Arutprakasa Vallalar Chidambaram Ramalingam, popularly known as Vallalar was the foremost saints of the 19th century who propagated the notion of Samarasa Sudha Sanmarga Sathiya Sangam (Common, pure, good and true way of life). He came to uplift the whole humanity towards perfect bliss without hunger, disease, thirst, desire, poverty, fear, death, with full self existent delight or bliss through true knowledge, true love, true compassion accompanied by common wealth activities without disparities of dogmatic rituals pertaining to any religion, philosophy, caste, creed, color, sex or nationality.
Ramalinga was born at Marudur, a small village fifteen kilometers north-west of Chidambaram, on Sunday October 5, 1823, at 5:54 PM. Ramaiah Pillai, a Saiva faith and Chinnammai were the couple who were blessed with this embodiment of God. Ramalinga was the fifth child of Ramaiah who had remained childless after losing five wives in succession and then married Chinnammai as his sixth wife. When Ramalinga was six months old, his father died, and his mother moved to her village Ponneri.
Ramalinga was exposed to a spiritual experience at Chidambaram Nataraja Temple when he was barely five months old. The parents took the baby boy to the sacred shrine of Nataraja for worshiping the deity. When the priest drew aside the veil, the child experienced the formless aspect of God. In later years he said of this experience
In tender age when, with my mother,
I came to You in Chidambaram,
and the screen being lifted,
the Divine revealed the vacant space behind,
You admitted me to the secret which is as clear as the void space
O Lord, my Joy, You ripened me at once, without bitterness in my heart.
In the first stage of his life, St.Ramlingam followed the path of devotion. In the path of devotion complete surrender to God is possible only through the shedding of ego. The early songs of St.Ramalingam show how he was troubled with this ego and how he got rid of it through the help of God.
From his twelfth year onwards St. Ramalingam worshiped Thyagaraja, Vadivudaiamman and Muruga at Thiruvotriyur. Until his leaving Madras in his thirty fifth year, he regularly visited this temple for twenty three years. In these twenty three years of his life, he underwent many spiritual and mystical experiences.
St. Ramlinga lived for nine years (1858 - 1867) at a small village known as Karunkuli. He left the city of Madras because he thought that the city was not conducive for a spiritual life. This nine year period in Karunkuli is an important phase in the life of St. Ramalingam. During this period he lived in isolation. He spent most of his time in meditation and in worship. This period reveals a great change in his ideas and ideals. His thoughts while in Madras were about religion whereas while he was in Karunkuli it was a stage of transition from religion to transcendentalism.
After spending nine years in solitude and meditation, he became a Sanmargi - one who realized the underlying truth of all religions. He did not stop with that. He wished to establish a new society on the basis of his realization. St. Ramalinga selected Vadaloor, a small village near Chidambaram, as the place to formulate and extend his plan for a society based on love and honesty. In 1865 he established a poor feeding center. On the inaugural day, he lit the fire on the stone stove with the declaration that the fire shall be alive and the needy be fed forever. On Jan 15th 1872 he established the Sathiya Gnana Sabhai (Hall of True Knowledge).
The path of Samarasam contains four disciplines :
1. a.Gnana Indriya Ozhukkam (Ozhukkam means self - control):
- Listening to the praise of God
- Preventing bad words entering our ears
- Avoiding looks of harshness and wickedness
- Abstaining from touching evil things
- Abstaining from gluttony etc.
1. b. Karma Indriya Ozhukkam:
- Speaking sweet words
- Telling no lies
- Resisting by all means from harmful deeds to other living beings
- Leading a religious life
- Associating ourselves with people of saintly character
- Maintaining a healthy body
2. Karma Ozhukkam
- The mind has to be directed to the Cit Sabhai by taking it away from other objects (Cit Sabhai is the heart in which the Divine abodes)
- Not to enquire into the faults of others
- Not to be wicked
3. Jiva Ozhukkam
- Jiva Ozhukkam is the discipline that teaches one to treat all human beings as equal, and feel the presence of oneself in all human beings.
- One must not be affected by the various distinctions as social, national, linguistic, caste, religion, etc. because the soul belongs to a different sphere where no differences exist.
4. Anma Ozhukkam
- Anma Ozhukkam is further development of Jiva ozhukkam. Here the soul looks upon all living beings alike ( not only human beings but also other beings). Here the soul feels great compassion for all the beings, considers 'Anma' as the 'Sabhai' and the 'Inner Light' as God.
End of Worldly Life
St.Ramalingam spent the last part of his life in a small hut known as "Siddhi Valaham" (place of attainment or self-realization), in a small village called Mettukuppam. Here St.Ramalingam practiced the life of a yogi and lived in isolation. Till 1874 he lived in that hut. On January 30, 1874, he disappeared from that hut. St.Ramalingam locked himself inside the room he used to occupy and expressed his desire that none should venture to open it. He also added that if the government officials persist to open it, let them be convinced of his desire of not opening it. If it is opened, the room will be found vacant, since from that moment itself he will enter the soul of everyone and lead them to the right path of Grace. These utterances proved to be final.
As forecast by the saint early, the news reached the government . The then collector of Arcot rushed to the spot along with the doctors and police. The doctor went around the room and was surprised to sense the fragrance of "Pachai Karpooram" (Bournial not combustible) against his own suspicion of scenting of foul smell in case of decayed body. The collector was informed of the experience gained by the doctor and the collector also went around the room and got the same experience as that of the doctor. He then enquired the followers assembled there to the type of work that had been carried on. Fully respecting the Saint, he gave a sum of Rs.20/- for the good work being done there and returned back to his office.
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