Sada Shiva Brahmendra Swami, a jIvanmukta

Samadhi of Sada Shiva Brahmendra Swami

It was about 300 years ago. A Brahmin pair from Andhra Pradesh region moved to the banks of the river Kaveri worshiping Gods to bless them with a child. The couple were Mr. Somasundar Avadhani Moksha and his wife Mrs. Parvatamma. They were overjoyed when finally their prayers were answered and a boy was born to them. He was named Shiva Ramakrishna. He was the apple of their eyes and they were very fond of him.

However, even as a little kid, Shiva Ramakrishna seemed to be very disinterested in worldly things and showed a detached attitude towards everything. This got his parents worried. So they decided to get him married early.  They found a suitable girl and celebrated the marriage when he was seventeen years old. After a few years when the girl attained puberty, Mr. Shiva went to visit her and also celebrate the first night. It was quite late in the evening and already very dark by the time he reached. He was hungry and so he headed straight to the kitchen. His Mother-in-law, however, told him that it would take a little more time and requested him to wait outside.

The words of his Mother-in-law had a huge impact on the young Shiva. He felt that there was a deep and profound message in them for him. He took them to mean that he shouldn’t become a householder and instead should study Vedanta and attain Liberation. At that very moment, he renounced everything and and went away in search of an appropriate Guru.

Shiva’s wanderings took him to a great saint by name Parama Shivendra Saraswati. He learnt all the scriptures under his tutelage. He became an expert in logic. He earned a great name for his eloquent orations and became famous as a very skillful debater.  The teacher Parama Shivendra was impressed. In appreciation of his devotion, knowledge and detachment, he granted Sannyasa (Asceticism) to Shiva and christened him as Sada Shiva Brahmendra.

Sada Shiva’s fellow-students felt jealous of him. So they complained to their teacher. One day his teacher mildly warned him that he was able to shut off the mouths of all others in debates but he was unable to control his own oratory. He took the reprimand from the teacher as a sacred instruction for him. He then and there took a vow to observe utter “silence.”  He simply gave up talking completely for the rest of his lifetime!

Sada Shiva continued as a mendicant, leading a nomadic life near forests and river beds, begging alms whenever he was hungry.  With his detachment ripening and his askesis fructifying, Sada Shiva attained Self-realization.

***

Here are a few of the incidents people fondly remember about Sada Shiva. They clearly establish him to be a jIvanmukta:

Once he was sitting on the banks of Kaveri River and was lost in deep samAdhi. Suddenly it started raining cats and dogs. People advised him to move but their words did not reach his ears. Soon the river swelled and flooded the entire area. 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 from the river. As he was digging with his shovel, he found that it was smeared with blood stains. Astonished at that, he carefully examined the sand, when he saw Sada Siva Brahmendra Swami in the same meditating pose as he was three months before. Soon the word spread and all the villagers worshiped him as an incarnation of Lord Siva and prayed to him. He smiled at the people, gave out a song and walked past them.  “I am brahman, I am all pervading ‘sat,’ I am devoid of fear’ was the meaning of that song. A jnAni may have a body but he is not confined to that body alone.

**

Once, long after people had almost forgotten the memories of his wanderings, he was walking through the streets of a town half naked completely immersed in an exalted state singing devoutly in praise of brhaman. Several locals followed him with great respect and devotion to him. But the local Muslim ruler was not pleased. He asked Sada Shiva to stop his singing. The Swami was hardly conscious of the ruler or his orders. Enraged by Shiva’s impudence, he ordered his soldiers to hack Shiva’s arms. Both arms fell on the ground and there was profuse blood flowing all over. However, Shiva was least concerned and continued his walk with joyful singing. The Muslim ruler was stunned by this and got scared. He fell at Shiva’s feet begging pardon.  Shiva then became conscious of the commotion. He looked at the Newab questioningly. When the ruler told him about the grave sinful action committed by him, Shiva looked at his shoulders and realized that his arms were cut. He instructed the Newb to fetch the two fallen arms. He attached them to his shoulders and simply walked away unconcerned singing his devotional song!

**

Realizing that a time had come to end his presence in the world, he reached Nerur town in Tamil Nadu and let the neighboring rulers know that he would be ending his life. He passed certain instructions on constructing a samAdhi for his body. At the auspicious chosen time, he entered the pit which was dug for him and sat in  a yogic posture. Before he went into samAdhi, he mentioned that a Bilva tree (bael – L. Aegle marmelos) would come over his samAdhi. He also mentioned that after 10 days, someone would bring a Shiva Linga and it has to be installed at a particular distance from his samAdhi. Needless to say, it happened the same way.

Sada Shiva Brahmendra entered into jIva samAdhi (buried alive) around April-May 1755 AD. The day of his going into samAdhi is celebrated annually even today.

Entrance to Samadhi

Sada Shiva Brahmendra had written several books on Advaita. One of the popular works is Atma vidyA vilasam (The Bliss and Charm of Self-Knowledge).

Some verses from this work:

18. Even if the sun’s rays become cold, or the moon becomes hot, or a flame goes downward, the jIvanmukta is not astonished, knowing that all this is only Maya.

40.  After having merged the entire universe, surrendering himself to the part-less Reality which remains, he eats just a morsel of food got due to his praarabdha karma.

46.  With his shoulder for pillow, the earth for bed, and the sky for covering, he sleeps, overwhelmed by bliss, embracing the damsel of detachment.

49.  The knower of the self wears a garland of lotuses in the form of places unfrequented by people, is adorned by the wish-yielding creeper in the form of detachment towards women, and consumes the pill of nectar in the form of dishonor (by the ignorant). (The idea is that he stays only in deserted places, is not at all attracted by sensual pleasures and welcomes dishonor rather than honor).

50. The sage does not reject anything on the ground that it is harmful, nor does he accept anything on the ground that it is favorable. Knowing that everything is the product of ignorance, he is indifferent. (He is completely free from notions of likes and dislikes, of what is favorable and what is not).

62.  The indescribable Reality shines eternally. It has no taste, or smell or form. It is beyond the three guNa-s – sattva, rajas and tamas. It is incomparable (because there is no other to be compared with) and beyond all fear.

Sada Shiva composed several songs in classical South Indian Music in Sanskrit. One can hear a rendition of one of the songs  – sarvam brahma mayam  (it’s all brahman everywhere) – here: (Singer: Sudha Ragunathan – Darbari Kannada raga)  

[This Post is compiled from various sources.]

 

18 thoughts on “Sada Shiva Brahmendra Swami, a jIvanmukta

  1. One of my teachers at the (philosophy) school I used to attend told us of an event which had changed his life and made him dedicate it to learning, and subsequently teaching, Advaita. When he was in his late teens (he was now in his sixties), he had been a keen rock climber. He had been with several of his friends making a quite difficult climb in Skye (an island off the coast of Scotland). Rather stupidly, they had been making the ascent one at a time without ropes. He was the second to go and had been making good progress until about two thirds the way up, when he suddenly realized that he could not see anywhere at all to which he could make his next move. It would have been extremely dangerous to try to retrace his steps at this point and he started to panic.

    Just as he was beginning to think his end had arrived, an arm reached down, took hold of his right hand and lifted it to a ledge that he not seen before. He looked up and saw a figure somehow standing above him. He couldn’t clearly see because it was against the sky and the sun was also glaring, but it was black-skinned and bare footed. And it clearly said: “You can’t die yet; you have to go on to become a teacher of Advaita”. Needless to say, he then managed to continue the climb and reach the top safely. The friend who had preceded him had been looking down to watch his progress and said that, after stopping for quite some time (at which the friend started to get worried), he had set off again and practically ‘run the rest of the way’.

    At the time, the reference to ‘Advaita’ meant nothing to him but the experience was so vivid that he investigated and the rest followed naturally.

    So, what do you think of that? This is a second-hand story from maybe 20 years ago. Do you believe me? Should I have believed the teacher?

    Well, actually, you may have guessed that it is a total fabrication – I only invented it ten minutes ago. But then I had an agenda – namely to convince you that believing this sort of story is possibly unwise. Those who first relate the story, those who subsequently embellish it, those who write it down, and copy it, and relate it again, all have an agenda. This maybe to persuade, intrigue or even simply astonish or pass the time. But the main point is that whichever story is told, it is totally unverifiable and, the more incredible it sounds, the more likely it is to be completely without foundation.

    I actually believe that this sort of story does Advaita a disservice. The apocryphal stories of Shankara’s early life for example, for me, detract from, rather than add to, his status as possibly the greatest philosopher who has ever lived. The only possible excuse that I can think of is that the authors think that the stories are part of the adhyAropa – apavAda teaching methodology. Maybe they persuade those who have not yet thought about the meaning of life, the universe and everything to get onto the ladder. (A bit like the story given above.)

    Whenever I encounter stories such as these, I always think of those people who claim that ‘God came to them in a dream’ and told them this or that. And I wonder just what is the difference between ‘God coming in a dream’ and ‘having a dream about God’.

    Thanks, Ramesam, for an interesting and provocative post and I apologize if you find my comments contentious; no offence intended!

  2. Interesting comment, Dennis! I actually believed your story haha the only thing that sounded suspicious, is that somebody in Scotland from the 1970s would hear about Advaita… 🙂

  3. Goodness Gracious!

    What have we come to be in this 21st Century!
    Does it not look that the affliction we have on the West of the Pond has reached its East shores too?!

    There is a lot of skepticism here, undoubtedly. We call it the scientific Temper.

    Almost a quarter percent of the Americans doubt if a man landed on the Moon at all! They question even President Obama’s birth certificate and the origin of the AIDS virus.They consider that it is a healthy sign to keep “doubting some reports.”

    “Two very recent studies, conducted in collaboration with the University of Cambridge Conspiracy and Democracy project show that Brits are just as likely to believe in conspiracy theories as Americans. While 19% of Americans believe that 9/11 was an inside job, for example, it was found that 11% of Brits thought it too – and 18% of British people believe that climate change is a hoax, compared to 13% in the US.”

    But we, the promoters of what we believe to be the pinnacle of human thought namely, Advaita, despise and condemn the attitude of ‘doubt’ that Science adopts in its search for the Ultimate Truth.

    We don’t hesitate to tell them that their skeptic scientific approach is unworthy and doomed to fail even before start when it comes to the matters of Advaita. We assert what we believe to be the final Truth “falls outside the scope of scientific investigation.”

    Our pious stand is that “The Real Truth is:
    अवाङ्ग् मानसगोचरम्
    avAng mAnasa gocaram
    [Meaning: beyond the ken of words and mind.]

    We impress them saying, “ ‘Reality’ is far more subtle than everyday experience would have us believe.”

    We proudly quote our Gurus: ““The Self, the ultimate Truth, cannot be known through the empirical means of knowledge such as perception, etc., which are but phlegm coughed up by the thirst for life.” In the same breath we also hold that “All that is is nothing but the Self.”

    We laugh at the naiveté of science that it cannot appreciate the simple fact that their methods “are excellent for looking into objects and mechanisms in the apparent world..” but those methods will not work in the worldview that Advaita talks about.

    If one asks the question why does the Self appear to ordinary mortals as the world of objects, we explain to them with our noses up in the air that “You are all under the spell of mAyA.” We remind them what the redoubtable Guru Shankara said?

    अघटितघटनापटीयसी माया ॥ — verse 3, mAyA pancakam.
    aghaTita ghaTanA patIyasI, mAyA
    [mAyA is that which makes the impossible possible.]

    So what appears to you, the ordinary folk, in all the multiple forms of objects is the Self. It is binding you down with its immense magical power, mAyA. You see the Self only, but you mistakenly ‘imagine’ it to be the world.

    mAyA can befool you, delude you. It can wrought all impossible things, in unimaginable ways for you. It can trick you in its appearance.”

    Even Michael Shermer, the well-known skeptic admits: “To be fair, not all claims are subject to laboratory experiments. … In the meantime, it is okay to say, “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure” and “Let’s wait and see.”

    Still, some of us, the modern day Advaitins, may forget the impeccable integrity of the centuries old ancients and their rock-solid cultural values and succumb to viewing them through the prism of present day theories of conspiracy and skepticism. We may in our weak moments, disbelievingly mock the life-stories of our own Sages narrated by our ancients forgetting that these life histories belonged to an era when they did not have to resort to conspiracy or work for self-aggrandizement. We forget they were made of purer minds and didn’t have to resort to fake news, lie on oath etc. which are the order of the day at present.

    regards,

  4. Ramesam,

    Your crusade doesn’t take into account the subject/object perceptions of everything that is viewed in this world. Once you believe in this person that you identify with as ‘the subject’, everything that follows is colored by this perception. This holds for the mundane as well as the supramundane. Belief in this image of the subject having any experience, the object, gives rise to a great deception. Out of this deception, comes Advaita, something to save one, to direct one, to enlighten one. The problem is Advaita is also part of the deception as well as any other means to alter or fabricate images in this ordinary ‘mind’ we use. The understanding that these fabrications give are actually short-lived and we are back to the subject which is still operating due to its deception that there is a subject-object duality. The unraveling of this knot is another illusion, image, that keeps the momentum going, giving the illusion that the subject has the ‘means’ to unravel something that is fabricated to begin with. Sorry to say it is a lost cause.

  5. Anonymous – do you really think that Ramesam does not know all that???

    Why these ad nauseam repetitive interjections, which you clearly think are pointing out some transcendental truth that we have not understood in these discussions?

    Of course we all understand that the subject-object duality is a deception. We are all just passing time here, debating philosophical nuances, with like-minded folk. For fun. And in the process, some newcomers may find their interest in advaita piqued.

  6. Yes, I really think none of you know this because of the types of discussions that take place on this site. The intellectualization of all of this is a waste of time. Your idea of fun is a bit convoluted because you are seeking something that is not there. Don’t expect me to believe in what you are doing and saying. It is total nonsense and a perpetuation of the myth of yourself. Let me know when you begin to suspect that none of this is going to lead you to some ‘truth’ you have dreamt up other than more conceptualization. Passing time is another image you are holding up.

    • Anonymous,

      I’m curious — are you the same person who was posting here last year and before, frequently about UGK and his “calamity”? Or are you a different anonymous person?

      Thank you for clarifying,
      Charles

  7. Well in that case, thanks for your concern and expenditure of time in trying to enlighten us. Hopefully by now Ramesam has recanted on his crusade . . .

  8. Anon,

    You say: “Don’t expect me to believe in what you are doing and saying. It is total nonsense and a perpetuation of the myth of yourself.”

    One is bound to ask why, in that case, you persist in posting responses. Why should I not simply exclude you? The site is intended for those specifically interested, who want to learn or to share their understanding of Advaita. You apparently intend neither.

  9. Anon says:

    “Belief in this image of the subject having any experience, the object, gives rise to a great deception. … The unraveling of this knot is another illusion, image, that keeps the momentum going, giving the illusion that the subject has the ‘means’ to unravel something that is fabricated to begin with.

    Are not “Anon” and the “words” appearing up there from him within and a part of that “deception”?

    How can one part be more reliable than any other part of the delusional deception?

    • This is my point, Ramesam. It is not more reliable. No matter who says what, it is your job to look directly at your own experience/mind without the images of models, teachers, books, and like minded people, and to recognize how the subject-object dichotomy comes about. It is not about looking for moksha or any kind of release from the present state. Self Realization and the rest of the goals that are promulgated have nothing to do with it. They are only images that get regurgitated by thinking. There is no substance there.

  10. ‘How the subject-object dichotomy comes about.’

    Any Advaitin worth his/her salt knows that the dichotomy subject-object is not transcended by the unsupported mind (‘one’s experience/mind’), which in itself is inert. Empirical experience seems to be undeniable, and with it that polarity, but one knows from Shankara – and only from Shankara – that it is based on ignorance, that is, failing to distinguish between the Self and the intellect or mind, which leads to the superimposition of either one on the other. Thus, the non-dual and undifferentiated Self – alone real – appears to be an agent and a knower, whereas in reality It is a mere witness (there being no other witnesses); and It is so by Its mere presence, not actively. The dichotomy referred to does not exist – in reality.

  11. This Comment is essentially an “Addendum” to my Comment of Oct 2, 2018.

    Dennis wrote: “Well, actually, you may have guessed that it is a total fabrication – I only invented it ten minutes ago. But then I had an agenda – namely to convince you that believing this sort of story is possibly unwise. ”

    What invited the gibe could possibly be the incredible stories I happened to mention from the life of Sada Shiva Brahmendra. Admittedly those examples are at the edge of credulity for us in the modern day. Two of the stories referred to the Swami being buried (under a heap of sand on the banks of Kaveri river and the Samadhi burial). The other is the story about his capacity to reattach the dismembered arms.

    A learned Pundit tells me that those jIvanmukta-s who had been adept at Yogic techniques can easily perform such acts. These are some of the practices that are more common with Aghori Sadhus.

    Being Buried Alive:
    The Yogic technique is called ‘dIrgha kumbhaka.’ After the inhalation, the air is held for a long time in the body. The prAna part of the air stays locked inside the body, though the air may be let out by the Yogi slowly over a very long time. Many jIvanmukta-s who have no interest at all for interaction with others go for this option. They prefer to be covered up by soil to isolate themselves from the world until the gross physical body reaches its end.

    Some of the liberated individuals may opt for being drowned in water instead of being covered by soil. A well-recorded and more recent example for such jala-samAdhi is that of the 34th Pontiff of Sringeri, Shri Chandrasekhara Bharati. He went for jala-samAdhi on September 26, 1954.

    Regluing the Dismembered limbs:
    This Yogic technique is called Khanda yoga (Also Khanda manda Yoga). It is said that “The practitioner of this yoga cuts off his own arms and legs with a sharp cleaver. and throws them into a roaring fire. After twelve hours these limbs re-emerge from the fire and rejoin his body. Some Sadhus can do Eka Khanda yoga, the cutting of one part of a single limb, like a foot; a few like Tailang Swami ( Legendary Aghora of India who has many interesting stories ) could do Tri Khanda yoga, involving three parts, like the foot, the lower leg, and the thigh.”

    A more recent example of a Yogi who used to routinely perform Khanda yoga was Sai Baba of Shiridi. It is said that ” Baba used to disembowel his entrails, clean them with water and dry them on the branch of a black apple tree. Persons in Shirdi witnessed it. Normally in the dhouti method of Yoga, a cloth of 22 feet in length and 3 inches in width is swallowed and kept in the stomach for half an hour. Then it was taken out after it cleansed the intestines. But Baba’s dhouti technique was unique and incredible.”

    At least one instance of the performance of Khanda Yoga by the Shiridi Baba is known. “One day a person went to the Mosque and there he found Baba’s head, torso and feet lying scattered. Fearing that Baba was murdered, he ran out. He did not tell anybody about it, afraid that people would hold him as a culprit. Yet, out of curiosity, he went to the mosque with other devotees, and was stunned to see Baba was alive, flashing His cool benign smile.”

    These examples may not by themselves establish that the stories in the life of Sada Shiva Brahmendra to be true beyond doubt. Nevertheless, they provide us the evidence for the existence of Yogic techniques to do such “feats.”

  12. Forget about Jivanmukta – a person in a “ZONE” performs near impossible feats. Michael Jordan in 1993 World Series, all of a sudden started seeing basketball ring as big as Pacific Ocean.And no matter where he threw the ball it would land in the ring. An Indian sitar player produced a musical raga, when he was in a ZONE that was never heard and experts could not ever reproduce. Now extend this ZONE to a total fearlessness or freedom – SUPER JM ZONE?

  13. Dennis put it very mildly :

    “I actually believe that this sort of story does Advaita a disservice. The apocryphal stories of Shankara’s early life for example, for me, detract from, rather than add to, his status as possibly the greatest philosopher who has ever lived. The only possible excuse that I can think of is that the authors think that the stories are part of the adhyAropa – apavAda teaching methodology.”

    But to take a broader view – What sort of culture would spring from such stories and sentiments – as of the esteemed sage Sada Shiva Brahmendra ? (per Ramesam) – Definitely misogyny?

    ————————————————

    18. Even if the sun’s rays become cold, or the moon becomes hot, or a flame goes downward, the jIvanmukta is not astonished, knowing that all this is only Maya.

    40. After having merged the entire universe, surrendering himself to the part-less Reality which remains, he eats just a morsel of food got due to his praarabdha karma.

    46. With his shoulder for pillow, the earth for bed, and the sky for covering, he sleeps, overwhelmed by bliss, embracing the damsel of detachment.

    49. The knower of the self wears a garland of lotuses in the form of places unfrequented by people, is adorned by the wish-yielding creeper in the form of detachment towards women, and consumes the pill of nectar in the form of dishonor (by the ignorant). (The idea is that he stays only in deserted places, is not at all attracted by sensual pleasures and welcomes dishonor rather than honor).

    ————————————————-

  14. Hi Shishya,

    That’s an intriguing comment you made.
    Where did the idea of misogyny come from?

    Regarding the observation that Dennis makes about the disservice “such” stories do to Advaita, I could agree with him if the stories are about a modern day guru who seeks his/her own image enhancement and thereby promote himself and his outfit in order to expand his influence.

    But one should be skeptical of being skeptic when it comes to the stories of several centuries old Advaitins who had no interest of establishing their own name and fame nor wore the mantle of being “gurus” creating their own organizations. Further, we can safely assume, IMHO, that the public too in the ancient times in India, because of the strength of honesty and integrity in the prevalent society of the time, were unlikely to “concoct and spread” such stories about any Tom, Dick and Harry, unless there was an element of truth in them. It is likely that the extreme paucity of people who are adepts at the Yogic techniques like dIrgha kumbhaka, khanda yoga etc. in the present day and our knowledge of current day gurus who do not hesitate to stoop to outsource their “image management” through multimedia go to immunize our minds to accept the verity of such stories.

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