Whom God loved dearly
THOSE WHOM God loves, He beckons early. This is an old saying the truth of which was recently confirmed again in the sudden and untimely demise of Mukkur Lakshminarasimhachariar, one of the most illustrious upannyasakarsin the ubhaya-vedantatradition of the present times.
Many years from now the memory of Mukkur Swamy will continue to be fondly cherished by vaideeka-asthiksfor his outstanding stature as a salakshanaghanapati,a devoted servant of the Ahobila Math lineage of acharyas and a wonderful human being full of divine qualities.
Swamy's herculean efforts as a great devotee of Lord Lakshminarasimhan to build up Mattapalli, in Andhra Pradesh into an eminent ``Nrishmhakshetra.'' This he achieved by performing more than a hundred Nrishmamahayagnyam in his lifetime. Never before him in recent times have Vedic ``yagnyas'' on such a scale been performed with such popular participation.
Swamy's extremely popular public-discourses (upannyasams)that endeared him to thousands of people for well over two decades. The collection of his discourses now available in the three- volume Tamil publication titled ``Kurai Onrum Illai'' will surely endure as one of the very few religious works with enormous appeal to both the plebian as much and the pundit.
Swamy's celebrated style of expounding upon the beauties and truth ingrained in that peerless work of Vedantic scripture - the magnificent Srivishnusahasranamam,the litany of 1,000 glorious namasof Bhagavan Srimannarayanan.
Although Swamy dealt with difficult subjects in his discourses of philosophy and theology he had an uncanny ability to present them to the general laity in an easy, intelligible way. He avoided over-use of formidably technical expressions of siddhantam (Sanskrit, Tamil or Manipravalam). Everything he presented became an easy, almost languid essay in lucidity, simplicity and arresting cogency. He never allowed distance to develop between himself and his audience - that ``distance of scholarship'' which lesser pundits usually like to maintain to set themselves apart from the motley crowd. Ordinary folk, completely unschooled in the scriptural texts of Vedic tradition, were somehow attracted to the lofty subjects Swamy explained and having once heard him remained riveted to every word he spoke thereafter.
When you attended Mukkur Swamy's discourses you never failed to notice the number of young faces that turned up amongst the audience in almost equal strength to elderly ones. Swamy had tremendous impact on young aasthikaminds because of his refreshingly contemporary approach to ancient scriptural subjects.
One of the ways in which Mukkur Swamy cast a spell on his audiences was through captivating little anecdotes or stories. These seeming asides of Swamy, at once utterly convincing and light-hearted, however helped to underscore the main, larger philosophical or theological themes of his discourses.
Mukkur Swamy's memory was phenomenally prodigious. He never needed the usual props public speakers rely upon viz., handy little notes and texts carried under the arm for quick reference in case of memory or narrative lapses. He could easily recall, in torrential succession, passages from Veda-ghana-patam'sfor hours on end without as much as a pause. He could effortlessly weave intricate cross-references and allusions through a maze of scriptural material (aranyakas, upanishads, purana, itihasa, brahma-sutra, sri-bhashya, Azhwar-arulicchayal, purvacharya- srisookthis) in support and illustration of the simple yet most enlightening themes he covered. While quoting from those sources he made sure they were apt and appropriate to the context. He never exaggerated anything, never overstated anything, and never for a moment appeared to be wearing his knowledge on his sleeve. Everything he discoursed upon had real meaning... and more often than not, as one discovered upon deeper reflection, his exposition carried many layers of meaning within the span of the same discourse.
Swamy had a sparkling sense of humour. His wit actually was an ornament to his discourse; never a distraction from it. Most public speakers use humour as a tool to enliven proceedings when they sense audience's attention waning. But Mukkur Swamy never had to resort to that obsequious brand of humour. His witticisms and jokes blended so well with the subject that one always wondered which deserved more admiration - the witticism itself or its underlying message.
Swamy's upanyasam always held universal appeal to all sections of the aasthikasamajam.In a broad sense, he was therefore not just a pillar of Sri Vaishnava Kootam but a pillar of the much larger Vaideekakutumbam.Swamy was always able to emphasise on the fundamental unity underlying all Vedantic traditions even amidst their age-old and sometimes rancorous differences. He spoke a language, at once simple and utterly convincing, which the Advaitin, Visihtadvaitin and Dvaitin alike found easy to understand and relate to. Although he was a staunch votary of Sri Ramanuja `darsanam,' Swamy was never afraid of openly acknowledging the mighty contribution of rival systems to the development of Vedantic thought through the ages.
Swamy carried himself in public impeccably. Although a strict vaideekam,he never looked down upon poor loukeekasas lesser mortals. He treated everyone equally with the utmost civility and kindness. After completion of every ``Nrisimha-mahyagnyam'' to which thousands of people from all over the country contributed generously, Swamy meticulously wrote to each one of them, whether high or low in society, reporting the completion of the yagnya and acknowledging their kainkaryam.Swamy must have distributed at least 1,00,000 sacred ``Nrsimha'' medallions to bhaktas all over the country by way of acknowledging their help in the performance of those ``mahayagnyams.''
Over the years one suspects that Swamy's health was affected a bit in the course of his performing the ``yagnas.'' He was seen to be in a perennial state of deeksha,fasting for days on end and undertook similar vows of penance. He was not known to take any medicines for ailments, minor or serious. He spent most of his time beside the raging fires of Vedic `yagnya-kundams' worshipping his beloved ``Mattapallinathan.'' Till the very end he remained engrossed in his life- mission to build up Matapalli into a great Nrismhakshetra.
To the many admirers of Mukkur Swamy there is no doubt he has reached the abode of Sri Vaikuntam. It is the untimeliness of his departure, however, which makes them grieve over the pain God causes when He beckons away those He loves dearly far too early.M. K. SUDARSHAN