Homage to the Sage of Kanchi

K. Ganesan

In a cricket match, an accomplished batsman's score of a century even in a lifeless wicket is widely acclaimed. There is no wonder then if the disciples pay their homage to the Sage of Kanchi, more affectionately and reverently addressed as "Periyaval" (metaphysically used to indicate greatness), on His entering the age of hundred.

Sri Chandrasekharendra Sarasvathi became the 68th Pontiff of Kanchi Math established by Adi Sankara, at the age of thirteen, in a sudden swift of events. A little earlier, his cousin who was appointed as the 67th Pontiff by the 66th Acharyal suddenly took seriously ill and attained siddhi. With his mother, young Swaminathan, as known before he took to the order, went to console his aunt but his mother and herself to be consoled as her son, the new Pontiff, had to severe permanently the family connection.

The young Pontiff led a simple and austere life often undergoing grinding tests. He adhered strictly to the tenets of His spiritual office. Had He chosen any other line like mathematics, science, music, architecture, journalism or administration He would have certainly outshone others and reached the peak. He possesses a sharp intellect only matched by His compassion and understanding of men and matters. His versatility and erudition, not only in spiritual field but also in other branches of human activity like science, history, archaeology, politics, etc., are the hallmark of His life. In Him, we have the perfect fusion of sublimity and simplicity. His memory power is photographic and His subtle wit is really a treat. Ill-equipped as I am, I do not venture to deal with his spiritual attainments. Only I would like to share with readers some of my own experiences with this Great sage.

In early seventies, I went with my family including my old widowed mother to His camp late on a summer pitch-dark night to have darshan. Knowing His exact daily routine calling for rest, we meekly submitted to the entreaty of His attendant to come next day in the morning for darshan. Meanwhile the sage was disturbed from His resting posture on the hard mud-floor, quite often assuming the cramped form of a Sishu-Avastha (a posture of a baby in its mother's womb). He ordered a lighted torch to be handed over to my mother and directed her to turn the light on Him to have His darshan. He then recalled an incident that happened five decades ago, while He was performing the daily Puja for two days in the front open portion of my ancestral house in a remote village near Tiruvaiyaru. He narrated with relish that my mother who after marriage had not yet joined my father's house because of her young age was watching the Puja half-hidden behind the entrance doors of her father's home opposite to ours. Tears of joy welled up in my mother's eyes as she had treasured the vivid memory of the penetrating eyes of the sage in her heart for over 50 years. For a busy saint of His stature, it is really remarkable to recall distinctly in minutest details a very old stray incident and also show His boundless compassion.

When I saw Him on another occasion. He unusually asked about my grandfather late younger brother, who was an amateur Harikatha performer and about His nick-name. He then narrated an incident that happened in Tiruvaiyyaru, Saint Thyagaraj's place, where five decades ago my grand-uncle and darshan. According to this narration, he sat near Him and rendered the kriti of Thyagaraja "Endaro Mahanubhavulu" sung in praise of Lord Rama. On enquiry from His Holiness why he was singing that particular kriti before him, m relation replied that he had not seen Lord Rama in flesh and blood and added that in His Holiness he saw all the qualities of Rama which prompted him to sing the kriti.

His Holiness is never influenced by personality or status of any human beings. On the occasion, I reached the camp when a VVIP had just left it. He presented a basketful of choicest mangoes which were still lying there. In my presence, a poor devotee from a rural place in Andhra, dressed in a very dirty dhoti, offered His Holiness just four pieces of mangoes claiming them to be from his backgarden. His took the mangoes in hand and praised their quality and also the devotion of the poor man. I imagined that the VVIP's basketful of mangoes lying there completely neglected had been put to shame.

Two other incidents are worth noting. In late seventies in my presence, the Senior Holiness was taking to a person closely involved in math's activities, and telling him that he and that person paled into insignificance in respect of carrying out Math's activities as compared to his 'sishya'. True to His name Jayendra and Nakshatra 'Avittam' He bears, He scored spectacular success in carrying out Math's activities during His countrywide yatra.

Let us change the scene to Sri Jayendra Sarasvatiji. He was camping at Delhi "Malai Mandir" in June 1973 for the purpose of consecrating the 'Kartik' temple in a hillock in R.K. Puram. On a hot day, late M. Bhakthavatsalam, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, in his advanced age, visited Swamiji. Even his short walk from his car through the pathway proved to be arduous because of strewn bricks and broken stones over it. He wondered how Swamiji was able to cover by walk thousands of miles paths in Madhya Pradesh to reach Delhi. Pat came the reply from Swamiji, showing an electric bulb positioned above him. He said that the bulb burned not of its own volition but because of activities of switch. Similarly, the strength and vitality for His walk and other activities came from the human power-switch seated at Kanchipuram always thinking of Him and spurring Him on His onward march. These two incidents would clearly demonstrate the love and affection the senior sage bore towards His next in command.

Two years ago, efforts were made silently by Sri Jayendra Saraswati to bring about an amicable settlement of Ayodhya dispute. Governors of two States, one still in office, made a few visits to Kanchipuram to discuss the details of the scheme evolved by Swamiji. On one occasion, two highly respectable Muslim religious leaders from the North with no political ambitions or axe to grind visited Kanchipuram and participated in the discussions with the Swamiji and His Guru who blessed the scheme of his Junior. Though I was aware of the details as I was, in a way, associated with the efforts, and the main discussion I am not able to divulge 'them lest my indiscretion should cause an embarrassment to others concerned. Suffice it to state here that had the scheme been allowed to be pursued then. I sincerely feel that an amicable settlement to the burning issues would have emerged avoiding the terrible aftermath of the 6th December, 1992. The bane of our country has been that the political parties and their leader have effectively misled and divided the people on communal or religious lines into warring groups and fed them on empty slogans to serve their own narrow political interests. If past experiences are any guide any court's verdict on any sensitive and explosive issue would become unacceptable and futile. In this Centenary year, it would be befitting homage to the Great sage if He were somehow prevailed upon, giving Him free hand, to pursue the Math's old scheme for amicable settlement of the burning issue. Can this wonder happen?