Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri--Disseminating Dharma

This article is part 4 of 8 in the series Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri

Disseminating Dharma

Once this rigorous study of the scriptures was complete, Śrī Śāstri engaged himself primarily with delivering discourses on the Purāṇas. He used to address a batch each twice in a day—one in the morning and another in the evening—at the Āñjaneya temple in Vishveshvarapura. Traders and patrons of great repute, such as Pobbati Kṛṣṇayya Śeṭṭi and Anantayya Śeṭṭi, who hailed from the Vaiśya community, organized these lectures. These large-hearted people arranged a suitable residence for Śrī Śāstri in Vishveshvarapura, at a moderate sum of rent. The house belonged to a noble brāhmaṇa of the Śrīvaiṣṇava subsect, it seems. After some years, Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri shifted to another house in the same locality. No sooner had he settled here than his lectures became extremely popular. To attend them, people—including womenfolk—came in large numbers.

Discourses were held on a variety of Purāṇa texts. Special celebrations ensued during festivals. While hymns from the Vedas were recited on all occasions, Śrī Śāstri, with a view to encourage his students, had stotras recited from them. During spells of worship in the month of Kārtika (typically overlapping October and November), students recited Vīṣṇu-sahasranāma and suchlike stotras every day. In this way, thanks to Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri’s regime, the venerable activity of dharma-propagation continued joyously for a number of years.  Alongside this, during his spare time, Śrī Śāstri used to give lessons on the scriptures to everyone interested.  Once he moved to his own permanent residence ‘Cidvilāsa’ in Basavanagudi, Vidvān Nāgeśa Śāstri took over delivering discourses in Vishveshvarapura. It behoves every lover of culture to remember with gratitude the unparalleled service rendered by the Vaiśya community in organizing all these activities.

In 1952, Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri purchased an old house located in H B Samaja road. It belonged to one Lakshmana Rao. (Back in the day, it seems, there was a horse stable in one of the portions of the house). Vaiśya patrons were of a great help to Śrī Śāstri in purchasing this house, who in turn spent the little money he had saved to renovate it. At the front, he built an expansive room meant entirely for discourses—it was twelve feet in width and thirty in height. It was here that Śrī Śāstri delivered talks on the Purāṇas and taught scriptures over the next forty years. Because of this, this space came to be known as the ‘Purāṇa room.’ Mornings were reserved for lessons on Prasthāna-traya-bhāṣya[1] and evenings for lectures on mythological texts.   

The house was ideally located. If Śrī Śāstri were to give it on rent, it would have easily fetched him around two thousand rupees a month. Many people advised him to do so. But service to culture mattered the most to him, and so he paid no heed to these words.

Several dignitaries used to invite Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri to their homes to take lessons. They would send their cars to fetch him. prominent among them were A R Nageshvara Iyer, Justice at the Karnataka High Court, A R Somanatha Iyer and other such eminences.

There must be at least two hundred people who took lessons from Śrī Śāstri over five decades. While some attended classes for a couple of years, others came for a decade, while still others stayed for around fifteen years. Thousands of people have listened to his discourses on the Purāṇas.     

People who took lessons on śāstras under him considered themselves extremely fortunate. Like his scholarship, his power of oration, too, was of a high order. The sheer sweep of his knowledge in various texts of scripture and mythology was remarkable. It is but natural, therefore, that he gained immense popularity as an orator.

Teaching Style

Teaching the commentaries authored by Śaṅkarācārya was religion with him. While entering and exiting the Purāṇa room, he would invariably recite “nārāyaṇaṃ padmabhuvaṃ vasiṣṭhaṃ...” and suchlike verses.

Unambiguity was the one quality that stood out in his exposition. “This is the exact import of this Vedic hymn; no less, no more”—of this sort was his clarity rooted in conviction. He would by himself assume doubts that are likely to arise in grasping the correct import of those ancient texts, and would clarify them masterfully.

Śrī Śāstri never taught with a stoic, expressionless face. Regardless of the complexity of the subject, his speech proceeded in majestic cadence, betraying no signs of bearing the burden of explication. Effortlessness marked it out. When the topic of Brahma propped op, he would, at times, remark that this word does not connote the Creator (masculine in Sanskrit) and then say with a smile, “This Brahma is neuter!” After basking in the warmth of the light laughter this elicited, he would proceed.

His face would be delightfully radiant while teaching. He could expound on any tenet of Vedānta philosophy with ease and authority. On topics such as adhyāsa, kṣaṇika-vāda, and nimitta-upādāna, he had contemplated deeply. His expositions on these subjects were particularly brilliant.  

While teaching at home, his exposition was wholesome and uninterrupted. Even so, there used to be an added shade of effulgence in his discourses before scholarly assemblies. Śrī Śāstri was himself wonderstruck by this. “Whence do I get that inspiration, that force of expression, before scholars! It beats me.” I have heard him say so with surprise on many occasions.     

He would completely forget himself while teaching commentaries on Upaniṣads and Brahma-sūtras. Once, while teaching Kaṭhopaniṣad, he lapsed into an elaborate exposition—in Sanskrit! After fifteen minutes or so he came round, said “I did not realize, sorry. I should teach in Kannada. Of course …” and continued.  

Aśikṣitānāṃ kāvyeṣu śāstrābhyāso nirarthakaḥ,” “Scriptural learning of those who have not savoured poetry is incomplete.” So says Nīlakaṇṭha-dīkṣita. Śrī Śāstri was widely read in literature. And therefore, it was his wont to quote verses of Kālidāsa and other master poets while teaching the scriptures.

Well-rounded Instruction

Thinking of the sheer number of subjects over which Śrī Śāstri had mastery, we can only stand in silent awe.

He explained to minute detail the grammatical nuance of every word featuring in the treatises he taught. Concluding one such commentary on a particularly tricky word, he said, “By the time this is done, my grandfather emerges from his grave!”   

At times, details of the almanac would come up for discussion: “today we have dagdha-yoga,” “this time around it is amṛta-siddhi-yoga,” “now it is tisroṣṭaka” and so forth. Explanation of those astronomical / astrological concepts would invariably follow.

Students would even come to him to study Poetics. He taught treatises such as Pratāpa-rudrīya to a couple of batches.

There was no place for haste and under-involvement in his teaching method. Be it a line or be it a whole text, one should teach it comprehensively. This was his conviction. It took three to four months for lessons on the slim Kenopaniṣad (having thirty-four sentences) to conclude. (Śaṅkarācārya has written two commentaries on it: pada-bhāṣya and vākya-bhāṣya). After teaching every line along with commentaries, Śrī Śāstri independently explained the essence of the text for two to three days. What do we understand by ‘upādhi’? And what does it mean to transcend it? On suchlike questions, he spoke at length. This elucidated based on mantras such as “śrotrasya śrotraṃ manaso manaḥ” and “na tatra cakṣurgacchati” seemed to us like a lesson on modern Psychology. While explaining the sentence “pratibodha-viditaṃ matam amṛtatvaṃ hi vindate,” he introduced us to the fundamentals of Epistemology, Ontology, and Buddhist philosophy.  

“Vedānta teaches us that the power of the mind is immense; that it has the ability to grasp even those things outside the pale of the senses; that knowledge of this subtle dimension is all-comprehensive because it is not bound by ordinary limitations. All activities of the senses such as hearing, seeing, and smelling are ultimately mere consequences. The flow of energy constitutes knowledge, and since this is caused by vibratory stimulation, there is no unbridgeable gap between various kinds of knowledge. Saṃjñāna is the unitary knowledge identified with that faculty, which is unique to the Self and stands in need of nothing else. Upaniṣads aver that Brahma is beyond attributes …”

He would, in this manner, teach at length, giving examples every other minute. I cannot explain in words the beauty of his teaching. One has to experience it.

[1] Commentaries on Upaniṣads, Brahma-sūtras, and Bhagavad-gītā, the three basic texts of Vedānta. By commentaries, here, are meant those authored by Bhagavatpāda Śaṅkara.

To be continued.




Nadoja 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 stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.



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.

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...