By Dr.P.K.Sabu

Astanga Marga / Eightfold Path

About Dr.P.K.Sabu

Dr.P.K.Sabu / Narayana Gurukula

Dr.P.K.Sabu is a retired Professor of Geology, College of Engineering, Trivandrum, Govt. of Kerala. He has authored a popular science book 'Nanotechnology' in Malayalam. Dr.Sabu is involved in publishing numerous articles on Narayana Guru and translating the 'Psychology of Darsanamala', an elaborate commentary on 'Darsanamala' (Narayana Guru's philosophical work in Sanskrit by Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati), based on lectures given in University of California.

Sree Narayana Guru


June 20, 2019 is a very auspicious day in the history of Independent India. It is on this day the Honorable President of India quoted Narayana Guru while addressing the opening joint parliament session of the second Narendra Modi government. The lines quoted by the honorable President was few simple words of Narayana Guru in Malayalam. Must be as a gesture of an extreme noble intention, the President quoted the words in Malayalam itself. Its English translation read:

Devoid of dividing walls
Of caste and race
Or hatred of rival faith,
We all live here
In Brotherhood.
Such, know this place to be!
This Model Foundation!

Astanga Marga / Guru Narayana Lokam

Narayana Guru chanted these words after idolating Siva in a village called Aruvippuram, near Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. It was in 1888. Now, after a century, the words proclaimed from the temple of a remote village in the southern tip of India has resounded and resonated in the sanctum sanctorum of Indian Democracy.

After quoting Narayana Guru, the President declared that these words will be the motto of his Government to move India forward in the modern world. It is in this declaration, not just in the quote, lies the auspiciousness of this event, which can even be cited as somewhat unique in the history of 'Independent' India, to the extent of saying that the independency of India has attained a new dimension by this declaration. As any declaration from the Indian Parliament has an inherent tone of proclamation to the world, the Narayana Guru declaration can be read as a proclamation announcing that India is not just an Independent nation in ordinary sense, it is 'in'-dependent too. In-dependency is not only the liberation from foreign rule, it is also having indigenous wisdom as a basis to develop ideas, ideologies, norms and policies for governance and development. The quote ends with "this model foundation" and these words have the impetus to build a model India founded on India's ancient wisdom, revalued and restated in modern philosophical and scientific tone by Narayana Guru.

Sree Narayana Guru


Life and teachings of Narayana Guru have ample scope to develop an indigenous modernity. A humble suggestion is given below as a guideline to elaborate the Presidential declaration further along eight specific domains and move forward towards the goal of building an in-dependent model nation based on such an indigenous but universal modernity.


To begin with, let us go back to 1922 and trace the words of a former President of India. In his book on 'Indian Philosophy', Dr.S.Radhakrishnan wrote: "Indian thought is a chapter of the history of human mind, full of vital meaning for us. The ideas of great thinkers are never obsolete. They animate the progress that seems to kill them. The most ancient fancies sometimes startle us by their strikingly modern character, for insight does not depend on modernity".
Daivadasakam / Guru Narayana Lokam
Daivadasakam / Sree Narayana Lokam

Advaita Vedanta is considered as the finest fruits in the tree of Indian wisdom. Narayana Guru is a rishi in the lineage of that tradition. As a modern seer he revalued and restated the old wisdom in a global frame, in tune with the temper of modern science. From among his disciples, Nataraja Guru became the leading interpreter of his wisdom and was awarded a D.Lit. degree by Sorbonne University, France in 1932. Using the philosophy of Narayana Guru as a foundation, Nataraja Guru united eastern and western outlooks within a universal and profound scheme. Along the lines of Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Greek philosophy, dialectical thinking is at the heart of his philosophy. A balance between physics and metaphysics is struck in it which is fully in accordance with the ancient Indian thought. In modern terminology, this is 'Unitive Philosophy' and is a most appropriate philosophical treatise for modern India. To build a super-structure of progress and development, a strong philosophical foundation is inevitable and 'Unitive Philosophy' has the merit to serve that purpose.


Life in ancient India was regulated by code of conducts known as smritis. Smritis are scriptures that give detailed instructions on prohibitions and directives in life. These scriptures are also known as dharma sastras or scriptures of righteousness. Among this category of ancient Indian literature, Manu-Smriti is well known. It is also well known that certain directives of Manu-Smriti are outdated and do not befit the dignity of modern life. Considering these negative directives alone, this scripture have been subjected to ridicule in modern India. But a smriti text which suits the new age did not come up.

Instead of finding fault with or ridiculing the wisdom of own land, Narayana Guru took a middle path of accepting those ideas which are in conformity with the dignity of human life in modern time and correcting and rejecting those which are not befitting the present. He translated five verses of Manu-Smriti (V:45-49), dealing with ahimsa (non-hurting) into Malayalam. At the same time his position on jati, which was justified in scriptures like Manu-Smriti, was something like an avatar whose purpose of incarnation was to annihilate caste system altogether. By filling the lacuna that remained between the ancient smriti text and the want of a modern one, Narayana Guru dictated one such to his disciples in 1924. This text is published under the titles of Sree Narayana Dharma and Narayana Smitih.

Narayana Smritih is divided in to ten cantos. The second canto deals with oneness of jati, oneness of faith or religion and oneness of God. General nature of dharma is explained in canto three. Duties related to each stage of life is elaborated in subsequent cantos. Like yoga, which had an origin in Indian soil but universal in nature, Narayana Smriti also is not confined to any particular faith, though it has its roots in the wisdom tradition of India.
Dr.P.K.Sabu / Narayana Gurukula

Verse 50 elucidates this universality with crystal clear clarity: "Muslims, Christians, Jainas, Budhists and others too-all strive constantly to attain oneness alone."

There are, of course, certain rituals mentioned in this Smriti. But in the Smriti itself Narayana Guru has clarified that these rituals are open for amendments and even rejection according to change in time, space and personal attitudes. Barring these rituals, the content of Narayana Smriti is of general nature and has all the qualities to be accepted as a modern doctrine for India.


The proof of the pudding is in its taste; Narayana Guru's role in the annihilation of caste system is evident from the comparatively negligible caste related evils in Kerala, when compared with many other states of India. Jati or caste system, a curse of Indian polity as well as social and spiritual life of India has the confluence of at least three channels - the varna concept of Manu Smriti, origination of the word 'caste' with the Portuguese who came to India and the British colonial census of 1901, where jatis were grouped under varna categories.

In addition to the clarifications on oneness of jati given in Narayana Smriti, Guru composed two works laying the foundation for a philosophical and scientific basis to establish the meaninglessness of Jati. These works are Jati Nirnayam (A Critique of Jati) and Jati Laksanam (Jati Defined). The full text of Jati Nirnayam is given below (Source:'Narayana Guru-Complete Works'; National Book Trust, India).

Humanity marks out, Of what species humans are.
Even as bovinity Does with cows.

Brahminhood and such Do not do in this case.
No one does realize, alas! This apparent truth.

Of one kind, one faith, one God is man;
Of one womb, of one form Difference is none.

Within a species, does it not, Offspring truly breed?
The human species, thus seen, To a single species belongs.

Of the human species Is a Brahmin born As is a Pariah too.
Where is caste difference, then, Amongst the human species?

Astanga Marga / Guru Narayana Lokam

Of a Pariah woman was born the great sage Parasara in bygone days.
And even the sage who Condensed the Vedic secrets Into great aphorisms,
Was born of the daughter Of a fisherman.

Species-wise, does one find, When considered,
Any difference between man and man?
Is it not that Difference exists apparently Only individual-wise?

In Jati Laksanam, Narayana Guru define Jati as "all that mate together and beget offspring belong to one species." Thus we find in Narayana Guru's works an amendment of Manu Smriti and a deconstruction of the colonial 'contribution' of linking jati with varna. The way and methodology Guru adopted to annihilate caste is very significant. He did not resort to any exotic idea for it; instead he made a wonder just by reinstating the original meaning of the Sanskrit word Jati. It is species or kind and so the entire humanity is of one jati.

Giving awareness on Guru's concept of Jati to the public will be a powerful tool to annihilate the impact of caste from Indian society.


Narayana Guru made a unique contribution to religious harmony by stating the philosophical aspects of faith and convening an All Religion Conference (probably the first of its kind in Asia and second in the world) to chalk out means to convince people about the inherent oneness of all faiths. In his philosophical work Atmopadesa Satakam (One Hundred Verses of Self-Instruction), Guru says: "Unaware of the fact that the essential teaching of various religion is one and the same, the ignorant, like the blind men who saw an elephant, meander in this world putting forth many arguments but reaching nowhere". This philosophical standpoint is further elaborated in the section dealing with oneness of faith in Narayana Smriti.

The All Religion Conference was held at Advaita Asrama, Aluva, in central Kerala in March 1924. See the reason for convening such a conference, as given in the welcome speech: "All over the planet earth, we see a sublime restlessness as though it is poised at the moment of an epochal change." A remedy or, more correctly, the only remedy also was suggested in the welcome speech. After suggesting that every individual should be free to chose the religion for themselves, "after examining and understanding the worth of different religions", the method to implement this suggestion also had been outlined: "But we need to provide them the facility to exercise their choice with discretion. Institutions should be set up for all for the study of all religions and specialists in each religion should be appointed to teach the specific principles of spirituality and means of liberation as revealed by each particular religion. The Guru Narayana has been of this opinion for a very long time, but had been waiting for an appropriate occasion to make this public."

Now, as a follow up of the declaration on Narayana Guru, it is for the Govt. of India to consider this suggestion in a serious manner as a remedial measure to end the conflicts based on religious issues.


No one can question the role of economic growth in progress and development of individuals and nations. It is even absurd to deny this fact. But, does it mean that the only index, norm and aim of development is economic growth? A comparison between two indices of development of two international agencies helps to find an answer. World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) measure development in terms of economic growth, using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the index. For United Nations (UN), the index is Human Development Index (HDI). In the Human development Report published by UN in 1996, development is defined as "human development" and consider "economic progress as the means of development only". A very interesting contradiction is the disparity in position of the same country in the ranking of these two agencies. A country above ten in one 'rank list' can be seen lying below hundred in the other list. So the question of choosing a particular index as the master norm of development arises.

Countries like Australia, Bhutan and Canada have already developed indices of development according to their tradition and outlook of life.
Dr.P.K.Sabu / Narayana Gurukula

It is high time for India to think of such an indigenous index of development, at least for two reasons. India has a unique wisdom tradition which includes the philosophy of Yoga also. To convince the world that Indian life is the manifestation of this wisdom, we need a unique index of development conformable with this tradition. Using GDP alone as an index (as mentioned earlier using GDP as a means and as an end are different) is not just unconformable, it is also almost diametrically opposite to the Indian tradition. Secondly, India was a victim of imperialism and the dominant driving force of imperialism was economic progress of imperialist nations. So there lies a contradiction in adopting the imperialist's notion of development by a victim nation.

Narayana Guru's basic stance was that, unlike the western notion, there is no separation between material and spiritual aspects of life; life should be viewed as a holistic one. Accordingly, Guru had an integrated concept of development. How this concept can be developed in to an economic theory and how an index evolves from this theory are outlined in "Towards A One World Economics", a book authored by Nataraja Guru. This guideline has the competence to form as a nucleus to develop a modern indigenous norm of development.


Who started the first skill based and job oriented education program in India? The common notion is that it is the "Wardha Program" initiated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1937. But Narayana Guru started such an education scheme in Sivagiri Mutt in 1921 itself and Gandhi might be aware of it when he visited Guru in 1925. In addition to this project, Narayana Guru started two schools for formal education. One school had Sanskrit as the medium and the other with English. A careful scrutiny of Narayana Guru's concept of education reveals that the selection of these two languages are not just accidental, but reflection of the two domains of life; Sanskrit represent the spiritual or philosophical aspects of life and English the material or physical progress. This approach is founded in the wisdom of India and envisages a balanced life incorporating the best of Material West and Contemplative East.
Dr.P.K.Sabu / Narayana Gurukula

Nataraja Guru elaborated Narayana Guru's vision of education and presented it in an academic format to the Sorbonne University, France and a D.Lit. degree was awarded to this thesis in 1932. This work is later published in book form under the title "World Education Manifesto" and included as one section in the book "Experiencing One World", published by DK Print World, New Delhi. This educational philosophy is an assimilation of ancient Upanishadic tradition and modern pragmatic education.

This manifesto too form a suitable guide line to revamp the educational system of India. Moreover we find similarities between the content of this manifesto and certain recommendations of the University Education Commission appointed by Govt. of India in 1948 under the chairmanship of Dr.S.Radhakrishnan.


Environmental awareness and ecological concerns started in West during 1960s only. Half a century before the environmental movement of West gathered momentum, Narayana Guru instructed one of his disciples the following:
Dr.P.K.Sabu / Narayana Gurukula

"It would be a good thing to tell them about the excessive greed of human beings. Don't you think that the animal called man is worse than the rest of the animals in this respect? The desires of animals in the forest are safely controlled, by natural instinct, from all abnormal excesses.The animals have no exaggerated needs like man. Man trots about the earth as a veritable demon of destruction. As he marches he leaves behind him a trail of devastation. He cuts down the trees and blasts and bleeds in to paleness the green beauty of Nature for the sake of the plantations and smoky towns and factories which his unbridled desires necessitate.

It would not have mattered so much if the effect of man's misdeeds struck its blow only at mankind. But the innocent monkeys and birds in the forest have to forfeit their peaceful life because of man. The rest of Nature would be thankful if, in the process of self destruction, man would have the good sense to destroy himself if he must, alone, leaving the rest of creation at least to the peace which is its birthright." ('The Word of the Guru' - Page 12-13).

These words are again the manifestation of the wisdom tradition of India and is a valuable matrix to make environmental policies of a model India.


Nature created the world of human inhabitation as a single globe and man fragmented it in to different worlds. Technological advancement has shrunk the globe in to a global village. Still the problems due to sectarian views are worsening the existing problems and creating new issues, posing threat to the peaceful coexistence of people of diverse belief systems and multicultural background. The only organization which has mandate, at least in principle, to look at the world as a single entity and interfere in global affairs is United Nations. For an effective management of global affairs, UN require an all inclusive philosophical base to transcend all diversities and inculcate an awareness of one world among the member nations.
Dr.P.K.Sabu / Narayana Gurukula

Here also Narayana Guru comes for our rescue by offering his philosophy of Oneness. Out of this Oneness concept, Nataraja Guru developed a branch of knowledge known as Geo Dialectics to solve global political issues. This guideline is published under the title 'Memorandum on World Government'. India has already proved that she has the will and capacity to convince the world about the power of Yoga as a global remedy for many issues at individual domain, and to attain inner peace. Now, having been proved the universality of Indian Philosophy, it is India alone can present the method for world peace through her age old wisdom, revalued in modern time by Narayana Guru and redefined as a political script of geo dialectics.

Sree Narayana Guru


The quote of the President, referred in the beginning, ends with "This Model Foundation". This model foundation envisioned by Narayana Guru is not confined to any geographic barriers, it has a global connotation. In developmental literature, a term "Kerala Model" had been coined for a hitherto unknown social order and this peculiarity have been noted by international experts of development. The role of Narayana Guru in evolving this model is accepted by those who made a scrutiny of the factors behind this unique social order. Now this 'model' concept can be implemented to the whole India by adopting suitable policies based on the vision of the Guru and further this vision can be brought to the attention of the world through UN to build a model world.

The number 'Eight' has a significant place in the wisdom tradition of India. It was Lord Buddha who suggested an astanga-marga (Eightfold Path) for liberation from sufferings. G.Sankara Kurup, one of the reputed poets of Malayalam referred Narayana Guru as "Second Buddha" and here we have a similar path shown by the 'Second Buddha' to liberate the modern world from sufferings originating from various causes.

Sree Narayana Guru

Note: Contact the author through phone no: +91 94478 63335 or email to Dr.P.K.Sabu (

Sree Narayana Guru

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