H. H. Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Mahaswamigal
The morning of Sunday, October 16, 1892 witnessed the birth of a holy saint. He was a native of Sringeri itself and was born to Sri Gopala Sastri and his devoted wife Lakhsmi Amba.
Sri Gopala Sastri was himself a very learned pandit and the only son of his father Sri Subba Sastri. The latter was a great scholar and the Asthana pandit of the Sringeri Mutt and was blessed and honoured by His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahaswamigal, the then Jagadguru who was famous as much for His erudition as for His yogic powers.
Gopala Sastri had 14 children but such was Gods will that only this boy, Narasimha by name, survived. The parents felt that they were being pursued by an inexplicable and relentless fate which deprived them of their children and hoped that at least by separating the boy from themselves for sometime, he might escape the fate of his brothers and sisters.
In response to this, Brahmasri Srikanta Sastri, the then agent of the Mutt, took the boy under his protection and treated him as one of his own household. The boy was admitted into the local Middle School where both Kannada and English were taught. He easily topped the list of students and endeared himself to his teachers.
By a strange good fortune he was brought in his 12th year to the benign notice of His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahaswamigal, the then Jagadguru, who at once discerned the aptitude of the boy and foresaw the future greatness that awaited him. He was asked to give up the secular school and join the Sadvidya Sanjeevani Pathasala attached to the Mutt. His Holiness took great interest in that Pathasala and visited it frequently and had genuine pleasure in seeing for himself the answer papers of several students of the Pathasala.
He was very much impressed with the great clearness of thought and expression apparent in the answers of Narasimha and selected him for a special course in Tarka. In January 1907 His Holiness started on a tour throughout the Southern districts for consecrating a temple at Kalady in North Travancore which was the birthplace of Sri Sankaracharya. Even while on tour He had arranged for the examination answer papers being sent to Him with the result that He was able to steadily watch the rapid progress that Narasimha was making in his studies. On His way back to Sringeri He founded the Sankara Mutt Pathasala at Bangalore for higher studies in Meemamsa and Vedanta. Realising that a good grounding in Meemamsa was essential to a student of Vedanta, He asked Narasimha to join the Meemamsa section in the Bangalore Pathasala. That he had the special attention and blessing of His Holiness is quite apparent from the four verses which His Holiness addressed to Sri Sarada. The refrain in all of the verses ran as follows: "Sarvajnam Srinrsimham kuru Sivadayite Sattvaram Madvinamram" (Bhaktisudhatarangini P. 445). During this period, there were several indications to show that His Holiness had decided to choose Sri Narasimha as His successor to the Sringeri Sarada Peetham.
Sri Sachidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahaswamigal returned to Sringeri in 1911. Early in 1912 He felt that His lifes work was finished and that it was time for Him to free himself from His mortal coil. He instructed one of His intimate devotees Brahmasri Kunigal Rama Sastri to go to Bangalore and take Narasimha with him to Sringeri and also inform His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore about His intention to nominate Narasimha as His successor-designate to the peetham. His Highness promised all help in the matter.
The father of the boy also agreed, though very reluctantly, to accede to the wishes of His Holiness but the mother flatly declined to part with the only surviving one of her 14 children. Narasimha himself had to plead with his mother to obey His Holiness behest on the main ground that he himself had no intention at all of becoming a householder and that, if he was a sannyasi staying as the Head of the Mutt at Sringeri, his mother might have the satisfaction of knowing about his welfare and of occasionally seeing him. These advantages could not be had if he was an ordinary sannyasi going about from place to place.
The mother thereupon had to agree and Brahmasri Rama Sastri started with Narasimha for Sringeri. But just the day previous to their reaching Sringeri, namely, on March 20, 1912, His Holiness had attained freedom from all embodiment. After the ceremonies were all over, Narasimha Sastri was duly given sannyasa on April 7, 1912 and installed on the Sringeri Peetha the next day under the name of Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swamigal.
His Holiness, the new Acharya, conscious as He was of the fact that He had in abundance the gracious blessings of His guru, was nevertheless sorely grieved at not having had the opportunity of being trained and guided by the latter. His ambition was to follow rigidly the footsteps of the previous Acharya and justify the latters selection of Himself as His successor.
In the course of about three years He completed His studies in the Vedanta under the able guidance of Mahamahopadhyaya Vidyanidhi Brahmasri Virupaksha Sastri, a veteran scholar who later on became the Head of the Kudli Mutt. The latter used to say that the deep knowledge and learning of the Acharya was out of all proportion to his own teaching and could be accounted for only as due to divine grace.
His Holiness felt that the renovation of Sri Sarada Temple which had been started by His Guru must be completed as early as possible and that a temple should be erected over the samadhi of His Guru. These constructions took more than three years and it was only in the middle of 1916 that the work was complete and the kumbhabhishekams of both the temples were duly performed.
Splendour and pomp characterised the festivities especially as His Highness Sir Krishnaraja Wodayar, the Maharaja of Mysore, was there in person as also representatives of His Highness, the Gaikwar of Baroda, and representatives from other States. But the chief attraction of the great and the small, the learned and the laity, the young and the old, was the simple and enchanting personality of His Holiness the young Swamiji Himself.
He radiated about Him an atmosphere of peace and joy. This did not clash with the pomp and splendour, the noise and bustle that was present due to the presence of dignitaries and a large congregation of people from all parts of the country.
After the consecration was over, His Holiness steadily set His mind on the practical realisation of the truths learned by Him through His exhaustive studies and, though He continued to expound the scriptures and the commentaries to deserving students, He spent more time in contemplation and Tapas. He felt that He must seek the grace of Sri Sarada and His Guru intensely and qualify Himself to the utmost for the seat of spiritual eminence which He had been called upon to occupy.
His intensive devotion to His Guru and the steady perseverance which characterised His efforts led Him in course of a few years to such an exalted state of erudition and self-realisation as could not ordinarily be reached in several lives of genuine effort. He stands unrivalled in learning and stands equally unrivalled in the realisation of the goal of the Vedanta. His predilection for contemplation naturally marked Him out from other people who could possibly have no conception of the supranormal experiences had by Him. It may be mentioned in parenthesis that His Parents were justly proud of their son and had the supreme satisfaction of seeing for themselves the spiritual eminence which He had attained.
In or about 1923, His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore requested His Holiness to go over to Mysore and confer blessings on himself and the other members of the royal family. In deference to that request His Holiness left Sringeri on the January 18, 1924 and proceeded to Mysore.
Arranagements had been made for acquiring for the Mutt, the house in the old agraharam at Mysore in which the previous Acharya was born and also some extensive adjoining it. Thanks to the kindness of His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore and the good services of Brahmasri Kunigal Rama Sastri and Srikanta Sastri, it was possible to raise thereon a magnificient stone structure containing a shrine for a beautiful marble image of His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahaswamigal. His Holiness had the supreme pleasure of consecrating this new shrine at Mysore in holy memory of His Guru. In accordance with His instructions, Vedanta classes were being held there daily.
The earnest representatives of the disciples in the southern districts made His Holiness agree to extend His tour as far south as Kanyakumari. After a magnificient reception in Mysore, His Holiness descended the Mysore Plateau by the Sathyamangalam ghat. He was well versed in Telugu, His mother-tongue, Kannada, the language of the land of His birth and Tamil, from contact with the Tamilian disciples who had visited Sringeri. The visit to Sathyamangalam was really His first contact with the Tamil districts.
While there, He was requested to give some words of advice to His disciples and to the great surprise of all including those most intimate with Him, He began to give discourses in such chaste and fluent Tamil as would evoke the admiration of any born Tamilian. Since then throughout the Tamil districts, His discourses were all in Tamil except in special gatherings of pandits which He addressed in His own characteristic style of very simple and expressive Sanskrit so natural to Him. His admonitions and advices, coming as they did from a sincere heart longing for the welfare of the world, had their own inimitable effect in converting many a skeptic and in strengthening the faith of many a believer.
After visiting Rameswaram, His Holiness toured throughout the Madura and Tirunelveli Districts, had a fitting reception at Tiruvananthapuram and then proceeded to Kalady, the birthplace of Sri Adishankara. His Holiness Sri Sacchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharathi Mahaswamigal had after great difficulty and with the hearty help of the then Maharaja of Travancore acquired an extensive site there and built there a temple for Sri Adisankara and another for Sri Saradambal in 1912.
His Holiness felt that this place must be improved further so as to become a centre for learning. He accordingly directed the formation of an agraharam (street) there for the residence of the temple employees and others and also the building of a Veda Pathasala for the education of young Brahmin boys who desired to learn the Vedas.
In 1927 when He personally visited the place, He inaugurated a Vedanta Pathasala also for advanced students in Vedanta. The students were given a house to live in and also a decent stipend to cover their expenses. From Kalady His Holiness returned via Palghat and Coimbatore to Nanjangud in the Mysore State. There He founded another Pathasala and proceeded to Mysore.
His Holiness returned to Sringeri towards the end of 1927. He was greeted with a magnificent and devoted reception. He showered divine blessings on all those who came in contact with Him.
Four years of busy touring was followed by a long period of practical seclusion from the outside world. The Acharya gave Himself up to intense Tapasya oblivious to His surroundings. But the affairs of the matha required attention. Under inspiration from Sri Sarada, the Acharya designated Si Srinivasa Sastry, as His successor. He was a youth of remarkable intelligence and potential for spiritual eminence. The Acharya gave Him sannyasa on May 22, 1931 with the name of Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha. The Junior Swami soon became highly proficient in learning and took over the spiritual and secular affairs of the matha, giving considerable relief to the senior Acharya.
Seldom did the Acharya receive disciples while in retirement. On the few occasions that He did, for which hundreds would be waiting, a smile or a significant nod proved more efficacious and illuminating than a sermon. It would fill their souls with blessedness. By dint of introspection and Tapasya, His consciousness appeared sublimated into an all-radiating spirit.
In 1938, the Acharya yielded to the prayers of the disciples to visit Bangalore and stay there for a few months. Facing the shrine of Sankara another shrine had been built for Sri Saradambal in Shankara Matha. This temple was consecrated by the Acharya. From Bangalore He went to Coimbatore and then to Kalady.
The Acharya returned to Sringeri in 1940 and again went into retirement in the Narasimhavana. Though He was not accessible, thousands who prayed for His blessings in their troubles got relief. Many others were blessed even without any conscious attempt on their part to solicit His grace.
His Holiness seldom came out of His seclusion and on the few occasions He did, He used to perform Sri Sarada Chandramoulisvara puja meticulously. He fully demonstrated in His life the qualities of a sthita prajna as enunciated by Sri Krishna in the Gita. Although externally engaged in worldly actions, His Holiness, whenever He returned to bahirmukha (the state of normal activity), Had no attachment to any object whatsoever. His conduct did not annoy anybody. He behaved like an ideal friend of all.
Enjoying the Supreme Bliss, He moved sometimes like an ignorant one, sometimes with royal magnificence, sometimes full of auspiciousness, sometimes unmoving like a python, sometimes evoking respect, sometimes getting derided and sometimes unknown to anybody.
When numerous disciples approached the Acharya for permission to celebrate the 60th anniversary of His birth which fell in October 1952, He sternly discouraged the idea. When it was suggested that the funds collected would be spent in performing Atirudra and Sahasra Chandi homas He approved. The homas were conducted in April 1953. A large concourse of people from distant places gathered to witness this unique function and to get the blessings of the Acharya.
The Acharya came out of His retirement for a few weeks after the homas Had concluded, resumed His normal routine and received disciples. On August 24, 1954, President Rajendra Prasad paid a visit to Sringeri and was received by both the Senior and Junior Swamis with whom he spent some hours in intimate and soulful conversation. The Rashtrapatis innate humility, piety, godliness, and respect for saints much pleased the two Gurus, who showered their blessings on him.
His Holiness had enormous compassion for the struggling souls. None went away from Him empty handed. His faith in the limitless power and mercy of God was such that if He gave vibhuti (holy ashes) or kumkum (saffron), it acted as an immediate panacea for all human ills. He played as a child in the company of children, as a youth among the young and acted as an old man in the company of the aged ones sharing their joy and sorrow.Many have been the incalculable benefits derived by those who had the good fortune to come in contact with Him. Not only He showed Himself head and shoulders above all scholars in the several branches of learning and commanded their admiration and reverence but He made even the humblest of men realise that they had a sincere friend and guide in His Holiness. His love was quite catholic and universal. The high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the laity, the Hindu and the Christian, the Mohammedan and the skeptic, all received the same kind treatment from Him and all of them returned home the wiser and the better for the few minutes of contact which they were fortunate enough to have with Him. Many have been the incidents in which He has playfully shown His yogic and supernormal powers without the least detriment to His Tapas. He was an adept in the Mantra Sastras and in the Agamas as well. Many have been the suggestions and rectifications made by Him in the field of individual worship or in the temples which He visited. His memory was quite phenomenal and at times seemed uncanny.
In the year 1954, the Acharya decided to free Himself from the fetters of the mortal body. On September 26,in that year, He got up very early in the morning and walked towards the Tunga river. He stepped into the water, and advancing further into the current Had a dip. Then He did pranayama, and dipped again. The Acharyas body was seen floating down the current.
It was reported that the Acharyas body was in the erect sitting posture with legs crossed as at the time of contemplation and was straightened out only in an attempt to restore respiration. There was no sign of drowning or of suffocation or struggle for life. The Acharya Had ever been in the best of health, and His passing away naturally baffled all doctors, just as He was baffling them even when He was alive. He was an enigma equally in death as in life to all who sought physical explanation for spiritual experiences. God descends on earth for our instruction and emancipation in a manifested form. One such emanation of the divine was His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Mahaswamigal.
The commentary written by His Holiness in Sanskrit on Bhagavatpadas Vivekachudamani is a monumental work. It is an epitome of His Holiness erudition, experience, and deep knowledge of Advaita Vedanta. Paying a glowing tribute to His Holiness who was His Guru, Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal said, "My Acharya was an eminent Tapasvin, a scrupulous observer of Sastraic injuctions, a knower of the Atman and a rare Jivanmukta".
Having seen Him, having heard about Him, having met Him and having remembered Him, all creatures feel delighted. The very remembrance of Him will bring all round prosperity and blessedness, for it is said: "The knower of Brahman verily becomes Brahman." That is why to such a seer even the Devas offer their worship.