The world marches on and man advances towards his high destiny zigzag, now rising, now falling but in his long run of history, towards fuller manifestation of his divinity. This process of progress is punctuated by reverses when, in benighted spells, moral values slump terribly, material achievements oppress the many and science, the driving force of the human ascent, turns wicked and menaces the very survival of homosapiens. From pervasive corruption to nuclear crisis, from oceanic social injustice to massive violence and vulgarity, the human family is currently losing its identity, integrity and collective conscience. Now, ‘to be, or not to be: that is the question’. To-day; to-morrow many be too late. In this dangerous dilemma, a spiritual catalyst’ with the message of a holistic realist, a common man, telling simple truths and propagating practical propositions, a divine human without pretensions, penetrating into the human essence with arrows of spiritual-material power, and unfolding a cosmic vision of universal oneness and individual excellence, is the urgent desideratum – a Socrates, a Jesus, a Gandhi, a Lincoln, a Lenin and a Vivekananda amalgamated in a humble figure with penetrating power to transform our being with revolutionary profundity.
The world where Narayana Guru was born and died has changed. But the basic issues that challenge mankind remain the same.
The dazzling millenniums in the offing, pregnant with technological promise, beckons to us, but the die-hard divisive madness, with portents of systemic break-up, frighten us. Where are we? Whither do we go? Have we a tomorrow? The menace of the atom may blow up both hemispheres but peaceful nuclear uses may spell abundance. Who will lead kindly light amidst the encircling gloom when innocent billions of humans are held hostage by warring ideologies, minatory militarisms, snarling Big Power blocs, quarreling communities and globoshima bombs, cold war among super-powers ‘willing to wound but afraid to strike’ and world leaders experiment with hatred but are alienated from unitive understanding? The human spirit is gripped by a ‘do or die’ crisis. A sublimely egalitarian social order is struggling to be born but our dear earth, the only known spaceship with homosapiens and civilizations, is spinning with frenzied speed towards nuclear chaos. In this final chance, fate commands humanity to make a critical choice between catastrophe and enlightenment. This whispering gallery of history bids us see reality which leads us towards universality where man sees his true image of oneness, where human heritage finds fulfillment in a new vision of divinised materialism, where a fundamental change must overtake warring West and slumbering East. Such is the darkling prospect, the riddle of future shock.

A gentle voice with the power of a storm, a far-seeing eye with the penetration of star, may I fancy, midwife that creative change when objective conditions are ripe. Was Narayana Guru, frail figure of fathomless power like Gandhi, such a voice, and such a vision, such a harbinger of hope? Perhaps, yes.
A dialectical analysis of the social-spiritual upsurges in contemporary history and an in-depth study of the dynamics of social change in the current context of world transition may well unfold the navigational role of the Guru at the micro and macro levels in the cosmic drama where all of us are actors more or less.
Such a one, with radiant eyes fixed on distant stars and next-door man, was Narayana Guru whose teachings are never time barred but deserve to be re-learnt and applied with a spirituality creative re-interpretation and a touch of dialectical materialism. That is the task of the Narayana Guru centers everywhere – not rituals and statues, ochre robes and poetic chants.
Life is in fatal peril; man is facing his gravest moment. Here is a frail Might of Light who tells humankind that pilgrimage to God is only thro’ pilgrimage to man, that to meet God and his truth you must first meet Man in his essence. Said Jesus: “the Kingdom of God is within you”. Said Ingersoll: “an honest God is the noblest work of a man”. Narayana Guru said: “Be one’s religion what it may, man must be good. One caste, one religion, one God for man”.
These messages, given to meet the challenges of social justice, have to be re-translated into the tongue of contemporary events. Narayana Guru fought, with quiet strength, the asuric injustices, the philistine fanaticisms and barbarian practices of his society. He resisted Brahmanical bigotry and installed deities, himself being of untouchable caste. But he taught the synthesis of divinity and humanity and made a mirror the last idol he enshrined. Look at yourself in the divine mirror, he admonished. “Know thyself” was the unmistakable message. He wanted a holistic understanding of Creation, acceptance of material prosperity of all as integral to higher advances of civilization and adoption of the eclectic Religion of Man, without region or division, as the synthesis of a new culture. This is the dynamics of the Word of the Guru, rekindled by the dialectics of the world community around. Of him Rabindranatha Tagore, after a historic meeting wrote: “I am sure, I shall never forget that radiant face illuminated by the self effulgent light of divine glory and those yogic eyes fixing their gaze on a far remote point in the distant horizon.”
The lens of a researcher may well tell us the story of how Kerala Society lived when Nanu, the bud, bloomed. But to confine his puissant impact on the social structure, the thought ways and life styles and response to new challenges to the West Coast of India is to dwarf the structure and culture of Narayana Guru whose inner power for change explains the centers in other parts of India, in South East Asia, U.K, and USA.Is Lenin’s revolutionary impact confined to Russian frontiers or Gandhi’s to India, Voltaire’s to France? Speaking generally, individuals don’t shape the course of history, ideas do. When dynamic ideas which express, at the right time the imperatives of tomorrow and strengthen the seminal forces that fight against the dying status quo, then history is shaped and a nascent synthesis, a fresh social equilibrium takes form.
In the battle of the tense Kerala, why India itself, witnessed, Narayana Guru silently personified the forces of the future and potentised the social proletariat, until then spiritually suppressed and economically exploited. He became the bugle for liberation from caste domination and communal division, from spiritual illiteracy and the opium of bigotry. He stood for universality and founded it on omnipresent divinity. He charged equal human rights and material deliverance with the matchless vitality of advaita. He knew the destiny of Man and resolved the unreal conflict between material and spiritual progress. His unitive understanding became a revolutionary gospel without noisy upheaval, his quiet utterances articulated a confident ideology where human bondage shall be broken and every man shall unfold his cultural wholeness, thro’ the highways of enlightenment. He was a Karma Yogi and a Jnana Margi, relevant to the worldly earth but inspired by celestial light. He sowed the seeds of social change, a new human order, not thro’ party politics or military might but thro’ propagation of simple ruths too penetrating to resist.
Victor Hugo spelt it out: “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world: and that is an idea whose time has come.”
Narayana Guru fathered profound ideas which did not shake but shape history. In truth, “Men make their own history, whatever its outcome may be, in that each person follows his own consciously desired end; and it is precisely the resultant of these many wills operating in different directions and of their manifold effects upon the outer world that constitutes history.” (Engles)
“No single man makes history. History cannot be seen; just one cannot see grass growing. (Pasternack)
Even so, the Narayana Guru was then representative man of his time and was the tacit yet volcanic power that moulded the future, manumitted the serf and promoted the emerging order of a casteless, classless culture where hatred was outlawed, brotherhood was the human essence of the system and unitive understanding the philosophical underpinning.
The many dynamic dimensions of the Guru’s personality cannot be studied in entirely by historians or sociologists or philosophy departments. He made history but was more than that. He spoke with a saintly gaze about a divinised society but he was more than that. His amazing serenity concealed the earthquake potency of his personality. A study of the Guru is the study of an epoch; a research into the Guru is a missile for social mutations. A comprehensive understanding of all that he did and said from a historic perspective and a futuristic objective will help a deeper grasp of India today and tomorrow. This Guru, though physically dead, has left a Testament of Truth which remedies the maladies which threaten to break up our nation, ever our cosmos.
There are some universal beings who remain beacon lights but it is left to us to re-interpret them in the light of changing challenges. Narayana Guru is one such. The Guru is within us as force for human mutation. I am sure, that a great sense of creative responsibility lies on us all to make Narayana guru a living force of unitive understanding with asocial dimension.

Nancy Yielding
Little Narayana, “Nanu,” never liked being indoors. The thick mud walls of the hut had no windows so it was always dark inside. The coconut-thatched roof provided some shade but little real protection from the heat of the tropical sun. The smell of sweat and coconut oil mixed with smoke from cooking fires created an atmosphere that he found suffocating. He much preferred being outside, walking on the thin paths raised up between the rice paddies, dabbling his feet in the irrigation streams, or sitting in the shade of the coconut trees where occasional breezes brought fragrances of the jungle and relief from the heat.
So he was happy when it came time for his education to begin and his father asked him to sit beside him outside. In the sand under the palm trees, Madan Asan wrote the letters of their Malayalam alphabet, then held Nanu’s hand and traced the curling figures until Nanu could do it by himself. A farmer, Madan Asan also was educated in traditional fields, both folk and classical. He was respected in the community as a knowledgeable man. It was natural that he should be his son’s teacher, passing `on to Nanu not only the Malayalam language, but also the ancient sciences of medicine and astrology. As he grew older, Nanu was also taught Sanskrit, the language in which a great heritage of literary masterpieces and philosophical treatises had been preserved through ages. He learned to chant the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, and memorized texts related to both literature and philosophy. His education was then considered complete.
As Nanu grew, he became aware of a whole network of superstition and prescribed behavior which divided society into groups and doomed many to lives of ignorance and poverty. Although his family participated in some reform efforts, they also observed some of the worst traditions. Nanu’s sensitive nature rebelled against such practices and he protested in gentle ways, often simply ignoring the barriers and freely associating with all.
He continued to spend as much time as possible outside, helping with family chores such as planting and tending a vegetable garden, grazing the cows and plowing. He dug a well, and then planted fragrant and flowering trees and bushes around it. Keeping company with nature fostered in him sensitivity to her many forms of beauty. Following her lures, he roamed the countryside, hiking many miles through the jungle and along inland waterways. Often, he would rise and go out very early, preferring to go without food and to feast instead on the singular beauty of a lotus opening to the sun.Or, entranced by moonlight sparkling on the ocean, he would spend the night on the beach rather than return to the confines of the hut. He often felt that his very soul flowed out until he became one with the beautiful scene around him, remaining for hours in a peaceful bliss.
As he wandered he ruminated, chanting the verses of poetry and philosophy he had memorized. He yearned to know more of the unfading splendor and timeless balm for suffering of which they spoke. Devotion to that unknown source grew in him as days went by. Gradually, the songs of his own heart also took shape as poetry. One day an uncle chanced upon him as he sat singing on the branch of a tree. Realizing that the beautiful hymn was the young man’s own composition, Nanu’s uncle decided that further education should be arranged for him. Nanu spent the next four years studying poetry, drama and literary criticism with a well-respected teacher, Raman Pillai Asan. During this time, he lived away from home where he continued his habit of studying, composing and chanting outside while he grazed his teacher’s cows.
As he matured, his sensitivity to beauty naturally extended to the young women he encountered. How much more attractive than the lotus was the flowering of a young woman’s smile and how much more engaging than the sheen of moonlight was the light of a young woman’s glance. But such encounters were few since social contact between unmarried men and women was virtually forbidden. His friends’ practice of composing erotic poetry to express their longings and frustrations did not appeal to him. He saw such pursuits as distractions from the search for the source of beauty to which he increasingly drawn. He wanted to discover if there were any truth to the promise of a deeper meaning of life. 
When he returned from the silence of those years, the pot was indeed full of pearls. Wherever he sat, people would come to be healed by his serene presence. Wherever he walked, they felt the bracing atmosphere of truth and justice and were encouraged to rid themselves of the bonds of ignorance and oppression. Whenever he spoke, his sweet compassion evoked confidence and loving kindness in others. Whenever he sang his compositions, his listeners came to know of the timeless light and beauty within them. Nanu, Narayana, had become a guru, a dispeller of darkness. He continued to move freely for the rest of his life, not only dark hut, but outside all the darkness of superstition and social convention. And, as he wandered, he continued to compose and chant.  
Four different times, his compositions took the form of a set of one hundred verses. Two of these, Atmopadesa Satakam and Darsana Mala, are the culminating wisdom-instruction of one who has discovered the source and become filled with radiant inner awareness. Two others, Siva Satakam and Svanubhavagiti Satakam contain all the agonies of the search, revealing to the seeker the mysteries of the process of transformation. Here, Narayana Guru stands together with us as seekers, giving voice to our suffering and yearning and joyously singing of the brilliance with which we were filled and surrounded. voice to our suffering and yearning and joyously singing of the brilliance with which we were filled and surrounded.
Human Dignity
M.P.K. Kutty
Do you shun a person because he belongs to another caste or faith. Do you discriminate between people based on race, ideology or nationality? Do you judge others because of their gender, age, status, colour or possessions?
What if others discriminate against you on any of these grounds? You feel hurt. You feel pained. It is unjust as well. Of all such discriminations, caste distinctions based on birth constitute the gravest assault on human dignity. Many in the past have raised their voice of protest against this evil.
Sri Narayana Guru, lived during late 19th and early 20th centuries. A social reformer, born of a low caste, he taught people the oneness of the whole human race. Born into the Ezhava caste, he lived at a time when casteism with its attendant practice of untouchability pervaded society.
Those days an Ezhava could not get closer than 64 feet to a Nair who was considered superior to an Ezhava in the caste hierarchy. The Ezhava in turn, would resent it if any Pulaya or Pariah -- still lower down in the hierarchy -- got closer than 30 feet to him. No wonder India witnessed so many reform movements against the caste system.
Sri Narayana Guru, educated in Sanskrit and the Vedas, not only preached against the caste system but set up the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) to propagate his ideals. Promotion of education among the downtrodden and reformation of religious practices and customs were high on his agenda. In his great endeavour to uplift the downtrodden and give them respectability in society, he had to face severe personal and institutional resistance.
His doctrine, "One caste, one religion and one God for men" is justly famous. However, the stress on "one religion" did not mean that he questioned the validity of religions other than his own. His effort was to show that all religions had the same goal and enshrined almost similar values allowing no discrimination between one person and another. Whichever be the religion, it suffices if it makes one a better person, he held.
Nationalism and racism based on cultural, linguistic and racially identified groupings, compete closely with religion in separating one person from another. In defense of "imaginary lines" or borders and in attempts to expand their territories, we trundle out our war machines and fill the beautiful earth with violence and blood. It is the most wasteful expenditure of earth's resources and its end, self-inflicted suffering, he concluded.
Along with Tolstoy and other visionaries, Narayana Guru too held that the planet of ours is rich and generous and if loved and cared for, is well able to provide for all its beings. Only greed, fear and ignorance cause us to separate ourselves on the basis of quite superficial differences. They compete and kill instead of letting us joyfully share the gifts and bounty of this beautiful planet.
It is, however, doubtful if the long campaign by the guru or others like Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar have eliminated the scourge of caste from the Indian mind. All of them have become idols to whom society pays lip service
 Politics of power, elections and elevation of people to positions of prestige and honour in society still hinge upon caste. It is still one of the biggest obstacles in the path of progress and national unity. The recent debate, making a distinction between casteism and racism, on the eve of the Durban meet on racism only revealed our lackadaisical attitude and our tendency to gloss over this evil.
The founding fathers of America affirmed the equality of man as a basic principle of existence ordained by God.
Their "Declaration of Independence" stated as much: "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."
We need that spirit and vision today. Narayana Guru, by his life and example, spoke for the oppressed. He worked for an egalitarian social order. Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore who met him in Kerala expressed their admiration for his work. They, too, had laboured to drive home the truth of the equality of man. Until we learn to accept and honour one another without considerations of caste, creed or colour, we must consider their labour as incomplete.