Guiding Light

In olden days sailors had the pole star to guide them, though they never reached it. Every word of the Guru helped to light my life’s path of darkness and ignorance. To unravel the distant scene was never my quest, but each step was enough and important, and that was guided by the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru.
The great poet Mahakavi Kumaran Asan initiated me into the world of education. I knew not this greatness then, perhaps the majority of the literate world of Kerala too were yet to acknowledge his greatness. Little did I know that he was the torchbearer of the great Guru. His arrival was to introduce the suffering masses of north Malabar to the new world of light and knowledge brought by Sree Narayana Guru.

I must have been ten or eleven years old when my father the late Murkot Kumaran took the entire family to meet Sree Narayana Guru who was visiting Tellicherry. Reclining on a sofa, wearing snow-white dhoti and shawl, the Guru beckoned me towards him. He took out a banana from the bunches that were in front of him, and gave it to me. I straightaway ate it and put the peels in my shorts pocket. About seventy-five years later I consider it as the symbol of all that he had to give me in life. I do not remember the Guru having said anything to me. I knew he was looking straight at me. I will never forget those eyes. But as years passed by my mind often flash back at those radiant eyes, full of kindness, love, deep wisdom and eternal bliss. Many people ask me about his colour. The Guru was neither dark, nor fair. His face seemed to have a tinge of golden hue. Since it was long ago, I am not sure whether it is in my own memory or what I must have heard hundreds of times from my parents. Penetrating my memory to call them my own. The Guru got up. He seemed very tall to me. He naturally towered above me. He stood straight as a rod and moved slowly. My father and others had many things to inform him. We left. Little did I realise then, that I had a glimpse of one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. As years rolled by his figure often comes back to me, day or night, awake or asleep and his words throw light across my life’s path, and help stones and thorns to turn soft. Thunder lighting and storm of one’s life fade into pleasant sunshine or smooth moonlight.

A couple of years later my father asked me join in the ‘Elanneer Abishekam’ when young and old carried tender coconuts to the Jagannatha temple which was consecrated by the Guru. Prior to the actual day we had to fast, for seven days. ‘Kottiyoor’ temple had such functions from ancient times.

Avarnas had to keep their offerings far away from that ancient temple and money tied at the end of a cloth along with stones and throws it towards the temple. They were later collected by the temple authorities. Those who carried coconuts sang filthy songs on the way. In the same day that festival was celebrated the Guru decided to have the same festival at Jagannatha temple also. Rows of devotees carrying tender coconuts uttered ‘Om’ all the way. Gone were the dirty songs at one stroke. Those who were not treated as human beings at ‘Kottiyoor’, became self confident with newly acquired dignity, approached their own temples, as a whole countryside resounded with the cry of ‘Om’. By consecrating temples of Sree Narayana Guru instilled in us self-confidence and dignity as human beings. He reformed temples too even installing a mirror. We were being slowly promoted primary, secondary, to University classes of Sanatana Dharma without annoying any one without trying to pull down those who claimed to be higher. With self-confidence, hard work the Guru was taking the people up the ladder step by step towards the concept of Adwaita.

“Unite and be strong, educate and be free; industralise and be prosperous” were his dictums. Unite for helping each other. ‘Unity’ was not meant to revolt against others or their custom. He wanted those deprived human beings to stand on their own legs. The Guru did not believe that his followers should beg for help from others. Hence his advice “educate and be free”, free from the dictates of others, as well as superstitions. He organized educational institutions. “We will stop building temples we’ll concentrate on educational institutions”, he had said. He did not stop there. Cottage industries, agriculture and all activities that would make the people prosperous attracted his attention. When some leaders wanted the Guru’s blessings for starting the pilgrimage to Shivagiri, he advised that lectures, exhibitions, classes should be conducted during the period to educate the people on various subjects like agriculture, cottage industries, science and technology. Years later when the first Prime Minister of India deputed me to serve the tribal people of north east India, the advice of the Guru was of great use to me as Nehru also wanted us to instill self confidence in the tribal people and help them to stand on their own legs, give them facilities for education, cottage industries and health care.

Guru’s most famous lines etched on the walls of the first temple he constructed in 1888 were:

“Without difference in Caste Or rancour of religion This is a noble abode Where all live like brothers”.

This is the forerunner of the preamble and basic structure of independent India’s Constitution formulated in 1950. To these lines could be added another of his famous dictum. “One Caste, One Religion, One God for man”. Guru’s concept that the entire human beings belong to one Caste is reflected in the Constitution as adult franchise. All human beings are equal in the voters’ list of India. This was not so before independence. There were separate electorates and human beings were divided in the name of religion. We have had to pay a heavy price for it. We have to follow Sree Narayana Guru who gave us the basic structure of democracy and secularism long before our elders even dreamt of an independent India.
Those like me who had the opportunity privilege and honour of having received the blessings of the Guru and grew up in an atmosphere permeated with the Guru’s teachings and with parents who helped us to fully imbibe his dictums, his poetical works, it was like preparing to live and work in independent India whose Constitution particularly the basic structure was a replica of Guru’s thoughts, dictums and mission.