Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 13

By Sri Arunagirinathar
Commentary by N.V. Karthikeyan
Chanted by S. Pranava


murugan thanivEl muni nam guruven,
aruL koNd— aRiyaar aRiyum tharamO
uruvanR— aruvanR— uLathanR— ilathan,
iruLanR— oLianR— ena ninRathuvE. 13


(That is) Murugan, the Peerless Vel Lord and our Preceptor —
Is this possible of being known, unless known through Grace?
Not with form, not without; not existence, not otherwise,
Not darkness, not light; — Thus, the Absolute is.

"That (Supreme Being or the Absolute) which can be said to be neither with form nor without form, neither existence nor non-existence, neither darkness nor light, is (Itself) Murugan, is (Itself) the Lord with the peerless Vel, is (Itself) our Parama Guru, — Is this capable of being known except by those who know it through (Divine) Grace? (i.e. Except those who realize this by Divine Grace, no one can know this secret).



Detailed Commentary:

What Lord Murugan revealed to Arunagirinathar
with "summa iru" (be silent)

In the previous verse, we have seen that when the Lord revealed Himself as supreme silence, Arunagirinathar became silent and knew nothing of this world. But, then, what did he know in that condition? Something unknown t the mortal vision was revealed to him! That experience he pours out as this verse, on return from that experience, which of course, in the translation, loses its original charm.

In that condition, Arunagirinathar intuitively felt:

1. the nature of the Absolute;
2. that the Absolute is Murugan, is the Peerless-Vel Lord, is our Guru; and
3. that Divine Grace is the only means of knowing this.

Nature of Reality

(i) What is the nature of the Absolute/Reality/`It' (i.e. God)?

The Absolute is indescribable. But the human mind, which wants to know even things transcendent through its limited understanding, will not accept this easily. It will try its best to define and understand the Absolute also. Hence, the saint gives a series of negative definitions so that in its effort, which is a condition necessary for Reality to reveal itself. It is to make the intellect "understand" that Reality is beyond understanding. When the intellect knows its limitations and ceasing from its efforts, "be (comes) silent," Reality is "known."

The Absolute is not with form, but is not formless; not existence but not non-existence; not darkness but not light. Such is Reality says Arunagirinathar.

a) Form and formless:

Reality is that which is Eternal and knows no change or destruction. Hence, it cannot be with form, because anything that has form is subject to change and destruction. Form belongs to the nature of objects and not of Reality. Can we, then, say that Reality is without form? No; because whatever is seen here, is nothing but a manifestation of That alone; for there is nothing second to it.

"The whole cosmos," says the Veda, "is but a fraction of His being."

So, whatever is seen with form cannot be excluded form Reality. Hence, it can neither be said to be with form nor without form, because form and formlessness are concepts of the human mind; they do not obtain in the realm of Reality. It is that which is, said a great saint — it is that which is without form, and also that which is with form. Therefore, when we say `It' is, we have said everything about `It'. `It' is with form, `It' is without form, and `It' is beyond form and formlessness. Reality `is'.

b) Existence and Non-Existence:

Reality is said to be neither existence nor non-existence. It is not existence like the existence of objects. Objects exist now in one condition and now in another. They change themselves from one condition to another, because they are subject to the laws and limitations of space, time, and causation. But Reality is not so; it is not existence like the existence of an object conditioned by space and time, as these do not obtain in Reality, they being posterior to it. It is not non-existence also because `It' is the substratum for all that exists.

Supposing `It' is non-existence, who knows `It'? There must be someone to know even this non-existence — that someone is Reality. It is not existence or non-existence as conceived by the human mind; it is existence as such, which lends existence to both existence and non-existence. Even on-existence exists or `is'; and that is Reality.

What was there before creation? No-one knows because we, who try to know that, are all the effects of creation, i.e., we came after creation began; and so who is to know what was there before creation? Something was, which can neither be said to be existence nor non-existence. Hence, when Reality is said to be neither existence nor non-existence, it is to be understood as that which is existence and non-existence, and also that which is beyond both existence and non-existence.

c) Darkness and Light:

Reality has also been defined as neither darkness nor light. `It' is not darkness because by light all else shines. But `It' is not light in the ordinary sense of the term, because `It' cannot be perceived by the senses. `It' is the light by which the senses are empowered to behold the mind to think, and the intellect to understand. Who is to see that light when `It' is the seer? Thus, Reality is both darkness (to the senses) and (the source of all) light; and beyond both darkness and light.

The negative affirmations are only to show that Reality is beyond all definitions, though it excludes nothing. It is at once immanent and transcendent — immanent because `It' being universal is in everything; and transcendent because nothing can limit or exhaust `It'. Such is the nature of Reality.

Murugan is all — one cannot understand this
without His grace

That Reality Itself is Lord Murugan. That Itself is the Lord with the peerless Vel. That Itself is one's Supreme Guru. Can one understand this supreme truth except by His Grace? No, is the experience of the saint.

It is not that Reality is one thing, Murugan is another, the Vel is yet another and one's Guru the fourth. The One Reality appears as all this, at different stages of evolution of the soul.

(ii) Reality does not belong either to the waking or dreaming or deep sleep states, but stands transcending them.

a) Wake state — with or without form:

All that we sense or perceive in the waking state is either with form or without form. The endless objects that we see have forms; the color, the taste, the sound, and the touch have no forms. Thus, the entire waking state is characterized by either form or formlessness.

But, says, Arunagirinathar, Reality is neither with form nor without form, which means to say that `It" is not limited to the latter though the same is not excluded from `It'.

b) Dream state — existence or non-existence:

The dream experience is characterized by existence as well as non-existence. The dream world exists so long as one is in dream; to the dreamer it is real and so it cannot be said to be non-existence. But it is soon transcended on one's waking up and so it becomes non-existent. But Reality is neither existence nor non-existence, which means to say that it is beyond the dream state, and is not limited to it, though the same is not outside Reality.

c) Deep-sleep state — darkness and light:

The deep sleep state is characterized by both darkness and light. In deep sleep, there is no sense-operation and no dream experience. It is all darkness and there is no perception, mentation, etc. It is as if everything is dead; darkness everywhere. Yet, there is a light or awareness that `knows' that nothing is known. When one wakes up from deep sleep, one says, "I had a sound sleep. I knew nothing." There was someone (the awareness) that knew nothing. Hence, Reality is neither darkness nor light, that is to say, `It' is beyond the deep sleep state also, and is not limited by it though the same is not excluded from it.

Thus, "neither with form nor without form" negates the waking state; "neither existence nor non-existence" negates the dream state; and "neither darkness nor light" negates the deep sleep state; and "that which stands thus" refers to the Atman or Self, which cannot be exhausted by any of the three states, which stands transcending the three states, which is the Witness of and Substratum for the three states.

That Atman is Murugan, is the Lord with the peerless Vel, is one's Guru — is known by one who knows by His Grace. The Guru-Gita beautifully puts this thus, "Prostration to Dakshinamurthi, who appears in the three-fold form of God, Guru, and the Self (Atman), who pervades everything with his form like the sky."

(iii) The Absolute transcends all three states

The Absolute is defined as neither with form nor without form, etc., because it is the Absolute, not the particular. To the Jiva, which is separated from God, the concepts of form and formless, etc., hold good because there is something outside it, other than it, which can be neither with form or without form, either existence or non-existence, either darkness or light. Where there is duality, there is scope for dualistic concepts.

But when the Jiva is absorbed into the Absolute, as it happened to Arunagirinathar when the Lord made him "be silent", the Absolute Alone is, without a second to it. Duality does not obtain there. In that condition of Absoluteness, naturally the relative or dualistic concepts of form and formlessness, etc., do not arise. Such is the nature of the Absolute, which Arunagirinathar experienced due to the supreme grace of the Lord when He, speechless, instructed him to be silent.


In short, Reality (God) cannot be described as this or that. Whatever definition be given of `It', will fall short. If `It' is defined as `this', it will exclude the `not this' aspect. Similarly, if `It' is regarded as `that' it will not include the `not-that' aspect. Hence, a negative definition has been given, only to serve as a clue to arrive at `It'. To say that `It' is neither with form nor without form is only to show that `It' is both the form and the formless, and is beyond both form and formlessness, which are but phases of Reality. Even so, to say Reality is neither existence nor non-existence means `It' is both existence and non-existence, and is beyond both, which are only aspects of `It'. Similarly, `It' is both darkness and light, and that which is beyond both and serves as the substratum for both, which are only phases of `It'.

We cannot define God

The Universal includes all in itself and stands transcending them, that is, not limited by them. The Universal is the Universal; Reality is Reality; and no definition of `It' can be given in the human language. But `It' is realizable in inner experience as Murugan, as the Lord with the Vel, and as one's own Guru, when He chooses to reveal Himself out of pure grace.

When one tries to understand Reality, it is neither existence nor non-existence, etc.; but when one experiences Reality, it is Murugan, an embodiment of wisdom (Vel) and one's Guru. When the intellect, baffled, fails to understand Reality and ceases, Reality reveals itself as Murugan and says, "I am That I am", or as the Lord of wisdom and says, "I am That I am", or as one's Guru and says, "I am That I am."

The Absolute, which is neither with form nor without form, etc., is also Lord Murugan, is the peerless Vel, is the Guru. That means the latter three are also neither with form, etc. The real nature of the Lord, the Vel and the Guru is formless; is Pure Consciousness. But, for the devout meditator and devotee, they appear with form. They have therefore, two aspects — the physical and the purely spiritual.

God, Vel, and Guru have forms from the standpoint of our physical perception. But when the mind is rendered pure by devotion and divine grace, their spiritual nature is revealed, when form gives place to formlessness. Similarly, they have existence in the sense of limited form in which they appear. But this gives place to unlimitedness or non-existence, when their higher nature is revealed. Again, they are darkness, i.e., their true nature remains unknown until revealed when it gives place to light, when the limited existence of form shines as the Infinite, unconditioned Consciousness-Light.

The human mind's requirement for form

The human mind, in the initial stages, due to impurities, is unable to perceive Reality as such. It requires a prop, a support, a form to concentrate itself upon. So God who is beyond all forms appears as a personal God, with various divine weapons and also appears in a human form as one's Guru.

By serving one's Guru and following his instructions, by being devoted to God, the disciple's mind is gradually purified and becomes fit to understand the higher nature in him. Finally, the Guru reveals his highest (divine) nature by that unique upadesa of "summaa iru," (be silent) being in silence. When this experience is given, the world vanishes from his perception, both form and formlessness vanish together, both existence and non-existence disappear together, and both darkness and light cease. What remains then? "Summaa Iruththal" (Mere Being) — God's pure existence, the Jiva and the world duly transformed and absorbed into Himself. It is "Kevala Asti" (Mere Existence) or "Verum Thaan" in the words of verse 28.

Such an Absolute, says Arunagirinathar, is Murugan, is the Peerless Vel, is our Guru; and this is possible of being known only through grace. He does not, however, say by whose grace is this known. Evidently, it is not necessary. Because the three being One only, by the grace of anyone of the three this is known. And even this truth is disclosed by that grace alone! What a wonder, indeed. This is the mysterious "Grace-Circle-Grace" being revealed through Grace; being known through Grace; and being known as Grace; where everything is Grace and nothing but Grace.

There is no place for the intellect or understanding. That Grace is the Absolute; That is Murugan; That is the Peerless Vel Lord; That is the Guru; and That is Arunagirinathar, too, who has packed so much wisdom and even more in a single verse.

Verse 13 is also interpreted as:

1) "That Supreme Reality which can be said to be neither with form nor formless, neither existence nor non-existence, neither darkness nor light — Is that capable of being known except by those who, thinking and meditating as `Murugan, the Lord with the Peerless Vel, is our Guru,' obtain His Grace and know `It' in experience?"

2) "Except for one who, obtaining Murugan's grace, knows that Murugan who has the peerless Vel is one's Guru, is it possible to know that Reality which can be said to be neither with form nor formless, neither existence nor non-existence, neither darkness nor light?"

Instruction for the devout Sadhaka

[In that temporary state of divine awareness `given' by the Guru (verse 12), the great revelation dawns on the aspirant that the experience of the Absolute is indescribable, that itself is the Lord who has come as one's Guru and that Divine Grace is the only means of knowing these truths.

It is interesting to compare the sequence and the import of the epithets "Murugan — Thani Vel Muni — Nam Guru," of his verse with "Kumaran — Giriraasa Kumaari Magan — Samaramporu Dhaanava Nagasan," of verse 8. A close study of this would suggest that what is revealed now is implied in verse 8. The fact that the Lord appeared as the Guru is not openly said in verse 8; it is only implied and has to be extracted by us — this impliedness is to suggest that it is not given to the seeker to know the fact at that stage. But in this verse, it is said in clear and explicit terms — this is to suggest that that which was a secret so far is now revealed to him.

There is no difference between Guru and God

Consequent on this great revelation, the seeker does not anymore make a distinction between Guru and God. He feels a total identity between them. He sees the Guru not as a human, not even merely as one spiritually evolved, but verily as God Himself, as one's Self, as the Absolute.

The experience naturally infuses in the seeker an unshakable conviction and confidence that his Guru will no doubt take him to the grant goal of God-experience.]



Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.

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