In bricks and in granite

by Sivavakkiyar

English version by Kamil V. Zvelebil
Original Language Tamil

In bricks and in granite,
in the red-rubbed lingam,
in copper and brass
is Siva's abode --
     that's what you tell us,
     and you're wrong.
Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God,
     full of His dance and spell
          and song.

-- from The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal, Translated by Kamil V. Zvelebil

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/ Image by Natesh Ramasamy /

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

I have always loved the poetry of Civivakkiyar since I first discovered it years ago. There is a directness that is at times blunt, along with a teasing quality, and underlying it all a radiant realization that rises up through the words. Even his name, Civivakkiyar, feels like poetry on the tongue.

This poem exhibits the Tamil Siddha opposition to orthodoxy and mindless ritualism -- which tend to externalize God, separating the individual from the presence of the Divine. Civivakkiyar is proclaiming that God (Siva) is not only found in temples and objects of worship, places and things that have been separated out and defined as sacred. Not "in bricks and in granite," not in the "lingam" (a common representation of Siva), not in the ritual objects of "copper and brass."

To say that God is in the temple or the altar or the icon and not elsewhere impoverishes us spiritually. That perspective makes us strangers to the presence of the sacred, which is everywhere, always.

The truth is that God is not 'out there' (wherever we imagine 'there' to be). The Divine is right here, right now, within us:

Stay where you are
and study your own selves.
Then you will BECOME
the Temple of God...

It is only within ourselves that we find the proper ground to worship and ultimately encounter God, whether we stand in the temple precinct, or the marketplace, the forest grove, or the office space.

When we stop running from sacred place to sacred place and, instead, finally recognize the living sacred presence everywhere -- and most especially within ourselves -- then we experience such an uninhibited flow of life and delight that we become filled with the eternal "dance and spell / and song."

Recommended Books: Sivavakkiyar

The Poets of the Powers: Freedom, Magic, and Renewal

In bricks and in