Sunday, August 14, 2011

Radical realists

Baskaran Pillai | Aug 14, 2011

The date of the Tamil Siddhas is uncertain. They could have lived around a couple of centuries before or after the common era - but mythology and geography assign to them timeless antiquity. 

The Tamil Siddhas, founders of the Siddha medicine system, are traditionally described as 18 in number, but there were many more of them whose work has come down to us.

Body is critical 
The Siddhas were radical realists who possessed a scientific approach to philosophy. While the mainline Vedic and Vedantic traditions disregard the human body as being inessential, the Siddhas held that the body and its health was critical for human evolution. Thirumoolar, who is considered to be the first among the Siddhas, maintained that the body sustains the soul itself. If the body is diseased, the soul cannot remain in that weak and diseased body. Thirumoolar said that anyone who protected his body also protected his soul.

The physical immortality of the body is a key concept among the Siddhas. According to them, enlightenment is simply not psychological. Liberation is not just psychological liberation from thought forms. Nirvana, according to Swami Ramalingam who turned his body into light in 1874, is a stage in the evolutionary process. He maintained that one should attain evolution of body, mind, and soul. You cannot simply evolve your psychology or your soul, and say that it is everything. Sri Aurobindo, although he was not a Siddha, upheld the Siddha ideal that unless the body is turned into light, the evolution of the human is not complete. Aurobindo admitted not reaching that stage, but praised Swami Ramalingam and the Siddhas for holding the highest ideal of enlightenment. The Siddhas believed that if anyone dies, regardless of how enlightened that person might be, he would have to be reborn to understand the nature of the body.

An inclusive school 
It is interesting to note that the Siddhas are eclectic in their appropriation of mystical schools that pre-existed their time. They freely drew from alchemy, astrology, herbal medicine, kundalini yoga, image worship and rituals, and other modalities. They brought the scientific approach into each discipline that they touched. If the Siddhas prayed to Ganesha to remove obstacles, then they linked Ganesha with the Mooladhara or root chakra in the subtle body. For them, it is simply useless to do idol worship without aligning it to the enlivening of the chakras.

Their literature says that direct conversation with Vishnu is possible if one is able to activate one's Manipura or navel chakra. Similarly, one can establish contact with Shiva through the Anahata or heart chakra. Many Siddhas attribute their supernormal powers to the deities they were able to contact through meditation. Alchemy And Idol Worship It is interesting to note that the Siddhas, like Bogar for instance, amalgamated alchemy with idol worship. The statue of Muruga or Kartikeya at Palani Temple was created by Bogar with the help of nine different toxic metals called Navapashanam - Veeram, Pooram, Rasam, Jathilingam, Kandagam, Gauri Pasanam, Vellai Pasanam, Mridharsingh, and Silasat.

The Siddhas would make images of deities with toxic metals, particularly mercury, which they knew how to solidify through the use of herbs. Images made of mercury were considered as powerful conduits for gods and goddesses to come to the earth plane. The Siddhas also consumed purified mercury and gold in order to achieve physical immortality. Siddhas uniformly agree that medicines prepared from purified metals like mercury, gold and silver can cure all diseases better than herbs or chanting mantras.

First Siddha: Thirumoolar Some Siddhas are quite scientific and seem to reject any kind ofphilosophy, ritual or mantras. Thirumoolar, the first Siddha, held radical views. He says, in one of his mystical verses, that the body is the temple of God, the senses are the lamps, and the soul itself is the Shivaling.

In yet another verse, Thirumoolar says that there is no need to do archana for a deity. All that you need to know is about your own 'Self ' or consciousness. Once, one has understood how knowledge originates from within oneself or how one 'knows' the process of knowing, then one becomes God.

At that time, one performs archana for oneself, and not for the deity.

Master Agastya 
It is important to mention the contribution of Agastya to the Siddha tradition. He is often considered to be on par with Shiva himself. He is the master of all disciplines, including Tamil linguistics and grammar. His legacy has been preserved on palm leaves, now in possession of governmental archives and private libraries. His contribution to Nadi Astrology, that gives predictions based on thumb impressions, is one of the verifiable wonders of the world.


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