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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-32

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Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)

Translation & explanation of Verse-32

Whatever is known is not the all-supporting Substance,
But is only its attributes,
For the said Substance remains always imperceptible.
The earth and the like (All perceptible and hence attributes)
Therefore do not have real being of their own.
What really is, is the one all-supporting “Athma”
Or pure consciousness and unconditioned,
In essence, simply effulgence alone.
This is to be recalled constantly.

(“Arivathu dharmiyeyalla, dharmamaamee-
Aruliya dharmiyadrushyamaakayaale
Dhara muthalaayavayonnumilla, thaangunna-
Oru vativaamarivullathorthidenam”)

Key message:-
We see this universe always with the help of our sense organs. We think it is true, as we experience many fictitious entities that have a transactional validity, such as names, forms, time and space. Like self-generated automations, we breathe, think, speak and engage in many activities. There is a faculty in us called consciousness which questions, remembers, makes decisions and assumes roles. Actually, these are only properties of the living organism, they come into being with the body and with the body they perish.

The type of reasoning adopted in this verse is called the “sath-kaarana-vaada”; i.e. the way of reasoning that gives primacy to ‘cause’ and not to ‘effect’. Sree Narayana Guru provides the methodology to assist us in our search for truth in this verse, and emphasizes the correct methodology implied in all knowledge.

Dharmi = all-supporting Substance
Dharma = attributes
Eeeyaruliya = for the said
Adrushyamaakayaale = always imperceptible.
Dhara muthalaayava = the earth and the like
Onnumilla = do not have real being of their own.
Thaangunnoru = the one all-supporting “Athma” or pure consciousness and unconditioned
Vativaamarivu = simply effulgence or a brilliant light radiating alone

Two aspects in knowledge to be examined. One is what we call experience, the other may be called the cause of experience.
Let us examine the behavior of our perception on realizing the non-Self or the material world.
As an example, imagine a beautiful rose flower kept in front of me. I see that flower. But how do I recognize it as a rose flower? There are several features for a rose flower. Its shape I see, which is a special feature. But that shape is not rose flower, rather the shape is that of a rose flower.
I see the color of rose flower. Again, the color is not a rose flower, rather the color is that of a rose flower. The same approach is applicable it’s size, fragrant, beauty and tenderness.

Thus, whatever attributes directly we perceive are of rose flower, but not the rose flower by itself. So, are we directly perceiving the rose flower’s attributes or the rose flower? The answer is the attributes of rose flower itself.

In this verse, the word ‘Dharma’ refers to its attributes i.e. color, shape, odor, beauty, size, weight etc. The rose flower is ‘Dharmi’, the thing which facilitates all these ‘dharmas’ to sit or exist. At the same time, we do not see that rose flower. Does that mean the rose flower does not exist? If that is the case, where is the basis for those attributes we directly perceive?

In reality, it is impossible to exist without a basis. Hence the rose flower exists very much. But we do not see directly. So where does that one exist, which is not directly perceivable and that essence, which cannot be rejected? In the Absolute Knowledge, in the form of only Supreme Knowledge (Arivu).

This is not the story of a mere rose flower. But those things which are subjective to our knowledge and that are not the real universe. It is one among the numerous qualities of this existential Truth.

Man comes to this world with a ‘tabula rasa’, a clean slate of mind. A child’s mind has nothing written on it at first. Afterwards, he gets exposed to the world though his senses. He formulates ideas from impressions of pain and pleasure, from pleasant and unpleasant agitations. People speak names to him and show him forms; in this way, the coordination of names and forms are established in his mind. Slowly the child comes to relate cause with effect, and after some time, it becomes fully indoctrinated in the cause and effect theory.

This leads to recognize that the real meditation is not very easy. In its process, first you must drop from your mind all the names that you know, including your own. Drop not only the names of persons and things, but also the names of ideas, such as compassion, patience or whatever. When we have achieved such a state, it is evident that there will be a presentation of consciousness. You can do away with virtually everything, but still a residual space and duration will remain for your awareness to exist. It is an irremediable impenetrability.

The Guru says, all our experiences are of the ‘Dharma’ and not of the ‘Dharmi’, because ‘Dharmi’ is not compliant to our experiences. All our experiences are derivations of a sensation, a perception or a memory. Whatever grand name you give it, these things happen only as result of certain bodily states. As they all come from bodily states, they cannot be called the Self. Their source is already contaminated with the properties of the non-Self. It is also to be noted that Adi Sankara wants us to turn away from experience itself to that which is the cause of experience. In this verse, Sree Narayana Guru draws a line between ‘Dharmi’ and ‘Dharma’; between the ground and what is manifested on it.

Scientists do admit one element of truth: they say there is no special thing called memory sitting anywhere. There are only bulges and depressions. That is the most one can observe on the basis of the physical and chemical background of knowledge. Sree Narayana Guru further says ‘vativu’, meaning a form. In your pure consciousness, there is a certain form which comes. When you cut-off that portion alone, it is what you call empirical knowledge.

Concluding message:
This verse looks so simple, so innocent, but in a way it makes all the difference. So at least for a fraction of a minute, enjoy the great freedom of your own Self by throwing out all the so-called junk called name and form, cause and effect, obligation and society.


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