MUTTS AND YOGIS
Education can be said to be of two kinds - 'Para' and 'Apara'. Para may be defined as extra-mundane while the opposite, that is, Apara is mundane. The scriptures enjoin that both are equally worthy of acquisition, the supreme function of them being relief from worldly entanglements. Paravidya is said to lead to the realization of Atman while Aparavidya can enable one to acquire knowledge of the physical world.
Despite this basic difference, both Para and Apara education comprise four stages, 'Adhiti' (learning), ' Bodha' (teaching), 'Acharana'(practice) and 'Pracharana' (propagation). It is only when these four noble stages are integrated, that education's true aim is fulfilled.
Prior to Sankara there were many asramas where Vedanta and other philosophical subjects were taught. When Sankara arrived on the scene, he saw to it that the four-stage system was honed and intensified. Also for harmonious spread of the movement of Vedanta, he went about establishing four mutts - on the four sides of India : Sringeri in Karnataka (South), Govardhan in Gujarat ( West ), Jyotirmutt in Uttaranchal (North), and Puri in Orissa (East) and entrusted their management to his own disciples.
These four Mutts represent the four Mahavakyas of which the four Vedas are the sources. Some elaboration of this idea is called for. Of the four Mahavakyas, 'Prajnanam Brahma', probably the first, which means ''Brahman is knowledge, is extracted from the Rigveda. The other Mahavakyas are as follows :
''Aham Brahmasmi'' (meaning " I am Brahman") represented by Saradapeetha of Sringeri is extracted from the Yajurveda. ''Tattvamasi'' (thou art that), represented by Dwaraka Mutt, is extracted from the Samaveda and, finally, the fourth one
''Ayamatma Brahma'' (this Atman is Brahman), represented by the Jyothir Mutt is extracted from the Atharvaveda.
Besides these four Mutts there is a claim that Sankara founded a Mutt at Kanchi in Tamilnadu. Each of the heads of these Mutts bears the halo of Sankaracharya.
It is heartening to note that, although there may be minor differences in the modalities of their day-to-day activities, all the Mutts are one in propogation of the essential sprit of Advaita.
A notable feature of the Mutts is that the Sanyasins bore ten different titles as initiated by Adi Sankara. There seems to be a controversy about this classification, some crediting the Adi Sankara himself for it and others ascribing the division to Pridhvidharacharya. The titles of the ascetics are :
सरस्वती भारती च पूरी नामानि वै दश|
Those with the titles Puri, Saraswathi and Bharati are attached to Sringeri; ''Tirtha'' and ''Asrama'' are attached to Dwaraka; "Vana" and "Aranya" to "Puri" and ''giri'', ''Parvata'' and "Sagara" to Jyothirmutt. Kanchipeetam has adopted Indra Saraswathi. Let us now survey these different mutts briefly.
SRINGERI MUTT :
Although all the Mutts enjoy uniform reputation, the Sringeri Mutt has a special historical significance. An anecdote goes like this :
One Lomapada, king of Angadesa, invited Rishyasringa, an absolutely unsullied ascetic and staunch celebate, to his kingdom which was beset with a severe drought. True to his anticipation, as soon as Rishyasringa stepped into his kingdom, the drought disappeared miraculously and rain poured heavily. It was this saint Rishyasringa who did penance at Sringeri and Sankara was greatly attracted to this marvellous mendicant. That, then, is the significance of Sringeri.
Right from Sureswaracharya to the present swami, his Holiness Bharathitirtha Maha Swamy, Sringeri peetha has had a succession of thirty-six Acharyas, and, not only a majority of them happened to be Telugus, but, surprisingly, the official language of the Mutt is Telugu. The Mutt is running primary schools, libraries as well as all-facility guest houses. The vidya peetha of Sringeri has affiliated some forty educational institutions and Sanskrit it a "must" in them.
KANCHI MUTT :
This is one among the seven sakthi peethas and it is also known as Sarvajnapeetha.
According to tradition, Sankara established this peetham and made this a centre for the other four peethams.
कांच्यां श्रीकामकोटौ तु योगलिंगमनुत्तमम् |
प्रतिष्ठाप्य सुरेशार्थं पूजार्थं युयुजे गुरु:||
Right from Adi Sankara to the present Sankaracharya, this Mutt has been managed by as many as sixty-eight Acharayas, a considerable number of whom hailed from Andhradesa. The ninth in succession, Kripasankara, was known as Gangesopadhyaya in his pre-sannyasa life. His term was considered to be the golden age in the annals of Kanchi Mutt.
Vidyaghana, the fourteenth Acharya, also hailed from Andhra. Son of Bapanna Somayaji, this Vidyaghana was an eminent scholar, besides being a reputed Advaitin, and additionally he was an adept at mantra sastra.
To avoid monotony, here is a summary of some other prominent Andhra acharyas. Satchitsukha was the twenty-third in succession. What is remarkable about this man was that with his amazing debating prowess, he was able to convert an astronomer-atheist to the spiritual fold.
Mahadevendrasaraswathi, the twenty-eighth Acharya of the mutt, was followed by Bodhendrasaraswathi.
A highly memorable Acharya, Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi, the 68th in the line of the Mutt, toured the length and breadth of India (like Adi Sankara himself) not once but (a stupendous strain in itself) several times, and propagated Advaita. He was an embodiment of Brahma Jnana. His greatness was discussed thoroughly in a number of books published by reputed authors : P.Umamaheswara Sastry, (author of Chadrasekahravijayamaharatnaharam), Kalluri Venkata Subrahmanya Deekshita (author of Gurukeerthilahari), and Jatavallabhula Purushottam (author of Jagadguruprasasti). The universal and eternal teachings of Sri Chandrasekharendrasaraswathi Mahaswamigal are as follow.
Cultivate friendly attitude to conquer the minds of men ;
Look at others as yourself;
Give up war; give up jealousy;
Don't commit aggresion without reason;
Mother Earth is like Kamadhenu to fulfil wishes ;
The Lord God is like father, showering mercy ;
People of theworld !!
Live with descipline;
Live with charity;
Live with mercy;
May all people attain greater well-being.
DWARAKA MUTT :
Hasthamalaka, a disciple of Sankara was the founder-organiser of the mutt. In selecting Dwaraka, Sankara had a sanctimonious purpose. The sage Rishyasringa (about whom we have already studied earlier) moved from Sringeri to Dwaraka where he performed a rigorous and long-lasting penance along with his wife Santha. Rishyasringa, it may be repeated, was endowed with an uncanny power of materialising auspiciousness whereever he went. The most notable among the Andhra Acharyas was Anandagiri.
Dwaraka has grown into a holy piligrim centre on the West coast. Further, this Mutt has become a seat of higher studies and reasearch in Sanskrit and Advaita Vedanta. Among its multifareous activities may be mentioned its benevolent acts such as cow protection and promoting and encouraging Advaita Vedanta.
JYOTHIR MUTT :
Another significant mutt is Jyothir Mutt, established by Sankara in the North-West Himalayan region, 6000 feet above sea level. A number of educational institutions are affiliated to this mutt where Sanskrit is compulsory in the curriculam.
This mutt is in Orissa. Paradoxically, it is at once ancient and modern teaching both ancient subjects like the sastras as well as modern subjects like ((mathematics, science, literature and social sciences.
Like the Adi Sankara the pioneer, the Acharayas of all these Sankara mutts have earned immaculate reputation of simple living and high thinking. And, as for their activities, although each mutt has its unique tradition, they are all one in propagating and enriching the fundamental concepts of Advaita.
Aside from the five principal Mutts (about which we have had a bird's-eye view) there are a large number of thier subsidaries.
It is not out of place here to touch upon the contribution of Yogis in the propagation of Advaita Vedanta. The holy books of our tradition unanimously admit the unavoidable necessity of a living guru or saint for attaining the highest goal of life, i.e., self realization. The Upanishads stress the need for a guru for attaining Brahmajnana.
तद्विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगच्छेत्समित्पाणि: श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्ठम् |(मुण्डक उपनिषद्/१/२/१२)
The same idea is found in the Gita also.
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया|
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्व दर्शिन:||
(Bhagavadgita IV - 34 )
The subustance of this command may be understood as follows :
Acquire Brahmajnana through prostration, inquiry, and sercive to an unusually qualified guru.
According to Swamy Rama, an internationally renowned saint, a father usually trains his children to grow and live happily and profitably in the physical world. But a spiritual father gives supreme jnana which cannot be imparted by a father or anyone else. ( Living with Himalayan Yogis - P. 26)
That is why our tradition gives utmost importance to teachers of enduring knowldge. The Upanishads describe such a teacher as elevated not only intellectually but spiritually also.
India is a land which has given birth to such high stature saints, also called Yogis, as their soul is always in association with that of the Supreme Soul. Among them some, including a few Andhras, are traditional while the others are non-traditional. Some are independent while the others are attached to a particular Mutt. Some are men while the others are women. Some are high-born while the rest are of low caste. Similarly, some are writers while the others are mere preachers. But irrespective of their status, position, caste, creed and sex, most of them have already attained perfection in the realisation of the supreme truth while others are still in their pursuit. The unique quality of them is simple living and sublime thinking. Despite their personal differences basing on their traditions their unifying factor is spirituality. They have achieved the four goals of Advaitavidya, viz ., study, preaching, practice and propagion. Interestingly, their blessings, or even their mere presence, have led their followers to advaitic fold, some sort of supreme bliss. Andhradesa has a glourious record in this spiritual sojourn.
There are literally hundreds of yogis (spiritualists) even among Andhras. Although the writer could procure a complete list of them after much search, he has deemed it prudent not to test the patience of the reader with the more
or less monotonous list. If, however, any body is intrested in getting to know those names, he will only be too pleased and will supply the information.