Shaivacharya Swami Ram

Shaivacharya Swami Ram

So intense was his Sadhana, he never moved out of his place for 20 long years

*-Gopinath Raina

There lived the renowned saint, his Holiness Swami Ramji, the Shaiva teacher of my Master.
-Swami Lakshman Joo

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 Birth
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 Guruji of his time, eked out his livelihood by attending to religious activities of his yajmaans, He was a great devotee of Anandeshwar Bhairav.

At a time when no one could even imagine the lofty spiritual heights the newborn would attain in his later life, the family astrologer who drew his birth chart, predicted that baby Ram would turn out to be a saint of a very high order.

Even though Swami Ram displayed mystical leanings from his very childhood, he received initial instruction as a priest from his father, whom he served as an assistant in day-to-day religious assignments. The early years of Swami Ram’s life were thus spent in pursuit of the priestly profession of the family, conducting puja and other religious rites.

However, his inherent detached outlook and ascetic temperament was not lost on those who came in contact with him. All and sundry could not but be touched by his humane approach and true spiritual perspective.

Meets His Master
As good luck would have it, the precocious boy Ram was noticed by a great Shaiva scholar of those days, Shri Lal Joo Kokru who initiated him into the study of Agama Sastras. Endowed as he was with a sharp intellect and a spiritual bent of mind, further strengthened by his environment, Swami Ram seriously took to the study of Shaiva philosophical lore under Lal Joo Kokru.

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 he finally merged 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 of the time, 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-shishy parampara.

Guru-Shishya Lineage
The Guru-Shishya lineage, to which Swami Ram belonged, is said to have originated from Shri Kanthanatha. Elaborating on this theme, Shyam Sundar Jatoo says in his book entitled Vidyadharstava published in 1953 AD: “That the world may not be deprived of the Trika way of liberation, Lord Shiva incarnated as Shri Kanthnatha who imparted the sacred teachings to the supreme ascetic and sage Durvasa at the beginning of Kali Yuga. The sage, by his yogic powers, created a maanas putra, Tryambhakaditya, and initiated him into Shaiva Agamas. And thence onward an un-broken chain of fourteen realized souls (Siddhas) spread this teaching in this world. The 15th Sidha, Sangamaditya, who lived the life of a householder, came to Kashmir where his great grandson, Somananda, the celebrated author of the well-known ‘Shivadrishti’, followed by a chain of disciples from Utpalacharya down to Abhinavgupta spread monistic Shaiva thought in Kashmir between the 9th and 13th centuries.”

It was after a gap of a few centuries that the scholar-saint Sivopadyaya appeared on the scene in the 18th century to revive the tradition initiated by sage Durvasa. And this tradition was carried further in the 19th century by Swami Ram, who taught the lore to his avowed disciples-Swami Mahtab Kak, Swami Vidyadhar and Swami Gobind Kaul, who, in turn, continued this guru-shishya parampara Again, it was only Swami Ram’s grand-disciple, Swami Lakhsman Joo, who popularized Pratyabhijna philosophy through his writings during the 20th century among the seekers of truth in Kashmir and the outside world.

(Swami Ramji on top, below are his three disciples -
Swami Vidyadhar , Swami Mahatab Kak and Swami Gobind Kaul and
in the third line Swami Lakhsman Joo just below Swami Mahtab Kak)
Shri Ram Trika Shaivashrama
After acquiring a thorough and extensive knowledge of Kashmir Saivism, Swami Ram felt a strong urge for a secluded place where he could share his knowledge and explain the deeper aspects of this philosophy to one and all.

Initially, he moved to a fellow-disciple's home at Safakadal, where he began drawing aspirants and a large number of common people seeking to invoke his blessings.

Realizing that this disturbed the family life of his fellow-disciple, Swami Ram contacted his devotee and worthy Yajmaan, Pandit Narayan Das Raina, a merchant and a houseboat owner of Srinagar, for an exclusive place for his spiritual work. Narayan Das, a man of high ideals and simple habits, held Swami Ram in great respect. His joy and that of his family was limitless when asked by Swami Ram about a place to live. The noble Pandit offered the sage a small three-storied house, which he owned, just 300 meters from his residence.

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.

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. The devotees and admirers of Swami Ram are heard chanting devotional hymns and recitations from Shaiva Agamas in the Ashram even up to this day.

Scholarly Exposition
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 this sacred text, which consists of five hymns with a distinct theme addressed to the Supreme Mother of the Universe.

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”

Occult Powers
“Mystic experience”, 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 his ardent devotee and host, Pandit Narayan Dass and his wife Shrimati Arnyamal who were already blessed with a son and 3 daughters approached Swami Ram for another son. The 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 boy reached Swami Ram’s ears, he became ecstatic and proclaimed, "I am Ram; let the child be called Lakshman."

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. It is said that Swami Vivekananda 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 at Fateh Kadal 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:

Ananda 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 (Ananda Eva Brahma), Swami Ram, true to the Shaiva concept, asserted that I am Shiva-the Ultimate Principle (Aham Eva Brahma).

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.

Divine Rapture
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

“All my ignorance got dispelled when I learnt the Truth from the lips of my respected guru whose word was as sacred as the Sastra itself. As a result, the mind (Chitta) realized oneness of life, tasted the loving nectar of equality and dived deep into the ocean of divine consciousness. The web of thought finally settled down in the state of nirvikalpa samadhi (unqualified meditation). Thus the indescribable Supreme-Consciousness was revealed to me in its perfection.)

This one shloka speaks volumes of Swami Ram’s experience of Supreme Divine Consciousness.

*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), He presently lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.
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