A View of Santhigiri Ashram

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Dharma of Marriage

The purpose behind marriage is the procreation of noble children, who will form the foundation of virtuous families and a virtuous human society. Through such offspring, parents attain elevation not attained by them. A family’s gradual spiritual elevation depends upon the merit of actions of the successive generations. Man-woman relationship is thus part of a divine process for fulfilling the ultimate purpose of life, which is spiritual elevation of every clan of families.

Man, as a rational being, lives according to his aspirations and freedom of thought, which produces diversities in the web of human relationship. This diversity is reflected in the social life, philosophy, art, culture, politics and economics. Among the complex social relationships, the relationship between man and woman is most fundamental since it plays a pivotal role in molding the culture of people. From the seed of man-woman relationship develops all other relationships - mother-father, son-daughter, sister - brother and so on. 

If the male-female relationship is not placed appropriately, the births proceeding from it would also have drawbacks. It means that through marriage, the male and female ought to initiate spiritual enrichment for the next generation. By the strength of offspring’s virtue, the parents are lifted up to a new plane of prosperity and peace, which they themselves lacked in life. 

Man-woman relationship calls for extreme caution and analysis in order to provide enduring beauty to the relationship. Normally, various aspects, such as health, looks, economic and social status, education, family lineage, caste, religion etc. are considered before tying the nuptial knot. The seers of India have enlightened us on the spiritual depth of marriage and the values and vision associated with marriage. For example, swayamvaram (a girl’s selection of bridegroom) was allowed under the spiritual guidance of rishis in the olden times. By the graceful guardianship of the seers, girls used to be endowed with spiritual knowledge and experience of spiritual visions (darsan).

 ‘Kulam’ (clan), ‘gotram’ (family stock), family tradition, faith etc. purports to the evaluation of a family’s worth in a spiritual point of view. However, caste should not come in the way of such life evaluation. The basis for such evaluation is the consideration of cumulative virtue earned by the souls in that family through their deeds in successive births.  Relationship between the males and females of such families produces positive results, as there is a matching of culture, wisdom and ability. Most important aspect among this is the way of worship because there should be a single way of worship in a family. 

Karma Gati or karmic course is influenced by vasanas or propensities of an individual, which includes the karmic burdens or fate. The karmic courses of the husband and wife should be complementary. For a scientist husband, an intellectually evolved wife would be contributing. There is a similar aspect to the spiritual status of individuals. An intensively spiritual husband and a less spiritually conscious wife will be a sure recipe for trouble. There is another aspect. The character and behaviour patterns of individuals vary according to the type of worship or faith they are attached to.  The unity of a family depends upon its spiritual unity. Therefore, the faith in one Supreme God is important to maintain spiritual unity in the households. It is only by correcting these underlying conflicts at the level of the soul can any real improvement be brought about in strife-torn families. 

The sages said, Bhaarya Bhajati Bhartaaram a wife worships her husband. The concept only means that by following the footsteps of her husband, a wife should attain an elevated position in life. The controversy on gender equality has arisen from a slip in the understanding of the divine status of a husband and wife and their responsibilities to each other. Success lies in the understanding of the qualities of both genders and developing together synchronizing these qualities. In family life, a wife embodies dharma and husband karma.

A person, who becomes a husband, should protect the chastity of his wife. It would be possible only when we order the dharmic structure behind life. Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru said that a father should be one with a mind as pure as the sky and a mother should be one speaking profound words (of wisdom). Like the sky, which absorbs the hordes of dark clouds, a father who is a husband should be able to absorb shocks, ups and downs in life with equanimity. There should be the quality of discrimination about what is right and wrong in life and one should live with a balanced mind. This is the meaning of ‘a mind as clear as the sky’. 

Such an ability to behave beyond the instincts happens through the grace of a supremely enlightened Guru.
Develop sukrutam –a benevolent attitude in all circumstances - that is the responsibility of a husband. The husband should understand his wife with all her limitations, cultural and spiritual qualities and give her guidance and support. Then only she could be elevated to a high status. The bond of husband and wife is to provide birth to noble children through their vigilant, pious and pure life. This type of life is possible only when we are guided by an omniscient soul-knowing Guru.  A woman after marriage is supposed to be living deeply respecting her dutiful husband. By this, she attains a blessed state in life. This can become practical only when the woman is enlightened enough to guide her husband in the path of dharma. The wife should seek life fulfillment through a path of dharma, the karma of her husband nourishing this goal.

Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru has said that the father should bring up the children in an atmosphere of proper worship (faith in the One Almighty God), life culture (habits), love and compassion to fellow beings. It would be possible only when the father and mother live according to the guidance of the 'Atmajnani Guru'. The father should make the children understand the difficulties and hardships that he himself had undergone in life and also create situations in the life of the children for them to learn from such experiences.(The Dharma of Marriage, Swami Navananma Jnana Tapaswi, quoted from Santhigiri Souvenir 2016)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru - The Great Hindu Reformer

What makes Navajyotisree Karunakara Guru and Santhigiri Ashram different from other gurus and ashrams is a question often asked. While talking about the tenets of Gurumargam, Navajyotisree Karunakara Guru once mentioned that His path is the Vimochana Matam, i.e. the Liberating Dharma. Gurumargam is the way of devotion to the Guru who has been commissioned by God for the spiritual transformation and deliverance of humanity independent of all religious dogma. Guru is God’s medium to actualize the Will of God. As one scholar put it, at one level, God is the Guru; at another, Guru is the divinely commissioned Guru. The human Guru is equal to God but has in him an element of divinity due to his commission. This office is passed on to his successors who remain one with him. Guruship does not end with the physical departure of the founder Guru. The office is one and continuous. What the successors say and do is legitimized by virtue of their office. A few aspects that make Santhigiri Guruparampara different from other sage traditions may be surmised thus:
For the Guru, God is Parabrahman, the Supreme Truthful Light. There is no second God. His light pervades in everything and everyone. God is known only through his Creation. One should live in accordance with the divine order accepting the Will of God. Guidance comes from God through the medium of Guru, and liberation comes through Guru’s grace. For the Guru parampara the words of Guru or Guruvani are sacred. It serves as the sole Holy Scripture for the followers. The word of Guru is equated with Truth, Truth with Guru and Guru with God.

A seeker cannot evolve spiritually without a Guru. Self-effort in the form of yoga, meditation, visit to temples and other holy places does not elevate the soul spiritually if one is without Guru. Guru, however, accepted the existence of all spiritual entities including ghosts, goblins, evil spirits, ancestral spirits, devi-devas, angels etc. which inhabit the subtle universe. However, they are not to be worshipped as they themselves seek birth and liberation in Kaliyuga through the medium of Guru. Only through a human embodiment and karma dharma, the souls can evolve to higher spiritual realms. Therefore, Guru rejects the worship of traditional deities and religious lore promoting such sectarian concepts of God. Neither did Guru favor the concept of maya or illusion and rejected the equation of individual soul with Brahman, the main feature of Vedanta.

Guru shed light on the secret of Creation by reiterating that the solar system including the human world was created by the sankalpam of Manu, who is the Primordial Purusha or the First Born of God. (This Manu, however, is different from the author of Manusmriti with the same name). Guru, therefore, rejected the puranic myth that Brahma is the Creator. For Guru, the trimurti gods were gurus of bygone cosmic ages who came for the spiritual correction of humanity. However, their spiritual incumbency in this age is disowned. Today the world is a theatre of pathetic religious discord. Every sect claims that theirs is the only way to God or the true path, which produces discord and violent conflicts among the religious followers. Guru says that behind these apparent contradictions, there is a thread of spiritual unity.

Numerous gurus, seers and prophets of different caliber come for different duration such as 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500 or 5000 years according to the spiritual condition of the age. Great souls like Ram, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, Moses, Zarathustra, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad, Guru Nanak and others were preceptors who appeared for the spiritual renewal of humanity during historical intervals. This process of spiritual renovation goes on until the end of a cosmic age. In the light of this, no prophet or guru can claim to be the final messenger of God or the only way to God. It is this spiritual culture or character of Sanatana dharma which makes it eternally relevant, vibrant and tolerant to other religions. Although not subscribing to the tenets of established religions, Guru’s Liberating Dharma teaches a follower to respect all world teachers and their sacrifices in a deserving manner since they belong to the brotherhood of mahatmas who came for the spiritual reformation of humanity at various historical intervals. However, their mission remains incomplete necessitating another epoch of spiritual renewal by a world teacher.

Guru disapproved the hierarchical caste system and opened the path of spiritual redemption for all people, especially the downtrodden and women. The followers of Guru belonged to all castes and occupations. The majority came from the backward castes, scheduled castes along with Brahmin, Nair, Christian and even Muslim communities. While repudiating caste system, Guru, however, said that varna concept is the classification of human instincts based on the quality of thoughts and actions. Varna of a person cannot be determined based on birth in a particular family or community. Sometime, in the same family itself one can find all varna types.

There are no formal rituals for initiation into the faith of Guru. Anyone with faith in Guru, irrespective of religious and caste status, can join the faith. The only ritual formula for all spiritual performances and lifecycle ceremonies is the chanting of the divine name of the Guru revealed and potentiated by God. Verses and mantras from texts like Guru Gita extolling the glory of Guru is also recited for the purpose of worship. All rituals superintended by priests, tantra and mantra and worship of devi-devas are rejected in favour of direct guidance from Guru or through the anointed preceptors in the Guru parampara after the founder Guru’s physical departure.

Remembrance of God through the guidance of embodied Guru, chanting His name and leading ethical life as householders helping each other is the path of karma and dharma suggested for the householders. Guru established a self-reliant model of commune life, where all believers lived under one roof engaged in different occupations so that it reduced the burden and tensions of life by way of cooperative living. The sanyasis are required to live in accordance with God’s will as socially responsible persons, not as recluses who live detached from the community life. The Ashram of Guru is regarded as the sacred place of pilgrimage. To live in accordance with the guidance of Guru is more important. To make willing sacrifice for the protection and perpetuation of Guru paramapara is an essential ingredient of the faith.

Guru wanted that the society, the politics and government of the country be guided through the wisdom of an all-knowing Sage who functions by the sole of Will of God. Guru was concerned about the wrong direction of the society, of the painful conflicts, social disintegration and deprivation. Guru believed that only through the spiritual uplift of householders, especially women, the desired spiritual renaissance can take place in the world. Guru gave much importance to bhakti and self-surrender for the divine cause in order to change both the quality and structure of social life. The basis for social regeneration advocated by Guru is essentially spiritual, ethical and family oriented. Guru personally guided all householders in every area of life including marriage, education, occupation, birth and death.

A new guru parampara is born with a divinely commissioned Guru to guide its social and religious life. Guru’s message is not merely of liberation but also of social action. Although there is a group of sanyasis and brahmacharis belonging to both genders in the Ashram, He did not want that sanyasis wander aimlessly as mendicants. He was opposed to such meaningless renunciation. His ideal is self-reliance through community life. The sanyasis of Guru supervise the community life. The members of the commune engage in self-sustaining enterprises with a vision to help the community and the society with exemplary products and services.

Guru initiated a unique spiritual performance known as Gurupooja or Pitrupooja by which the devotee is freed from all inauspicious karma, i.e. deeds and debts of past and present lives and also from the consequences of erroneous ways of God worship handed down by the ancestors. After a few generations, several mahatmas and other high souls waiting for rebirth in the kaliyuga shall be born in the families thus spiritually purified. With that, the spiritual renovation of humanity would be complete. These noble souls are unable to take birth now because of the spiritual decadence and unqualified parentage.

Navajyotisree Guru was born on 1st September, 1927, at Chandirur, Alapuzha district in Kerala. The birth of Guru was marked by incidents associated with divine births. After His birth, Guru became aware of a unique spiritual experience. There was a ‘Radiance’ inside Him until the age of nine, which He identified with Sri Krishna. When He became 14 years old, Guru left home in search of spiritual realization. He led the life of an ascetic in the Ashram founded by Sri Narayana Guru, well known spiritual and social reformer of Kerala who said ‘One Caste, One Religion, One God for humanity’.

During His search for truth, Navajyotisree Karunakara Guru met Khureshia Fakir, a Sufi sage, who lived near Beema Masjid at Thiruvananthapuram. The ancestors of Khureshia Fakir belonged to Pathan tribe of Afghanistan, hence he was also known as Pattani Swami. This Sufi master was instrumental in awakening rare mystical experiences present in Guru. After few years’ association with Khureshia Fakir, Guru established Santhigiri Ashram near Pothencode. In the year 1973, after a series of spiritual experiences and fulfillments, Guru’s supreme spiritual status and extra ordinary divine mission were revealed to the disciples by the Radiance of God. On 6th May, 1999, Navajyoti Sri Karunakara Guru merged with the eternal Light of God. The present head of Santhigiri Ashram is Her Holiness Sishyapoojita Amritajnana Tapaswini, who is empowered by the Guru to spiritually lead the Guruparampara.

Guru founded a universal spiritual path based on the faith in the Oneness of God and Humanity in fulfillment of the wishes of great rishis, sages and prophets who came in the past. The teachings of Navajyotisree Karunakara Guru deal with the questions of spiritual evolution, spiritual hierarchies, cosmic time order, astral pollution, soul transmigration, purification of karmic, ancestral and spiritual errors, and the possibility of spiritual intervention from time to time in the spiritual evolution of humanity. The path of Guru can be referred as Jnana Margam – founded on the monotheistic principles of Sanatana Dharma. Only such a spiritual path can unite Hindus and the people of India.

Mukundan P.R.