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Mahaguru and the Mandiram

(Sri Sri Rangapriya Sri Sri)
|| Sriranga Sadgurave Namah ||
|| Sriyai Vijayambayai Namah ||

Prelude


        It has been rightly observed that all living beings in the world are yearning for happiness and peace and are striving to attain to them though the modes of realising the aspirations and the measure of their fulfillment may vary. This is very natural because happiness and peace constitute the very nature of the self.  But though all are attempting to reach this natural state those who have actually reached this state are rarely to be met with.
Those who are clouded by ignorance make various conjectures on the nature of the self. Some consider the gross body itself as the real self and the gratification of the senses constituting the body as the be-all and end-all of life. "Eat and drink" and make merry as long as you live.  Why should you worry about a self apart from the body? Who has ever seen it and what proof is there for its existence? Instead of wasting your time in the pursuit of  a thing which does not exist at all, squeeze the lemon to the full, drink this life to lees and be done with it - they say superscript 1 .

There are others who think that profound questions such as the existence of a self apart from the body are beyond our comprehension. Who can test the well of Truth with the leaky buckets of our mind? The wisdom lies in making this life happy and it is also desirable that we should make others also happy by removing their sorrow.

Of these two classes of men the latter are definitely better than the former but their view of life is also shallow and in a sense they are escapists. They cannot succeed in removing sorrows definitely and absolutely. The happiness conceived by them is subject to limitations. There are some people who make fruitless discussions on the nature of the self without attempting to plunge into its depth. But there are also some brave persons who perform intense sadhana driving their senses inwards and reach the immortal atman. Those who have thus seen the true self face to face are called rishis. The rishis may be born in any time or any part of the earth. But history and tradition have recorded that they were born in large numbers and made greatest contributions in the land of Bharatha.

Renaissance of Rishi culture

The rishis realised by experience that the supreme atman is the source and substratum of all. It is immutable and is an abode of "Jnana Ananda and Shanthi"2 pure and perfect, transcending all limitations. To realise atman is the greatest end of life and to disregard it is the greatest folly.
With the supreme atman as the nucleus the rishis of Bharatha found a glorious culture and a civilisation giving an external form to it. Those who follow them reap all the fourfold objects of life - Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Moksha (Liberation) is the supreme end of life and Dharma is the right principle leading to both material and spiritual happiness. Artha (wealth) and Kama (sensual pleasure) also may be enjoyed within the bounds of dharma and Moksha.
         But owing to the evil influence of Ajnana people are apt to forget the significance of this great heritage and go astray. In order to redeem them the Lord manifests himself in the world in the form of incarnations like Rama and Krishna and also sends from time to time divine messengers serving as his instruments. Such men of god remove the cobwebs of superstition covering the culture and lead men to the sanctum - sanctorum of truth. They also set a pattern of life for people to follow and inspire them in spirituality by the footprints left by them on the sands of time3 even after they have left their mortal coils. The organisation called Astanga Yoga Vijnana Mandiram was founded by a mahapurusha coming in the above line and his blessed name was Sriranga.

A Mahaguru is born

Sriranga was born at a village called Hedathale in the Mysore district on a family of Srivaishnava brahmanas, as the son of Sri Thirumalacharya and Srimathi Rukmini Amma, on a Friday which was the fourth day in krishnapaksha of Kanya masa in the year Pramathi (19.9.1913) and attained Parandhama on the same day and thithi and paksha in the Kumbha masa of the year Kilaka (7.3.1969). The life and doings of this remarkable personage did not come to light to the world at large because being in tune with the desire of the Lord he chose to remain as "a fruit behind leaves". Here we attempt to give a brief pen-picture of this man of god and the institution founded by him, form the benefit of those who have an aspiration for the greatest value in life.
The mahaguru was a householder pursuing agriculture as a means of living and led a normal life like others without any ostentation.  But behind this unassuming life, shone an inexhaustible fountain of spirituality with the greatest qualities of head and heart which inspired veneration in all who came in contact with him. As a revered acharya, a great exponent of Bharatiya culture and civilisation, as an affectionate and dutiful relative and friend and member of    the society and as a humanitarian inspired by unselfish love he had reached the watermark of greatness though his greatness was known only to a small circle of men who had the fortune to be acquainted with him.

Yogamurthi and Acharya

soochikala chitra
soochikala chitra
He was an acharya of the highest calibre. Our shastras describe an acharya as one who has realized the truth, who gives a correct exposition of the shastras, establishes good conduct and practices what he preaches and Sriranga mahaguru fully conformed to this standard4 He was a spiritual giant who had risen to the heights of brahma samadhi and was firmly established in it even when he was working in other states and so saturated was he with spiritual power that when he was possessed of a divine sankalpa, his touch and sight a momentary remembrance by him and even the things that he had touched or seen or thought of had the efficacy to awaken slumbering souls to the states of yoga. He possessed a majestic and well formed constitution conforming to the descriptions of a yogamurthi5 who would be a shubhashraya, an auspicious and an efficacious object for meditation. His profound and resonant voice rising from the depths had the power to drive away all inertia. A word or two from him and a sight of his face beaming with lustre of pure satva gave comfort and solace to many afflicted souls.
He was born in a family holding the Srivaishnava faith and its tradition and code of life were dear to him as he had realised their value. But as a master yogi with his perfect acquaintance with the high-ways and by-ways of the various branches of religion such as the shaiva and the shahkta, leading to the same goal of brahma samadhi6, he had equal respect and love for all of them and the natural mudras of all the gods worshipped in these faiths were seen adorning not only his body but also the bodies of his disciples when they were in meditation. Disciples born to different faiths were attracted towards him and he showered his blessings equally on all of them and undertook to lead them to the same heights of brahmi stithi. He was a jnana-yogi merged in Brahman, a bhakta inspired with divine love and also remained as a karma-yogi serving god with sincerity till his last breath. He has great respect for the saints of the dvaita and the advaita and the visishtadvaita schools and had an appreciation for the good things in other religions too. He remained unscathed by the fire of begotism with which the society is consumed and he cautioned his disciples also against the defects of viewing things through a coloured glass. He advised the men of different sects to stop mutual mud-slinging and perform sadhana in the right path without abusing their time and energy in fruitless discussions. Experiences of the super-sensuous state cannot be decided by waging a battle of words in the physical plane.
        His definition of the term achara (right religious conduct) shows how honest and unprejudiced his outlook was. "Achara does not necessarily mean the religious conduct of such and such a sect living in such and such a country. It means any act which cleanses the mind and enables us to see the self shining in its pure state7".

Mahaguru

He did not remain contented with his realization of Brahman but freely transmitted his knowledge to the qualified disciples out of divine compassion. He tested the prakriti of the disciples and taught them according to their aptitude and capability. When once he took up the responsibility of a disciple after divine sanction, he would never leave him until the goal was achieved. He had boundless affection for the spiritual sons and shed tears of joy when they were found reaping spiritual experiences as expected by him.
He did not forsake anybody who came to him sincerely for help in the spiritual field. When a person was found unfit at the time to receive initiation he would ask him to wait patiently and purify himself in the mean time with good samskaras.

Samskriti Purusha

He was a samskriti purusha of the highest order replete with Jnana and Vijnana as the warp and woof of his life and worked with indefatigable energy for the cultural renaissance of humanity. Though he had very little formal education either of the university or of the traditional type, he was gifted with the wisdom of understanding the vidyas and kalas. When men with academic distinction both in the university and traditional fields ran up to him with problems, he could solve them within no time. He was a past-master in the knowledge of the mechanism of the body and its working embracing all its fields- the gross, the subtle and the spiritual. He did not despise the body but considered it rightly as a temple of god. He also did not condemn the senses but made them as instruments to reach the lord within and to project His glory without. When projected outside, his senses were most active and could grasp even the most subtlest things.

Maha Gruhastha

Some ignorant people disparaged gruhasthashrama as a stage of disqualifying life for Jnaana. But like ancient sages like Vasishtha he proved his own example that even a gruhastha can become a brahmistha (greatest knower of Brahman).  Recognizing sanyasa as a stage of life in which there is scope for specialization in jnana, he had great respect for it, but he also remarked that whereas a sanyasi can make a gift of jnana only, a gruhastha (who has realised Brahman) can make 16 mahadanas such as the gift of food and clothing in addition to Jnana-daana. He himself was such a maha-gruhastha praised by sages like Manu and his name Sriranga (the theatre for the goddess of spiritual wealth and glory to show her graces) also was true to significance.

Nadayogi Ganayogi

Ganayogi Sriranga
Ganayogi Sriranga
He was a nadayogi, who had listened to "internal sounds" leading to paramatman and was also a gana yogi who could bring out the glory of nada to the external world and help listeners to soar up to the heights of yoga. He could understand the psychology of animals and birds and insects and could draw them toward him by mimicry and singing. He was also peerless in physical feats and skills like swimming and diving and climbing trees. He had in his youth vanquished a buffalo that had attacked him accidentally. He was a keen observer of nature and nature revealed her secrets to him. His knowledge of plants and medicinal herbs was superb. He had excellent taste for both sahitya (good literature) and souhitya (good food). He also excelled in writing pictures. He was endowed with the gift of gab and was a good conversationalist. He knew the art of teaching even extremely difficult subjects in the most effective manner. His speech was interspersed with homely similes and other natural figures and replete with music and with rasas like humour which could be simple and profound as demanded by the occasion.
He had learnt those sciences and arts sitting at the feet of the lord who is the teacher of teachers and the lord of all vidyas and kalas, their sources and their right object8 and put them to the best use to which they could be put. He knew how to harness them for yoga and also for bhoga unopposed to it. He used his gaana as a means of yoga to awaken the kundalini power. Through the pictorial art also he brought out experiences of the inner world and made it an instrument for teaching. He made use of the knowledge of the medicines to cure the diseases of many people, distributing medicines and treating them freely. He did not make use of spiritual power to cure physical ailments as he had reserved them to cut off the worldly bondage. (He cautioned his disciples also against the pursuits of siddhis (occult powers) which are only obstacles in the way of attaining the greatest siddhi namely the realisation of atman). With a reverence to the great sages who gave vidyas and kalas, he offered their fruit at the feet of the lord.
He had an unparalleled love for the land of Bharata not merely because it was his motherland and a land of wealth and beauty but also because it was a land of wonderful samskrithi and a civilization bridging earth and heaven.

Lover of Scientific Methods

He hated superstition both of the ancient and the modern brand and never compromised with untruth. But he showed with reason and practical experiments that many of the things in our religious customs and traditions which are dubbed as superstition are product of ripe wisdom. He was a lover of modern science and scientific methods and scientific apparatus also were used by him in expounding great truths. He viewed science as a part of the shastras as it faithfully explained things as seen in the physical plane and has also bestowed many material comforts upon us. But the root and substratum of all and the real meaning of life and the experience of supreme joy and tranquillity can be attained by yoga only.

Redeemer of Karma Shastra

The rishis have enjoined upon us the performance of 16 samskaras and daily and occasional rites and have declared that they purify the mind and generate Jnaana. But how they do this has not been expounded with necessary details. Those who have blind faith in tradition observe them mechanically and their faith is being shaken by rationalists. In this context the mahaguru clearly showed with the proofs of reason and experience that, taken in the form of spirit given by the rishis, those karmas are really efficacious in purifying the mind and bringing enlightenment. Thus he was the redeemer of karma shastra as a bridge to Jnaana shastra.

Hospitality

Even in the midst of his multifarious works regarding our samskriti he devoted himself to the duties of a householder towards the members of the family and relatives and friends. He was most hospitable to guests and kind to the poor and needy. But he followed the vow of aparigraha. He gave bounteously to others but did not receive help from others9 He had pleasing manners. His face was wreathed in smiles in entertaining others and whenever there came any calamity or need for service he would be present there to render his active service in the most modest manner. His disciples and relatives and friends and guests and even other people were helped by him in various ways in times of misery and each one of them declared that he loved him most. Such was the fascination of his wonderful personality.
"The elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world. This was a man not a mere man but a man of god".

Proclamation

He proclaimed that realisation of the self which is eternal and is an ocean of perennial happiness and peace is the chief end of human existence (and other objects also can be pursued in consonance with this) and also declared that it was the birthright and prerogative of all human beings. This cannot be attained by mere book learning but by devotion and the performance of sadhana under the guidance of an enlightened man. We should purify ourselves by obtaining good samskara, doing our duties as designed by the seers who had a complete outlook on life. When the vidyas and kalas and traditions and customs as taught by them are followed we reach the goal of life. This message is the same as that which is given by the maharishi who framed our culture. But the Mahaguru assimilated all that knowledge and proclaimed them to us in an original and powerful manner in a language befitting our standard.
The portrait of the person presented here may strike some readers with wonder, some may even disbelieve it. Did he really exist? Or is he merely a product of imagination. We humbly submit that he was a reality who lived with us in flesh and blood in recent times and influenced the lives of many men. He lives forever in their hearts to inspire them.

A mansion for Astanga Yoga and Vijnaana

        To give a concrete shape to the truths that he had realised the Mahaguru found an institution called and also gave it an emblem which is an epitome of all shastras and kalas, a treasure house of jnaana and vijnaana and the water mark of art elevating to divinity.
The term yogabhyasa is current in the sense of performing some asanas or physical postures and breath exercises called pranayama and even acrobats demonstrating wonderful physical feats are called yogis. This is a disparagement of the term. The rishis who gave that worked to us used it in the sense of the highest state in which the supreme goal of life is realised. It is derived from the root "Yuj" which means to unite or to be in the state of tranquility -the state of union of jeeva and paramatma when all problems are solved and the self enjoys its natural and normal rest10. It is also called sahajastithi and unmani. In it the mind is yoked to the highest object of life and its other functions come to a standstill and the self becomes divested of association with sorrow. It also means a balance of the mind and skill in work. A course leading to yoga is also called yoga. Though such explanations are different, they all refer to the positive and negative aspects of yoga and the means of attaining it.
        The stages in attaining the highest state of yoga are generally enumerated as 8 - Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The last 3 of these are the most important (with the omission of the first 2 states, yoga is called shadanga). Vijnaana is the special science and the art of reaching the state of yoga and coming back from it with a complete understanding of its course. The Mandiram or the mansion for practicing it is verily the body. So the Mahaguru very often proclaimed that the term Astanga Yoga Vijnaana Mandiram, chiefly applies to the body in which the knowledge of yoga is practiced and attained.

Mandiram - The institution

In a secondary sense it refers to an institution with the above object and the Mandiram in this sense was founded on the Vijayadashami day of the year Sarvajith 24-10-1947 at Hedathale near the residence of the Mahaguru and those who were initiated by him were its members. The office was shifted to Mysore in view of the facilities available there and it was decided to conduct the activities of the organisation from here and two other branches - Bangalore and Basarikatte (Chikmagalur Dist.) and the Mahaguru blessed all of them with his visits.

Aim of the Mandiram

Bharateeya culture has a perennial existence, being based upon the eternal principles of the supreme lord, the light, the guiding all the activities of the universe and its spiritual nucleus. It is a divine tree with satya as the tap root and dharma as its shoots and branches. It yields all the objects of life ending in the attainment of the sweet and sappy fruit of supreme bliss. But unfortunately parasites have grown upon it and are damaging the very tree from which they are drawing sustenance. We have to destroy these overgrowths and rear the tree once again in all its pristine glory. A practice of this culture takes this form of Astanga Yoga. The organisation Astanga Yoga Vijnaana Mandiram aims at a proper understanding, appreciation and propagation of this glorious culture.

Mandiram and it's work

It is carrying on original research work on the various branches of our culture and civilization and the fruits of this work are made known to the people under proper conditions according to available facilities. The Mahaguru described its member as "Sadhakas, Shodhakas and Bodhakas" according to their aptitudes.
The organization got itself registered under the Mysore Societies Registration act in the year 1968.
When the mahaguru left for parandhama, the mahamatha of Mandiram, Srimathi Vijayalaskshmi, the sahadharmini of Mahaguru, graciously accepted to become the president of the organisation at the request of its members and has been a source of inspiration in carrying on the activities of the Mandiram.
In addition to giving spiritual discipline to qualified sadhakas, the Mandiram is arranging pravachanaas and publishing profound literature on the various branches of our culture. It has been publishing a monthly journal called Aryasamkrithi for the last 34 years. Members deputed by Mandiram have been presenting its views on the above subject in cultural gatherings. It has so far published more than 30 books. These books have been reviewed and appreciated by eminent scholars in public newspapers and received well by the lovers of culture.
We offer the fruits of all our activities to the light supreme through the mahaguru who is shining in the innermost shrine of our hearts.