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When I met Sri T.R. Jawaharlal for the first at Madurai on 29th February 2012, I was delighted. To get acquainted with a brother of Sri Tulsiram seemed a gift of friendship on the Golden Day. It was Sri Tulsiram who first brought to the notice of Aurobindonians the close connections between the yogic strivings of the 19th century Tamil poet Ramalinga Adikal and the 20th century English poet Sri Aurobindo. Sri Jawaharlal gifted to me books on Ramalinga and his own translation of a selection of Ramalingaâ€™s mystical outpourings into English.
We spent a few minutes marveling at such spiritual luminaries and then it was time to go to the Sri Aurobindo Society at Chokkikulam. Sri Jawaharlal had asked me to write a brief introduction to his translation at that time. However, on my return home I had a haemorrhage in my eye which necessitated trips to hospital. Naturally my work of reading and writing came to a halt almost. But Mother’s Grace is abiding and I have now been able to take up the threads of my work again slowly.
Translating into English Indian mystic poetry is not easy. Vallalar contains continents as he records his visions in his poems. We do not have religious mythology or legends here to hold on to and the seamless continents of mystic experience are necessarily daunting to the translator who has to search for a new idiom. Three decades ago G. Vanmikanathan tried it and succeeded a good deal.
Hence, it is a difficult but not an impossible task. In his introduction to Sri Vanmikanathan’s book, my father, K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar speaks of a regular spiritual autobiography in Ramalinga’s poems. God-intoxicated, lost in visions of bridal mysticism, Ramalinga was also “acutely conscious of the contemporary human situation, the inequities of the social organization, the cruelties of man to man, the obliquities of the fallen human condition.” Vallalar’s heart is mirrored in Iyengar’s favourite verse which he also translated:
” Every time I saw crops withering
I withered too; as often
as I saw hungry destitute beggars,
I too fainted with hunger.
The sight of chronic victims of disease
made me tremble like a leaf,
and the defeat of the meritorious
has made me wilt in pain …
Compassion has overwhelmed me as oft
as I’ve mixed with living beings.
In distress I’ve petitioned You for help,
as I do again today.
My lifeâ€™s run and soul of compassion are one,
not wholly different things.
My life must cease when my compassion dies ..
I swear this at Your feet.”
Naturally Vallalar was irritated by the idiocies of mankind that would not allow fellow–human beings to move forward for he foresaw a divine future to which we ought to reach out. In this context he penned down his thoughts on 22nd October, 1873 which we would do well to read with sincere attention. The gist is a call for sat–sangha. Meditation on our state would clear many cobwebs and help us ascend upwards, removing one after another the various veils that cover our mind. These veils are the various ills like greed and lust that seek to drown us in our own sins. With a high aim, one can overcome these stumbling–blocks to perfection so that the Divine could reshape the person in a higher mould. This aim is to achieve Shiva-Experience of auspicious living.
The other works in this collection are ‘Arutperunjothi Ahaval’ which is almost like a Sahasranama chanting. Sri Jawaharlal’s sincerity is palpable and his devotion unimpeachable. These two points have to be kept in mind constantly when we read the English translation which may sound odd to the reader because of his English usage. Fortunately, the Tamil original has also been printed as an accompanying guide and this is a great help when doubts arise in his interpretation of Ramalinga. The book is welcome as it speaks of the services of Ramalinga for the good of humanity
I wish the book success in reaching out to new readers and familiarizing them with the glorious philosophy of Samarasa Suddha Sanmarga.