H. H. Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal
It is said, "The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is one who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light". Our holy land has produced many such saints who by their inspiring words and deeds have set standards galore for mankind. One such saint characterized by astonishing spiritual attainments, an incisive intellect, winsome simplicity, innate compassion and undeviating dedication to Dharma, lives right amidst us as a spring of gushing grace where all can slake their disquiet and distress. He is none other than Sri Bharathi Theertha Mahaswamigal, the 36th Jagadguru Shankaracharya of the celebrated Sringeri Sri Sharada Peetham.
Alugumallepadu is a quiet village on the bank of river Naguleru in Andhra Pradesh where a pious and religious couple named Sri Avadhani and Smt Anantalakshmamma lived. Proximate to the river is situated the temple of Bhavani Shankara. Sri Avadhani went to this sacred terrestrial abode of the Almighty and entreated Lord Siva to grace him with a son. To secure the Lords favor, he resolved to worship the holy Siva Lingam with Mahanyasa-Purassara-Rudra-Abhishekam every day, for a year. The scriptures declare that Siva is easily pleased and that He becomes specially propitious to the devotee who performs Abhishekam while chanting the very potent Sri Rudram. In fulfillment of his vow, day after day, Sri Avadhani bathed early in the river, completed his Anushtanam and then meticulously performed Rudra-Abhishekam at the temple. He gave no quarter to laxity and lacunae.
Subsequently, Sri Avadhani shifted his residence to Machilipattinam. There, he celebrated Rama Navaratrotsav with devotional fervor. Beseeching Lord Rama to fulfill his desire, Sri Avadhani averred that he would name his son Sitarama. For her part, Smt. Anantalakshmamma sought Lord Anjaneyas favor and promised to name the male child born to her Anjaneyalu.
One early morning, she dreamt of Sri Anjaneya appearing before her, gracing her with three mangoes and vanishing. On waking up, she narrated her blissful experience to her spouse. Neither they nor those to whom they described the dream were able to fathom the significance of the bestowal of a triad of mangoes. Did Lord Anjaneya wish to indicate that a divine being capable of transcending the three worlds, heaven, earth and the nether world was going to incarnate through Smt. Anantalakshmamma? Or, was the significance that, reminiscent of Siva, Rama and Anjaneya, the three divinities prayed to by the couple, Smt. Anantalakshmamma could have a son with dispassion, passion for Dharma and flawless eloquence? Or, was it that she was going to have a son who would have three births, first as a babe, next, at the time of Upanayanam, as a perfect Brahmachari and finally as a glorious Sannyasi? Whatever may have been the purport of the enigmatic dream or vision, the fact is that shortly after the experience, Smt. Anantalakshmamma conceived.
On 11th April 1951, which corresponds to Chaitra Shukla Shasti of the year Khara, the Lord manifested as the holy child of Sri Avadhani and Smt. Anantalakshmamma. In accordance with their vows, the parents named their baby Sitaramanjaneyalu. When the child was three months old Sri Avadhani shifted his family from Machilipattinam to Narasaraopet.
One morning, Smt. Anantalakshmamma rose around 5 O Clock and casually turned to have a glance at her son. She observed an incomprehensible phenomenon, a wonder to her senses of perception! It seemed to her as if a halo of brilliant light was covering the beautiful face of her sweet little boy who was peacefully asleep.
When the child was not even three years old, the parents were astonished to find devotion inherent in Him. One day, the child started crying and it drew the attention of almost everyone in the family as well as in the neighborhood. Neither the parents nor anyone else could pacify the child. The parents then took Him to the temple. To their utter surprise, their sweet little son stopped crying the moment they entered the temple. The crying that continued for hours together not only stopped but also got transformed into another wonderful act. Sri Anjaneyalu started gazing at the idol of the Lord with an indescribable involvement and His lips started melodiously uttering "Shambho Siva Siva, Shambho Siva Siva".
Since then, visiting temples with Sri Anjaneyalu became a regular feature in the life of the gifted mother. On another occasion, both of them visited the temple. There was a huge crowd there. Smt. Anantalakshmamma walked in front followed by Sri Anjaneyalu who was inching ahead with folded hands and His lovely lips chanting "Shambho Siva Siva, Shambho Siva Siva". The pious mother walked a bit faster and the boy could not cope up. At one point of time, He was far behind His mother and got stranded. Even at that state of not finding His mother, He was not afraid. Instead, He went and sat under a tree inside the temple complex chanting the glorious name of the Lord. Soon He fell asleep. His mother frantically searched for Him and found Him sleeping under a tree. She woke Him up and scolded Him but was extremely surprised at His polite reply - "I was only saying Shambho Siva Siva, Shambho Siva Siva and fell asleep. Why, anything wrong?" The amazed mother could not reply.
When He turned seven, Sri Avadhani performed His Upanayanam, which brought about a lot of changes in His behavior and personal appearance. He maintained a tuft. He meticulously learnt all the Anushtana Mantras with stupendous accuracy. He found great joy in chanting the Gayatri Mantra.
Sri Anjaneyalu readily found a perfect Vidya Guru in His father and started learning Veda Mantras from him. Sri Anjaneyalu exhibited an extraordinary power of grasping. He was an Ekasanta grahi (grasping anything taught just once). He gradually attained mastery over Samhita, Brahmana and Aranyaka of the Krishna Yajur Veda. He could easily get through the Guntur District Vedapravardhaka Vidwat Pariksha with honors. Sri Anjaneyalu would assist His father during the Puja at home. As warranted by his profession, Sri Avadhani used to visit houses and temples to perform scripturally ordained ceremonies. Sri Anjaneyalu used to accompany His father to offer His assistance to him. One day, when Sri Avadhani was unable to honor his commitment to perform an Upanayanam, Sri Anjaneyalu performed the Upanayanam with great ease. The most wonderful thing here was that Sri Avadhani had never taught Sri Anjaneyalu the procedures involved in the Upanayanam rites. However, as far as Sri Anjaneyalu was concerned He had accompanied his father for five Upanayanam ceremonies and that experience was quite sufficient.
When Sri Anjaneyalu was nine years of age, Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal, the 35th pontiff of the Sringeri Sri Sharada Peetham visited Vijayawada. Sri Anjaneyalus teacher took his students of Sanskrit to Vijayawada to pay respects to His Holiness. There, he asked Sri Anjaneyalu to deliver a speech in Sanskrit before the great Guru. The impressive way in which Sri Anjaneyalu spoke struck Sri Mahasannidanam. The speech was over and Sri Anjaneyalu turned towards the peerless Preceptor. The great Guru compassionately smiled at Him and the next moment the inner volcano of spiritual thirst inside Sri Anjaneyalus heart erupted instantly and violently, spurting out the flames of dispassion. The disciple in Him was awakened and Sri Anjaneyalu realized, "Here is my Guru, My Lord and My savior!" It all happened in a trice! The crest jewel of Yogis signaled to His disciple to come near Him. The gifted disciple readily obeyed. Acharyal spoke a few words of appreciation and blessed Him with a shawl. Having got Himself submerged in the ocean of mercy and abundant grace, Sri Anjaneyalu could not speak out His feelings and He just prostrated at the lotus feet of the great Master. Bearing Acharyals divine form and His words in His thoughts, Sri Anjaneyalu returned to Narasaraopet. Sri Anjaneyalus mind experienced a very holy transformation. He felt Acharyals presence within Him always. Whatever activity He undertook, He felt that Acharyal was guiding Him in accomplishing the same perfectly.
Sri Anjaneyalu entered the local school in the eighth standard. He was very punctual in attending classes. He was a very attentive student. Mathematics was His favorite though He had all other subjects too at His fingertips! His proficiency in English was admired by one and all at school. He attended school with a tuft, clad in simple dhoti. He did not indulge in childhood pranks and wasteful talk. He was very polite to everyone and was soft-spoken.
The scripture declares, "A Brahmachari should take up the study of Sastras along with his Vedadhyayana. He should also read the Dharma Sastra, Vyakarana, Mimamsa, Tarka, the Puranas and the life histories of great men". These words had a strong effect on this perfect Brahmachari! Sri Anjaneyalu, unable to control His burning desire to learn the Sastras, expressed His intention to Sri Avadhani, "I want to undertake the study of Sastras in the traditional manner. I do not want to take up this divine work casually". Sri Avadhani, though very happy at his sons desire, could only reply, "What you ask for is very good. Still, you must await the right time and proper guidance to fulfill this wish of yours. Everything will take place as per Ishwaras will. Let us wait and see". This state of affairs continued for quite some time.
During the year 1966, the appropriate time for the fulfillment of Sri Anjaneyalus wish arrived. Sri Mahasannidhanam was observing His Chaturmasya Vrata at Ujjain. The thought of Acharyal was attracting Him just as a powerful magnet attracts a needle. Sri Anjaneyalus desire to reach Ujjain and surrender at the lotus feet of His Guru was such that one day He left home for Ujjain to surrender Himself at the lotus feet of His Guru.
Sri Anjaneyalu reached Ujjain and as soon as He saw His Guru, He prostrated with intense devotion. When the great Jivanmukta asked Sri Anjaneyalu about the purpose of the latters visit to Ujjain, pat came the reply in the most obedient manner: "I want to learn Sastras at the lotus feet of Your Holiness". On the next day, Acharyal asked, "Have You studied Tarka Sangraha?" Sri Anjaneyalu answered politely "No". "Well, then", said the holy Master, "I shall personally teach it to you". Sri Anjaneyalu did a Sashtanga Namaskaram to the great sage. He was overcome by emotions obviously because of the great blessing He had just received. The lessons started on the same day. Sri Anjaneyalu was very well aware not only of the great value of the text taught but also of the greatness of the Person who was teaching it. So He listened to the Teacher attentively. Amidst His very busy schedules, the merciful Guru allotted time every day for teaching Sri Anjaneyalu.
After the Chaturmasya period was over, Acharyal started from Ujjain. Sri Anjaneyalu too accompanied His beloved Guru. In due course, Acharyal made Sri Anjaneyalu take part in the Vidwat Sadas and the like. The scholars present on such occasions were really spell-bound at His fascinating oration in chaste Sanskrit.
In March 1968, Acharyal reached Sringeri. Sri Mahasannidhanam who loved His Sishya very much arranged for His comfortable stay at the Ahnika Mandiram inside Narasimhavana. Acharyal also arranged for His advanced studies in Tarka Sastra under the renowned scholar Sri Golapudi Gopalakrishnamurthy Sastrigal. Sri Anjaneyalu was concentrating on His Yajur Veda study too.
As the days passed, Sri Anjaneyalu became a person of very rare tapas and by His personal character He was an auspicious embodiment of Dharma. Eight years of selfless service to Sri Mahasannidhanam, the Sage of sages, made Sri Anjaneyalu shine with divine brilliance. The holy Guru was extremely pleased with His dear disciple.
When the Navaratri festivals of the year 1974 came to an end, Sri Mahasannidhanam announced that with the concurrence of the divine Mother He had chosen Sri Sitarama Anjaneyalu as His successor-designate and that the Sishya Sweekaram ceremony would take place on the 11th day of November 1974. Acharyals choice of Sri Anjaneyalu as His successor was very apt in all respects. It was obviously in line with the following conditions prescribed by Sri Bhagavatpadal Himself: "Suchihi (unimpeachable character), Jitendriyaha (conqueror of senses) and Vedavendantangaadi Vichakshanaha (well versed in Vedas, its angas and Sastras)". Sri Anjaneyalu possessed all these and more. Moreover, He had the excellent opportunity of being trained by Acharyal Himself for a period of eight years. The rituals started on 10th November 1974, an Ekadashi. It happened to be the Jayanthi day of our Paramacharyal Sri Chandrasekara Bharathi Swamigal.
In accordance with the dictates of the Sastras, Sri Anjaneyalu had to keep awake on the night prior to sanyasa by the side of a sacred fire. The fire was kept in the front hall of the structure housing the samadhis of our Paramacharyal and Parameshti Acharyal. After spending sometime at the front hall Sri Anjaneyalu moved to the room adjoining the Samadhi of our Paramacharyal. One Sri Subbaramaiya was with Him. Surprisingly, when Sri Jagannathan (later Shantananda Bharathi), who was sleeping that night in Acharyals abode, Sacchidananda Vilas, came out to answer the call of nature. To his eyes it appeared that Sri Anjaneyalu was seated by the side of the sacred fire chanting the name of Lord Rama in an extremely melodious voice, totally oblivious of His surroundings. Sri Jagannathan was really surprised when he later came to know from Sri Subbaramaiya that Sri Anjaneyalu in fact had spent the night within the room adjoining Paramacharyals Samadhi. Thus, that night Sri Anjaneyalu was seen at two places.
On the 11th day of November 1974, Sri Anjaneyalu completed His Sandhyavandanam and then performed the Purusha Sooktha Homam and the Viraja Homam. The successor-designate then went to the river Tunga and having had a bath, stood in waist-deep water. He then discarded all His clothes including the thread that held His loincloth. Next to be discarded was His sacred thread. Then He chanted the Praishocharana Mantra granting freedom to all from fear on account of Him. Then as He walked downstream, His Holiness Mahasannidhanam gave Him the saffron robes, a bamboo staff and a vessel.
The Guru and the successor-designate then went in procession to the Adhishtanam of Sri Chandrasekara Bharathi Swamigal. There Sri Mahasannidhanam gave Him the Pranava Upadesam followed by the Mahavakya Upadesam and named His disciple Bharathi Theertha. From there They proceeded to Sri Sharada Temple where the successor-designate was seated on the Vyakhyana Simhasanam. Sri Mahasannidhanam kept a Saligramam over the head of the young sannyasi and worshipped it. After mangalarathi Sri Mahasannidhanam took His seat on the Vyakhyana Simhasanam and Sri Bharathi Theertha Swamigal worshipped the lotus feet of Sri Mahasannidhanam.
Sri Mahasannidhanam started addressing Sri Sannidhanam as "Swamigal" from the very day of Sishya Sweekaram. His Holiness even advised His devotees that whatever respect they had been showing Him must be shown to Sri Sannidhanam also. Sri Mahasannidhanam used to instruct whoever came for His Darshan to go and have the Darshan of Sri Sannidhanam too. Many devotees were even asked to take Mantrakshata from Sri Sannidhanam.
Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada says in His Svatmaniroopanam: "There is the foot of the Guru. In His glance, there is limitless compassion. There is something that has been said by Him by way of spiritual instruction. What else is there that constitutes the summum bonum of life?" An ideal disciple finds immense pleasure and satisfaction in serving his holy Guru and thus so does Sri Sannidhanam, who has always felt that His having been chosen as Sishya by Sri Mahasannidhanam was the greatest privilege granted to Him by the holy Guru.
Sri Sannidhanam listened to Sri Mahasannidhanams words and instructions with extraordinary care and concentration. He unfailingly ensured that His Gurus commands were executed to the last letter without any delay. There are many incidents that serve to illustrate this.
Sometimes Sri Mahasannidhanam used to remark, "Todays Puja will be done by Swamigal". On learning of this Sri Sannidhanam would immediately get ready to perform Sri Chandramouleeswara Puja. The Guru Gita instructs: "One should meditate upon ones Guru throughout ones life". Sri Sannidhanams mind was ever engrossed on His Guru. One day, Sri Sannidhanam was conversing with a devotee inside Sacchidananda Vilas, His abode. The devotee asked, "Where is Sri Mahasannidhanam?" Sri Sannidhanam replied, "He has gone to the other side of the river to visit the temples. At this moment, He is emerging from Saradambals temple". The devotee realized that Sri Sannidhanam was specifying His Gurus exact location though His Guru was not within His range of sight.
Sri Sannidhanam never relished any prominence given to Him in the presence of Sri Mahasannidhanam. If at any time any devotee approached Him with any request for blessings, He would immediately advise him to go and seek the blessings of Sri Mahasannidhanam. As far as Sri Sannidhanam is concerned nothing can excel the greatness and compassion of Sri Mahasannidhanam. Such is His faith!
In His Anugraha Bhashanams (benedictory addresses) too, He has averred that whatever He has achieved in His life is solely because of Sri Mahasannidhanams grace. In a talk, He said: "Praying for Acharyals blessings for wealth, health and the like will not get us the maximum. We must pray to Him for His grace and nothing else. Once we become the recipients of His mercy, we will get everything". On that day the entire assembly learnt a very valuable lesson as to how one must pray to great souls who can grant anything.
Besides Himself adhering to the code of conduct to be observed in the presence of ones Guru, Sri Sannidhanam would also advise others as to how they should conduct themselves before Sri Mahasannidhanam. On an occasion, Sri Mahasannidhanam and Sri Sannidhanam, accompanied by some devotees, visited the Sabari hills to worship Lord Ayyappa. While climbing the hill, Sri Sannidhanam followed by a couple of devotees, reached a spot and sat on a rock to enjoy the gentle breeze and the soul-stirring beauty of nature. At that moment, one of the devotees said to Sri Sannidhanam, "This place is very beautiful and we must request Sri Mahasannidhanam to sit here for sometime and enjoy the scenery before He climbs further". But Sri Sannidhanam responded, "Who are we to suggest anything to Sri Mahasannidhanam? He knows everything. Our job is to obey and not to go about suggesting things to Him". That devotee, besides admiring Sri Sannidhanams devotion, also learnt a very important lesson.
As per Sri Mahasannidhanams instructions, Sri Sannidhanam started taking up independent Vijayayatras (pontifical tours) since 1983. Wherever He visited He left the stamp of His compassionate and non-partisan outlook. His captivating discourses won the hearts of the learned and the layman alike.
In 1989, Sri Mahasannidhanam, the Lord who had manifested Himself in a human form by the power of His Maya for the welfare of the world, decided to terminate His mortal coil. Being an unfathomable ocean of compassion, He started slowly preparing His beloved Shishya for His impending disappearance. To cite an example, in 1989, sometime before Sri Sannidhanam was about to commence His Vijayayatra in February, a conversation took place between the Guru and the Sishya. Sri Mahasannidhanam asked Sri Sannidhanam, "Swamigal, for how many more years should I live?" Sri Sannidhanam, treating this question as a casual one, replied, "Guruji, I will not be greedy. The Veda itself declares that the life span of a human being is 100 years. Now You are about 72. So You can very well live for another 28 years at the least". Sri Mahasannidhanam was quick to reply, "Swamigal, are You in Your senses? Is this (72 years) not enough? Should I live for 28 more years? I do not want it at all". Sri Sannidhanam at that time did not know that Sri Mahasannidhanam really meant His words.
When Sri Sannidhanam was camping at Pune, Sri Mahasannidhanam, the unequalled Saint of Sringeri, the crest jewel of Yogis, the Guru par excellence, shed His mortal coil on 21.09.1989 at His abode in Narasimhavanam in Sringeri. The mystic visionary had gone beyond the horizons of human visibility becoming one with the Infinite, the all-pervading Absolute.
With the timely help rendered by His dearest devotees and by the Government authorities, His Holiness Sannidhanam air-dashed to Mangalore from Pune and from there reached Sringeri by car.
When He entered Sacchidananda Vilas, He literally went running to behold the most holy physical form of His Supreme Master, and upon reaching the place, choked with uncontrollable emotion, prostrated before His Guru, and remained in that posture for a long time. The people around could very well realize the amount of grief that His Holiness was experiencing. However, Sri Sannidhanam being a Jivan Mukta, soon composed Himself and addressing the grief-stricken devotees, asked them to console themselves with the fact that though Sri Mahasannidhanam would no longer be physically present, He would continue to live thereafter in the hearts of everyone. Sri Sannidhanam then gave the necessary instructions for the final rites to commence.
Sri Mahasannidhanams departure obviously affected Sri Sannidhanam very much. His Holiness has expressed it many times. Once while He was crossing the Tunga during the Navarathri celebrations, His Holiness threw small pieces of coconut and other edibles for the fish in the river. On that day, not a single fish came up to the surface to eat the items. A devotee who was accompanying Sri Sannidhanam felt surprised and pointed it out to His Holiness. To this Sri Sannidhanam replied, "It seems that even the fish are mourning the demise of our great Guru to such an extent that they do not want to come out to the surface and take part in their routine activities!"
Once a devotee put this question to Sri Sannidhanam: "Which would You call the most significant event of Your life?" Sri Sannidhanam replied, "The most significant event in My life was My Gurus anugraha and His accepting Me as His Sishya. He was My father, My Guru and My God. He taught Me the Sanyasa dharma, the sampradaya of the Peetham and everything. He never hid anything from Me. I can never forget Him".
In keeping with the Math tradition, on 19th October 1989, His Holiness Sri Bharathi Theertha Maha Swamigal formally ascended the throne of transcendental wisdom as the 36th Peethadhipathi of Sri Saradha Peetham. The first and the foremost responsibility, as strongly felt by His Holiness, was to fulfill the wishes of His beloved Guru.
For the convenience of the increasingly large number of devotees and pilgrims coming to Sringeri, the most compassionate Guru, Sri Mahasannidhanam, had decided in the mid 1980s to construct a bridge across the river Tunga to link the Math complex on the northern bank with Narasimhavanam on the southern bank. He had entrusted the design and construction of the bridge to a reputed concern with the requisite expertise. The top management of the company held His Holiness in great regard and undertook the task with dedication. Sri Mahasannidhanam lucidly explained the requirements and His conception of the bridge. He unfailingly kept Himself fully posted with the developments. Unmindful of the strain, He regularly visited the construction site, keenly observed the work and, whenever appropriate, proffered encouragement and sagacious counsel. By His grace considerable progress was made by the time He attained mahasamadhi in September 1989. Actively interested in the quick completion of the noble task commenced by His Guru, His Holiness finally inaugurated the bridge on 21st May 1990. On the day, Sri Sannidhanam named the bridge Vidyatheertha Sethu.
The Sharada-Dhanvantari Charitable hospital run by the Math at Sringeri is the brainchild of Sri Mahasannidhanam who strongly felt that the residents of Sringeri and of the neighboring areas should be given proper medical facilities. The 100-bed hospital received constant attention from Sri Mahasannidhanam who took all steps to modernize it in all respects. Now Sri Sannidhanam, whose very life-breath is the fulfillment of His beloved Gurus wishes, is taking fruitful steps to add more facilities so that the hospital becomes an ultra-modern health center. The hospital now has separate units for Ayurveda and Homeopathy too. A Photo Gama Isotope Scanner was installed in the hospital in November 1992.
Sri Mahasannidhanam always gave priority to the needs of Vedic Scholars. He was very firm in His view that in order to protect the Vedas, we must protect Vedic Scholars. Sri Sannidhanam is fully aware of His beloved Gurus praiseworthy intentions. Following Sri Mahasannidhanams magnanimous attitudes, Sri Sannidhanam has compassionately announced a lifetime allowance of Rs.1000/- per month to deserving Sastra Pundits. Paying a fitting tribute to Sri Mahasannidhanam, Sri Sannidhanam had a beautiful and majestic granite Adhistanam (Samadhi temple) built at Narasimhavanam. Sri Sannidhanam performed the Kumbabhisheka of the Adhishtanam on the 12th of May 1993.
Under the directions of His Holiness, a lot of improvement has been made in the Veda Patashalas. Most competent and well-learned Scholars have been appointed to teach the students. Free food, textbooks and comfortable accommodation have been provided to the students. Sri Sannidhanam personally evaluates the students. The Veda Patashala has been producing competent Scholars who settle down in various parts of the country and serve as Pundits or Purohits. As for performances of Homas and Yagnas Sri Sannidhanam personally supervises them so that the scriptural injunctions are implemented to the last letter. The Math conducts Sata Chandi Homas, Sahasra Chandi Homas, Atirudra Homas and the like for the welfare of the world and Sri Sannidhanam, an authority on the scriptures, sees to it that they serve their purpose.
Sri Sannidhanam, being aware of the increasing inflow of pilgrims and devotees, has had new guesthouses built and named them Sri Sharada Krupa and Yatri Nivas.
Sri Sannidhanam is accessible to the devotees twice a day, in the morning during the Theertha Prasadam distribution and in the evening. His Holiness receives everyone cheerfully, with a smile. He poses tender questions, listens to what they have to say and offers valuable suggestions. He accepts Bhiksha and witnesses the Pada Puja, which the devotees perform to His Gurus and to Goddess Sharadas Padukas.
Even though His daily schedules are very tight, His Holiness attends to all His pontifical duties with admirable enthusiasm and sincerity keeping in mind not only the rich traditional values of the Sringeri Guru Parampara but also the great responsibility entrusted to Him by none other than His peerless Preceptor, Sri Mahasannidhanam.
It is said, "The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shore line to wonder". Those who are fortunate enough to hear a talk of Sri Sannidhanam can feel the truth of this statement. Once, in the course of His discourse, Sri Mahasannidhanam pointed out, "On the occasion of the Vidwat Sadas (a congregation of highly erudite scholars), My disciple showed that He was more scholarly than the most erudite of the scholars who came". Learned Pundits have candidly admitted that Sri Sannidhanams wisdom is the envy of scholars. The scholarly traits in Sri Sannidhanam are so natural that His Holiness can enlighten anyone even on what He has not spent time mastering but has merely heard once.
Once, a scholar approached Him and sought clarifications regarding a particular portion in Ghana (a mode of Vedic chanting). Though not having practiced Ghana chanting, Sri Sannidhanam at once recited the same beautifully and the scholar was stunned.
On another occasion, a group of Ghanapatis came for the Darshan of Sri Sannidhanam. His Holiness was pleased to see such learned ones. When He enquired about their studies, the senior-most Ghanapatigal, informed with pride that they all had completed the entire study of Ghana and that they could recite any portion that His Holiness would require them to recite. Sri Sannidhanam was immensely happy at their confidence and asked them to recite a portion of their choice from Vedas. The scholars however insisted that Sri Sannidhanam choose the portion for their recital. With a bewitching smile, Sri Sannidhanam suggested a particular portion. To their own surprise none of those Ghanapatis could recollect and recite that particular portion. Finally, it was Sri Sannidhanam who recited the initial lines of that portion with the appropriate intonation. It was only then that the wonder-struck Ghanapatis could recollect that portion and recite it.
Sri Sannidhanams unquestionable scriptural knowledge would be evident to anyone who has watched His Holiness during the Vidwat Sadas dedicated to Lord Ganapathy, conducted every year for 10 days commencing on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Bhadrapada. The Sadas is held every evening in the august presence of His Holiness. Learned scholars and philosophers, invited from all over India and Nepal, assemble in the Sadas. It is customary for each Vidwan to choose some text and analyze it in the mornings with other Vidwans and discuss it in detail in the evenings in the august presence of His Holiness. His Holiness encourages candid communication among the scholars, and intervene when any issue remains undecided and settles the same in His characteristic style. The most impressive aspect in the Sadas is Sri Sannidhanams off-hand quoting of Shastraic passages and His encouragement to young scholars and debutants.
For the past many years, during the Chaturmasya period, His Holiness has been conducting classes in the Brahma Sutras to a select band of sincere devotees. The students invariably assert that they are delighted by the lucid way in which His Holiness makes them understand the text.
His Holiness has an excellent command over Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Hindi. He has composed mesmerizing verses in Sanskrit.
Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham has been offering to the world, sages of exceptional wisdom and extraordinary spiritual attainments. Sri Sannidhanam shines with the same celebrity status as His worshipful and illustrious predecessors. Possessed of an extraordinary insight into the various dimensions of human problems and limitations, His Holiness offers valuable and appropriate advice keeping in mind the temperament and the competence of the seeker.
What His Holiness emphasizes with everyone irrespective of their competence, caste and creed is that they should first cultivate unshakable faith in the Guru, God and the scriptures.
Sri Sannidhanam is always very firm in His view that unconditional surrender at the lotus feet of the Guru will relieve one of all evils and help one to achieve the greatest goal in life - the attainment of Moksha.
Once a pilgrim from North India visited Sringeri. First, He visited the shrines on the northern bank of river Tunga where he happened to behold a Sannyasi. He asked the Sannyasi, "Swamiji, do you reside here?" The Sannyasi smiled and replied, "No, no, I have come here to offer my respects and services to the Guru Sri Mahasannidhanam". The pilgrim then reached Narasimhavanam on the other side of the river. There again he met a Sannyasi who too said that he had come down to Sringeri to serve Sri Mahasannidhanam. Later he reached a building where Sri Sannidhanam was conversing with a few devotees. The pilgrim, without being aware that He was no ordinary Sannyasi but the Peethadhipathi Himself, approached Sri Sannidhanam and questioned, "Swamiji, you too have come to Sringeri like the other Swamijis to serve the Guru?" Sri Sannidhanam replied, "Yes, you are right. I stay here and serve the Guru". Sri Sannidhanam was least affected to have been treated as another sannyasi but was immensely happy that a pilgrim considered him as a servant of Acharyal while almost all disciples treat Him as the Peethadhipathi. In the meantime, a Matha attendant came there and on hearing the pilgrims casual question to Sri Sannidhanam, hastened to inform the pilgrim that he had been talking to the Peethadhipathi. On hearing this, the pilgrim was taken aback and he apologized to Sri Sannidhanam. Later Sri Sannidhanam was talking about this incident to a devotee. His Holiness said, "This morning a gentleman met Me and asked Me if I was the servant of Acharyal. I was very happy to be called so. But the Math attendant intruded and spoilt the situation. How pleasant it would have been if I had been treated only as a humble servant of Acharyal for some more time!" What devotion!
Numerous devotees regularly approach Sri Sannidhanam either in person or through letters to seek clarifications on a variety of topics like spiritual discipline, ways to perform worship, scriptural injunctions and so on. In His characteristic style, Sri Sannidhanam analyses the issues and thoroughly satisfies the questioners with His most fitting answers. Even a casual dialogue with Him renders a person enlightened in many ways. What follows is a record of a dialogue with His Holiness by a devotee seeking guidance from Him.
At home, I worship a Siva Lingam made of stone. I find a lot of deep scratches on it. Can I replace it with another Lingam?
His Holiness: Is there any deep fissure in it so that it is likely to break into two halves at any time?
Disciple: No, Your Holiness
His Holiness: In such case, you dont need to replace it.
Disciple: The scriptures declare that nearness to ones Guru is an essential pre-requisite to attain Salvation, but it is not given to everyone to be near ones Guru. What should they do?
His Holiness: It is sufficient if they endeavor sincerely to translate into action the upadesam obtained from the Guru. Once, a college student paid a visit to Sringeri and had the Darshan of His Holiness. The following conversion ensued between His Holiness and the boy.
HH: Where are you coming from?
The student: Madras
HH (smiling): What made you come here?
The student: I have heard much about the Sringeri Jagadgurus and hence I desired to have Your Darshan. So I came.
HH: I am very happy about your devotion. Anyway, did you inform your parents about your coming to Sringeri? The student: No, I told them I was going to Mysore.
HH: (looking at him compassionately) When you start from Sringeri, visit Mysore first and then go to your city. Otherwise what you had told your parents would amount to a lie, a habit that should not be entertained by you at any time in your life.
The student: (offering prostration and accepting Mantrakashata), I shall carry out Your instructions, Your Holiness. I seek Your blessings so that I should be able to visit Sringeri frequently and have the Darshan of the Guru.
HH: So be it! The young man later became a very ardent devotee of the Math visiting Sringeri quite often.
Disciple: It is said that both the Vedas and the Smritis serve as the Pramana (authority) to decide on any matter. Suppose, on a particular issue, both the Vedas and the Smritis hold entirely different views. What should we do? Which of these two should we follow?
HH: The chances for such differences are very remote. However, if at all there is any such issue, what the Vedas say should be followed since the Vedas are always the supreme authority. Once during one of His camps in a town in a southern district of Tamilnadu, a boy approached Sri Sannidhanam, prostrated and presented some of his doubts to His Holiness for clarification.
Boy: In Srimad Ramayana, Sri Rama is portrayed as the embodiment of mercy and the forgiver of sins. Is it not?
HH: Yes, it is!
Boy: All that Ravana had committed was just one sin. Is it not?
HH: (full of appreciation for the boys genuine intention), That Sri Rama was an embodiment of mercy and that Ravana had committed just one sin are quite right. However, the one sin he had committed was so grave and unpardonable that even the most merciful Sri Rama could not do anything other than awarding the death-punishment.
Once when His Holiness was conversing with the devotees, one of them posed a question to Sri Sannidhanam: "What, according to Your Holiness, should be the most essential quality one should possess?" Pat came the reply from the divine lips, "Dispassion"!
"The root cause of all miseries in this world," asserts Sri Sannidhanam," is endless desire. He who cultivates dispassion in his mind is sure to escape the pangs of suffering." Sri Sannidhanam, by His life, has shown how pivotal dispassion is to a spiritual aspirant.
Great benefits accrue to those who are blessed with the company of a great soul. Numerous devotees of Sri Sannidhanam have harvested the crop of unlimited grace by sowing the most potent seed of Guru Bhakti in the holy land of their devout mind.
Once a gentleman, frustrated with his monetary and business dealings, approached His Holiness and prayed for guidance in the spiritual path. His Holiness made him realize that the decision he had taken to run away from problems was not proper and explained why he should not give up his business. The compassionate Guru explained the ways in which he could get relief from mental strain and also how he could improve his business. Sri Sannidhanams wise guidance instilled a new hope and confidence in him and he returned to his hometown cheerfully.
Another devotee had a misunderstanding with the higher officials in his organization. He was planning to resign and start a similar business but was in a great dilemma whether his actions would be right and fruitful. He went to Sringeri and explained the situation to Sri Sannidhanam. To his great surprise, His Holiness came down to his level, analyzed the problem from various angles, identified the possible barriers and the appropriate means to overcome them and finally gave suggestions most suited to the temperament of this devotee. When the devotee sincerely implemented the advice, he soon reached great heights in his new venture. Does this not confirm the statement, "Whatever the Guru says will be appropriate for us"?
An ardent devotee of Sri Sannidhanam was producing a video film on the glories of Sri Sharada Peetham. A friend of his, a professional in this field, was assisting him. Sri Sannidhanam was particularly attracted towards this professional who was not only active but was also highly dedicated to his work. His sincerity, competence and hard work impressed His Holiness. Later when Sri Sannidhanam visited Madras, this professional with all reverence and respect prayed to His Holiness to visit his house and bless him and his family members. Sri Sannidhanam immediately consented and visited his house. After the Pada Puja was over Sri Sannidhanam blessed him whole-heartedly, raising both His divine hands, and said, "Goddess Lakshmi is going to grace you in abundance". With a captivating smile gently dancing on His face, His Holiness left. The professional who was not financially sound then got a lucrative job in a foreign organization and became affluent in due course.
The devotees of Sri Sannidhanam in Salem, Tamilnadu, once planned to celebrate grandly, during the auspicious Tamil month of Margazhi (Dec. 15th to Jan 13th), the day corresponding to Sri Sannidhanams star, Mrigasheersha. They proposed to take Sri Sannidhanams photo in a procession through the main streets of the town. They wanted to arrange for an elephant to walk in front. Unfortunately, the elephant belonging to the local temple had just then undergone some medical treatment and hence was not in a position to lead the procession. No other elephant was available. The devotee who had been asked to get an elephant was greatly disappointed. He sat sorrowfully inside his rice mill worrying over the non-availability of the pachyderm. It was around 2 pm when he suddenly heard the melodious voice of Sri Sannidhanam saying, "The elephant has arrived!" The devotee was really taken aback to hear Sri Sannidhanams voice. He rushed to the outer gate, wondering whether Sri Sannidhanam had spoken to him or whether he had been hallucinating. He was thoroughly amazed when he saw an elephant standing outside, shaking the gate. He then beheld its mahout standing by its side, looking quite perplexed. This devotee asked the mahout about the elephant. The mahout said, "This elephant is on its way from Kodumudi to a nearby village for a Puja. When it came to the front of your gate, it suddenly turned, held your gate with its trunk and started shaking it. I do not know why it is behaving like this all of a sudden." As soon as he finished saying this, the devotee burst into tears gratefully thinking of the limitless grace of Sri Sannidhanam.
Once, during His Vijayayatra in the southern parts of India, Sri Sannidhanam camped at a town. That evening Sri Sannidhanam was to deliver an Anugraha Bhashanam. Before that, His Holiness was giving public Darshan. The devotee who had hosted His Holiness approached Him with all respect and reverence holding a paper that contained a number of questions to be clarified with His Holiness. He prayed that he be blessed with the clarifications. Sri Sannidhanam with a gentle smile said, "Yes, it will be done, but could you wait till the Anugraha Bhashanam gets over?" The overjoyed devotee obediently said, "Yes, I will, Your Holiness". Then Sri Sannidhanam proceeded for His Anugraha Bhashanam. The devotee too went and joined the audience. He was in for a big surprise, when he realized that when Sri Sannidhanam sent for this devotee and, upon his arrival, asked him compassionately, "You said you had a list of questions to ask. You may get them clarified now". The devotee, who had still not got out of his surprise, answered politely, "I have already got the necessary clarifications. In the course of the speech Your Holiness dealt with all my doubts even before I could spell them out. I strongly feel that this Anugraha Bhashanam was meant for me". Sri Sannidhanam gave a bewitching smile and blessed the devotee.