Yogaswami of Columbuthurai, Jaffna, Sri LankaI first heard of Yogaswami from my family. He was the guru for many of my family members and many were the stories of their encounters with this white haired and long bearded master. In fact some members of my family were even named by him. They all spoke lovingly of him, revering him as a source of wisdom, love and guidance in their lives. Yogaswami is also the guru to my guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.

Visiting his place of residence was high on my list during my visit to Jaffna. I headed out with an auto rickshaw one afternoon to Columbuthurai and very soon we pulled up in front of a walled compound. Entering through the gates onto a sandy front yard I saw two concrete room structures. The one on the right I was told was where Yogaswami lived for most of his life. It was previously a thatched hut and now rebuilt into a concrete structure. Here he lived for years, meeting with countless devotees of all religions that sought his guidance.

The concrete structure on the left was another room that was built to house Yogaswami after he had a hip injury in the final years of his life. It was in this room that he attained Maha Samadhi, a yogi’s final conscious exist from his body. I made my way first into the room that was his residence. One was side there was a shrine to him where a lamp was kept lit. The rest of the room was empty except for a large painting of Yogaswami meditating.

Yogaswami of Columbuthurai, Jaffna.What an extremely powerful place. I sat to meditate enjoying the absolute stillness that seem to pervade the room. “Summa Iru!” was one of Yogaswami’s great sayings. It’s in the Tamil language and the word “summa” has no equivalent in any European language and ‘iru’ is the verb ‘to be’. That said the phrase can loosely be translated to “just be”.

Despite the brutal civil war that lasted 26-years this place has been well maintained by a group of loving devotees. Many of them like the people in this region are in dire need of aid.

For those of you who are not familiar with Yogaswami and would like to read more about him, here are some articles that have been written by some of his direct disciples.

Yoga Swami the Image-Breaker by Sam Wickramasinghe

Yoga Swami: The Sage of Lanka by Santhaswami (Viscount Lord Soulbury)

Homage to Yogaswami by Susunaga Weeraperuma 1970


View Larger Map. Yogaswami’s former residence highlighted in the map above.

Yogaswami's mahasamadhi shrine and former home in Columbuthurai, Jaffna.

Yogaswami's mahasamadhi shrine (left) and former home (right) in Columbuthurai, Jaffna.

A shrine to Yogaswami built within his former residence.

A shrine to Yogaswami built within his former residence.

 A large painting of Yogaswami

A large painting of Yogaswami in deep meditation sits to a side of the room.

Yogaswami mahasamadhi shrine

The adjecent structure to his former residence. Here Yogaswami spent the last few years of his life. His bed was where the photo is now. This is the room where he attained maha samadhi.

Yogaswami's veshti

This is Yogaswami's veshti. A veshti is a traditional men's garment that is a long rectangular piece of unstitched cloth that is wrapped around the waist. This was presented to me by my grandaunt for safe keeping. This veshti was worn by Yogaswami and has been in the family since his passing. It has the initials 'YS' stitched onto it.

 

This being the first trip in this life to Jaffna, I was keen to visit my ancestral home. So with my great grandfather’s home address in hand, a dear friend by my side and the sweetest auto-rickshaw driver at the helm we headed out one morning in search of my ancestral home.

Fortunately, his home is located in a well known area and after some asking around we were finally directed to our destination. After my great grandparents passing the house has been abandoned. All the family fled the land during the civil war, the house was left unattended to and now is in dire need of work.

It was a special experience to be there. My mother spent some years growing up here and so did many of my relatives. My guru’s guru, Yogaswami also often visited my great grandfather in this home and chatted with him here. Yogaswami was his guru and that of some of my relatives. It is always special to have an enlightened master visit your home. Yogaswami, I was told, would often drop by unannounced on his long walks, barefooted, around Jaffna. From here, it is off to Yogaswami’s home in Columbuthurai.

View of the home from the road. The small gate on the right leads to the house and the larger gate to the garden and land behind.

View of the home from the road. The small gate on the right leads to the house and the larger gate to the garden and land behind.

Standing at the front of the home with Mrs.Kanagaratnam of Subramuniya Kottam.

Standing at the front of the home with Mrs.Kanagaratnam of Subramuniya Kottam.

View of the back.

View of the back.

The well on the property has water and is used by the caretaker for various purposes.

The well on the property has water and is used by the caretaker for various purposes.

 

Jaffna has played home to my ancestors for as long as my family can remember and it is also home to my family’s guru lineage. I have never had the privilege to visit this land. Sadly, it has been ravaged by 28 years of civil war and it was not until 2009 that this war ended allowing people like myself to visit in a safe way.

I will share in the blog posts to come my experiences in tracing family and spiritual roots and the many surprising and wonderful things that I discovered along the way with regards to this, my encounters with people who have so much to give even after having lost everything in the war, smiling orphans, courageous elders with hope in their eyes and God in their hearts, and a land soaked with spirituality.

Jaffna, is truly home to me, if not on paper then in heart and soul.

Standing in front of the Shanti Lingam Temple in Koppay, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Standing in front of the Shanti Lingam Temple in Kopay, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

The Shanti Lingam temple was built by Rishi Thondunathan and his parents and is part of Subramuniya Kottam in Kopay (located approximately 4 km from the town of Jaffna). My guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami gifted and personally installed the Siva Lingam in the sanctum of this temple. This small colorful temple has a strong peaceful vibration to it and is surrounded by trees in a village setting.

 

Today I visited the home of my teacher’s teacher, Sage Yogaswami of Colombuthurai, Jaffna. Yogaswami is the guru of my guru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Here are two photos. One of me standing in front of Yogaswami’s residence. It used to be a hut now reconstructed into a concrete structure. The photo below that shows the humble room of his disciple, Markanduswami. More on this when I get back but I was inspired to share these photos with you now.

Yogaswami residence in Colombothurai, Jaffna

The residence of Markanduswami, Jaffna, Sri Lanka

 

I’ve been enjoying my days here in Sri Lanka and here are few photos I’ve taken in the first four days.

Elephant bathing in river

Driving around in a village area one day we came across an elephant fast asleep in a river. The perfect way to cool off on a hot afternoon. Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

Monks in Sri Lanka

Buddhist monks gather outside the Temple of Tooth in Kandy.

lily flowers

Offerings of flowers are made ready for pilgrims to purchase outside Buddhist temples.

bird

A piece of dried fruit is breakfast today for this feathered local.

Sigiriya art work

Beautiful murals grace part of the magnificent rock at Sigiriya. Unfortunately only 9 paintings remain at this almost 1,500 year old site.

rickshaw red

A young man washes his Ferrari red auto rickshaw, taking great pride in keeping bright and clean for his passengers.

A gorgeous sunset as the sun makes its way over the rolling tea filled hills of Kandy, Sri Lanka.

A gorgeous sunset as the sun makes its way over the rolling tea filled hills of Kandy, Sri Lanka.

 
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We checked into our beautiful resort. It’s tucked away in a village, almost hidden away on the shores of India’s longest lake.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A lot of the hotel is built in the old Kerala style homes giving it an old world charm. Everyone loves it and are happy settle down here for the next few days and dive into their study and practice of meditation.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A lot of the locals travel by boat on the backwaters.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We take a little cruise and Mandy is enjoying the backwaters.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Each morning we gather for a guided meditation.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The setting is perfect. As the sun rises we go within in meditation seated right on the shores of Lake Vembanad.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

katherine from New York.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

The group enjoys each others company and we have lunch and dinner together every day.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We also have classes in the morning.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

We explore the subconscious and ways to clear unresolved emotional experiences.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Anne from Connecticut.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Chris from San Diego.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

A variety of birds can been seen from the resort.
Vedic Odyssey takes a group on a meditation retreat to Kerala, South India

Another gorgeous sunrise over the lake.