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35 This world phenomenon, consisting of dualities and trinities, shines because of thoughts. Like the unreal circle traced in the air by a whirling firebrand, it [the world phenomenon] is created by the spinning of the illusory mind. However, from the point of view of swarupa, the fullness of intense consciousness, the illusory mind is non-existent. This you should know.


The dualities are pairs of opposites such as happiness and sorrow, and the trinities are the groups of three: seer, seeing and seen and knower, knowing and known. Whenever the Sanskrit word ‘triputi’ is used in this text, it refers to one or both of these two groups.


The analogy of the moving firebrand that creates an illusory pattern comes from Gaudapada’s commentary on the Mandukyopanishad:


As a firebrand, when set in motion, appears as straight, crooked, etc., so also consciousness, when set in motion, appears as the perceiver, the perceived, and the like. (The Mandukyopanishad with Gaudapada’s Karika, 4.47.)


36 You worldly minded man, [you] who do not accept as true the fair and reasonable teachings of supreme jnana that are declared by jnanis! If you thoroughly examine the world, this vision misperceived by a jaundiced eye, this bloating out of a great delusion, it is merely a deception caused by vasanas.


Vasanas are mental habits or tendencies. They are the desires and aversions that impel one to behave in a particular way. In common with other advaita teachers, Bhagavan taught that one’s vasanas not merely determine one’s behavior, they actually create and sustain the illusion of the world by taking one’s attention away from the Self and onto the external objects that one wants to enjoy or avoid. These buried or latent habits of the mind withdraw into the Heart at the moment of physical death, but they are not extinguished there. Their unexhausted momentum will cause them to take a new form, a new body, a new incarnation through which they can continue to thrive. Vasanas are therefore the fuel that drives samsara, the continuous cycle of birth and death.


37 What exists is the plenitude of object-free jnana, which shines as unconditioned reality. The world appears as an object that is grasped by your suttarivu. Like the erroneous perception of a person with jaundice who sees everything as yellow, this entire world is a deluded view consisting wholly of a mind that has defects such as ego, deceit, desire, and so on.


Suttarivu is a key word in Muruganar’s writings. Arivu means consciousness or true knowledge, and it is often used in Tamil as an equivalent of jnana. ‘Suttu’ means ‘pointed at’. Arivu is the true consciousness, the true knowledge that is aware of nothing other than itself. However, when attention is externalised and ‘pointed at’ phenomena which are assumed to be external, the trinity of seer, seeing and seen arises. This creates the idea of an individual self who sees an external real world, and while this suttarivu process is functioning, the reality of the undivided Self is hidden.


The term suttarivu comes from Saiva Siddhanta philosophy, a subject Muruganar had a strong grounding in, but it does not appear in Vedanta. The word is generally translated as ‘objectifying consciousness’, ‘objectified consciousness’, ‘objective knowledge’ or ‘relative knowledge’, but since these terms are a little abstract and do not fully convey this process whereby the externalising of attention brings about duality, we have retained the Tamil word suttarivu in many of the verses.


In the following selection of verses from Padamalai Bhagavan explains the nature of suttarivu and the means by which it can be eradicated:


Bhagavan: Though the Atma-swarupa is one’s own true nature, the reason why it appears difficult to attain is because of the powerful illusion wrought through suttarivu.


That which exists is only the one consciousness. The many conceptualised varieties of objectified consciousness are only an imaginary notion in that which is.


It is foolishness to suffer by desiring and struggling to know the Self in the same way that sense objects are known by the suttarivu.


It is not possible to see the eye with the eye. [In the same way] it is not possible to see the Self with suttarivu.


The experience of the bliss of blemishless, true jnana-samadhi will abide in a heart in which the suttarivu has perished.


Knowledge of the reality of the knower terminates mind-consciousness, the suttarivu that knows the non-Self.


Confusion, the whirling of the mind that is suttarivu, will not cease except by internal renunciation.


The cavorting mind, suttarivu, will not die except by awareness of the truth of the real nature of the thinker. (Padamalai, pp. 148-150, vv. 2, 3, 10, 11, 19, 21, 22, 24.)


38 Just as yellow turmeric powder loses its colour and becomes white under sunlight, this wholly mental world perishes before the sunlight of the knowledge of reality. Therefore, it is not a creation of God, the sun of true jnana. Like the many-hued eye of the peacock feather, this bright world is only a vast picture, a reflection seen in the darkened mirror of the impure mind.


Bhagavan: If the obstacle of the ego-impurity is destroyed, the creation [srishti] that appeared as the world will become a mere appearance [drishti]. (Padamalai, p. 272, v. 16.)


39 In the experience of true knowledge, which is the reality of the Self, this world is merely the beautiful [but illusory] azure-blue colour that appears in the sky. When one becomes confused by the veiling, the ‘I am the body’ delusion, those things that are seen through suttarivu are merely an imaginary appearance.


40 This world, a vast and harmful illusion that hoodwinks and ravages the intellect of all, has arisen through nothing other than the mistake of pramada, which is abandoning one’s true nature instead of remaining merged with it.


See verse 368 where a similar idea is expressed. Pramada is another key word in the text. It denotes the forgetfulness of the Self that arises when one puts one’s attention on anything that is not the Self. When attention is wholly on the Self, ‘this world, a vast and harmful illusion’ ceases to exist. The world only comes into an apparent existence when Self-awareness is absent.


Bhagavan: Through forgetfulness the villainous mind will throw away the Self, that which is, and will get agitated.


In the state in which one has known the truth without any pramada, all names and forms are Brahman.


The reason why the state of Brahman has become different from you is nothing other than your deceitful forgetfulness of the Self. (Padamalai, p. 72, vv. 86, 87, 88.)



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

David Godman Books


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

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