ADVAITHASHRAMAM (Chapter – 9)

Sivagiri witnessed two important incidents on  the day of the installation  of Mother Goddess Sharada Devi in 1912.  The first one was that Divyasri Bodhananda Swamy and  his group of disciples, who had an independent orgainsation, came to Sivagiri and joined as disciples of the Guru.  The second one was that Divyasri  Sivalinga Dasa Swamy was nominated as the legal successor of the Guru, and the responsibility of administering  Sivagiri Mutt was  bestowed on him.  On the next day, the Guru left for  Aluva and initiated the work to  found Advaithashramam.

Advaithashramam, founded in the year 1912, is situated on the banks of River Churnika (Periyar) opposite to the sandy bank where Mahasivaratri is celebrated every year. Next year 1913, a Sanskrit school, with boarding facilities attached to Advaithashram,  was started.  In those days, the existing  Sanskrit schools did not admit  Avarnas and non-Hindus. This Sanskrit school was opened mainly to compensate for this shortage.  Without  any discrimination, children of all castes and religions were admitted to this school. Advaithashram  and the Sanskrit  school there,  became the lever for thousands of people  to more forward. 

The Guru was an Advaithin.  Advaitha  recognizes the existence of “one”, not two.  ALL ARE ONE. The cause of all is Brahman or  God.  This is the Truth.  This is what Advaitha confirms.  The whole of Indian philosophy is discussions about God, Life and Universe.  In this, Adi Shankara says Brahmasatyam, (Brahmam is Truth), Jagat Midhya . (The world is Illusion) Life is Brahmam. 

The Guru differs from this a little.  He says  Jagat eswareeyan, The world is not illusion, but it is God’s play, it is also an aspect of Brahman.   Therefore all human beings are particles of Brahman.  There can be no essential difference between two human beings.  Differences like caste, religion, colour, race etc,  are all imaginary. Chathurvarna. (Division as Brahmin, Kshatriya Vysya, Shudra) has  no true foundation.  The Guru asserts that humanity can be divided  only into two, male and female. Man should recognize each  human being as his own bother. Any thing that  stands in the way of this understanding should  be  discarded. This is what the Guru’s philosophy teaches. Therefore, on the entrance to the Ashram, there was a prominent inscription Om, tat sat Aluva Advaithasharamam.  Here people do not have separate castes, religions  or deity. All are parts of the same  Advaithic Truth.  Therefore all are equals and brothers.

“Do not ask, say or think about caste”   This dictum was the Guru’s  ideal in life.  The Guru believed that it was better to have one dictum and implement it, rather than introducing a thousand.   As far as he was concerned thoughts, words and actions concentrated on one ideal.  The philosophical thoughts he presented were moulded in the kiln of his own mind, burnt with the hot flame of his own experience, without any possibility of errors or mistakes.  What he said was his soul’s words. 

According to  the  Guru, Advaitha is not just a philosophical principle, it is a way of life, to be followed by every one in every thing.  The Guru had liberated himself totally  from all discriminatory thoughts about caste or  religion and had reached the peak of  Advaithic experience.  His ambition  was to bring this knowledge and feeling to the people’s  hearts.

In the year 1919, he published a declaration from Advaithashram, This clearly tells  that the Guru was beyond the confines of caste and religion.

I have no caste – A Declaration

Advaithashram,
          Aluva,
1091 Edavam 15.

Already some years have passed since I gave up caste, but I have come to know that  still some particular  groups consider me as belonging to their sect and behave accordingly.  Because of that, an awareness is generated which is against truth. I don’t belong to a particular caste or religion. 

A special  condition had been fixed that only such persons who  give up their caste  and religion would be eligible  to become my successor,  and will be inducted in future  as disciples of this Ashramam.  This declaration is published for the information of the public (Prabuddha Keralam, Vol-I,  Issue –9,  1091  Midhumam, page 285).

This declaration was published by the Power of Attorney holder of the Guru,  Sri Narayana Chaithanya Swamy.

Another small speech by the Guru at Kollam in 1916 expresses the same idea. This was spoken on the occasion of the inauguration of a building constructed by Achyuthan Mesthiri at Pattathanam, Kollam.  This was published in the daily newspaper “Desabhimani” of July 16th , 1916.

The Guru’s Speech,

I have given up caste and religious discrimination .

The man-made caste difference which we see now, has no meaning. Moreover it is harmful also.  It  has to go.  Even the thought  of upper and lower castes should disappear.  This thought has gone away from me  long   ago.  Matters connected with the society   should not be under the control of religion, nor  religion be under the thumb of the society.  These two issues should  not be interlinked.   Religion is an issue concerned with one’s own mind.  Religious freedom should never be stopped.  There  are different types of people.  Depending on   their  mindset, and growth of the mind, different religions are inevitable.  It is very difficult to have just one religion which is acceptable to all.  But, no one should  say that only  my religion is true, all the other  religions are false.  There is truth in all religions.  All the religions  are formed with good intentions.

I have no connection with any of the existing religions.  I have not founded a  separate religion.  I  agree  with all religions.   Let each one follow the religion he likes.  I have consecrated some temples because  some of  the Hindus wanted it.  If Christians or Muslims  ask for such things, I will be always happy  to attend to their needs and oblige.   When I say that I have given up caste and religion,  it means that  I have no special attachment to  any caste or  religion.

The person who tried for the development of Advaithashram, more than  any one else after the demise of the Guru, was Divyasri Shankarananda Swamy.  He used the money he got by selling his family property, to construct the beautiful  Guru Mandiram  and the grand office building.  He was in charge of the Ashram in those days.  When Srimad Suddhnanada Swamy became the secretary, he got the beautiful facade built at the entrance, which will certainly attract the attention of all the passers by.

In 1924 the Guru convened the first All Religions’ Meet in Asia here(Details in Chapter 12).  commemorate that event, every year All Religions’ Meet and Sree Narayana Convention are held here.

The important festivals observed here are Gurudeva Jayanthi, Maha Samadhi and Mahasivaratri. On the new moon day in the month of Karkatakam, and on Mahasivarathri, thousands of people come here to perform oblations to their ancestors. The Guru’s bedding, walking stick etc., are preserved in the Guru Mandiram as sacred objects for devotees to see.   Every week lectures and discussions based on the Guru’s compositions are arranged.  It is distressing to note that, the great Sanskrit school founded by the Guru, along with Advaithashram, has become an ordinary high school under SNDP.    Now about 2½ km away from the Ashram, at Thottummukham, a new English medium high school, called Sivagiri Vidayaniketan is functioning under the Dharma Sangham.  The Dharma Sangham had nearly 40 acres of land at Thottummukham.  Out of this, 18 acres are given to Sree Narayana Sevika Samajam, to run an organization for women’s welfare, known as Sree Narayana Giri. At Thottummukham,  there is a piece of stone on which the Guru used to sit and relax during his long walks. This stone is preserved as a sacred object. Sahodaran Ayyappan’s Samadhi also is at Sree Narayana Giri.

In 1921, All Kerala Sahodara Sammelan (Organisation of Universal Brotherhood) was organized at Aluva Advaithashramam.  Sri Sahodaran Ayyappan was the main organizer.  On the entrance,  the Guru’s Words “Sahodaryam Sarvathra”  (Universal Fraternity) were displayed. Previously, Ayyappan had already organized and conducted a community meal programme, which the Guru had blessed with all his heart. Expressing his approval of the programme, the Guru had sent a great message, in his own handwriting, which had become historic. The religion, dress or language of human beings  may be different but their caste (Jati) being the same, there is no harm in inter caste marriages or interdining, signed by Guru. In 1921, he gave two more divine messages to humanity “One caste, One Religion and One God for man”.  This is the first line of the second stanza of the Guru’s poem Jatinirnayam.  The second message is, “ Liquor is poison, do not make it, do not give it, do not drink it”. These three messages together  have perpetuated great changes in the society of Kerala. The triumvirate of Swamy Sathyavrathan, T.K. Madhavan and Sahodaran Ayyappan, created great commotion in the society by their lecture tours, organized protests and published articles.  Progressive minded people came forward surpassing the boundaries of caste and religion.   Anti- Liquor agitation also grew in strength.

Proliferation of Asharamas & Temples outside Kerala

 The Guru’s activities spread to Malabar, Tamil  Naadu, Karnataka and Sree Lanka.

 The Guru had performed  installation at Jagannadha  temple of Talassery in 1908 Feb, 13th; Kozhikkodu Sree Kantwswaram on May 11th, 1910, and Sundareswaram  at Kannur.  With this Sree Narayana  Organisation became active and lively in Malabar.

 In Tamil Naadu, at Thirupirakundram of Madhurai an Ashram named  Sree Narayana Mattom was started by Santa Linga Swamy, a native of Tamil Naadu in 1913. At Kancheepuram in 1916, Sree Narayana Sevasharam was started  by Srimad Govindananada Swamy. The same Govindananda Swamy had toured  Singapore, Malaya and Japan in 1917 to spread the messages of the  Guru.  In the same year, Sree Narayana Satsanga  Samithi, and Advaithasharama Sabha was started at Chintadripet in Madras.

 In addition to these, institutions in the name of the Guru had come up in all important cities of Tamil Naadu  like Selam, Pillayar Petti, Tirunelveli, Srivilliputhur, Kurtalam etc., apart from Madras  and Kancheepuram.

 With the installation of Gokarnanatha Temple at Kundroli, in Mangalapuram(1910), the Guru’s name and fame spread to Karnataka also.  With that a number of institutions and organizations had come up in the name of the Guru in South Karnataka.

 In 1918, the Guru visited Sri Lanka and Started an organization Vignanodayam, and the devotees installed Sree Narayana Mandiram at  Colombo.

The Guru’s disciples had founded Ashramas  and hermitages at several places in India.  Maharshi Asangananda Swamy  was a disciple of Sivalinga  Dasa Swamy, the first disciple of the Guru.  Asangananda Swamy, following the instructions of the Guru, started on an all India tour, after taking  the blessings of the Guru.  He reached and settled at Yerpedu near Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and started Vyasaashramam.  He became popular in Andhra Pradesh  as Malayala Swamy and Vyasashramam has spread  all over Andhra  through a number  of branches and sub- branches.  They respect  Sivagiri as their original Guru’s place.   Another ascetic disciple of the Guru, Sankarananda  Swamy, had founded  a number of hermitages  in and around Kashi.  He was a teacher in  Kashi (Banares) University and had introduced  the Guru’s Darsanamala to be taught in  a number of Ashramas.  Shanti Ashram, founded  by Sadhu Sivaprasad in Agra deserves to be mentioned here.  In this way, the Guru’s messages  echoed in different parts of India.