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April - June 2024

Insights from Aksharamanamalai by Padma Kaushik

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s Aksharamanamalai – அக்ஷர மணமாலை – is the magnum opus among all his great works. It is considered to be the essence of Vedanta which helps us move inwards towards the source and attain self- realisation. In other words, we are not the body we possess but the Atman that is eternal and ever-glowing within each one of us. Aksharamanamalai is the bridal garland of verses Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi offers t o Lord Arunachala. The word Aksharamanamalai can be interpreted as “Fragrance of divine self-experience” in its deeper meaning. It also means marriage between Jivatma (mind) and Paramatma (Lord residing in the centre, heart). It has 108 verses written originally in Tamil and includes important Vedanta lessons that will enable us to realise the supreme truth, Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness- Bliss). Bhagavan mentions that Arunachala had a magnetic force- காந்தம் இரும்பு போல- that pulled him from Thiruchuzhi, Madurai to Tiruvannamalai and he never moved out Tiruvannamalai town after that until his mahasamadhi. Let us now deep dive into these lessons imparted via Akshara manamalai.

Giving up ego

When we perform any action, the act of associating the action or fruit of action to oneself is ego or ‘I’. Ego is the obstacle to attain spiritual progress. Inside everyone of us, ego arises as the ‘I’ thought and this causes greed, anger, lust and more. It is the trick of maya that we are attached to this ‘I’ thought and run towards worldly pleasures. Bhagavan in verse 7 of Aksharamanamalai prays to Arunachala to reside strong within one’s heart so that we are not affected by materialistic desires triggered by senses.

“Unaiye matri odathu ulattinmel

Urutiyai iruppai arunachala”

உனையே மாற்றி யோடா துளத்தின்மே
லுறுதியா யிருப்பா யருணாசலா

The state of ego keeps us away from God and this is the cause of all troubles in our lives. Atma Vicharam or Self-enquiry – Who am I? is Bhagavan’s important Advaitic teaching which allows us to move towards self- liberation and understand the mindless, bodiless, egoless state that exists at the centre. It i s believed that Paramatman resides at the centre who is ever-glowing and full of radiance. As soon as the ‘I’ thought starts to cease, we perceive everyone equally and this is fundamental to Advaita Jnana. Bhagavan’s sublime teaching is that the thought ‘who am I?’ will remove all other thoughts and like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre, it will be burnt up in the end. Then, there will be attainment of Self-realization. When other thoughts arise, we should not pursue them but should inquire ‘To whom do they occur?’. The mind must merge with the source or ‘chit’ to attain this superior state. In the very first verse, Bhagavan reiterates the merging of Jivatma & Paramatma and thus, ego will be annihilated by Arunachala himself.

“Arunachalam ena agame ninaippavar

Agathai veraruppai arunachala”

அருணா சலமென வகமே நினைப்பவ
ரகத்தைவே ரறுப்பா யருணாசலா

In Verse 95 of Aksharamanamalai Bhagavan mentions, “The moment you entered my heart, I lost my ego and individuality”.

“Vaven rakampukkun valvaru lanreyen

Valvilanten arul arunachala”

வாவென் றகம்புக்குன் வாழ்வரு ளன்றேயென்
வாழ்விழந் தேனரு ளருணாசலா

Let us take an example from our daily lives. When we perform any pooja, we should totally remove the “I” thought i.e. “I am performing this pooja to God”. It has to be a meditative process where we become one with God himself during the process. Giving up ego results in removal of doership and enjoyership.

Conquering the mind & senses

Conquering the six inner enemies or Shadripu, namely kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), madha (pride) , matsarya (jealousy) is essential to attainment of God; these reside in each of us in our own body and arise from our continuous attachment to mundane objects. These bind the Atma to the infinite cycle of birth and death. These shadripus overpower the critical and discriminating ability of our intellect (Buddhi) due to which we forget the actual purpose of our lives. And, why are these shadripus there? To rob us of the Jnana-Ratna, the precious gem of spiritual wisdom or atma-jnana and deprive us of Self-awareness. Conquest of the mind is possible by reducing the worldly desires. Therefore, abandon all desires through dispassion and meditation on the ever luminous Brahman.

The normal tendency for humans is to perceive everything by seeing with external eyes. There is a popular example in Vedanta i.e. mistaking rope for a snake in twilight. We are deceived by maya and we need the Atma jnana, the Light to realise the highest truth. Bhagavan in one of his verses prays to Arunchala to bestow his grace so that external pleasures become insignificant before the beauty of Arunachala.

Bhagavan says that “When the mind does not wander in the least through any of the senses which causes misery and when the mind remains subsided like a stormy ocean becoming calm, that is jnana. Just as the sun is not visible in the densely clouded sky, one’s Self cannot be seen in a mind-sky which is darkened by a dense cloud of thoughts.” The more the mind is withdrawn from the worldly pleasures, the more it starts to move towards the realm of Atman. A well-directed mind is fundamental to the journey of Atma jnana. It will become our guide or Guru and give us directions to move on the right path.

Practising Atma Vichara

Meditation is an effective and proven mechanism to control the mind and helps in Atma Vichara. Traversing back to the source from which thought arises is an important step in Atma Vichara. “Where does this ‘I’ thought arise from?” is the question to be analysed by each one of us. The search for Atman is to know that which is really Atman. Bhagavan on one occasion mentions that when a person becomes ripe and ready to realise, Self appears in the form of Guru and gives upadesa that pushes him inwards towards the source where the effulgent Atman is ever-glowing. Later, the Self becomes the Guru which pulls him to the centre giving him the highest experience, Sat-chit-ananda.

In the verse below of Aksharamanamalai, Bhagavan prays “O! Arunachala, without asking me to remain quiet, you remained quiet yourself, signalling the message of silence.”

“Sollatu sollini sollara nillenru

Summa iruntai arunachala”

சொல்லாது சொலிநீ சொல்லற நில்லென்று
சும்மா விருந்தா யருணாசலா

In verse 31, Bhagavan prays to Arunachala, “In the ocean of bliss that flows through my heart, where mind and feelings all subside, O Arunachala, please come and remain there silently”.

“Sugakadal ponka sollunar vatanka

Summa poruntitank arunachala”

சுகக்கடல் பொங்கச் சொல்லுணர் வடங்கச்
சும்மா பொருந்திடங் கருணாசலா

In another verse, Bhagavan asks Arunachala to be the eye of the eye of the mind (kannukku kannai) which essentially means illuminating the mind through his grace.

We need to be keenly self-attentive in order to focus on the very source of light that is ever illuminating within. We should be careful in avoiding any deviation that occurs due to maya or vasanas (latent tendencies) during the process of Atma Vichara. When the mind is turned inward, Bhagavan urges us to understand who we really are, the pure conscious self-being. This process of Atma Vichara should be practised sincerely by each one of us everyday. It is the stillness that you experience when the mind stops, it is accepting who you really are and accepting what you are not. It is that which gives you the blissful feeling and conviction that infinite awareness alone exists.


Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, the Self shines forth within us. It is necessary to give up the ego by the conquest of mind & senses. Regular meditation or Atma Vichara helps us to achieve a thoughtless state and progress in the path to attain self realisation & ultimately liberation or moksha. Following a regular spiritual sadhana such as sathsang, namasankeerthana, mantra japa, parayana is helpful to lead a disciplined spiritual journey and eventually realise the supreme truth, Brahman.

Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva,

Arunachala Siva, Arunachala

Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva,

Arunachala Siva, Arunachala