Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ramana Puranam

Ramana Maharshi asked Muruganar to begin writing devotional poetry in the style of Manikkavachagar soon after he first came to see him in 1923. In the succeeding years Muruganar composed poems in praise of Bhagavan that were modelled in many ways on those that appear in Tiruvachakam, Manikkavachagar’s classic work of Tamil devotional poetry. These verses by Muruganar were eventually brought out under the title Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai. In the Tiruvachakam Manikkavachagar praises Siva as the God who manifested as his Guru; in Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai Muruganar praises Bhagavan as the same Siva who first appeared to Manikkavachagar and then later manifested in a physical form to be Muruganar’s own Guru.

The first edition of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai, published in 1933, was incomplete. In the following account Kanakammal describes how one obvious shortcoming in the original text was rectified:

In the first edition of Ramana Sannidhi Murai there was no poem corresponding to Siva Puranam of Tiruvachakam. Since this work was patterned on Tiruvachakam, it seemed incomplete to that extent. So Muruganar started composing a poem on the same lines. His inspired pen quickly wrote two hundred lines. At this stage a doubt arose in his mind as to what would be the appropriate title for this [work]. The obvious title could be Siva Puranam, since Siva’s name is dear to his devotees and Ramana was the embodiment of Lord Siva. But the verses were extolling the glory of the Lord as Ramana. So why not call it Ramana Puranam? Thus tossed by doubt Muruganar left the place, leaving the lines at Ramana’s feet.

When he returned in the evening Ramana handed back the poems. A great surprise was in store for Muruganar. Ramana had distinctly written ‘Ramana Puranam’ not only at the top of the work but also at the top of each and every page. He had not stopped with that. He had himself composed three hundred more lines and completed the work....

When the second edition of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai was [about to be] published these verses were also added. Muruganar had included a footnote to indicate that the first two hundred lines had been composed by him and the remaining three hundred by Bhagavan. After correcting the proof he handed over the matter to Ramana. While going through it Ramana saw the footnote and remarked, ‘Are only these [lines] written by Bhagavan?’ Muruganar at once saw his error. Were not the earlier ones too a product of Ramana’s grace? He at once prostrated to Bhagavan and with profuse tears said ‘Nothing is written by me. Everything flows from your grace.’ He then promptly deleted the footnote. (
Ramana’s Muruganar, pp. 12-13.)

Ramana Puranam was completed in early 1938, and it was included in the second edition of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai that was published in April 1939.

The three hundred lines that Bhagavan wrote in Ramana Puranam are the largest portion of poetry he ever composed; bigger, in fact than Ulladu Narpadu and Upadesa Saram put together.

As he was completing the poem Bhagavan adopted Muruganar’s style and perspective. That is to say, he, Bhagavan, praised Bhagavan, but attributed the praise to Muruganar. Since Muruganar was stylistically modelling himself on Manikkavachagar, we have a regression of Bhagavan imitating Muruganar who in turn was imitating Manikkavachagar. This means that the style of Ramana Puranam is quite unlike any of Bhagavan’s other works.

The Siva Puranam, the work on which Ramana Puranam is modelled, is a long, single-verse poem that praises Siva. Muruganar stuck to that format when he wrote his portion of the work, except, of course, that he praised Bhagavan instead of Siva, but when Bhagavan took over the work, he introduced many of his teachings, some of which he had already written about in Ulladu Narpadu.

Ramana Puranam is a single-verse poem of 540 lines. Although Muruganar refused to tell anyone where his lines stopped and Bhagavan’s began, there is a slight stylistic change at line 233 which suggests that this is the place where Bhagavan began his work. Here are several extracts from Bhagavan’s contribution to the work, the first being a description (lines 233-254 and 265-280) of how Muruganar realised the Self through Bhagavan’s grace. The line numbers of the original text are given above each extract. The whole work, translated and edited by Robert Butler, T. V. Venkatasubramanian and myself, is published by Sri Ramanasramam.


You [Bhagavan] concealed yourself within me [Muruganar],

like the oil within a sesame seed,

so that your presence within me

could not be clearly discerned.

Because of that veiling known as ignorance

the truth within my heart

was cloaked entirely in deep darkness,

and in this condition

the mind somehow turned outwards.

Through the power of multiplicity

which deludes and shows the world

as the five sense perceptions,

my mind, which knows them [objectively] as ‘that’,

became bewildered,

and deeming them [the sense perceptions]

to be profitable, sought them.

That seeking, evolving itself into desire,

became the seed that engendered

the never-ending succession of births,

bringing into existence the great and evil tree

that is the illusion of birth [and death].

In my forgetfulness, I became a bird in that tree,

my mind confused by good and evil actions.

Looking around on all sides, in my perplexity,

I repetitively devoured its sweet and bitter fruits in vain,

experiencing again and again

unceasing suffering and enjoyment.

In this state of disgust, wherein there was not a trace

of clarity within my mind,

the king, who is my very life,

through his grace that is the truth,

free of the feelings of rejoicing and aversion,

appeared as a unique sage

in the city of Arunai

to save me from death,

worthless cur that I was,

and through his compassionate gaze

he revealed to me his holy lotus feet,

infusing me with an abundant, unending flood

of the ambrosia of being-consciousness

so that my mind became still.


Even for sinners who bathe in the foul sewer-water

that is the love of this body,

bewilderment will subside and be destroyed

through the all-pervading nature of mauna.

They will remain in a state of rapture,

bathing in the vast ocean of unsurpassable bliss

that is the surging flood of absolute perfection

as they stand in your Court, where,

to the sound of your voice, dispensing jnana,

and the clamour of songs of praise,

your standard is raised up

amidst the ceaseless rattle of victory drums.

There, evil and ignorant as I was,

and worse than a dog in my conduct,

you showed me a tenderness

more noble and all-embracing

than that of a mother [for her child],

and subjected me to your rule.

Destroying in me the [ideas of] ‘I’ and ‘mine’,

you yourself became for me that ‘I’, and that ‘mine’!

You arose as the majesty of the luminous, supreme,

all-transcending consciousness,

so that the base part of my nature

shrank, out of shame, to the size of an atom!

Then, O Supreme Reality,

you revealed that even that tiny atom

was also false,

as you dwelt in the quintessential purity

of your own Self-nature!


Shining swarupa, remaining alone

as the supreme light of the Self

when [all else] subsides,

through the assertion: ‘Not this’, ‘Not this’,

so that not a trace of anything ‘other’ remains!

Unique Essence

that cannot be perceived objectively

through the false imaginings

of the flawed mind,

but can only be known

through the perfect consciousness

of Atma swarupa, mauna!

You [Bhagavan] are the unmoving reality, the Atma jnana

that rises to bestow an excellence [of clarity]

on the deluding distortions that mask the jiva,

which are merely reflections

upon the mirror of the shaking mind.

Such is your nature!

You hold maya, which creates the illusion

that this nature does not exist,

totally under your control

such that the awareness of those

who have obtained your grace

does not stir even slightly.

To those who are deluded

you are non-existent,

not accessible to their faculties

even in the minutest degree.

But to the gaze of the jnani

you are perceived everywhere

as the absolute fullness.

To those who love you, you are the near one,

to those who do not, you are the far one.

Am I worthy to know

and speak of your noble nature?

When even the four Vedas and the Agamas,

rising up arrogantly [to describe your nature],

fell silent, their presumption quelled,

it is indeed an occasion for great mirth

that I should speak of

your glory and distinction, your actions,

the nobility of your attributes,

your name and your fame.


However many births were possible,

I have experienced them all and grown weary.

Even if my mind could take birth

in the lofty position of being one of the gods,

beginning with Indra himself,

I would no longer consent to the suffering

and weary lamentation [of birth].

Even the blackest of crows,

when it alights upon beautiful golden Mount Meru,

is transformed into the form of pure gold.

In just the same way, even those jivas

who are entirely without distinction will,

upon joining the presence of divine consciousness,

one’s own reality, attain by its glorious majesty

the sublime form of the Self and shine.

[Therefore], my Lord and Master,

may you bestow upon me that mauna [silence],

whose form is the expanse of true jnana,

imprinting that truth upon my heart

so that I no longer perceive myself

as a form of flesh and blood.


Youthful mauna Guru, you who, [as Dakshinamurti],

shining as the divine manifestation of God,

at the head of the lineage of Gurus,

reveal the supreme truth,

the unique speech of [mauna]

that is the mind’s source,

which is the mother of all language

but which, unlike the spoken word,

neither appears nor disappears.

All the ancient treatises on jnana

are merely an introductory preface,

enunciated by the learned,

to your book of mauna,

which confers true knowledge.

Are they not therefore alien to true understanding,

those who, even though they have studied all the others,

have lost their connection to that [book of] mauna?


If a child does something naughty,

it is only fitting that the mother

should tolerate and pardon that misdeed.

Likewise, if there is any misdeed on my part,

done either knowingly or unknowingly,

may you overlook it, thinking it nothing,

and give me your joyful approval.

For the world knows that such is the conduct we display,

one towards the other, that I engage in misdeeds

against your holy feet, and you pardon them.

You whose holy feet drive out

the black ignorance of maya !

You who are [like] a great cloud,

pouring down the rain of bliss

that is your grace!

You who are the flood of bliss

in the great river of true jnana,

quenching the scorching flames,

so that they flare up no more

from the three kinds of distress

that sorely torment us!

Youthful One! Beauteous One!

Lord of jnana, who destroyed

the power of the ego,

(which arises through the association

with the filthy body)

so that I was infused

with the clarity of consciousness

that is the luminous nature,

without divisions, of Sivam,

which no one can describe!

The wealth, the real that blazes forth

as the radiant light of the Self,

is obscured and dimmed by the ego,

the thought ‘I am the body’,

which harasses and torments jivas

through the obstacle whereby they are unable

to satisfy unlimited and excessive desires,

thus filling them with the poverty

that is base and worthless ignorance.

But you, source of my existence,

shine within my Heart

like a perfect storehouse of treasure

that is beyond the three primal entities,

so that I, your devotee,

rise up resplendently and with exhilaration,

totally free of that ignominy.


Where the spurious, limited, and profitless ego,

which declares that the fleshy body is ‘I’,

bows its head in shame and falls away,

(through the knowledge gained by sinking within

by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’,

conducted with extreme tenacity)

there do you shine, as the source of all things,

the luminous sky of pure consciousness,

which is not an empty void,

but in which the deluded perception

of the triputis has subsided;

[there] a deep rapture wells up,

wherein bliss abounds!

You who, in your form of mauna jnana,

which is the support [for all things],

cannot be approached by [concepts] such as

beginning, middle and end!

Yours is the waking sleep

that is the true waking-state,

the exalted sphere of final liberation,

whose radiance unfolds

as the pure space of the Heart,

wherein the world,

(whose nature is all mind-space,

and which is seen as waking,

dreaming and overpowering deep sleep)

is finally ended.

For jivas, desire is ended

by means of the fundamental guna

[the sattva guna].

Through its deeply subtle nature

it establishes the intimate relationship

between the jivas and yourself.

Though one cannot unite with you

except through the first guna,

you are the transcendental one,

free of attributes, soaring beyond even that [first guna].

The second person and the third person,

manifesting as multiplicity,

appear after the first person,

the foremost of the foremost, arises.

When it disappears by knowing its source,

along with it, the other two

simultaneously vanish in that place.

The light of that source which then shines

is the indivisible fullness

that is one’s own true form.


To investigate the past and the future

without [considering] yourself,

you who abide perpetually

in the present moment

as the peerless ‘now’,

is this not [like] counting

without [the number] one?

You, then, are known to the senses,

not only as ‘I’ and ‘other’ [aham and idam],

but also as the three persons

and the three modes of time.

Since you alone shine [as the Self],

with nothing other than yourself

either to know you,

or to be known by you,

you are the feature-free jnana

that shines as the essence

of the multitude of characteristic features

that appear to the mind

that does not enquire!

You are lofty and unmoving,

standing as the supreme non-dual reality,

a matchless abode for the eternally enduring

abidance in supreme jnana [para-jnana-nishta].

Since it is only by investigating,

sinking within, and uniting [with you],

(so that one’s own truth

becomes harmonized

with the powerful reality

of your own righteous nature)

that the true perception of you,

who are being-consciousness,

may be obtained,

how [might this be achieved]

by seeking with the mind,

which possesses only

the objective knowledge

of the gross objects of sense?


This world is a moving picture show

of [sights and] sounds,

driven along with a great hubbub

by a whirlwind fuelled

by the unreal effects of former deeds,

which have no reality other than

in the imagination of the mind.

It is like an insubstantial mirage

that appears as a pool of water

to those who suffer,

tormented by their desire for water.

They are indeed the ‘wisest of the wise’

who, seeing such a world, abandon you.

They are like those who, failing to see the screen

that is the [underlying ] reality,

see [only] the images of [light and] shadow

projected upon it, and are delighted,

or like those who study and rejoice in

the music [made of the] seven principal sounds, and so on,

ignoring the fundamental note

which is their indispensable source.

No trace of doubt or contradiction

can arise within one’s own nature, existence,

as it does in [the world of] the illusory objects of sense

which appear to be ‘other’.

By virtue of this nature you are the Supreme Being,

the perpetually radiating sun of the Self,

which is the true reality,

impossible to reject or deny,

shining out in the darkness [of ignorance]

as the light [of jnana],

the ‘I am’ of even he

who denies your existence.


You are light! You are darkness!

You are the reality that is neither of these!

Your are the Supreme that is the refuge

for us your devotees!

You are jnana! You are the brilliance of jnana!

You are grace’s clear serenity!

Yours is the greatness of the

all-transcending space of consciousness!

You are one! You are two!

You are the beauteous temple of mauna

standing beyond both of these!

You are medicine! You are a jewel!

You are the exalted holy mantra!

You are love, deep and bliss-bestowing,

arising first as the source of all that is!

You are the infinitude

that abides immovably as Sivam!

There is nothing that you are,

yet without you, nothing is.

This being so, separation from you

is only forgetfulness of you.

Therefore, just as you are reached

by the thoughts of those

who unite with you in fitting manner

out of their deep love for you,

so also you are reached

by the very [hostile] thoughts of those

who have enmity towards you

and who hate you like cruel death.

However, to reach the holy feet in this way,

is conduct suited only

to the wicked nature of the rakshasas.


Sun of dharma who scorches those ghost-like ones

who show no loving conduct

so that they suffer unbearable misery!

It is not the fault of dharma

that those in whom there is no love

perish, quaking with agony

like boneless worms

exposed to the mid-day sun.

The ripe crop of destiny,

like a shadow, never goes away,

but follows and clings to those

who commit sinful deeds,

as if unable to control themselves.

Whilst [some] distinguish between sakti and Sivam,

(such as those ignorant outsiders

who cite numerous reasons,

stringing them together,

and arguing tenaciously)

to reveal the truth of your Self,

(wherein these two are not separate,

but are eternally and identically one

in their real nature)

you danced as your consort looked on

in the Great Hall where you dwell as her Lord,

and in order for that sakti to be caught

within your vast immovable Self,

you appeared as the final truth of the formless,

the true savour, the non-dual absolute.

In order to accept Brahma and Vishnu’s grand worship

on the night of Sivaratri in the month of Masi,

and to bestow your grace on them,

you rose up in the month of Margazhi,

on the day of the ardra nakshetra,

manifesting before them in the form

of a vast column of effulgent light,

revealing yourself to be

the most wondrous primal lingam, Arunachala.


For those who, thinking without thought,

(‘Whence does the “I” arise?’

so that ‘I’ is destroyed within the Heart,

wherein the ‘I’ does not arise)

have died to the five senses [and the mind]

and dwell steadfastly in the Heart,

their minds become Sivam,

the sanctum sanctorum.

‘[Infinite] Eye, you who are the luminous space of supreme love,

a single drop from whose surging ocean

can bring peace to the beings of many diverse worlds!’

For those who declare in this way

and perform true austerities

by focussing their minds, meditating, singing praises,

and offering fulsome daily worship,

their minds become completely clear,

freed from the doubts that beset them

in their powerful delusion,

and through this, the world of liberation

will be nearer to them than this physical world.


Thiru said...

Thanks again for bringing us the priceless works of Bhagawan.
Where could I buy a copy of tamil version of "Ramana Sannithi Murai"

In Bhagawan,

toronto, Canada

David Godman said...

The Sri Ramanasramam Book Depot has copies.

Cindy said...

Thank you, David, so very, very much for posting these English translations...nay, for the entire Heart-stirring post. Much love and Pranams--

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya