A View of Santhigiri Ashram

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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Guru of O.V. Vijayan, famous Novelist

Gurucharanam Saranam
The Guru of O.V. Vijayan
G.P. Krishna Kumar, Santhigiri

Late Sri O.V. Vijayan’s association with Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru is well known.  The famous writer once said about the Guru:  ‘GURU is an experience beyond translation….’ A few remarks made by O.V. Vijayan on his relationship with Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru are quoted below:

Guru – an Experience beyond translation

‘the ever stable Guru is a great motion. This is my experience. I happened to meet Guru more or less in a barren situation. I had no knowledge or prejudice about Gurumargam. I do not intend to evaluate that meeting in a logical perspective. But I do not require the help of any theology to distinguish the organic evolutions that took place within my inner alertness. Like a piece of emotion surpassing time, a fear of existence or a self ecstasy, something stirred inside me. Try not to define. Only one! Only this! The dizziness from this contact changed it to a movement. I dissolved myself in the great current of Guru. If this is attempted to concise in words, perhaps problems arise. There is no translation for experience’.

Guru – a Great Movement

‘after a long silence, although the circumstances were unfavourable, I started writing. The inspiration for that humble creation was the compassion I could experience myself. I was brave enough to make my literature the medium of that compassion only because of my becoming a part of the great movement of Guru. This gift is not mine. It is of Guru. I know about that only as a small dot of the total knowledge. I have no authority to handle the figures of virtues characterized by me. But I consider that Guru has made me an instrument. The concept of God is beyond the reach of us who are immersed in the futilities of modern life. But Guru becomes the exchange of this experience. Without the help of any theology! ’

Prostrations to Guru

‘I do not ordinarily pray. If at all I pray in some extraordinary circumstances that would be for selfish motives only. My past is full of mistakes. The memory of those mistakes leads me to inertia. But Guru says these are all human. In one word “No-problem”. This one word of pardoning was terrible than any other verdict of punishment. The energy out of that rejuvenates me. Prostrations to Guru’!

Guru was catalytic to my literary works

For Vijayan, Guru was an experience. Vijayan used to come to Santhigiri to experience the infinities of soul and its everlasting beauty. His contact with the Guru, for more than a quarter century, was not accidental. It was the culmination of his prolonged enquiries. His life’s desire was to dissolve in that ocean of love and he achieved it. Without the help of any theology Vijayan recognized Karunakara Guru.  ‘What is the factor that Karunakara Guru attracted you’? Vijayan did not have to think a second time to answer the question. ‘The relation of love, the eternal love no one else can give. That noble love touched my soul and my literature…’

Perhaps we were not able to comprehend the turning point of Vijayan to spirituality as we wanted him to be in a particular plane of intellectuality as he always was… He suffered much for his visions. The words of V.K.Madhavankutty are proof for this. “I could not understand what Guru has said or what Vijayan had comprehended. But Vijayan was firm in it. Vijayan had to sustain the blame of advocating Hindutva. I can tell that he was not so. Vijayan did not complain to anybody.”

Vijayan has written about his experiences in a small book in Malayalam ‘The turtle fish misled to the sea” published by D.C.Books.  Answering the question why Vijayan comes to Santhigiri, the great Novelist said, “I come to Santhigiri to untie and keep down the bundle of my ego, of my intellect and art and to bathe in humility.” 

 O.V.Vijayan in the Preface to ‘Dharmapuranam’

‘Some problems arose between the years of serializing it and publishing it as a book. Most important of them was the character formation of “Sidharthan”. At that time, I happened to be in contact with the great Acharya Karunakara Guru of Santhigiri Ashram, situated near a small village called Pothencode. From the Gurusankalpam as the result of this contact, I could change “Sidharthan” as Guru and the revolutionary touch of Sidharthan as Guru’s gift. This change was reflected throughout the story and made several concepts remain vague in the series more distinct in the book. As there were tamasik and murderous portions in it, I asked whether I can drag the name of a Guru in its presentation. But Guru answered in the affirmative. This reply made me grateful and self confident. I firmly believe that the technicality of ‘Dharmapuranam’ will guide the good minds ……..above all it’s the obscenity’. 

‘The erotic bio-insurgences and the gentle death are the two ends. It is the interval between the two that we, who have born as humans, have to handle it carefully. We are all counting the waves in the shore of the sea called ectoplasm. Here where is room for any dualism. Light and darkness identifying their half portion… impotency again conjoins. Births and deaths unite. The Guru at the same time remains in the dissolution point of the handful of water and the sky rocking ocean enquires our welfare. That is the severe and personal of the extreme dissolution. ‘Gurusagaram’ was the witnessing of thousand fold Guruthva. Oh! My Atoms which immerses in the great bliss being self reformed particles always guiding to the multiple formations of creation, I prostrate you. Lift down our dirty baggage in this journey. Why? Reject them by opening our inner faculties, our positions, honors, education, physical fairness all and all.

Sacrifice is a great experience. Gathering them from the original textures we have made it fossils, by discarding values, externalized, made prose and verses and fractionalized the creativity as the satirical imitations. When we unload from our shoulders, make a sigh of relief, when the pure knowledge of the universe only remains, the co-traveling child laughs. Only with the knowledge and karma we can know as to how far we can laugh like that. But we can say one thing. Just outside the window panes of the aircraft Guru shall remain always as the co-traveler of this traveler’.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pratishta Varshikam -Anniversary of Consecration of Prayer Hall

Gurucharanam Saranam
Today, 10.02.2009, is Pratishta Varshikam-The Anniversary of Consecration of Prayer Hall by Guru

Prayer Hall of Santhigiri Ashram
The prayer hall of Santhigiri Ashram is consecrated as per the will of Brahman. The foundation stone for this prayer hall was laid by Guru on 20th October, 1986, Monday at 12’0 clock noon (Malayalam Era 1162, Tulam 3). It was constructed as per the intimations from Brahman according to the concept of cosmic wheel consisting of 27 stars 12 constellations and 9 planets. The sanctum sanctorum was erected on the morning of 30th January, 1989. The concept of Guru behind the establishment of this prayer hall is to nourish a universal culture based on truth. The consecration took place at 3 AM on 10th February, 1989 (M.E.1164 Makaram 28). Guru himself performed the consecration. Prayers and contemplations associated with it were done from 3 to 9 in the morning.

A magnificent golden lotus with the conceptual 2444 petals! This had been revealed through vision. The splendid and beautiful lotus was installed in the prayer hall above a platform having ten steps. These ten steps denote the elevated soul effulgence of Guru that exists above ten spiritual planes. Above the golden lotus is the glorious outline of Guru. Situated in its centre (heart) is the glittering Aumkar. From the Aumkar, rays of scintillating light spread in all directions.

The completion of prayers and contemplation for the consecration took place was on 23rd April, 1989 (M.E. 1164 Medom 10). The anniversary of the consecration is celebrated on Makaram 28 and the completion of consecration on Medom 10th. These days are the sacred days granted to mankind by the grace of Brahman to pray and dedicate oneself to that Supreme Will till the end of time. These days are the memorable milestones made available by the providence of God laying the path of worship and dharma in Kaliyuga for the whole humanity. Nothing should impair that sanctity and its significance, our burden of work or other rituals in life.

The consecration meant the pouring out of Guru’s own soul effulgence in the object consecrated. This caused severe repercussion in the physical body of Guru. The soul of Guru! The soul of transcendental union and bliss; the soul that ploughed the path for liberation in the Kaliyuga; the soul that has self- fulfilled through innumerous divine manifestations such as a god (deva), Rishi or a sage of self realization! From the peak of transcendental solitude and god realization, he came down to the world of mortals as per the decree of Brahman. Rising again from the ocean of perfection, re-enacted the spiritual ascensions and fulfillments, in the short span of a life. He burnt himself countless times in the fire of endurance. When he passed through this fire of torment, self fulfillment or spiritual completion took place. His soul became the universal abode of the 2444 gurus born in this Kaliyuga. He was elevated to the true meaning of ‘Guru is verily the Supreme Brahman’, proving the scriptural aphorism. He became the supreme father of the universe fulfilling godly will.
The appointed time for the graceful transfer of his soul effulgence as willed by Brahman came near. It was the peak of self sacrifice – the sacrificial consecration of one’s own soul that pulsated inseparably with the light of Brahman. The soul is installed or poured out on to something external. It is like discarding one’s soul from the body or transferring ones soul to an external object. That was the consecration Guru did. The penultimate sacrifice of forsaking one’s soul with all its earned virtue out of sacrifices made through thousands of births. Here the sacrifice of Guru and the Will of God gets fulfilled in perfect unison. The golden moment in the history of sacrifices! But it is not the end of the historical path of sacrifice. It is only its beginning, the point of emergence which will thread through the epochal valleys of time – the Manvanataras.

The first step in the process of Santhigiri’s ascension in the spiritual sky of the world had already begun with the consecration of prayer hall by Guru. The word of Brahman that Santhigiri would become a world famous pilgrimage centre was being actualized in the subsequent years. Thousands and thousands of people began to climb the steps of Santhigiri Ashram. World famous political leaders, literary giants, stalwarts in social and scientific fields, spiritual leaders from all religions and creeds, thinkers and educationists - all came to Santhigiri Ashram and saw the ray of hope and the preparation for a great renaissance emanating from Santhigiri. They experienced indescribable peace and transcendental joy in the abode of Guru.

Thousands of families from a society divided by the walls of caste, religion and class migrated to a new spiritual movement of equality, spiritual experience and guidance. They experienced godly love and fatherly protection at the feet of Guru. They submitted themselves at the feet of Guru along with all their possessions, worldly and otherwise. Thus a big community of disciples and devotees sprung up in Santhigiri Ashram. Guru created an enviable model of self sufficient community living, which has become the succor and hope of thousands of people, engaged in various professions, trade and enterprises. It was the birth of a new spiritual movement bereft of caste and religious identities and discrimination. It ploughed the path of liberation and human elevation to a depressed and diseased society, opening up the spring of a universal transformation.

Fulfilling the revelations during the days of ‘spiritual completions’ of Guru that great souls in all Guru lineages would take birth in this Guru Parampara (Guru Lineage) thousands of families were cleansed of the spiritual drawbacks at the genetic level so as to prepare the way for the birth of noble souls in the subsequent generation of these families. This spiritual cleansing was called Guru Pooja in Santhigiri Ashram, which is performed to the families of devotees with the permission from Guru.

Guru continued to live a life of extreme simplicity. He still lived under the roof a thatched hut, which he did till his last moments. The devotees of Guru wished to construct a magnificent edifice for Guru, the divine manifestation. Guru permitted the construction of this building and named it as Sahakarana Mandiram – the House of Cooperation. It was revealed about this that it would become the meeting place of world leaders in the time to come to discuss issues of mankind. The heads of nations would come to Santhigiri to seek guidance from Guru in various matters. The process of actualizing this prophesy has already begun. President of Indian Republic, top leaders of national political parties, Governors, Ambassadors, Central and State Ministers and other top officials met Sishya Poojita Amrita Jnana Tapaswini in the Sahakarana Mandiram and held discussions in the subsequent years after the passage and merging of Guru in the primordial light of Brahman.

Guru had completed the purpose of his life and the mission with which Brahman had entrusted him. On Thursday, 6th May, 1999 at 9 PM, Guru left his physical body. His soul left the mortal world and submerged in the primordial radiance of Brahman – the Adi Sankalpam. He became Nava Oli and Navajyoti, the new radiance of Brahman. A revelation came from that Light after Guru’s Adi Sankalpam. ‘Do not think that I have gone from you. I am with each one of you, as the totality in your life. I will continue to guide this Guru Parampara till the end of time’.

After Guru merged with Adi Sankalpam, the primordial radiance of Brahman, as per the intimations from the Light, a disciple was elevated to the position of Sishya Poojita, i.e. the venerated among the disciples. Thus Janani Amrita Jnana Tapaswini, who was with Guru from the age of nine and who performed spiritual intercessions on behalf of Guru through the medium of transcendental visions for a long period, became the first Sishya Poojita of Guru. Guru’s presence and guidance still continue as prophesied and will ever continue for ages to come.

A golden era has begun, not only for India, but for the whole humanity. The liberating, transforming and guiding light of Guru is the threshold to that great dawn of civilizational change and uplift.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

From Religiosity to Spirituality

From Religiosity to Spirituality
Rev. Prof. Valson Thampu

(The author is Member, National Integration Council and Member, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions)

“In a manner of speaking, you feel fobbed if, by the time you arrive, the great soul you’d have loved to meet, assumed the wings of eternity and disappeared beyond the veil of time. But the strange thing is that you don’t feel quite that way about Sri Karunakara Guru! At least, I don’t. Let me tell you why. There are two ways by which to encounter a person. The first and the most obvious, is to meet him in flesh and blood. You see him, listen to him and breathe in the ambience of his greatness. The second is to meet him through the impact he has had on his disciples through his work and message. But the latter option makes sense only if the person concerned is indeed an extraordinarily great person. Such a person leaves an indelible impression on the world around him. About such a person Jesus said, “even if he dies, he lives still.” Or, in the words of Bapuji, his life is his message. And to the extent that his message is still lived and lived as vibrantly as it is in Santhigiri, you don’t feel that you missed the Guru by a few years. I admit, with much embarrassment, that I came to know about Shri. Karunakara Guru only a few months ago. That ignorance is attributable only in part to my being a ‘Marunadan Malayalee’ or one among the dispersed Malayalee Diaspora. A similar predicament did not prevent Shri. K. R. Narayanan, the late President of India, or Sri. O.V. Vijayan from becoming an ardent follower of Sri Karunakara Guru.

The real problem lies elsewhere; and it is necessary to state it up front. Even though we pride ourselves in this country, on our unique and cherished tradition of religious tolerance, our tolerance a hazy and sleepy thing. As religious communities we live, mostly, in our separate religious ghettoes, taking care not to tread on each other’s tails or toes. India is yet to become a spiritual crucible, where all religious traditions enter into a free and fearless interaction, in the pursuit of truth and fullness of life. Our religious tolerance is a sort of anaesthetized religious co-existence. The time has come for us to move from tolerating each other in ignorant mutual avoidance to informed mutual engagement, celebrating a shared spirituality by exploring and enjoying each other’s traditions. True freedom is the freedom to welcome what is good and robust in the spiritual traditions we practice as timeless expressions of the human urge to be in communion with God. For this to happen at all it is imperative that we shift from mere religiosity to spirituality. It is such an emphasis that I find in the teachings of Sri Karunakara Guru and my soul resonates with this re-orientation.

A word about Santhigiri before I take note of the Guru’s revolutionary spiritual insights. Widely traveled though I am, and enriched with spiritual encounters far and near, I do not recall another place or people amidst whom I felt so instinctively at home as I did in Santhigiri, from the moment I stepped into that remarkable community of people, fiercely focused on the mission that the Guru has entrusted them. The Guru’s spirit lives on in every detail of what exists and happens there. This, in itself, is ample validation of the rare spiritual genius whose memory continues to inspire thousands to this day. A keenness to uphold in practice and propagate the Guru’s teachings in their purity is perceptible everywhere and I pray this remains so for the years to come. It has been the fate of visionaries and missionaries to have been outgrown and overreached by their followers. Going by what I have seen so far in Santhigiri, I feel inwardly comforted that an eager and joyful adherence to what the Guru stood for is the hallmark of Santhigiri.

It is presumptuous of me to try and encapsulate the deep and daring spiritual insights of the Guru in a short piece like the present one. All I propose to do is to itemize some of the insights that all people, irrespective of religious differences, can endorse readily. I feel at one with the Guru in his concern that we must worship God aright. Those who worship God, said Jesus of Nazareth, must worship him “in Spirit and in truth”. The mark of true worship, for both, is personal transformation. False worship, or worship that is not spiritually wholesome, is a danger because it induces personal degradation. The result, in the words of the Guru is: “The worshipper returns worse than before.”5 Guru’s criticism of using gods to perpetuate caste and class differences is socially radical and spiritually incisive. Superior gods for upper castes and inferior gods for the lower castes! The decisive element, the Guru emphasizes rightly, is our idea of God. Degrading and abusing gods for legitimizing caste inequalities and the oppression that goes with it is a spiritual scandal. God does not belong to any caste or class. Nor are we gods. All of us are part of the same Brahman. This is a vision that excludes social discrimination and oppression in every form.

The problem is not with God or gods. The idea that there are many gods and that gods exercise their jurisdiction along caste lines is an aberration improvised by human ego, especially group ego. As long as the human ego continues to direct and dominate the religious outlook these and a host of other distortions will remain endemic to the religious sphere. The radical solution, according to the Guru, is that we must transcend our ego. It is human ego that alienates us from the blessings of God. Here one is reminded of the words of Jesus, “If anyone wants to become my disciple he must deny himself, take up my cross and follow me.” (St. Matthew 16: 24).
I am particularly struck by the Guru’s revolutionary views on the socio-spiritual engineering required at the present time, as part of his over-all mission to evolve a wholesome spiritual culture. In this he enjoys a profound kinship with the founders of great religions. Their mission was not merely to enable a few people to attain moksha or salvation but to evolve a spiritually pro-active culture. Life before death was as important for them as birth after death would be. One is, indeed, continuous with the other. Playing one against the other is the familiar strategy of those who wish to manipulate the masses and exploit them in the name of religion. Karunakara’s guru’s emphasis on being spiritually purposive and wise in spouse selection and the foundational duty to raise children in a spiritually responsive and socially responsible manner is a challenge that no one can afford to ignore at the present time. “It is better to train your children to be karmayogis,” says the Guru, “than to leave them a big legacy.” According to him the spiritual regeneration of the family is the key to the regeneration of the society.

As a Christian priest and thinker, I feel humbled by the Guru’s forthright criticism of my community. It is at once recognition of the high spiritual ideals of the faith and the extent to which its putative followers play fast and loose with them. It is not enough, the Guru warns, to preach sacrifice. “Leading a truthful life is the essence of sacrifice. What have Christians to do with truth at the present time?” According to the Guru, “Christians have become like Hindus. They have imitated Hindu practices meant to appease God. Nothing prevents from doing improprieties in the name of God.”7 These are hard words. But they are more than welcome as they come from the unbiased concerns of a man of God whose moral indignation is aroused by the hypocrisy that he sees spread like cancer through a community of faith.

The Guru’s alarm at the degradation of education strikes a cord in my heart, having watched over the years the demise of idealism and moral passion in what has been traditionally assumed to be a sacred domain by every one of us. Who can doubt or debate Karunakara Guru’s prophetic denunciation in this regard, especially in the light of the controversy that is currently raging in Kerala? According to the Guru, “The educated are the most senseless. The illiterate have better sense. Pride invariably rules over those who are educated and prosperous.”8 The fact that it is the so-called educated class, and not the illiterate people, who have filled this punyabhoomi with corruption, venality and moral turpitude should make us sit up and wonder if what is on offer today is really education. We have to agree with Gandhiji that “education without character” is one of the seven deadly evils. Arguably, the spiritualization of education holds the key to the cultural regeneration of Kerala.

I cannot conclude this piece without recalling my hospitalization in Santhigiri. That I was overwhelmed with affection, good will and gracious hospitality is an understatement. But what I wish to appreciate here in particular is the on-going effort to integrate science and spirituality in the approach to healing in Santhigiri. To see doctors and spiritual teachers walk and work together in the hospital is a welcome thing indeed. In many other places, including in some very famous hospitals, I have heard slick presentations on the integrated approach to healing in a bid to overcome the limitations of the bio-medical model of curing. What is at work here is the sound awareness that healing is more than curing and that science and spirituality can be partners in the pursuit of human welfare; they need not be antagonists. The approach to healing in vogue in the Ashram is an open-ended one, if you like. It keeps the widows of possibilities open to trans-rational and supra-scientific possibilities. If human beings are more than bodies, surely neither the reach of, nor the remedy for, illnesses would be confined to the body alone. At Santhigiri it is assumed that we are ‘souls with bodies’ rather than ‘bodies with souls’.9 The realm of the Spirit is, in other words, primary. That being the case it is impossible to exclude the resources of the Spirit from the mysteries of the healing process, which far exceed the scope of mere curing.
Santhigiri is not just a religious movement; it is a total way of life. Even a cult can be described as a way of life. But what distinguishes a cult from a spiritual effervescence is the impetus of the latter to reach out and embrace more and more people within the radius of its goodness and generosity. A cult excludes; spirituality embraces. The former is marked by predatory, murderous covetousness; and the latter, by the joy of giving and sharing. It is this that I experienced in Santhigiri over the whole week that I spent there as a patient. And it makes me hope that this river of spiritual regeneration and social reform will flow out of Santhigiri and activate a new vibrancy through the whole of Kerala and beyond.”
(Courtesy: Santhigiri Publications, Santhigiri Ashram)