Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 23
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Murugan's Vel explained & the definition of Ignorance
The Vel is sharp and valorous. It is sure in its aim. It pierced the Krauncha mountain (Asura) and killed Surapadman and his brothers. The Vel represents Jnana (knowledge), which alone can destroy ignorance. Ignorance is absence of knowledge (understanding). To take the things of the world as real and to forget the Omnipresence of the Lord, and thereby suffer, is ignorance. The Lord is an embodiment of virtues. If we meditate on Him, we will imbibe all virtuous qualities form Him and our ignorance will vanish.
Skanda Puranam: Significance of Murugan embracing Valli
The Lord embraced Valli. Valli was of divine origin but brought up by hunters low-caste forest-dwellers. The Jiva, too, is of Divine origin but caught up in the body-mind net of Prakriti. The Lord's embracing Valli denotes that He accepts the Jivas that meditate on Him and take refuge in Him. Again, Valli Devi is compared to a creeper and the Lord to a mountain a beautiful smile. Creepers branch out and spread over mountain-slope, to which the latter lends its support. Even so, to the Jivas that resort to or depend on the Lord, the virtue-mountain, He gives His help and grace.
Detailed explanation of above verse
"O Lord, because of ignorance, I do not think of your Lotus-Feet. I do not meditate on You. But, on that account should I perish, should I be denied your grace? Is it becoming of your divine nature to withhold your grace from me? (No.) Did you not go in search of Valli Devi, embrace her and marry her? What was the worth in her, except that she loved you in her heart? Then why not bless me also, who offers prayers to you? Not only that; You are an embodiment of virtues and therefore, you cannot say, `I won't bless you. You should suffer as you have not thought of Me.' Where is your virtue or divine nature then? If the bestowal of your grace on me depends on my fitness, where is the question of grace then? How can you be called a virtue-mountain? O Lord, you have no justification to deny your blessing to me," thus does Arunagirinathar plead for the Lord's grace and the Lord has no arguments or grounds to withhold His grace. So pathetically the saint beseeches the Lord.
The need for Sadhana to draw the Lord's grace
In this and in similar other verse, Arunagirinathar invokes the grace of the Lord, lamenting over his pitiable condition. In these verses, he places himself in the condition in which we, ignorant people, are without any Sadhana-sampatti (wealth of spiritual practice). He wants to show that we have to qualify ourselves by the practice of Sadhana, which, he points out, is lacking in us, on account of which we suffer and also on account of which the Lord's grace does not come to us. Saint Arunagirinathar adopts the indirect method of instilling in us the need for right Sadhana, through such verses, if we are to draw the grace of the Lord.
When Arunagirinathar says, "Should I perish because I have not thought of your Feet?" he means thereby that we do suffer because we do not contemplate on the Lord, and whereby he wants to bring home to our minds the need to take to meditation on the Lord in order to be saved.
The need to think of the Lord
Why should we suffer, if we do not think of the Lord? It is the nature of the mind to think something. If it does not think of the Lord, it has naturally to think of objects which exactly is the cause of our suffering. Because of ignorance of the real nature of objects, the mind thinks that it will get happiness from them and it tries to grab them, possess them and enjoy them. Indulgence in objects brings suffering of various kinds in its train, such as disease, anxiety, etc., because they are transitory by their very nature, they wear away the senses, they aggravate the cravings by their tantalizing nature. So, to avoid the pains arising out of contact with objects, we have to cease from thinking of them, because thinking it is that generates a desire for them. To cease thinking of objects, we have to think of the Lord's Lotus Feet. Vishaya-Chintana (thinking of objects) is to be overcome by Bhagavat-Chintana (God-thought). Therefore, in simple words, Arunagirinathar says, "Think of the Lord, give up ignorance (that objects can give happiness), be freed from suffering and enjoy the Lord's grace." We suffer because we have not obtained His grace, which is due to our not thinking of Him. This is so because of our ignorance, which takes the things of the world as real. Hence, giving up ignorance, that is, turning away from the objects; meditating on the Lord, that is, turning our attention within; obtaining His grace, that is, established in wisdom; we should be saved form the misery of transmigration, is the advice of the saint.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[Though the aspirant seemed to be successful in his meditation initially, it does not last long. AT times the mind cannot be concentrated at all in spite of his best efforts, because of the coming into active play of Avidya (ignorance), and that is the condition portrayed in this verse.
Initially, the seeker was able to bow to the Lord's Feet and think of Him, as also feel the Universal Reality (verse 22); but now he is unable even to think of His Feet, because Avidya (ignorance) starts causing an internal disturbance. This inner tumult agonizes his mind, but he knows the remedy for it, that of resorting to the Lord. Hence, the perplexed cry of his in this verse.
What we implied by the term "Midi" in verse 19, is now explicitly stated as "Ariyaamai" (Avidya or ignorance). As the Sadhaka advances, things become clearer.
Avidya cannot be easily dealt with; even to know of its existence and coming into play is itself difficult enough. The unconscious level of our being, wherein are imbedded the Samskaras and vasanas of all past deeds, is the seat of Avidya, which is touched by the protracted and deep meditation of the Sadhaka. It is then that these (the Samskaras and vasanas) get awakened and disturb his once enjoyed meditation (vide verse 22). That is the reason why he is unable to think of the Lord's Feet. These are, however, still in the unconscious level only. Having, thus, been awakened they try to gush out to the subconscious and conscious levels of the mind, where they will play a greater havoc, which is portrayed in the subsequent verse.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.