Though Arunachala is by his grace ever shining in the heart of all beings as the consciousness ‘I’, why do not all jivas realise him to be the fullness of grace?
Because they never turn their attention towards the shining of ‘I’. If a jiva withdraws his attention from all second and third person objects and focuses it upon the first person, which shines as the mere consciousness ‘I’, then the light of self-consciousness will shine forth with a fresh clarity in whose spreading effulgence the entire appearance of this seemingly solid world-picture will be swallowed.
That is why in the second sentence of Verse 1 of Arunachal Stuthi Panchakam, Sri Bhagavan addresses Arunachala as “Arunagiri, the supreme self, who swallowed everything by spreading rays”.
For the purposes of self-enquiry, the Tamil equivalents of the grammatical terms 'first person', 'second person' and 'third person' are more meaningful than their English counterparts. In Tamil grammar these 'three persons' are called the 'three places', because we experience each of them as occupying a different 'place' or point either in physical space or in our conceptual space. The first person, which is the person who speaks as 'I', is always experienced as being here, in the present place. The second person, which is any person or thing that is spoken to as 'you', is experienced as being physically or conceptually nearby, in a place that is close to the first person. And the third person, which is any person or thing that is spoken about, is experienced as being physically or conceptually elsewhere, in a place that is other than that occupied by the first and second persons.
However, because Sri Bhagavan used these grammatical terms for philosophical purposes, in his teachings each of them has a special philosophical meaning, which does not correspond exactly to their usual grammatical meaning. The actual Tamil word for the first person, 'tanmai', etymologically means 'selfness', and therefore denotes our sense of 'self', the subject or first thought 'I', which we always experience as being the
central 'place' or point from which we conceive and perceive all the objects known by us. The Tamil term for the second person, 'munnilai', etymologically means 'what stands in front', and therefore in its philosophical sense it
denotes those mental objects or images that figuratively speaking stand immediately in front of our mind's eye, and that we therefore recognise as being thoughts that exist only within our own mind. And the Tamil term for
the third person, 'padarkkai', etymologically means 'what spreads out, ramifies, becomes diffused, expands or pervades', and therefore in its philosophical sense it denotes those thoughts that have spread out or expanded through the channel of our five senses, and that have thereby been projected as the objects of this world, which we seem to perceive through those five senses, and which we therefore imagine to be objects existing outside ourself. Thus the 'second person' objects are those objects that we recognise as existing only within the field of our mental conception, while the 'third person' objects are those objects that we imagine to exist outside the field of our mental conception, in the seemingly separate field of our sense perception. Therefore, when Sri Bhagavan advises us to withdraw our attention from all the 'second persons' and 'third persons' and to focus it
on the 'first person', what he wants us to understand is that we should withdraw our attention from all objects – both those that we recognise as being merely our own thoughts or feelings, and those that we mistake to be
objects existing outside ourself – and to fix it only on our sense of self, 'I', which we always experience as being here and now, in the precise present point in space and time.
How is the world-appearance thus swallowed by the effulgent light of self-knowledge?
If a cinema show is going on in a tent in daytime, the pictures can be seen on the screen only because of the limited light of the projector and because of the background of artificial darkness caused by the tent. If a powerful wind were to blow away the tent, the bright sunlight would flood in, the darkness would vanish and thus all the pictures on the screen would be swallowed up. Similarly, the entire picture of the world, soul and God can be seen only because of the limited light of the mind (which is a reflection of the original light of Arunachala, the real self) and because of the background of the darkness of ignorance caused by forgetfulness of self. If our attention is focused keenly on self, the light of selfknowledge (the bright light of Arunachala) will dawn, the background darkness of ignorance or maya will vanish, and thus the whole picture of the world, soul and God will be swallowed up and disappear.
This same idea is expressed by Sri Bhagavan in verse 114 of Guru
“If the small light [of a cinema projector] is merged and dissolved in the great light [of the sun], the picture show will vanish. Likewise, if the mind-light is merged and dissolved in the true light of consciousness, the false show of the appearance of the three entities [the soul, world and God] will be dissolved…”
Such was the experience of Sri Bhagavan. When the fear of the death arose in him, his attention was focused keenly on self, and thus the light of self consciousness shone forth so clearly that in its bright effulgence the entire world-appearance was swallowed, and that selfconsciousness alone remained shining as Arunachala, the supreme self. This experience is the true shining forth of grace described in verse 3 of Atma Vidya Kirtanam as
“… minnum tanul anma prakasame; arul vilasame” (the light of self will shine within oneself; this is the shining forth of grace).
Since this experience is possible only when by his light of grace Arunachala makes the heart lotus blossom, Sri Bhagavan concludes this verse as a prayer,
“Shine as the sun [of self knowledge] that will cause my mind-lotus, which is swelling [with love], to blossom fully”.
What is meant here by the blossoming of the ‘swelling heart-lotus’ (kilar ulap-pu)?
The mind, which functions as a knot (granthi) binding together as one the real self, which is consciousness (chit), and the body, which is insentient (jada), is here compared to a lotus. The state in which this knot is tightly closed, being firmly bound by the entanglement of strong worldly desires and attachments (asa-pasa), is compared to the state of a tightly closed immature lotus-bud. When by ripening bhakti this lotus-bud of the mind gradually becomes mature, the tight binding of worldly desires and attachments gradually becomes loose. This state of maturity in which the force of attachment (abhimana-vega) is thus weakened, is compared to the state of a lotus-bud which has swollen and is ready to blossom. The state of self-knowledge, in which the chit-jada-granthi is cut asunder, all its desires and attachments having been destroyed, is compared to the blossoming of the lotus.