It is said the words of a jnani are equal in power, stature and authority to the cherished Vedas themselves. Indeed this applies to the composition and translation of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharashi who at the age of sixteen attained compete and final liberation. Subsequently Bhgavan Ramana exhibited the extraordinary ability to compress the full breadth of his realization into terse poetic verses. Like mantras, these skilfully crafted arrows of light work on the mind of the reader in a mysterious and powerfully transformative way, bestowing understanding and wisdom on all who encounter them. Since the days at Virupaksha Cave, Bhagavan's devotees have chanted these works and have testified time and again to the purifying effect they have on heart, mind and soul.
This revised and expanded edition contains the full repertoire of daily recitation at Sri Ramanasramam. While it includes devotional hymns written by devotees about Sri Bhagavan, it principally consists of the original Tamil poetry of the Master himself. Presented in roman script with adjoining English translations, this compendium is sure to prove invaluable not only for those who want to chant Sri Ramana's verses but also for those who long to dink in evermore deeply the boundless wisdom they contain.
It is said the words of a jnani are equal in power, stature and authority to the cherished Vedas themselves. Indeed this applies to the compositions and translations of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi who at the age of sixteen attained complete and final liberation Subsequently Bhagavan Ramana exhibited the extraordinary ability to compress the full breadth of his realization into terse poetic verse. Like mantras, these skilfully crafted arrows of light works on the mind of the reader in a mysterious and powerfully transformative way, bestowing understanding and wisdom on all who encounter them.
While Bhagavan wrote very little, having taught mainly through the power of silence, he was not unwilling to answer questions, either verbally or in writing. As long as her felt inquires were sincere, her responded fully. He composed and corrected his own writings and on occasion reviewed the compositions of others. Moreover he had a gift for languages, even those he had never formally studies (e.g., Malayalam and Telugu). The greatest Sanskrit pundits of his day and since have marvelled at Bhagavan's Sanskrit compositions, not merely for their grammatical accuracy but their beauty and cogency. Likewise his Tamil compositions are revered by scholars of Tamil literature as works of literary genius. Numerous stories abound surrounding the circumstances in which his compositions came into being. There events still intrigue students of Bhagavan's works, as they did those who directly witnessed them.
Since the days at Virupaksha Cave, Bhagavan's devotees have chanted these works and testified time and again to the purifying effect they have on heart, mind soul. It is these verses that are chanted today at Sri Ramanasramam and comprise the present volume.
History of Tamil Recitation at Sri Ramanasramam
The recitation of sacred text at Sri Ramanasramam goes back to the early days at Skandasramam. Bhagavan regularly initiated chanting of the Ribhu Gita, an ancient advaitic text (taken from the Siva Rahasya) as well as other classical advaitic texts. Esteemed the hymns of the legendary Tamil poets, such as Sundarar, Appar, Jnanasambandar and, not least of all, Manikkavachagar, whose Tiruvachagam, for example, devotees recited throughout the night on the occasion of the mahasamadhi of Bhagavan's mother in May, 1922. Bhagavan also encouraged the recitation of his own work.
Realising the spiritual benefit of the study and repetition of Bhagavan's poetical works, devotees started regular parayana. Kunjuswami, a long-time devotee and attendant of bhagavan, records in his Tamil reminiscences, Enadu Ninaivugal, that when he first came to Sri Bhagavan in 1920, Bhagavan's mother was in the habit of reciting devotional songs each morning between four and five. When she completed recitation. Other devotees would chant Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai, Appalap Paattu and Bhagavan's Tamil rendering of Sri Dakshinamurti Stotram among others. In the course of time, Bhagavan composed new works, which were incorporated into the daily chanting repertoire. By the late 1940s the parayana cycle had grown to 15 days and consisted of more than thirty works. The recitation was as follows:
Day 1: Tiruvannamalai Devaram, verses in praise of Arunachala by the saints Jnanasambandar, Navukkarasu and Sundaramurti;
Day 2: Sri Arunachala Tattuvam, Sri Arunachala Mahatmyam, and Akshara Mana Malai;
Day 3: Sri Arunacala Nava Mani Malai, Sri Arunachala Padikam, Sri Arunchala Ashtakam, Appalap Paattu, and Anma Viddai;
Day 4: Upadesa Undiyar and and Upadesa Saram in Malayalam, Telugu and Sanskrit;
Day 5: Ulladu Narpadu and Supplement to Ulladu Narpadu;
Day 6: Sat Darshanam (the Malayalam version of Ulladu Narpadu and its supplement);
Day 7: Devikalottaram;
Day 8: Anma Sakshatkaram, Sri Guru Stuti, and Sri Hastamalakam;
Day 9: Bhagavat Gita Saram in Tamil, Malayalam and Sanskrit;
Day 10: Anma Bhodam and Ekanma Ranchakam;
Day 11: Sri Dakshinamurti Stotram in Sanskrit and Tamil as well as selected verses in Sanskrit and Tamil from Vivekachudamani, Sivananda Lahari and works of Saint Thayumanavar;
Day 12: Sri Ramana Stuti Panchakam by Satyamangalam Venkataramayyar;
Day 13: Sri Ramana Deva Malai and Satguru Malai by Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai;
Day 14: Sri Ramana Deva Malai and Vinnapam by Sivaprakasam Pillai;
Day 15: Sri Raman Rada Malai by Sivaprakasam Pillai and verses in praise of Tiruchuzhi by Manikkavachagar and Sundaraurti.
This recitation corpus was called 'Tamil Parayana' (through a number of the hymns were written in Sanskrit, Telugu and Malayalam to distinguish it from the 'Vedaparayana' which began at the Ashram in 1935. The liturgical corpus can be divided into four main categories:
1. The original works of Bhagavan in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and Malayalam;
2. Works translated by Bhagavan from Sanskrit into Tamil and Malayalam;
3. Verses selected by Bhagaan from ancient Tamil/Sanskrit text;
4. Works on Sri BHagavan by devotees.
Reciting these verses each evening at 6:30 became a regular practice and, with a few modifications, continues to the present day at the Ashram.
Venba and Other Metrs
Most of Bhagavan's verses and translations utilise the venba metre. Venba is a metrical form common in Tamil poetics and consists of two couplets connected through a link word. A venba contains four lines, the first three of which contain four words each and the last, three words. Bhagavan also wrote kalivenba versions of his verses whereby the ordinary venba verse is connected to the next verse with a link word to facilitate rote learning. Thus Ulladu Narpadu, Ekanma Panchakam, Devikalottaram, anma Sakshatkaram, Anma Bhodam and selections from The Bhagavat Gita Saram are available in both metrical formats. The Supplement to Ulladu Narpadu contains 28 venbas and other assorted metrical forms, which include viruttam, a metre having from four to six words per line.
Ashram Parayana Today
In the early days of the Tamil parayana, the works composed or selected by Bhagavan for recitation were compiled in a notebook and those wishing to chant them would copy them out by hand. On occasion devotees would request to copy them out himself for their use and he spared no pains in heading their requests. One such notebook was obtained from one of Bhagavan's attendants, Swami Sivananda, and published by Kanvashrama Trust in 1987. Subsequently Kanvashram Trust made selections from the text, and a devotee, Smt. Shanta Gurumurti, helped in rendering them in roman transliteration. This book was published in 1998 and has served as the principal chanting book for those unfamiliar with Tamil and served as the basis for the transliteration in the present text.
Just prior to the publication of the abovementioned text, regular Tamil Parayana was re-instituted in Sri Bhagavan's Samadhi shrine under Sri Kunjuswami's guidance in 1985. The current programme of Tamil recitation at the Ashram consists of the major poetical works of Bhagavan (Monday-Friday) and Sri Ramana Stuti Panchakam (Saturday), which are devotional verses written in praise of Sri Bhagavan. The order of chanting follows the sequence established in the Tamil Collected Works. Each evening at 6:30 in Bhagavan's Samadhi Hall, men sit to one side and women to the other (as with puja), and verses are recited antiphonally, each side singing together in alternation.
Note on Transliteration
As with all languages, Tamil has strict rules governing its poetics. The transliteration in this text sometimes overlooks these rules in the interest of making the phonetics more accessible for chanters unfamiliar with Tamil elocution. Also in some cases words have been truncated and simplified from their ordinary spelling and short hyphens (-) have been introduced to break up long words. But these dashes do note indicate actual breaks in the words. (The long dashes [-] appearing throughout are original and indicate actual stops in the venba and kalivenba metres). Please note that Sanskrit words used by Bhagavan in his works have not in many cases been treated according to the rules of Tamil prosody but are phonetically represented in a way that makes them recognisable to those who may know some Sanskrit.
Guide to Tamil Pronunciation
Inevitably there are variations in recitation style at the numerous Ramana centres in India and abroad. Additionally there are regional dialect differences and differences in pronunciation according to one's native tongue. For students wanting to learn the standard Ashram chanting mode, audio tapes and compact disks (MP3's) of parayana chanting are available at the Sri Ramanasramam Book Depot.
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