Once while driving up back to Fernhill after a long journey, Guru Nitya said – “We are getting closer and closer to my soul. After the intense days of travel and talks, like Jesus, we are returning to the mountain top for reflection.” Year after year, we too gather here in contemplation, in reflection, in sharing and caring despite weather conditions, despite limitations in space, we still find nourishment in this togetherness here at Fernhill Gurukula. Man is a psychosomatic being. We experience this world with this given body, mind, spirit complex that is latent with inherent potential and tendencies.What we talk and discuss here is a science of all sciences, which in one word is called – Brahmavidya or science of the Absolute.
Once a new person visiting the Fernhill Gurukula, asked Guru Nitya – “What is the East West Universe of Unitive Sciences?” Guru replied – “Just This!”Guru was sick and recovering from Bronchitis, after a road trip to Kerala. He had fever and congestion, and people from the east and the west were sitting around Guru’s bed, sipping coffee, thinking great thoughts. Instead of responding to illness or other physical suffering with depression or self pity, Guru maintained a steady balance which became an even deeper meditative peace. Guru was talking about – “What is God?” He said – “We call God ‘Daivam’ meaning ‘Light’. The principles that inform the Universe, but we also have to understand God as the darkness that obscures the laws. Both light and darkness are recognized as part of an infinite scheme in which each of us play only a small part. God is situational – ‘Atma sphere’ like Atmosphere. When we wake up in the morning and it is raining, we have a different attitude and program than when the sun is shining. God is always surrounding us, as changing situations. God is an Atmasphere. God is like a vacuum whose pull cannot be resisted. A functional reality, ever unfolding totality.”
Experiential science does not begin with proof. First a general law is postulated as a working theory and is given as an a priori ground to work with. After enumerating the hypothesis, a methodology is adopted to see if that hypothesis yields a result. If so, the result is seen as the proof. Even if the experiment is repeated a thousand times, all that the scientist presents to us is an analogy – an analogy based on the conviction of his testimony. We believe the word of the scientist, until another scientist contradicts the finding and makes known to the world what was wrong with the analogy of his predecessor. Narayana Guru calls our attention to the testimony of analogy in Verse 8 of Chapter VII Jnana Darsana, in the Darsanamala. Inference of analogy or comparison is of extreme importance to a seeker of Self-Knowledge. In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks for the marks of a wise person who is established in the firm foundation of his intelligence. He specifically asks how such a person sits, speaks and conducts himself. Krishna obliges Arjuna by giving a full description of such a knower. Again in the Gita, Arjuna asks Krishna for the marks of a yogi who has transcended the triple modalities of nature. In the Bible, Jesus gives many examples to illustrate the Kingdom of God. Even the phrase Kingdom of God has in it a suggested comparison. These guiding principles or marks take the form of an a priori knowledge that stands as testimony that becomes ascertained with a posterior conviction. Guru Nitya says that ‘Our entire life is a preparation for the Final Departure’. We have a whole life time to listen, to test and to arrive at a conviction. Life is a continuous series of experiences.
This presentation is divided into three parts:- Ten Minutes each.
First is the Vishaya – Epistemology or a brief content of what is being talked about. We are already in the middle of it. Before we enter into the life and application of dialectics by Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati through his life, let us go back to Verse 8 of Chapter VII Jnana Darsana in Narayana Guru’s Darsanamala. In the Psychology Of Darsanamala, Guru Nitya translates Jnana Darsana as Consciousness and its Modifications. Here in this verse, Narayana Guru points to testimony of analogy, in Guru Nitya’s commentary of this in the Psychology Of Darsanamala he uses the analogy of the well known Zen story of A Man Searching for The Bull. The Oxherding drawings of the XII Century Chinese Master – Chino Kukuan. This same analogy will also give us a brief feel of the vishaya that we are now talking about. Let us look at it in the light of this mantra:
On going near the object to be ascertained
And recognizing, “this is the form of the animal
Whose marks have been heard of” – that by which
Such knowledge comes is analogy.
- Narayana Guru
Present the analogy of the Oxherding pictures.
With this understanding now, let us look at the Sambandha or the Methodology as applied in the life of Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati. In the words of Sartre – The essence of Man, is his existence. We are lucky to have the analogy of great masters of our time right before us right here in this time and clime. Nothing special.‘Just this’ as it is.Nothing dramatic. The roseness of a rose is Absolute, the cheerfulness of a smile is Absolute, the quality of a tear drop is Absolute. This essence comes as the value that is extracted out of a lifetime. Our entire life can be described as an aggregate of values. We live in a network of interconnected-ness (Indrajalam) whether we like it or not, it is the very basis of our existence. We are constantly learning and growing moment after moment assuming to play some role that we think we are assigned to in this book of life. Only learning can produce new RNA they say. It is the motivational dynamic of our whole being. Not just new RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), but enzymes and hormones that bring aliveness. It is the very sap of life. There is a continuous process of giving and taking. Saint Francis of Assisi says – ‘It is in giving that we receive and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.’Guru Nitya says – “Nataraja Guru taught me not to wait for anything. You should never just sit and wait, but always give positive content to life. Don’t let the moments become dead, lifeless because you are waiting for something to happen”. Let us now see how Guru Nitya applied this in his very life. His purvashrama name was Jayachandran.
- Even though each of us is born with an inherent nature, the impressions of childhood go along with us until the very end. In his autobiography Love & Blessings Guru Nitya talks in detail about many such instances that went along with his basic nature and tendencies. He talks about his indoctrination to marriage. A young woman in his village in the neighbourhood named Bhanumati, used to wait for him and take him to school everyday. One day she told him that he should not expect to see her again, as she was getting married and going away. Several months later when she returned, she was pregnant and had a huge belly. He was afraid and told his mother that her belly may burst and she might die. Couple of days later, she did die. This whole event that went through his absorbent mind as a child, became a conceptual aggregate in his mind that stuck and strongly associated with the word ‘marriage’.
Nataraja Guru’s thesis on education was on the ‘Personal Factor’ in education. Education does not end with school, college or university. Education goes on through the different stages of life. Early education begins with Mother and Father. Jayachandran’s first lessons began with his mother Vamakshiammaand the home he grew in which was a joint family with many mothers and many fathers. His Father RaghavanPanicker was a poet. He grew up listening to Poetry, learning by-heart quotes and quotations from world literature that was introduced by his father which we continued to see in his later years that reflected in his universal nature which was very natural to him. Alongside was his mothers grooming and shaping which instilled ethical values in him which was the resulting culture of his personality.
- After evening prayer, Jayachandran’s father used to read out Kumaran Asan’s Poetry – A Malayalam rendering of Edwin Arnolds Light Of Asia about the human tragedy that Siddhartha Gautama was moved by – In the form of poverty, Old age, sickness and death, which finally brought him to leave home and take up the life of a wayfarer. Jayachandran was in his early Adolescence at that time. It caused a similar emotional upheaval in him. One day after the poetry reading, he asked his mother – “Can I become a Buddha?” She said – “Of course” “What should I do” he asked. Mother offered to help. The next morning, she woke him up at 4am and poured buckets of cold water on his head saying nobody became great by rolling on rose petals, when he resisted. The same day, lunch was served specially for him on the floor on a banana leaf, and he was made to sit on a wooden plank. He missed the company of the rest of the family and also missed some of his favorite dishes. He read several books on the Buddha. Everything that the Buddha said sounded sweet and reasonable and he was pleased to relate to that gentle personality of the Buddha in the serene world of Buddha’s compassion. . He says this early encounter with Buddhism brought a new attitude to his life, it brought a certain amount of timidity and a tendency to stay away from aggressiveness. This relieved him from the nightmares of adolescence. Later in his life, he had an opinion of his own and could not accept some aspects. Twenty five years later he went to Sri Lanka to teach the six systems of Indian Philosophy at the Vidyodaya University. In exchange, he attended classes in Buddhism. He undertook serious study of the Psychology of Abhidhamma Kosha of Vasubandhu which is a deep analytical study of the mind-stuff with minute attention given to different shades of consciousness and the psycho-biological functioning of the mind. In his own words in the Autobiography, he says –“After studying Abhidhamma Kosha and Lanka Avatara sutra it was difficult for me to think of Vedanta as an independent and original system.” He also had many interesting dialogues with Rahula Walpola, who was in charge of the Buddhist studies at Sorbonne and was on a sabbatical leave in Colombo. He re-examined the entire gamut of Buddhism from the schools of the Theravadins (Hinayana), Mahayana, Tibetan Tantrayana and Mantrayana and the mystical schools of Yogachara. In his own words Guru says about his tryst with Buddhism – “All are good and helpful to some extent, and there are passages in all which are to be treated as prejudicial or exaggerated. Thus Buddhism, which was once like my own home, turned out to be like a familiar home in my neighborhood. In fact my attitude toward all established religions is more or less the same. I have a lot of reverence and sense of sharing with them, but I do not belong to any one of them.
- In the next phase of his life, all through the young energy of high school, he was most interested in how politics was turning in the European countries. In the Eastern colonies of Britain that were steeped in ignorance and lethargy a new kind of invader was coming with propaganda tools – Adolph Hitler as a new messiah of the world. He fed on the heroic deeds of Hitler andfresh posters of Italy and stories of Mussolini. Chamberlain the prime minister of England was replaced by Winston Churchill. America, Britain and the Soviet Union had formed an alliance against Germany, Italy and Japan. At that time a close friend of Guru’s told him that in the modern world of warfare and sophisticated military force, Buddha was powerless and that a new messiah was in town who could lead them to the right path. The messiah was in hide out and could only be seen at night. Even though children were not allowed to leave home after 6Pm, he sneaked out and went to an old discarded home and met this emaciated man with unkempt hair, ugly beard and had only one eye. He decided to carry food and drink to him and the next day he told his mother about the messiah, not as a communist but as a great lover of mankind. He would go to him in the afternoons to learn Marxism – Stalinist propaganda, which was another version of Hitler and Mussolini’s propaganda. This visit to the one eyed comrade infused in him the psychosis of a megalomaniac. Guru says he was always discussing the dialectics of class interest and the need to organize guerrillas everywhere. In India, leaders were not sure who they should support. Through these discussions and readings, his own world became real, far removed from home and natural environment. Floating in the ambiguity of half knowledge or no knowledge without any direction in life.
- The next phase of Jayachandran’s life took him to the Airforce and then the military. Here he worked with a shrewd Malayalee officer from Ottapalam in Shoranur. He was taught all the tricks of the trade. Like for eg, Menon showed him a secret code used in his office. In collating, correlating and indexing documents, the page number etc given on the paper should be wrong. No:27, for instance should be written only as 72/1, no one could trace any papers unless they knew the secret code. Pretty soon he mastered all that he was taught, which pleased the authorities. He was promoted to the chief superintendent’s position. Here he was directly in touch with the British Officers and other ranks. As Jayachandran’s officer in charge was Indian, the British did not want to salute him. Instead, they would go directly to Jayachandran. So he typed out a daily order that no British officer or other rank was to go to the superintendent’s office before seeing the Commanding Officer and giving him a formal salute. He had no sense of malice when he did this. He felt that – ‘what was owed to Caesar to be paid to him.’ In one section he had to deal with the British, by receiving new battalions into transit camps, arranging hot meals for them, posting them to war fronts and keeping in touch with their families in case they died in action. Most of their documents were kept in safe custody at this base office. Letters were censored. Letters that were likely to bring depression to soldiers were not to be released to them in the war front. Jayachandran was one of the three that had to censor such letters from fathers, mothers, wives, fiancées and others. It had to be stamped ‘safe’ before being delivered. He felt pain for several hours after reading emotionally painful letters and felt sense of guilt at withholding letters from their dear ones. He visualized English homes and the emotional environment of their families. Then came the big news of Hiroshima being bombed with an atom bomb, which followed by the bombing of Nagasaki. In a few days, Japan surrendered and the axis powers fell. British Govt decided to show leniency to Indian National Leaders who were in jail. Mahatma Gandhi was coming on parole and was going to be treated by a famous naturopath. Jayachandran wanted to meet the Father of the nation, and so asked for a months leave which was granted. This was the beginning of a turning point in his life. He couldn’t sleep that night thinking of the war that ultimately ended in the horrid atom bomb that had totally burned away two major cities of Japan. Thus he dissociated himself from the warlords, to be in the company of the architect of peace. Jayachandran went to Manibhavan at 4am as Gandhiji would start his morning prayer at 5am. Gandhiji started chanting from verse 55 of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.When he came to verse 62, his voice became mellow and there was absolute sincerity in his chanting tone. Jayachandran was hearing this for the first time. (chantsloka with meaning). This is how he turned to the Gita, hearing it straight from the mouth of the Mahatma. After the prayer meeting, when Gandhiji went to his room, Jayachandran walked into the room and slowly sat close to him. Even though he was timid and shy and not a gate crasher. Gandhiji spoke to him in Hindi inquiring which part of India he came from. Even though Jayachandran was in the forces and could understand hindi, he could not speak fluently and had difficulty with grammar. So he replied in English, ‘I am from Kerala’. Gandhiji asked – ‘Is English the mother tongue of Kerala people? ‘ Jayachandran–‘Kerala people speak English when getting into conversation with non-malayalees.’ When Gandhiji insisted on speaking in the mother tongue, Jayachandran got annoyed and said – ‘Babuji, I know you studied in England and speak English. I am not here to demonstrate my fluency in any language. I am here to communicate. We can only speak in a common language. English is a common language between us. There is no harm in speaking it.’ When Gandhiji asked why he was not speaking in the National Language, he lost it, being young and egoistic he burst out in anger – ‘Hindi is neither my mother tongue nor my father tongue!’ Gandhiji said – “A slave is proud of speaking his masters language. You are enslaved by the British. So long as you speak in English, neither will you learn your mother tongue nor the national language.” Jayachandran felt humiliated and left with a heavy heart and bruised ego, but soon returned back to give a whole discourse on Marxism to Gandhiji. Everytime he looked at Gandhiji, he raised two fingers as if admonishing him and stopping him from speaking his mind. Finally he burst out – ‘Babuji, your Ramarajya will never save India. Only class war will give true liberation. There are two classes of people – the ones who have and the ones who have not – the exploiters and the exploited. You should support the rights of the exploited. Mahatmaji said – ‘You think I have not had an occasion to read Karl Marx and consider his theory of liberation? You seem sincere in your convictions. If Marx is right, then I am wrong?’ To this Jayachandran replied – “Yes!” Gandhiji said –‘ You have certainly moved out of your shoes, to stand in the shoes of Marx to look at truth. Can you not be generous to me also to understand my view point? How many facets does truth have?’ Brashly he replied – ‘One!’ Gandhi said – ‘Truth is like a diamond, many faceted.’ Jayachandran was silenced and then Gandhiji explained how a rational view is always relative to a partial consideration. Bapuji’s eloquence shattered all his previous convictions. He then asked the Mahatma if he could join him and serve him, to which Gandhiji agreed. He went into deep silence giving up all argumentation, for the first time he started listening to people without prejudice. Thus he learnt to be a worthy student.
- When he returned to Kerala, someone suggested to him to offer his services to Shivagiri Mutt Varkala. On the first day, he was much impressed by a bald headed swami who sang the invocation with all his heart and soul. This swami was none other than Mangalananda Swami. Soon Mangalananda Swami was sent to Colombo to Ceylon to collect funds for building a memorial over Narayana Guru’s Samadhi. Jayachandran found it hard to get along with the uneducated swami’s of the mutt and so he left. Travelling in Tamil nadu, once while he was at the Railway station, looking at the books at Higginbothams bookstall, his eyes fell on a book called – In Quest of God by Swami Ramdas of Anand Ashram Kanjangad. While he was absorbed reading the book, an European lady tapped his shoulder and said – “You can have that book, I paid for it.” When he went to thank her for it, she said – ‘Are you looking for a master?’ She wrote out an address on a scrap paper and handed it over to him – Swami Ekarasa, Dr. GH Mees, Kanva Ashram, Varkala, Kerala. Being guided by principles of Buddhism on one side and on the other by Marxism, concept of God sent message or providential guidance never occurred at that time. Providence led Jayachandran into the hands of Sadhu Ekarasa Dr. GH Mees, who had at that time just completed his magnum opus, a study of 18 years on Traditional Psychology. Three volumes which he called – The Revelation in the Wilderness. Jayachandran had to prepare the typescript of the three volumes for the publisher. The Book of Signs, The Book of Stars and The Book of Battles. In return Dr. Mees gave Jayachandran the wisdom treasures of the entire world. The culture of many countries opened before him – The Vedas and puranic Indian culture, Taoism & Confucianism of China, Zen Buddhism, the Coptic civilization of the Nile, the cultures of Babylonia and Sumeria, the Germanic traditions, Hellenistic culture, the Slavic and Anglo-Saxon worlds, the Celts and the Native American schools of the Hopi, the Mayan and the Inca. He was also introduced into the world of Carl Gustav Jung and the Jungian school of Analytical Psychology. Many narrow minded misunderstandings were thrown out with a growth in both reasoning and understanding. A process of Deconstruction and Reconstruction. It was a strange destiny of being initiated into the spiritual path in Varkala, by a Dutchman educated in Cambridge and Leeds. After the work was completed, Dr. Mees came up with two possibilities. Jayachandran was free to make his own choice. One was to assume full responsibility and hold the ashram on his behalf and live as a full fledged swami, or to leave and go wherever he wanted and not return to Kanva ashram even for a temporary stay. Jayachandran decided to leave. Dr. Mees put him through a test before he let him go. He drove himself taking Jayachandran to Trivandrum, and left him there saying – “Now, you are leaving me, but you should return before 7pm day after tomorrow. Go to Kanyakumari. On the way, don’t tell anyone where you are going. You should not starve. Take food 3 times a day as usual. Do not take money from anyone on the way. Believe in God, and gain your freedom”. Jayachandran successfully passed through this test and even got a free ride back to Varkala and managed to reach by 7pm. He met the Colonel that he worked with in the army, at Kanyakumari. He was on a pilgrimage. He was going to Varkala to visit the Janardhana Temple. Dr. Mees was surprised and pleased. He said – “ My son, you are now free to leave me and live an absolutely independent life in the hands of Providence.”
- Summer of 1948, Jayachandran visits Ramana Maharshi, who was the Guru of Dr. Mees. Arriving in Thiruvannamalai, he visited the temple before seeing Maharshi. Even though he was not a temple-goer, he stood at the entrance, imagining how young Ramana first entered the temple without a ceremonial bath, yet drenched by rain that accidentally showered upon him when he entered the temple. Jayachandran desired to have such a rain shower too on his arrival. That did not happen. Instead he perspired and his clothes became wet as if standing in the rain. When he first met Ramana Maharshi, he was not at all impressed. His hero in those days was Vivekananda. Because like him, Jayachandran was also worried about India’s poverty, ignorance and illiteracy and its inability to organize dynamic work for groups of people in order to get out of the shackles of lethargy. Maharshi to his eyes was like a concrete symbol of India’s inaction. Being a young man with a lot of self-esteem and ego, he felt resentment when ignored and not noticed by Ramana Maharshi. He decided to leave.He bought some oranges and placed it by Maharshi’s feet as an offering and prostrated before leaving. For some reason, he sat there and Maharshi’s gaze fell upon Jayachandran. He looked straight into his eyes. He felt a kind of rewinding of his whole life at that time, feeling like being in the womb of his mother abruptly falling down from some height. Time stood still and when he gained consciousness, it was lunch time and someone tapped on his shoulder asking him to join everyone else for lunch. He sat next to Ramana Maharshi and was served with care. In his own words he says – ‘From that moment Maharshi was not a person to me. He was a presence, or rather he was the presence which I was seeking and he was everywhere.’ Later when he decided to take on sanyasa, he first visited his mother and took her blessings. She said – “Even before you were born, I prayed to God, that I should have a son who would continue the works of Narayana Guru.” Then he went back to Tiruvannamalai, and asked Swami Ramadevananda of Ramana Ashram to be proxy for Maharshi and to give sanyasa. Maharshi did not give sanyasa to anyone, nor did he call anyone his disciple, but did not object to anyone calling him as his Guru. Jayachandran thus became Nitya Chaitanya Yati.
- On reaching Nataraja Guru, Nitya Chaitanya Yati is seasoned by being grilled in many ways through challenging situations that balance all the extremes thereby arriving at a neutral point. The energy of over enthusiasm, got channelized into a dynamic of creative expression.
- Thereafter Guru Nitya was in the realm of ‘Atma Shere’ . The whole world was like one big family to Guru. He often said the world itself is a Gurukula. No one or nothing fell out of this realm.
- Nothing had changed outside, but within himself his life had taken him through a whole range of experiences and transformations. Life itself being a great Teacher.
- His deep compassion for all Beings took hold of the rest of his life which he dedicated to intense work day and night, communicating and interacting with people from all walks of life. His classes, his teachings, his counselling, his writings, and his talks touched people deeply. All his Wisdom was in Service to Unitive Understanding and Brotherhood of Man with a deep sense of Value Vision.
The Life of Guru Nitya was an eternal sharing or an eternal offering. In the month of May, when the Nilgiri Hills was in the peak of its beauty with chattering birds, clear sky, flowers in full bloom, fruits in abundance he opened the Gates of the Gurukula to all. He called it the ‘May Festival’. Artists, poets, Theater people, dancers, writers and people of all walks of life would gather at the Fernhill Gurukula and spend a whole month of sharing and learning. Vedanta did not dry the sap of his life. In fact the philosophy of his life opened him up as a flowering, blooming person, filled with emanating joy that spread out to all who came around like bees looking for honey.
“When Life is devoid of its greening fountain of Values, the world becomes an arid desert land.” ~ Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati