Harshini Brahmavar/Akshata Shetty
Pics: Pareekshith Shet/Umesh Marpalli
Daijiworld Media Network - Udupi (SP)
Udupi, Jan 22: Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji, head of Pejawar Math here, who has re-written history by taking up his fifth term of Paryaya at the age of 85, is unique not only because of his age and the number of Paryayas officiated by him. He is frank, is relatively modern in his views on untouchability and crossing of seas by Swamijis, and happens to be a national figure because of his association with Vishwa Hindu Parishad and many political leaders of national stature.
Daijiworld picked up the threads of Swamiji's past, present, and future plans besides leading him down the memory lane. In an exclusive interview given to Harshini Brahmavar, Sri Vishweshateertha spoke frankly about what he was through and what are his future plans.
1. How was your life before being initiated into the religious order? Did you have any unfogettable events?
A: (Smiling) "My childhood days were very good. There are a number of unforgettable experiences of my young days. Out of them, the one that I cannot ever ignore, is the occasion on which which I accidentally fell into a pond and drowned. I was helpless as no one was nearby to help, and my parents were far away. Then a boy from the neighbourhood shouted for help, at which my parents camevrunning and saved me. That boy saved my life,"he recalled. He further explained that his saviour was a boy belonging to a dalit family, but from whom the former would have been no more. The practice of untouchability was widely prevalent then, and the boy was afraid of coming into contact with me. I was six then, and the thought of why untouchability is in vogue and why people from dalit families should not be touched hovered in my mind then, and I had raised questions on this issue then.
2. Who inspired you to become Pejawar Swamiji from being Venkataramana Bhat? What would you want to say about your Guru?
A: "I was introduced into this line when I was very young. I was just seven then. No one encouraged me to become Swamiji. The then Guru of this Math made a decision about it during the Upanayanam (sacred thread) ceremony, after verifying my horoscope, and at his insistence, I was ordained. I fell in line with that decision.
3. For the first time in the history of the eight Maths here, you have ascended Paryaya throne for the fifth time. What do you feel about this achievement?
A: I am happy about it. It happened because of the divine grace. It is an opportunity provided by God. I deem this the result of blessings of Lord Srikrishna, Madhwacharya, and my Guru, Sri Vadiraja.
4. You have got the chance to perform puja to the presiding deity of Sri Krishna Math for the fifth time. Any miracles during performing puja to Lord Krishna?
A: I am happy about that. When worshipping Lord Krishna on an occasion, flower placed on the idol tumbled down as if to advice me to ascend the throne. That can be taken as a miracle.
5. Do you keep remembering Sri Vadiraja, who was instrumental in removing the concept of sanctity associated with only some castes, and in showing a new path?
A: True. I keep chanting his name.
6. You have been treating people from all religions equally, which is testified by the fact that all communities including Muslims and Christians offered Horekanike for your Paryaya.
A: It is true that I am dedicated to Hinduism. At the same time, I have maintained cordial relationship with people following other faiths. I have taken part in several programmes organized by churches and Muslims. I have also organized harmony meets in Srikrishna Math. My aim has always been to see that people belonging to all the religions live harmoniously, and I am continuing with this policy.
7. What are your plans for your Paryaya? Do you have any plans for students, towards whom you are particularly affectionate?
A: Yes. I have several projects in mind. Important among them is setting up of residential school at Pajaka. My desire to bring this dream into reality within the two years of my Paryaya period at the birthplace of Madhwacharya. We have already set the ball rolling, and our plan is to nurture it on a grand scale in course of time.
8. You have started a box to enable people to get rid of vices. Don't you think it would have been a novel idea to start a campaign to end the practice of feeding higher caste people separately in the Math?
A: Actually now there are no separate lines for different people. No one is forced to sit in a particular spot during feasts. Neither do we offer varying food to different people nor treat anybody shabbily. For example, those who follow Basavanna's preaching say that people cannot sit with those consuming liquor and non-vegetarian food during community feasts. It is left to individuals. We do not insult anyone.
9. Madhwacharya had preached that caste in which a person is born does not decide the level of his spiritual achievements, and that the achievements and nature of a person decide his stature. Do you think this advice has remained confined to religious books? Dont you feel that the religious seats propagating Madhwa principles should introspect on this issue?
A: Yes. During my two years, I will see that more and programmes that are devotional in nature get precedence. I will lay more stress on devotion.
10. At this advanced age, you are agile, and are always engaged in one activity or the other. Everyone is surprised by this. What is the secret behind it?
A: The food restrictions I follow, my lean body, exercises, the austerities I undertake,and grace of god have enabled me to remain active.
11. What do you expect from your disciples. People are often heard saying that teacher andv student should be like you.
A: Other than financial support, I want my disciples to work as and when occasion arises by using their individual skills and abilities to the fullest.
12. Do you believe in the saying that soul gets liberated when the concerned work for the welfare of the world? On which religious heads should lay added importance, spiritual practice or social concern and commitment for general welfare?
A: The first preference should be for spiritual things. Social service activities can supplement this activity. Both are needed. As per the diktat of Madhacharya, everyone including family persons and those who have sacrificed worldly pleasures have to do social service without fail before they can get liberated. I am committed to both.
13. You have been known to be always ready to fight for environment whenever it faces danger. You have also supported anti Netravati river diversion project movement. Many have been inspired by you to fight for this cause.
A: A committee of experts should be formed to look into all aspects of this project. During the next three months, I will be putting this to practice.
14.What is your opinion about the nod given by central and state governments for the expansion of UPCL project in spite of popular opinion against it?
A: Expansion can be affected. But issues that are bothering people like fly ash, drinking water problems, farmers facing problem in raising crops etc should be addressed first.
15. What is your opinion about your Paryaya period having come to be known as green Paryaya?
A: I always have concern for environment. Junior Swamiji of the Math, Sri Vishwaprasanna, too has evinced lot of interest in this aspect. Therefore, I have restarted the concept of vegetation revolution. Discussions are under way about these plans, and in the coming days, I will be paying more attention to this concept.
16: What is your clear stand on Madesnana ritual? You have issued a number of statements on this issue.
A: I have already spelt out my clear cut stand on this issue. Any ritual that harms the society should be stopped. Because of Madesnana, the issue of Brahmins claiming superiority crops up. At the same time, Yedesnana which I support, does not suffer from these problems. Yedesnala involves rolling of devotees on the food offered to the Lord. No one gets insulted by following this practice, nor does it give rise to any rivalry or misunderstanding. I do not insist that people should perform Madesnana. But those who want can perform this ritual. This is my opinion.
17. What is your take on 'Achche Din' of Narendra Modi? What do you expect for the country from such a leader?
A: I hope that the country will come across 'Achche Din' at the earliest. I pray for the success of this vision. It is not possible to achieve everything at a stroke. There are opportunities. The level of 'Acche Din' achieved so far has not been to my satisfaction. I pray that it will get realized soon. No special development works have been executed, and prices have not come down to the extent expected. Corruption continues to flourish. We have not been able to bring back black money. Let our country grow as a strong and prosperous nation. I hope that Modi will succeed in bringing strength and opulence to the country.
18. When there are wrongs in political issues you oppose them and pass your comments. Do you think these things should bother Swamijis?
A: I normally do not poke my nose into issues which are not related to me. But whenever the necessity arises, I express my opinion. In politics too I remain confined to giving suggestions to the desired level. So my opinion is given only when it is felt necessary.
19. The court has opined that Puthige Swamiji and Shiroor Swamiji can adopt their junior Swamijis. What is your opinion about this controversy?
A: I do not have too much information about this issue and I am not aware about it. All the Swamijis have the power to choose their juniors. They can do so at anytime they desire, and it is left to their choice. There is no confusion on this aspect.
20. Your fifth Paryaya celebrations have concluded on a high note. What were your expectations about it?
A: I did not have too much expectations. Everything went on well beyond our expectations. I thought my fifth Paryaya celebrations would be like the fourth Paryaya. But people, out of their enthusiasm, have turned it into a grand affair.
21. Puttige Math Swamiji, Sri Sugunendrateertha, had decided to present you with a title. But you withdrew from accepting the honour because of pressures. What is your opinion? Have you decided to receive the said title on a future date?
A: Although he has issued press statement on this matter, he has not met me personally. I do not know any additional information on this issue. Moreover, no discussions were ever held on this issue. He neither came nor handed over the title to me. This is not a major issue at all. No dialogues were held about this subject. About agreeing to accept the honour, let us consider it later.
22. Among the eight Maths here, there have been several differences of opinions and misunderstandings. Do you have plans to address this issue during your Paryaya term?
A: I am ready to invite everyone. But time should be opportune. I will examine the situation and invite one by one or together as it demands. However, it is left to their discretion as to whether they want to come together or not. My desire is to unite them all.
23. What are yout plans on cleanliness during the two years?
A: I have already given clear instructions to activists. I will work after watching where cleanliness is wanting. Already we have been already been giving more attention to this issue.
24. You are aware that leader of Paryaya Pejawar Blood Bank unit, Anwar, had received threatening calls. Have you initiated any measures in this respect?
A: There is no need to give too much importance to this call. Nothing untoward might happen. It is the responsibility of police personnel to provide protection. It is their duty to see that Anwar is not harmed.
25. If you had not given up wordly pleasures and become an ascetic, what would you have turned out to be?
A: Perhaps if I did not become an ascetic, perhaps I would have studied Sanskrit in depth, passed Sanskrit examination, and would have worked as a school teacher. That all!