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Re: Madhurakavi Alvar

From: Krishna Kalale (
Date: Fri Apr 25 1997 - 15:26:01 PDT

>see my comments at the end of this email:
>At 04:11 PM 4/23/97 -0700, Mani Varadarajan wrote:
>>Dileepan wrote:
>>> "periyadhu vayiRRil siRiyadhu piRandhaal adhu eththai thinRu engE niRkum?"
>>> (If great begets little, what will it eat, where will it rest?)
>>> To this the boy replied,
>>> "adhu aththaith thinRu angE niRkum."
>>> (It will eat that and it will rest there)
>>This may be a variant, but I have always read the question
>>and reply as:
>>Madhurakavi Alvar: "seththaththin vayiRRil siRayadhu piRandhaal
>>                    eththai thinRu engE kidakkum?"
>>"If some small thing is born in something dead, what will it
>>eat, and where will it lie?"
>>Nammalvar: "aththai thinRu angE kidakkum."
>>"It will eat that itself and lie there itself."
>>There is a not so subtle difference in these two variants.
>>In the version as I have written it, Madhurakavi is asking
>>how something (the jiva) which is born in something inert
>>(the body) can survive at all.  Or alternatively, Madhurakavi,
>>seeing the small thirumEni (sacred body) of Nammalvar sitting
>>in the hole in the tamarind tree, meditating, jokingly 
>>wondered if the Alvar was born in the tree itself and how
>>he had subsisted all along.
>>I think this version has a lot more meaning to it.
>>One understanding of Nammalvar's answer is that he subsists
>>on God alone and rests in God alone, since everything to him
>>was God.
>>There is also another understanding of the question and
>>answer -- but it is evading my memory right now. Perhaps

My response (Krishna Kalale)

>In one book: I read this version:
>there are two separate meanings for the same Q&A.  1.  if a cit (jiva) is
born in acit (matter or body) what will it eat or experience and how will
it end up? -  ans :  it will experience acit and lie within acit (matter).
There is a second answer to this:  2.  Atte thinru - in this 'A' means
brahman or God.  This jiva can experience God and reach God.
>What it means is that usually bound souls like us are enamoured by the
little thrills that arise from experiences with matter and endlessly move
about in pursuit of these cheap thrills and forget anything other than that
(forget God).  This will result in our never ending birth-death-birth
cycle.  Due to experiences of the past lives, we begin our new lives with
the same taste for cheap thrills so we eternally end up in this mruthyu
samsara.  This is nothing but "Dhooma marga" of the vedanta. Dhooma marga -
or smoky path (daksinayana) - is the one which souls bound to get rebirth
go after death - ie. smoke, night, moon......etc. described in the 8th
chapter of Gita and in Rahasyatraya sara.  Those souls come back to earth
via - clouds, rain, plant and animals (when they eat them) - and as projeny
to animals (or human beings).
>On the other hand, if one yearns for God (atthe), one can experience God
and go through arciradi gati - path of light (uttarayana) (through deities
- agni, jyoti, ahah (day) sukla ....and reach the lotus feet of Lord
>In essence nammalwar spoke regarding two paths in one short answer.  In
fact these two paths comprises of anything we do here : all our activities,
scientific thought, education, entertainment and whatever we do .....  all
of these come predominantly under dhooma marga;  and,  if we strive towards
spiritual progress we may reach arciradi marga.  These two paths are sort
of all encompassing.  this is what makes Madhurakavi alwar very impressed,
since, he knows that this Guru, Nammalwar, knows these two paths,  - note
the verse of Gita,
>sukla krishne gati hyete, jagatah sasvate mate
>ekaya yatyanavrittim, anyayaavartate punah
>path of light and darkness are eternal paths which are well established in
this universe.  One takes a jiva through endless cycles of birth and death.
The other takes one to a state from where there is no return to this samsara.
>naithe srthe partha jaanan yogi muhyati kascana
>tasmat sarvesu kaaleshu yogi bhavarjuna
>no yogi knowing these two paths will be deluded to get into this path of
darkness.  so become a yogi with the right knowledge...
>Since, nammalwar had the key to the right path in life, what else does one
need.  Nammalwar was speaking by experience as opposed to book knowledge.
madhurakavi alwar had lots of book knowledge since he was a vedic scholar,
he did not need another lecture on vedanta, but a person who has seen it all.

There is another meaning.  

It seems that Madurakavi was perplexed at how Nammalwar's body was being
sustained without food and water in the tamarind tree.  He asked how will
jeevatma in a body continue its existence and survive.  Nammalwar answers
him that " it sustains by itself ( since it is ensouled by God)".  In yoga
dasa, eventhough food and water are not provided to the body, God protects
this body and the jivatma in it. 

 how does this make sense (scientifically).  Actually, when I researched
into yoga on this issue, it seems that the metabolic rate is reduced to
such a small extent that instead of 18 breaths a minute, a yogi probably
breaths once in a few minutes.  Hence his life gets extended and he needs
very little food and water.  some animals during hibernation may use
similar techniques to survive. I really dont know how they do it. But I
have a picture of a 180 year old man from India who was a yoga master who
has written about this: " this is a kayakalpa technique, and one can live
for about 500 years when one masters this technique, I have seen a person
in himalayas who was 500 years old".  Incidentally, at 180 this yogi looks
very well built, hale and healthy.

whatever may be the yogic details on this, the third meaning I have given
here is also attributed to this Q&A between madurakavi and Nammalwar.  I
have to admit that the source of this Q&A is not in the pasurams.  This is
from some divya suri charitam or some work.  Probably many folks can come
up with different meanings.

Krishna Kalale
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