What do you write when confronted with a topic like that? And yet that was Charsur’s latest command, for a CD by Sikkil Gurucharan. Here is what I wrote. I can’t say it has turned out great but I would rate it as adequate.

‘bhoomirApO analo vAyuh kham mano buddhirEva cha;ahamkAra ithIyam mEbhinnA prakrthirashTa DhA; aparEyam ithasthvanyAm prakrthim viddhi mE parAm’

Earth, water fire, wind, AkAsa and the mind, intellect and the ego- form my eightfold prakrti which is the lower and other than this is My higher prakrthi. Thus spake the Lord in the Bhagwad Gita.

Of the eightfold lower prakrti, the mind is the first of the human manifestations and it is the seat of all emotions. The catharsis of the mind is considered the first step to self-realization in Hindu philosophy. Addressing it continuously and making it see the right path is therefore a popular mode used in prayer and in song. Carnatic music makes full use of it.

And among the various composers, it is perhaps Tyagaraja who uses addresses to the mind in various contexts. In his bhajana parula (suraTi, rUpakam) he asks the mind as to where is the necessity to fear death when there is true devotion to Rama. In manasA shrI rAmacandruni (IshamanOhari, Adi) he exhorts the mind to recollect that in the third and sixth cantos of Valmiki’s Ramayana, Rama is referred to as the supreme and so He ought to never be forgotten. A very beautiful song is nAda sudhArasambilanu (Arabhi, rUpakam) where he tells his mind that Rama is music manifested and goes on to describe the Lord in musical terms. A similar song is gitArthamu (suraTi, dEshAdi) where Rama is described to the mind as the full significance of the Gita and the bliss of music. sAdhincEnE (Arabhi, Adi) has Tyagaraja recollecting to himself the various sports of the Lord and the way He has always achieved what He set out to do. In a similar vein is manasA! manasAmarthyamEmi (vardhani, rUpakam) where Tyagaraja reconciles himself to the fact that the mind can never comprehend the ways of the Lord who made people like Kaikeyi and Sugriva fall victims to Maya. In uNDedi rAmuDu (harikAmbOji, rUpakam), Tyagaraja assures the mind that Rama is the only one. His adi kAdu bhajana (yadukula kAmbOji, Adi) is a lecture to the mind that it is not bhajana when the thoughts are permanently fixed on objects of sensual enjoyment. His kshINamai (mukhAri, Adi) is into a much higher realm of philosophy. In it he tells his mind that even yogic achievements pale into insignificance when compared to the worship of Rama. His manasA ETulOrtunE (malayamArutam, rUpakam) and manasA shrIrAmuni (mAraranjani, Adi) attribute the lack of God’s grace to the wavering ways of the mind.

Muttuswami Dikshitar uses the mind in a simpler context. He exhorts it to prayer in a number of songs. This is a format that has been used by several other composers. Sadasiva Brahmendra, the mystic composer also uses the mind as the target for his songs. In songs such as mAnasa sancararE (sAma, Adi) he advises the mind on the route it ought to take to achieve bliss. His khElati mama hrdayE (aThANa, Adi) has the entire Ramayana in précis, all with a philosophical double entendre.

With such a tradition of addressing the mind, it is no wonder that it continues to be a popular mode. Patnam Subramanya Iyer based his composing format on the lines of Tyagaraja and his maravakavE (sAma, rUpakam) instructs the mind never to forget Rama. His ninnujEppa kAraNamEmi (mandAri, Adi) he despairs of the mind failing to correct itself. In similar vein is Nilakanta Sivan’s tEruvadu EppO (khamAs, Adi). Koteeswara Iyer’s gAnAmudapAnam (jyOtisvarUpiNi, mishra cApu) asks the mind as to why it hankers after other objects when it has the nectarine songs on Subrahmanya. Bharati’s uNmai arindavar (set to music in sumanEsharanjani, tishra naDai by Tanjore S Kalyanaraman) questions as to what Maya or illusion can do when faced with those who are ever established in the one Truth.

As long as there is an attempt by mankind to realise the Supreme, there will be songs addressed to the mind.