#1468 - October 06, 2011 09:37 AM
Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
Saint Manikkavasagar, the author of Thiruvasagam and Thirukkovaiyar; the 8th Thirumurai is the 4th Samayacharya. Thiruvasagam is the compilation of 656 devotional verses of a very high order for soul’s realization. This part contains 51 separate poems, the first is called the Sivapuranam.
The Siva PuráNam of the sage-poet MáNikkavásakar is devotional poetry, and is
not to be confused with the Siva Purána of Sanskrit literature.
1. namacivaya valgha nathan tAl valgha
May Siva's name endure!
May the feet of the Lord (who guides me)endure!
nama - respectful bowing, veneration. Here, name.
sivaya - Siva
valgha - May (it) live for ever in auspiciousness!
nathan (of) the Lord
tAL - feet
valgha May (they) live for ever in auspiciousness!
In the Saiva tradition, the combination of these five (Tamil) letters
na-ma-si-vá-ya forms the most sacred mantra: a chant that has esoteric
significance. So it is known as tiruvaindezuttu: (titu aindu ezhuttu) sacred
five-letter. It is believed that if this mantra is appropriately received from a
guru of the tradition, and one repeats it on a regular basis, that would be a
means of attaining spiritual fulfillment.
Indeed, it is said that each of the constituent letters has a hidden meaning.
The letter na represents the occult power of nádan (nat[f): the Lord; ma
represents malam or impurity; si is for sivam; vá is that which welcomes us; ya
is said to stand for the embodied soul (yákkai means body). In the Saiva
framework, all the truths of the entire SivapuráNam are enshrined in this
pańcákshara (pentasyllabic) mantra.
Volumes have been written on the esoteric significance of the pańcákshara. The
five syllables represent Siva's five faces, the five elements, etc.
Though it simply means, I bow down to Lord Siva, in this context, it is more
appropriate to interpret the mantra as námasivAya: name of Civa, because the
poet prays for its enduring persistence. None of us can fathom Divine Wholeness.
So we refer to it by a name. It is through that name that we connect with
infinity. When we pray for the enduring of that name, we are praying that our
own connection with the eternal principle may endure.
We are known by our names. But the names we bear are associated with our bodies
in the present birth. In another incarnation, we will have a different name. But
the Lord's name lives for ever. It says in the Ecclesiastics: "A good name
endureth for ever." So we speak of the immortal permanence of the name of Siva,
the enduring Cosmic Principle.
The importance of attaching sanctity to God's name is not unique to the Saiva
tradition. VaishNavas have their twelve-syllabic mantra, aum namo bhagavate
vásudeváya. In Buddhism one has, oM maNi padme huM. The name of God is sacred
in all religious traditions. Whether as Yaweh or as Allah, it should not be
taken in vain. As it says in the Old Testament, "The name of the Lord is a
Likewise, the Lord's prayer in the Christian tradition begins with the lines:
Pater noster quia in coelis
Sanctificatur nomen tuum.
Our Father Who art in Heaven
Hallowed by Thy Name.
The word vázka! means: May (someone, something) live for ever in auspiciousness.
It will be used several times. It is more than the French Vive! or the Italian
Viva! which simply mean May (something or someone) live long ! The word vázhka!
in this context is also said to reflect the bliss of the one who chants the
In the first part of the first line of SivapuráNam, the word vázhka (vazfk) has
been split into two syllables: vá ázhka, in order to maintain the prosodic
We do not know by what mystery we were brought to the recognition of the Divine.
That which guided us to this cosmic consciousness is the Lord's grace. In the
poetic vision of Hindu spirituality, and from this, in Indic tradition, one
attains spiritual fulfillment by expressing one's reverence to the feet of God
(or of parents, teachers, elders). So it says that we pay homage to the feet of
nádan (the Lord).
We may note that the mantra namah siváya is in the Vedas, ia also found in the
Rudra Prasana of the TaittirIya Samhita where it says, namo rudráya. Thus this
mantra of the Tamil Saiva siddhántam tradition has Vedic links.
The name Siva has many meanings. Commonly it is taken to signify auspiciousness.
In the Tamil tradition, aside from being an appellation for Lord Siva, some of
the other meanings of the word sivam are bliss, heaven, and supreme deity.
V. V. Raman
September 8, 2011
2. imaippozutum enneńcil níngádán táL vázhga!
Who will not move away from my heart even for a moment, may He endure!
imai - blinking of an eye;
pozutum - even for the time;
imaippozutum - not even for a moment
en - my;
neńjil - from (the) heart;
níngádán - who will not move away from;
táL - feet;
vázga - May (they) live for ever in auspiciousness!
3. Kókazi áNDán kurumaNi-tan táLvázga!
May the feet of the spotless gem of Kókazi endure for ever!
Kókazi name of a holy place in Tamil Nadu.
áNDán: who ruled.
KurumaNitan of spotless gem
vázga May (they) live for ever in auspiciousness!
Kókazi may be taken as a reference to the holy city of TiruvávaDutuRai. The
allusion is to the grace that devotees received at the temples in these places.
TiruvávaDuturai has the shrine of Lord Siva as Másilamanísar
(másu-ila-maNi-ísar: Spot-less-gem-Lord). The hymns of Teváram sing the praise
of more than 275 Shiva temples. The gem is also known as kurumaNi. According to
sacred history, Párvati once assumed the form of a cow and worshiped Siva here.
This is a place of pilgrimage where there is a fig tree (Ficus religiosa
arasamaram) under which, as per tradition, the poet Tirumúlar composed the
Tirumantiram. It was here that another Tamil sage-poet of the Saiva tradition,
Sambandar, is said to have received his grace from Lord Siva. Siva manifested
Himself as Tyágarájar here. To commemorate this, there is an annual festival
here known as Tyágarája-Sundara-NaTanam. [Some scholars have suggested that the
reference is to TituppenduRai.]
The word kó also means cow (pasu). In Saivasiddánta, it is a metaphor for the
soul. Likewise, kazi meaning ocean, is a metaphor for human life. The idea is
that the Lord enables the soul to cross the ocean of human existence, a frequent
imagery in Hindu theology. The journey of life is wrought with turbulence and
uncertainty: hence the comparison with the ocean. We go through this journey by
the grace of God.
V. V. Raman
12 Sept. 2011
1.4 ágamam ági-nidru aNNippán táL vázka
May the feet of the One Who became the Agamas endure for ever!
ágamam The Agamas;
ági nindru having become;
aNNippán who approaches, comes near;
vázka May (they) live for ever in auspiciousness!
The word ágamam literally means any sacred writing. In English the word
Scripture (or the Scriptures) means the Old and the New Testaments (the Bible).
However,, by extension, the word (without the capital) may be used to refer to
any sacred writing. In Tamil, agama is any sacred writing, but in the context
of Saiva Siddhánta, Ágamas are Saiva religious texts. They are not part of the
Vedic corpus. Vedic texts are known as nigamas. Ágama literally means that which
has come down, just as avatára refers to the Divine who has come down to earth.
Women and Non-Brahmins were not barred from listening to or reciting the Ágamas,
although it used to said sometimes that Ágamas were not intended for the common
people. In the Saiva Siddhánta tradition, the canonical Ágamas number
twenty-eight. Though the original Ágamas were in Sanskrit, there are many Tamil
One may also interpret Ágamas metaphorically as paths to spiritual fulfillment,
to Divinity, the right way, as it were. In the Saiva Siddhánta tradition, this
right way has been revealed to humankind by none other than the Divine
(symbolized as Siva all through this work). Normally one would say that we come
close to the Divine by following the spiritual path. But our poet says here that
the Divine comes close to us through the spiritual path. How are we to
A child in need of food or security runs to its mother. More often than not, it
is the mother who is caring for the welfare of the child. She does this out of
her unbounded love. Likewise, we are told here that the Divine transformed
itself into the Agamas and has come to us. It is always close to us. And the
prayer is that it be that way for ever.
Now one might wonder if this is really always so. Is the path of spiritual
fulfillment that close to everyone? There are two answers to this question.
First, it is certainly the case for those who have received grace, as with the
mystic poet MáNikkavásakar. Those who are thus blessed feel that the Divine has
come to them and remains with them. The other answer is that this is indeed true
for everyone, except that not everyone recognizes it. It is somewhat like oxygen
which sustains our life, but not everybody breathes it consciously.
V. V. Raman
12 Sept. 2011
1.5 égan anégan iRaivan aDivázka
May the feet of the One-Many God endure!
égan one person;
aDivázka May (His) feet endure!
The Divine is but one: ekam sat, it says in the Rig Veda. But the Divine is many
in two different ways. First, it is perceived, described, imagined, and
proclaimed in countless ways by the various religious traditions of the human
family. viprA bahudA vadanti: the learned call it in many ways. In another sense
too, God becomes many. Divinity is present in countless beings. Each of us
embodies the Divine. God's multiple splendors may be seen in every person and in
every living being. (In Tamil, iRaivan is one of many words for God. In
classical Tamil it also referred to Lord Siva, king, and father.)
It is in lines like this that we see mystic vision which is quite different
from theological dogmas. We all see many things, and take them to be as such.
The sophisticated physicist who sees many things, also sees a unity of laws and
basic entities beneath them all. The mystic sees Many but recognizes not only
the One in all, but also a spiritual element in that oneness.
Religions conceptualize God as One. Human beings identify creatures as many. But
a deeper (Upanishadic) vision tells us that the many are but splinters of the
One. Therefore, it is God Who becomes Many in the world of our experience. We
often seek to find unity behind diversity. God does the opposite: Divinity
expresses Its unity as diversity. It is somewhat like the same person playing
different roles at different times: as child, as spouse, as parent, as student,
as teacher, etc. In the TiruvempAvai there is a beautiful verse which says how
one became two, two became three, etc., and became many: female, male, neuter,
effulgent light, air, earth,…
peNNági áNági aliyágip piRangkoLichér
The many-person aspect of God may be understood by means of an analogy. If we
consider Music, we find it is almost impossible to grasp it in the abstract. And
yet there are countless manifestations of Music in songs and melodies. And, like
music, God is to be experienced, not conceptualized in many modes, and not
analyzed. That is why Monotheism is abstract, unvisualizable, sometimes even
somber, whereas as polytheism is colorful, rich, and full of joy and splendor in
V. V. Raman
September 13, 2011
1.6 végang keDuttáNDa véndanaDi velga!
May the feet of the lord who arrested the speed be victorious!
keDuttu spoilt, stopped
áNDa (who) ruled
véndan king, lord
velga May (they) be victorious!
The mind is a great gift that human beings have received from the Divine. It
accomplishes a great many things. Its primary characteristic is that it is never
still. It is often restless, it wanders from thought to thought, it is seldom
fixed at one point, it is continuously on the move as it were, giving the
impression of a wild horse that is for ever moving very fast.
The goal of yogic exercises is to still the mind. Yoga is union with the Divine.
It is the link with the Divine that calms the restless mind. Hence the poet
describes the Divine here as the One that puts a break (stops) the speed
(restless movement) of the mind.
The idea is that only those who are connected to the Divine, whether through
periodic prayers, meditation, or yogic practice, will be able to free themselves
from restlessness and the associated strains, TiruvaLLuvar expressed this idea
in one of his kuraLs (I-7):
tanakkuvamai illátAn tAL cérndrárkku allál
manakkavalai mátRal aridu.
Save for who've reached the feet of the Peerless One
Relief from distress is hard to be done.
We may note here that in the Hindu framework, feet have a dual value. The feet
of an ordinary person is regarded as his inferior part as his head is the
superior. This is because the feet (and the footwear) touch the ground with all
its dust and dirt while the head in involved in thoughts. However, the feet of a
person we respect: our parents, teacher, and God are venerated. The symbolism is
that we regard ourselves as very low compared to the ones whose feet we touch.
It is a mark of utter humility.
V. V. Raman
September 14, 2011
2.2. piRap paRukkum pińńagandan peikazalkaL velga
Who cuts the cycle of rebirths, may his boon-giving feet be victorious!
aRukkum one who cuts off
pińńagan-tan One with the matted hair - his
velga may (they) be victorious
The soul is continually passing through the cycle of birth and death. This cycle
is referred to as samsára. Human birth is to reap the consequences of one's
karma. Ultimate release or liberation (moksha) is when the soul is relieved from
this cycle. The goal of spiritual life is to achieve moksha. This may also be
attained by the grace of the Divine. That is to say, the Divinity may cut off
the cycle of samsára. In the Saiva framework, Siva is the Divinity. The word
pińńakam means a hair-dress or the plaited hair of women: pinnal in modern
Tamil. In puranic imagery, Siva is pictured with matted hair. Hence he is also
known as pińńagan, an epithet by which the poet refers to Him in this line.
The word kazal could mean either foot or an ankle ring worn by a brave and
generous warrior. Here, it refers to the feet of Lord Siva. Those feet are said
to shower all the blessings on us. Hence they are described as peikazal: feet
that abundantly rain (boons) on us mortals here on earth. One of the boons is
precisely the cutting off of the birth-death cycle from which the devotee is
striving to be liberated.
The poet's prayer here is that those feet become victorious, in other words that
they help the aspirant attain moksha. What is remarkable here is that the poet
prays for the victory of God's own feet. This may seem to be an unusual mode of
praying in that it expresses the wish for the success of the Lord's feet which
must be, by definition, omnipotent. This is because those feet are the one's
that will help the aspirant in liberation from the birth-death cycle: moksha.
What the poet is actually praying for is that we may be the beneficiaries of
God's generosity in this matter. It is somewhat like recognizing that rain is
good for agriculture, and praying that it may fall on our land. Thus the
showering that the metaphor is appropriate.
Sept 15, 2011
2.3. puRattárkkuch chéyón tan púngkazalkaL velga
May the flowered feet of Him who is far from unbelievers be victorious!
puRattárkku to strangers
chéyón tan of Siva
púngkazalkaL flowered feet
velga may (they) be victorious!
The word puRattan could mean a stranger or a foreigner (cf. paradési), or simply
one who is far away. Here it refers to those who are without faith, who do not
believe in God, who deep in their hearts reject the transcendental. The poet
says that the Divine is far away from such people. More exactly, they have moved
themselves far away from the Divine. The name chéyón usually refers to Skanda,
whereas cheyán refers to Siva. Here it is simple the Divine.
This line suggests that in the society in which our poet lived, not everyone was
a God-fearing devotee of Siva. In other words, the fact that such people are
mentioned suggests that there were unbelievers and atheists in those days also.
What does one mean by wishing victory of the God? Perhaps the poet is saying
that he wishes such people to come under the love and care of the Divine.
There is an Italian proverb which says: Assenza nemica di amore: Absence is the
enemy of love. This refers to love between human beings. Our poet implies more
generally that absence of God (i.e. the qualities we associate with God) from
one's heart is the enemy of love. It is important to remember in these contexts
that many of the lines in Sivapuranam become more relevant and meaningful when
we interpret Siva as symbol for whatever is positive, noble, and all-embracing
in the human spirit.
John Milton spoke of "flowers worthy of Paradise." Another poet noted that "the
flower sanctifies the case." Our poet sanctifies flowers by associating them
with the feet of God. Flowers are soft and fragrant and gentle. They are
colorful and beautiful, and harm no one. Referring to God as One with flowered
feet in this context could well be to express the idea that when a person
accepts God into his heart, that is to say when one assimilates life-giving,
life-affirming, and other positive qualities, that would be a soothing and
joyous experience rather a harsh intrusion such as would happen when one adopts
the opposite traits.
V. V. Raman
Sept 16, 2011
2.4 karaN^guvivAr uLmagizum kOngazalgaL velga
The kingly feet of Him whose worship gives inner joy, may they be victorious!
kuvivAr who hold together as a cone
uL (in the) heart
velga may (they) be victorious
SivapuraNam and other devotional literature in Tamil are fascinating not only for the intense piety they convey and the metaphysical subtleties they embody, but also for the poetic expressions they use. Thus, here we see the phrase karam kuvivár. The word karam simply means hand. The word kuvikkiRadu means to become conical, or to bring one's hands together in the form of a cone to express reverence.
The poet says that those who worship God in this way experience an inner delight in their hearts. This is what spiritual ecstasy is all about. Prayer is an effort to recognize and connect with the supreme cosmic principle that undergirds the world and all existence. When that connection is established, not through logic and reason, but from a prayerful merger, one experiences a joy that has no ordinary equivalent. Those who have participate in a bhajan, in singing the psalms, and in chanting hymns in church or synagogue or temple, and who peacefully meditate in seclusion, surely experience this delight deep in their hearts (uLmakizchi). It is of this that the poet speaks in this line. Again our poet prays for the victory of God's boon-giving feet, by which he means that we may come under their sway. The metaphor of a king emphasizes the fact that this is a gift from God, even as a powerful monarch might (used to) bestow a boon on a common citizen.
We are reminded of Dante's lines:
All indistinctly apprehend a bliss,
On which the soul may rest; the hearts of all
Yearn after it.
2.5 chiranguvivár ónguvikkum chírón kazal velga
May the feet of the One who raises those that bow with their head be victorious!
kuvivár who hold together as a cone
ónguvikkum who raises
chírón (of) one with splendor
velga may (they) be victorious!
People pray to the Lord by bowing their heads as a mark of reverence. By this
gesture, they make themselves appropriately low with respect to the Divine. But
in turn, God raises them to a higher level. It may seem ironic that by bringing
oneself to a less lofty position, one actually reaches an even higher level.
This happens because bowing is a sign of humility. Over the ages, humility has
been extolled by many. It says in The Christian Bible (James, 4.10): “Humble
yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
According to an old saying which is sometimes attributed to William Cowper:
Rather to bow than break is profitable;
Humility is a thing commendable.
We are also reminded here of John Bunyan's words (The shepherd boy sings in the
valley of humiliation):
He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
However, we may remind ourselves at this point that humility need not be shown
only towards God or a person who happens to be more powerful than oneself. When
an individual with attainments - whether in material wealth, political power,
intelligence or renown, encounters people of lesser attainments, he or she could
be arrogant or unassuming. In the former instance one goes down in the view of
others, and in the latter case, one receives greater respect and admiration,
goes even higher in the estimation of the people.
Thus, from the poet's reference to the reward that comes from bowing down to the
Divine, namely that one is raised higher, we may learn the value of humility as
a virtue, for all too often even people who are reverential to God in temple
become arrogant towards those who happen to be in a lower station in life. The
value of works like Sivapuranam lies not only in their spiritual dimension, but
no less in the lessons they teach as to how one should conduct oneself in life.
V. V. Raman
September 20, 2011
3.1 ícan aDipóTRi endai aDipóTRi
Praise be unto Siva's feet, praise be unto my Father's feet!
endai my father
Literally, the word ísan is very much like the Sanskrit Íshvar. It refers to
Divinity. However, in Saiva framework, it stands for Lord Siva. In Tamil, one
sometimes gives a non-Sanskrit etymology for the word. The word ídal means to
give, usually to give to someone at a lower level. Thus ícan could mean one who
gives, bestows, etc. Since God is the source of everything, it is God Who gives
us everything. Hence God is called ícan.
Likewise, the word mahésha (mahá ísha), meaning the great isha, refers to Lord
Siva. In Tamil, the corresponding word makésan is sometimes interpreted as makam
(sacrifice) + ícan (God): the God of Sacrifice, or Siva.
The word endai is a combination of en tandai: my father. Again, here it refers
to Lord Siva since he is also regarded as the progenitor of the entire universe.
Another Tamil poet exclaimed to God, "ní enakku váitta tandai allavó?" (Art Thou
not the father who was made for me?)
In the Tamil religious tradition, as in others, praising the Divine is a mode of
paying homage to God. More specifically here, the poet speaks of praising the
feet of the Lord. For, in the imagery of the tradition, one receives the grace
of God through His feet. So in this and in the next few lines, the poet says,
"Praise be unto the feet of Siva!".
Public and eloquent praising of the great, living or dead, used to be called
panegyric or eulogy in ancient Greece. In most religious traditions God is
praised in various ways. In the Christian tradition there are the lauds which
are hymns of praise to God. In the Vedic tradition we have the stotras which are
also liturgical hymns of praise. So in this and the following few lines our poet
calls for the praise of Siva with various epithets. One can never err in
praising the Divine. In Shakespeare’s Pericles we read the lines:
O you gods,
Why do you make us love your goodly gifts,
And snatch them right away?
Here the poet says,
O you God,
Why do you make me love your wondrous nature
And heap praises upon Three?
V. V. Raman
September 21, 2011
3.2 désan aDipóTRi sivan chévaDipóTRi
désan (of) the effulgent one
aDipótri praise be unto (his) feet
chévaDi red feet
The word désu means luster. From this we get désan: one who is lustrous,
illustrious, the Effulgent One which is one of many epithets for Lord Siva.
When we speak of light, we must distinguish between three kinds of light. Fist
there is physical light: the light that enables us to see things and recognizes
colors. This light is essential for our biological existence. It is said in the
Book of Genesis that God first commanded light to emerge (yehiy 'or: Fiat lux:
:et there be light!) in the world . This prompted John Milton to write
Hail, holy light, offspring of Heaven's first-born.
Then there is moral light: This is the light that enables us to see right from
wrong, good from bad. This is the light that prompts us to love and kindness and
caring. As Robert Browning said:
The great beacon light God sets in all
The conscience of each bosom.
Finally there is spiritual light. Spiritual light is the vision that enables
some to see beyond and beneath the world of terrestrial and physical existence,
and become aware of a different level of reality. This awareness of the
transcendental constitutes spiritual enlightenment. Spiritual enlightenment
comes from the Divine. R. W. Gilder put it this way:
Against the darkness outer
God's light his likeness takes,
And he from the mighty doubter
The great believer makes.
Thus when Divinity's spiritual effulgence touches the human heart, the
unbeliever is transformed into a believer.
ChévaDi literally means red feet. Red is an auspicious color in the tradition.
That is why the sindhúr is red. In esoteric etymology, the chi in sivan (chivan)
stands for red. In Tamil, chivappu means red. The letter va stands for the
cosmic energy that is an aspect of chivan. We may note that Priyázvár referred
to Vishnu's feet as red (avan chévaDi chevvi tirukkápu). Here the Saiva poet
refers to Siva's feet likewise when he pays homage to the Effulgent One, as the
One from Whom spiritual light emerges.
V. V. Raman
September 22, 2011
3.3 néyatté nindRa nimalan aDi póTRi
Praise be unto the feet of the Pure One who stands for all that is good!
neyatt good, love
nindRa who stood for
nimalan One Who is devoid of impurity
aDi poTRi praise be unto (His) feet
The Divine is said to possess many good qualities. Indeed the Divine may be
pictured as the principle that embodies in limitless measure all that is good
and glorious. Of these qualities love is perhaps the loftiest. Here the poet
says that the Divine always stands with respect to the bhakta (devotee) with
God's mercy is an expression of divine love. Poets and thinkers have called love
the essence of God, for ultimately it is the most lofty emotion in the heart of
humans. Love gives warmth and feelings of security. Love is at the root of
caring and compassion, it forgives and comes to help in times of need, it is the
source of deep-felt joy and ecstasy. Do not people of faith and devotion say the
same things about the Divine no matter how they name or conceive it? This then
is why the poet says that the Loving One had always stood by the devotee.
We often extol people who are pure of heart. "Blessed are the pure of heart," it
says in the New Testament, "for they shall see God." But what does one mean by
pure of heart? One means being without any blemish. It means being perfect in
everyway. Can a mortal be so pure? It has been said that "The stream is always
purer at its source." So it may be said of the stream of life: Its source too
is far purer than it is itself. But we may think of God as perfection, as the
purest of whatever is pure. So the poet refers to the Divine as the One who is
There is love in the human heart also, but it is never completely spotless, for
nothing that is human is ever perfect. We are reminded of Francis Bacon's line
in Advancement of Learning where he said that the sun which passeth through
pollutions, itself remains as pure. In the Hindu framework we may say that that
supreme consciousness (paramatman) passes through many impurities in its
manifestations as individual conscious entities (jivatmans), and yet retains its
own purity. In this line the poet refers to the Divine as the supreme aspect of
love and of purity: That is to say, of a love that is without blemish. Again and
again, in the lines of the SivapurNam we are made aware of some of the
countless features of the Supreme. That is what grand devotional poetry does.
Sept 23, 2011
3.4 máyappiRappRukkum mannan aDipóTRi
Praise be unto the feet of Him Who cuts the illusive birth
aRukkum (who) cuts
aDipóTRi praise be unto (His) name.
There are two principal levels of reality: the ephemeral and the permanent. The
ephemeral level of reality is called máyá, often translated as illusion. By this
one means that reality at the ephemeral level is a temporal phenomenon with no
In the course of our everyday life we experience a variety of things. Our normal
consciousness gives us the impression that these experiences are all real, that
they are there to stay for ever. In fact, however, every bit of experience soon
fades into an irrevocable past, lingers in our own, and then in some others'
memories, and eventually they all dissolve into nothingness. This is why it is
regarded as mere illusion, no more substantial in the long run than last night's
dream while we were asleep.
Thus, it is maintained, the journey of human life itself is one grand illusion.
Every night we go to sleep and are subjected to a series of dreams, we take
different births and have a series of illusory experiences. When we wake up, we
realize that it was all just dreams, and the <real> world is very different from
that dream-world. Likewise, declare the Hindu seers, this world which we take to
be <real> is another level of illusion. This realization comes with spiritual
When that spiritual awakening occurs, one is no longer subject to the
illusion-generating cycle of re-birth and re-death. In this line, the poet
declares that we get that awakening and the resulting redemption from samsára
(birth-death cycle) by the grace of the Divine. Hence Divinity is described here
as the One Who cuts off the illusory cycle. For without the Grace of God we can
never attain spiritual enlightenment, and without spiritual enlightenment we are
condemned to repeat the re-incarnation cycle.
The idea is that moksha or nirvana which is equivalent to release from re-birth
and merger with the Divine happens by the grace of God, or rather its is God’s
grace that serves as an instrument for this. More generally, every good fortune
that comes to us may be regarded as a grace from God, for no matter what we
think we do to obtain it, there are factors beyond our will and capacity that
enable to achieve it.
Sept 26, 2011
3.5 círárp perunduRai namdévanaDi póTRi
Praise to the feet of the splendid one of PerunduRai
círár the One with splendor
perunduRai name of a place
nam our (my)
aDipóTRi praise unto (HIs) feet
In this line there is an allusion to MaNikkavásagar's own life. It recalls the
incident in which he stopped at the town of Perundurai during a royal mission to
acquire some horses for the Chola king. It was here that he heard the chanting
of a mantra of Lord Siva at the AvuDaiyár temple. This experience transformed
his life completely, for he received blessings from a sage sitting under a tree.
It was here that the poet is said have uttered the first verse of Tiruvácakam,
and the first mantra of SivapuráNam. It was then and there that vadavúrar came
to be called MáNikkavásagar.
The temple of Periya ÁvuDaiyár still stands there on the banks of River
Shanmuga. Refers to a lingam which represents both sexes. It is believed that
this lingam is a svayambhú: that is, that it was formed by itself. The múrti
here is also known as Peru-uDaiyár: One who has greatness, grandeur (perumai).
(In Sanskrit: Brihadíshvar.)
Because the poet received his enlightenment here, in this context he refers to
the Divine as nam dévan (our God, where the our is a poetic our, meaning my).
But I see a deeper significance here. Whereas most people of faith adopt the
deities of their group and background, some have their own vision of the
transcendent. In principle, each searcher has his/her own revelation. In that
sense, God is an indefinable personal experience. When the poet speaks of our
God, he does not simply mean my God in the poetic-royal sense, but that every
one of us has a profound my God experience, and these experiences need not,
indeed often are not, the same. For whatever the Divine is, we get but a glimpse
of it in the mortal frame. Someone once said that "Truth has never been, can
never be, contained in any one creed." It is equally true that God has never
been, can never be, contained in any one form. This is the significance of the
term, "my God."
Indeed, this is one of the greatest religious visions of humanity. It is, as of
now, uniquely Hindu, even though it is not always internalized by all who call
themselves Hindus.. But I like to think that in due course the faithful of all
religions, indeed of all sects with all religions, adopt this principle of
polyodosism: multiple paths for spiritual fulfillment.
4.1. áráda inbam aruLum malai póTRi
Praise be unto the Mountain that bestows the grace of non-satiating joy!
áráda that which never makes us satiated
inbam joy, pleasure
aruLum Who graces
póTRi praise be unto (it)
Delight or joy is known as inbam in Tamil. Even the best of delights are such
that we can only take so much of them. It is important to distinguish between
physical pleasure and spiritual joy. The Latin poet Cicero said: Omnibus in
rebus voluptatibus maximis fastidium finitimum est: In all things aversion
follows the greatest pleasures. That is to say, sooner or later, one becomes
satiated with any pleasure to the point of being fed up with it. However, notes
the poet here, one can never tire of the joy that comes from God-realization.
That is what is meant by the term áráda inbam. No matter how much of it we
experience, we will never tire of it.
And even if we wanted a joy to last, it will not. John Norris wrote in The
How fading are the joys we dote upon!
Like apparitions seen and gone.
But those which soonest take their flight
Are the most exquisite and strong,--
Like angels' visits, short and bright;
Mortality 's too weak to bear them long.
This, says our poet, is not the case with spiritual joy.
But how does one get this áráda inbam? Not by seeking, nor even by trying hard,
but, we are told, it is by the grace of the Divine that one comes to it. For
that is how our poet received it. He was, we recall, on a very worldly mission:
to buy horses for the king. And quite unexpectedly, he heard the name of Lord
Siva, and this led him to the sage, and thus did he receive spiritual
illumination. Overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Divine, our poet describes
it metaphorically as a mountain.
We are reminded of poet Gerald Massey's verse:
Not by appointment do we meet Delight
And Joy; they heed not our expectancy.
But round some corner in the streets of life,
They, on a sudden, clasp us with a smile.
V. V. Raman
Sept 28, 2011
#1469 - October 06, 2011 09:43 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
4.2 sivan avan en chindaiyuL nindRa adanál
Because he, Sivan, remains in my mind
Sivan Lord Siva
One may wonder what prompted the poet to create the work he has created. There
could be any number of reasons why a writer composes a work. He/she may have
been given an assignment to do it. He/she may want to compete for a prize.
He/she may desire to get fame and name. He/she may hope to make money out of it.
He/she has an urge to write some thing. One can go on and on.
Why do we talk about anything at all? Because it is in our mind. When that
which is in our mind is lofty and fulfilling, we cannot but help share it with
others. They are truly blessed whose minds are with such things. In this line
our poet conveys the joy he feels by the constant presence of God in it. We may
note in passing that the word chindai in Tamil is derived from the Sanskrit
chinta, and it could also mean thought or concept. Chindaicheivadu means to
meditate. We are reminded of the lines, attributed to the 16th century poet,
Edward Dyer's lines:
My mind to me a kingdom is,
Such present joys therein I find,
As far exceeds all earthly bliss,
That God or Nature hath assigned…
In other words, there is a happy experience that comes from what is in the mind
that material things cannot afford. When powerful ideas come to mind, it is
difficult to subdue or expel them. The French poet Alfred de Musset once said:
Malgré moi, l'infini me tourmente: In spite of myself, infinity torments me. So
it is with our poet in this line. God is always present in his mind, whether he
wills it or not. Except that this does not torment him. Rather, it inspires him,
and it moves him to ecstasy such as no other thought or theme would.
Sept 29, 2011
4.3 avan aruLálé avan tál vaNangi
By His grace, having paid homage to His feet
aruLálé from grace
vaNangi having paid homage to
The poet has been paying homage to Lord Siva. But he takes no special credit for
this. He does not imagine that he has been devoted to the Lord because of his
own special qualities. He does not claim that he is unlike other ordinary
people, and therefore exceptional in his extreme commitment to the Lord. Rather,
he gives the whole credit for this to the Divine. He declares that it is because
of God’s grace that he is able to be so utterly devoted to Him.
This is not just an interesting stance to take, it has a profound meaning. All
too often people take pride in their accomplishments, and often rightly so.
Whether a student passes an exam successfully, or one gets promoted in one's job
for good performance, or one receives the Nobel Prize, or whatever, every
significant achievement is the result of hard work, total dedication,
self-discipline, and the like, no doubt. So, one is entitled to the
self-congratulation in which the achiever indulges.
And yet, if we look into the matter a little more deeply, we may ask: Why is it
that one person turns out to be hard-working, self-disciplined, unperturbed by
distractions, etc., and another is plain lazy and without any eagerness to do
well and succeed, let alone exceptionally bright and gifted? Ultimately, in
scientific terms, we may trace the causes for successes to genes, upbringing,
etc. But where do these come from? Why is one endowed with the right kind of
genes in the right kind of place and family while another is not? One
traditional (Hindu) explanation for this is that this is due to our previous
karma, our actions in a previous birth. Another is that the intangible blessing
is due to grace (aruL). The poet says that it was because of that grace that he
became a person who worshiped Siva so much and so regularly. Truth to say, there
is very little that we can call our own. Invariably all the good things we
receive in life are blessings: gifts from God without which we could be in dire
We may note in passing that grace is a complex theological concept, with varying
interpretations in different religions and even sects. In the Christian
tradition, Catholics generally hold that one gets grace by accepting Christ. It
used to be believed in the Middle Ages that those who don’t deserve that grace
as a result of committing serious sins can get it by paying the Church a certain
amount. The Pope would then grant them what was called an indulgence. Martin
Luther (in 1517) rebelled against the idea of buying grace, and this was the
starting of the Protestant reformation.
In the Hindu tradition, it is believed that God gives grace (anugraha, aruL) to
two kinds of people: to those who strive to get it by reaching out to God, and
sometimes to those who don’t seek him voluntarily. From among those who do not
seek, God chooses some and gives them grace. The philosopher-saint Madhvacharya
did not subscribe to this view, asserting that only those who work for it
V. V. Raman
September 30, 2011
4.4 chindai magiza chivapuráNam tannai
The mind-delighting SivapuráNam
We like to do things that are satisfying to us. We read stories, we watch
movies, and play games, and do many other things that add color to life and
bring us joy. Likewise we read or recite poetry, or sing hymns to God because
these too bring us deep fulfillment.
In this line the poet says that an important feature of SivapuráNam is that it
makes us rejoice. The word magizvadu: to rejoice, is a beautiful word in Tamil. It
conveys a sense of deep-felt joy. A word for husband in classical poetic Tamil
is magiznan: one who gives or brings joy.
One may find it strange that the poet describes his own work as bringing joy.
One may wonder: Should this not be the role of a reader or a literary critic to
say this? At first this may seem to be so. However, we must remember that this
is not like a painting done by an artist or a poem written in the usual mode.
Rather, this is a work of supreme inspiration, like a revelation. The poet does
not sit down and think of what would be the next good line to formulate. The
work flows from his lips even as nectar flows from a flower. That is why he came
to be called MaNikkavásagar. He does not regard himself as the original author
of the work, but merely as an instrument of God through whom the composition is
conveyed to the people.
Then again, we note that he is speaking of joy to the mind rather than to the
heart. Should not religious ecstasy be a matter for the heart rather than for
the mind? Not necessarily. It is true that in meditation and in joyful singing
where meaning and words matter less than deep absorption, the joy is more
experiential than analytical. However, in poetry and philosophy there is thought
and reflection. These are matters for the mind. In fact, later in the work, the
poet brings out the tenets of Saivasiddántam which is sophisticated metaphysics.
It certainly belongs to the realm of the mind.
We are reminded here of the words of the seventeen century poet Edward Dyer:
MY mind to me a kingdom is;
Such present joys therein I find,
That it excels all other bliss
That earth affords or grows by kind.
Oct 3, 2011
4.5 mundai vinai muzudumó uraippán yán
To erase the effects of all past I will chant
muzudum whole of, all
óya (so that they may) cease
uraippán will utter, will speak
This line has reference to the law of karma which is part of the Hindu spiritual framework. The poet recognizes that his current birth is a consequence of his actions and attitudes in a previous birth. The term mundai vinai literally means former actions, and here it refers to deeds done in a previous birth.
In the Hindu view, every consequential action we do will bear fruit sooner or later, in this or in another birth. By this one means the following: Aside from the effect on others, our actions also affect us: This is what karma is all about. It is to reap this kármic consequence on ourselves that we are re-born.
From this it follows that if we can somehow erase all kármic consequences, there will not be a re-birth. That is to say, we will attain moksha or merger with the Supreme. Such moksha may be achieved by one of several modes: total renunciation of everything worldly, total dedication to the Divine, pursuing a completely spiritual path, etc.
Our poet says here that he will be uttering the SivapuráNam to erase the effects of his previous karma. By his devotional homage to Siva through this grand composition he will rid himself of the burden that would otherwise force him to another birth.
The significance of this line is that it reflects the possible impact of the work. It reminds us that when this work is read in the spirit of a true Sivabhakta, it can have enormous spiritual value. It is a matter of common experience that when we read a good book, sing or listen to a beautiful song, or chant a prayer with devotion, it transforms us. This transformation can occur on the intellectual, moral, epistemological, or spiritual plane. We may learn from this line that reading or reciting Sivapuranam will have such a spiritually transformational effect on us. We are reminded here of the words of St. John of Ladder who said, “Lovers of God are moved to spiritual joy, to divine love, and to tears both by worldly and by religious songs.” In this context we may also recall also the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Even if you do not understand the meaning of the words, for the time being teach your mouth to say them, for the tongue is sanctified by the words alone whenever it says them with good will.”
5.1. kaNNudalán tan karuNaikaNkáTTavandeidi
The Three-eyed One having come to with His merciful glance
kaNNudalán Civa (three eyed)
karuNai compassion, mercy
káTTa to show
vandu having come
The term kaNNudalán is one of the countless names for Lord Siva in the Tamil
tradition. It means One who has an eye on his forehead. The reference therefore
is to Siva's Third Eye which has esoteric powers.
The poet states in this line that Lord Siva came and approached him. Why did He
do it? To show mercy on this poor sinner. As we have seen before, in this
framework it is through grace, rather than as kármic reward, that one achieves
spiritual enlightenment. It might be argued that grace itself is a result of
previous good karma, that grace comes only to those who have led a very
meritorious life. However, the word karuNai means clemency and mercy in the
context of a judging authority. The poet thus recognizes that he has many
actions to answer for. He implies by the use of this word that he may well have
done thing for which he may deserve to be punished. That is why he regards grace
as a sign of mercy. He feels that the Lord has absolved him of his mistakes,
and blessed him with the grace that enables him to recite with such ease a work
of such great spiritual significance. This is the view grace on a chosen few.
In the works of great poets who write on their culture, there are many allusions
in the work. In a little known PuráNic episode (in the Sivapurana) Párvati once
teased Siva by covering His two eyes. When this happened, it is said, her hands
became moist by emanations from Siva’s third eye, and thus was born a blind
demon by the name of Andhika.
Since the two eyes of Siva represent the sun and the moon, the result of
Párvati's frolic was to plunge the universe into total darkness. At this moment
Lord Siva, out of compassion for the world, opened His eyes. Thanks to this act
of mercy on the part of Siva, light was restored in the universe. Some scholars
have suggested that this line alludes to that PuráNic episode.
This line reminds us of St. Augustine’s statement: ““The law detects, grace
alone conquers sin.”
5.2 eNNudaRku eTTá ezilár kazal iRaińchi
Bowing reverentially to the feet of the unreachable beautiful One
eNNudaRku to thinking
ezilár (of) the Beautiful One
kazal (to the) feet
iRaińcgi bowing down in reverence
Much of what we do in life is based on thinking. Thought is what sustains the
world. It plays an important role as much in everyday matters as in the
intellectual realm. Indeed, most of the time, there is very little we can do
And yet, there are situations in life where thought is not that essential. When
we are enjoying good music or tasty food, it is not necessary to be thinking.
Oscar Wilde said somewhere that "Beauty ends where an intellectual expression
begins." When we try to formulate certain experiences in words, we seldom convey
the depth of the experience.
Countless philosophers, theologians, and religious heads have been talking about
God. Some of their thoughts are beautiful and insightful. Yet, even the most
profound thoughts about God barely touch what God actually is. As the Vedic seer
observed, even the learned call it (Absolute Truth, Divinity) by different
The reason for this, as our poet states in this line, is that God is beyond
thought: that is to say, God cannot be reached through thought processes. Like
music or honey God must be experienced, not analyzed. The poet who has been
touched by God in the depths of his heart, seems to have had a vision of the
Divine. For he describes God as possessing ezil (beauty). He is overwhelmed and
as per the tradition, he bows down to express his deepest reverence for the
Divine. In this line we see that our poet is conveying a profound understanding
born of intense personal experience. We are reminded of what it says in
Patanjali's Yoga Sútras: that yoga is the restraint of the modifications of
hcitta or thought: yogaschitta vrtti nirodhah.
“The mind soars to the lofty,” wrote William Hazlitt, and our poet says, no
matter how high it soars it cannot comprehend the fullness of the Divine, for
God is beyond the mind’s grasp. In other words, divine ecstasy can never be
achieved through logic and books.
5.3 viNniRaindu maNniRaindu mikkái viLangoLiyái
Filling air and land and shining grandly
viN air, atmosphere, cloud
niRaindu filled with
mikkái having become great, superior
oLiyái (as) light, radiance
The Divine principle is not located here or there, just in temples and in
altars, or up there in high heaven. Rather it is immanent, all pervading,
omnipresent. There is not a spot in the universe where the divine is not
present. Every nook and niche is packed to the full with the divine.
This idea is what the poet conveys here. Siva fills the whole atmosphere, i.e.
every region above ground. He also fills up every region here below. It is
interesting that the poet does not simply say God is here or there, but that
every place is filled with (niRaindu) with the Divine. The expression makes us
feel there is a richness and an overwhelming abundance of the spiritual in these
gross material world.
We see physical light illumining land and air. That light is the manifestation
of God. But we may see something more in this line. The immanence of Divinity is
something that the poet clearly feels deep inside. From such a feeling comes an
enlightenment that is beyond worldly knowledge. It is the enlightenment that the
poet proclaims. That is why the poet not only mentions God's presence
everywhere, but also that the Divine is manifest as a cosmic effulgence.
The Tamil word oLi has also another meaning: a hiding place. Could it be that
the poet also meant to say that the earth and air and all the rest of the
physical world are places where the Divine is hiding, that is to say, Divinity
is occult. Yet, we are told, it is shining. How can this be? This is so because
every aspect of nature is the Divine in a manifested form. It is only when one
attains spiritual enlightenment that the hiding place is transformed into the
light that is the Divine. From this perspective, everything has a visible and
directly perceivable aspect, as well as a hidden unseen aspect. The latter is
the divine or spiritual component of the world.
Here is an illustration of the idea that Dion Fortune once wrote: “… the mystic
derives his knowledge through the direct communion of his higher self with the
Edited by webmaster (October 10, 2011 03:08 PM)
#1471 - October 12, 2011 10:05 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
5.4 eNNudaRku ellai illádané nin peruńcír
Of fully great One beyond the limits of thought
eNNudaRku to think
illádané one who is without
The word eNNuvadaRku has various meanings in Tamil: to think, to guess, to
consider, to deliberate, etc. And it also means, to count. Tamil is one of the
few languages language (I am aware of) where the same word is used for both
thinking and counting. It is somewhat like the word to reckon in English which
could mean both to guess and to calculate.
In this line, the poet addresses the Divine as one with no limits or boundaries
in the world of eNNudal. It could mean that no matter how varied, extensive, and
profound our thoughts, they will never be able to cover all that Divinity
includes. There are no boundaries when one begins to envisage God.
Then again, if we take the meaning of counting in the word eNNudal, then eNNukku
ellai illádán could be taken to mean one who is limitless in the counting of his
qualities. In other words, if one tries to count God's qualities, one will
quickly discover that this is impossible since the number of God's qualities are
How does one discover this? It is one thing to take this as a proposition
because that is what spiritual leaders tell us, and this seems reasonable; but
it is an entirely different thing to discover this truth first-hand by actually
trying to do this.
That is how our poet realized this spiritual truth. It is not by repeating what
he had heard, nor by reading books on the subject that one comes to realize
this. Rather it is by actually trying to do it that one comes to the realization
that the greatness of the Divine is beyond any measure.
V. V. Raman
October 10, 2011
5.5 pollá vinaiyén pugazumáRu ondraRiyén
As one of evil deeds, I do not know how to laud (the Lord)
vinaiyEn one with (such) acts
pugazumARu to praise, to laud
ondru that one
aRiyén I don't know
In Tamil literary tradition, the author usually presents at the beginning of any
work a formal statement expressing his humility, often stating that he is not
fully qualified to undertake a work of such significance. This part of the
preface is known as avaiaDakkam: a modest expression. In the avaiaDakkam of
Kamba RAmAyaNam, for example, Kamban - perhaps the greatest of all Tamil poets -
pleads with scholars not to take the work of "fools, madmen, and deranged
devotees" like himself seriously.
In this and the following lines (avaiaDakkam) the poet declares that his
previous evil deeds have made him utterly incapable of composing the work
because it impossible for one to engage in pious activities. Because of his past
misdeeds he does not have the capacity or the credential to praise the Divine:
only those who are pure of heart can truly laud the Lord.
It is not unlike the situation in the world of science where unless one has
equipped himself or herself with the appropriate knowledge-background one is not
qualified to pass value judgments on a scientific work.
We could interpret this line to mean the following: Though the SivapurANam may
be read by anyone at any time, in order to fully appreciate it, and more
importantly, in order to benefit from its reading, we need to be pure of heart,
free from the sins and passions that add to the burden of life. This is an
important insight that the poet gives us. From the religious perspective,
religious works are not the same as literary compositions. To derive full
benefit from them, the reader should be mentally and spiritually prepared
(cleansed of evil thoughts and effects).
In the Hindu tradition, one takes a bath before entering a temple. Though one
only cleans the body of its impurities, it is symbolic of a cleansing of the
mind also. Entering a place of worship with impure thoughts is also
Oct 11, 2011
26. pullági púDAi puzuvái maramági
After being grass, shrub, worm, and tree
pullági having become grass
púDu small plant
ái having become
puzu a worm
ái having become
maram a tree
ági having become
There are in the world countless life forms at various levels of development.
In the Hindu framework of reincarnation (samsára) there is a soul in all of
these. We who are humans today could well have been as some other life-form in
previous births. In the next few lines the poet reflects on some of these
through which has gone through.
If we ask a Hindu to name a few life-forms he/she might have had in earlier
incarnations, it is very unlike that any of the ones mentioned here would be
Our poet says that he was once a blade of grass. Grass is perhaps the most
abundant and widespread botanical entities in the world. Whether in dense
forests or in agricultural lands, in manicured lawns or on mountain slopes,
grass finds its way one way or another. To have been a blade of grass is to have
been as common and as all over as one can imagine. Grass serves to reap sun's
warmth in the soil. His invocation to God even as grass reminds us of the last
stanza on a poem The Voice of Grass (Sarah Roberts Boyle) which reads:
Here I come creeping, creeping everywhere;
My humble song of praise
Most joyfully I raise
To Him at whose command
I beautify the land,
Creeping, silently creeping everywhere.
PúDu refers to any small plant, such as a shrub. In a way it represents a
slightly more advanced botanical species. Then the poet speaks of a worm (puzu).
It seems a lowly life-form, but the earthworm is a most valuable creature for
keeping the soil loose. Next the poet mentions the tree (maram). From a
generalized perspective of transmigration of souls, this is not an impossibility
either. We may note here that all the creatures to which the poet refers are
extremely valuable members of the eco-system.
The poet thinks of these creatures at the lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder
as his various previous incarnations. This reflects the poet's breadth of
vision. In a remarkable way, it foresees an insight that the scientific world
was to formulate centuries later: namely, that we ourselves have evolved from
the most primitive forms of life.
V. V. Raman
6.2. palvirukamAki paRavaiyái pámbági
After being a prairie dog, bird, and snake
pal many species
virugam wild dog
ági having become
ági having become
Now the poet speaks of a stage when he had been born as a
wild dog roaming the fields, mindless and fierce, aimless and of no great worth.
Humans can also be in such states. In the ancient world, dogs were said to be
silvis aspera: fierce in the woods. In Though in mythology dog is sometimes
represented as a companion to the virtuous, Hindu society generally regarded
dogs as unclean and of low birth, as reflected in this line.
Then there is the picture of being born as bird. We may picture a bird in many
ways: as a happy creature soaring in the air, as a joyous singer in the sky, as
a little biped with no worries at all. Or again, perhaps, as Charles Lamb wrote:
A bird appears as a thoughtless thing…
No doubt he has his little cares,
And very hard he often fares,
The which he patiently he bears.
In any event, it is still a life with no ultimate goals, an existence that
persists for a while and then passes without a recognition of God.
And then there is the serpent. Renowned in many cultures, but seldom for
anything good. Though worshiped here and there, serpents are also dreaded, for
they remind us of their venom. So we speak of persons with evil intentions as
serpents that creep in the grass, hidden from our view, only to sting when we
pass by them.
The poet says in these lines that in past lives he was wild and wandering as a
dog, easy going and indifferent to loftier truths as the bird, perhaps
stingingly harsh on others like the deadly serpent.
6.4. kallái manidarái péyái kaNangáli
After being as stones, humans, mean spirits, and petty beings
manidar men, humans
péi fiend, evil spirit
kaNangal petty beings
Prior even to life forms there have been rocks and stones of the world. So,
before becoming an animate entity, one could well have been an inert stone.
Again, this could refer to a life that is thoughtless, mindless, purposeless,
and meaningless: physical existence with utterly no sensitivity. The poet
Abraham Cowley wrote.
Stones of small worth may lie unseen by day,
But night itself does the rich gem betray.
Likewise, in this case, the stone of small worth evolved at a different time to
become the great realized soul. This thought is to suggest that the potential in
each one of us, however lowly at this moment, is unimaginable and unlimited.
Then there are discernable human forms. We pass through countless births and
deaths as human beings here and there, doing all sorts of things, reaping the
fruits, sweet and bitter, of our various actions. The poet is aware of this too.
In the Hindu framework, as in most ancient belief-systems, there also exits
spirits, disembodied entities that wander the wilderness of subtle space. Some
of these are evil. They are consumed by ill-will towards others. They are known
as in Tamil as péi. The poet says he has gone through that phase of existence
also. Here we may recall Thomas Carlyle’s words: “… it is mysterious, it is
awful to consider that we not only carry a future Ghost within us; but are, in
every deed Ghosts!.”
The word kaNa (Sanskrit gaNa) has several connotations. It particular, it
referred to a variety of semi-divine beings, or followers of such. It was also a
name for the disciples of particular spiritual leaders. Here it could be taken
to mean simply an ordinary member of some large collection of servants of a
revered master. Incidentally, one etymology of the name of Lord GaNesha is: GaNa
+ Isha: God of the GaNas. Likewise GaNapati means Chief of the GaNas.
The word kaNam (plural: kaNangal in Tamil) may also connote countless paltry
beings in the vast universe where a million wondrous things transpire. Thus the
poet says he had also been born previously as so many trivial creatures serving.
6.5. Vallasurarági munivarái dévarái
After becoming powerful asuras, sages, divine beings
ági having become
Now the poet recalls that he had taken birth as powerful asuras. In the Rig
Veda, the name asurá sometimes referred to the Supreme Spirit (like the Ahura of
the Zend Avesta). But later, as in the Atharva Veda, it came to denote people
who were inimical to the Vedic tradition. In the Hindu mythic framework, there
are two types of supernatural beings: those that are allies of the Divine, and
those that are unfriendly to it. The first of these are known as devas, and the
second came to be called asuras (etymologically, those that did not drink the
inebriating súra). The notion that there are forces in the world that are
against all that is good is fairly common in all religious thought. Thus
religious traditions had corresponding evil spirits, like the shedu of the
Babylonians, the daemons of Judeo-Chrisianity, and the jinns of the Islamic
In these lines the poet remembers being an asura some times, and also a deva at
other times. This could be interpreted to mean that in some births he was
inclined to be pious, and in others he was impious. For each time we are born,
we come with different natures, though there may be traces of previous
characteristics. That is the mystery of genetic variations.
Generally speaking, muni refers to an ascetic who is also a man of wisdom. The
word is derived from the Sanskrit maunam which means silence. Originally,
therefore, a muni was a sage who adhered to complete silence. He would not even
communicate through gestures or grimaces what he wished to have. Complete
silence has its spiritual value which is why it is practiced in meditation and
by many religious orders. The Quakers and other religious groups recognize this
as part of their practice. The Latin poet Ovid said: Qui silet, est firmus: He
who is silent is strong. There is an ancient saying: Let us be silent for so are
Thus in these lines the poet remembers his births as beings that aided and
attacked the Divine and as wise men who spent their whole lives in silent
contemplation. The path to realization meanders through many twists and turns.
The evolution to the highest form has to go through many modes and melodies of
life-forms, some beautiful and some ugly.
Oct 17, 2011
Edited by webmaster (October 18, 2011 12:47 PM)
#1474 - October 22, 2011 09:53 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
7.1. cellá a nindra ittávara changamattuL
In all moving or unmoving living things which stood, in that stable union
cellá not moving
nindra which stood
távara foundational, stable
changam junction, union
attuL in that
There are countless kinds of living organisms in the world. They may be, indeed
they have been since very ancient times, put into a variety of categories by
biological taxonomists. In the traditional Hindu way of categorizing living
entities, one speaks of creatures that move (such as fish, animals, insects,
birds, etc.) and things that do not (such as plants and trees). The classical
scientific writer and physician Charaka (2nd century C.E.) described plants as
sthAvara or stationary things. Animals are known as jangama or moving things.
Both moving and stationary life forms constitute the very basis of all life on
the planet. Thus, if one is to take a form of life on earth, one has to belong
to one of these two classes of beings. In this line, the poet says that in
previous births his soul had been inside both types of living organisms. In this
concluding line of his listing of previous births, the poet says essentially
that he had been born earlier as every imaginable creature on the planet. Aside
from its spiritual connotation, such a reflection establishes in our own minds a
deep kinship with all creatures great and small, and instills in us the view
that we are, one and all, members of the same family of life on earth.
In the Western tradition, Aristotle of ancient Greece was one of the first to
classify plants and animals. In the 18th century Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778)
laid the foundations of modern taxonomy. It may be noted in passing that in
ancient India there was a thorough and extensive classification of plants and
animals. The Sanskritist William Jones is said to have remarked that "Linnaeus
would probably have adopted the Hindu method had he known the Sanskrit
Another way of looking at these reflections is as follows: Consider our current
phase of understanding and spiritual development. We have reached it after going
through many long and winding routes. Each one of us was at one time a mere
child, at one time unlettered, uninformed, immature and ignorant. These may be
regarded as our previous avataras. And now we are in this phase of better
understanding and greater enlightenment. One may take that as the idea that the
poet conveys here.
7.2 elláp piRappum piRandiLaittén emperumán
I tired of taking all births, my Lord
piRappum and births
piRandu being born
iLaittén I grew tired
perumAn great prince, lord
The stanza consisting of lines 26 to 31 is one of the most beautiful passages
of this work. It reminds us of the traditional Hindu framework of
reincarnation in which we are born and born and born again, to live and die and
die and die again, until we become one with that from which we sprang. That
ultimate merger is the emancipation from the birth-death cycle, and is the fruit
of spiritual enlightenment.
There are compensations in terrestrial life, such as passing pleasures and
fleeting joys. But there are also pains and sufferings that invariably accompany
all this. Moreover, even if it is all only good, the sheer repetitiveness of it
all can become tiresome.
The poet, in his profound love for the Supreme, cries out to the Almighty that
he is really tired of all this life and death and rebirth. Enough of it all, he
seems to be exclaiming from the depths of his heart. One of the many names for
Siva is perumán. (Vishnu is also known as perumáL.) One meaning of the word is
one with great power or simply prince. A poetic way of referring to the Lord is
emperumán (my Lord).
This stanza reveals an insight into what biology calls Darwinian evolution, for
it lists the various forms of life: aquatic, avian, mammalian, etc, through
which one goes before becoming a human. And we have the potential to go beyond.
The poet speaks of inanimate stones as prior to life forms, and of immaterial
beings also in the vast scheme of things.
The various incarnations mean life with all constraints and qualities, and at
low levels before the awakening that puts us in awareness of the Supreme
Principle that is at the root of it all. Indeed, the whole stanza is to remind
us that there are a thousand different modes of existence, but all of these are
incomplete and uncompleted until there comes out a spiritual realization. It is
only when that arises that there is complete fulfillment.
The poet’s weariness with life and eagerness to merge with the Divine reminds
us of the first stanza of R. G. Wells’ poem Growing Older:
A little more tired at the close of day,
A little more anxious to have our way,
A little less likely to scold and to blame,
A little more care for a brothers name;
And so we are nearing the journey’s end,
Where time and eternity meet and blend.
V. V. Raman
October 19, 2011
7.3 meyyé un ponnaDigaL kaNDu iNdru víDutrén
In truth, seeing your golden feet, I have achieved emancipation today.
meyyé in truth
kaNDu having seen
víDu release, emancipation
utrén I received
Consider a person who has been suffering from a series of ailments during many
years. Finally, thanks to a medicine he receives unexpectedly, he is completely
cured. What a great feeling of exhilaration that would be! Or again, imagine
someone who had lost his sight or hearing, and then, all of a sudden, sight or
sound come within the person's reach. This too would be a profoundly joyous
Our poet exclaims that he has indeed had a very similar experience, perhaps of
a far greater order. For, he now feels he has been freed from the ancient
ailment with which his soul had been afflicted: enchainment to samsára: the
The word mei means truth in Tamil. Its opposite is poi, lie or falsehood. There
is a wise saying in Tamil: mai nindru vizukkiradu, poi koNDu porukkiradu: Truth
stands quietly, falsehood keeps blustering. That is to say, the wise keep silent
while fools make all the noises.
Seeing the golden feet of the Lord means that he has recognized the true nature
of physical existence. When the poet says he has been emancipated from the
shackles of samsára, he expresses the idea that those who have attained
spiritual enlightenment begin to regard the world from very different
perspectives, and are not affected by the trifles an trivialities that pester
others. The Latin poet Horace put it this way:
"Who then is free? The wise man, who is lord over himself., whom neither
poverty, nor death, nor bonds affright, who bravely defies his passions, and
scorns ambition, who in himself is a whole, smooth and rounded, so that nothing
from outside can rest on the polished surface, or against whom Fortune in her
onset is ever defeated."
The description of Horace's wise man is in many ways appropriate to the
spiritually evolved person too, for such a person also defies passion, is also
unaffected by poverty or death, scorns ambition, is not frightened by bonds.
That is why the enlightened ones are said to have attained wisdom.
Oct 20, 2011
7.4 uyya en uLLattuL ónkáramái nindra
That I may benefit, standing in my heart as the Om-syllable
uyya to benefit from
uLLattuL in heart
óngkáramái as the sound of Om
nindra which stood
The SivapurANam begins with a mantra: NamasivAya. A mantra is a sacred verse or
utterance. A mantra may be a single syllable or a several lines in length. Its
important characteristic is that it is spiritually potent: it has the power to
transform the one who utters it and others too.
Of the many mantras in Indic traditions, some are known as bíjáksharas or
seed-syllables. A bíjákshara consists of only one syllable, and it must end in a
nasal sound, called anusvara in Sanskrit. The best known and most universally
chanted bíjákshara mantra in the Hindu tradition is aum. This monosyllable is
referred to as aum-kára.
In the scriptural literature of Hinduism there are several interpretations this
mantra. The manDukya Upanishad expounds the meanings of aum. Its three
components are said to reflect the three Vedas (Rk, Sáma, and Yajur), as also
the triple principle of Creation (Brahma), Sustenance (VishNu), and Dissolution
(Siva). According to a tantric interpretation the coming together of the lips in
the utterance of the bhíjákshara is symbolic of the union of Siva and Shakti
which resulted in Cosmic Birth. That is why the proper enunciation of this
mantra is so significant. This could be regarded symbolic of the idea that the
Cosmic Creation emerged from the merger or synthesis of fundamental
One of the fundamental discoveries of twentieth century physics is that the
physical universe is sustained such as it is because of certain fundamental
imperceptible universal vibrations, known as vacuum fluctuations. Likewise,
efforts to account for the existence of multiplicity in the theoretical model of
the so-called string-theories envisions fundamental vibrations at the root of
ultimate reality. It is remarkable that the notion of the bájákshara
reflects a very similar insight: namely that there is a cosmic vibration
undergirding the universe. The mantra aum is a sonic representation of that
Our poet says in this line that the aum-kára is deeply engraved in his heart.
The ultimately Hindu vision is expressed here.
V. V. Raman
October 21, 2011
7.5 meiyyá vimalá viDaippágá védanggal
As truth, as purity, as the Bull, the Vedas
meiyyá as truth
vimalá as blemishless
viDaippágá as bull/as difference
In the Vedic tradition Divinity is Truth: satyam. It is also related to the
word for essence. The corresponding Tamil word is mei. The essence of something
is called meipporuL. The poet says that the Supreme is the Truth, the essence of
everything. God is the Ultimate Reality, the only truth there is. This view
regards God, not in anthropomorphic terms, but as the quintessence of the
experienced world, of all of Creation.
Another attribute of God is perfection. That which is perfect is also pure,
without spot or blemish. That which is impure is called malam. One
Sanskrit/Tamil word for purity is vimalam: the non-impure state. Correspondingly
those who wish to experience the Divine must also have a pure state of mind:
i.e. they must be devoid of impure thoughts.
When the Divine is pictured as Siva, then we also refer to some of his mythic
characteristics. In the tradition, the bull is closely linked to Siva. There are
several reasons for this. One is that the bull is regarded as a very strong
creature, and is symbolic of the virility associated with Lord Siva (Shiva).
Siva is therefore pictured as the lord of the bull. That is the reason why, for
the worshippers of Siva, the bull is a very sacred animal. One will find in
practically every Siva temple, the bull known as Nandin (Nandi in Tamil). He is
one of the two guardians of Lord Siva, Basava (12th century) the founder of a
devout sect of Saivites, the Lingáyats, is also known as VRishaba (Bull),
because he is said to have been an incarnation of Nandi.
In the Saivasiddhánta tradition Nandi is said to have been the guru of
Tirumúlar, one of the foremost Saiva Siddhántins and author of the massive work
Tirumandiram: Sacred Chants.
Some have traced the worship of Nandin to the Indus Valley civilization. It may
be mentioned in passing that the worship of the cow and bull is not unique to
the Hindu tradition. Somewhat like Manu's injunction, there used to be a law in
ancient Rome which regarded the killing of a bull as equivalent to the killing
of a human being.
In classical Tamil (kazagattamiz), the word viDaippu also means difference. So
one might also interpret this to mean one who is manifest in different forms.
The last word vedangaL in this line is to be connected with the next line.
V. V. Raman
October 24, 2011
8.1 aiyá ena óngi ázndu akandra nuNNiyané
Elevated as O Lord (by the Vedas), deep, all-pervasive, O subtle one!
aiyá O Lord
ázndu going deep
agandra moved, spread
nuNNiyané O subtle one!
The poet says that the Divine was proclaimed as the Lord by the Vedas. But the
Divine rose much higher than the reach even of the Vedas. Divinity went very
deep also, and spread all over.
What is one to make of the statement that the Vedas proclaim the Divine as the
Lord. Perhaps the poet is reminding us that all the scriptures of the world
personify the Divine as they sing hymns and pray and laud the Divine. But the
Divine is way above what we can extol in words. Scriptures are like the sun in
the verse below:
The rising sun to mortal right reveals
The earthly globe, but yet the stars conceals.
So may the sense discover natural things,
Divine above the reach of human wings.
And if we try to picture the Divine in profound thoughts, that too is not very
successful because Divinity is too deep for our minds to grasp. It is like some
precious stone at the bottom of the ocean, not within reach of even those who
dive a hundred feet below the surface.
The Divine is all-pervasive, yet nowhere to be recognized with our normal modes
of perception. The immanence of the Divine is referred to here. Immanence refers
to the inner presence of God within ourselves, but also to the presence of God
in all of creation. G. K. Chesterton ignored the second aspect when he wrote,
““By insisting specially on the immanence of God we get introspection,
self-isolation, quietism, social indifference…”
Like the ether of classical physics, it pervades every nook and corner of space,
for it is the Absolute. Like the ether again, it is hyperfine, too subtle to be
spotted. What is conveyed here is that the Divine is not a tangible, substantial
entity, a person like you and me, but is beyond space and time, beyond matter
and energy, for that is what transcendence is. When Albert Einstein said:
'Raffiniert is der Herrgott - Subtle is the Lord', he was unknowingly echoing this
line of SivapuráNam.
Oct 25, 2011
8.2. veiyyái taNiyái iyamánanám vimalá
As harsh and mitigating, as Master the blemishless One
veyyái as a hot/harsh one
taNiyái as mitigator, diminisher
iyamánanám as the master
vimalá as the blemishless, as the pure one
As we go through life, we encounter much pain and suffering. It would seem that
God is not always gentle and friendly. He is like the heat of the sun that is
sometimes scorching. But it is good to remember that the pain and suffering that
we experience and see have been caused by ourselves. In the karma framework,
whatever we experience as unpleasant is the result of our own past actions. In
so far as they are subject to the law of karma instituted by God, we may say
that God is harsh. Stay for long in a tropical summer sun and you can get your
skin burnt. Is that the fault of the sun or our own reckless behavior? Only in
this sense God is harsh and hurtful.
On the other hand, it is good to recognize that any lessening of the pain we
experience must be a blessing from God, says the poet, for it is the Divine that
mitigates the inevitable karmic woes. Here is a beautiful, and helpful idea.
Rather than blame God for our troubles, we may be grateful that the misfortune
was not as great as it could have been. This is what is meant by calling God a
mitigator or a diminisher. Essentially, we are reminded that often we suffer
less than how much we really deserve. We are reminded here of the line in the
Wisdom of Solomon, “Mercy will soon pardon the meanest.”
When the law of karma is in full swing, who is to alleviate the normal
operation of a law? Only the Almighty can. In the Vedic framework, the yajamána
(Sanskrit) is the chief in a Vedic sacrifice who conducts the rituals as per the
prescribed rules. By the use of this word (iyamánanám) here, the poet makes us
picture all that is transpiring in the world as a cosmic drama of which Divinity
is the Master of Ceremonies. God creates the show and handles it the way He
In the performance of that role, the Divine is without blemish, for the world
functions in perfect accordance with the rules that have been set. The laws of
nature can never be broken, except by the grace of the One who has created it
all. So we can never dodge the consequences of our action: sooner or later, they
will catch up with us. But now and again, we may be spared extreme pain for the
Supreme is also one who alleviates pain: hence he is referred to as a mitigator.
V. V. Raman
Oct 26, 2011
8.3 poiyyáyina ellám póy agalavandaruLi
All untruth being removed by the grace that came
poi a lie
Ayina what became
ellám all, everything
pói having gone
agala that it may move away
vandu having come
aruLi having graced
The reference here is to the central thesis in one school of Hindu spiritual
vision: That we live in a framework of errors, illusions, and confusions. All
these may be described as lies that the world plays on us. But this happens
only at a certain level of experience. For example, prior to an understanding
that comes from detailed observational astronomy, one would think that the earth
is at the center of the universe. But when we are awakened to a deeper level of
comprehension we realize that this is not so. The geocentric view is a lie that
Nature says, or rather our normal perceptual faculties tell us.
Many aspects of the phenomenal world are like this. Whether it is the rainbow
or an oasis, or countless other things: first impressions often tend to be
wrong. But it is only after acquiring true knowledge that we realize we were
wrong in our assessment; that, in fact, we had been deluded.
The poet says that he has now recognized all those falsehoods which he had
taken for the truth. How did the illusions melt away? It was because of the
grace he had received. Spiritual realization may be interpreted as an awakening
that occurs as a result of a blessing from the transcendent. It is only when one
has received such grace that one is able to discriminate the essence from the
fluff, the kernel from the chaff. Such grace clears the mind by taking away the
lies, the delusions to which we are normally subjected. This is what the poet is
telling us here. We are reminded of Shankaracharya’s aphorism, brahma satyam,
jagat mithya: Brahmman is Real, the World is a Lie, meaning that this
experienced world is not to be confused with Ultimate Reality.
Recall Shakespeare’s Antipholus of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors, saying:
And here we wander in illusions;
Some blessed power deliver us from hence!
We will be able to recognize the illusions of the magician as no more than a
trick only if and when the magician reveals to us the truth about the matter.
Likewise, only those who, like the poet, have been privy to the esoteric
truths, will be able to see the Truth.
V. V. Raman
Oct 27, 2011
Edited by webmaster (October 28, 2011 01:46 PM)
#1477 - November 04, 2011 12:38 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
8.4 meiń ńánamági miLirgindra meichchuDaré
O brilliant one that is magnificent as true wisdom
ńánam (njaanam) wisdom
ági having become
miLirgindra (who is) becoming great, is shining
chuDaré oh brilliant one!
This is another line in the work which is addressed directly to the Divine.
Here Divinity is pictured as the focus of all wisdom.
The word mei is interesting in Tamil. It means truth, and is the opposite of
poi which means falsehood. There is a saying that:
mei niNdru vizhikkiRadu, poi koNdru porikkiRadu
Truth stands and stares , (but) lie is blistering all around.
However, mei usually stands for higher truth. Thus, meińńánam is spiritual
enlightenment. One who has attained it called a maińńáni. Likewise a scholar who
is versed in the higher philosophies is sometimes called a meikkaNDadevar: a
saintly personage who has seen the higher truth.
The word also means the physical body. Thus a cloak is called a maippáDam. A
consonant is called mei ezhuttu: body letter, and a vowel is uyir ezuttu: soul
letter, since it gives life to the sound of a letter.
The possession of truth makes a person great. "Truth is precious and divine,"
said Samuel Butler. The Divine, being pure Truth of the highest order, becomes
great (miLargiRár) as a result. Like the sun, becomes brilliant one (chuDar). We
could also take this to mean that those who have attained the highest
enlightenment, the sages and ascetics of the tradition, shine in their spiritual
luster, for a little of that divine effulgence has entered them.
We are reminded here of the lines of the poet Thomas Campbell:
Truth shall restore the light by Nature given
And, like Prometheus, bring the light of Heaven.
Transferring this divine quality to humans, we say that a person who has
reached a state of wisdom in values and understanding has attained
enlightenment. This is different from mere intelligence. A brilliant individual
may not necessarily be an enlightened one.
8.5. eńńánam illádén inbapperumáné
(I am) without an iota of wisdom, o loving Lord!
eńńánam (en njaanam) any wisdom
illádén I am without
inba (of) bliss
perumáné o Lord!
The world knows, as his contemporaries knew, that MaNikkavsakar was a man of no
mean attainments. It was no secret that he was a man possessed enormous
spiritual wisdom. Then, we might wonder, why does he describe himself as a poor
soul who is devoid of any wisdom?
One of the traditional modes of approaching the Almighty in any religious
tradition, and certainly in the Hindu tradition, is to surrender oneself to God
by falling prostrate at the feet of the Lord. This is known as charaNágati. It
is an expression of utter humility in the face of God. It is an explicit
recognition that ultimately it is in God that one takes refuge from the pains
and sufferings and confusions of life.
After referring to the Divine as the pinnacle of all wisdom, the poet states
that he himself has absolutely no wisdom. A hundred billion is not a small
number, but compared to infinity, it is like zero. Humility is not
self-effacement or self-demeaning, but a contextual recognition of one's
limitations. The school teacher need not proclaim her limited knowledge to her
pupils, but when a person of modest learning is in the presence of a great
scholar of world renown, it is appropriate that one recognizes one’s smallness
in that context. What is relevant is not the knowledge and wisdom per se, nor
where it stands with respect to other people one may came across, but how one
measures estimated it with reference to the Divine. The saying of the poetess
Auvaiyár to the effect that what has been learned is but like a handful of mud
compared to cosmic dimensions of what has not been learned, is an acknowledgment
of finiteness in the face of infinity. That is what enlightened humility is all
Swami Sivananda once said, “Humility is not cowardice. Meekness is not weakness.
Humility and meekness are indeed spiritual powers. Henry Thoreau wrote in his
Walden that "humility, like darkness, reveals the heavenly lights." That is what
is illustrated here. By declaring his own insignificance in the face of the
grand Almighty, the poet reveals the heavenly light that is within him.
Note also that the poet refers to the Divine as the Lord of bliss, for
experience of the divine transcends all joys: it is bliss supreme. Whereas
limited and confused visions of God make the Divine a source of fear, terror,
and punishment, in awakened religious perspectives God is a source of love,
joy, and ecstasy.
V. V. Raman
Nov 1, 2011
9.1 ańńánan tannai agalvikkum nallaRivé
O benign wisdom that removes ignorance
ańńánam (an njaanam) ignorance, lack of wisdom
tannai it (accusative)
agalvikkum makes leave, move away from,
aRivé oh sense!
Since ancient times, poets and thinkers have reflected on the ignorance that
misguides us all. The Latin poet Ovid exclaimed:
Pro superi! Quantum mortalia pectoral cćcć!
O Gods! How much darkness there is in mortal's minds!
Shakespeare put it pithily thus: "There is no darkness but ignorance."
Indeed, if ignorance is darkness, we may look upon knowledge as light. Where
the light of knowledge dawn the darkness of ignorance disappears.
We may note in passing the sound-resemblance between ańńánam and ignorance, one
derived from the Sanskrit jnána: knowledge, and the other from the Greek gnosis:
Both knowledge and ignorance can be at two levels. One is about worldly
matters, about things and places and the scientific nature of things. This is
the knowledge that enables us to do well in the world, and manipulate it also.
This is the ignorance that makes us fools and inadequate in practical life.
The other dimension of knowledge and ignorance is about the true nature of
existence and of ultimate reality. It is of this that our poet speaks here. It
is this knowledge that enables us to develop a perspective on things as we go
through like. It is the source of love and compassion, of caring and humility.
The absence of this kind of knowledge is what is meant by ańńánam. When this
knowledge comes to us, says the poet, our tendencies for pettiness and
unkindness, for jealousy and envy, for anger and pride and such melt away, and
our capacities for doing and being good is enhanced. That is why it says in the
Book of Job: "The price of wisdom is above rubies."
The French writer Antoine Bret said with a touch of sarcasm that the first sigh
of love is the last sigh of wisdom. He was referring to romantic man-woman love.
On the other hand, the highest wisdom is when one is capable of love towards all
creatures. Wisdom is that kind of knowledge, which prompts us to not only think
of God and the good, but also act with love and kindness, caring and compassion.
It is easy to preach these things and repeat the mantras we have learned. What
really matters is how we apply such values in the course of our everyday life.
Removal of ignorance also involves the erasing of ego-centric behavior.
V. V. Raman
November 2, 2011
9.2 aakkam aLagu iRudi illi anaittulagum
You are without transformation, measure. The whole world
aakkam growth, transformation
illi you are without
ulagum and the world
An interesting feature of all things of finite existence is that they do not
maintain the same size for all times. Indeed, many of them grow in size.
Whether, rivers or mountains they gradually become larger with time, and this is
of course true of all living entities: plants and trees, animals and humans.
Growth also implies transformation. Thinkers have recognized since ancient
times that everything changes. Ovid wrote in his Metamorphoses:
There is nothing constant in the universe,
All ebb and flow, and every shape that is born
Bears in its womb the seeds of change.
Growth implies size, and size implies measurement. Things grow from small to
big, from tiny to huge. Such measure is also a feature of finite things. One
cannot speak of the size of the infinite, for the infinite is, by definition,
beyond all measure. That is why the poet refers to the Divine as beyond measure.
Now there is a price for change and measure. Everything that changes comes to
an end sooner or later. In the very process of change a person or thing loses a
little of the original identity, in the long run the entire entity vanishes.
Decay and end are inevitable concomitants of all that changes.
The one that does not change is the Infinite. The Divine is, by definition,
that which remains for ever the same. There is no transformation, no growth or
This line ends with the word the world, which is the beginning of the next few
lines wherein the poet refers to the role of the Divine in this world, as also
its relationship to life and existence, as envisaged in Saivasiddhantam.
V. V. Raman
November 3, 2011
9.3 ákkuvái káppái azippái aruLtaruvái
You create, protect, destroy, and give grace!
ákkuvái you will make/create
káppái you will protect
azippái you will destroy
taruvái you will give
In the traditional framework, the creation, sustenance, and dissolution of the
universe is attributed to a triple principle: Brahmá creates, Vishnu sustains,
and Siva destroys. In the framework of CaivaciddAntam, all this are attributed
to Civan. Thus it is one and the same Divinity that creates the entire cosmos
that protects it, and finally destroys it all.
First there must be a universe, or else, there is only void. So the first thing
that Divinity does is to create the world. Every religious tradition attributes
the creation of the world to an almighty transcendent entity. In the
Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis we read that it was God who created the world of
light and life.
Then there is God the sustainer. In the Psalms of the Old Testament we read:
He maketh me to lie down in the green pastures,
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths
of righteousness for his name's sake.
But ultimately, all created things must come to an end. That too is the work of
the Divine. Sooner or later there comes a time for every creature and for every
thing in the universe to decay and die. This is an evitable aspect of every
There is something sad and sinister in the thought of the complete dissolution
of everything in the universe, including our own individual consciousness. But
there is a saving grace in all of this. For, says the poet, the Divine also
gives us grace (AruL). That grace compensates for all the gloom and doom of
eventual death. Divine grace is not simply generous care while we are here
below, but a promise for the hereafter. In most religious traditions those who
have received grace are expected to merge with the Divine, or enter the portals
into of heaven, whatever the metaphor, when all is said and done. Thus, in this
line the poet adds a fourth quality of the Diving, the bestowing of grace. Note
that the other three: creation, sustenance, and dissolution) can be for any
entity, animate or inanimate. But grace is meaningful only to a fully conscious
being: to human beings. Grace, and thus God, become relevant only in the context
of humanity. Without us, this can be a routine, mechanical, mindless world,
without love or joy, without blessing or grace.
V. V. Raman
9.4 pókkuvái ennai puguvippái nin thozumbin
You have sent me here to make me part of those who serve you.
pókkuvái you make go
puguvippái you make me a part
thozumbin in the service
The world was created by the Divine. We are not only creatures in it, but we
are meant to serve the Creator. The poet says that the Divine principle has sent
us here and is enabling us to be part of the multitude that act as instruments
in so many ways.
There is an allusion here to what is known in the framework of SaivaciddAntam
as aintozil the five functions of the Divine. These are:
chirushTi: creation. Corresponding to this divine action, creatures also
reproduce, doing Divinity's work. The process of creating progeny is referred to
as an imitation, as it were, of what the Divine had done for the whole world.
stiti: maintenance of the created world. Creatures also serve to maintain in
their own ways the world and creatures around them. We note again the insightful
parallel between our efforts to preserve things in the world, and the divine
action by which the world is sustained.
changáral: destruction. It is part of divine action to bring to a close
everything. In our own ways, we also engage in some destruction. Here again, it
is not just Divinity that dissolves and destroys. We humans do this also. Thus,
all the triple roles of God are repeated, albeit at much more modest levels, by
humans also. This reflects the Hindu view that there is a little of the Divine
in each of us.
tiróbavam: This is a feature of Divinity by which the Divine is hidden from us.
One may say that the purpose of this is to induce us to search for it. In other
words, it is the hidden nature of the Divine that provokes the quest. Another
interpretation could be that here the poet is referring to the view in the
mystical tradition that God and knowledge about God belong to the realm of the
anukkiragam: grace or blessing that the Divine bestows us.
The poet says that it is because of that grace that we have been given this
opportunity to serve the Divine in our different ways. The recognition that
service is an aspect of true spirituality needs to be emphasized, for mere
individual mystical embrace of the transcendence serves no purpose at all to
V. V. Raman
November 8, 2011
Edited by webmaster (November 09, 2011 01:23 PM)
#1481 - November 23, 2011 09:43 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
9.5. náTRattin nériyái céyái aNiyóné
Subtler than fragrance, Who is far and near!
náTRattin more than fragrance
nériyái being subtle
céyái being distant
aNiyóné oh near one!
Poets are known for their similes. It is sometimes said that the originality of
the similes is a reflection of one’s poetic and writing abilities. The poet
Oft on the dappled turf at ease
I sit and play with similes,
Loose type of things in all degrees.
Tamil poets are reputed for their imaginative similes. The poet Kamban's work is
stunning in its ample and telling use of these.
Here the poet uses a peculiar kind of simile, in that he compares a quality
rather than a thing. It is not an image but a concept that he invokes. He wants
to convey the subtlety of the Divine. For this he takes our mind to the
fragrance of flowers. Fragrance is not something we see or touch or can hold.
Yet its presence can be felt, and often we know that it is permeating the air
By this simile, the poet says that the subtlety of the Divine exceeds even the
subtlety of fragrance, and is just as enjoyable.
Then comes the idea that God is both far and near. The word aNiyón comes from
aNimai which means nearness. This can be interpreted in two ways. First, God is
one of the most elusive entities in the universe, and seems very distant,
unapproachable, and even unimaginable. At the same time, those who have had any
mystical experience at all, or a profound feeling of connectedness with the
Whole, as during a prayer or meditation, have felt deep in their hearts that God
is somehow very, very close to oneself. On the other hand, God seems to be up
there in the heavens, but is actually within us.
In other words, Divinity is not something to be comprehended in terms of
logical categories. No thing or person can be both distant and near, but God
can, and God is.
Here we are also reminded of the Chinese proverb which says: “Make happy those
who are near, and those who are far will come.” Likewise, if we pay adequate
attention to the God within and the God in our immediate vicinity, the distant
God will come to us.
V. V. Raman
November 9, 2011
10.1 máTRam manam kaziya nindra maRaiyóné
You, Who is in wisdom, transcending word and mind
kaziya cutting off
nindra having stood
maRaiyóné O, One of esoteric word!
In many spiritual traditions, there is the notion of an all-pervading reason
behind the phenomenal world. This is expressed as Logos (the Greek for word) in
the Christian tradition. Logos is sacred and is symbolic of the Divine. The idea
is there in Hellenic, Persian, and Hebraic traditions as well. The TirukkuuRaL
invokes God as the wielder of all letters in the world.
The word is associated with the mind. Every word, uttered or written, comes
from the mind. With all its marvelous capacities the mind is also limited.
Thus máTRam and manam (Word and Mind) cover the entire world of ideas and
experience. The poet addresses the Divine as one Who has gone beyond word and
mind, for Divinity is in the transcendent realm which is not subject to the
finite and the ephemeral such as the entities of our world are. But what is that
transcendent world, and what is its nature? Answers to such questions
constitute occult knowledge.
We may also interpret this line as saying that when we go beyond the words of
everyday existence, and the mind that is tied to these, we reach the realm of
occult wisdom. That is why mantras are more than what they literally mean.
In Tamil, the word means to hide. Therefore the word maRai refers to hidden,
i.e. esoteric knowledge which is embodied in sacred writings. The four Vedas are
known as nánmaRai in Tamil. Given that the Divine is the source of Vedic wisdom,
it is addressed here as maRaiyOn. It may be pointed out that technically this
word also refers to Brahmá. On the other hand, maRaittalaivi is a name for
Lakshmi. Thus, in the Tamil language, the word maRai, meaning that which is
esoteric, connects the triple principle in the Hindu framework: Brahmá, VishNu
(whose consort if Lakshmi), and Siva (whom the poet invokes through this word
Recall the words of Hamlet’s father in the Shakespearean play: “My words fly up,
my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” The king
realizes that though his words utter prayer, his thoughts are yet petty: the
reason for the prayer is not repentance but the hope that he would be spared
from being discovered. All thoughts and words, good and bad, belong to our
ephemeral world. But God is transcends all this.
V. V. Raman
November 10, 2011
10.2 kaRanda pál kannaloDu nei kalandáR póla
As fresh milk is like sugar-candy and ghee
kannaloDu with sugar cane
nei clarified butter (ghee)
kalandál if mixed
Here is the beginning of another simile. Perhaps the poet is referring to a
most delicious concoction: a potion that is made up of fresh milk, the juice of
sugar cane, and clarified butter. Or again, he is simply describing the
intrinsic taste of milk as of a combination of the sweetness of candy added to
the fatness of butter.
In any event, milk is invoked as a basic sustenance of human life. In response
to the first shrieks immediately after birth, we are fed mother's milk. Milk
keeps us alive and kicking during the early formative stages of our lives. So
the idea of milk is appropriately linked to that of the Divine who cares for us
all through our existence.
Next there is sweetness. To taste the sweet is one of the supreme satisfactions
of life. Yet, with all the power that words possess, we can never convey the
meaning of sweetness to one that has never experienced it. As Dante wrote in
Mind cannot follow it, nor words express
Her infinite sweetness.
Then comes the fatness of butter which expresses substance. We are still in the
mortal frame. So the experience of sweetness, whether of lingual satisfaction or
divine ecstasy, needs to have a substance-basis, and that is what butter (ghee)
We nourish our bodies with milk, which tastes like sugar mingled with the
fatness of butter. Likewise, we must nourish our souls by extracting the
spiritual essence that comes from a consciousness of the Divine. We are
reminded of the magical alchemy that is the experience of body (fat) spirit
(milk), and experience (sweetness). We may recall here of the poet Coleridge's
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
V. V. Raman
November 11, 2011
10.3 chiRandaDiyбr cindanaiyuL tAin URi niNdru
chiRandu great, excellent
chindaiyuL in the minds of
Where does the Divine reside, and in what way?
The poet answers these questions by saying that Divinity is present in the
minds of those whose thoughts are always in the Divine. Then one may ask: Does
this mean that the Divine is a purely subjective experience? That is certainly
not the implication here. The significance of this statement is that in the
world of humans here on earth, the Divine is reflected in all its splendor in
the consciousness of a few. These are the glorious devotees (chiRandaDiyбr) of
In Tamil, the word chiRandуr may also refer to the rich and the famous, and
tuRandуr means those who have renounced the world: ascetics. The word aDiyбr
literally means those who are at the feet of someone: i.e. slaves. But
metaphorically, in spiritual literature it refers to the most genuine devotees
of a particular manifestation of the Divine. Thus a SivanaDiyбr refers to a
devotee of Lord Siva.
It is interesting that the poet does not call the devotees of the Divine
tuRandaDiyбr : ascetic devotees, but chRandaDiyбr:f: rich and renowned devotees.
The implication is that the exceptional among those who have acquired this
divine consciousness are truly rich in what they experience, and they also
become renowned in the world. In other words, the rich and the famous does not
refer to celebrities and jet-setters, as it does in our own times. How the
values in a culture can change!
The poet goes on to say that the nectar of the Divine is flowing in their
souls, as it were, for what they experience is an ineffable sweetness, that is
to say an ecstasy that has no parallel in the world of ordinary experience.
Symbols and aspects of Divinity may be seen in temples and prayer books, in
worship services and hymns, but the essence of the Divine can only be tasted by
those who have truly had the grace.
Neale D. Walsch one said that “God is in the sadness and the laughter, in the
bitter and the sweet.” Our poet says that even in sadness and what is bitter,
the sweetness of God can be felt by those who have experienced the Divine.
V. V. Raman
November 14, 2011
10.4. piRanda piRappaRakkum engaL peRumAn
Our Lord Who cuts off the (future) births of the born ones
piRanda that are born
aRakkum that which cuts
In the Hindu framework of birth and re-birth, the impact-causing actions
(karma) during the lifetime of an individual has consequences on the doer. In
principle, it is impossible to evade these consequences. That, in fact, is why
one is re-born.
[In the Abrahamic religious framework, a person remains for eons after death
until the Day of Judgment, then to be appropriately rewarded or punished.]
In the Hindu view there is no easy escape from this cycle. Moreover, there is
no life on earth that is without woe. Every person, no matter how rich and
healthy at one time, no matter how fortunate in kith and kin and mind, will have
to experience pain and suffering, and eventual death through sickness, accident,
or old age, leaving behind a host of wailing family and friends.
So the goal of life is to act in ways that would minimize the inevitable pain
and suffering in the next birth, or better still, avoid re-birth altogether.
This can be achieved either by exceptional good conduct, severance of
attachment, and ascetic attachment to God; or by a special boon from the
Almighty that comes as grace. Yes, everyone can pray and plead for this, even as
everyone may buy a lottery ticket. But, as with lottery, not everyone is a
winner in this matter.
The Divine is the only one that has the power to cut off this chain of birth
and death, release the soul from this recurring torment, and draw it back into
the cosmic consciousness from which it arose in the first place. We are reminded
of a mantra in the Yajur Veda to the effectThis is equivalent to the belief in
other traditions that God is our only savior.
The effort and eagerness to escape from the birth-death-birth cycle, as well as
devotion to God to achieve it, are frequent themes in the thoughts of many
spiritually inclined people and in the writings of thinkers, writers, and sages.
We are reminded here of an oft-repeated quite from the Yajur Veda which is
roughly translated as: We should worship lord Shiva so that we are freed from
our worldly attachments just like a fruit falls from a tree after ripening. Once
we are successful in doing this we are liberated from this vicious cycles of
life and death.”
V. V. Raman
November 15, 2011
10.5 niRaNgaL Or aindhu uDaiyAy, viNNOrgaL Eththa
Or a zodiacal sign ?
uDaiyAi you have
viNNOrgaL celestial beings
There are some esoteric and puraNic allusions in this line.
In one puraNic vision Lord Siva has five faces. These are known as isAna: the
One of the north-east), tatpurusha: that Purusha, akOram: the Fierce One - of
the south, vAmanam: the Dwarf), and satyOjAtam: existence by Truth. Note that
although in the Sanskritic tradition, all the avatars are of VishNu, according
to caturagarAti, a classic Tamil dictionary, the VAmana PurANa is a Shaiva
In the framework of SaivaciddhAnta, each of the letters of the panchakshara
refers to one of the five faces of Siva, and is associated with a different
color. Specifically, na, denoting icAnam, is of golden color. Denoting
tatpurushan is ma, and it is white. The letter si stands for agOram, and is
associated with red. The letter vA; denotes vAmanam and is black. Finally ya
denotes satyOjAtam and has the color gray.
The sacred number five associated with Shiva are said the symbolize the five
primordial elements of earth water, air, fire, and ether, the five senses
(touch, smell, taste, audition, and touch) and their corresponding perceptual
organs. It may be noted in passing the number five is also sacred in Chinese
thought and in some Buddhist traditions as well.
In all religious traditions, a powerful mode of experiencing the Divine is by
paying homage to the Almighty. And this is done by singing praises of God's many
attributes. That is why there are so many hymns and chants in all religious
The poet says in this line that heavenly beings sing the praises of the Lord,
reminding us of a Christmas carol where it says "Heaven and angels sing" when
they hear about the birth of Christ. Indeed, in the religious vision, there is a
world beyond the physical-phenomenal. This is the realm of supernatural beings,
of viNNуrgaL as it says here. They leave in perpetual joy in the presence of the
Almighty, and they sing for ever God's glory.
V. V. Raman
November 16, 2011
11.1. maRaindirundái enperumán
You were hidden oh my Lord
irundái you were
In this line the poet states that the esoteric aspects of the Divine remain
hidden to one and all, even to the celestials. But he himself is now aware of
them, which is why he says you were hidden, and not you are hidden. Those
aspects refer to the ninety six essences (qualities) of the physical universe,
known as tattuvangaL (tattvas) in the framework of Saivasiddhánta. According to
the Varáhópanishad, all these tattvas are below the saguna Brahman. The tattvas
Five bUdangal or elements; five poRigaL or sense organs; five pulangaL :
objects of the senses; five kanméndiriyangaL: organs of action; five
ńánendiriyangaL: organs of perception; four andakkaraNangaL: intellectual
faculties; one aRivu: intelligence; ten nADigaL: arteries; ten váyukaL: vital
airs; five ácayangaL: receptacles for the humors; five kócangaL: sheathes of the
soul; three maNDalangaL: the three regions of the body which are under the
influence of the sun, the moon, and fire; three malangaL: moral evils; three
dóshangaL: three humors; three éshaNaigaL: principal desires; three guNas:
three fundamental qualities; eight vigárangal: dominant passions; two vinaigaL:
vestiges of moral behavior; and five avattaigaL: states of the soul.
The listing reads like the Periodic Table of modern chemistry. To those
unfamiliar with Hindu philosophical systems all this may be daunting. The
spiritual framework of every school in Hindu philosophy includes extensive and
complex categories in terms of which the mystery of existence and consciousness
is understood. In the Samkhya system, the physical universe is seen in terms of
twenty-four tattvas plus the purusha. The great sages and poets of the tradition
refer to these directly or indirectly in their works.
V. V. Raman
November 17, 2011
11.2 valvinaiyén tannai maRaindiDa múDiya máya iruLai
Out of potent evil deeds one's true self closed, the darkness of illusion
vinaiyén out of evil acts
maRaindiDa so as to hide
múDiya which was covered
iRuLai darkness (acc. case)
All our current experiences are essentially consequences of our karma in
previous births. Most of those karmic actions were of a negative kind, which is
why every human life is wrought with pain and suffering. Moreover, the evil acts
also cover our true self. That is to say, we are unable to see through the true
nature of what we are.
What this means is that we are under a grand illusion as we walk through the
journey of life. This grand illusion is equivalent to being in complete
darkness, for we are indeed in the dark about the true nature of reality. This
darkness of illusion is what the sages called máyá.
In this line the poet says that máyá arises from evil deeds, or more exactly,
spiritual darkness arises from evil deeds. This suggests that bad karma not only
leads to pain and suffering and other unpleasantness in life, but also makes us
spiritually blind. Indeed this explains why some people seem to be perpetually
insensitive to whatever is spiritual. For such insensitivity bars them from
experiencing the true ecstasy that comes from experiencing a little bit of the
Divine. It is the opposite of the statement that ignorance is bliss. It is somewhat
like the fact the inability to imagine things
stand in the way of enjoying the delights of
poetry, art, and grand literature. Here, we
are reminded that ignorance is pain, that ignorance is ignorance of bliss.
The Buddha had said that the root cause of suffering was attachment and desire.
Indeed these also result in the veil of ignorance that blind us from grasping
the true nature of the self, which is what spiritual enlightenment is all about.
Every hurtful act, sinful thought and unpleasant word reflects our baser
nature, and they hide what our true nature is: for there is at the core of each
of us a little of the Divine that lies covered and hidden. Only those who
cleanse themselves of such accumulations, only the pure of heart will be able
to realize the Self.
One way of interpreting this line could be that that our own intrinsic goodness
is a best kept secret from ourselves. In other words, we are often unaware of
all the goodness and the positive things we are capable of.
V. V. Raman
November 18, 2011
11.3 aRam pávam ennum arunkayiRRál kaTTI
bound with the rare rope of sin and merit
ennum thus called
kayiRRál with the rope
One might think that we will attain spiritual liberation by being good and
doing only righteous acts. Not so, says the poet. For good karma also needs to
be rewarded, and for this too one must take another birth. In other words, even
meritorious actions will not liberate us from rebirth. And for evil deeds one
must return, there is no escape from that.
So both good and bad behavior act as a strange kind of rope, one contributing
to a golden strand and the other to a base one. This rope binds us to the
perpetual cycle of birth and death. Perhaps this is what ensures the
perpetuation of the species. From a theoretical point of view, if everyone
escaped rebirth, all living people will become childless.
This is an important matter to consider in this framework. It says, contrary to
conventional wisdom, that while being good in one's life will lead to some
pleasant experiences in the next birth, it is not going to release us from the
suffering inherent in being born in mortal flesh. We are condemned to the
birth-death cycle, no matter what: a no-win situation.
The point is, spiritual liberation is to be distinguished from receiving
rewards in life. In the Hindu framework the goal of life should be to do
whatever is necessary for attaining mokha(m) which is complete
liberation for the birth-death-rebirth cycle. There is a German saying to the
Leben ist gut, sterben is besser, nicht geboren ist am besten.
To live is good, to die is better, not to be born is the best of all.
Cute as this may sound, it really doesn’t mean much. What can not to be born
really signify? Does it make sense to say that the void is better off than the
atoms it holds? There is no meaning to the statement that it is best not to be
born. However, not to be born again means something. It means that that the
individual soul has finally merged with the Supreme. It means that it is far
better not to have another serving of a dish which, with all its deliciousness,
will still cause us stomach ache. We don’t want to repeat an experience that is
not without blemish.
V. V. Raman
November 21, 2011
11.4 puRantól párttu engum puzu azukku múDi
Seeing the outer skin, the filth and worms being covered
párttu having seen
We have a spiritual as well as a physical dimension. The spiritual draws us to
the Divine. The physical keeps of chained to the worldly. The contrast between
the two needs to be clearly understood. Without that understanding we are apt
to remain in the dark for ever. Thomas Merton put it this way: “We stumble and
fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true
spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. In this line, that
is what our poet is reminding us of in this line. We are reminded of a line in
the New Testament (Matthew 23:27): “Woe to you …. you hypocrites! You are like
whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are
full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.”
Many thinkers have spoken of the crass aspect of the body. Shakespeare wrote,
"What is thy body but a swallowing grave? The Bible speaks of "our vile body."
The Greek thinker Palladas wrote, "The body is an affliction of the soul. It is
hell, fate, a burden, a necessity, a strong chain, and a tormenting punishment.”
There is an anecdote in which the great Tulsi Das once swam across a river in
torrential rain to be with his wife who had gone away to her parents' home for a
few days. When he told her he could not be without her, she is said to have
revealed to him how her body was underneath the skin, which made him realize
that he was merely craving for a form.
Thus we note that in most spiritual traditions there is this contempt for the
physical body which man often finds difficult to resist in its attractive
external features. Hence the despising of woman as the temptress in many
religious traditions. [This was before it was realized that such temptation is a
biological evolutionary device to perpetuate the species.]
So it is that here our poet reminds us that beneath all the charm and beauty,
the attractiveness and the voluptuousness, there is but flesh and bones and
intestines filled with food digested and undigested, wherein thrive some lowly
worms. Such is the true nature of our beautiful physical body. All its grossness
is neatly hidden and covered by the external envelop of the skin. Even that in
due course withers and wrinkles. And yet, we are so attached to our own bodies.
It is this unpleasant fact that we are prompted to reflect upon when we read
V. V. Raman
November 22, 2011
Edited by webmaster (November 29, 2011 10:20 AM)
#1482 - December 02, 2011 11:04 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
11.5 malanychOrum onbadhu vaayiR kudilai
impurity flows through the nine doors of the hut
malam - impurity
córum - will flow
ompadu - nine
váyil - through the opening
kuDilai - in the hut
This is a continuation of the lament on the gross physical body. The male body is described here as a modest dwelling with seven apertures: two of the eyes, two of the ears, two of the nostrils, one of the mouth, plus the urethra and the anal aperture. [In the framework, the female body is said to have three extra apertures, two nipples and one vaginal opening.]
Aside from being an observation on human anatomy, this has some esoteric significance in yogic and tántric practice. Impurities flow through these openings in the everyday functioning of the body. Ordinarily we regard this as normal processes. But in the spiritual tradition, one attaches complex significance to these.
The poet Walt Whitman said, "If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred." It is sacred, not only because it enshrines one of the most evolved entities in the universe, namely consciousness, but also because it is the seat of all spiritual experiences, one might argue. This view may be valid from a purely physical perspective on the human condition.
The tenet in the worldview presented in this line of the Sivapuranam is that discharges through the nine gates (navdvAra) of the body adversely affect the inner functioning. The gates are primarily for the ejection of bodily impurities. That also weakens our spiritual energies. This is the basis of this idea.
This is the reason why complex yogic postures are recommended by which these apertures are sealed. This involves the use of eight fingers. The two thumbs close the holes in the ear, the index fingers close the eyes, the middle fingers close the nostrils, and the ring fingers are used to hold in tight contact the upper and the lower lips. The heels press on the perineum to close the urethra, and one contracts the anus. This is known as shanmukhi. The jyoti mudra is also a yogic mode for accomplishing this.
This one reason why nine is a sacred number in esoteric traditions. There are nine planets in traditional astrology, nine ratnas (gems), nine moods (bhávas), Shankaracharya points out in Soundarya Lahiri, "The four Siva chakras and five Sakti chakras create the nine Mula-Prakratis or basic manifestations, because they represent the source substance of the whole cosmos''. As the human body is taken as a microcosm which reflects the macrocosm, the nine-fold division is reflected there as nine apertures.
In this line the poet implicitly refers to this yogic thesis. In the works of great writers and poets there are always allusions to ideas and worldviews of the culture to which they belong.
12.1. malangap pulanaindum vańcanai ceiyya
The sensory faculties confuse and deceive
malanga to confuse
pulan faculties of perception
aindum all the five
ceiyya to do
The sun seems to rise in the east and set in the west. The rainbow is like a
colorful arc spanning the sky. We sometimes feel we are hearing a ghost in the
dark when it may be only an unusual rustling of leaves. Keep one hand in hot
water and another in cold water for sometime, and then touch an object with both
hands. The two hands will feel differently. Each of one these is a false
impression of what is actually the case, illusions caused by our sensory
Classical Hindu philosophers wrote a good deal about the nature and reliability
of our perceptual faculties. They quickly realized that the knowledge that we
get via our indriyas (sensory faculties) is not always reliable. Though they
also investigated and offered theories as to how exactly we perceive, they did
not always concur. Thus, for example, the sámkhya view on the matter is
different from the Nyáya view.
In any case, in this line the poet simply says that our senses confuse and
deceive us about the nature of reality. This is a profound observation. Einstein
is said to have observed that “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very
persistent one." But why are illusions created, one might wonder. Is it because,
as T. S. Eliot observed, Humankind cannot bear very much reality. “Or is it
because, as Sigmond Freud suggested, “illusions commend themselves to us because
they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore
accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality
against which they are dashed to pieces.” We do not know for sure.
Whatever the cause, when this realization is pursued along one direction, it
leads to a scientific understanding of the phenomenal world. By this mode one
discovers that the nature of physical reality is very different from what it
seems to be at first blush. Every observed and experienced physical phenomenon
has an inner cause that is veiled from our normal perception. When pursued along
another line, it leads to spiritual awakening as to the true nature of ultimate
reality. One discovers that beneath and beyond the ephemeral reality of the
perceived world, there is a permanent and imperishable substratum which alone is
real. In other words, ultimate reality is also very different from what one is
led to believe on the basis of sensory perception.
It may be recalled here that in one school of Hindu philosophy, there are
different kinds of perception. These include the immediate perception of things,
understanding what one perceives, perception of the self, and perception of the
V. V. Raman
Nov 24, 2011
12.2. vilangu manattál vimalá unakku
With enchained mind, to you oh blemishless one
manattál with the mind
unakku to you
The poet says here that the nature of the mind is an obstacle that hinders the
recognition of its connection with the Divine. In this sense the mind is
enchained. One meaning of word vilangu (vilgfK) is shackles. Thus the poet is
suggesting that as long as the mind is fettered by its attachments to the things
and pleasures of the world, it is unable to see the Divine. And conversely, as
long as we are bereft of the awareness of our spiritual dimension, we are in
effect chained. It is as if our mind is in a prison, unable to experience the
fullness of freedom that comes from the full understanding and experience of our
connections with the cosmic whole.
These chains that bind us to this world are like golden fetters, for they do
glitter and have their charms. But, as Edmund Spenser wrote:
A fool I do him firmly hold,
That loves his fetters, though they were of gold.
Another meaning of the word vilangu is animal. This line could also mean that
the mind is still in its animal phase as it is unable to recognize its true
glory which is its divine attribute. This could be because it has not evolved to
a higher level of awareness, or because it has been in this condition for too
long. It is interesting to recall in this context something that the Latin
writer Tacitus wrote because it combines both these meanings of vilangu
Etiam fera animalia, si clausa teneas, virtutis, obliviscuntur.
Even wild animals, if you keep them imprisoned, forget their natural courage.
Likewise, minds that are kept in chains for long by the passions and
attachments, forget their intrinsic nature and potential. What the mystic says
about the condition for spiritual awakening is equally true in the non-spiritual
world. Whether it is good nature or bad, whether it is love for what is noble
and elevating, or what is base and ignoble that draws us, depends to a large
degree on what we have become accustomed to. That is why good education and
development of good taste and habits ought to occur at an early stage of
development. If this does not happen in the formative period, it is very
difficult to start it all at a later phase of life. The metaphor of a mind that
has been enchained or of a creature that has not evolved is a very powerful one
V. V. Raman
Nov 25, 2011
12.4 kalanda anbágik kasindu uLLurugum
mingled with love, the tender heart melts
kasindu having become tender/soft
uL heart, spirit
No matter how much knowledge a person possesses, how keen a mind and how
rational his thoughts, as long as one has no feelings for others, no compassion
or kindness, and one is unmoved by the sufferings of others, we may say that the
person has a heart hard as stone. All too often people spend their lives in such
self-centered and callous stone-heartedness.
But a change occurs when love enters the heart. Then there is a profound
transformation in the attitude and behavior of the individual. In poetic
metaphor this is described as the melting of the heart, for it evokes the image
of love flowing out of it. For love is not a static entity that stays within us,
but is the transfer of good thoughts and feelings towards others.
In its grandest manifestation, when love directs all our energies towards the
Divine, it is known as bhakti in the Hindu tradition. In the bhakti mode, we
seek truth at the highest level, and swear loyalty to the Supreme. In An Hymn
in Honor of Love, where he also referred to love as a "sweet passion," Edmund
Spenser captured this idea succinctly when he wrote:
For Love is lord of truth and loyalty
Lifting himself up out of the lowly dust
On golden plumes up to the purest sky
Above the reach of loathly sinful dust.
But then who implants this love in the human heart and thus transforms it? In
this line our poet says that it is the Divine principle that does it. Indeed one
might say that the heart that melts by the power of love is a truly blessed one.
I am reminded of the verse from a poem which says,
And when my heart melts within me,
and weakness takes control;
God gathers me in His arms,
And soothes my heart and soul.
V. V. Raman
Nov 29, 2011
12.5 nalandán illáda chiRiyéRku nalgi
Showing grace to petty ones who are without any good
illáda being without
chiRiyéRku to a petty one
nalgi having given/shown grace
The poet Shelley wrote somewhere that while kings are little in their grandeur,
the virtuous person is great in humility. Humility is good in ordinary people,
but it is very impressive in extraordinary ones. Most simple people are humble
for they realize their modest life. Those who have achieved a little tend to
vaunt their accomplishments, and become laughable when they do this. When a
truly great one displays pride, and sometimes even scorn at others who have not
as much to show, we may tolerate it because the one with pride may have genuine
merit and great success. However, when such a one is unassuming and humble, our
respect for the person is considerably enhanced.
We recognize what a great poetic genius the author of SivapuráNam is. We know
that he was a saintly person who had reached the highest level of spiritual
enlightenment. And when he describes himself as a nallántán chiRiyan: a petty
one with nothing good at all, we are awe-struck indeed.
If this saintly poetic genius calls himself thus, what are we, more ordinary
mortals, compared to him? Clearly, this line in this great work reminds us of
our own insignificance in the larger scheme of things.
Of course, the poet does not say this to teach us humility. Rather it was the
genuine self-appraisal of one who had experienced the Divine. We are humble
before a great person, not out of custom or convention, but because the sheer
grandeur of the other person imposes that humility on us.
If you run into a truly great individual (scientist, artist, writer, whatever),
you are not likely to feel humble if you knew nothing about that individual. But
as soon as you get an inkling of how great that personage is, your reaction is
likely to be different. Unless we know the greatness of what we are experiencing
or confronting, we simply cannot feel this humility. Thus what the poet says
here is a reflection of his having recognized the Divine.
V. V. Raman
Nov 30, 2011
13.1 nilattanmél vandaruLi níLkazalgaL ká aTTi
Coming to earth, you blessed us and showed your majestic feet
nilattanmél on land/earth
vandu having come
aruLi giving grace
ká aTTi showing
As noted earlier, to one unfamiliar with the Hindu tradition, the veneration of
God's feet might sound strange. In the Hindu framework the feet of God and of
any person of high spiritual stature are worshipped. On speaks of pádapújai:
worship of the feet.
In the same spirit, when one prostrates to the icon of a god, or to an elder,
one touches the feet. One interpretation is that we recognize our own lowly
state with respect to the person honored. In other words it is a mark of
Cleaning the feet of an honored guest is also a custom in the culture, with
parallels in some other ancient cultures. In Hindu weddings there is a symbolic
cleaning of the feet of the bridegroom as he enters the place of wedding. This
is done because on that occasion he is regarded as a manifestation of Siva or
There is the belief that when the feet touch the bare ground they draw in some
of the energy from the earth. In particular, this energy is believed to enter
through the toe and the heel.
There are references to foot-washing of lowly people as mark of humility, of
saints as mark of adoration and of kings as mark of respect in the Christian
When the poet mentions the length of the feet of the Lord, it is of the power
and majesty of the Divine that he speaks. There is an ancient belief that length
of the feet of a person is an indication of his strength. There is a reference
in the Histories of Herodotus in which Pythagoras is said to have estimated the
strength of Hercules by the length of his feet. Recall the Latin saying Ex pede
Herculem, translated into English as (you recognize) Hercules by his foot,
meaning that his feet were really very large. It is said that in the first
Olympic stadium a race was one stade long which was supposed to have been
Herculean 600 feet, which was about 633 feet in today’s measure which mean that
1 herculean foot = 12.6 inches. Very few people have a foot which is more than
10.5 inches long.
When the poet here says, “coming to earth, you blessed us,” he is making an
allusion to the appearance of Siva with his contingent in Tirupperundurai. This
is a vision that Manikkavasakar had. For this reason the saint-poet continues
to be venerated in the temple of Athmanathaswami
V. V. Raman
Dec 1, 2011
Edited by Pathmarajah (July 06, 2013 02:35 PM)
#1484 - December 09, 2011 02:48 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
13.2 nAyiR kaDaiyAi kiDanda aDiyéERku
who lay being inferior to a dog
náyiR to a dog
kaDaiyái being inferior
aDiyéERku to the slave
Here the poet refers to himself as being having been inferior to a dog, One
may think that the dog was always regarded as a lowly animal in the tradition.
It is true that for quite a few centuries dogs were regarded as impure and not
very respectable. However, in Vedic times these creatures had favorable roles in
the legends. The great Indra had a canine companion with the name Saramá, Two
four-eyed dogs are pictured as Yama's watchdogs. In the Mahabharata, Yudhishtira
went to heaven with his brothers and a dog.
Then why does the poet refer to himself as worse than a dog? Perhaps it is to
remind us that just as a dog is always loyal and faithful to his master, so must
we be to the Divine. And if we not, if we spend our years with gross
indifference to our master, which is the Divine, then of course we become even
worse than a dog. Een when we are in such a pathetic state, Divinity comes to
The poet suggests in this line that we humans are indeed sometimes less
faithful to God than dogs are to us. There is a verse by Stephen Collins which
Old dog Tray's ever faithful
Grief cannot drive him away;
He's gentle, he's kind; I'll never, never find
A better friend than old dog Tray.
Our devotion to God is seldom as strong and consistent as the dog mentioned
here, and that is what our poet means when he says that he was for many years
lying as worse than a dog: that is to say, living a life that was utterly
indifferent to and negligent of the very existence of God. But if and when such
a person happens to discover God, that is, if and when one intensely experiences
the joy and ecstasy that come from a recognition of the Divine, then he/she not
only realizes what a glorious experience that is, but also regrets the past
years of his/her life when life was without that joy and ecstasy. It is then
that one regrets the many wasteful years of existence.
There is an old saying that dog is the only animal that has seen his God. Our
poet says that a man who hasn’t seen his God is worse than a dog.
V. V. Raman
13.3 táyiR chiRanda dayávána tattuvané
Oh Lord of Nature, more magnificent as compassion than mother!
táyiR more than mother
chiRanda great, magnificent
dayavána as compassion
tattuvané oh Lord of Nature (a name for Siiva)
In the course of our lives we show kindness and compassion to many people. We
are also the recipients the kindness and compassion from others. But of all
those who show us kindness and compassion none is greater than our mother. That
is why one of the first things taught to a Tamil child is that mother and father
are the first known Gods: annaiyum pit’avum munnaRi deivam.
In the words of the poetess Sarah Buell Hale,
There is none
In all this cold and hollow world, no fount
Of deep, strong, deathless love,
Save that within a mother's heart.
But is there anyone greater even than mother in this regard? Certainly,
Divinity is that one, says the poet in this line.
We may note in passing that the love and compassion that a mother (Mary) shows
to God (Jesus) is represented in the famous sculpture of Michelangelo known as
In the context of dayá, traditionally one lists seven modes by which acts of
goodness may be expressed for the body and seven for the spirit. These are
called dayávirutti. For the body, these are said to be food, drink, clothing,
home, freedom, removal of the constraints of enchainment, proper treatment of
the body after death. For the spirit, these are: education, solace, mercy,
trust, non-envy, not bearing grudge and returning good for evil, praying for the
well-being of others.
One of the many names for Lord Siva is tattuvan. It is interesting to inquire
into this name. In Tamil the word tattuvam also refers to all the powers of
Nature. The word tattuvanúl refers to physics. The school of thought which
regards Nature as God is known as tattuvavádam.
V. V. Raman
Dec 5, 2011
13.4 máchatra chódi malarnda malarchuDaré
Oh spotless, splendid, blossomed flowery brilliance!
chuDaré oh brilliance
In the next few lines the poet gives some laudatory epithets of the Divine.
Everything in the world has some blemish or another, whether human made or in
nature. There is nothing in the world that is perfect and flawless. That state
of perfection and flawlessness if the attribute only of the Divine. That state
is not here in this world of matter and energy, but in the transcendental realm
beyond. In a more mundane sense, we speak of the flaws in a person.
A wit once wrote:
'Tis one of human nature's laws
To see ourselves without our flaws.
This is a sad, but true commentary on human nature. However, for the
enlightened soul this is not the case. Our poet reminds us here that the only
entity that is without any stain or blemish is the Divine.
One might ask, how can light blossom and how can brilliance be flowery? In the
ecstatic mood of praising the Divine, poetic license is used in mixed metaphors.
For when the poet speaks of a blossomed light of flowery brilliance, he
expresses most effectively the glorious effulgence of the Divine.
It muse be noted that the word chódi in Tamil is actually the jyoti of
Sanskrit. It thus connotes something more than physical light. It connotes the
spiritual aspect of light, the radiance that emanates from a spiritual entity.
In the framework of Hindu esoteric disciplines, when the occult kuNDaliní energy
present in the human body is gradually awakened, there comes a moment when an
inner illumination (prakásha) leads to this spiritual radiance called Jyoti. It
is said to be the manifestation in the human body of that cosmic effulgence
(Jyoti). It is to this that our poet makes reference in this line.
V. V. Raman
Dec 6, 2011
13.5 tésaané ténáramudé sivapuráné
Oh illustrious one, oh honied ambrosian, oh
tésané oh illustrious one!
ténár with honey
amudé oh ambrosia!
purané oh, of the town!
In classical Tamil técan (tejas) meant one with radiance. Divinity is described as the
source of spiritual light. The Book of Genesis says, "And God said let there be
Light: and there was light." This refers to physical light. The light mentioned
by our poet is spiritual light. This too is referred to in the Bible where is
says (John v.35), "He was a burning and shining light." And in Matthew (v. 14),
"You are the light of the world.” The motto of the Catholic University of
America is Deus lux mea: God is my light. Thus, in all spiritual traditions the
Divine has been experienced as Light. The Qur’an describes God as "the light of
the heavens and the earth.”.
The Divine is not an entity to be seen, but an inner experience. Mystics have
said again and again that the experience of the Divine is ineffable, it can only
be enjoyed, like sweetness. What the poet Dante said of Beatrice is true of
Mind cannot follow it, nor words express
Her infinite sweetness.
The immortalizing potion amRritam is amudam in Tamil. In ancient Greek and
Roman traditions this milk of Paradise, as Coleridge called it, is food of the
Gods making them immortal. In the Hindu framework, it was churned out by devas
and asuras from the ocean.
In this line the poet describes the Divine as honeyed ambrosia, meaning that
the Divine is both sweet and immortal. What is meant is that those who have
experienced the Divine, i.e. have attained the highest spiritual attainment
(siddhi) experience ecstasy and have also become immortal. For them, the prayer
mRityómá amRitam gamaya (From Death lead us to Immortality) has been answered.
We refer to a person in terms of the city or the country from which the person
as come: Canadian, Australian, Kolkattan, Keralite, etc. In the Hindu mythic
vision, Siva is the Lord of the realm called Sivalpuram (Sivaloka). Hence he is
addressed here as Sivapuran: one of the city (realm) of Siva.
V. V. Raman
Dec 7, 2011
14.1 pásamám patraRuttup párikkum áriyané
Oh Master, who appears and severs the chain of bondage!
pácamám the (triple) bondage
aRuttu having cut
áriyané oh Master
In the framework of Saivasiddhántam, bondage to the world arises from three
sources. These are áNavam pride or ego-sense, karumam: consequential action, and
máyai: illusion. Our sense of pride and ego makes us long for more, our actions
invariably bear fruit and cause rebirth, and the illusion that everything is for
ever makes us imagine we will always have all these enjoyments and things. They
cause attachment to this world. So they are like ropes that bind us.
We will never get out of the cycle unless this rope is cut. Who can do it for
us except the Divine principle? It is only when Divinity appears to us, that is
to say, it is only when one attains God-realization that this pásam, this rope
will be cut off and we will become truly free.
Recall that in the Saivasiddhaántam framework there is the image of the Lord as
the master of all creatures as of the cattle which the Divine will protect. The
word pasu has several meanings: one of them is cow. Another is a sentient being.
That is why Lord Siva is called pasupati the lord of all sentient beings.
Likewise, the difficult-to-sever involvement of the soul with the various
attachments of the body is known as pasupásam.
Note the word áriyan here, derived from the sanskrit áryá. In classical Tamil,
it simply meant a scholar or teacher. Sometimes it even meant a medical doctor.
Much of the Indian subcontinent was known as áriyam (áryavarta). Also, the
Sanskrit language was called áriyamozi which could mean the language of the
learned, although some would interpret the word as the language of the áriyá
people. . It is in contexts like this that it is difficult to accept the notion
that Tamil and Sanskrit were one and the same language. In our own times it
would be politically incorrect to say otherwise. In any case, it is interesting
that here the Tamil poet refers to Siva as áriyan.
V. V. Raman
Dec 8, 2011
[Ed: towards the end of the hymn the poet refers to Siva as a native of Pandya country.]
An interesting feature of Saivaciddhantam (as of Hindu theology) is that on the
one hand Divinity is pictured in cosmic and abstract terms, and on the other
hand, Divinity is a very personal, even geographically localized, God who
interacts with individuals as a caring friend. The seeker approaches that God
with great respect and affection as a student or lover would approach a teacher
or a beloved. This is the bhakti mode. In this line, the poet does not refer to
himself as a friend, but rather describes God as friendly. The notion of God as
a friend (tvameva bandhu), or a friend of the poor of the poor (deeabandhu) is
there is the classical bhakti framework.
To all appearances, divine grace (aruL) is not given to everyone, just as one
does not give gifts to everyone. That is why the poet describes the aruL he has
received with the adjective nesa: affectionate or loving.
Divine grace is like a light that shines in a pitch-dark room where one has been
groping for a long time, misinterpreting what one touches and feels. When the
light is lit we realize how wrong we were in our apprehensions. With the
awakening that comes from divine grace one begins to see the world from an
entirely different framework. All the lie and deceit perpetrated on the mind by
máyá melt away even as the morning sun dispels the dark of the night. The poet
R. W. Gilder wrote:
Against the darkness outer,
God's light, His likeness takes,
And he from the mighty doubter
The great believer makes.
Hence the prayer: tamasomá jyotir gamaya: From Darkness lead us to Light.
Dr. V. V. Raman
14.2 n^Echa aruLpurin^dhu n^enychilvany chaN^kedap
From your friendly grace my illusions are dispelled.
nésa - affectionate, friendly
aruL - grace
purindu - having bestowed
en - my
neńchil - in the mind
vańcham - lie, deceit
keDa - may perish
An interesting feature of Saivasiddhantam (as of Hindu theology) is that on the one hand Divinity is pictured in cosmic and abstract terms, and on the other hand, Divinity is a very personal, even geographically localized, God who interacts with individuals as a caring friend. The seeker approaches the Divine Principle with great respect and affection as a student or lover would. This is the bhakti mode. In this line, the poet does not refer to himself as a friend, but rather describes God as friendly. The notion of God as a friend of the poor (dínabandu) is there is the classical bhakti framework.
To all appearances, divine grace (aruL) is not given to everyone, just as one does not give gifts to everyone. That is why the poet describes the aruL he has received with the adjective nésa - affectionate or loving.
Divine grace is like light that that shines in a pitch-dark room where one has been groping for a long time, misinterpreting what one touches and feels. When the light is lit we realize how wrong we were in our apprehensions. With the awakening that comes from divine grace one begins to see the world in an entirely different framework. The poet is suggesting that when divine grace comes upon a person, all the mental and moral impurities, all the lie and deceit perpetrated on the mind by the veil of máyá will melt away even as the morning sun dispels the dark of the night.
We are reminded of what the Dalai Lama said: “If we can realize and meditate on ultimate truth, it will cleanse our impurities of mind." This idea is also implicit in the Upanishadic prayer: tamasOmA jyotir gamaya: From Darkness lead us to Light. Our poet says that the same thing will happen if and when we received divine grace. Again and again we see that we are reading the outpourings of a mystical poet who pours out from his heart.
We may recall in this context the lines of the poet R. W. Gilder:
Against the darkness outer,
God's light, His likeness takes,
And he from the mighty doubter
The great believer makes.
Edited by Pathmarajah (July 06, 2013 02:37 PM)
#1488 - December 17, 2011 10:12 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
14.3 Pérádu nindra parungaruNaip póráRe
Oh all-embracing river of mercy who envelops
ninDra which stood
póráRé oh enveloping river
Rivers have been great blessings for agriculture, and make lands fertile. They
have also been blessings for culture and civilization. We have only to think of
the Nile and the Po, of Káveri and Ganga to realize this. Through silent flow
and graceful meandering they enhance the beauty of the landscape.
In Hindu culture the river has been compared to the paths chosen by people to
pray and worship. We are reminded that just as waters falling from the skies go
to the ocean (along rivers) (ákáshát patitantóyam yadá gacchadi ságaram)
prostrations to all gods (sarva deva namaskArah) go back to the same Divinity
(kéhavam pratigacchadi). The word river brings to mind a steady stream of water
that never fails.
The age-long flows of rivers, bringing water to the people all along its way,
cool the land, quench the thirst, and feed the plants that grow the needed food.
Rivers are therefore like the constant outpouring of love and kindness.
So the poet describes the Divine in this line as a superb river through which
God's mercy is for ever flowing. As the Divine as the source of all the
blessings we receive, it is spoken of here as a grand river surging with the
clear water of kindness and compassion. Countless are the poets and thinkers who
have evoked and extolled water. Recall St. Exupéry’s reflection: “Water, thou
hast no taste, no color, no odor; canst not be defined, art relished while ever
mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself, thou fillest us with
a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses.” Or again. G. W. Curtin
wrote, "A river is the coziest of friends. You must love it and live with it
before you can know it." What an apt description in this context!
We may note in passing that in his Tiruvásakam too Manikkavásakar who lived in
the Tamil country which was blessed with rivers, compares Divinity to a river.
Dr. V. V. Raman
Dec 12, 2011
14.4 árá amudé aLaviláp pemmáné
Never satiating immeasurable great God!
árá never brimming
amudé oh nectar
pemmáné oh God!
It is poetic and customary to use sweetness and nectar as similes and metaphors
for what we enjoy immensely. But the things we enjoy in the world have one
limitation. Sooner or later we tire of them. Whether it be the most delicious
food or games we may play or the movies we see, or even whether it is the music
we listen to, the books we are fond of, or whatever, experiencing these again
and again can become tiring sooner or later, and we will yearn for something
This is especially true of sweet and sugary things. There is a Tamil word for
this: tevittuugiRén: I feel nauseated because of the excess, usually of
something sacharine. The word for nauseating is sometimes changed into
tegiTTugiRadu in colloquial Tamil.
Recall Shakespeare's line in Henry IV:
They surfeited with honey and began
To loath the taste of sweetness whereof a little
More than a little is by much too much.
As the Tamil maxim pithily says, aLavikku mińjinál amirudamum visham: In
excess, even ambrosia is poison. Excess is when something goes beyond full
The poet says here that the nectar that is Divinity is an exception to this
rule: it can never be over-filling, tiring, or nauseating. Unlike with candy and
caramel, we can never feel we have had more than we can take of it. The Divine
is measureless: that is to say, infinite in scope. The Latin poet Horace wrote,
“Est modus in rebus: There is a measure in all things" However, exclaims our
poet, this does not apply to God. There can be a measure of Man and worldly
things, but there is no measure of God, much less of the nectar that is divine
experience, of blessed ecstasy.
Pemmán is a contraction of perumán: Great God. Literally, it simply refers to a
great personage, an anthropic image of Purushottama of the Sanskrit tradition..
V. V. Raman
December 13, 2011
14.5 órádár uLLattuL olikkum oliyáné
O light that shines in the hearts of even those who know not!
órádár those who don't consider
uLLattuL in the hearts
oLiyáné oh Light!
Not everyone is God-conscious. Few take the time to even consider the presence
or the role of God in their lives. They do their routine chores, and live a
mechanical existence with neither time nor interest for matters religious,
metaphysical, or spiritual. In this line the poet says that Divinity is present
even in the hearts of people who do not consider the Divine. It is like a light
that is shining within each and every one of us, for at the deepest core, that
is what we all are: a spark of Divinity. This is also the essence of the
teachings of the Upanishads.
Consider the forces of nature. Not many people think of them consciously. For
example, how many reflect seriously on gravitation? Yet everyone is subject to
it. How many know the nature of heat or light? Yet we all see things and we all
feel hotness. Thoughtful awareness of universal principles is not a necessary
condition for our being under their sway.
Or again, there are myriad activities going on in our bodies that keep us
alive. But even if we don’t care to investigate how the heart beats, how the
neurons fire, how enzymes are generated and hormones secreted, how cells divide
and subdivide, we continue to live.
We are reminded that the same is true of the Divinity in us. It is that which
sustains our existence and integrity as human beings. Without it there would be
neither life not thought nor consciousness. It is the like the electric power
that keeps the light burning.
We are reminded in this line that at the very least, in the basic aspect of
sustenance we all receive that grace from God, for were it not for the marvelous
balance of the biological processes that keep the body functioning we cannot
live even for a fleeting moment. All that is also possible because of the
external balance our planetary environment. Being unaware of these does not
negate their presence. Even those know nothing of oxygen breathe and live. Even
those who nothing of plant botany and grain chemistry eat and ingest their food.
That is the message in this line. We must not only not forget this, but also be
grateful for this. That is the deeper significance of prayer, the deeper goal of
meditation. Once we realize this and see a ray of that transcendental effulgence
in our fellow human beings, not only does it become impossible to hate or treat
them harshly, we develop love and respect for one and all.
V. V. Raman
December 14, 2011
15.1 nírái urukki en áruyirái nindráné
Oh, He stood, as the fullness of my soul was fluidly molten
nírái as liquid
áruyirái as fullness of soul
nindráné oh, he stood
Thomas Ŕ Kempis spoke of the duritia cordis humani: hardness of the human
heart. Indeed, we often refer to people without compassion as hard-hearted
individuals who have compassion, Such people are not easily moved by the finer
feelings of love and kindness. We also describe as soft-hearted those who are
easily moved by the suffering and pain of others.
When a hard hearted person changes into one of a gentler kind, it is as if a
hard solid has slowly softened. In the poetic imagery, it is as if something
very metallic and sturdy is gradually melting away. Another poet wrote in
kal pólum neńcam kasindurugi: Like a stone the heart was moistening and
Such a profound transformation can occur only by the grace of the Divine. No
matter how we explain human behavior, through genes, brain chemistry,
neurotransmitters, or whatever, ultimately the question of how these have come
to act in so many positive ways cannot be answered in the framework of science.
Nor is it explained by the poetic and religious vision, one might say. But
religious visions add meaning and beauty to what is experienced.
The poet goes on to say that the Divine melted his own soul and made it a more
complete one. Indeed, a life that is unmoved and uncaring is an incomplete
unfulfilled one. It is only when we are touched by nobler sentiments and we care
for others that we become fuller human beings. The poet seems to be suggesting
here that when a person thus becomes more than for his or her own selfish
survival, we may be sure that he or she has been truly blessed with the grace of
Divinity. It is then that our souls become truly full.
We are reminded of Mother Teresa’s words: “Faith is more important to me than
life itself because without it there would be no fullness of life.”
Or again recall what Teresa of Avila said: "God speaks to souls through words
uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways."
If so, Manikkavásakar was one of those voices through which God speaks..
V. V. Raman
Dec 15, 2011
15.2 inbamum tunbamum illáné uLLáné
One who is with and without joys and sorrows!
inbamum both joy
tunbamum and suffering
illáné one who is without
uLLáné one who is with
There is more to existence than breathing and surviving. Life is interesting
and worthwhile because of the little pleasures and joys that it offers. However,
there is no life without pain and suffering either. William Cowper expressed the
thoughts of many reflecting people,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of man:
Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
Have a being less durable than he.
Or again, recall the lines of Francis Thompson:
Nothing begins, and nothing ends,
That is not paid with moan;
For we are born in others' pain,
And perish in our own.
In Tamil the positive experiences of life are known as inbam. The negative
experiences are called tunbam. And we are all are subjected to both.
The poet says that Divinity is beyond all the constraints of pleasure and pain.
This seems an appropriate description of the Almighty, God is transcendental.
However, the poet also says that the Divine has both joy and sorrow. Being pure
bliss, God may well be described as with joy. But what about pain? Perhaps it is
in what God feels for humanity, His compassion for all creatures. When all the
suffering and pain the world is taken into account, the pity and compassion of
no single individual will suffice to encompass it all. In this context, the
symbolism of Christ is most powerful, for it evokes the vision of God taking
upon Himself all the pain and suffering of humankind.
Those who have truly experienced God know ecstasy, but they also feel the
suffering and anguish of their fellow creatures. And if some of us mortals feel
the pain of fellow creatures, it is not unreasonable to say that Good too has
his pains. As C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in
our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”
V. V. Raman
Dec 16, 2011
#1489 - December 24, 2011 01:37 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
16.1 anbarukku anbané yávaiyumái allaiyumám
Friend of friends, all and nothing too.
anbarukku to friends
anbané oh friend
yávaiyum also whatever
The word anbu literally means love. Whence anban connotes one who loves. But
this word also has two other meanings: a husband, and a friend. In the bhakti
mode where the aspirant is in total love with God, one regards oneself as a
lover and as a friend of God. When one befriends God, God becomes one's friend:
so declares the poet in this line.
But then, this is only natural. If you are friendly to someone that person
normally reciprocates your friendship. But with God, says the poet in this line,
it is much more. God becomes not only a friend, but practically everything one
can imagine. God becomes everything.
Perhaps the poet is suggesting that when one enters into a mystic merger with
God, then one sees the divine spirit everywhere and in everything in the world.
It is not a case of God's omnipresence, but God becoming everything. From this
perspective, the created world is not a product of the Divine, but its
There is something more: The Divine will not stay for ever in these manifest
forms. In other words, Divinity will also become the no-ness (allai)of it all.
That is to say, the enlightened soul will not only see the Divine in everything,
but also recognize that these are the passing phases of the Divine, and are not
to be taken as its ultimate manifestations.
Thus the mystically awakened person realizes two things about perceived
reality: Everything and happening here is an embodiment of the Divine. And yet,
it is an ephemeral embodiment, for its aspect and configuration will be
constantly changing, until it is completely dissolved. This line also reminds of
the traditional prayer, tvaméva bandhush cha sakhá tvaméva: You (God) indeed are
my kin and my friend.
V. V. Raman
16.2 chódiyané tunniruLé tóndráp perumaiyané
O radiant one, oh great one near whom no darkness comes!
chódiyané oh radiant one!
tóndrá not appearing
perumaiyané oh eminent one!
The radiant light that comes from a mystical source is chódi from the Sanskrit
jyoti. One who thus radiates in a chódiyan. In this line, the poet addresses the
Divine with this word because that is where spiritual effulgence comes from.
Again and again, those who have had a vision of the Divine have described it as
The notion of darkness is often contrasted with this divine light. Thus, Milton
wrote in his Paradise Lost:
God is light
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity.
Or again, recall the line in the Bhagavad Gita where it describes the Divine as
ádityavarNam tamasah parastát (VIII.9): the color of the sun (radiant as the
sun) and beyond darkness.
Consider any object: a building or a tree, a mountain or even the moon. Every
one of them can cast a shadow. Thus it is possible to associate darkness with
all these bodies when they stand in the path of light. The obstruction of light
is what causes darkness. But we cannot even imagine the shadow of the sun. The
sun simply cannot have a shadow of its own. Darkness is nowhere near the radiant
sun, for it is the sun that dispels all darkness around it. So it is with the
Divine. Its radiance removes all darkness, it melts the veil of ignorance, it
reveals the true nature of Reality. In other words, God is light sublime and
pure light also. When it says in the Upanishad, tamasoma jytotir gamaya (From
darkness lead us to light), it is of this divine light that one speaks. Thus,
darkness here refers to non-recognition of that light.
Recall the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “From within or from behind, a light
shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the
light is all.” Therein lies the recognition of the Divine.
The vision of God as pure radiance is not unique to the Hindu tradition. We read
about God in the Old Testament as "Who coverest thyself with light as with a
V. V. Raman
16.25 aadhiyanE an^dham n^aduvaagi allaanE
16.3 írttu ennai átkonDa endai perumáné
Oh great Lord who drew and accepted me!
írttu drawing towards
átkoNDa who accepted as a devotee
endai my father
perumáné oh great Lord!
On more than one occasion we see that the poet is referring to his spiritual
transformation as an unexpected blessing rather than as something he had been
Thus, in this line the poet says that the Divine had drawn him towards it,
rather than that he was attracted to it. He also says that having been drawn, he
had been accepted as a deep-devotee of God, implying not all who enter a place
of worship are so transformed. Clearly, the state of being an ardent worshiper
of God at the level of the sage-poet is a privilege that is not given to
everyone. Such piety is surely an expression of God's grace. The poet says, in
effect: Here, but for the grace of God, I will not be.
All too often, we regard the positive things we receive in life as fruits of
our own actions, talents, and unusual abilities. Such a view is tainted by
unwarranted pride. For, if we pause to think, we will realize that those
talents, abilities, and inclinations arose from factors over which we had no
control: genes, parentage, family environment, and the like. Every positive
experience in life may be regarded as a blessing. Even is we view these as
kármic consequences of commendable actions in past lives, if we were to trace
sufficiently back in rebirths, they must have had indeterminate origins. In a
game of cards, the player does exercise his or her talents and intelligence. But
the hand that is dealt, the cards one gets in a distribution after the shuffle,
is beyond anyone's control. It is, in a sense, a blessing.
Here, as elsewhere, the poet addresses God as endai: My Father, for, like the
father, God draws the aspirant towards him with guiding love. The use of this
phrase is like as the Christian Lord's Prayer where it says: Pater noster: Our
Father. This reveals the commonalty among spiritual aspirants in all traditions.
If, in a previous line he said sahá tvaméva (you are indeed a friend), here he
says tvaméva pitá (you are indeed a father).
These lines also remind me of the following lines in a popular Christian
prayer-song by Kelly Carpenter:
“Draw me close to you, never let me go.
I lay it all down again, to hear you say that I’m your friend.”
Note that in the case of our poet, this plea to God has already been answered.
V. V. Raman
16.4 kúrtta meińńánattál koNDuNarvár tam karuttin
through keen wisdom will they know its significance
kúrtta keen, sharp
ńanattal with wisdom
koNDuNarvár will realize/become aware of, with
karuttin meaning, significance
In the framework of Saiva-siddhántam there are four neRi or paths available to
the spiritual aspirant. These are:
(a) sariyai which is the first step that the initiate takes under the guidance
of a guru, qualifying him for simple worship.
(b) kiriyai which refers to action, qualifying him to do daily púja (worship
service) for siva as per the rituals.
(c) yogam which refers to yogic meditation at an abstract level.
(d) ńAnam which is the state attained by Saiva ascetics who have controlled all
their mundane desires, conquered their passions, and are ready to become one
with the Siva principle. This highest level of wisdom is also called meińńAnam
or sanmArkkam which is the path of the spiritually illumined jńáni.
This wisdom is said to be razor-sharp, hence the phrase kúrtta meińńánam. One
who has attained that level will regard every other knowledge as ordinary, if
not trivial, just as to the erudite scholar cannot take too seriously a child's
book of stories.
The meińjńánis have deep awareness of what it is all about. From their loftier
perspective all the passing show of the world is but a simple game, and does not
deserve too serious an attention. One begins to see what is not observable to
the superficial and unrealized person. In the words of Jonathan Swift, “Vision
is the art of seeing the invisible.”
The inside of a small room looks paltry to one who has stood on the summit of a
tall mountain and surveyed the panorama all around. Spiritual realization
implies a deeper understanding and recognition of the ultimate nature of
V. V. Raman
16.5 nókkariya nókké nuNukkariya nuNNuNarvé
One Who is difficult to focus on, and subtle for grasping
nókké oh focus of concentration
Experience shows that when we try to direct our minds on something and hold it
there for some time, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain our
concentration. This is true of any matter, and yet it is essential if we are to
achieve anything of significance in life. The difficulty in concentrating
becomes all the more so when the focus of our thoughts is the divine principle.
The mind wavers and is distracted by a million things. That is why yoga has been
defined as the process by which one restrains the incessant changes that
characterize the mind.
In this line the poet refers to this fact by saying that it is extremely
difficult to fix our (mental) gaze on the divine principle. That is why this
mode of spiritual fulfillment is regarded as the highest and hardest to achieve.
Reflective thinkers have often considered the nature of God. They have come up
with mounds of descriptions of divinity. These are great, but they do not really
unravel the unfathomable mystery. John Ruskin wrote, “The infinity of God is not
mysterious, it is only unfathomable; not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is
a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure unsearchable sea.” Our poet says
likewise that transcendental truths are too subtle to be grasped by the powers
of the intellect. Analysis is good as far as it goes, and can be tremendously
valuable in worldly contexts. But they often fail miserably for understanding
the Divine. It says in the New Testament that "It is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of
God." Using this simile we might say that it is easier for a rope to pass
through the eye of a needle than for the logical analytical mode to grasp the
nature of the Divine. We are also reminded of the line in the Guru Granth Sahib
where it says: “The Unseen and inscrutable Lord is permeating and pervading
everywhere. He cannot be obtained by any effort.”
Edited by webmaster (January 26, 2012 03:20 PM)
#1490 - January 04, 2012 01:38 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
17.1 pókkum varavum puNarvum illáppuNNiyané
O Holy One without entry or exit or links
varavum and coming
puNarvum and connections/ links
puNNiyanE Oh Holy One
Consider anything with respect to a place and time. It could be a person and a
house, or a planet at a position in the sky. It is possible to say that the
entity in question comes into the place or leaves the place at this time or
that. Thus a person may leave the house in the morning return in the evening. A
planet may come near the sun at one time of the year and leave that region at
another time. Thus everything comes and goes at various places. It has been said
that every exit is an entry into somewhere. This suggests that there is
instability and impermanence in exits and entries.
But Divinity is present everywhere at all times. So the Divine may be
described, as the poet does in this line, as one that has no going and coming:
This is another feature of infinity.
Every entity in the universe always has some link or connection with some other
entity or entities. But the Divine encompasses everything. It is in everything
(panentheistic). Therefore, there is no question of its having particular
connection with anything in particular. That is what the poet means when he says
that Divinity is without any specific link (puNarvam).
The word puNNiyam refers to any meritorious act. In the Tamil canonical
tradition, one generally lists seven such acts. These are, nigangkiruti): being
without vanity; dánam: giving; virudam: periodic abstinence; sinekam: kind
behavior; nayapósanam: hospitality; kamai: patience; uRságam: enthusiasm to do
good things. Here, however, the Divine is called the personifation of puNNIyam.
One with all these qualities and more which never fail becomes holy.
We may recall in passing that in the Christian tradition also one speaks of
seven virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and
humility. These are usually contrasted with the seven deadly sins of lust,
gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.
17.2 kákkum en kávalané káNpariya péroLiyé
O my guarding warden, effulgence too bright to behold!
Among the many functions that traditional religions assign to the Divine is the
protection of human beings. In this sense one may look upon God as a guardian
of human interests. What does this mean? The first simple meaning is that God
takes care of us when we are in difficulty. The poet Byron once wrote that no
rapture is real as that of one who is watching over "what they love when
sleeping." In a peculiar way, when we fall asleep each night, there is really no
guarantee that we will wake up the next day, for who knows what circumstance can
arise within the body or in our vicinity that might bring life to an end. We go
to sleep each night with the implicit certainty that all will be well for us
while we are not conscious of our surroundings. This assurance may well be taken
as complete faith that we will be protected during our sleep. We are reminded of
François Rabelais who said: “I place no hope in my strength, nor in my works:
but all my confidence is in God my protector, who never abandons those who have
put all their hope and thought in him.”
From a larger perspective, the healthy functioning of a body for a few decades
depends on a million factors - the biochemistry of processes within the body on
the one hand, and the appropriate physical conditions - air pressure, sufficient
oxygen in the atmosphere, sufficient ozone in the upper layers of the
atmosphere, reasonable periodic rainfall, etc. etc. in our surroundings. The
unseen and unknown factors that individually and collectively sustain all life
on earth may well be regarded as what the Divine is all about..
On the one hand, the presence of God in all this is blatant as a flash of
light. On the other hand, that light is not easy for one and all to see. So the
poet describes Divinity as the great light that it is difficult to see:
káNbariya péroli The vison of God as light is also expressed in the Bible as
follows: “He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season
to rejoice in his light (John 5:35).”
17.3 átrinba veLLamé attá mikkái nidra
O flooding river of ecstasy, O Father Who stands in splendor!
veLLamé oh flood!
attá of father!
mikkái as great, splendid
nindra who stood
The river is a symbol here of something that is peacefully and happily flowing.
That is one reason for using the river-simile for spiritual joy. Another reason
is that its waters cleanse the body, as does the spiritual experience.
Then again, spiritual joy is not like any other. It is more than the smoothly
flowing current in a river. Spiritual ecstasy it an overwhelming, overpowering
gush of the highest kind of joy one can imagine or experience. Therefore, a huge
surge of the dynamic river, causing a deluge, brings out the image more clearly.
Hence the poet speaks of an ecstatic flood in the rivere. Also, such a surge of
water will cleanse the body thoroughly, leaving no dirt behind, as anyone who
has stood on the waves at the beach will know.
The image of a flood of divine joy was expressed by the poet Shelly in his To a
Teach us, Sprite or Bird
What sweet thoughts are thine;
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
If the quantitative aspect of the Divine is expressed through the idea of a
flood, its qualitative feature is conveyed through the word mikku greatness,
splendor. Once again, the poet addresses this Divinity of overwhelming divine
splendor as Father, suggesting that ultimately we are all sparks of that
universal Divinity. In a deeper sense this is the message of Saiva-siddhántam.
Those who realize this are worthy of our reverence.
I am reminded here of the lines of Jalal ad-Din Rumi which may be interpreted as
the words of the Divine:
I am your lover, come to my side, I will open the gate to your love.
Come settle with me, let us be neighbors to the stars.
You have been hiding so long, endlessly drifting in the sea of my love.
Even so, you have always been connected to me.
Concealed, revealed, in the unknown, in the un-manifest.
I am life itself. You have been a prisoner of a little pond,
I am the ocean and its turbulent flood. Come merge with me,
leave this world of ignorance. Be with me, I will open the gate to your love.
V. V. Raman
17.3 tótra chuDaroLiyái cholláda nuNNurvái
Who appears as such brilliant light, You grasps the most subtle unuttered things
oLiyái light, splendor
cholláda unspoken, unutterable
uNarvái you become aware of
When the poet refers again to the brilliance of the Divine he means the deepest
spiritual knowledge that is embodied in Divinity. But the Divine knows and
understands everything: Omniscience. The idea is that there is a spiritual
splendor that defines easy description, but whose effulgence may be regarded as
the subtlest of all that is subtle. And those who know it will not, indeed
cannot, speak about it. Lao Tse said, “Those who know, speak not; and those who
speak, know not,” he was note referring to our knowledge of physics or history,
but of spiritual truths and truths about God.
On the physical plane, for example, light is brilliant and emanates from the
brightest and the most massive objects in the universe. And yet, light itself is
the subtlest of all that is subtle. As physicists would say, photons do not
carry any mass. And yet they carry vast amounts of information. It is through
light that we come to know about the forms and shapes of things. Interacting
with the human sensory system, they add to our aesthetic dimensions as colors.
The nature of light itself is extremely complex, and is by no means obvious.
We humans try to fathom the essence of light through our instruments and
analyses. We also wonder about the origin of things and the future of our
universe. Scientists talk about these matters, philosophers argue about them,
our religions give us different accounts of origins and ends. But ultimately,
can we ever be sure of what we are talking about on questions about origins and
ends? Only the Divine, only spiritual awareness can know the real, the what and
why and how of existence. This realization is the highest humility. In other
words, what the poet is saying here is that the Divine alone understands the
essence of what this is all about, that Ultimate Truth is unimaginably subtle.
The Greek philosopher Xenophanes said, "No one has known pure truth, nor ever
shall." Our poet says this in more positive terms: That the Divine alone knows
it, indeed that the ultimate truth cannot even be articulated.
It is simply impossible to know through reason and logic the Divine in the way
we know atoms and molecules, the sun and the moon. For, as Blaise Pascal said,
“Human beings must be known to be loved; but Divine beings must be loved to be
17.4 Mátramám vaiyagattin vevvéRé vandu aRivám
As various changes in the world, and as knowledge too
mátramám changes, again and again
vaiyagattin on earth, in the world
aRivuám knowledge also
In this line (which is to be completed in the next) the poet is first referring
to the doctrine of re-birth. People do many things, and to reap the fruits of
their actions they are born again and again. The variety of reasons for which
people are born again is infinitely large.
Thus, not only is the phenomenon of the cycle of birth and death enormously
complex and mysterious, considerably more inscrutable are the particular causes
for the birth and death of billions of human beings. When we reflect on the
number (present and past) of human beings who have been coming and going this
way, the matter becomes yet another grand mystery in the larger scheme of
things. An incredibly powerful supercomputer is needed to store all the relevant
data on this.
The poet has already referred to the omnipresence of God, and to His
omnipotence as well. Now he is about to mention God's omniscience as well. It is
difficult to even imagine what omniscience signifies. Here we have an instance
of what that could be. It is no secret that by definition, God has all the
knowledge in the world. But before we think of this infinity, we should consider
the infinity of topics on which we could gather information. One of these is the
knowledge that each of us possesses. But our own knowledge, even about
ourselves, is extremely limited. We may remember some of our earlier years,
certainly not our infancy, and much less the hidden reasons which are
responsible for the current phase of our corporeal presence here on earth. Now
if we multiply this amount of information by the number of humans who have
lived, the variety and range and number of things and events become unimaginably
large. But all such knowledge, declares our poet here, is within the scope of
The thought of Divinity’s Infinity reminds us of Voltaire’s reflection:
“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or pure
consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging
finitude in infinity.”
V. V. Raman
18.1 tétrané tétra teLivé en chindaiyuL
O comforting one who brings clarity to mind!
tétrané oh, certain one! oh comforting one!
chindaiyuL in mind
The first word of this line goes with the last one of the previous line. Thus
it is aRivám tétrané which could mean, "oh the Knowledge-certain One!" That is
to say the Divine alone has all the definitive knowledge.
But the phrase tétram koDuppadu also means to bring comfort or consolation. In
this sense, the poet may be referring to the Lord whose invocation brings
comfort and calmness to the human heart.
Then again, the poet invokes God as the clarity of clarity. The absolutely
spotless nature of the Divine is what is lauded here. Sivajńánam is like the
crčme de la crčme of all wisdom.
There is, in many of the lines of the SivapuráNam, a beautiful blending of what
the Divine is and what a person who is awakened to that Divinity is. Certainty
of knowledge and clarity of mind are no doubt attributes of the Siva principle.
But a little of these are also reflected in the minds of those who have gained a
full awareness of Siva. Such individuals also posses certainty about the Siva
principle. Their deep conviction about the power and sanctity of Siva is strong
as a rock. Indeed we may extend this to all people of deep faith. They are not
perturbed by arguments and propaganda against their most profound faith in God.
Likewise, those who have experienced the Divine at the highest level can also
bring comfort to people. Indeed, this is the role of the religious leaders in
traditions. At the spiritual level, we all need to seek and find the experience,
each in one's own way. But when people are in personal anguish, in emotional
pain and confusion, the religiously enlightened can give them comfort and
solace: that is precisely what the poet says here about the Divine.
It has been said that “Certainty is the mother of quiet and repose, and
uncertainty the cause of variance and contentions.” This is certainly true of
deep faith in God, and the lack thereof.
V. V. Raman
January 2, 2012
18.2 útrána uNNáramudé uDaiyáné
O precious fount of ambrosia who has me!
útrána as a spring, fountain
amudé oh ambrosia
uDaiyáné of One who has (me)!
This line is connected to the previous one through the latter’s last two words.
Thus, it is en chindaiyil útrána that which is a fountain in my thoughts. The
thought of the Divine is like a perennial spring in the poet's mind: The idea is
that peaceful thoughts about the Divine are flowing spontaneously like waters
from a fountain. We may recall a similar metaphor from the poet Hennry Wadsworth
Longfellow’s Hymn to the Night where we read:
From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there, -
From those deep cisterns flow.
Those thoughts that flow in our poet's mind, he tells us, are like a divine
potion: immortalizing ambrosia. It is a drink that is not easy to get, says the
poet. It is a precious gift. Let it be noted that water from a spring is a
natural outpour. Once again, the poet expresses the feeling that these thoughts
for the Divine spring forth spontaneously in his mind. That Divine mystical
poetry enables us to a taste of ecstasy which is what immortality is all about.
Immortality is not never-dying permanence but a short-lived experience of
At the highest level the devotee of God gives himself up to the Divine. In the
modern world, slave is a bad word because a slave is bought and sold and owned
and exploited by other men. In the Hindu bhakti tradition, to become a slave
(dásan, aDimai) of God is the highest level of spiritual fulfillment. That is
why we have names like Rám Dás, Bhagvándás, etc. In the Islamic tradition too
the name Abdullah (abd or slave + Allah or God) simply means servant of God.
The bhakta says that everything that one has belongs to the Almighty,
including one's body and soul. This corresponds to what VaishNavas call
prapatti. This concept of complete surrender to the Divine, is one of the
things that Saivas and VaishNavas have in common.
We may note in passing that in ancient Babylonian myths, humans were created
literally as slaves to serve the gods Enki and Namma.
V. V. Raman
Edited by webmaster (January 26, 2012 03:24 PM)
#1491 - January 12, 2012 10:11 AM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
18.3 vétru vigára viDakku uDambin uLkiDappa
The different evils lying within the flesh of the body
vétru strange, different
uDambin of the body
There are two ways in which the human body is regarded in the spiritualist
tradition. One is to consider it sacred in as much as it is a temple where a
spark of the Divine resides for a time.
The other is to regard it as impure and unclean, because associated with it are
elements that are not conducive to spiritual growth. This line is a reference to
the latter aspect. The body is an instrument for pleasure and pain. The pleasure
is never pure. Sooner or later it leads to pain. Moreover, the pleasures that
the body give are impermanent. Sooner or later they become beyond reach of the
body, and then the body craves for it, leading to unhappiness.
The pleasures of the body create attachment, and attachment is the cause of
rebirth. The body’s role as an impediment to spiritual growth is expressed in
the New Testament as: "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
According to tradition, in the spiritual framework there are eight kinds of
evil (vigáranggaL). These are: kámam: desire; ulogam: worldliness; mókam: lust;
madam; mARcariyam; iDumbai: arrogance: 'PAy: envy. So when the poet says
speaks of the flesh that is encased in the body, he is referring to all the
evils that are associated with the human condition.
It may be pointed out that according to one school of early Christian writers
(Patristics) , the eight evils corrupting human beings are: Gluttony, lust.
Avarice, anger, sadness, restlessness, vainglory, and pride.
In this context, we may recall a verse by Sir Walter Raleigh:
Tell, zeal, it lacks devotion;
Tell love, it is but lust;
Tell time, it is but motion;
Tell flesh, it is but lust.
V. V. Raman
18.4 átrén em aiyá arané endru endru
I can't endure. Saying again and again, oh Lord, oh Siva
átrén I cannot bear
aiyá oh superior one!
arané oh Siva!
endru saying that
endru saying that
This line is a continuation of the previous one. It says in effect that the
poet cannot endure any more this physical body with its flesh and bones. He is
appealing to the Lord that human birth has no more interest for him, for in his
sivańánam, he has realized the inanity of worldly existence and its appeals.
This again is the heart-felt expression of a bhakta who has no more interest in
or longings for the petty and transient things that delude the vast majority of
people. So he pleads with God in terms that only true bhaktas can use.
In this line, the poet addresses God as aiyá. This is an important word in
Tamil. It is the vocative form (form of address) of the word aiyan, which means
an elder person, one for whom the addresser had great respect, even reverence.
It could also mean father, teacher, or simply, Sir.
Sometimes the word is also used to denote the deity aiyanár who, in the
mythopoesie of the tradition, is an offspring of Siva and VishNu.
The name Aiyar now refers to a member of the Brahmin caste. It could also mean
a man of wisdom. It does not have a feminine form. But in caste classification
of the Tamil world, Aiyar is a Brahmin sub-caste whose members are also Shaiva
Brahmins. Generally Aiyars have no problem entering VaishNava temples, but (it
used to be that) VaishNavas generally avoid Shaiva temples.
The word aran refers to Shiva. It is the Tamil version of the Sanskrit Haran.
One name for Shiva's consort Párvati is araniDattavaL She who is close to aran.
We may note that the revulsion of the physical body comes from the recognition
that it is capable of many evil and unhealthy things. This is not only in the
Hindu tradition but elsewhere too. Thus we read in the New Testament (Galatians
5:16-21): “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires
of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to
keep you from doing the things you want to do. …. Now the works of the flesh are
evident: lust, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife,
jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness,
orgies, and things like these.
V. V. Raman
18.5. pótri pugazndirundu poi keTTu meiyyánár
worshiped, lauded, untruth gone, truth became
pukazndirundu being lauded
poikeTTU untruth gone
The first word of this line is connected to the last words of the previous
line, and must read aiyá arané endru endru pótri, which is to say: Oh Lord, oh
Shiva, I have worshiped and lauded again and again. And now, at long lost, I
have been shorn of untruth, and have come to the Truth.
What is meant is that as a result of such persistent worship and constant
praising of the Lord, the poet has been transformed. He has been cleansed of
all the falsehoods that clouded his mind, and he has at last seen the radiance
that Truth is. This is a valid and effective mode of experiencing mystical
merger: to worship the Divine in submission, and repeat the epithet of God’s
multi-splendors again and again, until at last all of God's glory gets so deeply
etched that naught else is Truth anymore. Whether it is one of the various
sahasranamas in the Hindu tradition, of the rosary prayer of the Christian or the
japji of the Sikh, the repetition of God’s name is implicit in many religious
In this line, the poet also refers to an important principle in the psychology
of learning. When we think we are learning something, actually we are also
unlearning something else at the same time. We come to many subjects that we
wish to learn, not only with ignorance, but also with pre-conceived
misconceptions about the matter. So, even as we learn new things, our older
views and understandings slowly melt away. Unless untruth is exiled, truth
cannot come to the mind.
More specifically, by this line the poet may also be referring to other
theologies which have an impact on one's mind. Indeed, in any religious context,
we are faced with competing doctrines to which one might have succumbed or to
which one is drawn. So when one is fully grounded in one's faith, one suddenly
realizes that the doubts that troubled one's mind, as also one's inclinations
towards other belief systems, were all merely hollow, for now at last one is in
the full light of one own Truth.
The full merger into the vision of one’s tradition is the religious condition
of the true believer in all denominational faith-systems. Once we have been
transformed to a particular spiritual worldview, all else will seem meaningless
and false. This is both the strength and weakness of complete devotion to a
deity, cult, religion, or system of philosophy (secular, political, or
religious). The strength lies in the steadfastness of the faith and the
consequent spiritual fulfillment one experiences. The weakness is in its
potential for intolerance and devaluing of other faith traditions and
belief-systems. Only a few enlightened souls are immune from this weakness.
V. V. Raman
19.1 míTTing-gu vandu vinaippiRavi chárámé
coming again, may not my actions adhere
chárámé may it not adhere
We see in this line the reference to the karma doctrine again: Every
consequential action, whether the consequence will be good or bad, is bound to
result in rebirth. This is a powerful and essential framework in the Hindu
world. It not only explains all the apparent injustice in the world, but is also
at the theoretical base of renunciation, asceticism, and the like. By exerting
to sever all detachments, one roots out any craving, for it is expected that to
fulfill any craving which may be one's due as a result of a good action, one
will have to come back.
In this line the poet expresses his dislike for re-visiting the earth. Human
birth will again result in consequential actions which implies another birth,
and so on. So the prayer here is that these do not stick to his soul.
We note here an important aspect of the karma framework which is seldom stated
explicitly. Though it is a law to which we are all subject, there is a mode of
escaping it: By genuine devotion and heart-felt prayer. The idea is that
appealing to the Supreme principle with the most genuine supplications, it is
possible to be relieved of the never-ending chain. Indeed, this is one of the
unstated reasons for daily prayer. For in chanting the prayer the devotee is
directing the thoughts to the Divine, and by this means one rids oneself of some
of the re-birth generating loads that we all accumulate in the course of our
In this sense, one may be relieved from the cycle of birth-rebirth by God's
mercy. In the phrase of Shakespeare, such mercy "droppeth as the gentle rain
from heaven upon the place beneath." In this context we are also reminded of
the lines of William Wordsworth who wrote:
Sweet Mercy! To the gates of Heaven
This minstrel lead, his sins forgiven….
And memory of Earth's bitter leaven
Effaced for ever.
V. V. Raman
19.2 kaLLap pulak kurumbaik kaTTazikka valláné
Bind and destroy this deceiving sensory body
valláné oh mighty one!
The body with its senses is deceitful, says the poet. This has not only a
statement of philosophical significance, but also scientific validity. The
senses enable us to experience many things, but only in distorted ways. Much of
what our senses create are really not there in the physical world. There is
neither color nor smell nor taste nor sound, but only waves and particles which
are perceived as different sensations by the body. Our sensory faculties map an
experiential reality that has a correspondence with physical reality. But most
often we identify this experienced reality with the external physical reality.
We are reminded here of Immanuel Kant’s distinction between the noumenon and the
Furthermore, there are also illusions created by our senses. There seems to be
nothing between us and the clouds, but there is, in fact, the invisible
atmosphere consisting of vast amounts of oxygen and hydrogen and other gases.
The sun seems to rise and set, which it really does not. The moon seems to wax
and wane, but it really does not. We can go on and on. Albert Einstein put it
succinctly: “Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one”
More seriously, the body deceives us in two other ways: By making us think that
all the pleasures we experience are ever-lasting. The impermanence of worldly
enjoyments is what make them not real at all, for reality, for the spiritual
aspirant, never decays or dies. Moreover, by drawing us to all the petty
pleasures, they also sow the seeds for re-birth. So we are bound by the ropes of
physical experiences for which we crave because of our sensory faculties. Having
realized all this, he poet feels that he has had enough of this terrestrial
That is why he is praying for this bondage to be cut off so that he would never
again be reborn. We are reminded of Arthur Schopenhauer’s reflection: “How very
paltry and limited the normal human intellect is, and how little lucidity there
is in the human consciousness, may be judged from the fact that, despite the
ephemeral brevity of human life, the uncertainty of our existence and the
countless enigmas which press upon us from all sides, everyone does not
continually and ceaselessly philosophize, but that only the rarest of exceptions
19.3 naLLiravil naTTam payindráDum nádané
Oh Lord, who is in a (cosmic) dance at midnight!
iravil at night
nádané oh Lord!
The poet’s reference to mid-night reminds one of the comment by Antoine St.
Exupéry: “Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive
analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound
again. When man reassembles his fragmentary self and grows with the calm of a
In this line we find an explicit reference to the magnificent NaTarájá of holy
Chidambaram. In simple English, Nataraja means king of dance, the Dancing
Divine. But this phrase hardly conveys the spiritual power and the esoteric
significance of this most important symbol in the Hindu world.
In the Hindu spiritual framework the Siva principle is engaged in the cosmic
dance at the moment of dissolution of one eon and the creation of the next.
Hence the dance at midnight which is the boundary point between two days.
Creation and dissolution are dynamic processes, involving action and energy, and
there are cosmic vibrations when they occur. There is also universal joy when
the universe ceases, only to be born again. That is the significance of the
dance which is rhythmic energy.
The physical world is sustained by countless elementary particles at the
sub-nuclear level. These particles come and go, i.e. they are incessantly
created and annihilated in accordance with certain fundamental principles. The
Dance of Siva may also be interpreted as reflecting those basic episodes in the
microcosm that are invisible to us, but which have been revealed to be at the
root of physical reality.
So when the poet invokes Nataraja, he is essentially expressing his recognition
of the deep-down Reality that keeps this universe functioning. For there can be
no world, no universe, no matter and no energy without the unseen and
unfathomable principle that is at the core of it all. In the course of our daily
chores, we rarely even think of the deeper truths about being and becoming. It
is the recognition of that ultimate core through spiritual and poetic visions
that constitutes spiritual realization.
As Ananda Coomaraswami wrote in his The Dance of Shiva, Nataraja is the
"clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of… A
more fluid and energetic representation of a moving figure than the dancing
figure of Shiva can scarcely be found anywhere."
V. V. Raman
#1494 - January 22, 2012 03:47 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
19.4 tillaiyuL kúttóne ten páNDi náTTáné
Oh Dancer in Tillai of the PáNDya realm!
tillaiyuL in Tillai
náTTáné Oh One of the Country/Kingdom
A little familiarity with geography and history is necessary for understanding
this line. First, Tillai is another name for the pilgrimage town which is also
known as Chidambaram. The town is also known by other names, such as Kóyil and
PuNDaríkapuram. It is here the famed Temple of Nataraja is located. This temple
is regarded as one of the most sacred shrines in the Tamil world. Here is the
famous Chitsabha where, as per sacred history, the Cosmic Dance of Nataraja
actually occurred. In this temple may be found sculptures of various canonical
poses of the Bharata Nátyam, the traditional dance of Tamil India, as well as
icons of the sixty three Náyanmárs who are the pillars of the Tamil Saiva
In pure Tamil, kúttu means dance. Thus kúttan is a dancer. This is an epithet
for Lord Shiva.
The PáNDiyá kingdom was one of the three major kingdoms that covered the Tamil
land in distant times, the Chéra and the Chóza being the other two. It was
ancient enough to have been known to Megasthenes and Ashoka before the Common
Era, and to Pliny and Ptolemy in the first century of the Common Era.
Archeologists have unearthed Roman coins there, showing there was trade with
Rome. At one time, the three kingdoms were attacked by a certain Achchuda
KaLappan. At the time, the kings of these three kingdoms are said to have met in
Ten Tillai Southern Tillai or Chidambaram. The PáNDiyá kings gained full
control in the sixth century.
The fact that NaTarája is associated with Tillai is what makes the poet refer
to Siva as of the Southern Tillai country, which is like referring to Christ as
Jesus of Nazareth, with this difference that whereas Christ is a historical
figure geographically located, Siva is is a cosmic transcendental figure who can
be located only in sacred history.
More importantly, this line is a reference to the fact that the poet received
his inspiration and mystical experience in this part of the world. It is
somewhat like referring to Our Lady of Fatima or of Lourdes because it in those
places there had been visions of Mary.
19.5 allaR piRavi aRuppaanE OvenRu
The Supreme One who cuts off evil birth.
allal - evil
piRavi - birth
aRuppáné - Who cuts off
O - Superior One
Again and again, we see the poet revert to this basic theme: That the Siva principle cuts off the chain of birth and death. Indeed, as explained in the introduction, this is a central tenet of Saiva sidhántam: the pásam or rope that are binding the pasu (creatures) is cut off by pati the Siva principle.
What this means is that Divine grace can release us from the cycle of birth and death. And this leads to merger with Brahman which is equivalent to what, in some other religious frameworks, is described as going to heaven. The metaphor of a rope as a binding force that chains us to the world of ephemeral reality is interesting: When an animal is tied to a rope it can move here and there around the pole to which it is bound, but never break away from the confinement. Within the confines it feels as if it is free. Likewise, when we are in the cycle of birth and rebirth we feel as if we are free in the course of our lives. When the rope is cut, the creature is set free. This is equally true in the case of the enchained soul.
In a way we may draw a parallel between this and the Christian notion of Christ being the Savior. The Savior is one who redeems us from all our sins, and we are thus redeemed, we become eligible for the celestial abode. We read in the Book of Job: "I know that my redeemer liveth." For ultimately what matters is the freedom one gets when the constraints of being human are removed.
The point is, with all its charms and passing pleasures, terrestrial life is not the ideal state for the human soul, for two reasons: First it is always associated with pain and suffering. Second, in its embodied state it does not fully understand, appreciate, or experience the ecstasy that comes from merger with the Cosmic Whole.
This eagerness to end life may sound too pessimistic from non-spiritual perspectives. If we hold the conviction that a release would take us to infinite bliss, then it is not pessimistic but positively optimistic, for there is the conviction that all the sufferings concomitant with physical life will cease to be, and that we will be trading in the petty pleasures (chitrinbam) for something far more significant and precious. It is like the difference between a child accustomed to its toys and that of an adult whose experience of life is at a higher level.
Another way of looking at the notion of Siva as being the reliever of the birth-death cycle is by invoking Siva's role as a member of the trimúrti: which is to dissolve the universe after the completion of a kalpa: a full Bráhmic day which lasts for more than eight billion years. The samsára cycle is ended by that act of Siva's Cosmic conflagration also.
20.1 endru chollaR kariyánaic chollit tiruvaDikkíz
One whom words can't speak of, under His holy feet
endru thus, that
cholliRku for saying
ariyánai the difficult one
Even great poets have recognized the inadequacy of words for conveying the
deepest feelings and experiences. Tennyson wrote:
My words are only words, and moved
Upon the topmost froth of thought.
And when one tries to describe God in words, how ineffective they can be. As
John Milton put it,
To resound almighty works
What words or tongue of seraph can suffice?
That is why many great mystics and visionaries of the world have often declared
that the spiritual experience is ineffable. That is why they have compared it to
sweetness and fragrance that cannot be adequately described in words.
And yet, that is precisely what great poets and visionary try to do. They make
every effort to put in words their most profound intuitions about the Divine. We
may ask, Why do they do that? It is for the benefit of those who have not had
such experiences. By their writings the seers and saints are conveying to the
rest of us an inkling of what they themselves have experienced. Like photographs
taken by a traveling member of the family, they share it with the rest of us.
The pictures are never more than a fraction of what the travelers experiences,
but at least they give the non-traveler some idea of what it was all about. But
having done that, the poet, in the gesture of a true bhakta, falls prostrate at
the feet of the Divine.
As noted earlier, respect and reverence to gods and elders are shown by touching
their feet. Hence the Divine is sometimes involved in terms of the holy feet. We
may recall the words of St. Therese of Lisieux: “What a joy it was for me to
throw flowers beneath the feet of God!”
20.2 cholliya paattin poruLuNarn^dhu cholluvaar
Who understand and recite the uttered hymns
Cholliya - the said (recited)
páTTin - of the song (verse)
poruL - meaning, inner essence
uNarndu - understanding
cholluvár - they say (recite)
The hymns of a tradition may be approached from three perspectives:
The first way is to listen to them when they are properly chanted with the appropriate rhythms. In this day and age, thanks to audio technologies, we are able to do this in many ways. In earlier times, we had to be in the presence of trained gurus for this. The second way is to recite them oneself with deep devotion. Neither of these modes calls for an understanding, superficial or deep, of what is being recited. As a swamiji once said in a lecture, “Monks living in the forests of the Himalayas chant OM or sing something else and play upon a musical instrument. Many times snakes, deer, and wild beasts of the forests leave their places and come up to the side of the monks. Now, these wild animals understand nothing of the laws of music, nothing of the chanting of DM. still the effect is there. If the mere sound produces such a marvelous effect upon snakes and deer, cannot the mere sound chanted continually in the right time produce an effect in your life?”
In fact, it is through such sonic repetitions that religious traditions have been maintained during countless generations. Repetitions by the devout, more than its exposition by scholars, is what makes the sacred works of traditions everlasting.
However, the inner meanings of the verses chanted are seldom clear to the average follower of the tradition. Even their literal meanings are not always easy to understand when they are expressed in sophisticated language, and that too with ancient words and allusions. In order to derive full benefit from such works we need people who not only understand the abstruse passages, but also their inner meanings. They sometimes interpret the chants to the lay people. These are the people who preserve the meaning and message of the works over the centuries.
We note that the poet says uNarndu cholluvár. The first word here means not just understanding, but understanding with feeling, and important concept in the religious context. The poet is suggesting that the reciter of spiritual poetry should not only understand what is recited in its literal and deeper meanings, but should also fully internalize and realize what it is all about. When it is chanted thus, it carries much more weight than when something uttered through rote learning.
However, it must be remembered that there is another way of approaching these works: That is in the framework of scholarship. Here the exponent of the wisdom and the reader may not necessarily be spiritual aspirants. When one delves into the work as a detached student, one regards it as the expression of a mystic genius whose work is a precious legacy of humanity’s culture. Such a scholar has no fervor or commitment to any particular sect or school of thought. For such a one, whatever is best in the human spirit deserves respect and reverence, from no matter which culture or tradition it emanates.
20.3 chelvar sivapurattinuLLAr sivanaDikkEz
The fortunate ones in Siva's realm who are under his feet
chelvar happy/fortunate persons
siva (of) Siva
puRattin in the city
sivan (f) Lord Siva
In the last line the poet mentioned people who fully understand and recite the
hymns of Siva. Here he says that such people will come to reside in the
Sivapuram or the realm of Siva. There are two ways of interpreting this line:
A literal interpretation could be that such souls will eventually attain, to
use the phrase of another tradition, the Kingdom of God. Indeed, such a heaven,
in the words of Shakespeare, is "the treasury of everlasting joy." It is a place
where, in the words of another poet, there is a "whole eternity of love, form'd
for the good alone."
Another interpretation could be that those who fully internalize the
significance of this hymnal wisdom will discover an inner peace that is more
fulfilling that any other satisfaction. To say that in such a state they will be
under the feet of the Divine simple means that they will be governed by Divine
visions and values, by the knowledge that all people are children of the same
Divinity. In this recognition, they will feel love and compassion towards all
fellow beings. This is because our mental and spiritual wellbeing is largely a
function of what we think and feel deep in our mind and heart.
Irrespective of the kinds of heaven that may be there in the unknown beyond,
there is a heaven well within our reach during our sojourn on earth. The
Sivapuranam, like all other sacred works of humanity, is a route by which we may
experience that earthly heaven, besides ensuring a passage to another heaven
elsewhere at another phase of our continuance in the cosmos.
Note that the poet refers to those people as the fortunate ones. This is because
in his framework it is through Gods grace that one arrives at it. He draws this
conclusion from his own personal experience. He did not do penance or go in
search of God, but came upon the revelation almost by chance: He received grace.
Indeed, each and every one of us has received any number of gifts in life, large
or small, without our asking. All our in-born positive qualities and
capabilities are of this kind. They may therefore appropriately be called grace.
20.4 pallóru méttap paNindu
Many, lauding him in reverential bow.
pallórum many people
paNindu bowing in reverence
The work ends appropriately with a praising reverential bow, for that is what
worship of God ultimately is. Worship is not only the recognition, but also the
recalling of God's greatness from the sacred history of the tradition, and the
extolling of God’s glory. A hymn, says a dictionary, is "a song of praise,
adoration, thanksgiving, etc., especially one sung at a religious service." In
this sense the SivapuráNam is a hymn. For it is also sung in temples in
religious services. In keeping with the observation of George Herbert's
"The fineness which a hymn of psalm affords
Is when the soul unto the lines accords,"
the SivapuráNam is truly a hymn, or, as one would say in Tamil, this is a
However, there is more than praise, poetry, and piety in this work. The saint
has revealed to us many aspects of the Siva principle, he has recalled for us
the worldview of Saivasiddhántam, and he has shown us how Sivabhakti can express
itself through the voice of a poet.
The worshipper is not content with silent meditation. Except in its highest
state, silent meditation on the abstract does not result in the kind of ecstasy
that heart-felt chanting of God's names and attributes often provides. There is
no limit to those attributes, offering the worshiper unlimited opportunities for
explicitly mentioning them. But it is the poet and the devotional saint who
articulate these in ways by which ordinary folk can recite and repeat them. But
without composers, inspired poets, and mystics, there would be no hymns or
chants, no shlokas and stotras in any tradition which common people
periodically chant, whether at home or in temples. Then too, if we sing God's
glories, we should also do so with great humility. Humility comes from the
recognition, not simply of one's own finiteness, but also of the possible
virtues and greatness of others compared to oneself. Nowhere does it become more
appropriate than in the presence of the Almighty. After all, there is no room
for those who imagine themselves as high and mighty to be anywhere near that
which High and Mighty is already.
The concluding line reminds us that the many who reverentially bow to the Devine
with attain every spiritual benefit. Herein lies the value of chanting religious
Here end my reflections on Sivapuranam.
V. V. Raman
January 19, 2011
Edited by Pathmarajah (July 06, 2013 02:39 PM)
#1495 - January 22, 2012 03:49 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: February 07, 2010
Sivapuranam: Post Script
We have seen line by translations of the mystical outpourings of a great Shaiva
poet of India. For the ardent Shaiva this work is not only sacred, but also
important as part of the canonical literature of the Tamil tradition. For
others, whether Tamil or Shiva devotee, whether Hindu or other, this work can
still be impressive, inspiring, and beautiful in that it reveals the deepest
devotion of a saintly personage who was blessed with the gift of composing
Traditional lore has many stories about this remarkable genius who is said to
have been born in a little known village called Vadavúr. He is said to have been
in the service of a Pandiyan king when still a very young man. He was sent on a
mission to purchase some steed from a neighboring realm. Legend has it that en
route, he heard the chant of Shiva’s name and was irresistibly drawn to it. He
came upon a saintly person who blessed him and instructed him to build a temple
for Lord Shiva. Then this person promptly disappeared. The man from Vadavúr
uttered the pentasyllabic na-ma-si-vá-ya and composed the entire Tiruvácakam. He
was given the honorific of Mánikka-vásakar: one whose words are precious as
The poet paid his homage to Lord Shiva in many sacred temples, and finally
reached the great temple of Nataraja in Chidambaram where, it is said, his
manuscript bore the seal of Lord Shiva Himself.
Mystic poets are not mere versifiers. They utter from the depths of their hearts
the sublime experiences they have had, not through reading or reflection, but by
listening to an inner voice that others cannot hear. Their poetry is like the
report of a traveler to a distant land, a realm that is beyond our reach. The
poet William Blake said: “The man who never in his mind and thoughts travel'd to
heaven is no artist.” The statement is equally true if we replace the word
artist by mystic poet.
We do not know when Manikkásakar lived, though we have ample incredible tales
associated with his name. Perhaps this is because in the tradition literary
masterpieces and sacred works are to be valued for their intrinsic worth, merit
and value, rather than for their authors. Their works are so superhuman it is
appropriate to view them in miraculous terms. Like God, the author of the
universe, many great creators in the tradition are recognized only vaguely
through second-hand sayings.
So, no matter who he was, where he lived or when, we celebrate that great soul
who has left for generations to come this work we have been reading and
reflecting upon in this series.
Now that you have the entire work spelled out line by line, you may enjoy
listening to Sivapuranam by clicking on one of the many You-tube versions of it.
I thank all my readers who accompanied me on this journey.
V. V. Raman
January 20, 2012
#1497 - January 28, 2012 07:57 PM
Re: Sivapuranam by Saint Manickavasagar
Registered: July 22, 2004
The Sivapuranam is the first hymn of the 51 hymn Tiruvacakam, a volume of Tamil hymns composed in the ninth century by the Saiva bakti poet Manikkavasagar in Tiruperunturai, Tamilnadu. It is considered the first of the saints's hymns and constitutes the eighth volume of the Tirumurai, the sacred anthology of Saiva Siddhanta. The sacred mystic poetry glorifies God Siva in metered verses and reveals their character, aspirations and culture of the Tamil people. Among the finest of Hindu shastras, the Sivapuranam deals with the fndamental principles of Hinduism and is a complete shastra by itself.
A famous tamil saying is, "those who do not melt for Thiruvasagam will never melt for any other."
"The hymns are recited daily in all the great Saiva temples of South India, are on every one's lips and are as dear to the vast multitudes of excellent people there, as the Psalms of David are to Jews and Christians." - George U. Pope
"The following works of art and literature are among the most remarkable contributions of the Tamil creative genius to the world's cultural treasure and should be familiar to the whole world and admired and beloved by all in the same way as the poems of Homer, the dramas of Shakespeare, the pictures of Rembrandt, the cathedrals of France and the sculptures of Greece :....The school of Bhakti ... Saiva, which is one of those most sincere and passionate efforts of man to grasp the Absolute; and its supreme literary expression in the works of Manikkavasagar..." Tamil Contribution to World Civilisation - Professor Dr. Kamil Zvelebil in Tamil Culture - Vol. V, No. 4. October, 1956).
I have been chanting this hymn for 40 years and yet there is so much more meanings to it that I discovered after reading these commentaries. In capsulised form it contains some of the basic precepts of the Saiva Siddhanta philosophy. I have read quite a variety and number of sanskrit and tamil hymns including Tulsidas, and if I am asked which is the single greatest hymn in all of Hindu scriptures, I would say it is the Sivapuranam, followed by the Sri Rudram of the Yajur Veda.
There are few translations and commentaries of the Sivapuranam available in english and having read them all, I have no hesitation to say that this translation and commentary is the most in depth, comprehensive and the best!
Dr. V.V. Raman, the recipient of the Raja Rao Award (2006), is a multifaceted personality. He is a philosopher, physicist, writer, and author of original work in each of those categories. His doctoral work in Paris, carried out in the medium of the French language under the supervision of the Nobel laureate Louis de Broglie, was in theoretical physics, specifically on the mathematical underpinning of quantum mechanics.
He is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Humanities at the Rochester Institute of Technology; Senior Fellow, Metanexus Institute. An expert on Hindu culture and religion, he has written on the historical, social, and philosophical aspects of physics/science, as well as on India's heritage, and has authored eight books including Scientific Perspectives, Glimpses of Ancient Science and Scientists, Variety in Religion and Science, and Variety in Science History. He has been hailed as an Acharya, Religious Teacher, by a Hindu organisation.
Having known Dr. Raman through his earlier writings and reviewing this work where he compares Manickavasagar's spiritual outpourings with other philosophical systems, poets, thinkers and western literature, I have no hesitation in saying he is one of the greatest living Hindu scholars, well versed in tamil, sanskrit and fifteen other languages.
The book is an invaluable contribution to Shaivism, Hinduism and to the english speaking world. I would place this book at the forefront of all books on Hinduism in english.
Spiritual awakenings are among the most worth searching in life. And in this book we have one such quest.
Hindu writer, teacher, activist.
26th January 2012