THE WRITTEN WORKS of the Guru have to be studied carefully for understanding his philosophy which formed the foundation of all his activities and his messages throughout his life. As has been explained in the earlier chapter, that philosophy was Adwaita . As one of the greatest
sages of India, he presented the pristine philosophy of India for practical application in modern life as a remedy for the many ills that modern man is heir to. The social reforms, the modification of rites and ceremonies, the advocacy of equality between man and man, the encouragement of the spread of education, the exhortation to all mankind to lead a clean
life in every respect, especially in the struggle for a rise in economic status—al these have a deep spiritual basis because he was an Adwaitin .
The life of Sree Narayana Guru falls broadly into three stages. We see him as as devotee, living as he did “far from the madding crowd’s jgnoble strife”, in “the cool sequestered vale of life”, “in forests, on the hills, on the banks of rivers as a searcher for the truth that he needs must see”. Then he becomes a full-fliedged tapaswin who attains the ultimate stage of a yogin , when he comes out into the world to fulfil the message of the Gita
and becomes as Romain Rolland puts it, ‘’a jnanin in action, a grand religious intellectual, who had a keen sense of the people and of their social needs”.
His works both in poetry and in prose reflect these three stages. In the first stage, the poems are mainly hymns of bhakti . They are sweetly musical. In those poems Swami is adoring the Ishta Devata (one’s favourite form of the ONE) to obtain strength of mind and steadfastness
to console the desolate spirit. He prays in turn to Vasudeva, Siva, Subramanya, Ganesa and Kali.
In the second stage of the poems, we see the inner light getting brighter and brighter. Spiritual experiences of a disturbing nature in the beginning gradually dissolve into a great calm which is just short—if at all it is so—of sublime bliss. Ten Verses in Realisation ( Amubhooti Dasakam), Light of Non-dualism ( Adwaita Deepika), Song of Self- Realisation ( Swanubhava Giti) and such other works reflect this stage.
The very names are self-explanatory.The Song of Serpent Power ( Kundalini Pattu ) is a poem explaining, as far as words can do so, the mystic experience of one’s identity with the
Absolute, detailing the six steps of the Yoga Sadhana of Patanjali. The serpent is the symbol of soul-force (atmeeya sakti ) and the six steps are
esoteric stages in the upward journey towards Divine Bliss. It is one of the most inspiring poems in bhakti literature, and clearly indicates that they are expressions of real experience. The words therein are not only mystic, but expressed in an elusive and ineffable style. Explanation of these poems can never be undertaken in a book of this type and size. One can only point out their riches and persuade the reader to go to the works themselves. The cream of his works is experienced where he talks in pure pictorial and symbolic terms of what he saw, felt and experienced as a seer. He is musing to himself, muttering almost inaudibly, recollecting
his experiences—mystical and mysterious. The words are puzzling because our normal worldly connotations are not sufficient to understand them. Nor does our modern education provide us with the ideological background for the purpose.
It sounds to the worldly-wise man something like the exposition of calculus to one who is innocent of any knowledge of mathematics. They have a distressing brevity, presenting as they do, the distilled essence of the Upanishadic philosophy with startling suggestions and
novel interpretations. Intricate problems and mysteries are tackled by the Guru with great felicity. But he leaves the way in which he worked it all out to be explained by a competent interpreter; and interpreter who has to be thoroughly familiar with the obstruse vocabulary of Vedanta which the Guru uses with perfect case. Excellent in dignified statement
and depth of thought as they are we are struck by his use of small, ordinary, old Malayalam words which have been lost in the market-place of daily usage. And yet, once the meaning is explained, the layman gratefully appreciates that those words are just apt for the occasion.
Sometimes the Guru makes the context impregnate an old word with a depth of meaning that surely did not exist in its original connotation!
And when we have at last arrived at that verbal explanation, we are still dazed because Vedanta has to be lived and is not to be learnt by rote.
The Garland of Darsana (Darsana Mala), Self-Knowledge: Hundred Verses (Atmopadesa satakam ) and Prayer to God: Ten Verse (Daiva Dasakam ) are the most authoritative of his philosophical writings. The poem Self-Knowledge could be styled the Gita for the modern man and the future generations.
“Those whom we know as ‘he’ and ‘they’ are all, in the ultimate
analysis, One, the same atman in so many forms. Our actions for our
own good should aim at once at the good of others too.”
The Prayer of God in ten verses is pure, simple, musical verse. It plunges in one verse into the depths of the Upanishadic techniques of explaining the unexplainable by defining it as: “Not this, not this” and in the very next verse expresses as our gratitude to God for giving us our
daily bread, erasing in one stroke all distinction between the spirit and the body.
Here he is translating Adwaita into an idiom that even children can
grasp, fully and well: “Thou art -Creation and
The numberless creatures.
Thou art, O! God!
The means of creation too.
Thou art Truth, wisdom, and bliss.
Thou art also Past, present and future
All rolled into one
In a word Nothing exists
Other than thee.”
Self-Knowledge in One Hundred Verses gives a fine version of the
Upanishadic philosophy carefully collating differences of views, omitting
those portions that run into other standpoints, only to demolish them by
arguments. All such aspects characteristic of the Upanishads have lost
their relevance today. The Swami quietly waves them aside and gives us
a taste of his mystic experiences also which make Adwaita philosophy come to life before the reader’s eyes.