Mahaperiyava’s Boundless Compassion: Periyava’s Grace On An Orphan
This incident occurred nearly 50 years ago. In the year 1969, a young orphaned boy from Chengalpet district ran away from home after life became intolerable due to the incessant torture and cruelty of his step-mother. He arrived at Chennai, and with a lucky twist of fate, joined the household of a wealthy businessman. He served the family by doing odd jobs around the house.
As months passed, the boy proved to be hardworking, honest, and responsible. Noticing this, the businessman allocated a small private space within the compound of the house for the boy. He worked hard and continued to earn the goodwill of his employer.
The businessman was a great devotee of Mahaperiyava. Every year he would make a pilgrimage to Kancheepuram along with his family to seek the blessings of Mahaperiyava. When the family left for Kancheepuram that year, the boy continued to do his duties responsibly in their absence. Upon his return, the businessman summoned the boy to offer him ‘prasadam’ and smeared ‘kunkumam’ on his forehead. Delighted by his employer’s gesture, the boy thanked him profusely.
The following year, the family left on their annual trip to Kancheepuram. Curious to learn more about their journey, the boy sought the company of the other workers. This was the first time the boy had heard about Mahaperiyava, His life, His blessings, and His compassion. The more he heard about Mahaperiyava, the more he found himself drawn to Him, imagining himself in a new and exhilarating world. At night, he recollected the story of the extraordinary saint, which soothed him to a peaceful sleep.
The next morning, he rose early and found himself full of energy, vigour, and enthusiasm. This prompted him to complete all his tasks early, leaving him enough time to request the other servants for more information about Mahaperiyava. Seeing his eagerness, they told him that Periyaval’s photo adorns the centre wall of the drawing room, “Go see for yourself.” Though he was eager to see the saint’s photo, he was reticent about entering the hall without being permitted first. The boy had never entered the reception area of the house, always confining himself to the backyard and the back of the house.
One day, a very lucky day for the boy, his employer called him inside the drawing room to assign him some work. As the boy entered the room hesitantly, his gaze was transfixed on the huge picture of Mahaperiyava in the centre of the room. He was astounded! Speechless, he pried his eyes from the life-like picture and nodded his head to convey to his employer that he had understood the instructions. Swiftly the boy finished all his tasks but all the while though, his thoughts remained with the image he had seen. Again, he ran to the other servants and described with great excitement, the picture of Mahaperiyava. When they confirmed that he had indeed seen Mahaperiyava’s photo, his excitement transformed into an inexplicable longing. He spent the night imagining himself in the presence of the saint Himself.
Again, the next morning he was summoned to the drawing room. He seized the opportunity to look again at the photo to take in all the details. As he looked, he felt a glare. He blinked and looked again intently. He witnessed a bright, white flash of light from the photo. He rubbed his eyes, but the flash of light stayed on in his mind’s eye. He listened carefully to his employer’s instructions and finished his work posthaste. With his thoughts focused on the extraordinary experience of the day, he looked forward to the tranquil hours of the night.
After returning to his own little private space, he carefully recaptured the vision mentally. To his amazement, he saw the same brilliant flash again. Deeply moved by his remarkable experience, he addressed Mahaperiyava thus, “O Swami! Ever since I saw you, I feel both fear and happiness. I am an orphan who suffered physical abuse at the hands of my step-mother. So, I decided to escape her and that is why I ran away from home and school. Now you are the centre of my world and I am thankful to those who guided me to you.” Later, he took a small portion of his food and offered it to Periyaval before he ate his meal. As time wore on, this practice became a habit.
Years flew by and the young boy had grown into a young man. It had been seven years since he arrived at Chennai. Now he was fifteen years old – calm and mature for his age. His entire world was this household at the centre of which was Mahaperiyaval. The kindly employer took great interest in the boy’s progress and consequently, requested his friend who owned a photo studio to take the boy as an apprentice. By and by, the boy learnt the skills of photography and film development. He proved to be sincere, hardworking, and enthusiastic. During this period in his life, the boy, now a young man had a wonderful experience. He was taken by his employer on their annual visit to Kancheepuram. The young man was delighted to be given this opportunity to visit the sage of kanchi.
With his mind filled with thoughts of Mahaperiyava, the young man looked around to get a glimpse of Him among the throngs of people waiting to receive His blessings. Finally, it was the family’s turn and he went forward timidly to seek Periyava’s blessings. Suddenly, his mind was gripped with transient thoughts about his orphanhood. But the omniscient Mahaperiyava turned his compassionate gaze upon the boy. At that moment, he witnessed the same bright flash on the saffron-clad face that he saw seven years ago, emanating from the picture on the wall. Though wonderstruck, the boy still regretfully remembered that he had not made his customary offering of food for his lord that day! Just then, Mahaperiyava gestured to the boy to come forward. Lost in his thoughts and unable to believe that he was indeed being summoned, he looked around here and there. Again, Periyava gestured for him to come forward. The boy nervously moved forward to prostrate at His holy feet with tears streaming down his face. Innocently the boy said, “Swami, today I have not made any offering of food to you because I haven’t been given food yet.” Mahaperiyaval’s infectious smile spread around the ‘mandapam’. Calling the boy by his name, Periyava uttered His blessings for him, “Using your special skill, you will live well in this world without any want.” After receiving Mahaperiyaval’s blessing, the family came out. The boy was predominantly puzzled about how the swami knew his name!
Years passed and the young man, with the help of his employer, developed his skills in photography to establish a lucrative business. At present, he is settled in Texas, U.S.A. leading a prosperous and contended life that was shaped and blessed by his ‘swami’.
Our ayya, Mahaperiyava, the boundless ocean of compassion, is the ultimate protective refuge for the orphaned, the destitute, the oppressed, and the neglected. For this young man, his ‘Mahaswami’ is his father, mother, relative, and above all his god. He had never been to a temple till his marriage. After his marriage, on the insistence of his wife, he visited a temple once. Such is his faith and love for his swami that he does not need any external structure; his mind’s temple houses his ‘Mahaswami’ in the sanctum sanctorum. There is none other than Mahaperiyava for him. With this dictum firmly established in his mind, he continues his life’s journey devotedly, contentedly, and peacefully.