Sunday, June 7, 2015

    The fourth annual sittings of this philosophic and mystic synod were held on Dec. 29, 30 and 31 of the year just closed, at the Hall of the National High School, Trichinopoly, under the presidency of the Hon'ble Mr. A. Kanakasabhai, B. A., Member of the Ceylon Legislative Council. The hall was full to overflowing, the attendance counting not less than 1200 to 1500 members, with a fair sprinkling of Europeans, which was a special feature. A large number of ladies, both young and old, graced the Conference with their presence, bearing silent testimony to the deeply spiritual nature of womankind in the East. The strains of the sweet "Tirumurai" psalms with which the proceedings were diversified to the melodious accompaniment of violin and cymbals, added greatly to the solemnity and spiritual sanctity of the meeting. The proceedings were inaugurated with a prayer to God, and Mr. T. S. Annamalai Pillai, retired Tahsildar of Trichinopoly, welcomed, as Chairman of the Reception Committee, the President, lecturers, members and delegates returned from various branch Associations. He had received the President the previous day on the platform of the Trichinopoly Junction Railway Station and conducted him in pompous and gorgeous procession to the place engaged for his sojourn in the premises of the National High School, Mr. T. S. Svaminatha Pillai, Head-Clerk of the Trichinopoly Railway Auditor's Office, read the fourth Annual Report, dwelling with satisfaction on the useful work turned out by the Conference in the past. Pandit R. S. Vedachalam Pillai of the Madras Christian College, read next his address of welcome to the President, pointing out how proud and ennobled the Conference felt in having such a learned and highly placed gentleman like the Hon. Mr. A. Kanakasabhai, in its midst, to preside over its proceedings. The Hon. Mr. A. Kanakasabhai in thanking the Pandit for the address of welcome, delivered a most interesting speech, full of common sense and wisdom, which the audience greeted by deafening cheers now and again.
    He said in effect that he felt some diffidence in occupying a seat that was so worthily filled in previous years by such eminent men of learning and spiritual culture as Messers. P. Ramanathan, P. Panditorai Tevar, and J. M. Nallaswami Pillai; but that he had come all the way from Colombo to learn the mystic basis of the glorious Saiva-Siddhanta Philosophy, rather than to teach or preach it, felling that he had almost a Divine inviting him for the presidentship. He then referred to the efforts of the early pioneers of the Saiva Siddhanta movement to expound its cult and disseminate its teachings in South India and Ceylon. Arumuga Navalar of Jaffna and Ramalinga Swami of Chidambaram were the two lights that helped in a great measure to give to the public practical proofs of the philosophical and mystical aspects of the Saiva-Siddhanta. The early European missionaries like the Rev. Mr. Hoisington could bot be thought of without the sense of a debt of gratitude for their efforts to bring to light through the medium of English what was till then locked up in Tamil libraries. He then contrasted the past conditions of Saivism in Ceylon and in India, pointing out that in the former country the aggressive religious policy adopted by the Portuguese Government, resulted in the demolition of two Saiva shrines (to rebuild which early steps will in the near future be taken), and the less aggressive if not neutral policy adopted by the Dutch Government, could at best only leave the shock, sustained by Saivism, unrepaired. It was only with the advent of the British rule that Saivism might be said to have enjoyed a season of equable peace and salutary activity. The case of India was different and consequently Indian Saivism had the advantage of an earlier start and continued culture. Any way, Saivism was a system of religious philosophy which was destined, at no distant date, to become the basis of a universal article of faith. It was a system whose date and origin could be traced to a very remote period of antiquity, and all modern schools of thought would eventually find in it the real spiritual food for human salvation, and the solution of the deeper problems of the spirit. It was built upon universal love, a love that was not merely neighborly love, not even universal brotherhood, but love of the whole universe including man, love of the whole creation. Such a universal love was a consummation to be devoutly wished for. If from any religion or any system of though, the sentiment of universal love were taken away, what remained was like a deserted house, incapable of being occupied. The President then referred to the teachings of Buddhism about non-killing, arguing from the evidence afforded thereby that there should have been indiscriminate slaughtering of animals at the time of their advent. But the Saiva-Siddhanta philosophy had abjured killing in no uncertain tones, in the name of all that man holds sacred and dear, long before the birth of Buddhism. It therefore devolved upon all the Saivites to look upon killing of animals with dismay and shame, and to put an end to flesh eating which encouraged that evil instinct. One of the first duties of the gentlemen that were assembled for the Conference was to put an end to the eating of flesh, and to discourage it in all sternness wherever it might be prevalent. Even the most superficial students of the Saiva-Siddhanta faith would know that kindliness and toleration were the earliest virtues taught by it. Divine Grace which had animated saints and sages like Manikkavacahagar and Tiruvalluvar, was the bed-rock of the Saiva-Siddhanta Movement, a rock which was firmer than the yonder rock at whose base the Conference was met to do honor to the great God. By the force of that grace, one was enabled to practice virtue; and when that power of Divine Grace was once acquired, it struck every pulse of Man's Nature, and dominated the whole course of his conduct. It was that power again which induced the practice of toleration towards others which, when constantly cultivated as a habit, led, in the fullness of time, to universal love which was necessary for the uplifting of mankind. Another leading tenet of the Saiva-Siddhanta was the belief in the operation of the karmic law which acted as surely in the moral world as in the physical, in both of which, man reaped as he sowed. Altogether, the four distinguishing points of the Saiva-Siddhanta were 'Jiva-karunyam, love towards all life, animal and human, or rational and dumb, and its concomitant, the non-killing of animals under any pretext, 'Karma', 'Toleration,' and the doctrine of 'Divine Grace' connected with the salvation of souls. And these were pre-eminently the basic elements of the cult of Saivism from Pre-Buddhistic days. The position that Saiva-Siddhanta occupied at present and the knowledge that was possessed of it was inadequate to its importance as a soul-saving system. Savants in Europe and America had not yet begun to study it as much as they had studied and understood other systems, - the Vedic Religion in its intellectual, 'Vedantic' aspect for instance. Before resuming his seat, the President gracefully acknowledged the indebtedness of the Saiva-Siddhanta cause to the works and labors of the late Dr. Pope which were calculated to convey a useful knowledge of that system to those who were unable to read the originals, and those of others like Mr. Nallaswami Pillai, who had devoted their lives to its study and propagation. He read to the audience a number of telegrams received from various places wishing God-speed to the conference.
    Mr. V. V. Ramanan, F. Z. S. (London)., etc., then delivered a brilliant discourse on the "Psychology of the Shadadhvans" which, as the President remarked, was exceedingly interesting and clear, entering into some of the most abstruse positions connected with the subjective culture of the soul.
    In the afternoon of the 29th, Pandit R. S. Vedachalam discoursed on the "Inner Meaning of Siva-Linga" drawing apt analogies from the results of recent experimental sciences, like physics and chemistry, to illustrate the deeper conceptions involved in the structure of that pratika, as a symbol of meditation. Mr. G. Sadasivam Pillai, Editor of Nagai Nilalochani, lectured on "Devotion to Guru," and Mr. A. Rangaswami Iyer, on the esoteric meaning of the "Four Paths" recognized by the Agamic Philosophy, drawing largely on Sanskrit authorities, and making his treatment of the theme practical and easily understood.
    The most noteworthy feature of the conference during its past session was the pillar of intellectual strength it had found in the pious young lady, Mrs. Andalammal, who treated it to a most solemn and thrilling discourse on the "Significance of the Sacred Ashes" on the morning of the 30th. Her delivery was impeccable, and the calm poise of her high thinking, and the rippling flow of her pure eloquence terminating with beautiful effect in a sonorous climax, whenever the dignity of the topics demanded it, was a matter for extreme praise. As a fluent and cultured speaker of Tamil, she could hold her own, by the side of the best of the sterner sex known to fame. The lecture assumed a much wider scope in her hands than the title seemed subtler spiritual aspects of the Saiva-Siddhanta, staggering the audience by the wealth of her resources, culture, and Sanskrit and Tamil authorities and quotations. The President complimented the lady-lecturer in suitably graceful terms for her accomplishments and piety, and presented her with two lots of books as souvenirs of esteem and admiration, after announcing the names of the gentlemen whose presents they were. The following encomium in Tamil verse was compiled in her honor by A. Shanmuga Pillai of Solavandan, one of the greatest Tamil pandits of the present day:-

    Mr. Nallaswami Pillai then addressed the conference on the doctrine of Karma-samya pointing out that its real sense required men to look alike on, the sweets and bitters of life, and not to be buoyed up by the one, nor depressed by the other. The pleasures and calamities had their unavoidable functions in the life of this world, and the wise man was he who with his mind ever fixed on God, was not swayed by these pairs of opposites. Such a step would pave the way for the dawning of Divine Grace on his soul.
    Mr. A. V. Gopalachariyar, M. A., B. L., High Court Vakil, Trichinopoly, then lectured on the Philosophy of the Bhagavad gita as expounded by Sri Ramanujacharya, entering into a full analysis of the contents of the Gita, and pointing out that they embraced the three modes of finding God, to wit, Karma-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga, and Bhakti-Yoga. He said that by means of Karma-Yoga the aspirant brought his senses and thoughts under perfect control, by the second, he beheld his Atman, and by the third, he saw God. He also dwelt on the fact that both Saivism and Vaishnavism were completely at one on their philosophical and mystical basis, by comparing the teachings of Srikantha with those of Ramanuja, on the Sesha-Seshi-bhava, the so-called pratitantra, the Karya-karana-bhava, the samanadhikarana and so on. He came to the conclusion that both the systems were Sakti-Visishtadvaita, and interpreted Visishtadvaita to mean the unity or oneness of Sukshma-chit-Achit-visishta-Brahman with Sthula-chit-Achit-Visishta-Brahman. He quoted from Appayya's works freely to show that even the terminology of the two forms of faith had a common basis and concept.
    In the afternoon of the 30th Mr. T. Bhaktavatsalam Pillai, B.A., read a paper on "Devotion to God," in which he deprecated materialistic thinking which was one of the fruits of the system of Western Education imparted to the youths of this country at the present day.
    Pandit Vedachalam then discoursed on "The Social aspects of Saiva-Siddhanta" in the course of which he brought grave charges against the ethic of Hindu Idealism, as being mischievous in practice, and inapplicable to social conditions of any age or clime.
    The President in his remarks on Pandit Vedachalam's speech went fully into the subject of the Social aspects of Saiva-Siddhanta. He quoted a psalm from Appar's Tevaram, and the well-known Svetasvatara text cited by Nilakantha in his Bhashya on the Brahma-sutras, and said that so far as principles were concerned, there was everything in Saivism to inculcate and uphold the social equality of all men, but in practice it was not possible to abolish all caste-distinctions at one stroke. But reform in the direction of equalization of castes was exceedingly desirable and necessary, and as a first step it behooved on the Saivaites to elevate the depressed classes by adopting towards them a more sympathetic and compassionate treatment, and by rendering them worthy of greater humanity and consideration. And thus the reform could begin in small and easy things, and proceed step by step to greater and radical changes. There was no use talking glibly about social equality, as a mere platitude, and shunning the questions when it came to practical test, and eventually making of one's vaunted profession a grace mockery. Even inter-dining between the various sections of Saivaites was not an accomplished fact. In spite of the living dicta laid down by Sambandha, Vagisa and Srikantha, the real reformation in the amelioration of castes was carried out mostly by Free-thinkers, Arya-samjaists and Brahmo-samajists.
    Mr. N. Gopalakrishna Pillai, Sub-editor, Svadesamitran, then read a communication made by Mr. R. S. Subramanyam B.A., of Colombo entitled "The work before us" which was able and full of sound sense, almost putting forward every conceivable plea for the up-lifting of the lower and down-trodden orders of the Hindu Community.
    The President then announced the invitation of H. H. the Raja of Ramnad to the Saiva-Siddhanta Conference to come over to Madura and hold its next Session there during the Christmas of December 1910. This was cheerfully and gratefully accepted by the Conference, and a standing committee of fifteen members was at once formed to arrange therefore. The President placed also before the Conference a letter received from the Private Secretary to H. H. The Gaekwar of Baroda intimating the inability of His Highness to attend the Conference from pressure of his duties and conveying his best wishes for the success of the Conference. Commenting on that letter, the President eulogized the enthusiasm of H.H. the Gaekwar for salutary social reforms, and the steadiness with which he had accomplished them in many directions by brightening the lot of the depressed classes, education of women, amelioration of caste distinctions etc., within the confines of his own state.
    The first lecture on the 31st was delivered by Mr. P. Kalyanasundara Mudaliyar on "Truth" in which he established the excellence of the Saiva-Siddhanta Philosophy, as a system of faith. The second was by Mr. S. Palvanna Mudaliyar on the "State of Mukti". The third was by Swami Rudrakotisvara on "Saiva-Siddhanta and Kindness to Animals".
    In the afternoon Mr. Damodaran Pillai, editor of Jnanasiddhi, Jaffna, treated the audience to an informing lecture on the "Nature and Characteristics of the Soul". The exposition of the various complex issues involved in the Agamic conception of the "Soul" and its distinction from "Matter" on the one hand and God on the other, was of enthralling interest, both on account of the sublimity of the theme and the lecturer's facility and felicity of expression. Mr. P. M. Muttaiya Pillai of Tuticorin then addressed the Conference on "The Gnosis of the Soul".
    A Group-photo of the President, and lecturers and leading members of the Saiva Siddhanta Conference was afterwards taken in the evening, at the combined desire of all concerned.
    Pandit R. S. Vedachalam Pillai, once more addressed the assembly on the advaita relation between God and the Universe, taking as his text Sri Umapathisivacharya's hymn beginning "புறச்சமயத்தவர்க்கிருளாய் அகச்சமயத்தொளியாய், etc.,", and the President brought the proceedings to a close with his concluding remarks in which he conveyed at some length his best wishes for the continued success and prosperity of the Conference in years to come. As the Secretary to the Conference, Pandit Vedachalam thanked all present, including the President, lecturers, delegates and members, for the trouble they had taken to go to Trichinopoly and make the Conference the success that it had proved itself to be. And with the pronouncement of a Benediction in the name of God, the Conference terminated.

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