SREE NARAYANA DHARMA SANGHAM (Chapter – 13)
An Organisation of Ascetics
In the later stages of the Guru’s activities, his concept about the consecration of temples had gradually changed. It passed beyond the idols of the deities, to objectifying ideals, something in higher and subtler plane.
Starting from Aruvippuram, he had consecrated a number of temples and installed idols throughout the state. Finally at Karamukku, near Trichur, he avoided idols and installed a lamp in the temple on 15th May, 1920. At Murikkumpuzha in Chirayinkil Thaluq, a plaque was installed with Satyam (Truth) Dharma, (Righteousness) Daya (Compassion) and Shanti (Peace) carved on it. At Kalavankodam Shaktiswara Temple near Sherthala, and Ullala, mirrors with “Om Shanti” inscribed on them was installed in 1927. Some people say that though the Guru installed idols in the beginning, he turned against idol worship in later days and that is why he installed a mirror in the end. But this is not just a denial of idol worship, it is something in a higher plane. The true meaning of his installations can be properly understood, only through a thorough linear study of all the installations in order. The protagonist starts with idol worship and gradually moves up to the stage of enlightenment, and in that brightness he is enabled to reflect Truth, righteousness, Compassion and Peace in his own life and in the end, within his soul he is able to experience the Ultimate Truth in the from of “Om”. When “Om” on a mirror was installed at Ullala near Vaikkam, and named it “Omkareswaram” it was the culmination and finale of the Guru’s consecrations.
The three institutions-Aruvippuram, Sivagiri Sharada Mattom, and Aluva Advaithasharam - are founded by the Guru. These three in a series covertly provides the direction for the spiritual progress of man. Initiating with the worship of the idol, the path leads to enlightenment with acquiring wisdom (Satvika Jnanam) and reaches the highest peak of Ultimate Truth through Advaithic experience.
When the Guru came down to the midst of people as a spiritual preceptor, the lineage of disciples also started. Even before the installation at Aruvippuram, the Guru had a great assemblage of ascetic disciples like Sivalinga Dasa Swamy, Bhairavan Shanti Swamy, Nischaladas Swamy, Sree Narayana Chaithanya Dasa Swamy etc. These eminent disciples were the apostles of Aruvippuram Temple Association and later SNDP in its early days. The Guru had the desire to establish a systematic ascetic order including all these disciples. But it could become a reality only at the fag end of his life, on Jan 9th, 1928, during his sojourn at the Advaithashram, attached to the Maheswara Temple of Koorkancheri. The members of Dharma Sangham will be only from the ascetic lineage.
Swamy Bodhananda and Swamy Dharma Theertha were the leading hands behind this. The Guru nominated Bodhananda Swamy as President of this organization. Swamy Dharma Theertha as Secretary. (He had not joined the ascetic order at that time, he was still Parameswara Menon) and Govindananda Swamy as Treasurer. When the organization was registered the following people were the members.
1.Divyasri Bodhananda Swamy
2.Srimad Govindananda Swamy
3.Sri. Sugunandagiri Swamy
4.Mambalam Vidyananda Swamy,
5.Swamy Dharma Theerthar,
6.Sri Narsimha Swamy
7.Sri. Ramananda Swamy
8.Sri. Neelakantan Brahmachari
11.P. Natarajan (future Nataraja Guru) did not join, but he was present for the group photo taken on that day.
12.On the next day, the Guru’s European disciple Earnest Kirk joined.
The Dharma Sangham was started with 12 members altogether.
The objective of Dharma Sangham is to unify the society and lead it to a single world culture, where caste discriminations and religious rivalries are given up and everyone recognizes oneself as a microcosm of the great Advaithic Truth. The head -quarters of Dharma Sangham is at Sivagiri in Varkala. There are many Ashramas and other organizations within Kerala and outside working under the Dharma Sangham.
The following people have been the presidents of Dharma Sangham, and the Master of Sivagiri Mutt (Mathathipati)
1.Divyasri Bodhananda Swamy
2.Divyasri Govindananda Swamy
3.Divyasri Achyuthananda Swamy
4.Divyasri Shankarananda Swamy
During the last Mathadhipati Swamy Shankarananda’s regime the Dharma Sangham was converted into a Public Charitable Trust (1958) and started working under that name. The first president of the Trust was Swamy Ananda Theerthar, who had the good fortune to be the last disciple of the Guru. The Guru had ordered that every year on Chaitra Pournami day, all the members of the Dharma Sangham should join together to celebrate the anniversary of Dharma Sangham. Conducting the famous Annual Pilgrimage to Sivagiri is the responsibility of Dharma Sangham Trust. Two great events managed by the Dharma Sangham are Maha Samadhi Mandira Prathishta (installation of the Guru’s statue in the Mahasamadhi Mandiram) during 1982-83 and the celebration of the International year of the Guru in 1977. Other great events to be mentioned are the Guru’s Birth Centenary, Centenary of Aruvippuram Installation and the Silver Jubilee of Brahma Vidyalayam (25 years). Dharma Sangham is the dynamic force behind the growth of organizations in the name of the Guru into great spiritual centers. The great disciples of the Guru, who had dedicated themselves to spread the spiritual contributions of the Guru, in the common man’s consciousness, are Sivalinga Dasa Swamy, Chaitanya Swamy, Bodhananda Swamy, Govindananda Swamy, Vidyananda Swamy, Swamy Guru Prasad, Satyavratha Swamy, Dharma Theertha Swamy, Natarajaguru, Arya Bhatta Swamy, Sree Narayana Theerta Swamy, and after the demise of the Guru, Mangalananda Swamy, Geethananda Swamy and Brahmananda Swamy.
But the organizations in the name of the Guru have not fully recognized the great service rendered by these ascetic disciples. While remembering the names of the Guru’s disciples, these names are sometimes left out. The devotees of the Guru should know that the combined working of SNDP and the ascetics of Dharma Sangham would strengthen the organizations.
The first periodical published to carry the voice of Sivagiri was Navajivan monthly magazine with Swamy Satyavrathan as the Chief Editor. The second one was Dharmam weekly with Swamy Dharma Theerthar as Chief Editor. Sivagiri a monthly magazine with Swamy Nijananda as Editor in Chief, continues as the manifesto of Sivagiri Mutt.
Guru Dharma Pracharana Sabha is a tributory organization, working under the Dharma Sangham. The main functions of this are studying of Guru’s compositions, publishing them, anti-liquor activities etc. There are more than thousand units for this. Devotees can contact Sivagiri Mutt, and register new units. It is a fact that the Dharma Sangham has not developed as much as the Guru visualized. To make it grow and develop is not the duty of only the ascetic order, but all devotees should remember that they too have a moral responsibility for the growth of Dharma Sangham.