I was so naive to think that the followers in the path of Erai would all be religious and spiritual to the core. But it was not to be as was shown to me through many incidents and happenings in others lives, when I stepped into this new frontier as a new seeker. I saw that although many were genuine in their search, several others came with selfish motives and intentions. As Tavayogi said we have to be prepared to shield off pebbles and bad mouth from others, the spiritual journey has its fair share of ups and downs and many rapids that we need to sail through.
We can relate to the journey and the guidance from the great saviors in all religions, who have spoken of the numerous hurdles and deceptions, that either bring our journey to an abrupt halt, divert us from the path entirely or momentarily, cause frustration, anger, and a feeling of hopelessness.
These and more emotions and thoughts are depicted explicitly in the spiritual movie Pilgrims Progress based on the book by John Bunyan. The movie is presented as a dream sequence where the story centers around Christian making a journey from his hometown, the City of Destruction (this world), to the Celestial City (that which is to come or Heaven). Christian is weighed down by the knowledge of his sin, a great burden that he carries on his back now which he believes came from his reading the book in his hand (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Hell, is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance. This then is the story of his search.
The Siddhas have found ways to attain sight of the kingdom while alive. Revealing our baggage of sins or karma, they spell out clearly four stages on the part to Erai's kingdom, beginning with Sariyai and Kriyai and moving on to Yogam and Gnanam. Ramalinga Adigal through his devotional work the Arutpa sings about the many stages he moved on to in his search for the kingdom.
Upon reaching the kingdom he is confronted by many who asks, "Who is this soul who made it this far?" Traversing many doorways he arrives at the door where Mother Goddess ushers him and points him to the Divine Father. This journey of merger with the Divine is translated beautifully by S. Vanmikanathan.
It is the "aani-p-ponnambalaththe kanda kaatchikal", the visions I saw on the magnificent golden hall, the 109th decad of the VI th Book. He sings in 32 stanzas of jubilant verse, all of which end with the refrain: The sights I saw in the Hall of Prime Gold are wonderful sights, O mother, wonderful sights are they!
He goes on to describe in detail the sights he saw. I omit the repetitions and refrains and give, in his own words of course, the details of the sights which met his eyes. The refrains are evidence of the irrepressible joy bubbling in his heart. He says:
There appeared a mountain of effulgence and on that was a street.
I went along that street and in its center there was a platform.
I climbed on to that platform and on that platform there was a hall.
When I approached the hall, on top of that hall I saw a seven-storeyed tower.
What shall I say of the wonders that were on the seven storeys?
On top of the seven storeys there was a golden pillar.
When I beheld the pillar and climbed on it, what shall I say of the novelties I saw !
It is not within my capacity to describe what met me as I climbed on.
At the several stages, Sakthi-s, in thousands and thousands, came,
They came and tried to bewitch me, but, that I may not be bewitched,
I gained a power of grace.
By that power I climbed up that pillar and spied the jeweled crest.
On top of the crest there stood a dome, that I saw.
On top of that dome there was a temple of one thousand and eight carat gold.
On seeing the temple, I went unhesitatingly inside the portal in the tower.
At the portal in the tower, there were Sakthis-s and Saakthaa-s in crores.
Their hues were white, red, and scarlet.
There, all of them asked, “Who is this man?”, but I went past them.
I went past them, and there, at a sacred doorway, were five persons.
With them showing me the way, I went to a jeweled doorway farther up.
At that doorway, which I remember well, there stood two, a man and a woman.
With them pointing it out to me, I beheld with love welling up in me the private sacred entrance (which leads to the sacred presence of Lord Civan).
At that sacred door, stood Aanandhavalli, my Mother.
I beheld the Mother, Her grace I received, and ambrosia I partook of.
By Her Grace which held me up, I saw the presence of Natarajar,
O mother, I saw the presence of Natarajar!
The boon I received on going into His presence, God knows it,
O mother, God knows it.
In the Hall of prime gold, the sights I saw, wonderful sights they are,
O mother, wonderful sights they are.
Listen to Thavathiru Dharmalinga Swamigal's beautiful rendition of Adigal's song at http://www.thiruarutpa.org/thirumurai/v/T344/tm/aanipponnampalak_kaatsi and at http://www.thiruarutpa.org/thirumurai/v/T344/romanized1/aanipponnampalak_kaatsi
Bala Aiya was told in a recent Nadi reading that one has to come to the Guru to merge with the Divine. Similar to Ramalinga Adigal's journey beginning with worship of Lord Muruga, Mother Goddess and the Divine Father, we too have to come to Agathiyar, who led us to his Guru, Lord Muruga who would lead us to Mother Goddess, who would then show us the Divine Father.
Going by the works of the saints we realize that the human birth is rare and that only through this human birth that we can strive and work towards achieving an immortal body that is placed in the confines of the kingdom of Erai. How do we achieve this stupendous phenomenal achievement? How would that be possible for a mortal who succumbs to hurt, pain, illness and disease? Are we dispensable and at the mercy of disease, illness and sufferings? Are we forever going to live in fear of old age and its accompanying discomforts and disabilities? Can't we take charge of our body, mind and spirit and its corresponding quality of life? Then you can be the greatest healer but when it comes to you falling ill or having an ailment, you still need to seek another healer or doctor.
Modern science says that the body already as it is, is healing itself; rejuvenating and repairing itself and up-keeping itself with cells replacing every few years.
Your outer layer of skin, the epidermis (apart from the thicker dermis beneath), replaces itself every 35 days. You are given a new liver every six weeks (a human liver can regenerate itself completely even if as little as 25% remains of it). Your stomach lining replaces itself every 4 days, and the stomach cells that come into contact with digesting food are replaced every 5 minutes. Our entire skeletal structures are regenerated every 3 months. Your entire brain replaces itself every two months. And the entire human body, right down to the last atom, is replaced every 5-7 years. (Source: https://www.feelguide.com/2010/11/13/did-you-know-the-regeneration-of-the-human-body-2/)
Maybe it is indeed possible to extend one's life by taking care of the well being of the body. The idea here is to learn to heal yourself. With some effort on our part to take extra care of this rare commodity that brings us to God realization, we can go a long way, like studies that find that fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system @ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/fasting-for-three-days-can-regenerate-entire-immune-system-study/
P. Karthigayan's book "History of Medical & Spiritual Sciences of Siddhas of Tamil Nadu", published by Notion Press Chennai, 2016, is a comprehensive, well researched book and full of information on the Siddhas, with references to Siddha texts and manuscripts. I loved reading it. I thank Shantima for going through all the trouble to get me this book. I would recommend to those seeking to know about the Siddhas. This book would be a good start.
In the preface to this book,
The author begins the first chapter with a saying from Avvai on the importance of caring for the physical body, and using it as a tool to gain enlightenment. Is that possible? Yes it seems so and of course with a little help from the divine.
As Isai Gnani Illayaraja wrote and sang a song among many on Arunachala, seeking the gift of joining the long list of saints who made it to the Divine Feet of the Lord of Tiruvannamalai, would we make it too in prolonging this birth, and hence defeating death, while in service to Agathiyar?