Tamil Yoga Siddha Research Project: The Basic Difficulties (Part 3)

by Dr. T. N. Ganapathy, Ph D
Director of the Tamil Siddha Yoga Research Project

The following article, the second in a series, is excerpted from our forthcoming book, "The Yoga of Tamil Siddha Boganathar" by Dr. T.N. Ganapathy In the first article, the basic difficulty, the term "Siddha" itself, was discussed. The present article discusses other difficulties involved in studying the works of the Siddhas.

  1. The philosophy of the human body

    All the orthodox systems suspected the Siddhas because they advocated the theory that one can attain freedom or moksa with the body. According to the Tamil Siddhas the aim of yoga sadhana is kayasiddhi or the perfection of the body. Orthodox Saiva Siddhantins treated the Siddhas as religious outcastes and had excluded the Siddha view from both their vast cannonical corpus and socio-philosophic theories.(67) It has also been reported that the pandarams (ascetics) of the Saiva class sought after copies of the Siddha poetry and destroyed them.(68) There was a general opinion among scholars that most of the Siddhas were plagiarists and impostors and eaters of opium and dwellers in the land of dreams and they have been systematically stigmatized as a deviation from the caste Hindu conformist model. The Siddha doctrines and poems do not get the "official" sanction from the "elite" and the "educated" though their songs are popular among the masses in Tamilnadu.

    Let us understand the Siddha conception of the human body, which is unique and which is not accepted by any system of Indian philosophy; it is an unacknowledged postulate in Indian tradition. In Tamil Siddha philosophy the human body has acquired an importance it had never before attained in the spiritual history of India. According to the Siddhas, an adept's experimental field is always himself and his body, which contains in itself an immortal essence. The ordinary human body can be and should be transformed into a divine body and must be made an aid to liberation. The Siddha view of body as a moksa sadhana is known as kaya sadhana. In Tirumantiram we come across a number of verses praising the importance of the human body as a ladder to mukti. In one celebrated verse Tirumular calls the human body as the abode of God.(69) In Tamil Siddha literature the temple is an image of both the macrocosm and the microcosm, the cosmic man as well as the inner being of man. The various parts of the structure of the temple are designed as features of the human body. (70) The Tamil Siddhas understood the human body as a threshold, a passage to the ultimate Reality. Sivavakkiyar is fond of using the expression threshold, i.e., "vasal" in Tamil and he calls the human body as a threshold where God resides. The concept "threshold" is a mystical one and the body is one such mystical threshold, the other threshold being the guru. In Siddha literature the threshold is a mystical thing. It is a boundary between two worlds, the ordinary, profane world and the sacred world beyond. It is a point where we pass from one mode of being to another, from one level of consciousness to another. The term "vasal" used by the Tamil Siddhas stand for the moment when we ourselves open up to new depths of our being. They say that one need not go to places of pilgrimage or study sastras when the threshold is in oneself.(71) The idea of the body as a microcosm of Reality received a spiritual, mystical denotation in the Tamil Siddhas as against the purely physical denotation of it in the other traditions. The inter-relations of man's body and the universe (that is Reality) have to be realized by spiritual endeavour. Kaya sadhana is such an endeavour. Another important aspect of the Siddha view of the human body is nyasa, which consists of feeling the God or powers representing the Gods in different parts of the body.

    In Siddha literature we come across the following types of bodies- the sthula-deha, the yoga-deha, the siddha-deha, the pranava or mantra deha and the jnana or the divya deha. Turning the sthula-deha into divya-deha is kaya sadhana. Sivavakkiyar explains the transformation of the physical body into a divine body on the analogy of a worm turning itself into a butterfly.(72) Let us state briefly the various stages involved in kaya sadhana. Sthula sarira is the unripe, ordinary, physical body not disciplined by yoga. It is a "deceptive threshold", and one has to "open" it , i.e., go beyond it to achieve kaya siddhi. Sivavakkiyar says that people should protect, immortalize, and preserve the body through the method of yoga just as they would protect a beautiful lady of the house.(73) When the sthula sarira is disciplined by yoga it becomes ripe or pakva. Pambatticcittar uses the term "pudam" in Tamil which is the equivalent of "making one ripe" pakva. (74) Agatiyar Pancacaram-37 speaks about removing the unwanted elements from the body through the process of burning, (i.e., Kundalini agni).(75) Once the deha is hardened by yoga, the internal forces help the sadhaka to arouse the kundalini in him, which passes through the six adharas. It is a process of the acquirement of yogic powers, siddhis, leading to a siddha deha, where the body can do and be anything at the will of the sadhaka, since it does not have to adhere to the spatio-temporal laws or the laws of space and time of the ordinary body. After the attainment of the siddhis, the siddha deha is turned into a mantra deha called pranava tanu. The pranava deha is a body consisting of the sacred formula "AUM". It is the body of nada or sound. This yogin's body is accompanied by certain mystic sound vibrations in the form of mantra called "AUM Namasivaya". The yogin's body at this stage is not different from the mantra, that is, the body gets transformed into a sound-form, mantra-form. This body is called pranava or mantra deha. We find a description of this body, mantira meni(mantra deha) in Tirumantiram.(76) The human figure representing the pranava deha is called the mantirmeni chakkaram in Tamil Siddha literature. In a Tamil work called Tirumantiramalai-300 we find a description of how the fifty- one letters of the alphabet constitute the various parts of the body. (77)

    According to the Tamil Siddhas the man with the pranava deha is a jivan-mukta, "the man liberated while living". In Tirumantiram we find a description of the characteristrics of a jivan mukta. (78) In Siddha philosophy there is no videha-mukti(post-mortem liberation) but only jivan mukti; for videha mukti is, at best, only a hypothesis. A jivan mukta does not possess a personal consciousness, but a witnessing consciousness. Even though he acts in the world, he does not have the sense of "I act". He sees all the usual things in a miraculous new light as he has entered into the heart of reality. The Bauls of Bengal call this state of jivan mukta as jiyanta-mora, "being dead while yet alive". We find similar expressions used by many Tamil Siddhas. As a Taoist thinker has said, "The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror. It grasps nothing; it rejects nothing. It receives, but does not keep". In Siddha philosophy a jivan mukta does not die to attain liberation, but is transformed into the very mode of liberation, viz., the divya deha. When the jivan mukta gets into divya deha he becomes one with Eternity, a paramukta. The "either-or" category of logic regarding his existence or non-existence does not arise in the case of a Siddha who has attained the divya deha. Divya deha is a situation in which one is participating in immortality from now onward and from this present world; and immortality should not be conceived as a survival, post mortam. The attainment of divya deha is not videha mukti. There are standing examples against videha mukti, such as Saint Nandanar, Saint Manikkavasagar, Sri Andal(merging with the Lord at Srirangam), Sri Caitanya and Sri Ramalinga Swamigal, who have attained divya deha. It is highly interesting and instructive to note the process which the great yoga master Sri Krsna adopted for transforming his material body into a divya deha when he desired to leave the world. He, in concentration, executed a yoga process termed "agneyi-yoga-dharma", i.e., the process of radiating inner fire, by which he reduced his body to a subtler form, and with that body he left the world. This is mentioned in the Bhagavata.

    The divya deha is called cinmaya, "the body of light". It is a "body" of infinite space, vettaveli, a vast expanse without any determination.(79) At this stage the "body" glows with the fire of immortality. It is called "the body of light", oli udambu in Tamil. As Tirumular says figuratively even the "hairs" of this transmuted body will shine.(80) When a Siddha attains divya deha, he attains Sivahood. Hence divya deha is referred to as kailaya deha. (81) In Siddha mysticism the liberation of the soul is not conceived as a purusartha; rather we have the concept of jivan mukti or liberation within the span of life in the form of the attainment of immortality.

    Without entering into the details we may say that in Tamil Siddha literature we come across three methods by which the human body can be transmuted into immortality. First, there is the method of alchemic process (containing Siddha medicine) which, instead of being performed in the laboratory, takes place in the body and consciousness of the sadhaka. In Bogar 700, we find a reference to the method of preparation of the greatest of medicines -muppu-by advocating which, the body will turn into divya deha, an immortal golden body. (82) The second is the method of kundalini yoga, which is the method adopted by all Tamil Siddhas. A third method that is suggested is what is called ulta sadhana "contrary practice" which states that the sex sentiment properly cultivated may lead man back to the very heart of reality. When sex energy is sublimated and transmuted the yogin rises aove the sense of identity with the physical body. This state is technically called urdhareta. Agastiyar Jnanam, Bogar's poems and Tirumantiram speak of the third process and assure us that there is no death for a man who adopts it perfectly. (83) Following the footsteps of Bogar, this technique is taught, of converting sex energy into spiritual energy in the Kriya Yoga centers around the world.(84) The way to overcome physical evil is to accept the Siddha doctrine of body. For, in acceptance there is transcendence.

Tamil Siddha Research Project Part 4
Tamil Siddha Research Project Part 2
Tamil Siddha Research Project Part 1

Copyright. Babaji's Kriya Yoga and Publications. 2002


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