|Dread , Wonder and Miracle
A Saivaite Interpretation
University of Madras, CHENNAI 600 005.
In the empirical realm men develop fear towards wild animals, poisonous reptiles, men of evil nature, celestial beings, diseases, death, violence etc., since they cause affliction. Besides these, natural calamities such as cyclone, earthquake, famine, floods, fire etc., lead mankind to experience untold suffering and the very thought of such events make them tremble with fear. As human, endowed with sense organs, mind, soul, man cannot live with fear for ever. In his effort to thwart fear and lead a peaceful life, man has resorted to manifold means. However, among his enduring efforts, religious pursuits and spiritual aspirations are treated as the best panacea. For these alone will offer permanent solutions while other peripheral means will engender recurring afflictions. In the religious realm people make an appeal to the Lord Supreme, the personal God to safeguard them from the dreaded elements on earth and heaven. They engage in regular rituals, routine prayers, periodical festivals, organized worships etc., to invoke the blessings of God.
The moment fear is alleviated and life becomes meaningful and smooth sailing, people begin to wonder at the divine splendor. As life becomes calm and worthwhile, the aspirant involves seriously in spiritual moorings setting aside the world of phenomena. Eventually he realizes the miraculous manifestation of the Lord Supreme at every flora and fauna of this earth as well as in every event. While fear has negative impact wonder and miracle have positive influence. Thiruvalluvar speaks about fear thus: "It is foolish to be fearless to what is to be feared; the task before the learned scholars is to develop natural fear for those towards which or whom they ought to develop fear. Contrary to the conception of Valluvar, the Saivite saints declare that nothing is to be feared or nothing can cause fear in the universe, provided one makes Lord Siva dwell in ones own self. The events that took place in the life of St. Appar vouchsafe to this principle that the saint withstood all the ordeals by the king such as putting him in the lime kiln, forcing him todrink poison, making an elephant trample over him and throwing him into the sea tied to a stone. In all these events the saint did not express even an iota of fear, but the contemplation of the lotus feet of Siva was the invisible guide and the chanting of the holy syllables brought him ashore from the tortures and turmoil. In his own words, "subject to none are we; dread not we the god of death; never shall we suffer in the hell nor due to disease since we have reached the floweradorned holy feet of Sankara." Such is the heroic mould of a Saiva who cares not for the rules of the land or dreads not death. The main reason for such a declaration is that a true devotee of Siva becomes the person of Siva. As his thoughts, words and deeds centre around Siva and His devotees equally, his mission on earth is to minimise the maladies of mankind as well as promulgate the ideals such as work, worship, service, sacrifice etc. based on devotion, but not expecting anything in return. Personal aspirations are subjugated into the global prosperity, as Siva is a universal God. Thiruvalluvars notion of fear and fearlessness is meant for the wise men in the worldly settings. The Saiva devotees transcend the empirical plane of existence and hence they need not be afraid of those for which the worldly people usually develop fear.
n this context it would be quite interesting to state the views of St. Manickavacakar who pours out his unique divine experience authentically. In a decade known as DREAD, the saint looks at the world he comes across -vile people with highly despicable character. Such men of base mentality are to be shunned. Probably, this may be the reason why the sages shy away from the human habitations and seek asylum in the forest to live in the midst of trees, plants, birds and animals. The fear of man penetrating into and polluting the forests does not arise since to live continuously in the dense jungle will be an arduous task. Those enlightened persons who prefer to live in the midst of mankind with the sole intention of redeeming man, have to pay a heavy price. As the contamination caused by the vile people is at its peak in the worldly environment, there arises a stated of dread of the world. St. Manickavacakars TIRUVACAKAM has been hailed as a handbook of mystical theology which serves as a testament of devotion towards Lord Siva. While elucidating the greatness of divine love and the grandeur of communion with Siva, the mystic poet could not resist his anger and anguish over the agonies caused by the people of abominable character. First, he condemns those who even after acquiring wisdom that Siva is the only invisible refuge as well as visible redeemer, run after minor gods and unenlightened persons for peripheral gains. The saint is not afraid of snake in the ant-hill nor the pseudo truths of consistent liars. But he is certainly afraid of the people who hanker after empirical pleasures brushing aside the abiding bliss of Siva. Similarly he is not afraid of the rising of evil yearnings nor for the engulfing of the ocean of karmas, but he is frightened of those who do not acknowledge the supremacy of Lord Siva. He dreads those who do not melt in love and praise His glory in worthy terms and drink His sweet grace. But he does not dread the mighty javelin piercing through the flesh nor the glance of maids.
The following are the items for which the mystic poet has no fear.
The reason for this type of bold utterance is that the saint has transcended world-consciousness and has developed Siva-consciousness. Evidently he is not terrified at those things of which the ordinary people are terribly afraid. Then naturally he exhibits anguish over the non-adherence of Saiva symbols such as sacred white ash and not following the Saiva way of worship with sincerity and seriousness. The truth is that the world consists of believers and non-believers in the supremacy of god. Even after knowing the revealed texts of the first hand experience the saints had with Siva, people do not show interest in gaining similar experience by resorting to Saiva ways of worship. As the saints wish that the bliss they enjoyed must be shared by everyone in the world, the lamentation and righteous indignation of St. Manickavacakar are justifiable. For when we rejoice at the expression of his mystic intuition and enjoyment of divine grace, equally we must accept his echoing of agonies over the attitude of the people in not following the Saiva ways of thinking, speaking and acting.
In another decade called the ADHISAYAPPATHU (The Decade of Wonder) St. Manickavacakar exemplifies his feeling of exultation. Here the saint illustratively reveals the mystic event which is best known only to the spiritually awakened souls who are in an eternal communion with God. The ignorant people cannot understand the sacred or secret meaning of this unique experience. In this decade the saint exclaims his admission into the galaxy of Saiva devotees which is regarded as the deliverance here and hereafter by the Saiva Scholars.
In all the ten verses St. Manickavacakar equates himself with a loathsome person with wicked behaviour. The truth is that Lord Siva is gracious enough and merciful too to such persons and unites them into His fold and makes them one among the members of the spiritual commonwealth. This act of Lord Siva is gracious and hence it is not surprising that the saint exclaims in wonder. The saint categorically asserts that such an wonderful deed of Lord Siva is really comprehensible and not impenetrable one. First, the Lord makes the saint equivalent to Himself by annihilating all the impurities and subsequently unites him in the company of fellow saints, a rare privilege to be accomplished in Saiva faith. The saint affirms that redemption is granted even to those who get worn out by the charms of young women , who do not even think about righteousness much less move with those who are righteous, who wander between birth and death, who do not praise the Lord and worship Him with flowers, who do not meditate, nor chant the holy name (the mystic five letters), who do not seek the company of the learned men of gnosis and who are bent on plunging into the hell and who live in spiritual darkness.
One may naturally be prone to ask the questions: How could Lord Siva grant liberation to such people who do not strictly adhere to Saivite way of feeling and doing, but indulge in non-spiritual activities? Like any other saint, St. Manickavacakar also lays stress on the truth that the above description of human endeavours are practised by himself. Lord Siva who redeemed Manickavacakar who says that he was knowingly or unknowingly susceptible to such behavioural lapses will undoubtedly consider other devotees of His for bestowing His blessings. This means that even a man of moral blemishes has a chance to enjoy His bliss. This amounts to wonderment that the redemptive process of Lord Siva eliminates all evil tendencies and infuses invigorate power into the individuals so as to make them forget the world and to unite with Him. In turn Siva unites him, with His fellow devotees. To quote the saint.
Listen to the reason why eminent men of the world
Call me a crazy fellow!
Without falling in with His will
And without knowing the technique
Of gaining His Holy grace
I am bent on falling into the notorious hell
After my death
We witness the mystic event
Of my father enslaving such a person
And initiating him into His band of devotees.
In the Periyapurnam we come across the timely intervention of Lord Siva in uniting His devotees into His fold who are engaged in enjoying the worldly affairs and subsequently uniting such persons in the company of sacred band of devotees. St. Sundarar went to the extent of calling Siva, a mad man who proclaimed at the wedding ceremony that he was a slave to Siva (in disguise as a priest). Siva succeeded in keeping away St. Sundarar from the whirlpool of worldly existence and finally made him glorify the significance of being a servant of Lords devotees. It is Siva who designs the enactment of disentangling the fetters of His staunch followers at the appropriate hour. This master plan of Siva is really an amazing act. Unless he rescues the drowning souls from the karmic oceans and united them into Himself, seldom can human beings be redeemed and think of uniting with fellow devotees. Hence there is no wonder in the exclamations by St. Manickavacakar who has really seen and enjoyed this wonderful design of Lord siva.
With pride the saint exclaims in another place thus:
"Who else, indeed could gain like me the grace
Bestowed on me by the Primal Being
The source of everything, my mother
Who, severing my bonds of the three malams
And making me a thing of worth
Me who was wandering in the company of dunces
Who did not know the benefits of deliverance
Made this cur ascend the palanquin"
Here the saint expresses his good fortune amazingly which means astonishment mingled with wonder and gratitude.
Further the saint proceeds to consider the action of Siva as a miraculous one besides his description of divine wonder. The miraculous experience, according to the saint is unalterable. In the words of Rev. G.U. Pope, "It is in some respects quite unique among his compositions, and certainly has not the flowing ease and rapture of some of his subsequent verses, but perhaps, it reveals more of himself than any other. It was put forth, as would seem, immediately after his conversions; and is a thankful acknowledgement of the grace that has delivered him (as he now thinks) completely, and for ever, from the bonds of sensual passion".
St Manickavacakar in the Decade of Miracle speaks of two kinds of enjoyment: One is the materialistic pleasure which is temporary and momentary, while the second one is the perennial joy which is abiding and everlasting. Owing to the allegiance of natural dispositions caused by the basic impurities especially egoity, one wanders and craves for sensuous happiness. Till the realization comes, the transitory and peripheral joy is sought which culminates in sexual indulgence, lies, murder, violence, seeking wealth, birth, death etc. As soon as divine bliss begins to flow, the aspirant realizes the pernicious nature of empirical pleasure and simultaneously he realizes that divine bliss alone can bring forth enduring calmness and the aspirant really can rejoice at the divine thrill. In fact the divine joy cannot be enjoyed by mere individual efforts nor through intellectual pursuits. It is really a miracle according to the saint which is inexplicable because none can know the method by which Siva bestows His grace.
St. Tirujnanasambandhar also is of the same view. He requests the intellectuals not to explore the means by which Lord Siva bestows His grace and His original stature since they are beyond human comprehension and are immeasurable. The best way to "know" God is to "experience" Him than to explain Him. For with limited intellectual resources mankind cannot give a correct or complete picture of God. However they can "reveal" the personal rapport with God. In this context, it is interesting to note that in the section on wonder the saint exclaims: atisayam kaNdEnE but in the decade on miracles he repeatedly says:-aRputam viLampEnE
In mystical experience the unique union of Siva is obviously "seen" intuitively while the mode by which the devout soul gets united with Siva transcends human understanding and description. Probably, this may be the reason for the saint to experience the sense of awe when he experiences communion with Siva. The subsequent act of Siva of making the "united persons" mingle in the company of fellow devotees is to prevent them from the retrieving of egoity and also make them be of benefit to fellow devotees. The usage of such epithets referring to Siva as KING, TRUTH, RARE BEING, PRECIOUS ONE, HELPER OCEAN OF EXCELLENT QUALITIES, FATHER, NOT KNOWN THROUGH SOUND, IMPERISHABLE, LORD SUPREME etc., are the expressions given to the experience of the saint who in turn revealed to the followers for further realization. We are reminded of the declaration of a Saiva saint here:
Is taste in honey black or white
Ye vile people search for God in the skies
Even as taste in honey is implicit
Siva is hidden in the body.
Taste in honey is not a matter for communication but for enjoying. The divine presence is to be enjoyed than expressed since it transcends human efforts. As the operative force is Sivas grace which is invisible, it is quite natural for any saint to experience it than to explicitly explain. For, the moment grace becomes an object of explanation, it losses its vitality and true nature and becomes the limited source material for the human being.
From the three decades we have analysed viz., dread, wonder and miracles, it is clear that the seeker after release has to be very cautious about the pernicious nature of the world of ephemeral realities. Those who aspire for liberation from the bonds must develop god-centered feeling, willing and knowing and ignore those who do not tread the path of Saivism as well those who indulge in non-religion and non-spiritual deeds. When Sivas grace is realized at every walk of life certainly all the false things will flee, for the Lord as the true wisdom shines bright and in true splendour. Then naturally the wonderful event of union with Siva and the miracle of communion with Him become imminent. Almost all the Saiva saints emphatically maintain that we should not test Lord Siva with our linguistic devices and logical middle term etc., for He is the very form of self-luminosity. Our primordial duty is to convert our heart-chambers neat and clean so that Lord Siva can willingly visit and dwell in it permanently. Let us dread the perilous nature of life. Let us praise Lord Siva and express the wonder of enjoying His grace and prefer to be in the holy company of His true devotees, indeed a miracle. Let the grace of Siva sustain the whole world.