1t is not possible to adequately describe even a small part of the glories of Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal Acharyal) who was the 35th Pontiff of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham. This is true even though we can grasp His greatness only to the limited extents that our restricted intellects permit. As such, this article contains but a vague out lines a few aspects of Acharyal’s unparalleled greatness, and is intended to give the reader a brief account of His life. Our Guru was born in the month of Aswina of the year Pingala, under the star Swati which corresponds to the 15th of November, 1917, in Basavangudi, Bangalore. The child was named Srinivasan. The makings of a Mahatma were perceptible in Him eaven when He was a small child. Qualities like fortitude courage, tolerance, unshakeable faith in God and a staunch relief in Ahimsa which are generally contrary to childhood, were found in abundance in the child. His superior intellect and His pure and devout mind also set Him apart from;•1e: children. Though barely a teenager, Sri Srinivasan used to frequently discuss with His friends, His one longing his one aim in life - to renounce the world and behold God. Sri Srinivasan’s Upanayanam was performed on Vaishaka Shukla Shashti of the year Pramodhuta, which corresponded. To the 4th of May, 1930. An incident connected with the ceremony acquaints us with His capacity to grasp and retain what He had heard just once. After the functions connected with the thread ceremony came to an end ,the Math Purohit taught the young Brahmachari, His first Madhyahnikam. That evening, the Purohit’s son was deputed to instruct Sri Srinivasan in the performance of Sandhyavandanam. On coming to the portion on Abhivadana, the instructor who was intoning, “Kashyapa, Avatsara, Naidhruva, Trayatsheya, Pravaranvita`, found himself being halted by Sri Srinivasan who insisted that that was not what He had been taught in the afternoon. Narasimha Shastry who was passing by, corrected the Purohit’s son with the words, “Your Gotra is Kashyapa while Srinivasan’s is Koundinya. As such, His Pravara’ should be ‘Vasistha, Maithravaruna, Koundinyam. This astounding memory, in fact, rarely failed Acharyal even at an advanced age. After His Upanayanam, Sri Srinivasan obtained due permission from His Guru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal (Paramacharyal), the 34th Pontiff of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, and stayed on in Sringeri asa student of the Marh Pathashala. A brilliant and devout student that Sri Srinivasan was, Paramacharyal took an instant liking for the boy. The young Brahmachar’s unique intelligence which surfaced on many an occasion, pleased Paramacharyal beyond measure. His unswerving Guru—bhakti made Him the light of Paramacharya’s eyes. The latter used to occasionally question the Vidyarthis as to whether they found the food that they got, satisfactory. The students used to answer variously based on their likes and dislikes. Noticing, however, that Sri Srinivasan never answered such questions, Paramacharyal once asked Him for the reason for His silence. Sri Srinivasan’s intense Guru-bhakti and total disinterest in sense-objects are clearly inherent in His reply, which was, ‘“Whatever we get is Acharyal’s Prasadam. As such, it is always tasty". As mentioned earlier, Sri Srinivasan was naturally inclined to renunciation. Being the natural choice of Paramacharyal as His successor, He was initiated into the holy order of Sanyasa when He was only 14 years old, on the Shukla Panchami of the Jyestha month of the year Prajapathi (which fell on the 22nd of May, 1931). Paramacharyal named His holy successor designate, "Abhinava Vidyatheertha”, perhaps because He foresaw that His illustrious disciple would equal or even surpass the great Yogi, the 10th Pontiff of the Peetham, Sri Vidyatheertha, in Yoga. Acharyal always preferred a scientific outlook, which was a sharp contrast to the extremely orthodox views of Paramacharyal. Yet, the fact that Acharyal was different from His Guru in this and many other ways, was no barrier to the mutual love between Guru and Sishya. Acharyal, being an ideal disciple, was always eager to serve His Guru. On one occasion, Paramacharyal was unwell, and so there were two attendants lying outside His room at night. The night was rather chill, and so one of the attendants went into the boiler room for warmth, and there, fell asleep. But he soon woke up and rushed to find out if Paramacharyal was alright. He went into the room where he formerly lay and gently shook the form which was lying outside Paramacharya’s room, to find out if the sage had slept. He was stunned when he heard the gentle voice of Acharyal responding! He had come to lie down outside Paramacharya’s room so that He could personally attend to His needs. For Acharyal, acting as attendant to Paramacharyal was not only far from infradig but a privilege and duty. Even in trying circumstances, Acharyal bore all problems with His characteristic fortitude and served His Guru with the same unparalleled devotion. A unique beauty about the relationship between the two was that Paramacharyal viewed Acharyal as His Guru re—manifest. He had even expressed this view of His to Acharyal. He would sometimes hold a door open for Acharyal to pass and even stand up on His arrival. Yet, never allowing such eulogies to get into His head, Acharyal held in all humility, that it was only His Guru’s great love for Him that made Him hold that view. Acharyal was temperamentally inclined to the royal path of Yoga. A careful study of Acharyal’s life will surely convince anybody that the eight steps to perfection in Yoga listed by Patanjali, beginning with Yama and Niyama and ending in Samadhi, had been perfected by Him, Being a Sanyasi par excellence, most of the stipulations contained in the Yoga Sutras like Ahimsa, truth fullness, continence, abstinence from theft, purity and austerity were naturally fulfilled in His case. To satisfy the restraint called Aparigraha (non—acceptance of possessions), Acharyal reduced His personal requirements to a level which was definitely lower than the bare ‘minimum. Wanting that the body should be under His control and not vice—versa, in the cold Sringeri winters, He started sleeping on the bare floor wearing nothing but a wet loin cloth and also a wet towel around His waist! (It must be emphasized here that Acharyal, dispassionate to the core as He is, considers the pomp and splendor associated with the Math, to be unconnected with Himself as a person). Acharyal was an adept in the performance of Asanas. He was an expert in Kriyas, of which His favorite was Nauli. So supple did He keep His body, that the most convoluted of Asanas was child’s play for Him! He did these Asanas regularly everyday, apart from meticulously performing His daily Anushtanam and Puja. It was a delight to watch Acharyal’s performance of Puja, as He went meticulously through each stage of the worship. He would even converse with the idols, for never did He look upon them as mere stones, but viewed them as living deities. Acharyal found great joy in meditating on Bala Ambal, and had His first experience of Savikalpa Samadhi before He was 18 years old. By the time He was 20, He had already attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi and by repeated attainment of this sublime state, had become a Jeevan mukta. But the paradoxical part of this was that Acharyal had already attained the Highest before He was 20, but His formal lessons in Vedanta commenced only after He was 23!. Acharyal was always full of life, ever eager to learn more. With practice in the river Tunga, He became an expert swimmer, and when He was young, used to dive from the tops of trees into the river! After initiating His successor, Paramacharyal, who was least interested in administrative affairs, decided to transfer the burden of pontifical duties to Acharyal. The perfect disciple that He was, Acharyal shouldered these responsibilities in His inimitable style though He too would have rather engaged Himself in Tapas. As He used to consider the Math as a responsibility entrusted to Him by His Guru, He used to strive hard for its welfare, sometimes even ruining His health in the process. Acharyal was the peerless preceptor - the ever compassionate One who would descend to the level of the disciple and raise him to His own. He made no distinctions among devotees on the basis of caste, creed or even religion. On one occasion, a Muslim gentleman who had no children and was leaving no stone unturned in trying to get one, approached Acharyal. Before he could even pose his problem, Acharyal conferred His blessings on him for begetting progeny. Can the words of the Omnipotent one ever go in vain? The man was soon blessed with a son. Overcome with joy, the Muslim wanted to do Pada Puja and requested Acharyal is permission for the same. However, keeping the fact that such ceremonial worship does not conform to the principles of Islam in mind, Acharyal told him that it was not necessary. As the man was insistent, in order not to disappoint him, Acharyal accepted his Kanika. Acharyal was extremely considerate and would even alter His personal habits for the sake of another. A certain Muslim instrumentalist once visited Sringeri, and was seen by Acharyal, playing his instrument in front of the Samadhi temple of Paramacharyal, Acharyal, then sent word to the unsuspecting man to come and play his instrument at the night Puja. Usually, musicians are allowed to perform only during the intervals in the chanting of Mantras in Puja. However, the already surprised musician was in for a greater surprise when Acharyal ordered that the loud Vedic chanting be stopped to facilitate the musician play his instrument through the entire length of the Puja, while Acharyal chanted the Mantras mentally. Acharyal’s compassion and concern for people cannot be described in words. Many a devotee’s experience testifies to this. People came to Him for various ends, material and spiritual. These included people suffering from various ailments who would like Him to play the role of a divine doctor, persons with various problems for which they would like Acharyal’s guidance and sacred intervention, people desirous of progressing in the spiritual path as also those who have attained realization. Acharyal responded to each one of these classes of people in an appropriate manner. He was verily the Kalpataru, fulfilling the prayer of each and every sincere devotee. Sri Rajagopalan of Madurai was a tortured man as he was the victim of black magic. In spite of consistent efforts, the effects of the evil force could not be nullified, and they gradually only increased. He did all he could to combat the evil effects and called upon various priests and magicians to help him. Many top police officials, members of the Judiciary and VIPs visited his place and tried to be of help, but all of it was to no avail. Acharyal then came to camp in Madurai in February, 1975. Sri Rajagopalan went to have His Darshanam and narrated his tale of woe. After giving him a patient hearing, Acharyal blessed him. W/hen the man returned home after Darshanam, he found a note saying, “1 will not trouble you again. Henceforth, I shall be your slave.” Prom then, all the weird happenings ceased abruptly! Though, obviously Acharyal’s grace was fully responsible for such episodes, He would never take credit for any thing and would only attribute it all to divine grace. Acharyal always assigned high priority to spiritual aspirants. Not minding even personal inconveniences or ill—health, He used to go out of the way to help the sincere spiritual seeker. This is amply illustrated by the following incident that took place during the Sishya Sweekaram in 1974. Arrangements were being made and Acharyal was, needless to say, very busy. At that time, an Italian had come all the way from his country to get some clarifications from Acharyal regarding Gaudapadacharyas Karika on the Mandukya Upanisad, out was doubtful whether he will be able to approach Acharyal in the circumstances. When Acharyal came to know of this, He set aside some time to talk to the man and clear his doubts, remarking that it was His duty to spare time for the sincere foreigner! Persistent requests from devotees from all over the country caused Acharyal to start on His first Vijaya Yatra in 1956, two years after Paramacharyal attained Siddhi. He has toured the whole of India thrice, and under Him, the activities of the Math have grown tremendously. Apart from the fact that He was a Sastraic scholar par excellence, being the unparalleled exponent of Tarkaand Vedanta, He used to evince extraordinary interest and enthusiasm when it came to learning more about subjects like electronics, civil engineering and photography, to name just a few. In fact, once, He was having a discussion with the Director of a leading firm in India, regarding the construction of a bridge across River Tunga. He recounted the main features of all the important bridges in the country and then went on to talk about the salient features of world-famous bridges in the UK., France, U.S.A. and Australia. After this, He even ask edan attendant to bring a small photo album, in which He had collected, with necessary statistics, photographs of world-famous bridges over the years. This was how perfectly thorough He was! Acharyal’s interest in trees and forests and protection of the environment continued unabated till the very end. He had special affection for animals and could discuss with great felicity, about elephants, tigers, lions, deer, cows and other creatures. He could talk at length about the various birds that can be spotted not only in and around Sringeri, but in the other parts of the countryas well. As we have seen, Acharyal’s life was packed with achievements of no mean order. And one of the very great in this is His choosing a competent successor for the Peetham. Acharyal initiated Sri Seetharama Anjaneyalu into Sanyasa in November 1974 and named his successor designate Bharathi Theertha Acharyal once mentioned in a speech that the tradition of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham is transferred from Guru to Sishya Just as a lamp lights another lamp. He thus indicated that the lighted lamp becomes as bright as the one which lights it. After 71 years of his Manusha Lila Acharyal shed His mortal coil on the 21st of September 1989 in Sringeri. He however continues to reside in the hearts of his innumerable devotees bestowing unlimited grace on them as before.
A rare sage who renounced the world before completing 14 years of age and who attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi the highest state of Yoga before he was 20 His Holiness Sri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Mahaswamigal was a renowned Jeevanmukta and a scholar par excellence in Tarka and Vedanta. He adorned the sacred Sringeri Sharada Peetham and brought great glory to it during the 35 years of His pontificate as its 35th Jagadguru Shankaracharya. The very embodiment of compassion the Acharya graced innumerable devotees in countless ways. He had the knack of expounding in an accurate and yet clearly comprehensible manner. This book is an illustration of his
This book contains the sacred expositions of our Acharyal compiled by a disciple Around 15 years ago Acharyal had taught the Bhagavad Gita Brahma Sutras and the Taittirriya Upanisad with Sankara Bhavatpadal’s Bhashyams thereon. Some of the chapters of this book are based on his classes. On several occasions. Acharyal had explained scriptural passages and devotional verses in private to the disciple either completely of his own accord or in response tot eh disciple’s queries. These rare teachings of Acharyal also figure in this book.
The erstwhile evening newspaper the mail was publishing the teachings of our guru under the column the Acharya speaks every Sunday for nearly two years starting from December 1979. Each of those articles formed an independent unit. A few of them have been incorporated in this book with some modifications. The alterations include the elaboration of certain topics to undo the compression that had been necessitated while penning the articles to meet the space constraints of the newspaper. Another change is that connected articles have been merged. Each chapter of this book is complete in itself like the articles in the mail. However the thread of continuity between successive chapters should be evident to the reader.
As our most compassionate Guru’s disciples are well aware. His explanations consistently bore the stamp of his direct experience of the truth his complete mastery of yoga his unparalleled erudition in the sastras his razar sharp intellect and his thorough understanding of the requirements of the hearer. His very presence was so potent that disciples doubts would get dispelled even before they were posed. While his words can be reproduced in print no book can ever provide the reader even an inkling of the remarkable effect of his presence glance, smile and voice.
The disciple who compiled the contents of this book has tried to avoid distortions in the presentation of Acharyal’s expositions. Our guru’s words were always perfect and so the responsibility for the errors if any rests with that disciple.
We are very thankful to Sri G. Ramasubramanian general Manager Numeric Engineers and to Sri R. Subramanian for their tremendous contribution to the publication of this book. They worked day and night unmindful of strain to ready the raw manuscript for offset printing. Our heartfelt thanks are also due to Miss Meenakshi Lakshmanan for penning at short notice a lucid informative account about our Acharyal.
Sri G. Raghavan of Anugraham computer services took personal interest in generating the laser print out of this book. The offset printing was undertaken by Sri N. Subramanian at Sudarshan Graphics our thanks to them.
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