Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 48
By Sri Arunagirinathar
This is an exceptionally rare verse in which Saint Arunagirinathar gives the secret of Yoga practice and the state of Divine Experience.
If God is everywhere, why can't we realize him?
God is the Omnipresent Reality. He is everywhere far and near, outside and inside, above and below. Hence, He is every with us, too. He is the very essence (or substratum) in us. Yet, it is an irony that we do not feel Him, experience Him, or realize Him. Why so? There is something fundamentally wrong in our seeking. We seek Him "outside" as an object. But, says the Saint, He is to be sought as our very being, as the Self, as the Knower in us, as the Intelligence in us. How to do this? First, we have to cease from sense-perception. But, we are so much wedded to the sense that we do not know of any other mode of knowing. To us, what is perceived through the senses is alone real, and even God should come within the ken of sense-perception! This sensory-knowledge (or the extroverted nature of the senses and mind) has to cease first. The sense and mind must turn back; they should become introvert and still by the cessation of all kinds of sense-perception. Not even a single sense, including the mind which is the sixth-sense, should be active. Hence, Arunagirinathar says, "Arivu Onru Ara Ninru," i.e., established in that condition wherein not even a single sense (including the mind) functions. This is perfect establishment in Pratyahara (complete withdrawal of senses) which presupposes perfection in Yama, Niyama, etc.
After fulfilling this condition, we should "know". But we never do this. Without sense-control, without the practice of Yama and Niyama, without any check on the out-going tendencies of the sense and the mind, we try to do concentration and meditation to realize God. How can it be successful? Hence, "ceasing from every sense-perception", says Arunagirinathar. But when one tries to do this, the mind will play a trick or mischief. The natural tendency of the mind is such that it will either be active or go to sleep. If we check its outgoing tendency (Rajas) and try to concentrate, it will sleep into inertia or sleep (Tamas). This contingency has to be carefully avoided. Consciousness must be maintained and this is brought out in the word "Arivaar" (or "those who know"). This knowing is, therefore, after cessation from every sense-knowing. Hence, this is quite a novel method of knowing. It is knowing directly by the intelligence itself, freed from the trammels of the mind and senses. When the senses do not function and the mind is still, the intellect becomes steady. Then the Jiva-consciousness (or Chidabhasa), which is a reflection of the Kutastha Atman (or pure consciousness) in the intellect, becomes completely self-centered. This self-centered Chidabhasa is what is referred to by "Arivu", which is not intellect but the intelligence. Hence, the Jiva-consciousness should first be freed from objectification (Arivu Onru Ara Ninru); it should also maintain consciousness, i.e., not go to sleep (Arivaar); in that non-objectified Chidabhasa coupled with self-awareness (Arivil), God (or Reality) stands in union without the least separation (Pirivu Onru Ara Ninra Piraan).
What is this "union without the least separation"? The Kutastha Chaitanya (or the Atman) is the unchanging Reality. It is the witness conscious that ever shines. Its reflection in the intellect is the Jiva-consciousness (or Chidabhasa). Ceasing from sense-perception, when the mind becomes still and the intellect steady, the reflection in it (or the Chidabhasa) also becomes steady and is in union with the Kutastha Atman. This can be made clear with the help of an illustration.
The sun shines. Its rays fall on a mirror which reflects it. The sun may be regarded as the Kutastha and the reflection the Chidabhasa. The mirror, like the intellect, is the medium of reflection. Now, at the point of reflection in the mirror, where the sun's rays fall and the reflection emanates, the two are in inseparable union. At this point, we cannot say whether it is the sun's ray or its reflection. Whatever we may say, it is right; because both are there together and inseparably. The two cannot be distinguished at that point. This is the condition of the Chidabhasa and Kutastha in the higher reaches of meditation wherein, due to establishment in Pratyahara (or sense-control) and Dharana (or concentration of mind), the Chidabhasa (Jiva) comes back to the source (or point of reflection) and shines not on any object but on the Kutastha (God) itself. In that reach of meditation, the two are inseparable union, as the point in the mirror and the notion of "I" here can equally refer either to the Kutastha or Chidabhasa, according to whichever it chooses or feels. Peculiarly enough, there is a subtle but vital difference between the sun's reflection in a mirror and the Kutastha's in the intellect., In the former case, the original (the sun) and the medium of reflection (and, therefore, the reflection) are apart, as the sun is a limited object; in the latter case, the two are ever together, as the Kutastha is all-pervading. Hence, when the outgoing tendency of the Chidabhasa is totally suspended, it returns to its source where it stands in its natural state of inseparable union with the Kutastha.
The main difference between sleep & meditation is Awareness
This condition is experienced by us daily, in the state of deep sleep. But, there is no awareness then, and that makes the difference between sleep and meditation. The non-objectified awareness bereft of self-consciousness is sleep; the non-objectified awareness coupled with self-consciousness is meditation (Dhyana). Yet, this is not the highest attainment of Yoga, i.e., Self-realization, because the cause of Jivatva is still there, Avidya not being destroyed. The highest attainment is Samadhi (or super-consciousness), which is still higher. Hence, Arunagirinathar continues the verse and says something more, which indicates that this state of Yoga (or "union without the least separation") should become abiding whereby Avidya (or the cause of Jivatva) will be destroyed, when the Kutastha (or the Lord) alone will shine, i.e., Samadhi (super-consciousness) would supervene.
Now, back to the point. In the highest reaches of meditation, Chidabhasa (Atman) is in inseparable union with Kutastha (Para atman). This is not an easy attainment and even when this is achieved with great effort and dexterity, it does not last for more than a moment, in the initial stages. This union comes and goes like a lightning flash. "one becomes careful then," says the Kathopanishad, "for Yoga is acquired and lost." Hence, by repeated practice and vigilance, such moments of flash have to be intensified and made frequent, until finally this union (Yoga) comes to abide permanently. What happens when the practice is, thus, persisted, is graphically portrayed by Arunagirinathar in the latter half of the verse in which is implied all that is mentioned above. Vikshepa comes to an end; Avarana is destroyed; the great delusion of Avidya (ignorance) is overcome; and, with that blessed soul, the Lord abides eternally.
"Veri" = Avidya (ignorance) -> consists of: Avarana & Vikshepa
Arunagirinathar uses the term "Veri" for Avidya (ignorance). "Veri" means delusion, confusion, madness, ignorance, etc. It, therefore, denotes Avidya. And he also clarifies what this Avidya is. It has two aspects (or powers), viz., Avarana and Vikshepa.
Avarana is the screening power and Vikshepa the projecting power. Avarana is the screen-like darkness (Irul) that hides Reality (or Atman), and Vikshepa causes tossing of the intellect and the mind on account of which duality is perceived and relationships are established with the world outside.
External relations due to objectification by senses (Vikshepa)
External relations with the world of objects are brought about by one or the other of the five senses, which are activated by the mind. In the Pratyahara-perfected meditation this sense-activity completely ceases. Not even a single kind of relation is had with the world, because not even a single sense operates. Hence, Arunagirinathar says, "every relation having ceased" (Serivu Onru Ara Vandu because of Arivu Onru Ara Ninru). This cessation of all relations is freedom from Vikshepa, which means a total annihilation of Rajas. This is the precondition for the destruction of the veil of darkness (Avarana), which is predominately Tamas.
The mind becomes very powerful when
the senses are controlled
When Vikshepa is overcome and the sense and mind are totally brought together, the mind becomes tremendously powerful as there is no dissipation of energy through sense-activity. With this extraordinary, concentrated power, if the mind is not allowed to slip into inertia (or sleep) but awareness maintained, the darkness (or the veil) of Avarana is destroyed. Thus, when, by repeated practice, the state of Yoga (inseparable union) attained in the highest reaches of meditation becomes abiding, every relation with the world (Rajas or Vikshepa) comes to an end and darkness (Tamas or Avarana) is destroyed. What happens, then? Vikshepa and Avarana being the two powers of Avidya, their destruction is the annihilation of Avidya itself. The Jiva being Malina Sattva, i.e., Sattva mixed with Rajas and Tamas, with the cessation of Vikshepa (Rajas) and destruction of Avarana (Tamas), the intellect which is the medium of reflection becomes Sattvika (or Sattva-preponderated); and in it, the Kutastha Chaitanya (or the Witness consciousness) shines unobstructed and undistracted. The Kutastha is referred to as the Velavan. It is the Vel-consciousness referred to in many earlier verses. Out of the many names of Lord Skanda, Arunagirinathar significantly uses "Velavan" here to suggest that the Lord abides forever in those that have, thus, overcome their ignorance, as wisdom or consciousness. Such blessed souls are the Jivanmuktas, Jnanins, sages, or God-men who have attained the Goal.
Link to the Kathopanishad
In this single verse, Saint Arunagirinathar dexterously and precisely brings together the imports of the concluding teachings of the Kathopanishad of Mantras 10, 11, 14, and 15 of Valli VI. The first half of the verse may be said to correspond to Mantra 10 which says, "When the five organs of knowledge stand together with the mind and the intellect does not function (i.e., becomes calm), that they call the highest state." This seems to be the highest state reached in meditation and not the highest attainment itself, for this Yoga (or "union without the least separation) is lost, if one is not vigilant. Hence, Mntra 11 gives a note of warning: "The firm control of the senses, they regard as Yoga. At that time one gets careful, for Yoga is acquired and lost." Thus, if, with utmost care, this awareness of Yoga (union) is repeatedly had and made abiding, in due course the knots of the heart are broken and the goal is attained, as revealed in Mantras 14 and 15. "When all desires that dwell in the heart of one cease, then the mortal becomes immortal and here attains Brahman." "When all the knots of the heart are severed here on earth, then the mortal becomes immortal, so far is the instruction." The destruction of the knots of the heart (Avidya, Kama, and Karma) of the above Mantras are precisely conveyed by Arunagirinathar in the latter half of the verse Avidya is explicitly mentioned, and Avarana and Vikshepa may be said to correspond to Kama and Karma, respectively. The need for continued practice with vigilance, which is the import of Mantra 11, can also be seen hidden and implied in the wordings of the last two lines of the verse, which are so aptly composed by Arunagirinathar as to bring out this implication, effectively.
One more interesting matter exhibits Arunagirinathar's skill in disclosing subtle secrets of spiritual experience of seekers. God, being the omnipresent and all-pervading Reality, is ever with us, in inseparable union. Though this is a fact, our awareness of this inseparable union has three distinct conditions (or stages) and these are revealed by the Saint in this verse.
3 secrets of God revealed to us by Arunagirinathar
Firstly, the Lord is the "Piraan", i.e., one who is never separate from anything who is in union with all things, at all times. But, this is the condition in which we are not at all aware of His inseparable existence with us. He is with us, with everything; but we are not aware of it, much less the insentient objects. This is the general condition of Jivas; and this is also the lowest stage of manifestation of Reality (God) wherein only the Sat or existence aspect of It is revealed.
Secondly, the Lord "in inseparable union in the intelligence that knows, duly ceasing from sensory-knowing" (Arivaar Arivil Pirvonrara Nirpavan). In the highest reaches of meditation, there are moments of intuitive flashes when one gets glimpses of awareness of God's inseparable union with us as awareness. This is the meditative condition, in which the meditative consciousness knows God, though for a moment, as consciousness inseparable from it; this is the higher stage of manifestation of Reality where in the Chit or consciousness aspect of It is also revealed.
Thirdly, due to vigilant and continued practice of meditation when the destruction of Avidya is brought about, the Lord "abides in inseparable union with them" (Veri Venravarodu Urum Velavan). This is the state of realization (Sakshatkara). Here the union is perpetual or abiding, and because Avidya is annihilated it is also blissful; this is the highest stage of manifestation of Reality wherein the Ananda (bliss) aspect of It is also revealed.
These three conditions may be said to be the Ajnana Avastha, Dhyana Avastha, and Anubhuthi Avastha; wherein, respectively, the Jiva is not conscious, momentarily conscious and abidingly or perpetually conscious of the inseparable union of the Lord who is ever with it; where in also the Sat, Chit, and Ananda aspects of Reality (God) are progressively revealed.
Instruction for the devout Sadhaka
[Arunagirinathar in this verse instructs on the secret and essence of Yoga practice and realization.]
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.