Sree Narayana Guru's

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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

kapatayatikku karasthamakuvile-



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.



punarunarumpozhutum sphurikkuvila;

anudinaminnane rantumadimaya-

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.


Ulakavumullatumaykkalarnnu nilkkum

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).




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.)


Arule tirumeniyaninnitumi-

yirule veliyeyitaye potuve,

karale, karalinkalirikkumarum-

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.



tirumeni cidambaramennarulum

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.