Thursday, December 31, 2009
An exploration into Hindu philosophical theories
K. S. Sivakumaran
During the tailend of last year I was literarily mesmerized in gaining new knowledge of the basic paradigm of the Hindu Philosophy as enunciated by a guru-like scholar in thamil literature and religion - the indomitable Kamabavaarathy Jeyaraj. This happening took place at the Sangarapillai Hall of the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam began on December 28. It will conclude on January 2. It was a series of exposition of a great work in Thamil called Thirukural codified and written by a Jain Thamilian during the post-Sangam period (roughly 3rdC AD - 6thC AD). It was organized by the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam.
What Jeyaraj did was not the customary explaining the meaning in the couplets (1330 in all), but he went deeper into the basics of the ancient religion Hinduism as described and formulated in the Vedas.
He had his own choice in determining the heads under which he would speak for two hours. Accordingly he chose the uniqueness in Dharma, Aram, Work, Iyal, Kural, Athikaram, Paal, Urai. The right equal term for the Thamil words is difficult to find in English. At least to me for the present. The first lecture was on the 'Varnachara Dharmam'. It was a presentation with clarity. It was a fresh look at the classification of the four kinds of population: Brahmins, Shashtrian, Vanikan and Choothiran. The nuances and the functions of each category of people were rationally analyzed by the speaker.
I am afraid I won't be able to retell what he said in a brief note like this.
Maybe we shall do that on a later occasion because it was too quick to assimilate beautiful ideas one after the other in eight consecutive days.
There were a large number of eagle listeners to listen to Kambavaarathy who is not an academic, but his methodology in presentation with his fluency in the language drawing allusions from related material was simply astonishing.
Kambavaarathy has travelled around the world with his Kudumbi (Konde) lecturing.
He is an authority on Kambar's Ramayana. Every year his Kamban Kalagam organizes many days of seminar on different aspects of the work of the 9th century poet Kamban. But of late he had engaged in literary criticism in the form of lectures.
Kambavaarathy comes from Yaalpaanam and was a student of Hindu College in that city. His team of enthusiasts was in the north for a long time serving the people in the peninsula in inculcating Thamil culture, religion and the arts. After moving to Colombo he has established his institution at Ramakrishna Lane in Wellawatta.
Many scholars and VIPs in Colombo patronize his cultural activities. Justice C. V. Wigneswaran, T. Easuwaran are few such people.
He has coached and trained people who have become academics.
Naturally there will be people, who would not like his interpretations, but Kamabavaarathy is irresistible and one wish to know more from him to form the correct stance one could take after listening to him.
He is only 52 years, but a senior citizen like me wished to be his student understanding the value of Thamil Literature and the Hindu religion.
Sithars of Sri Lanka
Thilaka V. Wijeyaratnam
In the District of Rmaanthapuram was a small state called "Perunaali". It was ruled by a king whose son was Govindaswamy.
Once there was an infectious disease in that small state and many died of it. At that time, two sanyasis were seen walking about the place. Nobody knew who they were. They went into homes where there was this affliction and begged for food. For fear of these "sanyasis" contacting the infection some of the people refused to give them food. The two "sanyasis" forced the householders to give them food and ate the food then and there. Those whose food the 'sanyasis' partook cured the terrible infection. This news spread far and wide. In fact these 'sanyasis' took upon themselves the disease and relieved the sick. When the king heard this he wanted to invite them to his palace and sent his son Govindasamy to bring them to the palace. Govindasamy went to the cottage in which the 'sanyasis' were and worshipped them. They embraced Govindaswamy with joy. One of those 'sanyasis' was none other than Periya Anaikutty Swamy and the other was Navanatha Swamy.
Govindaswamy stripped himself of all his royal raiments and wore a loin cloth. He became their disciple and was known as Chitanaikutty Swamy. After going on foot to many shrines in India they turned their attention towards Sri Lanka. They asked a Chettiyar to buy three tickets. But only two tickets were available. So Govindaswamy was left behind. When their boat reached Colombo Harbour, there was a crowd to receive them and strange to say Govindaswamy was among them. The two 'sanyasis' were not surprised for they knew that their disciple was not an ordinary person. Navanatha Sithar left the other two and went his way.
Periya Anaikutty and Chithanaikutty were walking along with the other mendicants. Suddenly Periya Anaikutty Swamy asked his disciple to buy two tickets to Peradeniya. When they went by train to Peradeniya they saw Navanatha Sithar there. Navanatha Sithar had a cane. With that he tapped on his head and then he tapped on Periyanaikutty Swamy's head and then he tapped on Chithanaikutty's head. Symbolically he had indicated that he would attain Samadhi first and then Periyanaikutty Swamy followed by Chithanaikutty Swamy. Later Navanatha Sithar left for Nawalapitiya. The other two left for Colombo.
In Colombo Chithanaikutty Swamy was hovering around the hut of Eanamuthu who was a devotee of Periyanaikutty Swamy. He felt that Periyanaikutty Swamy had come close upon Samadhi state. He wanted to take him to Jaffna then. There were only a few days left for his Samadhi. So Chithanaikutty Swamy was always beside him. Suddenly one day his guru ordered him to go to Munneeswaram. When Chithanaikutty Swamy was there his guru attained Samadhi in Mutwal, Colombo. On that day while at Munneeswaram he saw an effulgence and he knew Periyanaikutty Swamy had attained Samadhi. He came to Colombo and stayed in meditation at the Samadhi for forty nine days. On the fiftieth day Periyanaikutty Swamy appeared in his dream and told him to go to Queensbury.
Navanatha Sithar attained the state of Samadhi in Queensbury. Before that he had told one Perumal Ammayar that Chithanaikutty Swamy would come and look after him. Chithanaikutty Swamy, went to the Samadhi of Navanatha Sithar and prayed there. Later he went to Perumal Ammayar's home and asked for alms. That lady gave him everything he needed to be comfortable there. Both at Queensbury and other estates around Swamy performed many miracles.
Chithanaikutty Swamy went to Kataragama and went to Hambantota and from there he went to Batticaloa. There he resided at the house of one Karthigesu - a superintendent who was a great devotee of Swamy. Swamy had a great liking for Swamy Vipulananda - the greatest son of Batticaloa soil. He was a religious, a poet and an erudite scholar. When Swamy Vipulanandar was suffering from paralysis, Chithanaikutty Swamy became ill and underwent the sufferings.
Swamy instructed his followers thus:
"Wake up early
Think of God as you get up
Abstain from tea and coffee.
Vegetarianism gladdens you.
Feed the hungry.
If you fail in your duty you cannot realise God.
Let there be the holy ash on your forehead.
Pray to God before retiring to bed."
These were considered as golden words by his devotees.
Swami Vethanthanantha to lecture on Bhagavad Geetha in Sri Lanka
All the religions, faiths, creeds and saints had come into this world with one objective - to remind man, the need to turn the inner spiritual relationship into a dynamic and living factor in one's own life.
Swami Vethanthanantha who is in-charge of Sri Sarada Brahma Vidya Kendra (Ooti Ashram), is presently in Sri Lanka to lecture on Bhagavad Geetha and various other religions discourses pertaining to 'Kambaramayanam', Mahabharatham, Periya Puranam and Thiruvasagam.
Swami Vethanthanantha who was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu obtained his Diploma in Textile Technology and Masters Degree (MA) from Madurai Kamaraj University and served as a textile engineer for nearly 10 years at Coimbotore.
Since he was very much inclined to spiritual matters, initially he entered Chinmaya Sandeepani Vidya Mandir (Vedanta Gurukulam) situated at Coimbotore and studied for three years mastering Bhagavad Geetha, Upanishad, Bramasutra and Tamil Vedanta scriptures.
On completion of his training at Chinmaya Sandeepani Vidya Mandir, he was posted as Achariya of Pollachi Ashram and there he served for 2 years. From there, he was posted to Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF). As he wanted to serve independently, he left Chinmaya Mission and joined Sri Sarada Brahma Vidya Kendra (Ooti Ashram). As Swamiji-in-charge of this Kendra, he conducted lectures on Tamil Vedanta scriptures and also he has established vedanta International Foundation which is now extended to Sri Lanka as Vedanta Mandram.
Swami Vethanthanantha's main aim is to make everyone to attain self realization and to serve mankind. His philosophy of life is to love all, to share with all, to give away everything without caring for his own comfort and conveniences and also without expecting anything in return and without any considerations of gain.
Swami Vethanthanantha's motto is to help all and to make them happy, cheerful and blissful. He says, "I live to serve you all. I live to help you all to destroy ignorance.
I live to make you all happy. Whenever people go to him in India with various problems they are facing, Swamiji never hesitates to see whether they are deserving or not. He helps them with all he can, to get over their problems.
Indeed, his method of teaching is to encourage people to think for themselves and to resonant and test for themselves and not to be bound by any blind belief. Swamiji says that the greatest contribution of the Geetha to modern society, apart from its priceless spiritual teachings, is its emphasis on work, dedicated work for the good of the society and the welfare of all the people.
Work without aiming at personal aggrandizement and with an eye only to the welfare of the community is the way of life taught in Bhagavad Geeta.
It lays emphasis on the dignity and sacredness of all work that falls to one's lost.
According to Swamiji "God is one. Follow any path that appeals to you with steadfast faith and try to experience Him."
Temples and sacred worship
"Our whole world is a temple domed by a vast celestial heaven. Billions of stars follow the moon and pour themselves into the golden brilliance of sun-rise. The sun rises like a luminous lingam filling the solar system with its radiant light," says Suddhananda Bharati.
An ancient Shiva temple at Thiruketheeswaram
The beauty of the luminous lingam tinging the clouds with pink hues and bathing the sleeping world in that strange ethereal rosy glow, creates in man a sense of peace and harmony. The calmness that radiates from around and the extraordinary sense of stillness at that sacred hour creeps upon him. This magnificent beauty stretching across the sky moved the ancient rishis in their woodland hermitages on the banks of the holy Ganga, to prayer and meditation, singing the Gayatri mantram at the very dawn of civilisation itself - 'Let me contemplate the adorable splendour of Him who created the earth, the air and the starry spheres and sends the power of comprehension within our minds,' said Rabindranath Tagore. This has been the transcendental guiding light to humanity down the ages. It is an earnest prayer requesting for enlightenment, linking the present to the Vedic past. The past lives alongside the present giving the whole a gentle continuity and man even today is constantly seeking peace and happiness, despite all the tensions around him.
Places of worship provide man the rhythmic anthem of love and peace. These places are the temples referred reverentially by the Tamils as the koyil or aalayam. The koyil is the home of the Divine King, the Lord of the Universe and is a sanctum of peace and bliss. Dame Avvai, the grand old lady of the Sangam Age says, "aalayam tholuvadu saalavum nanru," it is good to worship at temple," and adds, "never live in a village where there is no temple."
The Hindu enshrines and worships the Almighty God in three places: firstly in his heart as the Antar-atman; secondly in his home as the revered household guest and lastly in the Royal Residence, the consecrated temple, as the Ruler of the Universe. The Hindu temple is thus one of the holy sanctuaries where man shares the precious moments of prayer with God. He attunes his own emotional self to noble and pure thoughts. The purpose of the temple is therefore to be near God, seek His love and to awaken greater love for him. Initially man worships God in His Personal form and as his love deepens, he begins to understand Him as pure Consciousness, Light and Love.
The religion and culture of the Hindus are centred on the temple. Being serene settings for music, song and dance, weddings and spiritual discourses, temples mirror the life of the people. Down the ages, these have been regarded as centres of excellence for the study of fine arts, sacred architecture, engineering, medicine and sociology.
The temple is likened to the body of man and the various sanctified acts within the temple have their significant parallel in our inner world of body and mind, "ullam perun koyil oonudambu aalayam," says Tirumular.
Modern research shows us that temples act as bridges linking both religion and science. Hinduism is viewed as a religion, which could be explained scientifically. As a philosophy it quenches the thirst for the knowledge of the Ultimate Reality and as a religion it is a link between God and man founded on faith and devotion and manifested through the various rites.
The belief in God is basic to the Hindu Religion and man needs the temple and images to guide his prayer and establish contact with Him.
Within the temple, God is worshipped physically and through the senses but in man's inner temple deep within, He is realised through the mind. "ennul eluparam sothi," He is not only the Soul of his soul, but is also the dweller in the holy shrine of Tirupperunturai - 'Tirupperunturai urai Sivane', sings Saint Manikkavasagar. These words guide one to seek God first in the temple and then with more prayer and meditation, within.