Last year for the first time I got to listen and understand Tirupaavai – a classic Tamil literature about Andal (an ardent devotee of Maha Vishnu) and how she interpreted and led change!
The background story goes like this: A baby girl is found near a Holy basil bush in a garden by Vishnuchittar (a priest who is known for his devotion to Lord Maha Vishnu). As she grows up, her faith and belief grow with her! She reads and listens about other devotees who have prayed to Lord Maha Vishnu and how they came to witness his presence and write devotional songs about the Lord.
During the month of Margazhi (approximately December 15th to Jan 14th), during the chilly mornings it is customary to wake up before sunrise and make rangoli (rice flour decorations) outside the home, take a holy dip in the river nearby (bath), picking flowers in the garden and making garlands to decorate the Lord, singing hymns in His praise etc. Now, no one wants to do all these activities alone and by themselves. It is boring (just like leading a life alone). So, she tries to create her companionship in the process. The way she builds her circle of influence and garners support from one and all in the form of companionship and / or blessings is amazing!
Personal Goal : She sets her goal to get married to the Maha Vishnu.
Shared vision: She inspires all womenfolk in the process that the culture can only be transitioned across generations through women (as mothers). Else, we will end up repeating history and the teachings need to be repeated in very many forms as relevant to the current generations!
I was amazed at the simplicity of the thought and reflected on the above two from a way that one tends to lead large change initiatives! It was interesting and I saw the pattern evolve!
There is a saying in Indian culture one’s journey on their spiritual path is initiated in this sequence
Mother -> Father -> Teacher (Guru) -> God
She goes about creating her circle of influence in this same structure.
She prays to the Lord’s mother and father and describes them in amicably nice and pleasing manner, talking about subtle things that only they could have taught the Lord. When someone notices our subtle patterns and trends in our behavior, we tend to appreciate them 🙂 She builds her circle of influence with them.
Next she needs people to walk alongside her in her journey, as otherwise the journey is long and she might falter or stop at any point of time. Who can continue to motivate her to continue on her path? Friends are the ones who give us company with equal enthusiasm and support us in very many ways! Convincing and influencing friends to do something with us is not an easy task! Some need to be spoken softly, some join if the purpose or goal is interesting, some enjoy the fun and join, some need to be scolded to join, some need to get a special treatment, some are lazy, some listen to all, some listen to none, some are very picky, some fight a lot – She considers all their emotions and convinces them to do a small activity together! The activity being – collectively all friends go and take a holy dip in the early hours of the morning before sunrise and visit the temple to see the Lord in all his Majesty 🙂
She adapts her approach to wake up every friend in a way that exclusively works with them! I was amazed at this because this is exactly how one builds their circle of influence and she does it so very well in a very subtle manner!
3. teachers (gurus)
Then she remembers every Teacher (Guru) and how a group of them witnessed the Lord in a fraction of a second within the room in the same manner! She describes the learned teachers who were ardent devotees from very many professions – some were Kings, some were poor, some were priests, some were singers etc etc, creating a baseline that no matter who is an ardent devotee, the love and devotion invariably gets noticed and one gets the blessings for the same! The way she strings the life stories, crux of their individual ways of devotion (style) and weaves them together to create a moral for the ones who are not yet there and are just starting their journey was lovely! One gets to realize that it is a well-trodden path and what matters is the feeling and devotion of the person and nothing else!
Then she moves to please the wives of Lord Maha Vishnu, and how privileged they must feel by just being there with him and getting to see Him and His Majesty all along from when He wakes up to when He goes to sleep 🙂 Every time I read it – I end up smiling! Who would not fall for this kind of sweet flattery!!!
Then, she moves to please the Lord Himself 🙂 I was waiting to understand this piece and had the opportunity to listen to very many speeches about it. She talks to Him in single-person here, addressing His beauty and comparing a drop in the universe and its color to Him. She then says that He knows everything and what she wants as well. All she asks is if she were to be born again, let not she be born in a place that does not know His name!!! WOW…! I was mesmerized…! What a way to wish… and how beautifully she gave Him the importance that He has touched her soul!
The story ends with she marrying the Lord – accomplishing her personal goal and creating the momentum and awareness in women to transition the culture and learnings to their next generations.
When we look to lead change, we define the purpose, vision, strategy, key stakeholders, how we create a way to gain their consensus and buy-in and build on every single step of success and increase our success rate all along the way to meet our overall goal and vision! She does this in such a simple way, tapping into the women perspective and their importance on the cultural front, giving importance to the small and simple rituals that help maintain their health during winter days and takes them along in her journey!
For anyone who is interested in reading Tirupaavai – wiki seems to provide it with the meaning of the individual 30 verses -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiruppavai
I learned the interpretation of Tirupaavai from Smt. Vanisri Ragupati and loved it! She is doing it again this year!
There are other upanyasaks as well – you can google them and listen!
The interpretation that every single one of us will have when we listen to this varies based on how we see life and where we are in our spiritual path!