Parmacharya Sri Chandrashekhar Saraswati – God in human form
I have bowed before only one sanyasi in my life, and that is Sri Chandrasekhar Saraswathi, known to the world as the Parmacharya. It is not that I am arrogant or that I have no respect for sanyasis and sadhus. In fact I respect many sadhus in this country for their learning and social services. But my upbringing, first in an English convent school, and then ten years in USA had created a distance between me and traditional Hindu culture of bowing and prostrating before any elder, or anyone in saffron clothes. Therefore, I was the “modern” Indian, believer in science, and with little concern for spiritual diversions.
In fact till the age of 30, I had not even heard of a god like human being called Sri Chandrasekhar Saraswathi. It was a chance meeting with an Indian student at Harvard in his room in the university hostel, that I saw a picture of Parmacharya on top of this student’s TV set. I asked him: “Who is he? And why are you keeping his picture?” The student just avoided the question. I also forgot about it, except that Parmacharya shining smiling face in that photograph got etched in my memory. Six years later, as my Pan American Airways plane was about to land at Delhi airport during the Emergency, I saw that smiling Parmacharya’s face reappear before me for a brief second for no reason at that time. I was coming to Delhi surreptitiously to make my now famous appearance in Parliament and subsequent disappearance, while a MISA warrant was pending for my arrest in the Emergency. At that moment, as the plane landed, I resolved that whenever the Emergency gets over, I shall search for Parmacharya and meet him.
In 1977, after the Emergency was over, and the Janata Party in Power I went to Kanchipuram to see the Parmacharya. It was in sheer curiosity that I went. Some friends arranged for me to come before him. It was a hot June evening, and Parmacharya was sitting in a cottage, a few kilometers outside Kanchipuram. As soon as he saw me, he abruptly got up, and turned his back on me, and went inside the cottage. My friends who took me there were greatly embarrassed, and I was puzzled. Since no body including the other sadhus at that ashram had any idea what went wrong, I told my friends that we should leave, since Parmacharya was not interested in giving me “darshan”.
From the cottage, we walked a few hundred yards to where my car, by which I had come to the ashram, had been parked. Just as I was getting into the car, a priest came running to me. He said “Parmacharya wants to see you, so please come back”. Again puzzled, I walked back to the cottage.
Back at the cottage, a smiling Parmacharya was waiting for me. He first asked me in Tamil: “Do you understand Tamil?” I nodded. In those days, I hardly knew much Tamil, but I hoped the Parmacharya would speak in the simplest Tamil to make it easy to understand.
He then asked me another question: “Who gave you permission to leave my cottage?” The Tamil word he used for “permission” was of Sanskrit origin, which I immediately understood. So in my broken Tamil with a mixture of English words, I replied: “Since you turned your back on me and went inside the cottage, I thought you did not want to see me.” This reply greatly irritated the priest standing in attendance on the Parmacharya. He said “You cannot talk like this to the Parmacharya”. But Parmacharya asked him to be silent, and then said that when he saw me, he was reminded of a press cutting he had been keeping in store inside the cottage and he had gone inside to fetch it.
“Here it is” he said. “Open it and read it. I opened the folded press cutting, and with some difficulty, I read the Tamil question answer piece printed in Dinamani Kadir, a magazine of Indian Express group. The press cutting had a photograph of me and below it the question asked by a reader: “Is the hero of the Emergency struggle, Dr.Subramanian Swamy a Tamilian?” And the answer given was, “Yes he is a native of Cholavandhan of Madurai District.”
Parmacharya asked me, “Is this your photograph, and is the answer given to the question correct?” I nodded. Then Parmacharya said: “Now you may go. But in the future when you come, you cannot leave till I give you permission to leave.” Everyone around me was naturally very impressed, that Parmacharya had given so much special attention especially since in those days, he often went on manuvvat (silence vow). As I left a sense of elation at the meeting with Parmacharya. I wanted to come back again. I could not understand why a “modern” person like me should want to see a sanyasi, but I felt the urge strongly.
A month later, the Tamilnadu Assembly elections were on, and I was passing Kanchipuram in the campaign rail. So I told the Janata Party workers to spare me some time to pay a visit to the Parmacharya.
When I again reached the same cottage, a priest was waiting for me. He said: “Parmacharya is expecting you.” I asked: “How is this possible, when I decided at that last minute to come, without appointment?” The priest replied. “That is a silly thing to ask. Parmacharya is divine. He knows every thing”.
Sure enough a radiant smiling Parmacharya received me. I thought that this time too, our meeting would last a few minutes, and after a few pleasantries, I can continue on my election campaign. But not so. Parmacharya spoke to me for 1-1 1/2 hours on all important subjects. He gave me guidelines on how to conduct myself in politics and what was necessary to protect the national interest of the country.
He told me that in politics, I should never bother about money or position, because both would follow me whenever an occasion demanded. But I should not be afraid to stand alone. He told me that all great persons of India were those who changed the thinking of the people from a particular set way of thought to a new way of thinking. “That is the permanent achievement for a politician, not merely becoming Minister or Prime Minister. Great persons, starting with Adi Shankara, to Mahatma Gandhi dared to stand alone and change the trend of people’s thought. But did either hold a government position?” he asked me. He said “If you dare to think out fresh solutions for current problems, without bothering about your popularity, and without caring for whether a government position comes to you or not, you will have my blessings.” When he said that I felt a strange sensation of happiness. I suddenly felt very strong.
During the period since my first meeting with the Parmacharya, I had thought a lot about him, heard his praise from so many people. From what I learnt and what I saw of him, I began to feel his divinity. There was no other human like him. If nothing else, he was one sadhu who did not bless Indira Gandhi during the Emergency when in the height of her power and at the height if the nation’s sycophancy, she came and prostrated before him. And yet when Indira Gandhi was down during the Janata rule, he received her and gave his blessings to her after she repented for the Emergency.
It is this thought, every time (that if I do something sincerely, and for what is for the good of the people) that Parmacharya’s blessings will be with me and see me through the interim period of public and media criticism and unpopularity, that has given me this courage that today even my enemies do not deny that I possess. In such endeavours, even though in the beginning when most thought that I was doomed, I came out it successful in the end because of his blessing.
In the next few instalments I shall, without drawing the Parmacharya’s name into the controversy, reveal many such initiatives that I took with his blessings. From 1977 to his day of Samadhi, I met the Parmacharya so many times and received his oral benediction and advice. But I never gave it publicity or got myself photographed. During his life time, I did not boast of my proximity to him either, although whenever I came to the Kanchi Mutt, always without appointment, he would see me. If he was asleep, he was awakened by his close helpers to whom he had obviously given instructions about me. There may not be another god in human form for another 100 years, but it was my honour to have known him and received his blessings. He may not be here today in human form, but because of what he had instructed me, I know and feel his is around.
Categories: Devotee Experiences