Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal, the 68th Acharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, was popularly known as the ‘Sage of Kanchi’, ‘Paramacharya’ and ‘Jagadguru’. Born on 20 May 1894, he assumed the position as head of the Mutt when he was only 13 in 1907 and became a well-known spiritual icon in Tamil Nadu, India and abroad, especially among Shaivites, for his tireless work to both embody and to teach the principles of Advaita Vedanta. Since he was considered to be a modern-day saint and an incarnation of Adi Sankara, there has been constant demand from his followers and disciples, even during his lifetime, to read about events from his life, his activities and his discourses. The first Tamil language biography, written by Sri Sambanurthi Sastri, a younger brother of His Holiness, was released in 1957. The book you hold in your hand is an abridhed translation of this earlier biography with additional details of his travels and activities outside Tamil Nadu, for his non-Tamil devotees. Authored by PG Sundararajan, this book also provides insight into his views on aspects of Hindu culture like caste, religious conversions among marginalised Hindus, cow slaughter, and dowry, making it an interesting document that details his influences on national discourse, politics and social norms.
(I bow to Sri Bhagavatpada Sankara, who is the repository of Sruti, the Smritis, and the Puranas, the abode of grace and the bestower of beneficence on the world.)
The first edition of the "Divyacharitram" of H.H. Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Sripadah, Sn Sankaracharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha, was published in 1957 Since then there has been a keen demand for bringing the story up to date and the present revised and enlarged edition, seeks to cover the events since 1957 as well, events, which have significantly broadened the range and scope of the Paramacharya’s beneficent Loka Sangraha. One of His Holiness’s most important attempts was to give new life to the numerous folk-arts of South India as well as the arts that bear on temple, architectural and allied skills. The Agama Silpa Vyasa Bharata Folklore Festival and Sadas meets a felt want and has established itself in the life of the country as a movement to recapture the glorious cultural traditions of the country (the temple having served for centuries as the inspiration and rallying point of all religious, social and cultural activities) and as a guardian of arts and skills which, else, would have gradually shrunk into nothing. Another instance of His Holiness’s farsighted initiative was the bringing together on one common platform, of Heads of Mutts and Adhinams — Saivite, Vaishnavite and others — with a view to evolving a consensus on the urgent issues which confronted the religious leadership of the community as a whole, in the context of the somewhat aggressive and often maladroit secularism of the State in India. There are others like Veda Rakshana, Alaya Rakshana and Punaruddharana, the Shanmatha Conference, the Pidi-Arisi Dhittam, the Kainkarya Sabha, the sabha which ministers to the spiritual needs of those lying ill in various hospitals, etc. There have been, besides, various other activities concerned with the promotion of the well being of the community at large and the country, in a variety of spheres.
All these activities, too numerous to mention here, flow from the transcendent benignity, the abounding compassion and far seeing wisdom of the Paramacharya. These events further enrich the narrative of a life rich in its power and grace to instruct and inspire the reader.
The additional chapters in this new edition are also from the facile pen of Brahmasri Sambamurti Sastrigal. Sri Sastrigal fought resolutely, and thank God successfully, all the difficulties that advancing years, ill health and domes- tic afflictions posed before him, in compassing the enlargement of the biography he wrote in 1957 We, who will profit by reading this unique anugrahagrantha, owe, Sri Sastrigal, a debt of gratitude for having served a cause so noble, so diligently and so well.
Sri Adi Sankara proclaims in his Vivekachudamani (Verse 39):
(There live great and high-souled persons who having controlled their minds walk the earth doing good to others as does the spring season. Having themselves crossed the ocean of Samsara, they help others as well, out of spontaneous love with no motive whatever, to cross the same.)
Such souls who have transcended all notions of territory, space and time, serve as beacon-lights and power houses, for the moral and spiritual reformation and progress not only of the individual but of humanity at large. Their very existence in our midst is a solace and a blessing.
That we should have the opportunity and the occasion to see in flesh and blood such a one in the Sage of Kanchi and converse with him as with a mother and walk the same earth behind him is our priceless good fortune and possession. It makes us twice blessed for which we cannot be too grateful to the All-knowing.
Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal, who was known by the name of Swaminathan before he took holy orders in 1907, at the early age of 13, was born in an orthodox family of scholars in Villupuram in the South Arcot District. His parents were Sri Subrahmanya Sastrigal and Srimathi Mahalakshmi Ammal. It is now fifty years since he ascended the Gadi of the Sri Kamakoti Peetam. The Golden Jubilee of this event is being celebrated this year in most of the important places in India.
The Tamil biography, which has been written in facile and simple prose by S. Sambamurthi Sastrigal of Ramachandrapuram is a unique one, not merely because such books are comparatively rare in South India, but also tor the reason that the life portrayed is that of a great spiritual personality crowded with notable events, endeavour and achievements. The work contains an account of his travels all over India. Some of his wise sayings uttered in the course of informal conversations and regular discourses also find prominent mention.
His Holiness is a very remarkable person. Deeply imbued in Sanskrit lore, especially the Sastras and the Vedanta, he 1s at the same time a scholar in several branches of learning like art, architecture, archaeology, politics, economics, numismatics and inscriptions. He is a linguist who can speak several languages, besides his own which is Kannada. Though austere by himself and immersed in penance by fastings and vigils, puja and contemplation, his accessibility to all who go to him for advice and guidance is well-known. He is endowed with singular powers of memory and his expositions of abstract and abstruse philosophic truths are marked with a facility of expression and a singular capacity to convey their meaning even to the ordinary and uninstructed laymen.
He has proved himself to be an able administrator, under whose management the Mutt has assumed unprecedented importance and influence. He has got all the affairs of the Mutt at his fingers’ ends and those around him including the sarvadhikari are agents to carry out his personal directions and instructions.
But these are comparatively minor matters. For over three decades now, he has been engaged in incessant travel from town to town and village to village so that he might come into contact with the poorer classes of society and show to them by example and precept how they can develop true religion and spirituality. No hardship, mental or physical, is too much for him to carry on his life’s work. His message, to put it in a nutshell, has been the synthesis of all religions and the need for profound and unswerving faith in the benevolence of God. He has striven unceasingly for bringing together classes and creeds into one group of believers, notwithstanding outward differences in forms of worship and habits and manners. Who dares to say he has not succeeded in his sacred mission in making people feel that they belong to the same brotherhood and are the children of one and the same God?
The late Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi of Sringeri who disappeared in the Tunga river the year before last on the Mahalaya Amavasya day was of a slightly different type. He was of a retiring disposition and confined himself in his later years mostly to his Tapovana at Sringeri. But Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi believes, like Swami Vivekananda, in carrying the true message to the people’s door. The former bewitched those who went to him by his radiant smiles; the latter casts his spell over them by his large luminous eyes which shed divine grace into you.
Stern in his own habits of orthodoxy, and never deviating from prescribed routine and ritual, he is broadminded and catholic in temperament and people of all sects, classes and communities, including Harijans flock to him daily by hundreds to have his darshan, advice and guidance. During the last four decades, he has been touring and working steadily for the promotion of peace and amity among different religious faiths and has preached the gospel of the harmony of all religions despite outward differences in the methods of approach. His synthesis of modern thought with ancient beliefs and usages finds a well-reasoned exposition in an article on ‘Our Spiritual Crisis’ which he has contributed to the Vidya Bhavan Journal of Bombay.
For the maintenance of Dharma in our sacred land of Bharath, there have occurred on several occasions, many incarnations of God. The most familiar of all these incarnations, Ramavatara in the Threthayuga and Sri Krishnavatara in Dwaparayuga are the best-known, In this way, even in this Kaliyuga some incarnations have occurred. Among them the most significant is the incarnation of ADI SANKARA. The great souls of the previous incarnations, fought against adharma and established Truth. Adi Sankara, who is considered to be the incarnation of Sri Parameswara, was born to a brahmin Sivaguru and his wife Abhayambika at Kaladi in Kerala. This great person became an ascetic in his boyhood and served to maintain dharma in Bharath through his teachings and preachings.
His life-span in this world was only thirty-two years.
Many scholars have come to the conclusion after research that Adi Sankara was born in the year 2523 in the Kaliyuga era corresponding to 508 B.C. Though opinions differ about this date, we accept it as it is the result of deep research. Moreover, the mutts established by Adi Sankara in all parts of our country are active today. A study of the chronology of the heads of these mutts confirms this conclusion.
Travelling over Bharath thrice, Adi Sankara, through his teachings which served to remove the ignorance of people, reformed the six-fold faith like Saivam, Vaishnavam, Sauram, Saktham, Ganapatham and Kaumaram which, though part of Vedic Dharma, differed in ideals and rituals. For this, he was hailed as the Shanmatha Sthapanacharya. Worshipping several sacred places from Nepal to Tiruchendur, he also consecrated the Sri Chakra. After establishing mutts in Badrikasrama in the Himalayas, Dwaraka, Jagannath and Sringeri, he reached Kanchipuram where he ascended the Sarvagna Peeta and established the Kamakoti Peeta. He also attained nirvikalpa samadhi there. This is clear from classics like Sivarahasya, Markandeya Samhitha, Anandagiri Sankara Vijayam and also from the recent work of Rajachoodamani Mahi in his Sankarabyudhayam as well as in the epic Pathanjali Vijayam of Ramabadhra Dikshitha. The Bengali Encyclopedia (part III) says under the head KANCHI, the following: ‘It is one of the sapthapuris (sacred places) a seat of greatness; it is also the place where Sri Sankaracharya attained samadhi; in the temple of Kamakshi in that city, the idol of Adi Sankara has been consecrated in all glory.’
In the Sankara Mutt at what is known as Big Kanchipuram, there is the idol of Sureswara, the prime disciple of Adi Sankara. There is also a street named after Mandanamisra the name of Sureswara in his pre-ascetic life. There are also found in the temples of Varadaraja, Ekambareswara and Kamakshi, the idols of Adi Sankara. Such idols have been consecrated in ancient days in places like Tiruvottriyur near Kanchi. From these we can understand the close connection between Adi Sankara and Kanchipuram.
So far, sixty-eight Acharyas have adorned Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Among them were great sages, poets, yogis, scholars, and many teachers who propagated the bakthi marga.
It is well-known that the present 68th head of Sri Kamakoti Peetam is considered to be the incarnation of Adi Sankara.
It is with the object of narrating his life-story and explaining, as far as possible, his services to Sanatana Dharma, that this book has been compiled. It is impossible to deal in detail with all the tasks this great soul has undertaken to maintain the Vaidika way of life and the Vedanta philosophy he has been expounding. Still, I trust that people would welcome at least a small attempt in that direction. The day-to-day administration of the Mutt, his desire to inspire the devotees who come to seek his guidance daily, the puja to Sri Chandramouliswara which he conducts for long hours every day, his meticulous observance of his ascetic life strictly according to the rules laid down in the sastras—all these activities can be understood only by those who throng to have his darshan. The world also knows how, through austere penance required by his life as a sanyasi, he has renounced hunger and sleep thereby reducing his frail frame and spending the whole day in considering the steps required for social regeneration and putting into practice measures necessary for such progress.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Item Code: NAT065 Author: P. G. Sundararajan (Chitti) Cover: PAPERBACK Publisher: GANESH & COMPANY, MADRAS ISBN: 9788185988368 Language: ENGLISH Size: 8.50 X 5.50 inch Pages: 469 (15 B/W Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 0.47 Kg