Yoga of the 18 Siddhas by Ganapathy

T. N. Ganapathy, ed. The Yoga of the 18 Siddhas: An Anthology. The Yoga Siddha Research Center Publications Series No. 3. Foreword by M. Govindan Satchitananda. Eastman, Canada: Babaji’s Kriya Yoga and Publications, 2004. Paperback, xxv + 616.

While the eighty-four mahā-siddhas, or great Tantric adepts of Northern India, are relatively well known in Western spiritual circles, their eighteen South Indian counterparts have received very little attention either from scholars or the public at large. Yet, their life stories are just as fascinating and exemplary as those of the mahā-siddhas, and their teachings also contain priceless gems of wisdom and spiritual instruction.

Given in the form of poems rather than analytical writings, the teachings of the Tamil siddhas should, as M. Govindan Satchitananda states in his foreword, “be studied by every serious student of Yoga and Tantra as well as scholars and philosophers.” The importance of these teachings derives from the fact that they were formulated by advand adepts and talk about rare aspects of the spiritual process.

Tamilnadu has spawned many great masters, and the traditional group of eighteen is, as Dr. Ganapathy makes clear, mystical rather than historical. Nor is there any agreement among traditional authorities on which master is included in the list. The present anthology features characteristic poems by the following selection of much-loved and even venerated siddhas: Nandidevar, Agyastya, Tirumūlar, Kamalamuni, Bogar, Karuvūrar, Cattaimuni, Konganar, Rāmadevar, Maccamuni, Sundarānandar, Pāmbātticcittar, Idaikkāttuccittar, Kudambaiccittar, Patanjali, Vālmīki (not identical with the author of the Rāmāyana), Gorakkar (Goraksha), and Danvantiri.

Tamil is a challenging language, and the didactic poems of the siddhas are doubly challenging, because they are composed in the Tantric “twilight language.” Even native Tamil-speaking scholars find it exceedingly difficult to wrest intelligible meaning from these poems. This volume, which clearly represents a commendable collaborative effort between the various contributors, makes the siddhas’ teachings as accessible as possible, short of actual Siddha-Yoga practice. The commentaries to the selected poems are very helpful in deciphering at least some of the layers of meaning. As can be expected, however, the explanations raise many new questions, which hopefully will be answered in future publications. But this comprehensive anthology gives the reader a taste of the siddhas’ precious teachings and.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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