Yogaswami - the Sage from Eelam
(1872 - 1964)
|"Saint Yogaswami ... is a great saint of universal love - a
true Siddha in whom Love that is verily God, blossomed forth in all its perfection. The
feeling of oneness with the universe allows no running away from society. Renunciation is
not renouncing the world but the renunciation of the dichotomy born of the feeling of the I
and the mine..." (T.P. Meenakshisundaran, Sometime Vice Chancellor,
Madurai University, writing in 'Saint Yogaswamy and the Testament of Truth' by Ratna
Chelliah Navaratnam, 1972)
" His very name came to mean wisdom,
mystery, spiritual power and knowledge of the timeless, formless, spaceless Self within,
Parasiva. He was one of those rare souls, like the rishis of yore, living in the infinity
of Truth within all things, which he called Siva. He was revered equally by Hindus,
Buddhists and Muslims. Devotees continue to honour him with pada puja, worship of the
master's feet, which contains the fullness of enlightenment and hold the promise of our
own spiritual freedom..." (Hinduism Today)
Know thyself by thyself
Courtesy: Hinduism Today
"At 3:30am on a Wednesday, in May of 1872, a son
was born to Ambalavanar and Sinnachi Amma not far from the Kandaswamy temple in
Maviddapuram, Eelam (Sri Lanka). He was named Sadasivan. His mother died before he reached age 10.
His aunt and uncle raised him. In his school days he was bright, but independent, often
studying alone high in the mango trees. After finishing school, he joined government
service as a storekeeper in the irrigation department and served for years in the verdant
backwoods of Kilinochchi.
The decisive point of his life came when he found his guru outside Nallur
Temple in 1905. As he walked along the road, Sage Chellappan, a disheveled sadhu, shook
the bars from within the chariot shed where he camped and shouted loudly at the passing
brahmachari, "Hey! Who are you?" Sadasivan was transfixed by that simple,
piercing, inquiry. "There is not one wrong thing!" "It is as it is! Who
knows?" the jnani roared, and suddenly everything vanished in a sea of light. The
world was renounced in that instant.
At a later encounter amid a festival crowd, Chellappa ordered him,
"Go within; meditate; stay here until I return." He came back three days later
to find Yogawami still waiting for his master.
Yogaswami surrendered himself completely to his guru, and life for him became one of
intense spiritual discipline, severe austerity and stern trials. One such trial, ordered
by Chellappa, was a continuous meditation which Chellappa demanded of Sadasivan and
Kathiravelu in 1909. For 40 days and nights the two disciples sat upon a large flat rock.
Chellappa came each day and gave them only tea or water. On the morning of the fortieth
day, the guru brought some stringhoppers. Instead of feeding the hungry yogis, he threw
the food high in the air, proclaiming, "That's all I have for you. Two elephants
cannot be tied to one post." It was his way of saying two powerful men cannot reign
in one place. Following this ordination, their sannyas diksha, he sent the initiates away
and never received them again.
Chellappa passed in 1911. Yogaswami, obeying his guru's last orders, sat
on the roots of a huge olive tree at Colombuthurai. Under this tree he stayed, exposed to
the roughest weather, unmindful of the hardship, and serene as ever. This was his home for
the next few years. Intent on his meditative regime, he would chase away curious onlookers
and worshipful devotees with stones and harsh words.
After years of austere meditation under an Illupai (olive) tree, he was
persuaded to inhabit a small hut in Colombuthurai made by loving devotees. Here it was his
habit to wake up early and in the dark before dawn light camphor in worship of the holy
sandals, the thiruvadi. of his guru. Once the sun arose, he would stride through the
country side, walking many miles each day. Few recognized his attainment.
But this changed significantly one day when he traveled by train from
Colombo to Jaffna. An esteemed and scholarly pandit riding in another car repeatedly
stated he sensed a " great jyoti" (a light) on the train. When he saw Siva
Yogaswami disembark, he cried, "You see! There he is." The pandit cancelled his
discourses, located and rushed to Siva Yogaswami's ashram, prostrating at his feet. His
visit to the hut became the clarion call that here indeed was a worshipful being.
From then on people of all ages and all walks of life, irrespective of
creed, caste or race, went to Yogaswami. They sought solace and spiritual guidance, and
none went away empty-handed. He influenced their lives profoundly. Decades passed and he
came to be Illathusiddhar, the Perfected one of sea-girt Illangai. Later people of all
walks of life, all nations and paths came for his darsan. Many realized how blessed
they were only after years had passed. Yogaswami's infinite compassion never ceased to
impress. He would regularly walk long miles to visit Chellachchi Ammaiyar, a saintly woman
immersed in meditation and tapas. Yogaswami would feed her and attend to duties as she sat
in samadhi. Upon her directive, her devotees, some the most learned elite of Sri Lanka,
transferred their devotion to Satguru Yogaswami after her passing.
He would mysteriously enter the homes of devotees just when they needed
him, when ill or at the time of their death. He would stand over them, apply holy ash and
safeguard their passage. He was also known to have remarkable healing powers and a
comprehensive knowledge of medicinal uses of herbs. Countless stories tell how he healed
from afar. He would prepare remedies for ill devotees. Cures always came as he
prescribed.When not out visiting devotees, Yogaswami would receive them in his hut. From
dawn to dusk they came and listened, rapt in devotion.
In 1940, Yogaswami went to India on pilgrimage to Banaras and Chidambaram.
His famous letter from Banaras states, "After wanderings far in an earnest quest, I
came to Kasi and saw the Lord of the Universe--within myself. The herb that you seek is
under your feet."
One day he visited Sri Ramana Maharshi at
his Arunachalam Ashram. The two simply sat all afternoon, facing each other in elequent
silence. Not a word was spoken. Back in Jaffna he explained, "We said all that had to
Followers became more numerous, so he gave them all work to do, seva to
God and to the community. In December, 1934, he had them begin his monthly journal,
Sivathondan, meaning both "servant of Siva" and "service to Siva." As
the years progressed, Swami more and more enjoyed traversing the Jaffna peninsula by car,
and it became a common sight to see him chaperoned through the villages.
On February 22, 1961, Swami went outside to give his cow, Valli, his
banana leaf after eating, as he always did. Valli was a gentle cow. But this day she
rushed her master, struck his leg and knocked him down. The hip was broken, not a trivial
matter for an 89-year-old in those days. Swami spent months in the hospital, and once
released was confined to a wheelchair.
Devotees were heart-stricken by the accident, yet he remained unshaken. He ever affirmed,
"Siva's will prevails within and without--abide in His will."Swami was now
confined to his ashram, and devotees flocked to him in even greater numbers, for he could
no longer escape on long walks. He was, he quipped, "captured." With infinite
patience and love, he meted out his wisdom, guidance and grace throughout his final few
At 3:30 am on a Wednesday in March of 1964, Yogaswami passed quietly from
this Earth at age 91. The nation stopped when the radio spread news of his Great
Departure, and devotees thronged to Jaffna to bid him farewell. Though enlightened souls
are often interred, it was his wish to be cremated. Today, a temple complex is being
erected on the site of the hut from which he ruled Lanka for 50 years. .
His very name came to mean wisdom, mystery, spiritual power and knowledge
of the timeless, formless, spaceless Self within, Parasiva. He was one of those rare
souls, like the rishis of yore, living in the infinity of Truth within all things, which
he called Siva. He was revered equally by Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims. Devotees continue
to honour him with pada puja, worship of the master's feet, which contains the fullness of
enlightenment and hold the promise of our own spiritual freedom...
Yogaswami articulated his teachings in hundreds of poems and songs, called
Natchintanai or Mahavakyam.
Sayings of Yogasawami in Tamil
translated from the original Tamil, Sivathondan Society,
Jaffna, Tamil Eelam
From the Introduction to Songs and Sayings of Yogaswami,
published by the Sivathondan Society, Jaffna, 1974...
"The fundamental aim of all religions is the realization of Truth.
This is a matter of direct experience, in which neither the mind nor the intellect nor any
human faculty is involved. It is a question of being. There is only one Reality, which is
God or ' That ' (tat), so that ' realization of Truth ' means being aware that you are one
with God or that you are ' That' (tat tvam asi). This is the meaning of "know thyself". He who knows himself knows
everything and is one who has attained liberation while in the human body (jivanmukta).
There is nothing left for him to do, but to help others to come to the same realization.
Such a man is the true master (sat-guru).
Those who have attained this state are exceedingly rare. But one such 'realized soul ' was
living in Jaffna, in North Ceylon (Tamil Eelam), for over ninety years, and left his body
only in 1964. The contents of this book are his songs and sayings. These flowed from him
spontaneously and were written down at the time by anyone who happened to be present.
No intellectual process was involved. He was the mouthpiece of the Divine.
It is thought best to let the contents of the book speak for themselves.
Commentaries and expositions can all too easily mislead rather
than lead, and the more profound the original the greater this danger becomes.
For the commentator will, in all probability, only comment from his
particular view-point and on his particular level. But writings of deep wisdom can be
understood on many different levels and from many different points of view, some of which
may even appear contradictory, since on the relative plane
Truth can often only be expressed in contradictions. Therefore it is better for each
reader to extract what he can for himself according to his nature and level of
However, for those not familiar with the background against which all that appears in this
book is portrayed, some words of explanation are necessary; but it is intended to limit
these to what is needed from the point of views of intelligibility alone. The language
from which the following translations have been made is Tamil.
This is the tongue of most of the people of South India and of the inhabitants of North
and North-East Ceylon (Tamil Eelam). It is a Dravidian language of very ancient origin.
The majority of the Tamils and of other members of the Dravidian races are Hindus. All the
truths that are contained within the pages of this book have been expressed in Hindu terms
and forms ..."
I will not think of It as ' one ' or ' two '.
I will not approach It as ' good ' or ' bad '.
I will not say that It was or that It is.
I will not know what has been or what is to come.
I will not consider that there is no wrong things.
I will not think of guru and disciple.
I will not state that there is two-fold karma.
I will not say it is the conclusion of the Vedas.
I will not be moved by praise or blame.
I will not make happiness my goal.
I will not be deluded by those who flatter me.
I will not suffer through repeating " Aham Brahmasmi"
I will not declare that there is unceasing love.
I will not advise to give or not to give.
I will not have respect for fools or sages.
I will not say It is the beginning, the middle or the end.
I will not be aware of it as ' five ' or ; six ' or eight '
I will not entertain the thought of treachery or deceit.
I will not have liking for grief or indignation.
I will not show preference for nectar or for poison.
My Master - The exalted seer, my master who by
the name of Chellappan is called, the madman
Guru and s'ishya: Chellappa Swami (seated) and Yogaswami from the cover
of Tźradi Chellappā Cuvāmikal
I saw my guru at Nallur
"Hey, who are you?" (Nee yaar?) he cried.
"Dive deep within and realize!"
"Give up attachment"
"All is well, my son" (Oru pollāppum illai)
As the divine guru to bestow true life upon me
He appeared and showed to me His feet and made me His man.
If sufferings crowd in on you in hordes
If your shortcomings seek you out and drown you
Think of the feet of Chellappan and they will take to their heels and
Wisdom in couplets
Near the house of the car, holy Chellappan would teach:
"There is not one wrong thing" (Oru pollāppum illai)
That sage the saying has declared:
"All is truth" (Muzhutum unmai)
This no one can describe.
Know that for our benefit he gave the sweet and sacred word:
"Nothing do we know" (Nām ariyōm)
Before his devotees he formerly would say:
"This all is perfected and complete" (Eppavō mudinta kāriyam)
Come, Oh, My Mind!
Come, offer worship, Oh my mind!
To gurunathan's holy feet,
Who said, "There is not one wrong thing" (Oru pollāppum illai)
And comforted my heart.
Come swiftly, swiftly, Oh my mind!
That I may adore the Lord
Who on me certainly bestowed
By saying "All is truth" (Muzhutum unmai)
Let us with confidence, Oh my mind!
Hasten to visit Him
Who at Nallur upon that day,
"We do not know" declared. (Nām ariyōm)
Come soon and quickly, Oh my mind!
Chellappan to see,
Who ever and anon repeats
"It is as it is." (Eppavō mudinta kāriyam)
Come, Oh my mind!
To sing of him, who near the car proclaimed
"Who knows?" with glad and joyful heart
For all the world to know.
Chellappan, the Sivaguru
He who is devoid of form as the guru of Nallur
Came and bestowed on me His grace.
The Lord Supreme, Who has become the universe entire,
Came Himself to great Nallur and said "We do not know"
He, who in writing cannot be described
As a guru came to this world
In nothing are we lacking
"All is truth" -- (Muzhutum unmai)
This world devoid of defect
Will paradise reveal to you
Give praise and worship and in joy abide!
"There is nothing wrong" -- (Oru pollāppum illai)
This matchless saying that the guru told
Will impart to you right understanding
Live, ever strewing flowers in reverence
"Who knows?" -- (Ār arivār?)
This utterance of the master The highest knowledge will bestow
Live guarding it with honour in your heart!
"We do not know" -- (Nām ariyōm)
These words in virtue shining
Will grant prosperity and bliss divine
Rely on them without delay and live!
"All is finished" -- (Eppavō mudinta kāriyam)
This statement of the sage will to a settled mind
The Supreme State disclose
Live, offering flowers with love at the dawn of day!
These words will banish birth
Which in Tamil pure are sung
By the devotee, who ne'er
Forgets his master's lotus feet.
Yoga Swami: The Sage of Lanka
by Santhaswami (Viscount Lord Soulbury)
(courtesy: Sri Lanka Island, 4 June 1995)
|The 123rd birth anniversary of Yoga Swami fell on 21st May 1995.
The following article was written by Santhaswami who was the elder son of the late Lord
Soulbury, former Governor-General of Sri Lanka. On the death of his father, he inherited
his viscountcy and became a member of the House of Lords. He had sought Yoga Swami's
permission to renounce his viscountcy in favour of his younger brother, but Swami refused.
Instead, he initiated him and gave him the name Santhaswami.
The fundamental aim of all religions is the realization of Truth. This is
a matter of direct experience in which neither the mind nor the intellect nor any human
faculty is involved. It is a question of being. There is only one reality, which is God or
'That' (tat) so that realization of truth means being aware that you are one with God or
that you are "that' (Tat tvam asi). This is the meaning of 'know thyself'. He who
knows himself knows everything and is one who has attained liberation while in the human
body (jivanmukta). There is nothing left for him to do but to help others to come to the
same realization. Such a person is the true master (sat-guru).
Those who have attained this state are exceedingly rare. But one such
'realized soul' lived in the North of Sri Lanka for over ninety years and left his body
only in March 1964. He was known as Yoga Swami and took birth a hundred and twenty-one
years ago. He received his early education in a Christian missionary school and, either
then or later, acquired a good knowledge of English.
After leaving school, he was employed for some years as a storekeeper in
the Irrigation Department at a place about forty miles south of Jaffna. During this time,
in his early manhood, he met his guru -- Chellappa Swami. Soon afterwards he gave up his
job -- and everything else -- in order to follow him.
Thirst for truth
Chellappa Swami was usually to be found in the neighborhood of Nallur, now
a suburb of Jaffna town, but once the capital of the Tamil kings of the place. The is
situated the most important temple in Jaffna, dedicated to Kandaswami or Murugan. Close to
the temple itself is a large building used to house the massive wooden chariot in which
the image of Murugan is drawn round the temple on the occasion of the yearly festival.
This was Chellappa Swami's favourite haunt and the place where the
imparted most of his teaching to his disciples. He did not do anything but wandered about
as he pleased, clothed in rags and begging for food for his sustenance. Most people
thought that he was mad, for he would often throw stones at those who tried to approach
him and abuse them in language.
Only very few had the purity of mind and heart and understanding to perceive his true
greatness and to detect the unlimited wealth that he had in his power to bestow. Yoga
Swami was one of the lucky few. Even he was chastened and driven out many a time, but Yoga
Swami withstood all these because of his thirst for realizing the Truth.
It would appear that Yoga Swami was with his guru only for a few years. At
a certain point of time he was driven out and told to "Stand on your own legs!".
There is also a story that when he came to visit Chellappa Swami in the final stages of
his last illness, the latter would not allow him to enter the hut in which he was lying,
but shouted from within, "Stand outside and see!"
During the eyars immediately before and after Chellappa Swami's Mahāsamādhi, Yoga Swami
was living under a tree at Columbuthurai on the outskirts of Jaffna town. At this time he
appears to have been practising severe austerities and in his outward behaviour to have
followed the example of his master, for he would drive away those who tried to approach
But gradually, as more and more devotees gathered round him, his austere demeanour seems
to have been relaxed, and he was eventually persuaded to occupy a small hut in the garden
of a house near the tree under which he had been living. This remained his 'base' for the
rest of his life. There devotees would come to him for help in all their problems, usually
in the early mornings and in the evenings.
Since the majority of his followers were Hindus, his teaching was
expressed mainly in Hindu terms, but he himself was beyond all distinctions of religion.
Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and agnostics would all come to him for help and guidance,
for he had reached the summit to which philosophies and religions are merely paths. Like a
good doctor he knew what was best for each of his 'patients' and altered his
'prescriptions' accordingly. His teaching embraced all the yogas and at the same time lay
beyond all of them.
Nearly all his devotees were householders and engaged in some employment
or other, and apart from one or two exceptions, he rarely advised them to retire from
their employment. People would often come and say that they wanted to give up their jobs
in order to be able to devote more time to spiritual practices but he did not usually
encourage them to do this, since, for him, the whole of man's life had to be made a
spiritual practice and he would not admit any division of human activity into holy and
To most of those who came to see him, he would end by saying "Now go
and do your work!" He laid great emphasis on work and work for work's sake -- that
is, Karma Yoga. This like Siva dhyana (meditation on God or what is Real), was one of the
'medicines' that in one form or another, he most frequently administered. He gave no
lectures and held no classes. His teaching was given spontaneously as it came either at
his hut in the mornings or evenings or at some apparently chance encounters in the bazaar
or in the streets or maybe, if a devotee was sufficiently fortunate, at a surprise visit
to his own house. Most of what he said was usually intended for one particular individual
though others present would of course also profit from it.
Yogaswami towards the end of his life
He untiringly tried to raise his followers to the understanding that Truth
lies beyond all forms. Throughout his life he also did his best in many different ways to
encourage and revive the proper observance of traditional practices and every evening at
dusk, a lamp, symbolizing he sacred fire, would be lit in his hut and certain devotional
hymns sung in his presence. As his followers became more and more numerous, he gave them
work to do and encouraged them to translate into Tamil a few writings in Sanskrit or
English that he considered to be important.
In 1953 he made them start a monthly paper devoted exclusively to
religious subjects. In every issue would appear one of his songs. These songs, to which he
gave the name of Natchyintanai -- that is, 'Good Thoughts' -- flowed from him
spontaneously and might come forth at any moment.
In 1935 he sanctioned, at the desire of some of his followers, the
establishment of a place in Jaffna town where they could meet and this developed into a
centre where they were able to practise meditation, sing devotional songs, hold classes in
religion and philosophy and generally carry on any activities useful for spiritual growth.
The name which he gave to the paper, to the institutuion and to the
organization which controlled it was Sivathondan. Siva is God and Thondan has the meaning
of servant and also that of devotee, so that the word Sivathondan signifies a devoted
servant of God or one whose service is devoted to God, that is, one who does everything
that he has to do for God and not for himself.
Everything is God's work and in one sense everyone, every being, is doing
Sivathondan. But man has won the unique privilege of being able to do it consciously. To
make use of this rare opportunity is the best and easiest way open to him in this age of
purifying himself, subjugating his ego and attaining therely that unalloyed happiness
which is his birthright.
Yogaswamy - The
Sage from Tamil Eelam
The Hindu Scriptures have recorded with penetrating insight,
the significance role of the Spiritual preceptors, who have from age to age
contributed to the undying renoun of the Guru Paramparai and who have built
up a continual tradition of Guru Tattvam. The young Nachiketas learn the
nature of Truth from Yama. Maitreyi from Sage Yagnavakkya Bhrigu from Varuna,
Narada from Sanat Kuamar and the four aged Rishis of old sat at the feet of
the Adi Guru Dhakshanamurthi.
The spiritual knowledge was handed from Guru to disciple in succession in
the unbroken tradition of the Sanatana Dharma. The advent of Siva Yogaswami
of in Tamil Eelam marks one such phenomenon. His Spiritual advent had a
subtle impact on the people in their progress in Spiritual, mental and
physical planes of living. In Eelam, Triad KadaiSwami, Chellappa Swami and
Yogaswami lived and moved from middle of the nineteenth century and the
middle of the twentieth century. Nallur Chellappa, the mad man of Nallur
Theradi imparted the Yogamirtham, the nectarine wisdom of the ancient seers
to Siva Yogaswami of Columbuthurai, whose Natchinthanai reflections embodied
the priceless legacy of the Ilankai Yoga Guru Paramparai. In Natchinthanai
reflections, there are many moving compositions and references to his
initiation by Sat Guru Chellappa Swami. We quote some of the cantos which
according to many devotees Yogaswami used to sing frequently in his Ashram
and whose magnetic impact was exhilarating and elevating.
When I saw my Guru for the first time,
Seated on the steps leading to the chariot of Murugan,
"Who are You?" He shouted.
"Deliberate within", said he in jovial mirth.
"Give up attachments", was his refrain.
His very name to mean wisdom, mystery, spiritual power and knowledge of the
timeless, formless, spaceless Self within, Parasiva. He was one of those
rare souls, like the rishis of yore, living in the infinity of Truth within
all things, which he called Siva. He found his Guru amid a festival crowd
outside Nallur Temple in 1905. As he walked by Sage Chellappa, shook the
bars from within the chariot shed, shouting at the passing brahmachari,
"Hey! Who are you?". And in that moment Yogaswami was transfixed. "There is
not one wrong thing!", "It is as it is! Who knows?" the Gnani roared, and
suddenly everything vanished in a sea of light. The world was renounced in
After Chellappa's mahasamadhi in 1915, Yogaswami undertook five years of
intense sadhana, moving about Jaffna and the entire island on foot. Later
people of all walks of life, all nations and paths came for his darshan.
Yogaswami lived from 1872 to 1964, revered equally by Hindus, Buddhists and
Muslims. Yogaswami articulated his teachings in hundreds of poems and songs,
called Natchinthanai or Mahavakyam…Sarvam Sivam Seyal, Sarvam Sivamayam and