by Romaharshā (“lady with horripilation”)
Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati (also called “Maha Periva,” meaning “a great person” in Tamil), the former head of Kanchi Peetham in Tamil Nadu (India), was known for his simplicity, erudition in scriptures, and more importantly, as a God-realized soul. He traveled across India on foot, camping at various places while his traveling disciples arranged for the daily worship of Chandramouleeshvara (Shiva Lingam handed down the lineage by Sri Sankaracharya). The following is an incident narrated to me by a disciple of the great saint.
Once when in Andhra Pradesh (India), Maha Periva decided to camp for a few days. The disciples, to their predicament, found no bilva trees (whose leaves are used to worship Shiva) around. The next morning, Maha Periva was informed about the unavailability of bilva leaves. Eventually, someone spotted a basketful of bilva leaves outside the camp from an unknown source. That day’s worship was done. The same event happened the next day too. On the third day, a 12-year old boy was found to be the source of those leaves. The boy was taken to the saint who thanked him for the leaves. He asked the boy how he knew to pluck the leaves in the right way to be suitable for the worship.
The boy said, “My dad taught me to identify the leaves and how to pluck them.” Maha Periva was immensely pleased with the orphaned boy, who was working for a landlord. Maha Periva asked the boy what he wanted. The boy said, “I have three wishes.” The first wish was to sing in the presence of Maha Periva everyday while he camped there. Second, to be allowed to bring bilva leaves, and his last wish would be asked before Maha Periva left the camp.
Maha Periva agreed to all of them. The time for Maha Periva to leave the camp arrived. The boy hesitated to remind Maha Periva of his third wish, but Maha Periva asked him about it. The boy nervously responded, “My dad taught me that don’t ask trifles of a great saint. So I want you to bless me that this be my last birth.”
People were stunned to hear this from a little boy, but Maha Periva solemnly said, “May that be so.” He asked the landlord to keep him informed about the boy’s welfare.
After a few years, one summer day at 1 PM in Kanchi, Maha Periva suddenly left his seat and walked out of the Math towards the nearby temple pond. He took a dip in it and then meditated on the scorching stairs for an hour. Then he went into the pond for a dip and again meditated for an hour. This continued till 7 PM. His disciples were puzzled by this action. After 7 PM, Maha Periva came back to Math inquiring periodically if any telegram was in. The next morning, a telegram from the landlord arrived, which said that the boy had been ill for a couple days and died yesterday around 1 PM. Maha Periva, to keep his promise to the boy, meditated to ensure that this was the boy’s last birth. For as per his destiny, the boy still had a few more births to go through, but because he surrendered himself to his Guru, it became the Guru’s responsibility to take care of him.