Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ulladu Narpadu Kalivenba

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 seen] be otherwise than the eye [the seer]? Verily, Self is the Eye, the unlimited [and therefore formless] Eye.

Hence, being formless, Self can never see forms. On the other hand, since the ego or mind can come into existence only by identifying itself as form (a body), it can only see forms and can never see Self, the formless Reality.

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 [1] the body, which, being insentient, has no ‘I’-consciousness, [2] the consciousness ‘I’ (Self) which exists even in sleep, where the body and all else do not exist, and [3] 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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Giri pradakshina

I am going to start today by giving a rendering of Sri Arunachala Pradakshina Manbu, a ten-verse poem in praise of giri-pradakshina (walking around the mountain of Arunachala) composed by Sadhu Om. Like his Guru Ramana Maharshi, Sadhu Om was a great believer and proponent of giri-pradakshina. And not just a proponent. He ‘walked the walk’ as well, doing giri-pradakshina several times a week. In the tenth verse of the poem there is a reference to King Vajrangada. By way of an explanation, I have added the whole story of this king, as it is narrated in Arunachala Mahatmyam [The Greatness of Arunachala], a Sanskrit text, probably about seven or eight hundred years old, that appears in the Skanda Purana.


If those who, because of fickle-mindedness, feel too incapable to practise Self-abidance, self surrender or ashtanga yoga, want to do a worthy tapas, equally effective but very easy, let them go round this Hill [Arunachala] more and more.


Though you are so weak-minded that you are unable to resist the attraction towards the false worldly pleasures, your mind will automatically be made strong and ripe to the extent to which you humbly and lovingly associate with Sat-purushas [those who abide in Sat].


How? Just as even a banana tress will become dry and will catch fire when it is caught in a big forest fire, so the minds of those who associate with Sat will achieve great love [bhakti] for Self, even without their knowing it.


Sadhus [i.e. jnanis] are verily Sat. Those pure ones are not different from Self, sat-chit-ananda. Know that the peerless gross form of Sat is the hill, Arunachala, which is shining here. Therefore, be always here.

[Note by Sadhu Om: there is no more powerful satsang than to live near Arunachala and to do giri-pradakshina, that is, to walk barefooted around Arunachala, keeping it to one’s right.]


Going round the Hill, a dual activity, is quite contrary to all other dual activities, which are casting us away from the centre [the Self]. It is the only dual activity which never casts us away from the Centre, the sun [of the Self]. Therefore, do this.


A cow grazing round and round its peg does not know that the length of its rope is thereby decreasing. Similarly, when you go round and round Arunachala, how can your mind know that it is thereby subsiding [i.e. that its vrittis are thereby shrinking]? Tell me!


When the cow goes round more and more, at one point it will be bound tightly to its peg. Similarly, when the mind lovingly goes more and more around Annamalai [Arunachala] which is Self, it will finally stand in Self-abidance, having lost all its movements [vrittis].


It is a well-proven truth that the minds of those devotees who ever go round Annamalai achieve great love to turn within towards Self. Annamalai is the blazing wild Hill of Fire [the fire of knowledge, jnanagni] which burns all our worldly desires to ashes.


When iron is rubbed against a magnet, the magnet turns all the multifaceted and scattered atoms of iron to face only north-south, and hence the ordinary iron is transformed into a magnet. Likewise when the devotee goes around Annamalai, the supreme and divine magnet, it turns his mind, which is scattered and made multi-faceted by desire, towards Self and thereby transforms it into Self.


The story of how King Vajrangada finally lost all attachments and desires and achieved purity of mind and asked the Lord only for the boon of liberation [moksha], even though he had begun doing Arunagiri-pradakshina with a petty desire to be fulfilled, is an apt illustration of this [that is, all that has been said in the above verses].

The following account of the story of King Vajrangada is taken from Arunachala Mahatmyam. It is translated by M. C. Subramanian and first appeared in the July 1977 issue of The Mountain Path.

Chapter twenty-two

‘The benefits of circumambulating the Aruna Hill and the story of Vajrangada’

Markandeya said:

‘Sivananda! Lord Nandikesvara! I have listened with great joy to your narration of the glory of the Red Hill. But how did Vajrangada, the Pandya King, show his indifference to this Hill, and how did he regain with difficulty his prosperity through Its grace?

‘Again how were the Vidyadharas named Kantisali and Kaladhara saved by the Lord of Arunachala from the curse of Durvasa?’

Nandikesvara replied:

‘Son of Mrikandu! It is on account of your steadfast devotion to the Lord of the Bhutas [Siva] that you have become immortal [chiranjivi]. Listen, I shall describe to you …the events connected with the Red Hill about which you have asked me. In days of yore there lived a Pandya King named Vajrangada. This earth was like a puppet in his hands. He always followed the dharma and was just, dignified, skillful, patient, calm, humble and intelligent. He was an observer of the vow of monogamy, a worshipper of Siva, a lucky person and a man of virtuous conduct. After conquering his enemies, he ruled over all the kingdoms from Kedara [in the Himalayas] to Setu [in the extreme south].

‘Once he set out hunting, mounted on a noble horse, and entered into a forest which extended as far as Arunachala. Seeing a fine civet cat, he desired to capture it and urged his horse towards it. The cat fled round [the whole circumference] of the Sona Hill [Arunachala] clockwise, with the speed of the mind. After the horse he was riding also did so, the king fell down, overpowered by weariness. Like a person who is thrown out of Svarga [Heaven] after enjoying the fruits of his good deeds, the king fell down and lost his senses.

‘He said to himself: “How did I, for no reason, lose my strength? Where is the horse which carried me? It is not to be seen.”

‘Pondering thus, he became confused and bewildered. At that moment there appeared a light in the sky like a flash of lightning. Even as he looked at it, the cat and the horse left their bodies on the earth and rose into the sky [in the form of celestial beings] wearing crowns, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and upper and nether garments of yellow silk. The king stood looking at them in wonder.

‘They showed their bright forms as if to remove the darkness of his confusion and said, “O King, do not grieve. Know that we have both been thus transformed by the glory [grace] of the Sona Mountain [Arunachala].”

‘At this the king became cheerful and asked them humbly with clasped hands: “Who are you? How did the three of us become connected to one another? Please tell me. Is it not the nature of great souls to protect those who are helpless?”

‘Upon this Kaladhara, at the command of Kantisali, turned to the king and said: “O King, in our previous lives we were friends. Once both of us went to the wood on the Meru Mountain on which Durvasa was practising austerities. It cannot [ordinarily] even be thought about by the mind. But we penetrated a long distance into it. Flowers were blooming everywhere.

‘“Although humble, we were ignorant. Kantisali proudly roamed about noisily hither and thither in a garden of flowers. I was attracted by the scent of the blossoms and began to pick them. At that moment, the sage Durvasa who was seated on a tiger skin under a tree and glowing by virtue of his austerities, like a blazing fire, looked at us with quivering lips and knitted brows as if he would scorch all those who were before him. We trembled.

‘He said: “Who are you unmannerly fellows? How have you come to be so arrogant? You have become moths in the blazing fire of my anger. Even the sun and the moon dare not set foot in this sacred wood, which is meant for my austerities. It is reserved for the worship of Siva alone. The wind shall not blow in it, nor shall bees enter it. The sinner who desecrated this place by walking through this sacred place shall be born as a horse and carry others. The other who was enamoured of sweet scent shall become a civet cat at the foot of a hill.”

‘In this way he cursed us.

‘On seeing the rishi who had hurled the thunderbolt of a curse, we were alarmed and humbly surrendered ourselves to him.

‘We prostrated ourselves before him and, holding his feet with our hands, said: “Your curse is terrible. It will not go in vain. Kindly tell us when and how it will come to an end.”

‘Seeing our distress that king of sages took pity upon us and mercifully became calm.

‘Turning to us he said: “Fools! The curse cannot be lifted by any act except that of circumambulating the Aruna Hill. Once upon a time, when Mahadeva was sitting in state with Indra, Upendra, the Dikpalas and others adoring him, a wood nymph named Nandana offered him a fine fruit. Gajanana [the elephant‑faced god] and Shadanana [the six‑faced god], being boys, both desired to have it. But their father kept it concealed in his hand and said, ‘I shall give it to him who goes round the world first’.

‘“Hearing this, Skanda hastily started going round the world. Vinayaka, on the other hand, went round the Aruna Hill, and quickly came and stood before [his father]. The latter appreciated Vinayaka’s intelligence and, after smelling the top of his head [as a mark of affection], gave him the fruit. He also conferred upon him a boon which made him thereafter competent to fulfill all the wishes of his devotees.”

‘Turning next to the devas and others in the assembly Siva said: “He who circumambulates with devotion the Sona Hill, which is my form, attains a form like mine [saroopya]. He becomes the Lord of the entire world and reaches the highest state.”

‘Having fallen into the ocean of anger of the extremely irate sage and being tormented by the black [kalakuta] poison of his curse, we took birth as a horse and a civet cat on the earth.’

Chapter twenty-three

‘The story of Kaladhara and Kantisali’

Kaladhara continued:

‘This Kantisali was born as a horse and became your mount. I became a civet cat and roamed about the foot of this Hill. We were fortunate enough to circumambulate it as a result of your desire to hunt. You are a great soul. But, as you circumambulated on a mount, you met with this misfortune. As we went on foot we regained our old state. O Indra among Kings! Although we were born of animal wombs, we were liberated in this manner as we came into contact with you. We shall now go to our region. May you be fortunate.’

[Note: there is a prohibition on doing pradakshina in a vehicle. The civet and the horse lifted their curse by doing their respective pradakshinas on foot as the king chased them round the hill, but the king himself derived no merit from his own pradakshina since he was using a vehicle. Instead, he met with an accident.]

‘Thereupon, with clasped hands, the king made his obeisance to Kaladhara and Kantisali, who were on the point of returning to their own region, and said, “You have been rescued from the sea of your curse. What about my release? When I think about it, I feel miserable. My life breath seems to be departing from me. The might of fate is clear.”

‘When he spoke thus, Kaladhara and Kantisali said: “Listen carefully to what we say about the manner of your release. Make the mind pure, control it and surrender it to Siva, who is the cause of the creation, sustenance and destruction [of the world]. You have clearly realised from what happened to us that the Lord of the Aruna Hill is a repository of compassion and that His glory is great. Circumambulate the Aruna Hill on foot. Worship the Lord of Aruna (who is fond of civet) with flowers smeared with civet. Build quadrangles and towers according to your ability. You will gain your object. You will become superior to Puru, Mandhata, Nabhaga, Bhagiratha and others.

‘After speaking these words they rose up [into the sky]. Vajrangada who had listened to their words no longer had any doubt. He became devoted to the Lord of the Aruna Hill.’

Markandeya said:

‘Bhagavan! I have listened to your nectar-like story. I have also listened to the story of the Vidyadharas [Kaladhara and Kantisali]. How long and in what manner did Vajrangada worship Siva? How did the Lord of Aruna bless him?’

‘When he asked this Nandisa replied, “Vajrangada abandoned the idea of returning to his kingdom and erected a dwelling place for himself at the foot of the Aruna Hill. His army, consisting of elephants, cavalry, chariots and infantry and his spiritual advisers, ministers, commander-in-chief, friends, relatives and servants came to see him. He received them with a steadfast mind, stopped them outside the city and dedicated the entire wealth of his kingdom to the Lord of the Sona Hill [Arunachala] for his service.

‘He built a hut of leaves for himself near Gautama's ashram and, along with his spiritual advisers, engaged himself in devout worship of Siva. He crowned his son Ratnangada king. He worshipped the Lord of Sona with the numerous articles sent by the latter. He dug ponds round the hill, founded villages for brahmins, planted gardens and made gifts to brahmins. As the country round the Aruna Hill, the column of fire, was a dry area, he dug hundreds of ponds and built numerous reservoirs. He ordered the beautiful ladies in his retinue to render service to the Lord of Sona.

‘He took delight in worshipping the Lord of the Aruna Hill in the company of Agastya who had arrived with Lopamudra. Every day he bathed in the Navanithatirtha, bowed devoutly to the Lord of Papanasapravala, worshipped Durga, the slayer of Mahishasura and the destroyer of evil, and collected the articles required for the worship of the Primal Lord who is constantly adored by Brahma and Vishnu. He went round the hill on foot twice daily, repeating the mantra of five letters [Nama Sivaya] all the time. He celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Kartik the great festival of the beacon famous in all the three worlds.

‘He had the three-eyed Lord [Siva] bathed with water kept in golden pots and scented with fragrant flowers and camphor. Every month he raised the flag and celebrated festivals like Teerthavari and the festival of chariots to the delight of the three worlds. He levelled the three-yojana-long road round the Aruna Hill and made it fit for even rolling round the Hill [anga-pradakshina]. Every now and then he cried “Lord of the Aruna Hill! Ocean of the Nectar of Compassion! Lord of the goddess Aruna!” and became immersed in an ocean of bliss. In this manner he pleased the great Lord.

‘He anointed the Lord of Aruna every day with various unguents, poured panchamrita [a mixture of five sweet ingredients] over him, offered camphor and other fragrant substances to him, worshipped him with fragrant flowers, adorned him with garlands and anointed him with civet. In this manner he worshipped him the whole day for three years. The Lord of Aruna thereupon appeared before him.

‘He was mounted on a bull, majestic like the Himalaya mountain, was accompanied by the Goddess Uma and rishis and followers [Siva ganas] shouting “Jai! Jai!” [Hail! Victory!]. The nectar of compassion which flowed from the glances of his lotus-eyes rose like an ocean of rolling waves. They relieved the distress of the world. On seeing the God of Gods Vajrangada fell at his feet on the ground and prostrated with all the eight limbs touching the ground [ashtanga vandanam]. Overcome by joy, he clasped his hands respectfully and spoke as if he would make the darkness [ignorance] of the world vanish by the light of his words.

‘He said, “Lord of the Devas! Kindly forgive the offences committed by me, an ignorant man under the influence of his great sins.”

‘When he prayed very humbly in this manner the Lord of the Aruna Hill, the embodiment of the ocean of mercy, said:

‘“Child ! Fear not! You are blessed. I assumed eight forms solely for the sake of all beings. Formerly [i.e. in your previous life] you were Purandara [Indra] on the Kailasa mountain. As you were very arrogant you, scorned me. I therefore paralysed you. Immediately you ceased to be proud; you were ashamed. You prayed for the wisdom of Siva which is the source of all kinds of glory.

‘“I said: “Indra! Bearer of the Vajra weapon! You shall be born on earth as Vajrangada and obtain my grace.

‘“Therefore you were born in this place which is sacred to me. As you were ignorant, you were instructed by the Vidyadharas and others. You are [now] my great devotee. I am pleased with your worship and service. I shall now instruct you. Listen.

‘“This world of moving and stationary beings is made up of my eight forms, namely, ether, air, fire, water, earth, sun, moon and the individuals [jivas]. I, as Time, bring together objects, individuals and the way of action [gati]. As for me I transcend the fundamentals [tattvas] ; there is nothing beside me who am Siva.

‘“Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Indra and other Devas are a few waves which have arisen from me, I who am an ocean of effulgent bliss. Vani, Lakshmi, Kshama, Sraddha, Prajna, Svaha, Svadha and others area few of my unlimited powers. Goddess Gauri, the Mother of the world, is my great power known as Maya. It is through her that the universe appears and disappears. Creation, sustenance and. destruction take place through her. I display, out of my free will, this wonderful world, which is like a picture. Your delusion has disappeared. You shall, by my grace, hereafter investigate [the truth]. You are not separate from me even as the waves are not different from the sea. Therefore you obtained a kingdom. You shall enjoy these luxuries as tokens of my grace. Afterwards you shall become Purandara [again] and enjoy the celestial luxuries for a long time. Finally you will certainly become united with me.”

‘Saying this Siva disappeared. King Vajrangada continued to worship the Lord of Sona and enjoy everything.

‘I have [thus] described to you the glory of Siva, the importance of devotion and the benefits of circumambulation of the Hill. What more is necessary?

‘Circumambulation of the Sona Hill is more meritorious than a hundred horse sacrifices. When it is made at auspicious times it will confer immeasurable benefit. There is no other place except Arunachala, no God except the Lord of the Aruna Hill. The circumambulation of this hill is more meritorious than all austerities.

‘On hearing Nandikesvara speak thus, the son of Mrikandu [i.e. Markandeya)] shed tears of joy and became immersed in a sea of bliss.’

Thursday, May 29, 2008

day off

Sorry, nothing new today. I got up at 5.30 a.m., watered my garden, answered all my emails, and then went to Pondicherry for the day to do some printing work on Guru Vachaka Kovai. It's 110 km each way, and for most of the day it was around 40 degrees. Fourteen hours later I am back home again, and not feeling inspired to do much else today. For those who are interested, the printer said I could probably have the first copy of Guru Vachaka Kovai in 5-6 weeks. I treat that as a reasonable minimum period, rather than a guaranteed completion date.

One of the emails I replied to this morning was from a woman who said that since I started posting photos and scans on the blog, the loading time for the main page had expanded to about ten minutes. I know what she means because I don't have broadband myself and I have noticed how slow the loading has become. I am going to reduce the number of posts on display from seven to four to see if that makes a difference. All the older stuff can be accessed by clicking on the titles in the right sidebar.

I should be posting something tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In the Service of Sri Bhagavan

It seems to be a week for new books here. In addition to the two books by Sadhu Om and Michael James that I featured here a few days ago, Sri Ramanasramam has brought out a small book (In the Service of Bhagavan) that details the lives of Niranjanananda Swami (Chinnaswami) and his son T. N. Venkataraman. The book was brought out to commemorate the linga pratishta on the samadhi shrine of Swami Ramanananda (Venkataraman’s name after he took sannyasa) on May 23rd 2008.

Here is a story from it that I had never heard before. The Nagasundaram who is mentioned here in Chinnaswami. That was his family name before he took sannyasa:

In or around 1902, Nagasundaram came up to Bhagavan, who was then [staying] in Sadguruswami Cave (Banyan Tree Cave) in silence. He hugged Bhagavan and wept aloud, while Bhagavan was smiling all the while. He stayed a while and noticed that a quantity of sugar candy offered to Bhagavan by his visitors was in the cave. Concluding that it was his ‘brother’s property’ and would be excellent prasadam for distribution back home among his relations, he bundled up some candy. When this was brought to Bhagavan’s attention by Palaniswami, his attendant, he wrote down his advice to Nagasundaram which became his first upadesa to him. He advised that the offerings of devotees did not belong to any one person and there was no question of relationship in this matter. Everyone who visited him was equally entitled to a share in the offerings made to the ashram. This upadesa went home deeply and Nagasundaram lived by it to the end.

A similar upadesa came to his son, T. N. Venkataraman, eighteen years later. This is how he describes it:

Near the grilled window of a thatched room on the eastern slopes of Arunachala, some sweets and fruits are kept on a plate. In a corner a tired old lady is lying down. Near her a five-year-old boy is squatting, looking here and there. Then he slowly rises, walks with measured steps towards the plate, picks up a sweet in his tender hand and puts it in his mouth.

Suddenly a monkey opens a window, limps towards the boy and slaps him. He then snatches the sweet and bites it. The boy is stunned, retreats in fright and screams. The old lady gets up startled and shouts, ‘O Nondy! He is our baby, don’t harm him!’

Just as he is saying these words, a sadhu in a loin cloth enters the room with a loving smile on his face. Looking at the boy the sadhu says, ‘He slapped you eh? This is a good lesson for you. The fruits and sweets on the plate are Nondy’s share. We should not covet others’ property, do you understand? Learn this lesson.’

These were words of admonition but they were full of love. This was the simple upadesa that the boy received that day.

This incident happened in 1920 in Skandashram. The sadhu was none other than Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, then forty-one years old, and worshipped as a great jnani the world over. The little boy who got the instruction from him is his only nephew – Venkitoo – whose full name is Venkataraman. That Venkitoo was myself and the old lady was Bhagavan’s mother, my grandmother Alagammal. I vividly remember that little incident. But I could not understand the deep meaning of that lesson when I received it from the Maharshi who was my periappa (father’s elder brother). But later, as years passed on, when I became the president of Sri Ramanasramam, I could understand that through that incident Bhagavan had blessed me with the resolve to be steadfast in living that upadesa.

Skipping another generation, here is Venkitoo describing how his son Ganesan managed to get on Bhagavan’s sofa in the old hall.

My wife Nagu would sit in the old hall with two-year-old Ganesan on her lap. The child would get off her lap, stand up, walk to Bhagavan’s couch where his feet were and try to climb on to the couch. Bhagavan’s attendant would lift the child and drop him into Nagu’s lap, saying, ‘Do you seek to establish your right as Bhagavan’s relation?’ This would happen every time the child Ganesan was brought into the old hall.

As luck would have it, when one day child Ganesan was brought to the old hall, the dictatorial attendant was not around. Ganesan, after several futile attempts, finally climbed on to the couch and sat beside Bhagavan’s feet. In order that the child may not fall down, Bhagavan held him by his left leg and with his right leg gently rubbed his head, saying, ‘He was trying this for several days. Today, there was none to stop him, so he had had his way.’

Nagu kept recounting this gracious act of Bhagavan till her last days.

When Ganesan was about five years old, he became very attached to Eleanore Pauline Noye, an American devotee. All the children were fed in the kitchen before lunch time. One day he kept close to her, holding her hand, and entered the dining hall with her. He sat in front of her on the other side of the leaf and insisted on eating from the same leaf. When someone tried to lift him up and take him to the kitchen, he cried aloud, drawing the attention of Sri Bhagavan who was sitting at his usual eating place.

Turning towards him with a questioning look, he was told, ‘Ganesan refuses to eat in the kitchen. He insists on eating from Noye’s leaf.’

Bhagavan watched for a while, smiled and said, ‘He is not refusing to come in and eat. He has not till now seen anyone eat with a spoon. He is fascinated by Noye’s spoon. Serve him food on a leaf, keep a spoon on it, and then call him. See if he comes or not.’

The kitchen people did as Bhagavan said. Ganesan quickly walked into the kitchen.

And finally, here is Venkitoo describing his wife’s benevolence towards beggars:

Nagu was a hostess par excellence. He face would light up at the sight of a guest. She never turned away a beggar, and thereby hangs a tale. A casual remark by Bhagavan in regard to alms-giving had a great impact on her and she had told my son Ganesan about it. At one period of time local widows refrained from entering the old hall where Bhagavan always sat, and they would do some service at the ashram kitchen. Perhaps out of compassion towards them, or for other reason, Bhagavan would often go to the kitchen, talk to them about this or that, and also give some upadesa in very simple words. On one such occasion when Nagu was also in the kitchen, she heard an upadesa which had a life-long effect on her. Bhagavan seems to have told someone in the kitchen, ‘Whenever somebody comes begging, give him whatever is handy, be it even an Indian gooseberry. For who knows who comes in such guise?’

Bhagavan had had his own experience of this phenomenon. He once said that great mahatmas sometimes came to pay their respects to him on the major festival days, but they turned up as begging sadhus at the gate and were fed there. On these days Bhagavan made a point of supervising the feeding of the beggars himself in case any of them should turn out to be an incognito saint.

The book, In the Service of Sri Bhagavan, is available from the Sri Ramanasramam Book Depot.