When I gave the listing of Tamil works that were chanted in Bhagavan’s day, I included Ulladu Narpadu Kalivenba. This is a slightly different version of Ulladu Narpadu than the one that appears in Collected Works. I am posting a complete translation of the kalivenba version today, along with an introduction by Michael James which explains why the text is different. The translation was done by Sadhu Om and Michael James and first appeared in The Mountain Path, 1981, pp. 217-22. The explanatory notes that appear after some of the verses are also by Michael.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana wrote many of his Tamil works, such as Ulladu Narpadu, Ekatma Panchakam, Devikalottaram, Atma Sakshatkara Prakaranam, Bhagavad Gita Saram, and Atma Bodham, in venba metre, a four-line metre which contains four feet in each of the first three lines and three feet in the fourth line. Since in the days of Sri Bhagavan devotees used to do regular recitation [parayana] of his works in the ashram, he himself converted all the above-mentioned works (that is, all his works in venba metre except Sri Arunachala Pancharatnam) into kalivenba metre by lengthening the third foot and adding a fourth foot to the fourth line of each verse, thus linking it to the next verse and making it easy to remember the continuity while reciting. These works in kalivenba metre were published in the lifetime of Sri Bhagavan as small separate books or pamphlets, and they have now been collected together and are soon to be published by the ashram in Tamil in a single volume entitled Kalivenba Nunmalai.
Since the portions that Sri Bhagavan thus added to the fourth line of each verse may contain one or more words, known as the ‘link words’, they not only facilitate recitation but also enrich the meaning of either the preceding or the following verse. A literal English rendering by Sri Sadhu Om of the kalivenba form of Ulladu Narpadu [The Forty Verses on Reality] is given below, with the extra link words indicated in bold type.
Payiram – Introductory Verses
composed by Sri Muruganar
When Murugan entreated, ‘Graciously reveal to us the nature of Reality and the means of attaining it so that we may be saved,’ the great Sri Ramana, being free from the delusion of this unreal world, joyously and authoritatively revealed Ulladu Narpadu [The Forty Verses on Reality].
Know that Sri Ramana, who had composed in venba metre those Forty Verses on Reality proclaiming that Reality is only one, linked them fittingly and thus converted them into one perfect kalivenba, so that those who say that Reality is not one but many, may understand [the oneness of Reality].
Mangalam – Benedictory Verses
Could there be the consciousness ‘am’ [chit] if there did not exist the reality [‘I’, sat]? Since that Reality exists in the heart, beyond thought, who can and how to meditate upon that Reality, which is called the Heart? To abide in the Heart, as it is [that is, without thought, as ‘I am’] is truly meditating [upon it]. Know thus.
Alternatively: ‘Can there be a consciousness [chit] other than existence [sat] to meditate [upon existence]?’ Refer also to verse 23 of Upadesa Undiyar.
Mature souls who have an intense inner fear of death reach the Feet of the birthless and deathless Supreme Lord as their refuge. Through this surrender of theirs, they [the ego] are dead. Being now deathless, the Eternal, can they again have the thought of death?
Nul – Text
Because we [the ego], whose nature is to see [objects other than ourself], see the world, the acceptance of a first principle having a power [sakti] which can make it appear as many, is unanimous. The picture of names and forms [the world which is seen], the seer, the screen and the light – all these are He [that first principle], who is Self.
All religions first postulate three principles, the world, soul and God. To say that one principle alone appears as the three principles, or that the three principles are always three principles is possible only so long as the ego [ahankara] exists. To abide in one’s own state, ‘I’ [the ego] having been annihilated, is the highest.
‘The world is real’, ‘No, it is an unreal appearance’; ‘The world is sentient’, ‘It is not’; ‘The world is happiness’, ‘It is not’ [in other words, ‘The world is sat-chit-ananda’, ‘No, it is not’] – what is the use of arguing thus in vain? That state in which, by giving up [knowing] the world and by knowing oneself, ‘I’ [the ego] is lost and thereby [the notions of] oneness and duality themselves are lost, is loved by all.
If oneself is a form of flesh [a body], the world and God will also be likewise [i.e. will also be forms]; if oneself is not a form, who can see their forms, and how? Can the sight [the seer] be otherwise than the eye [the seer]? Verily, Self is the Eye, the unlimited [and therefore formless] Eye.
If we scrutinise, the body is a form composed of five sheaths. Therefore, the five sheaths are all included in the term ‘body’ [that is, any of the five sheaths may be denoted when we use the term ‘body’]. Does the world exist apart from the body? Say, is there anyone who without a body has seen a world?
The world we see is nothing other than the form of the five sense-knowledges [sight, sound, smell, taste and touch]. Those five sense-knowledges are known through the five sense-organs. Since the one mind perceives the world through the five sense-organs, say, can there be a world apart from the mind?
Although the world [the seen] which is in front of us and the mind [the seer] rise and set together, it is by the mind alone that the world shines. The whole [purnam] which is the base for the world and the mind to rise from and set in, but which Itself shines without rising or setting – that alone is the Reality.
Whoever worships [the Supreme Reality] in whatever form, giving it whatever name, that is the way to see that Reality in [that] name and form, since it is possible [to see it thus]. Yet knowing one’s own truth in the truth of that Supreme Reality, subsiding [into It] and being one [with It], is the true seeing. Know thus.
The dyads [the pairs of opposites such as knowledge and ignorance, pleasure and pain, etc.] and the triads [the three factors of objective knowledge such as the knower, the knowing and the object known, the seer, the seeing and the object seen, etc.] – [which are unreal appearances like] the blueness of the sky – always depend for their existence upon the one [the ego or mind, the thought ‘I am the body’]. If one looks within the mind, ‘What is that one?’ [in other words, ‘Who am I, that ego?’], the dyads and triads will disappear [since their base, the ego, will be found to be non-existent]. Only those who have thus seen [the non-existence of the ego] are the Seers of Truth. Hence they will not be deluded [by the unreal appearance of the dyads and triads]. See thus.
Without ignorance [about objects], which is dense and abundant like darkness, knowledge [about objects] cannot exist, and without knowledge [about objects] that ignorance cannot exist. Only the knowledge which knows [the non-existence of] that self [the ego-self] which is the base [of knowledge and ignorance], [by enquiring] ‘To whom are that knowledge and ignorance?’ is [true] knowledge.
Knowing all else without knowing oneself [the ego], the knower of the objects known is nothing but ignorance; how instead can it be knowledge? When [the non-existence of] oneself [the knowing ego], who is the base of knowledge and ignorance, is known [through enquiry], both knowledge and ignorance will cease to exist.
That which is completely devoid of knowledge and ignorance [about objects] is [true] knowledge. That which knows [objects] cannot be true knowledge. Since Self shines without another to know or to be known by, It is the [true] knowledge; It is not a void [though devoid of both objective knowledge and ignorance]. Know thus.
Self [‘I am’], which is clear knowledge [jnana], alone is real. Knowledge of multiplicity is ignorance [ajnana]. Even this ignorance, which is unreal, cannot exist apart from Self, which is knowledge. The numerous ornaments are unreal; say, do they exist from the gold, which is real?
Only if that first person [the ego or subject, ‘I’] in the form ‘I am the body’ exists, will the second and third persons, ‘you’, ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘this’, ‘that’, etc.] exist. If, by one’s scrutinising the truth of the first person, the first person is destroyed, the second and third persons will cease to exist and one’s own nature which will then shine as one [and not as the three persons] will verily be the state of Self.
Alternatively: ‘ … the second and third persons will cease to exist and the [real] first person which will then shine as the only one will indeed be Self, one’s own state.’
The past and future exist depending upon the present, which one daily experiences; they too, while occurring, were and will be the present. Therefore, [among the three times] the present alone exists. Trying to know the past and future without knowing the truth of the present [i.e. its non-existence] is like trying to count without [knowing the value of the unit] one.
On scrutiny, where is time and where is space, [where is anything] except ‘we’ [Self], the clearly known existing Reality? If we are the body, we shall be involved in time and space; but are we the body? Since we are [the same] one now, then and ever, [the same] one in space here, there and everywhere, we, the timeless and spaceless ‘we’ [Self], alone are.
To those who have not known Self and to those who have known [Self], this body of flesh is ‘I’; but to those who have not known Self, ‘I’ is limited to the measure of the body, whereas to those who have known Self within the body [i.e., in the lifetime of the body], ‘I’ shines as the limitless Self. Know that this indeed is the difference between these two.
To those who have not known [Self] and to those who have known [Self], the world in front of us is real; but to those who have not known [Self], the reality is limited to the measure of the world [i.e. to its names and forms], whereas to those who have known [Self], the reality shines devoid of [name and] form as the substratum of the world. Know that this is the difference between these two.
The argument as to which wins, fate or free-will, which are different from each other, is only for those who do not have knowledge of the root of fate and free-will [namely the ego, which is itself unreal]. Those who have known [the non-existence of] the self [the ego self], which is the one base of fate and free-will, have given them up [i.e. have given up both fate and free-will, and also the argument about them]. Say, will they get entangled in them again?
One’s seeing God without seeing oneself, the seer of the objects seen, is but seeing a mental image. He who, by losing the base [the ego], sees Self, the source of himself, alone truly sees God, because Self is not other than God.
If it be asked, ‘What is the truth behind the many scriptures which speak of “oneself seeing oneself, whom one thinks to be an individual soul” and “seeing God”?’ [the reply will be] ‘Since oneself is one [and not two] and hence impossible to be seen, how is oneself to see oneself? And how to see God? To become a prey [to Him] is seeing [Him].’
Many scriptures speak of ‘Self-realisation’ and ‘God-realisation’ as the goals to be attained. However, those who comment upon such scriptures often misunderstand and misinterpret these terms, thereby creating confusion in the minds of aspirants. For instance, those who comment upon Kaivalya Navanitam generally misinterpret verse thirteen of chapter one by saying that one must first realise oneself (the individual soul) and then after that one must realise God. Therefore, in order to remove all the confusion that is created, when the terms ‘Self-realisation’ and ‘God-realisation’ are thus misunderstood, Sri Bhagavan explains their true import in this verse by saying that the ego cannot realise itself, nor can it realise God, all that it can do is to become a prey to God, in other words, to be destroyed. Hence, what is called ‘realisation’ or ‘seeing’ is in fact nothing but the destruction of the ego, and this alone is the real goal that aspirants should seek. Then in the next verse Sri Bhagavan teaches that the sole means to attain such realisation is to turn the mind inwards (through the enquiry ‘Who am I?’) and thus drown it in God, who shines within the mind as the light of consciousness.
Except by turning the mind inwards and drowning it in the Lord, who shines within that mind [as its substratum] lending light to the mind, which sees everything, how is it possible for the mind to know [or to meditate upon] the Lord? Consider thus.
Since it is insentient, this body cannot [of its own accord] say ‘I’. No one will say, ‘In sleep [where the body does not exist] I do not exist’. After an ‘I’ rises [as ‘I am the body’], all rises. Enquire with a keen mind ‘Whence does this “I” rise?’ When enquired thus, it will disappear [being found to be non-existent].
In this verse Sri Bhagavan speaks about three distinct things, namely  the body, which, being insentient, has no ‘I’-consciousness,  the consciousness ‘I’ (Self) which exists even in sleep, where the body and all else do not exist, and  another ‘I’, after whose rising all else rises. Since this rising ‘I’ is clearly distinct from the body and from the ‘I’ which exists in sleep, Sri Bhagavan instructs us to enquire whence it rises, and in the link words he explains what will happen when we enquire thus. Then in the next two verses he reveals more about the nature of this rising ‘I’ and explains how it is distinct from the body and from Self, and yet at the same time assumes the properties of both. Being ‘I’-consciousness, it is distinct from the body, which is insentient, and having the nature of rising and setting, it is distinct from Self, which neither rises nor sets. Nevertheless, it assumes the properties both of the body (namely rising and setting, being limited by time and space, etc.) and the Self (namely shining as ‘I’). Thus this rising ‘I’, whose form is the feeling ‘I am the body’, is described as a knot (granthi) between Self, which is consciousness (chit) and the body, which is insentient (jada). This knot, which is known by various names such as mind, ego, individual soul and so on, can rise and endure only by grasping a body as ‘I’, and having grasped a body as ‘I’ it will wax more by feeding upon other forms, that is, by attending to second- and third-person objects. However, if it is sought for (attended to), it will take to flight, that is, it will be found to be non-existent. These properties of the ego are illustrated by the analogy given by Sri Bhagavan of the wayfarer who played a prominent part in a marriage celebration. Though he belonged neither to the bride’s party nor to the bridegroom’s, he pretended to each party that he was an important member of the other. Thus for several days he feasted well, until finally both the parties began to make enquiries about him, whereupon he took to flight.
[Though] this insentient body cannot say ‘I’, [and though] existence-consciousness [sat-chit, Self] does not rise [or set], between these two rises an ‘I’ limited to the measure of the body [the ‘I am the body’-consciousness]. Know that this is the knot between consciousness and the insentient [chit-jada-granthi], and also bondage [bandha], the individual soul [jiva], subtle body [sukshma sarira], ego [ahankara] this mundane state of activity [samsara] and mind [manas].
What a wonder it is! This ghostly ego which is devoid of form [i.e. which has no form of its own] comes into existence by grasping a form [a body]; grasping a form, it endures; feeding upon forms [second and third person objects] which it grasps [through the five senses], it waxes more; leaving one form, it grasps another form; [but] when sought for, it take to flight [i.e. it disappears, being found to be non-existent!] Know thus.
If the ego, the root, comes into existence, all else [the world, God, bondage and liberation, pain and pleasure, etc.] will come into existence. If the ego does not exist, all else will not exist. Verily, the ego is all! Hence, scrutinising ‘What is it?’ [in other words, ‘Who am I, this ego?’] is indeed giving up all. Know thus.
In the previous verse Sri Bhagavan said that the ego will take to flight (cease to exist) when it is enquired into, and in this verse he says that the ego is all. Hence, enquiring into the ego is truly renouncing all.
The state in which this ‘I’ [the ego], which rises as if the first, does not rise, is the state [indicated by the mahavakya]. ‘We are That’. Unless one scrutinises the source [Self] whence ‘I’ rises, how to attain the loss of oneself, [the state] in which ‘I’ does not rise? And unless one attains [that non-rising of ‘I’], say, how to abide in one’s own state, in which one is That?
In this verse Sri Bhagavan emphatically asserts the truth that scrutinising the source of the ego (in other words, attending to Self) is the sole means by which one can destroy the ego and thereby abide as Self, the Reality.
Just as one should dive in order to find something that has fallen into the water, so one should dive within with a keen [introverted] mind, [thus] controlling breath and speech, and know the rising-place of the ego, which rises first. Know this.
Discarding the body as if a corpse, not uttering the word ‘I’ by mouth, but scrutinising with the mind diving inwards, ‘Whence does this ‘I’ rise?’ alone is the path of knowledge [jnana marga]. Other than this, meditating ‘I am not this [body], I am That [Brahman]’ may be [in some way] an aid, but can it itself be the enquiry [vichara]?
Therefore, when the mind reaches the Heart by scrutinising within in this manner, ‘Who am I?’ he, ‘I’ [the ego or mind], bows its head in shame [i.e. it dies] and the One [the Reality] appears of its own accord as ‘I-I’ [I am I]. Although it appears, it is not ‘I’ [the ego]; it is the perfect Reality [purna vastu], the Reality which is Self.
[After that Reality] has surged up and appeared [as ‘I-I’], what single thing remains for him who thus enjoys the bliss of Self, which has risen on the destruction of himself [the ego], to do? Since he does not know anything other than Self, how to [or who can] conceive what His state is?
When the holy scriptures proclaim, ‘Thou art That, which is declared to be the Supreme’, instead of one’s knowing and being oneself [through the enquiry] ‘What am I?’, to meditate ‘I am That [the Supreme] and not this [the body, etc.]’ is due to lack of strength [i.e. due to lack of maturity of mind]. For That indeed always shines as oneself.
Besides that, it is a matter of ridicule to say either, ‘I have not realised myself’, or, ‘I have realised myself’. Why? Are there two selves, one self to become an object known [by the other]? For ‘I am one’ is the truth which is the experience of everyone.
Instead of knowing – with the mind merging within – the Reality, which ever exists as the nature of everyone and which is devoid of even a single thought, and instead of firmly abiding [as that Reality], to dispute thus, ‘It exists’, ‘It does not exist’, ‘It has form’, ‘It is formless’, ‘It is one’, ‘It is two’, ‘It is neither [one nor two]’, is ignorance born of illusion [maya]. Give up [all such disputes]!
To know and to be – with the mind subsided – the Reality which is ever-attained, is the [true] attainment [siddhi]. All other siddhis are siddhis that are acquired in a dream; when one wakes up from sleep, will they be real? Will they who, by abiding in the true state, are rid of the false [state], be deluded [by siddhis]? Know and be you [the Reality].
Our present life in this world, our so-called waking state, is truly nothing but a dream occurring in the long sleep of Self-forgetfulness. Therefore, any occult powers [siddhis] that we may acquire in this dream will be found to be unreal when, by abiding in the true state of Self-knowledge, we wake up from the false state, the sleep of Self-forgetfulness.
It is only if we think, having illusion, that we are the body, that meditating ‘No [we are not the body], we are That [the Supreme]’ may be a good aid for [reminding] us to abide as That. [However] since we are That, why should we for ever be meditating that we are That? Does [a man need to] meditate ‘I am a man?’
Even the contention held that there is duality [dvaita] during practice [sadhana] – which one attempts on account of ignorance – and non-duality [advaita] after attainment is not true. Who else is one but the tenth man both while one is anxiously search [for the tenth man] and when one finds oneself [to be the tenth man]?
If we are the doer of actions, which are like seeds, we shall have to experience the resulting fruit. But when, by enquiring ‘Who is the doer of actions?’ oneself is known, the sense of doership will disappear and the three karmas [agamya, sanchita and prarabdha] will also fall away [since the ego, the doer of the actions and the experiencer of their fruit, will no longer exist]. This indeed is the state of liberation [mukti], which is eternal.
‘Oneself’ may here be taken to mean either the ego or Self, for if the ego (the doer) is known it will be found to be non-existent, while if Self is known it will be found to be the sole existence. In either case, the sense of doership (and of experienceship) will necessarily cease to exist.
Only so long as one thinks like a madman ‘I am a bound one’, will thoughts on bondage and liberation remain. But when seeing oneself, ‘Who is this bound one?’ the eternally liberated and ever-attained Self alone will [be found to] exist. When the thought of bondage cannot remain, can the thought of liberation still remain?
If it is said, according to the maturity of the mind, that the liberation which is attained may be of three kinds, with form, without form, or with or without form, then I will say that liberation is [in truth only] the annihilation of the form of the ego which distinguishes [liberation] with form, without form, or with or without form. Know thus.
Concluding lines of the kalivenba
composed by Sri Muruganar
This work, Ulladu Narpadu, which the divine Sri Ramana composed and linked into one kalivenba, is the light that reveals the Reality.