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A Tribute to Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji

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The whole country is saddened by the passing away of Jayendra Saraswathi, (18 July 1935 – 28 February 2018).  Hinduism in general and Advaitha in particular has lost a rare champion. Born Subrahmanaya Mahadeva, identifying his relgious bent of mind and social consciousness, he was pontificated at the age of 19 in 1954 as Jayndra Saraswathi, the 68th Pontiff, by Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi @ Maha Peryavar. Jayendra Saraswathi succeeded as the head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutham, Tamilnadu in 1994  as the 69th head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham in 1994,  when his senior, left to heavenly abode. Peryavar is one of the most distinguished, not only in the line of the successive Peethadhipaties of Kanchi Komakoti, but of the Advaitha Siddantha also.

Peethadhipaties are usually addressed as PARIVRAJKACHARYA; literally means, ‘a wanderer.’ True to the spirit, Jayendra Saraswathi had always been on the move.  The Dictionary has a wider definition of the term: “You can be very quiet when you have something on your mind. Vitality and enthusiasm, inspire others, prone to ill health, common sense overcomes, irritability and “nerves”, create financial and domestic problems. Engaging in new activities, overcomes shyness, unforeseen events may cause unexpected move to faraway place. Travel widely, may choose to live far from home. You could suffer through own fickleness. Ambition attained through application and skill. You are not particularly romantic, but you are interested in action. You mean business. With you, what you see is what you get.”  Jayendra Saraswathi fulfilled all the qualities. He toured nook and corner of the country; studied the local customs and social and economic life. Combining in himself with religious benevolence and spiritual sensitivity, he marched with the time, in true spirits of Adisankara to establish a direct relationship with the people.  His religious discourse suited the local conditions. He could  interpret, in right perspective the Bhagavadgita and Bhaja Govindam in different manners to the different audience. More surprising, he cultivated the habit of addressing in the local languages. I was astonished when he inquired my well being in TULU, the local dialect of the Udupi and Daskhina Kannada Districts in Karnataka, my ancestral place.

Jayendra Saraswathi was not confined to religious activities alone. In 1976 when addressing a group of doctors, he spoke of the need to create a hospital, with a missionary spirit. One among the audience, a renowned Ophthalmologist, Dr.S.S.Badriath took initiative and we have SANKARA NETHRALAYA.  (Temple of Eye.) Well known Jurist and a famous economist, Nani A Palkivala, former Indian ambassador to United States, described Sankara Nethralaya as the “Best managed charitable organization in India”.

There are branches of the Matham in pilgrimage places and important cities, all over the country; from Rameswaram to Badri. Free Spiritual classes, Veda Pathasala, with food and accommodation are organised there. Guest houses with traditional food are provided. Started in 1954, there is a branch of the Matham in Kurnool also. Swamiji was closely associated with Kurnool. In 1983 Vijayendra Saraswathi was pontificated by the Peryavar. (Now he is the successor to Jayendra Saraswathi to the Matham as the 70th Pontiff). All the three Swamijis were camping in Kurnool for Chaturmasya, at the Bank of the Handri River in the Industrial Estate, in a Floor Mill owned by Ranganatha Sarma. For the first time in the history of the Matham three Swamjies were camping for Chaturmasya from from July to October. ( Ashada Poornima to Dasara). Devotees thronged from far and wide. Scholars delivered lectures; Musicians sang Bhajans; Industrialists and Businessmen bore the expenses.  All were ordinary mortals before the Swamijies.

To commemorate the Swamiji’s camp in Kurnool, a devotee started Jayendra Sarasawathi College for Girls. As it could not secure grants from the Govt., now it is managed by one educationist Thimmaiah. The day before crossing the Tungabhadra, on the appointed day, Ashada Poornina, Swamijis were camping on the left bank of Tungabhadra in Panchalingala. A Subrahamnaya Temple was constructed by one of his devotees, Lakhminarayana, a Development Officer of LIC. I paid the price for the fifty cents of the land where the temple is located and purchased three acres of the land around it on the Bank of Tungabhadra. A.P.State Irrigation Development Corporation (APSIDC) has executed a 12 crores lift irrigation scheme to irrigate about 1,500 acres of land in and around the village. I have donated 35 cents of land for the purpose. It will be a memorial to the Swamiji.

Jayendra had one aspiration. Today’s youth are being spoiled in every aspect of their life; including, food habits. We read and hear the ill effects of the Junk/Fast/Chinese/Continental, etc. etc. food. Yet consume them. It upsets the health and the body conditions;  Accumulating of Cholesterol beyond the required level,  obesity, Diabetic, Hypertension, Cancer, etc.  I brought to his notice that there are 5,000 varieties of Vegetarian cuisine in India and all them suit the region and the season.  They depend on the crops grown in the region and the season. This is he Nature’s Law. There are many Catering Institutes in the Country teaching alien cookery. But none to train the native cooks.  I suggested Srisailam, where there are more than fifty Caste based Free Choultries and it will be a good choice to start such an  institution.  He along with Vijayendra Saraswathi immediately responded positively and promised all the guidance and co-operation, including affiliation to the Kanchi Kamakoti Deemed University. Though advertised through more than one manner, there was no response for admission.

There are difference of opinions regarding the establishment of Kanchi Matham. Some claim it as founded by Adisankaracharya Himself in the Fifth Century, B.C. But the generally accepted and popular date of Sankara is 788 to 820 A.D. Sanathana Dharma and Advaitha philosophy existed even before Sankara. Owing to the widespread propagation and popularity of Buddhism and Jainism, Sanathana Dharma was not being precised widely. Sankara restored its past glory of the Dharma and their head quarter, Mathams. Further he establshed four more at Badri, Dwaraka, Puri and Shringeri.