Thursday, November 5, 2009
Power of cosmic dance of Lord Siva
The Supreme One is venerated as Lord Siva by the Saivite Hindus. The vedic eras saw Siva venerated as a powerful divine, Lord of Sacrifice who granted prosperity and welfare. Lord Siva along with Brahma and Vishnu form the “Holy Trinity” of the Hindu Pantheon, responsible for creation preservation and destruction.
As Supreme Lord of the Universe, Siva is conceived in several forms. Each of these bears a separate name having its aspects represented by an image or symbol. The Siva Lingam installed in the sanctum of all Sivam Temples is the symbol of Lord Siva. It is a mystic symbol of Vedic origin representing that which is formless and has been the object of veneration for ages.
Further, Nadarajah is the dance form of Lord Siva. It is a form of exquisite beauty which has won high acclaim of the whole world. This form was revealed to sages after long periods of meditation and is said to depict Lord Siva dancing at Holy Chi Dambaram, symbolic of the inner hearts of mankind.
Lord Siva, as the supreme power performs fivefold functions creation, maintenance, destruction, purification and ‘Arulal’.
The cosmos is sustained by Lord Siva and that functional state is represented by dance.
Lord Siva is said to be dancing seven types of dances. Kalika Tandavam symbolizing creation, Kauri Tandavam symbolizing maintenance, Cantiya Tandavam symbolizing the balance of creation, Cankara Tandavam symbolizing destruction, Tiripura Tandavam symbolizing purification, Uma Tandavam symbolizing Arulal.
The Cosmos is conjectured as the body of Siva and the movements or the activities of the Cosmos is conceived of as the dance. By the dance process, the Cosmos is set in motion and sustained.
When Lord Siva stops the dance, the Cosmos grinds to a halt and life on earth becomes extinct. When He dances again, Cosmos is brought not existence and sustenance once over.
It is a process of transformation of one into another. Many saivite saints who attained the realization of God have explained this process in their writings and speeches.
Even Saint Manickavasagar had even expounded the truth established by scientists that chemical evolution precedes the evolution of life on earth. He said that this is occasioned by the dance of Lord Siva. Saints Appar, Sundarar, Thayumanavar and Thirumoolar have all said the same.
Sivagna Siddhar, a work on Saiva Siddhanta philosophy clearly shows that matter can neither be created nor be destroyed. Further, the image of dancing Siva is made within the frame of the Tiruvasi which represents the Cosmos.
His legs and hands rest on the Tiruvasi indicating that he sustains the Cosmos. Another scientific interpretation of Lord Siva is the unknown power that sustains the various objects in the Cosmos - the earth, sun, moon, stars, planets etc. in a continuous smooth balance without any one of them coming into friction with the other.
The Cosmic dance of Lord Siva represents the infinite modes of rhythm in the process of universal creation, preservation and destruction.
The small drum (Udukkai) in one hand symbolizes creation, the Abayakara or the hand dispelling fear and assuring protection symbolizes preservations. Fire in another hand depicts the aspect of destruction. These threefold nature of God Absolute is brought out by the Cosmic dance of Lord Siva.
Supreme God and the philosophical thinking
K. S. Sivakumaran
The unanimous verdict of all the Vedas and Upanishads is that “Not an atom could move without Him.” This statement could be interpreted in two ways:
Plato developed a wide-ranging system of philosophy that was strongly ethical, resting on a foundation of eternal ideas or forms that represented universals or absolutes.
If the ‘Nature Powers’ are within the atom, then the Almighty must be hiding inside it and determining its movement. Some would say that this is akin to Pantheism (meaning identifying God with the Universe.) In other words it would mean God is All and All is God. This view is very ancient.
This belief did not evolve depending on any revelations, dogmas or teachers.
It was a spontaneous feeling found among poets, philosophers and contemplators.
All the ‘Athuvithistic’ sects (Monists) in Hinduism believe in some form or the other that the creation and the creator are One and the Same.
Egyptians and Greeks had similar ideas in the past. We read that an inscription in the Temple of Isis read - ‘I am all that hath been, is, or shall be and no mortal has lifted my veil’.
From Plato downwards there was a strong tendency to identify the material and spiritual elements in the universe as One. Even a Christian theologian in the 9th century AD is reported to have opined that all things emanate from God and are reabsorbed into God.
Although Pantheism is a way of thinking found in different places and times, there is no religion by that name. And yet Samuel Johnson has defined a Pantheist as one who confronts God with the Universe. There were philosophers and even scientists in the West who could be labelled as Pantheists according to Johnson. But one should modify this view.
It is not that all westerners find it difficult to understand eastern Mysticism. Some understood it. One could cite the poems of Emerson on ‘Brahmin’, Alexander Pope’s ‘Essay on Man’, poems of the Romantics like Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Blake and Coleridge.
They clearly indicate that Solitude and Communion with Nature reveal the same thing.
Pantheism, Polytheism and Monotheism were successive thoughts and need not be contradicted. Such views existed. Monism is the key to understand God.
The almighty is within us. That is why we must love our self first and the love for the humankind follows.
The contradictory interpretation to the maxim given at the beginning could also be noted and this is one way.
The other interpretation is Athuveda philosophy (Dualism) that is peculiar in Hinduism. The change or difference in interpretation is the non-acceptance of the fact that the Brahmam does not undergo any changes. The Upanishads say this according to scholars.
Although we call Time and Space as infinite and the universe within them as also infinite they are all really finite taking different forms.
Brahman alone is infinite and there is nothing which is not Brahmam. If anything seems to exist other than Brahmin then it is an illusion and not real.
That is why dualistic ideas confound our thinking in relative terms. Brahmam is seen in all things through intuition. This view is expressed in poetry, philosophy and religion of the Hindus. But the Dualists did not understand this view. Hence they dubbed the Monists as Pantheists.
To call Brahmam as God with attributes was incomprehensible to the Dualists.
That was one reason why the Monism of Sankarachariyar was not popular among emotionally charged people. They suspected that Sankara was really an Atheist or a Nihilist. But his philosophy is receiving the earnest attention of the intellectuals in the East and West alike.
As human beings we are capable of thinking. In the process it is sometimes inevitable that we are subject to abstract thinking and unable to understand the eternal truth.
Life of Ramalinga Swamigal
Thilaka V. Wijeyaratnam
Ramalinga Swamigal was a very recent Sithar. Born on October 5, 1823 it was said that at the time of his birth there was a great effulgence in the area and everyone rejoiced some great soul had taken an avatar on earth.
Unlike other Sithars, Ramalinga Swamigal did not go about renouncing family and property. His parents, his siblings were all with him. He was the youngest of the five children. As his father died when he was a child, his elder brother Sabapathy took on the responsibility of caring for the family.
Ramalingam did not shine in school. The brother who was a teacher like their father stopped him from school and tried to educate him. But it was of no use. He didn’t study. Sabapathy sent him to his own teacher called Sabapathy Mudaliyar. Even there he was a failure. Annoyed with him, Sabapathy turned him out of the house.
One day on the death anniversary of their father, Ramalingam came to take part in the rituals. His sister-in-law, wife of Sabapathy shed tears at seeing him as a beggar. Ramalingam was touched and promised to study. He was given a room upstairs and he obeyed his sister-in-law and showed interest in studies. But he was a religious soul. He had all the things necessary to perform pooja. He had a mirror hung on the wall. He would adorn the mirror with a garland and say his prayers.
Then he would look hard at the mirror. Wonder of all wonders - his image was not there. Instead what he saw was God Murugan as he is at the sacred shrine of Thiruthanigai. He didn’t have a picture or a statue of God Muruga - instead in his heart, he had the God implanted. What he saw in the mirror was what was in his heart. Usually devotees have statues of the God outside. But he had the God inside.
On seeing the God of Thiruthanigai in the mirror, he was overwhelmed and inspired to sing:
The famous six faces and
Twelve shoulders decked with Kadamba flowers
Sharp spear and peacock and a cock on the banner
That blue hills of Thanigai do I see
Yet he could not study - the traditional way and was despised. Very much hurt, he adopted God as his father and mother.
Thou God of Thiruthanigai
Thou art my father and my mother
Pitying me, please call me to
Thy abode at Thiruthanigai
He was just nine years when he saw God Muruga’s image in the mirror. But he was able to compose songs in praise of God Muruga. Those who sang the Puranams enlightened the lay people on the philosophy of life, God-Worship, righteous life and such like. Ramalinga Swamy on the other hand made his heart as the temple in which dwels God Muruga or Subramaniyam. Ramalinga Swami composed a set of songs called ‘Thiruarudpa’ - songs giving the grace of God.
While he was supposed to be studying in the room upstairs, he was actually having communion with God Muruga.
The brother and sister-in-law realised it in the end and listened to his devotional songs. His eldest brother Sabapathy was also a very religious person.
He used to give lectures on Puranams at the place of one Somu Chettiyar. Once he fell ill and could not go. He was upset about letting down all the people who would have gathered there. His wife advised him to send his youngest brother Ramalingam to sing a few songs there and pacify the people.
Ramalingam waiting for such a chance went to the Chettiyar’s house. The latter was reluctant - ‘A flower in place of gold’ he thought. Anyway, he welcomed him. Ramalingam started the lecture at 9.00 p.m. and continued till midnight. People felt there was some greater power from inside him and wondered at the inspirational talk he gave on the real meaning of Puranams.
The poesy of the sithars has no parallel. They are not the educated elite. But they have the inborn wisdom ‘gnana’. Chettiyar recognised him as a special avatar and insisted he should continue the lectures.
Then his eldest brother heard of the younger one’s power, he had his doubts. An uneducated fellow - how could he explain Puranams.
One day when Ramalingam was lecturing, he came and hiding behind a piller listened with awe and astonishment at the torrent of words that flowed from the mouth of his brother. Apart from his religious beliefs he had progressive ideas. He was against caste system and discrimination in society.
Meantime, his mother and brother forced him to marry a woman among their relatives. But he was completely detached from all mundane desires. His wife Thanakodyamma was distraught.
Ramalingam, clad in white, barefoot freed himself from the nuptial bond and was given the name of Ramalinga Adigal. He walked the earth as a Sanyasi - Hermit. He pleads with God thus:
Let me associate with the noble ones who forever think of your lotus feet,
Let me not associate with double tongued people,
I must speak of your greatness - must never utter lies,
Follow the path of righteousness - not religious fanaticism,
Forget desire for women - never forget You my God,
O God Muruga dwelling in Kantha Kottam.
His end too was unbelievable. Before he departed this world, he advised his disciples and blessed them.
He reclined on the beddings in his cottage and instructed his disciples to lock the door. After one year, when Government authorities opened the door the room was empty. None can decipher the happenings in the life of mystics. They are best left alone.
The Essentials of Hinduism
There are various forms of religious faiths on the face of the earth, and they may be classified into two main heads-theistical and non-theistical.
The Maha Kumbabiseka Festival of Sri Muniappar Devastanam, Armour Street, Colombo took place recently. Here the Chief Priest, truestees and Board Members conducting the pooja. Pic. A. Maduraveeran
The former believe in the existence of a God, while the latter do not care to do so.
In the opinion of the former, religion is our guide to God, while in that of the latter, it is our guide to get over our present state of ignorance.
A commemoration program presented with Indian Music by the “Mano Manjari’ music group to mark the 155th birth anniversary of Saiva Saint Sri Narayana Guru took place at Sri Narayana Guru Memorial Hall at Grandpass Colombo recently. The event was organized by the Sri Narayana Guru Society of Sri Lanka. Pic. A. Maduraveeran
I think a minute inquiry into the subject would disclose the fact that both the theories point, more or less, to the same end, but I do not propose here to enter into a disquisition of the subject.
I will only say that we cannot get to God without removing our present state of ignorance, and that we cannot remove our present state of ignorance without the grace of God. We cannot depend only on our personal endeavour to get ourselves freed from our present state of ignorance, and the reasons are twofold.
In the first place our exertions and endeavour will be altogether impossible without the grace of God, and in the second place, our ignorance will not be dispelled unless the grace of God shines over us.
A man groping in the dark requires a light to find his way out: and, ignorant as we are, we cannot be expected to help ourselves independent of any help from outside.
It is true that our freedom from ignorance depends largely on our own exertion: but such exertion must invariably be guided by divine grace. Without such guidance, it will be absurd to expect final emancipation from ignorance, and when so emancipated, to continue in that state of emancipation. I will not, however, dilate long on this point, as my object is to satisfy enquirers who believe in the existence of God. I have already said that according to their view “Religion is our guide to God”.
The Necessity of Religion
Admitting the existence of God, the question arises whether a religion is necessary to reach Him.
To be continued
The Essentials of Hinduism written by Mudaliyar Sabaratnam has been described as one of the earlier works in English that gives an exposition of Hinduism in the light of Saiva Siddhanta.