Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 34
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Sex and Ego will persist until one attains God-realization
Sex and ego persist almost till the end till one attains God-realization. Especially when one renounces home and wealth and remains in seclusion, there are chances of his going astray into the net of enchanting maidens. Here is, therefore, an appeal to Lord Shanmukha asking for a boon, to be saved from such a pitfall. This is a direct and simple prayer, which is the specialty of this verse. In most of the verses, Arunagirinathar's prayer is not so direct as in this one. "When will you grant? Should I suffer? How long?" such are the pathetic appeals in the other verses; but here a direct request as, "Grant me a boon." This is very significant. This shows that though one may not be troubled by sex or attracted and enchanted by women, yet, one can never feel confident enough that he has overcome lust, or that he will not fall a pray to sex. Hence, the prayer to the Lord for His grace, as a measure of protection against any chance falling into the ways of sex, as the same can never be ruled out at any stage.
Boon requested from God: to be freed from sexual lust
What is asked for is a `boon'. A boon is a divine grant, so that the malady is cured forever, unlike in human effort where the danger is always there. And from whom is this boon asked? From "Kripaakaran," that is, an embodiment of grace. "Grace" and "granting a boon" go together. The granting is done ex-gratia. It is a "giving" even where there is no fitness for it. It is a pure act of grace or giving, out of compassion. Such a graceful giving is a boon. And that is what Arunagirinathar prays for. This lust for women is such that it cannot be totally rooted out by any amount of effort. Personal effort will not be of much avail in this matter. Only those who had the special grace of God were freed from this malady totally. Nothing but Divine Grace can free one from sexual lust. Hence, the saint offers a direct prayer to the Lord in this verse asking for a boon from the Embodiment of Grace. The Lord is also addressed as the "Son of river Ganga." We have seen in the previous verse that the Lord was given as a boon to the Devas and was born of river Mandakini. Ganga and Mandakini are the same. The "Mandakini-born" or "Son of Ganga" is also the Lord with six-faces, of which the sole function of one face is to grant the request of His devotees. He is, therefore, addressed as Shanmukha. "O Lord Shanmukha, the Son of Ganga! You were given as a boon to the Devas! Now, you grant me a boon that I may not fall a victim to sex and thus, get lost," is the prayer of Arunagirinathar.
There seems to be some significance in Arunagirinathar's referring to Lord Skanda first as "Mandakini-given" (verse 33) and then as "Son of Ganga" (verse 34).
The rivers that make up the holy Ganges
The eternal snow peaks of the Himalayas are the source of many a perennial river of which the Bhagirathi, Mandakini, and Alakananda are a few. These three rivers go to make up the holy Ganga and hence, they themselves often go by the name of and identified with the Ganga.
The 4 holy places of pilgrimage for a devout Hindu
There are four places of pilgrimage, most holy to the devout Hindu, called the Char-Dham, in the heart of the Himalayas. They are Gangotri (10, 400 ft), Yamunotri (10, 800 ft), Kedarnath (11, 750 ft), and Badrinath (10, 350 ft). These four places are 156, 140, 130, and 185 miles from Rishikesh, respectively. From these originate the rivers Bhagirathi, Yamuna, Mandakini, and Alakananda, respectively.
The Mandakini, from Kedarnath, rolls down through the places called Gowri Kund, Gupta Kasi, Agastya Muni and reaches Rudraprayag, where it joins the Alakananda, which comes from Badrinath through Joshi Muth, Chamoli and Karnaprayag. The joined Mandakini-Alakananda (called as Alakananda) runs further down to Devaprayag, where it meets with Bhagirathi, which comes from Gangotri via Uttar Kasi, Dharasu, and Tehri. From Devaprayag, this combined Mandakini-Alakananda-Bhagirathi is known as the Ganga and runs down through Rishikesh to Hardwar, and enters the plains. The Yamuna from Yamunotri joins the Ganga at Allahabad, popularly known as Prayag, and the Ganga finally reaches the ocean at Gangasagar, near Calcutta.
Mandakini belt & relation to Lord Skanda
The Mandakini belt is very closely associated with Lord Skanda. If we walk up, along the banks of the Mandakini, from Rudraprayag to Kedarnath, we come across the townships of Agastya Muni, Gupta Kasi, Triyugi Narayan, and Gowri Kund.
Agastya Muni is a small place on the banks of the Mandakini where sage Agastya performed Tapas (austerity) and there is a temple dedicated to him. On a nearby peak, a few miles from Agastya Muni, is a shrine for Lord Karthikeya (Skanda) worshipped by the Sage. Agastya, as we know, is the foremost devotee of Lord Skanda and is the first of the only two who received Pranava Upadesa from Lord Skanda Himself, the other being Saint Arunagirinathar.
Triyugi Narayan is the place where the marriage of Parvathi (Gowri) with Lord Siva took place at the instance of the gods, for giving Skanda to them which was officiated by Brahma and Vishnu, and the sacrificial fire lit during the occasion is still kept burning.
Gowri Kund is a place about 7 miles below Kedarnath, where there is a natural hot-spring which was Parvathi's bathing pool, on account of which it is so named.
Kedarnath, the abode of Lord Siva, is at the base of the Kedar peak which is also called Kailasa. The huge Siva-Linga in the temple at Kedarnath is perhaps the biggest in the world. As one stands beside the Kedarnath temple and takes a look, one is awe-inspired by the snow-capped, heaven-touching peaks of Kedar, which lift one's spirit to divine ecstasy. The curvative descent of Mandakini from the bottom of these snow-peaks looks as though the Ganges is descending from the heavens to this mortal plane.
Birth place of Lord Skanda
At the very source of Mandakini, right at the bottom of the snow-peaks, which may be about 3 miles beyond Kedarnath, there is a charming lake, heavenly in appearance, a glimpse of which at once raises one's consciousness to divine heights. This lake, in all probability, might be the one in which the Avatara of Skanda took place, when the Tejas of Lord Siva, which was carried by the Fire-god and Wind-God to the Ganga (Mandakini) was shelved on to a pond. One feels this almost intuitively as one gazes at the snow-peaks and the source of Mandakini, behind Kedarnath.
Sage Agastya having worshipped Lord Skanda and dedicating a temple to Him near Agastya Muni, the marriage of Lord Siva with Parvathi having taken place at Triyugi Narayan for the purpose of Skanda Avatara, the bathing place of Parvathi being Gowri Kund, and the abode of Siva being Kedarnath, i.e., the eternal snow-clad Kedar peaks, the descent of the Mandakini from the snow-peaks of Kedar, the situation of the lake at the source of Mandakini all go to suggest that the divine birth of Lord Skanda could have taken place in that lake. Hence, Arunagirinathar has preferred to refer to the Lord as "Mandakini-given" first (verse 33) and then as "Son of Ganga" (verse 34), because Mandakini is its particular name while Ganga is its general name, in the sense that it is also called Ganga as it forms one of the three rivers that constitute the Ganga. Later on, in verse 50, Arunagirinathar refers to the Lord as "son of river" (Nadi Putra) which his still more a general term. Thus, reference of Mandakini, Ganga and river, in successive orders, seems to point out that the Lord's birth actually took place on the banks of the Mandakini, which also goes by the name of Ganga, which is also a river.
This is a very powerful verse, though simple, to invoke the Lord's Grace to get over the impulse of sex. What compassion of the Saint to give out such a verse! He cries out to the Lord for Grace, for a boon. The Lord is eve ready to shower His grace. But we should want it! Even the way of asking, He shows through this verse. It appears as though the Lord Himself has sung this verse through Arunagirinathar, moved by His compassion for the helpless Jivas. A simple verse, a direct one, a powerfully worded one that will bring a ray of grace from the Grace-mass, which is enough to transform our whole being.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The Sadhaka, in the very initial stages, was tormented by lust, being caught in the net of wife and children (verses 4 and 5); later on, after due Upadesa from his Guru, only his mind was tossed about by thought or presence of women (verse 9); and in the advanced stage of meditation, after proper initiation into its technique, only the impressions of past enjoyments surging out from the subconscious and unconscious levels of the mind troubled him (verse 24). Now, after the glimpse of Cosmic Consciousness (verse 28), he almost feels confident that he will no more be disturbed by sex. However, he invokes the special grace of the Lord not to slip into the evil ways again, for the danger is there till one attains liberation. It is of interest to note that his prayer now is not for freedom from sex, as in the previous ones, but only a general, simple prayer as a measure of safety before he takes to a life of renunciation. Reference to "Son of Ganga" suggests that he has left his home and resorted to the banks of the Ganges.
The need for Divine Grace and eternal vigilance on one's part are insisted upon in this verse, to show that one cannot afford to be heedless at any stage.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.