When Sri MahA PeriyavAL was observing the Chaturmasya Vratam in KaLahasti, we were both standing in Sri MahA PeriyavAL's sannidhAnam (divine presence) along with 'Amma'.
Sri MahA PeriyavAL speaks to us:
"I have started a task called 'pidi arisi thittam' ('The Fistfuls of Rice Plan'). According to it, the women in each gRuham (house) should drop 'one fistful' of rice in a separate vessel when they take rice to cook; along with that they should also drop ten paise. You should go to each and every house, collect the rice and paise thus saved, take it to a temple, ask the temple officials to cook the rice, do naivedyam with it to the Swami in the temple and then make dispensable lumps of the cooked rice and distribute it as prasAdam to the poor people in the area, one lump per head. If there are any persons capable of doing physical work among the poor, the rice lump should be given only after receiving ten paise for it.
"Two benefits are obtained by this. Swami Naivedyam takes place even in small temples that are in srAma dashA (difficult times); the merit of having done anna dAnam to the poor is also obtained.
"The ten paise coins received with the fistfuls of rice and the ten paise coins got through the sale of cooked rice lumps, will be the wages for the pAriSada (attendant of a god) who is helpful in running this Plan, useful for him to buy curd, mustard, ginger, chillies, oil and such other things. This Plan should be spread among all the places. You run this Plan in Nellikuppam." MahA PeriyavAL thus appointed 'Amma' for the task. He also said, "In addition, today you go to each and every house in this place and tell them of this Plan."
My wife standing near said voluntarily, "I shall also go with Amma!"
Sri PeriyavAL said with a smile, "You are also going? Alright."
Amma and ivaL (this woman) went to some houses. It was sAdhya (possible) for Amma to do propaganda of the Plan in KaLahasti since the place was in Telegu Desam and Telegu was Amma's mother tongue. But then due to old age Amma had scanty listening power of the ears; and the Telegu language was not known to this woman who went along with!
No sooner these people entered some houses, the residents ignored Amma, did not listen to what she spoke fully and drove them away saying "go, go!"
Some others shouted, "These people would say something and enter the house and steal away things if we are not careful. Don't let them in!" and drove them away.
Some bhAgyashalis (fortunate) sincerely listened to Amma, came to know of Sri MahA PeriyavAL's direction and assured that they would carry it out.
That evening Sri PeriyavAL called 'Amma' and this woman and asked for the details of their visits. Amma and this woman apprised him of their visits to individual houses in order to do propaganda of the Plan.
After we got back at Nellikuppam, Amma and my wife visited individual houses in the area, spoke about Sri PeriyavAL's 'Fistfuls of Rice Plan' and involved some 25 families in the Plan.
Every week Amma walked to the houses, collected the savings of the seven days in cloth bags, carried them on her own to the Shiva temple some distance away from our residences and to a Vinayaka temple in the bazaar, did naivedyam regularly every Sunday with curd rice prepared out of the rice and distributed it one lump per head to the poor with her own hand. Though Amma was over seventy years of age, she carried out sincerely until her last breath, the kaingaryam (service) Sri PeriyavAL had ordered for her.
"One morning Sri MahA PeriyavAL was going to Sri KaLattheesvarar temple. We both went along with him. On reaching the entrance at the Gopuram, Sri MahA PeriyavAL looked at us and said, "You both remain here, taking care of my pAdukAs (wooden sandals)" and went to have Swami darshan. When he came back he walked to the MaTham joining the pAdukAs to his feet, and we came beside him. What is the tAtparya (purpose) of making us stand outside?
*** *** ***
One day people told us that Sri MahA PeriyavAL had gone to an ancient Shiva temple very near. We started at once and went there. A very small temple it was; the outside prakAram (courtyard) was replete with the growth of grass. SwamigaL sat squatting in a corner of a black rock at the base of the garbhagRuha (sanctum sanctorum). Only a few people were with him at that time. We inquired them. They said, "Sri MahA PeriyavAL is sitting in this place for a long time. We know nothing else about it."
We both stood along with them. Sri MahA PeriyavAL noticed our arrival.
He beckoned me to his side. Adiyen (I) went near him and stood.
Pointing to the black rock PiTham with his daNDam (staff) he asked me, "Can you read this?" I looked keenly at those inscriptions on stone. "I can't read them", I said.
"I shall tell you it, listen. Hari Aum...", Sri MahA PeriyavAL started reading and continued it. Suddenly he got up and started walking.
Amma told (my wife):
"You said some months back a sumangali maami from Kumbakonam who stayed opposite your house came to your house, did AvAhanam of Kamakshi Amman in the kutthu viLakku, gave you upadesha of the mantra that had AmbaaL's bIjAkSara, and advised you to perform regular puja observing formalities? It seems to me that as predicted by her Sri MahA PeriyavAL has done mantropadesham to your ahatthuk-kArar (home-man, husband) in the temple itself."
Since it is against tradition for an Advaita Guru to do a direct mantropadesham to a Vaishnava and the latter accepting it, MahA SvAmigaL has given upadesha to his antaranga bhakta (very close devotee) in the guise of reading from an inscription on stone. What a miraculous act is this one, replete with meaning, tact, subtlety and filled with deivIka lIlA (divine sport)!
Aren't we familiar that such subtleties are for MahA PeriyavAL a handy art mastered only by him!