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Manikkavacakar’s poser to Lord Shiva


Today being Arudra Darisanam, I wanted to share my late father's article
Manikkavacakar’s poser to Lord Shiva

Many are of the impression that the essential feature of Hinduism, particularly Hindu worship, is bartering with gods and goddesses. At least in practice, Hinduism seems to centre round bartering with the Gods. Devotees make a variety of offerings and ask for a variety of immediate benefits in return. Just as the offerings are many and varied, the requests are also many and varied. The offerings range from archanas, abhishekams, naivedyam offerings etc., to large amounts of money being deposited in the till box. If the offerings are in connection with children, sometimes coins equal in weight to that of the particular child, are also offered.

Requests made, range from seeking to pass exams without sufficient and regular preparations, success at interviews, promotions, cancellation of unwelcome transfers, cure from serious ailments, in cases where specialist doctors have given up hope, escape from punishment for the crimes, which one has actually committed and several such requests depending on the background of the devotees. Big thieves appear to think that they can share their booties with the Gods and get their help to escape from beings caught. Bigger criminals seem to cherish hopes of corrupting Gods and bribing them to get their grace in order to escapes from their sentences. This situation of offering something and asking for returns gives room to the irreligious and anti-religious to make disparaging remarks that the more affluent the devotee is the greater may be his chances to bargain with God and obtain greater benefits however undeserving he may be.

As a good example of straight and simple bartering with gods the well-known stanza addressed to Lord Vinayakar maybe cited.

பாலும் தெளி தேனும் பாகும் பருப்பும் இவை

நாலும் கலந்துனக்கு நான் தருவேன் – கோலஞ்செய்

துங்கக் கரிமுகத்துத் தூமணியே நீ எனக்கு

சங்கத் தமிழ் மூன்றும் தா!”

In this stanza the devotee tells the Lord that she would give Him a mixture of milk, honey, sugar and dhal and askes the Lord to give her the three components of Tamil in return. It seems like making children learn this and similar stanzas by heart, the concept of bartering with God is inculcated in young minds and is made to develop as they grow.

A further point of interest is that certain deities are considered to have certain items of food as their favourite. Kozhukattai and modakam are favourites of Lord Ganpathy. Vadai is considered favourite of Lord Bairavar and Hanuman. Students of the Hindu University at Banaras have been seen offering pedas to Hanuman at the Sankatvimochan temple near the University to obtain success in their exams. One is reminded of the remark of Swami Vivekananda that our religion lives in the kitchen.

What should be the object of prayer and worship? Should prayer and worship be used only to obtain some selfish benefits? Can’t there be worship purely for the love of worship?

Few years back at a meeting of the Hindu advisory board of the broadcasting corporation of Srilanka, there was a discussion on the suitability of broadcasting the Kanda Shashti Kavacam. Kavacam mentions in detail, all parts of the human body and asks Lord Murugan to protect each of them. Majority of the members felt it was degrading to refer to the various parts of the perishable body and ask the Lord to protect each of them. There were some who argued that regular recital of the Kavacam brought relief and solace to several devotees and that there is no harm in broadcasting it.

Should there be an immediate purpose and ulterior motive for our offerings and prayers to God? Should all our offerings and prayers to God be motivated be personal and selfish benefits ? Can this be considered to be the main aspect of Hinduism? Is this the true spirit of Hinduism?

Should anything be asked at all as a return for our offerings? Even if something is asked should it be so selfish and personal? Can’t it be self-less, national and even global ie for the lokashema ? These are some of the questions which may occur to anyone.

A careful examination of the offerings made to God and the various forms of worship may reveal that there are three levels. The first is, offering something and asking for something in return. This is the most popular level and catches the eye of the onlooker. The second level is asking for lasting release (Moksha/Veeduperu) from the world and all the sufferings associated with it. The third level is worshipping for the pleasure of worshipping without asking or desiring for anything in return. At this level even moksha is not cared for. This is perhaps the highest and the most sublime level. Though this may be the most difficult level, yet obviously it is the duty if everyone to try and reach it. This level can be considered to be the true spirit of Hinduism and this has been the ideal for all the great sages and saints in religion. This ideal is beautifully summed up in words or Periyapuranam.

‘கூடும் அன்பினில் கும்பிடலே யன்றி
வீடும் வேண்டா விறலுடையார் ‘

They worship out of pure love They would not aspire even for moksha Such is the depth of their devotion

This sublime ideal of worship without wanting even Moksha in return reminds us of the nishkama karma emulated in Bhagavad Gita. It is the performing of duties without caring or aspiring for personal gains.

Many are not aware of these three levels. Many maybe under the impression that the first level is the only level and the entire Hindu worship is exhausted in it.

Now let us see the stance of Saint Manikkavacakar in this context. His stand is unique in several aspects. At one stage he addresses Lord Shiva thus.

(as thou art omniscient) ‘Know thee what I should seek from you’
‘வேண்டத் தக்கது அறிவோய்நீ ‘ thereby implying the he need not ask for anything.
Then he proceeds to say that if he wants anything that again would be, what the Lord decides for him ‘வேண்டும் பரிசு ஓன்று உண்டு என்னில்
அதுவும் உன்றன் விருப்பன்றே’

In another place he says that he does not want any worldly benefits. He does not want fame, wealth, earth or heaven.
வேண்டேன்புகழ் வேண்டேன்செல்வம்
வேண்டேன்மண் ணும்விண்ணும்

Then he says
I will not accept the position of Indra, Vishnu and Brahma,
I will not befriend anyone other than your devotees, I will not detest even hell, if that is Thy choice for me

‘கொள்ளேன் புரந்தரன் மாலயன் வாழ்வு குடிகெடினும் நள்ளேன் நினதடி யாரொடல் லால் நரகம்புகினும் எள்ளேன் திருவரு ளாலே இருக்கப் பெறின்’

He says further ‘ All that I want is love for Thy feet so that even if Iam born again and again I may worship Thee ‘வேண்டும் நின் கழல் கண் அன்பு ……. மாண்டு மாண்டு வந்து வந்து மன்ன நினை வணங்கவே ‘

In all these instances, we see the sharp contrast between the attached worldly and selfish aspirations of the average devotees referred to previously, and the detached lofty aspirations of Saint Manikkavacagar. His bartering with Lord Shiva, if at all it could be called bartering is unique. He wants to give his entire self-unto the Lord (complete surrender) and wants to have Lord Shiva in his entirety in return. Evidently he has achieved this goal and he refers to it in a poser addressed to Lord Shiva. Thyself gave thou to me and in return got me, who is cleverer in the transaction தந்தது உன்தன்னை, கொண்டது என்தன்னை,
சங்கரா! யார் கொலோ சதுரர்?

This is one of the most beautiful and most meaningful expressions in the whole of Thiruvacakam. In this stage of worship, the distinction between the ‘I’ and the ‘Thou’, the subject and object are effaced or transcended and the Jiva and Shiva, the individual and absolute merge and identify with each other.

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