Guru Vachaka Kovai
(The Garland of the Guru's Sayings)
This extract comprises the first fifty-seven verses of Guru Vachaka Kovai, along with editorial notes and supplementary quotations from Bhagavan. The translated verses and Muruganar's comments on them are in roman; the editorial comments and the additional quotations are displayed in italics. The various headings and subheadings are given in bold.
1 Obeisance to the Guru
1 The Guru abides without the base mental attitude of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, which exist through their dependence on erroneous understanding. He is the flame of bodha [knowledge] that will shine as the Self of the seeker, conferring such a clarity of knowledge in his heart, he will no longer be distressed by his longing for grace.
The idea being presented here is that once seekers have a direct experience of true knowledge, they will no longer pine for grace because they already have the full experience of it. The word bodha, translated here as ‘knowledge’, can be equated in this context with jnana, a Sanskrit word that was often used by Bhagavan to indicate 'true knowledge’ or ‘knowledge of the Self’. Jnana is the state of irrevocable enlightenment. In it one knows oneself to be Atman (the Self) and Atman alone.
2 Even as I wallowed in misery, confounding myself with the form of the body, he [Ramana], banishing as ‘not “I”’ the dirty insentient body, lovingly ruled over me as the Guru who bestowed knowledge of the indestructible reality. May the feet of the Mauna Guru, benevolent grace itself, rest on my head!
Mauna means ‘silence’. In this context it denotes Bhagavan, the Guru who taught through silence and bestowed the direct experience of that silence on Muruganar.
3 The Guru, the Master of jnana, gives out clearly and concisely the true import of all the widely differing [scriptural] statements, skilfully establishing their relevance so that they are shown to be completely harmonised. May his feet rest upon my head!
Muruganar: To the sadhaka [spiritual practitioner] the arguments appear endless and contradictory, causing disturbing confusion. Unless the jnana experience arises, the harmony underlying the divergent arguments will not be revealed.
2 Name of the Work and its Origin
4 This bright clear ‘Lamp of Supreme Truth’ [Paramartha Deepam] was not one that I myself lit with my infantile and immature knowledge – I whose heart had not seen the truth shine. It was lit by my Lord Ramana with his ripe, supreme jnana.
The ‘Lamp of Supreme Truth’ is the original subtitle of Guru Vachaka Kovai.
5 The grace-bestowing Lord Ramana is the swarupa that shines as the Self, the reality that exists as self-effulgent being-consciousness. Of the many instructions he gave out to end the [mental] weakness and confusion [of sadhakas], I shall relate a few that have remained in my memory and which I have cherished in my heart.
‘Swarupa’ is one of the most common technical terms in this work. It is a Sanskrit word that is made up of two components: ‘swa’, meaning ‘one’s own’, and ‘rupa’, meaning form. Combined together the word means, ‘one’s inherent nature’, ‘one’s true form’. It often appears as a compound term with ‘Atma’, the Self. Atma-swarupa means 'the intrinsic or true nature of one’s own Self’, or ‘the Self which is one’s true nature’.
In the Introduction it was explained that Muruganar generally showed Bhagavan verses which recorded his teaching statements on the day that they were composed. This particular verse, with its statement, ‘I shall relate a few that have remained in my memory and which I have cherished in my heart’, was composed after Bhagavan passed away and was first published in the 1971 edition. The final sentence probably refers to those verses which Muruganar lost and which he subsequently attempted to retrieve from his memory.
6 Abiding where Ramana embraced me, I dwelt there with my Lord and rejoiced with him. I will relate a fragment [of the teachings] on the nature of the Supreme Truth [paramartha dharma] that I realised in our life of union together.
7 Ramana, Guru and God, caused clear understanding to arise in me by destroying the veiling, the rising ego-sense. I shall now relate the teachings on the Supreme Truth that I discovered through the perspective of grace granted by him, and I shall string them together as a garland.
The slide show comprises photos of Muruganar, the author of Guru Vachaka Kovai.
Before he came to Bhagavan, Muruganar worked with a committee that was compiling a definitive Tamil-English dictionary. He is the one sitting on the left, facing the end of the table. The photo was probably taken around 1920, three years before Muruganar first met Bhagavan. An account of Muruganar's first meeting with Bhagavan can be found here.