OmniLight Invocations: The Agaval Project (2)

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.

Another reconstruction of Ramalingam’s appearance based on descriptions by those who knew him. The Tamil words below the image express his sincere wish: May All Beings Attain Bliss and Flourish!

I think that apart from his central goal of describing and celebrating Arutperunjothi, or the OmniLight, and the workings of its supreme compassion, Ramalingam also intended his magnum opus Arutperunjothi Agaval, or OmniLight Invocations, to show the central aspects of the Tamil language, and particularly, Tamil prosody (patterns of rhythm and sound of words in Tamil poetry). Tamil is one of the world’s ancient living languages and a repository of great and diverse classical literature.

Evidence of this objective is present at the very start of his Agaval. The first line of each of the couplets 2 – 13 begins with one of the twelve vowels or “life letters” (உயிர் எழுத்து – Uyir Ezhutthu) of the Tamil language. These twelve vowels are:

  1. – like the vowel sound in ‘but’, cut and
    ‘shut’.
  2. – like the vowel sound in cot’ and ‘pot’.
  3. – like the vowel sound in ‘tin’ and ‘pin’.
  4. – like the vowel sound in ‘feet’ and ‘sheet’.
  5. – like the vowel sound in ‘put’ and ‘foot’
  6. – like the vowel sound in ‘moon’ and ‘mood’.
  7. – like the vowel sound in ‘emit’ and ‘emblem’.
  8. – like the vowel sound in ‘ape’ and ‘mane’.
  9. – like the vowel sound in ‘idle’ and ‘item’.
  10. – like the vowel sound in ‘omit’ and ‘opinion’
  11. – like the vowel sound in ‘show’ and ‘coal’ .
  12. -like the vowel sound in ‘fowl’ and ‘now’.

(Source: ABC of Tamil, Book One, by T.B. SIDDALINGAIAH)

Couplet 2:

ருட்சிவ நெறிசா ரருட்பெரு நிலைவாழ்

அருட்சிவ பதியா மருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி

WS: அருட்சிவ நெறிசார் அருட்பெரு நிலைவாழ்

அருட்சிவ பதியாம் அருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி 

Arutsiva nerisaar arutperu nilaivazh

Arutsiva padhiyaam Arutperunjothi

ருட்சிவ நெறிசார் = To follow the true way or path to liberation which relies only on the grace or supreme compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight

ருட்பெரு நிலைவாழ் = To live in the great state illumined by the grace or supreme compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight

ருட்சிவ பதியாம் = Arutperunjothi or OmniLight is the supreme being (பதி) of pure intelligence (சிவம்) and grace or divine compassion (அருள்)

Translation: Arutperunjothi, or OmniLight, is the supreme being of pure intelligence and compassion who is the master (பதி) of the path of grace (Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam) which leads to liberation (from ignorance and suffering) and the great deathless life of bliss.

Commentary: This couplet starts with the first Tamil “உயிர் எழுத்து – Uyir Ezhutthu”, or “life letter”, “” (like the vowel sound in ‘but’, cut and ‘shut’). It also uses the word “அருள்” (Arul), which starts with the first vowel or “life letter” , four times. It may, again, be an implicit reference to the four levels of reality – inmost, inner, outer, and outermost – in which அருள் (Arul) or the supreme compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight operates.

The first expression in this second couplet is அருட்சிவ நெறி” (arut siva neri). It refers to the Way or path of liberation which relies solely on அருட்சிவம் or the supreme being of pure intelligence (சிவம்/Sivam) and compassion (அருள்/Arul). This is the Way of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, the true path to wisdom and unity.

It is significant that the Agaval begins with a reference to the Way or path of liberation. It suggests that there is a way or path to liberation from the cycle of suffering, aging, disease, death, and rebirth.

If we accept Ramalingam’s credibility as a witness to the existence of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight and the transformation it brought about in him, we should, at least, seriously consider his affirmation of the existence of the path to liberation from the cycle of suffering, aging, disease, death, and rebirth.

We are lost without a way or path to liberation. Talk of a goal or destination invariably raises the issue of the way or path to it. Of course, an explanation of how the way or path leads to the goal or destination is also required. Ramalingam has provided this explanation eloquently and cogently in his great essay on the practice of compassion for living beings and in his prose vinappams or petitions on the Way of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam.

In this context, let us quickly dismiss the misconception, propagated by the likes of J. Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986), that “Truth is a pathless land”, or that there is no way or path to liberation. His stated reason for this “maverick view” is that “Truth” is not a static or fixed reality, that it is always “moving”. There cannot be any way or path to that which is “constantly moving”. Therefore, “Truth is a pathless land”.

J. Krishnamurti and Rosalind Rajagopal (Ojai, California, in the mid-1930’s)
Krishnamurti taking a walk on the beach at Adyar, Chennai, India
Krishnamurti looking very dapper and attentive to the passing scenery on a train somewhere in England
A dapper Krishnamurti greeting some students in a train station somewhere in England

It is well-documented that J. Krishnamurti then went on to delineate his own approach, based primarily on the practice of “choiceless awareness“, to attaining “Freedom from the Known“, “First and Last Freedom“, and so forth.

He seems to have overlooked the fact that in many cases one must make an austere choice to be aware of a sensation, thought, or feeling, rather than identify with and get carried away on the crest of a wave of that sensation, thought, or feeling. In any case, if we desist from mere quibbling, this approach is but a way or path to “Truth” or “Freedom”, as he conceives it.

Apart from the inconsistency with his own approach based on “choiceless awareness”, the fatal error in J. Krishnamurti’s slogan “Truth is a pathless land” is that it is based on a misleading metaphor of movement.

Truth or ultimate reality is not the sort of being of which we can meaningfully speak in terms of “stationary” or “moving”. It is an omnipresent reality. It is certainly dynamic or active at all levels of existence, but this does not mean that it is “moving” from place to place or that it undergoes change in its nature or essence. The dynamic or active nature of “Truth”, or ultimate reality, is consistent with the fact that there is a Way or path to realizing it.

Therefore, it is an error to reject the possibility of a way or path to “Truth”, or ultimate reality, on the basis of this misleading metaphor of movement.

The central issue, addressed in couplet 2 and other couplets in the Agaval, is the nature of this way or path to the realization of “Truth” or ultimate reality.

In this context, I should point out that, notwithstanding the stark contrasts between their personalities and lifestyles (e.g., Ramalingam was simplicity and authenticity incarnate, whereas Krishnamurti was not above artifice and had lavish tastes in clothing, shoes, automobiles, watches, restaurants, and so forth), there are some common values and practices in the approaches of Ramalingam and Krishnamurti, notably the rejection of organized religion and religious authority, the practice of vegetarianism, abhorrence of hunting and other forms of slaughter of animals, the rejection of divisive social conditioning or social divisions of race, nationality, religion, etc., and the realization of human unity. I will pursue this topic in another post.

Vasanta Vihar, Chennai, India – Krishnamurti stayed here on his visits to Chennai and gave his winter talks on its grounds.

And, incidentally, I should add that, in my late teens, I attended some of Krishnamurti’s winter talks on the sprawling grounds of Vasanta Vihar, on Greenways Road, in Chennai, India, and even had brief exchanges with him at the end of one or two of his evening talks.

On one instance, I approached Krishnamurti at the end of his talk and asked him what his objective was in giving these talks year after year. His spirited and puzzling response was, “Find out for yourself, Sir”. On another occasion, after his talk, I followed him, along with a few people, back to the entrance of his Vasanta Vihar residence. He sat down on the verandah or front porch steps, looked at all of us with pity, and singled me out for his question “Can I help you with anything, Sir?”. I replied in the negative. He then stood up and went upstairs to his lodgings.

To revert to the second couplet of the Agaval, the word “அருள்” (Arul) refers to the grace or the supreme compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight. It is also used as a prefix to the term “சிவ நெறி” (siva neri) which means, in this context, “the path of liberation”.

One of the meanings of the word “சிவம்” (sivam) is “முத்தி” (muthi) or “final deliverance”, or liberation. Therefore, “அருட்சிவ நெறி” (arut siva neri) is the path of liberation which relies solely on the reception of grace or the supreme compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight. This is none other than the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam delineated by Ramalingam.

As I pointed out in another post on this blog, there cannot be any independent external or internal means, e.g., method, force, power, or entity, which can pry open, disclose, and enable us to realize Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the Supreme Being, and its inherent bliss (இயற்கை இன்பம்). It is a “Pathless Reality” only in this sense.

However, as Ramalingam has correctly observed, only its own inherent power or force, அருள் (Arul) or the supreme compassion-force, can help us to experience and know the existence or reality of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight and its inherent bliss (இயற்கை இன்பம்).

And he has also pointed out that there is a path, Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, which can qualify us, by the development of compassion and sense of soul-unity with other beings, to receive this அருள் (Arul) or the supreme compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight. In this sense, and only in this sense, there is a path to it.

How is this path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam not itself a case of the mistaken belief that there is an “independent external or internal means, e.g., method, force, power, or entity, which can enable us to realize Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the Supreme Being, and its inherent bliss (இயற்கை இன்பம்)”?

The path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam relies only on the reception of the Supreme Light Of Compassion of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight as the means of realizing its existence and inherent bliss. This path also seeks to receive that supreme Light of Compassion by continuous and devoted contemplation of it and by the cultivation of its microcosmic manifestation of compassion in the soul.

Hence, the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam is certainly not itself a case of the mistaken belief that there is an “independent external or internal means, e.g., method, force, power, or entity, which can enable us to realize Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the Supreme Being, and its inherent bliss (இயற்கை இன்பம்)“.

Thus, அருட்சிவ நெறி (arut siva neri), or Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, is the Way or path based on this fundamental truth that liberation or enlightenment (experience and knowledge of the reality and inherent bliss of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight) can be attained only by means of its அருள் (Arul) or supreme compassion-force, its supreme Light of Divine Compassion.

Therefore, only the Way or path based on the fundamental truth, that the experience and knowledge of the inherent bliss of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight is attained only by means of its own supreme Light of Compassion, is the true path. It follows that Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam is the true path to enlightenment. This is not irrational dogmatism or fanaticism, but a truth which is crystal clear. Ramalingam affirms this in the later couplets 483 and 491 of his Agaval:

483  பொய்ந்நெறி அனைத்தினும் புகுத்தாது எனைஅருள்

செந்நெறி செலுத்திய சிற்சபைச் சிவமே

Poyneri anaithinum puguthadhu ennaiarul

Senneri seluthiya sirsabhai sivamey

பொய்ந்நெறி அனைத்தினும் = All the false paths or paths which do not lead to the realization of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight

புகுத்தாது எனை = Steered me away from them (the false paths)

அருள்செந்நெறி = the good and noble path of grace (none other than Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam) or the path which seeks to receive and rely solely on the grace or the supreme Light of compassion of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight; செந்நெறி is the செவ்விய வழி (good and noble path), the path of சன்மார்க்கம் (the path of wisdom and virtue)

செலுத்திய = Guided me to into it (the good and noble path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam)

சிற்சபைச் சிவமே = The supreme being of pure consciousness and intelligence (சிவம்) abiding in the “hall of consciousness” (சிற்சபை) in the inmost domain of the soul

Translation: Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the supreme being of pure consciousness and intelligence, who abides in the “hall of consciousness” in the inmost domain of the soul, steered me away from all the false paths (paths which do not lead us to it) and guided me into the noble path of grace, wisdom, and virtue, the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam.

491   அருள்நெறி ஒன்றே தெருள்நெறி மற்றெலாம்

இருள்நெறி என எனக்கு இயம்பிய சிவமே

Arulneri onerey therulneri mutrellaam

Irulneri ena enaku iyambiya sivameh

அருள்நெறி ஒன்றே = Only the path of grace (Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam), or the path which seeks to receive and rely solely on the grace or the supreme Light of compassion of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight

தெருள்நெறி = The path which leads to clarity and intelligent comprehension (of reality), to wisdom

மற்றெலாம் = All other paths

இருள்நெறி = Paths of darkness or ignorance, delusion, and confusion

என எனக்கு இயம்பிய சிவமே = Proclaimed or revealed to me by the supreme being of pure consciousness and intelligence (சிவமே)

Translation: Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the supreme being of pure consciousness and intelligence, proclaimed or revealed to me that only the path of grace (Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam) is the path which leads to clarity, intelligent comprehension (of reality), and wisdom, and that all other paths are paths of darkness or ignorance, delusion, and confusion.

Our understanding of this அருட்சிவ நெறி (arut siva neri), or the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, the path which seeks to receive and rely solely on the intrinsic Light of Supreme Compassion of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, and Ramalingam’s mission, is enriched by reflecting on these couplets 483 and 491 and also couplet 538 given below. These couplets shed more light on the nature of the Way or path Ramalingam mentions in couplet 2. I will examine them in later posts.

538   ஆன்றசன் மார்க்கம் அணிபெற எனைத்தான்

ஈன்றமு தளித்த இனிய நற் றாயே   

Aanra sanmargam anipera ennaithaan

Yeenru amudalitha iniya nattraye

ஆன்றசன் மார்க்கம் = the grand and excellent path of Sanmargam (Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam) or the path of grace

அணிபெற எனைத்தான் = to make me join and add to its beauty and greatness (i.e., to adorn it like a glittering jewel)

ஈன்றமு தளித்த = brought me forth into this world and nourished me with elixir or ambrosia

இனிய நற் றாயே = sweet and good mother

Translation: Arutperunjothi or OmniLight is the sweet and good mother who brought me forth into this world and nourished me with elixir or ambrosia in order to enable me to join and add to the beauty and greatness of the grand and excellent path of Sanmargam (Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam) or the path of grace, wisdom, and virtue.

Couplet 715 also celebrates the intimate relation between Arutperunjothi, or OmniLight, and the assembly or society of those who tread the path of virtue and wisdom, the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam:

715  நன்மார்க்கர் நாவில் நவிற்றிய பாட்டே

சன்மார்க்க சங்கம் தழுவிய பாட்டே

Nunmaargar naavil navitriya paatey

Sanmaarga sangam thazhuvia paatey

நன்மார்க்கர் நாவில் = On the tongue of the good, or those who adhere to the path of virtue (Sanmaargam)

நவிற்றிய பாட்டே = uttered as a chant, hymn, or song

சன்மார்க்க சங்கம் தழுவிய = adopted by Sanmaarga Sangam, the assembly and society of those who tread the path of virtue and wisdom

பாட்டே = Chant, hymn, or song

Translation: Arutperunjothi, or OmniLight, is the chant of the good and the song of Sanmaarga Sangam, the assembly and society of those who tread the path of virtue and wisdom.

To return to my commentary on couplet 2, the word “அருள்” (Arul) is also used as a prefix to the term “பெரு நிலை” which means “great state or condition”. Thus, and again, the prefix “அருள்” (Arul) makes it clear that this great state or condition is based on the reception of the grace or Light of the supreme inherent compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight.

The expression “ருட்பெரு நிலைவாழ்” (arutperu nilai vazh) indicates that it is a mode of life (வாழ்வு), or a state of living (வாழ்க்கை), and not dissolution, or extinction, or “absorption” in Nirvana, the “Void”, or Emptiness, or even “Impersonal Brahman”.

It is a state or condition of living without any obscurations of the dark clouds of ignorance. It is a life which is completely or fully rooted in and illumined by the grace or the supreme divine compassion-force of Arutperunjothi or OmniLight.

It is clearly the life described by Ramalingam in his vinappams or petitions of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam, the “பேரின்ப சித்திப் பெருவாழ்வு” (perinba siddhi peruvazhvu) or the great deathless life of unconditioned bliss and siddhi or adepthood.

This supernal state or condition is also described in couplet 512 as “சுத்தசன் மார்க்கச் சுகநிலை” or “the state or condition of bliss distinctive of the path of (Samarasa) Suddha Sanmargam”. It is a state or condition of happiness which is a characteristic attainment on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam.

512  சுத்தசன் மார்க்கச் சுகநிலை தனில்எனைச்

சத்தியன் ஆக்கிய தனிச்சிவ பதியே 

Suddha Sanmarga suganilai thanil ennai

Sathiyen aakiya thani sivapadiyey

சுத்தசன் மார்க்கச் சுகநிலை = the state or condition of bliss distinctive of the path of (Samarasa) Suddha Sanmargam

தனில்எனைச் சத்தியன் ஆக்கிய = established me in it and endowed me with truthfulness (சத்தியம்) and power (சத்தி-யன்)

தனிச்சிவ பதியே = incomparable and supreme being of pure consciousness and intelligence

Translation: Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, the incomparable supreme being of pure consciousness and intelligence, has established me in the distinctive state or condition of bliss of (Samarasa) Suddha Sanmargam and endowed me with truthfulness and power.

Couplet 774 also refers to “வலமுறு சுத்தசன் மார்க்க நிலை” or the highest state or condition (the summum bonum) of Suddha Samaargam and its accruing good:

774   வலமுறு சுத்தசன் மார்க்க நிலைபெறு

நலம்எலாம் அளித்த ஞானமெய்க் கனலே

Valamuru suddhasanmaarga nilai peru

Nalam ellaam alitha gnana mey kanaley

வலமுறு = productive of strength, power, and victory

சுத்தசன் மார்க்க நிலை = the summum bonum or the final attainment of Suddha Sanmaargam

பெறுநலம்எலாம் அளித்த = granting all the accruing good (of the summum bonum of Suddha Sanmaargam)

ஞானமெய்க் கனலே = the true fire of wisdom

Translation: Arutperunjothi, or OmniLight, is the true fire of wisdom which endowed me with the strength, power, and victory, and all the good accruing from the attainment of the summum bonum of Suddha Sanmaargam.

In essence, couplet # 2 affirms that Arutperunjothi, or OmniLight, is the “ருட்சிவ பதி” (arutsivapadhi) or supreme being of pure intelligence “சிவம்” (sivam), and divine compassion “அருள்” (arul), who has revealed not only this path to liberation which relies only on its grace, but also the final goal of this path, the great deathless life of unconditioned bliss and siddhi or adepthood (ருட்பெரு நிலை வாழ்வு).

Thus, in one couplet, right at the start of his great Agaval, Ramalingam has compactly revealed the nature of the Way, the final goal or destination, and the Supreme Being, Arutperunjothi or OmniLight, who is the master and support of the journey and the destination.