[Advaita-l] Fw: Sankara Mutt

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Mon Sep 22 10:43:55 CDT 2008

Dear Shri Narayan,

I agree your original post did not necessarily talk of online
translations to be provided by Sankara Mathas. However, you also
mentioned that other institutions had put up other translations on their
websites, hence the small mixup. If you notice, my response mainly
addressed a few points raised by Srikrishna Ghadiyaram.

As for veda/vedAnta translations, there is a range of views, from archly
conservative to highly liberal. The one end says no translation should
be done at all. The other end says that a translation is sufficient and
you don't have to go back to the original at all. In my experience, most
of the AcArya-s of the advaita maThas are somewhere in the middle. They
allow that translations are useful tools for those who are not in a
situation to go directly to the originals. Still, blessing or providing
a SrImukham to a translation by some scholar is not the same as taking
up a project of translation themselves. 

The Sankara maTha-s were set up in an era when they didn't think of an
official charter of functions. Still, there are certain expectations of
them as institutions, which are codified in the texts called
maThAmnAya-s. There is no one unified code for all the institutions, so
they are quite independent of one another in functioning. What holds
them together is a common culture and philosophy, rather than an
organized charter.

Primarily, a maTha in the advaita tradition is a residential school
headed by a sannyasi. Their primary function is to teach disciples and
students. The temples associated with the place, the lands that have
been endowed over the centuries by various rulers, the rights over
agricultural revenue, the other administrative details - these were all
meant to subserve the above primary purpose. The heads of the maTha-s,
being sannyasis, were also supposed to travel around and not stay put at
one place all their lives. There is an obvious tension between the
geographical rootedness of an institution and the potential unlimited
freedom from geography of the head of the institution! Every generation
of AcArya-s has had to find an appropriate balance.

In the last 100 years or so, the maTha-s and their heads have also had
to adjust to massive changes in circumstances and also people's
expectations of them. As I see it, there has been a problem of what
should be a priority and different institutions have different solutions
to it.

I can speak with personal knowledge only about what the Sringeri Peetham
is doing, so here are a few brief details. There is an active manuscript
digitization effort currently going on there. The amount of work needed
is huge and good progress is being made. There is also an active
publication arm, both at Sringeri and at the Bangalore branch. Numerous
books are being published and are available at the maTha bookstores. The
current Acharya, Swami Sri Bharati Tirtha, is composing commentaries on
a few texts, which will be published soon. Books containing explanations
and interpretations (if not translations) are being provided by maTha
affiliated pundits for various aspects of veda-s and vedAnta, in key
Indian languages. Every year, the Ganesha Chaturthi festival marks the
beginning of a vAkyArtha sadas, which is held wherever the Acharya is
observing the Chaturmasya. It runs over about ten days, ending just
before the end of Chaturmasya. Traditionally trained and modern academia
affiliated scholars of not only vedAnta, but also other darSana-s such
as nyAya, mImAmsA etc, participate and hold lively discussions, in
Sanskrit, on specific topics. All of this is in addition to the veda
pAThaSAlA-s being run at Sringeri itself and at many other branch
locations, where veda recitation, vedAnga-s, vyAkaraNa etc are taught by
highly qualified paNDita-s, while the Acharya personally teaches


ps. During the meetings of Sankaracharyas, at least at the ones held in
Sringeri, Sanskrit WAS the medium of conversation among the Acharyas and
also the language in which the common signed statements were originally
issued. Translations into English and other Indian languages were
prepared on the same day.

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