Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 18
By Sri Arunagirinathar
In the entire work of Kanthar Anubhuthi, this is a unique verse the only one purely devoted to singing the Lord's glories; unlike the others which contain either an appeal to the Lord, a supplication, an instruction to the mind, a revelation of His grace, an admonition, or description of stages of spiritual Sadhana, etc.
The highest stage of devotion: Not ask for anything
In the highest state of Jnana, one is contented with simple glorification of the Lord. One wants nothing in particular from the Lord, one does not pray for anything, nor feel the need to give instructions to others or to one's own mind which has since got perfect rest in its Source and feels not the need to move out, even to speak on matters spiritual. This is the highest stage of devotion, also, wherein the devotee does not feel the need to pray for anything from the Lord. When the Lord Himself is attained, what more does the devotee want? His devotion to the Lord, in this stage, is so single-minded and his self-surrender so complete that the Lord looks after him, whatever be his needs, of which, often, the devotee is even unaware. This verse is the direct and immediate effect of the wisdom conferred on saint Arunagirinathar by the Lord (as mentioned in the previous verse) that abandoning one's attachments to the world one should be rooted in the Real, and be ever immersed in signing the glories of the Lord. Probably this is also a verse to express his gratitude to the Lord for the wisdom granted to him.
The sweetness of devotion is such that one feels full with it. Hence, in the very first verse Arunagirinathar prayed for this only task of singing His glories, which, when accompanied with melting of heart and inner feeling, is the goal itself.
God is birthless and deathless
God is birthless and deathless. He has neither a beginning nor an end. Everything has come from Him, is sustained in and by Him, and everything returns to or is absorbed into Him. But He, by Himself, knows no change. He does not think or forget, for there is nothing second to Him. Such is Lord Siva. The greatness of Siva is not known even to Brahma and Vishnu. We have already seen in our explanation of verse 3 how Brahma and Vishnu failed to understand Lord Siva when He appeared before them as a light while they were contending between themselves as to the their supreme lordship.
There is no difference between Lord Skanda and Lord Siva both are One and the same
Lord Skanda is the spiritual son of such an ever-pure One Lord Siva. In so saying, Arunagirinathar makes no distinction between Lord Siva and Lord Skanda, because the latter is only a manifestation (or another form) of the former for a specific purpose.
Lord Siva had given boons to the Asuras, and so He could not kill them in that form of His. Nor anyone else could kill them. Hence, Siva Himself appeared as Skanda to put an end to the Asuras. Thus, Lord Siva and Lord Skanda are one.
The Lord is the Great One, He is the sinless One and He destroys the sins of His devotees. He gives refuge to those who take shelter under His feet, who think of Him with an undivided mind. Lord Skanda is the protector of Amaravathi.
Skanda Puranam: The Legend of Amaravathi
Amaravathi is the capital of Svarga (heaven), wherefrom Indra rules. Surapadman invaded Svarga and drove away all the Devas from heaven. Only Lord Skanda could kill the Asuras and reinstate Indra on his throne, in Amaravathi. Lord Skanda was a terror to Surapadman before whom no-one else could stand. He (Surapadman) had defeated all the gods and even extracted menial service from them. Siva appeared as Skanda and only He could destroy the Asuras. At first Surapadman took Skanda for a small boy and sent his son, Banukopan, for battle. Even Banukopan was invincible to the Devas; they could not resist him. But to the Lord, Banukopan was nothing. In no time, the Lord killed Banukopan, which news came as a shock to Surapadman. He then sent his brothers, Simhamukhan and Tarakasuran, who were killed by the Lord without much effort. This created terror in Surapadman. And finally, Surapadman himself came to the battle-field. He hurled on the Lord the many invincible Astras (weapons) given to him by Lord Siva. Some of these Astras the Lord destroyed with counter Astras, and some, duly meditating upon Lord Siva, Skanda received quietly and kept by His side. The way in which the Lord handled and replied to Surapadman's powerful Astras in such a simple and undisturbed manner struck terror into the heart of Surapadman. So, Lord Skanda is referred to as the "terror of Surapadman."
The Lord is referred to as the protector of the Devas and the destroyer of Surapadman. He protected the Devas and destroyed the Asuras this means He protects those who have Daivi Sampatti (divine qualities) and destroys those who are of Asuric nature (evil tendencies). The Lord is the protector of the good and destroyer of the unrighteous.
In the previous verse, Arunagirinathar said, "henceforth let your tongue sing His glories." How to do this is given in this verse. The glorification of the Lord should refer to His highest attributes, a repetition of which would form a contemplation and meditation on Him.
We become that which we think...so sing about God...
singing -> contemplation -> absorption -> Bhava Samadhi
When we sing the glories of the Lord, we partake of those qualities and attributes with which we glorify Him, because of the simple law that we become that which we think. Glorification of the Lord is a kind of meditation on Him, even as Svadhyaya is, since the mind for the time being is attuned to the Lord and abides in Him. When we sing His glories, the mind dwells upon His virtues, and as the mind becomes that which it thinks, it is charged with those divine qualities upon which it contemplates. Signing is contemplation, leading to absorption. Thus, when we sing "The Great One," ideas of Omnipresence, Omnipotence, etc., flash in our minds at once, and a repetition of this leads to a total absorption of the mind in these ideas, which often leads the devotee to Bhava Samadhi, a temporary absorption in Divine consciousness.
When the Lord is attained, everything is attained
Glorification of the Lord is a total supplication to Him, not for any specific purpose, or wanting something in particular. It is the longing of the soul for reunion with the Lord. When the soul wants nothing in particular, the Lord gives Himself totally. Glorification of the Lord is to want the Lord Himself and not something from Him. When He is attained, everything is attained, because there is nothing greater than He, nothing beyond Him and nothing outside Him. He is the Great, Bhuma. By undivided and single-minded devotion to the glorification of the Lord, the soul feels its oneness with Him, feels the Lord as its own.
Arunagirinathar seems to refer to the Self and point out the method of meditation on it in this verse. The attributes mentioned of Lord Siva correspond to Brahman, the Absolute; and those of Skanda as Siva's son, etc. to the Self within on which is meditation to be practiced. Thus, the first two lines of the verse describe the Atman and the last two lines show the line of meditation.
Vimalan = Siva = Skanda = Brahman = Atman = Self
Very significantly, the saint has used "Vimalan" to denote Lord Siva, which may as well mean Brahman. Vimala is Nitya-Suddha, ever-pure, untainted by worldliness. It is Brahman, which is also birthless and deathless; is without thinking and forgetting; is not knowable even by Brahman and Vishnu, they being the effects of Brahman, and the effect cannot know the cause. Even as Skanda is the spiritual son of Siva, and yet none other than Siva; so is the Self, being located within, the "son" of Brahman and is non-different from it. Thus, reference to the Self as non-different from Brahman but as located within is for the purpose of meditation, is hinted at in the first half of the verse.
How to meditate on the Self
Now, how to meditate on the Self, is stated in the latter half. "The Great, the sinless, the fearless, the Lord of the heart, and the terror to the ego," thus, is the Self to be meditated upon. There is nothing greater than the Atman. While the mind is greater than the senses, the intellect is greater than the mind, and greater than the intellect is the Atman, there is nothing greater to it. The Self is the "Sinless Ether" in the heart. It is fearless, and out of fear for it the other faculties in us work harmoniously. The Self is the Lord (caretaker) of the heart (Amaravathi). The gods are the senses and just as gods dwell in heaven, whose capital is Amaravathi, the senses reside in this body whose center (or capital) is the heart. The mighty power of Skanda was a terror to Surapadman; even so an awareness of the universal existence of the Self is a death-blow to the individualistic assertion of the ego. Thus, is shown the way of meditation o the Self as the great and sinless, as the fearless, as the support of the virtues and the destroyer of the vices in the Sadhaka, as the great Reality.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[With the coming in of true understanding given by the Lord that leaving the delusion regarding the world he should fix his mind on the Reality (or the Self seen in Verse 17) the seeker now commences his meditation on the higher nature of the Lord, as the Self in him. Thus, pure meditation is attempted at by the aspirant.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.