National and emotional integration is the need of the hour in Indian context. In the global and Universal context equality and brotherhood of man, non-violence, respect for Nature and non-pollution of her elements are burning issues today. Centuries ago Sri Sankara, towering philosopher of Bharat, lived a life and preached an art of living that helped the country in the maintaining, by and large, her emotional and cultural, if not political, oneness through her tumultous age. His philosophy of non-dualism stresses the fundamental unity and total harmony of all beings, animate and inanimate. "Unity alone is real; love it and take refuge in it" the Acarya preached. As the present book shows, all this is a panacea for all the ills of the humanity, now choked in an atmosphere that is dense and polluted with excesses of the industrial and technological revolutions, the political and social upheavals, and an allround degeneracy in morality and ascendancy of violence.
Dr. S. Srinivas Sankaranarayanan (b. 1926) began his education in the Krishnayajurveda in traditional way; became Nyaya Siromani and M. A. in History and Politics; took Doctoral degree in Ancient Indian History; and studied Advaita Vedaanta. He was Gazetted Officer for 21 years in the Epigraphy Branch, Archaeological Survey of India; Director and Professor in the Oriental Research Institute & Department of Indian Culture, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, for 10 years; and U.G.C. Professor for 3 years in the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras. Since 1986 he is Hon. Prof. In the Adyar Library & Research Centre, Madras. The title.
Vedasastraratnakara has been conferred on him by Sri Paramacarya, Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham (1984). He is the recepient of Bharat President's Award of Proficiency in Sanskrit (1994). To his credit he has some 100 published research papers on different Indological and Philosophical topics and 9 books in Sanskrit and English.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA has said that India was saved from mate- rialism twice-once by Lord Buddha, second time by Sri Sankara- carya, through his philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. Great world teachers of Sri Sankara's eminence never cease to be relevant in any period of world history; they go on influencing world thought. That is the reason why even today Sri Sankara is being studied and written upon. Only in India, his contribution and importance in our history is yet to be correctly assessed, not only due to the lack of sufficient historical materials, but because of prejudices and pre-conceived notions about him.
Sri Sankara's life history is steeped in legends. A great per- sonality of his stature dazzles the people around him and he passes into a legend even in his life-time. As centuries roll on, the legends gather more and more accretions, and then it becomes difficult to separate the fact from fiction. Nevertheless, there are many com- mon factors in the Sankaravijayas (Sankara biographies) written on him through the centuries by various authors. To collect the essential facts from these Sankaravijayas and present a brief bio- graphical account is one of the many difficult things which the eminent scholar Prof. S. Sankaranarayanan has accomplished in this book entitled, Sri Sankara: His Life, Philosophy and Relevance to Man in Modern Times.
In other chapters, Sri Sankara's philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and relevance of Sri Sankara to us in modern times have been dis- cussed succinctly. The controversies regarding the date of Sri Sankara has been discussed in an appendix.
Normally, erudition goes against brevity. But the learned author has managed to bring together the essential facts of the Acarya's life and teachings and his relevance to modern man, within a brief compass, thus making it possible for a modern reader to read the book. Prof. Sankaranarayanan has drawn his material from numerous original sources and they have been well- documented.
I believe that this publication would be a valuable addition to the literature on Sri Sankara and I congratulate the author for a task well-done.
ACARYA SRi SANKARA Bhagavadpada was a great and multi- faceted personality. His contribution to the cultural and religious integration of India is enormous and magnificent. He practised, preached and propagated the unique Upanisadic philosophy of oneness of all beings. In 1988 the Government of India decided to pay homage to this great son of Bharat by celebrating Rashtriya Sankara Jayanti Mahotsava; a National Committee under the Chairmanship of Sri Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, was constituted, and the Department of Culture, Ministry of HRD and the University Grants Commission jointly organized regional, national and international seminars, on philosophy, personality and achievements of Sri Sankara, The proceedings of these Seminars have been published. The Co-ordinating Com mittee then recommended that the Department of Culture should bring out a suitable book on Sri Sankara's life, philosophy and relevance to the present time. I was assigned this work by the Department of Culture.
The aim of this book is to present in a cogent manner what we know about the life and works of Sri Sankara as can be gathered from the various Sankaravijayas written centuries after Sri Sankara, all claiming to be biographies of that Teacher, but containing obvi- ous anachronisms, contradictions and inaccuracies. These legends, if examined with discretion carefully, can yield at least some reliable information about that Teacher, about the people of that age and their beliefs regarding Sri Sankara.
The chapter on Sri Sankara's philosophy takes up for detailed study the three basic tenets given in the famous line: Brahma Sat yam , jagan mithya, jivo Brahmaiva naparah, The last Chapter brings out the relevance of Sri Sankara's teachings to the modern man. My plan was to avoid the controversy on the date of Sri Sankara ; but since readers may be interested in that problem, it has been dealt with in an appendix. Another appendix is devoted to the Mathas said to have been established by the Acarya and the identification of the place where Sri Sankara is alleged to have ascended the Sarvajiiapitha. Appendix III is on the Works of Sri Sankara.
A critical review of the tenets of Sri Sankara's philosophy and his refutation of rival schools like the Samkhya, the Mimamsa, etc., are beyond the scope of this book. The original Sanskrit source materials used in writing this book are the Sankaravijayas and the Acarya's own works: detailed references are not given to these sources; but references to secondary sources have been given wherever necessary. For writing the last two chapters I have been fundamentally influenced by the brilliant speeches (in Tamil) of the Paramacarya Chandrasekharendra Sarasvati Swami of Kanchi and by the immortal writings of Swamy Vivekananda. Hence I have given no references to them.
The script of the book was submitted to the Department of Culture in 1990. In due course the Department referred it to the Committee of Experts. After their close scrutiny the Experts approved the script and strongly recommended its publication. Thereupon the Department granted financial aid for its publi- cation. Permission was also given to have it printed by the Vasanta Press and included in the Adyar Library General Series. For all these I am deeply grateful to the Department of Culture, Ministry of Human Resource Department.
I am highly indebted to Professor K. Satchidananda Murty, then Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission, and Member of the National and Co-ordinating Committees of the Rashtriya Sankarajayanti Mahotsava, for recommending my name to write this book. Earlier, when he was the Vice-chancellor of Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, he appointed me as the Director of Oriental Research Institute of the University; and en- couraged me to bring out a critical edition, with English translation. of Abhinavagupta's Gitarthasangraha commentary on the Bhagavad- gita. He was also mainly responsible for my getting the UGC Professorship (1987-89) in the Sanskrit Department of the Univer- sity of Madras.
The script of my book was seen by the late V. S. Seturaman (Retired Professor of English, Sri Krishnadevaraya University) who made valuable suggestions for improving the language. I am highly obliged to him. I am sorry that he passed away in 1993 before seeing the book in print. The late Mahamahopadh- yaya Pattabhirama Sastri of Varanasi, Professor Mandana Mishra, the then Vice-Chancellor, Lal Bahadur Sastri Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi, Shri G. Venkataramani, LA.S•., Shri R. S. Rangarajan, LA.S. (both Deputy Secretaries, Dept. of Culture), Sri K. Subrahmaniam, I.A.S. (Retd.), Sri C. R. Sundara- rajan, I.R.S. (Retd.)-all helped me in getting the book published. Professor K. Kunjunni Raja, Director, Adyar Library and Research Centre kindly lent me some rare and useful old books and souve- niers from his personal library for my work. I am thankful to all these persons.
Mrs Radha Burnier,International President of the Theosophical Society and Chairperson of the Adyar Library Council gave per- mission to get the book printed in the Vasanta Press and included in the Adyar Library General Series. She has also contributed a Foreword to it. I am obliged to her for all these.
Swami Smarananandaji, presently President of the Sri Rama- krishna Mutt, Mylapore, has blessed the book with his Foreword. My grateful Pranams to him.
India, the Bharatavarsa is well known for its vast ness. This is a country with an extent equal to that of the entire continent of Europe, only Russia being excluded. Reputed scholars point out that besides being so vast, India is also one among the countries like Egypt, Mesopotamia etc., where historians, arch aeologists and anthropologists trace the dawn of human civilization and the rise of Thoughts and ideas that have, ages after ages, moulded the character values and destiny of mankind. However, the most striking difference between India and other countries is this: In her history we observe an unbroken cont nuity of her ancient civilization, whereas the older cultures and civilizations of countries like, Egypt, Sumeria, Babilonia, Persia etc., have disappeared long ago. In India, since the days of her earliest known civilization of Harappa and of the Vedas, the self- same Gods and Goddesses are being worshipped; the same hymns of the Vedas are being chanted; and the same religious practices are being observed-of course the passage of centuries has left its inevitable and re- freshing marks of evolution on all these-from Kanya- kumari, her southernmost tip touching the Indian Ocean, upto the northernmost Himalayas. Hence a study of India's ancient culture and civilization is an exercise in understanding and appreciating her most living culture. On the other hand, to study those of other countries is only to satisfy one's own academic curiosity.
What is the secret behind this unparallelled longevity of Indian culture? The secret is that Hinduism, the centre and heart of Indian culture continues to pulsate with a unique energy through millennia. The great strength of Hinduism is its receptivity and all-comprehensiveness. It cares not to oppose the progress of any other system. For, it finds no difficulty in embracing and accommodating other systems-as long as they do not try to destroy its roots-within its fold. Wherefrom does Hinduism derive this unique strength? Impartial experts in the history of world-religions say that it derives its strength from the Vedas. Hinduism is Vedic way; it is a self- perpetuating religion, tracing its multidimensional developments back to the Vedas and the Upanisads. The Vedic way, noted for its constant spiritual reinter- pretation, is a way of life which is self-renewing, self- preserving and which therefore, for the individual and for the world, may be eternal. Hence, unlike in the case of other ancient religions it is not death, but development and unfolding that have been the charac- teristic features of Hinduism: It is for this reason the Vedic Dharma is traditionally known as 'perennial' (sanatana).
Hinduism has been lucky enough to have a galaxy of spiritual interpreters and reinterpreters. The list of them includes the Lord Visnu, Krsna, Yajnavalkya, Vyasa, Vardhamana Mahavira, Gautama Buddha, Sri Sankaracarya and many other illustrious men of wisdom. An attempt is made here in this book to study the life, mission, philosophy and achievements of Sri Sankara briefly and to understand the relevance of his teachings to us in modern times.
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