(67) ARPANA (OFFERING)
22nd August, 1946
A devotee who has been a regular visitor here for a long time came a week back with a copy of the Tamil book Thiruvaimozhi and began talking to Bhagavan about Vaishnava traditions. It seems he recently received Samasrayanam (initiation). When he said that, Bhagavan began relating his earlier experiences as follows: “When I was on the hill, some Vaishnavaites used to come there to see me. There are, as you know, two sections amongst Vaishnavaites, Vadakalai and Thenkalai. I used to speak to these visitors in accordance with their respective traditions, as I lose nothing by doing so. When, however, they thought that I was on their side and wanted me to have Samasrayanam, I declined. They believe that no one will be permitted into Vaikuntam (heaven) unless he is duly initiated.
I used to ask them, ‘Show me even one person who has gone to Vaikuntam with his body.’ According to their traditions, they do not accept Sayujyam (absorption into the deity). They say, ‘Sri Maha Vishnu is in heaven, Vaikuntam. Released souls sit around him and serve him.’ How will all find accommodation there? Perhaps they sit close together shoulder to shoulder? They alone should know. Not only that. It seems there is a mantra which declares that they surrender their all to their Guru at the time they receive Samasrayanam. It is enough if the mantra is recited and a dakshina (offering or donation) is given to the Guru. The surrender is over, and it does not matter whatever is done afterwards; a seat is reserved for them in Vaikuntam. What more is needed? That is the opinion of some of them. It is mere delusion to think of arpana (offering), so lightly. Arpana means that the mind gets merged in the self and becomes one with it. It means that it should become devoid of all vasanas. And that will not come about unless there is self- effort and God’s Grace. God’s force cannot get hold of you and drag you into itself unless you surrender completely.
But where is the question of our surrendering? The self itself is to be surrendered. Until one can accomplish that, one should go on struggling unceasingly. It is only after trying again and again that one may, finally, succeed in the effort.
Once you succeed, there is no going back. That is the proper course. What is the use of merely repeating the word arpana, arpana? Except that you give some money while repeating the word arpana, what is the effect on the mind? In this Thiruvaimozhi itself there are some songs in the Advaitic cult sung by some devotees after attaining Self-realisation.
Nammalwar is one such devotee. He sang that a mother praised her daughter who attained Self-realisation in a form that looked like condemnation. The gist of those songs is, ‘This child says, I am Siva, I am Vishnu, I am Brahma, I am Indra, I am the sun, I am the five elements and I am everything! It is that Vishnu who sits on her head and makes her talk thus; otherwise she would not have these aberrations. It is that Vishnu who has changed her thus.’ That is the purport of these songs.” Those songs were read out and Bhagavan explained the meaning.
After that, he explained to us about Visishtadvaita: “When some devotees sang in terms of Advaita, some commentators twisted the meaning, interpreting it in terms of Visishtadvaita. That is all; it is nothing else. That is also the opinion of all the ancients. After all, what exactly is meant by Visishtadvaita? That which is Visishta (distinguished) and best is Vishnu. That is Ishwara, Sadasiva, Brahma and all.
That which is, is only One. Some Vaishnavaites give it a name and a shape and do not admit that there could be any Sayujyam (absorption in the Supreme Being) except by way of living in the same world (Salokyam), in the same vicinity (Sameepyam), and the same form (Sarupyam) as the Supreme Being. They say, arpana, arpana (offering, offering). How can there be arpana unless there is a thing called ‘I’? Complete surrender cannot come about unless one knows who one is.
If you come to know that, you will realise that what remains is only one thing. The mind which is the ‘I’ submits of its own accord. And that is the real arpana (surrender),” said Bhagavan.