Posts tagged ‘Unity-in-Diversity’

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 1, 2014

Soul-Kinship And The Scourge of Division

 

Anti-Arab graffiti left by JDL on a Palestinian Girls’ school in Hebron, West Bank

எங்குல மெம்மின மென்பதொண் ணூற்றா
றங்குல மென்றரு ளருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி (Agaval, 219-220).

“My caste!”, “my clan!”, “my race!”, “my community!”

They clamor!

But enlighten us that

They refer only to the same living body in its standard length

Arutperumjothi!   (Trans. Thill Raghu)

Ramalingam’s ethic of compassion is designed to awaken and develop our innate and dormant sense of soul-kinship with all sentient beings.

Compassion is possible only because of the reality of soul-kinship and a soul’s intuitive discernment of it. But the cultivation of compassion also brings about a flowering and realization of this innate and dormant sense of soul-kinship, a central goal of moral and spiritual development on the path of Suddha Sanmargam.

Thus, a full awareness or realization of the truth of soul-kinship, and its expression in our attitudes and actions, is the objective of the practice of the ethic of compassion for sentient beings on the path of Suddha Sanmargam.

We have seen that Ramalingam affirms the reality of plurality and diversity of sentient beings.

The affirmation of the reality of plurality and diversity of sentient beings is a metaphysical presupposition of his ethic of compassion.

If a view V presupposes a claim C, then C is necessarily consistent with V.

Therefore, this affirmation of the reality of plurality and diversity of sentient beings or souls is also consistent with Ramalingam’s emphasis on soul-kinship.

Kinship-in-diversity and unity-in-diversity are the central truths, respectively, of his ethics and metaphysics.

Diversity does not abrogate the reality of biological kinship in a human family. In just the same way, diversity does not abrogate the reality of soul-kinship in the vast family of sentient beings.

However, divisions undermine the sense of kinship in a family and threaten its unity. In the same way, divisions also undermine the sense of soul-kinship with sentient beings.

What is a division?

A division implies a relation constituted by dichotomy, or opposition, and discord. Hence, divisions imply conflict.

If divisions undermine our sense of soul-kinship, they will also undermine our ability to feel empathy and compassion. This paves the way to the perpetration of all sorts of injustices and cruelties on other sentient beings. Hence, we must carefully consider the nature of division and the means of overcoming it.

Difference or diversity is not a sufficient condition of division. In other words, difference or diversity does not necessarily imply division.

A human family is a good example. All the individuals who constitute a human family have different physical and mental characteristics, but these differences do not necessarily undermine the sense of kinship in that family. If the mere fact of differences in physical and mental characteristics were sufficient to undermine the sense of kinship in a family, then there would be no families at all!

In certain conditions, however, differences become divisions and undermine the sense of kinship in a family. Hence, we should focus on the analysis of conditions in which differences become divisions and undermine the sense of soul-kinship, the basis of compassion.

The mere fact of difference or diversity is not necessarily the problem. However, the emphasis on differences or diversity at the expense of the truth of the common or shared nature and predicament of human beings, and the sense of soul-kinship with other human beings, is certainly responsible for the prevalence of unjust and inhumane division, exclusion, and discrimination in human society.

This emphasis on the differences between the self and the other, and at the expense of the truth of soul-kinship between the self and the other, also takes the form of an identity which is divisive and exclusive e.g., caste, ethnic, race, gender, species, national, class, religious, political identities, etc.

Divisions are opposed to the truth of soul-kinship among sentient beings. Hence, divisions are false.

The human condition is rife with social divisions based on various sorts of differences: physical differences or differences pertaining to the physical body, differences of beliefs and values, differences of geographical or regional origin, differences of communal affiliation such as caste or ethnicity, differences of language, differences of sexual orientation, differences of social and/or economic status, etc.

These sorts of differences become hardened or encrusted into divisions when they are emphasized or given importance at the expense of the common ground or shared elements or features of human beings and their conditions of embodied existence.

The differences then become the basis for unjust and inhumane exclusion and discriminatory treatment. Such unjust and inhumane exclusion and discriminatory treatment springs from, and in turn contributes to, the further obscuration of a sense of soul-kinship and the waning of compassion. And this waning of compassion leads to a proliferation of unjust and inhumane exclusionary and discriminatory acts and practices.

In the absence of compassion, all sorts of injustices and cruelties will be perpetrated on other sentient beings, and moral order itself, constituted by the prevalence of patterns of ethical conduct, will collapse.

Ramalingam holds that compassion is the linchpin of moral order in all the worlds. Hence, that which undermines compassion also undermines moral order in the world. Since divisions undermine compassion, they also undermine moral order.

Hence, the effective means to prevent or alleviate the cancer of division in human society lies in the abolition of all unjust and inhumane division, exclusion, and discriminatory treatment based on any kind or type of difference among human beings.

This can be achieved only if we discern and emphasize the common ground of human beings, and, indeed, of all sentient beings, and do not countenance differences at the expense of this common ground.

Ramalingam has strongly condemned this tendency to create divisions among human beings on the basis of religion, sectarianism, caste, clan or ancestry, national origin, race, gender, and creed. He has also condemned the killing of animals and the destruction of plant life on the basis of speciesism, or the division between human and non-human living beings. These divisions only strengthen the ignorance of soul-kinship and lead to the waning of compassion.

There are shared universals of physical, biological, and spiritual nature underlying the differences among sentient beings.

In Ramalingam’s view, these sociocultural divisions based on caste, ethnicity, race, etc., obscure the reality of the common physical, biological, and spiritual predicament of human beings.

Addressing the divisions of race, caste, and community among human beings, Ramalingam petitions Arutperumjothi to enlighten the ignorant perpetrators of these divisions that they are merely labels attached to the physical body. 

எங்குல மெம்மின மென்பதொண் ணூற்றா
றங்குல மென்றரு ளருட்பெருஞ் ஜோதி (219-220).

“My caste!”, “my clan!”, “my race!”, “my community!”

They clamor!

But enlighten us that

They refer only to the same living body in its standard length

Arutperumjothi!   (Trans. Thill Raghu)

This verse also implies that the body is the common denominator or ground underlying the divisions of race, caste, tribe, community, etc. In other words, all these social divisions obscure the fact that the divided human beings share the same form of body and the vicissitudes of change which assail it.

Ascriptions of caste, race, etc., do not belong to the fundamental constituents and nature of the body possessed in common by both the so-called higher and lower castes, races, tribes, clans, nations, communities, etc. They also do not pertain to the soul or individual consciousness which is the real subject and agent.

It follows that social and cultural divisions of caste, race, tribe, clan, religion, etc., are false. They are not inherent in nature, the human body, or the soul.

In other words, nothing in the essential nature of the body or the soul of human beings can possibly show that they belong exclusively to any caste, tribe, clan, race, or religion, and that they are superior or inferior by virtue of this sort of identity.

Rather, these divisions are only maintained and perpetuated by false beliefs, irrational attitudes, and wrong conduct.

There is no “white blood” or “black blood”, only false notions of white blood or black blood. 

There is no “Brahmin blood” or “Shudra blood”, only false notions of Brahmin blood or Shudra blood.

There is no “Jewish blood” or “Arab blood”.

There is  just human blood!

In the same way, there is literally no “Hindu soul” or “Muslim soul”, “Jewish soul” or “Arab soul”. 

There are only ignorant divisions of human beings into Hindus and Muslims, Jews and Arabs, and so forth, based on a lack of discernment of the common features of their bodies, souls, and embodied predicament!

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