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


Poems: Tuka's Prayers

6
The prayer of the wandering beggar

This is not my own country or garb; by chance I have wandered here. What can I claim as mine? Where have I found a resting place? Though I call my feet and my hands my own, how bereft I am of them! I am a friendless stranger blind and lame. O Lord, regard and relieve me; I have neither brother nor child, I commit myself to the saints. I tremble as I follow the path before me, whereon many have traveled and none returned. I cannot see what happens though my ears perceive a sound. I sit at the crossroads, holding thee fast in my thoughts. I cry out for mercy like one that has lost his way. My belly is never filled; my feet are never at rest. I am weary with wandering through the eight million villages. I cling to this inhabited spot; what can I trust to? Who will bring me an unexpected alms? Often have I heard its praises sung in such a strain that now I cry, O meritorious Lord, be my friend! I am very hungry, but you give freely. Any merits I had, I resign. Wealth, family, son, mother, all these ties I have cast off. O God, I have renounced desire, for so it was decreed I should do. Tuka says, You are now my all-powerful protector.


43
The burden of sainthood

Does the cock keep the author of day true to his time? Why, O God, do you place on my head such a burden as to bid me a saint? Will masters starve if servants refuse to cook food? Tuka says, The infinite one knows how to bring all things to pass.

125
I cannot bear to see the people suffering

I am not afraid of my own death now; I cannot bear to see the people suffering. Our holy order is perishing; O generous one, how is it you perceive it not? Our worship is broken off; this indeed is death; we cannot bear an instant without it. Tuka says, O generous one, I ask thee for a place where no wind of violence can touch me.


175
I feel the sense of difference

Thou, without attributes, let me contemplate as one with attributes; all on a sudden I feel the sense of difference between us. Henceforth there will be no conception of union between us; it is well as it is, let us keep our respective positions. In trying to approach thee I have wasted words. Tuka says, A feeling of indifference pervades my frame as it does thine, O infinite one!


196
I shall keep my form concealed like a tortoise

I have learned your secret by my own faith; now I shall keep my form concealed within me, like a tortoise. I shall meet you eye to eye; I shall not allow any separation to part us. Tuka says, O God, to contemplate you is to serve you.

203
God pervades my frame

As sweetness pervades sugar, so God pervades my frame; now I will worship him as best I may; God is within and without the soul at once. A ripple is not different from the water it belongs to; gold is still gold, though it be known as an ornament. Tuka says, so are we in him.


208
Meet me once

Liberation belongs to you, O God; keep to yourself that hard acquisition. What I prefer is worship; I will not renounce that delight. According to your powers, take care of that generous master. Tuka says, It is enough if you meet me once in the last end.

209
Give me freedom from fear

To repeat your name is to string pearls together; this pleasure in your embodied form is ever new. I have ceased to desire the unembodied God; your worshipers do not seek liberation. With you it is still left possible to give and to receive. What avails the spot where a dish stood, when it is taken away? Tuka says, Give me the gift of freedom from fear; say, O thou that pervades the world, I have given it thee!

211
Water cannot taste itself

Cursed be that knowledge which makes me one with thee; I love to have precepts from thee and prohibitions. I am thy servant; thou art my lord; let there be still between us such difference of high and low; let this wonderful truth be established, destroy it not. Water cannot taste itself, nor trees taste their own fruit: the worshiper must be separate, thus alone pleasure arises from distinction. The diamond looks beautiful in its setting; gold, when it is fashioned into an ornament; if there were no difference, how could you contrast the one with the other? After heat one enjoys shade; at the sight of her child the milk comes into the mother's breast — what delight there is when they meet each other! Tuka says, This is a great thing gained and so I view it; I am thoroughly resolved to desire liberation no more.


214
How shall we worship?

What manner of faith shall we offer; what single thing is fit to present you? You fill all and lie beyond all; you are present in our bodily form, whether we speak, eat, taste, or smell. How shall we control our organs, and sort out merit and guilt? What ceremonies or deeds shall we perform? Where is the scene where you are not present? What do I gain by closing my eyes? What spell or charm shall I utter? Where shall we place our faith? Where is the spot in which you are not? Whither shall we turn? Where shall we set our feet? There is no spot known to us that is void of thee; how can I search for such a place? Tuka says, Nothing but thy name shall be to us worship, liturgy, prayer beads, incense, lamp, fruits, betel-nut, flowers and water!

220
God's body is a mirror

Speech cannot describe it, though you should utter all the words to our satisfaction. God's body is as it were a mirror, where each may see his own form. Infinite is the ripe crop that faith alone produces. Tuka is embarrassed by the heap of corn and sits dividing it out.


226
Let the master preserve the house

We have hurled a stone upon the sensuous life; we have put death to death. You pervade the world: how can I be separate from you? Now why need I struggle to teach you? How can I expel anything from myself? How can I admit anything to me? We may enter on dry discussions, but you remain beyond them; we are only thrusting imaginary torments on ourselves. You have all kinds of workmen dwelling in your house; you distribute wages according to their labor done. Tuka says, We know nothing of loss or gain; let him who is master preserve the house.


276
A deep mine of nectar

This miraculous power of mine is developed to its height in music; this is your own gift. O God, grant me to serve you continually! Therein is a flood of love, that neither ebbs nor flows. As you utter his name, says Tuka, you perceive a deep mine of nectar.

388
The fluctuating life of desire

I have come to you with varied entreaties, yet you heed me not. O God, why should I form these deceitful hopes of you? You and I are parted; but now contemplation shall bring us together. Tuka says, Shameful is the fluctuating life of desire.


411
God is my debtor

I have come to supplicate you with my whole heart, body, speech and mind, O God! No other purpose enters my mind, my desire is fixed at thy feet. I have a heavy burden upon me; who but thou can stir it, O God? I am thy servant, thou art my debtor, thou hast pursued me from afar. Tuka says, I have sat like a creditor before thee; meet me and settle the account.

414
We have lost your presence

We have lost your presence; this talk of philosophy is dry. Now, O God, I am resolved neither to walk nor talk with anyone. You have found an excuse for absence; you have resolved to leave us. Tuka says, Still my desire remains; I delight to meet you.

521
I must look to my own advantage

Now amid deeds of right and wrong is there anything proper for me? I must look to my own advantage. You know that I am a sinner, but I have come to you as a suppliant. Here prince and peasant are alike; there is no difference of persons in your house. I have come to your feet as best I could, so you must not cast me out. It is an old fashion — I speak seriously — that when men fall into difficulties, they begin to praise another. I have laid my burden on your head and sit still; I have given up all traffic with the world; from the first I counted this the highest spot, a place of eternal refuge. Here the one secret needed is patience, but that too I rejected as useless; knowing that this body shall pass away, I have clung to thy name as the thing essential. Thou hast sent me repose for the hour through all the messengers; I have clung in my soul to that which is needful. Tuka says, give me at last, O God, that place which the saints have told of.


680
Loving God with lawless passion

Keep me wide, I beseech you, every moment; let love choke my throat, let me cast myself on the ground. Actions of good report are neglected; we forget everything. Tuka says, We should gaze on thee with the fondness of lawless passion.


754
No speech to describe thy glory

I have no speech to describe thy glory; I cannot truly tell the limits of thy nature. I have laid this body, thy own gift, at thy feet; now what can I renounce for thee to honor thee therewith? I have no faith to serve thee; if I offer thee my life, behold it is thine; I cannot see anything of my own to offer thee. Tuka says, I have nothing I can rely on, to pay the debt of gratitude I owe thee.


786
Making the body an image of God

It is good to sing the praises of God, for thus the body becomes an image of him. Through love and joy it dances and sways from side to side, till every mortal sense vanishes. The life of man is bound up in one spot; God is connected with all creatures. Tuka says, When God alone is left with us, at that season all fear vanishes.


1373
Dancing with love

This family deity of my family the saints have made known to me; it is well I sought her protection; I was set free from all distress. 'Tis well too I was remolded; the persistence of the saints achieved it. In their company, says Tuka, I began to dance with love.


1396
God as Tuka's debtor

I have become your gatekeeper and watched all your property. I kept the world from you; I suffered no one to touch you. I have laid down laws for men in the way set forth to me. Club and rod in hand, I stand to protect you in peril of my life. I shall want my just wages now, says Tuka.

1403
I will dance

I will not relinquish preaching for any other works; I will dance where thy joyous presence is felt.


1437
Remembering God's feet

The praise of men and the sale of preachings — forbid me this, O generous one! The women and wealth of other men — let them not possess my mind! Envy and censure of the saints — forbid me this, O generous one! Let no pride in myself possess me; keep far from me every single thing that might awaken it. Tuka says, Let me seldom forget thy feet!


1426
Digesting the treasure of joy

In my solitude I overflow with joy and love; this is a secret treasure, no wind shall visit it, I will not let the wicked gaze upon it. Perchance some evil eye may light on this juice of delight; I will so drink it that it shall digest with me. Tuka says, It is very delicate and cannot bear to be encumbered with words.

1480
I approach thy feet

It is not my lot to make a humble prayer, I approach thy feet with a pressing request. In my love I have written a bold letter; I cannot fathom thy nature, my intelligence is too weak. If I cannot fathom thy nature, how can my feebleness describe thee? Accept my speech such as it is; I glorify thee in faltering accents. Says Tuka, I place my head where thy feet stand on the brick.


1589
No place for good conduct

Good conduct has no place in me; what I desire is to see thee; should you help me by thy power, then only shall I see thy feet. I am as one that wears a fine dress, but is not purified within. I am surely a creature lost, says Tuka, if thou dost not help me, O God.


1591
The snares of hope

This is why I have become an ascetic and stay in a holy spot — I have set free my mind from the snares of hope. I shall never stray beyond these limits; I abandon the thought as soon as I call it up. I feel a stranger everywhere else; I have fixed my faith firmly here. Tuka says, I care nothing about cause or effects; I have offered up my soul to God.


1670
I will expand my being

Wherever you go, you shall see me; I will expand my own being so as to leave no place void of me. My spirit is firmly lodged at thy feet; wherever I am I will keep my eyes on them. Tuka says, I am able to speak of thee, because God is contained in my heart.

1691
No end to this bliss

In measuring out this bliss I shall never come to the end of it. The feet of the saints will be set on my head; what happiness should I get from absorption in God? That would be no gain, if I thought for a moment of this. Tuka says, There my cravings will be satisfied.

1706
Feeder of the universe

Contemplate him whose food we eat in comfort; when we give him his own we reap the fruit of our actions. He is the support of our life; his name is feeder of the universe. There is no place void of him; Tuka says, Let your faith so grow as to fill the universe.


1757
Tuka falls at God's feet

God is full of goodness; he meets every man in a shape fit for him. God is generous; when he makes a gift, he cares not whether it be much or little. God is mighty; he has no match in the world. I want God, I want him; all beings desire him. God is full of goodness; Tuka falls at his feet.


1799
Playing in God's lap

When someone does anything to me, it makes an impression on thy heart. Thou didst give me birth, therefore thou has nurtured me, my comfort is thy solicitude. When my belly is filled, thy person bears traces of it; Tuka says, I play in thy lap through power given me by thee.


1867
Like a fish on a hook

Many a time do I reason with my mind; yet I cannot govern it, it is greedy after pleasure. Now save me through thy own power, I see no means of escaping from this net. I am caught like a fish on a hook; when once he has swallowed it if he tries to spit it forth he cannot. I am ignorant, says Tuka, but I wait upon thee, O God!


1868
The poor man's treasure

If a treasure falls into the hands of a poor man, he cannot preserve it. Such is my state, O God, but you know well how to acquire and to keep. The poor man cannot enjoy or use or display it; people resent his good luck, the king declares it forfeited. Tuka says, There is nothing left for him then but fretting; he pines for the sight of what once he saw.


1882
I have not even a tulsi leaf

As for the bliss of devotion, why, I have not even a tulsi leaf to give thee! I fold my hands and stand before thee. I have not the good fortune to approach thee close; I know not how to observe ritual, I cry to thee for mercy. Would that the saints would call me their own, speaking some word or other by way of pretext. Tuka says, I take shelter in thee.
1922
My right to be a sinner

I cling heartily to my indefeasible right to be a fallen sinner. Now say, which of us is stronger? Thy mind and my mind bear witness to the truth. Show me the badge which the savior wears; what right do you have to it? The mere badge means nothing, says Tuka; thou must prove its reality.


1976
The moisture of compassion

The moisture of compassion, O God, is like nothing else; I desire what is genuine, no worthless flimsy pretense. The best foundation is that which will carry a pinnacle. Tuka says, At thy home is everything.


2020
What none other is

Like food after a fast, like the meeting of mother and son after many days, like the miser's love for his treasures, even so, says Tuka, do thou be to me what none other is.


2033
Let us be dumb and blind

Slothfulness begets sensual desires, give us strength by the utterance of thy name! For other speech let our mouths be dumb; I see thy feet alone, says Tuka, to all else I am blind.

2086
I have the experience

Think not that my words are vain; I urge my prayer with earnest entreaty. How can I insist on approaching thy feet? We thy servants must cry to thee for mercy. What care I for the name of one that embraces thy feet? I have the experience which they yield. I persist in speech to please my mind that has tasted this comfort; my spirit hovers near them as though it were crazy. I desire, says Tuka, to look on thy glorious face.


2088
Loving the milk of love

I am so eager that I know not what patience is; come, satisfy my longings. Seek not to make any delay; let there be the same eagerness in both of us. Sustain me in this love for the milk of love; it will not itself dwell within me for ever. Tuka says, Do not let me grow absorbed in other amusements; I have watched with care for the hour of dining with thee.


2148
Praying with childish delight

Wheresoever I go, you are my companion; you take me by the hand and guide me. As I walk along, I lean on thee, you go with me carrying my burden. If I speak wildly, you order my words; thou hast taken away my shame, I am made bold. I look on all mankind as gods and protectors; they are all kindred and dear to my soul. Now, says Tuka, I pray with childish delight; I feel thy bliss within and without me.

2182
I have played freely with thee

I have no capital save to fall at thy feet; did I not so, how could my words reach thy feet? Nevertheless I have played freely with thee like a child; I am thy pet, thy fondling. What is right for me is to serve thee, says Tuka, I must reserve nothing from thee.


2209
The child's welfare

To teach men what is good for them, to show them an easy path, that is right conduct. But you must not renounce us; do not forget this. Your own lips have distinguished for us right and wrong. Why hast thou hidden thy love for me, O God? When a child wakes from slumber, his mother must feed him. The father, says Tuka, must answer for his child's welfare.


2262
My body is pervaded

He pursued me wherever I go; I never forget him. For other purposes my lips are closed. My ears listen to no other stories. I remember nothing I have said; my voice is drawn to the solace of his name. Tuka says, My body is pervaded by the fever of love.


2311
Like a puppet set to life

I go on with my daily business, yet I love thy feet; why should I describe my love, dost thou not know it, O God? I keep thy form ever before my eyes, though outwardly I acknowledge the tie of the world. I govern my actions according to the occasion, but with my speech I sing thy praises. The desire of my mind is to behold thee, I crave neither life nor wealth nor grain. Like a pressed man I walk the round of worldly duties; I am like a puppet that life sets in motion. I am resolved, says Tuka, that my soul shall not be parted from thee.


2580
Concentrated meditation

With one milk vessel on her head above another a Gajar woman walks at ease; such be our concentrated meditation on thy feet. Wretched beggars look for a call to a meal; a greedy creditor looks the interest on his money, he counts up the days and months on his fingers. Tuka says, Let me trouble myself about nothing but thee.

2613
Contemplating God's form

To remember his form is indeed to meet with him; the soul finds rest in this delight. What is far from us then approaches us unbidden when we embrace him in our minds and take him to our souls. Utter his name from time to time, says Tuka, and every vein in your body will be cooled.


2773
The end to pilgrimage

I have come to understand what I understood not; therefore instead of speech I practice silence. Since once we met, you and I are parted. Now I do not fondly look forward to meeting you. Tuka says, My single-minded faith has put an end to pilgrimage to and fro.

2847
O Feeder of the Universe

You have created us and bestowed on us properties; it is fit therefore that you should protect us. For thyself thou hast no desires in respect of pleasure or pain, but you should not see thy servants lack anything; you should give them what they need. Tuka says, O Feeder of the Universe, direct thy glance to what is straight before thee!


2862
God is dissociate

We may close the gates of the senses, but we cannot do away with the disorders they have occasioned; these are incurable. You dwell in the mind, pervading it; it is my view, that you should be entirely dissociate from objects. There are witnesses of thy grace near us, but mere words accomplish nothing. Tuka says, It is when we actually mingle with thee that we live in harmonious concord; I lie at thy feet and entreat thee for this.


2923
Paradoxical secret

Worship consists in loving intimacy; all other views are mistaken. These paradoxical secrets, through error, we cannot comprehend. No price is needed to pacify him; he appreciates loving words. Tuka says, Love must twine our souls and his like threads together.


3145
Destroy the past

Take such measures that I may enjoy this company. Tuka says, I came to show my confidence that you would destroy the store of my past.

3297
In close embrace

We are met in a close embrace, body to body; we are twined in each other's arms. The service is mine, the kindness thine, O God! says Tuka.


584
The books are balanced

I have secured now the supreme union; it is mine forever; I will not abandon it; the foundation is deep laid; there is nothing further to reach beyond this point. What was scattered is brought together again; the books are balanced, the account is clear. Tuka says, Henceforth I shall stop speaking.