Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sadhu Appadurai (1872-1964) – A little known Sage of Sri Lanka

sadhu appadurai

This article has been prepared largely based on the information I got from the Tamil book ‘Dhyana Dhara’ perhaps the only available biography of Sadhu Appadurai written by the poet Pramil. This is not a translation of the entire book. I have just rendered some important parts into English. My idea initially was only to translate his teachings into English which I had been posting in the Facebook page – Who is this ‘I’ ? Some of my friends and followers of the page expressed their curiosity to know more about him. It was then that I embarked on this effort. Please pardon the shortcomings that are bound to be there in this work.
I wanted to begin this work with a quote by Sadhu Appadurai himself and with his Grace found an apt one –
“Truth has no biographies. Writing a Jnani’s biography is foolishness. Birth, death and life are for the ‘ego’. There is neither birth nor growth nor death for the slayers of ego.
While going deeper into the space, at certain appropriate places a blink will be felt in the (spiritual) ‘meters’. Meditation will happen by itself. On observing the surroundings, a Samadhi (tomb) of some Jnani will be found there. The ones resting there don’t have biographies. There have been many such Jnanis who have no biographies. Their glory cannot be expressed in words.”
- Sadhu Appadurai
A.P. Appadurai later known as Sadhu Appadurai was born on 17 June 1892 at Trincomalee, a town on the east coast of Sri Lanka. He lost his parents in his early childhood and was brought up by his Grandfather Annamalai since then. He was very compassionate and generous even during his childhood. He received formal education from Ramakrishna Mission High School, Trincomalee till matriculation. After that he studied Jyothisha (astrology) in which he acquired good proficiency and astonishing accuracy.
Appadurai received a great setback in life when he was 20 years old. His grandfather Annamalai (Father’s Father) who had been his guardian all these years was on his deathbed. Annamalai’s granddaughter (daughter’s daughter) Thangaponnu was also staying with him under his care. He was concerned about her well-being after his death. So, Annamalai asked Appadurai to marry and protect Thangaponnu. Though unwilling, Appadurai had to agree to this last wish of his grandfather. Thus Appadurai married Thangaponnu who was 5 years elder than him.
Appadurai became well-known as a kind and generous house-holder in his locality. He used to hold feasts at his house for the pilgrims who used to come in large numbers at the nearby Kandakottam temple. On one such day, he was sitting on the verandah of his house. He saw that a woman, untidy in appearance, was moving around the entrance of his house. She suddenly came and stood before Appadurai. He identified her to be the wandering saint known there as Visar (mad) Thangamma due to her external appearance. Appadurai invited her into the house and showed her his new born baby. Thangamma took the baby in her arms and then handed it over to Appadurai’s wife Thangaponnu. Thangamma then suddenly grabbed Appadurai’s hand and led him onto the streets. Appadurai followed her silently.
Thangamma took him to her Guru Jadai Varadar or Saravana Swami and recommended to initiate Appadurai. Saravana Swami was the grand-disciple of Muktyananda (Kadai Swami). The renowned Saint Yogaswami was the disciple of Chellapah Chettiar who was another disciple of this Muktyananda.
Appadurai was dumbstruck at these sudden happenings and the sight of this holy man with matted hair and unkempt appearance. Appadurai prostrated before him. Jadai Varadar looked at him and said, “You are rich people and we are beggars. Do you think we will gel together?”
Appadurai replied, “It is true that I am prosperous but I find no joy in them. I want peace. Please initiate me.”
Jadai Varadar: We live on bhiksha (alms). Will you be able to lead such a life?
Appadurai: Yes, I can.
Jadai Varadar: Okay, go and bring some food as bhiksha.
As Appadurai was about to leave, Jadai Varadar stopped him and asked, “For whom will you be asking the bhiksha?”
Appadurai: “For Guru”.
Jadai Varadar: The Guru will take care of his own bhiksha. You beg for yourself.
Appadurai was about to leave and Jadai Varadar stopped him again. “Will anyone give you alms if you go in such good clothes. Go without them”, he said.
Appadurai hesitated initially, but understanding this to be the Guru’s test, he determined to go without those clothes.
Jadai Varadar: Where will go for the bhiksha?
Appadurai: To some house nearby.
Jadai Varadar: No. Go to your own locality.
Appadurai understood this to be the Guru’s strategy to kill his ego. He accepted the Guru’s words but was again stopped just when he was about to leave.
Jadai Varadar: To whose house will you be going?
Appadurai: To my friend’s house.
Jadai Varadar: Do you have any enemies?
Appadurai: Yes.
Jadai Varadar: Then go to his house and beg bhiksha from him.
This was the ultimate blow to his ego which he readily accepted and set out to follow the orders of his Guru. He returned with the bhiksha.
His Guru blessed him and said, “You may return to your house now and carry on your spiritual practices there. You won’t be affected by the world.”
After this divine encounter with his Guru at the age of 21, his life was no more the same. Whether he met his Guru again is unknown. Although a householder, he underwent strict penance for around 20 years. At the age of 40, he attained Perfection or Self-realization. His wife Thangaponnu followed Appadurai and led an austere life. They were just like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Sri Sarada Devi. Thangaponnu was also greatly revered as an enlightened being. Appadurai had brought up his elder daughter teaching her Upanishads, etc. realizing that she was an extraordinary child. However, she passed away in her youth.
There have been many interesting occurrences in his life. Let’s have a look at one of them – It was mentioned earlier that Appadurai had an astonishing accuracy in Astrology. There was another astrologer who also was known for his accurate predictions in that locality. There was a belief there that whatever he says will surely come true. However, people were afraid of him as he usually used to predict only inauspicious events or disasters. This astrologer had heard about the accuracy of Appadurai and was envious of him. He some how got the horoscope of Appadurai and to his delight found that Appadurai will die within a few days. He announced it to everyone including Appadurai. Many followers of Appadurai got nervous as never has it happened that the prediction of this astrologer had gone wrong. Appadurai was calm and unconcerned about all these. The astrologer now used to come daily to remind Appadurai that his time has come. Days went by like this. Finally, the day predicted by the astrologer came. Even the previous day, he had gone to Appadurai’s house to remind him that he will die the next day. Appadurai was at his home. A knock was heard on the door. Was it the astrologer this time too? No. It was the astrologer’s wife. She was wailing loudly saying that he lost her husband. She was aware that her husband had predicted the death of Appadurai on that day. However, it was the predictor himself who died. Appadurai consoled her and sent her back. Appadurai said, “He (the astrologer) can never go wrong. Maybe he had predicted his own death by mistake.”
Many earnest seekers and devotees used to come to him for guidance and relief. Appadurai gladly received them and blessed them with his ambrosial words. Among them was a man called Tiruchitrambalam. Greatly inspired by the spiritual attainment of Appadurai, he tried to persuade him to travel across Sri Lanka and preach the Truth. Appadurai was not interested at all. In 1957, the famous Tamil poet Pramil met Appadurai and was greatly impressed by him. Although, he had no idea that Appadurai was a Perfect Being, he used to visit him regularly for the next six years. At the same time, Pramil was a great devotee of Yogaswami (a Jnana Guru in the lineage of Muktyananda) mentioned earlier. In 1963, Pramil informed Appadurai that he was going to meet Yogaswami. When Pramil arrived there, Yogaswami asked him, “Where have you come from?” “Trincomalee”, replied Pramil. Hearing this, Yogaswami turned to Pramil and said, “Why have you come here when you have a living Rishi there?” In the course of their conversation it was revealed to Pramil that the Rishi Yogaswami was talking about was none other than Sadhu Appadurai. This greatly shocked Pramil, as he had been in constant contact with Appadurai for the past 6 years and yet couldn’t realize who he truly was. Pramil at once returned to Appadurai and since then was a disciple to him. Sadhu Appadurai passed away in 1964. Thus, although Pramil was with Appadurai for 7 years, he was aware of his greatness only in the last year. Whatever, he collected into his diary from Sadhu Appadurai in that one year was later published as ‘Dhyana Dhara’, perhaps the only known biography of Sadhu Appadurai, based on which this account has been prepared. Yogi Ramsurathkumar Of Tiruvannamalai had greatly encourage and helped Pramil to publish that book.
Well-known music director of Tamil Nadu Ilayaraja who was a great devotee of Ramana Maharshi, was an admirer of Appadurai. He had written an article on the life and teachings of Appadurai in his magazine. The famous writer Balakumar was also greatly impressed by the teachings of Appadurai and had designed a character in one of his novels based on Appadurai’s teachings.


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