Sri Tyagaraja- 34, Tyagaraja, the Sadguru (Post No.8164)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8164

Date uploaded in London – – – 13 June 2020   

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Mr R Nanjappa is a learned man. He could write on various subjects with some authority. When he sent us meaningful and informative comments  on  our posts, we requested him to contribute to our blog regularly. He wholeheartedly agreed and bombarded us with scholarly articles. Y0u will see more of his contributions in coming days.

Mr R. Nanjappa has passed BA Economics (with history and political science) in 1962 and passed MA Economics in 1964- both from Madras University.

He joined  a leading Bank in 1965 and voluntarily retired in 1998.

He worked in New Delhi, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Madras, Bangalore and Hyderabad offices in his career.

He is very much interested in literature, comparative religion and philosophy, sustainable or steady state economics, education and of course in music. In music his main interest is in Sahitya.

Over the years he has thoroughly studied the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, the Complete Works of Vivekananda, complete works of Sri Aurobindo, literature relating to Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana.

He has also read all the available works of Dr. Radhakrishnan.

He has read a fair selection of English poets, Shakespeare and Plato.

He has also read old Tamil literature but discursively.

In Management science, his favourite author is Peter Drucker.

He had studied the works of Arunagirinatha, and the Tevaram of the three and Tiruvachakam, and Kamba Ramayanam

Sanskrit classics and Gita are his favourites.

His favourite English novelists are Dickens and Hardy and of modern writers he likes only A.J.Cronin and Nevil Shute..

He is a collector of books!.

For the last twenty years, he along with his family is residing in Bangalore. and  thank him for his contribution.



Constant divine Consciousness

Sri Tyagaraja was in constant communion with his Ishtadevata, who is also the Paramatma, the Parama Purusha through all means prescribed in the scriptures- japa, puja, dhyana, kirtana, sravana, manana,etc. He experienced His presence in various ways, and in many moods., through all the faculties: tan, man ,vak.  Though the bliss he enjoyed is incommunicable in  words, and has to be felt by the aspirant -devotee by personal experience ( swanubhava vedhyame), yet he conveys   it  in His kritis. This is the greatness of great souls- they share their fortune with us.

Is Tyagaraja Sadguru?

How does Tyagaraja become the Sadguru?

Tyagaraja shows a clear, straight, uncomplicated path to Truth or Sat, which can be followed by any sincere aspirant in any or all situations, in the conditions of modern life.. There is no mystery or hidden element here. It is the open highway- the Kingsway- Rajamargam! It is the path of pure devotion to our chosen Deity. 

Hinduism is like the modern multiplex Mall or departmental store. It contains everything. There are many levels.  This variety and profusion of contents may itself be baffling! Many things are attractive and tempting. They are packaged and presented well. We may want or desire many of them. But do we need them all?

This is where a guide or mentor or senior may help us. Why have we entered the store? What do we need? What can we afford?

It is the job of the Guru to clarify matters. The Sadguru is like the specialist doctor. He is there not to please us, by saying the pleasant things, but for doing what is necessary to save us, cure us of our illness.

Tyagarja has diagnosed our illness: we are immersed in Samsara, the dark unfathomed ocean, the thick forest. This is the result of our own past karma.The ocean is deep,  the forest is dark. But we have a boat to cross the ocean, we have a light to show us the way. The light is bhakti-devotion, the boat is the divine name. The Sadguru is the boatman.

The Sadguru is not only a verbal teacher- he communicates a subtle power, conveys a ray of supreme consciousness.The Sadguru is the concentrated essence of an entire tradition- giving us what is relevant for the times, what is suitable for us, what works here and now.

Distilled Wisdom

Hinduism abounds in scriptures, abounds in methods of Sadhana. But the scriptures were written at various times, by persons at different stages of realisation, and meant for people of  different temperaments. It is like a huge drug store. We cannot simply enter it and take what appeals to us- like the old Wincarnis or Ferradol tonic bottles. All the Sadhanas found in the scriptures are not meant for everyone. It is the function of the Guru to tell us what the individual needs. It is the function of the Sadguru to tell us what suits an age – what works  under the given/emerging circumstances.

Tyagaraja as the Sadguru has distilled the wisdom of ageless Hinduism and offers us what works in this part of the Kali Age.

Prescribes What Works

All the traditional methods of Sadhana can be grouped under the three or four broad heads of Yoga: Karma, Jnana/Raja, Bhakti. There is endless variety under each.But at the present state of the Kali Age, most of them do not work- they cannot be practised- the conditions are not propitious. Worship of Murtis at temples is one of the standard expressions of Bhakti. But are our temples so good now ? Are they even physically clean? Are the rituals performed scrupulously to maintain the sanctity of the place? Are the materials used pure? Above all, our temples are controlled by a secular government, whose only intention is to make money. Can we do anything to alter or improve matters? 

But we can keep our hearts pure and clean, and make it the altar for the Deity we adore. This is a very personal expression of devotion. This is what Tyagaraja prescribes. Unless one realises Atmarama, he cannot find Ayodhya Rama!

Tyagaraja Upholds Tradition

Tyagaraja does not contradict our hoary tradition in any way. He has drawn from each main strand or element. 

– He teaches us the ultimate Truth, effortlessly..  The Truth is that God alone is Real, ie Eternal, Permanent ;all else is transient phenomena.Thus his kritis are like Brahmavidya.

– He takes us near this Truth, by subtle teachings along the way, leading us by the hand, step by step. In this, his Kritis are like the Upanishads.

– He teaches us the definite method to reach the goal- total devotion and surrender to our Ishta Devata , by all that we do through our body, mind and speech. Thus this is the supreme Yoga Shastra that he imparts.

In other words, the Kritis of Tyagaraja are  a restatement of the Gita!

In this, he has combined the teachings of our Veda-Upanishads, the Itihasas, the Puranas. He particularly resorts to Ramayana and Bhagavatam repeatedly. 

 We notice this characteristic in the talks of Sri Ramakrishna ,half a century later. In fact,  Tyagaraja   anticipates Sri Ramakrishna completely.

If we study the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishana, , we will find that  he said in his talks all that Sri Tyagaraja sang in his Kritis!  For both, the practical path to Liberation in this Kali Age is the Royal path of Devotion, as shown by Sri Narada! The way of Vedic karma was not relevant or effective for this age, though it still had elements that could be followed. For them the primary base for practical religion and spirituual practice  is the Itihasa-Purana.

Thus Sri Tyagaraja is the Forerunner of Sri Ramakrishna.

[ Sri Aurobindo has shown how every facet of Indian religion, including the Itihasa-Purana, Avatara vada, the bhakti cult has its  origin and source in the Veda.]

Test the Guru!

How can we identify a Sadguru? How can we know whether he is our Guru?

We have to test him, we have to examine his life, not merely his words. Sri Ramakrishana used to say that one should test the guru ,by day and by night, as the jewellers test the coins. So testing, we find that Tyagaraja did not teach anything which he himself did not practise. At all times there was complete concordance between his thoughts , words and action. 

How do we know whether he is our Guru?

There are two tests.

One is whether we derive Shanti by following his teaching. Does it give peace of mind? Does it enable us to face life’s problems?  Sri Ramana Maharshi used to say that he is our Guru in whose presence we feel Shanti. Sri Arunagirinatha says: மனது துயரற, வினைகள் சிதறிட, மனது பதமுற = the teaching should remove or mitigate our mental anguish, enable us to deal with our karmic situation, and so mould our mental frame  that we are reconciled to life. Apply this rule to Tyagraja’s teachings and see how they fare.

Second, does invoking his Grace help us in times of need, when we face difficulties? Most of us visit temples or holy men when we are particularly vexed by a problem, and desperately need a solution. A true Saint or Sage does help us. “Saints will aid if men will call, for the blue sky bends over all” sang Coleridge. A genuine saint is connected to the power of the Cosmos, and that power flows through him, even unconsciously. Fire cannot help burn; a true Saint cannot help helping! Sri Ramana Maharshi called it “Automatic Divine Activity”. True Saints/Sadguru is a channel for such power and blessing.

Contemporaries may not know!

We do not know how his contemporaries looked at Tyagaraja. That he was a devotee was recognised; that he was a musician was well known. But was he known as a Saint or a Guru?

This question does not really concern us. It is said that only twelve Rishis knew that Rama was an avatar in his time. Krishna says in the Gita that people take him to be a mere mortal and ridicule him. So it is no wonder if people of the time did not recognise Tyagaraja as guru. Even today, most people view Tyagaraja as a musical master.. 

But we have his whole life before us- revealed to us through his kritis. If we are not distracted by the admirable musical mode in which they are conveyed , but look at the message they contain, we cannot but marvel at the way they reflect the whole Hindu spiritual heritage down the ages .

Krishna did such a synthesis five thousand years ago: summarised the whole Vedic tradition and conveyed the message relevant for the times, in a non-partisan way! He said surrender to Bhagavan completely unreservedly by all means- He will save you! This is the same message conveyed by Tyagaraja in his kritis , five thousand years later. Both Gita and Tyagaraja kritis are not philosophical treatises but practical spiritual manuals. If this is clearly understood, there can be no doubt that Tyagaraja is a Guru and Sadguru of our times. Has anyone turned to Tyagaraja in distress, with faith and failed to find relief?

Tyagaraja-for musicians and non-musicians

Those who are musically gifted, can sing his kritis and soak themselves in their musical essence, and the  rasa.. Those who cannot sing can study the kritis as sacred literature and soak themselves in their  religious spread and spiritual depth. They can enjoy how effortlessly he connects us to our great past and the pastimes of Rama and Krishna and the galaxy of our great spiritual luminaries!  In both cases it is amrut!

Sri Tyagaraja was not a mere musical phenomenon. He is not wholly for the musicians. Sri Tyagaraja is a spiritual light for the modern age, the most complete and non-partisan statement of practical Hindu wisdom for all earnest spiritual seekers, cutting across sectarian divisions and prejudices, bridging theological differences and philosophical divides. Sri Tyagaraja is the complete Sadguru for all spiritual aspirants in these confusing times, coming in the parampara of Narada and Vyasa, who merge the three hoary Hindu traditions of holy music, (Nada vidya) Adhyatmic wisdom  (Veda vidya) and devotion distilled into the Divine Name ( Nama vidya)!

Tyagaraja’s music is but the medium- his message is devotion as the basic discipline of a truly spiritual life. We should not obscure the message in the medium! Tyagaraja himself sang:

Sangita jnanamu bhakti vina

Sanmargamu galade. manasa

Bhringi natesa samiraj ghataja

matanga naradalu upaasinche

Nyaya anyamu delusunu jagamulu

mayamayamane delusunu durguna

kayajati sahtripula jayinche

karyamu delusu tyakarajanike

Knowledge of Sangita bereft of devotion is valueless and cannot secure salvation.

The music practised by bhaktas like Bhringi, Natesa, Anjaneya, Agastya, Matanga and Narada

can alone secure it.

Tyagaraja who is able to distinguish between Nyaya and Anyaya, who knows that the world is Maya and who knows

also how to conquer the six inward enemies of man, Kama etc, knows this matter well.

[Translation by C.Ramanujachari]

Let us not forget the message in our love of the medium!

Vande Guru Paramparam!

Vande Sadgurum Sri Tyagarajam!

Nee Nama Rupa mulaku Nitya Jaya Mangalam

Om Tat Sat.



By the grace of God, and the blessings of Sadguru Sri Tyagaraja, I had this great pleasure and fortune of sharing some thoughts on some Tyagaraja kritis and the light they throw on Tyagaraja as the Sadguru. I am not a scholar or musician.

Sri Tyagaraja is considered a composer, the foremost among the Carnatic Trinity. I always felt that Tyagaraja’s musical expression  was the result of his spiritual experience and accomplishments. I kept studying his kritis as literature and found them to be the essence of our Vedanta, Itihasa, Puranas. The kritis are very deep in import and have extensive allusions to our scriptures. Not being a scholar or musician, I cannot do justice to either aspect.  I have shared some ideas in his kritis that have given me both  light and delight. I am happy to have been able to share them , in the thought that it may inspire others. Surely, there are other aspects of his Kritis which need exploring.

Tyagaraja is certainly a musical genius, but he is not primarily a musician, though this view may sound unusual. Tyagaraja was commissioned by God to show the confused people of the Kali Age, at a particularly difficult phase, the  path of bhakti as the sure way to Liberation. He did this by the way he lived. He used his music as the means to convey this message, as a doctor gives sweetened medicines to fearful children. As he himself declares, his kritis, taught by Rama Himself, remove the fear of samsara- the greatest fear we have- Mahato bhayat, as the Gita describes it. For is not Rama Nama the Taraka Mantra?   

  The ant is not the elephant, obviously, but it too can carry a mouthful of sugar- its own mouth! It may be but a tiny bit by world’s standards, but it is the best it can deliver! ! I hope you enjoyed the bits here! 

In the early 70s, I listened to Sri T.S.Balakrishna Sastrigal  in Ahmedabad on the life and music of Tyagaraja ; I also attended some lectures of T.S.Parthasarathy, B.Madhavan and Dr.Krishnaswamy, all ardent devotees and scholars of Tyagaraja, in Madras in the late 80s. I was also fortunate to listen to one lecture by Sri Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana at Music Academy in 1987 or 88, on how the pancharatna kriti ‘Jagadanandakaraka’ contains 108 names of Rama!I have had the benefit of reading the books of Prof.P. Sambamoorthy, S.Y.Krishnaswamy, Rangaramanuja Iyengar,  Dr.V.Raghavan, and William J.Jackson. I gratefully acknowledge the light I have derived from them all. Any faults here are entirely mine.


Managalam Subha Managalam

tags — Sri Tyagaraja- 34, R Nanjappa profile


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1 Comment

  1. Santhanam Nagarajan

     /  June 13, 2020

    super work.
    very informative and interesting too.

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