A siddha’s unique relationship with the Divine

Every one of us is in pursuit of a life full of enjoyment, radiant health and natural happiness, without restraint.  Individually and collectively, we pursue happiness without seeking for change in our human nature.   And rather than trying to change our nature, we merely attempt to justify and reconcile our nature’s habits of unhappiness, due to desire, greed, aversion, hatred and fear, so dark elements along with the light continue to seek manifestation and arise in the context of life.

The primal strength of our human nature lies in the individual ego’s desire to exist.   And the ego is too strong to overcome without the support of  “grace.”   Grace, the saints and siddhas tell us, is the only means by which the vital motivations of the ego can be replaced by higher consciousness from the soul, allowing for a life of natural happiness and cellular harmony and balance.   Grace is the only means by which there can be a transformation of human nature, where the light of grace can pervade and illumine all the darkness.   All religions subscribe to the power of transformation through Grace. And although we all have different names for Grace, such as, luck or mercy and we have different definitions and different ways of attaining it, isn’t grace what we are really all seeking?

The Saints and siddhas of the East were great beings who knew all about the nature of grace.  They were saints and sages of a perfected nature who lived over the centuries and taught others to seek change in their human nature and to develop their divine potential to perfect body, mind and spirit.   But only a very few of these saints and siddhas had a universal mission to bring all of us, along with them, on the Path of Grace to harmony and perfection.  Most of them are well-known to us, however; some of the world’s  greatest siddhas are not.

In less than a month Govindan ( Satchidananda)  and I will be in India to celebrate the great Saint Thirumular.   We travel to Chennai to attend a book release function of  the Ten Volume Series of the English Translation of the Tirumandiram (translated with commentary by Six Scholars & edited by Professor Dr.T.N. Ganapathy).  We are very excited about this event.   So many individuals have been instrumental in bringing out this new edition.  Babaji’s Kriya Yoga Order of Acharyas in Quebec and the Yoga Siddha Research Centre in Chennnai and  Dr. N. Mahlaingam of Coimbatore India with his Varthamanan Publications of Chennai are jointly publishing this new edition of the South Indian Siddha Masterpiece, written by Sant Thirumular.

This great work inspires us to realize our greatest potential as human beings.  It’s very study is grace bestowing.

As humans we have the unique ability, unlike any other species, to not only conceive of perfection, but to notice our own imperfections.  Furthermore we have the imagination and the power to devise means and apply these means to transforming ourselves perfectly.  The word Siddha refers to one who has become perfected through the scientific art of Yoga. The author of the Tirumandiram, Tirumular, is a Siddha, who laughs at the limitations of ordinary human nature: the malas or stains:  ignorance of our true identity, egoism, delusion and our collected habits, our past karma.  And he speaks to us not in some dry, philosophical tone, but in the first person, with the joy and inspiration of one whose deepest aspirations for the Divine have been fulfilled by the Beloved.  He also instructs us in the myriad ways in which humanity loses itself, how through the practice of yogic sadhana, one can not only find the Truth, but surrendering to it, become transformed, physically, vitally, mentally, intellectually and spiritually.  His words are as relevant to us today as they were two thousand years ago, because our human nature has not changed.  The Tirumandiram is  a pathway to God realization and to perfecting the potential of human nature.  It’s study opens us to having a relationship with the Divine.

The culture which gave birth to the Tirumandiram is a unique, living culture.  But it is also threatened by indifference and the distractions of the modern world.  The wisdom teachings of the Tirumandiram are born of hundreds of generations of yogis who since ancient times have sought perfection.  If the purpose of human knowledge is to alleviate human suffering, that knowledge which eliminates human suffering completely is the greatest of knowledge.   The teachings of the Thurumandiram can be applied widely to the problems of human nature, in psychology, politics, economics, ethics, health, theology, and indeed all areas of human purpose.

The Tirumandiram is not an easy work to read.  It is very dense, filled with expressions which have layers of meaning, often purposefully obscure.   Because of the depth and breadth of its subject matter, which is often esoteric in nature, one must approach it informed by the rich tapestry of Indian philosophy, theology and culture.   Because so little is known about Thirumular and the other ancient siddhas and what is known is often spun in myth and legend;  it is important to know about and study  the teachings of  the modern day Siddhas  who carried on this Tradition.

One of the greatest of  the modern day siddhas, Swami Ramalinga was born in the 19th century, on October 5, 1823, in Tamil Nadu, South India.

Ramalinga Swamigal was a Sage of Truth who possessed divine knowledge and attained a deathless transformation of his physical body along with the self creative power of materialization.  His story of Grace is not a legend or myth, his life is documented fact, as he personally recorded forty thousand verses describing his experiences, and was well-known to millions of people in India, during the time he lived there.

Swami Ramalinga, or Vallalar, as he was also known, was one of a long tradition of siddhas, who not only transformed and perfected their vital, mental, intellectual and spiritual being into a state of pure Wisdom and Grace, but, who also transformed and perfected their physical body into a golden body of cellular ambrosial light, which would even defy death. The siddhas attained, not a mere detachment from, but a complete mastery over sleep, hunger, thirst, fear, anger and death. According to Swami Ramalinga, “the physical body has the potential to become deathless and ever prospering.” He called it the “triple indestructible body and an eternal physical truth body.” This potential he says “arises with evolutionary progress of the whole earthly world.”

The body is composed of elements, several million minute particles of atoms of unpurified elements, of earth, water, fire, air and space. The siddhas demonstrated that the impure body of impure elements can become purified to such a state that the very elements come pure. The physical cells of Swami Ramalinga’s body were composed of pure atoms of the purified elements and his being, empty of ego, was an incarnation of Absolute Compassion, Absolute Mercy and Absolute Love. The atoms alchemize into pure and perfect atoms resulting in a body of love. Matter was converted into energy. The very particles of human matter became perfect and pure particles, powered by a descent of Divine Grace into his body. Energy became light force. He achieved this body, which gave off a golden hue, through universal spiritual communion and devotion to God. Three direct rays of light were said to descend through a point in his head during his intense point of spiritual communion.  Eye-witnesses testify that when he was seated outdoors, a pillar of light was often visible coming out from his head straight toward the sun.

Not only did Ramalinga Swamigal transform his own body and being, but he taught that every one of us have that same potential to transform our body to remain youthful, healthy and pure. He taught to reach this physical and mental state, we must follow a Divine Path of Purification, in which we choose to sublimate our ego, and enlighten our intellect with intuition, inspiration, discrimination and vision with Unlimited Intelligence and Unlimited Infinite Light. Swami Ramalinga taught that sublimation of the ego would change our human nature and allow pure loving compassion, wonder and delight to guide us in all thoughts and actions and experiences. Sublimating the ego opens the human for the Divine descent of a Vast Grace Light. Through God’s Mercy, the Vast Grace Light descends and the cells of the human body are instantly purified and become light.

Swami Ramalinga described a principle of discipline or purification of the ego, which alone can bring about this transformation. This principle has two aspects: universal reverence for life and devotional meditation. The first, he said is most important and if acquired, grace comes easily. God is present in all living beings and all living beings are in God. By developing compassion for all, a universal spiritual communion and universal love can be obtained. Grace is the mercy of God. Compassion is the mercy of the human soul and by developing compassion; the Grace of God can be realized-like a spark expanding into a radiant light.

The mission Vallalar was born to do, was monumental. Even at the age of five months, he was recognized as a great being, when at his communion, in the most sacred of all temples of Siva Nataraja, at Chidambaram, in Tamil Nadu, he laughed aloud, when presented to the idol of the Supreme Lord. All in the temple fell to their knees at the immense sanctity they felt from his laughter; the chief priest ran forward embracing the child and declared that he was truly the child of God.  Vallalar had came to uplift humanity through true love, compassion and true Knowledge, and without the need of religion, or ritual, but through a way of life he called the common, “pure good and true way.”  He was born to bring down into the world, the Vast Grace Light, to stimulate an evolution of mankind and prepare for a divine life on earth.  He was to usher in a new heaven on earth.

At the age of 5 years, he began to write a torrent of psalms and ecstatic hymns of the new Intelligence, which was dawning on him. Not only were these not the words of a five year old, these were not the words of a man the world could easily understand.

“What a wonder it is, Oh God, you have educated me in all knowledge; you have inculcated in me an ardent love for you” you have persuasively taught me that the whole world is nothing but a mirage; O My Benevolent Being!  You are in me and are showering your Grace; you have condescended to be my spiritual Master and blessed me, the insignificant creature with a status above wants without being driven to the necessity of begging others.”

About the age of twelve, he began to identify the means of his inspiration and Unlimited Intelligence, as the Supreme’s Grace Light.

“You have infused all knowledge in me without my undergoing the ordeal of learning to such an extent that the most learned come to me to learn more. O God! My stabilizer! You have endowed that Grace Light with which I could realize all knowledge and all wisdom and everything else without being taught.”

Swami Ramalinga was an alchemist and his work focused on divinely changing material substances back into their original principles and powers, back into their original essence, in what he called Grace Light.  He was able on a mundane level to change base metals, like iron and copper into gold. He was able to control the elements and bring rain in times of drought, and put out fires, which were raging out of control. He would never get wet in rainstorms, and in fact, although he was clearly seen by all, he was never touched by anything. He walked without footprints and without casting a shadow. No photo could ever be taken of him, only the white cloth, which draped his body from head to foot, could ever be captured on film. He rarely ate, requiring only a small amount of food every few days. There was something so extraordinary about the golden glow of his body and its subtle hint of camphor and his soft, penetrating gaze. He never let anyone look him straight in the eyes, keeping them partially shielded. Only once, his closest attendant caught his eyes straight on as Ramalinga was coming out of meditation. Such, was the force streaming from Ramalinga’s eyes that this disciple went into a state of trance for weeks and awoke in a transcended state of grace.

Swami Ramalinga taught millions of people in South India about the Vast Grace Light. He taught that this Vast Grace Light carries the power of Knowledge, Harmony and Perfection and has the power of eliminating the disputes due to religion and philosophy. The Grace Light, he said, is a force of nature, like the elements, and like the elements it is always present, whether we acknowledge it or not. This Grace Light is always available to us, if only we can learn to remain open to it, to receive it, channel it and let it return to its source.

Swami Ramalinga taught that to be truly happy, man must achieve the Light of Grace.

He taught a progressive evolution of the speck of light, which is already manifested in every human being, into the greatest light of Supreme Grace. He taught how to open internally and remain eternally open to this flow of the light of grace. He taught the importance of thinking about “what we are, and what we are about.” He preached harmony, both inner and outer, and loving-compassion and service to all.

The new values were to create noble beings, unconcerned with the failings of others, yet, at-one with all beings, discerning the divinity of all creatures, large and small. His most well-known practice was “see all beings as your own self.” He taught to relieve the hunger and thirst not only of other human beings, but of animals, birds, insects and plants, as a way of realizing God, who is present in every species. He condemned the killing of animals and converted many to vegetarianism. These new values were to become part and parcel of all thought, word and deed. He preached, but, as with other great saints before him, people did not always listen.

Swami Ramalinga was never interested, as many yogi-saints before him had been, in teaching about personal liberation or salvation, or about acquiring powers. He was looking towards a collective and progressive evolution of mankind itself. He worked during his 51 years on earth, toward establishing new values of Truth Light upon and in all the people of India. Swami Ramalinga cultivated the vision of equality among all of mankind. No one would be denied this Knowledge; there was no thought of, or regard for, class, wealth, creed, or gender.

Out of compassion, in 1867, Ramalinga founded a dharmsala, a place for housing and feeding the poor. At the inauguration ceremony, which lasted three days 10, 000 people were fed. Food was miraculously bountiful and was often distributed by his own hand, from pots that never seemed to become empty. It was repeatedly recorded by the man in charge of the kitchen, Shanmugam Pillai, that when food supply seemed low and not enough to feed the crowds, Swami Ramalinga would vocalize aloud a syllable, “pich,” a derivative of “pichchu,” a name for the Lord, and the food was always ample,  more than enough.

Out of great mercy for his fellow beings, in 1870, Ramalinga had a Temple of Wisdom built at Vadalur, a village in Tamil Nadu, in a record six months time. It stands still today in simple, yet extraordinary splendor.  It was constructed as an external representation of the experience of self- realization of the Grace Light within himself. The temple, octagon in shape, representing a lotus in full bloom is a simple symbol of his personal practice and attainment.  It is the symbol of the perfection of the soul, which is man’s ultimate destination. The temple is surrounded by small pillars that are connected to a chain of 21,600 links, which represent the number of breaths, we take each day. Inside the temple Ramalinga designed an inner sanctum, and within its center structure, he installed an oil lamp within a five foot glass and metal box. When he lit the oil lamp in January 1871, he promised that it would be kept burning until the Vast Grace Light was manifest on earth.  The light has never been allowed to burn out. The oil lamp was lighted and worshipped as a symbol of the clear pure soul, which allows the natural luster and splendor of our own divinity to be revealed. The Light is a divinely sanctioned symbol of Divine Love, Truth and Knowledge and God Himself. The symbolism and energy here is powerful. The temple represents our own physical and subtle body. Keep the temple (cranium) open and all will be given.

Seven colored curtains, representing the veils of ignorance that keeps us from our divinity, conceal the lighted lamp. These veils conceal the individual ignorance, which includes the vital or instinctive habits of the senses and of the physical and body habits and instincts that obscure the soul and hinder integration of the qualities of the soul. The first screens, of black, blue, green and red represent the experiences, pursuits and instinctive habits of the desire-born senses of life, and all reflect our lower nature. Even if we are able to detach from our lower nature, and see the soul, there are additional veils, gold, white and multi-colored that remain and continue to hide our highest divine potential. Purification level by level, of mind, vital, life and body is the means of accessing and crossing beyond all these veils to reach the Supreme Grace Light (arun perunjyoti).

No ritual is observed in this temple. Ramalinga issued strict orders that only camphor is to be burned in the temple and that devotees should only pray to God silently. He asked all to meditate on the Lord of Light seated in ones own heart and to pray to the Supreme Grace Light. He says that prayer alone can fill one with love of God and take one into ecstasy.

The Temple of Wisdom, at Vadalur has never had any sectarian influence or religious fervor. No deities are worshipped, nor did Ramalinga allow worship of his personality. There are no graven images to be found anywhere. Swami taught self awareness and he taught love and devotion to the Supreme Grace Light of the Divine, which abides within everyone of us and without each of us. He wrote songs of devotion, which can even today bring tears to the eyes of foreigners who do not understand one word of the Tamil in which it is sung. The power of the rhythm of the music and syllables of the Tamil language are such that it is apparent these songs were written for, and come from the Lord.

Towards of the end of 1873, he placed outside the door of his own room an oil lamp, which he had been using inside and asked his disciples to worship it and to keep it burning forever. He asked them to imagine the Supreme Grace Light manifested in the oil lamp and to pray for Grace. And he introduced to all devotees of this Grace Light, a mantra, a call, for one’s true self and nature to emanate from their heart, and illumine their intellect. The mantra to be chanted aloud is:

Arun Perunjothi (Vast Grace Light of the Divine)  Arun Perunjothi (Vast Grace Light of the Divine)

Thanip Perung Karunai (Supreme Compassion) Arun Perunjothi (Vast Grace Light of the Divine)

A mantra protects the mind in a bubble of grace, protecting it from the pull of the ego’s desires and aversions. The Swami promised that this mantra has the power to provoke the descent of grace light in a fraction of a second, and it has the ability to establish that grace light in the hearts of those who repeat it with sincerity, love and devotion to the Lord. The mantra is a call for God’s Mercy, for His Grace of limitless intelligence and limitless energy.

Alas, Swami Ramalinga’s spiritual mission did not take root and sprout in the way it should have and he expressed some sorrow when he said, “We disclosed the treasure, but no one was willing to have it. We close down.”  “You my dear ones, have chosen not to hear me. There are some enlightened persons in the far north. They will be coming over here. They will learn this philosophy and preach unto you. Then, perhaps you may listen.”

“Oh, Lord of Life. What is the use of repeating my humble desires when you know my mind? When will all the world, realizing the universal spiritual communion, enjoy eternal happiness devoid of miseries and death? When shall I, on seeing their joy, be happy?”

On the auspicious day of January 30, 1874, at the age of 50, Ramalinga wrote for his disciples:

“My beloved ones!” I have to be out of your sight for a time. Do not worry. Keep the Light of the lamp burning forever. Imagine that god is there and worship that light. You will be amply rewarded. I am in this body now and after awhile I shall enter into all the bodies of His creation. Close the door and lock it outside. The room, if order to be opened, will only be void.”

Ramalinga then shut himself in his room and asked his disciples to lock it from the outside. The instructions he left were simple, “Continue to feed the poor.” With his disciples seated outside and late that same night, he merged in a flash of violet light with His creation and disappeared without a trace. He had chosen to dematerialize his physical body and merge its deathless substance in the nature of the earth for some collective evolutionary action.  An elaborate police inquiry ensued and after great deal of inquiry concluded that indeed Swami Ramalinga was a great being who had vanished into thin air.

Swami Ramalinga’s mission was the achievement of the Divine Life, a divine life full enjoyment and natural happiness without restraint. It is said, “A human being even in the womb suffers from something or another, and these suffering are born along with him.” All Great Beings have concerned themselves with the miseries of life in the world. The only passage through the world of suffering is to fall at the mercy of the soul. Compassion is the mercy of the soul in human beings. By developing the mercy of the soul, the mercy of Supreme Grace Light can be realized.  And from one small spark, a great fire can spread….

Each year we visit Swami Ramalinga’s Temple on our South Indian pilgrimage.    It is a poor and most humble place.    Yet even today,  so many years after Swamiji’s disappearance that small perpetual flame burns and one simply can not be unaffected by it.

    • Daniel
    • December 16th, 2009

    Hi Durga,

    Thanks for your stories.
    Very good for my spiritual path.

    Any books from Swami Ramalinga ?

  1. No trackbacks yet.