Towards the end of his long and interesting second comment on my recent article, Guru Vāchaka Kōvai – a new translation by TV Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman, with reference to verse 579 of Guru Vachaka Kovai Haramurthi wrote:
In my view, this verse has a very pronounced non-dualistic emphasis, it speaks from the non-dual perspective: there is simply no mode of existence ever apart from the Self — and then it explicates a mode of existence under the aspect of a path/means for attaining something and under the aspect of being the result of actions (karmaphala), here technically designated as upeya, that which may be attained by some means. And all this is ever already inseparable from the Self — a suggestion which, at least for an awareness deeply engaged in a sAdhana (e.g. of self-enquiry), has profound implications!I agree with Haramurthi that verse 579 of Guru Vachaka Kovai ‘has a very pronounced non-dualistic emphasis’ and that ‘it speaks from the non-dual perspective’. In fact the absolutely non-dual nature of self, which is expressed by the word அத்துவித (advaita) in the first clause and reiterated by the word அபேதம் (abhēdam) in the final sentence, is the very foundation upon which the teaching given in this verse is based.
If a translator suddenly introduces the essentially dualistic notion of a “refuge”, it means turning the verse into partially speaking from the altogether unenlightened perspective of a self-estranged and confusing consciousness, thereby actually destroying the sublime beauty, suggestiveness and logical integrity of the verse.
It may be part of the agenda, say, of Christian piety to adopt its phantasy of a god as a consoling refuge, but it is less sure whether such a model and its implication, to quote Michael, of “clinging firmly to self as our sole refuge” is a particularly useful strategy in terms of an Advaitic practice, to say nothing of being the “only” method.