Archive for ‘Suddha Sanmargam’

July 29, 2020

Spiritual Humanitarianism: The Abolition Of Hunger (1)

dead_or_dying_children_on_a_calcutta_street_28the_statesman_22_august_194329
Photo in The Statesman on 22 August 1943 showing famine conditions in Calcutta, India, during the final years of the infernal British rule. (Source: Wikipedia)
Vulture Stalks A Famished Sudanese Child (Photo by Kevin Carter, 1993)
Old photo of Sathiya Dharuma Saalai (The Home of True Charity) in Vadalur, Tamilnadu, South India – It was opened by Ramalingam on May 23, 1867 and has fed the poor and hungry to this day.

At the opening of the Sathiya Dharuma Saalai (The Home of True Charity – true charity because it is universal charity and dispensed regardless of caste, class, religion, sex, ethnicity, ideology, etc) in May 1867, Ramalingam reportedly read from the first part of his great and incomplete essay on “The Practice of Compassion for Living Beings” (“ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்”). It is subtitled “The First Practice Of Suddha Sanmargam” (“சுத்த சன்மார்க்கத்தின் முதற் சாதனம்”).

It was first published in 1879, five years after Ramalingam’s decision to recede from the realm of mortal eyes. This essay, which marks a revolutionary advance in ethical and spiritual thought, has survived in three overlapping parts in the extant publications.

It is reported that this revolutionary essay was originally composed in seven parts, but the authenticity of this claim has not been verified. What we do know is that at the end of the first part of this essay, it is mentioned that this ethic of compassion for living beings will be further elaborated in a work titled “சமரச வேதம்” or “The Way of Wisdom and Harmony” (“இன்னும் இந்தச் சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தின் விரிவைச் சமரச வேதத்திற் கண்டு கொள்ளலாம்“).

However, there is no evidence that this proposed book on “சமரச வேதம்”, or “The Way of Wisdom and Harmony”, was completed or even made available in parts. Perhaps, Ramalingam left this task of further clarification and elaboration of the ethic of compassion for living beings to others on the path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam (The Pure Path of Wisdom and Harmony).

Ramalingam’s central proposal in this great work of spiritual ethics is that the practice of prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of living beings, with priority accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, is the core of the practice of compassion for living beings

And since the practice of compassion for living beings is the sufficient means for realizing and receiving the fullness of the supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight (கடவுள்), it follows that the dedicated practice of the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of living beings, with priority accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, is sufficient for realizing and receiving the fullness of the supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight (கடவுள்).

Ramalingam affirms that the supernal life of bliss without any limitations (of death, disease, aging, suffering, etc) can be attained only by realizing and receiving the fullness of the supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight (கடவுள்).

It follows that the dedicated practice of the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of living beings, with priority accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, is sufficient for attaining the supernal life of bliss without any limitations.

Ramalingam’s central proposal on the imperative of preventing or alleviating hunger or starvation of living beings, with primacy accorded to the prevention or alleviation of the hunger or starvation of human beings, rests on Six Noble Truths:

The First Noble Truth: “கடவுளின் பூரண இயற்கை இன்பத்தைப் பெற்று எக்காலத்தும், எவ்விடத்தும், எவ்விதத்தும், எவ்வளவும் தடைபடாமல் வாழ்கின்ற ஒப்பற்ற பெரியவாழ்வே இந்த மனிதப் பிறப்பினால் அடையத்தக்க ஆன்மலாபமென்று உண்மையாக அறியவேண்டும்.”

Translation: “The highest spiritual good attainable in this human birth and life is the realization of the inherent and absolute bliss of the OmniLight (கடவுள்) and the resulting incomparable supernal life which is not hindered, obstructed, or limited (தடைபடாமல்) at any time, or place, or in any form, or to any extent or degree.”

If it is a life which is “not hindered, obstructed, or limited (தடைபடாமல்) at any time, or place, or in any form, or to any extent or degree”, it follows that it must be an immortal life of complete bliss, knowledge, and freedom.

And since terrestrial and extraterrestrial life are both subject to various kinds of obstructions and limitations, this immortal life of complete bliss, knowledge, and freedom must be a supernal existence and form of life transcending both the terrestrial and extraterrestrial realms of existence.

Attaining this supernal life must certainly be an incalculable or immeasurable (ஒப்பற்ற) evolutionary or developmental ascent and gain for human beings, or souls who have taken birth in a human body.

What does all this mean?

It means that human life, distinguished by the possession of a unique body with remarkable capacities, not least of which is the faculty of language and complex reasoning, can become a ladder of evolutionary or developmental ascent into an embodied supernal state of existence and consciousness free from the endemic limitations and attendant sufferings of human and other mundane (terrestrial or extraterrestrial) forms of life.

How do we know that such an “embodied supernal state of existence and consciousness free from the endemic limitations and attendant sufferings of human and other forms of life” exists in reality?

At our present level of understanding, marked by ignorance of the existence of the OmniLight, and other serious limitations, we do not have any direct means of ascertaining the reality of this supernal state of existence.

However, we can rely on Ramalingam’s testimony on its reality and on the realization of the OmniLight and its supreme compassion-force (அருள்). He testifies that the realization and full reception of its supreme compassion-force (அருள்) leads to the attainment of this supernal life bereft of any limitations.

In the absence of evidence showing that Ramalingam was deluded, or that he was deceptive, and on the evidence of his well-documented discernment, compassion, and sincerity, it is rational to accept his testimony.

In addition, we can also reason plausibly that if the OmniLight exists, and if individual beings or souls are the OmniLight’s own microcosmic manifestations conditioned by their mysterious descent or “fall” into a state of abysmal ignorance, the identification with their material bodies, and the resultant karma accumulated in successive births in those bodies, the destiny of individual beings or souls cannot be confined merely to the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth in the forms of embodied existence beset by all sorts of limitations and attendant sufferings.

Since the OmniLight is supremely compassionate, it is reasonable to expect that it would make a higher form of existence, bereft of limitations and attendant sufferings, accessible to souls ripe for that evolutionary ascent, or spiritual progress, and also facilitate and fulfill this ascent and progress by its supreme compassion-force (அருள்).

Why does it not prevent the sufferings of sentient beings?

The workings of the supreme compassion-force are not capricious, but law-governed, i.e., governed by the laws of divine nature or the nature of the OmniLight. The laws of nature are a function of the operations of this supreme compassion-force in accordance with the nature of the OmniLight.

There are numerous instances in which its lawful operations prevent or bring about the alleviation of suffering and there are many instances in which its lawful operations allow sentient beings to suffer from various factors.

Why are there such instances in which the workings of the supreme compassion-force allow sentient beings to suffer from various factors?

Ramalingam points out that sentient beings undergo sufferings from hunger, disease, murder, etc., because of four primary factors:

a) the nature of the impure stuff or material (அசுத்த மாயை) of their bodies and that of the universe in which they exist

“பூதகாரிய தேகங்களுக்கு மாயை முதற்காரணமாதலால் அந்த மாயையின் விகற்ப ஜாலங்களாகிய பசி, தாகம், பிணி, இச்சை, எளிமை, பயம், கொலை என்பவைகளால் அந்தத் தேகங்களுக்கு அடிக்கடி அபாயங்கள் நேரிடுமென்றும், அப்படி அபாயங்கள் நேரிடாமல் கரணேந்திரிய சகாயங்களைப் பெற்ற தம் மறிவைக் கொண்டு சர்வ ஜாக்கிரதையோடு முயற்சிசெய்து தடுத்துக் கொள்வதற்குத் தக்க வல்லப சுதந்திரம் சீவர்களுக்கு அருளாற் கொடுக்கப்பட்ட தென்றும்…” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் – முதற் பிரிவு)

Translation: “Since primordial (impure) matter is the material cause of the bodies of living beings, the deficiencies, random changes, and disparities of that substance, render those bodies vulnerable to threats from hunger, thirst, disease, desire, exhaustion from deprivation, fear, murder, etc. However, these living beings have also been endowed with intelligence, and senses of knowledge and action, by the supreme compassion-force . They are expected to use their intelligence and sensory instruments of knowledge and action to act with great attention and caution and protect themselves from those threats or dangers.” (“The Practice of Compassion for Living beings”)

b) the divine law of karma in accordance with which souls in sentient bodies reap the effects of their own actions performed in those bodies in present and/or past lives 

c) lack of compassion (in conjunction with the divine law of karma, this lack of compassion recoils on the agent/actor in the form of various kinds of sufferings)

கடவுளால் சிருஷ்டிக்கப்பட்ட சீவர்களில் அனேகர் பசி, தாகம், பயம் முதலியவற்றால் மிகவும் துன்பப்படுகின்றது என்னெனில்:- முன் தேகத்தில் சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தை விரும்பாமல் கடின சித்தர்களாகித் துன்மார்க்கத்தில் நடந்த சீவர்களாதலால், கடவுள் விதித்த அருளாக்கினைப் படி பசி, தாகம், பயம் முதலியவற்றால் மிகவுந் துன்பப் படுகிறார்கள் என்றறிய வேண்டும்.” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் – முதற் பிரிவு)

Translation: “The reason many sentient beings brought into existence by the OmniLight suffer from hunger, thirst, fear, etc., is this: in their former births or bodies, they were averse to the practice of compassion for living beings, remained hard-hearted, and performed actions which caused sufferings to other living beings. Hence, in accordance with the divine law (of karma), they are subject to great sufferings from hunger, thirst, fear, etc.” (“The Practice of Compassion for Living beings”)

d) lack of caution, or carelessness in dealing with the world

“ஊழ்வகையாலும் அஜாக்கிரதையாலும் அன்னிய சீவர்களுக்கு நேரிடுகிற அபாயங்களை…” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம் – முதற் பிரிவு)

Translation: “As a result of their karma and lack of caution, living beings are beset by dangers.” (“The Practice of Compassion for Living beings”)

Examples of (d) are the result of  (a) – (c). Failures of attention, caution, etc., spring from the deficiencies of the impure stuff or material constituting the body, its brain, and the sensory organs of knowledge and action. Karma, or the effects of actions performed in present and/or past lives, also produces such critical failures of caution or attention in different circumstances. The lack of compassion also leads to indifference, inattention, and carelessness in situations involving the actual or imminent sufferings of other sentient beings.

Both (a) and (b) imply that it is not reasonable to think that suffering would be absent in a universe of impure matter (அசுத்த மாயை) – with laws of nature and the divine law of karma – governed by the supreme compassion-force of the OmniLight.

Both (c) and (d) imply that it is not reasonable to think that suffering would be absent in a universe of impure matter in which sentient beings are evolving or developing from an initial state of abysmal ignorance and are prone to the deficiencies of lack of compassion and lack of caution, among other flaws.

I should point out that, in Ramalingam’s view, (a) is a consequence of the mysterious initial “fallen” condition of immersion of souls in the dreadful Inconscient order of reality.

Souls, or individual conscious particles of light (சிற்றணுப்பசு), are brought by the supreme compassion-force of the Omnilight into the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth in sentient bodies from an initial and mysterious “fallen” state of envelopment in dense ignorance (அஞ்ஞான இருள்), without any semblance of conscious experience or intelligence, in a condition and realm of total and indivisible darkness.

This அஞ்ஞான இருள் or darkness of ignorance is the soul’s dire condition of immersion in the dread Inconscient order of reality, the shadow reality, as it were, of the Superconscient (never bereft of consciousness, intelligence, and bliss) OmniLight.

From its mysterious immanence in this dread Inconscient order of reality, a dark void bereft of any hint of sentience, experience, and intelligence, the OmniLight has brought about universes with conditions fine-tuned for the emergence of sentient bodies as vehicles for the awakening and development of the innate intelligence of souls from their initial and mysterious “fallen” state of abysmal ignorance.

Here are the relevant remarks from Ramalingam’s true petitions (சத்திய விண்ணப்பம்) to OmniLight:

“இயற்கையே அஞ்ஞான விருளில் அஞ்ஞான வுருவில் அஞ்ஞானிகளாய் அஞ்ஞானத்திற் பயின்று ஏதுந் தெரியாது கிடந்த எங்களைத் தேவரீர் பெருங்கருணையாற் பவுதீக உடம்பிற் சிறிதளவு அறிவு தோற்றி விடுத்த…” (சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியச் சிறு விண்ணப்பம்)

Translation: “From our condition of immersion in the dark void of inherent ignorance, we were brought into sentient bodies with some glimmer of intelligence by the great compassion of the divine OmniLight…” (“The True Short  Petition to OmniLight”)

அறிவு என்பது ஒரு சிறிதுந் தோற்றாத அஞ்ஞானம் என்னும் பெரிய பாசாந்தகாரத்தில் நெடுங்காலம் சிற்றணுப்பசுவாகி அருகிக்கிடந்த அடியேனுக்கு உள்ளொளியாகி இருந்து அப் பாசந்தகாரத்தின்றும் எடுத்து எல்லாப் பிறப் புடம்புகளிலும் உயர்வுடைத்தாகிய ஆறறிவுள்ள இம்மனிதப் பிறப்புடம்பில் என்னை விடுத்துச் சிறிது அறிவு விளங்கச் செய்த தேவரீரதுதிருவருட் பெருங்கருணைத் திறத்தை எங்ஙனம் அறிவேன்! எவ்வாறு கருதுவேன்! என்னென்று சொல்வேன்!“(சமரச சுத்த சன்மார்க்க சத்தியப் பெரு விண்ணப்பம்)

Translation: “The indwelling OmniLight has lifted us from a dire and prolonged condition of dread bondage (பாசம்), without a glimmer of intelligence or knowledge, in an immense darkness (அந்தகாரம்) of ignorance, and brought about our birth in this human body, which is superior to all other bodies, and facilitated the development of intelligence and liberation from that dread bondage of ignorance. How can we understand the workings of its supreme compassion! How can we even contemplate its power! How can we describe it!” (“The True Long Petition to OmniLight”)

However, the initial stuff or matter-energy, constitutive of our cosmos, which has lawfully emerged, due to the workings of the supreme compassion-force, from the dread Inconscient order of reality, bereft of sentience, experience, and understanding, still bears the marks of its Inconscient progenitor and produces dissolution, or disintegration, or death, dysfunction or deficiency due to decay or random change, relapse into unconsciousness, etc.

Ramalingam points out that this is one of the primary causes of the law-governed sufferings of sentient beings in our universe. I will elaborate, in a later post, on his explanation of the occurrence of suffering.

Ramalingam’s second noble truth is that the full realization and reception of the Light of அருள், or the effulgent compassion-force of the OmniLight, is the only means of achieving the incomparable, supernal, and immortal life of complete bliss, knowledge, and freedom.

The Second Noble Truth: “இயற்கை இன்பத்தைப் பெற்றுத் தடைபடாமல் வாழ்கின்ற அந்தப் பெரியவாழ்வை எதனால் அடையக்கூடுமென்று அறியவேண்டில்:- கடவுளின் இயற்கை விளக்கமாகிய அருளைக் கொண்டே அடையக்கூடும் என்றறிய வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “If it is asked “How do we realize the inherent and absolute bliss of the OmniLight (கடவுள்) and ascend to the incomparable supernal life free from all limitations?”, it should be known that it is attained only by means of its natural or inherent Light of Grace or supreme compassion-force (அருள்).”

The argument for this second noble truth is that since the OmniLight is the supreme being, no external force or means can lead us to the experience and realization of its inherent and absolute bliss. Therefore, only its own inherent or natural power of its Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force (அருள்), can facilitate the experience or realization of that absolute bliss inherent in its nature.

The Third Noble Truth: “கடவுளின் இயற்கைவிளக்கமாகிய அருளை எதனாற் பெறக்கூடுமென்று அறியவேண்டில்:- சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தினால் கடவுள் அருளைப் பெறக்கூடுமல்லது வேறெந்த வழியாலும் சிறிதும் பெறக்கூடாது என்று உறுதியாக அறிதல் வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “If it is asked “How do we obtain or receive the natural or inherent Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force (அருள்), of the OmniLight (கடவுள்)?”, it should be known with firm conviction or certainty that it is realized and obtained only by the practice of compassion for living beings (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்) and not by any other means or method.”

It follows that the practice of compassion for living beings  is the sole, essential, and sufficient means to the full realization and reception of the effulgent supreme compassion-force (அருள்) of the OmniLight.

How do we know that all this is true?

Ramalingam offers the following argument:

“கடவுள் அருளைச் சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தினால் பெறக் கூடுமல்லது வேறெந்த வழியாலும் பெறக்கூடா தென்பது எப்படி என்னில்:- அருளென்பது கடவுள் தயவு, கடவுளியற்கை விளக்கம். சீவகாருணிய மென்பது சீவர்கள் தயவு, சீவர்கள் ஆன்ம இயற்கை விளக்கம். இதனால் தயவைக் கொண்டு தயவைப் பெறுதலும் விளக்கத்தைக் கொண்டு விளக்கத்தைப் பெறுதலுங் கூடும். வேறொன்றினால் பெறக்கூடாமை அனுபவமாகலின், சீவகாருணியத்தைக் கொண்டு அருளைப் பெறுதல் கூடும்; வேறொன்றினாலும் பெறக்கூடாமை நிச்சயம். இதற்கு வேறு பிரமாணம் வேண்டாமென்றறிய வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “If it is asked “How do we know that we can realize and receive the Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight only by the practice of compassion for living beings?”, the explanation is as follows:

The Light of Grace (அருள்) is divine compassion-force, the inherent effulgence or illumination (கடவுளியற்கை விளக்கம்) of the supreme divine being, the OmniLight. The practice of compassion for living beings is the cultivation of the limited compassion-force in the individual soul. This finite compassion-force is the inherent effulgence or illumination of the individual soul.

Thus, to realize and obtain the Light of Grace (அருள்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight by means of the practice of compassion for living beings is tantamount to receiving compassion by giving compassion and receiving illumination by giving illumination.”

In Part II of his essay on “The Practice of Compassion for Living Beings“, we find the following passage:

“சீவகாருணிய ஒழுக்கத்தினால் அருளைப் பெறக்கூடு மென்பது எப்படியென் றறியவேண்டில்:- அருள் என்பது கடவுள் இயற்கை விளக்கம் அல்லது கடவுள் தயவு. சீவகாருணிய மென்பது ஆன்மாக்களின் இயற்கைவிளக்கம் அல்லது ஆன்மாக்கள் தயவு. இதனால், ஒருமைக் கரணமாகிய சிறிய விளக்கத்தைக் கொண்டு பெரிய விளக்கத்தைப் பெறுதலும் சிறிய தயவைக்கொண்டு பெரிய தயவைப் பெறுதலும் கூடும். சிறு நெருப்பைக் கொண்டு பெருநெருப்பைப் பெறுதல்போல என்றறிய வேண்டும்.”

Translation: “The Light of Grace (அருள்) is the unbounded natural effulgence or illumination of the supreme compassion of the OmniLight (கடவுள்). The practice of compassion for living beings is the expression of the limited natural effulgence or illumination of the soul. Thus, to realize and obtain the Light of Grace (அருள்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight by means of the practice of compassion for living beings is like obtaining greater illumination by means of smaller illumination and obtaining greater compassion by means of a little compassion. It’s similar to obtaining a greater amount of fire by means of a smaller fire.”

The central operative principle here is that like attracts like, like obtains like. Therefore, to attract, realize, and obtain the Light of Grace (அருள்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight, one must start with and cultivate the same attribute of universal compassion for living beings at the microcosmic level of the individual soul.

We also find these insightful remarks in Part I of the essay on “The Practice of Compassion for Living Beings“:

சீவகாருணியமில்லாத போது அருள்விளக்கந் தோன்றாது. அது தோன்றாதபோது கடவுள் நிலை கைகூடாது. அது கூடாதபோது முத்தியின்பம் ஒருவரும் அடையமாட்டார்கள்.”

Translation: “In the absence of the practice of compassion for living beings, the Light of Grace (அருள்விளக்கம்), or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight will not be manifested. When this Light of Grace, or supreme-compassion-force, is not manifested, we cannot realize the OmniLight. In the absence of this realization, we cannot attain the bliss of liberation (from the limitations and attendant sufferings of mortal life).”

“சீவகாருணியம் கடவுளருளைப் பெறுவதற்கு முக்கிய சாதனமென்பது மல்லாமல் அந்த அருளின் ஏகதேச விளக்க மென்றும் அறிய வேண்டும். சீவகாருணியம் ஆன்மாக்களின் இயற்கைவிளக்கம் ஆதலால், அந்த இயற்கைவிளக்கமில்லாத சீவர்களுக்குக் கடவுள் விளக்கம் அகத்திலும் புறத்திலும் வெளிப்படவே மாட்டாது.”

Translation: “The practice of compassion for living beings is not only the essential means of obtaining the Light of Grace, or supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight, but it is also a partial (ஏகதேசம்) manifestation of that Light of Grace. The practice of compassion for living beings is an expression of the inherent light (இயற்கைவிளக்கம்) of the individual soul, its light of knowledge. Therefore, in the absence of this expression of the soul’s inherent light of knowledge in the form of the practice of compassion for living beings, the Light of Grace, or the supreme compassion-force, of the OmniLight will not be manifested in the inner (அகம்) and outer (புறம்) levels of the individual soul.”

(to be continued)

May 12, 2020

The Fourfold Path Of Purification (1)

Chaukhamba (four pillars), Gyaraspur, Madhya Pradesh, India, 10th – 12th CE

satya_dharma_salai_old

Old photo of Sathiya Dharuma Saalai (The Home of True Charity) in Vadalur, Tamilnadu, South India – It was opened by Ramalingam on May 23, 1867 and has fed the poor and hungry to this day. 

At the opening of the சத்திய தருமசாலை  or The Home of True Charity (true charity because it is universal charity and dispensed regardless of caste, class, religion, sex, ethnicity, ideology, etc) on May 23, 1867, primarily for the purpose of assuaging the hunger and thirst of the destitute, but also for shelter, dispensation of medicines, and education for the poor, Ramalingam put a poster on the walls of the kitchen with its famous “inextinguishable” wood-burning oven (அணையா அடுப்பு). This kitchen has been cooking food for the hungry since its inception in 1867. And this May 23, 2020, marks its 153rd year of continuous operation. 

The poster was on the requirements of the fourfold path of purification in the great path of Samarasa Suddha Sanmargam (the pure and universal path of wisdom and harmony):

1. The purification of the body (இந்திரிய ஒழுக்கம்)

2. The purification of the mind (கரண ஒழுக்கம்)

3. The purification of life or the purification of relations with other living beings (ஜீவ ஒழுக்கம்)

4. Spiritual purification or the purification of the soul (ஆன்ம ஒழுக்கம்)

It should be noted that these are not four stages of purification. It is not the case that we must first start with the stage of purification of the body, and then move to the stage of purification of the mind, go through the stage of purification of relations with other living beings, and then finally reach the stage of spiritual purification. Rather, they are concurrent practices of purification. They are practiced together.

Nevertheless, they seem to constitute a hierarchy of forms of purification. Spiritual purification, or the purification of the soul, designed to remove the deep-seated ignorance of the nature of the ultimate reality or the OmniLight, is the highest form of purification and requires the most arduous practice.

Since it is a hierarchy of four forms of purification, the “lower” forms of purification, viz., the purification of the body and the purification of the mind, support the higher form of purification, viz., the purification of life or the purification of relations with living beings. And all these three forms of purification support the fourth and highest form of purification, spiritual purification or the purification of the soul.

Thus, the first and second forms of purification have primacy and facilitate the third and fourth forms of purification. This means that progress in the first form of purification facilitates progress in the second, progress in the second form of purification facilitates the third, and progress in the first three forms of purification facilitates progress in the fourth and highest form of purification.

These four forms of purification must not be conflated with ascetic forms of self-abnegation or self-torture. Ramalingam’s integral and life-affirmative approach discards ascetic self-torture. It emphasizes the care, regulation, and purification of the precious instrument of the human body and its astonishing senses of knowledge and action. He prohibits their suppression, deprivation, or torture.

I would also point out that the fourfold path of purification is inseparable from the practice of compassion for living beings and the cultivation of the sense of soul-kinship with them. This is evident from the fact that many of the precepts even on the purification of the senses of action and knowledge involve abstention from cruelty or harm and the cultivation of compassion or benevolence.

What is the goal of this fourfold path of purification? What do we attain by its practice?

There are some notes of Ramalingam’s remarks in conversations with his associates, the “உபதேசக் குறிப்புகள்” or “Notes On Teachings”. They contain a mixture of sense and nonsense, the plausible and the implausible, the accurate and the inaccurate.

Hence, one must sift through them with caution and discernment, keeping always in mind the gold standard of consistency with Ramalingam’s late and mature works, e.g., Jeevakarunya Ozhukkam or the incomplete Essay On The Practice Of Compassion For Living Beings, the Arutperunjothi Agaval or the Canticles On The OmniLight, and the four Suddha Sanmarga Vinappams or Petitions On The Way of Suddha Sanmargam.

These “Notes On Teachings” (உபதேசக் குறிப்புகள்) mention the four major attainments of the successful practice of the fourfold path of purification:

a.  Unitive experience and knowledge of the OmniLight (கடவுணிலையறிதல்-அம்மயமாகுதல்)

b.  Knowledge of the science of immortality (சாகாத கல்வி கற்றல்)

c.  Mastery over the elements of nature (தத்துவநிக்கிரகஞ் செய்தல்)

d. Mastery of alchemy or powers of transformation or transfiguration of substance (ஏமசித்தி)

Let us now consider the four forms of purification and the instructions pertaining to them.

The Purification of the Body (இந்திரிய ஒழுக்கம்):

This form of purification pertains to the bodily senses of action and knowledge, i.e., the senses which are the means of action and knowledge (“கன்மேந்திரிய ஒழுக்கம் ஞானேந்திரிய ஒழுக்கமென இருவகைப்பட்டது”). These are sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, speech, hands, and legs.

The main objective is to regulate and harness these senses of action and knowledge in the practice of the ethic of compassion for living beings. The regulation of bodily functions and the maintenance of the health of the body are also included in this form of purification.

The instructions associated with this process of purification of the senses and the body are as follows. I have improvised on the basic instructions:

  1. Sight: “குரூரமாகப் பாராதிருத்தல்”: Refrain from casting cruel looks; refrain from using the eyes to express dislike, contempt, hate, and envy; refrain from gazing at cruel scenes or acts 
  2. Hearing: “கொடிய சொல் செவிபுகாது நாத முதலிய ஸ்தோத்திரங்களைக் கேட்டல்”: Avoid hearing harsh or cruel words and listen intently to chants, hymns, and other sacred words and sounds; listen to pleasant and elevating poems, songs, and music; listen to morally and/or spiritually inspiring speeches or discourses
  3. Touch: “அசுத்த பரிசமில்லாது தயாவணமாகப் பரிசித்தல்”: Touch things with compassion or TLC (tender loving care) rather than with greed or violence; refrain from harming other livings beings by means of touch; refrain from touching impure things or cleanse your body afterwards if it was unavoidable to touch or handle impure matter
  4. Taste: “உருசி விரும்பாதிருத்தல்”: Refrain from craving for tasty or delicious foods; refrain from tasting non-vegetarian food; cultivate the consumption of vegetarian foods; Note: I think the emphasis is on the overcoming of craving for tasty or delicious foods. It is not about an ascetic abnegation of the sense of taste. This is evident from all the verses in the Arutperunjothi Agaval, or the “Canticles On the OmniLight”, celebrating the manifestations of the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி) in the forms of delicious mountain honey (“உயர்மலைத் தேனே“) , delectable concoctions of fruit (“கனியெலாங் கூட்டிக் கலந்ததீஞ் சுவையே“), milk, and honey and so forth. It is a reminder that when we enjoy such exquisitely delicious substances, we should view them as manifestations of the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி).
  5. Smell: “சுகந்தம் விரும்பாதிருத்தல்”: Refrain from craving for perfumes; avoid bad odors; eliminate bad odors with the help of cleansers rather than perfumes; Note: I think, again, that the emphasis is on the overcoming of craving for perfumes or pleasant scents. It is not about an ascetic abnegation of the sense of smell. This is evident from a verse in the Arutperunjothi Agaval, or the “Canticles On the OmniLight”, celebrating the manifestation of the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி) in the form of exquisitely fragrant substances (“சுகந்தநன்மணம்”) in nature.  It is a reminder that when we enjoy such exquisitely fragrant substances in nature, we should view them as manifestations of the OmniLight (அருட்பெருஞ்ஜோதி).
  6. Speech: “இன்சொல்லாடல்; பொய் சொல்லாதிருத்தல்”: Engage in pleasant speech; refrain from lying, slander, insult, insincerity in speech, exaggeration or misrepresentation, useless talk, and harsh words
  7. Hands and legs: “ஜீவஹ’ம்சை நேரிடுங் காலத்தில் எவ்விதத் தந்திரத்தினாலாவது தடை செய்தல்; பெரியோர்கள் எழுந்தருளி யிருக்கும் இடங்களுக்குச் செல்லுதல்; ஜீவோபகார நிமித்தமாய் சாதுக்கள் வாசஸ்தானங்களிலும் வேறு இடங்களிலும் சஞ்சரித்தல்; நன்முயற்சியிற்கொடுத்தலெடுத்தலாதி செய்தல்”: When harm or suffering is about to occur to living beings, intervene by any means to prevent it; visit places sanctified by the presence of noble, wise persons, persons who have made great contributions to the welfare of human and other living beings; walk around places, including habitats of Sadhus or seekers after spiritual knowledge, spiritual teachers, hermits, saints, etc., with the intent of providing assistance to those in need; use the hands for the performance of good deeds; refrain from causing injury or harm to other living beings by the use of the hands and/or legs
  8. Care of the Body: “மலஜல உபாதிகளை அக்கிர மாதிக்கிரம மின்றி கிரமத்தில் நிற்கச் செய்வித்தல், எவ்விதமெனில், மிதஆகாரத்தாலும் மித போகத்தாலும் செய்வித்தல், கால பேதத்தாலும் உஷ்ண ஆபாசத்தாலும் தடை நேர்ந்தால், ஓஷதி வகைகளாலும் பௌதிக மூலங்களாலும் சரபேத அஸ்தபரிச தந்திரத்தாலும் மூலாங்கப் பிரணவ த்யான சங்கற்பத்தாலும் செய்வித்தல், சுக்கிலத்தை அக்கிரம் அதிக்கிரமத்தில் விடாது நிற்றல் – மந்ததரம், தீவிரதரம் – எவ்வகையிலுஞ் சுக்கிலம் வெளிப்படாமல் செய்வித்தல்; இடைவிடாது கோசத்தைக் கவசத்தால் மறைத்தல், இதுபோல் உச்சி மார்பு முதலிய அங்கங்களையும் மறைத்தல்; சஞ்சரிக்குங் காலத்தில் காலிற் கவசந்தரித்தல்; அழுக்காடை உடுத்தாதிருத்தல்”: Regulation of bodily functions by avoiding deprivation, inadequacy, irregularity, and excess; moderation in the consumption of food (and it must always be nutritious vegetarian food!); moderation in enjoyment; the use of medicines, herbs, vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, spices, yoga, pranayama or regulation of breath, mantra, meditation, and massage to prevent or alleviate bodily ailments; regulation of sex by means of moderation in indulgence or celibacy; protection of the whole body from the elements of nature by adequate, suitable, and clean clothing, including a cap of some sort to cover the head and foot wear to protect the feet;  keeping the body clean by bathing daily in hot water and using beneficial cleansers, lotions, oils, etc

(to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!”

swami-ramalinga-vallalar

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”.

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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)

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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
மருள்நெறி
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

courtyard
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.”
(பேருபதேசம்)

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.”
(பேருபதேசம்)

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.”
(பேருபதேசம்)

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

courtyard

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 6, 2018

The Letters of Ramalingam (2)

swami-ramalinga-vallalar

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?”.

 

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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.

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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

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"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.”

see_explanation-_clicking_on_the_picture_will_download_the_highest_resolution_version_available

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.

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“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.

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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)

swami-ramalinga-vallalar

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 .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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