A synopsis of the esoteric significance
(of Kanthar Anubhuthi)
By N.V. Karthikeyan
One may be curious to know what the esoteric significance is that runs through the verses. Though for a correct appreciation of the full implications of the esoteric significance of the verses a thorough-going study of the book is necessary, we may here have a synopsis just to have an inkling of the esoteric meaning. Grouping of the verses has been made and heading given just for the sake of convenience and easy remembrance.
I the beginning of Sadhana
"Kanthar Anubhuthi" means actual God-Experience. It is not mere praise of God, not mere glorification of His greatness, but something more than all this; it is Experience. Hence, it is a treatise on practice. Thus, from the very beginning, it contains instructions on a practical spiritual living, on Sadhana, the obstacles that would be encountered in the different stages of practice and the methods of overcoming them at every stage, culminating in the grand experience of God.
An introduction into a life of Sadhana is, therefore, made in the first verse itself, by way of taking to an unceasing practice of Japa or Namasmarana. That the treatise is meant for whole-souled aspirants or seekers who are dedicated to the practice of Sadhana to attain God is implied in the prayer, "Paadum Paniye Paniyaai Arulvaai the only task of singing His glories or repeating His Names." For any practice to be successful, it is essential to have a clear concept of the ideal, its nature, and method of attainment, right at the outset; these are shown in verses 2 and 3.
II Coming to brass tacks and
the beginning of the descent of divine grace
When actual Sadhana is commenced, the practitioner comes across certain difficulties. The life of the Sadhaka is one of a gradual unfoldment of the Divinity within, which also implies the overcoming of obstacles, in stages. When one obstacle is overcome, another obstacle which is more powerful and subtle will present itself, demanding more effort and a greater surrender to the Divine. This goes on until the final Goal is reached. A little practice is not enough to overcome the obstacles. Great effort, coupled with Divine Grace, is called forth to overcome the problems, in stages.
The gross obstacles present themselves in the beginning; the external circumstances in the form of wife and children are the first to be encountered (verses 4 & 5). The difficulty is realized, and, as a result of purification of heart through intense prayer (verse 6), and charity and contemplation (verse 7), the seeker gets from God a personal Guru, as the first and visible form of help, in which form God's Grace manifests itself, though the seeker might not realize it immediately (verse 8). Thus, are verses 4-8.
Verses 9-10 depict a peculiar difficulty of the Sadhaka, of transition from the outer to the inner difficulty, while verses 11-13 show the descent of a greater amount of Divine grace the Guru gives a temporary state of divine experience to provide the needed conviction to march forward, boldly.
III Preparation for and initiation into meditation
With the special grace granted by the Guru, the Sadhaka makes an earnest effort to put forth necessary Sadhana to attain the Goal. He aspires to acquire freedom from the externalizing tendency of the mind by fixing it on the Lord, or the Self within (verse 14), through intensification of Nama-Japa and a melting of the heart (verse 15) and discriminative understanding (Viveka) (verses 16-17) which form the prerequisites for initiation into meditation proper. He then attempts at meditation on the Self but feels the need for initiation into its technique (verses 18-19) and beseeches the Guru for the same, who initiates him into the mysterious process of inner meditation on the Self (verse 20).
IV the inner struggle and a glimpse
Now comes the difficult task of the Sadhaka. When meditation proper is commenced, the subtle, inner personality (Avidya in the form of Samskaras and Vasanas) comes up to the surface with its ugly face. Meditation is then no easy joke and demands persistent and ever-increasing diving within, which brings a simultaneous realization of the unreal nature of the phenomenal world and a corresponding insight into reality.
With the power of initiation, the seeker's aspiration for liberation is intensified (verse 21). The group of verses from 22-26 vividly portray the inner transformation that takes place in the Sadhaka when he plunges into meditation and the various experiences that the mind undergoes.
A close observation of the verses will reveal the critical condition of the Sadhaka's mind meditation now appearing to be easy (verse 22) and now impossible because of the active play of Avidya (verse 23), demanding a greater and greater resort to the Self and a total dependence on it (verses 24-27), until it is successful and the mind gets a glimpse of Cosmic Consciousness (verse 28).
V the indescribable condition
The touching of the fringe of Cosmic Consciousness and the subsequent need to return to and live in this "unreal" world (verse 29), places the Sadhaka in an indescribable predicament sometimes he is able to reconcile things (verse 30) and sometimes not (verse 31). God appears to be an admixture of kindness and cruelty; the working of Divine Grace and Prarabdha karmas are experience together.
VI the all-consuming aspiration and the final push
This peculiar condition of the Sadhaka creates such a spiritual unrest in him that he longs to get a total freedom from Samsara by plunging into uninterrupted meditation, which wells up as an all-consuming aspiration for a total renunciation (verses 33-35).
He longs for and gets into initiated into the highest mystical type of meditation on Pranava or "Om" (Sannyasa), and thus, gets ready to bid good-bye to the phenomenal world (verses 36-38).
VII the final jump and god-experience
Having equipped himself with all that is necessary for a leap into the Absolute, a resolute and all-out effort is made to break the bonds of the causal chain and enter into the grand-experience (verse 39). Uninterrupted meditation on the Absolute is undertaken (verse 40) with a longing to attain liberation here and now, i.e., Jivanmukthi (verse 41), and this rends asunder the tree of Samsara, root and branch. Self-effort and Divine Grace fuse together and give birth to "Speechless Experience," when the knots of the heart are broken forever (verses 42-43). Man meets God and becomes a God-man, a Jivanmukta Purusha. Verses 39-43 are thrilling and stimulating, as the climax of the treatise is reached here.
With the attainment of God-Experience, the Sadhaka becomes a Siddha Purusha, or a Jivanmukta Purusha, or a Sage, and there is no more need for him to do any Sadhana. His very existence, and all his activities, are verily Sadhana.
The liberated soul who attains to the state of "Speechless-Experience" (Pesaa Anubhuthi) does not usually remain absorbed in it but rises from it and moves about freely as a Jivanmukta. Verse 44 depicts the experience of a Jivanmukta immediately on rising from Pesaa Anubhuthi, i.e., that of his feeling the presence of God everywhere.
The Jivanmukta has a divine mission to fulfill, that of helping the aspirants. The freed soul, therefore, moves about freely without any let or go, giving spiritual instruction to those that seek his guidance. The instructions and their methods naturally vary in accordance with the needs of those that seek. Hence, there is no need for a continuity of the ideas of verses 45-50, which, of course, reveal high spiritual truths. They convey deep meaning and contain secret clues for meditation; they have significance and purpose; they provide valuable guidance to seekers. Hence, these are of a special type.
IX Sahaja-Samadhi Avastha
Though he moves about distributing peace and happiness to all, he maintains an inner awareness of God always, with which he gets so much intoxicated that that experience becomes Sahaja or natural to him. This is called Sahaja-Avastha, i.e., a perpetual and natural superconscious state, wherein he beholds the Lord within and without, simultaneously within as the Self (as Guhan) and without as all that is visible and invisible, conceivable and unconceivable, as matter and spirit, and as the Guru. This is the condition of the Jivanmukata to whom the world clings for succour, in whom everyone finds solace, to whom seeking souls flock for spiritual illumination, and for whom nothing makes any difference.
May the blessings of all such Brahamanishthas guide the seekers all over the world!
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.