Njanappaana by Poonthanam Nambudiri-4

translation and commentary by Smt. Savitri Puram

Bhagavan says : “njaanagni: sarvakarmaani bhasmasaat kuruthe”
~the fire of knowledge burns all karmaas in to ashes.



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
Part Two https://luthar.com/njanappaana-2
Part Three https://luthar.com/njanappaana-3


Karmangalkku vilabhoomiyaakiya
Karmanaasam varuthenamenkilum
Chemme mattengum saadhiyaa nirnnayam

Know (arinjaalaum) that this earth (bhoomi), our birth place or mother land (janmadesaham) is the field where we sow the seeds of all karmaas (karmangalkku vilabhoomiyaakiya). Definitely (nirnayam) it is not possible (saadhiyaa) to exhaust the residual karmaas (karmanaasham varutthenamenkilum) anywhere else other than here.

These four lines may seem to contradict the idea expressed in the previous lines. In the last stanza poet said that karmaas can be performed only on earth (there is no contradiction on this part.)and results of the karmaas are experienced in appropriate worlds like heavenly worlds or worlds of hell. Now this stanza says that “karmanaasham” or exhaustion of karmaas is possible only on earth. Let us explore what poet means by “karmanaasham” in this context.

In this context, by the word “karma” poet means residual karmaas. After death, subtle body (jeevan or soul) experiences the results of all karmaas that can be experienced by subltle body in the worlds other than earth. But some results can be experienced only by the gross body. So jeevan comes back to earth with those residual karmaas, takes an appropriate form of life in an appropriate circumstance to exhaust the remaining karmaas and to do new karmaas. Jeevan thus enjoys or suffers the results of all the residual karmaas on earth. So in the time between births, subtle body experiences the results of good and bad karmaas and during the life on earth, gross body experiences the results of remaining different set of good and bad karmaas. It is to be noted that in the time between births, subtle body does not accumulate any karmaas. Only during the life time on earth, jeevan in gross body accumulates karmaas.

Swami Sivananda says about residual karmaas: “If all Karmas bear fruit after death, there will be no cause for rebirth after life in heaven or hell or in animal bodies, because in these there is no means of virtue or vice. You need not be afraid that if any Karmas are left in store there will be no salvation, because knowledge of Self will annihilate all Karmas. Therefore it is an established conclusion that the souls descend to the earth from heaven with a remainder of works (Anusaya). After the fruits of the meritorious acts have completely been enjoyed in heaven, the remaining other set of works (good and bad) whose fruits are to be enjoyed in this world forms the Anusaya with which the souls come to the earth.” Bhagavan says : “njaanagni: sarvakarmaani bhasmasaat kuruthe” or “the fire of knowledge burn all karmaas in to ashes”.

In short, sum total of all our past lives led us to where we are now. To realize the goal of salvation, soul undertakes many many lives in gross body or physical body. Those who take responsibility for one’s karmaas and do one’s best to free from the cycle of birth and death is defined by scriptures are wise and strong willed. Those who blame others are defined as unwise and weak. How can we become wise and strong willed in this Kaliyuga? Poonthanam suggests chanting of naamam and surrendering to Bhagavaan as the best method. Chanting naamam helps us to remember Lord’s greatness continuously and from there Bhagavan takes over because He has promised in Bhagavad Gita:

Ananyaschintayanto mam ye jana: paryupasate,
Tesham nityabhiyuktanam yoga-kshamam vahamyaham

“Those devotees who think of me continuously, making me the sole object of their worship, I myself will provide for their every need and safeguard their yogakshemam.

Bhaktanmaarkkum mumukshu janangalkkum
Saktharaaya vishayee janangalkkum
Ischicheedunnathokke kodutthitum
Viswa maathaavu bhoomi siva siva

Siva! Siva! this Bhoomi Devi who is the mother of the whole universe (Viswamaathaavu bhoomi), fulfills all the wishes (Inchikkunnathokke kotukkunnu) of devotees (Bhakthanmaarkkum), people who aspire liberation or salvation (Mumukshu janangalkkum) and desire-bound materialists ( saktharraya vishayee janangalkkum) alike!

This earth fulfills the wishes of all kinds of people. It is interesting to note that Bhoomidevi lets any aspirant to advance in their chosen path. The only condition is sincere effort to reach the goal. May it be the desire to feel the presence of God everywhere and in everything, may it be the desire to attain salvation, or may it be the desire to succeed in the material life, our Mother Earth fulfills the wishes of everybody alike.

As per Shri Neelakandhan Nambisan, Poonthaanam used the word “bhakthanmaarkkum” as the first word because Bhagavan is Bhakthadaasan and devotees are more dear to him than those who desire mukthi or salvation. We have several stories to illustrate Bhagavan’s bhaktha vathsalyam or love for devotees. To make Prahlada’s words true, He took incarnation from the pillar as Narasimha, to make Bhishmaachaaryaa’s words true, He broke His own vow and took weapon in His hands, and He became the charioteer of Arjuna. Then as Paartha Sarathi he assures us through Arjuna: “na mae bhaktha: pranashyathi” , “my devotees will never perish”.

The word “Viswamatha” means the mother of the whole universe. There is one more reason to call Bhoomidevi Viswamatha. “viswam” also means Bhagavan. (Viswam Vishnu: Vashatkaara:). In one sense, Bhoomidevi is mother of Bhagavan also because all the incarnations happened in Bhoomi. So Bhagavan is Viswam and as His mother is Viswamaatha. So the name Viswamatha is apt for Bhoomidevi.

Sankaraachaaryar says ” kuputhro jaayetha kwachidapi kumaatha na bhavathi” or “there could be a bad son but never a bad mother !”. This mother of the Universe, Bhoomidevi  sets an example and underlines the above statement by supporting and fulfilling the wishes of all her three types of children-bhakthaas, mumukshus and worldly people.

Were  the divine naamaas “siva! siva” used to express poet’s surprise when he observed Bhoomidevi supporting the Vishayee’s worldly desires or to indicate Bhoomidevi’s apaara kaarunyam or limitless mercy towards the Vishayees? As a mother, Bhoomidevi may be letting Vishayees fulfill worldly desires for sometime in the hope that in course of time, with the satsangam of the Bhakthaas and Mumukshus, Vishayees will develop detachment towards worldly desires. A mother is an ocean of love and kindness!

Another interpretation is that the poet used these names to express Bhoomidevi’s sorrow to see how Vishayees go after never ending transient pleasures even after achieving their righteous and dhaarmic goals. This earth is karmakshethra and even after taking birth as a human on this earth, it is sad to see some one not trying to attain salvation. In kaliyuga this can be easily achieved by chanting Bhagavan’s divine names and people are still reluctant to turn their mind to the higher power. This might be another reason for Bhoomidevi’s sorrow.Those who do naamsankeerthanam are set on the path of Bhakthi and knowledge and eventually attain moksha.

Viswanaathante moolaprakrithi thaan
Prathyakshena vilangunnu bhoomiyaay

Moolaprakruthi, creation of Lord of the Universe (Viswanaathante) appears (vilangunnu) as Bhoomidevi who is visible by direct senses or direct perception (prakthyashena).

Let us explore more about creation. Bhagavan initiates creation. The first cause is Bhagavan or Viswanathan who is beginingless and endless. First effect is Moola Prakruthi. Second effect is Prakruthi which is the avyaktha or undifferentiated cosmic substance. Then comes the effect of Prakruthi, Mahat thatva.  From this Ahamkaaram or feeling of “I-Ness” emerges, next is cosmic mind, five Njaanedriyas or knowing senses from mind, then five karmendriyas or working senses also from the same mind, Pancha tanmathras or five objects of njaanedriyas and finally the physical manifestation of the Pancha tanmathraas, the five visible material substances. These are called Pancha bhoothaas. Of this the last one formed is Bhoomi. First is Aakasham or space , next is Vaayu or air, third is Agni or fire, Fourth is Apa or water and then comes our Bhoomidevi ot Prithvi or earth. So we can see that Bhoomidevi is the gross and visible form (prakthyaksham) of Moola Prakruthi.

We can compare the relation between the Moola Prakrithi and Bhoomi to a mount of mud and an earthen pot made of mud. Here we can say that mud is the Moola Prakruthi and the earthen pot made out of mud is a manifestation of mud. So earthen pot can be compared to Bhoomi. Similarly all the different golden ornaments are made from the same basic substance Gold. Once you melt the ornament, it becomes the basic gold again. Likewise, before dissolution Bhoomi dissolves in water, water is evaporated by fire, fire is put out by air and air disappears in space and everything goes back and dissolves in Moola Prakruthi and in turn Moola Prakruthi dissolves in Paramaathma or Viswanathan.

Shri Nilakandhan Nambishan has given an interesting interpretation for the word “Viswanathan”. One meaning for “Vi”is bird and “swaa’ can mean a dog. So he says that name Viswanathan indicates that Bhagavan’s limitless mercy reaches the whole universe including the birds and dogs and hence undoubtedly He is the Lord of all!

Poonthaanam says that Jeevaas who took birth in this Kaliyuga on this earth as human beings are very blessed because just by chanting Bhagavan’s naamam, we can attain moksham.

Avaneethala paalanathinnallo
Avathaarangalum palathorkkumbol
Athukondu visheshicchum bhoolokam
Veda vaadikalaaya munikalum
Vedavum bahumaanichu chollunnu

Several incarnations (avathaarangalum palathu), when you think about them (orkkumbol), are for protecting (paalanatthinallo) earth or Bhoomidevi (avaneethalam) . Because of this (athukondu), earth is considered very special (bhoolokam visheshicchum)and best (utthamam) among all fourteen worlds (pathinnaalilum). Not only munis who have the knowledge of Brahmam (veda vaadikalaaya munikalum) , but also Vedaas say this (chollunnu).

All incarnations of Bhagavan including the Poornaavathaars or incarnations with full glory, of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna happened on earth. Bhoomi got this special blessing and privilege to become the mother of Bhagavaan’s incarnations. These incarnations were to protect her from cruel, unrighteous and demonic kings. Bhagavan promised : “Whenever there is a fall in Dharma and a rise in Adharma, I manifest to protect the good, to destroy evil and establish Dharma” and kept his promise.

When ever Bhoomidevi is subjected to endless suffering at the hands of cruel and demonic people, she approaches Brahma and with Brahma and Devaas they approach Bhagavn. Bhagavan never ignored her prayers but solved her problems and took care of her with love. So Bhoomi is special for Bhagavan. Also as said in previous lines, Bhoomi is the Karma Kshethra and Karmaas can be done only by taking a physical form of life on earth. Bhoomi is special for this reason too. In addition to this, to exhaust residual karmaas from other worlds, jeevan has to take birth on earth. So Bhoomi is the divine place where you can accumulate karmaas, exhaust all results of residual karmaas and this is the only place where you can do Nishkaama karma or “actions with renunciation of fruits” and attain Moksha.

Because of all these reasons realized souls like sages and vedaas consider Bhoomi as the perfect world or the most desirable place to be born in for any living being. “Veda vaadikalaaya munikalum” can be interpreted in two ways:

1. Those who are experts in Vedaas.

2. Word Veda also means “brahmam”. So this can mean those who have realized brahmam or those who always meditate on brahmam.

The fact that Bhoomi is the best of all worlds is approved by Vedaas and great seers. It is said that even inhabitants of swarga or heaven desire to come to earth so that with Nishkaama karmam they can attain salvation. Scriptures and our ancient sages say that Naamasankeertthanam is the first step and best method to realize God in Kaliyuga.

Lavanaabudhi madhye vilangunna
Jambu dweeporu yojana lakshavum
Saptha dweepukaluntathil ethrayum
Uthamamennu vaazhthunnu pinneyum

An island called Jambu dweep with an area of one lakh yojana (one yojana is about 10 miles) stands (vilangunna) in the middle of the salty ocean (lavanaabudhi madhye) and is praised again and again (vaazhtthunnu pinneyum) as the best of all (ethrayum utthamamennu) the seven existing islands (saptha dweepukaluntathil).

There are seven islands and Jambudweepam is the best and most blessed of all islands. Other islands are Plaksha dweepam, Shaalmala dweepam, Kusa ,Krouncha, Shaaka and Pushkara dweepams. There are seven different types of oceans and Jambu dweepam is surrounded by the salty ocean. The other oceans are of sugar cane juice, wine, ghee, milk, curds and pure water. In one description, Jambudweep is not only in the middle of the salty ocean, it also forms the center island. Jambudweep is surrounded by salt water and after this body of salt water is Plaksha dweep, surrounded by an ocean of sugar cane juice. Then comes Shaalmala Dweep surrounded by an ocean of wine. Then comes Kusha dweep surrounded by an ocean of ghee Next is Krouncha dweep, surrounded by an ocean of milk. The last but one is Shaaka dweep, surrounded by an ocean of curd. The outermost and seventh dweep is Pushkara dweep which is surrounded by pure water.

There is an interesting story behind the birth of the seven seas and seven islands. The below quotation is taken from respected KVGji’s and S.N.Sastriji’s translation of Bahktharanjini interpretation of Naarayaneeyam published by Bhaktharanjini Trust.

” Puranams say that the earth is in the shape of a lotus bud in the center of which stands the mountain Mahameru or Sumeru. Once, King Priyavratha observed that the Sun God shines only on one half of the earth’s surface in the course of his circuit around Sumeru and leaves the other half in darkness. The King thought that it was not good to waste half of the day as night. Therefore he made seven circuits around earth, in his effulgent car, following the Sun at its speed determined to turn night into day. The tracks that were sunk by the fellies of the wheels of his chariot came to be the most celebrated seven oceans which divided earth in to seven islands.”

Poonthaanam glorifies Jambudweep because this island has nine regions or parts and one of them is Bharatha varsha. Bharata varsha is the best and blessed of all nine regions of Jambudweep. It is the only place where one can perform good karmaas and attain moksham. So we can even say that because of the Bharata varsham, Jambu dweep became the holiest of all islands! Poonthaanam again tells us to remember the importance of Naamasankeerthanam, especially for those who are fortunate to be born and fortunate to live in this Bharatha varsha of Jambu dweep. It is Karma Kshethra, it is Punya Bhoomi and with Nishkaama karmam one becomes Punyavaan and attains moksham



3 thoughts on “Njanappaana by Poonthanam Nambudiri-4

  1. Pingback: Njanappaana by Poonthanam Nambudiri-6 | Luthar.Com: HarshaSatsangh

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