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Vaakku thooymai (purity of speech)

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (
Date: Sun Nov 30 1997 - 17:24:53 PST

Continuing on Naichianusandhanam by Azhvaars, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar is not
alone in feeling that he is unfit to worship the Lord.   Periyaazhvaar says
he is unfit to even say the Lord's names.

After having sung 400 songs in praise of the Lord it seems as though the
Azhvaar suddenly is not sure of his honesty.  He had just completed 10
songs doubting his ability to remember the Lord in his death bed
(appOthaikku ippOdhE sollivaiththEn).  Now, suddenly it dawns on him that
all the praise he has been singing may just be bogus.  Now the Azhvaar is
terrified.  Did he unwittingly carry on with this offense for so long?
But he is unable to correct the situation.   Having had the sweet taste of
the Lord's names, the Azhvaar's mouth now knows nothing else.  It
uncontrollably is repeating His name.  "How can I let my unworthy mouth
continue with this offense?" sings the Azhvaar.

Periaazhvaar thirumozhi (5.1.1):
vaakku thooymai yilaamaiyinaalE
   maadhavaa! unnai vaaykkoLLa maattEn
naakku un^innaiyallaal aRiyaadhu
   naan adhu ancuvan envasamanRu
moorkkup pEsukinRaan ivan enRu
   munivaayElum en naavinukku aaRREn
kaakkai vaayilum katturai koLvar
   kaaraNaa! karuLak kodiyaanE!

"My speech is impure.  Therefore, Madhavaa, I can't
let my mouth say your name.  But my tongue has already
tasted the sweetness of your name.  Now it knows nothing
but you.  I am alarmed.  I can't control my tongue any 
more.    You may get angered by my blathering.  But, 
O! the Lord with Garuda on your flag, O! the Cause of 
all creation, please tolerate my drivel as one would
tolerate the cries of a crow."

Thus, a prerequisite for saying our Lord's names is to develop "Vaakku
thooymai"(purity of speech).   As a part of "manthra prOkshanam" during
sandhaya vandhanam we say,  "surabhi nO mukhaakarath".   In a recent
Upanyasam, Sri Srivatsangachar explains this as a request to the Lord for
fragrant mouth.  The fragrance we request is not something one could get
from chewing (Double-mint) gum (or Scope mouthwash).  It is the subtle
fragrance produced only by honest and kind speech, and the avoidance of
unpleasant speech ("theekkuRaLai senROthOm" -- Thiruppaavai), says Sri