ULLADU NAARPADU (Reality in Forty Verses): Verse #4

(Reality in Forty Verses)

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

(Continued from ULLADU NAARPADU – Verse No.3)

Introduction to Verse No.4

Besides the most eligible seekers (uttamAdhikAris), in order that for the other medium level seekers devotion to the Atma-svarUpa and dispassion for the material world may increase, — in other words, for them to get the detachment from the world, born out of conviction that the world is a myth and that it is impractical to expect happiness out of it –Bhagavan explains in the following verses how the world is only a mental construct and the mind also is unreal.

We have already said that the world is nothing but names and forms. This verse says those forms are not real, only mAyA.

Verse #4

uruvam tAn Ayin ulagu param aTru Am
uruvam tAn andREl uvatRin uruvattaik
kaNNuRudal yAvan? evan? kaN alAl kAtchi uNDO?
kaN adu tAN andam ilAk-kaN.

Translation (Lakshmana Sharma)

If the Self have form, then the world and God also would have form. But since the Self is formless, by whom and how are forms to be seen? Can what is seen be of a different nature from the seeing eye? The (real) Eye is just the Real Self, and that Eye is infinite, unconditioned worldless, without a second.

Translation (Prof. K. Swaminathan)

If Self has form, the world and God likewise have form. If Self is without form, by whom and how can form (of world and God) be seen? Without the eye, can there be sight or spectacle? The Self, the real Eye, is infinite.

Translation (Osborne)

If one has form oneself, the world and God also will appear to have form, but if one is formless, who is it that sees those forms, and how? Without the eye can any object be seen? The seeing Self is the Eye, and that Eye is the Eye of Infinity.

Word by word

uruvam : form
tAn : the Atman
Ayin : if it be
(uruvam tAn Ayin: if the Atman has form)
ulagu: the world
param: and the Supreme
atRu Am: will (also) be so.
uruvam : form
tAn : the Atman
andREl: if it be not
(uruvam tAn andRel : if the Atman is formless)
uvatRin : their
uruvattai : forms
kaNNurudal: the Seer
yAvan? : who is it?
evan? : how
kaN alAl : other than the eye (kaN = eye)
kAtchi : sight or spectacle
uNDO? : does there exist?
kaN adu: The (True) Eye
tAn : Atman
andam-ilA: without end; infinite
kaN: eye.

Commentary by Lakshmana Sharma

Whatever the quality of the eye so is that of the sight or spectacle. By this maxim, for those who are under the conviction that this body is the Self – that is, for the ajnAnis – the world will appear as distinct from them and as a conglomeration of forms. Not only that. They are prone to think that the Absolute also has a form and they would want to see it –which is but natural. But that does not anyhow prove that those forms are real. In Self-Realisation there are no forms.

For the words ‘kaN alAl kAtchi uNDO?’ of the text, besides the interpretation mentioned above, there is another. ‘Whatever is the nature of reality of the seer, that which is seen has no other distinct reality.’ Only when The JIva who is the seer appears does the seen world also appear. The substance of this is that in the Absolute state of experience there is only the Atman, no JIva, no world.

An ajnAni is one who lives with the conviction that he is this body. Here the ‘body’ includes both the physical and the subtle. The subtle body is the mind. He who lives with the conviction that he is ‘his’ mind is also an ajnAni. Both the bodies are only forms.

An ajnAni in addition to seeing himself as a form simultaneously sees also other forms; he integrates them all into one and calls it ‘the world’. With his physical eye that is only a part of his body he sees that body as well as all the other forms. That eye itself is a form. Bhagavan has said that of whatever nature is the eye so is what is seen. By that maxim, both the eye and all the spectacles are all forms.

This eye itself shines by another eye known as the mind. That is also a form, but subtle. Therefore whatever is seen by the mind-eye are also only subtle forms.

Mind is not self-effulgent. It shines because of the light of the Atman. This will be clear when we come to #22 (‘madikkoLi tandu’). Therefore it is the Atman that is the real Eye. It is an eye full of Knowledge (jnAnam). It has no form. Since the Atman-eye has no form whatever is ‘seen’ by it also has no form. Only forms create duality and differences. In the complete state of Self-Realisation that is formless there is no duality. The Atman is non-dual. In other words having vanquished the ego and the mind by the sAdhanAs that are to be mentioned hereafter, when we are in the Realised State of oneness with the Atman, the only thing that remains is the formless Atman. That Atman has been described as the Infinite Eye in this verse.

This tantamounts to saying that all the physical as well as subtle forms are only mental constructs, not real.

It is Brahman that is the pure Atman that we imagine as God. Brahman is the Absolute. We call God as the Absolute Person. And we think that this God is distinct from us. It is because of the ‘I am the body’ attitude that we consider Him as distinct and for the same reason we consider Him as having form. This form is a mental construct. Each one of us has our own imagination about Him and accordingly various forms of God are imagined. All of them are mental constructs and so not real. In truth, the Absolute Person is the same as Atman, not distinct. So long as we consider the Atman as having form, we have to consider Him also as having a form — as per the maxim already enunciated. In the state of Self Relisation the imagined form of the Absolute Person becomes unreal along with all the forms of the world and then what remains is only the Atman. That ‘Form’ (SvarUpa) of the Atman is the truth of the Absolute Person that is God. This has been emphatically reiterated by Bhagavan on several occasions.

This also explains why so long as the ‘I am the body’ conviction does not get eradicated, we ajnAni devotees cannot but think of the Absolute Person (God) except through a form. And Bhagavan says that will do only good; for then the devotees get to worship God.

Of course there are those who put forth the argument that in reality the Absolute God is formless and so it is wrong to worship Him with form. Here Bhagavan’s words ‘kaN alAl kAtchi uNDO?’ of the text should be noted. That they are only prattling without having understood the meaning of these words of the text, will be clear from the following conversation which Bhagavan had with a group from another religion, when they accosted him with the argument that when God is formless how anybody can worship Him in a particular imagined form.

Adherent of the Other Religion (AOR): Does God have a form?
Bhagavan (B): Who said He has?
AOR: In that case is it not wrong to worship Him in a form ?
B: Let that be. Do you have a form?
AOR: Certainly. See, here it shows.
B: Is this form which is of six feet, black colour and with a moustache and a beard, is this itself you?
AOR: Yes.
B: Even when you sleep, is this itself you?
AOR: Certainly. As soon as I wake up I notice that I am this only.
B: Even after the death of the body, is this itself you?
AOR. Yes.
B: In that case, when the relatives come and want to remove the body and take it out of the house for burial, will this body proclaim ‘Oh. This house is mine. I will stay here only. You should not take me out for burying me’?

That was the time when the adherent of the other religion realised where his argument was leading him. And so he claimed: “I am not at all this body. I am the life within.” And Bhagavan replied: “You see. So far you were holding on to the tenet that you are the body. This is the basic Ignorance. It is from this Ignorance (ajnAnam) all other ignorances spring forth. So long as this primal Ignorance is not vanquished, the other ignorances will continue to exist. But they are not so harmful. If this primal Ignorance is got rid of, the others will follow suit”.

Further the ‘I-am-the-body’ –minded person is mistaken if he thinks that he is meditating on the Impersonal Godhead. The Truth of God is He is the Atman; so He is not amenable to any meditation or thinking process. When one meditates, he has to imagine a subtle form and that is what he meditates on. Meditation on the Formless is an impossibility. But one should not under-estimate the value of meditation on the Form and should not therefore shirk from it. Some one asked Bhagavan: “Meditation on the Formless is not possible to accomplish. Meditation on the Form is of a lower value. So what should I do?” Bhagavan replied: “Who asked you to compare the two and distinguish them as higher and lower? By doing the meditation on the Form one can realise the Formless”.

The dialogue that Bhagavan had with the adherent of the other religion shows how from the innocuous question: ‘Does God have a form?’, one is led on to the more fundamental question: ‘Does the inquirer have a form?’. In the same manner whatever question arises, one will be led on to the question: ‘What is the truth of oneself?’. In fact it is that question which is at the bottom of all questions. This question is of the nature of Self-Enquiry, of the kind: ‘Who am I?’. That is what makes it possible to know the truth of oneself. He who does not experientially know this truth will not be able to know the truth of anything. Therefore every question that arises has the answer: ‘Find out who is asking this question’. If you pursue this both the questioner and the question will vanish.

To be continued in Verse #5.

How To Stop Arguing? – Part 3: By Dr. Ram Chandran

Resolving Arguments And Problems

Problems are best resolved when we agree to discuss these together in a creative capacity to find useful insights that can benefit all parties.

Creativity is only possible when we conduct our discussion that avoids escalating patterns of polarization. Arguments can only be effective if and when we force ourselves not to get caught up and trapped in the right/wrong paradigm.  An agreeable resolution will become feasible when the “right/wrong” paradigm gets transcended.  If this doesn’t happen within a reasonable time, we should be wise to put off our discussion and observe silence for few days until we cool down.

We should take this time to train our mind to agree to listen to each others’ points of view and look for a resolution that provides more insights.

How do we get out from the trap of the “right/wrong” paradigm?  This is not easy and we need the will-power to invoke the divine nature and open our mind to listen. We must determine to take a stand that our care for the others is much more important than the cheap payoff of winning the debate.

We must be willing to reach for something more fulfilling than the predictable mediocrity of proving ourselves right.  And we need to have the courage to be the one willing to make this change, even in the face of those who desperately want to prove us wrong!  When one of us rise above the right/wrong paradigm, the length of the pole will become smaller and ultimately the argument will likely end.

No matter how much someone else wants to “win,” if we refuse to enter into the world of right and wrong, we will not get trapped in any argument.  But we should recognize the fact that we cannot rise above this paradigm and avoid an argument if we entertain the thought that the person is wrong.   If we do, we will likely back in that right/wrong world again.  This is tricky and it is a bit of a paradox.  No amount of wanting an argument to stop will ever stop an argument, if our inner mind silently engages in judging the other person’s intentions.

We must take a stand that we will no longer participate in any endeavor that tears down others’ beliefs and thoughts.  When those who want to fight can’t find a willing partner, they will be left only to face themselves.  The argument will slowly disintegrate we will no longer be engaging in the losing game of arguing.

Let me conclude this with a prayer:

Sarve Bhavantu Sukinah,
Sarve Santu Niraamayaah
Sarve Bhadraani Pasyanthu,
Maa Kashchid Duhkha Bhak Bhave
Asatoma sadgamaya
Tamasoma jyotirgamaya
Mrityorma amrutamgamaya
OM Shanti Shanti Shantihi

Oh Lord! In Thee May all be Happy,
May All be Free From Misery
May All Realize Goodness,
May None Suffer Pain

Oh Lord! Lead Us From Untruth to Truth,
Lead Us From Darkness to Light
Lead Us From Death to Immortality,


How To Stop Arguing? – Part 2: By Dr. Ram Chandran

The Desire to “Win The Argument”

Our desire to win an argument is embedded in our survival instinct. For many people, losing in a situation is truly a traumatic event.  When life is viewed rigidly, options are seen as mutually exclusive. For someone to win, another has to lose.

In general, in an argument we like to take positions that are usually opposite to each other.  While engaging in an argument we tend to think that we are always more “right” than those who take a different position. Arguments arise when we are not willing to consider others’ position as potentially being valid.

This is what is known as the right/wrong paradigm. The right/wrong paradigm can produce three possible outcomes: (1) proven right, (2) proven wrong, or (3) avoiding to be wrong.

While there may be a short term feeling of satisfaction when we think that we have convinced someone else is wrong, arguments rarely will lead us to long term gratification.

Everyone in an argument wants to be “right” and tries hard to avoid being “wrong.” This may explain why no one is actually listening.

It is inevitable that we like to choose one of these two options: We either feel obligated to forfeit our position, or we refuse to give in and will fight harder and harder.

The first option leads to resentment because though we gave in, we are not totally convinced of the other position. The winner also feels at a loss because the winner also was not fully “convinced.”

The second option leads to “polarization,” where two opposing parties find themselves in an egoistic self-fulfilling vicious cycle and take shelter at opposite ends of the “pole.”  The more one party insists on a position, it encourages the other party to fight harder to be right and to resist being proven wrong.

After several cycles of this polarization, arguments escalate and can become hurtful. This is when people say and do things they later regret.  There is certainly no winner here.  In the world of “right/wrong,” there will be never any real winners.  And if there can be no real winner, then why should we choose to get involved in a losing game?

Ultimately, we need to reflect on our desire to win an argument. Sometimes we can win an argument but lose our harmony and peace of mind. What to do?

Read Part 3!

How To Stop Arguing? – Part 1: By Dr. Ram Chandran

Editor’s note: This exceptional three part article was written by Dr. Ram Chandran, one of the co-founders of the Advaitin List. I believe the article can be of  great value to friends, co-workers, and lovers who find themselves arguing over many things. I have edited the original version only slightly to bring out the essential points of the articles which apply to all aspects of life.

How To Stop Arguing?

Friends, are arguments with your spouse, co-workers, boss, your girl friend or boy friend, or your parents disturbing you? Are you and your neighbor getting into heated discussions on who worships the true God? Whatever the reason for the arguments that have taken away your peace of mind, help is on the way!

Here is a partial list of argument stoppers that we can all employ on a daily basis when facing potential conflict in a conversation.

1. You may be probably right.
2. What you have said is certainly one way of looking at it.
3. I am more than happy to take your point into consideration.
4. I want to take little more time and I do plan to get back to you.
5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I respect what you have said.
6. Let’s postpone and talk about this when both of us are calm.
7. I am able to see the subtlety of your thoughts.
8.  I have come to the conclusion that arguing just isn’t worth it.
9.  Let’s respect each other’s position and agree to disagree.
10. Our opinions may differ but we can gain more by listening.
11.  There is some validity to what you are saying but we need more information to make a decision.

Of course, there are many more ways as well. Please share your favorite argument stopper line.

Keep in mind that most life situations are more complex. Constant arguments with a friend, spouse, lover, parent, neighbor, despite your sincerely wanting to stop may indicate more basic problems in the relationship that have to addressed. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions.  Still one can adopt the attitude of good will and doing what is in the best interest of all concerned.

Now read Part -2!