✍ A.K. Sreedharan

Shree Narayana Guru was a great saint, visionary, philosopher, Spiritual Leader and Social reformer who brought out a thorough transformation through his progressive and revolutionary teachings. Guru was the second ‘Advaithi’ that the God’s own country gave birth after Shree Shankaracharya, in 1856, when Kerala was at its peak of caste-based discrimination and untouchability. Driven by the strong desire to break social evils, superstitions, and taboos that were holding back the Hindu Society from progress, the Guru underwent years of strict penance and meditation before attaining enlightment, following which, he went on to pave way for social reform and change in Hindu society. So great was his influence that he attracted some of the greatest thinkers, philosophers and fellow social reformers of his time, who sought his advice and aided him in his efforts. These included luminaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and many others, who were all enthused by the Guru’s ideals and teachings.

During his time the Hindu religion and community were undergoing huge challenges in South India, especially in Kerala due to extreme Caste system, wrong practices in the religion and to amount to it, due to the influence of English East India Company, Christianity was spreading casteism was widely practiced in Kerala during the 19th and early 20th century and lower caste people suffered discrimination by upper caste people. The lower caste people were considered untouchables and were not allowed to enter temples and, in the houses of upper caste people. They were to keep physical distance at public places and were not allowed to mingle with others. The strange thing was that if a lower caste human had converted to Christianity or Islam and Christened as Mathai or Muhammed, he or she became touchable, and got equal social status. Many people started converting into other faiths, especially like Christianity to save them from discrimination. Swami Vivekananda called Kerala a lunatic asylum witnessing the untouchability between various castes and other evil practices.

Guru took a bold stand against these wrong practices in Hindu religion. He spread the values of Sanathana Dharma through his simple language which was more familiar to the common people, in turn purifying the people and the Society.

The Guru performed his first major public act in 1888. He went to Aruvippuram (A place in south part of Kerala) and consecrated temple of Lord Shiva with a slab inscribed with the words. Truth, Ethics, Compassion. This was the first event that a Hindu idol was ordinated by a non-brahmin. It sparked of the anti-caste revolution. The Guru pondered at Aruvippuram for quite a while and 1904 relocated to Sivagiri, where he established a school for students from lower social strata. Free education was provided later, in 1924 Sivagiri foundation was established to promote virtues of cleanliness, education, devotion, agriculture, handicraft and trade.

The Guru went on to consecrate 40 temples across the state of Kerala, to enable every one including the lower caste and oppesed humans to practice their faith. He led the “Vaikkom Satyagraha”, The protest movement against caste discrimination, untouchability and inequality. The aim of the Satyagraha was to get lower caste people the liberty to walk along the roads at the premises of Vaikkom Shiva Temple.

Mahatma Gandhi visited the Guru during the Vaikkom Satyagraha movement and they were engaged in a prolonged conversation. The topic of discussion was, of-course, the social situations and practices Gandhiji, at one point, opined that the differences are the low of nature, pointing out the diversity that exist in the universe. The notable reply of the Guru was that the difference that we see are only superficial, but in the inner core there is unity only. Pointing the mango tree under which they were sitting, the Guru explained that the two leaves of the same tree is not identical. But the inner taste (Jeevana Dasa) of all leaves is one and same. There is inner unity. The Guru was the second ‘advaidi’ after shree Sankaracharya. The idol of one of his temples is the “mirror” indicating the philosophy of “Thatwamasi.”

The impact of Sree Narayana Guru’s reforms and revolutionary ideas have not only stood the test of the time but have also created ripples around the world. Through his teachings the Guru enlightened society that religion is not the problem the attitude and approach of the people is more important. His emphasis was always on man striving for a better society. He bought the full essence of the “Upanishads” into ten verses of the universal prayer called “Daiva Dasakam”.

Guru advocated a ‘Sanathana Dharma’ based social engineering of Kerala society. For the comprehensive growth of society, he advocated the eight-fold path which progress Kerala from “Lunatic asylum” back to ‘God’s Own Country’. These paths were of Education, Cleanliness, Bhakthi, Organization, Agriculture, Trade, Handicrafts and Science and Technology with its training. We have witnessed how this Eight-fold path of social engineering has progressed India in the last nine years under the effective implementation of P.M. Narendra Modiji. To build toilets as an emphasis on sanitation, being vocal for local for handicrafts and trade friendly policies and treaties, the launch of new aircrafts carriers mad in India showing our technological prowess, the Guru Mantra of developments has proved its effectiveness in Nation Building evident from the recent upgradation of India’s position into 5th largest Economy in the world.

Guru was a scholar in Sanskrit, Malayalam and Tamil and he wrote 45 different literary works put together in these three languages. Even though the teaching looks very simply, they were difficult to practice in real life surprisingly, many could not understand the meanings and, reliability of Guru’s teachings looks very simple, they were difficult to practice in real life surprisingly may could not understand the meanings and reliability of Guru’s teachings so far, not much literary study has been conducted on these works in an organized way by any educational institution or research organization.

In this era of religious intolerance and when the world is under the threat of extremists and terrorists, Sree Narayana Guru’s message of ‘one world concept’ has paramount importance. Guru’s teachings of equality and “one caste, one religion, one God for mankind’ is to bring peace it is necessity for his teachings to be mentioned in the curriculum of schools up to higher education. This step is very important to bring true communal harmony, in our nation where “Unity in diversity” is our strength.

Some of the Guru’s teachings are as follows:

  1. “What-ever be the religion, it is enough if human becomes virtuous”. This was mainly to prevent mass religious conversion of Hindus to Christianity.
  2. Empower through education, strengthen through Organization, Prosperity through industry.
  3. Not to argue and win, but to inform and to be informed.
  4. Devoid of dividing walls of caste or race or hatred of rival faiths, we all live here in brotherhood.
  5. Happiness comes as a result of our action.

Read More : What is Right Education according to Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s Philosophy

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