Friday, May 2, 2008

Guru Vachaka Kovai verses

Here is something similar to the posting I made yesterday. Towards the end of Guru Vachaka Kovai there is a section entitled ‘The Author Declares His Experience’. In the nine verses that appear in this portion Muruganar describes the experience of the Self that Bhagavan bestowed on him and adds a few philosophical points whose truth he discovered as a consequence of this experience.

The material under the number in bold is the verse itself; sections that begin with ‘Muruganar:’ in bold are Muruganar’s own comments on his verses; and comments that are in italics are my own.

These verses are part of a new annotated translation of Guru Vachaka Kovai that has been done by T. V. Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and myself. The work is almost complete and I hope to send it to the press in a few days’ time. The book itself will be available in about two months’ time. Over the course of the next few weeks I will add several more selections from this new work. For those who are unfamiliar with this work, I will say that it is a collection of Bhagavan's teachings recorded in Tamil by Muruganar in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.


1240

If I were to declare the experience that arose through the instructions of my Guru, it would be: ‘All that I perceived before as a forest of attachments is none other than the unuttered expanse of mauna [silence], true jnana. All relative knowledge, which is insignificant, is a dream.’

1241

I have known! I have known with certainty the state of supreme truth that is full of transcendental, being-consciousness! I have known that in truth there is never in the least any attainment of bondage, liberation, and so on, which are fabricated when one imagines that one is separate from reality.

Muruganar: Bhagavan wrote, in Upadesa Undiyar verse 29:

To abide in this state, wherein is experienced a supreme bliss, in which there is neither bondage nor liberation, is to abide in the service of the Lord.

He has also stated, in Ulladu Narpadu verse 37, that the argument that says ‘duality in practice and non-duality in attainment’ is not true:

Even the assertion, that during practice there is duality, and upon realisation there is non-duality, is not true.

If the state of ultimate truth is realised as it actually is, then, in that state, the feeling of liberation also does not exist. Since bondage never existed, one’s swarupa is also totally free from the knowledge ‘I am a liberated one’.

1242

Whatever religion we may examine and whatever doctrines we may hear, we have clearly realised that all these religions and doctrines declare with certainty the one and identical goal that shines without any differences.

Muruganar: Harmony among religions prevails only in mauna, and not through subtlety of intellect. After the experience of mauna, it will be known as clearly as an amla on one’s palm that all religions and doctrines uniformly have as their goal the attainment of Self.

1243

When one enters into and abides as the plenitude [purnam] which is all consciousness and which shines as the real import of the unerring Vedas, it is impossible to perceive the three divisions of time, the three persons [I, you, he/she/it] and the triputis [knower, knowing and known, or seer, seeing and seen].

1244

When examined [it will be known that] these subtle ideas just declaimed are the silent discourse joyously bestowed upon me by Ramana, the jnana-Guru, my true Lord, who instructed me by manifesting before me as the foremost Brahma-jnani.

Muruganar: The subtle truth described in the previous verses is realised in jnana. Therefore, what the jnana-Guru bestowed upon me is the essence of the mauna experience. Though the jnana-Guru ever abides within, he manifested outside with a physical body similar to ours to bring us under his rule by bestowing his grace. This is indicated by [the words] ‘manifesting before me’. As the understanding becomes firm only through mauna, it has been described as ‘the silent discourse’.

1245

In my true perspective ‘I’ alone am and ‘you’ are not. In your true perspective ‘you’ alone are and ‘I’ am not. In the perspective of the Self, Self alone is and everything else is not. When one ponders over the matter, all those things and people are only ‘me’.

The beginning of this verse can also be translated in the following way:

In my true perspective you do not exist apart from me. In your true perspective, I do not exist apart from you. From the true perspective of the Self, nothing exists apart from the Self.

1246

I am neither the possessed nor the possessor. I am neither the master nor the slave. I have no kartavya – the feeling that there are duties that must be done. I have no bhogtavya – the feeling that I have to experience enjoyments. I am not the doer.

1247

For my divided consciousness, which was lamenting, imagining itself to be shackled by maya, a Guru, by chance, appeared here [on this earth]. As it is the Self that manifested before me as the Guru and brought me under its rule, my most worthy obeisance is only to my perfect Self, which shines radiantly.

1248

Know that Murugan[ar] will remain forever under the sway of the benevolent power of consciousness, supreme Ramana. Never will he submit to the malignant power of maya, the world, even under circumstances in which dire and distressing poverty comes.

The ‘ar’ at the end of ‘Muruganar’ is a respectful suffix. Muruganar would not use it when he was referring to himself.

20 comments:

ramanamayi said...

Thanks for another wonderful post ... looking forward to the book. :-)

Anonymous said...

Verse 1247, I wonder why Muruganar says 'by chance'? Is that the correct translation?

Losing M. Mind said...

Yeah, do you ever encounter a guru by chance?

David Godman said...

Anonymous

You have raised an interesting point, one which we did discuss during our translation of verse 1247.

Muruganar wrote expanded prose renderings of many of the Guru Vachaka Kovai verses. Where these are available we translated them, rather than the verse itself, since the prose rendering often expanded on the original words. The verse does not contain the phrase we have translated as 'by chance', whereas the prose rendering does.

Different meanings can be derived from Tamil verses by 'splitting' the sentence different ways.

If, in this verse, you take the split 'guruvaay-t-taan tonri aandathanaal', it simply means 'since [it] ruled me, appearing as the Guru'. In this construction the 'taan' is largely redundant; it is simply regarded as emphasising the statement.

However, one can include the 'taan' in the previous word (this is how 'splitting' often works), in which case it becomes part of the verb 'vaay', which means 'to be gained, happen with certainty, become true.' In this context it can mean 'appearing as one who manifested fittingly or happily as a Guru'. We contracted this idea to 'by chance'.

Professor Swaminathan and Sadhu Om translated directly from the verse itself, rather than from the expanded prose rendering, so neither of them had to deal with this conundrum. In our own version Robert voted against the 'by chance' interpretation, whereas Venkatasubramanian voted for its inclusion. We generally deferred to Venkatasubramaian on such matters since his knowledge of Muruganar's Tamil was better than Robert's.

The verse itself merely says, 'appearing here before me as a Guru'. We had to elaborate on this in some way since Muruganar added extra words in his prose expansion.

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

.. But by using the word “chance”, an element of randomness is brought into the fact of appearance of a Guru for the needy sadhaka. It becomes an event which may or may not happen and could merely happen by “luck”. Whereas, perhaps, Sri Muruganar intended to say that the event would happen as a “certainty”, or perhaps as “as appropriate” depending on the spiritual level and requirements of the sadhaka.

Sri Bhagavan Himself perhaps meant the latter when he gave His “push-pull” analogy, in that when the “pull” is adequate, the Self will manifest as an external Guru to “push” inside if so required.

Grateful for further clarification. Also what exactly does Sri Muruganar’s expanded prose rendering say on this verse ?

Many thanks

Another Anonymous

Anonymous said...

"In this context it can mean 'appearing as one who manifested fittingly or happily as a Guru'. We contracted this idea to 'by chance'."
I don't understand. How can 'fittingly or happily', which seems to suggest destiny, be replaced with 'by chance'?

Losing M. Mind said...

It said by chance a guru appeared on this earth, as opposed to by chance i encountered a guru. But even that process is probably not random, I would guess. Nonetheless, these are beautiful translations.

Losing M. Mind said...

Not that I know better, and could be wrong, but something does seem off about that, 'by chance', because from reading the David Godman edited autobiographies, it seemed that nothing at all happened by chance, it didn't seem anything Self-related happened by chance.

David Godman said...

I took the 'by chance' to have the implication of 'fortuitously'

There may be some poetic licence here. While it is true that Muruganar was destined to meet Bhagavan, Muruganar himself could still portray it as a great boon, a chance encounter that transformed his life.

Next time I meet with Venkatasubramanian I will discuss the possible meanings of the verse with him. Until then I will desist from any further linguistic interpretations.

Losing M. Mind said...

That makes sense. It meaning fortuitously, and why Muruganar might have described it as a chance encounter or a great boon.

Clemens Vargas Ramos said...

.

... by chance, by destiny ...

Perhaps we could put it this way:

* For the mind thinking of the good and unbelievable fortune to find a true guru it is 'by chance' (whereas 'by chance' here has the meaning of 'it must have been impossible', 'I wonder how it could happened', 'I don't deserve this', 'I am blessed by this').

* In reality it is 'by destiny' (another expression of 'I don't know how and why it happened').

By the way: There is a beautiful passage in GEMS FROM BHAGAVAN about Grace and Guru (quotations by Paul Brunton):

"Divine Grace is a manifestation of the cosmic free will in operation. It can alter the course of events in a mysterious manner through its own unknown laws, which are superior to all natural laws, and can modify the latter by interaction. It is the most powerful force in the universe.

.

arvind said...

Dear David,

There is a Sanskrit word “kathamcit” that epitomizes a manner of usage of poetic expression that appears often in ancient spiritual literature. “Kathamcit” comes from the root-word “katham” which means “how ?”, “ in what manner ?”, “whence ?” and when connected with the particles “cana”, “cid” or “api”, gives an indefinite sense to the interrogative; so “kathamcit” becomes “somehow”, “by some means”, “in any way”. And the sentiment or the process thus epitomized is - the operation of Divine Grace.

We are talking poetics and the aesthetic approach here, which prefers subtlety of expression over bald statements of fact or literal meanings of words. And this word “kathamcit” is of a type often used by the Master Poet & Sage to describe how he attained Liberation. He will never state in literal terms how hard he struggled in his great sadhana over how many years, and the great efforts he put in which led to the Lord showering His Grace on him; or any words which may express his own greatness in the process. He will instead repeatedly emphasize that he is really lower than a dog, a filthy being of no use whatsoever, but who despite being unworthy was showered with Grace by the munificent Lord. And thus he also subtlety expresses how his own ego has been completely effaced in the process.

To use an example from ancient times, the Great Sage Utpaladeva (UD), in the very first shloka of his “Isvarapratyabhijna Karika” states:

“Having SOMEHOW realized identity with the Supreme Self, this SLAVE, wishing to render service to humanity, is establishing (the doctrine of) “Self-Recognition” as a means of attaining all that is of value”

Now we know from his other writings how much UD struggled in his sadhana. His “Sivastotravalli” has verse after heartrending verse of his struggle over many many years to achieve Liberation. Still, in this defining verse of his Karika, he chose to downplay completely his great sadhana and efforts; he chose to describe himself as a “slave”, and his great attainment as having been achieved “somehow”.

An important Vimarsini, or critique, on the Karika above was written by Sri Abhinavagupta (AG), UD’s grand-disciple. AG himself of course was a Great Sage, a Maharshi. What is less known about him is the fact that he is, alongwith Bharata (the author of “Natyashastra”) & Anandavardhana (the author of “Dhyanaloka”), the father of Indian Aesthetics. (AG wrote the single most important treatise in Indian aesthetics called the “Abhinavabharati”, which is a commentary on Bharata’s Natyashastra).

And in his Vimarsini on UD’s Karika, AG puts down definitively, the classical, aesthetic or poetical viewpoint in a technical term such as “kathamcit”, and other similar words, and their usage in spiritual poetry. He states in his Vimarsini:

[continued in part 2]

arvind said...

[part 2]

“…. Grace, the essential nature of which is revealed by the Liberation, which sometimes occurs; the miraculous nature of which is due to the operation of the Supreme Creative Power, characterized by the bringing about of the impossible; and which cannot be attained merely by hundreds of longings for the removal of the beginningless dark veil, which hides the true nature of the Self. And it (the Grace) is referred to as such by the word “katham” together with the suggestive particle “cit”. The word “kathamcit” means “somehow” by devotion, which is inspired by the Lord Himself, to the teacher who has identified himself with the Lord.”

[taken from Abhinavaguptapranita Isvarapratyabhijnavimarsini – Doctrine of Divine Recognition: Sanskrit Text with the commentary Bhaskari; Vol III, by K.A.S. Iyer & K.C. Pandey]

Sorry for the long write-up above (which had to be broken up into 2 parts to fit), but I wanted to bring out how there is a well established tradition in Indian spiritual poetics with respect to the usage of terms such as “somehow”; how they are not to be understood in their literal meanings but have to be taken in their figurative sense as implying the operation of Divine Grace.

Now, am not sure whether Sri Muruganar actually used the term “by chance” in his verse or even if he implied the same indirectly. But the fact is quite indisputable that “by chance” falls into the same category of poetic and aesthetic usage as “somehow”, or “fortuitously”, or “by good luck” etc; terms which have been used by Master Poets in India from ancient times, in the manner described for “kathamcit” above, whatever be the underlying language of expression. And as such, its usage by Sri Muruganar, a Master Poet himself well versed in all classical forms of poetics, is quite to form and only to be expected.

Regards

Losing M. Mind said...

"He will never state in literal terms how hard he struggled in his great sadhana over how many years, and the great efforts he put in which led to the Lord showering His Grace on him; or any words which may express his own greatness in the process. He will instead repeatedly emphasize that he is really lower than a dog, a filthy being of no use whatsoever, but who despite being unworthy was showered with Grace by the munificent Lord. And thus he also subtlety expresses how his own ego has been completely effaced in the process. "

It would seem it would have to be that way, in that throughout sadhana humility grows because I see more clearly that my pretentions were false. Partly in that Inquiry invites humbling experiences that further clarify this. I would guess, that Self-Realization is when all the pretentions have been stripped away. So it would be natural for someone who is a sage to be extremely humble (entirely humble), because they know better then anybody that all pretentions are false. At the same time, happiness grows, because I suffer from carrying that megalomania, the pretentions with me, they are something to defend, to protect, to perpetuate. I have noticed this humility in sages. I was watching an interview with Joe Montana, an American sports star, often considered the greatest football quarterback of all time. And in it he was very unwilling to say that he was the best, and infact when pressed to do that, or when the interviewers said it, I saw his eyes glaze over, in that he would rather deal with someone in a genuine way. But when they talked about their struggles, I saw his eyes light up with excitement. It's interesting because he did not have a great arm, but usually did great at comebacks, and I was thinking it was probably because of the egos of the other team, they got overconfident, and then the Grace operated through Joe M. to win games. i don't know whether Joe M is a jnani, but I wouldn't completely discount the possibility.

Losing M. Mind said...

It makes sense, "by chance", meant as fortuitoustly, on what Arvind said, while it makes complete sense, I have trouble believing that a Self-REalized such as Muruganar would have said anything purly as an aesthetic poetic device. Even though much of what Muruganar writes is extremely beautiful, I would guess that every word that he wrote is imbued with intense instructional meaning. At the same time, what Arvind was pointing out was that something like "somehow", as almsot a common poetic device and would have been understood that way. That makes sense too. But when I read these enlightene folks, I've learned that they don't waste words.

arvind said...

Hi Folks,

Ever since one wrote the comment above, one thought to keep an eye open for similar expression by other great Sages. Here is Swami Rama Tirtha (Papaji was his nephew) in “Yoga & the Supreme Bliss: Songs of Enlightenment”, trans from Urdu by A. Z. Alston.

He sings:

FORTUNATE are those who meet with Rama !
As long as there was ‘I’
There could not be the beloved.
When ‘I’ disappeared,
Then the Friend dwelt in every body.
When I cast the ego behind me,
I ascended to the city of love
And slept on the bed.
Love turned to ecstasy.

FORTUNATE are those who meet with Rama !
I threw away the quilt of orthodox observance
And burnt it.
My eyes opened, and I saw the Beloved.
Errors and doubts vanished.
I wasted my life in the external search.
When I came home
I obtained a glimpse of the Friend.
Rama to the right, Rama to the left,

FORTUNATE are those who meet with Rama.

-------------------------

So, “fortunate” here does not imply that the meeting with Rama came about due to good fortune or randomly due to luck. It is due to (Lord) Rama’s own GRACE that (Lord) Rama was met. And the Grace, tho’ always there, was made available to the poet because of certain things done by him as described.

Actually, in the life’s work of a Master Poet or Sage, only in a few instances will an expression like “by chance” or “by good fortune” be used. And then, much like Sri Muruganar above in verse 1247, it may sometimes be hidden within double or triple play puns. So usually the translator will miss the hidden sentiment completely, as anyway, even if he catches the double or triple play, he will conclude “by chance” as being senseless in the context of the verse.

Compliments are due to David, RB & VS for such a faithful translation so as to catch and incorporate the double-play sentiment even though it made the meaning of the verse a bit difficult.

regards

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

.. But by using the word “chance”, an element of randomness is brought into the fact of appearance of a Guru for the needy sadhaka. It becomes an event which may or may not happen and could merely happen by “luck”. Whereas, perhaps, Sri Muruganar intended to say that the event would happen as a “certainty”, or perhaps as “as appropriate” depending on the spiritual level and requirements of the sadhaka.

Sri Bhagavan Himself perhaps meant the latter when he gave His “push-pull” analogy, in that when the “pull” is adequate, the Self will manifest as an external Guru to “push” inside if so required.

Grateful for further clarification. Also what exactly does Sri Muruganar’s expanded prose rendering say on this verse ?

Many thanks

Another Anonymous

ramanamayi said...

Thanks for another wonderful post ... looking forward to the book. :-)

Losing M. Mind said...

That makes sense. It meaning fortuitously, and why Muruganar might have described it as a chance encounter or a great boon.

Losing M. Mind said...

Yeah, do you ever encounter a guru by chance?