Inaugural Speech of
His Holiness Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamiji
VYASA BHARATA AGAMA SHILPA SADAS
at Ilayathangudi in 1962
In the exhibition, many copper plates are displayed. The Government has helped this venture by sending its officials who have arranged them systematically. The age of the plates ranges from 200 to 1,500 years. Two days ago, I saw the exhibits. Some belong to the Pallava, the Chola periods and some to the 200 to 300 years old kingdoms. The chola plates are about 1,000 years old. Those of the Pallavas are much earlier.
Letters in the Chola plates are nice as also their format. Better are those of the Pallavas and pleasing to the eyes. Their Grantha and Tamil lipis are fine. The letters of the Cholas are just good. But those of recent years, say 200 to 300, are deplorable - no order, and abound in mistakes. It is saddening to think that they belong to our country.
Likewise, I saw vigrahas. Those of the Pallavas are outstanding and the Cholas are just fine from one angle. A question arises - how are those sculpted today? We feel that even the 200 year–old ones are far better. The current day vigrahas do not have the divine grace and the beauty of the earlier ones.
Mahabharatam discourse in a village temple is done with devotion and draws a larger gathering than in film theatres. It is quite natural that in former days, there was a bigger audience than now because there was no other diversion. But nowadays, despite films and other attractions, Mahabharatam attracts a large number of people. It means, there must be a reason. What is the unique quality in Mahabharatam?
Yudishtra personifies patience, Bhishma is noted for steadfast adherence to satyam, Karna for dhanam and Arjuna for dignity.
Who is an ideal wife? The Ramayana has the answer. A wife must follow her husband whatever be the hardships, and whatever be the circumstances . Seetha followed Rama to forests and put up with all hardships and faced with fortitude the taunts of Ravana. An ideal wife she was. Same is Mandodari. When we read the Ramayana, we remember these great souls. Whether those who read or listen to such stories and whether or not they lead such a life, they are still the ideals. It is a general belief that if we do namasmarana of such great souls in the mornings daily, we will be cleared of sins. The credit for a such a faith must go to Sage Vyasa. We celebrate Vyasa pooja on Adi Pournami day and observe Chathurmaysa Vratam.
In Baroda, many works are published under “Baroda Series’. East of Java, there is an island called Bali. Some Sanskrit books, some agama works, some sloka books are still available there. Written in their native language, some such books are kept in France. These books have been brought by interested persons and published in Baroda. In one such book I saw a mangala sloka for Vyasa.
As already pointed out, sasanas (manuals) stipulate that Mahabharatam must be read in every century, every generation, and temples. Even today and in places where there are no Siva or Perumal temples, Mahabharatam is read in small village temples. So those who hear the discourse feel they should follow the examples put forth by the epic heroes. Therefore, Dharmam and piety prevailed then.
To get divine grace, it is said, satsang is essential. One of the ways is association with holy persons. But the best is to meditate on the teachings of mahans, chant their names and follow their footsteps. Listening to Mahabharatha is another way.
Even a mere sight of holy places gives us immense benefits. We commit many mistakes. Impure thoughts gather in hearts. They must be cleansed. How? Meditation on God is the best medicine. Ok, but is there a way to concentrate on God? Our forefathers have shown the way. In every village, a bhajan mandapam was built with the amount allotted for this purpose. People assembled at the madapam and sang the glory of God in chorus. But then it has an inherent defect. Whenever a gift is given, it is natural the receiver will not put his whole heart into a project. Likewise, there is a possibility that musicians will mechanically sing bajan songs without devotion just to get money.
To get totally involved in Iswara samaranai,there is an easy way. Leave alone all religious books. Just a gopura dharshan –does it not wake up our mind to think of God? What type of gopuram will evoke such thoughts? Shilpa sastra has laid down the rules. A temple is built with gopuram, prakarams and mandapams as per the sastra. Such a temple evokes God-consciousness even while travelling in a train and sighting a gopuram. Our heart is happy at least for some minutes and is devoid of bad thoughts. To that extent, gopura darshan is beneficial. Entering the temple and worshipping God confers greater benefits.
What are kshetras? They are hallowed places, sanctified by mahans by their tapas, poojas and prayers. Without selfishness, they have prayed: ‘be omnipresent in these places and bless all those who come here, whatever sins or mistakes they might have committed’. On such kshetras, temples have been built. We are beholden to them and it befalls on us to keep the lamp burning lit by them. If we preserve the sanctity of God created by mahans, by Vedic mantras and agama sastras we will derive immense benefit. Such a sanctity, a temple reflecting it, Mahabharata and other discourses will protect us. Iswara kripa will ward off all dangers. Further, the teachings of great souls will confer benefits. Bhishma teaches dharma to Dharmar, who listens to it. The Shanti Parva in Mahabharatam abounds in such teachings. Our minds will get peace by just hearing it.
Advice to pouranikas, gurukkals
Of late pournikas and gurukkals are not getting much respect. But they should not think “enough of this. Let not my children follow my profession. Let them eke out some other living, say, by learning type-writing” Same thought should not be entertained by Shilpis(sculptors). It is our sacred duty to erase such thoughts from their mind. Now they face a lot of problems, difficulties. However, they should bear all these with the thought that what they are doing is for a good cause and that they are following an ancient dharma.
I have a request to all of you gathered here. Do not cast your votes by getting bribes. That habit ruins our nation. There are some democratic countries but the situation is not as bad as here. We must swear by satyam but now asatyam is predominant. Government may resort to unsavoury practices. It may bribe voters. Such a situation should not be allowed to happen. Traders must also be honest.
Decency of a foreign firm
Recently, I was told about what happened in Mettur Chemicals Company. A machine was imported. When it was taken delivery of, it was found that the machine was faulty. The foreign firm was informed and an engineer examined the machine. But instead of rectifying the defect, it was taken back and surprisingly the company destroyed it and sent a new machine. That kind of culture prevails abroad but we are far below.
We thankfully acknowledge the contribution of Sri.V. Srinivasan[email@example.com] who translated the speech from Tamil to English for publication on the web.
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