I consistently observed one special person over thirty five years and was one of his secret admirers until recently when I spoke to him for the first time, and then my reverence multiplied many times over. What I observed and learnt from him left me impressed and inspired to serve with discipline and dedication.
I recently met Vishwa priya tirtha swamiji, head of the Adamar mutt, one of the principal eight temples that manage the worship of Lord Krishna in Udupi. I grew up seeing him lead a simple life, chant alone in the temple during early hours with great intensity and prayerfulness. I would also see him incessantly chant the Holy Names of Lord Narayana; even while talking to others, he’d softly utter the Holy Names. That had become as natural to him as breathing is to us. At the same time, he’s always present in his conversations; whoever meets him is touched by his endearing personality.
Vishwa priya tirtha swamiji took sannyasa, the vow of celibacy and selfless service to God and humanity, in June 1972. Over last forty three years he renders tireless service in the temple and to his community members who are spread all over India. His day begins around two thirty in the morning. He completes his chanting, prayers and worship of the Lord by nine in the morning. He then does yoga, keeps himself abreast with current affairs, teaches vedic scriptures to a few students, and studies till lunch. After half an hour of rest, he meets guests, and rushes off to give class in the evening. Then again he meets guests and does his night puja, before retiring, usually after 10.00 pm. This has been his schedule for decades. He offers simple, practical tips to people who approach him with questions regarding family, business, or spiritual life.
We were a group of five and as we touched his feet, he chanted ‘Narayana’, Lord’s Names, and refused to take a monetary donation, saying we better offer it at the temple donation box. Outside, two young boys observed our group curiously, as they were supposed to meet him for their daily class and instructions. He spoke fluent English, and Hindi which was also a revelation to me.
His strictness with himself is well known but I was amazed to see he’s accommodating and lenient with others. One of our friends expressed that he’s unable to devote so much time to Krishna consciousness because of his family responsibilities to which swamiji said that at this point of time, his service to family was important. Krishna would understand his predicament, he reassured. “However when your children are old enough and your responsibilities taken care of, you could increase your spiritual commitments”, said Vishwa Priya Tirtha swamiji, “and at that time if you are complacent, Krishna would not accept your excuses”
During our two hour conversation, I expressed my difficulty in controlling my tongue; I love to eat palatable foodstuffs, and I asked him if he could share some tips by which I could regulate my palate. He blushed like a child, and then laughed innocently, “We are vaishnavas, and we love to honour Krishna’s Prasad. I too eat a lot, and am unable to say ‘no’ when there are so many delicacies.” He again laughed disarmingly and charmed my heart. For someone so senior and well acclaimed for his discipline and rigorous spiritual practises, it was the uncommon simplicity that touched my heart. Throughout the discussions, not once he was instructive, although he was qualified by age and spiritual position. He spoke on principles, and as he rushed for his class, he requested us to pray for him.
As we left the quiet Adamar mutt at the corner of the car street in Udupi temple complex, I was happy to have met a great soul. I also realized why he was spiritually so advanced and attractive to many seekers. His unpretentious, simple nature makes one think spiritual success is within our reach. Notwithstanding his intense practises, he made Krishna consciousness appear a process for the simple hearted. I left humbled, and inspired, eager to follow his footsteps.