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Friday, April 26, 2013

This One is a Small Boy

In the year 1949, Sri Maha SwamigaL did vijayam to AnandaTandavapuram and stayed there for forty days. I was a thirteen-year old boy then. Sri SwamigaL was prayed to, to commence the pUrtaya dharmam of desilting the holy pond that belong to the Shivan Kovil there; he consented, and thus had camped in that place.

When SwamigaL walked near our home (in a procession), we gave him the pUrNa kumbham, chanting the Sama Veda mantra that starts with the phrase 'abhi tvA'. This mantra is one that comes up as a Shiva Stotram. It is customary for the Sama Vedis to give pUrNa kumbham reciting this mantra.*

PerivaaL asked forthwith: "'na karmaNA...' Don't know it?" My father recited that mantra in full, and I chanted it along with him.**

Then, pUrNa kumbham in the next house. PerivaaL ordered me to chant the 'abhi tvA...' As I finished the mantra, he said, "Touch the coconut. Should not the power of the mantra you recited come to the coconut?" Only after I touched it, PeriyavaaL touched the coconut and gave his anugraham. Thus, in every house in the street!

*** *** ***

One day, after the bhikShA vandanam was over, he took a handful of the raisins kept in a tAmbALam (large brass plate) and gave them to somebody in the crowd. The man packed it in his shoulder towel and kept it safe with him. Since I did not know that it would not be uchitam (pleasing) to drop the raisins in the mouth in front of PeriyavaaL and chew them, I shared the ones I received with the PaThashala students present there and ate along with them.

Silence prevailed for sometime.

Then PeriyavaaL spoke: "This one is a small boy; does not know the world. So he shared what he got with the others and also ate it. I gave it to another man right? He is one who knows the world. So he packed them safe to give to his samsAram (wife)!

"Since the worldly vyavahAram is not known, svArtham is also not known. But the other man knew about the the worldly vyavahAram, so he was possessed of the self! Tied and kept them away safely!"

How simple had the Tattvam become!

*** *** ***

Four-thirty in the early morning one day. Sri Maha SwamigaL was not found in the mukAm (encampment)!

When a paaraa man on vigil duty slightly opened the door of the room SwamigaL had stayed in and looked inside, SwamigaL was not found! Alarmed, the paaraa man reported it to the other people, and this resulted in a bustle of activity, people going in different directions for searching.

It all resulted at length in finding SwamigaL in a pond two miles away, as he just finished his bath, squeezed water out of the cloth and wearing it, and then climbed up the stairs and walking.

SwamigaL did not say anything.

He sent word for the Manager in the evening; he inquired about the duty time of the paaraa men; and found out that they needed to be on duty from six in the evening until six in the next morning.

On the day PeriavaaL went 'missing' at four-thirty early morning, as he came out of his room, the paaraa men were in sleep, so they did not notice him going out. With duty involving long hours, it would be only natural to feel tired?

"From now on, change the paaraa duty timings thus: from six in the evening until ten at night; ten to two; and then two to six..."

This incident is enough to show the limitless humaneness of Sri SwamigaL!

3.The store room in the campsite. One morning, Sri SwamigaL just entered the room and moved away through its exit.

Four or five chippantis (staff members) were preparing coffee in that room and taking it without PeriyavaaL knowing about it. They were all worried now as to whether PeriyavaaL would have seen what they were at. But then since PeriyavaaL did not ask anyone anything about it, they came to the samAdAnam (acceptance) that PeriyavaaL might not have seen their act!

Calling me that night, Periyavaa told me to inform through the Manager that a meeting of the chippantis would be held after supper. He asked the Manager to bring the book of accounts when attending the meeting.

"Which book of accounts?" asked the Manager to me.

I went and told it to PeriyavaaL.

"Any one or two of the books of accounts..."

When the chippantis assembled, Periyavaa told them, "Declare that 'everying in this notebook is correct!' and do namaskAram."

Some chippantis hesitated, with agitation in their hearts.

"What hesitation? If everything is alright, can do the namaskAram?"

"...vandhu (that is)..."

"That expense (anda silavu), in which account does it figure?"

"As having purchased the cattlefeed of cotton seeds for the cows..."

Sri SwamigaL understood the embarrassment of the employees. Since the custom was that they would take their meal only after PeriyavaaL had his bhikSha, and as that would be beyond two o' clock on many occasions, they needed some pAnam (drink) in the meantime. So SwamigaL said: "From tomorrow, I shall perform the first kAla (session) Puja before ten o' clock. After you people had your meal, I shall do the bhikShA vandana Puja after some leisure and then I shall have my bhikSha."

Thenceforth that custom which was favourable to the staff members came into force.

*** *** ***

Two professors from the Mayiladuturai college came to have darshan of Sri SwamigaL. One of them belonged to the Commerce department, the other to the Sanskrit department.

Looking at the Commerce professor, Sri SwamigaL asked, "Which place for you?"


"How far from here?"

"About thousand miles."

"About or Nearly?"

The professor was confused. He could not reply the question properly.

PeriyavaaL himself explained: "About means 'more or less'; it could be a little more or less. Nearly means 'almost'. That is, less than a thousand miles (in this case). Is that distance such?" Then looking at the Sanskrit professor, "What have you read (for your profession)?"

"Sanskrit, M.A."

"That is, you have read about Samskrtam. When are you going to read Samskrtam?"

The Sanskrit Vidwan was nonplussed.

"Only when you do (a course like) Siromani that involves sAhityam, vyAkaraNam, it would amount to reading Samskrtam. History M.A., Tamil M.A. means having read about History, Tamil...right?"

Sri SwamigaL had taught some educational nuances to the professors when he bid them farewell.

*** *** ***

There came a man who does neTTivElai (ornamental pith-work). He had assembled a large piece of decoration resembling a bouquet, which he showed to PeriyavaaL. Looking at me who was standing near, PeriyavaaL pointed to the green leaves in the bouquet and asked me, "What is this?"


Pointing to the neatly arranged jasmine flowers in the inner round, "What is this?" he asked.


Pointing to the next round of Rose flowers, he asked me, "What is this?"


A bright looking lemon stood in the centre. "What is this?"

"Lemon fruit", I said.

Looking at a slightly elderly man, PeriyavaaL pointed out the lemon and asked him, "What is this?"

"Netti", he said. Actually, everything was only netti (handicrafted shapes) and the artist had done it so tatrUpa (realistically).

"So you say sarvam ekameva", said PeriyavaaL, and ordered, "Explain it to this boy."

sarvam, everything--the green leaf, white jasmine, red rose, yellow lemon--all ekam eva, the samething, made of only one thing, which is only the netti paper!

Maha PeriyavaaL is one who could make it netti (easy, concrete), an Advaita principle that weighs heavily on the head, for the sake of a small boy.

*** *** ***

During an occasion of Sankara Jayanthi, a musician sat for a concert of jalatarangam. He was to begin with the stotra vAtApi gaNapatim bhaje. Although he was an experienced musician, he could not get the sruti right, howevermuch he tried. Depressed in heart that things had come to such a pass before Sri PeriyavaaL, he continued to try to set the right sruti.

Sri SwamigaL understood the musician's avastha (predicament). Calling a shiSya nearby, he sent word to the musician: "Ask him to remove an ounce of jalam from the fifth bowl."

When the Vidwan did that and tried, the sruthi was set properly.

At once the musician rose, came to PeriyavaaL and prostrated. With a faltering voice he said apologetically, "How are these things known to PeriyavvaL? I did not know it myself (being a professional musician)?"

*** *** ***

Temples having Rajagopuram in all the four directions--there are twelve of them in Tamilnadu. Among them, for the Vaishnavism, there is only the Srirangam Temple. All the remaining eleven temples are Shiva temples.

Sri SwamigaL would say that it is shreShTa to conduct Yajur Veda jaTA pArAyaNam and Rg Veda gaNa pArAyaNam in temples.

"You know about Vriddhachalam?", Sri SwamigaL asked me once.

"I know."

"periya kShetram (a large holy place). Nearby, ManimuttaRu, the holy river. You arrange for a jaTA pArAyaNam there", he told me.

I started the efforts forthwith. Although I knew nothing about pArAyaNam, by Sri SwamigaL's anugraham and by the assistance of several people, the jaTA pArAyaNam was held in a grand manner. I realized in anubhavapUrvam that it was only Sri PeriyavaaL who urges and guides an action.

*** *** ***

So long as Periyavaa was in camp at AnandaTandavapuram, it was my duty to collect the milk brought for Sri ChandraMauleesvara abhishekam and keep the milk pot near the puja construct. PeriyavaaL had given me that great bhAgyam!

One morning, he was sitting on the stairs of the pond, 'playfully' wetting his feet in water. At some distance were boys of my age. A man brought some milk at that time.

"What for this milk?"

"For abhishekam."

"Alright, alright, keep it here."

After sometime, Sri SwamigaL got up. Suddenly a boy took the milk pot in his hand. I was full of anger at him. Wasn't it my right to cary the milk pot? How can this one seize it from me?

I told him in a low voice: "dei (Hey), give me the milk pot, or else tolaicchup puduven (that will be the end of you)! AmA... kodudAnnA (Yes, now give it to me)..."

He was simply climbing up the stairs without handing over the milk to me.

Perhaps something itched in Sri SwamigaL's pAdukA. He removed them off his feet and asked me to carry them. I carried them. But then, the anger that the milk has changed hands did not subside in me. I kept murmuring in a way that only the boy could hear it: "madatthukku vaa... udaippen... seruppAl adippen (come to the MaTham, shall kick you and beat you with my sandal)..."

When we arrived at SriMaTham, I was given orders to set the pAdukAs down. PeriyavaaL wore them in his feet the went inside.

As I had berated, I pounded the boy left and right (veLutthuk katti vitten)!

That evening, PeriyavaaL sat on the thiNNai of a house. A crowd of ten or twenty people surrounded him.

"innikku pAlA, pAdukaiyA? enRa talaippil pecchu! (today's talk will be about whether it would be milk or the sandals)...", he said.

Everyone was surprised. PeriyavaaL used to give brief speeches now and then but they never had any pre-determined headings. Philosophical truths would burst popping out in them like ratnams!

"In the Nandigramam, to what was the pattAbhishekam done you know? Only for the pAdukAs!

"Ordinarily they would call what are worn on feet, sandals. That is the pAdarakSha (security for the feet). It would be known as pAdukAs if worn by the Sannyasis.

"Bharata kept Sri Rama's pAdukAs on the siMhAsana (throne) and performed abhishekams--pAlabhishekam!--to them.

"Therefore, pAl osatthiyA? illE, pAdukai osatthiyA? (which is loftier, the milk, or the sandals?)"

Saying this, he finished his talk suddenly, ending it with the pundarIkam, 'govinda nAma ankIrtanam'.

I felt like someone hitting on my pottu (forehead) with a chammaTTi (horsewhip).

What a great pAvi (sinner) was I; Periyavaa had given the very lofty pAdukAs to me, asking me to carry them. Nothing in them itched him really. Only to give me that bhAgyam he played it that way. In sheer madness I had beaten that boy talai kAl puriyama (caring nothing about his head or leg)...

Swami had hidden my eyes, resulting in my not understanding the bhAgyam I had received...

Even today the tear pops up!

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