Kandar Anubhuti is a fifty-two verse poem, rich in mythological symbolism, in which Arunagirinatha frequently refers to his quest for God and his subsequent experience of him. Some of the key verses are given below. The title can be translated as
'The Direct Experience of Skanda'.
O Lord, God of the deva realm!(1) Are you not joyous, carefree, unsorrowing, the great yogi, the one who desires the good of all beings, the one who is possessed of kind speech, and the one who performs divine dramas? O Murugan! I beg you, please enlighten me about the experience of liberation in which everything ceases to exist, that good state in which the sense of 'mine' is lost.
O Shanmukha!(2) What is reality? Is it the earth, water, fire, air or ether? Is it the state in which knowledge arises? Is it the chanting of the
Vedas? Is it the 'I' principle or the mind? Or is it that place where 'I' was
Glorious Murugan, deathless and unborn! Thief who kidnapped Valli, she who was born to a red
deer!(4) When he through silence instructed me 'Be silent!', what a wonder! I was unable to cognise even a single external object.
Neither with form nor without it; neither existence nor non-existence; neither darkness nor light; that Absolute Reality is Murugan, our Guru, he who wields the incomparable
vel.(5) Is there any possibility of knowing him except through his grace?
O Mind! Abandon, abandon the desires that venture out through the five gates of the body, the mouth, the eyes, the nostrils and the ears. Surrendering at the feet of Lord Murugan, who wields the
vel in his hands, take the path to salvation.
Beloved One! Mighty Lord! Primordial sound of Om! Protector and saviour of the
deva realm! O Great One who gave me upadesa in the form of a direct experience. This slave gained that Supreme Reality, the most difficult of all to attain. How wonderful!
O Lord who bows to the feet of Valli, the one with beautiful hair!(6) O Murugan, Lord of the
devas, great as Mount Meru!(7) What a wonder! By meditating on you in the form of Kumara, the eternal
youth,(8) and by bowing to your lotus feet, I have been blessed with the attainment of true
In the past, greatly did I cherish a way of life that was as transient as lightning. Now, is this the fruit born of my fate? O King! O God mounted on the peacock! You are gold, you are gems, you are grace divine, the real wealth.
Untainted divine nectar! King with the piercing vel! Embodiment of jnana! What else can I say? The Transcendental Reality swallowed the 'me', the individual self, leaving That alone which is mere existence.
Lord Murugan, wielder of the vel, whose form shines like the crimson sky! On that day you revealed to me the unique divine experience. Having it and experiencing it is the only way to understand it. Is it something to talk about? How can it be told to someone else?
You decreed that I should fall into the mire of maya and lead a useless life in this way. Have I, in my previous life, done anything despicable to deserve this? O peacock-mounted God, may you prosper ever after!
O Shanmukha, child of the Ganga! Abode of grace! Mighty warrior! Possessor of the peacock! Please grant me the boon that my mind and intellect may not be dimmed by the evil of pursuing beautiful women.
I am the close associate of the Lord,(9) he who threw his mighty
vel at the mountain.(10) O mind, long to attain that knowledge called serenity that kills the ego and uproots it entirely.
Murugan, you who roamed, looking for Valli, all over hills covered with pools and green fields of millet with their lookout perches. I will not forget the sharp
vel that expelled evil from me. Should I remain deluded by this samsaric life?
In a state of thinking without thinking, the incomparable vel bestowed on me knowledge of the Ultimate. As soon as it was granted to me, my relationship with the world was severed; speech and mind ceased, along with ignorance and knowledge.
Beloved of the one [Valli] who is adorned with beautiful clothes and precious gems! By your love and by your grace the fettering desires have been broken and reduced to dust. Out of that was born the magnificent, speechless, direct experience of you!
O Lord, do you not inseparably stand in the intellect of those in whom every kind of knowledge has ceased? Their relationships have come to nothing, their darkness has been destroyed. Lord of the
vel! You abide forever in those who have conquered delusion.
That which alone is is to be realised by oneself. How can this be described to anyone else? Lord of manifold forms who wields the sparkling light of the
vel! Divine resplendence enveloped in grace! You remove the misery of those who think of you.
(1) Though Indra is traditionally regarded as being the king of the
devas, Arunagirinatha assigns this role to Murugan in order to pursue a complex spiritual analogy. In Arunagirinatha's scheme the
devas represent the various bodily functions. They keep the mind and the body in a state of sattvic harmony and are presided over by Indra, who represents the
prana, the animating and sustaining life force in the body. A demon called Surapadma symbolises both the ego and the hostile forces that try to overthrow or destroy the state of physical and mental well being that the
devas, under Indra, have engendered. When they temporarily succeed, mental misery and disease result. When the
devas appeal to their ultimate Lord, Murugan, for assistance, he intervenes and restores the sattvic status quo by destroying the evil forces.
Mythologically, Surapadma was a demon who tried to fight Murugan. When he took the form of a tree, Murugan split him into two. One of the two parts was transformed by Murugan into the peacock that eventually became his
vahana or vehicle, while the other half was transformed into the cock that Murugan holds aloft as a banner or emblem.
(2) Murugan was created from light that came out of Siva's third eye. Siva gathered this light in his hands and passed it on to Vayu, the god of wind. The power of the light was too much for him so he gave it to Agni, the god of fire, who deposited it in the Ganges. Ganga, the goddess of the Ganges, was also unable to bear the power so she carried it to a small pond and left it there. In this pond the light transformed itself into six babies. Parvati subsequently joined the babies together in a form that had one trunk, twelve arms and six faces. This is Lord Shanmukha, 'The Lord with Six Faces'. Because he was born from Siva's third eye, 'the eye of wisdom', he stands for divine knowledge and is held to be an incarnation of pure consciousness. His name Skanda means 'the joined one', a reference to the way Parvati amalgamated his bodies. It can also mean, 'one who was ejected' or 'one who leaped out', a reference to the light that emanated from Siva's third eye.
Arunagirinatha most probably obtained his mythological information on Murugan, and its symbolic significance, from the
Kanda Puranam, a fourteenth century Tamil text by Kacchiyappa Sivachariar that gives extensive information on the Skanda avatara. There it is written:
That mass of consciousness, which is called 'The Supreme Brahman', which is formless and also with form, which is beginningless, who is the One and also the many, assumed a form with six grace-showering faces and twelve hands and took
avatara as Murugan for the redemption of the world.
(3) These seem to be rhetorical questions. The implied answer is that Reality is the place or state where the fully surrendered 'I' was destroyed. Arunagirinatha offered his 'I' to God. In the Heart, the place where God accepted the offer, Arunagirinatha found reality.
(4) Cursed by the rishi Kanva, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi were once wandering in a forest in the forms of Sivamuni, a speechless saint, and a deer. Once, as they were gazing lovingly at each other, the deer became pregnant and later gave birth to a human child. Abandoned by her mother because she was not a deer, she was found by Nambirajan, a hunter-king, and adopted as his daughter. She was named Valli after the place (Vallikkodi) where she was found. In her previous life as Sundaravalli she had fallen in love with Murugan and had obtained a boon from him that she would become his consort. As she grew up her devotion to Murugan increased until no other thought occupied her mind. Unable to resist her one-pointed devotion, Murugan appeared before her in the form of a hunter, tested her devotion, accepted her, and later married her.
Devotees of Murugan regard Valli as the universal mother who is always occupied with the welfare of devotees. She knows how pure and evolved each
jiva is, and she brings to Murugan's attention all the mature souls who are ready to be released from
In a more general sense Valli's spiritual career symbolises the progress of all advanced souls who are on the final stage of their journey to God. First, there is intense devotion. When that devotion matures, God appears in the form of Guru and tests the readiness of the devotee. If the devotee is accepted, the divine marriage takes place.
(5) The vel is the spear-like weapon with which Murugan destroyed his enemies during his physical
avatara. At the symbolic level it is jnana-sakti, the power that destroys ignorance and wrong knowledge in his devotees. When the demons invade the body and the mind obscuring
sattva and threatening the
prana itself (see the note to verse two), Murugan wields his vel to destroy the invading enemies.
The vel is the look of grace that the Guru bestows on the devotee. It pierces and destroys the ego, its target, and bestows
jnana. In one of his verses Ramana Maharshi describes Murugan as, 'The six-faced Lord who came on earth…in order to bestow his own state by destroying the karmas of those seeking refuge at his feet…and who plays the game of throwing the spear which is the glance of
jnana…' (The Mountain Path, 1984, p. 94)
(6) When Murugan appeared before Valli, he first tested her devotion. She passed the tests so successfully, Murugan prostrated to her and placed his head on her feet. Murugan
bhaktas, in interpreting this event, say that God becomes the slave of all those who can demonstrate pure and complete devotion to him.
(7) Meru is a mythological mountain, said to be the greatest on earth. Its dimensions are incalculable. It is regarded as the axis of the earth.
(8) Kumara, 'the eternal youth' is one of the many names of Murugan. Since it has the meaning, 'the one who destroys
maya,' it also signifies the power of the Self. Arunagirinatha is saying that by meditating on the formless
sakti and by surrendering to the divine he discovered the real nature of
tapas. In this context the 'eternal youth' is not merely the ever-young form of Murugan, it is the eternal consciousness that he represents.
(9) An 'iraiyon parivaram' is a close associate of the Lord. The term denotes someone who has come close enough to God to have a direct experience of him.
(10) This refers to one of the major events in Murugan's
avatara. Krauncha was one of the lieutenants of the asura Taraka, who was the younger brother of Surapadma. Krauncha used to assume the form of a mountain, with many paths leading to it. When passers-by, particularly
sadhus and sages, came near, Krauncha would kill them.
The sage Agastya, who was travelling near the mountain, avoided the fate of the other sages by intuitively understanding ahead of time the danger of going near Krauncha. He cursed the
asura, telling him that he would have to remain in the shape of the mountain until he was destroyed by the
vel of Murugan.
When Murugan led the deva army on his southward march to attack Surapadma, he encountered Krauncha en route and destroyed him with his
Krauncha represents the mount of karma that cannot be moved or destroyed by any force other than the
vel, the jnana-sakti of the Lord. Surapadma represents the ego and the state of ignorance in general. Both have to be eradicated by the 'glance of grace'.
The first half of the verse indicates that Murugan has already thrown 'his mighty
vel' at Arunagirinatha's mountain of karma, thereby destroying it. The second half of the verse can therefore be taken to be advice to others, calling on them to attain that serene state in which the work of the
vel can be effective.