A major highlight of Bodhinatha’s trip to India was the handing over of the digitized Agama to the priests. We bring you a long post today with photos from the conference in Chennai. Acharya Arumuganathaswami has been spearheading this project for several years and he has the story for us today.
Each bag contains a one terabyte drive with 750GB of data on it, the single largest collection of Saiva Agama material in the world--and many other scriptures as well--Vedas, temple architecture, medicine, astrology, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, etc.
Gurudeva, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, presides over the event.
Bodhinatha met for an all-day conference on July 16 with 50 Sivachariyar priests and students, including 15 of the most prominent Sivachariyar of Tamil Nadu. The event started at 8:30 with the lighting of the lamp by Bodhinatha, then a short introduction to the day by Arumuganathswami and a talk by Bodhinatha on why he wanted to digitize the Agama scriptures now housed at the French Institute of Pondicherry and the French School of the Far East. Arumuganathaswami then explained the process starting in 2004 to get permission to access the collection, which finally came to fruition four years later in December of 2008. The project commenced and was completed 2 and 1/2 years later, photographing 10,000 palm leaf manuscripts for a total of 850,000 photos. The English talks were translated in Tamil since most of priest can’t understand English.
These young priests from various pathasalas chanted during the lamp lighting.
Acharya Arumuganathaswami introduced the conference objectives and each speaker.
Sannyasin Yoginthaswami translated the English talks into chaste Tamil.
Behind the senior priests sits our digitization team, S. Viswanath at far right, to his left Chidambaram and Chandran.
Bodhinatha chants to begin his presentation.
He spoke on his realization in February of 2005 at the French Institute of the urgent need just to preserve the palm leaves, leaving aside for the moment any attempt at translation.
Most of the audience had not heard the story of the project before.
S. Viswanath, the project head technician, then explained in detail how the leaves were prepared for photography, the set up for taking the photo, post processing and final assembly into PDF files for each bundle.
He had a complete powerpoint presentation. This was the first most were hearing of the complexity of the project.
San Marga Trust liaison officer. Mr. L. Nellaiappan at right, in front of the students of the various pathasalas. He was instrumental in the success of the digitization project, traveling to Pondicherry twice a month to oversee the work, solve issues and keep the team inspired.
Arumuganathaswami then spoke on the work to set up and manage the project. Here is is talking about how the scriptures were preserved first by memory, then by palm leaf, then by book….
Then DVDs and finally a hard disk drive, each medium being far less permanent than the last--the DVDs lasting just five to ten years, but the hard disk drive only surviving “until it hit the floor.”
Sivasri Sambandan Sivachariyar, was the first Sivachariyar to speak. He is one of the Sivachariyar that spent hundred of hours to collect the ola leaf bundles from various parts of South of India but mostly from various regions of Tamil Nadu. This was in the early 50’s. He made a remark that he was very, very concern that all the hard work might go to waste and we may lose these scriptures; however, he was very relieved that the Aadheenam came forward and successfully digitized all the available ola leafs, paper manuscripts and some books.
He was followed by Dr. Sabharathanam who spoke on “The Resources Dedicated by Kauai Aadheenam to the Agama Project and the Responsibility of the Sivacharyas.” The project took over 8 years, 9 trips to India from Hawaii, monthly trips to Pondicherry by L. Nellaiappan, the Trust’s Chennai liaison officer.
Casual chatting during the tea break.
The priests expressed their gratitude to Bodhinatha.
After the tea break, Dr. Abhiramasundaram Sivachariyar spoke on the incorporation of Agama study into the padasalas and computer transcription of selected Agamas in preparation for translation.
Following these two scholars were six prominent priests, each of whom express great gratitude to Bodhinatha and Kauai Aadheenam for the work. They were first Siva Sri Rajappa Sivachariyar on the importance of Agamas to Sivachariyars and community responsibility to preserve them.
Arumuganathaswami took detailed notes on each speakers presentation from Yoginathaswami’s whispered translation…
Siva Sri Somesekhara Sivachariyar on the value of the Agama study to next generation of priests
Siva Sri Shanmukha Sivachariyar on the loss of scholarly skills in Sanskrit, Tamil and reading of Grantha script and the necessity to propagate such skills
Siva Karthikeya Sivachariyar, Tirupati, on the importance of yoga and jnana padas for the temple puja
Siva Sri Raja Bhattar on the importance of the Agamas which are not yet printed and of the need to bring out new editions
Siva Sri Pitchai Gurukkal on the importance of the works based on the Agamas, the Paddhatis and Prakaranas
Bodhinatha concluded the event with a presentation of a hard disc drive to each of the 15 head priests. The drive contains the entire collection of palm leaf manuscripts, a total of 760 gigabytes of data. But just before that the elders of Adi Saiva Sivachariyar community presented Bodhinatha with a honorific title of “Agamoddharaka Acharya Ratna.” Translation: The Supreme Acharya who has uplifted and preserved the Agamas and the Agamic Tradition.
This assemblage of the Sivachariyars convened on the 16th July, 2011, at Emeraldo Room, GRT Grand Hotel, Chennai, hereby resolves:
1. To thank H.H. Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, Acharya Arumuganathaswami and Sannyasin Yoginathaswami for the generous contribution towards the digitization of the Agamas and to confer on H.H. Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami the honorific title “Agamaoddharaka Acharyaratna” in recognition of his great service and regard for the Agamas and the tradition of the Sivacharyas.
2. To assume them the continued involvement of the Sivacharyas in this time-honored Agamic project.
3. To commission the competent senior students of various Agama Padasalas in all the works related to this important project, such as transcription compilation, collation, critical edition, translation and others.
4. To identify the missing chapters of those Agamas which are now available in print with the help of the manuscript bundles now handed over to the community of the Sivacharyas by the Kauai Aadheenam, Hawaii, USA.
5. To frame a perfect and common syllabus applicable to all the Agama Padasalas.
6. To include in the syllabus: the complete study of any one of the Mulagamas, orientation for the translation of the Agamas into Tamil and English and to include the two books, Saivasiddhanta Paribhasha of Surya Bhatta and Sataratna Sangraha of Umapati Sivachariyar in the syllabus prescribed for the 3rd or 4th year students.
7. To request the heads of all the Agama Padasalas to give concentrated attention for the yoga pada and jnana pada of the Saivagamas.
8. To constitute a special committee for framing the common syllabus in which Dr. S.P. Sabharathnam, Dr. V. Abhiramasundaram, Dr. Shanmukha Sivachariyar and Siva Sri Arunasundaram will be members in addition to the heads of the Agama padasalas.
Sivasri Sambandan Sivachariyar, senior pundit at the French Institute of Pondicherry, receives the Agamas from Bodhinatha.
Sivasri Arunasundara Sivachariyar, Chennai, professor at Madras Sanskrit College
Sivasri Balasarveshwara Sivachariyar, Karaikal, head of Karaikal Padasala
Sivasri Karthikeya Sivam Sivachariyar, Thiruparankundram, Sri Skandaguru Vidyalayam Padasala
Sivasri G. Karthikeya Sivachariyar, Tirupati, Professor at Sanskrit College, Tirupati.
Student of Sivasri A. S. Sundaramurthy Sivachariyar, Bangalore, receives the Agamas on behalf of the Veda Agama Samskrutha Maha Padasala, Bangalore.
Sivasri Ravi Gurukkal Thiruttani, Chief Priest of Thiurttani Murugan Temple.
Sivasri Rajappa Gurukkal, Kanchi, Chief Priest of Kalaishanathar Temple, Kanchi,
Sivasri Pitchai Gurukkal, Pillaiyaarpatti, founder and head of the Shri Karpaga Vinayaga Veda Agama Vidhyalaya, Chief Priest of Pillaiyarpati Temple.
Sivasri Raja Bhattar, Thiruparankundram, head of Sri Skandaguru Vidyalayam, Thiruparankundram
Sivasri Shanmukham Sivachariyar, Kalikambal Temple, Chennai, younger son of the late Sambhamurthi Sivachariyar
Sivasri V Abhiramasundaram Sivachariyar, Chennai, Professor, Vivekananda College, Chennai
Sivasri S P Sabharatnam Sivachariyar, Chennai, Professor of Tamil Emeritus, Sanskrit College, Madras University
Sri R. Selvanathan Sthapati, Chief Architect of Iraivan Temple, Kauai, Hawaii, USA
Sivasri Somasekhara Sivachariyar, Chennai,
Before lunch we gathered for a group photo in an adjoining conference room.
Bodhinatha presents a shawl to our photography team leader, Viswanath.
The vegetarian lunch was enjoyed by all.
Following the conference, our scholars and the heads of the pathasalas met in Bodhinatha’s suite to discuss the implementation of the conference resolutions.
This was the beginning of the meeting, before everyone had arrived. Finally we had more than 20 priests in the small room!
Toward the end, each pathasala worked out a plan to incorporate the agamas, and were assigned one each by Dr. Sabharathnam.