To be calm and know “I AM THAT I AM”, is really Bhagavan’s one work. The inmost core, the Heart, the Divine shining all alone as ‘I-I’, the Self-aware, is He. This centre simply IS; It is all Knowledge and all Bliss. It is from here that all begin to manifest, and in It all get lost. Being Itself That, It is all peace; no discord is there since the ‘I’ or ego does not arise and has no ‘he’ or ‘you’ to oppose. Being the ever-present and all-pervading, the Supreme ‘I’ is the Lord, Ramana who ever rejoices.
This state of Pure Bliss is the Supreme Man; the Truth Absolute is such as cannot be hidden under any cover. It spreads far and wide, and attracts to Itself kindred or seeking souls. It is Stillness, eternally expressive. Others can know it, enjoy it, but cannot know its fullness nor Its source. They long to know, but the Stillness is unbreakable. Their longing grows and becomes an agony.
This Stillness, diamond hard, is milky kindness and at last responds. First it stirs, finds voice, and lisps a syllable or two. Though pregnant with fire and penetrating like light, the Voice seems like the prattle of a child. Then, gradually attuned, it picks up its chords and trickles out — first as a small gentle stream, then expanding like the majesty of the Ganga, fertilising the soul by the waters of its songs, and surpassing itself in revealing the placidity of ocean depths.
Such is the origin and the growth of Sri Bhagavan’s spoken words, which have been gathered up in the form of published works. “Aksharamanamalai” (The Marital Garland of Letters) first and foremost of His hymns to Arunachala, came out in response to the prayers of his sadhu-devotees for some distinctive prayer songs which they could sing on their rounds for alms. Usually, when Sri Maharshi’s devotees went around singing common songs, the householders in the town knew that the food was being partaken of by Sri Bhagavan; and they gave large quantities of food, as against a single morsel given to other groups of sadhus. Knowing this, a few unscrupulous beggars began to pose as the Ramana group and created difficulties for them. To get over this difficulty, there was felt the need for a distinctive prayer-song.
When the request for such a song was made, Bhagavan as usual kept quiet and for a long time there seemed to be no prospect of their desire being fulfilled. But during one of the processions round the Hill, there blossomed forth from Sri Bhagavan the 108 sweet flowery verses strung like a marriage garland for Arunachala, the Lord of the Heart. These songs are like the outpourings of a pining soul to her lover, and they are no less ardent than Saint Manickavachakar’s for Siva. These and other soul-stirring hymns of Sri Bhagavan are the delight and solace of His devotees, who sing them to this day in the Hall.
The following few verses, though a poor rendering from Tamil, amply gather in our hearts to the Lord:
1. “O Arunachala, Thou hast entered into me,
drawn me and kept me enclosed in the cavity
of Thy Self; why is this?
2. “For whose sake didst Thou accept me as a
lover? Do not abandon me, or the entire world would blame Thee.
3. “Avoid this blame. Why didst Thou at first
make me remember Thee? Hereafter I can never abandon Thee.
4. “Take away this garb of mine; make me naked,
and then clothe me in the raiment of Thy Grace.
5. “Be seated there in me; let the ocean of Bliss
ebb, and let words and feelings subside in me.
6. “If Thou gather me not in Thy arms, my whole
being will melt in tears and perish.
7. “There is no room for laughter (at my ugliness).
Bedeck me with Thy Grace, me who has sought Thee, and then see.
8. “Let us cling together without distinction of
‘Thou’ and ‘I’, at rest in eternal Bliss; grant Me that State.
9. “Let me not dangle like a green creeper with
nothing to hold; be Thou my support and save me.
0. “Come, let us be happy in the home of empty
Space, void of night and day!”
The following few verses contain a profound Philosophy:
“Thou art the eye of the eye, and seest without the eye; who then can see Thee; O Arunachala? “Thou art the food of all; I shall draw near to Thee and become Thy food, and then shall I go in peace.
“Thou art alone the Truth, and shalt Thyself reveal Thyself.
“I thought of Thee and fell into Thy Grace; and, like a spider in its web, Thou didst bind
and swallow me!”
Next of the Hymns is the “Navamani Malai” (the Nine Gems); these were born on different occasions, but were strung together for their exquisite appeal to the Heart of different hues. The first of these explains the Dance of the motionless Arunachala, while the second equates the term Arunachala with Existence-Consciousness-Bliss (satchidananda). Here is a strange thing; while in other holy Centres Sakti dances and Siva witnesses, here the display of the Mother’s activities cease, and merge in Siva that He may dance as Arunachala.
The “Pathikam” and the “Ashtakam” (Ten, and Eight verses), which come next, are a group by themselves.
The former begins with the word ‘karunaiyaal’ (by Thy Grace). This word had once been ringing in Sri Bhagavan times out of number. He tried several times to put it off, but it would not go. Again and again the word shone out in Him, and so pressed itself on His attention, that at last He yielded to penning it. Once started, the stream began to flow, and it flowed into ten beautiful verses. Sri Bhagavan then thought that the course of the flow had fulfilled itself, but it had not yet finished. It still flowed on, changing form, dimensions and contents, and so built itself up into the “Ashtakam”. While the “Pathikam” was more in the nature of an appeal for Divine Grace, the “Ashtakam” is superb in that it explains in full and in such minute detail the significance of Arunachala, the Absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, and how He, or IT, as the ‘I-I’ of our being transforms Himself into all that is manifest. Incidentally, it also traces back the course, to the Source to attain that state of Being which is supreme Stillness (santi).
Let us listen to verses 10 and 11 of the “Pathikam”: “I have found a wonder; It is a mountain magnet that attracts life. Feel it but once, and It sets to rest the ills of life; nay, It draws it to face Itself, makes it still, and consumes the sweet life as an offering. Lo, what is This? Know that and be saved, O men; this destroyer of souls shines within as the great Aruna Hill.
“How many like me considered That as supreme and were lost? O, you that have lost your love of this life because its sorrows are so immense, and who wander in the desire of swift death, think but once and casually of that sweet Drug within, which kills without killing. Know
It on earth as the great Arunachala!”
And now let us turn to the sweet verses 6 and 7 of the “Arunachala Ashtaka”:
“Thou art the One — the Heart, the Source of all knowledge and light. In Thee is the wondrous Power that is not apart from Thee. The series of pictures embedded, atom-like, in the film of Destiny (prarabdha) are by that Power projected through thought and knowledge upon the mirror-screen of the mind-light, and thereon display the shadow-world pictures which are perceived by sense organs within and without. O glorious Hill, Thou art like the screen; those pictures seen through the lens, whether they appear or disappear, are not apart from Thee!
“With the vanishing of Egoism, all thoughts vanish. Till then, when other thoughts arise ask yourself to whom they arise; ‘To me,’ the answer comes. Then question further whence the I-thought springs, and thus dive inwards and reach the seat of the Heart; then you become the Lord. There are there, no dreams of dualities like ‘I’ and ‘You’, like virtue and vice, birth and death, pleasure and pain, or light and darkness. In that Court, the Heart, the Supreme One dances motionless — the Aruna Hill the boundless Ocean of Grace and Light.”
The “Arunachala Pancharatna”, last of the hymnal series, was first composed by Sri Bhagavan in Sanskrit, and subsequently translated by Himself into Tamil verses. The first stanza, commencing “Karunaa purna sudaabdhe”, alone was casually written by Sri Bhagavan. Long afterwards, someone showed it to Sri Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni, who requested Him to write four more verses in the same arya metre, the first being benedictory, the second on the Divine, and the next three being on Jnana, Yoga and Bhakti.
Thus it will be easily seen that these five gems form a complete treatise in themselves, and they are also devotional hymns giving immense consolation to those who sweeten themselves by chanting them. Sri Kavyakanta had planned to write an exhaustive commentary on these, such as could compare with the famous “Maanasollaasa” of Sri Sureswaracharya. But Providence took him from us before he could carry out this plan. There is however a good commentary in Sanskrit, by Sri Kapali Sastri called “Arunachala Pancharatna Darpana,” published by Sri Ramanasramam.
We quote verses 2 and 5 here, only as a sample:
“O Crimson Hill all these scrolls of painting arise,
remain and merge in Thee; the Seers call Thee the Heart and Self, because Thou dancest in the Heart eternally as ‘I’.
“Seeing Thee eternally through the heart surrendered to Thee and seeing all as Thy form, he who does single- minded devotion to Thee is victorious, being merged in Thee.”
How clearly Sri Bhagavan has here explained the Truth; may His devotees who benefit by reading this be blessed!