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14. Lakshmi Nrsimham Bhaje

 

The victory over Mandana was a definite landmark in Acharya's divine career. A new chapter in Acharya's life came to be unfolded. From now on to the very last day of his avatar, he played the role of the establisher of Dharma, the righteousness and true religious spirit. This segment of his life was productive of immense good to India and to India's eternal faith. What he accomplished was something gigantic. Acharya provided a Vedic foundation and Vedic direction to all of the different religious theories in India and revealed before the whole world, the universality of the eternal Vedas. This, indeed is a unique and valuable contribution of India to the world, and this was solely the work of the great Acharya.

At the especial desire of his disciples, who, in their largeness of heart, ardently wished that the light of the Acharya would illumine many other hearts other than theirs, Acharya set out on what was virtually a Digvijaya - a campaign of world conquest in the cultural and spiritual field of India, covering all the quarters. The defeat of Mandana and none other than Bharati herself at the hands of the Acharya had made all the scholars in the land realize that it was futile to hope to face Acharya Shankara in debate. But his tour throughout the land had one important good result, besides many others. He got many opportunities of meeting people, holding all kinds of views on matters of religion and spirituality, and he was able to exchange ideas with the votaries of all schools flourishing at that time, bringing about reforms in most of them and to give them all shelter under the refreshing cool shade of the Vedic Dharma. In his wide travels, and in his coming in contact with men and things of various types also brought many facets of his diverse character which till then remained hidden. People now understood that Acharya was not merely a scholar and a genius, but he an avatar.

It is true that many significant happenings, both big and seemingly small, in the life of our divine Acharya have been wholly lost to us. His great literary legacy to us, marvelous as it is, is not the whole of Acharya. To judge him solely from the artistry and depths of his commentaries and his original works and also from the brilliant conclusions of his philosophy, is to judge him partially in bits. He was vastly more than what he penned. Every event in his life, every move of his, every word he uttered had a rich significance. So, we shall look at all available events in his life from an impartial and objective angle. Acharya was, indeed, the collective embodiment of all these incidents and actions.

Leaving Mahishmati, which was the scene of an important achievement in his life, Acharya along with his faithful band of devoted disciples, journeyed through the then Chalukya kingdom. He visited many places of pilgrimage, and wherever he went, he made it a point to renovate temples and shrines and restore right modes of worship and service. After a time, he reached Panchavati, now known as Nasik, which is a place described in the Ramayana as having been sanctified by the stay of Sri Rama and Sita Devi during the period of their exile. The temple of Sri Rama there was one of repute and renown. But it had been subjected to the ravages of time and had been despoiled of all its impressiveness. The Acharya set to rebuild the temple and arranged for the performance of the prescribed services to the deity. A monastery was also established adjacent to the temple, for the convenience of the monks desiring to stay at holy Nasik.

After a stay of few days in Panchavati, the Acharya proceeded to Pandarapur on the banks of river Chandrabhaga which housed the shrine of Lord Sri Panduranga, a deity whose living presence was tangibly felt by many devotees. Year after year, devotees from all over the state of Maharashtra (as it is known today) assemble here on days of holy significance. When the Acharya went to the shrine, he was transported with such a fervor that he composed on the spot a tilting song called the Panduranga Ashtakam. It is said that a devotee Pundarika had worshipped Vishnu at Mahayogapitha on the banks of river Chandrabhaga, also known as Bhimarathi. In ordre to confer boons to his devotee, the Lord had appeared and stayed on there in the form of a Parabrahma Linga known as Panduranga. Acharya also gave instructions to the temple priests about the right ways of performance of religious duties to the Lord. He urged the residents of the place, who had gathered in large numbers to have a look at the God-like Acharya, to follow right course of conduct and advised them to follow the path ordained in the Vedas.

Acharya soon left Pandarapur and visited a few more holy places in the vicinity before he reached the well-known pilgrim center of Sri Shaila, which is not far from the confluence of Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers. Even from very ancient times, many a devotee belonging to different religious sects like the Pashupata, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta, Virachara, Maheshwara, Kapalika etc had performed spiritual discipline at this holy place and had transformed it into the seat of Tantric Sadhana. This place was the abode of Sri Mallikarjuna, who had manifested here as a Jyotirlinga. It was also a great Siddha Shakti Peetham due to the presence of Parashakti as Bhramarambika Devi.

Acharya's arrival at Sri Shaila caused quite a stir. Acharya visited the shrine of Sri Mallikarjuna and was filled with divine ecstasy. He sang a prayer in praise of Mahadeva, " Let my heart blissfully stay fixed in that great Parabrahman Paramashiva, who was worshipped by Vishnu himself, offering his own lotus-like eye at the feet of Mahadeva, chanting the Shiva Sahasranama, and by gaining whose boon of Sudarshana Chakra became the slayer of demons and the protector of the universe".

He then visited the shrine of Devi Bhramarambika, who had manifested there in times of yore to destroy a demon called Aruna. It is said Acharya established a Srichakra in the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Devi. Seeing the radiant and loving face of the goddess, Acharya burst out into a hymn, " In the auspicious Mother Bhramarambika, who is ever resident in the high hills of Sri Shaila, who is very light of the six stars in the space, who is the dear wife of the Lord, who destroys the six enemies namely anger, lust, greed, attachment, pride and jealousy, who is present as the Kundalini Shakti in the six yogic Chakras in the body, who is the blissful Kulamrita or nectar, who is surrounding by the six Yoginis namely Dakini-Rakini-Lakini-Kakini- Sakini-Hakini (and also the seventh one Yakini), whose divine Padukas rest in the six Chakras, who is propitiated by the divine mantra of sixteen letters, I seek refuge".

The Acharya's arrival in Sri Shaila caused quite a stir in the place. Many scholars and aspirants belonging to different schools of thought and faith approached the Acharya for a debate to establish the superiority of their own pet beliefs and practices. But, even in their first rounds with Padmapada or Sureshwara, they were shown the hollowness of their position and had to return crest fallen. In those days, Sri Shaila was the especial stronghold of the dreaded Kapalikas. The Kapalikas were a sect of fanatics who in excess of their religious zeal, had got into perverted ways and bizarre modes far removed from decency, culture or true spirituality. They were also far removed from the Acharya, whose chief tenants were the knowledge of the identity of the apparently individual soul and the one universal self and the paramount need for Self-restraint, renunciation and unshaken devotion in the Lord for the attainment of that knowledge. The Kapalikas would not subscribe in any manner to these two basic doctrines of spiritual effort. With their wonted fury and thoroughness, they declared a war on the Acharya and his philosophy. But the gifted Acharya stood four square to their attacks and floored them as much by the soundness of what he said as by the force with which he said it. The case with which Acharya put to rout the fanatically fiery Kapalikas filled their king Krakacha with extreme dismay. He engaged Ugrabhairava, the chief of Kapalikas in Sri Shaila for the nefarious purpose of cleverly doing away with the life of the Acharya.

Ugrabhairava was an expert in the art of dissimulation. There was nothing he would not stoop in order to achieve his purpose. In great humility and seeming earnestness, he, one day, approached the Acharya in the guise of a seeker and bowing at his feet asked for discipleship under him. His chief aim now, he said, was to devote himself wholly to the service of the Acharya. Acharya, though all- knowing, granted his prayer. And thus, Ugrabhairava got entrance into the privileged group of Acharya's disciples. His behavior and devoted service fascinated everyone and he soon became a favorite with all.

One day, Acharya was sitting alone, self-absorbed. The disciples were all engaged in their daily routines of duties. Ugrabhairava approached the Acharya and fell at his feet making a full length prostration, and shed incessant tears. This touched up the springs of Acharya's compassion. With much affection he enquired, " My child, what makes you weep? Make clear to me what ails your mind".

Continuing to weep still, Ugrabhairava spoke humbly, saying, " My lord, I know what really you are. You are a great soul, a being like Shiva, omniscient, compassionate and helpful. You are the embodiment of endless virtues. I beg you to fulfill just one desire of mine, thereby rendering my human birth fruitful".

The seeming intensity of the disciple's ardor for betterment touched the tender heart of the Acharya and the Acharya melted in pity. In a voice charged with sweetness and warmth, he said, " Child, speak out your desire. I shall satisfy your heart".

Ugrabhairava's tears flowed down in a heavier downpour than ever, "Thou god", he said, " I have been, all my life practicing several spiritual disciplines to be worthy of inhabiting the abode of Lord Shiva, in the company of that great and primal God. The Lord became extremely pleased with my penance and granted me a boon. The boon is that in case I do a Homa or a fire sacrifice to Rudra, offering the head of an omniscient sage, my desire of going to the abode of Shiva will be fulfilled. Since the time the boon was granted, I have been going about from place to place making great efforts to procure the head of such a sage, but with no purpose. Now you certainly are omniscient and your compassion is great. If you but condescend to favor me, my human birth will be rendered fruitful".

The senseless pleading of Ugrabhairava made the Acharya give him many a wholesome advice on the true import of the philosophy of true knowledge. He pointed out to him that without the profound knowledge of the One Brahman-Ataman, supreme peace or infinite joy was out of question nor could there be any escape from the round of birth and death. One might go to several Lokas or other worlds of existence, but at the end of their earned merits, would have to return to this region of existence assuming a body. Therefore, men of discrimination should refrain from anything other than the attainment of the Absolute Parabrahman.

But it was like performing a sacrifice in the waters of a dirty stream. Ugrabhairava was proof against any wholesome instruction. The Acharya's words of advice fell on deaf ears. Ugrabhairava continued weeping and said, " Lord, you can easily divine my inner feeling. You know that I am not competent enough to receive the knowledge of Advaita and contain it. I am aged and have not many more days to live. It is now on you to take pity on me and have the boon of Mahadeva brought to fruition. It is said that Dadhichi, a great sage attained undying glory by making a gift of his bones to Indra. You too, by throwing away this ephemeral frame of yours for my good, will achieve lasting fame".

Ugrabhairava's agony melted the heart of the Acharya. Acharya came to feel that it was quite in the fitness of things that his ephemeral frame went to the fulfillment of a meritorious act. Moreover, everything depended on the will of the Lord and wisdom lay in letting things happen according to divine dispensation and direction. He at once spoke out of his readiness to Ugrabhairava, " Let it be so as you wish", Acharya told the strange disciple who sought to gain liberation by sacrificing his own Guru, " I shall indeed fulfill your desire. But, if my other disciples come to have the slightest suspicion of such a thing as you contemplate, you know your purpose cannot be achieved. They will not let you have me".

Ugrabhairava was overjoyed at his having secured so obliging a victim. Bowing down again and again at the feet of the Acharya in a show of great humility and deep gratitude, he said, " Master, I shall have the thing done in such a way that your disciples will come to know nothing of it. In the forest nearby, there is an uninhabited shrine of Bhairava. I shall have all the arrangements made there. At midnight, on the coming darkest night of the New Moon, you may come there. No one will be able to know anything of this".

Acharya approved of the plan. Ugrabhairava continued to stay on with the other disciples looking eagerly forward to the dark night of the new moon. A day or two before the appointed fateful night, he left Acharya's abode on the pretext of going somewhere on an errand. None of the disciples could divine anything sinister in the movements of Ugrabhairava.

The dark night of the new moon came. Seeing that his disciples all soundly asleep, Acharya rose and proceeded in the direction of the forest nearby. Ugrabhairava was waiting on the path to lead the Acharya to the place of sacrifice. He knew well the forest paths and despite the darkness and the density of the woods, easily guided the Acharya to the Bhairava shrine. All arrangements had been made for the cruel worship. The sacrificial fire was burning bright. The fearful-looking companions of Ugrabhairava, surpassing in hideousness the emissaries of the god of death, with tridents in their hands, were guarding the place. The scene was such as would make even a hero's flesh creep.

On reaching the desolate shrine, Ugrabhairava asked the Acharya, " Master, the auspicious moment has come. Please lay your head on the altar stone. I shall sever your head and shall offer it into the sacrificial fire ". In a mood of benign calm, Acharya said, " Please tarry a moment, I shall get into Samadhi soon, and then you may carry out your rites ". The Acharya then seated himself in Siddhasana and concentrated his mind on the supreme Parabrahman and in a few minutes was lost in Samadhi. This meant that he had withdrawn his inner self into regions far above the material and the mundane and was practically dead on the physical plane. Acharya was in one-pointed state of absolute identity with the All. Ugrabhairava took up a sword and the sharp steel flashed in the darkness.

Actually as the Acharya sat at the place of execution in front of the Kapalika, he entered the state of Asampragnata Samadhi which is the total absorption in Self, trance without any awareness of the objective world. It is only by the especial will of the God that a return to the normal plane is possible from this high state of bliss and beatitude.

In Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, Samadhi is stated to be principally of two types, the Samprajnata or Sabija Samadhi which is a state of superior absorption with a lingering awareness of the phenomenal world, a super-conscious withdrawal with however a seed of reaction embedded in it. The second is the Asamprajnata Samadhi or the Nirbija Samadhi, which is total unawareness of phenomena and the utter absence of any sprouting seed.

Samprajnata Samadhi is again divisible into four types:

1. the Samadhi which is attained through concrete objects is known as Savitarka.

2. the Samadhi which is induced by subtle and immaterial stuff and is beyond the region of discrimination is Savichara.

3. that which is attained through joy and is beyond argumentation and reassuming is called Saananda.

4. that which is attained through the awareness of ` I am ` and is above even joy is designated as Sasmita.

In the restraint of Samprajnata, everything is restrained. The utter unawareness of everything is termed as Asamprajnata or Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The consequence of this Samadhi is that man becomes pure and established in his true nature. According to sage Patanjali, Samprajnata is but the exterior aspect of Asamprajnata. Asamprajnata Samadhi is accompanied by the flowering of certain extraordinary talents in the system. They are, a knowledge of the past and the future, a capacity to interpret the sounds of all creatures, an awareness of the states of existence prior to the present one, a capacity to know the contents of other minds, the power to disappear altogether, acquiring strength like that of an elephant, the ability to comprehend subtle and far-away things, the conquest of thirst and hunger, the power to enter another body at will and also the attainment of the eight well-known Siddhis (Anima and others).

And then, an inconceivable thing happened which upset and altered everything. At that midnight hour, Padmapada was sleeping along with the other disciples. He had a dream. He dreamt that in the middle of a forest, wild and uninhabited, a Kapalika was severing the head of his adored Guru. It was a tense dream that woke him up in a shock. In utter helplessness, Padmapada engaged himself in praying most ardently to his chosen deity Sri Nrisimha, to save the life of his Acharya. Instantaneously was the prayer answered and the frightful, but effulgent form of the Lord appeared before Padmapada and entered his body. Bursting into a sudden and terrifying roar, Padmapada jumped up from his bed and rushed forth towards the forest. The thunderous roar, breaking the stillness of the night, roused everyone from slumber. The other disciples did not know what was on. Bewildered and confused beyond detail, they too ran behind Padmapada. The depths of the forest trembled to the resounding roar of the leaping lion-God. Ugrabhairava was about to perform his heartless killing. The raised sword was about to descend on the unresisting body of the Acharya. Just at that moment, the Nrisimha-inspired Padmapada reached the spot roaring, and in the twinkling of an eye, snatched the sword from Ugrabhairava's hand and beheaded the Kapalika in a flash. He then roared gain and again like a lion which had floored down a foe. The companions of the Kapalika raced off severally in mortal dread. Padmapada was still roaring on in ire. Soon, other disciples of the Acharya arrived at the spot and trembled in fear at the gruesome sight.

It is traditionally held that Nrisimha killed the Kapalika by tearing open the heart of the Kapalika with his thunder-bolt like sharp nails as he did in the case of the demon, Hiranyakashipu.

Acharya's self-absorption was broken by Padmapada's roaring. He opened his eyes only to behold the effulgent form of Sri Nrisimha inhabiting the body of Padmapada in a form terribly frightening even to the Gods. Delighted beyond measure at the rare opportunity of perceiving the lion-man manifestation of Narayana, Acharya with his heart filled with devotion, prayed with folded hands. Blessing the Acharya, Nrisimha Bhagavan soon went out of view leaving Padmapada's body senseless on the ground. When Padmapada regained consciousness, he bowed to the Acharya with all the joy of the sublime performance of a solemn duty, and told him in detail of the dream he had that night and also the vision of Sri Nrisimha. He added that he was totally unaware of the things that happened after he had the vision of Sri Narayana.

To this day, the successive Shankaracharyas of the lineage of Adi Shankara have continued to worship Nrisimha. Other than worshipping Srividya Mahatripurasundari and Sri Chandramouleshwara as the main deities, Lakshmi Nrisimha Upasana has also been traditionally followed by the Acharyas.

Indeed, it is not only that the Lord carries on His shoulders only the responsibility of ensuring the spiritual joy of those, whose coming is for the fulfillment of a divine mission, but the life and death also of such supermen are in a special way controlled by the will of the Lord. Acharya also expressed his sincere grief at the sudden death of the Kapalika. The supreme devotion to Guru, of Padmapada was such a brilliant example, thrilled the other disciples. They felt great reverence for Padmapada. Sureshwara could not control his joyous appreciation, and clasping Padmapada in a warm embrace, said, " It is because of you that we are able to see out dear Master alive now. Blessed are you and blessed indeed is your Guru Bhakti".

The severed head and the blood smeared body of the beheaded Kapalika presented a ghastly sight at the place. But it was a dark night, and the region around was a dense forest, with its paths unknown to the Acharya and his disciples. Acharya decided to spend the night in the Bhairava shrine with his disciples. But as was usual with him, he utilized the occasion for an inspiring discourse on Sanyasa or Renunciation. Addressing his disciples he said, " Dear ones, never should you slide down even a jot from the ideal of Sanyasa. Sanyasa is of two kinds - the principal and the subordinate or the primary and the secondary. Again the principal or the primary Sanyasa is of two kinds : one is the taking up of Sanyasa for the attainment of True knowledge, the other is the taking up of the Sanyasa after the attainment of True knowledge. The secondary type of Sanyasa may be subdivided into three - Satvic, Rajasic and Tamasic, based on the three Gunas, respectively representing equanimity, activity and inertia. The Sanyasa that is taken up for the attainment of true knowledge is called Vividisha Sanyasa, where the word Vividisha suggests the desire to know the Self in all its fullness. All of you have taken to this Vividisha Sanyasa. The important spiritual discipline in this mode of life is the hearing of the Truth, contemplation of the truth and the deep and steady meditation on that truth. As regards the performance of work, you should do only that amount of work that is of use for the mere maintenance of the physical body. A secondary aim in doing work is the ensuring of public welfare. But the Sanyasa which follows the attainment of Brahma Jnana is called Vidvat Sanyasa - the Sanyasa of realized souls, to remain ever only as the witness in the world, and never be attached to or linked with or identified with anything".

Thus, that night was spent in the continued instruction of several fundamental spiritual truths, and at dawn, they all returned to their abode.

By then, the news of the Kapalika's death had, like a fast-blowing wind, passed from mouth to mouth and all the people of Sri Shaila heard of it. The unique greatness of the Acharya, his extreme generosity and deep compassion, his spirit of self-sacrifice, and above all, his supernatural powers and abilities were talked about and became widely known. The Kapalika gang got frightened as a result of what had happened to Ugrabhairava and sought refuge at Acharya's feet. The ever-forgiving Acharya of course gave them an asylum.

Acharya's readiness to spare his head to satisfy the strange desire needs a word of comment. It is no exaggeration, whatever to remark that this action of his was the grandest evidence of his larger-than life glory. His readiness to make the highest sacrifice he was capable of for a cause which in itself, according to our sense of decency, was not noble, shows how well and securely he was established I the knowledge of Brahman, the self. To him, all was Brahman and every effort a divine function. What philosophical truth and instructions he gave forth through his writings to the world was just what he lived. This utter at-one-ment of preaching and performance, as revealed in the Ugrabhairava episode, is a high watermark of spiritual profundity. It is indicative of the attainment of the state of the Sthithaprajna-the man of steady wisdom or Brahmadrishti- the total residence in Brahman the Absolute and which the expounder of Gita, Sri Krishna describes as the state, having obtained which, no other attainment is regarded as superior to it and established in which one is not affected even by the heaviest of sorrows. Acharya was the living embodiment of this lofty ideal. This incident in the Acharya's life, which is worthy of being inscribed in letters of gold, also makes it clear how and in what manner a superman, established in the knowledge of the unity of reality tarries on the practical plane solely for the good of the people of the world. God-men of Acharya's caliber continue to live embodied only for the sake of the prosperity of the world and its folk. Established in the majesty of their self-hood, they eject from their being all longings other than the doing of good to others. They are void of desires, void of egoism, void of delusions. So long as they do inhabit, the physical frame, all their endeavor has only one aim and end- the lasting welfare of mankind. This has been amply manifested in the life of the great Acharya.

Preaching the excellence of the Vedanta doctrine, the Acharya proceeded from Sri Shaila to Gokarna, situated on the sea-coast in the Karnataka region. It is a very ancient and well-known place. Even Bhagavata has glorified this place saying, " Gokarna is a favorite resort of Shiva. His presence is tangibly felt and experienced here". Reaching Gokarna, the Acharya went straight to the shrine of Shiva to have a sight of the Lord. The Acharya made salutations to the great image and composed a hymn in adoration, " O slayer of Manmatha, the right half of your body has the luster of the clouds, while the left half reveals the brilliant flash of lightening. On your right you have the image of a deer eating the tender shoot of grass and on your left is a Shuka bird beautifying Bhagavati's hand( who is the one occupying the Lord's left half). Since your neck is in conjunction with that of Sri Devi, the poison sticking to your throat has lost its brightness. I meditate on the brilliance of your body. The splendor of your body is my own innate nature. We both are one and the same in the region of the Supreme Self which is of the essence of Infinite and for this reason, I am one with you".

It is said that Ravana, the king of demons once asked his Atma Linga in boon. On receiving it, as he proceeded towards Lanka, his capital, Ganesha tricked Ravana into placing the divine Linga on the floor. Once it touched the earth, no one was able to life it away from there. Ravana failed even after trying with all his might. In this effort, the Linga was distorted to the shape of a cow's ear, thus earning the name Gokarna to the place. The Shiva of great might, who subdued Ravana's pride is known as Mahabaleshwara. The place of Gokarna, which hosts the very soul of Shiva is called Bhookailasa, the Kailasa on earth.

Acharya stayed at that holy spot for three days. His fame and the account of his super-human powers and graces had preceded him to Gokarna even before his arrival there. There were many learned men in Gokarna but none dared confront the Acharya except Nilakantha Dixita, an eminent scholar and the chief protagonist of the Shaiva creed. Nilakantha was the author of many books of which was a commentary on the Brahma sutras in the light of the Shaivism. It is said that he also wrote a commentary on the Mahabharata. However, Nilakantha had to own a defeat at the hands of the Acharya and had to agree that the Acharya's stand was irrefutable and unassailable. With numerous arguments and citations from revealed scriptures, Acharya tore to shreds the Shaivaite position, and established the correctness of the Advaita Vedanta. The greatest Shaiva of that time, Nilakantha became a staunch votary of Advaita Vedanta, being convinced of the incompleteness of the faith he had upheld till then. Many renowned followers of his, like Haradatta and others, also became the Acharya's disciples. It is said that Nilakantha was so fully convinced by the Acharya, that he cast his earlier Shaivite commentary on the Brahma sutras into the waters.

From Gokarna, the Acharya went to another place of pilgrimage called Harihara or Harishankara. The place struck the Acharya as a junction of Vaikuntha and Kailasa, the celestial abodes of Narayana and Mahadeva. It was, as of to wipe out all false perceptions and narrowness from the minds of sectarian votaries that the Lord here was residing in the integrated form of Hari and Hara. The pilgrim center of Harihara was now so crowed with people, who came to have a look at the holy Acharya, that the place presented the spectacle of a solemn religious festival.

A huge multitude was always behind the Acharya wherever he went. though stooped in monistic realization, the Acharya was far too considerate to be always playing the note of Advaita. He was realistic enough to know that men are different in temperament, that their ability to digest high philosophy is not of the same level in all cases and so the Acharya taught the essence of the dualistic mode of worship to many and interested them in the adoration of the Gods, which are but different forms of the One Divine. Reigning princes, learned Brahmins, monks and aspirants from all walks of life followed this `pied piper', feeling in his holy proximity, the thrill of a pious pilgrimage. The Acharya was soon going towards the pilgrim center of Mookambika.

Sri Devi Mookambika is situated near the hills of Kodachadri. She is the three-in-one from of Mahakali-Mahalakshmi-Mahasaraswati. She is present in the form of a Jyotirlinga, which has a golden line separating the Linga into two halves, representing Shiva and Shakti. The Skanda Purana extols the glory of this holy place. It is a Siddha Kshetra. Even to this day, this place is free from crimes such as robbery due to the living presence of the extremely powerful Goddess. It is said that Acharya reached this place in the night, when the Goddess was roaming around in the ferocious form of Mahachandi. Acharya pleased her with his sweet hymns and then she appeared to him as Mahatripurasundari, the most beautiful one in the three worlds. As per her instructions, the Acharya established a Srichakra in front of the Jyotirlinga. He also established an incredibly beautiful image of Sri Devi as she appeared in front of him. To this day, Keralites worship Sri Devi as their Kula Devi and make it a sacred religious duty to visit her at least once a year. It is also said in the Puranas that sacred duties like Japa, Yagna, penance, worship etc done at this place gives thousand times more benefit than other places. It is believed that all incarnations of Sri Devi like Mahishamardini, Kaushiki, Mahalakshmi, Bhramari merged into the divine Shiva-Shakti Jyotirlinga after the completion of their missions. Thus the Goddess Mookambika is said to be the congregation of all Gods and Goddesses.

In Mookambika Kshetra, Acharya was approached by a couple who were torn with grief. Their only son was dead and they felt that only a divine being like the Acharya could wipe their tears off. They placed the dead-body of their son at the feet of the Acharya and with heart- rending wails, implored him to bring back their son to life. Acharya spoke soothing words of comfort to them and with his eyes closed, prayed to the Divine Mother Mookambika in a hymn whose melting tune mingled with the sad notes of the bereaved parents and filled the atmosphere with a serene melancholy. The assembled crowd looked on at this scene in mute wonder. Suddenly the cold limbs of the dead child showed signs of animation, and life and activity returned to the stilled frame. Consciousness crept back to the frozen organs and the blood of awareness passed through the tender flesh, and the child throbbed and cried as if awakened from slumber. The miracle was greeted with a tumultuous uproar of joy by the assembly of sympathetic onlookers. The Acharya bowed down to the Divine Mother in gratitude and slipped into deep mediation.

This act of giving back life to a dead child is but an instance of the outflow of the Acharya's compassion and of the depth of his pity and tenderness to relieve human misery in whatever form. Whatever he did, he did not for demonstrating anything of his supernatural powers. Even so, he was but an instrument, not self-willing and self- acting, but just lending himself to the operation of the Divine Will. In the lives of all great men, we come across incidents which strike us as miracles and make us marvel. But the great ones never do anything in order to bring name and fame to themselves. The sight of sorrow touches the springs of their compassion and they react with an exuberance of mercy. The mighty masters of the spirit live on in the world in the utter identification with the divine attributes of God. Their volition is at one with the Divine Will. And therefore what to common folk appears as a miracle is but accomplished easily by their mere wishing and hardly a miracle to these masters of the spirit. They function as instruments in the hands of the Omnipotent One and work for the good of humanity in all possible ways. It is through them that the mercy of God flows down on mankind and it is because of their contact that the dust of the earth is rendered pure and blessed.

The tidings of a dead child restored to life spread far and wide through word of mouth and brought countless men and women to Mookambika from all parts of the country. The wonder-yogi was lionized by tens and thousands of admiring and applauding folk. The simple, unassuming, child like demeanor of one who was the possessor of such astounding powers and lofty realizations was a cause of endless amazement to people. No less amazing was his easy and simple exposition of the high flights of Advaita Vedanta. His Advaita was not a lone, unapproachable, high-perched stand, but accommodated and contained in it all genuine views and theories. His stand was that by the earnest and sincere pursuit of the paths of all honest philosophic schools the state of Advaita knowledge could be reached.

The Advaita is the last word in spiritual effort. Rarely anyone is found competent to be a votary of Advaita from the very beginning of the spiritual life. All practices and adorations are but steps to the top rung of Advaita. Advaita is the doctrine which holds that Brahman is the ever-pure, the all-knowledge, the ever-free, the all-joy which is beyond all attributes and all actions. Brahman is the sole Truth. Everything other than it is the product of Avidya, of illusion. Avidya is an indescribable divine power which is neither Sat or Asat i.e. neither existing nor non-existing, it is the inexpressible Divine power of illusive ignorance. The soul's liberation consists in the awareness of the identity of the self with the attributeless Brahman. When this awareness of the identity of the self with the attributeless Brahman is attained, the falsity that is Avidya and all its concomitants become fully apparent and vanish.

Mookambika had two titles to fame. It was a holy pilgrim center, and it was also a center of learning. Many scholars lived there and carried on studies and researches. Because of this, Sarada Peetham was established there (This was existent before the arrival of the Acharya. This is not to be confused with Sarada Peetham that Acharya established later in Sringeri. This may simply mean a seat of learning). That is, the place was venerated as the seat of the Goddess of learning. It was open to a scholar of eminence to occupy that seat provided he could claim high proficiency and deep scholarship of an uncommon degree and to an unparalleled extent, and could humble down all the locals in debate. Non had till then proved himself competent to occupy the august seat. The seat stood proudly unoccupied, a challenge to scholarship and genius. The local scholars challenged Acharya to a debate. Within no time, all the local scholars were easily vanquished by the Acharya. At last, an old Brahmin said, " I have a test for the Acharya. A great monk should be all-knowing in the literal sense of the term. I, therefore, hope the Acharya will satisfactorily pass my test". Being invited to state what his test was, the Brahmin said, " Somewhere in the area where this large meeting is being held, I have hidden an iron pin. Let the Acharya cast this ring in such a way as to make it fall encircling the pin". And he handed over a ring to the Acharya. The kind of test the Acharya was put to amused everyone. However the Acharya was not alarmed. In his usual calm way he said, " Let it be as you wish. I take up your challenge and shall meet your test".

With the ring in his hand, the Acharya remained meditating for a second. Then with his eyes still closed, he cast the ring. And right in the center of the ring where it had fallen was the iron pin. The scholars were amazed and made a unanimous request to the Acharya to ascend the Sarada Peetham. " There is nothing he does not know, nothing he cannot do", they said to themselves, " He is verily a Sarvajna, an all-knowing one". The great Acharya stayed there for a few days and then proceeded with his disciples towards Sriveli.