Sunday, January 31, 2010

Voice of the Guru - Chapter 1

“Deivathin Kural” or the “Voice of the God” is the collection of discourses originally delivered in Tamizh by our Kanchi Paramacharya, Mahaperiyava Sri Chandrasekerandra Saraswati brought out as a book in Tamizh by Sri Ra. Ganapathy. Our life time is not sufficient to read, understand and realize what our Paramacharya has advised. So far there are about seven volumes got published under the title ‘Deivathin Kural’. Though I have the first two volumes in Tamizh, I have not read completely and occasionally flip through some of the chapters.

When I left my earlier organization my finance colleagues gifted me the first two volumes of Deivathin Kural translated into English by Sri R.G.K. who was the former Assistant Editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India and published by Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan. Even this book also I could not able to read for want of time, hence thought of publishing this regularly in my blog which will make me to read compulsorily before publishing.
I am planning to publish this as a reproduction of the above book regularly under the title “Voice of the Guru” though with some visual effects?! added by me. Am sure this article will add value to our life. Please give your valuable feedback which will help me to improve and motivate!
Happy reading!

A.V. Devan
Chennai – 31st Jan 2010

Excerpts from Translator’s Note [Written by Sri R.G.K]

More than 20 years ago, I said in an article in The Illustrated Weekly of India that “Hindus know less about their religion than Christians and Muslims know about theirs”. Wanting to verify the statement, my editor Sardar Khushwant Singh asked my colleagues (most of them were Hindus) in schoolmasterly fashion to name any four Upanishads. For moments there was silence and it was a Muslim lady member of the staff who eventually responded to the editor’s question by “reeling off” the names of six or seven Upanishads.

Why are “educated Hindus ignorant about their religion? Is it their education itself that has alienated them from their religious and cultural moorings? If so it must be one of the tragic ironies of the Indian condition. The Paramaguru himself speaks of our ignorance of the basic texts of our religion (Chapter 1, Part Five) :

“We must be proud of the fact our country has produced more men who have found inner bliss than all other countries put together. It is a matter of shame that we are ignorant of the Sastras that they have bequeathed to us, the sastras that taught them how to scale the heights of bliss. Many are ignorant about the scripture that is the very source of our religion they do not know even its name… Our education follows the Western pattern. We want to speak like the white man, dress like him and ape him in the matter of manners and customs…”

The fact is that during the past two or three centuries Hindus have gone through a process of de-Hinduization which in some respects is tantamount to de-Indianization. Various other reasons are given as to why Hindus do not have a clear idea of their religion. One is that it is not a religion in the sense the term is usually understood. Another is that it is not easily reduced to catechism. A third reason is that, unlike other faiths, it encompasses all life and activity, individual, social and national and all spheres of knowledge. Hindu Dharma is an organic part of the Hindu. It imposes on him a discipline that is inward as well as outward and it is a process of refinement and inner growth. Above all it is a quest, the quest for knowing oneself, for being oneself.

Part – One - Religion in General
Chapter 1 – Dharma Alone Protects

The Pipal and the Neem trees are the royal children of Mother Nature’s kingdom of trees. As the New Year approaches they shed their leaves, sprout tender green shoots again not long after. It is all the work of Mother Nature. The custom of marrying the Pipal to Neem and of installing the idols of Vinayaka and Nagaraja under them goes back to the dim past. After the winter months these trees will be bare and Vinayaka and Nagaraja will remain exposed to the sun. This is the time when we may sit under the open sky and bask in the sun because it is now neither too warm nor too cold. When it rains or when the sun beats down harshly on us, we need to shield ourselves with an umbrella. And when it is bitterly cold we cannot sit in the open and gaze at the sky. But now, when the leaves fall and the warmth of the sun is comforting [it is believed that with Sivaratri the cold season bids you goodbye with the chant, “Siva, Siva”] we may sit in the open by day or at night to gaze upon the sky. To proclaim the beneficial nature of this season as it were when the Pipal and the Neem are shorn of their leaves Mother Nature worships the Gods [Vinayaka and Nagaraja] under the trees with the rays of the gentle sun.

Nagaraja may also be called Subrahmanya. Indeed to the Telugu speaking people the name ‘Subbarayudu’ denotes both Subrahmanya and the snake. The Tamil speaking people worship snakes on Sashti, a custom that has existed from time immemorial. Mother Nature’s concern for Vighnesvara and Subrahmanya the children of Parvati and Paramesvara is an expression of her love for all of us who too are but the offspring of the same primordial couple. There is a fullness about this love. As I said just now, when it is neither too warm nor too cold, Vighnesvara and Nagaraja are exposed to the sun. But as the sun gets warmer with the advance of spring, Mother Nature protects these deities from the heat. How? The trees now burgeon and form a green umbrella over Vinayaka and Nagaraja. The shedding of leaves, the burgeoning again, all this is a part of the natural process and according to the immutable law of the universe which has been in force from the very beginning of time.
There is a law governing the behavior of everything in this universe. All must submit to it for the world to function properly. Otherwise things will go awry and end up in chaos. It is the will of the Lord that all his creation, all his creatures, should live in happiness. That is why he has ordained a dharma, a law for each one of them. It is compliance with this dharma that ensures all round harmony. While Ishvara protects his children from rain and sun, he also provides them when needed with the warmth of the gentle sun. His love for his children is expressed in the scheme ordered by him for the functioning of Nature and the law he has laid down for trees is a part of it.

To be worthy of Isvara’s love we must possess certain qualities, certain virtues. If there is a law that applies to trees, there must be one that applies to us also. We shall deserve the Lord’s love and compassion only by living in accordance with this law and by working for the well-being of all mankind. What is called dharma is this law, the law governing the conduct of man. Isvara has endowed man with intelligence, but it is by using this very intelligence that human beings keep violating their dharma. If it is asked why they do so, all we can say in answer is that it is but the sport of the Lord. Man goes seeking this and that believing that they will make him happy and all the while he keeps violating the dharma. But he will discover sooner or later that it is dharma alone that gives him happiness in the end.
There is something that somehow turns people all over the world towards dharma. It is this something that inspires human beings everywhere to go beyond their material needs and do things that appear strange. How? One man reads the Bible, cross in hand; another smears ashes all over his body; and a third man wears the Vaishnava mark. From generation to generation mankind has been practicing customs even without deriving any perceptible material benefit. What is the reason for this?

Man first earned the means for his daily upkeep. But he soon discovered that meeting the needs of the present would not be enough. So he tried to earn more and save for his future needs also. The question, however, arose as to what precisely constituted his ‘future’. As he reflected on it, it became clear that his ‘future’ on this earth would not be endless, that he would not live a thousand years or ten thousand. So he concerned himself with earning enough to see him through his life and at the same time leaving enough for his children.

What happened to a man after his death was the question that worried him next. The great men who emerged from time to time in various climes came to believe that the entity called man did not cease to exist even after his body perished. The truth dawned on them that the money and property acquired for the upkeep of a man’s body served no purpose after his passing. As a next step they formed a view of what a human being must do in this life to ensure for himself a happy state in after life. Religious leaders in different countries taught different ways to achieve this. The cross, the namaz, the sacred ashes, the sacred earth came to be adopted in this manner by people belonging to different religious persuasions.

“You must look upon the world as belonging to the Lord, and it is your duty to so conduct yourself as to conform to this belief. This constitutes the dharma of humanity. Acts dictated solely by selfish interests will push one into unrighteousness. A man must learn to be less and less selfish in his thoughts and actions; he must always remember the Lord and must ever be conscious that he is the master of all this world.” This view is the basis on which all religions have evolved.

No religion teaches us to live according to our whims and fancies; no religion asks us to acquire wealth and property for our personal needs alone. If a man believes that he alone is important, that he is all, he will live only for himself. That is why all religions speak of an entity called God and teach man to efface his ego or I-feeling. “Child,” they tell him, “you are nothing before that Power, the author of this universe. It is He-that Power-who has endowed you with intelligence. Your intelligence, your intellect, must guide you on the path of dharma, righteousness. For this purpose you must look up to this Power for support.” The great importance attached to bhakti or devotion in all religions is founded on this belief, the need of divine support for virtuous conduct.

Ordinarily it is not easy to develop faith in or devotion to God expressed in abstract terms. For the common people devotion must take the form of practical steps. That is how ritual originated. Sandhyavandana, Namaz and other forms of prayer are examples of such ritual. The religions teach people their duties, how they must conduct themselves in this world and how they must devote themselves to God in the very midst of their worldly life.
“Love everyone” “Live a life a sacrifice” “Serve mankind” such are the teachings of the various religions. If a man lives according to these tenets, it is believed that his soul will reach God after it departs from his body. Those who subscribe to Advaita or non dualism declare that the soul will become one with the Godhead. According to another system of belief, after reaching the Lord, the soul will serve him and ever remain happy as the recipient of his compassion.

There is no need to quarrel over the nature of the final state. “By following one path or another we attain the Lord. And that will be the end of all our sorrows, all our frustrations and all our failures in this world. There will now be nothing but bliss, full and everlasting.” No more than this do we need to know for the present.

If the Paramatman is to draw us unto himself we must, without fail perform our duties to him as well as to the world. It is these duties that constitute what is called dharma. Dharma it is that serves us when we dwell in our body and when we cease to dwell in it. It serves us in life and in after life. When we are in this world we must do that which would take us to a desirable state after we depart from it. We take an insurance policy so that our relatives will be able to take care of themselves when we are gone. But is it not far more important to ensure that we will be happy in our afterlife? Dharma is afterlife insurance. But in this life too it is dharma that gives us peace and happiness.

There need be no doubt or confusion about the dharma we ought to follow. We are all steeped in the dharma that our great men have pursued from generation to generation. They have inwardly realized eternal beatitude and we know for certain that they lived without any care, unlike people in our own generation who are always discontented and are embroiled in agitations and demonstrations of all kinds. All we need to do is to follow the dharma that they practiced. If we tried to create a new dharma for ourselves it might mean trouble and all the time we would be torn by doubts as to whether it would bring us good or whether it would give rise to evil. It is best for us to follow the dharma practiced by the great men of the past, the dharma of our forefathers.

Man is subject to all kinds of hardships and misfortunes. To remind ourselves of this, we eat the bitter flowers of the neem on New Year’s Day that is on the very first day of the year we accept the bitterness of life. During the Pongal ceremony, which is celebrated almost towards the close of year, we have sugarcane to chew. If we have only sweetness in the beginning we may have to experience bitterness towards the end. We must not have any aversion for the bitter but welcome it as the medicine administered by Mother Nature or by dharma. If we do so, in due course, we will learn to regard any experience, even if it be unpleasant as a sweet one.

Great indeed were the misfortunes suffered by Sri Rama during his exile in the forest. To a son going on a long journey the mother gives food to take with him. Kausalya does the same when her son Rama leaves for the forest, but she does so after much thought for she wants the food to last during all the fourteen years of his exile. And what is that food? Kausalya gives Rama the eternal sustenance of dharma. “Raghava,” she says to him, “it is dharma alone that will protect you and this dharma is what you yourself protect with courage and steadfastness.” It is the escort of dharma that the mother provides her son sent out from his kingdom.

Yam paalayasi dharmam tvam dhrtya cha niyamena cha
Sa vai Raghava-Saardula dharmastvam abhi rakshatu

It was dharma that brought victory to Rama after all his struggle. If a man treads the path of dharma he will win universal respect. If he slips into adharma, unrighteousness, even his brother will turn a foe. The Ramayana illustrates this truth. Sri Rama was regarded with respect by the Vanaraas. What about Ravana? Even his brother Vibhishana forsook him.
Dharma and dharma alone is our protecting shield. How did Ravana with his ten heads perish and how did Sri Ramachandra rise with his head held high as Vijayaraghava (the victorious Raghava)? It was all the doing of dharma. One’s religion is nothing but the dharma practiced by one’s forefathers. May all adhere to their dharma with unwavering faith and courage and be rewarded with everlasting bliss.

Reference :

Reproduction from the book Hindu Dharma which is translated from Deivathin Kural [compilation of discourses originally delivered in Tamil by Mahaperiyava compiled by Sri Ra. Ganapathi] by Sri R.G.K [former Assistant Editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India.] Book published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Vadalur Vallalar


Ramayya Pillai and Chinnamai were leading a simple life at Marudhur in South Arcot district a village 15 km north-west of Chidambaram. Pillai was a teacher in a local school and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. They were blessed with four children [Sabhapathi, Parasuraman, Sundarammal, Unnamulai]. A sage visited their house a fine morning and conveyed the message that a child of extraordinary brilliance would be born to them. Days turned into months and on 5th October 1823 a baby boy was born to the delight of the couple. They named him Ramalingam. When Ramalinga was five months old his parents took him to the Chidambaram temple and when the priest offered the traditional “Deeparadhana” to the Lord the child laughed aloud as if to tell the world that he will later worship the eternal God in the form of Deepam or Light as “Arut perum Jyothi, Thani perum Karunai”. Child Ramalinga lost his father within a year of his birth in the year 1824. The responsibility of the family fell on the shoulder of Sabhapathi the elder son of the family. Later the family moved to Madras.

Commencement of spiritual journey

Being a teacher himself Sabhapathi wanted to Ramalinga to get educated but Ramalinga showed no interest towards formal education but rather prefer to spend his time in the precincts of Kanda Swamy temple at Kandakottam, [which is near to the present day Parry’s Corner, Madras]. Sabhapati was upset with the behavior of his younger brother Ramalinga and as a punitive measure he instructed his wife not to give his daily meal. However the compassionate sister-in-law secretly fed him food and softly advised Ramalingam to pursue his studies at home. Ramalingam relented with a condition that he is given a separate room of his own which was agreed.

Now in the solitary confines of the room Ramalingam set up a mirror and in front of it lit a small lamp and start mediating relentlessly and this was the beginning of the young Ramalinga’s spiritual journey. The first reward came in the form of a vision of Lord Muruga and in the saints own words “The beauty endowed divine faces six, the illustrious shoulders twelve”. Ramalingam spent most of his time in his room. Sitting before a mirror, he used to meditate and compose poems. As he meditated his individual self had disappeared and the Lord he realized within revealed himself in the reflection on the mirror. Visiting the Kanda Kottam Murugan temple became the daily routine and he felt intensely emotional and poured out his devotion in the form of Deiva Mani Malai, Kandar Sarana Pathu, Shanmugar Kalaipathu etc.,

Interesting incident

Sabapathi was a learned scholar and also a upanyasaka [one who tells religious stories]. It so happened that Sabapathi has to give a spiritual discourse one particular day but due to his poor health condition could not able to go. He deputed Ramalingam to convey the message of his inability to perform. As the organizers could not make alternative arrangements they insisted Ramalingam to perform the role of his brother. A reluctant Ramalingam took the stage. However when he started enunciating a verse from the Periya Puranam he gave a brilliant exposition of Shaiva Sidhantha and kept the audience spell bound and awestruck. “No ordinary person can perform a divine discourse as effortlessly and magnificently as Ramaligam” this was one of the remark from the audience. Later his brother Sabhapathi felt ashamed that he could not able to recognize the greatness of his own brother. The Saint later himself expressed his gratitude to the divine of the performance he gave and said “Effulgent flame of grace that lit in me intelligence to know untaught”.

Divine Composition of “Thiru Arutpa”

Ramalingam gave beautiful expression of his devotion through songs. He composed many verses of poems and the foremost among them was ‘Thiru Arutpa’ which is a collection of 5818 poems divided into six volumes. Thiruvarutpa is considered as an outstanding work of literature and devotion. Such is the devotion and appeal of Thiruvarutpa and has been placed as part of the Twelve Thirumurai or collection of songs sung by Saivite devotees on Lord Shiva. Disciples thronged to hear him and drew immense inspiration from him.

Miracles of Vallalar

Burning the lamp with Water

In the village, Karunguzhi where the saint had his residence in the house of one Venkata Reddiar, one of his devotees, the saint used to go for writing poems, throughout day and night. One day the inmates of Reddiar’s family had gone out to a nearby village to attend a function and did not return in the night also. There was no oil in the lamp burning in his room. A vessel had been left by his side, and the saint who was much absorbed in writing the poems, without verifying the contents of the vessel, simply poured it in the lamp and it burnt the whole night. The next day all the family members returned home and found the vessel containing the water empty. Instead, the lamp was found filled with water and it was burning. Quite astonished to see the miraculous deed, they used to worship the saint as God with due reverences for his godliness.

In one of the poems written by him subsequently, the saint refers to the incident as not a miraculous deed, but treats it as an occurrence for exhibiting the real truth. We shall try to learn about the same in the paragraph coming hereunder. Generally a lamp is kept burning with the aid of oil. When it is exhausted, the lamp flickers and ceases to burn. So also for the existence of the human body, food is the main criteria. Without food the body cannot stand. But in the above case, the lamp is kept burning with the aid of mere water. If that be the case, one can infer that the human body also can survive with the water alone. The saint personifies the lamp as the body of the human being and the water as compassion. Thus he proved that he was an embodiment of compassion and did not discard it at any time. His love for humanity at large and the other living creatures was so intense that he always used to extend his help to the needy. In course of time, this compassion filled the entire body was transformed into a pure one (suddha dega) and finally immortalized and began to live there forever with eternal bliss.

Appearance in a judicial court

The bickering in the minds of men drive them to courts even though the issue involved therein will be of a trivial nature. The saint was also not spared in such circumstances. His fame remained unchallenged. One of the contemporaries filed a suit against the saint just to bring disreputation to his name. Such an incident occurred during the life time of the saint and it is narrated below. One Arumuga Navalar of Jaffna is remarkable among those who contributed much to Tamil prose literature. He did memorable work in spreading saivaism and saivite literature among the public. He became so much jealous towards the saint he questioned the literature in ‘Arutpa’ (gift of the Divine Bliss) the renderings of the Saint were complied and published by his disciples. According to Arumuga Navalar, it should be termed as ‘marutpa’ meaning that the renderings were made out only by a materialistic and not as ‘Arutpa’ the name with which it was published. The said Navalar thus filed a suit against the saint in the court of the District munsif at Manjakuppam praying for a decree for the withdrawal of the name ‘Arutpa’ by the defendant.

The case was taken on file by the court and it ordered the issue of notice to the defendant. On the date of hearing, Navalar was present in the court before time. Soon the Munsif resumed his chair and called on the defendant by name. No sooner his name was called on, the saint entered the hall. The plaintiff stood in reverence and greeted him with folded hands. His followers who had assembled there also followed suit. The munsif himself got up from the chair and paid reverence to the saint but it is said that it happened so without his own knowledge. A divine atmosphere then prevailed in the court hall, after hearing the heated arguments from both sides, the court delivered the judgment. In the course of judgment, the court held that ‘Arutpa’ is a valuable treasure to the world in Tamil literature and its outcome is entirely based on Divine inspiration. The Plaintiff, who was questioned about the respect he paid to the saint, said that the defendant is a wise and noble soul possessing extraordinary powers as a gift from the Almighty. This is the reason that made him to give reverence to the saint.

The court also held that in as much as that on his own admission that the saint is a wise cultured soul, it cannot be argued that his renderings were of a worldly nature. In these circumstances fully respecting the wishes of the saint the court decreed the case in favor of the defendant. It is to be seen that this district munsif who was elevated to the position of a judge to the Chennai High court, is none else than Justice Muthusami Iyer whose judgments are of a sane nature and as a memorial to him, a statue has been erected and seen in the High court Buildings, Chennai.
Countless were the miracles performed by the saint and pages will not be enough in this small book to bring out all his miracles. It is enough to know that he is an embodiment of all powers.

Divine Grace of Light [Arut Perum Jyoti Thani Perum Karunai]

Vallalar gradually started realizing God as the supreme power manifesting throughout the universe. Vallalar was immensely moved by the divine power of the Lord of Chidambaram. Here, Lord Shiva appeared both in form and without form. One can experience that which has a form by seeing it and feeling it. One can visualize that which has no form by imagining it or contemplating it. Vallalar experienced both the characteristics of form and formlessness in Jyothi, the divine light. It has a form because one can experience it and see it. It is also without form because one cannot feel it and it is likely to be extinguished. Vallalar believed that the Eternal Truth remains unrevealed and it is the Jyothi, the Vast Grace of Light, that causes the revelation of truth. A subject is able to perceive an object only when the reflection of the light falls on the object. If a precious stone meant for public display is kept in a dark corner it never gets noticed. It needs the focus of a light to bring out its full value in sparkling brilliance. The power of Jyothi is highlighted in all religions. It forms the foundation of all thoughts, all activities and systems. Jyothi is the eternal divine power that first originated in the universe. The cause of all actions, whether physical or chemical, is energy or heat. The source and origin of energy or heat is Jyothi. The Jyothi is invisible and merges with the energy. It is present everywhere; in sun, moon, light and fire. The universe operates on its own inherent energy.

There is self-sustaining energy in every atom or human cell. It is this energy that causes all movements and all activities. Jyothi gives the sustaining-power to a life. Jyothi gives life to all and there is Jyothi in every soul (Athma Jyothi). Rig Veda says the significance of Jyothi is beyond human comprehension. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says, Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya – Oh Lord take me from Darkness to the Light. As Jyothi is manifested in different forms throughout universe and as divine power within every human soul, Vallalar advocated the Jyothi form of worship. He said that the Supreme Lord had revealed to him the powerful Mantra of Divine Light
“Arut Perum Jyoti, Arut Perum JyotiThani Perum Karunai, Arut Perum Jyothi”.
As favoured by the disciples, the literal meaning of this is given as the great effulgence of the Lord with his profound compassion coming to rule the earth.

Compassion towards all living entities [Jeeva Karunya Ozhukkam]

Another important aspect of Vallalar’s philosophy is Jeeva Karunya Ozhukkam, which means having a compassionate outlook towards all lives. Vallalar wanted the whole humanity to integrate into one single objective, the divine unity of souls, based on ‘Jeeva Karunyam’ or Compassion towards all living entities. It refers to one’s attitude towards fellow beings on the one hand and towards all other creatures like animals, birds etc. Vallalar could not bear to see the agony of people suffering from hunger. He stressed the quality of compassion for all. The privileged ones should help the less privileged and service to humanity is equal to service to God. God created, apart from humans, other species also like animals, birds etc. as part of the nature. Man, endowed with intelligence, was supposed to preserve the nature and protect these poor creatures. Unfortunately, he turned out to be the biggest threat for their survival. Man has silenced the feeble voice of conscience that came from his heart, surrendered to the dictates of his mind and fulfilled the nefarious demands of his body. According to Vallalar, he or she only is entitled to receive God’s grace who lives in harmony with nature and shows compassion towards God’s creations. He who takes non vegetarian food forfeits his privilege to seek entry into the temple of God.

Establishment of Sathya Dharma Salai

Vallalar established a number of institutions that survive today. Vallalar believed in the dignity of man and emphasized that religions should respect this dignity. He was the embodiment of compassion. When he saw people suffering for want of food, it reminded him of falling young plants drying up for want of nourishment. He expressed this feeling in one of his songs thus: “I felt sad seeing the falling ear of tender plants, withering for want of nourishment. I felt sad seeing frail people crestfallen for want of food.” (Vaadiya Payirinai Kanda Pothellam Vaadinen). In 1865 he established a poor feeding center called as Sathya Dharma Salai at Vadalur. On the inaugural day he lit the fire of the stone stove, with a declaration that the fire be ever alive and the needy shall be fed forever.

Sathya Gnana Sabai

Ramalinga Adigal opened a temple at Vadalur on January 25, 1872, called the "Sathya Gnana Sabha" (Hall of True Knowledge). This place is not a temple. An oil lamp is kept perpetually burning. There are seven cotton fabric screens, representing the seven factors that prevent a soul from realizing its true nature. The entire complex is bound by a chain with 21,600 links, said to represent 21,600 inhalations by a normal human being.

Establishment of Society for pure truth in Universal self-hood or ‘Samarasa Sudha Sanmarga Sabhai’

Vallalar established Samarasa Sudha Sanmarga Sabhai as the medium to translate his ideals into practice. The term Samarasa means equanimity, the concept that encompasses all religious thoughts and respects all faiths and religions. The term ‘Sudham’ implies purity and sublimity. Sanmargam means the right and truthful way. In short, it is a philosophy that transcends all existing spiritual thoughts and shows the perfect way of truth. It emphasizes the importance of discipline which Vallalar classified as discipline of senses Indriya Ozhukkam, Karana Ozhukkam, Jeeva Ozhukkam, and Athma Ozhukkam. Vallalar also stressed the importance of charity. He considered food offering (Annadhana) as the most sacred duty of all. Vallalar dreamt of the day when hunger and poverty would completely be eliminated. The philosophy of Sudha Sanmarga (Pure Gathering), built on the concept of love and compassion, aims at purifying the body, enlivening the mind, enriching the intellect and enlightening the soul, the different steps that lead to immortality. It follows the path of simplicity and discipline; the path of Sanmarga where there is no human distinctions.

The path of Sanmarga symbolizes truth, love and discipline which leads to the highest stage of divinity (Iswara Sakshathkaram) and immortality. Vallalar underlined certain principles which formed the foundation of Samarasa Sudha Sanmargam. These are:-

God is one. He is Arut Perum Jyothi, the Vast Grace of Light.
All are children of one God and there is no caste, religious or regional differences.
One should recognize the divinity in every soul, respect it and live in peace and prosperity, in a spirit of love and unity.
Compassion towards all fellow beings and compassion towards all lives such as animals, birds etc. should form the basis of all actions.
To reach God, tread the path of simplicity and humility and not through rituals or extravagant way of worship.

Pasithiru, Thanithiru, Vizhithiru!

Saint Ramalingar, giving the essence of his teachings said Pasithiru `Experience Hunger'' (not about food, but the soul should always yearn to reach God), Thanithiru `Be aloof'' (avoid getting caught by delusion) and Vizhithiru ``Always be aware'' (be constantly vigilant over the activities of the senses).

Normally, a seeker, bound by various attachments in the world, finds many obstacles in his spiritual journey. The family ties, the properties, passions, prejudices, attachments and affiliations all bind him, incapacitating him or her for any meaningful action. The 52 iron links that symbolically form a chain and surround the Gnana Sabhai signal the message that one who is determined and dedicated can remove these chains one by one, liberate himself and realize the Vast Grace of Light.

Vallalar as a Reformer

Vallalar saw many ills plaguing the society. Steeped in ignorance, people were following certain outmoded customs, dogmas, beliefs and practices. There were differences within Hindu religion. The need of the hour was transformation in socio-religious practices, change in concepts or mis-concepts and change in way of life. Vallalar felt this need. He wished everyone living in the spirit of universal brother-hood, showing compassion towards all lives. Vallalar perceived God not as an identifiable image, not necessarily in the form of an idol and not restricted to a class or religion. He perceived God as all-pervading divine power. He pointed out the lacuna in the prevailing practices and sought to dispel many ill-conceived notions. He sought to dispense with various practices like rituals. He sought to remove the artificial barriers and unite all aspirants under one common platform. He then took the role of a reformer, introduced the universal and uniform concept of Jyothi worship and Sudha Sanmarga.

The mission of Vallalar

He led a life of virtue, abstinence and discipline, though he prayed for all people, accepting their vices as his own. He always wore spotless clean white cloth around his body that symbolized gentleness and peace. He looked serene and majestic, his sparkling eyes conveying the message of love. He spoke in a low gentle tone. Even while singing, he maintained a low pitch. Perhaps, one could hear his voice rose while speaking for vegetarianism. He performed many acts of miracles but never agreed that he consciously exercised such powers or even possessed them. He not only fulfilled the aspiration of the soul but also healed the body. He was a good physician who prescribed clean diet habits, exercise, Pranayamam and Yoga for good health.

Vallalar believed that just as the soul, body also undergoes a spiritual transformation by the grace of Jyothi. When the body functions independently of sense organs, it becomes pure. When the soul within is sublime and sacred, it implies that the body in which the soul lives is also pure. Just as the contents are pure, the container also gets purity and sanctity. As a result of spiritual transformation, the body assumes a stage of divine Golden Deathless Body. It continues to remain in this divine stage deriving its own inherent energy and then attains immortality. In line with his belief, Vallalar is believed to have attained immortality.

Swami Ramalingam's Ascension on Thai Poosam Day

It was on a Thai Poosam i.e. on 30th January 1874 that Swami Ramalingam made his final merger with Jyoti and physically disappeared from the earth plane. No traces of his body were ever found. Vallalar drew some of his close disciples near and said “I wish to confine myself in the room here. Do not search for me and if you do, you would not find. I believe, God has willed it that way and I hope it would happen that way”. He then walked away, entered into a room and closed the door. It is believed that he sacrificed his deathless body and dematerialized so that he could continue his divine presence among his disciples, grace them and guide them. That marked the end of a great sage or the beginning of a new age. That marked the end of a glorious chapter of Vallalar that opened up a new chapter for man’s eternal quest to know the truth. That marked the end of a period of darkness that heralded the advent of a new era of awakening, the era of light and Jyothi.

May the light of love, the light of grace he kindled radiate its brilliance all over. May the beacon light he lit brighten up the world. May the flame of grace he brought bring a sense of unity and peace all over the earth!

Reference :

Harikatha by Smt. Tanjavur Kamala Murthy

Launch of “Endaro Mahanubavulu” series of articles!

I recently happened to hear life history some of the great personalities. The discourses were in the form of Hari-Katha format rendered by Smt. Thanjavur Kamala Murthy. This CD was given to me by one VKV Sir who conducts the Madurai Mani Iyer Remembrance Day in Chennai and is based out of USA. I happened to meet him incidentally at Mylapore Ragha Sudha Hall in the Madurai Mani Iyer memorial concert organized by him along with Cleveland Sundaram Mama somewhere in 2007. The Hari-Katha art form once a glorious art form got dwindled and we have only very few people who practices now. I think it is high time Music Academy should promote and support this seriously otherwise we will not have this art form for the next generation. The harikatha contained life histories of Vadalur Vallalar, Sadashiva Brahmendral, Pattinathar, Samartha Ramadas, Sirghazhi Arunachala Kavirayar. All these personalities lived their life entirely dedicated to the Lord. They practiced what they advised and became immortal. They have also composed divine poems on the lord which is an outpouring from their heart.

Saint Tyagaraja in his famous Pancharatna Sri Raga kriti tells us in the pallavi “Endaro Mahanubavulu Andariki Vandanamu” meaning there are lots of great personalities for them I pay my obeisance. He further says in the Anupallavi “Chanduru varnuni yanta chandamunu hradaya aravinda muna juci brahmanandam anubavimsuva” i.e. these devotees of the lord always mediate in their heart on the Lords divine form which is like the moon and enjoy the supreme bliss”. The quality of the devotee is described clearly by Sri Tyagaraja that they always thinks about the Lord and always in bliss. When we were discussing our last article “Who am I” by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi he says we are not this material body but eternal atma. Ramana was in trance always thinking about Arunachala. Lookout the similarities of what Tyagaraja said and What Ramana practiced. I think if your corroborate all the great personalities realization they constantly think on their prime divinity either in the archa form or nirguna form like Ramana Maharshi since the truth is one and the same.
The life histories of all these divine personalities will help us to know in addition to their personal history, the eternal truth in some form or the other and also how they practiced that in their life. With that background I am planning give some articles about these great personalities which will be aptly titled as “Endaro Mahanubavulu”. The first in this series is about “Vadalur Vallalar” Saint Ramalinga Adigal.
Happy reading! Regards, A.V. Devan

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who am I? (Nan Yar?) - Part I

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s 130th birth anniversary was celebrated on January 1st 2010 (Punarvasu Star). His teachings are lucid but the inner content and meanings needs to explored for our entire life. Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching has benefited many. Kanchi Mahaperiyava Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati advised Mr. Paul Brunton to seek the guidance of Sri Ramana Maharshi when he came to India in search of the truth. The detailed narration of the miracles are available in the book “A Search in Secret India” written by Paul Brunton.

Bhagavan became popular in the Western World after the visits of Paul Brunton, David Godman, and Arthur Osborne. One can see the foreign visitors if you visit the Ramanashram at Tiruvannamalai. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi realized himself through self inquiry and not by reading any books. All his thoughts and teachings are later corroborated with many works including Adisankara’s Advaita Philosophy. The Chapter two of Srimad Bhagavad Gita also dwelves more on the subject of Atma. Thought of sharing Maharshi’s “Who Am I?” (Naan Yaar?) which will help the spiritual sadhaka to know more about themselves!.

“Who am I?” is the title given to a set of questions and answers bearing on Self-enquiry. The questions were put to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by one Sri. M. Sivaprakasam Pillai somewhere during the period 1902. Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai was a graduate in Philosophy was at the time employed in the Revenue Department of South Arcot Collectorate. During his visit to Tiruvannamalai in 1902 on official work he went to Virupaksha Cave on Arunachala Hill and met the Master there.

He sought from him spiritual guidance and solicited answers to questions relating to Self-enquiry. As Bhagavan was not talking then he answered the questions put to him by gestures and when there were not understood by writing. These were first published by Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai in 1923 along with a couple of poems composed by himself relating how Bhagavan's grace operated in his case by dispelling his doubts and by saving him from a crisis in life. ‘Who am I’ has been published several times subsequently. ‘Who am I’ is the first set of instructions in the Master’s own word. ‘Who am I’ clearly set forth that the direct path to liberation is ‘Self-enquiry’. The particular mode in which the enquiry is to be made is lucidly set forth in ‘Who am I’. Please read on…..

1. Who am I?

The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (Sthoola Deham) – I am not

The five senses viz., the sense of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell which apprehend their respective objects viz., sound, touch, colour, taste and odour (Jnanendriyam) – I am not

The five cognitive sense organs viz., the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion and procreation which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting and enjoying (Karmendriyam) – I am not

The five vital airs, Prana etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing etc. (Pancha Vayus), - I am not

Even the mind which thinks (Man or Manam) – I am not

The nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects and in which there are no objects and no functioning (Agnanam or Ignorance) – I am not

2. If I am none of these, then who am I?

After negating all of the above mentioned as “Not This” “Not This” that awareness or knowledge which alone remains – that I am.

3. What is the nature of awareness or knowledge?

The nature of that awareness or knowledge is “Sat – Chit – Ananda” i.e. Existence – Consciousness – Bliss

4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?

When the world which is what-is- seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.

5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the World is there (taken as real)?

There will not be.

6. Why?

The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real is removed.

7. When will the world which is the object seen be removed?

When the mind, which is the cause of all cognitions and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.

8. What is the nature of the mind?

What is called ‘mind’ is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream there are thoughts and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread of the web out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears to be real, the Self does not appear and when the Self appears (Shines) the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross and it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).

9. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of mind?

That which rises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought ‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one think constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be lead to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the ‘I’ thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear, without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.

10. How will the mind become quiescent?

By the inquiry ‘Who am I?”

The thought ‘who am I’ will destroy all other thoughts and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then there will arise “Self Realization”.

(To be continued…..)

Reference :

Who am I? (Nan Yar?) – The teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (Translated by Sri T.M.P. Mahadevan) - Published by Sri Ramana Ashramam, Tiruvannamalai.