Spirituality

If we are born only to die, then why are we born?

Thank You everybody for taking the time to wish me on my birthday. While it would be appropriate to thank each one of you individually, I unfortunately can’t. So, here is a collective Thank You to all. It is also pertinent to note that since the time I turned the corner and nudged over 40, I have stopped celebrating or even acknowledging my birthday – to me nudging over 40, is an indicator that I have close to a 0% chance of living as many years as I have already lived. Now, that I have gone past 45 it is positively 0 (at least as far as I am concerned – don’t ask me how but suffice to say that I just know when I will go…)

That apart, it is also the time when questions that really matter become important – questions that are the foundational basis of why we live. When I was still very young, there was a question that I asked of my own younger self – “If we are born only to die, then why are we born?” – that put me on a path that I continue to stumble along and as for the answer – I am nowhere near and hence the greater urgency…

Culture, Spirituality

CHINNAJAMIYAR – THE THURAVI OF TANJAVUR

“Chinnajamiyar” is a colloquialism for “Chinna Samiyar” as Sri Chinnaswami Iyengar was known. He was what one would call a “Muttrina Thuravi” (a highly advanced ascetic in Tamizh). He led a fairly normal life well into his thirties and in fact was a government servant in British India.

One day a strange feeling overwhelmed him while working in his office. He got up from his chair and started walking as if in a daze. Even as he walked, he first unfurled his turban and dropped it on the floor, then his shirt, followed by his dhoti, and then even his undergarments – all the while walking in a trance-like state. Stark naked he kept walking. His friends and colleagues from the office rushed after him and tried to stop him but to no avail, then his relatives who brought with them doctors but nothing would shake Chinna Jamiyar – he had crossed over to the other side… forever…

In a sense the dropping of the clothes was a symbolic though totally unplanned expression of the dropping away of all worldly attachments. For the rest of his life, Chinna Jamiyar lived like this oblivious to and of the world but totally absorbed in the self. He wandered about for a year sleeping on any Thinnai (the concrete bench laid out in the open courtyard of traditional houses) he felt like. Since he was a local, no one objected – it was after a year that he seemed to come back a little to the plane of normal existence (only a little) and allowed himself the luxury of a Kaupina (loin cloth).

Slowly, people started seeing him for what he was and had become now and started calling him “Sami” then “Samiyar” and then later “Chinna Jamiyar”

He never taught anything but anybody who came into his presence was known to be caught up in the power he exuded. Those that came to him with problems were either tongue tied or realized later that their problems had disappeared. Children were particularly attracted to him because they saw what many did not see and he too related to them and their innocence…

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Chinna Jamiyar was another one of those great “mauna-munis” the silent Dakshinamurthi swarupa who’s silence was louder than their words.

And, as he said:

There are parents to teach life…
There is a teacher for learning alphabets and numbers. 
There are artists to teach arts. 
There is a guru to impart works of philosophy.
There is God to grant divinity. 
But there is only the self for enlightenment.

Chinna Jamiyar is one of some of the great unknown munis that I am compiling into a book – Dakshinamurthy willing…

I first read about Chinna Jamiyar in the online edition of Sri Sivan Sir’s (the purva-ashrama brother of the Kanchi Paramacharya) book: “Yeni Padigalil Mandargal” (Human Beings on the ladder of Spiritual Evolution). Unfortunately, the online link seems broken now…

Sivan Sir’s Yeni Padigalil Mandargalsivan
Sivan Sir with the Kanchi Paramacharya

Source Credits for the Photos: http://mahaperiyavapuranam.org/maha-periyava-sri-sivan-sar/

Culture, History, Religion, Spirituality

Sadasiva Brahmendra – The Avadutha-Mouna Muni

Two events changed the very contours and course of Sadasiva Brahmendra’s life completely – the first transformed him from a Brahmachari on the threshold of Grahastha-ashrama-dharma into a Sanyasi and the second from a Sanyasi into a Mouna-Muni (silent sage), an epitome of the“Dakshinamoorthy-Swaroopa”

In his celebrated “Atma Vidya Vilasa” (“Living in the Knowledge of the Atma/Self”), which Sri Ramana Maharishi considered a masterpiece on Advaita, Sadasiva Brahmendra describes in the space of 62 verses what and how it “feels” to live soaked in the bliss of “Atmanananda” (The joy of self-realization) Anyone who reads it along with Sadasiva’s life story would be able to conclude that it is actually an autobiographical account of Sadasiva’s life particularly after he “crossed over to the other side”

Consider verses five and six below where he talks about that momentous moment when the crossover happened:

स्वाविद्यैकनिबद्धः कुर्वन्कर्माणि मुह्यमानः सन् । दैवाद्विधृतबन्धः स्वात्मज्ञानान्मुनिर्जयति ॥ ५॥

He who was earlier bound by his own ignorance (despite possessing all knowledge of the Vedas), and who was engaged in and tied to (worldly) activities and felt bewildered (as a consequence of that), now shines as a victorious sage, having by God’s grace, shaken-off his shackles, with the knowledge of and the realization of the Atman (his own Self).

मायावशेन सुप्तो मध्ये पश्यन्सहस्रशः स्वप्नान् । देशिकवचःप्रबुद्धो दीव्यत्यानन्दवारिधौ कोऽपि ॥ ६॥

He who was sleeping (in ignorance), completely under the influence of maya and seeing a thousand dreams (in the waking state too), is now awakened by the words of his guru and (forever) delights in the ocean of bliss.

Sivaramakrishna to Sadasiva:

No one is clear on the exact date-of-birth of Sadasiva Brahmendra. However, there is universal consensus that he was a contemporary of two other prominent Hindu saints of the time Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval and Sri Bodhendra Saraswathi the latter being the 60th Jagathguru of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. This would place him in and around the 18thcentury. The three were in fact Veda Pathashala classmates.

Sadasiva was born to the couple Moksha Somasundara Avadhaani and Parvati and was named Sivaramakrishna. It was later that he came to be known as Sadasiva, for he was forever in an exalted state, merged and completely soaked as it were in Siva-Tattva.

Sivan Sir (Sri Sadasiva Sastrigal), a great saint in his own right and the purva-ashrama brother of the Kanchi Mahaperiayava Shri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi has dedicated an entire chapter to Sadasiva Brahmendra in his Tamil book “Yeni Padigalil Mandargal”

In that book he never refers to “Sadasiva” as “Brahmendra”. He calls him “Brahmam” meaning “pure essence” because he believed that Sadasiva had transcended the human form and was a living example of “Brahma-Tattva” in its purest form. At several places in the book he also chooses to use the pronoun “It” to refer to Sadasiva.

As was the custom in those days, Sivaramakrishna was invested with the poonal (sacred thread) when he was five and enrolled into a Veda Pathashala where he was the brightest star – precocious and gifted but with an argumentative streak bordering on stubbornness and a strong determination to win every argument. As soon as he finished his study of the Vedas, his parents got him married and as was the custom during those days, Sivaramakrishna continued to live with his parents as a Brahmachari and his wife stayed with her parents till she attained puberty.

Soon after she attained puberty a grand function and feast was arranged by Sivaramakrishna’s parents to welcome her to their house. As his mother was busy with the arrangements, Sadasiva’s food was delayed. He was hungry and when he asked his mother to serve him food, she jokingly retorted that his wife was coming home, hence the delay and he probably should also tone down his expectations post-marriage. This stray remark had a strange effect on 17-year old Sivaramakrishna. He thought if this is my state before my wife comes home what would it be after she comes home and he fell into deep contemplation. That night he walked away never to return.

One might ask the question as to how this was fair to his wife but that is a question that is relevant only to those on the human plane of existence. For those like Sadasiva, or Ramana, or the Buddha for example when the “call” comes there is no room for such thoughts. The individual is led as it were by a force that takes complete control over him/her who has submitted to its will – complete Sharanagati. 

For a few years he was a parivrajaka, a wandering monk before he met Sri Paramasivendra Sarasawathi Yati and became his disciple.It was during his time here that he composed three of his great works on Advaita- ‘Bramhasuthra Vrithi’, ‘Yogasuthra Vrithi’, ‘Siddhantha Kalpavalli’

It was here that the second big change happened – Many other saints, philosophers and scholars used to visit Sri Paramasivendra Saraswathi’s ashram and they used to indulge in debates on topics of Vedanta, philosophy and so on. Sivaramakrishna who as we noted earlier had a strong argumentative streak used to participate in all of these debates and always won each and every argument – he was fierce, stubborn and never gave a quarter and argued aggressively with the sole intention of winning. Many senior scholars felt humiliated and some of these vanquished scholars went to Sri Paramasivendra Saraswati and complained to him about how they felt humiliated by Sivaramakrishna.

The Guru called his disciple and asked him “Siva, of what use are these debates? When are you going to conquer your tongue?” This question triggered something in Siva and he answered “Guru!Today I believe that I have truly received your grace…” That was it, the great scholar, the fierce debater, the argumentative young man descended into absolute silence and never opened his mouth again.

This event must have happened when Siva was probably in his early twenties. Records show that he was well over a 100 years old when he attained Sajeeva-Samadhi- so he never uttered a word for well over eighty years of his life – Siva that day became Sadasiva, the mouna muni. He also walked out of the ashram much like he had walked out of his home – he became an Avadutha, the sky-clad sage with not a care for the body or social etiquette or the vicissitudes of the individual ego.

He used to sit under a tree or simply lie down on the ground completely unaware of his surroundings or his own body lost in meditation. Some of his ashram mates who saw him in this state, reported back to his Guru saying that Siva had become insane. The Guru who was aware of what had happened replied “It is that ‘madness’ that I myself have been searching for. I am sad that the very same ‘madness’ that has overwhelmed Sadasiva has not yet come to me. I would gladly give up anything to be overcome by such madness…

Sadasiva – the Kalpataru

Sadasiva had completely consumed Sivaramakrishna andhe wandered oblivious of himself but conscious of only his “Self”. He slept in the open fields and was sometimes found lying in the cowshed in animated conversation with the cows. People who took him to be a madman soon realized that there was a strange peace that pervaded his presence and he seemed to emit an other-worldly Shakti. They also noticed that any place he visited was soon transformed. If he slept in the courtyard of a house during the night and walked away without a word early next morning it meant that the people of the house could expect a long unfulfilled wish to finally come true – it could be the desire for a child, relief from a chronic disease or escape from poverty and soon.

There are several miracles attributed to Sadasiva Brahmendra some bordering on the unbelievable and incredible. It would be beyond the scope of this article to chronicle all of them. We will however look at one of them that has been immortalized in stone at the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore. Once Sadasiva walked right through the harem of a Muslim Nawab who had pitched his tent on a field. Sadasiva, stark naked walked in from one end and out through the other. The Brahma-Jnani that he was, he walked in a trance oblivious to the women and their screams of horror on seeing a naked man.

On witnessing this, the Nawab overwhelmed byuncontrollable rage, ran after the naked saint and with his sword drawn severed one hand of Sadasiva from behind with one stroke of his sword. The severed hand fell down. But Sadasiva unaware of the fallen arm, the bloody stump, or the flowing blood kept walking.

The shocked Nawab picked up the severed arm and ran after Sadasiva, caught up with him and fell at his feet apologizing profusely. Sadasiva noticed him and gesticulated asking him what the matter was. The Nawab showed the severed hand to Brahmendra and apologized once again. Sadasiva once again gesticulated to him to place the severed hand in its appropriate spot. To the amazement of the Nawab the severed hand fixed itself without any problem whatsoever and Sadasiva walked on. His fame spread far and wide after this incident and people tried to meet him or make him sit at one place or establish an ashram but for Sadasiva none of this mattered. He remained till the end a wandering Avadutha.

He is said to have met Raja Thondaiman of Pudukottai and initiated him into the Dakshinamurthy Mantra by writing the mantra on sand. The King picked up the sand and this sand is preserved till today in a casket and worshipped at the Dakshinamoorthy temple inside the Pudukottai palace in Pudukottai

The Dhana Akarshana Yantra in the Kalyana Venkataramana Temple in Thanthoni Malai (who is the Kula Deivam of this author) was also placed there by Sri Brahmendra.

Sadasiva Brahmendra attained Jeeva Samadhi in Nerur (Karur district of Tamil Nadu). There are reports of people having seen him enter into Jeeva Samadhi simultaneously at 5 places symbolizing the dissipation of the physical body into the panchabhutas – the other four being Manamadurai, Puri, Kashi, and Karachi. Of these it is only the Nerur Adishtanam that remains popular and also there is a small Shiva temple at Manamadurai. The others have disappeared due to lack of knowledge or sheer negligence.

It is ironical that Sadasiva Brahmendra’s kirithis like Manasa Sancharare, Bruhi Mukundethi, Pibare Rama Rasam, Gayathri Vanamali, or Bhajare Gopalam are more famous than the great saint who composed them. Perhaps their popularity is due to the fact that they have been sung by Carnatic greats like M.S Subbulakshmiand BalaMuraliKrishna.

It is believed that Sadasiva Brahmendra still residesin a Bilva tree near his Samadhi and anyone who meditates there can experience his presence and grace. It might not matter to the Brahmam (Sadasiva Brahmendra) that so few people know of him because as he notes in the fifty-third verse of his autobiographical Atma Vidya Vilasa:

The king of sanyasi’s rests alone, established in the Self within and enjoying inner bliss; he rejects nothing that comes to him and never desires what does not come to him…

However, it should matter to those who are on thepath for there is much to gain from not just reading about Sadasiva Brahmendra but by also visiting his Samadhi at Nerur.

Pictures:The Nerur Adhishtanam and the Samadhi of Sadasiva Brahmendra

This article first appeared on Sirf News and can be accessed here

Culture, Religion, Spirituality

THE PEERLESS HANUMAN

Rama was once talking to Agastya and the discussion went into the topic of who were the greatest warriors that Rama had faced. Rama immediately named two – Vali and Ravana and then smiled while adding “…but neither was a patch on Hanuman, nor could they do any of the incredible things that Hanuman could… Hanuman is the greatest warrior” – In this assessment, Rama included himself as well.

Agastya responded to Rama saying “No one in the entire Universe is as patient, intelligent, brave, wise, strong and brilliant as Hanuman…”

Once Sage Narada declared that the greatest devotee of Vishnu was Baktha Prahalada. Prahalada immediately corrected him saying “No, Hanuman is greater…”

At the level of the Sadhaka, Hanuman is the great gatekeeper – not only does he guard the gates but he chooses who can enter and who cannot, he also helps those who are sincere in their attempt and Sadhana…his assessment of who needs help and who can enter is always unerring…

As Tulsidas says in his Hanuman Chalisa:

<< राम दुआरे तुम रखवारे । होत न आज्ञा बिन पैसारे ॥ >>
[You are the gatekeeper to the abode of Rama. No one can enter without your permission/blessing]

And then, no one has greater control over the senses than Hanuman – complete control – that is why he is called “Jitendrriya”

And then at a metaphorical and philosophical level he is the great bridge who connects the atman (Sita) to the Paramatman (Rama) fighting to dispel all difficulties on the path, just as he helped Sita unite with Rama – all it requires is for a Sadhak to come into his sharan… Sharanagathi and he will offer all help.

To the Vaishnavites he is the Baktha Shiromani and to the Saivites he is the Shivamsha, Rudra-swarupa, often called the eleventh Rudra...

When the time came for Rama to leave the Earth he prevailed upon Hanuman to stay back bestowing upon him immortality – Hanuman who could not imagine an existence without his beloved Rama asked “How will I live without you, give me a boon so that I can be constantly reminded of you…” and Rama told him “You Hanuman, will live as long as the story of my life is told…”

Every time the word Rama is uttered or his story is told, he comes and sits nearby with tears of devotion flowing from his eyes…

Namakkal, Suchindram and Yantrodharaka Hanuman murtis in the pictures – three places that changed me completely… #Mandirwahinbanayenge

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Culture, History, Spirituality

Dharma and its significance

The reason we find ourselves in this present state is a result of Dharma being divorced from culture and politics. In ancient India Dharma ring-fenced everything.

In the Shanti parva of the Mahabharata Yudhistra asks Bhishma about how the King derives his divine right to rule. Bhishma cautions him saying while it may be that he has a divine right, let us not forget that he has a social contract to the people and this social contract is subservient to Dharma. A king who fails to uphold Dharma can be removed by the people.

Kautilya makes an even more elegant observation – Dharma and Danda are the the two guiding principles but even Danda is subservient to Dharma. The power of a ruler to use Danda (punishment) is lost the moment he fails to follow Dharma or uphold it in the country and the people have the right to rebel and remove such a king. Unlike the Stuart Kings of England/Europe we were never a culture where the King was answerable only to God and by default to the Church. Every single act was for the protection and promotion of Dharma which ring-fenced the cultural, social, economic, political, religious, and spiritual domains of a state.

There is also the example of the Jain monk Aryadeva who once stood up to a King and asked him “Who are you, you who survive on 1/6 of the grains we give you, what gives you the right to treat people like your servants, you have been appointed to serve us…”

Today, those who bring up the need for Dharma-Rakhshana are disparaged as the “Cultural-right” not understanding that Left and Right are western constructs that have no meaning as far as we are concerned and cultural-right is plain stupidity.

One valid argument I have heard on this is that no one has made an attempt to build and showcase a framework of how Dharma can be brought back into focus and if a Dharma-based polity is at all possible (given how much things have changed). It is in this direction that efforts have to be made and a workable framework and/or a white paper needs to be brought out. That should be the starting point…

File:Krishna and Pandavas along with Narada converse with Bhishma who is on bed of Arrows.jpg

Image source:

Culture, Religon, Spirituality

THE BOY, THE SWAMI AND A RAINY DAY

Many many years ago a young boy ran into what was then known as the Swami Vivekananda Ashram (now called the Swami Ramakrishna Ashram) in Halasuru, Bengaluru – not because of any love for the Swami or the Hindu Dharma but because it was raining and in the long stretch connecting old Madras road and CMH road this was the one place that seemed ideal to shelter from the pouring rain.

The boy walked into the main hall where a few people were singing bhajans – it was the time for the evening aarati. He walked in and out as the bhajan did not appeal to him and instead went around the little temple and then his eyes fell on the little stone plaque embedded into the wall with the words:

“Every soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these and be free.”

The boy stood transfixed staring at the words – reading and re-reading those words. It was like his feet were nailed to the ground below, unable to move. He stood there for no less than 30 minutes oblivious of the men, women, and children filing past till the time one of the young monks (who he would later come to know and respect as Shankar Maharaj) asked him what he wanted and the young boy shuffled away without a word.

For that young deracinated boy it was a homecoming, a return to his source. He has since traveled the world but he has always come back home like a bird with a string tied to its feet – reeled-in each time he crossed a threshold…

I am that boy from many many years ago. I am eternally grateful to that “Hindoo Monk” who woke me up and brought me back into the fold of the Dharma. I have never shared this before but today on the occasion of his 155th Jayanti I was instructed to share it and so I have….Please don’t ask me by whom, what, or why – some things are best left unsaid…

ॐ…

Swami vivekananda