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

Poems: Lessons from Food

The rich man feeds everyone

A rich man need make no distinction of castes; he has materials at home to feed everyone who comes. When he is honored, he shows abundant honor; where anyone calls for food, he serves him abundantly. Surely he does not distinguish friends and relations; prince and peasant are alike to him. Where he sees faith, he comes and busies himself; he leaves the dull of spirit to themselves. He forgets not the beggar; by soft persuasion he puts an end to his doubts. Tuka says, He gives enough to eat and leave uneaten; he leaves on their faces signs that they have felt satisfaction.

Devotion to God

Milk is sweet itself; but the taste of sugar enhances it; be assured that the knowledge of God resembles this; it is feeble without devotion. Food without salt has no savor; to have the scholar's credit is like the efforts of a blind man to see. Tuka says, The essential part of a tambura is its dead wires.

Truth is directly visible

When man has really eaten, he shows it by belching; otherwise there is nothing but idle straining. One may talk of food, whether he has eaten it or not, but without some real taste words are dry chaff. There are many dainties made of wheat; but let us not merely pretend to eat them. Tuka says, If you have a bracelet on your wrist, it would be absurd to look at it in a mirror.

The pleasure of clean food

How can I tell the pleasure of grinding corn? It will satisfy you well, my friend. If it is clean, you can turn the mill swiftly, you feel pleasure in every part of your frame. When you eat clean food, body and mind are satisfied; it needs little fire beneath the pot. Clean corn you can cook easily and well; it brings no disgust or waste with it. Tuka says, We all love clean food; it will not turn your husband's heart from you.

Eating hunger

Through experience in this world I am deeply convinced that there is one soul in both places, that he feels pity for me. Hunger is appeased by eating hunger; there is no appetite for food left. Tuka says, I am delighted; my heart is satisfied by this experience.

Like grain on a frying pan

I cherish a desire, but it bears no fruit, the time of accomplishment has not yet arrives. My heart is quivering like grain on a frying pan; it is swelled up like a puffed out grain. I have no delight in the many shapes of this world; the future I know not and cannot control. I sink down and rise up again; I am caught in a whirling eddy. Tuka says, Much do I speculate, I climb one hill and descend another.

At the table of the divine

This nectar of divine discourse is my very life. At one table we shall eat a meal of many delicacies; their odor and flavor will be sweet every moment. When we are satisfied we shall belch for joy; the delight of love will overflow in our voices. The harvest of divine union is ripe, the shoots are fully formed; the sky cannot hold the heap of grain; though we measure it we cannot exhaust it; there is no use trying to keep count of it, says Tuka.

On sugarcane and onions

As sugarcane grows, its sweetness grows with it; it produces variously coarse and refined sugar. Deal honestly, be truthful; it will advantage you, you will escape the pain of untruth. If an onion is planted in a bed of sugarcane, big or little, it grows in foul odor. Truth and falsehood grow likewise, says Tuka; do not forget it.

The belly is ever dying

The belly assaults us and sets us wandering; wherever we go in fear of our belly, there our belly follows us. Pious deeds are forgotten for the belly's sake; the belly ceases to care what it does, it sets us dancing before men of low degree. Tuka says, How can we fill it? It is ever dying by inches.

Pouncing on thy feet

As when a famine-stricken man searching for food comes across a dainty meal, even so is it with my mind when it sees thy feet. When a cat sees a pat of clotted cream it sits still with its eyes fixed upon it; even so, says Tuka, my mind thinks of pouncing on thy feet.

Looking for sweetmeats

Thy thoughts are directed to me, my hunger and thirst are lodged in thee. My tongue delights in one theme; what else am I to speak of? With eager interest in me you stand looking for sweetmeats. Tuka says, Truly, what store from the past can exist now?

On seed and salt

In that case, the seed within should be true and pure. Tuka says, When the smallest particle of salt drops into water, it turns salt.

On sugar and salt

Give up the sugar, but enjoy its sweetness; give up the salt, but enjoy its saltiness. So give up the world, and thereby you will attain to God.