The pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swami, said of Poondi Swami, “If we are all light bulbs, Sri Poondi Swami is the transmitter. These bulbs do not light up until the transmitter is switched on.” Sometimes we switch off the lights or a bulb goes out, but the transmitter is still there. And Poondi Swami’s job is like the transmitter: it works, it is still working. A transmitter never fails. He is the transmitter who never fails.
Sri Poondi Swami: The Transmitter Who Never Fails
“Sri Poondi Swami was first seen around 1935 in a village called Kalasapakkam, about twenty miles from Tiruvannamalai in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. When he first revealed himself to public gaze, he had assumed the mien of a mad person. With his gait and well-built physique he appeared to the villagers to be a retired military man. He stayed first in the Kakkamgalai Pilliar temple and then in a dilapidated mosque by the side of the road. Later he stayed in the Draupadi temple and under trees by the roadside. He used to wear a long shirt like a garment reaching below his knees and would never remove it even when it became torn and bedraggled. If someone gave him another shirt, he would not remove the old shirt but wear the new one over the old. His shirt pockets would be filled to bursting with old, empty cigarette packets, cigarette stubs, and old scraps of paper which he had stuffed into them. He would never ask anyone for anything – even food or water. If anyone offered him food they would have to feed him as they would a child; he would never feed himself. If someone put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it, he would smoke. He never talked to anyone on his own. As he never bathed, his body would be dirty and his hair matted with grime. Flies would be swarming over him, attracted by the grime and dirt, but he would never bother about them. If he started to walk, he would keep walking for miles together without stopping to rest. If once he sat down, it would be days or weeks or maybe even months before an impulse made him start up again. Once he got up, he would move off and go where his fancy took him. Nobody could predict when he would sit still or move, or where he would be at any time. Nobody knew his antecedents, his parents, or where he came from. None knew his caste or creed or even his name. No one ever heard him take the name of God or speak of spiritual matters.
At first, the people of Kalasapakkam dismissed him as just another madman. It took a miracle to show them that he was not a madman but a great mahatma who had assumed the form of a madman for his own mysterious purposes. A river named the Cheyyar flows by the side of Kalasapakkam. It is a seasonal river which flows whenever it rains in the nearby hills, but remains dry the rest of the time. The Swami used to sit in the sand of the riverbed which was burning hot in the fierce heat of the Indian summer. It used to be very difficult to walk across the riverbed because the burning sand seared your feet like a coal fire. But the Swami used to sit on the sand with no covering whatsoever, as if he were lolling on a silken mattress under the cool light of the full moon.
It was normal for the river to have flash floods whenever the surrounding hills got a heavy rain shower. Once, when the Swami was sitting on the river bed, a flash flood occurred. All those who saw him sitting on the river bed thought he must have been swept away and drowned in the flood. Once the flood had ebbed, the villagers rushed to the spot where they had last seen the Swami. To their amazement they saw him still alive, buried up to his neck in the sand. They dug him out and the Swami walked away calmly as if nothing extraordinary had happened. When the villagers saw that the Swami was still alive after being submerged in the flood for so long, they realised he must be a great mahatma and not merely an ordinary man. The Swami became famous in the surrounding areas and they started calling him “Artragal Swami” or “River Swami” (artra in Tamil means “river”). He roamed hither and thither near the village of Poondi until, around 1960, he sat down on the raised porch of a house by the side of the road. He never left that porch again for eighteen years until he attained mahasamadhi in 1978. The Swami was the personification of the ajagarabhava or the immobile, passive state, as defined in the yogasastras”.
From: Example of a Perfect Saint: Sri Poondi Swami by Sri Babuji (Orig. Telugu article in Saipatham magazine for Jan/Feb 1988)
Poondi Swami simply appeared one day. When he used to walk, he would walk and walk, about one month without stopping anywhere: all around Kalasapakkam, Poondi, and the Cheyyar river. He’d be simply walking day and night, day and night walking. And if at all, from some external impetus – we do not know, it is not recorded – he had to sit, he sat, that’s all. He used to sit in the same place for months and months together. And if, for some reason, he was prompted to get up, then he would get up and walk, walk, walk, and walk, that’s all.
Poondi Swami's love was so much that he had no other object: he was the object. And he simply sat, totally focused. He had not even the need to move out, even one step. He was just like a mirror. For example, if a photographer had fear and approached him timidly, then that same expression would come on Swami’s face, simply that. He was always like a mirror. Immediately his expression would change with the next man who came. If the man talked in a friendly, intimate manner, then Swami would also talk in a friendly, easy way with him. Whatever he expressed was not his expression, but that of the man who received it: he himself had no expression at all – he was so transparent!
Poondi Swami never took food with his hands. If he was not fed, he would simply sit there – somebody would have to feed him. If you put something in his mouth he would eat it. Not only this or that much, but however much – even if a hundred people brought food and fed him – he would eat it. What happened to all that food, we do not know. If you put anything in his hand, he would keep it there, and then somebody would have to come and take it, then throw it away. If you put a cigarette between his lips, and then lit it, he would smoke. If you only put it in his hand, then he would keep it there; he wouldn’t smoke it. And he used to answer his calls of nature there itself; then somebody had to come and clean it. If nobody gave him food, even for months, he would go without it, just like that – he never begged for food. He is absolutely the symbol of someone who doesn’t need anything. He was totally free of all needs, including even his physical needs.
Poondi Swami's love was expressed by giving whatever the people who asked him needed. If someone asked for health, he gave it; if someone came for spiritual experience, he gave it; if it was for total fulfilment – he gave it, and if it was for children, he gave it. Everything. Whatever anyone needed and asked for, he gave it with love.