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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-19

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)

Translation & explanation of Verse-19
The bottom, the top, the end, that is real, this is, no, that is -
In this way people quarrel; the one primal reality is all that is;
All this inertial matter is transient;
Except as a form of water could a wave ever arise?

Jadamithu sarvamanithyamaam jalathin-
Vativine vittu tharangamanyamaamo”):

Key message-
One great need in this world is peace and peacemaking. There is always a tendency of fight. Another precious teaching from the Bible is “Peace on earth and good will among men”. Seemingly there are so many reasons to lose our peace and come to blows. Even the words of the greatest seers and saviors have caused bloodshed. In their great names and in their great love, man has shed more blood than in the name of cruelty. Such is the sad state to which we have come. Fights come when someone else wants to have it their way. Conflict between two schools of thought, whatever may be the items, terms, or values, will necessarily be based on giving primacy to one or other of the factors involved. A dualism is involved in all of them.
The philosophy we learn in Athmopadesha Shathakam is a philosophy of life. Its aim is to unite in peace rather than divide by endless arguments.

“The bottom, the top, the end, that is real, this is, no, that is -
In this way people quarrel; the one primal reality is all that is;”


Narayana Guru begins this verse with ‘ati’ and ‘muti’, the alpha and omega factors. Philosophers who give primacy to intelligence generally look at the source of things: what causes this effect? The fundamental question is very important to them. What is not in the cause can never become an effect. In the effect, we see so many ramifications and elaborations of differences. If you go back to the cause, you do not see all the separations. For example, a seed does not tell us what kind of leaves, flowers, roots and branches will develop from it. It is just one single item, where all that is to come is the same. Thus from the effect, you should go back to the cause. That means, you go back to your own alpha, your roots. So Adi Sankara is a philosopher of ‘ati’, the base.

After Adi Sankara came Ramanujua, who did not feel impelled by a logical necessity to reason. He had a greater need to experience love here and now, to experience the love of God as a person. He did not want to think of impersonal facts like pure existence or pure knowledge. He thought if there was a Lord, he should be able to see him with his own eyes. He should be able to touch him and serve him. For Ramanuja to see, the Lord should manifest visibly; to listen, the Lord should come and speak to him. Ramanuja said, “I want my Lord to be Vishnu. I should be able to see his lotus eye, his pearl-like teeth, his cherry lips, his gentle touch, the lotus in his hand”. He went on with a full description: “This is the final thing to which I am aspiring, the omega, to see and serve my Lord, to be with him. My Lord should be inside me as well. I should experience the Lord in every atom of my being as the indwelling immortal reality. There is no maya; everything is real. All these effects are the effects of the Lord. Don’t say this is inertial matter. There is no inertial matter. Matter is constituted of atoms, and every atom is animated. The heart of the atom is the supreme Indweller of the psyche. Thus everything becomes divine to me”. So Ramanuja’s is the philosophy of ‘muti’ the omega, where the effect is as real as the cause.

“All this inertial matter is transient;
Except as a form of water could a wave ever arise? ”

(“Jadamithu sarvamanithyamaam jalathin-
Vativine vittu tharangamanyamaamo”):
Scientists also argue as much as philosophers. But what is really important is our daily life. The often-forgotten purpose of philosophy is to give us a philosophy of life, a framework to orient our lives by. If we fight over everything, about the alpha and the omega, finitude and infinitude, and the self and the other, for example, we will have the divided self and the politics of the family.

Narayana Guru says there is a key to resolve this situation. We must look for the animating principle, the numinous factor, as well as that which is inertial and dead. The inertial matter, ‘jada’, is the basis for differentiation. The animating Self is the unifying factor. In our personal life also, we are presented with a flux of everything moving and changing. Even as we sit quietly, our blood is surging through us. A tidal flood of air passes in and out of our lungs. Body cells are dying and being replenished. The carriers of energy in the circulatory system are exchanging dead matter for a new energy at a tremendous rate in the alveoli. Within the body are so many separate, individual items, yet there is a unifying consciousness which rules the whole organism as one single piece.

This verse has a very practical bearing on our life. It encapsulates the art of living together, the art of reconciliation, the art of harmony. Narayana Guru here presents the example of the ocean and the wave. What makes a wave look different from water? It is only the formation of a crest on the surface of the water. The essence of the wave is the same water. It is the form we are fighting and not the essence. We should discipline ourselves in such a way that we can turn from the form to the essence every day, all the time.

Great Masters of various schools of thought and religions in the world, great poets, discoverers, scientists and inventors during their times have contributed in molding our human heritage by their brilliant thoughts. Buddha, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Immanuel Kant, Spinoza, Shakespeare, Shelly, Kaalidaasa, Valmiki and the philosophers of far-off China are to name a few. Their contributions are still present in our lives, guiding us, teaching us, and helping us every moment. But they are not here. Only the friend next to you is here, the friend who exemplifies and incorporates all those wonderful qualities and insights. And we can all share this tremendous inheritance and even more with each other, to make life an ecstatic and joyful experience.

Even when you do something as simple as sip a cup of coffee or tea, think about what you are doing. Your moving tea begins in some far-off land, where very poor people get-up at 4 ‘O’ clock and walk to the tea plantation, where ripe leaves are waiting to cut into their fingers. After processing the tea leaves in huge mills and blended the final tea product is packed into the tins or boxes and loaded to the trucks, ships, trains and to their distribution channels, it reaches the local market, where you buy it and take it home. Thus the whole world participates in one cup of tea. If you like sugar with your tea, there is another world of production and distribution behind that spoonful of white grains you tip into the cup. So should you not look into the numinous aspect of just a cup of tea?

If you become sensitive to the spiritual aspect of life, gratitude will naturally fill your whole being. Each time you put a morsel of food in your mouth or sip your tea or coffee, you will become so grateful to the corporate life of mankind for giving you so much for so little effort. You will see nothing but the unity underlying the many forms of the world. Great will be your joy to share, to give, to receive. Then you won’t fight. The state of war comes in where you see only your own personal interests – “my home”, “my family” or just “my self”. The superficial form of your self-interest, and you should be included in the ocean of the general interest, and you should feel the world is your country, your home. The humanity is your family, filled with your brother and sisters.
The Guru wants us to really feel this: to stand united, to find peace and become peacemakers. We have to first be peacemakers in our own lives. We bring peace to ourselves. By putting all the peace together, we make peace with the world. If you fragment it, you lose it. So let us gather all the peace together in one meaning, in one divine thread of love and compassion and understanding.

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