Thoughts on Thai Poosam

Brahmachari Arvind Chaitanya

உருவாய் அருவாய் உளதாய் இலதாய்

மருவாய் மலராய் மணியாய் ஒளியாய்

கருவாய் உயிராய் கதியாய் விதியாய்

குருவாய் வருவாய் அருள்வாய் குகனே

As the form and formless, as the one with everything and nothing, as the infinitesimal, as the flower, as the bell and as the sound, as the embryo, as life, as the end and as fate, as the Guru please do come and grace me, O Guha – the indwelling One. (Saint Arunagirinathar in Kandar Anubhuti)

God out of His love for beings is engaged in the five acts of creation, sustenance, destruction, veiling and grace. The first three are common to all. But for those who have turned their minds to him and have sought him as their only refuge, who see no other way but the worship of the holy feet as the ultimate means to the ultimate end…for their ego to perish and for their cycle of birth and death to end… for them who have thus surrendered, the other two acts of veiling and grace are directed in the form of His divine leelas or divine sports.

Specific to each individual, specific to the traces of ego and egocentric hurdles present in one, the mighty Lord creating different situations forces them to abandon this last bit, graces them and takes them unto Himself. By His grace, submitting unto Him…they partake in His divine play and are freed thus from all their bindings.

It is this relationship of mutual love expressed between individual and God in and through all the games that He plays that one can call as bhakti.

In true bhakti, there is no asking. There is only giving and surrendering. The holy day of Thai Poosam is one such day of surrender and worship of Lord Muruga. It is yet another occasion to shed our human self and embrace our spiritual self.

Thai Poosam Kavadee

There are many ways to understand Lord Muruga and the festival of the kavadee. There are many stories connected to Him and to Thai Poosam. It is important to understand through these stories, the essence of Lord Muruga and what this festival signifies, if one were to make the maximum out of it. Here is presented one of the ways to understand this cosmic form as allowed by this authors limited understanding. This is not the only way it has to be seen, but is another way in which also it can be seen.

The kavadee is a symbol of sacrifice, a symbol of what we are willing to give up in the pursuit of the love of God. It is a symbol of putting our burdens unto His feet, of submitting all our karmas at His feet.

Of all the worldly burdens, the biggest burden that man carries is the EGO. It is from this ego that all our desires spring forth. Is it not a fact that it is desire which makes us crave for things of this world and act for it. Is it not a fact that it is unfulfilled desires that brings us sorrow? Is it not true that it is a desire waiting to be fulfilled that brings anxiety? It is from the ego and ego-centric desires that all the positives and the negatives our lives are shaped.

The elaborate kavadee is thus a representation of the enlarged ego of man. It signifies the burden of ego that the jivatma carries in this world, which is fed and decorated and made beautiful and heavy to carry. To it are attached all our desires, signified by the milk and the offerings we carry, very necessary for sustaining life, but nevertheless also the fount of sorrow, a burden in one's inner evolution. It is this, that having taken a vow, is temporarily carried and given unto him.

Should we pray that our desires come true on this day? It is important to remember that Lord Muruga was not born OUT OF burning desire but by the burning OF desire. It is after the burning of Kamadev that the flames emerged from Lord Shiva which transformed into the six-faced Lord. This auspicious day therefore, is not a day of asking. It is a day of surrender...a day of placing at His Feet our desires with faith that what is best for us will be done, without our asking.

The kavadee, as connected with the story of Idumban represents the Sivagiri and Shaktigiri – the essential duality that creates and sustains the world – the ego principle and the desire principle. Therefore, the sacrifice of the kavadee is the sacrifice of the twin mountains of ego and desires. It is the submission of the burden of all duality at His feet.

We can only give what we have the on this day, let us give our ignorance to Him, let us give our unwanted tendencies to Him, let us offer all our desires and expectations to Him.

Lord Muruga as the Guru Principle

Man is all his acts is actually in search of his own true self. Every act of man, whether he knows it or not is meant to take him towards God which is but his own true Self. Every being wants to live securely and be happy, because that is the essential nature of the true Self. Therefore, through every act of trying to secure his existence, in trying to know something or in the pursuit of happiness, man is trying to discover his own self to its fullest potentiality. It is for this that one should turn to Lord Muruga.

The fundamentals of Hinduism is anchored in the philosophical position that there is one God or God principle alone which is called Brahman – The Absolute Self or Truth or Reality. It is this one God principle which manifests in a multitude of forms with specific functions as required for the varied activities of the world. Lord Muruga is thus, another manifestation of the same God principle, and a very significant one.

Among all the varied functions, one can look at Lord Muruga as the Cosmic Guru, who has come forth to take every individual being towards God, towards the Truth, towards their own true Self. Lord Muruga Is none other than Lord Shiva. He is Siva's light of inner knowledge in its purest and most intense form...He is verily knowledge personified.

Lord Muruga is often called as Guruguhan - Guru is that entity who comes into peoples lives to eradicate the darkness of ignorance, and Guhan is the indweller, residing in the cave of our heart. Thus, Lord Muruga as Guruguhan is the inner light within us, striving to remove our ignorance and negative tendencies. It is to Him we surrender on this auspicious day, seeking His grace to take us higher and close to our true selves.

In this form, he does not come to bestow things we desire but has come to take away the unwanted things from us. He is here to destroy, hence His form of a warrior. Lord Muruga is born to destroy the negative tendencies of those who surrender unto him.

On a higher plane, Lord Muruga signifies knowledge itself which alone can destroy our ignorance, and liberate us from the world of transmigration. If Lord Muruga is knowledge, then the Vel (lance) is the intellect, a single pointed intellect. The giving of the Vel by Godess Parvathi to Lord Muruga is the permission given by prakriti or the instrument given by prakriti to the Guru to release people from their worldly samsara. It is by this weapon of knowledge that any ignorance can be destroyed, whether on the worldly or on the spiritual planes.

Kavadee as an Attitude

As Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj says, the kavadee is the symbol of tapasya or penance and courage. The entire event spread over 10 days (earlier 40 days), is a short, practical and liveable introduction to the pursuit of the higher truth. Spread over 10 days in the most auspicious month of Thai, living like a seeker, we take a vow of self-control in our habits, we control our senses, we practice brahmacarya, we intake satvik food, all for the singular purpose of making our minds healthy and devoted to the single thought of the goal, every passing moment.

Anything in this world can be achieved through this kind of a practice. Thus, the Thai Poosam Kavadee is an indicator of how life is to be lived for making the most of it – ever in self control, the mind ever fixed on a high goal and ever surrendered to Him. The kavadee is not a ritual nor an is an attitude that one needs to maintain in life to attain the highest things. Thus, Thai Poosam Kavadee should not be a ten day affair but a 365 day way of life. Every act of ours should be an act of kavadee and every moment, our minds focussed only on the highest goal and our hearts, only at His feet. That should be the spirit behind one's action.

Religion is not a collection of rituals. Religion is a journey...a journey into the depths of the Self to elevate it towards the truth. Let us take the kavadee...and surrender unto Him all our burdens. Most importantly, with every journey of the kavadee, let us be determined to shed one more layer of our personality that keeps us away from beholding our true Self.

With faith let us surrender unto Him, with love call out to Him, with purity ask Him to come to us as knowledge, let us with sincerity yearn to witness our own Godhood.

HariOM Tat Sat