[Advaita-l] On Ramana

jaldhar at braincells.com jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Jun 24 01:40:04 EDT 2021

Every inch of punyabharata has been blessed by contact with the feet of 
saints from the mists of the ancient past to the present day.  Some of 
these have been great sages and scholars who poured their insights into 
works of both great beauty and great profundity.  They initiated disciples 
and built institutions to keep the flame of dharma alive. Others also set 
forth from their homes inspired by nothing more than the longings of their 
own souls and that was enough.  They did not form lineages, they did not 
write well-distributed books (if they wrote anything) at all and most of 
them never became known further than their own village or maybe a small 
region beyond.

Venkataraman Iyer was born in a time and place where both these types of 
saint were still common.  So he would have been immersed in an atmosphere 
where someone of a naturally spiritual inclination (as by all evidence he 
had from childhood) would have received great nourishment even without 
formal education.  We know he was an able poet in Tamil.  We know that he 
had enough knowledge of Sanskrit to be able to read and discuss stotras 
and philosophical works and even translate some of them.  And he had 
association with many people who were classically educated and could 
remedy any lack in those areas.

Because there was a lack as there would have been for any autodidact.  I 
compare him with another self-taught Tamil genius, his contemporary 
Srinivas Ramanujan.  Ramanujans insights into mathematics are still 
bearing fruit to advanced researchers to this day.  But as his biographer 
Hardy noted, he sometimes made simple mistakes or put things in 
unnecessarily hard to understand (for mathematicians) ways not due to lack 
of intelligence but simply because he had not been "initiated" into the 
standard academic culture of mathematics.  I don't think Hardy meant to 
belittle him by saying this neither should we think less of him for it. 
It is just a fact. I feel we should look at Raman in the same way.  He 
never tried to recruit followers or build himself up as a guru but he 
impressed people and they asked him questions so he answered them out of 
love.  But he was not a systematic thinker and it would be a mistake to 
treat him as such.  He can be a source of inspiration and that is enough. 
Ramanujans style did not replace the way Mathematics is done then or now 
rather it is through the lens of that way that his true brilliance could 
be discerned.  In the same way I suggest that if consider yourself 
inspired by Raman, if you think the most vital question is "Who am I?  It 
is even more incumbent upon you to learn the formal methods of Advaita 
Vedanta as no man is an island and noquestion comes out of a void.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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