Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai
- உபதேச வுந்தியார் (Upadēśa Undiyār)
- உள்ளது நாற்பது (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu)
- உள்ளது நாற்பது – அனுபந்தம் (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu – Anubandham)
- ஏகான்ம பஞ்சகம் (Ēkāṉma Pañcakam)
- அப்பளப் பாட்டு (Appaḷa Pāṭṭu)
- ஆன்ம வித்தை (Āṉma-Viddai)
Introductionஉபதேச நூன்மாலை (Upadēśa Nūṉmālai), the ‘Garland of Texts of Spiritual Teachings’, which is the second section of ஸ்ரீ ரமண நூற்றிரட்டு (Śrī Ramaṇa Nūṯṟiraṭṭu), the Tamil ‘Collected Works of Śrī Ramaṇa’, is a collection of the principal philosophical poems that he composed. The following are the six poems that are included in it:
உபதேச வுந்தியார் (Upadēśa-v-Undiyār)
உபதேச வுந்தியார் (Upadēśa-v-Undiyār) is a Tamil poem of thirty verses that Sri Ramana composed in 1927 in answer to the request of Sri Muruganar, and that he later composed in Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam under the title Upadēśa Sāram, the ‘Essence of Spiritual Instructions’.
In these thirty verses Sri Ramana teaches us in a concise but extremely clear manner the exact means by which we can attain our natural state of true self-knowledge and thereby be liberated from the illusory bondage of karma or action, which appears to exist so long as we mistake ourself to be this mind and body, the instruments that do action.
He begins by saying in verse 1 that since action is jaḍa (non-conscious), it does not give fruit by itself but only in accordance with the ordainment of God, and then in verse 2 he teaches us that no action can give liberation, since every action leaves a ‘seed’ or vāsanā — a propensity or impulse to do such an action again — and thereby immerses and drowns us in the vast ocean of action.
However, though no action can be a direct means to liberation, in verse 3 he teaches us that if we do action without any desire for its fruit but motivated only by love for God, it will purify our mind and thereby enable us to recognise the correct path to liberation. Thus he teaches us that the practice of niṣkāmya karma or ‘desireless action’ is not a separate yōga or spiritual path but is only a preliminary stage of the path of bhakti or ‘devotion’, because if we practise any form of niṣkāmya karma, what will purify our mind is not the karma itself, but only the love and desirelessness with which we do it.
Then in verses 4 to 7 he discusses the various kinds of niṣkāmya karma — actions that we can do by body, speech or mind without desire but only for the love of God — and he grades them according to their efficacy in purifying our mind. Actions that we do by mind are more purifying than those that we do by speech, and those that we do by speech are more purifying than those that we do by body. Thus the most effective action that we can do to purify our mind is dhyāna or meditation (upon God), and in verse 7 he says that uninterrupted meditation is more effective than intermittent meditation (that is, meditation that is interrupted by other thoughts).
However, so long as we meditate upon God as something other than ourself, our meditation is only a mental activity — a karma — because it involves a movement of our attention away from ourself towards the thought of God, which is other than ourself. Therefore in verse 8 he teaches us rather than anya-bhāva (meditation upon God as other than ourself), ananya-bhāva (meditation upon him as none other than ourself) is the best of all forms of meditation.
That is, meditation upon God as ‘I’, our own essential self, will purify our mind more effectively than meditation upon any other thing. Since such ananya-bhāva or self-meditation does not involve any movement of our attention away from ourself, it is not an action or karma, but is our true state of ‘just being’ — our natural state of clear thought-free self-conscious being, in which we do not rise as a mind (a separate object-knowing consciousness) to think of or experience anything other than ourself.
Since God is truly nothing other than our own essential self — our true self-conscious being, ‘I am’ — in verse 9 Sri Ramana says that being in our sat-bhāva (our ‘true being’ or ‘state of being’), which transcends bhāvanā (imagination or meditation as a mental activity), by the strength of our ananya-bhāva or self-meditation, is para-bhakti tattva — the true state of supreme devotion. In other words, though the path of bhakti or devotion begins with the practice of niṣkāmya karma (acts of love done without desire but as an expression of our love for God alone), it finally culminates in the thought-free and therefore action-free state of true being, which alone is the real form of God.
Sri Ramana then concludes this first series of verses by saying in verse 10 that subsiding and abiding thus in God, who is our true self and the source from which we have risen as this seemingly separate consciousness that we call ‘mind’ or ‘ego’, is the true practice and goal not only of [niṣkāmya] karma and bhakti, but also of yōga (the path of rāja yōga, which consists of breath-restraint and various other exercises aimed at restraining and subduing the mind) and jñāna (the path of ‘knowledge’, which is the direct means by which we can know ourself as we really are).
In verses 11 to 15 he explains the essence of rāja yōga, with particular reference to the practice of prāṇāyāma or ‘breath-restraint’. In verses 11 and 12 he explains that restraining the breath is a means to restrain the mind, because like two branches of a single tree, breath and mind share a common root or activating power, so when one subsides, the other will also subside. However, in verse 13 he points out that subsidence of mind is of two types, laya or abeyance, which is temporary, and nāśa or destruction, which is permanent.
He begins verse 14 with the words ஒடுக்க வளியை ஒடுங்கும் உளத்தை (oḍukka vaḷiyai oḍuṅgum uḷattai), which mean ‘mind, which subsides when [we] restrain [our] breath’, implying that the mind will subside only temporarily (that is, not in nāśa but only in laya) when the breath is restrained. He then says that when we send our mind on ஓர் வழி (ōr vaṙi), its form will cease, die or be destroyed (that is, it will subside not just in laya but in nāśa).
The word ஓர் (ōr) is both a form of ஒரு (oru), which means ‘one’ or ‘unique’, and the root of a verb that means ‘investigate’, ‘examine’, ‘scrutinise’, ‘consider attentively’ or ‘know’, so ஓர் வழி (ōr vaṙi) can mean either ஒரு வழி (oru vaṙi), the ‘one path’ or ‘unique path’, or ஓரும் வழி (ōrum vaṙi), the ‘path of investigating’ or ‘path of knowing’ (that is, the path of investigating and knowing our essential self).
Thus, just as he teaches us in verse 8 that the paths of niṣkāmya karma and bhakti must lead to and eventually merge in the path of jñāna, which is the simple practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, so he teaches us in verse 14 that the path of yōga must likewise lead to and eventually merge in the path of jñāna. In verse 8 he describes this practice of ātma-vicāra as ananya-bhāva, ‘meditation upon that which is not other [than ourself]’, and in verse 14 he describes it as ōr vaṙi, the ‘one path’ or ‘path of investigating and knowing [ourself]’.
As Sri Ramana once said, though various paths may help to purify our mind and thereby lead us close to the citadel of true self-knowledge, in order to actually enter that citadel we must pass through the only gateway, which is the practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, because we cannot know ourself as we really are unless we keenly scrutinise ourself with an intense love to discover ‘who am I?’.
In verse 15 he concludes this series of verses about the path of yōga by saying that for the great ātma-yōgi, whose mind has thereby been destroyed and who is thus established permanently as the reality, no action exists to do. That is, like the actions that constitute the path of niṣkāmya karma and the initial stages of the path of bhakti, the actions that constitute the initial stages of the path of yōga must eventually lead us to the practice of ātma-vicāra, which alone will destroy our mind and thereby establish us in our natural state of action-free being.
Since our mind is the root cause of all karma or action, when it subsides all actions will subside along with it, and when it ceases to exist all actions will cease forever. Like our mind, which causes it to appear, action or ‘doing’ is an unnatural and unreal adjunct that we have superimposed upon our real nature, which is simple non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am’. Therefore when our mind is dissolved and destroyed by the clear light of pure thought-free self-consciousness — which we can uncover and expose only by means of the practice of ātma-vicāra or vigilant self-attentiveness — all karma or action will be dissolved and destroyed along with it.
Having thus exposed the unreality of karma and its inability to give true self-knowledge in the first fifteen verses, in the next fifteen verses Sri Ramana discusses in greater detail the action-free path of jñāna — which is ātma-vicāra, the simple non-dual practice of just being keenly and vigilantly self-attentive — and our natural state of being, which we can experience only by means of such self-attentiveness.
In verse 16 he gives us a clear and practical definition of true knowledge, saying that it is the non-dual knowledge that we will experience when our mind ceases to know வெளி விடயங்கள் (veḷi viḍayaṅgaḷ) — external viṣayas (objects or experiences), that is, anything other than ourself — and instead knows only its own essential ஒளி உரு (oḷi uru) or ‘form of light’, that is, its true form of consciousness, ‘I am’.
In verse 17 he affirms the unreality of our mind and teaches us the direct means by which we can experience its non-existence and the reality that underlies its false appearance, saying that when we scrutinise its form without forgetting — that is, without pramāda or self-negligence — we will discover that there is no such thing as ‘mind’ at all. This is for everyone, he says, the நேர் மார்க்கம் (nēr mārggam) — the straight, direct, correct and proper path or means to experience true self-knowledge.
In verse 18 he clarifies exactly what he means in verse 17 by மனத்தின் உரு (maṉattiṉ uru), the ‘mind’s form’ that we should investigate or scrutinise, saying that thoughts alone constitute the mind, and that of all thoughts the thought ‘I’ is the மூலம் (mūlam), the root, base, foundation, origin or source. That is, that which thinks all other thoughts is itself a thought — our primal thought ‘I’. Whereas all other thoughts are non-conscious objects, which do not know anything, this root thought ‘I’ is the conscious subject that thinks and knows them. Since this thinking thought ‘I’ is the source and foundation of all other thoughts, and since it is therefore the only essential element of our mind — the only element that endures so long as our mind is active — what we call ‘mind’ is in essence just this first thought ‘I’.
Thus the meaning clearly implied by verse 18 is that the practice of மனத்தின் உருவை மறவாது உசாவுதல் (maṉattiṉ uruvai maṟavādu usāvudal) or ‘scrutinising the form of the mind without forgetting [that is, without pramāda, negligence, inadvertence, carelessness or slackness in our self-attentiveness]’ that he prescribes in verse 17 is the effort that we must make to vigilantly scrutinise our primal thought ‘I’, which is the only essential form of our mind. This effort to scrutinise ‘I’ is the true practice of ātma-vicāra or ‘self-investigation’, which he calls jñāna-vicāra or ‘knowledge-investigation’ in the next verse.
In verse 19 he explains both the practice and the result of ஞான விசாரம் (jñāna-vicāram) — ‘knowledge-investigation’ or scrutiny of our primal knowledge, ‘I am’ — saying that when we scrutinise within ourself, ‘what is the source from which our mind rises as I?’, this false ‘I’ will die.
In verse 20 he says that in the place (our ‘heart’ or the innermost core of our being) where this false ‘I’ thus merges, the one reality will certainly ‘shine forth’ (that is, will be experienced) spontaneously as ‘I [am] I’, and that that, which is our real self, is itself the pūrṇa or whole (the infinite totality or fullness of sat-cit-ānanda — being, consciousness and happiness).
In verse 21 he says that this infinite reality that we will thus experience as ‘I [am] I’ is always the true import of the word ‘I’, because in sleep, even though our finite ‘I’ (our mind or ego) has ceased to exist, we ourself do not cease to exist. That is, since we exist even in the absence of our mind in sleep, and since we cannot truly be anything in whose absence we continue to exist, our real self (the true import of the word ‘I’) must be that which we are at all times and in all states. That is only our essential consciousness of being, ‘I am’, which exists permanently — in waking, dream and dreamless sleep — and which we will experience clearly only when we scrutinise our mind and discover that it truly does not exist as such, because its sole reality is this essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’, which underlies and supports its false appearance (just as a rope is the sole reality that underlies and supports the false appearance of an imaginary snake seen lying on the ground in the dim light of dusk).
In verse 22 he says that since our ‘five sheaths’ — our body, life, mind and intellect, and the seeming ‘darkness’ or absence of knowledge that we experience in sleep — are all jaḍa (non-conscious) and asat (non-existent or unreal), they are not our real ‘I’, which is cit (consciousness) and sat (being or reality).
In verse 23 he continues to discuss the subject of consciousness and being (cit and sat), which are the nature of our real ‘I’, and affirms that they are not two separate things but are actually one absolutely non-dual reality. That is, he says that since there is no consciousness other than being to know being, being itself is consciousness, and consciousness alone is ‘we’ (our true self or essential being, ‘I am’).
In verses 24 to 26 he discusses the true nature of God, how we are related to him and how we can experience him as he really is. In verse 24 he says that in their true nature, which is being, God and souls are only one substance, essence or reality, and that what makes them appear to be different is only the souls’ consciousness of adjuncts. That is, because we imagine certain inessential adjuncts, such as our body and mind, to be our real self, we experience ourself as being separate from God, who is actually none other than our essential being or true self, ‘I am’.
Therefore in verse 25 Sri Ramana teaches us that if we set aside all our adjuncts and know ourself as we really are, that itself is knowing God, because God exists and shines as ‘I am’, our own essential self.
In verse 26 he clarifies what he means in verse 25 by the words ‘knowing [our] self’, saying that since self is absolutely non-dual, ‘knowing self’ is not a dualistic state of objective knowing, but is merely the state of ‘being self’. That is, since our real self is eternally self-conscious, to know ourself as we really are we need not do anything, but simply need to be as we really are — that is, clearly conscious of nothing other than ourself, our own essential being, ‘I am’.
Since knowing self is only being self, and since God is nothing other than self, Sri Ramana concludes this series of three verses by ending verse 26 with the words தன்மய நிட்டை ஈது (taṉmaya niṭṭhai idu), which mean ‘this [state of knowing and being our real self] is tanmaya-niṣṭhā [the state of being firmly established as tat or ‘it’, the one absolute reality called God or brahman]’. That is, since God is our own real self, knowing and being self is knowing and being God. In other words, we can experience God as he really is only being as he really is, and we can be as he really is only by ceasing to be this mind or ego, the false finite consciousness that thinks and knows things that seem to be other than itself.
In verse 27 he further affirms the absolutely non-dual and therefore ‘otherless’ nature of true self-knowledge, saying that the knowledge which is completely devoid of both knowledge and ignorance (about anything other than ourself) is alone true knowledge, and that this true self-knowledge is the sole reality, because in truth nothing (other than ourself) exists for us to know.
In verse 28 he affirms the infinite and eternal nature of true self-knowledge, and also affirms that our real self is not only infinite being and infinite consciousness but also infinite happiness, saying that if we know ourself by scrutinising ‘what is the real nature of myself?’ (‘who am I?’), then we will discover ourself to be beginningless, endless and unbroken sat-cit-ānanda (being-consciousness-bliss).
That is, since self-knowledge is our true nature, it has no beginning or end, either in time, space or any other dimension, and it has no break or interruption. Any dimension such as time or space, or any beginning, end or break in such a dimension, is only an imagination created by our mind and therefore exists only in our mind, so when we know ourself as we really are and thereby discover this mind to be truly non-existent, we will know that no dimension or any beginning, end or break has ever really existed.
Therefore, since the state of true self-knowledge (which is also called the state of ‘liberation’ from self-ignorance) has no beginning, end or break, no state of self-ignorance (or ‘bondage’) has ever truly existed. Our present so-called ‘bondage’ of self-ignorance and the so-called ‘liberation’ from that ‘bondage’ that we seek to attain by knowing ourself as we really are, are both mere thoughts, which appear to be real only in the distorted perspective of our mind.
Liberation would be real only if the bondage from which we wish to be liberated were real, and bondage would be real only if the mind that is bound were real, but since this mind is an unreal imagination, its present bondage and future liberation are equally unreal. Therefore in verse 29 Sri Ramana teaches us that the supreme happiness of true self-knowledge transcends the false duality of ‘bondage’ and ‘liberation’, saying that abiding permanently in this state of true self-knowledge as para-sukha (supreme or transcendent happiness), which is devoid of both bondage and liberation, is abiding as God has commanded (or abiding in the service of God).
Finally Sri Muruganar concludes this poem by saying in verse 30 that Sri Ramana, who is our real self, has taught us that our natural state (of thought-free non-dual self-conscious being, ‘I am I’), which is what we will experience if we know that which remains after ‘I’ (our mind of ego) has ceased to exist, alone is true tapas (austerity, asceticism or self-denial).
Thus Upadēśa Undiyār (or Upadēśa Sāram, the ‘Essence of [all] Spiritual Instructions’, as it is called in Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam) is a clear, precise and complete exposition of the means by which we can experience our natural state of pristine, thought-free and absolutely egoless self-conscious being.
However, though Upadēśa Undiyār is without doubt (along with Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu) one of the two most important works in Upadēśa Nūṉmālai, it is not included in this book, ஸ்ரீ ரமணோபதேச நூன்மாலை (Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai), because the translation of it that Sri Sadhu Om and I wrote was published as a separate book in 1986 and has subsequently been reprinted, and is also available as a PDF (a link to which is given below in the final section of this page, Upadēśa Undiyār — printed book and PDF copy).
உள்ளது நாற்பது (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu)
உள்ளது நாற்பது (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu), the ‘Forty [Verses] on That Which Is’, is a Tamil poem that Sri Ramana composed in July and August 1928 when Sri Muruganar asked him to teach us the nature of the reality and the means by which we can attain it.
In the title of this poem, the word உள்ளது (uḷḷadu) is a verbal noun that means ‘that which is’ or ‘being’ (either in the sense of ‘existence’ or in the sense of ‘existing’), and is an important term that is often used in spiritual or philosophical literature to denote ‘reality’, ‘truth’, ‘that which is real’ or ‘that which really is’. Hence in a spiritual context the meaning clearly implied by uḷḷadu is ātman, our ‘real self’ or ‘spirit’.
Though நாற்பது (nāṟpadu) means ‘forty’, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu actually consists of a total of forty-two verses, two of which form the maṅgalam or ‘auspicious introduction’ and the remaining forty of which form the nūl or main ‘text’.
Like many of his other works, Sri Ramana composed Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu in a poetic metre called veṇbā, which consists of four lines, with four feet in each of the first three lines and three feet in the last line, but since devotees used to do regular pārāyaṇa or recitation of his works in his presence, he converted the forty-two verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu into a single verse in kaliveṇbā metre by lengthening the third foot of the fourth line of each verse and adding a fourth foot to it, thereby linking it to the next verse and making it easy for devotees to remember the continuity while reciting.
Since the one-and-a-half feet that he thus added to the fourth line of each verse may contain one or more words, which are usually called the ‘link words’, they not only facilitate recitation but also enrich the meaning of either the preceding or the following verse.
Since Sri Ramana formed this kaliveṇbā version of உள்ளது நாற்பது (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu) by linking the forty-two verses into a single verse, the term நாற்பது (nāṟpadu) or ‘forty’ is not appropriate for it, so he renamed it உபதேசக் கலிவெண்பா (Upadēśa Kaliveṇbā).
An English translation by Sri Sadhu Om and me of this kaliveṇbā version of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu was published on pages 217 to 222 of the October 1981 issue of The Mountain Path, and in May 2008 a copy of it was posted by David Godman in his blog under the title Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Kaliveṇbā.
In the first verse of the maṅgalam or ‘auspicious introduction’ to Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu (which I have discussed in more detail in the introduction to this book, Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai, and also in a separate article, The crest-jewel of Sri Ramana’s teachings) Sri Ramana summarises in an extremely clear and powerful manner the essence of his entire teaching about the nature of the reality and the means by which we can attain it, and thus this verse is in effect both a summary of the central import of Upadēśa Undiyār and an introduction to the central theme of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.
In the first two lines of this verse he teaches us the nature of reality, firstly by asking a rhetorical question, ‘உள்ளது அலது உள்ளவுணர்வு உள்ளதோ?’ (uḷḷadu aladu uḷḷa-v-uṇarvu uḷḷadō?), which means ‘other than being, does being-consciousness exist?’ and which implies that (as he taught us in verse 23 of Upadēśa Undiyār) our consciousness of being, ‘I am’, is not other than our being itself. In other words, our reality or being is self-conscious — that is, it itself knows its own being, not by the aid of any other thing, but simply by being itself.
In the second sentence of this verse he continues to explain the nature of reality, firstly with a subsidiary clause in which he says ‘உள்ளபொருள் உள்ளல் அற உள்ளத்தே உள்ளதால்’ (uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal-aṟa uḷḷattē uḷḷadāl), which means ‘since [this] being-substance exists in [our] heart devoid of thought’, and secondly with a relative clause, ‘உள்ளம் எனும்’ (uḷḷam eṉum), which means ‘which is called heart [or ‘am’]’ and which qualifies the term உள்ளபொருள் (uḷḷa-poruḷ) or ‘being-substance’ in the main clause.
That is, the reality or true being is not only self-conscious but also devoid of thought, and it exists in our ‘heart’ (the innermost core of ourself) as our ‘heart’. In other words, the reality is our true self — our own essential being, which we always experience as ‘I am’.
After explaining that the nature of the reality is such, in the last two lines of this verse he teaches us the means by which we can experience it as it is, firstly by concluding the second sentence with the question ‘உள்ளபொருள் உள்ளல் எவன்?’ (uḷḷa-poruḷ uḷḷal evaṉ?), which means ‘how to [or who can] think of [or meditate upon] [this] being-substance?’ and secondly by answering ‘உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே உள்ளல் உணர்’ (uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē uḷḷal uṇar), which means ‘know that only being in [our] heart as it is [or as we are] [is] thinking [or meditating] [upon our essential being-substance]’.
The key words in this final sentence are உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே (uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē), which means, ‘only being as it is [or as we are]’. Here உள்ளபடி (uḷḷapaḍi), ‘as it is’ or ‘as we are’, means ‘as [our] being-substance is’, and since our ‘being-substance’ (our essential self) is self-conscious and devoid of thought, in this context these words ‘only being as it is’ clearly imply ‘only being self-conscious and devoid of thought’.
Thus in this verse Sri Ramana teaches us that we can truly meditate upon and experience the one absolute reality, which is our own self-conscious being, ‘I am’, by just being exclusively self-conscious — that is, clearly conscious of nothing other than our own essential being, ‘I am’ — and therefore free of all thoughts.
Since no thought can exist unless we think it, and since we cannot think any thought without attending to it, when our entire attention is concentrated only on ourself, no thought can exist. Therefore we can ‘be as it is [or as we are]’ simply by being keenly self-attentive and thereby excluding all thoughts of anything other than ourself. This is the simple essence of the practical teachings of Sri Ramana.
Whereas in the first verse of the maṅgalam Sri Ramana explains this practice of ‘just being as we [really] are’ in terms of the path of jñāna (knowledge) or ātma-vicāra (self-investigation), in the second verse of the maṅgalam he explains it in terms of the path of bhakti (devotion) or self-surrender. That is, when we are vigilantly self-attentive, we thereby exclude not only all thoughts but also the thinker of those thoughts — our thinking mind itself — so this practice of ātma-vicāra is the only truly effective means by which we can surrender our false self entirely, as Sri Ramana says in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], not giving even the slightest room to the rising of any other cintanā [thought] except ātma-cintanā [self-contemplation or self-attentiveness], alone is giving ourself to God. ...
In the second verse of the maṅgalam Sri Ramana says that mature people who have an intense inner fear of death will take refuge at the feet of God, who is devoid of death and birth, depending upon him as their sole protection, and that by their surrender they will experience death (the death or dissolution of their finite self). He then ends the verse by asking a rhetorical question that implies that having died to their mortal self and thereby become one with the immortal spirit, they will never be troubled again by any thought of death.
In this verse the words மரணபவமில்லா மகேசன் சரணமே சார்வர் (maraṇa-bhavam-illā mahēśaṉ caraṇamē sārvar), which literally mean ‘they will take refuge at [depend upon or surrender to] the feet of the great lord, who is devoid of death and birth’, are a graphic description of the state of complete self-surrender — that is, the state in which we surrender our false finite self in the clear light of our true infinite self.
The term மரணபவமில்லா மகேசன் (maraṇa-bhavam-illā mahēśaṉ), ‘the great lord [or God], who is devoid of death and birth’, is a poetic description of our eternal self, and his சரணம் (caranam) or ‘feet’ is our natural state of absolutely clear non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’. The verb சார்வர் (sārvar), ‘they will take refuge at [depend upon or surrender to]’, denotes the state in which our mind turns towards and merges in this true self-consciousness. Thus these words denote the same state of thought-free self-conscious being that he described in the previous verse as உள்ளத்தே உள்ளபடி உள்ளதே (uḷḷattē uḷḷapaḍi uḷḷadē) or ‘only being in [our] heart as it is [or as we are]’.
In the first verse of the nūl or main ‘text’ he establishes the truth that there is one absolute reality underlying the false appearance of all multiplicity and that everything is nothing other than this one reality, which is our own true self. That is, he says that because we see the world, accepting ஓர் முதல் (ōr mudal) — one primal reality, origin, source, base, substratum, ground or first cause — with a ‘power that is many’ (that is, a power that can appear as if it were many different things) is indeed certain, and that this ‘one primal reality’, which is self, is that which appears as everything: the seeing mind, the world-picture that it sees, the light of consciousness by which it sees, and the ground or underlying being that supports its seeing.
In verse 2 he says that all disputes about the nature of this one reality — whether the soul, world and God are in essence all just this one reality, or whether they are eternally three separate realities — are possible only so long as our ego exists, and that abiding in our own natural state (of pure thought-free self-conscious being) is the highest achievement.
In verse 3 he reiterates the same truth, asking what is the use of arguing whether the world is real or a false appearance, whether it is knowledge or ignorance, or whether it is a source of happiness or not, and pointing out the simple truth that the egoless state in which we have given up all thought of the world and known only our own essential self, thereby freeing ourself from our false ‘I’ (the mind or ego) and its thoughts about ‘one’ (non-duality) and ‘two’ (duality), is agreeable to everyone.
In verse 4, by asking a rhetorical question, ‘கண் அலால் காட்சி உண்டோ?’ (kaṇ alāl kātci uṇḍō?), which means ‘is the sight otherwise than the eye?’, he teaches us a subtle but very important truth, namely that the ‘sight’ (whatever is seen or experienced) cannot be otherwise than the ‘eye’ (the consciousness that sees or experiences it). Hence he says that if we are a form (a body), the world and God will be likewise, but if we are not any form, who could see their forms, or how could we see them? He then ends this verse by saying that the real eye is only our essential self, which is the ‘endless eye’ (the infinite consciousness of being, ‘I am’).
In verse 5 he says that the term ‘body’ denotes not only our physical body but all our ‘five sheaths’ (our physical body, the prāṇa or life that animates it, our mind, our intellect and the peaceful absence of objective knowledge that we experience in sleep), and then asks rhetorically whether the world exists in the absence of such a body (implying that it does not), or whether anyone has seen the world after separating from the body (as in sleep or death).
In verse 6 he says that the world is nothing other than our five kinds of sense perception (sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations), which are sensations perceived by our five senses, and then asks rhetorically whether, since our one mind knows the world through these five senses, the world exists in the absence of this mind (implying that it does not).
In verse 7 he reiterates this truth that the world exists only in our mind, saying that though the world and our mind — the consciousness that knows it — arise and subside (appear and disappear) simultaneously (or as one), the world ‘shines’ (appears to exist or is made known) only by our mind, and then declares that the ‘whole’ (the infinite fullness of being or consciousness), which shines without appearing or disappearing as the ground for the appearance and disappearance (of our mind and the world), alone is the பொருள் (poruḷ), the ‘substance’, ‘essence’ or ‘reality’ (of all that thus appears and disappears).
Having discussed the reality of our experience of this world-appearance in verses 3 to 7, in verse 8 Sri Ramana discusses the reality of ‘seeing’ or experiencing God, saying that though he is the பொருள் (poruḷ) or ‘essential reality’, which is truly devoid of name or form, it is possible to see him in name and form by worshipping him in any form, giving him any name, but that knowing one’s own உண்மை (uṇmai) — ‘truth’, ‘being’ or ‘am-ness’ — and thereby subsiding and becoming one with his உண்மை (uṇmai) is alone seeing him in truth.
In verses 9 to 13 Sri Ramana discusses the reality of knowledge and ignorance and establishes the nature of true knowledge.
In verse 9 he begins by teaching that all dualistic or objective knowledge depends upon ‘one’ (namely our mind, which alone experiences such knowledge), and that if we look within our mind to see what that ‘one’ is, such knowledge will cease to exist (because we will discover that our mind, upon which it depends, is itself non-existent).
In verse 10 he says that knowledge and ignorance (about objects or otherness) are interdependent, each existing only in relation to the other, and that true knowledge is only the ‘knowledge’ (or consciousness) that knows the ‘self’ (the mind or ego) to whom knowledge and ignorance appear to exist (in other words, true knowledge is only the consciousness that experiences the truth that the mind — which is the sole root, base or foundation of objective knowledge and ignorance — is itself non-existent).
In verse 11 he says that knowing otherness without knowing ourself who experiences such knowledge (of otherness) is not knowledge but only ignorance, and that when we know ourself (this unreal mind), who is the ādhāra (the support, substratum or ground) of knowledge and ignorance, they will cease to exist (since we will discover that the mind itself is non-existent).
In verse 12 he says that true knowledge is not that (our mind) which knows (otherness), but only that (our real self) which is devoid of both knowledge and ignorance (about otherness), and that our real self is not a void (even though it is devoid of both knowledge and ignorance about otherness) but true knowledge, because it shines without any otherness for it to know or to make known.
In verse 13 he says that self, which is jñāna (knowledge or consciousness), alone is real; that manifold knowledge (knowledge or consciousness of multiplicity) is only ajñāna (ignorance); and that even such ignorance, which is unreal, is nothing other than self (its only real substance), which is jñāna, just as all the many ornaments, which are unreal (as separate forms), are not other than gold (the real substance of which they are made).
In verses 14 to 16 Sri Ramana discusses the reality of space and time, and establishes the truth that ‘we’, who are devoid of time and space, alone are real.
In verse 14 he begins with the subject of space or ‘place’, and since in Tamil grammar the three persons are called மூவிடம் (mū-v-iḍam) or the ‘three places’, he says that if the first person, our false consciousness ‘I am this body’, exists, the second and third persons will also seem to exist, but that if we scrutinise the truth of the first person, it will cease to exist, and along with it the second and third persons will also cease to exist, and that the remaining single (non-dual) தன்மை (taṉmai) — ‘self-ness’, ‘essence’, ‘reality’, ‘first person’ or ‘state’ — alone is ‘self’, our own real state.
In the first two sentences of this verse, the word தன்மை (taṉmai) or the ‘first person’, which etymologically means ‘self-ness’, denotes ‘I’, the conscious mind or subject, which always experiences itself as being ‘here’ and ‘now’, in the present place and time; the word முன்னிலை (muṉṉilai) or the ‘second person’, which etymologically means ‘that which stands in front’, denotes the objects that the mind experiences most immediately, namely its own intimate thoughts; and the word படர்க்கை (paḍarkkai) or the ‘third person’, which etymologically means ‘that which spreads out [or expands]’, denotes the objects that the mind experiences more remotely, namely those thoughts that appear as the objects of the seemingly external world.
Since all objects — both those that we recognise as being mere thoughts (the ‘second person’ objects) and those that appear to exist in an external world (the ‘third person’ objects) — seem to exist only when they are known by our thinking mind (the ‘first person’ or subject), they will cease to exist as soon as we experience the truth that this false ‘first person’ is actually non-existent. And since space is an illusion that is created by the seeming separation between the knowing subject (the ‘first person’) and the many objects (the ‘second and third persons’) that it knows, space will cease to exist as soon as the ‘first place’ (the ‘first person’ or ‘here’) ceases to exist.
In verse 15 Sri Ramana goes on to discuss the reality of time, saying that the past and future stand clinging to the present (that is, their seeming existence depends upon the present); that while occurring they are both the present; that the present is ‘only one’ (that is, the only one time that we ever actually experience); and that trying to know the past or future without knowing the truth of the present is like trying to count without knowing ‘one’ (the basic number of which all other numbers are constituted).
In verse 16 he concludes his discussion of time and space by first asking the rhetorical question ‘நாம் அன்றி நாள் ஏது, நாடு ஏது, நாடும் கால்?’ (nām aṉḏṟi nāḷ ēdu, nāḍu ēdu, nāḍum kāl?), which means ‘when [we] scrutinise, except we, where is time [and] where is place?’ and which clearly implies that when we keenly scrutinise ourself in the precise present place and precise present moment, ‘here’ and ‘now’, we will discover that ‘we’ alone truly exist and that time and place are completely non-existent.
After asking this question, he says that if we are a body, we shall be ensnared in time and place, but then asks another rhetorical question, ‘are we [a] body?’, implying that we are not. He then concludes by saying that since we are ‘one’ (the one non-dual immutable reality), now, then and always, here, there and everywhere, that which really exists is only ‘we’, who are devoid of time and place.
In verses 17 and 18 he teaches us the unreality of our present experience — both of ourself as a finite body and of the world as a collection of finite forms — by contrasting it with the experience of those who have known self.
In verse 17 he says that both for those who have not known self and for those who have known it, the body is certainly ‘I’, but that the difference between them is that to those who have not known self, ‘I’ is limited to the measure of the body, whereas to those who have known self, ‘I’ shines without any limit (and hence neither the body nor anything else exists as other than it).
In verse 18 he says that both for those who have not known self and for those who have known it, the world is real, but that the difference between them is that to those who have not known self, the reality is limited to the measure of the world, whereas to those who have known self, the reality abides devoid of form as the ādhāra (the support, substratum or ground) of the world. That is, whereas we experience the multiple forms of this world as real, a person who has known self experiences only its formless ground or underlying substance as real.
In verse 19 he says that the dispute whether fate (vidhi) or free will (mati) prevails is of interest only to those who do not know the மூலம் (mūlam) — the root, base, foundation, origin or source — of both fate and free will (namely the mind, which misuses its free will and experiences whatever fate results therefrom), and that those who have known the truth of this mind have thereby separated themselves from fate and free will and will not hereafter become entangled with them again. In other words, fate and free will appear to exist only so long as our mind appears to exist, but when we scrutinise this mind and thereby know the truth that it does not really exist, fate and free will will also cease to exist.
In verses 20 to 22 he returns to the subject of ‘seeing’ God, which he had discussed earlier in verse 8 (and also in verses 24 to 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār, and once again emphasises the truth that we can experience God as he really is only by knowing our real self and thereby surrendering our false self.
In verse 20 he says seeing God without seeing oneself, who sees him, is only seeing a மனோமயமாம் காட்சி (maṉōmayam-ām kāṭci) — a ‘sight which is composed of mind’ or ‘mind-made vision’ — and that only he who sees his real self, which is the source and base of his false self, has truly seen God, because our real self, which alone remains after the destruction of our false self, which is the root (of all mental visions or experiences), is not other than God.
In verse 21 he asks how we can ‘see’ ourself, since ourself is one (and is therefore not something that we can ‘see’ as an object that is other than ourself), and how we can ‘see’ God (as an object of experience), since we cannot even ‘see’ ourself (as an object of experience), and he concludes by saying ‘ஊண் ஆதல் காண்’ (ūṇ ādal kāṇ), which means ‘becoming food [is] seeing’. That is, we can truly see God, who is our own real self, only by surrendering ourself entirely to him, allowing ourself to be consumed in his infinite light of pristine self-consciousness, ‘I am’.
In verse 22 he asks us to consider how we can meditate upon or know God by our mind, except by turning our mind back within and immersing it in God, who shines within it (as its essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’) giving it light (the light of consciousness by which it is able to know both itself and the appearance of thoughts, objects or otherness).
In verses 23 to 29 he discusses the rising of our false ‘I’, the mind or ego, and the means by which we can return to our natural state, in which this ‘I’ does not rise.
In verse 23 he says that this body does not say ‘I’, because it is not conscious; that no one says ‘in sleep I do not exist’ (even though our body and mind do not exist in sleep); and that after one ‘I’ (our mind or ego) rises, everything arises. Therefore he instructs us to scrutinise with a நுண் மதி (nūṇ mati) — a subtle, acute, precise and keen mind, intellect or power of discernment — where this ‘I’ rises, and in the kaliveṇbā version he adds that when we scrutinise it thus, it will ‘slip off’, ‘steal away’ or ‘stealthily escape’.
That is, this false ‘I’ appears to exist only so long as we do not keenly scrutinise it, and it disappears as soon as we focus our entire attention upon it (just as an imaginary snake would disappear when we look at it carefully and thereby recognise that it is only a rope). The fact that this is the nature of our mind or ego — our primal thought ‘I’ — is an extremely important truth that Sri Ramana emphasised repeatedly, because it is a vital clue that explains the unique and infallible efficacy of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation.
In all forms of spiritual practice other than ātma-vicāra, our attention is directed towards something other than our essential self — our fundamental consciousness ‘I’ — so such practices will only sustain and perpetuate the illusion of the false ‘I’ who is practising them, and hence they can never destroy it. The only means by which we can destroy this illusion is to withdraw our attention from everything else and focus it exclusively upon ‘I’, because just as we would not recognise the truth that the imaginary snake is actually nothing other than a rope unless we looked at it carefully, so we will not recognise (or truly experience) the truth that this imaginary finite ‘I’ is actually nothing other than the one real infinite ‘I’ unless we scrutinise it keenly.
In verse 24 he begins by reiterating the truth that this non-conscious body does not say ‘I’, and then he says that being-consciousness (sat-cit) does not rise (appear or come into existence), but that in between being-consciousness and this non-conscious body one ‘I’ rises as the ‘measure’ of this body (that is, a spurious consciousness ‘I’ rises as ‘I am this body’, assuming the boundaries of bodily existence, being confined within the limits of time and space). This false ‘I’, he says, is cit-jaḍa-granthi (the knot that binds together consciousness and the non-conscious), bondage, the soul, the ‘subtle body’, the ego, the mind and this saṁsāra (‘wandering’, the state of incessant activity, passing through one dream-life after another).
In verse 25 he describes this false ‘I’ as உருவற்ற பேய் அகந்தை (uru-v-aṯṟa pēy ahandai), the ‘formless ghost-ego’, and says that it comes into existence by grasping form (that is, by attaching itself to a body), endures by grasping form (that is, by attending to thoughts or perceptions of a seemingly external world), feeds and grows (flourishes or expands) abundantly by grasping form, and having left one form it grasps another form. That is, since this ego has no form (no finite and separate existence) of its own, it can seemingly come into existence and endure only when we imagine ourself to be the form of a body, and it flourishes when we attend to any form (anything that appears to be separate from ourself).
Having thus explained how this ‘I’ rises, endures and flourishes, he explains how it can be destroyed, saying தேடினால் ஓட்டம் பிடிக்கும் (tēḍiṉāl ōṭṭam piḍikkum), which literally means ‘if [we] seek [search, investigate, examine or scrutinise it], it will take flight’. That is, since this ego is a ‘formless ghost’ and since it can therefore rise and endure only by ‘grasping form’, when it tries to ‘grasp’ (or attend to) itself, which is not a form, it will subside and disappear.
Thus in this verse Sri Ramana explains more clearly the crucial truth that he had mentioned briefly in the last sentence of the kaliveṇbā version of verse 23 — ‘நான் எங்கு எழும்?’ என்று நுண் மதியால் எண்ண நழுவும் (‘nāṉ eṅgu eṙum?’ eṉḏṟu nūṇ matiyāl eṇṇa naṙuvum), which means ‘when [we] scrutinise with a subtle power of discernment "where does [this] I rise?", it will steal away’ — namely the truth that our mind or ego is nourished and sustained by attending to anything other than itself, and will therefore be dissolved and destroyed only by attending to itself.
As I mentioned above, this truth — which can aptly be called the ‘first law of consciousness’ or ‘first law of the science of self-knowledge’ — is a fundamental principle that we must understand if we are to recognise the unique efficacy of ātma-vicāra and the fundamental limitation of every other form of spiritual practice. It is also the key to complete self-surrender, because our false self is sustained by attending to anything other than itself, and hence we can effectively surrender it only by vigilantly scrutinising it, as Sri Ramana teaches us in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], not giving even the slightest room to the rising of any other cintanā [thought] except ātma-cintanā [self-contemplation or self-attentiveness], alone is giving ourself to God. ...
In verse 26 he states another fundamental principle of this science of self-knowledge, saying that if the ego comes into existence, everything will come into existence, and that if the ego does not exist, everything else will not exist. Therefore he declares the truth that அகந்தையே யாவும் ஆம் (ahandai-y-ē yāvum ām), which means ‘the ego indeed is everything’, and he concludes by saying ஆதலால் ‘யாது இது?’ என்று நாடலே ஓவுதல் யாவும் (ādalāl ‘yādu idu?’ eṉḏṟu nāḍal-ē ōvudal yāvum), which means ‘therefore investigating [or scrutinising] "what is this [ego]?" is indeed giving up [or renouncing] everything’. That is, since we can renounce or surrender our ego only by scrutinising it vigilantly to know what it really is, and since everything else is actually nothing other than this ego, scrutinising ‘what am I?’ is truly renouncing everything.
Thus Sri Ramana teaches us that we cannot truly renounce the world merely by becoming a monk, hermit or ascetic, but only by keenly attending to our fundamental consciousness ‘I’, thereby refraining from attending to any other thing. Therefore this practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation is not only complete self-surrender but also absolute renunciation of everything.
In verse 27 he teaches us that ātma-vicāra is the only means by which we can experience the truth declared in the mahāvākyas or ‘great sayings’ of the Vēdas such as ahaṁ brahmāsmi, ‘I am brahman [the absolute reality]’, and tat tvam asi, ‘that [God or brahman] you are’.
In the first line he says that the state in which ‘I’ abides without rising is the state in which we abide as ‘we are that’, and then he asks how we can reach or attain this egoless state, in which ‘I’ does not rise, unless we scrutinise the source from which it rises. Here the words நான் உதிக்கும் தானம் (nāṉ udikkum [s]thānam), which literally mean the ‘place where I rises’ or the ‘rising-place of I’, denote our real self, which is the ‘place’ or source from which our false self rises (just as the rope is the ‘place’ or source from which the imaginary snake arises).
After thus implying that self-scrutiny is the only means by which we can ‘reach’ our natural state of non-rising, he asks another rhetorical question, which reiterates the truth that he stated in the first line by implying that unless we reach this egoless state, we cannot abide as ‘that’ which we really are (namely brahman, the one absolute reality).
In verse 28 he describes the practice of ātma-vicāra in a more graphic manner, saying that just as we would sink (immerse or dive) in order to find something that had fallen into the water, we should sink deep within ourself with a keenly penetrating power of discernment, thereby controlling our breath and speech, and know the ‘rising-place’ or source of our ego, which rises (as the root of all rising).
In verse 29 he teaches us that such keen self-scrutiny or ātma-vicāra — which he describes as the practice of ‘having discarded our body like a corpse and not uttering the word "I" by mouth, scrutinising with an inward-sinking mind "where does it [our mind] rise as I?"’ — alone is the path of jñāna (or true knowledge), and that other practices such as meditating upon the thoughts ‘I am not this body, I am brahman’ are only aids but are not the actual practice of ātma-vicāra.
In verse 30 he reiterates the truth that he stated in verse 20 of Upadēśa Undiyār and verse 2 of Āṉma-Viddai, saying that when our mind reaches our heart (the innermost core of our being) by inwardly scrutinising ‘who am I?’ and thereby dies, the one reality will ‘appear’ or ‘shine forth’ (that is, will be experienced) spontaneously as ‘I [am] I’, and then he clarifies that though it ‘appears’, it is not ‘I’ (the ego) but is the whole poruḷ (the one infinite ‘substance’, ‘essence’ or ‘reality’), the poruḷ which is self.
That is, since our real self is infinite, eternal and unchanging, it never truly ‘appears’ (or ‘shines forth’), but it is described as ‘appearing’ (or ‘shining forth’) because at the precise moment that our mind subsides into the innermost depth of our being, we will seem to experience it with an altogether new and fresh clarity. This fresh clarity of self-consciousness or self-knowledge (which is what is sometimes called aham-sphuraṇa or ātma-sphuraṇa, the ‘shining forth of I’ or ‘clear appearance of self’) will instantly destroy the last vestige of our mind, whereupon its newness will subside and we will experience it as our eternally clear and ever immutable self.
In verse 31 he reiterates the truth that he stated in verse 15 of Upadēśa Undiyār, asking rhetorically what there is to do for one who enjoys the bliss of self, which rose (as ‘I [am] I’) destroying the false self (or ego) — thereby implying that our natural state of clear self-consciousness is absolutely devoid of karma or action (since the mind, the agent or ‘doer’ of all action, has ceased to exist) — and he concludes this verse with another rhetorical question, asking who can understand what this non-dual state of true self-knowledge really is, since one in this state does not know anything other than self.
In verse 32 he returns again to the subject of how we can experience the truth taught in mahāvākyas such as tat tvam asi or ‘that you are’ (which he had discussed in verse 27 and 29, and which he mentions again in verse 36), saying that when the Vēdas declare that ‘that you are’, we should know and be our true self by investigating ‘what am I?’, and that if instead of knowing ourself thus we just think ‘I am that [reality], not this [unreal body]’, that is due to lack of clear discrimination (or strength of conviction), because ‘that’ (the one absolute reality or God) always abides as our true self.
In verse 33 he clarifies the nature of true self-knowledge, which is absolutely non-dual and non-objective, teaching us that saying either ‘I do not know myself’ or ‘I have known myself’ is a ground for ridicule, because we are not two selves, one of which could be an object known by the other, since being one is the true experience of each one of us.
In verse 34 he teaches us that it is foolish to argue about the nature of the reality instead of abiding as it, saying that since the பொருள் (poruḷ) or ‘essential reality’ always exists as the true nature of each one of us, disputing whether it exists or does not exist, whether it is a form or formless, or whether it is one or two or neither (one nor two), instead of knowing and firmly abiding as it in our heart, where it exists (or by means of an inward merging mind), is மாயைச் சழக்கு (māyai-c-caṙakku), a fault or evil of māyā or self-deception.
In verse 35 he teaches us that the only worthy siddhi or ‘attainment’ is ātma-siddhi or ‘self-attainment’ and not the attainment of any supernatural power, saying that knowing and being the பொருள் (poruḷ) or ‘essential reality’, which is always attained, is the only true attainment, and that all other attainments are merely attainments experienced in a dream. He then asks whether such attainments will be real if we wake up from our present sleep of self-forgetfulness, and whether those who abide in the state of உண்மை (uṇmai), ‘reality’ or ‘being’, and who have thereby discarded unreality, will be deluded (by any such false attainment).
In verse 36 he again teaches us that we cannot experience ourself as the one absolute reality merely by meditating ‘I am that’, saying that if we think we are this body, thinking ‘no, we are that’ will be a useful aid in reminding us to abide as ‘that’, but then asking why we should always be thinking that ‘we are that’, since in truth we always exist as ‘that’. To illustrate the folly and futility of meditating ‘I am that’, he asks whether anyone meditates ‘I am a human being’ (implying that just as it is not necessary for a person to think ‘I am a human being’ in order to be human, so in order to be the reality that we always are we do not need to meditate ‘I am that’).
In verse 37 he reminds us that we are always the one non-dual reality, even when we imagine that we are seeking to experience ourself as such, saying that even the contention that ‘duality [is real] in [the state of] spiritual practice, [but] non-duality [is real] in [the state of] spiritual attainment’ is not true, and to illustrate this truth he asks who we are other than the tenth man, both when we are desperately searching (for ourself) and when we have found ourself.
As I explain in a separate article, Non-duality is the truth even when duality appears to exist (which is an extract from chapter 5 of Happiness and the Art of Being), the dasaman or ‘tenth man’ whom Sri Ramana mentions in this verse is any one of the ten dull-witted men in a well-known story, according to which they imagined that they had lost one of their companions because, after fording a river, each one of them counted his nine companions but forgot to count himself, the proverbial ‘tenth man’. Just as each of them was the missing ‘tenth man’ even when he imagined the ‘tenth man’ to be lost, so we are each the one real self even when we imagine ourself to be lacking clear knowledge of who we really are.
However, though our present self-ignorance and all its effects are a mere imagination, just as the loss of the ‘tenth man’ was a mere imagination, so long as we experience any of these effects — even the slightest trace of duality or otherness — we must make effort to know ourself and thereby dispel this illusion of self-ignorance, which is the root cause of all duality.
To emphasise the truth that we must certainly make effort to dispel our imaginary self-ignorance, in verse 38 Sri Ramana says that if we are the agent or ‘doer’ of actions, we will certainly experience the resulting ‘fruit’ or consequences, but that when we know ourself by investigating ‘who is the doer of action?’ our kartṛtva or sense of ‘doership’ (our feeling that ‘I am doing action’) will depart and all the ‘three karmas’ will cease to exist. This state devoid of the ‘doer’ and his or her ‘three karmas’ is, Sri Ramana says, the state of mukti or ‘liberation’, which is eternal (being without beginning, interruption or end).
As I explain in a separate article, Actions or karmas are like seeds (which is an extract from chapter 4 of Happiness and the Art of Being, the ‘three karmas’ are (1) our āgāmya karma, our present actions, which we perform by our free will under the influence of our vāsanās (the latent ‘seeds’ of our desires) and which therefore generate not only more such ‘seeds’ but also ‘fruits’ to be experienced by us later; (2) our saṁcita karma, the store of the ‘fruits’ of our past actions that are yet to be experienced by us; and (3) our prārabdha karma, our present destiny or fate, which is the set of those ‘fruits’ of our past actions that God has selected and ordained for us to experience now. These ‘three karmas’ will all appear to be real so long as we mistake ourself to be a ‘doer’ and an ‘experiencer’, that is, an individual who does actions and experiences pleasure and pain, which are the ‘fruits’ or consequences of actions that we have done in the past.
However, if we investigate ‘who am I, who now feel that I am doing actions?’ — that is, if we keenly scrutinise our own essential consciousness ‘I am’, which we now confuse with the mind, speech and body that do actions — we will discover that we are actually not a finite individual who does actions by mind, speech and body, but are only the infinite consciousness that just is. When we thus come to know ourself as we really are, we will cease to mistake ourself to be either the ‘doer’ of any action or the ‘experiencer’ of the fruit of any action.
In verse 39 he emphasises once again our need to make effort to dispel our imaginary self-ignorance, saying that thoughts of bondage and liberation will exist only so long as we experience ourself as ‘I am a person in bondage’, but that when we see ourself by investigating ‘who is this person in bondage?’ our real self, which is eternally liberated, will alone stand as that which is ever attained, and then he asks whether in front (of such clear self-knowledge) the thought of liberation can stand, since the thought of bondage cannot stand.
Finally in verse 40 Sri Ramana answers those who say that the mukti or liberation that we can attain is of three kinds, with form, without form, or with or without form, stating emphatically that liberation is the destruction of the imaginary form of the ego, which distinguishes these kinds of liberation, with form, without form, or with or without form.
உள்ளது நாற்பது — அனுபந்தம் (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham)
உள்ளது நாற்பது — அனுபந்தம் (Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham), the ‘Supplement to Forty [Verses] on That Which Is’, is a collection of forty-one Tamil verses that Sri Ramana composed at various times during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
The formation of this work began on 21st July 1928, when Sri Muruganar asked Sri Ramana to write a text to ‘reveal to us the nature of reality and the means by which we can attain it so that we may be saved’ (மெய்யின் இயல்பும் அதை மேவும் திறனும் எமக்கு உய்யும்படி ஓதுக [meyyiṉ iyalbum atai mēvum tiṟaṉum emakku uyyumpaḍi ōduka], which are words that Sri Muruganar records in his pāyiram or prefatory verse to Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu). At that time Sri Muruganar had collected twenty-one verses that Sri Ramana had composed at various times, and he suggested that these could form the basis of such a text.
Over the next two to three weeks Sri Ramana discussed many ideas with Sri Muruganar and composed about forty new verses. As he composed them, he and Sri Muruganar arranged them in order, and while doing so they decided that for one reason or another most of the previously existing twenty-one verses were not suitable to include in the text that he was writing.
In the end, they decided to include in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu only three of the original twenty-one verses, namely verses 16, 37 and 40 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. Of these three, verse 16 was not actually included in its original form, which Sri Ramana had composed in August 1927 (and which is now included in Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ as verse 13, a translation of which I have given on pages 408-9 of Happiness and the Art of Being), but was modified by him while he was composing and editing Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.
The principal reason why they decided not to include the other eighteen of the original twenty-one verses was that most of them were not entirely suitable to the central aim of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, which was to teach us ‘the nature of reality and the means by which we can attain it’. In addition to these eighteen verses, they also decided not to include three of the new verses that Sri Ramana composed during the three weeks that he was composing and editing Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu.
However, since Sri Muruganar did not want the twenty-one verses that they had thus decided not to include in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu to be forgotten or neglected, he suggested to Sri Ramana that they should arrange them in a suitable order and append them as an anubandham (an ‘appendix’ or ‘supplement’) to Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu. Therefore, when it was first published in 1928, Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham consisted of only twenty-one verses, but by 1930 or 31 it contained thirty verses, in 1938 it contained thirty-seven verses, and finally in 1940 it contained forty-one verses, one of which is the maṅgalam or ‘auspicious introduction’ and the remaining forty of which form the nūl or main ‘text’.
Of these forty-one verses, only eleven are verses that Sri Ramana did not translate from any other language but composed originally in Tamil, namely verses 13 to 17, 31 to 33, 35, 36 and 38. Verses 8 and 10 are his Tamil translations of two verses that he first composed in Sanskrit. Verse 11 is his Tamil translation of a Sanskrit verse that Lakshmana Sarma (the author of Maha Yoga) composed recording a teaching that he had given orally. And though the last two lines of verse 12 are a translation by him of verse 84 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi, a Sanskrit text composed by Sri Adi Sankara, the first two lines are an original composition by Sri Ramana.
The other twenty-six verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham are translations or explanatory adaptations that he composed of verses by other authors. Verse 20 is an adaptation or paraphrase that he wrote of two verses (19.59 and 62) from a Tamil work called Prabhuliṅga Līlai (which is a verse adaptation of the original in Kannada). Nine verses, namely the maṅgalam, 21 to 24, 26, 27, 29 and 30, are translations of Sanskrit verses from Yōga Vāsiṣṭha. Verses 1, 7 and 39 are translations of Sanskrit verses by Sri Adi Sankara. Verse 5 is a translation of a Sanskrit verse from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (10.48.31). Verses 9 and 25 are translations of two verses (46 and 47) from Jñānācāra-Vicāra-Paḍalam, a chapter (the whole of which Sri Ramana translated separately) of a Sanskrit upāgama text called Dēvikālōttara. Verses 18 and 19 are translations of two verses from the Malayalam version of an ancient āyurvēdic medical text called Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam. Verse 37 is a translation of a Sanskrit verse that was probably composed by Śrī Sadāśiva Brahmēndra. And the remaining seven verses, namely 2, 3, 4, 6, 28, 34 and 40, are translations of verses from various other Sanskrit texts.
The maṅgalam verse, which is a translation (or rather an explanatory paraphrase) of Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.8.12, is a dhyāna ślōka or ‘verse of meditation’ upon svarūpa (our ‘own form’ or essential self), in which our svarūpa is described as the one truly existing reality, in which everything exists, whose everything is, from which everything comes into being, for which everything exists, by which everything comes to be, and which alone everything actually is.
The first five verses of the nūl or main ‘text’ are translations of Sanskrit verses about the efficacy of sat-saṅga, a term that literally means ‘clinging to [attachment to, devotion to, contact with or association with] reality [or being]’, but that by extension also means association with those who know and abide as the reality. As Sri Ramana often explained, the most perfect form of sat-saṅga is only ātma-vicāra, the practice of attending or ‘clinging’ to self, which is the only reality, but as an aid to our practice of ātma-vicāra, we can also be greatly benefited by less perfect forms of sat-saṅga such as studying and reflecting upon the teachings of those who know and abide as the reality, or simply being in their company.
Verse 1 is an adaptation of verse 9 of Mōha Mudgara (the ‘Hammer on Delusion’, a song by Sri Adi Sankara, which is more popularly known as Bhaja Gōvindam), ‘satsaṅgatvē nissaṅgatvaṁ; nissaṅgatvē nirmōhatvam; nirmōhatvē niścalatattvaṁ; niścalatattvē jīvanmuktiḥ’, which literally means:
In [or through] the state of sat-saṅga [attachment to being], the state of nissaṅga [non-attachment] [arises]; in the state of nissaṅga, the state of nirmōha [freedom from delusion] [arises]; in the state of nirmōha, niścala-tattva [the true state of motionless being] [arises]; in niścala-tattva, jīvanmukti [liberation in this life] [arises].
In his Tamil adaptation of this verse, Sri Ramana says that by சத்திணக்கம் (sat-t-iṇakkam) — friendship, intimacy, harmony or union with being, or with those who abide as being — attachment (to the external world) will leave us; that when such attachment leaves us, mental attachment (that is, our vāsanās, which are the subtle seeds of our desires) will be dispersed (or destroyed); that people who are thus freed from mental attachment will perish in that which is motionless; and that they will thereby attain jīvanmukti (liberation in this life). He then concludes this verse by adding ‘அவர் இணக்கம் பேண்’ (avar iṇakkam pēṇ), which means ‘cherish their friendship [or intimacy]’. In other words, he advises us that we should therefore cherish the intimate friendship and company of those who abide as sat, ‘being’ or the reality.
The key word in this Tamil adaptation is இணக்கம் (iṇakkam), which Sri Ramana used to convey the meaning of the Sanskrit word saṅga in the compound word sat-saṅga. Whereas saṅga means ‘clinging to’, ‘attachment to’, ‘devotion to’, ‘affection for’, ‘contact with’ or ‘association with’, iṇakkam means ‘friendship’, ‘intimacy’, ‘love’, ‘attachment’, ‘affection’, ‘agreement’, ‘attunement’, ‘harmony’, ‘compatibility’, ‘connection’, ‘alliance’ or ‘union’, so rather than merely meaning outward contact or company, both these words more significantly mean the subtle inward feeling of love, affection, intimacy and attunement of heart.
Therefore sat-saṅga (or sat-iṇakkam) does not merely mean living in the physical presence of a sage who abides as sat, the one absolute reality, but more exactly means profound love for and intense attachment to such a sage and the state of pure being in which and as which he or she abides. Thus, even if we do not outwardly live in the company of such a sage, if we inwardly cling to him with pure love, we will always enjoy the benefit of his true sat-saṅga.
Therefore when Sri Ramana advises us to ‘cherish their iṇakkam’, he does not only mean that we should cherish their outward company, but more importantly that we should inwardly cultivate and cherish true love for them and for the sat or pure being of which they are an embodiment.
In verse 2 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse whose source I do not know) he says that the supreme state (of true self-knowledge) that is attained by means of clear vicāra (self-investigation), which will arise in our heart when we take refuge in சாது உறவு (sādhu-uṟavu) — intimate friendship with or love for a sādhu (a word that literally means a person who is going or has gone straight to a goal, and that in this context means a sage who knows and abides as self, the absolute reality) — cannot be attained by listening to a preacher, by understanding the meaning of sacred texts, by virtuous deeds, or by any other means.
In verse 3 (which is also a translation of a Sanskrit verse whose source I do not know, and which he composed for a child who wanted to observe a fast as a niyama or form of religious self-restraint) he asks a rhetorical question that implies that if we gain sahavāsa (close association or friendship) with those who are sādhus (those who know and abide as self), all these niyamas (the various forms of self-restraint prescribed for the practice of yōga or for living a virtuous life) will serve no purpose, just as there would be no benefit in holding a hand-fan when a cool southern breeze is blowing.
In verse 4 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse, the original source of which is not known, but which is included in a well-known collection of ‘gems of wise sayings’ called Subhāṣita Ratna Bhāṇḍāra as verse 6 of section 3) he says that heat (or mental anguish) will be removed by the cool moon, poverty by the divine wish-fulfilling tree, and sin by the river Ganga, but that all three of these will be removed merely by the precious sight of incomparable sādhus.
In verse 5 (which is an adaptation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 10.48.31) he says that tīrthas (sacred bathing places), which are composed of water, and daivas (images of deities), which are composed of stone or earth, cannot be compared to those great souls, because they (the tīrthas and daivas) will gradually bestow purity (of mind) over a long period of time, whereas sādhus will bestow purity as soon as we see them with our eyes (or as soon as they see us with their eye of grace).
Verses 6 and 7 are two dialogues between a guru and a disciple that are intended to help us determine the true nature of self.
Verse 6 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse whose source I do not know) begins with a disciple’s question, ‘Who is God?’, to which the guru replies with a counter-question, ‘Who knows the mind?’. The dialogue then continues: ‘My mind is only known by me, the soul’, ‘Therefore you are certainly God, because the śrutis [sacred texts] say that God is the one [who alone truly exists]’.
Verse 7 (which is an adaptation of Sri Adi Sankara’s Ēka Ślōki) begins with a guru’s question, ‘What is the light for you?’, and the dialogue that ensues is as follows: ‘For me, by day the sun, by night a lamp’, ‘What is the light that knows [these physical] lights?’, ‘[My] eye’, ‘What is the light that knows that [your eye]?’, ‘[That] light is [my] mind’, ‘What is the light that knows [your] mind?’, ‘That is I’, ‘[Therefore the light] that shines in [all other] lights is you’, ‘I am only that [the original light of consciousness, by means of which all other lights are known]’.
Verse 8 is Sri Ramana’s Tamil translation of the Sanskrit verse ‘hṛdaya-kuhara-madhyē kēvalam brahma-mātraṁ hyaham-aham-iti sākṣād-ātma-rūpēṇa bhāti | hṛdi viśa manasā svaṁ-cinvatā majjatā vā pavana-calana-rōdhād ātmaniṣṭhō bhava tvam ||’, which he had composed in 1915. Though the original Sanskrit version of this verse was completed by Sri Ramana, the first three words were composed by a devotee called Jagadisa Sastri, and when he completed it Sri Ramana signed the name ‘Jagadisan’ at the foot of it, indicating thereby that he had written in it only the ideas that Jagadisa Sastri wanted to express but was unable to do so in verse.
In the first two lines of this verse he says that in the centre of the ‘cave’ that is our heart the one brahman (the absolute reality or one true being) alone shines directly as ātman (our true self), (which always experiences itself) as ‘I [am] I’. Then in the last two lines he tells us the means by which we can experience and abide as this one non-dual reality, instructing us to enter (approach, reach or take refuge in) our heart either by our mind sinking (within) contemplating ourself, or by our mind sinking (within) with the breath (restrained), and thereby to be one who abides in ātman.
Though most of this verse accurately expresses the teachings of Sri Ramana, which Jagadisa Sastri had often heard him saying, the idea expressed in the final line by the words (in the Sanskrit original) ‘vā pavana calana rōdhāt’, which means ‘or by restraining the movement of [your] breath’, is not in tune with his teachings, because these words imply that we can enter our heart — the innermost core of our being — and abide as our real self not only by svaṁ-cinvatā or ‘self-investigation’ but also by breath-restraint.
The fact that by restraining our breath we can restrain our mind only temporarily, that breath-restraint (prāṇāyāma) will not destroy or weaken our vāsanās or latent desires, and that it is therefore only an aid to restrain our mind but will not bring about manōnāśa or ‘annihilation of mind’ is clearly taught to us by Sri Ramana in the eighth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?). Therefore we should understand that the words ‘hṛdi viśa ... pavana calana rōdhāt ātmaniṣṭhō bhava tvam’ (which mean ‘enter [your] heart ... by restraining the movement of [your] breath [and thereby] be you in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance]’) in this verse express a belief of Jagadisa Sastri and not an actual teaching of Sri Ramana.
To clarify that the only means by which we can destroy our mind and thereby abide eternally as self is svaṁ cinvatā or ‘self-investigation’ and not pavana calana rōdha or ‘restraining the movement of the breath’, when Sri Ramana and Sri Muruganar arranged the order of verses in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham, they placed immediately after verse 8 a verse that is a translation by Sri Ramana of verse 46 of the Jñānācāra-Vicāra-Paḍalam of Dēvikālōttara, which clearly states the truth that only consciousness, which is the pure and motionless ‘I’ that exists and shines in the lotus of our heart, will bestow liberation, the natural state of self, by destroying ‘I’ (our mind or ego).
In verse 10 (which he composed first in Sanskrit and then in Tamil), while elaborating upon the central teaching of advaita vēdānta — namely ‘dēham nāham; kōham? sōham’ — Sri Ramana explains in his own words why and how this pure consciousness ‘I’ will destroy our ego.
The four words ‘dēham nāham; kōham? sōham’, each of which is in turn the first word of each of the four lines of this verse (both in Sanskrit and in Tamil), mean ‘the body (dēham) [is] not (na) I (aham); who (kaḥ) [am] I (aham)? he (saḥ) [is] I (aham)’. The first sentence, ‘dēham nāham’ or ‘the body is not I’, denotes the initial process of self-analysis by which we gain the intellectual conviction that the body, mind and other adjuncts that we have superimposed upon ourself are not our essential self or ‘I’; the second sentence, ‘kōham?’ or ‘who am I?’, denotes the practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, whereby we will actually experience what ‘I’ really is; and the third sentence, ‘sōham’ or ‘he is I’, denote the experience of true self-knowledge that we will gain by practising ātma-vicāra.
In the first two lines of this verse Sri Ramana explains the first sentence, ‘dēham nāham’, saying that the body is not ‘I’ because it is jaḍa (non-conscious) like a clay pot, because it does not have any ‘shining’ (or consciousness of itself) as ‘I’, and because our nature (or essential being) is experienced by us daily in sleep, in which this body does not exist.
In the last two lines he explains the last two sentences, ‘kōham? sōham’, saying that within the heart-cave of those who abide (as self), having known (by self-investigation) ‘who is this ego, the person who poses as I?’ (or) ‘where is he?’, the omnipresent God (aruṇagiri-śiva-vibhu) will shine forth spontaneously as the sphuraṇa (the clarity of pure self-consciousness) ‘he is I’. That is, when we investigate ‘who am I?’ we will experience the truth that ‘I’ is nothing other than the one omnipresent absolute reality, which we call ‘God’ or ‘Aruṇagiri Śiva’.
By placing this verse after verses 8 and 9, Sri Ramana clearly implied the truth that since the real nature of our fundamental consciousness ‘I’ is nothing other than the one non-dual reality, we can destroy the illusory appearance of our mind and thereby abide firmly as our real self only by keenly scrutinising and knowing this consciousness ‘I’ as it really is.
Verse 11 is a Tamil translation by Sri Ramana of a Sanskrit verse in which Lakshmana Sarma recorded what he had once said, namely that the person who is truly born is only he (or she) who is born in his own source, which is brahman (the one absolute reality), by keenly investigating ‘where was it (this mind or ego) born as I?’, and that such a person is munīśan (the lord of all sages) and is eternal and ever new and fresh.
In verse 12 Sri Ramana advises us to cease thinking this wretched body to be ‘I’ and to know self, which is ever-unceasing happiness, and then he adds a warning (which he adapted from verse 84 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi), namely that trying to know self while cherishing this perishable body is like trying to cross a river using a crocodile as a raft.
In verse 13 he teaches us that destroying our dēhātma-bhāva (the false attitude or imagination that ‘this body is I’) is in effect the perfect performance of all good deeds and the achievement of all virtues and happiness, such as charity (dāna), asceticism (tapas), ritual sacrifice, dharma (righteousness or good conduct), yōga (union with God), devotion (bhakti), heaven, wealth, peace (śānti), truth, grace, silence (mauna), abidance (as self), death without dying, knowledge, renunciation, liberation and bliss.
In verse 14 he teaches us that by practising ātma-vicāra we will achieve the true aim of all forms of spiritual practice (each of which can be classified as being a form of one of the four ‘yōgas’, namely karma, bhakti, yōga and jñāna), saying that investigating ‘to whom are karma (action), vibhakti (lack of devotion), viyōga (separation from God) and ajñāna (ignorance of self)?’ is itself karma (the path of desireless action), bhakti (the path of devotion), yōga (the path of union) and jñāna (the path of knowledge), because when we investigate ourself thus, we will discover that this ‘I’ (who does karma, lacks bhakti, feels itself to be separate from God, and is ignorant of its real self) does not really exist; that without this false ‘I’ these defects (karma, vibhakti, viyōga and ajñāna) never exist; and that the truth is therefore that we permanently exist only as the one real self.
In verses 15 to 17 Sri Ramana ridicules those who desire to acquire siddhis (supernatural or miraculous powers) and thereby to reform the world or rectify all its problems, and he teaches us that such desires would certainly prevent our mind subsiding in the peaceful state of absolute non-activity, in which alone we can experience ‘liberation’, which is the state of true self-knowledge.
In verse 15 he says that the buffoonery of ‘lunatics’ who do not know the truth that śakti (the one divine power) alone enables them to function, yet who exert themselves actively saying ‘we will attain siddhis’, is like the story of a cripple who said, ‘If someone raises me up [enabling me to stand], what measure are these enemies [that is, what power will they have to withstand me]?’
In verse 16 he asks a rhetorical question which implies that since absolute peace of mind alone is liberation, which is in truth always attained, people who set their mind upon siddhis, which cannot be attained without activity of mind, cannot immerse in the bliss of liberation, which is completely devoid of mental turbulence, agitation or activity.
In verse 17 he compares the ‘spurious [unreal or deceptive] soul’ who imagines that he or she is bearing the burden of the world, when in fact God is bearing it all, to the form of a gōpuram tāṅgi (one of the four plasterwork figures that stand near the top of a gōpuram [a monumental tower erected above a temple gateway] and seem to bear its cylindrical upper section on their shoulders), saying that the attitude of such a person is a mockery. In the second half of the verse he gives another analogy (one that he also used in the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?)), asking whose fault it is if a person who is travelling on a train, which is carrying a huge burden, suffers by carrying his own luggage on his head instead of placing it on the train.
Verses 18 to 24 are centred around the subject of the ‘heart’, a term that in a spiritual context means the innermost core or essence of our being — our pure, adjunct-free, non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’.
Though the real nature of our ‘heart’ is infinite consciousness, which transcends all forms of limitation, such as time, space or our material body, verses 18 and 19 describe it as being like a lily bud located within our chest, ‘two digits to the right’, and say that in the tiny hole inside its closed mouth the darkness (of self-ignorance) exists along with desire and other passions; that all the major nāḍis (subtle channels through which consciousness and prāṇa flow) depend upon it; and that it is the abode of the light (of consciousness), the mind and the prāṇa (life-force).
This description of the ‘heart’, which Sri Ramana translated from the Malayalam version of Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam (one of the three principal texts of the ancient system of medicine called āyurvēda), is obviously not the absolute truth, but is only a relative truth — a fact that appears to be true only from the limited and distorted perspective of our mind, which always experiences itself as a body. Since our mind experiences a body as ‘I’, in its finite view this ‘I’ seems to originate from and to be centred in a particular place within this body, and hence this place, which is the point ‘two digits to the right’ from the centre of the chest, is loosely described as being the ‘heart’ or centre for ‘I’ in this body.
The fact that our real ‘heart’ is actually not this or any other point in our body is clearly indicated in Upadēśa Maṅjari, in which Sri Natananandar records that — in the answer to the ninth question of the second section, ‘What is the svarūpa [‘own form’ or essential nature] of the hṛdaya [heart or core]?’ — Sri Ramana quoted these two verses of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham and explained that though some texts describe it thus:
... in absolute truth (paramārtha) the meaning of the word hṛdaya [heart] is only self (ātman). Since it is defined by the characteristics being (sat), consciousness (cit), happiness (ānanda), permanence (nitya) and wholeness (pūrṇa), for it there are not any differences such as ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ or ‘up’ and ‘down’. The motionless place [space, ground or state] in which all thoughts cease is alone called the state of self (ātman). When [we] abide knowing its svarūpa [essential nature] as it is, there will be no room there for considerations such as that it is either inside or outside the body.
Since our ‘heart’ or real self is the one infinite whole (pūrṇa), how can it be confined within any particular form or located at any particular place? It is the one unlimited consciousness in which everything is contained, and the one true substance that exists as everything, so it is both inside and outside everything, and at the same time neither inside nor outside anything.
In verse 20 (which is an adaptation of verses 59 and 62 of chapter 19 of a Tamil work called Prabhuliṅga Līlai) Sri Ramana indicates that the only means by which we can experience our ‘heart’ as it really is is to mediate upon ‘I’ with the firm conviction that God is nothing other than that, and that we should persevere in practising such self-meditation until our present illusion ‘I am this body’ is utterly destroyed. That is, he teaches us that God is that which "shines as ‘I’ in the cave of [our] heart-lotus", and that if we abide as this ‘I’ by the strength of our persistent meditation upon it, and if our abidance as it becomes established as firmly as our sense of ‘I’ is now established in our body, our avidyā (ignorance or false knowledge) ‘I am this perishable body’ will be dispersed like darkness in front of the sun.
The next four verses (which are adapted from verses 32 to 38 of chapter 78 of part 5 of Yōga Vāsiṣṭha) emphasise the truth that our real ‘heart’ is only consciousness.
In verse 21 (Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.78.32-3) Sri Rama asks Vasiṣṭha in which great mirror all the worlds that we see appear as a reflection (or shadow), and what is said to be the ‘heart’ of all the living beings in this world (implying that that ‘great mirror’ is the ‘heart’ of each one of us), and Vasiṣṭha replies that the heart of all beings is of two kinds.
In verse 22 (Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.78.34-5) Vasiṣṭha continues to describe the characteristics of these two kinds of heart, saying that one of them should be accepted and the other rejected. The physical organ called ‘heart’ that is situated in a location within the chest should be rejected (as being of no concern to us in our search for true self-knowledge, since it is just an unreal product of our mind’s imagination), whereas the ‘heart’ whose form is the one consciousness (our essential non-dual consciousness, ‘I am’) should be accepted (as being the sole reality and hence the only means by which we can know ourself as we really are). He concludes this verse by saying that this ‘heart’ that is consciousness exists both inside and outside, but is not that which exists only inside or only outside.
In verse 23 (Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.78.36-7) he says that only this (the ‘heart’ that is consciousness) is mukhya hṛdaya (the principal or original heart); that in it this entire world abides; that it is the mirror to everything (the ‘great mirror’ mentioned in verse 21, in which everything that we see appears as a reflection); that it alone is the abode of all wealth (prosperity or happiness); that therefore only consciousness is declared to be the heart of every living being; and that it is not a small part in a portion of the body, which is jaḍa (non-conscious) like a stone.
In verse 24 (Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.78.38) Vasiṣṭha concludes by saying that therefore by the sādhana (means [or more loosely, spiritual practice]) of fixing the mind in the pure heart, which is composed only of consciousness, together with the vāsanās (the propensities or desires that impel the mind to be active) the breath will automatically subside.
In verse 25 (which is a translation of verse 47 of the Jñānācāra-Vicāra-Paḍalam of Dēvikālōttara) Sri Ramana instructs us to banish all attachments from our mind by incessantly meditating in our heart that śivam (the auspicious reality), which is the consciousness that is devoid of all adjuncts, is ‘I’.
When Sri Ramana was asked to point out the most important or useful verses in Yōga Vāsiṣṭha, he selected verses 17 to 26 of chapter 18 of part 5, in which Vasiṣṭha teaches Sri Rama that he should know the reality in his own heart yet outwardly act according to his role in this world, as if it were real, and that he should thus be inwardly free from desire and aversion, pleasure and pain, enthusiasm, initiative, effort and action, yet outwardly appear to be bound by all of these.
Since Sri Ramana noticed that only six of these ten verses (namely 17, 18, 22, 25, 19 and 21) had been translated in Jñāna Vāsiṣṭha (which is a versified Tamil adaptation of the Laghu Yōga Vāsiṣṭha, a condensed version of Yōga Vāsiṣṭha that contains about six thousand of the thirty-two thousand verses in the full text) as verses 32 to 34 of the chapter called ‘Puṇya Pāvanar Kathai’ (The Story of Puṇya and Pāvana), he translated the other four verses (namely 20, 23, 24 and 26) as two Tamil verses in the same metre as the three verses in Jñāna Vāsiṣṭha. These two verses are now included in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham as verses 26 and 27.
In verse 26 (Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.18.20 and 23) Vasiṣṭha tells Sri Rama that outwardly he should play his role in this unreal world, but inwardly, having investigated all the various states, he should cling only to the one which is the ultimate state devoid of unreality (namely the state of absolutely clear self-consciousness); and that he should outwardly play his role in this world, without ever inwardly losing sight of his knowledge of that (true self) which exists in his heart as the one reality underlying all the various appearances.
In verse 27 (Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.18.24 and 26) Vasiṣṭha tells Sri Rama that he should outwardly play in this world as one who seemingly experiences enthusiasm and joy, who seemingly suffers anxiety and dislikes, and who seemingly makes effort and initiates action, but who is inwardly free of all such blemishes; and that as one who has been freed from the many bonds of delusion and who is steadfastly equanimous in all conditions, he should play in this world as he likes (or as required), outwardly doing action that is appropriate to his vēṣa (assumed appearance, disguise or role).
Having thus described in verses 26 and 27 how we should live in this world as an ātma-jñāni (one who knows self), in verses 28 to 31 and 33 Sri Ramana discusses the state of such an ātma-jñāni, and in verse 32 he teaches us the truth that though this state of self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna) is called the ‘fourth’, it is in fact the only real state.
In verse 28 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse whose source I do not know) he says that a person who has ‘conquered the senses’ (that is, overcome all desire for any experience obtained through any of the five senses) by knowledge (of self) is an ātma-vid (one who knows self), who abides as true knowledge (or being-consciousness); and that he (or she) is the ‘fire of knowledge’ (jñānāgni), the wielder of the ‘thunderbolt of knowledge’ (jñāna-kuliśa), the ‘destroyer of time’ (kāla-kāla) and the hero who has killed death.
In verse 29 (which is an adaptation of Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.76.20) he says that light (inward illumination, clarity or wisdom) and power of intellect will spontaneously increase in those who ‘see reality’ (that is, those who experience the tattva, the one non-dual reality, which is our own essential self), just as trees in this world shine forth with all qualities such as beauty as soon as spring arrives.
In verse 30 (which is an adaptation of Yōga Vāsiṣṭha 5.56.13-4) he says that a mind from which all vāsanās (propensities, impulses or desires) have been erased (by the clear light of true self-knowledge) does not actually do anything, even though it seems to be active, just as a person who seems to be listening to a story but whose mind has gone far away does not actually hear it, whereas a mind that is saturated with vāsanās is truly active, even though it seems to be doing nothing, just like a person who climbs a hill and falls over a precipice in a dream, even though he seems to be lying motionless here (in our waking world).
In verse 31 he describes a mey-jñāni (one who knows the reality) as being ‘asleep in a body of flesh’ (that is, unaware of the body or anything else other than the one reality, which is self) and says that he (or she) does not know the passing states of bodily activity, niṣṭhā (self-absorption) and sleep, just as a person who is asleep in a bullock cart does not know whether the cart is moving, stationary or unyoked.
In verse 32 he says that the transcendent state of ‘waking sleep’ (that is, the state of true self-knowledge, in which one is awake to self, the one reality, but asleep to the unreal mind, body and world) is called turya (the ‘fourth’ state) only for those who experience waking, dream and sleep (which are in fact unreal); and that since only turya really exists, and since the other three states do not really exist, it (turya) is turīyātīta (that which transcends the ‘fourth’).
He refers here to turīyātīta (which he calls turiya-v-atīta in Tamil) and says that turya (or turiya, as it is spelt in Tamil) itself is turīyātīta because some texts describe our natural state of ‘waking sleep’ not only as turya (the ‘fourth’) but also as turīyātīta (the ‘fourth-transcendent’), which creates the wrong impression in the minds of some people that turīyātīta is a fifth state. The truth is that the state of ‘waking sleep’, which is our natural state of absolutely non-dual self-consciousness, is the only real state, so there is truly no difference between turya and turīyātīta. All differences or dualities appear to be real only in the imaginary perspective of our unreal mind, and hence in the clear light of true self-knowledge they will disappear along with this mind.
In verse 33 he teaches us the truth that though some texts say that an ātma-jñāni (one who knows self) is free of saṁcita (the store of one’s past actions or karmas that are yet to give fruit) and āgāmya (the actions that one does in this life by one’s own volition or free will) but that prārabdha (destiny or fate, which is the fruit of past actions that are destined to be experienced in this life) does remain to be experienced by him (or her), this is only a ‘reply that is said to the questions of others’ (that is, it is said as a concession to those who cannot understand the truth that the jñāni is not the mind or body that experiences prārabdha), and he illustrates this truth by saying that just as no wife will remain unwidowed if a husband (with three wives) dies, so none of the three karmas (āgāmya, saṁcita or prārabdha) will remain when the karta (the ‘doer’ or agent who does karmas and experiences their fruit) is destroyed (by the clarity of true self-knowledge).
In verses 34 to 37 Sri Ramana teaches us the truth that studying too many books can become a serious obstacle in our spiritual path, because the truth that we seek to know exists only within ourself and cannot be found in any book or sacred text. Texts that are either written by an ātma-jñāni or that record or discuss the teachings of an ātma-jñāni are truly useful to us only to the extent that they enable us to understand the truth that we can experience the reality only by turning our mind inwards and drowning it in the innermost depth of our own heart, and to the extent that they thereby motivate us to give up seeking anything outside ourself and to seek only the reality that always exists as our essential self, ‘I am’.
Since in every [sacred] text it is said that for attaining mukti [liberation or salvation] it is necessary [for us] to restrain [our] mind, after knowing that manō-nigraha [subjugation or destruction of our mind] is the ultimate intention [or purpose] of [such] texts, there is no benefit [to be gained] by studying without limit [a countless number of] texts. For restraining [our] mind it is necessary [for us] to investigate ourself [in order to know] who [we really are], [but] instead [of doing so] how [can we know ourself by] investigating in texts? It is necessary [for us] to know ourself only by our own ‘eye of jñāna’ [that is, by the clarity of our own self-consciousness]. Does [a person called] Raman need a mirror to know himself as Raman? [Our] ‘self’ is within the pañca-kōśas [the ‘five sheaths’ with which we seem to have covered and obscured our true being], whereas texts are outside them. Therefore investigating in texts [hoping to be able thereby to know] ourself, whom we should investigate [with an inward-turned attention] having removed [set aside, abandoned or separated] all the pañca-kōśas, is useless. ...
In verse 34 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse whose source I do not know) he says that for a person of little learning, his wife, children and other relatives form just one family, whereas in the minds of those who have vast learning there are not just one but many families in the form of books that stand as obstacles to yōga (spiritual practice or ‘union’ with God).
In verse 35 he asks what use is our learning the ‘letters’ (the words written in sacred texts) if we do not intend to erase the ‘letters’ (of destiny) by investigating where we, who have learnt these ‘letters’, were born (that is, from which source we arose as this false learning mind), and he says that those who acquire such learning without attempting to investigate and experience their own source are no better than a sound-recording machine.
In verse 36 he says that rather than those who are learned but have not subsided (surrendered their mind and become truly humble), the unlearned are saved, because they are saved from the ghost of pride that possesses those who are learned, saved from the disease of many whirling thoughts, and saved from running in search of fame (repute, respect, esteem or glory). Therefore he concludes that they are saved not just from one but from many evils.
In verse 37 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse that was probably composed by Śrī Sadāśiva Brahmēndra) he says that though they regard all the worlds as mere straw, and though they have mastered all the sacred texts, for people who have come under the sway of the wicked whore called puhaṙcci (praise, applause, appreciation, respect or fame), it is rare (or very difficult) to escape their slavery to her.
In verse 38, in order to teach us that praise and blame are both of no concern whatsoever to a person who experiences the one real self, he asks us three rhetorical questions, namely who there is besides ourself when we always abide unswervingly in our own true state (of clear self-knowledge), without knowing the illusory distinction between ‘self’ and ‘others’, and what it would then matter whoever may say whatever about us, because what would it matter to us if we were to talk to ourself either extolling or disparaging ourself?
In verse 39 (which he composed in 1938 as a translation of verse 87 of Tattvōpadēśa by Sri Adi Sankara) he says that we should always experience advaita (non-duality) in our heart, but should never attempt to express it in action, and he concludes the verse by saying rather cryptically: ‘O son, advaita is fit in the three worlds; with guru, advaita is not fit; know [thus]’. The ‘three worlds’ here means brahmalōka, vaikuṇṭha and kailāsa, the ‘worlds’ or ‘heavens’ in which each of the three principal forms of God, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, are said to reside, so ‘advaita is fit in the three worlds; with guru, advaita is not fit’ implies that though it may be appropriate for us to approach any of these three forms of God and claim ‘you and I are one’, we should never behave towards guru in such a manner, but should always outwardly show all due reverence towards him, even though in our heart we should experience him as our own true self.
Though the one reality that appears as the various forms of God is actually — like guru — only our own essential self, these three forms of God and their respective functions (namely the creation, sustenance and dissolution of this world-appearance) appear as such only within the unreal realm of our self-ignorance, and hence their functions are in no way comparable to the function of guru, which is to destroy the underlying self-ignorance in which the outward forms of God and guru appear to be real. Therefore the reverence that is due to guru is even greater than the reverence that is due to God.
Moreover, since the creation, sustenance and dissolution of this world are actually caused only by the rising and subsiding of our own mind, we can justifiably claim to be performing the functions that are attributed to Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva, but we can never claim to be performing the function of guru, because as the embodiment of self-ignorance, our mind can never destroy itself, just as darkness can never destroy itself. Just as darkness can be destroyed only by light, our mind and the self-ignorance that gives rise to it can only be destroyed when it subsides and merges in the clear light of pure self-consciousness, ‘I am’, from which it arose.
Therefore this verse teaches us that though we should always experience our absolute oneness with guru in our heart by subsiding and merging in our essential self-consciousness, which is his true form, we should never rise as this mind and claim ‘guru and I are one’ or behave as if we are guru.
Moreover, since all action and our outward behaviour take place only in the realm of duality, it is both meaningless and futile to try to express non-duality in action. Since we can only experience non-duality (advaita) in our own heart, this verse says, ‘Always experience non-duality in [your] heart, [but] do not ever express non-duality in action’.
Sri Ramana concludes Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham by declaring the ‘essence of the established conclusion of the entire vēdānta’ (akhila vēdānta siddhānta sāra) in verse 40 (which is a translation of a Sanskrit verse whose source I do not know), saying ‘அகம் செத்து அகம் அது ஆகில், அறிவு உரு ஆம் அவ்வகம் அதே மிச்சம்’ (aham settu aham adu āhil, aṟivu uru ām a-vv-aham adē miccam), which means: "If ‘I’ dies and ‘I’ becomes ‘that’, that ‘I’, which is the form of consciousness, alone is remnant". That is, if our ego dies and our real self is thereby experienced as ‘that’ (God or brahman, the one absolute reality), what will remain is only that real ‘I’, whose form is pure consciousness.
ஏகான்ம பஞ்சகம் (Ēkāṉma Pañcakam)
ஏகான்ம பஞ்சகம் (Ēkāṉma Pañcakam), the ‘Five Verses on the Oneness of Self’, is a poem that Sri Ramana composed in February 1947, first in Telugu, then in Tamil, and later in Malayalam.
The word ஆன்மா (āṉmā) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word ātman, which means ‘self’, and hence in the title ஏகான்ம பஞ்சகம் (Ēkāṉma Pañcakam) the compound word ஏகான்ம (ēkāṉma) means ‘the one self’, ‘self, the one’ or (by implication) ‘the oneness of self’, and பஞ்சகம் (pañcakam) means a ‘set of five [verses]’. Thus this title implies not only that self is only one (and not many), but also that self is the only one (that is, the only one existing reality), which is the true import of this poem, since in verse 5 Sri Ramana clearly states that self is the only ever-existing and self-shining reality.
Like Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and many of his other works, Sri Ramana composed Ēkātma Pañcakam in veṇbā metre, and he later linked the five verses together as a single verse in kaliveṇbā metre by lengthening the third foot of the fourth line of each verse and adding a fourth foot. This kaliveṇbā version of Ēkātma Pañcakam is called ஏகான்ம விவேகம் (Ēkāṉma Vivēkam), ‘Discernment of the Oneness of Self’, and an English translation and brief commentary upon it by Sri Sadhu Om and me was published on pages 7 to 12 of the January 1982 issue of The Mountain Path, and in May 2009 I posted a copy of it in my blog under the title Ēkātma Vivēkam — the kaliveṇbā version of Ēkātma Pañcakam.
In verse 1 he says that having previously forgotten our real self, having imagined a body to be ourself, and having thereby taken innumerable births, our finally knowing and being our real self is just like waking from a dream of wandering about the world.
That is, our present so-called waking life is in fact nothing but one of the many dreams that we experience in our long sleep of self-forgetfulness — self-ignorance or seeming lack of clarity of self-consciousness (a lack of clarity that is characterised by our knowing clearly that we are, but not what we are). Therefore, when — by the practice of ātma-vicāra or keen self-scrutiny — we experience ourself as we really are and thereby awaken from this underlying sleep of self-forgetfulness, our present life as a finite individual will dissolve completely, along with all the other such lives that we have ever lived, just as all our dreams are dissolved when we wake up from sleep.
In verse 2 he says that a person who asks himself ‘who am I?’ or ‘what is the place in which I exist?’, even though we always exist as our real self, is equal to a drunkard who asks himself ‘who am I?’ or ‘where am I?’.
This verse is not intended to ridicule those who practise ātma-vicāra correctly, penetrating deep within themselves by focusing their entire attention upon their fundamental consciousness of being, ‘I am’, but ridicules only those who float on the surface of their mind among the waves of thoughts, continuously asking themselves questions such as ‘who am I?’ or ‘whence am I?’ instead of ignoring all thoughts by concentrating their attention on the ‘I’ who is thinking them.
Sri Ramana sometimes described the practice of ātma-vicāra or ‘self-investigation’ as the investigation ‘who am I?’ or ‘whence am I?’ because it is the effort that we make to scrutinise ourself in order to know what we really are and from which source we have arisen as this thinking mind. He also suggested that we could use questions such as ‘to whom do these thoughts occur?’ or ‘who thinks these thoughts?’ as a means to divert our attention away from all other thoughts towards the consciousness ‘I’ that thinks and knows them.
However, he also clearly explained that keenly vigilant self-attentiveness alone is the correct practice of ātma-vicāra, and that these questions are just an aid that we can use to regain such self-attentiveness, which is our natural state of clear self-conscious being. Therefore he composed this verse in order to emphasise that we should not blindly ask these questions like a drunkard, but should only ask them as a means to focus our entire attention upon our fundamental consciousness ‘I’.
Another misconception that some people have about the practice of ātma-vicāra is that it is either an exercise of concentrating our attention upon the right-side of our chest — which is said to be the location of our ‘heart’ (our innermost core or real self) in our body — or an exercise of imagining that we are ‘diving into’ or ‘entering’ this point in our body. Therefore, in order to remove this misconception and to clarify that meditating upon the right-side of our chest or any other point in our body is not svarūpa-dhyāna or meditation upon self, in verse 3 he says that when our body is actually in self, which is being-consciousness-bliss (sat-cit-ānanda), a person who imagines that self is located in this non-conscious body is like a person who imagines that the cloth screen that supports a cinema picture is within that picture.
That is, just as the cinema screen is the underlying base or background upon which a cinema picture appears, so self is the ādhāra or underlying reality in which our body and everything else appears. Therefore it is only because of our deeply rooted self-forgetfulness or self-ignorance that we not only experience ourself as existing within the confines of this body, but also experience this body as ‘I’.
Since the purpose of ātma-vicāra is to enable us to know ourself as we really are and thereby to destroy the self-ignorance that makes us experience ourself as being limited within this body, meditating upon any point within this body imagining that that is the location of our real self cannot be the correct practice of ātma-vicāra. Since our body is only an imagination — a thought that exists only in our own mind, like the body that we experience as ‘I’ in a dream — it appears to exist and to be ourself only because we attend to it, so if we meditate upon it in any way, we will sustain its unreal appearance and thereby perpetuate the self-ignorance that gives rise to it. Therefore, in order to know ourself as we really are, we must withdraw our attention completely from this body and from every other thought or object by focusing it exclusively upon ‘I’, our essential consciousness of our own being.
Our real self is not only the ādhāra — the support, substratum, ground or foundation — of our body, but is also the sole vastu — substance or essence — of which it and everything else is made. This truth is clearly stated by Sri Ramana in verse 4, in which he asks two rhetorical questions that imply that just as an ornament is not other than gold, the vastu or substance of which it is made, so the body is not other than self. He then concludes this verse by saying that a person who thinks himself or herself to be a body is an ajñāni (someone who does not know self), whereas one who takes himself or herself to be self is a jñāni who has known self.
That is, our real self, which is the pure non-dual consciousness of being, ‘I am’, is the only real substance that appears as our mind, the false thinking and object-knowing consciousness that experiences itself as ‘I am this body’, and this mind in turn is the substance that appears as everything else that we know. Nothing exists except in our consciousness, because everything is just a thought that our consciousness has formed within itself — and of its substance.
The consciousness that thus forms itself into thoughts — which include all the objects that it knows — is our mind, and this mind is in turn just a limited and distorted form of our original self-consciousness, ‘I am’. Therefore, just as gold is the one substance that appears as all the various gold ornaments, so consciousness, our real self, is the one substance that appears as our mind, our body and everything else that we experience.
Thus, though our body is in reality nothing other than our real self, so long as we experience it as a finite form and not as the one consciousness that it really is, our experience of it as ‘I’ is ignorance or ajñāna. Therefore, as Sri Ramana teaches us in verse 17 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, a person who experiences ‘I’ as being only the limited form of this body is an ajñāni (someone who is ignorant of his or her real self), whereas anyone who experiences themself as self, the formless and therefore unlimited consciousness that is the only real substance of the body and everything else, is a jñāni (someone who experiences themself as they really are).
This one real self, which is the sole substance of everything, is the only thing that always exists and that knows itself by its own light of consciousness, as Sri Ramana teaches us in the first line of verse 5 and in the preceding ‘link words’ of the kaliveṇbā version, ‘தனது ஒளியால் எப்போதும் உள்ளது அவ்வேகான்ம வத்துவே’ (taṉadu oḷiyāl eppōdum uḷḷadu a-vv-ēkāṉma vattuvē), which means, ‘That which always exists by its own light is only that ēkātma-vastu [the one substance, which is self]’.
Since self is thus the only existing reality, there is truly nothing that is other than it, so it cannot be made known by words. Therefore in the last three lines of this final verse Sri Ramana asks rhetorically who can reveal this real substance by ‘saying’ (that is, by spoken or written words), when in ancient times even the primal guru Dakshinamurti was able to reveal it only by ‘saying without saying’ (that is, by just being silent).
That is, the real nature of the one self is ineffable, because it could be made known by words only if there were at least two distinct people, a guru to teach it and a disciple to understand it, but since there is nothing other than self, who is to make it known to whom? Therefore we can know it as it really is only by merging and losing ourself in infinite silence — the silence of clear thought-free being — which is its true nature.
அப்பளப் பாட்டு (Appaḷa-p-Pāṭṭu)
அப்பளப் பாட்டு (Appaḷa-p-Pāṭṭu), the ‘Appaḷam Song’, is a Tamil song that Sri Ramana composed for his mother one day in about 1914 or 1915, when she asked him to help her make some appaḷams (a thin crisp wafer made of gram flour and other ingredients, also known as parpaṭa (in Sanskrit), pappaḍam (in Tamil and Malayalam), pāpaḍ (in Hindi and Urdu), papadum, papadom or poppadom (in its various anglicised forms), which can either be fried or toasted over a naked flame or in hot embers). He responded by composing this song, in which he compares each of the ingredients, implements and actions required to make an appaḷam to the qualities and practices required for us to experience true self-knowledge.
In the pallavi or refrain (which completes the meaning of the anupallavi and each of the four verses) he simply says, ‘Making appaḷam, see; eating it, fulfil [or destroy] your desire’. The appaḷam that he asks us to prepare is the appaḷam of true self-knowledge, and what he asks us to see is who we really are. By eating this appaḷam — that is, by experiencing true self-knowledge — we will satisfy our hunger for infinite happiness, and thus we will destroy all our other desires, which are all just distorted forms of our fundamental desire for real happiness.
In the āṉmāanupallavi or sub-refrain he says that, instead of wandering in this material world craving the fulfilment of other desires, we should satisfy our hunger for real happiness by preparing and eating the āṉmāappaḷam of true self-knowledge in accordance with ‘the unequalled and unsurpassed one [non-dual] language’, which is the āṉmātattva or reality that the āṉmāsadguru (the āṉmāguru who teaches āṉmāsat, being or reality), who is sat-bhōda-sukha (being-consciousness-bliss, or the happiness of true knowledge), said without saying. The sadguru whom Sri Ramana refers to here is the primal guru Dakshinamurti, and the ‘unequalled and unsurpassed one language’ that he ‘said without saying’ is silence, which is the true language of non-duality.
In verse 1 he begins to explain how we should make the appaḷam of true self-knowledge, saying that we should break up black gram, which is the pride ‘I’ that grows in the field of five sheaths (the body, life, mind, intellect and the underlying self-ignorance), which are not self, reducing it to powder as ‘not I’ in the hand-mill, which is the jñāna-vicāra (knowledge-investigation) ‘who am I?’.
That is, our ego, which rises in this body as ‘I am this’ and which Sri Ramana therefore describes as "the pride ‘I’ that grows in the field of five sheaths", is compared to black gram, which is the principal ingredient in an appaḷam, and the practice of jñāna-vicāra — investigating what our fundamental knowledge ‘I am’ really is — is compared to the hand-mill in which we should break up this ego, reducing it to powder as ‘not I’.
In verse 2 he says that we should blend the following ingredients with the pulverised black gram: the juice of square-stalked vine, which is sat-saṅga (clinging to being, or to one who knows and abides as being); cumin, which is sama (equanimity, tranquillity or calmness); pepper, which is dama (self-restraint); salt, which is uparati (cessation, which means renunciation of worldly desires and refraining from indulgence in sensual enjoyments and worldly actions); and asafoetida, which is good vāsanā (disposition, propensity, inclination, impulsion or desire) in the heart (or mind).
In this context உள்ள நல் வாசனை (uḷḷa nal vāsanai) or the ‘inner good vāsanā’ means the sat-vāsanā, the desire or inclination just to be, which alone can root out all our karma-vāsanās, our desires to be active.
Having thus described the ingredients and their initial preparation in verses 1 and 2, in verses 3 and 4 Sri Ramana describes the process of cooking the appaḷam of true self-knowledge.
In verse 3 he says that in the mortar of our heart we should unceasingly and without agitation (or confusion) pound the blended ingredients with the pestle of uḷ-mukham (introversion or ‘facing inwards’) as ‘I [am only] I’, and then on the board, which is sama (‘evenness’ or ‘levelness’ of mind, that is, samādhi), with the rolling-pin, which is peace, we should continuously, joyfully and without salippu (weariness, pramāda or self-negligence) satisfy our desire by preparing and eating the appaḷam of true self-knowledge.
In verse 4 he says that — in order to experience ourself as தானே தான் (tāṉē tāṉ), ‘self alone [is] self’ (or ‘only I [am] I’) — in the endless (infinite and eternal) pan, which is mauna-mudrā (the seal, stamp or mark of silence), in the excellent ghee (or clarified butter) of brahman (the absolute reality), which is heated by jñānāgni (the fire of true knowledge), we should always fry (the appaḷam of self-knowledge) as ‘I [am] that [brahman]’, and should thereby satisfy our desire by preparing and eating the taṉmaya-appaḷam (the appaḷam that is composed of tat or ‘that’, the one absolute reality called brahman).
ஆன்ம வித்தை (Āṉma-Viddai)
ஆன்ம வித்தை (Āṉma-Viddai), the ‘Science of Self’, also known as Ātma-Vidyā Kīrtanam, the ‘Song on the Science of Self’, is a Tamil song that Sri Ramana composed on 24th April 1927 in answer to the request of Sri Muruganar.
That is, Sri Muruganar composed the pallavi and anupallavi (refrain and sub-refrain) of a kīrtana (song), in which he said that ātma-vidyā (the science and art of self-knowledge) is extremely easy, and he then asked Sri Ramana to complete the kīrtana by composing the caraṇas (verses). Sri Ramana accordingly composed the caraṇas, in which he emphatically confirmed the truth that ātma-vidyā is extremely easy.
The title of this song, ஆன்மவித்தை (āṉma-viddai), is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit term ātma-vidyā, which is a compound of two words: ātman, which means ‘self’, and vidyā, which means ‘knowledge’, ‘science’, ‘philosophy’ or ‘art’. Thus ātma-vidyā (or āṉma-viddai) means the ‘science of self’ — that is, the science and art of true self-knowledge, the practice of which is called ātma-vicāra or ‘self-investigation’.
In the pallavi or refrain (which completes the meaning of the anupallavi and each of the four verses) Sri Muruganar says, ‘Ah [what a wonder], ātma-vidyā is extremely easy, ah, [so] extremely easy!’ and in the anupallavi or sub-refrain he says that self (‘I am’) is so very real even to simple-minded people that in comparison even an āmalaka fruit in our palm is unreal. That is, nothing is so clear, self-evident and obviously real as ourself, our fundamental consciousness of being, ‘I am’.
In verse 1 Sri Ramana says that though self is always imperishably (indubitably or unforgettably) real, the body and world, which are in fact unreal, sprout up and appear as real; but that when mind (or thought), which is composed of unreal darkness (the darkness of self-ignorance), is dissolved in such a manner that not even a trace of it survives, self, which is the real sun (of pure self-consciousness), will shine forth spontaneously in the space of our heart, the darkness (of self-ignorance) will disappear, suffering will cease and happiness will surge up.
That is, the cause of the unreal appearance of our body and this world, and of the suffering that always follows in their wake, is only our mind, which is the embodiment of self-ignorance — the imaginary darkness in which it arises. Therefore, when this mind is dissolved in the clear light of pure self-consciousness — like darkness in the bright light of the sun — the body, the world and the suffering that they cause will all cease to exist, and only perfect happiness will remain.
In verse 2 he says that since the thought ‘this body composed of flesh is certainly I’ is the one string on which all our other various thoughts are strung, if we penetrate within ourself by scrutinising ‘who am I?’ or ‘what is the place [the source or ground from which this false ‘I’ rises]?’, all thoughts will disappear and self-knowledge (ātma-jñāna) will shine forth spontaneously as ‘I [am only] I’ within the cave (of our heart), and he declares that this self-knowledge alone is silence (mauna), the ‘one space’ (the non-dual space of infinite being-consciousness) and the abode of bliss.
That is, since other thoughts can arise only after our primal thought ‘I am this body’ has arisen (because this primal thought is the false ‘I’ that thinks all other thoughts), and since this primal thought can rise and stand only by thinking those other thoughts, when — instead of thinking any other thought — it attends only to itself in order to know ‘who am I?’, it will subside and dissolve in the source from which it has arisen (which is our real ‘I’), and hence all other thoughts will disappear along with it. What will then remain is only pure self-consciousness, the clear knowledge that ‘I am only I’, which is the state of absolute silence — complete absence of the ever-chattering mind — and therefore the infinite abode of true happiness.
In verse 3 he asks us what use it is if we know anything else but do not know ourself, and what there is to know if we have known self (since everything else will cease to exist when we know ourself as we really are and thereby destroy the illusion of our mind and everything that it appears to know). He then says that when we know within ourself the one real self, which clearly shines without any difference in all the different souls (or living beings), the bright light of self (ātma-prakāśa) will flash forth within ourself, and that this is the shining forth of grace, the destruction of ‘I’ (the mind or ego) and the blossoming of true happiness.
In verse 4 he says that for the bonds of action (karma) and so on (that is, action and objective knowledge or experience) to be untied and for the destruction of birth and so on (that is, bodily birth, life and death) to occur, rather than any other path (or means), this path (of knowing self) is extremely easy. He then explains what ‘this path’ is and why it is so very easy, saying that when we settle down and just be, without the least action (karma) of speech, mind or body, ah, the light of self (ātma-jyōti) in our heart will be our eternal experience, fear will not exist, and the ocean of happiness alone will remain.
That is, since this path of ātma-vicāra or scrutinising and knowing ourself does not involve even the least action of our mind, speech or body, but is simply the state in which our mind subsides and remains as it really is — that is, as simple non-dual thought-free self-conscious being, ‘I am’ — it is infinitely easier than any other spiritual practice, all of which involve some form of action of our mind, speech or body. What can be easier than just being?
Since our being is always self-conscious, in order to know ourself all that is required is that we just be — that is, just remain as we really are, clearly and exclusively self-conscious, thereby excluding all thoughts and all actions (which are actually just thoughts). Therefore knowing and being our real self is ‘extremely easy, ah, [so] extremely easy!’ This is the decided conclusion that Sri Ramana knew from his own experience.
Finally in verse 5 he says that ‘in the uḷḷam [heart or mind] that scrutinises [itself] within [by just being] as it is, without thinking anything else’, self — which is called Annamalai (an alternative name of Arunachala, which in this context means ‘God’), and which is the one poruḷ (substance, essence or reality) that shines as the ‘space even to the mind-space’ (that is, as the fundamental space of consciousness in which the ‘space’ of our mind is contained) and as the ‘eye even to the mind-eye, which is the eye even to the [five physical] senses beginning with the eye, which illumine [the five physical elements] beginning with space’ — will be seen. He then adds that ‘grace is also needed’ (in order for us just to be and thereby to experience self as it really is) and therefore advises us to ‘have love’ (that is, to have love for just being, which is the true form of grace), and concludes by saying that ‘happiness will [thereby] arise’.
Thus in this verse Sri Ramana once again emphasises that the easiest — and indeed the only — means by which we can experience ourself as we really are is just to be as we really are by inwardly scrutinising ourself and thereby excluding all other thoughts, and he also emphasises that we can experience this state of ‘just being as we are’ only if we have all-consuming love for it.
உபதேசத் தனிப்பாக்கள் (Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ)
Besides these six poems that form உபதேச நூன்மாலை (Upadēśa Nūṉmālai), there are a total of twenty-seven separate verses of upadēśa (spiritual teaching) that Sri Ramana composed, which are not included in the Upadēśa Nūṉmālai section of ஸ்ரீ ரமண நூற்றிரட்டு (Śrī Ramaṇa Nūṯṟiraṭṭu), the Tamil ‘Collected Works of Sri Ramana’, but which could appropriately be included there.
However, as I explain in the introduction that I wrote for this English translation of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai, which is contained in the printed book and in the PDF copy of it (and also in a separate article in my blog, Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai — English translation by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James), Sri Sadhu Om gathered these twenty-seven verses together and arranged them in a suitable order to form a work entitled உபதேசத் தனிப்பாக்கள் (Upadēśa-t-taṉi-p-pākkaḷ), the ‘Solitary Verses of Spiritual Teaching’, and he included this work at the end of his Tamil commentary on Upadēśa Nūṉmālai, which is a book called ஸ்ரீ ரமணோபதேச நூன்மாலை — விளக்கவுரை (Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai Viḷakkavurai).
At least thirteen of these twenty-seven verses of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (namely verses 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 19, 21, 23, 24 and 25) were originally composed by Sri Ramana as part of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, and were therefore included in the second edition of it (which was published in 1971) as verses B4, B5, B16, B10, B15, B12, B13, B19, B6, B24, B26, B28 and B27 respectively (of which all except verse B24 [Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ verse 21] were also included in the first edition, which was published in 1939). The other fourteen of these twenty-seven verses may not actually have been composed as part of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, but were nevertheless included in the third edition of it, which was published in 1998.
Eight verses of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (namely verses 1, 8, 11, 17, 21, 23, 24 and 25) are translations or adaptations of verses from ancient Sanskrit texts, and verse 22 is a condensed adaptation of a verse from a Tamil text called Prabhuliṅga Līlai, but the other eighteen verses are all Sri Ramana’s own original compositions.
In verse 1 (which is an adaptation of the first verse of a Sanskrit text called Śiva Jñāna Bōdham, and which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 114-a [the first verse in the appendix of our English translation]) he says that because this world, which consists of female, male, neuter and so on, is seen as an effect (kārya), a ‘doer’ or agent (kartākāraṇa) of this world, and that this ‘doer’ destroys and creates this world, and is known as Hara (or God).
That is, so long as we see this world as an effect (a result or product, that is, something that is not permanent but has come into existence), we have to accept the existence of cause or creator that has brought it into existence, and this cause, which not only creates but also destroys this world, is called ‘Hara’ or ‘God’. This truth is stated by Sri Ramana in a more refined manner in the first verse of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, in which he says that this ‘cause’ — the ஓர் முதல் (ōr mudal) or ‘one primal reality’, which is self — is that which appears as everything: the seeing mind, the world-picture that it sees, the light of consciousness by which it sees, and the ground or underlying being that supports its seeing.
However, our real self appears as God, the cause or creator of this world, only so long as we see this world instead of seeing ourself as we really are. When we look inwards to see the reality of our mind, which sees this world-appearance and infers the existence of a creating God, our mind will dissolve and disappear, and in the absence of this seeing mind neither the world nor any separate God will exist. That is, the mind (or ‘soul’), world and God are all a false appearance, the sole reality of which is our true self — our essential consciousness of being, ‘I am’.
In verses 2 and 3 (which are also verses B4 and B5 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana explains the tattva or truth signified by Deepavali (dīpa-āvali, the ‘array [or series] of lights’), an important Hindu festival that celebrates the destruction of the demon Narakāsura, who symbolises the ego.
In verse 2 he summarises the meaning of verses 181 and 182 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that a person who slays Narakaṉ (the demon who embodies our ego) with the jñāna-cakra (the discus of self-knowledge) by investigating ‘where is Narakaṉ, who rules the world of hell (naraka) as "[this] hell-body is I"?’ is Nārāyaṇa (Lord Viṣṇu), and that that day (on which Narakāsura is thus slain) is the auspicious day of Naraka Caturdaśī (the day of the fourteenth waning moon, on which people commence the Deepavali festival by taking a ritual bath to celebrate his destruction).
In verse 3 he rephrases verse 183 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that Deepavali (the ‘array of lights’) is our shining as self, having scrutinised and thereby destroyed the great sinner, the evil Narakāsura, who degenerated by imagining the illusory (or miserable) body abode, which is the form of hell (naraka), to be ‘I’.
That is, Narakāsura is our mind or ego, which has fallen from our natural state of pure non-dual self-consciousness by imagining itself to be a body, and he can be killed only by our scrutinising him to know who he really is. When we thus investigate ‘who (or what) is this evil ego?’ and thereby destroy it, we will remain as the victorious Nārāyaṇa (God), the slayer of Narakāsura. This slaying of Narakāsura is the significance of Naraka Caturdaśī, and our subsequent shining as Nārāyaṇa, who is our own real self, is what is symbolised by Deepavali, the festival of the ‘array of lights’.
Verses 4 and 5 (which are included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verses 603-a and b [the fourth and fifth verses in the appendix of our English translation]) were composed by Sri Ramana in 1912 on the day that his devotees first decided to celebrate his jayantī (birthday).
In verse 4 he addresses those who thus wanted to celebrate the birthday of his body as a great festival, asking them what our real birthday is, and answering that it is only that day on which — by carefully investigating ‘where [or how] were we born?’ — we are born in பொருள் (poruḷ), the true substance, essence or reality, which always shines as one (the one non-dual and only existing reality) without being born or dying (and without any other form of duality).
In verse 5 he says that knowing self and thereby subsiding (sinking, dissolving or ceasing to exist) — having discriminated, ‘Instead of lamenting about [my] birth at least on [my] birthday, cherishing [or celebrating] [my] birthday as a festivity is [like] cherishing [or celebrating] a dead corpse by decorating it’ — alone is true knowledge (or wisdom).
In verse 6 (which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 492-a [the third verse in the appendix of our English translation]) he writes as the stomach making a complaint to ‘my very evil [or misery-inflicting] soul’, saying that ‘you do not give me rest for even one nāṙigai [twenty-four minutes]’, because ‘you do not cease eating for even one nāṙigai in a day’, and that ‘you never know my suffering’, so ‘living with you is difficult’.
He composed this verse in 1929 on citrā paurṇimā (full moon in April-May), when, after eating a sumptuous meal, a devotee quoted a Tamil verse by Auvaiyar, in which she complains to ‘my misery-inflicting stomach’, saying that ‘if I ask [you] to forgo food for one day, you do not forgo; if I ask [you] to accept [enough food] for two days, you do not accept; you never know my suffering; living with you is difficult’. Hearing this, Sri Ramana explained that Auvaiyar’s complaint against her stomach was justified, because she was a mendicant who lived on begged food and therefore often had to survive without food, but that the same complaint was not justified when it was made by someone who had just overeaten to gratify the greed of his own mind. Therefore he adapted the verse of Auvaiyar to form this complaint made by the stomach against the greedy mind or soul.
Verse 7 (which is also verse B16 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) is a reply that Sri Ramana wrote to a question that Sri Muruganar asked him in a Tamil verse (which is now verse 815 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) about the following incident, which had happened many years earlier: One day when he was wandering alone on the northern slopes of Arunachala, Sri Ramana’s thigh accidentally brushed against a thicket in which a hornets’ nest was concealed. A swarm of angry hornets at once emerged and attacked the offending thigh, so feeling sorry for the disturbance that he had accidentally caused them, he stood still and calmly allowed them to sting his thigh to their hearts’ content.
In his verse Sri Muruganar therefore asked him why he felt repentant and allowed them to sting his thigh even though the disturbance he had caused them was not intentional, in reply to which he composed this verse asking what the nature of his mind would be (that is, how hard-hearted it would be) if it had not at least felt sorry, even though the swarming hornets stung the leg that touched and damaged their nest, causing it to become inflamed and swollen, and even though the damage he had caused was a mistake that happened unintentionally.
In verse 8 (which is an adaptation of a verse from a Sanskrit text called Śrī Rāma Gītā, and which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 224-a [the second verse in the appendix of our English translation]) he expresses wonder at the self-delusion of siddhas (those who use siddhis or ‘supernatural powers’ to perform ‘miracles’), saying that a conjuror will delude the people of this world without himself being deluded, whereas a siddha will delude the people of this world and will himself also be deluded (believing his powers and miracles to be real).
In verse 9 (which is also verse B10 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 682 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that people who regard a (human) body, which eats pure food and transforms it into filth, as ‘I’ are worse than a pig, which eats filth. That is, though people often despise pigs because they eat excreta, Sri Ramana humbles us by saying that we are in fact even more despicable than pigs, because we imagine ourself to be this human body, which eats pure food and transforms it into excreta. In other words, identifying oneself as a body that produces excreta is worse than identifying oneself as a body that eats excreta.
In verse 10 (which is also verse B15 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 802 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that only a person who is saved (that is, liberated from the bondage of embodied existence) can save people in this world, whereas anyone else (that is, anyone who has not yet saved himself or herself yet who tries to save other people) is like the blind leading the blind. That is, just as darkness can be removed only by light, the dense darkness of our self-ignorance can only be removed by the real guru, who knows and abides as the clear light of pure self-consciousness.
In verse 11 (which is another but briefer adaptation of the same Sanskrit verse that he adapted as verse 2 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham, and which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1127-a) Sri Ramana says that the state (of true self-knowledge) that is attained by the means (the practice of ātma-vicāra) that arises clearly (within us) due to சாது உறவு (sādhu-uṟavu) — intimate friendship with or love for a sage who knows and abides as self — cannot be attained by (any other means such as) a preacher, sacred texts or virtuous deeds.
Verse 12 (which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1127-a) was composed by Sri Ramana on 30th July 1928, but later that day he modified the first two lines in order to pack more meaning into it, and the modified version is now included in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu as verse 13. In this original version of that verse he says that jñāna (knowledge or consciousness) alone is real, and that ajñāna (ignorance), which is nothing other than the jñāna that sees as many (that is, the mind, which is the false consciousness that sees itself as this entire experience of duality or multiplicity), is nothing other than self (its only real substance), which is jñāna, just as all the many ornaments, which are unreal (as separate forms), are not other than gold (the real substance of which they are made).
Verse 13 (which is included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 603-c) was composed by Sri Ramana in the second week of August 1927, but a year later he modified it in order to encompass in it a discussion not only of time but also of space, and the modified version is now included in Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu as verse 16. In this original version of that verse he first asks the rhetorical question ‘நாம் அன்றி நாள் ஏது?’ (nām aṉḏṟi nāḷ ēdu?), which means ‘except we, where is time?’ and which clearly implies that ‘we’ alone truly exist and that time does not actually exist. He then says ‘நாம் நம்மை நாடாது “நாம் உடல்” என்று எண்ணில், நமை நாள் உண்ணும்’ (nām nammai nāḍādu ‘nām uḍal’ eṉḏṟu eṇṇil, namai nāḷ uṇṇum), which means ‘if — without scrutinising ourself — we think that we are a body, time will eat [devour or consume] us’, but then asks another rhetorical question, ‘are we [a] body?’, implying that we are not. He then concludes by saying that we are ‘one’ (the one non-dual immutable reality), now, in past and future times, and that therefore we — we who have eaten (devoured or consumed) time — exist.
That is, we seem to be ensnared within the limits of time only so long as we imagine ourself to be a body, but when we scrutinise ourself and discover that we are not this body but only the infinite and eternal reality that underlies and supports the appearance of this body and everything else, we will thereby consume time and remain as the one non-dual immutable reality that we always truly are.
Having thus indicated that our present confused knowledge about ourself and everything else exists only because we have not scrutinised ourself — that is, investigated who or what we really are — in verses 14 to 16 Sri Ramana discusses the actual practice of ātma-vicāra or ‘scrutinising ourself’.
In verse 14 (which is also verse B12 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) he rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 706 ofGuru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that for people who do not abide in jñāna (knowledge or consciousness), which is the sthāna (place, abode or home) where ‘I’ resides, knowing in japa the sthāna where parā-vāk (the supreme speech or word) resides is good (or suitable).
This verse, which is intended to be a concession to those who complain that they are unable to practise ātma-vicāra or who are strongly attached to the practice of mantra-japa (repetition of a name of God or any other sacred words), can be best be understood by considering it in the light of how Sri Ramana came to compose it, which is as follows:
On 18th November 1907 a Vedic scholar and Sanskrit poet called Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri came to Sri Ramana and asked him what the real meaning of tapas (austerity or severe spiritual practice) is. Sri Ramana replied by remaining silent and looking at him steadily, but after fifteen minutes Ganapati Sastri asked him to reply in words. Sri Ramana then said, ‘If one observes that from which that which says "I", "I" emerges, the mind will subside there; that alone is tapas’, but Ganapati Sastri responded by asking, ‘Is it not possible to attain that state by japa also?’ so he replied, ‘If one repeats a mantra and observes that from which the sound of that mantra emerges, the mind will subside there; that alone is tapas’.
Many years later, when discussing this incident with Sri Muruganar and other devotees, Sri Ramana explained that ātma-vicāra, which is the practice of observing the source from which our mind arises as ‘I’, is the only means by which we can know who or what we really are, but that if someone says that he wants to achieve self-knowledge by mantra-japa, instead of insisting that he should only practise ātma-vicāra, it is better to tell him to carry on with his mantra-japa but to observe the source from which the mantra-dhvani (the sound of that mantra) originates, because it originates only from the person who repeats it, so trying to observe from where it originates is a means of diverting one’s attention away from the mantra towards the ‘I’ who is repeating it. In other words, observing the source of the mantra-dhvani is the same as observing the source of the rising ‘I’ (the mind that repeats it), because the source of both is the same fundamental consciousness, which is our being ‘I’.
Sri Ramana also explained that because ‘I’ is the source of all sounds or words, it is called the parā-vāk or ‘supreme word’, and it is the original and foremost name of God. Therefore there is no mantra (sacred word) greater than the word ‘I’ (in whichever language it may be expressed), because unlike any other mantra, when we repeat it, it draws our attention directly towards its source, which is our essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’.
Sri Muruganar summarised this explanation given by Sri Ramana in verses 706 and 707 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, and then Sri Ramana rephrased the meaning of verse 706 in a more condensed manner in this verse. Therefore his intention when he composed this verse was not to suggest that japa is an alternative to ātma-vicāra as a means by which we can know our self, but was only to indicate that the true benefit of mantra-japa can only be achieved by observing ‘I’, the source from which the mantra-dhvani originates.
On the path of bhakti or devotion, japa or repetition of a name of God is used as a means by which we can focus our love and attention upon the thought of God, but since God is truly our own essential self, ‘I am’, the easiest and most effective means by which we can focus our love and attention upon him is the practice of ātma-vicāra or svarūpa-smaraṇa — self-attentiveness or self-remembrance. This truth is clearly stated by Sri Ramana in verse 15 (which is also verse B13 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai), in which he rephrases in a more condensed and emphatic manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 730 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that ātma-anusaṁdhāna is parama-īśa-bhakti (supreme devotion to God) because God exists as ātmā (our essential self).
The meaning of the Sanskrit word anusaṁdhāna is essentially the same as that of vicāra, namely investigation, enquiry, scrutiny, close inspection or deep contemplation, so ātma-anusaṁdhāna means self-scrutiny or being keenly attentive to our essential self. Such keen and vigilant self-attentiveness is possible only when we have intense and all-consuming love for self — our pure consciousness of being, ‘I am’ — which is the true form of God.
In verse 16 (which is also verse B19 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) he rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verses 957 and 958 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that in waking the state of sleep will occur by subtle investigation, which is the practice of constantly scrutinising oneself, and that until sleep shines pervading throughout both waking and dream, we should incessantly practise that subtle investigation.
This ‘state of sleep’ that will occur in waking and that will eventually pervade throughout both waking and dream when we constantly practise ātma-vicāra or subtle self-investigation is the state that is known as jāgrat-suṣupti or ‘waking sleep’, which is the only real state (as Sri Ramana teaches us in verse 32 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu Anubandham). This state is our natural state of true self-knowledge, and it is called ‘waking sleep’ because it is the state in which we are clearly conscious of (or ‘awake’ to) the only reality, ‘I am’, and completely unaware of (or ‘asleep’ to) anything other than that.
The only means by which we can experience this state of true self-knowledge is ātma-vicāra, the subtle practice of keenly vigilant self-attentiveness, so until we experience it we should persevere in being self-attentive as constantly as possible. As Sri Ramana says in the tenth and eleventh paragraphs of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
... without giving room to even [the slightest] thought, one should persistently cling fast to svarūpa-dhyāna [self-contemplation]. ...
... If one clings fast to uninterrupted svarūpa-smaraṇa [self-remembrance] until one attains svarūpa [one’s own essential self], that alone [will be] sufficient. ...
In verses 17 to 23 Sri Ramana states some truths about the state of attainment of true self-knowledge.
In July 1948 Sri Ramana translated the sixty-eight verses of Sri Adi Sankara’s Ātma-Bōdha into Tamil in verse form, and though he translated all the other verses in veṇbā metre, he translated the last verse at first in a six-foot viruttam metre, but later recomposed it as a six-line paḵṟoḍai veṇbā in order to make it conform metrically with all the other verses. The paḵṟoḍai veṇbā version is now the final verse of his translation of Ātma-Bōdha, and the original viruttam version is verse 17 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (and is also included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 227-a).
In this verse he says that whoever bathes without action in ātma-tīrtha (the holy waters of self), which shines abundantly as unblemished nityānanda (eternal happiness), which is untouched by (any limitation such as) direction, time, place and so on, pervading everywhere and bereft of (any physical sensation such as) cold and so on, that firm (or steady) person (the person who is thus firmly established in self) is omnipresent, omniscient and immortal.
The state that is described here as ‘bathing without action in ātma-tīrtha’ is the state of firm self-abidance, which Sri Ramana describes in verse 4 of Āṉma-Viddai as ‘settling down and just being without the slightest action (karma) of speech, mind or body’ and which we can achieve only by focusing our entire attention upon our essential self-consciousness, ‘I am’, thereby excluding all thought about anything else.
In verse 18 (which was composed on 28th May 1944 and which is also included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1027-a) Sri Ramana reiterates the same truth that he stated in verse 28 of Upadēśa Undiyār, namely that if we know our ‘true form’ (our real nature) in our heart, we will know ourself to be sat-cit-ānanda (being-consciousness-bliss), which is fullness (or infinite wholeness) without beginning or end.
In verse 19 (which is also verse B6 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) he rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 216 ofGuru Vācaka Kōvai, saying that only that which is experienced as śānti (peace) in the state of introversion is that which appears as śakti (power) in the state of extroversion, and that to those who have investigated and known (the reality) they are one.
That is, as Sri Sadhu Om explains in his Tamil commentary on this verse, our real self, which is sat-cit-ānanda (being-consciousness-bliss), is the fullness of both infinite peace and infinite power. When our mind turns within and merges in self, it experiences itself as the ocean of infinite peace, but when it rises and rushes outside towards the world of thoughts and sense perceptions, its own essential self appears to be God, the supreme power that creates, sustains and dissolves this world. Hence for those who know and abide eternally as self, peace and power are one, being both nothing other than self. Therefore all the many different kinds of power that are seen in this world are in truth only an infinitesimal reflection of the infinite ocean of peace that a mey-jñāni (one who knows and abides as the reality) experiences as his true nature.
Verse 20 (which is also included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1147-a) consists of a metaphorical statement made by a devotee named K. V. Ramachandran and the equally metaphorical reply given by Sri Ramana. One day when they were walking together on Arunachala hill they saw a bird being caught in a net by a hunter, whereupon Ramachandran composed a kuṟaḷ veṇbā (a two-line form of a veṇbā) in which he said, ‘If a dove that is caught in the hand of a hunter is released, it will escape [or go away] even from the forest’, implying that if a person is liberated from the bondage of māyā or self-delusion, he or she will depart from his or her body.
Sri Ramana replied by extending the second line and adding two more lines to this verse, thus transforming it into a veṇbā (a four-line verse in a particular metre), in which he said, ‘If [you] say thus, [the reply is that] when the hunter seeking [or desiring to go] home departs elsewhere [leaving the bird], even the forest, which was alien, will end as home’, implying that when the mind, which is māyā, seeks its original abode by scrutinising itself and thereby departs (or ceases to exist), even the body, which we previously considered to be an alien object (something other than our real ‘I’), will be recognised as being nothing other than our real self.
That is, so long as we are seeking to know ourself as we really are, we have to consider our body to be an alien object (because we cannot know the real nature of ‘I’ so long as we experience this body as ‘I’), but as soon as we know ourself as we really are, we will recognise that this mind, body and world are all nothing other than ‘I’, which is the sole reality (just as the imaginary snake is nothing other than the rope, which alone is real). Therefore when a person experiences true self-knowledge, his or her body does not necessarily die or cease to exist, but will continue to live (at least in the view of those who do not know self) until the prārabdha or destiny that brought it into existence has been completed.
In verse 21 (which is also verse B24 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana rephrases the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 1148 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai (which is an adaptation of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 11.13.36, a verse that he sometimes cited and explained), saying that whether the impermanent body is settled (inactive or asleep) or risen (active or awake), whether it is present (living) or has departed (died), a sage who knows self does not know the body, just as a person blinded by alcohol intoxication does not know the fine cloth (whether it is still on or has slipped off his body).
That is, the body of a sage who knows self seems to exist only in the view of those who do not know self, because in the absolutely clear perspective of true self-knowledge only the one infinite and formless self exists. Since the body and everything else except self is a mere imagination, it is known only by the imagining mind (which is itself just an unreal imagination) and not by the non-dual real self. Therefore the sage or jñāni knows neither the body nor the world, nor anything else except self, the pure and infinite non-dual consciousness of being, ‘I am’.
In verse 22 (which is a condensed adaptation of Prabhuliṅga Līlai 12.11, and which is also included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1141-a) he says that just as we would discard a leaf plate after eating the food served on it, so one who has seen (or experienced) self will discard the body. That is, the only purpose of our body is to serve as a plate from which we should eat the sumptuous feast of true self-knowledge by constantly practising vigilant self-attentiveness, and once this purpose has been served, we will happily discard it.
In verse 23 (which is also verse B26 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 1166 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai (which is an adaptation of Bhagavad Gītā 4.22, a verse that he sometimes cited and explained and that he later translated again as verse 40 of Bhagavad Gītā Sāram), saying that an equanimous person who experiences happiness in whatever happens (according to prārabdha or destiny), who has put an end to jealousy, and who has discarded dvaṁdvas (all pairs of opposites), is devoid of bondage (the bondage of karma, action or ‘doing’) even though doing.
That is, even though such a perfectly equanimous sage may appear to be doing actions of mind, speech and body such as thinking, talking, walking and eating, he or she does not in fact do anything, because he experiences himself as the one infinite self-consciousness, ‘I am’, which never does anything but just is, and not as the body and mind, which are the instruments that do action.
In verse 24 (which is also verse B28 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 1227 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, which is an adaptation of the following Sanskrit verse, which he often cited and explained:
na nirōdhō na cōtpattir na baddhō na ca sādhakaḥ |
na mumukṣur na vai mukta ity ēṣā paramārthatā ||
This verse, which occurs in several ancient texts such as Amṛtabindu Upaniṣad verse 10, Ātmōpaniṣad verse 31, Avadhūtōpaniṣad verse 8, Māṇḍukya Kārikā 2.32 and Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi verse 574, means:
[There is] no nirōdha [stopping, ending or destruction] and no utpatti [arising, origination, birth, production or creation], no baddha [person who is bound] and no sādhaka [person doing spiritual practice], no mumukṣu [person seeking liberation] and even no mukta [person who is liberated] — thus is paramārtha [the supreme or ultimate truth].
In his prose translation of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi Sri Ramana has translated this verse literally thus, and in verse 24 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ he has translated it more freely as:
[There is] no becoming [or coming into being], destruction, bondage, desire to become free [or unbound], effort [or] those who have attained [liberation]. Know that this is paramārtha [the ultimate truth].
Creation and destruction, birth and death, beginning and end, bondage and liberation, desire for liberation and effort to be liberated, and any person who experiences such things, all exist only in the distorted consciousness that we call ‘mind’, and hence they are only as real as this mind that experiences them. However, as Sri Ramana teaches us in verse 17 of Upadēśa Undiyār, when we vigilantly scrutinise this mind, we will find that there is actually no such thing, and therefore when we thus know that the mind has never really existed, we will also clearly know that none of the duality, multiplicity or otherness that it seemed to experience ever really existed.
Thus when we know ourself as we really are — that is, when we know that we are always nothing other than the one infinite non-dual self-consciousness, ‘I am’, and that we have never really been this mind that we now imagine ourself to be — we will clearly know that nothing other than ourself has ever existed or even appeared to exist. This ultimate experience of absolute non-duality is known as ajāta, which means literally ‘no birth’ and by implication ‘no arising’, ‘no becoming’, ‘no happening’, ‘no appearing’, ‘no being brought into being’ or ‘no creation’.
This experience of ajāta is a truth that cannot truly be grasped by our mind or intellect, which appears to exist only by experiencing duality, but it can be known clearly and certainly if we investigate the truth of our knowing mind by turning its attention back on itself, away from all duality or otherness towards the one consciousness that we always experience as ‘I am’.
In the final three verses of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ Sri Ramana turns our attention towards mauna or ‘silence’, which is the true language of non-duality and which is the only means by which we can experience reality as it is. In this context mauna means absolute silence or stillness of mind, which is itself the one reality that it alone can reveal.
In verse 25 (which is also verse B27 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai) Sri Ramana rephrases in a more condensed manner the truth that Sri Muruganar recorded in verse 1181 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai (which is an adaptation of Pañcadasi 2.39, a verse that he sometimes cited and explained), saying that questions and answers can occur only in this language of duality (dvaita), and that in the true state of non-duality (advaita) they do not exist.
Thus he indicates that in order to experience our true state of advaita or absolute non-duality we must go beyond our habit of asking verbal questions and seeking verbal answers. The only ‘question’ that will enable us to experience the non-dual reality directly is the non-verbal investigation ‘who am I?’ — that is, the thought-free inward scrutiny of our fundamental consciousness of being, ‘I am’.
Such thought-free self-investigation or ātma-vicāra is ‘questioning’ in silence, which is the true language of non-duality, and the ‘answer’ that this silent questioning will evoke is likewise only absolute silence or mauna, which is the true nature of our real self.
In verse 26 (which is also included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1172-a) he begins by saying that that which is அக்கரம் (akkaram) is ஓர் எழுத்து (ōr eṙuttu), the ‘one [unique or peerless] letter’. அக்கரம் (akkaram) is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word akṣara, which means both ‘imperishable’ (or ‘immutable’) and a ‘letter’ of the alphabet (or a ‘syllable’ written as a compound letter, such as the sacred syllable ‘ōm’), so the implied meaning of this first sentence is that the ‘one letter’ is that which is imperishable and immutable — that is, the one eternal, imperishable and immutable reality, which is our own essential self, ‘I am’.
In the second and third sentences of this verse he says that ‘you want [me] to write that which is one letter (akṣara) in this book’ and that the ‘one letter (eṙuttu), which is imperishable (akṣara), is that which always shines spontaneously [or as self] in the heart’, and in the final sentence he asks rhetorically, ‘Who is able to write it?’, implying that it cannot be written by anyone.
The origin of this verse is as follows: On 30th September 1937 a devotee called Somasundara Swami asked Sri Ramana to write ‘one letter’ in his notebook, and he responded by writing a kuṟaḷ veṇbā (a two-line verse in veṇbā style) that means:
One [unique or peerless] letter (ōr eṙuttu) is that which always shines spontaneously [or as self] in the heart. Who is able to write it?
Sri Ramana later explained more about the nature of this ‘one letter’, and Sri Muruganar recorded his explanation in verse 1172 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai, in which he incorporated this kuṟaḷ veṇbā as the last two lines:
One letter is that which always shines spontaneously [or as self] in the heart as that which is [absolutely] pure, as that which bestows the clarity of true knowledge, and as the source of all the letters that are formed [or appear as sounds or symbols]. Who is able to write it?
Sri Ramana also translated this kuṟaḷ veṇbā into Sanskrit as follows:
ēkam akṣaram hṛdi nirantaram |
bhāsatē svayam likhyatē katham ||
This Sanskrit version means:
One letter shines incessantly [and] spontaneously in the heart. How is it to be written?
On 21st September 1940, three years after he composed this kuṟaḷ veṇbā, he added two lines before it to form this veṇbā, verse 26 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ, in which he emphasised that this ‘one letter’ is that which is imperishable and also indicated why he composed this verse, saying ‘you want [me] to write that which is one letter in this book’.
This imperishable ‘one letter’, which ‘always shines in [our] heart as self’ and which ‘bestows the clarity of true knowledge’, is mauna or ‘silence’, the peerless language that alone will enable us to experience ourself as we really are.
Finally in verse 27 (which is also included in Guru Vācaka Kōvai as verse 1172-a), a one-line verse that he composed after seeing an English article that a devotee wrote about him entitled ‘Where Silence is an Inspired Sermon’, he says:
Silence (mauna) is indeed the state of grace, the one [unique or peerless] language that rises [surges forth or manifests] within.
As Sri Sadhu Om says in his Tamil commentary on this verse, though the aforesaid ‘one letter’ that ‘always shines in [our] heart as self’ cannot be made known by speech or writing, it is possible for us to experience it directly, because it is the true form of grace, and hence its nature is to make itself known. How it does so is as follows:
The more our heart becomes spiritually matured, being purified or cleansed of all its viṣaya-vāsanās (its desires or outgoing impulses), the more the clear light of grace will ‘rise’ or shine forth as an inner clarity of firm satya-asatya vastu vivēka (true discrimination or discernment, which is the ability to distinguish what is real from what is unreal), as a result of which we will gain intense bhakti (devotion or love to know and to be only self, which alone is real and which is the sole abode of all happiness) and steadfast vairāgya (freedom from desire to attend to or experience anything other than self). Since such bhakti and vairāgya will enable and impel us to abide firmly as self, ‘settling down and just being without the slightest action (karma) of speech, mind or body’, the ātma-jyōti or infinite light of true self-knowledge will thereby spontaneously shine forth in our heart as our nitya-anubhūti or ‘eternal experience’ (as Sri Ramana says in verse 4 of Āṉma-Viddai).
Thus grace, which at first began to rise as the clarity of vivēka or discrimination, will finally blossom fully as the infinite light of ātma-jñāna or true self-knowledge. This blossoming is what Sri Ramana describes as அருள் விலாசமே (aruḷ vilāsamē), the ‘shining forth of grace’, in verse 3 of Āṉma-Viddai.
Since the light of grace that thus wells up in our heart will bestow the state of true self-knowledge, which cannot be made known by words, it is the peerless language that Sri Ramana describes in verse 26 as ஓர் எழுத்து (ōr eṙuttu), the ‘one [unique or peerless] letter’, and in this verse as ஒரு மொழி (oru moṙi), the ‘one [unique or peerless] language’. Since this light of grace shines transcending all the various kinds of gross and subtle sounds and lights that our mind can perceive, it is called mauna or ‘silence’.
As Sri Ramana says in Maharshi’s Gospel, Book One, chapter 2:
That state which transcends speech and thought is mauna [silence]; ... it is the perennial flow of ‘language’. ... Silence is unceasing eloquence. It is the best language. ... how does speech arise? There is abstract knowledge [the knowledge ‘I am’ — our fundamental consciousness of being, which is ever motionless and unchanging and is therefore called ‘silence’], whence arises the ego [the spurious consciousness ‘I am this body, a person called so-and-so’], which in turn gives rise to thought, and thought to the spoken word. So the word is the great-grandson of the original source [our silent consciousness ‘I am’]. If the word can produce effect, judge for yourself how much more powerful must be the preaching through silence! ... Preaching is simple communication of knowledge; it can really be done in silence only. ...
Since this unsurpassed language of non-duality (advaita-bhāṣā) called mauna or ‘silence’ surges forth in our heart by its avyāja-karuṇā (pretextless or uncaused grace) as the infinite light of true self-knowledge, tearing aside the darkness of self-ignorance that gives rise to our mind, it is truly அருள் நிலையே (aruḷ nilaiyē), the ‘state [or real nature] of grace’, as Sri Ramana declares in this verse.
About this translation of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai
In this English translation of ஸ்ரீ ரமணோபதேச நூன்மாலை (Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai), the ‘Garland of Sri Ramana's Texts of Spiritual Teaching (upadēśa)’, the principal translator was Sri Sadhu Om, because his role in their translation was to explain to me the meaning of each verse as a whole and of each individual word within each of them. My role was to question him in detail about the meanings that he gave me, to express them in clearer English, and to transcribe them in notebooks. I did all this primarily for my own benefit, but I also hoped that one day these translations would be published, because I knew that they would benefit many of Sri Ramana’s devotees who do not know Tamil.
No translation can be perfect, because it is impossible to convey in one language all the subtleties and shades of meaning that are expressed by the words of another language. This inevitable inadequacy of any translation is even greater in the case of a translation from one language into another language whose grammatical structure and manner of expressing ideas is completely different, as is the case with translations from Tamil into English. Therefore for those who do not know Tamil, a word-for-word translation of each of Sri Ramana’s verses is a very valuable aid to a better understanding of the depth and subtlety of meaning which he conveyed through each and every word that he wrote.
However, a mere literal translation of each of his words cannot adequately convey the meaning that he intended, because in Tamil as in any other language the same words can be understood and interpreted in different ways. This is particularly true of words that express extremely subtle truths, as the words of Sri Ramana do. Therefore, to understand his words correctly and adequately, we should understand not merely the vācyārtha or literal meaning of each of them, but more importantly their lakṣyārtha or intended meaning.
Because Sri Sadhu Om had surrendered himself entirely to Sri Ramana, who shines within each one of us as the absolute clarity of thought-free self-conscious being, ‘I am’, by the grace of Sri Ramana his mind had merged in and been consumed by that clarity, and hence from his own experience of true self-knowledge he was able to explain the true lakṣyārtha of Sri Ramana’s words — the meaning that he actually intended to convey through them.
Moreover, because Sri Sadhu Om was himself a great Tamil poet, and because he spent many years working closely with Sri Muruganar, preserving, editing and classifying all his then unpublished verses, he had a thorough understanding both of the rich classical style of Tamil in which Sri Ramana composed his verses, and of the unique manner in which Sri Ramana expressed the truth in words which, though seemingly very simple, actually convey much deeper and richer meaning than they superficially appear to convey. Hence not only from the perspective of his own true spiritual experience but also from a literary perspective, Sri Sadhu Om had an extremely deep and clear insight into the wealth and depth of meaning that Sri Ramana conveyed through his verses.
In the translations contained in this book, what is most important is not just the English words that Sri Sadhu Om and I chose to express the meaning of Sri Ramana’s Tamil words, nor is it the structure of the English sentences that we formed to convey as closely a possible the same meaning as conveyed by the structure of the original Tamil verses. The words we chose and the sentences we formed both serve only as aids to the true purpose of these translations, which is to bring to light the profound depth of inner meaning that Sri Ramana intended to convey through his Tamil words. Therefore what is truly significant about these translations is the fact that they do succeed in clearly bringing to light this profound depth of inner meaning intended by Sri Ramana.
However, the translations in this book are still in a relatively unpolished and unfinished condition, because during his bodily lifetime (which ended quite suddenly and — at least for me and other friends — unexpectedly in March 1985, when he was just 63 years old) Sri Sadhu Om and I never had time to revise and finalise them in preparation for publication, as we intended to do. Therefore in 2007, when Sri N. Sankaran and other friends of mine in Tiruvannamalai decided to publish our word-for-word meaning and translation as a book, it was available only as an unpolished draft written by hand in a large notebook, so they had to copy it as it was and give it for typesetting.
Unfortunately I was not involved in the process of copying, copy-editing, typesetting and proofreading, so in the printed book there are many copying, editing and printing errors, particularly in the transliteration and some of the word-for-word meanings, which I hope to rectify later if I ever have time to revise, polish and improve this old draft.
Printed edition of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai
This translation of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai has been published under the title ‘Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai’ by Sri Ramana Kshetra, and can be obtained from Sri Ramanasramam Book Stall, Sri Arunachalaramana Book Trust, Sri Ramana Kshetra or the Buy Books page of David Godman’s website, as explained in more detail in the How to buy books by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James section of the Books page of this website.
PDF copy for free download
A PDF copy of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai is also available here for free download. In order to download this PDF, you can either left-click on the following link to open it in your web browser, after which you can save a copy of it, or you can right-click on this link and select ‘Save Target As…’ from the pop-up menu:
When I first received this PDF copy of the printed book from the press that printed it, it contained many defects, because on account of some technological error certain characters in it were displayed wrongly. Fortunately my friend John Manetta was able to correct most of the Latin characters and punctuations that were wrongly displayed, but neither he nor I were able to correct any of the Tamil characters that were wrongly displayed. For example, the frequently occurring character ந் (n) in the printed book appears in this PDF copy as மூ (mū), and the less frequently occurring character மூ (mū) in the printed book appears in this PDF copy as void.
I would like here to express my gratitude to all those friends who helped me to make this PDF copy of the printed book available here, especially N. Sankaran, who supervises the publication of most of the Tamil and English books of Sri Sadhu Om; S. Pandurangan of Aridra Printers, who printed the book and created this PDF copy of it; M. V. Sabhapathy and Vasuki Seshadri, who encouraged him to create it; and John Manetta, who rectified many of the technological defects in it.
Upadēśa Undiyār – printed book and PDF copy
As I mentioned above (at the end of the section about Upadēśa Undiyār), the English translation of Upadēśa Undiyār that Sri Sadhu Om and I wrote (along with our brief explanatory notes that accompany it) was published as a separate book entitled Upadesa Undiyar of Bhagavan Sri Ramana in 1986 and has subsequently been reprinted, so it is not included in this book, Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai.
A PDF copy this translation, Upadesa Undiyar of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, is available on David Godman’s website, and can be accessed either from the brief introductory page there or directly from here by clicking on the following link:
Spanish translation of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai
This English translation of Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai (along with our translation of Upadēśa Undiyār and my translation of Nāṉ Yār?) has been translated into Spanish by Pedro Rodea, and his translation is available both as a printed book from Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai in Spanish and as a PDF here: Śrī Ramaṇōpadēśa Nūṉmālai – Spanish PDF.
Pedro’s Spanish translation of Sri Sadhu Om’s and my English translation of Upadēśa Undiyār is also available here as a separate PDF: Upadēśa Undiyār – Spanish PDF.