FLOWER AND FRAGRANCE
A Floral Wreath
What is there in Nature so full of beauty and so symbolic of the heart's purity, innocence, and love and joy, as the tiniest flower of the field? What reflects the great Divine Beauty and the Divine Loveliness and the Divine Harmony more than the lowliest blossom of the dale? The freshness, the symmetry and the delicate tracery of those flowers, how they appeal to man's inmost nature and how inspiriting they are I Need we wonder therefore that they have attracted, not more than what they are entitled to, we should say, the attention and love of the Oriental; and they enter largely into his enjoyments, his Religion and Philosophy. They hold a considerable place in Oriental symbology, and the Indian has loved to illustrate his great truths from flowers. No ceremonies can be performed without flowers; and he loves to deck with them the Presence of his Heavenly Father and he calls out to his brethren,
O Ye who wish to attain Peace of mind If Ye, our Father of Arur, worship With Flowers of Bhakti, Then will Ye attain Mukti. - (Devaram).
The flower in its three-fold character of flower, colour and fragrance appeals to him as the visible presence of That which is Sat, Chit and Ananda.
"பூவண்ணம் பூவின்மணம் போல மெஉப்போதவின்ப
"Like the flower, its colour and its fragrance. The Lord as Sat, Chit and Ananda assumes form," says the author of "Tiruvilaiyadal Puran," a work, by the way, noted for its charming diction and great powers of clear description.
Our Saint Appar addresses this Divine Form as 'O! Thou' cow, the five products of the cow, O! Thou intelligence, Thou agni, Thou sacrificial food, Thou tongue, words proceeding from the tongue, Thou Lord, present in the heart of the four Vedas, Thou flower, fragrance present in the flower, Thou joy of flower present in the hearts of the freed, Thou Deva, Deva of Devas, Thou Effulgent Sun, Lo! Such is Thy Divine Presence".
To the philosophic and highly devout Manikkavachaka, the delicate connection of the flower and its fragrance has appealed in another light and he sings of "His greatness, in filling all inseparably and surpassingly like the fragrance of the flower",
In another place, he compares this very connection to the connection of body and soul and in comparing both to the connection of the Param, distinguishes them at the same time:
உற்ற வாக்கையி னுறுபொருள் நறுமல
பற்ற லாவதோர் நிலையிலாப் பரம்பொருள்
பெற்றவா பெற்ற பயனது நுகர்ந்திடும்
யத்த னாண்டுதன் னடியரிற் கூட்டிய
"Like the soul present in the body, and the fragrance in the flower, The Supreme (Param) pervades them and surpasses all.
The fools, not perceiving this truth, simply delight in enjoying the fruits of their own Karma. The words of these, my Father has taught me not to listen, by making me his slave and has drawn me to the society of his Bhaktas. This miracle has been permitted to me to see!"
Though God's connection with us is compared to the connection of the soul and the body, yet in this case, the omnipresence of the soul is still confined to the body and the connection yields the soul only a fancied pleasure, and not a real and lasting one, differing thereby from the Supreme who pervades all and surpasses all and who is all Love and all Bliss, ready to impart this Love and Bliss to those who understand him as such; and when this undying love (அயரா அன்பு)
is possessed, then, that very moment, "the fragrance of Sivam (Love, Ananda) will blow out of the flower of Jiva",
"சீவனுக்குள்ளே சிவமணம் பூத்தது." - (Tirumular).
That great Yogin, Tirumular, is very prolific in the use of the simile of the flower, and amidst a variety of such we select one in which he piles his flowers (of Rhetoric) thick, one over the other, to express the omnipresence of the most Supreme:
"My Lord and my King is present, united in all, like feeling in air, sugar in the cane, butter in milk and the sweet juice in the fruit and the fragrance in the blossom",
"காலினூறும் கரும்பினிற் கட்டியும்
பாலினுள் நெய்யும், பழத்து ளிரதமும்
பூவினுள் நாற்றமும் போலுளன் எம்மிறை
காவல னெங்கும் கலந்து நின்றானே."
Our Saint Tayumanavar, whose felicity in epithets and phrase-making, we will some-day illustrate, uses most happy language in this connection, in invoking that Rock of Love:
"O! Thou support of the devoted who attain to the limitless Yoga-Samadi by the one word (of their Divine Guru), when they view this vast world as the Supreme Bliss! O!
Though loving friend of even my lowly self! O! Thou Rock of joy, uniting with and showing in all bodies and the world and the souls, like the fragrance playing on the half-blown flower shaped like the half-parted, elegant and sweet-toned tinkling bells on children's feet".
The comparison of the half-opened flower (in the jasmine for instance) in which the fragrance is the sweetest and sharpest, to the sweet bells with half-parted mouths tied round children's feet, is most happy and delicious.
Nakkirar is a very ancient author said to belong to the last Sangham or College of Pandits in Madura and he has,
"Lo! my Lord of Kailasa, which soars high above all, without any other higher than itself, is present in all, like the meaning in the word, and the soul in the body, and the fragrance in the flower".
We will weave into this growing wreath one more flower culled from the garden (Sivabhogasaram) of the founder of the Dharmapura Matt, inasmuch as it illustrates the meaning of 'Advaita' clearly.
"The advaita relation of God and the perfected Soul in Mukti is like the advaita relation existing always between fire and wood, heat and water, sweetness and honey, fragrance and flower, akas and wind".
Mightily diffident as we are of achieving anything without the Grace (Arul அருள்) of the Most High, and without the spirits of the sanctified filling our inmost soul, we have helped ourselves to these holy flowers of His Bhaktas, to make a wreath and lay at the fragrant Lotus-Feet of Him, Who has never been known to forsake His devotees and pray to Him in all love and in all humility, to crown our humble efforts with success.
J. M. Nallaswami Pillai