Kuvalai Krishnamachari: “Kannan – My Disciple”

 

“Indian devotion has especially seized upon the most intimate human relations and made them stepping stones to realize the superhuman.”[1]

 

The realization of the self came to Bharati through his many relationships. Kannan Songs, the most mature of Bharati’s philosophical poems resulted from these experiences: in the master and the disciple, patron as well as servant, friend, guru, mother and father, child, lover and the beloved Bharati visualized the Lord’s manifestation – and sings of these exceptional experiences.

Bharati’s friends were all various kinds of men attracted to Bharati and loved him. They all respected him, believed in what he said and did, followed his principles and ideas.

Basically Bharati’s friends and disciples were of two kinds: one, who would follow him without question, and the other, would like to irritate him at times, even hit by him and enjoy him. Kuvalai Kannan belonged to the second category.

“There were about thirty five disciples, young and courageous, would normally be around Bharati,” says Chellamma – boys like Sankara Krishnan, Balu, Thothatri, Harihara Sharma – each one was quite a character and behaved in a strange way. Both Thothatri and Kuvalai Kannan were about the same type. They both would test Bharati’ patience.

Chellamma reminisces in her biography that Kannan was completely different from others and just the opposite of Bharati.

“In the early mornings, at about 3o’clock, Kannan would start memorizing Panchali Sabatham or one of Bharati’s songs in the nondi chindu mettu. He would sing it in a loud, coarse voice. Kannan would come to her house most of the days at lunch time and eat, and she would hardly have much to eat herself.”

 

Bharati’s realization of the self starts from the beginning of his relationship with (Kuvalai) Kannan, his disciple.

 

The beautiful experience with Kannan unfolds as follows:

“Lord Krishna who was myself – other than myself – something other than both – came to me and became my disciple,” Bharati describes this mysterious experience.

 

“Kannan would behave as though he is less intelligent than myself – as though he would obsequiously seek my help for betterment of himself – he would admire my poetry.

“In fact, he would make me feel like a superior person:

– I, who has not conquered my mind, but wanted to conquer the world,

– who has not burnt my ego, but wanted to make others demolish their ego,

– who has no clarity of mind or never found joy in my heart, wanted to      change the sorrows of the world and make them happy,

– would make me swell with pride.

For making this mistake, the Lord has decided to come to punish me!

“I started to teach him dharma enthusiastically: Don’t do this – don’t talk like this – don’t learn this – don’t mingle with such people; read these books, do have these relationships, do like these things – I toiled incessantly with him, giving my life and energy.

“Kannan, strange as he was, behaved irresponsibly and just did the opposite of what I preached. He would just do exactly what other people disliked. He was behaving in a mad-manner, whereas I wanted to enlighten him.

“I was distressed to see Kannan’s attitude, and started to correct him in many ways: I would admonish, rebuke, tease, scold, laugh at him – and said angry words like fire. As a result, Kannan became like a monkey, a bear, and a ghost with horns (pisasu) and stood far away from me – somewhere.

“I, hurt with ego and pride, decided to see to it that somehow, I must straighten him out. One day, I called him up and said,

“Oh, my son, you have enormous of love towards me. I would ask you to do something for me. I will be happy if you associate with people (like me) who have a liking in shastras, interest in higher things and an understanding of poetry. All human actions are determined by his association with others. I ask you to be with me for a few days. I know that an intelligent person like you, would like to be with me. I ask you to be my patron for my benefit, and please be with me for my support.”

         He said “alright, but how can I be with you here without doing anything? If you show me something to do, I will just do that.”

Considering his character and talent I said, “please do write a copy of all my poetry in a clean sheet of paper everyday.”

“Fine,” he said, and stayed there for some time. Then he said, “I shall go.”

I brought a part of an old story of mine and said, “write a nice copy of this.” He took it in his hand, as though he was going to do that, but stayed there only for a moment. He said again, “I shall go.”

Anger rising up in my heart like a fire, I said, “why, you didn’t keep your word? It is not a mistake that people called you a crazy-man”.

“I shall come tomorrow and do the work.”

“Are you going to do the work now or not?”

“No, he said, before blinking his eyes.

“Don’t see my face or never come to me again; just go away,” I thundered.

Kannan got up and started to go.

With tears gathering in my eyes, my sorrow disappearing, with peace in mind, I said: “Oh, my son, go, let devas (gods) save you! I did certain things in order to enlighten you; all my schemes were demolished. Oh, I am DEFEATED. Do not come back again! Long live you!”

Kannan left, and returned in a moment; he brought a pen from somewhere and wrote my script.

“Sire (Iya in Tamil). I shall follow and do everything that you have advised; you will have no trouble with me from now on,” he laughed and disappeared!

Next moment he became visible in my mind and spoke: “Oh, my son! To create, change, or destroy is NOT your job. When you said that you were DEFEATED, you WON! Whatever you want to achieve in your life, do them without desire or eagerness with impatience. Long live you! (Vazhga)!”                

 

[1] Bharati’s English Writimgs: Andal, the Vaishnava Poetess

Bharati, the “Romantic /Mystic”

 “Moonru Kaadal”

I have always been fascinated by my grandfather’s poem “Moonru Kaadal” (“The Three Loves”)   – from a young age, even before I started reading Bharati for my PhD at Annamalai University in Chidambaram.

My admiration of the poem originated from listening to my mother singing this song beautifully, in her melodious voice, exactly the way that her father had sung it and taught it to her. Bharati himself composed the music for the song: three ragas for the three parts of the poem – the first part, his love for Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge in raga Saraswati Manohari, the second, his love for Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth in Sriragam, and the third, his love for Kaali in Punnagavarali. Clearly, he set the first two ragas bearing the names of the Goddesses with a specific purpose in mind.  Punnagavarali, the last one, was quite exceptional, bringing in the depth of his unusual experience with Kaali. When my mother sang, as a young, musically inclined person, I would be melting to hear her singing with great intensity of emotion and wonderment in her voice.

I simply couldn’t explain what it was that attracted me to this poem. I didn’t have enough life experience or experience reading poetry to understand. Even later, after I had read and studied Bharati, I still couldn’t understand the magical hold of the poem on me. I was unable to sort out the emotions I felt or understand what the poem conveyed.

The poem is autobiographical; it elucidates how Bharati’s personality developed at various stages in his life. As a young boy, he fell in love with Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge; as he grew older he developed a passionate love for Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. He was absorbed totally with his first love – thinking and dreaming about her all day and all night – until he was twenty-two, an age that could be full of imagination and dreams of a special kind. At this stage, he again fell in love with another beautiful maiden called Lakshmi; he was fascinated by the beauty and richness of the wealth around him.

The poem starts with the phrase “at a young age” (pillai pirayatile). This reminds me of an anecdote that my mother wrote in her book “Pillai Pirayatile” (Thangammal Bharati Padaippugal), about her experiences with her father at a young age. She narrates:

“A friend who came to visit Bharati casually asked him, “What would be your age?”

Bharati replied, “I am five years old.”

The friend was shocked, but somehow collected himself and asked, “Are you forty -five or so?”

Bharati repeated that he was “five years old.”

The friend’s face expressed surprise. At that time, Chellamma was passing by; Bharati pointed to her and said, “I am five years old; and she is two and a half years old.”

The friend decided to change his line of inquiry. He asked, “What do you think my age would be?”

Without hesitation Bharati replied, “You would be seventy-five years old.”

The friend was under thirty years old, and he was annoyed to hear Bharati’s assessment.

But, finally, Bharati explained: “Dear brother, don’t be annoyed. At the age of twenty=two, you are wearing heavy, thick glasses – one for reading, and one for normal seeing; your back refuses to sit without leaning on a support; your legs are unsteady when you walk.  With all these debilities, one would think that you are seventy- five.”

The friend was ashamed. After a while, he said, “You are right. I have been noticing that you move around happily like a five year old; your wife is running around to serve you. I am so amazed to see you both. I will also try to be like a child.”

Bharati laughed and said, “You must understand that when I said one should be like a child, I didn’t mean that you should drink mother’s milk or cry like a child. What I meant was that you should develop the heart of a child – a mind that is uncluttered and happy, and rid of all the debris associated with adulthood.”

Thangammal concluded by saying that she understood what her father meant: one would have to have determination and practice in order to maintain a young mind. She could never forget the days that she spent with her father; those were the best days of her life.

As a young boy, Bharati played joyfully in the streets of Ettayapuram, in spite of his father’s “order” that he should pay attention to his school work. Indeed, in his autobiography, “Kanavu” (“Dream”), Bharati laments that he could not enjoy childhood as much as he would have liked to; while the other boys were running around in the streets, swimming in the river and pools, and climbing  the trees,  he was unable to participate in their activities. His father insisted that he should not “waste” his time with the other boys.

But soon, Bharati realized that something was happening to him: a sudden awakening of the youth blossoming within him, he found himself in love with a beautiful maiden. The experience was totally new, unique, captivating, and wonderful for him!

The maiden was none other than Saraswati herself – she who sits on the white lotus flower with a veena in her hands – the Goddess Herself, whose face emanates wisdom.

“She stood at the corner of the street holding yedu[1] in her hands and reading a verse. When I eagerly approached her, she spoke words of wisdom and made me happy. When I said, “Let us make love,” she disappeared with a smile flashing at the corner of her eyes.

“While I was sitting on the steps of the manadapam by the river enjoying the Southern breeze, she brought me a poem. With my heart overflowing with joy, I accepted it and asked her to marry me; with a smile on her lips, she disappeared yet again.”

An unquenchable desire burning in his soul, the poet became dysfunctional –  thinking about her all day, and dreaming about her all night.

At the age of twenty-two, the poet encountered another experience similar to the one that he had had before:

“A beautiful damsel came and stood in front of me in the garden; looking at her luminous face, I lost myself entirely. She said that her name was Chentiru; since then, I have been haunted with the desire to embrace her to my heart’s content.

“She smiled at me, and the whole day became bright and happy.

As she stood before me and looked at me, I felt dizzy with intoxication. And, for some reason, she would find fault with me, ignore and leave me; my heart would be broken into pieces.

“She would reappear in forest ways, in mountains, and in waterfalls; in the countryside, in towns with bright buildings.

She would be seen in hunters, heroes and kings.

And I would be the happiest to see her in all things that are beautiful around me.”

In these two experiences, the poet encountered what was “romantic” in the true sense of the word. They were “new, unique, captivating and wonderful” –  the divine descended to earth to participate in the poet’s life, and to fulfill the aspirations of his heart and mind. The deities who would normally be on a pedestal to be worshipped by men became the beloveds of the poet who enriched his life, enabling him to perceive the Truth and Beauty of creation before his very eyes.

Bharati’s unusual experiences with the deities appear to me to be “romantic,” in the true sense of the term. As such, they may be compared with the experiences of the “Romantic” poets of the West. The lyrical ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge, the poems of Shelley and Keats, expressed a new perspective on life and Nature which stood distinct from earlier classics. They portrayed an idealistic view of nature and the workings of the human heart, overflowing with spontaneity, great power, and inspiration. Visionary experiences of love, too, appear in the poems of the Romantics,  though in a different cultural context.

Romanticism was an idealistic movement; and one of the fundamental ideals that it represented was the importance of human individuality.  The foundation of Romanticism is the true development of the individual nature, which depends on the thinking, culture, country, and forms of artistic expression available to any given individual. The expression of the Romantic spirit varied greatly among individual poets. For example, the Romantic experience of Wordsworth was different from that of Shelley or Keats, while still sharing some essential commonalities of spirit. Wordsworth’s poetry depicted a romantic vision of Nature; the “free spirit” was predominant in Shelley’s poetry, while Keats was exquisitely devoted to Beauty and (for him, the same thing) Truth.

In Bharati’s case, his genius longed passionately for freedom – freedom of the human spirit and everything needed for its glorious fulfilment, of life and of creation. He called himself “Shelley-Dasan” (his pen name) to express his admiration for Shelley; at the same time, like Keats, he also pursued Truth and Beauty as ideals of creation. Bharati was a true Romantic in the sense that he introduced the perfume of Romanticism into the age-long Tamil tradition, and was followed in this path by a new generation of artists and poets inspired by him. His ultimate goal was to build an ideal society, a place where equality and freedom could exist in all aspects of life.

He was a revolutionary, in the true sense of the word. His perception of the world and creation was based on love – an advaitic principle – and freedom of the spirit – whether that meant national freedom, philosophical ideals, or social issues such as womens’ freedom, caste, religious differences, language, arts, and literature.

In nationalism, for example, his vision of India as the Bharata-land virtually amounted to a divinely revealed vision. Bharata-Shakti was the Goddess Parvati Herself, the daughter of Himavan, the wife of Shiva, and the sister of Mahavishnu. Yet, his vision was new – the Shakti that he saw had thirty crores of faces animated with one “life”– she had sixty crores of arms with which she performed dharmas (arangal nadathuval) – she spoke eighteen languages with one common ideal – and she displayed the contrasting characteristics of Parvati and Kali – loving and compassionate on the one hand, and inexorably destructive of evil on the other.

Romantic love, a focus of both individuality and idealism, has a special place in the spirit of Romanticism.

Looking at Bharati from this point of view, Romanticism, as expressed in his poetry, differs greatly from the age-long Tamil tradition.

The Sangam poets (600 BCE to 300 CE) divided life into two basic themes – love and heroism (agam and puram). These two concepts were split into many divisions, according to the varied landscapes and life-styles of the people. They wrote about love and heroism in the minutest detail, representing their attitudes towards these ideals, and how they perceived human experience. All Sangam poetry was “Classic,” in the sense that it was written under specific constraints regarding form, content, imagination, ideas, and even emotions.

The Alwars, the Vaishnava Saint-poets of the 6th to 9th centuries AD, come next in the history of Tamil literature. For the Alwars, the pursuit of God through the most intense emotional commitment was the goal. The Alwars “pursued, embraced, sang with . . . exultant passion of [the] intimate realization” of God, the Lover. “It would seem as if this passionate human symbol were the natural culminating point for the mounting flame of the soul’s devotion.” The poetry of Nammalwar and Andal, the modern poetry of Rabindranath Tagore (Gitanjali), and the 14th century love songs of Mira Bai express this devotion, “sung out by the rapt heart of a woman to the heart of the universe.”

The depth of love and devotion of the human soul longing to become one with the Great Soul, is expressed in the legends of the Gopikas as depicted in Bhagavatam. The expression seems “Romantic.” But in the context of Indian tradition, this “love” may be classified as bhakti, devotion, rather than “romantic.” In perceiving and approaching God, it is never entirely possible to transcend the distance between the human and the divine. The Alwars’ relationship with God – their admiration, devotion and wonderment at God’s qualities (gunas) – experienced by them from the angle of the beloved – is simply not as close as it would be in a romantic experience.

Bharati’s approach is quite different from the Alwars’. His experiences with the Goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi  in “Moonru Kaadal” – and, indeed, his approach to Krishna as the Lover and the Beloved in his Kannan-Love Songs – are the most intimate and close imaginable. The Poet’s love affairs with Saraswati and Lakshmi are “aesthetic,” “imaginative,” “emotional,” and “visionary.” The prevailing sense of “wonder” and “mystery” in the heart of the poet was typically Romantic.

But, to return to Bharati’s poem, the third experience that the poet encountered, and described in “Moonru Kaadhal,” was quite different from his  previous experiences with Saraswati and Lakshmi.

One night, a “Black Beauty” appeared before the poet. Intoxicated by the very idea that this was another young woman like the other two, the poet approached her with great excitement.

But, ah! The Poet was in for a surprise. This “Black Beauty” was not a maiden as he had imagined; she was someone else altogether. She was the Mother of the universe, Adi Parashakti Devi – who permeates Nature (prakriti) and moves the world around day and night with her finger!

At this juncture, I have to say that words don’t come to me easily to describe the Poet’s experience. This is far from my imagination, my reach, or my intellectual capacity. But … I will try…

It is clear, at least, that this experience of Bharati’s was a “mystical” experience, and far beyond the range of normal human experience. This experience could not have been attained by imagination, intellect or any other inner faculties of the human soul. It was simply given – received as a direct communication from above. It was deeply religious, and so intimate that it could not be sorted out or explained in words.

A mystical experience such as this does not ordinarily happen to any human being. First of all, the person would have to be deserving, and would have to be ready, equipped, and mature, in order to discern the vision. Just as Lord Krishna chose Arjuna to reveal his Visvarupa (the infinitesimal aspects of the Great Soul) – the poet was chosen to have the dharsan of Mahashakti.

This vision of Shakti and Her benevolence would enrich the human soul with wisdom. The Poet’s mind would be clear; he would be able to capture the whole world in his hands; all good things and the treasures of the world would come to him without asking, as a matter of course!

If the first two experiences described in Bharati’s poem could be called “Romantic,” this last one surely deserves to be described as “Mystical.” And here, Bharati resembles the mystic poets and devotees of the West – William Blake, who saw the soul of his dead brother “ascend heavenward clapping its hands for joy” – Henry Vaughan, who speaks of the “deep but dazzling darkness” in God. But Bharati is something very special – a Poet who combines the Romantic and Mystical into a single poetic vision. As such, he is an expansion of the marvelous Indian culture that preceded him – a brilliant synthesis of historical currents into a single mighty channel.


[1] A thick leaf from the palm tree, dried and cut-out, which was used to write on with a sharp tip, centuries ago.

“Andal, the Vaishnava Poetess” – Essay from Bharati’s English Writings

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Arya Dharsanam

“Oh, what a dream!

The dream happened in my conscious state,

when my eyes were wide awake”

Despite Bharati’s renown as a poet, his involvement in Hindu philosophical studies remains little known.  His poetry is deeply rooted in Hinduism and in its philosophical principles.  He studied the Vedas and undertook painstaking research to explore these sources of Indian thought.  He not only studied the Hindu scriptures, but he also read the scriptures of other religions, such as the Bible and the Koran.  In fact, his philosophical and spiritual research was among the most significant influences on the development of his poetic personality.

The significance of the word Arya is generally misunderstood and interpreted in the context of Bharati’s writings. An unbiased and objective look at Bharati’s writings, to explore where and how he uses the term Arya, clearly shows the poet’s scholarship in the Sanskrit language, his wide reading of both Tamil and Sanskrit literatures, and his understanding of history and culture.  The word occurs in so many expressions, and is so richly endowed with myriads of  meanings, that it may have to be understood according to its particular context. To Bharati, the meaning that the word Arya conveys is “highly esteemed, respectable, honourable and noble,” whether it is of a nation, or man.  He definitely does not mean Brahmana, probably one of the original races which immigrated to the Tamil land, from the North.

Arya dharsanam, the poem that is available at this link, occurred in what the poet calls his “conscious” dream.  In normal dream, when the dreamer is asleep and in an “unconscious” state, the sub-conscious mind enters into diverse realms of experience and imagination, and interprets them in any which way it pleases, bringing various things and sights into contact, relating the most unrelated objects, and creating a “story” of its own.  The human mind, in its conscious state, is unable to grasp the inner meaning of these stories.  Even the study of the mind’s workings can hardly decipher these stories, or provide explanations for the occurrence of the dreams.

A poet’s “conscious” dream is, perhaps, the poet’s “vision,” where the poet’s eyes and all his inner faculties are “wide open,” and he willingly, purposefully brings the story of his imagination to mind.  It may not be possible to explain what exactly a poet’s “vision” is.  But I am conjecturing, in this case, that the preoccupations of  the poet’s mind rose to the surface of consciousness, and created a “screen” of vision in which he could see a wonderful “drama” taking place. As Bharati describes in his poem, characters who play in this “drama” of consciousness are the leaders of two great religions, the Buddha and Krishna, and a heroic warrior, Arjuna.  It took place under a banyan tree, and on the plains of a field of battle.

As this drama unfolded, Bharati was found himself in the midst of a forest where there was a golden little hill surrounded by little pools (sunai) and a pond.  The light of the round moon was shining in the sky.  On the hill, there was a banyan tree (aala maram), under which, the Buddha was seated.  His face was shining with wisdom, emitting brilliant light and illuminating all around him.

And, what a wonder! The Buddha’s light disappeared and a sudden darkness extended over the place!

On the top of the hill, there was a battlefield, the kurukshetra in which there was a chariot and horses.  Bharati was wonderstruck to see a magnificent person who was seated in the front of the chariot.  The charioteer was magnificent – beautiful as the love-God Kaman (Manmadan), blue in colour, his eyes overflowing with benevolence, in valour like Bhima (one of the Pandava brothers), holding a discus (tihiri) in his hand which would rouse fear in the hearts of evildoers.  He realised then that he looked upon Kannan, Lord Krishna, the mountain of wisdom (gnana malai).

The battlefield was crowded with horses, elephants and chariots, in the midst of which stood Arjuna in front of Krishna, with distressed heart.  What a figure! It was surprising to Bharati that he appeared to be fatigued! The great warrior, the hero of Mahabharata

Bharati listened to the conversation between the two warriors:

Arjuna, his heart burdened with distress, said to Krishna: “I do not want success in this war; even if I die, I will not touch the Kauravas.  Would I kill my own relatives? What would be the sovereignty of the kingdom to me after losing all my relatives?”

A smile appeared in the beautiful face of Lord Krishna.  He said: “Do not talk like “ignorant” men who blabber the truths of wisdom.  Do not lose your vitality like a wilted flower.  Take your Gandipam (bow and arrow) and destroy the Kauravas, the crowd of evildoers.”

At this juncture, “the first and foremost scripture in the gnana shastras,” originated; “the highest literature in the line of the kavyas” was created.

Bharati translated the Bhagavat Gita into Tamil and wrote a detailed introduction to it.

Mahatma Gandhi gave his blessings to Bharati’s translation, as he felt that the Gita was essential reading for each and every Tamilian (click here to view).  The former Governor-General of India, Sri C. Rajagopalachari, wrote an introduction to a collection of Bharati’s prose works, which included his “Introduction to the Bhagavat Gita”  (Bharati Prachuralayam, 1940) (click here to view).  Bharati’s translation may be considered the best that has ever been made into Tamil. Its language and style is unique and in a few places, it is poetic and original.

Bharati was impressed by the Bhagavat Gita for many reasons:

First of all, the Bhagavat Gita  was written to explain the principles of the Vedas, and, as such, it was what Bharati understood as the “culmination” of the Vedas.  For this reason, it becomes the gnana shastra, leading man to immortality.

Bharati studied the Vedas with Sri Aurobindo, a nationalist who ultimately became a seer and philosopher, who was Bharati’s great and esteemed friend in Pondicherry. Both men were learned scholars in the Sanskrit language, and were capable of deciphering the more than two and a half millennia-old Hindu scriptures. They undertook research on the vedas and wrote in detail about their findings.

Secondly, Bharati was fascinated by the dramatic opening of the battle of Kurukshetra, where Lord Krishna, driving a chariot in the midst of the feuding Pandava and Kaurava clans, taught Arjuna the essence of the Vedas. Bharati’s philosopy is based on the principles of the Vedas, and the Bhagavat Gita explains this in a dramatic context.  This drama introduces two great personalities – the great soul Krishna, the incarnation of Mahavishnu, and a human being, Arjuna, an embodiment of Indian culture. Krishna is paramatma, and Arjuna, the kshatriya king, is jivatma; Duryodanas are impious, evil spirits, (kama krodhas) that are the root cause of ignorance, sorrows, worries, doubts, laziness, and forgetfulness.

As a poet, Bharati enjoys the mantras of the Vedic sages and calls them “the poetry of the Vedic rishis” (vedarishikalin kavithai).  These mantras from the Rig Veda describe the constant battle of the devas (immortals) with the asuras (demons). Bharati’s poetry in Tamil (Agni Sthomam) which describes Agni and the sacrifice (yaga/velvi) that the rishis perform at the altar, is a dramatic masterpiece.The sacrificial fire in which the sages pour ghee roars towards the sky, and drives the asuras, the evil spirits, to far away forests – as Milton’s Satan and his allies burn unforgettably in hellfire.  The never-ending battle of the devas and asuras is an allegory of the human spirit struggling to fight against evil – sorrows, worries, fear, and ignorance.

Thirdly, the  Bhagavat Gita is one of the three treasures of Hindu dharma – the other two being the Upanishads, and the Vedanta sutras. Sankara, Ramanujacharya, and Madvacharya  who established three religions, wrote interpretations of the Bhagavat Gita, and established the place of the scripture as one of the foundations of the Hindu religion.  Bharati was impressed that the great religious leaders proclaimed the Bhagavat Gita a foundation of the Hindu religion.

Fourthly, Bhagavat Gita is one of the treasures of Indian thought and represents thousands of years of culture – a culture of great aspirations and spirituality.

Finally, and most importantly, the Bhagavat Gita preaches the goal of Immortality, which was also Bharati’s goal, and, indeed, his religion.

Bharati’s poem, “Arya Dharsanam,” touches the essence of the Bhagavat Gita, simply, in four stanzas. In his “Introduction to the Bhagavat Gita,” Bharati offers a detailed discussion of what the scripture preaches in its eighteen chapters. He examines the various theories that inform the study of the Gita among Hindus and others, and clarifies their doubts and fears about the doctrine of the great scripture.

In the wide spectrum of Bharati’s personality, his experiences with the two great religions, Buddhism and Hinduism played an important part as he determined his own philosophy of life. In the past the two religions had engaged in a frightful battle in the Tamil land. Hinduism succeeded, not only by maintaining its own principles and ideals, but also, by adopting certain aspects of the other religion that appealed to the South Indian public.  While Bharati was attracted by the ideals of equality (sarva jana samatvam) and love (jiva karunnyam), proclaimed by the Buddhist religion, he was totally against the pursuit of asceticism, promoted by Buddhism as a way of life. He appreciated the great personality of the Buddha, and his principles of humanitarianism and service, spreading these ideas throughout India.  That is probably the very reason why Bharati’s  dharsanam of the Buddha takes place in this poem.

“At the awakening of India from its long slumber, the first figure, the light that appeared in  Bharati’s vision, was Krishna” (Introduction to Kannan Pattu, 2nd edition – V.V.S. Iyer).  Bharati wrote two poems on Krishna. In these, he pleaded to Krishna, the king of the Aryas, who created the great Bharatam (“Sri Krishna Sthotram”) to bestow success and fame on the people of India (“Krishnan Midhu Sthuti”).

Bharati is fascinated by Arjuna, the other character who appears in this dream. Arjuna was a hero of the great epic, the Mahabharata; although Dharmaputra was the eldest of the Pandava brothers, Arjuna was the leading figure in all respects.  He was a friend of Krishna; in his song “Kannan –My Friend,” Bharati transforms himself into Arjuna and talks about his experiences with Krishna, as a friend.  Krishna practically led Arjuna through life, helping him at difficult times – most importantly, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.  Krishna became Arjuna’s charioteer – preached the Bhagavat Gita to him at a time when he found himself confused and distressed – gave him the eyes of wisdom (gnana), as Arjuna was the deserving and qualified personality – showed him his visvarupa, the dazzling atma of the Lord Himself.

Bharati yearns to be like Arjuna – the beautiful, strong, heroic personality, above all, a gnani.  He sings to the Mother, “She would make me like my brother (annan), Arjuna” (“Kannan-En Thai” – Bharati).

Bharati explores the Bhagavat Gita from all angles: to him the great Hindu scripture is “moksha shastra, bhakti shastra, karma shastra, yoga shastra, amrutha shastra and gnana shastra.”

Immortality is Bharati’s goal in life, and he believes that Bhagavat Gita shows the path to this goal.  He believes that the Bhagavat Gita reflects the conviction of the Vedic  rishi, in the purusha sukta of the Rig Veda, which he interprets as follows: “You are God.  All your deeds are God’s deeds. Once you realize this fact, it will be ignorant to bind yourself with chains of illusion, that you are the one who does everything.  Therefore, surrender all you do to God and do your work dispassionately.”

The last four stanzas of Bharati’s “Arya Dharsanam” distil the essence of the Bhagavat Gita, which elucidates the vision of the Vedic rishis in eighteen chapters.