Sri Ramanasramam is very pleased to bring out in this volume a selection of the articles and talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi by the late Professor K. Swaminathan (1896-1994), affectionately known to the circle of his fellow devotees as 'the Professor'. It is especially appropriate that this collection should come out in 1996-97, a year which not only marks the centenary of Sri Bhagavan's move to Arunachala but also the birth centenary of the Professor.
Professor Swaminathan enjoyed a long and active life marked by many-sided achievements. After a brilliant academic career in Madras and at Oxford, he taught English literature initially for some years at the Sri Meenakshi College, Chidambaram (later to become the Annamalai University), followed by two decades as Additional Professor in the Presidency College, Madras, during which he attracted a wide circle of friends, students and admirers. On retirement from the Madras Educational Service in 1953 as Principal of the Government Arts College, the Professor joined The Indian Express as its Associate Editor. In 1959, he moved to New Delhi as the Chief Editor of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG), a position in which he continued until 1991, though he returned to Madras in 1986. His untiring exertions over a continuous period of more than three decades in bringing out 100 volumes of the CWMG is a monumental achievement that is widely known and recognized. It was, therefore, but fitting that he should have been honoured with the award of the Padma Bhushan (1972) and the Doctorate o the Gandhigram Rural University (1987).
The Professor's first visit to Sri Ramanasramam and Darshan of the Bhagavan took place in 1940 - a turning point in his life, which is described in one of the articles in this volume ("The First Darshan"). Thereafter, until April 1950 when Sri Bhagavan passed into maha-nirvana, the Professor spent many weekends and vacation at the Ashram. On each of these visits, he also brought with him his student's friends and family members enabling them to share the grace of the Bhagavan and the bliss of his presence. Although the Professor's direct exposure to the Bhagavan extended over only a decade, his close association with the Ashram continued without interruption for 44 years after the maha-nirvana of the Bhagavan until the Professor's own death in 1994. Altogether, therefore, -as long as the period of Bhagavan's own presence in Tiruvannamalai.
The Professor's contributions to the exposition and propagation of the teachings of Sri Bhagavan were varied and at many levels. He was associated with the editing of the Ashram's English quarterly, The Mountain Path, and served as its Editor-in-Chief for many years during the eighties. Apart from contributing editorials, articles and book reviews, he generously gave his time, amidst many other preoccupations, to see through print The Mountain Path and other Ashram publications in a meticulous manner. He also edited the souvenir published by Sri Ramanasramam in 1946 to commemorate the golden Jubilee of Sri Bhagavan's advent at Arunachala.
Professor Swaminathan authored the biography of Sri Ramana in the National Book Trust series. It has proved to be very popular and has helped thousands of readers to gain a simple and succinct introduction to Sri Bhagavan's life and teachings. The original in English has been translated into Hindi, Tamil and a few other Indian languages, and some of the versions have run into a number of reprints. His other major, indeed a monumental, contribution is the translation in English verse of all the 1254 stanzas of Sri Muruganar's Guru Vachaka-Kovai. They were originally serialized in The Mountain Path and later brought out as a separate publication by the Ashram. He has also translated from Tamil into English Sri Muruganar's Ramana Sannidhi Murai (1851 verses) of which a selection of 470 verses has been published, and some of the writings by and on Sri Ramana Maharshi.
In spreading the name and message of the Bhagavan, the Professor was not content with the written word. He took great pains, both in Madras and New Delhi, to establish and sustain an active satsang which would meet regularly and provide a forum for an ever-widening circle of devotees. Soon after the Bhagavan's maha-nirvana, the Ramana Bhakta Sabha in Madras started functioning in his house 'Dharmalayam' and continued there until 1977 when it moved to other premises. In New Delhi, the weekly meetings of the Ramana Bhakta Sabha were held for many years in his small flat in Netaji Nagar. The Professor took a great deal of personal effort to raise the finances and to get land allotted for a permanent Ramana Kendra in the capital. The Kendra was inaugurated on 1st September 1974 in the Lodi Institutional Complex and has proved to be a vibrant centre for the sharing and transmission of the Maharshi's message.
The Professor's ardent devotion made him look for other ways as well to celebrate the Bhagavan. He played a major role in getting a Ramana Maharshi commemorative postage stamp issued in 1971. He was a moving spirit in the successful Ramana Maharshi centenary celebration and seminar held in New Delhi in 1980. In the same year, due largely to his efforts, an important arterial road in Lodi Estate, Central Delhi, was renamed as Maharshi Ramana Marg.
Above all, the Professor will be remembered for the enormous enthusiasm and generosity with which he shared his scholarship and insights with a wide circle of Sri Ramana's devotees. His was an open house to them in Madras and Delhi. Through articles, talks at the Ramana Bhakta Sabha and elsewhere and in extended correspondence and conversations, he delighted in interpreting the Bhagavan's life and teachings from ever-fresh angles in his inimitable style. What was remarkable was that this output poured forth during the years when he was intensely busy in editing the CWMG. It showed that he was able to combine in his own life scholarship and propagation, reflecting the complementarity of Jnana exemplified by Sri Bhagavan and karma by Gandhiji to which he often used to refer.
The Ashram is grateful to Sri La. Su. Rengarajan and Sri S. Guhan for collecting, collating and selecting the material for this volume and for editorial proof-reading. The pleasing cover design and frontispiece with the portrait of Sri Ramana Maharshi is the artwork of Sri Maniam Selven for which we are thankful to the well known artist.
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