SIDDHA PARAMPARA OF INDIA
Venkatapathy and Sooryanarayan
Gaining expertise in any field needs dedication, sincerity, and prolonged efforts with discipline. There is no shortcut to success. And the spiritual path is no exception. A spiritual aspirant needs to invest dedicated and disciplined practice, called as sadhana, for success in his spiritual life.
All our Rishis and Yogis have done their sadhana. In fact, many have undergone immense tapas (difficult austerities) for their sadhana to gain Spiritual Enlightenment. To even hear about their dedication and hard work will inspire us immensely. After achieving their goal of Kaivalya or spiritual enlightenment, the Rishis and Yogis of our land shared it with us as stories, poems, teachings and in other forms. Doing abhyasa or regular reading on such work will benefit us tremendously and this space is dedicated to that.
Bowing down with reverence to the great Siddha Parampara, we present this series on Siddhas and their literary works. In Sanskrit “Siddha” means “fulfilled”. The term Siddha refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. In tamil they are also called as “Siddhargal”. They are beings who have realised the goal of their sadhana and have become a perfected being.
The Siddhas truly represent the highest possibility for a human being. Siddhas’ state of being is the best of what we can all aspire to become. Siddhas are great men and women who have attained to the farthest heights of human potential and have offered a roadmap for many on the path of seeking the Divine Truth.
“Pathinen Siddhargal” is a tradition referred to in the ancient Tamil literature, which can be understood to stand for “Eighteen Siddhas”. It refers to the 18 great Siddhas – Nandidevar, Agastya Muni, Thirumular, Bogar, Konganar, Machamuni, Gorakkar, Cattamuni, Sundaranathar, Ramadevar, Kudhambai, Karuvurar, Idaikkadar, Kamalamuni, Valmiki, Patanjali, Danvantri and Pambatti Siddhar. The title of Siddhas has also been attributed to more than a hundred great beings as recorded in various works of Tamil literature. Many yogis and scholars also present the interpretation that “Eighteen” here, refers to the eighteen Siddhis or spiritual attainments and the numeral qualifies those who have attained them.
The Siddhas did not identify themselves to a particular piece of land, race or culture. They travelled all over the world and lived lives as an offering to all beings. They identified themselves only with the deathless Jivatma. Actions performed by them from their state of consciousness seemed super-natural to those unattained. They achieved such states of Divinity through tremendous efforts of self-mastery and self-surrender to their Guru and God.
Siddhas are tattva-darshis who perceive the tattvas as ultimate reality and in their literary works, they have shared their darshana or divine vision. Siddhas’ works are a fertile source for knowing the unknown. Their illuminating writings profoundly inspire every sincere seeker and guide us from within. Their writings cannot be merely qualified as cryptic. But rather multi-layered and multi-dimensional. They inspire the seekers to delve deep within themselves in search of the deepest meaning. The true meanings are said to reveal themselves upon contemplation in a profound state of meditation. In their literary works, the Siddhas have given us keys to happy and virtuous life, alchemy, medicine, science, yoga, paths and guidance to realization, details on various states of attainment and insights on the nature of God and existence.
Their writings are referred to as the Sandhya Bhasha. The meaning “twilight language” suggests that the explanation can be offered either in relation to the day or to the night. Siddhas’ poems have the capacity to bring forth multivalence in its meaning relative to both an ordinary state of experience and to a transcendental state of experience. In the first edition of this series we offer our sincere prayers to the great Siddha Parampara and begin with a few gem from the works of Kudhambai Siddhar.
Kudhambai Siddhar is one of the Pathinen Siddhargal. He was born to parents belonging to the Yadhava Kula. Kudhambai is not his real name but is actually a type of ear-ring worn by women during that period. The Siddha was adorned with such earnings and so lovingly called as Kudhambai by his mother. At the age of 16, Kudhambai was initiated into the Siddha tradition after which he continued with his sadhana. He went on to become a great Siddhar and came to be called Kudhambai Siddhar. Many yogis and scholars have also postulated that kundalini is coiled like an ear-ring and Kudhambai Siddhar stands for a kundalini-yogin. Kudhambai Siddhar was also an expert in the field of Siddha medicine.
The great Siddha offered his realizations in a poetic work which is now called as Kudhambai Siddhar Padalgal (Poems of Siddhar Kudhambai). The poems of Siddhar Kudhambai are structurally simple and profound verses. In his poems, the great Siddha Kudhambai covers variety of subjects including Para-Brahman (the omnipresent Divine Principle), Kundalini, Yama and Niyama – dos and don’ts for spiritual aspirants, Siddha Vaidhya and his divine visions.
In the Siddhar’s songs, the word kuthambai is found in every stanza. It seems as though he is instructing his kudhambai ear-ring through the poem. There is definitely more that would reveal upon deep contemplation.
Meaning: Kudhambai describes the vastness and the immensity of the Absolute as a light that pervades everywhere. The divine light being all-pervasive is also visible within the body. Hence the Siddha says the human body is an instrument to liberation. So do not look outwardly, but inwardly.
Now he shows the way to see that Divine.
Meaning: Kudhambai emphasizes on the importance of daily Spiritual practices in this verse. He states that only for the Sadhaka (Spiritual aspirant) who is ever committed to fulfill the required austerities, the Divine Truth is within reach.
Along with deep philosophical and Spiritual meaning Kudhambai Siddhar emphasizes on proper conducts for day-to-day activities. Says Kudhambai,
Meaning: Kudhambai lists Anger, Jealously, harsh words, crooked thinking as the main reason to transgress the Sanatana Dharma or Eternal laws. Transgressing here does not exactly mean sin in a conventional meaning. It is more like the consequences of not respecting the Laws of Nature. For example, if a person tries to jump from a building ignoring the laws of gravity, he will surely be hurt. Likewise the above actions are deemed inappropriate if one is to lead a spiritual life.
Meaning: Anaadi in Sanskrit means “beginningless”. It represents pure consciousness which has neither beginning nor end. Saiva Agamas, which call this pure consciousness as Sada Siva (The Eternal One), say that Lord Siva performs five actions in this world. The first three is quite well known- the basic actions of creation, preservation and destruction. The fourth one is obscuration, tirodhana shakti, which is the illusion of separateness the embodied beings see. With his fifth action of anugraha shakti, Lord Siva frees us from the illusion of separateness from Him, granting us realization of our true identity. Kudhambai says, the Scriptures extol this Anaadi who performs the five actions in this world.
Meaning: This verse is a beautiful example of Sandhya Bhasha. Kudhambai compares the attainment of worldly desires as climbing atop a coconut tree to enjoy the fruits of one’s action. It is petty and useless relative to the pursuit of attaining self-realization, which is compared to reaching the mountain peak. Atop the mountain peak is the unparalleled nectar from the fruit of Jnana, which is referred in this stanza as the mango-milk. Yogis have also given the meaning that climbing the six adharas, one reaches the top – the sahasrara and receives the ambrosia.
As a beginning to this series of articles, we have presented a few gems like the above ones. We pray to bring to you more from the Siddhar Padalgal (Poems of Siddhas) composed by great Siddhas in many volumes. The interpretation for these works comes inspired from varied sources of prior research, scholarly work and is based on our own Abhyasa Sadhana. The summarized meanings of the great verses presented here are only suggestive and call for a deeper meditation and sadhana to unfold their deeper meanings.
We invite you to contemplate more on these lines and share with us your insights. We also invite you to share with us lines from Siddhar Padalgal that have deeply touched you. You could write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With these first steps, may our abhyasa continue, may our shraddha in the Siddha Parampara strengthen and may revelations awaken as we grow within!