Thirumoolar’s Thirumanthiram Siddhar Charithiram : A recap

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In a series of articles titled Siddhar Charithiram, published in our Parnika magazine, we have had the good fortune of expounding the life history of Siddhas from the Tamil tradition of “Pathinen Siddhargal”. The 18 great Siddhas that we studied during this journey are- Nandidevar, Agastya Muni, Thirumular, Bogar, Konganar, Machamuni, Gorakkar, Cattamuni, Sundaranathar, Ramadevar, Kudhambai, Karuvurar, Idaikkadar, Kamalamuni, Valmiki, Patanjali, Danvantri and Pambatti Siddhar. In the Guru Poornima special edition of series, we were blessed to also write about the great Siddha Avvai. Siddha refers to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment. We looked at various Siddhas who have graced upon this earth with their Presence – their life and the wisdom they shared in the form of poems, couplets that are referred to as Siddhar Padalgal. The journey of Siddhar Charithiram gave us the opportunity to have a glimpse of the life and works of the Siddhas. The encouragement and response from you, the readers, gave us enthusiasm and energy to do the necessary work and complete the series successfully.

Thirumoolar’s Thirumandhiram- Siddhar Charithiram
Siddhar Charithiram is just a beginning and preliminary step for us! Siddhas work are vast in number, deep in their meaning and purport, and sharp in its appeal to the intellect of the sadhakas. A preliminary study of their life and work may give us the necessary introduction to these spiritual giants but are never enough. We now hope to continue deeper study( Abhyasam) about the Siddhas and share more pearls of wisdom about them to you all. We hope you too will take this as an opportunity to know about the Siddhas and have their Grace in your lives. With that introduction let us begin this series!

For this series, we will present to you a detailed study on the work of Siddha Thirumoolar- Thirumandhiram. Thirumandhiram’s literal meaning is “Holy incantation”. It is a Tamil poetic work by Thirumular. It is a masterpiece work of Siddha Thirumoolar and has many dimensions to it.
The Many Dimensions of Thirumandhiram
As a poetic work, Thirumandhiram is the tenth of the twelve volumes of the Thirumurai. Thirumurai is a compendium of songs or hymns in praise of Shiva in the Tamil language composed by various poets in South India. Thirumurai contains soul-stirring Tamil poetic compositions sung by Saiva Nayyanars who by their Bhakti hymns captured the hearts of the people. Hence Thirumandhiram can be seen as a work of Bhakti tradition.

As a work of Philosophy, Thirumandhiram describes an original philosophical system, and the southern school of Saiva Siddhanta draws its authority from Tirumandiram. Thirumandhiram is the earliest book to have used the word Saiva Siddhanta. Through its philosophical system, Tirumandiram unfolds Siddhantha (attainment) as a fourfold path – virtuous and moral living, temple worship, internal worship and union with Siva. Shaiva Siddhanta provides the normative rites, cosmology and theological categories of Agamic and Vedic Shaivam combined. It is one of the rare works in which the closeness of Agamic and Vedic Shaivism is described. The goal of Shaiva Siddhanta is to become an enlightened soul through Lord Shiva’s Grace.

As a yogic text, Thirumandhiram provides instructions to Yoga practices according to the eight-angled similar to that of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is interesting that the yogic practices are also called as Vaasi Yoga according to Thirumandhiram. Vaasi when repeated in quick succession becomes Siva! Kannadasan’s poetic verse about this Vaa Si- Si va can be seen below:

‘வாசி வாசி என்று வாசித்த தமிழ் இன்று
சிவா சிவா என சிந்தை தனில் நின்று
அவாவினால் இந்த ஒளவைத் தமிழ் கொண்டு
கவிபாடினான் உன்னைக் கண் குளிரக் கண்டு!’
By calling Vaa Si Vaa Si in Tamil
Siva Siva- is held in my mind
Through Desire, This Ouvai, using Tamil Language
Sang a song, after Seeing you to my Heart’s content

The section on Yoga, called “Shiva yoga”, offers details not found in the Sanskrit text of Patanjali. The Tirumantiram describes means of attaining an immortal body (kaya siddhi), advocating a theory of preserving the body so that the soul would continue its existence.

As a text describing on Veda- Vedantic concepts, Thirumandhiram expounds on the Upanishadic Tat tvam asi and other Vedantic concepts, the transcendental reality as emptiness (Sunya) devoid of any attribute and Tantrasastra (Shakti worship), chakras, magic spells and their accessories. Thirumoolar also gives the Vedanta and Siddhanta interpretation of the Mahavakyas in His work Thirumandhiram.

As a book on religious conduct and morality, Thirumandhiram teaches the ethics of non-violence (ahimsa), abstinence from slaughtering, meat and alcohol. He condemns coveting another man’s wife. He declares that “love is God” (அன்பே சிவம்), proclaims the unity of mankind and God and stresses the acquisition of knowledge.

As a Siddha text it is full of metaphorical sayings communicating mystical thoughts. The final section of the Tirumantiram, named Sunya Sambhashana (“Colloquy on the Void”) gives poetic expression to many of the mystical experiences of Siddhar Thirumoolar. The work also stresses the fundamentals of Siddha medicine and its healing powers. It deals with a wide array of subjects, unique only to the Siddhas, including astronomy and physical nature of human body (Kaya Kalpa).

The greatness of Siddhar Thirumoolar

Thirumular is not only one of the 63 Nayanmars (Nayanars) but also a significant one among the 18 Siddhars. Tirumular has been referred to as “Nampiran” (meaning: nam-Our, piran-God, thus thirumular has been called as a leader or god to all the remaining nayanars) by Sundarar in his thiru thondar thogai (the earliest song which mentions the names of 63 nayanars).

It is with reverence could we look at this greatest of work of Siddhar Thirumoolar packed with different subtle dimensions, all-powerful in its own way, into one single work. No wonder it is said that Siddhar Thirumoolar meditated for over 3000 years. And every year, when he comes out of his meditation during Maha Shivarathri, he wrote one verse packing the wisdom of his one year’s meditation into it. (We will see more about this later into the series)

Given the immensity of work at hand, we pray to Siddhar Thirumoolar to gives us the strength and courage to study this great work and present to you readers the knowledge we will gain through the study. From the next edition, we will learn more about Thirumandhiram and its author Siddhar Thirumoolar.