Archive for ‘Suddha Sanmargam’

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 by its usurpation and abuse in the extant theistic religious traditions, 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!”

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.

This supernal immortal embodied state of being and consciousness must be sharply distinguished from the vain notion 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!

 

 

 

 

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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 collection of hymns in Thiruarutpa are 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.

mark20rothko20no-201201964

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 .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2018

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

swami-ramalinga-vallalar

 

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

 

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

 

Unspeakable Cruelty and Slaughter in a Slaughterhouse!

 

Sadistic Spanish Festival

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 18, 2018

The Early Ethic of Ramalingam (1): Moral Maxims in Manu’s Lament On Karma

swami-ramalinga-vallalar

 

Detail of Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (by Rembrandt, 1630)

 

An early and significant Tamil prose text of Ramalingam (1823 – 1874) is his Manu’s Moral Code (மனு முறைகண்ட வாசகம்/ Manu Murai Kanda Vasagam) written in eloquent and ornate Tamil and published in June 1854 when he was 31. King Manu, who is a central character in this literary work of fiction, must be distinguished from the legendary Hindu sage-ruler Manu, the alleged creator of cruel caste codes whose legacy has been the bane of Indian society for ages.

It is said that Ramalingam wrote his work of fiction Manu’s Moral Code to promote moral education and development, particularly the development of compassion, among the youth. It is also a seminal and radical work on the ethical treatment of animals since it expounds his central argument for the equality of animals and humans in regard to the right to life and the right to freedom from suffering, including freedom from torture.

In this post, I will focus on the moral proscriptions and prescriptions implicit in the section in Manu’s Moral Code in which King Manu laments his past bad karma, i.e., performance of morally wrong actions in previous lives, which has led to his present mental and moral agony over sentencing his only son to death for negligence in causing the death of a calf beneath the wheels of his chariot.

Manu’s lament takes the form of rhetorical questions on his past bad karma which could have caused his present mental and moral agony about a just decision on his son’s negligence in crushing a calf beneath the wheels of his chariot. Each of these rhetorical questions assumes a moral judgment which implies a moral proscription and prescription.

These moral proscriptions and prescriptions help us to understand and delineate Ramalingam’s early ethic. The moral proscriptions or prohibitions also identify behaviors bound to create bad karma and consequent suffering in this life or future rebirth.

The law of karma is a cornerstone of Ramalingam’s theism and ethics. In his “Ethic of Compassion For Living Beings“, Ramalingam invokes the law of karma to explain the fact that many living beings undergo suffering from hunger, fear, torture, murder, etc. He states that it is due to their violation of the requirements of compassion in previous lives. As I have pointed out in earlier posts, Ramalingam’s ethic of compassion is founded on the spiritual truth of the kinship of all living beings. Hence, by his own account, lack of compassion stems from ignorance of this spiritual truth of the kinship of all living beings.

He declares that the law of karma is a Divine Law designed to bring about the progressive emancipation of the soul from its bondage to spiritual ignorance, i.e., ignorance of the truth of soul-kinship of all beings.

The law of karma governs the “distribution” of suffering to souls in accordance with their own choices and actions. Inflicting or contributing to the infliction of suffering on other people and living beings is a violation of the spiritual law of soul-kinship and will invariably result in suffering to oneself in the present or future life.

The soul bound in the coils of spiritual ignorance, i.e., ignorance of the truth of soul-kinship, learns to make morally correct choices by undergoing the suffering brought about by its own morally wrong choices, choices based on its unfettered egoism, primarily its self-aggrandizing choices or actions which inflict harm or suffering on other beings. The practice of the ethic of compassion is the only medicine for the afflictions brought about by one’s own bad karma.

Ramalingam’s central principle of compassion is that it is morally wrong to inflict or contribute to the infliction of suffering on living beings. Hence, his ethic of compassion emphasizes the obligation (this is his proscriptive principle of compassion) to refrain from inflicting suffering, e.g., starvation, murder, torture, disease, poverty or scarcity of means of sustenance, etc., on other living beings and the obligation (this is his prescriptive principle of compassion) to prevent, alleviate, or remove these forms of suffering in other living beings when we have knowledge that they are undergoing these sufferings, or will undergo them, and the capability to prevent, alleviate, or remove them by any means at our disposal.

Each of the following “lamentations” of King Manu implies a proscription or prohibition and a prescription. For instance , when Manu laments that he may have caused, in his previous life, fear or terror in the minds of good people, and thereby invited his present mental and moral agony over sentencing his only son to death for the negligently causing  the death of a calf, the implied prohibition or proscription is on causing fear or terror in the minds of good people and the implied prescription is to act considerately or benevolently toward them.

I should point out in this context that, according to Ramalingam, both humans and animals are prone to suffer from fear and one must refrain from inflicting it on them unless it is necessary to prevent greater harms, e.g., murder, torture, and starvation. These would actually be cases in which one causes fear to bad or evil persons, i.e., those intent on bringing about the murder, or torture, or starvation of other living beings. In his mature work on the Ethic of Compassion (Jivakarunya Ozhukkam), Ramalingam holds that it is morally permissible to cause fear in wild animals to prevent them from harming other living beings, but that it is contrary to the requirements of compassion to kill them.

What is wrong with inflicting fear or terror on good people? It is obviously a case of cruelty toward good people. Since they are good people, to inflict the suffering of fear or terror on them is to inflict undeserved and, therefore, unjust suffering on them. Hence, it is also a case of injustice perpetrated on good people.

Ramalingam is implying that the moral character of persons ought to make an important difference to how we treat them and that we ought to particularly behave compassionately toward those with good moral character.

It is noteworthy that the prohibitions and implied prescriptions in Manu’s lamentations cover a wide range of moral contexts. The two main principles at work in these varying contexts are the principle of compassion and the principle of respect. I will discuss these matters in the next post.

Here, then, are the morally wrong actions mentioned by Manu in the lamentations on his past karma:

நல்லோர் மனத்தை நடுங்கச் செய்தேனோ!

causing fear or terror in the minds of good people

 

அன்புடையவர்க்குத் துன்பஞ் செய்தேனோ!

causing distress to those who love us

 

தானங் கொடுப்போரைத் தடுத்து நின்றேனோ!

preventing the charitable from giving to the needy

 

கலந்த சினேகரைக் கலகஞ் செய்தேனோ!

breaking up friendships by creating dissension or strife

 

மனமொத்த நட்புக்கு வஞ்சகஞ் செய்தேனோ!

betraying a true friend

 

கலங்கி யொளிந்தோரைக் காட்டிக்கொடுத்தேனோ!

betraying those who have gone into hiding out of fear or trepidation

 

ஆசைகாட்டி மோசஞ் செய்தேனோ!

deceiving others after luring or enticing them (with false promises)

 

குடிவரி யுயர்த்திக் கொள்ளை கொண்டேனோ!

raising the rent on tenants to amass profit

 

வேலையிட்டுக் கூலி குறைத்தேனோ!

exploitation of labor by increasing the amount of work and decreasing the wages

 

கல்லும் நெல்லும் கலந்து விற்றேனோ!

selling adulterated or corrupted products to gain profit

 

ஏழைகள் வயிறு எரியச் செய்தேனோ!

inflicting more hardship on the poor

 

பசித்தோர் முகத்தைப் பாராதிருந்தேனோ!

ignoring the hungry

 

இரப்போர்க்குப் பிச்சை இல்லையென்றேனோ!

refusing charity to beggars

 

தருமம் பாராது தண்டஞ் செய்தேனோ!

levying taxes or fines without regard to justice or benevolence

 

வலிய வழக்கிட்டு மானங் கெடுத்தேனோ!

gratuitously instigating litigation to cause loss of dignity or dishonor to others

 

மண்ணோரம் பேசி வாழ்வழித்தேனோ!

ruining others by slandering or defaming them

 

கோள் சொல்லிக் குடும்பங்  கலைத்தேனோ!

destroying a family by calumny, aspersion, backbiting, or tale-bearing

 

பொருளை இச்சித்துப் பொய் சொன்னேனோ!

lying from pecuniary motives or desires

 

களவு செய்வோர்க்கு உளவு சொன்னேனோ!

disclosing information to facilitate theft

 

உயிர்க்கொலை செய்வோர்க்கு உபகாரஞ் செய்தேனோ!

assisting those engaged in killing or murder

 

ஊன்சுவை யுண்டு உடல் வளர்த்தேனோ!

consuming meat to develop one’s body

 

கருப்பமழித்துக் களித்திருந்தேனோ!

causing or having an abortion to continue with sexual gratification

 

பக்ஷியைக் கூண்டில் பதைக்க அடைத்தேனோ!

confining birds in cages

 

கன்றுக்குப் பாலு‘ட்டாது கட்டிவைத்தேனோ!

depriving a calf of the milk of its mother

 

வெய்யிலுக் கொதுங்கும் விருக்ஷ மழித்தேனோ!

destroying trees which provide shade in the summer heat

 

பகைகொண்டு அயலோர் பயிரழித்தேனோ!

destroying the food crops of others for reasons of enmity

 

வரவுபோக் கொழிய வழியடைத்தேனோ!

blockade of a route to obstruct traffic

 

குடிக்கின்ற நீருள்ள குளந்துர்த்தேனோ!

destruction of a source of drinking water

 

பொதுமண்டபத்தைப் போயிடித்தேனோ!

destruction of a public shelter

 

ஆலயக் கதவை அடைத்து வைத்தேனோ!

forcing the closing of a place of worship

 

கற்பழிந்தவளைக் கலந்திருந்தேனோ!

consorting with the promiscuous

 

காவல் கொண்டிருந்த கன்னியை அழித்தேனோ!

violating a maiden or nun observing chastity

 

கணவன்வழி நிற்போரைக் கற்பழித்தேனோ!

violating a woman faithful to her husband

 

குருவை வணங்கக் கூசிநின்றேனோ!

being ashamed (out of pride or conceit) to bow before the Guru

 

குருவின் காணிக்கை கொடுக்க மறந்தேனோ!

forgetting to offer a donation to the Guru

 

கற்றவர் தம்மைக் கடுகடுத்தேனோ!

being irascible with the learned

 

பெரியோர் பாட்டிற் பிழைசொன்னேனோ!

being captious with the great

 

சிவனடியாரைச் சீறி வைதேனோ!

verbal abuse of the devotees of God

 

தவஞ் செய்வோரைத் தாழ்வு சொன்னேனோ!

berating those engaged in religious or spiritual practices

 

சுத்த ஞானிகளைத் து‘ஷணஞ் செய்தேனோ!

berating the truly wise

 

தந்தைதாய் மொழியைத் தள்ளி நடந்தேனோ!

disregarding the advice of parents

 

தெய்வ மிகழ்ந்து செருக்கடைந்தேனோ!

disparaging the Deity and growing in conceit

 

நட்டாற்றிற் கையை நழுவவிட்டேனோ!

negligence in critical situations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2, 2015

Compassion As the Basis of Moral and Spiritual Order (1)

Compassion in action: an 18th-century Italian depiction of the Parable of the Good Samaritan: “The parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable told by Jesus and is mentioned in only one of the gospels of the New Testament. According to the Gospel of Luke (10:29–37) a traveller (who may or may not have been a Jew) is stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan helps the injured man.” (Wikipedia)

In his great unfinished essay “The Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings“, Ramalingam holds that compassion is not only the basis of moral order, i.e., the prevalence of moral norms, in this world, but also the basis of spiritual order in the higher worlds:

In the absence of compassion, moral discernment and love will not emerge. When moral discernment and love do not emerge, consideration, cooperation, and unity will not be present. If consideration, cooperation, and unity are not present, then the strong will overwhelm the weak and the latter’s adherence to moral norms will be destroyed.

Eventually, due to arrogance and self-aggrandizement, any adherence to moral norms among the strong in their mutual relations will also be destroyed.

There is no moral order in places where wild beasts, such as lions and tigers, which are bereft of compassion, live. In just the same way, there will be no moral order in places where human beings bereft of compassion live.

Without compassion, divine grace will not manifest. Without divine grace, knowledge of ILC (Arutperumjothi or The Immense Light of Compassion) cannot be attained. Without knowledge of ILC, there is no attainment of the bliss of liberation from the shackles of ignorance-bound existence. And without the attainment of this bliss of liberation, there can be no spiritual order in the higher worlds.”

Wood carving of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Liao China, 907-1125 (Wikipedia)

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