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Vidya Tirtha Vilasa - 2


It has been claimed that Sri Vidyaranya was defeated in a debate by one Madhwa Yati Akshobhya Tirtha. The books published from Madhwa mutts also describe that this debate was conducted in the presence of Sri Vedanta Deshika, a follower of Sri Ramanuja. It is claimed that the debate was regarding the Mahavakya 'Tattvamasi' and that Sri Vedanta Deshika declared Akshobhya Tirtha as the winner. Madhwacharya explains this Mahavakya as 'a-tattvamasi' whereas Srimadacharya Shankara and Sri Ramanuja explain the same as 'Tattvamasi'. Assuming that Sri Vedanta Deshika, a great scholar and an ardent devotee of Sri Ramanuja, would accept views opposing those of his own Guru is foolish. Sri Vidyaranya, the architect of Hindu Samrajya in south India preached unity among Hindus and was instrumental in resisting Muslim invasions. In those times, when the Indian culture was being torn apart by Muslims, would Sri Vidyaranya spend time in dry debates abusing other paths and views? The truth in this imaginary story is thus clear. I have explained logically how this incident never occurred elsewhere on this website.

The pontiff who heads both Bhandarakeri and Palimaru mutts in Udupi - Vidyamanya Tirtha, has frequently tried to drag Sri Mahasannidhanam to a debate unsuccessfully. He would organize mock debates in his mutt. The person speaking for Advaita would be one of his own young disciples. A lot of noise would be generated and the audience would stare at the drama without following a single word. When they were tired, the Swamiji would get up and declare Advaita as falsehood. He would then declare that Shankaracharya has now surrendered to Madhwacharya! During some lectures, he would describe Advaita as follows: 'The Parabrahman of the Advaitins is without a form and qualities. He has no eyes, ears, nose, mouth, legs or hands. He is thus lame, blind, deaf, dumb and nothing. The atheists are much better than these Advaitins'. A certain elderly friend of mine who had attended one such lecture returned with grief after understanding the level of his knowledge.

When any pontiff from any mutt decides to visit Sringeri, first a Srimukham is sent officially. A Poorna Kumbha Swagata is given to the visiting pontiff at the Sringeri mutt. Without following this Shishtachara, Vidyamanya Tirtha barged into Sringeri one fine day. He entered Nrisimhavanam, produced a list of questions and demanded answers for these questions. It was as though it was legal notice to Sri Mahasannidhanam. Sri Mahasannidhanam welcomed him warmly and said, 'It is not our Samskara to debate rudely with our guests. Any pundit in our mutt can answer all your questions and more. It is simply not necessary that I begin a debate with you. The rules of a traditional debate necessitate the presence of an able judge who is currently not present in our case. You tell me who is the judge to our debate? There is no use for humanity in these futile debates which only serve to boost one's ego. I will not stoop to these levels but you may get all clarifications to your questions from any student of our Veda Pathashala. Unable to drag Mahasannidhanam into a controversy, the pontiff returned to his place and brought out a news letter, 'Dwaita Vijaya'. He falsely claimed in this news letter that he had defeated the Jagadguru Shankaracharya and hence Advaita in a debate. The same pontiff opposed the establishment of Sri Shankara Sanskrit University at Kaladi by the central government of India. In spite of severe opposition by this pontiff and other Udupi pontiffs, Sri Shankara University was established and this esteemed institution continues to spread knowledge to this day.

Many Madhwas have however regarded Srimadacharya with great respect and have been disciples of the Sringeri mutt. Sri Kunigal Rama Shastrigal, father of Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Mahaswamigal in Purvashrama, was a great scholar in the court of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III of Mysore. Many great scholars belonging to Smarta, Madhwa and Srivaishnava communities were his disciples. He was well-known not only in the southern states of India, but his fame had also spread to other parts of the subcontinent like Bengal. Vishnupadacharya, son of a Madhwa scholar Julupi Krishnacharya, was a student of Sri Rama Shastrigal. He had studied Tarka and Vedanta under Sri Rama Shastrigal and was a great scholar. He gradually developed an interest towards Advaita philosophy and his sharp intellect advised him to accept Advaita as the sole truth. Vishnupadacharya began to debate with Dvaita scholars and defeated countless opponents with his irrefutable arguments. Upset with his love for Advaita, Madhwas banned him from Madhwa society. But this did not change his love for Advaita or respect for Srimadacharya. With enhanced vigor, he started propagating the glory of Advaita and continued to defeat Dvaita scholars in arguments. Eventually, not a single Dvaita scholar was left who could challenge him for a debate. The Uttaradi mutt pontiff of Udupi mediated to put an end to humiliation of the Dvaita scholars and advised the Madhwas not to challenge him for a debate.

One a gentleman visited Sringeri and had the Darshan of Mahasannidhanam. After he prostrated, Mahasannidhanam questioned him, 'Are you a Srivaishnava? The gentleman replied in affirmative with hesitation. Mahasannidhanam immediately said: 'Why are you wearing Bhasma on your head? People wearing Bhasma are not close to me and those wearing Tirunama or Gopi Chandana are not unwelcome guests here. Why did you discard your traditional mudra? Following the path taught by one's elders and sticking to one's own dharma is the best spiritual practice. The gentleman immediately fell at the lotus feet of Sri Mahasannidhanam and asked for forgiveness. Mahasannidhanam yet again proved that a Jagadguru always guided one to sincerely adhere to his own dharma and never distracted them from their own paths. He taught a Muslim to be a better Muslim, a Christian to be a better Christian and a Hindu to be a better Hindu.

Smt Saraswati Bai Rajawade constructed a Sharada temple in Udupi and requested Mahasannidhanam to install an idol of Sri Sharadamba which was in her house from generations. Mahasannidhanam advised her to get the idol installed by a Yati from one of the eight mutts in Udupi. But she insisted on Mahasannidhanam installing the idol. Mahasannidhanam visited Udupi along with Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamigal (the current pontiff) and was grandly welcomed by the Krishna Mutt and the residents of Udupi. The two Acharyas had the Darshan of Sri Krishna and then installed the idol of Sri Sharada in the newly constructed temple as per the Vedic rites. After the installation, Saraswati Bai requested Mahasannidhanam to send a priest from Sringeri to perform the daily worship of Sri Sharada in Udupi. Mahasannidhanam found out that currently one Narayana Bhatta, a Madhwa, was performing the pooja of Sri Sharadamba. He called Narayana Bhatta and said, 'Please learn Lalita Sahasranama, Trishati and Ashtottara. A Vidwan from the mutt will initiate you into the mantra required for reciting these. Perform the pooja with Srisukta and Sridevi will surely bestow her blessings on you. It is not necessary that only a Smarta performs the pooja of Sri Sharada. She is Jagadamba 'the mother of the world" and every creature is her child.

Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal once said, 'Why do people have to fight if god is Saguna or Nirguna? If he is Saguna, is it necessary for us to fight that is Shiva or Vishnu? The path to realization is a long one and we are thousands of miles away from his lotus feet. Let us all walk together on this all-accommodating path of dharma, reach him and have a look at his lotus face. If he holds Shankha and Chakra, lets bow down to him as Narayana. If he holds Trishula and bow, lets bow down to him as Sri Mahadeva. When we have not even started walking on the path of dharma and are thousands of miles away from him, how is it sensible to fight amongst ourselves to conclude whether the Paramatman is Shiva or Vishnu?

The chief Upasya Devi of Sringeri is Sri Sharada Parameshwari. She appears to devotees in three forms: Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. Residing in the Srichakra, she is Sri Lalita Mahatripurasundari. Srimadacharya refined the Shaktas and banned the usage of literal Panchamakaras, wearing of mudras on one's body (Taptamudrankana by Samashramana and other rites) and other non-Vedic practices. Though Sruti is the original source of Shakta worship, due to Buddhist influence, Tamasic practices like the Panchamakaras had crept into Tantras and corrupted the Shakta practices. The three prominent schools of Tantra in the Indian subcontinent are: Keralachara, Kashmirachara and Kamarupachara. Keralachara teaches Dakshinachara, Kashmirachara is all about Samayachara and Kamarupachara, practiced in Assam and Bengal chiefly, is Vamachara or Kaulachara. People who studied in Varanasi were influenced by Vamachara or Kaulachara and over a period of time, baneful aspects of these got introduced into other purer modes of worship. Srimadacharya rejuvenated the Vedic mode of Shakta worship in Srichakra and clarified the mode of Shakti Sadhana. He taught a system of Srividya Upasana combining the techniques of both Samayachara and Dakshinachara. He stopped the Vamachara pooja involving Panchamakaras and sacrifice of animals and human beings in several places like Kanchi, Kollur Mukambika etc and re-introduced Vedic worship in these places. All Acharyas of Sringeri have been great Srividya Upasakas. Srimadacharya has established an idol made of Chandana on Srichakra in Sringeri. This idol is still present in Sri Vidya Shankara temple in Sringeri. Sri Vidyaranya later established a Panchaloha idol consisting of 90% gold which is currently seen in the sanctum of Sri Sharada in Sringeri.

Sri Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Mahaswamigal, the 33rd pontiff of Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham - believed to be the incarnation of Adi Shankara, identified the Samadhi of Matrsri Aryamba at Kaladi and established shrines for Srimadacharya and Sri Sharada. Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal established the Sharada idol worshipped by Sri Vidyaranya in the Bangalore Shankara mutt. Sharada temples and Shankara mutts have been established now in all parts of the country and the world. Those days, the Trneshwara temple within the palace complex in Mysore had an idol of Srimadacharya and his disciples, but did not have a Sannidhi dedicated to Sri Sharadamba. Many disciples from Mysore had requested Sri Mahasannidhanam to establish an idol of Sri Sharadamba in Mysore. The house, in which Sri Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Swamigal had taken birth, had been already converted into a memorial and the idol of Mahaswamigal had already been established by Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal. It was decided by Mahasannidhanam to establish the idols of Srimadacharya and Sri Sharadamba in separate shrines on either side of this memorial. Navaratna and Yantra sthapanas were done before Vigraha Sthapana on the decided date. The Panchaloha idol of Sridevi was supremely beautiful and weighed about 60 kgs. That morning, Basavanna, the sculptor who had made the idol, was also present there. He continuously kept bragging about the beauty of the idol and his skill. To place the idol on the Srichakra Peetham, four people lifted the idol one of who was the sculptor. Immediately he said, 'Leave your hands! and the three others who were holding the idol let go of it. The sculptor immediately fell down and the entire weight of the idol fell on his chest. He began to scream with pain. The others rushed forward, lifted the idol and placed it on the Peetham easily! The idol, which had been very heavy till then, now seemed like a bag of cotton. Surprisingly, the sculptor was unhurt. He now realized that it was due to her grace that he had been able to make an almost life-like idol of Sri Sharada. Sridevi had taught the lesson of humility to her proud son!

Sri Vishweshwara Dikshitar, a great scholar from Mysore, who was instrumental in popularizing Surasaraswati Sabha, once visited Sringeri. When he enquired for a room at the mutt guesthouse, the receptionist who saw the ordinarily dressed, unshaven figure of Dikshitar, said, 'No rooms are vacant. Dikshitar managed to take bath in the river, left his luggage at someone's house and went to have the Darshan of Sri Mahasannidhanam. Sri Mahasannidhanam blessed him and asked, 'Which room are you staying in? Dikshitar replied, 'None of the rooms are empty Mahaswamigal. Mahasannidhanam immediately called his personal assistant and asked him to investigate this matter. It then came to be known that several rooms were empty in the guest house. Mahasannidhanam immediately called the receptionist who had lied to Dikshitar and asked him to mend his ways.

Most of the people, who work in mutts and temples, do so to earn a living and not to earn Jnana. Though there are exceptions, it is not correct to expect wonderful behavior from all these people. Even Jaya and Vijaya misbehaved with Sanaka and others when they visited Vaikuntha to see Sri Narayana. People such as these are actually designates of the lord who test the firmness of faith of the Sadhaka in Sridevi and Guru.

An Avadhuta from the Himalayas came to Sringeri to see Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal. He almost wore no clothes, was dirty and looked insane. His appearance ensured bad treatment from the employees of the mutt. As Tunga was overflowing then, one had to take a boat to reach Nrisimhavana. The boat was being used by some affluent person who refused to allow this Avadhuta. Mahaswamigal was then worshipping at the Samadhi of his guru. He completed the worship and immediately turned towards the river. He started walking with a brisk pace and reached the river. The Avadhuta had by then walked the entire stretch of the overflowing river and stood in front of Mahaswamigal, totally wet. The Avadhuta fell at the feet of Mahaswamigal. Both of them began to converse in chaste Sanskrit and after about two hours, the Avadhuta left the place with immense happiness on his face. A person tried to stop him and offered him some food. But the Avadhuta replied, 'I am not looking for any food for this physical body. I was only looking for some knowledge and I am completely satisfied after talking to Mahaswamigal" and walked away.