Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 8
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Kumara means "one who is of eternal youth," who is ever the same, who knows no change the Absolute.
Kumara, again, means one who destroys evil. Ignorance is the highest evil and is the cause of Jivatva. It is due to ignorance that one regards oneself as the body; one's wife, one's children, and one's home as real, as one's beloveds, and as belonging to oneself. The Lord destroys this illusion by putting an end to the root-cause, viz. ignorance by His upadesa about one's real nature or identity.
Skanda Puranam: The Legend of Dakshayini
Uma Devi, the divine consort of Lord Siva, as the daughter of Daksha, was known as Dakshayini. After the dishonour meted out to her by Daksha (her father) at the well-known Daksha-Yajna, wherein Daksha's ego was quelled by Lord Siva, she was ashamed of being called Dakshayini and requested Siva for a change of her name. The Lord granted her wish and ordained her to be born as the daughter of the Himalays (the King of Mountains) who was then doing penance for getting a child. Accordingly, Dakshayini was lying as a child in the Himalayas where the King found her and fondly fostered the child. She was now known as Parvathi the daughter of Parvataraja (Mountain-king, the Himalayas). From her childhood, she was devoted to Lord Siva and she used to accompany her father and assist him in his worship of the Lord. In course of time, as she grew of marriageable age, her mind too got fixed in the Lord. One day, when she was offering worship to Siva, the Devas, who were oppressed by the demon Surapadman and others, requested the Lord to marry Parvathi Devi and give them a powerful leader who alone, they were convinced, could kill the Asuras. The Lord consented to their prayer and accepted Parvathi. Then from the Tejas that emanated from the third eye of Siva, when the Avatara of Lord Skanda took place in the Saravanappoigai, as explained in the invocatory song, Parvathi became Prasnat-stani, i.e., a mother with milk-flowing breast; and when she with Lord Siva came and took the babies, they assumed a single body with six faces and twelve hands. Thus, is Skanda the Son of Parvathi, daughter of Himavan.
Later on the Lord fought with the Asuras and destroyed Surapadman and his retinue. He also annihilates the demons of ignorance, lust, greed, etc., in the inner battle of the seeker. Hence, He is spoken of as the destroyer of Asuras.
Murugan as the holy Trinity
(creator, preserver, and destroyer)
Arunagirinathar's addressing the Lord, in the second half of the verse in three different aspects has a great spiritual significance. The Lord is:
1. Kumara (the Eternal-aspect, as He ever is);
He, thus, brings out the great truth that the Eternal Reality manifests itself as an Avatara and also comes as one's personal Guru; yet, it is the self-same reality.
The Lord, who is thus the Absolute and the Guru, gave upadesa to Arunagirinathar, which destroyed his delusion. Due to ignorance, the body is mistaken as the "Self" or "I" and vice-versa; and as a consequence, the people related to it as "mine." But the body is Jada (inert) because it can neither know itself nor other things. It appears to be conscious on account of the Atman (consciousness) which temporarily animates it. Hence, the body is not the Self (i.e., the soul), but only an abode of it. The mind and the intellect, too, are ultimately not sentient, because they are products of Prakriti, which is itself bereft of consciousness. The Self is the only conscious principle to which all these are in the position of an object. It is the real "I". But due to ignorance, the nature of which is indescribable, the Self has come to regard itself as the body, etc. This is called Bhrama in Sanskrit, which in the verse has been turned into "Pimara" to be in conformity wit poetic grammar. The Guru's upadesa dispels this ignorance by spiritual initiation which brings about a peculiar transformation in one's consciousness by which it suddenly realizes its essential nature and gets freed from the clutches of Prakriti's modifications with which it erroneously identified itself all this time.
Arunagirinathar does not reveal directly what upadesa was given to him by the Lord. Probably it is not meant to be revealed but the effect it produced is stated the destruction of the false identification with the body and its relations, Ahamkara and Mamakara. By this upadesa on the nature of the Self or Atman, Arunagirinathar at once realized that he is the Satchidananda and with this realization his delusion vanished. Over this special favour conferred on him, the saint exclaims in joy and says, "A great wonder it is indeed, O Lord! That your upadesa on the Supreme Reality instantaneously dispelled my ignorance."
The first line of the verse is usually interpreted as, "…the delusion on account of which one erroneously thinks that this is my dear native place, (these are my) beloved relatives and (this is my) dear house has been destroyed."
Guru and God are One and the same
When the mind gets purified to some extent by charity and contemplation, the Lord appears as one's Guru. The Guru is God manifesting himself in a human form. Guru and incarnations of God should not therefore be regarded as mere human personalities, which error an aspirant generally commits. Bhagavan Sri Krishna says, "Fools disregard Me, clad in human form, not knowing my higher being as the great Lord of beings." (Gita II-11). The neophyte on the spiritual path cannot comprehend the highest reality, all of a sudden. The mind, in the initial stages, needs a more concrete form to perceive, adore, serve, move with and meditate upon. Hence, God comes as the Guru; and the Guru should be regarded as such. The Supreme Reality takes an Avatara and again comes in human form as one's Guru to give upadesa on the Absolute, because only the Absolute can instruct on the Absolute. He, however, comes to the level in which we are, in a human form, to take us to His level.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The joint effort of charity and divine contemplation (verse 7) draws divine grace, which comes in human form as the Guru, who gives instruction to the student on (the nature of) reality. By this advice of the Guru, the seeker gets to know that he is not the body, but that something which indwells it. This instruction does not cause an actual destruction of his ignorance but only gives him an intellectual understanding that he is the Self and not the body, etc. This is the first advice given by the Guru and it is an external one, i.e., it is a verbal instruction.
That the grace of God has come in the form of the Guru and given him the instruction is, however, not as yet known to the aspirant; it is revealed to him only later on in verse 13.
The appearance of God's grace, as the Guru, may also be in the form of works written by realized souls, which the seeker might come across from a study of which he comes to know that he is the Self, in reality, and not the body. Verily, great souls "speak" through their writings.
"If you are influenced by the teachings of a saint," says Swami Sivananda, "he is your Guru."
In the case of Arunagirinathar, it is true that the Lord's upadesa destroyed his ignorance at once and he had self-realization. But the rare blessedness of this saint cannot be had by another, especially by an ordinary Sadhaka who receives upadesa from a Guru.
The effect of a Guru's upadesa
In the case of Sadhakas, the Guru's upadesa temporarily lifts his mind to such heights that he might feel he is freed from maya. It is because of the mighty spiritual presence of the Guru and the power that is transmitted by him to the disciple, even if the Guru be God Himself. But the disciple soon reverts to his old condition, of course, with a knowledge of the existence and nature of higher realities, for attaining which Sadhana has to be done. This is quite evident form the case of Arjuna, who in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, was given the highest gospel, which contains all the wisdom in the universe, by no less a person than Yogeshvara Krishna himself. It seemed to Arjuna that all was clear to him then, and he also declared that his ignorance was gone. But what was his condition after the Mahabharata war? He was once again the same old Arjuna! It is so because the universal vision and the wisdom were not obtained as a result of Sadhana, but was temporarily "given" by the Lord, as an encouragement, by His divine power.
It would, therefore, be clear that even after the upadesa of the Guru, maya may not totally leave its hold, though the Sadhaka has now a clear understanding of it. Thus, in the case of the aspirant, it would mean that the Guru gives upadesa on the nature of reality, which is capable of bringing about the destruction of his delusion, in course of time, because of the intellectual knowledge it has given him that he is the Self and not the body, etc. a knowledge which he did not possess before and which henceforth, forms the basis of his Sadhana.
Guru's first upadesa
The Guru's first upadesa is like a stone dropped in a tank whose waters are completely covered by moss. The force of the thrown stone separates the moss for a while and the water is temporarily made visible for a moment, but is at once covered by the moss again. This, however, has given a knowledge of the fact of there being water beneath the moss, which was not even known before. So is the case with the Guru's powerful instruction on reality which makes the aspirant feel, at least for the time being, that he is the Self.
At the first contact, the Guru gives Hitopadesa, i.e., speaks some words of wisdom, which gives immense solace to the aspirant. The Guru only "speaks" about the nature of reality. He does not, at once, give actual "initiation," which is upadesa in the true sense of the term, which he does after due preparation (verse 20). Very appropriately, the saint uses the word "speak" ('meipporul pesudhal') in this verse and in verse 11; and the word "initiate" ('upadesam unarthudhal') in verse 20.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.