(pronunciation = 'kanthar anu-boo-thee')
By N.V. Karthikeyan
Kanthar Anubhuthi is a deeply philosophical and spiritual treatise with profound mystical import of Saint Arunagirinathar, who stands unique among the devotee-saints of the Tamil Nadu.
Kanthar Anubhuthi is a work of 51 verses. It is held in high esteem as a Mantra-Sastra and as the crowning glory of Sri Arunagirinathar's works, because of its high spiritual value and depth. The verses are short, rather the smallest in all the works of Arunagirinathar, but they are the most sublime. As the title suggests, it is a work on (the attainment of) God-Experience. There are certain editions of the Kanthar Anubhuthi with 100 verses, but the last 49 verses are generally rejected as later additions by someone and not Arunagirinathar's words.
"Kantha," in Tamil, is "Skanda" in Sanskrit; it is one of the names of the spiritual Son of Lord Siva. Some of Skanda's other names being: Shanmukha, Karttikeya, Guhan, Velayudhan, Murugan, etc. He is the younger brother of Lord Sri Ganesha.
"Anubhuthi," is rather a Sanskrit term used in the Tamil language as well in the same sense, i.e., direct or immediate Experience of God, and it denotes the spiritual union of the soul with God. It usually implies the highest non-dual or Advaitic realization. It is Sakshatkara or direct experience. Hence, Kanthar Anubhuthi would mean the Immediate or Direct Divine Experience of Lord Skanda. And, to Arunagirinathar, Lord Skanda is not merely a personal deity or Ishta Devata but the Supreme Absolute Itself, as he himself reveals in many verses, particularly in verses 2, 13, 28, and 49. Hence, we may say that "Kanthar Anubhuthi" means, in simple terms,"God Experience."
Saint Arunagirinathar is the author of many poetic works of which the Kanthar Anubhuthi is his masterpiece. Though it is a small work of 51 verses or stanzas, it is very rich in spiritual wisdom and is full of deep significance. It is a treasure of rare knowledge to seekers of Truth and a mine of devotion to lovers of God. It is an unusual work of a mysterious synthesis of Bakthi and Jnana, of devotion and wisdom the one overlapping the other; at once touching the heart and igniting pure emotions as well as provoking deep thought and transcending the intellect. Suffice it to say that it is regarded as a Mantra-Sastra or a treatise of mystic imports and has been placed on par with the well-known Mantra-Sastra of Thirumanthiram a treatise of 3,000 verses of Saint Thirumular, who used to remain absorbed in Samadhi for one full year, only to rise from it to give one verse and remain absorbed again. The Thirumanthiram is the 10th book of the Panniru Thirumurai (the 12 sacred Saiva works) of the Saivites. Correspondingly, the Kanthar Anubhuthi is regarded as the 10th book of the Panniru Thirumurai of the followers of Lord Murugan. Thus, the glory and greatness of the work can be understood in a measure, though to realize it in full measure it has to enter into one's being and become part of one's own experience.
It is rightly believed that the work Kanthar Anubhuthi contains itself, explicitly and implicitly, many Mantras. The Names of the Lord, such as Murugan, Kantha, Shanmukha, Guhan, Velava, are mantras by themselves; and the work is replete with these Names of the Lord. Further, in many verses there are mantras in the form of mystic formulae. For instance, "Velum Mayilum Thunai" in verse 1, "Naatha Kumaraa Namah" in verse 36, "(Naan) Iraiyoon Parivaaram" in verse 37, "Guruvaai Varuvaai Arulvaii Guhanae" in verse 51 the details about which can be found in the explanations of the verses. There is also another reason why the Kanthar Anubhuthi is regarded as a Mantra-Sastra. "Mananaat Trayate Iti Mantra" that by the Manana or reflection of which one is saved or released (from Samsara) is a mantra. Truly, a deep reflection and meditation on this mystic work and its imports liberates one from bondage.
The Vel of Lord Skanda, which is identical with Him, is a mystic Divine weapon with which He destroyed the Asuras. The Vel which is Wisdom-Absolute also annihilates the inner Asuras or enemies of Avidya, Kama, and Karma, and liberates the Jiva from transmigration. The Vel is a mysterious divine power and is referred to by Saint Arunagirinathar as the Mantra-Vel in one of his Thiruppugal songs. And, out of the 51 verses of the Kanthar Anubhuthi, there is a direct invocation to the Vel in 25 verses. For this reason as well, the work is regarded as a Mantra-Sastra.
Thus, being replete with the Names of the Lord, which are mantras; containing many mystic formulae (Mantras) in its bosom, a reflection or repetition of which liberates one from Samsara; being filled with invocations to the Vel which is mystic in nature, which destroys Avidya; a daily recitation of this marvellous Mantra-Sastra, the Kanthar Anubhuthi, is capable of bestowing on one whatever one honestly seeks and exactly in the manner one seeks. Hence, to the devotees of Lord Skanda, the Kanthar Anubhuthi is a holy book for daily parayanam (devout recitation) and there are devotees even today who can narrate their personal experiences and the miraculous protection received by them from the Lord by resorting to the repetition of a single verse or even a part of a verse from the Kanthar Anubhuthi. We may, in passing, refer to one or two such instances.
(1) A devotee, who used to do daily parayanam of the Kanthar Anubhuthi, was proceeding from one village to another through a jungle-path. He was suddenly accosted by a thief. The devotee plucked the stem of a betel leaf which he was carrying and uttering the phrase "Tholaipatturuvath Thodu Velavanae", meaning: "O Lord Velayudha, who dispatched the Vel as to pierce (through the heart of the Asura Surapadman)" (last line of verse 4), shot it on the thief. Lo! The betel stem acted as the Vel and killed the thief on the spot.
(2) The Saiva Siddhanta Maha Samajam, Madras, has published a book entitled "Kanthar Anubhuthi", in Tamil, with the original verses, their respective Yantras or Chakras and Mula-Mantras. Its author is Sri M.P. Thyagaraja Mudaliar, B.A., who was the Assistant Secretary of the Samajam. He was initiated into the verses and the yantras by a Sannyasin who had attained great Siddhis in them and to whom the yantras and Mula-Mantras were revealed in meditation. The author has narrated an interesting incident in his book, as follows:
From the above incidents, we can imagine the immense benefits that could be derived from a systematic parayanam of the Kanthar Anubhuthi, daily. If a line in a verse or a single verse can do so much, what cannot be achieved from a recitation of the whole work? While the repetition of a particular verse with its Mula-Mantra and Yantra bestows such results, an unselfish, daily recitation of all the 51 verses without any expectation from the Lord does not only remove one's physical and psychological ills, and protect one from all dangers, but also bestow on one the higher blessings of pure love of God and Divine Wisdom as well, is my own conviction and experience.
To my knowledge, there is no commentary on the Kanthar Anubhuthi available in English, though I understand that more than 25 years ago someone published a bare translation of it, but of this no information or copy can now be had.
There are, of course, many commentaries available, in Tamil, on this great work and each one has a specific purpose or is characterized by certain predilections. Thus, there are commentaries purely for students, direct and simple, so as to enable them to understand the meaning even as they recite the verses; for the masses, delivered as a series of talks and subsequently edited and published; for scholars, with profuse quotations from the different Tamil works; for devotees, extolling the glory and greatness of the Lord by recounting His Divine Deeds with anecdotes and stories so as to instill faith in their hearts; and so on and so forth. There are again commentaries based on the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy as well as on the Vedanta philosophy. My effort is to interpret and explain the verses mainly from the viewpoint of a Sadhaka or a seeker of Truth, so as to be helpful to them in their practices, rather than to be literary or academic. Hence, much searching analysis in an attempt at finding the rationale behind the pithy phrases, words and declarations used in the verses has been made in order to create the needed conviction in the minds of seekers, which unshakable conviction is a great asset to Sadhakas to be steady in their practices and plod on till the goal is reached. Here I may mention that, to me, the Kanthar Anubhuthi is a treatise purely spiritual in nature and so it does not admit of any kind of low and whimsical interpretations, just to please the people. It is a holy book and has, therefore, to be treated in a holy manner, with due fervour and devotion. Even if it might seem out of the way and far-fetched, it would be befitting and advisable to direct our efforts to try to understand the Saint's mind and his purpose in giving such a work to the world and explaining the verses in a divine manner, raised above the sensuous and worldly views. Hence, my effort has been to interpret and explain the verses purely from a spiritual seeker's point of view, to be commensurate with the title of the work and the purpose for which Saint Arunagirinathar gave it to the world to help others, too, to attain that bliss which he himself enjoyed. More importance and attention has been given to see that the explanations are of practical utility to seekers, in so doing, providing the needed understanding and strength to encounter the day-to-day struggle with their lower nature, overcoming them gradually, and finally to attain the Goal of God-Experience. My efforts would be amply rewarded even if one seeker is helped a bit in his onward march to the Goal. Of course, it goes without saying that I have derived the greatest benefit in writing this commentary, as many great truths and secrets have been revealed to me in the course of my effort at this task.
May the Grace of Lord Skanda illumine our path and crown our endeavours with success, is my honest prayer.
Karthikeyan, N.V. Kanthar Anubhuti (God-Experience) of Saint Arunagirinathar. 2nd ed. India: Divine Life Society, 1990.
Sivananda, Swami. Lord Shanmukha and His Worship. World Wide Web edition. India: Divine Life Society, 2000.
Venkataramiah, K.M. Sivan Arul Thirattu. 2nd ed. Republic of South Africa: Natal Tamil Vedic Society, 1990.