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 Thirumanitram:
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 beings.
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 easily.
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 proud,
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 sight,
But the Mystic´s eye pierces through the Elements and gets at - God.
They are fools who say: Control the five senses,
Even among the Immortals, none there is who can do so.
Lest, by controlling the senses I become inanimate,
I acquired the Wisdom enabling me not to struggle with sense-control.
But that does not relieve the misery of a living being;
Instead, do something to relieve that misery,
That reaches, for sure, the deity of the temple.
Once I thought the body was something vulgar and mean,
But now I know that inside the body and only through it,
Can I behold the Absolute.
What bliss I experienced, let the whole universe get it,
The sky-high Word of the Scriptures, if revealed,
This resident of the body, let it cognize;
The more it gets to it the more the enlightenment.
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 myself.
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 Temple;
For the enshrined Divinity, the Word is the Gate.
For the discerning Mind the Soul is the Blessed God;
Disguised by the Light of the five Senses mischievous.
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.