The Social Concern of the Tirumandiram
By Dr. K R Arumugam, Ph.D
Excerpted from The Yoga of Tirumular: Essays on the Tirumandiram and published by:
Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications, Inc.
Let the entire world attain the bliss I have attained
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.
The Social Concern of the Tirumandiram
It is the general opinion of the westerners that the Indian mystics are neither concerned nor interested in the well being of the society. If this is so, then in what way the social concern of Tirum¦lar, who is a mystic, could be justified?
The Hindu dharma classifies life into four stages. They are: brahmacarya (student-life), g¨hastha (household-life), v¢naprastha (the life of a philosophic recluse) and sa¼ny¢sa (the life of a wandering mystic). They were arranged in the order of increasing spirituality. The first stage is entirely devoted to study and discipline. The student should have no distractions and no responsibilities. He should not indulge in any pleasure. This is a preparatory period for involving oneself in an active life. After completing this stage successfully, the student has to marry and settle down as a householder. On becoming a householder he is expected to shoulder the responsibilities of his family and of his society. He should discharge his duties to his society faithfully as a devoted citizen. After the period of active life is over and after all duties are discharged, the householder should retire, and begin to meditate in solitude on the higher things. Just as brahmacarya was a preparation for the life of a g¨hastha, v¢naprastha is a preparation for the final stage of sa¼ny¢sa. When a man becomes a sa¼ny¢sin, he renounces all passions, all distinctions of caste, all rites and ceremonies and all attachments.
If sa¼ny¢sa is interpreted as renouncing everything to secure one’s spiritual aspirations, then in what way a sa¼ny¢sin is concerned with the society? If it is true that he has renounced the world why should he be anxious about the society? It is true that society is not a disposable cup to use and throw. It is equally true that people are duty-bound to do something in turn to the society from which they have claimed certain basic rights. But these duties towards the society are not expected of a sa¼ny¢sin and it is generally held that a sa¼ny¢sin has no binding to the society.
These observations are mistaken ones. To set them right, the concept called sa¼ny¢sa must be understood properly. In the Tiru-k-kuãa¶, the Tamils’ contribution to the world of knowledge, it is hinted that sa¼ny¢sa is renouncing the attitude of “I’ and “mine’ and not renouncing the world.1 The Tirumandiram also hints the same.2
To be precise sa¼ny¢sa is renouncing all of one’s personal holdings. With nothing to hold on how can one be? Tiruva¶¶uvar, the author of the Tiru-k-kuãa¶ comes out with a fitting answer “hold on to the One who holds on to nothing.”3 Tirum¦lar says “If desire you must, the Lord in desire seize…”4 It becomes clear that sa¼ny¢sa does not mean self-imposed excommunication but it means renouncement of desires.
This definition fits well for the Siddhas, who live in the society, share their attainments with the people for the benefit of the people, but remain detached from desires.
To a sa¼ny¢sin the Lord is sarva-bh¦ta-stitha-¢tman, i.e., the sa¼ny¢sin sees the Lord in all beings. Each and every living being is considered to be a temple in mobility. So the life of a mystic is very much concerned with the society in which he lives.
Sw¢mi Vivek¢nanda recalls the teaching of his guru, ¹ri R¢mak¨¾´a as follows:
About Jesus Christ, the Bible says: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many.”6
One of the incidents in the life of R¢m¢nuja, the systematizer of Viºi¾°¢dvaita philosophy, reminds one of the ideals of a spiritual aspirant. It is customary in Indian tradition that one should not speak out the mantra into which he was initiated; it is expected of the aspirant that he should keep it a secret. But after initiation R¢m¢nuja went to the temple, climbed on top of the tower, summoned the people around and revealed the mantra. For this act he was threatened that he will go hell. R¢m¢nuja said coolly “if so many people can go to heaven by uttering the mantra, I will not mind going to hell.”
The Sa¼ny¢sa-Upani¾ad says: a sa¼ny¢sin should strive for the well being of the mortals around him — even though he has renounced everything.7
If it is held that renouncement is renouncing everything including one’s concern for the others, a true renouncer will renounce the renouncement itself. Cëkki~¢r defines a true spiritual seeker as one who worships the Lord only for the sake of love and not for attaining liberation.8
This chapter analyses the social concern of Tirum¦lar, who is a sa¼ny¢sin and a mystic. In this attempt it traces the roots of Tirum¦lar’s social concern, his attempts at reforming the society, his ethics and his medicinal advises. This chapter also tries to read the Tirumandiram in the contemporary context.
2. The root of Tirum¦lar’s social concern
In the philosophical perspective of Tirum¦lar, the world is not an illusion or a non-existent entity as held in the Advaita philosophy. He has no reason to shrug the world off. Loving other beings as oneself is an important facet of Tirum¦lar’s spiritual wisdom.
The mantra that Tirum¦lar speaks of in so many verses — ¹iv¢yanama — is not merely a philosophico-mystical one, but a social one too. According to T.N. Ganapathy, Nama means ty¢ga or sacrifice; ¹iva means ¢nanda or bliss; and Aya means outcome or result. The term ¹iv¢yanama means “the result of sacrifice is bliss.” Tirum¦lar felt bliss in sacrifice and he construed it as an opportunity to serve.9
Tirum¦lar who finds bliss in sacrifice sees everything as Lord ¹iva.10 What ever is done to the j¤vas is done to ¹iva; because they are identical.11 When Tirum¦lar says j¤vas he means all living creatures. He did not try to differentiate between the humans and non-humans.
This idea of Tirum¦lar was elaborated by Va¶¶al¢r R¢mali¬ga A²iga¶¢r:
Vallalar calls this j¤va-k¢ru´ya (compassion to all souls). He further explains: “When j¤va-k¢ru´ya is there knowledge and love is there together. When this is so, the divine ºakti will also be there. This divine ºakti brings all good.”13
This view of Tirum¦lar and Va¶¶al¢r has been reflected in Tiru-k-kuãa¶ also. It says:
Tirum¦lar lifts love equal to the place of God. According to him ¹iva is love and love is ¹iva and knowing this is knowledge.15 To bring out this philosophy into action Tirum¦lar suggests the following:
In this verse Tirum¦lar develops four steps. The first one instructs one to love and worship God. The second one advises to love the other creatures. The third one educates to feed the other human beings. If one is unable to do any of the above Tirum¦lar suggests as a last resort speaking good, kind words to others. Of these four steps the third one had a tremendous influence on Va¶¶al¢r. This was expressed in the establishment of the Cattiya-daruma-c-c¢lai, which is meant for feeding the poor all the days through out the year. The stove that Va¶¶al¢r had ignited is still burning there continuously, cooking meals for the hungry. Va¶¶al¢r reasons out this charity: “When the j¤vas are hungry, they become dull. Their knowledge becomes dormant. Because of this, the process of knowing God is hindered.”17 So feeding the hungry is considered both by Tirum¦lar and Va¶¶al¢r to be an important thing.
Tirum¦lar rather prioritises serving the humans than serving God, because God is omnipresent. One need not offer anything to the Lord because offerings made to the Lord does not reach the devotees; but the offerings to the devotees (who are hungry), surely reaches the Lord.18 Even the thought of feeding the true devotees is most efficacious,19 because they are the gods on earth;20 they are the walking temples.21
This should not be taken that Tirum¦lar is for feeding only the devotees of Lord ¹iva. The following verse of the Tirumandiram brings out the outlook of Tirum¦lar:
If a simple crow can do this unto his brethren, why not the humans?
It is this j¤va-k¢ru´ya (compassion towards all souls) which is the root of Tirum¦lar’s social concern. It is this spark from Tirum¦lar that lit the candle of Va¶¶al¢r.
3. Tirum¦lar and social reforms
Under certain pressing circumstances, some social customs and manners come into practice in society. After the pressure eases out, such customs become meaningless and they should be eliminated. Their continued presence without any justification will disturb the balance of society. They are like wounds in the smooth surfaced skin. The advent of mystics helps healing these wounds.
Casteism, untouchability and religious fanaticism are among such social ills. Though modern governments pass laws against them and try to enforce such laws, they are met with great resistance. If the anti-social elements propagating such social customs are unwilling to reform what can the legislatures do?
The mystics do not try to reform society by laws, but by teaching how to see and honour the Lord in everyone. They do not reform by threatening but by pacifying.
The highest goal of life is to attain the love of God. This can be attained only through showering love on the other beings without any discrimination. This is the message of all the religions of the world. Says the Tirumandiram:
Periy¢~v¢r, one of the Vai¾´ava saints known as the ¡lv¢rs, calls all Vai¾´avites as “those who belong to the caste of servants (of God)” and asks them to forget the caste distinctions and join the crew praising Lord Vi¾´u.24 In his view all Vai¾´avites belong to one single caste — the caste of servants. He allows no further caste divisions among the Vai¾´avites.
In the view of Basava — the systematizer of V¤ra-¹aivism — those who wear the Li¬ga accepting the principles of V¤ra-¹aivism, transcend caste distinctions and they belong to the group called Li¬g¢yaths.25
Tiru-n¢vukkaracar, fondly called Appar (father), sings: Even though one is a leper, or a pulaiya, who eats the meat of the sacred cow, if one is a devotee to Lord ¹iva, we are prepared to worship him as the Lord.26
The point to be noted from the above statements is that “if one is prepared to accept my God, I am prepared to accept him without conceding to the caste distinctions. Even if he is the lowest of all, I do not mind.” No doubt that this is a great step forward in the reform of a caste-ridden society.
Tirum¦lar goes one step further. His statement “one the caste; one the God” can be interpreted as follows: Let one accept God or deny, let one belong to any caste, let one speak any language, let one be a human or a beast, as j¤vas, all beings belong to one single category. Hence the statement “one the caste” — the caste called j¤vas. Let one call God by any name, let one worship God by any way, let one accept God or deny God, “one the God.” Tirum¦lar sounds secular and sensible.
3.1 Condemnation of untouchability
There are references about the four var´as in the Tirumandiram.27 References are made in the Tirumandiram about various castes based on profession.28 The Tirumandiram does not lend support or fervently oppose the caste and the var´a systems, and condemnation of these systems do not figure in the central theme of the Tirumandiram. But when these systems dared to step out of their domains and reached a point of no return with the practice of untouchability, the Tirumandiram condemned the practice vehemently.
Those who see the Lord everywhere will never say “unclean.”30 The slogans of the other Siddhas on caste are influenced by the statement of Tirum¦lar, “One the caste; one the God.”
3.2 Condemnation of religious fanaticism
The Tirumandiram condemns the religions when they become mere slogan shouting religions. The Tirumandiram also ridicules the religious fanatics as fools,31 asses,32 dogs,33 etc.
4. The ethics of Tirum¦lar
The ethics of Tirum¦lar is almost confined in the first tantra of the Tirumandiram. Almost all the sub-titles — for e.g., transitoriness of body, transitoriness of wealth, transitoriness of youth, transitoriness of life, non-violence, non-eating of meat, not committing adultery, poverty, glory of rains, glory of giving, the love possessed, abstaining from drink — are found in the ethical treatises like the Tiru-k-kuãa¶ and N¢la²iy¢r. But Tirum¦lar puts his spiritual stamp on these.
The ethics that Tirum¦lar professes is a guiding lamp to the spiritual seeker. It helps one to attain the bliss of experiencing Lord ¹iva. According to T.N. Ganapathy the ethics of the Siddhas has two aspects — one which is prior to realization and the other is a result of self-realization.34
4.1 The ethics which is prior to realization
Two things are stressed by Tirum¦lar to attain ¢tma-j®¢na or self-realization. One is cutting asunder the ego sense. The following verse from the Tirumandiram may be considered:
In other words, once the ego dissolves and one experiences union with God, one no longer knows any loss of life, body, wealth or mind; because at this stage there is no differentiating between the knower, the knowledge and the known. Everything is lost in the ultimate union.
This “cutting of the ego sense” is advised by Tirum¦lar in so many places in the Tirumandiram. The verses under the sub-titles transitoriness of body, transitoriness of wealth, transitoriness of youth, transitoriness of life, poverty are all flowing from this “cutting the ego sense” only.
The first step to cut asunder the sense of ego is shedding all of one’s attachments. The sense of attachment to something germinates from one’s attachment to the body. So Tirum¦lar speaks of the transitoriness of the body. Death spares nobody. Even the Lords of our lands are subject to death.36 It is because of the body that one develops attachments to the world. But death strikes suddenly. Tirum¦lar picturises this beautifully.
When the body cracks, the relatives would not care to keep it even a while.38
The biggest of all attachments that rallies around the body is wealth. Whether one is young or old, beautiful or ugly wealth adds pride to him. It is true that wealth makes one proud and happy; but what is the use of accumulating wealth? Just because one has enormous money one can not wear two undergarments, two trousers and two shirts — one on top of the other; one can not eat more than what is needed. A famous poem in the Sa¬gam classic Puãa-n¢é¦ãu says:
It becomes clear that the pleasure that comes from wealth is very limited. Further wealth is transitory. Says Tirum¦lar:
People believe foolishly that they will live forever enjoying their accumulated wealth. They have an example in the shadow of their body to demonstrate that their belongings will not help them in need and that people cannot live with their belongings forever: The shadow belongs to the body. When the body suffers the hot sun, the shadow of the body does not offer shelter to the body to rest beneath it. The shadow of one’s body may offer shelter to others to take rest beneath it but not to the possessor of it. Moreover this shadow is no permanent belonging of the body. The shadow is there with the body only when the sun is up there hot. So is wealth. It is not useful to the possessor. In the same verse, Tirum¦lar also brings in another example to prove his point: Wealth is an in-between happening in life. It will surely go at one point of time or other. One must realize that even the body which came into this world along with soul (and which is not an in-between thing as wealth is) surely departs deserting the soul all of a sudden, without serving the purposes of the soul. So also is wealth, though it is proximate to the possessor as the shadow is to the body and enduring with the possessor as the body is to the soul, it will serve no purpose. Therefore, Tirum¦lar advises: seek not the transitory wealth, instead seek the light that enlightens.
Tirum¦lar further explains: not only that the possessions are useless to the possessor but they also bring harm to the possessor.41 If one loses his possessions his supporters will depart from him.42 It is only natural that when a pond goes dry, the birds around will flee away in search of another pond full of water. Hence Tirum¦lar advises to weigh well the pros and cons and throw away the transient trappings of earthly treasures and laugh at the Lord of Death.43
Another thing that increases one’s ego is youth. That too is transitory. As each and everyday passes by, one becomes aged with wrinkles and grey hair. There is a poem in one of the five epic works known as Ku´²ala-këci — a work which is not available today except for some poems — depicting the transitoriness of youth and life:
Died is the infanthood; died is the childhood.Died is the youth; died are the sexual appetites;Dying everyday we grow aged.Why do we not cry for our daily death!44
People cry for the death of others; but they are not aware that each one is dying every day, every moment. This also reminds one of the poems of Pa°°iétt¢r:
How foolish it is to cry for others!
The same expression is found in the Bible also. One of the disciples of Jesus said unto Jesus, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said unto him, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”46
Tirum¦lar tries all the ways possible to drive home the message: Behold! Do not yield to the worldly attachments that rally around the body. Cut asunder from all of them. Less the luggage, more the comfort.
The next step is cutting off all of one’s desires. Tirum¦lar observes: what is the essential teaching of the Vedas? Desirelessness. Ved¢nta is desirelessness and a Ved¢ntin is a desireless person.48
In the Tiru-k-kuãa¶ it is said: whatsoever thing a man hath renounced, from the grief arising from that he hath liberated himself.49
This idea is echoed in the Tirumandiram also.
4.2 The ethics which is the result of self-realization
Morality helps one to attain knowledge and knowledge thus attained refines morality. The end product of knowledge is love and love only. Knowledge shapes the sense of morality to reach this end-product. Thus flawless love becomes the central theme here, around which grow the other details. The following verse from the Tirumandiram makes this clear:
Of these five ethical codes Tirum¦lar gives primary importance to non-killing. He says it is one of the flowers one can offer the Lord while worshipping internally. This non-killing is the result of love. Only those who have a compassionate heart can see the Holy feet of the Lord; others can not.52
This is the essential ethical message of Tirum¦lar.
5. Medicinal advices in the Tirumandiram
The ethical advices of the Tirumandiram treat the soul, whereas the medicinal advices nourish the body. One is internal and the other is external. But both go hand in hand; one supplements the other. Both are intended for helping one to harvest one’s final goal — liberation.
Siddha Tirum¦lar in one of the verses of the Tirumandiram says:
Contrary to this view of Tirum¦lar, Pa°°iétt¢r disgraces the body as follows:
Further he appeals to the Lord to rescue him from the foolish belief in the body, which is going to end up as a handful of ash.56 Some other Siddhas also have registered their view about the body in the same vein.57
Is it not a contradiction among the Siddhas to hold two different views about the body? No. It is not the point of Tirum¦lar to advocate that the human body is the ultimate reality. He too accepts the transitoriness of the physical body, like the other Siddhas. But according to him the body is an excellent instrument to achieve success in one’s spiritual endeavour. In the absence of this instrument this becomes impossible or the achievement is delayed. So having an instrument and keeping it becomes the primary task of a seeker. That is why Tirum¦lar stresses that
To this verse B. Natarajan, the translator of the Tirumandiram in English, adds a note:
Though Natarajan rightly highlights the importance of the body, it is a disputable opinion that Tirum¦lar brought this idea from the North and introduced “newly” to the Tamil life and culture. The Tiru-k-kuãa¶, which is prior to the Tirumandiram, says:
The life and culture of the Tamils are basically naturalistic; they accept matter as a reality and hence the concept of the preservation of the body is not new to the Tamils to be introduced from the North.
Tirum¦lar gives suggestions to enhance the instrument called body by way of some medical-ethical observations.
5.1 Diseases only on the ill-willed
Ethics and the physical well-being are dependant on each other. This is reflected in the following verse of the Tirumandiram:
If one wants to prevent these ailments one has to be charitable and compassionate. Pari-mël-a~agar, one of the commentators of the Tiru-k-kuãa¶, while commenting on the title of a chapter Marundu (Medicine) writes: “ailments like paralysis and others attack people due to old deeds and due to other reasons; of these the ailments due to old deeds can not be cured until the old deeds lose steam…”61 Tirum¦lar also stands in confirmation to this view, but according to Tirum¦lar not only the old deeds cause diseases but the new ones too.
The Siddha medical system is based on the concept of the three dh¢tus, that is, the three humours of the body, which are read through the pulse in the wrist. The dh¢tus are called va¶i, a~al and aiyam in Tamil (v¢ta, pitta and sle¾ma in Sanskrit — windy, bile and phlegm). Of these va¶i represents creation, a~al sustenance and aiyam destruction. Under normal conditions the pulse rate of the three should be 4:2:1, that is, the reading of the va¶i should be four beats, a~al two beats and aiyam one beat. The ups and downs cause disease.62 The Tiru-k-kuãa¶ also registers the same.63
Here it may be asked: what is the relation between the moral conduct of a person and his physical condition? The relation between them is not physical but psychological. When one commits an immoral act it causes a mental stress on him.
It is said that even ordinary things cause a mental stress in humans. It is well known that psychic stress is an important cause for the development of headache, especially tension headache, also known as migraine. Also the sudden demise of a close relative or divorce or loss of employment or failure in examination or birth of a handicapped child or sudden loss of wealth or prestige in society usually leads to a quick succession of psychosomatic changes, leading to the development of one or the other stress disorders, like hypertension etc., within the course of the next two or three months or so. It is said that it usually takes six months to a year for the development of any symptoms and because of this many times patients may not realize the relationship between the stressful state of his or her life and the symptom complex that follows after leading such a life.
There is no doubt that immoral commitments — like killing or causing injury to the other beings, thieving, drinking, adultery, lying — cause mental stress. Mental stress leads to the disturbance of the three humours. The disturbance in the three humours brings in diseases. Thus it becomes clear that immoral commitments cause illness to the body.
The aeons pass, the unreturning ages go;The allotted span of life daily dwindles away;The irksome body, as if squeezed by some power unknown,Perishes; seeing this yet, they learn not charity’s way.65
5.2 Curing the diseases
Consider the disease, consider its root, consider the means of curing it and then set about the cure with every precaution, observes the Tiru-k-kuãa¶.66 As far as Tirum¦lar is concerned morality is the root of disease and cure. By doing pr¢´¢y¢ma one can conquer death.67 To do pr¢´¢y¢ma one has to observe the dos and don’ts (yama and niyama) steadfastly. Thus one can make his body invulnerable by way of A¾°¢¬ga-Yoga. Tirum¦lar suggests the following:
5.3 Diseases caused by the v¢yus
There are ten types of v¢yus (airs) in the body. They are: pr¢naé, ap¢éaé, viy¢éaé, cam¢éaé, ud¢éaé, n¢gaé, k¦rmaé, kirukaraé, dëvadattaé and daéa®cayaé. Of these pr¢nan serves the area between the throat and diaphragm. It controls the functions of respiration and speech. Ap¢éaé governs the area between the navel. It controls the functions of the large intestine, kidneys, bladder, genitals and anus. Viy¢éaé pervades the entire body. It spreads vitality through the system, maintaining a balanced energy flow. Cam¢éaé governs the navel area, controlling the digestive and assimilative processes. Ud¢éaé pervades the area above the throat. It is said to govern the five senses and the functions of the brain. Also it controls the upward flow of vital energy in the body. Over activity of ud¢éaé causes such disturbances as dizziness and overheating in the head. N¢gaé controls salivating and hiccupping. K¦rmaé opens the eyes and controls blinking. Kirukaraé causes sneezing and creates the sensation of hunger. Dëvadattaé controls yawning and sleeping. Daéa®cayaé pervades the entire body, remaining even after death.
Tirum¦lar observes that if the other nine v¢yus excluding daéa®cayaé, strike a balance with the nine n¢²is — i²a-kalai, pi¬galai, ciguvai, puru²an, k¢nd¢ri, atti, alampu²ai, ca¬gini and kuru, life endures in the body for a long time.69 The daéa®cayaé pervades the other nine v¢yus and the n¢²is; if the daéa®cayaé does not function thus, the body will swell and burst.70 The malfunctioning of the daéa®cayaé, i.e., if the daéa®cayaé does not pervade the other nine v¢yus and the n¢²is properly, it may also lead to the following diseases: boils, itches, leprosy, anaemia, paralysis, hunchback, arthritis, eye diseases like cataract and glaucoma; if the v¢yu called k¦rmaé malfunctions the eyes will go blind.71
5.4. Cara-ù°°am or breath rhythm
It is longevity that buys time to achieve the goal of life, viz., getting liberated from the bonds. Longevity depends on breathing pattern or rhythm. Tirum¦lar gives his observations about the breath rhythm under the title v¢ra-caram in the Tirumandiram. On Fridays, Mondays and Wednesdays breath will operate through the left nostril; on Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays it will operate through the right nostril. On Thursdays, if that day falls in the waxing moon’s fortnight, breath flows in the left; if the day falls in the waning moon’s fortnight, it flows in the right. If breath operates through the left nostrils on Fridays, Mondays and Wednesdays the body will glow in health and will live long. When the breath operates through the left nostril on Tuesdays, waning moon’s Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, if the yogi forces it to the right, he will get bliss.72
5.5 Way to blemishless birth
While giving tips to preserve the body, Tirum¦lar also gives some tips to create a blemishless body under the title “karu-uãpatti,” “Creation of Microcosm.” Here he is sharing his knowledge in this regard to create flawless microcosms.
The chromosomes are the decisive factors that decide the gender of a child. The number of chromosomes is twenty-three each in the sperm and the ovum. One of the twenty-three chromosomes in the sperm is the gender-decider. The chromosomes in the ovum are always ‘x’ chromosomes. It is the sperms which contain both the ‘x’ and ‘y’ chromosomes. Of the innumerable sperms ejaculated, half of them contain ‘x’s and half of them contain ‘y’s. If the sperm containing ‘x’ chromosome enters the ovum, which is already containing an ‘x’ chromosome making an ‘xx’ combination, the product will be a female child. If the sperm containing ‘y’ chromosome enters the ovum, the combination is ‘xy’ and the product will be a male child.
The Tirumandiram says,
Can we say that Tirum¦lar indicates the dominance of ‘y’ chromosomes as ‘the dominance of masculine flow’ and the dominance of ‘x’ chromosomes as the ‘dominance of the feminine flow?’ If one can conclude so then it may be asked: can we determine the dominance of masculine or feminine flows? Tirum¦lar says yes. During the intercourse, if the pr¢´a of the male partner operates through the right nostril, that is, in the pi¬gala-n¢²i, the product will be a male child; if the pr¢´a operates through the left nostril, that is, i²a-n¢²i, the product will be a female child. That is, when the pr¢´a operates through the pi¬gala-n¢²i, the sperm that contains the ‘y’ chromosome becomes the winning sperm that enters into the ovum to make a male child; when the pr¢´a operates through the i²a-n¢²i, the sperm that contains the ‘x’ chromosome enters the ovum, causing a female child. So it can be held that the chromosome contained in the sperm decides the gender of the baby; the male partner’s course of pr¢´a decides the winning sperm. It is the breath rhythm that holds the key to fix the gender of a child.74
The chromosomes carry the genes. In each chromosome thousands of genes exist in pairs. Each pair of the genes plays a role in deciding the genetic characters like physical structure, colour of hair, etc. Genetic engineering is the field of research which is trying to re-structure the genes by studying their characters. Fusion, deletion, inversion, transposition are some of the attempts made in this regard. This genetic engineering is aiming at creating a blemishless human body.
Tirum¦lar suggests the following:
In the act of intercourse, after emission, if the male partner’s breath extends five finger length, the infant born lives a hundred years. When the breath extends four finger length, the infant lives for eighty years.75 When after intercourse, if the man is short of breath, the infant born will be a dwarf; when the breath blows feeble, the baby born may be of defective limbs.76 At the time of union, if the mother’s bowels are heavy, a dullard will be born; if urine exceeds, a dumb will be born; if both exceeds a blind will be born.77 If the breaths of both the partners run rhythmic together, the infant born will be exceedingly handsome; if the rhythm falters, there will be no conception at all.78
To Tirum¦lar everything regarding the birth of a baby is decided by the breath rhythm. A yogi, who knows well the art of breath control, can regulate his breath accordingly to achieve the premeditated results.
Tirum¦lar volunteers to tell all this to build a healthy society made up of healthy citizens.
6. A contemporary reading in the Tirumandiram
Both in the West and the East, there are searing social questions regarding marriage, divorce, abortion, the rights of the unborn, chastity, adultery, alcoholism, violence, charity, materialism, individualism and capitalism. The verses of the Tirumandiram could provide the contemporary seekers with some leads to the answers of these questions.
Tirum¦lar never advocated against marriage. ¹aivism, the religion that Tirum¦lar advocates is a naturalistic religion, which allows marriage. Tirum¦lar puts forth Lord ¹iva Himself as an example. By presenting the Lord in the form of Um¢-maheºvara,79 which is symbolic of bhoga (enjoyment), Tirum¦lar endorses marriage.
Divorce was something unknown to the Tamils at that time of Tirum¦lar. We find no reference to divorce in the verses of Tirumandiram. Even if divorce was in vogue at the time of Tirum¦lar he would not have approved it. This can be inferred from his condemnation on adultery. Marriage is a social institution that helps one to meet his sexual needs. But adultery is over-indulgence. When the sexual desire can be gratified easily in the form of a wedded wife without any risk, why should one go out unmindful of the risks involved in it? Is it not a foolish act? Tirum¦lar says:
Tirum¦lar wonders: when the luscious jack fruit is ready at home, why should one then climb the thorny date tree?
There is a Hindu mythological story about the fate of the king of the heavens Indra who went after Akalya, the wife of Sage Gautama. When Gautama went out of his hut to take bath, Indra entered the hut taking the form of sage Gautama and abused Akalya. When Gautama came to know this, he cursed Akalya to become stone-like and Indra to have a thousand vaginas all over his body. Indra pleaded for an amendment and Gautama amended it that instead of a thousand vaginas Indra will have a thousand eyes all over his body. This is a famous episode quoted by all who speak of adultery in the Indian context. The Tiru-k-kuãa¶ sets Indra, who cannot control his passions, as an example for those who go for gratification: “Dost thou desire to know the power of the saint who hath quenched the cravings of his five senses? Look on the king of the Gods, Indra: His one example is enough.”81 The Tiru-k-kuãa¶ sets forth Indra as a negative example and by doing so it tries to establish the power of the saint who has quenched the cravings of the senses positively.
In the Indian scenario, marriage is not a license to free sensual pleasure. It is an institution meant for reproduction and it carries the responsibility of upbringing the progeny in a fitting manner. So Tirum¦lar comes out with suggestions to bring up the progeny right from the stages of its conception. Tirum¦lar’s comments on conception which aim at making a flawless body and his high-held opinion of body as an instrument to achieve the supreme result called liberation will make one realize that how remarkable it is to take birth as a human and how immoral it is to abort a baby thus denying its chance to achieve the goal.
There is a popular verse in Tamil in which poetess Avvai says: It is rare to take a human body. Even if one has taken a human body it is rare to have a flawless body. Even if one has a flawless body, it is rare that he is knowledgeable and educated. Even if one is knowledgeable and educated, it is rare to do charity and penance. If one does charity and penance, the doors of heaven will be open to him.
By aborting a baby the parents deny it a fare chance to get rid of the cycle of birth and death. If the parents do not want a child they should have avoided contact. They just can’t escape from their responsibility by aborting the baby. The male must ejaculate only to procreate and not otherwise. If one wastes his semen for sheer pleasure and becomes a slave to lust, his body deteriorates.82
Having said that the semen should not be wasted Tirum¦lar proceeds on to say some words on the periodicity for sexual union. Of the two phases of the moon, the first eight days of the waxing moon are not appropriate for union; the six days that remain and the first six days of the waning moon are good.83
For those who practise Yoga, it is better to avoid the fifth, the sixth and the eleventh days after the woman menstruates. The six days in the middle of the three weeks that follow are appropriate to seek pleasure.84
While embracing the damsel, one should remain detached, fixing one’s thoughts on God; one should remain calm and composed and should not get excited. Directing his senses inwardly one should emit.85
Having emitted, one should examine the laws of conception, the time of union, the time of pregnancy and delivery, the baby’s length of life, and death, the baby’s character, etc.86 Having examined these, one should abstain from the maiden and should not seek further union.87
One verse of the Tirumandiram reads that except for those who plant the seed there is no harvest.88 One can interpret this line in vice-versa that those who do not want the harvest should refrain from planting the seed. Having planted the seed one should not abort it for he has no right to do it.
Tirum¦lar says that God preserves the foetus inside the womb for three hundred days in numerous ways.89 M¢´ikka-v¢cagar in “Pùããi-t-tiru-v-agaval” of his Tiru-v¢cagam, explains the critical stages of the human foetus right from the first month up to the tenth month:
M¢´ikka-v¢cagar goes on to explain from what all he escaped after taking birth as a human in this world and how God helped him to overcome all these. When God takes this much interest in preserving the life of a foetus how can a human abort it? It can be inferred from what is said by Tirum¦lar that abortion is the most immoral act. By aborting a baby one denies a soul its chance of getting liberated.
It is already stated elsewhere in this chapter that Tirum¦lar condemns activities such as killing, thieving, drinking, lusting and lying as immoral. These acts are done out of ignorance. Killing is an act of violence. Violence is to be denounced. It helps neither the one who acted violently nor the one who fells prey to it. By killing somebody one thinks that he has taken revenge on somebody who displeased him. This is an act out of utter ignorance. The way to get out of displeasure is to get out of pleasure as well; that is, to treat both pleasure and displeasure equally. Mental equanimity (iru-viéai-oppu) is the key to open the doors of heaven. Seeking more pleasure, that too by violent means, will only result in displeasure and ultimately will lead to trouble. Not only that. By killing somebody, one curbs the chances of the one who was killed to become reformed and get liberated. Moreover the doer of the violent act has to take several births to make his account of bad deeds (p¢pa) void and there is no guarantee that he will take birth as a human in the near future.
Alcoholism is censured by Tirum¦lar because it curtails one’s intelligence. The soul’s natural intelligence is covered up by the fetter called ¢´ava-mala (ignorance). God helps the soul with a body as an instrument of knowledge out of m¢y¢, only to come out of ignorance. Drinking alcohol further curtails the intelligence of the soul. Alcoholism makes the soul to move in the wrong direction and hence it is vehemently condemned by Tium¦lar.
Tirum¦lar does not support measures to accumulate wealth. He is against materialism. He says: people are going after wealth. They think that every day dawns just for the sake of filling the stomach and they try hard to fill the stomach and to put a full-stop to hunger. They think that accumulation of wealth will forever solve the problems of filling the stomach. But they do not know that the key is elsewhere. Stomach will be there as long as they have a birth. Once their birth ceases, their hunger ceases. Birth is the result of the three impurities. If these three impurities are cleaned there is no birth; if there is no birth there is no body; if there is no body there is no stomach; if there is no stomach there is no hunger. Everything ceases.91 Therefore accumulation of wealth is a vain exercise. By this way Tirum¦lar registers his opinion regarding capitalism.
If one happens to be wealthy he should share it with others without any discrimination. The crow calls its kith and kin to share the food. That should set an example for the humans.92 It is clear that Tirum¦lar is not for materialism although he accepts matter as a reality.
The problems of human life, according to Tirum¦lar, can be tackled with the help of education. To Tirum¦lar education is not mere literacy; education is spiritual. Knowing the implication of the union of body and soul is education.93 Those who have mastered this are educated, even if they are illiterates; those who have not mastered it are uneducated, even if they are literates.94 This education comes handy by listening.95
The responsibility to set right the things that are in disarray in a society rests with the ruler. It is the duty of the ruler is to assure that things fall in place. The ruler should punish the pretenders who don the holy garb and practise evil ways.
The ruler can claim one sixth of the produce of his subjects,97 and in turn it is the duty of the ruler to defend his people. The ruler who protects his people wins the loyalty of his subjects.98 If one does not stand in his own ordained faith and if he deviates, the ruler should not fail to punish them according to the laws laid down in the ¡gamas.99 To do all these the ruler should be an educated one.100 Education in the parlance of Tirum¦lar is spiritual education. One can say that Tirum¦lar proposes a philosopher king.
Though the ways the society conducts itself and the modes of the government have changed, Tirum¦lar’s advises still hold water because man is essentially the same right from the beginning, suffering from impurities.
7. Tirumandiram – An ¢ããu-p-pa²ai literature
¡ããu-p-pa²ai is a kind of Tamil poetry. The term ¢ããu-p-pa²ai is a compound of two words, ¢ãu and pa²ai. ¡ãu in Tamil stands for a river, a canal, or a way. In olden days, when people migrated from one place to another in search of lands of prosperity, they went alongside the rivers. They made their habitats on the banks of the rivers. Since the rivers showed the way to wealth, people named ‘way’ with the word which stands for river, ¢ãu. Pa²ai is a term which means ‘the act of putting.’ The combination of these two terms, i.e., ¢ããu-p-pa²ai would mean ‘the act of putting one on the way’ or ‘the act of showing the way’ or ‘the act of canalising.’ This has become an image in Tamil heroic poetry.
The definition of the ¢ããu-p-pa²ai kind of poetry is given in Tol-k¢ppiyam, the oldest available Tamil grammar work. It is as follows: May he be a stage actor or a singer or a buffoon or a songstress, an artiste on his/her return after getting so much of gifts from a king for his/her performance, when met with a co-artiste on the way, canalises him/her to the king, describing the philanthropic nature of the king to enable the co-artiste benefited as he/she was.101
This definition restricts the imagery called ¢ããu-p-pa²ai only to the stage artistes. Later the poets were also included. In any case ¢ããu-p-pa²ai stood for canalising one to material wealth. It was Tiru-Murug¢ããu-p-pa²ai which canalised the wayfarer to Lord Murugaé for material as well as spiritual wealth.
Tirum¦lar, the first known Tamil Siddha, used this imagery ¢ããu-p-pa²ai completely for spiritual purposes. Tirum¦lar says:
It is rightly observed by T.N. Ganapathy that the ¢ããu-p-pa²ai concept has acquired a socio-philosophical meaning at the hands of the Tamil Siddhas. According to T.N. Ganapathy, this concept has two aspects in the philosophy of the Siddhas — one positive and the other negative. The anti-scriptural and anti-theistic attitudes coupled with their criticism of caste, idol worship, religious observances, rituals and ceremonies and their warning against pseudo gurus etc., represent the negative side of the ¢ããu-p-pa²ai concept, while, the method of the Ku´²alin¤-Yoga, their ethical precepts and their system of medicine form the positive aspect of the ¢ããu-p-pa²ai concept.103 It is to be kept in mind that Tirum¦lar is not anti-scriptural or anti-theistic.
The Naéé¦l, a Tamil work on grammar defines a book as one which accomplishes all or some or at least one of the following four: virtue (aãam), wealth (poru¶), pleasure (iébam), liberation (v¤²u).104 These four are called puru¾¢rthas in Sanskrit. In Tamil they are called ¦diyam or uãudi-p-poru¶.105 That is, these are the final goals one is striving for. Man seeks pleasure either materially or spiritually. Wealth and pleasure are material; virtue and liberation are spiritual. Hence the Naéé¦l defines that a book should help one to achieve at least one of the four.
Some books revolve around the concept of virtue; some concentrate on wealth; some on pleasure; some take all the three in their fold. The Kau°al¤yam, the famous work of Ch¢´akya, claims that it is taking all the three — virtue, wealth and pleasure — into account.106 The Tiru-k-kuãa¶ speaks directly about the three and speaks indirectly about the fourth one liberation.
The books which deal with the first three — virtue, wealth and pleasure — are called tri-varga and books which deal with all the four including liberation are called catur-varga.107
The Tirumandiram concentrates on only one of the above — liberation. It speaks about virtue only as a supplement to liberation. In that case the Tirumandiram may be called as dvi-varga. The Tirumandiram speaks very less about material wealth and material pleasure. Concentrating on them is not necessary for a book which is directing people to liberation. Further in the conception of Tirum¦lar, liberation is the final axis; without that the other three will become meaningless.
The social concern of the Tirumandiram is to direct each and everybody to liberation. The philosophical, religious and the other conceptions of the Tirumandiram are stemming from this concern for the other beings. Blessed is the mankind.
1 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 346.
2 Tirumandiram, 2615.
3 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 350.
4 Tirumandiram, 298. Translation of B. Natarajan.
5 Ra. Ganapathy, Sw¢mi Vivëk¢éandar (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1995), pp. 112-113.
6 Holy Bible, Matthew, 21:28.
7 N.S. Subramanian, Encyclopaedia of the Upanisads (New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1985), p. 494. Also refer: Radhakrishnan, The Hindu View of Life (London: Unwin books, 1965), p. 65.
8 Periya-pur¢´am, “Tiru-k-k¦°°a-c-ciãappu,” 8.
9 T.N. Ganapathy, The Philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas (New Delhi: Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1993), p. 190.
10 Tirumandiram, 2977.
11 Ibid., 2017.
12 Va¶¶al¢r R¢mali¬ga Sw¢miga¶, Tiru-v-aru°p¢, Sixth Tirumuãai (Madras: Arutperunjothi Accagam, 1942), “J¤va-k¢ru´ya-o~ukkam,” third section, 1, p. 39.
13 Ibid., “J¤va-k¢ru´ya-o~ukkam,” 1:4, p. 3.
14 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 315. Translation of V.V.S. Aiyar.
15 Tirumandiram, 270.
16 Ibid., 252. Translation of B. Natarajan with a slight modification.
17 Va¶¶al¢r R¢mali¬ga Sw¢miga¶, op.cit., p. 20.
18 Tirumandiram, 1857.
19 Ibid., 1861.
20 Ibid., 1862.
21 Ibid., 1857.
22 Ibid., 250. Translation of B. Natarajan.
23 Ibid., 2104. Translation of B. Natarajan with a slight modification.
24 S. Vaiyapuri Pillai (ed.), Divya-p-prabhandham (Madras: S. Rajam, 1955), First Thousand, “Tiru-p-pall¢´²u,” verse 4.
25 Edgar Thurston & K. Rangachari, Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Vol. IV (Chennai: Asian Educational Service, 1987), p. 249.
26 Tevaram, 6:938.
27 Tirumandiram, 1721.
28 For a detailed list refer: G. Kousalya Vijayan, Tirumandirattil V¢~viyal Cindanaiga¶ (Vellore: Vijayan Patippagam, 1996), p. 18.
29 Tirumandiram, 2551. Translation of B. Natarajan.
30 Ibid., 2552.
31 Ibid., 329.
32 Ibid., 1538.
33 Ibid., 1558; also refer 52 & 58.
34 T.N. Ganapathy, op.cit., p. 197.
35 Tirumandiram, 2951. Translation of B. Natarajan.
36 Ibid., 153.
37 Ibid., 148. Translation of B. Natarajan.
38 Ibid., 158.
39 Puãa-n¢é¦ãu, 189. Author’s translation.
40 Tirumandiram, 170. Translation f B. Natarajan.
41 Ibid., 171. Translation f B. Natarajan.
42 Ibid., 209. Translation f B. Natarajan.
43 Ibid., 172. Translation of B. Natarajan.
44 Ku´²ala-këci, 9. Author’s translation.
45 Pa°°iéatt¢r, “Tiru-t-tillai,” 1. Author’s translation.
46 Matthew, 8: 21 & 22.
47 Tirumandiram, 177. Translation of B. Natarajan.
48 Ibid., 229.
49 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 341. Translation of V.V.S. Aiyar.
50 Tirumandiram, 2615. Translation of B. Natarajan.
51 Ibid., 200. Translation of B. Natarajan.
52 Ibid., 273. Translation of B. Natarajan.
53 Ibid., 272. Translation of B. Natarajan.
54 Ibid., 725. Translation of B. Natarajan.
55 Pa°°iéatt¢r, “Kùyil Tiru-agaval,” 2:8-19. Author’s translation.
56 Ibid., “U²al-k¦ããu-va´´am,” 24.
57 Refer: Ka²uve¶i-c-cittar, 3 and A~uga´´i-c-cittar, 8.
58 Tirumandiram, 724. Translation of B. Natarajan.
59 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 43. Translation of V.V.S. Aiyar with a slight modification.
60 Tirumandiram, 263. Translation of B. Natarajan.
61 Refer Pari-mël-a~agar’s comment on “Marundu,” Tiru-k-kuãa¶.
62 —, Tami~ (Citta) Maruttuva-k-kù°p¢²u (Madras: Department of Indian Medicine and Homeopathy, 1995), n.p.
63 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 941.
64 K.N. Udupa, Stress and its Management by Yoga, R.C. Prasad (Ed.), (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000), p. 105.
65 Tirumandiram, 261. Translation of B. Natarajan.
66 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 948. Translaion of V.V.S Aiyar with a slight modification.
67 Tirumandiram, 571.
68 Ibid., 735. Translation of B. Natarajan.
69 Ibid., 653.
70 Ibid., 654.
71 Ibid., 655 and 656.
72 Ibid., 790, 796.
73 Ibid., 478. Translation of B. Natarajan.
74 Ibid., 482.
75 Ibid., 479.
76 Ibid., 480.
77 Ibid., 481.
78 Ibid., 483.
79 Tirumandiram, 1162, 2727, 2767, 2768, 2780.
80 Ibid., 201.
81 Tiru-k-kuãa¶, 25. Translation of V.V.S Aiyar.
82 Tirumandiram, 1938.
83 Ibid., 1939.
84 Ibid., 1940.
85 Ibid., 1942 & 1943.
86 Ibid., 1944.
87 Ibid., 1945.
88 Ibid., 1946.
89 Ibid., 463.
90 Tiru-v¢cagam, “Pùããi-t-tiru-v-agaval,” lines 13-25. Author’s translation.
91 Tirumandiram, 210 & 211.
92 Ibid., 250.
93 Ibid., 290.
94 Ibid., 310.
95 Ibid., 300, 301, 302, 305, 307.
96 Ibid., 242.
98 Ibid., 245.
99 Ibid., 247.
100 Ibid., 238.
101 Ka. Vellaivaranan (Comm.), Tol-k¢ppiyam (Madurai: Madurai Kamaraj University, 1983), “Puãa-t-ti´ai-iyal,” aphorism 30, p. 333.
102 Tirumandiram, 85. Translation of B. Natarajan with a slight modification.
103 T.N. Ganapathy, op.cit., pp. 190 & 191.
104 Arumuga Navalar (Comm.), Naéé¦l (Madras: T. Racanayagam, Vidyanupalana Yandira-calai, 1958), aphorism 10, p. 10.
105 S. N. Kanadhasamy, Kuãa¶ K¦ãum Uãudi-p-poru¶ (Madras: Manivacagar Padippagam, 1977), p. 4.
106 M. Kadireca Chettiyar and P. Sri. Ramanujachari (Trans.), Kau²al¤yam Poru´¦l (Annamalai Nagar: Annamalai University, 1980), p. 1229.
107 S. N. Kandhasamy, op.cit., pp. 7–12.