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The Garland of Guru's Sayings
Guru Vachaka Kovai
Translated by Prof. K. Swaminathan from
the Tamil original of Sri Muruganar


Publisher's Note

The most comprehensive collection of the Maharshi's sayings is Guru Vachaka Kovai (The Garland of Guru's Sayings) composed and strung together artistically by the poet Muruganar. In this massive Tamil work of 1282 stanzas (1254 being Muruganar's handiwork and 28 the Maharshi's), each stanza presents, in a well wrought and finely polished setting, a pearl that fell from the Master's lips. Not only are these stanzas arranged in the most logically effective order, under 231 chapters, but most of them were seen and approved by the Master, who has supplied some links and re-statements of his own to emphasise a point or tighten up or clarify the argument.

The Garland focuses the light on what the Maharshi said regardless of when or why he said it, and the sayings are strung together in a manner which is intellectually satisfying.


Born to Sri Krishna Iyer of Ramanathapuram in 1890, the child was originally named Sambamurti. However, the official name was C. K. Subramanya Iyer. He, who in later years could sing and pour out verses in torrent, could hardly speak and was almost dumb till the age of five. Having lost his father early in life, he lived in Coimbatore and received his education there.

Having studied the Tirukkural thoroughly he followed its precepts meticulously in his life. Out of love for Tamil he changed his name to Mugavai Kanna Muruganar (see v.13 of The Garland), corresponding to his original name.

Not only was he a noted scholar, but also a spiritually oriented nationalist and was greatly influenced by Gandhiji's liberation movement. His first volume of poems was "Swatantra Gitam.''

He first came to Sri Bhagavan in 1923. This darshan and the intense gaze of Sri Bhagavan transformed his being. When thus he came under the spell of the Master, all lesser lights were absorbed in the radiance of His presence and he never again wrote on any theme other than the glory and the sayings of the Master.

Muruganar's self-effacement was total and he sat immortal in the shadow of Ramana's Feet. He passed away on August 28, 1973 amidst the chanting of the devotees in praise of Sri Arunachala and Sri Ramana.

Sri Ramanasramam
K. Swaminathan


1. Invocation to the Guru

To save from dire despondency
Those who yearn for, and yet are, far,
Far from the goal of final Freedom,
This Lamp of Guru's wisdom lit
To put to fight the illusion of "I''
And "mine'', shines as the very Self.

Part I - The Quest

1. Actuality of the World

As several ornaments appear
In gold and share its glitter, all beings
Moving and unmoving appear
In Self alone and shine as such.
Apart from Self nothing exists.

With mind turned inward, drown the world
In the great void, dispel illusion.
Beholding then the void as void,
Destroy the void by drowning it
In the deep ocean of Self-Awareness.

6. Illusory Appearance

Without the body, the world is not.
Without the mind, the body is not.
Without awareness, there is no mind.
And without being there is no

45. Of Non-Attachment

From the mind's fortress held by foes,
Innumerable memories, one by one
They issue. With the wonder-weapon
Of self-enquiry slay each thought
As it comes out in the open,
Till at last you have retrieved
The citadel of your own heart.

51. The Heart

Though present everywhere, the Heart
Is not within and not without.
The body which alone admits
Of in and out is but a concept
Of the thinking mind.

53. Guru's Grace

Those on whom the guru's glance
Of grace has fallen are like the deer
Caught in a tiger's jaw. They are bound
To have their wretched ego slain
And know the one supreme Awareness.
They will never be forsaken.

56. Reverence to the Guru

After surrendering to the Guru
Body, mind and all belongings,
To still regard these as "I'' and "mine''
Is taking back a gift once given.
Strict avoidance of this sin
Is pure worship of the Master.

62. Infinite Vision

Those with physical eyes alone
See God in beautiful objects,
Yogis see Him in the heart-lotus;
Priests see Him in the sacred fire.
The truly wise have a thousand eyes
And see Him everywhere.

63. Ego - Less

In deep sleep where the world is not,
And "I'' as body too is not,
The Self as Being persistent shines.
Hence the true I, one must agree,
Is only the immutable Self.

68. Freedom from Bondage

The separate self is but the mind
Drunk with and reeling under the notion
That it is bound. This very mind
When it stands steady, still, desiring
Nothing and proud of nothing
Becomes the Self supreme.

71. Awareness

Is it not because of you and yourself
Awareness that you now perceive
This universe? If you observe
Awareness steadily, this awareness
Itself as Guru will reveal
The Truth.

77. True Being

Present when we do not search
And absent when we truly see,
The petty mind's illusive serpent
Sinks, disappears and merges
In the rope of Self-awareness
Which now as sole Reality
Alone abides.

80. Self Surrender

"Give yourself to God'', they say.
But is it ours to give, not His already?
Now at least let us repent
The theft and at His lotus Feet
Restore what we had stolen.

84. Meekness

Beholding in all beings but the Self,
Meeker than all and even meeker
Than His humblest devotees,
By virtue of such meekness the Supreme
Achieves supremacy.

Part II - Continued Practice

6. Vanity of Argument

"Of fate and effort, which is stronger?
Which will yield? Which will prevail?''
Those who wage this war of words
Are wholly ignorant of That from which
The world and the ego both appear
And into which they disappear.

12. Waking Dream

The wise ones hold that dream and waking
Are both creations of the mind
Confused. Since both are filled with thoughts
And names and forms, we too conclude
They are just the same.

16. Sense Pleasures

As fire when it is fed with ghee
Leaps up erect, unquenched,
Desire too when gratified
Rejoices and revives in strength.

23. Wonderful Maya

Though we are ever That and only
That, how wonderful it is
To watch the paths we tread, the pains
We take, for winning This, as if
This were something alien and remote.

30. Denotative Knowledge

Oneself, no other, is the Self.
Deeming it different and so making
Strenuous efforts to attain it
Is like running hard to catch
One's own shadow.

31. Ending Indicative Knowledge

The gracious light of Self one sees not
When looking for it as an object.
But when one looks not, then it shines.
"The maiden when I look at her
Glances downward at the ground.
But when I look elsewhere she looks
At me and shyly smiles.''

51. The Holy Name

The word "I'' seems to mean at first
The body-bound ego. But this "I''
Appears and disappears.
Looked deeper, the correct import
Of I is seen to be the Self, which is
The ego's ground and source.

54. Bhakti-Vichara

The way of knowledge and the way of love
Are interwoven close. Don't tear
Asunder these inseparables
But practice both together holding
In the heart the two as one.

61. Other Sadhanas

Barring fruitful self-enquiry
There is, for real mind-control,
No other sadhana whatsoever.
The mind may seem to be controlled
By other methods. But after a while
It will spring up again.

65. Pure Being

What our Master clearly teaches
By way of great, good, powerful tapas
Is only this and nothing more
Apart from this, the mind has no
Task to do or thought to think.

68. Seekers Conduct

When all your efforts end in failure
It means that you are being taught
The lesson that, not your own efforts,
But God's good grace alone can bring
Success and you should seek His grace.

73. Service to 'Others'

Whatever on to "others'' gives
Is well and truly given to oneself.
Who knowing this would fail to give
Generous service to the world?

81. The Whole Mind

The householder who realizes
That he is not the body family-bound
Is a more advanced renunciant than
The ascetic who feels proud at heart
That he has given up all attachments.

84. Who is the Witness

Until the snake-illusion goes
Its ground, the real rope, will not
Be recognised. Until the world
Of false phenomena disappears,
The Self, its ground, will not shine clear.

Part III : Experience of Reality

2. Eternal Awareness

When the seeker tries to realize
The non-duality of the Self,
Fumbles and fails again, again,
And finally his efforts stop,
It is then, just then, that in his heart
Shines the Self as true Awareness.

7. Destruction of the Mind

The calm and clear awareness where
There is no movement of the mind
Is firm samadhi, moksha-like.
Try earnestly to free the mind
From traitor thoughts and so experience
Calm and clear awareness, purity of heart.

26. Cosmic Consciousness

The state in which no "other'' is seen,
No "other'' heard, no "other'' known,
Know that this and this alone
Is cosmic consciousness.

32. Nature of Self

The inner Ruler who within
Each living being lives unknown,
Uses each body as his own,
And ceaseless, tireless moves it, He
Is the immortal Self.

40. Authentic Living

Shun anger and desire; destroy
Illusions false that cause confusion,
Behave at all times with detachment
Calm. This is authentic living.
To this hold fast.

41. The Formless

If I have form, the Lord, the source
Of Being, appears with form. But if
I am bodiless, formless, then there is
No awareness of another. How
Could one say that God has form?

48. Jivan Muktas

As only a serpent known a serpent's
Spoor, so only a jnani knows
A jnani's nature. Others can
But misunderstand it, never
Know it as it truly is.

49. Jnanis

Far different from the scholar learned
In books of wisdom is the Seer.
Those who seek freedom from the bondage
Of ignorance had better leave
Scholars alone and enter the presence
Of Seers established in the Self

52. Might of Mouna

If we look deep, these troublesome
Questions and answers both belong
But to the language of duality.
In mouna, the transcendent speech
Of non-duality, they have
No place at all.

54. Supreme Bhakti

The mark of bhakti true, total
Self-surrender at Siva's Feet,
Is perfect peace without a thought
Or word of prayer or plaint.

58. The Truth Experience

There is no creation, no destruction,
No one bound, and none at all
For freedom yearning much and striving
Hard; none attaining mukti.
Know this to be the Truth supreme.

61. Describing the Experience

In my sight 'I' only am
And 'you' are not. In your sight
'You' only are and 'I' am not.
In the sight of the Self the Self alone
Exists and nothing else.
In truth I, you and all are nothing
But the Self.


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