Tirumantiram: Fountainhead of Saiva Siddhanta - Satguru Sivaya
I want to introduce you to Saint Tirumular who is the very
fountainhead of Saiva Siddhanta, and to his scripture, the
Tirumantiram, considered the final authority on subtle matters of
philosophy and theology in Saiva Siddhanta. In fact, it is said to
contain the whole of Saiva Siddhanta. Saint Tirumular is a
theologian of our faith, but not merely a theologian. He is also a
siddhar, an accomplished yogi.
Our Hindu scriptures come from such great men, men who have
attained to the deepest realizations through their sadhana and their
devotion. When their awareness dwells in the superconscious states
resident in all men but penetrated intentionally by only a few, and
when they speak out from that state, we consider that it is not man
himself who has thus spoken but the Divine through man. Saint
Tirumular was such a siddhar, and his words are valued as a divine
message for mankind.
Those of you who have been on San Marga here on Kauai have seen the
beautiful life-size granite statue of Saint Tirumular that arrived
here along with the statue of Saint Tiruvalluvar, the author of the
Tirukural. In India during Tiruvalluvar's time there was neither
paper nor pens, so writing was accomplished with a stylus, the
characters being scraped or scratched into a specially prepared
leaf, called an Ola leaf.
Many ancient scriptures and literature were produced in this
manner, and it is amazing that some of the original writings so made
still exist today. Certainly no modern day paper would have
withstood the centuries so well! The statue of Saint Tirumular shows
him sitting in the lotus posture, deep in meditation, while Saint
Tiruvalluvar is seated with a small writing table on his lap
composing his sacred verses with stylus in hand. His Tirukural
speaks on virtuous living.
It gives us the keys to happy and harmonious life in the world,
but it doesn't give any insights into the nature of God, whereas,
the Tirumantiram delves into the nature of God, man and the universe
in its depths. Taken together, they speak to all Hindus and offer
guidance for every aspect of religious life, the first addressing
itself to the achievement of virtue, wealth and love, while the
second concerns itself with attainment of moksha or liberation.
The Tirumantiram is a mystical book and a difficult book. The
original text is written in metered verse, composed in the ancient
Tamil language. Saint Tirumular is the first one to codify Saiva
Siddhanta, the final conclusions, and the first one to use the term
"Saiva Siddhanta." It is a document upon which the entire religion
could stand, if it had to. It is one of the oldest scriptures known
I was very happy to find that all my own postulations, gathered
from realization, are confirmed in this great work. That is why this
book is so meaningful to me-as a verification of personal experience
and a full statement of the philosophical fortress erected and
protected by our Guru Paramparai.
It takes a bit of meditation to understand the Tirumantiram because
you have to know occultism and scripture to catch the meaning. It is
composed in rhyme and cloaked in code-when the Five become Six and
the Seven become Twelve and so on, all talking about the petals of
the chakras and the esoteric bodies of man or the material world
components known as tattvas.
For these tantras Brahmin priests and shastris from various parts
of South India had to be hired to help in deciphering the deeper,
more abstruse verses about the kundalini and other mystical
subjects. Like all mystical writings one can only understand this
scripture by close study with a teacher. Why is that? Because
mystics are cautious, protective of their special knowledge that it
does not get into the wrong hands. They therefore present their work
minus a few important keys that the preceptor or Sat Guru has to
fill in for the disciple who has proven himself worthy.
It is something like a great chef who might write down all his
finest recipes but leave out one or two crucial ingredients to
preserve his reputation. Thus, many of the mantras or yantras spoken
of in this or other texts are correct as far as they go, but usually
leave out a necessary key which makes them work. That does not mean
they are useless. It does mean, however, that the fullest use cannot
be realized by merely reading or studying from the books.
There is a timeless quality about Saivism-which preceded Hinduism as
we know it today-that sets it apart from the modern faiths on the
planet such as Christianity and Islam. Of course, we know that the
founders of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were all good Hindus.
Saivism is so very ancient that it appears among the first
civilizations unearthed by archeologists.
It is our belief that Saivism is as old as man himself, the
original or seed religion from which all others have sprung forth;
and since they are the offspring of Saivism we look upon them as
parents look upon their children, with a deep love and a hope that
they will do well and a look askance when they don't.
There never was a time when Saivism, the Sanatana Dharma, did not
exist on the planet. Other religions trace their lineage to a man,
to a founder, to a messiah or a theologian. Saivism does not. It has
no founder because it was not founded by man. It is coexistent with
man. That makes Saivism unique, different from all the religions and
sects that followed it. Look into history and you will see it is the
only religion without a beginning, without a founder and a date it
Now one of the oldest of the preserved theologies of Saivism
available to us today is that of Saint Tirumular. Of course, his was
not the first theology, just one of the oldest to be preserved. He
did not start anything new. His work is only a few hundred years
older than the New Testament.
He codified Saivism as he knew it. He recorded its tenets in
concise and precise verse form, drawing upon his own realizations of
the truths it contained. His work is not an intellectual
construction, and it is not strictly a devotional canon either. It
is based in yoga. It exalts and explains yoga as the kingly science
leading man to knowledge of himself. Yet it contains theological
doctrine and devotional hymns. It is the full expression of man's
search, encompassing the soul, the intellect and the emotions.
Saint Tirumular's story begins more than two thousand years ago in
the Himalayas where the great rishis had gathered in conclave apart
from the rest of the world holding fast to the Sanatana Dharma as
they pursued their own meditations to ever deeper strata.
From time to time these ashram communities would send out members
in response to the needs of the world, pilgrims who would travel by
foot, taking the Eternal Truths to be taught and reestablished where
perhaps superstition or alien religions had gained a foothold. These
rishis traveled throughout the known world in those early days,
spreading the Sanatana Dharma, Saivism, far and wide.
It was a one teaching, but people adapted it to their own
understanding and culture and local conditions, and thus the various
religions of the world arose. Saint Tirumular was such a Himalayan
rishi, a siddhar sent on mission to South India to spread the purest
teachings of Saivism to the people there.
Hinduism is a missionary religion. Everyone within it, myself
included, is on a mission or is purifying himself through sadhana
enough so that he can be given a mission for the religion from some
great soul or a God perhaps. This is the pattern within Saivism, and
Saint Tirumular's mission was to summarize and thereby renew and
reaffirm at one point in time the final conclusions of the Sanatana
Dharma, the purest Saiva path, Saiva Siddhanta.
Rishi Sundaranatha, which was his name before he was sent to the
South, had to walk all the way. Along the way he halted near the
village of Tiruvavaduthurai where he found the body of a cowherd who
had died in the fields. The milk cows were wandering around
aimlessly, lamenting the death of their master whom they clearly
loved. The sight moved Rishi Sundaranatha deeply, inspiring him to
relieve the anguish of the cows.
An extraordinary miracle occurred, a boon from Lord Siva to help
the cows and also to assist the sage in his task. Leaving his
physical body hidden in a hollow log, Rishi Sundaranatha used his
siddhis or yogic powers to enter and revive the lifeless body of
Mulan-that was the cowherd's name.
He comforted and cared for the cattle and led them back to the
village. Returning to the fields he was unable to find his original
physical body! He searched and searched, but it was not to be found.
It had simply vanished! The Rishi was deeply perplexed, and he sat
in meditation to come to some understanding of these strange
Through his spiritual insight he discerned that it was Lord Siva
Himself who had taken his body, leaving him to live thereafter in
the body of the Tamil cowherd. He took this to be Siva's message
that he should keep the South Indian body and serve in that way. He
accepted it all as Siva's will and was thereafter known as
Tirumular, or the holy Mular, for everyone realized that some
extraordinary change had taken place in their village cowherd.
Of course, there were certain advantages. For one thing, he could
now fluently speak the language and knew the customs of the South.
He stayed there and recorded the wisdom of the Upanishads and Saiva
Agamas in the local language, Tamil.
Saint Tirumular began his mission of establishing the purity of the
Saivite path soon thereafter when he settled down near Chidambaram,
an ancient temple of Lord Siva as Nataraja, the King of Dancers.
There he worshipped near a Banyan tree where there was a Swayambhu
Lingam. That Lingam is revered by Saivites even today in a small
shrine within the Chidambaram walls, and you can worship there on
pilgrimage just as he did so long ago. It was there that he began
composing the Tirumantiram.
Legend has it that the sage retired to a cave where he would sit
in samadhi for a full year without moving. At the end of each year
he would break his meditation long enough to speak out a single
Tamil verse giving the substance of that year's meditations. Each
verse composed in this manner was just four lines long, but the
wisdom each contained was boundless.
He wrote over 3,000 verses in all. This may not be accurate by
the calendar, but it is true to the spirit and quality of the
Tirumantiram, which has within it the wisdom of three thousand years
of meditation. It is without a doubt the most complete and
authoritative scripture ever written. There are few before or since
his time qualified to understand all the Tirumantiram says, much
less to improve upon it. It is that perfect and that complete.
Today we hear the term "Siddhanta" and various meanings of the word
may come to mind. For some perhaps their immediate thought would be
Meykanda Devar and his interpretation of Saiva Siddhanta. For others
some concept of a philosophy halfway between Advaita-Vedanta and
Dvaita, a vague area of unclarity, and for others various literal
translations of the word such as "true end," "final end" or "true
The term "Siddhanta" appears for the first time in the
Tirumantiram. The word anta carries the connotation of
goal}conclusion, as does the English word "end."
Tirumular's specific use of the word was "the teachings and the
true conclusions of the Saiva Agamas." And these he felt were
identical with Vedanta or "the conclusions of the Upanishads." In
fact, he makes it very clear that pure Saiva Siddhanta must be based
on Vedanta. Siddhanta is specific, giving the sadhanas and practical
disciplines which bring one to the final Truth.
Vedanta is general, simply declaring in broad terms the final
Truth that is the goal of all paths. There are those who would
intellectually divide Siddhanta from Vedanta, thus cutting off the
goal from the means to that goal. But our Guru Paramparai holds them
to be not different. How can we consider the mountain path less
important than the summit to which it leads us? Both are one.
Siddhanta and Vedanta are one also, and both are contained in
Saiva Siddhanta. That is the conclusion of scripture and the
conclusion of my own experiences as well. The Suddha Siddhanta of
Saiva Siddhanta is Vedanta. Vedanta was never meant to stand alone,
apart from worship, apart from religious tradition. It has only been
taken in that way since Swami Vivekananda brought it to the West.
The Western man and Western-educated Eastern man have tried in
modern Vedanta to secularize traditional Sanatana Dharma, to take
the philosophical conclusions of the Hindu religion and set them
apart from the religion itself, apart from Chariya and Kriya-service
and devotion. Vedantists who are members of other religions have
unintentionally sought to adopt only the highest philosophy of
Hinduism to the exclusion of the rich customs, observances and
They have not fully realized that these must precede yoga for
yoga to be truly successful. Orthodox Hindus understand these things
in a larger perspective. These same problems of misinterpretation
must have existed even in Saint Tirumular's time, for he writes that
"Vedanta is Suddha (pure) Saiva Siddhanta." (Verse 1422). "The
faultless Jnani is the Lord of endless wisdom in whom has dawned the
final Truth of Siddhantam, the cream of pure Vedantam." (Verse
It may be that Saint Tirumular pioneered the reconciliation of
Vedanta and Siddhanta. But what is the Vedanta that Tirumular was
referring to? Sankara, with his exposition of Vedanta, was not to
come for many centuries. Thus, concepts such as Nirguna and Saguna
Brahman being two separate realities rather than one transcendent
immanent God, the absolute unreality of the world, and the so-called
differences between the jnana path and the previous stages had not
yet been tied into Vedanta.
The Vedanta Tirumular knew was the direct teachings of the
Upanishads. If there is one thing the Upanishads are categorical in
declaring it is Advaita, "Tat Tvam Asi-Thou art That," "Aham
Bramasmi-I am Brahman." And when Saint Tirumular says that Siddhanta
is based on Vedanta he is using Vedanta to refer to this Advaita,
which according to him must be the basis of Siddhanta. This is
perhaps one of the most important essentials of Tirumular's
Siddhanta to be brought forward into the Siddhanta of today, for it
did, in fact, stray from the Rishi's postulations.
That is why we occasionally use the term "Advaita Saiva Siddhanta."
It conveys our belief in the Siddhanta which has as its ultimate
objective the Vedanta. It sets us apart from the Dvaita Saiva
Siddhanta school of interpretation begun by Meykanda Devar which
sees God and the soul as eternally separate, never completely
unified. It is not unusual to find two schools, similar in most
ways, yet differing on matters of theology. In fact, this has been
true throughout history. It has its source in the approach to God.
On the one hand you have the rishi, the yogi, the sage or siddhar
who is immersed in his sadhana, deep into yoga which brings forth
direct experience. His conclusions will always tend toward Advaita,
toward a fully non-dual perception. It isn't even a belief. It is
the philosophical aftermath of experience. Most Sat Gurus and those
who follow the monastic path will hold firmly to the precepts of
Advaita Saiva Siddhanta.
On the other hand there are the philosophers, the scholars, the
pundits. Relying not on experience and ignoring yoga, they must
surmise, postulate, arrange and rearrange concepts through an
intricate intellectual process in an effort to reason out what God
must be like. These are not infrequently the Grahastras and their
reasoning leads them to one or another form of Dvaita Saiva
Siddhanta. These are both valid schools. They are both traditional
schools, and comparisons are odious. But they are very different one
from the other, and it is good that we understand those differences.
Of course, we don't believe in controversy between the various
theologies of Saivism. Contention, argument and dispute never
brought a single person closer to Sivajnana. These kinds of
quarrelsome discussions are interesting to the intellect, but have a
negative influence on spiritual unfoldment. They should be avoided
by every sincere devotee. In their place we must find a common
We must work together for the benefit of Saivism as a whole. If
differences persist, let them be. Hold to the unifying elements and
let Saivism surge forward. We don't want to be like the Christians,
busy arguing with each other and unable to work together for the
benefit of their religion which has been fragmented into hundreds of
partial religions each claiming to be the one and only true whole.
Ours is a religion and has always been a religion of acceptance and
understanding, able to harmonize differences. That is how we look at
these controversies. We accept them, and the mission goes on.
The verses of the Tirumantiram are understandable if you learn how
to study them and meditate within yourself. They are important
because they tell about what our religion believes about inner,
spiritual matters-about the soul and the world and their
relationship to Siva. It is very important to remember that what a
person is taught to believe creates his or her attitudes toward
others and toward the world and stimulates or suppresses desire.
Beliefs create attitudes. We base our values and attachments upon
what we were taught to believe, and yet those beliefs may not be
precisely known to us though they are the compass of our destiny in
this life. As our beliefs guide our spiritual evolution, it behooves
us to know what those beliefs are.
For example, when the belief is held that God and the soul are
coexistent and that God did not create the soul and the two will
never merge as one, this causes a certain attitude of indifference
toward the practice of yoga and the realization of God. When on the
other hand the belief is held that Lord Siva did create the
individual soul, the attitude of striving for union through Chariya,
Kriya and Yoga persists. I call these philosophies which believe
that God is eternally separate from the soul "terminal
It has been asked, "If Siva created the soul, then is not the soul
different from Siva?" For our answer let us look at nature. When a
tree "creates" a fruit, that fruit is not a "something else." It is
not different from the tree. The Western idea of creation is a flash
of lightening and the world appears as an entity different from the
The truth is more like the example of the tree, though that
analogy is only a partial analogy and does not explain how the soul
merges with the Absolute. All of creation is the manifestation of
Siva's own Being, like the fruit is the natural manifestation of the
Thus souls and the world are Siva. My beloved Gurudeva, Yogaswami
of Columbuthurai, said some wonderful things about this. He said,
"It will not be an overstatement if I say that man is God." He also
said, "Nothing exists except the Lord. Everything is His action.
Nothing exists apart from God. It is like the waves and the ocean."
This is my belief, too.
People who hold to the belief in an eternal Hell where souls burn
forever for their sins will have attitudes of a more or less fearful
nature. But for those who believe that God created the soul with
form and with a superconscious intelligence and that the two will
ultimately merge in non-dualistic union, religion has meaning. They
want to convert others to it and have the power to do so as a boon
from Lord Siva, God of all the realms.
God Siva created the soul. How did he do this? Was it like a potter
shaping clay into a pot? Was it like a carpenter creating a house
out of lumber? It was more like the tree. In order to create another
tree, the tree sends out its branches and the fruit grows on the
branches and the seed grows within the fruit. The fruit drops off
and the seed sprouts and a shoot comes out; that shoot becomes a
twig, then a sapling, then a small tree, and then a large tree.
Finally, the tree is fully matured and sends out its fruits and
begins the process all over again. In a similar way Lord Siva has
created individual souls. Saint Tirumular assures us of this in one
of his many statements about Siva the Creator:Of yore He created the
worlds seven,Of yore He created celestials countless,Of yore He
created souls without number,Of yore He created all-Himself,As
Primal Param, uncreated.TANTRA TWO VERSE 446
We must understand the difference between the Self-God, Parasivam,
and the soul. Many people think that the Self is something that you
get. You pursue it and after a while you get it, like you get
something in the world. But the Self is not separated from you by
even the tiniest amount. You cannot go someplace and get it and
bring it back. The formless, transcendent Self is never separate
from you. It is closer than your heartbeat.
God Siva is called the Primal Soul because He is the perfect
form, the original soul who then created individual souls. The
individual soul has a beginning, and it has an end, merging with
God. It has form as well. All form has a beginning and an end. The
Absolute Self, Parasivam, is formless, timeless, endless and
beginningless. All things are in the Self, and the Self is in all
Many people think of the Self as an object to be sought. You
start here and you go there, and you get the Self. You pursue it
today; and if you don't get it today, you try again tomorrow. It's
different than that. It comes from within you more as a becoming of
your whole being than something that you pursue and get. And yet you
seem to pursue it, and seem to get it. It is very difficult to
The individual soul is different. The soul has a form. The soul is
form, a very refined and subtle form, to be sure, but still a form
and form obeys the laws of form. The soul has a beginning in Lord
Siva and an end in union with Him. The purpose of life is to know
God, your very Self. This is the end of all religions, of all
This is why we say that religion is this process of lifting
ourselves up, attuning our minds to the laws of life so that we
become stronger and more mature beings. We become higher beings,
living in the higher chakras, and we come closer and closer to God.
God doesn't come closer to us. How will God come any closer? He is
closer to you right now than your own thoughts. He is nearer than
breathing, closer than hands and feet.
I shall explain the soul in yet another way for I see a questioning
look in some of your faces. Man has five bodies, each more subtle
than the last. Visualize the soul of man as a lightbulb and his
various bodies or sheaths as colored fabrics covering the pure white
light. The physical body is the outermost body. Next comes the
pranic body, then the physical body's subtle duplicate, the astral
body. Then there is the mental or intellectual body in which one can
travel instantaneously anywhere.
Then comes the body of the soul, which I term the actinodic body.
This is the body that evolves from birth to birth, that reincarnates
into new outer sheaths and does not die when the physical body
returns its elements to the earth. This body eventually evolves as
the actinic body, the body of light, the Golden Body of the soul.
This soul body in its final evolution is the most perfect form,
the prototype of human form. Once physical births have ceased, this
soul body still continues to evolve in subtle realms of existence.
This effulgent, actinic body of the illumined soul, even after
Nirvakalpa Samadhi, God-Realization, continues to evolve in the
inner worlds until the final merger with Siva.
I like to say,"God, God, God." There is one God only, but man's
comprehension of That is helped by consciously exploring the three
aspects of the one Divine Being: the Absolute, Pure Consciousness or
the Self flowing through all form, and the Creator of all that is.
Lord Siva is the Absolute Self, Parasivam, the timeless, formless,
spaceless Reality beyond the mind, beyond all form, beyond our
subtlest understanding. Parasivam can only be experienced to be
known, and then it cannot be explained. Lord Siva is pure
consciousness, the substratum, or Primal Substance of all that
exists. He is the Energy within all existence.
He is Satchidananda, or Truth, Consciousness and Bliss, the Self
that flows through all form. Lord Siva is the Primal Soul,
Mahesvara, the Original and most perfect Being. He is the Source and
the Creator, having never been created. He is the Lord of all
beings. He created all souls out of Himself, and He is ever
creating, preserving and destroying forms in an endless Divine
When I was nine years old, I was taught that Lord Siva is God-God
the Creator, God the Preserver, and God the Destroyer. To this day I
know and believe that Siva is all of these, Brahma, Vishnu and
Rudra. These are the final conclusions of Saivism, the Sanatana
Dharma. The Upanishads state it in this way:He is the one God, the
Creator.He enters into all wombs.The One Absolute Eternal
Existence,Together with His inscrutable maya,Appears as the Divine
Lord, and Personal GodEndowed with manifest forms.With His Divine
Sakti He holds dominion Over all the worlds.
At the time of the Creation And Dissolution of the Universe He
alone exists.Our Lord is One without a second.With His Divine Sakti
He reigns over all the worlds.Within man He dwells, And within all
other beings.He projects the universe, He maintains it,And He
withdraws it into Himself.He is the Origin and the Support Of all
the Gods; He is Lord to all.He sees all and knows all.Thou doth
pervade the universe,Thou art consciousness itself,Thou art Creator
of Time,Thou art the Primal Being.
Whether He manifests existence out of Himself or withdraws it
entirely into His Being, existence is all of Himself, all is of
Siva, the Auspicious One. Existence is indeed eternal, yet
manifesting and dissolving in natural cycles of time and space. When
the scriptures speak of the world or the soul as being eternal, we
must understand that it is not any particular part of the world or
any single soul that exists forever. Rather it is the existence of
that which we call world.
When this world ends, worlds and worlds will continue their
existence in other parts of this universe. And when a great soul
merges forever into Siva, there will be other souls working their
way through their karma toward moksha. Similarly, there are always
pine trees on the mountain tops. They have been there for millions
of years. But those are not the same trees. In this sense we can say
that world and soul are eternal, and this is to me the most profound
understanding of these references in scripture.
You must all study the great scriptures of our religion. These
divine utterances of the siddhars will enliven your own inner
knowing. The Tirumantiram is similar to the Tirukural in many ways.
You can teach them both to the children and apply their wisdom to
everyday life. You can use them for guidance in times of trouble and
confusion, and they will unerringly guide you along the right path.
You can read them as hymns after sacred puja in your home shrine
or in the temple precincts. Each verse can be used as a prayer, as a
meditation, as a holy reminder of the great path that lies ahead. It
is a difficult work, but don't be discouraged by that. Just
understand that it could easily take a lifetime, several lifetimes,
to understand all that is contained in this scripture, that it is
for those deep into their personal sadhana. It was given by the
saint to those who fully knew of the Vedas and the Agamas, and to
understand it you too will have to become more familiar with these
other scriptures, slowly obtaining a greater background.
In making our selections from the Tirumantiram we have chosen those
verses that would be most readily understood and which, taken as a
whole, would offer a good example of the contents of the entire work
for those who may never receive the full edition. This has perhaps
made it seem a more simple work than it really is in its fullness of
over three thousand verses.
We can all offer our respects to the translator for his years of
effort. Dr. B. Natarajan has had given to him a mission in this life
from a previous time, before birth, to present to the modern world
in the English language in its pristine purity this Tirumantiram of
He is now fulfilling that mission and has surpassed expectation
in the poetic grandeur that flows from his plume. True to his name,
Nataraja, Power of Tillai, forced these expressions through his
mind. The deed is done. Tirumantiram has been taken from the past
and magically transported into the future through the Divine
Dancer's own vehicle and namesake, now retired from a worthy career
to devote his life to the Divine Will, to the Great Lords of our
So, here it is. Proceed with confidence. Enjoy it. Study it.
Meditate upon it. Let it become a part of your inner life, of your
understanding of God, man and world. Study it. Meditate upon it. Let
it become a part of your inner life, of your understanding of God,
man and world.
Preface to English Translation
of Tirumantiram by Dr.B.Natarajan
Within the Sanatana Dharma, known today as Hinduism, there are three
main sects-Saivism, Vaisnavism and Saktism. Long ago the Sanatana
Dharma was none other than Saivism.
Over the centuries these other sects have evolved until today
they are all known collectively by the world as Hinduism. Saivism
was the precursor of the many-faceted religion now termed Hinduism,
and there was a time when there were no sectarian divisions. There
was only Saivism.
Today these three sects do exist as important components of the
Hindu faith. Saivism, Vaisnavism and Saktism hold such divergent
beliefs and attitudes that they are in fact complete and independent
religions unto themselves. Though autonomous, they share in common a
vast tradition, a belief in karma, reincarnation and the Deities,
and a reliance upon the Vedas as their ultimate scriptural
Similarly, the Christians, Jews and Moslems-who do not believe in
karma or reincarnation-all hold to the Old Testament as a common
scripture though they are of different religions. Just as the
followers of these religions worship in diverse ways in the church,
the mosque or the synagogue, so too have the devotees of Siva,
Vishnu and Sakti come to worship separately and uniquely in their
They commonly share the name "Hinduism," while no such common
name has evolved to describe the affinity that exists between
Christianity, Judaism and Islam, though the relationship is
parallel. This is one reason that it is not always understood that
within Hinduism there are three major religions which are
inaccurately termed sects.
Within our Saivite sect, which has roughly three hundred million
followers, there are several denominations or sub-sects, all
following diverse theologies yet united in their unanimous
recognition of Lord Siva as the Supreme God.
These sub-sects are related in a close way with the theologian
who first codified or organized the doctrine. They are also
associated through various regions and languages. There are six main
sub-sects in Saivism.
The Saiva Siddhanta Church is of the original Saiva Siddhanta
expounded by Saint Tirumular, associated with South India. Of the
six sub-sects, it is the oldest and closest to the Advaita found in
the Upanishads and Agamas.
A divergent school within Saiva Siddhanta evolved out of the
dualistic interpretations made by the philosopher Meykanda Devar in
the Sivajnana Bodham and its commentary, Vartika, one thousand
three-hundred years after the original postulations of Saint
Tirumular were put forth. This school is also known as Saiva
A second sub-sect is known as the Pratyabhijna Saivism of
Kashmir, founded by Vasugupta and known also as Kashmir Saivism.
A third Saiva sub-sect is Vira Saivism, founded by Basava Deva in
Central India, commonly called Lingayat Saivism.
The fourth is Pasupata, founded by Nakulisa and now associated
with Gujarat. The fifth is Siddha Siddhanta of North India whose
founder is Goraksanath; and the sixth Saiva sub-sect is known as
Siva Advaita, founded by Sri Kanta in South India.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the
Tirumantiram in Saiva Siddhanta philosophy.
In the first place, it is the earliest full statement of
Siddhanta, "the end of ends," composed over 2,000 years ago. It is
perhaps the most complete and profound exposition of the subtle
theology of Saiva Siddhanta ever written, so filled with the
esoteric and the abtruse that it has not through its long history
been read or studied outside of the conclaves of scholars-though in
the last two decades this trend has shifted and will continue now
that a complete English edition is available.
Within the context of other Saiva scriptures of South India, the
Tirumantiram is the tenth of the twelve Tirumurai or "Holy Books."
The Tirumurai are collected works in the Tamil language written for
the most part during the first millennium A.D. by various Saivite
saints and then gathered together in the eleventh and twelfth
centuries. They constitute what might be looked upon as a Saiva
canon and hymnal in which may be found all forms of spiritual
expression from the advaitic principles of non-dualism and
Self-Realization to devotional praises to God, Siva.
The Tirumurai have come to be regarded as the very lifebreath of
the devotional strength of Saivism. They are second in importance
only to the Vedas, Upanishads and Agamas, and they are sung daily in
the temples of the Deities throughout South India and elsewhere in
the world where Saivites worship.
The remaining Tirumurai consist of the Devaram hymns of the
Samachariyas-Saints Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and
Manikkavasagar-the Periya Puranam of Saint Sekkilar, and other
The accomplished and scholarly Dr.B.Natarajan, an internationally
known Indian economist and planner, has produced this latest English
edition of the Tirumantiram. It is not merely the latest; it is the
only complete translation ever made in English. Dr. B. Natarajan has
worked in several capacities for the United Nations as well as in
government positions in India.
He has written many books and articles on economics and
agriculture and is deeply involved in the nascent science of
futurology. Now he has dedicated himself to bring the ancient Tamil
scriptures into English. Besides the 2Tirumantiram he has undertaken
and nearly completed the full works of Saint Thayumanivar.
The title of the scripture may be best understood with the help
of a few words read from the Introduction: "Tiru in Tamil means
'holy.' The word mantiram (from the Sanskrit mantra) is used in two
senses, general and specific. In the general sense it conveys the
meaning of devotional prayer composed in special words, e.g. Vedic
In the special sense a mantra is that which is composed of
certain letters arranged in a definite sequence of sounds of which
the letters are the representative signs.
Here, a mantra may, or may not, convey on its face its meaning.
Bija or seed mantras such as Aim, Klim, Hrim have no meaning
according to the ordinary use of language. Tirumular uses the word
'mantra' in both senses.
The title he gave his book originally was Mantra Malai or
'Garland of Mantras.' Here it conveys the sense of a Book of Prayer.
Later in subsequent Tantras he elaborately speaks of special mantras
for specific deities and special rituals and expounds in full the
meaning of the Primal Mantra OM and Five-lettered Siva
Mantra-Namasivaya-and the ways of intoning it in different contexts.
Literally 'mantra' is composed of two syllables, Man or 'mind' and
Tra or 'opening or liberation.' That is, Mantra is that which leads
to blossoming or liberation of mind or heart.
The typewritten manuscript that is here with us tonight is the first
complete edition ever available in English, the fruits of years of
difficult and subtle translation from the original Tamil. Dr. B.
Natarajan has called the Tirumantiram "a book of Tantra, Mantra,
Yantra and Yoga, of prayer and philosophy at once. It is the only
authentic work in Tamil on Yoga-Kundalini Yoga especially. It
expounds the teachings of Agamas as old as the Vedas... It proclaims
the oneness of Godhead and the means to God-becoming by man-Jiva
merging in Siva, the Soul in the Oversoul.
Structurally, the Tirumantiram is comprised of nine
tantras-books-and a preface. Each tantra covers a different aspect
of the Saivite path. The Proem or Preface commences with an
invocation to Lord Ganesha in the traditional manner and offers an
overview of the work. It may be helpful if we summarize briefly the
contents of each tantra.
The First Tantra begins with a synopsis of all that is to follow in
the Saint's opus. The topics it covers include: Transitoriness of
Body-also of wealth, youth and life-Not Killing, Poverty, Dharma of
Rulers, Glory of Giving, In Praise of the Charitable, Siva Knows
Those Who Love Him, Learning, Non-learning, Rectitude and others.
For those who are familiar with the Holy Kural these subjects will
seem familiar, and they are. The topics of this initial tantra and
of the great work by Saint Tiruvalluvar are indeed similar.
The Second Tantra deals with the mythology of the Deities, with the
cosmology of Hinduism, how the world was created, is sustained and
will be destroyed, and of the categories of soul. It also explains
the allegorical meanings of some of the important Saivite
mythological stories and then delves into such theological matters
as the five powers of Siva and the three classifications of souls.
The Third Tantra explores the mystical science of yoga, yama and
niyama, pranayama, asana, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses
within, dharana or concentration, dhyana or meditation and samadhi
or Self-Realization. It is in essence the same as Patanjali's
Astanga Yoga but includes Tirumular's mystic insights into each
aspect of this ancient system drawn from his own experience. It is
thus an exposition of yoga as Tirumular conceived it and lived it.
Here it may be interesting to note that these two sages were
contemporaries and are said to have lived at Chidambaram at the same
time, so it is not surprising that their approach to yoga is
The Fourth Tantra is a highly esoteric work on mantras and yantras.
He explains how to draw certain yantras, including the Tiru Ambala
Chakram (the "circle of Chidambaram").
The Fifth Tantra is a very special one. It gives a resume of the
essential features of the Saivite religion. This includes the four
forms of Saivism, the four stages, the four relationships the soul
has with God, the four realizations attainable and the four aspects
of the Descent of Grace. It ends with a delineation of unorthodox
paths, conduct to be avoided, and an affirmation of approved margas
or religious paths.
The Sixth Tantra covers a variety of aspects of Saivism and is more
readable than most of the others. Some of the areas covered are: the
Siva Guru, attainment of Grace, renunciation, the signs of sin,
penance, jnana and Siva darshan in people, and a description of
worthy and unworthy persons.
The Seventh Tantra is a treatise on some advanced and highly
technical aspects of Saivism. It is partly written as an exposition
of Tirumular's own realizations. It discusses the Lingam, Grace and
corresponding attainments, mudras, control of ida and pingala nadis,
worlds reached by different classes of yogis on death, and the Sat
The Eighth Tantra covers many of the important theological elements
of Siddhanta and is certainly one of the most inspiring. Among the
concepts presented are expositions of: the five sheaths (bodies),
the eleven avasthais (states), the three padarthas (pati, pasu and
pasam), and how they are essentially one, the 36 tattvas and their
elaboration into 96 tattvas, the four states (waking, dreaming,
dreamless sleep and turiyam or the "fourth,") and Turiyateetam or
the "state beyond the fourth," the three malas, the freeing of the
mala fettered soul (Iruvinaioppu, malaparipaka, and Saktinipata),
the mahavakiyam of the Upanishads, advaitic realization where the
soul becomes Sivam leaving behind the tattvas, malas and all
avastais, the true Siddhanta where knower, known and knowledge
become one, the affirmation of Siddhanta and Vedanta as the same,
the three gunas, the dasa-karanas, and the extirpation of desire as
a necessity for Realization.
The Ninth Tantra is essentially a description of the fruits of
realization. This includes an account of the attainment of akasa,
the budding up of knowledge, the bliss of true knowledge, the state
of liberation, and the Samadhi of Silence. It also contains
descriptions of Siva's various dances, the ashram of the Guru and
the meeting of the Guru. These nine tantras end with hymns of praise
to Siva and a description of Siva's all-pervading nature.
Even this brief account of the contents of the tantras is sufficient
to show that the Tirumantiram contains in its concentrated and
concise verbal gems all the fundamental doctrines of Siddhanta. We
hope this brief introduction helps us all to comprehend the depths
of Gurudeva's thoughts.