Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Greatness of Arunachala

When I listed the works that were chanted in the Tamil parayana during Bhagavan’s day, I included Sri Arunachala Tattuvam (The Significance of Arunachala) and Arunachala Mahatmyam (The Greatness or Glory of Arunachala). These are verses that Bhagavan either composed on Arunachala or translated from Arunachala Mahatmyam, the Sanskrit text that narrates the stories about the gods and sages who have been associated with the mountain.

In the new translation of Arunchala Stuti Panchakam that was done by Sadhu Om and Michael James, these verses by Bhagavan are preceded by two verses that Sadhu Om himself composed on Arunachala.

Today I am posting Sadhu Om’s two verses, followed by the verse on Sri Arunachala Tattuvam and the translations from Arunachala Mahatmyam. Bhagavan’s own verses are given in bold type. Sadhu Om’s comments are given under some of the verses, preceded by his name. I have added some supplementary quotations myself after three of the verses. These additions are in italics.

Touching [His] Holy Feet on [our] eyes, let us meditate in the heart upon Maha Guru Ramana Murti, the formless [Reality] who assumed a [human] form with jnana and grace as His two eyes and who, being a refuge to those who come to him desiring to know what is the Reality, dispels the delusion of ignorance of [His] devotees.

It does not matter if you have not understood the final import of the peerless four Vedas; it does not matter if you have not practised any of the four yogas glorified by the people of the world; it does not matter if you have not worshipped Lord Vishnu or Lord Siva; it does not matter if you have not praised Devi, Ganapati or Subramanya. If you are able to recite (or to reflect upon the meaning of) Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam, which is the foremost path of upasana [worship] and the ambrosia of immortality, and which was graciously sung with heart-melting love by Sri Arunachala Ramana, the embodiment of grace and the Lord of the Munis, that alone is sufficient, that alone is now sufficient to enable you to attain the knowledge ‘You are That’.

Sri Arunachala Siva Dhyanam

This is Arunachala Siva who, being the ocean of grace, bestows liberation when thought of.

Sadhu Om: This verse is a Dhyana Sloka [verse of contemplation] upon ‘Arunachala Siva’, which was composed by Sri Bhagavan in the year 1932 and is printed under the picture of Holy Hill Arunachala is Sri Ramana Nultirattu [Tamil Collected Works].

Sri Arunachala Tattuvam

The true significance of Annamalai [Arunachala] which shone forth between Brahma and Vishnu in order to subdue their pride [by making them realise that] they were unable to reach [the top and bottom of it respectively], is only the Heart [the real Self], the centre [of all], which shines forth when the intellect [buddhi] and ego [ahankara] lament and subside, [having realised their inability to know It as It is].

Sadhu Om: On the day of Deepa Darsana [the day in November or December when a sacred light is lit on the top of Arunchala], 24th November 1931, Sri Muruganar composed the above verse and gave it to Bhagavan, entreating him to compose another verse explaining the significance of seeing the light [Deepa Darsana]. Sri Bhagavan then graciously composed the following verse in the same metre.

Deepa Darsana Tattuvam

The true significance of seeing the light [flame] on Annamalai, which is the centre of the world, is seeing the light of the non-dual real ‘I’, having given up the sense ‘This body alone is “I”’ by fixing the mind in the Heart through the attention to ‘I’.

Sadhu Om: In this verse, while revealing the true significance of seeing the light [Deepa Darsana], Sri Bhagavan shows that the goal of spiritual life is to give up the feeling ‘I am the body’ and to realise the non-dual real Self, and that the path to attain this goal is to fix the mind in the Heart by means of self-attention. Thus this verse is a concise and beautiful synopsis of Sri Bhagavan’s teachings.

The Glory of Arunachala

That [Arunachala] is verily the holy place [sthala]. Of all holy places, Arunachala is the foremost. Know that it is the heart of the world. It is verily Siva. It is [His] heart abode, a secret sthala. In that place He, the Lord, ever abides as the Hill of Light named Arunachala.

Sadhu Om: This verse was composed by Sri Bhagavan on Wednesday 2nd February, 1927.

The ancient day on which He [Lord Siva] assumed the form of Arunachala, the original, great and wonderful lingam [which first rose as a column of light], was Adirai in Margazhi. The day on which Vishnu and other gods praised and worshipped the Lord, who had risen as that light, was Masi-Sivaratri.

Sadhu Om: ‘Adirai in Margazhi’ is the day when the moon is in conjunction with constellation aridra or Orion in the Tamil month Margazhi, which runs from mid-December to mid-January.

Masi-Sivaratri’ is the night of the thirteenth waning moon in the Tamil month Masi, which runs from mid-February to mid-March.

This verse was composed by Sri Bhagavan on Sivaratri day, 24th February, 1941. It is interesting to note here that Sri Bhagavan was born on Tiruvadirai, the sacred day of Aridra in the month of Margazhi, which was the very day on which, in ancient times, Lord Siva first manifested himself in the form of Arunachala, the original Lingam.

Siva Vachanam

Siva said: ‘Though I was originally in the form of fire, my remaining [now] as a hill of subdued light is due to my grace in order to protect the world. Moreover, I ever abide here as a siddha [the sage Arunagiri Yogi]. Know that within me shine caves surging with many enjoyments.’

Sadhu Om: This verse was composed on Monday 14th March, 1927.

Referring to the second stanza of Sri Arunachala Mahatmyam I [Devaraja Mudaliar] asked Bhagavan, whether the cave mentioned in it is inside God or inside the mountain (which of course is also said to be God).

Bhagavan replied, ‘Of course, in the context, it means the cave is inside the hill and that there, in the cave, are all enjoyments.’

Bhagavan added, ‘The stanza says you are to believe that inside this hill there is a cave, which is brilliance itself or which is glorious with light, and that all enjoyments are to be found there.’

I also asked Bhagavan, ‘I have read somewhere that this place is called bhoga kshetra [a sacred place for enjoyment]. I wonder what is meant thereby.’

Bhagavan replied, ‘Yes, it is said so. But what does it mean? If thinking of this kshetra can itself give mukti, what wonder if this place can give all other enjoyments one may desire?’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 6th December 1945)

‘Since their [karma] nature is to bind all the worlds, the vicious actions [karmas] are bondage [runa]. This [Hill] indeed is the effulgent Arunachala [the hill that destroys bondage], the refuge, by seeing which, they [the karmas] become non-existent.’

Sadhu Om: In a footnote to this Tamil verse Sri Bhagavan explains that the word ‘runa’ here means ‘bondage’.

Here the word ‘actions’ [vinaigal] denotes all actions of the body, speech and mind, including the root action [mula vinai], the rising of the ego. Since the rising of the ego is the root of bondage, and since this hill roots out the ego of those who see it or think of it, it is called ‘A’-‘runa’-‘achalam’, the Hill [achala] that makes bondage [runa] non-existent, and it is the refuge for all those who seek freedom from the bondage of action which is caused by the rising of the ego.

The verse was composed on Monday, 14th June, 1926.

Since it removes the cruel heap of sins from all the worlds, and since bondage becomes non-existent when one sees it, it is named ‘Arunachala’ [The Hill that destroys bondage]!

‘The Supreme Knowledge [Self-knowledge], the import of Vedanta, which cannot be attained without undergoing great difficulty, will be [easily] attained by anyone if they see the form [of this Hill] from wherever it is visible, or even if they think of it from afar.’

Sadhu Om: This verse was composed by Sri Bhagavan on Tuesday 13th July 1926.

‘By my ordinance I, Lord Siva, truly bestow my Sayujya [the state of non-dual union with me], which is devoid of attachment, upon those who reside in this holy place [sthala], which extends for three yojanas [around this Hill], even without their receiving initiation and so on, which remove defects.’

Sadhu Om: Three yojanas is a distance of about twenty-seven miles, or forty-four kilometers.

The words ‘dikshai adi’ [initiation and so on] denote initiation, instruction [upadesa] and other means by which the Guru in human form removes the defects of the disciple in order to make him fit to attain Self-knowledge. Since Arunachala itself is the Sadguru in the form of a Hill, for those whom live in the vicinity of Arunachala there is no need to receive diksha or upadesa from a human Guru; by the power of its silent presence, Arunachala will itself remove their defects and bestow upon them the state of Self-knowledge, which is the state of non-dual union with God.

This verse was composed by Bhagavan on Tuesday 13th July, 1926.

A devotee who had heard about the meetings of the head of the Sivaganga Mutt and the discussions about Narasimha Bharathi asked Bhagavan, ‘It seems a long time ago someone from the Sringeri Mutt requested Bhagavan to accept diksha [formal initiation].’

Bhagavan: ‘Yes. That is so. That was during the early days of my stay at the Virupaksha cave. A Sastri residing in the Sringeri Mutt came to see me one morning. He saw me, spoke to me for a long time, and before going to the town for meals, drew near me and with folded arms and great respect said, ‘Swami! I have a request to make. Please hear me.’

When I asked him what it was, he said, ‘Swami, as you are born a brahmin, should you not take sannyasa in the regular way? It is an ancient practice. You know all that. What is there for me to tell you? I am anxious to include you in the line of our Gurus. Hence, if you give me the permission, I will come here with all the requisite articles from my Mutt and give you the initiation. If you do not care to wear the full ochre-coloured robes [akhanda kashayam], I respectfully submit that it is enough if your loin cloth at least is of ochre colour. You may think over this well and give me a reply. I am going down the hill to take my meals and will come back by 3 p.m. All the members of our Mutt have heard of your greatness and I have come here to see you at their request. Please do this favour.’

‘A little while after he left, an old brahmin came there with a bundle. His face appeared familiar. It could be seen from the outside of the bundle that there were some books in it. As soon as he came, he placed the bundle opposite to me and like an old acquaintance said, ‘Swami, I have just come. I have not had a bath. There is no one to look after this bundle. I am therefore leaving it with you.’

So saying he left the place. As soon as he went away, why, I do not know, but I felt like opening that bundle and seeing the books. As soon as I opened it, I saw a Sanskrit book in nagari characters with the title ‘Arunachala Mahatmyam’. I did not know before that the Arunachala Mahatmyam is in Sanskrit also. I was therefore surprised and as I opened the book I found the sloka describing the greatness of this place in the words of Iswara:

‘By my ordinance I, Lord Siva, truly bestow my Sayujya [the state of non-dual union with me], which is devoid of attachment, upon those who reside in this holy place [sthala], which extends for three yojanas [around this Hill], even without their receiving initiation and so on, which remove defects.’

‘As soon as I saw that sloka, I felt I could give a fitting reply to that Sastri by quoting that sloka and so hastily copied it out, for the brahmin might come back at any moment, and then tied up the bundle as before after replacing the book. I showed this sloka to the Sastri as soon as he came in the evening. As he was a learned man, he did not say anything further but with great reverence and trepidity saluted me, went away and, it seems, reported everything to Narasimha Bharathi. Narasimha Bharathi felt very sorry for what his disciples had done, and told them to stop all further efforts in that direction. I subsequently translated that sloka and wrote it in a verse in Tamil, ‘Yojanai Munra Mittala Vasarku’. It has now been added at the beginning of the five verses in praise of Arunachala [Arunachala Sthuthi Panchakam]. In the same way, many people tried to convert me to their path. So long as it was mere talk, I used to say, ‘Yes, yes,’ but never agreed to take any initiation. I always used to find some ruse to escape.’ (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, 13th January, 1949)


Devi said: ‘This holy place alone is ever the abode for righteous people and devotees. Here base people who intend harm to others will perish by being afflicted with many diseases, and the power of the wicked will be lost in a second without leaving a trace. [Therefore] do not fall into the fierce fire of anger of Lord Arunachala, whose form is a Hill of Fire.’

Sadhu Om: This verse was composed by Bhagavan on 18th March, 1938.

The verse embodies the warning that Devi [Goddess Parvati] sent to the demon Mahishasura when he was preparing to wage war against her in Tiruvannamalai.

This verse is given as an abhaya-vak, a verbal assurance of protection for righteous people and devotees.

Bhagavan: The power of humility, which bestows immortality, is the foremost among powers that are hard to attain. Since the only benefit of learning and other similar virtues is the attainment of humility, humility alone is the real ornament of the sages. It is the storehouse of all other virtues and is therefore extolled as the wealth of divine grace. Although it is a characteristic befitting wise people in general, it is especially indispensable for sadhus.

Since attaining greatness is impossible for anyone except by humility, all the disciplines of conduct such as yama and niyama, which are prescribed specifically for aspirants on the spiritual path, have as their aim only the attainment of humility. Humility is indeed the hallmark of the destruction of the ego. Because of this, humility is especially extolled by sadhus themselves as the code of conduct befitting them.

Moreover, for those who are residing at Arunachala, it is indispensable in every way. Arunachala is the sacred place where even the embodiments of God, Brahma, Vishnu and Sakti, humbly subsided. Since it has the power to humble even those who would not be humbled, those who do not humbly subside at Arunachala will surely not attain that redeeming virtue anywhere else. The Supreme Lord, who is the highest of the high, shines unrivalled and unsurpassed only because he remains the humblest of the humble. When the divine virtue of humility is necessary even for the Supreme Lord, who is totally independent, is it necessary to emphasise that it is absolutely indispensable for sadhus who do not have such independence? Therefore, just as in their inner life, in their outer life also sadhus should possess complete and perfect humility. It is not that humility is necessary only for devotees of the Lord; even for the Lord it is the characteristic virtue. (Sri Ramana Darsanam, pp. 77-8)

And finally, for no reason at all except that I like it, here is a verse from Arunachala Puranam, a Tamil text that also chronicles the stories about Arunachala:

'All stones in that place [Arunachala] are lingams. It is indeed the Abode of Lord Siva. All trees are the wish-granting trees of Indra's heaven. Its rippling waters are the Ganges, flowing through our Lord's matted locks. The food eaten there is the ambrosia of the Gods. When men move about in that place it is the earth performing pradakshina around it. Words spoken there are holy scripture, and to fall asleep there is to be absorbed in samadhi, beyond the mind's delusion. Could there be any other place which is its equal?'


celio leite said...

Like a devotee of Ramana and reader of your books ("Be as you Are" is really great and help me so much), I would like thanks a for the real explanation of Vichara and teachings of Ramana, that Muruganar, You (David Godman), Sadhu Om , Michael James spread all over the world through your teachings. Your (David Godman) explanation of vichara is unique, so simple and direct. But seems to me that surrender and vichara are the very "heart" of teachings of Ramana. Can you post a topic about how to "do" vichara. Keep the inner feeling of `I` is great...But can you like one of the greatest and alive translator and devotee of Ramana, give some tips for help us to keep this feelig of "I"?
Thanks for the is marvelous!

Subramanian. R said...

Dear David, someone in another
forum asked me, ' what is so great
about Arunachala, the most special feature.' I said that Arunachala is Siva Himself and even to mediate on Arunachala from a distance, will confer liberation, while other abodes of
gods have to be 'visited'.

maha mantra blogger said...

Very good post

Subramanian. R said...

Dear David, someone in another
forum asked me, ' what is so great
about Arunachala, the most special feature.' I said that Arunachala is Siva Himself and even to mediate on Arunachala from a distance, will confer liberation, while other abodes of
gods have to be 'visited'.

maha mantra blogger said...

Very good post