Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 25
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Why are the Lord's hands, feet, and Vel red?
The Lord's hands are red. They give protection to His devotees. The Lord's hands are "Abhaya-Karangal," that is, the hands that grant fearlessness to devotees, that confer blessings on all. His hands have become red because of endless giving and giving. The Vel, which is Lord Skanda's principal divine weapon, is also red, because it pierced through the Asura Surapadman, and is tainted with his blood. His Feet are red due to the constant worship by the Devas and also by devotees.
The function of the Lord's hands, feet, and Vel
His hands give protection. His Vel grants wisdom. His feet confer Moksha. Not only are the Lord's hands, Vel, and feet red, but Lord Murugan Himself is red. Red is indicative of uprightness, greatness, beauty, etc., that is, perfection. "O Lord, thou art perfect. Release me from this imperfect world and show me a perfect way for perfection," seems to be the prayer of Arunagirinathar.
Life on earth is imperfect. This phenomenal life is governed by the inexorable law of Karma. Everything here is determined by this law. The world changes, the body comes into being and perishes, things come together and are separated all due to the working of the law of Karma. We take these passing things as real and try to seek pleasure in them. The result is suffering.
The law of Karma governs our life
We are subject to the law of Karma which works relentlessly on everyone, everywhere. Every action of ours produces a reaction. The actions that we perform are called Karmas; the reactions that follow them are also called Karmas. We have been brought into existence as a result of the reactions of our past deeds, which also continue to govern us. Again, the actions that we perform now, produce reactions and lead to further births. Thus, karmas are both the cause and effect of our life, and we are totally governed by the law of Karma. This seems to be an endless chain.
How to escape Karma?
Naturally, the question arises, as to how to be freed from this. Is there no way out? Yes, there is, says Saint Arunagirinathar. His solution to the problem is to resort to the perfect Being to God, who is perfect. We are subject to the law of Karma because we have resorted to things that are subject to that law. But if we take refuge in God, in whom the law does not operate, we will be freed from that law. What does this mean?
God is a cosmic being
God is a cosmic being, and the cosmos is a balance of forces, which always maintains its balance. If anything disturbs its balance, it will try to restore it, and in so doing it will redound upon the one who disturbs it, like a rubber ball hit against a wall that comes back to the thrower. It is this reaction from the cosmos in its effort to come back to its harmony that is the working law of Karma. To resort to God is, therefore, to be in conformity with this cosmic balance, which is also said to be the state of Yoga "Samatvam Yoga Uchyate" balance is said to be Yoga. To contribute to this harmony, to be in tune with it and to be finally established in it, is Yoga, is to seek to be perfect, is to take refuge in God.
Every individual is a center, as it were, that disturbs the cosmic balance by its desire-prompted actions, and even by its thoughts. Everyone of our actions (including our thoughts) is therefore rewarded by the cosmos, because it is based on a very scientific method of working.
Law of Karma is unrelenting
Good results follow good actions, and bad from bad. This law of Karma is referred to as unrelenting, since there is no partiality in its working not one Karma, however small it may be, can go unrewarded. There is no such thing as striking a balance. If one does, say, 10 good karmas and 8 bad, the latter 8 cannot be cancelled with 8 of the former and only the balance of 2 good enjoyed. No. All the 10 good and all the 8 bad have to be individually rewarded according to each one's intensity. Hence, it is called inexorable. This is the reason why we come across good people suffering, though they might not have done any wrong in this life, which is due to their past wrongs. It is also not uncommon to see evil-doers enjoying in this life, for similar reasons. Indeed, the law of Karma is terrible and mysterious. But it equally assures one's future good for the good deeds done now and vice-versa.
The Lord is the Omnipresent Reality or Universal Existence. Our actions produce reactions because they emanate form a particular center, which a particular motive, which disturbs the cosmic balance. But God, the Universal Being, does not disturb the balance of the cosmos by His actions as they are not motivated by or directed to a particular end. The actions of the Universal Being are also universal and so they are in consonance with the universal balance. Hence, it is said that God's existence is the same as His activity. God's actions are spontaneous, not motivated; and Nature being an expression of God is also spontaneous. Hence, to take refuge in God means to approximate oneself to the universal existence of God, that is to become unselfish and unmotivated in one's actions. The more unselfish an action is, the more does it approximate to God; the more is it selfish, the more also is it individualized. Since God is the Universal Being and His existence is the same as His activity, all actions are His. He is the doer and we are but instruments through which He acts. Thus, if the awareness of the universal presence of God and of our being mere instruments is maintained, action will not produce any reaction, as it is neither prompted by a motive nor done with expectation of a specified result. Then, whatever happens is His and is all right.
This body is the result of past karmas (actions)
This body has been given to us as a result of our past actions. Our (pleasant and painful) experiences in this span of life are already determined by the effects of our past actions that have caused this life. Hence, all our experiences will pass away and come to an end one day, when the force of the momentum that caused them ceases. Therefore, undue importance is not to be attached to this earthly life. Neither are we to be overjoyed when desirable experiences come, nor are we to be depressed and sunken when undesirable ones present themselves, as both will pass away. Life is transitory. Such a life should not be taken as real, as the all. God is the great Reality, the all-perfect, "red" in His entire being. He is to be sought always, whatever be one's condition. Otherwise, one is easily tossed about by every little happening of life, like a dry leaf that is thrown hither and thither by the wind.
Difference in a person who resorts to God versus
But he who has resorted to God remains calm like a mountain, which is not shaken a bit even by the strongest wind. One who holds fast to God, that is, whose mind is fixed on God, is not easily shaken by the passing events in life. He knows that these experiences come and go, but do not touch his inner, real personality. But the man of the world, for whom the things of world are the only reality, to whom nothing higher exists, is easily carried away by every little incident in life. If his bank balance fails, he collapses. If his dear ones depart, his life becomes sapless. These come as shocking incidents that break his weak heart. But he who is devoted to God knows that the things of the world are changing and that they will leave him any moment, and so he is not affected by them. Only he who takes them as permanent realities gets a rude shock when they are separated from him, which is bond to happen because of the working of the law of Karma. Persons and things are brought together and separated by their Karma, as longs of wood in a river a joined or separated by wind. The law of Karma is no respecter of our joys and sorrows. It works relentlessly. Hence, knowing the transitory nature of things of this phenomenal life, because of the working of this law, one should take refuge in that which is "red," that is, perfect and permanent, so that one may not be tossed about by the passing events of this illusory life, says Arunagirinathar.
How to overcome the law of Karma?
Seek God's help and be His instrument
Our life is governed by the relentless law of Karma which is merciless. But the law-giver (the Lord) is full of mercy. So long as one does not take refuge in the Lord, the law of Karma works inexorably. Once, we surrender ourselves to God, the law loses its hold on us. As long as we take this world as real and ourselves as the doers of deeds and act with the expectation of their fruits, we cannot escape the working of the law. The idea of agency or doership and enjoyership is what makes us subject to the working of the law and is the cause of our bondage. But those, who take refuge in the Lord and act as His instruments, for His pleasure, in the participation of His will, without expectation of rewards, as worship of the Lord, go beyond the working of this hard law. Hence, resort to the merciful Lord is the only way to be freed from the merciless law of Karma. The law can be overcome only by surrender to the Law-Giver; the Lord's Maya is transcended only by His grace, as Bhagavan Sri Krishna says: "Verily, this divine illusion of Mine, made up of the (three) qualities (of Nature), is difficult to cross over; those who take refuge in Me alone cross over this illusion." (Gita VI-14). The child gets rest in the play of hide and seek only when it touches the granny who initiated and keeps the play going. "O Lord, thou art the perfect one. How long should I be mercilessly kicked about by this inexorable Karmas? How long will I rejoice in this world, taking it as real? Grant me proper understanding (Viveka). Grant me love for thy Feet. Save me, O perfect One, O peacock-rider, O glorious One, O valorous One! How can thou be called perfect, when I, thy slave, am tormented by this illusory life? Does my suffering befit thine all-perfectness? No. Hence, save me," is Arunagirinathar appeal to the Lord.
Instruction to the devout Sadhaka
[In the process of meditation, the Sadhaka's effort is to transcend or forge the world. But when the inner purification goes on and the Vasanas and Samskaras come up to the conscious level, they try to revive his past experiences and thus, lend reality to the world or life that he tries to forget. This is another phase of the inner tussle of the Sadhaka, similar to the one of the last verse. Hence, his cry and resort to the all-perfect Lord, which means a determined and resolute effort at more intense meditation on the Self. As he has been initiated into the proper technique of meditation by his Guru (verse 20), he is not to be easily taken astray by these passing obstacles, which are due to the working of the inexorable law of Karma. He knows that the remedy for all obstacles in meditation is meditation itself more intense and prolonged. After all, the positive will overcome the negative; divine grace shall come to one's help.
Thus, with the confession to the Lord and invoking of His grace (verse 24), the Sadhaka even in the midst of this tempest of Vasanas and Samskaras (Karmas) now forges forth into his meditation on the Self, or the Lord, as a mass of perfection.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.