Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ramayana adventures - part 2

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Exploring a few more disconnected angles in the Ramayana would be the natural evolution of the last post. A reader, confused martian, felt that ''The fact that there was such a person as Lakshmana, sacrificing his entire life at the feet of his elder, is something unbelievable.'' Now, in today's world such a person might be rare (note I use rare suggesting that there will still be many people like Lakshmana now, rather than the word impossible), but the puranas and the epics are full of such characters. Not only did Lakshmana willingly sacrifice his entire life at the feet Rama, he took great delight in it and as a result achieved a lot of merit from it. Even today as a result of this his total devotion to his brother, Rama and Lakshmana are always portrayed, thought of and spoken of together.

One of the most beautiful verses in the Ramayana illustrates this point wonderfully. I do not know the full verse in Sanskrit off the top of my head, so I desist quoting the verse here. I will though when I get my hands on the text. But the emotion and the content of the verse I can convey even in English. After the abduction of Sita and after the episode where Rama laments his fate and questions the Ashoka and the Kadamba tress and when he cries out to the deer in jungle regarding the whereabouts of Sita, the deer keep looking southwards. Rama and Lakshmana picked up the cue and went southward to find Sita. Eventually they reached the kingdom of Kishkinda where Sugreeva and Rama made a pact of friendship with the fire as witness. Then Sugreeva brought out some jewels from a cave and told Rama that these jewels were flung down by Sita when she was being carried away by Ravana in the Pushpaka vimana (flying chariot of Ravana).

On being shown the jewels worn by his beloved, Rama broke down as he recognised each of the different ornaments worn by Sita. In this state, perhaps Rama thought that his mind was too clouded by his sorrow, Rama begs Lakshmana to identify whether the jewels do actually belong to Sita. At this juncture, the verse in question comes as Lakshmana's reply to his brothers question. He says (ah, so beautifully) that he does not recognise the necklace, nor the ear rings, he does not know if the bangles and the golden oddiyana (waist band) belong to Sita, but he can say with all certainty that the anklets were Sita's as he has worshipped the feet of Sita every day of his life and can thus recognise the anklets. God, is there any more of a heart wrenching and emotional strings pulling and poetic way than this to point out the nature of Lakshmana( while at the same time teaching us a bit of the Dharma sastra which holds that the wife of the elder brother is like the guru as well and it is not proper to pay attention to any other part of the body of such a person other than the feet, to which alone the disciple has the authority)?? The guru too is the same. The disciple has no authority to meditate on the rest of the form of the guru, just his lotus feet alone.

This response from Lakshmana alone is enough to drive home the point that he was one who had verily given up everything in the love and respect for his elder brother. There are of course plenty more instances where Lakshmana proves to us the stuff he was made of. And with respect to the other half of the comment regarding Rama being the hero of the story, I agree - the epic itself is named Ramayana and not Lakshmanayana or Hanumanayana. However, let it be known that there is no lack of heroes in the epic called Ramayana. Lakshmana, Bharatha, Vibishana, Hanuman, Angada and plenty more are in close contention for the hero's seat. Sita herself is quite heroic. Never mind the human and semi humans (vanaras), even other creatures like the mighty and noble Jataayu (vulture like mega bird), Jaambavaan (the wise black bear) and little squirrels and parakeets all play a part to earn them for a while at least the hero's seat. Whether the many fallacies of Rama serve to further his tragic nature or not, they are features which help the regular folk like us identify on a deep and emotive level to Rama. The God Rama is not someone alien to the sorrows and pitfalls of being human but is someone who time again shows through his apparent delusion and attachment that he is no different from us, really.

Probing the angle of the Dharma sastras that I briefly mentioned while discussing Lakshmana's response above, there is another gem in the Ramayana. This is set in the context of the Ashoka vana (forest of Ashoka trees) where Sita was held captive by Ravana. When Hanuman arrived at the Ashoka vana in the kingdom of Lanka after crossing the mighty ocean in his search for Sita (who he has not seen or met before), he passed from tree to tree trying to find out where Sita was. Finally he saw Sita, sitting all alone and deeply immersed in the thoughts of her lord, under the tall Ashoka trees he decided to wait a while before making his appearance. So he waited on a branch of the tree under which Sita was sitting. In order to first make it clear to Sita that he was a messenger of her lord Rama and not another rakshasha (demon) or Ravana in disguise to torment her further, Hanuman decides to recite the glories of Rama aloud so that Sita could hear it. Thinking thus he began to recite the story of Rama the prince of Ayodhya leaving for exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana and continues the story further. Hearing the words in praise of her lord in this the kingdom of the Rakshashas, Sita looked around to see who was speaking thus. She looked up on the branches of the tree and saw Hanuman sitting there. She then wonders if the monkey on the tree was a dream, a bad dream? This verse shows the dream analysis and prediction science of the Dharma sastras - that seeing a monkey in a dream was a bad omen! But then Sita concludes that it could not be a dream as immersed in the sadness of being separated from her lord, she had'nt slept a nights sleep in days, nay, months. She has just been there sitting and thinking about Rama all these days, oblivious to hunger or sleep or any of the normal distractions. So the monkey sitting above had to be real and not her dream, she concludes. Here in this verse not only are the words of the dharma sastras revealed but Sita's character as the pati vrata (chaste woman) and her grief and pain at the separation from her beloved where even the most natural (albeit temporary) solace of the suffering millions, i.e. sleep, is even not an option. Ore kallula pala maanga (lit. many mangoes from the same one stone, to mean - the one simple verse paints a multi layered picture).

The Hindu epics are just saturated beyond belief with such gems. Not only are they a great read with plenty of the usual masala mix (grandeur, love found, love lost, love found again, love triangles,fights, suspense) as any bollywood block buster, they are also noticeably lacking in the vulgarity of human excesses found in today's world. To add another feather to their crown, they pack plenty of sophisticated yet subtle metaphysical truth and thought and are the instruments through which the words of the dharma sastras and vedanta are brought home to the masses who have not the time and/or the inclination to study the sastras and tantras themselves.

To go back to the point touched in the previous post where I mentioned (thought out loud) that the relationship between the three sets of brothers forms the constant back ground music for the Ramayana - If not for the unquestioned support of Lakshmana, Rama could not have succeeded in enduring his exile or the journey to seek Sita and rescue her from Ravana. If not for the enemity between Sugreeva and Vali, there would have been no chances for Rama to form the crucial alliance with Sugreeva his monkey army which as we all know was instrumental in the search for Sita and for the construction of the Setu or the mega bridge on the oceans to reach Lanka. If not for the alliance with Vibishana it would have taken a lot out of Rama and his army to understand the maya of Ravana and his allies. Kumbakarna the other brother of Ravana too plays an interesting and revealing part in this drama, that however is material for a seperate post. Surely someone who sleeps for six months of the year and eats without a break for the other six months when awake is great material for a post!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A meditation on the subtexts of Ramayana

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

During a recent discussion about the Indian/Hindu epics with some friends, I mentioned the Ramayana. After a few general words on the story line with respect to Rama being an avatar/incarnation of Vishnu and a bit about his exile and the subsequent abduction of Sita by Ravana, I stopped for a coffee. It was then that someone asked me a question. R asked, how would you describe the Ramayana in a few words? What is it really 'about'?

I thought about it for the length of time it takes an extra strong and really hot latte to travel down my oesophagus and into my engine to fire my brain cells with the caffeine. The caffeine in the dark roast Ethiopian beans worked wonderfully well and soon my brain cells began their work - of reading between the lines! Should I say, like most, that the Ramayana is a tale of love of epic proportions? Is it a story that highlights the virtues of a 'chaste' woman? Or is it one that shows that a mans mind is so twisted that he would require the 'fire test' as proof of his woman's chastity and even still abandon her in the forest when pregnant with his children, based on the nasty words of a washer man? Is the main point of the Ramayana its highlighting the fact that even the supreme Vishnu will still have to suffer the pain arising out of attachment and delusion (see the chapters where Rama runs hither and thither in grief asking the Ashoka trees and the Kadamba trees the whereabouts of his beloved) while on a sojourn on this dream scape called earth? Is its moral the end where we see that evil is always won over and controlled by what is good and truthful? Is the intense bhakti and devotion experienced (and expressed) by Hanuman towards Rama a core aspect the epic wishes its readers and listeners to become aware of? I could go on and on in this vein and still be unable to put it in a few words.

If on the other hand I try to express the metaphysical and symbolic meaning of the story and its protagonists, where Rama is the inner self and Ravana with his ten heads is the inner villain representing the ideas of ego,anger, hate etc who is forever tormenting the chaste and noble inner Sita, it will need plenty more than lattes (however caffeinated) for the brain cells to expand (or dilate) enough to make a decent start. So I decided that the best way was to explore a very tangible thread that all of us (well almost all) can latch on to. So I did.

The Ramayana, if I were to describe it in a few words, is a tale about siblings. Yes, a story about brothers!!

First, there is the sub story in Ayodhya. There are four brothers there - Rama, Bharatha, Lakshmana and Shatrugna - who are born to different mothers, the three queens of the king Dasaratha. These brothers here are very well heeled and well aware of the dharma shastras. They realise the elder brother to be verily the guru, the embodied God and their whole relationship is based on that. There are enough instances in the story where each of the brothers prove their devotion and unquestioned and unconditional love towards their eldest sibling Rama. They are ready to give up mighty kingdoms, wife, family, ego and everything else for the sake of their brother. Whatever Rama said, the others took it to be the final word.

Next in line is the sub story in Lanka, the kingdom of the demon king Ravana. Here too there are four brothers - Ravana, Vibishana, Kumbhakarna and Maricha. In this line, we see an altogether different highlight when it comes to the connection between the brothers. Here the main point taught is through the actions of Vibishana. He epitomises the feeling that brother or no brother, father or sister or whatever, a loved one or not, one on the path of adharma has to be avoided. Vibishana loved his elder brother Ravana as much as Lakshmana loved and respected Rama. But when he realised that Ravana was in the wrong (in carrying away Sita), he sacrificed all his own feelings of love and closeness and cast his vote in favour of Dharma and Truth. He switched sides and went over to the army of Rama and offered them his services in bringing Ravana to justice! This he did not because of the knowledge that Rama was the stronger opponent (that is the ilk of the new age politician, the rulers of the olden days were infact much more noble), but because of his orientation to dharma and righteousness was stronger than even the ties of blood and heart.

The third angle is the sub story in the monkey kingdom called Kishkinda. Here there are two brothers - Vali and Sugreeva. And here the focus is on enmity! Here we find that the younger brother, Sugreeva, realises that he can survive peacefully only when his elder sibling is killed. Sugreeva spent years in exile, living in the rocky jungle called Kishkinda in constant fear of his elder brothers spies and army and all the time plotting and waiting for the time when he could deal the death blow to his brother.

Three sub stories. All about the different feelings evoked, expressed and not expressed among siblings. These totally different attitudes and the subsequent actions generated as a result of these attitudes, forms the back ground music for the epic that is Ramayana. There you go. Done it now in a very tangible and 'down to earth' fashion. Only not in a 'few' words, I agree. But reducing the many many khandas (chapters) of this super long epic into a few hundred words, I could do no better.

Not being an only child myself, I wonder what type of brothers would I prefer mine are? Certainly not a Sugreeva type waiting for the moment to throw a boulder on my head when my backs turned for a minute. I dont think I might even appreciate the dharma hugging Vibishana type brother who will put dharma on top of his devotion to me! A blessing it would be to have brothers like Lakshmana and Bharatha who would gladly forsake everything for the sake of their elder brother and manifest God - me!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Reading brings humility.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

A few days spent reading the blogs of others and I feel like packing in the pen (er, keyboard) till the moon of my creativity waxes a bit (quite a bit) more. Is there something about the keyboard and the access to this etheric space that has spawned such brilliant writers? Or have words been so evocative always?

Read on and get some real 'flavour' here.

Maami who is at once 'classic' and 'modern' -

I could provide a fair few more links to the TamBram mind and its delicious and evocative expression.....But we'll take it one step at a time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A potful of Rasam and a spoonful of advaita.

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

Its fascinating how 'normal' 'everyday' things and activities are great revealers of Advaita vedanta. Yes, no mistake there, you read it right. Common things and much repeated actions reveal the essence and the beauty of the most subtle Advaita vedanta. May I add, to one who is ready for such a revelation, as an afterthought?

With the hours in each day not enough to 'fit' all the things that I do in to each day as it is, I realise that it would be simply impossible for me to cook my lunch in the mornings. I decided to cook something (like a rasam) the night before which could just be added to freshly made rice in the morning. This would be a good solution, after all Basmati takes just seven or eight minutes to cook. So, I began cooking in the night for the reward of fine food the next day! I had already eaten my dinner and my hunger was satisfied as a result. Cooking when not hungry or cooking with a full stomach felt quite strange. There was no 'fire' in the process and I simply was not as involved with the process as I normally would have been. I realised that it was perhaps the fact that my stomach was full, there was no hunger, so the motivation to cook was totally muffled. Thinking about this a couple of minutes, I soon became aware of the similarity between our life the way we live it and the process of cooking when one's stomach was full.

Almost all our life is spent in the pursuit of happiness and pleasure, yet we hold an inexhaustible bounty of this happiness within us. The atman or the self who is the very embodiment of the Supreme Brahman is forever in the nature of Bliss. It (self) experiences nothing but this supreme ananda. Actually, even this bliss is not an 'experience' of the self - it is the very nature of the self. With the prize within me at all times I am still engaged in a senseless pursuit of 're experiencing' this happiness through things outside of me. I imagine and hope and try to find this happiness through wife, through work (karma), through family and children, through cake,through cannabis, through entanglement, through entertainment..........I try everywhere to find the echo of this happiness calling my name as I call out for it. I began the pursuit when I was just born and I am still searching! One might imagine that one will eventually tire of this wild goose chase, but wonder of wonders, each morning finds me awake and ready to go through this yet again!

I am like the musk deer. Wandering all over the forest desperately trying to find the source of this unexplainable scent, this incredible smell that is verily the olfactory equivalent of its soul, its very essence. The musk deer I am - searching every bush, scrub and tree in the forest,forever sniffing at everything, in vain. The thing responsible for this incredible smell, the musk, is hidden deep inside the deers being. In the musk pods- the gland that produces this musk which is inside the deer. In a similar fashion, the happiness I hunt through everything else, the bliss that I seek everywhere else, is actually at all times emanating from somewhere deep within my being.

Every night as I lie sleeping in the deep sleep state called sushupti, awareness of every kind is lost. All processes of cognition and mentation stop. And in that deep sleep the 'I' is aware of nothing. But on waking the next morning, the 'I' is aware that it had a bliss full sleep. This experience of bliss is the very nature of ones being. It is completely independent of anything else. The total shutting down of all my internal processes by this deep sleep makes this ever present 'ananda' state feeleable as every other kind of feeling and cognitive process is stilled. Intimately aware as I am of this state of bliss (I sleep every night. Have always done.), I don't seem to realise that it has nothing to do with anything outside.

I go on my whole life with a belly full, and still intent on cooking for the next meal. I have done it so long that its now an unconscious process. Focused as I am on the next meal, I have forgotten that I am not hungry. I have forgotten that I am never hungry.

The boiling rasam brings me back to my 'senses' from the advaita cloud.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mastery of Life? - mantra 66

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The sixty sixth mantra comes as the last in the section titled 'on the greatness of the Agamas' and as a final word hints at the limitation of the agamas and goes further to explain the momentary nature of this thing we call 'life'.
From the next mantra we will begin to see the description of the glory of the lineage or guru parampara to which the sage belongs and through which the Thirumandiram has come down from guru to disciple.

அவிழ்கின்ற வாறும் அதுகட்டு மாறும்
சிமிட்டலைப் பட்டுயிர் போகின்ற வாறும்
தமிழ்ச்சொல் வடசொல் எனும்இவ் விரண்டும்
உணர்த்தும் அவனை உணரலு மாமே. 10.66.
Key To Mystery Of Life
Life takes its birth, stands preserved awhile,
And then its departure takes; caught
In that momentary wave of flux, Him we glimpse,
The Lord who in Tamil sweet and northern tongue
Life's mystery revealed. 10.66.

ComLife takes its birth The soul in its state of bondage, stands preserved awhile the soul in its state of freedom from bondage, And then its departure takes; caught In that momentary wave of flux, in its state called life, which is as momentary as the blinking of an eye, Him we glimpse is not able to realise the Supreme Siva, The Lord who in Tamil sweet and northern tongueLife's mystery revealed who is revealed through the Agamas in the Tamil and Sanskrit language.

* Through the above mantra, the sage hints at the limitations of the Agamas by making it clear that it is not possible to realise the supreme Siva, by the knowledge gained through the Agamas – as the time, in between the birth and death, that is called life is but momentary. Making it impossible to comprehend that being who is Himself responsible for the birth, death and so called life of the jiva.

Here ends the third section of the Payiram (Proem) titled ‘On the greatness of the Agamas’.

Agamas revealed in sanskrit and tamil - mantra 65

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
In the sixty fifth mantra the sage goes on to describe the context regarding the revelation of the Agamic truths and he also explains that the agamas were revealed to the Supreme devi, Parashakti, by the Lord himself. He further reveals that the agamas were revealed in both sanskrit and tamil simultaneously.

மாரியும் கோடையும் வார்பனி தூங்கநின்று
ஏரியும் நின்றங்கு இளைக்கின்ற காலத்து
ஆரிய முந்தமி ழும்உட னேசொலிக்
காரிகை யார்க்குக் கருணைசெய் தானே. 9.65.
Revealed Alike In Sanskrit and Tamil
Devoid alike of rain and summer's gift of dew
Even the flashing lake had lost it's vernal bloom
Then did He in Sanskrit and Tamil at once,
Reveal the rich treasure of His Compassion to our Lady Great. 9.65.

ComDevoid alike of rain and summer's gift of dew During the time of the dissolution of the worlds, when the seasons of rain, summer, winter were absent (i.e. they were already in a state of absorption or laya), Even the flashing lake had lost it's vernal bloom when even the massive perennial lakes were dry (i.e. due to the fires of destruction). Reveal the rich treasure of His Compassion to our Lady Great In that most fearful time before the beginning of the creation of the world systems (again), the Lord revealed the Agamas to Parashakti, Then did He in Sanskrit and Tamil at once in Sanskrit and Tamil simultaneously.

* Here the sage presents the subject of the antiquity and validity of the two languages, namely Tamil and Sanskrit, by mentioning that the agamas were revealed to Parashakti, simultaneously in both the languages, by the Lord Siva. That it was revealed when the worlds were dissolved and in a state prior to the birth of the next cycle of creation, shows the antiquity of the Agamas and also of the two above mentioned languages. (Perhaps the author was aware of the many vicious debates that were to ensue at a later date among scholars regarding the antiquity and importance of the two languages).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Importance of the agamas - mantra 64

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
In this the sixty fourth mantra the sage reveals the importance of the word of the Aagamas.

அண்ணல் அருளால் அருளும் சிவாகமம்
எண்ணிலி கோடி தொகுத்திடும் ஆயினும்
அண்ணல் அறைந்த அறிவுஅறி யாவிடின்
எண்ணிலி கோடியும் நீர்மேல் எழுத்தே. 8.64.
Import Of Agamas
Numberless the Sivagamas composed,
The Lord by His Grace revealed;
Yet they know not the wisdom He taught;
Like writing on water, the unnumbered fade. 8.64.

ComThe Lord by His Grace revealed Even though the Lord has revealed, out of His compassion for the jivas, Numberless the Sivagamas composed what has been classified as countless crore of Agamas. Like writing on water, the unnumbered fade They all become useless, like writing on water, Yet they know not the wisdom He taught to those that are not aware of / that do not understand the supreme truth as spoken by Siva.

* The meaning is that, the content of the Agamas has to be understood within the context of the divine wisdom that arises out of dedicated practise or sadhana as thought by the guru.

Nine Agamas - mantra 63

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The sixty third mantra lists the names of the nine types of Aagamas taking the subject of the previous mantra further.

பெற்றநல் ஆகமங் காரணம் காமிகம்

உற்றநல் வீரம் உயர்சிந்தியம் வாதுளம்

மற்றவ் வியாமளம் ஆகும்கா லோத்தரந்

துற்றநற் சுப்பிரம் சொல்லு மகுடமே. 7.63

Nine Agamas

The Agamas so received are Karanam, Kamigam,

The Veeram good, the Sindam high and Vadulam,

Vyamalam the other, and Kalottaram,

The Subram pure and Makutam to crown. 7.63

ComThe Agamas so received are The Agamas that have been received through the above mentioned (see previous mantra) lineage are namely Karanam, Kamigam,The Veeram good, the Sindam high Karanam, Kamigam, the good Veeram, the exalted Sindiam and Vadulam, Vyamalam the other, and Kalottaram, and Vadhulam, the tantric text Yamalam and the beneficial Kalottaram, The Subram pure and Makutam to crown the pure Subram and Makutam.

* The most important Agamas are twenty eight in number. Of these twenty eight, the essence of the nine Agamas that are mentioned here, forms the core (and entirety) of Thirumandiram. These nine Agamas are classified as follows – Karanam, Kamigam, Sindiam and Subram are known as Sivabedham. Veeram, Vadhulam, Kalottaram and Makutam are known as Rudrabedham. Finally, Yamalam is known as the Tantra Sastram. In this mantra the nine main Agamas that were received by the great guru Nandi (and since then, others of the lineage) are named and classified.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The parampara - mantra 62

Sri gurubhyo namaha.
In this the sixty second mantra the sage mentions the guru parampara or the lineage of gurus and disciples through which the original knowledge has been transmitted - from the Adi natha shiva down to the sage himself. This is also known as the Kailasa parampara or the Kailasa lineage.

சிவமாம் பரத்தினில் சத்தி சதாசிவம்
உவமா மகேசர் உருத்திர தேவர்
தவமால் பிரமீசர் தம்மில்தாம் பெற்ற
நவஆ கமமெங்கள் நந்திபெற் றானே. 6.62
Agamas Transmitted
From Siva the Infinite to Shakti and Sadasiva,
To Maheswara the Joyous, to Rudra Dev and Brahmisa,
So in succession unto Himself from Himself,
The nine Agamas our Nandi begot. 6.62

Com – From Siva the Infinite From the infinite and supreme Siva, to Shakti and Sadasiva Shakti and Sadashiva To Maheswara the Joyous and Maheshwara- who is joyous to behold in the heart- to Rudra Dev and Brahmisa Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma – who have performed the great penance- The nine Agamas had the nine Agamas revealed to each of them through their wisdom. So in succession unto Himself from Himself our Nandi begot Our guru (the first guru in the lineage to which the author of this work belongs to) Nandi, received all the above mentioned Agamas, through such an extraordinary lineage.

* The above mantra sets out the lineage of the Agamas- From Siva Himself, the Agamas were revealed first to Shakti and Sadashiva. From them, it was revealed to Maheshwara, Rudra and then to Vishnu and Brahma. Then it was revealed to Nandi, who revealed them to his disciples, and so on throughout the lineage the revelations have been passed. The author of this work, the sage Thirumoolar, belongs to the Nandinatha Sampradaya or the Nadi lineage.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Sri gurubhyo namaha.

''Pilgrim, pilgrimage and road -- it was but myself toward my Self, and your arrival was but myself at my own door. ''


Agamas revealed - mantra 61

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The sixty first mantra of the Thirumandiram still keeps the focus primarily on the Agamas and their revelation.

பரனாய் பராபரம் காட்டி உலகில்
தரனாய்ச் சிவதன்மந் தானேசொல் காலத்
தரனாய் அமரர்கள் அர்ச்சிக்கு நந்தி
உரனாகி ஆகமம் ஓங்கிநின் றானே. 5.61.

Agamas Revealed
The Infinite revealing the Infinite Vast
Came down to earth, Siva's Dharma to proclaim,
The immortals, then, Him as Nandi adored,
And He stood forth the Agamas artic'lating. 5.61.

Com – The Infinite As the infinitely supreme being, (Siva), revealing the Infinite Vast revealed the two called Parajnyanam and Aparajnyanam. Came down to earth He is the support and the mainstay of the world. Siva's Dharma to proclaim He is the Wise one who revealed the Siva punya (the Dharma relating to Siva and the grace obtained by following the dharma). The immortals, then, Him as Nandi adored The Devas worship Him always. And He stood forth the Agamas artic'lating That supreme Siva is manifest as the true Wisdom of the Agamas.

* Parajnyanam refers to the knowledge pertaining to Siva and Aparajnyanam refers to the knowledge pertaining to the arts. Hence, Siva is manifest as the Wisdom of the Agamas, which bestows knowledge that pertains to this world (arts) and heaven (Siva).

Writing on the waters - mantra 60

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

In this the sixtyth mantra of the Thirumandiram the sage opines that mere bookish learning of the Agamas will yield nothing - much like how the mere thinking about food does nothing to take away the hunger of one who is hungry. Instead one must attempt to internalise the truths echoed in the agamas and try to understand them personally through experience.

அண்ணல் அருளால் அருளுந்திவ் யாகமம்
விண்ணில் அமரர் தமக்கும் விளங்கரி
தெண்ணில் எழுபது கோடிநூ றாயிரம்
எண்ணிலும் நீர்மேல் எழுத்தது ஆகுமே. 4. 60.
Agamas Deep In Content
The Agamas, the Lord by Grace revealed,
Deep and baffling even to the Gods in Heaven;
Seventy billion-millions though they be;
Like writing on the waters, eluding grasp. 4. 60.

Com – The Agamas, the Lord by Grace revealed The Agamas, highly divine in nature, that have been revealed because of the compassion of the Lord Deep and baffling even to the Gods in Heaven prove to be beyond the grasp of even the immortals and the Devas residing in the heavens. Seventy billion-millions though they be When counted, they total to seventy crore and one hundred thousand. Like writing on the waters, eluding grasp It is but a waste of effort, much like writing on water, to just learn the Agamas, without having the experiential understanding of the truths that are spoken of in them.

* The total number seventy crore and one hundred thousand also refers to the number of granthas (verses) in the Agamas. As there are various opinions on the exact number of Agamas, there are also equally diverse opinions on the total number of granthas. The above mantra makes it very clear that just ‘book’ learning of the Agamas, without personal experience, is a futile exercise.

The eighteen languages - mantra 59

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

The fifty ninth mantra of the Thirumandiram explores the fact that sound is primarily in the form of ideation or thought in the state preceeding the vocalised sound.

பண்டிதர் ஆவார் பதினெட்டும் பாடையும்
கண்டவர் கூறும் கருத்தறி வார்என்க
பண்டிதர் தங்கள் பதினெட்டுப் பாடையும்
அண்ட முதலான் அறஞ்சொன்ன வாறே. 3. 59.
Agamic Truths In 18 Languages
In eighteen various tongues they speak
The thoughts which Pandits alone know;
The Pandits' tongues numbering ten and eight
Are but what the Primal Lord declared. 3.59.

Com – In eighteen various tongues they speak The Pandits (learned ones in possession of wisdom) are those who know the eighteen languages. The thoughts which Pandits alone know Those wise ones (described above) are capable of fully understanding the truths spoken of by the Agamas. The Pandits' tongues numbering ten and eight All the eighteen languages, that the wise ones know, Are but what the Primal Lord declared speak of and reveal the truths that have been declared by Siva, the Primal Lord, who is the seed cause of the whole universe.

* All languages are in the form of sound in their gross aspect. However, in the subtle aspect (i.e. before being expressed as sound), they are all in the form of ideas/thoughts. In this subtle aspect, there is no difference between the languages (as is obviously present in the gross aspect). Thus, the truth in the stage of idea/thought is able to be expressed without change (i.e. without deviating from the original truth in the idea/thought) of meaning, through any language – when conveyed by the wise one’s who have understood the subtle truth of the Agamas.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Innumerable agamas - mantra 58

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

This is the fifty eighth mantra of the Thirumandiram exploring further the Aagamas and also gives us a count of the actual agamas.

அண்ணல் அருளால் அருளும் சிவாகமம்
எண்ணில் இருபத்தெண் கோடிநூ றாயிரம்
விண்ணவர் ஈசன் விழுப்பம் உரைத்தனர்
எண்ணிநின் றப்பொருள் ஏத்துவன் நானே. 58.2
Agamas Innumerable
The Sivagamas the Lord by Grace revealed;
In number a billion-million-twenty-eight
In them the Celestials the Lord's greatness gloried;
Him, I too shall muse and praise. 58.2

ComThe Sivagamas the Lord by Grace revealed The Agamas, revealed by the Lord Siva, out of His infinite compassion for the jivas, In number a billion-million-twenty-eight are beyond count – i.e. they are very expansive and hence very difficult to count. When counted, they total to a staggering, twenty eight crore and one hundred thousand. In them the Celestials the Lord's greatness gloried With the aid of the above mentioned Agamas, the Devas (celestials) have been able to praise the glory of Siva. Him, I too shall muse and praise Hence, I shall follow in the same path (of the Agamas), and worship and praise the Lord Siva.

* The total count of twenty eight crore and one hundred thousand, refers to the total number of granthas (verses) that comprise the twenty eight Agamas. Here, it is made obvious that the Devas and other accomplished beings have praised Siva, throughout time, with the aid of the Agamas.

Isana face of Siva - Mantra 57

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

This mantra of the Thirumandiram takes us into the next section in the first part. We noticed that the first 49 mantras were descriptive of the various qualities etc of Siva. The mantras from 50 to 56 were in description of the greatness of the Vedas, which forms one part of the pramana or scriptures of authority. The other branch here is that of the Tantra. The texts of the tantra school can be divided into two - namely Agama and Nigama. It is not the objective of this post to describe this in detail, those interested are referred to pursue this separately. Suffice it to say here that in what are classed Agamas, the Devi puts forth the questions (as disciple) and Siva answers them (as guru). In what are called the Nigamas, this order of who questions and who replies is reversed. Between them, the primal pair make everything explicit and clear and it also shows their samarasya (being in effect the same).

Here in this the fifty seventh mantra of the Thirumandiram the sage begins to describe the glory of the Agamas. Thus he makes it clear that the pramanas of the tantra are as valid as those in the vedas. In an overview we can see that after describing the deity (siva) the sage mentions the methods through which the above mentioned Siva can be seen and realised.

அஞ்சன மேனி அரிவையோர் பாகத்தன்
அஞ்சொ டிருபத்து மூன்றுள ஆகமம்
அஞ்சலி கூப்பி அறுபத்து அறுவரும்
அஞ்சா முகத்தில் அரும்பொருள் கேட்டதே. 57.1
Agamas From The Fifth Face Of Siva
The Lord that consorts the blue-hued One
Has the Agamas twenty-five and three;
Bowing low, the six and sixty sought
The Fifth-Faced One the Agamas' deep import to expound. 57.1
Com - The Lord that consorts the blue-hued One The Lord Siva, who has the Goddess Uma – who is dark in complexion – on the left half of His body, Has the Agamas twenty-five and three has, out of His grace, expounded the Agamas, which are twenty eight in number. Bowing low, the six and sixty sought Steeped in devotion and bowing low with humility, the sixty six siddhas (accomplished beings), from Pranavar to Mahakala , The Fifth-Faced One the Agamas' deep import to expound sought the highly subtle manifestation of Siva, as the fifth face called Isaana, and through Him learnt the wisdom contained in the above mentioned twenty eight Agamas.

* The Lingam, which is the representation of the Sadashiva aspect of Siva, is possessed of five faces – namely, Sathyojadham, Vamadevam, Agoram, Tatpurusham and Isaanam. Out of the above mentioned five, the fifth face or Isaana, is located on the top and is facing upwards (signifying its highly subtle level of consciousness). The twenty eight Agamas are from Kamigam to Vadhulam. The above mantra makes clear that the Agamas were expounded first, by Siva (united with Shakti) to the sixty six siddhas, through His manifestation as Isaana.