Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 28
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Revelations by Arunagirinathar
the 3 stages of experience before the non-dual state
(union with God aka Mukthi)
This is a beautiful verse in which Saint Arunagirinathar reveals the three experiences, in the final stage of meditation, that precede the attainment of the non-dual state which can only be experienced and not given expression to. The three stages of experience are described as "unspoiling Nectar," "King with sharp Vel," and "Embodiment of wisdom."
Having rejected the sense-objects on account of a thorough understanding of their transient nature, when one resorts to the Lord whole-heartedly, in course of time and by the grace of God, the above experiences come to a Sadhaka.
Stage 1: God as nectar
Indulgence in sense-objects creates nausea, wears away the senses and leads to all sorts of miseries. Not so with God. The more one devotes oneself to God, the more joy does one feel. There is no repulsive reaction from God, as in the case of objects. Thought of God brings a special kind of joy which cannot be had from any object of the world. The mind that thinks of God gets more and more absorbed in Him, and He is experienced as Divine Nectar, which becomes sweeter and sweeter as one goes on tasting it. More intense thinking of God leads to more absorption in Him. The joy of contemplation on God is so sweet that the devotee does not want to forget Him even for a moment. This is the first experience, though of a highly advanced stage in meditation. Here, the Lord is compared to nectar because once you taste it, it will linger in your mind and attract you again and again. Even so, is the mind's experience of God, which thrills it and draws it more and more towards itself. This is the first stage.
Stage 2: God as King with the sharp Vel
Then, the second stage is described as "King with the sharp Vel." The Vel represents wisdom and is often identified with the Lord, who is an embodiment of knowledge. The Vel ever rests on the person of the Lord it is one with Him, so as to be almost inseparable from Him yet, it has an individuality of its own.
The Vel (Spear) has a long stem and its leaf is broad in the middle and sharp at the top. The meditative consciousness in the higher reach of meditation is like the Vel deep in thought, broad in vision and sharp in understanding. The joy that was experienced in the first stage draws the Jiva more and more to the Self, and the soul longs for a deeper experience and gets closer to the Self such that it now rests, as it were, on the latter. The collected, pointed, and totally concentrated mind gets so much absorbed in meditation that it feels a nearness and oneness with the Self; it almost becomes one with the object of meditation, though its individuality is still there, even as the Vel is the Lord. This is the second stage.
Stage 3: God as Wisdom
Then comes the third and highest stage of meditation, in which the Lord is experienced as "Jnaanaakaran," i.e., an embodiment of wisdom, an ocean of Satchidananda. The perfectly concentrated mind, which in its essence is also consciousness, due to prolonged resting of itself on the Self in meditation, merges into its source, the Self (Atman or Universal Consciousness) that is the substratum for all Jivas. As a river merges into the ocean, losing its name and form, the individual consciousness (the Jiva) loses its individuality and remains one with the Ocean the Ocean becomes itself. When the river-water is about to enter the ocean, at the confluence it exclaims, "O how huge is the ocean! Water and water alone everywhere!" But, before it could understand or try to say anything about its further experience, it is totally mingled with the ocean, it has lost itself and can therefore say nothing. The river has become the ocean itself and the question of saying anything about the ocean does not arise now. Even so, is the condition ft he Jiva in that final experience, says Arunagirinathar. The Jiva that is close to the Self, when it deepens its meditation, is like the river-water at the confluence of the ocean. The Jiva exclaims, "Jnaanaakarane" O Embodiment of Wisdom! "O, it is light everywhere, on all sides!" And before it could know anything further it is lost in that mass of light. Hence, after saying, "O Embodiment of Wisdom," Arunagirinathar exclaims, "Can anything be said further?"
Summary of the above 3 stages of meditation
The three progressive stages of experience as Nectar, Lord with the Vel, and Embodiment of Wisdom reveal the successive experiences in meditation that precede the Divine Experience.
1. Dvaitam or Dual state (Jiva and God as separate entities)
In the beginning of meditation, there is a dualistic attitude the Jiva and the Self, or the devotee and God "God is over there and I (the devotee) am here" thus, there exists a separation between the two. The Jiva meditates on and enjoys the bliss of the Self. This is denoted by the term nectar which is enjoyed by another.
2. Vishishtadvaitam or Transition between dual state and non-dual state
In a higher stage, the dualistic attitude is transcended in that of "neither one nor two," where the Jiva rests on the Self but not yet merged in it, like the Vel and the Lord.
3. Advaitam or Non-Dual state (Jiva and God as One)
The highest stage is the non-dual state, where the Jiva is absorbed in the Self and the Self alone is, which is signified by wisdom-mass. There is no difference between the Jiva and God they are One. Thus, meditation commences with duality, passes through a non-oneness state and finally culminates in the non-dual experience of the Absolute Dvaitam and Visishtadvaitam lead to Advaitam; what started as two entities merge into One. Bakthi-Yoga and Raja-Yoga culminate in Jnana-Yoga, in the realization of the Absolute.
Losing oneself in the Absolute is similar to deep sleep state
"That which is as mere existence, absorbing this little "I" (Jiva) consciousness into Itself, is the Absolute. This can only be experienced. How to relate this to another?" says Saint Arunagirinathar. He has yet given some kid of expression to it. While one is in deep sleep, one does not know what is happening to oneself, where one is, etc. One is wholly lost in sleep. Yet, on returning to the waking state, one says, "I enjoyed a blissful sleep. I knew nothing." This is only a vague and faint recollection of something experienced earlier, but it cannot convey the full import of the actual experience. So is the Saint's expression. On returning from that Absolute-Experience, Arunagirinathar gives a glimpse of what the Experience is like, as also the experiences that precede it, so that struggling souls may know, when they have similar experiences, that they are approaching that Grand-Experience.
Jiva merging with God "salt" and "ocean" analogy
In meditation, the Jiva-consciousness collects itself from all outgoing tendencies and stands "supportless" as one concentrated essence and tries to fathom the Absolute, which is Pure Consciousness. The Jiva may be compared to a doll made of salt, which is essence is sea-water, a concretized form of the latter. Supposing, the salt-doll wishes to fathom the depth of the ocean and enters it, what will happen to it? As it enters into the sea it starts getting dissolved into the water and finally nothing remains of the doll and only sea-water alone is. Similar may be said to be that Absolute Experience. When the collected Jiva-consciousness tries, in deep meditation, to know God, who is Satchidananda, it finally merges itself in that Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute, and nothing of the Jivatva is left to give an expression of that Experience. When the Jiva-consciousness has melted away, like the salt-doll, who is there to say? So the Saint says that, that state cannot be told to another, because not only the experiencing Jiva is not there to explain, but also, in that state, "others" are also not there to listen to. A doubt may arise as to what happens to the "other" Jivas?
In dream, we see ourselves as well as many other persons. The dream-subject has relations and dealings with the other dream-objects. Now what happens when we wake up? Does the dream-subject wake up, leaving behind the other objects of dream? No. When the former wakes up, the latter also vanish. The dream-subject together with the other dream-objects vanish in toto. So is the case on the merging of the Jiva-consciousness in the Absolute neither "this" Jiva is there (to tell) nor the "other" Jivas are there (to tell to). The entire phenomenality gets absorbed into Reality, as dream into waking. Such is the condition of the Absolute Experience, which he calls "mere existence." In Sanskrit parlance, it is known as "Kevala Asti." It is mere existence not the existence of something, but existence as such, existence pure and simple.
That "Mere Existence" Arunagirinathar refers to as "Adhu," which in Tamil means, "That." It is not He or She, but That. Our usual concepts of Gods and Goddesses as either being Male or Female are all transcended in that Experience Whole. Hence, the Saint denotes it by saying "That." That which is the Absolute stands as Mere Existence. That is all. Nothing more an be said about it, says the Saint.
Now, what is the nature of that Absolute Existence that is so attained? It is not a state of Jadavta (state of inertia), bereft of consciousness. It cannot be. It is also one of Absolute Consciousness and Bliss, because Existence is identical with or is the same as Consciousness. Let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that state of Absolute Existence to be one of inertia. How is it known then? Or, who knows it? It, being Jada, cannot know itself. So there must be a conscious principle to know it. Now, if there is another conscious principle that knows the Absolute Existence, then that also should be an absolute one because a limited or finite consciousness cannot know an absolute existence. An absolute consciousness only can know an absolute existence. But there cannot be two absolutes or infinites. Hence, the two should be identical, that is, the Absolute Existence is itself Consciousness. It should also be bliss because it being Absolute, there is nothing second to it to limit it and where there is no limitation of any kind, it is freedom and freedom is Bliss. It is therefore the state of Satchidananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute) that Arunagirinathar refers to here as the indescribable state of experience.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The Jiva that began to visualize the Self and taste the bliss of meditation (verse 27) draws closer and closer to the Self until it experiences a glimpse of Cosmic Consciousness, which process and attainment are graphically portrayed in this verse.
With the initiation given by the Guru (verse 20) and the subsequent, determined struggle of the seeker, coupled with the grace of the Lord, he now gets a glimpse of that Grand Experience to be attained. In this glimpse of God-Consciousness, the Jivatva is not destroyed but only "swallowed" up because Avidya (ignorance), which is the root of Jivatva, is still there, which is disclosed in the next verse. Hence, the Jiva again comes down to normal consciousness, after this glimpse in meditation. Thus, though this verse gives Saint Arunagirinathar's experience of the Absolute, in the case of the seeker it only refers to a glimpse of Cosmic Consciousness.
It will be interesting to note here that in verse 13, it was seen that "Adhu" (That) itself is Murugan, is the Lord with the Vel, and is our Guru. The stages of experience mentioned in this verse as "Aanaa Amudhe Ayil Vel Arase Jnaanaakarane" are in the reverse order in the experience revealed in verse 13 as "Murugan Thani Vel Muni Nam Guru." This order in the two verses seems to have great significance and reveal certain truths:
1. Murugan and Jnaanaakaran stand for the Absolute Advaitam;
Thus, in verse 13, it is God coming to the human level (as Guru); the Absolute manifesting itself in the relative plane a descending order. In this verse, it is man raising himself to God's level, the relative or the Jiva become the Absolute an ascending order. The term "Adhu" (That) is used in both the verses; which, in the earlier case, becomes the Guru and which, in the latter case, the Jiva becomes.
The same experience as was had in verse 12 and 13 maybe said to be had now also, but it is had after due Sadhana or effort from the Jiva's side. We may say that while the former was "given," the latter is "attained." The experience was given to provide the needed incentive to strive for and attain.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.