Karur, Tamil Nadu, april 2007
Questions - Ilya Zhuravlev
Translation from tamil - Dr. M.Madhavan
We have a great interest in the tradition of Tamil Siddhas. Are there yoga practices described in ancient texts still present in the tradition, or modern tradition is mainly involved in medicine now?
There are people practicing yoga, but mainly they live in the woods and prefer not to show up in the society during Kali Yuga epoch; they do not want to be disturbed by people.
Does the teaching go in line with traditional system, personally from Guru to disciple?
Yes, it is still according to Gurucula tradition, a disciple lives next to his Guru and serves to him. Sometimes you have to serve the Guru for many years before teaching yoga techniques begins. Colleges teach only Siddha medicine. Nowadays there are some people who speak on behalf of Sittars (Tamil Siddhas) and try to teach different techniques pursuing their commercial interests, but real masters usually live in countryside, secretly. They do cherish the tradition.
We know that one of six large Shaivite schools - Shaiva Siddhanta - is mainly present in the south of India in Tamil Nadu. Is it connected with Tamil Siddha tradition?
Shaiva marga and Siddha marga are different schools though Shaiva Siddhanta was influenced by Sittars. Nayanaras - Shaivite deities, being at the roots of Shaiva Siddhanta, acquired certain knowledge in Siddha tradition. But they paid lots of attention to a bhakti path - loving and worshiping Shiva - while Siddhas followed a yoga path. Nayanaras studied alchemy and Siddha medicine, how to keep the body healthy. They demonstrated supernatural abilities as well as sacred Sittars. There are 64 well-known Nayanaras; their images can be seen in many Shaivite temples in Tamil Nadu. In our tradition we revere 18 Great Tamil Siddhas - Agastya, Tirumular and others.
In Siddha tradition a lot of attention was given to rasayanas - natural preparations made of herbs, minerals and metals and used for improving and strengthening the physical body, for physical longevity and even immortality. While the majority of Indian spiritual schools say that only the soul is immortal, Atman, and the physical body is perishable. It is only a temporary cover that sometimes is considered to be the soul’s fetters, distracting and disturbing factor on a path of spiritual development. Why did Siddhas pay that much attention to the physical body? Is it true, that they were able to achieve the physical immortality?
Definitely, Sittars have perceived that the body may become an obstacle, but as Tirumular said: “at first I considered the body as a receptacle of garbage, then I realised, that we comprehend the Divine being in this body, and so I should keep Sthula sharira (gross, physical body) to achieve deeper spiritual levels”. When the man comes to a high spiritual level and does not need his body anymore, if he considers the body as a burden he can leave it. But, Tirumular said: “I’ve lived in the body for hundreds of thousands of years”. Actually, it can be called “immortality”. He also accentuated that there should be no affection to the body; this is the means for achieving a high spiritual level. So, Siddhas used many rasayanas to live long. And why did they need it was to achieve moksha – to be free of sansara’s bonds. This is the true purpose of their life. They were able to control elements - Panchamahabhutas. If they wanted, they could put atoms together and display the human body, or, if necessary, “spray” it out and disappear. They possessed a perfect self-control. If the man is able to fully control himself, he possesses the control over Panchamahabhutas.
Do Sittars have Kundalini Shakti awakening practice?
There are many techniques contributing to Kundalini awakening, but at first, in Siddha tradition, the body should be well prepared for this purpose. Kundalini energy is like the light of thousands of suns. Sometimes we can’t stand the heat of one sun; we need a fan or a conditioner to feel normal. And now imagine few thousands of suns. The body should be cleansed well at all levels, otherwise it would be destroyed. And therefore too Sittars used various rasayanas to make the body stronger and ready to start advanced yoga techniques.
The next question concerns the use of mercury in Siddha tradition. Your disciple, doctor Mohanraj, has told us, that you use specially prepared forms of mercury in the treatment of some diseases. But I’ve also heard that in antiquity Sittars used mercury for considerable prolongation of the physical body’s life. In the West mercury is considered to be a dangerous and definitely toxic substance. Could you tell us about it?
Mercury is used not only for medical purposes; it is also a rasayana in yoga. It loses its toxicity after been processed together with a combination of other components in a specific way. After a long process with warming on fire it becomes solid. If you buy one liter of liquid mercury in the market, after the processing you get two hundred grams of solid mercury. The purification process is very complex. You can wear a globule of solid mercury on the chest - it is considered to radiate strong vibrations, to enhance longevity of the body, to purify it and to increase Bindu power. Siddhas call the globule of solid mercury a Bindu as well. Sometimes solid mercury is consumed internally but in very small doses.
I’ve heard that while someone is preparing solid mercury he should do Khechari Mudra.
“Kesari” Mudra, as we say in Tamil, is good during yoga practice, your attention is focused inside. But if you do it while preparing mercury, you can lose concentration on the process and be late with taking it out from fire at a certain time. You are one moment late and fire destroys the medicine.