OmniLight Invocations: The Agaval Project (1)

சத்திய ஞான சபை (Sathiya Gnana Sabhai) or The Great Hall of Truth-Knowledge designed by Ramalingam without any formal training in architecture and constructed in 1871. It was opened to the public in January 1872. It is not a Hindu temple and ought not to be considered one. It has no idols of any kind. In his first prose vinappam or petition, “The Short True Petition” (சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியச் சிறு விண்ணப்பம்) to Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, Ramalingam testifies that this Great Hall of Truth-Knowledge was built at the behest of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight as the locus and sign of its special manifestation and “Dance of Grace” (அருள் நடம்). This “Dance of Grace” expresses its five cosmic tasks of creation, protection, destruction or dissolution, obscuration or concealment, and illumination or revelation. The structure of this Great of Hall of Truth-Knowledge is a symbol of the nature-body-soul complex in which this “Dance of Grace” continues.

swami-ramalinga-vallalar
An artist’s reconstruction of Ramalingam’s appearance based on the descriptions of those who knew him. A significant omission in this portrait is the absence of footwear. Unlike many of his compatriots at that time, Ramalingam wore footwear and strongly recommended it.

The manuscript of Ramalingam’s magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval, or OmniLight Invocations, completed on April 18, 1872

This is the Arutperunjothi Agaval Project. The Arutperunjothi Agaval is Ramalingam’s masterpiece of spiritual, mystical, or enlightenment poetry. It is at the apex of the world’s traditions of spiritual poetry.

In this series, I will be posting my English translations, in aphoristic form, of the Tamil couplets of the Arutperunjothi Agaval, with my analytical commentary.

The manuscript of the Arutperunjothi Agaval survives in Ramalingam’s own handwriting in pages 1 – 47 in a notebook used by him. This masterpiece consists of 1596 lines, or 798 couplets, and was completed on April 18, 1872, at the Siddhi Valaagam, or Abode of Adepthood, cottage in the hamlet of Metukuppam, near the town of Vadalur, in the southern state of Tamilnadu, India.

courtyard
An old photo of Siddhi Valaagam or “Abode of Adepthood”, the venue of Ramalingam’s composition and completion of of his Agaval in April 1872 and his last talk in October 1873

A remarkable feature of the Arutperunjothi Agaval manuscript is that it contains no revisions of any of the 1596 lines or their constitutive words. However, the manuscript does contain a few instances of insertions of intended words initially skipped in the apparently rapid composition of the verses, e.g., in verses 2, 670, and 672.

Each of the 47 pages of the manuscript of the Arutperunjothi Agaval contains complete sets of couplets. For instance, the first page contains 16 complete sets of couplets. The second page contains 17 complete sets of couplets. And so forth.

It is believed that this remarkable work was composed by Ramalingam, at Siddhi Valaagam, without interruption in the astonishing span of one night on April 18, 1872. However, there is no testimony in favor of this claim in Ramalingam’s late autobiographical writings, e.g., the second true petition or “சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியப் பெரு விண்ணப்பம்” (Samarasa Sudha Sanmarga Sathiya Peru Vinappam).

As I have observed in other posts and talks, this is an extraordinary work, even among the great works of the world’s religious or spiritual traditions.

The nature of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight and the organization of the cosmos, including the structure of the human body, by its supreme power of compassion (அருள் – Arul) is the essence of this great work.

This great work also provides glimpses of the nature of the seven primary colored veils or screens which obscure the perception of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight and the workings of its supreme power of compassion, the five types of cosmic designers and governors who are themselves designed and governed by Arutperunjothi, the nature of the five types of terrestrial and cosmic “elements” or factors which sustain life, the “inter-presence” or indwelling of opposites in each other reminiscent of Daoism, male and female natures and their “inter-presence” or indwelling in each other, the great deathless life of unconditioned bliss as the goal of liberation, the three types of siddhis or “occult” powers, Ramalingam’s personal testimony on the transformations produced in him by Arutperunjothi’s supreme power of compassion, and so on.

All this is accomplished in 798 Tamil couplets of great beauty and powerful mantra-style compactness and rhythm.

The term “Agaval” (அகவல்) refers to a distinctive metre (ஆசிரியப்பாAasiriyappa) in Tamil poetry. A composition in this metre sounds like speech which calls or invokes and addresses (அழைக்கை – Ayaikkai) another.:

ஆசிரியப்பாவின் ஓசை அகவல் ஓசை ஆகும்”.

Source: Tamil Wikipedia

Translation: The sound of words in ஆசிரியப்பா (Aasiriyappa) metre is the அகவல் ஓசை (Agaval Ohsai) or Agaval sound.

ஒருவர் பேசுதல் போன்ற ஓசை அகவலோசை எனப்படும்“.

Source: Tamil Wikipedia

Translation: The Agaval sound is akin to the sound of someone speaking, the sound of speech.

Other connotations of the term “Agaval” include “high tone or acute accent” (எடுத்தலோசை – Eduthalosai), a resemblance to the high calling tones of a peacock (மயில்குரல் – mayilkural), unique rhythmic sounds (அகவற்பாவுக்குரிய ஓசை), and dancing with vocalization (கூத்தாடல் – Koothaadal).

The Arutperunjothi Agaval, then, is a composition which invokes, calls, and addresses Arutperunjothi or OmniLight of Supreme Compassion. It is a form of musical speech and dance of/with words which address and praise Arutperunjothi.

In this translation and commentary, I will first present the original lines in each couplet in Tamil from the manuscript of the Arutperunjothi Agaval, followed by corresponding lines in Tamil with separated words (WS or word-separation). A transliteration in English will be followed by a translation of the key Tamil phrases or expressions in each couplet. I will then present my English translation in one sentence and analytical commentary.

The Arutperunjothi Agaval, or OmniLight Invocations, begins by invoking Arutperunjothi or OmniLight of Supreme Compassion (அருள்) four times:

1. அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி யருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி யருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

WS: அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

Arutperunjothi Arutperunjothi

Arutperunjothi Arutperunjothi

Arutperunjothi, or OmniLight, is present in its fullness in the four ascending levels of reality: the outermost, the outer, the inner, and the inmost (the highest).

This suggests a correspondence to the fact that each couplet in this Agaval has four parts, the last of which invariably invokes Arutperunjothi directly by name (அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி) or indirectly by means of a metaphor (e.g., மருந்தே or marundey or medicine, பொன்னே or ponney or gold treasure).

Be that as it may, the deeper significance of the invocation of Arutperunjothi four times lies in its correspondence to the four levels of reality identified by Ramalingam in his late prose work “The Short True Petition” (சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியச் சிறு விண்ணப்பம் – Suddha Sanmarga Sathiya Siru Vinappam).

In this petition, Ramalingam has addressed அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (Arutperunjothi) or OmniLight as follows:

உயிர்களின் அகத்தும் புறத்தும் அகப்புறத்தும் புறப்புறத்தும் நீக்கமின்றி நிறைந்து விளங்குகின்ற அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி ஆண்டவரே!

Uyirgalin Agathum Purathum Agapurathum purapurathum neekaminri niraindhu vilangukinra Arutperunjothi Aandavarey!

Translation: Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the Supreme Being which is immaculately present in the inmost, inner, outer, and outermost domains of all living beings!

In a later couplet in Arutperunjothi Agaval, or OmniLight Invocations, he describes அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி or OmniLight as the elixir (அமுது – Amoodu) which flows expansively in the four ascending (உகத்தல் – Ugathal) domains of the inmost (the highest domain), inner, outer, and the outermost:

643. அகம்புற மகப்புற மாகிய புறப்புறம்

உகந்தநான் கிடத்து மோங்கிய வமுதே

WS: அகம் புறம் அகப்புறம் ஆகிய புறப்புறம்

உகந்தநான் கிடத்தும் ஓங்கிய அமுதே  (Couplet 643)

Agam puram agapuram aagiya purapuram

Uganda naangu idathum oangiya amudhey

அகம் – Agam = the inmost

அகப்புறம் – Agapuram = the inner, or what is external to the inmost

புறம் – Puram = the outer, or what is external to the inner

புறப்புறம் – Purapuram = the outermost, or what is external to the outer

உகத்தல் – Ugathal = ascending

Translation: அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (Arutperunjothi) or OmniLight is the elixir or ambrosia which rises expansively in the four ascending domains of the inmost (the highest), the inner, the outer, and the outermost.

Commentary: The inmost (அகம் – Agam), inner (அகப்புறம் – Agapuram – what is outer to the inmost) , outer (புறம் – Puram – what is outer to the inner), and outermost (புறப்புறம் – Purapuram – what is external to the outer) domains are the jointly exhaustive domains of all existence.

The inmost (அகம் – Agam) is the core or essence (the soul in the case of all sentient beings) of things or entities. The other domains are instrumental in enabling experience, knowledge, and action in the soul.

The inmost (அகம் – Agam), the root of individual consciousness or I-sense, the domain of the soul, is the locus of experience and knowledge and the source of action in sentient beings. It is the locus of the inherent light of knowledge of the soul (ஆன்மவிளக்கம் – Anmavilakkam). It is subject to obscuration by ignorance, like dark clouds obscuring sunlight. But it is a light of knowledge which can also manifest as compassion for other beings.

The inmost (அகம் – Agam) is also the locus of the inextinguishable Divine Light of Supreme Compassion (அருள் – Arul). The compassion (ஜீவகாருண்ணியம் – Jeevakarunyam) expressed by a soul for another is but a microcosmic or finite manifestation of the Divine Light of Supreme Compassion.

The inner (அகப்புறம் – Agapuram – what is outer to the inmost) consists of the internal and hidden structure of things or entities. In the case of living beings, it encompasses the internal cognitive system (அந்தக்கரணம் – antahkaranam). In the case of humans, it includes the mind (மனம் – Manam) or the faculty of awareness and thought, intellect (புத்தி – Buddhi) or reasoning faculty, the will (சித்தம் – Sittam) or the faculty of determination and decision, and the ego (அகங்காரம் – Ahankaaram) which is an expression of the I-sense rooted in the inmost.

The outer (புறம் – puram – what is outer to the inner) pertains to the physical constitution or structure of things or entities. In the case of living beings, it refers to the physical body and its constitution or structure, e.g., the structure of the senses, skin, hair, limbs, etc.

The outermost (புறப்புறம் – purapuram – what is external to the outer) refers to the environment of all entities. It can range from the immediate habitat, or surrounding, to the eco-system, earth, solar system, galaxy, and a universe.

The immaculate presence of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (Arutperunjothi) or OmniLight in these four levels or domains of existence is the significance of Ramalingam’s invocation of அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி (Arutperunjothi) four times at the start of his அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி அகவல் (Arutperunjothi Agaval) or OmniLight Invocations.