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Eating Hunger: Selections from the Poems of Tukarama,
trans. J. Nelson Fraser and K.B. Marathe

Poems: Breaking the World's Nets

I sit by myself

I cannot bear to hear of restraint; my spirit is weary. I cannot bear any one's company; I find it pleasant to sit by myself. I weary of the life of sensuous desire. Tuka says, The snares of desire and illusion that keep us from God increase our pain.

In the shade of the wishing tree

He who pleases the saints is the death of Death, even as the child of a rich man is rich. If you listen to him, you will hear of none but the One; he protects you from weariness of fond desire. He has means to set you free from any guilt you have incurred; look not upon any other source of destruction. Tuka says, The shade of the wishing tree is the chief thing: what compassion is not to be found there?

He fastens us to his waistcloth

He who is the repose of his worshipers he stands and cries to us to hasten. With fond interest he takes and puts morsels of love in my mouth. He fastens us to his waistcloth and takes us quickly over the stream of the world. Greatly he desires his worshipers and looks round in every quarter for them. Tuka says, He is a sea of mercy, he satisfies abundantly the desire of all.

The frenzy of the world

To no purpose have I indulged the world; I have nothing of it and nothing of God. I have imagined that God does not exist; a man who has food to eat knows not what hunger is. My speech is graced by command of words, but the truth does not penetrate within me. I have become a wanderer; I have lost both the world and thy feet, O God! Tuka says, If I had known this long ago, I should not have allowed this frenzy to touch me.

You must pass along the road

You must pass along the road, if you mean to reach the spot; it is no use listening to mere tales of it. Listen to me, I humbly entreat you; inactive faith will not carry you forward. A virgin and a matron alike have gained their knowledge from experience; it is not acquired by hearsay. Tuka says, Here is needed one immersed in the subject; when the source is cleared, light will proceed from it.

The duplicity of the world

Such is a good name that one can never keep it, O Lord and Master, O savior of the sinful. If a man takes care of his family, people find fault with him; if he renounces it, they call him lazy and selfish; if he goes through ceremonies they call him ostentatious; if he discards them, they take him to task. If he lives with the saints, they cry, "A disciple!" If he leaves them alone, they say he is an ignoramus. If he is poor, he is born to be a beggar; if he has means, they charge him with pride. If he speaks much, he is over-talkative; if he speaks little, they cry out on his pride. If he stands aloof from men, he is cold-blooded; if he moves amongst them, he is said to ruin his family. If he gets married, they say he is lustful; if he does not, they say he is impotent. If he has no children, they look down on him; if he has a tribe of children, they say it leads to hell. I am sick of mankind; I cannot contain my disgust of them; a worldly man cannot stomach the company of the saints. Tuka says, Listen to my words, leave the world and practice devotion.

Make allies of your senses

Purify your minds! Though you cannot do this continually, yet do it when a fit season arises. Nothing passes with you beyond this life save your store of good and evil deeds. There is still time before you; make allies of your senses. You have an appointed place in this world of action; determine for yourselves what you should do. Tuka says, You have an excellent possession, your body and the present hour, yet you let them slip from you.

Struggling free of the world

Unreal fears were shown to me; my soul was depressed. When I was born and the world knew it, they raised an idle noise over me. I was imprisoned on all sides, but at last I struggled near to thee. Tuka says, Thy own friends brought me face to face with thee.

Taking strong medicine

Thou hast caused me to speak, but this people take it amiss. Each of them struggles for what pleases him. If we give a patient a strong decoction, he raves and clenches his teeth. He asks for food he ought not to eat, and if forbidden it, he weeps. The physician knows what to enjoin; disobedience to him means death. No third person should give orders; just diet must make the medicine effective. The love of wealth or wife is a stepping-stone to hell. Tuka says, With respect to those, you must do as you think fit.

Carrying the burden

In delivering your message be not careful or afraid, let it rest on the head of him it belongs to; it is for us to do the preaching. We should carry the burden to the end or we should not be ready to take it up. Tuka says, The fearful man loses both this world and the next.

Following the path

Do not let the road branch off into several paths.

My solitude is born

I had no peace from the world till today. I was ever thinking of son, wife, wealth, and business; I was entangled in my vocations. Now my lot, it seems, has changed; it has wound up my affairs. I can see nothing behind or before me, hence my solitude is born. The reason I look for the way, says Tuka, is that my worldly fortunes have sunk.

Thy form ensnares my mind

Thy form has ensnared my mind; it dwells peacefully at thy feet. Thou art lovely, O God, in all thy members; as we look on thee, sorrow avoids us. My senses have found repose; they were tormented while they wandered. Tuka says, When we meet thee, the knot that binds us to the world is loosened.

Desire nothing for the children

Desire not anything for the children; their own portion is ready for them. Take the halter from your own neck; avoid the torments of the womb. When men look on wealth, they tether themselves; this is why I run away from them. When I see the chastisements they bring on themselves, my soul trembles. If you love me, says Tuka, open your mind wide.

Break the world's nets

Good people will esteem you, your fame will spread in the world. Say to yourself, the cattle are dead, thieves have stolen the pots, you have had no children born to you. Root out desire and make your mind as hard as adamant. Spit on these trifling pleasures and cast them from you; you will be master of the highest joy. Tuka says, Many a trouble you will escape; you will break through the nets of the world.

Old age whispering

Old age has come whispering in my ears; I am drawing near to death. Now, O my mind, be wakeful; be assured that full attainment consists only in the belief that thou art holy. The last vessel will sink in no time; redeem the last hour which draws near to thee. Tuka says, Meditate on the God of thy fathers; avoid the deceptive words you hear around you.

Death is dead

My death is dead; I am grown immortal. I have swept clean the bed and the roots of the tree of bodily consciousness; I have made a barren place where it grew. The flood which rose has fallen; I have placed my confidence in the water of life. Tuka says, Truly I have purified my old life.

Freedom from commerce

I go on eating, writing, and drinking, but I keep the account in your name. Now I have got rid of all the trouble and toil of striking a daily balance. I need only report what is and what is not; I lay my burden, says Tuka, on your head.

Leave room for hope

Here is no occasion for despair, 'tis well if we leave some room for hope within us. He who supports the world contains it within himself; there we too shall be at the latter end. If we in our ignorance contemplate him in our hearts, our efforts will reach his innermost being. My lord will not speak out, says Tuka, but I know how to answer sign with sign.

Free from fear

If question and answer should ever begin, then I will find answers as best I can; till then I shall put forth nothing of my own, till the hour when God, knowing my heart, sets me free from fear of him. Tuka says, He will grasp my hand and lift me out of sorrow.

Consuming the past

I have only to consume the store of my past; I need borrow no more loans. I have had enough of the service of the world; I will sit still at home. I shall have no work on hand, I shall repose night and day. Tuka says, Now I am master of my own condition; I have been long enough in the service of others.

Sifting out indifference

I have sifted out indifference; I have swept away controversies. Tuka says, No hindrances can come between us now.

Loosing bondage

In early days, I had never heard of this step; otherwise, should I have made any mistake about it? Why should I plunge myself in falsehood? Why should I put a needless burden on my head? Tuka says, Why should I enter the womb again now? Why should I make myself a slave of my family?

Decide which is master

Our parents do not know what is best for us; they teach us the rules of worldly conduct. If a blind man grasps a blind man's stick, both leader and follower will come to grief at once. We must not step ahead too hastily; deliberation is needed; it is the bait on the hook which sticks in the fish's throat. Tuka says, The horse and his rider come at once to a decision which is to be master.

The saints' morsel

Whatever a man eats himself, the same he gives away to beggars. Go, then, to ask a morsel where the saints live. Then your belly will be filled, and there will be food too left behind. Tuka says, Thus all searching, all desire will come to an end.

Turning back

When a man has long followed the wrong path, he turns back at last; he is quit of the fear that he felt up till then. We should not lose sight of the chief point; the end, when we reach it, will be full of sweetness. When we have done with desires, what is there left to excite us? In early days, it was the way of men to gird up their loins in due season; in those days, guilt lost its power, because men repented of it. Tuka says, Our reason helps us when we secure its help; God stands close beside us, waiting for us to call on him.

The market of liberation

In the market of liberation, a full store of goods is set forth; carry on a roaring trade. Come, all kinsmen of ours, buy on credit, buy on credit! There is no division of ranks here; none are great or small. Tuka says, Make a profit here; look after your capital of faith.

The mother-in-law's dilemma

'Listen, my daughter-in-law, don't waste the milk and curds;' the mother-in-law started for Pandharpur, but from the gate she turned back to the house. 'Listen carefully, child to what I tell you. Take good care of any broken pots. The stack of cow-dung cakes I have piled up — don't begin on it while I am away. The wheaten rolls I have made and put away — don't begin on them while I am gone. My mortar and pestle and grinding mill — I cannot help thinking about them. If any beggars come to the house, tell them I am gone to Pandharpur. Eat sparingly; if you make any savings, don't waste them.' 'All right,' says her daughter, 'you may go on your pilgrimage with your mind at ease. Seek your true welfare, mother; forget what you have left behind you.' When she heard her daughter's words, the mother thought to herself, 'This is a trick of hers; she wants me to be off. Why should I go on a pilgrimage? What shall I see if I go? Where my children and my house are, my Pandharpur is there.' Tuka says, All such people are entangled in deceitful hopes.