October 2, 2019

The Last Talk of Ramalingam (5): The Taste Of The Transcendental

Traditional Tamilian vegetarian lunch spread on eco-friendly plantain leaf – In the Arutperunjothi Agaval, Ramalingam praises the sustaining power of the OmniLight in terms of the metaphor of delectable and nourishing food: “இளைப்பற வாய்த்த வின்சுவை யுணவே!”


In the notes on Ramalingam’s last talk (பேருபதேசம்), it is reported that he made the following remarks:

“சமயந்தவிர மதங்களில் உள்ள வேதாந்தி சித்தாந்தி யென்று பெயரிட்டுக் கொண்ட பெரியவர்களும் உண்மை யறியாது, சமயவாதிகளைப் போலவே ஒன்று கிடக்க ஒன்றை உளறுகிறார்கள். ஆதலால் நீங்கள் அஃது ஒன்றையும் நம்பவேண்டாம். எவைகளிலும் தெய்வத்தைப் புறமுகமாகப் புலப்படச் சொல்லவில்லை.”

Translation: “Apart from the adherents of religious sects, there are also those in philosophical or theological schools who call themselves “Vedantin” (adherent of Vedanta) , “Siddhantin” (adherent of Siddhanta), and so forth, who senselessly proclaim falsehoods or absurdities in the manner of the adherents of religious sects. Therefore, you should not subscribe to any of their claims. None of them provide an integral and clear account of the nature of the supreme divine being (தெய்வம்) or the OmniLight.”

Here are a few examples of this “உளறல்” or incoherence Ramalingam refers to:

Take the claim, prevalent in some schools of “Vedanta”, that the world is an “illusion” or “Maya” (Saiva Siddhanta uses this term “Maya” in a different sense, to mean the primordial stuff, or matter, which constitutes a cosmos and its objects or entities).  It is meant that the world does not have reality and that it is ignorance, a grave error, to think that it is real.

This is a case of “உளறல்” or incoherence because to think and speak consciously that the world is an “illusion” implies that there is a thinker who possesses the appropriate means, e.g., the instruments of thought, cognition, language, speech, etc., to think and express in speech the thought that “the world is an illusion”. These instruments of thought, cognition, language, speech, etc., must be real or actually exist. Otherwise, one cannot think and express the claim that “the world is an illusion”.

And since entities and instruments don’t exist in a vacuum, the existence of a thinker who uses such means of thought and speech implies the actuality or reality of a world which has facilitated the emergence of these means or instruments and constitutes their basis.

It is important to bear in mind that these schools or forms of “Vedanta” are not purveyors of philosophical skepticism, i.e., the view that we cannot know anything. They acknowledge or assume that we can know that the world is an “illusion” and that Brahman or the Absolute Being is the sole reality. Hence, skeptical arguments in their defense would render their position utterly incoherent.

Further, since illusions are occurrences or events, they do not have the capacity to perceive or recognize themselves as such. It is absurd to think that a mirage or an optical illusion, e.g., seeing an oasis in the distant desert landscape, itself has the capacity to recognize that it is an illusion.

An illusion can occur or happen only for a being which has the capacity of perception, judgment, and knowledge. And, again, such a being can only exercise its capacity of perception, judgment, and knowledge with the help of requisite instruments of cognition which, again, require and imply a real world.

Hence, it is a case of “உளறல்” or incoherence to claim that “the world is an illusion”, a claim which implies that there actually exists a thinker, speaker, instruments of cognition and speech, and world.

Notice also that in judging as an error, or a case of ignorance, the belief in the reality of the world, these “Vedantins” turn incoherent again, since error or ignorance can only be attributed to a being who has the capacity and means of knowledge, i.e., instruments of cognition, and this, again, implies their reality and that of the world in which they have emerged.

As his “Arutperunjothi Agaval” or “Invocations of the OmniLight” makes it clear, Ramalingam accepts the reality of the world, and celebrates its manifold beauty,  its diverse objects and creatures, their attributes, states, and experiences,  all of which is a function of the fact that it is brought about, organized, developed, regulated, sustained, transformed, and dissolved by அருள் or the supreme compassion-force of the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி).

I have also pointed out in an early post that Ramalingam accepts the reality of suffering, a sine qua non of compassion and its development.

In his great essay on the practice of compassion for living beings, Ramalingam refutes the Vedantic doctrine that suffering is an “illusion” because the individual self or soul (ஆன்மா) is really the Atman which is of the nature of bliss (Ananda), and, hence, immune to suffering.

Ramalingam’s refutation of this Vedantic doctrine is based on the fact that there is something which is the bearer, subject, or “experiencer” of enjoyment or suffering, that which recognizes, or remembers, and declares that it has undergone suffering or enjoyment caused by diverse objects, events, etc. He argues that the physical body cannot be the bearer, subject, or “experiencer” of suffering since it has no inherent property of consciousness or intelligence. It is made of material constituents which are insentient and lack the property of intelligence. The instruments of cognition share the same properties.

I would add that these material or physical constituents of the body lack the I-sense or sense of self. Therefore, an essential characteristic of human and non-human sentient beings, viz., the I-sense, cannot be reduced to the properties of the constituents of their physical bodies. How, then, do we account for the reality of the I-sense in sentient beings?

Ramlingam writes in his 1867 essay on compassion for living beings (சீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்):

“இந்தத் தூலதேகத்தில் சீவனாக இருக்கிற ஆன்மாவும் அறிவுக்கறிவாயிருக்கிற கடவுள் இயற்கை விளக்கமுந் தவிர, கரணம், இந்திரியம் முதலிய மற்றவைகளெல்லாம் கருவிகளாகிய தத்துவசடங்களே யல்லது சித்துக்களல்ல.”

In this gross (தூல or sthūla) body, apart from the soul which lives in the body and the inherent illumination of God (கடவுள்) also present in the body, the mind, the inner senses of cognition (கரணம்), and the outer physical senses (இந்திரியம் or Indriyas) are only inert natural constituents (தத்துவசடங்கள்) which are instruments (கருவி) and not entities possessing consciousness and intelligence”.

“ஆகலில் சுகதுக்கங்களைச் சடங்கள் அனுபவிக்க அறியா.”

Therefore, happiness and suffering cannot be experienced and known by those inert natural constituents, viz., senses, mind, the instruments of cognition.

“ஆகலில் ஆன்ம திருஷ்டிக்கு உபநயனங்களாக இருக்கின்ற மனம் முதலான கருவிகள் சுகதுக்கங்களை அனுபவிக்க மாட்டா; ஆன்மாவே அனுபவிக்குமென்று அறியவேண்டும்.”

Therefore, the mind and other instruments which enable a soul to perceive and understand cannot experience happiness and suffering. Only the soul can experience them.”

Thus, that which knows and declares that it has suffered or enjoyed is the soul (ஆன்மா), an immaterial entity, a soultron or conscious particle of light (சிற்றணு பசு), which is the bearer of intelligence and knowledge, but bound and incarnated  in a physical body as a consequence of its three primordial impurities of egoism (ஆணவம்), attachment to matter (மாயை), and karma (கன்மம்).

To return to other important remarks reported by the notes on Ramalingam’s last talk (பேருபதேசம்):

தெய்வத்தைத் தெரிந்து கொள்ளாது இவ்வுலகத்தார் என்னைத் தெய்வமெனச் சுற்றுகின்றார்கள். ஐயோ! நம் சகோதரர்கள் தெய்வத்தைத் தெரிந்து கொள்ளாததினாலேயல்லவா நம்மைச் சுற்றுகிறார்கள்!” என்று நான் உள்ளும் புறமும் பரிதாபப்பட்டுக் கொண்டே இருந்தேன், இருக்கின்றேன், இருப்பேன்.”

Translation: “Not knowing the supreme divine being, people are surrounding and worshiping me as a divine being! “Alas! It is because my soul-kin do not know the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (தெய்வம்) that they are surrounding and worshiping me as a divine being!”. I have been commiserating in this manner and will continue to do so.””

In these remarks, after dissuading against entanglement in the absurdities of sectarian religions and their theological schools, Ramalingam clearly rejects the practice of worshiping human beings as divine persons and points out that this is the result of ignorance, i.e., the lack of knowledge of the supreme divine being (தெய்வம்) or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி).

The manuscript of Ramalingam’s magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval or Invocations of the OmniLight

This is consistent with the verses in his magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval, or Invocations of the OmniLight, which celebrate the gifts bestowed on him by the OmniLight. In the spirit of Ramalingam’s commiseration mentioned earlier, we must turn toward the munificent divine donor, the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) , and not glorify the recipient at the expense of our contemplation of the benevolence of the divine donor.

Ramalingam’s commiseration at the sight of people who were trying to worship him as a divine being, instead of trying to gain knowledge of the divine supreme being or the OmniLight, tells us that he was not interested in encouraging a cult of the Guru, or a cult of the Avatar (divine incarnation).

It is important to note that he did not even designate himself the leader or president of the Suddha Sanmarga Sangam or community of Suddha Sanmargam which he founded. Instead, he affirms that the OmniLight  (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) is the only president or leader of this community.

The great verses in his magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval (Invocations of the OmniLight) invoke அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி or the OmniLight as the supreme Guru or teacher.

Is it not, then, inconsistent with his own prohibition if we worship Ramalingam as a divine being or Guru today?

Certainly, if we are worshiping the human being who had the name “Ramalingam”.

However, such ritual worship (often to the neglect of the imperative of exemplifying his teachings) usually ignores the fact that Ramalingam’s unitive realization of the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) implies that he exists now as a transfigured individual eternally attuned to it and inseparable from it.

If we keep this truth in mind, then we ought to realize that we are really looking up to the OmniLight or அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி when we invoke Ramalingam for guidance or cultivate devotional sentiments toward him. The being which had a human existence and bore the name “Chidambaram Ramalingam” is not a limited individual who confers blessings based on likes or dislikes, avowals of devotion, pooja or ritual worship, praise, etc. We must discard such false notions and always bear in mind that this being now has a transfigured individuality or personhood in the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) and is inseparable from it.

In any case, we must never forget Ramalingam’s prescription to aspire for the experience and enjoyment of the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி)  and continue with the inquiry and practice to attain this experience.

Ramalingam’s radical departure from the traditional Hindu worship of some human beings as gurus, avatars or divine incarnations, and so forth, is also evident from the fact that there are no references to Rama or Krishna, the two great avatars in the Hindu pantheon,  in his post-enlightenment poetry and prose (1872 – 1874).  Even his 1867 essay on the ethic of compassion for living beings makes no reference to any Hindu deities, including Siva, the chief deity of  Saivism.

Ramalingam’s great Hall of Truth-Knowledge (Sathiya  Jnana Sabhai), which he designed without any formal training in architecture, does not have any images or symbols of Hindu deities. The Way of the OmniLight (Suddha Sanmargam) is above, beyond, and immeasurably greater than the narrow alleys of sectarian religions and their theological schools.

Ramalingam’s rejection of the Hindu Varnashrama system implies a rejection of Sannyasa (exemplified by the saffron-robed Hindu order of monks) and the associated cult of the “Swami” or the “Holy One”.

When his students and associates wanted to affix the title of “Swami” to his name in the volume of his collected poetry published during his lifetime, he forbade them (in a letter dated March 28, 1866) for the reason that it was a pompous title (ஆரவாரத்திற்கு அடுத்த பெயராகத் தோன்றுதலில்):

இராமலிங்கசாமியென்று வழங்குவிப்பது என் சம்மதமன்று. என்னை – ஆரவாரத்திற்கு அடுத்த பெயராகத் தோன்றுதலில். இனி அங்ஙனம் வழங்காமை வேண்டும்.

Translation: “I do not consent to being presented (to the public) by the name “Ramalingaswami” since it is pompous and pretentious. It must not be used.”

This tells us what he thought of the cult of the “Swami” or the “Holy One” and similar pretentious and pompous designations assumed by masters (and novices) of the impostures of pretended “holiness” and “enlightenment”.

His personal rejection of the Sannyasa order was also evident in the fact that, although his non-attachment to worldly matters was non pareil, he did not don any religious uniform such as saffron robes, or assume any pompous religious titles such as “Swami”, “Guru”, “Mahatma”, “Maharishi”, “Paramahamsa” and so forth. He invariably signed his letters and appropriate documents simply with his full name “Chidambaram Ramalingam”, notably omitting the caste suffix of “Pillai”.


David Hume (1711 – 1776)

In this context, it may be helpful to take into account the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume’s perceptive remarks on the psychology of pretension and dishonesty of religious authorities, e.g., priests, nuns, gurus, swamis, mullahs, rabbis, monks, Lamas, Rinpoches, “Zen masters”, and so forth.

In his short essay “A Note On the Profession of Priest“, Hume observed that:

“…clergymen…will find it necessary, on particular occasions, to feign more devotion than they are, at that time possessed of, and to maintain the appearance of (religious) fervor and seriousness, even when jaded with the exercises of their religion, or when they have their minds engaged in the common occupations of life. They must not, like the rest of the world, give scope to their natural movements and sentiments: They must set a guard over their looks and words and actions: And in order to support the veneration paid them by the multitude, they must not only keep a remarkable reserve, but must promote the spirit of superstition, by a continued grimace and hypocrisy. This dissimulation often destroys the candor and ingenuity of their temper, and makes an irreparable breach in their character.

The ambition of the clergy can often be satisfied only by promoting ignorance and superstition and implicit faith and pious frauds.

Most men have an overweaning conceit of themselves; but these (clergy) have a peculiar temptation to that vice, who are regarded with such veneration, and are even deemed sacred, by the ignorant multitude.”

Of course, such generalizations allow for exceptions, authentic figures of moral and spiritual excellence. The historical records of religions include such exceptional authentic figures, but they are exceptions in a welter, or pattern, of pretension, pomposity, hypocrisy, and worse.

I pointed out earlier that Ramalingam rejected the sanctimonious title of “swami” and did not encourage veneration by his friends and associates.

Sincerity was a cardinal value in Ramalingam’s ethical outlook. A celebrated prayer-poem he composed in his youth affirms the importance of avoiding insincerity or dissimulation:

“உள்ளொன்று வைத்து புறமொன்று பேசுவார்

உறவு கலவாமை வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “I must eschew relations with those whose speech conceals their true thoughts or intentions.”

He would, therefore, agree with Hume’s criticism of dissimulation and pretension in the religious professions.

The notes on Ramalingam’s last talk also report the following statements:

தெய்வத்தை ஏன் தெரிந்துகொள்ளவில்லையென்றால்: ஒரு பதார்த்தத்தை அனுபவித்தாலல்லது அந்தப் பதார்த்தத்தினுடைய ருசி தெரியாது. ருசி தெரியாத பதார்த்தத்தின் மேல் இச்சை போகாது. அதுபோல், தெய்வத்தையுள்ளபடி அனுபவித்தாலல்லது, தெய்வத்தினிடத்தில் பிரியம் வாராது. ஆதலால், தெய்வத்தைத் தெரிந்து கொள்ள வேண்டுமென்கிற முக்கிய லக்ஷியத்திலிருந்து கொண்டு விசாரஞ் செய்துகொண்டிருங்கள்.”

Translation: “The reason for not knowing the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) is this: if we do not eat and gain experience of a delectable dish, we cannot know and enjoy its taste (and we will have no desire or craving for it). In the same way, if we do not have any experience and enjoyment of the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி), we will not have any desire to know its nature. Therefore, you must have the central goal of experiencing and knowing the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) and continue with your inquiry to achieve this goal.”

This is a clear statement of the importance of striving for the highest spiritual experience, i.e., an experience of the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி).  Ramalingam characteristically draws a simple analogy to show that spiritual experience is essential to gaining knowledge of the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி).

And it is all based on the reasonable assumption that it is only by having an experience of something that we can develop an aptitude for gaining further experience and knowledge of it. It follows that an aptitude for gaining knowledge of the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) can be developed only if we aspire wholeheartedly for spiritual experience and inquire into the means of attaining this experience.

In his magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval (Invocations of the OmniLight), Ramalingam describes an experience unique in the annals of mysticism, his enjoyment and “taste” of the supreme divine being or the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி). His verses on this unique experience are examples of great spiritual or mystical poetry.

I will translate and discuss them in my next post.



May 14, 2019

The Immortalizing Way Of OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி)


Having searched for an alternative to the word “God”, a word which has been horribly corrupted and abused, I have finally arrived at the term “OmniLight” to convey something of the essential import of the Tamil word “அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி” Ramalingam has used to describe the Supreme Being of அருள் (omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent Compassion-Force),  inherent and ultimate reality or truth (இயற்கை உண்மையரென்றும்), inherent and ultimate consciousnessintelligence (இயற்கை அறிவினரென்றும்), and inherent and ultimate bliss (இயற்கை இன்பினரென்றும்).

Ramalingam’s term “அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி” is a composite of three Tamil words: அருள் (the supreme compassion-force which is the support of all existence, experience, and activity in the cosmos), பெரும் (Vast or Immense), and ஜோதி (Light).

As described in Ramalingam’s “Short Petition of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam”, this Being of ஜோதி or Light is the All (எல்லாமானவரென்றும்), All-possessing (எல்லாமுடையவரென்றும்), and All-powerful (எல்லாம்வல்லவரென்றும்).

In the same “Short Petition”, Ramalingam has addressed the Supreme Being or அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி as follows:

உயிர்களின் அகத்தும் புறத்தும் அகப்புறத்தும் புறப்புறத்தும் நீக்கமின்றி நிறைந்து விளங்குகின்ற அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி ஆண்டவரே!

Translation: “அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி, the Supreme Being which is immaculately present in the inmost, inner, outer, and outermost domains of all living beings!”

And in his magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval, or “Invocations of the OmniLight”, he describes the OmniLight as the elixir ( அமுது) which expands in the four domains of the inmost, inner, outer, and the outermost:

அகம்புற மகப்புற மாகிய புறப்புறம்

உகந்தநான் கிடத்து மோங்கிய வமுதே

The inmost (அகம்), inner (அகப்புறம் – what is outer to the inmost) , outer (புறம்), and outermost (புறப்புறம் – what is external to the outer) domains are the jointly exhaustive domains of all existence. They correspond to the essence (the soul in the case of all sentient beings), inner structure (the mind and its cognitive apparatus, its inner senses or “organs” in the case of sentient beings), outer structure (body), and environment (habitat, world, universe) of all entities.

The inmost (அகம்), the root of individual consciousness, the domain of the soul, is the locus of experience and knowledge and the source of action in sentient beings. The other domains are instrumental in enabling experience, knowledge, and action in the soul.

The immaculate presence of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (OmniLight) in these four domains of existence is also the significance of Ramalingam’s invocation of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (OmniLight) four times at the start of his magnum opus அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி அகவல் or “Verses on the OmniLight of Compassion”:

அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி யருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி யருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

Taking all these aspects of Ramalingam’s description into account, I think that the term “OmniLight” captures a great deal of the attributes of  அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or the Supreme Being.

“Omni” stems from the Latin word “omnis” meaning “all”. The prefix “omni” has the connotation “of all things, in all ways or places”. Thus, the term “OmniLight” (the absence of hyphenation indicates an integral being which brooks no separation, albeit by punctuation, of its Allness and Light! )  certainly captures important aspects of the inexhaustible essence of  அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or the Supreme Being.

Why is it the Way Of OmniLight? As Ramalingam has repeatedly affirmed in prose and verse, Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam is the Way shown by அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight out of its boundless compassion for sentient beings caught in the dreadful three-fold net of ignorant identification with the physical body, confinement to egocentricity, and subjection to karma or physical, mental, moral and/or spiritual causal chains. The Way shown by அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight is the way of liberation from this dreadful three-fold bondage of ignorance.

It is also the Way Of OmniLight in the sense that it subsists in அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight from inception to consummation. All modes of development on this Way are initiated, sustained, and consummated by அருள் or the supreme compassion-force of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight.

It is immaculately present at all steps on this way and supports the dedicated aspirant at all times and in all stages of the journey. The essential requirement is total surrender to the workings of அருள் or the supreme compassion-force of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight. It is the locus (பதம்) and the Lord (பதி) of the Way.

Why is it the “Immortalizing Way”? The Way of OmniLight is the only way to immortality or the conquest of dying and its concomitant adversities of aging, disease, and decrepitude. அருள் or the supreme compassion-force of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight is the only force capable of conferring immortality on the dedicated aspirant who treads its Way.

As Ramalingam’s late writings in prose and poetry make it clear, this is essentially a question of attaining a supernal embodied state of being, consciousness, and bliss in which dying and its concomitant adversities are completely absent.

The attainment of this supernal immortal embodied state of being and consciousness must be sharply distinguished from the vain pursuit of achieving the immortality of the terrestrial physical body constituted by impure substances, molecules, and atoms, all subject to corruption, deficiency, decay, and disintegration.

The different aspects of Ramalingam’s sublime description of the Great Embodied Life Without Death attained only on the Way of OmniLight will be addressed in other posts on this blog.

Leaving behind the sectarian obscurities, limitations, corruptions, distortions, and divisions of religious traditions and institutions, let us embark on the impeccable Immortalizing Way of OmniLight!





April 14, 2019

The Last Talk of Ramalingam (4): The Ladder Of Compassion

The notes on Ramalingam’s last talk report his emphasis on the truth that this precious human life has a limited span of time and ought not to be wasted on pursuing the paltry or lesser benefits (of these sectarian religions and theologies) at the expense of attaining the incomparable great life based on soul-realization (ஆன்மானுபவம்) of the supreme being (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி) who is inherent and ultimate reality (இயற்கையுண்மை).

The notes also indicate that after prescribing the renunciation of the dogmas and practices of the Indian sectarian religious schools of Saivism, Vaishnavism, etc., and the theological doctrines of Vedanta, Siddhanta, etc., Ramalingam declared that his own case offered testimony to the soundness of his prescription:

“சைவம் வைணவம் முதலிய சமயங்களிலும், வேதாந்தம் சித்தாந்தம் முதலிய மதங்களிலும் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம். அவற்றில் தெய்வத்தைப் பற்றிக் குழூஉக் குறியாகக் குறித்திருக்கிறதேயன்றிப் புறங்கவியச் சொல்லவில்லை. அவ்வாறு பயிலுவோமேயானால் நமக்குக் காலமில்லை. ஆதலால் அவற்றில் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம். ஏனெனில், அவைகளிலும் அவ்வச்சமய மதங்களிலும் – அற்பப் பிரயோஜனம் பெற்றுக் கொள்ளக்கூடுமேயல்லது, ஒப்பற்ற பெரிய வாழ்வாகிய இயற்கையுண்மை என்னும் ஆன்மானுபவத்தைப் பெற்றுக் கொள்கின்றதற்கு முடியாது. ஏனெனில் நமக்குக் காலமில்லை. மேலும், இவைகளுக்கெல்லாம் சாக்ஷி நானே யிருக்கின்றேன்.” (பேருபதேசம்)

Translation: “Don’t adhere to the religious schools of Saivam (the cult of Siva) or Vaishnavam (the cult of Vishnu) or the theological schools of Vedanta (absolute monism) or (Saiva) Siddhanta (theistic dualism). They are full of obscurantist esoteric jargon in their description of God or ultimate reality and, therefore, fail to provide a clear and integral account of it. We do not have time to pursue their diverse and conflicting precepts and practices.

Further, they only lead to paltry or limited benefits and do not enable us to attain the incomparable great life based on soul-realization (ஆன்மானுபவம்) of inherent and ultimate reality (இயற்கையுண்மை or அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி ). I am myself a witness to all this.”

Why did he say that “இவைகளுக்கெல்லாம் சாக்ஷி நானே யிருக்கின்றேன்” or make the claim that his own case offered testimony to the soundness of his prescription?

The notes on his last talk provide the clarification:

“மேலும், இவைகளுக்கெல்லாம் சாக்ஷி நானே யிருக்கின்றேன். நான் முதலில் சைவ சமயத்தில் லக்ஷியம் வைத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தது இவ்வளவென்று அளவு சொல்ல முடியாது. அது பட்டணத்துச் சுவாமிகளுக்கும் வேலாயுத முதலியாருக்கும் இன்னும் சிலருக்குத் தெரியும். அந்த லக்ஷியம் இப்போது எப்படிப் போய்விட்டது. பார்த்தீர்களா! அப்படி லக்ஷியம் வைத்ததற்குச் சாட்சி வேறே வேண்டியதில்லை. நான் சொல்லியிருக்கிற – திருவருட்பாவில் அடங்கியிருக்கிற – ஸ்தோத்திரங்களே போதும். அந்த ஸ்தோத்திரங்களையும் மற்றவர்களுடைய ஸ்தோத்திரங்களையும் சபைக்குக் கொண்டு வந்தால், அவைகளே சாக்ஷி சொல்லிவிடும்.

ஏன் அவ்வளவு மிகுந்த அழுத்தம் எனக்கு அப்போதிருந்ததென்றால், அப்போது எனக்கு அவ்வளவு கொஞ்சம் அற்ப அறிவாக இருந்தது.”

Translation: “I am myself a witness to all this. The extent of my earlier adherence to the religious school of Saivam (Southern Saivism) cannot be measured. This is known to my long-time associates Pattanatthu Swamigal, Velayuda Mudaliyaar, and others. Do you see how I have now completely given up that adherence to Saivam? My hymns in Thiruarutpa collection offer sufficient testimony to my earlier adherence to Saivam.

Why did I adhere to Saivam to that great extent in the past? It was because of my paltry or narrow understanding at that time (அப்போது எனக்கு அவ்வளவு கொஞ்சம் அற்ப அறிவாக இருந்தது).”

According to the notes on his last talk, after this astounding dismissal of his earlier adherence to the religious sect of Saivam, Ramalingam went on to say:

“இப்போது ஆண்டவர் என்னை ஏறாத நிலைமேலேற்றியிருக்கின்றார். இப்போது எல்லாவற்றையும் விட்டு விட்டதினால் வந்த லாபம் இது. ஆதலால் நீங்களும் விட்டு விட்டீர்களானால், என்னைப்போல் பெரிய லாபத்தைப் பெறுவீர்கள்.”

Translation: “God has now lifted me to the highest state. This is because I gave up adherence to all these things (sectarian religions and theologies). You will also attain the same highest state if you renounce your adherence (to sectarian religions and theologies).”

He anticipates the retort that his earlier adherence to the religious tradition of (southern) Saivam was the factor responsible for his present attainment and replies as follows:

நான் அப்படி அந்தச் சமயத்தில் வைத்திருந்த லக்ஷியமே என்னை இந்த நிலையில் தூக்கி விட்டதென்றாலோ, அந்த லக்ஷியம் தூக்கிவிடவில்லை. என்னை இந்த இடத்துக்குத் தூக்கிவிட்டது யாதெனில்: அக்காலத்திலேயே எனக்குத் தெரிவிக்க வேண்டியதைத் தெரிவித்தாரென்று வாசகப் பெரு விண்ணப்பத்தினும், “எத்தேவரையும் நின் சாயையாய்ப் பார்த்ததேயன்றித் தலைவ! வேறெண்ணியதுண்டோ* என, “தேடியதுண்டு நினதுருவுண்மை” என்னும் தொடக்கமுடைய பதிகத்திலும் விண்ணப்பித்திருக்கின்றேன். மேலும் அவர் தெரிவித்த உண்மைப் பெருநெறி ஒழுக்கம் யாதெனில். “கருணையும் சிவமே பொருளெனக் காணும் காட்சியும் பெறுக“** என்றது தான். என்னை யேறாநிலை மிசை யேற்றி விட்டது யாதெனில் தயவு. தயவு என்னுங் கருணைதான் என்னைத் தூக்கி விட்டது.”

Translation: “If it is rejoined that my earlier adherence to the religious sect of Saivam was responsible for my present attainment, the truth is that it did not lift me to my present exalted condition. I have said in the “Long Petition” (பெருவிண்ணப்பம்) that even in my earlier years, the essential aspects of the true path were revealed to me (by அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or God). I have also indicated what has lifted me to my present state in these verses in my songs:

மாயையாற் கலங்கி வருந்திய போதும்
வள்ளல்உன் தன்னையே மதித்துன்
சாயையாப் பிறரைப் பார்த்ததே அல்லால்
தலைவவே றெண்ணிய துண்டோ (திருஅருட்பா 3635)

“Even when I was perplexed and aggrieved by Maya (matter and its antics), I contemplated only you (God) as worthy of worship and looked on others (deities of religious sects, etc) as your shadows or reflections.”

தேடியதுண்டு நினதுருவுண்மை…

அம்பலத் அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி” (திருஅருட்பா 4227)

“I did seek to know your nature, அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி who abides in transcendent space.”

Further, as revealed by அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி, I have described the practice of the true path (உண்மைப் பெருநெறி ஒழுக்கம்) in these verses:

கருணையும் சிவமே பொருள்எனக் காணும்
காட்சியும் பெறுகமற் றெல்லாம்
எனநீ எனக்கறி வித்த
வண்ணமே பெற்றிருக் கின்றேன் (திருஅருட்பா 3503)

“As revealed by you, I have realized that only compassion and the perception that you are the sole inherent reality are of importance. All else belongs to the way of ignorance.”

Thus, what has lifted me to my present incomparably high condition is compassion (தயவு என்னுங் கருணை).”

It is noteworthy that in his last talk Ramalingam affirms the central truth of his great essay “The Ethic of Compassion” or ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்: the practice of compassion for all living beings is the only means of attaining enlightenment or realization of ultimate reality or அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி. It underscores the fact that the practice of compassion for all living beings is an essential requirement of the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam.

The notes on his last talk report that Ramalingam made further remarks on compassion:

“அந்தத் தயவுக்கு ஒருமை வர வேண்டும். அந்த ஒருமை இருந்தால்தான் தயவு வரும். தயவு வந்தால்தான் பெரிய நிலைமேல் ஏறலாம். இப்போது என்னுடைய அறிவு அண்டாண்டங்களுக்கு அப்பாலும் கடந்திருக்கிறது. அது அந்த ஒருமையினாலேதான் வந்தது. நீங்களும் என்னைப்போல் ஒருமையுடனிருங்கள்.”

Translation: “To attain that (universal) compassion, there must be unitive perception and sensibility (ஒருமை). This unitive perception and sensibility leads to the fullness of compassion. And you can ascend to the highest condition only if you have compassion in its fullness. My knowledge now extends beyond the cosmos. This has come about as a result of attaining unitive perception and sensibility. You must also cultivate this spirit of unity.”

Note the reference to his level of knowledge: “My knowledge now extends beyond the cosmos.” Ramalingam was not given to self-aggrandizement or hyperbole in his utterances. His magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval or the Canticles On Arutperunjothi clarifies the source of this cosmic and supra-cosmic consciousness and knowledge, namely, “the supreme transcendent Gem” (பரம்பர மணி) or Arutperunjothi, the ultimate reality:

“அண்டமு மதன்மே லண்டமு மவற்றுள

பண்டமுங் காட்டிய பரம்பர மணியே”

The supreme transcendent Gem (Arutperunjothi)

showed me universe above universe (அண்டம்)

and their constituents and truths (பண்டம்).

“பிண்டமு மதிலுறு பிண்டமு மவற்றுள

பண்டமுங் காட்டிய பராபர மணியே”

The supreme transcendent Gem (Arutperunjothi)

showed me body within body (பிண்டம்)

and their constituents and truths (பண்டம்).

These verses composed in 1872 are astonishing in their contemporary scientific relevance, i.e., in light of our current scientific thought on multiple universes and complex structures and microscopic worlds within bodies.

His affirmation of the importance of achieving unitive perception and sensibility (ஒருமை) is also in accordance with the emphasis placed in the “Short Petition of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam” (சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியச் சிறு விண்ணப்பம்) on cultivating spiritual kinship, or sense of soul-unity with other beings:

சுத்த சன்மார்க்கத்தின் முக்கிய லஷியமாகிய ஆன்மநேய ஒருமைபாட்டுரிமை எங்களுக்குள் எக்காலத்தும் எவ்விடத்தும் எவ்விதத்தும் விலகாமல் நிறைந்து விளங்கச் செய்வித்தருளல் வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “May the central ideal of Suddha Sanmargam, the ideal of realizing soul-unity with other beings, manifest itself in us completely at all times and in all places and never be diminished in any form.”

His further remarks, reported in the notes on his last talk, clarify the basis of this realization of soul-unity with other beings:

“எல்லவரும் சகோதரர்களாதலாலும், இயற்கை யுண்மை யேகதேசங்களாதலாலும், நான் அங்ஙனம் ஆன்ம நேய ஒருமைப்பாட்டுரிமை வைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிறேன்.”

Translation: “Since all beings are kin to one another by virtue of the fact that they are all microcosmic manifestations of one ultimate substance, being, or reality (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி), I abide in the sense of soul-unity with all beings (ஆன்ம நேய ஒருமைப்பாட்டுரிமை).”

Thus, in his last talk, Ramalingam makes it clear that his own enlightenment or realization of ultimate reality (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி) had nothing to do with his past devotion to Saivam (a form of devotion which, in his case, had nothing to do with adherence to scriptural dogmas, or orthodox rituals, or divisive social codes) and that it was the consummation of his practice of the sense of soul-unity, or spiritual kinship, with other beings and its salient concomitant, universal compassion.

















November 25, 2018

The Last Talk of Ramalingam (3): Post-Religious Theism

An old photo of Siddhi Valaagam or “Abode of Adepthood”, the venue of Ramalingam’s last talk in October 1873

Ramalingam’s path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam is best characterized as post-religious theism.

It is a form of theism because it affirms the existence of Arutperumjothi (Immense Light of Grace-Compassion) or God, a being who has the attributes of  “இயற்கை உண்மையரென்றும்” or inherent truth or reality (not dependent for its existence on anything and bereft of any illusion or deception in its nature),  “இயற்கை அறிவினரென்றும்” or inherent unlimited consciousness and intelligence or capacity to know (its consciousness and intelligence or capacity to know are not dependent on anything and undergo no modifications in their nature), and “இயற்கை இன்பினரென்றும்” or inherent unlimited bliss of existence and activity (its bliss is not dependent on anything and undergoes no modifications in its nature).

Why is it post-religious theism?

It is post-religious in the sense that it transcends the extant world religions and their theologies. There are indications that the term “transcendence”, in the sense in which it was conceived by the German philosopher Hegel (1770 – 1831), is apposite in this context. In the Hegelian sense, “transcendence” is sublation (German: aufheben), a dual process of negation and preservation.  On this account, any view or theory A transcends another view or theory B by preserving the truths of B and rejecting its falsehoods. Of course, theory A also uncovers truths not discerned by theory B.

Thus, the post-religious theism of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam negates or eliminates the falsehoods and morally bad practices of the world religions and theologies, but also preserves within its own framework any truths and goods of these religions and their theologies.

The eliminative aspect or the negation of the religious and theological traditions is evident in Ramalingam’s prescription in his last talk:

“இதற்கு மேற்பட, நாம் நாமும் முன் பார்த்தும் கேட்டும் லக்ஷியம் வைத்துக்கொண்டிருந்த வேதம், ஆகமம், புராணம், இதிகாசம் முதலிய கலைகள் எதனிலும் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம்.”

Translation: “We must give up our adherence to the scriptures – Vedas, Agamas, Puranas, Itihasas, etc., – which are but a play of imagination and language  (Tamil: கலைகள்).”

“இதுபோல், சைவம் வைணவம் முதலிய சமயங்களிலும், வேதாந்தம் சித்தாந்தம் முதலிய மதங்களிலும் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம்.”(பேருபதேசம்)

Translation: “In just the same way, we must give up our adherence to the religions of Saivism, Vaishnavism, etc., and the philosophical-theological systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, etc.”

The report on Ramalingam’s talk is certainly accurate on these points. It is amply supported by many passages in the authentic manuscripts of Ramalingam’s  Sanmarga Vinappams or supplications of Sanmargam addressed to Arutperumjothi:

இது தொடங்கி எக்காலத்தும் சுத்த சன்மார்க்கத்தின் முக்கியத்தடைகளாகிய சமயங்கள், மதங்கள், மார்க்கங்கள் என்பனவற்றின் ஆசார சங்கற்ப விகற்பங்களும், வருணம், ஆசிரமம் முதலிய உலகாசார சங்கற்ப விகற்பங்களும், எங்கள் மனத்திற் பற்றாதவண்ணம் அருள் செய்தல் வேண்டும்.” (சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியச் சிறு விண்ணப்பம் – The True “Short Supplication” of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam)

Translation: “From now on, at all times, enable us by your grace to keep our minds free from adherence and attachment to the main obstacles to the path of Suddha Sanmargam, namely, the sects and schools of various religions and theologies and their fanciful and dubious orthodox dogmas and practices and the equally fanciful and dubious orthodox customs and ceremonies of Varṇa (the four-fold traditional exclusive social hierarchy of caste and class) and Ashrama (the four exclusive social “stations” and “life-stages” of celibate-student, householder, retiree, and renunciate or monk).”

“அச்சிறு பருவத்திற்றானே ஜாதி ஆசாரம், ஆசிரம ஆசாரம், என்னும் பொய்யுலக ஆசாரத்தைப் பொய்யென்றறிவித்து அவைகளை அனுட்டியாமல் தடை செய்வித்து அப்பருவம் ஏறுந்தோறும் எனது அறிவை விளக்கஞ் செய்து செய்து என்னை மேல்நிலையில் ஏற்றி ஏற்றி நிலைக்கவைத் தருளினீர்.” (சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியப் பெரு விண்ணப்பம் – The True “Long Supplication” of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam)

Translation: “Even at a young age, you made known to me that the orthodox customs and ceremonies of caste and Ashrama or social divisions of “life-stages” (of celibate-student, householder, retiree, and renunciate or monk) were dubious worldly practices and prevented me from following them.”

“வாலிபப்பருவம் தோன்றிய போதே சைவம் வைணவம் சமணம் பவுத்தம் முதலாகப் பலபெயர் கொண்டு பலபட விரிந்த அளவிறந்த சமயங்களும் அச்சமயங்களில் குறித்த சாதனங்களும் தெய்வங்களும் கதிகளும் தத்துவ சித்தி விகற்பங்கள் என்றும், அவ்வச் சமயங்களில் பலபட விரிந்த வேதங்கள் ஆகமங்கள் புராணங்கள் சாத்திரங்கள் முதலிய கலைகள் எல்லாம் தத்துவ சித்திக் கற்பனைக் கலைகள் என்றும், உள்ளபடியே எனக்கு அறிவித்து அச்சமயாசாரங்களைச் சிறிதும் அனுட்டியாமல் தடைசெவித் தருளினீர். அன்றியும் வேதாந்தம் சித்தாந்தம் போதாந்தம் நாதாந்தம் யோகாந்தம் கலாந்தம் முதலாகப் பலபெயர் கொண்ட பலபடவிரிந்த மதங்களும் மார்க்கங்களும் சுத்த சன்மார்க்க அனுபவ லேச சித்தி பேதங்கள் என்று அறிவித்து அவைகளையும் அனுட்டியாதபடி தடைசெய்வித் தருளினீர்.” (சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியப் பெரு விண்ணப்பம் – The True “Long Supplication” of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam)

Translation: “Even in my youth, you made known to me the truth that the religions of Saivism, Vaishnavism, Jainism, Buddhism, etc., and their diverse sects, each with its practices, deities, goals, scriptures, texts, and so forth, were all vitiated by erroneous philosophical conceptions and were the products of  philosophical imagination and a play of words, and prevented me from following them. You also made known to me that the various theological systems and practices of Vedanta, Siddhanta, Yoganta, Nadanta, and Kalanta were but minor and limited forms of the realizations and attainments on the path of Suddha Sanmargam and prevented me from adherence to those systems and practices.”

It is clear that these remarks in Ramalingam’s last talk and his late writings on Sanmarga Vinappams or Supplications both reject the extant religious and theological traditions of India and the social divisions, caste and Ashrama, they sought to justify.

I should also note in this context Ramalingam’s rejection of the heaven-hell eschatology of Vedic ritualism, i.e., the notion that heaven or hell is the end-state of an individual soul and that it must strive to attain heavenly realms by performing prescribed Vedic rituals, worship of deities, and  meritorious actions in life. 

Ramalingam accepts the existence of heavenly and hellish realms and their denizens, but he rejects the notion that either of these realms constitute the end-state of the individual soul and that it must strive to attain the heavenly realms, rather than fall into the hellish realms,  by performing the requisite rituals, worship of deities, and meritorious deeds in this life.

I think that his grounds for rejecting the heaven-hell eschatology of Vedic ritualism imply also a rejection of any religious doctrine which supposes that heaven or hell is the end-state of an individual soul and that it must strive to attain heaven (conceived in terms of an agglomeration and enhancement of earthly pleasures or joys) by adhering to a given body of dogmas and precepts. It is plausible to think that Ramalingam would have rejected the eschatological doctrines of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on the same grounds.

The notes on his last talk report his observations on heaven and hell:

“நாம் அடைய வேண்டுவது முடிவான ஆன்மலாபமாகிய சிவானுபவமேயன்றி வேறில்லை.இங்குள்ள எல்லவர்க்கும் சுவர்க்க நரக விசாரமில்லை. சுவர்க்க நரக விசாரமுள்ளவர்கள் தங்கள் கருத்தின்படி பலவகைச் சாதனங்களைச் செய்து அற்ப பிரயோஜனத்தைப் பெற்று, முடிவில் தடைப்பட்டுத் திருவருட்டுணையால் கருணை நன் முயற்சியெடுத்துக்கொண்டு, பின் முடிவான சித்தி இன்பத்தைப்பெறுவார்கள்.” (பேருபதேசம்)

Translation: “Our ultimate goal is the attainment of the highest spiritual good of God-realization or intimate soul-experience of the intrinsic nature of God. For those assembled here, there should be no concern with heaven or hell. Those who are concerned with heaven or hell may pursue various practices in accordance with their conceptions. They will only attain paltry benefits in the end and will not be able to progress farther. They will have to turn to the path of compassion and attain the ultimate good and bliss.”

The notes on his last talk also give Ramalingam’s reasons for his call to give up adherence to the extant religious and theological traditions and their sacred scriptures:

“இதற்கு மேற்பட, நாம் நாமும் முன் பார்த்தும் கேட்டும் லக்ஷியம் வைத்துக்கொண்டிருந்த வேதம், ஆகமம், புராணம், இதிகாசம் முதலிய கலைகள் எதனிலும் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம். ஏனென்றால், அவைகளில் ஒன்றிலாவது குழூஉக்குறியன்றித் தெய்வத்தை இன்னபடி என்றும், தெய்வத்தினுடைய உண்மை இன்னதென்றும், கொஞ்சமேனும் புறங்கவியச் சொல்லாமல், மண்ணைப்போட்டு மறைத்துவிட்டார்கள்.”  (பேருபதேசம்)

Translation: “There is no need to continue with our past adherence to the scriptures or sacred texts such as the Vedas, Agamas, Puranas, Itihasas, and such constructions of the play of imagination and language (கலைகள்). None of these texts describe with clarity and accuracy the nature of God.  They are replete with esoteric jargon (குழூஉக்குறி) which obfuscates with its dust the nature of ultimate divine reality. They fail to provide an integral account (புறங்கவிய) of it.”

In addition to the criticisms that the Vedas, Agamas, Puranas, etc., are constructions of the play of imagination and language, that their recourse to esoteric jargon obfuscates our understanding of the nature of God or ultimate divine reality, and that they fail to provide an integral account of that reality, the notes on his last talk also mention other reasons given by Ramalingam for his rejection of the extant religious and theological traditions:

பிண்ட லக்ஷணத்தை அண்டத்தில் காட்டினார்கள். யாதெனில்: கைலாசபதி என்றும் வைகுண்டபதிஎன்றும் சத்தியலோகாதிபதியென்றும் பெயரிட்டு, இடம், வாகனம், ஆயுதம் வடிவம், ரூபம், முதலியவையும் ஒரு மனுஷ்யனுக்கு அமைப்பதுபோல் அமைத்து, உண்மையாக இருப்பதாகச் சொல்லியிருக்கின்றார்கள். “தெய்வத்துக்குக் கை கால் முதலியன இருக்குமா?” என்று கேட்பவர்க்குப்பதில் சொல்லத் தெரியாது விழிக்கின்றார்கள்.”  (பேருபதேசம்)

Translation: “They (the scriptures or sacred texts, e.g., Vedas, Puranas, etc.) projected the features of finite physical bodies  (பிண்ட லக்ஷணத்தை) on God or the cosmic divine reality (அண்டத்தில்). They conceived of God or the cosmic divine reality in anthropomorphic terms, e.g., a person with names such as “Lord of Kailasa” (Siva),  “Lord of Vaikunta” (Vishnu) , etc., and a physical form with features such as hands, legs, and so forth, bearing weapons, riding special vehicles, and inhabiting a distinctive physical environment (Siva on Mt. Kailas, Vishnu on the “milky ocean”, etc). When asked “How is it possible for God to have hands, legs, and so forth?”, the adherents of these conceptions are at a loss for reply.”

அவைகளில் ஏகதேச கர்மசித்திகளைக் கற்பனைகளாகச் சொல்லியிருக்கின்றார்கள். அதற்காக ஒவ்வொரு சித்திக்குப் பத்து வருஷம் எட்டு வருஷம் பிரயாசை எடுத்துக் கொண்டால், அற்ப சித்திகளையடையலாம். அதற்காக அவற்றில் லக்ஷியம் வைத்தால் ஆண்டவரிடத்தில் வைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிற லக்ஷியம் போய்விடும். ஆண்டவரிடத்தில் வைத்த லக்ஷியம் போய்விட்டால், நீங்கள் அடையப் போகிற பெரிய பிரயோஜனம் போய்விடும். அல்லது, அதில் முயற்சி செய்து, அவ்வளவு காலம் உழைத்து, அந்த அற்பப்பிரயோஜனத்தைத் தெரிந்து கொண்டு, அதனால் ஒரு லாபத்தை ஏகதேசம் அடைந்தால், முக்கிய லாபம் போய்விடும். ஆகையால், அவைகளில் லக்ஷியம் வைக்காமல், ஆண்டவரிடத்திலேயே லக்ஷியம் வைக்கவேண்டியது.”

Translation: “(In these scriptures of religions), there are accounts of minor and deficient Karma Siddhis or occult powers of action (underlying the performance of “miracles”) and which are embellished with concoctions of the imagination.  To attain these minor and deficient siddhis or occult powers to perform “miracles”, one may waste eight or ten years in the requisite practices. And in the pursuit of these minor and deficient occult powers, one loses sight of the greatest goal or attainment of God-realization. Therefore, do not be distracted by the accounts of these minor and deficient siddhis or occult powers given in the scriptures, sacred texts, etc., and pursue only the goal of God-realization.”

“சைவம் வைணவம் முதலிய சமயங்களிலும், வேதாந்தம் சித்தாந்தம் முதலிய மதங்களிலும் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம். அவற்றில் தெய்வத்தைப் பற்றிக்குழூஉக் குறியாகக் குறித்திருக்கிறதேயன்றிப் புறங்கவியச் சொல்லவில்லை. அவ்வாறுபயிலுவோமேயானால் நமக்குக் காலமில்லை. ஆதலால் அவற்றில் லக்ஷியம் வைக்க வேண்டாம். ஏனெனில், அவைகளிலும் அவ்வச்சமய மதங்களிலும் – அற்பப் பிரயோஜனம் பெற்றுக் கொள்ளக்கூடுமேயல்லது, ஒப்பற்ற பெரிய வாழ்வாகிய இயற்கையுண்மை என்னும் ஆன்மானுபவத்தைப் பெற்றுக் கொள்கின்றதற்கு முடியாது. ஏனெனில் நமக்குக் காலமில்லை.”

Translation: “There is no need to follow any of the religions such as Saivism, Vaishnavism, etc., and any of the philosophical-theological systems such as Vedanta, Siddhanta, etc. They do not describe integrally (புறங்கவிய) the nature of God. They obfuscate our understanding of the nature of God by means of esoteric jargon (குழூஉக்குறி). Our time is too limited to be wasted on their pursuit. The goals of these religions and philosophical-theological systems confer only paltry and limited benefits (அற்பப் பிரயோஜனம்) and do not lead us to the incomparable life based on the soul-experience of the intrinsic nature (of God or ultimate reality). Again, our time is too limited to be wasted in the pursuit of the paltry and limited benefits offered by the goals of religions and philosophical-theological systems.”


To recapitulate, Ramalingam’s rejection of the extant religious and philosophical-theological systems rests on the following reasons:

A. They do not provide a clear, accurate, consistent, and integral account of the nature of God or ultimate divine reality. Rather, by recourse to esoteric jargon, they obfuscate our understanding of that reality.

B. They have become fragmented into diverse and rival sects or schools and (it may be added) only produce more confusion and conflict.

C. They proffer concoctions and false or defective constructions of the philosophical or metaphysical imagination and engage in a play of language, e.g., esoteric jargon.

D. They commit errors of anthropomorphism by attributing to God physical features such as body, weapons, vehicle, habitation, and so forth.

E. They have paltry and limited goals, e.g., heaven with its pleasures, minor and deficient occult powers to perform “miracles”, liberation from desires, etc., which fall far short of the summum bonum of human existence, namely, the attainment of an incomparable life of bliss, knowledge, and power based on the intimate soul-experience of the intrinsic nature of God or ultimate divine reality.

The notes on Ramalingam’s talk also mention autobiographical remarks of great significance. I will discuss them in the next post.






July 27, 2018

The Last Talk of Ramalingam (2): Worldly and Spiritual Inquiry


An old photo of Siddhi Valaagam or “Abode of Adepthood”, the venue of Ramalingam’s last talk in October 1873


Although these notes of his last talk are garbled in some places, they remain a crucial record for understanding Ramalingam’s views expressed in October 1873, a few months before his decision, at the age of 50,  to depart from the ken of mortals.  And there is a great deal in these notes on Ramalingam’s last talk consistent with his late writings in prose and poetry.

The radical and progressive nature of the views expressed by Ramalingam in his last talk in 1873 is evident from their contents. Perhaps, they retain their radical and progressive tenor even today.

In his last talk, Ramalingam rejected anthropomorphic religious thought, the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and their theologies (and his rejection of heaven-hell eschatology implies a rejection of  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), religious sectarianism and the resulting social divisions, the Indian theologico-philosophical systems of Vedanta, Siddhanta, etc., and the social canker of casteism. I will address these aspects of Ramalingam’s radical critique in my next post in this series on his last talk.

Even in 1873, he affirmed and pointed the way toward a Post-Religious and Universalist moral and spiritual consciousness. Although he had no formal education, and had no normal access to developments in science in the West in the 19th century, he embraced scientific inquiry, especially cosmology and human biology, as an important part of a comprehensive spiritual inquiry on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, i.e., an inquiry, into the nature of ultimate reality, whose goal is the attainment of the immortal life of supreme wisdom, power, and bliss.

Of course, it is the presupposition of such spiritual inquiry on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, a presupposition whose truth is affirmed in Ramalingam’s own testimony, that the nature of ultimate reality is அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (Arutperumjothi), or the Immense Light of Compassion, which bestows the immortal life of supreme wisdom, power, and bliss on those who have unconditionally surrendered body, life, and soul to it.

The notes state that Ramalingam pointed out that inquiry, as he conceives it, leads to liberation from sorrow,  but attribute to him garbled claims on the root meaning of the Tamil term for inquiry, விசாரம் (vicāram).

He is supposed to have said that the prefix “வி” (Vi) serves to negate what follows. It does have that sense or function in some Tamil words, e.g., “விராகம்” (virākam), which means the absence of “ராகம்”, or desire, or craving. “வி” (Vi) negates “ராகம்” (rākam) which means desire or craving.

However, the notes attribute to Ramalingam the claim that “விசாரம்” (vicāram) implies negation or absence of sorrow in that the prefix “வி”  (Vi) negates “சாரம்”  and the latter word “சாரம்” (cāram) is supposed to mean “துக்கம்” (tukkam) or suffering. The notes state:

சார மென்கின்றது துக்கம். விசார மென்கின்றது துக்க நிவர்த்தி. வி உபசர்க்கம். சாரமென்கின்ற துக்கத்தை நிவர்த்தித்தது வி ஆதலால், விசாரமென்கின்றது.”

Translation: ““சாரம்” (cāram) means “துக்கம்” (tukkam) or suffering. The prefix “வி” negates “சாரம்” (cāram) or suffering. Therefore, “விசாரம்” means negation or removal of suffering.”

On the contrary, as far as I have been able to ascertain from Tamil dictionaries, the word “சாரம்” (cāram) does not connote suffering at all. Therefore, the term “விசாரம்” (vicāram) cannot possibly mean removal or negation of suffering. In fact, one of the meanings of “விசாரம்” (vicāram) is anxiety or disquietude. The notes claim that Ramalingam rejected this sense of “விசாரம்” (vicāram), but provide no plausible explanation.

This is a good example of the fact that these notes of his last talk are garbled on some points and, therefore, cannot be taken at face-value. They must be evaluated in light of the late writings available in his own hand.

The prefix “வி”  also connotes திசை (ticai) or direction. “சாரம்” (cāram) also means the “core, gist, or essence” of something. This suggests that “விசாரம்” (vicāram) means moving toward the core, or gist, or essence of something. In other words, it means that inquiry proceeds toward the core, or gist, or essence of something.

Since சாரம் (cāram) also means “elevation or high ground”, the term “விசாரம்” (vicāram) can also mean “toward elevation or high ground”, or, in other words, inquiry is an ascent of the mind to get a better perspective on things.

The notes also claim that Ramalingam made a distinction between mundane inquiry or inquiry into worldly affairs (அபரம் – aparam – or இகலோக விசாரம்) and inquiry into the nature of divinity (பரம் – param – or பரலோக விசாரம்) and stated that only the latter is proper or true inquiry:

அவ்விசாரம் பரம் அபரம் என்று இரண்டு வகையா யிருக்கின்றது இவற்றிற் பரம் பரலோக விசாரம், அபரம் இகலோக விசாரம். இவ்விரண்டில் இகலோக விசாரம் விசார மல்ல. சாதாரணமாக ஒருவன் விசாரம் செய்து கொண்டிருக்கின்றானேயென்றால், அவ்விசாரம் விசாரமாகாது, உண்மை விசாரமுமல்ல. ஏனெனில்: விசார மென்கின்றதற்குப் பொருள்: வி-சாரம் என்பதில் வி சாதாரண உலக விசாரத்தை மறுக்க வந்தது; அது மேலும் பரலோக விசாரத்தையே குறிக்கும் பொருட்டு வந்தது.”

Translation: “Inquiry is of two kinds: பரம் (param) or inquiry into the nature of divinity or divine reality and அபரம் (aparam) or இகலோக விசாரம் or inquiry into mundane reality or worldly affairs.  Of these two kinds of inquiry, the inquiry into mundane reality or worldly affairs is not really inquiry. It is not true inquiry. The real meaning of inquiry is to go beyond mundane or worldly matters or affairs. It refers to inquiry into the supra-mundane and divine reality.”

In declaring that inquiry into worldly affairs is not true inquiry or the highest form of inquiry, Ramalingam may have had in mind one of the meanings of the Tamil word “அபரம்” (aparam) he uses to refer to inquiry into mundane or worldly affairs, namely, பொய் (poy) or falsehood, i.e., that the realm of worldly affairs, constituted by desire for wealth, property, and sexual enjoyment, is a realm rife with deception and falsehood.

A question could be raised in this context. How is his rejection of inquiry into mundane or worldly affairs (இகலோக விசாரம்) consistent with the inclusion of pure scientific inquiry (notably, cosmology and human biology) in his conception of inquiry? Scientific inquiry pertains to this world. If he rejects worldly affairs from the purview of inquiry, how is this consistent with his inclusion of scientific inquiry?

The answer hinges on a careful understanding of what he means by “அபரம்” (aparam), or இகலோக விசாரம், or inquiry into worldly affairs. I don’t think he intended to include in  இகலோக விசாரம், or inquiry into worldly affairs, matters of pure scientific inquiry motivated by the pursuit of truth. Rather, he means the ordinary affairs of the world driven by egocentric desire or aversion in varying forms and degrees.

These worldly affairs are constituted by the triad of பொன்விஷய இச்சை (desire for gold or wealth) பெண்விஷய இச்சை (sexual desire), and மண்விஷய இச்சை (desire for land or property).

In one of his petitions of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam (these petitions are addressed to Arutperumjothi or the Immense Light of Compassion), Ramalingam emphasizes the importance of transcending this triad of desires constitutive of worldly affairs. His rejection of inquiry into worldly affairs is based on the fact that these affairs are driven by the triad of desires which must be transcended on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam.

All this implies that on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, we must not only eschew entanglements in worldly affairs constituted by the triad of பொன்விஷய இச்சை (desire for gold or wealth) பெண்விஷய இச்சை (sexual desire), and மண்விஷய இச்சை (desire for land or property), but also refrain from wasting precious time pursuing “studies” on these matters.

However, it is important to note that the path of  Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam advocated by Ramalingam is not a path of asceticism or monasticism and that in the early stages a moderate pursuit of worldly goods and pleasures is permissible on the condition that the requirements of compassion are not violated.

To return to the question posed earlier, since Ramalingam’s conception of இகலோக விசாரம், or inquiry into worldly affairs, does not include matters of pure scientific inquiry motivated by the pursuit of truth, his rejection of inquiry into worldly affairs is consistent with the inclusion of pure scientific inquiry (notably, cosmology and human biology) in his conception of inquiry and also his emphasis on inquiry as the means to the attainment of a life of supernal bliss or joy (பேரின்பப் பெருவாழ்வு).





May 31, 2018

Regimes of Cruelty: “Buddhist” Sri Lanka’s War Crimes Against Tamils (1)


கருணையில்லா ஆட்சி கடிந்தொழிக!

May regimes of cruelty disintegrate and become extinct!


A Tamilian woman victim of torture and murder by the infernal Sri Lankan armed forces in their 2008 – 2009 war criminal campaign against the Tamil population of Northern Sri Lanka

Tamil girls lamenting the slaughter of their family members by the War Criminal Sri Lankan Army (Jan – April 2009)

“…What happened in Sri Lanka was a major Rwanda-like atrocity, in a different scale, where the West didn’t care. There was plenty of early warning. This [conflict] has been going on for years and decades. Plenty of things could have been done [to prevent it]. But there was not enough interest.”

(Noam Chomsky at a 2009 United Nations forum on R2P, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine established by the UN in 2005)

Cruelty is the intentional and avoidable infliction of harm and suffering on sentient beings. In the ethics of Suddha Sanmargam, cruelty is paradigmatic of what is morally wrong and evil.

Further, in Suddha Sanmargam, the prevalence of cruelty in nature and human societies is explained in terms of the ignorance of the truth of soul-kinship (the fact that another sentient being is an embodied soul similar to oneself in terms of its basic origin, nature, and predicament) and its instantiation in the form of the biological truth of the common origin, kinship, nature, and predicament of all life.

The moral laws of compassion and the laws of Karma established by ARUTPERUMJOTHI have their foundations in this truth of soul-kinship and constitute the means of bringing about its realization in embodied souls (சீவர்கள்). I will elaborate in future posts on these central truths of Suddha Sanmargam.

Suddha Sanmargam holds that starvation, torture, and murder are the worst harms which can befall sentient beings or embodied souls. When sentient beings or embodied souls inflict such harms on others, or when, despite having the requisite knowledge and capability,  they fail to prevent, alleviate, or terminate such harms which threaten or befall other sentient beings, they violate ARUTPERUMJOTHI’S commandments of compassion designed to regulate the conduct of சீவர்கள் toward one another.

As a consequence of these violations of compassion, they are subject to the unerring operations of the laws of karma instituted by ARUTPERUMJOTHI for the purpose of bringing about a moral transformation in the nature and conduct of such sentient beings or embodied souls, a moral transformation wrought on the anvil of suffering in a variety of forms.

The hearts and egos of such sentient beings or embodied souls, hardened by indulgence in cruelty toward their own soul-kin, are eventually softened and transformed only by an enforced sojourn in the vale of intense suffering.

In addition, such instances of suffering, whether caused by moral evil in the form of intentional violations of the commandments of compassion, or the properties of natural objects, or the laws of nature, or lack of caution in one’s actions, are a necessary condition of the development of compassion, a sine qua non, according to Suddha Sanmargam, of enlightenment or liberation. This is because compassion is, in its very nature, directed toward the prevention, alleviation, or termination of suffering.

Hence, the occurrence and reality of various forms of suffering is presupposed by compassion, a sine qua non of liberation or enlightenment. Accordingly, Suddha Sanmargam does not reject the reality or value of suffering.

It may be objected that invoking the law of karma, as Ramalingam does in the context of explaining the reason why some sentient beings undergo suffering from hunger, torture, murder, etc., is an instance of blaming the victims for their suffering and justifies apathy or indifference toward their condition.

There is a fundamental distinction between a causal explanation and moral justification in the context of suffering. If I am given the causal explanation that I have lung cancer due to years of indulgence in smoking tobacco, this explanation does not justify apathy or indifference, on the part of others, toward my condition. Obviously, it explains why I have lung cancer, but it does not justify apathy or indifference, on the part of others, toward my condition.

If someone is given the metaphysical or spiritual causal explanation that he lost his entire family in an accident due to (collective) bad karma, this does not undermine the moral requirement to extend compassion and assistance to that person.

Hence, the metaphysical explanation that a sentient being suffers due to bad karma does not imply any justification of apathy or indifference toward that being.

In fact, the metaphysical or spiritual theory of karma requires that one must extend compassion to the person and his departed family members for having accrued this bad karma due to their underlying ignorance (of the truth of soul-kinship) which led to their violations of the laws of compassion in their present and/or past lives.

Therefore, Ramalingam’s ethic of compassion requires that we provide assistance in cases of suffering undergone by sentient beings regardless of the karmic and/or present empirical causes which brought about their suffering.

Why, then, should we draw attention to the law of karma?  It is a metaphysical or spiritual explanation of suffering which serves as a reminder of the truth of soul-kinship and the consequences of violating Arutperumjothi’s laws of compassion based on this spiritual truth.

Therefore, on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, there is a solemn moral obligation to refrain from cruelty, to do one’s very best in preventing, alleviating, or terminating cruelty, and, if necessary for these purposes, to document and highlight acts of cruelty to enable their cessation.

In light of this obligation, I wish to make a very small contribution by way of drawing attention, in this blog devoted to Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, to the crimes of cruelty against the Tamils in Northern Sri Lanka, perpetrated with pathological impunity and callousness on the world stage in the 21st century, by the Sri Lankan government and military.

It is worth noting that the brutal Sri Lankan military receives considerable assistance and training from the Israeli Defense Forces, an equal partner in perpetrating heinous acts of cruelty on defenseless civilian populations in the Palestinian territories and beyond.

Indeed, the tactic adopted by the Sri Lankan government and military of attempting to ensure that there were no international observers in or near its killing fields, by targeting such observers and their locations or fields of operation, is reminiscent of the hoary tactics of the War Criminal IDF in the occupied Palestinian territories and in its criminal invasions of Lebanon.

Israeli built Kfir plane used by Sri Lankan Air Force. Photo: Wikipedia.

India, Sri Lanka’s morally paralyzed neighbor, also bears considerable responsibility for supporting the Sri Lankan government and military in this conflict and turning a blind eye to the latter’s horrendous war crimes against the Tamil-speaking civilian population in the areas of conflict with the Tamil Tigers (whose recourse to tactics of terror was certainly deplorable) in 2009 in the Northern territories of Sri Lanka.

It should be noted in this context that the vast majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka are the descendants of the Tamils who migrated from India to Sri Lanka as early as 2nd century CE, a fact supported by the evidence of the discovery of potsherds with Tamil writing dated 1st – 2nd century CE in Poonakari, just below the Jaffna peninsula, in Northern Sri Lanka.

The U.N. (which to its shame is yet to order an international probe into the war crimes of Sri Lanka’s government and military) and the world’s major powers, e.g., USA, Canada, European nations, Russia, China, and Japan also bear responsibility for failing to organize a humanitarian intervention, or any other means necessary, to prevent the mass slaughter of the Tamil-speaking civilians in the areas of conflict in Northern Sri Lanka.

But, of course, it is a truism of Realpolitik that these world powers hold the U.N. captive to their Chimpanzee-style politics and intervene only when their own sordid and petty economic and/or strategic interests, or interests of criminal hegemony, are at stake and rarely on grounds which are only morally compelling.

A recent documentary, by the award-winning film maker and journalist Callum Macrae, on the war crimes of the Sri Lankan military, titled “No Fire Zone – The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka” presents graphic and compelling evidence for the following truths:


See also Macrae’s article “Sri Lanka Massacred Tens of Thousands of Tamils While the World Looked Away” at:


The treacherous “No Fire Zone” set up by the Sri Lankan government and military in January 2009 in the Tamil territories in Northern Sri Lanka served as a cruel trap for hundreds of thousands of civilians who flooded into the area in the hopes of finding a safe haven. This area was brutally and indiscriminately shelled by the Sri Lankan military, resulting, according to U.N. estimates, in the killings of some 40,000 – 70,000 Tamils.

A salient truth pointed out by a U.N. worker, Peter Mackay, who was trapped for two weeks in this vicious and cruel farce of “No Fire Zone”, is the fact that the Sri Lankan military set up the zone within the range of all of their artillery.

Why would they do this if their goal was in truth to provide a safe haven to Tamil civilians fleeing from the conflict? According to Mackay, in reality, the Sri Lankan army was actively targeting these defenseless Tamil civilians in their so-called “No Fire Zone”.

If this is not a case of premeditated slaughter of defenseless civilians based on their ethnicity, and, therefore, a clear case of a war crime and crime against humanity, I wonder what could possibly count as one.

The documentary also describes the shelling of aid-centres and make-shift hospitals after the UN or Red Cross workers informed the Sri Lankan military, in accordance with standard practice, of their locations.

There is footage showing parents wailing over their dying and dead children.

Video footage or images provided by the Sri Lankan soldiers, the true sons of the demon-king Ravana, show a Tamil Tiger commander interrogated and then tortured and killed, his mutilated body in the dirt; those who had surrendered, or been captured, bound, blindfolded,  and executed in cold blood; naked bodies of dead Tamil women, who show evident signs of physical and sexual abuse, filmed and accompanied by degrading comments by the onlooking Sri Lankan soldiers, and on and on. The catalogue reeks of all that has gone terribly wrong in the human condition.


May 6, 2018

The Letters of Ramalingam (2)


A letter from Ramalingam dated April 25, 1865, addressed in his own handwriting to his long-time friend Irukkam Rathina Mudaliyaar in Chennai.


Letter # 2 (May 31, 1858)

Ramalingam’s second letter to Irukkam Rathina Mudaliyar (IRM), available in the collection of his letters published in 1932 by A. Balakrishna Pillai, is dated May 31, 1858.

It begins with an expression of good wishes from Ramalingam for long life and all-round prosperity (சகல சம்பத்து) to IRM.

This is followed by a remarkable request from Ramalingam:

“இந்தக் கடிதம் கொண்டு வருகிற சி. குமாரசாமி பிள்ளை படிக்க வேண்டுமென்று விரும்பியிருக்கிறபடியால், அவனுக்கு எந்த விதத்தில் படிப்பித்தால் படிப்பு வருமோ அந்த விதத்தில் படிப்பிக்க வேண்டும். சிரஞ்சீவி நமசிவாயத்துக்கும் இதுவே.”

“Since the bearer of this letter, C. Kumarasami Pillai, is coming there (Chennai, where IRM resided during this period) with the desire to pursue his education, he should be encouraged to learn in the manner which facilitates his progress in his studies. Siranjeevi Namasivayam should also be encouraged in the same way.”

In a note added to this letter, and addressed to the newlywed Muruga Pillai, Ramalingam writes again that:

“சிரஞ்சீவி குமாரசாமி அவ்விடம் வருகிறபடியால் அவனுக்கு படிப்பும் முயற்சியும் ஊதியமும் உண்டாகின்ற வகை எவ்வகை – அவ்வகை ஆராய்ந்து கூட்ட வேண்டும்.”

“Since Siranjeevi Kumarasami is coming there (Chennai), investigate (ஆராய்ந்து) and determine the manner in which his effort, learning, and gain may be augmented and implement it.”

In other words, Ramalingam advocated student-centered learning in 1858! I think his early experiences with mechanical and mind-numbing rote-learning in the formal educational system of his day (which still persists in the Indian educational system) certainly shaped his emphasis on student-centered learning. Ramalingam quit school in childhood and was a precocious autodidact in many branches of learning, including Tamil grammar, Tamil poetry, philosophy, herbology, and architecture (he designed the simple and exquisite structure of the Sathiya Gnana Sabhai or the Hall of Truth-Knowledge).

In his note to the newlywed Muruga Pillai, Ramalingam also provides sage advice on the life of a householder in the world:

“பழமை பாராட்டலும் கண்ணோட்டம் செய்தலும் சுற்றந் தழுவலும் அவசியம் சமுசாரிக்கு வேண்டும் என்பது நீ மாத்திரம் அடிக்கடி கவனிக்க வேண்டும்.”

“Observance and appreciation of customs (பழமை பாராட்டல்), discernment and consideration (கண்ணோட்டம்), and cultivating the company of relatives and friends (சுற்றத்தார் தழுவுதல்) are essential for a householder and you must foster them consistently.”

Letter # 3 (தை – Jan-Feb (probably 1859 or 1860)

The third letter addressed to IRM is undated except for the Tamil month (தை – Jan- Feb). It was probably written in 1859 or 1860 and contains important spiritual instructions. Ramalingam inscribes the words “this is confidential” (இது ரகசியம்) at the top of this letter and reiterates at the end that it should not be read to others.

It begins characteristically with praise for (I think it is a truncated exhortation to cultivate or develop the specified virtues) the virtues of IRM – love, intelligence, compassion, and ethical conduct – and invokes the supreme being Sivam to graciously confer on him and foster spiritual knowledge, long life, and சிந்தித மனோரத சித்தி or the attainment of  the ability to execute his intentions and realize his heart’s desires.

Ramalingam writes that in accordance with the request made by IRM in previous letters, he is going to offer some spiritual instructions in the sacred presence of Sivam (சிவ சந்நிதான சாட்சி), the deity of pure intelligence and goodness:

“பிர்ம விஷ்ணு ருத்திராதிகளுடைய பதங்களும் அந்தக் கர்த்தாக்களும் அவர்களால் சிருட்டி திதி சங்காரம் செய்யப்பட்டு வருகிற தேகாதி பிரபஞ்சங்களும் அனித்தியம்”

“Brahmas (godheads of creation), Vishnus (godheads of protection), and Rudras (godheads of destruction), their abodes, and the universes and bodies created, preserved, and destroyed respectively by them are impermanent.”

Note: In a striking departure from the popular Hindu view, Ramalingam mentions a plurality of these three types of godheads. In his magnum opus, Arutperumjothi Agaval, he also refers to innumerable cosmic rulers (தலைவர்கள்) who wield superhuman powers of creation, protection, destruction, concealment, and revelation in relation to countless universes and worlds.

“ஆகலில் – நித்தியமாகியும் என்றும் ஒரு தன்மை யுள்ளதாகியும் சச்சிதானந்த வடிவமாகியும் அகண்ட பரிபூரண வஸ்துவாகியும் விளங்கிய சிவமே நமக்குப்பொருள்.”

“Hence, Sivam who is the eternal being, whose essential nature does not undergo any change, who has the form of Satchidananda or absolute being-consciousness-bliss, who is the all-pervasive, whole or indivisible, and immaculate complete substance is the only ultimate reality or truth for us.

Note: Even in 1859 or 1860, Ramalingam’s understanding of the nature of Sivam makes it clear that he is not referring to the anthropomorphic deity of popular Saivism, the person with matted hair, serpents coiled around his neck, etc.

“அன்றியும், தாய் தந்தை குரு தெய்வம் சிநேகர் உறவினர் முதலியவர்களும் மேற்குறித்த சிவத்தின் திருவருளேயல்லது வேறில்லை.”

“Father, mother, teacher, tutelary deity, friend, relation, and so forth are all only manifestations or forms of this selfsame Sivam’s grace.”

“நாம் பல சனனங்களையுந் தப்பி மேலான இந்த மனிதப் பிறவி யெடுத்தது சிவத்தின் திருவருளைப் பெறுவதற்கே. எவ்வகைப் பிராயாசத்தினாலாவது அந்த அருளை அடைய வேண்டும்.”

“We have averted many lower forms of embodiment and attained this higher human embodiment, or embodiment in human form, only to obtain Sivam’s grace. We must obtain this grace by any endeavor or effort.”

“அந்த அருள் எவ்வகையால் வருமென்றால் – எல்லாவுயிர்களிடத்திலும் தயவும் பிரபஞ்சத்தில் வெறுப்பும் சிவத்தினிடத்தில் அன்பும் மாறாது நம்மிடத்திருந்தால் அவ்வருள் நம்மையடையும். நாமும் அதனையடைந்து எதிரற்ற சுகத்திலிருப்போம். இது சத்தியம்.”

“This grace can be obtained by the constant practice of compassion for all living beings, aversion to, and detachment from, the world,  and love of Sivam, the supreme being. We will then attain permanent bliss. This is the truth.”

“இனி மேற்குறித்த சாதனத்தை நாம் பெறுவதற்கு சிவபஞ்சாக்ஷரத் தியானமே முக்கிய காரணமாக இருக்கிறது. ஆகலில், இடைவிடாது நல்ல மனத்தோடு அதனை தியானிக்க வேண்டும்.”

“The above-mentioned spiritual practice is sustained by the constant contemplation of the Siva Panchaakshara mantra (Om Namah Sivaaya). This mantra must be contemplated with a good or purified mind.”

Note: Again, it is important to bear in mind Ramalingam’s account of the nature of Sivam, the Deity of the Siva Panchaakshara mantra: the eternal being (நித்தியம்),  One whose essential nature does not undergo any change (என்றும் ஒரு தன்மை உள்ளது),  One who has the form of Satchidananda or absolute being-consciousness-bliss (சச்சிதானந்த வடிவம்), and One who is the all-pervasive, whole or indivisible, and immaculate complete substance (அகண்ட பரிபுரண வஸ்து). It is also important to note that Ramalingam wrote these instructions more than a decade before his final enlightenment and his realization of the ultimate mantra which reveals Arutperumjothi or the Immense Light of Compassion. After his enlightenment, and particularly in his last talk delivered in October 1873, Ramalingam emphasized that the mantra of Arutperumjothi superseded all other mantras.

“அதனையிதனடியில் குறிக்கின்றேன். இதனைக் கண்டு தியானித்து வந்தால் பின்பு எல்லாம் விளங்கும்.”

“The Siva Panchaakshara mantra must be contemplated in conjunction with the following lines (of Tamil devotional poetry). This will result in enlightenment or the illumination of everything.”

“நானேயோ தவஞ்செய்தேன் சிவாயநம எனப்பெற்றேன்”

nāṉēyō tavañceytēṉ
civāyanama eṉappeṟṟēṉ

“What austerities and other spiritual practices could I have performed in past lives to obtain the mantra சிவாயநம (Sivaaya Namah) in this life?”

சிவாய நமவென்று  சிந்தித்து இருப்பார்க்கு அபாயம் ஒருநாளும் இல்லை

“To those who remain steadfast in the contemplation of “Sivaaya Namah”, there is no danger, misfortune, or calamity, on any day.”

நான் செய்த புண்ணியம் யாதோ சிவாயநம வெனவே, ஊன் செய்த நாவைக்கொண் டோதப்பெற்றேன்

“I do not know what good deeds performed in past lives have enabled me now to recite “Sivaaya Namah” with a tongue made of corruptible flesh!”

Note: Ramalingam’s first quotation is from a poem in one of the great works of Tamil spiritual poetry, and indeed world devotional poetry, the Thiruvaasagam (திருவாசகம்), composed by the 9th-century Tamil mystic poet Maanikkavaasagar. The rest of the poem is as follows. Its import is that Sivam, the being of bliss who is of the essence of the sweetness of honey and ambrosia, deigned to come on his own accord, and, entering the heart of the poet, conferred his grace, and made him averse to a life based on identification with the body. As a result of this act of grace by Sivam, the poet is left wondering “What austerities and other spiritual practices could I have performed in past lives to obtain the mantra சிவாயநம (Sivaaya Namah) in this life?”.



The statue of Maanikkavaasagar holding a palm leaf on which is inscribed “Om Namah Sivaaya”, the mantra of Sivam, the supreme being


“நானேயோ தவஞ்செய்தேன்
சிவாயநம எனப்பெற்றேன்
தேனாய்இன் அமுதமுமாய்த்
தித்திக்குஞ் சிவபெருமான்
தானேவந் தெனதுள்ளம்
புகுந்தடியேற் கருள்செய்தான்
ஊனாரும் உயிர்வாழ்க்கை
ஒறுத்தன்றே வெறுத்திடவே.” (திருவாசகம்-திருவேசறவு)

Ramalingam’s second quotation is from a poem attributed to the legendary Tamil woman poet Avvaiyaar ( 1 – 2nd century CE) who lived in the Sangam epoch or the golden age of Tamil poetry. Her dictum on learning “கற்றது கைமண் அளவு, கல்லாதது உலகளவு  (The extent of what one knows is a handful, but the extent of what remains to be known is as vast as the world) is exhibited at NASA. Historians of Tamil literature have pointed out that there were later Tamil women poets with the same name.


The statue of Avvaiyaar (1 – 2nd century CE) in Marina Beach, Chennai, India

The meaning of the following poem # 15 in the work ” நல்வழி” (“The Way to the Good”), attributed to Avvaiyaar, from which Ramalingam’s quotation is drawn, is that for those who remain steadfast in the contemplation of “Sivaaya Namah”, there is no danger, misfortune, or calamity, on any day. This strategy ( உபாயம்) of remaining steadfast in the contemplaton of Sivam, the supreme being, is the essence of the discernment (மதி) which overcomes fate (விதி). Any other strategy is only a ruse of destiny or fate itself.

சிவாய நமவென்று சிந்தித்து இருப்பார்க்கு

அபாயம் ஒருநாளும் இல்லைஉபாயம்

இதுவே மதியாகும் அல்லாத எல்லாம்

விதியே மதியாய் விடும்.

– நல்வழி 15 – ஔவையார்

Ramalingam’s last quotation is from one of his own poems. The import is that he does not know what good deeds performed in past lives have enabled him now to recite “Sivaaya Namah” (the mantra of Sivam, the supreme being) with a tongue made of corruptible flesh when it is rare even for the godheads and gods to obtain this good fortune!

நான்செய்த புண்ணியம் யாதோ சிவாய நமவெனவே
ஊன்செய்த நாவைக்கொண் டோதப்பெற் றேன் எனை ஒப்பவரார்
வான்செய்த நான்முகத் தோனும் திருநெடு மாலுமற்றைத்
தேன்செய்த கற்பகத் தேவனும் தேவருஞ் செய்யரிதே.
__ திருஅருட்பா 2260

















April 28, 2018

The Last Talk of Ramalingam (1): The Importance of Inquiry


"Siddhi Valaagam",  or the  "Abode of Adepthood"

Ramalingam’s last talk was delivered to his associates in the small cottage of “Siddhi Valaagam” or “Abode of Adepthood” in the village of Mettukuppam, near the town of Vadalur, Tamilnadu, Southern India, on October 21, 1873. The notes of this talk, taken by an anonymous attendee, and later published in the early editions of Ramalingam’s writings, constitute the sole available record of this talk. Although it is garbled in places, these notes are a very important source of Ramalingam’s final message before his passing from the ken of mortals in early 1874.

The last talk of Ramalingam was given on the occasion of raising the dual-colored flag of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam outside the Siddhi Valaagam on October 21, 1873.

The flag has yellow at the top and white at the bottom. It was raised to signal the advent of the age of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, an age constituted by the progressive global acknowledgment and implementation of its fundamental principles and values, e.g., human unity, the rejection of division and discrimination based on caste, religion, gender, and nationality, the concern for the well-being of non-human life, including plant life, the rejection of religious fundamentalism, sectarianism, and fanaticism, the abolition of hunger, war, and torture, and the amelioration of poverty and lack of education.

The notes suggest that Ramalingam had explained the symbolism of the flag in terms of the colors of a membrane in the location of the forehead “chakra” or the center of spiritual perception located between the eyebrows. Apparently, he had said that these colors are visible to the inner eye in spiritual experience.

Be that as it may, we should take note that white and yellow constitute two of the fundamental colors mentioned by Ramalingam in his great tetralogy of “True Supplications of Suddha Sanmargam”, or the four great petitions (Tamil: விண்ணப்பம்) to Arutperumjothi or the Immense Light of Compassion. Ramalingam’s theory of colors is worth discussing in a separate series of posts.

White could also symbolize the “Chitsabhai” (Tamil: சிற்சபை) or the “Hall of Consciousness” within every soul, and yellow could symbolize the “Porsabhai” (Tamil: பொற்சபை) or the “Golden Hall”, the immaculate, incomparable, transcendent “hall”, or “space” beyond all things, in which Arutperumjothi abides forever.

As I pointed out earlier, some of the points in the notes of this last talk are evidently garbled and even incoherent, e.g., the claims on the nature and order of the colored Cosmic Screens which block the individual soul’s perception of different aspects of reality. Therefore, we must use the standard of consistency with the central authentic writings of Ramalingam, e.g., the four great petitions or the tetralogy of Supplications of Suddha Sanmargam, the Essay on Compassion for Living Beings, and his magnum opus, Arutperumjothi Agaval or the Song of Divine Light, to sift through the contents of these notes.

Here are the results of this process of sifting through the notes of his last talk in terms of the specified standard.

The talk begins with an advice, or perhaps, even an admonition, to his associates not to continue to waste their precious time and span of life. Ramalingam goes on to emphasize the importance of devoting their precious time to intensive inquiry (Tamil: விசாரணை).

He clarifies the nature of this intensive inquiry. It is concerned with understanding the nature and condition of the individual self or soul and the divine nature and condition of the Deity or Supreme Being (Tamil: தெய்வம்) which excels individual selves or souls.

He points out that this intensive inquiry can be undertaken individually or in association with others.

He also mentions his former Tamil poetry student and long-time associate, Thozhuvoor Velayuda Mudaliyar (who wrote, despite his long association with Ramalingam, a cursory and inadequate reminiscence of the latter which was published in the official journal of the Theosophical Society), and says that they could also consult with TVM in the pursuit of their inquiry.

It is intriguing that, according to the notes, Ramalingam said that TVM would facilitate their inquiry in human terms or in terms sufficient for human intelligence or understanding. This suggests that Ramalingam had transcended human intelligence or understanding. There are other passages in these notes indicating that Ramalingam had said that he had attained cosmic consciousness:

“இப்போது என்னுடைய அறிவு அண்டாண்டங்களுக்கு அப்பாலும் கடந்திருக்கிறது.” (Translation: “My knowledge now extends beyond the universes.”


It is remarkable that Ramalingam, who had no formal education and no normal avenues of acquaintance with developments in science in Europe, elucidates this inquiry, in a talk given in October 1873 in an obscure village in the state of Tamilnadu in southern India, in terms of what he designates in Tamil “அண்ட விசாரம்” (anda vicāram) , or inquiry into the nature of the cosmos and “பிண்ட விசாரம்” (pinda vicāram), or inquiry into the nature of living bodies, particularly the human body.

In other words, the intensive inquiry he emphasizes also includes cosmology and biology, particularly human biology. In fact, Ramalingam states that “அண்ட விசாரம்” or cosmological inquiry consists in the inquiry into the சொரூபம் (essential structure), ரூபம் (form and beauty of form), and சுபாவம் (inherent tendencies or dispositions) of our Sun, the moon, the stars, and other cosmic phenomena.


“Vitruvian Man” by Leonardo da Vinci – the Roman author and architect Vitruvius celebrated the geometrical proportionality of the human body

“பிண்ட விசாரம்” or biological/physiological inquiry consists in pursuing questions such as “What is the nature of the self or agent in this body?”, “Why do the parts of our human bodies have their respective features? For instance, why does hair grow in other parts of the human body, but not on the forehead (eyebrows excepted)?”,  “What processes determine the growth of nails on fingers and toes?”, and so forth. It is evident that he was pointing to genetic inquiry even in 1873.

The notes indicate that Ramalingam pointed out that this intensive inquiry into the nature of the individual self or soul, the divine nature of the Deity or Supreme Being, the nature of cosmic phenomena, and the nature of biological phenomena, notably the human body, will remove the first, dense Screen which hides the manifold aspects of  the divine reality and divine governance of the cosmos from the soul’s perception or understanding.

However, the notes seem garbled in their account of the color of this first, dense Screen. It is mentioned that the color of this Screen is green, but this must be a mistake because in Ramalingam’s remarkable account, given in his magnum opus Arutperumjothi Agaval or Song of Divine Light, of the colored Cosmic Screens which hide the manifold aspects of  mundane, supramundane, and divine reality from the soul’s perception or understanding, the first, immense, and dense cosmic Screen is black in color. It represents “மாமாயை”,  “Mahamaya” or vast, primeval matter-energy, and hides the divine governance and foundation of the cosmos.


Mark Rothko, Black-form paintings, No. 1, 1964


As the Arutperumjothi Agaval puts it:

கரைவின்மா மாயைக் கரும்பெருந் திரையால்

அரைசது மறைக்கும் அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

Translation: Arutperumjothi has hidden its  governance of the cosmos by means of the immense, dense, Black Screen of endless matter-energy.

The cosmic green Screen is the third one and hides the “பரவெளி” or the Divine Space, the field of supramundane and divine entities and forces:

Space, Time, Motion, Green, 2010 (mixed media)

Space, Time, Motion, Green (Homage to Mark Rothko) by Izabella Godlewska de Aranda (2010)

பச்சைத் திரையாற் பரவெளி யதனை

அச்சுற மறைக்கும் அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

Translation: “Arutperunjothi has, in an awe-inspiring manner, hidden the Supramundane Divine Space by means of the Green Screen.

In a later post, I will elucidate Ramalingam’s remarkable account of the different, colored Cosmic Screens by which Arutperumjothi hides the manifold aspects of  mundane, supramundane, and divine reality from the ego-bound individual soul’s perception and understanding.

Arutperumjothi also graciously lifts or sets aside these Screens, commensurate with the soul’s effort to liberate itself from the threefold defilement and bondage of ஆணவம், or egoism, or the disposition to assert separation and independence from the Supreme Being, மாயை, or “Maya“, the identification with,  and consequent subjection to, matter or physical body, and கன்மம், or Karma, or the chain of cause and effect involving its thoughts, desires, choices, actions, and their consequences.






April 13, 2018

The Letters of Ramalingam (1)


A letter from Ramalingam dated April 25, 1865, addressed in his own handwriting to his long-time friend Irukkam Rathina Mudaliyaar in Chennai.

Fortunately, a collection of letters from Chidambaram Ramalingam (1823 – 1874) is available to us. It was included in the magisterial 12-volume edition of Ramalingam’s prose and poetry published by the pioneering teacher and scholar A. Balakrishna Pillai (1890 – 1960) in the years 1931 – 1958. A volume of Ramalingam’s letters, announcements, and instructions for the maintenance of the Sathiya Gnana Sabhai (Hall of  Truth-Knowledge) and the Sathiya Dharma Saalai (House of True Charity) was published by Balakrishna Pillai in 1932. In this thread of posts on Ramalingam’s letters, I will be providing English translations of excerpts from the letters originally published in this volume.

Ramalingam’s letters are succinct and eschew ostentatious or pretentious rhetoric. He uses the Tamil language in a literate and formal, but also humane and solicitous style. It is noteworthy that his letters characteristically begin with a mode of address which praises the virtues of the recipient and invokes the Deity (சிவம் or Sivam, the Supreme Being who is Pure Intelligence) to bestow long life and other blessings on the recipient.

In fact, Ramalingam always addressed his recipients with the blessing prefix “Siranjeevi” (Tamil: சிரஞ்சீவி) which means “long-living” or “long-lived”. In Tamil usage, it is prefixed to the names of males. For unmarried or married females, the blessing prefix is “saubhāgyavatī” (Tamil: சௌபாக்கியவதி) which means “recipient of good fortune”.

For instance, an early letter to Irukkam Rathina Mudaliyaar sent sometime in 1858 begins as follows:

To Siranjeevi Rathina Mudaliyaar who excels in virtues such as conduct in accordance with compassionate intelligence, may the grace of Sivam bestow on you long life and all forms of prosperity! I wish to hear from you frequently about good deeds and auspicious events in your life.”

Ramalingam goes on, in this letter, to inquire anxiously about the health of one Nayakkar, and asks Irukkam Rathina Mudaliyaar (IRM) to inform Nayakkar that he intends to definitely visit Chennai in two to four months time. He also asks IRM to exercise vigilance in his daily life. This emphasis on vigilance in matters of daily life is a recurrent theme in Ramalingam’s letters to his friends.

This early letter to IRM concludes as follows:

“Siranjeevi Namasivaya Pillai has gone there (Chennai) to pursue his education. You may ascertain regularly his progress in his studies. I wish to hear soon about the well-being of yourself and Nayakkar. My mind is anxious on account of this concern. Therefore, you must let me know.”

I think Namasivaya Pillai was a relative of Ramalingam. Notice Ramalingam’s concern about his relative’s progress in education. It is also touching to note Ramalingam’s frank avowal of anxiety concerning the well-being of IRM and Nayakkar. In many of his letters to his friends, Ramalingam confesses his anxiety about their well-being, particularly in the case of absence of communication from them, or on hearing that they were subject to some adversity. It testifies to his great compassion and humanity even in these years (he was in his mid-thirties) before his முத்தி or enlightenment and attainment of சித்தி or adepthood in his late forties .












February 21, 2018

Justice for a Cow: Ramalingam On Animal Rights (1)



Kamadhenu, or The Divine Cow of Plenitude With All Divinities In Its Body


Krishna as Gopala, or Protector of Cows, And His Bovine and Human Friends


Unspeakable Cruelty and Slaughter in a Slaughterhouse!


Sadistic Spanish Festival

The Toro Jubilo, Madrid, 2014. The “Toro Jubilo” or Toro embolado in Soria, Medinaceli, Spain, is a festival associated with animal cruelty. During this festival, balls of pitch are attached to a bull’s horns and set on fire. The bull is then released into the streets and can do nothing but run around in pain, often smashing into walls in an attempt to douse the fire. These fiery balls can burn for hours, and they burn the bull’s horns, body, and eyes – all while spectators cheer and run around the victim. The animal rights group PACMA has described the fiesta as “a clear example of animal mistreatment”, and PETA calls it “a sadistic festival”. (Wikipedia)


Ramalingam’s radical and revolutionary ethic of compassion with its extraordinary emphasis on moral consideration for non-human living beings, including trees and plants, was expressed in a preliminary form in his early (1854) prose work on the legend of King Manu and his moral code (again, this is not the King Manu of Hindu mythology who was allegedly the creator of cruel caste divisions and codes which were the bane of Indian society) and developed in his mature, but incomplete essay on the Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings.

Ramalingam’s work The Moral Code of Manu is the story of King Manu’s moral dilemma in the face of the death of a calf beneath the wheels of the chariot driven by his only son Prince Veedhividangan. The mother of the calf comes to the gates of the royal palace and pulls the bell rope meant to communicate to the king that some person has faced injustice in his domain and that they need his intervention. As a paragon of justice, king Manu is shocked to hear the bell ring and on inquiry comes to know that the mother of the calf crushed beneath the wheels of the chariot driven by his only son and prince rang the bell asking for justice to be served in the case of the unnatural death or killing of her calf.

Contrary to the claims of his ministers that the death of the calf was an accident or due to its fate, and that the prince should be absolved of responsibility for its death, king Manu determines that his son, prince Veedhividangan, is guilty of negligently causing the death of the calf.

Refuting the arguments of his ministers that the calf is only an animal and inferior to humans in intelligence and that the just punishment for the prince is to undergo the rigors of performing rites prescribed by scriptures to atone for the sin of killing the calf of a cow, king Manu decides that his only son and prince deserves punishment by death for taking the innocent calf’s life. His argument is based on the claim that there is equality of humans and animals concerning the right to life and that the death penalty is just punishment for the taking of life regardless of the fact that his prince is human and the victim a calf or animal.

The details of his argument are encapsulated in the following account of Ramalingam’s radical ethics of equal consideration of human and non-human life in the context of murder and/or suffering, an ethics first developed in 1854 in the work “The Moral Code of Manu” and expanded in his mature, but unfinished (1867) essay on “The Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings”.

In Ramalingam’s view, both human and non-human living beings are embodied souls with the same essential nature, i.e., sentient consciousness (Tamil: சித்து)  with its innate quality of intelligence (Tamil: அறிவு) and capacity to experience pleasure and pain.

He holds that the differences among living beings stem from their embodiment in different physical bodies, but that these differences in their physical bodies are irrelevant to the issue of moral consideration for them and that this consideration ought to be based only on their common essential nature, i.e., sentient consciousness with its innate quality of intelligence and capacity to experience pleasure and pain.

Since living beings have a common essential nature regardless of the differences in their corporeal or physical attributes, they also have common basic rights stemming from their common essential nature.

Ramalingam identifies two basic rights common to all living beings: the right to life and the right to freedom from pain or suffering.

How are these two basic rights derived from the common essential nature of living beings?

In his great incomplete essay on the Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings (composed in 1867 and first published in 1879), Ramalingam argues that a body (constituted of some form of substance) is needed for the soul to express and develop its innate attribute of intelligence.

It is an inherent tendency of  a soul to express and develop its innate quality of intelligence, to remove any obscuration or limitation in the expression and development of its intelligence when it becomes cognizant of it, as it invariably does after any temporary occlusion or obstruction of its intelligence.

Therefore, every soul requires and seeks embodiment to overcome a state of ignorance and to express and develop its innate intelligence. This tendency takes the characteristic form of a need to know and to grow in knowledge.

Ramalingam’s point is reminiscent of Aristotle’s dictum that “All men by nature desire to know”. Of course, it includes women (and it is noteworthy that, even in 19th century rural Tamilnadu, Ramalingam included women in his proposal for universal spiritual education and explicitly forbade discrimination on grounds of the physical attribute of sex or gender), but what is significant in Ramalingam’s account is its implication, confirmed by  scientific studies of non-human life, that all living beings have the inclination to know, an expression of their innate intelligence.

Aristotle gave a reason for his claim: the evidence that men take delight in sensory perception, particularly visual perception. This is also evident in other species. Indeed, the curiosity of non-human living beings about their environment often sharply contrasts with the apathy or sensory dullness of many humans!

Given that every living being is a soul capable of experiencing pain and pleasure, the innate intelligence impels it to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Embodiment gives the opportunity to experience a variety of pleasures or joys (Tamil: இன்பம்). These experiences of pleasure or joy augment the expression and development of intelligence and prepare the soul for the enjoyment of the supreme bliss of Arutperumjothi or the Ultimate Divine Light.

But embodiment also makes every soul vulnerable to pain or suffering in its manifold forms of hunger, fear, disease, torture, etc. However, its innate intelligence, a function of the indwelling Supreme Divine Light of Grace, guides it to find ways to avoid, alleviate, or overcome these forms of pain or suffering since they are an obstruction to the development of intelligence and the attainment of bliss or happiness, mundane and transcendental.

The essay on the Ethic of Compassion for Living Beings describes how these forms of suffering suppress the expression and development of the innate intelligence of the soul. I will discuss this claim in subsequent posts, but would like to point out that Ramalingam’s claim is consistent with the fact that the prospect of undergoing some form of pain or suffering can stimulate the innate intelligence to find ways to prevent, alleviate, or eliminate it. His claim is about the immediate effects of these major forms of pain or suffering, e.,g., hunger, murder, torture, disease, poverty, etc.

For any soul, murder is the loss of a body by an unnatural and cruel means. It inflicts on a soul the pain or suffering of being forcibly expelled from its bodily habitation and to face terrible fear and perplexity in the process. It is also faced with the additional suffering of undergoing the process of rebirth or embodiment in another form.

Every living being or embodied soul, i.e., an individual sentient consciousness seeking to express and develop its intelligence and with the capacity to experience pleasure and pain, requires a body to express and develop its intelligence. Therefore, every living being has the basic right to life or the right to keep or preserve its present body.

Hence, it is morally wrong to deprive any living being of its body by killing it and inflicting on it the twin sufferings of loss of  its present body and future rebirth in another body.

And the fact that every living being avoids pain or suffering supports the claim that every living being has the basic right to freedom from pain or suffering.

Hence, it is morally wrong to inflict pain or suffering, particularly in the form of infliction of torture, or loss of limb or organ essential for survival and quality of life, or disease, on any living being.

It follows that we must give equal moral consideration, without any partiality based on species membership, to human and non-human living beings in the context of any actual or imminent violation of the two fundamental rights, the right to life and the right to freedom from pain or suffering.

To the misguided objection that moral prescriptions cannot be derived from facts or factual claims, the simple reply is as follows:

The objection is misguided because it assumes that the only acceptable model of “derivation” must be deductivist, i.e., that the derivation must be a logical deduction from the facts. Logical deduction is not the only form of rational inference. And logical deduction is actually uninformative, i.e., it does not tell us anything new, anything not already contained in the premises. For instance, by logically deducing that “Socrates is mortal” from the premises “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man”, we are not deducing or imparting any new information not contained in those premises taken together.

Ramalingam’s derivation of the two fundamental rights from the relevant factual claims is a rational inference on the basis of good grounds or reasons.

If a living being requires a body for the development and expression of its intelligence, and it also avoids pain or suffering in order to preserve itself and develop its intelligence, then, unless it is shown that it is reasonable to ignore these central facts in the context of moral consideration for the living being, they constitute eminently good reasons for holding that it has the right to life and the right to freedom from pain or suffering.








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