Upadesa Saram

(The Essence of Instruction)

(Translated by B.V.NARASIMASWAMI)

There is a legend that a group of rishis once lived in the Daruka forest together, practising rites by which they acquired supernatural powers. By the same means they hoped to attain final liberation. In this, however, they were mistaken, for action can only result in action, not in the cessation of action; rites can produce powers but not the peace of liberation which is beyond rites and powers and all forms of action. Siva determined to convince them of their error and therefore appeared before them as a wandering sadhu. Together with him came Vishnu in the form of a beautiful lady. All the rishis were smitten with love for this lady and thereby their equilibrium was disturbed and their rites and powers were adversely affected. Moreover their wives, who were also living with them in the forest, all fell in love with the strange sadhu. Incensed at this, they conjured up an elephant and a tiger by magic rites and sent them against him. Siva, however, slew them easily and took the elephant's skin for a robe and the tiger's for a wrap. The rishis then realized that they were up against one more powerful than themselves and they bowed down to him and asked him for instruction. He then explained to them that it is not by action but by renunciation of action that one attains liberation.

The poet Muruganar wanted to write a hundred verses on this theme but he could not readily proceed beyond seventy verses. It then occurred to him that Bhagavan was the proper person to write the verses relating to Siva's instructions. He therefore begged Bhagavan to compose them and Bhagavan accordingly composed thirty Tamil verses. He himself later rendered them into Sanskrit. These thirty verses were subsequently translated by Bhagavan into Telugu under the name of Anubhuti Saram first, and Upadesa Saram afterwards. Bhagavan likewise rendered them into Malayalam. The Sanskrit version, Upadesa Saram, was chanted before him daily together with the Vedas and continues to be chanted before his shrine; that is to say, it is treated as a scripture. He refers to the various paths to liberation, grading them in order of efficiency and excellence, and showing that the best is Self-enquiry.


kartur ajnaya prapyate phalam
karma kim param karma taj-jadam
Karma must ever yield its proper fruit,
For thus it is ordained by God, Himself,
Supreme Creator. Then is Karma God?
No, for it is itself insentient.

krti-mahodadhau patana-karanam
phalam asasvatam gati-nirodhakam
Of Karma the results must pass away,
Yet it leaves seeds which in their turn will sprout
And throw the actor back into the flood
Of Karma’s ocean. Karma cannot save.

isvararpitam necchaya krtam
citta-sodhakam mukti-sadhakam
But acts performed without attachment’s urge
And solely for the service of the Lord
Will cleanse the mind and indicate the way
Which leads at length unto the final goal.

kaya-vak-manah karyam uttamam
pujanam japas cintanam kramat
Worship, reciting of God’s Holy Name,
And meditation, mainly are performed
By body, voice and mind, and they excel
Each other in the order here set down.

jagata isadhi-yukta-sevanam
If we but recognise this Universe
Of eightfold form as form of God, Himself,
And serve in adoration all the world.
This is of God most excellent worship.

uttama-stavad ucca-mandatah
cittajam japa-dhyanam uttamam
Constant repeating of the Holy Name
Is more than praise, at length the voice will sink
To silent repetition in the Heart,
And in this way is meditation learnt.

ajya-dharaya srotasa samam
sarala-cintanam viralatah param
Better than meditation that recurs
In broken fits and starts is that which is
A steady ceaseless flow, like to the course
Of falling oil or a perennial stream.

bheda-bhavanat so’ham ity asau
bhavana' bhida pavani mata
Worship of God as in no way distinct
From him who worships, or in other words
Thinking that “He is I”, is better far
Than any other kind of worshipping.

bhavana-balad bhaktir uttama
To rest in the Real Being, that transcends
Our every thought, by reason of the strength
Of our devotion to some thing conceived;
This of supreme devotion is the truth.

hrt-sthale manah-svasthata kriya
bhakti-yoga-bodhasca niscitam
To be absorbed again into one’s Source (Heart)
Is Karma, Bhakti, Yoga, Jnanam, all
These things in truth. Or put in other words
Good works, Devotion, Union, Gnosis, too.

vayu-rodhanal liyate manah
jala-paksivat rodha-sadhanam
As by the fowler birds are caught in nets
So by the holding of the breath within
The mind can be restrained. This a device
That will effect absorption of the mind.

citta-vayavas cit-kriyayutah
sakhayor dvayi sakti-mulaka
For mind and life expressed in thought and act,
That is with thought and action as their function,
Diverge and branch like two boughs of a tree,
But both of them spring from one single stem.

laya-vinasane ubhaya-rodhane
laya-gatam punar bhavati no mrtam
Suppression of the mind in two ways comes,
Absorption and extinction; mind absorbed
Will live again, but mind which is destroyed
Will never more revive, for it is dead.

prana-bandhanal lina-manasam
eka-cintanan nasam etyadah
When, by the means of restraint of the breath,
The mind has been controlled, then make it flow
Along a single current, that achieved
Its form will then entirely disappear.

krtyam asti kim svasthitim yatah
For the Great Sage for whom all form of mind
Has disappeared and who is ever one
With the Reality, there is no Karma more,
For He, indeed, the True Self has become.

drsya-varitam cittam atmanah
cittva-darsanam tattva-darsanam
When mind has given the sense-objects up
Which are external and has drawn within,
And has perceived its own refulgent form,
Then verily alone True Gnosis is.

manasam tu kim margane krte
naiva manasam marga arjavat
When pondering with constant vigilance
Upon the actual nature of the mind
One finds that there is no such thing as mind;
This, of a truth, is the straight course for all.

vrttayas tvaham vrttim asritah
vrttayo mano viddhy aham manah
The mind is nothing but a lot of thoughts,
Of all these many thoughts ‘tis the thought ‘I’
That is the root. So we can see by that
The mind in truth is only the thought ‘I’.

aham ayam kuto bhavati cinvatah
ayi pataty-aham nija-vicaranam
Whence, therefore, does this ‘I-thought’ have its birth?
With vigilant and ever active mind
Seek this, and crestfallen the ‘I’ becomes.
The search, itself, the quest of Wisdom is.

ahami nasabhajy-aham-ahamtaya
sphurati hrt svayam parama-purna-sat
This search pursued till ‘I’ has disappeared
There now vibrates the ‘I-I’ all alone,
The quest is finished, there’s no more to seek.
For this is really the Infinite Self.

idam aham pada’bhikhyam anvaham
ahami linake' py alaya-sattaya
This is eternally the true import
Of the term ‘I’. For in the deepest sleep
We do not cease to be. We still exist
Even though here there is no sense of ‘I’.
naham eka-sat tajjadam hyasat
As I am pure Existence, I am not
The body nor the senses, mind nor life,
Nor even ignorance, for all these things
Are quite insentient and so unreal.

sattva-bhasika cit kvavetara
sattaya hi cic-cittaya hy aham
As there is not a second consciousness
To know Existence, it must follow that
Existence is itself that consciousness;
So I myself am that same consciousness.

isa-jivayor vesa-dhi-bhida
sat-svabhavato vastu kevalam
In their real nature as Existence both
Creatures and the Creator are the same,
The Unique Principle. In attributes
And knowledge only is a difference found.

vesa-hanatah svatma-darsanam
isa-darsanam svatma-rupatah
Realization of the Self alone,
Eliminating all its attributes;
Is God-Realization of a truth,
As it is He that shines forth as the Self.

atma-samsthitih svatma-darsanam
atma-nirdvayad atma-nisthata
To be the Self that is to know the Self,
As there is no duality in Self.
This is Thanmaya-Nistha, or the state
Of absolutely being That in truth.

jnana-varjita ' jnana-hina-cit
jnanam asti kim jnatum antaram
That knowledge is true knowledge which transcends
Knowledge and ignorance both equally.
And this alone is truth. For there is no
Subject or object there that can be known.

kim svarupam ity atma-darsane
avyaya' bhava’ ‘purna-cit sukham
If one can only realize at Heart
What one’s true nature is, one then will find
That ‘tis Infinite Wisdom, Truth and Bliss,
Without beginning and without an end.

bandha-mukty-atitam param sukham
vindatiha jivas tu daivikah
Remaining in this state of Supreme Bliss,
Devoid of bondage and of freedom too,
Is found to be a state in which one is
Rapt in perpetual service of the Lord.

aham apetakam nija-vibhanakam
mahad idam tapo ramana-vagiyam
By ardent quest and shedding ego’s veil
Realize the Self, the One that’s ego-less,
And function thus; the sole right penance this.
So teaches Bhagavan Sri Ramana,  Who is the SELF of everything that is.