SIVA YOGASWAMI Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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At 3:30am on a Wednesday, in May of 1872, a son was born to Ambalavanar and Sinnachi Amma not far from the Kandaswamy temple in Maviddapuram, Sri Lanka. He was named Sadasivan. His mother died before he reached age 10. His aunt and uncle raised him. In his school days he was bright, but independent, often studying alone high in the mango trees. After finishing school, he joined government service as a storekeeper in the irrigation department and served for years in the verdant backwoods of Kilinochchi. The decisive point of his life came when he found his guru outside Nallur Temple in 1905. As he walked along the road, Sage Chellappan, a disheveled sadhu,
shook the bars from within the chariot shed where he camped and shouted loudly at the passing brahmachari, “Hey! Who are you?” Sadasivan was transfixed by that simple, piercing, inquiry. “There is not one wrong thing!” “It is as it is! Who knows?” the jnani roared, and suddenly everything vanished in a sea of light. At a later encounter amid a festival crowd, Chellappa ordered him, “Go within; meditate; stay here until I return.” He came back three days later to find Yogawami still waiting for his master.


Yogaswami surrendered himself completely to his guru, and life for him became one of intense spiritual discipline, severe austerity and stern trials. One such trial, ordered by Chellappa, was a continuous meditation which Chellappa demanded of Sadasivan and Kathiravelu in 1909. For 40 days and nights the two disciples sat upon a large flat rock. Chellappa came each day and gave them only tea or water. On the morning of the fortieth day, the guru brought some stringhoppers. Instead of feeding the hungry yogis, he threw the food high in the air, proclaiming, “That’s all I have for you. Two elephants cannot be tied to one post.” It was his way of saying two powerful men cannot reign in one place. Following this ordination, their sannyas diksha, he sent the initiates away and never received them again.


Chellappa passed in 1911. Yogaswami, obeying his guru’s last orders, sat on the roots of a huge olive tree at Colombuthurai. Under this tree he stayed, exposed to the roughest weather, unmindful of the hardship, and serene as ever. This was his home for the next few years. Intent on his meditative regime, he would chase away curious onlookers and worshipful devotees with stones and harsh words. After much persuasion, he was convinced to move into a nearby thatched hut provided by a devotee.


Few recognized his attainment. But this changed significantly one day when he traveled by train from Colombo to Jaffna. An esteemed and scholarly pandit riding in another car repeatedly stated he sensed a ” great jyoti” (a light) on the train. When he saw Siva Yogaswami disembark, he cried, “You see! There he is.” The pandit cancelled his discourses, located and rushed to Siva Yogaswami’s ashram, prostrating at his feet. His visit to the hut became the clarion call that here indeed was a worshipful being.


From then on people of all ages and all walks of life, irrespective of creed, caste or race, went to Yogaswami. They sought solace and spiritual guidance, and none went away empty-handed.


He influenced their lives profoundly. Many realized how blessed they were only after years had passed. Yogaswami’s infinite compassion never ceased to impress. He would regularly walk long miles to visit Chellachchi Ammaiyar, a saintly woman immersed in meditation and tapas. Yogaswami would feed her and attend to duties as she sat in samadhi. Upon her directive, her devotees, some the most learned elite of Sri Lanka, transferred their devotion to Satguru Yogaswami after her passing.


He would mysteriously enter the homes of devotees just when they needed him, when ill or at
the time of their death. He would stand over them, apply holy ash and safeguard their passage. He was also known to have remarkable healing powers and a comprehensive knowledge of medicinal uses of herbs. Countless stories tell how he healed from afar. He would prepare remedies for ill devotees. Cures always came as he prescribed.When not out visiting devotees, Yogaswami would receive them in his hut. From dawn to dusk they came and listened, rapt in devotion.


In 1940, Yogaswami went to India on pilgrimage to Banaras and Chidambaram. His famous letter from Banaras states, “After wanderings far in an earnest quest, I came to Kasi and saw the Lord of the Universe–within myself. The herb that you seek is under your feet.”


One day he visited Sri Ramana Maharshi at his Arunachalam Ashram. The two simply sat all afternoon, facing each other in elequent silence. Not a word was spoken. Back in Jaffna he explained, “We said all that had to be said.”


Followers became more numerous, so he gave them all work to do, seva to
God and to the community. In December, 1934, he had them begin his monthly journal, Sivathondan, meaning both “servant of Siva” and “service to Siva.” As the years progressed, Swami more and more enjoyed traversing the Jaffna peninsula by car, and it became a common sight to see him chaperoned through the villages.


On February 22, 1961, Swami went outside to give his cow, Valli, his banana leaf after eating, as he always did. Valli was a gentle cow. But this day she rushed her master, struck his leg and knocked him down. The hip was broken, not a trivial matter for an 89-year-old in those days. Swami spent months in the hospital, and once released was confined to a wheelchair.


Devotees were heart-stricken by the accident, yet he remained unshaken. He ever affirmed, “Siva’s will prevails within and without–abide in His will."Swami was now confined to his ashram, and devotees flocked to him in even greater numbers, for he could no longer escape on long walks. He was, he quipped, “captured.” With infinite patience and love, he meted out his wisdom, guidance and grace throughout his final few years.


At 3:30 am on a Wednesday in March of 1964, Yogaswami passed quietly from this Earth at age 91. The nation stopped when the radio spread news of his Great Departure, and devotees thronged to Jaffna to bid him farewell. Though enlightened souls are often interred, it was his wish to be cremated. Today, a temple complex is being erected on the site of the hut from which he ruled Lanka for 50 years.