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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-3

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)

Translation & explanation of Verse-3
These phenomenal aspects five such as the sky
Which as emergent from outside is here seen to be,
By contemplation one should bring to non-difference
As the sea is to the waves that rise in rows thereon.

(“Veliyilirunnu vivarthamingu kaanum
Velimuthalaaya vibhoothiyanjumorthaal
Jalanidhi thanniluyarnnidum tharangaa -
Valiyathupoleyabhedhamaay varenam”):


Waves on the sea are water under specific name and form, but otherwise homogeneous with the ocean.
This classical Vedantic example is resorted to by the Guru here to refer to the differencelessness
between cause and effect in the phenomenal world. The cause when viewed vertically or
contemplatively yields this answer, while when viewed horizontally or non-contemplatively, the waves
will have to be given a status in reality of their own.

Each wave might have an individuality horizontally viewed, but contemplatively or vertically viewed, the
material cause and effects, namely, water and waves, yield to a differnceless unitive vision. The text
here being of a contemplative order, and especially as there is reference to contemplation in the verse
itself, the vertical unitive view of cause and effect is what is intended here by the Guru.

Five Phenomenal aspects such as the sky, which as emergent from outside is here, seen to be
(Vivarthamingu kaanum velimuthalaaya vibhoothiyanjum orthaal) –

Sree Narayana Guru calls our attention to the external world with a reference to the classical notion of
the five elements-ether, air, fire, water and earth. These are actual, objective realities, as well as
symbolic representations of all that we experience in life. Earth is the most gross of all the elements.
The term refers to the actual solid ground, and also symbolically represents the physical and concrete
aspects of life. Water is not stiff and static like earth. It has the quality of flowing, and assumes the
shape of its container. It represents both the actual element water and the vital fluids. Our emotional
life is sometimes compared to water. Fire is indispensable in our lives. Apart from visible fire, like the
flame of a candle or the sun in the firmament, the whole universe undergoes transformation in the
alchemic fire called thermodynamics. Just as a fire consumes everything in its path, our lower mind is
ever curious, wanting to taste everything. The next element air is very significant for our life. Just as fish
live in water, we swim around in an ocean of air. It carries our life-giving breath, prana. Air symbolizes
our psychic life. With regards to ether, we enter a world of mystery. It both is and is not. It is the space
that allows objects to exist separately and distinctly.

On the whole, the physical manifestations of earth, air, fire water and space are taken for granted as
objective phenomena. The vast space in which we see and hear all the objects of our perception is as
projected by the mind. The whole process is called vivarttam, meaning the superimposition of mental
images on an elusive ground which at best can only be inferred.

Bring to non-difference as the sea is to the waves that rise in rows thereon (Jalanidhi
thanniluyarnnidum tharangaa valiyathupoley abhedhamaay varenam):
The analogy of the sea invoked here is not the sea of samsara (phenomenal existence), but the sea of
consciousness. Samvit sagara (the sea of consciousness) has to be distinguished from samsara sagara
(the sea of phenomenal becoming in nature). The key word used here to describe the Absolute is
jalanidhi, the oceanic treasury of inestimable value.

The world of appearance is only the specific aspect of the basic consciousness in which all things have
being. Name and form are the factors giving specificity to the general consciousness. The Guru wants us
to know that we are emerging from the depth of the Absolute’s treasury of immeasurable value as a
wave of its manifestation, only to fall and merge once again with the Absolute. To see life as a series of
waves rising up and merging back to the ocean of All fills one’s mind with beauty, peace and joy. If you
do not know the world this way, then other people become symbols of threat or hostility. A unitive
vision makes each of us the keeper of our brothers and sisters. Our hearts attract each other and souls
merge with one another. In every person we meet, we see a new opportunity, a new possibility, and a
fresh avenue of friendship. In this verse, the Guru leads us to a meditation that can free us of all sense
of separation. There is no longer any boundary between the self and the other. Gleefully we can jump
and immerse ourselves in the oceanic treasury of wonder.

These are our two paths, the world of physical awareness and the world of spiritual absorption. If we
are not in one, we are in the other. It is both beautiful to live and beautiful to die.

Word notes: -

The Vedantic term vivarttam has been translated as “emergent” and by “seen to be” understood
together. A mental projection or supposition of a reality not there, is what is implied.
Vibhoothi has been translated as “phenomenal aspect” because the root bhav suggests “becoming”.
Bhoothas are those entities that have come to be; the mahabhoothas, the great elements, is the term
applied to those elements in their universal aspect as fundamental principles in the creation or
phenomenal emergence of the visible world.

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