Thursday, September 28, 2006

Brief Life Sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami - 03

Hare Krishna,

Today we will see the last few years in the life of the Jivanmukta.

After his return to Sringeri, the Acharya preferred often to retire into himself and was lost in communion with the Absolute. The Acharya gave himself to intense Tapasya, oblivious to his surroundings even giving up food and water for days together. Some devotees of the Mutt could not understand this Samadhi state of His Holiness and thought that his mind was unbalanced and attended to cure him, and finally convinced themselves that the 'malady' was incurable. To the surprise of these people the Jagadguru would suddenly become normal and baffle them all.

When people like us get engrossed in reading a very interesting book or listening to some wonderful music, sometimes we tend to ignore the happenings around. When such can be the state of commoners like us, what would be the state of a person enjoying Brahmic Bliss always? Are we in anyway capable of understanding their exalted stated?

But the affairs of the Mutt required attention. Under inspiration from Sri Sharada, on the 22nd of May 1931, His Holiness installed a young boy by name Srinivasa as the junior Svami under the name Sri Abhinava Vidhyatheertha Svami (In some of our future postings, we will learn more about this Yogaratnam). He was a youth of remarkable intelligence and potential for spiritual eminence. The junior Svami soon became highly proficient in learning and took over the spiritual and secular affairs of the Mutt, giving considerable relief to the senior Acharya.

Seldom did the Acharya receive disciples while in retirement. On the few occasions that he did, for which hundreds would be waiting, a smile or a significant nod proved more efficacious and illuminating than a sermon. It would fill their souls with blessedness. By dint of introspection and tapasya, his body lost all suggestions of being material and appeared sublimated into spirit radiating a halo all around.

In 1938, the Acharya was prevailed upon to undertake an informal tour to Bangalore. While there, he consecrated a fine temple for Sri Sharada in the premises of the Sri Sankar Mutt there (friends in Bangalore, please try to visit the Mutt, if you haven’t gone there before. It is in Basavangudi area. No doubt you will have a divine experience there). From Bangalore, he proceeded to Kaladi where he stayed for about 10 months. Early in 1940 he returned to Sringeri.

Since then his retirement was so complete that it was only very rarely that disciples had the opportunity of seeing him and paying their respects to him in person. Enjoying the Supreme Bliss, he moved sometimes like an ignorant one, sometimes with royal magnificence, sometimes full of auspiciousness, sometimes unmoving like a python, sometimes evoking respect, sometimes getting derided and sometimes unknown to anybody , in short the Avadhutha state.

His innate aptitude for the peace of seclusion was well exemplified and very pronounced at the time of the Sahsra Chandi Homa and Ati Rudra Maha Yajna that were performed in 1953. Tens of thousands of disciples from all parts of our land had gathered at Sringeri to witness that rare event and had hopes of paying their respects to His Holiness in person. His Holiness was kind enough to acquaint himself with the details of the arrangements made but, in spite of the earnest efforts of many a disciples, he did not come out at all and left the junior Svami to attend to everything and preferred to stay in his room. If he had the slightest sense of egoism and had cared the slightest bit for personal fame, he would have come out then and granted at least a formal Darshana for just a few minutes and obtained pleasure from the devout homage of such a large gathering of disciples. But he did not. A few weeks after these functions, His Holiness came out and an ardent disciple found occasion to tell him: “Thousands of people were eagerly waiting for your Holiness’s Darshana. Your Holiness was continuously in their thoughts throughout all the days of the festival. Their disappointment was very keen at not being able to see you even from a distance and they all returned home with this regret rankling in their hearts”. His Holiness with his characteristic smile and in his characteristic way said: “So much the better. If I had but shown myself, their curiosity or longing, whatever it be, will have quite naturally and easily dismissed me from their thoughts from the next moment.”

After this, His Holiness resumed his normal routine and was also pleased to receive and bless the disciples quite freely as he used to do of old. It may be mentioned that Dr.Rajendra Prasad was one of those who were blessed. It would now appear that his return to normal life was deliberate in view of his impending disappearance from our midst. On Sunday the 26th of September 1954, His Holiness got up very early even before the break of the dawn, walked coolly into the stream of the river Tunga and shuffled off his mortal coil. It was reported that His Holinesses body was in an erect sitting posture with legs crossed as at the time of contemplation and was straightened out only in an attempt to restore respiration. There were no signs of drowning or suffocation and this baffled all the doctors. He was an enigma equally in death as in life to all who sought physical explanation for spiritual experiences. God descends on earth for our instruction and emancipation in a manifested form. One such emanation of the divine was His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Mahasvami. His sacred body was duly interred in a site close to that of his beloved predecessor and an equally beautiful edifice was raised there.

The commentary written by His Holiness in Samskrutam on Bhagavatpada's Vivekachudamani is a monumental work. It is an epitome of His Holiness' erudition, experience, and deep knowledge of Advaita Vedanta. As mentioned by Hariram in one of his email, the commentary was started by Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahasvami. His Holiness Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami continued with the work. He did not write commentary to last few verses though. When requested by a close disciple to complete it, the Acharya replied that what ever has to be understood has been told and that would suffice.

Paying a glowing tribute to His Holiness, Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahasvami has said, "My Acharya was an eminent Tapasvin, a scrupulous observer of Shastric injuctions, a knower of the Atman and a rare Jivanmukta". The very remembrance of him will bring all round prosperity and blessedness.

Such is the brief outline of the outward life of the Saint. That His Holiness realized the Truth and lived it is sufficient to endow his sayings and the incidents connected with him with incalculable value to all. We will see in the next few emails the invaluable words which fell from the lips of the great Acharya.

Salutations to All.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Brief Life Sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami - 02

Hare Krishna,

Thanks for the insightful message from Hariram.

In the last posting we have seen in brief about the pre-sanyasa life of His Holiness. As indicated before, Narasimha was not made for worldly entanglements. He had an innate and spontaneous control over his mind and senses. He would be quite oblivious to the numerous distractions around him and never interested himself in anything but his studies and introspection. He was very reserved and loved solitude. He would rarely talk, and when he did, he would say only what was strictly necessary. His Holiness, Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahasvami (predecessor of Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami) who had been watching with earnest interest Narasimha’s progress in studies, keenness of intellect, simplicity of heart, sincerity of purpose, and nobility of character decided upon nominating him as his successor. He instructed one of his intimate devotees Brahmasri Kunigal Rama Shastri to go to Bangalore and bring Narasimha with him to Sringeri and also inform His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore about his intention to nominate Narasimha as his successor-designate to the Peetham.

Narasimha’s father agreed, though very reluctantly, to accede to the wishes of His Holiness. But the mother flatly declined to part with the only surviving son. Narasimha himself had to plead with his mother to obey His Holiness's behest on the main ground that he himself had no intention at all of becoming a householder and that, if he was a sanyasi staying as the Head of the Mutt at Sringeri, his mother might have the satisfaction of knowing about his welfare and of occasionally seeing him. These advantages could not be had if he was an ordinary sanyasi going about from place to place. Doesn’t this instance remind us of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada’s pleading (the Crocodile episode) with his mother Aryambal to grant permission to take sanyasa? The mother thereupon had to agree and Brahmasri Rama Shastri started with Narasimha to Sringeri. But just the day previous to their reaching Sringeri, His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahasvami attained Siddhi. After the ceremonies (Guru Aradhana and so forth) were all over, Narasimha was duly given sanyasa on the 7th of April 1912 under the name Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Svami and installed as the 34th Head of the Sringeri Jagadguru Mutt.

Though his Holiness, the new Acharya, did not have the opportunity of being trained and guided by his predecessor, he had in abundance the blessings of his guru. With the grace of Sri Sharadambal and his guru, His Holiness could follow rigidly the footsteps of the previous Acharya and justify the latter's selection of himself as His successor. In addition to his daily duties (Sri Chandramoulishwara Puja, Sri Sharada Puja, Sri Chakra Aradhana and other Pujas), scriptural studies and spiritual practices, His Holiness directed his mind to the renovation of Sri Sharada Temple which had been commenced by his predecessor and to the erection of a Temple over the Samadhi of his Guru. The Kumbhabhishekams of both the shrines were duly performed with great pomp and splendor in the middle of 1916. After this was over, He set his mind on the practical realization of the Ultimate Reality and began to spend more and more time in contemplation and Tapas. In a very short time he reached such an exalted stage of Self-Realization as could not be reached even in several lives of intense effort.

At the earnest request of His disciples, He undertook early in 1924 a tour of Southern districts. While at Mysore, with the valuable help of the then Maharaja of Mysore, His Holiness had a magnificent stone structure raised at the site where his illustrious Guru was born and consecrated a beautiful marble image of His there. It needs no saying that he had a very hearty and enthusiastic welcome wherever he went.

The following illustration shows the universal love possessed by the Acharya. During the course of the tour, Mahasvami reached the place Devakote in Tamilnadu. The region and people there were suffering from severe drought. The organizers suggested moving further from the place and setting up the camp in the next village. His Holiness understood the plight of the people in Devakote. He immediately arranged for the chanting of Virataparva in Mahabharatha (Vyasa has encoded the Varuna Mantra in the Viratapartva). He himself started chanting the Varuna Mantra. In the same afternoon, dark clouds were seen in the sky and it started raining heavily. By evening, the lakes and ponds were full. The village folks were filled with immense happiness and they expressed there heartfelt thanks and devotion to His Holiness. Many have been the incidents in which the Acharya has playfully shown his yogic and supernormal powers without the least detriment to his Tapas. Being an adept in the Mantra Sastras and in the Agamas, many have been the suggestions and rectifications made by him in the field of individual worship or in the temples which he visited during the course of his tour. His memory was quite phenomenal and at times seemed uncanny. His Holiness’ love was universal and contagious. It disarmed hate of any sort and endeared him to all.

In addition to the Veda Patashala which had been started at his instance at Kaladi in Kerala (birth place of Sankara Bhagavatpada), he also inaugurated in 1927 a Vedanta Patashala for advanced students. Under his orders, a street of houses was also built for the accommodation of the teachers and students and the Temple servants and occasional visitors. On his way back to Sringeri towards the end of 1927, He founded a Patashala at Nanjangud also. During the tour, His Holiness not only showed himself a perfect master of learning and a great spiritual power but endeared himself to all people and they found in him a sincere friend and guide. His method of teaching was unique; from the simplest facts of ordinary life He would draw many a useful lesson. He did not believe in mass propaganda in matters of religion but stressed great emphasis on individual effort. The Jagadguru used to give the right upadesha to sincere devotees who approached him based on the spiritual maturity of the person.

His Holiness returned to Sringeri towards the end of 1927. He was greeted with a magnificent and devoted reception. He showered divine blessings on all those who came in contact with him.

We will see the final few annals of Acharya’s biography in the next posting.

Salutations to All.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Brief Life Sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami - 01

Hare Krishna,

Before proceeding any further, I would like to show my deep gratitude to Sri Neelakantan (my Veda Master here in Melbourne, by coincidence our names match) and Sri Sankar. They introduced me to the wonderful books of great Mahatmas. Both of them have been continually inspiring me by their words, deeds and actions. My humble prostrations to them.

Today is the first day of Navarathri. Let us constantly remember Ambal, the Goddess Supreme and pray to shower her blessings on us, her children.

The temple town of Sringeri (derived from the name of the great sage Rishya Sringa) is a picturesque spot located on the banks of river Tunga in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. Reference to this holy place is found in Ramayanam and Mahabharatham. Sankara Bhagavatpada established the Sringeri Sharada Peetham in this serene spot. There is a legend behind the establishment of the Mutt which runs as follows. During one of his Vijaya yaatras, Bhagavatpada with his disciples reached Sringeri on a hot noon. As they proceeded to river Tunga for their ablutions, they saw an unusual sight. A cobra had raised its hood over a frog in labor pains to provide shade from the scorching sun. Moved by the sanctity of the place, that could infuse love even between natural enemies, Sankara decided to set up a Mutt there. He installed the Goddess of learning, Sri Sharadamba as the presiding deity of the Mutt and placed Sureshwaracharya (known as Mandana Mishra in his purva ashrama) as its first pontiff.

Since then, there has been a continuous lineage of illustrious Acharyas adorning the Sharada Peetham (including the highly eminent Sri Vidyaranya). The Acharyas have all been men of great erudition, spiritual attainment and compassion. Known as the Jagadguru, each one of them has added to the lustre of the Peetham. His Holiness Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami (1892 -1954) graced the Peetham as its 34th pontiff. His holiness was a Saint of astonishing spiritual accomplishments. He was extremely fierce in dispassion, a true master of Vedas & Shastras. In short, the Acharyal was a Jivanmukta.

Pandit Gopala Shastri was a laureate among the scholars who were patronized by Sringeri Sharada Peetham. Born on the morning of Sunday the 16th of October 1892 to Gopala Shastri and his devoted wife Lakshmi Amba, His Holiness, was then known as Narasimha. Though the family was financially poor, it had very rich Vedantic Culture. Gopala Shastri had about 11 children before Narasimha, but such was God's will that only this boy survived. The parents felt that they were being pursued by an inexplicable and relentless fate which deprived them of their children and hoped that at least by separating the boy from themselves for sometime, he might escape the fate of his brothers and sisters. The boy was lodged with Srikanta Sastri, the administrator of the Sringeri Mutt. Narasimha's memory was prodigious, his intelligence was sparkling and his conduct was humble and simple. He was admitted to the local Anglo-Vernacular school run by the Government. Narasimha used to study Sanskrit at home and English at school. The Brahmopadesa of Narasimha was performed when he was eight. He was regular in the performance of Sandhyavandana, thrice a day and Agnikarya, worship of fire god, twice daily. Even from his boyhood days, Narasimha was introverted, had no attraction for the objects of the world. He was very fond of chanting the hymn Mukapanchashati (a hymn of 500 verses composed by Muka Kavi praising the divine Mother. Sri Iyer has referred to Mukapanchashati in his Soundarya Lahari postings). Once, while on way to the market, the boy Narasimha was so immersed in the composition that he continued far beyond the limits of the Sringeri Township. It was only when the recitation ended that he realized he had come far out……. In his twelfth year, Narasimha took the lower secondary examination and topped the list in the first division. However, Narasimha was just not made for a worldly career. He was the child of God born to adorn the Sharada Peetham.

Very early in life, he had the gracious blessings of His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi, the towering Saint who then graced the Sri Sringeri Jagadguru Peetham. At the instance of His Holiness himself, Narasimha changed over to the “Sadvidya Sanjivini Patashala” at Sringeri and later on joined the “Geervana Proudha Vidya Vardhini” College at Sankar Mutt complex in Bangalore for higher studies in Purva Mimamsa and Vedanta. Under the guidance of eminent teachers of the time, Narasimha easily mastered the sciences of Mimamsa and Vedanta.

We will see the rest of the account in the next email. I will attempt to be earnestly regular and post a minimum of two emails every week.

Obeisance to All.


Monday, September 18, 2006


Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

shruti smriti purananaam
Alayam karunaalayam
namaami bhagavatpaadam
sankaram lokasankaram

“Salutations to the sacred feet of Sri Sankara, the repository of all the wisdom that is contained in Shruti, Smriti and Puranas, the incarnation of grace, the bestower of blessedness on the world.”

Bharatha varsha has been the abode of great Mahatmas. While all of us may not be fortunate enough to be in continual contact with such great Mahatmas, nevertheless, a remembered darshana or conversation or even a report of their lives and sayings is often enough to lift our thoughts towards the higher verities of life.

In the series of emails, an effort will be made to present some incidents from the life of Mahatmas, experiences of devotees in their divinely presence, discourses given by the Mahatmas, their life history etc. I will be merely re-typing the annals from the excellent books written by sincere devotees of the Mahatmas.

I pray to that ever merciful Lord to enable me to carry out this task and accept this as an offering, offered by one who is completely bereft of any true devotion.

Totakacharya (one of the four main disciples of Sankara Bhagavatpada) in the 6th verse of Totakashtakam sings about the Jagadguru as follows:

jagatimavitum kalitakritayo
vicharanti mahamahasachalataha
ahimamsurivatra vibhasi guro
bhavasankara desika me saraNam

“Oh Teacher! For the purpose of saving the world the Great Ones take various forms and wander in disguise. Of these great Ones, you shine like the Sun! Be Thou my refuge, Oh, Master Sankara!”

The continuity of the same illustrious values of the great master has been maintained through the ages because of the presence of Sadgurus in our midst. One such great saint was Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami of Sringeri. In the next email, we will see a brief life sketch of the glorious Acharyal.