Sunday, November 18, 2007

Namasivaya Vazhga

Within Saiva Siddhanta, the great southern school of Shaivism, we find of an explicit list of sixty-three canonized saints called Nayanars, one short of the number sixty-four, which is a holy number in the Agamas and Tantras. The sixty-fourth implicit Nayanar and Saiva Siddhanta’s most renowned saint is Manikkavacagar (‘one who uttered ruby-like words’). The magnum opus of Saint Manikkavacagar is a work called the Tiruvacakam (Sacred Utterance) in the Tamil language. The Tiruvacakam is a holy text of 656 devotional verses uttered by Manikkavacagar, and forms the eighth book of the Tirumurai canon of Saiva Siddhanta.

The first hymn of the Tiruvacakam is called the Sivapuranam, and the first verse of the Sivapuranam begins with the memorable and oft-repeated line: Namasivāya Vāzhga Nādan Thāl Vāzhga. This famous line has been translated in two ways:

1. Hail, Na-ma-si-vā-ya (the five-lettered mantra)! Hail, foot of the Lord!
2. Hail, the name (nama) of Siva! Hail, foot of the Lord!

The first translation is found in the rendering below. Either way, the invocation is very profound, and the entire work of Saint Manikkavacagar conveys very powerful mysticism and devotion. It is said that the English translations do not do justice to the original Tamil poetry. Nevertheless, for those of us who have no knowledge of this classical language can certainly appreciate Manikkavacagar’s work through English translations. The Sivapuranam hymn is quite long with 95 verses. Below is an extract of the hymn comprising the salutations, the introduction, the saint's realization of his many births, and his finding of his Master.

-----

Sivapuranam
by Manikkavacagar

Hail, the five letters (na-ma-si-vā-ya)! Hail, foot of the Lord!
Hail, foot of Him Who not for an instant quits my heart!
Hail, foot of the Guru-pearl that rules in Gōgari!
Hail, foot of Him Who becomes, abides, draws near as the Āgamas!
Hail, foot of Him, the One, the Not-One, and the King ! (5)

Victory to the foot of the King, who soothed my soul's unrest and made me His!
Victory to the jewelled foot of Pinnagan, who severs continuity of birth!
Victory to the flower-foot of Him Who is far from those without!
Victory to the anklets of the King, rejoicing 'mid those that fold adoring hands!
Victory to the anklets of the glorious One, who uplifts those that bow the head! (10)

Praise to the foot of Ican! Praise to my Father's foot!
Praise to the foot of the Teacher! Praise to Sivan's roseate foot!
Praise to the foot of the Stainless, who in love stood near!
Praise to the foot of the King, who cuts off delusive birth!
Praise to the foot of glorious Perun-turrai's God! (15)
Praise to the Mount, in grace affording pleasures that cloy not!

Because He, Sivan, within my thought abides,
By His grace alone, bowing before His feet,
With joyous thought, Sivan's 'Ways of Old' I'll tell,
That thus my former 'deeds' may wholly pass. (20)

I came, attained the grace the 'Brow-eyed' showed,
Adored the beauteous foot by thought unreached.
O Thou, Who fill'st the heaven, Who fill'st the earth, art manifested light,
Transcending thought, Thou boundless One! Thy glory great
I, man of evil deeds knows not the way to praise! (25)

Grass was I, shrub was I, worm, tree,
Full many a kind of beast, bird, snake,
Stone, man, and demon. 'Midst Thy hosts I served.
The form of mighty Asuras, ascetics, gods I bore.
Within these immobile and mobile forms of life, (30)
In every species born, weary I've grown, great Lord!

Truly, seeing Thy golden feet this day, I've gained release.
O Truth! as the Ongāram dwelling in my soul,
That I may 'scape. O spotless one! O Master of the bull!
Lord of the Vēdas! Rising, sinking, spreading, subtle One! (35)
Thou art the heat! and Thou the cold! the Master Thou, O spotless One!
Thou cam'st in grace, that all things false might flee,
True Wisdom, gleaming bright in splendour true,
To me, void of all wisdom, blissful Lord!
O Wisdom fair, causing unwisdom' self to flee far off! (40)

From the Tiruvacakam
Translated by G. U. Pope

Namasivāya Vāzhga Nādan Thāl Vāzhga.

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