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The slide show comprises photos of Muruganar, the author of Guru Vachaka Kovai.

3 Benefit of the Work

 

8 Since the Supreme Self exists as all there is, there is nothing whatsoever for it to attain. Therefore, the benefit of this ‘Lamp of Supreme Truth’ is to bring about total cessation of mental movements towards dharma, artha and kama.

 

Traditional scriptures have identified four acceptable goals or ways of life:

 

Dharma: the performance of social duties in an ethical way.

Artha: the acquisition of wealth through righteous means.

Kama: the happiness derived from sensual enjoyments.

Moksha: liberation, the natural state of abiding as the Self.

 

Bhagavan is saying here that the Self is eternally attained or realised, and that one knows this when the mind stops running towards dharma, artha and kama. Having a mind that no longer pursues these three is the benefit of reading this work. A similar idea appears in verse 1,204 of this work.

 

The following story, narrated by Kanakammal, expands on this theme. In it the following works and authors are mentioned: Tiruvalluvar (also called Valluvar), author of the Tirukkural (also abbreviated as ‘the Kural’), an ancient Tamil book on dharma, artha and kama; Idaikkadar and Avvaiyar, who were contemporaries of Tiruvalluvar, were distinguished Tamil poet-saints.

 

Once, Bhagavan’s devotees were discussing Tiruvalluvar’s skill in condensing the greatest truths into the shortest of verses. Someone mentioned that Idaikkadar, one of the famous poets of the Sangam age, had composed a verse in praise of Tiruvalluvar’s unique ability. Idaikkadar says, ‘So much wisdom has been condensed into such compact verses that it seems as though Tiruvalluvar has drilled a hole in a single mustard seed and filled it with all the waters of the seven seas’.

 

Bhagavan, who was listening to this discussion, turned to Muruganar and said, ‘Hasn’t Avvaiyar condensed the Kural even further?’

 

To this query Muruganar replied, ‘Yes indeed! Avvaiyar has composed a poem of amazing brevity and unmatched beauty. It is an interesting story. Once, a group of poets were discussing the greatness of Tiruvalluvar and the unique nature of the Tirukkural. Avvaiyar was asked to give her opinion.

 

‘She said, “All of you seem to be highly impressed by the so-called brevity of the Tirukkural. But is it really so very concise and compact? Can a collection of 1,330 couplets, divided into 133 chapters, be thought of as being ‘brief’ or ‘concise’? I cannot see the need for so many verses just to tell us about virtue, wealth and happiness [dharma, artha and kama]. In my opinion the Tirukkural is an unnecessarily long composition.”

 

‘The other poets were taken aback by Avvaiyar’s words. They did not believe that the matter in the Tirukkural could possibly be condensed any further. So they challenged Avvaiyar to compose a really short poem which could be considered equal to the Tirukkural in brevity, clarity and beauty. Immediately Avvaiyar responded with the following poem:

 

'Dharma is to give generously; artha is to earn wealth without resorting to unethical methods; kama is [the consequence of] a loving couple whose minds have become one and who are ever devoted to each other; the supremely blissful moksha is the state in which these three have been abandoned by meditation on the Supreme.’

 

Muruganar said, ‘Whereas Valluvar had dealt with the three subjects of virtue, wealth and happiness, Avvaiyar had included liberation also in her four-line poem. All the other poets were speechless with wonder.’

 

Bhagavan thoroughly enjoyed and endorsed the meaning of the verse. (Cherished Memories, pp. 132-3.)

 

9 One’s own real nature, the Self, which shines as the very essence of happiness, is the origin of all the pleasures in this world and the next. Because of its supreme eminence, the benefit of this work is to become firmly absorbed in that Self, without being assailed by thoughts of all the other states of attainment.

 

This is a continuation of the theme in verse 8. ‘The other states of attainment’ are those that are other than jnana.

 

4 Apology

 

It was traditional in ancient times for poets to present their new writings to a learned panel of scholars. In the preamble to these works it was customary for the author to ask these experts to ignore any defects in the text.

 

10 Upon examination, [it will be discovered that] this elegant Guru Vachaka Kovai was not sung by me, a dull-witted fool, through intellectual exertion. It was Venkatavan, divinity in human form, who, without conscious volition, caused me to sing it.

 

Venkatavan is a diminutive of Venkataraman, Sri Ramana’s birth name. Muruganar frequently uses it in his works.

 

11 Why should I offer an apologetic preface for a work that was not written by an ego-consciousness that proclaims itself to be ‘I’? The responsibility for this work belongs solely to that great being [Ramana] who is realised by the great ones in their hearts through mauna samadhi.

 

The word for ‘great ones’ – sandror – generally denotes people who excel in learning and virtuous behaviour. Muruganar makes it clear in other places that he is using the term to denote jnanis – those who have realised the Self – not merely scholars or virtuous men.

 

Samadhi is often taken to be a yogic state of absorption, but Bhagavan once defined it by saying, ‘Holding onto reality is samadhi’. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 391.) Since mauna is the silence and stillness of the Self, mauna samadhi is the state of silence that is experienced when one is fully absorbed in the Self.

 

David Godman Books

 

Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings

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