Thiru Gnana Sambanthar
Contributed by EUGENIO & SOBHANÃ www.ramalinga.com(Please visit this wonderful website on Sri Ramalinga Swamy, Vallalar, a Siddhar saint who attained Light in the near recent history!)
A brief biography :
In the seventh century some Jain and Buddhist missionaries had settled in the Tamil country to spread their religions. In sacred Sirkali lived a pious Brahmin by name Sivapada Hridayar with his virtuous wife Bhagavathiar. Both of them were ardent devotees of Lord Siva. Sivapada Hridayar prayed to the Lord for the boon of a worthy son. The Lord granted this boon and soon was brought into this world a radiant male child. They brought up this child with great love and devotion, knowing fully well that it was a purposeful gift from the Lord. The child, too, would weep for his separation from his divine parents Lord Siva and Parvathy, though ordinary people mistook it for a babys crying habit.
One day Sivapada Hridayar and his wife took the child with them to the temple tank in which they wanted to bathe. The child had insisted on being taken with them. They left the child on the bank and went in to bathe. The child looked at the tower of the temple and began to cry for his parents. This outwardly appears to be a mere childish action but the Lord, who knew its inner meaning, wanted to bless the child. So, He appeared with Mother Parvathy and asked Her to feed the child with the Milk of divine Wisdom. To obtain His grace and divine knowledge, the grace of the Mother is necessary and Parvathy fondled with the child and suckled him with the Milk of Wisdom. From that moment he was known as Aludaiya Pillayar or one who enjoys the protection of the Lord: and also as Tiru Jnana Sambandar as he attained divine wisdom through the grace of Lord Siva and Parvathy. From the moment he drank the Milk of Wisdom, he began to sing soul-stirring songs in praise of Lord Siva. The collection of these songs is called Thevaram.
The next day Pillayar went to Tirukkolakka and sang a song, clapping his hands to keep time. Lord Siva, pleased with this, presented him with a pair of golden cymbals. Sambandar began to sing, with the help of the golden cymbals. Sambandar then went on pilgrimages. During the course of them, many miraculous events took place. Sambandar demonstrated to possess the nature of those truly great saints who adore even devotees of the Lord as the Lord Himself and sing their glories, not regarding that as worship or adoration of a human being, but of manifest divinity. Sambandar and Appar was together in diverse places, realizing sincere service to the Lord for the benefit of devouts.
The news on the existence of one young Brahmin alleged to have been blessed with Divine Knowledge by Lord Siva directly provoqued anxiety among Jains, whose king gave them permission to burn Sambandars camp. The Jains failed to set fire to Sambandars camp. So, they set fire to the camp in which the devotees were lodged. They got up, ran to Sambandar and told him what had happened. He sang a Padigam expressing the wish that the fire for which the king was responsible should proceed towards him. As soon as Sambandar sang the Padigam, the fire in the camp died out and proceeded towards the king, in the form of a dreadful disease. The king experienced burning sensation all over the body. All the endeavours of the doctors and the Jain priests to alleviate the kings suffering proved futile. The queen and the ministers understood the real cause of the kings ailment and requested him to call Sambandar immediately so that his grace might relieve him of the distress. Sambandar sang a Padigam in praise of the sacred Ash (Bhasma) and with his own hand smeared the Ash on the right side of the kings body. At once the burning sensation stopped and the king experienced a cooling sensation. Sambandar applied the holy Ash on the left side also and the disease vanished completely. The queen and the minister fell at Sambandars feet. The king followed suit and praised him. Equally the Buddhist had oportunity to appreciate the spiritual greatness of Sambandar.
In Mylapore there lived a merchant by name Sivanesar. He was a staunch Siva Bhakta. He had all wealth but had no children. In answer to his sincere prayer, Lord Siva blessed him with a female child. They named her Poompavai. She was very beautiful. Sivanesar heard of Sambandars greatness and felt that he was the only suitable match for his daughter. Mentally, he had offered her to Sambandar. One day when Poompavai was gathering flowers in the garden, she was bitten by a poisonous snake and she died. Sivanesar at once cremated the body of the girl, collected the ashes and preserved them in a pot. Daily he would decorate the pot with flowers, etc., and sit near it meditating on Sambandar. The news that Sambandar was staying at Tiruvotriyur reached the merchant; at once he decided going to the encounter of Sambandar. He had heard about Sivanesar and his worship of the pot which contained the ashes of his daughter, and he wanted to please Sivanesar by bringing the girl back to life. Having worshipped the Lord and sang hymns, Sambandar asked Sivanesar to bring the pot of ashes. Sambandar addressed the pot and sang a Padigam. While he was doing it, Poompavai got her form and got her life becoming a twelve year old girl. When Sambandar finished the tenth stanza, she came out of the pot, even as Lakshmi came out of the Lotus. All were amazed at this miracle. According to the wishes of Sambandar, Sivanesar built an Ashram for his daughter where she spent her days in worship of the Lord and attained Him.
After visting a number of shrines, Sambandar returned to Sirkali. He had reached his sixteenth year. Moved by the wish for getting him married, his father selected the adecuated woman and welcomed the alliance. The wedding was to take place at Nallur Perumanam. Sambandar went to the temple, worshipped the Lord and got His blessings. In a pearl palanquin he came to the place where the wedding was to take place. Sambandar held his wifes hand and, accompanied by many devotees, the couple went into the temple and worshipped the Lord, with total self-surrender. Sambandar sang a Padigam praying for Liberation. The Lord granted his wish and said: Oh Sambandar, you, your wife, and all those who witnessed your marriage will merge in the Siva Jyoti and come to Me. At once, an effulgent Light emerged from the Lord. Before merging in that Light, Sambandar sang a Padigam known as the Panchakshara Padigam. Then all those who were there merged in the Light of Siva.
Sri Ramalinga Swami’s Experience!
Sri Ramalinga, in his young age, took this great saint into his heart as the Guru. Jnana Sambandar was guiding him from within, until Ramalinga got the divine Grace Light as the Inner Guide and Supreme Unique Guru. The following poem is an early one, written when Ramalinga had not much advanced in his spiritual path, though he had already achieved the Realization by the grace of his chosen Guru Jnana Sambandar:
O Jnana Sambandar, my noble Sat Guru! You has told me (by inspiration) what, if one gets the experience of the self (uyir anubhavam), will form the basis in which the higher experience of Grace (Arul anubhavam) will come and in that defectless and noble experience will arise in turn the experience fo Suddha Siva anubhavam. O Jnana Sambandar, who as a child of tender age of three years took in happily the milk of Knowledge given by the supreme Shakti, and fostered and developed the path of Truth.
O my Sat Guru! O Siddha Purusha! O Treasure! O Jnana Sambandar of the famous place Sirkali. You had instructed me thus: ‘Transcend each of the states of tatvas (principles of lower manifestation) and reach the unique Paranada state where you will realize the Self (which is the same in all) without your being (the individuality)’ . This is called Uyir anubhavam. O Guru! You has made me realized the Self in myself, in the said plane of consciousness.