Introducing Muruganar

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from The Mountain Path, Vol. 1 - October 1964 - No. 4

We have decided in each issue of 'The Mountain Path' to introduce one or more of Bhagavan's devotees to our readers, so as to increase the feeling of personal fellowship between those who approach from a distance and those who, whether resident here or not, are known devotees of Bhagavan. To start the series we are here giving an account of the austere devotee and eminent Tamil poet Muruganar.

Among the devotees of Bhagavan, Muruganar, the poet, holds a specially honoured place. In Tamil Nadu the connection between poetry and sanctity has been close and continuous down the centuries. Peria-puranam, the story in verse of the sixtythree Saivite Saints — many of them poets — was a favourite of Bhagavan's in his boyhood; and in drawing Muruganar to himself the seer was only helping to preserve an ancient tradition.

Born in 1895, Sri C. K. Subrahmanyam grew up in an atmosphere of Tamil learning and became in due course a teacher of Tamil in a High School. His first collection of poems, Swatantra-Gitam, owed much to his ardent admiration of Gandhiji and, like the early work of his elder contemporary, Subrahmanya Bharati, formed a distinct contribution to the national movement.

But when he came to Bhagavan and fell under his spell, he renounced all other interests, completely effaced his personality and turned into "a shadow of Bhagavan." And he has lived ever since in a state of stark simplicity, utterly poor and obscure. In thus losing the world to find Bhagavan, he has found a joy to utter and a voice to utter it which have given him a high and assured place among the immortal singer-saints of Tamil Nadu. This sudden and complete change in the poems and in the manner of his utterance, the marvellously sustained and infinitely varied beauty of the enormous bulk of his verse on a single theme, constitutes an undoubted 'miracle' wrought by Bhagavan, permanently there for all eyes to behold.

Muruganar was content with composing his poems and having them read by Bhagavan. For him there was no 'wider public' to whose notice they should be brought. Thus it fell to an admirer, Sri Ramana Padananda, to arrange for the printing and publication of six volumes of Muruganar's poems.

The status of Muruganar as a poet is as yet known only to a small circle. It is given to few to appreciate the architechtonics, the prosodic virtuosity and the wealth of mythological and metaphysical suggestion in the songs of this most scholarly poet; and it is given to fewer still to recognise in them the modulated echoes of the Master's vibrant silence. But discerning critics like Sri V. S. Chengalvaroya Pillai and Mr. Justice M. Ananthanarayanan have not hesitated to compare him with St. Manikkavachagar.

In practising the Presence of Bhagavan under the terms of Muruganar's images and rhythms, one enters into intensely felt relations with the Guru who figures in various roles of Siva or Subrahmanya, as father, mother or lover, as master, king or commander, as beggar or betrayer. Each of the 850 stanzas in Guru-Vachaka-Kovai1 is a little golden casket wrought with loving care to enshrine and set off a gem fallen from the Master's lips.
1 - An English translation of a part of which is published by Sri Ramanasramam under the title. Guru Ramana Vachana Mala.

The stream of Muruganar's inspiration has continued running fresh and strong even after the passing of Bhagavan. If it has lost some of the old briskness and brightness, it has acquired a new serenity.

Leaving aside Muruganar's own copious outpourings, his success in evoking so much of the little that Bhagavan himself wrote is something to be grateful for. It is to Muruganar that we owe the existence and poetic pattern of Upadesa Saram, (Instruction in Thirty Verses) the living quintessence of advaitic thought and a brief but sufficient vade-mecum of Bhagavan's own practical guidance. Muruganar composed a long narrative poem telling how the rishis who trusted too much to their rituals were taught a lesson. At the crucial moment, when Siva had to deliver His teaching, Muruganar left it to Bhagavan to provide the ipsissima verba of divine revelation.

Many of the Forty Verses on Reality owe their final form and the exposition its logical arrangement to Muruganar's efforts. And this game of collaboration reached its climax in the composition of Atma Vidya, which fills a musical mould of Gopalakrishna Bharati with a new, profound meaning. Beginning "Easy is Self-knowledge", it raises only to reject the image of "the berry in the palm of one's hand"; so evident is this perception that it needs neither perceiver nor thing perceived. Having proceeded thus far, Muruganar had to leave off where the poet qua poet could only say or imply, "The rest is silence". But Bhagavan, speaking with an authority higher than any poet's, continued the argument, explained the sadhana and the grace and ended with a hint, that Annamalai, the Inner Eye, the One Alone, is the author.

With Muruganar one finds oneself taking part in a strenuous game where transcendental experience is created and caught. in words, coloured or common as he chooses. The universal teacher who teaches through silence is made to manifest in a thousand sounds and sweet airs, each uniquely appropriate to a role and a mood. Thrice blessed is the ear trained to hear the secret that only Muruganar can utter. For in his garden of delight, one sports with God in a riot of rhymes and eats forever the ever fresh fruit of the tree of the knowledge that home is heaven and heaven is home.

Sri Bhagavan's Feet
Sri Ramanarpanamastu