Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 26
By Sri Arunagirinathar
He is beyond the Vedas & Agamas
The Vedas are four and the Siva Agamas are twenty-eight. They glorify God and try to point out the way of attaining Him. They contain the highest wisdom, the mystic revelations of sages and sages. But, they also conclude by saying that He is beyond their reach, because God has to be experienced by oneself. Our intellectual understanding, mental processes and bodily activities also cannot take us near God. He is beyond the reach of anything known to us in our present condition of knowing. He stands transcending everything and so He is not attainable by any of these means. "Leaving my delusion on the world, which is subject to the law of Karma, I have resorted to Thee alone, who art perfect (as per the previous verse). Therefore, I have now no support of this world; Thou art my only support. But Thou art beyond the reach of the mind, etc. Therefore, my thinking of Thee and praying to Thee will not help me to have God-experience. Thou shouldst think of me now, though for a moment, and that would be enough; that would only bring me Thy grace and divine experience," is the appeal of Arunagirinathar.
Limitation of Human endeavor
Does this mean that we need not do any Sadhana but simply expect the grace of the Lord? No. After devoting oneself to the study of scriptures, after an intellectual understanding of God, after putting into practice of what has been learnt and understood, one realizes the limitations of the mind and intellect of all human effort and then surrenders oneself to the Lord in utter helplessness, knowing fully well that nothing but His grace can reveal the Lord. This is the condition to which Arunagirinathar seems to drive at, when he says, "O Lord, thou art beyond the reach of the mind, etc., I am supportless. Wilt thou not think of bestowing thy grace on me!" A total realization of the limitations of human endeavor is the pre-condition for the manifestation of divine grace. The ego that asserts its power should humble itself and feel its nothingness. Where, thus, the ego subsides, God reveals Himself. Where the wave of individuality sinks, the ocean of Universality stands supreme. Where human effort ceases, divine grace manifests itself.
Why God is beyond the Vedas, the Agamas, the mind, etc.
Why is God beyond the reach of the mind, the Vedas, etc.? God is infinite, while the mind, etc., are finite. Can the finite know the infinite? The mind is extrovert by nature, while the infinite is all-pervading, that is, it is not particularized. The more the mind tries to know God, the more does it externalize itself and thereby alienate itself from God (Omnipresent Reality). Hence, extroverted activity, such as reading of scriptures, discussions, etc., cannot approximate one to God. But they help one realize this truth that they cannot help one attain God. On this realization, when the mind ceases from activity and becomes supportless, i.e., takes refuge in the Lord, in the omnipresent Reality, God's grace is manifest. The mind should cease functioning, then God manifests Himself. The mind cannot attain God so long as it maintains its individuality.
Why not the mind, study of Vedas, etc., help one attain God? All these belong to the phenomenal world, but God is Absolute Reality. Nothing that is phenomenal can touch the Absolute, even as nothing of dream can touch the things of the waking world, because they belong to different realms. One may run a thousand miles in dream, but one cannot reach the real treasure that is beneath one's pillow. So also, whatever is done by the mind in the waking consciousness can never help it attune itself to the universal existence of God. Is there no way out then? Yes, there is, says Arunagirinathar, which is to become supportless and obtain His grace. But what is this becoming supportless? Let us first study our "supports" and then see what supportlessness is.
Our source of "support" which keep us in this world
We have various sources of support our body, relatives, wealth, property, position, etc., are our physical supports. The Jiva in its waking condition depends on these things for its experience and existence. In the dream state, the support of the Jiva is the psychological world (dream world), which enables the Jiva to have dream-experience. The deep sleep state may appear to be supportless as there is no body, mind, senses, objects, relations or the world, then. But it is not really supportless. The latent and deeply buried impressions of desires, which constitute the unconscious (Ajnana), provide the support to the Jiva. It is these that bring back the Jiva to waking once again, for their fulfillment. But for this screen of desires, the Jiva would merge itself in Satchidananda, which it enjoys negatively in sleep through this thin veil of Avidya (ignorance or unconscious). Thus, the supports of the Jiva in the three conditions of waking, dream, and deep sleep are the gross, subtle, and causal bodies or the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious, respectively. Though these are the "supports" of the Jiva, they are really the obstacles or barriers for its liberation. The relation which the Jiva has in its three states with the corresponding three bodies is its support from one point of view but is verily an obstacle for God-Experience. Hence, to become supportless is to become freed from these "supports" or obstacles. Now the question is how to become supportless.
How to become supportless?
We have seen that nothing we do in dream can help us achieve something in the waking world, because nothing of the former can be taken to the latter, as they belong to different realms. But, though we can carry nothing of the dream world to the waking, "we" can go from dream to waking, leaving behind everything of the dream. We have only to wake up from dream and we can have the treasure (underneath our pillow). Even so, the "I" in us has to wakeup to the higher consciousness of God, leaving everything of this phenomenal world, and experience God or enjoy His grace. Nothing of the phenomenal world can be taken there, but the "I" or the "Consciousness" can go there.
Waking, dream, and deep sleep states are the states of consciousness in relation to certain things the waking in relation to physical, gross objects; the dream to subtle; and the deep sleep to causal. It is the very same consciousness that is said to be in any of these states, according to its association with the three conditions. Though the things of one condition cannot be taken to another, nor can they help us go to the other, "we" (consciousness) can go from the waking to dream or sleep, and vice-versa. If the self-same consciousness can pass from one condition to another, well, it can as well go to yet another condition where it is not in association with anything, but be itself. Thus, though what the consciousness does in its association with the different levels of the mind will not help it reach God, yet it can withdraw itself from all associations from each level and remain in itself, as it is. If the waking, dream, and deep sleep states are the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious states, the other is the super-conscious state. It is God-Consciousness. Even a moment of this super-conscious is enough to bring God-experience nay, it is God-experience because dissociation from all the three conditions means ceasing from individuality, which at once is universalization of consciousness. When the consciousness knows anything outside itself because of its limitation to the waking, dream, and deep sleep states, it is phenomenal experience. But when the consciousness rests in itself in its universal nature and knows itself through itself by being itself, it is not "knowing" in the ordinary sense of the term. It is being, which is also knowing. It is being-consciousness, which is super-consciousness (God-experience). This is God's thinking, as different from human thinking, also known as God's grace the supervening of God-consciousness. How this happens, is a mystery. We cannot say whether a cessation from the three states leads to God-experience, or God-experience brings about the cessation of the former. Something happens, and both take place simultaneously. It is a simultaneity of experience the ceasing from the three states and having God-experience. Hence, it is best attributed to and referred to as God's grace, which baffles all human logic.
Thus, the state of super-consciousness is the "supportless" state; and meditation is the way leading to it. Meditation is also, therefore, called as the supportless state; just as Yoga is establishment in God, but the various paths leading to the establishment are also called as Yoga, such as Bakthi Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, etc.; or just as a Yogi is one who has attained perfection, but those who strive for perfection are also known as Yogis. When one leaves one's delusion on the world and resorts to the Lord, who is perfect, in an act of meditation (verse 25), he becomes supportless and he totally depends on divine grace, which he invokes. Hence, Arunagirinathar's appeal to the Lord to shower His grace: "O Lord, you are beyond the reach of the Vedas, mind, etc., and so I am at your mercy now. Yet, you have not bestowed a moment's thought of my having your grace! Where, then, is the scope of my attaining divine-experience? Be, therefore, gracious enough to bestow your grace on me."
The last two lines of the verse are also interpreted as:
1. "O Lord, who is the subject of (glorification by) the Vedas and Agamas, who sports and rejoices in giving instructions (or discussions) on Jnana, who is beyond the reach of the mind!..."
2. "O Lord, who has for His pastime, the exposition of the knowledge expounded in the Vedas and Agamas, who is beyond the reach of the mind!..."
3. "O Lord, who is beyond the reach of the mind that has for its pastime the discussion of the knowledge of the Vedas and Agamas!..."
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The Jiva that forges forth into meditation, after overcoming the obstacles (verse 25), is able to forget the world and it tries to be supportless. It is now in a peculiar state of inwardness of consciousness that it cannot be said to be in either of the three states of waking, dream, or deep sleep. The state of true meditation is different form waking because there is no externalization of consciousness, i.e., there is no awareness of the world outside and even of one's own body. That it is not dream is, of course, evident. It is not also deep sleep, because it is not an unconscious state. The Jiva, in its higher reaches of meditation, tries to be in its pure and simple state of Jivatva as such, unrelated but with awareness, i.e., it tries to be "supportless." It is not in an actual supportless state, but very close to its borderland, and that is why the Jiva feels the need for the grace of God, which condition is so vividly portrayed in this verse.
The Sadhaka's greater and greater resort to the Lord (viz. meditation on the self) leaves him supportless. But he has not attained a substantial footing in Reality (God). This is a very critical condition wherein he is in need of the divine support more than at other times. He feels that a pull from the "Above" is absolutely necessary here. This seems to be a transitional state in meditation, wherein the Jiva consciousness tries to exceed itself, i.e., go beyond itself and touch universal consciousness.
There is a greater self-surrender and dependence on the Lord, i.e., an effort at a more intense meditation on the part of the Jiva to attune itself to the Universal.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.