|Bhagavan Sri Gnanananda
Need for a Guru / Tapovanam / Tirukovilur / Compassionate Divine / Life History / Pandharpur / Sri Sivarathnagiri Swamigal / Jyothirmutt / His Greatness / Swami Haridas Giri / Sri Gnanananda Seva Samajam
The world in which we live today distributed, all over in villages and cities, in the deep valleys and plateaus and on the steep slopes of the hilly ranges is one in which one may not easily know, and know really, the Great and the Good near and around.
But one and all will easily know and talk or the evil amidst them. Because the evil and the vicious, in thought and life having become predominant everywhere, one is not able to see the really Good and Great or accept them as such when told. So the, so called good and great among us today is one who enjoys that position conferred on him by others with their own comparative yardstick, till he is exposed, betrayed or superseded by another cleverer than himself in carrying the evil, But then the really Good and Great continue to be still there from time to time in our midst and by and large a majority who would by some unconscious urge flock to them, do so only for some quick returns and for easy annulment of their wrongs. Only a few go to them and it is due to their evolution – with a unique and spontaneous dedication and complete surrender. They pray to the Great Souls for no quick returns but, certainly for being helped — nay blessed to be purified of their karmic accumulation and absolved. They are rewarded in due course and to the extent to which they are in the stage of their evolution.
The individual who is conscious of his evolution and who aspires and works for it gets always the help needed by him and the help comes from the Divine and through the Divinity itself in human form. They are adored and worshipped as Gurus and as God Himself. To sincere aspirants God comes in the form of Gurus. And they come from time to time, according to the requirements of the age. They maybe many, but each has His unique purpose and mission. It is futile, and blasphemous even to compare and contrast them with one another. One should hold fast to one’s own chosen Guru and while following Him scrupulously should not even in thought, consider others as less important. One such Great Guru in our midst today is His Holiness Shree Gnanananda Giri Swamigal of Tapovanam in South Arcot district in Tamil Nadu.
When the aspirants enter into the Holy grove of mangoes the Thapovanam—some in awe and wonder, some in reverence, some in ecstacy, they come across, either near the gate or insome other corner of the grove, taking a stroll or supervising a work that is going on or even seated somewhere under a tree or in a cot, one with a radiant smile on his face assuring at once his compassion and greeting the visitors and showing them the room to stay, the bathroom to wash and clean their external dirt, the kitchen to refresh their physical appetite. The visitors, some of them atleast may have taken Him for some guide or manager of the place. Only later, they will be thrilled to learn that He is the one whom they wanted to see and salute, the one who enables, them to clean their Internal dirt—to satisfy in full their spiritual appetite, and to give a room in His blissful heart. Then they will be fortunate to have Him, as their guide and manager in life. The simplicity of the external form, the natural solicitude of the Compassionate Divine and the uniform affection and concern for one and all who go unto Him are things that get embedded permanently in the hearts of thousands of those devotees who are able to create the same impact on others who did not go to Him yet, and make them eager and restless till they do it.
It is natural for every one to be eager to know all about such a great Guru—his age, his parentage, his early life, his growth in spiritual life, his achievements, his powers, and so on. This has become almost traditional, though there is nothing wrong about it. Only one should realise that there is no importance in these things. For, a realised soul has no birth or death in the usual sense and therefore he is ageless. As a realised soul he has no special physical, attachments and hence parentage is not of much consequence. It is perhaps crazy and impertinent to assess them by a knowledge of their spiritual growth, achievement and powers. It is the subtle desire to derive worldly benefits in most of the cases that prompts people to assess the great ones. However the story and background of the lives of great ones has one purpose in that they reveal the secret of evolution, how the soul is continuous and eternal and how it evolves In successive births. Except to remind ourselves of just the growth and evolution of soul and therefore learn how to march successfully on the path of evolution it has no meaning. In the case of H.H. Gnanananda Giri Swamiji, there is not much information on the surface of his life for us to know all about him. In fact, his age in this form is itself & beyond one’s estimate. The calm serene and ever fresh face and form of the Swamiji baffles anybody’s guess about his age. But certain evidence available from valid sources outside and also from occasional and casual observations being made by the Swamiji himself would enable us to put it at over 250 to 300 years. We shall come to this later.
Life History of Swamiji
Coming to the life of the present form of the Eternal Soul of the Swamiji, He was born long long ago at Mangalapuri in the North Kanara district to a pious couple, Sri Venkoba Ganapatigal and Smt. Sakkubai who were childless for a long time. He was named as Subramanya in his Poorvasrama, He was duly initiated into Gayatri while he was seven. He was not much, interested in his school education. What should the Loka Guru that He was to be, learn at school? He was always indifferent to external things and was deeply absorbed in contemplation of his self. This went on till his twelfth year when suddenly one night, the boy Subramanya saw a divine light (Jyoti) before Him. Desirous of touching it, He went towards It and it was receding as He was following it. At daybreak it disappeared. Only to appear again in the nights that followed. Thus following the Jyothi Subramanya reached at as last Pandharpur. Leading the boy to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Vittal inside. the Shrine, the Jyoti vanished. The boy had, a hearty darshan of Lord Panduranga and-Rukmayi. When the night came, the boy who was hungry fell asleep and in the middle of night. Lord VittaI woke up the boy Subramanya, fed Him and blessed Him. As usual in the night, the Jyoti appeared again and led Him to a place nearby where a Great saint was camping then. He was H. H. Shri Sivarathangiri Swamiji, Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Jyotir Math in Kashmir. This Peetha of Jyoti Math in Kashmir is one of the Peethas established by Shri Adi Shankara Bhagavad Pada, and comes under the lineage of Shri Thotakacharya one of the four chief disciples of Shri Adi Shankara.
Jagadguru Sri Sivaratnagiri Swamiji could gauge the spiritual depth of the boy Subramanya before Him and immediately accepted him as His Priya-Shisya. The earthly parents of boy Suhramanya in their search for their beloved child came at last to Pandharpur where they saw Him under the affectionate care of the Jagadguru. They were advised properly in the matter and they could understand the secret of the advent of Subramanya. They went back after having been fully convinced about it. For over 18 years, the blessed Subramanya underwent his probation under the Jagadguru. He was Initiated into the esoteric knowledge of Advaita and when the time came for the Siddhi (Eternal rest) of the Jagadguru—Shri Sivarathnagiri Swami He transferred all His powers of penance to His Priya-Shishya and christened him as Shri Gnanananda Giri while granting Him the order of Sanyas. He was also nominated as successor to the peetha of the Jyotir Math. H. H. Shri Sivarathnagiri Swamiji entered into Mahasamadhi on the Purnima day of Chaitra and his mortal remains were interred In Srinagar after the due rites were performed. The Samadhi is still in Srinagar. Every year now the Chaitra Purnima day is observed at Thapovanam in memory of the Jagadguru Shri Sivaratanagiri Swamiji.
Most moved by the separation of his revered Guru, Shri Gnanananda Giri Swamiji did not desire to continue long in the Peetha and so he nominated another Shishya as His successor and started out to the high Himalayas. For over sixty years he did severe penance at Monasarovar and other places and then moved out on pada Yatra from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari and to places outside like Ceylon where he met a number of Great men of spirituality.
The Swamiji has mentioned that he knew personally of the initiation given by Totapuri to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahams. (1836-1886) at Dakshineswar and similarly of the initiation given by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda ). He has also met Saint Ramalingam of Vadalur ( near present Neyveli 1823—l874). He had come across the boy Ramana in the Madurai temple when Ramana was just 13 years old. Later when Ramana became Ramana Maharishi and was living in the Virupaksha cave at Tiruvannamalai, Shri Gnanananda Giri Swamiji used to meet the Maharishi frequently and discuss. In the early part of this century, the Swamiji came to many places in the south like Tiruchi, Salem and Attiyampatti where be transformed the dacoits who were causing great hardships to people then. There is an ashram at Attiampatti and another at Siddalingamatam near Tirukoilur itself. He came to Thapovanam in 1950 and in 1953 the present Ashram came into being.
The Swamiji is unostentatious and easily accessible to one and all irrespective of their status in life or other divisions, of caste, creed etc. As already said, His unsophisticated appearance and behaviour apparently hide His Greatness. He comes down from his height of spiritual attainment to the level of the ordinary aspirant who goes to him in earnestness for guidance and solace. In the midst of his intimate association with the visitors going to Tapovanam he would still be out of them remaining in Sahaja Nishtai, seeing the Supreme in everything. His Grace is showered on all who go to Him and they are cured of their physical lapses and are nurtured mentally to pursue righteous life. He advocates the path of Bhakti and complete surrender to Guru and God as the best suited and the easiest to practice in this age. He would expound the big ‘tatvas’ in a simple manner with apt stories and parables. Music and Namasankirtan are dear to Him and He asserts that sincere chanting of the names of the Lord is bound to liberate people in this age. For those who have attained the height of practices He imparts knowledge of the self and exhorts them to practice self-enquiry.
In order to consolidate and coordinate the various activities so far being done, Shri Swami Haridas has started Sri Gnanananda Seva Samajam at the instance of the devotees and with the blessings of his Guru. The Seva Samajam is a registered Trust at No. 26, Lloyds Road, Madras – 6) with Sri Swami Haridas* ( Swami Haridoss has since then attained Jala Samadhi in 1994.) as the Managing Trustee and four others as trustees. The main objects of the Samajam are the dissemination of knowledge, education and culture of Indian Philosophy through Institutions, lectures, seminars, bhajans and namasankeertans, melahs and through publication of religious works and journals and also running libraries, orphanages, medical centres etc Swami Haridas has been highly blessed by the Great Guru Shri Gnanananda Giri after severe tests and has been commanded to take up this service of spreading Bhakti among the people all over the country. His devotion to the Guru is unique and he swears that whatever he says is because of the Grace of the Guru who inspires him then and there to say and sing. The Message he got from the Guru is: ‘When people praise you much do not become egoistic but ignore them in all humility: And do not be worried about the insults thrown at you likewise. Then you will sett1e down well". This is equally a message to us all. To see such a Great Guru is to know Him: to know Him is to know God. For God and Guru are one and the same.
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