Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 44
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Murugan bestows His Feet on Arunagirinathar's Head
This is a simple verse in its meaning, but its implications are great and many sided. Saint Arunagirinathar exclaims over the rare blessedness that was conferred on him. What is that blessedness? Lord Muruga graciously offered His Feet to be crowned on Arunagirinathar's head. This is the highest blessing conceivable, for it confers Moksha on the recipient. The Feet that are granted are those, for whose manifestation on the stony tablet of his heart he prayed (verse 6); meditation on which, while giving away one's possessions in charity, frees one from transmigration (verse 7); by obtaining which one can give up all one's desires and be saved, i.e., liberated (verse 14); the grant of which means the attainment of the non-thinking and non-forgetting state of Mukthi (for which he prayed, verse 21); to bow to which feeling them as verily Satchidananda, is a great merit, difficult of attainment (verse 22); non-thinking of which, due to the coming into active play of ignorance, is verily one's destruction (to overcome which was his prayer, verse 23); which alone are not red, i.e., Perfect, but He, whose they are, is Himself red in His whole being (verse 25); the grant of which was longed for to attain the state of Mukthi and be freed from Karmas (verse 35); which are worn on the heads of Brahma and other gods (verse 36); and protection under which here and now means Jivanmukthi, which he aspired for (verse 41). Such Feet were crowned on Arunagirinathar's head.
What happens to the soul when the Lord's Feet is granted?
When the Lord's Feet are granted, what happens? The bound soul at once gets liberated, the Sadhaka becomes a Siddha. To that blessed one, a new vision is opened up as the Feet disclose their real nature. They shine as the Invisible, the visible, as well as the link between the two; as the Absolute, the phenomenal, as also that which bridges them. Arunagirinathar describes the Feet as the self-luminous state of Moksha, as shining on the heads of the Devas in heaven, as the (essence of the) eternal Vedas, as the (tender) Feet that shine in the dry forest and field. He uses the peculiar word "Kamalum Kalal", which does not easily lend itself to translation. It means "the Feet whose sweet fragrance emanates, or the Feet that shine, or the Feet that reveal themselves. By this, what is meant is that the Feet are not visible physically, but that their divine presence is felt in a subtle way. As the fragrance of a flower cannot be seen but sensed, so are the Lord's Feet not perceived physically but felt and experienced intuitively, by the realized soul. This is the significance of "Kamalum" (shine or emit fragrance). Again, while the act of granting the Feet is in the past tense, as "granted" (Thantha), the Saint has used the present tense as "shine" (Kamalum), in describing the nature of the Feet so granted. This also indicates that the Feet are not merely those that were placed on the heads of gods or walked over the forest and field in search of Valli, then, but that they are a living presence to the liberated ones. The mention f a few places where the Lord's Feet shine is only symbolic, and is meant to suggest their omnipresence. Arunagirinathar's selection of places is significant.
Where & How do the Lord's Feet shine?
Now, let us see where and how the Lord's Feet shine.
Moksha is the Goal of all human aspiration, attaining which life's purpose is fulfilled. It is the consciousness of Absolute freedom (liberation). It is called Paramapada the Supreme Abode of Rest. It is the Divine Feet of the Lord. The Lord's Feet themselves shine as the every state of Moksha and Moksha stands for the Absolute.
Murugan's Feet on the heads of Devas
The Lord's Feet shine on the heads of the Devas. The Eternal and the Formless manifested Itself as Lord Skanda to alleviate the sufferings of the Devas. When the Asura Surapadman, under whose tyranny the Devas were suffering, was vanquished by the Lord, the Devas all worshipped Him and placed His Feet on their heads as a mark of respect and gratitude. Thus, His Feet shine on the heads of the Devas, i.e., in heaven. Those which shine as the Absolute also shine in and as the higher regions.
Murugan's Feet on the Vedas
The Feet do not merely shine as the Absolute and the higher regions, they are also the means of attaining them the Vedas. The Vedas are the repository of wisdom. They are regarded as Apaurusheya, i.e., not man-made or composed by men, but as the revelations of the Supreme Being itself. The Vedas are not the written books but the wisdom Eternal, the ecstatic outpourings of the revelations of men of realization. They have come down to us through the Guru-disciple tradition of hearing and reciting. Hence, the Vedas are called as Sruti (what is heard or revealed) as distinguished from Smritis which are the works of human origin. The Vedas extol God and exhort men to seek perfection. They are replete with Upasanas and Vidyas of different kinds which are capable of bestowing upon the practitioner heaven as well as Moksha. As the Vedas are revelations of the Supreme Being and as they serve as means of attaining heaven or Moksha, they are regarded as the Feet of the Lord. The Lord's Feet, thus, shine as the Vedas. The Feet which shine as the Absolute and in the higher regions, also serve as the means of attaining them.
Murugan's Feet on Earth
This vast universe is the field created by God for the Jivas to undergo different experiences and finally attain Him. When the souls are ripe, drawn by their devotion, God manifests Himself on this earth plane to grant them Mukthi. Valli's devotion drew Lord Skanda from His Abode to the millet-fields and the hot forest, over which He walked in search of His beloved. This is Skanda-lila the playful sport of Lord Skanda. The whole of creation, of which the earth is the immediate object of our experience, is at once a field for the Lord's play and the Jiva's experience. It is the sporting ground and meeting place of Jiva and Isvara. This is so beautifully and symbolically brought out by Arunagirinathar in saying that the Lord's Feet shine on the hot forest and fields, as it is here that the Lord met Valli and accepted her. The Vedas say, God sacrificed Himself and became this universe, which is one Paada (foot) i.e., one- fourth of the Supreme Being, three-fourth being Immortal and Eternal. The Lord's Feet shine as this universe.
Thus, the Absolute, the higher regions, the Vedas and the earth the Lord's Feet shine everywhere. His Feet are the base, the means, and the end.
The Lord's Feet are everywhere
By all this, Arunagirinathar brings out the Omnipresence of God, which is felt by the (realized) soul that is blessed with the Feet. When the Lord places His feet on one's head, one gets the cosmic vision of the Feet and beholds them everywhere. Though the act of placing the Feet may be done once, its effect of beholding them everywhere persists forever, because the Feet-grant means also Vel-revelation, which is an inner state of consciousness. Hence, Arunagirinathar uses the past tense for the act of granting the Feet, as "granted" (Thantha), but uses the present tense while describing the nature of the Feet that were so granted, as "shine" (Kamalum).
The glory of the Lord's Feet What about His Vel?
So much regarding the glory of the Lord's Feet! What about His Vel? It is also equally great. We have seen earlier that the Feet and the Vel go together and that they are identical. This truth is so beautifully brought home in this verse where the Vel also is glorified by two epithets "Saadum" and "Thani", i.e., "destroying" and "Incomparable" to indicate its relative and Absolute aspects.
The Vel is Incomparable; it is the Absolute; it is identical with the Lord Himself; it is Pure Consciousness, as seen in verse 40. The "Incomparable" ("Thani"), therefore, refers to the Absolute aspect of the Vel. But it is not merely that; it is also the relative, it is "destroying", too. The Vel destroys what? It vanquished the proud Asura Surapadman with his kith and kin, and brought freedom to the Devas. The Asuras are the external enemies and are symbolic of the inner foes of the Sadhaka Avidya, Kama, and Karma, which the Vel destroys. It manifests itself as Sadhana-Sakthi, as the needed subtle understanding to pierce through Avidya. This "destroying" ("Saadum") is the Vel's relative aspect. And when ignorance is thus, destroyed, it stands as Pure Consciousness. It manifests itself as the means of removing Avidya and when it is done, it remains by Itself as the Goal attained. The Vel is, thus, both the means as well as the End; the relative and the Absolute; dynamic as well as static; "Saadum" (destroying) and "Thani" (Incomparable).
It is in this rare verse that both the relative and Absolute aspects of both the Vel and the Feet are beautifully blended, with a specific intention, viz., to suggest that it portrays the condition of the realized soul (Jivanmukta). Only he has the unique privilege of a simultaneous experience of both the aspects of Reality.
Link to verse #42
In the state of Samadhi (verse 42), which is "Pesaa Anubhuthi", the Vel is experienced as only the "Thani" (Incomparable) and the Feet as only the "Neri" (Moksha) i.e., their Absolute aspects. On rising from Samadhi, as a Jivanmukta, they are experienced (as in this verse) in both their aspects the Vel as not only the "Thani" but also as "Saadum", and the Feet as not only Moksha ("Veedu") but also as the field and forest (physical plane) i.e., in their Absolute and relative aspects. Thus, this verse makes clear that in the Vel-revelation of verse 42 is implied the Feet-grant also. But, while verse 42 is the experience of Samadhi, this verse is that of Jivanmukthi.
The Vel-revelation of verse 42 and the Feet-grant of this verse are identical; they mean the same thing; i.e., the attainment of Mukthi (liberation). In verse 42, the state of Mukthi ("Neri") was identified with the Vel, as "Neriyai" and "Velai". Now, the same Mukthi ("Veedu") is identified with the Feet. The Vel-revelation and the Feet-grant are, therefore, simultaneous occurrences, though the former may be regarded as an inner awareness while the latter an external act.
Vel = Lord's Feet
While the uninterrupted meditation undertaken is on the Vel (verse 40), what is aspired to attain are the Feet (verse 41); while the prayer of verse 41 is, thus, for protection under the Feet, what is granted (or revealed) in response, in verse 42, is the Vel; and while the Vel is revealed in verse 42, what is wondered at as having been granted are the Feet (verse 44). How interchangeably does Arunagirinathar refer to the Vel and the Feet, to suggest their identity or non-difference. And to confirm this, in this verse, he brings the Vel and the Feet together, as "the Feet of the Lord Muruga who has the destroying, Incomparable Vel", in both their Absolute and relative aspects.
Jivanmukta arises out of Samadhi (verse 42) but
beholds God everywhere
The state of knowing by thinking-without-thinking (verse 42) and the Speechless-experience (verse 43) maybe regarded as static identity with God; i.e., actual experience of Samadhi, wherein all faculties cease. That one does not remain in that Pesaa Anubhuthi (or state of Samadhi) but rises from it, and that even on emerging from it his "contact" with God is not severed but that he beholds Him everywhere is mystically disclosed by this verse. Hence, the condition described in this verse may be regarded as one of dynamic identity, i.e., the experience of a Jivanmukta on emerging out of the Samadhi-experience. Only those blessed souls that come down from the zenith of God-experience can guide the world. They are the rare ones who are vested with a divine command as also the needed extraordinary power to fulfill the divine mission.
Thus, though the meaning of the verse is simple, its implications are profound and many-sided.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[On rising from the static identity (Pesaa Anubhuthi), the realized soul beholds the Lord alone everywhere and in everything high and low, above and below, heaven and earth, Absolute and relative; and he dances in joy. The Jiva is now a Jivanmukta one in dynamic identity with God as a result of the Feet having been granted. The prayers of verses 21, 35, and 41 are thus, seen to be fulfilled here, in their completeness.
Arunagirinathar says, "The Feet were granted." When were they granted? When the Vel was revealed (verse 42), the Feet were also granted because the two are simultaneous and non-different acts. But, he could not express it then, because at once all human faculties ceased (verse 42) and "Pesaa Anubhuthi" was born (verse 43). And so, on emerging out of that Experience, he now recollects that gracious act of the Lord and exclaims over the same. Hence, this verse is at once an exclamation over, a gratitude for, and an effect of, what has been granted in verse 42.
That the experience had in verse 28 is not complete realization but only a glimpse of cosmic consciousness, while the experience of verse 43 is actual realization, would become evident from what one feels on emerging form the respective experiences. One return to normal consciousness form that glimpse, the Sadhaka's attitude was one of a sort of remorse, for he finds himself in (Ille ennum) Maya (verse 29), though this experience of Maya is not as bad as that of his in the earliest stage of Sadhana (verse 5). But on rising form Pesaa Anubhuthi (Realization), he experiences a sense of joy and feels God's Omnipresence, i.e., beholds the Lord's Feet everywhere. Again, even after that glimpse, Avidya persisted (Ariyaamai Porutthilai; verse 29), where as here Avidya gets destroyed before the grand Experience comes (Ariyaamai Attradhu, verse 42; and Aasaa Nigalam Thugal Aayina, verse 43). Since only the ego was swallowed up, for the time being, in that glimpse-experience of verse 28 and its root (i.e., Avidya) was not destroyed, the instruction of verse 37 was to destroy the "ego to its root", i.e., Avidya.
Ariyaamai Attradhu (verse 42), Pesaa Anubhuthi Pirandhadhu (verse 43), and Saranam Thanthadhu (verse 44) are all emphatic declarations of the attainment of the Goal. This group of verses has a special charm and significance. The Jiva (or individual) sheds its Jivatva and enters into God-being (verse 42); Experiences or becomes, i.e., be God (verse 43); and emerges as a God-man (verse 44). These ideas are so beautifully hidden in these verses.
Thus, this verse portrays the joy of the Jivanmukta on his rising from God-experience.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.