Monday, 26 October 2015

Tirumantiram – A great treatise on Lord Shiva and Saivism by Siddhar(Saint) Tirumular

Tirumantiram is the tenth of the twelve Tirumurai or “Holy Books.” The Tirumurai are collected works in the Tamil language written by various Saivite saints. They are considered to be the foundational work of Saivism and contains all forms of spiritual expression from the advaitic principles of non-dualism and Self-Realization to devotional praises to Lord Siva.
The title of the scripture may be best understood with the help of a few words read from the Introduction: “Tiru in Tamil means ‘holy.’ The word mantiram (from the Sanskrit mantra) is used in two senses, general and specific. In the general sense it conveys the meaning of devotional prayer composed in special words. In the special sense a mantra is that which is composed of certain letters arranged in a definite sequence of sounds of which the letters are the representative signs. Tirumular uses the word ‘mantra’ in both senses.
Structurally, the Tirumantiram is comprised of nine tantras-books and a preface. Each tantra covers a different aspect of the Saivite path. The Proem or Preface commences with an invocation to Lord Ganesha in the traditional manner and offers an overview of the work. Brief summary of each Tantra is given below
The First Tantra begins with a synopsis of all that is to follow in the Saint’s composition. The topics it covers include: transitory nature of body, of wealth, youth and life. Also it covers nonviolence towards all living beings, code of conduct for rulers, glory of charity.
The Second Tantra deals with the mythology of the Deities, with the cosmology of Hinduism, how the world was created, is sustained and will be destroyed, and of the categories of soul. It also explains the allegorical meanings of some of the important Saivite mythological stories and then delves into such theological matters as the five powers of Siva and the three classifications of souls.
The Third Tantra explores the mystical science of yoga, yama and niyama, pranayama, asana, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses within, dharana or concentration, dhyana or meditation and Samadhi or Self-Realization.
The Fourth Tantra is a highly esoteric work on mantras and yantras.He explains how to draw certain yantras, including the Tiru Ambala Chakram (the “circle of Chidambaram”).
The Fifth Tantra is a very special one. It gives a resume of the essential features of the Saivite religion. This includes the four forms of Saivism, the four stages, the four relationships the soul has with God, the four realizations attainable and the four aspects of the Descent of Grace. It ends with a delineation of unorthodox paths, conduct to be avoided, and an affirmation of approved margas or religious paths.
The Sixth Tantra covers a variety of aspects of Saivism covers areas like the Siva Guru, attainment of Grace, renunciation, the signs of sin, penance, jnana and Siva darshan in people, and a description of worthy and unworthy persons.
The Seventh Tantra is a treatise on some advanced and highly technical aspects of Saivism. It is partly written as an exposition of Tirumular’s own realizations. It discusses the Lingam, Grace and corresponding attainments, mudras, control of ida and pingala nadis, worlds reached by different classes of yogis on death, and the Sat Guru.
The Eighth Tantra covers many of the important theological elements of Siddhanta and is certainly one of the most inspiring. Among the concepts presented are expositions of: the five sheaths (bodies), the eleven avasthais (states), the three padarthas (pati, pasu and pasam), and how they are essentially one, the 36 tattvas and their elaboration into 96 tattvas, the four states (waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and turiyam or the “fourth,”) and Turiyateetam or the “state beyond the fourth,”  advaitic realization where the soul becomes Sivam leaving behind the tattvas, malas and all avastais, the true Siddhanta where knower, known and knowledge become one, the affirmation of Siddhanta and Vedanta as the same, the three gunas, the dasa-karanas, and the extinguishing of desire as a necessity for Realization.
The Ninth Tantra is essentially a description of the fruits of realization. This includes an account of the attainment of akasa, the budding up of knowledge, the bliss of true knowledge, the state of liberation, and the Samadhi of Silence. It also contains descriptions of Siva’s various dances, the ashram of the Guru and the meeting of the Guru. These nine tantras end with hymns of praise to Lord Shiva and a description of Siva’s all-pervading nature.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Vaimoornathar Shiva Temple, Thiruvaimur

This temple located in Tiruvaimur, Tamil Nadu is one of the saptha vidangam (seven forms of dance of Siva) temples. The temple is famous for the dance pose Kamala Natanam – Dance like lotus that moves in a breeze- Nallavidangar. Lord Surya (Sun God) is believed to have worshipped in this temple. This is also a Paadal Petra Sthalam, both Appar and Thiru Gnanasambandar have sung about the Lord in this temple.

The temple priest was very good and he explained about the temple with sincere devotion, he also beautifully sang the Devaram hymn pertaining to this temple. Temple history - when Appar was staying at Vedaranyam, Lord Siva appeared to him in his dream and prompted to visit this temple. Appar followed the route indication as appeared in the dream and was able to reach this temple, when he reached the temple he could not find the Siva Linga and Lord Ganesha led him to the correct place inside the temple. There is an idol of Ganesh with His trunk pointing to the direction of the Lord Siva. Sambandar who was also staying at Vedaranyam eventually followed Appar to this temple. Both Appar and Sambandar were blessed by Lord Shiva by revealing his resplendent divine form in this temple. Also the Bhairavar worship here is a significant one, there is a separate Bhaivar temple inside the temple (currently there are 4 Bhairavar statues). Another significant feature of this temple is that Navaragrahas are lined up in a row as against the usual form of square layout.

Ettukudi Murugan temple is a very popular Lord Murugan temple which is at about 2 kms from here. Another Paadal Petra Sthalam - Thirukuvalai can also be reached within 3 kms from this temple.

Lord Siva:  Vaimoornathar

Ambal (Goddess): Paalinum nanmozhiammai

How to reach

This temple is located at about 25 kms from Thiruvarur on the Thiruvarur-Thalaignayiru-Vedaranyam road.It can also be accessed from Nagapattinam-Thiruthuraipoondi road, we need to reach Ettukudi and from there is about 2 kms. I travelled by car from Vedaranyam, took the ThalaiGnayiru road and crossed the Nagapattinam ECR

Temple Legend

Muchukunda Chakravarthi was a great and valorous Chola king. He was once approached by Indra for help during the war between Devas and Asuras. Muchukunda gladly agreed to help the lord of the Devas, and joined in the war. Finally, with Muchukunda’s aid, the Devas succeeded in routing the Asuras, and Indra was extremely grateful to the king. He offered the king a gift of his choice, and Muchukunda, a devout man, asked for the Thyagarajar moorthi worshipped by Indra. Indra was perplexed by this request as  He did not want to part off with his precious moorthi, but the king wouldn’t accept anything else. He finally decided on a deception, so he ordered to make six similar moorthis and asked Muchukunda to find out the one he wanted. Muchukunda was a smart king, and prayed to Shiva to identify the correct one and found the original moorthi. So Indra gave him all the seven moorthis to Muchukunda. Muchukunda kept those moorthis in seven temples which are called Saptha (seven) Vidanga temples.

Muchukunda returned to earth with the seven Thyagarajar moorthis and installed them at various places in his kingdom. The original one he kept at the temple at Thiruvarur, and the others at Thirunallar, Vedaranyam, Thiruvaimur, Thrirukaravasal, Thirukkuvalai and Nagapattinam. These seven temples are collectively known as Saptha Vidanga Sthalams. Vidanga means something that has not been chiseled out. These seven Thyagarajar moorthi are believed to be divine – not made by chisels.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Shanti Parva – Not So Popular Chapter of Mahabharata

When it comes to Mahabharata, most of the people would have studied or heard about the epic up until the end of the Great War at Kurushetra resulting in extinction of Kauravas and victory for Pandavas. But there is a great deal of story after the end of the war, Shanti Parva is one of the Parva (chapter) that deals with post war scenario. In fact it is the longest parva of all the 18 parvas of the epic.

Bheeshma falls to Arjuna’s arrows on the 10th day of the war; although deeply stuck by arrows throughout his body, Bheeshma decides to prolong his life for some more days by virtue of a boon he has received from his father which gave him the power to choose his time of death.
Once the war is over, Lord Krishna advises Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas to get enlightenment from their wise grandsire Bheeshma before he passes out. Yudhishthira and his brothers meet Bheeshma and reverentially request him to guide them. Bheeshma always loved the Pandavas because of their righteousness and eagerly started his discourse to Yudhisthira on subjects covering duties and responsibilities of a king, dharma, good governance, philosophy and political science. The entire Shanti Parva contains lot of fables to illustrate the principles.

This chapter has three major subdivisions namely
  1. Rajadharma anusasana Parva – dealing with duties of kings and leaders, among other things
  2. Apaddharma anusasana Parva – dealing with the rules of conduct when one faces adversity.
  3. Moksha dharma Parva – dealing with behavior and rules to achieve moksha (emancipation, release, freedom).
Although it is a difficult chapter to read through, it is worth reading considering the treasure of knowledge it contains.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Vedas – Its Significance and Teachings

Universal time cycle according to Hindu Scriptures keep on rolling in measures of Chatur Yugas (Four Yugas) namely Kritya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. In every Dwapara Yuga, Veda Vyasa takes up the tasks of compiling Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas for the benefit of humanity. Krishna Dwaipayana, the current Vyasa compiled the four Vedas.

Vedas represent the foundation and basis of Indian spirituality and culture. The word Veda comes from the word Vid in Sanskrit which means Knowledge. They are divine revelations compiled from the teachings of ancient sages based on their direct enlightenment as a result of their union with the Supreme Divine.

There are four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva, Rig Veda is the most ancient and a pre-eminent one. Veda is said to be fundamentally a record of experiences of intuition and revelation belonging to various stages of development and exploration. People in Vedic times looked upon the universe with some kind of a transcendental feeling and to them the most important things were the phenomena of Nature, the sun, the moon, the stars, day and night, rain and the storms. Quite naturally, the Vedas were narrated in a language referring to Nature and also to animals like cows and horses. Largest number of verses and hymns are addressed to Agni, the Mystic Fire.

Although there are several interpretations provided by various scholars, the one provided by Sri Aurobindo is the most apt and correctly represent the true value of Vedas. According to him, Vedas have a dual representation – one for the ordinary physically minded men and another for the initiates and those who are high up on the spiritual evolutionary path. The physical minded men in the early stages of evolution is concerned mainly with material interests of life and therefore not tuned to seek the higher spiritual development. The second level of revelation is for spiritually evolved people who can understand the deeper spiritual essence of the teaching.

Fundamental Teachings of Vedas
  • At the centre of all creation and this universe is a Supreme Reality and Consciousness
  • This Reality is present in the heart of all living beings – it is the soul
  • This Supreme Reality also manifests and presents itself to us in many forms, names, powers and personalities whom we call God.
  • The only true Knowledge is the knowledge of the Supreme Reality, everything else is ignorance.
  • Yoga is the means and method to enter into contact with this Supreme Reality.
  • The Vedas speak of the immortality of the human life and of the possibility of death and also there is a clear perception of divinizing human life.