“Dwadashi, Shukla paksha, Ashwin mase, Vilambi naam samvatsaraha, it is the twelfth bright of the month of Ashwin, of the Vilambi naam year.”, he uttered, pushing the centre of his large round bifocal glasses close to the bridge of his nose. All of us, the twelve adolescents seated beneath what appeared like a small stage looked at him at once, dropping everything that had kept us occupied for the past five minutes. We quickly shuffled our pages to the one where he had stopped two days ago.
“You can let the books alone today, he said”, leaving us looking at each other in disbelief and astonishment. His sessions usually consisted of hours of tedious Sanskrit shlokas from the Upanishads, trying to decode their meaning. We sure had heard of these unique sessions from our seniors at the Vidyapeetha, times when Sri Poornaprajnya Swamiji would begin to explain the Pancha Bheda and path to salvation. He would go on and on about Dwaita and how it was the only way to Moksha.
“It is the closest I will ever get to Moksha. Oh apart from when I munch on the jalebis on dwadashi”, a healthy senior had once said to describe these sessions. His voice now silenced my thoughts.
“This day, being an auspicious one, we will talk about Sri Madhwacharya” he said, crossing his hands to touch his ears instinctively. We leaned forward, each one of us not willing to miss a single word. After all, this was going to be a session that we believed would be in a language that we all understood.
“Can anyone tell me what the Pancha Bhedas are?” he asked, looking up at me expectantly, peering above the rim of the glasses which now perched at the tip of his nose. At 70- something, Sri Poornaprajnya Guruji was an embodiment of spirituality, with white cotton fabric covering his body and sandalwood paste adorning his bare arms, chest and temples. His broad forehead shone of either natural oil or as I would like to believe his vast knowledge. His eyes radiated a beam of positive energy. Transfixed by his gaze, I mumbled an entire sentence that seemed more like gibberish than Sanskrit.
“Manda gati” He said, urging me to be slow, the gap between the two words, painfully long. “ Jeeva-Jeeva, Jeeva-Jata, Jata-Jata, Jata-Deva, Deva-Jeeva.” I repeated, loud and clear this time.
“Good, so we will talk today about every one of these and try to understand what Sri Madhwa meant when he inculcated Dvaita philosophy in his life” he said as he pointed with his hands towards his left and smiled. “At the end of the session, each of you can ask any questions that you may have and Sri Madhwa will answer them for you” he said, clearing his throat, continuing to smile towards his left.
“Dvaita as we know literally means duality, duality between God and all other beings or Jeeva.” He said. “In simple terms, we are not God. We are just souls created by Vishnu in his image.” he continued. “Am I right Madhwa?” he asked, as he completed his sentence. After a brief pause, the smile returned and he went on. “Let me rephrase that to make it more accurate on his advice” he said pointing again to his left. “Vishnu alone is the supreme being and we were just created as his images to propagate dharma on earth and praise him. Salvation will come only when we search for knowledge and share it without any expectations.” his conviction growing stronger than before this time.
“Our purpose in this life is to understand the Sattva of life and follow it, giving up all our worldly pleasures. Only then will we attain ultimate freedom from our Jeeva and become one with Deva. Do you follow?” he asked, glancing at each of our faces which by now seemed to have blanked out. The session went on for another hour with Guruji explaining what each of the terms of the Pancha Bheda meant and the difference between them and how they are related to each other in more ways than one. We were all intrigued by his neck turning to the left every now and then as if he were having a parallel discussion with someone none of us seemed to be able to see, or maybe it was just me.
“And now we shall begin directing our questions to Sri Madhwa over here, he said” pointing again to his left. This time we all turned our heads to look at the blank space that his hands pointed at, followed by looking at each other wondering if this was a test of sorts to see if we understood what was taught during the session. He was infamous for his tricky tests which did not usually conform to the norms.
“What is your question, Srinidhi?” I immediately stood up, startled that it had to be me again. “I would like to know why we need to differentiate between Jeeva and Jeeva? Aren’t we all made in the same image?” I asked, cursing myself for being so juvenile. I should have come up with something better than that I thought to myself. But to my surprise, after what seemed like five long minutes of nodding in acknowledgment looking at his left, Guruji finally said “Yeah, I hope you have your answer now!”