Madhura Geetham – Sloka Series
“Athichoodi” is a type of poetic work (in Tamil) that comprises of a collection of one-line philosophical verses. HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji has composed a “Vedanta Athichoodi”, a poetic work that speaks of life’s most important principles. We had published the entire Vedanta Athichoodi and its overall meaning as part of our Madhura Geetham Sloka Series, earlier this year. Read that article here.
Each of the lines of this Athichoodi are extremely deep and contain a wealth of meaning. In our sloka series over the next few months, we will look at the meaning of each line of this work.
Ennam thavir! meaning Shun the ‘thought’!
Jnanis like Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi say that mind is nothing but a collection of thoughts. As one thought subsides, another emerges and as that one subsides, a subsequent one emerges and so on. This everflowing stream of thoughts makes up the mind.
The five senses that are constantly engaged with the outside world provide the stimulus to the mind. What they see, hear, smell, feel and taste influence the thoughts that arise in our mind. For example, when we hear a soulful song, the mind is calm and serene whereas even just merely witnessing an argument or a fight leaves us feeling agitated and on the edge. Our internal state of mind changes according to the external environment.
Furthermore, though the thoughts that arise due to the various external circumstances seem temporal, in reality, they get recorded in the mind for eternity. These thoughts become our ‘vasanas’ or latent tendencies. These accumulated “vasanas” affect our actions which in turn strengthens the “vasanas” further. For example, let us say, we like ice-cream. Suddenly, one day, we have a craving for an ice-cream. This craving was triggered by our memory of the taste of the ice-cream. And, when we buy the icecream and eat it, the “vasana” becomes stronger because that memory is now renewed by relishing the icecream again. Such accumulated vasanas get carried over from one birth to another and are the reason for our current existence. And, this goes on and on and the only way to break free of this vicious cycle, is to find a way to be rid of all thoughts and attain oneness with ‘Self’.
How can one get rid of thoughts? One cannot simply instruct the mind to stay quiet and not think of anything. Because, ironically, that instruction to the mind is itself a thought that arises in the mind!
That is why, in Upadesa Undiyar, a work by Sri Ramana Maharishi that expounds the path of self-inquiry, Sri Ramana Maharishi says,
“vaLiyuL adakka valaipadum putpol
uLLAmum oDunguram undipara
oDukka upAyamidu undipara”
“By controlling the breath, the mind will also calm down like a bird caught in a net. Know that this is the solution (to control the mind).”
Mind can be controlled by controlling the breath. When a bird gets caught in a net, it flutters its wings for a while and eventually, calms down. Similarly, when an aspirant starts to control the breath, the mind at first is agitated. It will try to remind all important and pending tasks that need to be accomplished. But, if the aspirant ignores the chatter in the mind and continues to control the breath, the mind finding no escape, will eventually calm down. This is possible because, Sri Ramana Maharishi says, the mind and the breath are related. They are actually two branches stemming from the same source.
“uLamum uyirum unarvum seyalum
ulavAm kiLaiyiraNdu undipara
ondravattrin mulam undipara”
Mind and breath have knowing and doing as their attributes and are actually two branches (of a tree) that have the same root (source).
So, if one controls the breath, one can automatically control the mind. And, when one controls the mind, thoughts cease to exist and the mind dies. When the mind dies, one attains the state of liberation!
That is why, in this verse of Vedanta Athichoodi, Sri Swamiji instructs the spiritual seekers to “shun” the thought (“ennam thavir”). We saw that mind is a collection of thoughts, then why does Sri Swamiji refer to “thought” in singular and not as “thoughts”?
It is because there is one thought that is the foremost among all thoughts and the sole cause for our existence. If that one thought dies, all the thoughts and therefore, the mind will cease to exist. That one thought is nothing but the thought of “I”.
“Ennangale manam yavinum nan enum
eNNAme mUlamAm undipara
yanAm manam enal undipara”
(Thoughts make up the mind yet the thought “I” is the foremost and source of the mind. Therefore, the thought “I” is the mind) says the 18th verse in Upadesa Undiyar.
Therefore, It is this thought of “I” Sri Swamiji wants us to shun! If this one thought dies, then all other thoughts will die as a result and one can attain the highest state.
Sowmya Balasubramanian, Dallas TX