Sep 11: Remembering Kanchi Mahaswamiji…

11 Sep

The Nama Sankirtan was performed by Nithyaji from Boston. Following this, Narayananji gave an introduction.

The Rohini Nakshatra falling in the tamil month of ‘Avani’ marks the birth of Avataras and Avatara Purushas. For one, it is the day of incarnation of Lord Krishna. And today happens to be that auspicous day of the year.

In the Vaishnavite tradition, the term ‘kovil’[temple] only refers to lord Ranganatha’s temple of Srirangam and the term “Perumal” is used only to denote Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. Likewise the greatest of the Azhwars is Periyazhwar. Vishnu Chitta was his actual name, but because he had a special place among the Azhwars (with the Lord Himself being his son-in-law), he was called as Periyazhwar. Likewise, there are many scholars who have written different commentaries on the different scriptures of our Dharma.  For instance, although there are more than a hundred upanishads, Adi Sankara and all other philosophers have taken up ten of them and written commentaries on them.  The Vedas for the ‘Dravida Desam’ is the Nalayira Divya Prabandham. It is a collection of four thousand verses sung by twelve across in praise of the different deities of Lord Vishnu on this earth and beyond (called Divya Desams). These verses cannot be comprehended with ease by us in the form they are written. It definitely necessitates commentaries and expositions.  While many have written such commentaries on Divya Prabandham, the work by Periyavachanpillai (1167 – 1265) is considered supreme.  And so he gets the name ‘Periya’ ‘vaachaanpillai’  and ‘Vyakhyana Chakravarti’.  Akin to Lord Krishna, he lived for one hundred and twenty five years.

The Rohini Nakshatra in Avani month marks his date of birth.  He was born in a place called ‘Chenganur’ near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, the original name of it being ‘Shankapuri’.  The beautiful Srinivasa Perumal who is the presiding deity of this town was also installed on the same day.   So it is indeed a glorious day today.

Following this introdution, Sri Narayanaswamyji from Seattle talked about some incidents from the life of Sri Kanchi Mahaperiyava – Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamiji of Kanchi.

“Human beings are indeed the blessed ones when compared to other living beings. They are blessed with a head to bow down to the lord, a mouth to sing his divine names, ears to listen to his glory.

Bhagavatam says that rather than going to a temple or embarking on a pilgrimage tour, having the darshan of a great Mahan would accrue more merits. The difference between “man” and “Mahan” is the letter “h”. The letter ‘h’ ascribes to the term holiness. A Mahan’s actions and thoughts are indeed holy and are always directed towards the Almighty. It is our fortune that numerous such Mahans have incarnated in the same timeframe as ours, and and we get an opportunity to interact with them.  One such Mahan is Sri Chandrasekharendra Swamiji from Kanchi Mutt.

He was born in 1894 and became the Kanchi Saint in 1907 at the age of thirteen. He was born to a devout couple and they named him Swaminathan. One day his parents received a call from the mutt requesting them to come to the mutt along with Swaminathan ad it was an emergency.  Immediately they set out to the mutt and it was requested that Swaminathan  travel in a separate cart.  The reason was not known, but the young Swaminathan kept chanting two words incessantly, all through his way – “Rama Rama” till he reached the mutt. Upon reaching the mutt, Swaminathan was told that he was going to be accorded sanyasa. Such is the glory of chanting the Divine Name! Swaminathan became the pontiff of Kanchi mutt in 1907 at the tender age of thirteen with the title Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal.  He was fondly called ‘Mahaperiyavaa’ by all his devotees.

One day a brahmin couple came to have the darshan of Mahaperiyavaa. After having the darshan, the couple handed over a suitcase full of money to Mahaperiyavaa. The couple humbly requested him to accept their donation. Mahaperiyavaa asked him for the source of his income. In reply, the couple mentioned to him that they hail from the neighboring village and he was into leather business. Mahaperiyavaa told him that a brahmin is not supposed to even touch leather and gently rejected the donation.

In another incident, Mahaperiyavaa decided to get the ‘Thadangam’ [ear-ring] of Lordess Akhilandewari of Thiruvanaikaval repaired. So Mahaperiyavaa requested some gold jewellery from his devotees. He had an overwhelming response and his devotees poured in a lot of jewellery. To everyone’s surprise, he accepted only about five sovereigns and gave back the remaining gold. Such was his greatness.

Mahaperiyavaa once visited Karaikudi. There was one great devotee of Lord Shiva in Karaikudi  by name Ramanatha Chettiar. He used to perform Shiva pooja diligently for hours and only after the culmination of his pooja, he would even touch a morsel of rice. Such was his devotion. He was also a wealthy person and a great tamil pandit. When Mahaperiyavaa visited Karaikudi, He met with him a couple of times.   He then asked Chettiar to accompany Him to a neighboring village. Chettiar also implicitly agreed to do so. The next day Mahaperiyavaa set out on a palanquin and upon reaching the destination he enquired with his close associates as to why chettiar didn’t come with them. Humbly chettiar came in front of him. He said “Mahaperiyavaa, I did accompany you. I was one among the palanquin bearers”. Upon hearing this, tears rolled over from Mahaperiyavaa’s cheeks. He said, “How could you do this? You are an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.” Chettiar very politely replied, “Mahaperiyavaa, you are a re-incarnation of Lord Shiva and I am His servant!” This clearly shows how an affluent man was so humble and a simple life that he was living.

In another incident, Mahaperiyavaa was visiting a village. He camped there for some days with a few of his devotees. Suddenly he called out to all devotees who were in the kitchen and asked them to come out that very moment. To the last devotee who came out, he asked if everyone had vacated the kitchen. The devotee said yes and to this Mahaperiyavaa disagreed and said that one more person was in the kitchen. They went inside and found out that a cat was hiding behind the gas-stove and the cat was evacuated from the kitchen as well. After few seconds they heard a big thud and it was because the kitchen roof had collapsed. It was Mahaperiyavaa who had rescued and saved all his devotees who were in the kitchen.

In another incident, Mahaperiyavaa was visiting a village and was camping there for a few days. Devotees flocked Mahaperiyavaa and so in a few days all the groceries were used up and the manager panicked, wondering what he was going to do the next day for prasad.  He went and confided this to Mahaperiyavaa and he replied “Lordess Kamatchi will take care”. But this did not convince the manager. After some time he again went to Mahaperiyavaa and repeated the same question. Mahaperiyavaa replied that he was going to fast from tomorrow and he went into meditation. This troubled his manager even more and he was started to spend a sleepless night. At about four in the morning, the manager heard the sound of bullock-carts and rushed out to see what it was. To his surprise, he saw fourteen bullock carts and they were all loaded with groceries. The landlord who had accompanied all these carts was a wealthy person and he stepped out from the first cart and told the manager that he wanted to have darshan of Mahaperiyavaa and he had brought the groceries to prepare prasad for all the devotees. The manager after witnessing this scene immediately rushed to Mahaperiyavaa and fell at his feet. Mahaperiyavaa told him that he was a responsible manager but had no faith on the Lord. It was Lordess Kamatchi who had sent all the groceries through this landlord.

At another instant of time, Mahaperiyavaa was visiting a village and upon his arrival, news spread about Mahaperiyavaa’s visit to all the nearby villages. All the scholars and other learned people came to have the darshan of Mahaperiyavaa. He had heard about one Vaishnavite scholar in that village and he was looking forward to meet him. But this scholar refused to meet Mahaperiyavaa. That scholar being a follower of Lord Vishnu did not want to meet Mahaperiyavaa. After three days, Mahaperiyavaa summoned his manager and asked him to go and meet the Vaishnavite scholar with vastram [dhoti], fruits etc. That is the tradition that is being followed till day to honor vedic scholars. On seeing this, tears poured from the scholar’s face and he immediately rushed to have the darshan of Mahaperiyavaa asked him for forgiveness. Mahaperiyavaa replied that he did not commit any mistake and that Shiva and Vishnu truly represent the Ultimate.

There once lived a dog in the Kanchi mutt. Whenever Mahaperiyavaa performed pooja, it would come and sit in front of Him and after the culmination of the pooja, it would eat the Prasad that was given to it by the mutt officials. It also travelled along with Mahaperiyavaa. Many people were wondering as to who this dog was. Only Mahaperiyavaa knew the true identity of the dog!

There is a place called   Vadavambalam. It is in this place that Athma Bodendra Swamigal, who is the fifty eighth pontiff of Kanchi Mutt (and the Guru of Sri Bodendra Saraswati Swamigal)’s samadhi remains.  No one knew the exact location of the Samadhi.  Earlier, numerous devotees had tried to locate the exact location but were not quite successful.  When Mahaperiyavaa visited Vadavambalam, he went around a particular spot many times and asked his attendants to dig that place and indeed, that was the exact spot where the Mahan’s samadhi was found.  Mahaperiyavaa arranged for the creation of a Brindavan in Vadavambalam at that very spot.”

The satsang ended with prayers with Mahamantra Kirtan.

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