Thursday, November 23, 2006

Brief life sketch of Sri Chandrashekara Saraswathi Mahasvami – 07

Hare Krishna,

Today we will conclude with the Brief life sketch of the Kanchi Mahasvami. The email is a bit longer.

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The Mahasvami’s simple speeches to the masses flowed effortlessly, containing the most ancient wisdom and also latest research results. For him all religions were only facets of the Sanathana Dharma. He reflected that unity of Religions is needed, but not uniformity. The core of the Acharya’s life was the preservation, study and adherence to the Vedas, the common heritage of the entire Human race (please note, it is entire Human race, not just for Indians). As mentioned before, His discourses have been brought out in many volumes in Tamil as “Deivattin Kural”, these are known as the common man’s Veda. Some parts have been brought out in English also. He weaved together various branches of knowledge into one universal fabric. His insights were remarkable.

During the India-China conflict in 1962, the government wanted money for the war effort. The Acharya in a memorable appeal, called upon the people to rally to the defense of our country and offer at least a small quantity of gold to the temples of Goddess Shakthi from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. He said: “We should punish our enemies, but without malice”. During the Indo-Pak war in 1964, the Acharya arranged for the free distribution of thousands of copies of Hanuman Chalisa to our troops to sustain their morale and ensure victory.
Tiruvidaimarudur, also called Madhyarjuna, is a notable place of pilgrimage connected with Adi Sankara's Dig Vijaya. When Sankara visited this place, he desired that the Mahalinga at the temple should itself declare the truth of Advaita so that the doubt in regard thereto lingering in the minds of some people might be dispelled. In response to the Jagadguru's prayer, Lord Shiva appeared out of the Mahalinga, raised the right hand, and proclaimed the truth of Advaita three times thus: 'satyam Advaitam; satyam Advaitam; satyam Advaitam'. Mahasvami wished that this greatly significant incident should be adequately represented in sculpture so that people would easily remember it. A vimana (gopura/tower) over the entrance of the local Sankara Mutt was put up, and within it were installed sculptured figures of the Mahalinga with the right hand raised and of Adi Sankara with palms joined. In the central courtyard of the Mutt a shrine was constructed and in it was installed Sankara paaduka. The Acharya accompanied by Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swami participated in the Kumbhabhishekam of this new memorial, which took place on the 5th of December, 1963.
Several foreign scholars and savants, spiritual seekers and religious leaders, exponents of the arts and even diplomats have had interviews with the Acharya, thereby gaining first-hand knowledge of the immortal tradition of India. What Professor Milton Singer of the University of Chicago said after meeting the Acharya, express precisely the feeling of all those from abroad who have had the privilege of conversing with the Great One. This is what the Professor said: "Before I went to India I had heard and read much about the great soul-force of its holy men and saints but I had assumed that this was something in the ancient past. And it was not until I had met the Sankaracharya that I realized it is still a part of the living force of Hinduism today".
His Holiness advised musicians and Harikatha artists to understand the meaning of the lyrics and sing them with devotion. Scores of eminent musicians presented their art before him and received his blessings. The Mahasvami composed the song “Maithreem Bhajatha” in Sanskrit about universal peace and harmony for being sung by the nightingale of India Dr.M.S.Subbulakshmi at the United Nations (Most of us would have listened to this master piece. If you have not, it can be downloaded from coolgoose/cooltoad site)
Sri Jayendra Saraswathi svamigal desired that the entire year 1967 be celebrated as the Diamond jubilee year of the Mahasvami’s accession to the Kamakoti Peetham. There were serene celebrations all over the land.

For the Mahasvami the day started at 4:30 with his ritualistic bath, which was itself worshipped by devotees. His Anushtaana, Japa and Pujas were predominantly Manasika in nature. After granting darshan to devotees, giving audience to visitors, advising religious organizations, addressing the public, giving instructions for the Mutts administration and his own reading, hardly the Mahasvami got 2 hrs of rest a day. Even on fasting days, his absolute serenity and poise were a marvel. The Acharya’s frequent observance of silence seemed to recharge his subtle powers. He adhered to tapas. His Atmabala was his invincible strength.

In one of the gatherings, the Acharya observed “Villagers migrating to cities and living beyond their means will only increase poverty. Value based quality of living is more important than the so called standard of living. Rights are only facilities for performance of our duties. Teachers should study the subjects to impart and not to sell knowledge. Respect for parents and teachers are essential. Avoid Ego, Anger and Arrogance. Humility with self confidence will lead to greatness in life. Students should acquire knowledge of world affairs without deviating from Education. Truth and Non-violence are the principles of Dharma for the entire humanity which is but one family.” When the then Tamilnadu Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran (MGR) had a darshan, smilingly the Acharya told him that his power of attracting the masses should be used in a positive manner.

With the blessings of Mahasvami, Sankar Mutts were constructed all over India at various places. A magnificent stupa was erected at Kaladi in Kerala, the birth place of Adi Sankara. At Srirangam, the Mahasvami suggested building of a new Gopuram on the old base. This was duly accomplished in the 80s by the initiative of His Holiness Jeer Svamigal of Ahobila Mutt (Sri Vaishnava Sampradaam). The Mahasvami directed Kanchi Mutt to financially help in constructing one of the tiers. This is now one of the tallest Gopurams in our country.

In April 1978, at the age of 84, the Acharya suddenly left on an indefinite paada yaatra, walking nearly 25 km a day. This long tour extended for full six years, with pretty long halts for few months at some places, covering many parts of the States of Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and a sizable portion of Maharashtra also. He declined any form of paraphernalia of the Mutt. A few personal disciples accompanied him on their own initiative. Harijan men, women and children waited for his darshan on the road side. The Acharya made kind enquiries about their welfare and blessed them. His Holiness blessed countless devotees who saw him. At 84, he walked like a young man of 25. The rugged terrain, aggressive weather, utter lack of even minimum comfort did not disturb his spiritual trip and poise. Roads and rocks were his bed, sky was his roof, puja was part of his self. Some of the chosen objectives which constituted a significant part of the life-mission of the Great Guru, such as propagation and encouragement of the study of Vedas and Shastras, constructing new temples and renovating old ones, insisting people to lead a pure life and bringing to the memory of people the stupendous achievements of great preceptors like Sankara Bhagavatpada and Sage Vidyaranya continued to revolve in the mind of His Holiness, with redoubled vigor during the strenuous paadayatra. Though he had renounced the headship of the Kanchi Peetham in favour of his successor by June 1969, he never failed to do what a typical world preceptor should, for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people at large.

At Satara in Maharashtra a charming boy Sankaran had his first darshan of the Mahasvami and received his grace. In later camps, the Acharya put special questions to him and was happy with his response. After one such meeting, the Acharya svami casually remarked that the Mutt would soon have three Sankaracharyas. On 29th May 1983, charming 14 year old Sankaran was initiated into the Sanyasa order and designated as Pujyasri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Svamigal, the 70th Peethadipathi of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt. The unique trinities, the three Acharyas belonging to three different generations reflected the Mahasvami ensuring a smooth unbroken continuity in the 25 centuries old Ritualistic, Spiritual, Social and Administrative traditions of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. The Paramacharya himself supervised the initial training of the Bala Svamigal.
At the earnest request of the two Acharyas, the Government and people of Tamilnadu, the Mahasvami returned to Kanchipuram in 1984. One cannot but wonder when he ponders over this very long yaatra of His Holiness, covering a distance of about 4000 km on foot with such a frail body, with his food restricted in quality and quantity, who was 84 years old when starting from Kanchi and about month less than ninety on his return to Kanchi to have accomplished this feat. Definitely, here is felt the super human touch.
From 1984 the Sankara Mutt in Kanchi again turned out to be a place of solace for the care-worn, the sick, the mentally retarded, the poor and the needy, a pilgrim center for devotees hailing from far and near and a magnetic spot of spiritual attraction for a good number of foreigners seeking peace. Distinguished visitors during the 80s included Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the President of India Dr.Shankar Dayal Sharma and as well as their majesties, the King and Queen of Nepal. National leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K.Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi paid their respects to the three Acharyas of the Mutt.
Once a widow of an army personnel had darshan of the Mahasvami. The Acharya shocked her by giving her Kumkum prasadam and told her that her husband was alive. Later the blessed couple came and fell at his feet. As a personification of humility the Mahasvami said “Many devotees identify divinity with me, though it may not be a fact. But perhaps they derive an inner feeling of communion with divinity due to their own dedicated perceptions.”
Almost till late 1990, the Acharya continued in the strict observance of His daily routine - Japa (meditation) for an hour or more before sunrise Anushtana (ablutions), Atmapuja, worship at the Adi Sankara shrine inside the Mutt, granting darsan to a vast mass of devotees and so on. He rarely missed going to Sri Kamakshi temple for darshan on Fridays. He perused at least two daily newspapers and at times read books of interest for even hours.
After 1990, Paramacharya seemed to be further withdrawing towards silence. Some attributed this to his failing health. His gracious smiles and queries to the doctors were full of meaning. Though His Holiness could not walk far, nor sit for long, he never disappointed the devotees flocking at the Mutt for his darshan, nor failed to hear the prayers of suffering people and bless them. Even his memory did not shrink till his last days. A committee was formed with Sri R.Venkataraman, the former President of India as its chairman to celebrate 1993-94 as the centenary year of the Mahasvami. In 1993 countless devotees satisfied their own desires by performing Kanakabhishekam to the Acharya, but this meant nothing for that great stitaprajna for whom gold and gravel made absolutely no difference. The Jivanmukta radiated divine grace to all those who came to him.
On 8th of Jan 1994, the Acharya looked very cheerful. At around 2:58 PM, the magnificent moral monarch glided out of his 100 years old mortal mansion on his own decision and attained Videha Mukti. An Avatar came to an end. The mission of preserving and reviving our Dharma initiated by Adi Sankara has been continued and consolidated in our times by the Centenarian Sage of Kanchi. This mission has no end.
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With this, we come to the end on the series of emails depicting the Biography of Kanchi Mahasvami. From the next email, we will see some of his messages.



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