Bhoothanatha Geetha – The Song of Ayyappa

Bhoothanatha Geetha (or Bhutanatha Gita) is a very rare Sanskrit text. We are greatly indebted to Mr. V. Aravind Subramanyam for working all his life to find the old manuscripts of this book, translate it and make it available with English and Tamil translations. . The book can only be directly ordered from him by sending a DD or cheque to his residence in Coimbatore Tamil Nadu. It is not available elsewhere. I got a copy of it yesterday and I want to share what I found in it. Mr. Aravind Subramanyam, due to his earnest love for Dharama Sastha, always adds Maha Sasthru Priya Dasan before his name. He has also written a complete purana called Sri Maha Sastha Vijayam.

Boothanatha Geetha is much shorter than Bhagavad Gita but conveys the key points of Advaita Vedanta. It has 132 verses in 8 short chapters. Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. Similarly, Bhoothanatha Gita is a conversation between Prince Manikanta who was considered as the avatar of Dharma sastha and Rajasekharan, the king of Pandalam.

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Boothanatha Geetha has certain uniqueness that other texts don’t have. To explain that, I will comment on some of the important verses from the book.

Boothanatha Geetha is written in much simpler Sanskrit. So, it is easier than Bhagavad Gita, if you want to read the text in the original. The first sloka is very simple and with basic knowledge of Sanskrit, one can understand it:

janma mrtyAdi duhkhAnAm nAzAya mahIpate

karmano nAzanam mukhyam tadupAyam nizamyatAm

Meaning: Oh King, destroying one’s karmas is important for the destruction of the suffering that arises from the cycle of birth and death. You can hear the way for it from me.

The text has 8 chapters. The first chapter Brahma Lakshana Yoga starts with this sloka and proceeds to explain the nature of Brahman, the absolute reality.

Chapter 1 – Brahma Lakshana Yoga

Here is the eighth sloka which talks about it:

AdimadhyAntarahitam svayam jotih parAtparam

avyayam nirgunam rAjan kAladezAdi varjjitam

citganam nityamAnandam tatbhinnam nAsti vastu bho

asitatvamaham taccetyAmnAyah parikIrtitah

Meaning:

Oh king! Brahman has no beginning, no middle and no end. It shines on its own and is the greatest of the greatest. It is imperishable, attributeless and beyond space & time.

It has been described in the scriptures that it is conscious and always in bliss. Nothing other than that exists! It is you and it is also me.

(It is interesting to note that the line ‘citganam nityamAnandam tatbhinnam nAsti vastu bho’ is a description of sat-cit-ananda or truth-consciousness – bliss. citganam = conciousness; nityamAnandam = bliss; tatbhinnam nAsti vastu bho = truth).

These lines also combine two mahavakyas, ‘tat tvam asi’ (You are that) and ‘aham brahmasmi’ (I am Brahmam’ together by saying ‘asi tat tvam aham’ (that exists as you and I). A good sloka for memorization for people who are learning Sanskrit. This sloka is similar to a lot of verses in Sankhya Yoga, the second chapter of Bhagavad Gita.

If Brahman is all that exists, then how do we explain the multiplicity in the existence? In the next few slokas, Manikanta attempts to clarify this doubt with the famous example of gold and gold ornaments found in Chandogya Upanishad.

In Chandogya Upanishad, Svetakethu’s father teaches him ‘tat tvam asi’ (you are that) and proceeds to explain with this example:

“Just as, my dear, by one clod of clay all that is made of clay is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is clay; “Just as, my dear, by one nugget of gold all that is made of gold is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is gold; “And just as, my dear, by one pair of nail—scissors all that is made of iron is known, the modification being only a name, arising from speech, while the truth is that all is iron—even so, my dear, is that instruction.”

Manikanta must have been well versed and quite familiar with Chandogya Upanishad and even some Buddhist texts as we will see.

Manikanta explains that just like gold ornaments with different shapes are essentially gold and nothing else, all the myriads of names and forms that we see is essentially Brahman and nothing else. The multiplicity is seen due to Maya (illusion or unreal).

In 12th sloka, the king questions, “What you are saying now seems to be contradictory to what you said before. If Brahman is all that exists, then where does maya come from?. How do the scholars of Advaita accept this contradiction?

This would remind us of Arjuna’s confusion when he complains to Krishna in Gita 3.1 that Krishna seemed to be contradicting himself.

Manikanta then explains that maya is nothing but the idea of a separate self. When you see something as me or mine, it is maya. This illusion has no beginning but it has an end. It is due to this illusion, one perceives or feels himself different from Brahman. Manikanta then encourages the king to investigate and see if there is really any truth in saying things like ‘this is my hand’, ‘this is my leg’ etc. He asserts that if one investigates carefully, one can know that there is no such thing as ‘mine’.

Manikanta also quotes the famous analogy of crystal to explain the relationship between Brahman and Maya. Maya doesn’t stick to Brahman even though it appears to be, just like a red flower placed on a crystal makes the crystal to appear red, even though the crystal itself doesn’t have the quality of the redness. At the same time, the color exists inseparable from the crystal just like maya is in a sense inseparable from Brahman.

Chapter 2 – Brahma Jnana Yoga

The second chapter is Brahma Jnana Yoga. Manikanta begins by explaining how the three gunas or trimurties sattva (Brahma), rajas (Vishnu) and tamas (Shiva) originated from Brahman.

In this chapter, Manikanta talks like Buddha. Buddha used to discourage metaphysical questions which are about the origin of the world, the origin of maya or the origin of suffering.

In Buddhist texts, there is a parable called the parable of a poisoned arrow. This parable was said as a response when someone asked how suffering originated in the first place:

“It’s just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a brahman, a merchant, or a worker.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me… until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short… until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored… until I know his home village, town, or city… until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow… until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated… until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.’ The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.

“In the same way, if anyone were to say, ‘I won’t live the holy life under the Blessed One as long as he does not declare to me that ‘The cosmos is eternal,’… or that ‘After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist,’ the man would die and those things would still remain undeclared by the Tathagata.

Manikanta says something similar in Chapter 2 , verse 6:

yastvagAdhe mahAkUpe patito bhUnnrpottama

tasmAdArohanopAyam avicintya samUDhadhih

tatra sthitvA cintayeccet kUpasyotbhavakAranam

katham tIram ca samprAptum zaktah sabhavati prabho

Meaning:

The greatest of kings! If some one falls down inside a deep well, is there any use in thinking about the reason the well was there in that place? How can you escape from the well if you don’t think about the way to escape from it?

Manikanta in many places, discourages useless questions and mere reading of scriptures without striving to know the truth in one’s experience.

Then Manikanda stresses the importance of a satguru. He says ‘samyag vettum param brahma kAryam satguru sevanam (2.7)’, which means if one wants to know the truth of Brahman in once’s experience, serving a satguru is mandatory. We will see who this satguru is, in a moment.

Manikanta then says that without the help of satguru. people end up like the blind men arguing about the shape of an elephant. The story of the blind men and the elephant is very famous in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. The doctrine of Anekantavada is based on this story, which you can read about here: Logic And Spiritual Enlightenment – An Overview of Anekantavada, Saptabhangivada (Seven Valued Logic) and Syadvada of Jainism

Manikanta also goes ahead and narrates the story. (The version Manikanta narrates only has two blind men, but in other versions they are more). Two blind men once wanted to know about an elephant. So, each of them went near an elephant to touch and feel it so that they can find out the shape of the elephant. One guy touched the ears of the elephant while the other person touched the trunk. After that, both of them were perfectly convinced that they knew everything about the elephant and its shape. The guy who touched the ears argued that the elephant looks like a fan where as the guy who touched the trunk insisted that an elephant looks like a long pipe. Seeing these people fighting, a person with the perfect eye sight came and explained to them what an elephant really looks like.

Manikanta ends this chapter by conveying the difference between meditating on and worshipping the formless and attributeless truth (nirguna brahman) and a deity with a form (saguna brahman). These verses are similar to the verses in the 12th chapter (Bhakti Yoga) of Bhagavad Gita where the conversation is about the same topic. Manikanta says that one who meditates on the formless, attributeless Brahman will attain liberation in this life and become Jivan Muktas. People who worship the divine in a form will attain liberation after their death. Adhi Shankara in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita also conveys the same while interpreting the verses in chapter 12 of Gita.

Chapter 3 – Gunatraya Yoga

This chapter talks about Panchikarana, a Vedantic theory that talks about how matter came into existence from five elements (panchabhutas).

Chapter 4 – Tattva Vijnana Yoga

There is something interesting to note in the beginning of this chapter. Manikanta begins by saying that there are 96 tattvas which exist in nature. A tattva is nothing but a smallest indivisible unit or element of what appears in our consciousness. For example, memory is a tattva, ego is a tattva, perception of sight is a tattva etc. When you observe the contents of your consciousness, it is possible to come up with many such tattvas. But the number of tattvas vary by tradition. For example, Bhagavad Gita talks about 8 tattvas. Samkhya school identifies 24 tattvas and Shaiva Siddhanta tradition identifies 36 tattvas. There is one tradition that talks about 96 tattvas. It is nothing but the tradition of Siddhas who specialized in both spiritual matters and herbal medicine. Since Manikanta too talks about 96 tattvas here, it is possible that he was also a Siddha who had mastered siddhis and the art of medicine.

The purpose of the description of these tattvas is to not to commit them to memory as a bunch of information. Enumerating these tattvas are only useful to see that they are not ‘you’ or ‘yours’. In other words, these are tools for self-inquiry rather than a collection of facts. As a mere collection of information, it is useless. So, if one is longing to get liberated, he needs to take care to see that he doesn’t identify with a whole bunch of information.

Citta Suddhi – Purification of the mind

Manikanta then begins to explain how the mind gets unpurified. When we make any decision we use our intellect or the sense of discrimination. But this intellect when influenced by rajas (desire and activity leading to fulfilling the desires) and tamas (lethargy, hatred and anger born out of that hatred) grabs your attention away to multiple things. Intellect eventually gets multibranched because of myriads of desires and fears. That is why there is a lot of self-conflict and that is the reason why human beings suffer a lot from cognitive dissonance.

Gita talks about this too:

vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana
bahu-sakha hy anantas ca buddhayo ‘vyavasayinam – Gita 2.41

Meaning: A person who has achieved one pointedness (by purifying his mind) has an intellect which has just a single branch. But the intellect of the people who have not achieved such one-pointed devotedness is many branched.

While explaining, Manikanta suddenly reminds him that it is useless to just read these things and say things like ‘there are 96 tattvas’, ‘the scriptures say so’ etc. It is a waste of time to talk about things he knows only by reading and not by his experience.

Then Manikanta uses an analogy to explain what is mandatory for the purification of the mind. Let us say the mind is like a milk; and the impurities are like water. If you want to get rid of all the water and get pure milk, the only choice you have is to heat it. No amount of adding anything or trying to remove anything will get rid of the water. Simply reading the scriptures is like trying to heat the milk without fire. If there is no fire, then no matter how long you wait, the water will be still there. Manikanta says that a guru’s words and guidance is like the fuel which can create the fire. Only when the scriptures burn in the fuel of the guru’s words, the impurities of mind will evaporate and the mind will get purified. A seeker should listen to guru’s words and do meditation according to what he taught.

Then Rajasekharan asks, ‘How do I find a satguru? How would I know that he is satguru? Since you know a lot of scriptures, please explain’. It is important to note that Rajasekharan still insists to hear what is written in the scripture. He doesn’t seem to be wanting to know what Manikanta knows by his experience. This is the reason why Manikanta throughout this Gita insists the futility of mere intellectual debates without attempting to directly know the truth by experience.

So Manikanta defines who a ‘satguru’ is by listing four qualities of a satguru:

  1. He doesn’t have any attachments.
  2. He is peaceful and calm.
  3. He loves his disciples.
  4. He knows the truth by experience.

There is another thing to note here. People believe that Kabir who lived in 15th century was the one who coined the word ‘satguru’ and who was also called as a satguru for the first time. Because there were no references to the word ‘satguru’ in any other older scriptures. But Manikanta lived in 10th or 11th century AD. No body has dated Bhoothanatha Gita yet, but assuming that it was written down right after his life, it is probable that Manikanda was the one who was called as satguru for the first time and who probably used that word for the first time.

Manikanta then defines the quality of a seeker:

  1. He has realized that life is prone to suffering.
  2. He is longing to get freedom and prays sincerely for emancipation.

Then he defines the quality of a scripture (sastra). A scripture is a book which gives the path to destroy the following 8 qualities called as ashtaragas:

  1. kama — lust
  2. krodha — anger
  3. lobha — greed
  4. moha — delusory emotional attachment or temptation
  5. mada — pride, hubris, (being possessed by)
  6. matsarya — dissatisfaction
  7. asooya – jealousy
  8. thrshna – Craving (a very acute form of desire)

A warning about fake gurus!

Then comes a beautiful sloka which says something that no other scripture has said to my knowledge. It warns about gurus who are after your money!

guravo bahavassanti zishyANAm dhana hArakAh

durlabho deziko rAjan teshAm santapahArakAh (4.20)

Meaning: There are plenty of so called gurus who take away your money. But the gurus who can take away your misery are very rare!

Finally, Manikanta offers you a solution. Since it is very rare to find such gurus, he says that he himself is both Guru and God for a person who shows selfless devotion to him. What this sloka actually conveys is, dharmasastha is satguru! If you don’t have a guru and can’t find one, just be devoted to sastha! Devotion purifies the mind and the divine as the satguru is always there as the inner light in every being.

Chapter 5 – Karma Vibhaga Yoga

This chapter discusses three types of karmas and how karmic material travels from one body to another body. Certain themes from Chandogya Upanishad appear here too. Here Manikanta insists that one should safeguard his body and not neglect it just because it is going to die own day. Because this body is the instrument which helps you to enjoy the four purusharthas of life: dharma, artha, kama and moksha. At the same time, he also says that the purpose of having this human body is to realize the truth.

He then lists the qualifications for a seeker. In Vedanta there is a concept called sadhana chatushtaya which lists qualifications of a seeker. This sloka just lists four simple qualities that a seeker should have as qualifications : 1) Vairagya – non-attachment 2) Guru Bhakthi – devotion to guru, in this case Dharmasastha. 3) Shama – tranquility of the mind 4) dhama – control of senses.

The chapter ends as Manikanta stresses the importance of devotion in the last few slokas. Devotion purifies the mind as well as helps the person to develop the above mentioned qualifications.

Chapter 6 – Bhakthi Vibhaga Yoga

This chapter once again stresses the importance of devotion. It talks in detail about the three gunas and three type of devotees.

Chapter 7 – Karmakarma yoga

In this chapter Rajesekharan asks important questions.

Here is the essence of his question: ‘If someone is absorbed in the pleasure of Brahman and has no craving, then how will he be motivated to do any action at all? How can he deal with things in practical life as before without anything driving him from the inside?’

Manikanda replies that a person who exhibits feats by climbing a big staff are able to do so effortlessly because their mind is one pointed. When you attain one pointedness through self-realization, you will have more efficiency to do your actions. He lists people such as Janaka, Sukha, Gargi and Katwanga as examples of people who continued to live their married life after their self-realization.

Then he talks about the impermanence of the worldly things and how liberation is the only thing which is permanent. He says that this world is a stage for dramas and Brahman is the one who runs the show; night is the screen and sun is the light; we are are actors; karmas are the musical instruments and the desires are the music. Once a person starts to look at life this way, he will be able to develop vairagya (non-attachment) very quickly.

Chapter 8 – Varna Vibha Yoga

Manikanda talks about four varnas. The slokas are like rewritten verses of Purusha sukta. It talks about how people from different varnas were born from different parts of purusha.

He then says that being a householder is better than being a wandering monk, forest ascetic or a bachelor. These verses seem to echo what some older grihya sutras say. They also favoured married life over asceticism.

Manikanda then warns the king to not to read various scriptures and get confused. He says that whatever that has been conveyed so far is the essence of the scriptures and that he didn’t have to read anything else.

Finally he declares ‘sarvajnoham sarvagoham sarvasAkshyahameva bho’ which means I am the omniscient, omnipresent and a witness of everything. He asks the king to meditate on him all the time and promises him liberation.

…………………………

Thank you for reading. I could only write this because of grace! I sat this morning and resolved to write a detailed post on Bhutanatha gita and let everyone know about this text. I wanted that to happen on this Diwali day itself. I hope this answer gave a complete introduction to Bhoothanatha gita. I wish you a happy and peaceful Diwali!

(People who want to purchase this book can find details on Mr. V. Aravind Subramanyam’s bloghttp://shanmatha.blogspot.com/2011/04/bhoothanatha-geetha.html )

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Entry of Women to Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple -A Detailed Look at Sabarimala’s History and the Recent Supreme Court Verdict

I am republishing an answer I wrote in Quora regarding the recent Supreme Court Verdict on allowing women of all age groups to Sabarimala temple. The question was “Should women be allowed to enter Sabarimala shrine?”. I am quoting from Wikipedia to give some background for this issue:

Sabarimala is a Hindu Temple in the Indian district of Kerala, where women pilgrims of menstruating age (10-50) were not legally allowed to enter from 1991 to 2018. In September 2018, a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India ruled that all women pilgrims, including those in the menstruating age group, should be allowed entrance to Sabarimala. This verdict led to widespread protests by the believers.Several women attempted to enter Sabarimala despite threats of physical assault against them but failed to reach the sanctum sanctorum.

Full article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entry_of_women_to_Sabarimala_Ayyappa_Temple

It is time for our society to understand the correct reasons for the ban of women between 10–50 and decide something for the greater good. Whether these women should be allowed there or not depends on what we agree to as a society, after carefully weighing down the pros and cons. Rules are made for people, people are not made for rules!

There are advantages in not allowing the women of that age group. But there are disadvantages too! After understanding both, let us decide what should be done!

First, the Supreme Court has approached this issue with a wrong assumption. There is no gender discrimination here and it is not the reason for disallowing young women to Sabarimala!

There are three different reasons which are said for disallowing women of age group 10 -50. The first reason is no longer relevant, the second reason is absurd and the third reason, which is the actual and the important reason, is completely ignored.

But if the third reason is properly explained, I think most of the people who are now protesting will understand. Let us see those three reasons one by one.

  1. Usually, there are different rules for the temples which are situated in mountains with high altitude or mountains which are amidst dense forests. Just imagine how people went to Sabarimala two or three centuries before. They have to take long and dangerous routes which were completely unsafe for women. Such temples cannot be kept open during all days of the year just like other temples. To state an example, devotees climb the Velliangiri mountains in Tamil Nadu during the month of April and May. But women of age group between 10–50 are not allowed to climb Velliangiri hills either. This ban is for their own protection. Because, there are chances that they can get raped and killed. In the dense forests of high altitude, there are lot of chances for women to get stuck at some place along the way where there is no one to help. Even now, it is better for women of young age to not to climb Velliangiri hills. Because I have climbed those mountains and anyone who climbed it can understand why it could be dangerous.But this is not applicable to Sabari Mala anymore. Sabari Mala today is not dangerous for women anymore as it was once. Women devotees can be completely protected. So as I said, this first reason is no longer relevant.
  2. We also have a story associated with it. It is said that Ayyappa is a Naishtika Brahmachari and he doesn’t want to see young women at all. Whether a woman is 13 or 47 doesn’t matter, she can still disturb the penance of Ayyappa and spoil his Brahmacharya. We need to stop taking myths too seriously. Because, sometimes myths go to the extent of insulting and degrading the divinity which is all pervading and beyond space and time. First of all, there is a difference between Dharma Sastha and Ayyappa or Manikandan. Manikandan was a human prince who lived about 1000 years before. The myths about Manikanda are not reliable because they were written for certain reasons that I will explain later in this answer. Manikandan was considered as an incarnation of Dharma sastha just like we consider Rama as an incarnation of Vishnu. Dharma Sastha is depicted as having two consorts: Poorna and Pushkala. These words mean completion or fullness and prosperity respectively. Here the idea is, after a person attains Moksha, he also attains fullness and prosperity. Also, in Sabarimala, the pujas and moola mantra are addressed to Dharma Sastha directly. Manikandan is said to have merged with Dharma Sastha which is a symbolic way of conveying that Manikanda attained Parinirvana and merged with divinity. So stating that allowing young women to Sabarimala will disturb Ayyappa’s Brahmacharya is completely absurd! He doesn’t exist as a distinct personality anymore. So in the name of Ayyappa, all you are worshipping is Dharmasastha, which in reality is the same as Shiva, Vishnu or Shakthi. It is one divinity that we pray to!

Some people even went ahead and said that the floods in Kerala is the result of the anger of Ayyappa. They also go ahead and say that there will be serious consequences if women are allowed. The idea that all pervading divinity would punish innocent human beings because of anger is totally primitive and complete nonsense. This self-contradicting God is not what Sanatana Dharma talks about. Such ideas are spread by common folks who hasn’t read Bhagavad Gita or Vedas, and has got nothing to do with Ayyappa. Please don’t make God limited and portray him as such a dumb person who will get angry and punish innocent people just because a 12 year old girl or 47 year old woman spoiled his Brahmacharya vrata. Even a human being wouldn’t do that!

3. Here is the actual reason for disallowing the women of age group 10–50. Sabarimala temple has a uniqueness that other temples do not have. To my knowledge, it is the only temple which is maintained for this special reason.

Once it was believed that renouncing the world and practicing austerities were completely necessary for an individual to attain liberation. Even Adhi Shankara has written in his commentaries that if one is seeking liberation then he has no choice other than renouncing the world, own only a begging bowl and keep wandering. But after Bhakthi and other spiritual traditions became popular, it was said that even married people and women can be seekers. So, there are many spiritual sadhanas which have been designed for people who live in family. For example, during the month of Dec-Jan (Marghazhi), women wake up very early and go to Vishnu temples and sing Bhajans; this is a spiritual practice for women but it is open for men too. There are some sadhanas which are open only for women and not for men. For example, women in Tamil Nadu do a special worship for Lord Ganesh by offering him with a snack known as ‘Auvaiyar kozhukkattai ’. Men are not allowed to know the reason and purpose of this worship; they are not allowed to eat those kozhukkattais either which is so unfortunate. 🙂 I have tried to get them many times when I was a kid but no luck! The same way, the pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a spiritual Sadhana for men. Women do not need it and I will explain why.

There is enough scientific evidence now for the fact that men lack self-control when compared to women. Since men have more testosterone, they are naturally very aggressive, lack self-control and very week in delaying gratification. In other words, women can very easily sacrifice a smaller reward that is immediately available for a bigger reward that awaits them in the future. They can also very easily go through a smaller difficulty now to avoid a bigger difficulty later. We have all intuitively known this. Back in school, we all know who makes more noise when a teacher steps out and which gender always fails to do the home work .

A pilgrimage to Sabarimala allows married men to live like monks and practice severe austerities, see divinity in each and every person, completely surrender oneself to divinity and avoid even the sight of women. Doing this for 41 days can free men from many of their habitual tendencies or Vasanas. Such a spiritual practice that is done once in a year for 18 years is actually enough for a person to reach spiritual liberation.

The devotees are expected to follow a Vratham (41-day austerity period) prior to the pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a special Mala (a chain made of Rudraksha or Tulasi beads is commonly used, though still other types of chains are available.). During the 41 days of Vratham, the devotee who has taken the vow, is required to strictly follow the rules that include follow only a lacto-vegetarian diet (In India, vegetarianism is synonymous with lacto-vegetarianism), follow celibacy, follow teetotalism, not use any profanity and have to control the anger, allow the hair and nails to grow without cutting. They must try their maximum to help others, and see everything around them as lord Ayyappa. They are expected to bath twice in a day and visit the local temples regularly and only wear plain black or blue colored traditional clothing. Saffron colored dresses are worn by Sannyasi who have renunciated material life. But, many devotees still continue to wear saffron colored clothes which becomes a part of Vedic culture which connects the whole Hindus worldwide.

Source: https://www.rvatemples.com/listings/sree-dharma-sastha-temple/

When a devotee reaches the Sabarimala shrine, he can see the Mahavakya ‘Tat tvam asi’ written above the temple in Devanagari script:

main-qimg-20ab769da0a4d42c6dd14f452da5b10a-c.jpg

This is the truth one realizes by experience when a person attains Atmajnana. This is the spiritual instruction that Dharmasastha attempts to give. The whole purpose of pilgrimage to Sabarimala is to realize this truth in one’s experience at some point of time in his life.

A true seeker of liberation who is a devotee of Dharmasastha would want to meditate in and around the temple and he doesn’t want to see anything that is distracting. He doesn’t the want sight and proximity of women because sometimes the sight and proximity can distract him and make him to start thinking about something else. This is a specially designed Sadhana which can help men to get rid of many vasanas, including any obsession they may have about women.

A woman doesn’t need such a sadhana because nature itself has given her a lot of concession by making her more disciplined. As I said, it is a scientific fact that women have more self-control than men because of their low levels of testosterone. More over, women also have enough compassion to understand the weakness of men and allow them to have their own space. Do men ever claim space in a ‘Ladies only’ bus or women’s gym? We understand why they need their own space sometimes. Just like that, Sabarimala has been a space for men (and women who are under 10 or over 50) to the spiritual practice created for them.

Because of this, Sabarimala has attracted people from all religions and all faiths and helped people to forget their religious differences. I know of many Christian men who wore mala for Sabarimala without letting their wives know; only after they came home, their wives found out that their husbands just got converted! I used to have a close friend in primary school whose dad did the same thing. Ever since, their family follows both Hinduism and Christianity.

There is also a sannidhi for Vavar who was a Muslim. Sabarimala already includes the aspects of all sects within Hinduism:

The customs of the pilgrims to Sabarimala are based on five worshipping methods; those of Shaivites, Shaktists and Vaishnavites. At first, there were three sections of devotees – the devotees of Shakti who used meat to worship their deity, the devotees of Vishnu who followed strict penance and continence, and the devotees of Shiva who partly followed these two methods. Another name of Ayyappa is Sastha. All these can be seen merged into the beliefs of pilgrims to Sabarimala. The chain the pilgrims wear comes from the Rudraksha chain of the Shaivites. The strict fasting, penance and continence is taken out of the beliefs of the Vaishnavites. The offering of tobacco to Kaduthaswamy can be considered to be taken from the Shaktists..

Source: http://missiongreensabarimala.com/pilgrimage/history/history-behind-worshiping-methods

There is also a Buddhist aspect to Sabarimala too. To understand that, we need to explore the history instead of relying on the myths. As we understand some history, we can also understand why these myths are created. The form of Dharmasastha itself was created to resolve conflicts between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.

I would like to give an example to illustrate a point here. Years before, I saw a Telugu movie (starred by Chiranjeevi I think) which was dubbed in Tamil. After watching the movie I realized that the Telugu movie itself was a remake of the Tamil movie ‘Mannan’ starred by actor Rajinikanth. So, both these movies have the same story and screenplay; only the hero has changed. The same has happened with Sabarimala. The spiritual sadhana and uniqueness of the Sabarimala has stayed the same over many centuries but the hero of Sabarimala was changed once in the history! But that doesn’t matter. Wise people know that ‘ekam sat viprAh bahudhA vadanti’ (Truth is one; but called by many names).

Have you heard of Avalokiteshvara?

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(Image source: Wikipedia)

Avalokiteshvara is the Buddhist version of Lord Shiva. Mahayana Buddhism which was popular in Tamil Nadu had once adopted many deities of Hindu sects for the tantric practices they had. It would be right to say that except the terminology and some minor differences, Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism are the same. Because, these Buddhists also consecrated idols and temples. For the forms of deities, they mostly absorbed the deities of existing sects of Hinduism and portray these deities as forms of Bodhisattva. They also have other deities surrounding the main deity forming a mandala and use it for meditation. This is exactly what we do in Hinduism when we consecrate temples. A temple is nothing but a big mandala, which is a space for meditation for general public. We have Shaiva, Vaishnava and Saktha agamas which explain the consecration processes of temples.

Here is an excerpt from an article written by someone who has already done a lot of research on this subject:

There is considerable evidence that Lord Ayyappan was once a Buddhist deity, and that Sabarimala was once a Buddhist temple complex. However, it appears that prior to its Buddhist incarnation, the temple was an early Dravidian Saivite centre; therefore it has been a sacred spot of singular merit of at least three or four millennia. Its famed Makara Jyotis (Divine Light) which appears mysteriously in the forest on Makara Sankranti day gave it the name Potalaka.

Astonishingly, it appears that the Dalai Lama’s Palace in Lhasa, the incomparable Potala, is named after Sabarimala! The Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be) Avalokitesvara Padmapani, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who is, by tradition, reincarnated as the Dalai Lama, was also the one worshipped at Sabarimala.

I am indebted to my cerebral friend Devakumar Sreevijayan (formerly of Austin, Texas and currently of New York City) for almost all of this fascinating research. It is in three texts: the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Hymn to the Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara, and the writings of the intrepid Chinese traveller Hsiuen Tsang (Zuen Xang?), that we find the detailed references. Dev found a good deal of information in the book, The Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara by Lokesh Chandra.

But there is ample circumstantial evidence for Kerala’s Buddhist/Jain past. Unlike Nagarjunakonda in Andhra Pradesh and Sravanabelagola in Karnataka, they have left no large monuments in Kerala, but it is known that Kodungallur, for example, was a Buddhist centre. Kodungallur, at the time known as Muziris, was a major port; a Buddhist nunnery there became a great Devi temple later, associated with Kannagi, the heroine of the Tamil epic Silappathikaram (The Jewelled Anklet) written by the Chera Prince Ilango Adigal, who lived in what is now Kerala.

The revered Patriarch Bodhidharma (Daruma in Japanese) from Kodungallur was the originator of the Zen sect (dhyana in Sanskrit, Ch’an in Chinese) — he went to the Shao-Lin monastery in China (420-479 CE), and he took the martial art of kalari payat there for the protection of the unarmed monks, whence the various martial arts of East Asia. According to Chinese legend, Bodhidharma also created the tea plant, by tearing off his eyelids and planting them in the ground: presumably this means he also took the tea plant with him.

The legend of Mahabali — the asura king sent to the underworld by an avatar of Lord Vishnu — also gives clues to the Hindu-Buddhist past: an egalitarian Buddhist rule overthrown by Brahmin-led Upanishadic Hindus. Perhaps there was a period of co-existence, much like the centuries-old peaceful co-existence between the followers of the Buddha and Eswara/Siva in South East Asia. In the great temples of Java and Cambodia, Eswara/Buddha are almost seen as interchangeable.

At Prambanan in Java (the Hindu counterpart to the great Buddhist complex at Borobudur) and at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the images of Siva/Eswara and of the Buddha are sometimes intermixed; apparently there was no great animosity between the worshippers of both. Similarly, one might hope, the transitions from Siva to the Buddha to Ayyappan were relatively peaceful.

The circumstantial evidence for the Buddhist nature of Lord Ayyappan is compelling. For one, the devotees chant: “Swamiye saranam Ayyappa,” so close to the Buddhist mantra: “Buddham saranam gacchami, Sangham saranam gacchami, Dhammam saranam gacchami.

Furthermore, the very sitting posture of the Ayyappan deity is suggestive: almost every Buddhist image anywhere, including those sometimes unearthed in the fields of Travancore by farmers, is in sitting position. Whereas practically no other deity in Kerala is in that posture.

Says Lokesh Chandra: ‘The Avatamsaka Sutra describes the earthly paradise of Avalokitesvara: ”Potalaka is on the sea-side in the south, it has woods, it has streams, and tanks”…Buddhabhadra’s (AD 420) rendering of Potala (or Potalaka) is ”Brilliance.” It refers to its etymology: Tamil pottu (potti-) ”to light (as a fire)”…brilliance refers to the makara-jyoti of Sabarimala.’

‘Hsuen Tsang refers to Avalokitesvara on the Potala in the following words, summarised by Waters (1905): ”In the south of the country near the sea was the Mo-lo-ya (Malaya) mountain, with its lofty cliffs and ridges and deep valleys and gullies, on which were sandal, camphor and other trees. To the east of this was Pu-ta-lo-ka (Potalaka) mountain with steep narrow paths over its cliffs and gorges in irregular confusion…” ‘

All of this is still true; Hsuen Tsang’s description could easily be of contemporary Sabarimala. The only difference perhaps is that the forests are no longer so dense. Pilgrims believe that those who ignore the strict penances — abstinence from alcohol, smoking, meat-eating and sex — are in danger of being attacked by wild animals while on their trek. However, there are not too many large animals in these forests any more, as a result of human encroachment.

Lokesh Chandra continues: ‘Hsuen Tsang clearly says that Avalokitesvara at Potala sometimes takes the form of Isvara (Siva) and sometimes that of a Pasupata yogin. In fact, it was Siva who was metamorphosed into Avalokitesvara…The image at Potalaka which was originally Siva, was deemed to be Avalokitesvara when Buddhism became dominant… The Potalaka Lokesvara and the Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara have echoes of Siva and Vishnu, of Hari and Hara.’

‘…Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala… could have been the Potala Lokesvara of Buddhist literature. The makara jyoti of Sabarimala recalls Potala’s “brilliance”… The long, arduous and hazardous trek through areas known to be inhabited by elephants and other wildlife to Sabarimala is spoken of in the pilgrimage to Potala Lokesvara. The Buddhist character of Ayyappa is explicit in his merger with Dharma-sasta. Sasta is a synonym of Lord Buddha.’

Thus, the history of Sabarimala is to some extent a microcosm of the religious history of India. It is interesting that there are connections between Kerala, in the deep South, and Ladakh/Zanskar in the far North, where the last of the Tibetan Buddhists practise their religion unmolested.

Those devout Ayyappan pilgrims in their dark clothes symbolising the abandonment of their egos, who flock to the hill temple in the cool winter months, are thus, in a way, celebrating two of the great religious streams of Mother India: both the Hindu present and the Buddhist past.

Source: https://www.rediff.com/news/dec/31rajeev.htm

Some people may get offended after knowing that Sabarimala was once a Buddhist shrine. But in our culture, only ignorant people have problems with names and forms. Wise people didn’t even hesitate to consider Buddha as an avatar of Vishnu. In fact, Dharmasastha is nothing but an union of Shiva as Avalokiteshvara and Vishnu as Buddha! It is very important to note here that Buddha didn’t allow women in his community. So for many centuries, Buddhist monks went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Avalokiteshvara in Sabarimala and young women were not a part of this pilgrimage.

Pothigai hills near Tirunelveli was once a hub of Mahayana Buddhism. It interacted with Shaivism and Saktha traditions and absorbed many deities. While Hindu texts show that sage Agastya learnt Tamil from Lord Shiva, Buddhist text maintain that Agastya learnt Tamil from Avalokiteshvara. Also, one of the forms of Avalokiteshvara is Goddess Chandika who is called as Cundi in Buddhism. Here is the image of Cundi:

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(Image source: Wikipedia)

You can compare this form with the Hindu Goddess Chandi:

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(Image source: Wikipedia)

It is interesting that Parashurama, who was a devotee of Chandika lived in Pothigai hills too, which I have explained in this answer: Shanmugam P’s answer to What is Tripura Rahasya?. Parashurama is also believed to have constructed the temple in Sabarimala. It is interesting to note that Parshurama is connected to both Chandika (which is a form of Avalokiteshvara in Buddhism) and Sabari Mala. This also gives strength to the theory that Sabari Mala has got something to do with Avalokiteshvara.

The consecration of Avalokiteshvara as Dharma sastha must have happened during the time when Mahayana Buddhism and Hindu sects existed in harmony. Just like there are ignorant people now who fight over petty issues, there must have been people who fought over such differences back then. The myths were created to pacify them.

Pothigai hills are called as Mount Potala in Buddhism. People who wanted to go to pilgrimage to Sabarimala had to go through Pothigai hills since there is a ghat there. The same ghat has been used by the buses now to go to Sabarimala. In Buddhist literature, Pothigai hills and Sabarimala are collectively called as Mount Potala.

Pilgrimage to Potala began in about the 1th century CE although records are very scant. Both of the great Tamil Buddhist epics, the Maṇimegala and the Cilappatikanam mention pilgrims going to Mount Potala. The Mahāyānist poet and philosopher Candragomin went there by ship and is said to have spent his last years on the mountain. He wrote his most famous work, the Śisyaleaka, while there and gave it to some merchants to pass to his disciples in northern India. When the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang was in Nalanda in the 7th century he met a brahmin who had made a vow to worship a statue of Avalokiteśvara which was on the top of Potala, a vow he had been able to fulfill. This statue was believed to be the bodhisattva’s exact likeness. Later, Hiuen Tsiang travelled through south India and although he was unable to visit Potala himself he left this description of it based on what others had told him. “To the east of the Malaya Mountains is Mount Potala. The passes on the mountain are very dangerous, its sides are precipitous and its valleys rugged. On the top of the mountain is a lake, its waters as clear as a mirror. From a grotto preceeds a great river which encircles the mountain twenty times as it flows down to the southern sea. By the side of the lake is a rock palace of the gods. Here Avalokiteśhvara in coming and going takes his abode. Those who strongly desire to see him disregarding their lives and fording the streams, climb the mountain forgetful of its difficulties and dangers. Of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach the summit. But even if those who dwell below the mountain earnestly prey to behold the bodhisattva, he appears to them sometimes as Isvara, sometimes in the form of a yogi, and addresses them with benevolent words and then they obtain their wishes according to their desires.” This description is clearly a blend of fact and fiction, something about Potala that increased as time went by. Gradually the sacred mountain came to be seen as a kind of magical fairy land, a paradise where rare medical herbs and exquisite flowers grew, where mythological animals frolicked and where those blessed enough to be reborn in Avalokiteśhvara’s presence abided in bliss.

Source: https://dhammawiki.com/index.php/Mount_Potala

So, what happened when Manikanda lived? Manikandan rediscovered a path to Sabari Mala and also went and meditated in the manimandapam. It is only after Manikandan, the pilgrimage to Sabarimala became easier! All devotees today (who go to Sabarimala by following a proper procedure including wearing mala and practicing austerities for a mandala) are going through the same path that Manikandan once rediscovered and went through! Manikandan himself was a devotee of Avalokiteshvara who attained Moksha.

But the issue that has happened today has actually led to something good. It has given reasons for people to explore the real concept behind Sabarimala pilgrimage. It has reminded us about the importance of Sabarimala.

So, should women between the age 10–50 allowed inside the shrine of Sabarimala? We need to ask women what they want to do and we have two options to choose from:

  1. Since Sabarimala pilgrimage is an unique Sadhana for men that requires staying away from women and since women do not need such Sadhana, the correct reasons should be properly explained in court instead of stating rubbish reasons like ‘It will spoil the Brahmacharya of Ayyappa’. This may cause the court to revise its judgement.
  2. If women or court really insist that young women should be also allowed, then women should be allowed to go there during a different season with full protection when men are not allowed. So men can practice 41 days of austerities as usual and go to Sabarimala during January; women of age group 10–50 can practice austerities for probably a lesser number of days (for. e.g. one week) and go to Sabarimala during the month of April when the shrine opens for Vishu. Thus, allowing men and women during different seasons can help devotees to resolve the issue without disturbing the spiritual practice that they do. I am pretty sure that Agamas are not very strict and they are liberal enough to make such provisions. Even if people are scared of any negative consequences, I am sure that there should be pariharams done for that! Our agamas are very rich and they certainly have room for many customizations.

It is very important to set our emotions aside and think. Causing violence and chaos in the name of saving a temple or a deity has got nothing to do with spirituality.

The Sculpture – Poem

sculpture

 

Your DNA is sculpted

by nature…

 

You as an individual is

then sculpted by the nurture of

the society and the environment.

 

The sculpture is

continuously being sculpted

at your every step.

 

When you allow yourself to be sculpted

without any resistance and

fully surrender to the reality,

one day there will be

nothing left to be sculpted!

 

Then you will realize that

the sculptor, the sculpting

and the sculpture are one!

 

The Truth is one, without two…

But wise people call it by many names!

 

– Shanmugam P

 

The Fruit of Wisdom – Poem

fruit of wisdom.png

The fruit of wisdom lies deep inside
the forest called mind,
behind the veils of its unconscious layers..

Deep inside the heart, it hangs in the
branches of the tree of love
that glitters with its aromatic flowers…

Thoughts, emotions, sensations and experiences
are the other trees in the forest…

As a hungry seeker, you begin to seek
that fruit of wisdom…

Along the way you eat
some fruits of pleasure that are sweet,
and some fruits of pain which are bitter..

You say, ‘not this!’, and move on, as you see
every tree and its fruits…
There are ups and downs on the way;
forbearing heat and cold, you keep seeking
the fruit of eternal wisdom!

At last, you taste it! and then,
only the taste remains…

– Shanmugam

Bhavacakra – The Wheel Of Life: Infographics

Bhavacakra or Bhavachakra, known as the wheel of life is painted in the Buddhist temples in Tibet and India. It is a symbolic representation of the wheel of life.

Here is the gist of Bhavacakra:

  1. Ignorance of mistaking non-self as self-leads to aversion and attachments.
  2.  This, in turn, leads to volition, action and the pleasant or unpleasant consequences of the actions.
  3.  Depending on the consequences, a person enjoys or suffers the fruits of his action.
  4. The 12 nidanas give a clear picture of dependent origination. It states that everything is interconnected with various casual links. Nirvana or liberation is the only thing which is not affected by dependent origination.
  5. The five aggregates are impermanent and clinging to them causes suffering.
  6. There is a way to get liberated. It is called as eightfold path.

This is a mandala and can be used for meditation. To know more about the mandalas, read the following posts:

(I will make a detailed video about this shortly. Subscribe to my Youtube channel to watch the videos in time: http://bit.ly/shanmugamy )

Bhavacakra Mandala

Bhavacakra Mandala

Here are some useful infographics which give the details about various aspects of Bhavacakra mandala.

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(You can also interpret these realms as the periods of your current life. For example, a person might be in any of the following realms for a few months:

Sometimes we are like devas, very happy and pleased;

Sometimes like asuras, even though happy we don’t feel content and this leads to craving, attachment and aversion;

Sometimes like humans, being more responsible and showering love to friends, families and others;

Sometimes like animals, just eating and sleeping;

Sometimes like a hungry ghost, deprived of our needs and feel totally dissatisfied, frustrated and helpless;

Sometimes like beings of the hell, going through extreme suffering that seems to be endless.

The idea is to convey that none of these states are permanent and a proper spiritual practice is the only way to find permanent bliss in life.)

 

2

 

3

Gems Of Wisdom From Various Self-Realized Masters – Infrographics

Just a short info-graphic I made which includes the quotes of Lao Tzu, Buddha, Ashtavakra, Ramana Maharshi, Osho, and Meister Eckhart.. The quotes are direct pointers to the non-dual truth. For more quotes, visit this page: Inspiring Quotes of Lao Tzu, Buddha and Many Others.

spiritual quotes2