Sunday, October 12, 2008

Guru Vachaka Kovai

I collected the first few boxes of Guru Vachaka Kovai from my printer yesterday. I delivered 80 copies to the Ramanasramam Book Depot this morning, and will give them more in a few days' time. Devotees living in India should order from Ramanasramam since I will not be supplying to individual customers in India.

The book is a hardback, about 640 pages long.

Two devotees have contributed towards the printing costs and this has enabled me to subsidise the cover price for devotees in India. It will go on sale at Rs 150 in the ashram bookstore, a price which, if I factor in the discount I give to the bookstore, is less than the cost of printing the book. I don't know how much extra will be charged for postage. Indian customers should contact the bookstore manager at for further details.

The price for customers outside India will be $25, plus postage. The postal rates for airmail book post have, unfortunately, just doubled. I haven't actually posted a copy of Guru Vachaka Kovai yet, but I estimate will cost about $11 per copy to post it by airmail, including packing and registration. I have not yet added the book to the 'sale' section of my site yet, but it should appear there sometime this week. Meanwhile, anyone who can't wait can order a copy by sending money ($36 US) through Paypal. My email address is

The discrepancy between the Indian and foreign prices is to make some allowance for the different earning capacity of potential purchasers. There are many devotees in India who live on low fixed incomes, and I know they would not be able to afford to buy a book of this sort if I charged them the full commercial rate.

The book will not be appearing in foreign bookstores for about three months since I have to send shipments by sea-freight to distributors in the West.


Anonymous said...

Dear David,
Question on donations. I feel the need to donate (small amounts like $50) every now and then when I have some spare cash lying around to the people & places in and around Ramanashram that have contributed in preserving & spreading Bhagavan's teaching. Is there any place on the web where all Arunachala saints related projects are listed (by priority or need) where donations can be made. That way devotees can donate first to projects with the most need. Also what about non financial donations. Say I have an old laptop I picked up at a sale that one of you guys can use or other such items. Is there one donation related page that consolidates all such info ? thank you

summa said...

How is this new edition is different from the 2005 version of Guru Vachaka Kovai, by Michael James and printed by Aridra Printers.

David Godman said...


This is a completely new translation that contains explanatory comments by Muruganar on some of the verses, commentary by the editors, and a large amount of supplementary teaching material from other books on Bhagavan.

If you search this blog for 'Guru Vachaka Kovai', you will find many entries that contain extracts from this new edition. You can go through these entries to see how the new version differs from the previous one. There are also extracts from the book on my site.

David Godman said...


I know of no organisation that offers this kind of service.

Anonymous said...


this book looks like another amazing achievement, also considering the circumstances in Tiru, especially in summer (this crazy heat, along with the increasing frequency of power cuts).
What an immense Sadhana: undefatigably enquiring into the nuances and subtleties of jnanic life!
And yet, every hardship, every obstacle set up by Lady Vac delighting in veiling herself, is taken with such an elegant grace, and with such an unassuming self-reflective gaze that is smashing all mirrors trying to turn your immaculate pace into a grimace of self-importance.
In vain you tried to renounce those scholarly vasanas by leaving Oxford in young age -- then welcoming their persistent reassertion, you put them into the service of your boundless empathy for others wishing to enter a Maharshi's mind.
And your devotion ...... well, this, your real secret, is for no-one else to touch .....
what's the use of cladding the amrita of naked experience into the dress of phrases, it can never be imitated by gestures .....

No, the words above were not intended as sort of short stotra in prose, which wouldn't suit your non-elitist nature ---- was merely rubbing my eyes ......
yet, why actually conceal it: yes, there is an irresistible sense of gratitude to you ....
shall pick up my copy next time passing through Tiru.

Anonymous said...

Dear David

Congrats on bringing out the new Edition of Guru Vachaka Kovai .I am eagerly awaiting to read it . Since I am in Chennai ,I would be happy if you can see to it that a few copies of Guruvachaka Kovai and other books of your are made available in some prominent books shops like Giri Trading etc in Chennai .Have you made any arrangements for the same ? Kindly let us know in which shops in Chennai we can find the same .

Anonymous said...

Scott Fraundorf:

I have to say alot of Haramurthy's tributory words to David Godman are quite beautiful, and really strike me with a ring of truth. I know how much David Godman's immense writings have infused me with alot of hope and courage to pursue Inquiry deeply.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday a friend brought me a copy of this book from Tiruvannamalai.

I feel that with time, this edition will be a work that we will turn to when we want to look up on something that Bhagavan had said.

It is in easily accessible language, the contents are arranged by subject, almost every verse translation is backed up by relevant notes, and the well organised index takes you to what you want to refer.

This volume of Six hundred pages, hardbound, is easy on the eyes, and priced at Rs.150/-, is a must-have for anyone who is interested in Ramana's teachings.

Congrats for this great achievement.

And also, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you ...

Sankarraman said...

"James’ problem a lot of the time is that he cannot accept Bhagavan’s (and Lakshmana Swamy’s) statements, repeated on many occasions, that the mind must die for realisation to occur. He claims in one reply that even though Bhagavan was enlightened, he still ‘had an ego, a body, a mind’. He seems to take the position that if you are awake and functioning normally, you are using your mind to deal with the world, even if you are enlightened. James says in one place: ‘The fact is, if you have a dead mind, you are either in nirvikalpa samadhi, asleep, in a coma, or actually dead’. He clearly does not accept Bhagavan’s (and Lakshmana Swamy’s) position that after realisation it is the Self, and not the mind, which makes the body perform actions and speak. When statements to the contrary crop up, he reverts to his default position of ‘You don’t know what the translator or the typist or printer did with the manuscript".

Apropos of the above reference made by David Godman to the ideas of James, I find it similar the case with traditional advaitins. When I quoted a verse of GURUVACHAKA KOVAI," explaining the case of the jnani's total absence of mind, a traditional advaitin raised a similar poseur. All our misconception about it is by virtue of confounding the psycho-somatic apparatus with the jnani, and the further misconception that there are several jnanis, all these having been called the bluff to by Bhghavan. Sankara also has stated only the same truth; but unfortunately the message, the quintessence of his teachings, has got buried in the debris of polemics, which were needed in those times to establish the supremacy of advaita, which is not a belief system. But Bhghavan didn't care to establish his philosophical position, neither did he have one.

David Godman said...

Michael James, who did a translation of Guru Vachaka Kovai with Sadhu Om in the 1980s, has written a long article about our new version and posted it on his blog. The address is:

Anonymous said...

I think verse 640 should be read with this understabding:

Since the divine bliss is such that it will shine of its
own accord if one simply remains still [remains as
one’s own existence-consciousness], it
is, alas, a pity that one unnecessarily wanders, instead of enquiring
into oneself (which brings that stillness) and knowing that one is really
nothing but the supreme Self, which is devoid of
coming and going, and thereby enjoying that bliss.

Subramanian. R said...

Dear David, I had been to Asram
for 3 days and I missed you by a
few minutes on Monday morning
in the bookshop! I purchased
GVK, English by you. I went through quickly the entire design
and the cross references and read
a few pages in the guest house.
It is an amazing work and it indicates vastness of your learning and understanding.
I would only add, that this
great book is utterly low priced
even for the Indian buyers.
My humble congrats, David!

Anonymous said...


thank you so much for making your version of this text available. i really feel as though i'm getting something valuable from each verse.

as i believe i've mentioned before, i can't help but feel that, of the three 'attributes' of the self, sat is somehow the deepest. at the end of the commentary on verse 64, you quote Bhagavan as referring to Kudumitteva (Shiva) as the father of the expanse of consciousness.

could this phrase be interpreted as saying that the chit aspect of self is that bright space of turiya in which sat shines, i.e. that sat engenders chit?


ps verse 159 refers to ego as "... not a finite entity that truly exists", yet ego is a finite entity. could you please explain this?

Anonymous said...

Thank you ...