The Leela of Devotion
My grandfather was my first guru
ROAD TO THE THIRUMANJANA GOPURAM
PILLAR OF NARASIMHASWAMY
from the epic of Prahalada
He told Me stories from the temple pillars
When I was just three, My grandfather would carry Me on his shoulders to the Arunācaleśvara Temple. He would take Me around the temple and tell Me all the great epic stories – Purāṇas. I was fortunate enough to have such an amazing person as My grandfather. I still remember him holding Me on his shoulders. He would take Me to every pillar in the Tiruvannamalai Temple and explain the stories of the figures carved on them. Some of the great stories I heard from his own mouth are: Mārkaṇḍeya, the great Saint Kannappa, Nāciketa and BhaktaPrahlāda.
MY GRANDFATHER’s RICE SHOP
In Mandi Street, Tiruvannamalai
MY MATERNAL GRANDFATHER
with colleague merchants
His sincerity and integrity to pūjā
I have never seen him miss his pūjā; cold, cough, family reasons, nothing will make him miss it. From the time I remember Me, I used to be with him for pūjā.
I learnt how not to settle ‘down’ in life
He went walking to his office in the morning, and attended to his daily office routine. Till the last day, he had the bunch of keys, meaning the control over the whole organization, which he built from the beginning. He came home from office one Saturday afternoon as usual by walk, felt uneasy and rested. They had to admit him in the hospital. He passed away on Monday. So literally, till the day he died, he attended office!
When I saw My grandfather, My great-grandmother, all of them, I saw that the concept of ‘settling down’ never existed for them. It is good that I was brought up by them. Now, these modern-day IT people think, “I will work till forty and then retire. I will make money, buy a flat and a car, and settle down by forty.” It means that even while they are studying, acquiring knowledge, the goal is just to acquire some comforts and luxury and drop out! This is the kind of inspiration they have about knowledge and life. Then, their knowledge will be so heavy on them. They will only try to constantly find cunning methods of how to know less and make more money, because the purpose becomes money, wealth, luxury, comfort. The purpose of being active or having knowledge should not be just acquiring some wealth, or luxury or comforts. I am not saying don’t acquire. I am only saying that alone should not be the purpose.
He fed the Sādhus everyday
My mental setup of giving food to people, I got from My grandfather. He would go to the temple every day, search for sādhus (monks) near the temple, bring them home, make them sit down and recite some stotras (devotional songs) or verses from the Purāṇas, like ŚivaPurāṇa; offer them ārati (ceremonial waving of lamps); offer them dakṣiṇa (money), then feed them, and only after that, he would eat. He never taught Me anything, but he was such a strong influence on Me!
MY GRANDFATHER’S HOUSE
Kanni Kovil Street, Tiruvannamalai – where the Sādhus were fed everyday.
I learned reading and singing from him
I learned the habit of reading a few pages of the sacred scriptures before falling asleep from My grandfather. He used to go to sleep at midnight, but even at that time, he would sit and chant Tirujnanasambandhar’s Thevaram before sleeping.