Thursday, November 16, 2006

Brief life sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami – 05

Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

With deep sorrow I would like to mention the departure of Mukund, the 10 year old son of Sri Sankar (presently settled in Trichy). Mukund was having protein leaking problem and the conditioned worsened over the last few days. By 5.00 PM IST on 15th November, Mukund left his body. The whole family was very supportive for the child and ensured that he remembers the Lord always. Sankar is one of my close friends whom I met here in Melbourne. He is one of the kind persons responsible for introducing me to the books of the various Acharyas and Ramana Maharshi. Let us all pray Lord to give enough courage to Sri Sankar, his wife and the rest of the family to pass through this very tough time.

Continuing with the Divya Charitram of Kanchi Mahasvami.

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Traveling via various places in Kerala and Tamilnadu, the Acharya reached Tiruvannamalai in December, 1929 to have darshan of the Karthika Deepam. Tiruvannamalai is a very famous religious centre and is one of the Pancha Bhootha Kshetra (the Agni Kshetra). To symbolize the Lord in his glorious form of Jyothi (fire), a huge Deepam is lit on top of the hill on the day of Karthika (usually falling in late Nov/early Dec every year). A little bit about Tiruvannamalai is as follows:

The Lord here is called Arunachaleshwara and goddess goes by the name of Abhithakuchalamba. The pilgrim centre is also known for having been sung by Appar and Sambandar (the famous Nayanmars, Tamil Shaivite saints). There is also a story in the puranas that once the sages requested Mahavishnu and Prajapathi Brahma to measure the height of Lord Shiva (this is as per one version of the story). Shiva took the form of a flame extending infinitely upwards and downwards. Mahavishnu took the form of the Boar (Varaha) and went to the nether worlds to see the end of Shiva’s magnificent form. Brahma in turn took the form of a Swan (his vehicle) and flew towards the sky in search of Shiva’s head. It is said that both of them traveled great distances and still could not see the end of Shiva’s form. Finally the Lord appeared as a Linga (Arunachaleshwara) and blessed all who were assembled there. This incident is said to have occurred in Tiruvannamalai. There is also another story involving Lord Subramanya teaching Arunagirinathar (a saint) here. Many great siddhas and saints are associated with Tiruvannamalai.

In recent times, the name closely associated with Tiruvannamalai is that of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, the world renowned Jivanmukta. As already mentioned by Hariram, Kanchi Mahasvami had immense respect for Ramana Maharshi and vice versa. It is recommended again to go through the page (if you have already not done so) for a beautiful account of the high esteem each had for the other.

When the Mahasvami visited this place for the first time, the people gathered together in great devotion and welcomed him. Svamigal stayed there for almost a month, during which time, he went around the Hill (This is called as Giri Pradakshinam/Giri Valam and is considered very meritorious) and had darshan of Arunachaleswara several times.

Paul Brunton, an Englishman who had immigrated to America, came to India in search of a fully realized soul. He was traveling around the country meeting the Yogis in order to obtain their blessings. After completing his travels in Northern India, he came to Madras with the intention to tour South India. With the assistance of Sri.K.S.Venkataramani, a famous English writer residing in Madras, Paul got the opportunity to meet the Sage of Kanchi who was then camping at Chengulpet (which is about 35 miles from Chennai). Paul Brunton started asking his questions and the Acharya replied to all of them, with Venkataramani acting as the translator.

Towards the end of the conversation, the Acharya told him “There is an indwelling divinity in every man which will bring him back to god. Be humble you will find what you seek. Go to the revered Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai”. Paul Brunton has mentioned all about the meeting in his book ‘A Search in Secret India’. Later he met Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai and got what he was seeking. Paul Brunton has been credited with introducing Ramana Maharshi to the West through his books "A Search in Secret India" and "The Secret Path".

In one of the gatherings in Chennai, the Mahasvami suggested the following three ideas to reduce poverty.

Everyone including women should wear dresses that are the most inexpensive.
Instead of coffee, people should drink wheat porridge in the morning.
Parents of groom should refrain from getting dowry in the weddings. Marriages can be celebrated in a simple manner without extravaganza.

If we recollect, the Acharya had collected sand from Rameshwaram and as a religious rule the sand had to be dissolved in Ganga at Prayag. In order to comply with this rule the Mahasvami decided to go to Prayag as soon as possible (as we know, Jivanmuktas are never bound by any rules, what so ever. They seemingly act as per rules so that common folks like us can learn and follow). He traveled through Sri Shailam, Hyderabad, Nagpur, and Jabalpur and reached Allahabad (Prayag). He covered the entire route of over 2000 km by foot with the summer heat at 120 deg. Where ever he went, he had a ritual bath in the nearby sacred river and darshan at the respective temple thereby silently demonstrating the psychic unity of Bharath. The common folk and elite thronged to receive him with all honors. The Acharya spoke to the people in their own language. He used to deliver lectures on a variety of spiritual subjects like Vedas, Vedanta, Puranas, Dharma Shastra, Life History of Sankara Bhagavatpada, the Sthala Puranas of the holy places that he visited etc (we will learn about some of these in the mails to follow).

At Allahabad he was ceremoniously received by a committee lead by the Vice Chancellor of Allahabad University Mahamahopadhyay Ganga Nath Jha. In July 1934, at the Triveni confluence he mixed the sand gathered by him at the Sethu seashore in 1922. After bathing, he collected water from Ganga for Abhishekams of deities in South Indian temples.

In Oct 1934, the Mahasvami reached Varanasi (there are two rivers called Varana and Asi that come and join the river Ganga. The land between these two spots along the banks of Ganga is Varanasi, also known as Kashi) and received a hearty welcome from the public lead by the Maharaja of Kashi and Pandit Madan Mohan Malavya, Vice Chancellor of Benaras Hindu University. He had Darshan of Lord Vishwanatha and Goddess Annapurna. The Gauda Sanyasis of North and Dravida Sanyasis of South offered their respects to him. At the Benaras Hindu University a grand welcome address in Sanskrit was presented by the Vice Chancellor. The Acharya made a rather long reply in Sanskirt. His main words were “The aim of Education in ancient India was to attain inner peace. This alone can ensure happiness for society. Education based on our Dharma will confer immortality”.

A conference of eminent scholars of Bengal invited the Acharya to Calcutta. En route to Calcutta from Kashi, at the pilgrim center Kastar Mahadev numerous old sanyasis welcomed the Acharya with reverence. He was honored with public reception at Patna and Gaya. The Mahsvami addressed the people in Hindi. At Bodh Gaya, the Acharya worshipped the Bodhi tree and Buddha. At Calcutta, he received a colorful reception jointly organized by several linguistic groups. Moving forward, at the Jagannath temple in Puri, the Sage of Kanchi was requested to occupy the ancient Mukthi Mantapa Presidential seat. He requested the pundits of Jagannath to be leaders for our nation and work towards spreading our dharma in this world.

Walking through various towns in Orrissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, he reached Rameshwaram in 1939. With the Ganga water collected by him, he did Abhishekams to Ramalingeshwara. Thus his Ganga Yaatra was considered complete on that day. The Acharya returned to Kumbakonam after his unprecedented yaatra for 21 years covering over 5000 km, all the while emphasizing that the philosophy of Hindu society is collective well being and the final goal is Moksha.

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We will see the rest of the account in the next email.



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