Chittam Eppadiyo

What is your intention, O Lord? Will you uplift me as a virtuous man? Or, Oh Doer, will you abandon me?

Graduation Today is a day of celebration for my family. After six years of study, our son can finally add Dr before his name! My young one, a doctor?!! It seems rather surreal to me. Images flash past in my mind, superimposed one over the other, a kaleidoscope of life.  I remember my pride at my six month old when he overcame his fear of crawling down the single step between the bedroom and the corridor. How I rejoiced at his first step at ten months, his first words soon after, his first foray into reading at three, his first entry to school soon after, his first hat-trick at seven, his first musical performance at eight, his first……ah! He has been my pride and joy for 23 years. As a mother, I can only pray for his well being and continued success in life.

Much as I am proud of my son’s achievements, I wonder how much credit should any individual get for what one does?  What exactly are we taking joy and pride in? Do not Karma and the hand of God play a really large part in our destinies? My son tells me that there is no free will; he believes that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen. For a going-to-be-psychiatrist, this is a good position because one can treat everyone with kindness, absolving them of blame for their behaviour. On the other hand, it denies them credit for their achievements as well.

I have been thinking about this on and off for the past few days. I decide that though I understand causality, I disagree with any theory which absolves people from personal responsibility. So what do I believe in? In essence it is this : Every point in our lives is determined by two sets of causality. First, there is a holistic causality determined by everything in the world around us – from national and international politics to weather patterns. Second, there is personal causality, determined by our genetics, our upbringing, our experiences, our intellectual and emotional intelligence, by karma from this and other lives. Both holistic and individual causality brings us to decision points, while individual causality gives us an impulse to act in a certain manner (or not act). In that brief gap between impulse and action, free will comes into playWe take personal responsibility for bridging that gap, designing the karmic debt of the future. An overriding factor for all this is the hand of God.

Ramalinga Swamigal, also called Vallalar (1823-~1874) seems to ascribe more control to the will of God than individual free will. In a verse from Tiruvarutpa, he says in a most beautiful manner :

பாட்டுவித்தால் பாடுகின்றேன்,
பணிவித்தால் பணிகின்றேன்,
பதியே, நின்னைக் கூட்டுவித்தால் கூடுகின்றேன்,
குழைவித்தால் குழைகின்றேன்,
குறித்த ஊணை ஊட்டுவித்தால் உண்கின்றேன்,
உறக்குவித்தால் உறங்குகின்றேன்,
உறங்காதென்றும் ஆட்டுவித்தால் ஆடுகின்றேன்,
அந்தோ, இச்சிறியேனால் ஆவது என்னே !

Tiruvarutpa of Vallalar, Tirumurai-VI part I , verse 3369

paTTuvittAl pADuginDREn
paNivittAl paNiginDREn
padiyE, ninnai kUTTuvittAl kUDuginDREn
kuzhaivittAl kuzhaiginDREn
kuRitta UNai UTTuvittAl uNginDREn
uRanguvittAl uRanguginDREn
uRangAdenDRu ATTuvittAl ADuginDREn
andO, ichchiRiyEnAl Avadu ennE!

If you allow me to sing, I sing. If you allow me to serve, I serve. O Lord, if you allow me to join you, I join you. If you allow me soften with love, I soften. When you allow me to eat appropriate food, I eat. When you allow me to sleep, I sleep. When you forbid me to sleep and make me dance instead, I dance. Alas, what is in the control of this lowly being ?

This soul stirring poetry is sung by Aruna Sairam in raga Shubhapantuvarali and then Nadanamakriya before my song presentation of the day. Chittam Eppadiyo by Vedanayagam Pillai (1826-1889) is an emotive and contemplative song in which the poet asks ‘What is your intention, O Lord? Will you uplift me as a virtuous man or will you abandon me?’. Again, the implication here is that it is all under the control of God, saying little about free will. To know more about the raga, click here.

Alternate Link : Click here.


Footnote (Lyrics):

Language: Tamil

சித்தம் எப்படியோ ஐயா நின்

உத்தமனாக என்னை உயர்த்திடுவாயோ
கர்த்தனே நீ என்னை  கைவிடுவாயோ
(note, Aruna Sairam sings kAntanE instead of karttane. I believe this is an important word here – God as the Doer – and should not be changed)

வாடி நொந்தேனே மெய்ஞானக் கண் மூடி நைந்தேனே
நாடி ஆள்வாய் என்று நம்பி வந்தேனே
பாடும் வேதநாயகன் பருகும் செந்தேனே


chittam eppaDiyO ayyA nin

uttamanAga ennai uyartiDUvAyO
karttanE nI ennai kai viDuvAyO

vADi nondEnE mei jnAna kaN mUDi naindEnE
nADi ALvAi enDRu nambi vandEnE
pADum vEdanAyakan parugum sen tEnE


What is your intention, O Lord?

Will you uplift me as a virtuous man? Or, Oh Doer, will you abandon me?

Alas, I was wilted and wounded! Closing my true eyes of wisdom, I became frayed! Believing that you would search me out and rule me, I came here. O the pure honey that is imbibed by this singing Vedanayakan, what is you intention?


Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Vallalar, Vedanayagam Pillai

26 responses to “Chittam Eppadiyo

  1. Ramesh

    Completely agree with you and completely disagree with the notion that everything is pre ordained and that free will , and therefore, responsibility is irrelevant. You put the argument beautifully ; nothing more need be said 🙂

    I believe, the poets and composers of yesteryears exaggerated this theme to instill devotion and also suppress ego. A poetic license of exaggeration is always acceptable and I think this was fully used to preach bhakthi.

    By the way, on a completely impish note, the mention of Shubhapantuvarali triggered the memory of a carnatic version of Why this kolaveri di sung allegedly to this ragam. Completely irreverant and hilarious activity, but why not some irresponsible humour in a serious blog of a very serious genre. If you haven’t heard it before, check this out, but please don’t throw the belan at me :):)

    • Hi Ramesh, You are right..the poets and composers do exaggerate the theme of ‘nothing happens without God’s will’ to instill devotion. Good point about ego… Still, I am a believer in personal responsibility so even for the sake of Bhakti, I cannot abandon the idea of free will.

      And as for your link……….AYOH!!!!! :)))))

  2. usha sampathkumar

    A very touching train of thoughts and meaningful analysis too. “Both holistic and individual causality brings us to decision points, while individual causality gives us an impulse to act in a certain manner (or not act). In that brief gap between impulse and action, free will comes into play. We take personal responsibility for bridging that gap, designing the karmic debt of the future. An overriding factor for all this is the hand of God”. Very true! If I can add anything at all, it would be that free will and surrender to God are not mutually exclusive. They are not 100% one or the other. Our preference in choosing one option over the other, while taking any decision, depends on the intensity of desire. To that extent, we are responsible for that action and the consequences which create karmic imprints. On the other extreme are those who are totally surrendered, who lets God run their lives.
    Whenever faced with a decision, I let God know what I wish and tell him, ‘I have proposed. It is for you to dispose”. Then, I accept whatever happens as his wish.

    • Thank you Usha for your further insight into free will vs surrender to God. But I am not sure if it is really possible to totally surrender to God and let God run one’s life? And is that passive stance actually a correct thing to do? If a train is coming to hit you, should you stand unmoving saying that if God wills, you will be saved? I am not sure… Surely, one has come to earth to act? Is that not what Karma Yoga says? If we were to act to the best of our abilities, and accept the results whatever they be (karmanyeva adhikara…) ie. as you correctly say, leave it to God to dispose, that sits better with me than abandoning everything to God in a passive way.
      Cheers. Suja

  3. Narasimharaj

    “I wonder how much credit should any individual get for what one does? What exactly are we taking joy and pride in? Do not Karma and the hand of God play a really large part in our destinies?”
    Suja & Ramesh, I’m totally ‘lost’ in the maze construct – complexity; labyrinthine.- of ‘positions/convictions/arguments’ you both have presented! I’ll take a ‘neutral/safe/cautious stand’ and say ‘Much may be said on Both Sides’.
    The intellectual exchanges are as interesting as the music selected & presented !!

  4. Narasimharaj

    “I am a believer in personal responsibility. So even for the sake of Bhakti I cannot abandon the idea of free will”
    Suja, the word BHAKTI caught my eye in this current Marghazi Maasam – reminding me of Sri Andal’s ,’Thiruppavai’. I hope that in your next ‘post’ you’ll make a delighting selection of ‘Thiuppavai rendering’ – preceded by an unique preface of your own on Sri Andal’s devotion & love for the Lord.
    I wonder whether Sri Andal too believed in ‘personal responsibility’ when she decided that she’d marry The Lord and The Lord Only!
    Best Wishes.

  5. Jay

    Hello Suja,

    Could you post the Vallalar poetry (Tamil written in English). I know of another Vallalar poem: orumai udan ninadu thiru malaradi … which I sing. Needless to say, I have always found that his poetry is sung in a deeply devotional style.

    This recording is remarkably clear, where you here the singer’s voice clear with the background instruments in the background and not overpowering the singer. This brings forth the expression in the human voice. While Aruna Sairam’s voice is clear, it seemed that it could have been more effective if it was sung in a little less unhurried manner and the sung in a little less exuberant for better bhava. Overall, I liked it! Interestingly a popular song set in this raga fetched Yesudas another national award in 1991

    God’s will is what happens following action. Action happens always – however in the tapestry of life, how things shape up overall, is not guaranteed for anyone. In the theater of life, you could be the best or worst but what becomes of you is shaped by the circumstances that you find in! I’m reminded when Radhakrishnan reminisced that it seemed to him that there was always some hand guiding him. The Yoga Vasishta expounds the ‘kaka-taliya nyaya’: when the crow lands on top of the palm tree and a coconut falls to the ground, Vasishta says the two events are mutually exclusive.

    Congratulations to your son and best wishes to him.

    Keep writing!

    • Hello Jay,
      Thank you for your good wishes for my son. Its a proud moment in a parent’s life when the children pass out of university and commence on a working life!

      I’ve added a transcription of the poetry to the post as your requested. Its rather lovely, isn’t it?

      Its interesting, how we all have a very clear idea of free will, God’s will, karma etc. It doesn’t come up in everyday conversation so sharing each others views like this over a piece of music is very interesting to me. Thank you for your input. As you say, if ‘Action’ is our own free will, what results from that action is God’s will.
      Cheers, Suja
      Cheers. Suja

  6. Gopal

    Congrats on your son completing his education in medicine. Our best wishes to him in his future endeavours. I agree with Smt.Usha’s approach on when faced with a decision point.

    Am reminded of the following which I learnt at Chyk – Coimbatore.
    कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
    मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि.
    Guess I don’t need to translate this. 😉

    In case you have not watched before, I would highly recommend the critically acclaimed play titled “Vinodhaya Chittam” by Dummies Drama in Chennai.

    Do click on the links below the article to read the reviews of the play in the leading newspapers.

    best regards

    • Hello Gopal,
      Thank you for your wishes for my son, all these aashirwadams will surely help him in the future!

      When I read Usha’s comment, I was reminded of exactly the same sloka you have quoted! It is a sloka which I have quoted many times to myself to avoid disappointment at bad outcomes and to avoid pride at good outcomes.

      Thank you for the recommendation for the play, I shall certainly check it out.

      Regards, Suja

  7. joydeep

    Congratulations on your son graduating, Sujaji.

    About karma, I think the technical books talk about 3 types of karma, explained by the allegory of the archer.
    Type 1) The arrow is already in motion, moving towards its target. Over this we have no control. It will play itself out as it has to.
    Type 2) The arrow in the hands of the archer. Over this we have control, as we can decide what to do with it.
    Type 3) The arrows in the quiver. Karmas yet to play out. These are unknown in terms of quantity and magnitude and we may or may not have control when they execute.

    Karma is of course a very complex subject, best understood by those highly advanced.

  8. Ravi

    Sujaji, congrajulations on your son’s graduation. My best wishes are with him.
    I agree with you completely on the aspect causality and the role of karma in our lives. I would further say, that in the brief gap between impulse and action, when free will comes into play, the exercise of the free will though it appears we are in control, inherently is another manifestation of God’s hand. It is just an illusory incentive to mortal beings who are immersed in his theater of maya.

    • Hello Ravi, thank you for your kind wishes 🙂 Aah that’s yet another variant of the idea…. Interesting! But then by your reckoning, if that bit of free will is illusory, and it’s God who controls it, then by definition, there is no free will at all! Are we then merely puppets? My son says, like you, that there is no free will but his argument in not theistic but a kind of logic. No gods in his argument but the result is the same. For me, having no free will, whether due to Gods or due to logic, is hard to accept. But of course, we’ll all find out one day – and aren’t we going to be surprised?:)
      Cheers. Suja

    • usha sampathkumar

      ” If a train is coming to hit you, should you stand unmoving saying that if God wills, you will be saved? I am not sure… Surely, one has come to earth to act? Is that not what Karma Yoga says?”
      Hi Suja,
      I’ve been holding my tongue or rather fingers from typing lest these exchanges revolve more around philosophy and less about music! After all music is your mainstay.
      Ravi, may I add my twobit? We are given free will to do action (karm). The logic or the reason behind why different people take different decisions, depends on each one’s sanskar, which can be loosely called habit. The sanskar or conditioning is dictated by 3 factors- janam, svabhav and shiksha Janam means a particular environment in which an individual is born. Svabhav is the individual’s nature of the proportion of satva, raja and tama gunam. This is so individualistic that children of the same parents are endowed with different satva raja tama composition. Shiksha is the conditioning we receive from outside. This goes back to the age old arguement of nature versus nurture in shaping our personality. While all this may explain why different people act differently at a given situation, all of us have free will to act.

      Even the upanishad example of 2 birds on the tree says while one bird is doing karm the other bird is watching and does not participate in the karm.

      Comoing back to Suja’s question of saving oneself when faced with danger, we have to take action. And we act.

      Even great saints like Ramana Maharishi and Ramakrishna Paramhans allowed surgery to their limbs. That involved decision. A devotee does not test God. He may decide to end his life without taking treatment but again the key word is he is deciding to face the consequences of his decision to go without treatment.

      The man facing a train is deciding to stand and lose his life. That is his free will acting. If he thinks God may still save him by a miracle, that is his belief.

      Does it make sense?


      • Hi Usha, Can we keep philosophy and religion separate from Carnatic Music? I think not..the music is steeped in our devotion and all the philosophy which lies behind that devotion. I am always glad to hear people’s opinion on these subjects, whether they match my own or not, for surely each is a facet of the whole? I this case, I am in the same page as you 🙂
        Cheers. Suja

  9. Ravi

    Ushaji, I agree with you completely on the exercise of free will. However, on closer examination you will find there is more to it, than that meets the eye.
    Examine these questions, Who gave us free will ? Why did he give us free will ? If ‘free will’ was indeed truly ‘free will’ how many of us have experienced in real life that our exercise of free will has failed in spite of your best efforts.
    Using the train example, there are many instances when a person through his free will wanted to take his life, but ended up living without a scratch on his body. The point I’m driving home is that there is more than to ‘free will’ than we ‘think’ we know.

    Lastly in respect of separating philosophy and bhakti. I will quote what C Rajagopalchari once famously said ” Knowledge and Bhakti are not separate, when knowledge firmly lodges in the mind it manifests as Bhakti”.
    Knowledge can take any form philosophy, music etc. Hence these cannot be separated, all of them lead to bhakti. Like how a fruit in the process of becoming ripe, progressively loses sourness to result in pure sweetness. Likewise an individual as he progresses in his quest of knowing God, through any means music or otherwise will eventually lose all distinctions of will to affirm ‘one and only’ that is God’s will. 🙂

    Cheers, Ravi

    • usha sampathkumar

      we both are saying the same thing while my approach is cerebral and yours is all heart. There is safety in heart’s approach as God Himself is touched by the heart’s innocence. The danger in cerebral approach is it is based on logic and reasoning which belong to the realm of mind. Mind can derail my belief (shradha) anytime. I have entrusted the responsibility of preserving my shradha also to God, smart na?

  10. Narasimharaj

    Learned comments on God’s Will, Free-Will, Knowledge, Bhakti, etc., go skimming at a tangent to my rounded bald-head – as the views are beyond my comprehension.
    But one thing I am conscious of is that whenever something good happens to me or because of me, I thank God and Others for it and whenever something bad happens to me or because of me to others, I blame myself for it. I don’t know how this gets linked up in the loop of God’sWill, Free-Will, Knowledge, Bhakti, etc.
    Best Wishes.

  11. usha sampathkumar

    Well, Raj, wonder if you’ve heard of this shlok in Srimad Bhagavatam 10th canto, chap 14, shlok 8. ‘thathe anukampam……..’! Considering whatever good happens to us as God’s mercy and taking the blame for our suffering as the result of our past action is the sign of the highest devotee.

    • Narasimharaj

      ‘”thathe anukampam……..’!”
      Usha, I am not one who has deeply read the Scriptures, Mythologies and the like – beyond reading some of them as ‘stories’. Yes, in December 2008 I sat through the Bhagavatham Saptaham at a close friends place, but the ‘learned discourses’ were beyond my comprehension.
      What I wrote earlier was a spontaneous feeling I had/have about Good & Bad.
      I don’t know whether there is ‘God/Goddess/Divine’, but I suppose there is some “Power/Strength beyond oneself’ that controls & confers Good – although the same ‘Power/Strength beyond oneself’ may-not or does-not control or prevent the bad that one does/causes.
      Best Wishes.

  12. Krishnamurthy Narayan

    குறித்த ஊணை ஊட்டுவித்தால் உண்கின்றே

    So true this morning Viji (my wife) had made this morning and it was all set on the table I suggested the above lines for her to read for the first time and it became true some shocking thing happened at home and we couldn’t return to the table.

  13. Saraswati

    What an amazing blog..stumbled upon this blog when I was looking for piriva varam tharum. Just loved the write-up before the song. Then ended up reading and listening to bollywood numbers. Ab ke baras from Bandini is one of my fav numbers. And today I read this one and thoroughly enjoyed Aruna Sairam s rendition.
    It’s a saviour during this corona times.

    • Welcome to my blog Saraswati. I am glad you are enjoying my posts and music choices. There is a lot to choose from, I’ve had this blog for many years! Listening to music is one of the limited safe occupations during these Corona times so you are welcome to visit as often as you wish 🙂
      Cheers. Suja

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