Swami Ramalingam, popularly known as Vallalar, the Great Munificent, may be regarded as the foremost of the saints and sages of the nineteenth Century, considering the heights, widths, depths and intimates of his integral realization of the Divine in all the “inmost, inner, outer and the outermost parts of his being”. He was a yogi who put before the people deathlessness of body as an essential part of the realization of the one blissful Divine, a saint whose very soul-stuff was made of infinite love and compassion, a sage of truth-consciousness who possessed the divine knowledge and science of deathlessness of body and attained its deathless transformation along with the self – creative power of creating all substances of whatever kind including bodily substances, a born Tamil-poet of divine inspiration who could destinguish the various levels of inspiration and who received in silence the ” Word of Truth and Grace from the Cit–Shakti of Grace in the transcendence of Cit Sabha, the transcendent and universal world of Truth–Consciousness ” . Besides, he was a critic, writer and commentator and also had knowledge in occultism, alchemy, astrology and medicine particularly in the nutritional and medical values of herbs and leaves. He was a musician too with a keen musical taste for lyrical songs and he composed lyrics to express, in an easier and popular style, his highest and sublime realization of the Divine, particularly that of Truth – Consciousness (Satya Jnana).
Of the six volumes of “Arutpa” the poems of divine inspiration, the last volume is unparalleled in spiritual history as it gives expression to his realization of the vast world of Truth knowledge and the Beyond, and touches on subjects like transformation and deathlessness of body. If any sort of comparison has to be made at all or even for its own proper understanding, it can be done only with reference to the vast and infinitely detailed spiritual and yoga literature which Sri Aurobindo has fortunately and gracefully left us behind.
The Swami was the one who affirmed openly and clearly in an unmistakable language the deathlessness of his body, which he attained by the power of what he called “Arut Perum Jothi” the Vast Grace-Light of the Divine which he identified as the Truth–Light of knowledge, Satya Jnana Jothi. In the last decade of his life he started first in 1865 an association of spiritual fellowship called “Samarasa Suddha Sanmarga Satya Sangam“, the association for the path of purity, truth, the right and harmony, opened in 1867 a Dharmashala at Vadalur for the feeding of the poor and the hungry, inviting the people to express to their fellow-beings and creatures compassion which is the grace of one’s soul for meriting the Greater Grace of the Divine for His realization; and lastly founded at Vadalur, 40 miles off Pondicherry, in the significant year 1872 a symbolic shrine of worship called “Satya Jnana” Sabha:, the sanctum of Truth-knowledge respect of the universal coming of the God of Vast Grace–Light who was about to manifest, requesting the people to receive Him and His rule on earth in all joy and enthusiasm. In this shrine the diffused light of a lamp is worshipped as the divinely sanctioned and blessed symbol of the divine Light of Truth-knowledge or Truth-Consciousness. He even wrote to suggest that this lamp of light, which is kept behind seven coloured screens of cloth representing the seven veils of Ignorance, might be lit up in the shrine until the God of Vast Grace-Light becomes manifest on the earth with His siddhis or miracles such as the changing of the aged into Youth and re-awakening of the dead into bodily life; these siddhis are indications of His mainfestation.
Swami Ramalingam was born in 1823 in Marudur near Chidambaram in a Hindu Saivaite family as the fifth child and last son of his father Ramayya Pillai and mother Chinnammayyar who had borne him in her womb after she received vibhuthi the sacred ash of blessings from an unknown guest of honour, a Siva Yogi who blessed her with a son like himself. Ramalingam was conscious of his birth not merely at the time of birth but even during all the processes that culminated in fertilization, as he wrote to say in “Peru Vinnappam” that the emanations of his soul took active part in the formation of the sperm-cell of his formal father and of the egg-cell of his formal mother with the divine inner light of protection for keeping up the divine qualities of his soul and good physique
In the fifth month of its age, the child, as was the custom, was taken by the parents to the Chidambaram temple where it broke into mirthful laughter before the deity of Nataraja during the formalities of worship. In front of the adjacent sanctorum called “Chidambara Rahasyam” signifying according to popular notion the vacant sunya or void, the child sensed infinity, which is expressed by the Swami in one of his songs (Arulvillakkamalai – Stz.44)
His divinity came to be recognized by the devotees in his early age of eleven years when he began to visit the Shiva shrine at Tiruvottiyur, a suburb of Madras, where he sang impromptu devotional hymns and songs in praise of the one Divine, the impersonal Person of Formless–Form, in the forms of Shiva and the goddess Uma. Even in these early songs we meet with his intense and fiery aspiration for the Grace-World of Truth-knowledge (Arul Veli) and for deathlessness of body. These songs also touch on his aspiration for spiritual life, purification, consecration, devotion, surrender, compassion and reverence for all beings and creatures and oneness with the Divine. These poems of this period form three volumes of his Arutpa.
Many miraculous events are attributed to the Swami in this period of life at Karungkuli, which is two miles off from his later resort of Vadalur. He had mastery over mind, water and rains, fire, etc. and over living beings and creatures like serpents, ghosts and spirits of this world and also on vital beings of the other worlds
The Swami withdrew himself in seclusion for about six months at Mettukuppam three miles away from Vadalur and in the concentrated state of realization of the World of truth Consciousness and the Beyond, he wrote his masterpiece of “Jothi Agaval” in 1872 this piece of poem describes the self determinations of the Vast Grace–Light, the poises of the world of Truth-knowledge, planes of ascent, involution and evolution, golden plane of the earth, purifying and transforming powers of the Light, transformation of his body, knowledge and science of deathlessness of body, general nature and characteristics of the world of Truth-Knowledge, the world of Satcitananda beyond etc.
The Swami unfurled the flag of his Sanmarga Sangha on 22-10-1873, marking the day as its effective beginning and also gave the Mahamantra of Vast Grace – Light by Divine sanction, to the disciples on the same day since when he more actively expected the coming of the God of Light to the earth for His direct reign. About this period he also expressed his will to enter into all physical bodies (i.e., on an universal level). The Swami withdrew in seclusion in a closed room in Mettukuppam on 30-1-1874, promising the disciples that the God of Light was imminently coming and he would disappear from their sight for a period and would come back when the Divine Light became manifested. From his last songs, message and spoken words, it is seen that his dematerialization of his deathless body occurred in the Divine presence and in the process of the stable manifestation of the God of Vast Grace–Light on this earth.
Thus the dematerialization of his body was a sacrifice and consecration for a supreme purpose. The Swami was never seen thereafter, and the place of his disappearance was soon inspected by the then District Collector and Medical Officer and they have reported confirming his disappearance. One can very well feel today the spiritual and supramental forces of deathlessness in the place of his last resort i.e., Siddhi Valaga Maligai at Mettukuppam as also at Vadalur where the shrine of Satya Jnana Sabha stands as a symbol and monument in honour of the coming of the Supreme Divine to the earth.