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Sri Gnananandhagiri Swamigal
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.
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 appointed 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.
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 forearm.
His work opens a path that leads to answers for many questions and prescribes ways and means to reach the pinnacle…..the highest state of awareness or super consciousness.
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).
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. 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.
The earliest we hear of him in South India is around 1860 near Chidambaram. In the course of his wanderings on foot over many decades as a parivrajaka or itinerant monk he had come into contact with the spiritual luminaries of the last century and the present one. Around the turn of the century he was staying in the Sampathgiri Hills of Polur near Tiruvannamalai. He was with Sri Aurobindo after his arrival at Pondicherry from Chandarnagore. Sri Gnanananda also recalled his meeting with Sri Ramana Maharshi in the Virupaksha Cave.
He exemplified in himself that spontaneous love of insecurity and anonymity which is the hallmark of a genuine sannyasin. He moved away as disciples built ashrams for him. It was only towards the end of his phenomenally long spiritual ministry that he settled down at Thapovanam on the outskirts of the ancient temple town of Tirukoyilur on the banks of a sacred river and within the spiritual aura of Arunachala. The ashram is situated about a kilometer away from the four-hundred-year-old samadhi tomb of another great Hindu saint, Sri Raghottama Swami. It is located on the Tiruvannamalai-Tirukoyilur highway, about 200 kilometers from Madras.
Sri Gnanananda was deeply interested in monastic revival and gave initiation into traditional sannyasa to a few of those who had a genuine calling and were well prepared with the disciplines of asceticism and interiorization. The renunciate disciples were all given facilities for the study of Vedanta and the pursuit of a contemplative life. In 1969 Sadguru Gnanananda established a retreat center for them at Yercaud, a hill station, and called it Sri Gnanananda Pranava Nilayam. As the name itself indicates, the center is for meditation on Atman, symbolized by the ardhamatra or half-nasal ending of "OM", the pranava. There is no ritual or communal worship at Yercaud. The pictures of Sri Gnanananda, Sri Buddha, Swami Vivekananda, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Kaaba at Mecca adorn the walls of the central hall.
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.
According to the 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.
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