February 27, 2014 Maha Sivaratri
Ashram plans to recite Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai with refrain during the night of Mahasivaratri on February 27, 2014. If physical attendance is not possible, all are encouraged to recite the poem during Maha Sivaratri and thus attune themselves to the shinning presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi, whose liberal bestowal of grace exceeds that of even Lord Kubera. We present below scriptural evidence and testimony of Sri Ramana Maharshi to show that chanting Aksharamanamalai with refrain once is equal to chanting Panchakshari mantra thirty billion times (30,000,000,000)!
Maha Sivaratri is the holiest of the days sacred to Lord Siva. Devotees fast the whole day and continue worshiping Him during the four quarters of the whole night. Ceremonial Puja to Siva Linga (the emblem of Lord Siva) is performed at temples and homes .
The vibrant atmosphere experienced during the night testifies to the tremendous significance of this occasion thus described by Lord Siva Himself: “By doing worship to Me (Lord Siva) on this holiest day one gets the result of (doing) worship for a whole year. Even as the moon causes the rising of the sea, this sacred hour (time) enhances the power of My manifestations.”
Maha Sivaratri in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
143. This is Sivaratri day. Sri Bhagavan is beaming with Grace in the evening.
218. Maharshi has been looking into the Siva Purana this day. He says:
Siva has the transcendental and immanent aspects as represented by His invisible, transcendental being and the linga aspect respectively. The linga originally manifested as Arunachala stands even to this day. This manifestation was when the moon was in the constellation of Orion (Ardra) in December. However it was first worshipped on Maha Sivaratri day which is held sacred even now.
In the sphere of speech Pranava (the mystic sound AUM) represents the transcendental (nirguna) and the Panchakshari (NamaSivaya or SivayaNama) represents the immanent aspect (saguna).
450. (adapted) I want to know how the blissful vision of Siva may be made permanent and continuous. Without Siva there is no life in what I see around me. I am so happy to think of Him. Please tell me how His vision may be everlasting to me.
M.: A vision can never be eternal. But Siva is eternal
“To BE” is to realise – Hence I AM THAT I AM. I AM is Siva. Nothing else can be without Him. Everything has its being in Siva and because of Siva.
Sri Muruganar says in verses 1765 and 831 of “Padamalai” “Through grace, Padam(Sri Ramana Maharshi) ensures that there is never any danger to those who remain in their heart, meditating on Sivaya Nama”, and “The mantra Sivayanama on which you meditate will reveal itself within your heart to be your father and mother”.
Those blessed with good health and physical proximity to Arunachala walk around the Arunachala Hill and Sri Ramana Maharshi approved of this practice as “the direct worship of the Supreme Lord of Compassion”.
Sivacharyas (teachers) maintain that “Panchakshari mantra” requires initiation by a qualified living Guru. Sri Ramana Maharshi is in complete agreement with this time-honored view (Talks #8). For those without initiation in any mantra but with faith in Sri Ramana Maharshi, the mystic poem Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai is a divine refuge, shedding grace and guidance on all those who engage in proper recitation. We will now do a careful study of His teaching on this subject.
Aksharamanamalai consists of four parts given below:
- Invocation to Ganapati, the remover of obstacles
- Refrain is “Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala! Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala Siva, Arunachala!!” Arunachala may be considered as the string which connects the flowers (verses) of the garland.
- 108 Verses in alphabetical order of the Tamil language. The first one hundred verses are in perfect ascending alphabetical order going from A to Z in Tamil. Verses 101 through 108 also follow a re-started alphabetical ascending order, with the exception of verse 103 uses the first letter of Siva. The final eight verses resemble the looped knot of a secondary floral design found in Indian wedding garland.
- Benedictory verse honoring the Arunachala Hill, the devotees and this Marital Garland of Letters.
In the traditional chanting of Aksharamanamalai, after the invocation to Ganapati and the opening refrain, each of the 108 verses is followed by the refrain. The final verse (#108) is repeated twice and the refrain is also repeated twice in the end. Finally, the benedictory verse is sung. Verse 108 which refers to exchange of garlands is repeated twice, perhaps as a symbol of the bride offering the marital garland to the groom and the latter reciprocating the act.
We now proceed to count the number of occurrences of the holy name “Arunachala” in a correct and complete chanting of Aksharamanamalai.
The refrain contains eight occurrences of the holy name Arunachala. Since the final verse is repeated twice, the total number of occurrences throughout 109 verses is 110, giving us 880 occurrences of the name Arunachala. In the traditional recitation of the poem as found in the version written by Sri Bhagavan in the Ashram Archives, the refrain is chanted twice. Thus the total adds to 888.
The word Arunachala occurs once in every verse, excepting the first and last verse where it appears twice each. This will contribute to 108+2+2 occurrences (coming from second repetition of verse 108) making the total exactly 1000 occurrences of Arunachala. It was not easy to arrive at this precise count until the archived copy of Sri Bhagavan’s own writing revealed the twice-repeated refrain at the very end. Further evidence of the double-refrain was obtained by listening to Kunju Swamigal’s recitation recorded in front of Sri Bhagavan. As Sri Ramana Maharshi did not compose the Aksharamanamalai with any specific idea, it is most certain that Lord Arunachala Himself composed this most glorious poem which is both an ashtotra(108) and a sahasranama(1000) in one. Please note that we have not included the occurrence of Arunachala in the invocatory verse or the benedictory verse. We also did not count words like “Ramana”, “I”, ”Giri”, ”Guru”, ”Malai Marundu” etc. which are known to be identical with Arunachala.
Proper recitation of Aksharamanamalai provides the sincere devotee with the means to unite his soul with the ever-shining Arunachala Hill. The great poet-saint Sri Murugunar proclaims in the poem’s invocation, “Those who look upon it [this marital garland of letters] as their sole refuge will realize within themselves that they are Arunachala and will reign in the world of Siva.” This method is open to all. No initiation is needed for this worship for those with love and faith.
Sitting on a stone slab near Vayu Lingam opposite the majestic Aruanchala Hill, Sri Ramana Maharshi revealed to a devotee “this is where tears surged from my eyes in uncontrollable torrents while composing verse fifty-five”. Devaraja Mudaliar records that Sri Ramana had a similar response while reading the Arunachala Purana, a Tamil treatise on the glory of Arunachala originating from several scriptural sources.
“Arunachala Purana” says “This Mountain shall have the power to cure the affliction of birth and death. Therefore one of its names shall be Medicine Mountain(Malai Marundu). Since it is red in color, Red Mountain (Arunagiri) will also be one of its names. For those who recite the name of the Arunachala but once, it will be as if they had pronounced the Five Holy Syllables, [Sivayanama], thirty million times.” On hearing the pronouncement of the Lord whose throat is blue with poison, Brahma and Vishnu were filled with joy.”
Let us proceed with the calculus of chanting Aksharamanamalai in the proper traditional way. The conservative estimate is that chanting Aksharamanamalai once properly is equivalent to chanting Sivayanama thirty billion (30,000,000,000) times!
In other words, one utterance of the sacred name ‘Arunachala’ is equal to performing 6,000 Purascharana (one hundred thousand times per letter of the mantra) of Panchakshari. Doing a single Purascharana takes approximately twenty-two days at the rate of six hours of chanting per day. So with the grace of Sri Bhagavan, the benefit of chanting ‘Sivayanamah’ for six hours daily for 320 years can be attained by a single recitation (sahasranama prayoga) of Aksharamanamalai.