Thiruppugazh – The Means and the End

A Sadhaka has two-fold aim in his life; to lead this life here peacefully and perfectly and to take this life there, to its right and ultimate destination. Anyone would be able to achieve these two objectives easily by simple means of devotion. However, the path by which one walks in this life is always not smooth. There are pitfalls, obstacles, diversions and distractions. Quite often, the individual feels the need for some support, guidance and strength to carry his journey forward. It is almost similar to the way to the Sabari hill which is hard, rough and steep. Just as the devotee aiming to reach the abode of Ayyappa feels exhausted and leans upon the other devotee on the side, the individual who is struggling to cross the ocean of samsara (material life) also yearns for some support. Normally, a shoulder is the symbol of support. It is the shoulder that a woman leans upon when she needs some solace, comfort or support. A human shoulder may not always be available or accessible. The human shoulder may not always give everlasting support. The best shoulder that is ever accessible, ever-lasting, gives confidence, courage, strength and support is that of Lord Muruga. That is why; Arunagirinathar has sought the support of Muruga’s shoulders in almost all his songs.

Normally, the individual would be walking with some companions, but there comes an occasion when he has to walk alone through a dark corridor towards his final destination. At that time, he would badly need some support and courage. Arunagirinathar says that in such an event, the shoulders of Muruga alone gives him support and reassure him that there is nothing to fear. (Avan Panniru Tholum, naan bayantha thani vazhikku thunai……’Vizhikku Thunai’, Kandhar Alamgaram). In another song, Arunagirinathar says: “What harm the planetary movements or evil effects do me when I have the grace of Muruga and his shoulders to support me?” When Arunagirinathar stood before Vayalur Muruga wondering how he would compose, Thiruppugazh he heard the command of the God thus: “Sing about me, about my Vel and about my shoulder” (chitradiyu mutriyapa niruthoLum). In another song Arunagirinathar says “Before the messengers of Lord of Death arrives, Oh Muruga, appear before me, your broad shoulders adorned by colourful garlands) (soodu tholun thadan thirumaarbum…Kaalanar). The concluding song of all bhajans, while describing the six sacred faces of Muruga, his lance (vel), the peacock, the rooster, Vel, his consorts, Deivayanai and Valli and all devotees, first mention the shoulders of Muruga which goes to show how important the shoulder of Muruga is. (Aru Iru Thadanthol Vazhga, Arumugam Vazhga Verpai, Koorusai…..). In another song, Arunagirinathar says: “I worship the courageous leader, Muruga, having 12 shoulders who courted Valli. (”Pattoru soor maaLa vikrama velevu, paththiru thoL veera thinai kaaval”….Suttathupol).

While the shoulders of Muruga give us the courage, strength and support to pass through this life peacefully, what takes us to the ultimate destination, what liberate us from the world of illusion and lead us to spiritual fulfilment or immortality is the Lotus Feet of Muruga. Most of the songs of Arunagirinathar end up with the prayer to reach the Lotus Feet of Muruga. When Arunagirinathar got the vision of Lord Muruga, as Gurunatha, what he first saw was the Thiruvadi, the sacred feet. He mentions this experience thus: “I was delighted beyond words when I saw your sacred feet, adorned with anklets like tandai and silambu, your lance which pierced through the krauncha hill, your broad shoulders adorned with kadambu flowers, your six sacred faces and flower-like eyes (Thiruvadiyum Thandayum …Kandhar Alamgaram 102).
“I have been wasting my days by studying books and literature and by roaming around the world begging. When the day would dawn I would seek the real knowledge by seeking your Lotus Feet and liberate myself from the cycle of life and death”; thus said Arunagirinathar in his song ‘Porppadhathinai’, done at Tiruthanigai. There are many songs that aspire for the grace of Muruga’s Lotus feet. (‘Ninathu thiruvati sathimayirkodi’, ‘Naveru paamanatha paadharame ninaithu). Arunagirinathar waxes eloquent in his Seerpadha Vakuppu. A question arises what exactly the term ‘reaching the Lotus Feet’ mean and how one who is actively engaged in the worldly duties could attain that end? To reach the Lotus Feet of Muruga means to give ones own Self. It means that the devotee surrenders to God totally. For those who find contemplation, meditation and Vichar Marga difficult, ‘Surrender’ or Saranagati has been advised as the best means to realize God. Surrender does not mean renouncing everything like relations and possessions. Surrender simply means surrendering the ‘I”, the ego. If the ‘I’ is given up, everything is given up because ‘I’ is the very source from where all the desires and passions originate. By surrender, the devil called desire goes and the difference of ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ disappear. Surrender is the ideal form of Bhakti Yoga by which the devotee always abides by the will of God and leaves the question of his protection to God. A true devotee does not merely offer obeisance to God. He offers himself to God without retaining any part of individuality for himself. He entrusts his entire life, his aspirations, his obligations, his possessions etc. to God and aspires for the grace of the Lotus Feet of God. He accepts whatever that befalls him, happiness or misery. He aims at immersing himself in God. He does not find himself separate from God. He leaves it to God to do what is best suited for him though he continues to do the duties assigned to him. He has no desire of his own and does his Karmas with detachment. He has no other thoughts in mind. When he surrenders unconditionally, the ego or the false notion of “I” is completely eliminated; he reaches the Lotus Feet of God where he experiences the presence of God within. Here, an attempt has been made to translate the 32 verses of Seerpatha Vakuppu composed by Sri Arunagirinathar.

Thus, Arunagirinathar’s Thiruppugazh clearly spells out what our ultimate end should be and what means we should adopt to attain that end. Thiruppugazh is both the means and the end.