SAIVISM in Kashmir, as distinct from Southern Shaivism, synthesizes essential things that are to be found in almost all the six systems of Indian philosophy and stamps it with the personal experiences and observations of its exponents.
Right from the founder of Shaiva system, Vasugupta who, as revealed to him in a dream, found SIVASUTRAS, (he later authored), inscribed on a rock called SHANKER PAL (Shankar's rock) in the forest in the lap of the sacred Mahadev mountain, through Kallata Bhatt, Somananada, Utpaladeva and that profound thinker, Abhinavgupta, down to Swami Ramji and Swami Lakshman Joo, in our own times, an attempt, and a successful one at that, has been made at intelligent synthesis of all that is abiding, universal and enduring in VEDANTA, SANKHYA, NYAYA, VAISHESHIKA, VAISHNAVA and SHAKTA and even in Buddhist teachings.
Little wonder, therefore, Kashmir Shaivism has attracted the attention of many eminent thinkers and scholars who consider it more synthetic and profound than all the other known works on religious philosophies of the world. And for this no small credit goes to Rajanaka Lakshmana (Swami Ishwara Swarupji), popularly called Lakshman Joo whose exposition of the Saiva texts was backed by his personal experiences and, therefore, went home to the scholars and students coming from all parts of India and the world. We were fortunate to have had an advanced Yogi like him walking and moving amongst us as a living vibrating Truth.
It is only when you met him, as I did for an interview in 1971, that you would feel his irresistible charm emanating from that sweet child-like innocence which hid from our naked eye his spiritual and philosophic attainments. As a man, he was upright, humble and very generous. Hundreds and thousands flocked to him for succor and he was not found wanting in this respect. Many an afflicted found solace in his presence.
Swami Lakshman Joo was born on 9th May, 1907 (Vaisakha Krishna Dwadasi), Thursday, at 4 p.m., in Srinagar, Kashmir. His father, Shri Narayandas Raina, the first man to have introduced house-boats in Kashmir, and his mother, Shrimati Aranyamali, were greatly devoted to Swami Ramji, who was their family GURU and who had by then become their Spiritual teacher also. Swami Ramji was the greatest exponent of SHAIVA-AGAMA and he was also a Siddha Purusha. Many stories are current about his Siddhis. It is said that he had only to look at or touch a person and he was bound to be a changed man. Shri Narayandas had built a separate house for him where he could carry out his Sadhana and teach the Saiva texts to his pupils. This is now known as Rama-Trika-Saivashrama, located in Fatehkadal, not far from the ancestral home of Swami Lakshman Joo.
As soon as the news of the birth of Swamiji was conveyed to Swami Ram, he literally danced in joy and exclaimed: ''I am called Rama, let the child be called Lakshman". How prophetic Swami Ram was! Subsequent events proved that Swami Lakshman Joo was to Swami Ram what Vivekananda was to Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
Lakshman Joo did show his leanings towards the higher life in early childhood. At the age of three, his play consisted in making a Shiva-linga out of clay for worship. At five, he would sit down for meditation and in this condition, he would exhibit signs of abnormal behavior which worried his parents. They approached Swami Ram who said, 'This boy was a great Yogi in his past life. His Yoga
would be consummated in this life". Lakshman Ji's childhood was spent under the spiritual care of this great sage, Swami Ram who taught him the Japa of Gayatri Mantra and also certain Yogic exercises according to the Saiva discipline. Before Swami Ram took Mahasamadhi, he entrusted his disciples and the seven-year-old Lakshman to the charge of his principal disciple, Mahtab Kak who later taught Saiva Sastras to Swamiji.
In school also, Swamiji used to go into Samadhi now and then. One of his inquisitive teachers once asked him what he noticed in the state of absorption, to which he replied in Kashmiri that he experienced "BADA BODA", the highest, the supreme. Yet another teacher asked him to do physical exercises. Instead, Lakshman collected a group of students and sang Bhajans. Enraged, the teacher inflicted 25 cane strokes on him for defiance. Next day, it is said, the teacher fell ill and had fever exactly for twenty- five days.
At 13, his parents thought of arranging his matrimony (as was the custom those days of marrying quite early). But Lakshman's reply in the negative was firm and emphatic. When he was in pre-matriculation, his father fell ill and he was asked to look after his business. He had to give up his studies. As he was now free from the routine work of the school, he devoted most of his time to the study of the Saiva Sastras from Mahtab Kak. He devoted even greater time to the practice of Yoga, for he did not want to confine himself only to the theoretical part of the Saiva system. He used to practice Yoga from two in the night to dawn.
It was at the age of 20, as he told me, that he had the experience of self-realization for the first time. And the time was 4 a.m. (Brahma Muhurat). After this, he used to go into Samadhi even while he was in his workshop. He now lost all interest in business, for which he was reprimanded by his father. Inner struggle ensued and finally the call of the Spirit proved to be irresistible. He bowed to the Inner Monitor, as it were, and left home with only a lion's skin for sitting. A search for him followed but without success. His brothers, however, found on a piece of paper the following note left behind by the boy Lakshman: "My dear brothers, I am leaving in search of the Supreme. Kindly take care of my parents". After frantic telegrams and telephonic messages and even report to the police about the missing boy, his father received the following message from a relative in Sopore:" This morning I saw Lakshman going on foot to Sadhuganga Ashram". The parents rushed to Sopore where they found the boy seated on the lion's skin in deep meditation near a spring in a jungle. When he returned to normal consciousness, he told his parents that he could no more live in the home. His father promised to build for him an Ashram in an unfrequented place in Srinagar itself.
Lakshman Joo, meanwhile, lived in a village, Danyahama in Harvan, near Srinagar. Four months later, his Ashram was completed and he moved into it. It was here that Lakshman Joo made deeper study of Saiva Sastras from the reputed scholar, Maheshwar Nath Razdan, for seven long years. It was at this time, Sharika Devi, daughter of Shri Jialal, approached Lakshman Joo to accept her as- his pupil. She practiced Yoga under his guidance and she was lucky to have self-realization in a few year's time. Overwhelmed by her experience, she lost mental balance for a few years when she had to be moved to her parent's house. Again, it was Lakshman Joo who went to see her, gave her a grape to eat, and then she started improving and in due course, she regained her normal condition. Lakshman Joo also initiated Prabha Ji, the younger sister of Sharika Devi.
In 1934, Lakshman Joo built an Ashram for himself on a site between Nishat and Shalimar Gardens. It was named Isvara Ashram. Sharika Ji's father also built a house for her on a plot of land nearby. While Nature has bestowed picturesqueness on the Ashram, the peace and harmony radiated from the one who hallowed it by his presence, Swami Lakshman Joo.
Swami Lakshman Joo left his mortal frame and merged into the Supreme, Shiva, on 27th of September, Thursday, at Brahma Muhurat. The great master of Kashmir Shaivism that he was, he has taught us that Param Shiva or Supreme Reality is both static and dynamic. The dynamic aspect of Param Shiva is known as Shakti and the entire manifestation is a play of his Shakti. The world is not an illusion as held by Vedanta but an epiphany, an expression of the Divine Shakti. For the average man, the best means for ascent in the spiritual path is to find out a competent Guru whose Grace will lead the aspirant to the Supreme Bliss. And Swamiji has summed it up thus in his own poetic form:
There is a point twixt sleep and waking,
Where thou shalt be alert without shaking:
Enter into the new world where forms so hideous pass,
They are passing, - endure, do not be taken by the dross.
Then the pulls and the pushes about the throttle,
All those shalt thou tolerate,
Close all ingress and egress; - yawnings there may be;
Shed tears-crave-implore, but thou wilt not prostrate,
A 'thrill' passes, - and that goes down to the bottom;
It riseth, may it bloom forth, - that is BLISS;
Blessed being, Blessed being, - O'Greetings be to Thee.