A View of Santhigiri Ashram

A View of Santhigiri Ashram
Lotus Parnasala and Sahakarana Mandiram , Santhigiri Ashram, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spiritual Experience - Sri G.P. Krishna Kumar

Boundless Grace
By G.P. Krishna Kumar, Santhigiri

I would like to share some of my experiences that illustrate how an ignorant man met his extraordinary master, compassion incarnate, and failed to follow his Master’s Words. I am around 62 and am now staying in the Santhigiri Ashram premises in Thiruvananthapuram in the accommodation given to me by my Guru. My wife is with me and my children a boy and a girl - are grown up and have set up their own families. I belong to a village called Panmana in Kollam district in Kerala. My house is very close to the Samadhi of the great (late 19th and 20th century) Saint Chattampi Swamikal. From childhood I had been suffering from one illness or the other without a respite as it were. As a result I was always on one course of medicines or the other, following the regimen of one system after the other. To add to this misery I met with several accidents causing fractures and dislocations and what not, which led to long periods of bed rest, leaving behind memories of great pain and constraint. In their anxiety about me, my parents were running to doctors all the time. They also resorted to magical ceremonies, invoking many deities including snake gods. The extended family I belonged to had other problems too beside my sickly condition. Some members had consulted astrologers who attributed our misfortunes to the anger and dissatisfaction of the deities we worshipped in our family shrine. Apparently the rituals that were necessary for those deities were not being carried out properly. Our family shrine had several deities for the past many generations. We were worshipping these in addition to visiting big temples and holy places. Two positive factors balanced my suffering later. I found a government job and got a caring wife. These were my circumstances when I met my Guru. There must have been some punyam stored up in my soul from previous births. Otherwise how could I have met him!

The punyam of some ancestors also might have acted as an influence. Be that as it may the golden chance to meet Guru came in the form of an invitation from a friend, Sri Ramanujam. He was accompanying a person from Nagercoil who wanted to consult Guru about his retarded child. I joined the group and we visited Ashram for the first time on 22 January 1986.

Guru gave us a lot of time that day, talking at length on the evils of worshipping snake gods and such other deities. The retarded child whom we had brought had this defect due to such a baleful influence through worship. For improvement, the parents of the child should turn to a righteous system of worship and to virtuous deeds. Guru also narrated the story of Anasuya, wife of Athri whose Ashram was fabled to be at Sucheendram, a place fairly close to Nagercoil. The story illustrates the power an individual soul can attain through commitment to a Guru. Anasuya was totally committed to her husband taking him to be her Guru. The Trimurti - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara - acclaimed to be the mightiest gods in the Hindu pantheon, were totally disarmed by Anasuya. They had entered Athri’s Ashram with a negative intent and Anasuya could immediately read their minds. She sprinkled the Paadatheertham of her sage husband on these goods who were transformed into infants at once. This story is found engraved in the temple at Sucheendram. I could not comprehend then the message Guru was conveying through the story. Nevertheless his words stayed in my memory, after exploring within my inner space, giving out the energy of new meanings. Without my knowledge, my meeting with Guru had become a turning point in my life. For I decided to bring my family to Guru. It was a new beginning for us.

In the course of time, I became a regular visitor to the Ashram. My wife and children accompanied me fairly often. Every time I paid a visit I was charged by a Word, a Glance or a Smile from Guru. Without my having to explain anything, Guru understood everything about my family and myself. Through Guru, I got the conviction that the root cause of my painful physical condition lay in the family’s wrong worship system.

After three years of my first meeting, Guru asked me if I could bring my parents to the Ashram. My father never took my suggestions or opinions very seriously; still I could get them to come to the Ashram with me, on 26 January 1989. Guru then told me that the family could stop the rituals at the shrine now. I was happy but I did not know how to convince my father, who did not take me seriously. He was so mindlessly but deeply involved in the age old traditions and customs of pantheistic worship. Guru knew my plight well and advised me to get a reputed astrologer to the house and to divine the cause of our family problems and the remedies thereof. As a traditional family it was easy for us to resort to divinatory astrological means. So, with the consent of all I got Sri Karakulam Krishnan Potti very well known as an astrologer, to come to my house in Panmana. Guru deputed two persons from the Ashram to witness this session. Sri Potti drew the chart of planetary positions in front of a lighted lamp and started the calculations with his cowries.

All of us had gathered there, watching. After carefully studying the planetary positions he started telling us what we knew from earlier consultations with other astrologers. The deities of the family shrine are angry and dissatisfied he said. Many generations of our ancestors had worshipped at the shrine as the site of worship appeared to have had its origin around 750 years ago. The anger of these deities is having a malefic influence on us now, who have inherited the shrine and its tradition.

How can this situation be countered? What could be the measures to please these deities so that we could free ourselves? The expert astrologer went into his reading of the planetary charts again. Well, yes there are certain remedies, he concluded: The shrine had to be renovated. Needless to say, then, that the re-installation ceremony was to be conducted. A separate well had to be dug exclusively for the shrine. A compound wall also had to be erected around the shrine. Periodic poojas as conducted now are not enough. There should be daily worship in the temple and for the proper conduct of the daily worship a priest had to be appointed. Moreover special ceremonies might have to be conducted periodically as the measures suggested could be effective for only five to ten years.

At this juncture I intervened: ‘Look, I am a follower of Karunakara Guru of Santhigiri Ashram. Please see whether the deities would be satisfied if we followed Guru’s advice in this matter’. Mr. Potti started his divination again. He said he could not believe his findings. He saw him repeat his exercise, apparently with the same result. He was quite perplexed when he hesitantly told us that my suggestion offered a permanent remedy unlike the conventional measures. One of our well wishers who had come for this session just could not agree with this reading. How could a potent astral being like a brahmarakshas be removed at all, he asked unbelievingly. The astrologer stated that the planetary influences unequivocally indicate that the method suggested by Guru can remove even the brahmarakhas. He calculated several times but the readings were consistent, affirming the above position beyond doubt astrologically.

Thus by Guru’s grace I could employ traditional astrology to persuade my family. My parents, siblings and most of the other relatives showed willingness to agree to the new remedial measure and came to see Guru. On the day they arrived, Guru spoke with them for a long time. Guru drew our attention to once prosperous families who worshipped deities in their own shrines have become decadent. Guru also spoke on the Gurupooja in The Ashram. It is cleansing ordained by the Will of the Almighty and could free us from all the baleful astral influences and spirits. Nevertheless there could be some pain and suffering. It is like an operation in which the patients have to go through pain for healing to take place. Guru expressed his willingness to do Gurupooja for us and asked my father whether he was ready for it. At that crucial moment my father wavered, probably aware of the anxiety on some faces in our group.

My father’s response shattered me. He said that he wanted some more time to consult these members of the family who could not come to the Ashram with us. My father’s unfortunate answer amounted to an outright rejection of Guru’s immense Grace extending so caringly to protect us. It amounted to a rejection of the Almighty’s compassionate Will. Seeing what untold grief my family had caused me Guru allowed me to declare my position to my parents and relatives. I went to Panmana when a ceremony was being conducted in the family shrine. I told all who were present there that my wife and myself along with our children would no longer associate ourselves with either this shrine or the rituals conducted in it.

Within a short period the branch of our family who were directly involved in lighting the lamp in the shrine daily had to sell their house and property and move to a far away place. The daily lighting of lamp in the shrine stopped the priest who used to perform the pooja once in a month had a fall from his bicycle on his way to the shrine and broke his legs. Another priest was brought to take his place after some days. He opened the shrine to find an invasion of termites all over the place. Worse than that the idols had lost their firm connection from their seats. The priest left without performing the pooja, advising my parents to arrange for a reinstallation of the idols and other purificatory ceremonies.

My parents were helpless now, they themselves were facing problems like people streaking their coconuts, encroaching their property etc. With the help of some relatives they got another astrologer along with a priest to tantrically shift these deities to various temples. The idols believed to have been their abodes were thrown (immersed) in the sea. The shrine itself was demolished. The properties including the one in which the shrine once stood were all sold. That was the end of a long chapter in our lives.

Guru, in spite of how my father behaved, showered unconditional Grace on him. My father could see Guru in vision. Not once but many times. My father started chanting Akhandanaamam which is the main vehicle of prayer in the Ashram. He could find relief in chanting it. My father was a patient of rheumatic fever. At one point he had become so weak that blood transfusion had to be given to him. A thorough check up was done and the x-ray film showed a clear mass below the lungs. His case was referred to the Medical College hospital in Thiruvananthapuram when Guru was informed of this situation. He asked me to first consult doctors known to one of his close disciples, Dr. Somanathan before bringing him to Trivandrum. Accordingly I went to an eminent chest specialist with the x-ray film and other medical records.

After examining these, doctor said that he did not want to see the patient. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy were the only treatment in this case. Considering the patients age and physical condition such treatment was not advisable, the doctor asked me to take him home from the hospital without letting him know what had happened. Give him all that he liked. Medical care was to be given to him to make it easier for him. I conveyed the doctor’s advice to Guru, and without saying anything Guru gave me a small packet of bhasmam (sacred ash) for my father.

I went to Panmana and gave an account of this development to my mother and brothers. Under the pretext of going to Trivandrum Medical College, we obtained discharge from the hospital in which he was admitted. I brought my father to my house. I gave the packet of bhasmam from Guru to my father. He would apply the bhasmam on his forehead and put a pinch of it in his mouth. Days passed by and my father appeared to be quite happy and had a good appetite. I went and told Guru about this improvement. Guru smiled: ‘It is all his Grace! Do your prayers’. After two years father was admitted in the same hospital for rheumatic fever and general weakness. The doctor who treated him earlier was still there and he was utterly astonished. He never expected my father to survive that long. The X-ray film of my father’s chest surprised the doctor further. Chest was clear. When my father complained about his aches the doctor patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘You have escaped miraculously from a killer disease! May be it is the Grace of God or of your Guru! Do you think you should complain about these aches?’ Only then did my father find out the secret we kept away from him. My father lived for many more years and passed away in June 2002. Such is the boundless Grace of my Guru!

I have only that GRACE to fall upon. And I experience it now through Guru’s Sishyapoojitha! May I humbly submit my reminiscences at GURU’S lotus feet!
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