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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-16

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)
Translation & explanation of Verse-16
Like a vast desert-land
Suddenly becoming flooded by a river in spate,
Happens the event of the abstract word (naadam)
Falling into the attentive ears resulting in
The opening up of the inner eye.
(Attaining this) requires the seeker
Remaining always an ideal person of perfect self-restraint.

(“Adhika vishaala marupradeshamonnaay
Nadiperukunnathupole vannu naadam
Shruthikalil veenuthurakkumakshiyennum
Yathamiyalum yathivaryanaayidenam”):

Key message-
Here, Sree Narayana Guru recommends a personal attitude to be constantly cultivated by one who aspires for the full attainment of wisdom or Self-realization. A teacher of wisdom constantly faced with the question of how spirituality is to be practiced. On the Indian soil, there is the practice of yoga which has become, as it were, a deep routed idiom in the popular mind.

The Guru gives the whole subject of Self Realization in a summary treatment. The intellectual side and the physical side that are non-dualistically implied together in the attainment of wisdom, are brought together as close as could be. The dawn on knowledge is referred to in the language of personal experience, and what pertains to the opposite or instinctive pole of global emotions is referred to by the example of a perfected man of self-discipline available in the traditional language of Indian thought. The sounds that open the eye of wisdom is an ideogram familiar in India, and the recluse of full self-discipline is also a model popularly understood.

The main point is that the wisdom gets established not by labored graded steps, but it happens when the personal attitude and the intelligence work together to usher in the result. No staircase is needed to ascend to wisdom. The duality between ends and means is abolished.

“Like a vast desert-land
Suddenly becoming flooded by a river in spate,
Happens the event of the abstract word (naadam)”

(“Adhika vishaala marupradeshamonnaay
Nadiperukunnathupole vannu naadam”):

To many people, this world is like a desert. When they retrospect and look for what they have achieved in life, they see nothing worthwhile that they have attained. It fills them with great sorrow. When they look around to see what they can get, they also do not see anything. Their future is bleak. Thus their past, present and future are all filled with meaninglessness. Their life may be considered to be like that of one who is lost in a desert land. With the mirage effect of seeing blue water in the far distance, they go running to it, without getting the real water. With the repeated attempts, they give up the fruitless chase and become utterly hopeless and desperate.

Some people realize this only at the very last moment, when the call of death comes. But it would be too late to rectify the situation. But some people realize this earlier in life. They are so blessed that even at an early age, they sense that there is something wrong with the world of values with which we are surrounded. These wise-ones suspect the validity of these seeming values. For them, this universe is not a separate thing; it is an extension of own self. It is not something that can be rejected. It is to be endeared to us. This world is our Self. This is the subjective world of pure thoughts and feelings.
Ordinary knowledge is the desert of this verse. When you transcend ordinary knowledge and go beyond, then alone you see the one reality which is shining outward and inward all at once, both as the cosmos and the psychic world.

“Falling into the attentive ears resulting in
The opening up of the inner eye.

(Attaining this) requires the seeker
Remaining always an ideal person of perfect self-restraint”.

(“Shruthikalil veenuthurakkumakshiyennum
Yathamiyalum yathivaryanaayidenam”):

The terms monk, sage, seer or pontiff in any religious or spiritual context refer to a type of person who is dedicated to a life of spiritual values. In India, they are called as the munis (recluses), the yatis (those of self-control), the parivrajakaas (the homeless wanderers) or the swamis (heads or would-be heads of religious institutions) and a large variety of other types.

Here the Guru specially selects the word ‘yati’ to describe the type of person envisaged in the present context of Self-instruction. The ‘yati’ resembles a samnyaasin (one of correct renunciation) which is one of the four phases or ‘ashramaas’ in life according to Sanskrit and other ancient writings in India, are those of ‘brahmacharya’, ‘gruhastha’, ‘vaanaprastha’ and ‘samnyaasa’. In the context of Self-instruction, the qualification of perfect self-control gains primacy over all others. The ‘yati’ here includes in principle the yogi, the guru, the true value Vedantic pandit or teacher of wisdom, those who practice quietist or active mysticism of all the varieties known to spiritual life generally, including the ‘parama-hamsa’ or jagad-guru, which are titles given by devoted followers to most perfected ones in the context of wisdom and self-discipline taken together. The attitude meant here has further to be cultivated without any intermission, as implied in the world ‘remaining always’.

The ears have a very special and intermediate position among the senses. The eye is a window of the soul which is meant to look outward rather than inward. Distant noise coming to the ears of a sleeping dog or the cry of a child beside its mother in sleep, enter the subconscious efferently rather than affernetly. Sounds and meanings come close together in alternation. The word and the meaning fuse together to become one event in consciousness. The conceptual and the perceptual come together closest through the ear.

Through relentless meditation, participating in the world with the meditation ‘prajnaanam brahma’ or by withdrawing from the world meditating on ‘ayam aathma brahma’, one comes to the secret of the unity of all. When one gains this inner secret, he is a ‘yathivaryan’, a noble seer of a restrained life.

The unbroken symphony which one hears in one’s own physical body, and the new realization which comes from the word of the Guru that everything is One, extends the song, extends the symphony until it fills the three worlds with a great resonance. It is like the rumblings of an ocean. You hear inner world filled with this one music.

The unity of this verse and its construction which brings together the two poles of personal life recommended in the context of Self-realization will become clear when we remember that Sree Narayana Guru himself must have had this form of experience.

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