(Swamiji’s ‘Mahasamathi’ day special article.)
When the sun rises in the east, it is not an event taking place secretly. The rising sun can be seen from every angle from all directions. Even the blind can feel the presence of the sun in his own way. Likewise, when a spiritual master (Jnana Guru) makes his appearance on earth, his spiritual splendor can in no way be hidden. Even an ordinary man can understand the greatness of the divine preceptor. Seeing how he guides and shapes his disciples and devotees into divinity, one can easily guess and understand that he really is a great teacher. So, the preceptor’s excellence shines and stands self-revealed. This is all due to his extraordinary attainments. He is the saint, sage, philosopher, scholar and humanist, all rolled into one. One such person is Srimath Swami Chidbhavananda.
Swami Chidbhavananda was born in avillage by name Chenkuttaipalayam lying near Pollachi in South India on 11thMarch 1898 to Sri Periannan and Srimathi Nanjamma and he was named Chinnu. Both the parents were respected by people for their devotion and simplicity.
There is a saying that morning shows theday. Chinnu was peerless even from childhood. He had spontaneous inclination towards God. He was the devout admirer of mendicant monks. He was attracted bythe wonderful aroma of Sadguru Swamigal, Chatti Swamigal and Palani Swamigal. The exemplary lives led by these sadhus made him think that human beings shouldlead such a life.
Chinnu had his schooling in the Stanes school at Coimbatore which was mainly intended for English boys. He was very much impressed by the traits and good habits of the English, such as punctuality and discipline. He studied in that school for 6 ½ years and secured I class in Senior Cambridge examination, standing 7th rank in the then Madras Presidency.
Chinnu went to Madras to secure his passport for his voyage to England to pursue his higher studies. By chance, he got asmall book called “Swami Vivekananda’s Madras lectures” from a way side book-seller. This book brought a turning point in his life and made him decidenot to go England but to serve the people of India.
During his college days in the Presidency College he lived in the Victoria hostel and his room was called ‘Philosopher’s Corner’. In his room, he used to have philosophical studies and discussions withSri Krishna Namboodri (later became Swami Agamananda of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Kalady) and Sri T.S. Avinasilingam. These three companions used to visit often Sri Ramakrishna Math at Mylapore, Madras. In the math, they were fortunate to meet the Swamis Brahmananda Maharaj (First President of Ramakrishna Math) and Sivananda Maharaj (Second President of Ramakrishna Math). Chinnu was impressed by the spiritual potentiality and radiance of these great personalities, accepted them and decided to make the final surrender of his life at the feet of these spiritual Masters.
Chinnu joined the Ramakrishna order in March 1923. Swami Akilananda of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras escorted him to Belur Math. On the way, at Bhuvaneswar, they broke their journey. There only,he was introduced to Sri Mahapurush Maharaj Swami Sivananda, the Second President of the order. He accepted him as disciple and initiated him. FromBhuvaneswar, they proceeded to Belur Math, the head quarters of the order. At Belur Math, Mahapurush Maharaj initiated Chinnu to Brahmacharya and gave him the Brahmacharya name Thrayambaka Chaithanya.
In 1924, Mahapurush Maharaj’s health was indifferent. Thrayambaka Chaitanya suggested to Mahapurush Maharaj that a stay at Nilgiri hills will be good for health and the idea was accepted. Thrayambaka Chaitanya’s father made all arrangements for their comfortable stay at Coonoor and Ooty in Nilgiris. He observed and understood the austerities and spiritual attainments of Mahapush Maharaj and was fully satisfied that his son has dedicated his life to such a great soul. He was pleased that a great beacon light had drawn his son, which would show him the correct way to glorious spiritual plane.
During their stay at Ooty, Mahapurush Maharaj thought that is was an ideal place for an Ashrama. His wish being the same as God’s will, it was fulfilled in a wonderful way. Unexpectedly, a washerman devotee voluntarily donated his two acres of land to Mahapurush Maharaj.
On 26th June 1926, on the full moon day Thrayambaka Chaitanya was initiated into Sanyasa by Mahapurush Maharaj in the Ramakrishna Ashrama, Ooty and was given the sanyasa name Swami Chidbhavananda. Swami Chidbhavananda was the president of the Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Ooty from 1930 to 1940. During his stay at Ooty, he used to visit the nearby villages and spread the message of Sri Ramakrishna among the people. In the Ashrama, the Birthday of Sri Ramakrishna was celebrated with spiritual fervour, bhajan, drama and poor feeding. The people of that area were much benefitted by the celebrations and religious activites.
During his stay at Ooty, Swami Chidbhavananda spent most of his time in studying and writing. From Ooty, he used to visit often many towns in Tamil Nadu and give talks on religion.
Before Mahapurush Maharaj attained Mahasamadhi in 1934, he instructed Swami Chidbhavananda that his services are to be in Tamil Nadu. This advice made him think of establishing an institution for spreading the message of Sri Ramakrishna, throughout Tamil Nadu. He chose Tirupparaithurai, lying on the bank of river Cauvery, as the centre of his activities.
In 1940, he stayed in the temple at Tirupparaithurai and was reading and writing and carried on talks with devotees. All his activities were done systematically and in time. He used to visit Trichy, Karur and Salem and took classes in Bhagavad Gita and the songs of Tayumanavar. He wanted to give education for children and started first the lower classes in the temple itself. Subsequently, he purchased two acres of land and constructed an Ashrama called Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam and shifed there in 1942.
In 1945, about 30 acres of land lying on the bank of Cauvery was granted by government for school. The buildings were constructed there and the Vivekananda Vidhyavanam High School was started there in 1947. The school was conducted as a residential one and the hostel was provided for the students in the Ashrama. Swamiji had motherly love and affection towards all boys under his care without any partiality or favour.
Since his mission in life was to give spiritual awakening, the Swami started on an unique way of doing it. He conducted Antharyogams (Spiritual retreats) at Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Tirupparaithurai, for 3 days at a time. Swami emphasised the following teaching of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to express the need for antharyogams:- “Householders should go into solitude now and then at least for 3 days, forget home, kith and kin, and spend the time in prayer and meditation”.
This antharyogam attracted men and women, rich and poor, to the Tapovanam. There, they were trained to rise up early in the morning, and then to do everything punctually according to programme – meditation, japa, reading bhajan etc. For an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon Swami gave lectures, taking slokas from Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads. Immediately after the lecture, everyone had to take a vow of silence for one hour. This one hour was very useful for pondering over high ideals in life. By answering the questions and having discussions with the devotees, Swamiji led them from the plane of doubts and conversations into the sphere of personal striving, austerities and self realisation. Night was the time for devotees to voice their doubts and Swami would give clear explicit answers for about an hour. Swamiji’s antharyogams were a stimulus to personal growth. The devotess were given freedom to discover and develop their own potentialities.
This antharyogam was so useful and so much appreciated that Swami started having one at Courallam, also for 3 days, once a year. Then, he was led by the grace of the Guru, to arrange antharyogams for 3 days at Papanasam, 2 days in Trichendur, 2 days at Kanyakumari, 2 days at Suruli and other place and one-day antharyogams in various places. It was in the year 1963 that, by way of celebrating Swami Vivekananda Centenary, he spread the message of Swami Vivekananda with one-day antharyogams almost every week, each Sunday in a different place. Thus, he spread Bhakti, Jnanam and Yogam in an attractive way, among peoples.
To continue the spiritual work on a larger scale and to give education and life-training to boys and girls, branch centres were opened one by one.
1. A forest – retreat like ashrama had already been started at Courtallam, near the five falls.
2. An institution for women was started at Salem in 1956.
3. Ashrama and college at Tiruvedagam near Madurai in 1963.
4. Ashrama at Chitrachavadi near Coimbatore in 1963.
5. Swami Vivekananda temple at Kanyakumari in 1964.
6. Institutions at Pasupathipalayam near Karur in 1976.
7. Pannaikadu Ashrama on the main road to Kodaikanal in 1976.
8. Sri Tayumanaswami temple and Tapovanam, Ramnad in 1978.
9. Sri Ramakrishna Madam, Rameswaram in 1981.
10. Bharatwaja Ashrama, Cheranmahadevi in 1984.
11. Advaita Ashrama at Salem 1965.
12. Sri Sarada Samithi at Madurai in 1984.
13. An institution for women at Ariakkulam near Tirunelveli.
Swami Chidbhavananda was a powerful spiritual leader and a great educationalist. He has written many books in Tamil and a few in English. Among his Tamil books, commentary on Bhagavad Gita, commentary on Tiruvasagam, commentary on some of the songs of Tayumanavar, Ramayana and Mahabharatha, and among the English books, commentary on Bhagavad Gita, Ramakrishna Live Vedanta, The Indian National Education, Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Sri Krishna are worth mentioning.
A part from taking classes for devotees at antharyogams Swami used to talk on many occasions to different kinds of audience and such talks were very informative and inspiring.
Devotees used to meet Swami at Tapovanam to have his darshan and blessings. These devotees were impressed by his nature of Paramahamsa continuously revealing itself; what a great sadhu, what spiritual strength, what simplicity! His magnificent eyes with the greatest love for mankind attracted everyone.
To the task of writing his life, we are conscious of our unworthiness. Who can sound the depths of his realisation! Yet, the world must know his greatness – the life which revealed the glory of the super sensuous life. He manifested the universality that come when God is seen in everything. Through the insight of divine wisdom he lived a life of both intense activity and supreme realisation.
He was born in Yogi, lived as Yogi and left this world as a Yogi.
(Today-16th November, Swami Chidbhavananda’s ‘Mahasamathi’ day. So, we posting this message in the memory of Periya Swamiji. Last year we uploaded the same article in here: https://www.facebook.com/SwamiChidbhavananda/posts/724492430959018)