Selections from the General Preface
General Editor: T.N. Ganapathy
Section-A – Prelude
The main aim and purpose of publishing in nine volumes the content of the Tirumandiram with the Tamil verses, their transliteration, their translation and commentary in English is to develop a taste for and to induce a proper and more appreciative cultivation of this classic in Tamil to a large majority of English-speaking public in our country and in other foreign countries. Its main concern is to serve as an antidote to the sad fact that many scholars — Indian and foreign — remain ignorant of the Tamil ¹aiva and Siddha traditions. This publication is unique in that it is the first time that the entire Tirumandiram has been commented on in English, though there is an English translation by B. Natarajan, but without any commentary or transliteration of the verses, published by the Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai, India, and later on by Sri M. Govindan Satchidananda. Of course, one can find certain sporadic translations and commentaries of a few sections and verses of the Tirumandiram by J.M. Nallaswami Pillai in the Siddhanta Dipika journals published between 1897 – 1914, now brought out in fourteen volumes by the Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. In fact, the foremost difficulty in carrying out this great enterprise which has been felt by the General Editor of these volumes is in finding out translators among the Tamil-speaking scholars on this great subject. The aim of bringing out this series of nine volumes is too high which made me stagger at times — myself being seventy-five years young — and made me wonder whether I am attempting the impossible.
My concern of the impossibility of bringing out this series containing commentary grew intense due to two factors. First, there is a view among certain ¹aivites against writing a commentary and that too in English on the sacred text of the Tirumandiram, the only tiru-muãai (sacred Tamil ¹aiva scripture) which is both a c¢ttiram (s¢ºtra – philosophical treatise) and a tùttiram (stotra – devotional literature) in Tamil ¹aiva tradition. This view gains its support in one of the verses of Tirum¦lar himself.
O! Fools are they who try to describe the indescribable!How can one explain the one which is boundless?1
This prejudiced factor of writing a translation and commentary can be met by saying that one need not commend this spirit, however, well-intended it might be and further one gets support for the venture from the same verse of the Tirumandiram itself.
The Lord with the matted locks stood blemishlessTo those whose mind is like wave-less sea.2
How can the boundless One be bound in translations and commentaries? Tirum¦lar provides the answer: Only those with a clear mind, without a wave-less mind, like the calm deep sea can comprehend it. Though the translators and commentators are far from having a mind which is like a wave-less sea,they seek and take protection under the words of Tirum¦lar.
The second factor is the basic requirement of writing a commentary as found in Naéé¦l, which I casually stumbled on. The Naéé¦l, a Tamil work composed by the Jain ascetic Pavanandi of Kancheepuram, several centuries back, states that the work of a bh¢¾ya or commentary depends on fourteen characteristics, viz., pure text, purport, construing, word-meaning, paraphrasing, citing parallel passages, questioning, answering queries, adding fresh explanatory matter, free exposition, the relevancy of the sutras (aphorisms), comprising chapters or sections, giving the meaning boldly in doubtful cases, the result of this and quoting authority. 3 This second factor is being met by stating that this work (the nine volumes) is not a bh¢¾ya in the strict sense of the term inhering the fourteen characteristics but only a general commentary in the ordinary sense of the term, viz., an explanatory note. The commentaries provided in these volumes are at best only linguistic expressions of the mystical experiences of Tirum¦lar as expressed in the Tirumandiram. They are not the felt-expressions of the commentators; but they provide only the clues and guidelines for understanding the richness of the spiritual / mystical experiences of the saint. The commentaries are only like ladles and utensils that are used for different cooking operations. It is said that those who read and interpret the scriptures and get “knowledge” through them are like bees hovering round the ripe jack-fruit. As the bees go on humming at the mere smell of the jack-fruit, but can never break into the kernel and have the taste of it, so is the case with scholars — I speak for myself — who have commented on the Tirumandiram. At best, the commentaries are only guides which point to the goal, to the essence, but themselves are unrealized, descriptions of truth. The commentators are requested to excuse me for this remark. However, in attempting the impossible — of bringing out the nine volumes through the help of the commentators — only saint Cëkki~¢r’s words come before me and support my will to achieve it. Cëkki~¢r says:
Though impossible to reach its limitsInsatiable love drives me to the task.4
Before I proceed further I would like to bring to the notice of the readers about The Yoga of Siddha Tirum¦lar, publication series number six of the Yoga Siddha Research Centre, Chennai.5 Much about the Tirumandiram has been written there in the preface and in the Introduction. This volume contains the following ten chapters:
Chapter I Introduction KR. ArumugamChapter II The Philosophy of the Tirumandiram KR. ArumugamChapter III ¹aivism as Conceived in the Tirumandiram KR. ArumugamChapter IV The Yoga of the Tirumandiram T.N. GanapathyChapter V The Mysticism of the Tirumandiram T.N. GanapathyChapter VI The Twilight Language of the Tirumandiram T.N. GanapathyChapter VII The Concept of Human Body in the TirumandiramT.N. GanapathyChapter VIII The Concept of Guru in the Tirumandiram T.N. GanapathyChapter IX The Social Concern of the Tirumandiram KR. ArumugamChapter X Conclusion T.N. Ganapathy
In addition, this volume contains seven appendices with bibliography and an index.
In that volume it had been indicated that it is a “curtain raiser” to the present set of nine volumes.
Usually acknowledgements come at the end of the Preface, but my sense of indebtedness forces me to state it at the beginning itself.
I acknowledge my indebtedness and gratitude to the sponsors, the Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas, Inc., Canada, and its president Govindan Satchidananda and his wife Durga Ahlund Govindan, for their continuous and constant encouragement by going through the manuscripts of the nine volumes patiently and by making discerning suggestions based on their Kriya-Yoga experiences, which have lent the volumes considerable clarity. Their “chiselling work” has gone a long way in bringing out the nine volumes as they appear now. They have been unwavering in their attentive support throughout the preparation of these volumes. My immeasurable and grateful thanks are due to T.V. Venkataraman (for translating and commenting tandirams 1, 2 and 3), T.N. Ramachandran (for translating and commenting tandiram 4), S.N. Kandaswamy (for translating and commenting tantdiram 7) and KR. Arumugam (for translating and commenting tandirams 5 and 8). I have translated and commented tandirams 6 and 9 and also the extra verses not included in the official editions of the Tirumandiram. Words are inadequate to explain how beholden I am to all the above scholars and the sponsors. May their tribe increase! …
About the Translation
First I want to state that through out these nine volumes, the translators have followed the numbering of the verses of the Tirumandiram as found in the Tiru-p-panandal, K¢ci-t-tiru-ma²am edition of it.
The verses of the Tirumandiram are the most difficult of translation and interpretation. In many cases the interpretation itself becomes the translation, even though a genuine translation is to be free from literal interpretation. The meaning of the verses is beyond the apprehension of the most learned which is perhaps the reason why there are no commentaries in English of this great work. The translation that has been offered in these nine volumes is necessarily tentative and seeks to express the sense of the verse as faithfully as we understand it, sometimes sacrificing elegance to fidelity. It is true that no translation can convey the literal sweetness of the original and its wonderful philosophical concepts and mystical emotions which carry one away like a torrent or a tempest. In these volumes the translators have taken extreme care not to project certain pet theories and prejudices. As far as possible, as General Editor, I have tried to edit these nine volumes without the facts to be coloured by any personal views and as such the commentaries deal mainly with the meaning of the verses.
As a translator one must acknowledge that all the qualities of the original cannot be translated. Alliteration, assonance and analogies in the original become the first casualties in translation. As far as possible the best possible attempt is made to keep the meaning faithfully conveyed, allowing a limited “free play.” By translating or using certain terms wrongly, the translators — not to speak of the other translators, but myself — might have committed the sin or murder of letters, words and phrases, which in Sanskrit is called var´a-hatya-do¾a (the sin of killing the letters).
In spite of the above vagaries of translation, there is an undercurrent of unity in all the translations and commentaries of the nine tandirams by the different scholars. The General Editor has not attempted to secure a dull uniformity among the various translations, interpretations and the introductions of the different sections of the nine tandirams. No one’s view has been forced on the other, nor is there any influence by the General Editor in their interpretations for the sake of achieving unity. In truth, the fundamental unity has been provided by Tirum¦lar himself.
Tirumandiram – A Plenary Mystical Work
From the perspective of the Tamil ¹aiva tradition one may view the Tirumandiram as a purely philosophic, ¹aiva Siddh¢nta treatise; yet one can view it as a Siddha work as well. To borrow Shelley’s phrase, the Tirumandiram is a precious diamond stone which has a spectrum of many colours. So any attempt to bring the Tirumandiram exclusively under one of the philosophical isms is difficult, for it contains in itself all the aspects of philosophy and religion. It is neither the one nor the other exclusively for it is beyond all isms. It is really “an open system” and the ideas indicated in it cannot be reduced to any one view nor into an “either-or” pattern. The Tirumandiram is more than philosophy and religion. It is, in short, the plenary mystical experience.
Since the Tirumandiram contains an ocean of experience, that is, spiritual and mystical, it cannot be confirmed to any one special system of philosophy. Though it presents a package of all forms of Yoga and mysticism, Tamil ¹aiva tradition treats it mainly as a ¹aiva Siddh¢nta work. Even among the ¹aiva Siddh¢ntins there is a difference of opinion whether the Tirumandiram advocates monism or pluralism. In this connection the readers are advised to refer the appendix of the book by Subramaniam Swami, Dancing with Siva and to T.N. Arunachalam’s booklet on There is only one final conclusion according to Saint Tirumular (To check the title of this booklet).
Two Levels of Interaction between the Society and Philosophy
In the Tirumandiram one can discern an ontological view which is spiritual / mystical in nature. As I have indicated earlier in the conclusion of the book The Yoga of Siddha Tirum¦lar,6 there are two levels of interaction between society and religion / philosophy. To quote:
One level of interaction is explicit, and it is between religious institutions such as churches and temples on one side and secular institutions such as government, economy, politics and so on, on the other. One may call this the level of explicit ontology, the peripheral relation between religion and society. Another level of interaction is between the views of reality and the values that characterize a culture on the one hand and the typical social institutions on the other. This one may call the level of implicit ontology, the central core of the relation between philosophy and society. A society maintains itself as a system because of its implicit ontology, that is, because of a fundamental consensus about value and reality among the majority of its members. The social milieu involves a common system of ultimate-value attitudes. If philosophy deals with ultimate Reality and society is a common system of ultimate-value attitudes, then it follows that there must be a necessary connection between the two. To reveal this necessary connection between the ultimate reality and the value-system of society is one of the purposes of the Tirumandiram. Explicit ontology is based on the theistic conception of God, God as a Person, whereas implicit ontology is based on the notion of an Absolute, not as a Person, but as a principle and value, as an Absolute Freedom or as a Great Aloneness (taéi uããa këvalam), as Tirum¦lar says.7 …Implicit ontology… understands religion as a state of being grasped by an “ultimate concern,” to borrow a phrase from Paul Tillich… In implicit ontology value becomes the objective counter part of concern, and in this sense religion as spirituality is the conservation of the highest value. The highest value may be called freedom or liberation or mok¾a or nirv¢´a or ve°°ave¶i…What has been described so far as implicit ontology is the ontology of the Tirumandiram. It is a programme for the realization of values…
Tirumandiram as a Code of Conduct
One may view the entire Tirumandiram as having two modes – advice and tenets, to the ordinary advice, to the s¢dhana tenets. For realization of values one finds in the Tirumandiram certain rules of conduct laid down for a spiritually progressive human being, which shall be stated briefly.8
Thus while the other tiru-muãais are primarily addressing God and the realization of Him, Tirum¦lar addresses humanity also.
In the pursuit of the state of bliss, one must be free from the following errors:
These five kinds of errors are due to ¢´ava-mala or mala comprised of aha¼k¢ra (egoism) and mamak¢ra (selfishness), which in present-day terminology stand for personality or “I-am-ness.”
The Structure of the Tirumandiram
Let us have an idea of the structure of the Tirumandiram and the gist of the nine tandirams without discussing the date of the Tirumandiram, which remains an open question. Tirum¦lar calls this work as Mandira-m¢lai 9 (garland of mantras) and also indicates the subject matter of the work.
The first part of the Tirumandiram, known as p¢yiram, introduces the subject of the work. P¢yiram is followed by the nine tandirams.
P¢yiram consists of nine sections with 112 verses.
The first tandiram consists of twenty-four sections with 224 verses.
The second tandiram consists of twenty-five sections with 212 verses.
The third tandiram consists of twenty-one sections with 335 verses.
The fourth tandiram consists of thirteen sections with 535 verses.
The fifth tandiram consists of twenty sections with 154 verses.
The sixth tandiram consists of fourteen sections with 131 verses.
The seventh tandiram consists of thirty-eight sections with 418 verses.
The eighth tandiram consists of forty-three sections with 527 verses.
The ninth tandiram consists of twenty-three sections with 399 verses.
So the total number of sections are two-twenty-one with 3047 verses. Apart from these, there are verses which are not included in the official version; there are forty-seven extra verses which are found in the various prose writings of other authors and fourteen extra verses which are found in the various manuscripts.
In this connection one has to agree with Arunai Vadivel Mudaliyar who expresses a grievance that the Tirumandiram as it is published in the present form contains lot of interpolations which show that the original manuscripts have not been preserved properly by scholars.10 We are thankful to Suba. Annamalai for bringing out a critical edition of the Tirumandiram in three volumes eschewing interpolations.
The Gist of the Nine Tandirams
The gist of the nine tandirams may be summed up in the words of KR. Arumugam as follows:
The first tantiram: The first tandiram prepares the aspirator both internally and externally and deals with the transitoriness of body, transitoriness of wealth, transitoriness of youth, etc. In dealing with this subject, Tirum¦lar draws tremendously from the ethical treatises like the Tiru-k-kuãa¶ and the N¢la²iy¢r, but adds his personal touch. The first part of the first tandiram is upadëcam. This part contains some important verses, which put the philosophy of ¹aiva Siddh¢nta in a nutshell, and define who a Siddha is.The second tandiram: The second tandiram speaks of the Pur¢´ic stories and gives philosophical interpretations to them. It reasons out the five gracious acts of Lord ¹iva for the benefit of the j¤vas. Creation is explained. The souls are classified into three, namely vij®¢na-kala, pra¶ay¢-kala and sakala. The second tandiram advises the sakalas, who are destined to live in this world, that they should know the eligibility and non-eligibility of the other j¤vas and should conduct themselves accordingly; should know the nature of temple and other rituals; should not abuse ¹iva, guru and Maheºvara (those who are in the service of ¹iva). The third tandiram: While the second tandiram prepares the s¢dhaka, the third involves him in the s¢dhana. The content of the third tandiram is the technique of sublimating the body (sar¤ra-siddhi-up¢ya). The other subjects dealt with in this tandiram are A¾°¢¬ga-Yoga, amuri-dh¢raéai, etc. All are related to the sar¤ra-siddhi. This tandiram also elaborates some special types of Yoga, like Kechari-Yoga, Pariya¬ga-Yoga, etc.The fourth tandiram: The next step for the s¢dhaka to attain the results of ¹iva-Yoga is mantra-siddhi, i.e., the fruition of the mantras. To make this easy Tirum¦lar elaborates the various cakras (yantras), their forms, sizes, the letters (ak¾aras) to be written in them, the appropriate mantras, the presiding deities, their strengths, the way of worshipping the cakras, and the fruits of worshipping.The fifth tandiram: The fifth tandiram brings out the central theme of the Tirumandiram. The four methodologies to reach Godhead — carya, kriya, yoga and j®¢na; the four respective m¢rgas or ways for attainment — d¢sa-m¢rga, sat-putra-m¢rga, saga-m¢rga and sanm¢rga; and the four respective stages of liberation attained — s¢loka, s¢m¤pya, s¢r¦pya and s¢yujya are explained in this tandiram.Those who grow in maturity by attaching themselves to one of the four m¢rgas will be blessed with the grace of the Lord. In this tandiram, the Tirumandiram divides the descent of divine grace (catti-nip¢dam) into four grades — mandam, manda-taram, t¤viram and t¤vira-taram. This tandiram also explains the three realities of ¹aivism — Pati, paºu and p¢ºa.The sixth tandiram: In continuation with the fifth tandiram, the sixth tandiram explains the s¢dhanas (instruments) to attain j®¢na. The seventh tandiram: The important features of the seventh tandiram are the explanation of the six-¢dh¢ras, worshipping the guru, li¬ga (the symbol) and ja¬gama (the moving gods), controlling the five senses, explaining the features of a true guru and controlling the semen. Under the last title of this tandiram, hitha-upadeºa, it is explained how the ¹aivites should conduct themselves.The eighth tandiram: It is generally held that the aim of the eighth tandiram is imparting the nuances of ¹iva-Yoga. In this tandiram the avasthas (the states of experience) of the j¤va are explained. The ninth tandiram: The ninth tandiram explains the ¹iva-bhoga (experiencing ¹iva). Tirum¦lar tries to bring out the state of mystical experience in language; such verses are compiled under the title s¦nya-sambh¢¾aéa. This tandiram also explains the nature of the liberated souls.11
Section-B – Tirum¦lar’s Conception of ¹ivam
In this General Preface I want to highlight mainly two things. One is Tirum¦lar’s conception of ¹ivam and the other is his views on the Vedas and the ¡gamas. This does not necessarily reflect the views of the other translators of these volumes. One may agree with me or one may disagree with me, but one cannot do away with my ideas on these subjects.
Scanning through the nine tandirams and the verses of the Tirumandiram, one does not find any reference that he “worshipped” the personal deities in any particular temple or sung in praise of them. Nor does he sing in praise of any temple-tree (sthala-v¨k¾a) or temple-tank (sthala-t¤rtha) of any particular place. I repeat here what I have said in my Preface to The Yoga of Siddha Tirum¦lar:12
While the four great camay¢c¢riyas, i.e., the four ¹aivite saints, Appar, Cambandar, Cundarar and M¢´ikka-v¢cagar may be called religious men, Tirum¦lar may be called the man of spirituality (and philosophy as well). These religious men worshipped God as ¹iva in the various temples situated in Tamil Nadu. According to Na. Subramanian, Tiru-j®¢éa-cambandar worshipped the deities in 262 temples, Tiru-n¢vukkaracar (Appar) worshipped in 191 temples and Cundarar in 83 temples.13 But in the case of Tirum¦lar one does not find any reference in the Tirumandiram that he worshipped the individual deities in any particular temple. According to Tirum¦lar the best form of worship is not flower worship, but it is non-killing even an atom of life and the best place of worship is the heart where the soul resides.14 He does not seem to have sung poems in praise of gods and goddesses of local temples as done by the N¢yaém¢rs and ¡~v¢rs. This is a significant feature that distinguishes Tirum¦lar from the other ¹aiva saints. Tirum¦lar feels that rigid theism has been responsible for a good deal of unnecessary controversy and hostility among the followers of different religions.15 Even though Tirum¦lar speaks of the religious aspect of God, he believed in a Supreme abstraction “¹ivam” without any limitation or attributes. ¹ivam is grammatically and philosophically an impersonal conception. The ideal name for ¹ivam is “It” or “Adu” or “Thatness” or “Suchness” or “Par¢param.” That is ¹ivam is not a personal God. It is a practice, an entry-way. It is an imageless Godhead. As a s¢dhaka, one must become a participant and witness to the nameless experience. In short, ¹ivam is a foundational consciousness which is identical with freedom or mukti; that is, awareness implies detachment or release. That is, liberation is the attainment of awareness or ¹iva-consicousness. One can say that a deeper study of the concept of ¹iva would reveal that it took two channels in Indian thought, one theistic with a personal or devotional relationship to God based on the method of bhakti, and the other Tantric, i.e., absolutist, based on Ku´²alin¤-Yoga and j®¢na.
In this connection it is worthwhile to note the observations of Na. Subramanian. He says that in Tol-k¢ppiyam it is said that the ancient Tamils worshipped a nameless, formless God as kanda~i. He also says that Ka. Subramania Pillai interpreted the term kanda~i as the name of fire.16 Both these interpretations can be applied to Tirumandiram since it speaks of the formless ¹iva as well as the inner fire in one’s self.
Tirum¦lar refers to ¹ivam as love. His basic philosophy is love — an unadulterated, pure, spiritual love — that expects no bargain nor results. His burden of the song is love, which is reflected in many of his verses.17 The three great statements of Tirum¦lar are: (i) Love is God (aébë civam);18 (ii) Let the whole world attain the bliss that I have received (y¢é peããa iébam peãuga i-v-vaiyam),19 and (iii) Mankind is one family and God is one (oéãë kulamum oruvaéë tëvaéum).20 All these mah¢-v¢kyas of the Tirumandiram are the different ways of expressing that the Supreme Thing is love and love only. Love is bliss which can be attained by anyone and hence mankind, nay, the world, is one family with love (God) as the basis. To prevent the eruption of egoism, which is the anti-thesis of love, Tirum¦lar has bestowed to the world the s¢ºtra (treatise) of the Tirumandiram,21 which provides a “¹iva’s eye view of the universe.”
This takes us to an understanding of the conception of ¹ivam / Ultimate Reality as visioned by Tirum¦lar. According to him ¹ivam can be viewed as having form (uruvam / r¦pa), as having formless-form (aruvuruvam / r¦p¢r¦pa) and as formless (aruvam / ar¦pa).
The following verses provide the clue for this view of Tirum¦lar:
As the form, the formless, and the formless-formIn all life immanent is Parama-¹iva.22
In another verse he says that the formless One is ¹iva. By His wonderful dance, He assumes many forms. The formless One gets the form of the guru. He also gets the formless-form of ¹akti.23
One should bear in mind that ¹ivam is beyond these, three — form, without form, formless-form. Yet He is One who is all the three. ¹ivam assumes these three aspects out of love for the souls. He appears in Chidambaram, i.e., ciããambalam, in microcosm, i.e., with form, without form and in cosmic form, i.e., macrocosmic form, due to His very embodiment of love / grace. Lord ¹iva appeared in Chidambaram with from as the Divine Dancer, Na°ar¢ja, without form, as the principle of ¢k¢ºa, and in cosmic form, as ¹ivam.
All the three — with from, formlessness, with and without form — are the ways in which ¹ivam is visioned by the soul. In the state of form, It is viewed as the visible form of nature, i.e., It (He) is viewed in the existent form, as an existent entity. ¹ivam as formlessness is viewed as transcendent, beyond the comprehension of thought, word and deed. What is meant by with-and-without from? This seems to be an intermediate stage of the vision of ¹ivam by the soul. The soul visions Him as a felt-experienced Reality; He is felt as formlessness inhering in a form. Just as the smell (formlessness) inheres in the flower (with form), ¹ivam is experienced as formlessness-in-form, i.e., with-and-without-from.
In this connection one is powerfully reminded of a verse of K¢rai-k-k¢l Ammaiy¢r. One of the sixty-three ¹aiva saints, K¢rai-k-k¢l Ammaiy¢r, renders a beautiful verse on this subject.
When I first became your slave, I did not know your form;
I have not seen your form even now;
What I am to say to those who ask me what your form is?
What is your form? What is it? None!24
In Vié¢-ve´b¢ (a poem containing querries), Um¢pati ¹iv¢c¢rya says:
A formless God can have no form, if with form,He can’t be formless; both can’t apply to one,…How then does God assume His blessed form?25
Let us now enjoy Tirum¦lar’s vision of ¹ivam in all the triple ways.
(This excerpt breaks here, and does not include more than 22 pages on the vision of Sivam by Tirumular)
Section-C – Tirum¦lar on the Vedas and ¡gamas
Though the Tirumandiram is considered to be a c¢ttiram and tùttiram, it is essentially a Tantric treatise.
The Tirumandiram consists of nine chapters called tandirams of different length with varying subject-matter. Calling the different chapters of the work as tandiram is not to be found in any other classical Tamil work except in the Tirumandiram. The chapters in the Tirumandiram are called tandirams and the verses are called mandirams. Tandiram or Tantra means technique for explaining one’s consciousness; mandiram or mantra means finding one’s inner sound, inner rhythm and inner vibration. Mantras are the basic building blocks of ¹aivism. In this connection we may refer to the paper Yogic Experiences in Tantra presented by Kamalakar Misra26 wherein he says:
There are several traditions of Yoga in India, but all of them can be roughly classed under two major heads — the S¢¼khya tradition and the Tantra tradition. The Pata®jali-Yoga, Jainism, Early Buddhism, Classical Advaita Ved¢nta, etc., come under the S¢¼khya heading. All the schools of Tantric tradition — ¹aivism, ¹¢ktism, Vai¾´avism, Vajray¢na Buddhism, etc., come under the rubric of Tantra. The notable difference between these two traditions is in two points: (i) The real nature of the self, according to the S¢¼khya tradition, is that of pure seer (d¨¾°a) and not of the karta (doer). That is, the self is inactive (ni¾kriya)… According to the Tantra tradition, the self is dynamic, as consciousness is conceived as power or energy (¹akti)… This activity is technically called kriya (not karma) or spanda which means spontaneity or free activity… (ii) The second point of difference is with regard to the relation of the self and the world. According to the S¢¼khya tradition Prak¨ti which is the principle of materiality is alien to Puru¾a, the self, which is the principle of consciousness… But according to the Tantric tradition what is called Prak¨ti is the very power (¹akti) of ¹iva. With His ¹akti, ¹iva freely and spontaneously creates and manifests the world out of ¢nanda.27
Tirum¦lar says that his work is an ¡gama.28 An ¡gama is a Tantra-s¢ºtra (a treatise on Tantra).
Tantra is a pan-Indian phenomenon of extreme complexity, a great movement for the upliftment of human existence. As Eliade puts it, it is cosmic religion.29 It is essentially a system of Yoga practice in which the principle of manifest life is made the principle of spiritual practice as well. It is assimilated by all the great religions in India and by the heterodox schools too. Though Tantra-Yoga is indebted to classical Yoga of Pata®jali, it assumes a strikingly different character in that it is open to persons of all castes and both sexes and it is not subject to the restrictions of vaidik¢c¢ra (Vedic custom).
The term Tantra is a polysemous word which contains layer after layer of meaning. It is derived from the root tanu, which signifies elaboration or extension and is applied to any literature that elaborates or extends the frontiers or knowledge. In Sanskrit literature we come across various meanings given to the term.
Originally the term Tantra referred to individual manuals. In course of time, this term came to stand for a whole literature of Yogic mystical treatises. One’s imagination will be staggered when one comes to know of the vast literature contained in the innumerable Tantric manuscripts. The Tantras are still like a vast and almost impenetrable jungle into which one has to cut a path with painstaking labour.
The Tantras deal with a variety of subjects — the description of the Supreme Being, the creation and destruction of the universe, classification of creatures, the orign and worship of the Gods, the heavenly bodies, different worlds, man and woman, cakras, dharma, mantra, yantra, various forms of spiritual training, japa, v¨ata, worship (internal and external), medicine, science, etc.
The Tantras can be broadly divided into two classes — the orthodox and the heterodox. The orthodox Tantras have such names as the ¡gamas, the Nigamas and the Y¢malas. The type of Tantra in which ¹iva addresses his consort P¢rvati is known as ¡gama. Nigama indicates texts in which the dialogue is addressed by P¢rvati to ¹iva. The part of Tantra which discusses and act of creation, daily ceremonies, festivals, castes, customs and manners is known as Y¢mala. Really speaking, the dialogue between ¹iva and P¢rvati is a dialogue within our consciousness — between the seeking self and the answering self.
Though the characteristics of ¡gama, Y¢mala and Tantra are given in almost every important Hindu Tantric work, the definitions are not all alike and they rarely give complete idea. Usually the Hindu Tantras have four parts: the first part deals with knowledge; Yoga forms the second part; the third part deals with ritual practices and the fourth, with man’s social and personal conduct and temperament. On the distinction between Tantras and ¡gamas, some scholars have suggested that what the North Indians designate as Tantras, the South Indians call as ¡gamas. In India, we speak of ¹aiva ¡gamas, Vai¾´ava ¡gamas and ¹¢kta ¡gamas, besides the Buddhist ¡gamas composed in Tibet. For all these ¡gamas we can substitute the term Tantras without prejudice to their respective viewpoints.
The Vedas and the ¡gamas are the utterances of the Perfect Eternal Being. Of this ¡gama, the Tantra portion treats of the rituals ascertained without defects and inconsistency and required for salvation. The mantra portion treats of up¢ºana required for controlling the senses and contemplation of the Ultimate Reality — ¹ivam. The portion dealing with j®¢na treats of the nature of the Supreme, which is beginningless and endless. All these three are found in the Tirumandiram.
One may say that the Veda is mantra and the ¡gama is Tantra. There is no difference between the two.
Veda and ¡gama alikeAre revelations of God,That is truth,The one is generalThe other is special;Their goals two, they say;Search them both,For the truly learnedThere is difference none.30
In another verse Tirum¦lar contends
The ¡gamas are scripturesWith Vedic wisdom filled.31
In a significant verse Tirum¦lar coins a phrase “Ved¢nta-Siddh¢nta,” which is evolved out of the Vedas and the ¡gamas.
Two are scriptures
The Lord Siva
In the beginning revealed
The primal Veda and the perfect Agamas
The Vedas and Agamas
In gradualness appropriate
That is great, great indeed.32
The gist of these verses is: The Vedas and the ¡gamas are both of them true, both being the words of the Lord. The Veda is general and the ¡gama is the special treatise. Both being the word of God, if any one asks what is the difference between them, the reply is that the great will perceive no difference.
In the Tirumandiram Tirum¦lar speaks of six types of “ends” of philosophical discussions. The expression anta stands for the term end. Anta is the sum and substance of any system of thought. The six types of antas are: Ved¢nta, Siddh¢nta, Yog¢nta, Kal¢nta, N¢d¢nta and Bodh¢nta.33 Tirum¦lar says that these ends are the ultimate finale. Tirum¦lar also reiterates that there is a distinction without a difference between Ved¢nta and Siddh¢nta,34 whereas Ved¢nta says, “I am the supreme one,” Siddh¢nta says “I shall become the supreme one.” This distinction is one between tweedle-dum and tweedle-de and one may very well say that there is total identification between the two.
By coining the phrase Ved¢nta-Siddh¢nta35 Tirum¦lar equates the two — the Vedic and the Agamic systems; that is the Ved¢nta and the Siddh¢nta systems are not opposed to each other. This has led one Siddh¢nta saint to say that “the essence of Ved¢nta is Siddh¢nta.”
T¢yum¢éavar in his Cittar-ka´am speaks of Ved¢nta-Siddh¢nta-samarasa concept. He also says in his Par¢para-k-ka´´i:
O! Par¢para! Thou art the end of N¢da (sound) to those who find no Difference between Ved¢nta and Siddh¢nta.36
Kumara-guru-parar puts the same idea beautifully:
¹aiva Siddh¢nta is the essential juice of The rarest, finest and sweetest ripe-fruit called Ved¢nta.37
According to ¹r¤-ka´°a ¹iv¢c¢rya, there is no difference between the Vedas and the ¹iv¢gamas. He says that even the Vedas are ¹iv¢gamas. In this connection the following observation may be relevant.
If they were found to differ in certain respects, they did so on purpose to correspond with the different capacities of the students whom they were intended to instruct. Just as one cannot attribute incongruity in the view of Tiru-va¶¶uvar regarding the question of fate, none could be attributed between the Vedas and the ¡gamas. In one of the verses of Kuãa¶, Tiru-va¶¶uvar has said at one time that fate is all-powerful and at another that man can defy the decrees of fate by their unrelaxing perseverance. The context and to whom it is addressed resolves the incongruity. In the first case by saying that fate is all powerful, Tiru-va¶¶uvar wanted to put a sound check on the adventurous enterpriser while in the latter case he wanted to arouse the slumbering fatalist to energetic action. On this account no incongruity could be imputed to the treatise, the Tiru-k-kuãa¶.
One is powerfully reminded of ¹iva-j®¢éa-siddhiy¢r (of Aru¶ Nandi ¹iv¢c¢riy¢r), of verses commencing from eleven in s¦tra 8, in which the relation of Veda and ¡gama is set forth. We may refer here verses thirteen and fifteen only. The gist of the verses are:
The only real books are the Vedas and the ¹aiva ¡gamas. All other books are derived from these. These two books were eternally revealed by the perfect God. Of these the Vedas are general and given out for all; the ¡gamas are special and revealed for the benefit of the blessed, and they contain the essential truth of the Vedas and the Ved¢nta. Hence all other books are p¦rva-pak¾a (editor’s note: statement of the opponent) and ¹aiva ¡gamas form the Siddh¢nta.38Many are the religions and scriptures teaching them. No one of these agrees with the other. How then to find which of these is true? That religion is true, which, not contradicting this or that one, embraces every one of them reasonably within its fold. So also the scriptures are covered by the Vedas and ¡gamas; while they themselves are imbedded in the sacred feet of Hara.39
In this connection it would be instructive to quote Kamalakar Misra’s views on Tantra and ¡gama,40 which is based on the distinction between induction and deduction:
It is significant to note that Tantra is called induction (¡gama or ¡gamana) as against Veda which is called deduction (Nigama or Nigamana). The students of logic will know that in the deductive (Nigamana) logic, the premises are taken for granted and the conclusion is deduced out of them but in the inductive (¡gamana) logic the premises are not taken for granted, they are known by actual experience which is called induction (¡gama or ¡gamana). Thus ¡gama means knowledge based on experience.However in the Indian tradition in general and in the Tantra in particular, the term induction (¡gama) is not confined to the sensory (empirical) experience, but it crosses the extra-empirical (extra-sensory) experience also, which is higher or deeper. This higher experience is achieved through Yoga and so it is called yogic experience.
In fine we may say that the special part of wisdom (¡gamas) is not contrary to the general one (Vedas). The special part or the ¹iv¢gamas is called Siddh¢ntam and the general part is called Ved¢ntam. The j®¢na portion, or the Upani¾ad portion of the Vedas are known as Ved¢ntam and the j®¢na portion of the ¡gamas as ¡gam¢ntam. In one of the verse Tirum¦lar says that ºuddha Siddh¢nta-Ved¢nta41 and in another place he says that there is no difference between Ved¢nta and Siddh¢nta.42 (By Ved¢nta Tirum¦lar means the end of the Vedas, i.e., the Upani¾ads and not the systems of Ved¢nta of ¹a¬kara, etc.). In the Tirumandiram both the Vedas and the ¡gamas are given equal treatment and respect.43 As I have said in The Yoga of Siddha Tirum¦lar,
The Tirumandiram is a work, which deals with how one may live a divine life in the midst of the worldly one. It fulfills the meaning of the word “Tantra” a “web” which joins the spiritual and the material dimensions of life. It expresses the thread of unity, which exists behind the many differences of time, country, language, caste, religion, higher and lower, happiness and misery, wealth and poverty. It deals with all the aspects of life, which makes life worth-living by dealing with dharma, artha, k¢ma, mok¾a, tapas, Yoga, j®¢na, siddhi, buddhi, mukti, planets, days, the art of breathing, mantra, tantra, yantra, cakras, meditation, medicine, etc. In short, it is Tamil encyclopedia of philosophical and spiritual wisdom rendered in verse from.44
In fine, the general editor dedicates these nine volumes as ¹iv¢rpa´a (dedication to ¹iva), as arpa´a (dedication) to all the seers and saints of the universe as contained in the phrase “for the sake of ¹iva’s work” of the tenth s¦tra of ¹iva-j®¢éa-bùdam. The secret of perfect contentment is in dedicating oneself doing arpa´a to the ultimate ¹ivam who has taken the various forms of the Siddhas, saints and seers. Finally, I acknowledge my indebtedness to Tirum¦lar who has imperceptibly guided me word by word through the tangle of obscurity in deciphering or stating in language the mystical and spiritual experiences, and who has guided me through the various stages of these nine volumes. Indeed as an aspect of Lord ¹ivam, Tirum¦lar has entered every particle of these volumes as water enters into water.