He was one of the leading lights of the Dharma Samsad of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which was in the forefront of the Ram Temple movement at Ayodhya. Yet no secular, liberal politician would dare call him a Hindu bigot or communal. He was a founding leader of the Go-Raksha movement for protecting and saving cows. No Leftist would say he was semi-barbarian as Karl Marx referred to the tradition of cow worship in India.
Virtually standing alone in the spiritual fraternity he dared the frightening Emergency and dictatorship in 1975 and published a protest letter declaring, “As long as my Dharmic activities are not affected, I am even ready to serve a prison sentence.” The Emergency regime would not touch him.
When some Hindu sects demanded minority status, he declared, “if all Hindu sects demand similar status, only Muslims will be the majority in the country.” No liberal or secular would object to his truthful statement. This was Vishwesha Theertha of Pejawar Mutt known to millions of his followers and multi-millions across India and the world as Pejawar Swami who attained siddhi on Sunday morning. How is it that he was perceived and treated differently when he took positions that conflicted with highly powerful opinions or persons? To answer in one word: penance, tapas as the ancient Hindu tradition would put it.
The 33rd acharya in the Guru parampara to lead the Pejawar Mutt, Vishwesha Theertha became a sanyasi and later after the prescribed training, it’s head. He adorned the position with such dignity and character that he became the icon of not just the philosophical peer Mutts of the Madhwa tradition but for all such and similar traditions all over India. In a spiritual life spanning over 80 years from the age of seven, during which he had seen 1,000 full moons (Chandra darshan), which is regarded as a great landmark in the life of sannyasin. He lived the life of a true celibate, a harmless and ideal sanyasi — unattached to fame, power and position, including his own.
It is comparatively easy in the ancient Hindu tradition to become and be a sanyasi giving up all power and possession. But it is difficult to be a sanyasi and head an institution with power and possession and safeguard and accrete both, yet not be enamoured of it. It is relatively easy to be detached, but impossibly challenging to be detached in attachment. It calls for a spiritually perfected technique and disciplined state of mind of a Karma yogi to achieve detached attachment.
On how to achieve detached attachment, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa gave the example of how one should apply oil on the hands while peeling a jackfruit to avoid getting stuck in the sticky residue. Gnana yogis like the Pejawar Swami practised Karma yoga, doing one’s duty without getting attached to the outcome. That was how he was handling the Pejawar Mutt without being affected or attached to it. This is the discipline of Karma yoga in a Gnana yogi. The Pejawar Swami was Gnana tapasvi who practised Karma yoga.
A gnani in service of the needy
The general perception is that a Hindu gnani keeps off the society and it’s contemporary needs. Pejawar Swami was a gnani with a difference. He was in the streets, in heat and cold, to help the society and inspired millions to contribute to the cause he appealed for. Swamiji constructed 150 homes for those rendered homeless when a terrible cyclone hit the Hamsaladeevi area in Andhra Pradesh.
When Latur was hit by an earthquake, he contributed immensely to the rehabilitation of the devastated people. He instituted the Janakalyan Nidhi for providing relief for the poor and the downtrodden. For him, everything was Sri Krishna. He built a 50-bed hospital, Krishna Chikitsalaya, for the treatment of the poor and the needy. He also built an orphanage, Sri Krishna Sevadhama. He founded an Ayurveda college to impart training in traditional Indian health science.
Despite being a traditionalist rooted in a spiritual and ritual heritage that goes back thousands of years, which could distance people mentally from the modern world, he actively promoted contemporary education and knowledge. He established science, arts and commerce colleges in Siddapura and a primary school and a pre-university college as a model institution in his birthplace of Ramakunja. These institutions are his symbolic efforts to inspire those deep-rooted in tradition not to ignore the contemporary world and needs.
Saints like Pejawar Swami are millennial seers in the tradition of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Maharishi Aurobindo, Ramana Maharishi and Kanchi Mahaswami, to mention a few, who are born from time to time, as Sri Krishna says, to guide the people who are being swayed by contemporary compulsions back to the roots — the eternal or Sanatana dharma.
(The author is a commentator on political and economic affairs)