Ramalingam Pillai and the Theosophical Movement



Ramalinga - Vallalar - Yogi

When, in answer to a direct challenge, the author of The Occult World [Note: this was A.P. Sinnett.] wrote to the Bombay Gazette (April 4, 1882), he began his letter with the following profession of faith: “I was already sure, when I wrote The Occult World, that the Theosophical Society was connected, through Madame Blavatsky, with the great Brotherhood of Adepts I described. I now know this to be the case, with much greater amplitude of knowledge.” Little did our loyal friend fancy, when he was penning these lines, that his assertion would one day be capable of corroboration by the testimony of thousands. But such is now the state of the case. Sceptics and prejudiced or interested witnesses in general may scoff as they like, the fact cannot be gainsaid. Our friends – and we have some who regard us neither as lunatics nor impostors – will at least be glad to read the statement which follows.

While at Madras, we were told that a well-known Tamil scholar, a Pandit in the Presidency College, desired to have a private conversation with us. The interview occurred in the presence of Mr. Singaravelu, President of the Krishna Theosophical Society, and of another trustworthy Theosophist, Mr. C. Aravamudu Ayangar, a Sanskritist, of Nellore. We are no more at liberty to repeat here all the questions put to us by the interviewer than we are to divulge certain other facts which would still more strongly corroborate, our repeated assertions that (1) our Society was founded at the direct suggestion of Indian and Tibetan Adepts; and (2) that in coming to this country we but obeyed their wishes. But we shall leave our friends to draw their own inferences from all the facts. We are glad to know that the learned Pandit is now engaged in writing, in the Tamil and Telugu languages, a more amplified narrative than he has given here; and that he is taking steps to obtain certificates of respectable living witnesses who heard his Guru pre-figure the events which have had so complete a fulfilment.


To the Author of Hints on Esoteric Theosophy [Note: this was A.O. Hume.]:

Sir, – I beg to inform you that I was a Chela of the late “Arulprakasa Vallalare,” otherwise known as Chidambaram Ramalinga Pillai Avergal, the celebrated Yogi of Southern India. Having come to know that the English community, as well as some Hindus, entertained doubts as to the existence of the Mahatmas (adepts), and, as to the fact of the Theosophical Society having been formed under their special orders; and having heard, moreover, of your recent work, in which much pains are taken to present the evidence about these Mahatmas pro and con – I wish to make public certain facts in connection with my late revered Guru. My belief is, that they ought effectually to remove all such doubts, and prove that Theosophy is no empty delusion, nor the Society in question founded on an insecure basis.

Let me premise with a brief description of the personality of and the doctrines taught by the above-mentioned ascetic, Ramalingam Pillai.

He was born at Maruthur, Chidambaram Taluq, South Arcot, Madras Presidency. He came to live at Madras at an early period of his career, and dwelt there for a long time. At the age of nine, without any reading, Ramalingam is certified by eyewitnesses to have been able to recite the contents of the works of Agastia and other Munis equally respected by Dravidians and Aryans. In 1849, I became his disciple, and, though no one ever knew where he had been initiated, some years after, he gathered a number of disciples around him. He was a great Alchemist. He had a strange faculty about him, witnessed very often, of changing a carnivorous person into a vegetarian; a mere glance from him seemed enough to destroy the desire for animal food. He had also the wonderful faculty of reading other men’s minds.

In the year 1855, he left Madras for Chidambaram, and thence to Vadulur and Karingooli, where he remained a number of years. Many a time, during his stay there, he used to leave his followers, disappearing to go no one knew whither, and remaining absent for more or less prolonged periods of time. In personal appearance, Ramalingam was a moderately tall, spare man – so spare, indeed, as to virtually appear a skeleton – yet withal a strong man, erect in stature, and walking very rapidly; with a face of a clear brown complexion, a straight, thin nose, very large fiery eyes, and with a look of constant sorrow on his face. Toward the end he let his hair grow long, and, what is rather unusual with Yogis, he wore shoes. His garments consisted but of two pieces of white cloth. His habits were excessively abstemious. He was known to hardly ever take any rest. A strict vegetarian, he ate but once in two or three days, and was then satisfied with a few mouthfuls of rice. But when fasting for a period of two or three months at a time, he literally ate nothing, living merely on warm water with a little sugar dissolved in it.

As he preached against caste, he was not very popular. But still people of all castes gathered in large numbers around him. They came not so much for his teachings, as in the hope of witnessing and learning phenomena, or “miracles,” with the power of producing which he was generally credited; though he himself discredited the idea of anything supernatural, asserting constantly that his was a religion based on pure science. Among many other things he preached that:

(1) Though the Hindu people listened not to him, nor gave ear to his counsels, yet the esoteric meaning of the Vedas and other sacred books of the East would be revealed by the custodians of the secret – the Mahatmas – to foreigners, who would receive it with joy;

(2) That the fatal influence of the Kalipurusha Cycle, which now rules the world, will be neutralized in about ten years;

(3) That the use of animal food would be gradually relinquished;

(4) That the distinction between races and castes would eventually cease, and the principle of Universal Brotherhood be eventually accepted, and a Universal Brotherhood be established in India;

(5) That what men call “God” is, in fact, the principle of Universal Love – which produces and sustains perfect Harmony and Equilibrium throughout all nature;

(6) That men, once they have ascertained the divine power latent in them, would acquire such wonderful powers as to be able to change the ordinary operations of the law of gravity, etc., etc.

In the year 1867, he founded a Society, under the name of “Sumarasa Veda Sanmarga Sungham,” which means a society based on the principle of Universal Brotherhood, and for the propagation of the true Vedic doctrine. I need hardly remark that these principles are identically those of the Theosophical Society. Our Society was in existence but for five or six years, during which time a very large number of poor and infirm persons were fed at the expense of its members.

When he had attained his 54th year (1873), he began to prepare his disciples for his departure from the world. He announced his intention of going into Samadhi. During the first half of 1873 he preached most forcibly his views upon Human Brotherhood. But, during the last quarter of the year, he gave up lecturing entirely and maintained an almost unbroken silence. He resumed speech in the last days of January, 1874, and reiterated his prophecies – hereinafter narrated.

On the 30th of that month, at Metucuppam, we saw our master for the last time. Selecting a small building, he entered its solitary room after taking an affectionate farewell of his Chelas, stretched himself on the carpet, and then, by his orders, the door was locked and the only opening walled up. But when, a year later, the place was opened and examined, there was nothing to be seen but a vacant room. He left with us a promise to reappear some day but would give us no intimation as to the time, place, or circumstances. Until then, however, he said that he would be working not in India alone, but also in Europe and America and all other countries, to influence the minds of the right men to assist in preparing for the regeneration of the world.

Such, in short, is the history of this great man. The facts I have referred to above are within the knowledge of thousands of people. His whole occupation was the preaching of the sublime moral doctrines contained in the Hindu Shastras, and the instilling into the masses of the principles of Universal Brotherhood, benevolence and charity. But to his great disappointment he found among his large congregations but few who could appreciate his lofty ethics. During the latter part of his visible earthly career, he often expressed his bitter sorrow for this sad state of things, and repeatedly exclaimed:

“You are not fit to become members of this Society of Universal Brotherhood. The real members of that Brotherhood are living far away, towards the North of India. You do not listen to me. You do not follow the principles of my teachings. You seem to be determined not to be convinced by me. YET THE TIME IS NOT FAR OFF, WHEN PERSONS FROM RUSSIA, AMERICA (these two countries were always named), and other foreign lands WILL COME TO INDIA AND PREACH TO YOU THIS SAME DOCTRINE OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD. Then only, will you know and appreciate the grand truths that I am now vainly trying to make you accept. You will soon find that THE BROTHERS WHO LIVE IN THE FAR NORTH will work a great many wonders in India, and thus confer incalculable benefits upon this our country.”

This prophecy has, in my opinion, just been literally fulfilled. The fact, that the Mahatmas in the North exist, is no new idea to us, Hindus; and the strange fact that the advent of Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott from Russia and America was foretold several years before they came to India, is an incontrovertible proof that my Guru was in communication with those Mahatmas under whose directions the Theosophical Society was subsequently founded.


Witnesses: MUNJACUPPUM SINGARAVELU MUDALIAR, President of the Krishna Theosophical Society.

COMBACONAM ARAVAMADU AYANGAR, Fellow of the Nellore Theosophical Society.

“The official position of Vellayu Pandit as one of the Pandits of the Presidency College-is an ample guarantee of his respectability and trustworthiness.”
Judge of the Small Cause Court, Madras,
Vice-President of the Madras Theosophical Socy.

This is one of those cases of previous foretelling of a coming event, which is least of all open to suspicion of bad faith. The honourable character of the witness, the wide publicity of his Guru’s announcements, and the impossibility that he could have got from public rumour, or the journals of the day, any intimation that the Theosophical Society would be formed and would operate in India – all these conspire to support the inference that Ramalingam Yogi was verily in the counsels of those who ordered us to found the Society.

In March, 1873, we were directed to proceed from Russia to Paris. In June, we were told to proceed to the United States, where we arrived July 6th. This was the very time when Ramalingam was most forcibly prefiguring the events which should happen. In October, 1874, we received an intimation to go to Chittenden, Vermont, where, at the famous homestead of the Eddy family, Colonel Olcott was engaged in making his investigations – now so celebrated in the annals of Spiritualism – of the so-called “materialization of Spirits.” November, 1875, the Theosophical Society was founded, and it was not until 1878, that the correspondence began with friends in India, which resulted in the transfer of the Society’s Headquarters to Bombay in February, 1879.

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The Wikipedia article about Ramalingam can be read by clicking here.

Dr Thill Raghu has written several interesting articles about Ramalingam on his blog site but misrepresents Theosophy therein by saying that “in contrast to Theosophy, Suddha Sanmargam has no pantheon and cult of the “Masters”, or dependence on the “Masters” to bring about one’s enlightenment.”

It is true that after the death of H.P. Blavatsky, the nature and teachings of Theosophy and the Theosophical Movement were completely distorted and misrepresented by certain individuals such as C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant, and that what could be described as a “pantheon” or “cult of the Masters” did indeed spring up in the Adyar Theosophical Society under their influence. But it’s of great importance for people to understand that this is not representative of original and genuine Theosophy and that the great emphasis on Masters – bordering almost on worship of them in its sentimental devotionalism – is in complete opposition to the teachings of HPB and the very antithesis of the wishes of the real Masters themselves, as becomes apparent from reading any of their own letters.

It’s also important to be aware that “The Theosophical Society – Adyar” – although the most well known branch or expression of the Theosophical Movement – accounts for only ¼ of the Movement as a whole and is not representative of Theosophy or the Theosophical Movement at large, neither then nor now. What the Masters themselves have to say about such matters can be seen by reading The Final Mahatma Letter.

Genuine Theosophy maintains that no-one can or should depend on any other being for their spiritual progress and advancement. Spiritual and mental independence is the hallmark of the Theosophy of HPB and “The Secret Doctrine” emphasises that the soul can evolve only through “self-induced and self-devised efforts.” We hope that Dr Raghu and many others will soon correct their online misrepresentations of Theosophy and realise that there are such things as what HPB termed “Pure Theosophy” and “Pseudo-Theosophy.”

~ BlavatskyTheosophy.com ~

SOME RELATED ARTICLES: Gandhi on Blavatsky and Theosophy, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, Theosophy: The Ancient Wisdom, Unity of the World’s Religions, Theosophy and the Brotherhood of Religions, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, An Invitation to The Secret Doctrine, Who wrote “The Secret Doctrine”?, The Theosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, The Life & Times of Adi Shankaracharya, Maji – The Yogini of Benares, Damodar and the Hall of Initiation, Theosophy on Kundalini: The Serpent Power and Mystic Fire, Col. Olcott’s Disloyalty to H.P. Blavatsky, The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement, Why does Theosophy deny the Miraculous and Supernatural? and Our Mother India.