GURU GNANASAMBHANDA DESIKA PARAMAACHAARYA SWAMIKAL
During the later half of the sixteenth century, there flourished at Srivilliputtur, a celebrated town of the Pandiya Realm, a couple - Subramaniya Pillai and Minaakshi - of the Kaarkaattha Vellala Clan, devoted to Lord Siva. Unto them a son was born. Wise men discerned in the child the God-touch. By his sixteenth year, the boy came by learning and wisdom, all unsought and untaught.
While yet a boy, he was taken by his parents to the shrine of Lord Chockanaatha, at Madurai. The very first dharsan of Lord Sundareswara and His Consort Minaakshi stirred him to the very depths of his soul. The all-merciful Siva then enacted one of His purposive lilas. The sojourn of the boy and his parents, was extended. The boy Gnanasambhanda spent long hours in the shrine. He was undergoing a supreme spiritual transformation. When his parents wanted to return to Srivilliputtur, the boy would not join them. All parental persuasion was of no avail. They then felt convinced that the Father of the Universe had claimed him and that he had to be left at the shrine.
Gnanasambhanda, now the ward of the Lord himself, continued to stay on at Madurai, hailing the Lord, practically round the clock. One day when he fared forth, in the small hours, to "The Tank of The Golden Lotus" for his ablutions, he beheld on its banks holy devotees adorned with sacred ashes and rudraksha beads, perform pooja, each of them to his idol before him. He was profoundly touched by this sight and he longed for a similar beatitude. That night Siva appeared in his dream and spake thus: "Your wish shall be fulfilled. Secure our idol for your adoration from the north-east corner of the tank." The lad has had his mystical tremendum.
Before the first rays of the sun would empurple the orient, he rushed to the temple-tank and plunged into it. Seconds later he surfaced up with the idol vouchsafed to him by Siva. He could not contain his ecstasy. He burst into hymn and sang and solemn strain. "The eyes are ravished": Thus he melodized, hymned and concluded his first decade. He fervently prayed to Siva to establish him to Himself.
After a short spell, Siva appeared to him for a second time in his dream and bade him to proceed to Tiruvaaroor, thither to be blessed with the ritual-initiation at the hands of Komalai Gnanaprakaasor, a spiritual preceptor par excellence. To him also the Lord appeared in somno and directed him to recieve the disciple.
Tradition has it that Gnanasambhanda arrived at Tiruvaaroor on a Monday and had his first aharsan of saintly Gnanaprakaasar, seated as it were in his lotus posture of meditation, in Siddhiswaram-the shrine of Dakshinamoorthi-situate within the Poong-Koil of Lord Thiagaraja. Gnanasambhanda waited for the opportune moment and felt prostrate at the feet of his God-appointed guru who conferred on him Gnana-Diksha. The disciple thereupon hailed his Guru in wondrous verse, now known as Pandaara-k-Kaliturai. He also hymned the praise of his Ishta-Moorthi, in what is to-day hailed by Saivites as Chockanaatha Venpa.
Now commenced the scrvitorship of Gnanasambhanda Supreme was his obedience to his Master's behesis. One dark night, the meditation of the Master in Siddhiswaram continued beyond the usual hour. The torch-bearer slipped into slumber. Gnanasambhanda bore the torch himself, waited for his Guru to emerge from his meditation and led the way. As the Guru entered his house he bade his disciple to abide without, and locked himself in. The moment the master moved into the house, he lost himself in the contemplation of Siva. With a burning torch the servitor stood outside. Clouds rumbled and began to pour. Ceaseless was the shower throughout the night. However it pleased Lord Siva to perform a miracle which can be said to be the very reverse of Gideon's. While all round, bhanda stood was dry. Not a drop of rain had fallen on him who stood there with a Casabianean steadfastness.
At the pre-dawn hour, the Guru-pathai opened the door and witnessed before her the chela standing firm, torch-in hand, and undrenched. She went into the house and reported the miracle to her sage-husband. The Master came out and sensed at once the spiritual perfection of his disciple. He directed him to settle at Dharmapuram which was not far off. It was here, the Guru said, that he should propagate the great tenets of Saiva Siddhantam.
Who can ever essay to describe the pangs which Gnanasambhanda underwent, when he had to part from his Guru? The feelings of the devoted disciple, can, to an extent he thus rendered in first person:
"It is not a garment that I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands."
"Nor is it a thought I leave behind, but a heart made sweet with (spiritual) hunger and thrist."
"Yet I cannot tarry longer.
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"A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave it wings. Alone must it seek the ether."
Gnanasambhanda settled down at Dharmapuram. In due time, it pleased Siva to make him Guru Gnanasambhanda Desika Paramaachaarya Swamikal. To enable mankind tread the divine way leading to Siva, our Paramachaarya composed, inter alia, Siva-Bhoga Saara and Tripadaartha Rupaathi Daskarya Akaval.
During this time, a well-read scholar called Marai-gnana Pandaram flourished at Chidambaram. For all his scholarship, his exposition was but faulty. He preached to the world at large that Ananda(Bliss) was characteristic of Aanma(Soul). He posited that the soul too was Satchidaanantarupi, thereby implying equality between pasu(soul) and Pathi(Siva). His wide knowledge and powerful exposition drew to him numerous men. This scholar was also known as "Kan-Katti" (The Hoodwinked). Our Paramaachaarya felt that he really hoodwinked gullible men. Our Paramaachaarya felt that he really hoodwinked gullible men. Our Paramaachaarya mercifully refuted the fallacious theory set afloat by the misguided scholar. Thus came to be indited the classical work of our Paramaachaarya, called "Mutthi Nicchayam" which established that Aaanda is not inherent in the soul and that the soul purified by the Lord is made a fit participant of Aanada which is Siva's own. This beatitude is indeed mutthi(Mukti).
Ripe souls seeking enlightenment were drawn to our Paramaachaarya and among them mention should be made of Aananda Paravasa, Satchidananda, and Maruthur Aapath-uddharana. Our Paramaachaarya appointed Aananda Paravasa as his successor to The Throne of Wisdom. However as he was for ever immersed in the beatitude of Samadhi, at the intervention of holy men, our Paramaachaarya caused the mantle to fall on Satchidananda.
Inscriptional evidence has it that our Paramaachaarya flourished 420 years ago. He entered Siva Samadhi on Apara-paksha saptami, in Vaikasi. By the blessings of Lord Siva and our Paramaachaarya the Holy Line of gurus, more famously known as Tirukkayilaaaya paramparai flourishes, as ever. Esto Perpetua. The 26th in the Holy Line is Guru Mahasanidhanam Sri-la-Sri Shanmukha Desika Gnanasambhanda Paramaachaarya Swamikal.
I call out Jnanaprakas when I lay me down.
I call out Jnanaprakas when I rise and move about;
I call out Jnanaprakas alike when I suffer from hunger and sickness;
So also will I call out Jnanaprakaas when the pangs of death are on me;
Beyond that, there is no other word. 1
Thiru Jnanasambandha our King, who lived in Kamalai
Famed for its glory as far high as Heaven!
Is it too much for you to free me from this wordly existence?
May a word from Thy holy lips flow like a spring in my heart,
With melody for sweeter than honey, jam or crystal sugar.
The water of the green cocoanut, the juice of the chalice
and the milk of the cow!
That shall indeed be a romance in my life,
A mystery not yet experienced. 2
Having attained the stage that transcends finite
Knowledge I stood lost in mystic thought displaying
My ignorance, when, Lo! loosened from it tie
It disappeared and true light shone in me.
O Teacher of wisdom pure! Give me the higher
Knowledge and this very instant cast away
The Sins that could me with ruin and despair. 3
My life was moulded on lines shown and taught by Him
Who is an ocean of Grace and Fame who lives in Kamalai
Crowned in Divine Glory whom all adore as Jnanasam
Shall I speak out an incident that happened [bandha.]
But once in my life? My senses failed, my body was
Reduced to naught and breath departed thereform;
And I found myself wrapped in raptures pure. 4
They study the truth of Pati, Pasam,
And having studied and understood
They dislike all worldly life
They rest from the toil of learning and hearing,
They plunge in the ocean of Siva’s joy,
With the loss of one and two,
The faithful servants of Jnanaprakas. 1
Hath anyone ever consulted the bullock’s wish
About the ponderous load he hath to carry?
Is it my wish that matters
About the nature of the body I get?
Thou that wert filled with wrath
Against the cities of Thine enemies!
Kamalai Jnanaprakas! Chidambara!
Whatever be Thy wish to day
Graciously proclaim accordingly. 2
Knowing that all is Thy deed
Why should this wicked resolve sprout forth in my mind?
Thou Strong One, who destroyed the three cities,
Kamalai Jnanaprakas, Thou bestower of gifts,
Answer this. Is it not of the confusion caused by the karanas?
It is certainly not my deed 3
Each one did accordant with his actions
Each one experienced accordant with his actions,
Who helped whom? Who helped not whom?
But the austere think of knowing themselves. 4
Blessed be the Moksha, Vedas and Agamas great;
Blessed be the Lord enshrined in our hearts pure;
Blessed be Saivam, ashes and rudrakashas;
Blessed be the congregation attached to thee;
Blessed be the wide streets with mansions high
Where cows march in long and stately sight;
O! Teacher known as Jnanasambandha,
Shedding thy divine grace in Dharmapura. 5