In a rare instance, the sage looks back

Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati remained as the head of the Kanchi Math for more than 80 years but rarely did he speak about himself or how he learnt the lessons of his life. A few decades back, however, in a rare article for Bhavan's journal, he spoke about some incidents that taught him a few things.

When he was a boy of four or so, he happened to witness the struggle of a teddy cat (mara naai in Tamil) that stuck its neck into a copper pot of jaggery.

All through the night it was struggling to wriggle itself out of the pot, in the process causing a lot of noise that disturbed the neighbours. At dawn, they all came armed with sticks anticipating an encounter with a thief and were disappointed and amused to find the trapped creature. The animal was set free after a short ordeal. “It was greed that had caused the animal the hardship and the incident is etched in my memory,” observes the Acharya.

Harsh lesson

He recounts another incident at about the same time. He was alone in the house. There was some problem with one of his golden ornaments and finding a passerby, he beckoned him for help. Promising to help, the stranger vanished with the jewel, leaving the child to face the wrath of the elders.

Recounting the developments that led him into the life of a sanyasi, he remembers with gratitude those who helped him in those formative years.

For instance, the excellent guidance he got from Ramakrishnaiah and Pasupathi Iyer, disciples of his gurus at the math. Pasupathi Iyer, in particular, resigned from a government job to devote all his time to be of help to Him.

He was even prepared to forego his spiritual sadhana to guide his student. He pointed out his weaknesses and mistakes at their private sessions and indicated his wish to seek amends for overstepping after he became a full-fledged sanyasi. Pasupathi Iyer stayed with him in Kumbakonam for 18 years, ignoring his health conditions and braving mosquito bites. He went to Cuddalore, where he fell ill. When Periyava visited the town and came in a procession, he rushed out to see him and bowed to the majestic elephant on which he was seated.

He died the following night. Periyava recalls his spirit of sacrifice, abundant love for his student and his respect for the order of sanyasa. Further, he remembers the steadfast devotion of a sanyasi who served Him for 25 years, despite being a senior.

The dedication stemmed from an offer of a danda (a consecrated stick, a sanyasi always carries) from the ‘Sage of Kanchi’ in replacement for the one he had lost while on his way to Rameswaram from North India.

From the moment he got it from Paramacharya he considered the latter as his guru and served him till his siddhi in 1954. When Mahaperiyava was down with malaria in 1929, it was he who physically attended on him. Every day he performed pada pooja to him reverentially.

Once when they had been to Tirupati and while returning after darshan, Periyava saw him still climbing the steps and the temple officials volunteered to arrange special darshan. He fell at the feet of Paramacharya saying “Pardon me, this is my Balaji.”