SOME ASPECTS OF THE GOD-HEAD.
Mr. J. M. Nallaswami Pillai, B.A., B.L.,
"Behold! He is the male, the female and the neuter."!
Very often it happens we have to write upon the same subject over and over again, and nobody need wonder why this should be so. We eat the same kind of rice and dish of vegetables over and over again, day after day ; from the year's end to the year's end, and yet we never ask why this should be so. The answer is plain that this is the best and safest and most wholesome food we require every day of our life, for its sustenance and nurture and growth. What applies to the body applies to the mind as well. The mind requires also some wholesome and safe and healthy pabulum for it to feed upon, also, every day, nay, every hour; and you can starve the mind, as well as over-feed it; and you may feed it on unwholesome and unhealthy food; and these are irregularities which we should avoid as we should avoid irregularities in diet. Wholesome food, however often we may repeat, ought not to tire anybody. And this is necessary for another reason also. Man is circumstanced more or less by his environment; all sorts of influences are brought to bear on him; and these create doubts and misgivings even in the most well-regulated minds; and the mind vacillates from one extreme to the other. It is therefore good that the mind is made to face the same truth ever and anon. And then, indeed, our memory is so weak, we forget what we learnt only yesterday; and what fails to strike our imagination at one time may attract it another time. Besides, errors and fallacies are repeated day after day., and it becomes necessary to repeat what we regard as truths as often. As such, we make no further apology for going fully into a subject which we touched upon in our Review of the "the Minor Upanishads," in our "introduction to the Kaivalya Upanishad, and in our article on the Personality of God. Very often a controversy is carried on by means of names and words, and the whole fallacy lies in the different parties to the controversy understanding the word in as many different ways. We have seen how European writers differed in defining the word "Personal" and "Impersonal"; and we have accepted the word 'Personal' free from all implication of limitation or anthropomorphism and in the manner defined by Emerson, Lotze, Dr. Merach &c. We have also noted the different ways of interpreting the word Saguna and Nirguna. One calls God Saguna, and interprets Nirguna in undoubted and authoritative passages as meaning merely "devoid of bad qualities." And in this sense Saguna must mean full of bad qualities; and yet this one will only call his God Saguna and not Nirguna; and he exhibits a clear prejudice against the word "Nirguna," thus clearly making out that his interpretation is after all only a doubtful expedient at avoiding an inconvenient corner. We have however referred to its technical and original and philosophic acceptation, in that Guna means the Guna tatwa which is the name and characteristic of Mulaprakriti; and this Guna comprises the three Gunas, Satwa, and Rajas and Tamas; and Saguna accordingly means clothed with Satwa and Rajas and Tamas, gross material qualities, and Nirguna means freedom from these three qualities or gross material veiling's; and the definition of God as Nirguna, and not as Saguna, does not therefore conflict with the literal and consistent acceptation of the two words, or our idea of God's Supreme Nature. By the way, an additional proof that our interpretation is correct is furnished by the fact that the Saguna Philosopher actually clothes his God with Satwa-Guna. Comparisons are generally odious, but where principles are at stake they cannot be avoided altogether; and we merely invite our readers' attention to the two descriptions of God-head, given in the appendix to Dr. Muir's metrical translations from Sanskrit writers, which are respectively summarised from the Swetaswatara Upanishad and Uttara-Ramayana. You may omit the names, for they are accidents due to our ancient religious history, and you may give the bare descriptions to our artist; and we have no doubt he will draw two totally different pictures. No doubt we admit their Saguna conception of God, and as for that any bavana of God serves the purpose of the aspirant after a higher path to a great extent, on the well-known principle laid down by St. Maikandan, " Choose the form which attracts your love most." But as we have pointed out already, we do not remember at times that this is only a form, a symbol and not the truth itself, that truth is beyond one's ordinary ken ("கண்முதற்புலனாற் காட்சியுமில்லோன் - உள்ளத்துணர்ச்சியிற் கொள்ளவும் படான."), and that yet this vision is possible ("கண்ணால யானும் கண்டேன்") ("பரையற்றிருந்தான் புரிசடையோனே") when leaving our feeling of 'I' and 'Mine' destroying and annihilating our Pasu and Pasa nature "ஊன கெட்டு உயிர் கெட்டு - நான் கெட்டு" and assisted by His Supreme Grace ("அவனருளால்") we reach the place of peace, Nirvana (Literally non-flowing as air) (திரையற்ற நீர்போற் சிந்தை தெளிவாற்கு).* [* He will and know that I am God." Book of Psalms].
What we, therefore, here wish to lay down and impress upon our readers, is that, whatever names we may use, ("ஒருநாமம் ஒருருவம் ஒன்றுமில்லாற்கு, ஆயிரம் திருநாமம் பாடி நாம் தெள்ளேணம் கொட்டாமோ" - "Let us sing the thousand names of the One who has no name, no form, nothing"), and though we may accept this form and that symbol for worship and pratice (Sadhana), yet we hold rigidly to the principles that God is not man, covered by ignorance and matter, and God cannot be born as a man and clothed with Prakriti qualities. The rigid acceptance of this one principle alone that God is Aja, (cannot be born) ought to distinguish and elevate the Siddhanta from all other forms of Religion. And the rigid acceptance of this one principle alone must prevent it from its degenerating into a superstition, and base idolatry, and man and fetish-worship. One great obstacle to the due recognition of the excellence of the Siddhanta is the obstacle thrown by certain names. We use certain names as denoting God and as comprising the characteristic attributes which we clothe Him with. But now can we help it? We cannot forget our language, and its past traditions; we cannot forget our religious part, however we might try; and we cannot therefore coin new names, simply because some others want us to do so. And what need is there for doing so either? If we use certain names, they were so used by 90 percent of the Indian population for the last 30 centuries, at least they were so used in the days of the Puranas and Itihasas, they were so used in the days of the Upanishad writers and they were so used in the days of the Vedic writers. And some of these Mantras and texts have been used in the daily prayer of everybody. The publishers of "The Theosophy of the Upanishads" recommend to us the following Mantra from the Taitriya Upanishad for our daily prayer.
"Satyam pranam Anantam Brahma Anandarupam Amritam yad vibhuti Shantam Shivam, Advaitam."
And what is there sectarian about the word "Shivam" herein? Even an Upanishad of the Type of Ramatapini has this text with the same word, (quoting as it does the above Mantra of course).
"Shivam, Shantam, Advaitam, Chathurtam, manyante."
There is one thing about the word 'Shivam" Sanskrit scholars say that the word in this form is not a neuter noun but simply an adjective, and accordingly translate it as gracious, benignant &c.; but it is remarkable that this word is always used in the Rig-Veda and other Vedas and Upanishads in conjunction with the word Rudra, Sankara, Bava, &c., and to denote the same personality and not any other. However this be, the word (சிவம்) is Shivam used in Tamil clearly as the neuter Form of Siva or Sivan (சிவன்), as Param (பரம்) of Para or Paran (பரன்) , as Brahmam (பிரம்ம்) of Brahman (பிரமன்), with no change of meaning in either form. That this accounts for the frequent change from one gender to another in describing the Supreme Being, even in the same Mantra, as in the Swetasvatara, we have already pointed out. That all these names are also declinable in the feminine gender without change of meaning we have also pointed out elsewhere. Whether we say Siva, Sivam, or Sivah; Sankara, Sankaram, or Sankari; Paran, Param, or Parai; we denote the same Supreme Personality. We use these words and in these forms of gender, as these are all the forms or symbols we perceive in the material universe. To us, therefore, these names are mere names and nothing more; and we affix therefore no greater importance to one form in preference to another. Though Professor Max Muller would prefer to call God, in the neuter, "It" and think it a higher name, we are thoroughly indifferent as to calling the supreme, as He, She or It; and we accordingly with St.Manicka Vachaka praise God, as
"Behold! He is the male, the female and the neuter."!
These lines will be found repeated often and often in the Thiruvachakam, Devaram and every other sacred writing in Tamil. Can lines be quoted from writers of any other school? We dare say not.*
And yet consider the following lines from the same 'utterence.'
அச்சன் ஆண்பெண் அலியா காசமாகி
யாரழலா யந்தமா யப்பால் நின்ற
செச்சை மாமலர் புரையுமேனி யெங்கள்
சிவபெருமான் எம்பெருமான் தேவர் கோவே."
My Father! He became man, woman and hermaphrodite, the Akas, and Fire and this final Cause, and transcending all these forms, stands The Supreme Siva of the Body glowing like the Flame of the Forest. He is the Lord and the King of Gods.
"பெண்ணாகி யாணாய லியாய்ப் பிறங்கொளிசேர்
விண்ணாகி மண்ணாகி யித்தனையும் வேறாகி
கண்ணார முதமாய் நின்றான்"
"He became, 'He' and 'She' and 'it' and the Earth and Heaven and is different from all these and stands as my dear Blessedness."]
But the older Upanishads contain similar thoughts and that only proves our contention that the Siddhanta school but barely represents today the oldest traditions and are the inheritors of the most ancient Philosophy. Of all Indian Preachers, it was the late Madakanda Venkatagiri Sastrigal that used to dwell on this universal aspect of the Siddhanta in respect of naming Him as 'He' 'She' and 'It' and he used to point out that all names of Siva are declinable in all the three genders without change of meaning, whereas other names do not admit of this change, and even if they do, the word is meaningless or means something else. We do not know why some people prefer the neuter form to the masculine or feminine, when in fact it stands to reason that the male and female represent in each the perfection of organized and organic form, much more so that the neuter forms. If by calling Him* [* The genius of the English Language, reflecting as it does the Christian Religion does not allow us to call God, except in the masculine though of course we have heard that they do not name to say that God is a male like man.] 'It' we mean to emphasize that God is sexless we must also insist that God is genderless and that he cannot be spoken of in the neuter gender. And the phrase, "அவனவளது"
'Sripunnabhunsam,' 'He, She, It, has become a technical phrase with us (see first sutra of Sivagnanabotham) to mean the whole of the material manifested universe and its various forms; and when naming God with words and forms borrowed from matter, we cannot avoid using these words. But then, the difference between principle and symbol, truth and dogmatism, has to be perceived. We tried to make ourselves clear about this distinction about the "soham or Tatvamasi" doctrine in our last, and in the subject we have been elucidating above a similar distinction has to be perceived. One says, 'address God always as He'; and if you call Him, 'it', he says you are addressing a cold abstraction. Another claims to have reached a higher Philosophy by refusing to call Him, 'Him' and by calling Him 'It'. Both seen to think that there is something degrading in calling Him as 'She'. But the feeling which induces the European to lift the female to almost divine honours, and the tenderest and most passionate of all our emotions which cling round the word 'mother' ought to enable one to realize our ideal of God as the 'Divine Sakti,' * [* Mrs. Flora Annie steel speaks of Uma-Himavati as the emblem of perfect wife-hood, mother-hood and mystical virginity] One who, St. Manicka Vachaka says, "is even more loving than my mother." ("தாயிற் பெரிதும் தயாவுடைய தம்பெருமான்") * [* Consider the following lines also.
"அன்னை யொப்பாய் எனக்கத்தன் ஒப்பாய் என்னரும் பொளே"
"தாயே யுன்றன் றானடைந்தேன்"]
We began our article with the object of quoting from our Lord Manicka Vachaka some passages in which he addresses the supreme as "Sivam" in the Superlative Neuter of Prof. Max Muller and the forgoing remarks will be sufficient to introduce those passages.
"சிந்தனைக்கரிய சிவமே போற்றி" * p.25.
[* we give the reference from the well-printed and neat edition of Kanchi Nagalinga Mudaliar, 45, Bairagimutt lane, Madras]
"Praise be to "Shivam" beyond reach of thought"
"அன்பருள்ளாம் சிவமே" p. 26.
"O Shivam! who dwells in the heart of those who love Him."
"அரிக்கும் பிரமற்குமல்லாத தேவர்கட்கும்
தெரிக்கும்படித்தன்றி நின்ற சிவம்" p. 12.
"Shivam which stood unperceived by Hari, and Brahma and other Gods."
"நாமொழிந்து சிவமானவர்" Ibid.
"Losing one's 'I' ness, became Shivam"
"தித்திக்கும் சிவபதம்." p. 119
"The sweet shiva Padam" (The Mahat padam of the Upanishad.")
"சிவம் வேண்டார்தமை நாளும் தீண்டேன்" p. 125.
"I will not touch those who love not Shivam."
"சித்தமல மறுவித்துச் சிவமாக்கி யெனையாண்ட அத்தன்" p. 153.
"My Father who took me to His embrace by making me Shivam, after cleansing me of my sin."
These are only a few out of a vast number, and this description is found also in the Deavara Hymns and other sacred writings. Probably, if this aspect of Siddhanta had been present to the mind of Prf. Max Muller when he wrote his introduction to the Swetaswatara Upanishad, in refuting the argument that the Upansishad was a sectarian one, need not have gone to the extreme of trying to establish an illusory identity between a Nirguna and a Saguna God. For we do not, at any rate, accept the Saguna God as God, the Supreme at all; for the Saguna God is only a god in name, but a Pasu or soul in reality. And we here come to a great fallacy which is the source of a very grievous error. The error consists in interpreting such words as Iswara, Maheswara, Parameshwara, Isa, Isana, Mahesa, Deva, Mahadeva, hara, Rudra, Siva, Purusha, wherever they occur in the Upanishads, Gita &c. as meaning the lower or Saguna Brahman, and seemingly because these names are applied to a God who is one of the Trinity or Trimurtis, Brahma, Vishnu, and Rudra. But any ordinary student of the Saiva Siddhanta will perceive that the God they worship is not one of the Trinity though called by the same name and that their system, speaks of Him as the Thuriyam and Chaturtham, both meaning fourth, and these thoughts can be picked up from the most ancient and most recent books in Tamil and in Sanskrit. The typical passage in the Upanishads is the one in the Atharvasikha.
Dhyayeethesanam pradhyayithavyam, Sarvam idam Brahma Vihsnu Rudrendras the sarve samprasuyante sarvani chendriyanicha saha bhutais, nakaranam Karananam dhata dhyata Karanahtu dhyeyas, Sarvaiswarya Sampannas Sarveswaras Sambhurakasa madhye .... Siva eko dhyeya: Sivankara: Sarvam annyat Parithyaja Samapta atharvasikha.
The first cause, the possessor of all Prosperity, the Lord of all, Sambhu; He should be contemplated in the middle of the Akasa &c., &c.
"Adore the most adorable isana, Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Indra and others have an origin. All the senses originate with the elements. The first cause and cause of causes has no origin. Taking another book at random, say the Mahimnastotra, which is reputed to be by a very ancient sage, in praise of Siva, we come upon the following also."
"The mystical and immutable One which being composed of the three letters, A.U.M signify successively, the three Vedas, the three states of life (awaking, dreaming and sleeping), the three worlds (heaven, earth and hell), the three Gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra), and by its nasal sound (ardhamatra) is indicative of thy fourth office as Supreme Lord of All, (Parameshwara) ever expresses and sets forth thy collective and single Forms."
And we today only propose to quote similar passages from only one book and that the Tiruvachakam.
The first passage is the one occurring on p. 26, which we have already quoted in reviewing the minor Upanishads. Lest that the 'three' in this verse may be taken to mean Brahma, Vishnu and some other God than Rudra, our saint himself expressly sets forth his meaning more clearly in the following verse.
செழும்பொழில்கள் பயந்துகாத் தழிக்கும் மற்றை
மூவர்கோ னாய்நின்ற முதல்வன் மூர்த்தி
மூதாதை மாதாளும் பாகத்தெந்தை." p.32.
"Him the God of Gods not perceived by the king of Gods (Indra, * [* Like ghee in butter milk, after churning with knowledge and love.] Him the supreme king of the other Triad, who create, sustain and destroy the worlds. The first Murti, (the manifest God) *[* c.f. the story in the Kenopanishad about Indra and other Gods being unable to know Brahman and being taught by Uma Himavati (God's grace) about the Supreme Brahman] the Great Ancestor, my Father who consorts with the divine maid. Consider the following passages also.
மன்னானை வானவனை மாதியலும் பாதியனை."
"Aim, The more ancient than the Triad, The Ned (of all things), and yet one who lasts behind all things, the one with the braided hair. * [* Kapaidin of the Rig-veda.] the king of our loved city Perundurai, The Heavenly God, and the consort of Uma."
நாவேறு செல்வியும் நாரணனும் நான்மறையும்
மாவேறு சோதியும் வானவரும் தாமறியாச்
சேவேறு சேவடிக்கே சென்றூதாய் கோத்தும்பீ.
In the following passage, He is identified with the Triad, in the same way as He is often identified with all the works of His creation, Earth, Air, water &c, though these very passages say at the same time that He is not to be identified with the creature and created things, a doctrine which clearly cannot be mistaken for Pantheism. As a Christian writer points out, the Doctrine of Immanency of God in all nature is quite consistent with our idea of the Transcendency of God.
"யுருமூன்றுமாகி யுணர்வரிதாமொருவன்" p. 79,
"He became the Triple Form (of the Triad), and yet remained the one who could not be perceived by the mind."
"Himself the Beginning, the middle and the end, Him whose beautiful "Mahat Padam" could not be perceived by the Three." Also the following passages.
செம்பெருமான் வெண்மலரான் பாற்கடலான்,
செப்புவபோல் எம்பெருமான் தேவர்பிரானென்று, p.91.
"He of Arur, whom even Rudra, and Brahma and Vishnu, praised as 'Our king, the King of Gods."
" Thou becomest the Foremost, the Beginning, the Middle, and the End and were not understood by the Triad, and who else can know thee."
வழிமுதலே." p. 97.
The Impartite First, the First cause or source of the five senses, (the material unvierse), the Three Gods Triad, and myself (Soul).'
மூவராலு மறியொணா முதலாயவானந்த மூர்த்தியான்
யாவராயினும் அன்பரன்றி யறியொணாமலர்ச் சோதியான்,
("God of Gods. God of Truth, The Lord of South Perunturai
The Lord of Bliss, The first cause whom the Three cannot know,
The Glorious one whom none can know save those that love.
His pure bloom-like feet my head does seek and glorify.)
"மூவரு முப்பத்து மூவரும் மற்றொழிந்த
தேவரும் காணாச் சிவபெருமான் -மாவேறி
வையகத்தே வந்திழிந்த வார்கழல்கள்
வந்திக்க மெய்யகத்தே யின்ப மிகும்."
("The Lord Siva, unknown by Devas all,
The Three and Thirty-three-
He that rides the Bull -
His holy feet if here we seek and praise,
Our bliss will sure increase.")
Yes, nothing can be truer than the thought expressed in this verse.
The Highest conception that we can ever reach of God, describing as it does His inmost nature, and of course the only way we can know Him, is that god is Love and Blessedness, Shivam.* [* The word Nandi, a favourite word with St. Tirumular and others means also literally the Blissful; and our readers have to consider why we now call the Great Bull (Pasu) in front of God by the same name Nandi.]
And such a great scientist as the late Prof. Romanes has asked with truth:- "What has all the science or all the philosophy of the world done for the thought of mankind to be compared with one doctrine 'God is Love'."