Saturday, September 26, 2020

"Aum Acharya Devo bhava!" - (By Dr.Usha Garu)

I would go to Arunachala whenever I had the calling. Once when I reached there & went to Andhra Ashram, it was around midnight at 12.30 am. The devotees who returned from Giri pradakshina (going round the holy hill), were sitting in the balcony. They smiled seeing me and said they were curious to know if I would be coming or not. They said, “We came here thinking Nannagaru would be here today, but his trip got cancelled at the last moment. Every time he comes here at noon, the same night you would reach here. Since it’s a norm we were wondering if you would come this time!“ Then I told them with a smile that I had come there as usual with the intense longing, even if his trip got cancelled it is important for me to be with him so I would go wherever he was. I went into the Manager room & asked his wife if Nanna cancelled his trip and didn’t start from Jinnur itself? For which she replied saying he reached Chennai station that morning to come to Thiruvannamalai, but Mr.Ranga Rajugaru received him in the station and requested Nanna to come with him to Coimbatore as it was very hot in Tiruvannamalai & that he better have some rest in a cool place like Coimbatore. After he convinced Nanna they had taken a flight to Coimbatore I was told. I asked her where Nanna would be accommodated? At their residence or elsewhere, for which she answered that they would be going to some hotel named Ganesh or Vignesh (not heard clearly as they didn’t pay much attention).

That night I slept there & early morning started back to Chidambaram. From Chidambaram again that noon I travelled with friends that were going to Kerala, got down in Trichy & took a connecting train to Coimbatore alone. I got down at Coimbatore station at 1 am in the midnight. While walking to the auto stand, I was wondering where I should go next. I walked to auto & asked the driver how much he would charge me to go to the hotel, paused for a while & said hotel Vinayak! The driver said Rs. 20. It felt like the venue was close by, so asked him if he would come for Rs.10. He told me to look at my watch and bargain. Convinced that it was close by, I got into the auto & within a few minutes, he dropped me at the hotel Vinayak.

I woke up the guy at the reception and asked him if any Guruji named Nannagaru came to their hotel the previous day. He said no such Guruji came. I told him he won’t appear like Guruji, he will be very simple wearing white clothes with no extravagance. He said no one came. A little puzzled I was thinking about what I should do next. Then instantly I asked him if any rooms were booked in the name of Ranga Raju, he looked in the register & said there were 2 rooms booked (Room no: 401, 402) one for Ranga Raju & other B.V.L.N. Raju (Nannagaru). Hearing this my joy knew no limits.

With great relief, I took the lift to the 4th floor and as I walked towards the rooms I realized I shouldn’t be disturbing Nanna at this time of the night especially when he was sleeping. Hesitantly I knocked on the door of room no: 402 and to my good luck, Ranga Raju uncle opened the door. He was alarmed (shocked), seeing me at that time of the night. He was highly tense and asked me what I was doing there & how I knew their whereabouts (as no one was informed). Tried to pacify him by saying Nanna did know about my arrival and how would I come here without his guidance. It took me a while to calm him down and I finally slept on the floor telling him things will be clear in the morning. Ranga Raju Uncle was supposed to wake up Nanna in the morning at 5 am but Nanna himself woke up first & Knocked on our door before 5 am. As soon as Uncle opened the door, he asked: “Has Usha come?!” Astonished, uncle fell at Nanna’s feet & asked Nanna if I informed him about my joining him there. This conversation woke me up & before I could get up Nanna stepped into the room and addressed me saying “Usha, you have come at the right time, we are going to Kalady (Adi Shankaracharya birthplace). We shall start here by 6 am. That's why I made you come!”

At 6 am, Nanna, Ranga Raju Uncle and I started to Kalady. Since I was tired, with lack of proper sleep the previous 2 nights I fell asleep. As soon as we crossed the Tamil Nadu border and entered Kerala, Nanna told me not to sleep & to look around the place and asked if I remembered the place! I was surprised as that was the first time I was stepping into Kerala. Contemplating on Nanna’s words as they always have a meaning, I looked around silently. I just couldn’t control my sleep & fell asleep again. This time he turned back from the front seat & said loudly, “Usha, don’t sleep. Don't you remember this place?” With conviction, I told him I have never been to Kerala before. He said with a stern voice, “Look properly, how can you forget? This is our place! So don’t sleep and refresh your memory”. Finally, we reached Kaladi. He took us to the Purna River. That was the river in which Acharya & his mother Aryamba would take bath. He made me wait at its bank as he & Ranga Raju Uncle went to bathe in the river.

Nanna walked in the river to the place where Sankara was caught by the crocodile, looked at me and said “Usha it was here that the fake crocodile caught Sankaracharya’s leg. It was a fake one and not real but he had to create it to convince his mother for his initiation into Sanyas as otherwise, she wasn’t willing!” when Aryamba heard this she went running to the banks of the river. When Shankara told her that the crocodile would kill him if he wasn’t permitted to take Sanyas, she pleaded the crocodile to leave him and that he could take Sanyas (As it’s better to know he is alive somewhere rather than losing him forever). Then the crocodile left him. Nanna after coming out of the river after his bath repeated saying it was a fake one not real & smiled. Nanna got very playful and became like a kid. He roamed about the whole place with great excitement as if he was Shankara himself. I felt Nanna was possessed by Shankara because his whole system changed unusually.

He took us to the house of Aryamba and told us about her whole life. At the fag end of her life, Acharya came to her, knowing intuitively that her time was limited. He invoked lord Shiva & made her have his darshan but since she loved & worshipped Hari most of her life, she requested him to give her the darshan of Lord Hari. Acharya fulfilled her wish by invoking Lord Vishnu. After which she left her body with great peace. Since Shankara was a sanyasi, the village people refused his proposal of conducting her last rites. But since he promised his mother that he himself would conduct them, though no help was received, he created fire by himself & did her funeral rites.

Later he took us to the Krishna temple where Aryamba worshipped. Nanna said looking at the idol, “Look at him Usha, how beautiful & charming he looks. Look at him!” It wasn’t as impressive as Nanna expressed. I paid my obeisances to the idol and came out. Nanna again mentioned, “How very sweet & beautiful this Krishna!” Then I thought to myself, where is beauty in the entire world apart from you? After seeing Such amazing clarity, innocence, that tremendous love & purity even if Krishna appeared in real life, would I be able to see it in him as I see in you!”

He also took us to the places where Shankara taught, and all the places of historical significance. He elaborated on the life & teachings of Shankara and told how much importance was given to the teaching. He said that Acharya gave secondary importance to rites & rituals and threw more light on the subject for the attainment of Self-realization. He took birth to eliminate the wrong ideals & to revive the lost treasure of Advaita Vedanta. He had composed many hymns & compiled scriptures. (Soundarya Lahari, Bhaja Govindam, Vivekachudamani etc.) He inspired people to walk in the path of devotion & detachment to attain the ultimate state of liberation.

With great reverence to the extraordinary saint & teacher, Nanna said Acharya is ACHARYA! The one that expounded the Truth & preached in a digestible manner. He was the first to bring the jewels of Advaita Vedanta into an affordable pattern. Liberation is not attainable by mere talk or knowledge. The self-knowledge (Atma Vidhya) can’t be understood easily. Unless we understand, how will it be attained? So foremost is an understanding of the subject, and Acharya was the foremost of sages to elaborate it in simplified form. No one was on par with him.

Nanna said, “Acharya went walking on his feet all over the country. He established 4 Matts in 4 prominent places in India.” Talking about Vivekachudamani compilation Nanna got so overwhelmed that he suddenly started chanting, "Shankara, Shankara, Shankara, Shankara!'' for a long time. It was a sight to witness Nanna in his ecstatic appearance. Later he fell into pin-drop silence and raised his hand blessing the place. It looked like Acharya himself was sitting there and not Nanna. Later he said if we listen, understand, follow the teaching & experience it first & then if we can impart it to others then only it will be honouring him. Now Acharya has blessed us! Saying that he again started chanting "Shankara, Shankara, Shankara, Shankara!" and in between going into spells of silence and repeating the words ‘The great Acharya, the great Acharya, the great Acharya!’ he would raise his hand giving blessings.

We spent 2 days there & came back to Coimbatore. Nanna continued Shankara teaching there and about the extraordinary work he did. He again mentioned that Acharya had blessed us tremendously. His grace has fallen on us completely and kept saying the great Acharya, the great Acharya. He said what a tender age lad he was, 16 years which was later extended to 32. Within such a short span, he has done such extensive work. After spending 3 more days with him, I left for college.

From then on for 2 & 1/2 years till I finished the dental graduation I had visited Tiruvannamalai most weekends. one weekend when I was there & was going around Bhagavan samadhi in Ramana Ashram, a Devotee from Andhra held my hand and asked me to come out with her. Little hesitantly I came out with her. She asked me if I was Usha. When I said yes, she narrated an incident that took place in Jinnur at Nanna’s residence which they visited for the first time. She said there were very few devotees sitting in front of Nanna when she along with her relatives went to visit him & he was talking about Shankaracharya.

After a while of silence he mentioned 4 names, Lakshmi is Bhagavan’s sister in her previous life, Hyma has come with a certificate for liberation, Parvathi is ripening fruit & Usha is the gift of Acharya.

She asked if Usha was me when I said there could be many with that name so it’s irrelevant to me. Then she asked if I was studying dental in Chidambaram. When I said yes, she said Nanna mentioned that also. Since he said you are a gift of Acharya, can you please tell us something? She asked. Then I explained clearly that Nanna says many things which we can’t really comprehend. We should not take it literally. The meaning of his words will unravel with time, as of now I am just a learner & I come there to spend some time in solitude. You visit Nannagaru frequently and listen to his discourses because he is Acharya himself!

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