Experience with Sage of Kanchi – Chander Kanta Gariyali (IAS )
Article Courtesy: http://www.templeadvisor.com/user-articles/200
What has attracted me most to the Paramacharya is his child like attitude and pranks, which he plays endlessly, with those around him. Not a regular and traditional believer in ‘Godmen’, I was driven to him naturally and effortlessly, due to his grace and charm. Not that it has become a habit, and, I cannot cross Kanchipuram without having his refreshing ‘Darshan’. In this way, with the grace of God, I have had numerous Darshans of the sage. Even though most of them have been unplanned, just like, dropping by the ‘Ashram’, I have been always lucky to find him there.
First time when I had my encounter with his holiness, he was sitting in the courtyard and people were passing near him, one by one in a queue. I was so enchanted by his presence that I would not move forward; and behind me the queue came to a halt. Immediately he understood my inner desire to linger over there, and with his eyes, beckoned me to sit down. It was a most joyful moment for me as he allowed me to bask in his presence and glory. In the meanwhile he took out a book (it was a book about South Indian temple architecture by Dr. Nagaswamy). Peering through his thick glasses he started happily reading it, quite unmindful of the throngs passing by. He read like this for about an hour, and then suddenly he looked up from his book, and with the movement of his eyes, gave me permission to leave. The joy in my heart was so great that I did not even realise how much time had passed. If he had allowed me to sit there the whole day, I would not have moved.
My next visit, which I recollect very vividly, was made along with the family of a service colleague. The whole family, particularly the wife of my colleague, was in great distress and had come to Kanchi, in search of solace. This was not known to anybody.
On this occasion visitors were allowed to sit down in front of the sage in small groups for a few minutes at a time. Devotees were also making their modest offerings of fruits etc. My colleague’s wife had instead brought a bright coloured box full of dry fruits. The box had many compartments and each contained a different dry fruit.
All the offerings were routinely placed before Paramacharya and then removed by one of the disciples and he took no note of it.
However, when the colourful box was being removed from before him, he immediately protested, like a small child. He took the box in his hands. He felt the packing material with his fingers. Then he insisted that it be opened immediately. He bent down and started peering over the contents, some of which he could not make out due to his eyesight. He wanted to know the name of all the ingredients kept in different compartments. One of the disciples was shouting on top of the voice, Drakshay (Sultanas), Badam (almonds), Mundri (cashew nut), figs, pista etc. etc. To everybody’s amazement he played with the box and its contents for good fifteen minutes, like a pure and delighted child. This was a rare spiritual experience enjoyed by all those present. Everybody was laughing. My colleague’s wife had not laughed in years, and suddenly all misery left her heart and she also started laughing. She felt specially blessed for the special treatment given to her offering. It is needless to mention that all her anguish was washed away and her life was different from then on.
During one particular visit I remember I was with some Government of India officials. I had finished my tenure as Collector of South Arcot and was working in Health Department. As soon as we sat before the Paramacharya he gave me a little picture of ‘Nataraja’. I did not understand the meaning of it, so I looked around wanting to know what I was supposed to do. Then one of the disciples leaned forward and said Paramacharya is happy that you have been serving ‘Lord Nataraja’ of Chidambaram temple. Then only I realised Paramacharya might be referring to the ‘Nataraja Festival’ in which Dr. Nagaswamy and myself have been involved for many years. I was really overwhelmed by this gesture of his…
My next visit was my most hilarious experience at Shankara Math. This time our visit was best organized and I was escorting a VIP guest of the government who wanted to have a darshan of the sage. I suppose on that occasion somebody had informed him that I was a civil servant of Tamil Nadu Government and I was originally from Kashmir. Instantly, he started behaving like the Chairman of Public Service Commission and asked me if I knew ‘Tamil’ well. In order to maintain the reputation of the officials of Tamil Nadu Cadre I claimed that I knew Tamil quite well.
Immediately he whispered something to one of his assistants who ran inside and returned promptly with a tray full of Banana fruits. Paramacharya pointed to the tray and asked me to identify the fruit. I thought God! This was very easy and said ‘Pazham’ (Banana) he said, yes, but what Pazham. It was a bunch of green bananas, so I said Pachai Vazhaipazham. Before I could breath a sigh of relief, another tray of Bananas was placed before me for identification. I saw it and said ‘Rastali Pazham’. Then came another tray and I said ‘Malaivazhai Pazham’. Within a moment another tray arrived and luckily I recognised the fruits and said ‘Poovam Pazham’.
By this time realisation had dawned on me that I was in deepest trouble and I could not possibly name all the exotic varieties of Bananas grown on this earth. ore trays of Bananas kept coming, and nobody wanted me to lose. Taking advantage of his hearing difficulty, they started actively assisting me and giving me clues. After half an hour of treacherous but hilarious examination he declared me successful in my Tamil test and perhaps fit to work in Tamil Nadu. I don’t know what might have happened if he would have declared me otherwise. The whole crowd, which participated in this humorous exercise felt blessed, since it is not always that Paramacharya exposes his great sense of humour so readily and so fully.
When problems began in Kashmir and Hindus started migrating from the valley, Paramacharya was quite distressed. He sent word through Swami Jayendra Saraswathi that all Kashmiri families in Madras must visit Shankara Math on the following Sunday. Many local families had by this time received several migrant relatives when no one seemed to be taking much note of these people. The message from Paramacharya was like a ray of hope.
I went along with these people. Paramacharya sat with us for a long time, silently understanding and sharing the grief and misery. He consoled each one of us. I was myself utterly inconsolable about the unthinkable events in the valley, so I completely broke down and started crying. Since Paramacharya does not speak much, Sri Jayendra Saraswathi conveyed his message. Upheavals are part of human history. These things happen, worse could have happened. Human beings have been saved; the honour of the women has been saved. Wealth will come and go. Take this in stride. Be like Sindhis. They are all around the world; they are richest and most successful. Be like them. They did so well. You will also do well, come out of this defeat and work hard. I am with you. I only called you here to tell you that I am with you. My doors are always open to you.
These words were a source of strength to all these families who were immensely worried about their near and dear ones, their homes, their lands and their properties. The experience of sharing the inner grief, washing away the depression and shedding the sorrow with Paramacharya was like being born again. Not many migrants from Kashmir have come as far as Madras, but those who did were able to help themselves with the divine blessings of Paramacharya.