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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-10

Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)

Translation & explanation of Verse-10

“Who sits there in the dark? Declare!” says one;
Whereupon another, himself intent to find in turn
Asks, hearing the first, “Who may you even be?”
For both the word of response is but One.

(“Irulirippavanaaru cholka neeyennu
Oruvanurappathu kettu thaanumevam
Arivathinaayavanodu neeyumaarennu
Arulumithin prathi vaakyamekamaakum”):

Key message-
The two men sitting in the dark, questioning each other in the name of knowledge about the Self in
each, represent a dialectical situation by which the Guru in this verse enters the heart of the subject of
the present work. Wisdom has always been enshrined in dialogues between two persons, a teacher and
a student. Here, the counterparts are brought together closely as dialectally interchangeable factors,
with all extraneous elements eliminated as in arranging a laboratory experiment. Guru’s method of
approach is fully alive to the requirements of the age of science and of free criticism based on equality
of status between the counterparts.

Explanation:
“Who sits there in the dark? Declare!” says one;
Whereupon another, himself intent to find in turn
(Irulirippavanaaru cholka neeyennu
Oruvanurappathu kettu thaanumevam)

If you close your eyes and try to visualize your existence from inside, it is hard to decide where the
boundaries and limitations of your body actually are. You can feel certain vague sensations here and
there, but from inside with your eyes closed you cannot see where the outer periphery of the skull is. In
fact, everything merges into a kind of total darkness. Yet the clarity of your idea of existence is not the
least affected. It remains the same.

We are asked to imagine a situation where we can reduce the input of all our sensory data to just the
voice that we hear. Touch, smell, taste and sight are to be removed from our mind. In such a situation
you are fully aware of your own existence, and you recognize it by saying “I”. In this special state,
suppose you sense that another person is also present. To make sure you ask, “Who is there?” You get
an answer, “I”. How do you understand what you heard when you head “I”? You understand it by
turning to your own concept of ‘I’. The other person understood your ‘I’ by comparing it to his
experience of the term. With this understanding, have you gone beyond your own knowledge to any
extent? Not at all.

We live in the age of science. Sree Narayana Guru also lived in the age of science. Therefore, the
peculiarity of this age must have been in Guru’s mind. The modern sciences’ approach is to understand
the nature’s principle through experiments. But few questions arise here: Is the experimental method
possible-enough to search for one’s Self-realization? How do we bring our Self and examine in the
laboratory?

But in the modern scientific experiments, the scientists do not obtain the principles directly. It is the
information that received from the experiment; not the principle. With these data, the scientists make
the calculations and logical thinking, resulting in inferences and conclusions. Hence the scientific process
consists of four stages namely – Experiment, Observation, Thought and Inference.

It can also be seen that in modern science, all experiments are not held in the laboratories. For the
researches of inner atomic structure and configuration, researches on space and inner principles of the
universe, the scientists have concluded based only on experimental approach. The cosmic theory
arrived on universal principles from such experiments is termed as ‘Theoretical physics’.

Sree Narayana Guru too makes an experimental approach combined with normative method to know
the Supreme Self, by gathering the required data. In the verses which follow, that thought process is
expanded. Finally in verse-27, Guru concludes with a clear definition of Supreme Self. So the
experiment presented in the current verse-10 and the thought based on this data will continue till verse-
27.

Asks, hearing the first, “Who may you even be?”
For both the word of response is but One.
Arivathinaayavanodu neeyumaarennu
Arulumithin prathi vaakyamekamaakum

There is a great demand on our consciousness all the time of it to transmute and transform into
whatever conceptual idea is presented to us through the perception of the five senses. For instance I
may say, “I have seen a blue lotus. It was very beautiful”. On hearing this, you have to think of a lotus
flower and also of the color blue. You have to recall an experience when you enjoyed something,
possibly not even a flower at all, and transfer that enjoyment together with the other concepts. Then
you make a composition of all of them in your mind before you can imagine how I experienced the blue
lotus. Only then can you say, “Yes, I understand. It must have been very beautiful.”

This process sounds a bit intellectual, but the inner perception involved is not entirely intellectual. It is
to be approached from within, and not from outside in the academic manner. It can be fully understood
only by silently absorbing oneself into the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-feeling greater psyche which
belongs to everyone. This opens up the floodgates of love, and you become one with all. The
counterpart of this is to close doors and create exclusions and inclusions.

The dark room is meant for selection and control purposes as in laboratory experiments. The reference
to two men, instead of referring to the self in one man, is like bringing in the control elements in the
experimentally conceived critical situation by which he is ‘to prove scientifically’ to himself the reality of
the Self.

To know oneself has been accepted both in the East and in the West, in both ancient and modern times,
as constituting the core of wisdom. Knowing oneself is hindered by the outward-going eye which sees
other objects beside oneself. By referring to the self in two persons at the same, time, the Guru makes
an epochal innovation by which he lays the foundation from the rapprochement and unification of two
branches of wisdom, the physical and the metaphysical, which, by being treated hitherto separately,
have lost their full influence in enriching human knowledge to the limit of its possibilities.

On careful examination of this verse, we find that the Guru takes pains to give in detail the agonizing
stages in the dialectical situation portrayed in the metaphysical experiment that he describes. The
resolution of the paradoxical duality of the two persons into the one of the last line, does not take place
without effort or earnestness. A thirst for more knowledge is implied on one side and the inclination to
remain quite on the other. If the first man did not insist on knowing, the silence would have remained
unbroken and wisdom would not have resulted. Active seeking of wisdom is a form of agony or thirst
for knowledge which represents the knocking at the door to open, to put it in the biblical idiom. One has
to want to know badly before knowledge can result. The duality then becomes transcended. The two
partial selves merge into unity in the Absolute.

The experimental approach Guru made is not impossible for the common man like the modern
scientists. It can be tried by all people and also without experimenting it; we can understand the theory
well.

This thought process brought by the Guru has to be followed by us with utmost care and concentration.
In other words, completely believing the words of Guru. In Vedanta philosophy, this is termed as
“Shraddha”. In addition to be more concentrative on Guru’s thoughts, we also need to sharpen our
thinking abilities and be immensely curious for the search.
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