Who Are the Four Great Tamil Saints

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 39


"Our saints have sung that Siva is within us, and we are within Siva." Having devotion to Siva, having Siva in your heart, offers protection during difficult astrological times. Choose good days for major events in your life and for compatability in major partnerships. Siva is a compassionate God and the way He set up astrology was compassionate; it goes back and forth between positive and negative periods.

Path to Siva, Lesson 39.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

Reading this morning from Path to Siva Lesson 39.

"Who Are the Four Great Tamil Saints?

"The Nalvars are four Saiva saints who lived in Tamil Nadu around 1,200 years ago. Each composed devotional songs that are sung today in satsangs and temples. Their names are Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar. All are deeply revered by Tamil Saivites.

Saint Tirunavukkarasar, known as Appar ('father'), traveled from temple to temple worshiping Siva. He chose the humblest of work, sweeping the temple walks and weeding the stone courtyards.

Saint Sundarar is known for his deep visions of Lord Siva and for several miraculous events that occurred in his life. A poor man, he often prayed for money or food for his family. His prayers were always answered.

The third saint, Sambandar, was just three years old when he was blessed with a vision of Lord Siva, after which he spontaneously sang his first song. He traveled throughout South India, sometimes with Appar, his elder, singing the praises of Siva. At age 16, his family arranged for him to be married. But this was not to be. He was so devoted to Siva that just before the wedding, he disappeared into the sanctum of Tirunallurperuman Siva Temple near Chidambaram and was never seen again. The songs of the first three saints are called Devarams.

Manikkavasagar, the fourth Nalvar, was prime minister to the Pandyan king of Madurai. One day he was blessed with enlightenment in a vision of Lord Siva sitting under a banyan tree. After this he left the royal court and traveled about, composing songs and building a temple for Siva at Tiruperunthurai. His poems stress the importance of the Namah Sivaya mantra, developing dispassion and cultivating love of Lord Siva. His highly poetic hymns are found in two collections, Tiruvasagam and Tirukovaiyar."

And we have our comment from Gurudeva:

"Our saints have sung that Siva is within us, and we are within Siva. Knowing that, fear and worry and doubt are forever gone from our mind."

One of the challenges with working with the hymns are, they're written in Tamil. And they're poetic and they rhyme in the Tamil way where you rhyme the first word of the line, not the last word as in English. So its beautiful poetry, but then when you put it in English it loses all its beautiful poetry. It becomes something quite different than it is in Tamil. So, really to get the true beauty of it you really have to have a sense of the Tamil and what it's saying. And the use of words in it. Some of them translate better than others--stand on their own in English.

This is one I like because it has a good meaning in English without the poetry. Kolaru Pathikam called. And, there's a story that goes with it. The story is a bit complicated so I have to read it.

"In the 7th century in Tamil Nadu, Jainism was on the rise in the Pandya kingdom and even the king had become a Jain. [Very easy back then to convert people to a religion. All you had to do was convert the king.Lots of other people followed.] There was a lot of discrimination against Saivites. The queen, Mangaiyar Karasiyar, and the chief minister, Kulachiraiyar, were perturbed by these events. They learned about the greatness of Tirujnana Sambandar and became convinced he could show the Pandyan king the right path. They sent a message to Tirujnana Sambandar explaining the situation and requesting him to visit Madurai.

Sambandar was with Tirunavukarasar in Thiruvengadu when the request reached him. Sambandar, who was only seven years old at that time, agreed to go to Madurai. But Tirunavukarasar, who himself had been persecuted by the Jains in the past, feared that young Sambandar would be harmed. Further deducing that astrologically it was not an auspicious time for the venture, he tried to dissuade Sambandar from going. Tirujnana Sambandar responded that no harm will come to an ardent Siva devotee like him. He then sang the verses of Kolaru Pathikam, literally means: 'Removing the Negative Effects of the Planets.'"

I'll read are two of the verses. It starts out talking about Ardhanarishvara .

"One who has a woman with bamboo-like shoulders as a part of His body, One with the throat stained by the poison He ate, and One who plays the veena faultlessly while wearing the blemishless moon and the Ganga river on his head--He has entered my heart. And because of this, for devout people, like me, the forces of the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, and the snakes Rahu and Ketu will not cause anything evil, but only good, the truly good."

"One who wears the garland of bones that bestows bodily strength, the sharp bones that give the mental courage to combat, the turtle that allows the exploring of the dark ocean of the unconscious unafraid--He has also implanted Himself. Riding the bull with the woman as His equal half wearing golden chains on the neck and Ganges in the tuft--He has entered my heart. Therefore the different astronomically calculated days, times and seasons can only be good and loving, and can do only good for devotees of Siva."

That's the idea of, interesting. Hadn't planned it but we have a lunar eclipse coming up. There's a big fuss in Malaysia where the lunar eclipse where the management of the Batu Caves Temple won't close the temple whereas the Malaysia, Hindu Sangam has asked all temples to be closed during the hours of the eclipse. They are not complying so it's causing a big stir in my emails.

Well now how do we look at all of that? That's a good question. It's not that you want to ignore astrology and say all days are the same. But it's saying that devotion to Siva, having Siva in your heart offers a protection. That's what its saying. So that things will work out better if you're in that flow of devotion to Siva than if you're not in that flow of devotion to Siva. That offers a protection from what can be negative forces.

Sometimes I get asked about astrology by individuals or families during darshan sessions. And usually they're surprised that we take it so seriously. I guess the modern Hindu viewpoint is, it's a little old fashioned. But we don't want to be overly looking at it also. In other words we need to plan the major events of our life, by having them happen during good astrological times. For example a Kumbhabhishekam for Iraivan Temple, we're not going to do it on a lunar eclipse.

So for a really major event, a marriage, putting your life savings into new business, major events in your life, you want to choose a good day for it. Which is good for you and good in general. That's one of the ways in which we use astrology and then the other one is compatibility. When we think of compatibility we generally think of marriage compatibility but any type of compatibility. Compatibility between two people who are going to become business partners is good to do as well. They may not get along; it won't work out. So compatibility is very useful for marriage and other types of partnerships. And those are two ways in which astrology is important.

It can also give you hope. If everything seems to be going wrong you can look at your astrology and blame it on on that. But astrology was set up in a very interesting way. I think Siva's a compassionate God and the way He set up astrology was compassionate that it goes back and forth between positive periods and negative periods. It doesn't stay negative for 60 years. You go through some things know it involves briefly things for a while and you can see an end to it. That's one of the benefits. If it is a difficult period, you can see it; it has a date there then it's over. That can be very encouraging as well.

Have a wonderful day.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Even the intent to injure, even violence committed in a dream, is a violation of ahimsa.
—Gurudeva