The Great Life Without Death (1)

Ankh: Ancient Egyptian Symbol of Immortality



The ultimate goal of Suddha Sanmargam is the attainment of “Siddhi” or Adepthood. Liberation from ignorance, from the bonds of desire, and so forth, is considered the ultimate goal in some religious traditions. In Suddha Sanmargam, however, such a form of liberation is but a means to the attainment of “Siddhi” or Adepthood.

An essential characteristic of this state of “Siddhi”, or Adepthood,  is, of course, a unitive consciousness of ARUTPERUMJOTHI. Another essential characteristic is embodied immortality, a state of embodiment free from aging, decay, pain, and death. In Suddha Sanmargam, this embodied immortality is an aspect of the completeness, or the consummation, of one’s unitive experience and realization of ARUTPERUMJOTHI.

On the path of Suddha Sanmargam, the contemplation of the dread afflictions of disease, aging, and death, and the intense aspiration to transcend them is a sine qua non of eliciting the supreme compassion of ARUTPERUMJOTHI.

This supreme compassion of ARUTPERUMJOTHI is the only force capable of bestowing the benediction of embodied immortality.

Now, it is crucial that this ideal of embodied immortality in Suddha Sanmargam is not conflated with the ideal of “Kayasiddhi”, or the “perfection” of the human physical body, resulting in an indefinite extension of its longevity, in the Tamil Siddha traditions, and also in some Taoist traditions.

http://shreemarakara.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/siddhas-landscape1.jpg

The Eighteen Tamil Siddhas

The ideal of embodied immortality in Suddha Sanmargam differs from that of “Kayasiddhi” in that the former involves a transfiguration of the gross and impure elements of the human physical body into the subtle and pure elements of a supernal body of light.

As Ramalingam observes in his account of this transfiguration of the physical body in the second part of his great essay on “The Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings”, this transfigured, supernal, pure body of light is immeasurably superior to the physical body, made of impure material elements, which constitutes our present form of embodiment:

தோல், நரம்பு, என்பு, தசை, இரத்தம், சுக்கிலம் முதலிய அசுத்தபூத காரியங்களும் அவற்றின் காரணங்களாகிய அசுத்த பிரகிருதி அணுக்களுமாகிய தேகத்தை மாற்றி, மாற்று இவ்வளவு என்றறியப்படாத உயர்ந்த பொன்னாகிய சுத்த பூதகாரிய சுத்த தேகத்தையும்…” (ஜீவகாருண்ய ஒழுக்கம்: இரண்டாவது பிரிவு: ஆன்ம இன்ப வாழ்வு)

“...transformation of ( or a change from) the physical body made of impure material substances such as skin, nerve, tissue, bone, blood, etc., and the impure material elements which constitute them into the incomparably greater gold of a pure body made of pure substances and elements…” (The Ethic of Compassion for Sentient Beings: Part Two: The Life of Spiritual Bliss)

This supernal pure body of light is immune to pain, aging, disease, infirmity or incapacity, and death. It is invincible in the face of the assault of any of the forces, elements, and entities in the cosmos. It is not bound by the chains of the laws of nature. I will discuss Ramalingam’s observations on this supernal pure body of light and other aspects of embodied immortality in the path of Suddha Sanmargam in future posts.

(P.S. I think that an alternative interpretation can be formulated in this context. The crucial Tamil word in the quotation from Ramalingam’s essay is “மாற்றி”. This word could mean either a “change” in the sense of replacing or exchanging a thing in one’s possession with something different, e.g., “(ex)changing” a torn clothing for a new one, or it could mean “transformation” of an existing thing or object into something else. The alternative construal  of the word “மாற்றி” implying an exchange, replacement, or transition to a new and incomparably higher form of body, but without any process of transformation of the existing physical body, must be considered and examined carefully. I intend to do so in a future post.)

In one of his letters to a friend (who may have questioned the need for caring for the body in light of its transience), Ramalingam wrote that “Transience also afflicts the primal godheads (whose lifespan extends to aeons), but this precious body is needed for attaining Mukti (salvation or liberation). Hence, it must be maintained carefully.”

Although he emphasized the great importance of protecting the physical body from damage and disease and extending its longevity, Ramalingam did not subscribe to the goal of  “Kayasiddhi” or the notion that the longevity of the physical body could be, or ought to be, indefinitely extended.

His observations on the transfiguration of the physical body imply that it is not feasible to achieve the ideal of “Kayasiddhi”, or the immortality of the physical body, given the gross (the antonym of “subtle”) and impure nature of the material elements which constitute the human physical body and its environment.

Therefore, the Tamil Siddha and Taoist ideals of “Kayasiddhi”, or the immortality of the physical body, may well be a chimera, not to mention the ultimate futility of indefinitely extending the longevity of a body subject to pains, diseases, and infirmities. 

As the Indian Vedantic sage Ramana Maharishi (1879- 1950) once retorted on hearing some talk of “Kayasiddhi”, the best verdict on all that talk is the fact that the physical bodies of all those who have waxed eloquent on “Kayasiddhi” eventually met with the same fate as that of the rest of humanity.

Or, in the words of Omar Khayyam in his Rubaiyat  (Quatrain 25, First Edition, Trans. Edward Fitzgerald):

“...their Words to Scorn Are scatter’d,

and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.”

Or, in the query of the Chinese poet T’ao Ch’ien (365 – 427) concerning the eight mythical Taoist immortals (in his poem “Drinking Alone in the Rainy Season”, Trans. Sam Hamill):

The Eight Taoist Immortals Crossing the Sea

If Taoist immortals were once alive,

where are they today?

In the path of Suddha Sanmargam, it is not any alchemy wrought by humans or gods, but the incomparable alchemy of ARUTPERUMJOTHI which brings about the attainment of this greatest treasure of a life without death.




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