The idea that God takes on a human form to catch other beings who have this same form is one that appears in many spiritual texts. Bhagavan explained this particular reference in the following reply:
The Master appears to dispel … ignorance. As Thayumanavar puts it, he appears as a man to dispel the ignorance of a man, just as a deer is used as a decoy to capture the wild deer. He has to appear with a body in order to eradicate our ignorant ‘I am the body’ idea. (Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, talk no. 398)
The next six verses contain the upadesa that Mauna Guru gave to Thayumanavar, and a description of the effect it had on him:
Coming thus, he claimed my body, my belongings, my very life
as his possessions, and teaching the path of rejection, he declared:
‘The five senses, the five elements, the organs of action, and all the rest,
you are not. You are none of these.
Nor are you any of the qualities that pertain to these.
You are not the body, nor are you knowledge and ignorance.
You are chit, the real, which is like a crystal,
reflecting the qualities of whatever is placed before it,
and yet having no connection with it.
It is my inherent nature to enlighten you
when I find that you are ripe for it.’
‘If you desire to gain the vast, supreme reality
that is the temple of refreshing grace,
inseparable from all that is, becoming pure consciousness
and obtaining the indestructible state whose nature is bliss,
listen as I explain to you the proper means:
May you live long, winning in your heart
the reality that is devoid of all qualities!
May you attain the state of bliss-consciousness,
so that all the dense accumulation of ignorance disappears!
May you liberate yourself from bondage!’
Through his grace, he imparted to me the state of mauna,
the true knowledge in which bondage is abolished:
‘For that state, there is no thought, no “I” sense,
no space, no time, no directions, no pairs of opposites,
nothing lost, nothing other, no words,
no phenomena of night and day,
no beginning, no end, no middle, no inner or outer.
‘When I say: “It is not, it is not”, this is not a state of nothingness.
It is pure identity; it is the nature that eternally endures,
a state that cannot be expressed in words.
It is the swarupa which engulfs everything,
so that neither ‘I’ nor anything else appears.
As the day consumes the night, it consumes ignorance entirely.
Easily overcoming and swallowing up your personal consciousness,
it transforms your very self, here and now, into its own Self.
It is the state that distinguishes itself as self–luminous silence.’
‘Other than the nature that is its own Self,
it allows nothing else to arise.
Because there is no other consciousness,
should anything attempt to arise there it will, like a camphor flame, vanish.
The knower, devoid of both knowledge and objects known, falls away,
without falling, since it still remains.
But who can tell of its greatness, and to whom?
By dint of becoming That, one exists only as That.
That alone will speak for itself.’
‘If we call it “That”, then the question will arise, “What is That?”
Therefore did Janaka and the other kings
and the rishis, foremost among whom is Suka,
lived happily, like bees intoxicated with honey,
entirely avoiding any mention of “That”.
Remain in this state.’Thus did he speak.
Grant me the abundance of your grace
so that, in the nirvikalpa state of total tranquillity,
I may know and attain the condition of supreme bliss,
in accordance with your rule.
I shall not sleep or take up any other work
until I attain this state. (‘Akarabuvanam-Chidambara Rahasya’, vv. 18-23)
Thayumanavar’s reverence for his Mauna Guru, for the teachings he gave him, and for the experiences he ultimately bestowed on him, were the subject of another poem that Bhagavan mentioned. The subject arose when Bhagavan was asked about the necessity of having a Guru:
‘Is it possible to gain knowledge without the blessings of a Guru?’ asked a devotee. Even Rama, who was like a dullard in his early life, became a realised soul only with the help of his Guru.’
‘Yes, said Bhagavan, ‘how can there be any doubts?’ The grace of the Guru is absolutely necessary. That is why Thayumanavar praised his Guru in his hymns. (Letters and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam, p. 26)
The verse that follows was not specifically mentioned by Bhagavan. We have inserted it here because it closely resembles the contents of a verse by another author that Bhagavan quoted immediately after mentioning Thayumanavar. That verse said: ‘O Gurudeva, your look falling upon it, a tiger becomes gentle like a goat, a snake like a squirrel, and a bad man becomes a good man….’
At your [Mauna Guru’s] glance,
the tiger that roams the forest will sport with the cow.
At a sign of your hand,
the rutting elephant will come,
carrying with his trunk
a huge load of great logs for a bonfire.
Kamadhenu herself will attend
your golden feet,
saying, ‘Your meal is prepared’.
Kings of the earth, and kings of verse
will laud you as the king of tapas,
crying out ‘ Victory and praise to you!’
At the mere sight of your face,
abode of knowledge and compassion,
the nine siddhas will desire your friendship.
Realised sages, with Suka
and Vamadevar at their head,
will express their admiration for you.
Is it easy to tell of the greatness of you,
before whom both heaven and earth
come to offer their worship?
Mantra Guru! Yoga Tantra Guru!
Mauna Guru, sprung from Tirumular’s ancestral line! (‘Maunaguru Vanakkam’, verse 7)
Bhagavan concluded his description of the greatness of the Guru by commenting, ‘The Guru’s grace is extraordinary’. (Letters and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam, p. 26)
Having been refused permission to follow Mauna Guru wherever he went, Thayumanavar continued to serve at the royal court. After some time, though, the prince, who was a pious man himself, noticed the depth of Thayumanavar’s devotion and offered to release him from his service. When Thayumanavar told the prince that he just wanted to spend his life in meditation, the prince accepted his resignation and gave him a small house on the banks of the River Kaveri where he could meditate undisturbed. The prince, who had recognised his holiness, visited him regularly and often brought him gifts.
In 1731 the prince, who apparently was not a very able ruler, died soon after losing a major battle to an army that had attempted to invade part of his territory. His widow, Rani Meenakshi, took over the running of the kingdom. She came to Thayumanavar for advice on how to run the country’s affairs, and for some time he had to go back to his former job as a royal advisor. However, in an unexpected turn of events, Meenakshi fell in love with him and started to make amorous advances. Thayumanavar decided that the only way to escape her sexual demands would be to flee to a place that was beyond her jurisdiction. With the help of Arulayya, one of his devotees, he escaped, disguised as a soldier, and eventually moved to Ramanathapuram, where the local raja welcomed him and arranged for him to stay in a quiet place where his meditations would not be disturbed. For some time he lived a very ascetic life there.
Rani Meenakshi ran her kingdom very badly. In 1736 her country was overrun by various invaders and she ended up committing suicide by drinking poison. Siva Chidambaram, Thayumanavar’s elder brother, came in person to tell Thayumanavar that it was safe for him to return home, if he wanted to, since there was no longer any danger of royal revenge. He went back to his ancestral home where he was treated with great reverence by both his family and his community. However, a surprise was in store for him. His family wanted him to marry, and they were backed up by Mauna Guru who told Thayumanavar that it was his destiny to get married and have a child. In obedience to his Guru’s wishes, he married a girl called Mattuvarkuzhali and they eventually had a son whom they named Kanakasabhapati. The marriage did not last long because Mattuvarkuzhali died soon afterwards, leaving Thayumanavar with the responsibility of bringing up a child.
Around this time Mauna Guru visited him again to give him darshan and instructions, one of which was to make a pilgrimage to Chidambaram. During their meeting Thayumanavar went into a deep samadhi that lasted for several days. When he returned to his normal consciousness, he realised that he could no longer fulfil his duties as a householder and a father. He handed over the care of his son to his older brother and left for Chidambaram.