One of the formost devotees of Sri Bhagavan and a great Tamil poet, Sri Muruganar, while writin his epic Tiruvundiyar, came to the point where Lord Siva, after vanquishing the rishis of the Daruka forest and accepting their surrender taught the rishis the central core of Vedanta. He did not proceed further. He besought Sri Bhagavan who was Siva incarnate, to compose in verse form the teaching Lord Siva gave the rishis.
Sri Bhagavan then composed in twenty-nine verses the upadesa Undiyar in Tamil. The thirtieth verse was composed by Sri Muruganar. Sri Bhagavan later translated this poem into Sanskrit as Upadesa Saram and also into Telugu and Malayalam.
This poem details the various methods of spiritual practices that are available to the seeker and explains their relative merits. The Maharshi emphasizes that Self-enquiry encompasses action, devotion and knowledge and leads the seeker surely and directly to Self-realisation. This is the Maharshi’s way.
The Sanskrit poem in the lilting Suprathishta metre is chanted before dusk at the Samadhi shrine of Sri Bhagavan along with the Vedas.
There are admirable translation o Ramana Maharshi’s Upadesa Saram, that concise revelation of his teaching: those of Viswanatha Swami, Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni and B.V. Narasihaswami. There are the revealing commentaries of Sadhu Om and the excellent analysis of A. R. Natarajan, in addition to versions by other scholars. And juist as there have been uncounted editions of the may be in future other versions of the Maharshi’s poem, which remains today a modern Hindu scripture, revered by his devotees.
I attempt here to convey what this great masterpiece of the Hindu tradition says about one’s relation to life and to the Ultimate Reality. When we quote sources from the scriptures which support the Maharshi’s statements, it is in no way to imply that he found the ideas there. His experience was prior to and superior to any scripture. He had no familiarity with them until much later when devotees brought texts to him and asked for clarifications. The quotaions serve primarily to show the unity and consistency of the Hindu tradition in its ultimate aspects. I have not parenthesized words which have been added at times to the Sanskrit text to clarify the English meaning or provide continuity in the translation. Frequently I have let the Maharshi himself explain or expand the meaning of different verses. The sources for these comments are given in the notes.
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