Agastya Muni - The Father of Southern India’s Mysticism
Agastya Muni was known as the father of Southern India’s mysticism who lived an exceptionally long life and spread the spiritual process across the subcontinent with such vigor and energy that stories of his deeds are still alive in people's hearts and minds.
Who was Agastya Muni?
Sadhguru: Kanti Sarovar means “a lake of grace.” It was named as the Lake of Grace because the first transmission of Yoga happened on the banks of this lake. Fifteen thousand years ago, when Adiyogi appeared in the upper regions of Himalayas, people gathered in thousands. His very persona was such that it attracted people. But he said nothing. He simply sat there unmoving for months on end. If someone has to sit like this, he must be beyond his physical nature. Only seven people identified this and they stayed back. These seven people are referred to today as the Saptarishis or the seven celestial sages.
One day, when Adiyogi’s attention fell upon them, he gave them a few preparatory steps and said, “You prepare, let’s see.” He noticed that they have become like shining receptacles and he sat down on the banks of Kanti Sarovar and started expounding the science of Yoga. They went into long periods of Samadhi states to assimilate this science and knowing, and to integrate that into the human form. The most prominent of them is Agastya.
The legend says that he went into his sadhana in a subterranean space and stayed there in a mode of hibernation for a long period of time. When he came out, he had completely integrated the knowledge as a part of himself, carrying it not as intellectual property but as a reverberating process of his own human system. He decided to fulfill his mission of going south, and of all the seven disciples, he became the most prominent because of the vigor with which he spread this across the southern part of the subcontinent.
Agastya Muni - An Exceptional Being who Lived an Extraordinary Life
Agastya Muni lived an extraordinary life. It is believed that he also lived an extraordinary span of life. The legend says that he lived for 4000 years.
We do not know whether he lived for 4000 years, but he definitely lived much longer than a normal human lifespan. If you look at the volume of activity he performed in his life, it does not look like he died in 100 years’ time. He must have lived for at least 400 years because the volume of activity he performed is not possible within a normal human lifespan. Today, we are jetting around and driving around, so we are able to do so many more things in a short span of time. But the kind of travel Agastya did on foot, it is impossible for a man to have done that much activity in a normal span of human life. He definitely lived very long.
Agastya Muni - The Father of Southern India’s Mysticism
Yoga came in a particular format to Southern India through Agastya. In many ways, Agastya is the father of Southern Indian mysticism.
All the siddhars of Southern India are very much in the tradition of Agastya. Southern Indian mysticism has a different flavor to it. That is because of Agastya. In a way, everything that I do is just a small extension to Agastya’s work. He built a colossus of a place. We are just adding one extra room to it. He ensured that some element of spirituality is in everyone’s life. It may be going away, but if you just look at the last generation, it is still very much there. Even a simple peasant in southern India has some element of spirituality in him. This was Agastya’s work.
If you go to the southern part of India, anywhere south of the Vindhyachal mountains, in almost every village, people will say, “Agastya Muni meditated here, Agastya Muni lived in this cave, Agastya Muni planted this tree.” There are an endless number of stories like this because he touched every human habitation south of the Himalayas with a spiritual process – not as a teaching, religion, or some kind of philosophy, but as a part of life. As your mother taught you how to get up in the morning and brush your teeth, the spiritual process was taught like that.
You can see the remnants of this being practiced unconsciously by common people, not even knowing that it is a spiritual process. The way you sit, stand and do things, everything has a spiritual basis. In spite of eight to ten generations of absolute poverty, you will still see that there is a certain sense of balance, joy, and contentment in people, which you rarely see anywhere else on the planet.
Agastya Muni’s Incredible Legacy - The South Face of Kailash
Kailash is like a tremendous spiritual library for me. When they say this is the abode of Shiva, it does not mean he is still dancing on the snow. It means that everything that he was is invested in that place. Not just him, everyone else who came invested their energies in Kailash. For me, the most significant thing is that Agastya Muni invested his energies in Kailash. Agastya is the source of everything that is Southern Mysticism and the very source of everything that I am and he invested everything that he was in the Southern face of Kailash. In terms of natural beauty, there are no words for it, but in terms of its power and energy, it is absolutely incredible.
Agastya Muni - The Creator of Kalaripayattu, The Oldest Martial Art
Kalaripayattu is probably the oldest martial art form on the planet. It was essentially taught by Agastya Muni to start with because martial arts are not just about kicking, punching or stabbing. It is about learning to use the body in every possible way. It not only involves exercise and other aspects of agility, it also involves understanding the energy system. There is Kalari chikitsa and Kalari marma which involves knowing the secrets of the body and healing the body quickly to keep the body in a regenerative mode. Maybe in today’s world there are very few Kalari practitioners who dedicate enough time, energy, and focus, but if you go deep enough, you will naturally move towards Yoga because anything that came from Agastya cannot be any other way than being spiritual. It is just another possible way of exploration.
There are unexplored dimensions of the body. Some martial arts masters can kill you just with a little touch. Killing someone with a touch is not a big deal. If you can make them come alive with a touch, that is a big thing. With a simple touch, the whole system can come awake. If you explore this human system, this is a cosmos by itself. It can do tremendous things just sitting here. This is the way of Yoga. Kalari is just a more active form of that.
Agastya Muni - Pioneer of Siddha Vaidya
Siddha vaidya is an evolution from the Yogic science and was essentially formulated by Agastya Muni. They say Adiyogi himself practiced it and Agastya brought it to the Southern part of India. It is elemental in nature, which needs less study but more internal mastery for the person who practices it. Essentially it is elemental in nature. It comes more from the Yogic science because the fundamental of Yogic science is in Bhuta Shuddhi or cleansing of one’s elements.
What We Can Learn from the Legend of Agastya
We look at Agastya and the other Saptarishis with open-mouthed wonder, because these human beings do not look human. They may look special, but actually they built themselves up. The aspiration, the determination, the unyielding focus without any support, how they worked and worked even as they were neglected – this preparation is the most important aspect about them. It did not matter to them if they had to come back and do eighty-four lifetimes of preparation; they were willing to do it.
The Saptarishis did not drop from the sky. No one knows where they were born in the Indian subcontinent. Some women would have delivered them somewhere in some insignificant place. They did not drop from heaven; they built themselves up. That is what is significant about their life story and about Yoga and sadhana: no matter who you are, how the hell you were born, who your parents were, what kind of karma you have – if you are willing, you can build yourself up.
Let us say Agastya Muni was from a local village here and he just vanished. He went to the Himalayas to be with Adiyogi. What do you think the villagers were talking about Agastya? Do you think they were praising his parents saying, “Oh, your son is becoming a great sage?” No. They were making fun of his parents, saying “Your idiot boy, where is he?” Even if he came back after whatever number of years, do you think they would have been thrilled to see him? Excited that he had gone to Himalayas, met Adiyogi and returned? No, they would have laughed at him as he came back in a loincloth looking like a wild creature. Now, we may look at the man in terms of what he became with open-mouthed wonder, but in his time, there was no recognition or appreciation. No one clapped their hands for him. Everyone thought he was a nutcase who left his parents, the irresponsible boy who ran away. Through all that, never wavering – just being on, on, on – that is Agastya Muni. His direction was set and no matter what happened, he chose to remain in grace, never wavering from what he was doing.
So if you want to become an Agastya Muni… if you can emulate this, why not?