Sri Sri Vishvesha Theertha Swamiji
The Universally Acclaimed Sri Sri Vishvesha Theertha Swamiji
(A brief introduction to his life and achievements)
Sri Madhvacharya (1238A.D – 1317 A.D), the founder of the Dvaita school of philosophy, one of many branches of Indian Vedanta philosophies, established the Sri Krishna temple at Udupi and anointed eight young Sanyasis in order to take care of the worship of Sri Krishna and also to spread the correct knowledge to the masses. The lineage of one of the eight Sanyasis is what is now known as the Pejavara Matha. Sri Adhokshaja Theertha, who was one of the direct disciples of Srimadacharya, is the founder and first Swamiji of this Matha. In the glorious Vaishnava disciplic succession of stalwart Yatis such as Sri Vijayadhwaja Theertha, Sri Vishwesha Theertha and Sri Vishwapati Theertha, Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji ascended the seat as the 32nd head of the Pejavara Matha.
Initiation and early education:
Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji was born on the 27th of April, 1931 as the second child of Sri Narayanacharya and Srimati Kamalamma, a devout couple from Ramakunja. The parents named the child as Venkataramana. Hugely impressed by the Satvik nature of the young
Venkataramana, the then head of the Pejavara Matha, Sri Sri Vishva Manya Theertha Swamiji initiated him as a Sanyasi when he was in his 8th year of age! The initiation happened on the 3rd of December 1938 at Chakratheertha, near Hampi. Upon initiation, Venkataramana became Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha. The early education of the young Sanyasi happened at Udupi itself. The head of the Bhandarakeri Matha, Sri Sri Vidyamanya Theertha Swamiji, taught all the Shastras to the young Yati for eight years and helped transform him into a knowledgeable and erudite scholar of Vedanta and Shastras. Sri Swamiji quickly became an extraordinary scholar in Nyaya, Vedanta and other branches of philosophy.
Teacher admires the talent!
It is a well-known fact that even the most scholarly pandits have been stunned by the depth and breadth of Shastric knowledge exhibited by Sri Swamiji. The Lord has bestowed Sri Swamiji with the mental abilities and the rigor & discipline required for study of the Shastras. The list of scholars who have been defeated by the sheer power of Swamiji’s knowledge and presentation includes the Maharaja of Kochi, the Vice-chancellor of Pune University Sri Datto Vamana Poddar, the Vidwan of Kashi Mahamahopadhyay Rajarajeshwara Shastri, Ramachandra Shastri Khadanga, Sri Sringeri Jagadguru and many others. The debates and dialectical engagements that Swamiji had with these scholars is a historical record! Sri Swamiji’s Guru, Sri Vidya Manya Theertha Swamiji was astounded with the dialectical ability displayed by the young Swamiji during a debate with Tiruvari Vijayeendraacharyaand Sri Mysore Ramachandra Shastri. Sri Swamiji’s extra ordinary scholastic knowledge is well complimented by his creative and poetic abilities. Sri Swamiji has written a Sanskrit poem called “Samba Vijaya”. When only 25 years old, the young & radiant Swamiji became the President of the Agamatraya Conference organized by the Maharaja of Mysore and held in Nanjanagud. It was in this conference that Swamiji electrified the audience with his oratory skills when he declared – “If God is not in our hearts, we will become like the ruined temples of Hampi”.
The physical appearance of Sri Swamiji is itself a great attraction. Lean and straight, he possesses a radiant face and is always mercury-like active. His is a simple personality devoid of any pomp or display and absence of ego, in spite of heading a prestigious Matha. Always bearing a child like smile and radiant eyes, Sri Swamiji’s heart if full of love and compassion. From the prime minister of the country to the poorest of poor, everyone is instantly attracted towards Sri Swamiji. Anyone can have his audience any time. He is always available when his followers want him. Sri Swamiji is constantly and creatively involved in social service. “In this ocean of society, the heads of Mathas are like fish. Fish cannot survive without water. Water cannot remain clean without fish” – that is the essence of Sri Swamiji’s philosophy towards society.
Effective execution of responsibility:
One cannot survive in a home without air. But what if the wind turns into a monster hurricane and blows the roof of the house? The blind following of western values and systems has turned into a hurricane for our culture and spiritual roots. Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji realized this truth and the consequent threat more than 50 years ago itself! One of his first goals after completing his education was the establishment of a Guru Kula. His dream was realized in 1956 A.D when he established the Purnaprajna Vidyapeetha in Bangalore. Founded with the twin goals of preservation of our ancient culture and the propagation of the philosophy of truth of Srimadacharya, the Vidyapeetha is seeing rapid growth and recognition as an ideal Guru Kula, all due to the dedicated hard work of Sri Swamiji. The Vidyapeetha is contributing hundreds of scholars and Yagnikas every year, thereby ensuring that the stream of Tattvavada scholars, which could have dried up, will at least flow for a few more generations. Currently, over 300 students are residing in the Vidyapeetha and undergoing education in various Shastras. The complete responsibility of these students, including their stay, food and other essentials is taken care of by the Vidyapeetha. Over 30 distinguished alumni of the Guru Kula are now serving in the same institution as teachers. Many works belonging to Tattva Shastra have been translated and commented upon by the institution and has been made available to the knowledge thirsty devotees. Sri Sri Vishvesha Theertha Swamiji, as the Chancellor of this Guru Kula has commendably discharged his duties. One cannot be grateful enough for this magnanimous contribution of Sri Swamiji. As a next step, Sri Swamiji has now accepted the challenge of establishing a similar Vidyapeetha in the national capital of New Delhi. Towards this, the Delhi Development Authority has already sanctioned an acre of land. It is the single-minded goal of Sri Swamiji that the institution in New Delhi should become the focal point for all dharmic and philosophical activities in North India. For someone who has won the hearts of all his devotees, there is no goal that is impossible!
For the head of any Udupi Matha, the Paryaya and consequent responsibility to worship Lord Krishna for two years is a crown of honor. Such an auspicious duty was bestowed upon Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji for the first time in the year 1952 A.D. Sri Swamiji’s first Paryaya was unmatched in history for its grandeur in spiritual, social and scholarly activities. It was during this Paryaya that the proud torchbearer of Madhva culture, the Akhila Bharata Madhva Maha Mandali was founded. The ABMMM held its first conference under the Presidency of His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore. During Sri Swamiji’s second Paryaya in 1968 A.D, the entire region of Udupi was literally revitalized. During this Paryaya, on the occasion of the regional summit of the Vishva Hindu Parishat, the slogan given by Sri Swamiji – “Hindavaha Sodaraaha Sarve Na Hinduhu Patito Bhaveth” became a mantra for all workers of the Parishat. Even during the third Paryaya of Sri Swamiji in the year 1984 A.D, lady luck smiled on Udupi. The entire spiritual, cultural and physical landscape of Udupi has undergone revolutionary transformation during the three Paryayas of Sri Swamiji.
Bold steps of the Revolutionary:
The first Swamiji to consider Dalits as an integral part of Hindu society has been Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji. His decision to review the traditional practice of untouchability, from a human perspective, and the consequent steps taken by him has caused a revolution. “In our homes and public places, do Dalits enjoy the same opportunities that Christians and Muslims do? When they approach us after having converted, we do not discriminate against them. That being the case, aren’t we conceding that other religions treat them with humanity while we do not? Is there a greater insult to our Dharma and society than this?” – Such sharp and logical questions from Sri Swamiji opened the eyes of the conservatives. The controversy over conversion of Dalits in the Meenakshipuram area of Tamilnadu was effectively countered and prevented by the personal visit of Sri Swamiji. The pleasant smile of Sri Swamiji won over even staunch opponents. Hindu society emerged even stronger.
Tax paid to God!
According to the adage – “Nanaajanasya Shushrooshaa Karmaakhyaa Karavanmitehe”, the service of the distressed and downtrodden in society is a compulsory tax all of us have to pay to God. Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji has made this ancient message of our elders the primary principle of his life. Sri Swamiji extended the domain of the Mathas, traditionally limited to Pada-pooja, Bhiksha, Madi and other rituals, to numerous social activities and has himself participated in all of them. In 1975 A.D, when the district of Gulbarga in Karnataka suffered a terrible famine, Sri Swamiji rushed to the distressed villages even before the Government moved and established “Ganji Kendras” and provided relief to the suffering lot. When a terrible hurricane rendered thousands of people homeless in Hamsaladivi area of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Swamiji personally supervised the construction of over 150 homes. Sri Swamiji has contributed immensely in rehabilitating the victims of the earthquake in Latur.
Every time Sri Swamiji gets on to the street for generating awareness and contribution to such social causes, the stunned people have nothing but admiration and high regard for the Saint who walks disregarding heat, rain and other problems. The contributors feel the safety and satisfaction that every single rupee contributed to Sri Swamiji’s cause will reach the needy. Sri Swamiji has established a “Janata Kalyana Nidhi” for serving the downtrodden and affected sections of our society. The treatment of poor patients is also God’s service. The “Sri Krishna Sevashrama” established in Bangalore is a fully equipped hospital with over 50 beds. This computerized Sevashrama provides free medical services to poor people. “Sri Krishna Chikitsaalaya” established in Udupi also serves a similar purpose. Another institute, the “Sri Krishna Sevadhama”, functions as an orphanage. These are a sample set of activities undertaken by Sri Swamiji in serving needy patients.
Sri Swamiji has made his mark even in the area of modern education by establishing an arts, science and commerce undergraduate college in Siddapura. Swamiji has also established an Ayurveda college in the same region. In his birthplace of Ramakunja, the primary school and pre-university college established by him is functioning as a model institution. Apart from these, numerous other educational institutions are seeking and receiving the guidance of Sri Swamiji.
Taking us towards God:
When it comes to the area of spiritual achievements, pilgrimages have always enjoyed an important position. Unfortunately though, today’s pilgrim centers are mostly involved in exploitation of gullible devotees. Most centers do not even have the ability to provide clean Satvik food. Having realized this state, Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji resolved to undertake work to provide facilities to pilgrims. This pious work started in the Holy Kshetra of Badarinath. The “Anantha Matha” built at Badari at a cost of over 50 lakhs is today serving as a base camp for all devotees from South India. The “Udupi Matha” built at Tirupathi costing more than a crore of rupees is providing shelter to those who visit Tirumala to seek the refuge of Thimmappa. Built in 1996 at a cost of over 40 lakhs, the “Madhvashrama” in Haridwara has become a guiding post for devotees proceeding towards Badarinath. In the same manner, Sri Swamiji has resolved to build rest houses for devotees at Rameshwaram, Vrundavana, Jagannatha Puri and Kashi. The land for these projects has already been acquired in all these centers. In addition to these, Sri Swamiji has also built temples all over India including Bhuvaneshwar, Chennai, Nagpur, Bangalore, Mysore and Hassan and enabled lakhs of devotees to pray and perform Dharmik activities.
“Ready to go to jail”
“Since Swamijis are also citizens of this country, they too have equal political rights as other citizens” – thus being the motto of Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji, he published a protest letter in 1975 against the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi. “As long as my Dharmic activities are not affected, I am even ready to serve a prison sentence” – declared Sri Swamiji and indulged himself whole-heartedly in the Sri Rama Mandira construction activity at Ayodhya. Not having bowed to pressure from any quarters, Sri Swamiji has put forth a very constructive formula for the resolution of the dispute.
When, under the pretext of Industrial development, lots of environmentally destructive projects were initiated at Karwar and Nandikooru, Sri Swamiji was at the helm of the protests which opposed these initiatives.
A selfless Karma Yogi:
The credit for having broken the shackles of the current system of Mathas, which pay attention mostly to individual Sadhane through Japa and rituals, goes to Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji. That, though, does not mean that he compromised on the Dharma of his sainthood. Without causing any interruptions to his daily practices, conducting discourses and classes even during his hectic travel, Sri Swamiji the reformer has become the golden bridge between the legacy of the past and the promise of the future. His unblemished Brahmacharya is in itself a great penance.
“The house is full of materials. Different rooms are reserved for different purposes. But is there a separate room for light?” asks Sri Swamiji when talking of his habit of doing everything with a Dharmic background. Sri Swamiji is a true Karma Yogi who has gone beyond seeing God in just stone idols and sees the entire sentient and insentient world as the Lord’s abode. Every step he has taken is the worship of the Lord because there is a not even a whiff of selfishness in what he does. Sri Swamiji is not just an individual; he is a system by himself.
In this way, Sri Swamiji, from his young days as a seven year old till today when he is closing in on 80 years, has always offered himself for the upliftment of society. We should never forget Sri Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji; we never will!
Source: Poornaprajna Vidhyapeeta, Bangalore
English translation: Hariprasad Nellitheertha