translation and commentary by Smt. Savitri Puram
Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana!
Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava!
Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!
Njanappaana can be considered as the Bhagavad Gita of Malayalees. This is a Darshanika kaavyam or philosophical poem expressed in the most simple Malayalam language for ordinary people. Poonthanam Nambudiri, an ardent devotee of Shri Guruvayurappan, transformed his unbearable sorrow from his infant son’s death into a “yogavishesham”. He used this sad experience to build his Bhakthi soudham or house of devotion and opened it for all devotees for all time. Even though the language is very simple, this njaanappana, or song of wisdom deals with the essence of all vedas and upanishads. May Bhagavan Guruvayurappan, Bhagavathy Sarswathi Devi and Sri Poonthaanam Nambudiri bless us to become wiser by going through this great Song of Wisdom!!
This is continued from Part One… https://luthar.com/njanappaana-1
Chuzhannitunna samsaara chakratthil
Arivulla mahatthukkal undoru
Paramaartham arul cheythirikkunnu
Eluthaayittu mukthi labhippaanaay
Chevi thannithu kelppin ellaavarum
We are restlessly moving (uzhannitum) up and down in this rotating (chuzhannitunna) wheel of material world (samsaara chkratthil). For us to know (namukkarinjituvaan), great njaanis( arivulla mahatthukkal) have preached (arul chythirikkunnu) the paramaartham (Supreme truth). All of you listen to this (kelppin ellaavarum) because to attain salvation (mukthi labhipaanaay) easily (eluthaayittu) God has given you the sravanaedriyam or ears (chevi thannithu). The meaning of “chevi thannithu” can also be taken as “give your ears” or listen to what Mhaathmaas told us.
Getting human life is rare and even after getting human life, very few people are blessed to pursue the spiritual path. But great sages of the past realized this pitiable condition of ordinary souls and have prescribed easy ways to know the Supreme Truth. One of the easiest method for Kaliyuga suggested by them is Naamasankeerthanam. Since this is the opinion of self-realized bhakthaas, Bhagavan Himself approves this method and tells in Bhagavad Gita: “yajnaanaam japayajnosmi” or Among all the sacrifices, sadhanas, austerities or forms of tapas, I am represented by japa” and thus supporting the words of Mahaathmaas.
(Bhagavan always supports Bhakthaas. When Poothaanam once read Amaraprabhu as Maraprabhu while chanting Vishnusahasra naamam, a few Sanskrit scholars made fun of him. Bhagavan could not take his dear devotee’s grief and told from the sanctum sanctorum : “I am Amara prabhu as well as Maraprabhu, meaning I am also the lord of trees or in Malayalam maram”.)
We are all going up and down on the wheel of material world rotating with extreme speed and it is very difficult to escape from that. But once we know the Supreme Truth, we will be relieved from the samsaarachakra. This Brahma jnanam is possible by sincerely chanting the auspicious names of God because Naamam or names of Lord are even greater than Naami or Lord Himself. Hanumanji had to just chant Raama naamam to cross the ocean where as Lord Raama had to construct the bridge to cross the ocean to Lanka!
Also as explained in the previous lines [https://luthar.com/njanappana-1 ], anybody can chant naamam anytime and anywhere. So Poonthaanam is asking us to listen carefully to what Mahaathmaas have told us about Supreme Truth. Like sravanedriyam or ears can be used for hearing the greatness of Lord, all other indriyaas should be used for the purpose of serving God. Sankarrachaaryar also gives this idea in a very beautiful sloka in Soundarya Lahari:
JapO jalpa: shilpam sakalam api mudraa-virachanaa
Gathi: praadakshiNya-kramanam ashanady aahuthi-vidhi:
PraNaama: samvesha: sukham akhilam aathmaarpaNa -drushaa
Saparyaa paryaya: thava bhavathu yan mae vilasitham
Let my spoken words become manthras, let all my hand gestures become mudraas, let all my steps become circumambulation or pradakhinam to you, let my lying down to sleep become prostration to you, let the food I consume be an offering to the sacred fire lit for you, let what ever I do become a worship to you.
Nammeyokkeyum bandhicha saadahanam
Karmam ennariyendathu mumbinaal
First and foremost (mumbinaal), we should know (ariyendathu) that karmam is the thing (saadhanam) that binds (bandhiccha) all of us (naameyokkeyum) to this world.
Even before telling us more about the easiest path for salvation, poet starts with the big word : “Karma” and how we are all bound in the cycle of birth and death by karma. Both good and bad karmaas are binding and hence we have to know what is the root cause for making us do karmaas and eradicate the root cause. In this context, an example of a burning stick is appropriate. If we move a burning stick in a circle, a burning circle will seem to appear. In reality (understanding the reality is njaanam) the circular movement of the stick causes the illusion. Likewise the wheel of time is moving with very high speed dragging us along with it and forcing us to do good as well as bad karmaas with ego (or feeling of “I am the doer). This causes the illusion of bondage. So we have to have the njaanam or knowledge to go beyond this illusion or Maya to escape from the bondage. Also the famous example of seeing a rope and misunderstanding it as a snake is appropriate. Until we know that it is only a rope, we will be scared and stressed. What will lead us to this knowledge of Brahmam? Continuous remembrance of Lord through Naamasankeerthanam will help us to detach us from the karma-bound cycle and lead us to Njaanam and moksham.
Law of Karma is a law of justice and it is straight forward, impartial and inescapable. The only thing that can nullify the effects of Karma is Bhagavan’s grace. Bhagavan’s blessings loosen the tightly bound law of Karma and makes the otherwise impossible escape possible for us. In Kaliyuga the easiest way to obtain Bhagavan’s blessings and grace is naamasnakeerthanam.
In Mahabharatha, Sahadeva advises his elder elder brother Yudhishtira on the subject of Karma. He says that when ever we do Karmaas with the feeling of “I am the doer” or “mine (two letter sanskrit word “mama”) those karmaas lead us to the cycle of birth and death. But when we do karmaas thinking that we are not the doer, the results of the karmaas also will not be ours. This feeling is called “I am not the doer” or not mine (in Sanskrit, it is expressed in three letters “na mama”). Karmaas performed with this attitude are not binding and and free us from the eternal cycle of birth and death. Again, how can we develop this attitude in Kaliyuga? Poonthanam assures us along with Bhagavan that Nammasankeerthanam will eventually give us this “na mama” attitude and lead us to njaanam and moksham.
How can we forget to mention Shankaraachaaryar’s lines
punarapi jananam punarapi maranam
punarapi jananii jathare shayanam
iha samsaare bahudustaare
kripayaa apaare paahi muraare
Born again, death again, birth again to stay in the mother’s womb! It is indeed hard to cross this boundless ocean of samsara. Oh Murari! Save me through Thy mercy.
Munnam ikkanda viswam aseshavum
Onnaayulloru jyothi swaroopamaay
Onnum chennangu thannodu pattaathe
Onnilum chennu thaanum valayaathe
Onnonnaayi ninakkum janangalkku
Onnilum urakkaattha janagalku
Onnu kondum thiriyaatha vasthuvaay
Onnu pole onnillaathe ullathil
Onnaayulloru jeeva swaroopamaay
Ninnavan thanne viswam chamachu pol,
Moonnum onnil adangunnu pinneyum
During pralaya or dissolution (word “munnam” refers to pralayam) this whole world (viswam asheshavaum) becomes the one and only one (onnayulloru) jyothi swaroopam or parama thejopunjam. This jyothiswaroopam is only a witness, this is neither attached to anything in this world (line four) nor let anything in the world get attached to this (line 3). Those Jnaanis and Bhakthaas (predominantly of saatwic and raajasic nature) who try to figure out one by one (onnonnaayi ninakkum janangalkku) using “nethi, nethi” process or “not this, not this” process, perceive “It” as one thing through which everything is known (onukondariyaavunna vasthuvaay). For those people whose minds are restless, fickle and out of control (onnilum urakkaattha janangalkku -predominantly of Thaamasic nature) “It” cannot be comprehended or understood by any means (onnukondum thiriyaattha vasthuvaay). Outwardly each and every being is different (oonu pole onnillaathe), but the spirit or jeeva swaroopam in all beings are the same (ullatthil onnaayulloru jeevaswaroopamaay). The same jeeva swaroopam that exists in everything (ninnavan thanne) created the whole universe (viswam chamacchupol) and “It” again (pinneyum) contains all the three . (moonnum onnil adangunnu)
During pralaya or dissolution, everything is merged in Lord and nothing remains except the parama jyothi swaroopam or light of lights (or paramaathma chaithanyam). This is compared to the disappearance of stars and moon at sunrise. Likewise, the whole universe including the sun, moon, stars and all planets dissolve and become part of that great Jyothi swaroopam. One of the prayers we chant during aarathi or deepaaraadhana expresses the same idea:
Na thathra suryo bhathi, na chandratharakam
nema viddhutho bhanthi kuthoyamagni
Thameva bhantham anubhaathi sarvam,
thasya bhasa sarvamidham vibhathi.
“There the sun does not shine, nor the moon nor the stars; these lightnings also do not shine – how then (can) this earthly fire? Verily, everything shines after Him reflecting His glory. This whole world is illuminated with His light.”
But this light of lights is “Anaadimadhyaantham” or beginningless,middleless and endless. At the end of the dissolution phase, each individual soul again takes birth depending on the accumulated karmaas. These individual souls with accumulated karmaas do not get salvation during dissolution, but just remain hidden in Easwara Chaithanyam and then take birth again to experience the results of their good and bad karmaas.
These lines specifically explains how Bhagavan is not tainted by our karmaas. Even when we disappear into the jyothi swaroopam, that jyothi swaroopam remains unaffected. So our sorrows and happiness do not affect Bhagavan and Bhagavan is not responsible for our sorrows and happiness. Our experiences are the direct results of our own karmaas. Then how does Bhagavan help us? When we realize that the jyothi swaroopam with in all of us is the same as the paramaathmachaithanyam, all our actions become an offering to the Light of Lights, “mama or mine” attitude disappears, and “na mama or not mine” attitude arises. But only in a pure mind this realization happens and in Kaliyuga, Nammasnakeerthanam is the most practical method to attain purity of mind.
“Onnukondariyaavunna vasthu” indicates that for ordinary people like us, Brahmam can be known only through the path of Bhakthi. Bhakthi leads to Njaanam. Little Prahlaada believed that everything existing was Naarayana swaroopam and when he told his father that God is omnipresent, Lord did come out from the lifeless pillar to protect Him. Gopikaas were ordinary housewives and just because of their intense and blind devotion to the Lord of Vrindavan they attained Jnaanam and moksham. Fickle minded ordinary people who are distracted every moment with the the various temptations of life cannot comprehend the greatness of Bhagavan. First the aasuric or thaamasic or demonic characteristics of our mind has to be reduced by the constant remembrance of Lord and the power of Naamam will elevate ourselves to purer and purer levels.
Last line talks about the number three. This three can refer to several things: Prakrutthi, mahatthathvam, Ahamkaaram or Satva Gunam, Rajo Gunam, Thamo Gunam or Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswaran or three worlds. At the time of dissolution, everything merges into the paramachaithanyam and this explains the transient nature of everything we see or feel in this world. Poonthanam explains this to develop an attitude of detachment in our mind and hence perform Nishnkaama karmam and attain the Lotus Feet of Lord by chanting His names.
Onnu kondu chamachoru viswatthil
Punya karmangal paapa karmangalum
Punya paapangal misramaam karmavum
Moonu jaathi niroopichu kaanumbol
Moonnu kondum thalakkunna jeevane
In this universe (virtually) created (chamachoru viswatthil) by our own Avidya or ignorance (here “onnu kondu” means “due to avidya or ignorance”), all karmaas (karmangalokkeyum) can be divided into three categories ( moonnaayittulla). They are namely Punya karmaas, Paapa karmaas and Punya-Paapa-misra karmaas. (lines 2 and 3) When we think (niroopicchu kaanumbol) about the above three types of karmaas (moonnu jaathi), we can see that jeevaathma (jeevane) is bound (thalakkunnu) by all three types of karmaas (moonnu kondum)..
Just like the moon is lit by the reflected light of the Sun, we are alive by the chaithanyam or light lit by the Light of Lights, Paramachaithanyam. A person who is ignorant of the fact that sun’ light causes the moon-light, thinks that it is moon’s own light. Similarly, this whole universe is not different from the paramaathma chaithanyam itself and with our inability to comprehend this and internalize the truth, we do three types of karmaas with “ahambhaavam” or feeling of “I and mine” and these sakaama karmaas (result oriented actions) bind us to the eternal cycle of birth and death. It is difficult to exactly differentiate punya karmaas and paapa karmaas. Some of them can be labelled with out any doubt. But, some of the karmaas can be classified only according to the context.That is why Poonthaanam mentions about the third type called mixed karmaas.
There is a small story to illustrate this point. Once a very pious sage was resting in his hermitage in the forest. A just and righteous King followed by a group of robbers entered the forest. King was running about one mile ahead of the robbers and turned east near the sage’s hermitage. (Hermitage was in junction near a river and one can go in any direction from there). While running, he specifically told the sage not to disclose which way he ran to the robbers following him. As expected robbers came and asked the sage about the direction in which the King ran. This sage who had never spoken untruth in his life did not want to say a lie to the robbers. He could have either said “I do not know” or to save the King’s life he could have even said “west or south or north”. Instead he told them “east” to save his sathyavratham or vow of truth. Later he had to experience the negative results of his paapa karma because in that particular context, saying the truth was not a punya karma or dharmam. By saying an untruth he would have saved the life of a righteous king and his country. But he cared more for his own vow of truth than saving the life of a just and righteous King. Because of his selfishness, even though he told the truth, it became a paapa karmam.
Since all the three types of karmaas binds us, only destruction of all karmaas can free us from bondage. But it is impossible for ordinary people to live with out doing any karmaas. There is not even a moment when we are not doing karma either by body, by words or by thoughts. So the only solution is to do karmaas with renunciation of the fruits action which is called Nishkaamakarmam. Bhagavan says in Bhagavad Gita;
yasya sarve samarambha:
jnanagni dagdha karmanam
tam ahu: panditham budha:
He, all whose undertakings in this world are free from the bondage of expectation, who has sacrificed all the results of his actions in the fire of knowledge is a pandithan or scholar -so says intelligent people or (great seers)
Even though all these philosophical concepts are mind boggling to ordinary people like us, Poonthanam assures that Naamasnakeerthanam will clear our mind and help us to develop an attitude of surrender and intense devotion. Then Bhagavan takes over and assures us : Na mae bhaktha pranashyathi- my devotees will never perish. Bhagavan’s grace will lead us from Rakthi —> Bhakthi—-> Mukthi.
Ponnin changala onnipparanjathil
onnirumbu kondennathre bhedangal
Changalayallo misramaam karmavum
Bondage comes from three types of karmaas and one string (changala) formed as a result of satkarmaas or punyakarmaas or good deeds is made of Gold (ponnin), another one (onnu) formed as a result of paapa karmaas or negative karmaas or dushkarmaas is made of Iron (irumbu) and the third string ( formed as a result of the mixture of the above two types of karmaas-misrakarmam) is made of a mixture of both Gold and Iron (randinaalumeduthu pani cheytha).
Even though Gold and Iron are different metals with entirely different properties, when they are used for tying or binding some one it hardly makes any difference for the bound victim. The word “changala” and “thalakkuka” are usually used for chaining elephants. By using these words, Poonthanam brings out the fact that breaking the strings of bondage is as difficult for us as it is for an elephant to break it’s thick Iron chain. But with lot of effort, sometimes elephants do break and run to freedom. So with continuous and sincere effort human beings blessed with the power of discrimination, can break all three binding chains. Even people with predominantly satva gunaas find it hard to break the bondage effortlessly. As long as their satkarmmas are result oriented, they will not be freed from the cycle of birth and death. They live to enjoy the results of satkarmaas, again do satkarmaas to be born again and again. Only renunciation of the fruits of action can break the bondage for Punyaatmaas (great souls), Paapis (sinned souls) and those punyaathma-paapaathma combination souls . The only difference is that when we do Paapa karmaas we are subjected to negative experiences and punya karmaas yield positive experiences and mixture of both will give both positive and negative experiences. But eternal freedom from this cycle calls for Nishkaama karmam.
Even if a cage is made of Gold, a bird sees it only as a cage in which it is trapped. It does not enjoy the beauty of Gold. It only wants freedom. Likewise our souls crave for eternal freedom to join the Parmaathma. Because of the avidya or ignorance, jeevathma goes after transient pleasures and with egoistic actions accumulates all three types of karmaas. Poonthaanam advises us to do naamasnkeerthanam which removes ignorance and makes us realize that we are trapped in this eternal cycle of birth and death. Naamam persuades us to strive with the determination and force of a “matthagajam” or mad elephant to break this chain of bondage. Poet assures that this force to break the chain can be derived from chanting Lord’s name. By the power of Naamajapam even an athiest (who does not believe in God or in prayers) goes through different stages of Bhakthi or devotion and reach the highest state of Uttama Bhaktha or perfect devotee. A Bhaagavatotthama ( the highest type of devotee ) is one who sees the glory of Bahgavan in all animate and inanimate beings, and also perceives all beings as dwelling in Him. So all his karmaas become an offering to God and practically becomes a Jeevanmuktha. Then he discards the body when the results of the accumulated karmaas are exhausted and merges with the Paramaathma.
Where does God live? Bhagavan says to Narada:
Naham vasami vaikunte na yogi hrudaye ravau
Mad bhaktha: yatra gayanti tatra thishtami narada.
“I dwell not in Vaikundha, not in the hearts of yogis, nor in the Sun, I live where my devotees sing my glory and divine names.”
Bhuvanaantha pralayam kazhivolam
Dikpaalakanmaarum avvannam ororo
Dikku thorum thalachu kitakkunnu
Know the fact that (ennatharinjaalum) starting from Brahamadevan and other devaas (Brahmaavaadiyaay) to flies and ants (eeccha irumbolum), all of God’s creation are bound by Karma (karmabaddhanmaarr). Creation of universe (bhuvanangale srushtikkayennathu) continues until the dissolution or pralayam of the universe (bhuvanaantha pralayam) is completed (kazhivolam). That means it is definitely (nirnayam) not easy (eluthalla) even for Brahmadevan (Brahmaavinu) to break (lamkhikkayennathu) the binding thread of karma (karmapaashatthe). In the same way (avvannam) eight devaas ruling the eight zones or quarters of the universe also (dikpaalakanmaarum) are lying bound (thalacchu kitakkunnu) in their own directions (dikku thorum).
In these lines, poet says that there is no body (it literally means any jeevaathma dwelling in any type of body) in this world who is not bound by Karmaas. Even Brahmadevan dwelling in a body continuously does srushti or creation and then of course Vishnu Bhagavan has to maintain the universe and Mahadevan has to take care of annihilation. When Dharma declines, Vishnu Bhagavan incarnates in different forms, perform necessary karmaas with out attachment and goes back to Swadhaamam or home discarding the body used temporarily. Only the Nirguna Brahmam or Paramajyothi swaroopam, who is only a witness of all these, is free of this bondage of Karma. But thrimurthis (Brahma-Vishnu-Maheswara) know that they are none other than the Brahmam and they are neither attached to the karmaas or the fruits of their karmaas. Because of their knowledge of the essence of srushti-sthithi-samhaaram (creation, maintenance and annihilation) they do not experience the uncertainties of life like other demigods or mortal human beings. They just perform karmaas with out attachment. (Vaikundhavaasi, ananthashaayi Vishnu Bhagavan and Bhagavaan’s all incarnations are not Jeevathmaa occupying a body, but Paramaathma Himself. With apaara kaarunyam or ocean of mercy, that Paramachaithanyam is letting us worship in any form (sagunam) we prefer. Even though in incarnations, Bhagavaan discards the body after the purpose of incarnation, He would appear before us in any form we worship because He is eternal with form and with out form. In one of the stories, He even takes the form of a “male buffalo” to please his devotee. Bhagavaan appeared as the minister Mangaattacchan to save Poonthaanam from robbers!)
Even Thrimurhis (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) do not break the chain of Karmam. So where do we stand? By their actions, Thrimurthis are demonstrating this truth to the world. The word “Nirnayam” indicates that to destroy the karmaas each and every individual should strive. In the spiritual world there is no proxy and each person should take responsibility for their own advancement. A Guru or satsangam can help to initiate one’s effort and the rest is in each inividual’s sincere effort. Above all of these, we need Bhagavaan’s blessings every moment and Poonthaanam’s only solution in this Kaliyuga is chanting of naamam. It is interesting to note that Poonthaanam used the words “thalacchu kitakkunnu” for the eight devaas who rule the eight directions. Dikpaalakaas are not as detached to the karmaas as Brahmadevan or in other words they are not Brahmajnaanis and hence they are helplessly lying bound in the eight directions. Ordinary human beings are far inferior to this dikpaalakaas. To elevate ourselves from the Maanava state to Maadhava stage, Poonthanam recommends Naamasankeerthanam. In Bhagavatam, Sri Shuka Maharshi tells King Parikshit:
Kalair dosha nidhe rajan astihyeko mahaan gunaan
Kirtanaad eva krishnasya mukta sanga: param vrajet
My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting Hari keerthana, one can become free from material bondage and attain salvation.
Shankarrachaaryar’s explanation on the importance of Naamajapam is very interesting. He says Naama japam gives us mukthi or salvation faster than any other form of worship or prayer because of two main reasons:
1. It is very simple and can be done by anybody, anywhere and anytime. No restrictions have to be followed.
2. Second one is the most important reason. We are not asking God for any favours or special blessings or anything in particular when we worship with naamasankeerthanam. We only glorify God with His auspicious names and try to continuously remember His divine form. Naamasankeerthanam promotes Nishkaama Bhakthi which leads us to salvation or mukthi.
So let us chant along with Suka Muni, Shri Shankarrachaaryar, Poonthaanam Nambudiri and millions of devotees:
Krishna! Krishna! Mukunda! Janaardana!
Krishna! Govinda! Naarayana! Hare!
Achyuthaananda! Govinda! Maadhava!
Sachidaananda! Naarayana! Hare!