Here is a biography of Narayana Guru, which introduces him, faithful to his true form, as an embodiment of Wisdom. Indeed, it has been written by someone who has dedicated her life to the learning and teaching of this very Wisdom, especially as we humans may actualize it in our lives of the here and now. Although most extant bio-graphies of the Guru were written by persons belonging to his own geographical and cultural background, this one stands an exception in this respect. The author of this work, Nancy Yeilding, belongs to and lives in a region and culture at the opposite side of the globe. Yet this can be no obstacle, because the Wisdom taught by the Guru is one in essence, which is life's highest aim, guide, and joy, irrespective of all geographical and cultural differences.
Nancy Yeilding is founder and head of Island Gurukula Aranya - a universal contemplative center in Washington state. She is a lifelong dedicated student and teacher of the world's rich heritage of unitive wisdom, particularly as exemplified and taught by Narayana Guru and his successors. From the center, which also functions as the Western headquarters of the East-West University of Unitive Sciences, she reaches students around the world via Internet-based classes. Editor of dozens of books on spirituality, science, and health, she also was the long-time publisher of the English Gurukulam magazine, a journal of philosophy and the arts. Living amid a garden of herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruits, she nurtures and is nurtured by nature's abundance and beauty.
LESSONS were drawn in raked sand. Water was brought from the common well to thatch-covered homes for washing. Cooking was done over an open fire. Young children played shaded from the tropical sun by lushly growing plants, as parents prepared for the day's work. This was the village life Narayana Guru was born into in 1854 in the village of Chempazhanthy in the then princely state of Travancore, now the Indian state of Kerala. Much of this life seems idyllic in its simplicity. Lines of separation and strictures of behavior, however, impinged on most human activity. Some people were privileged and powerful, while many were relegated to poverty, oppressed and degraded. Both of these conditions were the heritage of Narayana Guru - the abundance and simplicity of nature and the crippling rigidity of social traditions.
After childhood, after studies of religious classics with local teachers, and after companionship with other questing young men, Narayana Guru entered a new period. He had quietly left the family home and expectations of a normal social life. Now he often retreated into solitude, composing hymns and poems. There was a deepening introversion as the phenomenal world was attended to less and less. Finally the young man went alone into the forest at the southern tip of India in a cave high on Marutvamalai hill. There he sank into contemplation both agonizing and intoxicating, which the biography documents through the Guru's own words and through stories from those who glimpsed him in the wilds and those who listened to him as he gradually emerged from this white heat of inner transformation.
Now, in the beginning half of the twenty-first century, how can we understand Narayana Guru's life? Can someone born in such a different world have anything to teach us? In the last century and a half so much in our world has altered irrevocably: we are able to fly to anywhere on the planet in hours; global communication is instantaneous. At the same time humans are causing a change in climate that threatens our very existence. All this seems far from the south Indian village of Narayana Guru.
Underneath these surface variances, however, there is a persistent stream of continuity linking us to the Guru. We still misunderstand ourselves. We project our fears and problems on to others. We love and hate, we are jealous. We hoard, then throw away objects that glitter in our mind's eye. Fora portion of people extravagant material comfort is a daily fact, while others live in suffocating poverty. Yet deep in our silence we can feel the pulse of an existence that animates and unites us with all. This is where Narayana Guru's insights - that arose out of his concentrated, searching contemplation - speak directly to modern people. How do we understand the relation between the particularities of our own lives and the larger universe? How do we find our path in the midst of difficulty? Are we isolated individuals or cogs in an impersonal order? The Guru's works address these questions that continue to arise throughout history. His writings and the metaphors he uses may seem antique to us, but each work uses a method of direct evaluation, a pairing of polarities, and a dialectic synthesis that can unravel our contemporary challenges.
In this current biography by Nancy Yeilding the specifics of Narayana Guru's life have been collected from original source material and through interviews with those who knew him and those who heard stories first-hand. Each section focuses on an important aspect of the Guru's life and teachings: his early upbringing, the social influences, and the early propensities to study, to social reserve and to compassion. In each chapter the Guru's life is used as a springboard to understanding his philosophy.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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