Saturday, 17 of February of 2018

Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai – the Marital Garland of Letters

Of flowers many, flowers rare
Are garlands woven, garlands fair
But these, Thy holy ones declare
Delight not Thee
Delight Thee more garlands strung
Of Syllables of Praises sung
By those who sing with heart and tongue of piety
Self Knowers they so can sing

                                          –  Thaayumanavar (Tamil Saivaite Saint)

“Arunachala Shiva Arunachala Shiva, Thou dost uproot and annihilate the ego of those who meditate on09aruna 11 Thee in their hearts, O Arunachala” so begins the classic Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai hymn composed by Bhagavan Ramana in 1914 and sung almost every day by Him and devotees from then onwards right upto the last moments of his earthly manifestation. These sublime 108 verses brilliantlly combine the strengths of Jnana (knowledge) and Bhakthi (devotion) and thus appeal universally to every spiritual seeker and devotee of the Eternal Absolute Truth, call it God, call it the Self..

For what is Arunachala but the Heart of every being! The garland that weds us to the Akshara (the indestructible)is called Akshara manamaalai. There is a subtle word play on the word akshara as it means both letters and the indestructible.

Sri Muruganar composed a prelude to this hymn which says, “Getting rid of the mind that mistakes this perishable, insentient body as ‘I’ and turning it inwards to merge firmly in the Heart, realize the effulgence within as the Truth of non-dual pure awareness. This is the truth of Arunachala, the Heart-centre of the universe”.

Here is the story of how the Akshara Manamaalai came to be composed:

RONA019P“During the early years of Sri Bhagavan’s abode at Virupaksha, Palaniswami and others used to go into town to beg food for the small group of devotees, and oneakshara2 day they asked Sri Bhagavan for a devotional song to sing as they went. He replied that there were plenty of devotional songs composed by the Saints, many of them neglected, so there was no need to compose a new one. However, they continued to urge him and some days later he set out on Pradakshina round the Hill, taking a pencil and paper with him, and, on the way, composed the hundred and eight verses. Tears of ecstasy streamed down his face as he wrote, sometimes blinding his eyes and choking his voice. This hymn then became the great devotional inspiration of the devotees. The pain of separation and the bliss of union are mirrored in its glowing symbolism. It is composed inakshara3 Shringara Bhava (in the mood of a bride writing to her groom). The perfection of Knowledge is combined with the ecstasy of devotion. And yet this most heartfelt of poems was composed from the standpoint of the devotee, of one who is still seeking. It is also an acrostic, its hundred and eight verses beginning with the successive letters of the Tamil alphabet. Nevertheless, no poem could be more authentic. Some devotees asked Sri Bhagavan the interpretation of some of the verses and he replied: “You think it out and I will too. I didn’t think while I was composing it; I just wrote as it came.”

aksharaThe centenary day of the Arunachala Aksharamana malai was celebrated in Ramanashram on Monday 30th December. The Arunachala Akshara Manamaalai hymn was chanted non-stop by devotees from 6 am to 6 pm in the New hall. A very special atmosphere of devotion and spiritual fervour prevailed here during the chanting and one could feel the presence of Ramana singing with us and making us realise the Truth of Arunachala in our own hearts…



Aham Sphurana

Ramana02Sphurana is felt on several occasions, such as in fear, excitement etc. Although it is always and all over, yet it is felt at a particular centre and on particular occasions. It is also associated with antecedent causes and confounded with the body. Whereas, it is all alone and pure; it is the Self. If the mind be fixed on the sphurana and one senses it continuously and automatically, it is Realisation.

Again sphurana is the forestate of Realisation. It is pure. The subject and object proceed from it. If the man mistakes himself for the subject, objects must necessarily appear different from him. They are periodically withdrawn and projected, creating the world and the subject’s enjoyment of the same. If, on the other hand, the man feels himself to be the screen on which the subject and object are projected, there can be no confusion, and he can remain watching their appearance and disappearance without any perturbation to the Self.

The ‘I’ is not known in sleep. On waking, the ‘I’ is perceived associated with the body, the world and non-self in general. Such associated ‘I’ is aham vritti. When aham represents the Self only it is Aham Sphurana. This is natural to the jnani and is itself called jnana by jnanis or bhakthi by bhakthas. Though ever present, including in sleep, it is not perceived. It cannot be known in sleep all at once. It must first be realised in the waking state, for it is our true nature underlying all the three states. Efforts must be made only in the jagrat (waking state) and the Self realised here and now. It will afterwards be understood and realised to be continuous Self, uninterrupted by jagrat, swapna and sushupti (waking, dream and deep sleep states). Thus it is akhandakara vritti (unbroken experience). Vritti is used for lack of a better expression. It should not be understood to be literally a vritti. In that case, vritti will resemble an ‘ocean-like river’, which is absurd. Vritti is of short duration; it is qualified, directed consciousness; or absolute consciousness broken up by cognition of thoughts, senses etc. Vritti is the function of the mind, whereas the continuous consciousness transcends the mind. This is the natural primal state of the jnani or the liberated being. That is unbroken experience. It asserts itself when relative consciousness subsides. Aham vritti (‘I’ – thought) is broken. Aham Sphurana (the light of ‘I’ – ‘I’) is unbroken, continuous. After thoughts subside, the Light shines forth.

– Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (extract from Talks)

Sat Darshanam (Vision of Reality)

“Kartur ajnaya prapyate phalam. Karma kim param karma tajjadam”

RONA019PAmong all the literary works of Sri Ramana Maharshi, if one were to be chosen as the gospel of the sadhaka on the path of knowledge, it would no doubt be the Upadesa Saram, or the 30 verses on Reality. For, in these thirty brilliant verses set in beautiful poetry, Sri Ramana has compounded the entire truth of Advaita Vedanta as well as laid out the steps to be followed by the jnana marga sadhaka to reach the highest state of Realisation or, in Sri Ramanas words, the True state of Being, the ‘Sat’.

The title speaks for itself for it means the Essence of Teaching and is verily so. It would be no exaggeration to say that the profound study of the Upadesa Saaram would give theramanashram reader a clear understanding of the Truth and the concentrated practice of its Teachings would certainly lead  him to Realisation. The Upadesa Saram is chanted by Brahmin vedic scholars daily in the Ramanashram at 5.30 p.m. at the end of the Yajur Vedaparayanam consisting of Sri Rudram – Chamakam, Namakam, Sri Shuktham and Purusha Shuktham.

The story of how the Upadesa Saram came to be composed is quite interesting. The devotee-poet, Sri Muruganar  wanted to write 100 verses in praise of Ramana, identifying Him with Lord Shiva. The purpose was to sing the glory of Ramana by drawing a parallel with the legends around Shiva. After Muruganar had composed 70 verses, he wrote about the legend of the sages of  Daruka forest. When he came to the point where Shiva had to impart spiritual instruction to the sages, Muruganar cleverly asked Ramana to complete the final 30 verses. Of course he would not accept a no and so Ramana composed thirty succinct verses containing the Upadesa or the Teachings that Shiva imparted to the sages.

09aruna 11Now these 30 verses in Tamil are called Upadesa Undiyar. Ramana himself composed them individually in Telugu, Sanskrit and Malayalam under the title ‘Upadesa Saram’ or Essence of Teachings. The Upadesa Saram seems to have two distinct parts. The first half deals with Karma, Bhakthi and Yoga or Action, Devotion and Union respectively. The second half deals with the straight path of self enquiry, an enquiry into the nature of the mind of the individual, the tools and methods to be used in the process leading one thus to the Ultimate Realisation or Self-Knowledge which is ‘here and now’. To quote Ramana’s words “The one who is aware of his divinity, while in the body, is in a state of bliss beyond description, transcending bondage and liberation. This is here and now.” – verse 29

“Bandhamuktyat’itam param sukham. Vindat’iha jivastu daivikaha”



Na Karmana slokam

images-15The Na Karmana slokam from the Upanishad is chanted in Ramanashram every evening after the Sri Rudram vedaparayana.

 Na karmana na prajaya dhanena

tyagenaike amrta tvamanasuh

parena nakam nihitam guhayam

vibhrajate yadyatayo visanti

Neither by actions, nor by (aquiring) progeny and wealth, but by renunciation alone is immortality attained. (That Supreme State ) is far beyond the highest heaven, and the sages perceive it, hidden in the cave of the heart, shining brilliantly therein.

Vedanta vijnana suniscitarthah

samnyasa yogadyataya suddha sattvah

te brahma lokesu paranta kale

paramratah parimucyanti sarve

(Those) sages, who have a clear understanding of the principles of Vedanta, who have purified themselves by means of the yoga of renunciation,and who are (thus) established in the state of supreme beatitude, are totally liberated in Brahman at the time of dissolution of the body.

Dharam vipapam paramesma bhutam

yad pundarikam puramadhya sagastham

tatrapi dahram gaganam visokam

tasmin ya dantastatu pasidavyam

Located in the center of the city of the body is the subtle lotus of theheart, pure and untainted, which is the abode of the supreme. Meditate on the supreme being residing in that inner expanse, which is subtle and free from sorrow.

Yo vedadau svara proktah vedante ca pratistitaha

tasya prakriti linasya yah parahssa mahesvaraha

That which is described as the primal sound (om) in the beginning of the vedas, has been fully established as the supreme truth at the end of the Vedas ( the Upanishads) . The one who realizes that Supreme Principle is beyond the pale of those totally immersed in physical realities. Indeed, He is none other than the supreme Lord !

Na tatra suryo bhati na candra tarakam

nema vidyuto bhanti kutoyam agnihi

tameva bhantam anubhati sarvam

tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhati

There the sun does not shine, nor do the moon and the stars. These streaks of lightning do not shine there either, (so) what to speak of this fire? That, shining, makes all others shine. By virtue of its luminosity, all these (manifestations) are illuminated.

Sri Ramana Maharshi also revered this sloka and explained it as follows:Ramana_Maharshi-18
 Brahmaloka may be interpreted subjectively or objectively. The latter meaning requires faith in sastras which speak of such lokas, whereas the former is purely of experience and requires no external authority,. Brahmaloka means Brahma Jnana or Atma Sakshatkara.
The whole passage means:
Deathlessness is not obtained through action or begetting offspring or wealth. Some attain that state through renunciation.
The Sages that have conquered senses, attain that Sat which is more supreme than Heaven and shining all alone in the Heart.
The adepts who by renunciation and one-pointedness are pure in heart and have known for certainty of Truth by the special knowledge proclaimed by Vedanta, get fully released in the Brahmaloka from the causal Maya at the dissolution of the body.
That alone which shines as the tiny akasa void of sorrow, in the lotus heart, the tiny seat of the spotless Supreme in the inner core of the body is worthy of worship.
He alone is the Supreme Lord, who is beyond the Primal Word which is the beginning and end of the Vedas and in which merges the creative Cause.

Viewing changes

It seem that most people would prefer not to see the construction covering a portion of the bottom right view and would rather the camera were zoomed just enough to avoid it. We have now done that. The unsightly distraction is no longer visible. Many thanks for your responses.

Change to the view of Arunachala

     Unfortunately our neighbor has decided to construct a tall building in the view of our camera over our objections to the excessive height. We had previously narrowed the view to avoid seeing it but now he has continued to raise the building height. We have no recourse but to accept this intrusion into the natural view of Arunachala as it is done on his property. However, we can zoom the camera closer to eliminate the view of this unsightly construction or leave it in the view in order to have a wider image. We would like to hear from devotees their opinion. For now, we will leave the full view of Arunachala including the building.
The Arunachala-Live team

muthu's new building

Girivalam shrines – Adhi Parashakthi siddhar kovil

sakti1In the year 1966, during a cyclonic storm at Melmarvathur, a neem tree secreting sweet medicinal milk uprooted to reveal the Swayambu (an oval stone- like emanation). Legend has it that the power above revealed itself in the form of the Swayambu and proclaimed that It had transmigrated into this form and would give Oracles through the form to save the World. Thus was established the Arulmigu Adhiparasakthi Siddhar Peetam. This Peetam is situated at Melmaruvathur, 92 km south of Madras in Kanchipuram district of Tamil Nadu.

This is believed to be the place where 21 Siddhars(saints) men as well as women from different religion, had their Jeeva-Samadhis (meaning, where the Siddhars left their human forms behind, while they are still alive as holy spirits).

parasakti2The basic tenet of the Melmaruvathur Adhi Parashakthi Siddhar Peetam is “One Mother, One Humanity”, meaning that the whole human race is one and all the human beings who inhabit this vast earth are children of the Divine Mother sakti4and therefore there is no distinction amongst the human beings on any basis, be it religion, race, creed, community, caste or even gender.

The main objective for which the Siddhar Peetam strives is “the cult of Sakthi”. The principle being that the whole human race is born of one omnipotent Mother and hence the whole of mankind is one. This Shakthi cult has become increasingly popular in recent years and has led to the building of special Parashakthi temples perpetrating the principles of this cult in many major hindu religious places all over Tamilnadu. The Adhiparashakthi siddhar kovil situated on the outer girivalam Chengam road is one such temple.

sakti5The temple is located on the Chengam road in front of the Palakottu area and opposite the Shantimalai handicrafts centre. It was consecrated about two years ago. It is built over a fairly large area and boasts of a large mandapam with beautiful mandalas sculpted over the ceiling. The Parashakthi deity is represented as a graceful panchaloha idol in bronze set in a modern shrine. The walls are painted in hues of red and pink.

The Shakthi cult worship takes place twice a month at full moon and new moon during whichsakti8 times the temple is fairly packed with devotees mostly women all dressed in red and chanting loudly the praise of the Divine Mother. At other times the temple is almost deserted except at meal times when the sadhus line up to receive the free prasad that is distributed. The most attractive feature of this temple is the gentle view of Arunachala with which one is greeted as one traverses the portals of the temple..




The meaning of Pradakshina

Talk 212.    Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Maharshi observed: Pradakshina (the Hindu rite of going round the object of  worship) is “All is within me.” The true significance of the act of going round  Arunachala is said to be as effective as circuit round the world. That means that  the whole world is condensed into this Hill. The circuit round the temple of  Arunachala is equally good; and self-circuit (i.e., turning round and round) is as  good as the last. So all are contained in the Self. Says the Ribhu Gita: “I remain  fixed, whereas innumerable universes becoming concepts within my mind, rotate  within me. This meditation is the highest circuit (pradakshina).'”

Girivalam shrines – Gautama Rishi kovil

The shrine of Sage Gautama can be found on the outer girivalam road, on the left side, a few metres before one comes to the Surya lingam shrine. What used to be a derelict shrine falling to ruins has now been renovated in  a fairly correct manner, keeping intact many of the ancient aspects. After the renovation, the Kumbhaabhishekam ceremony to reconsecrate the shrine in all its sacred elements was performed on a grand scale a few months ago.

The foyer of the temple is an ancient classic mandapam with sculpted stone pillars and statues of some lesser deities. Leading from this, a small ante-chamber opens to the main shrine where-in stands the deity of Gautma Maharshi in the form of an ancient stone sculpted figure with a very fine, venerable head seeing which one feels obliged to bow and pay obeisance to this great saint of yore.

Indeed Gautama Maharishi is one of the Saptarishis (Seven Great Sages) and one of the Maharishis of Vedic times. He is revered as the inventor of the Mantras — ‘Mantra-drashtaa’, in Sanskrit. The Rig Veda has several suktas (Sanskrit: ‘hymns’) that chant with his name. He was the son of Rahugana, belonging to the line of Angiras. There is even a legend that the river Godavari is thus named because of its connection with Gautama. He had two sons by name Vamadeva and Nodhas. His wife isAhalya, the ‘mind born daughter’ (Sanskrit: manasa putri) of Brahma. The puranas contain the story wherein it is described how Gautama won the hand of Ahalya by circumambulating the divine cow in order to fulfill the stipulation of Brahma that whoever first goes round the whole Earth would win the hand of Ahalya. The ‘chief priest’ of King Janaka by name Shatananda was the son of Gautama and Ahalya. Gautama’s sixty-year long penance is mentioned in the Mahabharatha. Among the renowned deeds of Gautama there is one in the Narada purana which describes the story of the 12-year famine during which Gautama fed all the Rishis and saved them from starvation!

The Puranas also say that sage Gautama came and worshipped Arunachala at one time and Ramana speaks of this in his Aksharamana maalai verse 26 “Gautamar potrum karunai maamalaiye kadaikannil thaalvai Arunachala” – “Arunachala, compassion incarnate in the form of a glorious mighty hill, praised and worshipped by the Sage Gautama of great penance, turn thy gracious glance of grace upon me, shower me with thy grace and govern me !”

Samadhi – Kevala and Nirvikalpa

Disciple : I maintain that the physical body of the man sunk in samadhi as a result of unbroken contemplation of the Self becomes motionless for that reason. It may be active or inactive. The mind fixed in such contemplation will not be affected by the body or the senses being restless. A disturbance of the mind is not always the fore-runner of physical activity. Another man asserts that physical unrest certainly prevents activity. Another man asserts that physical unrest certainly prevents Nirvikalpa Samadhi or unbroken contemplation. What is your opinion? You are the standing proof of my statement.

Sri Ramana Maharshi: Both of you are right, you refer to Sahaja Nirvikalpa and the other refers to Kevala Nirvikalpa. In the one case, the mind lies immersed in the Light of the Self (whereas the same lies in the darkness of ignorance in deep sleep). The subject discriminates one from the other, – Samadhi, stirring up from Samadhi, and activity thereafter, unrest of the body, of the sight, of the vital force and of the mind, the cognization of objects and activity, are all obstructions to him.

In Sahaja, however, the mind has resolved itself into the Self and has been lost. Differences and obstructions mentioned above do not therefore exist here. The activitiies of such a being are like the feeding of a somnolent boy, perceptible to the onlooker (but not to the subject). The driver sleeping on his moving cart is not aware of the motion of the cart, because his mind is sunk in darkness. Similarly the Sahaja Jnani remains unaware of his bodily activities because his mind is dead – having been resolved in the ecstasy of Chid Ananda (Self).

The two words contemplation and samadhi have been used loosely in the question. Contemplation is a forced mental process, whereas Samadhi lies beyond effort.

from Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, 13th March 1936