[Advaita-l] Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji - [was Pa~nchapAdikAchArya]

savithri devaraj savithri_devaraj at yahoo.com
Sat Oct 7 21:02:13 CDT 2006

--- Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>


There has been a lot of talk on Swami
Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji and his sampradaya
or lack there of, or what Sri D.B.GongoLLi says, etc.,

I had intended to keep quite on this thread earlier,
but I am tempted to think this maybe good information
for the list – many might not have read his biography,
which is in KannaDa (Sri GurucharitAmR^ita - by his
disciple Sri H.S.Lakshmi Narasimha mUrthy). We might
have an English version of his biography in the near

I am picking a few incidents from Sri
Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji’s life from the
above book that clearly show his respect for
sampradAya, for his teachers, for the Sringeri
Shankara Mutt, and for everything that stands for our
hoary Vedic tradition.

Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji was initiated
into the study of Shankara's bhAshyas by Sri
SatchidAnanda SivAbhinava NR^isimha bhArathi Swamiji
of the Sringeri peetha at kAlaTi in 1910.   During the
auspicious consecration celebrations of kAlaTi,
Swamiji (Y.SubbarAya at the time) got initiated into
the study of Shankara bhAshya and the pancAkshari
mahAmantra from the jagadGuru. [kAlaTi didn't exist as
a town that it is today, until this time. It was Sri
SacchidAnanda SivAbhinava NR^isimha bhArathi Swamiji
of the Sringeri Peetha who was inspired to look for
this place and establish the temple and the town as it
is today]

SubbarAya studied gita bhAshya, nyAya, Vedanta, parts
of pancapAdika, ChAndogya and other Upanishads, parts
of Brahma sUtra, BhAmati, etc. under Sri Hanagal
virUpAksha shAtry - the nyAya teacher for Sri
Chandrasekhar BhArathi swamiji and other Swamis of
Sringeri. In fact, SubbarAya’s association with Sri
ShAstry was a very long one - until the end of Sri
ShAstry’s life (Sri ShAstry was Sri abhinava
vAlukeshwara bhAratI swamiji - the peethAdipathi of
KuDLi Shankara Mutt, when he passed away)

SubbarAya had been interested in getting initiated
into Vedanta and Shankara bhAshyas by Sri Hanagal
sItarAmashAstry (Sri virupaksha shastry's Guru), and
when that didn’t happen, he yearned to get initiated
by Sri Virupaksha shastry himself, but he was lucky
enough to get initiated by the Sringeri JagadGuru –
Sri Sri Sivabhinava NR^isimha bhArathi Swamiji (on Sri
VirUpAksha ShAstry's request). 

Later, in an episode during the Vivarna subject
discussions in Bangalore Shankara Mutt, Sri VirupAksha
ShAstry told the class (in which SubbarAya was a
pupil) – “people say that according to SubbarAya there
is no mUlAvidya, I am not sure what he says, and what
people understand
.”.  SubbarAya, out of extreme
respect for his teacher, just sat quietly in class. 

Another episode that took place in Bangalore Shankara
Mutt is worth mentioning here. SubbarAya was just
completing his mUlAvidyAnirAsa, and Sri VirupAksha
shAstry, who had heard of this work, stopped SubbarAya
in the hallway and asked him if he was writing
anything against Shankara. SubbarAya promptly replied
that he was writing to correct those people who had
interpreted Shankara wrongly, and Sri shAstry went
away satisfied. It is also worth mentioning that
SubbarAya and Sri KrishNaswAmy Iyer had discussed in
detail with Sri VirUpAksha ShAstry, regarding pramANa,
avidya, videha mukti, etc. These discussions could
very well be said to be the basis of the
mUlAvidyAnirAsa book. 
Sri KrishNaswAmy Iyer - SubbarAya’s mentor, was
himself was very traditional, Vedic scholar, who
hosted several students in his house during their
education, and SubbarAya was one of them. 

In yet another episode, when Sri virUpAksha ShAstry
was the aasthAna vidvAn at Mysore palace, the maharaja
of Mysore asked him to review SubbarAya’s
mUlAvidyAnirAsa for funding its publication. Sri
ShAstry commented that the style of writing was fine,
but the Subject matter could go against tradition.
Such were the prevailing winds of tradition

These incidents tell me there was a sort of subtle
acknowledgement from Sri VirupAksha Shastry on
SubbarAya’s line of thinking, his analysis, his
rigorous facts to substantiate his thinking, etc.

It also bears mentioning that the very first Vedanta
book Swamiji read cover to cover was the
VivekachUDAmaNi. Once he was traveling by train from
Bangalore to KaDUr, and he had a little bit of money
with him. He looked at a bookstall to get a book for
the journey, and the storeowner gave him the
VivekachUDAmaNi. He read it from cover to cover on the
journey, not realizing how time had fled past him, a
journey of at least 5 hours

Thanks to Swamiji’s painstaking research, he was able
to bring to the notice of the world, that there were
differences between the later commentators’ versions
of the bhAshyas and the original Shankara bhAshya. One
cannot but appreciate his patience in researching the
original Shankara bhAshyas along with the other
commentators’ versions – such vast groundbreaking
research was never conducted before. 

His teevra mumukshutva led him to take sanyAsa in 1948
from Sri bodhAnandendra Saraswathi Swamiji of MaTTur.
He was ready to drop off his body, bringing the true
essence of Shankara Vedanta to the people.

Later, Sri abhinava vidyAteertha Swamiji, pontiff of
Sringeri, who visited Holenarasipura, was immensely
pleased with Swamiji’s “Vedanta prakriyApratyAbhigna”
book and the tremendous efforts that went into the
book. He offered a contribution to get the book
published. He visited adhyAtma prakAsha kAryAlaya and
looked at all other activities of the organizations.
He genuinely praised Swamiji thus – “You have
dedicated your life to the propagation of Shankara’s
philosophy. Even in this old age, you work with such
enthusiasm – you are Shankara’s genuine devotee! In
meeting you and discussing these topics in person,
many of my doubts have vanished”. 
What a heartfelt appreciation!

I could mention a lot of other episodes, where he was
acknowledged by the Sringeri and the kanchi
jagadgurus, or other scholars and saints, or when he
went to OmkAreshwar to read his “ManDUkya rahasya
vivrutti” to dedicate it to Sri GauDapAdachArya, etc,
etc., but it suffices to say his life’s goal was to
bring Shankara Vedanta to people. Though his life was
full of trials and tribulations, he transcended them,
stood his ground firmly in the face of all opposition,
and fearlessly reached his supreme goal in spite of
all odds, thus ultimately helping all aspirants in
their quest for immortality.
It is easy to wave one’s hands and sulk - he was not
bound by tradition, he claimed to know Shankara better
than 1200 years of scholars, he is haughty in calling
the later commentators blind, etc.etc., but only one
who has studied his life history closely can see his
sincerity in bringing the lucid essence of Shankara to
the people and the brilliance of his systematic
approach. Swamiji had a very sharp intellect and in
keeping with the gIta verse  \“tadviddhi praNipatena
pariprashnena sevaya
.” inquired into the basic nature
of things. Isn’t this what the Upanishads and gIta
tell us – examine against the touchstones of sruti,
yukti and anubhava? 
No guru asks his disciple to blindly accept what he

So what if Sri GangoLLi called Swamiji Shankara's
avatAra, its obviously how he felt. Who defines what
is tradition and what is outside tradition? The line
between guru bhakti and yukti is abviously a murky
one. It is just smart to take what appeals to your
yukti and anubhava...

As someone mentioned earlier  – let’s not pay undue
importance to our opinions and biases. Lets stay the
course of advaita...

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