Politicians must learn from Sant Tukaram, writes Abhay Mokashi

Even a cursory look at some of Tukaram’s abhang reflects his thoughts on religion, social issues, and moral standards of people. He was a deeply religious man, but spoke against rituals. Today, the contrary is seen in society - people carrying out their religious acts with pomp. At the instance of political leaders, people carry out an ostentatious display of religion.

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Saturday, June 18, 2022, 11:01 AM IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the Jagadguru Shrisant Tukaram Maharaj Shila Mandir in Dehu, in Pune district early this week. | Photo: Twitter

While inaugurating the Jagadguru Shrisant Tukaram Maharaj Shila Mandir in Dehu, in Pune district early this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that spiritualism has been able to maintain unity.

True spiritualism, irrespective of any religion, will definitely help maintain not just unity, but peace in any society. But religion and religious fanaticism is often mistaken for spiritualism. As in the past, even in recent days, the country has seen numerous incidents of hate speech and violence in the name of religion and the perpetrators of these crimes are not spiritual.

Apart from the Prime Minister, there were numerous political leaders at the inauguration of the temple. It would help the country if politicians emulated the teachings of Sant Tukaram. Of course, the teachings of this Jagadguru would be useful to all.

His abhang (poems/lyrics) carry great messages to make the earth a better place to live. No wonder he is called the Jagadguru, this is not synonymous with Vishwaguru. It should be noted that Sant Tukaram was born in 1608 and even though there were no modern means of communication, his message went far and wide. John Milton who wrote Paradise Lost, was born in the same year, though there is a vast difference in the writings of the two.

There are varying claims of the number of abhang Sant Tukaram wrote, most of which were destroyed by the Brahmins, who threw his work in the river, who opposed him for being a Shudra. However, over 4,000 abhang were recovered. According to one source, he is said to have written over a crore of abhang.

Sant is a household name in Maharashtra, yet his work needs to be spread among the masses. He has written on various issues. Analysis of his monumental work will run into thousands of pages, but even a cursory look at some of his abhang reflects his thoughts on religion, social issues, and moral standards of people.

Sant Tukaram was born in a wealthy family and had to take over his family business at a tender age, due to the early death of his father and the refusal of his elder brother to look after the business, as he decided to take sanyas.

He was born in Dehu, near Pune and spent his life there. When the region was hit by a famine and people were driven to poverty, he released their land mortgaged to his family.

He was a deeply religious man, but spoke against rituals. Sant Tukaram felt that a silent prayer is always better than rituals with ostentation. Today, the contrary is seen in society - people carrying out their religious acts with pomp. At the instance of political leaders, people carry out an ostentatious display of religion.

One of Tukaram’s abhang applies to all those involved in constructing roadside places of worship or the public display of religion. He wrote that it is a monkey’s habit to worship the stone gods on the streets, while ignoring the gods at home.

It is rare to find politicians who do not indulge in self-glorification. In fact, they feel that self-glorification is the only way to succeed in electoral politics. Tukaram’s statement that a fool gives sorrow (to others) due to self-glorification. Those who have lost their sensibilities do not get sorrow due to the self-glorification, rather they feel more highly about such leaders, as they do not verify the facts; verification of the statements of these politicians will definitely bring sorrow to the public at large. Elsewhere, he calls for the burning down of ego, otherwise it would destroy the person having an ego.

Another quality of a majority of our politicians is that they can speak on almost any subject, with scant or zero knowledge of the subject. As a result, what they end up saying is disastrous, yet they carry courage to shamelessly speak without knowledge and even on platforms of experts in the subject. Idiots are not worried about being ridiculed and anyway, given their position, they are not ridiculed on their face. Such persons must have existed in different eras. Sant Tukaram wrote about such people and situations too. He cautioned that ill-informed people, those without knowledge or experience, cause damage. When such people hold positions of authority, they cause great damage to the state or the country.

Those spreading hate-speech should note that Sant Tukaram said that knowledge comes from stored information, so thoughts come according to what is stored (in the brain). An example of this is seen in the indulgence of communal violence by people, including those in their teens.

The great saint wrote that one should give up the work that leads to bad reputation, a large number of politicians act to the contrary. For them, bad reputation is an asset and they are proved right, given their electoral victories over people with a good reputation.

Tukaram says that one should speak the truth and that people love the honest and well-behaved. The situation in the country may seem to be the other way round, but the saint has spoken on that too. He wrote that in Kaliyug, people will run after falsehood, support wrong deeds, and people will get cheated due to the power of iniquity. How true!

(The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi)

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