Life is a journey towards the ultimate liberation of the soul from the bonds of life and death. However, this journey is never completed in one lifespan. It stretches across a number of lives (births and rebirths). The sages who are great visionaries, have recommended two paths for this journey. (1) Vichara-marga (The path of contemplation) (2) Upasana- marga (The path of worshipful action). In sloka 29 of Atmopades-satakam Narayana Guru has said about Vichara-marga.
manamalar koytu mahesa pooja cheyyum
manujanu mattoru vela cheithidenda
(Plucking mind-flower, who worships Grand God, for him no other thing to do.)
This is most suited to those who wants to renounce the world.
Upasana- marga can also be called Karma-marga (the path of action). This is the path highly suitable to the common man. This path has suggested four human values (Purusharthas) in life.These are Dharma (ethical value) artha (wealth or possession) kama (instinctual desire) and moksha (liberation). A man’s action should be based on Dharma, as a guiding principle and restraining force. If he surrenders such action to God, or considers them as offerings to his Guru (Gurupooja) then it becomes worship.
Upasana means ‘’sitting near’’. (upa- near. asana- seat). A devotee ‘sits’ near God when He is in his mind. The worship of gods by Hindus, and the faith of Christians in Jesus Christ (as an object of worship or reverence) are both Upasana-marga. The basic difference is that, the Hindu has been given the freedom to chose his God (Ishtadevata) of worship, according to his faith and inclination.
Prarthana (prayer or overt pleading), Bhajan (chanting in groups), Archana ( veneration, adoration of the divine name with offerings), Japa (repetition of a sacred name or Manthra), and Dhyan (meditation) are various forms of worship. Islam also follows this path of worship. But the Sufis follow a system of mysticism with the objective of attaining union with God and this is a form of Vichara-marga. In the second part of sloka 29 in Atmopades-satakam Guru again refers to Upasana- marga.
vanamalar koytu mathallayaykil maya
manuvuruvittumirickkil maya marum
(If this is (Vichara-marga) not possible, let him pluck wild flowers and offer, or let him repeat a mantra- that is also maya. Then the maya will disappear.)
Whether worship (prayer) should be performed standing or sitting, has no fixed rules. In temples and public places standing is preferable for convenience. Children usually chant their evening prayers sitting on the floor in their homes. In either case, the devotee should keep his back erect (to avoid discomfort to the spine) and should be able to install his (her) deity of choice in the mind. While participating in community prayers, it is advisable to go with the rhythm and speed of the group.
WHERE IS GOD
The atman (soul) is God. The soul is the seat of spiritual energy. In Bhagavad Gita-13. 1, Lord Krishna says:
‘Idam sareeram Kaunteya
Kshetram iti abhidhiyate’
‘This body, O Kaunteya, is called the kshetra or field’. The body is the Dharmakshetra of the Jeevatman (human soul). For this reason the Guru tells his disciple in search of Truth ‘ Tat Twam Asi’- That Thou Art, i.e, You are Brahman, the ultimate Truth. When Christ said that God (Father) is in heaven and ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’, he meant the same concept as ‘ Tat Twam Asi’. Hindus pray closing the eyes to realize that ‘Truth is in, and does not require external organs. When in the beginning of Atmopades-satakam Narayana Guru says ‘restrain your five eyes within’- he means control your five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, touch, tongue).
WORSHIP OF ISHTADEVATA
(God of choice)
Hinduism allows a follower to choose his ‘Prateka’ (symbol or object of worship). In other words, he can choose that Ishtadevata, whose divine form helps him the most to concentrate. Then the devotee is able to concentrate on his Ishtadevata and also His/ Her image in his mind. Then all that he sees, hears or does is related to that Ishtadevata. This is just what is said in the prayer ‘Harinamakeertana’.
yathonnu kanmathathu narayanapratima
yathonnu kelppathathu narayanasruthikal
yathonnu cheyvathathu narayanarchanakal
yathonnathokke hari narayanaya nama:
When the mind is filled fully with the image of the Ishtadevata, then the person automatically transcends the barriers or limitations of religion. If a Christian sees only ‘Christ’ in his neighbour and not a Hindu, Muslim, or other caste, he also arrives at the same conclusion. The people who try to convert others into their religion in the name of God, expose the hollowness or hypocrisy of their minds. For a genuine devotee, the temple, the church and the cross represent God. Guru makes this clear when he said ‘Whatever be the religion, it is enough if man strives to be a good human being’. In other words, human welfare is more important than religion.
Chandogya Upanishad (III. xiv. 1.) says ‘Sarvam khalvidam Brahma’- i.e. Indeed, the whole world is Brahman. In other words everything finally converges into that One- Paramatman (Supreme Being). When a devotee gives a name and form to the Nirguna Brahman (Supreme Being without form or attributes), he makes Him a Saguna Brahman (with form and attributes), which he finds easier to comprehend and worship. This does not mean he cannot see God in other forms or images (idols), though he need not. There is nothing wrong in doing so. All religions allow pilgrimage to different places of worship. Whenever a devotee goes to a temple, he first contemplates on his Ishtadevata, before praying to others. He also sees all ‘gods’ as different forms of his Ishtadevata. We know that the Ayyappa devotees first chant ‘Swameeye Saranam Ayyappa’ whenever they visit a temple on their route to Sabarimala.
Having chosen a particular Murti (pratika, symbol) and firmly installed it in the mind, it may be difficult to change that murti (Ishtadevata.). Therefore it is advisable to include all other deities in his spiritual ambit of worship without digressing (deviating) from his Ishtadevata. When one worships Devi (the Mother Godess), he should understand that this Devi represents all beings and gods. Similarly a person who worships Lord Siva should see in Him the totality of all gods. Refer to what Narayana Guru has said in Jananee-navaratnamanjari. (sloka-6.)
meenayathum bhavati manayathum janani
nee nagavum naga khagam
thanayathum dhra nadee nariyum
naranum aa nakavum narakavum
nee namaroopamathil nanavidhaprakrti
manayi ninnariyum ee
njanayathum bhavati hey nadaroopini aho!
When a devotee saw everything (movable and immovable) in Devi, when he worshiped Her, what transformed was his outlook, i.e. his mind. If this happens to thousands of people, then the world will have a progressive revolution. Those who try to convert others should specially understand this phenomenon. What is expected in the path of devotion is a change in his mental outlook, not the religion of one’s neighbour. If a devotee continues to see in his neighbour the same Ishtadevata even after conversion, then what is the meaning of conversion. Those advocate or promote conversion do not know the real meaning of religion, or they put religion into immoral use.
Isavasya Upanishad (6) says:
‘He who sees all beings in the Self itself, and the Self in all beings, feels no hatred
CAN WE CHOOSE A GURU AS ISHTADEVATA
This is a query or doubt raised by many devout followers of Narayana Guru. The Mundaka Upanishad (III. ii. 9.) says ‘Brahmaveda Brahmaiva Bhavati’. i.e. anyone who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. Since Brahman represents Truth, and the Guru is a knower of Truth, he becomes Truth himself. The Gurustuthi is recited with this in mind.
Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheswarah
Guru sakshat Param Brahman
Thasmai shri Gurave namah.
Which means, ‘Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu, Guru is Deva, Guru is Maheswara. Guru is the Supreme divinity incarnate. Salutations to the Guru.’
Therefore we can choose such a Guru as one’s Ishtadevata. It is better to accept a living Guru as one’s Ishtadevata than a character from the epics.
An advocate of non-duality may question the appropriateness of installing a Guru as God. For him it may not be necessary. But in case if a believer in duality feels the need to do so, it is improper for the believer in non-duality to question the need of the former to do so.Lord Krishna says in Gita (III. 26.):
‘Na budhi-bhedam janayet
Vidvan yuktah samcaran.’
Which means ‘The enlightened man should not create disturbance in the beliefs of the ignorant, who are attached to work. Working, while himself remaining diligent (unattached and attentive to one’s duties), he should make them do all the duties’.
(Purification of the mind)
When a devotee contemplates on and worships God, and his mind and intelligence gets saturated with the thought of God, his mind gets purified automatically. The objective of worship is this purification of the mind, which the devotee seeks. When the mind is pure, Truth reflects itself in the mind just like an image in a clean mirror. In other words, to seek something from God, the devotee has to approach Him with a pure mind. If a person asks for food in a dirty vessel you may refuse to give him since the food will be contaminated or just deny him food. But if you have the inclination to give him food, you will ask him to come with a clean vessel. This is also what happens when we seek something from God, that one’s mind should be pure. Look at any religion; the purpose of worship is to attain purity of mind.
Often we find an attitude among certain sections of people, that only their Guru is genuine and all others are fraudulent (crooked). This is sowing scorn (hatred) to reap scorn. Since a knower of Truth is Truth itself, and Truth is One (and only One), to attribute differences or discrimination among Truth knowing Gurus has no meaning (it is ignorance). The followers of Guru can see those institutions that believe in the equality of all religions, as sister concerns.
(The Principle of Non-violence)
The principle of a-himsa (non-violence) advocates that no injury (or harm) should be inflicted on anything through one’s mind, speech or actions. Every sin takes one farther from liberation. Along with Bhakti the principle of non-violence is taught for this reason. It is meaningless to say ‘I don’t kill, I only eat’, because the person who eats motivates the person who kills in his act of violence. In Jeevakarunya-panchakam (2), Narayana Guru has said:
kollavrtham utthamamam athilum
thinnavrtham etrayum utthamamam
nnalle parayendathu dhaarmikare.
The non-killing vow is great indeed
And, greater still, not-eating to observe;
All in all, should we not say, O men of righteousness
Even to this amounts the essence of all religions?’
Among the Ten commandments, there is one that says ‘Thou shall not kill’. This is the same as the meaning intended by non-violence. Killing without actually killing (mental torturing) is also a kind of slaughter.
Islam permits killing. Since not enough vegetables, fruit or grains grow in the desert areas, there is a need to kill animals for survival. Thus this religion allows ‘killing’ in genuine need.
(Devotion at the Feet of God)
This is a special path among the paths described under Bhaktimarga (path of devotion). Here, the devotee depends on the ‘feet’ of God to cross the ocean of mundane life (samsara). Now let us see the two stanzas (a) Daiva-dasakam (1), and (b) one from Kaalinatakam.
naavikan nee bhavabdhikke oru
aavivanthoni nin patham
(O God, protect us here, (as a father protects his son.) You are the captain, and your feet the steam-ship to cross the ocean of mundane life.)
namasthe, mahaghora samsaravara-
Padabhakti shows a devotee’s humility or humbleness. Bharata goes to the forest to recall Rama to Ayodhya. But Rama does not return since he had to fulfill his promise to his father. Then Bharata brings back the pair of Rama’s sandals. He could have brought some divine weapons, which could be useful against enemies attacking Ayodhya, from the vast armoury of Rama. Then why did he bring the pair of sandals? A devotee yearns for services at the feet of the Lord. Hanuman requested Rama for Padasevanam as his Dasa.
The concept of Padasevanam can be seen across most of Guru’s compositions. For instance look at the way ‘Kolatheeresastavam’ starts:
kolathukarakkovilil vaazhum paramesan.
Here, those who approach with the belief that God’s feet are the only source of refuge are favourably disposed people (virtuous). Those who are not righteous are called unfavourably diposed people (non-virtuous). The same concept is repeated in sloka five of Sivaprasada-panchakam.
akkani thattiyerinju karam kazhuki
thni mukthi pazhuthu choinjozhukum
kanakakkodiye kazhal ekuka nee.
The word ‘kazhal’ stands for feet. Here, the devotee says it is enough if God stretches His feet for him to cross the ocean of worldly life (samsara). Now let us look at sloka nine of ‘Shanmukhastothram’.
luptapinda pitrprithikriya cheivathinnum ithonninum
klipthmilla yenikku thavaka padasevanam enniye
labdhavidyanivan bhavadkripa undithenkil ananya sam-
thrpthiyum padabhakthiyum varu maasu shanmugha paahimam.
The devotee confesses that he is ignorant of everything except to worship God at his feet. This also means a devotee need not know anything beyond this. Further, to attain Padabhkti the grace of God is needed.
Padabhakthi is the fundamental concept enshrined in Daivadasakam, the Guru’s composition that has received the maximum popularity. If we were to analyse deeply all his compositions, we shall infer that Padabhakti is the true devotion, which Gurudeva wants us to realize.
(The path of Refuge)
Under Padabhkthi, we saw that a devotee takes refuge at the feet of God. ‘Swameeye saranam Ayyappa, Budham saranam gachami, Sangham saranam gachami, Dharmam saranam gachami’ are all ways in which a devotee asks God for refuge. This approach is called ‘Saranagathi’. Saranagathi is the utmost point in Bhakti. Here the devotee surrenders everything to God. See what Guru says in ‘Pindanandi’ sloka-1.
kalpichapole varumennu ninachukandi-
ttarppichidunnadiyan okkeyumangu sambho!
‘Ordered by Thee, all comes about.
Thus knowing, this Thy servant
To Thee now surrenders all.’
When the devotee gets the belief that everything takes place according to the wish of God, he surrenders everything to God and does not desire any possessions for himself. ‘Whether he should lead a worldly life or renounce the world, let it occur according to God’s wish’. This is the mental attitude of a Bhakta. In Pindanandi sloka-9, Guru repeats:
chollenamo duritamokkeyakattane nee
lellam kalanjeruthileri varunna sambho
‘Full well aware art Thou, good Lord of all
Hence what need is there for humble me to tell?
Do banish, pray, all agony!
Thy servant has no one here, and if Thou me disown. Then all is lost.
O Saviour coming mounted on a bull!’
The underlying principle of Pindanandi is Saranagathi. In order to elucidate our helplessness, there is the reference to human embryo (which is helpless in the mothers womb). This same submission is repeated in sloka-13 of Atmopadesa-satakam.
sakalamazhinju thaninju kevalathin-
‘Having offered the inner flower of ‘I’ to that Lord, smeared with sacred ashes of the three gunas, having cooled down the senses, unwound everything, and become calm, even the desire for samadhi gone, sink in to the glory.’
Here the first part refers to Saranagathi, where a devotee salutes wholeheartedly, God, who is full of noble attributes. When one submits to God his ego (aham) it is equivalent to ‘wholehearted offering’.
The best example of Saranagathi is the story of Markandeya. Destined to live 16 years Markandeya clung to the Sivalinga, when Yama’s messengers tried to drag him away from earth to the nether region. The messengers were in dilemma. If they were to throw the noose round Markandeya’s neck, it will also fall round the Sivalinga. If this happens Siva would destroy them. In such a situation the way of God is the way of the devotee, or his desire. Thus Markandeya became immortal. This is the principle behind Saranagathi. Just as Markandeya realized that he had no other refuge other than clinging to the Sivalinga, When a man is helpless he should hold on to the Lord’s feet. This is an act of total submission and the principle of Padanamaskaram (prostration at the feet of God).
Paramatma (The Supreme Soul) is the ‘ONE’ that represents all. The Chandogya Up. III.xiv.1 says Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma (All this, indeed, is Brahman). In Daivadasakam Stanza 5, Guru has clarified this: -
‘You are the act of creation, the creator
And all that is created.
You, God, is the element (material)
Used in creation.’
In other words, God represents everything, the creator and the created. That means God is the rat and also the cat that devours it. Now, you may ask ‘what then is the meaning of all these?’ It means, there is nothing behind these statements except that these represent the Divine Play of the Lord.
To clarify this principle of ‘Divine Play’, Guru has composed his work ‘Kundalini-paattu’. The usage of Pasu (animal) for the created, and Pasupathi (the Lord of the animals) for the creator, is common. It is rather rare for us to find an analogy referring to the created as ‘Snake’ and the Creator as ‘The Snake charmer’. However such references can be seen in Tamil literature. The Guru has employed this analogy while composing ‘Kundalini-paattu’. Just as the snake charmer uses the snake for his ‘play’, the Lord uses His creations as a means to entertain Himself. This is called the Divine Play. This has been dealt with also in ‘Jananee-navaratna-manjari’ as ‘O! everything is a play or drama’.
The analogy of the Snake and Snake charmer is more appropriate to describe the ‘Divine Play’ rather than the ‘Pasu-Pasupathi’ usage. The owner only grazes or looks after his cattle. There is no role for play here. Therefore the intended meaning does not come out clearly. But in the ‘Snake- Snake charmer’ analogy the word ‘play’ becomes clear, since the snake (created) sways or dances to the tune (and will) of the Snake charmer (The Lord).
All human actions are ‘swaying’ to His tune. This is, therefore taking part in the ‘Divine Play’. By understanding the principle behind God’s creation, Guru advises that all of us must become a part of this Divine Play. If it is not so, life is a superstitious act, without knowing the Truth. The message of ‘Kundalini-paattu’ is: - ‘A life should not be spent somehow, but lived as a part of the Divine play, i.e. according to God’s will’.
O! Snake, dance
Search for your home (burrow);
Seeing the dance of Divine Bliss
Dance! O! Snake.
‘O! Snake, dance’ means the Lord wants us to be a part of his Divine Play.
‘Search for your home’ means the Lord is the source and refuge of all beings. Search for Him within yourself, closing all your five senses. Here dance (Adal) has the same sense as living (Vazhal) of Daivadasakam and ‘search for home’ is equivalent to effort to find the Truth (Azhal in Daivadasakam). Within us the cosmic dance of Siva, who represents Truth, is being performed. Understand this and dance to His tune. Thus be a part of the ‘Divine Play’.
THATVAM AND BHAKTI
There are two ways of action (1) doing something knowingly and (2) unknowingly or out of ignorance. When one acts without knowledge he is a puppet (an idol). Even while worshipping the devotee should do it consciously realizing the principle behind his worship. Guru’s compositions are full of Tatvam (That-ness, Truth, Reality) to emphasize this aspect of Bhakti. While Daivadasakam is considered as a simple composition, the commentators are still to understand the depth of its meaning.
Devotion is the way to Liberation and one’s life is the pilgrimage to reach that destination. There are two ways to travel. One knowing the way and the other, groping to find the way, not knowing it. A devotee can reach his destination easily just as a traveler reaches his destination, when he knows the way. A man who travels not knowing his way may not even know that he is proceeding in the wrong direction. This is why we find the chances of reaching the destination is rather remote.
Tat Tvam is composed of Tat means ‘that’ and Tvam ‘Thou’. Tat denotes the soul. Who am I? From where all these creations arise? When a truth-seeking disciple goes to a Guru with hundreds of such questions, since the Guru is not able to touch or point and show the ‘soul’ (Atman), he replies by saying ‘What you asked is ‘that’- and that is yourself’. Here ‘Tat’ only indicates the soul. Thus the Guru diverts the attention of his disciple on to his inner self. The Guru advises him to close all his five senses to avoid external disturbances. This is the beginning of the pilgrimage towards ‘That’, i.e. the Truth. Thus the pilgrimage or search within oneself starts here.
Narayana Guru explains clearly what is Bhkthi (devotion) and who is a Bhakta (devotee) in sloka-2 of Bhaktidarsanam.
This means ‘Brahman is constantly under contemplation in the mind. Because Brahman is heavy with Bliss. When a devotee continuously contemplates the Brahman, it is called Bhakti’. In sloka-6 in the same composition, Gurudeva explains it further:
bhavana satatam yasya
sa bhakta iti visrutah
‘I am Bliss, I am Brahman. Whoever has the constant perceptions that ‘I am the Soul’ he achieves fame as a Bhakta.’
Let Guru bless us to become devotees who understand the basic principles of Bhakti.
PREFACE TO GURU’S VISION
The ancient sages have proclaimed that our life is a pilgrimage towards liberation (Moksha). They have prescribed two paths to achieve this, i.e. Jnana Marga (the path of knowledge) and Karma Marga (path of action). For the common householder Karmamarga is more appropriate. In the Karmamarga four Purusharthas (sublime goals or aims or purpose in life) have been specified, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Karmamarga teaches us to perform our actions based on Dharma. When it is done with devotion, it becomes Upasana. Therefore this path is also called Upasana Marg (path of worshipful action)
The Jnanmarga is more suited to a person who has renounced the world. Since this is the path of contemplation, it is also called Vichara Marga. Atmopadesa-satakam is the work of a Jnanamargi (a follower of the path of contemplation and attained liberation).
The foundation of Jnanamarga is the Mandukya Upanshad. Therefore before we try to savour (enjoy) this experience of Bliss, let us get acquainted with this Upanishad.
This Upanishad states that the Atman has four planes (states) of consciousness, namely, Jagrat (waking), Swapna (dream), Sushupti (dreamless sleep or deep sleep) and Turiya (the Super-conscious state of illumination). These four planes are the four states contained in the word AUM. A, U, M and ~ (Amatra). Amatra refers to the unbroken sound that results when the three matras A, U, M merge into one Omkaram. Please look at this concept as picturised below:
The first three states are planes of experience or perception. (In the fourth state there is neither perception nor the idea of God). The first 3 states lead to the knowledge of the fourth, Turiya. Now, you may wonder, why the forth plane is drawn vertically. To understand this now look at the sentences given below.
In the first three states of consciousness, ‘I’ (the subject) is present and is a witness to the first three states. (Avasthathrayasakshi i.e. witness of the three states). This witness or ‘I’ is the fourth state or Turiya. So it is not really the fourth. It is the base of the first three states. Hence it is drawn vertically by the side to show it comprises the other three.
Now let us examine closely the relationship between Mandukya Upanishad and Atmopadesa-satakam.
Tribhuvanasima katannu tinnivinnum
triputi mutinnu telinnitunna dipam
Going beyond the boundaries of the three
worlds, with all-filling glory, the light, rid of three fold view, that ever brighter shines.
It will never come to the reach of a pseudo-
hermit. Remember, the Upanisadic secret
declares like this.
In sloka 14 of Atmopadesa-satakam, the Guru employs the word Thribhuvanaseema (the limit of the three planes), which refers to the three states Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupti. When the limits of these three states are overcome the light of Turiya gets illuminated.
Occasionally instead of treating the planes Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupti as three, the Guru refers them as two i.e. waking state and sleep state. Don’t we dream (daydream) even when we are awake? The power or force of Awareness (Brahman) is called Maya. Maya is treated as a godess and hence the use of the word ‘Mayavanita’ in sloka 54.
vanitayilninnu purannu maritunnu.
The wakeful state does not exist in sleep. Not even a trace of sleep remains in waking state. Day by day in this manner, these two states having emerged from the primal maya woman, arise and alternate.
In most stanzas, Guru has considered the planes of experience as one entity and called it Ulakam (the manifested world). Example– sloka94.
nila valutayoru nitiketitatre,
caramitilennu cariccitum pramanam.
The world and the Truth exist intermixed. This state is a great injustice done to us. Truth is indeterminate, beyond the grasp of word and mind. How can any right reason operate in it?
In order to clarify the concept of the ‘world’ the picture shows a person looking at an urn (vessel) . Here the person is the ‘one who sees’ (subject) and the urn is the ‘object’ seen. The word ‘Ullathu’ has been used for Truth or Awareness or Atman. In Vedanta Truth is only one i.e. Atman. (Ekam satyam na dwithiyam- Truth is one there is no second- Asatya-darsanam-10.)
Now let us look at some more examples:
Mandukya Upanishad (III. ii. 9) says Brahmaveda Brahmaiva Bhavati i.e the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. Such Brahmajnanis are called Prathyaksha Brahmam (perceived Brahman). A true Guru may be such a Jnani. Those who continue to live in this world even after attaining this knowledge of Brahman are called Jeevanmukta (liberated even in this life).
EKAM SAT, VIPRAH, BAHUDA VADANTHI
The Truth is One. It is perceived and spoken of in different names and forms by the sages. This is from the Rig Veda. Truth has many names like Turiya, Atman, Paramtman, Brahman, Satchidanandam, and so on, but it is ‘ONE’. Besides this in the saguna form (Brahman with attributes) it has endless names. The plane of ‘name and form’ is called Asat (non-being or non-existent, which is the basis of material world.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I. iii. 28. says:
Asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya.
(From the Unreal lead me to the Real
From darkness lead me to Light
From death lead me to Immortality)
The Atman is Sat (eternal unchanging Being). ‘Asat’ are the names and forms of ‘Sat’, the basis of the material world. ‘Asatoma Sat gamaya’ means lead me from the plane of Asat (manifest world) to the plane of Atman (unmanifest Brahman). The second line means from the plane of ignorance (darkness) lead me to the plane of Knowledge (light). The third line also convey the same meaning. From death lead me to immortality. In the plane of Sat ‘death’ does not exist. (In other words Asat, Thamas and Mrityu are the products of desire, which exists in the lower planes with names and forms. Sat, Jyothis and Amrutam leads us to the plane of Reality)
Looking at this mantra from this point of view, there is only one statement made in this stanza and not three. The same concept has been stated in three ways. That is all.
Now look at Guru's composition Chijjada-chintanam (slokas 7&8.)
yirule veliyeyitaye potuve,
porule, puri munnumericcavane.
O Grace that round Thy sacred Presence wraps
O darkness-light, O nook and public space,
O core and what within the core as treasure dwells
O Burner of the cities three! (7)
Here the ‘three cities’ are Jagrat, swapna and sushupti. When these three states are destroyed what is left is the 4th state (Turiya). This means Lord Siva sits in the state of Turiya after destroying the other three states.
puri tannilirunnu puram porice-
Holding aloft the flambeau how Thy Presence divine
Descending, while reigning still in thought’s blue dome,
As that city of fame- Chidabaram- is called,
Could yet the cities three burn down, a marvel that is! (8)
In stanza 8, Ambaram means Akasam or ether or all pervasive space. The all pervasive space in the plane of Atman is Chidambaram. It is from this abode or plane Siva (the Lord of Chidambaram) destroyed the three states, Jagrat, swapna and sushupti.
Now let us look at Yogadarsanam sloka 1 from Darsanamala.
Satatam yojayati yad-
yunakti ca cidatmani
sa yoga iti samsitah.
(That which always unites
and also gets united with chidatma,
which is in the form of restraining mind,
that is praised as yoga.)
What Guru calls as Manonirodha-roopoyam is the same as what Maharshi Patanjali (in Yogasutra) calls as ‘Yogaschittavrittinirodha’. i.e. Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications. It is not enough only to control the Chittavrittis (activities of the mind or thoughts) but the controlled mind should join (merge) and be made to merge with the Chidatma (Absolute consciousness-Brahman) to be called Yoga.
Darsana means 'view'. Guru's darsana means, Guru's viewpoint or vision which he sees from the fourth plane. That is how the Guru is able to see all beings in Atman, and Atman in all beings.(Isavasya-6.) If a devotee wants to have the same insight or darsana, he has to see it from the plane where Guru stands.
With my humble prayer that let every devotee be fortunate enough to have that insight, with the blessings of Guru, I submit this appreciation before the devotees.
A PRAYER IN PROSE
All that we see have gross, subtle and causal forms and have their origin in the Supreme Being, and finally merges with it. Therefore, nothing really exists other than the Supreme Being. I meditate on that divine form of the Supreme which destroys and burns all sins and enlightens and directs me into the path of righteousness, and which is worthy of meditation. Oh! You Supreme Being, let me have Your blessings to meditate on You without interruption, and to obtain the utmost Bliss by doing so.
O! God, whatever I see with my eyes is not permanent. Even the body, like a water bubble, has limited existence. I cannot say anything, but thatthese are illusory like a dream. We are not the body, but Awareness. Even before the birth of the body our True Self existed. Even if all these become nonexistent, we shall continue to shine as Awareness. Birth, death, poverty, disease, and fear will not affect us.
Allow me to contemplate, without interruption, during my meals and sleep, on these sacred words of wisdom, and on the Supreme who is the source of these words. I pray to Thee to root out all my sins and grant me Your Supreme Bliss.
Let me have Your blessings to lead a trouble-free life in this world and finally to take refuge at Your divine feet.
(A reflection on the Conciousness and embodied Self)
In this work, Guru introduces the concept of spiritual distinction between Chit (Conciousness/ Awareness) and Jadam (embodied Self). Literally ‘Jadam’ means still/apathetic/ dull/inanimate/insentient which are the qualities of ignorance. Chit is the dynamic energy and Jadam is the inert matter. This may be compared to Purusha and Prakriti of Sankhya philosophy.
Only Chit is Real and transcendent. Jadam is unreal and transitory. Chijjada-chintanam helps the devotees to discriminate between Chit and Jadam, and accept what is ‘Real’ and discard what is unreal. This work contains only ten slokas, each potent with the philosophy of Vedanta.
1. orukodi divakararothuyarum-
padi paarodu neeranaladikalum
kedumaru kilarnnu varunnoru nin
As if one crore suns rising all at once and eclipsing the earth, water, fire and all else, that ascendant divine form, should ever abide with brilliance.
Just like infinite number of suns rising simultaneously, and so brilliantly illuminate the five basic elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) and theircombinations and make them imperceptible to the senses, Your Divine form should always remain effulgent in me.
Herein Guru describes the ecstasy that one experiences in realizing Truth (Awareness). The devotee pleads to God (Siva) that this ecstasy should remain eternal. A description of the same anubhooti (experience of ecstasy) is seen in stanza 35 of Atmopadesa-satakam:
(Like ten thousand suns coming all at once, the wisdom’s function comes. That is the primal Sun, which comes out tearing the veil of maya-darkness. Maya covers Awareness, and is transient.)
2. idane irukanmunayennilathi-
nnidayilla irippe athilonnilume.
Give me but one glance with the corner of those keen eyes. This is the wish of this servant, O Uma’s spouse. Ignorance will be won with that itself. It has no existence in front of even one of those eyes.
The devotee continues his plea in this stanza. O! the consort of Uma (Siva), this servant of yours , has the desire to get Your blessings, even through a glance from the corner of Your eyes. With this blessing arisingfrom Your glance, I shall gain victory over Jadam (the attachment to the body that enjoys pleasures and pain), ie get rid of my ignorance about the Truth. This Jadam (ignorance) cannot stand before your eyes, i.e. a Divine glance from you will remove my ignorance.
3. nilamodu neruppu nirnnozhukum-
jalam asukan ambaram anchilume
alayate adikkadi nalkuka nin
nilayinnithuthanne namukku mati.
Without straying in earth, in fire, in evenly flowing water, in air and in space (in names and forms, which are the combinations of all these five) give me your steady state again and again. This is enough for me today.
God has created this world from five basic elements (earth etc.) and their various combinations, with names and forms. The devotee pleads with God to save him from the desires created by worldly objects and to give him equipoise (steady state of mind) like Him. He further adds ‘Give me this state, and that is enough for me for the present’ i.e. I am satisfied with this realization.
4. mati thottu manam muthalanjumunar-
From mind, then the five senses like smell and up to Grace is Awareness (Chit). From earth up to darkness is matter. All here do contain in these two.
The thought relating to a desire to gain something in future is called Mati. From this Mati (mind), and knowledge gained through the sense organs (Jnanendriyas) upto the point of Awareness through Divine Grace is Chit (Conciousness). From earth to darkness is all Jadam (matter). Everything in this universe is contained (falls) within these two categories.
In this stanza the Guru has brought the distinction between Chit and Jadam. One should have the understanding of both these, and then, with his discriminating ability (vivekam), accept Chit, and discard Jadam.
5. akhilarkkumathingane thanne matham
sukha sadhyamithennu sukadikalum
pakarunnu paramparayay palarum
bhagavanude mayayaho! vauthe.
All the sages are of this same opinion. Easily attainable- says sage Suka and others. They transmitted it down from age to age. The Maya of the Blessed One is great indeed.
The views of all Jnanis (people who have attained spiritual wisdom or known Brahman), regarding the distinction between the ‘Real’ and the unreal is the same. All sages including Suka Brahma Rishi have said that it is easy to realize Truth by this method. Such knowledge is spread or disseminated, from generations to generations, through the Guru-sishya system (Preceptor and pupil lineage).
O! great is Maya (the delusion created by God). I am spell bound! In spite of this, no one heeds this and awakens from the darkness of ignorance. The phrase ‘who awakes’ can be seen also in stanza 6 of Atmopadesa-satakam.
6. valuthum cheruthum nadumadhyavuma-
malamayayilanu mayangi manam
O Awareness, rising steady and waveless as big, small and middling too. Save me from sinking in to Maya’s dross, with delusion and foothold lost.
Chidabaram is the sky in the plane of Aatma. It also means one who permeates the whole world with his Consciousness. Here this word has been used with reference to Chidambaranathan (Siva). God is everything, big and small and all that falls in between. The devotee prays to God to save him from Maya (delusion) that makes his mind impure, and also from the ocean of worldly existence (Samsara-sagaram) created by Maya, in which he goes up and down, aimlessly in the bottomless water of Samsara (repeated births and deaths).
7. arule thirumeniyaninjidumee-
irule veliye idaye pothuve,
porule puri moonnumerichavane.
O Grace, O darkness that adorn the sacred body, O light, O nook and public space.
O core and the essence that dwells within the core. O Burner of the three cities!
In this stanza, God is addressed using various epithets. He is called as: (1) The compassionate one; (2) The one whose body is enveloped in the darkness of Maya; (3) The all pervasive space; (4) One who is in every nook and corner and in public places, i.e. one who permeates the whole world; (5) The Core, and whatever is within the Core; (The Truth that exists in the granite stone/idol).
He is also praised as Tripuranthaka (the destroyer of the three cities), which refer to the three avasthas (states) of (1) Jagrat (waking state) (2) Swapna (the dream state) where the mind is independent of the body and the outer world and (3) Sushupti (deep sleep) where neither the mind nor ego exist, and where there is no awareness of one’s own body and the universe.
Siva is called Tripuranthaka, because he destroyed these three states and dwells in the fourth state called Turiya. Also he helps the devotee to overcome the three states and attain the fourth state.
8. eri kayyathilenthiyirangivarum
purithannilirunnu puram poriche-
O divine one, descending with the fire (of knowledge) holding in the hands. It is marvelous indeed the burning of the three cities, sitting in the city called ‘Chidambaram’.
Fire is symbolic of knowledge. God wields the lamp of Jnana (Awareness). Hence, the use of the words ‘the Divine one, who descends with the fire of knowledge in the hands’, is used to describe Siva in the fourth state Turiya, which is Awareness. This act of Siva, dwelling in the fourth state, after destroying the first three states, is really marvelous!
9. puthumamkani puthamrute, gulame
madhuve, madhurakkaniye, resame,
pathiye, padapankajame gatiye.
O fresh mango bloom, O fresh nectar, O confection sweet, O honey, O luscious fruit, O rich juice. O my master whom Brahma and Vishnu seek. Your lotus foot alone is my final refuge.
Even, in this stanza, the devotee extols God with praise. He addresses Him variedly as: (1) O! Fresh Mango; (2) fresh Ambosia; (3) An Article of sweetness (Jaggary); (4) Nectar (honey); (5) O! luscious fruit; (6) O! the essence of sweet fruits; (7) O! the Master whom Brahma and Vishnu search and seek. Your lotus feet is my final refuge and salvation.
10. gati neeyadiyannu gajatheyuri-
chatukonduda charthiya chinmayame,
chati cheyyumiruttorujati vidu-
You are the only refuge for this supplicant. O Awareness who adorn with stripped elephant’s skin. To get rid of the treacherous ignorance, bless this servant with your Grace.
O! embodiment of Jnana, who wears the cloak of stripped elephant hide, (from the Asura called Gaya, who acquired such supernatural powers that he could conquer the Gods and Munis, who therefore took refuge in Kasi, the abode of Siva. Siva ripped his body and used the skin as a cloak to cover His shoulders). You are the only refuge for this servant. The darkness of ignorance betrays my life, just as the golden deer betrayed Seetadevi. To get rid of this darkness (ignorance) I need Your Grace. To this effect, show me compassion. I am your servant (devotee).
These stotras (hymns in praise of God), are full of tatva (philosophy) and bhakti (devotion). They help the devotee to realize the Truth.What Adi Sankara explains as Drik-drisya-vivekam (Aatma-anaatma vivekam) is explained by Guru in this work in simple but potent words. Vivekam means the ability to distinguish between Drik (one who sees-Chit) and Drisya (what is seen- Jadam). Let Guru, bless us to discriminate between Chit and Jadam, and to embrace Chit and discard Jadam.
Janani-nava-ratna-manjari is a bouquet to Devi made of nine gems, represented by nine stanzas. Narayana Guru composed this work at Sivagiri about a hundred years ago (1909). The idol of Godess Sarada is installed at this place, where Guru conceived this hymn in Her praise. Therefore it is reasonable to presume that the Godess mentioned in this composition refers to Godess Saradadevi, consecrated at Sivagiri. Though this is a short hymn, the principles involved in the path of knowledge (Vicharamarga) can be seen amply in this work. Even Upasana-marga (path of worshipful action) teaches us to worship God with the awareness of the principles of devotion. One who does not know this is like a traveler on a journey without a sense of direction of his way. He may not be even aware of his mistakes, when he strays from the correct path. As one approaches his destination (using any of the two paths), the two paths merge into one.
At the outset, it is appropriate and essential to mention about the lyrical beauty of this composition. The commentaries on the nine stanzas are given below.
1. onnaya ma mathiyil ninnayiram triputi
vannasu than mathi marannu
annadiyil priyamuyarnnadalam kadalil
onnayi veenu valayum
ennasayam gathi perum nadabhoomiyil
chinnabhiyil triputi ennanarumpadi
From the Great Wish which is only one, there came thousands of triads, and at once forgetting what it is, becoming desirous of food etc. fall and suffer in the sea of sorrow all together.
When am I going to merge at the center of radiating Awareness in the Chidakasa, from where my concepts take origin and where the triple state dissolves and becomes cool.
The remembrance of the past is called Smriti (literally what is remembered through memory). The faculty of intellect is concerned with the present thoughts. ‘Mati’ relates to those thoughts, wishes or intentions about the future. Here Mati is used in reference to the Godess and not man. Therefore the epithet ‘Ma’ is used to qualify ‘Mati’. All creations have materialized according to the spiritual will (Mati) of the Godess who created this world. Thousand means endless or infinite. The knower (subject), the knowledge and the known (object) constitute ‘Triputi’ (combinations of three). The manifest world (the world of names and forms) results out of ‘Triputi’. Man often forgets who he is. Though man is really atma (a part of the divine), he gets entrapped in his body and fails to realize the Truth.
[Note. One of the fundamental tenets of Hinduism, is that ‘we’ are the atman, not the physical body, emotions, the external mind or personality. The Atma Upanishad (1-3) describes atman (Purusha) as three fold: (1) Baahyaatman- the outer or physical person. (2) The Antaratman- the inner person (excluding the physical person) which perceives, thinks and cognizes. (3) The Transcendent Self (God) within.]
Consequently he becomes egoistic and starts thinking everything as ‘I, mine, my’, like ‘I am Rama’, ‘I am Sita’, and so on. Due to his desire for materialistic objects (associated with the body), like food, clothes, etc, man falls into the ocean of sorrow and suffers, without knowing what to do. (This is what happened to Sita, who was enchanted by a golden deer and had to undergo sufferings later, due to her desire.) My (knower’s) concepts take birth from the Naadabhoomi or Chidakasa (the realm of all pervading, Absolute (Consciousness). All pains and sorrows exist due to the existence of ego (I, the knower, the subject). When a devotee merges completely with the Godess (through Upasana) all sorrows of the world will disappear, just like sugar disappears in the ocean of milk.
2 illatha mayayidum ullasam onnum arivu
kallazhiyum kanalum allathe soonyamathum
thallaghavam parakil illaranam kriyakal
malladukilla mathi ee
sallabhamonnumathi ellavarum thirayum
ullagha bodha jananee.
The play that the nonexistent Maya makes is nothing but Awareness. Earth, water, fire, air and space are all in essence Awareness.
If one understands the ease with which Godess creates and plays with it, the Karmas mentioned in the Vedas do not hold water. There won’t be any further confusion. It is enough to obtain Sat, Mother the embodiment of Jnana, whom everybody seeks.
Maya is an illusion ie, a nonexistent phenomenon. When a person perceives the Truth, he will realize this fact. The thoughts that arise due to illusion are but a form of knowledge. If we look at the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether.) from a spiritual angle, they are also a part of our knowledge or Awareness. This has been mentioned also in the Daivadasakam.
If we understand with what ease and inherent ability, the Godess created the world and plays with it, the Karmas (duties/actions) mentioned in the Vedas do not hold water (has no significance).
[In the Vedas, the section on Knowledge follows the section on Duties/Actions. Vedanta is Jnanakanda (section related to knowledge) and has pushed out Karmakanda (section related to duties/ actions). If this is understood, there will not be any doubt about which to accept, Karmakanda or Jnanakanda.
(Note: Jnanakanda is the portion of Vedas, which relates to the knowledge of the one Spirit (Awareness). Karmakanda is the portion of Vedas relating to ceremonial acts and sacrificial rites.) It is enough to obtain Sat (the Truth/Awareness). In other words Moksha (liberation) is enough. She is the Godess, the embodiment of Jnana (Awareness), whom everybody seeks.
3. undayimarum arivundayi munnamithu
kondayiram tharam irundasayamprathi
churunda mahassil marayum
kandalum eenilayi undakayillarivu
thandaril veenu madhu undaramikkumoru
vandanu soori sukruti.
The Awareness, ever changing in the form of manifested world originated first. With the Jnanendriyas and Antakarana endless manifestations sway to the play of illusion (Maya), get involved in different concepts and finally merge with that Glory.
Though all these take place before our eyes, the ignorant cannot understand this play of undivided Bliss. The Jnani who reaches his destination is like the bumblebee that slept in a lotus flower after enjoying its honey.
The Aathma (Awareness) is what originated first. But it goes through the process of births and deaths (the samsara-chakra). The Jnanendriyas (organs of sense) and Antakarana (the inner self consisting of the mind, intellect, consciousness and ego) sway to the play of illusion (Maya), and become manifested as names and forms (objects), get involved in concepts like love, nonviolence and revolts and finally merges with the Paramatma (Awareness). Though all these activities take place before our eyes, those who are submerged in ignorance, do not enjoy this undivided (whole) Bliss. The Jnani who reaches his destination is like the bumblebee that slept in a lotus flower, after enjoying and getting intoxicated with the honey it consumed.
[Note: ecstasy views Bliss from the western view as ‘standing outside oneself’. Mircea Eliade in 1969 coined the word entasy to contrast it with Eastern view of Bliss, ie. ‘Standing inside oneself’.
4. aarayukil thirakal neerayidunnu phani
veraya ninkazhalil aaradhanam tharanam
aaral ithinnoru varam
nerayi vanniduka verarumilla gathi
hey! rajayoga jananee.
If we contemplate, the waves are but water, the sake is just a rope and the pot is but earth. The world is similar to this only. If we don’t think philosophically everything is real.
Mother! You, who is the root cause of everything, give me refuge at Your feet. Grant me a boon to this and it must become a reality. There is no other way to me. O! Mother, the Godess of Raja yoga!
If we reflect within, we will realize that the waves in the ocean are just water, the snake that is seen in a rope (in dim light) is just a rope, and the earthen pot is but earth. The world is similar to the above examples. If we think philosophically everything is Real. In fact, the world is Awareness. Only the wise with a philosophical determination (bend of mind) can understand this. The ignorant sees only the manifestations of names and forms, but not Awareness. Mother! You who is the root cause of everything, grant me the blessings to become devoted at Your feet. You must grant me this boon and it must become a reality. O! Godess of Raja yoga! I do not have any other mode of existence (a way of living). [Note: Devi is the Mother of all Yogas and not just Raja yoga.)
To be a true devotee at the feet of the Devi, one must have Her blessings. The prayer mentioned here is to seek such a blessing from Her. This concept has been introduced by the Gurudeva in Shanmukha stotra. The Grace of God is a prerequisite to attain Padabhakti (devotion at the divine feet of God.)
5. melaya moolamathiyalavrtham janani
nee lasyamadi vidum ee
keelala vayu anala kolahalam bhuvanam
kaalatiyaya mruthu noolale neyyumoru
leelapadam bhavathi mey
melake moodumathinalarum ullatha
Mother’s body is enwrapped in primordial illusion. Out of her intoxicating dance arise the five elements and their different combinations which constitute this world. All are just names.
Devi is donned in a play dress which is made up of the fine threads of time etc. So no one recognizes her, who resides at the end part of Agamas.
Devi is Atma (Awareness). But her body is enwrapped in primordial illusion (Moolamati) which arises out of her intoxicating dance (Lila). (The same concept can be seen in Atmopadesasatakam stanza 35.
[Like ten thousand suns coming all at once, the wisdom’s function comes. That is the primal Sun, which comes out tearing the veil of maya-darkness. Maya covers Awareness, and is transient.]
The body is constituted of the five elements, which we can see. The forms in the manifest world got names. Therefore the usage of the phrase ‘aalapa matram akhilam’- everything is just names.In stanza 80 of Atmopadesasatakam and in Kundalinippattu- we can see the same concept.
(Ever contrary like rest and motion, how can creation, existence and dissolution co-exist in one place? There is no validity for these anywhere. When this is considered, earth and other objects are, mere names alone.-Atmo-80.)
paradi thonniyennadu pampe’.
Just like the artiste in Kathakali performance dresses appropriately to suit the character he represents, the Godess also dons different attires to suit different occasions. Since the Devi is covered fully by dress of illusion, no one recognizes the real Devi who exists at the end part of Agamas (behind the disguise), where she is in the form of Mahavakyas (which proclaim Tat Twam Asi, Aham Brahmasmi, Ayamatma Brahma etc.)
6. meenayathum bhavati manayathum janani
nee nagavum naga khagam
thanayathum dhara nadee naariyum naranum
aa nakavum narakavum
nee namaroopamathil nanavidhaprakrti
manayi ninnariyum ee
njanayathum bhavati hey nadaroopini
aho! nadakam nikhilavum
O! Devi, You are the fish, O! Mother, You are the deer, You are the snake, the bird, the mountain, the earth, the river, the woman, the man, the heaven and the hell.
I who is aware of these manifestations, am also part of your many names and forms. O! The embodiment of Omkar, all these are but your divine play.
O! Devi, You manifest yourself in many forms like the fish in water, the frolicking deer in the forest, as the snake, the bird, the mountain, the earth, the river, the women, the man, the heaven and the hell. [ie. You are omnipresent.) I, who is aware of these manifestations, am also part of your many names and forms. O! The embodiment of Omkar, all these are but your lila (divine play).
It is futile (and foolish) to break one’s head by trying to interpret this stanza, by pointing out some apparent contradictions, like, the rat is Devi, the cat is also Devi, and the cat eats the rat, and so on. The essence of this stanza is that all that we see in this manifest world is only part of a divine play. [So Devi is called Mayavinodini- one who enjoys creating illusions in man.]
7. en papam eyvathinorampayidunnarivu
en anpanu maurvi orirumpam manam dhanu:
ambaa tharunnu vijayam papapankilamaham
van bharamarnna thanuvum bhanamam
ulakavum bhanamakum akhilam.
Awareness is the arrow to shoot down my sins. The devotion at your tender feet serves as the string. An iron like mind is the bow. One who has realized Devi succeeds in shooting down his sins.
Victory is achieved only with the Grace of Mother. The sin tainted egoism, the weighty body and the manifest world of names and forms, are all just illusion.
Awareness is the arrow to shoot down my sins. The devotion at Your tender feet serves as the string. An iron like mind (a steadfast mind) is the bow. One who has realized the certainty about the spiritual truth that ‘I am the Devi’ ie, Aham Brahmasmi, succeeds in shooting down his sins in this way. [ie. Becomes free from his sins and achieves liberation.] This victory is achieved only with the Grace of the Godess. Then we must realize that the sin-tainted egoism, the weighty body (the burdensome physical nature) and the manifest world of names and forms, are just illusions. In other words, egoism, the human body, and the manifest world should be dismissed as mere deceptions. [In the Atmopadesasatakam stanza 55, the manifest world has been described as acquired dream (deception).
[This (the waking state) is a long dream. Like sleep, this perishes everyday. Dream also perishes in the same way. The one with the perishing mind does not see like this. He is confused, as he merges with the pure Oneness (Awareness) for ever.]
8. sathayi ninnupari chithayi randumoru
muthayi moonnum ariyum
hruthayi ninnathinu vithayi vinnodu
maruthayi drusti muthalay
kothayidum vishaya vistharam annamathi-
sidhanubhoothiyilum ethateyam athi
mahathayidum janani nee.
Being Sat (etenal), and above that being Chit (selfluminous), together becoming Muthu (pearl), and becoming all the three knowing Antakarana (the inner self), becoming the seeds like sky, air, eye etc.
With infinite manifestations, the food that satisfy the hunger of the senses is also Devi. Devi is also the consumer of various objects of desire. The great Mother cannot be reached by Sidhanubhooti.
Here, the Guru repeats his earlier concept that everything is Devi. The three words used here are: Sat (eternal or Truth), Chit (selfluminous or Awareness) and Muthu (pearl ie. Bliss), which carries the same meaning as ‘You are Sachidanandam’ (You are eternal selfluminous Bliss Supreme) which has been mentioned in Daivadasakam. The Devi represents Antakarana (the inner self or faculty) which is aware of these three aspects. The causal factors in the form of the five basic elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether), behind the Antakarana is also Devi. Further, Devi is also the Jnanendriyas (eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue providing the functions of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) which help us to identify the various combinations of the five elements manifested as objects. With infinite manifestations, the food (bait), that satisfy the hunger (desires) of the senses is also Devi. The use of the word ‘Kothe’ (bait) has a special significance. The ‘bait’ is ‘seen’ as ‘food’ by the fish, which tries to swallow it, and thus meets with its end. Similarly the objects of desire trap men with their illusion. In the case of Sitadevi, the golden deer was the bait (used by Ravana). Devi is also the consumer of various objects of desire (Ref. stanza 6 above, which refers to rat, cat and other objects which are also manifestations of Devi.)
The Great mother cannot be reached by Sidhanubhooti. Sidhis refer to occult powers which fall in the lower rungs of the ladder to reach salvation (Devi). Those who get allured by Sidhis and go after such methods can never reach the Godess (Moksha). Sidhi is the bait in which a sadhaka can get entrapped. Therefore he should not get fluttered by obtaining such low level powers to do supernatural things, but progress towards his final goal with utmost devotion. The nirvana (final emancipation) of the one who desires Sidhi is Asudha-asudham as mentioned in Nirvana-darsanam.
9. bhoovadi bhoothamathinavasamilla verum
nnabhavisesham ithinnavasam ingulakil
naavati than vishayit aavasamatta bhavad
aavasam aake vilasum
jananee vazhthuvanum aruthee.
There is no existence for the elements like earth. They are all transitory and an illusion on Awareness. If they seem to exist, it is only due to the compassion of Devi.
Devi lives in Chidakasa, which is beyond the reach of the senses. O! Mother, it is beyond description using words. Who really knows its glory?
The five elements, and the objects of their combinations are mere illusions and have no permanent existence (they are transitory). If they seem to exist, it is only due to the compassion of the Devi. The existence of Devi cannot be known through sense organs. Devi lives in Chidakasa (absolute consciousness, which is beyond the reach of the senses and requires inner sight.) It is beyond description using words.
There are three skies (akasas)- namely, Mahakasa, Chittakasa and Chidakasa. The sky that exists at the level of various forms (manifestations) is Mahakasa. The sky that is at the level of the mind is called Chittakasa. The sky that exists at the level of Atman is called Chidakasa. ‘Paraveli’ in stanza 2 of Atmopadesa-satakam refers to this Chidakasa.
This hymn is Guru's boon to the devotees of Devi (Godess Sarada). One who can memorise and chant at least one of the stanzas from this hymn will definitely feel the Divine presence, through his experience.
Daivadasakam is the most popular among Guru’s compositions. It is believed that this was written in 1924, for the pupils of Sanskrit school at Alwaye. There is a general impression that this work is relatively simple to understand. But this simplicity is confined only to the use of words. Just like Guru’s other compositions this also (delves) deep into Vedanta philosophy, which cannot be comprehended easily. This composition symbolizes the gradual approach from duality to non-duality, like a child being lead by the hand towards it. Guru means the knower of Truth. One who has visualized Truth is capable of showing it to others. When a Guru leads a disciple by the hand, it is equivalent to being lead by God. Mundaka Upanishad (III. ii. 9.) says: ‘Brahmaveda Brahmaiva Bhavati’ i.e. He who knows Brahman (Truth) becomes Brahman. If a Guru forsakes his disciple, it is the same as God forsaking him, and as a result, the disciple continues to roam in the world of illusion.
naavikan nee bhavabdhikke oru
aavivanthoni nin patham
God, protect us and keep us ever from harm ! Thou art the Great Captain,
And a mighty steamship on the ocean of being is thy foot.
Stanza:1. says:- We are here. God is here. The word ‘we’ is used to signify clearly that it is a community prayer for the group. If God is seen as separate from us, it is duality. God is addressed as ‘Thou’, with reverence. It is assumed and accepted that God is omnipotent and the Lord ofeverything, who controls all. Since God is the Supreme power, we pray to Him to look after us, without forsaking us.
After this fervent plea, the devotees tell God that they understand His greatness. God is called the Captain of the steam-ship, who controls everything. His feet is called the ship, since holding on to it we can cross the ocean of worldly life. By addressing God as the ‘navigator’ we echo the fact that everything takes place according to His wish. In Pindanandi, the same concept is seen, i.e. ‘Will happen according to your will’.
garbhathilvachu bhagavavadiyante pinda-
mepperumanpodu valartha krpaluvallee?
kalpichapole varumennu ninachukandi-
‘When I was in the womb, you were that merciful one who helped the growth of the embryo with your compassion. I submit everything. Oh, Sambho, having thought and understood that everything will take place according to Your will’.
The picture depicts the ocean of life (samsara-sagaram), God’s feet as the ship, and devotees crossing the ocean in the ship.
The same concept is made clear also in Kalinatakam-
namasthe, mahaghora samsaravara-
‘Oh! Mother, the ocean of compassion, I salute thee. To reach the other side of the terrible ocean of life, I have no support, other than your feet.’
Though the concept of a ship or boat here is the same as that in the Daivadasakam, it is not as simple as seen in the latter composition. Gurudeva has used simple words in Daivadasakam is also clear here.
Duality and Non-duality
In duality, God and the devotee are treated as two entities. Prayer follows the concept of duality. In the ‘non-duality’ approach God and the devotee are not two- but ONE. In Apavada-darsanam stanza 10, Guru says ‘Sarvam hi satchidanandam’ i.e. everything is Truth-Consciousness-bliss. When there is only ONE, who can pray to the ‘other’. Therefore, here there is only the feeling of Bliss.
(Devotion at the Feet of God)
Everything takes refuge at the feet of God to cross the ocean of worldly life. Other parts of God’s body are not given this prominence. This is the importance (significance) of Padabhakti. Bhaktimarga has this important principle. It shows the devotee’s humility and smallness. The fundamental principle underlying Daivadasakam is Padabhakti.
(Please refer Padabhakti in introduction- Bhakti.)
Counting all things here, touching them one by one, we come at last to where there is no more left; Then, lo, the quest stops in stillness in Thee, likewise, let the inner self attain its rest !
After counting one by one, everything in the world that can be counted, and after counting the sastras (instructions or holy scriptures) that help us to count, the eye does not move (becomes static), since there is nothing more to count. (This is depicted in the picture) This static state is permanent and unwavering. Similarly our mind should become unwavering in You. Thoughts come and go in the mind; some of them give pleasure (or joy); others cause sorrow. So long as the mind has Sankalpa-vikalpa (assumption-misassumption i.e. confusion), we know that permanent Bliss is not possible. The reason for your (God’s) eternal joy is the absence of wavering. We know that this is a state beyond Sankalpa-vikalpa. You must bless us to merge with you, since we yearn for eternal Bliss.
The words ‘Nin nila innithutanne namukku mati’ in sloka-3 of Chijjadachindana is the same truth as ‘Ninnil aspandamakanam’ i.e. the mind should become unwavering in You.'Ninnil aspandamakanam' i.e.the mind should become unwavering in you.
nilamodu neruppu nirannozhukum-
alayatheyadikkadi nalkuka nin
nilayinnithuthanne namukku mathi.
(Without wandering in the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) i.e. not getting involved in the seducing (tempting) desires, please give me constantly Your State. I want just that. (I shall be satisfied with that).
thannu rakshichu njangale
dhanya rakunna nee onnu-
thanne njangalkku thampuran
Food and clothes, and all things else we need, Thou give us unceasingly; Ever saving us from want. We thrive on Thy bounty, Lord! Our only God you are.
You are the one who gives us food and clothing, continuously and without fail. So we have to thank God for whatever He has provided us. Since God has the power (capability) to give anything, He is addressed as Thampuran (Lord, the Giver).
After weighing the good and bad actions of earlier births God decides in which environment a person should be born, as whose son or daughter, in which religion and so on. A sinner may not be born as a human being. After being born, a person is given the freedom to choose his way of life. Using this freedom a person can reform (improve) himself or destroy himself. Those who distinguish between right and wrong, and avoid wrongful acts and do only the rightful ones, attain salvation. Those who do not pay attention to this and continue with their sinful acts, destroy themselves with the effect of their evil doings. This is the course of Karma and cannot be violated or avoided. (As you sow, so you reap).
aazhiyum thirayum kaattum
aazhavum pole njangalum
mayayum nin mahimayum
To sea, and wave and wind and depth compared, let us within us see the plan, respectively, of us ourselves, of Maya, Thy Power and Thou Thyself!
Maya (delusion) is beyond definition. Even then in common language it can be understood as avidya (ignorance). (Maya is the obscuring force of nature, the veil that produces error and illusion. It is not real, and at the same time not unreal. It is an appearance that is deceptive.) Maya has two forces operating, namely, avaranasakti (concealing or covering or casting a veil over) and vikshepasakti (scattering or dispersing) which conceal Brahman and shows the unreal universe as real.
(In general Maya (avidya-ignorance) refers to the inability to distinguish between the real and the unreal, the eternal and the transient. When Brahman is not known avidya operates as follows:
a) the true nature of Brahman is not known.
b) what is not known is covered by something else
The second aspect is Vikshepa (projecting) or adyaropa (literally false covering). A rope in the darkness is not seen as rope but is covered over (vikshepa) by the idea of a snake (manifested world).)
Guru says that maya veils the Brahman and shows the unreal world to us. The world does not exist except as an illusion. Vidya (the opposite of avidya) or Knowledge (Jnanam) is only God. This has been further clarified by Guru in sloka- 2 of Advaita-deepika.
verallaviswamarivam maruvil pravaham
karyathil nilpathiha karanasathayennye
veralla veechiyilirippathu variyathrae.
“If we change the view of the “seeing eyes”, and think (inwardly) then we will realize that the world that we ‘see’ (through external eyes) is an illusion. It is like a mirage in a desert (something that seems to exist but does not). What we see in the world as an effect (or action) is the essence of a cause. For instance the ‘form’ (effect,wave) is but water (which causes it)”
God’s (your) ‘greatness’ or power is similar to the wind in the ocean. The wind causes the waves. Similarly your ‘power’ is the agent causing illusion, in which you indulge for sheer fun. This is the concept brought out in this sloka.
Just as the ocean, waves, wind and depth are interrelated and interdependent, you must create the belief (knowledge) in us that we, maya, your greatness and you are interwoven (in this world). (If this does not happen by itself you must make it happen). What is ‘depth’ to the ocean is what You are to us (something that cannot be fathomed).This realization has been stated in sloka 9 of Pindanandi.
hollenamo durithamokkeyakattane nee
lellam kalanjeruthileri varunna sambho.
‘Full well aware art Thou, good Lord of all
Hence what need is there for humble me to tell?
Do banish, pray, all agony!
Thy servant has no one here, and if Thou me disown. Then all is lost.
O Saviour coming mounted on a bull!’
neeyallo srishtiyum sreshtaa-
neeyallo daivame srishti-
Thee we find in creation; the creator, too, Thou didst become, and creation’s myriad magic; and the very Stuff of all created things.
All theists (believers in God) believe that all creations, they are created by the Creator (God). The word ‘srishtijalam’ is used for all creations (movable and immovable). By ‘material’ for creation, the guru means five elements (earth,water,fire,air and space).This has been beautifully described in sloka 2 of Pindanandi.
mannum jalam kanalumambaramodu kaattu-
dannappeduthumoru devatayinkal ninnen
pindatthinannamritu nalki valartha sambho!
“Oh Sambho give me the nectar for the growth of (my) embryo, which you have placed in the womb, by mixing proportionately (in proper proportion) the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) and provided it with divine consciousness (chaitanyam),and saved it from the sufferings inflected by Maya”.
The essence of sloka-5 of Daivadasakam has been clarified in sloka 2 of Atmopadesasatakam:
karanavumindriyavum kalembaram to-
paraveli thanniluyarnna bhaanuman tan-
thiruvuruvaanu thiranju theridenam.
“The inner organ, the senses, and counting from the body, the many worlds we know, are all, on thought, the sacred form of the supreme Sun risen in the sky beyond. By relentless search one should attain to this”
neeyallo mayayum maya-
neeyallo mayayee neekki
Are you not Maya, the one who creates Maya and the one who finds fun with Maya? Are you not the Noble One who, having removed Maya, grants the union between Jeevatma and Paramatma.
This stanza further elaborates what was said in sloka-5, i.e. that everything is God. (Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma). The Maya in Branman is equivalent to the waves in the ocean. Maya is a goddess and cannot be defined. The various forms of Maya are; vidya (knowledge), avidya (ignorance), para (superior), apara (lower), Thamas (darkness), Pradhanam (underdeveloped nature- part of Prakriti) and Prakriti (primal matter, nature). (Para is divine-related Maya. Apara is esorelated Maya). This has been clarified in Darsanamala. (Mayadarsanam-1.)
What does not exist is maya (illusion). It itself explains that it exist in various forms as mentioned above as vidya,…,prakriti.
The waves rise in the ocean when the wind blows. The wind enjoys making waves in the sea. Similarly the word “Maya Vinodan”-(one who finds fun through maya) has been used for that power of God (divine power), which creates maya (illusion) around Brahman. If one crosses maya, he reaches sayujya (the state in which the union (yuj) between the devotee and God is established) – or God realization. The person who bestows sayujya is God. For this the devotee must earn His compassion. This is why Guru calls God as Aryan (the noble one) or sreshta (the highest).
Once a doll made of salt went to measure the depth of the ocean. The deeper it went down into water, the more it merged with it. Finally only the water (ocean) was left and no doll. This means they become ONE, from what was originally considered as two. Similarly when a devotee has no I (Aham) feeling he becomes ONE with God and there is no duality, it is sayoojyam. In short, spirituality is the pilgrimage from duality to non-duality. Duality is the starting point and no-duality the destination. In the non-duality stage there is no ‘devotee’ but only God (the subject and the object are ONE)
nee sathyam njanamanandam
nee thanne varthamanavum
bhoothavum bhaaviyum vera-
llothum moziyum orkkil nee
Truth You are, and knowledge and Bliss likewise. The present time You are. Past and future merge in unity in You. The word that speaks about You, is also your own Self again.
Guru further elaborates the concept “every thing is You”. The definition of God is Truth-Knowledge-Bliss. This is also known as Swaroopalakshanam (the nature of essence, or the characteristic of Athman). Sathyam (Truth) means eternal or absolute. Man has births and deaths. But God has no beginning or end (Ananta). The word Jnana has been used here for the embodiment of Knowledge (God). Man’s knowledge is limited. But God is all knowing, or omniscient. As regards human beings joy and sorrow come in turns. Bliss (Anantam) is not permanent. But in the case of God, Bliss is eternal and absolute. We see these three attributes (Truth, Knowledge, Bliss) only in God.
As regards a Vedanti (believer in Vedanta or the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads), of the three tenses (relative points of time) namely, past, present and future, only the present is relevant. i.e. the moment that he now lives. If one were to brood (think) about the experiences of the past, it may lead to depression. Thinking more about the future can result in anxiety. Therefore instead of wasting thinking of the past or future, one should concentrate on God with single-pointedness (ekagrata). If this is achieved it is called Sahaja-yoga (natural unity). A child does not have any sorrow from his past or anxiety about his future. He enjoys (lives) the present moment. It is the child’s nature. A Vedanti requires the mind and innocence of a child. Through this he reaches the state of Sahaja yoga. Just as a person learning cycling, can fall either to the left or the right, in the initial stages, a devotee could fall back on his past or look forward to the future. But with experience he can maintain his balance or equipoise.
The vedantic principle elaborated in sloka 5,6,7 of Daivadasakam is “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”-(Every thing, indeed, is Brahman). Vedanta is the philosophical treatise or principle giving self-confidence and optimism (confidence in the future). This world has both good and bad to choose from. Samanya Dharma (universal or natural rule or ethical laws) is what Vedanta teaches us, i.e. to choose the ‘good’ and eschew the ‘bad’. The good or virtuous characteristics that is contained in every thing is Godliness (divinity). Vedanta asks us to see only that. ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’ is the basic or original mantra about seeing the ‘goodness’ in every thing.
A person who sees only faults (deficiencies) can never become a Vedanti
akavum puravum thingum
mahimaavarnna nin padam
We praise Thy glorious feet which fills fully the in and out of the ocean of life. Oh God, may You be victorious.
jayikkuka mahadeva ,
Victory to Thee, Great Master! Ever-watchful Saviour of the needy. All-knowing, bliss-filled Sea of Kindness, Hail!
Here God is addressed variously as mahadeva (Greatest God) Deena Avana Parayanan (one who is highly interested in protecting the downtrodden), Chidanandan (one who enjoys the pleasure of ultimate knowledge) , Dayasindhu (the ocean of mercy). The devotee praises God “Let all victories be with you”.
Why does a devotee wish victory to God, (in sloka 8 and 9)? According to Vedanta, God uses maya as the cover or superimposition (upadhi) for His actions. In Karmadarshanam sloka 1 in Darsanamala, the Guru says,
atmaiva mayaya karma-
asangah svaprakaso api
“Though the soul is unattached (unbound) and self illuminating it takes different forms due to illusion and acts just as a person in his dream state” (Taijasan).
If the pen, which is used for writing claims that it is the writer (or responsible for writing), what would be your reaction? Similarly a mother holds her child’s hand and guides him in his writings. The child could claim that the writing was his skill. In both cases, there is someone behind the action. According to the view in Vedanta God uses illusion as a cover to make everyone act the way he does. All animals or creatures (pasu), whom the owner of the animals (Pasupathi) binds with pasa (rope). God binds man with the rope of maya (ignorance). We greet (wish) God with all kinds of victory.
azhamerum nin mahassa-
azhanam vazhanam nathyam
vaazhanam vaazhanam sukham
In the deep ocean of Thy Glory, let us all together immersed be. For ever and for ever- there to dwell, everlastingly, in Bliss and live happily in this world.
Bless us to live happily in this world and to exist merging in the ocean of Satchidananda.
After describing the nature of God and praising him in the first 9 stanzas the devotee makes fervent pleas for an important purpose. Here the meaning of “Azhamerum nin mahassam aazhi”-is God. In sloka 7 God has been defined as “Sathyam Janam Anandam”. Therefore this “ocean of your shining light of higher Consciousness (Jyothis)” is the same as Truth, Knowledge, Bliss. The ‘ocean’ is the ocean of “Eternal-Consciousness-Bliss”-(Sat-chitananda-sagaram) i.e.the Brahman, not this worldly life (samsara-sagaram). I must dwelve, live, and be blessed to continue to exist merging with the Satchidananda (Absolute Bliss). Those who live in this way are the liberated souls. In other words grant me the good fortune to live in this world as a Jeevanmukta (one liberated while still alive). A Jeevanmukta is one who has freed himself from the bonds of maya (ignorance). Such a person has given up his identification with his body and mind, (eschewed carefully or deliberately abstained from his ‘I’ feeling) and attained liberation. The devotees pray to God to make them Jeevanmukta. Since the Brahmavid (the enlightened soul) exsists in Bramhan (Supreme soul) and Gurudeva tells us to perform our actions for the welfare of mankind, in that state.
In nirvana- darshanam sloka 5 Guru says:
dagdhva jnanagnina sarva-
muddisya jagatam hitam
karoti vidhivat karma
brahmavid brahmani sthitah.
An illumined one (soul) who is absorbed in the Supreme soul (Brahman) destroys everything with the fire of Knowledge and performs his actions according to the tenets (doctrine) for the benefit of mankind.
The merging in Satchitananda are of three types. They can be explained as follows:
a) Death: Just like the river that flows and merges with the ocean loses its identity, the individual soul merges with the Supreme Soul and never returns (to its original form). Here the plea “I should live” does not arise.
b) Samadhi: This is the state in Yoga, where the individual becomes one with the object of meditation, and then attains a state of Super-consciousness and unqualified Bliss, which is the final liberation. This also does not mean “I should live”. For a common devotee Samadhi is only a hearsay or a concept.
c) Sleep: Which takes us temporarily into eternal Bliss as mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad. (VI. viii. 1.)
‘Uddalaka, son of Aruna, said to Svetaketu, his son, ‘O good-looking one, learn from me about deep sleep. O good-looking one, when a man is spoken of as, “He sleeps”, then he becomes merged in Existence. He attains his own Self. Therefore they speak of him as, “He sleeps”, for he attains his own Self.’
Chandogya Upanishad (VI. viii. 2.) brings out the organic nature of relationship between mind and life.
‘As a bird bound to a string, flying in all directions and failing to get a resting place anywhere else, settles down at the place where it is bound, in this very way indeed, O good-looking one, that mind, flying in all directions and failing to get an abode anywhere else, resorts to the vital force itself, for, O good-looking one, the mind is bound to the vital force.’
Narayana Guru has stated the same view about sleep in stanza 55 of Atmopadesa-satakam.
netiya kinavitu nidra pole nityam
ketumitu pole kinavumiprakaram
ketumati kanukayilla kevalathil
peduvathinal anisam bhramichidunnu
This is a long dream. Like sleep, this perishes everyday. Dream also perishes in the same way. The one with the perishing mind does not see like this. He is confused, as he merges with the pure aloneness for ever.
The truth, that we fall into a state of Kevala (exclusively our own) or get absorbed into Satchidananda is repeated here. The words ‘Netiya Kinavu’ refers to the state of wakefulness (Jagrat).
Though a person merges into Bliss in his sleep, he does not become a Jnani (knower of Truth). An ignorant man carry sorrow as part and parcel of himself. Therefore, it is appropriate to interpret the words “Vazhanam Vazhanam Sukham” as a fervent plea to become a Jeevanmukta and live in eternal Bliss.
In order to merge in Bliss, Prarthana (prayer), Bhajan (singing in praise of God), Archana (offering), Japam (repetition of sacred name, manthra), Dhyanam (meditation) and Tatvavicharam (contemplation on spiritual principles) are some of the means available to the devotee. Each one has the liberty to chose his means. It is to live in Bliss, Gurdeva advised us ‘Become enlightened with spiritual knowledge’ ‘Become powerful with unity’ and ‘Obtain progress through industry’ as part of SreeNarayana Dharma. Isavasya Upanishad (11) says:
‘He who knows these two, vidya and avidya, together, attains immortality through vidya, by crossing over death through avidya.’
Vidya is equated with knowledge of spirituality and avidya with Karma (action). Man should attain both, vidya and avidya that is the basic thing to understand here. Avidya is considered as an essential prerequisite for spiritual life. Man cannot rise to spiritual enlightenment, if he has not first, through avidya, become conscious of himself as a separate ego (Aham). In spiritual life we then transcend this sense of separateness. To reach the Higher Self, we must battle with the lower self.
The same concept is brought out in sloka-10. ie. one should attain both material and spiritual values. To practice Dharma properly, first one should attain a healthy body and mind. For living happily he should be economically independent also. Gurudeva wrote this composition when he was 60 years old and he has concised his vision and Dharma in this work. In short we can observe that Daivadasakam is an urn of nectar, containing full of the vision and Dharma of Narayana Guru.
Pindanandi is a composition expressing the gratitude to God for taking care of oneself when in the embryo state, alone and helpless. It is intended to open our eyes, that the sense of ‘I’ should not exist, and to concede that everything takes place according to God’s will, and take refuge in Him.
Sree Narayana Guru is the spiritual master on the philosophy of liberation (Moksha). Guru teaches this philosophy by bifurcating the paths to liberation as Jnana Marga ie. the path of contemplation and Karma marga ie. the path of worshipful action. Atmopadesa-satakam, Darsanamala and such compositions come under the category of Jnanamarga.
Upasanamarga advocates action, with devotion to God, with the knowledge of righteousness. If a person leads a life, performing his duties, and offers such actions to the Lord (or Guru), that becomes Upasana. God can be worshipped in many different ways, viz, ordinary (simple) devotion, devotion at the feet of Lord by serving Him (Padabhakti), and thirdly, taking refuge in the Lord (Saranagati), and so on. The philosophical principle contained in ‘Pindanandi’ is devotion by taking refuge in Lord unconditionally.
When a devotee sits for worship, or gets involved in his spiritual practice, an enlightenment takes place in his mind that everything that takes place in this world is according to God’s will and purpose. A devotee who has such a mental awakening does not desire anything for himself. He does not have any individual or self-centered wishes. In such a mental state, a devotee leaves to the will of God whether he should confine himself to the phenomenal (materialistic) world or move upwards to the spiritual world. When a devotee says ‘I want to be in Samadhi’ it shows his stubbornness. Here, his state of mind reflects his egoistic tendency. Only when a devotee offers his ‘ego’ to God (ie, eschews his ‘I’ mentality), the subjection of his will to God becomes complete.
Stanza 13 of Atmopadesa-satakam says:
Having offered the inner flower of ‘I’ to that Lord, smeared with sacred ashes, of the three gunas, having cooled down the senses, unwind everything, and become calm, even the desire for samadhi gone, sink in to the effulgent glory.
The total subjection of our mind to God is the meaning of obeisance with the inner flower (the mind). An ignorant man’s greatest love is his ‘I’ sense (ego feeling). That must be completely surrendered at the feet of God as an offering (gift), to call it a full fledged surrender. Then the sense organs become inert. The heaviness in the heart vanishes (Aksham aari). In other words, where there is no ego, there is no place for a heart full of worries.
The story of Markandeya is the best example of Saranagathi (refuge in God). Having realized that he was destined to live only sixteen years, he clung to a Sivalinga at the time when Yama’s attendants came to take him. Seeing this the attendants asked themselves what to do. They were in a quandary. If they threw the noose round his neck, it will certainly fall on the Sivalinga. Then Siva will not spare them. At the same time Markandeya knew that if he left his hold on the Linga, the noose will fall on his neck. So he did not let go his hold at all. In such a pathetic situation the path (or the wish) of the devotee is the path of God. Thus Markandeya became an immortal.
The ignorant are not aware of the truth that everything in this world takes place according to the will of God and His plans. They think everything is achieved by ‘their’ ability and cleverness, and live with vanity. To convince such egoistic ignoramus people about their helplessness, Guru has brought in the simile of the state of an embryo in the mother’s womb. We can see in this composition some of the medical aspects of the growth of the embryo related to gynecology and obstetrics, since Guru was an efficient Ayurvedic physician. The title Pindanandi conveys the sense of gratitude of a person for the care by the God taken when he (she) existed initially as a lump of flesh in the womb of the mother.
garbhathil vachu bhgavanadiyante pinda-
mepperumanpodu valartha kripaluvallee?
kalpichapole varumennu ninachukandi-
O! Sambo, Are you not that compassionate One, who with your Grace always protected me when I was lying in my mother’s womb, as a piece of flesh. Whatever happens here is only according to Your will. After contemplating on this, O! Sambo! I offer everything unto You.
O! Sambo (Siva or the Auspicious one), Are you not that compassionate One, who with your Grace always protected me when I was lying in my mother’s womb, as a piece of flesh, with the danger of being aborted at any moment? Whatever happens here is only according to Your will and intentions. The balance of a man’s life (at any time) is like an air filled balloon, with the chance of bursting at any moment. The past, the present and future existence of a person is also due to God’s mercy and will. After contemplating on this principle and having understood its significance, O! Sambo! (saviour) I offer everything unto You.
Only a devotee with profound thinking and understanding of (everything) attains deep devotion. Hence it is recommended that a devotee should worship with the full understanding of the principles of devotion. Worshiping without understanding the tenets of Upasanamarga is similar to a traveler who starts a journey without knowing his way (direction). It is also not correct to presume that everything can be learnt by reading books. It is like trying to learn swimming by reading a book (without getting into water). Both these are futile efforts. Therefore, a person who wants to learn and adopt the Upasanamarga should be adept both in theory and practice (experience).
mannum jalam kanalumambaramodu kaattum
dandappeduthumoru devathayinkal ninnen
pindathinannamritu nalki valartha sambho!
The earth, water, fire, air and ether, You combined these in specific proportions, put in an enclosed room, alit the fire, protected me from the tormenting Goddess by giving the nectar and reared me from a lump of flesh.
The five elements are earth, water, fire, air and ether. All creations are made out of these elements. Similarly these elements have been combined in specific proportions to create the embryo. (Therefore the use of the word ‘measured’). The phrase ‘by putting in an enclosed room’ means- creating in the womb. By ‘alit the fire’ means lighting the lamp in the form of human soul or as prana. The goddess, who teases and torments(Mayadevi) has created countless miseries at all these occasions. They were overcome only with the Amrut (nectar), and not with any other medicines. O! Sambo, were You not the one who gave me this Amrut and reared me from a lump of flesh.
onnalla ninte kripayinnariyichidunnu
O! Sambo, not only the lowly insects that live in the crevices between rocks proclaim Your immeasurable Grace, but the Indra hiding in the lotus stem, and also other devas grow out and become what they are because of Your Grace.
O! Sambo!, Your Grace is immeasurable. All creatures from the lowly insects that live in the crevices between rocks to the immortal god Indra who lived in a lotus stem, exist only due to Your Grace. Suppose the stones get pressed each other, think of the predicament of the insects. This is also true of all earthly creations and devas. All of them grow and become what they are because of your Grace. [According to the Puranas, Indra is believed to have stayed (hid) in a lotus stem, after he slew Vritasura, a demon, who was considered to be a Brahmin, which was considered a sin. He hid in the lotus stem in fear, for thousand years until he made a sacrifice in atonement. This is the allusion (hint,) to the phrase ‘allikudathil amarunna amarendran.]
bandhukkalilla balavum dhanavum ninakki-
lenthonnukondithu valarnnathaho! vichitram
enthamburante kaliyokke itennarinjal
andhatvamillathinu neeyarulledu sambho!
There was no relatives, no strength, no riches. How it grew without these is a great mystery. If I accept all these as part of ‘My Master’s play’, it will dispel darkness. To get that clarity, O! Sambo! Please bless.
When the embryo was in the womb, it had no relatives with it. It had no strength nor riches (any possessions). How it grew without these, is a mystery. If we accept (understand) all these as part of God’s divine play, it will avoid all confusion in our thinking. But to get this clarity of thought and to get over the confusion, we must have God’s blessings.
It is impossible to find answer (reasons) for all the events in the normal way of thinking. The hungry child that cries, and the mother that feeds, must be the same Awareness (God) in dual form. The rat and the cat that preys on it, are both Awareness. Then what is the meaning of all these? There is no specific meaning except to consider them as the divine play of God. (Mayavinodam)
naalanchu maasamorupol nayanangal vachu
kaalante kayyilanayate valarthi neeye
kaalam kazhinju karuvinkalirunnu njana-
kkalam ninachu karayunnithu kelkka sambho!
During the 4/5 months of early pregnancy You have given the organs of sense. You saved me from the hands of God of death. After remaining in this stage, and taking birth, I am crying today, thinking how helpless I was during that period. O! Sambo, please listen to this cry.
God has given the organs of sense equally to all. The sense organs make their initial appearance in the first 4 or 5 months of pregnancy. (After this, only their further development takes place.) Then, You tended me (saved me) against death. Who else, other than Siva (called Kalakala- one who has conquered death) can save a person from the God of Death. After remaining in this stage, and taking birth, I am crying today, thinking how helpless I was, during that time. O! Sambo, please listen this cry.
rethassu thanneyithu rekthamodum kalarnnu
nadam thiranduruvathai naduvil kidanneen
thathan valarthiyavananivaninnu sambho!
After the fusion of the sperm and the ovum, and then having formless sound taking form, I lay at the middle. There was no mother or father there. You are the one who brought me up. You are the real Father.
After remaining as a formless object, with the fusion of the sperm of the father and the ovum of the mother, and then having formless Aum (nadam/sound) taking a form, I lay helpless in the abdomen of my mother. To lull me or to help then there was no father or mother. You are the one who brought me up. You are the real Father
[Twam eva matha pitha twam eva
Twam eva bandhu cha sakha twam eva
Twam eva vidya dravinam twam eva
Twam eva sarvam mama devadeva.]
annulla vethana marannathu nannunarnna-
linningu thanneriyil veenu marikkumayyo!
thannittu thanneyithuminnariyunnu sambho!
O! Sambo, it is a blessing that I have forgotten the pain I had suffered while in the womb. If those thoughts arise in the mind, I shall leap into fire and die, at that moment itself. Since You! The Golden Father gave me my five external doors, I am able to feel now, the sufferings of this world.
I have forgotten the pain and suffering I had while in the womb. That is, indeed, a blessing. If those thoughts arise in the mind (memory), I shall leap into fire and die, at that moment itself. It was such a horrendous suffering. Who can endure the memories of the suffering, when he was in a dungeon (womb), lying with folded limbs, and in the midst of his own excretions? Since You! God (The Golden father- the invaluable savior), gave me my external doors to this world in the form of the five senses, now, I am able to feel the sufferings of the world. There is freedom (of movement) here, unlike in the womb. There are relatives around me (I am no more alone). There is wealth. Yet sorrow is what is still experienced.
venthullazhinju verute neduveerppumittu
nonthingu pettu naripole kidannu koovu
My mother carried me within as a burden, and underwent all the sufferings of pregnancy and later labour, with heavy breathing. Being helpless, here I am howling like a fox. What else can I do. O! Sambo, Please tell me.
My mother carried me in her womb for ten months, and underwent all the sufferings of pregnancy and later labour pains, with heavy breathing. Being helpless, here I am howling like a fox. Beyond that what else can I do. O! Sambo, please tell me.
chollenamo durithamokkeyakattane nee
ellaam kalanjeruthileri varunna sambho!
O! The Omniscient good Lord of all, is there any need to remind you to end all my sorrows. You are my only refuge. If You forsake me everything is lost. O! Savior, coming mounted on a bull.
O! God, the Omniscient One, You are aware of everything including my sorrows and misery. So there is no need (or a case) for me to specifically request you to end (remove) all my sorrows. You are my only refuge. There is no one here other than Yourself, to save me from the tormenting Maya (illusion) or the God of death (fear of death). Therefore if You forsake me everything is doomed (lost). Don’t forsake me, Lord Siva! Who is mounted on the bull (Nandi).
The concept of ‘snake-charmer’ and ‘snake’ introduced by Guru in his composition ‘Kundalinippattu’ is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted works of the author. Most commentators had come to the conclusion or belief that the word ‘snake’ refers to Kundalini. But Dr.T.Bhaskaran goes on record for his opinion that the ‘snake’ here does not refer to Kundalini, i.e. the coiled snake at the base of the spine or the Sushumnanadi.
Treating God’s creations as Pasu (creatures) and God as Pasupati (Lord of the creatures) is a well-known concept. But such works which treat the creations as ‘snake’ and the Creator as the snake charmer are rather rare, though such songs do exist in Tamil literature. Guru has adopted that thinking while composing the Kundalinippattu (Song of the Kundalini). The original name given to this work was Pampattichinth (Song of the Snake-charmer) and not Kundalinippattu. Just as the snake charmer charms with his snake, the Creator charms and plays with His creations. This is called as Thruvilayadal or Leela (Divine Play). This concept has also been employed in another work of Guru, Janani-navaratna-manjari- whre he says ‘Oh Lord! everything is a drama (divine play ).
The concept of the ‘snake’ and snake charmer is more appropriate to describe the Divine Play rather than Pasu and Pasupati. Pasupati is the one who can remove Pasa (rope) that binds all Pasu (creations). The Pasu (animal) is controlled or grazed by its owner. Here the concept of ‘play (Leela)’ is ambiguous. But in the concept of ‘snake’ and ‘snake charmer’ the meaning is quite clear.
Every move or act of a creation, is a dance, where the creation (like man) takes part in the divine play by swaying to the will of the Creator. Guru, in his wisdom, advises that one should play his role in the Divine Leela, knowing the principle behind creation (the purpose of one’s birth in this world). This is also what Upasanamarga exhorts us to follow.
aadu pampe, punam thedu pampe yru-
lananthakkoothu kandadu pampe.
Dance, snake dance!
Seek your pit.
Seeing the graceful divine dance of the Bliss
Dance, snake, dance!
Here the word ‘snake’ is used to refer to the devotee (who is also a creation). The devotee is urged to take part in the divine play. ‘Punam thedu pampe’- here ‘punam’ refers to the snake pit (hole), which is the house of the snake. Similarly the Supreme Lord is the house (or final resting place) of all creations. This means one should discover one’s soul (Atma) by introspection and controlling the external senses of distraction. Here the word ‘Adal’ has the same connotation as Vazhal (living) and Punam thedal means Azhal (in the ocean of Satchidananda) as mentioned in Daivadasakam.
In the Punam (Awareness), the graceful divine dance of Siva (who is the embodiment of Bliss) is taking place. O! Snake (devotee), realize this, and take part in the cosmic dance of Lord Siva (Sivathandavam). Siva is also known as Nataraja (The King of dancers).
All creatures originate from the womb of Truth (Paramatma). This has been clarified by Guru in his main work Atmopadesa-satakam:
‘Innumerable sparks arise, though unreal as real, from Awareness, causing the appearance of world. . So apart from Awareness there is no other thing. Thus one should know. This knowledge brings the state of oneness’. (Stanza-89.)
‘The one rati alone is expanding into the ego, the senses, the mind, the body and all that is’. (Stanza-70.)
thinkalum konnayum choodumeesanpada-
pankajam chernnu ninnadu pampe.
Along with the lotus feet of the Lord,
Who has the crescent moon and yellow flowers on his crest,
Dance, O! Snake, dance!
Siva is the God who has the crescent moon and the yellow flowers (cassia flower) in his crest. The devotee is advised to dance along with the lotus feet of the Lord, the lord of dancers (Nataraja).
venneraninju vilangum thirumeni
Seeing with tears of joy,
The divine body of Siva,
Which shines with sacred ash smeared all over,
Dance, snake, dance!
Sacred ash that Siva dons is the ash of Trigunas i.e. Satva, Reja and Tama.
aayiram kodiyananthan neeyanana-
mayiravum thurannadu pampe.
You have the power of
Thousand crores of Anantan.
With your thousand hoods opened out,
Dance, snake, dance!
Here all creations are considered as one having the power of thousand crores (infinite) of Ananta and with thousand mouths (the cosmic serpent-Sesha with thousand hoods). Open your thousand mouths and dance with ecstasy.
Ananta indicates infinite power or strength dormant in creation. The ignorant does not have any idea of this power.
omennu thottoru kodi manthraporul
The meaning of crores of manthras,
Beginning with AUM, we are.
Dance, snake, dance!
Crore’ is used for ‘infinite’. O! Snake, recognize that we are the Truth behind the infinite number of mantras (power laden sound or syllables which are chanted).
The Truth or essence behind all mantras starting from AUM is the Paramatma (Siva). Visualize this Supreme Being in all creations, and dance.
pullippulithol puthakyum poomeniye-
nnullil kalikkumennadu pampe.
Covered with spotted leopard skin,
The tender body of Siva dance within me.
Visualizing that dance with ecstasy,
Dance, snake, dance!
peyum pinavum pirakkum chudukadu
meyum paramporuladu pampe.
Seeing the Lord Siva,
Who haunts the cemetery
Full of ghosts and goblins,
O snake, Dance!
komalameni kandadu pampe.
O snake, dance!
Looking at the beautiful body of Siva
Which his consort Parvathy-(from whose hair emanates the fragrance of flowers)-keeps in her heart.
The mantra AUM NAMA SIVAYAH!
Which has its origin from AUM
Is the primal cosmic sound,
Know this, O! Snake, and dance.
The mantra AUM NAMA SIVAYAH (I bow to the worship of Siva),
originated from AUM (Nada Brahmam). It is the primal cosmic sound from which the universe has emerged.
Mandukya Upanishad says: ‘Harih Aum. Aum, the word, is all this. A clear explanation of it (is the following). All that is past, present and future is verily Aum. That which is beyond the triple conception of time, is also truly Aum’.
poomlaronum thirumalumarum pon-
poomeni kandillennadu pampe.
With the knowledge that,
Both Brahma and Vishnu,
Have not seen the tender body of Siva,
O! Snake, dance.
Vishnu (the Lord of sustenance) and Brahma (the Lord of creation) once tried to find out the beginning and end of Siva. But they could not find Him.
namam nukarnnu ninnadu pampe.
Enjoy the essence of the name ‘Siva’
Who is the enemy of Kala,
Whose third eye destroyed Kama,
And dance, O, snake.
Kala is the God of death (Yama). Siva is also known as Kalakala (One who can kill Yama). Kama (Kamadeva) is the God of love. Opening His third eye Siva killed Kamadeva.
vellimalayil vilangum vedapporu-
lullil kalikkumennadu pampe.
O, snake, visualize that Siva
Who is the essence of Vedas,
Who shines in the silver hills of Kailas,
In mythology, Kailas is the abode of Siva. It is a mountain in Himalaya and is covered with snow, so has the appearance of silver.
natayvarum namennadu pampe.
Knowing that we are the field
For the Lord to dance,
Who has dancing snake as adornment
And dance, snake, dance!
Devotee should attain to the plane of SIVOHAM (I am Siva). The human mind and body is treated as a field or Kshetra and the one who knows everything that takes place in the field (body and mind- actions and thoughts) is called Kshetrajna. (Gita- XIII.i)
pallavam pattininnadu pampe.
Clinging to the leaf-tender feet of Lord Siva,
Who is the ONE that creates,
And later dissolves all creations,
And dance, O snake!
Dance with the rhythm of Siva’s dance, who is responsible for Srishti (creation), Sthithi (maintenance) and Samhara (dissolution) of the universe.
ellayarivum vizhungi verum veli-
After absorbing all the knowledge
And reaching the realm of
All pervading Awareness,
Dance, snake, dance.
Here knowledge means the knowledge of names and forms (manifestations). It includes the knower (subject), the known (object) and knowledge (the act of knowing). After absorbing all these manifestations and reaching the realm of the all pervading Awareness (Chidakasa), O! snake, dance.
Realizing that there is a ‘word’
And nothing equal to that.
Who has absorbed within Him all the worldly manifestations,
And dance, snake, dance!
The word means ‘AUM’. Siva is the AUM with attributes. There is nothing equal to that, either in this world or in the world beyond.
chollellamundu chudarayezhum poru-
Ascending to that spiritual plane,
Where, that Truth having absorbed all the names within,
Shines, as Awareness.
Dance, snake, dance!
Names means names and forms (manifestations). Awareness is the Ultimate Principle (Tatva)
Deham nijamalla dehiyoruvanee
The body that we see is not eternal.
In this body there is ‘One’
Known as Dehi (Jeevatma).
Realizing this, O snake, dance!
nadum nagaravumonnayi navil ni-
nnadu ninnamamotheedu pampe.
The name that plays
On the tongues of all devotees everywhere,
Both in the villages and towns,
Is Your name.
O snake! Chant that name.
dehavum dehiyumonnay vizhungidu-
There is ONE
Who absorbs, both the human body,
And, the individual soul.
Realize this, O snake, and dance!
When one realizes Awareness, the false notion of ‘my soul’ also ends. Where there is no ‘I’, there is no place for ‘my soul’. Thus the ‘Dehi’ (Jeevatma) also gets absorbed within the Awareness (Siva).
paradi thonniyennadu pampe.
Not only space,
Earth and others,
All have arisen just as names.
Realize this, O snake, and dance!
Earth and others means the five elements (Panchabhutas). i.e. earth, water, fire, air and space.
chernnu nilkkumporulellam chentharodu
nernnu pommaru ninnadu pampe!
O snake! dance,
With the realization that,
All other names and forms are,
Inseparable from Lord Siva- the Red Lotus.
The devotee should realize that ‘All this is but Brahman’ (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma). (Mundakopanishad. II. ii. 11.) and ‘All this is but the Self’ (Sarvam hi Satchitanandam). (Chandogyopanishad. VII. xxv. 2.)
This concept is also seen in stanza 4 of Atmopadesa-satakam:
Knowledge, the object known, and the knowledge of the knower, together make one primal glory. Within the radiance of that great omnipresent Awareness, one should merge and become that alone’.
At this juncture the cosmic dance of Siva and the dance of creations become one. i.e. the devotee reaches the level of nonduality (Advaita).
Spirituality is the pilgrimage from Dvaita (duality) to Advaita (nonduality). Dvaita is the starting point (where the distinction between Jeevatma and Paramatma is perceived) and Advaita is the destination (where the distinction disappears). The devotee and God exist as two entities in Dvaita philosophy. In Advaita, there are no ‘two’ but just ONE.
Liberation (mukti or moksha) is of two types. Sadyomukti (instant liberation) and Kramamukti (stage by stage liberation). Jnanamarga or Vicharamarga (the path of contemplation) leads to Sadyomukti. Upasanamarga (the path of worshipful action) requires a stage by stage process to attain liberation.
Upasanamarga is best suited for householders in their spiritual approach to liberation. Such Upasana consists of Prarthana (prayer), Bhajan (group singing) or chanting), Archana (offering of flowers, etc), Japa (chanting of mantras) and Dhyana (meditation). While the common man crosses the hurdles towards liberation in stages, the person who adopts the Jnana or Vicharamarga reaches his goal in one leap like a seasoned acrobat or a bird that can fly high above and reach its destination.
Many commentators have only added to the confusion amongst devotees by stating that Guru’s composition has to be understood on the basis of Yogasastra. The Guru’s view has place only for Jnanayoga and Karmayoga. This has been amply clarified by Guru in Yogadarsana (stanza 10):
jnanam karmeti loke asmin
dvidha yogah samasatah
(‘In this world there are only two types of Yogas- Jnana and Karma. All other extensions of yoga are contained in these two.’)
Therefore, if we were to comment on Guru’s compositions, it must confine only to Jnana and Karmayoga. From this angle, it is more appropriate and desirable to describe this composition as ‘Pampattichintu (Song of the snake charmer)’ rather than Kundalinipattu (Song of the Kundalini)
It is not enough to lead a life in anyway, as you please. One must dance to the tune of the Lord. This is the message of Kundalinippattu or Pampattichintu. For participating in the divine play the devotee must be a Jnani (knower of Truth). This is the practical difficulty in it.