Devotee: I am a sinner. I do not perform religious sacrifices [homa], etc. Shall I have painful rebirths for that reason? Pray save me!
Bhagavan: Why do you say that you are a sinner? Your trust in God is sufficient to save you from rebirths. Cast all burdens on Him.
In the Tiruvachakam it is said: ‘Though I am worse than a dog, you have graciously undertaken to protect me. This delusion of birth and death is maintained by You. Moreover, am I the person to sift and judge? Am I the Lord here? O Maheswara! It is for you to roll me through bodies [through births and deaths] or to keep me fixed at your own feet.’ Therefore have faith and that will save you. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 30)
Dog I am and lower than a dog,
yet to me You showed Your love
and came Yourself to make me Yours.
This birth and death, maya’s delusion,
should be placed under Your supervision,
and I should remain still.
Is it any longer my prerogative
to pass judgement on this?
You who wear an eye upon Your brow!
Put me in a body if You will.
Or place me at Your holy feet. (‘Kuzhaitta Pattu’, verse 8)
In many parts of the Tiruvachakam Manikkavachagar complains about his unworthiness or his uncontrolled desires. The Tevaram authors – Jnanasambandhar, Appar and Sundaramurti – expressed similar sentiments in their own poems. Bhagavan pointed out that all four saints revealed their true experience of the Self in the very first verse that they wrote, (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 306) thus implying that their later complaints, which suggest separation from God, are merely poetic devices.
Bhagavan commented on this traditional practice of saints denigrating themselves in the following exchange:
In many of his works Sivaprakasam Pillai laments over his lack of devotion and his inability to follow Bhagavan’s teachings.
A devotee once asked Bhagavan about this, saying, ‘Sivaprakasam Pillai, who is such a good man, such an ardent devotee, and a longstanding disciple, has written a poem saying that Sri Bhagavan’s instructions could not be carried out by him in practice. What can be the lot of others then?’
Sri Bhagavan replied, ‘Sri Acharya [Adi-Sankaracharya] also says similar things when he composes songs in praise of any deity. How else can they praise God?’ (The Power of the Presence, part one, pp. 45-6)