Dr. K. Vaidyanathan, an eminent Indologist who started his career as a Ranger in the Forest department and then moved to Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati as a faculty member, has written this excellent piece of research in 1960s.
Dr. Vidyanathan, a multi-faceted personality - poet, teacher and a specialist in religious discourses has dealt with various historical aspects of Vaishnavism in South India, particularly before Sankara. This is a novel type of book wherein the author has taken painstaking job in minutely tracing out the sources of Vaishnavism as revealed in the Vedas, Brahmans, Upanishads, Epics, Puranas etc., by quoting the evidential texts and also citing a number of quotations of pioneering historians. The author has extensively analysed the Vaishnava movement in the south from Sangam period, besides description the doctrines of Buddhism, Jainism, and emergence of Vaishnavism and Saivism during the last millennium.
I hope the book will find a place in the shelves of University Libraries In India and abroad and will be a good companion for the historians and also for those readers who have thirst in knowing the pre-dawn history of Vaishnavism in particular.
Dr K. Vaidyanathan was the first son of Sri K. Narasimha Iyer, who also taught him Sanskrit and Telugu and planted in him the thirst for divine. These seeds of spirituality made him seek the association of great saints and seers like Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Sheshadri Swamigal, Swami Sivananda, Bhagavan Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparti and the sage of Kanchi Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati. Caught squarely in the grips of the hounds of heaven, he shrugged away all signs of sloth, and worked tirelessly for man and God. Blessed by the muse of poetry, he penned many a volume of verse. These include Similes and Tears, Dawn and other Poems, flowers of Faith, Songs of Devotion, Don't Laugh at the East, and the Birth of the Indian Republic. He also wrote a concise summary of the Bhagavadgita titled The Students' Manual of Bhagavadgita.
He started his career in the Forest Department as a ranger and then changed direction and became a teacher in Mahant's High School, Vellore, North Arcot District. Mean-while he pursued higher education and obtained his Doctorate in History. He then went on to join the faculty in the department of History of Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati. He taught there till his retirement.
Dr. Vaidyanathan participated in a variety of causes. He was the President of Parayana Sabha in Madras and propagated the way of Nama Sankeertana. Heeding the Advice of the sage of Kanchi, he gave many discourses on the teachings of Alvars and Nayanars. He was the Secretary of Tagore Study Circle, Madras, and the Secretary of Bahai Spiritual Assembly. He was very active in the Scout movement. He felt deeply for the poor and the sick, and personally strove to alleviate their suffering. Combining devotion, compassion, dedication and joy in all his actions, he lived a life of utmost simplicity.
I recongnition of his achievements as a poet, he was conferred the title 'Kavi Ratna' by Vidwat Maha Sabha, Tirupati in a function presided over by Dewan Bahadur K.S. Ramaswami Sastri. He was also awarded the title 'Vidya Visharada' and 'Prachara Praveena' for his work in spreading the message of Dharma.
Dr. K. Vaidyanathan once described himself as 'a child of conscience…struggling to reach perfection or happiness….' He always retained a child - like innocence and wonder about the world and the grandeur of God's creation. This instilled in him the king of simplicity and humility that characterizes the truly spiritual. As he has said in one of his poems.
I love to sing and smile,
I love to walk a mile,
I love to speak awhile,
And I am free from guile.
Let cares disperse from me,
Let Pride keep far from me,
Let anger spoil not me,
Let sorrow fly from me.
It is this attitude to life that he exhibited throughout his life 'simple living and high thinking' was not a mere textbook precept to him.
He decided very early in his life to devote himself to a spiritual life, and lived his life as a seeker, trying to spend as much of it as possible with the true teachers. A life of devotion was but natural to a man who saw the Lord in every aspect of nature. To quote from another of his works:
'When the rainbow was formed in the sky, all my thoughts became diffused and my mind began to ride on reveries,
Soon a thunder - clap shook my frame and reminder me of my Lord,
Clapping my hands in joy, I began to chant His Holy Name times without number'
It was but natural that this poet would become the President of the Nama Parayana Sabha.
His spiritual journey and religious life was thus firmly anchored to the physical world that constituted and expressed the Lord's leela. He once described the world as a poetas feast.
A Poet's no dreamer of mundane mould.
His heart's eve young, his head ever old.
He sees and hears his own voice and face
In the objects he beholds; so learn ye to trace
His heart - and - mind communion with the great Beyond
Express'd in Creation whose symbols here and yond,
Big with divine content, let go the sparks
That shines eternally by God's Finger - marks
He speaks through all, hears through all, sees through all,
His is the world, and judge ye not his noble call
Grant him his, place, and let him breathe and live
For his is the feat, tho' ye the hosts that give.
With such a philosophy, it is not surprising that Dr. K. Vaidyanathan gave himself passionately to all his cause. He was a complete teacher, and his students remembered forever the way he taught poetry and drama, especially Shakespeare.
His devotion to his vocation is evident in more than one poem. In his view, a teacher
Like th' Patient tree.
Extends his arm and gives all, free,
The Fruits of sense and flowers of love,
Who seeks his shade and look above.
He instilled in his students the love for learning, the thirst for knowledge, the desire to tread the right way, love for humanity, and devotion to God.
Dr.K. Vaidyanathan was a nationalist, some one who cared deeply for his motherland and felt for her bondage and degradation and wanted to restore her former days of glory. He once wrote.
O Mother India!
What land on earth can vie with thee
In Art, Religion and Philosophy?
Mountains and rives and forests abound
To speak thy glories in and around.
Temples and Mosques and Churches rise
To lift our souls and make us wise.
Make us live the ideals of yore,
Proclaimed by Sages and Books of lore
Our voice, tho' feeble, our heart is sound
To work in silence and gain our ground.
Came at our call and grant our prayer
And remove our darkness layer by layer
Unite us all into a holy band
To increase the joy and fame of our land
On the other hand, dr. K. Vaidyanathan was a universal humanist, above the parochialism that nationalism may mean for some. In his poem 'The Scout - Song of Unity', the poet sings:
Under Heaven One
Brotherhood are we;
Race and Country, Creed and Faith
Never divide us all.
We act in tune with love and faith
That closely us all.
Under Heaven one
Ever prepar'd to serve each soul,
We stand by Duty's Call
Dr. K. Vaidyanathan once described the life of man as a four - fold struggle: physical, mental, moral and spiritual. He always felt that the hand of God was moulding his destiny. His spiritual health and happiness, he said, maintained his physical, and mental and moral equilibrium. Believing that 'He who feeds reaps the corn', he pledged his life to the glory of God.
After a life of ceaseless service, Dr. K. Vaidyanathan was absorbed in the Lotus Feet of the Lord on 10th of April, 1966. He passed away peacefully with name of God on his lips. Earlier that day, he had given an illuminating talk on the life of Siruthonda Nayanar in the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore, Madras.
The values that he lived by are best exemplified by a poem that the he wrote about what he loved best in the world.
Of all things, great and small,
A life that knows no herm;
A hear that beats for all,
And words that cheer and charm
Are the things I love best?
Of all flowers, sweet and shy,
A flow'r that knows no pride,
Whose scent tho' mild coars high
Whose white is Truth's own bride?
Is the thing I love best?
Such a man was Dr. K. Vaidyanathan - a man whose heart beat for all, who meant herm to no one, and who always had a word of cheer for those around him, a man without ride, one's whose life's mission was to seek and spread the Truth, whose soul soured high and was touched by the sweetness and fragrance of God. He was a true poet and philosopher.
This book is a revised version of a thesis for a doctor - ate submitted by Dr. Vaidayanathan. After considerable research, he felt that there was a needless quarrel between Saivites and Vaishnavites. And there is a lot of confusion about the origin of Vaishnavites. Volumes have been written by pseudo scholars that Vaishnavism rose after Adi Shankara more as answers in the religious debate. There words were perhaps motivated by a desire to establish the supremacy of Vaishnavism before Shankara. Dr. Vaidyanathan who met many saints and sages thought that the followers of both the system of philosophy need to know the truth. As result, this thesis written after four years of research was undertaken in addition to the manifold duties and responsibilities God had saddeled him with. During his lifetime this book could not be published owing mainly due to paucity of resources. It is now the will of God to have the book published through Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati. The good work has been initiated by the famous economist and scholar Dr. V.R. Panchamukhi, Chancellor, R.S. Vidyapeetha, Tirupati to whom we are greatly indebted.
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