"THE HOUSE OF GOD."
"YE ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD."
"ஆதியாய் நடுவுமாகி யளவிலா அளவுமாகிச்
சோதியாய் உணர்வுமாகித் தோன்றிய பொருளுமாகிப்
பேதியா யேகமாகிப் பெண்ணுமா யாணுமாகிப்
போதியா நிற்குந்தில்லைப் பொதுநடம் போற்றிபோற்றி."
O Thou, the beginning, the middle, the limitless limit,
The Light, and the Wisdom, and all things manifest,
The Indivisible One, The female and the male.
Glory, Glory to Thy Dance in the intellectual Region of Universalism, Tillai.
கற்பனை கடந்தசோதி கருணையே யுருவமாகி
அற்புதக் கோலநீடீ யருமறைச் சிரத்தின்மேலாம்
சிற்பர வியோமகுந் திருச்சிற்றம் பலத்துள்நின்று
பொற்புடனடஞ்செய்கின்ற பூங்கழல் போற்றிபோற்றி.
O Thou the Light from which speech and thought turn back,
The very Form of Grace,
The Wonderful Presence, The Crown resting on the rare Vedasiras,
In the beautiful Chit Sabha of Chit Para Vyoma,
Thou dost dance delightedly. Glory, Glory to Thy tinkling Foot.
குன்றத மூவுருவாய் ஞானக் கொழுந்தாகி
நின்றாயே மாயையெனும் திரையை நீக்கி
நின்னையா ரறியவல்லார் நினைப்போர்நெஞ்சம்,
மன்றாக வின்பக்கூத் தாடவல்ல மணியேஎன்
கண்ணே மாமருந்தே நால்வர்க்
கன்றாலின் கீழிருந்த மோன்ஞான ம்மைத்த
சின்முத்திரைக் கடலே யமாரேறே.
O Thou Imperishable Triple Form, and Formless! O Thou Supreme,
Intelligence working steadfast in the six Forms of Religion!
Who could know Thee after raising the curtain of Maya?
Thou dost dance in the hearts of Those who think of Thee,
Thou art the Priceless Jewel; Thou my eye; Thou, the Supreme Panacca.
Thou the ocean of Chinmudra Wisdom, who didst teach the four ancient sons,
Mauna Gnana from under the sacred Banyan tree; Thou the Deva of Devas.
The first two verses we quote from Saint Sekkilar's Periyapuran and the last from Saint Tayumanavar, in praise of the famous Temple at Chidambaram and the sacred mysteries contained therein. We have elsewhere observed that even if we have lost our books on Veda and Vedanta, we could evolve the whole thing again from the symbols we possess, provided we had the tiny key to unlock these sacred mysteries. The hoariest and most ancient wisdom is thus enshrined in these unmistakable symbols, and when we understand them aright, we are enabled to test and know which is the true philosophy and which is the true Religion, surrounded as we are today by a multitude of Religions and Philosophies conflicting in themselves and yet claiming to be the most ancient and the truest. It is the most unfortunate thing in India, and in Indian Religion that the same books and the same text furnish the authority and the sanction for every existing phase of belief and thought, and when this fact is coupled with such a blind ignoring of what is past and what is modern, and when the materials for applying such an historical test are not very considerable, the task of deciding which is the true interpretation and which is false is rendered very difficult, though not impossible, and the value of a test as indicated above cannot be lost sight of. In interpreting documents, the rule ought no doubt to be, that where the words are plain and unambiguous, the plain meaning of the words ought to be made to prevail and no casuistry could be allowed to mar the effects of its plain meaning. It is only when the words are ambiguous any interpretation as to its real meaning by other evidence is permissible at all. Then again when we begin to enquire into the truth of any particular custom and tradition, we find love how difficult it is to arrive at an uniform conclusion, when we have to rely on mere oral evidence; and any documentary evidence (we use it in the strictly legal sense) if available, is of the utmost importance, and the older the document is, the greater the value thereof. Then again consider the difference between the verbal accounts of a dozen people who witnessed a particular scene all at the same time, and the actual scene photographed by an ordinary Kodak. We might be sure to discover discrepancies and contradictions in the oral testimony, though it might be perfectly honest. Of course, there might be exceptionally trustworthy witnesses, as there might be untrustworthy cameras. The test we have proposed above, may as such be seen to possess all the elements of an old and ancient document and a trusty camera. And more so, when we know, as a matter of fact, that the written language of primitive mankind consisted of picture only. The most ancient Sumerian, the Chaldean, the Egyptian and the Chinese were all pictorial languages; and it is well known that these were the people who have tried to leave their highest thoughts on Religion and philosophy behind them in pictures and statues and monuments.
In proceeding therefore to unravel the mysteries connected with our symbolism, we must confess, that the task is not one which we can conscientiously think of adequately discharging. In attempting the impossible therefore, we have no other excuse than the one which Sage Sekkilar had before him:
"அளவு கூட வுரைப் பரிதாயினும்
அளவிலாசை துரப்ப வறைகுவேன்."
"Though impossible to reach its limits
Insatiate love drives me to the task."
Before we do so however, we have to get clear of two sets of men, who pester us often with their cant. One of such will raise the cry of sectarianism, and the other, with the catchword revivalism. There are some very estimable people belonging to both these classes we admit, as well as their sincerity, but with most it is all mere cant, pure and unmitigated cant. They believe neither in the one nor in the other; they have neither inclination nor wish to study and think, and pause and enquire into the truth of things. They are themselves sectarians, so blind that they will not acknowledge themselves to be such. They start with the inborn conviction that this is trash and they have no patience with those who will honestly differ from them, and they clutch at a word, a phrase, to kick up a dust, with the evident object of besmearing the other side. No doubt, there is a sort of scepticism which we prize much, a scepticism which will lead one to doubt and inquire into the truth of things and not to scorn and scoff at everything. And in our inmost heart, we do not wish to wound the feelings of a single person, of whatever shade of opinion he may be. And is not the present inquiry solely devoted to reach 'the region of universalism,' "பொதுமன்று" where, in the words of our Sage Tayumanavar.
"பகர்வரிய தில்லை மன்றுட் பார்த்த போதங்கு
என்மார்க்க மிருக்கு தெல்லாம், வெளியேயென்ன
எச்ச மயத்தவர்களும், வந்திறைஞ் சாநிற்பர்"
every religionist comes and bows in adoration of the One Supreme, saying they see no symbols of any creed but all Akas? And he states in the previous lines that he reached this region, after looking in vain in every creed and in every path for that Pure Spirit which seeks to reconcile with the path of noblest knowledge, all the bitter conflicting creeds and religions.
"சன்மார்க்க ஞானமதின் பொருளாம் வீறு
சமய சங்கேதப் பொருளாந்தா னொன்றாகப்
பன்மார்க்க நெறியினிலும் கண்ட தில்லை."
And the place is worth a trial even today, for does not Tayumanavar record his experience, that his stony heart melted into love and bliss, the moment he saw the holy presence?
"கன்மார்க்க நெஞ்சமுள வெனக்கும் தானே
கண்டவுட னானந்தம் காண்ட லாகும்."
This has not been his experience only, of believers alone. Ages back, scoffers and atheists have felt the power of this Presence, and it is recorded of the great Atheist Guru, Jaimini, that when he approached, all his unbelief left him and he composed his song of Vedapadastavam. And though there are thousands of temples all over the land, the heart of every true believer has always turned with love and longing to this centre spot. And it is believed that Chidambaram occupies a central geographical position between the northern and southern extremes of India including Ceylon. And corresponding to this position in the macrocosm, Arumuga Navalar observes that in the human microcosm also, the place points to the region of Sushumna between Ida and Pingala nadis. There is another centre of heat and vitality and light in the human body, and that is the heart. And the heart is the most vital and delicate organ in the whole system. Every other organ requires its help for its nourishment and upkeep. It is saved and protected from many an ill, by its position, which every other organ is exposed to; but that is because that, whereas life can be prolonged even after injury to every other organ, the life ebbs out the instant the heart is injured. And then, is not the heart, the seat of love, love pure and undefiled? Pity, kindness, mercy, Grace are all different shades of this one Love, அன்பு, Bhakti, faith. Is there anything else that can compete with this Supreme Principle? Knowledge, you may exclaim, with its seat in the brain. We dare say 'not.' The slightest injury to the heart completely paralyses the brain. And the pulsation in the brain itself rises and falls with the beat of the heart itself. It is the one organ in the body which is ever active, and knows no rest when everything else including the brain undergoes rest. And in human nature also, what is there which love cannot quicken? It can give life to the despairing and the lifeless, strength to the weak, courage to the coward; and instances have not been wanting to show what extraordinary feats of intellect, love has been the cause of. The whole world is bound by the heart much more than by the intellect alone. And Mrs. Humphrey Ward has portrayed in glowing words the difference between the man of intellect and the man of heart in her Robert Elsemere. There the man of intellect pines in secret and in his pride for that very touch which makes the whole world kin. And it is in this heart, all mankind have liked to build a temple for the Most High. And the only requisite is that this heart be pure. And the moment this heart is pure there the light from the Invisible Akas will shine, dispelling the darkness that blinds the eye and enabling it to see.
"வெளியான நீஎன்மன வெளியூர் விரவினையா
வொளியாரும் கண்ணு மிரவியும் போனின்று லாவுவன் காண்."
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" said Lord Jesus. And the sage who composed the Taitriyaka Upanishad sung long before him: 'Satyam Gnanam Anantam Brahma, Yoveda Nihitam Guhayam, Paramevyoman."
"He who knows Brahman, which is Sat, which is Chit, and which is endless (Bliss), as hidden in the cave (of the heart) in the highest Akas, he enjoys all blessings at one with the Omniscient Brahman." And the most mystical and the oldest of the Upanishads, the Chandogya, also repeats the same instruction. Would you like to know what that one thing is which you have to search for and to know, and when you have to search for it and how to know it? Hear. 'There is the Brahmaputra (body) and in it the Dahara (palace), of the lotus (Pundarika) of the heart, and in it that Antar Akasa. Now what exists in this Akas, that is to be sought after, that is to be understood."
"As large as this Akas is, so large is that Akas within the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in it; both fire and air; both sun and moon; both lightning and stars; and whatever there is of Him in this world, and whatever is not, all that is contained within it." (VIII, 1. 123) . In an earlier chapter, this Supreme Being is called "the Intelligent, whose body is Prana, whose form is Light (Jyoti), whose thoughts are true, who is like Akas (omnipresent and invisible), from whom all works, all desires, all sweet odours, and tastes proceed; the Atma within the heart, smaller than a corn of rice, smaller than a corn of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a canary seed, or the kernel of a canary seed; also the Atma within the heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than the Heaven, greater than all these worlds" (III. 14. 223). In a later passage, it says that "He who is called Akas is the revealer of all forms and names; That within which these forms and names are contained is the Brahman, the immortal, the Atma." (VIII. 13. 1). The following verse occurs in the Katha (I. 2. 20), Svetaswatara (III. 20.) and Mahopanishad and the same is reproduced in the Sivapurana.
"Smaller than small yet greater than great, in the heart (Guha) of this creature, Atma or Isa doth repose. That free from desire, he sees, with his grief gone, the Lord and His might, by His favour." In the Kaivalyopanishad the same is reproduced, in the following words: "Beyond the heavens, yet shining in the heart (Guha) of his creatures, Him the sages free from desire, reach." Sri Krishna also imparts this most secret of secrets to his pupil, that "Ishwara dwelleth in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, by his maya, causing all beings to revolve, as though mounted on a potter's wheel," and importunes him to flee to him to secure Supreme Peace by his grace. The manner of occupying this seat or dwelling place is elsewhere referred to in the 13th and 9th discourses, 32nd and 6th verses respectively and these three or four verses bring out the whole of the Upanishad thoughts. "As the Omnipresent Akasa is not soiled, by reason of its subtlety, so seated everywhere in the body, the Self is not soiled." 'The support of beings and not rooted in Beings, my Atma, their efficient cause; as rooted in the Akasa the mighty air moves everywhere, so all things rest rooted in me." This Supporter, Permitter and Spectator and Enjoyer is styled Maheshvera, Paramatman and Parama Purusha in verse 22, chapter 13. Another verse in the Chandogya says that Gayatri is the body and the heart, because in it all the spirits are established. No wonder therefore that in almost every page of the Tamil Veda, and the writings of the later Tamil saints, that God's truest dwelling place, his house, his palace, his seat in universally referred to as the human heart. "நினைப்பவர் மனம் கோயிலாக்கொண்டவர்" And so it is that the famous Shrine we are speaking of is by pre-eminence called "திருக்கோயில்,* The beautiful House." in as much as it is also called "Pundarika Veedu" புண்டரீகவீடு, the house of lotus, or Dahara Veedu also. And today we will stop, after identifying, this Golden Palace in Chidambaram with the Human heart spoken of in the most ancient writings, and we will speak of the great King and Lord who is the Dweller in this Palace and his characteristics in a future issue.
[* It is interesting to note that the chief Temple in Mecca is called 'al Caaba', literally meaning, 'The House' and the Hebrew word for the great Temple at Jerusalem also meant simply, 'The House,' "The house of God."]