Right from his Virupaksha time and throughout his stay at Sri Ramanasramam, those who called on Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi were many. They came from different walks of life, in different stages and states. Some came to experience the divine presence of Maharshi, some for an advice and some for an answer to questions bothering them. Invariably, Maharshi’s response was either in silence or a counter question “Find out who wants to know?” According to Bhagavan, Atma Jnana is already there. Realization is not a state which is to be attained by some effort or by Sadhana. Realization is just being what we are, free from the influence of our body and mind, beyond knowledge or ignorance and ever in conscious of Self. ‘What you need to do is to turn the mind inward and introspect’; this is the advice which Bhagavan gave to all, not in such words but in a subtle way. However, Muruganar, who moved with Maharshi closely like his shadow, felt that if Maharshi could not give a specific advice or an answer individually, he could at least give a general advice which would benefit all. One day, when Bhagavan was alone, he said: “Be graceful enough to write few verses which would reveal to us the nature of reality and the means to attain it. It will serve as your Upadesa to all your disciples and devotees for all times”. Maharshi graciously agreed and started composing his works. Kavyakhanda Ganapathi Muni, a scholar and saint, saw this work and added two stanzas as the invocatory verses. Muruganar arranged all of them in a proper manner and humanity was blessed with an invaluable treasure, called “Ulladu Narpadu”. It was a treasure that revealed the truth not as something to be attained but as something to be experienced within. “Ulladu Narpadu” that takes the devotees to the peak of Advaita was completed by Bhagavan in August 1928 and the first edition was released by Swamy Niranjananda in the year 1931. Annexure to “Ulladu Narpadu”, known as Ulladhu Narpadu – Anubandham” was also released which incorporated the 21 songs composed by Muruganar and 9 songs added by Bhagavan. It is an excellent and precise treatise on the non-dual experience of Advaita.
உள்ளதல துள்ளவுணர் வுள்ளதோ வுள்ள பொரு ளுள்ளலற வுள்ளத்தே யுள்ளதா – லுள்ளமெனு முள்ளபொரு லுள்ளலெவ னுள்ளத்தே யுள்ளபடி யுள்ளதே யுள்ள லுணர்.
Unlike other works which makes an introduction and gradually comes to the central subject, in ‘Ullathu Narpadu’, at the very outset, Bhagavan revealed the subject and what he dealt with was the subject itself, the Aham, which shines as the Self within. In the very opening lines, he focuses the attention to the centre; the centre of the heart and reveals that the Self which is expressed as ‘I am’ is the truth. How beautifully he uses the word ‘Ul’ to denote the eternal truth! Bhagavan has used the word ‘Ullathu’ fourteen times in different contexts. The word ‘Ullathu’ has been used to convey the meaning of ‘that which is’, ‘that which is real ‘, ‘that which is within’, ‘that which is in the centre’, that we experience as ‘Self’ and ‘that which is truth’. This very first verse conveys the essence of Bhagavan’s teaching that the Self which gives the consciousness of our existence is the truth. Bhagavan says: “Can there be anything real than the consciousness of being? It is the reality within, which is ever present, which is self sustaining and self-effulgent that makes one conscious of his existence. The Self alone, shining in the heart, devoid of any thought is real. Who else can comprehend this reality other than the one who dives deep into the heart and realizes his essential being?” The word “Ullal’ indicates all the movement the mind makes which we call as ‘thoughts’. In short, the word “Ullal’ means the ego. The state where the “Ullal” or ego remains separate or does not arise is the state of “Ullal Ara”. “In a state where there is no notion of “I”, where the element of ego does not arise, one remains in a state of pure consciousness. (Ullal Ara Ullathe Ullathal, Nan Udhiyathulla Nilai). This is the highest state of Jnana. He is realized who abides by this knowledge forever. He who performs Dhyana of such a power and abides in the chamber of heart realizes Brahman. There are moments when one is not consciousness of his body as in sleep but there is no moment when he is not aware of his existence. He passes through different states like deep sleep, waking and dream and different stages like youth, middle age and old age but the consciousness of his existence is there at all times. The consciousness of being or existing which one experiences and expresses as ‘I AM’ is Self knowledge.
Most of the problems the individual faces today are due to his eagerness to know more about the world than about himself. Would the world appear without there is one to cognizes it? It is the one who sees and becomes aware about the world who needs to be known first. The world is seen only by the mind. When the mind is quiet as in deep sleep, there is no world. In the Verse One, Bhagavan has used the modern analogy of cinema to describe the world. The world of forms and images are like the pictures which come and go on the screen. The screen alone is real and not the transitory images. The world of forms and images, the individual who perceives them and the light which make the perception possible all happen on the substratum, the Brahman, manifested as the Self. What is real is the substratum, the Brahman and not the names and forms which are super-impositions. It is the light derived from Brahman that makes the world appear real. The individual who sees, the world that is seen and the light that illuminates are nothing but Brahman.
In his Dhakshinamurthi Ashtagam, Adi Sankara said that the world is like a mirror. What we see as the world is the reflection of the images formed in our minds. “The mirror shows exactly what is before it and the world we see is also like the reflection of a city in a mirror. Just as dreams come and go, the images of the world which are reflection of the mind, appear and disappear. (Viswam Tharpana Drisyama Nagaree, Thulyam Nijanthargatham….) The image that one sees in the mirror is nothing but the reflection of the objects before it. Just as no reflection would be there when there is no image, there would be no world when there is no mind. Bhagavan said: “A mirror placed in the midst of various objects shows the reflection of these objects. If the mirror is turned towards the sun, all reflections disappear and nothing other than the brilliant rays of the son is visible in the mirror. Similarly, if the mirror of the mind focused on the world is shifted to the Self, the world disappears. The world is perceived by the mind because the mind finds its own reflection in the world. Every mind forms its own ideas and imaginations. These ideas and images, which reflect the surroundings of the individual, constitute the mini world. When the imaginations of all minds are put together, it appears as the world. The world is thus the creation of the total mind or a fiction created by all the minds put together. The world therefore exists only in the mind.
An American lady came to India in search of truth. She met enlightened sages and received one common message from all; “The world is a myth, Brahman alone is truth”. She said she knows nothing about Brahman but having remained in a world and perceived it clearly, she could not accept the fact that the world is an illusion. “How can it be said that what I see distinctly with my eyes, what I hear clearly from my ears and what I perceive through my intellect are false? When she posed these questions, Bhagavan asked her: “When you were asleep, where was your world? Could you perceive it at that time? How the images that disappear while in sleep and appear while in waking state can be real? Gradually, the truth sunk into her intellect. She realized the mistake of having seen the world apart from herself. When it is said that the world is not real, it means that the world as perceived by the mind is not real and not the world experienced as an appearance in the Self. Similarly, the world as we see it does not operate by itself. It is based on the underlying reality the Brahman. He, who sees the Self, sees the world as the manifestation of Brahman.
Among the many thoughts that spring from the mind, the first thought is the ‘I’ thought. The ‘I-thought’ cannot exist by itself. It needs a matter for support. It clings on the body and uses it as the base for its existence. In Verse 25, Bhagavan says: “The ego, like a ghost, has no form and in order to sustain itself, it grasps a form (body) and come into existence. It feeds itself by the food provided by the bodily senses and grows. Leaving one form, it grasps another and yet another. (‘Urupatri yunda’). It thus creates the notion “I am the body”. With attachment towards the body as the basis, the contact with the world comes and then all the differences and diversities also come. Bhagavan says: “If the ego rises, everything rises. If the ego ceases, nothing exists. Ego is the only obstacle and its elimination alone paves the way for realization.” (Akanthai Undayin, anaithum undakum….26) It is the ‘I’ thought or the ego that prevents one from being what he naturally is (Sahaja Stithi). In his 27th verse, Bhagavan says: “The state where the ‘I’ notion does not rise is the state where we are THAT.” (‘Naan Udiya ulla Nilai, Nam athuvai ulla nila’).
How the ‘I-thought’ should be dispelled and how one should free himself from this ‘I-thought’ forms the essence of Bhagavan’s teaching. One has to go the source where the ‘I-thought’ originates. One has to penetrate and go to the source where ego originates. A casual attempt would not yield result. One may succeed in the beginning but the ego would rise up again. The man who dives deep into the water to retrieve a lost article does not get distracted by other objects. Just as he dives by controlling his breath, mind, speech and energies to retrieve the precious article, the aspirant also uses all his power at his command and dives deep into his heart with determination and earnestness to find the source of ego. He should enquire and find out where the “I” notion or ego rises. Unless he stops it rising from the source itself, he cannot eliminate it. He should go to the root or the source and destroy it there. Once he goes to the root or the source of ego and destroys it there, he attains his pristine and natural state.
In 36th verse of ‘Ulladu Narpadu’, Bhagavan says that it is not necessary to keep on reminding ‘I am not the body and I am the Self’ because the Self alone exists and shines for ever as “I-I” (Aham)”. This is the fact as good as the day light. One need not remind or reinstate something which is already a truth. No one would reiterate a simple fact like; ‘I am a human’ when it is obvious that he is a human. The truth of Atman being present within is already acknowledged and what is needed is to realize the Atman within. As Bhagavan said, the body-less state is a ‘foregone conclusion’. One should start Vichara from this premise and proceed further. One has to penetrate the mind in silence, dive deep within, and enquire: “Who Am I?” When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence, “To whom has this thought arisen?” The answer that would emerge would be “To me”. The questioning and enquiry should be pursued, vigorously till the mind goes back to its source; the heart and the thought process ceases once for all. A conducive ground is created for Self enquiry by following the three practices; Sravana, Smanana and Nididhyasana. Sravana means listening attentively to the teachings of Guru which kindles the light of knowledge. Smarana means contemplating on what is heard and analyzing it. Just like the flame of light, when disturbed by the wind, is protected by hand, Smarana means assimilating the knowledge and retaining it from being disturbed by thoughts. The knowledge of Atma Vidya should shine brilliantly forever. This is done by Nididhyasana. Nididhyasana means continuously enquiring into the source. As Bhagavan said, Nididhyasana is like trimming the wick of the flame. It is turning all outgoing thoughts inward, leading to Self-realization.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi has revealed the essence of truth, in simple terms through his immortal verses, ‘Ulladu Narpadu ’. Among the many works of Maharshi, ‘Ullathu Narpadu’ stands out as an outstanding work of Jnana. It is a gate-way that leads to Self-knowledge. It is a remarkable work for the eloquence in which the silent sage has revealed the truth and for the depth into which he has gone to the heart, the spiritual centre, where the Self shines as ‘Aham’. When Kunju Swamy went on a pilgrimage, carrying the verses of ‘Ulladu Narpadu’ with him, he happened to visit Peraiyur Santhalinga mutt where he met Veerasubbia Swamigal. Swamigal asked for the book Kunju Swamy was carrying, went through it and was so fascinated by it that he asked Kunju Swamy to read it again and again. “I was under the impression that Swami was adept only in ‘keeping still’ and now I discover that he is an eloquent poet and a realized soul. The Venba is itself a difficult meter that few poets dare attempt,” said the sage. “Bhagavan has composed all forty two verses in this meter and conveyed high philosophical ideas,” he added. Songs composed by sages may have more spiritual value and less poetic value and songs composed by poets have more literary value and less of spiritual value. But the songs composed by Maharshi have both high spiritual value and high literary value. Sri Lakshman Sarma, an Advocate, studied ‘Ulladu Narpadu’ and received its explanation and commentaries direct from Bhagavan. He said that ‘Ullathu Narpadu’ has taken complete possession of him and he has taken it as his Tapas. He translated it into Sanskrit with the title ‘Sadharsanam’.
While at Virupaksha cave, most of the time Bhagavan remained in Samadhi, the state where he was not aware of his body or the world around, the state where he was all by himself. The scriptures which he studied were found to be analyzing the truth which he had already realized as the Self shining within. In fact, through ‘Ullathu Narpadu’ Bhagavan has conveyed the truth in clear, precise and vivid terms what the Vedas and Upanishads have revealed in elaborate terms.
The fear of death comes to everyone, at some point of time in life. The fear comes when the individual considers the existence of something other than himself. For a true devotee who identifies himself with God, as the reflection of Atma within, there is no fear. “Oh! Death, so long Lord Muruga resides within me, you cannot take me away, said the Tiruvannamalai saint, Arunagirinathar in his song. In fact, the sorrows that occur in the worldly life prompt the devotees to turn towards God and surrender. Surrender comes out of belief that one is helpless and he has free will only to take refuge unto God. When he submits himself before that power he is convinced that the supreme power would take care of him and this conviction takes away all his fears about death. There are also few who exercise their power of discrimination and ruminate over the question of death. When, for a moment, the fear of death gripped him, Bhagavan pondered over the question and decided to find out what death is all about and what happens after death. He introspected within and enquired what is dying. The death experience has further enlightened him that the body may perish and die but the Self shining as the truth within lives on.
In the second benedictory verse of ‘Ullathu Narpadu’ Bhagavan says that the goal of enquiry is to discriminate between the real and unreal which is possible only when the mind is turned inward. When the mind, the source of ego, is still and quiet, one realizes his true nature and the identification with the body ceases, leading to liberation. “Lead me from death to immortality,” (Mrityoma Amrutam Gamaya); says Brahadaranyaka Upanishad. The very word ‘Amrutam’ refers to the nectar of immortality. Immortality is bliss; it is liberation. It is the state of being united with eternal reality. It is the state of being the non-dual entity ever in peace and therefore described as nectar. It is this nectar, the Ramanamrutam that Bhagavan gave us in ‘Ullathu Narpadu’.