Friday, January 05, 2007

Brief life sketch of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami - 05

Hare Krishna Friends,

Today we will conclude the brief Biography of Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahasvami.

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It is difficult to find a personality like Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Svami in the annals of the Mutt who had so extensively and repeatedly traveled from Kanyakumari to Kashmir . As mentioned before, his first tour was in the year 1956 which lasted for six years. Again starting from Sringeri in 1964, he covered Southern and Northern India continuously for four years. This was his second major tour. On the earnest request on the King of Nepal, Acharya visited the country in the year 1967.

In many parts of the country, Acharya established branches of the Mutt and consecrated many temples. He established many Veda Patashalas for the propagation of Vedas and initiated activities for Dharmic awareness. Similarly, for the propagation of Sanskrit, he established the ‘Surasaraswathi Sabha’ which is conducting examinations for a large number of students twice a year (fortunately, I have had the opportunity to pass exams till Pravesha from the Surasaraswathi Sabha).

Acharya’s compassion was something that can only be wondered and not explained. To cite an example, once an Ayurvedic physician brought to the Acharya a rare preparation whose composition he kept secret. The doctor said that the lotion he had prepared would heal any wound. The quantity supplied was very small and so was precious. One day the Acharya saw a badly wounded dog. He noticed that someone had hurt it with a knife and that the wound was very deep. The poor creature whimpered in agony. The Acharya was moved. Immediately, he ordered that the lotion be applied on the dog. This shows the remarkable concern the Acharya had on all live beings. The application of the ointment was continued for a couple of days. The wound healed completely beyond expectations and in a remarkably short period of time.

Acharya was always accessible to devotees and he made no distinction of caste, creed etc, as far as sincere aspirants were concerned. He accorded very high priority to spiritual aspirants. He never believed in keeping to himself what he had learnt. He had trained many in the Tarka Shastra. He was ever keener on expounding Vedantic texts. He would welcome doubts and would not hesitate to refer numerous other texts. Quite often his expositions and upanyasams clearly bore the stamp of realization, particularly those which relate to Yoga and the state of a Jivanmukti.

Acharya regarded only a genuine practitioner as one competent to preach and so he was meticulous in his anushtanam. Acharya's life itself serves as an ideal for disciples to emulate to the extent their limited capacities permit. Thus, it was not only when Acharya was speaking or giving a discourse that he advised them. Even his simple day-to-day schedule and his exemplary precepts serve as beacon lights to guide persons struggling in the trammels of transmigratory existence.

The Acharya’s instructions also were unique and the method adopted was particularly suited to the disciple. A young devotee (in his twenties) was working in a Management concern. He often had to take his assistants to task (some of them being old enough to be his father). He felt that he was being rude and was disgusted with himself. He met the Acharya at Sringeri. When they were together the same afternoon, the Acharya suddenly got up and proceeded at a great speed, beckoning the devotee to follow him. They quickly reached the Sharada Devi temple where a new Gopuram was being built. Some workers were found to be idling, instead of attending to their tasks. The Acharya climbed the scaffold with great agility and proceeded to reprimand them in no uncertain terms. He then climbed down rapidly and walked back towards the bridge. His face bore a delightful smile directed towards the devotee. The devotee was amazed that the Acharya was seemingly angry a moment back but was so peaceful immediately afterwards. The devotee learnt a permanent lesson in the manner of handling official duties without a word having been exchanged.

In 1966, when Acharya was observing Chaturmasya Vrata at Ujjain , a young Brahmachari from Andhra Pradesh named Sri Sitarama Anjaneyalu - sharp in intellect, fierce in dispassion and extremely keen in learning the Shastras came for Acharya's darshan. When asked by the Acharya about the purpose of his visit, Sri Anjaneyulu obediently replied, "I want to learn the Shastras at the lotus feet of Your Holiness". The next day, Acharya intimated Sri Anjaneyalu that he would teach Tarka Sangraha and the lessons started the same day. From that day onwards, Sri Anjaneyalu stayed with Acharya and continued with the studies of the Shastras. As the days passed, Sri Anjaneyalu became a master of Vedas and the Shastras, totally indifferent to sense objects and extremely devoted to Acharya. Sri Anjaneyalu's surrender to Acharya was complete and total. No wonder Acharya chose Sri Anjaneyalu as his successor-designate.

On November 11 1974, the Acharya named his successor as ‘Sri Bharathi Teertha Svami’’. The Guru and his disciple made a number of visits together. Speaking about Sri Bharathi Teertha Svami, the Mahasvami once said, “When I was in Delhi (in 1982) my disciple was with me. He conducted himself the way a disciple should. On the occasion of Vidvat Sadas, he showed that he was more scholarly than the most erudite of the scholars who came.” The Acharya had also mentioned in the speech that the tradition of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham is transferred from Guru to Sishya just as a lamp lights another lamp. He thus indicated that the lighted lamp becomes as bright as the one that lit it.

With the passage of time the Acharya began to hint that his work in a mortal frame was nearing completion. One day the Acharya and H.H. Sri Bharathi Teertha Svami were standing in front of the Adhishtanam of the Parameshti Acharya (Sri Chandrashekara Bharathi Mahasvami). The Acharya then said, “After my life is over, you need not have to wonder where to have my Samadhi. It can be built here (pointing to the southern side of the Parameshti Acharya’s Adhishtanam).”

Unable to bear such words, Sri Bharathi Teertha Svami said, “Why should the Acharya talk about such matters now?” To this he replied “I am not just talking about my Samadhi. For you too it must be constructed on the southern side of my Samadhi. You know that Vidvat Sadas is being held in the Mandapam in front of the Samadhis. If my Samadhi is also constructed adjoining the existing Samadhis more people can be comfortably accommodated.”

The Acharya’s speeches also subtly reflected same. For instance, in 1986 at Chennai he said, “Brahman shines in the form of consciousness. If one were to get the direct realization of this, one will fulfill the purpose of a human birth. This is what the scriptures say. Experience is also like that. The more absorbed we become in Brahman the more we realize all that is happening in the universe is merely an illusory sport.”

From the second week of September 1989, the Acharya was not keeping well. During this time, he asked his secretary to read to him, texts like Mohamudgara, Siva Manasapuja Stotram and Brahmanuchintanam. He said, “Instead of mourning and wailing when one is sick, one can read holy works, such as these. This is what my Guru has taught me. But now, I not able to read and so you read them out to me.”

In the early hours of the morning of September 21, 1989, he experienced chest pain and uttered “Narayana.” His assistant came running. The Acharya’s first reaction was, “Have I spoken so loudly that I woke you up?” The characteristic of extreme compassion never deserted him even then. During the latter half of the morning he shed his mortal coil.

The Acharya lives even today in the hearts of many of his devotees and continue to bless and guide as ever before.

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From the next email, we will see some of the teachings, accomplishment in Yoga, experiences of disciples etc.

Hari Om,


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