So intense was his Sadhana, he never moved out of his place for 20 long years
There lived the renowned saint, his Holiness Swami Ramji, the Shaiva teacher of my Master.
-Swami Lakshman Joo
((Painting of Swami Ramji by Ravi Dhar)
Kashmir, as also the rest of India, produced a galaxy of great saints, seers and savants during the last millennium. While India was graced by illustrious God-men like Tulsi, Kabir, Surdas, Tuka Ram, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Narsi Mehta, Tyagaraja, Dhyaneshwar, Namdev, Tiruvalluvar, Mirabai, Dayanand Saraswati, Guru Nanak, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Vivekananda, Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, Shri Narayana Guru , Mahatma Gandhi, Ramana Maharishi, and Sri Aurobindo, Kashmir has had the good fortune of giving birth to great saints like Lalleshwari, Rupa Bhawani, Sheikh Nuruddin, Parmanand, Reshipir, Jeewan Sahib, Anandji, Swami Ram, Sahib Kaul, Maanas Razdan, Grata Bab, Swami Vidya Dhar, Bhagwaan Gopinath, Kashkak, Nandlal Ji, Sati Ded, Mathura Devi and, last but not the least, Lakshman Joo.
All of them without an exception enriched, elevated and refined life and helped revive and strengthen the ancient cultural, religious and philosophical heritage.
In the present troubled times when the people of the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits in particular, are passing through untold miseries, the only solace comes from the saints and mystics of the purest ray serene like Swami Ram, who by their very exemplary living taught people to rise above caste, creed and color and see the light within.
The great mystic Saint-Philosopher, Swami Ram was born in a pious and god-fearing Brahmin family of Braroos near Ganpatyar in Srinagar on Pausha Krishna Dwadashi, December 16, 1854 AD (Bikrami Samvat 1911). His father, Pandit Sukhdevji, a highly respected practicing Brahmin of his time, eked out his livelihood by attending to religious activities of his yajmaans, While Pandit Sukhdevji was a great devotee of Anandeshwar Bhairav himself, his brother, Pandit Ishwar Sahib, was a great Yogi who never married.
At a time when no one could even imagine the lofty spiritual heights the newborn attained in his later life, the family astrologer, who drew Swami Ram's birth chart, predicted that baby Ram would turn out to be a saint of a very high order.
Swami Ram not only displayed mystical leanings from his very childhood but also evinced keen interest in learning scriptures. He received early education at home from his own learned father who perfected his knowledge of Sanskrit and Karmakaand. He served his father as an assistant in his day-to-day religious assignments.
As was customary in those days, Swami Ram was married to Saraswati Devi when he had just turned 14. But his marital life did not last long following the untimely death of his wife within three years of marriage. She died of small pox.
Swami Ram's instinctive detached outlook and ascetic temperament was not lost on those who came in contact with him even in his youth. All and sundry could not but be touched by his humane approach and true spiritual perspective.
Meets His Masters--Vidya guru & Parmaarth guru
As good luck would have it, the precocious boy Ram was noticed by a great Shaiva scholar of the time, Shri Lal Joo Kokru who initiated him into the study of Agama Sastras. Endowed as he was with a sharp intellect and the lure of things mystical and spiritual, further strengthened by his upbringing and the family background, Swami Ram seriously pursued the study of Shaiva philosophical literature.
His otherworldly disposition confined Swami Ram to lonely spots in the valley where he undertook not only deep study of Shaiva Agamas and literary works of great masters like Abhinavgupta, but also practiced yoga sadhana so intensely that it did not take him long to finally merge with the blissful consciousness of Shiva.
After he had acquired a clear comprehension of the school of philosophy by dint of his intelligence and hard work, destiny brought him in contact with a great mystic-seer, Shri Manas Ram Monga, popularly known as Maneh Kak. Being a Siddha, Maneh Kak found in Swami Ram a deserving Shishya who, he felt, had the potential of understanding and apprehending the subtleties of Trika system. The guru was convinced that the boy Ram was the most deserving person to transmit his knowledge and experience to others through time-tested guru-shishya parampara.
(Swami Ram on top: below are his three disciples -
Swami Vidyadhar , Swami Mahatab Kak and Swami Gobind Kaul and
In the third row is his grand-disciple, Swami Lakhsman Joo, just below his guru, Swami Mahtab Kak)
|Shri Ram Trika Shaivashrama
Silent and steadfast in wisdom, Swami Ram had realized oneness with Shiva. A perfect Siddha that he had become, he was looked upon as Saakhshaat Shiva by those who approached him for fulfillment of mundane desires and for guidance in their spiritual pursuits.
After acquiring a thorough and extensive knowledge of Kashmir Saivism, Swami Ram would normally visit secluded places and spend days and nights in his spiritual sadhana, caring little for food and other comforts. One of his favorite sports was the seat of Mangaleshwar Bhairav in Malikangan, Srinagar, where he began drawing aspirants and a large number of common people seeking to invoke his blessings.
As destiny would have it, one of his ardent devotees and a worthy Yajmaan, Pandit Narayan Das Raina, a merchant and a houseboat owner of Srinagar, begged him to grace his small three-storied house, which he owned, just 300 meters from his residence in Fateh Kadal. The offer of Narayan Das, a man of high ideals and simple habits, and who held the great mystic in great respect, was accepted by Swami Ram, ostensiby for the simple reason that the place could .be fruitfully used by him exclusively for spiritual work. It is said that Narayan Das's business touched skies after Swami Ram moved to his vacant house.
It is this house that virtually turned into a veritable Ashram, known since as Shri Ram Trika Shaivashrama in downtown Fatehkadal in the capital city of the northern Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir. Here he shared his knowledge and explained the deeper aspects of Shaiva philosophy to the growing number of disciples and devotees..The Ashram echoes with the recitations from Shaiva scriptures and the chanting of devotional hymns by Swami Ram's devotees even to this day.
It is in this Ashrama that Swami Ram taught the Shaiva philosophy to worthy disciples like Swami Mahtab Kak (the celebrated guru of Swami Lakshman Joo), Swami Vidyadhar and Swami Govind Kaul. The three-some had been his personal devotees who received inspiration and personal guidance to rise to their full stature.
An erudite scholar in Sanskrit and an epitome of Jnana (knowledge), Swami Ram was a great exponent of Shaiva Siddhanta. His scholarly exposition of the Agama Sastras attracted a large number of devotees, aspiring sadhaks and admirers, mostly house-holders. He taught and guided them all in the mysteries of Shaiva philosophy.
Among the texts he taught were Vasugupta’s Stotravali, Abhinavgupta’s Tantraloka,, Utpalacharya’s Shivastotravali.and Panchastavi. Swami Ram would become ecstatic while explaining each verse of Panchastavi, which consists of five hymns with a distinct theme addressed to the Supreme Mother of the Universe.
Swami Ram with his disciples & devotees
Since Pancastavi eulogizes the female aspect of God in a religio-philosophic poetry of a very high standard, it has become very popular with the Shaiva devotees of Kashmir. One of the hymns, Laghustava (21 verses) highlights the dynamic power of the goddess; the second, Charchastava (31 verses) elaborates the attributes of the divine Mother; the third, Ghatastava (24 verses) speaks of the creative union of Sakti with Shiva; the fourth, Ambastava (32 verses) invokes the goddess as the benevolent mother and the fifth, Sakalajnanastava (38 verses) celebrates the glory of Aadya Shakti, the Source of All. All the hymns are devotional in character.In his later years, Swami Ram, it is said, sat in one pose with knees held to his breast and did not move out for 20 long years. Regular visitors to the Ashram would remain spellbound to see Swami Ram immersed in undisturbed Samadhi for hours, nay, for even days together.
Swami Ram's Philosophy
The primal aspect of life is movement, a vibration (spanda). Without movement, without vibration there is neither action, nor speech, nor experience. If there is no movement, there is no growth, no progress. If none of these are there, then there is no life, no universe.
As the name implies, Trika philosophy deals with the three fundamentals of human existence: Man, Universe and the Ultimate Principle governing the world. Man and his personality are the main themes of Kashmir Saivism.
Swami Ram believed that emancipation (Swatantrya) is the final goal of human life. The state of pure bliss leads to the ultimate state of moksha or salvation. Every one of us is Shiva. In the ultimate analysis, Jivatman, an individual soul has to merge with Parama Shiva, the Absolute Self.
According to Swami Ram, the outer glitter and temporary pleasures of this world overwhelm the senses and one cannot evolve and be free from the bondages of the world until one realizes one’s true nature, i.e. Shiva. He would quote Shiva Sutras to declare, “Our bondage is due to ignorance, avidya”.
The aim of Trika Sastra is to awaken man to the fact that Jivatman is nothing but Shiva, the all-powerful (Sarva Shaktimaan) Lord of the Universe. Swami Ram believed one could achieve liberation from this causal body (deha mukti) only through anugraha or grace. But it all depended on the enthusiasm of the devotee or the pupil. Almost a hundred years later, Ramana Maharshi echoed Swami Ram’s belief when he said, “The grace of the guru is like an ocean. If one comes with a cup he will only get a cupful. The bigger the vessel the more one will be able to carry”
"Mystic experiece", declares the great psychologist, William James, "is not the aberration of a diseased mind, but is a genuine experience of God, which illumines the intellect, purifies the will and exalts the emotions."
As is the wont, legends grow around great mystics all over the world. Swami Ram, a mystic of a very high order, could not be an exception. Though Swami Ram strictly guarded his treasure trove of powers, he used them very scarcely out of compassion for the lowly and the lost. Many a sick person was cured by his mere touch. His very darshan provided a healing touch to the afflicted souls.
Stories about his Siddhis are still current in the valley. My father, Pandit Sudarshan Shastri, a well-known Sanskrit scholar of his time, was almost a regular visitor to the Ashram during the last years of Swami Ram's life. He bore witness to many anecdotes of Swamiji's acts of benevolence and miracles. He would often tell me how he and his friends during their visit to the sage would experience the thrill of a mysterious joy running through them while receiving Swami Ram's touch on bowing at his lotus feet.
People from all walks of life, men, women and children, including the then ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Pratap Singh, visited his Ashram for blessings. He was candid enough to tell the Maharaja that he was not destined to have a progeny in this birth. He was often heard muttering to himself, “Where-from shall I get Pratap a son?”
Once the son of his ardent devotee and host, Pandit Narayan Dass was taken seriously ill and the doctors had almost lost all hope. Swami Ram, who used to go in samadhi for days together, had just come out of it. It was dead of night and he felt the need to eat something. He asked one of his devotees to visit Narayan Das's residence and get some potatoes. The said devotee knocked the door and out came Naraya Das's wife, Shrimati Arnyamal, who expressed her unhappiness for disturbing them at that unearthly hour for just a few potatoes. The devotee returned empty handed. Swami Ram sighed and said to himself: "Well, I wanted to beat back the god of death and save their son. But, alas! Let destiny take its course.now." Pandit Narayan Das's son left this world the next morning.
It is said that a Muslim neighbor in the meantime, on learning that the Swami wanted some potatoes, went to the Ashram with a basket of potatoes. Swami Ram said: "why this basketful of potatoes? You cannot handle all of them." He just picked up three potatoes and gave them as prasad to the childless Muslim lady who had brought the basket. Legend has it that she later bore three sons.
After the tragic death of their only son, the dejected couple, Pandit Narayan Das and his wife, Arnymal, who were now left with just 3 daughters and no male progeny, now surrended completely to Swami Ram and made fervent plea for a son. The ever-compassionate sage stretched his hand, picked up a single almond and gave it to Arnymal to eat. Nine months later, she was blessed with a boy. As soon as the news of the birth of the baby boy reached Swami Ram's ears, he became ecstatic and proclaimed, "I am Ram; let the child be called Lakshman."
Though Swami Ram is no more with us in mortal frame, his Immortal Spirit continues to exert its spiritual influence and guide his devotees and the seekers after truth. The invisible hand of his mystical powers is not lost on those who invoke his blessings.
Vivekananda Meets Swami Ram
Swami Vivekananda and one Dandi Swami Narayan are among some of the great saints from outside Kashmir who visited Swami Ram. Swami Ram was in deep meditation when Swami Vivekananda reached the Ashram. The visiting Swami found solace in his presence which he acknowledged with the remark "there is still spiritual light present in Kashmir." When Swami Vivekananda apprised Swami Ram of the difficulties still facing his spiritual rejuvenation of the world, he was advised to seek the blessings of Ragnya Mata at Tullamulla. The advice was followed, resulting in Vivekananda's memorable experience at the Kshir Bhavani shrine, as delineated in his autobiography. Soon after, Swami Vivekananda left for Chicago, USA, to attend the Parliament of World Religions in 1893.Swami Vivekananda also sang a soul-full hymn to Shiva in Swami Ram's presence. While singing Vivekananda went into ecstasy before completing the hymn. Swami Ram immediately took up the recitation of the said hymn where Vivekananda had left it. Such was the divine mystical meeting of the two great souls.
The Dandi Swami Narayan has in his Travelogue referred to Swami Ram's clairvoyant prowess while narrating details of his meeting with the sage. He says that during his brief visit to Srinagar in 1892, he visited the Ashram and while he was ascending the staircase to Swami Ram's room, his doubts were all removed. He decided to return without seeing the saint. Swami Ram all of a sudden told one of his disciples, Lal Joo Kaul to go and bring that Dandi Swami back. The devotee rushed out of the house and brought the ochre-robed Swami to the Ashram. Once he was in the presence of Swami Ram, he made his obeisance thus
Anandam Khalu Imani Bhootani Jaaynate Anandena Jaatam Jeevante
Anandam Prayanti Abhisamvishanti Anandam Eva Brahma.
Accepting salutations, Swami Ram said:
Mato Vaa Imani Bhootani Jaayante Mayi Jaatam Jeevante
Maam Prayanti Abhisamvishanti Aham Eva Brahma.
While the Vedantin proclaimed that Ananda, i.e. Bliss is Brahman-the Ultimate Principle (Anandam Eva Brahma), Swami Ram, true to the Shaiva concept, asserted that I am Shiva-the Ultimate Principle (Aham Eva Brahma).Mahasamadhi
January 14, 1915, the day of Makara Sankranti marked the end of the earthly journey of this great philosopher-saint who revived the legacy of Shaivism toward the close of the 19th century. He entered the eternal abode of Shiva on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the most auspicious lunar month of Magha in Bikrami Samvat 1971.
But before he merged into the Universal Divine Self, Swami Ram ensured the continuation of the Trika heritage by entrusting aspiring disciples and the 8-year-old boy Lakshman to the tutelage of his principal disciple, Swami Mahtab Kak. In fact, Swami Ram himself acted as the guru of his grand disciple, Lakshman Joo, till his Mahasamadhi.
While immersed in what is known as Sahaja Samadhi, Swami Ram would often times go in divine rapture. And in that meditative state, his close disciples normally heard him utter one of the Shlokas penned by Swami Ram himself.
(Moha shaanto guruvara mukhaan maayatatwovalambhaat
magnam cheta samarasasamaswaad lolam chidabdau
bhaavvraata prashamamgaman nirvikalpe samadhau
siddabhaasa sa bhavati hi may ko api samavidvikaasa
This one shloka speaks volumes of Swami Ram’s experience of Supreme Divine Consciousness.
1. Personal notes by the author, based on his father's reminiscenses.
2. Swami Ramji by Pandit Janki Nath Kaul 'Kamal'
3. Personal notes by Sri Triloki Nath Ganju
4. Swami Ramji-The Shaivite Acharya by Opinder Ambardar
*G.N. Raina retired from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 after completing 35 years as a distinguished editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator; All India Radio; Editor, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90); Editor-in-Chief, Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct.-'95; Editor-in-Chief, Sanatana Sandesh, an official publication of South Florida Hindu Temple, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1997-2005); Editor-in-Chief of KASHEER, KOA magazine (2003-2004),
|Note: No portion of this article may be reproduced without the written permission of the author. Color pictures of Swami Vidyadhar, Swami Mahatab Kak and Swami Gobind Kaul are scanned and digitally enhanced exclusively for Shehjar by Deepak Ganju and should not be reproduced without written permission from the providers.|
|Copyrights © 2007 Shehjar|
I would normally not write a comment on an article written by my father but I know how much research and input went when Papaji wrote this article. I must admit his passion and his work ethics to perfection.
Added By Deepak Ganju
Very well articulated with both historical and spiritual dimensions.
Added By Chand Bhan