According to Rajanaka lore, Tyagaraja, the lesser known of the two forms of the Hindu god Shiva that bear the name “Raja,” is “The Successful Lord.” The other more popular name is Nataraja, the Great Dancer. (In asana, you’re probably familiar with Lord of the Dance Pose.)
Who is Tyagaraja?
In yoga philosophy, Tyagaraja is associated with gratitude and hospitality. In your day-to-day life, you might experience him in the friend who invites you to a party, greets you at the door, hands you food and drink, then introduces you to people so you feel comfortable in the space.
Tyagaraja is also associated with success—particularly material success. As sovereign over the material world, he’s a little posh, a little blingy. But for all his posh-ness and blingy-ness, he is abundantly generous, ensuring our collective success.
What Tyagaraja teaches us about community
Tyagaraja may be less well-known than Nataraja, but he offers important insight for living in community—an essential for all humans. He relinquishes his autonomy for the sake of the home and the sangha (community).
In our modern world—especially in the United States—individualistic behaviors irritate social contracts. Think: People who feel like the rules don’t apply to them or look out for themselves but not the community. The results of this mindset range from mildly annoying (e.g. not mowing your lawn) to devastating for communities (e.g. applying pesticides on your property that poison living beings in your area and seep into the water supply). During the global pandemic, these behaviors became even more amplified. For example: Seeing mask-wearing as an invasion of personal freedom vs. eventual collective freedom or choosing not to get vaccinated to contribute to the collective immunity.
See also: Getting Vaxxed Was My Act of Ahimsa
Embodying the spirit of community
Tyagaraja is a proponent of collectivism. He teaches us that when we offer compromises for the greater good, we will be taken care of in turn. As members of communities, we must take turns nurturing ourselves and those around us. He shows us that being a good neighbor—being a good citizen—can create a more successful world for all.
Here are a few easy ways to embody the spirit of Tyagaraja in your daily lives:
- Invite a friend over and serve them their favorite meal.
- Having houseguests? Put a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers in their room.
- Offer to help a loved one with a task you know they could use a hand with—whether it’s repainting a room, driving them to an appointment—before they ask.
- Help new neighbors feel welcome by greeting them as soon as they move in. Offer highlights of the neighborhood or a mini tour.
- Pay your taxes!
- Teach children to include new students at lunch and recess.
- Start a conversation with the person standing alone at a gathering.