Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai, the upadesa (spiritual guidance) poems composed in Tamil by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, with word-for-word meaning and English translation by Sri Sadhu Om and Michael James. These verses were written in answer to the request, 'Teach us the nature of reality and the means to attain it', and contain a wealth of ideas and clues to guide anyone who seeks to experience the non-dual state of true self-knowledge by means of self-investigation (atma-vicara, scrutinising oneself to know 'who am I?').
“So that we may be saved, [graciously] reveal to us the nature of reality and the means to attain [or experi-ence] it.” This is the prayer that Sri Muruganar made to Bhagavan Sri Ramana when requesting him to compose Ulladu Narpadu, and these are the words with which he be-gins the first verse of his payiram or preface to this great work.
In answer to this prayer Sri Bhagavan composed Ulla-du Narpadu, and in accordance with it he thereby revealed to us not only the nature of reality but also the means by which we can attain direct experience of it. As he revealed, the only reality —ulladu or ‘that which is’— is our own es-sential self, and the only means by which we can experi-ence it directly is just to ‘be as it is’ by turning our atten-tion away from all otherness or duality towards our own essential thought-free self-conscious being, ‘I am’.
The essence of Ulladu Narpadu, and indeed the essence of Sri Bhagavan’s entire teachings, is encapsulated by him in the first of the two verses of its mangalam or ‘auspicious introduction’, which he initially composed as a two-line verse in kural venba metre, in which he said:
How to [or who can] meditate upon ulla-porul [the ‘reality which is’ or ‘being-essence’]? Being in [our] heart as [we truly] are alone is meditating [upon this reality]. Know [this].
In this brief verse he clearly expressed the truth that ‘being as we are’ is the only means by which we can expe-rience the one absolute reality, which is our own real self or essential being, ‘I am’. However, to clarify exactly what he meant by the words ullapadi ullade, which literally mean ‘only being as we are’ or ‘only being as it is’, he later added two opening lines to this kural venba verse, thereby trans-forming it into its present form, which is a four-line verse in venba metre, in which he says:
Other than ulladu [‘that which is’ or being], is there consciousness of being? Since [this] ulla-porul [this ‘reality which is’, ‘existing substance’ or ‘being-es-sence’] is in [our] heart devoid of [all] thought, how to [or who can] think of [or meditate upon this] ulla-porul, which is called ‘heart’? Being in [our] heart as [we truly] are [that is, as our thought-free non-dual consciousness of being, ‘I am’] alone is meditating [upon our being]. Know [this reality by experiencing it thus].
In these additional first two lines, he clearly revealed the nature of the one absolute reality, and thereby he ex-plained to us exactly what he meant by saying ullapadi ullade or ‘only being as it is’. In the first sentence of this verse, “ulladu aladu ulla-unarvu ullado?”, which conveys se-veral deep and subtle shades of meaning such as ‘If being were not, could there be consciousness of being?’, ‘Other than that which is, is there [any] consciousness of being?’ or ‘Can [our] consciousness of being [‘I am’] be other than [our] being?’, he reveals that ulladu or ‘that which is’ is not only being but also ulla-unarvu, ‘consciousness which is’ or ‘consciousness of being’.