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Our Guiding Lights – aKarma Life

Our Guiding Lights

Our Inspirations

Our Guiding Lights

We have been touched immensely not just by the knowledge of our teachers, but also the way they lived their life.

We catch a glimpse of their art of living in many of their life moments..in the fast that Acharya Lakshmana Sarma took on towards the end of his life, on the village floors on which Ganesa Sarma taught the divine science to the commons, in the guaranteed smile on the face of a child who visited Padma Patti, in the quest for perfection Balakrishnan Aiya held in his eyes and heart, in the 4 am headstand of Arun Sharma ji..

It's a long list and here we would like to capture a slice of life of our beloved teachers.

Their work was their life and their life was their message. And it is that message that has brought us together to bow to them in deep gratitude and continue the work of being students of Nature.

Credits: Smt Meenakshi Ammal on Arunachala Samudra

Sri Lakshmana Sarma believed that for man to attain the highest level of perfection and happiness of which he is capable, culture and civilization are necessary and in so far as they serve this end, they are good and praiseworthy. It is when a culture degenerates that the right life values are lost and man loses character or integrity as well as the happiness which comes from doing naturally what is appropriate.    He believed that Culture has its foundations in the Supreme Spirit and though beyond the world, is the source of man himself. When there is an intimate connection with the Source, then culture is truly culture, not some hollow pretense that seemingly feeds man's spirit. The axiom that Being is the Original Source is the theme of all the Upanishads and of the teachings of all the sages, the Perfect Ones, who have lived and maintained the ancient tradition of culture.

[1]     He thought that the essence of culture was character, which is best cultivated through spirituality, and that it was for us to learn how to pursue spirituality successfully by the guidance of great world teachers and sages, who have attained egolessness. The constructive culture necessary for the attainment of the right ends of life could be facilitated by the encouragement of proper conduct, unselfish devotion and a genuine quest for what is real.

Lakshmana Sarma dedicated his long and varied life to this quest for culture and civilisation by harmonising the teachings of his Sadguru, Sri Ramana Maharshi, to those of The Life Natural, which was the dynamic vision and application of his philosophy and the teachings of the Upanishads and Gita.

He was born in 1879, to to Sri Krishnaswamy Iyer and Smt. Thulasi Iyer[8] at Pudukkottai, Tamil Nadu in the same year as Bhagavan Ramana. Throughout his childhood he was the weakest and sickliest of four brothers in the family. It was coincidental his bad health as a child helped to develop his interest in Nature Cure which allowed him to eventually reach the ripe and vigorous age of 86.     As a boy he studied at the local Intermediate College at Pudukkottai, where he showed an early interest and aptitude for Sanksrit. Later on, his studies sent him first to Tiruchchirappalli, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts, and thereafter to Madras where he completed a Law Degree.

Lakshmana Sarma worked as a civil lawyer for the Government and eventually served in Pudukkottai, the official Receiver State. At the same time he was also an active and courageous social reformer. He was committed to the Freedom Movement and discarded wearing all foreign cloth and took up the wearing of khadi in 1918. Even though he knew it would cost him his job as a Government employee, in 1920 he presided over a public meeting against the autocracy of the ruler of Pudukkottai.    In response to Mahatma Gandhi's call, Sarma gave up his lucrative legal practice, withdrew his children from Government schools and admitted them into a national gurukulam.

Had it not been for the sudden death of Subrahmanya Aiyar, who as well as being a great revolutionary and a close associate of Sri V.D. Savarkar was also the head of the Bharadwaja Gurukulam, Lakshmana Sarma would probably have ended up with a career as an educationist. It was after Aiyar's death that his concern to propagate the ideas of Nature Cure led Sarma to move, with his wife Nagamma and children, to Pondicherry where he had immediate access to a printing press for getting his books on Nature Cure printed.

He lived at Pondicherry from 1920-1925. It was from there that he continued to develop and promote his involvement in Nature Cure and began regular visits to his Guru, Sri Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai.

He viewed that  that Ramana did not teach the metaphysical truths of the Vedantas simply for their own sake, but they had an intrinsic value as aids for the understanding and practice of the Quest. It was the Quest itself that was the means of solving problems, because it was the direct path to the natural state, wherein problems would be resolved through harmony with one Self.

Sarma spent more than twenty years in close association with Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, and during that time made a deep study of his teachings. "Once, some time after this writer came into the Holy presence, the Bhagavan asked him: "Have you not read the Ulladu Narpadu?" The writer replied: "No, I am unable to understand the Tamil." The fact was that he was altogether unfamiliar with classical Tamil. But then it occurred to him that here was a golden opportunity. So he said: "If the Bhagavan teaches me, I shall learn it". So the Bhagavan began to teach him. The pupil needed to proceed slowly, one verse at a time, and to make sure of not forgetting the meanings learnt, he composed verses in Sanskrit embodying the meaning of each verse, before going on to the next. And to make sure that the meanings have been faithfully rendered by the Sanksrit verses, he submitted each verse to the Bhagavan for scrutiny and approval. If the approval was not forthcoming, he recast the verse as often as was necessary until the approval was obtained. In this way all the verses were gone through and rendered into Sanksrit." [4]

Sarma went on revising his Sanskrit numerous times until he was satisfied that it conformed exactly to the Tamil original. Sri Bhagavan appreciated his sincere efforts and once remarked that it was like a great tapas for him to go on revising his translation so many times. Sarma eventually published the final version of his Sanskrit verse rendering (which included a rendering of the supplement, Ulladu Narpadu - Anubandham) under the title Sri Ramana Hridayam, together with a translation of the same in English prose.    Lakshmana Sarma was committed to maintaining the purity and integrity of Sri Bhagavan's teachings.

In 1931, after reading a certain book which purported to be a commentary on Sri Bhagavan's Ulladu Narpadu, but which gave a very distorted interpretation, he approached Sri Bhagavan asking, "If your teachings are misinterpreted like this in your lifetime, what will become of them in the future?" to which Sri Bhagavan replied, "According to the purity of the antar-karana [the ‘inner organ' or mind], the same teaching reflects in different ways.  If you think you can write a better commentary, you may write your own".  [5]     These words prompted Sarma to write his commentary on Ulladu Narpadu in Tamil (first published in 1936) and his book Maha Yoga in English (first published in 1937), in both of which he encapsulated the understanding of Ulladu Narpadu that he had gained from the detailed explanations he received from Sri Bhagavan. "In later years Sri Bhagavan once remarked that of all the commentaries on Ulladu Narpadu which then existed, Lakshmana Sarma's Tamil commentary was the best." [6]

Maha Yoga, which is one of Sarma's most lucid works, is an insightful exposition of Bhagavan's teachings and an eloquent, original summary of Vedantic philosophy and the Upanishads.  Besides this, Sarma also rendered selected verses from Muruganar's Guru Vachaka Kovai into both Sanskrit and English under the title Guru Ramana Vachanamala.

During the years Muruganar and Lakshmana developed a close friendship in which they helped each other augment their philosophical understanding of Bhagavan's teachings. Muruganar visited Puddukottai on many occasions and from the mid 30's whenever Lakshmana Sarma visited Arunachala, while his family members stayed at the Ashram or lodgings, he himself would live at Palakottu with his close friend, Muruganar. It was during those years that Muruganar instructed Laksmana Sarma in classical Tamil so that he was better equipped to understand and translate the teachings of Sri Bhagavan.

Lakshmana Sarma was a regular contributor to The Call Divine, a Bombay monthly magazine published in the 1950's, dedicated to the works and teachings of Sri Bhagavan. It was in this magazine that Sarma's last published work, the Paravidya Upanishad appeared in monthly instalments in the mid 1950's.

Lakshmana Sarma took meticulous care with his writings and repeatedly revised his translations as he was working on a manuscript. The care that he exhibited also continued after writing and when he completed one of his works, he would, with his own hands, bind the manuscript into a neat volume. Until the manuscript went to press he would read and re-read it many times making corrections and alterations wherever needed.

Some of his Sanksrit works were composed as many as thirteen times, each time in a different meter.    As well as writing expositions of Bhagavan's teachings, being a loyal freedom fighter, engaged in sadhana, and fulfilling his role as householder, Lakshmana Sarma also devoted his life to Nature Cure. This science, which has its origin in the scriptures of India, fell into general neglect and obscurity until its rebirth in Germany during the 19th Century.

It was Lakshmana Sarma who discovered its Indian origin and reintroduced Nature Cure to India. He believed that the science of Nature Cure to be liberating as it sought to restore to people the independence and blessings lost due to ignorance. ".

His belief was that Nature Cure proceeded on the principle of non-violence and thus was harmonious with the laws of health.  "From our sacred lore we learn that Nature (prakriti) is just the Divine Power that creates, sustains, destroys and recreates the universe. She is immanent in all creatures and maintains them in health so long as they do not seriously transgress Her laws, which are the laws of God, because She is not separate from God. So it must be understood that this blessed science is a Divine Science, and that God Himself is the Indwelling Healer in all creatures, and also the Teacher of this True Science." [8]

Lakshmana Sarma founded The Indian Institute of Natural Therapeutics, was founder of Sarma's Nature-Cure Sanatorium, founder-editor of The Life Natural,  [9] the only English Nature Cure monthly journal published in India, and also author of Practical Nature Cure.

As well as his writings on Nature Cure, Sarma, who was renowned as a foremost authority, also conducted training camps and travelled the country giving consultations.    Maurice Frydman, the Polish devotee of Ramana who later compiled the series of talks with Nisargadatta Maharaj entitled "I Am That", was a friend of Lakshmana Sarma. Frydman was closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian Freedom Struggle.

In 1942, Vallabhai Patel, one of the principal leaders of the Freedom Struggle, became seriously ill while staying at Gandhi's Ashram at Wardha. For some months Gandhi himself tried unsuccessfully to treat Patel with Nature Cure methods, but Patel's health continued to fail. Maurice Frydman recommended to Gandhi, his friend Lakshmana Sarma, as an authority on Nature Cure. Sarma subsequently took the case on, and Patel's health quickly improved.

Lakshmana Sarma's life was always conducted with courage, enthusiasm and a tireless energy. At the advanced age of eighty, he started and completed a monumental treatise in Sanskrit verse on Vedanta, entitled Vedanta Saram. Even at the age of eighty-five he spent some twelve to sixteen hours reading and writing and rarely missed his two-mile morning and evening walks.

Some two years before his death speaking to his friend Brij Mohan Lal, Sarma admitted: " . . . I have finished my work in this life. Then why should I drag on? It is better for me to have a new start and this cannot come in the present life." [10]

Step by step, he completed his work. He re-wrote the whole of his magnum opus, Practical Nature Cure, which comprised 720 pages and also completed two monumental works in Sanskrit verse, the above-mentioned Vedanta Saram and Svadhena-Svasthya-Mahavidya. [11]  After completing those works he neatly bound the manuscripts by hand and submitted them for publication.

He then said that he definitely had nothing further to do and would like to shed his mortal body. There was no remorse only a sense of spiritual consummation and he calmly started preparing himself for the inevitable.    His work was over and the will to live disappeared.

From then on his decline started and he no longer took any interest in the world around him and old age finally began to make its appearance.    Sometime towards the end of February 1965, he stopped eating cereal food. A month later he stopped all solid food and was subsisting on juices alone. Steadily he reduced the quantity of juice and thirteen days before the end he stopped all juice, taking only water.

The day before his death he only had a few spoonfuls of Ganga water. The end came at 6.50 a.m. on May 3, 1965.    "Those who believe in the influence of the positions of the stars and planets of human destiny say that it is difficult to find a more auspicious combination of circumstances. The sun was moving towards the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana), the Moon waxing, the time was just after daybreak and the preceding star was Krittika. Each of these circumstances, they say, has an auspicious significance." [12]    Thus ended the long and blessed life of Lakshmana Sarma. A man who died in much the same way as he lived, with auspicious graciousness.

Smt.Padma Swaminathan, fondly called Padma Paatti (grandma) was our eldest volunteer at age 102. We were extremely blessed to share time and space with her.

This is an attempt to recount her inspiring life based on a couple of articles in newsletters from Brindhavan Hill View (where she stayed) and Ramana ashram in Tiruvannamalai which she considered home.

Padma was born on December 1, 1917 at Tiruchi, a small town in South India, to Sri.F.G.Natesa Iyer and Smt.Rajarajeswari.

Her father, a freedom fighter, was also fond of arts and established a space in Trichy (that still stands today) to promote meaningful entertainment. He himself was quite talented and earned the title “Father of Modern Tamil Drama”. He discovered many everyday people with talent and shone the spotlight on them. M.S.Subbulakshmi, the nightingale of Indian classical music, had a concert hosted by him when she was just 11 years old. Being of the same age, little Padma became lifelong friends with her.

Spirituality was the backbone of the family and trips to Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai were looked forward to. She first came to Ramana Maharishi in 1925 as a 7-year-old girl. And she recalls a vivid experience.

“In the dining hall, I sat opposite Bhagavan. By chance when I lifted my head, I saw that he was looking directly and intently at me. I started to feel shy as his gaze fell steadily upon me. Once my glance was locked on his, I did not lower my gaze. Time passed. All the others had gotten up and gone out of the dining hall. My hand had dried up completely. Yet neither of us moved from our seats. He was still sitting there and looking at me and I became conscious of this only later when Bhagavan shifted his gaze and got up. How can I explain this?”

As was normal in those times, she was married at age 18. Her husband Swaminathan was a man of values and their meaningful partnership was a long one that lasted 72 years. They had six children.

The family lived mostly in Mumbai. Her husband, a progressive thinker and freedom fighter, stood by her wholeheartedly when she wanted to pursue education and music.

She became a student of Nature Cure when her younger sister got married to Ganesa Sharma, a revolutionary Nature Cure educator. She also learnt from Ganesa Sharma’s father, Acharya Lakshmana Sharma of Pudukottai, considered the father of Nature Cure in India and the author of the magnum opus “Practical Nature Cure”.

She also shared forward her knowledge of Nature Cure. It was lived wisdom and came effortlessly to her. Whenever a student came to her for an autograph, she would write the core tenets of Nature Cure before signing off.

She joined the Central College of Carnatic Music in Chennai in 1955 and secured the Sangeetha Vidvan degree. In addition to Carnatic classical music, she learnt Hindustani music in 1958 and Rabindra music in 1963. She was excellent as a vocalist and a Veena player. For more than 40 years, she was a performer for All India Radio.

She trained all her children in fine arts, dance, and music. Her growing family had a renowned dancer, a famous playback singer and a classical violinist as daughters in-law.

When INA of Subash Chandra Bose opened a unit in Chennai, she was selected to lead a corps of 200 women. During the freedom struggle, her husband Swaminthan was imprisoned in the Multan Jail. Naturally, she donated her jewels for the cause, started spinning the charka and wearing khadi, a lifelong habit. In 1948, with a heavy heart, she carried the ashes of Gandhiji for immersion.

In April 1950, two days before Ramana Maharishi moved on, she would come home to him for what would be her last darshan. Two days later in Chennai, something prompted her to look up at the nighttime sky and she beheld a shooting star, large and luminous, that arched across the sky. And she knew.

Her quest for learning and sharing never sagged. She was an active leader of Indian Congress Conference held in Chennai (Avadi) in 1955. She and her elder daughter appeared for the examination together and she came out, with flying colors. At age 50, Padma, already a grandmother, got her B.A Degree from SNDT University,Bombay.

She read passages from Ramana Maharishi’s works and wrote a journal every day. She had also handcrafted designs for a dedicated Nature Cure Education space.

Many participants who come for Nature Cure camps would come by to talk to her and leave the room, a little more inspired. This is a conversation recalled by Britman, the Tech volunteer at aKarma Life.

“Padma Paatti: What is your Name ?
Me : Britman
She : Oh, Christian …?
Me : Yes..
She : I Love Jesus Christ. I love him so much..Do you love him ?
I was speechless. Seeking love from god is normal but here she was.. “

When she turned 101, a slight lack of clarity in her speech set in and sometimes, she would meander. She remained in good health otherwise. At age 102, her hair was dark, her vision was great and so was her memory. She insisted on washing her own clothes every day. Her blessing heart was as wide as her smile. Her eyes shone as bright as they could. Her hands were ready to give out a gift any moment.

On the night of August 14th 2019, the passing away of her body was effortless, conscious and predictable. With her 2 sons and a trusted helper near her, clad in a Khadi saree, her entire body was relaxed and face, serene as her eyes stood still. On August 15th, which happens to be India’s independence day, her body turned to ashes midst chants of Arunachala Siva..

In the tradition of the microcosm merging with the macrocosm, these ashes merged with river Bhavani in her long journey to the ocean.

She continues to flow with us. Thank you Padma Paatti, for shining your light so bright.

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Sri Ganesa Sarma was born on a Ramanavami day on April 14th in April in the year 1916. He is the 5th son of (the Father of Nature Cure in India) Acharya K. Lakshmana Sarma.

Late Sri L. Ganesa Sarma has taught Nature Cure to an immensely large number of people.  His style was to take it to the commons through filed camps. He did not distringuish between villagers and urbanites, ladies and men. He believed that a revolution in the kitchen is the true revolution. He organized weekend courses that ran for 6 months so working professionals can learn Nature Cure. And that's how Balakrishnan Aiya, one of our mentors, became a Nature Cure expert.

He was always willing to travel if it was for the purpose of educating people on Naure Cure. He came in Coimbatore to 1976 which was attended by more than 100 people. He was an expert at teaching things practically and simply.

His taught practitioners in the field including Sri S Swaminathan (New Delhi), Sri CR Verma (Kerala), Dr; Babu Joseph who was the President of All India Nature Cure Association, and a great number of other practitioners who in turn spread the holy message of Natural Health all over the world.

Sri Ganesa Sarma has introduced the non crisis diet plan which saved so many people to continue in Nature Cure instead of running away to medical systems when a crisis comes as a healing process. In his plan there is a safe and easy transition from ill health to health without a crisis.

He has authored some of the very valued books on health which include Eating for Health and The Tona (Enema) among others. His lectures were juicy and filled with anecdotes and stories teaching us wisdom of our indigenous system of health - Nature Cure.

There was once an epidemic of Malaria in Delhi. While a majority of people were scared about the onset of the epidemic and took antibiotics shots to protect themselves from malaria germs. Whereas there were thousands of Nature Cure followers who were safe and did not get any problems even when they did not take any of the medicines prescribed by medicos either as a preventive measure or as a curative measure. There was a newspaper reporter who interviewed my father and asked him as to what guidelines did he give to his followers to save themselves from or cure  Malaria?

My father (Sri L Ganesa Sarma) said that we keep our 'Mal Area' clean meaning that if we make sure that we ensure that there is a timely and effective elimination of wastes from their body, they can be assured that they do not have sick or dead cells in their body. They are thus safe from any epidemic.

His demos in class included how to eat water with saliva how to peel a banana with maximum nutrients, cooking 5 types of rotis, Sattvik Massage and many more,

He was an avid photographer and had various interests. Many people even think that he was instrumental in making tender coconut water so popular again in Tamil Nadu!

The services of Ganesa Sarma are beyond words and he is fondly remembered every time we eat salads!

The rough cut of a short movie about him in Tamil can be seen here

Aiya as he was fondly known, Balakrishnan was a teacher's teacher. He was a teacher by profession and a teacher by nature. He just loved  teaching. And he always made sure what he taught was understood. A deep compassion masked his strict demeanor in his classes where everyone felt like a KG student. And when he shared a joke or sang a song, the cracks in that strict veil were revealed a gentle  caring heart that nurtured his keen intellect.

His own Nature Cure journey started when he had an intense (typhoid) fever and happened to read the Life Natural magazine brought out by Acharya Lakshmana Sarma.  He was stuck by this one line "What is not food for the healthy, can not be medicine for the unhealthy." He also read about fasting in the same article.

Being a native of Periyanayackampalayam near Coimbatore, coconut groves were not far off. He went home with a bunch of tender coconuts and rested. A few days later, he was feeling normal. He was shocked. He started wondering about the mechanism that cured him.

It was then that he came across a month long part-time course by Ganesa Sarma with full day practical course on weekends. He joined and benefitted immensely by the knowledge. Being a foodie, he started experimenting with various household recipes like Idli and Upma and thought of ways to make them aligned to this new science.

He read a variety of books on the subject of Nature Cure and could quote the different masters fluently. He also dug up old Tamil literature and started finding Nature Cure knowledge in works like Thiru Mandhiram and Thirukkural. That is when things started shifted in him about this science being above science, along the lines of mystery that Einstein talked about.

He was still not convinced about his readiness but a family situation would test that inertia. His nephew, who had gotten engaged to be married, has facial paralysis which the doctors declared irreversible. The wedding was about to be canceled when Aiya asked the families for some time and started his nephew on a Nature Cure way of life including subtle foods in ample quantities. In 45 days, his nephew's facial muscles regained their function and the wedding happened as planned.

This gave him confidence to give talks on Nature Cure and he started helping more people. He also did one day and weekend courses. In Trichy, he started doing a 10 day course every summer. Ananth, one of our core volunteers. attended one such course and came back with the conviction that this way of life is worth sharing. Aiya was already connected to Arabindh, a friend of Ananth. The seeds for aKarma Life were sown. Soon many of us took the course under him organized in Coimbatore and that led to many more courses. He could hold the attention of 100 participants for 6 hours/day for 7 days. Or he could teach just 4 people. The intensity and details were the same.

His courses included a detailed session on metabolism and many details about nutrition.
When he taught Unity Theory, his eyes sparkled even more.

Being a foodie, he created awesome recipes like Sattvik Idli that we enjoy till date.
Many of the cooked food recipes on our website bear his signature.

And he continued to offer many many courses with this group of volunteers even when he was past 80.
He passed away at age 83 in 2020.

Some of the quotes/phrases became signatures of Aiya because he believed in these deeply.

"Mental health precedes physical health.",

"Whatever I teach, even a layman must understand",

"Go deep within, Realise and Integrate the truth, Spread the fragrance."

We recall him when his Nature Cure quotes ring in our ears. We recall him when making Vendai Poriyal (Okra dry vegetable) fondly standing in the kitchen instructing us how to make it without oil. We recall his prayer that he started every day with. And the blessings he shared at the end of every course to every participant individually. And the gratitude that always made him remember his spiritual guru and Ganesa Sarma before every single session is something we would like to carry forward.

Dr. Arun Sharma is the Founder Director of the International Institute of Mahayoga & Natural Hygiene (IMANAH), USA. He has obtained his doctorate in Natural Hygiene from the Indian Institute of Natural Therapeutics.

He has conducted many training courses,
seminars, National Conferences, and workshops spreading the message of good health through natural means. This has helped a large number of people return to health through the practical application of timeless laws of nature.

As the son of Ganesa Sarma and grandson of Acharya Lakshmana Sarma, Nature Cure runs in his DNA. It is a delight to observe him in camps as he goes through 4 am, 9 am, 1 pm and 8 pm with equal enthusiasm.

He can be seen arranging footwear outside the dining hall in hot sun when no body is looking. And he can be seen talking to construction laborers about perils of tobacco, nudging them gently to give it up.

For so many people, he is the mentor who keeps giving unconditionally.

We are blessed to have him as a father figure in our Nature Cure journey.

You can read more about his camps and teaching methodology in our blogs.