Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
Everyone is a little mad, and only the degree of madness varies, say psychologists. Especially when one is angry, one becomes temporarily insane, and loses one’s sense of right and wrong. “KrOdhAt bhavati sammOha:” says the Gita, confirming that rage clouds a person’s intellect and reasoning faculties. Madness is associated with abnormal or non-conformist behaviour, unacceptable to society at large. However, in some cases, it is possible that the entire society may be in the wrong, and it is the non-conformist individual who may be right. When this happens (and this has occurred innumerable times in history) Society calls the maverick mad, while to the latter, the entire society appears insane.
Devotees of the Lord, moved beyond words by their sublime experience, often display behaviour which is considered abnormal by social standards. They cry out, unable to contain their happiness or sorrow, sing, dance, and indulge in extrovert activities, unmindful of what others would think of them, all prompted by Bhagavat GunAnubhavam.
Sri Nammazhwar says that those deeply devoted to the Lord would never able to contain themselves, and would definitely exhibit “abnormal” behaviour, earning them the social sobriquet of madmen.
“VAr punal amthaN aruvi vada TiruvEdgadathu endai
Per pala solli pidattri pitthar endrE pirar koora
oor pala pukkum pugAdum ulOgar sirikka nindru Adi
Arvam perugi kunippAr amarar tozhappaduvArE”
The mere thought of Emperuman makes the bhakta burst out in His praise, accompanied by song and dance, much to the amusement of the worldly onlookers,who consider these devotees insane. However, devotees touched by such “insanity” form objects of worship for the Nitya SUrIs of Sri Vaikuntam.
That being so, Azhwar exhorts everyone to shed their ego and inhibition andto let themselves go, with hearts moved by the Lord’s auspicious attributes- “perumayum nANum tavirndu pidattrumin pEdamai teerndE”. It is noteworthy that Azhwar considers behaviour other than that specified above to be “pEdamai” or ignorance. We thus have a paradoxical situation- to the entire world (barring kindred souls) the Azhwar’s behaviour appears insane, while to the Azhwar, anything other than such demeanour is confirmed lunacy. Besides considering them mad, Azhwar questions the very rationale of such people’s existence, as are unmoved by the Lord and His attributes-
“sem pavaLa tiraL vAyan SirIdharan tol pugazh pAdi
kumbidu nattam ittu Adi kOgu kattuNdu uzhalAdAr
tam pirappAl payan ennE sAdhu janangaL idayE”.
It appears that the mundane masses considering the Lord’s votaries to be insane, and vice versa, is not confined to Sri Nammazhwar. Sri Kulasekharazhwar too is a victim, as he pours out in PerumAl Tirumozhi-
“PEyarE enakku yAvarum -YAnum Or pEyanE evarkkum
idu pEsi en
AyanE ArangA endru azhaikkindrEn
PEyanAi ozhindEn EmpirAnukkE”
Laments the Azhwar-“People say I am mad. It is the Lord and His auspicious attributes that drive me mad. I do admit to such madness, but to me, all the world appears mad. Their madness is the result of a relentless pursuit of material pleasures (“UndiyE udayE ugandu Odum immandalam”). I am mad after the Lord of SriRangam, while the rest of the world is mad after slim-waisted damsels (“noolin nEr idayAr tirattE nirkum gyAlam”). This ignorant world chases transitory delights (“Meyyil vAzhkkaiyai mey ena koLLum ivvayyam”),while I pursue only eternal bliss, personified by Sri Rangaraja. Yes, I am indeed insane, but this is insanity caused by the beautiful lotus feet of Emperuman (“Arangan adi iNai tangu chinthai tani perum pitthan”). Thus the world at large considers me a lunatic, whereas to me, they appear crazy. Neither am I able to convince them of their errant ways, nor are they able to persuade me to share their sensual pleasures. There is thus no meeting ground between us nor any channels of communication: and there is absolutely no point in discussing this any further (“idu pEsi en”).
Precisely the same sentiments are voiced by Sage Narada, in the following sloka quoted by Swami Desikan in Srimad Rahasyatrasaram, highlighting the lack of meeting ground between BhAgavatAs who are slaves of the Lord, and others who are slaves to their senses-
“adya prabhruti hE lOkA ! Yooyum yooyum vayam vayam
arttha kAma parA yooyum, NArayaNa parA vayam
nAsti sangati: asmAkam yushmAkam cha parasparam
vayam tu kinkarA VishNO: yooyum indriya kinkarA:”.
It is such “madness” that earned two Mudal Azhwars the sobriquet “PeyAzhwAr”, and “BhootattAzwar”.
And the BhAgavata PurAna recounts how the great Bharata Muni, due to his unconventional behaviour occasioned by constant focussing of his faculties on the Supreme, was derisively called “Jada Bharata”.
If the Lord is capable of driving men mad with His kalyANa guNAs, we can imagine what effect He would have on His female devotees. Sri Andal confesses that His matchless beauty drives Her crazy-“MAlE seyyum maNALan” says She. The ParAnkusa Nayaki too shares Sri Andal’s plight, being driven to distraction by Emperuman. The result of this madness is to perceive everything in the wide world as the Lord Himself and His vibhooti-
“Eriya pitthinOdu ellA ulagum Kannan padaippu ennum
neeru sevvE ida kANil NedumAl adiyAr endrOdum
nAru tuzhAi malar kANil NAranan kaNNi eedennum
tEriyum tErAdum MayOn tiratthanaLE it tiruvE”
To conclude, being mad is not bad, per se. It is what we are mad about that makes the difference.
Considering all this, wouldn’t you like to be a little mad?
Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore