Saturday, April 16, 2022

Aksharamanamalai - Prefatory Verse

taruṇā ruṇamaṇi kiraṇā valinikar
taruma kṣaramaṇa makiḻmālai
teruṇā ṭiyatiru vaṭiyār terumaral
teḷiyap paravutal poruḷākak
karuṇā karamuṉi ramaṇā riyaṉuva
kaiyiṉāṟ coliyatu katiyāka
varuṇā calameṉa vakamē yaṟivoṭu
māḻvār civaṉula kāḷvārē.


The meaning of ‘Aksharamanamalai,’ is the praise and worship of Lord Arunachala. (Out of the joy which arose in him on their behalf ), our master Ramana wrote it to dispel the mental confusion of true devotees who steadfastly sought true realisation (to which that mental confusion was an impediment). Those who trust in it as their salvation, (thinking) ‘Arunachala’ (in their minds) and subside into the Heart with full awareness, will, through divine grace, come to rule in the realm of Sivam. - Robert Butler

Those who sink into the Heart with the thought ‘Arunachala' - taking as a means this joyful Akshara - mana - malai (the bridal garland of letters), which is like a series of golden rays of the rising sun and which was sungin divine ecstasy by our Guru, Muni Ramana, the Embodiment of Grace, as a refuge, as a prayer to dispel the ignorance of good devotees who seek enlightenment - will rule Siva-Loka (that is, they will become one with Lord Siva Himself).  - Michael James and Sadhu Om


taruṇa aruṇa maṇi… makiḻmālai – ‘a fragrant garland decorated with makil flowers in the form of letters, which emits a radiance like that of the clusters of rays from the jewel-like disc of the young sun.’

taruṇa aruṇan – ‘the morning sun.’

maṇi [‘jewel’] (used figuratively for ‘the disc of the sun’ by ākupeyar – metonymy) [means] ‘the sun as the jewel of the heavens, a flawless, unpierced gem.’

kiraṇa āvali – ‘clusters of rays.’

nikar tarum – ‘which shines’; (‘nikar’ [means] ‘brightness, splendour.’) ‘As soon as she said, 

“Why don’t you go and pick some bright (nikar) flowers?”’ – Maṇimēkalai, [3:15]; 

if the word ‘nikar’ is taken in its usual sense of ‘likeness, comparison,’ there is no great difference in the meaning. The ‘[Tamil] letters’ are compared to the rays of the sun and the ‘garland’ made out of them is compared to the clusters of the sun’s rays.

Further, akṣara maṇa makiḻ mālai [means] ‘a garland woven with letters as its flowers’ and ‘garlands symbolically exchanged by the bride and bridegroom in the marriage ceremony (ref); also there is the meaning ‘garland which affords delight (makizh) to them mind,’ ‘fullness of the heart’; these meanings are all intentional double-meanings (iraṭṭura moḻital); here ‘joy’ [means] ‘the union as one with the form of Arunachala.’

Note by Muruganar (ref): It is clear from [v. 108], ‘Giving me your garland, Arunachala Ramana, grant your grace by wearing my garland,’ that Bhagavan himself intended the words ‘maṇamālai’ to be understood in this sense.

teruḷ [means] ‘true understanding’; he says, ‘teruḷ nāṭiya tiru aṭiyār’ in the sense that it is those who seek true understanding who possess the quality of holiness; it is as if to say that they are devotees possessed of a fortunate destiny.

nāṭal [‘seeking’] [means] ‘yearning for with intense desire.’

terumaral [is] the mental delusion which obscures the truth of the supreme reality, the ground of our being, so that it cannot be perceived as it really is. This occurs through the inner and outer attachments that arise as the ideas of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ in the body and the world, which consist of a multitude of imaginary names and forms, appearing in an illusory manner, like a conjuring trick, and then disappearing again.

paravutal [is] ‘praising,’ ‘worshipping.’

poruḷ [means] ‘fruit, benefit, meaning.’

karuṇā ākara(ṉ) – ‘the one which exists as the ocean of grace, the dwelling place of grace.’

muni – ‘one practised in the discipline of reflection.’

āriyan – ‘one worthy of being worshipped by those who are virtuous and holy.’

uvakaiyināl coliyatu can also mean, ‘that which he said out of the transports of overpowering bliss, which flooded into his heart, welled up and overflowed through the grace of Arunachala.’ The words ‘joy[-giving] fragrant garland of letters’ should be taken with [i.e. in apposition to] the words, ‘that which was spoken out of joy by the venerable Ramana,’ [i.e. ‘the fragrant garland which is that which Ramana spoke’]. It is declared that that garland is the way for those who are desirous of liberation to subside into the Heart with an awareness which is of the form of meditation upon Arunachala.

kati [means] ‘guide, leader, fellow traveller.’ No one can become free of their delusion and attain true realisation unless they worship within their hearts Arunachala, who is the fiery mass of the light of consciousness which through its very nature completely destroys the darkness of ignorance which has overspread the heart. Thus meditation on Arunachala is indispensable for the blessed devotees who seek clear understanding. According to Arunachala Mahatmyam it is ruṇa (the veiling ignorance [which gives rise to] the bondage of karma) that binds all living beings in the delusion of worldly existence, and that through the sight of which it will come to an end is only Aruṇāchala.

Because through their very nature they bind [the beings in] all the worlds, ruinous deeds are ruṇa (bondage). This indeed is the radiant Arunachala, through the mere sight of which all those deeds, which are the dwelling place of that bondage, will cease to exist
Bhagavan also gives ‘the concentrated essence (ghana) of being-consciousness-bliss,’ ‘the union of god and soul,’ and ‘that which is of the form of radiant golden light’ (svarṇa tejomaya) as meanings for the word ‘Arunachala.’

The meaning of [the name] ‘a-ru-ṇa’ is ‘being-consciousness-bliss,’ and also, ‘That art thou,’ which signifies the union of the soul and the Supreme (jiva and Siva). ‘achala’ signifies perfection. So meditate on Arunachala, shining with the lustre of ruddy gold, the very thought of whom bestows liberation.
– Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai, v. 2.

akam, [Tamil] ‘uḷḷam’ – ‘the heart’ [is] the birthplace of the mind. Also, taking the ‘ē’ of ‘akamē’ and appending it to ‘aruṇācalam’, we get the meaning, ‘Arunchala indeed am I.’

Not seeing him as other, but knowing I am He,

to contemplate, and not differentiate, fly unthii fly,

is, of all these, the highest state, fly unthii fly.

– Upadesha Unthiyar, v. 8.


What is being referred to here is ‘the surrender of the self’ (ātma samarpaṇa), ‘the loss of one’s self,’ – taking refuge in the Supreme – which is the total renunciation of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and which arises from the absence of awareness in oneself of anything that is other than the pure, non-dual Self. In this state, that which flashes forth and shines within the Heart is the experience of Brahman, the realisation of the pure Self, Atma Swarupa. The following verse from Nammalvar’s Tiruvāymoḻi (II-209) should be taken as an indication of the meaning being expressed here:

Not being able to know my [true] Self,
I was caught up in thoughts of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. 
Our radiant Lord, worshipped by the celestials, 
I am only you, and what is mine is yours alone.

Further, arivoṭum āltal – ‘subsiding yet with full awareness’ refers to the cessation of the states of sleep and waking, xxiii [that is to say] the state in which the mind has subsided (laya), and the state in which it projects the world (vikṣepa). In this state, which is the state intervening between the two aforementioned states, and in which the mind is as sharp as the tip of a sword, self-enquiry arises in the spiritually mature mind through the Lord’s grace; it is this which entirely destroys the suffering caused by the primordial veiling which is the substratum of all that [occurs in those two states]. Then, as these obstacles fall away, the jiva, through the destruction of the antagonistic ego, ‘I’, whose form is delusion, sinks and lies peacefully merged in the nature of Arunachala-Brahman, which is not only the Heart of the jiva itself, but of all that is. This occurs through the experience of the Self, in which it is known, ‘Brahmaivaham’ (‘Brahman indeed am I’) or ‘That supreme Reality of the form of pure consciousness is I’. This state of waking sleep (jagrat suṣupti) is called the state of turiya (the fourth state).

civan ulaku āḷvār – ‘they will rule in the realm of Siva’ is as if to say, ‘they will succeed in attaining the unsurpassed bliss of liberation, eternal and absolute.

Note by Muruganar (xxiii): Sleep (laya) masks the truth of the Self, whose nature is pure consciousness, preventing it from shining out, and the waking state (vikṣepa) projects the imaginary differentiated phenomena, consisting of the triads (seer, seeing, thing seen etc.), like a moving picture show, upon the changeless screen that is the ground of all that is, thus entirely concealing it, so that to the reflected consciousness [of the jiva], they are perceived as real. Thus sleep and waking (laya and vikṣepa) are the obstacles to the experience of the Self whose nature is undifferentiated consciousness and unsurpassed bliss. Whilst in sleep the mind subsides in the Heart in darkness, and in laya it subsides in light, there being no other difference between them, in that both of them mask that which is their own supreme Reality, the pure being-consciousness of the Self, so that it is not known to consciousness. When it appears as the phenomenal world, the Self never shines alone as it really is, as the pure ‘I’, as undivided, non-dual, absolute being-consciousness. Rather does it appear always in the form of duality along with the brilliant imaginary display created by the mind, as ‘I’ (the seer) and ‘this’ (the world), the two being inseparably bound together. Therefore the consciousness (caitanya) that appears in the waking state is reflected consciousness (cidābāsa caitanya) and the associated knowledge of multiplicity is a false appearance of knowledge. [That is to say] the consciousness of the waking state is an unreal consciousness, the imaginary creation of maya. ‘If the mind falls asleep, awaken it. Then if it starts to wander, make it subside. If you attain the state where there is neither sleep nor movement of the mind, remain unmovingly in that state.’ (Devi Kālottara, v. 39, in The Collected Works of Sri Ramana Maharshi.) Know through such teachings as this, communicated by the great sages to spiritual aspirants, that it is necessary, through assiduous practice, to establish the mind in the state that is intermediate between those two states.

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