Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 29
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Why God took away the non-dual experience from Arunagirinathar?
Saint Arunagirinathar had that most blessed experience of existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute, as mentioned in the previous verse. After giving that non-dual experience, the Lord, it would appear, has withdrawn it back from Arunagirinathar with a divine purpose. Had the saint been absorbed into Himself and not been made to return to this phenomenal life, how could we get his wonderful works! The Lord wanted Arunagirinathar to sing His glories and reveal his experiences and thus, illumine the path to perfection to serve as a guiding light to seeking souls. It is not that God will give divine experience to someone and get His divine work done through someone else. He who is given something, from him will the work be extracted. This is seen even in this world; he who is highly paid is also given high responsibility and work commensurate with his salary.
It may appear that only in order to wear these song-garlands that the Lord involved Arunagirinathar, once again, into this non-existent Mayaic life after giving him that grand experience of "Mere Existence."
What is Maya?
What is Maya? And why is it said to be non-existent? The Absolute is unconditioned existence and it cannot admit of anything else, and so this world cannot exist in addition to it. If this phenomenal world is admitted as a real and independent existence of its own, it would mean the acceptance of a limitation to the Absolute, in which case the Absolute would be no Absolute, which is untenable. It cannot be that something else also exists side-by-side with the Absolute. Hence, (the things of) the world cannot be attributed any real existence. They are only phases of Reality, just as waves in the ocean are only phases of the waters of the ocean. The waves have neither a real existence of their own nor are they essentially different from the ocean. The wave is water, is the ocean. Hence, to attribute any independent reality to the waves, apart form the ocean in which they partake of their existence, would only mean ignorance of Truth. So is the case with this Samsara (phenomenal existence), which has no independent existence apart from Satchidananda (the Absolute). But, the world is taken as the sole reality, as having a reality of its own, forgetting the underlying Reality, which latter is often even denied its existence. Thus, not only a world is seen which does not really exist, but also the great Reality that alone appears as this world is ignored. How strange! What is it due to? This is called Maya. To perceive a thing which really is not, and not see That which alone is, is Maya. But, is Maya a substantial thing? No. It is not that Maya has any existence, it is not an entity by itself; it is only a term used to describe our inability to understand the relation, if at all there is any, between the phenomenal and the Real, in our present predicament. That which really is not and which yet appears to be, and whose relation to the Absolute cannot be satisfactorily explained (there being no real relation, as the Absolute cannot admit of any relation) is explained as Maya. It is only an initial concept introduced to solve the riddleless riddle of phenomenal existence. It is like the "X" that is employed in algebraic equations, which vanishes together with the problem when the sum is solved. When the Absolute is experienced, there is neither the world nor are we much less "Maya." Hence, Maya, is said to be non-existent.
Perception of Maya: the ignorant man vs. the Sage
An ignorant man takes the world as a solid reality and all his actions are based on a firm conviction of the reality of the objects of the world. For him, no other reality exists, not even God. He wants to acquire and possess things, enjoy them and be happy. The world is indeed his God. Thus, to the worldly man, Maya (or the world) is real. But, to a sage of self-realization, Maya is unreal; it does not exist at all, for the sage is established in the awareness of God (the Self) in which the phenomenality is transcended. Only the seeker, that too, the one who has evolved to a great extent, is in a peculiar condition. To the seeker, Maya is neither real nor unreal. He knows that the Absolute alone is real and that the world has no real existence. Yet, he experiences a world outside with which he has to have dealings. He is still unable to shake off this relative experience. Neither can he negate the world as a saint because he has not realized or experienced the Absolute, nor can he hug it as a worldly man does because he has understood its essenceless nature. Such is the condition of the seeking soul, to whom Maya is "said to be" non-existent.
This is yet another verse in which Arunagirinathar places himself in the position of a seeking soul and appeals to the Lord for His grace, "O Lord, I am of evil deeds and of ignorance. Where is the scope for my redemption if you do not forgive me of my ignorance and shower your grace upon me?"
Only the Lord can free us from Maya
The Lord has involved us in this Maya and He alone can release us from it. Hence, the prayer to Him. We, who are caught up in Maya, cannot get released from it by our own effort, because we are a product of Maya (ignorance) all our efforts are within the realm of Maya and are born of ignorance; and as the effect cannot overcome its cause, we cannot get freed from Maya.
If our legs are stuck up in mire, can we come out ourselves? If we try to pull out one leg, the other will get planted more deeply. Someone else has to come to our help. Even so, the more we try to extricate ourselves from Maya, the more will we find ourselves entangled in it. Only divine grace an save us. Hence, the prayer to the Lord.
It will be worthwhile to note that even the so-called "self-effort" is only a way of working of the divine will (the omnipotence of God) a recognition of which is to draw divine grace. If our self-effort can effect our release, where is the Lord's Omnipotence? It cannot be that the Lord is Omnipotent, all-powerful and all-knowing and we also can put forth self-effort and achieve things as we wish. Even as the things of the world cannot have a real and independent existence of their own, in addition to the Omnipresent existence of the Lord, but are only its phases, as already explained self-effort of the individual cannot, on ultimate analysis, co-exist with the omnipotence of the Lord.
The so-called "self-effort" can, therefore, be only a way of working of the will of God. When human effort is in consonance with God's will, we seem to be successful, though in our ignorance of truth, we may attribute the success to our own effort. And if our effort goes counter to divine will, it is a failure. Realizing this, we should become humble and surrender ourselves to God, so that His grace might inundate us.
One of the twelve arms of Murugan (explained)
How are we to obtain His grace? By singing His glories, by prayer, by contemplation, by surrender. Hence, Arunagirinathar places the Lord, here, as one with twelve strong shoulders and the radiant Vel! The twelve arms, says one of the Kanthar Alangaaram verses of the Saint, are one's unfailing help in destroying one's past evils and sins, and the Vel is the destroyer of one's ignorance. "O Lord with the twelve shoulders and the wisdom-Vel, that are capable of putting an end to one's past karmas and ignorance! Alas, thou has not forgiven my evil deeds and not removed my ignorance! How shall I then get liberated? Kindly, therefore, condescend to shower thy grace at least now," is the heart-melting appeal of Arunagirinathar, on our behalf, and for our sake.
The Lord wears Arunagirinathar's words as a garland
"You adorn your shoulders with my songs." In saying this, Arunagirinathar reveals the fact that Lord Skanda has accepted his works and is pleased to adorn Himself with them, whereby, the Saint also hints that those who recite them, especially the Kanthar Anubhuthi, will entitle themselves to His grace and be released from this Mayaic life, even as Arunagirinathar was liberated by His grace.
Thus, worldly life is Mayaic (unsubstantial) into which the Lord put Arunagirinathar again to adorn Himself with his song-garlands. We, who are in this Mayaic life, are only to re-offer these song-garlands to Vel-Murugan, and thus, obtain His grace and be freed.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
The Sadhaka, after a glimpse of cosmic-consciousness in the higher reaches of his meditation (verse 28), comes down to normal consciousness, because the Mula Avidya (ignorance), which is the essence of individuality (Jivatva), is not as yet destroyed ("Ariyaamai Poruthilai"). The "Pesaa Anubhuthi" of verse 43 is actual God-experience, since Avidya is totally destroyed before that (in verse 42, "Ariyaamai Attradhu"), and is also followed by the confirmation of the grant of the Lord's Lotus-Feet, in verse 44.
The immediate experience on return to world-consciousness is a little distressing to the Sadhaka on account of the diametrically opposite and irreconcilable contrast between the two experiences. In that state of glimpse of God-consciousness Satchidananda alone was, and that experience convinced him that the world does not really exist; but on return from meditation, he has to live in it and deal with it. This predicament of the Sadhaka is touchingly portrayed in this verse.
Probably, at this stage God induces the Sadhaka to compose songs, i.e., record experiences or write books, as he is now endowed with the rare insight into both this life and That experience.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.