Sivaprakasam Pillai

M.Sivaprakasam Pillai (1875-1948), a graduate in philosophy, an officer in the Revenue Dept. of the South Arcot Collectorate, first met Sri Ramana in 1901. He is best remembered for his role in getting Sri Ramana write down his teachings on Self-enquirty, later published as Who am I? Pillai's experiences and feelings about the Maharshi in his verse biography Sri Ramana Charita Ahaval, published in 1923.

Sri Ramana (known then as Brahmana Swami) was 21 years old and was living in a cave on Arunachala. Humbly, Sivaprakasam Pillai began to ask Sri Ramana questions about how one was to discover one's true identity. In those days Sri Ramana rarely spoke. His responses to Sivaprakasam Pillai's questions were written with his finger in the sandy soil, or on slips of paper, or on a slate that Sivaprakasam Pillai brought along.

Many of these questions and answers Sivaprakasam Pillai wrote out in a notebook. More than twenty years later, in 1923, devotees urged Sivaprakasam Pillai to publish them under the name Nan Yar? (Who Am I?).

Various versions of this exist, some in question and answer format, and some in essay format. The most authentic version is considered to be the essay version that Sri Ramana wrote a few years after the publication of the first version. Sivaprakasam also wrote poems about his experiences with Sri Ramana and about Sri Ramana's teachings. Several of these poems became part of the daily parayana and were regularly recited in Sri Ramana's presence.

Sivaprakasam Pillai resigned from his job in 1910 in order to devote his full attention to his sadhana. He moved back to his native village Idayanpalchori and came at intervals to Arunachala for Sri Ramana's darshan.

Who Am I? (Nan Yar?)

Every living being longs always to be happy, untainted by sorrow; and everyone has the greatest love for himself, which is solely due to the fact that happiness is his real nature. Hence, in order to realize that inherent and untainted happiness, which indeed he daily experiences when the mind is subdued in deep sleep, it is essential that he should know himself. For obtaining such knowledge the inquiry 'Who am I?' in quest of the Self is the best means.

'Who am I?' I am not this physical body, nor am I the five organs of sense perception; I am not the five organs of external activity, nor am I the five vital forces, nor am I even the thinking mind. Neither am I that unconscious state of nescience which retains merely the subtle vasanas (latencies of the mind), while being free from the functional activity of the sense-organs and of the mind, and being unaware of the existence of the objects of sense-perception.

Therefore, summarily rejecting all the above-mentioned physical adjuncts and their functions, saying 'I am not this; no, nor am I this, nor this' -- that which then remains separate and alone by itself, that pure Awareness is what I am. This Awareness is by its very nature Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss).

If the mind, which is the instrument of knowledge and is the basis of all activity, subsides, the perception of the world as an objective reality ceases. Unless the illusory perception of the serpent in the rope ceases, the rope on which the illusion is formed is not perceived as such. Similarly, unless the illusory nature of the perception of the world as a objective reality ceases, the Vision of the true nature of the Self, on which the illusion is formed, is not obtained.

The mind is a unique power (sakti) in the Atman, whereby thoughts occur to one. On scrutiny as to what remains after eliminating all thoughts, it will be found that there is no such thing as mind apart from thought. So then, thoughts themselves constitute the mind. Nor is there any such thing as the physical world apart from and independent of thought. In deep sleep there are no thoughts: nor is there the world. In the wakeful and dream state thoughts are present, and there is also the world. Just as the spider draws out the thread of the cobweb from within itself and withdraws it again into itself, in the same way the mind projects the world out of itself and absorbs it back into itself.

The world is perceived as an apparent objective reality when the mind is externalized, thereby forsaking its identity with the Self. When the world is thus perceived, the true nature of the Self is not revealed: conversely, when the Self is realized the world ceases to appear as an objective reality.

By a steady and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind, the mind is transformed into That to which 'I' refers; and that is in fact the Self. Mind has necessarily to depend for its existence on something gross; it never subsists by itself. It is this mind that is otherwise called the subtle body, ego, jiva, or soul.

That which arises in the physical body as 'I' is the mind. If one inquires whence the 'I'-thought in the body arises in the first instance, it will be found that it is from hrdayam (literally 'I am the Heart), or the Heart. That is the source and stay of the mind. Or again, even if one merely continuously repeats to oneself inwardly 'I-I' with the entire mind fixed thereon, that also leads one to the same source.

The first and foremost of all thoughts that arise in the mind is the primal 'I'-thought. It is only after the rise or origin of the 'I'-thought that innumerable other thoughts arise. In other words, only after the first personal pronoun, 'I', has arisen, do the second and third personal pronouns ('you, he' etc.) occur to the mind; and they cannot subsist without the former.

Since every other thought can occur only after the rise of the 'I'-thought and since the mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts, it is only through the inquiry 'Who am I?' that the mind subsides. Moreover, the integral 'I'-thought, implicit in such enquiry, having destroyed all other thoughts, gets itself destroyed or consumed, just as the stick used for stirring the burning funeral pyre gets consumed.

Even when extraneous thoughts sprout up during such enquiry, do not seek to complete the rising thought, but instead, deeply enquire within, 'To who has this thought occurred?' No matter how many thoughts thus occur to you, if you would with acute vigilance enquire immediately as and when each individual thought arises to whom it has occurred, you would find it is to 'me'. If then you enquire 'Who am I?' the mind gets introverted and the rising thought also subsides. In this manner as you persevere more and more in the practice of Self-enquiry, the mind acquires increasing strength and power to abide in its Source.

It is only when the subtle mind is externalized through the activity of the intellect and the sense-organs that gross name and form constituting the world appear. When, on the other hand, the mind stays firmly in the Heart, they recede and disappear. Restraint of the outgoing mind, and its absorption in the Heart, is known as introversion (antarmukha-drishti). The release of the mind, and its emergence from the Heart is known as bahirmukha-drishti (objectiveness).

If in this manner the mind becomes absorbed in the Heart, the ego or 'I', which is the centre of the multitude of thoughts, finally vanishes and pure Consciousness or Self, which subsists during all the states of the mind, alone remains resplendent. It is this state, where there is not the slightest trace of the 'I'-thought, that is the true Being of oneself. And that is called Quiescence or Mouna (silence).

This state of mere inherence in pure Being is known as the Vision of Wisdom. Such inherence means and implies the entire subsidence of the mind in the Self. Nothing other than this, and no psychic powers of the mind such as thought-reading, telepathy, and clairvoyance, can be Wisdom.

Atman alone exists and is real. The threefold reality of world, individual soul, and God is, like the illusory appearance of silver in the mother of pearl, an imaginary creation in the Atman. They appear and disappear simultaneously. The Self alone is the world, the 'I' and God. All that exists is but the manifestation of the Supreme.

For the subsidence of mind there is no other means more effective and adequate than Self-enquiry. Even though by other means the mind subsides, that is only apparently so; it will rise again.

For instance, the mind subsides by the practice of pranayama (restraint and control of breath and vital forces); yet such subsidence lasts only as long as the control of breath and vital forces continues; and when they are released, the mind also gets released and immediately, becoming externalized, it continues to wander through the force of its subtle tendencies.

The source of the mind is the same as that of breath and vital forces. It is really the multitude of thoughts that constitutes the mind; and the 'I'-thought is the primal thought of the mind, and is itself the ego. But breath too has its origin at the same place whence the ego rises. Therefore, when the mind subsides, breath and vital forces also subside; and conversely, when the latter subside, the former also subsides.

Breath and vital forces are also described as the gross manifestation of the mind. Till the hour of death the mind sustains and supports these forces in the physical body; and when life becomes extinct the mind envelops them and carries them away. During sleep, however, the vital forces continue to function, although the mind is not manifest. This is according to the divine law and is intended to protect the body and to remove any possible doubt as to whether it is dead or alive while one is asleep. Without such arrangement by nature, sleeping bodies would often be cremated alive. The vitality apparent in breathing is left behind by the mind as a 'watchman'. But in the wakeful state and in samadhi, when the mind subsides, breath also subsides. For this reason (because the mind has the sustaining and controlling power over breath and vital forces and is therefore ulterior to both of them), the practice of breath control is merely helpful in subduing the mind, but cannot bring about its final extinction.

Like breath control, meditation on form, incantations, invocations, and regulation of diet are only aids to control of the mind. Through the practice of meditation or invocation the mind becomes one-pointed. Just as the elephant's truck, which is otherwise restless, will become steady if it is made to hold an iron chain, so that the elephant goes its way without reaching out for any other object, so the ever-restless mind, which is trained and accustomed to a name or form through meditation or invocation, will steadily hold on to that alone.

When the mind is split up and dissipated into countless varying thoughts, each individual thought becomes extremely weak and inefficient. When, on the contrary, such thoughts subside more and more till they finally get destroyed, the mind becomes one-pointed and, thereby acquiring strength and power of endurance, easily reaches perfection in the method of enquiry in quest of the Self.

Regulation of diet, restricting it to satvic food taken in moderate quantity, is of all the rules of conduct the best; and it is most conducive to the development of the satvic qualities of the mind. These, in their turn, assist one in the practice of Atma vichara or enquiry in quest of the Self.

Countless vishaya-vasanas (subtle tendencies of the mind in relation to objects of sense gratification), coming one after the other in quick succession like the waves of the ocean, agitate the mind. Nevertheless, they too subside and finally get destroyed with progressive practice of Atma dhyana or meditation on the Self. Without giving room even to the thought which occurs in the form of doubt, whether it is possible to stay merely as the very Self, whether all the vasanas can be destroyed, one should firmly and unceasingly carry on meditation on the Self.

However sinful a person may be, if he would stop wailing inconsolably: 'Alas! I am a sinner, how shall I attain Liberation?' and, casting away even the thought that he is a sinner, if he would zealously carry on meditation on the Self, he would most assuredly get reformed.

So long as subtle tendencies continue to inhere in the mind, it is necessary to carry on the enquiry: 'Who am I?'. As and when thoughts occur, they should one and all be annihilated then and there, at the very place of their origin, by the method of enquiry in quest of the Self.

Not to desire anything extraneous to oneself constitutes vairaga (dispassion) or nirasa (desirelessness). Not to give up one's hold on the Self constitutes jnana (knowledge). But really vairaga and jnana are one and the same. Just as the pearl diver, tying stones to his waist, dives down into the depths and gets the pearl from the sea bed, so every aspirant pledged to vairaga can dive deep into himself and realize the precious Atman. If the earnest seeker would only cultivate the constant and deep contemplative 'remembrance' (smrti) of the true nature of the Self till he has realized it, that alone would suffice. Distracting thoughts are like the enemy in the fortress. As long as they are in possession of it, they will certainly sally forth. But if, as and when they come out, you put them to the sword the fortress will finally be captured.

God and the Guru are not really different: they are identical. He that has earned the Grace of the Guru shall undoubtedly be saved and never forsaken, just as the prey that has fallen into the tiger's jaws will never be allowed to escape. But the disciple, for his part, should unswervingly follow the path shown by the Master.

Firm and disciplined inherence in the Atman, without giving the least scope for the rise of any thought other than the deep contemplative thought of the Self, constitutes self-surrender to the Supreme Lord. Let any amount of burden be laid on Him, He will bear it all. It is, in fact, the indefinable power of the Lord that ordains, sustains, and controls everything that happens. Why then should we worry, tormented by vexatious thoughts, saying: 'Shall we act this way? No, that way,' instead of meekly but happily submitting to that Power? Knowing that the train carries all the weight, why indeed should we, the passengers traveling in it, carry our small individual articles of luggage on our laps to our great discomfort, instead of putting them aside and sitting at perfect ease?

That which is Bliss is also the Self. Bliss and the Self are not distinct and separate but are one and the same. And That alone is real. In no single one of the countless objects of the mundane world is there anything that can be called happiness. It is through sheer ignorance and unwisdom that we fancy that happiness is obtained from them. On the contrary, when the mind is externalized, it suffers pain and anguish. The truth is that every time our desires get fulfilled, the mind, turning to its source, experiences only that happiness which is natural to the Self. Similarly in deep sleep, in spiritual trance (samadhi), when fainting, when a desired object is obtained, or when evil befalls an object considered undesirable, the mind turns inwards and enjoys that Bliss of Atman. Thus wandering astray, forsaking the Self, and returning to it again and again is the interminable and wearisome lot of the mind.

It is pleasant under the shade of a tree, and scorching in the heat of the sun outside. A person toiling in the sun seeks the cool shade of the tree and is happy under it. After staying there for a while, he moves out again but, unable to bear the merciless heat of the sun, he again seeks the shade. In this way he keeps on moving from shade to sun and sun to shade.

It is an unwise person who acts thus, whereas the wise man never leaves the shade: in the same way the mind of the Enlightened Sage (Jnani) never exists apart from Brahman, the Absolute. The mind of the ignorant, on the other hand, entering into the phenomenal world, suffers pain and anguish; and then, turning for a short while towards Brahman, it experiences happiness. Such is the mind of the ignorant.

This phenomenal world, however, is nothing but thought. When the world recedes from one's view -- that is when one is free from thought -- the mind enjoys the Bliss of the Self. Conversely, when the world appears -- that is when thought occurs -- the mind experiences pain and anguish.

Not from any desire, resolve, or effort on the part of the rising sun, but merely due to the presence of his rays, the lens emits heat, the lotus blossoms, water evaporates, and people attend to their various duties in life. In the proximity of the magnet the needle moves. Similarly the soul or jiva, subjected to the threefold activity of creation, preservation, and destruction which take place merely due to the unique Presence of the Lord, performs acts in accordance with its karma (fruits of past actions, in the present life), and subsides to rest after such activity. But the Lord Himself has no resolve; no act or event touches even the fringe of His Being. This state of immaculate aloofness can be likened to that of the sun, which is untouched by the activities of life, or to that of the all-pervasive ether, which is not affected by the interaction of the complex qualities of the other four elements.

All scriptures without any exception proclaim that for attaining Salvation the mind should be subdued; and once one knows that control of the mind is their final aim it is futile to make an interminable study of them. What is required for such control is actual enquiry into oneself by self-interrogation: 'Who am I?' How can this enquiry in quest of the Self be made merely by means of a study of the scriptures?

One should realize the Self by the Eye of Wisdom. Does Rama need a mirror to recognize himself as Rama? That to which the 'I' refers is within the five sheaths (physical, vital, mental, knowledge-experience, and bliss), whereas the scriptures are outside them. Therefore, it is futile to seek by means of the study of scriptures the Self that has to be realized by summarily rejecting even the five sheaths.

To enquire 'Who am I that is in bondage?' and to know one's real nature is alone Liberation. To keep the mind constantly turned within, and to abide thus in the Self is alone Atma-vichara (Self enquiry), whereas dhyana (meditation) consists in fervent contemplation of the Self as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss). Indeed, at some time, one will have to forget everything that has been learnt.

Just as it is futile to examine the rubbish that has to be swept up only to be thrown away, so it is futile for him who seeks to know the Self to set to work enumerating the tattvas (classifications of the elements of existence) that envelop the Self and examining them, instead of casting them away. He should consider the phenomenal world with reference to himself as merely a dream.

Except that the wakeful state is long and the dream state is short there is no difference between the two. All the activities of the dream state appear, for the time being, just as real as the activities of the wakeful state seem to be while awake. Only, during the dream state, the mind assumes another form or a different bodily sheath. For thoughts on the one hand, and name and form on the other, occur simultaneously during both the wakeful and dream states.

There are not two minds, one good and the other evil. It is only the vasanas or tendencies of the mind that are of two kinds, good and favorable, evil and unfavorable. When the mind is associated with the former it is called good, and when associated with the latter it is called evil. However evil-minded other people may appear to you, it is not proper to hate or despise them. Likes and dislikes, love and hatred, are equally to be eschewed. It is also not proper to let the mind often rest on objects or affairs of mundane life. As far as possible one should not interfere in the affairs of others. Everything offered to others is really an offering to oneself; and if only this truth were realized, who is there that would refuse anything to others?

If the ego rises, all else will also rise; if it subsides all else will also subside. The deeper the humility with which we conduct ourselves, the better it is for us. If only the mind is kept under control, what matters it where one may happen to be?

Upon hearing of Sri Pillai’s death, Bhagavan said, “Sivaprakasam Pillai Sivaprakasamaanaar.” (Sivaprakasam Pillai has become the Light of Siva.)


by Michael James

Part 1 of 2, The Mountain Path, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 1988

Among the five prose works contained in Sri Ramana Nutrirattu (The Tamil Collected Works of Sri Ramana), the work Nan Yar? (Who am I?) holds a place of unique eminence, both because of its contents and because of its genesis. That is, not only does it contain an extremely dear and undiluted account of the very core of Sri Bhagavan's teachings, but it is also the only original prose work written by Sri Bhagavan Himself. Whereas Vivekachudamani and Drik-Drisya-Viveka are works translated by Sri Bhagavan from Sanskrit and whereas Vichara Sangraham and Upadesa Manjari are works recorded and edited by devotees, Nan Yar? not only contains the original teachings of Sri Bhagavan but also holds the unique distinction of having been edited and rewritten by Sri Bhagavan Himself in the form of a twenty-paragraph essay. However, more than any other factor, what has really earned this small work a place of such great esteem in the hearts of all devotees of Sri Bhagavan is the fact that in such simple and direct language it reveals truths of such great depth and practical value.

Of His own accord Sri Bhagavan never sought to give any teachings to anyone. All that He taught during the fifty-four years He lived in Tiruvannamalai was taught only in response to the questions and prayers of those who came to Him seeking His guidance, and hence His teachings were always given in such a manner as to suit the needs of the individuals who sought them. For this reason His most pure and undiluted teachings were given only in response to those who carne to Him with the most pure and undiluted yearning to know the truth as it is. Among the devotees who were endowed with such yearning and whom Sri Bhagavan has chosen for the role of eliciting from Him His teachings, the foremost are undoubtedly Sri Muruganar and Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai. Just as the world of spiritual aspirants is eternally indebted to Sri Munaganar for eliciting from Sri Bhagavan Ulladu Narpadu, Upadesa Undiyar, Atma-Vidya Kirtanam and other verses and poems containing His teachings in their purest form, so we are also indebted to Sri Sivaprakasam Pilla for eliciting from Him the priceless teaching contained in Nan Yar?

Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai was born on Saturday the 7th August 1875 in the village of Idaiyanpaalchori, west of Chidambaram, as the son of one Muthusami Pillai and his wife Swarnammal. His parents were pious and orthodox Saivites belonging to a farming community known as Kaarkaatha Vellalar. Hoping that their son would not only prosper in the material life but would also continue to uphold the family tradition of piety, the foundation of which was rooted in the rich soil of Tamil Saivite literature, they arranged for him to study both English and Tamil at school. As he grew up, they found that both their hopes showed signs of being fulfilled, for he was not only an intelligent student but was also naturally endowed with all good qualities such as devotion, humility, patience, honesty and kindness towards all living beings. He had an enquiring mind and an eagerness to understand the truth underlying the appearance of our life in this world, so at college he chose to study philosophy as his major subject. While at college, the question 'Who is this I who whirls about in the world attached to this body?' arose spontaneously in his mind, but in spite of his studying many books he could find no satisfactory answer to his deeply-felt doubt and hence he began to feel a strong yearning to meet a great soul who could give him the answer he was seeking.

After graduating from college he was married to a girl named Parvati, and in the year 1900 he was given employment jn the Revenue Department of the South Arcot District Collectorate. In 1902 he happened to visit Tiruvannamalai for the first time on some official duty, and there he heard of the saintly and ascetic life lived by a young boy on the Hill, whom all people referred to with great respect as Brahmana Swami. Sri Pillai at once climbed up the Hill to Guhainamasivayar temple, where the Brahmana Swami was then staying, and on seeing the divine lustre which shone in the face of the silent young ascetic, he felt strongly attracted to Him as a piece of iron to a magnet. Immediately he asked Him the question 'Who am I?' which had been haunting his mind for so many years. Little could he have known at that time, however, that the young Sage he saw seated quietly before him was born in this world with a divine mission to reveal the direct path of Self-enquiry, through which alone the true answer to the question 'Who am I?' could be experienced within the heart. Such is the working of divine Grace that the fit and worthy disciple had thus been automatically drawn to the proper Guru.

Since in those early days Sri Bhagavan rarely spoke except perhaps to his faithful attendant Sri Pazhani Swami, He answered Pillaiyavargal's1 question by writing on the sandy ground. For a number of days Pillaiyavargal continued to ask Him a series of questions, all of which He answered by writing either on the sand or on a slate, and most of His answers were later noted down by Pillaiyavargal from memory. Some of the answers Pillaiyavargal received at that time he later incorporated in lines 37 to 73 of one of his Tamil poems, Anugraha Ahaval, in which he describes some of the experiences he had of Sri Bhagavan' s Grace. Later, in the year 1923, when some friends of his decided to print this poem and another poem entitled Sri Ramana Charita Ahaval, in which he narrates the story of Sri Bhagavan' s life, he edited in the form of thirteen questions and answers a brief summary of the teachings he received from Sri Bhagavan in 1902, and this was printed under title Nan Yar? (Who am I?) as an appendix to the small book containing those two poems. The following is a literal translation of that appendix2.

In later years, Sri Bhagavan enquired about Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai, saying "Is Pillaiyavargal keeping well?", the word avargal being an honorific appended to a name. This fact is mentioned by Sri Manikkam Pillai, disciple of Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai, in a footnote on p. 3 of his book Sri Sivaprakasa Charitamum Malaiyum, from which most of the facts in this article are drawn.

This appendix was included in the 1st ed. (1923), 3rd ed. (1931) and 4th ed. (1946) of Sri Ramana Charita Ahaval, but was not included in the 2nd ed. (1929), 5th ed. (c. 1956) or reprint of the 5th ed. (1971).


The enquiry 'Who am I?' alone will give liberation (moksha).

1. Who am I?

The gross body, which is composed of the seven dhatus (chyle, blood, flesh, fat, marrow, bone nd semen), is not 'I'. The five sense organs (jnanendriyas), namely the ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose, which individually and respectively know the five sense-knowledges (vishayas), namely sound, touch, sight, taste and smell, are not 'I'. The five organs of action (karmendriyas), namely the mouth, legs, hands, anus and genitals, which perform the five functions of speaking, walking, giving, excreting and enjoying are not 'I'. The five vital airs such as prana, which perform the five (vital) functions such as respiration, are not 'I'. Even the mind, which thinks, is not 'I'. Even the ignorance (of deep sleep), in which only the latent tendencies towards sense-knowledges (vishaya-vasanas) remain and which is devoid of all sense-knowledges and all actions, is not 'I'.

2. If all these are not 'I', then who am I?

After negating as 'not I, not I' all that is mentioned above, the knowledge which remains alone itself is 'I'.

3. What is the nature of (this) knowledge?

The nature of (this) knowledge is existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda). This is called Silence (mauna). This Self alone exists. The world, soul and God are imaginary superimpositions (kalpanas) in it like silver in the mother-of-pearl. Therefore Self itself is God; Self Itself is' 'I', Self itself is the souls; Self itself is the world. All is verily the Supreme Self (siva-swarupam).

4. When will Self-realization (swarupa-darsanam) be attained?

When what-is-seen (drisya) is removed, the realization of Self, the seer (drik), will take place3.

5. Will not Self-realization take place even while what-is-seen exists?

No, it will not. The seer and what is seen are like the rope and the snake. When the knowledge of the snake, the imaginary superimposition, has not gone, can the knowledge of the rope, the base, appear?

6. When will the world, which is what-is-seen, be removed?

If the mind, which is the cause of all (objective) knowledge and all action, subsides, the world will disappear.

7. What is the nature of the mind?

Thought alone is the nature (or form) of the mind. It is a power. It expands as all objects. When it subsides within itself, that is, in Self, Self will appear; when it comes out, the world will appear. Therefore, when the world appears, Self does not appear.

8. How will the mind subside?

The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry 'Who am I?'. The thought 'Who am I?', having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre. Then Self-realization will take place. When the thought 'I' subsides, the breath also subsides. From where the ego originates, from there alone the breath originates. Whatever one does, one ahould do without 'I', the ego. If one does thus, even one's wife will appear as Jagadiswari (the Mother of the Universe). Whoever sacrifices himself to Self, who is God, alone is the true devotee.

3Though Sri Bhagavan here refers to Self as the 'seer' (drik) it should not be thought that Self is really a seer of objects, for in truth all objects are seen only by the mind or ego. Self is described in scriptures as the seer (drik) because it is only by the light of Self that all things are seen. But as Sri Bhagavan explains in chapter 3 of Vichara Sangraham, since the word 'seer' (drik) is applicable only in relation to the objects seen (drisya), and since the objects seen are not other than Self, Self is in truth not a seer. Therefore the use of the word 'seer' in the present context should be understood to be figurative and not literal. It may also be noted here that when Sri Bhagavan rewrote Nan Yar? in the form of an essay, He omitted the words drik and drisya from this portion so as to avoid giving rise to a possible misunderstanding.

9. Are there no other means by which the mind will subside?

Other than enquiry (vichara), there is no adequate means. If made to subside by other means, the mind will remain as if subsided but will rise again.

10. Tendencies towards sense-objects (vishaya-vasanas) rise in countless numbers like waves in the ocean. When will they all be removed?

As Self-attention (swarupa-dhyana) becomes more and more intense, all the tendencies will subside.

11. Is it possible to remove all the tendencies towards sense-objects, which have been continuing from the ancient past, and to remain as Self alone?

Without giving room even to the doubting thought 'Is it possible or not?' one should steadfastly cling to Self-attention. If one thus goes on scrutinizing the nature of the mind, the mind will finally remain as Self.

12. For how long is this enquiry necessary?

As long as there are tendencies towards sense-objects in the mind, so long is the enquiry 'Who am I?' necessary. As long as there are enemies in the fort, they will continue to come out. If one continues to cut them down as and when they come, the fort will fall into one's hands. Likewise, as and when thoughts rise, then and there one should annihilate them through knowledge born of enquiry (vichara-jnana). Destroying in their very source all thoughts that rise, without leaving even a single one, is desirelessness (vairagya). Until one attains Self, one should not give up enquiry.

13. Are not all these the will of God (iswara)?

Just as by the mere presence of the sun, which rises without desire (iccha), intention (sankalpa) or effort (yatnam), the sun-stone (the magnifying lens) emits fire, the lotus blossoms, water evaporates and people begin, perform and stop their activities, and just as in front of a magnet the needle moves, so the souls (jivas) -- who are governed by the three divine functions or five divine functions (panchakritays)4, which take place due to the mere influence of the presence of God, who is without intention (sankalpa) -- perform and stop activities in accordance with their respective karmas5. Nevertheless, He (God) is not one who has intention (sankalpa); not even a single action (karma) will affect (literally, approach or adhere to) Him. That is like the actions in the world not affecting the sun, and like the good and bad qualities of the other four elements (namely earth, water, air and fire) not affectting the all-pervading space (the fifth element).

* * * * * * * *

Since in 1923 very few works containing the original teachings of Sri Bhagavan had come into existence, this brief appendix and the above mentioned lines 37 to 73 of Anugraha Ahaval created such a stir of interest among the Tamii devotees of Sri Bhagavan that Pillaiyavargal was soon prevailed upon to edit a more detailed record of the teachings he received from Sri Bhagavan in 1902, and thus an enlarged version of Nan Yar? came to be published as a separate booklet containing thirty questions and answers. Soon afterwards, sometime around the year 1927, Sri Bhagavan himself rewrote these thirty questions and answers in the form of an essay, which is now included in Sri Ramana Nutrirattu.

After receiving these teachings in 1902, Pillaiyavargal was convinced that Sri Bhagavan was God in human form, and firmly believing that to have the darshan of such a great Jnani was the best of all spiritual practices, he began to visit Him once a month. For some years he continued thus, but as time went by he began to find his job to be an obstacle to ceaseless Self-enquiry, and so he submitted his resignation. Knowing his good qualities and character, however, his superior officer, who was an Englishman, did not accept his resignation. Taking this to be the divine will, for some more time Pillaiyavargal continued his job, but in a detached and disinterested manner. In the meanwhile his wife and only son passed away. This strengthened his vairagya, and knowing the body to be impermanent, he decided that he should not waste the precious days of his life but should dedicate all his time to following the path of Self-enquiry taught by his divine Guru. Therefore in 1910 he again submitted his resignation after giving the requisite prior notice to his employer.

4 According to the different classifications given in scriptures, the divine functions are said to be three, namely creation (srishti), sustenance (sthiti) and destruction (samhara), or five, namely these three plus veiling (tirodhana) and Grace (anugraha).

5 That is, in accordance not only with their destiny (prarabdha karma) but also with their former tendencies towards action (purva karma vasanas).

6 This last answer was written by Sri Bhagavan on a slate and was immediately copied verbatim by Pillaiyavargal in his notebook, whereas most of the other answers were recorded by him later from memory.

One of the reasons which prompted him to take this decisive step was as follows: In Sri Bhagavan's Presence he would sometimes effortlessly and spontaneously experience a state in which all movements of the body and mind were stilled, and he also sometimes used to experience the same state even when sincerely attending to his official work. At such times he would automatically forget the surroundings and his mind would turn Selfwards. Referring to this state, which he understood to be the result of Sri Bhagavan's power of Grace, in lines 75 to 79 of Anugraha Ahaval he sings, "Subduing all my karmas (mind, intellect, senses, etc.) by Your power, absorbing me within this body as the form of mere consciousness, You graciously taught me the path of enquiry".

After resigning his job, Pillaiyavargal came to Tiruvannamalai and informed Sri Bhagavan, whereupon Sri Bhagavan quoted verse 341 of Tirukkural, "From whatever one has withdrawn oneself, from that one will experience no suffering". Taking this to be Sri Bhagavan's approval of his resignation, Pillaiyavargal returned to his village to practise Self-enquiry earnestly and unceasingly.

By Michael James

Part 2 of 2, The Mountain Path, April, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 1988

However, after some time Pillaiyavargal found that his attempts to practise Self-enquiry unceasingly were being obstructed by the lustful desires which began burning him. Unable to overcome this problem even by praying inwardly to his Guru, and bearing in mind both the Vedic injunction cited in Kaivalya Navaneetam 2.75, "If you are afflicted with lust, embrace your wife", and the words of Sri Bhagavan, "Marriage is a means to remove the sense of difference between woman and man"1, he decided that he should marry once again. But many obstacles stood in the way of his carrying out this decision, not least of all being his financially unsound status, and thus his mind was placed in a state of dilemma. Finally in April 1913 he decided to appeal to the Almighty, and hence he wrote four questions on a paper, "What am I to do to escape all miseries in this world? Should I marry the girl I have in mind? If I should not, why not? If I should, how to acquire the necessary money for that'?", and humbly placed the paper at the Feet of Lord Vinayakar in his village temple, with the prayer that the answers should either be written on the paper or imparted directly. He also mentally promised that if the answers were vouchsafed to him during that night, he would abide by them steadfastly, but that if no answers were forthcoming, he would seek the guidance of Sri Bhagavan in Tiruvannamalai.

These words of Sri Bhagavan are cited by Pillaiyavargal in verse 31 of Sri Ramana Pada Malai (see The Mountain Path, April 1972, p. 91). Anugraha Ahaual, lines 139-145 (in Tamil) .

Though Pillaiyavargal waited all night in patient expectation, no answers were vouchsafed to' him, and hence he started at once for Tiruvannamalai. Hesitating to broach openly the subject he had in mind with Sri Bhagavan, he sat quietly in His Presence for several days. As he observed the detached life lived by Sri Bhagavan, through example Sri Bhagavan silently impressed upon him that "not desiring anything, making the expanding mind subside, attending to Self and abiding as Self is alone the good path to attain what is beneficial"3. Thus Pillaiyavargal was made to feel that it would be base -minded on his part to ask Sri Bhagavan questions about such petty matters as marriage and money, and hence he decided to return to his village without asking any questions.

After deciding thus, but before he could start for his village, Pillaiyavargal had several visions of Sri Bhagavan occurring over a period of a few days, both in waking and dream. These visions, which he has described in lines 156 to 200 of Anugraha Ahaval4, made a powerful impression upon his mind, and as a result he felt completely relieved of his problems and of the desire to marry again. The thought of returning to his village also vanished from his mind, and thus he remained in Sri Bhagavan's Presence for some more days. Since on an earlier occasion Sri Bhagavan had once told him, "Eating when hunger comes by begging food from house to house is an aid to destroy the ego", Pillaiyavargal one day had his head shaved clean and came and prostrated to Sri Bhagavan, with the idea of going out to beg his food and at a later stage to take to a life of complete outward renunciation. Sri Bhagavan at once understood what Pillaiyavargal had in mind, but either due to His knowing the lot destiny had in store for him, or due to a compassionate feeling that he should not suffer in future by living only upon alms, Sri Bhagavan looked at him and said, "It is good to grow a tuft 5, and after a pause, "One can practise Self -enquiry while remaining at home".

Soon after this incident, Pillaiyavargal's maternal aunt came to Tiruvannamalai, having noticed his prolonged absence from home. When she informed Sri Bhagavan that she wished to take Pillaiyavargal back home, He readily gave his consent. Writing about this, Sri Manikkam Pillai infers that since Sri Bhagavan was not in favour of Pillaiyavargal taking to a life of complete outward renunciation, it was by His divine Grace that at the same time a thought was kindled in the mind of his aunt to take him back home. Understanding that it was the will of Sri Bhagavan that he should return home, Pillaiyavargal left Tiruvannamalai along with his aunt. From that time onwards he began to live a life of solitude in a Vinayaka temple on the outskirts of his village or in the nearby woods, and he devoted his time exclusively to the practice of Self -enquiry.

Anugraha Ahaval, lines 150-152.
An account of these visions in English may also be found in Self-Realisation, 7th ed., pp. 79-80.
These words of Sri Bhagavan are referred to by Pillaiyavargal in verse 15 of Sri Ramana Deva Malai. According to traditional Hindu customs, having a tuft of hair is the sign of being a householder, whereas shaving off the tuft is the sign of being a renunciant, and hence a person with a tuft would not go begging for alms. Sri Sivaprakasa Charitamum Malaiyum, pp. 14-15.

After some time, however, a change began to take place in his outward behaviour. Sometimes for no apparent reason he would suddenly start laughing with irrepressible joy; he would often chant Tiruvachakam and other hymns in a loud voice; he would pay obeisance with folded hands to all forms he saw; and he began wearing only a loin-cloth with a vibhuti bag tucked into it, he smeared his whole body with ashes, he carried a long staff, he forgot all codes (acharas) of caste and religion, and without any sense of difference he began frequenting places such as the cremation ground and the cheri (the area inhabited by the lowest castes). During this period he made a barefoot pilgrimage to the temple of Lord Murugar at Vayalur, near Tiruchirapalli. When he saw the form of Lord Murugar in that temple, it appeared to him that the spear in the Lord's hand was moving. Deeply moved on seeing this, tears welled forth from the eyes, and with great devotion he sang the praises of the Lord. While returning home, he readily accepted and ate stale gruel and other sour food from anyone who offered it. As a result of his walking such a long distance every day, his feet began bleeding, but nevertheless he continued to hobble on slowly. One night, while he was sleeping in a public resting-house, someone stole his upper cloth. Since his loin-cloth became covered with fine red dust due to his walking along the mud roads, it appeared like the ochre cloth of a sannyasi. With a long staff in hand and wearing only a dust-covered loin-cloth, when he turned to his village he appeared like an image of Lord Murugar Himself. Since he was formerly having a desire to be a sannyasi, it was perhaps by divine Grace that during this period of his life that desire was temporarily fulfilled in this manner.

Soon after his return from Vayalur, Pillaiyavargal regained his normal state and with increased vairagya he continued his steady and persevering practice of Self-enquiry, and for some time he also observed outward mouna. From that time onwards, little change was seen in his outward life. For many years he would unfailingly visit Tiruvannamalai three or four times a year and would stay each time for ten or fifteen days in the Presence of Sri Bhagavan. Except for these visits to Tirunvannamalai, he seldom stirred out of his village. Since the time he returned from Tiruvannamalai in May 1913, all his material needs were taken care of by his brother, Sri Kunjithapadam Pillai and the latter's wife, both of whom served him with great love and devotion. A fellow villager, Sri Mu. Manikkam Pillai, became attached to Pillaiyavargal from the early days, and attended on him as a devoted disciple for more than thirty years.

Such was the respect with which the local people regarded Pillaiyavargal that some years after his return from Vayalur he received an honorary appointment as a juror in the Manjakuppam Sessions Court. Saddened by this unexpected turn of events, he composed four venbas in which he prayed to Sri Bhagavan and asked, "Do you think it justice to think of sending me to a court of justice ?"7 However, understanding that such work came only according to prarabdha and was to be experienced with a detached attitude free of likes and dislikes, for some years he served as a juror whenever he was called upon to do so. In a similar manner, on another occasion he was called upon to render honorary service in connection with the local census. Since he was well known for his impartiality and sense of justice, local people used to come to him for advice and guidance in matters concerning court cases and disputes about the ownership of land or houses, and he always gave his help without expecting any return. Since his advice on such matters and on other personal problems invariably turned out to be correct, many people came to regard his words as daiva vak or divine utterances. He also used to explain the meaning of spiritual texts in Tamil to all who came to him seeking clarification.

These four venbas are printed on pp. 22 - 23 of Sri Sivaprakasa Charitamum Malaiyum.

Pillaiyavargal continued to visit Tiruvannamalai up to the year 1947, though in the later years due to old age he was not able to visit as frequently as before. Once, while feeling depressed at his inability to visit Sri Bhagavan more frequently, he consoled himself by composing a Tamil verse which means: "Without understanding what Ramana-darsanam really is, why are you disconsolate longing for Ramana-darsanam? Ramana-swarupa is itself my own swarupa, (and hence) Ramana-darsanam is only my knowing myself."

During his many visits to Sri Bhagavan, especially in the early years, Pillaiyavargal received from Him many upadesas, some of which were of a general nature and some of which were very personal. Many of the more striking of these upadesas have been recorded by him in his poems Sri Ramana Pada Malai, Sri Ramana Sadguru Malai and Sri Ramana Deva Malai. In these poems, and also in his Vinnappam, he repeatedly prays for the Grace of Sri Bhagavan, expressing his own inability to follow the upadesas given by Him. However, on reading his prayers, we should not feel dejected thinking "If even he could not follow Sri Bhagavan's teachings, what hope is there for us?". When we feel our inability to follow the Guru's teachings, that is in fact the working of the Guru's grace, because as Sri Bhagavan says in verse 794 of Guru Vachaka Kovai, ''The fruit of (the Guru's) making a failure of one's efforts is to induce one to seek the Grace of the Guru by making one understand that the attainment of Self-knowledge) cannot be achieved by one's own efforts but only by the Guru's Grace." Although Pillaiyavargal must often have felt (as does any other sincere sadhaka) his inability to follow Sri Bhagavan's teachings, the fact that he prayed so earnestly for Sri Bhagavan's Grace shows that he was gaining the real fruit of his repeated efforts, which were only seemingly unsuccessful. Moreover, when a devotee once asked Sri Bhagavan, "Sivaprakasam Pillai, who is such a good man, such an ardent devotee and a longstanding disciple, has written a poem saying that Sri Bhagavan's instructions could not be carried out by him effectively in practice. What can be the lot of others then?" Sri Bhagavan replied "Sri Acharya (Sri Adi Sankara) also says similar things when he composes songs in praise of any deity. How else can they praise God?". That is, if one adopts the jiva bhava (the attitude of being an individual soul) and praises God, one cannot but sing of the limitation and short-comings of one's individual existence, as can be seen even from the Hymns sung by Sri Bhagavan Himself in praise of Arunachala.

Moreover, the fact that Pillaiyavargal finally achieved the goal of Self-knowledge for which he so earnestly strove and prayed, was subtly indicated by Sri Bhagavan Himself. That is, after Pillaiyavargal passed away on Tuesday the 12th January 1948, a telegram was sent to Sri Bhagavan conveying the news, and on seeing the telgram Sri Bhagavan said in Tamil, "Sivaprakasam Sivaprakasamanar" which means 'Sivaprakasam has become Siva-Prakasam, the light of Siva'.