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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-13

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)
Translation & explanation of Verse-13

“Unto the Master who dons the ashes of the three modes,
Offering the flower of the inner self, inclining before Him,
With all sense interests effaced, divest of all and cool,
Even from the grandeur of loneliness bereft, into glory sink!

(“Thrigunamayam thiruneeraninjoreeshannu
Akamalarittu vanangiyakshamaari
Sakalamazhinju thaninju kevalathin
Mahimayumattu mahassilaanidenam”):

Key message-
The theme of this meditation is one of the major subjects taught and discussed in all the major world religions. This verse follows an antique figure of speech. The worship of Siva, the great God of Himalaya, who is at the same time the Guru Dakshina Murti (the divine manifestation of the South), as pictured by Sankara himself is almost an inevitable idiom on the spiritual soil of India.

To extract the correct sense of this verse, the reader has to imagine himself as Siva-worshipper of South India, who prayerfully offers flowers at the temple of the God who represents the Absolute. The flowers are to be thought of as fine value products of the mind of man. They belong to this or the “self” side, while the Master or Siva would represent the ‘Greater Self’ which is its own counter-part. The offering of flowers is a symbolic gesture by means of which bipolar relationship is to be established between the Absolute as the ‘Greater Self’ and the Absolute as the ‘self’. They further represent the specific aspects of everyday value-factors or items corresponding to the infinite small change which pays for the gold coin of the notion of the Absolute, which is an all-inclusive and supreme Value in life.

“Unto the Master who dons the ashes of the three modes,
Offering the flower of the inner self, inclining before Him,

(“Thrigunamayam thiruneeraninjoreeshannu
Akamalarittu vanangiyakshamaari”):
Thrigunamayam = the essence of the three modes of qualities
Thiruneeraninja=spread on the holy ashes
Oru Eeshan = the only God.
Akamalarittu vanangi= bow by dedicating the mind as flower offering
Akshamaari = after settling down the desires of all sense-organs.

Unto the Master who dons -
The great God is pictured here as sitting in meditation cut-off from all sense-interests, meditating on the Absolute and identical with it. The principle implicit in idol-worship, correctly understood, is to treat of the two bodies involved-that of the worshipper and the worshipped-as interchangeable terms in a dialectically contemplative manner. The self of the seeker on one side and the personified Absolute on the other form limbs of a reversible operation like an osmosis, which takes place spiritually between the two poles, which in reality belong to the same vertical aspect of the Self, as distinguished in verse-12.

The notion of the Absolute which is neutral between the two poles of the same unitive Self can be conceived in pure or practical terms and, as long as the limbs of the equation are properly conceived as dialectical counterparts, no harm is done to the resulting doctrine touching reality that results from the cancelling out of counterparts.

The ashes of the three modes –
The theory of three ‘gunaas’ or modalities of nature, whether psychologically or cosmologically understood, is developed in the Bhagavat Gita devoted to their character and mechanism. The Guru here sees the possibility of effecting further unity in the same sense as in Bhagavat Gita. The three levels of modalities in natural and necessary expressions, when they attain the Absolute, as represented by the Master, who is Siva, are nothing more than ashes, generally worn as three horizontal lines on the forehead and body.

The three qualities or ‘gunaas’ – ‘sattva’, ‘rajas’ and ‘tamas’ – are necessary for any creation. ‘Sattva’, the transparent, is the capacity to clearly represent existence. ‘Rajas’ is kinetic, dynamic, activating – the energy that does the making and unmaking. ‘Tamas’ represents the inertial force that stabilizes and solidifies creation. According to the legend, the Creator uses the three ‘gunaas’ to create the whole world. If you understand the process philosophically, you don’t have to think of any external creator. Our mind is the creator. It has the ability to present anything to itself. When something is presented and experienced, it exists. Thus, the mind creates forms of existence, one after another.

The flower of the inner self -
In relation to the plant itself, the flower represents the most specialized aspect. Such specific items represent horizontal multiplicity of sense values as against the vertical unity of the pure Self. The special growths of a plant refer to luxury items in life, as suggested in the Bhagavat Gita, which compares the leaf-buds of the great Banyan Tree of its famous 15th chapter, to the stanzas of the Vedas, which represent the hedonistic values implicit in the Vedic religion. Therefore, the tree with the buds be cut down mercilessly before one can follow the higher path of the wisdom of the Absolute. The flowers referred in this verse are also petty utilitarian or sensuous luxury items, even of the context of holiness, which have to be sacrificed in the fire of absolute wisdom for progressing in the path of Self-realization envisaged in the present text. Moreover, the Absolute is a wonder and is adorable, as the most supreme of human values.

At the very height of the excitement and joy of gaining something, you are asked instead to related it to the very core, to spiritualize that experience. You are not asked to kill the joy, but only to look for its essence. You have to realize that it is not priced by objects, but is an essential part of your own divine nature. If the joy we see in a person, in a desirable thing, opens a window for us to see the Lord, the Absolute, the Divine, which is our own truest Self, then everything becomes a door for us to enter into our innermost sanctum. This critical process is described in the first half of this verse. “Gather your mind-modalities as flowers and make an offering of them to the Supreme, who transcends all the necessities of the world”.

With all sense interests effaced, divest of all and cool,
Even from the grandeur of loneliness bereft, into glory sink!

(“Sakalamazhinju thaninju kevalathin
Mahimayumattu mahassilaanidenam”):
Sakalamazhinju = liberated from all bondings of sense interests.

Kevalathin Mahimayumattu= free from even the glittering experience of attaining Supreme Truth.
Mahassilaanidenam= in the abode of Supreme Self, immersed in It and to be abode of only That.
The “glory in the last line refers to the principle of the Absolute still within the limits of the phenomenal aspect of reality. The Guru uses the word ‘Mahas’ (the Great Principle) as used by the Samkhyas and as understood later and used more unitively in Advaitha Vedantha.
You are asked to transcend everything. This is accomplished by spiritualizing, by seeing everything as divine. A sense of reverence should come and fill your whole being that make you to see the divine manifestation in everything you see. When you see that union, it is no longer a discomfort, it is devotion. You are not bound. Otherwise, you feel obligated and bound to everything to which your senses take you. Now it is glorious that you are given an opportunity to be with your own real being and your work becomes a devotion. It is a service, an offering, a dedication.

All sense interests effaced –
‘Sakalam azhinju’ means you are no more a person bound within the shell of this human mortal coil. You become expanded. Your expanded being fills everything, embraces everything. The spirit encompasses everything, and you are one with it. Now you are liberated; you have become free because the spirit is free.

Divest of all and cool –
The pure Self within, sits in nakedness and simplicity as opposed to the peripherally conditioned personality, that might have social dignity or status belonging to the outer world. For example, pilgrims to Mecca have to divest themselves of all decorations and even tailored clothes before entering the holy of the holies. Likewise, a South Indian temple has to be entered wearing a few clothes as possible. This is symbolic of the rejection of all peripheral conditionings that might color the pure Self, as if from the extraneous and apparent phenomenal world. Nothing of worldly decoration really belongs to the pure Absolute first to be transcended before the path of Self-realization. The cooling refers to the slowing down of the tempo of active outward socialized life.

Even from the grandeur of loneliness bereft into glory sink –
The Absolute is not a quantity with any magnitude, but rather a pure quality without magnitude. Even the hypostatic glory that we attribute to God in praising Him, is not consistent with the image of the Absolute as understood in the purer non-theological context of contemplative Self-realization. Neither can we say, however, that the Absolute is without greatness. The “greatness” (Mahas) is to be understood as a glory that participates more in the vertical aspect of values rather than in the horizontal. The “sinking into glory” represents the “flight of the alone to the Alone”. The world becomes much better. A demonic world is now transformed into a divine world. A bound person has become a free being. The worlds of interests just come and go like dreams. They are enjoyed, as dreams are enjoyed. Even a passing show should have its merit, so you give it that much credit. Then you own the world, and along with it you become one with the Divine that is behind all that. Right in the world of immanence, you see transcendence.

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