The Tirumantiram is a Tamil poetic work written in the 2nd century by Tirumular and is the tenth of the twelve volumes of the Tirumurai, the key texts of Shaiva Siddhanta, and the first known Tamil work to use the term. Tirumantiram’s literal meaning is “Sacred mantra” or “Holy incantation”. The Tirumantiram is the earliest known exposition of the Shaiva Agamas in Tamil. It consists of over three thousand verses dealing with various aspects of spirituality, ethics, and praise of Shiva. But it is more spiritual than religious and one can see the difference between Vedanta and Siddhanta from Tirumular’s interpretation of the Mahavakyas. According to historian Venkatraman, the work covers almost every feature of the siddhar of the Tamils. According to another historian, Madhavan, the work stresses the fundamentals of Siddha medicine and its healing powers. It deals with a wide array of subjects including astronomy and physical culture.
In short, Tirumandiram, strongly emphasizes on Love is God
The Tirumantiram is divided into nine chapters, 9 tantras (tantrums);
- Philosophical views and divine experience, impermanency of the physical body, love, education, etc.
- Shiva’s glory, His divine acts, classification of souls, etc.
- Yoga practices according to the eight-angled way of Patanjali. Also refers to Vaasi Yoga
- Mantra, tantra, etc.
- Various branches of Saiva religion; the four elements of Shaiva Siddhanta.
- Shiva as guru bestowing grace and the devotee’s responsibility.
- Shiva linga, Shiva worship, self-control.
- The stages of soul experience.
- Panchadsara manthiram, Shiva’s dance, the state of samadhi, etc.
The poems have a unique metrical structure, each line consisting of 11 or 12 syllables depending on the initial syllable. Tirumular discusses the four steps of spiritual progress; Charya, Kriya, Yoga and Gnana, the Shaiva Siddhanta concept of Pati, Pasu, and Pasa where Pati stands for Lord shiva, Pasu stands for the humankind and Pasa stands for Maya (the desire), sadhana, Vedanta, the Upanishadic Tat tvam asi and other Vedantic concepts, the transcendental reality as emptiness (Sunya) devoid of any attribute and Tantrasastra (Shakti worship), chakras, magic spells, and their accessories.
The section on Yoga, called “Shiva yoga”, offers details not found in the Sanskrit text of Patanjali. The Tirumantiram describes means of attaining an immortal body (kaya siddhi), advocating a theory of preserving the body so that the soul would continue its existence (Udambai valarthen uyir valarthenae).
Tirumular is not only one of the 63 Nayanmars (Nayanars) but also a significant one among the 18 Siddhars. Tirumular has been referred to as “Nampiran” (meaning: Nam-Our, Piran-God, thus tirumular has been called as a leader or god to all the remaining nayanars) by Sundarar in his thiru thondar thogai (the earliest song which mentions the names of 63 nayanars). Tirumular is a moral philosopher who teaches the ethics of non-violence (ahimsa), abstinence from slaughtering, meat, and alcohol. He condemns coveting another man’s wife. He declares that “love is God”, proclaims the unity of mankind and God and stresses the acquisition of knowledge.
The final section of the Tirumantiram, named Sunya Sambhashana (“Colloquy on the Void”), is full of metaphorical sayings communicating mystical and speculative thoughts, for example;
That’s the superficial meaning. There is another meaning which should be understood.
1st Line: Says that in a seer’s house there are five cows (Pancha buddha’s). The second word ‘Agathiley’ means, not inside the house; but inside a person (Agam-inside; Puram-outside) the house is compared to a person here. The five ‘cows’ are the five “pulans” the five “senses” (sensory organs and their functions:- Eyes – Vision, Reflexes – Feel/Touch, Ears – Hear, Tongue – Taste & Nose – Smell). So within a person exists the five senses.
2nd Line: There is no cattleman to control the animal. Because there is nobody (or nothing) to control them, they just roam “uncontrollably”, here the five senses untamed, lead us to temptations! The five senses are untamed and roam uncontrollably. The five senses untamed is no less than a ferocious animal
3rd Line: If you know ‘how to control’ and if the ‘rage’ settles down,
4th Line: When the cows are tended by a cattleman all those five ‘cows’ will yield milk. Here the verses say that if all the five senses are controlled by a person it helps one to get the “thiruvarul” which means “divine grace” (The five pulans are meant to be controlled to realize God) This is the actual meaning of the song.
If the five ‘pulans’ control us it means it is untamed whereas if we control the five senses it means it is tamed. If these ‘cows’ are controlled then they yield ‘milk’. Or if one can control the five ‘pulans’/ ‘senses’, then that will lead one to God’s Anuboodhi (being with God).