Tirumantiram – A great treatise on Lord Shiva and Saivism by Siddhar(Saint) Tirumular
Tirumantiram is the tenth of the twelve Tirumurai or “Holy Books.” The Tirumurai are collected works in the Tamil language written by various Saivite saints. They are considered to be the foundational work of Saivism and contains all forms of spiritual expression from the advaitic principles of non-dualism and Self-Realization to devotional praises to Lord Siva.
The title of the scripture may be best understood with the help of a few words read from the Introduction: “Tiru in Tamil means ‘holy.’ The word mantiram (from the Sanskrit mantra) is used in two senses, general and specific. In the general sense it conveys the meaning of devotional prayer composed in special words. In the special sense a mantra is that which is composed of certain letters arranged in a definite sequence of sounds of which the letters are the representative signs. Tirumular uses the word ‘mantra’ in both senses.
Structurally, the Tirumantiram is comprised of nine tantras-books and a preface. Each tantra covers a different aspect of the Saivite path. The Proem or Preface commences with an invocation to Lord Ganesha in the traditional manner and offers an overview of the work. Brief summary of each Tantra is given below
The First Tantra begins with a synopsis of all that is to follow in the Saint’s composition. The topics it covers include: transitory nature of body, of wealth, youth and life. Also it covers nonviolence towards all living beings, code of conduct for rulers, glory of charity.
The Second Tantra deals with the mythology of the Deities, with the cosmology of Hinduism, how the world was created, is sustained and will be destroyed, and of the categories of soul. It also explains the allegorical meanings of some of the important Saivite mythological stories and then delves into such theological matters as the five powers of Siva and the three classifications of souls.
The Third Tantra explores the mystical science of yoga, yama and niyama, pranayama, asana, pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses within, dharana or concentration, dhyana or meditation and Samadhi or Self-Realization.
The Fourth Tantra is a highly esoteric work on mantras and yantras.He explains how to draw certain yantras, including the Tiru Ambala Chakram (the “circle of Chidambaram”).
The Fifth Tantra is a very special one. It gives a resume of the essential features of the Saivite religion. This includes the four forms of Saivism, the four stages, the four relationships the soul has with God, the four realizations attainable and the four aspects of the Descent of Grace. It ends with a delineation of unorthodox paths, conduct to be avoided, and an affirmation of approved margas or religious paths.
The Sixth Tantra covers a variety of aspects of Saivism covers areas like the Siva Guru, attainment of Grace, renunciation, the signs of sin, penance, jnana and Siva darshan in people, and a description of worthy and unworthy persons.
The Seventh Tantra is a treatise on some advanced and highly technical aspects of Saivism. It is partly written as an exposition of Tirumular’s own realizations. It discusses the Lingam, Grace and corresponding attainments, mudras, control of ida and pingala nadis, worlds reached by different classes of yogis on death, and the Sat Guru.
The Eighth Tantra covers many of the important theological elements of Siddhanta and is certainly one of the most inspiring. Among the concepts presented are expositions of: the five sheaths (bodies), the eleven avasthais (states), the three padarthas (pati, pasu and pasam), and how they are essentially one, the 36 tattvas and their elaboration into 96 tattvas, the four states (waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep and turiyam or the “fourth,”) and Turiyateetam or the “state beyond the fourth,” advaitic realization where the soul becomes Sivam leaving behind the tattvas, malas and all avastais, the true Siddhanta where knower, known and knowledge become one, the affirmation of Siddhanta and Vedanta as the same, the three gunas, the dasa-karanas, and the extinguishing of desire as a necessity for Realization.
The Ninth Tantra is essentially a description of the fruits of realization. This includes an account of the attainment of akasa, the budding up of knowledge, the bliss of true knowledge, the state of liberation, and the Samadhi of Silence. It also contains descriptions of Siva’s various dances, the ashram of the Guru and the meeting of the Guru. These nine tantras end with hymns of praise to Lord Shiva and a description of Siva’s all-pervading nature.