When the Divine incarnates in the world, in a human form, a host of evolved-souls come along with Him to help accomplish the chosen divine mission. Sadhu Natanananda was such a blessed soul. Vowed to have only Bhagavan as his Sadguru he came to Bhagavan as a lad of 18, young but mature in dispassion. Undeterred by dissuasions and initial disappointments he succeeded in gaining the attention of his guru. His earnestness, perseverance and intense receptivity elicited Bhagavan's abundant Grace, which vouched him quick progress in the path of Self-enquiry. Muruganar held him in high esteem.
The flourish of Guru bhakti by itself is Grace. Is not Grace, after all, the effulgence of Self-attention? Natanananda, blessed with such grace dived deep within through enquiry, and was established firmly in Self-Awareness there.
Written with great devotion and understanding Natanananda's commentary on Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai fully brings out the poignancy, depth and beauty of Bhagavan's pleas inspiring the devotees with dispassion and precious insights into the glory of the Light Mountain deeply embedded in the Hymn.
The English rendering of this commentary by "Kays" is an offering at the Feet of Bhagavan to commemorate the Centenary of this composition of incomparable spiritual beauty and power.
Sadhu Natanananda is yet another devotee who lived the teaching of Bhagavan to the letter and spirit. Like Sivaprakasam Pillai, he was one of the early devotees to come to Bhagavan. But the way to win the grace of Bhagavan was initially chequered and he had to face many a trial and tribulation. But Bhagavan, the haven of compassion showered on him profuse grace which he earned by sheer dint of faith that was total in Bhagavan's teaching, humility and dispassion that were of a high order befitting a ripe mumukshu. Grace is nothing but gurubhakti and gurubhakti is not other than Swarupanusandanam (Meditation on the reality of the Self) ( Vivekachudamani, verse 32). Muruganar christens Natanananda 'a Buddha' and goes on to say, "his devotion to Guru surged as the effulgent light of Swarupadhyana with Pure Awareness pervading his heart".' Self-effacing as he was, after the Mahasamadhi of Bhagavan he receded into oblivion, buried himself in severe austerities in solitude facing many a deprivation but soared into high reaches of the soul's flight. The Gurudakshina that was worthy of his master, the Lord of jnana ruling over the kingdom of mouna who is the
' Number 3 ofThe Prefatory Verses of Sri Muruganar to Sri Ramana Darsanam of Swami Natanananda.
enduring substratum of the 'I' thought, is the offering of the `I' thought itself. Sacrificing his 'I' thought at the altar of gurubhakti he became the least, nay, nothing of himself but of Bhagavan more and more. He himself exclaims the Bliss of Beatitude that was his as follows: "To my Eye of jnana which has seen the truth, the Self appears everywhere." ( The Wealth of Holy Grace, Verse. 80) A village school master, Natesa Mudaliar, as he was known then, was conversant with the sacred scriptures, knowledgeable in Sanskrit and enjoyed the felicity of scholarly expertise in the Tamil tongue. His heart set afire with strong dispassion by Swami Vivekananda's life and teaching, he launched a desperate search for a sadguru who would bless him the way Paramahamsa blessed Swami Vivekananda. He came to know of the Maharshi along with the information that it was well high impossible to get any upadesa from him. Yet undeterred, he came to Bhagavan in 1918 but no conversation transpired and he returned dejected. The search at other places went unrewarded but vairaghya that was waxing high in his breast only flared his passion for mukti up. Heartened by the old adage that death at Kasi grants mukti, he proceeded northward but this with two subsequent attempts was thwarted. Again and again he was asked to seek the Maharshi.
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