The sacred, mundane, profane and obscene

By Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

“ Marathil Marainthathu Maa Matha Yaanai- Parathil Marainthathu Paar Muthat Pootham—-” – Thirumoolar ( in Tamil)

Wood carved into the form of an elephant, ceases to be called wood-

The Universal Spirit (God) is similarly lost sight of in the details of this universe.
(Translation)

In Saivite Hindu philosophy (Sithantham), Mayai/ Maya (Where the appearance belies the facts or truth- an illusion of sorts), is a central theme. A child given a wooden toy in the form of an elephant and asked what it is will definitely answer that it is an elephant. The same answer could be expected of most adults. It is very unlikely that anyone would describe the toy as a piece of wood. Any one who would say it is a piece of wood is a rare individual and is likely to be a critical thinker and a possible philosopher. The uncritical and reflex acceptance of a deception or illusion is Mayai. The inability to see beyond superficialities and seek the core or underlying facts- the truth, is also Mayai. It is akin to a person within a forest who sees the individual trees, shrubs, creepers and animals, but is unable to perceive the whole as a forest or a person flying in a helicopter, who sees the forest but is unable to visualize the details that make up the forest. While the Mayai in Saiva philosophy refers to matters spiritual, the concept equally applies to our mundane life. The word for God in Tamil is ‘Kadawul’, meaning that which is beyond (Kada) and within (Ul) one self. We have to learn to seek the truth in all its many facets, both within and beyond us, if we are solve our problems as a cultured, intelligent and wise people. Seeking the truth is seeking God.

The Tamils of Sri Lanka are either Hindus or Christian by religion. The Tamil Christians have been described as Hindu Christians by some of their thoughtful leaders. There are several Hindus and Christians of Hindu –Christian parentage. The original Christians were Hindu converts and though devout Christians now, yet carry the essence of Hinduism (Saivaism) within them. We the Tamils of Sri Lanka, whether Hindu or Christian have been entrapped in a Mayai, expertly spun by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam). An independent state of Tamil Ealam is this Mayai. The desire to escape from the indignities, insults, pain, suffering and death heaped on the Tamils by the GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka), in the three decades post-independence, gave birth to the Tamil militancy. This militancy has been personified by the LTTE today and is set on achieving an independent state of Tamil Ealam carved out of Sri Lanka for the Tamils. This anti-GOSL militancy has become a discernible burden for the Tamil people over time. The story of the ‘Maya Maan (Magic Deer)’ in the Ramayana is relevant to us today. Ravana, who wants to make Sitha his own, sends his uncle Maarisan in the form of a beautiful deer to frolic in front of her. Enchanted by the beauty and antics of the deer, Sitha demands that Rama capture it to be her pet. Rama, suspicious that this may be a ploy of the Asuras- his enemies versed in magic, tries to dissuade her. Her stubborn insistence on having the deer forces a reluctant Rama to leave her in the care of Luxshmanan and give chase to the deer. Having run deep into the forest, the Magic Deer utters a loud cry of anguish and pain mimicking Rama’s voice. On hearing this Sitha becomes distraught and insists that Luxshmanan go in search of Rama. The wise brother-in- law, Luxshmanan, refuses and explains that this is a trick by some one. An angry Sitha accuses Luxshmanan of coveting her and wanting Rama- his older brother, dead. The insulted Luxshmanan leaves Sitha alone, after drawing a line on the ground that he forbids her to cross (the Luxshmanan rekai/reka) and seeks Rama. This opens the way for Ravana to kidnap Sitha to Lanka.

Are there parallels for us Tamils in this sub-story in the Ramayana? Tamil Ealam is the beautiful magic deer frolicking in front of us. Sitha is our manifold rights as a people. Rama personifies us- the Tamils, while Luxshmanan is our conscience. Everyone knows that at this point in our history, the LTTE is the Ravana, while the GOSL may be called Surpanahai- Ravana’s sister, who had harassed Rama and Luxshmanan in the past. The utopia of an independent Tamil Ealam is being used to distract us from the evils that have come to personify the LTTE. Propaganda through a captive and pliant media, strong-arm tactics (thuggery, murder, kidnap, torture, character assassinations, etc.,), Hero’s day and Pongu Thamil events and the associated drama, and cyber terrorism ( Spy ware intrusions, criminal misuse of the web and internet), are the tools that the LTTE deploys to deny us our rights as a people. It is this Sitha- our rights as a people- that our Ravana wants to take away. We (The Ramas) with the help of our conscience (Luxshmanan), and the assistance of Hanuman’s tribe – the other peoples of Sri Lanka and the international community- should fight the menace that the LTTE has become now, while pursuing solutions to our problems vis-à-vis the GOSL. The antics of the LTTE have become patently hysterical and obscene in the past few months, and a major embarrassment to Tamils. If the LTTE is yet sensitive to voices of reasons and the present plight of the Tamils, it should reform and we need not throw it out with the dirty bath water. If the LTTE is unwilling to reform, it should be thrown along with the dirty bath water and the bathtub!

While the grievances of the Tamils are genuine and unforgettable, the perpetrators are forgivable, if there is a genuine desire for reform in the GOSL and there are indications pointing to this. Forgiveness is the essence of love, which is at the core of our religions and culture. To the Hindus, “Anbey Sivam “(Love is God) is an important philosophical concept, as much as love, compassion and forgiveness are the themes of Christianity. The Buddhism practiced by the majority of the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka also emphasizes kindness, compassion, meditation- deep, concentrated and focused thinking, and rational thought to a great extent. The concept of ‘Anbey Sivam’ has wide implications in Saivaism as the ‘Sivam’ is supposed to be found within us, every life around us and everything around us. The following true story based in Jaffna, I heard as a child illustrates this. ‘Kadai Swamy’ was one of the Saivaite savants of Jaffna, of the generation before Yoga Swamy of Kolumbuthurai. If I remember correctly, Yoga Swamy was a disciple of Kadai Swamy. Kadai Swamy while visiting Jaffna town happened to witness a fight between two individuals and was later called upon to relate what he saw to the Magistrate, who was presiding over the case in Court. In his evidence he said, “This Sivam Siva that Sivam, that Sivam Siva – Siva this Sivam, this Sivam Siva- Siva- Siva that Sivam”. To Kadai Swamy, both individuals involved were Sivams and even the physical violence and assaulting was Sivam. One Siva was a single punch, the Siva- Siva were two punches and the Siva- Siva- Siva were three punches. I am sure the magistrate and other court officials were bewildered and thought he was mad and his evidence maddening. What ever their thoughts and perceptions were, what Kadai Swamy was expounding was the essence of Saivaism- the form of Hinduism practiced by the Tamils of the North and East from times immemorial. It is also the essence of all religions, although it may be expressed differently. It is sad that we have lost this essence in our life to a very large extent and have been engulfed by a Mayai that is destroying us as individuals, our society and a land of culture, philosophy and substance bequeathed by our predecessors. The destruction has been both spiritual and mundane – matters pertaining to the physical realities of human life. It is essential that we retrieve our humanity and recover our capacity to forgive, if we are to regain our rationality and sanity as a people.

We as a people, who are largely Hindus, believe in the concept of Karma. Karma is a theory of action and reaction/ cause and effect that governs several life spans and involves an evolutionary process based on one’s actions, in Hindu beliefs. The Buddhists too believe in Karma. “Pullaahi, Poondaahi, Puluvaahi, Maramaahi, pal Miruhamaahi, Paravaiyaai, Paampaahi—- (We were grass, weeds, worms, animals, birds, snakes etc., etc— )”, the hymn in Tamil taught to every Tamil-Hindu child, emphasizes this concept. It is our Karma that we have to undergo, what we have and are now, as a people. What others have inflicted on us is their karma. What we have inflicted on the other peoples in Sri Lanka is also our Karma and their Karma. Karma is not a concept of fatalism or passivity. It is dynamic and has its own dynamics. Karma literally means work. It is a concept to overcome our present limitations to seek a higher plane of thinking and action. The seagull Jonathan, in the book ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull (By: Richard Bach) beautifully and very concisely, illustrated this concept of striving to evolve, seek perfection and make Karma a life force. Richard Bach dedicates his story, “To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all”. In this story, Jonathan, the seagull in his quest to overcome the limitations to flight imposed by nature on him as a seagull says,” Instead of our drab slogging, forth and back to fishing boats, there is a reason to live! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly”! Jonathan Seagull, instead of fighting and screeching and diving for fish like other sea gulls, spends his time practicing to improve his flying skills. He refuses to live like an ordinary sea gull engaged in monotonous practicality of day- to- day life. Eventually he becomes the first sea gull to fly higher and faster than the others. We have to emulate Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull as a people.

If we strive to become a better people in word, deed and thought, we will over come our present problems. We need righteousness (Dharma) and goodness to be on our side. When Dharman (Yudhishtran) and Dhuriyodanan were asked to choose between Lord Krishna and his army, Dharman chose Krishna while Dhuryodhanan chose the army (Mahabharatha). In the Kurukshetra war, Lord Krishna, was on the Pandava side while his Yadava army was with the Khourawas. Truth, dharma and moral superiority were with the Pandavas. Dhuriyodhanan only had the armies and weapons, but did not have truth, dharma and morality on his side. The victory at Kurukshetra was with the Pandavas, despite the mistreatment and misfortunes that were their lot in the past. If the GOSL was wrong and is wrong, we have to fight it with every means and tactic at our disposal. This is our undeniable right and there can be no dispute about this. But, two wrongs do not make a right. We have to be right, if the GOSL is wrong. We cannot do wrong, if our complaint is that the GOSL is wrong. There is a deep logic in this. Dharma, truth and moral superiority have to be our major weapons. These must be our weapons as a people and that of our leaders. Guns, bombs, war ships, war planes, spies, suicide bombers, assassinations, murders and other tactics will not win us the war, if we do not cultivate and value the above attributes. These attributes have to assume primacy in our struggle for justice and rights. The Tamil militancy has crushed the above attributes in our cause and has come to rely only on material weapons of war, violence, guile and deception. These weapons and tactics have been deployed against the Tamil people themselves now. War is a necessary evil and it should be recognized as such. It should be a phenomenon of last resort and should not be something we should fall in love with. It is only a means to an end and cannot be pursued ad-infinitum. War should be resorted when necessary and discarded as fast as possible, lest it becomes a bad habit. The IRA and ETA have foreclosed war as an option in Europe and the liberation movement in Aceh has done so in Indonesia. If we fail to do this soon, it will consume us faster than it does the enemy, and destroy us. This is what is happening to the Tamils now in every plane of life- both spiritual and mundane. What is worse is that profanity is fast replacing the spiritual values that have been our hallmark as a people, under the prevailing conditions and the lumpen leadership we are tolerating. This would be a damage that will be very hard to correct, even if peace returns to our land.

Ill educated and half educated, unwise, short sighted, power hungry, money hungry, merciless and trigger happy men have been permitted to become our leaders. These men may have been idealistic and honest in their youth. But these traits have been long lost in the decadence that has overwhelmed them, since. They are destroying us from within, both as individuals and as a society. This insidious process has been at work for a long time and the results are beginning to surface now. This has to be recognized and dealt with by the Tamil people, as a matter of urgency. All Tamils –you, he, she- and I are responsible for the present state of affairs and we have to bow our heads in shame. Are we capable of facing the truth at least now or are we going to be lost in the Mayai of an independent Tamil Ealam, until doomsday? [TamilWeek, Mar 26, 2006]

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11 Comments

  1. Saiva Hindu Philosophy is well and good, but what about owners of hindu temples who have made them Profitable Business Enterprises?
    Gullible tamils go and donate money so that the priest will intercede on their behalf with God – but the cash only enables the owners (some temples are also owned wholly or partly by priests) to live in luxury ! !

  2. I completely agree with the writer that “eellam” is a myth, illusion and a pipe dream. It can never be a reality. The so called freedom movement has now become a lucurative business. In the name of freedom, the Tamils have been denied the basic and fundamental freedoms known to the civilised world. The remedy of Eelam appears to be worse than the disease. If eelam is dropped, it will be easier to find a solution. In the long run, eelam will be predudical more to the Tamils than the Singhalese.

  3. A Singaporean friend of mine once remarked that Sri Lankan people as a whole are not intelligent. He reasoned his opinion on their inability to see the other man’s point of view. A case in point is the ethinic problem, he said. Each one tends to see problems through his/her own narrow window and simply refuses to see the others point of view.

    The world has moved on from Ramayana and Mahavamsa days. What we need is a modern, scientific approach to analyse and solve problems.

    Harping on present generation for the sins of our past ‘well educated and elite’ politicians for them wining election was what mattered is not going to help anybody.

  4. If a ‘Yogi’ can fib the masses even in ‘knowledgable’ America and travel in his own airplane, why can’t some one tell the truth about humanity to the Tamils and the Sighalese, that “Truth is one and saints and sages call it by different names” All barriers are breaking but slowly.Where are the ancient races and their languages? The Singhalese now have no cast system.Some time back they killed each other over that. The answer as stupid as it seems is for the GosL to give each man or woman who takes a spouse from any other sect(do you call it nationality?) a monitary reward and get the Tamils Singhalese and the Muslims and the Burghers to intermarry. Tell them of the universality of Truth and that the easiest to understand is what Confucious the (Kunfut-Lee?) Chinese sage proclaimed. “Do not do unto others what you do not wish them to do unto you.” As IMPOSSIBLE AS THIS SEEMS. THERE IS NO GRANDER CONCEPT. It can be systematically indoctrinated in the minds of people.

  5. All these analogies are fine and dandy, but has anyone heard of Real Politik? “No permanent enemies or friends but permanent interests”….

    Are we going to create another analogy to describe Vaali Vatham? When Rama hid behind a tree and killed Vaali, what do we derive from that example -guerilla warfare is not new?

    And if we explore another epic Mahabharata, only recourse after all reasonable solutions were rejected by Gowravas was war-and Krishna says it is OK to kill your teacher, elders and all if they support your enemy.

    It is dangerous to draw analogies from these beautiful epics because anyone can justify his/her position.

    Having said that, I also bow my head in shame because we all lost touch with humanity in the process of finding a solution. Nowhere it is reflected more than in the plight of Tsunami and war refugees.

  6. LTTE and its sympathisers are atheists and are trying to spin concoction in hillarious forms. They only believe in worshiping His Merciless ‘Sun God’.

    Let these LTTE mindsets come forward and put their case to justify the killing of indefensible 13 Hindu priests in the name of the ’cause’. Can they justify forceful take over of Murugandy temple to loot the large sums of money offered to the God by the people. The LTTE control of he temple has seen placing Thileepan’s picture next to the deity. Pleople are expected to worship Thileepan when they worship the deity. Does these LTTE ramshackles know that LTTE killed a trustee of Murugandy temple to take control of it?

    What is happening is that LTTE is tryig to export its proven experience in taking over temples. There is plenty of ignormous lots among expatriate Tamils to fullfil the Sun Gods vision on religion.

    These hero worshipers will cease every opportunity to creap into any forum to reflect their nonsensical and prejudicial view points.

  7. Dr. Rajasingham Narendran’s article is interesting and thought provoking to the Tamils and send a message that two wrongs can not make a right. The liberation struggle has not liberated the Tamils but instead enslaved them to the so called liberators. Those who carved the LTTE would still like to see them as “wood” but the LTTE is no more “wood” but real “tiger” with all attributions. The Tamil culture and heritage are re difined by the LTTE to suit their agenda for “liberation”. The time is not far to distinguish the “truth” from “lie”.

  8. Dear Sir
    I was impressed by what you wrote. As a Christian I would address my Tamil brethren. God will not allow injustice to prevail for ever. But he wants us to suffer in silence until he decides to intervene. We cannot retaliate. Love your enemy do good to those who hate you. Revenge is mine says the Lord. I think the LTTE did great harm to your cause by attacking the Dalada maligawa, the Anuradhapure shrine etc. They should have also refrained from suicide bombing- a highly repulsive form of revenge. A good Christian friend of mine lost bothe her eyes in the Central Bank bombing and she is a Burgher. So such acts cause the displeasure of the Lord. The LTTE should give up all acts of terrorism. I know it is the weapon of the weak. But that does not justify. Now that they have some territory to control and armed forces they should give up suicide bombings. Life is precious according to the Bible and no one was allowed to kill Cain although he was a murderer who had killed his own brother Abel. I tell my Tamil brethren trust in God and give up war. if the Tamils were to suffer as in 1983 the international community would definitely intervene in todays context. Dont resort to killing and incur God’s displeasure even for a righteous cause.

  9. I am studying Saivite Philosophy through the University of South Africa (Master’s Degree). Kindly supply me with the e-mail addresses of Tamil Saivite scholars from Tamil Nadu and abroad who may be able to co-supervise my work.

    NANDRI

    MAGENDRAN DEVANDRAN (48 YEAR OLD MALE)

  10. am studying Saivite Philosophy through the University of South Africa (Master’s Degree). Kindly supply me with the e-mail addresses of Tamil Saivite scholars from Tamil Nadu and abroad who may be able to co-supervise my work.

    NANDRI

    MAGENDRAN DEVANDRAN (48 YEAR OLD MALE)

  11. Quite interesting to read about the philosophy of Dr. Narendran’s version of past myths. The tamils in srilanka by virtue of their sufferings over the past 6 decades have not been able to make the SLG to accept a feasible solution to the problems faced by the tamils especially the tamil speaking population of the North and East. S.W.R.D.Bandaranayake has sown the seeds of hatred when he wilfully imposed the sinhala language on tamils as well. Tamils have their own language but are not allowed to use it in their official capacity. Tamils were forced to learn sinhala to remain in government services and even after getting the needed proficiency were not promoted to deserved positions due to sinhala competitors preferred over well qualified tamil folks. Tamils had it enough to be ill -treated by the sinhala chauvinists and their systematic repression was to reduce tamils to a secondary state and if possible as servants for them. Chelvanayagam saw what was going to happen and his federal policy though rejected at that time is now appreciated by most. But even that too the sinhala polity is unwilling to yeild. Does any body has any doubt as to why tigers formed their own outfits to fight back the state attrocities after knowing that all else failed and have now their own shadow government as well. Is it not time tamils live under a tamil government and not dictated by the sinhala hegemony. If sinhalese speak of soverignty then tamils also have their own and let the tamils to live in peace with their own choice as to who should hold their reigns. Tamils should decide who should rule over them and that is the tamil people’s choice. Take a poll and find out.

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