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Athmopadesha Shathakam Verse-20

Athmopadesha Shathakam (One Hundred verses of Self-Instruction)

Translation & explanation of Verse-20

Other than this the world has no reality;
“there is” – all such that the people say is without reflection;
Even if to an ignorant person it appears to be a snake,
Will a fresh flower garland ever become a sepent?

(“Ulakinu veroru sathayillathuntennu-
Ulakar urappathu sarvamoohaheenam;
Jalanu vileshayamennu thonniyaalum
Nalamiyalum malarmaala naagamaamo?):

Key message-
The tribasic epistemological principle called ‘triputi’ in Advaitha Vedantha has three distinct aspects: the knower aspect of reality, the known or objective aspect, and the central meaning aspect which is knowledge. The last is the conceptual which is reducible to one or the other of the remaining two. The meaning is inseparable from the world it belongs to, and should not be thought of as a third reality, although in technical epistemological terminology, it is given a name as representing knowledge. A rose flower can smell as good without its conceptual aspect, and conversely, the idea of a rose need not necessarily exclude its odour. The neutral concept of the rose could combine the two ambivalent polarities that might be seen as one having primacy over the other by rival philosophers. There is an error which is natural in this world, of treating dualistically, instead of treating unitively, factors that belong together.

Explanation:
“Other than this the world has no reality;
“there is” – all such that the people say is without reflection”

(“Ulakinu veroru sathayillathuntennu-
Ulakar urappathu sarvamoohaheenam”):
Occasionally this world we inhabit will appear to be very dark. We feel like running away from it. We think that somewhere there could be another world, one where everything is as it should be. With these kinds of thoughts, people have made conceptual hells and heavens. Narayana Guru says this kind of duality is unwarranted. It cannot be justified. What is - is only this world. It is how we understand the world that makes all the difference. Either you can think of it as a sea of tears, full of misery, or you can see in it the possibility of actualizing all the dearest values.
From the side of the world come certain forms of energy, such as light or sound waves, to stimulate our sensory system, while from the side of our psyche there has to be a self-luminous consciousness to lend itself to be modified by the stimulation coming from the external world. This modification does not happen haphazardly. It is manipulated by the latent urges in us. Time here has a great significance. A certain impression that has been lying buried in us for several years or even many lives becomes potent to take over the present moment, synchronizing the light from within and the simulation from outside in order to produce a certain effect. That effect can be pleasurable or painful. It can be attractive or threatening. Thus this complex situation is structured like a pearl, in which there is both light and darkness. We can see a light which gladdens our heart as well as a mystery which makes it difficult to evaluate its full worth.

The Guru specifically uses the word ‘ulakar’ here, which means those who are conditioned by the pains and pleasures of this world. In his philosophical composition ‘Advaitha Deepika’, Guru says:

“To the wise man, the world has substance,
and mind-stuff represents the value-form of delight”.

This is contrary to what most Vedantins say. Usually, they think that this world is unreal, but Narayana Guru asserts this is the only reality. There is no other.

“Even if to an ignorant person it appears to be a snake,
Will a fresh flower garland ever become a sepent?”

(“Jalanu vileshayamennu thonniyaalum
Nalamiyalum malarmaala naagamaamo?”):
The analogy given in this verse is of a snake and a garland made of fresh flowers of great beauty. A man walks into his dimly lit bedroom. He is tired and wants to go to bed and rest. Reaching out his hand, he touches something cold and wet. He is greatly startled. In the dim light, he sees something long and thin with dots on it, like a coiled up snake, and nearly faints with terror. Then he turns on the light and sees it is a garland made of the finest flowers dipped in rose water. It is fragrant, cooling, and very beautiful.

Nothing is more valuable to a person than life itself. When the nature of the garland was hidden away for a moment, it appeared to be something which could take away life. Once it is clear there is no threat, however, the garland only enhances the value of one’s own life. Dear life and garland are two positive values, which become integrated into one sense of endearment.

The passing moments of our lives are to be made lively and rich. Glorify every moment of your life by enriching it with your joy, finding a new value, a new sense of direction in life. Have a renewed sense of wonder. Thus, that moment becomes eternalized in your life, it is a moment to be remembered and to be proud that you could live it so well. If you have lived this moment so wonderfully, you are eager to race to the next moment, because it is going to be wonderful and beautiful. It will yield so much. You see the promise of the future already in it. There is nothing like life, nothing like this world, a world where you can make friends, a world where you can create beautiful things, a world where you can share beauty with others and where you can make other part of your own self. A world where there is such an abundance of love and sharing. The only thing is that you should not drift into darkness. Don’t look at the world as something horrid, but as beautiful, divine. Every bit of it. Then we know we are the creators of our own fate. Not through this individual ego with all its vagaries, but through a full affiliation with the eternal, supernatural light that enriches everything. Only then will we have the strength to become masters of the situation, the whole beauty of creation, the beauty that has painted the petals of the flowers, which given shape to the butterflies and birds, which make the mountains look awe-inspiring and the oceans look vast, which makes the clouds float so gracefully overhead. This is where, we find our true freedom.

You belong to the same over-mind of beauty. Not with your ego, but with your spirit. Participation in it will reveal to you the divine artist in you, the divine musician in you, the divine intelligence, the divine creator, the divine lover, the divine unifier, the divine peacemaker within you. It is such a blessing to be in this world, to be born here and to live here. This body of ours will fall away just like a candle burning out. But before it burns out, the candle gives off a lot of light. What does it matter that is eventually extinguished? It has lived its moment of light.
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