[Advaita-l] Fwd: Gitamrta mahodadhi - New Book

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Jan 23 02:58:42 EST 2018

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "V Subrahmanian" <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>
Date: 23 Jan 2018 13:28
Subject: Gitamrta mahodadhi - New Book
To: "BHARATIYA VIDVAT" <bvparishat at googlegroups.com>


Gitamramahodadhi by R.Visvanatha Sastri was launched by  Sri Bibek Debroy
at the 90th Anniversary Celebrations of the Samskrita Academy, Chennai on
21st January 2018. The following is an introduction to the author and the
book by the author's son.

Sri R. Visvanatha Sastri (1882 – 1956), my father, worked in the judicial
department of South Arcot District in the erstwhile Madras Province of
British India and retired as Sub-Court Sheristadar, Cuddalore, in 1939. In
his younger years, round about the second decade of the 20th century, when
he was working in Tirukkoilur and Cuddalore, every year (probably for four
or five years) during the summer recess, sending his wife and children to
her father’s place, he went over to Ganapathy Agraharam  in Tanjore
District,  to be for day and night,  at the lotus feet of Sri Sri Vasudeva
Brahmendra Saraswati and stayed there in his Ashram like a gurukulavAsi. He
had all his Bhashya pAthas this way.  It was at this time he was probably
also a sahapAThI (contemporary student) of Sri S. Kuppuswamy Sastry, in
whose name the research Institute KSRI is known. It seems
VasudevabrahmendrAL was also revered by Sri Ramakrishna Sastrigal, my
father’s  father.  A picture of this Sri Sri Vasudeva Brahmendra Saraswati
remained in father’s  pUjA all his life. This Acarya attained Samadhi on
4th March 1931.

During his lifetime father gave numerous lectures and expositions of the
scriptures including several Saptahas of the Srimad Bhagavatam and navahas
of the Valmiki Ramayana at various places in the present Tamilnadu and
Kerala and also in some north Indian locations. One such event is recalled
by him with pride in his autobiographical notes. In the early thirties (in
October 1934) he gave a fifteen-day exposition of the Bhagavatam at the
Mani-karnika ghat in Varanasi in the beatific presence of His Holiness the
Kamakoti Sankaracharya Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal (now
known as the Kanchi Maha Swamigal) who was then on his first all-India tour.

My father has left 27 original manuscripts expounding the Advaita school of
thinking and its symbiosis with Bhakti. The longest of them all is this
book. It is a marathon treatise on Advaita through the medium of the Gita
and the Upanishads. It consists of 2400 Anushtup slokas divided into five
chapters. The Gita for him is only a jumping board.  He goes into raptures
on Shankara’s Dakshinamurti stotram, covers the 108 Upanishads each in a
few shlokas, and gets into the saptabhumikas of Mahopanishad.  The entire
work is an elaboration of advaita vedanta through a unique track chalked
out by himself.   He wrote the whole mss. as was his custom always, in the
Grantha script of the Sanskrit language.  The first thing he planned  was
to send it to the Kanchi Mutt for the MahaPeriava to bless it.  In the
process he decided to have it transcribed into Devanagari script, because
not many would be comfortable with Grantha script.  I offered to do the
transcription  and he dictated it for me from the grantha version. While
doing so I used to ask him for some of the meanings – not that I understood
the rest. While I listened to his explanations, once  I ventured to suggest
that his slokas might need a commentary by himself since he seemed to be
putting meanings and significance into them which were very profound.
Fortunately for posterity, he took this meek suggestion of this 27-year-old
seriously and spent another two months or so writing a prose commentary
(again in Sanskrit, of course in Grantha script) of his own work. All this
was finished by October 1954. The resulting manuscript.  (running up to 879
pages of notebook size writing) now contains therefore both his original
slokas and his own Sanskrit commentary (vyakhyana) in prose. This original
copy in his grantha handwriting continues to be one of my treasured

A copy of the original manuscript of just the 2400 slokas alone in
Devanagari script is in the Kanchi Mutt Library. Before his passing away, I
chanced to ask him: Which ones of your mss. would you like to have
published, ultimately? The answer was that Gitamritamahodadhi was his
magnum opus, it contained his lifetime of studies and research and it was
the one that should see the light of day, if nothing else. In order that
the work may have a wider reading, the transcription of the whole work,
(including his vyakhyana in prose)  into Devanagari script has been done,
by the Grace of God,  over the years, by me.  A xerox copy of this version
is in the Library of KSRI since 1998.

Though I have myself penned the entire work in its transcription to
Devanagari more than once, I am not competent to comment on the contents of
the work. In the immortal words of Kalidasa,
तं सन्तः श्रोतुमर्हन्ति सदसद्व्यक्तिहेतवः।
हेम्नः संलक्ष्यते ह्यग्नौ विशुद्धिः श्यामिकापि वा॥
‘Scholars who can discriminate the characteristics of the Real from those
of the Unreal are the ones who should read and judge this work; for the
purity or impurity of gold is tested in fire alone’.

It is a great privilege and pleasure for me to acknowledge the  benefaction
of my grandson Guhan Subramanian (Professor at Harvard Law School and
Harvard Business School) and his wife Helen Clement, towards the printing
and publication  of this manuscript of his great-grandfather, treasured for
more than half a century.

I am happy to congratulate the staff of the Sanskrit Academy, Mylapore
who, through their team of scholars Dr. Kameswari, Dr. K.S.
Balasubramanian, and Dr. K. Srinivasan  and Dr. T.V. Vasudeva saw through
the editing and publication in record time.  I thank them all most
heartily, on behalf of the entire extended family of descendents of Shri R.
Visvanatha Sastrigal..

 V. Krishnamurthy
 (profvk at yahoo.com)

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