Sri Tayumanavar-Sri Ramana Maharshi

summa iru’(‘சும்மா இரு’)Be still

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was sometimes so emotionally moved when he read out verses by Sri Tayumanavar, he would be unable to continue. Bhagavan’s eyes were so filled with tears and his throat so choked with emotion that he had to put aside the book and break off his discourse. In this article we are presenting some verses that Bhagavan referred to the devotees.

(Please read Tayumana Swami’s life sketch before entering into this article. Click to download: Sri Tayumana Swami 2)

We can assume that Tayumanavar had the requisite qualifications since his search for a teacher ultimately led him to a man called ‘Arul Nandi Sivachariar’, who was also known as ‘Mauna Guru’. This teacher could trace his lineage back to the famous Saint Tirumular, whose book, Tirumantiram, written well over a thousand years ago, became one of the canonical works of Saivism.


Thayumanavar Tapovanam
Sri Tayumanavar

When Tayumanavar approached him and asked if he could become his disciple, Mauna Guru nodded his head, thereby giving his consent. Tayumanavar then asked if he could follow him wherever he went. Mauna Guru responded by telling him ‘Summa iru,’ (‘சும்மா இரு’) which can mean ‘Be still,’ ‘Be quiet,’ and also ‘Remain as you are’. This one phrase apparently brought about a major spiritual transformation in Tayumanavar. In later years, when he began to write ecstatic devotional poetry, he frequently mentioned this event, this phrase, and the effect it had on him. He frequently called it ‘the unique word’ in his verses.

This phrase was also used by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, often with similarly dramatic effect. Muruganar has written in several of his poems that Bhagavan enlightened him by uttering this phrase:

Saying, “Enough of dancing, now be still [summa iru],” Padam [Bhagavan] bestowed on me the state of true jnana that exists forever in my Heart as my own nature. The sovereign grace of Padam completed my sadhana with the words ‘Be still’.

What a wonder is this!

The ‘unique word’, summa iru, (சும்மா இரு) uttered by a qualified Guru, has an immediate and liberating impact on those who are in a highly mature state. For the vast majority, though, hearing this word from the Guru’s lips is not enough. Bhagavan discussed this in the following dialogue, which he illustrated with more verses from Tayumanavar.

A young man from Colombo asked Bhagavan, ‘J. Krishnamurti teaches the method of effortless and choiceless awareness as distinct from that of deliberate concentration. Would Bhagavan be pleased to explain how best to practise meditation and what form the object of meditation should take?’

Bhagavan: Effortless and choice-less awareness is our real nature. If we can attain it or be in that state, it is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the effort of deliberate meditation. All the age-long vasanas carry the mind outward and turn it to external objects. All such thoughts have to be given up and the mind turned inward. For that, effort is necessary for most people. Of course, every book says ‘Summa iru’, i.e., ‘Be quiet or still’. But it is not easy. That is why all this effort is necessary. Even if we find one who has at once achieved the mauna or supreme state indicated by ‘Summa iru’, you may take it that the effort necessary has already been finished in a previous life. So, that effortless and choice-less awareness is reached only after deliberate meditation. That meditation can take any form which appeals to you best. See what helps you to keep away all other thoughts and adopt that method for your meditation.

In this connection Bhagavan quoted verses 5 and 52 from ‘Udal Poyyuravu’ and 36 from ‘Payappuli’ of Saint Tayumanavar. Their gist is as follows:

‘Bliss will follow if you are still. But however much you may tell your mind about the truth, the mind will not keep quiet. It is the mind that won’t keep quiet. It is the mind which tells the mind “Be quiet and you will attain bliss”.’

Though all the scriptures have said it, though we hear about it every day from the great ones, and even though our Guru says it, we are never quiet, but stray into the world of maya and sense objects. That is why conscious deliberate effort is required to attain that mauna state or the state of being quiet.

This is the full version of the three verses that Devaraja Mudaliar summarised:

ஏதுக்குச் சும்மா இரு,மனமே! என்றுஉனக்குப்

போதித்த உண்மைஎங்கே போகவிட்டாய்? – வாதுக்கு

வந்து எதிர்த்த மல்லரைப்போல் வாதாடி னாயே,உன்

புந்திஎன்ன? போதம்என்ன? போ.

-உடல் பொய்யுறவு 5

‘Remain still, mind, in the face of everything!’

This truth that was taught to you,

where did you let it go?

Like wrestlers, bent upon their bout,

you raised your arguments.

Where is your judgement? Where, your wisdom?


-‘Udal Poyyuravu’, verse 5.

சும்மா இருக்கச் சுகம்உதயம் ஆகுமே;

இம்மாயா யோகம் இனி ஏன்அடா? – தம்அறிவின்

சுட்டாலே ஆகுமோ? சொல்லவேண் டாம்;கன்ம

நிஷ்டா; சிறுபிள்ளாய் நீ!

-உடல் பொய்யுறவு 52

Bliss will arise if you remain still.

Why, little sir, this involvement still

with yoga, whose nature is delusion?

Will [this bliss] arise

through your own objective knowledge?

You need not reply, you who are addicted to ‘doing’!

You little baby, you!

-‘Udal Poyyuravu’, verse 52.

சும்மா இருக்கச் சுகம்சுகம்

என்று சுருதிஎல்லாம்

அம்மா நிரந்தரம் சொல்லவும்,

கேட்டும், அறிவுஇன்றியே

பெம்மான் மவுனி மொழியையும்

தப்பி,என் பேதமையால்

வெம்மாயக் காட்டில் அலைந்தேன்;அந்

தோஎன் விதிவசமே.

-பாயப்புலி 36.

Though I have listened unceasingly to the scriptures

that one and all declare,

‘To be still is bliss, is very bliss,’

I lack, alas, true understanding,

and I failed even to heed

the teachings of my Lord, Mauna Guru.

Through this stupidity

I wandered in maya’s cruel forest.

Woe is me, for this is my fated destiny.

-Payappuli’, verse 36.

Sri Ramana Maharshi

One may presume from the complaints in the last verse that Tayumanavar was not one of the fortunate few who attained liberation instantly merely by hearing his Guru tell him ‘Summa iru’. As Bhagavan remarked in an earlier quotation, it is necessary for almost all people to make some conscious effort to control the mind. Mauna Guru, Tayumanavar’s Guru, accepted that this was the case with Tayumanavar and he consequently gave him detailed instructions on how he should pursue his sadhana. Tayumanavar recorded many of these instructions in his verses, some of which were selected by Bhagavan and included in the Tamil Parayana (தமிழ் பாராயணம்) at Sri Ramanasramam, Thiruvannamalai.

Today Tamil month ‘thai’ (தை) ‘visaka’ nakshatram (விசாகம்), We pay homage to Sri Tayuamanavar on his ‘Maha Nirvana’ day. This small article taken from the book ‘Day by Day with Bhagavan’ by A. Devaraja Mudaliyar.

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