The Sage of Kanchi

R. Venkataraman
(Former President of India)

Half way through the Satabdi Celebrations, the Mahaswami Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham chose to leave his mortal coil. I use the word chose deliberately as the Mahaswami has become a Jivan Muktha, one who had attained salvation even during his life time.

Adi Sankara in his Bhaja Govindam said "From association with the pure and the good, comes non-attachment (Renunciation);

From non-attachment comes non-delusion;
From non-delusion comes stillness of mind (Peace);
When there is peace of mind;
There is realisation of the ultimate
Reality even during life time.

While the positive effect of non-attachment to material life and pleasures have been brought out in Bhaja Govindam, the negative results of attachment is described in the Bhagavat Gita.

The Lord Krishna says,
Brooding over material objects;
Man develops attachment to them;
Attachment breeds desire;
From desire springs anger;
Anger begets delusion, confused mind
Delusion drives out reason.
When reason deserts, man perishes.

The Sage of Kanchi had reached that supreme state, described in chapter 18 verse 50 of Bhagavat Gita namely.

He whose mind is unattached to anything;
Who has subdued his self;
From whom desire has disappeared;

He by his renunciation attains the Supreme State of freedom from action.

His conquest over the mind, body and the senses was so complete that people saw in him a halo rather than a body or person. He radiated light, exuded benevolence, and taught us the path without teaching.

If ever one saw divinity in human form, it was in the Mahaswami of Kanchi, In his presence, the affluent and underprivileged, the robust and the weak, the scholar and the illiterate, the saint and the sinner, Hindus and other religionists, felt elevated and ennobled, and subconsciously realised the place of finer instincts in the human frame.

The Mahaswami had, by his austerity and devotion, acquired a mastery of the Vedas and other holy scriptures. He was often found in discussions in depth with pandits and scholars from all over India. He held a large number of `Sadas' where eminent scholars participated in analysing the esoterics of our ancient scriptures.

He was regarded as the greatest Jnani of his times.

Apart from the scriptures, the Mahaswami was a master of other arts and sciences, like archaeology, temple architecture, numismatics, sculpture, music, dance and folk arts. He used to hold conferences and Workshops on all these items and honour experts in each field. His discussions with great philosophers, astute politicians, erudite scientists, and a number of intellectuals from India and abroad impressed ever one of them and they were amazed at his knowledge and approach to the problems. They always felt greatly enlightened and benefited by these talks. Nothing is more illustrative than the remark that Gandhiji made after his talks with the Paramacharya that the conversation with the Sage was more than a feast and he did not want any other food.

Like Adi Sankara, the Mahaswami was a true Advaitin in thought, word and deed. He saw the spark of `Atman' in every being and perceived the Supreme being in every being. As stated in Isa Upanishad.

"Yasthu Sarvani bhutani
Aathmany eva anupasyathi
Sarva bhuteshu cha aathmaanam
Tatho na vijugupsate."

"He who sees all beings in his own self
And sees his own self in all beings.
He does not hate anyone thereafter."

He once told his disciples who wanted to kill a scorpion which dropped near the Saint that it was also another jivan (life) and should not be disturbed. He saw `aatman' in every being, human or other.

For over seventy years he traveled on foot to distant places and remote villages exhorting the people to observe the path of Dharma. If each one observed the righteous conduct, there would be peace and harmony in society and the world. For the salvation of the soul, the sage asserted one must perform his duties to the supreme Lord as well as to the world. It is these duties that constitute what is called Dharma.

Once speaking at a large mixed audience of Hindus, Muslims and Christian, His Holiness Mahaswami exhorted each to follow his religion honestly, faithfully and diligently since every religion preached morality and the finer sentiments of life.

For over eighty years, the Mahaswami gave discourses in all parts of India and in the nooks and corners of Tamil Nadu on a wide range of subjects. These have been collected in six volumes under the title "Voice Divine" Humanity is indebted to Sri Ra. Ganapathi for collecting and editing those discourses.

This book is a universal scripture. It contains eternal truths which apply to all countries, in all climes and to all people irrespective of differences in race, religions, language, customs and traditions. It enunciates the fundamental unity of life and the principles that should inform human behaviour. These have been culled from the ancient scriptures and presented in very simple, easily intelligible even to illiterates, with homely smiles and household examples.

He appealed to all religionists to follow the tenets of their religion honestly, faithfully and diligently, since each and every religion preached kindness, compassion, love charity and morality. People following different religions used to throng to hear him, to receive His blessing and his benevolent grace. The stream of people, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, nuns, priests, the less-privileged sections who passed in queues to pay their last reverence to the Mahaswami was an unforgettable sight. Once a Muslim poet wanted to read some verses he had composed before the Mahaswami. When his wish was granted, he chanted the verses with emotion and tears filled his eyes. He said that he saw `Allah' in the sage.

Likewise Albert Franklin, former Consul of the U.S.A. in Madras, said that he was `Jesus' in the Paramacharya.

The Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham is the most ancient institution started by Adi Sankara himself. There has been an unbroken chain of 70 Acharyas in the Peetham since its inception. Eminent scholars and sages have, in the past, shed light and luster on the Peetham. The 68th Acharya the Mahaswami Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal was the brightest diadem in the lustrous chain of Peethadhipatis. He was a reincarnation of Adi Sankara and was regarded all over the world as a living divinity. People used to pour into his compassionate ears all their problems from petty admission to scholars to proformed problems of life and death, and would feel that they got relief by his grace.

The spirit of Mahaswami pervades the Kanchi Math. Even today, people pray for relief at the Brindavan as if the Mahaswami still sits there. May the grace of the Mahaswami ever abide with us.

For over 80 years the Paramacharya is the lamp leading humanity on the path of Dharma. He offers solace to millions of suffering men and women with His benediction. The greatest living scholar in Sastras and the scriptures, He interprets true Hinduism to the World and tries to remove the dross that had settled on it. He is the best advocate of communal and religious harmony, faithfully and diligently.

- R. Venkataraman,
Former President of India.