Kanthar Anubhuthi - Verse 51
By Sri Arunagirinathar
This is a very beautiful verse in which Saint Arunagirinathar concludes his divine work Kanthar Anubhuthi. This verse is a spontaneous and ecstatic outpouring of Arunagirinathar's highest experience of God, composed in a simple, melodious and majestic style which lulls one into a spiritual mood even as one recites it.
In this verse, Arunagirinathar portrays graphically the highest state of God-intoxication of a fully illumined Jnanin the Sahaja Samadhi Avastha, which is an outcome of his own experience and which is experienced by Self-realized saints.
The Sadhaka who attained the Pesaa Anubhuthi (Speechless Experience or Maha Mowna in verse 43), on rising from that experience as a Jivanmukta beholds the Lord alone within as the Vel and without as the Feet that shine everywhere (verse 44). With this God-awareness, he moves about doing Lokasangraha (spiritual service) for the solidarity of the world by giving the needed guidance to seeking souls. By and by, his awareness of God becomes deep and more and more saturated, so much so that he gets established in a state of perpetual and uninterrupted consciousness of God (Sahaja Avastha), wherein established he does not merely behold God in everything but beholds Him as everything! To him, it is not that God is in everything, but God is everything, and so God comes as everything. Whatever he sees, touches, smells, tastes, or hears is God. Whatever he thinks, feels, or understands is God. God is above and below; God is matter and spirit; God is the path and the destination; within is God; without is God. Everything is God. Everywhere is God. Such is the majesty of the Divine Experience of a liberated soul that is poured through this verse by the Saint of God-Experience. As Saint Thayumanavar said, Saint Arunagirinathar had Anubhuthi of Lord Skanda and as a result gave the work Kanthar Anubhuthi in order that others too may attain that Blessedness which he had attained. Such is the glory of a Self-realized saint!
To such an exalted soul, the usual concepts of form and formlessness, existence and non-existence, etc., which are valid only to the duality-perceiving human mind, become meaningless words. Everything gets transformed and transcended into a homogeneous undivided experience. This mystic experience of a Jivanmukta is impossible of description in human language. Yet, Arunagirinathar does it in a most dexterous manner permitted within the limits of a verse of 16 words! He brings all possible concepts in a beautiful manner, so as to cover the entire range of human experience and gives us a glimpse of that experience.
God as "with Form" and "without Form"
The moment we open our eyes, we see things with different forms and shapes. So, the first concept we have of things is "form". We also sense things without form like ether, etc. Hence, Arunagirinathar begins the verse with "Uruvaai, Aruvaai", i.e., "with form and without form". In these two words themselves, he covers everything! Form and formlessness that is all, there is no third concept known to us, and everything can be brought under these two.
In describing the Avatara of Lord Skanda, the Skanda Puranam says: "Aruvamum Uruvum Aagi, Anaadiyaaaip Palavaai Onraai, Brammammai Ninra Jyothi Pilambu" "That Consciousness-Mass (Light) which is the Supreme Brahman; which is both formless and with form; which is beginningless, the many as also the One." It is evident from this that anything and everything that has form or is formless, is God and God alone. Hence, it is not that God is only certain forms or that He can appear only in particular forms. In fact, all forms are His only. But this can be experienced only by a Jivanmukta. And so, to the realized soul, says Arunagirinathar, God comes as all these which have form and which have no form, simultaneously, because He is both (Uru and Aru).
God as "That which is" and "That which is not"
Then comes the next pair, "Ulathaai Ilathaai", i.e., "that which is and that which is not". People's notion of "is" and "is not" differs widely and at different levels of evolution. To the crude materialist, the physical cosmos alone is, i.e., there is only matter, and there is no such thing as God. On the other hand, to the Vedantin, Brahman alone is (i.e., eternally Real), because It is the Absolute and the world is not (i.e., not eternally real), because it is subject to change and transcendence. But, says Arunagirinathar, to the illumined sage, God comes both as what is and what is not, whatever our understanding and acceptance of these concepts be. Whether the world is and God is not, or God alone is and the world is not He comes as both. This is the experience of a full-blown Jnanin of the highest Advaitic realization, wherein even the physical cosmos, etc., which are initially rejected as "Neti-Neti" ("Not this, Not this") for the purpose of sublation and transcendence are experienced as God Himself (Brahman) as "Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma" "All indeed is Brahman." Thus, in the very first line of the verse, Arunagirinathar has given out in essence the experience of Sahaja Avastha of a Jivanmukta in a most inspiring manner.
Link to verse #13
It is interesting to note here that in verse 13, Arunagirinathar described Reality (God) as "Not with form, not without form; not that which is, not that which is not" (Uruvanru, Aruvanru; Ulathanru, Ilathanru). Here he says, "God who comes with form and without form; as that which is and as that which is not" ("Uruvaai, Aruvaai; Ulathaai, Ilathaai). In verse 13, it is a question of description of the nature of Reality; hence, it is said to be neither this nor that. But here, it is a question of experience of God; hence, He is both this and that. Again, there Arunagirinathar uses the word "Adhu" ("That") for Reality (God), which suggests or gives a feeling of remoteness; but here he says "Guhan" which means "He who shines in the heart-cave", which is suggestive of nearness rather a felling of "possession" as He has come into one's heart, which also indicates that it is one of experience. Again, in that earlier stage of Sadhana (of verse 13), the Sadhaka's experience is: "That Reality Itself is Murugan, is the Lord with the peerless Vel and is one's Guru." Reality (God) could be experienced only upto his level. But here, God is all with form and without form, what is and what is not, the flower as well as its fragrance, the gem and the light that it emanates, the body as well as the soul (consciousness) that animates it, the Goal (Moksha) as also the path (of righteousness or Dharma) that leads to it, and finally the Guru. A critical study of these two verses would reveal the vast gulf of difference that obtains between "description" and "experience" of Reality. God can be experienced but not explained or understood.
God as Substance & Quality Flower & Fragrance
Gem & Luster
Now, let us proceed further. From the mutually exclusive and positive-negative concepts of with form and without form, or what is and what is not, Arunagirinathar takes us to those of substance and its quality flower and fragrance, gem and luster. A substance and its quality are not mutually exclusive like those of with form and without form or what is and what is not that is, they can go together. Yet, they are not one and the same. The flower is one thing and its fragrance is another, the gem and the light that it sheds are two different things. But to a liberated soul, the flower is God and the fragrance that it wafts is also God; the gem and the luster that emanates from it are both He only. Hence, Arunagirinathar says, "Maruvaai Malaraai Maniyaai Oliyaai", i.e., as flower and its fragrance, as gem and its luster, in the second line of the verse, which concepts are of an advanced nature in human experience.
God as Body & Soul
He then says, "Karuvaai Uiraai, Gathiyaai Vidhiyaai", i.e., "as body and soul, as Moksha and rules". The body is Jada (or an inert object) and the soul is Chintana (conscious principle). The soul animates and activates the body. Without the soul, the body becomes lifeless and decays. The value, the beauty, etc., of the body lie in the life-principle. But the soul, too, cannot exist without a body (physical, subtle, or causal) and work out its Karmas, and attain Moksha. That God comes as body and soul shows that He is both matter and spirit, which cannot exist independent of each other, as they are mutually dependent.
God as Moksha & the Means to Attain It
Again, He is the state of Moksha (liberation) as well as the Vidhi (rules of commission prescribed in the Vedas, Agama, etc. The rules of Dharma are the means and the Moksha is the End. Dharma (righteousness) leads to Moksha, and Moksha is the determining factor as to whether an act or rule of conduct is Dharmic or not righteous or not. Though the two are mutually determining, yet they are not one and the same. But to the Jivanmukta, God is both and comes as both. Thus, in the third line of the verse, the concepts of mutual dependence and determination are conveyed, which are more advanced than those of the earlier ones and cover the highest range of human experience.
All these concepts of mutual exclusion and contradiction (line 1); of substance and its quality (line 2); and of mutual dependence and determination (line 3); are a graduated series in the development of human thinking and understanding, which cover all possible identical. ranges of human experience, and they are given in pairs to show that they are not identical. Hence, to us humans, God can come either as this or that of the two concepts, and this is so because of our individualistic existence, as a personality. The Jiva-consciousness is caught up in the process of spatio-temporal existence. It has limited itself to a particular mind and body, as a result of which it has notions of inside and outside. Again, because it externalizes itself through the senses, its perception gets limited and it can only see, hear, or sense things only in a limited capacity. Therefore, there arise the concepts of form and formlessness, flower and fragrance, body and soul, etc., in the bound soul. But the liberated one has freed himself from the limitations of spatio-temporal existence and has identified himself with God who is all things at once. To such a blessed soul, who has identified himself with everything, there is nothing inside or outside, with form or without form, etc; God is everything and He comes as everything, not in succession but simultaneously. This is to experience God (or oneself) in everything as everything at once. And it is this experience that we are given a glimpse of in this verse. Any form that is visible is God and the invisible and formless are also God. What is, is He; and what is not is also He alone. Flower and its fragrance are He. Gem and its luster (all substances and all qualities), body and soul (cosmos and its animating spirit or Isvara), Dharma and Moksha (means and the End) everything is He. He comes (or experienced) as all, at the same time. Can we imagine this experience of the Jivanmukta? Even to think, it is baffling. A moment's contemplation of this mystic experience is enough to instill a thrill of ecstasy in us.
God as Guru Guru mantra embedded in Kanthar Anubhuthi
Now Arunagirinathar proceeds to the fourth line and says, God comes as Guru. Peculiarly enough, here Arunagirinathar does not use a pair of concepts as in the earlier lines, but a single concept because Guru is God Himself (verse 13) and all concepts merge themselves in the Guru. The Guru Gita says: "Prostration to that Guru who shows the Truth of the word `Thou', who pervades the whole universe of mobile and immobile creation with its stationary and moving creatures. Prostration to that Guru who shows the Truth of the word `That', who pervades the mobile and immobile creation in the form of the Undivided Infinite. Prostration to that Guru who shows the Truth of the word `Art' (in the sentence `Thou art that'), who, in the form of the Mass of Consciousness, pervades the whole of the three worlds with their mobile and immobile inhabitants. Prostration to that Guru who is beyond Nada, Vindhu, Kala, who is Pure Consciousness, Eternal, Peaceful, beyond space, and untainted. Guru is Brahma; Guru is Vishnu; Guru is Siva; Guru is the Supreme Brahman itself. Prostration to that Guru." Hence in saying Guru, Arunagirinathar brings together all that has been said in the earlier three lines of the verse. And so, "Guruvaai Varuvaai Aruvaai Guhane" "O Almighty, who comes as Guru! O Lord Guha! Bestow Thy Grace" is considered as complete in itself and as equivalent to the whole verse. Here "Varuvaai" is used as a gerund or verbal noun (Vinaiyaalaniyum Peyar). This last line also means "O Lord Guha! Come as (my) Guru and bless (me)." For these reasons it is regarded as a Mantra and is chanted, recited and sung with love and feeling (Bakthi and Bhava), which brings all blessedness to oneself as also to others.
Link to Verse #1
The first verse of Kanthar Anubhuthi beings with "Aadumpari Vel Anisevel" which is considered as a Mantra "Velum Mayilum Thunai" meaning "The Vel and the Peacock are (my) protection or support." The last verse of Kanthar Anubhuthi concludes with "Guruvaai Varuvaai Arulvaai Guhane," which is also regarded as a Mantra. Thus, the work begins and ends with Mantras; and it also contains many Mantras in the other verses. Hence, Kanthar Anubhuthi is held in high esteem as a "Mantra-Sastra" a treatise full of Mantras, capable of bestowing al the good that one might seek by a devout and regular recitation of it.
God as Guhan
In this verse, the Lord is invoked as "Guha", which literally means "One who dwells or shines in the cave of the heart." There is a great significance in Arunagirinathar's selecting this Name of the Lord for this verse, though for the title of the work, Kanthar Anubhuthi, Arunagirinathar has selected the Name "Kantha" (or Skanda). It is worth noting that in the entire work of Kanthar Anubhuthi, there is an explicit reference to the Lord of one place only, viz., Thiruchchengodu or Naagaasala in verse 11. It is probably because the Lord enshrined at this place, to whom Arunagirinthar made a special prayer, granted him a boon, that wherever he be, if he utters the name of "Kantha" and calls the Lord, He would appear and give him Darshan. And so, as a measure of gratitude, Arunagirinathar seems to have selected the name of "Kantha" not only for the title of this treatise, but also for two more of his works, viz., Kanthar Alangaaram and Kanthar Anthaathi. But, for this verse and as the last word of it, he has purposefully chose "Guha" because it is the Sahaja Avastha verse and "Guha" is the most appropriate Name to be employed here.
Narayana Sukta's "Supreme Being" &
Kanthar Anubhuthi's "Guhan"
In the Narayana Sukta of the Yajur Veda, there is a grand description of the Supreme Being as follows:
Arunagirinathar refers to that Supreme Being as "Guha" One who dwells or shines in the cave of the heart; who is and who comes as everything and as the Guru. How beautifully does the Saint bring out the essence of the whole of the Narayana Sukta in this single verse of Kanthar Anubhuthi! The Narayana Sukta and the Kanthar Anubhuthi are both the overflow of divine ecstasy of illumined souls that were bathed in the ocean of Consciousness-Bliss. Hence, significantly and purposefully did Arunagirinathar select the Name of "Guha" for this concluding Sahajavastha verse.
Guha further explained
"Guha" is the Supreme Consciousness that reveals itself everywhere as everything. He is the Self (Brahman) in which a liberated soul is established. "Guha", being the Self of the Jivanmukta as well as of the cosmos, comes as everything. God's coming as everything does not mean a physical coming of things involving movement in space and time, but "coming in experience", i.e., whatever is, is experienced as God. This is God-coming (God-experience). It is something different from physical coming because if God, as an object with form (Uru), were to come towards a liberated soul, He has to move in space which also is He only, space being without form (Aru). Hence, when Arunagirinathar says that God comes as this, as that, as everything, it mystically means that the Jivanmukta experiences everything as God, as his own Self, as "Guha", because he has identified himself with (or become) the Universal Self, i.e., the Self of all. He, therefore, recognizes (or feels) his Self in everything and everything in the Self; he is the Seer in the seen and the seen in the Seer; he experiences God as all and all as God. This is the essence of God-vision (Bhagavad Darshan or Atma Darshan) which Arunagirinathar purports to convey through this verse. These are all different ways of expressing the inner mystic experience of a Jivanmukta, which is described in the language of the humans as "with form, without form, etc., etc.", which is intended to reveal that it is a simultaneous experience of all things at one and the same time. This perception of non-difference is the culmination of God-Experience Abheda Darshanam Jnanam. Such a sage of Wisdom is a moving God on earth, to whom the world resorts for succor, in whom all beings find solace, around whom seeking souls gather like hungry children around the mother, and for whom nothing makes any difference because of his Abheda Darshanam. This is the Sahaja Avastha of Jivanmuktas who are Sarvabhuta-Hiteratah those intent upon the welfare of all beings, of whom Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was one. He writes in "Sivananda Gita" (concise autobiography):
This is the humble way in which Swami Sivananda puts what he actually was and did.
God is Satchidananda. He is an ocean of Indivisible Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. The ocean is nothing but water and God is nothing but Consciousness. Prajnanam Brahma Pure Consciousness is Brahman, says the Upanishad. Ocean is water, whether calm at the bottom or dashing as waves on the surface. Similarly, it is Satchidananda, whether in that absorbed state of Pesaa Anubhuthi (verse 43) or as this vast panorama of creation in this Sahaja Avastha. As waves of water dash against each other and mingle with one another, Consciousness rolls over Consciousness and remains as Consciousness. This is the Sahaja Samadhi Avastha (the natural super-conscious state) of a liberated sage.
Link to verse #43
In verse 43, Arunagirinathar described the "Pesaa Anubhuthi" wherein the objective world is totally negated and one gets absorbed in Speechless-Experience (Maha-Mowna). But, on rising form that Experience, when he moves about in "this world of ours" for our sake of Lokasangraha, what does he experience? To him, the world ceases to be as we perceive it. It is sublated into God. The self-same Satchidananda dances as all these names and forms, as all qualities and substances, as the physical, subtle, and causal realms in short, as everything. Whatever the sense perceive, the mind thinks or the intellect understands is all Satchidananda; because they have all been transformed by the magical touch of God-consciousness. It is Consciousness beholding Consciousness, God beholding God, there is no man, no world; but God and God alone. A grand experience! However much we may try to explain this experience of Sahaja Avastha, it would be inadequate and unsatisfying, because it is not something to be explained but experienced.
Here, we may have an interesting digression. Some are of the opinion that the first 43 verses of the work are only Arunagirinathar's original compositions, as verse 43 concludes saying, "Pesaa Anubhuthi Pirandadhuve Speechless-Experience was born", and that the remaining last 8 verses are not Arunagirinathar's and are subsequent additions by someone else. But others hold that all 51 verses are Arunagirinathar's own and original compositions; they being of an exceptional nature and also a work called "Thanigai Ula" says, "All the 50 Anubhuthis (verses) are gems that confer Blissful-Experience".
From our study, we can conclude that all the 51 verses of Kanthar Anubhuthi are Arunagirinathar's own; and in fact, the last 8 verses are the real cream and essence of the work. These verses are of an extraordinary nature and we can even affirm without the least hesitation that none but Arunagirinathar could compose such pithy verses of a high spiritual caliber. The entire essence of Vedantic Sadhana as well as many secret clues to higher meditation are so mystically revealed in these verses that a saint of Arunagirinathar's only could do it. Also, as we have seen in our explanations of verses 43 and 44, it is rare that those who attain the Speechless-Experience (Pesaa Anubhuthi, verse 43) remain absorbed in it and never emerge from it. On the other hand, more often than not, they do arise from it and move about as Jivanmuktas and guide the aspirants. Else how are we to account for the rich legacy of spiritual wisdom that we have inherited today? Were Arunagirinathar and other saints to remain absorbed in Samadhi and not arise from it and give us such divine gifts, what would be our pitiable condition? Even this precious gift of Kanthar Anubhuthi, which as Thayumanavar said, was given to us by Arunagirinathar after his attaining God-Experience could not otherwise have come to us. Hence, it would appear not to be proper to conclude that because "Speechless Experience was born" occurs in verse 43, the word ends with that verse.
Samadhi (the state of total absorption in super consciousness) is not necessarily the culmination of Anubhuthi (God-experience). Sahaja Samadhi (natural and continuous super-conscious state) is the final experience, as we have seen from the words of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. While he is absorbed in Samadhi, the liberated one is in static identity with God; when he rises from it, he is in dynamic identity experiencing God in and as everything. "Kanthar" (Skanda or God) is all things. Kanthar Anubhuthi (God-experience) is, therefore, to experience God as all things and all things as God. This is Sahaja Samadhi and this is the purport of this verse. Of course, Samadhi and Sahaja Samadhi static and dynamic identity, respectively are only from our standpoint and they are not relevant to the Jivanmukta himself who is ever in identity with God. Since, however, we see him "absorbed" or "moving about, walking, etc.," we make this distinction between Samadhi and Sahaja Samadhi between static identity and dynamic identity for our convenience. If static identity is "Pesaa Anubhuthi", we may term dynamic identity as "Nadamaadum Anubhuthi". And this state is so very graphically portrayed in this verse. Those blessed to be in this state are verily moving Gods on earth, "Nadamaadum Theivam", of whom Saint Arunagirinathar is unique. Who but Arunagirinathar could pour out one's experience in such ecstatic and mystic terms as in this last verse!
Now, let us see the whole verse: "O Lord Guha! O Supreme Being, who comes (as all these which are) with form and without form, as what is and what is not, as flower and (its) fragrance, as gem and (its) luster, as body (universe) and soul (Universal Spirit) (that animates it), as Moksha and the rules of righteousness (as the Ends and the means), and as the Guru! Bestow Thy grace."
Bestow Thy Grace (on All)
"Arulvaai" "Bestow Thy Grace" or "Bless" says Arunagirinathar. Bless whom? It is not "Bless me" but "Bless all". Because, what more blessing does that Jivanmukta of such an elevated state need? He, himself, is a blessing to others. It is, therefore, more appropriate to take it as his prayer to Lord Guha, who comes as all and as Guru, to bless all by coming (as everything and) as their Guru. That blessedness of God-experience which he enjoys, he prays to the Lord to confer on others, too. It is a prayer to bless all in general and in particular, who receive this Moksha-conferring Kanthar Anubhuthi, who study it systematically (Parayana and Svadhyaya), understand it, and try to put its teachings into practice even in a small measure.
God is all. He comes as all. So He is beseeched to bless All. Arunagirinathar could not contend himself with his Anubhuthi. He wishes that everyone should have God-experience, even as Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj wished.
Thus, ends the grace-bestowing, soul-elevating, mystic work Kanthar Anubhuthi a complete treatise on Advaitic Realization and the Sadhana for it.
May the grace of Saint Arunagirinathar be upon us all! May we daily recite this all-purifying and Moksha-conferring divine gift of Kanthar Anubhuthi and enjoy the grace of Guha!! May He bless us all with God-Experience in this very birth!!!
Om Tat Sat Sivanandarpanamastu!
Om Tat Sat Saravanabhavarpanamastu!
Om That Sat Brahamarpanamastu!
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.