Swami Sri Gnanananda Giri (Nia-na-nan-da) is believed to be born in the early 8th century. He is the Chief Disciple of Sri Sivaratna Giri Swamigal and also one of the Peetathipathis(leader) of the Jyothir Matam, one of the four Matams established by Adi Sankarar. This Lineage of Peetathipathis is also commonly known as the 'Giri'Paramparai as seen from the Peetathipathis' name which ends with 'Giri'. As a young child, Gnanananda lived the life of an ascetic. Gnanananda is a Mahayogi, Siddha Purusha, Himalayan sage and Indian philosopher. He believed in Advaita Vedanta because he was lineage of Peetam. Swami Gnanananda Giri had a number of disciples including Swami Vidyananda Giri, Swami Triveni Giri and Swami Dasagiri. At one point of time, he gave sanyasa to Swami Haridhos Giri, who was with him for many years. of Adi Shankara. He travelled around the world to spread the teaching of Advaita Vedanta.
Birth and childhood
The Birth of Swami Gnianananda Giri is not clearly known but his birth date is celebrated each year on the birth star of Kritika in the Tamil month of Thai, (January). He is also believed to be born in the village Mangalapuri in North Kanara District of Karnataka to an orthodox Brahmin couple, Venkoba Ganapati and SriMathi Sakku Bai. Gnanananda was named Subramanyam at birth, and left his home at a very early age.
Sivaratna Giri accepted Subramanyam as his disciple and named him Pragnana Brahmachari. Gnanananda followed his guru, Sivaratna Giri, like a shadow and showed great love in serving him. When Gnanananda was thirty-nine years old, Sivaratna Giri indicated his intention to "leave his mortal frame" to his disciples.
Sivaratna Giri initiated Gnanananda in the traditional manner into the Giri order of Jyotir Mutt and gave him the monastic name of Sri Gnanananda Giri. Sivaratna Giri died at age eighty-one on the full moon day in the month of Chitra. The anniversary of this event is still observed with respect in every ashrams of Sri Swami Gnanananda Giri.
Tapas in Himalayas
Gnananda spent many years at the sacred spot of Gangotri and icy caves of the Himalayas in intense tapas. He travelled extensively on foot, spanning the whole India and Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka and Malaya. He met many holy men over the course of his pilgrimage.
Teaching and establishment of ashrams
Gnanananda returned to India and established an ashram at Attayampatti in Salem and then at Siddhalingamadam near Villupuram. The most famous ashram named Sri Gnanananda Tapovanam is situated two miles away from Tirukkoyilur. Gnanananda built temples for the deities of Gnanaganesa, Gnanaskandan, Gananapurisa, Gnanambika, Mahalaksmi, Gnana Venugopala, Gnana Bhairavar and Gnana AnjaneyanShiva in Tapovanam. Another ashram was constructed in Yercaud, a hill station near Salem. It was called "Pranavanilayam". This was a retreat for contemplatives. Swami Gnanananda Giri wanted to develop it as a center for comparative religion. In contrast to Tapovanam, no rituals were permitted in Yercaud. The central emphasis was on meditation and dhyana.
Swami Gnanananda Giri was well-versed in the Advaita Vedanta. He taught a number of paths based on the aptitude of his disciples. Therefore some of disciples are conversant in the Jnana Marga while others are karma margis and still others follow Bhakti Marga. Some of his disciples are conversant in the philosophy of Shankara and Kant. Swami Vidyananda Giri, his senior-most monastic disciple, was a profound scholar and linguist and brought out Tamil translations of Shankara's commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. He also made available Tamil versions of famous Advaitic texts like Sanatsujatiyam. He trained a wide range of followers in Advaitic Nidhidhyasana. Another of his lineage, Swami Satyananda Giri was associated with Franklin Merrell Wolff and taught his method of Introceptive Knowledge. He had written several books on the philosophy and history of India.
There is a traditional way of praying by chanting in all ashrams except Yercaud. Here, as we saw, external worship is banned. In Pranavanilayam, there are pictures of Sri Swami Gnanananda, Buddha, Sri Viveknanda, the sacred heart of Jesus and a picture of Mecca. Devotees and monks there devote their time to do research and meditate. You can still see these ashrams in India. These ashrams carry forward Gnanananda Giri Swami's message.
Mass Spreading of importance of Nama Sankeertanam
Swami Gnanananda Giri realised that the path of Vichara and Nidhidhyasana was confined to a few philosophically advanced aspirants. For devotees at a lesser level, he advocated stuti, japa and nama sankirtan. Swamji is well versed in all the modes of Bhajana Sampradaya and he very firmly held that Hari Bhajana for ordinary devotees was the easiest way to attain "Moksha". He had chosen Haridas Giri propagated the importance of Namasankeetanam.
Swami Gnianananda Giri had given Sanyasa to Hari, son of Nat Anna Rao, who later became known as Swami Haridhos Giri being initiated in Sanyasa. Swami Haridhos Giri carried his Guru's(Swami Gnianananda Giri) Paadhuka with him to all the holy places he went to. He also visited many holy places with his Guru Paadhuka to propagate the importance of NamaSankeerthanam(Singing God's praises) which was instructed by his guru, Swami Gnianananda Giri. As part of spreading the cult of Namasankeerthanam, Swami Haridhos Giri established Mandalis and Samajams in various countries to encourage people to be engaged in activities that promote Namasankeerthanam and charitable activities. These Samajams are all over the world such as Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore in India and other countries like Malaysia, Singapore, US, London, and much more.
- Master of bhajana sampradaya/Online edition of India's National Newspaper/3 Sep 2004 – 6th lineage of the Peetam|http://www.hindu.com/fr/2004/09/03/stories/2004090302630500.htm -
- Sadguru Gnanananda, his life, personality, and teachings/T. M. P. Mahadevan – 1979 – page 7
- Sadguru Gnanananda, his life, personality, and teachings/T. M. P. Mahadevan – 1979 – page 6
- Sadguru Gnanananda, his life, personality, and teachings/T. M. P. Mahadevan – 1979 – page 8
- Sadguru Gnanananda, his life, personality, and teachings/T. M. P. Mahadevan – 1979 – 363 pages
- Sadguru Gnanananda, his life, personality, and teachings/T. M. P. Mahadevan – 1979 – page 17
- Sadguru Gnanananda, his life, personality, and teachings/T. M. P. Mahadevan – 1979 – 89–90 pages
- Hindu.com – Resonant voice of Haridas Giri/Online edition of India's National Newspaper/28 Jan 2005 -http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/fr/2005/01/28/stories/2005012802060300.htm -