Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Acharya & The Muslim Bhakta


His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sri Chandrashekhara Bharathi adorned the transcendental throne of Sringeri Sri Sharada Peetham as the 34th Pontiff for a period of 42 years from 1912 to 1954. He was a great Jeevanmuktha whose very thought was enough to his devotees as a blessing. Fortunate were the few who had actually seen him and received blessings personally. It is one of the glories of the Sringeri Shankara Mutt that more than other great foundations like the Papacy and the Caliphate, all the personages who had successfully occupied the position as the Pontiff have been men both of profound learning and unsullied and lofty character.

When His Holiness was staying for some months in Kalady during 1939-40, the Travancore Government, then a Princely State made all arrangements for His convenient stay. The Government had posted a posse of police officials. Even while on duty they could not be recognized as police officers, as they were clad in a dhoti and upper cloth. They could easily be mistaken for ordinary devotees of the Swamiji. The Inspector General of Police in Travancore at that time was one Mr. Abdul Kareem Suhrawardy who had previously served in the Punjab and who had earned a name there as a strict, honest and efficient officer. He had been specially chosen and posted to Travancore to keep in check some troubling elements in the State. Kareem had heard about the greatness of His Holiness and expressed a desire to meet the Swamiji. He wrote to the Mutt authorities that he would come on a particular evening to meet His Holiness.

At the appropriate time Kareem came. He took off his shoes and socks, entered the hall and offered obeisance to His Holiness with bended knees. His Holiness, after extending him his usual smile of welcome, accosted him. The conversation which went on in Tamil, when translated in English, runs like this:

His Holiness: Even the behaviour of the police officers on duty here gives me an impression that the Head of the department must be a very noble and pious soul
Abdul Kareem [A.K.]: Yes, Sir. It is the innate goodness of Your Holiness that is responsible for that impression. As a matter of fact, I am known to be a very hard and strict officer.
His Holiness: I see that you talk Tamil well. I was informed that you come from Punjab.
A.K.: I was in Punjab for a long time but my native village adjoins Kodiyalam in Trichy District. In fact, Kodiyalam Vasudeva Ayyangar and my father were intimate friends, so much so that whenever Ayyangar was away from his village, he would ask my father to look after the temples managed by him. Really, therefore, I belong to the Tamil country but exigencies of public service took me far away from it.
H.H. Is it so? How many years more of service have you still got?
A.K. Not more than a year
H.H. Have you made a deep study of your religion?
A.K. I have not. I cannot say that I know even fundamental doctrines or that I practice its tenets properly. From my boyhood I have intense faith that there is a God, that He is great and that nothing can happen without His knowledge or without His will. This faith has sustained me throughout my life and has prevented me from straying from the path of rectitude.
H.H. All religion is meant only for that. It is not necessary to learn the intricacies of any religion. It is more than sufficient if we have an abiding faith in an Omnipresent, All-knowing and All-powerful God who is ever watching us and is ever ready to guide and help us. It has been a pleasure to me to meet you.
A.K. I am grateful to you Holiness for these words of encouragement. But I am conscious at the same time that I have not spent any time in religious studies.
H.H. If you want such studies, you will have ample time when you retire. Though it is never too late to learn, it seems to me that old age is better spent in practicing what we have already learnt than in trying to learn anything anew.
A.K. That is also my feeling. Having been in active service during the major part of my life, I do not think it will be possible for me to take to studious habits.
H.H. I am sure that you would have thought of your future after your retirement and to one like you of such active habits it will be impossible to spend time idly without use either to yourself or to others. Have you formed any idea about this?
A.K. One day I happened to think over this matter somewhat seriously. I wanted to spend my retirement in some useful work, useful not in the ordinary sense but some work which would be most acceptable to God. It struck me that, if I devote myself to the service of that section of humanity, which many so-called humanitarians feel it repulsive to serve, God would be more pleased than if I engage myself in the normal activities of charity. This idea fascinated me so much that I have decided upon opening a Leper Asylum and upon personally attending to the patients there. It remains to be seen whether God will give me the life and energy to carry out this idea.
H.H. You have rightly realized that such service of the lowest in the scale of suffering humanity will be most acceptable to God. The idea is very noble one and God will surely help you in carrying it out. Though in your modesty you would not accept it, your ideas quite confirm my impression that you are a noble and pious soul
A.K. I pray for your Holiness’ gracious blessings to make me so acceptable to God. I fear I have taken much of your time.
H.H. It has been a pleasure to me to meet you.
A.K. God willing, I hope to pay another visit. I am a Muslim and I was very diffident about meeting a Head of the Hindu Religion When I come next time, I hope to spend more time with you, for, your easy accessibility and abundant grace have made me feel quite at home with your Holiness.
H.H. So be it.
A.K. When I come again, may I bring my wife with me?
H.H. Is she not Gosha?
A.K. She is. But not to your Holiness
H.H. Yes. You may bring her. May God Bless You!


ARTICLE NO. 402---His Holiness Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati and hisMuslim devotee Abdul Kareem
Created: Friday, August 3, 2007


At August 27, 2015 at 12:37 PM , Blogger NTonse said...

The police officer mentioned here is my grandfather! Would love to know the source of the interview and be able to share more information about my nana with more members of the family!


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