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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-9

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)

Translation & explanation of Verse-9

He who dwells in contemplation beneath a tree,
Whereon climbing, a creeper bears aloft on either side
The blossoms of psychic states; mark, such a man
By inferno un-approached ever remains.

(“Irupuravum varumaaravasthaye
Poothorukodi vannu padarnnuyarnnu mevum
Tharuvinadikku tapassu cheythu vaazhum
Naranu varaa narakam ninachidenam”):

Key message-

In the previous sections, we have seen that for common man to achieve Self Realization (i.e. to realize the meaning of our life) in a proper way, a support of Spiritual Master is required. In order to achieve this state, we need to prepare ourselves by avoiding undue attractions towards materialistic comforts and habit of luxurious life. Not only achieving this status, but also withdrawing from negative actions and allowing operating for the well-being of the world. In addition to this, we need to have austere discipline of the body. This is called Tapas. To refine any material or commodity, we need to warm it. This is also applicable to our mind. So Tapas is the process of refining us leading to Supreme Truth and rendering individual identity. This involves essentially the following –

1. Consciously directing all our bodily, verbal and mindful actions and educating us.
2. Maintaining a safe level of the pressure resulted from the temptations
3. Keeping us away from all mental and bodily situations, which create laziness.
4. Gaining strength, in order to overcome the temptations of materialistic comforts by focusing on our goals.
5. Maintaining our inner sense-organs pure and ever-active.
6. Bringing concentration on the things to be believed and have critical view and proper thinking on them.

This verse and verse-8 must be treated and understood together in order to extract from both the central doctrine which the Guru wishes to transmit and which is tacitly contained between them. The whole life situation is once again symbolized by a tree. In a sense, the tree represents the historic duration of consciousness. The man dwelling beneath a tree should be understood as distinctly living apart from the tree itself.

Explanation:

A creeper bears aloft on either side the blossoms of psychic states

(Irupuravum varumaaravasthaye
Poothorukodi vannu padarnnuyarnnu mevum)

The psychic states here refer to the waking, dreaming and deep sleep trio (jaagrath, swapnam and sushupthi), called the avasthaa-thraya (the three states), to which every living being of the higher order is seen to be subject. In classical Vedanta, the content of these three states is well explained to arrive at the notion of Pure or Absolute Consciousness which underlies all three. This fourth state is called “thuriyam”. Like white light or grey light, it is implied in the others which have a status like that of the primary colors of the spectrum – red, yellow or blue.

In this verse, the Guru slightly deviates from the conventional number three in favor of a symmetrically conceived pair of alternating states. The states of sleeping and waking overpower or take charge of consciousness in everlasting alternation. In and through these alternating states, pure Consciousness continues as the central vertical axis. The below illustration depicts four symmetrical coordinates –

1. Horizontal positive axis – waking (jaagrath)
2. Horizontal negative axis – dreaming (swapnam)
3. Vertical negative axis – deep sleep (sushupthi)
4. Vertical positive axis – Absolute Consciousness (thuriyam)

The first two alternating states of waking and dreaming are thought to be as bearing blossoms on either side.

In our wakeful life, a particular necessity arises out of many potential necessities. It assumes a certain reality, a certain form. At that point, the necessity becomes very categorical, a hard and fast imperative that can move us to action. Finally, it is either fulfilled or its importance is slowly lost, and the interest dissipates and is gone.

Dream has its bright and beautiful representation as much as the waking state when seen with the neutrally posed eyes of a true artist, who is neither too positively awake nor deeply asleep. Before a dream comes, the elements of it and the reason for it are lying buried as a necessity in the seed state. When the seed is expressed as a dream, it sprouts into fantastic forms full of meaning. After a time, as another seed presses forward for expression, interest in the previous one wanes, and it disappears.

The third state deep sleep (sushupthi) must be supplied by us as virtually implicit in the person of the man under the tree. It enters consciousness only virtually, and does not regulate conduct. The deep sleep state lies hidden within us a ground or seedbed of tremendous potentials. It is an unconscious mass. At the time once life begins to function, the creeper comes up out of its seed.

The fourth state (thuriyam) attains the status of Absolute Consciousness. It is the one which is seeing all the above mentioned three states. It is more like a catalyst in bringing dramatic changes to them.

He who dwells in contemplation beneath a tree

(Tharuvinadikku tapassu cheythu vaazhum).

In the process of the realization of the Self, we are always trying to attain the state of the transcendental. The transcendental, or the witness, is here separated from the tree. The Guru symbolizes it by a contemplative who sits under the tree of manifestation. About him many things are happening. He sees that all these things are going on, but he just sits there, seemingly unconcerned. He is not sitting there as a careless traveler, though, because the creepers are always growing in all directions and covering everything. Along with his detachment, he is very awake to the situation around him, so that he does not become entangled in it. If you are not alert as you sit there, if you do not sit in just the proper way, you will also be caught and covered. And yet, you do not run away from it. You sit right under it doing Tapas. Meaning of Tapas can be explained as follows: When my actions are withdrawn from anything negative, and my potentials are allowed to operate for the well-being of the world and to contribute to the perennial virtues of life, it is a Tapas or austere discipline of the body.

By inferno un-approached ever remains.
(Naranu varaa narakam ninachidenam)

Look for the creeper within you which is blossoming as your wakeful life hour after hour. Watch for your fantasizing aspect that is blossoming in another direction. Also examine the root, the seeds of all this in your transactions in the wakeful and in your fantasies. Decide how much total participation you should have in these two kinds of functioning. If you involve yourself too much, it will pinch you. That pinching is here called narakam, hell. Many methods have been taught by the great Masters to achieve detachment from the ensnaring creepers of the world tree, and to cultivate an absolutist vision which can turn individuation into a tool to serve the purpose of higher truth, goodness and beauty. The Buddha said: we should have the right mode of seeing, of thinking, of speaking, of behaving, of feeling. Buddha taught how to find the right mode: by taking refuge in the Buddha, by taking refuge in the four-fold truth, by cultivating the five virtues.

Another way is to walk into the open arms of Jesus Christ and feel warmth of this love in your heart. Or you can take the Islamic way, which so beautifully given to us by the Sufis, of making Allah your beloved. Lao Tzu exemplifies the witnessing Self which remains at the neutral zero. Still another way is as the rishis have taught. From ancient times down to, say, Ramana Maharshi in our time, they have all taken the question, “Who am I?” and diligently followed the track of where it led them. That path took them away from all the superficial disturbances to the Pure Light, which we have just now placed under the tree as the contemplative witness.

The above implies that narakam (the hell) is not something we experience after death. It is caused by the common man’s ignorance on the Pure Knowledge, thereby creating hell in own’s life. To save ourselves from such problems, we need to start now moving in the right path.
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