In praise of the lazy ones
Verses 773 and 774 of Guru Vachaka Kovai are grouped together under a chapter heading entitled ‘Being Still’ or ‘Remaining Still’. The second of these two verses immediately attracts attention because it states quite clearly that abiding in swarupa, one’s true state, is a state of laziness:
The method of true and supreme tapas that our Lord Ramana declares to be worthwhile and which the mind should firmly hold onto is this, and no more: ‘Being still.’ Other than this there are absolutely no thoughts to think, nor any duties to be contemplated by it.
The lazy state wherein you exist motionlessly and shine is the state of swarupa. In that supreme state you have become That. It cannot be attained except by direct, excellent and rare tapas. You should therefore honour those who are established in that laziness as holy beings.
This state is described, perhaps a little ironically, as ‘lazy’ only because there is no one left there who can do anything. Muruganar wrote in Padamalai that Bhagavan bestowed this state on him:
The golden Padam [Bhagavan] completely abolished my wandering around as a wicked one and made me shine as a perfect idler.
Even the actions I perform, believing them to be my own, are in reality the actions of Padam, the complete and absolute truth.
(Padamalai, pp. 342, 343, vv. 62, 64)
Bhagavan also mentioned this state of laziness in Aksharamanamalai verse 37:
If I sleep consciously as a lazy one, remaining still and consuming bliss, this is the supreme state. Is there any [state] other than this, O Arunachala? If there is, please tell me!
I have just done a quick check on the two English versions (Collected Works and Prof. Swaminathan’s Five Hymns to Arunachala) that are on my bookshelf, and neither of them mentions the word ‘lazy’ even though it is clearly mentioned in the verse. I suspect the translators felt that ‘lazy’ as a description of the Self was more than a little pejorative, so they toned the first phrase down and used the more euphemistic phrases ‘lying in peaceful repose’ and ‘slumbering in quiet repose’. I would guess they were trying to convey the idea that it was a state in which nothing could be done or needed to be done. While this is a true description of the state being described, the impact of the original phrase is considerably watered down.
I think that Bhagavan, the author, intended to convey the full and normal meaning of the word ‘lazy’ when he composed this verse, not some wishy-washy state of ‘quiet repose’. When Muruganar wrote his Tamil commentary on Aksharamanamalai (Aksharamanamalai Vritti Urai) and showed it to Bhagavan, Bhagavan endorsed this interpretation by adding the following verse from Tirumandiram, one of the canonical scriptures of Saivism, to the section of Muruganar’s manuscript that dealt with this verse:
The place where the lazy ones dwell is pure space.
The place where the lazy ones rest is pure space.
The consciousness of the lazy ones remains
in the place which the Vedas have abandoned
as beyond their scope.
The lazy ones have gained the state in which they are sleeping,
totally unaware of the Vedas.
(Tirumandiram, v. 127)
Arunachala and Sri Ramana Maharshi - http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/