Thursday, 14 January 2010

Saint Thayumanavar

ALTHOUGH Thayumanavar lived less than 300 years ago and remains the most popular Tamil poet-saint, there is no authentic record of his date of birth or death. What is known to have transpired between these two events can be summed up briefly:

At an early age he began working in the service of a king. When the king died he left this work because of the amorous advances of the king's widow. He then travelled in search of a Guru. At Tiruchilapalli he met Mouna Guru Arulananda Sivachari. He asked to be taken as a disciple, but the saint answered 'chumma iru', meaning 'be still' or 'be quiet' or 'just be' (a phrase which Ramana Maharshi also used on a number of occasions). However, the saint said that when the time was ripe he would initiate him.

Thayumanavar then returned home and married. Soon after his wife delivered their first child, a boy, she died. That again prompted Thayumanavar to leave home in answer to his spiritual calling. He once more approached Arulananda Sivachari and, true to his word, the guru fulfilled his promise and initiated Thayumanavar into sannyas.

Thayumanavar followed the discipline of silence (mouna), which he describes as: "that state which spontaneously manifests after the annihilation of the ego." He says: "It is a state beyond light and darkness, but it is called light, since language is inadequate to express it. The ego disappears and 'I' spontaneously manifests in full glory." The Maharshi particularly singled out this verse of his for admiration.

Thayumanavar was equally great as a saint and a poet. Often he would retire to the forest or public gardens and remained for days absorbed in the bliss of the Self. Legend has it that he was sitting thus, immobile in samadhi in a public garden in Ramnad when the gardeners, not noticing him, piled a heap of dry leaves and twigs about him and set fire to it, and thus his body was consumed and he merged in the Supreme.

Thayumanavar's key teaching is to discipline the mind, control desires and meditate peacefully. He went on to say that "it is easy to control an elephant, catch hold of the tiger's tail, grab the snake and dance, dictate the angels, transmigrate into another body, walk on water or sit on the sea; but it is more difficult to control the mind and remain quiet".

Ramana Maharshi was often heard quoting from his exquisite verses. The following are ten verses especially selected by the Maharshi:

1 & 2. The individual ego known as "I" having manifested and troubled everyone, the universal Maya, the diversifying agency, spontaneously follows in its wake. Who can possibly describe the vast ocean of misery consequent upon it? It appears as the flesh, the body, the senses, interior and exterior, as the all pervading ether, air, fire, water and earth, as mountain, forest, huge visions like hills physical and subtle, as forgetfulness and memory, and so on, rising up wave after wave and beating against man, bringing pleasure and pain, which are the result of his past actions, and also their remedies known as creeds, religions, God-Seeker, and the testimonies and sanctions found in various sciences, and explained by logic. All these are more numerous than even the fine grains of sand on the seashore.

3. Unaccountable troubles crop up spontaneously, sheaf upon sheaf. How to root them out wholesale, even as burning up a hill of camphor without residue in a vast blaze of fire? In order to achieve this miracle, and to enlighten me, Grace took shape. In every respect, like my self, eating and sleeping, suffering and enjoying, bearing a name and born somewhere, it appeared as the Silent Guru, like a deer used to decoy another of its species.

4. And claimed my body, possessions and life itself and consistently with the process of elimination, signified "you are not the five senses nor the five elements, nor the limbs, nor the mind, nor their attributes, nor all these collectively, nor the body nor knowledge nor ignorance. You are pure consciousness, unassociated like a crystal, but reflecting the background to lookers-on; whereas we (guru) are only the inherent nature revealing the truth on finding you ripe for it."

5. "If eager to reach Consciousness-Bliss-Eternity innermost in all, which is also the inner abode of refreshing Grace, listen to the course I indicate. May you reach the Pure Heart and abide there forever! May dense ignorance vanish for you! May you attain to Bliss-Consciousness! May bondage cease for you!" Communicating thus,

6. "And dispensing the true knowledge of the Natural and Unique Silence which destroys all bondage and where there is no meditation nor the ego, no space, no time, no direction, no association, no elimination, no differentiation, no expression, no phenomena of night and day, no end, no beginning, no middle, no interior or exterior, nor an aggregate of all these."

7. (The Guru indicated further) that, though all these are eliminated, "It" is not void, but is Natural, Eternal Be-ing inexpressible by words, not manifesting as ego, but is the Reality engulfing all, having swallowed all ignorance like day covering night, and absorbing unhindered all knowledge, metamorphosing the person into Itself, It shines in Silence, Self-effulgent;

8. With its emergence, It prevents any other from appearing; and all else is put out suddenly like burning camphor blown away without residual flicker or glow; and in its place It shines beyond the senses, and apart from the knower, known and knowledge; and yet It is there, though who can speak of it and to whom? For if It arises, the individual is metamorphosed; It will assert Itself (Literally: It Speaks Itself),

9. (And further on), if it is said to be "It," the question arises "which," though such doubt about the non-dual One is illogical; so transcending it also, King Janaka or Suka and others remained like the bee intoxicated with honey in that state. (The same Guru's) blessing helped me to reach it. Grace is needed in order to reach the Nirvikalpa Samadhi and attain absolute Bliss. I will not rest nor attend to my wants until I attain it.

10. On the "I" idea of the individual ego vanishing, there springs up within me a current of "I-I" endless indeed. This confers bliss engulfing all my knowledge, unique and transcendental, ending in Silence! How then can Silence be expressed?

Sources:
1) http://www.arunachala.org/newsletters/1995/?pg=jul-aug
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thayumanavar

Readers interested are requested to read below article(Final words of advice from Thayumanavar) as well

http://prashantaboutindia.blogspot.com/2009/05/final-words-of-advice-from-silent-sage.html

My friend Subramanian R garu wants to add few more points

Saint Tayumanavar was living in Tiruchirapalli.He belonged to Pillai community (like M.Sivaprakasam Pillai),a Saivite.From his young age, he had a spiritual outlook and was a great devotee of Akhilandeswari, the goddess of Tiruvanaika (now called Tiruvanaikaval) across the Kavri river from Tiruchirapalli.

He developed a lot of siddhic powers, which came on his own.Then at the appropriate time, he met his Guru, his name is not known,and he was ever in silence. Hence, he calls him as Mouna Guru in his songs. Mouna Guru taught him Self enquiry asking him to keep silent. After realization, he has composed some songs on various deities and on abstract subjects like silence, the non-silent mind,erring senses, etc., He must have also gone up to Rameswaram,since he has mentioned about the goddess Parvata Vardhini, of Rameswaram Siva (Ramanatha.). He used to address the goddess,
as Malai VaLar Kadhali, the girl who grew up in mountains (Himalayas - Parvatam).

Tayumanavar's collection of Tamil poems has been compiled and published by Swami Chidbhavananda of Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam,near Tiruchirapalli.

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