Monday, October 30, 2006

Picture of Pujyasri Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami of Kanchi

H.H Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Introduction to Kanchi Mahasvami

Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

At intervals of few centuries Bharatha Varsha has seen flashes of astounding phenomenon of vision and wisdom guiding people to follow the Vedic Dharma. One such great visionary was Pujyasri Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.

The Mahasvami, more popularly known as Kanchi Paramacharya, Maha Periyaval, Periya Periyaval or Sage of Kanchi reminds one of the following verse from Bhagavatpada’s Vivekachudamani:

shanto mahanto nivasanti santo
vasantavat lokahitam charantaha
teernaswayam bhimabhavarnavam
janan ahetunanyapi tarayantaha

“There exist great noble ones who always dwell in calm. Like the spring season (which fills the entire world with happiness), they move about effecting what is beneficial to the world (people). Having themselves crossed the dreadful ocean of samsara, they, without any personal desires (expectation) cause others too to cross over.”

Kanchipuram, one of the seven Mokshapuris (the others are Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kashi, Ujjain and Dwaraka) of India has been a great center of learning since time immemorial. Here Sankara installed a Srichakra before the deity Kamakshi, ascended the “Sarvajna Peetha” and established a Mutt, the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham (friends, there can be some arguments against the above mentioned statement. But as seekers, let us never get carried away or dwell in such disputes).

In the lineage of the great luminaries like Sri Abhinava Sankara and Sri Bhodendra Saraswathi (one of the trinities of Dakshina Sampradaya Bhajans, the other two are Sri Sridhara Ayyaval and Sri Marathanallur Sadguru Svami) who adored the Mutt, came Pujyasri Chandrashekara Saraswathi (1894-1994), the 68th Sankaracharya of the ancient and illustrious Mutt.

The Sage of Kanchi radiated divinity in speech, in silence, in his penetrating glance and in his serene smiles. The Acharya spoke not only to the learned but to the innocent with equal kindness. He asked people to adhere to their respective faith and avoid wavering and shifting. This was perhaps his credential for being a Jagadguru.

Mahasvami was spiritually supreme and intellectually preeminent. He was verily an Akshaya Paatra (inexhaustible reservoir) of the spiritual wisdom of India dating back to the beginning of Time and of Vedic Dharma. So was he with regard to modern knowledge, current affairs and contemporary men and matters. His prodigious memory is a matter of great wonder for all. The Jivanmuktha spoke in the accent of the Vedic seers, precise, profound and authentic words - that found a permanent lodgment in the hearts of his listeners. Like Bhagavatpada, Mahasvami has extensively traveled on foot throughout the country. On various occasions, the Acharya addressed the common mass on diverse aspects of our Dharma, on our ancient culture, our arts and on a variety of other subjects. The lectures delivered decades ago in Tamil by His Holiness was compiled and published in Tamil as “Deivattin Kural” (can be translated as Voice of God) by his ardent disciple Ra.Ganapathy. It runs into many volumes covering nearly 10,000 pages!!!

But being in Tamil, these volumes of precious contents remains a closed book for tens of thousands of people like me, who do not know to read Tamil. Thanks to the arduous efforts of few devotees, the first two volumes of the book have been translated into English and published as the book “HINDU DHARMA – The Universal way of Life” thus throwing open a treasure house of the upanyasa of the great Acharya. This being the centenary year of the Acharya’s ascent to the Kamakoti Peetham (the Acharya was installed as the Head of the Mutt in the year 1907), there has been words floating around that the rest of the volumes will be translated to English and published soon (I don’t know if that has been done yet).

The Paramaguru takes all branches of knowledge in his stride, linguistics, astronomy, history, physics…He combines the ancient wisdom with modern concepts like those of time and space and weaves together Karma, Bhakti, Yoga and Jnana. The master of masters was like a lambent light who rekindled the spirit of the nation and brought about a renaissance in many spheres of religion and culture. He was the voice of eternal India and he taught mankind groping in the dark how to journey towards a higher destiny, how to win the higher freedom, Jivanmukti.

In the following email series, I will make an effort to present the life history of this rare phenomenon in brief, present some of his speeches and share some experiences of disciples in his presence. Some of the information that I present can be found in the website Let us all pray Mahasvami to bless us to be successful in this and all our endeavors.

Hari Om,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Importance to Tradition

Hare Krishna,

The following excerpt has been drawn from the book “Sparks from a Divine Anvil” written by Sri R. Krishnaswamy Iyer (R.K).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It is beyond any doubts that the saints of our land had great reverence for the tradition. An old gentleman one day paid his respects to His Holiness.

H.H. Your native Village?

G. ---– Village.

H.H. I see. You are very fortunate. Is it not the village of ---- Ghanapaati [I am very sorry I have forgotten both the names – R.K] (Ghanapaati is the honored title given to a Vedic scholar proficient in reciting the Veda mantras in a particular customary manner – Neel)?

G. There is no such Ghanapaati in my Village presently.

H.H. Cannot be. The person I referred to lived there six hundred years ago!

G. Is it so? I have not heard of him.

H.H. The answer of His Holiness naturally excited my curiosity. Famous authors and saints leave their sacred memory behind for centuries, but I had not thought it possible that a Ghanapaati who had mastered the Vedas to justify that title could be remembered six centuries later.

R.K. May I know who that Ghanapaati was? He seems to have been famous.

H.H. He was certainly famous as he had the boldness to criticize and correct Sri Vidyaranya.

R.K. When and why did he do it?

H.H. Sri Vidyaranya was a well-known master of all learning but had the humility to place his works before eminent scholars and get their approval before he published them. When he had written the commentary on the Sri Rudradhyaya in the Yajur Veda, he invited a large number of Vedic scholars and had his Veda Bhashya read out to them. In expounding the passage Namo Harikesaya, “Prostartion to Harikesa”, he had split up the word “Harikesa” into Hari-Ka-Isa (Vishnu, Brahma and Maheshwara) and interpreted the passage as a prostration to the Supreme Brahman who takes these three forms when associated with the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. When the commentary was read out, this Ghanapaati strongly objected to it saying, “Is the Veda your personal property with which you can do as you like?” Sri Vidyaranya asked, “What have I done with it to deserve this remark?” The Ghanapaati replied, “It is not for you to split up the word Harikesa at your pleasure. You know that the accuracy of the text of the Veda is secured by the traditional safeguards of Pada, Krama, Jata and Ghana (different traditional ways of chanting the Veda Mantras. It takes a person few years to master the same – Neel). According to the Pada, the component words are only Hari and Kesa and not Hari, Ka and Isa as you have split up.” Sri Vidyaranya realized his mistake and corrected the commentary accordingly. “To Him who is Vishnu, Brahma and Maheshwara” had to be altered to “To Him who has the blue sky as the hair on His head”. This may not be more impressive or attractive meaning, but Sri Vidyaranya could not help adopting it in view of the traditional Pada text. This Ghanapaati thus had the unique merit of correcting the great master himself.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
I would like to conclude (for now) the teachings of Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami. I am sure that each of us would have imbibed inspiration and faith from Mahasvami’s teachings. We can always revisit and learn more about the Mahasvami in future.

Most of the contents presented in the series have been collected from the books mentioned below:

The Book Name , Language, Author/Compiler, and Should be Available at… details are as follows:

Sparks From a Divine Anvil
Sri Jnananda Bharathi
Sankar Mutt, Bangalore
Giri Traders, Chennai

Call of Jagadguru
Sri Jnananda Bharathi
Sankar Mutt, Bangalore
Giri Traders, Chennai

The Saint of Sringeri
Sri Jnananda Bharathi
Sankar Mutt, Bangalore
Giri Traders, Chennai

Avadhuta Guru
Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Shastri
Sankar Mutt, Bangalore

Sharada Peetada Maanikya (Kannada)
Sri Ramachandra Rao
Sankar Mutt, Bangalore

Apart from the above, there are many other books about Acharya in Tamil, English and other languages.

The following websites have some useful information as well.

We will start with Kanchi Mahasvami’s life history and teachings in the next email.

Humble salutations to all.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Enlivening Elucidations

Hare Krishna,

The following conversation has been picked from the book “Saint of Sringeri” written by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
A Sanyasi who was staying for sometime continuously in the Mutt led a very quiet and secluded life and earned the hearty blessings of His Holiness. Because of his continued stay, the Mutt servants unconsciously fell into the habit of being familiar with him. One day, his food was not properly salted and he pointed it out to the cook. The cook without intending any offence immediately said, “What Swamiji! You have not yet learned to curb your tongue, for it is still after tasty food.” This remark hurt the Swamiji somewhat. He did not reply but finished the meal that day without further remark. Next day and the day after, he did not go to the dining hall at all. The servants in there pre-occupations did not notice this. On the third day when he prostrated before His Holiness, His Holiness asked: “What is the matter? You look jaded. Any mental worry?”

S. None.

H.H. Then, have you had your meals regularly?

Then the Swamiji had to tell His Holiness that he had not dined for two days and, on being questioned further, confessed to being put out at the cook’s remark.

H.H. Your object in staying here is not food. Anything to appease the hunger is and must be sufficient. The cook was certainly impertinent in making that remark to you; but can you not view it as a healthy advice to you not to mind the taste of the food if only it is sufficient to appease your hunger? It was really your remark that it was not salted properly that evoked his remark. If you had restrained yourself and eaten what was given to you, the very same cook when he tasted that food himself later would have seen that it was not salted properly, would have immediately regretted having served such a food to you and would have run to you with apologies for his neglect and would thereafter be more careful in preparing the food. All this could have and would have resulted from your silence. On the other hand, your impulsive remark provoked him and his reply provoked you still further and resulted in upsetting your mental equilibrium, in disturbing the smoothness of your meditations and in your fasting for two days.

S. I quite realize my mistake.

H.H. This incident has occurred just to help you on in your spiritual endeavors. View it in that light.

It may be added that the Swamiji punctiliously carried out the advice of His Holiness, never indulged in any secular talk and before long began to command the deep respect of all including those who presumed to be familiar with him before.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The following piece picked up from the book `Divine Words of Wisdom of His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekara Bharati Svamiji’ may be helpful for contemplation, as we may easily put it in the context of the World Cup Football Matches, over which even many of us would have spent sleepless nights.
Another day, His Holiness stood before the Ashram in the morning sun after completing his morning Anushtanam. Devotees were paying their respects and returning. Then a group of 10 to 12 persons came and paid their respects. In response to His Holiness’ enquiries, they replied that they belonged to Tumkur, had come to Shimoga for playing a football match and had utilized the opportunity to visit Sringeri.

After their return, His Holiness exclaimed, “The game of football! Eleven persons on one side and 11 on the other, a total of 22 persons kick a single ball. I pity the poor ball. Can a thing survive after receiving strong kicks from so many robust men? Its fate is unenviable. When one side kicks it, it goes to the other side with the hope of protection, but there also it meets with kicks. The ball’s life is full of kicks.”

“The fate of living beings is also similar. Life is like the game of football. Jiva is the ball. The incidents of life are kicks. When does the ball get relief? Only when the players are exhausted, the light is insufficient, the play is over and the players un-blow the ball and relegate it to a corner. Similarly, man puffed with pride, holding his head high, and moving in this world does not get due recognition, peace of mind and happiness. Only when he relieves himself from unnecessary and useless activities, acquires humility, and practices meditation in seclusion, he will become wise and come to possess mental peace.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sandhya Worship - 02

Hari Om Friends,

The following incident has been borrowed from the book “Dialogues with the Guru” (published in Tamil as “Then Muzigal”) compiled by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi. Continuing from where I had stopped in the previous email. Please follow each sentence carefully. The Acharya explains in simple yet beautiful terms the essence of Advaita.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

O. I suppose just as we have the sense of I in our physical bodies, so does that cosmic personality has the sense of “I” in the entire cosmos.

H.H. He has.

O. If so, the difference between Him and me lies not in the presence or the absence of the sense of “I” but only in the degree, the range or the magnitude of that sense. Mine is restricted, His is extended.

H.H. It is so.

O. If it is the sense of “I” that is responsible for the concept of a Jiva, he must be as much a Jiva as myself.

H.H. Quite so. In fact he is called the first born.

O. Then, even if this higher power happens to belong to the category of Jivas, just like myself, the same objection which I mentioned against the worship of Surya Deva holds good in his case also.

H.H. What then would you like to worship?

O. A transcendent power which is not a Jiva.

H.H. Have it then that it is such a transcendent power that is worshipped in the Sandhya. We give him the name of Ishwara, the Lord or the Antaryami, the inner Ruler.

O. But I have heard it mentioned that the terms Lord and Ruler are only relative terms which are used in regard to Him when we want to describe him in relation to the universe which is “Lorded Over” or “Ruled by him”.

H.H. Yes, it is so.

O. It cannot be that we can have no conception of him apart from his relationship of some sort to the universe. His relationship to the universe can at best be only an extraneous circumstance. In his essence, he must have an independent existence quite unrelated to anything else.

H.H. You are right. We call that unrelated essential existence Brahman.

O. If it is so, that must be the real object of worship rather than the relative aspect called Ishwara.

H.H. It is even as you say. It is really the unqualified Brahman that is worshipped in the Sandhya.

O. I cannot really understand Your Holiness. You first said that it was the solar orb that was the object of worship, but when I pointed out that it was only inert matter, you said that it was Surya Deva that was the object of worship; when again I pointed out that he was only a limited Jiva like myself, you said it was Hiranyagarbha, the cosmic soul, that was the object of worship, when once again I pointed out that he was after all a jiva, however cosmic his sense of “I” may be, you said that Ishwara the Lord and Ruler of the universe was really the object of worship; and lastly when I said that even he is but a relative aspect of Brahman, you said that the object of worship was Brahman itself.

H.H. I did say so.

O. But I fail to see how all these statements can be reconciled.

H.H. Where is the difficulty?

O. The object in a particular worship can be only one. How can it be the solar orb or the Deva enlivening it or Hiranyagarbha or Ishwara or Brahman at the same time?

H.H. I never said it was the solar orb or the Deva and so on.

O. Does Your Holiness mean to say then that the object of worship is the solar orb and the Devaa and Hiranyagarbha and Ishwara and Brahman all put together?

H.H. Nor did I say anything of that sort.

O. How then am I to understand Your Holiness’ statements?

H.H. When did I tell you that the upasya was Surya?

O. When I mentioned that the physical mass of burning matter cannot be the object of worship.

H.H. Before you mentioned it, I said that it was even that mass that was the Upasya.

O. Yes

H.H. I never mentioned that it was the solar body or the Deva as an alternative. To one who cannot conceive of an enlivening soul, the upasya is the physical mass. To one however, who declines to accept inert matter as an object or worship, I said the upasya was Surya Deva. The upasya is ever one, but its exact nature varies with the competence of the worshipping aspirant. The upasya gets further refined when even the concept of a Deva does not satisfy the enquiring devotee. We say then that it is Hiranyagarbha. When even such a concept seems meager or unsatisfactory, we tell the devotee that he is really worshipping the Supreme Lord himself. When he begins to feel that even the Lord-ness is a limitation of His essential nature, we tell him that it is the infinite Brahman itself that is really worshipped. Where is the difficulty?

O. Does Your Holiness then mean that it is not possible to definitely say what the object of worship in sandhya is except with reference to the mental equipment or intellectual advancement of the worshipper?

H.H. How can there be an object of worship if we ignore the worshipper? The nature of worshipped necessarily depends upon the nature of the worshipper.

O. How

H.H. Take me for example. All of you show me respect. But the object of respect, though it is roughly speaking, myself, does differ with each one of you. Ordinary people respect me and like to see me surrounded by glittering paraphernalia, their attention and respect are claimed by those articles rather than by my personality. Some others respect me for the position that I hold or the Ashrama in which I am. Such people will equally respect others who are or many come to be in such a position or the Ashrama. And some others may not care what position I hold or what Ashrama I am, but give me homage wherever I go and however I may be; their object of respect is my physical body. A few others will not mind if my body is dark or ugly or even diseased, but will nevertheless give me homage if by purity of mind and character or by the power of my intellect and learning or by any spiritual merit that I may possess I command their respect. Very few indeed will respect me for the spark or divine intelligence which inheres in me, as it does in all of you.

O. Of course it is not possible to say that all the devotees that approach Your Holiness are of the same mental equipment.

H.H. Quite so. But, ordinarily all these people, whether they really tender homage to the paraphernalia or to my status and Ashrama or to my body or to my mind or to my intellect or to the divine spark in me, prostrate before me to show their respect. Can to you tell me, apart from any reference to the several devotees, to whom or to what they prostrate?

O. It is no doubt very difficult to answer.

H.H. Similarly, with every kind of worship. Externally viewed, there will be no appreciable difference between the one who respects me for the paraphernalia and another who respects me for the divine spark in me. Externally viewed, there will similarly be no appreciable difference between the devotee who in his blind faith is content to address his prayers to the luminous Sun and another who turns to it as a visible symbol of the infinite Brahman. The question as to what is the upasya in the sandhya worship can therefore be answered only in this way.

O. I now understand how in the simple worship of the Sun, all possible stages in spiritual perception have been provided for.

H.H. It is not only this, for you will find if you consider the matter still further, that all the three ways known as Karma, Bhakthi and Jnana have been given places in the daily worship, but that is different matter. Simple as the sandhya worship seems to be, it is sufficient to help us on the highest stages. It is as useful to the highest aspirant as it is to the beginner. It is a folly, therefore to belittle its value or to neglect it in practice.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sandhya Worship - 01

Hare Krishna Friends,

The incident below has been borrowed from the book “Dialogues with the Guru” (published in Tamil as “Then Muzigal”) compiled by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi The conversation is bit lengthy, I will break it into two and send out in two separate emails. Each word is worth beyond any measure.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
The following conversation is between a touring Educational officer and His Holiness Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami.

O. I have occasions of being in constant touch with young boys, mostly Brahmanas studying in schools which I have to inspect. I have found that even the boys who perform their Sandhya do so more as a form, than as real worship. I shall be very grateful if Your Holiness would give me some valuable hints which I could convey to them?

H.H. I am very glad to see that you are not content with mere official routine of inspection but desire to utilize the occasion for the betterment of the boys. It will be well if all educationists, inspecting officers or teachers realize that they have been entrusted with the very grave responsibility of training of young men in the most impressionable period of their lives. In my opinion they are really to blame if they confine their attention only to the prescribed text books and neglect the spiritual side of the younger generation.

O. I always keep that end before me and I don’t miss any opportunity of talking to the boys and giving them some useful advice. It is mainly with a view to do that work better that I request Your Holiness to give some practical suggestions.

H.H. Even if the boys to whom you propose to convey such suggestions may not benefit by them, you will certainly be benefited.

O. Certainly.

H.H. You may therefore, for the present, ignore the boys and ask such questions the answers to which are likely to be useful to you.

O. The first question which suggests itself to me is with reference to the Sandhya worship. What is the deity or upasya Deva in the Sandhya worship?

H.H. Before we consider that, please tell me what you understand ordinarily by the Sandhya worship?

O. By Sandhya worship, we mean the worship of the rising Sun, the setting Sun or the Sun in the mid heavens.

H.H. Quite so. Comprehensively speaking, you mean worship of the Sun?

O. Yes.

H.H. You tell me that Sandhya is the worship of the Sun and yet you ask me what is worshipped in the Sandhya. Don’t you think it is an unnecessary question?

O. Put so, it may seem an unnecessary question, but my real question is, what is the Sun that is worshipped?

H.H. What do you understand ordinarily by the Sun?

O. We mean the bright celestial orb in the sky.

H.H. Then it is the bright celestial orb that is worshipped.

O. But that orb is, according to science is mere inert matter in a state of high combustion and is certainly not worthy of being worshipped by intelligent beings like ourselves. It can neither hear our prayers nor respond to them. I cannot believe that our ancestors were so ignorant as to address their prayers to mere burning mass of matter.

H.H. I quite agree with you. They could never have been so foolish.

O. What then did they see in the Sun to justify their prayers being addressed to it?

H.H. You said just now that addressing of prayers to inert matter cannot be justified by reason.

O. Yes.

H.H. What then must be the nature of the entity to which a prayer is addressed?

O. The primary condition is that it must not be mere inert matter, but must be endowed with intelligence.

H.H. And the second condition?

O. That it must be able to hear our prayers and be powerful enough to answer them.

H.H. Quite so. If our ancients were not fools and yet addressed their prayers to the Sun, their conception of the Sun must have been quite different from that of mere inert matter, in a state of high combustion.

O. Yes, they must have also postulated to it intelligence, the capacity to hear us and the ability to help us.

H.H. The “us” including not only all those who are now living to raise their hands in prayer to the Sun, but also the generations, past and future, infinite in number though they may be?

O. Of course.

H.H. The entity that is worshipped as the Sun is therefore one whose intelligence or ability knows no limitation of space or time.

O. It must be so.

H.H. You have now got your answer to the question as to who is worshipped in the Sandhya? It is an intelligent Being, Omniscient and Omnipotent in the matter of hearing and responding to its votaries.

O. Your Holiness then means that it is a Deva who has his habitation in the solar orb?

H.H. Quite so. He has not only his habitation there, but the solar orb itself is his physical body.

O. Your Holiness means that the Deva enlivens the solar orb, just as we do our physical bodies?

H.H. Just so.

O. If then he is embodied just like us, how does he happen to have such high intelligence or power as to merit our obeisance?

H.H. He attained that status by virtue of the appropriate Karma and Upasana done by him in a previous life.

O. Does Your Holiness mean that he was one time just like us and that he attained that status by his endeavor?

H.H. Yes

O. Then he is no more than a Jiva, which I also am. Why should a Jiva make prostration before another Jiva, howsoever superior?

H.H. Why should your son or pupils respect you and why should you show respect to your superior officers? Are not both of you Jivas?

O. No doubt we are. But we respect our superiors as it is in their power to help us or injure us, if they so desire.

H.H. That is a very low kind of respect. Anyhow, taking even that kind of respect, we must respect Surya Deva if it is in his power to help us or injure us, if he so desires.

O. Of course.

H.H. Being a Jiva as much as your superior officers, he will help you if you appeal to him for help or injure you if you ignore or despise him. In your own interest then, you are bound to worship him and secure his good will.

O. But I need not court the favor nor fear the displeasure of my superior officer, if I carry out the duties of my office faithfully.

H.H. Quite so.

O. If I preserve that attitude, there is no reason why I should propitiate my superior officer.

H.H. Certainly not.

O. Similarly, if I carry out strictly the duties enjoined on me by the Sastras, I need not propitiate any other Jiva, be he the highest Deva.

H.H. Quite so.

O. Then, should I not give up the worship of Surya Deva?

H.H. Certainly you may, unless of course such worship is part of the duties enjoined on you by the Sastras.

O. How can that be?

H.H. It is true that an honest and strict officer in performing the duties of his office need not mind the pleasure or the displeasure of his immediate superior. But the mere fact that he thinks it necessary or obligatory to perform those duties properly, shows that he has the ultimate end as the pleasure, or avoidance of the displeasure of a still higher officer who is superior to him as well as to his immediate superior. Even if he has no personal acquaintance with that higher officer, he always has in the background of his mind an undefined power, call it the King or the Government, when he performs the duties of his office. And the power has the ability to benefit him by recognizing his services or to punish him by taking not of his delinquencies. Further, that power rules both him and his immediate superior officer. If therefore that power requires him to behave in a particular manner towards his superior officer, he cannot afford to disobey that injunction, for if he disobeys, not only does he incur the displeasure of that officer but also of the higher power.

O. That is so.

H.H. Similarly, if a power which rules both you as well as Surya Deva requires you to conduct yourself in a particular manner towards that Deva, you cannot afford to neglect that injunction, but must conform to it or take the risk of incurring the displeasure of that Deva as also the higher power.

O. It is no doubt so. But in that case, in prostrating myself before Surya Deva, I shall be really worshipping the higher power even when my worship may seem addressed to Surya.

H.H. What of that?

O. If I am able to conceive of such a higher power who rules even Surya. That power is really the worshipped entity although to all appearances the worship is addressed to Surya only.

H.H. Quite so.

O. But Your Holiness said that it was Surya Deva who was worshipped?

H.H. Yes it is correct so far as persons who are not able to conceive of a higher power are concerned. To those however who can conceive of that power, He is the real upasya. That power is called Hiranyagarbha. He enlivens and en-souls not only the Surya, but all Devas. He enlivens and inhabits not only the solar orb but all things. He is cosmic personality who is the soul of all things.

****** To be continued ******


Lessons in Life - 02

Hare Krishna,

The following excerpt has been drawn from the book “Sparks from a Divine Anvil”. The Divine Anvil of the book being Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami. The narration is by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi (Sri R. Krishnaswamy Iyer in his purva-ashrama, an ardent disciple of Mahasvami), the author of the book.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A Government officer who had served at many places in South India went to Sringeri for the first time in his life and was introduced to His Holiness.

H.H. Is this your first visit to Sringeri?

G. Yes, though I wanted to come here several years past.

H.H. What prevented you from coming here earlier?

G. In my younger days I was employed in the Cuddappah district. I was told then that Sringeri was not very far from there and I immediately longed to come here. But my friends and relations told me that, though the distance was not much, the journey was a very perilous one as there were no proper means of communication, many a dense forest had to be crossed and many a steep hill ascended and they were infested with wild animals and robbers and that after all Sringeri was a small village among the mountains with no amenities of modern life and further that a dip in the waters of the River Tunga might easily infect one with malaria. This description discouraged me to such an extent that it not only damped my enthusiasm but it made me drop the idea altogether. Then I was transferred to a distant place wand from there to several other places successively. Years rolled on, but somehow my innate longing to see Sringeri persisted, though whenever I tried to carry it out some inconvenience or discouragement would always rear its head successfully against me.

H.H. How did you manage to come now?

G. Oh, this year I felt very keenly that much time had been allowed to pass and that, whatever might be the obstacle, I ought not to mind it. So I resolved upon coming here and I have come.

H.H. I am very glad to see you here. But how do you feel after coming here?

G. Oh, it is wonderful. The moment I made the resolve to come here, I felt so jubilant that I felt that I could very easily face any obstacles. Strange to say, I had not the slightest inconvenience either in the train or in the motor bus journey. On the other hand, everybody that I met, on hearing that I was on my way to Sringeri, was very kind and respectful towards me and volunteered to attend to my wants throughout the journey. The forests and hills which were said to contain wild beasts and robbers offered such enchanting and pleasant and invigorating scenery as I have not seen elsewhere. Having come here, I find the waters of the Tunga very pure and healthy and certainly not malarial. The town itself is a very nice one, having all the advantages of a city and lacking only its disadvantages. The Temple of Sri Sarada and the Mutt are superb and soul-inspiring. I feel so much at home and so happy here that I very much regret that my holidays will soon be over and I would have to be back at my drudgery again.

H.H. The recital of your experience is very interesting. But did you notice the parallelism?

G. With what?

H.H. Why, with our life itself! When in our younger days we feel an inexplicable longing to grasp the truth of things and think of taking up seriously the study of our Vedanta. Many of our sincere friends, relatives and well-wishers would be shocked at our “premature” and “ill-advised” attempt to explore the philosophical lore of our ancient sages. They would assure us in threatening tones how fool-hardy such an attempt was, would point out to us what dire consequences would follow such foolish inroads into forbidden ground where far greater men were still groping without knowing how to find their way in or out of it, and would cite to us, as warning examples, the cases of those who had perished in their foolishness and had been lost to the world for ever. Necessarily we would be very much discouraged by such disinterested advice and would drop the attempt altogether. But when the innate longing is strong and persistent, we will come at a stage of life when we make up our mind to have that longing satisfied at any risk. Once we start with this determination, we will feel before long that the road before us is really smooth and not at all thorny. Where we expected dangerous pitfalls, there would be stepping-stones. Instead of “wild beasts and robbers”, on the way, we will find very kind and helping hands. When actually on the road, we will feel a joy and exhilaration which no earthly thing can ever offer us. When we do enter into the heart and spirit of the Vedanta, we will find it so pure, clean and healthy and giving us the bliss beyond compare. The only factor in which the parallelism fails is this, after the close of your holidays, you have to return to your job, though reluctantly; the holiday of the earnest aspirant who realizes the truth of the Vedanta never ends and so he has not the need any more to return to his state of bondage.

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Humble salutations to all.


Lessons in Life – 01

Hare Krishna,

The following parable has been drawn from the book “Sparks from a Divine Anvil”. The Divine Anvil of the book being Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami. The narration is by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi, the author of the book.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

On another occasion when His Holiness was telling us about the Avataras, he made these very significant remarks;

“In the beginning of the Kalpa, the Devas and the Asuras, though they were the children of the same father (Kashyapa) but by different mothers (Aditi and Diti), realized that they were so opposed to each other in temperament and inclinations that they thought it proper and prudent to reside in distinct regions of experience far removed from each other, the Devas in the Deva Lokas and the Asuras in the Asura Lokas. All conflict was rendered ordinarily impossible unless the avarice of any particular Asura set him up to invade the Deva Lokas and claim sovereignty even there. Ordinarily, however, they kept apart in distinct regions of their own.

Later on, however, in the Treta Yuga when Sri Ramachandra had to come down for maintaining Dharma, the Devas inhabited Ayodhya or Kishkindha and the Asuras the Dandakarnya or Lanka. That is, instead of occupying distinct Lokas, they chose to reside in the same Loka, the earth, but in different portions of the same. Even then the conflict was ordinarily rare except when the Asuras in a spirit of bravado chose to start on a world-wide tour of conquest or when the Devas in defiance of the powers of the Asuras chose to enter the Dandakarnya for doing their penances.

At the time of the Lord incarnating as Sri Krishna in the Dvapara Yuga, even this was found insufficient; and so the Devas and the Asuras made their appearance in the same family. Sri Krishna’s own uncle Kamsa and aunt’s son Sisupala were Asuras. His cousins the Kauravas were Asuras. The opportunities for conflict were therefore very many and in fact the fight between them began from the moment of their appearance on earth and, in spite of occasional periods of quietude and reconciliation, their in-born tendencies landed them in almost incessant contest which reached a climax in the Great War which practically wiped out the entire family.

In the days of Kali, even the being born as members of the same family knitted together by the bonds of relationship is being found insufficient. Consequently the Devas and Asuras are no longer content to occupy different portions of the same Loka, are no longer content even to be members of the same family. They prefer now to inhabit the same body so much so that in these days it is impossible to say of any particular individual that he has the Daivi Sampat in him or that he has in him the Asuri Sampat. He seems to be a Deva this moment; the next moment he is veritable Asura. We may consider a man bad in some particulars but in others he seems to be quite divine in his conduct. The Daiva and Asura elements are so mixed up in the composition of the modern man that incessant and eternal conflict is going on in him at every moment of his life. Even his seemingly good actions are not without some mischievous elements; and the worst of his actions has in it an element of good.

When the Devas and Asuras lived in separate regions, the Lord with a view to protect the former fought the latter mostly single-handed on his own responsibility. When they were in different portions of the earth, he fought the Asuras in their own stronghold, in the Janasthana and Lanka and fought them with the co-operation of the Daivi elements of Kishkinda. When they took form in the same family, they both sought his help, whereupon at their own request he sent his physical army to fight on the side of the Kauravas and he himself stayed as the silent spectator but potent adviser of the Pandavas. Now in the modern warfare which is raging between the Devas and Asuras in the hearts of men, nobody has any though of him and he therefore prefers to be entirely indifferent to the struggle but seated in those very hearts as an unrecognized spectator seemingly taking no part or interest in the conflict, all the same remaining in truth, as he ever is, the all perceiving Witness and the sole Arbiter of the ultimate result of the conflict.”

Salutations to All.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pictures of H.H. Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami and his Guru

Pictures of H.H. Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami (below) and his Guru, H.H. Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahasvami(top).

Guru Bhakti – 02

Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

The following incidents have been drawn from the book “Sparks from a Divine Anvil”. The Divine Anvil of the book being Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami. The narration is by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi (Sri R. Krishnaswamy Iyer in his purva-ashrama, an ardent disciple of Mahasvami), the author of the book.

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An earnest disciple approached His Holiness for the solution of a difficulty in his daily Japa.

D. I have been initiated into some Mantras and they relate to different deities. There is a different Dhyana sloka for each. The form of the Deity described in the sloka is sometimes not only un-attractive but is incapable of being conceived of. Even if with some difficulty I am able to form a mental picture, the picture seems to be grotesque. For example, a form with five heads and ten hands, and it is not possible at all to retain that picture for more than a second. Further, after performing a particular Japa, when I pass on to the next Japa, I have to create a mental picture quite different from the former. I find it a great strain to do so. The result is that even the Japa seems to be a strain, however earnest I may be doing it.

H.H. Are you performing the Japas with any definite purpose of invoking the particular Deity, with a view to get any special result? If so, you must undergo the strain and try your best to form a mental picture of the Deity in accordance with the description in the Dhyana sloka.

D. I have no particular object in view.

H.H. That is you have no other object in view than the purification of your mind and the grace of God.

D. Just so.

H.H. In that case, you need not strain yourself to make mental pictures of the Deities appropriate to each Mantra.

D. Am I to understand that the Dhyana slokas need not be repeated?

H.H. Certainly not, they must be repeated.

D. What is the purpose in repeating a Dhyana sloka without a mental picture of the Deity depicted there in?

H.H. I did not say that no mental picture was necessary.

D. If then a mental picture is necessary and if that picture need not correspond to the Dhyana sloka, will there not be a variation, if not a contradiction, between the two?

H.H. Not so, if the mental picture comprehends the particular Deity also.

D. If your Holiness means that the all comprehensive Vishvaroopa form of the God may be had for the mental picture, the difficulty in creating it will be far greater and further such a cumbrous form may be imposing and even terrible, as Arjuna found it, but cannot in any way be attractive enough to hold the attention of the devotee for any appreciable time.

H.H. You are quite right when you say that the Vishvaroopa form is difficult to conceive of and may not be attractive to all. I do not, however, mean any such mental picture.

D. Then what is the mental picture which your Holiness recommends?

H.H. You said that a mental picture which could retain our attention for some time must be easy to create and be at the same time attractive.

D. Yes.

H.H. It will be better still if the picture has not to be created anew but is already in existence.

D. Certainly.

H.H. It will be far better if your mind is not to give it an attractive appearance but it is attractive in itself.

D. Quite so.

H.H. It may be that people who lived long ago had the difficulty that you speak of but certainly we have no such difficulty.

D. How?

H.H. You have seen His Holiness our revered predecessor. Have you not?

D. Yes, I have.

H.H. I am sure that, even if you had seen him but once, he will have made a deep impression on you so that you can easily recall his figure before your mind’s eye.

D. Certainly.

H.H. You will agree also that he had a very attractive personality and it is a genuine pleasure to have his figure before our mental vision.

D. It is so.

H.H. You have here then the two requisites that you wanted, Easiness of Conception and Attractiveness. Instead of taxing your imagination to create for you a picture and to make it attractive enough, you have here a ready made figure of a personality whom you have met in person and who was eminently attractive in all the aspects in which one can attract another.

D. But if I have His Holiness’ figure before my mind’s eye when I perform the Japa of Shiva or Vishnu, will it not be really a contradiction?

H.H. Why should it be? You know that it has been laid down:

Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheswaraha
Guru saakshat Para Brahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha

Our very conception of a Guru is that he is verily the Absolute Brahman itself and necessarily includes all its limitations and manifestations. There is therefore no contradiction in having the form of the Guru before you when you are reciting the Dhyana sloka or repeating the Mantra of any particular Deity, for even that Deity is included and inherent in the Guru.

D. Am I to understand that the form of the Guru may be kept in mind whatever may be the Mantra taken up?

H.H. Why not? What is the necessity for changing the form when the Deity of the next Mantra also is included and inherent in that form? When we are told by the Shastras that every Deity is inherent in the cow and in the Brahmana, does it not follow that all the Deities are inherent in our Guru who, even ordinarily speaking, was certainly the best of Brahmanas, was in the highest ashrama, occupied the highest spiritual seat and had reached the highest stage of Atmic realization. Can he not represent any Deity that you want?

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Hari Om,

Monday, October 02, 2006

Guru Bhakti – 01

Hare Krishna Friends,

In the last few emails, we have seen the brief Biography of Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami. In the next few emails, we will see some of his teachings.

The following incidents have been drawn from the book “Sparks from a Divine Anvil”. The Divine Anvil of the book being Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami. The narration is by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi (Sri R. Krishnaswamy Iyer in his purva-ashrama, an ardent disciple of Mahasvami), the author of the book.

His Holiness was ever reveling in a plane far away from that of ordinary man so much so that, even when he was engaged in a simple matter-of-fact conversation with any visitor, he found it possible to raise the tone of it to that of a lesson in life and that he was able to convert a most ordinary incident into an occasion to learn something very valuable and useful. Before I give instances of the same, I think it will be proper to give some idea of the devotion that he had towards Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada and his own predecessor, Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi. He did not look upon them as mere saintly personages but as God himself in their form. He often repeated the sloka:

Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheswaraha
Guru saakshat Para Brahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha

This was not a mere sloka extolling the Guru as equal to Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara and the Para Brahman, but was in his view, a statement of the fact of their identity. He would never allow us to forget this.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A gentleman high-placed in life once expressed to His Holiness his delight at seeing Sringeri.

G. What a glorious sight! Such a nice spot nestling in the heart of woods and hills! How pure and sparkling are the waters of River Tunga! In these days of railways and motor cars, we somehow manage to come here to enjoy the beauty of this lovely spot. In the days of Sri Sankaracharya, there were no such facilities. He walked throughout the country only on foot. How did he find out that such a beautiful spot was just here? When I think of it, I am lost in wonder and admiration to him.

H.H. Does the Creator of the world need any process of searching for finding out the objects of his own creation? Does he not know as a matter of course where everything is, for he himself placed it there? There is nothing at all, therefore, to be wondered at in the great Acharya choosing this place as an ideal one, unless you forget that he was the Lord himself incarnate and unless you consider him just such a human being as we ourselves are. It is only in the latter view that any wonder or admiration can arise at any of his actions.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In a large gathering of Pandits assembled on the occasion of a Sri Sankara Jayanthi celebration, His Holiness asked one of them to expound a particular topic in the Brahma Sutras. The Pandit did it admirably but in the course of his exposition he added an argument of his own to substantiate the proposition sought to be established in that context.

H.H. Is that argument found in the Bhashya of our Acharya?

P. No.

H.H. Then why do you advance it?

P. It is only an additional argument which will support and strengthen the case.

H.H. Evidently you think that our Acharya has failed to state it.

P. He might have included this also.

H.H. Is it not really, “He ought to have included this”?

P. I do not say so.

H.H. Certainly not in so many words; but certainly you think that the Bhashya will have looked better and been more complete if this argument had been included.

P. I thought so.

H.H. That is, by advancing this argument you sought to improve the Bhashya?

P. No, No. It would have been impertinent on my part if I had sought to do any thing of that sort.

H.H. All the same, the idea was at the back of your mind quite unconsciously; otherwise you would not have advanced a fresh argument.

P. I am sorry, if it gives rise to such an impression.

Sorry or not, you have put forward that argument. We shall see how far it is tenable.

His Holiness in a few minutes analyzed that argument and demonstrated that it was not only irrelevant and fallacious but was itself destructive of the proposition to be laid down in the context. The Pandit realized his mistake keenly.

P. I am very sorry that I advanced that argument. I see now that it is quite untenable.

H.H. Please do not think that my demonstration was intended to extract from you an expression of regret or show off my own dialectical skill. My only object was to eradicate from your mind the slightest suspicion that the All-Knowing incarnate as our Acharya could have erred in any particular or omitted to mention any relevant matter. When we forget who he really was, there is naturally a temptation to “improve” on him, for in our view he was just a learned Pandit like ourselves. You must give up that idea altogether.

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