Arya Sangha or Assembly of the Wise

The Lion's Roar: Siddhas of Lanka (1)

by Manik Sandrasagra

Colonel Henry Steel Olcott was commemorated with a postage stamp
Colonel Henry Steel Olcott was commemorated with a postage stamp
Yoga Swami of Nallur
Yoga Swami of Nallur

Sometime in the eighties I happened to walk into the office of the then Minister of Hindu Religious Affairs P. Devarajan. He was at a meeting with some elderly Hindus and I was asked to be seated. I could not but overhear their conversation which had great relevance to the spiritual lineage I had been initiated into, on my return to Sri Lanka in 1971 after five years in the west.

Lay devotees of Yogaswami the Sage of Jaffna, were arranging with Minister Devarajah to commemorate Swami's birth anniversary with a postage stamp, a statue and a road being named after him. Believing that I had been sent to stop this secular desecration I spoke up.

Will a stamp that would be licked on the backside, shoved into a postbox, stamped upon the face at the post office, and finally end up as garbage enhance a sage's reputation? Will statues that are of use only for birds to relieve themselves propagate wisdom? Will polluted roads, the hallmark of commerce named after swamis, increase piety? The minister responded positively to what I said and the lay devotees fell silent. The campaign was abandoned and the traditional attitude prevailed as if by magic.


Siddhas like Yogaswami did not celebrate birthdays, nor did they pose for photographs, write books, or use titles like Reverend, Doctor and Venerable. They did not seek adulation or devotees, nor did they reveal themselves to an ignorant sensation-seeking media.

These anonymous free spirits moved at will like the wind. When a Siddha speaks it is often in riddles with multiple meanings but it is always the Eternal Dhamma, and wherever they chose to be, they were attended to by an enlightened community – ariya sangha - from the four quarters of the world.

The world itself was their home. This is the Sangha or community that for centuries found felicity in a Holy Land called Sri Lanka.

Yogaswami's reputation was such that several lay folk considered themselves his disciples. The Tamil Markandu and the German Gauribala were the only sannyasins among his disciples. Markandu Swami sat around Yogaswami in Jaffna repeating songs and stories that he had heard from his Guru while Gauribala Swami moved around freely in different parts of Sri Lanka, coming to terms with his awakening which occurred as a result of his meeting with Yogaswami.

In Kataragama, Gauribala Swami was also called "Pettai Nai" or the bitch by Haro Hara Amma, a wise old woman who named the four young men with him after animals, whom Swami had introduced to his guru. This lineage that begins with Siva Dakshinamurti was transmitted to Yogaswami by Chellapah Swami who in turn was initiated by Kadai Swami who was initiated in a succession by siddhas in Tamilnadu.

Go to "The Lion's Roar: Siddhas of Lanka" Part 2

Courtesy: The Sunday Times (Colombo) of 9 September 2007

"The Lion's Roar: Siddhas of Lanka" Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 |

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