The famous Vedantic poem in Tamil by Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi
(consisting of two preliminary verses called Mangalam, 40 verses which form the main text , and another 40 verses called the Appendix)
Translation into English by Lakshmana Sharma
Detailed Commentary in Tamil by Lakshmana Sharma,
adapted into English by Profvk
Mangalam – 1
Text in Tamil:
uLLadu aladu uLLa uNarvu uLado?
uLLa poruL uLLal aRa uLLatte uLLadAl
uLLal enum uLLa poruL uLLal evan?
uLLatte uLLapaDi uLLade uLLal uNar.
Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)
Can there be a sense of existence without something that is? Is Real Consciousness a thing other than That? Since that (Reality) dwells, thought free, in the Heart, how can It – Itself named the Heart – be meditated on?
And who is there, distinct from It, to meditate on It, the Self whose nature is Reality Consciousness?
Know that to meditate on It is just to be at one with It within the Heart.
Incidentally the Mangalam-1 Verse has been translated by Prof. K. Swaminathan as follows:
The first sentence may also be rendered thus: Can there be Knowledge of Reality other than existing as Reality?”
I am giving the original Tamil for us all to see the majesty of Ramana’s classical Tamil (even if one does not understand Tamil!).
Commentary on the first line
There are two meanings for this line. Both are valid. These are the first two sentences of the translation.
On the first meaning of first line
Can there be a sense of Existence without something that is? Here the conclusion is there exists something that always is. The jIva-Ishvara-jagat (soul-God-universe) which appears as real is not real, but there is a substratum (*adhishTAnam* of Reality underneath. This is the truth declared by the Upanishads, which call this Reality ‘Brahman’. Bhagavan himself explains this as follows:
“Every one sees himself and the universe around him. He thinks both are real. If they are real they should always appear, not off and on. But they appear and also disappear. They appear in the waking and dream state but not in the deep sleep state. In other words they appear only when the mind is there. They do not appear when the mind is not there. Therefore the seer JIva and the seen universe are only thought-forms of the mind and not real. Where these thoughts arise from, where they merge, that is the only shining Reality”. This same content is going to be given by Verse beginning with ‘ulagaRivum onRAy’ (Verse #7) later.
So what appears only off and on is unreal and what appears always uninterruptedly is Real. Recall B.G. *nAsato vidyate bhAvo …*. Which gives the distinction between sat and asat. ‘What does not exist before and after, is only non-existent even in the present but only appears to exist’ says Gaudapada in his Karika. Those who accept this maxim of Reality are advaitins. Others are dvaitins.
The standard example for this unreal appearance of the universe and the Reality of the AdhishTAnam is the snake-rope example. Brahman is the adhishhTAnam (sub-stratum, base) ; jIva-Ishvara-jagat is Aropitam (Superposed entities).
The snake which is imagined hides the rope which exists. So also the imagined jIva–Ishvara-jagat hides the existent Brahman. So long as Brahman is seen only as the universe (By the way ‘Universe’ here will include jIva and Ishvara also because if the universe is not there, the JIva and Ishvara also are not there), Brahman will not be seen or known as brahman. When by Atman-Realisation, Wisdom arises, the universe will not be seen as universe but as Brahman, the only Reality. This appearance and disappearance form the characteristic of mAyA. Really mAyA is not real. But that will be known only on Self-Realisation. Before that, that is, so long as the universe is taken to be real, one has to say mAyA exists. This mAyA is also called avidyA or ajnAna.
When the rope appears as snake, the appearance is due to the confusion in the mind of the seer. Now the jIva-Ishvara-jagat appearance is due to what? Is there a consciousness other than Brahman and is it that which shows the universe to us? Is Brahman inert or conscious? Is consciousness Brahman or is consciousness a quality of Brahman? The replies to these are given by the second meaning of the first line of the verse. It is actually the second sentence that appears in the translation.
On the second meaning of first line.
Is Real Consciousness a thing other than That?
What exists – false or real – what sense makes it explicit? This consciousness is not different from what absolutely exists. That itself is a bundle of consciousness – of the form of Knowledge (jnAna-svarUpa). In order for this to express itself there is no cognizing source other than itself. That which exists expresses itself by its own luminiscence of consciousness. It is self-effulgent. This is the substance of the 2nd meaning.
At the time of Ignorance Brahman appears as the universe. At the state
of jnAna that itself expresses as the sat-cid-Atman (and nothing else). For both expressions it is the knowledge-factor of brahman that is the shining Light.
[ Footnote: For the universe to appear it is again the Light of Brahman that shines. The Light of Brahman is not totally hidden by the universe. The akhaNDa-brahma-chaitanyam itself sparks as the speck of ego and that shows up the universe] .
There is one more implication in this sentence. Since we said there is no other consciousness distinct from Brahman, the universe that appears to be different must be only a false sensation. And he who sees this universe as a real show, is also having only a false sensation. Bhagavan says the seer or jIva who sees this universe is also part and parcel of this show of universe. This same idea comes again in the verse beginning with ‘nAmulagam’ (Verse #1).
In the Appendix (anubandham) to this text Bhagavan calls this ‘false soul’ or ‘false jIva’. Vedanta books call this ‘cidAbhAsa’ (also false consciousness). Ignorant people think of this jIva as AtmA; they call this jIvAtmA and call God as paramAtmA, as if there are two AtmAs. This text-line tells us that other than this ever-existent Brahman there is no one to be called jIva. Therefore we, that is, the AtmA is Brahman and not something else. This is the brahmAtmaikya conclusion of all Upanishads. This is also the considered conclusion of Adi Shankara. This is the Absolute pAramArthika truth that will be clear by the experience of jnAna. We think in our Ignorance, that the false jIva is AtmA and other things are different from it.
All this means: Brahman is what exists. It is the only Reality. It is also the Consciousness that expresses itself. Therefore Brahman is AtmA. There is nothing different from it either sentient or not. It has no differences like the seer and the seen. This is the conclusion of advaita.
Note that this text-line does not tell you that brahman HAS consciousness. Brahman IS consciousness – that is the teaching. If something has consciousness it means it has consciousness as a quality or qualification. In that case it will be callled buddhi. Actually this is not different from the mind. For mind, to be conscious is not its nature. It is its quality or qualification. Therefore consciousness of the mind is not permanent or stable. In sleep the mind’s consciousness vanishes. The consciousness that is the nature of brahman is not of this kind. It is eternal and unchanging. It is unaffected by time and space. Even when all the universe disappears, even in that primordial state, it exists.
That Brahman is jnAna-svarUpa is to be known by the teaching that we receive. But it can also be inferred by logic. Such a logic appears in the first meaning of this text line. We saw therein that it is Brahman that is the origin as well as destination of all thoughts of the mind. So Brahman is the source of this sentient mind; so this brahman has either sentience or is itself sentience. If it HAS sentience it is like the mind and so not a reality. Thus it is neither insentient nor an entity which has sentience. Then what is it? It IS sentience, consciousness (chit or chaitanyam). This is the conclusion of all Vedanta. Therefore it is called sat-chit.
Alternatively we can also argue as follows:
It is not correct to say that Brahman HAS sentience. Therefore it has to be either insentient or Caitanyam (Sentience, Consciousness) itself. If you accept it is insentient then it means it is not self-effulgent; for all insentient things show up only by an external intelligence. Then the question arises: how is brahman effulgent, by what intelligence? The opponent would say it is effulgent by an intelligence outside of it. Now the question is: That caitanyam – is it *sat* (existent) or *asat* (non-existent)? Certainly not non-existent; for a non-existent thing never lights up anything. If you say it is *sat* then it becomes *sat* and *cit* . Thus we have accepted that the same entity can be both *sat* and *cit*. In that case, the earlier mentioned brahman which exists, can as well be also *cit*. This is the easy way out. Thus it turns out that the existent Brahman which is the adhishhTAnam for the universe is self-effulgent, in other words, in order to show it there is no other intelligence necessary. On the other hand, if we say that this existent thing is not self-effulgent, then in order to show it there must be another cit (intelligence). That also cannot be said to be self-effulgent, by the above logic. Thus another intelligence has to be postulated. So we have to go on postulating non-self-effulgent intelligences, — a series of them. This is then an infinite regress (anavasthA-doshha). Thus the conclusion is the Brahman which is the Reality is self-effulgent.
Thus it is clear that Brahman is by nature Existence as well as Intelligence. That is why it is called *sat-cit*. But this does not exhaust the svarUpa of Brahman. Its svarUpa can be understood only by experience not by any other means.
So the mind which appears to have sentience is really not so. It is also insentient (jaDa) like the universe.
In fact this Brahman is our AtmA. But then why does it not show up like that for us? Why are we thinking that we are finite beings who suffer all the unhappiness and revolve in this samsAra? The answer comes in the next portion of the Mangalam first verse.
The next sentence in the Mangalam – 1 Verse
uLLa-poruL uLLal-aRa uLLatte uLLadAl
uLLamenum uLLa-poruL uLLal evan?
Since that (Reality) dwells, thought- free, in the Heart, how can It – Itself named the Heart – be meditated on? And who is there, distinct from It, to meditate on It, the Self whose nature is Reality Consciousness?
[Note by VK: Bhagavan Ramana’s masterly handling of classical poetic Tamil can be appreciated even by non-Tamil people, when I tell you that he uses the words
uLLam = mind;
uLLadu = that which exists; (uL = interior, content);
uLLal = thinking, thought, meditation (comes from the verb form)
uLLam = heart (Bhagavan Ramana’s usage, when the context permits),
in all possible combinations so that the verse manifests as a lilting poetry!]
Here the Tamil word ‘evan’ must be taken in two meanings, namely, ‘who?’ and ‘how?’, according to Bhagavan’s own words. [That is why, in Lakshmana Sharma’s translation above, there are two sentences in English for this one sentence of Tamil].
In sum, this sentence says: The svarUpa of brahman is without mind [Note: thought-free = uLLal-aRa] and full of peace; it is in the heart (uLLam). This Reality (the existing thing = *uLLa-poruL*) will show up only in the heart, that is devoid of the mind (uLLal-aRa = mind-without). When the mind is active and poised outside It will not show up ‘as is’ (=*uLLapaDi*). What does it mean to say it will not show up as is. It means it will show up as jIva-Ishvara-jagat. By this very reason Brahman cannot be thought of (=*uLLal*) by the mind.
Why cannot Brahman be thought of by the mind? There are several reasons for this. One of them will be understood when we come to the verse *madikkoLi tandu* (Verse #22). But here there are two reasons given. 1. Mind by nature imagines differences in Brahman of pure non-duality, and treats them as real; 2. There is no intelligence, sentience (*cit*) other than Brahman to meditate on it or think of it.
We shall consider the first reason. First mind imagines a duality of inside and outside (the mind) and thinks that there are universes, other jIvas, God – all of these are outside. This is mind’s nature. We have already seen that all this imagined world etc. have an adhishhTAna (substratum) reality of Brahman and they are all Aropitam (superposed) on that Brahman. By the logic that the superposed thing hides the show-up of the existence of the substratum, the superposed universe hides the existence of the substratum of Brahman. So long as mind is focussed outside (=*bahir-mukham*) brahman, instead of showing up as is, shows up as jIva-Ishvara-jagat. Once the mind is focussed inside (*antar-mukham*) it joins up with its original location, the heart, and there mind loses its ‘mind’-nature and ‘vanishes’. So the three kinds of shows, namely jIva, Ishvara and jagat also do not show up and Brahman shows up as the AtmA, without any obstacle. Of course mind does not see it, nor does it know!
Here we have talked as if there is something called heart or *uLLam* which is the ‘location’ for Brahman but in reality it is not different from brahman; so neither it is the location nor does brahman is ‘located’ in a place. The seeker who is after Self-Realisation needs to change from his look-outside to a look-inside and for this purpose the heart was spoken of as a sAdhana (means) and there is nothing more meant. The heart (spiritual interior) itself is Brahman. Look at the 2nd line in the above text: *uLLamenum uLLa poruL*:
uLLam = heart,
*enum* = named
*uLLa poruL* = that which exists.
This means: Brahman itself is what is called the heart, because uLLa-poruL is brahman only.
Since brahman is in this (inner) heart, it shows up as is when the mind has vanished. When the mind is otherwise engaged outside, It will not show up. We already observed that that is when all the imaginations about the three things happen and they hide brahman. Thus it is clear that those whose minds are turned outside will not realise brahman.
Now we shall go to the second reason: namely, to think of Brahman, there is no other sentient entity (cetana). The jIva that thinks of itself as knowing another entity is a false jIva. When the mind is turned outside, such a false jIva appears to be real. When mind turns inside, that is, merges in the uLLam (heart) , that false jIva vanishes. The false jIva is only an imagination; so there is no one to meditate on Brahman. The conclusion is: brahman is not amenable to the mind’s thinking.
Then how do we ever ‘think’ of or meditate on, the Brahman which is the Atman? This question is answered by the fourth line of Mangalam-1 verse.
Fourth Line of the Verse
uLLatte uLLapaDi uLLade uLLal uNar.
“Know that to meditate on It is just to be at one with It within the Heart.”
*uNar* = know(that)
*uLLal* = meditation
*uLLade* =(is) just only being, abiding in, (Tamil: *iruttal*)
*uLLatte* = in the heart
*uLLapaDi* = as (It) is.
This line describes Atma-jnAna-anubhavam (Self-Realisation-Experience). Mind to be seated in the heart, and abiding in brahman that is nothing but that heart, and to lose its mind-status, so that brahman, unmoving and peaceful, is ‘seen/known’ as Atman: this is known as dhyAnam.
But mark it. Though we have said this is dhyAnam it is not the meditation by the mind. Meditation caused by the mind has three facets in it, namely, the meditator, the meditated object and the meditation. But this dhyAnam above is devoid of these three components. Since other than this everything else is not considered to be dhyAnam, this is said to be dhyAnam in the text. Bhagavan Ramana says this is pUjA, this is bhakti, this is darshan, this is Knowledge. All benefits supposed to be accrued by these are only accrued by this; not otherwise. What is called mukti or mokshha is this. This is also known as the Fourth (turIya) state. To get to this state the sAdhanA is described later in the verse beginning with ‘ezhumbum-aganthai’ (Verse #28).
Continued in ULLADU NAARPADU – Mangalam 2