anbana yida varuL Arunachala
Arunachala, bless me with your grace so may I be dear (anban) to all the devotees (anbar) of you who just on hearing your holy name melt in their hearts in pure devotion.
The devotees who just on hearing the Lord’s name melt in their hearts in pure devotion are called ‘anbar’ here (Anbu is love, affection, dear etc). In fact there is no difference between god and his name(s). The name indicates the greatness and fame of the lord, also the word ‘anbar’ subsumes ‘anbu’.
Bhagavan says that tools such as srvanam, mananam and bhakti’ (hearing, contemplating and devotion respectively), if carried out without shraddha (sincerity), will not bear fruit, which is referred to by ‘anbodu naamam kaeL anbar’. [‘Sravana, manna and Nididhyasana are the three-fold methods of reaching the truth, meaning hearing the instruction, contemplating on it and being absorbed in the final meditative silent state.]
Since hearing is more effective than learning Bhagavan places it on a higher plane by saying ‘kaeLanbar’ (dear devotees who listen. ‘KaeL’ is to listen, ‘anbar’ is dear devotee.) Vedas are also referred to as ‘shruthi’ as they are transmitted to orally from the guru to sishyas (MahaPeriyava says that Vedas must not be passed on by any other means).
Since Arunachala is ‘Sthavara’ that is unmoving/fixed and the devotees are ‘jangama’ meaning moving from place to place, there is no difference between the two. Which is what Bhagavan is saying by ‘anbartham anbaruku anbana yida’.
Initially, it is the benefit of hearing god’s name from devotees that plants the seed for devotion (bhakti). Slowly, this leads to the destruction of the ‘I am the body’ idea and the consequent attachments and affections and likes and dislikes related to the material world, and eventually leading the devotee step by step to lose the ‘I’ and then to liberation, ‘jivan mukti’ stage.
Appar, a 7th century Saiva poet-saint explains how hearing the mere name of the lord leads one to liberation. (He was also known as ’thiru naavikarasar , naavukku is for the tongue, and arasar is king. The ‘r’ sound at the end is a mark of respect in Tamil. ‘arasan’ became ‘arasar’ just like ‘Appa’ meaning father became ‘appar’. Another poet-saint, Sambandar, called him father, hence he became known as ‘appar’. The triumvirate consists of Appar, Thiruganana Sambandar, Sundarar’ )
munnam avanuDaiya nAmam kaettaL
mUrththi avanirukkum vaNNam kaettaL
pinnai avanuDaiya ArUr kaettaL
paerththum avanukkE picciyAnAL
annaiyaiyum aththanaiyum anRE neeththAL
aganRAL agaliDaththAr AcAraththaith
thannai maRandhAL thann nAmam kaettaL
thalaippaTTAL nangai thalaivan thALE
The stories and histories that are written in praise of gods are called Puranas. But the stories and biographies of the saint-poets who composed such works are called ‘Periya Puranam’ (meaning big story) because there is no difference between iswara, the sthavaralingam and his devotees who are jangama lingam. Which is what Bhagavan also says by ‘anbar Tham anbarukku anbanaa yida varuL’ towards the end of the verse, extolling the benefits of being with such saint-poets and devotees.
The above poem by Appar Swamigal reflects the incidents that happened in Bhagavan’s life almost frame by frame, it’s a wonder that Bhagavan’s life in 19th and 20th century should mirror a poem written in the 7th century.
When Bhagavan was a school boy, a relative visited his home. When young Ramana asked the visitor where he was coming from, he said ‘I’m coming from Arunachala’. Surprised, Ramana asked, ‘Arunachala? Where is it?’ To which the relative exclaimed, ‘What? You don’t know where Tiruvannamalai is?’
That was it. On simply hearing the five letters ‘a ru na cha la’, his heart was filled with an elated feeling. The name kept vibrating/pulsing in his heart. What great magnetic attraction that name has! This state of Bhagavan can be likened to the first line of the poem, ‘munnam avanudaya naamam kaettaL’ meaning, first she heard His name.
When the relative said ‘Don’t you know Tiruvannamalai?’ Bhagavan grasped the mountain form of Arunachala. This tallies with the second line, ‘mUrththi avanirukkum vaNNam kaettAL’ meaning ‘she asked how the lord looked like’. He also learnt where the Hill was which is in the third line, ‘pinnai avanuDaiya ArUr kaettaL’, meaning, then she asked about his lofty city. (‘Oor’ in Tamil refers to where one hails from, can be city, village etc).
The name Arunachala flashing and pulsing in heart, he transformed from a normal school boy into an almost mad man. This is reflected in the fourth line, ‘paerththum avanukkE picciyAnAL’ meaning she became mad over Him.
Then Bhagavan left his mother, father and close relatives and started for Arunachala. This is said in the fifth line, ‘ annai yaiyum aththa naiyum anRE neeththAL ‘ meaning she left her mother, father and everything that day itself’.
Bhagavan renounced all the material life-related activities and religious rituals and practices (aachaaram) which is mirrored in the sixth line, ‘ aganRAL agaliDaththAr AcAraththaith’ meaning, ‘left (she) from home and (the surrounding) rituals’.
Once Bhagavan reached ‘home’ in Arunachala, he forgot and lost himself, renounced even his name. When school boy Venkataraman departed from his home he left a short letter for the family, where, instead of writing his name or signature, he entered three dots. This is a perfect reflection of the seventh line, ‘thannai maRandhAL thann nAmam kettaL’ meaning, (she) forgot herself, her name she spoiled’ [kedudhal means going bad, rotting, spoilt etc, kettaaL literally means she spoiled it, but translates to renounced/gave up’ etc]
Deciding and determined not to stay in Madurai any longer, Bhagavan resolved to reach Arunachala and submit himself as the bride to Arunachala the groom. This fits well with the last line ‘thalaippaTTAL nangai thalaivan thALE’ meaning, (she) headed towards the feet of her master’ (thalaivan is leader, master, groom etc).