Thirumantram, an outlook
Perhaps one of the greatest mystics that India has
produced in its long history belong to the Tamil region. The work
was done by Thirumular, a great saint, who is traditionally
allotted a date of 3000 B.C. but is assigned to the period
between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D. by scholars. His
original name was Sundarar who lived as an enlightened ascetic
right at the feet of the Lord Siva in His heavenly abode in
Kailas, beyond the Himalayas. His contribution to posterity is
the great work Thirumantiram, consisting of 3000 verses, given
out by him spontaneously when he came back to consciousness from
his trance. The beauty of it is that he came back to
consciousness only once a year! Legend has it that Thirumular
would sit in samadhi for a full year without moving, and at the
end of the year he would break his meditation long enough to
write down a single Tamil verse giving the substance of his
unfoldments that year.
This may not be accurate by the calendar, but it is
true to the spirit and quality of the Tirumantiram. It is without
a doubt the most complete and authoritative scripture ever
written. It is a document upon which the entire religion could
stand if needed, for it is a summary and compilation of all that
Saivite Hinduism contains and is an inspired revelation of the
original Saiva Siddhanta. Thirumular was the first rishi to speak
out the truths of Saiva Siddhanta, and perhaps no one before or
since his time has been qualified to understand all the
Tirumantiram says, much less to improve upon it. It is that
perfect and that complete.
Thirumantiram contains a synthesis of all knowledge
right from the Upanishadic times down to the then-modern days of
devotional revival, goes through all the maze and mystery of yoga
and tantra, contains very strong criticisms of ritualistic
idolatry, pours out forthright condemnations of external
gymnastics of occult practices, and expounds the esoteric
significance of almost every kind of ritual and tradition. It is
profound to the core, set in simple and cryptic style. The
lilting Tamil in most of the verses can be enjoyed if you know
the language. Like the Upanishads it admits of several meanings
at the same time. The massiveness of the whole work does not
admit of any justifiable summary. However, here are just a few
samples, too tiny a selection to be representative of the massive
work but still they can give the brilliance of the gem that is
known as Thirumantiram:
Here now are a few quotes from the
Of yore He created the worlds seven,
Of yore He created celestials countless,
Of yore He created souls without number,
Of yore He created all - Himself,
as Primal Param, uncreated.
The Primal One created the elements five.
The Primal One created the endless eons past.
The Primal Once created the countless heavenly
The Primal One created and sustained as well.
It takes a bit of meditation to understand the
Tirumantiram because you have to know your occultism and
scriptures to catch the meaning. It's all in rhyme and in
code - when the Five become Six and the Seven become Twelve and
so on, all talking about the petals of the chakras and the
Siddhanta philosophy. For this part of the translation we had to
hire brahmin priests and shastris from various parts of South
India to help in translating some of these deeper, more esoteric
tantras about the kundalini and all. Here are a few more verses
for your meditations:
Body the gambling board,
Five are the dice,
Three are the channels,
Fifty-one the squares;
Thus the Jivas play the game.
He who leads them to it,
The mystery of His play,
I know not.
A rare Ruby - He is easy of reach.
The One Lord - He is easy of love.
He is the Light within Brahma, the Creator;
And now I know why the Creator does it so
If this body comes to harm,
There is One to fashion another.
If this land to destruction goes,
There is another land for people to inhabit.
If this house to pieces falls,
There is another house to dwell within.
Thus do their thoughts run, unconcerned,
Those who know of Siva's bounty.
The child played ecstatic with his elephant
He cared not it was made of wood,
Unplayful Man beheld but a lump of wood,
He missed, alas! The elephant´s form;
Even so, the Elements hide the Real from our
But the Mystic´s eye pierces through the
Elements and gets at - God.
They are fools who say: Control the five
Even among the Immortals, none there is who can do
Lest, by controlling the senses I become
I acquired the Wisdom enabling me not to struggle
In plenty do give to the deity housed in a temple,
But that does not relieve the misery of a living
Instead, do something to relieve that misery,
That reaches, for sure, the deity of the
Once I thought the body was something vulgar and
But now I know that inside the body and only
Can I behold the Absolute.
What bliss I experienced, let the whole universe
The sky-high Word of the Scriptures, if
This resident of the body, let it cognize;
The more it gets to it the more the
I looked and searched for two things;
One was myself and the other was my self.
Maybe myself was not different from my self,
The Self within me told me so; and that
Was how I got rid of the memory of me and
Do good to others, all honours are thine;
The Divinity above will reward you for sure.
Alas, innumerable are those that know not
This simple path to the Divine;
And they slip down, ever and ever.
For the Sanctum of the heart the body is the
For the enshrined Divinity, the Word is the
For the discerning Mind the Soul is the Blessed
Disguised by the Light of the five Senses
These esoteric verses are understandable if you
learn how to study them and meditate within yourself. They are
important because they tell about what our religion believes
about inner, spiritual matters - about the soul and the world and
their relationship to Siva.
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