Thursday, December 28, 2006

Brief life sketch of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami - 03

Hare Krishna Friends,

Before continuing, just a reminder that tomorrow is Vaikunta Ekadashi. Let us all try to have the constant thought of the Lord as far as possible.

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Acharya was temperamentally inclined to the royal path of Yoga (As per Patanjali Yogasutras). Mahasvami initiated the Acharya into the process of meditative contemplation when he was just 15 years of age. He started mastering “Yogasanas”. He was eager to learn and he enjoyed doing asanas. Both of these contributed to the fact that he mastered many asanas in a relatively short time. Apart from asanas, he learnt many kriyas. By the time Acharya attained 16 years of age, the deep contemplation on the Self became natural. A few hints from the Guru regarding meditation were sufficient for the Acharya, who practiced meditation and soon began to attain “Savikalpa Samadhi”. When he was less than 20 years of age, Acharya went on to perfect “Nirvikalpa Samadhi” (attained by concentration on the attribute less Supreme). His urge to remain in “Nirvikalpa Samadhi” became so intense that Mahasvami had to instruct the young Acharya to check it for it would have been impossible to get him back from that state of Samadhi. We will learn more about the “Yogarathnam’s” experiences in his own words in the coming mails.

Along with his Yoga Sadhana, Paramacharya had initiated Acharya to Chandramouliswara Puja, Sri Chakra Puja and others. Contemplation on the form-full god had become very easy for Acharya.

The following incident indicates how Acharya was initiated to the contemplation on the formless Atman. This is from the book “Yoga, Enlightenment & Perfection” of his Highness Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahasvamigal by Sri R.M.Umesh. Acharya has shared the following with his humble disciple Sri Umesh. The incident occurred sometimes between April 1932 – March 1933. The narration is as done by Acharya.

During my stay in Narasimhavana, every evening I used to cross the Tunga and visit the Sharadamba temple on the other bank of the river. Once when I came back after having darshan of the mother, my Guru asked me the following:

Paramacharya (Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami): When you were crossing the river, what did you see? What thoughts arose in your mind?

Acharya (Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Svami): I saw and thought about those things that were visible.

Paramacharya: Must you see whatever is in the range of your vision?

Acharya: If eyes are closed it is not possible to move forward. As the eyes were open, I saw what was visible.

Paramacharya: You must see all that is visible, yet not see them.

Acharya: How is this possible?

For this, the Paramacharya told the following Shloka and explained how one must conduct always. This occurs in Bhagavatpada’s Shatasloki. The complete verse is:

Atmambodastarangosmyahamiti gamane bhavayan asanastaha
samvitsootranu viddo manirahamiti vaa smindriyaartha prateetou
Drishtasmyaham atmavalokaaditi shayana vidou magna ananda sindou
antarnishto mumukshuhu sa khalu tanu bhrutam yo nayatyevamayuhu

Atmambodastarangosmyahamiti gamane

“When we get up from a seated position and start walking, the feeling should not be, ‘We are walking and going somewhere.’ In the big ocean – the Atman – a wave has arisen. That is the supposition. There is no difference between the wave and the ocean. Yet, because one walks (and thus moves forward like the wave), one should think of oneself as the wave. When the occasion to walk arises, one should contemplate, ‘I am a wave in the ocean of the bliss, in the ocean of the Atman.’” His advice surprised me. He went on, “At all times – even when you talk to someone – repeat this idea in the mind.” With practice, one uninterruptedly carries on this repetition even while speaking. Experience confirms this.

What should be the thought when one is seated? He advised:

bhavayan asanastaha - samvitsootranu viddo manirahamiti vaa smi

In the thread of knowledge, a gem has been strung. The gem cannot be removed; the thread is made of unbreakable consciousness. I am that gem. Contemplation must be done in this manner.

indriyaartha prateetou Drishtasmyaham atmavalokaaditi

Whenever some object is seen, the reflection should not be, “This object is now visible.” One must think, “Aha! Objectless consciousness has now become associated with objects. The Atman was manifest earlier but now its manifestation has increased.” On receiving a blow, we become markedly aware of the body, do we not? We normally do have awareness of the body but this awareness increases when we are beaten. Similar is the case here. Accordingly, even when perceiving some external object, one should cogitate that apprehension of the Atman has occurred.

shayana vidou magna ananda sindou

Do not fall asleep just like that. When lying down, contemplate, “I am now immersed in an ocean of bliss” and, with this feeling, begin to sleep. It is very good. Whoever wants can test the difference between simply lying down and going to sleep and sleeping after voluntarily eradicating all thoughts from the mind while lying down, generating a feeling of bliss and retaining it for some minutes till sleep overtakes one. The great joy that this approach to sleep yields becomes apparent once it is experienced for a few days.

antarnishto mumukshuhu sa khalu tanu bhrutam yo nayatyevamayuhu

He who spends his life in this fashion is, amongst people, the firmly inward-turned one desirous of liberation. Therefore, when walking, sitting, standing and even when lying down, this is how we must conduct in our life. This is the advice my Guru gave me.

I put into practice immediately the advice of my Guru. But the intensity of my concentration was less. When I sincerely started to do it, there were other factors which prevented me to go beyond a particular point. But with my Guru’s advice and blessing, I was able to completely bring the practice to my life every moment.”

Later, the Acharya had his formal lessons in Vedanta. His Guru expounded the Bhagavad Gita Bhashyam, Brahma Sutra Bhashyam and Bhashyam on Upanishads. To the Acharya, these lessons merely served to confirm what he had already learnt through his personal experiences earlier in life.

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We will continue with the narration the next day. Please ponder on the lines of the above Shloka. To start with, we can try to practice Bhagavatpada’s instruction before going to sleep. Wish you all a very Happy New Year in advance.

Hari Om,

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Brief life sketch of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami - 02

Hare Krishna Friends,

Please pardon a day’s delay in the posting. Let us continue with the brief biography of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami and see some of his words of wisdom.
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Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami had often stressed to Srinivasa the importance of brahmacharya and sanyasa. One day, Srinivasa asked Vaidyanatha Shastry (Srivasa’s teacher in the Mutt) the following few questions:

I have heard that the eldest son in the family must get married. Is it so?
Is it necessary to master the scripture before renouncing the world?
I have heard that a set of debts accrues when one is born. Some of these are resolved by service to parents, some by worshipping Devas and some others are repaid by begetting progeny. Is this indeed the state of affairs?
To enter another ashrama, is it necessary for one to dwell as a Brahmachari with the Guru for a long time?
Can a young boy like me take up sanyasa? Can sanyasa be taken up without the approval of parents?

Vaidyanatha Shastry could not give satisfactory answers to these questions. Subsequently, one evening Mahasvami went to the Kalabhairava temple accompanied by Vaidyanatha Shastry and Srinivasa. Mahasvami asked Shastry to give the meaning of certain shlokas from the “Prabodha Sudhakara” of Sankara Bhagavatpada. As ordered, Shastry gave an overall meaning as follows: "It cannot be said that begetting a son confers liberation because not all people with sons have attained liberation. Further, the cycle of transmigratory existence itself will cease if this were true. A son cannot be the cause of happiness in this world or next since the Vedas prescribe special rites such as Jyotishtoma to attain a higher world and not procreation. The Veda very clearly proclaims that only the realization of the Self yields immortality. The Veda's utterances that a son is essential should be understood as merely eulogizing the performance of sacrifices such as “Puthreshti Yaga” (performed to obtain a son).The Vedas, which are like a mother, certainly does not intend to compel un-desiring ones to perform such sacrifices". After this, Mahasvami proceeded to give a detailed exposition. He said that marriage is compulsory only for a person who wants to enjoy sensual pleasures. For persons with strong dispassion there is no obligation to lead a householder's life. Further, there is no Vedic injunction that a dispassionate one should get married. The householder's life is recommended for persons with desire so that they avoid bad ways and lead a path of Dharma. In fact, the Jabala Upanishad explicitly declares that the moment one becomes extremely dispassionate one can renounce and become an ascetic. Thus a man can become an ascetic regardless of whether he is a celibate or a house holder or a forest dweller. He strengthened his explanations by various citations and firmly drove home his points.

On many occasions, Mahasvami spoke to Srinivasa in private about detachment and Brahmacharya and he was able to gauge from Srinivasa's face that the advice was having the desired effect. Undoubtedly, these words would have been like nectar to Srinivasa whose longing for asceticism was intense and innate.

Under the inspiration of Sri Sharada, Mahasvami resolved to appoint the capable and most deserving Srinivasa as his successor designate. On May 22, 1931, Srinivasa was initiated into the holy order of sanyasa, even before he had attained the age of 14. The Mahasvami named him as Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Svami and taught him the sacred Mahavakyas.

Acharya's Guru Bhakthi and Guru Seva stand as a perfect example of Guru-Sishya relationship eulogized in the scriptures. It can be recollected here that Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami very often used to enter into “Antarmukha Avastha”. His behavior was unpredictable and the ordinary rules of conduct, worldly or spiritual, were no more for him. During such states, Mahasvami had to be particularly cared for. People feared that he might get drowned or move away into the forest. None dared to approach him for he would pelt them with stones. It was only Acharya who was able to bring his Guru back to the safety. There were even times when Mahasvami would start casting off his clothes and move about unconcerned like an Avadhuta. Acharya would rush spare clothing to him to prevent a commotion. This apart, Acharya used to constantly look after Mahasvami's needs when the latter was in his moods of seclusion. It is not too difficult to serve the Guru in conditions of normalcy but it requires patience, dexterity and tact to attend to the Guru's needs under trying circumstances. Acharya's exemplary care of his master is itself sufficient testimony to his boundless devotion to his Guru.

Mahasvami's affinity to Acharya was so great that he strongly disapproved when devotees showed preference in having his (Mahasvami's) darshan. In fact, Mahasvami firmly believed that his disciple was none other than his Guru (Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahasvami) incarnate and even had told Acharya about this. Mahasvami did not hesitate to exhibit his regard for Acharya openly - he would sometimes open the door for Acharya and was known to have stood up on Acharya's arrival. During festival season, he used to encourage Acharya to use the Golden palanquin and he would use the Silver one that followed. Acharya on his part never let these things go to his head. As far as he was concerned, "It was only my Guru’s love for me that caused him to speak of me as a re-manifestation of his own Guru".
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It is by the grace of a Guru that one is led from the state of ignorance to the state of everlasting infinite bliss. Therefore, one must show the greatest respect to the Guru and always act perfectly in accordance with His words.
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While a piece of iron is transformed by the Sparsha Gem into a piece of Gold, if that piece of Gold were to be brought into contact with a piece of Iron, both the Iron and the Gold would remain as they are.

But a Guru not only transforms his disciple into a knower but also confers on the disciple the power to convert another into a knower. Thus, the Sparsha Gem hardly serves as an analogue. Actually, there is simply no analogue for the Guru.
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Hari Om,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Photo of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami

Brief life sketch of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami (1917 - 1989) - 01

Hare Krishna Friends,

From today, we will see the life history and teachings of another renowned Jivanmukta, Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami of Sringeri. I thought of slightly changing the presentation pattern. In the first half of the message, we will walk through the life sketch of Mahasvami, in the second part we will see some parables, elucidations or messages of Mahasvami. Praying Mahasvami to guide us all in this process.
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On Fridays, after completing his anushtanams Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami used to visit the Sharada temple in Sringeri, have darshan of the mother and then distribute Prasadam to the Mutt’s Veda Patashala students. On one occasion, while giving the Prasadam to the young boys, Mahasvami asked each of them “Child, what is your name?” when the boy answered the Mahasvami continued “Can you tell me why your parents named you thus?” The boys did not know how to answer the second question. When 13 year old Srinivasa came for receiving the Prasadam, Mahasvami posed the same question. The humble Srinivasa answered “Svami, with the intention that at least when somebody calls my name I remember the Lord, my parents have named me Srinivasa.” Mahasvami was very pleased with the answer. It was this same Srinivasa who later adorned the Sringeri Sharada Peetham as its 35th pontiff.

On 13th November 1917, the country was celebrating with great enthusiasm the festival of lights, Deepavali. On the same day Srinivasa, as Acharya was known in his purvashrama was born to Venkata Lakshmi Amma and Rama Shastry in Bangalore. Even from his childhood days, Srinivasa was an embodiment of such divine qualities as compassion, firm belief in Ishvara, forbearance etc. His belief in God was far from superficial. A tank was believed to be infested with ghosts and people used to abstain from using it after sunset. On an amavasya (new moon) evening, the young friends of Srinivasa challenged him to go to the tank. He boldly ran to it, washed his hands and feet, rinsed his mouth and returned. When asked for the reason for his fearlessness, he said, "I was chanting the name of God. How could any evil spirit approach me?"

Once, Srinivasa told his friends that the goal of his life would be to realize God. During this conversation, one of his friends challenged his conviction that “God exists” on the ground that neither he nor those he knew had seen God.

Srinivasa: Can you prove that there is no God? Would you say that something does not exist because you have not seen it? For instance, have you seen Bombay? No. Does it then follow that Bombay is non-existent?

Friend: I have not seen Bombay but I have seen many who have. That is why I believe that Bombay exists.

Srinivasa: Very well. Likewise, our ancient sages who had seen the Lord have given clear indications to that effect. What is wrong if we unreservedly accept their words? Their experience cannot be set aside and so we must concede the existence of God.

At school, Srinivasa was an obedient and conscientious student. From a very young age, Srinivasa began to regularly express to his friends his desire to renounce the world (take up sanyasa). When one boy praised the position of a King, Srinivasa replied "Do not think thus. What long-lasting benefit is there in becoming a King? An Emperor can enjoy only when he is at the helm of power and this state has to come to an end sooner or later. If, however, I become a sanyasi, I can constantly meditate and be without any worries. There will be a wonderful opportunity to behold God and I shall remain ever protected by him". Strange words of wisdom indeed from one who was hardly a teenager!

Sriniavasa’s family was stricken in poverty. Though the boy was nearly 13 years old, his Upanayanam had not been performed and the parents were much worried about this. By Sri Sharada and Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami’s grace, good fortune knocked on their door in the form of an invitation to perform Srinivasa’s Upanayanam at the Mutt’s expense in Sringeri. The Upanayanam was performed on the 4th of May 1930 at Sharada temple. After the completion of all the observances, the family went to Narasimhavanam (on the bank across Sri Sharada temple where the Acharyas usually stay) to pay respects to Mahasvami. The young Brahmachari sought the Jagadguru to stay back and learn Sanskrit and other holy scriptures at the Mutt’s Patashala. The compassionate Mahasvami posed some questions to Srinivasa and was very satisfied with the answers and happily consented for Srinivasa’s stay in the Mutt. The parents left for Bangalore leaving their dear son under the loving care of Mahasvami.

Srinivasa was unquestionably the most brilliant of the students at the Mutt. Mahasvami regularly monitored the progress of the students. He found Srinivasa head and shoulders above the others. In the evenings, Mahasvami generally went to the Kalabhairava temple and often took Vaidyanatha Shastry (teacher at the Mutt’s patashala) and the young students with him. On such occasions, several topics were discussed and quite often Antadi Shlokas were chanted [this is similar to our Antyakshari game. The last word (Anta) in the preceding Shloka must be the first word (Adi) in the succeeding verse]. Sometimes, Mahasvami used to ask the meanings of the verses and he was very pleased by Sri Srinivasa's unique interpretation of the Shlokas and situations.

Occasionally Mahasvami would inquire about the welfare of the boys and also asked them about the quality of food. The boys usually gave various kinds of answers but Srinivasa kept quiet on such occasions. Noticing this, one day Mahasvami asked Srinivasa the reason for this. Srinivasa said, "All that we get is Acharya's prasadam. As such, it is always tasty". Mahasvami was very pleased on hearing this. It had been his intention to find out how far the boys were slaves of their tongue.
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The following conversation between Acharya (A) Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami and a Devotee (D) is picked from the book “Exalting Elucidations”.

D: We find differing views in the Advaita texts themselves. For example, I have learnt from the Panchadashi that the Jiva is a reflection of consciousness in Avidya. In some other texts, Brahman delimited by Avidya is termed as Jiva. Some works speak of the presence of only one Jiva. Some others say that there are multiple Jivas. What is the reason for such differing views?

A: Advaita philosophy, which stems from Shastras and is elucidated by Sankara Bhagavatpada has some variety just as the Ganges branches before merging with the ocean. However, all Advaitins agree that:

Brahma Satyam Jaganmitya. Jivo Brahmaiva naparaha.

“Brahman is real, the world is unreal and the Jiva is verily Brahman, and not different from it.”

Further, the followers of Bhagavatpada are unanimous that Jnana alone is the cause of Moksha.

The variations seen are in the description of the world, God and the individual self. The different views serve to cater to the requirements of aspirants of differing competence and temperament. To a highly competent and advanced aspirant, the eka-jiva-vada (the view that there is only one Jiva) is appealing. Difficulty may arise if others are also taught in the same fashion. So, for them nana-jiva-vada (the view that there are many jivas) is presented. Sureshvaracharya has clarified, “By whatever method one gets the knowledge of the inner Self, that means should be considered proper. Such methods are several.”
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Monday, December 18, 2006

Incidents from the Life of Kanchi Paramacharya - 02

Hare Krishna Friends,

The following exhilarating incidents were mentioned by one of the disciples of Sri Madhuramurali Swami (visit to know more about Sri Madhuramurali Swami). She spoke about the following incidents from Kanchi Mahasvami’s life on her visit to Sydney.
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The intensity and depth of Paramacharya’s memory is legendary. Paramacharya was camping in MIT campus in Chennai and one day after his lecture, he was offering prasadam including kumkum (vermilion) to the students coming in a line.

One of the students was summoned back by the Acharya after he received the prasadam. The Mahasvami asked him in Kannada language whether was he from Dharwad – a place north of Bangalore in Karnataka. The student replied in affirmative. He then asked the student per chance was his name Chandrasekhar or Chandramouli. The student with an exclamation said it was indeed Chandramouli. He also confirmed his age as 22 when he was posed with that question by Mahasvami. Then Paramacharya enquired about the welfare of his parents and blessed him again. The entire dialogue was in Kannada.
Chandramouli hesitatingly informed Paramacharya that this was the first occasion he was seeing him and how come Mahasvami knew so much about him. Paramacharya told him that when he was camping in Dharwad about 23 years ago, a couple came to him and sought his blessings for a baby. Paramacharya blessed them. When he gave the prasadam to the couple, the husband applied the kumkum in the forehead and then a small bit of it on his right shoulder in a fast moving action. Mahasvami told Chandramouli that he did the same kind of action after receiving prasadam from him and Paramacharya was immediately reminded of his father's similar action. Also remembering their pleas, He just added the bits and derived his age too.

See even that small insignificant motion of hand has been captured in his mental framework and recalled effortlessly after so many years.
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Paramacharya also possessed a great sense of humor. He once lamented to one of the devotees, Sri Vedagiri that Adi Sankara was fortunate to have an unquestioning disciple Sri Totaka and it is not easy to get such disciples. Vedagiri in his earnest told Paramacharya that he will do whatever Acharya says but the Mahasvami told him that it will not be that easy. However Vedagiri was insistent. Paramacharya then to pointed out to Vedagiri an old Brahmin widow in the crowd of devotees assembled outside. True to the then prevailing tradition, the old lady was dressed in a white sari with a shaven head and shining vibhuthi in the forehead. Paramacharya told Vedagiri to go to that lady and enquire whether she was "Sumnagali" (Neengal Sumangaliya – in Tamil). Vedagiri was very hesitant and reluctant to do so, as was naturally to be expected.

Paramacharya reminded him that it was not easy to be a Totaka. Not to disown his own words in such a short time, Vedagiri summoned all his courage and came before that old lady. She was with a few of her family members who seemed able bodied too. Praying all the Gods he could remember, Vedagiri feebly asked the lady "Neengal Sumangaliya?" expecting a barrage of blows physically or verbally.

The lady's face brightened up immediately and she said with a glee "Yes" and also wondered how Paramacharya knew about it. Confused of the tilt, Vedagiri came back to Mahasvami and narrated him the entire thing. Yet he could not figure out what had happened and how the lady could agree with Paramacharya's poser. Paramacharya solved the mystery by explaining that Sumangali is a village in Tanjore district and the lady hailed from there (Tamil knowing friends, you can now read that question again and appreciate the appropriateness).
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With this, we will stop on the series of emails pertaining to Kanchi Paramacharya. A lot of information is available on the website about Paramacharya, his discourses, the experiences of Devotees etc. It would be undoubtedly beneficial to each of us if we can take some time off everyday and read from the book “Hindu Dharma”. There are a lot of books available in Tamil, English and other languages as well. Each book is filled with a wealth of information. Most of the books are available in Giri Traders, Chennai and in the local Kanchi Mutt branches.
From the next mail, we will try to get a glimpse of another Jivanmukta, the renowned “Yoga Rathnam” Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami of Sringeri.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Incidents from the Life of Kanchi Paramacharya - 01

Hare Krishna,

The following exhilarating incidents were mentioned by one of the disciples of Sri Madhuramurali Swami (visit to know more about Sri Madhuramurali Swami). She spoke about the following incidents from Kanchi Mahasvami’s life on her visit to Sydney.
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The foremost attribute of any saint/guru is the immense unshakeable faith in God. Paramacharya was also an embodiment of that certitude. In one of his early yaatras, Mahasvami was camping in a small village in Andhra. The finances of Mutt were shallow at those times, but Acharya wasn't perturbed by that state of affairs. As is customary, the well-to-do people in that village – only a handful (it being a small village) - provided for the needs of the Mutt like pooja items, Bhiksha, Annadhanam etc. on a rotation basis. When the manager of Mutt saw that each of them had already provided for a day each, he approached Mahasvami for moving on to the next place.

Paramacharya fell in love with the serenity and calmness of the village and felt that they should stay for a few more days which would provide an opportunity to Paramacharya to spend a few more days in Dhyanam. The manager told him that nothing was left literally for the next morning even for pooja and he dare not ask again any one in the village for meeting the operating expenses. He said there were even no provisions to offer Bhiksha to Paramacharya on the following day. Paramacharya smilingly told him that he was ready for upavasam. The manager replied politely that it may suit Paramacharya but the employees including him could not do so. Mahasvami just told him that "Kavalai padade, Ambal Padi alappal" (an expression in Tamil to the effect - do not worry, Jaganmata will take care, Padi is an old measure for grains). The manager just murmured how Ambal could do so in this remote village. He told Paramacharya that even if someone was to give cash, things would have to be procured from far off place since nothing was available in the vicinity. Paramacharya just smiled and went to retire.

The manager was trying to sleep in a cot outside the camp but with a heavy responsibility on his shoulders, sleep was evading him. At about 11 PM in the night, he saw a line of bullock carts with lanterns dangling between the two wheels coming along at a distance. When they came near the camp, one of them jumped out and asked the manager the whereabouts of a Sadhu from Southern side who was camping in that village. When the manager replied they have hit the right place, their chieftain got out and told the manager that they were from a nearby village and after the harvest, they usually offer their first lot to the village deity. After hearing about this great Sadhu, they decided to offer him this time since they considered both the offerings to be on the same plateau. As they had to resume the work the next morning, they decided to come that night itself to fulfill their obligation.
The manager was spell bound and speechless. Regaining the power of utterance after a while, he went inside and woke up Paramacharya. He sought his permission to accept the offer. Paramacharya came out and blessed the villagers; he told the manager to accept the grains, vegetables etc. At that point the chieftain humbly told Paramacharya that they wished to offer them in their own customary manner and Paramacharya nodded His head.

They took out the "Padis" – the measuring jar in metal - filled them with various grains and then poured them in the receptacles of the Mutt. The manager was in tears seeing how "Ambal Padi alanthal" in that middle of night. Paramacharya also took out a yellow pumpkin from the lot of vegetables and gave it to the manger saying " so, you can have your favorite paal kootu (some dish made of milk and pumpkin) tomorrow " subtly telling him that he need not fear of having to observe any upavasam the next day.

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Paramacharya is also known as for his wit and humor and for the pun of words.
Once an artist came to Mahasvami and told that he is going to offer something different from other devotees. He then said to Paramacharya that he is offering his "kavalai" (worries) to him so that he will be relieved. Paramacharya replied spontaneously that whenever a devotee offers him anything he takes a small part of it and returns the remainder to the devotee. By that practice, he will take the "va" from his offering and return back the "kalai" to him. (kalai in Tamil means art).
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Hari Om,

Monday, December 11, 2006

Brief account of Gaudapadacharya and Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya - 04

Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

We will see the last part of the story today.

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Chandra Sharma on waking up from sleep looked around at first to see if the bundle of leaves was safe. He took the bundle and started reading. Thereupon, the house holder vaishya stopped him saying: “My daughter took great effort to save your life. She wants to marry you. It is because of this that she took tender care of you.” Chandra Sharma thought within himself: “Was it for this that I received instruction in grammar?” He told the householder that he had no intention of marrying. The house holder insisted that they should go to the court of the king of the place in order to settle their dispute. Both of them went to the palace of the king.

The king saw Chandra Sharma. Even before the Vaishya could represent the cause, he got an idea in his mind “This young man seems to be a brilliant person. I am searching for a proper match for my daughter. I would give her in marriage to this young man.” Thinking thus, he said to the stranger without listening to anything else: “Are you married? Will you marry my daughter?” Then he wanted to ascertain whether there was support for such a marriage in the dharma-shastra and sent for his minister. The minister came. He thought within himself: “Oh! The king knows that I am in search of a match for my daughter. Now the time has come for giving my daughter in marriage to this young man. Thus all the three, the vaishya, the king and the minister, wanted Chandra Sharma to marry their respective daughters. What was he to do? He married all the three and lived with them till he begot a son by each of them.

Only the first born son is Dharmaja (born of Dharma). For the purpose of following the way of Dharma from generation to generation, one son is enough. The rest are all Kamajas i.e. born of desire. It is only the eldest son that has the eligibility to perform karma. The family property also goes to him alone. Property is intended for the performance of Dharma. The fitness for performing Dharma belongs to the eldest son alone; therefore the family property goes only to him. If other sons are born, they need only to be protected and enabled to live. Is it not the case that a kingdom is inherited by the eldest son of a king? The other sons have no share in it. Similarly, the family property also goes to that son who is eligible to perform Dharma. Therefore, only one son does the parent require.

After begetting one son from each of his wives Chandra Sharma left his house. Then he went in search of him who had taught him grammar (Gaudapada). After visiting various places he met him at Badarikashrama. He came to know that his teacher had become a sanyasi. He too took sanyasa from him. Thence he came to be known as Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya. The teachers from Shuka onwards are known as Parivrajakas (wandering monks).

While Govinda Bhagavatpada was staying at Badarikashrama, Vyasa the preceptor and father of Shuka came there once. Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya met him and offered obeisance. Vyasa addressed him thus: “For the purpose of writing a commentary on the Brahma-sutra composed by me, Ishvara himself is going to be born as an Avatara. He will take sanyasa. In conformity with the tradition of the world, there should be a teacher to initiate him. You go to the banks of Narmada River and stay at the foot of the fig tree (Ashvattha) there. As soon as he meets you, you will initiate him.” Thus it was decided when the four teachers met at Badarikashrama, namely Vyasa, Shuka, Gaudapada and Govinda Bhagavatpada. Govinda Bhagavatpada came down from Badarikashrama and reached the banks of Narmada.

The teacher who had taught grammar to Govinda Bhagavatpada in his previous ashrama had himself become the Vedantic teacher initiating him into sanyasa. The tree sitting on which he had learnt grammar in his purvashrama now gave the region of its foot as his dwelling place. Govinda Bhagavatpada sat there in meditation awaiting the arrival of his disciple.

The work Patanjali-vijaya relates in great detail all the above incidents. Thereafter this work relates in brief the story of Sri Sankara.

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With this, we come to an end of this narration. In the next few emails, we will see some incidents from the Paramacharya’s life.


Brief account of Gaudapadacharya and Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya - 03

Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

Continuing further. In this portion, the Mahasvami explains the exalted state of Shukacharya.

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One is born as a result of residual karma. In the life that is thus acquired, one must perform good karma; get one’s mind purified and then gain knowledge of the Self. Without these procedures, how was it that Shuka was a Jivanmukta even at birth? Even for jnanis there would be the body as long as Prarabdha-karma (karma that has begun to fructify) lasts. And then there comes to them liberation from the body (Videha-mukti). Such being the case, how did Shuka take birth as a liberated soul? Were there others like him?

Vamadeva was a jnani (sage) even while he was in his mother’s womb. We come to know this from the statement: “Even while I was in the womb I knew the crores of births taken by all the gods.” He further says “How was I before this birth? I had countless births enveloping me like fortresses of iron. But now he wings have started growing. They have grown as for an eagle. I have started flying out from those bonds. Now I am able to know all sorts of births”. Vyasa too cites in the Brahma-sutra the example of Vamadeva:

sastradrishtya tupadesho vamadevavat (BS – I-i-30)

Shuka and Vamadeva are given as examples of he liberated ones. Scripture itself cites them as examples. They were sages even at birth.

In the hymn of praise relating to Govinda Bhagavatapada, in the Guru-ratna Maalika stotra, there is a verse praising Shuka:

jnanijathara eva cyavan yo jagato nadravad atmavid vipadhyah
anahantam aham tam atmavantam bhagavantam shukam ashraye prashantam

In this verse it is stated that Shuka, even when he came out of the mother’s womb, was unaffected by the sufferings of the world and that he was free from ego. I am dependent on such an atma jnani and bhagavata shresta.

We go to a place in order to accomplish something. If that something has been accomplished we leave that place. In the Bhagavatam it is stated that Shuka knowing that what had to be accomplished had been accomplished, even before being invested with the sacred thread, started to leave his home. Vyasa, Shuka’s father had great love for his son therefore, when Shuka started leaving, Vyasa cried out: “Oh son! Please stop.” But Shuka had started leaving because there was nothing to be done. Why did he not have anything to do?

What is doing work? Doing work is for gaining something or for rejecting something. These constitute work. One must gain something which is not there or something which is not already accomplished or one must reject what one does not desire. A bad servant is to be sent away; a good servant is to be taken to service. Enemies are to be removed, friends should be welcomed. Thus, all actions in the world are in the form of rejection and acceptance, grasping and giving up. This is what is called work. In order to acquire wealth, one must work. In order to remove misery, one must work. Any work is done for the sake of attaining happiness and removing misery. What is it that cannot be accepted or rejected? It is only we. We cannot reject ourselves or accept ourselves. We are not that which is rejected. All else which is different may be rejected or accepted. It is only he that believes in the existence of something else that has work to do. He works in order to reject or accept that something else. If all that we see is realized to be us, then there is not work at all for us. There being nothing else, which are we to accept and which to reject? In that state neither is possible. There is no work. Pain, hunger, misery, happiness, if all these are us then how is work possible? Now we imagine we are skin. If the skin is dark we say “we are dark”. If the skin is fair we say “we are fair” and we feel proud. We have the notion “we, we” in all such usage. When we have the nothing we are these (dark, fair etc) why should we not have the notion “we” in all things? In fact, we are that way but we do not know that we are as all. If we come to know that, how will there be action then? It is only when there is something other than us that we can gain it or get rid of it. If all are we i.e. if all are the Self, the true Reality, then there will be no work at all.

Shuka had realized his identity with all. He became the Self which is in all things. When he was running away, Vyasa called him. But who is to respond? Shuka had become all things. Should not all things respond? All the trees there responded saying “Why do you call us?” All the animals there responded in the same manner. Shuka was in the form of all beings. It was because he was all, that there was no work for him and he ran.

Gauda thought that he should approach such a preceptor and receive his grace. He came to know that Shuka was living in Badarikashrama on the Himalayas. He went there and received sanyasa from him. He came to be known as Gaudapadacharya. From him started the Shishya-parampara of our tradition. Gaudapada after taking sanyasa from Shukacharya remained stationed in the Self.

Now to continue the story: Chandra Sharma got down from the tree that was on the banks of the Narmada. He walked from there a little distance. He was very tired because he had spent several days and nights without food and sleep. He left the bundle of leaves which he had been carrying at the place and slept soundly. During that time a goat came along and ate a portion of the bundle of leaves. The Maha-bhashya, which is now extant, consists only of the uneaten portion of the leaves. The part that is missing in the Maha-bhashya is known as Aja-bhakshita-bhashya (the portion eaten by the goat). Chandra Sharma got up from him sleep. He saw that a portion of the bundle of leaves was missing. He came to know that a goat had eaten it. He tied up the leaves that were undamaged, and taking the bundle with him he reached Ujjain.

He went to the house of a Vaishya (Merchant Class). He laid himself down on front of the house and slept off. He was in deep sleep for a long time. Many days passed. The Vaishya had a daughter. She saw Chandra Sharma and tried to wake him up. But he did not wake up. She realized that he was in an unconscious state without food and loss of blood (remember, Chandra Sharma had made an incision in his body and was writing down the Maha-bhashya with his blood). She thought within her “This person seems to be very brilliant. His life should be preserved.” Immediately, following the medical science (Ayurveda), she smeared over his body cooked rice crushed in buttermilk. The essence of the rice entered his body through the hair orifices. This was repeated every day. After some days Chandra Sharma woke up.

A technique like this is taught in our medical texts. Now-a-days the essence of food is injected into the body through a needle. This involves injury and also creates a new orifice. The method taught in our medical texts consists in making the essence of food enter into the body naturally, making use of the hair orifices. In Kerala, even today there is a treatment similar to this; it is called Navara-kili.

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We will see the last part of the story in the next posting.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Brief account of Gaudapadacharya and Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya - 02

Hare Krishna Dear Friends,

The following details have been gathered from the book “Adi Sankara – His Life and Times” compiled by Sri. T.M.P.Mahadevan. The book covers the series of lectures by Kanchi Mahasvami on Adi Sankara.

We will continue from where we stopped previously.

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One day there came along a comely Brahmin boy. Hearing that at Chidambaram Patanjali was expounding the Maha-bhasya he was coming to the South from Kashmir. On seeing him, the Brahma-raksas (Gauda) felt very happy. It thought “What a beautiful form. Today I have obtained a delicious meal.” It put on the disguise of a Brahmin and stood before the boy. It asked the usual question in grammar, but to Gauda’s surprise, the boy answered it correctly. At once Gauda Brahma-Raksas became greatly pleased and said to the boy: “All these days no suitable student came. You are the proper disciple. Whatever knowledge my teacher imparted to me I shall impart to you. Be seated here. Where do you want to go?” The boy said: “I am on my way to Chidambaram in order to learn grammar from Patanjali.” On hearing this Gauda remarked: “The story of Chidambaram is all over. What you intend to learn at Chidambaram I shall teach you here. The Maha-bhashya remains with me. Sit down here.”

Who can be at peace accepting a Brahma-raksas as a teacher? Gauda strictly gave orders to the boy saying: “You should not leave this tree as long as I continue to teach you. You should not sleep. I shall complete the teaching as soon as possible.” What was to be done? The boy who had come to learn grammar sat there itself on the tree. He thought he should take down in writing all the lessons he would be listening to. At that time there was neither ink-pot nor pen and there was no time to fetch an iron quill to write with. The teacher had ordered that he should not leave the tree. The boy made and incision into his thigh and blood was coming out; he broke off a twig from a branch of the tree, and dipped the twig in the blood and wrote on the leaves of the tree all that was taught. The Brahma-raksas was teaching non-stop both night and day. Without food and without sleep the boy wrote down what was being taught to him for nine days. He tied up the leaves on which he had written, into a bundle. It is the script that was written on those leaves that is being studied even now as the Maha-bhashya.

Who was that disciple? His name was Chandra Sharma. This story is to be found in a work called Patanjali-vijaya written by Ramabhadra Dikshita who lived about two-hundred years ago. Who was Chandra Sharma? Patanjali who pronounced a curse on Gauda thought to himself: “Which student will go to him with the required ability to learn the commentary on grammar and absolve him from the curse? It is only I that has to go to him. Only then he will be released from the curse.” Thinking thus he became Chandra Sharma.

It was this Chandra Sharma that in his later Ashrama became the preceptor of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, bearing the name Govinda Bhagavatpada. He was an incarnation of Adi Shesha. He had assumed many disguises. He serves as the bed for Hari. He becomes the anklet for Paramashiva (Well, Adi Shesha serves as Vishnu’s bed will be known to all of us. But how is that he is the anklet [Noopura] of Lord Shiva? I came to know of this account recently while listening to the discourses on Ramayana by Harikatha exponent, Late Sri Balakrishna Shastri. Once when Lord Shiva was dancing Ananda Tandava, the golden anklet he was wearing maintained the taalam for the dance. But after sometime, the anklet broke, then Lord Vishnu, who was watching the dance along with all the other Devas, told Adi Shesha to wriggle amidst the feet of Shiva, not disturbing his dance and twine around his feet, serve as his anklet and maintain the taalam again. Thus Adi Shesha became the anklet of Lord Shiva.) He it is that supports the earth. He is Lakshmana, son of Sumitra. He is Balarama and also son of Atri (Patanjali).

Chandra Sharma after assuming sanyasa lived on the banks of Narmada awaiting the arrival of Sri Sankaracharya in order to bless him. How did Chandra Sharma receive the lessons in grammar for many days without sleep or food? Well, in a previous incarnation, i.e. as Lakshmana he had the experience of spending fourteen years without a wink of sleep (guarding Sri Rama and Sita Devi). It would seem as though he had habituated himself to sleeplessness in order that now as Chandra Sharma he could dispense with sleep.

Sanskrit is the language of the gods. Since it is the language of the Girvanas (gods), it is called Girvani. The term samskruta means what has been sanctified or purified (samyak krutam iti samskrutam). It is that which has been purified through nine vyakaranas (grammatical texts). The old name for this language is deva-vak or deva-bhasha. It is stated that all should speak in Sanskrit (technically, Samskrutam is correct word). Mlecha-bhasha is the language which has unclear words; all other languages are but variants of Sanskrit. There are many languages which have not been purified through grammar. Even children should Sanskrit.

One who wrote commentary on Sanskrit grammar is the Sage Patanjali. Gaudapada went to Patanjali as a disciple and because of a curse he became a Brahma-raksas. To him went Chandra Sharma. Gaudapada, who had been awaiting the arrival of a competent disciple in accordance with the injunction of his teacher, taught grammar to Chandra Sharma. Chandra Sharma wrote what he learnt on leaves plucked from the sacred fig tree.

The lessons in grammar were over and for Gauda the life as Brahma-raksas came to an end. He thought thus: “Hereafter I shall acquire a sense of detachment. I should meditate on the Self. For that I should go in search of a preceptor.” He began to search for one who was a liberated sage even at birth. He came to know that one such preceptor was Shukacharya. Shuka was born as a knower of Brahman. He did not make any effort; he did not perform sacrifices etc.

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We will continue the next day.