Monday, January 01, 2007

Brief life sketch of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami - 04

Hare Krishna Friends,

Thanks for the beautiful message “New Year – a Vedantic Perspective” from Hariram. Let us try to constantly seek the Ultimate Reality of Lord. Continuing from where we stopped previously.

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Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami was least interested in the administrative affairs of the Mutt. He wanted to be absolved of his pontifical duties and spend time in meditation. He handed over the running of the Mutt to his able disciple. He also authorized the young Svami to take decisions on the Mutt’s affairs. Paramacharya had conveyed to the Government (since the junior Acharya was a minor, the Mutt’s administration was under Mysore Maharaja’s control) that Acharya's views might be taken as his own. Though this meant that Acharya could freely take decisions within the framework of Government control, he chose to always consult Paramacharya in important matters even when the latter chose to be secluded. When Acharya took a decision, he did it so well that Paramacharya was completely satisfied.

In 1954, Paramacharya began to give hints that he no longer wished to retain his body since he felt that his work had been completed. On Sunday the 26th of September 1954, His Holiness Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami got up very early even before the break of the dawn, walked coolly into the stream of the river Tunga and shuffled off his mortal coil. It was a voluntary Jala Samadhi. Paramacharya was in Padamasana posture, there was sign of drowning or suffocation or struggle for life, not even a drop of water had entered the Mahasvami’s mouth. The Acharya who was on the other bank of the river overlooking the activities for the forthcoming Navarathri celebrations rushed to the other side when he got the message. In spite of being a Yogi, he could not keep down his emotions. With a heart rendering cry “Amba” he sank down to his knees and remained so. But soon he regained himself and set about to execute the final rites as per the Mutt’s tradition.

On October 16, 1954, Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Svami formally took over as the 35th Jagadguru Sankaracharya of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham. A large and distinguished gathering witnessed the installation ceremony and invoked the blessings of the new Jagadguru. After his coronation, Acharya rendered a brief speech wherein he said that he was highly in need of Paramacharya's grace to carry out his duties as a Peetadhipathi. He then said that he would pray for such blessings from his Guru.

The tasks that awaited the new Jagadguru were enormous. The Mutt’s administration, which lay in Government hands (India had attained Independence and from the Maharaja of Mysore, the State Government had taken control) was far from satisfactory and the financial status precarious. Facilities for the stay of devotees at Sringeri were very poor and extensive renovations were absolutely necessary. Further, devotees from all over the country were eagerly looking forward to Acharya's gracing their cities. Acharya set about solving these and many other problems in his characteristic and inimitable style.

He assigned the first priority to the call of his devotees and so in 1956, set forth on his first South India tour. This lasted for six years. Village by village, he visited and graced devotees by the thousands. Relentlessly he drove himself to the verge of exhaustion to inculcate Dharmic ideals and spiritual values in the hearts of millions. On his tours it was customary for him to give at least one Anugraha Bhashana at every halt. His discourses covered a variety of topics. The main feature of these speeches was that it went straight to the heart of the listener with its Dharmic content, couched in simple language.

Acharya had an unusually open mind. Wherever he traveled he would be keenly observant. He analyzed and absorbed what was relevant to the Mutt. For example, he talked to several farm owning disciples and learnt many agricultural techniques. Much of Acharya's knowledge stemmed from his interest and observations.

In 1959 the Government handed back the administration of the Mutt to the Acharya. The Mutt was stripped of all the Jahagirs earlier in its possession. This was a big blow to the income of the Mutt. The Mutt had to be content with an annual compensation of a couple of lakhs of rupees. When the news was sorrowfully told to the Acharya, he was unperturbed and replied, “The Jahagirs were non-existent in Sankara Bhagavatpada's time. The Mutt had been functioning quite well even before the lands were granted. Likewise, it shall carry on now without them. There is nothing to worry about.”

Acharya's immaculate intuition and razor-sharp intellect contributed a great deal in evaluating and dealing with situations. Accepting and implementing good suggestions, skill based work allocation and freedom of action at various levels were the highlights of his ingenious methods. He formulated plans for the betterment of the Mutt. He streamlined its administration. Acharya initiated the construction of a new guest house. Renovation of Amba and Ganapathy shrines at the Malahanikareshwara temple complex, a new Vimanam for the Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada shrine and a gopuram for the Amba temple where his other schemes. While planning a building, Acharya would give importance to user-convenience, non-wastage of space, fulfillment of multiple objectives, provision of expansion and cost-minimization. The bridge over the Tunga River called “Vidya Tirtha Sethu”, stands as a living monument to his memory, for it owes its construction entirely to him.

He renovated the patashala at Sringeri and made numerous conveniences for the teachers and students. He also encouraged secular education. With his blessings, a girls' school was started at Sringeri. He was also the patron of the Sankara College at Kalady. He also planned and directed the construction of the Sri Sharada Dhanvantari Hospital at Sringeri.

With the agricultural knowledge acquired during his tours, Acharya converted a bamboo forest adjoining Narasimhavanam into cultivable land. Many thought that this was impossible and he proved them wrong. To enhance accessibility, Acharyal chalked out the positions and paths for laying roads in Narasimhavanam. Irrigation being vital, the Acharya took special care in planning canals for appropriately channeling the flow of water.

Simple living and high thinking characterize Mahatmas. Acharya insisted on doing his personal works himself. He would take his attendant's assistance for a task only if such help was essential or if it was related to his pontifical duties.

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Hari Om,


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