Thursday, March 08, 2007

A commentary on the Thirumandiram.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
Om namashivaya.

I live outside of India and have also travelled a bit. One of the first things that someone from the south of India would notice (when outside the country) is that almost everything that people elsewhere know about India is relative to the northern part of the country. Whether it is in the area of linguistics or in terms of cusine, in terms of festivals and observances, in terms of traditions and culture - the focus is almost always on Punjab and the areas around there. I am sure there are many factors why this is so, and it is not my intention to debate that or any other geo political issue here. I just want to set the context for the observation to follow - that even when it comes to the general hindu thought and in particular with the various mystical traditions that have existed for thousands of years in India, the focus is entirely on the north of the country. Most people (at least those interested in Indian sprituality and mysticism) are familiar with the epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana, they even know of the existence of the Yoga sutras of Patanjali and the Shiva sutras etc, but this wholesale export of Indian thought and philosophy has often entirely overlooked the siddha tradition and other philosophical/ yogic systems that existed in the south of India (particularly Tamilnadu). There is no doubt as to the originality and the depth of understanding and wisdom of the traditional systems of the Tamil people (make that the southern people if you will) and in some cases it becomes clear that the subject matter and the language used is very old and is probably more suitable to one 'searching' for the truth as there has been lesser erosion of ideas and language there.

This exclusion of the siddha and other native southern mystical traditions from reaching a wider audience is actually quite surprising, as the siddars themselves are a very unusual bunch of enlightened people, when compared to the mystics and sadhakas of other sampradayas or traditions. If you ask me, I will describe the siddars as 'conscious rebels'! And therein probably lies the reason why their works and thoughts have not gained popularity among a wider group of people. The enlightened masters of the siddha tradition often went 'against' other established traditions - dont get me wrong, this going against tradition is not the reason for their enlightenment (or is it?), but the fact remains for all to see that they did go against established tradition and dogma. For example, even though the siddars have often used a language termed by scholars as 'sandhya basha' or twilight language (where the word often means one thing explicitly but the 'real' meaning intended is obvious only to those who have the capacity to look beyond) ; most of their works have been composed in a fairly straightforward language. This is very unusual as mysteries of such a high order have not been discussed so openly by other traditions - infact, most other systems have gone out of their way to develop a very complicated system of symbols and codes to deter all but the most dedicated seekers.


When we look deeper into the writings of the siddars and see them in context to the lives they lived, we can begin to see some patterns emerge. The siddars were beyond the usual boundaries of caste, sex and other such restrictions. Their writings make it very clear that they had hearts of gold - they wanted all humanity to acchieve the bliss and super consciousness that they themselves had attained. They were very socially minded and considered us (the 'regular' folk) with empathy and not through the taint of pride of having acchieved such a high level of consciousness. They shattered the prevalent moral attitudes and social codes, and initiation into such high mysteries of this universe was made available to all - not just the Brahmins and their lineages. They practised a lot of healing and developed medicines for all human illness (whether of the body or mind or those born socially) and developed a code of ethics and morality that was way ahead of their times. Rather than be venerated and worshipped by the common people while they sat in seats of high power (like many other saints from various traditions) they never forgot their origin. They lived and mingled among the masses, trying to slowly change attitudes by way of examples in their own lives. Their wisdom and mysticism is applicable globally, not just to brahmins or hindus or Indians, but to all everywhere. They spoke of the essence of all things and of the secrets that would empower each one of us (if we paid attention and had the discipline to follow) to acchieve super human bodies - immortal bodies, always in state of pure samadhi, forever aware of the one thread connecting us all. Nor did they stop with just super human bodies, they have laid out a clear path to acchieve many siddhis that defy common sense and the world as we know it now.

With this and many things that I have not touched in the couple of paragraphs above, it becomes clear that it is all the more puzzling that such universally applicable systems havent become universal. Why, they have not even been understood and practised by even those from the same or similar geographical coordinates. Perhaps the fact that the siddars did not actively participate in idol worship (like most of their other hindu brothers) or the fact that they did not adhere much to religious or social dogma, is a reason for their words not gaining mass acceptance. But like I have said before, their words are worth their weight in gold. Now that the world is a much smaller place than even a hundred years ago and with many people from many places and different attitudes to life trying to arrive at a more 'grown up' level of consciousness, it feels like now is a more receptive time for the immortal words of the immortal masters to reach a wider audience. I have no doubt that those who come into contact with the various aspects of siddha tradition will only benefit from that contact. And perhaps slowly we will reach an eventual state of harmony and happiness as a result of it - the import of this truly strikes home when you consider that this harmony and happiness is but our natural state and birth right!

Emulating the siddars themselves (yaan petra inbam peruga ivvayyagam - let the world share in and obtain the bliss that I have obtained), I have been working on a commentary in English on the Thirumandiram over the past few years, so that the truths and methods contained there can satisfy the thirst of a bigger group of seekers. Before I go any further with this, I would like to make it clear that I am no siddar (I am probably about a hundred thousand lifetimes from becoming one!), nor am I an expert in tamil. Why then, you might protest, do I feel like I have any right to comment on the Thirumandiram? And such a question from you would be quite right - I indeed have no authority, nor the reserves of knowledge that such a task demands, and I make no untrue claims in that respect. What I do have is a passable understanding of the various tantras and mystical systems that are discussed by Thirumular in his magnum opus. And I have a good grasp of the english language. Mostly, I have an unstoppable urge to present the metaphysics of the siddars to those who are interested. And in the process, I imagine that I will sharpen my own understanding of the system. I want to learn with you, all of you readers from various parts of this world who visit this page and I want to share with you the inexplicable joy and the high that each of the verses inspire in me. I also want to invite those of you who are scholars in tamil and the siddha tradition to participate in this journey with me. Those of you out there who are more advanced sadhakas and siddhas, it is my humble request to you that you forgive me my mistakes (both in word and interpretation) and it is my heartfelt prayer that you will come forward to enlighten both me and the other readers of those mistakes. What I really want to share is the pure consciousness of the siddars and their methodology and not 'my' version or view of it - and it goes without saying that I would love the participation of a bigger group of devotees.

A core aspect of the siddhars and their tradition lies in their attitude towards life on this earth. As I mentioned earlier, they were extremely socially minded. From their enlightened stand point they were able to clearly percieve the ills of this world, but rather than moan about it endlessly or fear or loathe those ills (like the scholars of many traditions I can name) they were moved to seek reform! They tried a whole host of methods to address the imbalance in the world and through their own lives and actions set an active example for many thousands of future siddhas. They did not blame destiny or give you long drawn out stories about your past life sins (as being the hurdle in your way to acchieve wisdom), instead they tested and developed precise methods and medicines to 'transform' your very existence. Much like the sacred and immensely amazing science of alchemy the siddars are renowned for, their lives were spent trying to transform the base metal of our confused existence into the gold of higher knowledge and inner wisdom. The siddha system is not one of passive deliberation (not for the armchair mystic) but one of active participation. The key aspect here to take note is the fact that the siddars have always '' participated'' in life here. Not just participate, their writings make it clear that they 'enjoyed' their life here to the fullest! What a contrast when set against other spiritual systems that advice distancing oneself from the external reality and to remain as detached as possible. It is because of this crucial difference in perception that the siddars have taken a lot of pride and joy in their earthly bodies and have developed many methods to make the physical body into a body of light. One that cannot be destroyed, hard as diamond and equally lusturous. Capable of remaining in ecstacy and merged in itself till the end of time...

And as for the followers of this path, it leaves one free from guilt and other such self inflicted pain while they seek to attain perfection!OM! They see joy and they acchieve joy, while some see only untold pain and hardship in this life and sure enough attain to only that. With the context now set, let me just mention one last thing, please. Siddar Thirumular is an enlightened master from the nandhinatha sampradaya and his text the Thirumandiram contains in it practically everything an induvidual needs to know to begin and continue his or her journey to perfection. It is a great tantra in itself and echoes the truths of the Vedas throughout. Moreoever, it is a practical text with the required details (technical and otherwise) that enable the 'transformation' to happen. It is a text through which we can 'experience' or have an 'anubhavam' the various states of consciousness and the tattvas or principles, rather than just be told about them. It is personal.

Regarding the commentary to follow in english - Many years ago, I tried to translate the beautiful poetic verses of the Thirumandiram into English and I failed - quite miserably. There is such light and purity in each of the words in the verses that I could not transfer on to their english equivalent. So, I began focus on the actual commentary of the verses in english and left the actual verses for another day or for some poetic inspiration. But as luck would have it, I came across a translation (of the verses) rendered by Dr. B. Natarajan with a foreword by Sri. Sivaya Subramuni swami of the Hawai adhinam. I am sure anyone can appreciate the hard work and dedication that has gone into producing the translation of all the verses. Dr. Natarajan has somehow managed to fit in much of the poetic beauty into his translation while at the same time being true to the inner meaning of the words themselves. So, I began to use his translation of the verses to set the poetry to the readers who cannot read the original tamil text. I have to admit here that I have not requested the permission of the author or his legal representatives to use the translated verses in my blog. I sincerely hope that they would not mind. The commentary on the verses have been provided by me along with additional relevant notes where needed. And for this I have relied heavily on the merits of the beautiful tamil commentary on the text by Sri.Varadarajan, for which I am thankful. I am also planning to include footnotes in the future for the benefit of those readers who are not exposed to the many puranic and upanishadic stories (which are often used in the Thirumandiram to provide context and similies) so it can be a complete and holistic path with nothing missing.

Finally, I would like to thank the great siddha masters themselves for being compassionate enough to show the way forward and I am eternally indebted to the grace of my guru for showing me the way, undeserving though I might be. May the elephant faced god, MahaGanapathy clear the way forward for this attempt. May Subramanya bring the spark of wisdom to all our hearts. May Nandhi set the divine rhythm. May the adhi guru Shiva Himself be pleased with this humble offering at his lotus feet. And May my mother, the most beautiful in the three worlds, the supremely transcendental MahaTripurasundari keep us in Her heart, eternally.

Om Namasivaya potri.
Nandhi emperuman potri.
Gurumandalame potri potri.

10 comments:

Ananda said...

WOW! The tempo is rising and I am raring to go BABA.
Om Namah Shivayah Namaha!

Anonymous said...

Arohara Bhagwan,you truely have a heart of gold.Thanks for sharing with us this precious knowledge.

Vani.

mooligai sidhan said...

Hi Vani
Good to see you back here. To be honest, I have no heart of gold! It is my selfish hope that the inner wisdom of the thirumandiram will open itself to me in this process as much as it will for all the other readers. Like the sage Agastya whose repeated enquiries to Sri Hayagriva resulted in the eventual blessing of the Devi appearing before the both of them (where the guru too got a darshan of the devi as a result of the disciple's questions), may all your repeated questioning reveal the truth of this thirumandiram to all of us, you as much as me and me as much as you.

Zuppez said...

Agree with you totally on the fact that the south is totally neglected when it comes to "India ". Everyone in Asia sees India as Bollywood.

But trust me, given time the South will soon prevail.

Russell Bertrand said...

Hello,

Its very nice to come across your blog and I am much delighted, as a worshiper of Sidhdhas.

It would be very greatful to you, if you can share me thirumandhiram with meaning, if you have, with us.

Thanking you.

mooligai sidhan said...

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Hello
Thanks for your comment on the blog. The commentary/meaning of the thirumandiram that I am publishing on the blog is actually my own commentary based on a few prominent texts. I do not have a book in which the mantras and the meanings are in the same place.
If however, you are familiar with reading Tamil I can refer a couple of books that are exceptional. Otherwise, I am afraid you will have to keep visiting my page to see the mantras as I keep translating and making commentaries in english on them.
If there is anything else I can do for you, please do not hesitate to email me.
NamaHshivaya.

zen said...

dear friends,
please visit ramakrishna mutt-chennai to get thirumandirams -all with meaning in tamil and english by mr natarajan book cost rs 200 only.i am keenly intersted in thirumandiram.u are to free to email me pl

Anonymous said...

Hello mooligai sidhan,

Can you please refer me the couple of books which you mentioned in your comments?

Thanks
Manohar

mooligai sidhan said...

namaHshivAyA |

@ Manohar,
The text 'thirumandiram' by sri.varadarajan is a very good edition with few spelling mistakes. Edition is old, but I am sure you can find it if you look for it in Tamilnadu. It is in three volumes.
Dr. Natarajan's book is also there in the market if you are interested in english version, but I cannot comment on it as I have not persued the edition yet.
Hope that is helpful.
thirucchitrambalam.

mooligai sidhan said...

namaHshivAyA |

@ Manohar,
The text 'thirumandiram' by sri.varadarajan is a very good edition with few spelling mistakes. Edition is old, but I am sure you can find it if you look for it in Tamilnadu. It is in three volumes.
Dr. Natarajan's book is also there in the market if you are interested in english version, but I cannot comment on it as I have not persued the edition yet.
Hope that is helpful.
thirucchitrambalam.