Way out of Karma, SRI TYAGARAJA-14 (Post No.8028)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8028

Date uploaded in London – – – 23 May 2020   

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Way out of Karma

Hinduism is practical

Hindu religion is not centered on philosophical speculation, or too much of theoretical discussion. It takes certain facts as ‘given’ and prescribes certain practices-sure methods- for the realisation  of Truth or the aim of life. There is remarkable level of uniformity or similarity in practice among the various branches, no matter the doctrine or dogma or philosophy they follow.

 The social structure and other arrangements were designed to facilitate this. It is in this sense that our civilisation is ‘spiritual’.- not in he sense of being “other worldly” The worldly life is not neglected or negated, but made an instrument of the spiritual quest or aim. Thus all life becomes Yoga, as Sri Aurobindo says.

If we take the Veda and the Upanishad, there is practically no theoretical discussion in them, or speculation,  on the nature of God, or world, or anything, though it is the fashion to talk of the ‘philosophy’ of the Upanishads.‘Ekam Sat, viprah bahuda vadanti’- That which is, is One ; sages call it variously- declares the Veda. There is no argument, or effort  to force this conclusion on any one. In the Upanishad, which is the concluding part of the Veda, (hence Vedanta) the Sages (Rishis) simply relate their experiences and invite the student to undergo the required discipline and find out the truth for himself.  They lead the sincere aspirant towards  Truth- hence ‘upanishad’. The ultimate quest is for the unifying knowledge- ‘knowing which everything becomes known’. ( cf.ஒன்றாகக் காண்பதுவே காட்சிஔவையார்.)

The Rishis approach the Truth from various angles, but don’t label them or make them into doctrines or cults,.. Later ‘intellectuals’ have developed any number of theories and theologies. The more confusion is created, and doubt sown, the greater is the intellectual!

Given Facts

What are the ‘given’ facts? It is that the world follows some order-Ritam. In practice, this becomes ‘dharma’. Dharma is accomplished through ‘karma’. The effect of past karma causes birth, and karma done now decides future births. So karma is both limitation and opportunity. Karmas are based on guna, which connects one to the world of prakriti. The human situation is coloured by guna, and the human effort is to transcend guna. ‘Traigunya vishayo Veda, nistraigunyo bhava’, is what Krishna tells Arjuna. .

How is this to be accomplished? Either by enquiry into one’s real nature- the real nature of one performing karma, or by surrendering to the Divine Power and seeking His (or Her or Its) grace. Though later thinkers have developed all sorts of fancy theories, some common facts are accepted by all Hindu sects in practice..These are:

1. Ekam Sat.
2. Bhukti and Mukti, Purusha and Prakriti, Papa and Punya , sukha and dukkha, etc
3. Three gunas, three states of consciousness, three states of manifestation ( srishti, stiti, layam), three taapas,three basic categories-jiva, jagat, Ishvara, three categories of Karma,
4. Four Varnas, Asramas, Purusharthas, Antahkaranas: manas, buddhi, chitta and Ahankara
5. Pancha bhutas, pancha indriyas, pancha maha yajnas
6. Six internal enemies, six senses, six Vedic deities, six darshanas,
7. Seven lokas (states of consciousness or planes of being), Sapta rishis, 
8. Ashta vasus, ashta siddhis,
9. Nava grahas
10. Ten indriyas,  Ten Avataras, etc 

With  many permutations and combinations out of these, many theories have evolved, both in philosophy and in theology. But the basic sub-stratum of Hindu sects is  Karma and rebirth, avatara vada and  the concept of adhikari bheda.

Can Karma be subdued?

The most important practical question for man is, if the present birth is the result of past karma, can the pain or suffering  due to past bad karma be eradicated or lessened? Can man obtain relief from suffering? There are two clear answers: The absolute Vedantins say that the past karma is like a sent arrow or bullet; it cannot be called back or interfered with. Prarabda is pre-determined, and fixed. They hold that kama and artha are entirely due to prarabda. Our only freedom is to practice dharma and strive for Moksha, which is the real purushartha.( The popular astrological wisdom also goes: Padavi poorva punyanam) 

The devotees of God say Divine grace can change the situation. ( W e now have missiles which can pursue and nullify any previously launched weapon or vehicle!)After all it is God who dispenses the effects of karma.He CAN dispense with it! We can never know, we pray and leave matters to Him. Many saints are known to have helped devotees overcome or mitigate their suffering. Popular religion is overwhelmingly based on the power and promise of practical relief, not just promises. It is resorted to as an aid to a prosperous worldly life, not for seeking Liberation.

Karma in many aspects

Sadguru Tyagaraja has reflected on these aspects and given us his advice. We should always remember that Tyagaraja speaks out of personal experience, not out of theoretical knowledge. There is no speculative element in his advice.

Satya roopa ninunu sannuti jesi

Tatvamu delisina Tyagaraju     …..(ninnade naela)

 This Tyagaraja has had your darshan, O of the form of Truth, and has understood the Truth.

People are bound by karmas; to escape from them, they require Divine grace- this is the basic approach of Tyagaraja.

Sakala lokula phalaphalamu lerigi
samrkshinchuchu nundaka             ..(Aparadamula)

You know the results of the various karmas of people and you save them.

Bahu janmambula vasanayutulai
Aahivisha sama vishaya krushtulai
bahiraananulai                   ………..(Yajnadulu)

People are governed by the vasanas of many previous janmas , are attracted by sense pleasures which equal the poison of the snake, and are world-oriented.

What is this vasana business? Suppose I am fond of coffee and used to a hot cup at 3 p.m.every day. If I have it today, I am satisfied, but this leaves the trace of its craving in me,  and makes me anticipate it the next day too. Thus the momentary satisfaction of actually obtaining the object of desire is not the end of the matter. The craving remains. This is the vasana. Karma thus acts like the seed of further karma. When Jnanis warn us about karma, it is due to this. Ramana Maharshi says in his Upadesa Undiyar ( Upadesa Saram in Sanskrit):

வினையின் விளைவு விளிவுற்று வித்தாய்

வினைக்கடல் வீழ்த்திடும் உந்தீ பற

வீடு தரலிலை உந்தீபற.

Vinaiyin vilaivu vilivutru vittaai
Vinaikkadal veezhttidum undipara
Veedu taralilai undipara

The fruit of action passes.
But action leaves behind 
Seed of further action
Leading to an endless ocean of action;
Not at all to Moksha.

(Translation by Prof.K.Swaminathan)

Yela teliyalero Rama ninnela teliyalero
poorva karma melaguna jesiro!

Why have these people not understood your greatness, O Rama?
What kind of karmas did they perform in previous births?

(It is only by God’s grace due to good karmas

 that we can even get devotion! 

அவனருளாலே அவன்தாள் வணங்கி- மாணிக்கவாசகர்

We get devotion by His grace- Manickavachaka)

Nija bhakta nichaya paapa vimochana
Gala pirudu lella goni                   ….(Yochana)

You have acquired the title of one who destroyed the sins of real devotees.

Saranagata janaka nivaranabja……(Krupalavala)

One who destroys the sins of those who take refuge in Him.

Samsara chidraarttini  teerche saktini


Your power which destroys the troubles and pain caused in samsara.

There is a kriti in which Tyagaraja indicates negatively what kind of Karma of previous births causes good results in this birth.

Toli ne jesina puja phalamu
delisenu na paali daivama

Paluvidha mula ne dalachi karagagaa

balukaka ni vadu neniti gaaka

Sarivaralalo jaulaka jesi vu-

dara poshakulanu boruguna jesi 
haridasa rahita puramuna vesi
dari jupakundaga Tyagararchita

My God who saves me! Even though I have been praying in many ways with deep yearning of the heart, you are indifferent; and I am neglected. From this, I have understood the (poor) effect of the pujas I did in my previous births.

You have let me get humiliated among my peers;
you have surrounded me with people who are only interested in feeding their belly;
you have made me reside in a place lacking in real devotees of God ( Haridasas);
And you have not shown me a way out.

From this I understand the effect of my pujas in poorva janmas!#

That is to say, it is only due to previous good karmas that one gets esteem among people, good company, the company of devotees, and  a righteous way of living.

The same refrain he repeats elsewhere

Toli nenu jesina puja phala meelage

velavesi teeyaga vachchuna
veda deeruna manasaraga

It seems so little is the result of my pujas in previous births! 
Is it possible to purchase good results by paying a price? Will our troubles end by that?

We may recall here that in the very first hymn that Jnanasambandha sings – “todudaiya seviyan”, as a boy of 4, he refers to his having done puja with many flowers in previous births:

ஏடுடைய மலரால் முனை நாள் பணிந்தேத்த அருள் செய்த

Edudaiya malaraal munai naal 
panindaetta arul seida
You blessed me to perform your puja with many flowers in previous days (births)

Toli dushkrutamula nanase ni birudu.

…………………    (Yuktamu gaadu)

Your fame as one destroying old karmas

Toli jesina papavana kudarama…..(Sara sara )

You are the axe to destroy the forest of sins committed in the previous births.

Merits of Good Karma

Kaligiyunte gadaa kalgunu

kaamida phala dayaka

kalini ingita merugaka ninnaadukonti

chalamu cheyaka naa talanu chakkani vraata

Bhagavadaagresarulagu  Narada
Prahlada Parashara Ramadaasulu
Baaguga Sri Raghuramuna padamula 
Bhakti jesina reeti Tyagarajuniki ipudu
Kaligiyunte gadaa

O the one who grants one’s desires!
Can I get my desire fulfilled unless it is earned by my previous good karmas? 

In this Kali age, without knowing the truth, I blamed you. Don’t get annoyed with me.

For Tyagaraja to obtain bhakti for your feet like  the best of the bhagavatas- Narada, Prahlada, Parashara, (Bhadrachala) Ramadasa- is it possible unless it is destined by his good karma ?

Prarabdamitluntaka orula nana pani ledu

When my prarabda is like this, what is the point in blaming others?

Ghanagha jeemutachuka     ….(nenarunchinanu)

You are like the strong wind that disperses the clouds of sins.

Mundati janmamulanu jesina yagha

brunda vipina mula ka-
Nanda kandudaina  Sitapati
Nandakayutudai  yuntaka….
Ikakaavalasina demi manasa
Sukhamuna nundavademi……(ikakaavalasinademi)

When there is Sitapati, bearing the sword called Nandaka, ready to destroy the forest of sins committed in previous births and confer ananda, 

O Mind, what else do you want? Why are you not happy?

Kaamaadi lobha mohamada
stoma tamam mulakunu
soma surya netrudaina Sri
Ramachandarude neeyandundaka,

There is Sri Ramachandra, with Surya and Chandra like his two eyes, to remove the darkness caused by the combination of the six bad traits- internal enemies (of kama, kroda, lobha, moha, mata, maatsarya), what else do you want?

Bhakta papa vimochana………(Na moralanu)

Rama is the one who removes the sins

Sanchita karmamu tolakinchi

nannae vela karuninchi
broche daivamu           …… (Ninne nera—Arabi)

Destroying my accumulated karmas,
always bestowing his  compassion on me,
the God who protects me.

Ninnade nela Neerajaksha
Karmaaniki tagi natlu karyamulu nadicheni
Dharmaniki tagi natlu  daivamu brocheni

Chintaniki tagi natlu siddhiyu galigeni
Vittaniki tagi natlu veduka  nadicheni

O Lotus-eyed One! What is the use of blaming you?
Things  only happen according to old karmas!
God protects according to the Dharma observed.

The quality of thoughts decides the level of  spiritual outcome.

Worldly entertainment obtained is according to the money spent. 

Vaari vaari manchiki dagi nattu
vaari vaari bhagyamu leevaade-
vaari                          …….(Sri Raghuvara)

Will you not confer happiness on people according to their good deeds?

Sujana nichaya paapa hima chanda surya

                             ……..( Neevera kuladanamu)

The Sun which removes the fog of the sins of good people.

Care: karma breeds karma

Sri Tyagaraja thus traverses the whole field of karma. This birth is due to karma, but only a portion  is assigned to each birth, out of the karmas accumulated in innumerable births. ( They are more numerous than the sand particles on the shores of the seven seas, says Arunagirinatha: “Ezhukadal manalai alavidin adhikam yenaditar piravi avataram” எழுகடல் மணலை அளவிடின் அதிகம் எனதிடர்ப்பிறவி அவதாரம்) What is assigned for this birth is what is called Prarabda. The rest are in waiting- called Sanchita. But in working out prarabda, we  generate and accumulate further karma- called Agami. This is because we do not know the right method of performing karma. “Gahana karmano gati:”- it is very difficult to understand the ways of karma, says Gita. So, the Gita tells us the right way of performing karma- how to acquire skill in it, what is this skill, etc ( Yoga karmasu kausalam).#

But whatever it is, it is clear that man by his own efforts cannot get rid of his accumulated karmas. We need Divine grace. But that is not extended arbitrarily- it has to be earned, deserved. So the great bhaktas too stress the importance of devotion, accompanied by right conduct and good works. Sri Tyagaraja has indicated all this in his kritis.
Karma to nullify karma

We may look at one allied thought. Arunagirinatha says in his Kandar Anubhuti: ” vidi kaanum vudambu”:

விதிகாணும் உடம்பை விடா வினையேன்

கதி காணமலர்க் கழலென்றருள்வாய்

Vidi kaanum vudambai vidaa vinaiyen
Gati kaana malark kazhal enru arulvaai

O Lord! When will you bless me with your Lotus Feet that I can come out of this destiny caused by karma which causes the body to be taken (repeatedly)?

It is karma that is the cause of the body. ie the body taken at birth is according to one’s karma. This also opens a way out: just as the present body is the result of past karma, the future body will be decided by present karma! At the same time, man needs Divine Grace to come out of the clutches of karma. Karma is jata- its effects are ordained by God. We have to deserve His grace by effort. Ramana Maharshi asks:

கன்மம் பயன் தரல் கர்த்தனது ஆணையால்

கன்மம் கடவுளோ  உந்தீபற

கனமம் ஜடமதால் உந்தீபற

Kanmam payan taral kartanadu aanaiyaal
kanmam kaduvlo? undipara
Kanmam jatamataal undipara.

Karma yields fruit,

So the Lord has ordained it.
How can karma be the Lord?
It is insentient.
So we must not commit the mistake of the purvamimamsakas , thinking of karma as ‘param’-supreme. Karma is powerful, but not supreme. It can be tamed with divine grace. This is the way shown by Saints who stress Bhakti. This is the basis of our hope and confidence. Sadguru Tyagaraja is an advocate of Bhakti to tackle karma.

The word karma is not easy to define. It has several layers of meaning, each to be understood in context.The usual English translation is “action”. This is absurd as karma in the religious and philosophical context is a technical term, and in no way means just ‘action’. ( See for eg. Gita 8.3) Even modern Indian writers and speakers use the word ‘action’. This is wrong; the word “karma” is just not translatable. 

In a recent book,”The Quest For A Moral Compass” (Atlantic Books, London, 2014), Kenan Malik writes much wrong things about Vedic religion, its chronology, etc, as most Westerners usually and willfully  do. They will look for history and sociology even in the Veda, like a vulture sitting on a temple tower looking for carrion. But he has remarked on one aspect of Karma which hits the mark:

“The concept of karma embodies the sense both of free will and of fate. Every person is responsible for her acts and thoughts and hence for her karma. The character of the next incarnation will be shaped by the accumulation of past and current deeds. An individual may be constrained by her actions in  past lives, but each can shape her own future through actions in the here and now.

Karma provides an explanation for one of the most troubling questions  within monotheistic faiths: why do bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people?”

“At a metaphysical level the concept of karma embodies an argument for free will. At a social level, however, it transforms itself into an argument for fate. Indeed, fate as a social phenomenon is justified by free will as a metaphysical claim….Freewill in the past becomes an explanation for fatedness in the present.”

      page 82-83 

This gives the hope that handling present karma well will make us free in the future!


To be continued………………………..

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