Saturday, March 17, 2007

Advaita within the Heart

This is taken from the end of an essay on David Godman's site in which he explains verse 39 from Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham:

Keep advaita within the Heart. Do not ever carry it into action. Even if you apply it to all the three worlds, O son, it is not to be applied to the Guru.

Extending this analogy into the spiritual realm, the disciple may have attained oneness with his or her Guru, but the behaviour he or she exhibits is always reverent and deferential. This is what Sadhu Om has to say on this point in his commentary on this verse:

When the Sadguru has destroyed the ajnana that is his disciple’s individual consciousness; when he has graciously bestowed upon him the experience of non-duality; and when he has made him one with himself in the state where duality is no more; even then, such a disciple will always serve his Sadguru and show for him a fitting respect, and will continue to venerate his name and form. Although, in an inner sense, it is not possible to show a reverence that is dualistic in the state of oneness where duality is not present, still, that disciple will show respect outwardly, just as a wife acts respectfully toward her husband.

... as long as the Guru and disciple appear in the perceptions of others as separate individuals, possessing individual minds and bodies, it will always appear to others that they are, in reality, separate from each other. Therefore, even when this perfected disciple who knows reality attains the non-dual state in which, in his Heart, he and his Guru are one, he will always conduct himself in a subservient and deferential manner toward his Sadguru, such that other disciples, taking him as an example, will follow him and behave in a fitting manner.

I have found this to be true with all the great teachers and enlightened beings I have been associated with. Nisargadatta Maharaj, for example, did an elaborate Guru puja every day of his life, long after he had realised the Self. One morning, just before he started, he paused to give an explanation of this daily ritual.

‘I don’t need to do this at all. There is nothing that I can gain from it because I know who and what I am, and what I am cannot be added to in any way. My Guru asked me to do bhajans and puja every day, and even though I no longer use them to attain a spiritual goal, I will continue to do them until the day I die because my Guru asked me to do them. In carrying out these orders I can show not only my respect for his words but also my continuous, undiminishing gratitude to the one who gave me the knowledge of who I really am.’

Muruganar wrote thousands of verses in which he thanked Bhagavan for bestowing the state of liberation on him, but he still did elaborate full-length prostrations whenever he came into Bhagavan’s presence. Sometimes he would remain lying on the floor after his namaskaram was completed and talk to Bhagavan while he was still prostrate at his feet. Viswanatha Swami used to make fun of Muruganar for this, calling the resulting conversations ‘lizard talk’.

Once, while I was sitting with Papaji, someone asked him if he had any regrets about his life. At first he answered ‘no,’ but after a few seconds’ reflection he added, ‘Actually, I do have one regret. Because my legs are now almost paralysed, I can no longer throw myself full length on the floor at the feet of my Master.’ In his later years he had to be content with a standing ‘namaste’ whenever he wanted to pay his respects to Bhagavan’s image.

And what about Bhagavan himself? His respect and veneration towards Arunachala, his Guru, were legendary. However, I will just mention one interesting point. When he composed his philosophical works such as Upadesa Undiyar and Ulladu Narpadu, his tone was non-dualistic. The verses were an uncompromising expression of what the Anubandham verse calls ‘advaita within the Heart’. However, when Bhagavan wrote about his Guru, Arunachala, in his devotional poems, he often adopted the pose of the loving, grateful devotee, a standpoint that enabled him show proper respect and veneration to the form and power of the mountain.

One final story about Bhagavan: when Arunachaleswara (the God Arunachala who is the principal deity in the Tiruvannamalai temple) was being taken in procession around the hill in the 1940s, it stopped outside the gate of Sri Ramanasramam. Bhagavan noticed it as he was taking a walk to the cowshed. He sat on a bench to watch, and when devotees brought him vibhuti as prasad, he applied it reverently to his forehead and remarked, ‘The son is beholden to the father’.

(for the whole essay, see

1 comment:

Viswanathan said...

I just stumbled on this blog.

You have explained so beautifully what a sadguru is to one.

Humbly ever