Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 20

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


arithaakiya mey poruLukku adiyEn,
urithaa upaThEsam uNartthiyavaa
viri thaaraNa vikrama vEL imaiyOr,
puri thaaraka naaga puranTharanE. 20


That Supreme Reality, most difficult to attain,
O, Thy experience-Upadesa made this slave gain!
O Great Vessel! O Beloved! O Lord of might and main!
O Pranava, longed by the Devas! O Protector of Heaven!

"O Lord, Who is like a big boat (to cross this ocean of Samsara), Who is possessed of great valour, Who is liked by all, Who is the Supreme Pranava and the object of longing and meditation by the Devas, Who is the protector of Devaloka! You gave Upadesa from within (Initiation by way of inner experience) such that it made this slave of Thine entitled for that Supreme Reality that is (otherwise) most difficult to attain. O What a wonder!"



Detailed Commentary:

Samsara is an ocean and the Lord is the boat to cross it

Samsara (phenomenal life) is compared to an ocean because it has no end. A person who finds himself in mid-sea has no hope of reaching the shore. The ocean is so vast, the shores are so far off (almost shoreless!) and the waters are so deep with many cruel animals in it that it is impossible for one to ever hope of reaching the shore. If such a person suddenly finds a big boat nearby, what would be his joy? So is the Lord in this ocean of Samsara. Mortal existence is also so difficult to cross over. There are innumerable snares, such as lust, greed, etc., that swallow a person like the shark, etc., in the ocean. The law of Karma is so inexorable that it creates an endless chain of reactions that one can never hope to break them and get freed from transmigratory life. The Lord is the only refuge, and devotion to Him is the method. Arunagirinathar says that the Lord is like a big boat, meaning thereby that there is no dearth of place in it; any number of persons can take refuge in Him at a time and He can save all of them.

Skanda Puranam: The Legend of the terrible goat and Murugan's valor

The Lord is possessed of great valor. One of His valorous deeds we shall recount here. Once, Rishi Narada, with all the Devas and Munis, performed a sacrifice from which emanated a terrible goat. It started doing great havoc, and it roamed about the three worlds causing fear to all. Narada and others went to Mount Kailasa to seek Lord Siva's help. On their way, they met the little boy, Lord Skanda, who enquired of them the purpose of their mission. When the matter was related to Him, the Lord sent Veerabahu devar, the chief of His assistants, to get the goat by the horns. Veerabahu devar went in search of it and finally finding it in Brahmaloka, brought it before the Lord. At the request of all, Lord Skanda made the goat His vahana (vehicle) and blessed the Devas saying, "Now you can go to the world, continue your Yajna and complete it without any hindrance." This He did when He was yet a little boy.

The Lord is liked by His devotees as He grants whatever they want — both of this world and the other. His form is most beautiful and enchanting. Even to think of Him is pleasing.

The Lord recovered Devaloka from Surapadman and restored Indra and all the other gods to their original posts. They, therefore, always meditate upon Him as the supreme Lord, as the essence of Pranava (Om).

"Such a great Lord gave upadesa to me, a totally undeserving person — His slave! Is it not a wonder?" — exclaims Arunagirinathar. Why? Because the earlier life of Arungiri was one of sheer debauchery. Probably, he had a trace of love for Lord Murugan, and that was enough for the Lord to show His compassion and give upadesa to Arunagirinathar. This is something unique and no doubt a wonder. And the upadesa given was also indeed unique.

What kind of upadesa was given by the Lord &
the different types of initiation

What kind of upadesa was given? That which entitled Arunagirinathar to that supreme Reality, which is most difficult to attain. Normally, upadesa (initiation) is given orally, by uttering certain mantras into the ears of the disciple. But it will not at once entitle one to the Supreme. One has to do great Sadhana after this initiation to attain God. There is then the initiation by touch or even by thought-transference. But all these have to be followed up by Sadhana to reach the Goal (God).

The initiation Arunagirinathar received was something different — it was experience-upadesa — upadesa by way of direct inner experience. This experience-upadesa is more than the verbal-upadesa of verses 8 and 11; there it is "Peesudhal" which is an external act, here it is "Unarthudhal" which is an inner experience. What is this experience-upadesa? The Lord manifests Himself in the heart of the devotee as his very Self, which at once brings experience. When God, thus, manifests Himself, the individual (little self) stands transcended; even as the sudden flood-waters in a river inundate and swallow up the long-standing stagnated pool-water in the river-bed. The pool-water may be said to be there, but not as it was before; it is now one with the flood-water, partaking of all its qualities and at the same time losing its earlier qualities of isolated existence, limitedness, dirt, etc. Similarly, when God manifests, Universal Consciousness supervenes the individual consciousness which, like a drop of water poured into the ocean, loses all its limitations, and experiences the Universal (God) at once. This is experience-upadesa.

"This entitled me at once to the Supreme, which is most difficult to attain," says Arunagirinathar. And this is the speciality of this upadesa! How can this be? God is the Supreme; He is to be attained. But when He, who is to be attained, manifests Himself within to give the experience-upadesa, naturally He stands attained also. Thus, the most difficult becomes easy of attainment in this experience-upadesa, because the very act of God's revealing Himself within for purpose of initiation is itself the act of initiation, which is also God-Experience, and He at once stands attained, too — all at once. Is this not a wonder?

Attainment of the Supreme (God) is difficult

The Supreme is difficult of attainment, thought it is everywhere. It is the support and the substratum (substance of everything). Yet, it is difficult to attain, for the simple reason that the mind and senses are extrovert by their nature and search for Him in the outer world of space and time, as an object. God is everywhere, but not as an object conditioned in time and space. He is a peculiar kind of inwardness, the subject, and never becomes an object. Any amount of search without will not bring us near God. One is, therefore, required to do Tapas, develop virtues, long for God, and engage oneself in spiritual meditation — all to bring about this inwardness of consciousness. Finally, God appears to give initiation. Hence, the Supreme is said to be difficult of attainment.

God is the substratum of even the one who searches. He is the real searcher, the only knower. He is the consciousness that seeks to know. When He is the knower, who is to know Him and how can He become the Known? He is always the Knower, and can never become the known.

Seek God within, not without

Hence, a search for God as an object to be known is fruitless. When the seeking consciousness ceases from all seeking and rests in itself, it knows itself as the sought. God has, therefore, to be experienced within, ceasing form the externalizing activities of the senses and mind. Implying all this, Arunagirinathar says that the Lord gave him upadesa through inner experience, within the core of the heart, where all the dissipated rays of the mind are to be collected. The attainment of God is most difficult (nay, impossible) when the wrong method is adopted, but it becomes a simple affair, a matter of personal and immediate experience, when the approach is proper; hence, the need for initiation by a competent Guru.

Look within — search within — find within —
experience within

God is not realized so long as He is sought outside, nor is He attained when He stands outside and gives initiation. He has to manifest Himself within — the consciousness has to rest in itself and then He is realized. How this happens, no one can say. It is a mystery, a wonder. And hence, the exclamation of the saint, "O Lord, what a wonder, your upadesa entitled me to the Supreme." Look within, search within, find within, and experience within — seems to be the silent teaching of Arunagirinathar.

Instruction for the devout Sadhaka

[In response to his prayer (verse 19), the Guru now initiates him into the technique of meditation, by way of inner experience and transformation of consciousness, which will entitle him to the experience of the Absolute in due course of time.

This initiation is more than the verbal instruction (Hitopadesa) of verses 8 and 11; because while "Peesudhal" (speaking is an external act), "Unarthudhal" is an inner experience. Now, it is actual initiation through inner revelation.

As we have seen in verses 8 and 11, though this initiation in the case of Saint Arunagirinathar resulted in an instantaneous realization of the Absolute, in the case of the seeker, it is not an immediate attainment but only initiation into the technique of mediation, by a transformation of consciousness, an assiduous practice of which would eventually entitle him to the Absolute which is otherwise most difficult of attainment.]



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

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