A View of Santhigiri Ashram

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

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Sadhu from the Himalayas

Gurucharanam Saranam
The Sadhu from the Himalayas

Babu was a young boy when he left his home in a village in Kerala. Unlike other children, he disliked to be at his home. He visited unknown households and offered his service to the family. As he was only a small boy, the householders would accede to his strange request and allow him to stay. Eventually his whereabouts would be found out and his parents would arrive to take him back home. Once, his outings became serious when he reached Crawford market in far away Mumbai. From there fate whisked him away to a group of spiritually thinking men. And it was serious again.

One fine morning, Sri Babu became a no-nonsense Sadhu in orange cloths with a heavy burden of matted hair and an equally long beard, wandering in the Himalayas in the manner of ascetics. He was in the race for the spiritual trophy like many other ascetics atop the Himalayas. But the trophy never came in his hand leaving him languid and mirthless. Then he took up a seven year long vow of annual visits to Ajmer Darga in Rajasthan. Now his desperation became uncontrollable, for his years long vow has ended, but the doors to spiritual attainment weren’t still opened. He was furious and caught the neck of the Fakir guarding the tomb in Ajmer Darga. ‘Give me the clue’, Babu Swami thundered. ‘I am on this vow for the last seven years’.

The Fakir quietly took him to an inner recess. After offering some drinks, he mentioned that the clue will be available only at another Darga connected with Ajmer Sahib Family nearby. Collecting the information, he set out immediately and reached the Darga a few KMs away. There too a fakir was guarding the tomb. He took permission from the fakir to tell his prayers. He asked the question of his life to the tomb. ‘You will get it at Kanyakumari’. The tomb said. When I asked him how the tomb gave him the clue, he said it was in the manner of soul communication. Unbelievable, but true! I would not have said so, if I had not got such experiences myself. I have had such experiences with Guru.

Babu Swami then headed towards South and took abode at Kanyakumari, but even after three years, the promised spiritual breakthrough still eluded him.
Babu Swami’s brother had a marble show room near Vyttila in Ernakulam town so he decided to visit him once. He reached Vytiila at the predawn hours. After walking a little he decided to wait at the veranda of a shop. While sitting there thus, he saw a vision of Christ. He thought to himself that the vision was significant. He got up and asked somebody the way to Shanthi Marbles, the brother’s marble show room and went in the direction shown and reached at the gate of Santhigiri Ashram, Ernakulam branch near Palarivattam. The person had directed him to Santhigiri Ashram instead of Shanti Marbles. Babu Swami saw a water pipe near the road that went to the Ashram. He bathed sitting under the pipe and felt fresh. The morning was still in its meditative mood and the bustle and hustle of life was yet to begin in the area. Babu Swami entered the Ashram stepping his right foot first. He had felt some genuine spiritual vibration in the place and a tender hope flickered in some roughened corner of his heart.

The Swami in charge welcomed him and offered breakfast. After breakfast the Swami instructed the mother of Sri Balakrishnan (now Swami Vishwabodha Jnana Tapaswi) to talk to the Sanyasi about the ways of the Ashram. They were speaking in Malayalam. But he feigned ignorance as they had already took him as a North Indian Sadhu, who did not know the local language. As instructed, Swami’s mother explained about the Ashram. She told him that the Ashram followed a system different from that of temple worship and that they followed the Guru in all matters concerning life and death. The Ashram even differed radically with the traditional sanyasa concept in some important aspects.

Babu Swami then asked her where their Guru was available. She gave the detail of Santhigiri Ashram, Pothencode. Babu Swami took her leave and fixed up a meeting with his brother in Shanti Marbles. The family members had forgotten him, but his brother recognized him. He called his brother out from the shop. ‘I require some money urgently’, the Swami said to his brother. ‘I shall be hanging around. You may come with the money to Marine Drive. I shall be there in the park. I require the money to go to a place in Thiruvananthapuram ’. As agreed, the brother came and handed over the money to him.

At the serene gateway of Santhigiri Ashram, Pothencode stood a dark looking Sanyasi with heavy matted locks perched on his head and equally long beard flowing down to the chest. His eyes had a fierce expression. His rugged appearance and manners bespoke of the rigor the life of a sanyasi is subjected to living in the wilderness, wandering from places to places. The person at the reception was startled at the sight of the Sadhu. He guided him immediately to the Ashram office.

The Sanyasi was not very communicable. One person by the name Vinayakan came there and asked him, ‘Swamiji, what is your name? Where are you from? What are you doing?’ The Swami ignored his questions and asked him to tell the Guru that one of his devotees had come to see him. The sanyasi waited and waited, but the Guru did not see him. Suddenly the Swami disappeared from the Ashram. Everybody looked for him in the Ashram but all at once he was missing.

The Swami went straight to the nearby town and entered a barber shop. He asked the barber to shave off his matted hair and beard. The barber was taken aback. He was afraid to cut his locks and therefore asked the Swami few times for confirmation. Then he proceeded with his solemn job and transformed the Swami beyond recognition. The Swami now was clean shaven with short thick disobedient hair. He bought a white dhoti and shirt too and wore it discarding the sanyasi dress. Now he looked like any other youth on the road. He was now Sri Babu from Kottayam, not any Babu Swami from the Himalayas.

At Santhigiri Ashram, the youth was welcomed as any one of the people visiting the Ashram daily. After little waiting, the meeting with Guru also took place. He prostrated before Guru in full length. Guru asked him to tell him in brief about his life. He told his story in brief. Guru then advised him to join his family at Kottayam. Understandably it was a difficult option for Babu and a totally unexpected advice. He was reluctant to go back home. Guru called him in his room. With folded hands, Guru requested him to go back to his house. It was a begging. Sri Babu could not bear this sight. A great soul begging a wretched soul like him! He immediately fell on the feet of Guru and said, ‘Guro, I will go to my house immediately’.

Thus Sri Babu went home at Kottayam and lived with his family for a few years during which period he lost all his spiritual charisma. Petty quarrels and fights at home dragged him cruelly to a world highly detested by the Himalayan sadhus. The sadhus had only one bond, the bond with the Supreme. Babu endured all troubles of family living and mellowed down to become a normal worldly person.

Year 1995. Spirited preparations to receive Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru at Kanyakumari were going on at Vivekananada Kendram and at the Travancore palace adjacent to the seashore in Kanyakumari. The rooms earmarked for Guru both at the Palace and Vivekananda Kendram were being thoroughly cleaned, wiped, fumed and perfumed with all other paraphernalia in place. Three persons were also instructed to offer ‘thattam’ (a platter with offerings) to Guru on his arrival.

Guru and his entourage came in thousands at the destined hour. The ‘thattam’ was offered to Guru by the three persons in an atmosphere charged with devotion and the chanting of Guru Mantra. Guru, after accepting the thattam, offered ‘prasadam’ to them. One among those three persons was Sri Kottayam Babu, the erstwhile Babu Swami.

While he offered the thattam to Guru and prostrated, the oracle he heard from the Darga near Ajmer came running to his mind in a flash. ‘You will receive it at Kanyakumari’. The experience was so striking. Guru benignly smiled and gave him the prasadam, which he received with both hands. Somewhere in the depth of his heart, a turbulent ocean became calm, very calm like a divine milky ocean.
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