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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-12

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)
Translation & explanation of Verse-12

“With skin, bone, refuse, and many an inner factor of evil end
Wielding these, lo! One ego looms: This which passes,
is the other: That Self which grows to perfection,
O grant the boon that it may not the ego swell.

(“Tholiyumelumbumalam duranthamantha-
Kalakalumeandumahandayonnu kaanka
Poliyumithanya polinju poornnamaakum
Valiyorahantha varaavaram tharenam”):

Key message-
This verse instructs us to resort to prayer, to prayerfully seek divine help in knowing the true nature of things, and not to be misled by the world of phantoms.

While trying to seek the Absolute Truth, it is quite natural to encounter conflicting situations and preventing us to move forward. It is essential to understand both sides in detail and to have micro-examination, in order to overcome such barrier. If it is considered separately for our analysis, it may lead us to tragedies.
There is ego-identity seen separately in every one of us. At the same time, there is individual experience of ‘I’ identity existing equally in everyone. This does not mean that there are two types of ego-identity. On the other hand, it indicates that the single ‘I’ consciousness appearing in two types.

So, what is the reason behind the imagination of two ego-identities? We treat every individual separately depending on our single-system approach of our body, sense-organs, mind and intellect. They are called means of instrument (tool). We all are locking our ‘I’ consciousness in these tools. However, the Guru is not mentioning about all such means. Only a few mandatory items are highlighted. Here, the purpose is not merely to say about, our sensitive skin, the inside anatomic structure made of bones and filled with all kinds of dirt, blood and guts and the cause of tragic end while attempting so much to preserve all these. But, instead it leads us to our affective volition, the actualization of many desires. The ego-identity “Ahantha” carries all these.
The ‘I’ consciousness that exists in everyone is permanent. It does not destroy, even when the body is destroyed. We can only understand its’ permanency, if we differentiate the diversity of bodies. When we view that, we get clarified on the completeness of ‘I’ consciousness.

Once distinction between the two aspects of the perishing self and the imperishable Self is made, it will be easy to see how a normal process of spiritual progress can be established. Perfection or plenitude is the goal to be attained by the Self put on its proper path. The attribute which grows to perfection refers to the pure or verticalized Self, which still stands in danger of being compromised by horizontal factors.

Tholiyumelumbumalam duranthamantha-
Kalakalumeandumahandayonnu kaanka
“With skin, bone, refuse, and many an inner factor of evil end
Wielding these, lo! One ego looms:

[Anthakkalakal = inner factors and interests in our body]
[Eandumahanda = carrying the ego]

The body is covered with skin, and skin is sensitive. It is a sense organ which covers our whole body. From all around us, our sensations are always producing the awareness of our bodily existence. Narayana Guru here uses skin to represent the sensory system. It is a very ingenious way of combining the physical entity with the mental. The skeletal system gives the body its specific form. The bones are all well-arranged and held together in their sockets. But if our very simple breath leaves the body, all these bones will come apart. In life, it is our breath holding the bones together. According to Freud, the seedbed of our desires is in the rupture of the skin, in the various areas of the body. These are easily tickled. On the whole, we live for the pleasure of the skin. We are very fond of touching, but if we get burned or the fingers are scalded, we are afraid to touch anything. Where pleasure is, there pain is also, living very close by. The pursuit of pleasure often brings us pain.
As if physical pain were not enough, religious people have added moral pain through the invention of guilt. In modern man, many of the pleasures of the skin are intimately connected with a moral conscience of great sin, great guilt.

The “lo!” here which stands for “look” implies a warning as said above. It is important to notice here that, the line dividing the body from the mind, or the physical from the spiritual aspect of the personality, is underlined. Here, Narayana Guru takes care to indicate that the ego that wields the skin and bones includes on its side many other factors of evil portent, which conduce to unhappy ends.

Poliyumithanya polinju poornnamaakum
Valiyorahantha varaavaram tharenam”):
This which passes, Is the other: That Self which grows to perfection
O grant the boon that it may not the ego swell.‘

[Poliyumithu = the ego aspect will be destroyed]
[Anya polinju poornnamaakum = the other aspect of the Self leads to perfection]
[Varaavaram tharenam = Bless us for not to be attracted in the ego]

The ego is a dirty, foul thing. It should not be identified with the Absolute, but by mistaken notions people often do it. This not only obstructs their path to realization, but causes them to swell up with pride, become arrogant and aggressive, and create a lot of nuisances for the world. The spiritual ego is very hard to overcome. If ten people bow before you and show reverence, you may be able to retain your sanity, but it will soon leave you when more and more people show an attitude of reverence. It is extremely difficult to maintain a proper attitude.
The whole world is a mess. Mostly it is a mess, because of the destruction towards which it naturally trends. The rest is due to our own foolishness, the whole affair of the ego is essentially a stupid business. The Guru here says ‘ithu poliyum’ this will perish. From the skin to all the dynamisms of all the inner urges which are seeking pleasures, this whole system will come to an end. The below section explains more on this: –
One should turn to the pure awareness that was present even when one was in the mother’s womb as a fertilized ovum, a developing fetus, and as a child who was pushing itself out through a strange kind of interaction between itself and the mother, finally to come to its own liberation. All these things are done by another awareness residing within. It is a common life principle, a homogeneous principle of life, which can remain dormant, come into a form of manifestation, and assert itself in all shades of awareness, yet it is never itself affected. It is immortal; it never dies. It is called the ‘Aathman’.

To meditate on it, the ancient wise ones made a formula ‘Ayam Aathma Brahma’. It means, this Aathma is Brahman, this self-luminous awareness that resides in all beings is the Absolute. That which is other than that which lies between the skin and all other urges, it never perishes. When we contemplate this, when we meditate on it continuously, there comes the perfection of that awareness. Sankara Acharya defines Bhakti as the continuous contemplation of one’s true form. The true form is what realization is: the apprehension of our own true beingness. “That increases and becomes Absolute”, ‘anya polinnu poornnamaakum’.

This verse asks us to discriminate between the perishing self and the imperishable Self. Identity with the imperishable Self comes by divine grace. It is not be mere intellectual pursuits or internal argumentation that we come to it. It is a divine gift, and it has to come by grace. Narayana Guru is bringing us here closer to an attitude of godliness, of adoration even, of one who is helpless without divine grace.

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