I did not have any yearning to know god. Yet the most compassionate came to me. I had no desire to become a renunciate. He told me it was not necessary. Nothing was my effort or doing. He moved things. So who was moving the strings? That is Agathiyar.
I did not come to this path after a search. I did not come to this path after searching the nooks and corners. I did not come to this path after knocking on doors of ashrams.
I did not go seeking gurus. I did not enroll in ashrams. I did not enroll online courses. I did not have no yearning to know the truth.
I did not take up any course. I did not take up any practices.
But yet he came to me. He came in the form of a Nadi reading. He came in the form of various mantras. He came in the form of pictures that adorned my altar. He came in the form of a journey. He came in the form of a bronze statue. He came in the form of rituals. He came in the form of the family and friends.
Bringing me to know of the existence of the Nadi, the sacred written oracles that reveal the past, explain the present and predict the future, he introduces me to karma something that I was not aware, but that had influenced my life till that very moment of revelation and will cause an impact in the years to come and lives to come.
He showed me a way to offset the karma. He sent me on a pilgrimage of temples to perform prayers. He asked to perform homa. He asked to do charity. The karma score was settled.
As we embarked on performing the puja, doing it continuously, he came into our homes. He became guardian. He became guide. He governed us. He watched over us. He took us in his arms. He moved in with us, both in our homes and hearts.
He began to shower his grace. He planned and executed our lives. He brought many wonderful souls to our home to do his task. He showered his grace on all. He guided all. He moved into their homes and hearts as well.
He brought tremendous transformation to our lives, from a sedentary life to bringing us to perform rituals and charity. While these transformations were external in nature, he began working on us internally too. Subtle transformations began to take place internally too.
Our puja at AVM was always on time and took two hours that included performing the homa, abhisegam and alangaaram while time allocated for bhajan and lighting of lamps depended on the number of attendees respectively. Soon I began to shorten the puja from two hours to only an hour taking cue from the divine. Now an intuition says that even that I will have to drop.
I cannot imagine all that has taken place this far. Much has been done. Much has been said. Something in me tells me it is time to go within, to abstain from activity, to remain quiet, to listen, to watch. After taking me through an outer transformation I suppose he is leading me into an inner transformation.
Now I prefer to just be in his presence, sitting with him, spending time with him. But I need to stop these continuous chatter that goes on in my mind; only when this chatter stops can I hear him speak. I am looking towards the day when I can stop my inner chat and instead have a chat and a conversation with the divine. If earlier he spoke through a medium the Nadi, I look forward to the day he speaks directly to me. The day my thoughts settle, my speech ends, my look goes within, and the breath settles, is the day Dhakshanamurthy, the Mauna guru begins to speak. But this will be in silence.
When I told Tavayogi Thangarasan Adigal I wished I could see Agathiyar and Ramalinga Adigal, rather than seeking this, he pointed me to a better option, one that was lasting and permanent. He told me to seek what the saints before us have asked for - to merge at the feet of the Lord.
Thirugnaanasambandhar, merged with his bride and the members of the marriage party in the Effulgence that is Civan, in Nalloor; Maanikkavaachakar merged in the Mystery of mysteries, in Thillai; Sundaramoorthi Swaamikal ascended to heaven on the white elephant; Thirunaavukkarasar merged in Civan in Thiruppukaloor merging in the effulgence that is the Godhead; and so too did our Ramalinga Adigal says G.Vanmikanathan in his Pathway to God Trod by Saint Ramalingar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay.
I understood fully Tavayogi's statement later in India when I was blessed to spend some time in his company. I saw that each time he was alone, be it at his Agathiyar Gnana Peedham, in the caves, the Siddha samadhis, or temples, he used to weep to the Lord asking the Lord to take him with Him, to merge at His feet. When I had a telephone conversation with him recently, he lamented that the Lord was holding him back. Ramalinga Adigal's prayer had became Tavayogi's prayer too.
இன்று வருமோ நாளைக்கே வருமோ
அல்லது மற்றென்று வருமோ
துன்று மல வெம்மாயை அற்று
வெளிக்குள் வெளி கடந்து
சும்மா இருக்கும் சுகம்
"Indru varumoh? naalaike varumoh?,
allathu matru yendru varumo?
ariyen yen kove,
tundru mala vem maayai attru
vezhikul vezhi kadanthu
summa irukkum sugam."
Tavayogi seeked the space where there is only the bliss of non-participation (summa eruppathu).
That was the message to Arunagiri too by Lord Murugan, "Summa eru Sol Are."
Tayumanavar too was asked to remain so by his guru Mauna Guru, "Be silent. Rest in peace. Keep quiet (Summa Eru). Have faith. You will reach the supreme state of Bliss".
Saint Nakkirar too prayed to Lord Vinayagar to create that space where the disciple could merge with the guru,
மோனா ஞான முழுதும் அளித்து
சிற்பரிப் பூரண சிவத்தைக் காண
நற்சிவ நிட்கள நாட்டமுந் தந்து
குருவுஞ் சீடனுங் கூடிக் கலந்து
இருவரும் ஒரு தனியிடந் தனிற் சேர்ந்து
தானந்தமாகித் தற்பர வெளியில்
ஆனந்த போத அறிவைக் கலந்து
மனத்தே நீயே நானாய்
காயா புரியைக் கனவெனவுணா்ந்து
எல்லாமுன் செயலென்ேற உணர
நல்லா உன்னருள் நாட்டந் தருவாய்
காரண குருவே கற்பகத் களிேற
வாரணமுகத்து வள்ளலே போற்றி
mona gnana muluthum alitthu
sirparipoorana shivattai kaana
narshiva nitkala naattamum thanthu
guruvum seedanum koodi kalanthu
eruvarum oru tani edam thanil sernthu
thaananthamaagi tarpara veliyil
aanandha bhotha arivai kalanthu
esan enaiyadi erutthi manathay
neeye naanaai naane neeyaai
gaayaa puriyai kanavena unarnthu
yellaam un seyalendray unara
nallaa un arul naatham tharuvaai
kaarana guruve karpaga kalire
vaarana mugatthu vallale potri
Saint Nakkirar's prayer has become my prayer too.
Vanmikanathan has given us a beautiful and much awaited biography cum journal on the life and experiences of Ramalinga Adigal. He traces Ramalinga Adigal's journey and spiritual evolution based on Ooran Adigal's publication of the complete works of Ramalinga Adigal, the THIRUARUTPA.
Valmikanathan writes on Ooran Adigal's edition,
This edition, unlike all previous editions, has for its basis the chronological order of the composition and delivery of the decads. Such an edition is a most invaluable aid for the kind of book which I am writing. We can follow Raamalinga Swaamikal’s progress not only through year to year of his life but also through the several stages of his spiritual journey in their chronological order. I feel so grateful to Ooran Atikal for his work that if it were permissible to dedicate a book more than once and to more than one person, I would dedicate my book to Ooran Atikal as well. For without his edition, I would never have been able to write this book.
This spiritual evolution on Ramalinga Adigal's part is pretty obvious when one follows his experiences and devotional out-pour, laments, wailing, utterances, plodding, pleading, petitions and revelations as compiled in the form of the THIRUARUTPA.
Vanmikanathan explains, "In Raamalinga Swaamikal’s spiritual experience each of these major stages of spiritual experience are found to be sub-divided into Purgation, Illumination and Union."
Ramalinga Adigal begins with the worship of Lord Murugan. Vanmikanathan writes, "He is initiated by Murukan Himself into the methods of His worship."
Oh Guru Who came into my mind and bestowed the perception that through ritualistic worship of Pathi (God) and similar good rites the creative instrument of understanding called the mind will be rid of impure concepts and stand established in pure contemplation and, thereby, the state of true union with Pathi with result; that, thereupon, buddhi, the power of ratiocination, freed from (the triad of) bonds will merge in the mind, and that, forthwith, the state of absence of incoming and outgoing will be gained in the shape of unwavering real gnosis.True enough, hence began a beautiful journey on the Purgative Way.
The period between 1823 and 1835, i.e., from the date of birth to the 12th year of our Swaamikal has been classified as the period of Kandhakottam, .. which has as its theme-shrine the temple of Murukan in Kandhakottam which goes today by the name of Kandhaswaami koil. And several other prayers rise up from the depths of our Swaamikal’s heart, prayers which you and I and all the world may adopt as our daily petitions to God, our Light in the darkness of doubt and despair, our Saviour from the six serpents of lust, anger, greed, infatuation, obstinacy and pride, and a seventh serpent, rarely spoken of by others, but given by our Swaamikal a prominent place in the evils that stand in the way of an aspirant for the grace of God, the serpent of killing of living beings.
All saints and mystics have always been at war with their mind and heart. For these are in love with worldly pleasures and are at cross purposes with the mystics who wish to proceed to the Godhead, the Ground of all being. Raamalinga Swaamikal too has several decads addressed to his heart or mind.
In the second and last lap of the Purgative Way, our Swaamikal goes from Thirutthanikai Hill to Thiruvottriyoor, from Murukan the Son to Civan the Father, from childhood to adolescence and youth.
Ramalinga Adigal begins to yearn for the union with the Lord. "He is eager for the mystic union which is the goal of bridal mysticism." The first lap of his journey on the Purgative Way comes to a close.
From the 41st decad onwards, we see a remarkable change in the spirit which pervades the poems. A note of hope, of cheerfulness, of intimacy, of rejoicing, of exultation replaces the note of despondency and despair which marked the decads so far. In this span of about fifteen years, what was unrelieved misery had become metamorphosed into joy. This is not the effect of the passage of time which dulls the edge of misery, but a genuine change in the outlook on what seemed like misery. This is the result of the affinity - a spiritual rapport between Raamalinga Swaamikal and the Godhead, which has grown stronger and stronger with the years, a rapport that has grown into the relationship of bride and bridegroom.
Our Swaamikal has left the Purgative Way and has entered the Illuminative Way. The emphasis has changed. It is no more on his foibles, failings and faults. The Swaamikal shifts the blame from himself to the Lord Whom he accuses of delaying the bestowal of grace.
Our Swaamikal celebrates his entry into the Illuminative Way by the one hundred and one stanzas of this decad in praise of the Divine Mother (the Vadivudai Maanikka Maalai)
Our Swaamikal will very soon be leaving the Illuminative Way and will be crossing the threshold of the Unitive Way where God with name and form will disappear and where ultimately the worshiper and the worshiped, the seeker and the sought, the soul and the Godhead, will merge into each other.
In preparation for that day, in eager anticipation of that day, Our Swaamikal gratefully recalls to mind all the pilgrimage centres with temples where Lord Civan abides in name and form, and, in a sense, takes leave of them. This is the significance of Vinnappa Kalivenpaa, our Swaamikal calls on the Lord abiding in 279 pilgrimage centres and makes a petition to Him.
The saints of Tamilnaadu in the past, Maanikkavaachakar and all the 63 saints in the Calendar, all of them made one and the same petition, the petition for freedom from the bonds of death and birth. It is not strange, therefore, that our Swaamikal, who is a scion of the unbroken line of the saints down the ages, makes the same petition.
On this note of heart-rendering cry for the grace of God (Thiruvarul Muraiyeedu), our Swaamikal leaves the Illuminative Way and steps on the threshold of the Unitive Way. While this happens on the spiritual journey towards the Godhead, the mundane sojourn in Madras ends with hem and our Swaamikal sets out in his 35th year to Thillai.
On his way to Thillai, he visits various celebrated shrines of Lord Civan, such as Pullizukkuveloor, present day Vaitheeswarankoil, Thiruvaaroor, Thirukkannamangai, Pazhamalai, present day Viruddhachalam, Thiruvathikai Veerttanam, Thiruvannamalai and arrives at Karunkuzhi, a village about three miles from Vadaloor where he will remain for the next nine years of his life.
Already our Swaamikal has begun to experience the early fruits of the union with the Godhead. He describes one of them in 100 stanzas of the second decad of the Fifth Book. All the stanzas describe in growing amazement only one item of experience. Lord Civan walked on His holy rosy delicate feet all the way and, seeking the door of the house where our Swaamikal was staying, opened the door, hailed him and placed in his hands something accompanied by loving and reassuring words. While all the 100 stanzas describe the same incident, the description of the feet and the expressions of amazement and gratefulness vary from stanza to stanza. Nowhere, however, in any of the one hundred stanzas is there any clue to show us what was the object which the Lord placed in our Swaamikal’s hands. Whatever it was, the incident made such a great impact on the mind of our Swaamikal that he sang no less than one hundred stanzas to record that incident.
I too was puzzled just as Vanmikanathan was, trying to figure out what the Lord had delivered to Ramalinga Adigal, each night. But I came to know that he received two laddu, a sweet to us, but metaphorically it meant Gnana.
For the first time in his life, our Swaamikal declares that he is freed from misery. Secondly, he states that he has received a great boon. Thirdly, he, declares that he has reached a great state of grace.
But with his entry on to the Unitive Way proper, he has lifted his foot from the mire of worldly life and has set both feet firmly and untraceable on the highway which is the Unitive Way, the royal road to union with the Godhead.
With the 24th decad of the Sixth Book (with which ends our Swaamikal’s journey on the First Stage of the Unitive Way) cease all self-accusations, self-denigration, weeping and wailing. Even petitions cease. The later decads are sheer paeans of praise of the Lord.
In the last song (Thiruchchitrambala Theivamani Maalai) we see the budding of the concept of Arut-Perum-Jothi, the Great Effulgence of Grace, for the first time in our Swaamikal’s spiritual life. It is true that this phrase occurs here only with reference to the sun and the moon. Nevertheless, this is the first gleam of the concept of the rare great effulgence which will burst forth in a paean of praise of 1596 lines when our Swaamikal steps on to the last lap of the journey on the Unitive Way.
Our Swaamikal is now ready for the highest of all possible acts of grace, the crowning glory of the long years of thavam. The conferment of the Effulgence of Grace.
The Lord, out of His munificent grace, bestowed on our Swaamikal the very power by which He Himself exercised sovereignty over all the worlds. That power is the Great Effulgence of Grace.
Two important claims are made by our Swaamikal in this decad. He claims that God conferred on him the power to raise the dead. Saint Thirugnaanasambandhar, Saint Thirunaavukkarasar and Saint Sundarar, all three of them have raised the dead not merely from their graves but from their very ashes. Moreover, they raised such dead not immediately after death but after the lapse of quite a long time, and in one cue several years.
The other is, "... is that of being given by the Lord the power to exercise the five functions of creation, sustenance, destruction, concealing, and bestowing mukthi."This state is achieved not by one's efforts but by the grace of the Lord who speaks, first verbally then silently.