'The world of words which can talk about us has yet to come into existence' (Amrtanubhava, VIII. 5) thus said Jnanadeva because it is very difficult for words to convey appropriately the experience of the saints when they attain the state of liberation. In that state when the individual merges into the Absolute then 'of what use is the legion of words?' (V. 62). As soon as the words issue forth before their meanings follow in their wake, they disappear like the picture of a fish drawn on the water surface (X. 17); inspite of the handicaps, Jnanadeva ventured to describe his own ambrosial experience of the Supreme Reality, for he derived unique pleasure in doing so (X. 13). Secondly, he felt that giving vent to his experience in words would serve as a good remembrancer to self and posterity. (V. 6). Through his work he thought of clearing the debt of speech (i.e. energy creating sound waves) by reaching the people and enlightening them. While doing so however, he does not take any credit to self. He attributes his success in the composition of this work to the grace of his preceptor Shri Nivrittinatha (X. 7)
In his clarification of the work in Chapter X Jnanadeva explains that he was prompted by the illustrious examples of the sun, the moon, the ocean, the sky and the spring which when endowed with certain beneficial qualities freely allowed others to enjoy their beneficences. So he wanted to share his joy of liberation with the entire humanity and hence this composition. He enjoyed reliving this experience while narrating (X.13).
About the raison d’être for undertaking this work, the poet Mahipati narrates the following incident in his Bhaktavijaya:
‘In order that the wise, God-loving and pious men might have the true knowledge, Nivritti said lovingly to Jnanadeva: “From your own experience on the subject compose Amritãnubhava”; replying that he would do so, Jnanadeva placed his head at the feet of his ‘Sadguru’. Then giving thought to his own spiritual experiences he composed Amritanubhava. In order to destroy the pride of Brahmadeva, Krishna created cows and calves; likewise, Jnanadeva composed Amritanubhava as a fitting reply to the proud heretics who talked vainly about the supreme out of their own imagination.
Jnanadeva has himself expressed that he has offered very delicious dishes in the form of Amritãnubhava with an open invitation to all and sundry to join in the celebration of the great festival of the world; the rich varieties of the dishes prepared from nectar do whet the appetites even of those who are peacefully abiding in the state of liberation. For a layman, however, it demands a special taste for it to enjoy; otherwise the worldly gourmands will be miserably disappointed.
As the title of the work indicates, Amritanubhava narrates the ambrosial experience of the final state of liberation (amrtakala) which any individual can attain in the present life, provided he undergoes rigorously the spiritual practices. From the five verses of the last chapter it appears that the author has preference for ‘Anubhavãmrita’ as a title and many manuscripts mention only this title. The combination of the two words—Amrita and Anubhava, when juxtaposed alternately gives following meanings—experience of immortality; ambrosial experience; well proven recipe (like any tested medicine) for immortality; experience of nectar; experience as (tasty and invigorating as) nectar. All these aptly suit this work. Even though the original title ‘Anubhavamrita’ is suggested by the text, Amritanubhava has gained currency just because, as some one has rightly surmised, the latter has the phonetical ease of expression. As Jnanadeva expresses, the word has a remembrance-value’ (VI. l), so the latter title which is easier to pronounce and remember than the former has come into vogue.
All Jnanadeva’s compositions are poetic in form, and consist of Bhavarthadipika, Amritanubhava, Cãngadeva Pasasri and Abhangagarha, all composed before he was twenty-one; because he was a prodigy of learning or an incarnation of Lord Vishnu he could produce such a luminous literature on such tough subjects very useful to the entire humanity. His magnum opus Bhavarthadipika is a Marathi commentary on the Sanskrit Bhagavad-Gita and explains in a lucid manner the philosophy of Lord Krishna which could be understood by a layman. It had the effect of not only making the philosophy understood by the people but also making them practice it in their life and enjoy the bliss.
Amritanubhava follows Bhãvarthadipika. It is a faithful narration of the experience of self-realization which he claims to be otherwise self evident it puts in a nut shell the philosophy of the Siddha’s the Natha Sampraday the Sivadvaita as well as the essence of the Upanisads.
Jnanadeva opines that the Upanishads don’t take anyone further than Amritanubhava (X.18). He further asserts that by taking this rich nectar people will gain liberation (X.19).
‘Cangadeva Pasasti’ a composition of sixty-five (Päsasti) verses, is a fitting reply to a blank letter sent by the great Siddha Cangadeva who lived more than fourteen hundred years, explaining how both of them are one and the same appearance of the Supreme.
The Abhangagathas contain primarily devotional songs dealing with such topics as devotional love, importance of chanting God’s name, the praise of Pandhañ, Vithal etc. They have captured the hearts of the illiterate people of Mahrashtra. One has to see to believe it how lakhs of people, singing devotional songs and completely merged in their ecstasy go on a pilgrimage from Alandi to Pandharpur in a very orderly manner during the months of June—July every year. Acharya Vinobaji has found a special science of yoga described in these abhangas.
Amritanubhava is a very mystic composition and a very difficult one to understand. First, it deals with a subject which is beyond comprehension. Secondly it was written some seven hundred years ago in a language not very familiar to the present generation; besides it demands certain knowledge of basic concepts of Sivadvaita, Siddha philosophy and Vedanta. The text is full of illustrations and similes which though simple in tenor need close study to appreciate their significance with reference to the context. As Jnãnadeva himself has cautioned, ‘one has to delve deep into the words’ (X.28) to enjoy the taste of the nectar. The germane philosophical thought-currents which have gone into the making of Amritanubhava are therefore briefly highlighted.
All philosophies are adventures in the exploration of the unknown having the macro and micro aspects of the universe as the topics of enquiry. The investigation is with regard to the creation of the universe and man and how to get rid of the miseries and sorrows of human beings and enjoy happiness. This cover s all spectrums of objects as well as matters which care incomprehensible by available instruments of human laboratory. The words fail to describe the Reality because the supreme speech itself disappears (V. 63) here no methods of proving are of any avail in this investigation (V.54) all philosophies are therefore at the most rational inferences on the subject. In a generalized way their findings can be summed up thus. The world is born out of (a) one supreme substance or (b) joint acton of Siva Sakti Purusha and Prakriti or (c) efficient cause, instrumental cause and material cause as in the case of an earthen pot the three elements are the potter the wheel and the clay. The human being is the exact replica of the universe and his sufferings and joys are due to illusions arising out of his ignorance as well as past imprints and to get rid of those shackles he has to follow certain spiritual practices.
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