Izinegbe o se obo

In Memoriam: Victoria Osamuokpunwa Isibor

In loving memory of our mother Victoria Osamuokpunwa Isibor , a.k.a. Iye (mother) who sloughed off the body-vestment on February 18, 2011. I offer these seminal sayings of the great ones on her favorite subject of “Izinegbe” or “holding still” – as a garland-necklace of love for you, mother.


The Maharshi in his supplication to Sri Arunachala in Akshara Manamalai or The Marital Garland of Letters

The 108 verses of this hymn “tell in glowing symbolism of the love and union between the human soul and God and is among the most profound and moving poems in any language. … It is to be understood in all these hymns the word “Arunachala” means God and nothing else. It also means the physical hill of Arunachala in South India where God is peculiarly manifested for the Maharshi and his disciples.” 1

In the concluding verses of the hymn, “Bhagavan supplicates Arunachala to accept only the intense and heart-melting devotion and ignore the faults of diction and content in his verses, for forbearance is His very nature.”

107. (Tamil)  “Poru-maiyam bhudara or the very embodiment of patience, oh mighty hill Arunachala.”

“pun-solai nan-solap or deign to accept as auspicious and sweet and do not shun my pedestrian and faulty words.”

“porut-tarul or for my sake bear with them.”

“ishtam-pin Arunachala or (I know no other prayer) do thou then as thou pleaseth, Arunachala.” 2


Arunachala! The very form of forbearance, do not shun but graciously bear with the foolish and faulty words of a simpleton like me and be pleased to accept them as sweet and auspicious words worthy of Thee. (As I know of no other prayer) Do as Thou wilt. 2

Commentary by Smt. T.R. Kanakammal, a direct disciple of Sri Bhagavan

“Poruttal, darittal, tangal : are all synonyms meaning to bear large-heartedly while bhu stands for Mother Earth.

Mother Earth with all Her flora and fauna is held holy and aloft in all the scriptures as the very embodiment of patience by virtue of Her bearing good and bad, yielding food, shelter and garb to even those who cut, harm and abuse Her. (For these very reasons, the celebrated Saint Dattatreya extols Mother Earth as the first of his twenty-four gurus from whom he stood instructed.)

Here Bhagavan addresses Arunachala  by the term bhudara (‘the very form of endurance’) as he entreats Him to bear with his faulty and foolish words. …

Bhagavan in addition to praising Arunachala as the physical form of a mountain, is intimately aware of Him as the form of Siva, Resplendence of the Light of Knowledge, and hymns him as such.

As the earth bears the mountain, it has acquired the name bhudara. This fits the earth only with respect to mountains other than Arunachala.

Arunachala, the form of supreme Siva, the Absolute, the content of supreme Silence, beyond the reach of mind and speech, is the Substratum that bears everything including the world. Hence the term bhudara befits only Arunachala.

As the hymn is coming to an end, as in verse 100 – (vaidalai vazhtta: even as a loving mother enjoys the prattling abuse of a child as a strain of heavenly music, so should Thou enjoy and regard mine), he reiterates his request to bear with his trivial words.

He has no will of his own other than that of the Lord. Thus, the essence of the paramount principle of surrender is re-emphasized here in un ishtam-pin.” 2

The Kural by Tiruvalluvar

(16) Forbearance

To bear insults is best, like the earth
Which bears and maintains its diggers.

Forgive transgressions always, better still
Forget them.

The want of wants is to be inhospitable,
The might of mights to suffer fools.

If you would keep your goodness intact
Practice forbearance.
*(Ascetics, if they curse when provoked, will lose the fruit of their penance.)

Avengers count for nothing, forgivers
Are prized as gold.

The avenger’s joy is for a day,
The forgiver’s fame lasts like the earth’s.

Though sinfully injured it is best
To desist from evil out of pity.

Conquer with forbearance
The excesses of insolence

Those who bear a reprobate’s rude words
Are pure as ascetics.

To fast and bear pangs is great, but only next
To bearing insults. 3

The Maharshi – From Guru Vachaka Kovai or The Garland of Guru’s Sayings by Sri Muruganar

84. Humility

494  The position of human beings will improve to the extent that they behave with humility towards others.

The reason for God’s supremacy, the reason why the whole world bows low before him, is surely, is it not, his exalted nature of not possessing a deluded ego that rises, even inadvertently?

496  God humbly and enthusiastically worships all beings at all times as though taking upon himself for all time menial service to them.

Is it not because of this that He has become privileged to receive the great and pre-eminent forms of worship performed each day by all the beings of all the worlds?

497  As devotees of God see only their own Self in everything, they behave with humility towards all of them.

But since God humbles Himself even before his devotees, He has attained, as His nature, that state in which there is nothing inferior to Him. Is it not because of the supremacy of this extreme humility that He has attained the state of God? 4

Muruganar: The implication is that the proper way to attain the state of God is to remain subsided, without the ego.

Annamalai Swami: “On many occasions Bhagavan told me, ‘Become envious of anyone lower than you. You must become very small. In fact you must become nothing. Only a person who is nobody can abide in the Self. 
Bhagavan often spoke to us about the necessity of humility. On another occasion he told me, ‘No one should be our inferior. One who has learned to be the inferior will become superior to all‘.” 4

Professor K. Swaminathan: “Once in the 1940s, I was sitting outside the hall with many devotees. Bhagavan was reclining on a couch. A group of learned pandits was discussing passages from the Upanishads with great enthusiasm and profundity. All, including Bhagavan, appeared to be attentively listening to the interesting discussion when, all of a sudden, Bhagavan rose from the couch, walked some distance and stood before a villager who was standing lowly with palms joined. All eyes turned to Bhagavan and the villager who was standing at a distance. They appeared to be conversing. Soon Bhagavan returned to his couch and the discussion resumed.

Being curious to know why Bhagavan had to go out to meet a villager, I slipped away from the discussion and caught up with the villager before he left the Ashram. He told me that “Bhagavan was asking why I was standing so far and also asked my name, about my village, what I did, and about my family etc.” I enquired, “Did you ask him anything?” The villager replied, “When I asked him how I could earn his blessings, he asked whether there was a temple in my village and the name of the temple deity. When I told him the deity’s name, he said, go on repeating the name of the deity and you would receive all the blessings needed.”

I came back to Bhagavan’s presence, but lost all interest in the discussions. I felt that the simple humility and devotion of a peasant had evoked a far greater response from our Master than any amount of learning. I then decided that though a scholar by profession, I should always remain a humble, ignorant peasant at heart and pray for Bhagavan’s grace and blessings. 5

The Maharshi on the Saint Nama Sivaya

24th January, 1938

447. “Sri Bhagavan said that a saint  Namah Sivaya who was formerly living in Arunachala must have undergone considerable difficulties. For he has sung a song saying: “God proves the devotee by means of severe ordeals. A washerman beats the cloth on a slab, not to tear it, but only to remove the dirt. 6

Kunju Swami:Sri Dandapani Swami (Sri Muruganar’s father-in-law) had done a yeoman’s service to the Ashram. He was, for sometime, the Sarvadhikari (Ashram manager) also. Yet, in his last days, he had to leave the Ashram under unpleasant circumstances. While doing so he told Bhagavan: ‘Bhagavan! I am leaving.’ Bhagavan kept silent. Dandapani Swami left. He went back to his native place, but could not rest in peace. Old age was already taking its toll on him.

One day, the Ashram received a letter in which he spilled all his woes and worries and at the end prayed to Sri Bhagavan to ‘save him’. Though some people in the hall did not react sympathetically to this old man’s sincere appeal, Bhagavan was moved by the letter of Dandapani Swami.

After sometime, he turned to Viswanathan (Viswanatha Swami) and said: ‘You reply to him soothingly. In it quote the verse of Guhai Namasivaya.’ The reply was immediately sent. This verse reads:
‘Lord Arunachala sends us troubles only to remove our defects not to kill us. The washerman beats the sari on the stone not because he hates it, but to remove its dirt’.” 7