intercourse;
such goodly qualities it seemed were there.
He set me free; to stay the coure of ‘deeds’
my foes, He showed His foot-flowers’ tender grace,
My spirit stirred, entered within, and made me His:
THIS MATCHLESS MIRACLE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 20 ||
6) The ‘Sea of excellence.’
I gave no thought to ‘birth’ and ‘death,’ that yield
their place successive; but with maidens joined
I sank engulfed as by a mighty flood:
their rosy lips my death ! I madly roamed.
The SEA OF EXCELLENCE, Whom neither quality
nor name of excellence defines,-
He came, and tenderly embracing made me His:
THIS MIRACLE OF GRACE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 24 ||
7) The Father.
Though born a man, unfailing gifts
I laid not at the golden feet; nor did I cull
The cluster’d flowers, by rule and wont prescrib’d;
nor chaunted the ‘Five Letters’ due. O’ercome
By the full-bosom’d damsels’ jet-black eyes
I prostrate lay. SHowing His flow’ry feet,
To me the FATHER came, and made me His :
THIS MIRACLE OF GRACE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 28 ||
8) He Whom words express not.
He caused the ‘twofold deeds’ to cease, that cause
this swing of soul with body joined. He, Whom
‘Tis hard to learn by uttered sound to know,
gave me to know Himself: thus made me light !
He cut asunder bonds that clung; fulfilled
with His own mercy’s gift sublime my soul’s
Desire; and joined me to His servants’ feet:
THIS MIRACLE OF GRACE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 32 ||
9) The Imperishable.
In tangled wilderness of ‘birth’ supine
I lay ; like wretched cur diseased I roamed;
Did as I lusted; dwelt with creatures vile,
with them complying, satisfied in soul !
He showed me there His flowery fragrant feet,
by Hari and by Ayan unattained;
Th’ IMPERISHABLE made ev’n me His own:
THIS MIRACLE OF GRACE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 36 ||
10) The Lord Supreme.
I gave no thought to thronging ‘births’ and ‘deaths,’
but dwelt on tricks, and wiles, and glancing eyes
Of maids with wealth of braided tresses fair;
and thus I lay. The King, our LORD SUPREME,
His jewell’d feet, that traverse all the worlds,
to me made manifest like clustering blooms;
He wisdom gave, and made me all His own:
THIS MIRACLE OF GRACE I KNOW NOT, I ! || 40 ||