Sree Narayan Guru - Snippets for a Child
Young Nanu would often happily taste the fruits and food set apart for puja in his house. When asked why he did that. He replied, “God is happy when I am happy!”
Nanu was found often sitting on tree branches, singing to his glory. Elders would listen rapturously to the songs that he himself composed.
Often one could see young Nanu tending to his family’s garden for he was fascinated with the miracle of plants growing from tiny seeds.
HIS LOVE OF CAVES
The Guru was quite a wanderer. He tended to stay with large groups of people only for a while to help them in some way but always managed to flee away from them and stay in solitary scenic spots. His favourite places were caves. Early in his life, he stayed in the caves of Maruthvaamalai. It is was easy for him to learn about Siddha Ayurveda, as many medicinal plants grow there. This was because in his childhood his parents had him study many shastras including Ayurveda.
Later in Aruvipuram, he stayed in a cave where the entrance was so narrow that no one else would feel like going. But once you go inside one can see a large room where he stayed. Here he lived with the wild tigers and bears. When visitors wanted to see him he would come out. Even then the wild animals sometimes followed him and he would have to reassure the visitor that they were truly harmless.
It was Shivaratri night and the temple precincts vibrated with fireworks. The meeting commenced. Speaker after speaker delivered long orations on the ideals of the Guru. The people assembled there heard in rapt attention. A small group of people sat apart from the others at a distance. They could not mix with the large group of people. They were 'untouchables' - unfit to be touched. Many people then had the wrong belief that some people were outcastes. The Guru's eyes turned towards them. He then asked the speaker to stop for a while. He beckoned two children sitting among the 'untouchables' and spoke kind words to them. He asked them to sit by his side, and said to himself, "These are also God's children as everyone else is." His compassion was visible in his eyes, which were wet with tears. The Guru then gave his famous message. It is as follows:
Without distinction of caste or birth,
Without hatred of other religions,
We all live here in brotherhood,
This is the ideal that is here
Let every one of you, be aware of this.
The Guru would be pained to see the harm done by men to animals. Once when he was traveling in a bullock-cart, he could not bear to see the pain inflicted on the dumb animals by the cart-driver. He got down and walked twenty miles to reach the destination. Many a time he refused to take milk. Instead, he fasted. He was so concerned to see milk-men who did not leave enough milk for the young and tender calves.
SETTING AN EXAMPLE
Many devotees used to visit him seeking relief in their problems. His teaching then was as follows, "Our fingers, hands, and feet should always find work. They are like restless horses. If we do not keep them engaged in sufficient work, we shall fall ill." He set an example himself to this maxim. He not only cooked his food but also washed his clothes.
Guru always spoke of the value of Equality in Humanity.
A rich, young man from India went to Europe for higher studies. He desired to marry a European girl from there. The girl also gave her consent. Both of them came to India. The boy's father was afraid that society would be displeased if the marriage took place. There was no one ready to solemnize this marriage. The Guru himself got the marriage solemnized in his Ashram.
THE GURU and Kumaran Asan the great poet of Kerala
Kumaran was dogged by ill-health right through his early life. When he was eighteen, Sree Narayana Guru visited his house at the request of his father. Kumaran was bedridden at that time. The great saint suggested that Kumaran should stay with him and become his disciple. The little boy found the invitation irresistible. Thus began a new phase of life for the young lad.
Kumaran’s meeting with Sree Narayana Guru can be compared to the meeting of Shri Vivekananda with Sri Ramakrishna. These are significant events, in the mysterious and inexorable ways of destiny. While Naren became a full-fledged Swami, Kumaran continued as a lay disciple of Narayana Guru and made substantial contributions in the fields of poetry, literature and social renaissance, which Kerala witnessed during the early part of this century.
THE GURU AND THE FAMOUS CHATTAMBI SWAMIGAL
The two great souls were very close. Many wonder whether Chattambi Swamigal had a guru-like influence on Narayana Guru. The work Navamanjari that Shri Narayana Guru composed is dedicated to Chattambi Swamigal. Incidentally, we think the word Chattambi means naughty, however in those days Chattambi meant LEADER.
Shri Narayana Guru studied and experimented with various spiritual disciplines. During one phase he had mastered Hatta Yoga under Thi-kkaadu Ayyaa-vu. Once when Chattambi Swamigal walked into Guru’s room he found him suspended up in the air. He warned him saying, “I don’t think you need to get into this type of yoga.” However, the Guru continued. Later the Guru fell ill as a result of these feats and Chattambi Swamigal, who knew what to do, tended to his recovery.
THE GURU AND TEMPLES
The Guru often advised that Temples should not be built in an expensive manner as was the custom of ancient days. No money should be spent on elaborate festivals and pomp. He could not bear to see people starve while milk and costly abhishekams were poured on the images. While poor families could not have their daughters married due to poverty he saw how costly jewels and clothing adorned the images in temples. How could the two coexist???... He advised that temples should have schools and reading rooms. Small scale industrial training schools should also be attached to temples. The offertory at the temple should be used for the welfare of the poor people.
He created Three Categories of Temples. The first where simple regular poojas and festivals took place. The second where no customary pooja or celebration took place and the third category where there were no idols or images. He thus addressed the varying needs of worshippers based on their emotional and spiritual levels.
He was very bold too in his concept of temples. For example in 1920 in the Kaaramukku temple in Trichur, he installed a lamp that in the garbha griham not a stone image. A saying, "Let there be Light," is prominently displayed there. In 1922, he built a temple at Murukkumpuzha and consecrated, not an idol but a mere inscription of "Truth, Dharma, Love, Mercy", and in 1924, in the last temple, in Kalavankode near Sher-talaa, he consecrated just a mirror in the sanctuary, instead of an idol or an image, His intention is clear – “look to the inner self to see God reflected in you.”
It was Shivaratri of 1888. Worshippers gathered at the Aruvippuram Ashram. A beautiful canopy was built with coconut fronds on the bank of the Neyyar River. As dusk approached the simple, poor folk lit lamps out of coconut shells and arranged them in rows. The atmosphere was filled with a sense of intense worship as one would see in temples. But there was no temple there. All the while the Guru was at a distance, meditating inside a cave. At midnight he suddenly came out, walked straight to where the folks had gathered. He then leaped into the midst of the river in a spot that was famous for its whirlpools. The devotees watched quietly with fear as they could not see their beloved Guru for a while. Suddenly he leaped out of the waters with a stone in hand. Perfect was the stone for a Linga. Thus he installed it that night and all got to worship that Lingam.
When the local Brahmins heard about this event, they complained as only Brahmins were allowed to do such consecrations. To that Guru replied humbly, “I have only installed an Ezhava Shiva.” What a remark that sent an arrow into the hearts of the hypocritical Brahmins. Can anyone reduce God to a caste???
One bright morning, the Guru was standing under a mango tree at Shivagiri. A young Brahmachari disciple had got up in the early, morning as usual. He gathered flowers. He went from temple to temple and was busy prostrating before the idols and offering flowers. In one of the temples, there was a beautiful portrait of the Guru. The Brahmachari placed flowers before the portrait, lighted camphor, and with folded hands recited the Samskrita stanza, which sings the glory of the Guru, "Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu, Guru is Maheshwara."
At that time a number of devotees were standing around the Guru. He said to them, "Look at this strange thing! I am standing here in flesh and blood. I have not had my breakfast yet. My portrait is more fortunate than I am It has camphor light, floral offering, and song recital before it." In this humorous way, the Guru taught that such is the way of thoughtless custom.