If the world were to be imagined as a house, the Bharatavarsha (Indian Sub-continent) can be rightfully called as the shrine of the house. From time immemorial, India has been the spiritual powerhouse of the world and it continues to be so. It is not as if Saints and Sages lived only in our epics and in history showing us the path to Godhead. Great saints have incarnated continuously, one after the other till date glorifying the path of Bhakti and Nama Sankirtan.
Swami Abhedananda of Tiruvananthapuram, Kerala is one such great Saint of the 20th Century who advocated the “Hare Rama…” Mahamantra as the simplest means to attain liberation.
It was the year 1909 and in the sunny month of April, to the devout couple Sri Krishna Pillai and Ms. Lakshmi Pillai was born Velayudhan. Right from his childhood, the little Velayudhan was inclined towards spirituality. As a young boy, he excelled in different fields of art. The spiritual quest in him was kindled by the stories of the glories of the Divine narrated to him by his mother and uncle. At the age of 14, the young Velayudhan’s spiritual quest took shape and form with the blessings of Sri Vidhyadiraja Chattambi Swamigal, who was a great saint of Kerala, and a contemporary of Sri Narayana Guru.
Leaving his wife and infant behind, he renounced worldly life and travelled throughout the country visiting different cities and temples and learnt various scriptures. His travels were marked by his visits to various saints like Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai, from whom he derived great spiritual strength. At the age of 27, he was formally initiated into the monastic order and came to be known as Swami Abhedananda Bharati.
Swamiji preached Bhakti. His love and compassion permeated the hearts of all devotees alike. Drawing inspiration from the life of the great Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he dedicated his life towards spreading of the Divine Name, specifically the “Hare Rama..” Mahamantra. Innumerable devotees were drawn to the Mahamantra and followed him as he went on Nagara Kirtan in the streets of Tiruvananthapuram early in the mornings and ecstatically dance singing the “Hare Rama…” Mahamantra.
Swamiji strongly believed that spirituality can bring about unity in humanity, which was otherwise discriminated by caste, creed and race. He prescribed singing the Names of the Lord with Bhakti and singing it aloud on the street shedding away inhibitions (‘bheri’). The ‘Koti Archana’ program which involves chanting the “Hare Rama..” Mahamantra a crore times offering flowers (‘archana’) to the Lord by devotees transcending caste or creed is being followed in various parts of the country even today.
Whenever there was no satsang, Swamiji preferred solitude. He would suddenly disappear from his ashram and get away to Brindavan where he would revel in the bliss of devotion surviving on alms. He had a great devotion to Radha Devi and went to Barsana (the birth place of Radha Devi) on Radhashtami (the birth day of Radha Devi).
Swamiji did not believe in setting up monasteries. When devotees approached him with such a request, he would say, ‘Not one; let us establish many of them!’ Swamiji would ask them to chant the Mahamantra incessantly in their own homes and by doing so, Swamiji’s presence could be felt and thus each home would become an ‘Ashram’!
On 24th February 1955, Swami Abhedananda lit a lamp in the ‘Abhedasramam’ in Tiruvananthapuram and commenced the chanting of the “Hare Rama..” Mahamantra around the lamp, stringing a ‘Tampura’. Since then, the Mahamantra chanting has been incessantly happening there – every moment of the day and year round. The lamp has never been extinguished and The ‘Tampura’ that he held has never touched the ground. When one steps into this ‘Maha mantralayam’, one would instantly feel the divine bliss of the Mahamantra.
Once when in Hrishikesh, Ganga devi (Goddess of the Ganges) appeared to Him seeking Hari Nama Kirtan to be performed in her banks, similar to the one that happens in the banks of Yamuna. Accordingly, an ashram was set up in Kankhal near Hardwar.
Sri Swamiji attained Maha Samadhi on 29th October, 1983. Before Swamiji left his mortal coil, Ganga Devi permeated the body of Swamiji in the form of light after which he shone lustrously. He instructed his disciples to let his body flow in the Ganges after his departure and not to construct any kind of shrine.
River Ganga is said to destroy all of one’s sins. Mahamantra Kirtan has been prescribed the path for this age. Swami Abhedananda lived as the very form of Mahamantra and Ganga Devi also is said to have resided in him. So by merely reminiscing of the divine life history of this great Saint, one gets the merits of a dip in the Ganges as well as chanting the Mahamantra, thus getting absolved of all kinds of sins.
April 12th 2009 marks the centenary celebrations of Swami Abhedananda’s Jayanti (birth). May we pray with Mahamantra Kirtan on this great day to be blessed with devotion through incessant chanting of Mahamantra.