1 poems by narayana guru

 

POEMS BY NARAYANA GURU AND A TRANSLATION OF MANDUKYA UPANISHAD


BY NATARAJA GURU

 

ADVAITA DIPIKA

 

BRAHMA VIDYA PANCHAKAM

 

NINE STANZAS TO THE ABSOLUTE AS MOTHER

 

SHIVA PRASADA PANCAKAM

 

MANDUKYA UPANISHAD

 

 

 

ADVAITA DIPIKA

THE LAMP OF NON-DUALITY

 

BY NARAYANA GURU

 

1

A thousand names, a thousand Intelligibles,

Between them comprised a thousand interest items.

Such the world is real enough when not inquired into;

Only until one wakes from the dream is it true;

When awake, the awakened one is all there is!

 

This verse contains a bold statement which only makes meaning when understood dialectically as establishing a bipolar relationship between the Self of the dreamer and its own non-Self counterpart, which is the dreamer's psychic activity. Both these counterparts lie on the vertical axis of reference and are both given a thin or schematic epistemological status.

 

 

2

The visible here is not real. Viewed without the seer

One sees it as non-other; the universe makes thus

A mirage-wise flow of consciousness. What as effect stands

Without its cause is non-other;

What makes the wave is but water alone.

 

This verse, with its fourfold implications stresses the subtle participation, insertion or articulation between the intelligibles and the visibles on a basis of interchangeable purity resulting in unity.

 

 

3

From cloth to thread and cotton, and then

To complex prime elements thus traced back;

All is seen, like a river in desert sand,

To spring from consciousness;

The ultimate limit is consciousness alone.

 

One can adopt the method of tracing things or events to their source and then scientifically explain them. The source is not in the visible appearance, but in the invisible reality within consciousness. The search for the cause of things thus gives us a verticalized version of appearance, which latter is merely horizontal in import.

 

 

4

Given to a will in full functioning, there is no universe,

Nor even its seed of nescience. When a lamp is there, no darkness is near; when the flame the wick abandons, the lamp goes out, and lo, darkness comes!

 

The ambivalent or alternating functions which the structure of absolute human understanding imposes, is under reference here. The participation of the positive and negative aspects of

Understanding is located at the point of apperception, where pure horizontal and vertical functions meet in a bipolar participation.

 

 

5

Research reveals no world out there: nescience alone remains

Presenting itself as the world to a mind that can seek no truth

The ghost it is that the light can put out,

For the fear of darkness to a coward it is that a short semblance makes.

 

The equation of the negative function of darkness as the cause of the positive ghost-representation in a state of the passive understanding of a non-contemplative man, is here clarified in a dialectical language compatible with the four-sided schema implied here and in every verse of this composition. The ghost and darkness are complementary, reciprocal or cancelable counterparts in the total knowledge-situation found here.

A paradox is implied between the passivity of a non-contemplative and the attitude of the same man in active contemplation. In this verse this is brought into full contrasting relief.

 

 

6

As being and non-being alternately cognized as real,

The unreal and the real are both of primordial nescience.

On inquiry both are nought;

The snake is not in a piece of rope, but the rope alone exists.

 

Normalized ontology free from the ambivalent alternating presentiments is clarified here. One has to abolish duality of two kinds. A double correction is to be effected for an apodictic central certitude to result.

 

 

7

One alone is above all, ever asserting its being.

All else passes and is non-being

The forms of clay have no being

And what remains is but the clay itself.

 

The material cause and its possible ambivalent tendencies, extending both ways in the vertical axis, touches the neutral monistic absolute substance which is balanced between the plus and minus tendencies. The first half of the verse refers to the plus side and the second half to the minus side of the vertical axis.

 

 

8

Even at the time of ignorance the two factors

Of existing and subsisting are not recognized with value appreciation

As third; for the presentiment out there of a snake form with rope base

An adequate reference verily this makes.

 

It is evident that there are two sets of factors here, one that may be characterized as a referent and the other as a reference. The reference serves as the logical purpose of certitude. The referent is the horizontal appearance of something that is not real, though implying a basic ontological existence falling within the three categories of existence-subsistence-value.

 

 

9

Even when wisdom prevails and has effaced the whole world as meaningless

It can still persist as given to the senses.

Even after a man has recovered from his wrong orientation

For some time thereafter he will continue to see the (wrong) directions as before.

 

This verse very realistically and in a fully scientific spirit points out that there is no use in again and again saying, as many Vedantins do, that the world is Maya and therefore unreal. The visible world does not melt away because of any doctrinal conviction. Nirvana or absorption takes place only at the very core of universal and timeless life when all polarity or duality has been cancelled out by equality, parity or purity of counterparts.

 

 

10

The world has no truth in itself; as cancelled out

By wisdom everything looms even after as before

In spite of knowing for certain of no water in a mirage

The presentiment continues to be given as ever before.

 

A subtler example of a mirage is used here to explain an ontological error as in the previous verse where the error was of a more teleological order.

 

11

For a wise man the world is existence; and subsistence is of value form.

Untruth is not a source of joy; to an ignorant man this is not clear.

For one who sees, happiness is a sun that is real

And for one who cannot see, even the midday sun is a dark and empty thing.

 

The three levels of existence-subsistence-value imply each other, or one another, in a subtle reciprocal fashion in which horizontal and vertical aspects neutralize each other, correcting and complementing any lopsided asymmetry belonging to any one level in a vertical series. What is lost at the bottom point of the scale is compensated for at the top point. Thus there is an interchange of essences whereby each point of the value world is absorbed by the higher and implies the lower. The reciprocal implications are here outlined.

 

 

12

There is one seed alone, which in many forms manifests;

No possibility herein of any specific ambiguity at all

If one ignoring rope-nature should take it for a snake

Would it then have a reality distinct from the rope?

 

The seed referred to here is the normative Absolute, which when subjected to double correction is capable of no other version of the same with any attributes different from it. When all possible ambiguities are abolished within the scope of the total knowledge-situation, the certitude about the Absolute gains a fully unitive status.

 

 

13

On dividing one by one each part, when all

Is separated out, - Lo! the world is gone!

If one's inquiry of these separate parts is kept on

One finds nothing but one's proper consciousness alone.

 

This verse refers to an analytic approach to reality which is fully the method of modern science. We travel here from the radical or mechanistic world of discrete entities consisting of parts, to an attenuated world of ultimate particles that are neither mind nor matter, but neutrally participate in both.

 

 

14

The thread into the cloth disappears, likewise water into foam.

Thus, alas, by nescience the whole world is lost.

As the object of understanding, even when all things disappear

Into their varied effects, still pure consciousness alone remains.

 

Here the process is the reverse of what was mentioned in Verse 3. The synthetic a priori and the transcendental analytic refer to two opposite poles or limits. When they are reached the visible world is either merged backward or abolished forward. These limiting points are to be placed neutrally in a schematic vertical axis with a plus and minus involved in it.

 

 

15

Happiness exists; it looms in consciousness; it is one alone.

On treating oneself disjunct from it, nothing can exist

Or loom at all: the water of the mirage and the blue of the sky become unreal,

And a blossom in the sky, and the sky of a mirage gain ultimate meaning again.

 

The four possibilities of error which presuppose a structural quaternion are to be kept in mind if this verse, with its four examples, each having a different epistemological function, is to yield any appreciable degree of certitude about what is being stated. The first two examples refer to existential aspects and therefore are horizontal values. The second pair has a vertical value-reference. Even where, by exaggeration or distortion one abolishes the proper or normal vision of the Absolute, it still continues to be experienced in terms of the happiness of the Self.

 

 

16

The Self has no egoism: like a yogi, through Maya in sport,

It is here engaged in varied ways.

Established in yoga and fully immobile, assuming many hypostatic bodies,

In creative sport the yogi here enjoys.

 

The contemplative yogi referred to here is capable of estimating or stabilizing his personality at different levels on a pure vertical axis. Along this axis his nascent or active attenuated tendencies can also be made to ascend or descend. This gives him a certain type of freedom which is the basis of spiritual emancipation.

 

 

17

It is only the immature seeker of Self-knowledge

Who takes the converse position as against the man of doubt;

Not one who has attained a stable understanding.

The same presentiment as being snake or rope is a confused question,

Fully settled when the rope is seen.

 

Here the need for a normalized version between two possible opposed positions taken by a philosopher as against his rival philosophers is underlined. By taking an opposite position, philosophical certitude remains merely speculative and does not attain to the apodictic character required by a correct scientific methodology. Philosophical speculation has been vitiated with this kind of non-normalized approach. When philosophy is not based on any rivalry in the certitude it tries to establish, it gains a fully unified and scientific status.

 

 

18

Penetrating ever forward through each presented object,

Mental activity removes at every step the evil of nescience.

Even the knowledge resulting thereafter following the lead of light,

Like the eye, it cannot itself see.

 

The two movements under reference are: first of all, the negation of visibles so as to merge it into its cause which is the first stage in the process of travelling from the known (visible) to the unknown (invisible); and secondly, after touching in this way the vertical axis where all horizontal activity is abolished, in following the lead of the inner light by ascending or descending dialectics. One finds that he can stabilize himself only where the eye and its sight meet and cancel each other out. This is schematically the central point of origin in terms of the structure of the Absolute. The other aspects of this same structure are finally referred to in the last verse.

 

 

19

Lo! The eye now sees when opened. When closed, the blind man alone

Remains within, as awareness has not yet come out.

Knowledge cannot come out by itself;

It needs the eye to come as the eye the light

 

The open eye refers to the horizontal world of values. The blind man, understood in a contemplative context, can have only a negative sense of value. It is the positive power of sight conferred by wisdom that gives appreciation of the highest Good. Open wisdom represents the plus side of the vertical axis which needs to be consciously cultivated. It cannot come by negative passivity.

 

 

4.  SOME ADDITIONAL EXPLANATIONS

We will also add that we have not put forward any doctrine of our own within the whole range of these comments. By doing so we would have only added to the quantity of speculative literature which is already large and full of words that connote or denote ideas. However precise or valid such ideas might be, words by themselves tend to the strange irony of babelization or the confusion of tongues referred to by Sankara in the Vivekacudamani as a forest. We have favoured another approach to this ironical situation arising from words by suggesting what we call a schematic, structural or protolinguistic approach. This has the promise of reducing verbosity and substituting symbols by visible geometrical models that combine all characteristics of thought into a compact and global unit. Such a unit does not have any reality in itself, but like a globe is meant to serve as a reference for the correct guidance of thought. It has also an integrative and unifying function as to all physical and metaphysical knowledge. Clarity, communicability and integration have been our watchwords throughout this present work which claims to be an integrated Science of the Absolute. If the certitude implied in the Pythagorean theorem can be proved in two ways and is considered scientific, then by the same reason the scientific status claimed for this work is equally legitimate. The common structure running through the whole work is the

integrating factor. The aspects of the Absolute brought into such an integrated certitude have been outlined by Narayana Guru and is the blueprint of a foundation on which we have merely tried to erect a more elaborate superstructure.

 

The resulting truth of the whole work, while referring to the total knowledge-situation, represents the Absolute as a non-dual light which has, in the Advaita Dipika, been compared to a lamp actually present or seen in a picture. The schematic status of the notion of the Absolute adopted here by us is not therefore a new one nor is it unknown to the non-dual tradition of wisdom. Such a vision can even be considered as potent enough to make one have a new attitude to life.

 

 

 

BRAHMA VIDYA PANCAKAM

 

FIVE VERSES ON THE SCIENCE OF THE ABSOLUTE

BY NARAYANA GURU

 

1.

Even through the discrimination of the lasting from the transient

Attaining well unto detachment, the well-instructed one,

Duly adorned with the six initial conditions known,

Such as calmness, control and so on,

And keenly desirous of liberation here on earth;

He then greets with prostrations,

A knower of the Absolute superior,

Pleased and favourable by anterior attentions and service;

Thereafter should he ask of such a Guru:

"O Master, this 'I' here, what is it?

"Whence this world phenomenal?

"O teach me this, great one."

 

2.

Thou art the Absolute, not senses, not mind

Neither intellect, consciousness, nor body;

Even life and ego have no reality, being but conditioned

By nescience, superimposed on the prime Self.

Everything phenomenal here, as object of perception, is gross.

Outside of thine own Self, this manifested world is nought,

And Self-hood alone does shine thus

Mirage-like in variegated display.

 

3.

What all things here, both moveable and immovable pervades

As the clay substance does the pot and jug,

Whose inward awareness even Self-hood here constitutes,

And whereunto resolved what still remains, instill with existence unborn,

And that which all else do follow

Know that to be the Real, through clear insight,

As that same which one adores for immortal bliss!

 

4.

Nature having emanated, what thereafter, therein entry makes,

What sustains and gives life, both as the enjoyer

Of the divided objectivity outside,

As the "I" of the deep subconsciousness of dreamless sleep,

Whose Self-hood even shines as the "I"

Within the consciousness each of the peoples too -

That same in which well-being stands founded firm at every step;

Such a plenitude of perfection; hear! - "That thou art".

 

5

Intelligence supreme, "Even That I am! That thou art!

That Brahman is the Self here!" singing thus full well,

And so established in peace of mind;

And reborn to pure ways of life by the dawn of the wisdom of the Absolute,

Where could there be for thee the bondage of action,

Whether of the past, present or future?

For everything is but superimposed conditioning on thy prime Self.

Thou art that existing, subsisting One of Pure Intelligence, the Lord.

 

 

 

 

FIVE VERSES ON SIVA - GRACE

BY NARAYANA GURU

 

I

0 Siva-Sankara-Sarva, Ultimate Refuge, Lord,

Auspicious banisher of the pain of all cosmic becoming,

0 peerless one, by poet-generations ever adored, Actor on the cosmic scene, save me, 0 Siva!

 

II

Riches, body, progeny, life-waves ever rolling on.

They all do evil spell: it is you alone

That can hold me up wrapped, protected

From such an ink-black ocean's taint.

 

III

Sullied and trapped, fallen into the corpses' pit,

When life functions still persist with nature's modes,

To quench one's thirst in such a plight there is only you alone.

Fill me then from bottom up to brim and thus remain!

 

IV

A neck you have by stock of kindness dark

Drunk with the poison of cosmic evil once,

Field there is with a cloud, too, ocean-based

These have bounds; for you no such, indeed!

 

V

In me place your kind regard, and that fruit

Of erotic joy let me hit off and wash my hand;

Then that ripe fruit exuding immortal bliss,

Your foot, do yield me, 0 Golden Creeper mine!

 

 

NOTES

Among the shorter compositions of Narayana Guru, I have recently come across this one of particular interest to me as it reveals a structural or schematic background showing almost threadbare, as it were, on a close scrutiny of its content, apparently meant to serve the needs of a simple worshipper of Siva on the Indian scene. The implicit and suggestive sidelights are not seen evidently as highlights on a first superficial scanning. A closer scrutiny between the lines would reveal to the keen student the underlying structural frame of reference. These suggestive lines of dim light, both clear and subdued, are to be discerned in the following suggestive and significant items under reference:

 

1. Siva is apostrophised as a dear and adorable Golden Creeper (Verse V) bearing two fruits, one of which would suggest the same as the fruit of the forbidden tree of the context of the Biblical chapter of...

 

(material lacking here)

 

 

 

NINE STANZAS TO THE ABSOLUTE AS MOTHER

 

We present here Nataraja Guru's translation with notes of Narayana Guru's Malayalam composition, Janani-Navaratna-Manjari  (Nine stanzas to the Absolute as Mother), composed in 1912.   

The value here represented may be said to occupy the negative ontological limit of the total situation called the Absolute, structurally understood.

 

The second work in this series is Narayana Guru's Siva-Prasada-Pancakam (Five Verses on Siva-Grace) written in and translated from the Malayalam with notes by Nataraja Guru.

The value here could be seen to refer to the extreme positive pole or limit of the same Absolute as understood in the former work.

 

The final selection here is the Guru's translation with notes of the twelve-verse Mandukya Upanisad, presenting a masterful analysis of the mystic syllable AUM.

This may be said to constitute the correlating principle or vertical axis linking the negative and positive poles of the total situation envisaged.

 

These nine verses were the occasion of the installation of a temple to the Wisdom-Goddess Sarada, at the ashram at Sivagiri, Varkala in Kerala State, in 1912. Sarada, otherwise called Bharati or Saraswati, is the consort of Siva and the equivalent of Sophia of Christian-Greek origin. The disciples of the Guru who took part in the function were asked to open

similar temples. The Guru praises the Goddess as the representative of the Absolute, conforming to the Advaita Vedanta tradition, after Sankara. The pure or the para-brahman can be viewed as it were, from the two sides of a shield, presenting apparently two distinct epistemological versions of the Absolute. Motherhood stands for the creative aspect of becoming in the Absolute and, as such, the attributes of the negativität, in Hegelian terminology, would be applicable only as opposed to the Absolute viewed as a positive concept. This negative has to come, up to the point of coalescing with its counterpart, the positive, and go no further.

 

The vision of the Mother here represented may be said to fill the hiatus between the positive and the negative visions possible in the context of the absolute.

 

Delicate points like these will emerge for the student who examines these verses, and their discovery will enhance his admiration for the detailed workmanship which the Guru has put into the "gem-nosegay", as this composition has been called. It should never be treated as the mere poetic effusion of a visionary lacking respect for either the method or theory of knowledge.

 

The last verse ends with a reference to the impossibility of adequately praising the absolutist status of the Mother. It is that from which "words with the mind recoil, not attaining it", as the Upanishads would say.

 

I

From that unitive mind-stuff, all encompassing,

A thousand tri-basic rays (of knowledge-knower-known) come and,

Lo and anon, self-consciousness gone,

There awakened love of food and such;

Fallen thus into the ocean of need and lost altogether,

Say when, 0 Mother, shall my inner being regain that path of hope

To be merged within the domain of pure word-import,

Bereft of all tri-basic prejudice

And, within the core of the radiance outspread of reason pure,

Reabsorbed in communion cool, ever remain.

 

II

This variegated display by Maya wrought -

Itself nothing - is no other than awareness pure.

Air, stone, sea or fire, and the void too,

Are all but prime awareness alone!

The rightness of such a view, if one should praise,

No scriptural confusion can come;

Rival claims of action shall not vie;

Such goodly gain would suffice itself alone;

0 Mother of the Wisdom that all seek, easy and exalting at once.

 

III

Knowledge that comes but to go again

Has come from times of yore; on each vision such

The limbs and the inner Self are swayed,

Filled with varied import and darkened by each,

Contracting all within the Great Unknown is reabsorbed again!

Even seeing thus, again and again, Wisdom comes not:

The learned man of good deeds is but a bee

Fallen into the lotus core, drinking there the nectar

Of the unlimited experience of bliss supreme.

 

IV

Thought, applied to waves, reduces them to water;

The snake as rope is known; the pot into clay resolved;

Likewise, the world. Only when penetrated by thought

Has anything here reality at all.

Your feet are the root for all this; that I adore.

Bestow on me this boon which you alone can grant;

Become as the Real to me: refuge there is none other

Than you, 0 Mother of the Royal Yoga Way!

 

V

0 Mother! Who within the encircling veil

Of the prime mind on high, ever dwells,

Whose free dance it is that impels here below

This clamorous medley of water, air and fire

As the world manifest - when all is but name alone;

With that delicate yarn of time and so on,

A fancy vesture overcovers your form

So none do know your true appearance,

0 one that takes your stand where all the Vedas end!

 

VI

You became the deer, and the fish too,

The snake, and the heavenly bird likewise,

The firm earth, and the river also, woman as well as man,

Even the world on high and inferno, within your name-form couple,

Assuming varied natures, cognizes here,

As the "I", that too is even you!

0, one of word-content alone, all is comedy indeed!

 

VII

That Wisdom's arrow that can smite my sin

In your flowery feet resides

My love, it is the bowstring, and an iron will the bow;

The ego-sense is the victorious one,

While you the Mother it is who victory gives.

My sin-stained self, thereupon, is transformed

In terms of awareness, with the mightily heavy body too,

The world and all else into awareness leaps!

 

VIII

As existing and then as subsisting ever,

And into a pearl combining both, conscious of all the three,

As the heart, whose seed it is, that the sky and wind

With all the ramified expanse of sense-interests

Such as the eye projecting, and even as the eater of food.

In glory abides, such are you,

0 Mother, most high, unattainable even to psychic powers rare!

 

IX

The earth and other elements here,

No basis they have, semblance only,

Specific expressions in awareness merely;

Whatever reality they have in this world

Is by you conferred alone!

In that exalted region where tongue or taste

Have no place, is where your glory abides.

Who is there to know your greatness, 0 Mother?

Words are weak, even for praising you, alas!

 

 

 

THE MANDUKYA UPANISHAD

Translated from the Sanskrit with brief notes by Nataraja Guru

 

This short Upanishad is worded with great precision although, when cast in modern language, it may be read somewhat cryptically in certain parts, due to the omission of explicit references through relative pronouns. We have tried to supply in brackets the original Sanskrit expressions wherever the translations are likely to seem too original or different from the text. If we add too much explanation, the Upanishad would lose all its delicate flavour and the correctness of its construction as intended by the author. Verse 8 is an example of the precision employed. The letters A, U, and M are symbols that could apply as a complete syllable 'AUM' (pronounced as the last two letters of the English word 'from' or singly Ah! Ooh! Mmm!) to aspects of Self-consciousness, whether considered as matter, substance or entelechy, (as Descartes, Spinoza or Aristotle would have named this) or whether considered in terms of pure conscious states, after Plato's manner. Verse 8 starts a new section which is more Aristotelian as compared with the section starting with Verse I which was conceived more Platonically. Put together, the method and theory of Self-Realization, with values of a personal order implied in each aspect of the Self, have been covered masterfully by this antique seer.

 

1

That (eternal) syllable, AUM, is all this; its further elaboration, past, present, and future, all is this AUM indeed; even what is beyond, transcending the three times, that too is AUM:

 

2

All here is the Absolute (Brahman) indeed; this Self (Atma) is the Absolute; this same Self (he) is four-limbed

 

3

In the waking state, (he is) overtly-conscious, having seven parts and nineteen faces, nourishing himself on the concrete the Universal Man the first limb.

 

4

In the dream state (he), the inwardly conscious, with seven parts and nineteen faces, nourishing himself on the well-selected is the luminous one the second limb.

 

5

That (state) wherein, on falling asleep, one desires nothing at all, that is the well dormant (which), attaining to a unitive status, filled even with a knowing-content, made of bliss,

nourishing himself on bliss of a sentient mouth, is the knower, the third limb.

 

6

This is the Lord of all, the all-knower; this is the inner negation-factor; this is the source of everything, and the beginning and end of beings.

 

7

As not inwardly conscious, not outwardly conscious, as not filled with a knowing content, not conscious, not unconscious, unseen, non-predicable, ungraspable, bereft of quality,

unthinkable, indeterminate, as the substance of the certitude of a unitive Self, as the calmer of the unmanifested, tranquil, numinous, non-dual, is the fourth limb considered to be.

He is the Self, that is to be recognized

 

8

The same Self treated as the AUM is substance. State is substance and substance is state, under letters A, U, and M.

 

9

The 'A' stands for waking state where the Universal Man is the first substance because of obtaining or being the first. He obtains all he wants and becomes first too, who understands thus.

 

10

The 'U' stands for dreaming state, which is the luminous one, the second substance, because of superiority or from being intermediate. He leads wisdom

 

(VERSES MISSING)