A Jivan Mukta is rare. Some time, in some country a great soul takes birth. One must be fortunate even to get a glimpse of such a being, for it ennobles his life. To this parampara of jivanmuktas belonged Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati, the 34th Acharya of Sringeri Sharada Peetham.
Laureate among the scholars who were patronised by Sri Nrisimha Bharati VIII was Ishwari Subba Shastri. Later in life he retired to the Himalayas as a recluse. His only son Gopala Shastri inherited his father’s flair for learning and outshone him in his detachment. His spouse Lakshamma bore him eleven children and each of them died in their infancy. The couple sought the blessings of Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Swamiji whom they looked up to for everything. When they met the Acharya, due to his spiritual insight, he could see the happy events in store not only to their family but also for the Peetham. It is said that the Acharya, while assuring them of the success of their pilgrimage, added that it would be in the best interest of their to-be-born son to be dedicated to Goddess Sharadamba.
On their pilgrimage to Gokarna on a Shivaratri day, Lord Mahabaleshwara appeared in the dreams of Gopala Shastri and Lakshamma, and assured them that they would be blessed with an illustrious son. Their hearts were filled with ecstasy. Soon the happy tidings came, Lakshamma had conceived her twelfth child. On Sunday, October 16, 1892, a son was born to this pious couple. It was the auspicious day of Ashwayuja Bahula Ekadasi (the eleventh day of the dark fortnight) in the lunar year Nandana. On the eleventh day the rituals of jatakarma and namakarana were done. The son was named “Sri Narasimha’. There is little doubt that Narasimha was an exceptional luminary who was born to teach, born to redeem. Even from his boyhood days he was introverted, had no attraction for the objects of the world.
He had his board and lodging in the house of Srikanta Shastri, the Agent of the Mutt. He was very fond of chanting the hymn Mookapanchasati. Once, while on way to the market, he was so immersed in the composition that he proceeded far beyond the limits of the Sringeri township. It was only when the recitation ended that Narasimha realised he had come far out.
Narasimha’s memory was prodigious, his intelligence was sparkling and his conduct was humble and simple. He was admitted to the local Anglo-vernacular school run by the Government. Narasimha used to study Sanskrit at home and English at school. The Brahmopadesa of Narasimha was performed when he was eight. He was regular in the performance of sandhyavandana three times each day and agnikarya, worship of fire god, twice daily.
Narasimha excelled in his class. In his twelfth year, Narasimha took the lower secondary examination and topped the list in the first division. However, Narasimha was just not made for a worldly career. He was the child of God born to adorn the Sharada Peetham. Narasimha changed over to Sadvidya Sanjeevini Patashala of the Peetham, according to the express wishes of Sri Sacchidananda Shivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati Swamigal.
During his tours, the Acharya established in 1910 an institution of higher Vedantic training, ‘Bharatiya Girvana Praudha Vidya Abhivardhani Pathasala.’ His automatic choice for the course was his special student, Narasimha for higher studies in Mimamsa and Vedanta. He prayed that His disciple and successor should embody in His person all the great traditions of knowledge and spirituality that the Peetham had stood for, and true to His samkalpa all of them found their abode and fulfillment in the disciple who ascended the Vyakhyana Simhasana under the name of Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati on April 7, 1912.
The new Jagadguru gathered round Him veteran scholars, one of them Virupaksha Sastri who later became head of the Kudli Mutt. Virupaksha Sastri often proclaimed that the Jagadguru’s profound scholarship was the result of divine grace rather than any effort on His part. Within three years, the Jagadguru mastered all the recondite works on Vedanta, not to speak of the other Shastras.
The renovation of the temple of Sri Sharada was completed, and a beautiful shrine was erected over the Samadhi of the late guru in Narasimhavana. In 1916, the Acharya had the Kumbabhishekam of both the shrines performed at which the Maharaja of Mysore was present, as also representatives of the Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda and several other rulers. Thousands of disciples came to Sringeri to participate in the functions and receive the blessings of their own guru. The Jagadguru then set His heart upon tapasya, and placing complete faith in Sri Sharada and his guru, He withdrew into solitude, occasionally coming out to teach the bhashyas to deserving disciples.
Four years busy touring was followed by a long period of practical seclusion from the outside world, and the Jagadguru gave Himself up to intense tapasya oblivious of his surroundings. But the affairs of the Mutt required attention. Under inspiration from Sri Sharada, the Jagadguru designated Sri Srinivasan, a youth of remarkable intelligence and potentiality for spiritual eminence, His successor, and gave Him Sanyasa with the name of Sri Abhinava Vidya Tirtha Swami on May 22, 1931. The Junior Acharya soon became highly proficient in learning and took over the spiritual and secular affairs of the Mutt, giving considerable relief to the senior Acharya.
At the request of the Jagadguru, the Mysore Government appointed a senior officer of their administrative service, who under the designation ‘officer-in-charge’, took charge of the revenue administration of the Samsthanam.
Seldom did the Jagadguru receive disciples while in retirement and on the few occasions that He did, for which hundreds would be waiting, a smile or a significant nod proved more efficacious and illuminating than a sermon, and would fill their souls with blessedness. By dint of introspection and tapasya, His body lost all suggestions of being material and appeared sublimated into spirit radiating a halo all around.
A few years later the Jagadguru of His own volition decided to free from the fetters of His mortal body. On Sunday, September 26, 1954, He got up very early in the morning and walked towards Tunga; a servant followed at a slight distance. He stepped into the water without heeding the servant’s warning about the depth of water at that spot, and advancing further into the current had a dip. Then he did Pranayama, and dipped again. The servant saw the Acharya’s body floating down the current. In consternation the servant plunged into the river, caught hold of the Acharya, but in the effort lost his consciousness. A gentleman who happened to hear the shouts of the servant, brought the two ashore. The servant was soon restored to life but ‘nothing could be done in the other case’. It was reported that His Holinesses body was in an erect sitting posture with legs crossed as at the time of contemplation and was straightened out only in an attempt to restore respiration and that there was no sign of drowning or of suffocation or of any struggles for life. His Holiness had ever been in the best of health, and His passing away naturally baffled all doctors, just as He was baffling them even when He was alive. In life as in death he was equally an enigma to all who sought physical explanation for spiritual experiences. The Jagadguru’s mortal remains found their resting place in a samadhi just by the side of that of his great guru in Narasimhavanam. The anniversary of the day will ever fall on the Mahalaya New Moon day, the day of the annual abhiseka of Sri Sharada preparatory to the Navaratri celebrations. His birth, upanayanam, sanyasa and videha mukti were all on Sundays.