T. N. Ganapathy, trans. The Yoga of Siddha Boganathar. St. Etienne de Bolton, Quebec: Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications, 2003 and 2004. Paperback, vol. 1, xvii + 355 pages; vol. 2, xv + 523 pages. Vol. 1: US $24.45 / CAN $32.16; Vol. 2: US $30.95 / CAN $34.72. Prices include shipping (and local taxes for orders from Canada).
The teachings of the Siddhas ( Sitthars) of Tamilnadu are little known among Western Yoga practitioners, and there are only a handful of research organizations that investigate this branch of the yogic heritage. Also, few researchers are qualified to translate the Tamil scriptures on Yoga, because the Siddhas generally use highly symbolic and covert language to speak about their experiences and realizations. Among those rare scholars is Prof. T. N. Ganapathy, who is head of the newly created Yoga Siddha Research Centre in Chennai, which was launched in 2003 in collaboration with Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas ( Canada).
Boganathar, or simply Bogar, is said to have been the guru of the famous Babaji Nagaraj, founder of Kriya-Yoga. Prof. Ganapathy has devoted an entire chapter to Bogar’s life and teachings. The fact is, very little is known of this adept’s lifestory, and the little we know stems from autobiographical comments in Boganathar’s own work (i.e., The 7000 [Verses] ofBogar), which the translator has diligently scanned for every last scrap of relevant information. Bogar appears to have been born into a family of gold-smiths, was initiated into Kundalini-Yoga by Kalangi (a disciple of the famous Tirumular), and gained Self-realization and all the great paranormal abilities of an adept.
Bogar further claimed to have acquired a golden-hued “divine body” ( divya-deha), which he kept alive for thousands of years and in which he traveled in many foreign lands, notably China (some pundits even think that Bogar is identical with Lao Tzu. In his poetry, he also speaks of such anachronisms as a parachute, an airplane, a steamship, and a self-propelled car. Did the adept gaze into the future? Given this kind of self-testimony, Prof. Ganapathy abstained from fixing Bogar’s life chronologically. But if Bogar was indeed a disciple of one of Tirumular’s pupils, he can be placed sometime between the 300 and 600 A.D. Indian traditionalists, however, disagree with the conventional scholarly dating of Tirumular and place this Siddha in the third millennium B.C. and earlier.
Luckily, Tirumular’s and also Bogar’s exact dates are quite irrelevant when it comes to appreciating their respective works. If it is claimed, however, that the latter practiced Kundalini-Yoga as does Prof. Ganapathy, then we must also place Bogar into the appropriate era. Kundalini-Yoga, as he wrote about it, did not come into its own until c. 500 A.D., with the full emergence of Tantra as a scriptural tradition. Without stating so, Prof. Ganapathy appears to favor such a date himself, since he interprets Bogar’s reference to the “twelve religions” in verse 13 of the Jnana Pujavidias including the Madhyamaka and Yogacara Schools of Buddhism, which belong to the second and fourth centuries A.D. respectively. Bogar also claimed to have seen the disciples of Jesus, which, unless we assume he was able to travel into the future or possessed the faculty of remote-viewing or precognition, also confirms his later date. In this case we may take his statement as indicative of his ability to “visit” the past in deep meditation.
Be that as it may, Bogar’s teaching is not only profound (as one would expect of a Tantric teaching) but also illuminating for anyone wishing to penetrate the secrets of Kundalini-Yoga. As one might expect, his yogic teaching in many ways parallels what we can glean from the Sanskrit scriptures of Tantra and Hatha-Yoga. The advantage of studying Bogar’s work is that it was clearly authored by a master of the Tantric tradition, and his words have a special power.
The claim made by Marshall Govindan Satchidananda in his foreword to volume 2 that this is the first rendering into English of any of Boganathar’s writings is incorrect, as the American Tamil scholar Layne Little published a selection of this great adept’s verses some years ago. However, the present two-volume rendition has at least three advantages. First, it is the most extensive anthology on Boganathar available today. Second, the translation was prepared by a scholar who over many years has immersed himself deeply into the Siddha literature and spiritual teachings. Third, each of the two volumes includes the Tamil text in transliteration, a word-by-word translation, the excellent translation itself, a summary, and an all-important commentary without which many of the verses would remain unintelligible to the lay reader.
Tamil is a very challenging language, and the Tamil Siddhas are especially difficult to translate. Even an accomplished scholar and translator as Prof. Ganapathy has had to struggle at times to ferret out the meaning of a verse or find the right words to express it in English. Fortunately, he was added in his labors by flashes of insight in the middle of the night—a gift from the Siddhas themselves, perhaps.
Bogar—yogi, miracle-worker, and healer—is one of the most colorful figures in the long history of India’s spiritual heritage. One can only hope that Prof. Ganapathy’s translation will reach many Western students of Yoga, and Kriya-Yoga in particular, and that it will serve as a stepping-stone to a complete English rendering of Bogar’s7000. Until then, we are greatly indebted to the present translator for his pioneering efforts.
The two volumes can be ordered from: Kriya Yoga Publications, 196 Mountain Road, P.O. Box 90, Eastman, Quebec, Canada J0E 1P0.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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