BEACH 6 : THE GURU
WAVE 5:KANCHI MAHASWAMIGAL, THE JIVAN-MUKTA
(A humble offering to the Acharya)
Descriptions of a JIvan-mukta (self-realized person) abound profusely in advaitic literature. They actually cover a wide spectrum. Here is an interesting description from Shivananda-lahari (#81), which is relevant in the context of this article:
Oh Lord! To spend some time in offering archanas to Your lotus feet, to spend some time in dhyAna and samAdhi and in prostrations to You, to spend some time in listening to stories about You, to spend again some time in viewing Your beautiful Forms and in prayerful stotras to them – Whoever thus spends his time and enjoys the beatific immersement in You, is he not already a jIvan-mukta?
kamcit-dhyAna-samAdhibhishca natibhiH kamcit-kathAkarNanaiH /
kamcit-kamcid-avekshhaNaishca nutibhiH kamci-dashAm-IdRRishIM
yaH prApnoti mudA tvad-arpita-manA jIvan-sa-muktaH khalu //
I have a
personal experience of seeing the Kanchi Mahaswamigal (1894-1994) in such a jIvan-mukta
stage. I was visiting the Kanchi Mutt for a darshan of the three Acharyas. It
was an evening (around
The Mahaswamigal had problems of vision those
days. Maybe he could see very little at a distance. So he was there standing at
the gate, in fact on the road near the gate, almost very near the palanquin of
the divine deity. Heavy searchlights were being focussed on the deity for
theAcharya to see Her clearly. Of course She had been
decorated to the fullest, what with gold, diamond, pearl,
ruby and emerald. And what an abundance of flowers of all colours on Her! The Acharya was standing on the ground with his hands
cuffed over his eyes for him to see clearly. Perhaps on one side the lights
were blinding his eyes. He was straining hard to have a vision of the majesty
of the deity that was presented before him. He was moving his head this side
and that side to optimise his view. Every one was silent. It was difficult to
decide, for us spectators, whether the
Acharya was there to have darshan of Kamakshi or whether Kamakshi was there to have a darshan of the Acharya! This serene silence and the drama of the Mahaswamigal slapping his cheeks in traditional token of his having darshan of the Goddess continued for probably full four or five minutes or so. And at last he turned to walk inside the mutt and the disciples led him on. I came back to earth realizing just then that I had been witnessing all along a divinely scene which I can never forget! Mark Ye, all devotees!. What great necessity was there for this JIvan-mukta to have a darshan of the deity with such great difficulty ? And what did he achieve? But that isthe characteristic of a JIvan-mukta!
But don’t think that a JIvan-mukta is just only a spectacle for us, ordinary mortals. This JIvan-mukta, the Kanchi Mahaswamigal, was so simple, humble, profound, enlightened, compassionate, scholarly and full of Grace that he naturally and effortlessly touched the hearts of men and women, prince and pauper, around the world. Through a major part of his life he talked to us masses in million ways and was never tired of telling us to mend our ways, telling us how and why. His lessons to us are known to fill up volumes. I am reproducing just one of those million lessons in the following paragraph, purely as a sample and a homage. Being a summary of a speech of his on modern ways of education, it is just a drop, of honey certainly, from the ocean of his divine counsel.
He traces the modern erosion in moral values to our moving away from the Gurukula system of education. It is the Gurukula system, he says, that takes one off the pressures and diversions of the so-called civilised urban life and environment. It protects one from the distractions that invade a celibate discipline. The insistence that the sishya should be resident with the Guru all the time ensures that he imbibes not only the oral teachings of the Guru but he has the fullest opportunity of a total apprenticeship in the practice of a disciplined life. And most of all, the humility that one learns and absorbs as a part of his own behaviour is the greatest asset for one’s education. The tough life of the Gurukula residentship is the surest way of taming one’s ego, if not of totally eradicating it. In addition every bit of learning had a basis or a background of Divinity associated with it either as part of tradition or as part of the learning itself and this certainly helped to confront and counter the arrogance of scholarship and the aham-kâra that usually creep in.
On the other hand the greatest ill of the system of present-day education is a syllabus that has no human or cultural values dovetailed into it. Actually the modern fashion has dichotomised learning and behaviour. One may or may not profess what he learns but in both cases one’s behaviour has come to mean something that is independent of the learning amassed; so completely independent that the incidence of crime and misbehaviour is far higher among the educated urban population than among the rural uneducated. It is clear that we have been miseducating rather than educating!
The Mahaswamigal therefore recommends, in fact strongly insists, that, as a minimum programme,
As many ‘educated’ people as possible should go through the process of Gurukula residentship for some period in their active life.
The traditional sastras should be learnt mostly through the Gurukula system
The Gurukula locations should, as far as possible, be away from the din and dust of the ‘pollution’ of modern civilisation.
The disciples who go for whole time Gurukula system should be supported lavishly by stipends, without however being polluted by the sin of affluence. Towards this objective they should be wholly involved in putting in physical labour towards maintaining the system and in ‘begging’ their Bhikshâ, at times.
While scholars of the various subjects should be ready to do some bit of sacrifice to give their time and energy to make the schemes of Gurukula system work, it is the responsibility of the general public to see that those scholars who are prepared to spend their time as gurus in these gurukulas should be more than adequately compensated for their dedication and effort.
These pockets of gurukulas should be spread across the country in hundreds, nay, thousands, of rural locations and in some sense the gurus of these places need not be permanent for life. They may work in ‘secular’ jobs elsewhere but they may come and go just as we indent foreign professors for specific jobs in specific educational institutions.
While the Gurukula system will certainly not be a substitute for the modern system of education, in due course of time it should prove to be a good supplement to whatever educational system that is in vogue for ‘secular’ purposes; in fact the course of history must be shaped in such a manner as would eradicate this disease of separating the ‘secular’ purpose from the value-oriented education.
Though these gurukulas may be in distinct pockets of physical locations, they must be operated in such a way that in the course of probably half a century or so they must have become part of the life-style of the country. Just as during the time of war some countries insist that all their citizens should have gone through a specific period of service in the military, so also we should be able to insist that every ‘educated’ citizen should have gone through the Gurukula at least for one or two years in their life either as a guru or a sishya!
You can see how the Acharya ‘descends’, for our sake,from his JIvanmukta heights to our mundane level and talks to us in our own language on our problems, for our benefit. Our benefit was his concern and that is the unexplainable greatness of JIvanmuktas like the Mahaswamigal, for whom, what we see as jagat, is actually Brahman, because, they ‘are always in Brahman’ -- *brahmani te sthitAH* (B.G. V – 19).
Copyright © V. Krishnamurthy Sep.6, 2006