Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri--Pāṭhaśālā and Guru

This article is part 2 of 3 in the series Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri

In 1931, Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri joined the Pāṭhaśālā in this Maṭha for higher studies. He was then eighteen years of age. The background of this Pāṭhaśālā requires mention.

शुद्धाद्वैतपथस्य पालनकृते पूर्वं त्वया स्थापित-

स्थानेष्वन्यतमस्थशिष्यततिगस्तत्कार्यकृत्यक्षमः।

अज्ञानां धुरि कीर्तनीयचरितो नाद्यापि विद्यालय-

स्तस्मात्स्थानमिदं गुरूत्तम कृपावार्धे त्वमेवाश्रय॥

यद्वा दुर्मतभेदपाटववतीं मेधां नवोन्मेषिणीं

विद्यामश्रुतशास्त्रपाठनचणां दद्याद्द्रुतं चेद्गुरो।

साहाय्यं च सुधन्वपार्थिवसदृग्राजावलेतर्ह्यहं

त्वद्वीक्षाबलतो यते यतिपते तत्त्वाध्वसंवृद्धये॥

Śaṅkarācārya-stotra-kadamba

(“I belong to a line of disciples that adheres to one of the many Centres you established to disseminate the essence of Advaita Vedānta. One fit to be counted as the foremost among the ignorant, I am unable to accomplish the objectives of this Centre. Therefore, I beseech you, the best among Gurus, a veritable ocean of compassion, to kindly occupy this position.

Or, if you at once bless me with a creative intellect that can thwart ill-willed people, with the power to understand and teach scriptures hitherto unknown, and with the support of munificent kings, I shall, by your grace, attempt to enrich the lore of Philosophy.”)

Śrī Saccidānanda-śivābhinava-nṛsiṃha-bhāratī Mahāsvāmi composed these verses to give expression to tempestuous emotions brewing within, when he stood before the idol of Ādi Śaṅkara in Kerala, ready to travel back to Sringeri. He was the thirty-third pontiff of the Sringeri Śāradā-pīṭha; he earned far-reaching fame even during his lifetime.

The Mahāsvāmi founded the Śaṅkara-maṭha in Bengaluru in the Kīlaka Saṃvatsara (1907 CE), aided by conducive conditions and the patronage of the Mysore Mahārāja’s Government. It was his blessings that played a pivotal role in instituting the Bhāratīya-gīrvāṇa-prauḍha-vidyābhivardinī Pāṭhaśālā (Virodhikṛt Saṃvatsara, 1911 CE) as a prominent organ of the Śaṅkara-maṭha, to revitalize the study of Vedānta.

It is to the singular credit of the Mahāsvāmi that he had the foresight to recognize the need for and importance of scriptural learning in modern times.  

With the intention to set only the highest standards for the Pāṭhaśālā, he devised its curriculum in an exhaustive manner, which was greatly elaborate in comparison with the curricula adopted by other centres of learning. A course of its study lasted for eight years. (In recent times this has been reduced to six years.)

Only after securing firm grounding in Tarka-śāstra (Logic) would students proceed to study Pūrva-mīmāṃsā (Vedic exegesis) or Uttara-mīmāṃsā (Vedānta philosophy). Accordingly, the first module involved studying the texts of Logic such as Annambhaṭṭa's Tarka-saṅgraha (along with Dīpikā, the commentary thereon), Viśvanātha Nyāyapañcānana’s Kārikāvalī, and Muktāvalī (along with the commentary Dinakarī). Subsequently, the student had to study paribhāṣā-prakaraṇa (from Bhaṭṭoji-dīkṣita’s Siddhānta-kaumudī), Appayya-dīkṣita’s Siddhānta-leśa-saṅgraha, Āpadeva's Mīmāṃsā-nyāya-prakāśa, and Khaṇḍadeva’s Bhāṭṭa-dīpikā (nīvītānta-bhāga). After these, students would study the subject of their preference (Mīmāṃsā or Vedānta) in the next six to seven years. A mere glance at the curriculum of these subjects is enough to scare commoners:

Vedānta—

1. Vedānta-paribhāṣā

2. Siddhānta-leśa-saṅgraha

3. Śaṅkarācārya's commentaries on the ten principal Upaniṣads

4. Śaṅkarācārya's commentary on Bhagavad-gītā

5. Śaṅkarācārya's commentary on Brahma-sūtras

6. Advaita-siddhi (complete first chapter and Akhaṇḍārtha-vāda in the second chapter)

7. Brahmānandīya-laghucandrikā (Upādhyanta)

8. The first four aphorisms of the Brahma-sūtras (along with Bhāmatī, Kalpataru, and Parimaḻa)

9. Pañcapādikā-vivaraṇa (first chapter)

10. Nyāya-rakṣāmaṇi (select portions)

Mīmāṃsā—

1. Mīmāṃsā-nyāya-prakāśa

2. Bhāṭṭa-dīpikā (all twelve chapters)

3. Bhāṭṭa-kaustubha (complete, until Balābalādhikaraṇa)

4. Bhāṭṭa-rahasya (complete text)

5. Śābara-bhāṣya on Jaiminīya-sūtras (first three chapters)

6. Kumārila-bhaṭṭa’s Śloka-vārtika

7. Pārthasārathi-miśra’s Śāstra-dīpikā (until Tarka-pāda)

8. Aṅgatva-nirukti

9. Appayya-dīkṣita’s Vidhi-rasāyana

10. Appayya-dīkṣita’s Vāda-nakṣatra-mālā (select arguments)

In the last century, numerous people accomplished the study of this expansive and difficult coursework and emerged as scholars. This is indeed laudable.

The Jagadguru was of the firm opinion that teachers must strictly observe their ritualistic duties and count as role models for the society, apart from imparting textual knowledge to students. In the Pāṭhaśālā, there was a written examination once in three months, and an oral as well as written examination once in six months. An external examiner would be present alongside in-house scholars in the final examination. Students who completed this eight-year coursework were honoured in Sringeri during the Navarātra celebrations—a golden bracelet, a set of shawls, two hundred rupees in cash, and the title ‘Paṇḍita-pravara’ were conferred upon them.    

With a view to make the Bengaluru Pāṭhaśālā the best centre of traditional learning in the country, the Jagadguru invited the very best scholars of the time to serve as teachers. Each of them was an acknowledged colossus: during the first term (1911–1916), Śruti-śirobhūṣaṇa Veḻḻūru Subrahmaṇya Śāstri was the teacher of Vedānta. (He passed away in 1917.) After him, Nyāya-pañcānana Hānagal Virūpākṣa Śāstri occupied the position (1917–1926). He later took saṃnyāsa and was known as Śrīmad Vālukeśvara Bhāratī. He shed his mortal body in 1926.

Between 1911 and 1938, Mīmāṃsā-kaṇṭhīrava Nemam Vaidyanātha Śāstri was the teacher of Mīmāṃsā. (He passed away in 1942.) His students occupied the post in later times. For a period of twelve years starting from 1929, Ācārya Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri was the teacher of Vedānta. 

Ācārya Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri

Right from the time Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri joined the Pāṭhaśālā (1931), Śrī Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri was his Guru. Guru he was not just in the formal sense of an instructor, but in a broader, life-enriching sense.  

Śrī Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri hailed from Palghat. He took initial lessons on Nyāya under Śrī Candraśekhara-bhāratī Mahāsvāmi. He successfully completed the course of study of Vedānta and Mīmāṃsā under Virūpākṣa Śāstri and Vaidyanātha Śāstri respectively. Starting from 1941, after the tenure of Palghat Nārāyaṇa Śāstri, he was the professor of Advaita in the Mahārāja Sanskrit Pāṭhaśālā in Mysore. He used to regularly deliver discourses on philosophy before Mahārāja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.

Śrī Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri ruled over the scholarly terrain of Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, and Tarka for over three decades. There was no scriptural work that he did not know from memory; there was no line of argument in Logic that was unfamiliar to him. On no occasion did he lose in debate.

During Cāturmāsya[1], the pontiff of the Parakāla-maṭha in Mysore used to organize scholarly debates on the śāstras every evening. That was a unique worship of the deity of knowledge. The participants were the crème de la crème of traditional scholars: Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri, Āraḍi Koppa Subrahmaṇya Śāstri, Saṅkaranārāyaṇa Śāstri et al. The Mahāsvāmi would instruct a student to begin the exposition on a topic. Once the topic was decided in this manner, streams of logic argument would unceasingly flow forth from the scholars, masterfully expressed in chaste and appropriate words. The Mahāsvāmi had arranged the proceedings in such a manner that Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri’s turn to speak was reserved for the very end. The reason for this was simple: once this tiger began to roar, everyone else remained silent, completely dumbstruck. Who could challenge the Himalayan heights of his erudition? At times, his exposition would go on in an uninterrupted fashion for two or three hours, marshalling newer arguments every instant, without any sign of stopping. The Mahāsvāmi would then tactfully conclude the deliberations citing his daily austerities as excuse.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the then-President of India, was put up at the Lalit Mahal Palace in Mysore during his period of rest. Since he had great regard for traditional learning, he visited the Mahārāja Sanskrit Pāṭhaśālā. He witnessed a scholarly debate between Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri and Caturvedī Rāmacandrācārya. Extremely pleased, he reverentially prostrated before the scholars.

Śrī Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri used to refine and logically reinforce many tenets of Vedānta whereon no traditional commentary exists. Since he came up with these new lines of argument himself, the epithet ‘Navīnam’ came to be associated with him. Many titles and honorifics adorned him—‘Darśanālaṅkāra’ (given by the Sringeri Maṭha), ‘Paṇḍita-ratna’ (given by the Mahārāja of Mysore), ‘‘Paṇḍita-rāja’ (given by the Mahārāja of Kochi) etc.

Thorough Study

Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri used to gratefully muse on many occasions throughout his life that he was extremely fortunate to study under eminent Gurus.

Brilliance, irrepressible thirst for knowledge, impeccable power of retention, respect for tradition, and the will to toil were some traits present in Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri from birth. Unconditional affection and prodigious education provided by his Guru, coupled with the serene ambiance of the Pāṭhaśālā sanctified by the Jagadguru’s grace, helped augment these traits. Added to this list of conducive factors were constant interaction with scholars and company of committed, like-minded classmates. It is no wonder then, that Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri’s education progressed without hassles and hurdles.

Śrī Koḍūru Kṛṣṇa Jois (1.8.1912–24.1.2001) and Śrī Anantamūrti Śāstri were his classmates. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Jois served as professor of Vedānta in the same Pāṭhaśālā starting from 1959. He was the āsthāna-vidvān (resident scholar) of Sringeri. Śāṅkara-darśana-marma-prakāśa, Mūlāvidyā Bhāṣyavārtikasammatā, and Dharmaśāstra-karadīpikā are some of his works. They are all excellent expositions on their respective subjects.in 1989, he received the President’s Award for his contribution to Sanskrit. Śrī Anantamūrti Śāstri was the professor of Nyāya in the Cāmarājendra Sanskrit Pāṭhaśālā in Bengaluru. He gave regular discourses on Vedānta at various places including his home. He spoke less, was contemplative by nature, and had thorough knowledge of the scriptures. Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri was particularly respectful of him. he used to say, “Whenever doubts arise in my mind, I go to Anantamūrti Śāstri for clarification.” The reason for this was his ripeness of insight, apart from his astounding erudition.    



[1] The four months of the rainy season in which monks camp in a conducive place and study the scriptures and practise spiritual disciplines. Their vow commences on Guru-pūrṇimā.

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.