Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 46
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Arunagirinathar's intimacy with the Lord
Saint Arunagirinathar offers a simple and direct prayer to the Lord in this verse. The prayer is simple, but it reveals the Saint's intimacy with the Lord. Such verses are the outcome of the oneness felt with God by Self-realized souls. Arunagirinathar feels his closeness to the Lord so much that he claims his rightful kinship with Him. Hence, he says, "O Lord, you are my Mother and Father, too, that bestows grace."
In this verse, Arunagirinathar reveals the cause of our mental afflictions as also the way to annihilate them and "be accepted" by the Lord. God is our Mother and Father; and He is ever ready to bless us. Our real kinship is with God, the Atman within. God is the universal Reality behind all the particulars (Jivas). He is ever beckoning us from within. But the Jivas ignore God and run after the objects of the world thinking that they can give happiness to them. In this erroneous attempt, the Jivas suffer endlessly afflicted by desire, anger, greed, etc. The only way to get out of this predicament is to go back to God, renouncing the erroneous attitude developed towards the objects. This is done by recognizing the Motherhood and Fatherhood of God the universal nature of God (or the Atman). Not to recognize the universal Reality that is behind all the particulars, but to regard the particulars themselves as real, is the fundamental mistake of the Jiva and the cause of all its mental afflictions.
The difference between bodily parents and divine parents
While our bodily parents are helpless to remove our mental sufferings (for they themselves are subject to them), why does Arunagirinathar address God as his father and mother and pray for relief from suffering? Here lies the great difference between our bodily parents and the Divine parents. When Arunagirinathar addresses God as Mother and Father, he hints at the universal Fatherhood and Motherhood of God. God is not my or your but everyone's Father and Mother. He is the Universal parents. The whole creation is His child; but not as in the case of the bodily parents, as separate from them, but in a peculiar way.
The creation is the Cosmic body of God, as the Purushasukta says, of whom everything forms a limb. A recognition of the fact that God is the universal being and everything forms part of Him, will remove the wrong notion that things are external and are real in themselves, that we have to establish an artificial, objective relationship with them. We will then come to realize that all things are organically related to each other, and an attunement with God is at once an attunement with His vast creation. This will help the Jiva overcome externality-consciousness by the withdrawal of Jiva-consciousness into God (or universal-consciousness), which is what Arunagirinathar implies by "acceptance by God." This is brought about by the recognition of the Motherhood and Fatherhood of God. Hence, Arunagirinathar first affirms his true relationship with God, and then offers his prayer. The fulfillment of the prayer is, therefore, bound to come about, since the requisite condition is first fulfilled. "O Lord, I have recognized my eternal kinship with Thee. Therefore, remove my (false relations with things, which are the causes of all my) mental afflictions by accepting me (Thy child) in Thy cosmic bosom (Satchidananda)," is Arunagirinathar's prayer. In the prayer itself is the fulfillment echoed.
This verse seems to have greater implications.
How can God be mother and father?
"God is my Mother as well as my Father," says Arunagirinathar. God not only the Mother, He is also the Father! How can one person be both the father and mother? This seems to be strange; but that is the Divine mystery and the clue for our liberation. In the worldly sense, the father and mother are two different persons; the father is not the mother and vice-versa. Evidently, the child is a third one, i.e., different from and other than the parents! But in the spiritual sphere things are quite different. This new vision of illumined souls is given by Arunagirinathar. To them, God is the Father as well as the Mother. How? As the Absolute Para Brahman, God is the Father. As Maya, the inscrutable and inseparable power of Brahman, He is the Mother. As He Himself is the Father and Mother, the child, i.e., the Jivas and the world, is also He only. The Jivas and this creation are all, on ultimate analysis, nothing but Brahman itself. Thus, the non-dual concept of the Ultimate Reality is revealed when Arunagirinathar says that God is his Father as well as the Mother.
In the Gita, the Lord says, "MY womb is the great Brahma, in that I place the germ; thence, O Arjuna, is the birth of all beings. Whatever forms are produced, O Arjuna, in any womb whatsoever, the great Brahma is their womb and I am the seed-giving Father" (XIV-3,4). The great Brahma (Mahat-Brahma) referred to by the Lord is the Mula Prakriti (or Primordial Nature), which is also known as Avyakta (or the Unmanifest). The Sankhyas call it Prakriti; the Vedantins call it Maya.
Maya like Algebra?
But there is a peculiarity with Maya. While Prakriti is a second and eternal reality other than the Purusha, Maya is not so. Maya is a mystery. It is a term employed to solve the riddle of the universe in which the Jiva finds itself, as we introduce an "x" in solving algebraical sums. There is no "why" and "what" of Maya, as in the case of "x"; its necessity is to solve our difficulty the problem. When the sum is solved, which is the purpose, the "x" vanishes as it was only supposed for the purpose of solving the sum. So is Maya. It is resorted to only to explain our present predicament the Jiva's inability to understand the relation between the Absolute and the relative; between the Invisible and the visible; between Reality and appearance; between what is and what appears to be in short, between God, world, and itself. When Reality is experienced in the immediacy of one's own experience, the problem of this mysterious relation is solved and with it Maya disappears; the non-dual Brahman alone remains the God who is Father as well as the Mother. Hence, a true understanding of the nature of God and our relation to Him, i.e., that of Maya, is the only means of freedom from suffering. Else we will be, as we are now, in misery.
If a student does not know the principle and the technique of employing "x" in a sum, he will only complicate the matter and will find himself caught up in a big mess instead of getting a solution for the sum. It is not unusual to see students endlessly working a sum, wasting sheets of paper and hours, where the sum could be solved in a few minutes. Thus, while "x" can help solve the problem quickly, easily and correctly, if employed properly; it can also make one get giddy and puzzled, if the technique is not correctly learnt and understood from a teacher and employed wisely. So is the case with Maya. Those fortunate ones who are gifted with the needed subtle understanding and the grace of the spiritual Master understand this mystery behind Maya, cross over it and realize God. Others find themselves sin a mess, asking hundreds of questions about it, raising objections against it, not knowing that thereby they only get more entangled in it. It is purely God's grace that can save one from this miserable situation. Hence, Arunagirinathar says, "My grace-bestowing Father, too, art Thou." The also says in the Gita, "Verily, this divine Maya of Mine, made up of the (three) Gunas (of Nature) is difficult to cross over; those who take refuge in Me alone cross over this Maya (through My Grace)" (VII-14).
It is grace (Arul) that reveals things in their true perspective. When that grace is not there, the Jivas (minds) are afflicted with varieties of pain and suffering, because they do not understand this divine mystery of Maya, i.e., their true relation to God and the world. They regard themselves as separate from God, and the world as a real entity outside God, with which an objective relationship is to be established. This wrong notion is the cause of all one's mental afflictions. And Arunagirinathar's prayer is for the removal of this wrong notion and to re-absorb him to God. Arunagirinathar's addressing God as both the Mother and Father is to suggest that God is non-dual, which also means the non-differentiation of Jiva's and the cosmos from God. This frees the Jiva from externality-consciousness whereby it is freed from all mental afflictions; and enables the Jiva to rest in God, which is to be accepted by Him or absorbed in Brahman. By all this, what Arunagirinathar seems to imply is that the secondless Brahman alone exists, that as long as duality is experienced the Jiva's afflictions cannot cease, and that to be freed from afflictions the Jiva has to recognize its true relation with the non-dual Brahman, i.e., become (or be one) with Brahman.
3 other forms of Murugan (explained)
The nature of the Lord (or the Atman) with whom we have to re-establish (or recognize) our kinship is graphically given in the verse. He is addressed as Skanda the scorcher of enemies; the enemies of lust, greed, anger, etc., which are the causes of one's mental afflictions. Again, He is the Kathir Velavan (Lord with the self-luminous Vel). It refers to the Self-revealing nature of the Atman. The Atman is a mass of consciousness (or Light) that destroys the darkness of Avidya (ignorance). He is also the Son of Uma Devi the Tejas (Light) that emanated from the third eye of Lord Siva, which finaly assumed the form of Lord Skanda whom Uma Devi took and nursed. He is also Kumara, the remover of the world-delusion. And, finally, He is the Lord of the Vedas, the revealer of Wisdom, to "accept" the soul that is, thus, purified of Avidya.
Thus, in this simple verse, which moves one to tears when recited even once with a sincere heart, Arunagirinathar makes a direct appeal to the Lord in a spirit of great intimacy with Him. He almost demands of the Lord, the destruction of the afflictions of the mind and (then) to "accept" him, as a child would demand from its parents. And so, he first declares his kinship with the Lord and says, "Thou art my Mother and Father, too." He does not say, "Art Thou not my Mother and Father?" He categorically affirms his kinship and thus, makes the way clear for demanding his claim of accepting him. The parents cannot reject the child. The child does insist on its demands and gets them fulfilled from its parents.
What Saint Arunagirinathar says of the Lord in this verse compares favorably with what the Lord says of Himself, in the Gita, "I am the Father of the world, the Mother, the Dispenser of the fruits of actions and the Grandfather; the (one) thing to be known, the purifier, the sacred monosyllable (OM) and also the Rig, the Sama, and the Yajur-Vedas" (IX-17).
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[God is our gracious Mother and Father, our very Self, and is the remover of all our afflictions. That He is to be approached with a parental kinship, as the Universal Self, and not as an extra-cosmic (or other-worldly being) is the Saint's advice in this verse.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.