Personal and Impersonal (4)

15/12/2011 History of Lord Ayyappa

The creative aspect of Brahman is established in personalized forms as several Gods in temples. These Godly forms at once represent both the liberating subjective aspect and the creatively objective aspects of Brahman. Special powers of grace are thus invoked in temples. For an example, let us take the famous Sri Krishna shrine at Guruvayoor in Kerala, a renowned pilgrim centre. In this temple the spiritual power is very vibrant, which any person with sensitivity would immediately experience. The Supreme Truth is represented here in the personalized form of Lord Krishna. The Supreme dwells here in a personal splendour; and for millions, Lord Krishna, affectionately called as Guruvayoorappan, is very much a Personal Reality, a protector, well-wisher and friend.

But the unconditioned aspect of Brahman, that is Para-Brahman, is beyond any such symbolization. Yet, at least in one place, in the whole of India, there is a centre of worship for Para-Brahman. It is located in South Kerala, at a place Ochira, near Kollam. Para-Brahman is conceived here in an abstract manner by a vast open field with a few banyan trees. Here is a No-thingness which is pregnant with everything, and is represented by an open space. There is no structure of a temple as such. The banyan trees and the several forms of Gods, men, serpents, etc., made of stone and kept under the trees symbolize the objective universe that arises from the Supreme Reality.

Tharaka Brahman

Dharma Sasthaenshrined in Sabarimala temple combines both the above-mentioned aspects of Brahman, which is at once expressive and transcendent. In the Puranic lore, Lord Vishnu represents the divine power of Brahman that maintains the universe, which is the objective expression of Reality, and Lord Siva, the power that releases the objective expression from its limitations and makes it one with the unconditioned glory of Reality. Dharma Sastha is a combined personification of the Vishnu and Siva aspects of Reality, representing in one Divinity both the protective and liberating power of Brahman. Hence Dharma Sastha is also known as Thaaraka Brahman. “Thaaraka” means a deliverer.

Thaaraka Brahman signifies the liberating power of Brahman. The purpose of man”s spiritual striving is to evolve from the conditioned state of existence by raising the level of consciousness gradually to its unconditioned infinite glory. As one”s existence becomes more and more object-based, one increasingly gets alienated from the liberating and solace-giving Supreme Fact. This increases the hold of objective limitation and the pain and bewilderment it causes. The spiritual striving to strengthen the contact with the Supreme Fact awakens the faculties of intuitionary guidance which, very much like a Guru, helps the seeker to equip himself to embrace the freedom of infinite expansion. It expands the object-centred existence with a broadening universal outlook. The Supreme Truth – Brahman – assumes the role of a Preceptor and Liberator – Thaaraka Brahman, symbolized by Dharma Sastha. Dharma Sasthameans one who chastises and leads to righteous living.

Dharma Sasthais also known as Kaliyuga-varada, one who protects the devotees from the evil propensities of the Kaliyuga (the present Iron Age in which the freedom-giving higher values of life get degraded) and bestows on the devotees divine grace for the smooth progress of life to the destined spiritual liberation. We shall examin how Dharma Sastha came to be known as Lord Ayyappa.

To get an insight into the blending of Dharma Sastha and Ayyappa concepts, we should make a study of the Puranic as well as the historical points of view.

While examining the Puranic lore we should have in mind some of the special characteristics of the Puranic approach. The Puraanas are not mere myths as some scholars would like us to believe, nor are they historical accounts. They combine myths and history with philosophical wisdom and are evolved by the masterminds of yore for the specific purpose of inculcating spiritual values in the common man.

( To be continued )

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