Nārāyaṇa Guru

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Narayana Guru, NArAyaNa Guru, Naaraayana Guru


Nārāyaṇa Guru (A. D. 1854-1928)

If a lotus plant that grows in quagmire can bring out a beautiful blossom which is also fragrant, there is no reason why a great man should not be born in a family belonging to a socially berated caste. This is exactly what the highly venerated Nārāyaṇa Guru has shown to the world.

Nārāyaṇa was born at the village Cempārajhaṇḍi near Tiruvananthapuram (or Trivendrum), the capital of the Kerala State in A. D. 1854. His parents were Mādan and Kuṭṭi Amma. They belonged to the ezhava caste (caste of the toddy-tappers, considered untouchables). Being very intelligent he managed to get a good education especially from a great teacher Rāman Pillai Āsan of Karunāgapalli village.

Though married as per the usual social customs, the death of his wife soon after, made him roam about like a mendicant. He met two great teachers— Kuñjan Pillai (Ceṭṭāmbi Svāmi) and Thīkkāḍu Ayyāvu—who helped him to attain scholarship and proficiency in yoga.

Later, he settled down in a forest near the town Aruvīpuram and practised meditation and austerities. Attaining great inner peace and realising the mission of his life, he established an āśrama (monastery) there itself and started several social service activities.

His pure life and universal love transcending all social barriers attracted a large number of persons who became his disciples and followers. He also started building temples of Siva and training the priests to worship there.

Thus Nārāyaṇa became Nārāyaṇa Guru by his life and work.

He specially crusaded against ignorance and superstition, untouchability, drinking, animal sacrifice as also cruelty to animals, caste-animosities and a host of other unhealthy practices prevalent in the society.

Attracted by his personality and teachings many young persons joined him, forming an organisation now known as Śrī Nārāyaṇaguru Dharma Paripālana Yogam (S. N. D. P. Yogam).

Nārāyaṇa Guru established in A. D. 1904 a Gurukulāśrama at Śivagiri 48 kms. (30 miles) to the north of Tiruvanantha-puram where poor children, irrespective of their caste were given good education, including vocational training. He also started many more schools of Sanskrit and English, as also an Advaitāśrama at Ālvāy to teach universal brotherhood.

He took active part in what is now known as Vaikom Satyāgraha, to gain entry into the Hindu temples for the untouchable castes.

He has written quite a few books in Malayālam (his mother-tongue) and Sanskrit, of which Brahmavidyāpañcakam and Darśanamālā are well-known.

Nārāyaṇasukta (‘hymn to Nārāyaṇa’)

The Mahānārāyana Upanisad forms the fourth section of the Taittiriya Ārany aka. It is often considered as khila

or supplement to the Taittiriya Upanisad, which precedes it. It contains four well-known Vedic suktas, of which the Nārāyanasīikta is the most important. It forms the thirteenth anuvāka or section and has twelve mantras or stanzas. It is generally used to offer flowers at the end of a pujā (ritualistic worship) or even chanted on auspicious occasions.

It describes the greatness of Nārāyaṇa, the Supreme God and how to meditate on him in one’s heart.

A general translation of the same, verse by verse, is as follows:

Verse 1

This universe is truly the Divine Person only. Therefore it subsists on him. He, the Divine Being, has countless heads and eyes. He is the giver of joy to the universe. It is He who exists in the form of the universe and is also the abode of all the human beings. He is self-effulgent, imperishable and the final abode of all.

Verse 2

He has transcended the universe. He is eternal. He is all-pervading, refuge of all humanity and the destroyer of sins. This universe is verily that Divine Person and on Him it subsists.

Verse 3

He is the lord of this universe. He is the Self of all beings as also the ruler. He is eternal, indestructible and ever auspicious. He has entered into all beings as the in-dweller. He is supremely worthy of being known (or realised). Though embodied in the universe (as its original cause) he is also the goal of all, the highest refuge.

Verse 4

Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman. He is the highest (Self). He is the Supreme Light. He is the infinite Self. He is the excellent meditator and meditation.

Verse 5

Whatever there is in this world, directly perceived or known through the scriptures, Nārāyaṇa has pervaded all that, both within and without.

Verse 6

One should meditate upon the Supreme, dwelling in the heart, who is limitless, unchanging, omniscient, the giver of happiness to all, as the goal of all striving. The place of His meditation is the ether in the heart which is like an inverted lotus-bud.

Verse 7

It should be known that the heart which is located at the distance of a finger-span below the Adam’s apple, and above the navel is the great abode of the universe and, which is shining like a garland of flames.

Verse 8

Like the bud of a lotus, the heart is suspended in an inverted position, surrounded by arteries. In it or near it, there is a narrow space (called suṣumnā). In it everything is supported.

Verse 9

In the middle of that (suṣumnā) remains the undecaying, all-knowing, omnifaced, great fire which has flames on every side. It enjoys the food presented

before it and assimilates it. Its rays are scattered vertically and horizontally.

Verse 10

It warms its own body from the foot to the head. In the centre of that fire there abides a tongue of fire which is extremely fine (or subtle).

Verse 11

It is dazzling like the flash of the lightning that appears in the middle of a rain-bearing cloud, which is slender as the awn of a paddy grain and which serves as a simile to illustrate subtlety.

Verse 12

Paramātman (Supreme Self) dwells in the middle of that flame. It is He who has become Brahmā, Śiva, Indra and the Akṣara (Imperishable). It is He who is the Supreme Ruler.

In some texts there are two additional stanzas:

1. He is Rta (the Cosmic Law), Satya (the Truth), the highest Brahman, the dark and tawny Person who has absolute control over Himself. He has strange and variegated eyes and is omniform. We meditate on Him and bow down to Him.

2. This is the famous Nārāyana gāyatrl: ‘We know Nārāyaṇa. We meditate on Vāsudeva. May that Viṣṇu inspire us!’

In sum, we can say that this is an excellent hymn, not only for prayer but also for meditation.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

Nārāyaṇa Guru (A. D. 1854-1928) If a lotus plant that grows in quag¬mire can bring out a beautiful blossom which is also fragrant, there is no reason why a great man should not be born in a family belonging to a socially berated caste. This is exactly what the highly venerated Nārāyaṇa Guru has shown to the world. Nārāyaṇa was born at the village Cempārajhaṇḍi near Tiruvananthapuram (or Trivendrum), the capital of the Kerala State in A. D. 1854. His parents were Mādan and Kuṭṭi Amma. They belonged to the ezhava caste (caste of the toddy- tappers, considered untouchables). Being very intelligent he managed to get a good education especially from a great teacher Rāman Pillai Āsan of Karunāgapalli village. Though married as per the usual social customs, the death of his wife soon after, made him roam about like a mendicant. He met two great teachers— Kuñjan Pillai (Ceṭṭāmbi Svāmi) and Thīkkāḍu Ayyāvu—who helped him to attain scholarship and proficiency in yoga. Later, he settled down in a forest near the town Aruvīpuram and practised meditation and austerities. Attaining great inner peace and realising the mission of his life, he established an āśrama (monastery) there itself and started several social service activities. His pure life and universal love transcending all social barriers attracted a large number of persons who became his disciples and followers. He also started building temples of Siva and training the priests to worship there. Thus Nārāyaṇa became Nārāyaṇa Guru by his life and work. He specially crusaded against igno¬rance and superstition, untouchability, drinking, animal sacrifice as also cruelty to animals, caste-animosities and a host of other unhealthy practices prevalent in the society. Attracted by his personality and teachings many young persons joined him, forming an organisation now known as Srī Nārāyaṇaguru Dharma Paripālana Yogam (S. N. D. P. Yogam). Nārāyaṇa Guru established in A. D. 1904 a Gurukulāśrama at Sivagiri 48 kms. (30 miles) to the north of Tiruvanantha- puram where poor children, irrespective of their caste were given good education, including vocational training. He also started many more schools of Sanskrit and English, as also an Advaitāśrama at Ālvāy to teach universal brotherhood. He took active part in what is now known as Vaikom Satyāgraha, to gain entry into the Hindu temples for the untouchable castes. He has written quite a few books in Malayālam (his mother-tongue) and Sanskrit, of which Brahmavidyāpañcakam and Darśanamālā are well-known.