On the afternoon of Saturday June 5, 2021, Sundaram Gross, Integral Yogi and our beloved spiritual brother, passed away. Yogaville sangha members, who were at his bedside, had just read him the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita where Sri Krishna says to Arjuna:
“Only the material body is perishable; the embodied soul within is indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal. The soul is neither born, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. As a person sheds worn-out garments and wears new ones, likewise, at the time of death, the soul casts off its worn-out body.”
Soon after this reading, Sundaram left his body. Swami Karunananda Ma placed holy ash on his forehead as all who were gathered prayed for the peaceful transition of Sundaram’s soul.
Sundaram first lived at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville East in Connecticut, then later in Yogaville, Virginia. He served Sri Swami Satchidananda (Gurudev) directly—in his role as Satchidananda Ashram attorney and chief pujari at Kailash—and the Integral Yoga community-at-large for most of his adult life. He offered his service both as a monastic and, then later, as a married man. He not only had a brilliantly sharp mind but also a deeply devotional heart. Gurudev saw this in him and nurtured Sundaram’s desire to go deeper into the Bhakti Yoga practices. Sundaram traveled to India with Gurudev, where he received pre-sannyas (pre-monastic) initiation.
As one of his spiritual brothers noted, “Many of us will remember how during our trip to India Sundaram had this habit of sidling up so close to Gurudev, sometimes inches, that Gurudev had to invite him to step away a bit. Again and again like this, basking in Gurudev’s presence. I think he got such a dose it’ll last many, if not all lifetimes moving forward.”
In India, as well as in the US, Sundaram studied with senior pujaris (priests who perform devotional rituals in temples) to learn the Vedic mantras, chants and rituals in order to conduct pujas (worship services). Sri Swamiji provided further instruction as Sundaram progressed in his training, eventually becoming the chief pujari at Kailash where he conducted daily puja to Lord Nataraja for several decades. In addition, every Navaratri and Sivaratri, as well as Sivananda Jayanthi, at the Ashram he offered puja.
A close friend of Sundaram’s shared how much he loved teaching and sharing puja when he spent time with the children of the Yogaville Vidyalayam who were eager to learn. Sundaram didn’t stop there. He also shared his love of cooking with Sri Gurudev and his guests, as well as the community. Sundaram became expert in Indian cooking, especially South Indian cuisine, often delighting all with authentic dishes he seemed to effortlessly whip up on a moment’s notice—like for an unexpected guest arriving from India who we wanted to make feel right at home!
For many years Sundaram had been living with Parkinson’s Disease. On the night of his 73rd Birthday, after dessert and his sharing of stories of his life with his friends who were celebrating with him, Sundaram fell and fractured his hip. Over the next month, the University of Virginia Hospital medical team treated him, providing Sundaram with excellent care. Since he entered the hospital, so many sangha members have come forward to express how much Sundaram has done for them and how much they love him.
As Sundaram’s hip began to heal and physical therapy was being administered, the medical team observed he was not responding to the treatments by getting any stronger. Instead, his muscles were atrophying. That is when the they determined that Sundaram was in the final stages of Parkinson’s Disease and his body was shutting down. Being informed that he did not have much time left, Sundaram chose to enter into hospice on June 2, 2021. He slept peacefully most of the time during his stay at the Hospice before his passing. The exception was on June 3rd afternoon for a couple of hours. He was present and full of energy. He asked that his Yogaville brother who was at his bedside during this uplifting moment relay a message for him. He wanted to let everyone who had been part of his life know that he loved them and he appreciated everything that they had done for him. Sundaram then began to chant the opening slokas from the Nataraja Puja. He then continued chanting “OM Namah Shivaya” until he once again went to a quiet place.
Just after his passing, the swamis gathered in the Ashram monastery to offer 108 Tryambakam mantras in Sundaram’s honor and the arati at Saturday evening’s satsang was also offered in his honor. There will be a Memorial Service for Sundaram as soon as arrangements for that can be made. Our Kailash puja on Tuesday, June 8th, at noon, will be dedicated to Sundaram’s liberation.
In lieu of flowers if you wish to make an offering, please do so by donating to the maintenance and preservation of the Nataraja Shrine, by making an offering online or mailing a check to: Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, Attn: Treasury, 108 Yogaville Way, Buckingham, VA 23931. (If you choose to donate online at Yogaville.org/donate, choose General Fund on the gift designation, then below that, check the box “I would like to dedicate this donation”, then choose “In Memory of” under the type of Tribute, then enter Sundaram Gross under the Tribute Name.) Thank you for your loving prayers for Sundaram.
“That is full; this is also full. This fullness came from that Fullness. Though this Fullness came from that Fullness, That Fullness remains forever Full.” ~Sri Swami Satchidananda