Faith, religion and spirituality are cognates. All human beings have an innate tendency to believe in some power, a good or bad way of life and some fear/carelessness about punishment for evil deeds. Into the very nature of human life and existence itself duality is built in. There is a point and counterpoint, light and shade, good and bad, obverse and reverse to a coin. Hindu faith it is that the entire creation is the will and grace of the Supreme Being. The human being is the crown of creation, being invested with power, skill, knowledge, wisdom and manas the heart-mind-intellect.
The Hindu belief has it that Man is born with vasanas, acquired and inborn tendencies, and also gunas, qualities, satwa, rajas, and tamo gunas. Is Man ruled by an unknown fate or by his own FREE WIILL? No one knows the right answer. Is there evil? What is evil? Are there paap and punya? Are there Sin and Merit? Yes and No. The discussion whether it is all Predestination or Freewill goes on and on. Life continues. An answer will not be found. People grow more and more rationalistic, secular, fundamentalist or dogmatic. Life does not stop. Nor does the debate Is Religion essential? Is there is God? There are people, millions of them, who deny the existence of God. But not all deny the existence of Good and Bad.
In Bharat faith is ingrained in every one. We revere saints and sages and the majority of people are theists, believers in God and worshippers of a strong multiplicity of thirty-crore deities. In Bharat tolerance is the basic tenet of existence. Shruti, smriti and purana are three sources both of knowledge and wisdom, the highest knowledge. The epics are about Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, the iconic, heroic deities of Srimadramayana and Mahabhrata. Sri Krishna and Mahabharata are indivisible. In the eon called Dwaparayuga (after Satyayuga and Tretayuga) Srikrishna stood the paramount hero to put the erring humans on the right path of righteousness.
Sri Krishna, the blue coloured charmer, is the divine Sri Krishna, the most captivating of deities. Singing the praise of this delectable deity has been the most favoured subjects of paeans singing His praises. The eight lined compositions in Telugu poetry are called ashtakas. This tradition of ashtaka has acquired a form in prose also. Modern academics wanted these to be called prose poetry. In Sanskrit the verse form was initiated by Palkurki Somanathudu, a devout Shaivite in his basavaashtakam. Later Kandukuri Rudrakavi penned janardanaashtakam. Vallabhaacharya composed maduraashtakam in Sankrit.
Poet Srirangaswamy’s Neelamohanaashtakam
Neelamohanaashtakam is a paean of the poet, T.Srirangaswamy’s own intense faith and devotion to the deity he worshipped. The following is a rough and ready rendering of the eight octaves with an opener, naandi and a summing-up.
The opening quartet which sets up the tone of the paean is a fervent expression of devotion along with an offering of sincere gratitude to his gurus, preceptors, Viswanatha, the poet laureate and Sampatkumaraacharya.
Being the fore thought of the idea of the captivating flute
My heart-mind being tinged whole with the radiant sapphire
Blowing breath into the feelings of Viswanatha’s contemplation of Sri Krishna
Grew fabulously rich with the holy alphabet of Suprasanna.
The poet starts thus with a tribute to his preceptors following the age old tradition.
Your thought has been pursuing me all the time
Your remembrance taking me all along
The effulgence of the sapphire blue becoming raag neelaambari
The mind tinged with glory of Your yellow raiment
My hear-mind following the tunes of Your divine flute
Becoming a flow of the nectar of fine melodies
The pulsation of my living is all about Your love
Desiring to see your captivating dances on this stage.
Tinkling of the little anklets of Your feet
Would scarce leave me in silence for a moment
Desire to see You as an infant
Wouldn’t allow me to close my eyes even for a trice
You wouldn’t allow me put my feet even a little forward
Ideas of reaching You is always beyond my power
Lord of the radiance of sapphire blues, Lord of the foaming clouds
What you think of making me, never would You reveal!
Captivating sapphire-coloured beauty! Yearn my body and mind to reach you
Became my eyes foreyards to have a glance at Your form
Agog is my soul to chant Your name every moment
Why wouldn’t Your enchanting form appear before my eyes?
Why wouldn’t be heard the melody of Your moving feet in my conscience?
Perhaps it is that Your form divine would not appear before human eyes
Eyes of thoughts becoming innumerable, the meaning of the blues
This ‘Ranga’ would never know being one other.
Am I a peacock to dance and play seeing the cloud?
Am I the bird chakora to fly high for the radiance of the moon?
Am I a koil which eats the tender leaves in the season of spring?
Am a parrot repeating the word ‘Krishna’ every moment?
What should I become? How should I transform, change my life?
How long can I stay put, silent, how can I come near You?
Whatever done is Your doing, not done is by You again
This ‘Ranga’ can be made ‘Sriranga’ by You alone!
To weave You all around me, all my self, full of mind and heart
Into eight curves transforms my body like Kubja’s
To cleanse and purify my heart to surrender it to You
The darkness filled in there wouldn’t leave me a bit
To float along all along with Your blue radiance
Being held up am I by the rivers of darkness every foot
Neither magic, nor is it fancy, there is no way without hindrance
Drag me wouldn’t You to Your feet, my Lord!
Heir I am, father, to that Kuchela of the past
Even then I have not won a little of Your love and affection.
His pure devotion became a burden unbearable of devotion
Love and affection unquestionable became questionable
The limitless ocean of compassion You are!
Only the one desire is left – that of seeing You
Nothing more would I seek, I pray in supplication
In my life, Lord! Give me a glance, just once!
Eyes of mine ever and always becoming a dark and dry land
Your eyes ever being the clouds raining compassion
Permanent are my never useful efforts in my heart
Everlasting are Your ideas of ever saving the devout
Ever constantly in my thought-action is empty, empty
In Your thinking-acting blessing in your thought of great strength
When would I ever stand in Your presence alone
When would You drench in the pond of my conscience experiencing You!
Charming sweet is the nectar of Your very name
Charming sweet is the nectar of Your song
Charming sweet is the nectar of Your sight
Charming sweet is the ambrosia of your compassion
In this living vexed with the burden of empty pretence and show
Remover of all thirst! When would I ever be blessed with your greeting!
Oh Beauty, never imaginable fully! O Response of the Merciful!
When would Your smiles be spilt on this life!
One clad in yellow silk! Pearl in the door step of Gokul
Wouldn’t You make this Ranga’s conscience and hear devotion filled
In your heart would I smear the seeds of my thought
Who else can protect me my Lord! I seek refuge, surrendering myself!
Towards the end of this composition the poet reminds us of divine Vallabhacharya’s madhuraaashtakam, the sweetest song of celestial supremacy.
Glory to the celestial Supreme Lord Sri Krishna!