Oct 21 2013

Nammalvar – O Lord, infinite in Thy glory

Published by at 8:37 am under Poetry

O Lord, infinite in Thy glory,
by Nammalvar

English version by A. Srinivasa Raghavan

O Lord, infinite in Thy glory,
I have ripened and lost myself
In Thy grace,
Do not change, I pray Thee.
I do not desire freedom from birth,
Nor to be Thy servitor in Heaven.
All the wealth I want
Is not to forget Thee.

— from Nammalvar: (Makers of Indian Literature), Translated by A. Srinivasa Raghavan

/ Photo by ShotHotspot /

So much of spiritual striving is directed toward escape: escape from imperfections, escape from illusion, escape from pain, escape from the senses, escape from one’s past, escape from the cycle of birth and death. That impulse to escape is a valid, even necessary, goad to begin the spiritual journey in earnest. But it also becomes a spiritualized form of the same old attraction-revulsion dynamic that keeps us caught in the turning wheel.

In Nammalvar’s poem, he shows us his spiritual courage. He declares to God that he doesn’t mind the pain of birth (and accompanying death and rebirth). He declares that the delight of serving God in Heaven is not what he seeks. He knows that such attainments, when approached from greed, ultimately feed the selfish self and eventually cause one to revert back to the illusion of separation from the Eternal.

Real wealth is knowing the Eternal, knowing never to forget. God is the real treasure, not the ease of Heaven, not the avoidance of the phenomena of life. A seeker uses the desire for escape, but when spiritual practice has “ripened,” you discover that you have “lost” yourself. You have lost the clinging self. The desire for unbroken awareness of the Eternal frees you even from the desire for escape.

Nothing to run to. Nothing to run from. We are finally fully present. Right here is precisely where the Eternal One dwells.

Nammalvar, Nammalvar poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Nammalvar

India (8th Century) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

Nammalvar is considered the foremost of the Alvars, a group of twelve semi-legendary saints dedicated to God in the form of Vishnu in the Tamil-speaking southern regions of India. His name can translate as “our own Alvar,” a sign of the deep personal connection Tamil Vaishnavas have always felt for this poet-saint.

Tradition says that the Alvars lived two to four millennia BC, though many modern scholars believe the actual historical figures lived perhaps between the fifth and ninth centuries AD.

In the popular stories, Nammalvar was said to have been born in such deep spiritual communion, that he didn’t bother to eat or drink or speak or even open his eyes until he was sixteen years old. Instead, he remained in meditation beneath a tamarind tree near a temple dedicated to Adinatha. He only deigned to open his eyes when his first disciple approached him and asked him a question.

Even after emerging from his utter introversion, Nammalvar is said to have remained beneath the tamarind tree, singing his hymns to God which eventually composed four books.

More poetry by Nammalvar

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Nammalvar – O Lord, infinite in Thy glory”

  1. franon 21 Oct 2013 at 7:58 pm

    your thought or today was a precious reminder…many thanks

  2. Pegon 22 Oct 2013 at 7:49 am

    Bringing my experiences to my conscious mind is sometimes very difficult!

  3. stewarton 22 Oct 2013 at 8:52 am

    This is a beautiful love song to the Infinite; many times I cried and many times I sang- all in the name of love.

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