The Chandrasekara of Kanchi and The Chandrasekara of Sringeri – Ra. Ganapati
At this point of time, (October 25, 1992) when we are preparing for the centenary celebration of Sri Kanchi Maha Svamigal, though He would be completing 100 years only in May 1994, we deem ourselves doubly blessed by paying homage to another great saint who has actually completed 100 years three days back. It is a strange coincidence that the monastic name of that sage is also Chandrasekara.
He is none other than Chandrasekara Bharati Svamigal of the Sringeri Sankara Math, who held the holy office of Sankaracharya for 42 years during the same period when Sri Chandrasekara Indira-Sarasvathi was presiding over the Kanchi Sankara Math.
Instead of repeating the conventional term that the two personages were like ‘the sun and the moon’, we should say that they were like two sun-cum-moons! They were like the sun in full blaze radiating Jnana, and the rigorous Sastric Dharma in a most unique fashion, from 1912 to 1954. Upadesa (teaching) in their case was not merely by words but it was by showing the living examples of what they preached. Hence their words carried the power of the mantras. Both were exalted as great sages, verily as divine personalities.
But their very name has the moon in it. The name ‘Chandrasekara’ is very appropriate for these two sages, who carried on their heads the burden of showing the correct path to the world, which was increasingly following sinful ways, in as much as the name originally denotes Siva who is His infinite mercy, pardoned the sinning Moon, reduced to a crescent and stationed him on His matted locks.
It is of note that among the many names adopted by the two lines of the heads of these two Maths the name ‘Chandrasekara’ alone is found in both. The Kanchi Maha Periyaval is the seventh among Gurus of the of the Math bearing the name Chandrasekara; the Sringeri Acharya was the fourth in that Math to bear that name.
In Kanchi the names Mahadeva and Chandrasekara alternate from the 61st to 67th heads. So there is nothing unique in Periyaval, the 68th in the line, having that name. what is significant is that the Peethadhipati of Sringeri who ascended the Peetha five years later also inherited the same name, after 450 years from the seventeenth predecessor in the lineage of his Math! In the divine scheme of things of Parasakti (Mother-Power Supreme), this coincidence occurred as if to show that these two Peethas are but two eyes focused on the same object.
There is another similarly too, of the ‘Dasanaama’ (ten titles in Sankara’s monastic order) Kanchi Peetha has adopted (Indra) Sarasvati. Sringeri Acharya adopt different titles like Tirtha and Aranya. Of these, the title of the Sringeri Acharya we are talking of is ‘Bharati’ which too is a synonym of Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning. Sarasvati has yet another name, Sarada. The Math of the Kanchi Svami is named after Sarada and the Peetha of the Sringeri Svami carries the same name. The season of ‘Sarad’ is famous for the beauty of its full-moon. These two sages, like the moon, converted the blazing bright sunlight of Advaita-Knowledge into the cool moonlight of upadesa to benefit the entire world! The blaze arising out of their austerities was cooled in their Bhakti to the Godhead and was converted into compassion and comforted the devotees like the moonlight.
Both are ‘incomparable’; also facto they are comparable to each other! They were steeped in Advaitic realisation even while apparently engaged in day-to-day activities. They had authentic divine powers to truly bless humanity. They were intellectually brilliant enough to astound the scholars but at the same time were adopts in expounding great Vedantic truths to the ordinary people in their own language. They were humble the way only the really great are. They loved the entire creation. In the present day of so-called reforms and change they followed strictly and boldly the traditional ways of life, facilely swimming against the current. Far from being puffed up by the greatness of the title Jagadguru, `the world-teacher’, they who in their spiritual heights were apart from the world and as real renunciates had no craving to teach anybody, just endured that title, because it came to them unasked and sensing the divine ordination in it, they carried the yoke in utter sincerity and serenity.
In all these aspects they were comparable to each other – anyonya Sadrasa.
There is another similarity. The mother-tongue of the Head of the Kanchi Math in Tamil Nadu is Kannada and the mother-tongue of the Head of the Sringeri Math of Karnataka was Telugu.
Both these sages had no Guru in the physical form to initiate them into Sannyasa. But both stressed in one voice the need for a physical Guru for the world at large.
But in the divine drama of parasakti, two characters cannot be totally identical, as it would not suit Her variety-reveling! So she played her game, manifesting diversities too in the two. In fact the very diversity provided the backdrop to heighten the unity.
(This diversity is definitely not “mutual difference of opinion”: even to think like that is sacrilege.)
Deep within, both Acharyas were the same; but what the world perceived as their external behaviors and activities. In this respect, there was a significant divergence between the two. The Chandrasekara of Kanchi, though a person of Self-realisation (Brahma), paid meticulous attention to the activities of the world outside, and dedicated his life to convert these activities to be in tune with the Sastras; he was always devising one or other scheme to achieve the objective. The Chandrasekara of Sringeri, though deeply interested in directing the people to the Sastric ways, generally kept himself aloof, immersed in meditation.
Another difference which can be called an offshoot of the above is that though Bharathi Svamigal could have achieved proficiency in any field of knowledge if he so desired, was not inclined to turn his attention to areas other than religion and spirituality. He did not encourage his disciples too in pursuing mere academic research. He absolutely declined to lend his ears to discussions on historic/literary basis for resolving purely religious issues and matters touching the great men of religion. To questions such as the age of Adi Sankara, or his authorship of certain books, or whether Vidyaranya had more than one Guru, his stock reply would be, “Is there any connection at all between finding out the truth in these and your own spiritual development?” The Sage of Kanchi, on the other hand, would encourage research in all fields and himself dive deep into the ocean of the various knowledge’s including modern Science and bring out myriads of pearls, corals, conchs and shells helping to solve academic problems. It is his conviction that research in any field will sharpen the intellect, and ultimately purify it, to make it fit to imbibe spiritual knowledge.
People held different views on this difference between the two. Some said that only the Sage of Kanchi, thorough with the latest trends and theories of the world, could perform the duties of the Jagadguru perfectly. Others said that it was only the Sage of Sringeri who deserved to be called a Jivanmukta – one liberated even while living in the body. Some also made fruitless efforts to change the ways of the Sringeri Acharya so as to make him gain more popularity, because they feared that the Kanchi Acharya was becoming more popular! When he was immersed in the divine intoxication of Bakthi or the spiritual afflatus of Jnana, some called him mad. The two sages, never bothered about these comments and played beautifully the role assigned to each by parasakti. One was like the lotus flower intent on rising above the waters around and laying itself bare to the skies – setting an example in spiritual ardour, transcending the material aspects of life. The other was like the lotus-leaf which though carrying water-drops, does not allow them to stick on to it, setting an example of Nishkama Karma (disinterested action) for the welfare of the world.
Both these Chandrasekara’s were born in families closely connected with the respective Maths.
Some previous Peethadhipati’s of Kanchi are the ancestors of Maha Periyaval.
The father and grant father of Bharathi Svamigal were scholars attached to the Sringeri Math. The pre-monastic name which he was given at birth was Arras. That name was selected because the previous two Acharyas were called Sacchidananda Sivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati and Nrisimha Bharati. He may be said to have been given in adoption to the Math as soon as he was born. He was the fourteenth child of his parents, who lost all the preceding thirteen children when they were very young. The distraught parents, wishing that at least this child be untouched by their ill-luck, gave over the child to Sri Kantha Sastri, the chief Functionary of the Math. Thus he came under the benign care of the previous Acharya Sri Sivabhinava Nrismha Svami, while very young.
Narasimhan studied in a school for a few years and always stood first in the class. At the behest of the Guru, his secular education was stopped at a stage and he was asked to join the pathasala in the Math to study the Vedic and allied subjects. After studying the scriptures there, he studied advanced courses in the school in Bangalore, run by the Math itself, obtained extensive and intensive proficiency in the Sastras and emerged as scholar. In 1912, at the age of 20 he was appointed as the next heir to Peetha. Even then he excelled in the knowledge of the Sastras and the observance of the rituals, and had also gained sufficient equipment in Bhakti, Jnana and Vairagya (non-attachment).
The father of Swaminathan (that was the pre-monastic name of Chandrasekara Sarasvati of Kanchi) was not a Vedic scholar. He held a secular job. So our body was not brought up in strict orthodox environments. He studied in public schools, like any of us. At the age of twelve he received the exceptional grace of the then Kanchi Peethadhipati who visited the vicinity of the boy’s place while on tour. When the Acharya moved to one of the next camps the boy ray away to him without telling anybody in the house. Then itself Acharya had selected him as the next heir. The very next year, 1907, he shed his mortal coils amidst circumstances when Swaminathan could not be brought to his side Since a vacuum in the headship of the Math is not permitted, the Acharya initiated Sri Lakshmikantan, a Rigvedic scholar who as serving in the Math itself into Sannyasa and installed him as his successor. He was the son of the elder sister of Swaminathan’s mother. Due to a strange lila (play) of Parasakti, the new heir also followed the footsteps of his Guru to the beyond in a week. As the Math – authorities very well knew that the Acharya had Swaminathan in mind originally, now the 13 year old stripling was brought to ascend the Peetha. That the bud of youngster, not at all conversant in the Vedas and Sastras, transfigured into the ripe fruit, succulent in the knowledge of the scriptures within three or four years is a `truth stranger than fiction”!
Both the Chandrasekara’s were not near their previous Peethadhipati’s at the time of the latter’s passing and so had to receive the initiation from the Guru only mentally or in some higher planes. It is a wonder indeed that both attained not only Self-realisation, but also high proficiency in organisational administration and assimilation of the traditions of the Math. Perhaps the very absence of the personal Guru’s guidance and protective armour further stimulated the incumbents to thoroughly introspect themselves in every move of theirs and adhere to the highest norms of integrity. They had to – and they did it to perfection – surrender themselves to the unseen Guide to shape them to perfection. It is doubtful whether a disciple could surrender himself to such an extent towards a physically present Guru.
On ascending the Peetha, if the Chandrasekara of Kanchi performed the wonder of equipping himself to the demands of a totally new environment, there is a wonder with regard to the Chandrasekara of Sringeri also. The Sringeri Matha was at the height of its royal glory then. The previous two Acharyas, illustrious personages, had spread the fame of the Math all over India. Is it not a wonder that a person brought up in that very environment, comparable to a royal court, should reduce the royalty to the minimum and mostly immerse himself in solitary meditation? It is to be noted that he withdrew into himself in spite of having the ability to preach and possessing executive skills.
It is indeed the lila of lila’s of the “High Command” that the Kanchi Chandrasekara evolved into such a reservoir of energy as to spread the message of Dharma on behalf of the retiring Sringeri Chandrasekara also.
Both were extraordinary. But the disciples of both were mostly of the ordinary run. As observed earlier, the two streams of adherents did not join is unity, but made their own claims and disclaimers on account of their partisan prejudices. But on account of the divine prema (love) of both the Saints, the number of such detractors grew thinner and thinner. Those who paid respect with equal devotion to grew in numbers. A number of scholars compared them to the two eyes of Sanatana Dharma. For instance, great Sastras – exponents like Ganganath Jha, Thethiyur Sastri, Anantakrishna Sastri and A.V. Gopalachariar and men whom society held in esteem like Sri K.S. Ramaswami Sastri, K. Balasubrahmania Iyer, Justice Chandrasekara Iyer and others had exhorted the devout public to honour both the sages equally.
The love and regard between these two great Saints can well be called an ambrosial sage of sanctity. Though great Acharyas had headed the two Peethas down the centuries, the lamentable fact was, there was not much goodwill between the two Peethas. It is the rare good fortune of the devout public of the first half of this century that right from the beginning of their pontifical career each of these two Acharyas realised the greatness of the other and were united in a bond of love.
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has a parable. Once Siva and Vishnu were conversing in all intimacy in private. They heard a terrific noise of commotion outside. Siva asked, “What is the noise?” Vishnu replied, “Your followers are shouting that you are the greater among us two and my followers out shout them asserting that I am the greater one!” Such `ultra’ devotees were there even now! But both the Chandrasekara’s were united at heart, like the synergetic deity Sankara-Narayana, with Siva for its right and Vishnu for its left, and having a single common heart. Though they did not meet each other in our physical plane, they were at one at heart. When they ascended the Peetha, times were difficult – the Hindu Society was already divided into factions, was weakened further by skepticism and the new fang led ways and the so-called reforms which were, of course, based on good intentions. The two Saints felt that it was their foremost duty to bring the Hindu Society back into the traditional scriptural fold as one united family. To set the first example, the two themselves stood united.
Though the Sringeri Acharya gave importance to this social duty cast on him, the bliss of the Self drew him too often, like a magnet, to solitude. So the Kanchi Acharya took up the task of drawing up social uplift schemes with redoubled vigor. It is note that he always sought the opinion and cooperation of the Sringeri Acharya for his important schemes. The present writer had the great good fortune to hear from some such emissaries from Kanchi to Sringeri like Sri K. Balasburahmania Iyer, L.S. Parthasarathy Iyer, and Agnihotram Ramanuja Thathacharyar still happily with us reports about the perfect rapport between the two Chandrasekara’s
Even at times when it was reported that the Sringeri Acharya had gone into a session of seclusion, the Kanchi Acharya would depute his emissaries. They would protest, “How to see him when he is immersed in meditation?”, Periyaval would just say “Go and try”. They out of his seclusion only just then or the previous day! He would welcome them heartily and beckon them be seated near.
He would start the conversation by sweetly asking something like, “Is Periyaval observing the Chaturmasyam at Madhyarjunam (Thiruvidaimarudur)?”
The emissaries would explain the purpose of their errand and detail out the particular project sponsored by Periyaval. The Sringeri Acharya, his lustrous visage growing further, would carefully listen, and beaming utter words of benign approval in between.
He would remark in conclusion. “He alone can plan such schemes for the world and execute them, even while remaining in Atma nishta (firm establishment in the Self). He feels the pulse of the masses and draws up plans, at the same time taking care not to comprise on the Sastras. Thus he is able to attract the modern people also. Whereas in this place (referring to himself), though it is realised that the office of Acharya entails its duties to the world, the pull is to the contrary. `Here’ instruction is given to certain extents only to those who come seeking the people and does them great good. He does than on behalf of us too. It is not at all necessary to consult us about the schemes he draws, because he knows best what is to be done. Apart from giving total approval, I have to only express my gratitude!” Words spoken right out of his heart, open like the spotless sky!
He would honour the emissaries of the Kanchi Math in a befitting away and ask his representatives to take them to all the maths, to obtain the cooperation those heads also for the schemes of the Kanchi Acharya.
On their return a beaming Maha Periyaval would ask, “Have you anywhere seen such a tejasvin (radiant personality)? IT is result of Tapas (Penance), Nishtha (absorption), the exalted heritage both by birth and the Peetha!” (He has referred to the greatness of the father and grand-father of the Sringeri Acharya as also that of his predecessor Acharyas.)
When the representatives conveyed the gratitude expressed by the Sringeri Acharya, he would say, “Is it that he is idle, making us to do all the work? The very radiation of such jnani contributes to the welfare of the world! So we should also express our gratitude!”
There are many instances of both the Acharyas encouraging unity among their disciples, right from the beginning of their spiritual reigns.
Under the helm of Sri T.K. Balasubrahmania Iyer, who had received the title of Gurubhakta Sikhamania (the crest-jewel among the devotees of the Guru) from the preceding Acharya of Sringeri the Vani Vilasam press in Srirangam was run with financial contribution from both the Maths. Maha Periyaval started Arya Dharmam as the magazine of the Kanchi Math, in 1914. T.K.B. was also on the editorial board of Arya Dharmam. He would get any pamphlet for the Kanchi Math printed on a priority basis. In his own Journal Hindu Message, which he had dedicated to espouse the causes patronised by the Sringeri Math, he had written a glowing and lengthy account of the Tatanka Pratishta2, performed by Maha Periyaval in 1923. It is noteworthy that on this very issue of Tatanka Pratishta there were legal battles between the two Math in the last century, when all the courts decreed in favour of the Kanchi Math.
The old people of those days used to talk volumes about the grand manner in which the residents of Veppattur arranged for the Chaturmasyam and Navaratri Puja by Kanchi Periyaval. But instead of publishing an account of this in the next issue of Arya Dharmam, Periyaval directed that an article of seven pages be written on the Navaratri Puja performed in Sringeri by the other Chandrasekara!
2. Tatanka is an ear-ornament. Pratishta means `installation’. When the image of Goddess Akhilandesvari of Tiruvanaikka (near Tiruchy) was radiating unbearable power, the first Sankaracharya drew the extra-power in two tatankas cast in the mystic design of the Sri Chakra and installed them on the Goddess’ own ears. Whenever the tatankas need renovation the Kanchi Acharyas renovate them and install them again on the Goddess’ ears. Maha Periyaval performed one such Tantaka – Patishtha in 1923.
For the fourth issue of Arya Dharmam of the year Dundhubi (1922), Sri M.N. Subrahmanai Sastri had sent an article in which he had lauded the active spirit of Kanchi Periyaval in going to every nook and corner of the land and giving new life to the Vedic traditions thereby. He had also written that others in the same position had not cared to exert themselves similarly. It was evident that he meant the Sringeri Acharya. The Editor asked Periyaval whether the portions relating to his good work done by him alone be retained, deleting the aside on the other Acharya.
The reply he got took him by surprise. Periyaval said that the portion praising his work must be deleted and the critical observation published.
While the Editor was wondering whether it was really Periyaval who was saying so, Periyaval continued with a `mischievous’ smile, “If one person has expressed such a view in writing, there may be lot of others holding the same view in mind. So we should publish it, along with our reply”.
Not knowing the reply and how to incorporate it in the article the Editor left it to Periyaval to do the needful.
Periyaval went through the article. He came to the Passage, “if only all the Heads of Maths follow this (i.e. Periyaval’s example) our reformist leaders (condemning the scriptural way to life and values) would vanish into thin air”. Here Periyaval himself added: “But as the Divine will is not such, they are going into nishta (absorption within)”!
There are two salient features in that pithy addition, One is that such happenings take place due to the Divine Will, not understood by us humans, and, no one should be blamed therefore. The second point is that the inaction of the person who was blamed was not due to inertia or inability but due to nishta which belongs to a plane higher than activity.
Some people used to urge the Sringeri Svamigal to travel widely, give out messages and lay down schemes for raising the people, spiritually, in the way Periyaval did. The reply he gave can be inscribed in letters of gold:
“In the present age, the Kanchi Peethadhipati and I are the representatives of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada. So, regard the good work done by him as done by me as well, and the fame he gets accrues to me also”.
There are instances which move our hearts, where even individuals have been made to realise that what apparently was done to them by one of the two Acharyas was on behalf of both.
The well-known legal luminary com minstrel of God, Sri T.M. Krishnaswami Iyer performed Tirruppugazh Bhajans at Periyaval’s camp at Pallavoor in Palghat in 927. Periyaval, to match the initials T.M. gave him the title `Tiruppugazh Mani’. From there T.M.K. went straight to Coimbatore rendered bhajan before the Sringeri Acharya who was staying there. the Acharya was told about the title given by the Kanchi Acharya. He replied, “Take it that both of us have given the title jointly.”
Once he asked Thethiyur Sastrigal, in a very casual manner, “if he has done something, does it not amount to our doing it?”
When Periyaval visited Coimbatore in 1927 his very camp was in the Sringeri Math there.
In 1925, both of them camped very close to each other in the Ramanathapuram region, with Periyaval observing Chaturmasyam at Ilayattakudi and Bharati Svamigal observing the same vow at Kunrattur, within 10 kms the same set of scholars came to both the camps to participate in philosophical discussions presided over by the Acharyas. Each of the Acharyas would ask the scholars about the interpretations given by the other and deeply appreciate the same.
When Bharati Svamigal left Pallattur in the then Ramnad Dist., Periyaval was scheduled to touch that place on his itinerary. The `ultra’ devotees, who claimed that the village owed allegiance to the Sringeri Math, told in a complaining tone to Bharati Svamigal that a grand procession was being arranged by some people for the other Svamigal. Bharati Svamigal replied, all smiles, “Is it so? Ensure that he is received in a befitting manner. We will send our own `boyees’ (palanquin-bearers for serving in the procession”.
And he did send them. Let us visualise that nectarine incident of the Sringeri attendants bearing the palanquin of the Kamakoti Peethadhipati!
The Late Sri Viswanath Iyer who was the Manager of the Kanchi Math for a long time would recollect one event with the remark, “I have never seen Periyaval `fuming’ like that”! It was one of those occasions when Bharati Svamigal, forgetful even about being clad, was in extreme ecstasy, singing, dancing, laughing and crying. A devotee remarked to Periyaval, “He has gone mad.”
That was all. Periyaval could not bear to hear it and almost shouted aloud, “Siva, Siva, Siva” and in an exceptional about he fulminated at the devotee, “You fellow! Do know what it is to be mad or normal? Are you all-knowing? How dare you speak like that?” In this way he verbally lambasted the man at length and ended with, “Go and beg pardon of Lord Chandramoulisvara”.
In 1935, Maha Periyaval went to Calcutta and performed the Navaratri Puja there. Sri Mantreswara Sarma, a deep devotee of the Sringeri Math, was one of the members of the Puja Committee. He helped in the organisaton of the Puja up to the fourth day. Then he thought, “Could this Puja compare with the once at Sringeri?”, and could no longer contain himself at Calcutta. Travelling all the way he reached Sringeri.
Bharati Svamigal eyed him in an unusually harsh manner. “You have notions of difference between us and left that Puja in the middle to come here. Very wrong. Don’t stand here even for one second. Go back” he said unrelentingly.
As Sharma was a mature person he learnt a lesson and his mind was cleansed.
In those days when there were no proper means of travel like today, he somehow managed to reach Calcutta right on the concluding Vijayadashmi day and fell at the felt of Periyaval. He conveyed the message of Bharati Svamigal and submitted that his idea of difference had been erased. Periyaval laughed in joy and gave him Navaratri prasadam in `extra dose’.
Maha Periyaval was camping at Mylapore, Mysore, in February 1966. Sri K. Chandrasekaran, the well-known connoisseur of arts, was expressing his anguish regarding some derogatory article or letter written by Math! I wondered at the equanimity of the Jnani, the Samadarsana, equi-vision.
Periyaval looked at me, gesturing with his hands fist-fighting, and asked “Do you follow all this?”
I replied, “I do not follow with intention or relish. But I get to know the details to some extent by reading the article of Polagram Sastrigal in Pradeepam4. I feel sad”.
He pursued, “Are you sad only? Don’t you get angry with Krishnaswami Iyer?” Periyaval uttered “Kom” instead of Kopam, the Tamil word for anger, in the way a child would pronounce that word! That very manner of expression indicated that the entire arguments and counter-arguments were childish!
As a matter of fact, I was angry with that person – angry because he was diverting the attention of the devout to matters not concerning spirituality and furthering the existing differences. I feel the same way about the `ultra’-devotees of the Kanchi Math also.
I kept quiet, abashed to tell him, the embodiment of Sattva (the goodness of composure), that I really got angry with K. Iyer.
Periyaval himself, an amalgam of the child and divinity, added, “This quarrel is not going to end in my life time5. I don’t seem to have the capacity to achieve that. So there is no point in your getting worked up. But no I am keen that your angry towards Krishnaswami Iyer should end. I also feel that I can achieve that. will you do what I say? He has written a book, The saint of Sringeri. Get a copy at once and read it. Say, will you?
Can one disobey such a command?
Like this, thanks to K. Chadrasekharan, Kanchi Chandrasekara made me get into touch with the other Chandrasekara, `The Saint of Sringeri’.
After reading that wonderful book, my “Kom” towards the author vanished completely! I understood him to be a person of total devotion to the Guru and a great scholar well informed in the Sastras. If such a one should indulge in controversies – it was clear that it was nothing but the handiwork of the Great Dama Illusion, Maha Maya.
That part, I developed devotion towards that Saint of Sringeri, the central figure of the book. While reading it there were many places where I actually felt as if I were reading about the Saint of Kanchi.
4. The monthly Kamakoti Pradeepam dedicated to the Kanchi Math. It carried a series of articles by the Sanskrit scholar Polagam Rama Sastrigal attesting to the antiquity of the Math and countering the arguments to the contrary.
5. For once the Prophet’s words were belied to our and his own joy in May 1993, when the present head of both the Matas met in a conclave of all the five Sankaracharya’s at Sringeri in mutual friendship. Coming out of his total withdrawal from the world of action for the none, the Sage directed his successor to offer silks and jewel to the Divine Mother Sarada at Sringeri. The Great Unifier of the Century, he must have felt fulfilled to hear from the successor the soothing report of the happenings at Sringeri on his return. It is the conviction of the devotees that this happy turn of events was brought about by the soul-force of the Sage himself in his centenary year.
The next time I met Priyaval I told him that my “Kom” had disappeared. I also added “At many places, I felt I was reading about Your Holiness”.
Even now my heart melts when I recollect what that Child-divinity said in utter simplicity. “Is that so? I really become so afraid after asking you to read the book. Because, I thought that after reading the book you may think, `well, this person ever focused on the Pratyagatman (the soul inward) is sure a Svamigal, How to stay the same of that person, ever-paraak (turned outward) and dabbling on all subjects under the sun? (Periyaval himself used the English expression `under the sun’. That was my fear! Bud did you feel as if reading about me?”
Tears filled my eyes as my mind amused, “Oh Mother Kamakshi! What is this play-acting of yours!”
My thoughts revolved around the pratyak and paraak aspects of the Acharyas. In fine, I came to the following revelatory conclusion. That one is Bharati, this one, Sarasvati. `Bharati’ means `one delighting in light’ – the light of the Self, the light of knowledge, like a flame steady and one-pointed. Bharati Svamigal personifies that `Sarasvati’ means `residing in the waters’, the waters of grace flowing in all directions, imparting new life and inspiring all kinds of produce. Sarasvati Svamigal personifies this.
As I felt shy to tell this by word of mouth to Periyaval I wrote it out and sent the letter to him.
The next time I went for darsan – it was a morning – my mind was all agog to know how he felt about the letter. He was not present in the camp and had gone to nearby places. I waited eagerly, impatiently. The waiting dragged on and on. I was a tenterhooks because I had to return to my office.
Periyaval came back at the nick of time, at noon. But, straight he went for a bath to the well. Maybe for some pollution he had inadvertently contracted in his visits.
The attendant was letting the pitcher down the well.
Periyaval asked him, Can you see the sun in the well?”
He said “Yes”.
“Does anything strike in your mind?” he asked me.
There are two concepts in Advaita. One is Patimba-vaada, which holds that just like the one sun reflected in many drops of water, the one Chaitanya (Consciousness) is reflected in many antahkaranas (inner faculties) of the jivas (individual souls). The other concept holds that it is not the reflection but the selfsame Chaitanya which indwells in all the jivas. It gives the example of the wide open sky which is omni-spread and is, therefore, indwelling inside all empty vessels. The very consciousness itself fills up the antahkarana just as the very waters of the well outside fills the inside of the pitcher immersed in it. This concept is called Avaccheda-vaada. Now I saw before me the sun reflected in the water and also the attendant letting down the pot into the well.
Putting things together I said, “I see simultaneously examples for both the Pratibimba and Avachheda – vaadas.”
Periyaval shook his head negatively indicating that was not what he wanted `to strike in mind.”
He looked at the well; and at the sun. He looked at me meaningfully and said “Bha is saras (Light in the water.)”
With this cryptic observation he began his bath.
My hairs stood on end. I at once saw Bharai Svamigal, the sun of knowledge, immersed in Periyaval, the waters of Karuna, Grace.
It also struck upon me that the vice versa was also true. yes, the Light of knowledge too exudes the waters of Grace within. Was not the reflected sun within the well full of water?
Yes, the two Chandrasekara’s are a conjoined single entity like a Sankara-Narayana and concretely illustrate the words of Paygai Azhvaar:
Tho’ the twine in different roles do move about, part and parcel each is of the other of aye.