The concept of 'Sishyapoojitha’ in Santhigiri Ashram is unique in the Guru-Sishya lineages in the world. Guru had assured the ‘parampara’ that a spiritually enlightened soul will always guide it as the ‘Gurusthaneeya’ (Guru Apparent). This assurance of Guru has been actualized through Sishyapoojitha Janani Amritha Jnana Thapaswini, the spiritual successor of Guru. Guru is manifesting His will and guidance through the Sishyapoojitha. Many devotees with the gift of vision have seen Guru speaking through Her. She is the greatest spiritual gift from Guru to the world.
Sishyapoojitha Janani had an early initiation into a life of dedication, sacrifice and utmost devotion to Guru. She was only a child when she first met Guru along with her parents in 1972, at the Santhigiri branch ashram at Kallar in Idukki district of Kerala. By the age of nine years, she shifted permanently to the Santhigiri Ashram at Pothencode, never to look back on the life that she had left behind.
Born as the eldest daughter of four children to Sri Chellappan Pillai and Smt. Ratnamma at Pattam Colony, Kallar, she was named Radha by her parents. Though she looked like any ordinary child, she used to have spiritual experiences in the form of ‘visions’ from the early days.
Once, as a seven-year-old, she was cleaning a lamp at home. As she cleared the ashes, she could see through the window the mango tree in the compound of the house. Slowly, a golden form began to manifest in a bright white light near the tree. It was the form of Lord Murugan, the deity worshipped by Radha’s family. As the girl stood transfixed, staring at the golden form, it spoke: “Brahmam nischayam anusariche oru guruvine kittum” (As per the Will of Brahmam, you will get a Guru). Not knowing what ‘Brahmam’ was, the child asked her grandfather about this. The grandfather, who used to tell her religious stories, explained that ‘Brahmam’ meant ‘Daivam’ (God).
Radha had seen Guru also in visions before actually meeting Him. Thus, when she first met Guru, she had no difficulty in recognizing Him although Guru was standing with three or four other people clad alike in white clothes. She ran up to Guru and prostrated before Him.
Soon after meeting Guru, the child saw in visions the different incarnations of Guru. She also started perceiving accurately about the people visiting Guru, their family background, ancestral history and worship patterns.
In the Sishyapoojitha’s own words: “Guru is a symbol of love. In my memory, even from the age of seven, the (one) which has been identified as the symbol of love or realization of God or the mission of ‘Brahman’ (Almighty) is seen to be travelling in clean white and bright attire, moving and praying as if the entire world were like that. I have realized that knowledge emanates from that bright figure which I had experienced from the age of seven. Experience is the realization of the bright rays of God. A witness for the experience is the person who has experienced it”.
In another vision that she had after meeting Guru, the child saw poet-saint Kabirdas, the subtle form of Prophet Mohammed and Sri Krishna in the form of a sanyasi. They all told her about the greatness of Guru.“This is the true way,” she was informed by Sant Kabirdas. In her visions, the child could see the Guru’s father also.
Once, at the Kallar ashram, the curious child asked Guru whom He was praying to. Listening to the question, Guru just smiled. On a later occasion, Guru told her, “God will show you who I am, my child.”
Prompted by an inner light, Radha expressed a desire to live in the Ashram at Pothencode. A small thatched hut and a handful of people constituted the ‘ashram’ at that time. There was no cot even for Guru to lie on and all the inmates slept on coconut leaves. On some days, the child would sleep next to the cattle in the small dairy.
Such were the tough times faced by the inmates that on some days there would not be sufficient food for them. On those days, after all the food was taken from the cooking vessels, hot water would be poured into them. The residue stuck on the sides of the vessels, dissolved in the hot water, would be the only food Radha and some others would have. Undeterred by such problems, the child continued to stay at the Ashram.
Remembering those days, the Sishyapoojitha however says that she never felt that she was undergoing hardships. So great was the desire in the child to gain knowledge from Guru that even the thorns of life felt as soft flowers.
Though she never complained to Guru about the lack of facilities or the comforts of a prosperous home that she had left behind, the Guru knew the deprivations being faced by the small child. Coming from an area where every house boasted of orange orchards, the little girl was fond of fruits. Whenever someone brought fruits for the Guru, He would distribute them to the visitors. However, he would not forget the child from Kallar. If there were extra fruits, He would keep them for her. If not, Guru would peel the apples and save the skin of the fruit to give to Radha when she returned from school!
Thus, Radha completed her education while staying at the Ashram. Throughout this time, her inner life was rich in spiritual experiences. “I was an ignorant child when I came to Guru, unversed in the ‘Vedas’ or the ‘Upanishads’. But, by the time I was 11 years, I had been shown in visions the entire knowledge of the universe,” says Sishyapoojitha Janani.
Even as a child, she knew that she had some work ordained for her by God. With this awareness she concentrated totally on Guru. In 1984, she received ‘sanyasam’ from Guru and was named as Janani Amritha Jnana Thapaswini. She lived like the shadow of Guru, carrying out the spiritual work given to her by Guru and attending to His well being.
The Sishyapoojitha’s path was strewn with great difficulties, sacrifices and ordeals. There was a time when almost everyone around, including her parents, had got distanced from her. However, she stood through all this unmoved and unshaken in her devotion to Guru and the great task for which, she knew, she was born. With single-minded determination, spirit of self-sacrifice and courage, the disciple evolved to inherit the greatest legacy of Guru, as destined.
After the Guru’s merger in ‘Adisankalpam’ in May, 1999, the Janani went through indescribable experiences to evolve rapidly to the highest spiritual levels. Though earlier also she had borne great discomfort in the process of spiritual evolution, so excruciating was the pain in the latter phases of spiritual escalation that it seemed that life itself would be plucked from her body. At those moments, Janani had hundreds and thousands of visions showing the events of the past and future ‘yugas’.
February 22nd, 2001, marked Janani’s spiritual attainment. She then got elevated as ‘Sishyapoojitha’, the most venerated among the Guru’s disciples -- the spiritual head of the Santhigiri Parampara, carrying out the Will of Guru in the world.
Through her life of unflinching self-sacrifice, dedication and devotion to the Divine Purpose, Sishyapoojitha Janani has risen to the glorious heights of knowledge and attainment possible only through a ‘Guru-Sishya’ relationship; and in doing so, has set an example for the world to take up the Divine Path - ‘Guru Margam’ – the Path of Guru.