Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 40
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Significance & Symbolism of the Vel Focus on it only
This is a unique verse which reveals the true significance and the real glory of the Vel. The Vel is not merely the divine weapon of Lord Skanda, as is usually conceived of and referred to, but is also the supreme object of meditation itself, i.e., it is identical with the Absolute. In the case of advanced Sadhakas this fact is known, says Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, in his work "Lord Shanmukha and His worship":
In the previous verse, the soul's longing for freedom from the three Eshanas was echoed. It is to constantly think of or meditate upon the Vel. What is the Vel and what is its power? Just as the sun dispels darkness without any effort, by its mere shining; the Vel by its very nature, drives off or destroys Karmas. Significantly, Arunagirinathar calls the Vel, in this verse, as "Kathir-Vel" The Vel which is of the form of luminous light which is otherwise known as Jnana-Vel (Wisdom Vel).
How the Vel dispels the darkness of Karmas
"I shall not forget the luminous Vel that dispels Karmas," says Arunagirinathar. The Vel symbolizes Pure consciousness, which is the Self (Brahman). Non-forgetfulness of the Vel, therefore, means an effort at establishment in the awareness of the Self, which naturally will dispel all Karmas. Karmas, virtuous or otherwise, are due to desires. Prompted by desires, man performs Karmas. Why does one engage oneself in activity of any kind? It is desire that goads one to activity, to get something, to achieve something that is unachieved. Why is there desire? Because of ignorance of the real nature of things, as also of one's own essential nature. To think that one is the body or mind, and to strive to possess things and enjoy them for getting happiness, is due to ignorance of one's essential nature, or the Self. The Self, which one really is, is Immortal and Eternal, Bliss and Peace, Wisdom and Infinite Power. Not to forget this, i.e., to be rooted in this awareness, will remove ignorance. This Self is the Vel that can destroy ignorance, as the sun removes darkness. When ignorance is, thus, removed by an awareness of the Self or Vel, desires cease and with them Karmas, too. Ignorance is not a positive or real thing, even as darkness is not; it is only the absence of Wisdom, just as darkness is only the absence of light. When light comes, darkness vanishes automatically and no effort is necessary to remove it. So also, when Wisdom dawns, when a perpetual awareness of the Self is maintained, ignorance vanishes. So, to break the chain of Karma, which is the effect of desire and ignorance (Avidya, Kama, and Karma the three knots of the heart that bind the soul to Samsara or phenomenal existence), non-forgetfulness of the Vel or an awareness of one's essential nature is the only means. When the thinking principle in man, which ultimately is consciousness itself, thinks of the Vel or consciousness, i.e. Itself, it is severed from its connections with the mind and senses, and at once these cease functioning, as a huge machine comes to a standstill when the current is withdrawn from it. Thus, the consciousness resting in consciousness immediately puts an end to Karmas. Arunagirinathar, therefore, says, "Never shall I forget the Light-Vel, which drives off Karmas. Therefore, no more shall I be subject to Samsara." Ceaseless remembrance of the Vel (or trying to be rooted in the awareness of the Self), frees one from the shackles of Karma and liberates one from the effect of Samsara. Here, the meditation reaches its zenith and culminating point, where the meditation is on the Absolute or Satchidananda, as pure consciousness the Vel.
Now, what happens to the phenomenal life when one, thus, tries to be rooted in the awareness of the omnipresence of the Self or in the ceaseless remembrance of the Vel? The world will be there, but not as before. To such a one the world may appear to be there, and he may also appear to be subject to the vicissitudes of life. But, to him, it is all a mere joke, a play. Even as Maya is not a binding factor to the Lord, so becomes Samsara to him. Nothing affects him anymore. He may carry on his usual activities as before, apparently in the same manner; but, because of this peculiar awareness, he carries on those activities without being affected by them, without delusion or agitation, as he is ever-conscious of the unchanging Reality in which he is trying to be rooted. How beautifully does Arunagirinathar bring out this fact in this verse, when he says that Lord Skanda went in search of Valli to the millet-field, etc.?
Skanda Puranam: Lord Murugan & Valli Devi (continued)
Why did Lord Skanda search for Valli if He already knew where She was?
Valli used to stand on a raised platform in the midst of the millet-fields and drive off the birds that came to peck the corn. Sometimes, she would go to the nearby mountain-spring to drink water, or to the waterfall for a bath. But all this she did during the day, and well before sunset she would return to her home in the adjoining village. The Lord knew all this. But, says Arunagirinathar, He would still go to those places in search of her in the evening, after she had left for her home, and search for her in those places. Knowingly, why did the Lord do so? It was a pleasure for Him, a Lila, an act of grace! Not only that; He would not be disappointed for not meeting her, because even before leaving for those places, He knew that she would not be there; on the other hand, it was a joy to search for her. The outward act of the Lord in searching for Valli was like that of any other lover for his beloved, but the mental attitude was quite different, which makes all the difference. Even so, one who is trying to be fixed in the awareness of the Omnipresence of the Lord, does all actions as anyone else would do and he may appear to be suffering and tied down to Samsara, but it is all meaningless for him. He knows that the Self is the sole Reality and the world is essenceless. Nothing shakes him anymore, even as the Lord was not disappointed.
But what about an ordinary worldling who would fail to see his beloved? How much would he be agitated and deluded? Life itself would seem to lose all meaning for him. Arunagirinathar may also be said to indirectly hint at the sufferings undergone by the poor worldlings who are so much attached to women. They run about here and there in search of their beloveds, to even the least possible places of their visit, with the vain hope of having a glimpse of them. The miserable plight of the worldlings who are still in the bonds of Karmas and are tossed about by women, and the ever-free state of those who are rooted in God-consciousness and to whom everything is a mere play, are both very beautifully depicted by Arunagirinathar in one stroke. "O Lord, to whom all this phenomenal life is a Lila (divine sport)! Never shall I forget the Wisdom-Vel. No more can Karmas touch me. Samsara can have no meaning to me anymore. I try to rest in my own Self," rejoices the Saint.
"Manai" means house, i.e., a place of residence. People, bodies, live in houses. A house has various sections, such as the pial in the front portion, the drawing room, the bedroom, the kitchen, the dining hall, the back-yard, the garden with trees and well, etc., etc. all within a big compound wall. In whichever portion of the house one might be, one is still within the boundaries of the house. This is so far as the body is concerned. But, for the soul or Jiva, the "Manai" (house) is the entire domain of Maya which, as seen in the previous verse, comprises the seven great births, especially the seven superior realms of experience. In meditation, the Jiva might have experience of the different realms. In whichever realm the soul might be, it is still within the limits of Maya. The whole of creation projected by Maya is the "Manai" (place of residence) for the soul, which it has to overstep in order to attain God. This is done by meditation on the Vel (or Self). When the soul is in a state of attunement with the Vel-consciousness (or Brahman), Maya is at once transcended, not by a movement in space but by losing itself here and now in the Brahman-Awareness.
In this verse, the soul is not fully established in Brahman-consciousness, but is trying to fix itself in It by ceaseless meditation. Even this, gives it the conviction that it will go beyond the limits of Maya and so it exclaims, "Am I to be caught up or deluded by the different realms of Maya (i.e. `Manai'), when my meditation on Brahman is unremitting? No, phenomenality cannot affect me."
Skanda Puranam: Relation of Sadhana to Valli Devi
This verse seems also to have an implied prayer to the Lord to come and confer His blessings. Valli was single-mindedly devoted to the Lord, but she had to live in the midst of her parents and relatives ("Manai", i.e., house). When her devotion was ripe and the time to bless her came, the Lord Himself went in search of her and accepted her. So Arunagirinathar seems to remind the Lord of this and invoke His grace saying, "I am uninterruptedly meditating on the Vel; however, I am still caught up in this phenomenal life ("Manai"), even as Valli was. O Lord, as You went of your own accord to Valli and accepted her, kindly condescend to come and bless me, i.e., to reveal Yourself to me, so that I might be freed from phenomenality."
Preview of verses 41-43
Now, from this verse onwards, Arunagirinathar takes us to the climax of his God-experience, which he gives in verse 43. As we are drawing near it, the tempo also rises. Verses 40, 41, and 42 are exceptionally rare ones, very bold affirmations and give intimate glimpses of the state of mind just preceding that Grand Experience.
More on the Vel
The Vel is mysteriously powerful. He who remembers the Vel is freed from Karmas, is victorious in all his undertakings, and he shines with Wisdom. The Vel is strength. The Vel is power. The Vel is the support. The Vel is wisdom. The Vel is the Self. The Vel is the Absolute, existence-consciousness-bliss, Satchidananda; and the Vel and the wielder of the Vel (Lord Skanda) are One.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[To transcend the Maya from which are inseparable the three Eshanas, the Sadhaka now undertakes the practice of unceasing meditation on the Vel, the Self or pure consciousness; which is the putting into practice of the "Aham Brahma Asmi" Upadesa obtained at the time of initiation into Sannyasa (verse 37). As Lord Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree determined not to get up until enlightenment came or the body melted and perished, the Sadhaka is now determined to attain the experience-divine. This gives him supreme confidence that Samsara (or the play of Maya), cannot affect him. Phenomenal life looks like a dream from the point of view of the Vel-consciousness or Atman-consciousness and it appears as a mere play for him, even as it was a Lila for the Lord to search for Valli in the millet-field and other places.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.