The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words

This page describes “the final goal” from the philosophy of God in the Thevaram. 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

Chapter 3 - The final goal

I - The last verses:

As already noted the last verses of the various hymns give the results which will flow from a recitation of the hymns. Sometimes these are described as happiness of power and sovereignty. Especially in hymns like No. 2, which are addressed to the kings, this is the tempting message. Those who recite the hymn will become the slaves of God, but be the Lords of the residents of Heavens and kings of the ancient Royal families ruling all the higher regions above the rulers of the world. In another place our poet states that even if these reciters descend from the Heavens they are sure to live as the Lords of Provinces or Spheres—“Mantalanayakar” Hymn 3 speaks of their becoming kings on elephants ruling all the Heavens. The spiritual significance of this conception is explained below under our study of Shivaloka. Sometimes the results flowing from recitation are referred to in terms of mental happiness and power and as freedom from miseries, though these also have their spiritual significance. Our poet speaks of Lordship over the three worlds. He also speaks of the body suffering from the heat of pain and misery becoming cool with bliss which is the way of expressing happiness in the tropics. These Bhaktas are higher than the people of the world. Our poet also refers to fame as a result, the fame which spreads with the world. This may at the first instance mean ordinary worldly fame but when ‘Pukal’ is interpreted according to Tiruvalluvar as something immortal as opposed to our mortal fame, it must be the fame of the Bhaktas and Muktas.

II - Universal salvation:

Other hymns speak of reaching the Heavens which in the context probably refers to the highest spiritual state of ‘Mukti. The highest sphere is called Shivaloka, the sphere of Shiva the Good; Paralokam, the ultimate spiritual sphere; Rudralokam, the sphere of Rudra, the destroyer; Amaralokam, the deathless sphere; Paragati, the ultimate goal; Nanneri ulaku, sphere of Good path; Tavalokam, the sphere of self sacrifice, where the smaller self is destroyed; Mukti, freedom.

In some places our poet speaks of the followers reaching this highest spheres along with Tevakanam. This may suggest that Shivaloka is only a Padamukti.

But it is better to interpret this verse as referring to some of the souls going to the higher regions through what the Upanisads call the Devayana for enjoying the sublimated pleasures and thereafter attaining ‘Mukti’ along with others. It is also called Vanu-laku, the world of ether or spirit, the High Heavens, Imaiyor Ulaku, sphere of those who wink not, Vimulaku, the Heavens upon the ether or sky—if they do not mean the Svarga. For, it is possible some of these terms may refer to the Higher worlds which we cannot say, Arurar never believed in. He refers to them in no unmistakable terms. Sivajnanabddham speaks of the aspirant reaching Tavalokam (the various heavens reached as a result of Tapas as distinguished from siddhi) and then coming after the exhaustion of good karmas to take a birth for attaining siddhi. Even Muktas sometimes attain lordship over these higher worlds.

There are certain evolved souls who refuse to reach salvation unless all are saved and these are said to occupy at the dictate of the Lord, and in the service of the Lord, the places of leadership in the various higher regions and they finally reach salvation along with all others.

The reference to rulership,

Imaiyor ulaku eytutal’
‘Vanulaku alal
Vanorulaku alal,
Mantala Nayakar’,
‘Vin mulutu alal’,
‘Vanakam antankiruppar’,
‘Viyan muvulaku alal

—have to be interpreted in these terms.

The final stage of Mukti is also spoken as attaining worshipped by the heavens, the feet of the Supreme Lord. It is devoid of all miseries for us and our people, which term also has to be interpreted in terms of universal salvation.

Our poet calls the higher state of Heaven or Vinnulakam wherefrom there is no return ‘Pera Vinnulakam’ reminding us of —

Ara iyarkai ava ntppin annilaiye pera iyarkai tarum”;
“Kar-rhytu meypporul kantar talaippatuvar marrintu vara neri

of Tiruvalluvar and

Na Sa punar avarttate

of Brahmasutra

Our poet makes this clear by stating that there is no going or coming there; it is being in the flood of bliss—

Pokkillai varavillaiyaki inpavellattul irupparkal inite”

This idea of bliss is often emphasized. It is a stage of faultless perfection devoid of all the influences of karma, Poy (untruth), delusion, old age, etc., birth and death. This is also spoken of as the ‘gati’ of the Dancing Lord—“Natam navinran-pdrakati” and ‘Parakati’ and Mukti is the result of Paragati—“Muttiyavatu Parakatippayane” which is otherwise described as

Natanavinranpar katiyum eituvar Patiyavark katuve”—

‘that is their abode or city’.

Pati is where one goes—the refuge—the final resort—the goal. It is clear that the final goal is in God being in final communion or attaining identity with Him—“Para-notu kututal” It is also clear that this spiritual experience is spoken of in terms of a spatial simile as abode or city or world.

The idea of its being the supreme goal is expressed in terms of height or vertical ascension—

“Varaiyinar vakai nalam antavarkkum tampoy vanavarkkum talaivaray nir-paravar tame”;
“Melaiyar melaiyar melare

‘Up above those who are over the Highest’.

Mukti is specifically described as the fruition of Paragati or the ultimate goal as shown above—“Mut-tiyavatu parakatippayane”

III - Bhakti as Mukti:

Still other hymns refer to the worship and the company of the Bhaktas and to one becoming a Bhakta as the immediate result of the recitation of the hymns—“Patam panwar”; “Anpar avar”; “Ati panivar”; “Pattaray”. Probably, when the poet speaks of the reciters reaching God or coming near Him, “Natanai nanukutal”, he means this kind of approach through worship or bha-vana. Or, he may mean that they reach the sphere of the Lord. Bhakti is preferred to Mukti and the singing of the poems in the company of the Bhaktas is itself looked upon as the Bliss of Moksa. So is the bliss of their speech though this may appear as blabbering to others Thus, these describe the state of the Jwanmuktas,

IV - Spiritual progress:

There are other hymns which speak of mental and spiritual progress. Kamarn (Lust), Vekuli (Anger) and Mayakkam (Moham) are the three great veils or ‘malas’ all born of ignorance or darkness (Irul). There is confusion and hesitation as a result of this. A recitation of his hymns cures us, according to our poet of these defects, our mental hesitations and confusions—“Tatu-marnZar”. The other stages reached in mental and spiritual progress are also described as the results flowing from such a recitation. The path of Tapas—“Tava neri” is attained. All faults are removed in this progress. The worship of the Bhaktas is also one of the means of attaining spiritual perfection, an aim to be aspired for; and the poet states that those who recite his hymns will be the great Gurus above his own head, our saviours. The reciters attain the knowledge of the real “Tattuva nanikal”; they are the embodiments of virtue—“Punniyar”. These references do not refer to the beginning stage of the path of Bhakti but to the final stage where looking back one sees all these marks of perfection.

There are other hymns which speak of the removal of the sin and all kinds of miseries: ‘Pavam’; Miseries— Tunpam \ I turn-phi’f ‘Itar’; ‘Altai’; ‘Natalai’; ‘Ev (vam)’; ‘Naraippu’;‘Muppu’; ‘Tirai’; ‘Tuyar’;‘Vinai’; ‘PiLaippu’; ‘Kurram’ and ‘Ifumpai’ These, though mentioned separately, are the effects of Karma; and the freedom from these is the final mark of a freed soul before it is drowned in the Bliss of the Absolute.

V - Means as the end:

The final goal has thus been more often spoken of as an escape from Karma, sin and misery. This is what the Shaiva Siddhanta calls Pdsaksaya, the destruction of the fetters. If the soul is sufficiently evolved, the subsequent stages of Dasakarya occur all at once. Therefore this Pdsaksaya is the real turning point and that is spoken of as the negative aspect of Moksa.

Sometimes the poet, we saw, speaks of the happiness of the goal as the happiness of being in the company of the followers of God and singing His praises. He has worshipped God through poetry, singing poems in the company of Bhaktas and not in the isolation of his chamber of meditation. The social aspect of religion appealed to Arurar. He felt the divine bliss overpowering him when he sang his songs with the others in the temples he visited. It gave him the joy of universal salvation. In such moments there arises in the minds of saints that universal love which prefers to their own salvation, the holy life in the service of God in the midst of the people of this universe. Bhakti itself thus becomes Mukti to them.

This is what Cekkilar sings when he sings of these great saints in general:

Kutvm anpinil kumpitale anri
Vitum venta viralin vilankinar”.

VI - Padamukti:

But that does not mean that there is no other goal. That goal is described, therefore, in negative terms as the absence of misery, imperfection and karma and in positive terms as happiness. The indescribable has to be expressed as usual in similes. Our poet talks of going up as though vertically to higher worlds of happiness beyond the great beyond. Here, the words are not to be taken literally as an ascension through space. The mental states of progressive spirituality are often referred to as spheres or worlds or bhumis. The highest world will then be the highest spiritual experience, the experience of the Absolute. It is true that there are others who will interpret these literally as higher heavens where the freed souls go and live. This is called ‘Pada-mukti’ but this is not considered to be the goal by any of the well known systems of Shaivism, which all speak of Sayujya though they may be differing in their interpretation of that word, some taking it in the sense of identity and others in the sense of union.

VII - Labels:

The ultimate goal is the non-dual experience of the Absolute. There is no feeling of separation or duality. The final feeling is “Nanaya Paran” and our poet calls God, ‘Irumpunta nir” the water sprinkled on the hot fire of an iron ball becoming one with it. This describes the spiritual experience of non-duality. But the question still remains whether in spite of this unity of experience, there is existentially any duality. Some schools of Shaivism are monistic and assert that the erstwhile soul and God are in the ultimate stage One, all the veils or illusion of duality having been removed. This is today the theory held by the northern Shaivism of Kashmere. It is said by some that it was this kind of Shaivism that was also found in the days of Tirumular; but the Shaiva Siddhanta holds that there is existential dualism and experiential non-dualism. It is difficult to say to what school of Shaivism Arurar belonged; perhaps he belonged to none. He saw the truth everywhere and, therefore, did not join in the mutual recrimination. Kapala, Pdsupata, Mavrata are names of systems of Tantric Shaivism and our poet refers to these names. Mahendra-varman in his farce Mattavilasaprahasanam describes in detail the Kapalikas making them the butt of his ridicule. Arurar, by no stretch of imagniation, can be called a Kapalika. Temples named Karanam after the birthplace of Lakulisa are also sung by our poet. But he has no preference for this philosophy either. His references are restricted to emphasizing the general love for God. Love, Service, Self-sacrifice,' destruction of the separatist ‘I’ and the blossoming of the Higher Self in its place—these are what he is concerned with. It may be argued that he means more than this and that he describes the peculiar modes of worship of the varying sects. But it must be pointed that he does not describe the worshippers but God Himself in this way.

As for the philosophical terms relied on by the Shaiva Sid-dhanta school—terms like Pasu, Pati, Pasam, Malam, Anavam, Karma and Maya— our poet does not refer to all of them. Pasu-pati occurs as the name of God. Malam and Karma occur; but they are common to all Indian philosophies. Pasam is mentioned by our poet but not beyond doubt in the technical sense of Shaiva Siddanta Maya and Anavam do not occur unless we take ‘May am’ as Maya. This attempt at labelling him is futile; for, he is the poet of harmony and universality, though he came in the best tradition of real Shaivism which does not lose itself in the mirage of dialectics. The Shaivite School was connected with the schools of Logic and that probably saved Shaivism from becoming a prey to emotionalism.

VIII - Non-dualism through Dualism:

Arurar talks the language of dualism but this cannot make him a dualist because it is only through a dualism of worship, monistic experience is reached; as such this kind of talk of dualism is inevitable. But when describing the ultimate goal he speaks of the experience being non-dual. He is not very much concerned with the philosophical disquisitions; for, he is more concerned with the saving of the soul and the final experience about which all are agreed, that it is non-dual, a mystic experience of unity. It is therefore, difficult to speak in more definite terms of our poet so as to enable the world of warring philosophers to label him a monist or a qualified monist, though we can safely assert that he is not a thorough-going dualist. On the basis of the metaphor of ‘Irumpunta nir the monist claim Arurar as of their fold. Shiva-jnanasvamikal understands this simile as illustrating the mutual laya of the soul and God.

IX - Harmony:

When the poet, as a mystic, has emphasized the harmony of all religions in his spiritual experience, it will not be fair to get ourselves lost in the conflicts of philosophers. In this country all the phrases and similes relied upon by one set of philosophers have been re-interpreted to suit their own theories by others. The Upanisads, the Brahmasutra and the Bhagavatgita have all been claimed as peculiarly their own philosophical works by the differing schools of thought. Arurar s poems are revered as the Veda in Tamil and naturally each philosopher will claim it as voicing forth his own theory. The commentary on Sivapidna Bodham by Sivajnanasvdmikal gives any number of schools of Shaivism which can in one way or other be identified with one or other of the conflicting philosophies of the world. Perhaps mutual conflicts of these philosophies, at the same time claiming these books of universal vision and experience as peculiarly their own, prove that Arurar s poems like the other works are true for all, because ultimately there is this fundamental unity of mystic experience underlying all these systems of thought.

Has not Arurar himself given out this great truth in

Arivinal mikka aruvakaic camayam avvavark kanke ararul purintu?. ”

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