Selected Hindu Poems
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Please note that a list of the poets cited here is included on the last page, with reference to where further details may be found.
Three Poems by Mirabai (perhaps the most famous of all the bhakti saints)
O my mind,
Worship the lotus feet of the Indestructible Lord!
Whatever you see twixt earth and sky
Why undertake fasts and pilgrimage?
Why engage in philosophical discussion?
Why commit suicide in Benaras?
Take no pride in the body,
Which will soon mingle with the dust.
This life is like the sporting of sparrows,
That will end with the onset of night.
Why don the ochre robe
And leave home as a sannyasi?
Those who adopt the external garb of a yogi,
But do not realise the secret truth,
Are caught again in the net of rebirth.
Mira’s Lord is the courtly Giridhari.
Deign to sever, O Master.
All the knots in her heart.
When the whole world
rests in slumber, dear love,
I keep vigil, riven from him.
In a glorious palace of pleasure,
estranged, I sit awake,
and see a forsaken girl,
with a garland of tears round her neck,
passing the night
counting the hours
If I had known
that falling in love
was to fall in with pain,
I would have beaten a drum
proclaiming throughout the town
that love was banned for all.
We do not get a human life
Simply by asking.
Birth as a human
Is the reward for good deeds
In former births.
Life waxes and wanes imperceptibly,
And stays not long.
The leaf that has fallen
Returns not to the branch.
Behold the Sea of Transmigration.
With its swift, irresistible tide.
O Lal Giridhari, O pilot of my soul,
Swiftly conduct my ship to the other shore.
Mira, the maidservant of Lal Giridhari.
Declares, “Life lasts but a few days only.”
A Poem by Tukarama
What use this haste, this hurry
This burden of earthly duties?
God’s purposes stand firm,
And you, his little one,
Need one thing only –
Trust that he is able and willing
To satisfy your every need.
Rest your burden on him,
And you, his little one,
May play in safety by him.
This is the essence of it all –
God loves you,
God carries your burdens
J Nelson Fraser and KB Marathe (eds) The Poems of Tukurama, Motilal Banaridass, Delhi, 1983
A Poem by Tulsidas
The companions of my birth, my hair, went white.
My concern for people’s opinion has gone.
The body is wasted, the hands are trembling,
The light has gone out from the eyes.
The ear can no longer hear any word
And all senses have lost their strength.
The teeth are broken.
I cannot utter any understandable word.
Beauty has disappeared from my face.
Phlegm and bile are covering my throat.
I can call my son only with a movement of my hand.
Brothers, relations and dearest of all, my wife
Are turning me out of my home
As the moon has got a black mark, of which it cannot get rid
Thus I cannot rid myself of the attachment to what is “mine”.
Tulsidas takes refuge to your powerful feet,
Which are able to overthrow greed.
A Poem by Surdas
I have fallen so lowly:
I do not even have one bit of desire for you!
Powerful Maya has fettered me
In the guise of property, money and a fair wife.
I see it, I hear it, I know it,
But I still cannot get away from it.
With my own ears I have perceived: it was said
You are the salvation of those who have fallen very low.
I want to get into the boat of deliverance,
but I am unable to pay the fare to the boatman.
I do not ask anything new from you,
You have always been gracious towards the poor.
Incline with favour upon Sur,
Lord, King of Braja.
Poem by Chaitanya (selected verses)
One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind, one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.
O almighty Lord, I have no desire to accumulate wealth, nor do I desire beautiful women, nor do I want any number of followers. I only want your causeless devotional service in my life, birth after birth.
O son of Maharaja Nanda [Krishna], I am your eternal servitor, yet somehow or other I have fallen into the ocean of birth and death. Please pick me up from this ocean of death and place me as one of the atoms at your lotus feet.
O my Lord, when will my eyes be decorated with tears of love flowing constantly when I chant your holy name? When will my voice choke up, and when will the hairs of my body stand on end at the recitation of your name?
O Govinda! Feeling your separation, I am considering a moment to be like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling completely vacant in the world in your absence.
I know no one but Krishna as my Lord, and He shall remain so even if He handles me roughly by His embrace or makes me broken-hearted by not being present before me. He is completely free to do anything and everything, for He is always my worshipful Lord unconditionally.
Bhaktivedanta Swami, A.C. (translator), The Shrimad Bhagavatam,
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, Los Angeles, 1972
A poem devoted to Lord Shiva by Akka Mahadevi
Not seeing you
Either in hill or forest,
From tree to tree
Lord, my Lord, come
Show me your kindness!
Till I met your men
And found you.You hide.
Lest I seek and find.
Give me a clue,
White as jasmine,
To your hiding places.
A.K. Ramanujan (translator), Speaking of Shiva, Penguin, 1979 (1973)
A Poem by Kabir
You have come into this world to do business and to make a profit,
But you have gambled away your stock.
You have not even reached the outskirts of the City of Love.
As you have come, so you shall leave.
Listen my companion. Listen my friend!
What have you done in this life?
You have taken up a load of stones on your head!
Who will lift it from you further down the road?
Your friend is standing on the shore
And you have no mind to meet him.
You are sitting in as shipwrecked boat.
You fool! You will be drowning!
Kabirdas, who observes all this, says:
In the end, who is your helper?
Alone you go forth, and you will eat your own deeds.
K. Klostermaier (compiler), The Wisdom of Hinduism, Oneworld, Oxford, 2000
A Poem by Bhaktivinoda Thakur
Alas, for those that spend their days
In festival mirth and joy!
The dazzling deadly liquid forms
Their heart for e’er employ
The shining bottles charm their eyes
And draw their heart’s embrace!
The slaves of wine can never rise
From what we call disgrace
Was man intended to be
A brute in work and heart?
Should man the Lord of all around
From common sense depart?
Man’s glory is in common sense
Dictating us the grace,
That man is made to live and love
The beauteous Heaven’s embrace!
The flesh is not our own alas!
The mortal frame a chain;
The soul confined for former wrongs
Should try to rise again!!!
Why then this childish play in that
Which cannot be our own,
Which falls within a hundred years,
As if a rose ablown!
Our life is but a rosy hue
To go ere long to nought!
The soul alone would last for e’er
With good or evil fraught!!!
How deep the thought of times to be?
How grave the aspect looks?
And wrapt in awe, become, Oh!
When reading Nature’s books!
Man’s life to him a problem dark!
A screen both left and right!
No soul hath come to tell us what
Exists beyond our sight!
But then a voice, how deep and soft,
Within ourselves is left;
Man! Man! Thou art immortal soul!
Thee death can never melt!!
For thee thy Sire on High has kept
A store of bliss above,
To end of time, thou art, oh! His
Who wants but purest love.
Oh! Love! Thy power and spell benign
Now melt my soul to God!
How can my earthly words describe
That feeling soft and broad!!
Enjoyment – sorrow – what but lots
To which the flesh is heir?
The soul that sleeps alone concludes
In them it hath a share!!
And then! My friends no more enjoy
Nor weep! For all below;
The woman, wine and flesh of beasts
No love thee bestow!
But thine to love thy brother man
And give thyself to God.
And God doth know your wages fair
This fact is true and broad!!
Forget the past that sleeps, and ne’er
The future dream at all,
But act in time that with thee
And progress thee shall call!!!
But tell me no in reasoning cold
The soul is made alone
By earth’s mechanic, lifeless rules
And to destruction prone!
My God who gave us life and all
Alone the Soul can kill,
Or give it all the joys above
His promise to fulfill!!
So push thy onward march, O soul!
Against an evil deed
That stands with Soldiers-hate and lust
A hero be indeed
Maintain thy post in spirit world
As firmly as you can,
Let never matter push thee down,
O stand heroic man!
Saragrahi Vaishnava soul!
Thou art an angel fair;
Lead, lead me on to Vrindavan
And Spirit’s power declare!!
There rests my soul from matter free
Upon my Lover’s arms,
Eternal peace and Spirit’s love
Are all my chanting charms!!
List of Poets Cited Above:
Poet or Saint / Cross-references to Teachers’ Book (Reference Manual)
Akka Mahadevi /page 146
Bhaktivinoda Thakur / Not mentioned in book, but a saint and visionary coming in the line if Chaitanya.
Chaitanya / pages 139, 144
Kabir / page 139
Mirabai / pages 139, 146, 147
Surdas / page 139
Tukarama / page 139
Tulsidas / page 139