Passage to Bharath!!!

Chandran, Nanda (NBC) Nanda.Chandran at NBC.COM
Fri Feb 6 16:17:29 CST 1998

I'd been to Bharath for a short vacation and returned just a couple of days
back. The advantages of being in Bharath for somebody who is interested in
Vedanta is tremendous.

One morning I turned on the TV and on one of the local cable channels there
was a program on Ramana Maharishi. At the end of the program I switched
channels and there on another channel was Jayendra Saraswati (the pontiff of
Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham) discussing the five kosas and the merits of
Advaitam! The swami made a remarkable sight - for even while he talked his
half lidded eyes revealed that he was simultaneously immersed in meditation
- One has to see it to understand what I'm trying to say! Right after this
there was a scholarly discussion on Thirukural. I heard that these were
regular programs.

Another morning accompanied by my brother and sister, I went to Kanchipuram.
When I entered the small hall which adjoins the entrance of the Kanchi matt,
I was greeted by rows of bare backs with the traditional sacred thread
clearly visible, gazing with reverence at a small dias. On the dias, with
almost his back to the crowd sat the young Shankaracharya performing pooja
to the Lord. So intense was his concentration and sublime his posture, that
I was drawn down the ages and felt that it was the young Adi Shankara
himself performing the pooja. My kin impatient and not too eager to witness
the whole pooja dragged me out so that we can pay our respects to other
deities and return just before the pooja was over.

We went to the Kamakshi Amman temple. Legend has it that the Amman was very
ferocious and Adi Shankara, at the request of the populace, had placed a
chakra or a wheel, before the idol of the Amman, so she couldn't get out.
The chakra is still there even today for all to see! This is the only temple
where I've seen Adi Shankara as part of a temple's deities. We went to
another ancient temple and the architecture was just magnificent - Pallava
architecture. The Pallava dynasty had Kanchi as their capital.

We came back to the matt and the pooja was still on. There was a series of
paintings on tile, on the wall detailing the life of Adi Shankara. The
crocodile incident, learning from Govinda Jatti, meeting Kumarilla Bhatta,
defeating Mandana Mishra, getting the sacred Spathika Lingams from Lord
Shiva etc. Adi Shankara, since he's quite young during all his exploits is
generally pictured as young, handsome, with his face radiating divinity. I
was surprised to find even Gaudapada and Govindapadacharya pictured the same
way. Trivial, I suppose, but I felt that somehow it reflected their purity
and purpose of existence and also questioned mine.

My uncle who lives in the matt, I heard was quite close to Jayendra
Saraswati. Just when I thought I could probably use his influence to see the
saint, I heard that the saint had gone to Coimbatore the previous day! The
pooja completed the young Shankaracharya was giving holy water to all. All
men, bare chested, went up to him to receive it, I followed suit. I, who am
always full of questions, at his presence realized the futility of all such
questions! What should I ask - Should I take Samnyaasa? Is Brahman, Saguna
or Nirguna? Is a Guru necessary?  Are the non-Brahmins not eligible to study
the Shruti? Or the Paul Brunton question! - Futile, because in my own heart
I know the answers or question the necessity of my knowing the answers or
even my right to ask such questions! For I realize that, until I've full
control of my senses and steadied my mind against the troika of lust,
jealousy and anger, there's no point even asking such questions!

There were more surprises in store for me. My best friend turned out to be a
descendent of Appaiya Dikshitar! Yes, he confirmed that the saint had
declared that he would teach the shruti to anybody who would undergo the
rigors of the years of training. He also told me that Dhayananda Saraswati
preached the same thing. I'd been to atleast a couple of book shops and the
collection they have just defies description. I had wanted to meet an Indian
Buddhist monk, but due to the short period of my stay I couldn't search and
from what I hear they're a rare breed. If anybody has any information on
Buddhist monastries in India, I would be grateful for the information.

As they say, if one's not really looking, even the most obvious doesn't meet
the eye. I suppose most of what I saw during my trip was always ever present
before me when I lived in Bharath, but in my ignorance I'd failed to see it

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