Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 17
By Sri Arunagirinathar
God is the one who gave us knowledge (worldly & spiritual)
The books we have studied, the teacher under whose care we have been put, the understanding we have of what we studied all these are directly given to us by the Lord Himself. There are hundreds and hundreds of books in the world, but the books that are to be studied by us (which will be conducive to the furtherance of our knowledge already He has given us in our previous births as well as in this birth so far) are placed, as it were, in our hands by the Lord. Every seeker or devotee does not study every book. Each one gets the book he is in need of, often in a mysterious way! The Lord arranges it, though He does not easily reveal this secret to us.
Again, each one goes to a different teacher, though they may study the same book. Our understanding of a text depends on the teaching imparted by the teacher. And above all, a proper understanding of what we study is given to us (from within) by the Lord. Studying the same book, under the same teacher, each one's understanding differs. The reason is that one understands only as much as is revealed to one by the Lord. If we have a clear understanding of the higher truths, certainly it is due to His grace. If good books come to our hands, if we get guidance from sincere and loving Gurus (who have perfect understanding of the scriptures and direct spiritual realization) and if we have wisdom or a clear perception of Truth, no doubt it is due to His Grace. He alone makes us come across the books that we should study; it is He who brings us into contact with our Guru; and having read the books and followed the Guru's instructions, finally He it is that reveals Himself in us as wisdom supreme. It is the experience of seekers that truths often flash forth in their minds in meditation truths which they have not heard from their teachers nor read from books, but truths of an altogether different source. Wherefrom do they come? God or Guru, from within reveals more secrets than what is heard or read from outside. Thus, He comes to us at every stage of our Sadhana, right from the very beginning till we reach the pinnacle of knowledge or perfection.
The Lord comes as the Book, Teacher, and as Oneself
He comes as the book, as one's Guru, and as wisdom. The book is a jada (insentient object with knowledge contained in it). It is knowledge in theory-form. Knowledge "exists" in books; it is the `Sat' aspect. The Guru is a sentient or conscious being, an embodiment of knowledge, in whom wisdom is "seen" in practical life; it is the `Chit' aspect. But the one's inner wisdom, one becomes knowledge itself. Here knowledge is inseparable from one's life. It is wisdom, which is freedom and bliss; it is the `Ananda' aspect. These seem to be the progressive stages of attaining knowledge knowledge in the book (potential), knowledge in the teacher (vibrant), and knowledge in oneself (actual) existence of knowledge, consciousness of knowledge, and the bliss of knowledge Satchidananda.
We should not be proud of our learning
This verse also conveys a great lesson to all. It seeks to remove one's pride, whether of learning or of spiritual attainment. The learning we possess and the understanding we have are given by the Lord; they are not ours. Therefore, there is no room for one to proud of these. When they are not ours, when they are His, how can we be proud of them? So, this verse is also a hint to be humble by remembering the fact that what we possess is only what is given to us by God.
And, what is that understanding that the Lord has bestowed on us? It is not bookish knowledge unconnected to life, but wisdom or understanding which is life. It is practical knowledge intimately connected with life, so much so that is to be lived every moment of our life. What is that? We should let go this delusion on this world (of Nama and Rupa) and steadfastly hold on to Truth (which is Satchidananda).
The trap of Nama-Rupa-Prapancha
What is this delusion on the world due to? The world is constituted of Nama and Rupa, name and form, respectively. It is called Nama-Rupa-Prapancha (the world of names and forms, of objects). It is the seeing of names and forms, and not the essence behind them, that is the cause of our delusion. There is love and hatred for things because of the perception of different values in them on account of a difference in name and form. If the essence behind the names ad forms were to be perceived, there would be no delusion no love, no hatred, no preference, no like and no dislike. This can be made clear by an illustration.
If a variety of dolls, all made the of the same wood but of different shapes and painted with different colors such as elephant, lion, horse, cat, tiger, dog, camel, etc., are placed before a child, it would like certain and want not certain others, for the simple reason that it takes the names and forms as real, not knowing that they are all made of the same wood. It would love the dog and the cat, keep them on its lap, kiss them and play with them. It would, on the other hand, be afraid of even touching the lion. It sees different values in the different toys. But for a matured mind, for a grown up man, they will present no difference because he has the eyes to ignore the names and forms, though he too sees them and see the substance behind them. He would neither love the dog nor be afraid of the lion. Hence, the perception of Nama and Rupa, or name and form, is the cause of our delusion on this world of objects which are but the structural differences of the same substance, ultimately. Are not all gold ornaments nothing but mere gold? The different names we give them are due to the difference in their formation and not their substance. The different shapes and names of gold ornaments do not exclude the existence of the substance in them, nor are they obstacles to the recognition of the essence in them. Even so, the names and forms of the objects of the world are not obstacles to the perception of Satchidananda, but their essence, in them.
That Satchidananda is the essence in everything should not be lost sight of in the perception of names and forms. So, with the knowledge bestowed upon us by the Lord Himself, overcoming the delusion for names and forms, we should be rooted in the awareness of the presence of Satchidananda. Thus, says Arunagirinathar, hold fast to Truth casting aside the delusion.
Nama-Rupa-Prapancha further explained
Let us go into some more detail. Everything is said to be constituted of five characters Nama, Rupa, Asti, Bhati, and Priya. Of these, the first two belong to the external nature of objects and the latter three are the essence of which they are really constituted. Everything in the world has a name and form, e.g., river, mountain, sweetmeat, man, woman, etc. There is nothing but names and forms in the world; that is why it is called Nama-Rupa-Prapancha, the world of names and forms. But there is something more in them, in addition to name and form. There is existence, illumination, and a capacity to give happiness.
Why we chase objects and forms?
No one wants to die; we want perpetual existence this is the urge of Asti, Sat or existence. There is an urge for knowledge in everyone; no one wants to be called a fool this is Bhatitva, Chit or consciousness. We want happiness always and not pain this urge is of Priya, Ananda or bliss. Thus, there is a three-fold blend of existence-consciousness-bliss in us, in everything in creation. This seems to permeate Nama and Rupa. Indeed when we want objects, it is this Satchidananda that we seek in them and not the name and form as such. That is why when an object fails to give us the needed satisfaction we reject it; friends become enemies, loved objects are cast off mercilessly. We do not want names and forms but a satisfaction that comes from them, a satisfaction tat they are capable (apparently) of giving us. But do we really get the satisfaction? No. Because this method of trying to satisfy our desires through contact with objects is erroneous, and we never get what we want. But yet we seem to get satisfaction from them and that is why we run to them again and again. This is so because of an inner want in us. There is an inner, psychological tension in us called desire, which is conveyed to the senses through the nerves. And when a release of this tension of the senses is brought about by a contact with objects, they seem to give us happiness or satisfaction. But the release of tension is not fulfillment of desire, because that which is an inner want and which caused the tension is still there deep in the personality, causing the tension over and over again. Thus, desires are not to be finally fulfilled by contact with objects. Not only this, they excite further desire. We have already seen more details in this in verse 14. Things exciting desires and desires trying to get released or satisfied by contact with things this vicious process goes on endlessly. This is the cycle of Samsara, the deadly disease referred to in verse 16, which is never cured. So, Nama-Rupa-Prapancha is not the way to Satchidananda; contact with objects cannot bring real happiness. What then is the way? Yoga, is the answer.
Even as Satchidananda permeates all things, it is in us too. Hence, to seek it within, rather than in objects, is the only way and the right method. We cannot come into contact with Satchidananda through objects because of the intervention of space and time. We may possess an object and hug it to our bosom, yet it will not become ours, it cannot enter into us and we cannot enter into it; we always stand separated from it. Hence, to seek Satchidananda within is the only way. When the sense-powers that ramify in all directions to contact objects withdraw themselves into the mind, and the mind, thus, concentrated directs itself to its Source, the Atman, the Jiva dives deep within and directly comes into contact with Satchidananda. Like water poured into water or as a river entering the ocean, it becomes one with the Self, which is Satchidananda. This, in short, is the method of Yoga. Summing up all this, Arunagirinathar says, "Casting aside the delusion on the world of names and forms through discriminative understanding, be rooted in the Self within."
Be grateful to God
And what is to be done further? "Henceforth, be singing His praises and glories, be repeating His Names, with your tongue," is Arunagirinathar's advise. Why? (So that once again, we may not forget that Reality and be caught up in names and forms!) To show our gratitude to Him. By His grace we obtained the books we needed, a proper Guru and the wisdom which has put an end to our delusion and has established us in that state of uninterrupted perception of Reality. Should we not be grateful to Him? And what can be a greater means of expression of our gratitude to Him than uttering His names, singing His glories, always? To offer back to God what has been obtained from Him sis to be grateful to Him. With the understanding granted by us by God, we have to sing His glories. "What is the use of learning," says Thiruvalluvar "if the learned worships not the holy Feet (of God)."
Also, singing His glories thenceforth may also be an expression of the joy of the inner, perpetual awareness of God. In verse 15, Arunagirinathar prayed for the blessing of uttering His names, for melting the heart and for giving the inner awareness of God. Now he says, having been established in that inner awareness, let one henceforth sing his names and glories. Thus, Bakthi is shown to be the means for attaining knowledge supreme as well as the after-effect or expression of the latter. This is the glory of Bakthi or devotion; not so with Karma (the path of action). The Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita that for a sage who wishes to attain to Yoga, action is said to the be the means; but for the same sage who has attained Yoga, inaction is said to be the means. Performance of action does not seem to bring joy after attaining Yoga, but singing the names of the Lord brings joy before as well as after attaining Yoga. Also it will serve as an inspiration and guide for others, because people generally follow a great person and do what he does. If he sings the glories of God, utters His names, they too will devote themselves to these practices, which, in the latter's case, will serve as means to the attainment of Yoga.
Another translation of verse 17
The verse is also interpreted as: "Our learning and our understanding have been bestowed upon us by Lord Velayudha only to be received back by Him. Therefore, O people of the world, so long as you are on this earth, giving up your delusions, engage yourselves in acts of charity and righteousness (Dharma) and henceforth with your (God-given) tongues sing His glories."
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The seeker realized that lack of discrimination was the cause of desires, that is, the delusion in regard to the world; and in response to his prayer, the Lord or the Guru now grants him the needed Viveka Sakthi (discriminative understanding). With the down of Viveka in him, he knows that he should give up his delusion and fix his mind on the substratum (the Self), and for which singing of His glories is the way. The great need for effecting a complete self-control (Pratyahara) before attempting at meditation (Dharana and Dhyana) is emphasized here.
The Lord appeared as his Guru and gave him Hitopadesa that he is not the body but the Self (verse 7), which remained more as a theoretical understanding with him than an inner conviction. But now a true understanding of this advice is also given to him from within. Thus, the instruction from outside and the conviction from within are both given by the Lord Himself, of His own accord.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.