With the Lord’s sanction to begin his very first ‘pathikam’ with the epithet “Piththa” (literally a mad man), Sundaramurthy Nayanar bursts forth into hymns extolling the Lord’s unparalleled munificence. In the context of the hymn, the term ‘Piththa’ assumes an extraordinary significance as it indicates the essence of the entire consciousness. This superior consciousness can set right the delusion plaguing the human mind to gain a vision of the Absolute Truth, as it happened in Sundarar’s case. He had gained the Brahma Jnana that made him exclaim “There is nothing except You in this entire creation.”

Aware of the personal intervention of Siva, Sundarar realises his great fortune of being chosen as a servant to the primordial being, a status celebrated as the greatest reward for a devotee, said Sri T. Balaji Bhagavathar in a lecture. A perception of the gap between His supremacy and the individual unworthiness is the source of the strain of humility that pervades the hymns of great saints. There is no room for any sense of ego, and only devotion in the form of yearning to serve the Lord and His devotees prevails. These hymns thus provide valuable lessons in humility, devotional service and a longing for salvation, to ordinary beings.

Sundarar sings: “Oh Lord! You are the one who fulfils the wishes of His devotees! Grant me the wish that I should not seek anything else from You except You.” This is the highest form of devotion when the soul is steeped in God at all times. In another hymn, he pleads to Siva to help him imbibe the qualities that make an ascetic. Adopting the life of an ascetic and taking up sanyasa do not guarantee the spirit of penance that is manifest as viveka (discrimination) and vairagya (renunciation). This mental discipline is granted by Him alone. Those who experience it and remain aloof from the world, though living very much in it, are fortunate, sings this saint.

Unless God chooses a devotee for this severe test and endows him with the necessary mental make-up, one cannot truly renounce. The soul has to yearn for this level of renunciation which leads to mukti and release from further births.

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