Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 39
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Human birth & Rebirth (explained)
The cycle of births and deaths is endless. The Jiva (soul) goes on taking births after births in different species, according to its desires and Karmas, and this cycle never eases until it is totally free from all desires.
It is said that there are 84 lakh species, and the soul finally attains a human birth, which his the door-way to salvation. Though there are 84 lakh Yonis (species), they are brought under seven categories viz., plants, aquatic creatures, reptiles, birds, animals, human beings, and Devas. These seven kinds of birth or Yonis are referred to as "great," because in each kind there is innumerable variety or variation. The 84 lakh Yonis are said to be distributed among these seven as follows:
1. Devas: 14 lakh Yonis
These seven great births are within the domain of Maya.
If one is to free from births and deaths, the three Eshanas should cease. The three Eshanas constitute the essence of Maya; they are so inseparable from maya that they are themselves verily maya. To be free from the Eshanas is to be free from Maya. Eshana means desire. It is not desire in its gross form for this or that object, but is the basic craving or urge of the soul for externalization. Though desires are countless in number, they are boiled down to basically three. These three Eshana are the causes for the birth of the Jiva in the different wombs the seven great births. Unless these desires are given up, there is no scope for freedom from birth and death.
The 3 Eshanas: Arthaishana, Putraishana, and Lokaishana
The three Eshanas are: Arthaishana, Putraishana, and Lokaishana.
1. Arthaishana, which is also known as Vittaishana, is the desire for wealth. One thinks that if he possesses great wealth, he can command all things and enjoy life in its full measure. So, people crave for riches.
2. Putraishana, which is also known as Daraishana, is the desire for getting children, particularly males, i.e. desire for happiness here and hereafter. One thinks that by getting a male child he will have enjoyment both here and in the other world; because a son is obtained by union with a woman and he is expected to take care of his father in his old age, and also do the necessary religious rites after his death which will entitle him to the enjoyments of the higher regions, such as heaven, etc.
3. Lokaishana, is the desire for name and fame in the world, and also for the joys of the heavens. One wishes to be the most prominent person in his place (country), in his field of activity (art, games, etc.) and even in the religious and spiritual fields one wishes to be widely known and revered. In short, wherever one is or whatever one does or however one is, one wishes to be prominent and well-known.
Eshanas are obstacles to liberation
These Eshanas are the only obstacles for the attainment of liberation, though they may bring happiness here and take one to heaven, etc. They are the knots of the heart, the root of Samsara, most difficult to be broken. They limit the consciousness, which is otherwise universal, to a particular body or realm of experience. But for the desires, who would not attain liberation? While, thus, the desires are the direct obstacles to Anubhuthi Realization or experience of the Absolute the Lord's Grace is the direct means to attain Anubhuthi. The Saint, therefore, invokes the grace of the Lord, for an early destruction of the three Eshanas, addressing Him in three ways as, "O King of the Universe," "O Lord who embraced Valli Devi," and "O Guru of Sivasankara."
Lord Murugan as "King of the Universe"
If the citizens of a country have any difficulty, they have naturally to approach the king of that country for the redress of their troubles. Even so, Arunagirinathar resorts to the Lord, who is the "King of the Universe," for the removal of the Eshanas.
Lord Murugan as the "Embracer of Valli"
Lord Skanda went to the fields where Valli Devi was, embraced her, and finally accepted her as His Consort, by which He released her, forever, from the control of the cruel hunters. Similarly, if the Lord's grace envelops the Jiva, the latter can be freed from the grip of the Eshanas. Hence, Arunagirinathar invokes the Lord's grace by addressing Him as the "Embracer of the shoulders of the lightning-like hunter-fostered Valli Devi."
Lord Murugan as "Guru of Sivasankara"
Again, when the Guru's grace comes in its full measure, one's true identity with the Lord is firmly established. Therefore, the Lord is referred to as "the Guru Supreme of Lord Siva."
The desperate cry of the soul, which longs for a final release from the grip of the three Eshanas that oppress it, is echoed in this verse. A close recitation of the verse would seem to reveal the following secret: "My soul is gripped by the three Eshanas. As you embraced Valli, if You, O Lord, come and embrace my soul, only then can I be freed from the grip of the Eshanas and be liberated from births and deaths. O Lord, when shall You be pleased to do this? There is no other means. So, pray condescend to do soon."
The Lord's Maya, which is constituted of the three Eshanas and which scorches the Jiva in the seven kinds of births, can be overcome by the Lord's grace only. "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," says Lord Krishna (Gita VII-14).
The allotment of the 84 lakh Yonis into the seven groups from plants to Devas seems to imply that the soul at the human level cannot directly attain God unless it passes through the remaining 14 lakh Deva Yonis, as each soul has to undergo the experiences of all the 84 lakh Yonis. But, scriptures proclaim that human birth is a rare gift and that its only purpose is to attain God, i.e., human beings can attain God directly. The evolution of the soul from its earliest stages of plants, reptiles, birds, animals, etc., till it reaches the human level is automatic and the law of Karma does not come into play till then. Only at the human level, the soul has freedom freedom to do virtuous deeds and attain births in higher realms; or do evil deeds and take births in lower Yonis or even lower worlds; or do spiritual practices and attain God without going to higher or lower realms, i.e., to attain Jivanmukthi.
Now, the "seven births" referred to by Arunagirinathar in this verse seems to denote birth in the seven higher worlds, because of the adjective "Maa" governing it.
The 14 different worlds
There are said to be fourteen worlds 7 lower and 7 higher. The seven higher worlds (Lokas) are:
These seven higher worlds are superior or higher realms. The word "Maa" means, generally, "great"; it also means "superior", while "great" is in respect of number, "superior" is in regard to their contents, constitution, experience of joy and demanding great merit to obtain them. Though these seven higher worlds are superior, they are also within the limits of Maya and the (residue of) Eshanas are the cause of birth in these Lokas. The adjective "Maa" (superior) to the "seven births", and the three Eshanas being the cause of birth in them, therefore, seem to denote these higher seven Lokas rather than the seven kinds of birth into which the 84 lakh Yonis are divided, because the latter are usually referred to as "seven births" without the adjective "Maa".
It is rare to get a human birth, which is usually regarded as the last of the 84 lakh Yonis, and which is meant for the attainment of God. Though the human birth itself is rare and superior, the joys of the higher realms are more refined, subtle, and unmixed. A subtle desire may, therefore, arise in the minds of seekers to experience these higher joys, which is an obstacle to God-realization (Anubhuthi). A seeker after Truth has to go beyond these seven worlds also, as they too are within the domain of Maya. God (Brahman) is Absolute bliss, which is the goal of a spiritual aspirant. He has, therefore, to get freed from the three Eshanas in order that he might not be tempted by the joys of the superior births in the higher realms. Hence, the prayer for a total freedom from the three Eshanas!
Maya as mentioned in the previous verses
The Maya, inseparable from which are the three Eshanas, referred to in this verse denotes its causal condition, for it is the cause of "seven births." This causal condition is to be differentiated form the "Jaganmaya" constituted of "home, wealth and women" (Ahamaadi Madanthaiyar) referred to in verse 5, which is its gross condition, as also from the "Illeyenum Mayai" (verse 29) and the "Padu Mayai" (verse 31), which are its subtle conditions.
In the beginning of Sadhana, Maya troubles the seeker in the form of gross, individual objects as the many things external to him. This was the condition portrayed in verse 5, where the Sadhaka is in the beginning stages of his journey to the Immortal. But, after due initiation by the Guru into the techniques of meditation on and after having a glimpse of Cosmic Consciousness, Maya becomes an indescribable one, "Illeyenum Mayai" Maya which is said to be non-existent. Though it is experienced as the visible world, it is nullified in the cosmic awareness; and yet, one has to live in and experience it, though with a transformed vision, which gives him the conviction that it is, after all, perishable "Padu Mayai." Then, it is not the individual objects outside but the world as such that is Maya. By world, one's own body is included which is also nullified in meditation, though experienced at other times. But in this verse, Maya extends to the whole of creation, i.e., the seven (great or superior) births either the seven kinds of birth into which are distributed the 84 lakh Yonis or the seven higher realms; both of which are only heard of but not visible yet, it is located in the heart as the Eshanas (basic cravings). How strange is this Maya!
In its grossest form, it is regarded as the isolated objects and also external to the seeker limited and away. In its subtle form, from individual objects it extends to the world on the one side, while from external objects it reaches his own body on the other more extensive and closer. In its causal form, from the objects and world, it extends to the whole of creation on the one side, while it recedes within the seeker himself and lodges itself as the Eshanas in his heart most extensive and closest. This is the mystery of Maya.
Hence, though rejection of external objects (gross condition) is good, this alone will not do. Though negation of the world and body in meditation is higher (subtle condition), this is also not enough. The seven great births have to cease by the destruction of the heart's cravings (causal state), if liberation is to be attained. How pithily does Arunagirinathar convey subtle secrets!
This causal condition of Maya in which the three Eshanas are one with it, referred to in this verse, may be said to be the "Mahamaya", which the Lord alone is capable of destroying, mentioned in the earlier part of verse 5. And the soul acutely longs for the grace of that Lord for the removal of the Mahamaya or the three Eshanas.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[Family and home have been renounced. Sannyasa has been taken. Mahavakya Upadesa has been obtained (verse 37). Only the last vesture of Maya in its causal form, i.e., the condition where the three Eshanas are inseparable form it, remains to be rent asunder. The Sadhaka is now pining to get rid of this also. This extreme longing to be freed form Samsara is a precursor to the final stroke of Sadhana which he is to undertake (as would be seen in the next verse), before which he offers an invoking prayer to the Lord to take him into his possession, even as He embraced Valli, accepted her and made her His own.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.