‘Irrespective of what you say, my body cannot ever be destroyed.
Why argue the matter? This very day shall I,
by the grace of the Primal Lord, demonstrate my power.’
Having thus addressed the faultless Ocean of Grace,
Gorakkar did the following:
Handing to our Lord a shining sword, sharp and true,
like the powerful weapon that Indra held
when he clove the mountains
where the sweet music of babbling streams resounds,
‘I being what I am, pray, hurl this at me
with all the strength of your mighty shoulders!’
Note: There is a puranic story that recounts how mountains once had the ability to fly. Unfortunately, they generally caused a huge amount of damage whenever they tried to land anywhere. To stop this unnecessary destruction, Indra used his vajra, a weapon with two blades that were perpendicular to a short handle that was grasped in the hand, to sever the wings of the mountains and maroon them permanently on the ground.
Standing before him, inflated with pride,
he [Gorakkar] cried, ‘Sire, if so much as a sliver of skin,
no thicker than a fly’s wing,
is cut away, then I am no siddha!’
Allama graciously decided,
‘I will do exactly as this man
who thinks himself immortal
desires, and banish the deep pride
that he stores up in his heart.’
That Rain of Grace took the sword.
Wielding it with the swiftness of lightning,
he raised it on high
and brought it down on [Gorakkar’s] body
with a din that was like a thunderbolt in the heavens.
It was as if he had struck a great and enduring mountain.
A great noise rose up, reverberating throughout the sky.
The holy Mountain Paruppatam trembled!
The daughter of Himavan,
filled with a terror impossible to describe,
thought to her herself, ‘The demon [Ravana] has come,
it would seem, and in his powerful fury,
has [tried] this day to lift up this [Mount Paruppatam] also!’
and went rushing into the arms of Lord Siva.
Note: This is a reference to a story in which the demon Ravana went to Mount Kailash and lifted it up. The ‘daughter of the Himavan’ is Parvati, the consort of Siva.
Just as the asuna bird that listens to the sound of lutes
played by vidhyadhara damsels
will faint on hearing the drumbeat
of the great hunter women with five-fold plaits,
so all the people of the world grew weak in their hearts.
Sleeping beasts jumped to their feet and ran away.
Birds rose up in flocks, and rain poured down.
Note: The vidhyadhara damsels are celestial musicians. The asuna bird is a mythical creature that is highly sensitive to music. When it becomes fascinated by notes and harmonies, a sudden loud beat of the drum causes its instantaneous death.
As [Gorakkar] stood there without a scratch upon his body
while this thunderous noise rose on high,
Allama realised that the pride he had exhibited before
had now tripled its former proportions,
[making him] full of admiration for himself,
convinced in his heart that no man was his equal.
Clapping his hands together [Allama] exclaimed:
‘In this world, where the wind wanders free,
there is no one equal to you,
you who have attained a physical form so strong
that it can produce such a sound!’
Then, with a derisive smile,
He [Allama] proffered him the sword that He held
in the lotus flower of His hand.
‘Wielding this sword you hold with all your strength,
and that of all your followers, attempt to strike Me,’
said our Lord, remaining where He stood.
The siddha in turn fearlessly raised the sword
and smote the form of Him who is beyond compare.
The sword did not affect that matchless body,
but passed harmlessly through it.
It was as if it had sliced through a ray of sunlight,
which is more subtle than an atom.
Is it possible for a sword to touch
that cool and fragrant Supreme Light,
which the never-sagging breasts of Maya,
whose arms are more slender than bamboo,
could not embrace?
Note: In the version of Allama’s life that holds him to be a manifestation of Siva, Allama is not physically born. He instead appears as a baby by the side of a couple who had been doing tapas to gain a ‘truth-bringing, sorrowless’ son. When he grew up, he became a drummer in the local temple. He eventually became the dancing teacher of Maya, whom Parvati had sent to tempt him.
Bhagavan has narrated the incident that the end of this verse refers to in Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk 334:
Bhagavan: There was a dialogue between Siva and Parvati in Kailas. Siva said that Allama was one who would not be affected by her blandishments. Parvati wanted to try it and so sent her tamasic quality to incarnate as a king’s daughter on the earth in order that she might entice Allama. She grew up as a highly accomplished girl. She used to sing in the temple. Allama used to go there and play on the drum. She lost herself in the play of the drum. She fell in love with him. They met in her bedroom. When she embraced him he became intangible. She grew lovesick. But a celestial damsel was sent to remind her of her purpose on the earth. She resolved to overthrow Allama but did not succeed. Finally she went up to Kailas. Then Parvati sent her sattvic quality who was born as a brahmin sannyasini. When she surrendered to Allama she realised his true greatness.
Striking empty space, Gorakkar’s arms grew weak
and he was filled with wonder for the Lord.
‘The Supreme Light that I worship is truly He!’ he cried,
his body perspiring as he quaked with fear.
Abandoning the pride he had entertained,
he began to follow the true path of pure love.
After prostrating himself at the feet of our King,
which are luxuriant lotus flowers, filled with nectar,
he rose to his feet and began to speak:
‘Not recognising Your [true nature], like one intoxicated,
with pride in my heart, I contemplated evil deeds.
Later I stood before You, and contradicted You,
babbling wicked nonsense like a madman.
Like a hunter who kills and snatches away dear life,
I have committed all these sins.
Father, out of your great and enduring grace,
may You cleanse me of all of them
and be my gracious Master.’
That great Flood of Compassion declared:
‘If, setting aside your former misdeeds,
you cease henceforth from your erring ways,
free yourself from attachment to the body,
and come to understand your own true nature,
you will be delightful to Me.’
‘You who feed me the rare ambrosia of heaven,
pardoning and destroying the faults
that render salvation unattainable for me!
You who are a pure and radiant jewel!
What might I offer you in recompense?’
‘Show me the full measure of your compassion,
and reveal to me the true reality that I desire,
that I may fully know it.’
Thus replied Gorakkar, who stood there, free of desire
for the body to which he had clung.
The Radiant Supreme, who cannot be known
by knowledge gained from mere learning,
realising his spiritual maturity,
felt compassion for him.
His [Allama’s] holy heart, which had attained
to the state of the divine, filled with joy.
‘Listen with devotion,’ He said:
‘If you come to know Guhesan [The Lord of the Cave]
as he really is,
the disease of birth will be ended for you,
and you will, as is fit, experience supreme bliss,’
said He who is without blemish.
[Gorakkar] replied: ‘Praise be to You, my Father!
Show me Your loving compassion, and explain
the true meaning of the word Guhesan.
Show me Your grace that I may know
and fully comprehend who it is
that is designated by that name.’
With [Gorakkar] paying homage, our Lord replied:
‘Note well the meaning [of this word]:
The cave [guhai] is the Heart,
and the one who dwells within it is Isan, the Lord.
I Myself am the one who is implied
by the word Guhesan.’
Thus declared the Flawless One.
At this the siddha rejoiced in his heart,
and his face lit up as he asked:
‘If You are [the Lord], then why in Your hand,
that is like a tender blossoming lotus flower,
do You hold a Siva lingam? Please explain.’
‘Desiring that the inhabitants of the world,
in order to reap the fruit of this birth,
should unwaveringly perform puja
with flowers in their hands to the revered Siva lingam,
I always hold in my hand this emblem
that represents My all-embracing form,
never letting go of it. Let your mind
be clear in the knowledge of this.’
Thus did the God and Guru speak,
vouchsafing His grace.
Note: Though Allama here describes the significance of the lingam that is attached to his hand, he does not go into the details of how the lingam came to be there in the first place.
In the version of Allama Prabhu’s life that gives him earthly parents, he fell in love with a girl called Kamalate, whose name means ‘the tendril of love’. However, Kamalate was struck down with a fever, from which she subsequently died. Allama Prabhu took to wandering around, mad with grief. After losing his memory of who he was and where he had come from, he went from village to village calling out the name of Kamalate. While he was sitting in a grove of trees, lost in his grief, he idly scratched the ground with his toes and noticed the pinnacle of a buried temple just under the ground. He had the place excavated and eventually found a closed door in front of what appeared to be the main shrine. He kicked down the door and went in. Sitting before him was a yogi in an open-eyed trance; the focus of his gaze appeared to be the lingam in the shrine. The yogi, whose name was Animisayya, was glowing with an inner light. The name Animisayya means the ‘open-eyed one’, or ‘the one without eyelids’. While Allama was standing there astonished, Animisayya put a lingam into his hand. As he handed over the lingam, Animisayya’s life force left him and went into Allama Prabhu. In that moment of transference, Allama Prabhu became enlightened. For the remainder of his life he wandered around wherever the Lord called him to go.
The phrase ‘Lord of the Cave’ (‘Guhesan’) is one that appears in almost all of Allama’s vacanas, his mystical poems. It seems to be his favourite epithet for the transcendent reality.
It has been conjectured that this phrase may also be a reference to this underground yogi who became his Guru and enlightened him.
In the version of Allama Prabhu’s life that claims that he is a manifestation of Siva, he discovers the underground shrine and meets the yogi who is meditating there. The lingam jumps from the yogi’s hands into Allama Prabhu’s palm, where it sticks and remains for the rest of his life. Since Allama Prabhu, in this version, is Siva Himself, there is no question of any transference of power.
‘In accordance with the injunction
solemnly enjoined upon us
by the Vedas and all the other holy books,
that a guru and teacher should always
engage in the performance of good works,
he who has the ability to subdue the power
of the fetter [of bondage] in the aspirant, the mature seeker,
should only abandon the performance of good deeds
when his body dies, and not before.’
Having thus revealed His own nature,
the Lord said: ‘In the same way that you once remained
with the firm conviction ‘I am the body’,
if, having known Myself who stand here,
you now become established in the conviction
‘I am He’ [soham bhavana],
your state of ignorance will disappear
just as deadly cobra poison
can be rendered ineffective
by dwelling upon the thought of Garuda.
Note: Garuda, the divine eagle, is a mortal enemy of the cobra. In the same way that the mere thought of this bird is supposed to render cobra venom harmless, the conviction ‘I am He’ will counteract the insidious poison of the ‘I am the body’ idea.
The ideas in verses fifty-nine and sixty-two were taken by Bhagavan and rewritten in a Tamil verse that eventually appeared as verse twenty of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham:
The Lord who shines within the cave that is the Lotus of the Heart is worshipped as Guhesan [Lord of the Cave]. If, by strength of daily practice, the conviction ‘I am Guhesan’, in other words, ‘I am He’, becomes as firm as the [present] identification of the ‘I’ with the body, and you [thereby] remain established as that Lord, the ignorance that takes the perishable body to be oneself will vanish like darkness before the golden sun.
Allama Prabhu’s meeting with Gorakkar was also recorded in a work entitled Sunyasampadane (The Achievement of Nothingness). There, after Gorakkar has conceded defeat, Allama Prabhu says:
With your alchemies
you achieve metals but no essence.
With all your manifold yogas
you achieve a body but no spirit.
With your speeches and arguments
you build chains of words
but cannot define the spirit.[1. Sunyasampadane, ed. S. S. Bhoosnurmath, pub. Dharwar 1958, p. 449, cited in Speaking of Siva by A. K. Ramanujan, pub. Penguin 1985, p. 147.]
Having fully realised the meaning of the words
spoken to him, out of His grace, by the supreme Jnana Guru,
Gorakkar abandoned the idea that his body was his true form,
realised the true reality, giving up everything
that was other than that truth,
and attained the Self, banishing
[even] the deluded notion: ‘I am That’.
Becoming the Self, he remained in that place
enjoying praise that even the Gods cannot know.
Note: The phrase ‘I am That’ could also be translated as ‘I am realised’. It probably means that Gorakkar moved on from the inner conviction ‘I am That’ to the final concept-free experience in which there is no longer an ‘I’ that can claim liberation or enlightenment.