Great Gurus of Kerala
Jagad Guru Adi Shankaracharya
Shankracharya was one of India's foremost philosophers. Shankara was born in a Brahmin family in 788 AD in a village named Kaladi on the banks of the river Poorna (now Periyar) in Eranakulam district of Kerala. His parents, Sivaguru and Aryamba, had been childless for a long time and the birth of Shankara was a joyous and blessed occasion for the couple. Legend has it that Aryamba had a vision of Lord Shiva and promised her that he would incarnate in the form of her first-born child. He is said to have lost his father early in his life. He renounced the world and became a sannyasin (ascetic) against his mother's will. He studied under Govinda, who was a pupil of Gaudapada the author of an important Vedanta work, Mandukya-karika.
Biographers narrate that Sankara first went to Kasi (Varanasi), a city celebrated for learning and spirituality, and then travelled all over India, holding discussions with philosophers of different creeds. His heated debate with Mandana Misra, a philosopher of the Mimamsa (Investigation) school, whose wife served as an umpire, is perhaps the most interesting episode in his biography and may reflect a historical fact; that is, keen conflict between Sankara, who regarded the knowledge of Brahman as the only means to final release, and followers of the Mimamsa school, which emphasized the performance of ordained duty and the Vedic rituals.
Sankara was active in a politically chaotic age. He would not teach his doctrine to city dwellers. The power of Buddhism was still strong in the cities, though already declining, and Jainism, a nontheistic ascetic faith, prevailed among the merchants and manufacturers. Popular Hinduism occupied the minds of ordinary people, while city dwellers pursued ease and pleasure. There were also epicureans in cities. It was difficult for Sankara to communicate Vedanta philosophy to these people. Consequently, Sankara propagated his teachings chiefly to sannyasins and intellectuals in the villages, and he gradually won the respect of Brahmans and feudal lords. He enthusiastically endeavoured to restore the orthodox Brahmanical tradition without paying attention to the bhakti (devotional) movement, which had made a deep impression on ordinary Hindus in his age.
Shankara interpreted Vedanta philosophy in a strictly Advaita (non dual, monistic) spirit. In essence this philosophy involves attaining the Supreme Transcendental Consciousness (Brahman) by detaching oneself from the material plane (also know as Maya or illusion.)
Despite teaching about the essential unreality of the world Shankara lived a life of great energy and action. In his short life span of 32 years he travelled to every corner of India spreading his advaita philosophy. Shankaracharya left a profound legacy on the spirituality of India. By the end of his life the Vedas were looked upon in a new light helping to unify the spiritual beliefs of India. He also reorganised the ancient monastic Swami order, which still continues to this day.
Shankaracharya engaged in many epic discussions with renowned scholars about the Veda's. Shankaracharya would invariably win these debates. It is said that many of his adversaries later became his followers because they were so impressed with his wisdom. Shankaracharya also had many disciples but only four are known (from their writings): Padmapada, Suresvara, Totaka, and Hastamalaka.Adi Shankara founded four Madams, to guide the Hindu religion. These are at Sringeri (Sarada Peedam) in Karnataka in the south, Dwaraka in Gujarat in the west, Puri (Govardhana Peedam) in Orissa in the east, and Jyotirmath (Joshimath) in Uttarakhand in the north. Hindu tradition states that he put in charge of these mathas his four main disciples: Sureshwaracharya, Hastamalakacharya, Padmapadacharya, and Totakacharya respectively. The heads of the mathas trace their authority back to these figures. Each of the heads of these four mathas takes the title of Shankaracharya ("the learned Shankara") after the first Shankara. The madham at Kanchi (Kamakoti peedam), Tamil Nadu, claims that it was founded by Adi Shankara. Their foundation was one of the most significant factors in the development of his teachings into the leading philosophy of India
After only a life of 32 years Shankaracharya embarked on his last journey to the Himalaya's. His last resting place was Kedarnath where Shankaracharya is said to have merged into Mahasamadhi. Many consider Shankaracharya to be a reincarnation of Lord Shiva.
More than 300 works - commentative, expository, and poetical - written in the Sanskrit language, are attributed to him. Most of them, however, cannot be regarded as authentic. His masterpiece is the Brahma-sutra-bhasya, the commentary on the Brahma-sutra, which is a fundamental text of the Vedanta school. The commentaries on the principal Upanisads that are attributed to Sankara are certainly all genuine, with the possible exception of the commentary on the Svetasvatara Upanisad. The commentary on the Mandukya-karika was also composed by Sankara himself. It is very probable that he is the author of the Yoga-sutra-bhasya-vivarana, the exposition of Vyasa's commentary on the Yoga-sutra, a fundamental text of the Yoga school. The Upadesasahasri, which is a good introduction to Sankara's philosophy, is the only non-commentative work that is certainly authentic.
Sankara's style of writing is lucid and profound. Penetrating insight and analytical skill characterize his works. His approach to truth is psychological and religious rather than logical; for that reason, he is perhaps best considered to be a prominent religious teacher rather than a philosopher in the 20th-century sense. It is said that Sankara died at Kedarnatha in the Himalayas. The Advaita Vedanta school founded by him has always been preeminent in the learned circles of India.
Sree Paramabhattaraka Vidhyadhiraja Chattambi Swamikal
Chattambi Swamikal was a great guru and realised soul like ancient Rishies , belived to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. Sree Chattambi Swamikal was born in 1853 at Thiruvananthapuram. His parents were Vasudeva. Sharma (a brahmin) and Nanga Devi. Among his ancestors there were great scholars, saints and siddhas. He was christened Ayyappan, but was known by his pet name Kunjan. He spent his childhood in and around Kollur brahmin house and temple, where his mother did odd jobs.
Even though Kunjan was a child prodigy, poverty prevented him from getting any formal education till he was ten. He learnt Tamil and Sanskrit from the palm leaves thrown out of a school. He used to overhear the Sanskrit classes conducted by a Sastrikal for brahmin boys. Impressed by the high standard of Kunjan, the teacher admitted him to his class. His high proficiency in Sanskrit helped him to join the school of a great scholar. He made the brilliant senior boy his Chattambi (Monitor). This appellation stuck to him and he is known by it. Penury compelled him to discontinue his studies there. Kunjan worked as an accountant, a casual labourer, a scribe (document writer), an advocate's clerk and as an accountant in Govt, service. Unsatisfied by all these jobs he joined an organization where religious topics were discussed and music and mathematics lessons were taught.
At the age of 14, a sannyasi initiated him into Bala Subrahmonya Mantra, which confers everything one desires. He recited the mantra lakhs of times and was known as Shanmukhadasa. During nights he used to meditate in a Kali temple and was found often in a trance embracing the Sivalinga of a nearby temple. The advanced techniques of Yoga and Pranayama he learnt from the siddhas Atmananda Kumara Velu and Thycaud Ayyavu. Like Adi Sankara he could serve his ailing mother. After her death he left home forever. At the age of 28, through the Brahmopadesa of an Avaduta saint he was blessed with Self-realization. Kunjan Pillai transformed himself into a Brahmajnani, the Supreme Rishi of Kerala.
In 1892, at the age of 39, Chattambi Swamikal met Swami Vivekananda at Cochin. On his request Swamikal explained to him the esoteric meaning of Chinmudra. Impressed by this exposition Swami Vivekananda later sent to him sannyasins to learn the higher stages of Yoga and Pranayama.
Sree Chattambi Swamikal travelled extensively in Kerala to fulfil his obligation to society. His Vcdantic knowledge helped him much in removing ignorance among the people. He fought against casteism and other evil customs and practices in the society. He stayed and dined with the untouchables. His trained disciples were sent to teach the essence of Sanathana Dharma. On his Shastiabdapurthi day in 1913, at a grand meeting presided over by Swami Dayananda Maharaj, the title of Vidyadhiraja Theerthapada Paramabhattara was conferred on him by the distinguished scholars. But Swamikal, in his usual humility preferred to be known by the old name Chattambi.
Towards the end of his life, Swamikal settled down at Panmana, a village in Kollam Dt, enjoying the services rendered by his disciple and freedom fighter Sree Kumpalathu Sanku Pillai. People in large numbers used to visit Swamikal to have his darshan and to seek advice and blcsings. When the prophesied last moment came, Swamikal sat in Padmasana. meditated on the Absolute Brahman and entered into Mahasamadhi between 3.30 and 4.00 PM on 5th May 1924. His mortal body was laid to rest at the place chosen for it. A Siva temple was constructed on the Samadhi Peedom.
Sree Chattambi Swamikal was a great Jnani and Jevanmukta who experienced Unity in all beings. When his prarabda karma was over, he cast off his body to dissolve in the Brahman.Sree Neelakanta Thecrthapada Swamikal, Sree Theerthapada Paramahansa Swamikal and Sree Ramananda Theerthapada Swamikal were his prominent sannyasi disciples. Most of his householder -disciples belonged to different strata of society. All these disciples and devotees of Swamikal made significant contribution to the social and spiritual regeneration of the people of Kerala. To rejuvenate the weakened Hinduism and to propagate the methods of Yogajnana in accordance with the culture of Kerala, on the advice of Sree Chattambi Swamikal, his disciples established the Theerthapada Sannyasa Order, uniting the Advaita Vedanta with the Saiva Siddhanta.
He lived a life of austere simplicity, A loin cloth, a Panchaloha ring (made up of five metals), an old umbrella and a ganjira were his only possessions. He flitted from place to place. He was a strict vegetarian. He condemned the habit of drinking alcohol. He shared his food with ants, rats, cats and dogs. He ignored all distinctions of caste. He was indifferent to wealth. He was fond of children. He followed the Nivrittimarga that he didn't stay at any particular place for long nor established any Asramam to spread his message.
Chattambi Swamikal had commendable mastery over diverse fields of knowledge. He possessed extraordinary memory power. Veda- Vedanta, Astrology, Grammar, Yoga, Tarka Sastra, Tantra Vidya, Ayurveda and Tamil and Sanskrit literature were a few of his interest. His favourite art was music, his favourite instrument was ganjira. His skill in playing on any instrument with originality was well- known. The spiritual and mystical powers Sree Chattambi Swamikal acquired were innumerable. But he was ever averse to showing off. His strict brahmacharya and intense tapas had conferred on him the Ashtasiddhis. He possessed commanding power over natural elements, animals and human beings, alike. He had the power to cure seemingly incurable diseases.
Sree Narayana Gurudevan
Sree Narayana Guru was born in the village of Chempazhanthi in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. It is widely held that he was born under the star 'Chathayam' in the month of 'Chingam' in 1856 AD (1032 of the Malayalam calendar). His father was Madan Asan and his mother Kuttiyamma. He was named Narayanan and came to be called Nanoo. In those days society was in the strangulating grip of caste system. People were divided into high castes and low castes. Forbidden to touch one another or to co-operate with one another in any way, they practised untouchability. But Nanoo who was destined to lead one of the greatest social revolutions in Indian society, defied untouchability from his boyhood days. He savoured physical contact with the low castes and associated himself with them.
His education began at the age of five. Chempazhanthi Mootha Pillai was his first guru. After learning the preliminary lessons in Sanskrit, he studied some of the simple books in that language. In 1877 (1053) he went to Kummampally Raman Pillai Asan in Karunagappally for his higher education in Sanskrit. After returning from Varanappally he taught children for some time. That was in 1881. From that time the people respectfully called him Nanoo Asan. After the death of his mother he spent his days in forests, caves, seashores, and in temples. During this period he stayed for a short while in the house of Perunnalli Krishnan Vaidyar, a renowned scholar and physician of Travancore, and studied some rare medical books written by him. It is believed that he first met the Sri Chattampi Swami here.Sri Chattampi Swami was then well advanced in spiritual matters and their meeting proved to be the beginning of a deep and intimate friendship. Later Nanoo Asan and Chattampi Swami travelled together to many place. Nanoo Asan was searching for a guru to teach him yoga. In 1884 Chattampi Swami took him to Thykkattu Ayyavu, a distinguished yoga guru of Trivandrum.
Ayyavu Swami was absolutely confident that Nanoo Asan had a great future. Soon Nanoo Asan went to the Maruthwamala mountain to practice yoga and meditation. He practised tapas, the art which brings the mind and the senses under control. It was at this time people began to call him Swami. After leaving Maruthwamala Swami travelled on foot in many places in South India. He visited many temples. He travelled alone, never announcing his presence to others. During this period of wandering as a sanyasin, Sree Narayana Guru spent his time mostly among the low-caste people. No doubt because he wanted to make them aware that his life's mission was to reform them.
In the course of his travels he once reached the place Aruvippuram in Neyyattinkara.When Gurudev first came to Aruvippuram, Chattampi Swami was also with him. But the latter did not stay there long.
www.narayanaguru.org/ www.sndp.org www.sreenarayanakendra.org www.shreenarayanamission.org/ www.sngm.org/ www.sivagiri.org/ Narayana Guru was born in the year 1854 AD at Chempazhanthy, in the suburb of the Thiruvananthapuram city. Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam was registered on 15th May, 1903. Sree Narayana Guru was the Patron and life time President of the Yogam.
Alathur Brahmananda Swami Shivayogi
Alathur Sidhashramam was founded by Brahmananda Swami Sivayogi (1852-1929), the greatest rationalist yogi ever. He advocated the religion of Ananda or bliss through his literature, speeches and meetings, for the same reason Alathur Sidhashramam came into existence. Located in palakkad in the state of Kerala in India, this institution has visitors from all over the globe. Peace, serenity and the aroma of Sivayogi's ideals surround this place often giving spark to discussions on spirituality, life and happiness. A little stroll around this place flees off all the tensions and worry and fills you with peace. This place preaches the importance of Raja yoga in life to conquer enemies like lust, passion, anger and violence. The religion of Ananda proclaims that mind is God and control of mind is supreme achievement.
Sree Neelakanta Theerthapada Swamikal
Born in Edavam 1047 (ME) at Muvattupuza.Sri Neelakanta Theerthapada Swamikal was one of the significant disciples of Sree Chattambi Swamikal. He was a great scholar in Sanskrit and Vedantha, notable poet and an eminent orator. After serving a short period as a teacher, he accepted ascetic life. He wrote more than forty valuable works in Sanskrit and Malayalam, among them, Acharapadhathi, Devarchapadhathi, Brahmanjali are famous. He was the President of Paramabhattarakashramam of Ezhumattoor. Mahasamadhipeeth at Karunagappally and Neelakantavilasom Sanskrit High School at Puthiyakavu are the memorials of Swami Neelakanta Theerthapada. He attained samadhi in Karkidakom 1096 (ME).
Sree Theerthapada Paramahamsa Swamikal
Sree Theerthapada Paramahamsa Swamikal was one of the significant disciples of Sree Chattambi Swamikal. The
Ayroor-Cherukolpuzha Hindu Maha Mandalam, was started by Theerthapada Paramahamsa in the year 1912.
Born on 13 Kumbhom 1052 (M.E.) at Thathamangalam in Palakkad. Ramanathan Nair was his name before he accepts ascetic life. After attending examinations in the school, Ramanathan went for Kolar in Mysore. There he worked in a gold mine for few months. He then traveled all along North India and became an ascetic and accepted name as Sadananda Swamy. After returning to his native place he started penance in the hills at Pudukotta. He established an Ashrama near Kottarakkara, now known as Sadanandapuram, in the year 1076 (ME). He was a famous ayurvedic (siddha) physician. Samudayasasthram, Santhanaratnam, Upjasamanjari, Hindumatha Samskaram are some of his works. Swamikal left his physical body on Makaram 9, 1099 (ME).
Nava Jyothi Sri Karunakara Guru was born on the 1st. day of September 1927 in a humble family "Chittekkad House" at Chandiroor Village, Cherthala Taluk of Alappuzha District. His father was Kochu Govindan mother’s name was Karthiayani. From childhood, the Guru was getting spiritual experience of envisioning an effulgence and the face of Krishna in its midst and was in constant communion with it. Words came from this form, and the Guru thought this was so in everyone’s case. His body was like a mike, a mere instrument through which that form spoke. As the Guru did not have normal speech, he was not sent to school. His relatives thought he had some defect in his tongue. They made offerings at temples and observed several vows. From the age of nine, the face within started diminishing and the boy began to play and talk like a normal child. After that, the Guru joined in a country school. But he studied there only for six months. The lessons consisted only of Malayalam, mother tongue of the people of Kerala State, South India, and basics of Arithmetic. The Guru was not at all interested in studying. The main characteristic of the youngster, was his far too cleanliness and strict vegetarianism.
At the age of 14, the Guru left his maternal home with the insatiable desire of joining an Ashram. Maliekkal Kumaranasan, his master of the country school helped the Guru to go to Swami Agamananda of Kaladi Ashram. But there was no room for children in that Ashram. Therefore the Guru went to Advaita Ashram, Aluva, a branch of Sivagiri Mutt founded by Sri Narayana Guru. On seeing this youngster, Swami Sankarananda, the Head of the Ashram became very impressed and permitted him to stay in that place. This was the beginning of Ashram life of the Guru. Thereafter, this Great Soul spent 17 years and 4 months in various branches and Headquarters of Sivagiri Mutt. The Guru dutifully worked in various capacities like cook, attendant of guests, assistant of Ashram’s head, priest of sanctum sanctorum -the innermost shrine of a temple- and Santhi -one who performs pooja (worship)- of Sri Narayana’s Samadhi -place of death.
At a hill near Kanyakumari Kodithookki Mala, while meditating, the Guru had a vision of Shirdi Sai Baba and this was a turning point in his spiritual side. All these days, this Great Soul was craving for some spiritual enlightenment and at the age of 25, his intense search made him to meet a Muslim wandering monk, Khureishi Fakir, who became his spiritual preceptor. At that time, the Guru was staying at Aruvippuram branch Ashram of Sivagiri. Before long, in the year 1957, the Guru bid farewell to Sivagiri and shifted to a hut in a piece of land donated by a well wisher by name Gangadharan Mutalali, at Varkala. That place had started to be known as Santhigiri. While at Sivagiri people used to call the Guru as Karunakaran Santhi. The word Santhi stands for the one who performs pooja -worship. The word giri stands for mountain. Thus, the giri -mountain- to where Karunakaran Santhi was shifted, becoming Santhigiri, which now truly signifies ‘the mountain of peace,’ place where tens of thousands of people have come seeking directions in their material, emotional and spiritual life so as to be led to the supreme aim of human life, which is the communion with the Supreme Light. This was the beginning of Santhigiri Ashram.
It was in the year of 1969, that a small prayer place was started in a small piece of land donated to the Guru at Pothencode, three years back then, by the same benevolent person, Gangadharan Mutalali, who had given the Ashram land to the Guru at Varkala. . It is significant to note that the lighting of the oil lamp, was initially done in this place by the Guru’s Guru, Khureishi Fakir. Guru leaving everything at Varkala, came to Pothencode and that was the reason for homesteading at the present headquarters of Santhigiri Ashram Pothencode. There were strong obstacles and opposition to the Guru, both in Varkala and in Pothencode. The Guru overcame great obstacles with a strong will and great perseverance. Many rigorous penance and austere measures had to be undertaken for the accomplishment of the goal of Guru or Poortheekaranam -culmination of tasks of divine dicta as per Divine Will- and only in 1973 the cause and effects were evident. This culmination day was September 20, 1973 which was the 4th. day of Kanni. On this auspicious day, Poorna Kumba Mela, is being celebrated in Santhigiri Ashram every year.
Santhigiri Ashram is the perfect place to understand this spiritual path. In his lifetime, the Guru spent long hours talking to individuals and groups of people trying to make them understand the correct spiritual path. He did not care to take timely food and required rest. Even ignoring all illness, he worked for the devotees, disciples and humanity in material and subtle planes and dictated the principles of true spirituality to the World.
Sri Karunakara Guru fulfilled the Will of the Almighty, preparing a new parampara -group of people following a Guru’s doctrine- capable of carrying out the Dharma -DivineLaw- and karma -mode of action- of Kaliyuga -present age where tremendous suffering is involved, though only in this era, we have the precious opportunity to correct, strengthen and purify our souls in order to attain spiritual liberation. After accomplishing the ordained mission, the Guru merged with the Supreme on Thursday, May 6th. The physical body of the Guru is laid to rest in the Parnasala -abode of the Guru (small but exceptionally luminous temple)- totally covered by vibhutti -holy ashes. A lotus upon a glob and planets of the solar system around has been installed in the Parnasala. Hereafter, this day will be celebrated as Nava Oli Jyothir Dinam -the day of the emergence of the New Light- May 6th., 2000. Symbolizing 72 years of human life of the Guru, special prayers for 72 days are performed in Santhigiri Ashram, each year before the Nava Oli Jyothir Dinam. As received by revelations by some of the Guru’s disciples, his name changes from Brahmasri Karunakara Guru, to Nava Jyothi Sri Karunakara Guru -Karunakara, the Spiritual Master of the Supreme New Light.
Subhananda Guru born on 28th April 1882 in Kulakkal, Budhanoor village, Pathanamthitta District, Kerala to the devout Sambava couples Ittyathi and Kochu Neeli. The couple was endlessly visiting the holy temples and performed several Pooja and Bhajans for a child. After the long twenty four years of marriage, the fortunate Kochu Neeli gave birth to a blessed child at the age of forty and blissfully named him as Paappan.
In small age itself, the “child” started giving spiritual discourses and did wonders. The bewildered parents thought some invisible power had entered their son and took the child to temples and renowned astrologers to seek the remedy. However, the priest in the temple devotionally said “you gave birth to the protector of mankind, a marvelous gift for this Kali Yug; who will be worshipped by millions”. From the 16th November 1888 Friday morning, the child has a heavenly light and its rays are omnipotent and its strength bespeaks of Kalki. This experience had lasted for three days continuously and returned to normal life on the fourth day of his eternal sight of Para-Brahma. He discovered that in the inner self of every individual, sparks of this heavenly light is burning and its existence can be realized only with the help of Jagath-Guru.
Following mother's death in 1894, Gurudev went on to pilgrimages inquest of studying the super spirit that immersed Him for three continuous days. The determined Gurudev has visited various holy places and met with different scholars, but no one could explain about the meaning of the revelation that He experienced. Thereafter during 1914, He went on to a deep mediation underneath a laurel tree for the realization of the divine light which he had experienced for three days from the 18th November 1888. This place is now known and referred as “Thapogiri”. After three years intense meditation He attained the heavenly enlightenment and that was the birth of the Njana Kalki.
Subhananda Gurudev started His noble mission of liberating the untouchable from the misery widely practiced and prevailed from slavery. He mingled with the underprivileged and so called untouchables, to educate them that the God has no distinction between and all creations are equal to Him. He declared there is only one Supreme Spirit and that is the creator, protector and savior of all mankind. He declared that Lord Himself has taken birth in a Sambava caste in order to eradicate the injustice prevailed. He declared; all are one, one in Athma, one in harmony, you are not alien, if you feel alien that is the ignorance in you, because all are My creation and I am not different any.
In the 1918s, Gurudev had reached "Cherukole" a small village located in Mavelikara Taluk of Alappey District. He conveyed spiritual gatherings and other social activities. Gradually more and more people to refuge at His feet and got attracted towards His divine power and large crowed attended the prayers. He advised his followers worship one God and to discard devils from within. He had stiff resistance and opposition from the so called upper caste leaders. However, Gurudev was determined on his resolve to establish dharma and continued it with increasing vigor.
Sree Neelakanta Gurupadar
Sree Neelakanta Gurupadar was a selfmade saint.He realized Lord Siva and Lord Subrahmanya before the age of 20. In 1920 he moved in to the 14 cents of land (ashram premises) in Chenkottukonam and never stepped out. He practiced 45 year long intense, incessant and penetrating penance (atmarama worship) where the worshipper and the worshipped attained absolute communion. Sree Neelakanta Gurupadar realized the atmarama abhishekam where the abhishekam is performed on oneself in the anahatachakra, unparalled except in the case of Lord Anjaneya. He was an embodiment of Divine light and veritable treasure of Vedic wisdom.
He possessed ashtaiswarya siddhis : knowing everything beforehand, disappearing from the view of others, assuming the form of any living being and being present at distant places, etc. Despite the powers, he led a simple and humble life clad in a short piece of dhothi. Very personification of compassion and universal love, but was ever uncompromising with untruth and egoism in any one. Could have attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi at the age of 32, but waited for 32 more years for the spiritual successor (Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi) to arrive. A Swetcha Mrityu (one who could choose when to leave the mortal body behind) like Bhishma because he postponed the samadhi twice.
Gurupadar instituted the uninterupted recital of Ramayana from morning to evening everyday ever since 1920 and established Sree Rama Dasa Madom at Chenkottukonam and consecrated a Rama-Sita-Anjaneya temple there and started regular worship. Gurupada appointed his beloved disciple Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi as Madathipathi in 1965. He attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi on the self chosen day and time : Utharayana Shuklapaksha,Ekadasi (May 26th 1965).
Prabhakara Siddha Yogi
Swamy Abhedananda was a notable ascetic who found the eternal truth and immortality of Hindu Dharma. He was a sage in all respects. He was a disciple of Sri.Vidhyadhiraja Chattambi Swamikal. He established Abhedananda Ashram at Thiruvananthapuram in 1954. He introduced a new method of preaching Hinduism through his Akhandanama Yajna (continuous chanting of prayers). Swamy left his physical body at Hrishikes on 23 October 1983.
Swami Agamananda,a prominent Swamiji of Sri Ramakrishna Mission in Kerala, to whom goes the everlasting credit of re-establishing Kalady on the cultural map of India. Swamy Agamananda established the Sree Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram at Kalady in 1936, the centenary year of Sree Ramakrishna.
Thapovana Swamikal or Swami Tapovan Maharaj was born in 1889 in an aristocratic family in the Palakkad district.He was the "Source" wherefrom Swami Chinmayananda acquired the Knowledge of Vedanta. From a very tender age he was not at all interested in the worldly life. The life of renunciation, austerity and study became the only sacred aim of his life. Later, he chooses the desolate forests and higher hills of the Himalayas for austerity, study and meditation. He lived in sacred Uttakasi a life of extreme tapas (austerity), spending his time in study, reflection and meditation. During the summer months he would leave Uttakasi for Gangotri, and even today just above Gomuk where the sacred Ganges begins, there is a small place called Tapovan.
A rare jewel in the crown of the Himalayan peak, Swami Tapovan was revered and exclaimed as the greatest of Sanyasi and a man of total perfection. Swami Tapovan was himself the ideal who had personally understood (through deep study, dispassion and contemplation) the relationship between the biological processes of the body and the human psyche. In a spirit of deep renunciation, the infinitely gentle poet in him, saw Humanity and Nature as one vast "plant", needing only "Love" for its highest fulfillment. He revealed Nature's secrets in his "travelogue" in two Sanskrit masterpieces, "Himagiri Viharam" and "Kailasa Yatra".
Swami Tapovan had complete mastery of the Scriptures. Sages and serious students came to study in his austere Kutir (house). He composed many hymns, commentaries and beautiful books. The masterpiece, without a doubt, is "Ishwara Darshan", which is his autobiographical "sketch" - it is an absorbing account of a search for the Truth .. Its scientific clarity is subtle, because the treatise gives insight into how the saints of the East attain self mastery.His another beautiful book is ‘Wandering in the Himalayas ‘.These books give a glimpse of how a man of Divine Vision beholds Truth everywhere, playing in and through every form.
On the 16th of January 1957, on the Full-Moon day, at 4:30 A.M., in the Brahmamuhurtha, Swamiji gained his Mahasamadhi.
Swami Chinmayananda is a world renowned authority of the scriptures of India, especially Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads.Known as Balakrishnan, he was born at Ernakulam on the 8th of May, 1917. The rigidity of the family daily routine of worship, lasting for quite a few hours, became part and parcel of the mental and moral make-up of the young lad. And, added to this, he had the rare chance of coming under the influence of his family-Gurus like Vidhyadhiraja Chattambi Swamikal who were saintly souls. Chattambi Swamigal, a saint known for his yogic powers predicted a great spiritual future for the boy. Right from young age he had the inquiring mind which critically questioned everything. He was equally brilliant in his studies and emerged out of the Lucknow University as a Master of Arts. Like many of the highly learned youths who find themselves in a dilemma as to what to do with life when they come out of the universities, Balakrishnan too was assailed by doubts with conflicting ideologies. But providence guided him properly; he studied the great works of Swami Vivekananda, Aurobindo and others, and found his way to his Master, Swami Sivananda.
Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj knew that he was an exceptionally gifted person and entrusted him with conducting a Gita Committee, as Gurudev called it, which consisted of some members,—the members being Sri Balakrishna Menon (Swami Chinmayananda), Swami Krishnananda, a very learned philosopher from Bihar called Sri Nanda Kishore Srivastava, etc. He used to conduct classes in the Ashram, now and then. He was ordained into Sannyasa by Sri Gurudev on 25th February, 1949 to pursue further studies of scriptures under Swami Tapovanamji Maharaj, in Uttarakashi where he stayed with the great Master studying Panchadasi and other Vedanta Texts as well as Upanishads. Having mastered these texts, Swami Chinmayananda started his own Jnana Yajna Mission and moved from corner to corner of India conducting Gita Yajna classes, Upanishad classes and discourses on the scriptures, which earned him great reputation as an extraordinary orator and a masterly exponent of India’s culture, its literary heritage and scriptural lore. Swami Chinmayananda has also travelled to the West many a time. He has Centres in various places in India and also abroad. Today he is one of the world-figures who have hoisted the flag of India’s spiritual heritage not only in this country but also in the other countries of the world.
He worked relentlessly for about 40 years to bring about spiritual revival in India and abroad. His unique style and logical approach is appealing to all young and old.His was the life of selfless service to others. He is the author of more than thirty books, each one is a masterpiece, dealing with the philosophical principles behind the religion. He made mysterious and elusive vedantic principles easily understandable for common people. He is the founder of Chinmaya Mission, through which the work that he initiated and was so dear to him, is carried out in the form of spreading the message of vedanta, overseeing numerous cultural, educational and social service activities. A biography of this great spiritual master, entitled Journey of a Master: Swami Chinmayananda, is available through Chinmaya Publications.
Swami Chinmayananda was selected by the Hindu Host Committee to be the President of Hindu Religion, representing Hinduism worldwide at the Meeting of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago (during August 28 - September 4, 1993), an honor bestowed on the great Swami Vivekananda a century ago. The Parliament had selected fourteen eminent religious leaders around the world to form a council to guide the world into the next century. At "World Vision 2000," a conference of religious leaders sponsored by Hindu Vishwa Parishad during August 6-8, 1993, H.H. Swami Chinmayanandji was to be honored for his lifetime of selfless service to humanity and his extraordinary achievements in creating a renaissance of spiritual and cultural values in India and abroad. However, on August 3, 1993, Swami Chinmayanandji attained Mahasamadhi in SanDiego, California, after suffering a massive heart attack as the equipment became too worn out due to the ceaseless Seva of the Master to humanity for over 42 years.
Nataraja Guru (P. Natarajan) was a direct disciple of Sree Narayana Guru. He was the second son of Dr.Palpu. Natarajan was shown how to toe the spiritual path of pilgrimage early in life by Sree Narayana Guru, who also prompted him to be an educator of his contemporaries. Nataraja Guru was academically trained in Geology, Zoology and Educational Psychology. He received his DLitt from the Sorbonne in Paris and began his career in 1930 as a physics teacher for five years at the International Fellowship School in Geneva, Switzerland. Later he established Narayana Gurukula, contemplative educational centers in India, the first of which was in Fernhill, Nilgiris.
He translated into English and wrote commentaries on all the major works of Narayana Guru. He has also written on a wide variety of subjects, employing throughout a protolinguistic or structural approach which could be said to be his unique contribution to the perennial wisdom-heritage of mankind. Integrating ancient wisdom with modern scientific exactitude was taken up as his life's mission. He clearly enunciated a common epistemology of all life interests of people to liberate themselves from social complexities and live their natural value visions. The Narayana Gurukulas which he established in several countries of the world make a network of islands of good cheer and redressal in the vast ocean of confusion and lack of direction.
His several books in English, French and Malayalam represent a serious probe into the fundamentals of life so that the reader can simplify his or her own problems of domestic entanglements and clouded value vision. They are guides to gaining methodological efficiency in discovering the higher truth that can bring excellence in life. Nataraja Guru passed away in 1973.
Guru Nitya Chaithanya Yathi
Nitya was born November 2, 1923, as the first son of Pandalam Raghava Panicker, a poet and professional teacher in Kerala. After his matriculation, he left home as a wandering mendicant to familiarize himself with the land and people of his country of birth. His wanderings took him to every nook and cranny of the subcontinent, both cities and villages, of almost all parts of what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. He met all the great people of the subcontinent including great leaders like Mohandas Gandhi and poets of high repute. He sat at the feet of several spiritual masters, including Sufi fakirs, Jain munis and Buddhist monks, and Hindu teachers such as Ramana Maharshi and Nityananda.
In 1947 he joined the University College, Alwaye, to continue his academic studies. After specializing in Philosophy and Psychology he taught these subjects in two Indian Universities. He again sat at the feet of highly reputed sannyasis to learn Vedanta, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Indian poetics and literature. In 1951, he accepted Nataraja Guru as his spiritual preceptor and after Nataraja Guru left his body, Guru Nitya functioned as the continuator of Narayana Guru and Nataraja Guru as Guru and Head of Narayana Gurukula. As Narayana Gurukula is a world community, the Guru has to act as a liaison between all members of the Gurukula at an interpersonal level in the teacher-taught context and as the enunciator of programs from time to time to spur the Gurukula community to work in unison, to help everyone to understand his or her integral value vision (svadharma).
Guru Nitya published over 120 books in Malayalam and 80 books in English, as well as countless articles on philosophy, psychology, social ethics and aesthetics. He also functioned as the chairperson of the East-West University, as the Commissioner for World Education and as a committed sponsor of the World Government of World Citizens. He attained his mahasamadhi on May 14, 1999 and his legacy of love and wisdom continues in his writing and in his disciples.
Swami Ranganathananda former president of Ramakrishna Mission was one of the greatest spiritual leaders to emerge from Kerala in recent times. Born in the village of Trikkur near Thrissur in Kerala on December 15, 1908, the Swami joined the Ramakrishna Order at its centre in Mysore in 1926 at the age of 18. He obtained his final vows of monasticism from Swami Shivananda (also known as Mahapurush Maharaj) in 1933. He spent the first 12 years of monasticism in Mysore and Bangalore branches. He served there as the cook, personal attendant to Swami Siddheswaranandaji. He is said to have rendered remarkable service as the secretary and librarian at the Rangoon branch of Ramakrishna Mission from 1939 to 1942. He then served as the president of the Karachi centre of math from 1942 to 1948 till the partition of India. From 1949 to 1962, he served as a secretary at the Delhi centre. Then from 1962 to 1967, he served as the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata, director of School of Humanistic and Cultural studies, editor of mission's monthly. Then he served as the president of the Hyderabad branch for a long period. He was elected to the post of vice-president of Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1989 and then as the president in 1998.
Man with a great insight into the problems of India and the world, Raganathananda was a great orator and scholar. He undertook extensive lecture tours from 1946 to 1972 covering over 50 countries in North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe, including Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia. From 1973 to 1986 he annually visited Australia, USA and Europe, spreading the message of Vedanta. Thus he served as a cultural and spiritual ambassador of India.His views about Education and philosophy are remarkable.
He declined the Padma Vibhushan as it was conferred on him in his individual capacity but accepted the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1987 and the Gandhi Peace Prize in February 1999 as both were conferred on the Ramakrishna Mission.
He has a versatile and facile pen, and has to his credit a number of publications, chief amongst which are : The Message of the Upanisads, A Pilgrim Looks at the World, Vols. I and II; Four Volumes of Eternal Values for a Changing Society— Vol.1: Philosophy and Spirituality, Vol.2: Great Spiritual Teachers, Vol.3: Education for Human Excellence and Vol.4: Democracy for Total Human Fulfilment; and Science and Spirituality (Bhavan's Publications):Our Cultural Heritage and Its Modern Orientation; Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture : 1986; Women in the Modern Age; Social Responsibilities of Public Administrators; The Science of Human Energy Resources; Science and Religion; Vedarta and the future of Mankind; Divine Grace; His Acceptance Speech when he was awarded the first Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration on 31st October 1986; seven L.P. Records expounding, verse by verse, the second and third chapters of the Gita; six pre-recorded cassettes expounding the greatest book on Bhakti, the Srimad Bhagavatam; and 12 pre-recorded cassettes expounding the Vedanta treatise; Vivekachoodamani, by Sankaracharya.
Ranganathananda lived the last days of his life in the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission at Belur in West Bengal.Swami Ranganathananda, attained Mahasamadhi at Woodlands Medical Centre, Kolkata, at 3.51 p.m. on Monday, 25 April 2005, owing to cardiac arrest.
Born in 1916 at Kadambazhipurathu in Palakkad as son of Nayathuveetil Ramankutty Guptan and Kunjukkutty. His original name (Poorvasrama Namam) was Kutta Guptan. He graduated from the Pattambi Sanskrit College in 1934. He served as teacher at the Pavaratti Sanskrit Vidyalaya (1935-37), Pavaratti District Board School (1937-44) and the Sree Ramakrishna Ashram School (1944-47). While teaching at the ashram school, he became a disciple of Swami Eswarananda. In 1946 he became a brahmachari and went to Beloor. He received mantra deeksha from Virajananda Swami a disciple of Swami Vivekananda and received sannyasa deeksha in 1956 from Shankaranantha Swami and became Swami Mridananda. He served at the Chennai branch of the ashram between 1947 and 1958. He later moved to the Kalady and became editor of the journal Prabuddha Keralam published under the guidance of Agamananda Swami from Kalady Sree Ramakrishna Adwaithasramam. In 1963 he reached Puranattukara Sree Ramakrishna Ashram near Thrissur and headed the Ashram from 1988 to 1998.
Swami Mridananda was a great Vedantin and exponent of ancient Indian wisdom. The Swami's life was pure and simple. He was a shining example for spiritual aspirants. The Malayalis understood the Upanishads through his simple commentaries. His commitment to spreading the message of Sree Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda was exemplary. His books have largely been instrumental in making esoteric spiritual texts comprehensible to the layman. Among his best-known works are interpretations of the Upanishads (Isana, Kadha, Kena, Prasna, Mundaka, Maandukya, Ithareya, Chndogya, Swethaswathara and Mahanarayana), Brahma Sutras, Mandukya Karika, Mukundamala and the Bhagavad Gita. His articles on spiritual topics, published in Malayalam journals, have been hugely popular. He was an editorial board member of Bhakthapriya magazine of Guruvayoor Devaswom and Kshetradarsanam magazine of Cochin Devaswom Board. He was honoured with the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1982. Swami Mridananda attained Mahasamadhi on 04 March 2005.
Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi
The swami was born on September 25, 1933, at Andoorkonam village in Thiruvananthapuram. Shekaran Pillai as the swami was called in his `poorvashramam' was a teacher at the Madhavavilasom High School at Thundathil. In 1965, he became the head of the Ramadasa Ashramam. He realised Lord Krishna at the age of 9. He was a good poet, orator and a social activist. Swami summoned to the Ashram by Neelakanta Gurupadar. Swami spoke very little and communicated through symbolism and eye- movements, the ever-attentive disciple fulfilled every duty in an impeccable manner. He took the reigns of a humble institution and single-handedly built it to an organisation of international significance.He observed extreme hardship and penance for fourteen years and realised the Divine Mother.At Her Divine command Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi stepped out of the Ashram to spearhead the Dharmasamara aganist conversion false propaganda, and distortion of truth by the proselytizing religions and the communists.
A unique confluence of the four paths: Jnana yoga, Bhakthi yoga, Raja yoga and Karma yoga, a veritable treasure of spiritual wisdom and ecstatic devotee of the Divine Mother, a yogi par excellence and the greatest Karma yogi to uphold Sanatana Dharma since Swami Vivekananda. The founder of more than thirteen institutions in India and abroad, Swami Sathyananda Saraswathy was the inspiration behind organizing Kerala Hindus of North America (KHNA). He was also the founder of the Punyabhoomi newspaper. He was the Executive Member of Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal and Rama Janmabhoomi Nyas Manch. Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi, passed away on 2006 November 24.
Mata Amritananda Mayi Devi
Mata Amritananda Mayi Devi was born on 27th of September 1953 at Parayakadavu village in Kollam district. Her father was Sri. Sugunandan and mother Smt.Damayanthi. Her parents gave her the name Sudhamani. She came into this world not in tears as babies usually do, but with a beaming smile on her face, as if prophesying the joy and bliss she was to bring to the world.
Sudhamani spent the years of her childhood and teens immersed in intense spiritual practices in order to present a living example for the world. Even as a small child, she could often be found absorbed in deep meditation, totally oblivious of her surroundings. By the age of five, she had already begun composing devotional songs laden with deep mystical insight.
Another quality that was clearly manifest in Sudhamani from this tender age was her love and compassion toward her fellow human beings. Though only a child, Sudhamani did whatever she could to ease the suffering of her elderly neighbors. She washed their clothes, bathed them and even brought them food and clothing from her own home. This habit of giving away things from her family's house landed her in deep trouble. However, no amount physical abuse or punishment could stop the expression of her inborn compassion.
'Amma' as she is known all over the world today, has inspired and started innumerable humanitarian services. Since 1981, she has been teaching spiritual aspirants all over the world. She founded a worldwide organization, the Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust, which is engaged in many spiritual and charitable activities.From humble beginnings she undertook a journey to attain "universal motherhood".
For the past 35 years Amma has dedicated her life to the uplifting of suffering humanity through the simplest of gestures – an embrace. In this intimate manner Amma had blessed and consoled more than 25 million people throughout the world. Amma spends most of her waking hours receiving the distressed and all who come to her for comfort, day after day without a break. Many of Amritanandamayi's followers believe in her powers to perform miracles.
In 1993, she was one of the representatives of Hinduism at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago. Amritanandamayi was the keynote speaker at The Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland held in October 2002. This was an initiative of the UN' Millennium World Peace Summit, in which Amritanandamayi spoke in August 2000. In 2002 Amritanandamayi was presented with the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence by The World Movement for Nonviolence at the UN General Assembly Hall (Palais Des Nations) in Geneva in recognition of her lifelong work in furthering the principles of non-violence.
The first set of monastic disciples of Amritanandamayi came to her in the late 1970s. Today, they as well as other disciples and devotees look after the ashram's multifaceted activities. The first disciple to be initiated as a sanyasi was Swami Amritaswarupananda.Other senior disciples are Swami Turiyamritananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Swami Purnamritananda and Swami Amritatmananda. The Ashram is now known as Amritapuri. Though Amma makes no claims herself, those who watch her closely notice that she is the greatest example of her teaching. Her disciples and believers imbibe her teachings by just watching her.