Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam
- ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல அக்ஷரமணமாலை (Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai)
- ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல நவமணிமாலை (Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai)
- ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல பதிகம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam)
- ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல அஷ்டகம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam)
- ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல பஞ்சரத்னம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam)
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல ஸ்துதி பஞ்சகம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam), the ‘Five Hymns to Śrī Aruṇācala’, which is a collection of the principal devotional songs composed by Śrī Ramaṇa, is the first section of ஸ்ரீ ரமண நூற்றிரட்டு (Śrī Ramaṇa Nūṯṟiraṭṭu), the Tamil ‘Collected Works of Śrī Ramaṇa’. The following are the five main songs that comprise it:
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல அக்ஷரமணமாலை (Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai), the ‘Bridal Garland of Letters to Śrī Aruṇācala’, is a song composed in the metaphorical language of bridal mysticism or madhura bhava (the affectionate attitude of a girl seeking union with her lover, the lord of her heart) and consists of 108 couplets, each of which begins with a consecutive letter of the Tamil alphabet and ends with ‘Aruṇācalā’, a vocative case-form of the name ‘Aruṇācala’ (or ‘Arunachala’, as it is often less precisely transcribed).
In the title of this song, akṣara is a Sanskrit word that means both ‘imperishable’ or ‘immutable’ and a ‘letter’ of an alphabet, maṇam is a Tamil word that means ‘union’, ‘marriage’ or ‘fragrance’, and mālai is a Tamil form of the Sanskrit word mālā, which means a ‘wreath’ or ‘garland’, particularly one made of flowers, so the compound word akṣara-maṇa-mālai means the ‘marriage garland of letters’, the ‘garland of immutable union’, the ‘fragrant garland of letters’ or the ‘garland of imperishable fragrance’.
In these 108 verses, Śrī Ramaṇa pours out his intense love for God in the form of the sacred hill Aruṇācala, praising his boundless grace and praying to him for the imperishable state of absolute oneness with him, which can be gained only by means of true self-knowledge, since the true form of God or Aruṇācala is nothing other than our own essential self, the pure consciousness of being that we always experience as ‘I am’.
Though Śrī Ramaṇa had actually surrendered himself and merged completely in the egoless state of true self-knowledge at the age of sixteen, on the day in 1896 that he was overwhelmed by an intense fear of death, which was about eighteen or nineteen years before he composed Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai, in many of these verses he sings from the perspective of a devotee who is still struggling to overcome his ego and its finite desires and thereby to surrender himself entirely to the infinite love of God.
However, though many of these verses are therefore prayers, in some of them Śrī Ramaṇa clearly praises the grace of Aruṇācala for destroying his mind or ego and thereby absorbing him completely in the non-dual state of immutable union or true self-knowledge.
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல நவமணிமாலை (Śrī Aruṇācala Navamaṇimālai), the ‘Garland of Nine Gems to Śrī Aruṇācala’, consists of nine verses composed in different metres at various times, which were later collected together to form this song.
The first three of these nine verses are praises, in the first two of which Śrī Ramaṇa reveals certain aspects of the spiritual significance of the form and name of Aruṇācala, and in the third of which he assures us that if in our search for the clarity of true self-knowledge we long for the grace of Aruṇācala, we will certainly attain his grace and thereby drown forever in the ocean of infinite happiness. The next four verses are heart-melting prayers for the grace of Aruṇācala and for the blessed state of ever-increasing love for him, and in the last two verses Śrī Ramaṇa reveals his own personal experience of his grace, which had bestowed upon him ‘his own state’ (or the ‘state of self’) and thereby saved him from drowning in the deep ocean of worldly maya or delusion.
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல பதிகம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam), the ‘Eleven Verses to Śrī Aruṇācala’, was composed by Śrī Ramaṇa after the opening words of the first verse, கருணையால் என்னை யாண்ட நீ (karuṇaiyāl eṉṉai y-āṇḍa nī), had been persistently arising in his mind for several days. Finally he composed a verse beginning with these words, which mean ‘you who by [your] grace accepted [took possession of, ruled over or cherished] me [as you own]’.
This first verse ended with the word அன்பே (aṉbē), a vocative case-form of அன்பு (aṉbu), which means ‘love’, and the next day the words அன்புரு வருணாசல (aṉburu v-aruṇācala), which mean ‘Aruṇācala, the form of love’, began to arise persistently in his mind, so with them as the opening words he composed the second verse, which ended with the word இறையே (iṟaiyē), a vocative case-form of இறை (iṟai), which means ‘lord’ or ‘God’. The next day a series of words beginning with இறை (iṟai) began to arise persistently in his mind, so with them as the opening words he composed the third verse, which ended with the word ஊழி (uṙi), which means ‘aeon’ or ‘world’.
In this way for nine consecutive days he composed one verse each day, and on the tenth day he composed two verses. Each of these eleven verses began with the last word (or more precisely, the first metrical syllable of the last foot) of the previous verse, thus forming a song in a style of concatenation that is calledantādi or ‘end-beginning’.
In this patikam or poem of eleven verses that thus poured forth from the heart of Śrī Ramaṇa, the first nine verses are beautiful prayers, and the last two are powerful assurances, in which he reveals how Aruṇācala will unfailingly destroy the soul or separate selfhood of anyone who is attracted to him, thinking him to be the supreme reality, by drawing his or her mind selfwards and thus subduing all its mischievous activity and making it motionless like itself.
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல அஷ்டகம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Aṣṭakam), the ‘Eight Verses to Śrī Aruṇācala’, was composed by Śrī Ramaṇa as a continuation of Śrī Aruṇācala Patikam. On the day that he composed the last two verses of the patikam, he started for giri-pradakṣina (circumambulation of Aruṇācala hill) accompanied by a devotee, who took with him a piece of paper and a pencil, thinking that he may compose some more verses, and on the way round the hill Śrī Ramaṇa composed the first six verses of this aṣṭakam or poem of eight verses.
Soon after this, when a devotee decided to publish these seventeen verses, Śrī Ramaṇa composed two more verses to form two separate poems, one of eleven verses and the other of eight verses. Whereas the eleven verses of the patikam are composed in a metre that consists of four lines with seven feet in each line, the eight verses of the aṣṭakam are composed in a metre that consists of four lines with eight feet in each line.
Like the patikam, the aṣṭakam is composed in the antādi style of concatenation, and not only does each verse begin with the first metrical syllable of the last foot of the previous verse in the same poem, but even the first verse begins with the first metrical syllable of the last foot of the final verse of the patikam, namely அறி (aṟi), which is a verbal root that means ‘know’.
Though the aṣṭakam is composed in the outward form of a hymn praising God in the form of Aruṇācala, most of its verses are actually a clear and extremely profound expression of the philosophy and practice of the non-dual science of true self-knowledge.
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல பஞ்சரத்னம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam), the ‘Five Gems to Śrī Aruṇācala’, is the only song in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam that was not originally composed in Tamil. Śrī Ramana composed it first in Sanskrit, and only later in Tamil.
One day in 1917 a devotee asked Śrī Ramana to compose a Sanskrit verse in the ārya vṛtta metre, in answer to which he composed the verse ‘karuṇāpūrṇa sudhābdhē …’ in flawless ārya vṛtta. Soon afterwards this verse was shown to Kavyakanta Ganapati Sastri, a Sanskrit poet and scholar, who on seeing it at once requested him to compose another verse in the same metre. Śrī Ramana accordingly composed the verse ‘tvayaruṇācala sarvam …’, on seeing which Ganapati Sastri asked him to compose three more verses on the subject of the four yōgas — one on jñāna yōga (the path of knowledge), then one on rāja yōga (the path of mind-control), and lastly one on karma and bhakti yōga (the paths of unselfish action and devotion) — in order to form a poem of five verses. Accordingly in continuation of the ideas expressed in the first two verses, Śrī Ramana wrote the next three verses.
Five years later, in 1922, when a devotee was printing the first four songs of the present Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, someone asked Śrī Ramana to translate Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam into Tamil, so he did accordingly.
Unlike the last three of these five verses, which he composed on the subjects specified by Ganapati Sastri, the first two verses were composed by Śrī Ramana without his being asked to write on any particular subject. In the first verse he prays to Aruṇācala, the light of self-consciousness, to make his heart-lotus blossom fully, and in the second verse he then reveals that the word ‘heart’ is a name for Aruṇācala, our own real self, which ever shines in our heart as ‘I’.
As Śrī Sādhu Ōm explains in the introduction to his commentary on Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam, when we carefully consider the meaning of these two verses, we can clearly see that in both of them Śrī Ramana is drawing our attention only to the clear light of self-consciousness, which is the true form of Aruṇācala and which is ever shining within us as ‘I’. From this we can understand that when he was asked to write or say something on no specific subject, he would talk only about the clear shining of our real consciousness ‘I’.
After understanding the meaning of the first two verses in this light, if we consider the meaning of the last three verses, we will clearly see that even when he was asked to write on various specified subjects, he would always connect each of those subjects to the one subject that alone really interested him, namely knowing the real light of self and merging in it.
That is, in the third verse he says that when we turn our mind inwards to face self alone and thereby scrutinise the source from which our false ‘I’ has risen, we will clearly know the true form or nature of ‘I’ and will thereby merge in Aruṇācala, ceasing to exist as anything other than him, like a river that merges and is lost in the ocean. Then in the fourth verse he says that when a yōgi gives up knowing external objects and meditates only upon Aruṇācala, who shines in the heart [as ‘I’], he or she will see the light [of true self-knowledge] and thereby attain greatness [by merging] in Aruṇācala. And finally in the fifth verse he says that when we surrender our mind to Aruṇācala and thereby see him always and love everything as his form without any sense of otherness [that is, without experiencing anything as other than ‘I’, which is his true form], we will drown in him, the form of true happiness.
Besides these five principal songs, several other verses are also included in Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, among which are two groups of verses that form a preface to it, namely the two verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Tattuvam and Dīpa-Darśana Tattuvam and the seven verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Māhātmyam.
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல தத்துவம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Tattuvam), the ‘tattva [truth, reality or inner significance] of Śrī Aruṇācala’, was composed by Śrī Murugaṉār, but records an explanation that was given by Śrī Ramaṇa. Since he composed this verse on 24th November 1931, which was the day on which the festival of karttikai deepam was celebrated that year, he asked Śrī Ramaṇa to compose another verse explaining the tattva or truth signified by dīpa-darśana, seeing the light that is lit on the summit of Aruṇācala every year on that day, so in the same metre Śrī Ramaṇa composed தீபதர்சன தத்துவம் (Dīpa-Darśana Tattuvam), the ‘tattva of dīpa-darśana’.
This verse composed by Śrī Ramaṇa is deeply meaningful, because [as I explain in more detail in a separate article, The truth of Aruṇācala and of ‘seeing the light’ (dīpa-darśana), in which I discuss the meaning of these two verses] in it he reveals the profound spiritual significance of an act of seemingly dualistic devotion — namely dīpa-darśana, reverentially seeing the light that is lit on the summit of Aruṇācala — explaining that it signifies the absolutely non-dual experience of ‘seeing’ or knowing the மெய் அக சுடர் (mey aha-cuḍar) or real light of ‘I’, which is our own essential self-consciousness.
ஸ்ரீ அருணாசல மாகாத்மியம் (Śrī Aruṇācala Māhātmyam), the ‘Greatness of Śrī Aruṇācala’, is a collection of seven verses that Śrī Ramaṇa composed at various times, each of which is a translation of one or more verses from Sanskrit texts (such as Śiva Mahāpuraṇa, Skanda Mahāpuraṇa and Śiva Rahasya) that contain accounts of the greatness of Aruṇācala.
In the introduction that I wrote for this English translation of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, which is contained in the printed book and in the PDF copy of it (and also in a separate article in my blog, Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam), I have explained how these five hymns and the seemingly dualistic devotion that is expressed in many of the verses in them are relevant to the non-dual practice of ātma-vicāra or self-investigation, which is the principal teaching of Śrī Ramaṇa.
About this translation of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam
Before 1976, when I first met Śrī Sādhu Ōm, he had already translated all the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam into English for the benefit of other friends. However, because I often asked him about the various meanings that he had explained for these verses, I was able to help him to improve the expression of these meanings in English, and also to note down certain fresh meanings that he explained to me.
Almost every day I heard from him a great wealth of profound explanations and insights into the teachings of Śrī Ramaṇa, so I was able to note down only a fraction of what he explained to me. Unfortunately, therefore, I did not make a note of all the meanings of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam that he explained to me, but the insights that I gained by listening to him often come back to me, and when I think about them I am now able to understand what he told me with fresh clarity.
Some of the explanations that I heard from him were incorporated in a Tamil commentary on the first forty-four verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai, which I helped one of my Tamil friends to compile from various sources that recorded his explanations. I hope that one day I may be able to complete compiling this commentary on the remaining verses, and that it may be published in both Tamil and English.
Though this present book does not contain detailed commentaries on the verses of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam, it does contain word-for-word meanings for each verse, which will help readers to reflect more deeply over these words of Śrī Ramaṇa. If we think deeply and repeatedly about the meaning of his writings, we will each not only be able to understand his teachings with increasing clarity, but will also be able to cultivate and reinforce our love to practise what we have understood. This is the true fruit of manana or musing upon the teachings of our sadguru, Bhagavan Śrī Ramaṇa.
Although I (and before me other friends) helped to phrase the translations contained in this book, their principal translator was Śrī Sādhu Ōm, because his role in their translation was to explain (first to other friends and later to me) the meaning of each verse as a whole and of each individual word within each of them. My role in their translation was just to question him in detail about the meanings that he gave me, to express them in clearer English, and to transcribe them in notebooks. I did all this primarily for my own benefit, but I also hoped that one day these translations would be published, because I knew that they would benefit many of Śrī Ramaṇa’s devotees who do not know Tamil.
No translation can be perfect, because it is impossible to convey in one language all the subtleties and shades of meaning that are expressed by the words of another language. This inevitable inadequacy of any translation is even greater in the case of a translation from one language into another language whose syntactical structure and manner of expressing ideas is completely different, as is the case with translations from Tamil into English. Therefore for those who do not know Tamil, a word-for-word translation of each of Śrī Ramaṇa’s verses is a very valuable aid to a better understanding of the depth and subtlety of meaning which he conveyed through each and every word that he wrote.
However, a mere literal translation of each of his words cannot adequately convey the meaning that he intended, because in Tamil as in any other language the same words can be understood and interpreted in different ways. This is particularly true of words that express extremely subtle truths, as the words of Śrī Ramaṇa do. Therefore, to understand his words correctly and adequately, we should understand not merely the vācyārtha or literal meaning of each of them, but more importantly their lakṣyārtha or intended meaning.
Because Śrī Sādhu Ōm had surrendered himself entirely to Śrī Ramaṇa, who shines within each one of us as the absolute clarity of thought-free self-conscious being, ‘I am’, by the grace of Śrī Ramaṇa his mind had merged in and been consumed by that clarity, and hence from his own experience of true self-knowledge he was able to explain the true lakṣyārtha of Śrī Ramaṇa’s words — the meaning that he actually intended to convey through them.
Moreover, because Śrī Sādhu Ōm was himself a great Tamil poet, and because he spent many years working closely with Śrī Murugaṉār, preserving, editing and classifying all his then unpublished verses, he had a thorough understanding both of the rich classical style of Tamil in which Śrī Ramaṇa composed his verses, and of the unique manner in which Śrī Ramaṇa expressed the truth in words which, though seemingly very simple, actually convey much deeper and richer meaning than they superficially appear to convey. Hence not only from the perspective of his own true spiritual experience but also from a literary perspective, Śrī Sādhu Ōm had an extremely deep and clear insight into the wealth and depth of meaning that Śrī Ramaṇa conveyed through his verses.
Therefore Śrī Sādhu Ōm was perfectly qualified to interpret the many meanings contained in these verses, though he never claimed to have expressed all the possible meanings. In fact, he sometimes used to tell us that a new meaning for a certain verse had suddenly struck his mind, so this book certainly does not contain all the meanings that he ever saw in any particular verse.
During the lifetime of Śrī Sādhu Ōm, he and I had written all these word-for-word meanings, translations and a few explanatory notes in some notebooks, and we intended to revise them later, because what we had written was only an unpolished draft. Unfortunately, before his passing away in March 1985, we did not have time to do this or many of the other similar works that we intended to do, and after that I was busy with other work, so I not yet had time to undertake our intended revision of this unpolished draft.
Therefore in 2007, when Śrī N. Sankaran and other friends of mine in Tiruvannamalai decided to publish this draft translation as a book, they arranged for it to be copied from our notebooks and typeset for printing. Unfortunately I was not involved with the copy-editing, typesetting or proofreading, so in the printed book there are many copying, editing and printing errors, particularly in the transliteration and some of the word-for-word meanings, which I hope to rectify later if I ever have time to revise, polish and improve this old draft.
Printed edition of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam
This translation of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam has been published by Sri Ramana Kshetra, and it can be obtained from Sri Ramanasramam Book Stall, Sri Arunachalaramana Book Trust, Sri Ramana Kshetra or the Buy Books page of David Godman’s website, as explained in more detail in the How to buy books by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James section of the Books page of this website.
PDF copy for free download
A PDF copy of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam is also available here for free download. In order to download it, you can either left-click on the following link to open it in your web browser, after which you can save a copy of it, or you can right-click on this link and select ‘Save Target As…’ from the pop-up menu:
When I first received this PDF copy of the printed book from the press that printed it, it contained many defects, because on account of some technological error certain characters in it were displayed wrongly. Fortunately my friend John Manetta was able to correct most of the Latin characters and punctuations that were wrongly displayed, but neither he nor I were able to correct any of the Tamil characters that were wrongly displayed. For example, the frequently occurring character ந் (n) in the printed book appears in this PDF copy as மூ (mū), and the less frequently occurring character மூ (mū) in the printed book appears in this PDF copy either as void or as a box surrounding the following character [as for example in the first foot of verse 81 of Śrī Aruṇācala Akṣaramaṇamālai, which should be மூக்கிலன் (mūkkilan) but which appears as க்கிலன் with a box surrounding the letter க்].
I would like here to express my gratitude to all those friends who helped me to make this PDF copy of the printed book available here, especially N. Sankaran, who supervised the publication of this book; S. Pandurangan of Aridra Printers, who printed it and created this PDF copy of it; M. V. Sabhapathy and Vasuki Seshadri, who encouraged him to create it; and John Manetta, who rectified many of the technological defects in it.
Spanish translation of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam
This English translation of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam has been translated into Spanish by Pedro Rodea, and his translation is available both as a printed book from Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam in Spanish and as a PDF here: Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam — Spanish PDF.
Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam — commentary by Śrī Sadhu Om
During the lifetime of Śrī Sādhu Ōm, I compiled with his help and guidance a detailed commentary in English containing many of the explanations that I had heard from him about Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam, and this was first published in five issues of The Mountain Path from September 2003 to September 2004.
This commentary has also been translated into Spanish by Pedro Rodea, and his translation is included at the end of Śrī Aruṇācala Stuti Pañcakam – Spanish PDF and is also available here as a separate PDF: Śrī Aruṇācala Pañcaratnam – Spanish translation of commentary.