His Holiness Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamiji
VYASA BHARATA AGAMA SHILPA SADAS
at Ilayathangudi in 1962
IN THIS SPEECH THE PARAMACHARYA HAS HIGHLIGHTED MOST PERTINENT PONTS
1-CASH-FOR –VOTE WILL RUIN THE NATION-
2-RESPECT FOR POURNAIKAS AND GURUKKALS
3-REVIVAL OF FOLK ARTS
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.
Leave alone the vigrahas. How were the people in those days? A doubt arises if they also were as bad as the vigrahas. About 2,000 years ago, Alexander from Greece, marched to India and history records that Megasthenes(the Greek envoy during the Maurya rule) stayed in India. He has written a book called Indica, recording his impressions of the people then.They led an exemplary life - they would neither utter lies nor commit thefts, so honest. If Megasthenes were to be so impressed, it means that such a culture did not prevail anywhere else in the world at that time. It is clear therefore that then peace, honesty, piety had deep roots here only and not to be seen in other nations. Unfortunately that kind of culture has taken a beating now. Many reasons can be attributed for this situation. Who is to be blamed? No one can be pinpointed.
To read the impressions of Megasthenes fills the heart with joy. A desire crops up –can we not lead such a pious and honest life now. No use in lamenting. A wish is there to find out ways to set right this situation.
If the successors of such people have fallen down from great heights, there must be a reason.I went through a Pallava copper plate. It stipulates the activities which a temple must carry out. One of them states that the Mahabharatam must be read. After that period, the manuals of many 1000-year-old temples refer to the setting apart a certain amount for Mahabharatam discourse. When documents are written in villages, it is a practice to mention such and such an amount must be given to such and such persons. And Mahabharatam discourses in temples got a quota. Of late, such discourses are absent in big temples. However, in temples of village deities, the practice is still there, but in silasanam temples, not so.
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.
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.
The world is enjoying the nectar coming from the mouth of Vyasa. I wondered why such a sloka is not available in our nation but in Java. Then I went through Vishnu Purana and in it, I found the same sloka.
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.
But now many efforts are being made to obliterate that culture. Of course, it is difficult to restore that kind of culture. But some measures can be taken. Surely God will help good causes. He has endowed us with eyes, hands, legs and a brain to think. Till we have such faculties, we must take remedial steps.
Nothing bad will happen to those who do good. A sloka in the Vedas says – “Never utter lies, speak only the truth”. The story of King Harichandra illustrates this high principle. Harichandra stood like a solid rock on truth - never for a moment did he deviate from his faith.
It is because people in those days heard or listened to such stories, they followed the footsteps of those great souls. If we had done this, we would not have fallen to abysmal depths now.
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.
The Pallava king Mahendravarma has authored a drama full of jest. Such a kind of drama is called ‘prahasanam’. In his book called, ‘Mathavilasaprahasanam’, the king has presented many philosophical truths and referred to many religions in jest form. In the drama he has said, Buddhist philosophical principles are found in Mahabharatam. It implies the epic was popular in all places.
Recently, a wordy duel took place between a resident in Java and a cricket player here, leading to a quarrel. When journalists enquired about it, the Java ruler, feeling shy to reveal the real cause, merely said we were discussing Mahabharata. Though in Java the predominant community is muslims, who do not apply vibuthi or namam on their foreheads, the Vyasa epic is more popular there than here. That is why the ruler whitewashed the cause and gave such an answer. From what is said in Mathavilasaprahasanam, it is clear the principles outlined in the epic are offering us protection till now.
Of late, we are facing all sorts of difficulties. People are confused and do not know which path they should follow. In such a situation, many groups are brainwashing the people with their own ideologies. Only satyam and dharmam can offer protection. Who and which can provide such a shield? From time immemorial, experience teaches the lesson that Mahabharatam only is the best kavacham. That is the benefit that is derived from listening to the epic.
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.
I have already referred to how the Greek pilgrims who followed Alexander have spoken in glorious terms about the people of that period - honest and truthful. Earlier, better would have been the people’s culture. Before that in Satya yuga, our ancients were pure. Vishnu purana says houses were never locked, no fortresses were there, perfect peace prevailed all over. Later on came the decay in morality-people developed kama –krodha. Houses and fortresses were built. Gradually what is called modern culture overtook us. That led to bad culture. If we follow satsang, there is no need for fortresses or protected houses.
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.
Equally, it is the duty of the society to see that they lead a peaceful life. The rich should not let them down.
Scholars should educate them on why they should stick to their professsion. If this is done, it is similar to preserving old temples. And will give the same punyam. Such activities will create a good taste. Because these kind of activities have been given up, our taste has changed for the worse. Only satsang can restore the good old taste. Definitely, if an awareness is created about what is good, people will not turn to bad habits. It is absolutely necessary to observe karmas stipulated in our sastras. We must purify ourselves.
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.
For this fall from great heights the reason, I believe, is we ignore the dictats of Mahabharatam. Tapasvis and scholars are not found in temples. That is why temples have lost respect and faith. So we must make those working in temples tapasvis and scholars and arrange for discourses on scriptures. Then we will enjoy prosperity. So too the Nation. It is enough if some of you gathered here take up this task.
We all pray - Loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu. If one part of the world is pure, it will make the entire world pure. In the coming 10 to 12 days we must work towards achieving this aim - iswara saanithyam, Satkatha discourses, listening to holy men. All must endeavour towards this goal
May all of you enjoy God’s blessings. Let us all be pure to get His grace.
We thankfully acknowledge the contribution of Sri.V. Srinivasan[firstname.lastname@example.org] who translated the speech from Tamil to English for publication on the web.