SRI TYAGARAJA-25, Prayer and Petition-1 (Post No.8096)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8096

Date uploaded in London – – –  3 June 2020   

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SRI TYAGARAJA-25,               Prayer and Petition-1

As a bhakta, Tyagaraja was soaked in the tradition of true devotion- ie bhakti for its own sake, as an end in itself, and not as a means to any other end. He never sought any boons, and he had strong views on the subject. But before we go to that, we must see what our scriptures say on the subject, so that we may truly appreciate the stand of Tyagaraja.

Booming Boon business!

Our  Itihasa- Puranas contain many interesting features, which most of us do not think much about, in our preoccupation with the main stories. One of them is that many characters from all categories- humans- commoners and kings alike, Asuras, Rakshasas,etc undertake severe penance and other hardships, to please various Deities or acquire some powers. When the Deities appear before them ( they invariably do, soon or late), they seek and obtain boons. And they get damned by these very boons!.

The stories of Visvamitra, Kunti, many kings and asuras are well known. Dasaratha got into difficulty by granting boons to Kaikeyi, but even then his habit of offering to grant boons did not end. When he makes his appearance from Swarga towards the end, he again asks them what boons they want! 

Seeking or granting boons seems to have been a booming business! It seems even God was aware of this trend or tendency! Whenever He or She appeared, they would on their own accord tell the people to ask for boons!

This has percolated down to our popular religious practice. Almost every stotra has a portion containing phalasruti- detailing what benefit would flow out of its recital or japa! So much so, popular religion is no more than a system of prayers, followed by  petitions! (Oh, our old Congress leaders before Sri Aurobindo and Tilak just believed in this national pastime-prayer and petition , but to the British governmentt!)

The Katha Upanishad deals with three boons granted by Yama on his own to Nachiketas, who is but a boy. But Nachiketas only uses them for his enlightenment, in fact to know the mystery behind death. Yama tempts him with many worldly pleasures, and tries to dissuade him from knowing this ultimate mystery, but has to yield in the end.This is in fact the second defeat for Yama at the hand of mortals. Savitri had outwitted him earlier, to get her husband back to life!  ( In the case of Markandeya, it was Lord Siva who dealt with Yama).

Bhagavata has two stories containing child stars- Dhruva and Prahlada. Both are instructive in their different ways.

Dhruva was prevented from sitting on  the lap of his father King Uttanapada by his stepmother, saying that he should have been born as her son to claim that privilege. Deeply stung, and dejected, he is instructed by his mother to worship Lord Vasudeva, telling him how his ancestors had done so and attained great worldly and spiritual gains. He goes to the forest to do penance, determined to attain an exalted status. Narada visits him there and  tells him that he was a mere child, should not feel hurt by the sense of honour or insult, take everything as the result of karma and return home. But Dhruva is not to be fooled, stands firm like a true kshatriya scion. Seeing his resolve, Narada is pleased and instructs him on how to undertake his penance, imparting him the mantra.Says Narada:

Paricharya Bhagavato   yaavatya: purvasevita:
Taa mantrahrudayenaiva prayunjyaan mantramurtaye
Our ancestors have worshipped Bhagavan in various ways.They have shown us different methods.. Following them, you must worship Bhagavan who is mantraswarupi with the mantra I have given you.

Evam kayena manasa vachasa cha manogatam

Paricharyamano  Bhagavan  bhaktimatparichryayaa

Pumsaamamaayinaam samyag bhajataam bhavavardhana:

Sreyo disadyabhimatam uaddharmaadishu dehinaam

Bhagavan  ever resides in the heart. When one worships Him, through body,mind and speech with intense devotion and love, Bhagavan intensifies his devotional spirit. He also grants the wishes of the devotee- dharma, artha, kama, moksha, etc.
Viraktaschendriyaratau bhaktiyogena bhuyasa
Tam nirantara bhavena bhaje taaddha vimuktaye. 4.8.61

f such a one develops detachment from worldly pleasures, and desires to attain Liberation, he should engage in worship with ceaseless Bhakti.

Dhruva undertakes his tapas accordingly . It becomes so intense by the sixth month that the whole world is shaken.
The Lord appears before him and says:

Vedaaham te vyavasitam hrudi rajanyabalak

Tat prayachchami                                  4.9.19

I know what is in your mind. I grant it to you ( though it is not easy to attain).

That is the eternal “Dhruva” state, which will be honoured even by the stars and the seven Rishis . He also grants Dhruva  the kingship in due course, and all the worldly enjoyments, saying that at the end of it all Dhruva will think of Bhagavan and attain Vaikunta from which there is no return.

In two remarkable passages, in the words of Sage Maitreya Bhagavatam records what exactly happened:

Soapi sankalpajan Vishno: 
Paadasevopa  saaditam
Prapya sankalpa nirvanam
Naatipreetobhyagaatpuram.             4.9.27

  Even though getting his desires fulfilled by worshipping the Feet of Bhagavan,  Dhruva did not feel really contented and returned to his city without feeling any sense of exuberant happiness ( which should have been the case, for one who had had darshan of Bhagavan)

Maatu: sapatnya vaagbaanair 

hrudi viddhastu taan smaran
Naichchan muktipater muktim 
Tasmaat taapamupeyivaan.              4.9.29

Dhruva was hurt by the words of his stepmother and was always keeping that in mind. So, even when Bhagavan appeared before him, he did not obtain the boon of Liberation. Now, having obtained Bhagavan’s darshan, the blemishes of his mind have disappeared and so he realised his fault and felt self-pity. 
Dhruva talks to himself:

Samadhina naika yatpadam
Vidu: Sanandaadaya oordhvaretasa:
Maasairaham shatbhir amushya paadayos-
Chaayaamupetyaapagata:pruthangmati:       .4.9.30

 Nitya Brahmachari Yogis like Sananda controlled their senses and due to the tapas performed in many births got to know the Feet of Bhagavan. But I got the shelter of the Lord’s feet in just six months. But my mind led astray by worldly thoughts, I have been shunted a long way off.

Aho padam amaanatmyam
manda bhagyasya pasyata
Bhavachchida: padamoolam
Gatvaayaache yadantavat.                           4.9.31

Oh What a pity! Look at my senselessness, which has caused this misfortune! I  directly got the Feet of Bhagavan which totally removes the bonds of this samsara, but I only desired a status which is after all impermanent!

Mayaitatpraarthitam vyartham chikitseva gataayushi

Prasadya jagadaatmaanam tapasa dushprasadanam
Bhavachchida mayacheaham bhavam bhagyavivarjita:

Whatever I obtained  by pleasing the Lord who cannot be easily pleased by tapas and such means, is totally useless. My effort is useless, like nursing a corpse. Who can be so luckless like me? Bhagavan totally destroys all the bonds of this mundane existence, but I sought the same bonds! Oh, what a pity!

Thus we see that though Dhruva is celebrated and his achievement is not inconsiderable, yet it falls short of the ideal, and he is himself aware of it! That Bhagavan granted him Vaikunta is entirely due to His grace!


 Prahlada’s case is more interesting, and instructive in a different way. It is too well-known to require repetition here. He too gets instructed by Narada, but even before his birth, when he was a fetus in his mother’s womb! (This itself is a remarkable episode.

There Narada reveals that Prahlada was born with ‘divine sampath’ as we learn in the Gita, though in this case  he is the son of an asura!Please see Bhagavatam,7.7.) But the point is: the Lord appears before him and asks him to seek boons Bhagavan says:

Prahlada bhadra bhadram te

preetoham te asurottama

Varan vruneeshvaabhi matam

Kamapooroasmyaham nrunaam.                     7.9.52

Prahlada! You have attained all good things, May you be blessed in all ways. O the scion of the Asuras, I am very pleased to see you. It is My way to grant the wishes of people. Ask Me whatever boons you desire.

Mamapreenata ayushman  darsanam durlabham hi Me

Drushtva Mam na punarjantur atmanam taptum arhati.

O the one who has obtained long life! It is extremely difficult for one who has not pleased Me to have My darsanam. But after having got My darsanam, the jiva should not have any unfulfilled longing.                  7.9.53

Preenanti hyatha Mam dheera:

sarva bhavena saadhava:

Sreyas kama mahabhaga:

Sarvaasaam asishaam patim.                        7.9.54

I am the one to fulfil all desires. So the intelligent devotees who seek their welfare endeavour to please Me by all means.

Here, Narada says:

Evam pralobhyamaanoapi  vararlokabhralopanai:

Ekantitvad bhagavati naichchat tanasurottama:  7.9.55

Boons  tempt even  the great sadhakas. Though Bhagavan told him repeatedly that He would grant all boons, Prahlada, the best among the asuras, being intent on devotion without seeking returns, did not like the boons.

Bhaktiyogasya tat sarvamantaraayatayaarbhaga:

manyamaano Hrusheekesam smayamaana vuvaach ha.


Even though Prahlada was but a child, since he knew that to obtain boons was an obstacle to the path of pure bhakti, he addressed Hrushikesa with a smile:

Prahlada says:

Maa maam pralobhayottyaa

aasaktam kameshu tairvarai:

Tatsanga bheeto nirvinno

mumukshutvaam upasrita:                    7,10.2

O Lord! I am without interest  or attachment  to any worldly pleasure since my birth. Please do not tempt me now with the offer of boons! I have taken refuge with you, in order to get free from all the troubles which arise out of the hosts of worldly desires. I dislike all such desires. They repel my mind.

Bhrutya lakshana jijnasur bhaktam 


Bhavaan samsara bijeshu 

hrudaya grantishu prabho.                   7.10.3

O Prabho! You would like to test me to know whether  I  have got the characteristics of a real bhakta. That is why you are prompting me to ask for boons! Are not the boons desired only for the sake of worldly pleasures? Such desires further tighten the bonds of the heart, and entangle one in the cycle of birth and death.

Nanyatha teakhilaguro ghateta karunatmana:

Yasta aasisha aasaaste  na sa bhrutya:

sa vai vanik.                                     7.10.4

Lord! You are Unequalled. You are the Guru of the entire world. I think you are talking like this only to test me. I can’t think of any other reason. For, you are the embodiment of mercy. ( How then is it fair for you to offer to grant boons, to entangle devotees  further in the bonds of the world?) The one who seeks to fulfil his desires by asking for boons from you, is not your real devotee;no, not at all. He is just a trader, exchanging goods.

(This reminds us of the great words of the Gopis of Vraja that they are the unpaid servants of the Lord- ” asulka daasika:” Gopika Gitam; Bhagavatam 10.31.2)

Aasaasaano na vai bhrutya:

Swamin yaasisha atmana:

Na swami bhrutyata: 

Swamyamichchan yo  raati chasisha:      7.10.5

One who seeks favours from his master is not a true servant. Similarly, one who tries to fulfil his desires just for the sake of getting one’s work done, and to get the status of a master, is not a true master.

Aham tvakamastvad bhaktasvam 

cha swaamyanapasraya:

Naanyathehaava yorartho

Rajasevakayoriva                                   7.10.6

I am your nir-upadika bhakta ( not expecting anything from you). You are a Master who doesn’t want anything from anyone. The relationship between Raja (master) and servant subsists on the basis of some mutual benefit. But the relationship between You and me is not based on any such interest.

Yadi raaseesa me kaamaan 

varaamstvam varadarshabha

Kaamaaaam hrudya samroham 

Bhavatastu vrune varam                               7.10.7

Lord! You are the One who grants boons to even the boon-givers. If You desire that you must grant me some boon, you must only grant me this boon that the seed of desire never sprouts in my mind!

Indriyani mana: prana

Atma dharmo dhritir mati:

Hri sri teja: smriti:

satyam yasya nasyanti janmana                    7.10.8

(I seek this one boon because) Once the seed of desire sprouts in the mind, then the indriyas, manas, prana, body, adherence to dharma, firmness, contentment,buddhi, sense of shame, wealth, peace, memory, adherence to truth- all these will be totally destroyed.

Vimunchati yada kaamaan maanavo  manasi sthitaan

Tarhyeva pundarikaksha  bhagattvaya kalpate.    7.10.9

O the lotus-eyed One! Only when a man  totally removes all traces of desires from his mind, does he become fit to be called your devotee.

Bhagavan confers on Prahlada one boon: that Prahlada may enjoy the pleasures of the Asuras till the end of that kalpa, in order to please Him! But:

Katha madiya jushamaana: priyaastva-

Mavesya mamatmani santamekam

Sarveshu bhuteshvadhi  yajnameesam

Yajasva yogena cha karma hinvan.         7.10.12

Yajnas constitute My body. I reside within all jivas. Think of Me in your heart, without any sense of differentiation. Keep listening to My stories which are dear to you. Worship Me through all the karmas you perform. Offer the fruits of all karmas to Me. Through this, destroy the fruits of karmas yet to be performed.

Bhogena punyam kusalena papam

kalevaram kalajavena hitva

kirtim vishuddham  suraloka gitam

Vidaya Mameshyasi  mukta bandha:       7.10.13

By enjoying the pleasures of the world, destroy the result of your punya karmas. Destroy your sins by performing your karmas without desire or attachment. Shed your body which has resulted from your prarabda karma by the force of Time (Kala. ie the body will go when the time is up).

Thereafter, come and join Me. Your fame will be sung and celebrated  by the residents of Devaloka.

This is a longish quotation. But this section is  of the utmost practical significance for all sincere sadhakas. Many pauranikas relate the story of Dhruva and Prahlada but these slokas are not explained. We must bear them in mind before we see what Tyagaraja has to say on the subject. We may also note here how the secrets of Upasana have been revealed by the Lord Himself.

To be continued   …………………..

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