The Power of the Presence Part Two

By David Godman

Page 4

Guru Vachaka Kovai

Reprinted with permission from The Power of the Presence Part Two.
The Power of the Presence Part Two by David Godman

In the late 1920s Muruganar began to record the verbal teachings that Bhagavan was giving out to visitors and devotees. These upadesas were recorded by Muruganar in the form of Tamil verses. When a sufficient number had been collected, they were arranged in thematic order. Bhagavan went through this collection of his statements very carefully, making innumerable changes and corrections. In the early 1980s I found a proof copy of the first edition in the Ramanasramam achives that Bhagavan himself had extensively corrected and reworked. In addition to making these corrections, Bhagavan also composed new verses that he added at appropriate places in the text.27 The entire work was published in Tamil under the title Guru Vachaka Kovai, meaning ‘A Collection of the Guru’s Sayings’.

Many readers of books on Bhagavan will be familiar with a translation of this work by Professor K. Swaminathan. It was serialised in The Mountain Path over many years and was eventually published in its entirety in 1992. This translation tried to bring out the poetry of the original verses as well as the profound meaning. In making my own selection for this chapter I have utilised a different, upublished translation by Sadhu Om28 and Michael James, but I have subsequently modified many of the verses to improve the clarity of the English. Since all these verses began as verbal replies by Bhagavan, I have attempted to cast the sentences in such a way that they sound like spoken teachings.

In the Sadhu Om and Michael James version, the poetry of the original verses is sacrificed for greater accuracy in translation. I think this is a reasonable position to take since most non-Tamilian devotees will be more interested in what Bhagavan actually said, rather than how Muruganar rendered his words into Tamil poetry. There are three main divisions of verses in Guru Vachaka Kovai: The Quest, Continued Practice, and Experience of Reality. The selection I have chosen comes from the second section, Continued Practice.

66 The Individual I


He who does not have the knowledge ‘I am, I am’, and who behaves as if he is a fleshy body, ‘I am so and so’, will vainly suffer when the body dies because he will be caught in the net of the dream-like delusion that he too is dying.


The flawless Supreme Reality, true knowledge, shines as the primal one and perfect whole. To rise as an individual separate from the Lord, who cannot be defined as ‘He is this’, even in order to worship him, is wrong.


Reality is the unbroken space of jnana. To rise forcibly as a jumping and suffering false ‘I’, different from that reality, is to commit the sin of slaying the highest dharma and cutting it into two pieces.


In the reality that shines as one, devoid of knowledge and movement, how is it possible for foreign rule to arise except by making an empty imagination of a mental world that is different from God?


The nature of bondage is merely the rising, ruinous thought ‘I am different from the reality’. Since one surely cannot remain separate from the reality, reject that thought whenever it rises.


‘Do nothing for which you will repent. If you do it is better not to do such a thing again.’ If you leave the state of being in the Self, do not think any thought. If you do it is better not to do such a thing again.42


Don’t become disheartened by thinking, ‘When shall I obtain the bliss of yoga, the state of the Self?’ because the true state of Self-knowledge is always the same, shining timelessly without spatial coordinates such as near and far.


Note 27. There are twenty-eight of Bhagavan’s verses interpolated in various places in the text. They are identified by having a ‘B’ prefix. Muruganar’s own verses only have numbers. [Return to text]

Note 28. Muruganar nominated Sadhu Om to be his literary executor, saying that he was the only person who fully understood his works. Sadhu Om brought out a Tamil edition of Guru Vachaka Kovai in 1971 in which he gave simple Tamil prose renderings of all the verses. When I spoke to Professor Swaminathan about this edition in the 1980s, he said that the true meaning of many of the verses only became clear to him after he had read this prose rendering. [Return to text]

Note 42. The quote is verse 655 of the Tirukkural by Tiruvalluvar, an ancient Tamil collection of spiritual and moral maxims. [Return to text]

David Godman is the author of almost twenty books about Sri Ramana Maharshi’s life, teachings, and direct disciples.

Related pages on this site

Recommended Book

David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Part Two

The Power of the Presence, Part Two

Edited by David Godman

This is the second volume in David Godman’s magisterial series of biographies of direct disciples of Sri Ramana Maharshi. David goes into considerable detail about a few selected devotees rather than touching lightly on a larger number.

This volume contains chapters on Kunju Swami, Muruganar, T.P. Ramachandra Iyer, Chhaganlal V. Yogi, Lakshmana Swamy, and Viswanatha Swami.


See it on Amazon.

This page was published on October 15, 2001 and last revised on June 12, 2017.


comments powered by Disqus