(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.
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.
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
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?
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?
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.