My Lord, cur that I was, none of my entreaties went
in vain as you composed at my request many verses
in various meters, according to classical rules,
with such ease, as if you were playing a game.
Moreover, to fulfil my wish you also composed a
song called Atma Vidya Keerthanam
[The Song of Self Knowledge]. Praise
be to you!
The company of rishis [in the Dharuka
forest] had become blind, like owls in the
daylight, in the presence of the non-dual sun of
true knowledge. With their inner eye of grace
obscured, they followed the path shown by the dark
ego [declaring that there was no God other than
karma]. It was then that you appeared before
them, destroyed their arrogance, and taught them
how to know reality. These instructions that you
gave them then, you later reiterated to us your
devotees in the form of a series of explanatory
verses [Upadesa Undiyar]. Praise be
Not stopping at that, when I further asked you,
"Please tell me how the bondage of birth and death
may be severed for me, your devotee," you gave to
us the divine work Ulladu Narpadu that
clearly reveals the means by which the bond of the
false ego may be severed and reality shine as the
"Desire itself is birth, and desire's extinction is
liberation, where bliss supreme surges ever
unabated!" Praise be to you who, as my Guru, came
to rule my entire clan, and from whose mouth these
words of grace flowered!
This is an idea that can be traced back to verse
361 of the Tirukkural, a work that Muruganar
was particularly fond of: "Desire, they say, is the
seed that engenders unceasing birth to all jivas at
Muruganar himself expanded on this idea in lines
242-43 of Ramana Puranam, the first poem of
Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai: "...desire became
the seed that engendered the never-ending
succession of births, bringing into existence the
great and evil tree that is the illusion of birth
Praise be to you who declared: "Cling firmly to
That which clings to nothing, so that a firm
attachment [to That] ensues."
This particular upadesa from Bhagavan was
recorded in a more expanded form in
Padamalai, p. 78:
123. Hold onto the path of
holding onto the one who has no attachments. By
holding onto this path of holding on, you rid
yourself of [those attachments] that hold
you to the world.
124. By holding tightly to the
one who has no attachments, your attachment to the
non-Self will go away. When that [attachment to
the non-Self] has gone, holding on tightly to
the one who has no attachments will also cease, and
all attachments will come to an end.
Praise be to you who merged me into
consciousness' expanse with these golden words:
"Apart from you there is no world; those
co-dependent entities, God and the jiva, both are
not! Accordingly you are yourself the undivided
Praise be to you who stated: "The world, the jiva
and God, whilst apparently existing, are simply
thought forms, nothing more!"
Muruganar revised this poem after its first
publication and the current version in the Tamil
edition of Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai is not
the final draft. In Sri Ramana Jnana Bodham,
volume nine, p. 373, Muruganar wrote that lines
seventy-five to ninety-eight of the published work
should be replaced by the following lines. Since
Muruganar asked that they be inserted at this
point, we have numbered them 75a-101a to
distinguish them from the lines that are printed in
Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai.
"The place where ullal [thought] arises and
subsides is ullam [the Heart]." Thus you
gave out the meaning of ullam. Praise be to
These two lines and the lines that follow are an
expansion on and an explanation of the first
invocatory verse of Ulladu Narpadu. Since
this verse is an extensive play on the Tamil
syllable "ul", which is the root form of a verb
meaning "to be", the original Tamil words that
contain this syllable have been retained.
This is what Prof. K. Swaminathan wrote about this
The first stanza, woven out of pure Tamil words, is
an emphatic assertion of the oneness of being,
awareness and the Heart. It dwells lovingly on the
Tamil root "ul" common to being, thinking, heart
and inner space, all associated with indivisible
oneness and wholeness. The verb "ul" [to
be] which admits of no past or future tense, is
repeated eight times, the word "ullam" [the
heart] thrice, "ullu" [to think]
thrice, and "unarvu" [feeling] twice; thus
the "venba" as a whole, through sound, suggestion
and explicit statement, pulls the mind inward to
the very heart of being-awareness.
[Ramana Maharshi, K. Swaminathan, p.
You declared: "Since ulladu [reality]
exists in ullam [the Heart] ulladu
[reality] itself may be said to be ullam
[the Heart]." Praise be to you!
Ulladu, translated here as "reality", is a
combination of the syllables "ulla" meaning "is"
and "adu" meaning "that". A more literal
translation would therefore be "that-which- is".
Ulladu Narpadu [narpadu means
"forty"] could therefore be literally
translated as "Forty [on]
You also declared: "As the experience nam ullam
[we are] exists [there], it can be
termed ullam [the Heart]."
In addition to meaning "the Heart", ullam is
also the first person plural form of the verb "to
be": "we are". Muruganar has commented on this
combination of meanings in an explanatory note he
wrote on verse 966 of Guru Vachaka Kovai:
The one reality, Atma-swarupa, exists and shines
in the Heart, one without a second. Appearing as if
it is many, it shines as "I-I" in every individual
being, who seem to be many because of upadhis
[limiting ideas and associations].
Therefore, the plural term ullam [meaning]
"we are" is appropriate. Because the Heart is the
place for the existing and shining of the
Atma-swarupa, in Tamil the Heart is known as ullam.
The word ullam here gives both meanings
simultaneously. [Padamalai, p.
Though, in modern Tamil, the "am" suffix in
ullam indicates the first person plural ["we
are"], in older Tamil ullam could also be taken
to be the singular form, "am" or "I am". Thus
ullam, serendipitously, can be taken to be both "I
am" and "the Heart". Sadhu Om made this connection
in his comment on verse 712 of Guru Vachaka
Kovai: "Since the Tamil word "ullam", which
means "Heart", also means "am" the shining
of the Reality, "I" the Reality is called by
the name "ullam". [Sadhu Om's translation was
first published in September 2005]
You declared: "Ullaporul that which
exists], which gets the name "ullam", is not a
thought form." Praise be to you!
Here is a transliteration of the first benedictory
verse, split into its component words, followed by
an English translation. The "ul" syllables have
been highlighted in bold:
ulladu aladu ulla unarvu
ullaporul ullal ara ullatte
ullataal ullam enum
ullaporul ullal evan ullatte
ullade ullal unar
Could there be a being-consciousness existing
apart from that which [eternally] is? Since
that reality exists in the Heart, free of thought,
who could meditate upon that reality, called the
Heart? Know that to remain within the Heart, as it
is, is truly to meditate [upon the
The "ul" sounds listed here are pronounced with the
tongue bent back, with the underside of its tip
touching the top of the palate, not the back of the
teeth. This gives the sound a strong nasal
component. When the verse is chanted, the repeated
nasal "ul" sounds punctuate the verse as a
leitmotiv, repeatedly emphasising its principal
theme that being is both the fundamental nature of
the Self and the means by which it can be
With its elegant play on the syllable "ul" and its
strict metrical form, the first invocatory verse is
now widely regarded as being a literary tour de
force. The following appreciative comments,
recorded by Kunju Swami, come from a distinguished
Once, while going on a pilgrimage, I [Kunju
Swami] visited various maths before ending up
at Peraiyur Santhalinga Math. At that time
Veerasubbia Swamigal was resting there because he
was not well. When I went and had his darshan, he
made kind enquiries about the welfare of Sri
Bhagavan and the ashram in general. He also looked
into the notebook I had with me. Seeing in it the
verses of Ulladu Narpadu written beautifully
by Sri Bhagavan himself, he asked me to read them
out to him. He appreciated the first benedictory
verse so much, he asked me to read it three
After the third reading he remarked, "This is a
very profound verse. Not only that, all the elegant
features of prosody are in it. Until now I was
under the impression that your swami was an adept
only in "keeping still", but now I discover that he
is also a superb writer of fine poetry. The venba
is itself a difficult metre that few poets dare
attempt. Bhagavan has composed all forty-two verses
in this metre and used them to convey the most
abstruse philosophical ideas. Crowing them all,
though, is this first invocatory verse."
[The Power of the Presence, part two,
You declared: "Consciousness of reality and
consciousness of the things around us do not exist
apart from that reality." Praise be to you!
"Therefore, the place where everything exists is
the Heart." This you declared. Praise be to
You declared: "Since those who have [truly]
seen see nothing other than their own Self,
thinking [of something other than the Self]
is inconsistent [with that state]." Praise
be to you!
You declared: "Unless one reaches the throne of the
Heart, it is impossible to see the brilliant light
of reality." Praise be to you!
You declared, "If one dives within and reaches the
place of its arising, thought, which is of the
nature of the individual self, will cease to be".
Praise be to you!
Therefore, individual selves, who have no other
form than thought, can only imagine with the false
mind the reality that is free from thought forms,
but they cannot think of it as it really is. Just
as reality dwells within the Heart, free from
thought forms, when the individual self dwells, in
the same way, within the Heart, free from thought
forms, that is meditation on reality. Thus did you
explain it to us. Praise be to you!
The next section comes from Sri Ramana Jnana
Bodham, volume 9, p. 306. Muruganar wrote these
lines [which we have numbered "insert
1-16"] after the original poem had been
published in Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai. He
left a note in his papers that stated they should
be included at this point in the poem. While the
preceding section records an explanation of the
teachings expounded in the invocatory verse of
Ulladu Narpadu, these new lines take up the
subject matter of the second invocatory
verse itself says:
Those people who have a deep fear of death will,
for their protection, take refuge at the holy feet
of Lord Siva, he who is without both birth and
death. In thus taking refuge [in Him] they
suffered their own death. For them, in this
deathless state, will the thought of death
"Only those whose minds are extremely shaken by
the fear of death are fit to undertake the path of
crossing [the ocean of samsara]. They are
the ripe and competent persons." Out of love you
declared this to me, my Father.
Those who cling as their supreme refuge to the
feet, girt with warrior's anklets, of the Lord who
is beyond birth and death, who chastised even the
god of death for the sake of his devotee
[Markandeya], will, as the fruit of that
clinging, be brought under his power. Their inner
attachment, consisting of the ego, will be
destroyed, along with all the other attachments
which depend on the ego. The seed of the ego will
not be able to sprout within them as before. They
will become absorbed in the Heart, and will abide
as the truth of their own Self. It is inconsistent
for the thought of death to arise in those whose
ego is dead. Thus did you declare. Praise be to
Thus, declaring "That is the state of immortality,"
did you graciously impart in words this ambrosial
teaching to the soul of myself, your devotee.
Praise be to you!
When Markandeya's father was childless, he
prayed to Siva to give him a son. Siva appeared
before him and offered him the choice of having
either a dull-witted boy who would live a full span
of life, or an intelligent, devoted son who would
not survive past the age of sixteen. The father
chose to have the intelligent, devoted son. When
Markandeya was sixteen, Yama, the god of death,
came to collect him and attempted to catch him by
throwing a rope around him. The rope bound
Markandeya to the lingam he was worshipping at the
time. Siva, who took this to be a personal insult,
appeared and killed Yama by kicking him. However,
Siva later relented and brought Yama back to life.
In order to keep Markandeya alive, without allowing
the terms of the original boon to lapse, Siva
ordained that he would remain as a sixteen-year-old
for the rest of his life.
The teachings that Muruganar recorded in insert
1-16 are very similar to an explanation of the
second benedictory verse that Bhagavan gave to
Bhagavan: The second stanza
[the second invocatory verse of Ulladu
Narpadu] is in praise of God with
attributes. In the foregoing [the first
benedictory verse] to be as [the] one
Self is mentioned; in the present one, surrender to
the Lord of all.
Furthermore, the second indicates  the
fit reader  the subject matter
 the relationship and  the
fruit. The fit reader is the one who is competent
for it. Competence consists in non-attachment to
the world and desire to be liberated.
All know that they must die at some time or other;
but they do not think deeply about the matter. All
have a fear of death; such fear is momentary. Why
fear death? Because of the I-am-the-body idea. All
are fully aware of the death of the body and its
cremation. That the body is lost in death is well
known. Owing to the I-am-the-body notion, death is
feared as being the loss of oneself. Birth and
death pertain to the body only; but they are
superimposed on the Self, giving rise to the
delusion that birth and death relate to the
In the effort to overcome birth and death man looks
up to the Supreme Being to save him. Thus are born
faith and devotion to the Lord. How to worship Him?
The creature is powerless and the Creator is
all-powerful. How to approach Him? To entrust
oneself to His care is the only thing left for him;
total surrender is the only way. Therefore he
surrenders himself to God. Surrender consists in
giving up oneself and one's possessions to the Lord
of Mercy. Then what is left over for the man?
Nothing neither himself nor his possessions.
The body, liable to be born and die, having been
made over to the Lord, the man need no longer worry
about it. Then birth and death cannot strike
terror. The cause of fear was the body; it is no
longer his; why should he fear now? Or where is the
identity of the individual to be frightened?
Thus the Self is realised and bliss results. This
is then the subject matter [of the verse]:
freedom from misery and gain of happiness. This is
the highest good to be gained. Surrender is
synonymous with bliss itself. This is the
Fruit is to reflect on the subject matter and gain
knowledge which is ever-present, here and now. The
stanza ends with "the immortal ones".
[Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk
The remaining lines come from the original
published version of Upadesa
Maya is only the mind persisting vigorously in
the form of thoughts. The destruction of the mind
is the attainment of jnana. Thus did you declare to
me, mean and pitiable as I was, giving me comfort
and clear understanding. Praise be to you!
You taught: "To enquire what the mind is with the
mind is the means to destroy the mind." Praise be
You declared: "Instead of directly realising the
Self that lies within the five bodily sheaths, to
search to the very end of the many scriptures,
which only give good advice, is pointless and a
waste." Praise be to you!
This is probably a reference to an upadesa
Bhagavan gave in Who Am I?:
Question: Is it any use
reading books for those who long for release?
Bhagavan: All the texts say
that in order to attain release one should render
the mind quiescent; therefore their conclusive
teaching is that the mind should be rendered
quiescent; once this has been understood there is
no need for endless reading. In order to quieten
the mind one has only to enquire within oneself
what one's Self is; how could this search be done
in books? One should know one's Self with one's own
eye of wisdom. The Self is within the five sheaths;
but books are outside them. Since the Self has to
be enquired into by discarding the five sheaths, it
is futile to search for it in books. There will
come a time when one will have to forget all that
one has learned. [Who am I?, question
and answer 23]
"Bondage is merely the thought of the pairs of
opposites," you assured me, impressing it upon my
mind. Praise be to you!
Father, you bade me, worthless as I was, to utter
with a collected mind the words: "Siva! Siva!"
Praise be to you! [Adding], "If you examine
to whom those thoughts belong, bondage will cease."
Praise be to you!
Though Bhagavan rarely gave out mantras, when he
did, he generally recommended "Siva, Siva".
Muruganar himself was given this mantra by
Bhagavan, as were several other devotees including
Annamalai Swami, the brother of Rangan [who was
one of Bhagavan's childhood friends] and an
You declared: "If you investigate who is he
that is in bondage, it will be found that there is
no one in bondage. Thus bondage is not, and
consequently, liberation also is not." Praise be to
The source of these four lines is probably
Ulladu Narpadu verse 39:
Only so long as one thinks like a madman, "I am a
bound one," will thoughts of bondage and liberation
remain. But, seeing oneself, "Who is this bound
one?" the eternally liberated and ever-attained
Self alone will exist. When the thought of bondage
cannot remain, can the thought of liberation still
"Realisation of the ever-present Self is the
greatest attainment [siddhi]," you clearly
told me. Praise be to you!
"That is the true attainment, that is liberation
and that is jnana," you declared. Praise be to
This is a summary of some of the ideas that are
contained in Ulladu Narpadu, verse 35. It
should be remembered that the teachings contained
in Ulladu Narpadu were originally given to
Muruganar, generally in response to specific topics
suggested by Muruganar himself.
To know and to be with the mind subsided
the reality which is ever-attained, is the
[true] siddhi. All other siddhis are
siddhis that are acquired in a dream; when one
wakes up from sleep, will they be real? Will they
who, by abiding in the true state, are rid of the
false [state], be deluded [by
siddhis]? Know and be you [the
reality]. [Ulladu Narpadu Kalivenba,
tr. Sadhu Om. The Mountain Path,
1981, p. 222]
You declared: "As there is nothing whatsoever
to cause fear [in the Self], it is foolish
to get frightened." Praise be to you!
"Those who have known this state will subside
[in the Self], and will not become
embroiled in and perplexed by this impermanent
world." Thus did you explain the state [of
jivan mukti] and how it connects with the body.
Praise be to you!
Ignorant as I was, this did I clearly grasp. Praise
be to you!
You declared: "When anger arises, vent your anger
upon the anger itself, for it is your enemy, and
destroy it." Praise be to you!
"Do not associate [with others] simply
because they praise you. Rather, value their
abuse." Praise be to you!
You declared: "Value the very ones who vilify you
as though they were your dearest friends." Praise
be to you!
Bhagavan expounded on some of these ideas when
he spoke to a visitor:
Yesterday a newly arrived Andhra youth told
Bhagavan about the vagaries of his senses to which
Bhagavan said, "All that is due to the mind. Set it
right." "That is all right, Swami, but however much
I try to reduce this anger, it comes on again and
again. What shall I do?" said the poor boy.
"Oh, is that so? Then get angry with that anger; it
will be all right," said Bhagavan. All the people
in the hall burst out laughing. A person who gets
angry with everything in the world, if only he
introspects and enquires why he does not get angry
with his anger itself, will he really not overcome
Two or three years back a devotee who could freely
approach Bhagavan came and told him five or six
times that somebody had been abusing him. Bhagavan
listened but said nothing. As there was no response
from Bhagavan in spite of repeated and varied
complaints and in a number of ways, this devotee
could not contain himself any longer and so said,
"When I am abused so much unnecessarily, I also get
angry. However much I try to restrain my anger, I
am not able to do so. What shall I do?"
Bhagavan laughingly said, "What should you do? You
too join him and abuse yourself; then it will be
all right." All laughed.
That devotee, unable to understand anything, said,
"That is very good! Should I abuse myself?"
"Yes indeed! What they are abusing is your body,
isn't it? What greater enemy is there than this
body which is the abode of anger and similar
feelings? It is necessary that we ourselves should
hate it. Instead of that, when we are unguarded, if
anybody abuses us, we should know that they are
waking us up. We should realise at least then and
join them in abusing the body, and crying it down.
What is the use of counter-abuse? Those who abuse
us that way should be looked upon as our friends.
It is good for us to be among such people. If you
are among people who praise you, you get deceived,"
said Bhagavan. [Letters from Sri
Ramanasramam, 26th January 1946]
"The rights you have, others also have; the
rights others do not have, you do not have
Muruganar also recorded this particular teaching
in Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 817:
If others have some right, then only should one
avail oneself of that right. If some right is
denied to others, it would be wrong for one to
avail oneself of it.
Praise be to you, Lord of the Vedas, who
declared on many occasions: "The Heart where the
"I" thought does not arise is the Self, the
undivided supreme Reality", thus clearly revealing
the nature of the middle state.
"The middle state" is the one experienced
between the waking and sleeping states. This is
Bhagavan's description of it:
The ego in its purity is experienced in
the intervals between two states or between two
thoughts. The ego is like the worm which leaves
hold only after it catches another. Its true nature
is known when it is out of contact with objects or
thoughts. You should realise the interval as the
abiding unchanging reality, your true being,
through the conviction gained by the study of the
three states, jagrat [waking], swapna
[dreaming] and sushupti [sleep].
[Maharshi's Gospel, pp.
"Those who have seen their own Self do not see
others; those who see others do not see their own
Self." Thus did you fully explain the glorious
state of mauna, Glorious One, you who wear a
warrior's noble anklets!
"Banish your harmful anxieties by entrusting
everything to the all-powerful Lord," you declared.
Praise be to you!
You declared: "Those who understand the true
meaning of the scriptures will describe the world
of the senses and the beings within it as real,
when viewed from the standpoint of cause, and
unreal, when viewed from the standpoint of effect.
There is really no contradiction here. Both these
views, made by those of mature understanding, are
consistent with each other." Praise be to you!
You declared: "As the mind [in following either
of the views] does not become externalised, but
abides as the Self, the end result is also the
same." Praise be to you!
"Cause" in these lines refers to the unmanifest
Self and "effect" the world of names and forms. The
world is real when it is known to be Self alone,
and unreal when it is merely perceived as separate
objects. Muruganar made the same point in verses
nineteen and twenty of Guru Vachaka
Since the cause itself [reality]
appears as the effect [the world], and
because consciousness the cause of this vast
world described by the sastras as being merely
names and forms is a truth as obvious as the
nelli fruit on one's palm, it is proper to term
this great world "real".
["Nelli" is the Tamil name for a small green
fruit that physically resembles a gooseberry. It is
known elsewhere in India as "amla". In many parts
of India people say, "It's as obvious as the amla
on one's palm" when they mean that something is
clear, easily perceived and irrefutable. In
Atma Vidya Bhagavan wrote: "Even for the
most infirm, so real is the Self that compared with
it the amla in one's hand appears a mere illusion."
[Collected Works, p. 132]]
The worlds that are described as being
either three or fourteen are real when seen from
the point of view of the primal cause
[Brahman] because they have unceasing
existence as their [real] nature. However,
when attention is paid only to the names and forms,
the effect, even the undecaying cause, the
plenitude, will appear to be non-existent, a
Demonstrating that freedom from desire is the
virtuous path, you drove away all my evil desires.
Praise be to you!
At the mere thought of you, you entered my Heart,
becoming nectar for my mind. Praise be to you!
You revealed that the ambrosial essence of all
learning is to know the state of the Self, the
enduring substratum of all the worlds that appear
as an illusion before the mass of beings, and the
nature of whose phenomena cannot be ascertained
even by the greatest minds. Praise be to you!
Glory to the teacher who confers the true
attainment of jnana by destroying the infatuation
that consists in the forgetting [of the
Glory to you who revealed clearly that true
attainment as my own Self, the indivisible
Glory to you who appeared first as God, then as
Guru in the middle stage, and who finally dwelt as
Glory to you who dwelt as my own Self, the ocean of
bliss that is worthy of my devotion!
Glory to you, the teacher who, in an excess of
love, took pity on me, worthless as I was, and
explained to me in words the nature of the true
reality, a teaching which you conveyed to the
mature ones through the lofty state of mauna!
But did it end with this verbal teaching? No,
you also bestowed your grace upon me, enabling me
to abide in that state. Praise be to you!
You dragged me into the Heart, so that I expired in
the Siva-ocean of true jnana. Praise be to you!
As I lie dying in that ocean, what fitting
recompense can I offer to your holy feet? Praise be
May you gladly accept as that recompense the
merging of my unruly mind with your ankleted feet.
Praise be to you!
May your golden feet flourish!
May your golden grace flourish!
Venkata, may your golden fame flourish!