“Theirs is a glorious ignorance that permits
them to worship what they cannot understand.”
Stories and legends current about the miracles performed by Sree Narayana Guru greatly contributed to the success of his mission among the populace. Several of them were exaggerations and products of superstitions, while some others were pure concoctions like the one about his drying up a tank belonging to the higher castes because he was
not permitted to bathe in it. These could be dismissed off-hand. Such acts are not in character nor are they in consonance with the magnanimity that a ‘Yogin’ would possess. Exaggerations of what the Swami actually did were, by and large,exaggerations of the essence and not of the incidentals of what really happened. Hyperhole is the main stock-in-trade of the common man when he tries to talk about an inexpressible and unexplainable incident.
Nevertheless, the ordinary man’s belief is a solid fact even when what he believes is only a delusion. As Shakespeare would have it, “T he belief is the thing.” It profoundly affects the reactions of the masses. When they consider through those tales that a certain personage is a
saint, they are ready to follow. “We don’t know, but he knows,” is the rustic logic behind it. The absence of any rationale in this belief has no relevance to the result produced in the people, however much we may regret the existence of that type of faith. The multitude would never
have discarded its age-old customs and rites on the strength of rational arguments of Swami. Their age-old faith could be removed only by their faith in the Guru as a “godman”.
Therein lies its value. It is certainly quite true that charlatans depend upon superstitions to gain fame and make money by duping the trusting crowds. On the other hand, it is the great value which men place upon faith that enables the charlatans to succeed. You cannot dupe a person by playing upon his belief unless the belief per se has great value to the man concerned.
Having said that, an analytical examination of the so-called miracles is necessary to get the picture of Swami’s unparalleled influence on the men’s minds in the proper perspective. Two or three out of over a hundred incidents are given here as illustrations.
Parameswaran, the brother of Dr. Palpu, the undisputed social leader of those days and a lieutenant of the Guru, narrated that one day, in 1885, the Swami stated that, “Madan Asan (Swami’s father) seems to have passed away.” Within a few hours, messengers arrived with the
news of his demise.
One cold night at Aruvipuram, Swami and his close disciple Nani Asan were resting in the open by the side of a small fire. Swami was meditating, while Asan curled himself up in a blanket and fell asleep. After some time, the Swami prodded him with a stick and said: “Look.” When Asan work up, he saw a tiger and a cub sitting on the other side of the fire calmly watching them. The Swami said: “Don’t worry; they won’t harm us.” Nani Asan at once pulled the blanket over his head, shut his eyes tight and laid down. When he woke up later, the wild animals had
Swami’s supreme unconcern and intrepidity in the presence of wild animals and their tameness in his presence have been recorded by several of his disciples. “If you feel no fear or animosity against anyone or anything, you can calm down all animosity to you from any quarter,” was the yogic principle he practiced with complete success towards all beings, not excluding human beings either.
Another of Swami’s disciples, Guru Prasad Swami, reports as follows:
“Once,” said the Swami, “I bathed in a tank which was, I learnt later, meant only for the higher castes. Some people came with raised sticks to beat me up. I asked them calmly: ‘What has happened?’ The sticks were lowered and they allowed me to pass in peace.”
This was the incident which turned up in popular beliefs as on instance where Swami was supposed to have cursed a tank dry.M. Govindan, a judge, had known a religious person who wore a sanyasi’s robes and used to go once every year on a pilgrimage to Kadalkarayandi temple and pray to Subramania, the presiding deity there. He explained to the judge that for some days he happened to be lying as a patient in the Trivandrum General Hospital. One day a messenger came to the hospital and informed him that his mother was seriously ill. As he was suffering from rheumatism, he was unable to walk. His desire to be at his mother’s death bed, was so intense that he decided to go home, crawling. With great difficulty, he crawled up to the gate and there, whom should he see, but Sree Narayana Guru coming that way with three or four disciples! The Guru stopped in front of him, and the patient pleaded with folded hands for succour. After hearing him patiently, Swami asked him to get up. He stood up. Taking a staff from one of the disciples, Swami gave it to him and made him walk. The patient walked home! From that year onwards, he became a pious man, wore a sanyasi’s robes and went every year on a pilgrimage to Kadalkarayandi.”
Cures of mental afflictions, hysteria, hallucinations, etc. effected by the Guru abound among the miracles attributed to his spiritual powers. Another set of incidents consisted of cures of gastric ulcer, rheumatism, incurable and unexplainable pains and aches, skin eruptions, etc. which are now known to be caused by mental strain and stress. The main point to be stressed here is that Swami never effected any cure whatever for the purpose of public demonstration. He would
dismiss all praise, saying, “His faith cured him.”
Several persons of those days who were educated in Western modes of thought were very much taken up with the nineteenth century habit of disbelieving faith-cure as nothing but superstition. They, therefore, treated these legends very lightly, even when, they did not discard them from their writings altogether. Nevertheless, the tremendous effect those anecdotes had on the minds of the masses has to be reckoned with in any biography of Sree Narayana Guru. Whether one
believes in them or not is a different matter altogether. Moreover, the modern medical concept of psychosomatic diseases and also the cures effected by the magnetic personality of doctors does however, shed a different light altogether on those so-called miracles. Today modern medicine admits the fact that in innumerable cases “the doctor is the treatment”. For the masses who did not know all these medical aspects “Swami was the treatment.” That was all.
And as has been stated at the beginning of the chapter, this adoration led to their following the reform movements initiated by the Guru with tremendous faith and gusto.