7. BOOK REVIEWS

TIRUMULAR’S TIRUMANDIRAM: A TAMIL CLASSIC ON TANTRIC KUNDALINI-YOGA

The Tirumandiram. T. N. Ganapathy, gen. ed. Ten volumes. St. Etienne de Bolton, Quebec: Babaji`s Kriya Yoga and Publications, copublished with Varthamanan Publications, Theyagaraya Nagar, Chennai, India, 2010. 3766 pages. $100.00 USD plus $50.00 S&H 10-volume set.

 

Review by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.


There are at least four Yoga scriptures that should have a place in any library of core Yoga works: Patanjali’s Yoga-Sūtra, the Bhagavad-Gītā, and the ten-chapter edition of the Hatha-Yoga-Pradīpikā of Svātmarāma Yodīndra, which are all composed in Sanskrit. The fourth scripture is Tirumūlar’s Tiru-Mandiram, which is written in Tamil. Until recently, the last-mentioned work was available only in a dubious English rendering, which I was reluctant to recommend to my students.

A dozen or so years ago, I expressed to Marshall Govindan (Satchitananda), president of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas, my earnest wish to one day see a competent English translation of the Tiru-Mandiram. I had no idea that my words would find a receptive ear. Govindan wasted no time to raise the necessary funds to assemble a team of Tamil experts to set about translating this text of no fewer than 3,047 recondite verses. After a decade of solid labor, Tirumūlar’s highly encrypted esoteric work was released in English at a gala celebration held in Chennai, India, on January 17, 2010.

I confess I was both awestruck and overjoyed when I unpacked the ten finely printed volumes of the Tiru-Mandiram translation, which came to me as an unexpected gift in a neat cloth-wrapped package from India. Immediately I started to look through all ten volumes and then settled on carefully reading word for word the third tantiram (“book”) of Tirumūlar’s composition, which deals specifically with primary yogic concepts. Being familiar with these teachings from the Sanskrit literature, I readily slipped into the rhythm of Tirumūlar’s poetic/devotional exposition and allowed him to carry my mind toward the lofty regions that seem to have been his spiritual home. Later, I read the remaining eight of nine books of the Tiru-Mandiram in their proper sequence, allowing Tirumūlar’s work to progressively unfold itself for me.

Based on the Tiruppanandal Kāci-t-tirumadam edition, the present translation with commentary, which runs into more than 3,000 pages, also made use of Dr. S. Annamalai’s 1999 critical edition of the text. The present edition of 3,000 copies is complemented by a DVD, which makes the text, translation, and commentary affordable to a larger number of people. As Marshall Govindan explains in his preface, the DVD also honors the Order of Acharyas’ commitment to “Green Yoga.”

What makes this edition singularly attractive is that in addition to a close-to-the-original English translation, Tirumūlar`s text is also reproduced in Tamil and in transliteration. I have personally found it inspiring to recite aloud some of the Tamil quatrains, appreciating their mantric quality and the melodious Tamil language.

In his General Preface, seventy-eight-year-old Prof. T. N. Ganapathy confesses that this massive project made him “stagger at times” and also made him wonder whether he was “attempting the impossible” (p. xix). This undertaking was complicated by the fact that certain traditionalist Shaivites objected to producing a commentary on Tirumūlar’s sacred work, especially in English. Humbly, Prof. Ganapathy, who served as general editor, states that the English commentaries accompanying Tirumūlar’s verses are not intended as a traditional bhāshya but claim only to furnish “clues and guidelines for understanding the richness of the spiritual mystical experiences of the saint.” “The commentaries,” he goes on to explain, “are meant to be guides, pointing to the goal, to the essence, but themselves are unrealized, mere descriptions of truth” (p. xxi).

Prof. Ganapathy’s team of translators and commentators comprised Shri T. V. Venkataraman (books 1-3), Dr. T. N. Ramachandran (book 4), Dr. KR Arumugam (book 5), Prof. P. S. Somasundaram (book 7), and Prof. S. N. Kandaswamy (book 8). Prof. Ganapathy himself was responsible for translating and commenting upon books 6 and 9, and he also edited the entire translation. He admits: “No translation can convey the literal sweetness of the original and its wonderful philosophical concepts and mystical emotion, which carry one away like a torrent or a tempest” (p. xxv). The Tiru-Mandiram is extremely recondite, and its verses are “most difficult to translate and interpret” (p. xxv). Prof. Ganapathy assures the reader, however, that the “translators have taken extreme care not to project certain pet theories and prejudices” (p. xxv) and to translate the verses as faithfully as possible, given their limited understanding.

In particular the present edition seeks to steer a neutral course between the two contending philosophical orientations to Tirumūlar’s work. The first is the strictly theistic (dualistic) interpretation of the devotional Siddhānta branch of South-Indian Shaivism. The second is the Tantric orientation, which is nondualistic and follows the pathway of the Siddhas. In the tenth volume, which contains various appendices and indices, the controversy about theistic/dualistic versus Tantric/nondualistic is taken up separately. As the overall editor, Prof. Ganapathy has allowed each translator his own voice rather than attempt to achieve “dull uniformity.” There is, however, a fundamental unity underlying the various translations, which he ascribes to Tirumūlar himself.

The following is a short synopsis of the nine books (tandiram) of the Tiru-Mandiram:

 

Book 1: Beginning with a 50-verse invocation of Lord Shiva, Tirumūlar next praises the Vedas and Āgamas and then offers verses on the guru tradition, fellow students, his own seven disciples (viz. Mālāngan, Indiran, Coman, Piraman, Uruttiran, Kālāngi, and Kancamalayan), and his own journey, followed by a section on Shiva’s relationship to the Hindu trinity (consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra). After these introductory stanzas, Tirumūlar proceeds to impart spiritual instruction about the path of attaining Shiva’s love, which leads to the opening of the “inner eye” and ultimately to absolute bliss.

Book 2: Commencing with 2 stanzas in praise of Sage Agastya, Tirumūlar then goes on to explain the mystical import of Lord Shiva’s eight heroic exploits and other deeds, as described in various Purānas, He also offers verses on the three categories of individuated being (Sanskrit: jīva), on worthy and unworthy folk, as well as on the desecration of temples. Tirumūlar concludes with a unique teaching about Shiva’s “downward face” (Sanskrit: adhomukha) by which he showers grace upon devotees.

Book 3: This portion, consisting of 335 verses, specifically deals with the eight-limbed Yoga first formulated by Patanjali and also with various Tantric practices. It strongly champions the Siddha tradition.

 

Book 4: Here Tirumūlar discusses various cakras (i.e., mandalas)—their construction and ritual use, and he dedicates 100 quatrains to describing the kundalinī-shakti.

 

Book 5: This book offers a description of the four ways to God realization—through the caryā, kriyā, yoga, and jnāna method—and the four stages of liberation to which they lead: sāloka, sāmīpya, sārūpya, and sāyujya. Tirumūlar also defines the three realities of Shaivism: pati (lord), pashu (soul), and pāsha (bondage). He also speaks of the four degrees of the descent of divine power (Tamil: catti-nipādam), known in Sanskrit as shakti-pāta.

 

Book 6: This short section talks about the guru, subject, object, and knowledge; renunciation, austerity; the attainment of knowledge through divine grace; hypocrisy; sacred ashes; the apparel of a penitent, a knower, and a Shiva devotee, which leads over into a discussion about who is fit or unfit for the spiritual process.

 

Book 7: This book explains the six props (ādhāra), worship of the guru, of Shiva’s linga, and of Shiva’s devotees; the microcosmic sun; the bindu; the soul, the enlightened one, and related matters.

 

Book 8: Here the states of experience on the spiritual path are explained at some length (in 527 verses). In verse 2370, Tirumūlar states that the end of the Vedas, the end of the Āgamas, the end of the subtle sound (nāda), the end of illumination, the end of the eight-limbed Yoga, and the end of the five subtle aspects (kalā) are all essentially the same, but only a pure individual can comprehend this. As verse 2381 states, these six endings occur in ecstasy (samādhi) where jīva becomes Shiva.

 

Book 9: This final book of the Tiru-Mandiram describes in mostly esoteric language the ultimate realization of Shiva (shiva-bhoga) and the state of liberated souls.

Tirumūlar, a fully realized adept (by his own testimony), was a master of Kundalinī-Yoga, who had been initiated into this method by Nandi, a North-Indian adept whose spiritual realization was such that Tirumūlar equated him with Shiva himself. His Tantric store house include mantra (sacred sound), yantra (graphic mantras), locks (bandha), seals (mudrā), breath control (prānāyāma) and the other seven limbs of Yoga, as well as ritual worship, the right-hand method of “bedstead Yoga” (paryanga-yoga), and various forms of initiation (dīkshā).

Tirumūlar’s description of diverse aspects of the kundalinī process leave no doubt that he had completely mastered this esoteric (Tantric) Yoga, which leads to the highest goal of emptiness (i.e., insubstantiality), or shūnya (Tamil: kaduveli). This is a reference to the indescribable infinite luminous space that is the ultimate Reality, Shiva. Little wonder that this kind of nondualist mystical language did not sit well with the dualist Shaiva Siddhānta adherents. It is, however, gratifying to know that thanks to the efforts of the late Sri Satguru Sivasubrahmuniyaswami (see Appendix One in vol. 10, pp. 3393-3449), the gap between the nondualists and the dualists (or, rather, pluralists) has been narrowed, which has led to a new appreciation of the spiritual genius of Tirumūlar and his extraordinary work among the Tamils.

Yoga-loving English speakers and the academic community owe an enormous gratitude to Marshall Govindan (Satchitananda) for initiating and sustaining this mammoth project, to his wife Durga Ahlund Govindan for her unstinting editorial and other support, and to Prof.  T. N. Ganapathy and his team of translators and editors for successfully completing a truly monumental undertaking. One can only hope that the release of this complete rendering of the Tiru-Mandiram will end the relative neglect of the Tamil spiritual literature at the hands of Western scholars. The immense value of a careful study of this literature is overwhelmingly clear from the present work.

One problem area that deserves attention is Tirumūlar’s date. The editors generously placed him about 200 A.D., which is close to Prof. S. Dasgupta’s (first Indian ed. 1975, vol. 5, p. 19) proposed date for the saint (first century A.D.). But in light of the teachings, as they are now reliably accessible through the present translation, such an early date is highly improbable. A review is not the place to examine this chronological matter in detail. I would, however, like to proffer the following basic thoughts:

First, The age of the Shaiva Āgamas is a bone of contention between the Sanskrit-speaking North and the Tamil-speaking South. Tirumūlar himself (see verse 65) explains that Shiva expounded his teachings in both “Āriyam” (i.e. Sanskrit) and Tamil. But then he also hints (see verse 81) at himself taking to teaching the wisdom of the Āgamas in Tamil after having received them from his guru Nandi(deva) at Mount Kailāsha. This Nandi is mentioned in verse 62 as one of the recipients of nine Āgamas (listed in verse 63, which could have been interpolated), which he then transmitted to Tirumūlar. The Nāthas know Tirumūlar as Mūlanātha, a direct disciple of Adinātha (i.e., Shiva). The South Indian Siddhas regard Tirumūlar as the first promulgator of the new tradition of Yoga (nava-yoga), which Tirumūlar himself confirms (see verse 122). He calls this innovative teaching Shiva-Yoga (see verse 884).

Tirumūlar states in two verses that the Āgamas are countless (see verse 58), and that there were twenty-eight of them (see verse 57). Prof. M. S. G. Dyczkowski (1988, p. 5) observes that “there is no concrete evidence to suggest that any [Āgamas] existed much before the sixth century. The earliest reference to Tantric manuscripts cannot be dated before the first half of the seventh century.” He further notes that “the Śaivāgamas proliferated to an astonishing degree at an extremely rapid rate.”

Second, Prof. K. V. Zvelebil (repr. 1993, p. 73), who places Tirumūlar in the seventh century, says that the saint is mentioned in Cuntarar’s Tiruttonttokai, which Prof. Zvelebil assigns to the late seventh to early eighth century. If correct, this is a definite terminus ante quem.

Third, Tirumūlar refers to the Linga-, the Shiva-, and the Tamil Kanda-Purāna by name. The first-mentioned text has been dated to between 500 and 800 A.D. The Shiva-Purāna, which quotes the Linga-Purāna, must accordingly be of a later date. Prof. R. C. Hazra (repr. 1982, vol. 2, p. 261) suggested 600-1000 A.D., with some portions having been composed not earlier than 950 A.D. But these dates are conjectural, and the Shiva-Purāna could have been in existence one or two centuries earlier. The Kanda-Purāna was created probably as late as the fourteenth century, which makes this reference suspicious. Obviously, the Tiru-Mandiram has been subject to fairly extensive interpolation.

Fourth, according to Prof. D. G. White (1996, p. 76), who places Tirumūlar and his teacher Nandi in the sixth to seventh centuries, the “magical alchemy” of the Siddhas (see, e.g., verses 834 and 841) belongs to the period before 1000 A.D.

Fifth, in verse 563, Tirumūlar refers to 108 āsanas. This quatrain was very probably interpolated, as it suggests that Tirumūlar was aware of a fairly developed form of Hatha-Yoga, which would place him after the time of Goraksha—an unlikely date. Early Hatha-Yoga was focused on breath control and meditation rather than postures. It is, of course, possible that “108” symbolically stands for “a plethora.”

Sixth, Tirumūlar’s biography is given in the Periya-Purānam, which, according to Prof. L. Rocher (1986, p. 77), was composed in the eleventh century by Shekkilār, the minister of a Cola king. Interestingly, the Tiru-Mandiram refers to the Periya-Purānam twice (see verses 744 and 2113), which would seem to mark these stanzas as interpolations.

Given the above considerations, I would tentatively assign Tirumūlar to the period between 600 to 650 A.D. to allow sufficient time for his reputation as a Siddha to have spread and for Cuntarar to refer to him in his Tiruttonttokai. Placing him earlier would clash with widely accepted dates for the Purānas and the earliest Āgamas. Based on his teachings, I would intuitively have placed him closer to the time of Goraksha (eleventh century), but if Tirumūlar does indeed belong to the seventh century, we must conclude that he had access to early forms of sophisticated Tantric teachings (his guru Nandi’s).

At any rate, Tirumūlar was a premier teacher, who was chiefly responsible for disseminating Shaiva Tantric teachings to the Tamil-speaking world. Irrespective of his actual date, his teaching is of inestimable value and, in part, helps explain and complements the Sanskrit sources of North India.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Dasgupta, S. A History of Indian Philosophy. Volume 5: The Southern Schools of Śaivism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, first Indian ed. 1975.

Dyczkowski, M. S. G.  The Canon of the Saivāgama and the Kubjikā Tantras of the Western Kaula Tradition. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1988,

Hazra, R. C. “The Purānas” in: Cultural Heritage of India. Vol. 2: Itihāsas, Purānas, Dharma and Other Sāstras. Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 1962.

Rocher, L. The Purānas. Wiesbaden, Germany: Otto Harrassowitz, 1986.

White, D. G. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Zvelebil, K. V. The Poets of the Powers. Lower Lake, Calif.: Integral Publishing, repr. 1993.

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REVIEW II:    TIRUMANDIRAM

July ,  2 0 1 0    H i n d u i s m  Today Magazine  www.hinduismtoday.com


TIRUMANDIRAM

A yogi’s treasure:

Ten volumes hold 3,000 years of yogic discipline

as penned—more precisely,

etched on palm leaves—by

Saint Tirumular


THE TIRUMANDIRAM-  A MYSTICAL MASTERPIECE IS UNEARTHED

One of mankind’s deepest esoteric treatises boasts a new English translation.
Long hidden, will it be restored to its rightful place among Hindu scriptures?

The world is awash in yoga, in laughing yoga and hot yoga, in five- star spa yoga, weight-loss yoga and birthing yoga. But few know the authentic sources, and fewer still dive into them. One such source, long sequestered in its original Tamil and a singular broken English attempt, has been freed from obscurity.

The Tirumandiram, the mystical classic by Tamil Saint Tirumular, was released at a gala celebration in Chennai, India, on January 17, 2010. The ten-volume edition was produced by a team of eminent scholars under the direction of Dr. T. N. Ganapathy, sponsored by Marshall Govindan Satchitananda, President of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas. The ceremony’s guest list was a testimony to the importance of this text,

including heads of the Saiva monasteries at Dharmapuram, Tiruvavaduthurai, and Tiruppanandal, and the Union Home Minister, Sri P. Chidambaram.

There is good reason to celebrate. The translation is of excellent quality and the printing is competent. The books have the merit of being precise in the rendering of Tirumular’s Tamil into English, taking a neutral, balanced stand on issues of philosophical interpretation.

There had been previous versions of the Tirumandiram (alsospelled Tirumantiram) in English, but with different goals in the translations.  Marshall Govindan tells the story in the introduction,“The Tirumandiram is one of the first texts to emerge in theWest from the gold mine of ancient Tamil literature, which until recently has been bypassed by scholars outside of South India.

While the Sanskrit literature has been mined and studied by Western scholars for more than 200 years, the ancient Tamil language literature has been largely ignored.  Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami,

founder of Hinduism Today and the Saiva Siddhanta Church in Hawaii, USA, commissioned the late Dr. B. Natarajan to translate the Tirumandiram in the 1980s…. However, the need for a more accurate translation became apparent as Tamil speaking specialists pointed out that Dr. B. Natarajan had too often sacrificed precision for poetic grace.” Truly, Dr. Natarajan’s previous translation mostly resulted from devotion. He was no

specialist in linguistics or the esoterics of yoga, being an economist by profession, a brilliant man who boldly undertook a momentous task. But in a book such as the Tirumandiram, written by a sage of the highest attainments, there are many layers of meaning in each verse, and secrets apparent only to the initiated, refinements that are elusive and sometimes cryptic.

Marshall explained, “It became apparent that the non-specialist would need a running commentary along with translation, in order to easily understand the meaning and significance of most of the verses. This present work fulfills this need and several others.”

A Monumental Effort

Dr. T. N. Ganapathy, the team leader, is a widely respected expert in Siddha philosophy.  He was the now retired Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College,  Chennai. Dr. Ganapathy’s works are impressive in their breadth, discoursing on themes from Immanuel Kant (one of his bailiwicks) to Bertrand Russell and the Tamil Siddhas.  He is at present the Director of the Yoga Siddha Research Project in Chennai, India.  His team of translators included T. V. Venkataraman, T. N. Ramachandran, K.R.Arumugam, P. S. Somasundaram and S. N. Kandaswami, all respected scholars. The book’s appendix brings two points of view on monism and dualism in Saiva Siddhanta, one by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami and another by T. N. Arunachalam, along with a chart on the thirty-six tattvas by Georg Feuerstein.

It was not an easy task. “The foremost difficulty was finding competent translators among the Tamil speaking scholars on this subject,” explains Dr. Ganapathy. “The goal was so demanding that it made me stagger at times—myself being seventy- eight years young—and also made me wonder whether I was attempting the impossible.”

He continues, “My concern about the feasibility of bringing out this series with commentary was due to two factors. One was the technical challenges that old Tamil grammarpresented. The other was that certain Saivites object to the writing of a commentary, especially in English, on the sacred text of the Tirumandiram, the only Tirumurai (sacred Tamil Saiva scripture) that is both a câttiram (philosophical treatise) and a tottiram (devotional literary product). This traditionalist view is supported in one of the verses by Tirumular himself:

‘Oh! Fools are they who try to describe the indescribable

How can one explain the One

that is boundless?’”

“But there is also a statement in the Tirumandiram that can be interpreted as favorable to our task, which reads,

‘The Lord with the matted locks stood blemishless

To those whose mind is like a

waveless sea.’

 

How can the Boundless One be bound in translations and commentaries?   Tirumular provides the answer: only those with a clear mind, that is, a waveless mind like the calm deep sea, can comprehend it. Though the translators and commentators claim no such mind, we seek and obtain protection in the words of Tirumular.”

So, is the commentary authoritative?    Not exactly, says Dr. Ganapathy. “The  commentaries are meant to be guides, pointing to the goal, to the essence, but themselves are unrealized, mere descriptions of truth.” By keeping the translation as crystalline as they could, and relegating all speculation and scholarly analysis to the commentary, the translators created a book that will be interesting to several different audiences, from the expert scholar or the initiated mystic to the beginning student of South Indian mysticism.

However impossible it might have seemed, the task is now finished. Dr. Ganapathy states in the introduction, “In bringing out the entire Tamil text in translation, saint

Cekkilar’s words come before me:

‘Though impossible to reach its limit

Insatiable love

drives me to the task.’

Scriptural Greatness

The Tirumandiram is one of the most important works related to yoga, tantra, Saiva Siddhanta philosophy and spirituality ever written (see the next page for a story of Saint Mular and how this book came to be). It is closely related to the Saiva Agamas, and often cited as an opus that summarizes them.

The book’s first tandiram, or section, prepares the aspirant by defining the philosophyof Saiva Siddhanta. In the second tandiram, creation and souls are explained, along with the five-fold nature of Lord Siva’s actions. In the third, techniques for sadhana and yoga are laid out. In the fourth, mantras, yantras and siddhis are described and

taught. In the fifth tandiram, the four margas (charya, kriya, yoga and jnana) are explained, along with four stages of liberation of the soul. In the sixth tandiram, advanced sadhanas that lead to jnana are explained.  In the seventh, divine conduct is prescribed,which includes worship of the Sivalingam. In the eighth, high states of consciousness are elucidated; and, finally, in the ninth tandiram, the experiencing of Lord Siva is expounded and liberated souls studied.Each tandiram takes up one volume of this collection. The tenth volume is comprised of a glossary, a selected bibliography, an index and an appendix containing two enlightening discourses on the nature of Saiva Siddhanta: whether it is ultimately monistic or dualistic. It is a discussion crucial to Saivites, the culmination of a centuries-long debate that questions the nature of the soul and whether it ultimately merges with Siva in advaitic union.  The publisher explains, “It has been a challenge to produce a translation that would not take sides in the important philosophical debate between Saiva Siddhantins [who are] realistic pluralists and those who see the Tirumandiram as an expression of the highest mystical states of consciousness accessible to the Yogi, [a stance called] monistic theism. The views of the two sides are in the appendix.”

Is there a place in our fast-paced modern society for such a deep treatise? Is it meant only for yogis and scholars?Dr. Ganapathy addresses the question beautifully in his introduction: “If religion deals with ultimate Reality and society is a common system of ultimate values, then there must be a necessary connection between the two. To reveal this necessary connection is the purpose of the Tirumandiram.”      Dr. Ganapathy states that the Tirumandiram’s ontology (a word naming the investigation of the nature of being) “is based on the notion of the Absolute not as a person, but as a principle and value, an Absolute  Freedom or a Great Aloneness, called  kêvalam, in Tirumular’s words.”   It’s a book about freedom, liberation,  moksha, nirvana or vettaveli.”

 

From its unmatched lofty platform, the Tirumandiram proceeds to give guidance on  daily life, prescribing humility, ahimsa, restraint of one’s desires, courage, control of the mind, cleanliness and the steadfast cultivation of a pure and unswerving love. What else could be more relevant to our times?

Tirumandiram, 10 volumes, 3,766 pages. Orders outside of India US$100 plus a flat shipping rate of US$50; orders in India Rs. 4,400 plus actual shipping fees. To order visit www.babajiskriyayoga.net

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REVIEW III: THE YOGA OF SIDDHA TIRUMULAR:  Essays on the Tirumandiram

By  R. Gopalakrishnan – The Hindu – Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Tuesday, Feb 13, 2007

T. N. Ganapathy, KR. Arumugam; Pub. by Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications Inc. Canada and distributed by Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharya’s Trust, P.B. No 5608, Malleswaram West, Bangalore-560055. Rs. 550.

Tirumular’s Tirumandiram is a treasure trove since this text deals extensively with philosophy, religion, morality, Tantra and Yoga. The essays in this book written by the two authors give a comprehensive and vivid picture of various themes such as Saiva philosophy, Saiva religion, Yoga, mysticism, twilight language, human body, Guru and social concern. . The authors attempt seriously to justify the name of this work and to show that it is not translated from Sanskrit but is an original Tamil work of Tirumular. Besides, the name of the author has also been authentically established. The arguments offered to this effect are really clinching.

The chapters on philosophy, Yoga and Saivism meticulously substantiate the subject matter of each topic with subtitles. This shows the thorough reading, wide knowledge and clear understanding of the verses of the holy text. Especially the chapter on twilight language is really innovative and shows the intricacies of linguistic analysis. To comprehend the inner as well as other meanings of the verses, the hermeneutical technique becomes inevitable. The authors have followed this method to elucidate the deeper insights of this text.

Social Relevance

The social concern of Tirumular is the most relevant message required today. Religion not as a stagnant pool, but as a living stream must serve as the uniting force of the people. Tirumular’s social orientation is reflected when he states that there is “only one lineage and only one God.” The term `Nava yoga’ has been translated as a “new type of yoga” whereas B. Natarajan (whose translation the authors frequently quote and depend on) refers to it as `nine-yoga’. The author calls it a new type of yoga since it deals with Chakras, Pranayama, Pariyanga yoga and twilight language. But he has failed to state why Natarajan calls it as nine kinds of yoga. The equation of lotus with space (vettaveli) is not well annotated. The book, on the whole, is rich in content and in presentation.

THE HINDU NEWSPAPER
R. GOPALAKRISHNAN

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III.  A REVIEW  OF “THIRUMANDIRAM; CLASSIC OF YOGA AND TANTRA
BY GEORG FE
REVIEW:  THIRUMANDIRAM: A CLASSIC OF YOGA AND TANTRA    by Georg Fuerestein

(Reprinted from the March-April 1996 issue of “The Yoga Journal”

BOOK “Thirumandiram” by Siddhar Thirumoolar, edited by B. Natarajan, edited by M. Govindan.  Published by Kriya Yoga Publications, 196 Mountain Road, Eastman, Quebec, Canada J0E 1P0

“All serious yoga students are familiar with the Bhagavad Gita (“Lord’s Song”) and the Yoga Sutras (“Aphorisms of Yoga), which are yoga classics written in Sanskrit, the sacred language of the brahmins.  Few Western students, however are aware that there are a number of extraordianary traditional works on yoga that are composed in languages other than Sanskrit.  One of these scriptures is Thirumoolar’s Thirumandiram (“Sacred Word”).  Composed in the Tamil language, it was authored in the sixth or seventh century C.E., though some authorities place it ealier.

The Thirumandiram, which consists of 3,047 melodious verses, captures the essential teachings of siddha yoga, or the perfected adepts.  This is the yogic path of the Shaiva Siddhanta tradition flourishing in South India.  As the name indicates, the Shaiva Siddhanta tradition revolves aroudn the worship of the Divine in the form of Shiva.  The name Shiva means “He who is Benevolent,” and the adjective shaiva means “relating to Shiva.”  The Sanskrit word siddhantha means “philosophical doctrine” or “accomplished teaching.”  Who was Thirumoolar, the saintly author of the Thirumandiram?  Tradition recalls that he was a lowly cowherd who tended his cattle in the hills of South India and who filled his lonely days with a burning love for the Divine.   His spiritual passion to merge with Shiva in mystical union in due course turned him into a venerated sage.  Thirumoolar was in fact, one of the earliest Shiva-worshipping adepts of the South.  He achieved no particular fame during his lifetime, but as is often the case with the saintly, his greatness was increasingly recognized after his death.   Several centuries later, his masterful work was incorporated into the Shaiva canon and today he is remembered as one of South India’s greatest yoga adepts.

His Thirumandiram sparkles with original wisdom and shows a rare knowledge of the secrets of siddha yoga.  He writes about he Divine in the form of god Shiva, the power of love and devotion, the efficacy of mantras, the connection between the breath and the mind, higher visions, ultimate God-realization and not the least, the serpent power (kundalini-shakti) and the esoteric structures of the subtle body.  While much of the information given can be found scattered in the Sanskrit scriptures as well, in the Thirumandiram it is imparted with a lively immediacy that is absent from more abstract works like the Sanskrit Tantras or the philosophical writings of Northern Shaivism.

For example:

‘All the world may well attain the bliss

I have received,

If the name of the Lord chanted by

the great ones is repeated,

Within the heart will arise a thrilling

unstruck sound

Which, when practised, will lead to

realization.(85)

Time was when Idespised the body;

But then I saw the God within

An the body, I realised, is the Lord’s temple

And so I began preserving it

With care infinite’. (725)

Dr. Natarajan embarked on his English rendering in the late 1970′s, but only a portion of it was published in India.  The present “international” edition, published posthumously by Marshall Govindan, for the first time offers Dr. Natarajan’s complete translation.

In the present edition, each of the more than 3,000 verses is numbered and given a caption that conveniently allows the reader to quickly take in their purport.  The English rendering tries to capture not only the deep meaning of the original but also something of its poetic spirit, though on this score the translator is not as successful.  Most, if not all,  of Thirumoolar’s ideas can be found in other Tamil and Sanskrit scriptures.  but he communicates them in a kind of inspired vividness and beauty that spring from direct personal experience andhe seeks to instill the same experience in others.  Thus the Thirumandiram is  as important a yoga scripture as the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras or the voluminous and inspiring Vasishtha.  This outstanding text is now available in a fine three-volume edition thanks to Marshall Govindan’s labor of love. ”

 

Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D, is a contributing editor of Yoga Journal and author of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sacred Paths, and over 20 other books. His most recent (coauthored) book is “In Search of the Cradle of Civilization”, published by Quest Books. His organization, the Yoga Research and Education Center, Santa Rosa, California, co-sponsors the Tamil Siddha Yoga Research Project along with Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas.

Copyright: Georg Feurstein. 1996.  All rights reserved.