Thanks to Sri Venkatesan Ramadurai for sharing an article written by Sri KS Venkataramani in 1925. Thank you sir for this treasure!
Since it was written almost a century back, some of the references (Kumbakonam vs Kanchipuram) don’t apply anymore. However, rest apply even today! Time has changed, people’s mind has changed, technology, communication has invaded all of us. Political ethics, journalism are no more. In spite of all these turbulences due to the advancement of kali, our acharya peetam continues to maintain its tradition, their achara, anushtanams and doing all activities purely for Loka kshemams. It is time for us to take pride for being Sri Kamakoti devotee family and continue our devotion and respect to our acharya lineage and develop stedfast
Hara Hara Sankara Jaya Jaya Sankara!
OUR ADI JAGAT GURU, or our first World Teacher, is the great Sankara. He was the Saviour of Hinduism at a critical moment of religious unrest, and its most virile and combative exponent.
We reckon him an avatar, with an exceedingly intellectual and practical mission in an age of allround decadence. He is our greatest thinker. His memory is more sacred to us than the Ganges and the Cauvery, or even the sages who laid the foundations of the Hindu polity.
Great in the achievements of his own life, he is still greater in the legacy of thought and institutions he founded for world service and knowledge. So grateful is the memory of man for his remarkable deeds, that to this day, even after so many centuries, his institutions nourish in their popular religious appeal. They are the seats of culture and philosophy. They are the centres of conservative yet enlightened Hinduism.
At any rate such is the Kamakoti Peetam, nestling on the Cauvery, which has nourished in its deltaic bosom five dynasties of kings from the third century B.C. It is now located at Kumbaconam, the centre of Tamil culture and refinement.
The great Sankara originally founded the Kamakoti Peetam at Conjeevaram, the noblest of ancient cities, where it prospered down to the seventeenth for over a thousand years.
But, in the early days of the East India Company and the unsettled times of the Moguls and the Mahrattas, Conjeevaram was the storm centre of the Carnatic wars.
Then the Kamakoti Peetam was changed forever from Conjeevaram to Kumbaconam at the invitation of the Tanjore kings. Ever since, it has thriven well indeed in the peaceful, agricultural home of the Cauvery Delta.
The Kamakoti Peetam means “the Throne of the End of Desires”. It is the symbol in union of work, love and knowledge–enjoyed, assimilated and gained as an enduring vision of life. It vindicates strenuous, selfless action in daily life. It seeks emanicipation only through knowledge which comes of impersonal experience and desireless action according to the rules of Dharma. Desire is the fuel that feeds the fires of the body.
The Kamakoti Peetam strives to end all desires, keeping action at the same time in its original strength and purity. Nay, it strives to end the body itself that imprisons the soul in an endless cycle of births and deaths.
The Kamakoti Peetam is the most comprehensive definition of the mind and mood of man. It takes in the Heaven and the Earth in one view. It bridges the void. It names and guides all the impulses of creation. It is a full-blooded gospel.
It resolves into harmony the contradictions of life. It converges into the white ray of light the myriad hues of the world. It is the seat of knowledge, abstract and concrete.
It visualises every dream and every hope, and renders it in life and action. Its mind is universal. On the wings of a sublime philosophy of work, work unburdened with the desire to enjoy the fruits of action, it seeks to carry you to heights from where you can catch a glimpse of the true Atman.
The Kamakoti Peetam is a rare place on earth. Every inheritor of its proud name for over sixty generations has, for each generation, been the living symbol and exponent of a great and moving Faith. Strong and strenuous in the day’s work, simple in habits of life, high in culture and fervid in temper, calm and impersonal in action and pure in personal life, they have preserved the tradition, the record and the glory of the Kamakoti Peetam.
Such is the inheritance to which he may be called who is by birth a Brahmana. And only a Brahmacharya, yet in the liquid glow and plastic mould of pure youth, is eligible for ascension to the Kamakoti Peetam. The moment he is nominated and ordained by his predecessor-in-office, usually in his last dying moments, he becomes the Acharyaswami, or the Jagat Guru, to whom all Hindus render homage more royal than the allegiance they owe to their sovereign.
The first five years after ascension are usually allotted for the training and education of the young Acharyaswami. It is a period of study and meditation in an inspiring environment, and he is aided in the task by some of the best Sanskrit pundits of Southern India and the blessings of Kamakshi. The qualities of the world teacher are naturally developed in the isolation of his exalted office and the daily worship of Chandramouliswar.
Worship releases the noblest energy. Work in worship sublimes man like celestial fire. No wonder my Acharyaswami easily becomes the centre of learning and the final arbiter of the first problems of life. He lives the life that he preaches. Words and deeds gain in him the crowning unity that is Advaita.
The personal life of Acharyaswami is one of the plainest living and the highest thinking. He is the hardest of all the workers during the hours of the day. Early in the morning he bathes in flowing water. Then the prescribed ceremonies and the meditations occupy more than three hours of the busy and solemn forenoon.
Then he bathes again and begins the worship on puja of Chandramouliswar, the radiant pebble Lingam, anointed and dedicated by the great Sankara himself as the secret and the inspiration of the Kamakoti Peetam. So the puja of Chandramouliswar is the very soul of the peetam.
The devotional mind of man these thousand years and more has gathered and poured without stint or economy at the feet of the radiant pebble Lingam, herbs and flowers, milk and honey, and every rare and precious spice in the world. It is sacrifice at the highest. Because, it is motiveless; it is impersonal; it is absolute.
The puja takes more than two hours, and is performed to the sound of music, before a large concourse of devotees who wait for the spoonful of abhishekam water that has dripped over Chandramouliswar, which incidentally enfranchises anyone for a hearty dinner at the expense of the Jagat Guru.
The sun has already declined in the west, and my Acharyaswami retires for his single meal a day, which is itself considered a ‘limb’ of the puja of God Chandramouliswar. After dinner he again sets to work. The afternoon is taken up with disquisitions and the reception of visitors, learned and rich, from distant parts. And what a thronging variety from fascinating excellence to madding boredom! And what a child-like laugh greeting all alike!
My Acharyaswami is royal and urbane, dignified and courteous. Sits lofty the spiritual eminence of Sankara on his brow. Lambent beams the light of cosmic intelligence on his face.
He is full of knowledge. Such is the acquisitive power of the meditative mind, he knows everything – from the imperial craft of British statesmanship to the travail agonies of Soviet Russia.
From the scientific method of agriculture in modern Japan to the most trivial sartorial fashions of the day at Paris.
My Acharyaswami is always open and ready for philosophical discussion, and commands the speech of, classic Sanskrit with ease and terseness.
The afternoon is one intellectual combat with every variety of men, from the graduate fresh and raw from the university to the orthodox pundit with his camel load of learning.
He goes through the task, unwearied, by ignorance and undismayed by talent, stating and restating the grand concept of the Oneness of Life and the goal of humanity: the infinite bliss of self-realisation.
The conference goes on animated and lively, till the evening calls my Acharyaswami to the strength and calm of prayers and meditations, which take well-nigh over two hours.
Then he retires, composed and free, after a cup of milk and a few fruits, if necessary.
But my Acharyaswami is at his very best while he journeys administering spiritual solace to the country people. Whenever he feels a call to go out to stir the religious consciousness and advance the power and blessing of the peetam, he moves out in his antique palanquin in utter stateliness and pomp, accompanied by horses, camels and elephants, trumpets and fanfares, and a large concourse of people with shops, sweetmeats and sundries.
His Holiness is then a moving city and the talk and sight of the neighbourhood. He visits every sacred place and temple, and bathes in all the holy waters of the village. He evokes the religious zeal of the people, and everyone dressed in flawless Aryan style, is in full evidence around.
At the bidding of my Acharyaswami, the miser willingly parts with his gold and voluntarily restrains himself for a day from the call of pleasure. His Holiness uses a share of the collections to improve the village tank and the temple. Then rural life is inspired with a true co-operative spirit.
The visit of my Acharyaswami is a godly event for every Indian village. It spells prosperity, at least for a quinquennium (a specified period of five years). Everyone does his best to make the short stay of His Holiness a success. Everything else is forgotten. All activities, even agricultural are suspended: and the whole village, men and women and children, are literally at his feet.
All pay their tribute in coin and kind as they can afford. But there is a standard minimum. The recognised pathakanikkai (tribute at the feet) is one hundred and eight coins, gold or silver. For one hundred and eight is a weird number in Hindu rituals. It has a mysterious sanction and power. From the chanting of the gayatri to the entertainment of the Acharyaswami, one hundred and eight is our standard number. There is yet a supernumber – one thousand and eight. Its efficacy is naturally even greater. Therefore the tribute of a rich man is one thousand and eight, which my Swami collects and spends promptly on religious and Sanskrit education.
My Acharyaswami belongs to the most ancient and selfless order of monks in the world. He is the holiest of Brahmanas, but transcends the distinctions of caste and creed. The poor and the panchama are as dear to his heart for social and spiritual reclamation. His temper and outlook are most democratic, though the ritual would seem exclusive. He is the rallying point of Hinduism and the undying hope of its strength and purity in our darkest hour of need.
Wherever my Acharyaswami is, men, women and children gather round him with home-feeling and adoration, and each sits with patience and watches with eager eye for his or her turn of the spoonful of abhishekam water that has dripped over God Chandramouliswar, to cure all ills of body and soul.
Wherever my Acharyaswami is, there you find burning steady and pure, the lamp of life and knowledge.
He has surrendered everything at a tender age, youth, wealth and all the civic pleasures, for the service of man and the continuance of a mission.
He is dear to us, even as the rolling sea is to the land-soiled air. Passionate and deep-rooted is our attachment to Sankara. He is our greatest birth and our Adi Jagat Guru.
[Author: Kaveripatnam Siddhanatha Venkataramani (1891-1952) – was a patriot and renowned essayist, novelist and short-story writer. He was a devotee of His Holiness the Paramacharya of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham. The Jagath Guru – was first published in the author’s book `Paper Boats’ during 1925.]
Categories: Devotee Experiences