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|| Sri Brahmananda Gurave Namaha || - 1

A unique event attended the birth of Swamiji’s maternal grandfather, called Shankarnarayan. His mother, during her pregnancy, was three times encircled by a snake. It wound itself around the place where the unborn child lay and settled there. It was induced to move and enticed into a pot by an upasaka of Lord Garuda living opposite; his worship had given him power over snakes and he could control them by the use of mantra. He carried the snake far off and released it. It came back and again wrapped itself around the expectant mother. Again the upasaka carried it away with mantra and took it to a distant place. The snake reappeared and settled itself around the mother for the third time. When the child was born a small snake was also born with him. As far as is remembered now, Shankanarayan was an only child except for this snake which lived in the house as one of the family, fed exclusively on the mother’s own milk which she expressed into a saucer for it. A visitor who had not been told about the snake caught sight of it one day and dropped the big brass pot she was carrying with a shriek of fear. The pot fell on the snake which was killed instantly. There was a cry of agony from the baby as his “brother” died; he went on crying late into the night.

At the time of the birth of Shankarnarayan, the family was living in Srivilliputur. They had moved there from Rajalpalayam which is about fifty miles from Madurai. They had been living in North Sambandhapur Agraharam Land, called maanyam which had been granted long ago to Brahmins by a king, in perpetuity. The seventy acres of agricultural land around the Agraharam were theirs to cultivate. Living on the harvests, the Brahmins were free to do Upaasana and chant the Vedas.

Leaving this enclave, the family moved only a few miles to Sri Villiputtur, the birth place of the great saint Andal Amma who was one of the ten Alvars, devotees of Lord Vishnu who praised him in all his forms in immortal songs and poetry. She lived more than a thousand years ago but in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Shankarnarayan was born, her worship still drew thousands of devotees to the place. People gathered in lakhs for the annual car festival when the Murthi of Andal Amma would be given an oil bath after which, she, her father who was another Alvar, and the Lord Vishnu would be taken in procession and worshiped. The place was called Mukkulam and Tiru Mukkulam because of its huge tank containing two smaller ones which had been built up by a Maharajah. This glorious expanse of water has now vanished leaving seven miles of dry lake bottom. In those days the temples and shrines were well kept and the waters bestowed coolness on the whole area. Here, in a small house with a tiled roof, a young wife awaited the birth of a child. Her name is not remembered, nor that of her husband. The first name in this history is that of the son she bore, Shankarnarayan.

The boy attended school and matriculated at sixteen or seventeen and then ran away from home. He had heard someone speak of a Trikalajnani named Brahmananda Swamigal, living in Madurai and, with the directness that was to characterise him throughout his life, he left school and went to have the darshan of Brahmananda Swamigal. He was accepted by the Trikalajnani and stayed there in the Math, serving his Guru. He cooked for Brahmananda Swamigal though not for anyone else; he washed clothes and cleaned floors without any interest in studying scriptures, neither the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads nor the Brahmasutras, even though Brahmananda Swamigal was a great teacher of Vedanta. Tapas and Dhyana equally failed to interest the Sisya. His whole joy was in being with his Guru and serving him personally. For four years continuously he lived like this until, one day, Brahmananda Swamigal asked him to go to Srivilliputtur, stay fifteen days with his parents and return. The boy had no idea of the purpose of the journey but he arrived home to find his father mortally ill. Four days after seeing his son the father breathed his last. The son was thus present to perform all the funeral rites for his father according to tradition.

Sri Brahmananda Swamy

His mother wanted him to stay on. She told him that when he was fourteen and still at school his marriage had been arranged. The prospective bride, called Meenakshi, had then been a six year old child whose family lived in South Sambandhapur Agraharam. Now it was time to prepare for the marriage. Shankarnarayan’s mother promised him a grand wedding and to provide him with sufficient money for his married life. She told him she was earning well by selling appalam she made at home and could afford to make him secure. The young man’s reaction was, in effect, “Don’t make my life into appalam!” He was adamant: he would go back to his Guru.

Now began ten years of service to the Guru. From the age of twenty to the age of thirty Shankarnarayan stayed in the Math, close to Brahmananda Swamigal, with no inclination either for study or for worldly life.

Brahmananda Swamigal was a Trikalajnani who could see the totality of times, present, past and future and he therefore knew the destiny of his Sisya. Now, he sent word to the family of Meenakshi asking them to come to Madurai. At the same time, and without his Sisya knowing anything about it, he sent for his mother and all the relatives. After talking with them he chose a particularly auspicious day on which the marriage was to take place in the temple of Meenakshi Devi. He said to Shankarnarayan one day, “We have to go to the temple. Follow me.” The young man followed, “not knowing the yoke was about to fall on his head”.

The young bride and groom were united in the temple of Meenakshi at Madurai. The Guru gave the order for them to garland one another; his Sisya simply obeyed. Meanwhile, Brahmananda Swamigal had purchased a house in Madurai and put it in the name of the young bride Meenakshi. He now asked her to live in it with the Sanyasin.

During the day, Shankarnarayan continued to serve in the ashram but Brahmananda Swamigal would not allow him to stay there at night, “You have to beget children so go and stay with your wife”, he would order. Shankarnarayan would weep, protest and attempt to refuse but eventually would have to give in and reluctantly make his way home. His fellow disciples mocked him and teased him, calling him a “muff” and a “dullard”. “What!” they would say, “After ten years with the Guru, you still know nothing at all”. Shankarnarayan had never thought anything of his lack of learning but now he started feeling, “We too ought to know something; we don’t know Puja or worship or any Vedanta. We don’t know anything”. Before this problem could be resolved, however, Brahmananda Swamigal fell ill. After seven days of illness, when Shankarnarayan was attending him as usual, he heard his Guru say, “How long shall I keep this mortal coil? One day or another I want to kick it off”. Pierced to the heart, the Sishya implored his Guru saying, “Why Swamiji? Better you take my body as your residence. I’m a muff and I don’t know anything. Take away my life and enter this body. You have all Siddhis”.

Brahmananda Swamigal said, “The time is coming. I have to be ready for my journey”. Shankarnarayan stopped eating, drinking and sleeping. From the moment he heard these words he wept unceasingly, hiding himself from others in corners of the ashram. This went on for three days. At last, quite overcome by grief, he locked himself in a room with the firm intention of committing suicide.

At the crucial moment there was a tap on the door. It was Brahmananda Swamigal and he didn’t wait for his Sisya to open up: the door swung open of its own accord and the despairing Sisya fell sobbing at the feet of his Guru. Brahmananda Swamigal gently lifted him up, embraced him and consoled him, patting him on the back.

Two or three days later Brahmananda Swamigal, despite his illness, was giving darshan in the Sabha. Shankarnarayan was performing his usual chores, carrying a pile of clothes out to dry. The thought that when his Guru attained Mahasamadhi he would no longer be able to render this service struck him with such force that he broke down and wept. His heart rent, he stood in the Hall sobbing aloud. Then Brahmananda Swamigal called his Sisya to him and made him sit on the Peetham. He declared to all present that this very Shankarnarayan was to be the Peethadhipati. The pandits and all the other disciples were stunned with amazement.

Brahmananda Swamigal sat opposite his Sisya, whose feelings at this moment are impossible to imagine. For fourteen years the young man’s only thought had been to serve his Guru. Throughout that time he had cleaned, and washed clothes, with no desire to learn or attain anything. He had been married at the instigation of his Guru without having any desire for married life, wealth or progeny. He had lived with his wife because his Guru had told him to and had been regarded with contempt by his fellow sisyas as a know-nothing and a married man amongst learned sanyasins. Now, with no warning at all, his Guru was asking him to become the Peethadhipati. He later said that he protested at this unexpected elevation, saying, “No, no, I am a simple man”; but to this Brahmananda Swamigal replied, “You must”.

Brahmananda Swamigal placed both his hands on the upturned palms of his Sisya and told him to look into his eyes.

“Try to drink me. I am the nectar. Guru is Brahman. Brahman is consciousness. The seat of consciousness is the right eye. Look into my right eye. Concentrate upon it. All the Vidyas I have learned and earned and all the knowledge that has dawned in me will flow into you to transform you and bring you into my Parampara as my descendant”.

Recounting the story in later years the Jnani said that he didn’t know “what was right and what was wrong!”

And had no comprehension of what was happening. “I simply looked into both eyes”, he would say. It took ten or fifteen minutes to complete all the processes. In silence everything was transferred to the Sisya and then Brahmananda Swamigal spoke, saying,

“All the knowledge I have I have transferred to you. In three days I am going to leave this body”.

Obeying his Guru, looking at his eyes, the Sisya experienced light in the Bhrukuti and his mind became still. His breathing stopped. He was in Kevala Kumbhaka Sthiti where there is neither inhalation nor exhalation. It is retention neither of the in breath nor of the out breath, but is a third state of pure retention. The equivalent in practice is breathing slowly because then the diaphragm, which usually moves fast, moves very, very slowly.

Brahmananda Swamigal told his disciple, “The light you see outside with your eyes is not the light. The real light is inside you. If you see the real light then there is no darkness, no night”.

He also said, “Being conscious of one’s own consciousness is Sahaja Samadhi”.

This initiation was Nayanadiksha in which all knowledge was transferred from Guru to Sishya, free of any samaskaras. The Sisya felt as though he had become his own Guru.

The name his Guru gave him was Bharatananda Swamy; he was always to be know as Bharati Swamy. From the time of his initiation he saw only bright light even when his eyes were closed and, hence, there was no sleep for three consecutive days. Brahmamananda Swamigal told him that after seven days the light would be established in him. Before half that time was over Brahmananda Swamigal took Mahasamadhi. The special rituals were performed by the ashramites. Devotees came from every direction, in throngs, to worship him, a great and beloved Trikalajnani, one with all Vidyas and Siddhis and the knowledge of all times.

The rituals and the worship went on for two weeks till at last the crowds began to disperse and the normal routine was resumed at the Ashram. All the other sisyas now insisted that Bharati Swamy should ascend the Peetham. Reluctant, and with storms of tears in his eyes he was made to ascend the Peetham which was once adorned by his Guru. Powerless to disobey the Guru, he simply sat there, still weeping and sobbing, for three days. On the fourth day he began lecturing on all subjects; though he had never learned Sanskrit he was able to explain the Gita, Upanishads and Brahmasutras. These Vidyas were to remain with him from then onwards.

“Brahmananda is shining. Brahmananda is before and behind. It is He who is speaking”, Bharati Swamy used to say. He never claimed the pride of being able to do or of doing. That is the Bhava.

He said, “When I talk it is noise, when he talks it is voice”.

Every day before beginning his discourse he would pray to Brahmananda and draw the attention of the public, saying, “Let us now prepare to hear the voice of Brahmananda. Come on. Let us be very attentive”. It was as if Bharati Swamy himself were hearing the voice and what it was saying for the first time. See how the Bhava of great people is!

Sri Bharati Swamy

Bharati Swami spent about one year as Peethadhipati and then abruptly left, saying,

“Select anyone you like. I am not a Brahmachari and a married man should not sit on this Peetham. Worship great Guru Brahmananda and he will direct you to the right person whom you can crown as Guru”. So saying, he left the Peetham, the Sabha and the Ashram and went to live in the house his Guru had provided.


to be continued...

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