Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dance for Siva - mantra 50

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

This is the fiftieth mantra of the Thirumandiram and with this ends the first section of the PAyiram (proem) titled 'In Praise of God.'

சூடுவன் நெஞ்சிடை வைப்பன் பிரான்என்று
பாடுவன் பன்மலர் தூவிப் பணிந்துநின்
றாடுவன் ஆடி அமரர்ப்பி ரான்என்று
நாடுவன் நான்இன் றறிவது தானே.50.

Seeking Is All

I'll wreathe Him in garland, I'll hug Him to heart;
I'll sing Him His Name and dance with gift of flowers;
Singing and dancing seek the Lord;
This alone I know, only too well I know. 50.

ComI'll wreathe Him in garland I will wear His holy feet on the (crown) top of my head as a garland; I'll hug Him to heart I will keep Him close to my heart by constant meditation. I'll sing Him His Name I will sing joyous songs calling Him my Lord and master. and dance with gift of flowers I will offer various flowers to Him while chanting His many names (archanai). Singing and dancing seek the Lord I will dance with the joy that I am filled with as a result of His grace and through song and dance I will celebrate Him as the Lord of Lords. This alone I know These are all the methods I know only too well I know and I practise them constantly.

* The sage compares his celebration of the grace of Siva, to the more standard methods of ritual worship as is practised by the hindu devotees (Upachara). Where the devotee approaches the image of the deity and offers such things as flowers, scent, incense, lamp, food offerings, water, clothes, jewels, etc after which they chant or sing songs of praise to the deity. Here the sage admits that he practises the methods both externally and mentally (through knowledge) and gives us a hint that most of us need to begin at the external mode of worship and slowly rise to the level of internal worship through meditation.

The sea of bondage - Mantra 49

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The next in the series, the forty ninth mantra of the Thirumandiram. In this mantra one of the foundation pillars of the Shaivaite thought regarding the Pathi, Pasu and Pasam is described. This is quite a technical matter and would be best learnt from a guru belonging to such lineage for the actual effect of this discrimination to lead to the state of mukthi or liberation. It is worthy of note that the system /school called Trika or Kashmir Shaivism also explains this concept in great detail and readers are referred there. Also worthy of note is that this triad is explained as the knower, known and the knowing/knowledge, etc in other systems.

நரைபசு பாசத்து நாதனை உள்ளி
உரைபசு பாசததுஒருங்கவல் லார்க்குத்
திரைபசு பாவச் செழுங்கடல் நீந்திக்
கரைபசு பாசம் கடநது எய்த லாமே.49.
Sea Of Bondage
Who, on the Lord, Shakti-Consort, meditate,
And take the way of Pasu-Pasa,
They swim across the foaming sea of Sin,
And, swimming, reach the shore of Pasu-Pasa. 49.
Com - Who, on the Lord, Shakti-Consort, meditate When one meditates on Siva who is the Lord of the timeless Pasu (lit – cow. Here representing the jiva or soul) and Pasam (noose – here representing the things that bond the soul and keep it tethered) And take the way of Pasu-Pasa, he is able to understand the nature of the two which are called Pasu and Pasam. They swim across the foaming sea of Sin With this understanding; he is able to navigate through the ocean of sins that is committed by the Pasus in the journey called life. And, swimming, reach the shore of Pasu-Pasa As a result of it, they reach the other shore that is beyond the Pasu – Pasam cycle – that is, they will attain to Mukti or Liberation.

* Pasu (lit – cow) – The soul or jiva is referred to as Pasu as it is tethered (tied to), meaning the jiva is not free but is bound to the cycle of birth and death as a result of karma. Pasam (lit – noose) – Just as the soul is compared to the tethered cow, the impurities that cause the soul to be tied down in the first place are collectively called Pasam. The three impurities namely, Ahamkara (ego/ I ness), Karma (the aggregate of actions committed knowingly and unknowingly taken along with their effects) and Maya (Delusion) are the agents that are the cause of the soul’s being tied. And when one understands the above mentioned things and becomes aware of their powers to chain the soul, he stops to be Pasu – that is, he is no longer a tied or tethered animal, but is free from the cycle of repeated birth and death. The word ‘sea of sin’ refers to the widespread and immense body of sin (wrong action), that has been committed throughout time by the multitude of Pasus (tied jivas) who come into existence wave upon wave. This collective sin is said to be bubbling and foaming to highlight the powerful currents that it possess, which make it easy for the unaware jivas to drown in a seemingly endless cycle of birth and death. Though figuratively used, the simili of the sea touches on the ocean of samsara and also descriptively indicates the multitude of jivas that are being born like the infinite waves that are endlessly born on the surface of the ocean. Another interesting aspect to notice is that like the waves of the sea are not an external or outer product (as in there is no difference between the waves and the sea apart from motion), the jiva(wave) too is not really different to the Siva(ocean).

Pure Siva - mantra 48

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

This is the forty eighth mantra of the Thirumandiram. Describing the nature of that which is called Siva.

அடியார் பரவும் அமரர் பிரானை
முடியால் வணங்கி முதல்வனை முன்னிப்
படியால் அருளும் பரம்பரன் எந்தை
விடியா விளக்கென்று மேவிநின் றேனே.48.

Unflickering Lamp
The Lord of Gods, whom the pious adore,
To Him I bend my knees and His Grace invoke,
The Lord, Our Father, blessing us of earth,
The Lamp that flickers not, Him I seek. 48.

ComThe Lord of Gods, whom the pious adore The Lord of Devas who is ever adored and worshiped by His devotees To Him I bend my knees and His Grace invoke I fix in the region of my head and remain immersed in Him. The Lord, Our Father, blessing us of earth I know Him to be the supreme cause, the one who bestows His grace on all those on earth. The Lamp that flickers not I know Him to be the flame (light) of the lamp (consciousness) that can never be extinguished. Him I seek Knowing Him to be so, I remain fixed in His thoughts.

* The lamp that never flickers means that the flame is steady always, without regard to whether it is day or night - Meaning that Siva is the pure undifferentiated consciousness without (duality) bias. This here describes the shuddha shiva (pure and untainted) consciousness, the source of everything else.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rupakalamkara - 100th post

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

This is the 100th post in this blog! Not that I have been keeping track and waiting for the hundredth post or anything like that, but just noticed now that it happens to be the 100th post. To mark the century post, and to inspire you and myself in the process I want to mention a set of names from the Lalitha sahasranama!

Now this set of eight names occurs in the LS and is described by the metaphor RupakAlamkAra: The names are extremely poetic, beautifully conceptual and wonderfully painted! Though each and every word in the LS is loaded with myriad meanings and is beautiful beyond words, there are some parts which speak to me more than others and this is one such part. I am not going to attempt to give a detailed commentary on the names here, just a small description of the names along with their english meaning - just enough to plant the seed in your mind and leave you to experience the fullness of the contemplation. For those of you who have the text it is the set from 742 to 749. The names are as follows:

742. BhavadhAvasudhAvrstih: - The rain of nectar (that falls) on the forest fire of worldly existence.
Normally it is held that where there is worldly enjoyment there is no salvation and where there is salvation there is no worldly enjoyment. But the supreme Devi, ensures both (salvation and enjoyment) to Her devotees - such is Her compassion. There are other explanations for this name where the name is split into three seperate names, but that is for another day. My intention is to only highlight the beauty of the names themselves in their most obvious word meaning form.

743. pApAranyadavAnalA - The forest fire (which consumes) the forest of sin.
The mere rememberance of the feet of the supreme Shakti is the expiation of all sin committed. Here the word dava (forest fire) is to be understood to mean devotion, meditation etc which are the means to destroy sin.

744. daurbhAgyatUlavAtUlA - The gale which blows away misfortune (of the devotees) like thistle down (or the tufted seeds of reed).
Apart from the obvious meaning, the word vAtUla also refers to certain types of good actions which lighten the percieved effects of misfortune and here it means that the Devis grace is held to be the origin of such good actions.

745. jarAdhvAntaraviprabhA - The sunbeam (which dispels) the darkness of decay.

746. bhAgyAbdhichandrikA - The moonbeams (which illuminates) the ocean of good fortune.

747. bhaktachittakekIghanAghanA - The cloud (which nourishes) the peacocks which are the minds of Her devotees. This name hints that Her life work (charitra) is the spiritual nourishment for Her devotees.

748. rogaparvatadambholih: - The thunderbolt ( which shakes) the mountain of disease.

749. mrtyudArukutArikA - The axe (which cuts down) the tree of death.

Together, these 8 names are described by the metaphor RUpakalamkarA.

Bliss denied - mantra 47

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
The forty seventh mantra of the Thirumandiram where the sage gives us a vital message with regard to immersing oneself in the external world. Much like the words of Bagavan Sri Krishna (to Arjuna) in the Gita, the sage is of the view that one should commit oneself only to that type of karma/actions as are required by one's ashrama or state of life. Beyond that, the sage recommends the devotee to be steadfast in the contemplation of Siva and be merged with Him at all times.

மனையுள் இருந்தவர் மாதவர் ஒப்பர்
நினைவுள் இருந்தவர் நேசத்துள் நிற்பர்
பனையுள் இருந்த பருந்தது போல
நினையாத வர்க்கில்லை நின்இன்பந் தானே. 47.
Bliss Denied
In Home is He, like Holy Men is He,
In Thought is He;
Like the kite concealed in the palm's leafy depths,
Your Bliss is for them alone who muse upon You steadfast. 47.

Com - In Home is He, like Holy Men is He the householder (Grihasta), who performs his duties while continuing to meditate and be attentive to Siva, is like the holy man who performs the greatest penance. In Thought is He While those who remain ever immersed in the thoughts of Siva (that is those who remain fixed in the state of dhyana or deep meditation) are merged in the (heart) Love of Siva. Like the kite concealed in the palm's leafy depths Just like the kite that remains hidden in the palm tree at all times, except when out hunting for food Your Bliss is for them alone who muse upon You steadfast the wise will have to immerse themselves in the world only when necessary and should remain steadfast in the deep meditation of Siva at all other times. Unless this is practised, it is not possible to attain to the Bliss that is Siva.

* When hungry, the kite comes out into the world and onto the ground in search of prey – after which (that is, after getting the food) it returns back to the leafy heights of the palm tree where it remains concealed (safe). Likewise, when the people of this world learn to be immersed in thoughts of the world when necessary (that is, for the purposes of satisfying ones natural necessities like food, sleep, etc and for the fulfilment of our obligations to others like family, children, parents, etc) and remain at other times in contemplation of Siva – they too will be safe (from the bonding and deluding effect of karma). Through the last line the sage points out that the effects of karma are overwhelming, and are likely to drag one into a complex web of repeated births. This situation he feels can only be remedied by participating in the world when necessary and being free from worldly desires at other times.

Form and formless - mantra 46

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
The forty sixth mantra of the Thirumandiram where the sage details the external (form based) and internal (unmanifest) worship methods through which the devotee reaches the supreme Siva.
அந்திவண் ணாஅர னேசிவ னேஎன்று
சிந்தைசெய் வண்ணம் திருந்தடி யார்தொழ
முந்திவண் ணாமுதல் வாபர னேஎன்று
புந்தி வண்ணன்எம் மனம்புகுந் தானே. 46.
In Heart's Centre
"You of the Twilight Hue! O! Hara! O! Siva!"
Thus, His Holy Feet devotees praise and sing;
He of the Primary Hue, the First, the Infinite
Entered my being, my heart's centre held. 46.

Com - Thus, His Holy Feet devotees praise and sing The devotees who have corrected the outward flow of thoughts by firmly fixing the mind on the true object of meditation (namely, Siva), You of the Twilight Hue! O! Hara! O! Siva sing heartfelt praises by praising Him as the one who is the Lord of all beings, the ever auspicious one and the one radiant as the evening sunlight tinged with a reddish glow. He of the Primary Hue, the First, the Infinite I sing His praises by calling Him the primal one (steeped in antiquity), the First (forming the basis of all life), the one above all else (infinite). Entered my being, my heart's centre held He manifested (as a result) Himself in my mind as pure Consciousness and Wisdom.

* Through the first two lines, the sage explains the first kind of devotee – one who worships the manifest form of Siva – external worship (hence the terms, Lord of all, Ever auspicious, Reddish in colour, etc are used). Next, he proceeds to describe the (more superior) second kind of devotee – one who worships and meditates on the un manifest or the formless aspect of Siva – internal worship (hence the terms, primal one, the first, the infinite, etc are employed). The yogis and Jnyani’s (those following the path of knowledge) worship Him in the second (formless) aspect. Further, he is of the view that Siva manifests Himself to the devotee (through form or in His subtle un manifest aspect), depending on the method of worship followed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Spontaneity is the price!

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Most have probably heard of the idiom ''Ignorance is bliss'' or maybe '' Knowledge is responsibility'', etc and other things which sum up the same thought. Is there some truth in that? I often wonder, is knowledge really a tool for liberation and expansion of consciousness or is knowledge the biggest shackle and the prime culprit in keeping us in 'avidya' (ignorance)?

I am not too sure if knowledge is responsibility, but it occured to me that it is something which has a very heavy price tag! No, I dont mean the dollars charged by the gurus eager to 'lighten' the wallets of the devotees - I mean a price much heavier than money. I think that the true price one pays for knowledge (rather, the price that knowledge exacts on the 'knower') is that of SPONTANEITY. Yes, the freedom to experience life and to react to that experience without being tied to or by anything else is the price exacted on the wise. Once we head down (or up if you dont like negatives) the road of knowledge, we must act in accordance with what we 'know' - this action precedes the experience itself and is thus not at all spontaneous. The sadhaka who is an initiate and is on any particular path (upasana), can only really act in a certain fashion (this being determined by the nature of the path, the orthodoxy of the followers etc). A simple example would be that most of the upasakas day is already pre determined - like a daily organiser with no 'free' space left - right from wakeing up there are several steps (washing, nitya karmas, japa, puja, ritual acts etc) that have to be done no matter what. Done every day, each and every day. The 'knower' cannot wake up on a morning cloudy headed after a night out on town and say '' Iam groggy, so lets skip the japa business for today''. It is serious business this and not one to get on and off as it takes ones fancy. The demerits of falling of such paths are too great to be ignored and too great to be listed or mentioned here. Suffice it to say that the life of one on the path of knowledge is one of restraint - of breath, of mind, of desire, of actions, of even perceptions. Restraint, discipline and conditioning are key words here on the path. It is probably this extreme restraint and caution before acting that delivers on the promise of 'liberation' from the cycyle of birth and death. The fruits of actions done previously is the heartbeat of one's life, this decides what comes and when it comes. And the careful cultivation of set patterns throughout ones life is actually an attempt to transcend the action reaction cycyle.

It is only the result of the compassion and mercy of the supreme Goddess that an activity such as upasana or serious spiritual pursuit is not 'mandatory' for all living beings! Though most of us might have a yearning of sorts to fill the void deep down with spiritual growth, most of us are nowhere near ready to be mature enough to carefully and consciously decide to let go. Most of us are young souls and thus we hold on to life like the unripe and raw fruit clinging tight to the node on the branch. When we reach a place of inner maturity and when we can 'see' things for what they really are, we become ready to let go of this grip - much like the ripe fruit falling of its own accord from the branch. This is the main reason the big mantras, tantras and sadhana methods were kept 'hidden' and secretive. It is the compassion of the wise that they decided not to go to the nearest roof top and yell out the 'real nature' of things they have found through their upasana - that would shatter the 'illusion' for all of us! That is why it is ironic and quite sad to think that most of us are led to believe that most of this was kept secretive to enable a select few to be in 'control' of the masses. Nothing is further from the truth than that. The 'new age' belief that this is a time of information and knowledge and that all of us should reach ' super consciousness' by tapping on our thymus glands and trawling through google for mantras and tantras is confused to say the least. It is easy enough to get a few mantras or methods to practise something - but having the courage and will to put that into practise is another matter. Knowledge is for the courageous, it is for those brave ones who are ready to put everything else in the fire, for those who are ready to do as they are 'supposed to' forever, for those who have learnt the meaning of 'I' when they say it...for those who are ready to forego the control of the steering to their Lord and master!

Ah, I began talking about one thing and have come to a different point now altogether! I will finish this post now before I wander further away from the topic at hand and hopefully will be able to pick up the thread from where I left it in the next post.

The paths are many - mantra 45

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The forty fifth mantra of the Thirumandiram, describing the different paths to attain Siva depending on the inner competency of the devotee.

விதிவழி அல்லதுஇவ் வேலை உலகம்
விதிவழி இன்பம் விருத்தமும் இல்லை
துதிவழி நித்தலும் சோதிப் பிரானும்
பதிவழி காட்டும் பகலவ னாமே. 45.
Divine Path
Except by Fate He decrees this sea-girt world revolves not,
Except by Fate He decrees do joys and age arrive not,
Daily pray to the Light Effulgent;
The Divine Path He'll prove, the Sure Sun He'll be. 45.

Com - Except by Fate He decrees this sea-girt world revolves not This earth, surrounded by the oceans, cannot revolve and function as it does, independent of the wishes of Siva – but only through His command and support. Except by Fate He decrees do joys and age arrive not The joys and wealth (bogam) that we enjoy in this world are not contrary to His wish, as the world functions through His wish alone. Daily pray to the Light Effulgent Siva, who is the very embodiment of Light, is to be approached by continuous prayer. The Divine Path He'll prove, the Sure Sun He'll be When so approached, He proves to be the path to liberation (Mukti) as Sivasuryan – Siva as the sun, illuminating and witnessing all.

* By the first two lines, the doctrine of Kriya margaa (path of right action) is set forth. The third line sets out the Jnyana margaa (path of knowledge). The last line touches on the Mukti margaa (path of liberation) - Each of the above mentioned paths are intended to suit sadhakas of varying competency. The sage points out that there are different methods to reach Siva which suit people of different calibre. Though the streams and rivers that arise with the rain are many, it is but a sure thing that they all empty finally into the ocean. Siva is like that ocean, all encompassing and the only final receptacle of all.

Pray with Love - mantra 44

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The forty fourth mantra of the Thirumandiram - a look into the nature of the worship based solely on rituals and the worship based on love for Siva.

போற்றிஎன் பார்அம ரர்புனி தன்அடி
போற்றிஎன் பார்அசு ரர்புனி தன்அடி
போற்றிஎன் பார்மனி தர்புனி தன்அடி
போற்றிஎன் அன்புள் பொலியவைத் தேனே. 44.
Shines In Love
"Glory to the Holy Feet," the Devas chant,
"Glory to the Holy Feet," the Asuras hymn,
"Glory to the Holy Feet," the humans, too, echo,
Thus I gloried Him, and in my love He shone. 44.

Com –"Glory to the Holy Feet," the Devas chant The Devas praise the one Siva (in His subtle aspect) as being resident in the Sushumna (the central nadi or channel). "Glory to the Holy Feet," the Asuras hymn The Asuras too praise Siva, who is hard to attain. "Glory to the Holy Feet," the humans, too, echo The people of this earth also sing praises of the holy feet of Siva. Thus I gloried Him, and in my love He shone I worshiped Him through my Love and as a result, made Him reveal Himself (to me) as Love itself.

* Here the sage comments that the worship of the Devas is not based on Love (devotion) but on rituals. Whereas the worship of the Jnyani’s (the enlightened, who follow the path of knowledge) is based on Love.