Sadasiva Brahmendra: Avadhoota Mauna Muni
On the banks of Kaveri river in a village called Nerur, in Karur district in Tamil Nadu, India, there is a siva temple and ‘Bilva Vruksham’ on the banks of Kaveri river. In the temple lies the samadhi of the great Avadhoota Sada Siva Brahmendra,
Sada Siva Brahmendra was born to a great pandit named Moksha Somasundara Avadhani. He prayed to Rama and Krishna while his wife Parvathi prayed to Shiva. As per the initiation received by her husband, Parvati started chanting Rama nama to have a satputra and chanted Rama nama tens of millions of times, the chant became so deep that even in sleep she chanted the rama nama. Both Husband and wife dreamt of Shiva. The lord of Rameshwaram blessed them and announced that a satpura would be born as their son. A beautiful son was born was named Siva Rama Krishna.
He proved himself different from birth. He had vairagya which reached its zenith in his youth but as typical parents, his parents assumed that he would behave perfectly normal after he was united in wedlock. He tried to oppose, but he had to yield ultimately to their persuasions, being a dutiful son. He was married at the age of seventeen.
Siva Rama Krishna could not change after his marriage as his parents assumed. The vairagya and a quest for knowledge continued to be deep rooted in him. In the mean while his wife matured and their first night was arranged on a grand scale in his in-law’s house. Siva Rama Krishna was very hungry. He stood at the door step of kitchen and pleaded. ‘I am hungry. Will you serve me food ?’ He was asked to wait for some time. He insisted I am terribly hungry. I don’t require delicious meal. Serve me a simple meal. That’s enough!’ ‘Oh! just wait. You don’t have to wait too long. Don’t step in, stand there.’ ‘These words were spoken by his own mother-in-law.
A turning point in life comes in a split second and quite unexpectedly. ‘Don’t step in, stand there, ‘The innocent casual words of mother-in-law conveyed a deeper message.’ Don’t step, into Gruhastasram. Stand outside and seek knowledge was the implied message. The human beings who could not satiate his hunger, how will they quench his thirst for knowledge? That decided his fate. The next minute he shot out of the house like an arrow. His relatives couldn’t trace him. How can they when he is in search of the infinite knowledge?
One might ask how this was fair to his wife, but that is a question relevant only to those in the human plane of existence. For those like Sadasiva, Ramana, or the Buddha, for example, when the ‘call’ comes, there is no room for such thoughts. The individual is led as it were by a force that takes a complete control over him/her who has submitted to its will — complete sharanagati.
For a few years, Sadasiva was a parivrajaka, a wandering monk before he met Sri Paramasivendra Saraswathi Yati and became his disciple. It was during his time here that he composed three of his great works on Advaita: Bramhasutra Vritti, Yogasuthra Vritti, Siddhantha Kalpavalli.
It was here that the second big change happened. Many other saints, philosophers and scholars would visit Sri Paramasivendra Saraswathi’s ashram; they used to engage one another in debates on topics of Vedanta, philosophy and so on. Sivaramakrishna, with a strong argumentative streak, used to participate in all these debates and always won each and every argument. He was fierce and stubborn. He never gave away a quarter, arguing aggressively with the sole intention of winning. Many senior scholars felt humiliated and some of these vanquished scholars went to Sri Paramasivendra Saraswati and complained to him about how they felt humiliated by Sivaramakrishna.
The guru called his disciple and asked him, “Siva, of what use are these debates? When are you going to conquer your tongue?” This question triggered something in Siva and he answered, “Guru! Today, I believe that I have truly received your grace…” That was it. The great scholar, the fierce debater, the argumentative young man descended into an absolute silence and never opened his mouth again.
He used to sit under a tree or simply lie down on the ground completely unaware of his surroundings or his own body lost in meditation. Some of his ashram mates who saw him in this state reported back to his guru, saying that Siva had become insane. The guru, who was aware of what had happened, replied, “It is that ‘madness’ that I myself have been searching for. I am sad that the very same ‘madness’ that has overwhelmed Sadasiva has not yet come to me. I would gladly give up anything to be overcome by such madness…”
He left the guru, left the formalities of the material life and started moving around stark naked. He was enjoying the bliss of Aatma Jnana. He ate what came to him. One who sleeps on the river bed in a shanty He is a true saint who knows the real meaning of Sat.Chit.Ananda He himself described it.
One afternoon Sada Siva Brahmendra Swami was relaxing beside a heap of grains. He was lost in his meditation unmindful of the passing on of time. In the evening, the farmer came there. Seeing the swami these, he mistook him as a thief and raised his stick to hit him. Lo! He remained as a statue with a raised hand for the whole night. The next morning, the Swami came to his senses and smiled at the farmer. He came back to life. Realizing the greatness of the swami, he fell to his feet and asked him to forgive him. Such saints are beyond the petty feelings of human beings. So he walked away silently.
Once he was sitting on the banks of Kaveri River and was lost in Samadhi. He was cut off from the world outside. Suddenly it started reining cats and dogs. People advised him to move but their words did not reach his ears. When his indriyas and mind have turned inward, how will he perceive the outside world ? Finally he was washed away into the river. The people felt sorry for his sudden demise.
Three months passed. A farmer was loading his cart with sand beside the river. How astonishing ? Suddenly his spade was smeared with blood stains. When he carefully examined the sand, what did he see ? Sada Siva Brahmendra Swami in the same meditating pose as he was three months before. The people felt him to be an incarnation of Lord Siva and prayed to him.
A Jnani may have a body but he is not confined to the body. He smiled at the people, gave out a Kirtana and walked past them.’ I am brahman. I am all pervading Sat. I am devoid of fear etc. was the meaning of that keertana.
Once Swami was proceeding towards Tirunalveli from Kurtalam. On the way some people were loading a bundle of sticks. They called him to carry the sticks since he too looked like a stick. He mutely obeyed them and was about to leave them, when they ridiculed him, ‘Oh log of wood! Where are you going ?’ Is it courteous on their part to extract work from him and laugh at him ? God burnt those sticks and they had no chance to plead guilty too since he disappeared from the scene.
The great Jnanis cannot be appreciated by Ajnanis. Shakespeare said ‘poets, lovers and madmen are alike’ we can add to this list Jnanis. They are lost in the eternal bliss, keep smiling to themselves, are cut off from the world. When Sada Siva’s guru was told that Sada Siva was moving around like a madman , he exclaimed, ‘I wonder when I can reach his state’. Only Jnanis can understand other Jnanis. This cannot be understood by people engulfed by maya. So they ridicule such saints.
On one such occasion an onthodox brahmin criticised his silent habits as a pretext and his Avadhoota’s life as a drama. Sada Siva swami silently moved to a dhobi beside him and inscribed a few letters on his tongue. Wow! the illiterate dhobi chanted veda mantras. Those mantras supported the life style of a Jnani with illustrations and arguments.
What an irony ! An illiterate became a pandit by his gentle touch whereas a pandit remained an Ajnani. When he pleaded for forgiveness the Swami blessed him.
There were many instances which speak of his miraculous powers. Once a bride was stung by a poisonous snake on the marriage pandal. She was dead. The joyous occasion turned out to be a sorrowful scene. Luckily, the swami appeared on the scene and brought her back to life.
Sadasiva had completely consumed Sivaramakrishna; he wandered oblivious of himself but conscious of only his self. He slept in the open fields and was sometimes found lying in the cowshed in an animated conversation with the cows. People who took him for a madman soon realised that there was a strange peace that pervaded his presence and he seemed to emit an other-worldly shakti. They also noticed that any place he visited was soon transformed. If he slept in the courtyard of a house during the night and walked away without a word early next morning, it meant that the people of the house could expect a long unfulfilled wish to finally come true: it could be the desire for a child, relief from a chronic disease or escape from poverty and so on.
There are several miracles attributed to Sadasiva Brahmendra, some bordering on the unbelievable and incredible.
Once Sadasiva walked right through the harem of a Muslim navvab who had pitched his tent on a field. Sadasiva, stark naked, walked in from one end and out through the other. The Brahma-jnani that he was, he walked in a trance, oblivious of the women and their screams of horror on seeing a naked man.
On witnessing this, the navvab, overwhelmed by uncontrollable rage, ran after the naked saint and, with his sword drawn, severed one hand of Sadasiva from behind with one stroke of his sword. The severed hand fell down. But Sadasiva, unaware of the fallen arm, the bloody stump, or the flowing blood, kept walking.
The shocked navvab picked up the severed arm and ran after Sadasiva, caught up with him and fell at his feet apologising profusely. Sadasiva noticed him and gesticulated asking him what the matter was. The navvab showed the severed hand to Brahmendra and apologised once again. Sadasiva once again gesticulated to him to place the severed hand in its appropriate spot. To the amazement of the navvab, the severed hand fixed itself without any problem whatsoever, and Sadasiva walked on.
Sadasiva’s fame spread far and wide after this incident and people tried to meet him or make him sit in one place or establish an ashram. However, for Sadashiva, none of this mattered. He remained until the end a wandering Avadhoota.
He is said to have met Raja Thondaiman of Pudukottai and initiated him into the Dakshinamurthy Mantra by writing the mantra on the sand. The king picked up the sand and this sand is preserved till today in a casket and worshipped at the Dakshinamoorthy temple inside the Pudukottai palace in Pudukottai.
The Dhana Akarshana Yantra in the Kalyana Venkataramana Temple in Thanthoni Malai (who is the kula deivam of this author) was also placed there by Sri Brahmendra.
Sadasiva Brahmendra attained jeeva samadhi in Nerur (Karur district of Tamil Nadu). There are reports of people having seen him enter into jeeva samadhi simultaneously at 5 places, symbolising the dissipation of the physical body into the panchabhutas — the other four being Manamadurai, Puri, Kashi and Karachi. Of these, it is only the Nerur Adhishtanam that remains popular and also there is a small Shiva temple at Manamadurai. The others have disappeared due to lack of knowledge or sheer negligence.
It is ironical that Sadasiva Brahmendra’s kritis (works) like Manasa Sancharare, Bruhi Mukundethi, Pibare Rama Rasam, Gayathri Vanamali or Bhajare Gopalam are more famous than the great saint who composed them. Perhaps their popularity is due to the fact that they have been sung by Carnatic greats like MS Subbulakshmi and Balamurali Krishna.
It is believed that Sadasiva Brahmendra still resides in a bilva (bael or Aegle marmelos L) tree near his samadhi. Anyone who meditates there can experience his presence and grace. It might not matter to the Brahmam (Sadasiva Brahmendra) that so few people know of him because, as he notes in the 53rd verse of his autobiographical Atma Vidya Vilasa,
THE KING OF SANNYASIS RESTS ALONE, ESTABLISHED IN THE SELF WITHIN AND ENJOYING INNER BLISS; HE REJECTS NOTHING THAT COMES TO HIM AND NEVER DESIRES WHAT DOES NOT COME TO HIM
However, it should matter to those who are on the path, for there is much to gain from not just reading about Sadasiva Brahmendra but by also visiting his Samadhi at Nerur.
He performed miracles thus not as a sign of exhibition but when the occasion arose. He was seen in many places at the same time. He never longed for a chain of devotees. He liked children more for their innocent behaviour.
During his last days he was settled in Neruru. Once children longed to see the fair in Madurai. He asked them to close their eyes. He took them to Madhurai, showed the fair, bought them eatables and asked them to close their eyes again. They were back to Neruru.
The parents were aghast at the thrilling experience of their children. The swami was also seen at Kasi, Neruru, Kanchi, Poori etc at the same time.
He lived the life of a Sanyasi, a detached man, who lived for the welfare of others. Finally he had reached his last stage. He then sent for his devotees and wrote his last message thus. ‘I am leaving this physical body of mine. You arrange a ‘samadhi’ for my body here and plant a ‘Bilva’ plant over it. Just at that time, a brahmin will reach here with a white Siva Linga in his hand. He is coming from Kasi Install that Siva Linga before my ‘samadhi’ and pray to it regularly. Have faith in God. Try to seek the eternal. Learn to control the indriyas and the mind.’
The devotees could not bear their grief. One of them cried out. ‘Oh God! If you leave us, who will take care of us ? We can’t live without you. Show us the path to reach God.! Sada Siva Swami, who was about to leave the world, opened his eyes with great difficulty and wrote his last message through the last kirthana.
‘Sarvam Brahmamayam – Re Re
God is everywhere ? When he is everywhere, where should you seek him ? We are all in Brahmam.
Everything went on strictly as the swami envisaged and instructed.
Even today navarathi and the ‘samadhi’ day are celebrated on a grand scale there. Pudukkota Maharaj has donated a village to meet the expenses of the rituals in the temple. The celebrations are conducted by Pudukkota estate. When he was a human being, he walked like a stick and helped the humanity. When he left the physical body, he remained as a tree to help the humanity. That’s the greatness of great people. Dead or alive they are forever for the welfare of humanity.
i have always been attracted to this song "Pibare Ramrasam" never knowing it was the composition of Sadashiv Brahmendra Swamigal. Sharing my joys of recollecting this attempt to compose music and sing it, with a bit of my addition of my prayers in the end.
Below is another beautiful rendition by little Rahul Vellal
Below is the rendition flavoured in the real Carnatic Raga