Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Brief life sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami – 06

Hare Krishna Friends,

As mentioned before, most of the following is a transcription of the video “The Sage of Kanchi”, depicting in brief the Biography of the Mahasvami. Let us tread further.

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His Holiness initiated a scheme of mass contact. More than 2000 mudradhikaris (honorary responsible members) were nominated in Tanjore alone. Some aims of this scheme were:

Social service by the village community.
Preserving temples by cleaning them.
Peaceful persuasive prevention of conversion of Hindus to other religions.
Cow protection.
Planting of trees and growing of vegetables.
Digging of tanks, wells and channels or laying of roads by people themselves without distinction of rich or poor.

Mahasvami convened periodical conferences of the mudradhikaris to instruct them personally.

The Vedas constitute the basic scriptures of the Hindus. It is through the preservation of the Vedas that Hindu Culture has been preserved in spite of the vicissitudes of history. In recent times, the cultivation of skill in Vedic recitation and Vedic studies has been neglected because of alien influence and conditions of modern life. In order to offset the forces making for deterioration, the Acharya constituted the “Veda Dharma Paripalana Sabha”. Under the auspices of this Sabha which was started in 1944, annual conference of Vedic scholars are held in the various parts of the country, examinations are conducted in Vedic Literatures, maintenance is provided for selected and deserving Vedic scholars, institution for teaching the Vedas are set up and run, and every possible assistance is giving for the preservation of Vedic culture.

The consolidation of Advaita through his Bashyas and numerous Vedantic manuals and through teaching by example and precept was the greatest gift Adi Sankara conferred on the entire humanity. The central mission of any institution which owes its foundation to the Great Teacher should be to spread the knowledge of Advaita. The Jagadgurus of Sri Kamakoti Peetham have in various ways, rendered invaluable services to the cause of Advaita. An important measure designed to promote studies in Advaita was taken in 1894 by the then pontiff of the Mutt by inaugurating the “Advaita Sabha”. In 1945, the golden jubilee of the Advaita Sabha was celebrated in the presence of Mahasvami. The Acharya commended the work of the Sabha, and explained the essentials of Advaita Vedanta. The basic truth of Advaita is that the Self (Atman) alone is real, and that all else is Mithya. Not understanding the implication of the words, Mithya and Maya, the critics found fault with Advaita. Although ultimately the world of plurality is not real, it is not that it is not useful. Until the onset of wisdom, it is vested with empirical reality (vyavaharika satya). It is in this world and while living in it, that we have to strive for and gain release from bondage. True Moksha is the attainment of All-Selfhood, in this very life, by the removal of Maya through knowledge. The followers of the different religions think that their particular mode of worship alone is the true mode. But we, who follow Advaita believe that it is the same God that is attained through any of the religious modes, and that devotion to God is essential for realizing the truth of Advaita. In conclusion, the Acharya referred to the fact that teachers of Advaita have appeared at all times and in all the different parts of the country, and have left behind immortal works on Advaita. He declared that it was our duty to study those works and gain the wisdom that is contained in them.

In 1946, there was communal frenzy following the unfortunate demand for splitting the country. Hindu women of Bengal were molested and converted. There was an indiscriminate killing. The Acharya said “as per our shastras, those who have been molested and forcibly converted should be allowed to return to our religion and rehabilitated without any stigma. We should honor those Muslims and Hindus who rendered assistance during these disturbances.”

1947 saw the dawn of independence for India. The Acharya’s central message to the people was “Our flag contains Dharma Chakra. It links us not only with Emperor Ashoka but also with Bhagavad Gita which says ‘Evam Pravartitam Chakram’ that is our Dharma shines as the Chakra which symbolize the constant interaction between the human being and the cosmos. This freedom has been obtained by long struggle and sacrifice. Let us pray for a future of peace and prosperity. People should stick to truth at any cost and completely eschew communal strife. Each one of us should think about the welfare of others. Control of the mind leads to Self Realization and that is real independence.”

When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in Jan 1948 the Acharya said “It is a great loss to our value system. Gandhiji’s views on Rama Naama, Varnashrama Dharma, food habits and definition of God are spiritually profitable even to the most faithful Hindu.” The Acharya asked the people to pray for his soul. He instructed that 2nd October, the Birthday of Gandhiji must be observed as a day of prayer in temples, mosques and churches.

With Advaitic understanding, it will not be difficult to realize that, it is the same God that is worshipped under different names and forms. The special contribution of Hinduism to the world's history of religions is the truth that there are as many modes of approach to God Head as there are minds. And, yet on account of misunderstanding and narrowness, the followers of the different sects of Hinduism have indulged in quarrels sometimes. In South India, exclusive claims have been advanced, for instance, on behalf of Vaishnavism and Shaivism. While the Alwars and Nayanmars were universalistic in their outlook, their later followers introduced narrow distinctions and dogmatic partisanships. The Acharya wanted to give a concrete form to the movement for unity and co-ordination between the Vaishnavas and the Shaivas in Tamilnadu; and accordingly, the idea of “Tiruppavai-Tiruvempavai Shadanga Conference” was hit upon in 1950. Andal's Tiruppavai (praising Lord Vishnu) and Manikkavachakar's Tiruvempavai (praising Lord Shiva) are sung in the Vishnu and Siva temple respectively in the month of Margazhi (Margasirsha). The Acharya had a conference of scholars in these sacred texts organized at Tiruvidaimarudur in December, 1950. The unity-movement has been gaining in popularity since its inception.

When the Indian constitution was taking shape, His Holiness sent communications to about 4000 legislators to ensure that our legislation should confirm to our culture which is our Dharma. This serene sanyasi convened a conference of Mutts from allover India, the first of its kind. The concept of religion as a fundamental right saw the light of the day. Stalwarts like Pandit Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Ambedkar appreciated and respected the suggestions of the Acharya. They incorporated the important suggestions of the Acharya.

The Sage of Kanchi spelt out a simple but brilliant scheme to help the poor on a mass scale with people’s involvement. Every house wife is to deposit a hand full of rice (called Pidi Arishi in Tamil) and a coin in a pot before she starts cooking each day. This will be collected periodically by volunteers who will give it to the nearest temple where it will be cooked adding salt, tamarind and curd. After offering to the deity, it would be distributed to the poor. This scheme will benefit those who give as well as those who receive. Those who give will have the satisfaction of having made their daily offering to God and their less fortunate brethren; and those who receive will have their hunger satisfied and thought purified through partaking of the consecrated food.

In 1954, the Acharya nominated as his successor 19 year old Subrahmanyam who was trained in the Mutt itself and who was known for his piety, exemplary behavior and intelligence. He was ceremoniously initiated to Sanyasahrama as Pujyashri Jayendra Sarasvati Swamigal, the 69th Sankaracharya of Kanchi kamakoti Peetham. To ensure undisturbed training for the young Acharya, he was secluded to Ambi a remote village near Kanchipuram where there is an Adhishtanam of one of the Sankaracharyas of Kanchi. The Paramacharya himself conducted training.

1957 marked the Golden Jubilee of the Acharya’s accession to the Kamakoti Peetham. A biography of the Sage written in Tamil by Sambamoorthy Shastrigal was released to mark the occasion.

The Mahasvami blessed renovation of numerous temples. He guided the Kumbhabhishekam of Akhilandeshwari temple at Thiruvanikkaval. The ancient spacious Mutt at Thiruvanikkaval was renovated and a Veda patashaala was started here. His Holiness arranged for covering the Vimana (Tower top) of Kanchi Kamakshi temple with Gold. The temple is the center of the ancient arts and crafts. Architecture, sculpture, and iconography go into the building of temples and the making of images. The directions for these arts are to be learnt from the Agamas - Shaiva, Shakta, Vaikhanasa and Pancharatra. It is from the same sources that the Arhchakas (temple priests) have to know the correct procedures of temple rituals and worship. The Acharya wanted to institute an organization which would work for the revival-leading to a renaissance of the ancient skills and arts relating to the temples. In 1962, the Mahasvami convened the first “Vyasa Bharatha Agama Shilpa Vidwat Sadas”, a unique historical, cultural and academic assembly of scholars and artists from all over India and abroad. The topics discussed included Temple Architecture, worship and evidences of Hindu religion at various regions of the world. Scholars were honored. The Acharya said “Our ancient cultural heritage was prevalent at Egypt in the West to Java in the East. Buddhism did not accept rituals, but with its stress on Ahimsa and Satya, it is only one of the Upanishadic aspects of our religion. We should rediscover our cultural ties with our neighboring countries, including West Asia. Western interests have concocted the Race theory dividing our people into Aryans and Dravidians for which there is absolutely no sanction in our own sources. We must be fully aware of our solidarity.” The Sadas has become now a permanent annual feature.

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We will continue the next day.



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