Who is His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya Swamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham? Is he a person, in the general meaning of the term? Surely not so. Whenever I am in His presence, or whenever I think of Him, I very rarely seem him as a person. He appears to me as a light. The phenomenon struck me since the first moment I was brought to His presence by very estimated friends of Madurai. His Holiness is mainly made of light, and often, even He grows up and down, like the flame of the candle. I was amazed. I has never seen such an extraordinary being.
His Holiness had at a moment His camp in the premises of the lovely temple of Ilayathankudi near Madurai. I stayed there for three or four days but felt unable to fix His Holiness's features. They were always different as if moulded in wax. I got the impression that he was quite tall.
In subsequent visits, I soon had another amazing experience. His Holiness is able to "switch off" His light all on a sudden; at such moments, His physical appearance can be seen normally, like any of ours. So I found that in face, He is very small and fragile. But what is the body of a Guru? Certainly I have had the direct experience that it is only the transparent receptacle of the spirit.
If we had enough interior stillness, I am sure we could detect from a far distance the peculiar atmosphere of quietness, shanthi, that lingers for miles around a Guru. We could then say: "Verily, somewhere in this region abides a Mahatma. Let's find Him and bow at His feet". I am sure we could do that, because at least when I am in the immediate surroundings of His Holiness, I can distinctly feel his powerful radiations.
I do not need to have his darshan in order to know that he is there. Everything is apparently normal around. People come and go, children play and laugh, time proceeds.......yet in some strange way, everything is "different". The mind is still, time is still, happenings have no meaning at all.
I once fell down so badly that I thought I had broken my leg. The leg was not broken but I was not much better for it. I spent a terrible night. From the left ribs to the tip of the left toe, I was feeling as if everything inside was smashed. I was biting hard my hand and groaning out of pain until dawn.
The situation was not a happy one. There I was miles away from any city, in a lovely coco-palms grove between the river and the sea, lost in Madras vast countryside. His Holiness was by then honouring with his presence the estate of a devotee and had allowed me to stay there. But time had come for me to leave. I had something important to do in Europe, which could not be postponed. I had asked that same morning His Holiness's permission to go, and how could I go now? And there was no doctor at hand, either. Yet, instead of being worried, I was perfectly calm. I had a terrible physical quiet and safety and had the absolute security that everything would be well. I could feel the strong warm radiation of His Holiness invisible presence. I remembered the words of Biblical Psalm "With His wings the lord will cover you; under his feathers you will be safe..." I was feeling safe under His Holiness's feathers.
At dawn I fell asleep for three hours. When I woke up, my leg was as sound as ever. That same day, I was sitting cross-legged as if nothing had happened, in the presence of His Holiness who gave me His blessings for my journey. And I left for Europe knowing that what I had to do there, which was really very important to me, would work out perfectly, which it did, of course. What can go wrong for a child when he is in his mother's arms? What can be wrong for any of us when we have been covered with the wings of the Guru?
May His Holiness be long with us.