[Advaita-l] A Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Saundaryalahari (DPDS - 01)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 1 19:15:16 CDT 2003


For the benefit of those who do not know about the Paramacharya
here is a brief biographical note:
Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal (1894 - 1994), also
called the Paramacharya, was the sage of Kanchi in Tamilnadu,
India, who was so simple, humble, profound, enlightened,
compassionate, scholarly and full of Grace that he naturally and
effortlessly touched the hearts of men and women, prince and
pauper, around the world. Ascending to the Headship of the
Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt at the age of thirteen as the 68th pontiff
in the line of succession from Adi Sankara, he ministered to the
needs of the afflicted and the distressed and spread the message
of compassion and of a return to the most treasured ancient
values. After a mission like this full of action for almost half
a century which included a 30-year walking pilgrimage of the
entire subcontinent of India, he laid down his headship and
devoted his time, for the next forty years, to severe penance
for universal welfare. Not one of those thousands who had his
darshan every day missed to feel the soul-stirring presence of
'the Living God' in their  veins.
itself is too much of a claim by this writer, who is currently
studying the discourses in Tamil (on Soundaryalahari – a
100-sloka piece, in Sanskrit) of the Paramacharya, in ‘Deivathin
Kural’ – meaning, ‘The Voice of God’ – in Tamil, in the sixth
volume of the seven-volume series of that name,  recorded by 
and, rewritten in, the  inimitable style of, Ra. Ganapathi. 
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, it appears has published an
English summary of this. But instead of trying to read that
English version, I decided to  test myself whether I had
understood at least a part of the Acharya’s thoughts. The best
way of testing oneself is to try to communicate to others. The
advaita - L group does have, in its membership, a number of
readers interested in the subject. Some of them know Tamil and
probably would have read Ra Ganapathi’s book in the original.
Some others may have read the English version. But the purpose
of this digest is TO BRING THE ADVAITA PART (and the relevant
questions that arise usually in the discussions that are very
common in the group postings) TO THE FOCUS AND ACQUAINT
AND COMMENTS ON THE SUBJECT. In consonance with  this objective,
it is not the intention  to cover all the slokas even out of 
the 42, the only ones which the Paramacharya himself has covered
in full  (he has covered  another 37 in part, another 10 just in
passing, and has not touched at all the remaining 11, which are
sloka Nos.19, 32, 68, 72, 76 to 81, 85). Even within the
exposition of a particular sloka, large portions may have to be
omitted by me. In spite of all this the ‘Digest’ – contrary to
the meaning of the word - is  likely to be rather long,  about
50 to 60  (only an estimate as of now) two-page postings (around
1000 words each), three  times a week.  Note that the original
extends to 754 pages (pp.577 to 1331 of the sixth volume). The
attempt shall be made, therefore,  to be as brief as possible.
But, wherever it is found that  the Paramacharya’s already
lucidly forceful and simple explanations cannot be ‘digested
through a further precis or  summary’, one will have  to resort
to almost a close (or free !) translation of his words as
reported by Ra. Ganapathi. And also note that, (1) I, as the
digest writer, cannot be expected to dwell on those portions of
the discourses that are not reasonably clear to me, and (2) it
may be easy to pull out just a sentence here or there from what
I write and see wrong or absurd meanings in it; if this happens
let us remember to go back to the Paramacharya himself and try
to understand his explanations in entirety, rather than spend
time  at straws in VK’s imperfect digest. With these preliminary
words let me start on this venture, which is actually a
swAdhyAya-yajna, that is, a yajna of study.  May the
Paramacharya himself as well as my own Guru and  father, (late)
Sri R. Visvanatha Sastri, guide me in this endeavour and see
that I don’t misrepresent either the Paramacharya or the
Soundaryalahari !

On the organization of the ‘Digest’: The entire exposition is by
the Paramacharya. So the first person pronoun, wherever it
occurs, is his. The ‘I’ of advaita-vedanta is always  within
quotes.    Additional explanations given by Ra. Ganapathi are so
acknowledged. Parenthetical remarks by him, like ‘with a smile’,
‘after a small pause’  etc. that all refer to the speaker, the
Paramacharya, are repeated, if at all, as they are in the
original, within parentheses.  My own remarks, if any, shall be
properly demarcated. And note that the Paramacharya most often
refers to Adi Sankaracharya as ‘Our Acharya’.
V. Krishnamurthy

“How could Adi Sankara, who preached the 
jnAna mArga, have promoted this work (Soundaryalahari) of
bhakti?  It cannot be his,” say some who profess ‘Philosophy’. 
But our Acharya was not a professor who isolated philosophy as a
separate discipline. Having written very profoundly on advaita
and its deepest implications in his several Bhashyas and the
other works of his, he promoted the spiritual pursuit of the
common man by writing and talking about the need to follow one’s
swadharma by Karma and Bhakti. His intent was to raise the
common man  from his  own level. For this purpose he went from
one pilgrim centre to another all his life and composed hymns
after hymns and also established yantras in  temples.
The philosophers argue: JnAni says everything is One. But Bhakti
can happen only when there is the duality of the devotee and the
deity. Therefore, they say, the  jnAni can never be a bhakta.
These philosophers cannot themselves claim to have the
Enlightenment of advaita ! But there have been those who could
have so claimed, like the sage Suka, Madhusudana Saraswati or
Sadasiva-brahmam. If we carefully study their lives we will know
that they were devotees of God in the fullest sense of the word
and have themselves written works of Bhakti. Even in our own
times Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has been a great devotee of Mother
Goddess and Ramana Maharishi has done works of devotion on God
Arunachalesvara. Again, on the other side,  great devotees like
Manikka-vasagar, Nammazhvar, Arunagiri-nathar, Tayumanavar, etc.
have themselves been convinced advaitins, and this is reflected
in innumerable flashes in their compositions.
If a jnAni should not do a Bhakti composition, then I would say
that he should not also do a work of jnAna. Why am I saying
this? Let us go back to the definition of a jnAni.  ‘ The world
is all mAyA;  the thinking of people as if they were separate
separate jIvAtmAs is nothing but Ignorance’ -  with such a
conviction through personal experience, they have thrown away
that Ignorance as well as its basic locus, the mind, and they
live in the non-dualistic state of ‘ ‘I’ am everything’ – such
should be the status of the jnAni; shouldn’t it be so? Such a
person preaching, or writing a book, even if it be about the
subject of jnAna – is it not a contradiction? Unless such a
person thinks there is a world outside of him and there are
jIvAtmAs outside, how can he think of ‘teaching’? Teaching whom?
And when we look at it this way, all those great teachers of
jnAna should really not be jnAnis ! What power will there be for
such a teaching about jnAna from teachers who are not jnAnis

(To be continued)


Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
My website on Science and Spirituality is http://www.geocities.com/profvk/
You can  access my book on Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision and Practice,  and my father R. Visvanatha Sastri's manuscripts from the site.

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