Tribute to Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi

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Copyright: Anupam V Kapil

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Anupam V Kapil pays tribute to His Holiness Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi ji who attained samadhi this week.

My most sincere prayers and tribute to His Holiness Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi Ji, who attained samadhi yesterday. Unfortunately, on the day when National TV was busy 24/7 with Sridevi’s funeral, media missed out paying tribute to a greater soul who lived an ascetic life in the complete sense. The only tributes were tweets from the Prime Minister, President, Vice President, Rahul Gandhi and few politicians. We, the Indians betrayed HIM; we do not know how to respect our jewels.

Jayalalitha, accused him of false charges and imprisoned him, but the seer quietly fought out his legal battles and came out clear, anyone who has met him will see it.

Shankaracharya ji, as I knew him from my two encounters with him, was a very simple soul. He was ill when I met him first. I had made a sudden last moment trip to Kanchipuram a few years back in 2013, with my mother; and after visiting Kamakshi Peetham at night and having a good Darshan of his office with the help of a common contact, I went to pay my respects to him. It was already about 9 pm, and the daily pooja’s at the mutt were being concluded. Visitors were being given prasad by the younger Shankaracharya, as Jayendra Saraswatiji did not come out due to ill health. 

I conveyed my desire to meet him and said that I was on a spiritual trip to Kumbhakonam, and was keen on writing a book on temples of South India. I was ushered inside his private place where he was sitting on the chair with his flag staff by his side (supposed to guard the religion). I bowed and touched his feet in respect, he smiled and asked me something in Tamil (as he didn’t couldn’t speak in English or Hindi), a translator quickly interpreted. I enquired about his health and told him about my purpose of writing a few books on the ancient temples as there was no simple book explaining the link of the temples to our great religion and the youth found these temples just ‘tourist attractions’, if at all, to merit a visit, whereas these were built with an entirely different purpose as ‘dhyan kendras’.

My interest grew as I saw him hear me with seriousness and attention, when I said that neither the youth today understand what the mudras on the interiors and exterior of temples are, neither they know how to concentrate and pray when in the temple. 

Either lack of simple books in English/Hindi or books being only in Tamil, that too, their history was fallacious and unbelievable, compounded these difficulties. So I desired to act as a good complier in simple language to get our youth interested in our great ancient heritage and spiritual wisdom, which was being rapidly lost as the priestly class was struggling for survival or had succumbed to material interests. He asked me for how long was I staying back in Kanchi; I said that I was leaving for PUNE the next morning. He nodded his head sideways and asked me, “How long can you stay here when you come back?” To which I replied, “two or three days”. He smiled and said, you can’t see temples in Kanchi alone in 30 days, I will depute few scholars with you, and you be our guest during the stay; they will show you all the temples of Kanchi and also give you access to our library, which has very rare books not found anywhere. 

He immediately summoned an office bearer and asked him to fetch few books for me, as I had mentioned that enough good literature was not available. He handed me over 15 books to read, these included some poetry written by Adi Shankaracharya ji. When I told him that I had written a book on Númerology for a Penguin Books too, he asked me why don’t I get associated with their mission across their centres and teach students. I also asked the seer that Hinduism had suffered very badly due to some orthodox practises of the past Shankaracharyas who refused to visit abroad to propagate Hinduism unlike the Pope who travelled abroad to spread the religion and also got huge funds during such tours. 

Also, I said merely carrying the staff flag on foot within the country was not enough, those ages are gone and Indian youth in foreign countries needed to know more about Vedic ethos and values, which got spread only when Viveknand, Yoganand Paramhansa etc travelled abroad and expounded our philosophy. The seer heard seriously, but the followers never dared ask him such questions, as the seer was the final word on religion. For some reason, I was unable to go to Kanchi again. But I remembered the Kanchi trip and the love and affection of the seer on a complete stranger. 

The second time, I accidentally met him was at the Kasi Viswanath Temple in Banaras around 12 noon around next day of Mauni Amavas day during the kumbh Mela. I was already inside the main sanctum, where heard a huge commotion and everyone was asked to go out as the Shankaracharya himself was coming to perform the pooja inside (as they have special privilege to do the abhishekh). Shankaracharya ji saw me and asked me to remain there; I was privileged to see the pooja.

I really regret that I missed the most precious moments of not being able to enjoy his hospitality later and opportunity to grow my knowledge with another interaction with the seer. A pious seer like Shankaracharya would continue to inspire humanity, even if he is physically not present with us anymore.

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