Saturday, June 30, 2012

Senses controlled, they saw this world and next - mantrA 133

srigurubhyO namahA |

The idea of pratyAhAra or sense withdrawal is conveyed in this the 133rd mantrA of the thirumandiram. Using the metaphor of the tortoise which escapes danger through withdrawal, the sage highlights the necessity of sense control to achieve a steady mind that can accept conflicting experiences without losing calm.

பெருமை சிறுமை அறிந்தெம் பிரான்போல்
அருமை எளிமை அறிந்தறி வார்ஆர்
ஒருமையுள் ஆமைபோல் உள்ஐந்து அடக்கி
இருமையுங் கேட்டிருந் தார்புரை அற்றே. I.1.21.133.

Who there be who, like our Lord, distinct know
The great and the small, the difficult and the facile?
They, unto tortoise, drawing in senses five under the shell,
They heard and saw This and Next, all impurities dispelled. I.1.21.133.

Com - who, like our Lord, distinct know The great and the small, Like our Lord siva, who pervades everything and is present within the atom as well as the mighty universe, the difficult and the facile? Who there be, and thus knows the immense greatness and the incredible minuteness (of the great and the small) alongside each other, who else is there in this world who could experience and ‘know’ (these conflicting experiences) thus with equanimity? They, unto tortoise, drawing in senses five under the shell, Those sAdhakAs (those practising the path shown by the sage) who with a steady mind practise the withdrawal of the sense instruments by arresting the outward flow of the five senses and turning it inward, like the tortoise, They heard and saw This and Next, all impurities dispelled. Will reach the state where they will be able to see the greatness and the smallness and experience them faultlessly (i.e. without the taint of duality or contrary experiences).

#  Here the sage is instructing the reader in the necessity of the yOga practise known as pratyAhArA or sense withdrawal for the purpose of attaining a calm and steady disposition. It would be well to understand here that the siddhars are in complete agreement with the tantric and vEdic concept that one must be sufficiently disengaged with one’s idea of ‘doership’ and the idea that one is the ‘experiencer’. Hence chitta shuddi or internal purification is an important first step to building a steady ground for realisation to take root. ChittA is an aggregate term – when the manas (mind), buddhi (intellect) and ahamkArA (ego/identity principle) are spoken of together the word chittA is used to describe it. It is in this realm that the idea of ‘I am doer’ and ‘I am experiencer’ is present. It is here that ‘me’ and ‘mine’ originate. When there is not enough clarity in these faculties, then the idea that ‘I am a limited jIvA, caught in the transmigratory cycle of life and death and powerless in the hands of fate’ takes root firmly. This clouds judgement regarding this phenomenal world of name and form and one thus gets firmly bound by delusions and performs wrong actions and suffers unhappiness.

pratyAhArA or sense withdrawal is the method through which the usually outward flow of the sense instruments (ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose) is checked and then by practise reversed. This would enable the mind to understand and experience without bias. To act without motive.

The sage uses the example of the tortoise, which when confronted by danger, reacts to protect itself by withdrawing its limbs and head (4+1) into the hard shell. Similarly, he indicates here that the sAdhakA or adept must practise the method of withdrawing the five senses inward to protect himself from the danger of the external world. After the first two lines of the verse which describe the equanimity with which siva engages with this world, the second two lines are pointing the reader in the direction in which even he might find the means to reach such an equanimity of perception. Through sense withdrawal, the adept will be able to gradually reach a place where he will be able to view the great and the small without conflict. To put it in other words, the idea here is to reconcile the opposing forces to achieve the steady state. This is the ancient alchemical concept which is symbolised by the Chemical Wedding.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Attainment of Deathlessness and Birthlessness

srigurubhyO namahA |

With a view to serve humanity and lift us higher from our limited perspective, the siddars developed and practised methods to elongate life span. So that over many hundreds of years, they could continue to live in the physical body and further their compassionate service. The nature of their deathlessness and the reason for their birthlessness is described in this, the 132nd mantrA of the thirumandiram.

பெற்றார் உலகிற் பிரியாப் பெருநெறி
பெற்றார் உலகிற் பிறவாப் பெரும்பயன்
பெற்றார் அம்மன்றில் பிரியாப் பெரும்பேறு
பெற்றார் உலகுடன் பேசாப் பெருமையே. I.1.20.132.

In this world they received the Deathless Way great
In this world they attained the Birthless End great
The Gift unique of inseparateness from the Sabha pure
The ineffable rapture, the glory beyond reach of words. I.1.20.132.

Com - In this world they received the Deathless Way great The siva yOgis who as described in the previous mantrA have attained to the pure state, through their yOga have obtained the merit of continuing to exist in a physical body (immortal) without ever departing this physical world to further their ideals of being of service to mankind (by instructing the deserving candidates into the pure path of siva yOga). In this world they attained the Birthless End great And even though they remain in this physical world and continue to commit actions of all kinds for the service of humanity (i.e remain engaged in what appears to be worldly activity), they are free from the taint of their actions and thus have obtained freedom from the cycle of births. The Gift unique of inseparateness from the Sabha pure Such yOgis are blessed with the great fortune of being forever immersed in the radiance of the holy feet of the divine dancer siva. The ineffable rapture, the glory beyond reach of words. And being ever absorbed in this rapturous state, they remain detached from and undistracted by the rest of the world; instead they remain fixed in the maunA (silence) of the heart and experience continually and at all times the consciousness of siva. 

#  In the above mantrA, I have taken the liberty to go a bit beyond the literal translation to sort of describe the intent of the sage better and more accurately, while within the body of the verse. Now to see some of the unspoken but obvious things from the above verse – the siva yOgis have perfected their physical bodies, through the practise of yOgA and also kAyAkalpA techniques and have thus rendered it immortal. This their body now is not subject to death as in the case of the rest of us. Through correct understanding of the different tattvAs and through the control of prAnA (vital air) and vIryA (semen) and through various mantrAs and the effects of guligAs (pills produced from different rare and magical herbs etc and animal products and even metals) they have made adamantine their bodies. This is not due to their fear of death or due to their attachment to life or the sensory pleasures of this world. The yOgis are masters of sense control, it is for altogether another reason that these masters have decided to remain in this physical body eternally and continue to exist in this physical world of mortals. The reason for conditioning their bodies so, the sage reveals here, is to enable them to continue their ideals of serving humanity by leading them to a higher level of existence. The siddars have seen the truth, they have understood reality, the one supreme essence and becoming perfected, they desire to pass on their teachings and methods to other deserving individuals. They have also continued to disperse the merits of their tapas and their knowledge gained from experimentation with shifting the boundaries of mind and body by way of their teachings and by intervening miraculously in the lives of many. Thus, the siva yOgis are deathless.

The second line of the verse points out that these deathless yOgis are also birthless! On observing the siddars who exist in the physical body for long periods of time and who while in the body continue to perform the various activities of the living, quite like the rest of us it is easy for us to wrongly identify their motives to be the same as ours. The sage makes that clear here by pointing out that even though to all external appearances it is as if these sages are engaged in worldly activity (by way of serving humanity, etc), in reality it is not so. Due to their practises they have already arrived at the realisation of reality and have thus become ‘detached’ or ‘disengaged’ from the grasp of the external world. All the scriptures make clear that the root cause of bondage (to the cycle of birth and death/ delusion) is attachment. Clearly cognising the truth that though the world of name and forms appears to be, it really is not, and by remaining ever engaged in meditation of the supreme, they have elevated themselves into the realms of detachment. They are not ‘entangled’ in the world of name and form as we are and are ever aware of the One behind all appearances. Thus they are also free from future births by being disconnected to the fruit of their actions (i.e. gone beyond the idea of doership).

It is important and interesting to note that the sage mentions in the final line of the above mantrA that these siva yOgis remain in the state of maunA or silence. This quite often refers to actually remaining silent – i.e. not speaking. There are many sages and siddars who are known as mauni or silent saints. Perhaps, being established in the nAdAntA state as they were, they had transcended the need for words altogether. Or perhaps, they were aware of the many faults of words and wisely refrained from using them. The yOga sutra and the Upanishads all maintain that we lose a lot of our life force through speech. Not to mention the amount of hurt and upset or offence our spoken words cause to other beings. Thus silence or maunA is a practise that is encouraged in the path of yOgA both to increase the life force and also to practise self-discipline and virtues of non-violence, truth etc. And it is self-evident that even if the sage does speak words and is not a mauni, they still remain merged within themselves in the ether of the heart cave absorbed in the state of silence. They are supremely focussed on the dance of siva in the subtle ether at the crown of their heads, and as it were they remain undistracted by the noise and the pull of the external world.