Life Story of Samarth Sadguru (S. S.) Shri Ganapat Rao Maharaj Kannur
Shri S. S. Ganapat Rao Maharaj was born at their family residence in Kannur village (Bijapur District, Karnataka State, India) to Shri Shivarampant and Shrimati Saraswati on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi festival on September 18, 1909 the birth day of lord Ganesh. He was appropriately named Ganapati. As a child he was a loving, simple, straight forward, disciplined and preferred solitude. He had a keen desire to have darshan (vision) of God right from his childhood days. He had his primary and high-school education in Bijapur. He loved the company of Saints and had a great inclination towards spirituality, right from those days. If there were any spiritual programs in Bijapur he would be there for every function, be it a Kirtana, spiritual discourse or the likes.
A telling example of his lofty values is when the school authorities were once testing students for their virtues. On that occasion Shri. Maharaj firmly declared that he would never tell a lie, even if it meant losing his life!! At the tender age when right and wrong meant no more than words his thoughts earned him a name in the school as an ideal student.
There lived in Bijapur at that time, Shrimati Rukmakka, his father’s sister. She had taken initiation from Shri. S. S. Bhau Saheb Maharaj (Guruji of Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj). She loved young Ganapati very much. She said to Ganapati once, ‘Ganu, if you want to have Darshan of God, you should surrender yourself to Sadguru. He will show you God’. Accordingly the auspicious day which determined the course of life of Ganapati occurred in 1923 A.D., when he was initiated by Shri S. S. Siddharameshwar Maharaj. He felt uplifted and at peace, and carried out the Sadhana as instructed by Sadguru. He meditated and performed Bhajan every day without fail. He was so sincere in this, that if by chance he could not carry out the required Sadhana, he would skip his meal on that day. Such intense sincerity, complete faith and devotion and eagerness to acquire Jnana endeared him to the Sadguru.
When Sadguru stayed in Bijapur, Ganapati would attend the discourses and Bhajans every day without fail. Once Shri Sadguru Siddharameshwar Maharaj gave discourses for three days, delivering the message ‘you are Atman, who is Chit (supreme consciousness) incarnate. It is you who puts life in this inert body’. When the discourses were over, in order to test how well the disciples had imbibed the message, Shri Sadguru Maharaj asked the audience ‘can anyone infuse life in a dead body and make it stand up?’ The listeners were dumb-struck upon hearing this unusual question. Nobody dared to stand up and say ‘I can’. But young Ganapati boldly stood up and declared ‘Sadguru Maharaj, I have infused life into this lifeless body and have made it stand up as per your instructions’. Shri Sadguru Maharaj was extremely happy that he had such a wonderful disciple in Ganapati. Ganapati was just 14 at that time!
Dispassion and eagerness to know the spiritual truth grew stronger with time. Although school education was also continuing simultaneously, he was gave much more importance to the teachings of the Sadguru than to the teachings at the school. He passed his matriculation examination in 1927 A.D. His college education was in Willingdon College, Sangli in the first year, Karnatak College, Dharwad during the next year and Fergusson College, Pune during the next two years. He graduated in 1932 A.D., earning a B.Sc. Degree. Even during college days, he did not ignore his daily spiritual Sadhanas and sought the spiritual company of his Sadguru, whenever he could find time. He had placed his Sadguru’s photograph on his study table in his hostel-room (dorm) and carried out the daily worships, bhajans and meditation. Whenever Shri S. S. Siddharameshwar Maharaj blessed his disciples for a few months every year by staying at their residences in Mumbai, Ganapati visited his Guru often.
Prior to the formation of the Shanti Kuteer Ashram in Kannur, the central place of our Sampradaya had been the holy place Inchgeri. Three Sapthahas were celebrated in Inchgeri every year, where special discourses were given - these increased the impetus to the Sadhana of the Sadhakas. Shri Maharaj attended all the Saptahs without fail and also did service during that time. During a Saptah in Inchgeri in 1933 A.D. Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj said to his disciples “I am ordering you to take Sanyasa for one year. Who is ready to take it up?” Immediately upon hearing this, Shri Maharaj stood up and said he will do it. After this 7-8 other disciples also came forth. The Sanyasi disciples were instructed to follow the following rules:
1. Wear ochre robes
2. Meditate all the time
3. Not touch money
4. Not ask for anything from anyone and if necessary beg for food from others, that too only once a day, in the afternoon
5. Carry only articles that are absolutely essential, these could include a few spiritual texts. It was a test by fire for the disciples.
The disciples chose the bank of river Krishna and carried out tapas (penance) for a year, strictly as instructed. When Ganapati came to Bijapur after completing the tapas wearing ochre robes and considerably thin, his parents were pained to see him so frail, but Shri S. S. Siddharameshwar Maharaj was immensely pleased seeing the aura around the young Ganapati.
In 1934 A.D. Shri Ganapat Rao’s father passed away and two years later in 1936 A.D. Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj laid down his mortal coil in Mumbai. These two heart rendering events were endured with stoic calm by Shri Ganapat Rao Maharaj, because of his firm grounding in spirituality. Shri Maharaj continued his Sadhana with renewed determination for the next 14 years at different locations like Sitimani (on the bank of river Krishna), pilgrim centers like Oudumbar and the cool hill station Mahabaleshwar. He stayed there for months together submerged in his intense Sadhana, and reached the final goal and became a Siddha or a realized being. He studied the Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita, Bhagavata, Jnaneshwari, the six texts of Shiva-yogi, Vichaar Saagar in Hindi and others. Such extensive reading coupled with his supreme spiritual experiences resulted in his reaching the state of lasting satisfaction, perfect equaminity. He became an embodiment of virtues like compassion, pardoning the mistakes of others. Even during this period of Sadhana, he still went to Inchgeri without fail and attended the Saptahs, and served with body and mind.
Shri Maharaj’s discourses were supremely illuminating. Since his words flowed from his own experience coupled with deep and wide knowledge, the discourses were simple, direct and had a powerful effect on the audience. Many spiritual aspirants came forward, requesting him to grant initiation. The first spiritual seekers to be initiated by him were Shri Sangappa Desai Gowdar and Shri Gurupadappa Talkal. Shri Maharaj continued the task of spiritual upliftment (Lokoddhara) continuously for over 55 years. He guided his hundreds of disciples through innumerable ways like discourses, letters, through writing texts on the various aspects of Sadhana and other means. Despite his fame reaching all corners Shri Maharaj shunned pompousness and stayed away from performing miracles.
People were instantly attracted by his loving, peaceful nature and enlightening discourses. A vast number of people from big cities like Hubli, Dharwad, Sangli, Pune, Mumbai and villages like Arjanal and surrounding places, Domnal, Kakamare took initiation from him. The disciples of Shri S. S. Vilasanand Maharaj from distant cities like Delhi and Agra used to come and meet Shri Maharaj. Due to certain reasons, Shri Maharaj shifted from Inchgeri to his ancestral lands on the outskirts of Kannur village. A small cottage was built there and was named Shanti Kuteer. All the Saptahs were performed there. Starting with a small cottage in 1951 A.D., Shanti Kuteer expanded into a concrete structure in 1961 A. D. It has now grown into a big spiritual center with over a hundred rooms, a spacious hall for celebrating Saptahs and a big kitchen and store room, dining hall that can seat thousands of devotees, and all other amenities. The center, registered under the name of Sadguru Seva Samiti has acquired about 26 acres of surrounding area. At Shanti Kuteer, no distinction is made on the basis of caste, creed, color, age, language or any other criteria. All those with sincere spiritual aspirations are welcome.
Three Saptahs, called Chaitra Saptah, Datta Jayanti and Shravana Saptah take place annually. At the end of the Shravana Saptah on the fourth day, bright half of the month of Bhaadrapada, i.e. on the Ganesh Chaturthi, the birth day ceremony of Shri Maharaj is celebrated with intense spiritual fervor. The Saptahs held on the 60th, 65th, 70th, 75th, 80th, 85th, 90th birthday-ceremonies of Shri Maharaj were marked with intense fervor and devotion. The 96th birthday celebration on August 18, 2004 was the biggest. Shri S. S. Maharaj was very unwell at the time because of his advanced age. Never the less, he came on the dais with assistance and in spite of feeling very sick, blessed the huge assembly by his immensely benevolent sight. Three days later, Shri S. S. Maharaj laid down his mortal coil and merged into the ocean of bliss of the lord.
Shri S. S. Maharaj did not preach any new philosophy. His teaching, to put in a nut shell, was ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ or ‘I am Brahman’. But the supreme eminence of his teaching was that he explained it systematically in simple language, so that even a common man could follow it easily. Some key topics which Shri Maharaj elucidated were:
The importance of this birth as a human being.
The need to take up spiritual path of the four-fold Sadhanas
The importance of listening to discourses.
Cogitation of what is heard and bringing it into practice.
The Jiva is really Shiva: therefore every being is full of Ananda (bliss) in his basic state, which should be experienced.
Since Shri Maharaj’s words came from the depth of his own experience, those who listened intensely felt uplifted. It is no exaggeration that they felt Shiva Swarupa in their heart while listening to the discourses. Shri Maharaj was ever vigilant about the welfare of his disciples, specifically about their spiritual progress. So he has written a number of texts on the different aspects of spirituality. Among them, four are of great importance. They are:
1. The delicious feast of Atma Jnana
2. The Sadhanas for Self-realization
3. Spirituality made easy (note: this is also the crown jewel of Shri Maharaj’s works – click here for further details)
4. Experience of Jnana. All of them carry the message that mere bookish knowledge amounts to knowledge of words, and true Jnana can only be obtained by the realization of what is learnt, within oneself.
Another achievement of Shri Maharaj is the founding of the organization called Bharatiya Surajya Samsthe in 1993 A.D. Bharatiya Surajya Samsthe was founded by Shri Maharaj to achieve the following aim: Self realization is absolutely essential for everyone. But still its benefits should not be limited to an individual himself, but should spread to the society and the world over. The Atman is love incarnate. So that love must spread itself to all living beings. And the evils in the society and the world like unethical behaviour, crimes, mutual hatred and others should be replaced with peace, love, harmony should spread into every nook and corner of the world. Even prior to its founding, Shri Maharaj had worked to oppose unethical and unjust acts. For example, when Gandhiji was assassinated in 1948 A.D. violence spread throughout India. An extreme instance was that which took place at the holy center of pilgrimage, Ramatirth near Athani. Many houses belonging to people of forward communities were burnt down and hundreds of people were made homeless. Shri Maharaj went door to door and collected money, old clothes and other daily necessities from people in Bijapur and other places and distributed them to the affected people. He also engaged in spiritual activities like Bhajans to restore peace. This was not a mere act of help but the actual practice of his spiritual teaching to love one and all. When the Bharatiya Surajya Samsthe was started, many branches of the organization were started in several villages and cities, within only one year. A periodical – a bi-monthly - named ’Surajya Patha’ was also started. An organization called ‘Rama Rajya Kala Mela’ was also started as part of the Samsthe, to draw the common people towards spirituality. Almost all the disciples of Shri Maharaj became members of the organization and started active participation in its work. Shri Maharaj set up a charter of eight rules, which have to be followed by each member:
1.I will never take part in habit-forming activities like drinking, smoking and others.
2.I will not engage myself in unethical acts like adultery, viewing lewd shows and others.
3.I will practice the edict of ‘high thinking and simple living’ in my daily life.
4.I will buy and use only the outputs of our own country-men.
5.I will observe the creed of non-violence and lead my life in harmony with everyone.
6.I will go to a needy village or to my own place one day in a week and perform voluntary service.
7.I will never take or give bribes.
8.I will earmark two hours every day for spiritual practice of those Sadhanas which lead to the highest goal in life.
Shri Maharaj instructed his disciples who used to come to Shantikuteer Ashram for the Saptahs to come in groups on foot and hold programs in each place along the way while traversing through the villages enroute -- these programs would disseminate the message of Bharatiya Surajya Samsthe like ethical behavior, devotion to God, village improvement, voluntary service and others ethical objectives. These travelogues are termed Dindi’s and start from several places like Arjanal, Gothewadi, Barsi, Sangli, Bijapur, Kakamari, Ramatirtha and Bommanahalli. These Dindi’s have been coming to Kannur every year for over 14 years. Another significant activity in which the Samstha participated is taking under its wing, schools in backward villages and helping them improve in every possible way. This scheme called ‘school adoption’ was started by the Govt. of Karnataka. Eleven schools have been adopted under Shri Maharaj’s direction and received help in every possible way. ‘Liberation in life and value considerations should not be restricted but it should extend to the society and the nation and the world over’ is the great message that has been given to civilization by the Samstha.
In short, every Sadhaka should lead life for the good of his own, his society and the nation. Shri Maharaj held many meetings of the Samstha for this very purpose and published a number of small books, describing the goal and the means of achieving it. It is no exaggeration to say the nation has been uplifted because of the presence of such great Mahatmas and more so by our Sadguru.
(Victory to Sadguru)