Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 47
By Sri Arunagirinathar
Saint Arunagirinathar, in this verse, aspires for the highest Realization of non-dual Awareness which is beyond phenomenality, by transcending the thirty-six Tattvas. A detailed account of the 36 Tattvas is to be found both in the Saiva Siddhanta and Sakthi cult texts, though with a slight difference. We shall, however, here confine ourselves to the bare details, according to the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.
The 36 Tattvas
1. Atma (soul) Tattvas or Asuddha Tattvas 24
a) 5 Karma Indriyas (Organs of Action) hands, feet, speech, anus, and generative organ;
b) 5 Jnana Indriyas (Organs of Perception) ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose;
c) 5 Maha-Bhutas (Gross elements) earth, water, fire, air, and ether;
d) 5 Tanmatras (Suble elements) smell, taste, color, touch, and sound; and
e) 4 Antahkaranas (Internal organs) mind, intellect, ego, and Chitta.
2. Vidya Tattvas or Suddha-Asuddha Tattvas 7
Kaala, Niyati, Kala, Vidya, Raga, Purusha, and Mulaprakriti or Maya.
3. Siva Tattvas or Suddha Tattvas 5
Suddha Vidya (Rudra), Isvara (Maheshwara), Sadakhya (Sadasiva), Bindu (Sakthi), and Nada (Siva).
While the Saiva Siddhanta and the Sakthi cults recognize 36 Tattvas, with slight difference, the Vedanta and Sankhya systems recognize 24 Tattvas, with a little variation. According to one calculation, the 36 Tattvas of the Saiva Siddhanta and the 24 Tattvas of the Vedanta are both further sub-divided into 96.
Tattvas mean "principles" or "reals"; not absolutely but phenomenally real. Tattvas (or categories) are the fundamental rudimentary principles with which the metaphysic of any system of philosophy is built up. Hence, each system of philosophy enumerates these Tattvas differently, though their purpose is the same to show the evolution and involution of the cosmos which provides the necessary field for the Jivas to work out their Karmas and thus, attain Liberation. But God (or the Supreme Being) is beyond phenomenality; being the Absolute Reality, He stands transcending the Tattvas, whatever be their number. Thus, while the phenomenal world of Tattvas is a relative reality, the Supreme Being is an Absolute Reality; and the liberation of the Jiva lies in its going beyond (or transcending) the Tattvas and be one with Reality.
Now, the Tattvas, whether 24, 36, or 96, are only evolutes of the one primordial Maya (or Avyakta or the Unmanifest), which gets divided into Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas (or Suddha, Suddha-Asuddha, and Asuddha), etc., which further sub-divide themselves. Though the ramifications may vary, liberation lies in their transcendence because the Supreme Reality is beyond them.
Relationship between God & Tattvas
What is the relation between the Supreme Reality and the Tattvas (or the phenomenally reals) is an intriguing question. The Supreme Reality (being Absolute or Infinite) cannot admit of anything else; and therefore, everything else can be nothing but its condition, as the waves, ripples, etc., in the ocean. The Tattvas are nothing but waves and ripples in the ocean of Absolute Existence, i.e., they are conditions of Consciousness itself. This vast universe itself is considered as a wave in the ocean of Infinity. The Ashtavakra Gita says: "Knowing yourself to be That where universes throb like waves in the ocean, why do you run about like a miserable being" (III.3). "Let the wave of the universe rise or vanish of itself in me, the Infinite great ocean; I neither increase nor decrease thereby" (VII.2). The Jiva's perception of the world is, therefore, like one condition envisaging another condition, one wave another. Hence, it is said that Reality envisaged through the senses is the world of objects. Thus, we may say that the Tattvas are nothing but phases of Consciousness Itself, i.e., the objectified nature of Consciousness (or becoming-consciousness) in different levels. When this becoming (or objectification) is transcended (or sublated into Being or universalization) by non-objectification, Reality is what it is, which is Being-Consciousness.
How to transcend the Tattvas?
Now, how to transcend the Tattvas? Is it to leave the Tattvas here and go to where they are not? No; because wherever one might go, one will still be within the Tattvas only. Where going is involved, it means it is in space and time which are Tattvas. Hence, to transcend the Tattvas should connote something different altogether. It means the sublation (or resolving) of the Tattvas from their phenomenality into their Original State of Being. What does this mean? This can be understood by a study of our dream experience.
In dream, something very mysterious happens to the mind. We see in dream almost everything of the waking world there is the subject, the objects, the space that separates them, elements, etc., etc. The one mind divides and objectifies itself into everything. But does anything really happen to the mind? No. And, to transcend the dream-world, has the dream-subject run hither and thither or do anything in the dream itself? No. Because whatever it might do, it is still in dream only. So, it has only to wake up. The mind (or consciousness), which has divided and objectified itself, has only to withdraw itself, by thinking differently, and be conscious of what it is which is called waking. In waking, the entire contents of the dream-world are unified into a single consciousness, i.e., everything of the dream becomes a content of a single mind from which they ramified, but in a sublated form. The swiftly running water, the hard stone, the vast sky, the perceiving subject, etc., of dream lose their respective characteristics (or Tattvatva) and become a single consciousness in waking. It is not that the dream objects have become something else in waking; the waking consciousness which objectified itself into dream, now freed from the objectification, is what it always is. .Thus, in waking, the different objects (Tattvas) of the dream-world not only lose their Tattvatva (or objectness), but also become and be what they always are. Just as dream is transcended into waking, there is another transcendence from this long-dream of world-perception into universal waking of God-consciousness. In this God-consciousness, what now appears as objects (Tattvas) get transformed into and are experienced as phases of Consciousness in its universal state. Just as maintaining the dream-subjecthood and moving about in dream itself is not the way to transcend dream, but to wake up; so also to transcend the Tattvas, giving up the Jiva-consciousness and waking up into universal consciousness is the only way, by withdrawal of consciousness into its Source, which is attained by meditation on the One Reality. The Supreme Reality is Paramarthika Satta (Absolute Reality); the world of Tattvas Vyavaharika Satta (Phenomenal Reality); and the dream-world the Pratibhasika Satta (Apparent Reality).
Of course, no amount of explanation can be adequate in this respect. Why? Because it is a mystery. Can we explain how we descend into dream? Explanations are there as to how and why dreams occur; but now how we descend into it. Suddenly, we find ourselves in dream, yet not knowing that it is dream that we are experiencing! Everything looks real. Again, how and when we wake up from the dream is also not known. Suddenly, we wake up and then only come to realize that we were dreaming. Similarly, how this creation has proceeded from the Absolute, how we are in our present state of perception of Tattvas, and how and when we transcend them and attain Liberation is all a mystery. Everything seems to be beyond human understanding and baffles the frail human intellect when pushed to logical limits. Even causality itself seems to be unintelligible, finally. The whole mystery is solved only when the Absolute is realized by the grace of God, which is the Mystery of all mysteries! Hence, Arunagirinathar's wonderment, "Am I blessed to attain that Supreme State which is beyond, by transcending the Tattvas?" And in it is implied its achievement because it is Lord Skanda's nature (Svabhava) to restore everything to its original state, to which aspect of the Lord does the Saint appropriately appeal in this verse.
Skanda Puranam: Surapadman (revisited)
Heaven is the abode of the Devas. But Surapadman who obtained, as a result of his severe Tapas (or austerities), unlimited powers as boon from Lord Siva, invaded Svargaloka (heaven), set fire to it, captured the Devas, and subjected them to humiliations of various kinds. The afflicted Devas prayed to Lord Siva for help, who gave Lord Skanda to lead them and destroy the Asura Surapadman. In the fight that ensued, the Asura attached Skanda assuming different forms through his power of Maya, and the Lord who is beyond the tricks of Maya destroyed each form which Surapadman took successively. Finally, finding his tricks to be of no avail, the Asura decided to attack the Lord, who was yet a boy, with his physical might and bear Him down. When he so rose against the Lord with great fury, the Lord threw His Vel and destroyed Surapadman. Skanda, then, released all the Devas from imprisonment, and ordered Visvakarma the divine architect to remake Svargaloka. In obedience to the Lord's command, he made it more beautiful than before. Skanda restored Indra and other Devas to their rightful posts. Thus, the Lord cooled the agonized hearts of the Devas as also the Svargaloka that was burnt by Surapadman and made it, once again, the abode of the Devas, whose rightful share it was.
The original abode of the Jivas is God. The Jivas have, somehow, forgotten their essential nature of Satchidananda and are wandering in this forest of Samsara and are being scorched by the fire of Tattvas. To forget one's true nature, to see multiplicity where One alone is, is the cause of the Jiva's suffering. It has to transcend this condition and be what it is, in its pristine condition of Absolute Consciousness. For this blessed State, Arunagirinathar prays: "O Lord Skanda! Due to the Asura of Avidya (ignorance) who has driven me out of my abode of Satchidananda, I am caught up in and scorched by the Tattvas. As you destroyed Surapadman, cooled the hearts of the Devas and heaven, and restored them back to heaven, pray have mercy on me and restore me to my Original Abode by destroying the Asura of Avidya (ignorance) and thus, cool my heart with the bliss of Satchidananda."
"Aaraaru" meaning explained
The verse is also interpreted differently, as the phrase "Aaraaru" in the first line yields different meanings. The phrase is composed of two words, "Aaru" and "Aaru"; and the word "Aaru" has more than one meaning the number six, river, path, 2 methods, means, religion, et. Hence, when the meaning "six" is taken for both the words, it means six into six, i.e., 36, which usually refers to the Tattvas and this usage is widely prevalent in the Tamil literature. We have already seen this interpretation. The other interpretations of "Aaraaru" are:
1. The first "Aaru" is taken in its meaning of "six" and the second as "religion"; and the translation would be: "Transcending the six religions, am I blessed to attain, as my fortune divine, that Supreme State (of Brahman) which is beyond (the concepts of the six religions)?"
The 6 Major Sects in Hinduism
The six major cults (or sects of Hinduism), popularly known as Shanmata are:
The sects which conceive of the Supreme Being as Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu, Devi or Goddess Sakthi, Lord Ganapathi (Ganesha), Lord Skanda (Kumara), and Lord Surya (Sun), respectively.
Religion is for man, not for God
Reality is One. It is Truth, Knowledge, and Infinity. It is Brahman. It is conceived of variously by the wise ones, and different approaches are advocated to suit to the tastes and temperaments of different individuals as it is difficult to approach Reality as It is. Hence, the need for different cults. Thus, Lord Siva, etc., are the six concepts of the same Reality, and the six cults of Saivam, etc., are the six modes of approach to the One Reality. It is to be noted that Reality Itself (God) has no religion; it is beyond all religions not only the above-mentioned six cults, but also all the religions of the world. Religion is for man, not for God; and Reality does not belong to any religion.
The different religions are, therefore, variegated approaches to the same Reality, and the personal Gods of religions, such as Lord Siva, etc., have a significant purpose to serve. They, being facets of Reality, are the points of convergence of the Absolute (or the Universal) and they form, as it were, entrances to the Absolute. They are tentative concepts of Reality and have to be transcended, finally. This should not be lost sight of and aspirants should not cling to personal Gods, as if they are the ultimate state itself, since all forms get sublimated in the Supreme Being. Totapuri's instruction to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to transcend the concept of Kaali (Divine Mother) is worth remembering here. Hence, whichever religion one may follow, Reality has to be realized finally, and that is the purpose of religions. That the Goal to be aspired for and realized is the Absolute (or Brahman), and not the personal Gods themselves, though the latter are necessary steps in the ascent, is what Arunagirinathar implies in saying "that Supreme State which is beyond, transcending the six-cults."
It is very interesting to note that Saint Arunagirinathar, though a staunch devotee of Lord Skanda, was a great synthesizer of cults. It can be seen from his Thiruppugal songs that he has devoted many verses in singing the glory and greatness of Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu, the Divine Mother, and other Gods in exquisite and inspiring language. Arunagirinathar was a votary of the Advaitam a sage of the highest non-dual realization. To him, Lord Skanda was not merely a personal God (or a facet of the Absolute), but the Absolute Itself; as revealed by him in verse 13 and in one of his Thiruppugal songs as "The Truth of the six cults and philosophies" (Aru Samaya Saattirap Porulone). It is this attitude, this approach, that he wants all to have towards their respective Gods. The Goal is the Absolute, that Supreme State which is beyond, whatever be one's concept of God, whatever be one's religion, is Arunagirinathar's instruction, expressed in the form of his aspiration.
2. The first "Aaru" is "six" and the second translation is "Chakras", as stages in the path of Kundalini. The translation would then be : "Transcending the six Chakras, am I blessed to attain, as my fortune divine, that Supreme State (of Realization in the Sahasrara) which is beyond (the six Chakras)?"
Though the word "Aaru" does not directly mean the Chakras, it is implied and derived, as they form the stages in the passage of the Kundalini Sakthi, and such a usage is to be found in the Tamil literature in verse 2419 of Thiru-manthiram (a mystic work of Saint Thirumular); and in Thiru-Arutpaa of Saint Ramalinga Swamigal.
The 6 Chakras
The six Chakras are Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, and Ajna. The Chakras, which are centers of energy, are in the astral body; they cannot be seen by the naked eye but are visualized by Yogis in a state of concentration of mind; they have their corresponding centers in the spinal cord and the nerve plexuses in the physical body at the base of the spinal column, at the root of the reproductive organ, in the navel region (Nabhisthana), in the region of the heart, at the base of the throat, and at the space between the two eye-brows, respectively. The Kundalini Sakthi, which is locked up in the individual in the Muladhara Chakra, is awakened by certain Yogic practices such as Asana, Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra, Dhyana, etc., and made to pass through the different Chakras and unite with Siva in His abode in the Sahasrara Chakra, at the crown of the head. The Yogi then enjoys Supreme Bliss.
The Kundalini Yoga is an exact science and is a subject by itself, too unwieldly to be dealt with here. However, we shall see some salient features of it.
Features of Kundalini Yoga
Energy has two aspects static and dynamic and the Kundalini Yoga is the method of bringing them together, by which a union is also brought about between the individual and the cosmos. In the process of evolution of the cosmos, the Supreme Absolute has gradually, in stages, concretized itself until the Pure Consciousness has come to the level of matter, as this physical cosmos. And in the process of evolution of individuals, this cosmic energy gets pressed into the human system as a static potentiality, in the Muladhara Chakra. The human system is vitally related to the outer cosmos in everyone of its levels. The seven lower regions (nether worlds) of Patala, Mahatala, Rasatala, Talatala, Sutala, Vitala, and Atala are said to be in the portion below the waist in the toes, soles of the feet, ankles, shanks, knees, thighs, and the waist, respectively. Similarly, the Chakras (Muladhara, etc.), which are above the waist are points of link with the outer cosmos, in its different higher levels (or regions) and they correspond to the Bhur, Bhuva, Svar, Mahar, Janar, and Tapas Lokas (or planes), respectively, and the Sahasrara to Sathya Loka. Since, in the case of all ordinary human beings, the Kundalini Sakthi is lodged in the Muladhara, we are conscious of only the physical cosmos.
By meditation on a Chakra, which is a focusing point for concentration, the Yogi simultaneously establishes contact with the corresponding Loka, and when the Kundalini Sakthi is roused form a particular Chakra, he has full control over it and the corresponding Loka. Each succeeding Chakra, as also the Loka, being more subtle than the preceding one, the Kundalini Sakthi is unfolded into greater and greater subtlety of consciousness as it transcends each Chakra, and when it goes beyond the Ajna and reaches the Sahasrara Chakra, it regains its pristine state of Pure Consciousness, when the Yogi enjoys Infinite Bliss.
Though energy pervades the whole of the human system, it gets located in certain centers, and generally it is in the Muladhara Chakra which is the source of energy for the entire system. As water whirls in a river, the Prana Sakthi circles in these Chakras, and at each Chakra its whirling force takes a certain subtle shape which appears as the lotus with a particular number of petals. Hence, each Chakra is compared to a lotus with a differing number of petals, and has a presiding deity, colour, shape, Bija-Akshara, etc. Sine the Kundalini Sakthi is a force, if it is awakened but not controlled properly, it is likely to do more harm than good. Hence, a great moral discipline is demanded of the practitioner and the Yoga is to be practiced under the personal guidance of an adept. Thus, if the sleeping (or static) Kundalini Sakthi is awakened from the Muladhara Chakra by the practice of Asanas, Pranayama, Bandhas, Mantra-Japa, and Dhyana, and is taken from Chakra-to-Chakra, to the Sahasrara (or the thousand-petalled Chakra) at the crown of the head, a union will be brought about between Sakthi and Siva, between the individual and the cosmos, between man and God, which is the Goal of the Kundalini Yoga.
It is said that whatever be the Yoga practiced, the Kundalini does get awakened and pass through the different Chakras, though unconsciously in the case of Yogas other than the Kundalini Yoga, and the Yogi gets different supernatural powers at different stages of his practice. As the Yogi is likely to be tempted by them and get stagnated at any of these Chakras (or stages), Arunagirinathar warns one to aspire for that Supreme State which is beyond transcending the Tattvas, religions, and Chakras. The Goal is that Absolute and it should never be forgotten.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[The advice of Saint Arunagirinathar, in this verse, is that the Supreme Reality which is beyond the 36 Tattvas (or Brahman) which is beyond the six cults (or the Absolute) which is beyond the six Chakras, is the blessed Goal and that should be aspired for.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.