The Ghost of Bharcchu

Thanks to Sri Ramesh Narayanaswamy for this wonderful share.


This is a post on HH SarvaJnAtman (the 2nd acharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam) writing called samkshepa shArIraka (संक्षेप शारिरका).
A brief note on the Acharya
When Adi Sankaracharya ascended the Sarvagna Peetham in Kanchipuram, many came to oppose him in debate. One of them was a boy of seven, named Mahadevan. He came from a village called Brahmadesam near Tirunelveli. His father was a great scholar of Purva Mimamsa and had defeated many Jaina and Boudha scholars in debate. During these debates, the child Mahadevan had also helped his father. Such was his attainment. After his father debated with Adi Sankara and accepted defeat, Mahadevan continued to debate for four days. Though he was defeated in the end, his brilliance caught the special attention and love of Adi Sankara. So when the child of seven accepted him as his Guru and asked to be initiated into Sanyasa, Adi Sankara was only too pleased to do so. He must have remembered his own being ordained into Sanyasa readily by his Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada in Omkareswara kshetra.
Later Adi Sankara appointed the young Sanyasi as his successor Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, initially acting under the guidance of Sureswaracharya. His Diksha name was Sarvagnatma. He wrote a beautiful book of more than a thousand verses to explain the Advaita Tatva enunciated by Adi Sankara in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. The book was titled ‘Sankshepa Saariraka Bhashya’. It is one of the very few of such books in verse form on this subject and is an authoritative reference work.


Sarvajnatman, a well-reputed advaita Acharya of the 9th-10th century, was the author of samkshepa shArIraka.  As the title indicates, this book is a brief presentation of Sankara’s sUtra bhAshya in four chapters corresponding to the four adhyAya-s of the brahma sUtra-s.

Sarvajnatman sums up the essential nature of brahman in ten words. They are:

nityasuddhabuddha,  muktasatya,  sUkshmasatvibhuadvitIya and Ananda

(eternal, pure, knowing, free, true, subtle, existent, auspicious, without a second and infinite (or happy)).

advaita teaches that you and brahman are one and the same. You being already brahman, the above ten words, therefore, describe you also. That means you, yourself, are Happiness.  So Happiness should be known to you like you know the back of your hand. You do not have to search for or attain Happiness.

But an enigmatic question arises: Okay, I know that I am already eternally existing, knowing and  ever happy brahman.  How come I don’t I know the Happiness which should be present right here? What ghost of an obstruction would block me from feeling it, from seeing it?

The shAstra replies: Oh, Yea, something like the Ghost of Bharcchu can cripple you from seeing the very things that are right in front of you!

“The Ghost of Bharcchu?  What’s that?,” you ask in wonderment.

The Ghost is a reference to the pratibandhaka-s (obstacles) in attaining Self-Knowledge. The last but one sUtra in the third adhyAya of brahma sUtra-s talks about them. The sUtra (3.4.51) tells us that sometimes, strangely, even if Self-Knowledge arises we seem to be lacking the courage to accept It as the end-point!

The story of Bharcchu from samkshepa shArIraka shows how this happens. Swami Paramarthananda explains thus:

Bharcchu was the favorite minister of a king, and once he went to the forest and did
not return. The king was very disturbed, but a few other ministers, who were jealous .of Bharcchu, were very happy at his disappearance. As such they started a disinformation campaign saying that he died in the forest and was roaming the forest as a ghost. Everyone believed the story. Then, after some years, the king happened to go on a hunting  trip to the same forest. He saw Bharcchu seated under a tree and in deep meditation. He clearly saw Bharcchu with his own eyes. But the King did not feel happy at finding his favorite minister. On the top of it, he fled from there in fright.

Why?  Because he thought it was the ghost of Bharcchu that he witnessed. Now, based on this, the shAstra analyses: Bharcchu, the prameyam is there. pramANam is giving pratyksha jnAnam. The king has no problem with his eyes. And the pramAta, the king, is there. So, the jnAna vRRitti is also produced –“There is Bharcchu.” And it is notparoksha jnAnam. It is aparoksha jnAnam (immediated). But the tragedy is that the king is not willing to accept it as jnAnam. He does not accept it as a valid fact. He rejects thejnAna vRRitti. And thus the  jnAna vRRitti does not produce the phalam of Anandaat seeing his beloved Bharcchu. Not only does he not get Ananda, he is scared and runs away!

So, here the problem is not the lack of knowledge, but the hesitation to accept the knowing as Knowledge. The king says “I don’t have Bharcchu jnAnam.” The most he will say is “I have Bharcchu ghost jnAnam.”

Similarly, brahman the prameyam is there, shAstra, the pramANam is there, and guru reveals the fact… But either the knowledge does not arise or it does arise and the seeker hesitates to accept the jnAna vRRitti as jnAnam. This is a pratibandhaka.

Sarvajnatman, calls it purusha aparAdha malina. The mind is with an impurity because of which jnAnam is not accepted as jnAnam.

How to remove these pratibandhaka-s? We have to continue with shravaNammananam and nididhyAsanam. Understanding will eventually take place, though one cannot say when.

Categories: Bookshelf

10 replies

  1. One of the best thing in Eastern Culture we never gave importance to dates, though it is a lack and only to substance. Then there was no such media other than the stone that is the weakness of our Hinduism and two story about Sree Adi Shakarar

  2. Whoever manipulated the picture (by editing the dates) should be taken up legally!
    (Obviously, we all know; the ones who all have been *playing* around with some “fanciful” dates, all along!)

    Well, the actual copyrighted potrait/picture is here : (And, This is Copyright, Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam!)


    For the people who are interested in knowing more about the Acharya —
    has a write up by Shri Veezhinathan on Shri Sarvajnatman Shankaracharya.
    Says that the Acharya was born in Tamrabarani and attained siddhi at Kanchi after a pontificate of 112 years in the year 364 B.C. gives the following information –
    Sri Sarvajnatman :
    After having conquered the leaders of many heretic sects prevalent in many parts of India, Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada reached Kanchi, the southern Mokshapuri to spend the evening years of His life in that holy city. One of the famous incidents of Sri Sankara’s stay at Kanchi is his Sarvajna Peethahoranam or ascending the seat of Omniscience. On knowing about this, scholars from various parts of the Tamil regions gathered at Kanchi to witness the grand event. Among those, a band of scholars from Brahmadesam and its neighbourhood had a debate with the Acharya on Deva bedha, Moorthybedha, etc. By his clear exposition of the Advaita doctrine, the Acharya silenced their arguments.
    After the successful ascending of the Sarvajna Peetha, Sri Sankara was attracted by a boy of 7 summers to be very precious. He sent word for the parents of the boy. They came with their son and bowed before Sri Sankara. Then the great Acharya expressed His wish to nominate the little boy as his successor to the Kanchi Peetha. The parents greatly rejoiced and agreed to the Acharya’s proposal. Thereafter the Acharya initiated the boy Into sanyasa asrama, gave him the deeksha name of Sarvajnatman.
    The Bala Sanyasi was put under the care of Sri Sureveswaracharya. Sri Sarvajnatman presided over the Sri Kanchi Sankaracharya Math for a long number of years.
    He wrote a lucid summary or rather a further commentary on Sri Sankara’s Sutra Bashya. Sri Sarvajnatman’s commentary is known as The Samkshepa Sareeraka. It is also said that He is the author of a poetical thesis called Sarvajna Vilasa. The Samkshapa Sareeraka of Sri Sarvajnatman contains 1267 verses couched in verses of elegance and easy style.
    After an eventful and glorious career Sri Sarvajnatman attained videha mukthi in Kanchi on the 14th day of the dark fortnight (Vaishaka Krishna Chaturdasi) of the cyclic year Nala (364 BC).

  3. Hahaha

    How does it matter if the dates are incorrect?

    You are focused on th dates but not the message

    • Agree. But targeting these correct dates have been a fashion for some people who are against Kanchi Math! And, we should never *ever* give room for that! Point out then and there, so people are not misled by opposing parties’ claims on the dates.

    • The truth is – Acharya was born in Tamrabarani and attained siddhi at Kanchi after a pontificate of 112 years in the year 364 B.C.

    • Whoever manipulated the picture (by editing the dates) should be taken up legally!
      (Obviously, we all know; the ones who all have been *playing* around with some “fanciful” dates, all along!)

      Well, the actual copyrighted potrait/picture is here : (And, This is Copyright, Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam!)

    • Either the owner of the blog-post at removes the picture or puts up the copyrighted picture giving due credits in that write up; else it should and will be taken up legally for manipulation of contents. They have no right whatsoever to change the dates as they please by cropping a copyrighted picture of Shri Sarvajnatman Acharya of Kanchi Math and posing boldly as though they hold the copyright of the picture!

      *Height of cheapness*

  4. Yes, I am also repeating the same comment as the earlier two comments. The period 9th-10th CE looks wrong, Kindly correct it. Jaya Jaya Shankara Hara Hara Shankara

  5. The period shown in the portrait says 9th – 10th CE.
    According to Kanchi kamakoti peetam. Adi Shankara period is 509 BC-477 BC. There must be some mistake in the portrait display.
    Periyava charanam

  6. Period seems wrong. 2nd Acharya should be between 4 th to 5 th BCE

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