Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri--Appropriateness

This article is part 6 of 6 in the series Māgaḍi Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri

“On one occasion Vidvān Anantakṛṣṇa Śāstri (a towering scholar of the league of Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri) began to pose a series of questions to him. Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri answered them all with great conviction, confidence, and mastery. Anantakṛṣṇa Śāstri was visibly impressed—he patted his back and gave his blessings. This brought unbound happiness to the Jagadguru. Scholars present there exclaimed with joy.”

A text in the same league of depth as Brahmānandīya, which Śrī Śāstri frequently chose to expound on, was Śrī-harṣas’s Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya. Vidvān Śeṣācala Śarmā (disciple of Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri) remarks:

“Scholars there are many. But only a few among them have the gift of oratory. Some find it hard-pressed to speak before a learned audience; they develop cold feet while attempting it. Since Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri was both a prodigious scholar and a first-rank orator, and since he was sufficiently intrepid to present his arguments in a forceful manner, his expositions were impressive.”

Appropriateness

विद्या विनयोपेता हरति न चेतांसि कस्य मनुजस्य।

काञ्चनमणिसंयोगो नो जनयति कस्य लोचनानन्दम्॥

vidyā vinayopetā harati na cetāṃsi kasya manujasya

kāñcanamaṇisaṃyogo no janayati kasya locanānandam

(Subhāṣita-ratna-bhāṇḍāgāra, p. 39, verse #17)

Learning coalesced with modesty pleases the hearts of everyone. Does the union of gold and a precious gem not delight the eye?  

Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri’s modesty was on an equal footing with his colossal erudition. While in a group, he chose to remain silent; he would never exhibit his scholarly stature. Never once did he speak ill of scholars—not even in private conversations. Amidst scholars, he would remain self-effacing, behaving in a manner that ensured the comfort of everyone. Such a sense of propriety was hard-wired in him.

Once, a group of scholars gathered before Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi, to discuss minute scriptural issues. Śrī Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri was the convener. A topic of great complication came up for discussion. Many among the assembled scholars presented arguments. Somehow, none of them sounded convincing. Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri silently sat behind his Guru, not interfering in the proceedings. Towards what seemed the end of the debate, Navīnam Veṅkaṭeśa Śāstri turned to his disciple and said, “Let us hear you, Lakṣmīnarasiṃha.” Śrī Śāstri was reluctant to argue before senior scholars. Then the Mahāsvāmi himself said encouragingly, “It is to you the scholars refer. Please speak.”

Then he began. Masterfully summing up the argument hitherto presented, he gave his logical conclusion with aplomb, not offering the slightest room for objection. His line of argument convinced the scholars. Everyone present, including the Mahāsvāmi, congratulated him for the soundness of argument, clarity of expression, and precision of conclusion.  

Jagadguru’s Praise

Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi had immense respect and admiration for Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri. A few days before he shed his mortal frame, B. N. Srikanthiah from Bengaluru went to have his darśana. The Mahāsvāmi was overjoyed to know Srikanthiah was Śrī Śāstri’s disciple. Speaking of the fast-dwindling state of affairs of scriptural learning, he said: “Only two people now remain with us, who can speak authoritatively on Vedānta. One is Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri and the other is Koḍūru Kṛṣṇa Jois.”

Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi rarely travelled to receive worship such as pāda-pūja. Since he had nothing but the greatest regard for Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri, he agreed to come to his house (1968 / 1969). Śrī Śāstri’s happiness knew no bound. He welcomed the Mahāsvāmi with great joy and offered worship. He had covered the entire road of his house with a canopy. A huge crowd thronged the place. The Mahāsvāmi accepted the worship with joy and even addressed people from the ‘Purāṇa room.’ It was an unforgettable experience not just to Śrī Śāstri and his family, but to the entire locality.

Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri was in the brahma-sthāna[1] in a ritual, which Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi graced. As soon as seeing him, out of practice, Śrī Śāstri intended to stand. The Mahāsvāmi said with a smile: “Please be seated. You are now Brahma. Until the ritual is complete, you are not supposed to get up. And till then, you are the adhi-pati; we follow your orders.”     

Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi was excessively fond of Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri. He never grew tired of praising his scholarship, both in his presence and absence. On many an occasion he remarked: “I am dissatisfied with you for one reason. You have not trained a student to your level!”

Evidently, this was a praise in disguise. What could Śrī Śāstri do? On his part, he tirelessly taught everyone who came to him.

Paramācārya of Kanchi had great regard for Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri. He was impressed with the depth of his erudition and personality. On his insistence, many students came to Śrī Śāstri for lessons on Vedānta. Learning that the Paramācārya was camping near Tulajapura, Śāstri went to seek his blessings. This greatly pleased him.

Upon the invitation of Sri Venkatesvara Vedasastragama Vidyakendra, Śrī Śāstri taught Epistemology and Logic in Tirupati between 1974 and 1976. The climate there did not suit him. He returned to Bengaluru in 1976.

With a view to derive maximum benefit from his in-depth scholarship, Abhinava Vidyātīrtha Mahāsvāmi appointed Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri as honourary professor of Logic and Epistemology at Sringeri maṭha. Not wanting to cause strain, he had instructed the students to go to Śrī Śāstri’s home for lessons.   

Lacuna

For five decades, Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri worked with single-minded devotion to propagate the life-enriching values enshrined in Vedānta that underpin Indian culture. There is however one incomplete facet in his efforts, which is hard for us to accept. Śrī Śāstri did not author even a single book. That he was not inclined to writing books is our misfortune. There exists no medium through which his astounding erudition can be made known to posterity. His found fulfilment in oral transmission of knowledge. In a sense, this is in line with tradition. There existed innumerable scholars in our country in the past few centuries. Scholarly attainments of how many of them have been documented? Thanks to books and treatises, we remember the names of a few learned people. But is it not true that scores of far more towering scholars have escaped documentation and faded into oblivion?     

Granted, there was the problem of printing in ancient times. During Lakṣmīnarasiṃha Śāstri’s lifetime, however, technology had sufficiently progressed. Starting from 1970s, techniques and devices of audio recording were accessible. Even so, there is no available record of Śrī Śāstri’s lessons, discourses, and expositions on scriptures. Arrangements were made to record his discourses on a couple of occasions. But they did not materialize. The Mahā-pāṭhaśālā at Tirupati had devised a scheme to document the oral tradition of scriptural teaching. They requested Śrī Śāstri to take part and he had agreed. The project did not take off.



[1] The position through which a Brāhmaṇa well-versed in the Vedic lore oversees the happenings of a Vedic ritual.

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.