The confluence of compassion
Dr. S.O. Ramakrishnan
Earl Stanley Jones writes of Mahatma Gandhi in his work Mahatma Gandhi-An Interpretation: "One of the secrets of Mahatma Gandhi's strength was just this holding in a living blend and balance strongly marked by antithesis."
What Stanley Jones speaks of Mahatma Gandhi applies in a greater measure to the Paramacharya. In the Paramacharya, we find not just an artificial amalgam but a living blend, a confluence of contradictory qualities, making him a rare gem among stones and pebbles of men, a true and real personification of the answer that Adi Sankara furnishes to a question raised in his Prasnottara-ratnamalika.
The question and the answer furnished by Sankara in the above work relates to this reconciliation of opposite virtues that Jones talks about. Sankara offers a fusion of polarities of the "Four Goods" (catur-bhandram) that one should aspire to possess. The question runs thus: Q. What is that which is rarer than cintamani? the answer is as follows: I will tell that is the Four-fold Good.
a) charity along with sweet words (deanam priyavaak sahitam) b) Knowledge with humility (jnaanam-agarvam) c) Prowess with forbearance (Kshamaanvitam sauryam) d) Wealth with renunciation (vittam tyaagasame-tham)
These four auspicious things one has to attain.
Knowledge and humility, prowess and forbearance, like Lakshmi and Sarasvathi, seldom coexist. They are polarities. But the Paramacharya, in whom the opposites are blended, stands for synthesis of opposites. He is thus the confluence's of contradictories, an embodiment of the four-fold pairs of opposite "Goods".
To a question as who is the Preceptor, Adi Sankara in his Prasnottara-ratnamalika. answers that he who, having attained the right knowledge by realising the Truth, shows in practice his realisation and ever strives for the good of the disciple, is alone a true Preceptor.
The Paramacharya viewed from this perspective is a preceptor in the real sense of the term, as he stands equal to the definition that Sankara lays down for a Preceptor It was 1963. I had just then obtained my Ph.D. from the Delhi University in Philosophy. The topic of my thesis centered round the Advaita Vedanta of Sankara. The Acharya was camping at Chidambaram. I was also staying at Chidambaram with my father who was working in the Punjab National Bank as Manager. With a view to obtaining the "Anugraha" of the Acharya, I went to the Acharya's camp along with my thesis. As I was just entering the premises, the Acharya was coming out after his afternoon rest. I was the first to offer "pranams". The Acharya got himself seated in the palanquin and called me first. I placed my thesis before the Acharya, in all reverence, introduced myself my names as the son of Sethuraman, Manager, Punjab National Bank explained the purpose and sought his "anugraha". The Acharya asked me about my thesis, which I explained in a nutshell. He took the copy from me, and began reading it, with the help of a magnifying lens. He then asked for the Degree certificate and went through it.
What he said afterwards simply shook me to the roots. He said in Tamil "Ramakrishna, ithai naan padichtu tharen". (Ramakrishna, I will return it after going through it). The book was taken inside.
The Paramacharya is the personification of the Advaita Experience. He is "Sarvajna", all knowing. Having known "that" by which everything else is known, what is there for him to learn in the world, much less from my book? yet, as if to define `humility', he had the grace and magnanimity to say that he will return the book after reading it.
the next evening, the Paramacharya was on a procession, by walk, round the city. When he reached the Punjab National Bank, in the South Car Street, my father was introduced to him as the Manager, Punjab National Bank. The Acharya at once asked my father "ni Ramakrishnan thahappanaar thanne? (you are the father of Ramakrishnan!)"
I write these words with tears trickling down from the eyes, enthralled at the humility of this great saint and my mind exclaiming in ecstasy the words "Humility, thy name is Paramacharya."
2.The following is an example of prowess with forbearance.
In 1974, I was facing a problem in my profession. It was suggested by many that I seek a legal remedy. But I made it known to every one that my I seek a legal remedy. But I made it known to every one that my final court of appeal was the Paramacharya. In May 1974, I went to Thenampakkam to offer my obeisance to the Acharya and also place my case before the Acharya. But strangely, before the Acharya. But strangely, before I could even start mentioning it the Acharya began narrating my case, and gave me a hint as to what was going to happen after 1975. Towards the end of the conversation, the Acharya asked me if the name of my superior was "Mr. x". I answered in the affirmative, thinking that the Acharya was going to pass strictures against him. But to my utter surprise, there was not even a whisper of reproach, a word of displeasure. On the contrary, the Acharya struck a positive not "Ni Kshemamaa iruppe, poittu vaa! (You will be prosperous, you can go)", obviously to teach me that I, instead of developing negative attitude of remorse and revenge, should make a positive approach to men and matters.
The Acharya is as Omnipotent as he is Omniscient. But the prowess is never deployed for destructive purposes. On the contrary, it is synthesises with its opposite, Forbearance, In the Acharya, the polarities are blended-Omnipotence with Forbearance and Omnifelicity, a confluence worthy of admiration, adoration and adoption.