Sri Swayamprakasananda Saraswati Swami (Sri Alangudi Periyavaa) – Part – 2
Alangudi’ Periyava loved children. He would gather them around and play with them. If a village did not have a pond, he would gather the youths of the village and dig a pond. He loved to maintain gardens, conduct ‘utsavs’ in Temples. He always stayed in a garden outside the village or in a Mutt or in a Temple. He wore only a loin cloth. He carefully followed the ‘asrama dharma’ as spoken in the Bhagavatam. He never touched money for any reason.
He would accept an invitation to a village only if people agreed to conduct Bhagavata saptaham there. He would refuse to visit for the sake of ‘bhiksha’ [food]. He used to visit some villages quite frequently He performed innumerable Bhagavata saptahams there. Even today one finds the people of these villages interested in Bhagavata saptaham and possessing Krishna Bhakti. Several disciples still recall his Bhagavatam discourse.
All these villages turned holy due to the stay of the Swami. All people were great devotees of the Lord. Due to his association many read the Gita and the Bhagavatam and many performed Namakirtan. Even women and children in villages blessed by his visits knew the Bhagavata slokas by heart. The Swami had great love for the commentary of the Bhagavatam by Sridhareeya. In his discourses, he would always quote from it.
‘Alangudi’ Periyava was also an adept in Ayurveda and Mantra Shastras. But he did not practice them. When situation demanded it, he would put this knowledge to use through his disciples. Once, Pattabhirama Iyer, a disciple of his, was in deep anguish as someone had used black magic against his family. Learning about this, the deeply compassionate Swami initiated the victim into Nrisimha Mantra, through his disciple Sri Kothandarama Iyer. The man was saved from his troubles.
At the end of every ‘Saptaham’ there would be Namakirtan in which the Swami would participate. The Namasankirtan would go all through the night; yet, the Swami would be fresh and give discourse the next day. Through these unique qualities and Bhakti he was a great solace and support to the householders.
Once, the Swami conducted Srimad Bhagavata saptaham in Dittacheri village. Every day Namakirtan was also performed. ‘Alangudi’ Periyava always enjoyed rendering Gajendra Moksha and Prahlad charitra. His discourse on Gajendra Moksha was excellent that day and he said,
“Lord Narayana is the Supreme Godhead. All other gods are in His control. Gajendra Moksha is a testimony to this. When Gajendra, in seeking refuge in the Lord, chanted a ‘sloka’ no deity rushed to his help because, this sloka calls out to the ‘One who is the prime cause of all’. They were well aware that there was someone else who had created them. Lord Vasudeva Himself came on His divine vehicle, the Garuda, and saved Gajendra. Therefore, Lord Hari [Vasudeva, Narayana] is verily the Supreme Godhead.”
There was a Pundit amidst the audience. He said that each Purana spoke of a different God as the Supreme Godhead. Gajendra Moksham in the Bhagavatam was a spin story to show Lord Hari as the Supreme Godhead and that one should not attach any importance to it.
‘Alangudi’ Periyava was deeply hurt by this. He said to him, “It is difficult for people like you to earn faith in Srimad Bhagavatam. Only the Grace of the Lord can clear your confused mind. My explanations will not suffice.”
The Pundit retorted, “Why don’t you own up your mistake? Being a ‘smarta’ [saivite] sanyasi why do you speak like a Vaishnava sanyasi holding Lord Vasudeva as the Supreme Godhead?”
The Swami said, “I spoke only the words of the Bhagavatam. You can accuse me of speaking wrongly only if it were my imagination.”
The Pundit walked away haughtily.
‘Alangudi’ Periyava bathed in the river there during the early hours of the morning. On one such morning the Swami had gone to bathe and a few of his disciples were with him. While the Swami was bathing a crocodile came up to him and caught hold of his leg. At once, the Swami lifted both his hands and cried out, ‘Hare! Hare!” and the crocodile immediately let go of his leg. However, the Swami’s leg was badly hurt. The Pundit who had watched this incident realised the greatness of the Swami and at once fell at his feet seeking his pardon. He said that his argument that ‘Gajendra Moksha’ was a spin story was due to his pride and that it was only to wipe out his ignorance that ‘Yateendra Moksha’ had taken place. [Yati means ascetic].
The Swami said to him, “Why do you beg my pardon? Do not feel envious if anyone speaks of Srimad Narayana as the Supreme Godhead.”
The Pundit became a great devotee of the Swami.
A deep wound had been formed on the Swami’s leg due to the bite of the crocodile. At the request of the disciples the Swami agreed to treat it. He asked them to collect some herbs and boil it in oil. He then asked them to pour it hot over the wound! No disciple came forward. The Swami said to them, “Hey, ignorants! why do you fear? Have not I repeatedly told you all that the Atma is different from the body? If it were true how would I, the Atma, suffer? Also, how would the body which is really inert suffer?” Uttering these words he removed the boiling oil from the oven and poured it over his wound and laughed loudly! This brought tears to the eyes of the devoted disciples. The leg healed within a few days.
Once, the Swami gave a discourse in the woods of Koothanur village. The day was quite hot. A snake suddenly wound its way through the audience and moved below the Swami’s seat.
Some of them requested the Swami to move away. The Swami said, “A man becomes eligible to embrace the ascetic life only when he earns the Jnana that all forms are verily the Lord. There is no difference between my body and that of the snake. It is verily Lord Nrisimha who is the Atma in both. Why fear? All of you sit quietly and listen to the Lord’s story.”
But is it possible for the people to forget the presence of the snake and listen to his discourse? So, the Swami, through his yogic power, held their attention. The people totally forgot about the snake and were engrossed in the discourse. At the end of the discourse the Swami asked one of them, “Where is the snake? See if it is still here?”
The man feared lifting the seat to find out.The Swami laughed and lifted the seat only to find the snake gone. All were wonderstruck. The Swami said, “This is not surprising at all. The snake went back the way it came but all of you were totally engrossed in listening to the Bhagavatam and did not notice it!”
The people at once prayed to him to bless them so that their minds would always be engrossed in the Lord’s stories in this manner.
The Swami thus passed his days wandering about several villages conducting hundreds of Bhagavata saptaha yajna and preaching Bhakti to the people. He became old. He had not spent his life labourig for his family. Shunning worldly comforts he had spent his days in the thought of the Lord. The Swami’s eye sight failed and the disciples arranged for a surgery. Dr.Mahalinga Iyer was at first very indifferent towards the Swami. But soon he realised that the Swami had come to him with the excuse of a treatment only to bless him. The Swami refused to use anesthesia. He said that one could lose body consciousness without the anesthesia; and that when he did so, the doctor could perform his surgery. The Swami then lay in ‘savasana’ and lost consciousness of his body in yogic state. The doctor performed the surgery with deep reverence and devotion. All through the surgery the Swami lay without any movement. The doctor was simply amazed. He realised that the physical state of Jnanis were beyond their medical world, that the surgery he had conducted was only for his own good and that the diseases of Mahans were only their Lila. The vision of the Swami was restored and the doctor earned spiritual vision!
Alangudi’ Periyava, fully aware of the day whence he would shed his mortal coil, arrived at Mudikondan village. The fortunate ones there served him in various ways. The Swami decided to celebrate Lord Nrisimha Jayanti during Vaikasi month in ‘yuva varusha’ grandly. He celebrated Nrisimha Jayanti every year. A Bhagavata Saptaham was arranged in this connection. He gave discourse on the Bhagavatam in his own unique way. On the day of Sri Nrisimha Jayanati, celebration of Sri Rukmini Kalyanam came to an end in the evening. It was the last day of Bhagavata saptaham. At the end of the discourse, ‘Alangudi’ Periyava gave a brief discourse on Prahlada charitra, as it was the day of Lord Nrisimha Jayanti. He was narrating the scene of Prahalad offering his prayer to Lord Nrisimha.
When the Swami was speaking on the verse that says,
“Oh, one of such great glory! Self-illuminating, verily the Time, holding the Universe within Thee, Thou shines with splendour without being affected by ‘prakriti’. Here am I suffering, being caught in the wheels of life. Hey, Nrisimha, My Lord! Please take me unto Thy Feet!”
A divine light [‘jyoti’] shot out of the top of his head. A few spiritually evolved people were blessed to witness this. The pure body of ‘Alangudi’ Periyava was buried as per scriptural injunction laid down for a sanyasi.