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 Bhagavan Sri Gnanananda
Need for a Guru / Tapovanam / Tirukovilur / Compassionate Divine / Life HistoryPandharpur / Sri Sivarathnagiri Swamigal / Jyothirmutt / His Greatness / Swami Haridas Giri / Sri Gnanananda Seva Samajam

gna.jpg (22182 bytes)sri.jpg (84998 bytes)The world in which we live today distributed, all over in villages and cities, in the deep valleys and plateaus and on the steep slopes of the hilly ranges is one in which one may not easily know, and know really, the Great and the Good near and around.

But one and all will easily know and talk or the evil amidst them. Because the evil and the vicious, in thought and life having become predominant everywhere, one is not able to see the really Good and Great or accept them as such when told. So the, so called good and great among us today is one who enjoys that position conferred on him by others with their own comparative yardstick, till he is exposed, betrayed or superseded by another cleverer than himself in carrying the evil, But then the really Good and Great continue to be still there from time to time in our midst and by and large a majority who would by some unconscious urge flock to them, do so only for some quick returns and for easy annulment of their wrongs. Only a few go to them and it is due to their evolution - with a unique and spontaneous dedication and complete surrender. They pray to the Great Souls for no quick returns but, certainly for being helped — nay blessed to be purified of their karmic accumulation and absolved. They are rewarded in due course and to the extent to which they are in the stage of their evolution.

The individual who is conscious of his evolution and who aspires and works for it gets always the help needed by him and the help comes from the Divine and through the Divinity itself in human form. They are adored and worshipped as Gurus and as God Himself. To sincere aspirants God comes in the form of Gurus. And they come from time to time, according to the requirements of the age. They may be many, but each has His unique purpose and mission. It is futile, and blasphemous even to compare and contrast them with one another. One should hold fast to one’s own chosen Guru and while following Him scrupulously should not even in thought, consider others as less important. One such Great Guru in our midst today is His Holiness Shree Gnanananda Giri Swamigal of Tapovanam in South Arcot district in Tamil Nadu.

TapovanamSri Gnanananda
Tapovanam meaning ‘forest of penance’ is today a place of pilgrimage; a spiritual haven and an abode of peace and bliss for thousands of devotees as well as many great saints. It is rightly situated within a couple of miles from a sacred town called ‘Tirukoilur’ meaning a town of sacred temples as it contains great temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu the presiding deities of which had been adored by the great Shaivite and Vaishnavite Saints known as Nayanmars and Alwars. The place has another importance as the seat of penance of the illustrious sage. Nearby flows the reputed Dakshina Pinakini winding its way through the sacred place with the range of hillocks at the background, cluster of green trees around and tapering towers to the Holy Shrines—all providing at once a picture of celestial beauty and atmosphere of transporting divinity. There is also on the bank of this river the Samadhi of Swami Ragothama worshipped by the followers of Madhwas and others as well. It is in this divinely charged atmosphere and place is the Holy Thapovanam inviting like a mother all the children of God. And there is really a Mother who is at once the Father too, in the form H.H. Gnanananda Giri Swamigal.

Compassionate Divine:

When the aspirants enter into the Holy grove of mangoes the Thapovanam—some in awe and wonder, some in reverence, some in ecstacy, they come across, either near the gate or in some other corner of the grove, taking a stroll or supervising a work that is going on or even seated somewhere under a tree or in a cot, one with a radiant smile on his face assuring at once his compassion and greeting the visitors and showing them the room to stay, the bathroom to wash and clean their external dirt, the kitchen to refresh their physical appetite. The visitors, some of them atleast may have taken Him for some guide or manager of the place. Only later, they will be thrilled to learn that He is the one whom they wanted to see and salute, the one who enables, them to clean their Internal dirt—to satisfy in full their spiritual appetite, and to give a room in His blissful heart. Then they will be fortunate to have Him, as their guide and manager in life. The simplicity of the external form, the natural solicitude of the Compassionate Divine and the uniform affection and concern for one and all who go unto Him are things that get embedded permanently in the hearts of thousands of those devotees who are able to create the same impact on others who did not go to Him yet, and make them eager and restless till they do it. 

It is natural for every one to be eager to know all about such a great Guru—his age, his parentage, his early life, his growth in spiritual life, his achievements, his powers, and so on. This has become almost traditional, though there is nothing wrong about it. Only one should realise that there is no importance in these things. For, a realised soul has no birth or death in the usual sense and therefore he is ageless. As a realised soul he has no special physical, attachments and hence parentage is not of much consequence. It is perhaps crazy and impertinent to assess them by a knowledge of their spiritual growth, achievement and powers. It is the subtle desire to derive worldly benefits in most of the cases that prompts people to assess the great ones. However the story and background of the lives of great ones has one purpose in that they reveal the secret of evolution, how the soul is continuous and eternal and how it evolves In successive births. Except to remind ourselves of just the growth and evolution of soul and therefore learn how to march successfully on the path of evolution it has no meaning. In the case of H.H. Gnanananda Giri Swamiji, there is not much information on the surface of his life for us to know all about him. In fact, his age in this form is itself & beyond one's estimate. The calm serene and ever fresh face and form of the Swamiji baffles anybody’s guess about his age. But certain evidence available from valid sources outside and also from occasional and casual observations being made by the Swamiji himself would enable us to put it at over 250 to 300 years. We shall come to this later.

Life History of Swamiji

Coming to the life of the present form of the Eternal Soul of the Swamiji, He was born long long ago at Mangalapuri in the North Kanara district to a pious couple, Sri Venkoba Ganapatigal and Smt. Sakkubai who were childless for a long time. He was named as Subramanya in his Poorvasrama, He was duly initiated into Gayatri while he was seven. He was not much, interested in his school education. What should the Loka Guru that He was to be, learn at school? He was always indifferent to external things and was deeply absorbed in contemplation of his self. This went on till his twelfth year when suddenly one night, the boy Subramanya saw a divine light (Jyoti) before Him. Desirous of touching it, He went towards It and it was receding as He was following it. At daybreak it disappeared. Only to appear again in the nights that followed. Thus following the Jyothi Subramanya reached at as last Pandharpur. Leading the boy to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Vittal inside. the Shrine, the Jyoti vanished. The boy had, a hearty darshan of Lord Panduranga and-Rukmayi. When the night came, the boy who was hungry fell asleep and in the middle of night. Lord VittaI woke up the boy Subramanya, fed Him and blessed Him. As usual in the night, the Jyoti appeared again and led Him to a place nearby where a Great saint was camping then. He was H. H. Shri Sivarathangiri Swamiji, Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Jyotir Math in Kashmir. This Peetha of Jyoti Math in Kashmir is one of the Peethas established by Shri Adi Shankara Bhagavad Pada, and comes under the lineage of Shri Thotakacharya one of the four chief disciples of Shri Adi Shankara.

Jagadguru Sri Sivaratnagiri Swamiji could gauge the spiritual depth of the boy Subramanya before Him and immediately accepted him as His Priya-Shisya. The earthly parents of boy Suhramanya in their search for their beloved child came at last to Pandharpur where they saw Him under the affectionate care of the Jagadguru. They were advised properly in the matter and they could understand the secret of the advent of Subramanya. They went back after having been fully convinced about it. For over 18 years, the blessed Subramanya underwent his probation under the Jagadguru. He was Initiated into the esoteric knowledge of Advaita and when the time came for the Siddhi (Eternal rest) of the Jagadguru—Shri Sivarathnagiri Swami He transferred all His powers of penance to His Priya-Shishya and christened him as Shri Gnanananda Giri while granting Him the order of Sanyas. He was also nominated as successor to the peetha of the Jyotir Math. H. H. Shri Sivarathnagiri Swamiji entered into Mahasamadhi on the Purnima day of Chaitra and his mortal remains were interred In Srinagar after the due rites were performed. The Samadhi is still in Srinagar. Every year now the Chaitra Purnima day is observed at Thapovanam in memory of the Jagadguru Shri Sivaratanagiri Swamiji.

Most moved by the separation of his revered Guru, Shri Gnanananda Giri Swamiji did not desire to continue long in the Peetha and so he nominated another Shishya as His successor and started out to the high Himalayas. For over sixty years he did severe penance at Monasarovar and other places and then moved out on pada Yatra from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari and to places outside like Ceylon where he met a number of Great men of spirituality.

His Greatness

The Swamiji has mentioned that he knew personally of the initiation given by Totapuri to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahams. (1836-1886) at Dakshineswar and similarly of the initiation given by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda ). He has also met Saint Ramalingam of Vadalur ( near present Neyveli 1823—l874). He had come across the boy Ramana in the Madurai temple when Ramana was just 13 years old. Later when Ramana became Ramana Maharishi and was living in the Virupaksha cave at Tiruvannamalai, Shri Gnanananda Giri Swamiji used to meet the Maharishi frequently and discuss. In the early part of this century, the Swamiji came to many places in the south like Tiruchi, Salem and Attiyampatti where be transformed the dacoits who were causing great hardships to people then. There is an ashram at Attiampatti and another at Siddalingamatam near Tirukoilur itself. He came to Thapovanam in 1950 and in 1953 the present Ashram came into being.

The Swamiji is unostentatious and easily accessible to one and all irrespective of their status in life or other divisions, of caste, creed etc. As already said, His unsophisticated appearance and behaviour apparently hide His Greatness. He comes down from his height of spiritual attainment to the level of the ordinary aspirant who goes to him in earnestness for guidance and solace. In the midst of his intimate association with the visitors going to Tapovanam he would still be out of them remaining in Sahaja Nishtai, seeing the Supreme in everything. His Grace is showered on all who go to Him and they are cured of their physical lapses and are nurtured mentally to pursue righteous life. He advocates the path of Bhakti and complete surrender to Guru and God as the best suited and the easiest to practice in this age. He would expound the big ‘tatvas' in a simple manner with apt stories and parables. Music and Namasankirtan are dear to Him and He asserts that sincere chanting of the names of the Lord is bound to liberate people in this age. For those who have attained the height of practices He imparts knowledge of the self and exhorts them to practice self-enquiry.

Swami Haridas and Sri Gnanananda Seva SamajamGuruji

In order to consolidate and coordinate the various activities so far being done, Shri Swami Haridas has started Sri Gnanananda Seva Samajam at the instance of the devotees and with the blessings of his Guru. The Seva Samajam is a registered Trust at No. 26, Lloyds Road, Madras - 6) with Sri Swami Haridas* ( Swami Haridoss has since then attained Jala Samadhi in 1994.) as the Managing Trustee and four others as trustees. The main objects of the Samajam are the dissemination of knowledge, education and culture of Indian Philosophy through Institutions, lectures, seminars, bhajans and namasankeertans, melahs and through publication of religious works and journals and also running libraries, orphanages, medical centres etc Swami Haridas has been highly blessed by the Great Guru Shri Gnanananda Giri after severe tests and has been commanded to take up this service of spreading Bhakti among the people all over the country. His devotion to the Guru is unique and he swears that whatever he says is because of the Grace of the Guru who inspires him then and there to say and sing. The Message he got from the Guru is: ‘When people praise you much do not become egoistic but ignore them in all humility: And do not be worried about the insults thrown at you likewise. Then you will sett1e down well". This is equally a message to us all. To see such a Great Guru is to know Him: to know Him is to know God. For God and Guru are one and the same.

Ten Commandments of : SATGURU BHAGAVAN

Be active; but Not impatient
Be patient; but Not indolent
Be economic; but Not stingy
Be loving ; but Not slavish
Be merciful ; but Wakeful; do not be deceived
Give liberally; but Do not become a pauper
Be a hero; but Not a (Nero) villain
Seek the good ; but Do not hate others
Live in the family; but Be not infatuated with lust
Be unattached ; but Do not run to the forest 



Known as the ageless sage of Sidhalingamatam, Thirukoilur he blessed the village of Sidhalingamatam with his effulgent presence for fifty long years in the early part of the last century before going over to establish Gnanananda Thapovanam on the northern banks of Dakshina Pinakini river three kilometers away from the temple town of Thirukoilur, Tamilnadu to stay there for the last fifteen years of his physical sojourn shedding his mortal coil on the full moon day of January 1974.

The sage seldom referred to His pre-renunciate life and eager devotees gathered information from chance remarks he made at rare intervals, to put together the picture that, born of orthodox Brahmin parentage at Mangalapuri in Karnataka district of south India he had, after the early demise of his parents wandered forth at the tender age of eight years following a divine light that led him to the famous shrine of Pandarpur in Maharashtra where he met his Guru.

Many a time in later years the sage would remember his revered Guru with choked throat and specifically refer to himself as the disciple of his Guru, the revered Swami Sivaratna Giri, Shankaracharya of Kashmir Jyotir mutt belonging to the lineage of the great Adi Shankaracharya through one of his main disciples Shri Totakacharya. The Kashmir Jyotir mutt flourished about 500 years ago as one of the main upa-amnaya mutts-branches of the main northern Shankara peet of Badrikashram Jyotir mutt, to slowly disintegrate with the invasions of Kashmir and be abandoned by the last inmates after the 1948 invasion. Today what remains of the once glorious mutt may be seen as Durga Nag by Dal Jeel at the foot of the Shankacharya hill in Kashmir.

The compassionate Guru, Shri Swami Sivaratna Giri took the little brahmachari back with him to Kashmir where for 20 odd years he was given intensive training after which the great Guru anointed him as his worthy successor and pontiff. Two years later, on chaitra Pournima day the Guru merged in the Supreme at a ripe old age leaving the newly ordained Swami Gnanananda Giri in charge. The young swami looked after the mutt for a couple of years and then leaving his brother disciple Swami Ananda Giri in charge, wandered high into the snow capped hills of Kashmir first, then Nepal and all over the Himalayan range to practice severe austerities. Wandering far beyond what is today known as the Macmohan line he went through Burma and Tibet up to China and again to Russia staying with ancient recluses practising spiritual discipline in their company. In the Himalayan ranges the Swami stayed with great souls who were physically beyond 500 years of age and there at some point , some of these great ones had performed a rare kayakalp where a special herb was inserted into a vein on the innerside of his fore arm, a now nearly obsolete method of preserving the body in health and vigor for more than 100 years to weather the intense severity of the higher altitudes while performing extreme spiritual penance. (The scar of this operation more or less like a small knot Swami retained on the inside of his forearm untill the end). The knowledge of herbs that the sage possessed was phenomenal. He had evidently gained this knowledge beginning from the Himalayas.

God knows how many years were spent thus in spiritual discipline, meditation and Samadhi before the Swami, now a perfected sage came down to the plains to bless and guide devotees and seekers wandering all over Bharath and the neighboring lands where it is known he stayed in the famous Shri Lankan Shrine of Kathirgamam for 60 years. (He obtained his special knowledge of Tamil here) interacting with the siddha parampara there, having special contact with the great Kadayit Swamigal and Yogar Swamigal of Northern Lanka during his frequent trips there in the late 19 and early twentieth centuries. Starting from the famous saint Kabirdas to Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at Dakshineshwar and Shri Aurobindo Gosh, Shri Ramana Maharishi and Shri Kaviyogi Shudhananda Bharati of more recent times in the south he had moved closely with most great spiritual luminaries of the ages.

In Tamilnadu itself the sage had stayed for more than a hundred and seventy years when he arrived at Siddhalingamatam during the early part of this century. He had stayed in various places - Kalpattu (present Dalmiapuram, Kolli Malai hills, Polur etc).

Subsequently, after one of his intermittent trips out of Siddhalingamatam he returned with long matted locks shorn, and gradually the sage's form started taking on the look of age, specially during the last twenty years of his earthly sojourn. Those in need of cure for physical ills and those seeking spiritual solace flocked to him and found relief.

An awe inspiring figure with matted locks piled high on his head, an aura of effulgence surrounding his form a face alight with divine compassion, nectarine words of love and wisdom emanating therefrom, eyes that conveyed unfathomable peace, love forgiveness, encouragement, reassurance and divine Grace, a presence that engulfed one in the comfort of protection and fearlessness! This was the Sage Sri Gnanananda Giri Swamigal.

He was a child with children, a companion with women folk, an elder counsellor with men, a refuge in times of danger and despair: He was one with them, one of them, their companion guide and refuge all in one.

To householders, according to their spiritual maturity and inclination he extended guidance in the path of devotion (bhakthi) and right action (Karmayoga) also guiding those who had attained mental readiness to proceed on the path of enquiry. To his renunciate disciples he showed the path wisdom (Gnanamarga), but not before they had attained the required mental purity(Chittashuddhi) through action and devotion. He claimed his own and does so to this day, to guard check and guide them to the ultimate goal of spiritual peace and Bliss.

The sage a perfected soul, or sidha never sought nor needed publicity for as bees seek honey filled flowers, so also did those in need of solace and guidance flock to him as they do even now.

* Footnote : The Kashmir Jyotir mutt flourished about 500 years ago as one of the main upa-amnaya mutts-branches of the main northern Shankara peet of Badrikashram Jyotir mutt, to slowly disintergrate with the invasions of Kashmir and be abandoned by the last inmates after the 1948 invasion. Today what remains of the once glorious mutt may be seen as Durga Nag by Dal Jeel at the foot of the Shankacharya hill in Kashmir

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