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The great search

One of the later vedantic compositions of Narayana Guru is known as AdvaitaDeepika. The metaphoric ideogram of 'the flame of non-dual knowledge' implies the knower's identity with the knowledge that is illuminated. The same message was exemplified in the Guru's own life when he began his more serious search. He took upon himself the role of a teacher. In this role he was a seeker, a seer, and also an illuminator. His 'one-teacher school' was not to teach the 'three R's', but to bring into people's lives the insight of the spiritual masters of the past such as Vyasa, Valmiki, Sankara, and Tiruvalluvar.

The lonely flight of a seeker is not only not appreciated by the world, but in most cases he is neither recognized as a seeker nor does the world seem to know that there is anything to seek at all. The only business of life is to wake up and sleep, to eat and mate and carry on the ten thousand and one transactions of life. So it is no wonder that the relatives of Narayana Guru thought that the best that they could do for him was to arrange for a marriage. The conflict that ensued and the way in which Narayana Guru circumvented the arrangement can be an excellent study of the attitude of Indian people to spirituality when sex-life and interpersonal relations are to be interpreted, especially in the Victorian era. Although in actual practice there was a great eroding of sexual restrictions, the professed adherence of the Indian people to the old world norms were far removed from the medieval one. There are different versions of Narayana Guru's marriage. All narrators agree that he did not present himself at the wedding ceremony. It was conducted in proxy by his sister"8 All agree that he probably had no physical relation with the woman whom his relatives brought to his home and looked upon as his wife. Also there is general agreement that he did not show any displeasure to this person who had the misfortune of being treated as a wife though not having a meaningful identity. The strange relation of the Yogi to his wife is presented in The Word of the Guru by Nataraja Guru without any exaggeration or spiritual embellishment.

Once he called another neighbor and asked him to take his wife to a festival in a nearby Bhagavati or Kali temple to which she dearly wished to go. With the Guru's better ways, it was too crowded and noisy for him, but the villagers praised its importance very highly. On another occasion the Guru cured his wife who had fainted for some reason, and he took some familiar green herb and squeezed the juice into her nostrils. The irritation set aright the circulation in her head and brought her back to normality. These are all scanty remarks that the present writer is able to make regarding the marital life of the Guru. His wife continued to live in her parents' house in accordance with the matriarchal customs prevailing then in that locality. With the ever-widening path of Guruhood that our hero began to tread as more and more years went by, the question of his married life and the family relations receded more and more into the background. It was thus naturally and normally transcended. She died, and no children of the marriage are known to have seen the light of day. Subjects such a celibacy, Immaculate Conception, or virginity, etc., were points, which were never raised in connection with either of them. The relation was as neutral and mysterious as the Zero that we have spoken of

According to the biographer Mr.MoorkothKumaran, the Guru said more or less in the following manner before breaking away completely from his parental home: "We are all born in this world to serve some purpose. I have my work to do and you have yours. Let me go my way; you go your own way." This has resemblance to what RamariaMaharshi, an uncompromising advaitin of this century once said, about himself. There is also the famous existential prayer: "1 do my thing, and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations. And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful. If not, it can't be helped.

There comes a time in the life of every seeker that he cannot any longer carry on the transactions of the relativistic pattern of home life without becoming hypocritical. In such a state, the true person in the seeker undergoes a great stress. The crisis of such a person is described differently in different books. The MumukshuPrakarana of Yoga Vasishtha, the breaking away of Prince Siddhartha from the palace of Kapilavastu, the hidden life of Jesus Christ terminated by forty days of fast and mental torture, the restless days of Prophet Mohammed in the caves of Mecca before the visitation of Gabriel, and the graphic, descriptions of the restlessness of the seeker in the Vivekachudamani of Sankara, give sufficient descriptions of the spiritual seekers' common plight. Narayana Guru's predicament was not different. He left his home and wandered aimlessly in whichever direction he felt like going. Most of his wanderings were either on the coastlines of Kerala or in the interior villages of the present Tamilnadu. In Tamilnadu most cities and villages are built around a temple of Shiva, Subrahmanya, Devi, Vishnu or Vinayaka. Every temple has its own legend and the stories of the saints who were devoted to these temples. As a result there are many pockets of traditional psychology, magic, mysticism and alchemy in a number of places, and Narayana Guru had the great advantage of relating himself to those people who kept these traditions alive. As he had a very high sense of personal discipline, which included a superior personal hygiene, he must have been very selective in choosing his spiritual practices. He had a very high critical acumen and did not accept anything at its face value without experiencing and experimenting with instructions in his own life to prove their verity to himself. Sometimes it amounted to the torturing of his body or of his mind. His love for truth was always uncompromising and he never liked to load his mind with half-baked theories or unverified information.

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