Author: Shivashankar Rao
1. APPAYYA DEEKSHITAR (1520-1592)
A versatile writer on Advaitha philosophy, He was a scion of a family of great scholars.
An orthodox brahmin deeply devoted to vedic culture, he had performed Jyotishtoma and Vajapeya sacrifices for the good of mankind.
He propagated shaivism and advaitha vedanta.
He had many miraculous powers through which he could counter the evil designs of of Tatacharya, a vaishnavite scholar. His treatises on Brahmasutras are well known.
Nyayarakshamani, Parimala, Shivaarkamanideepika, Siddhaarthesha sangraha and Kuvalayananda are other famous works.
He was an extraordinarily great person.
2. SADASHIVA BRAHMENDRA
Sadashiva Brahmendra’s earlier name was Shivaramakrishna.
An intelligent boy, he was physically strong too.
Though married, he was not interested in the worldly life.
Coming into contact with Paramshivendra saraswati swamiji, he was initiated into Vedanta and yoga.
Dipped in Advaitha philosophy, he penned several soul stirring poems extolling the nature of the Atman.
Several miracles are attributed to him indicating the extraordinary powers he had obtained through penance.
The fact that Jagadguru Shivaabhinava Nrisimha Bharati swamiji of sringeri peetam penned a prayer on him indicates his greatness (Sadashivendra stuti).
His book on Brahmasutras (brahmatatva prakashika), on Patanjala yogasutras (Yoga sudhakara) among many others show his simplicity and greatness.
3. SRI AUROBINDO
Sri. Aurobindo (1871) was sent to England when he was 7 years old with the intention that he forgets the native touch and learn to adopt the western forms. But his love for the motherland inspired him to take to revolution to free India. The famous Alipore Bomb case was the turning point. He was an under trial prisoner in solitary confinement.
This transformed him into a spiritual visionary for India. He realized that to free the Indian psyche is more important in order for the fellow Indians to get the inner freedom.
Retiring to Pondicherry, a French settlement, he chose the path of Yoga and taught the world the art of silencing the mind and freeing it from the constant pressure of thought.
4. SWAMI CHINMAYANANDA
Born in 1916, he obtained a degree in science, a PG degree in English and studied Law. After a short stint as a journalist, he was involved in the freedom struggle and got arrested for his thought provoking articles against the British. He later went to Rishikesh to expose the sages there, but got convinced by the approach of Vedanta and became Swami Chinmayananda.
He established Vedanta Universities in India and abroad and started more than 75 schools. He wrote more than one lakh letters guiding people and started 250 centres worldwide. He trained 600 men and women in Vedanta to carry on the message all over the world. His lectures on Bhagavadgita transformed the lives of millions.
His famous statements are –”Youth are not useless, but used less.” “Youth are not careless, but cared less”. He passed away in 1993.
His patriotism and purity was responsible in building the last Indian empire which resisted the foreign invasions. Born in 1268, Madhava was a witness to the attacks by Mallik Kafur on the south Indian temples. His blood boiled on hearing the uncivilized conduct of the invaders. He started a severe penance by living only on water and air to invoke the grace of the goddess. He became saint Vidyaranya and guided Hakka and Bukka to lay the foundation for the great Vijayanagar Empire.
Once the empire became strong, he renounced his position as Prime Minister and took over as peetaadhipati of Sringeri Mutt. He attained Mahasamadhi in 1386.
6. SWAMI SHIVANANDA
Swami Shivananda dressed to clothe, ate to live and lived to serve humanity. As Kuppuswamy, he graduated as a medical doctor and went to Malaysia. While serving selflessly, a sadhu gave him the book, “Jeeva Brahma eikyam” which aroused the dormant spirituality in him.
At Rishikesh, Swami Shivananda did tapas along with service. He started the Divine Life Society in 1936 to propagate the message of the Upanishads. This has now grown to a worldwide organization.
Swami Shivananda chaired the World Parliament of Religions in 1953. He attained Mahasamadhi in 1963.
7. SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
The young sanyasi from Bengal showed the world that India was not dead but only sleeping, he burst upon the Indian society like a bombshell to see it awakened. Born in 1863, Narendranath Datta had a sharp intellect with a rational approach which made him doubt any belief that was in practice. He questioned the very existence of God and was in search of a person who had actually seen God. The search ended in Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who quenched his spiritual thirst.
After Sri Ramakrishna, he traveled extensively across India and went to the World Parliament of Religions in USA. His first words, “brothers and sisters of America….”held the audience speechless. He taught the world the Universal outlook.
Back in India, he began the task of rejuvenating the country with youth as the only hope. His clarion call to the youth to work for the liberation of the country had tremendous response. He was “a condensed India”. To his admirers who wanted to give him a gurudakshina, he said,”Love India”. He passed away in 1902.
8. RAMANA MAHARSHI
Venkataramana (who later became Ramana Maharshi) left home when he was 16 and went into the Arunachala in Thiruvannamalai and surrendered himself to the Lord. He stayed in an underground cellar for meditation and absorbed in a trance for 60 days with termites and ants living upon him.
He spoke for the first time after 11 years of silence. Maharshi’s approach which was a direct enquiry into truth, quenched the thirst of many seekers world over. Once a westerner asked him, “what is God”? The maharshi smiled and said, “What is – is God”. He made people think and learn than teaching elaborately. Doubts disappeared in his presence. Upadesha saara and Satdarshana are his most famous works. He passed away on April 24, 1950.
9. RAMAKRISHNA PARAMA HAMSA
At 19, he was appointed as a priest at Dakshineswar kaali temple. He was married to Sharaadadevi. Totaapuri, a reputed monk initiated him into meditation. He remained absorbed in the state of Samadhi for three days.
On meeting Narendra (later known as Vivekananda) for the first time, he exclaimed, “At last, you have come. I have been waiting for you”.
Ramakrishna taught the world through his direct spiritual experience that God could be realized through all religions. He had a unique way of teaching profound vedantic philosophies through simple stories and parables. These are documented in the book, Gospel of Ramakrishna. He left his mortal body in 1886. He was a living image of Godliness.