Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri--Far-reaching Fame, Disciples

This article is part 7 of 8 in the series Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri

Śrī  Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri had supplied several sets of logical refinement to Brahma-sūtras, which were not seen in extant commentaries thereon. Because of this, the moniker ‘Navīnam’ came to be associated with him. Vidvān Śeṣācala Śarmā insisted Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri to collate his Guru’s logical refinements in the form of notes and prepare them for publication. But he never gave his mind to this job.

As an exception to the inherent uninterest in Śrī Śāstri about all matters concerning writing, a couple of his articles were published. Acceding to insistent requests from some quarters, Śrī Śāstri dictated these.

As part of the celebrations of Bhagavatpāda Śaṅkara’s twelfth birth centenary, the Kannada and Culture Department published two short books titled Śaṅkara-vāṇi and Śrīśaṅkarācāryaru. Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri contributed a thirty-five-page article on Upaniṣadic commentaries to the latter book. It is an elucidation of eight principal Upaniṣads in the light of Śaṅkarācārya’s commentaries. Read attentively, this essay serves as a lucid introduction to the fundamentals of Vedānta-śāstra. The following is an extract illustrative of its style.

Explaining asanneva sa bhavati asad brahmeti veda cet asti brahmeti ced veda santamenaṃ tato viduriti (Taittirīya-upaniṣad, 2.6.1), he writes:

“Since the Vedas proclaim that the Self is Brahma, he is indeed a fool who negates his existence. The one who accepts the existence of Brahma is himself Brahma. Therefore, the wise speak of him as ‘sat-puruṣa’ and ‘paramārtha-sadrūpa.’ Sat (existence) and satya (truth) both arise from the same root and are convergent in import. So, the Self that exists is nothing but the nature of Satya-brahma. Once these are established, Veda explicates them through various modes of inference, with a view to benefit the laity. Now a few questions arise. Does an unenlightened individual, after release from his mortal frame, unite with Ātma? If yes, the same must be true of an enlightened individual; for, the selfsame Ātma is present in everyone. In this way, Veda here assumes the doubts that might arise in the minds of the laity, and explains the same with logical reasoning. The Supreme is sadrūpa—like one with desires, like one desirous to attain heaven. The Supreme is sadrūpa—like a minister, because it can think. The Supreme is sadrūpa—like a potter, because it is a creator. The Supreme is sadrūpa—like the face reflected in a mirror, because it is praveśa-kartā. The Supreme is sadrūpa—like anna that assumes the forms of various consumable and enjoyable objects, because it is the consummation of innumerable enjoyable entities. Objects to be enjoyed are of two types: sat, which is manifest; and tyat, which is unmanifest. Further, the supreme is sadrūpa—because it is the causal force of fear and fearlessness. It causes fear in the unenlightened and renders fearless the enlightened. Deities headed by Indra go about their duties as though in fear of the Supreme. To the enlightened, the Supreme is of their very nature, and hence is the foundation of fearlessness, the basis of mokṣa. In order to explain this distinction, Veda, through the statement ‘udaramantaraṃ kurute,’ ascribes fear to those who subscribe to absolute disparity and erases fear in those who subscribe to absolute oneness. It concludes by laying to rest the allegation that mokṣa is same to both the enlightened and unenlightened.”   

Far-reaching Fame

In an earlier section we noted that Śrī Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri served as the professor of Epistemology and Logic in Tirupati University. Since he belonged to the highest echelons of Vedānta scholars, numerous renowned institutions devoted to Vedic studies invited him on special occasions to participate in scholarly symposia. Śrī Śāstri took part in many such conferences in various provinces such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, and brought laurels to Karnataka.

Once, he was invited to Haridwar to teach Vedānta to several sects of Punjabi saṃnyāsins. His lessons there were so impressive that the saṃnyāsins came to him after the sessions and said: “Śāstri-ji, please reside in Punjab hereafter. We will take care of all your needs. There shall be no hassles. We consider it a blessing to receive your constant guidance.” Such requests came from other institutions, too. But Śrī Śāstri did not have the mind to move away from Bengaluru. He therefore cordially renounced the request of the Punjabi saṃnyāsins.

Banaras Hindu University, established by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, is one of the most prominent centres of learning in the country. Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri visited it upon invitation. It is generally belied that the highest recognition a traditional scholar can seek is the respect of scholars in Kashi. In the university, Śrī Śāstri exhibited his erudition in Logic and earned the respect and admiration of Kashi’s learned folk. Scholars wholeheartedly showered praises on him and conferred the title ‘vibudha-siṃha,’ ‘the best of scholars.’

Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi was once camping in New Delhi (around 1978). A scholarly assembly was convened there, and an invitation was sent out to Śrī Śāstri. His participation made the Mahāsvāmi elated.

Disciples

Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri had a huge and wide-ranging stream of disciples—from laypeople to eminent officials.

Several eminences studied the śāstras under him for more than fifteen years. A few among them were: Y. S. Nanjundiah (who was probably a senior officer in ACC); Y. S. Ramaswamy, his brother (the architect of Ashoka Hotel and the chief engineer of ITDC and ITC Hotels; he passed away on 24.12.2001); Gangadharayya, his brother Hirannayya (an employee of Kirloskar Company) and their relative Venkataramayya; S. N. Goyal (Air Vice-Marshall); S. Narayana Rao (Revenue Commissioner); G. Sundara Rao (Inspector-General of Mysore); A. G. Ramachandra Rao (Education Minister); Vidvān C. Anantacharya (lecturer of Sanskrit in Bangalore High School; he devoted his post-retirement life to the cause of Vedānta); H. N. Srinivasayya (proprietor of Annapoorna Cookers); Nagesh (employee of New Government Electrical Factory, resident of Mavalli); G. A. Narasimha Murthy (editor of the popular monthly Kathegāra, president of Karnataka Journalists’ Union, one of the earliest proprietors of tourist buses in this part of the State, long-standing student of Vedānta); and P. Rajaram Rao (engineer in Karnataka Public Works Department, resident of New York from the past four decades).

B. N. Srikanthiah (Deputy Director of Radar and Missiles Department in the central Defence Sector) studied commenatries of Vedānta under Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri for eight years. Post retirement, he was singularly dedicated to observing Vedantic precepts.

Between 1960 and 1970, Śrī Śāstri taught Vedānta to T. S. Shankar (who was professor of applied Mathematics in IIT Madras, and later took saṃnyāsa and was known as Svāmi Paramānanda-bhāratī), Svāmi Acalānanda (Subrahmanya Shauti in pūrvāśrama, a senior officer in Karnataka Public Works Department), the erstwhile pontiff of Sri Ramacandrāpura Maṭha, Dr. S R Leela (professor of Sanskrit at NMKRV College) and many others.

To be continued.

Author(s)

About:

Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of greats like D. V. Gundappa and Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.

Translator(s)

About:

Shashi Kiran B N holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in Sanskrit. His interests include Indian aesthetics, Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit and Kannada literature, and philosophy. A literary aficionado, Shashi enjoys composing poetry set to classical meters in Sanskrit. He co-wrote a translation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh’s Kannada work Kavitegondu Kathe.