Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 22
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Mount Meru is said to be the greatest mountain on Earth. One cannot imagine its length or breadth, or its greatness. It is regarded as the axis of this earth. So is the Lord, beyond human understanding and description, the support of all.
Lord Murugan: destroyer of our lower nature
Lord Skanda was the Commander-in-Chief of the army of Devas. He organized their forces, fought against Asura Surapadman and killed him with his entire army. Even so, the Lord organizes the virtuous qualities in His devotees, gives a battle to the terrible Asura egoism and destroys him and his retinue of lust, anger, greed, etc. The destruction of the lower nature in man is necessary in order that one's mind may become tranquil which is a necessary prerequisite for meditation on the Lord. The lower nature, due to its extrovert nature, does not allow the mind to be tranquil and steady. Hence, the need for its destruction.
Skanda Puranam: The Legend of Deivayanai and Valli (continued)
Lord Murugan bowed to Valli Devi, His divine consort. According to the Tamil scriptures, Lord Skanda has two consorts Valli and Deivayanai. Valli represents Iccha Sakthi and Deivayanai Kriya Sakthi. Deivayanai was the daughter of Indra, who was troubled by Surapadman. After the Asura was killed by the Lord, in acknowledgment of his indebtedness to Him, Indra gave his daughter Deivayanai in marriage to Lord Skanda. The marriage was conducted with all Vedic rites (Kriyas) in a big assemblage of gods, rishis, and men, at Thirupparankundram in South India. Hence, she is said to represent Kriya Sakthi the power of Action. But Valli's marriage with the Lord was of a peculiar nature. She loved Lord Murugan intensely and was resolved to marry none but Him. But she did not know where He was and how to attain Him. Yet her love for the Lord was so much that the Lord Himself went in search of her, beseeched her to marry Him, and got her married by stealing her away at dead of night from her home. Thus, Valli is referred to as Iccha Sakthi the power of will.
True meaning of Murugan bowing down to Valli
Reference to Valli and the Lord's bowing to her shows that the Lord is ever eager to seek to help His devotees, who often long for Him but know not the means of attaining Him. This shows that if one is sincere and honest in one's seeking, God comes of Himself to the devotee and shows the method of attaining Him.
Bowing to God's feet is a very rare attainment
"It is indeed a wonder that I attained to that amount of Tapas as to bow to the Feet of such a Lord, duly meditating on Him," rejoices Arunagirinathar. To be able to meditate on the Lord, while bowing to His Feet is indeed a great Tapas, a rare attainment, an achievement difficult to get. What kind of meditation is that, that is considered as a great Tapas and also so difficult of attainment? To meditate on the Lord as "Kaalai, Kumaran, Isan" Kaalai means "Eternal Youth," which refers to eternal existence or `Sat.' Kumaran means the "destroyer of the world-delusion (Maya)." It refers to `Chit' or knowledge. Isan means "the over-lord of everything," which is the condition of supreme happiness or bliss (`Ananda'). To meditate on the Lord as Satchidananda (existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute) and to bow to His Lotus-Feet is it not a supreme state of Tapas or attainment? "How I attained to this Tapas, is indeed a marvel! What shall I say? It is due to Thy grace!" Thus, Arunagirinathar expresses his eternal gratitude to the Lord, who conferred on the saint this supreme state, in the same way as He, of His own sweet will, conferred upon Valli Devi the status of being His consort.
All forms are His
When we bow to the Lord, we should think of Him not in terms of a name and form, but as Satchidananda. Our body should bow to the image or even the picture of the Lord, but the mind should be fixed in the Infinite. What-ever be (the name of) the Lord Siva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Skanda, Vinayaka, Devi, Christ, etc. they are essentially the same Satchidananda, just as whatever be the ornament, the substance is only gold. This fact we have to bear in mind when we think of Him or meditate on Him or bow to Him, is what Arunagirinathar seems to imply.
Svarupa-lakshana and Tatastha-lakshana of God
Thinking of Him as Satchidananda and bowing to His Feet may be said to refer, respectively, to the Svarupa-lakshana and Tatastha-lakshana of God. To bow to the feet means we take the Lord in His manifested form whatever the form be which is the Tatastha-lakshana. It is the relativistic aspect of God, of manifestation or Avatara, for a purpose. It is not that the Lord cannot take that form again or appear again in that form to give Darshan to His devotees. He can. But it is not His essential nature or Svarupa-lakshana. Satchidananda or the Absolute, unconditioned existence-knowledge-bliss is the Svarupa-lakshana of God. While the Tatastha-lakshana differs with every manifestation, the Svarupa-lakshana is the same for all. Hence, to bow to any form of God fixing one's mind on the Svarupa-lakshana is indeed a state of special blessedness obtained purely by the Lords grace, because while the Tatastha-lakshana can be understood by the human mind, Svarupa-lakshana can be felt or experienced in the heart only when revealed by the Lord out of His grace.
The idea is that our prayer, worship, meditation, etc. should not merely end with Tatastha-lakshana. The purpose of all these spiritual practices is to attain the Svarupa-lakshana. The former goes by the name of popular religion which is practiced by the vast majority of people, according to each one's religious faith and custom. It, therefore, differs from religion to religion. But the latter belongs to mystic religion to saints and sages, whether of this religion or that religion, whose experiences are the same whether they be of the East or West, ancient or modern. There is no difference of opinion among them.
Should we discuss various religions? No!
The religious quarrels and dogmatic bigotry arise only among the popular religions. Then, are we to dispense with the popular religion or the different methods of worship of God? No, it is not necessary nor desirable. It provides the initial background for the neophyte to hold his mind onto something, from where he has to go higher. The different religions and religious practices are, therefore, not to be rejected but included and transcended into the mystic religion, even as the college education does not reject, but includes and transcends what has been learnt in the high school. Because there are colleges, we do not dispense with elementary and high schools, for the latter provide the needed basic education without which the higher college education would be impossible. So is the case with the popular religion. Again, all cannot afford to go to college. But yet an high school educated man is better than an illiterate. So also, though all cannot easily attain the mystic vision of God, a man of the popular religion is better than a world-ling or non-believer, for whom there is nothing beyond the world. The latter will indulge in all lawlessness and sin, while the former will have fear of God and regard for the moral and spiritual values of life. But we should not stop with it. We should at least know that there is something higher than the popular religion, which is only a pointer to the Higher. The popular religion has to lead to the mystic religion and not to religious bigotry. The Tatastha-lakshana and Svarupa-lakshana are both of God, the former to lead to the latter.
Thinking of You, as Satchidananda, one should bow to Your Feet: Thinking is an inner attitude and bowing is an external act. The right Bhava (attitude) should follow an action, implies Arunagirinathar by this. To feel the Omnipresence of the Lord while we bow to His Feet is indicated here. If the right attitude is not there, mere external action becomes meaningless and often hypocritical. And here it is that religions and religious ceremonies, nay even the secular actions of an individual, become lifeless in spite of their external pomp and grandeur.
Why external worship is necessary?
External worship leads to internal worship
But then is it not enough if the proper attitude of the Omnipresence of the Lord is maintained, without performing the external act of bowing to the Lord, or offering worship, etc? No, it is not enough. Though God wants our heart and looks to the inner attitude alone, yet the external action is to be performed, maintains Arunagirinathar; because people cannot understand the inner attitude of such a person but can only see his action, which they take as a mode of conduct for them to follow. Hence, if a saint keeps quiet, only maintaining his inner feeling of the Omnipresence of God, which people cannot perceive, they will also not do any worship or prayer; nor can they entertain the proper Bhava in their heart. Thus, bereft of both the inner feeling and outer practices they will be totally lost. Hence, the external action of a saint is to be continued to be performed for the sake of others to emulate. They will get the proper inner attitude in course of time, by the Lord's grace. What a profound verse! Arunagirinathar packs so much of wisdom into a few words.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The initiation of the Guru (verse 20) has given the disciple the proper technique of meditation on the Lord. Now, when he commences his meditation with this technique and with a true longing to attain liberation (verse 21), due to the immediate impact of the Guru's initiation and the power transmitted by him, the aspirant seems to be successful in his meditation initially, viz., to feel the Absolute (Satchidananda) that is beyond the form that he worships or meditates upon. This gives him great joy and makes him exclaim the infinite grace of the Lord.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.