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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-8

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)
Translation & explanation of Verse-8

Eating of the five fruits such as sound and so on,
Perched on a shot-gun foul-smelling, ever in wily changeful sport,
Such, the birds five, in shreds, what can bring down,
Wielding such a lucid form, let the inner self brilliant become.

(“Olimuthalaam pazhamanjumundu naarum
Nalikayileri nayena maariyaadum
Kilikaleyanjum arinjukeezhmarikkum
Velivuruvendiyakam vilangidenam”):

Key message-
The way of absolutist contemplation is not to be mixed up with mere religious devotion. There is a radical note struck in this verse. It aims at giving the would-be contemplative an indication of the drastic, un-compromising attitude involved in getting started in the path of real contemplative life. It is more than mere prayerful humbleness. There is something positive in the attitude required. The Bhagavat Gita refers to the inwardness involved by comparing the aspirant to a tortoise, which withdraws all its limbs into its shell (Chapter-II, verse-58).

Eating of the five fruits such as sound and so on
(Olimuthalaam pazhamanjumundu naarum)

Our knowledge has two aspects. We arrive at one through intuition; the other is what we experience as our sensibility. In a number of cases, these two aspects go hand-in-hand. In the first line of this verse, there is an aesthetic interconnectedness. ‘Oli’ means voice, light etc. with an affective quality. It does not stand by itself as an idea. It immediately suggests its counterpart: the ‘I’ that is attracted by the good voice or light. The word ‘muthalaam’ implies the initiation of the chain of events that are imperative whenever the attraction of voice or light is registered in an appreciating ear or eye. It is followed by the suggestion ‘phalam’ an edible fruit. These two aspects, i.e. the attracting voice or light and the edible fruit side by side create a pleasurable situation through the complementary interaction.

Perched on a shot-gun foul-smelling
Such, the birds five, in shreds, what can bring down,
(Nalikayileri nayena maariyaadum
Kilikaleyanjum arinjukeezhmarikkum)

In these lines, we have to imagine a hunter trying to shoot down birds on a branch. They are evasively changing from one twig to another before he can take proper aim. Interests are ever shifting ground in consciousness. As soon as one is displaced, another appeal to the senses comes along, initiating another chain of associations. Thus the chain of cyclic associations never comes to a standstill. Meditation thus recedes further and further away from reach. The hunter has to take a firm one-pointed aim.

The movement of the birds is qualified as ‘nayena’, evasive. The word ‘naya’ implies that for a spiritual or moral life, one is asked to be straightforward and simple. The dharma that Narayana Guru wants adopted is what the ‘Isavaasya Upanishad’ describes as the ethics of a truthful person, ‘Sathya dharma’.

The concept of the foul-smelling shotgun: The birds are seated at one end, and the hunter who is about to pull the trigger at the other end. This suggests a vertical axis between the two polarities or factors of the same Self. The birds with the fruits which they peck represent the sensuous interests, based on each of the five senses opening to the world of horizontal values. The aspirant cannot afford to be tempted by these pleasure-loving interests, if he is to be seriously established in contemplative life. The hunter has to take his aim in such a way as to shoot down all five of them at once. This means, he has to aim at the focal meeting-point of all sensuous interests and associative processes in the mind.

Pampering the body or cultivating the body-sense obstructs the contemplative way. When the gun is fired, there is a flash of light which would fill the whole of consciousness without the duality of the mind or the body. Both are abolished in a full absolutist state of intense light within.
The final instruction given here is to destabilize one’s interest in the gratification of desires, by the tactual enjoyment of the fruits by the five birds or sense interests.

Wielding such a lucid form, let the inner self become brilliant.
(Velivuruvendiyakam vilangidenam)

In the concluding line of verse-8, Narayana Guru wants us to understand the true experience of the spiritual inversion (Velivuru). Between the object of interest and the pleasurable experience of the Self, there is a numerator/denominator relationship. The object of interest is the numerator, and the ego-oriented Self which seeks gratification is hiding in the unconscious as the denominator. When the situation is inverted with the envisioning of the Supreme Self as the occasion of all happiness, the Self is pushed into the forefront as the numerator. The object that was initially instrumental in verticalizing the Self, its awareness and its blissful nature into a unitive whole, effaces its individuality and goes into the denominator as the existence that precedes the essence.

What the Guru recommends here is a healthy way of turning one’s energy inward (Akam vilangidenam): conserving and directing energy by concentrating all interests within one’s own self. This brings about a process of sublimation or right direction.

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