by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words
This page describes “thiruvidaimarudur or tiruvitaimarutur (hymn 60)” from the part dealing with the Pilgrim’s progress (to Chola/Cola), which represents the development of Arurar’s Mysticism as gleaned from his hymns. The 7th-century Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism
Our poet has been very much impressed with the springing forth, all of a sudden, of the message of the old folk tales of the Puranas which he must have been listening to with rapt attention from his childhood without ever consciously suspecting that they had any such message. The inner meanings seem to agree so much with his own spiritual and mystic experience vouchsafed to him by the Grace of God, that he feels a remorse for having missed this message of these popular stories. He has been singing of his achieving the deathless stage; but this revelation of a new message almost springs up from the unconscious and inspires him to take refuge in the Lord. The love of the Lord for the people to be saved is, indeed, delineated so graphically by those stories going very much beyond the expectations of his experience that this puranic personality of God appears to him nearer than before, almost appearing to be wonderfully new. He has been seeing reflections of this Lord in the beautiful visions of Nature in the various holy places he visited almost making them Heaven on Earth. The Seer is said to sleep in this world keeping himself awake in the sphere of Truth; but as in our case, dreams disturb the Seer’s sleep also where as long as the dream lasts, everything therein appears as true and real, frightening, irritating or cheering as the case may be. Therefore, when the old habits of thought return, the Heaven on Earth gives place to the well known miseries of the world. This remorse, his new vision of the Lord, and his miserable dream—all lead him to condemn himself to exaggerate his imaginary faults by the side of the loving Lord who is all Goodness and to despair of an escape from the clutches of the world of death and misery and its allies of five senses and women, but he is sure that God alone can save him and that He will save him. It is in some such state of mind our poet sings this Thiruvidaimarudur hymn.
The hymns of Nampi Arurar seem to be so many waves of spiritual experience with their troughs and crests alternating. The same ebb and flow of joy of the mystic union is found in Nammalvar’s poems. The commentators there explain that the Lord is playing a game of hide and seek, inspiring, at one time the Alvar with joy, so that he may not become ultimately crestfallen and then alternately disappearing from his presence so as to make him feel miserable and express that feeling and depression, in verses which He loved to listen and which He knew would save the suffering world. It is for consideration whether what we have described in the previous paragraph from the point of view of Nampi Arurar may not be spoken of as a game of hide and seek from the point of view of the Lord. This mission of the saints’ lives for saving the world suggests one other idea. These loving souls, feeling ever for the world, identify themselves so very much with it that all its sins and deceits they speak of as their own; and this explains their periodic feeling of depression and despondency whilst as a matter of fact they have reached the highest level of spiritual experience and divine bliss.
This Thiruvidaimarudur hymn is but a continuation or a consequence of the Thiruvavaduthurai hymn. There he took refuge afresh in the feet of the Lord. Here, he begs of the Lord—the Father and the munificent Lord of Itaimarutu— to show a way of escape and redemption—“Uyvakai arulay Itaimaruturai entai Pircine”— that is the refrain of the song. The God of Itaimarutu is all Love. He is our Father (Entai—1-10), Mother (Entay—1) and the Lord (Em man— 4). The Lord of the Devas (4) is the Great Shiva, the Good (8); The sacred name considered by the Saivitps to be the proper name of the Absolute—“Sivanenum namam tanakke yutaiya cemmeni emman”. He is of the beautiful eyes (1); He is of the loving Antanar— This is another reading (1); He is the destroyer of all obstacles and the bestower of peace (Aran) (1); the Dancer on the Fire (8); He is of the colour of the flame (tt vana) (8); One who adorns Himself with the crown of the crescent moon to save it (4).
If God is all love, our poet feels he himself is all bad by His side. He is conscious that he, as a saved soul, was walking all along in the path of the Lord. But his remorse, great by the side of the new vision of the love of the Lord and the misery of the world, makes him cry for further salvation. He feels as though all his spiritual practices and experiences were like the habitual act of the ass carrying the fragrant kunkumam without ever being conscious of this precious burden (1). No wonder the ass is so neglected—slighted—when it can no longer serve as of old as though it had done nothing worth remembering. “I have”, cries our poet, “laboured in vain; and with a confused mind caught into the dangerous whirlpool; O mind! you sit and weep. What can you do? I am a fool not even capable of crying: ‘O, Lord of Loving eyes! Destroyer of obstacles!’ This life is of no account like unto the ass” (1).
He thus condemns himself, therefore, for not reaching the Lord. “I state and confess. I have not known anything of that life experiencing the way to reach your rosy feet; but I speak; but this, all noise and meaning” (2). “I have not already reached your rosy feet as I must have. The time flies whilst I become an obstinate fool” (3). “I do not contemplate on you to place or enthrone you in my mind” (4). “The sense organs have kicked me aside, as something worthless.” (5). “At length, I have become an eternal burden unto you” (5). “Tn the path of the foolish people I had not known True Wisdom and Reality—alas! me a poor soul!” (8).
He prays for a way of escape from the world of death (9) and deceit (8). He condemns himself as falling a prey to the world and cries for help to escape from its clutches (7). This hymn gives such a beautiful expression to this worldly suffering of gray hairs, old age and trembling misery (2) and to the saving love of the Lord, that the poet himself assures out of his own personal conviction rising after the completion of the first nine verses, herein, that those who can with all their heart and joy praise the Lord with this garland of shining beacon light of a hymn, will reach the rosy feet of the Lord, without being attacked by any gray hair, old age or trembling shocks (10),
Fear of death is a wholesome fear and, as is told in the life of the Buddha who seeing an old man, a man of disease and a corpse renounced the world, brings about a real conversion of the heart. The first solution of the problem of the mysterious sufferings of the world is the law of karma; but karma is a never ending chain—every act creating its future effect—an ever grinding wheel which none can ever escape. This knot has to be cut by the Grace of God. The sin grows through the five senses which become our Lords with their net of women (8 & 9).
“Gray hairs, old age and disease will come. Alas! I am spent up having resolved on acts of no good (or ungrateful acts). 1 now realize that I have been the well ground turmeric—(to be used and to be thrown out). I am afraid of the Lord of Death”—this is one confession of our poet (2).
The ephemeral nature of life is another way of expressing the same fear of old age and death.
Like the tiny dew drop on the crown of the grass blade disappearing at the sight of the hot sun, life is of no substance. “What now for me—today, tomorrow—thus every day I have been setting down only to feel miserable. As an obstinate idiot, I have allowed time to be wasted—“Murkkanakik kalintana kalam”— this phrase is again repeated (3. 4). What I did in the previous birth inflicts me in this birth and l have wasted time—an obstinate idiot. Have I done anything to overcome this evil karma by doing any good act?” He confesses that he has resolved on only acts that are not good. Again he repents for the past: “I do not give even an iota to those who beg” (4). “I cannot give away the glorious wealth. What is the result? I cannot leave off the sins, anger, vengeance and craving. The five organs are not under my control. I feel miserable, afraid of being thrust into the Hell by the Lord of Death when the trembling old age comes” (7).
“The women not as life companions but as play things of pleasure—those of the beautiful but subtle waist, create the illusion of life” (6). “These young ones spread their net of deceit contemplating on this pleasure of this poor human life. I have stayed there caught within the net” (9). “Really this is the net of deceitful but inescapably hard karma. The plantain plant will yield its fruits only once but like a fool I expected it to bear fruits once again for me. Thus in the hope of further happiness I was getting myself enmeshed in the fetters harder and harder. That is the way of the foolish people” (9). They are the well ground turmeric already referred to (10).
It is true this life of pleasure is not all evil; there are good aspects as well. “I have increased my good aspects as well as evil” (6). This assertion of his good deeds is very significant. “Engrossed therein, I have not studied many arts or achieved true knowledge” (6). “Alas! I am a sinner and I have committed many sins”. The remorse reaches its zenith and he cries, “Why am I alive?” (6).
“The life of pleasure is a life of slavery to the senses. The five sense organs established to protect us by receiving reports of danger from outside, without in any way suffering any decrease in their power of hegemony over us—destroy our life”. “They kick us away (to die)” (5). “The five senses are not within my control” (7). “These are the five kings or rulers. Having caught hold of this sovereignty they will not ever leave us. That is the way they desire (me to be their slave). I am in despair—I do not know what to do after having obediently carried out their commands according to their whims and fancies. What is the way (out) for me?” (8).
Is there no escape from the eternal action of karma? There is the Grace of the Lord as our poet has suggested so often. Repentance and true change of heart will save us, thanks to the Lord of Love. To win the heart of this Lord of Love, we must become like Him, merciful and kind unto the poor and the needy. If one does not thus give out of love, one never escapes from karma. That is why our saint cries for all—“I do not give even an iota to those who beg” (4). “I cannot part with the wealth that appears all shining to me” (7). This mercy blesseth one who takes and one who gives. When this mercy springs in our mind, vengeance and anger and hankering after pleasures no more haunt us and, therefore, no more mistakes arise; no more are we slaves to the senses, and old age disappears; death holds no threat of hell (7). All this springs from our reliance on God or the contemplation on Him, or on enshrining Him in our heart or mind. Hence this cry: ‘Alas! I cannot enshrine you in my mind and contemplate on you’ (4). God is the greatest prop and support. “I have no other prop to lean on (except yourself)” (6). This is the significant cry proving his great reliance on the Lord even in the midst of this doleful hymn. It is a cry of self-surrender inspired by the vision of God and not a cry of despair of an ordinary man! “After the sense organs have kicked me aside, I have become an eternal burden unto you. I woke up and opened my eyes. I saw the True Reality (the Lord). If this is the human life—the miserable life of the senses—I do not want it and I despise it. Help me with a way out” (5). That is the cry of a developed soul.