Sincerity to Values
There are several institutions, which received Sharma’s ‘dohada’ (instigation for healthy growth) – Rashtrotthana Parishat, Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Samskrita Bharati, Sura-sarasvatī-sabhā, and many more. Many maṭhas that belong to different traditions have also received Sharma’s immense contribution.
Sharma displayed the same kind of dedication towards the Rashtrotthana Parishat for decades. He never turned down any request from the Parishat. He wrote books for the series Bhaarata-Bharati. For twenty-five years he wrote the column sūkti-vyāpti for Utthāna. He wrote an article for the magazine whenever we sought one. He always lent a helping hand whenever there was a need to edit any writing.
During the emergency in 1975, when the government locked down the Rashtrotthana Parishat, Sharma was the first one to give a public statement that the act was worth condemning – he did so in spite of being in a governmental job. Sharma’s adherence to values was manifest in several such situations.
All dimensions of Sharma’s personality revealed that he had consciously integrated different kinds of societal requirements in his character. He had great internal equanimity and peace because of this kind of stability. Only a person who is peaceful from within can be a true connoisseur and it is in him that we can find a noble heart. In this manner, deep-rooted scholarship and simplicity devoid of dryness blended well in his personality.
As a nonagenarian, when he had taken residence in Mysore, I happened to visit him to pay my respects. During our conversation, he said, “I am satisfied that I have not wasted even a minute in my life of these many years.”
This statement of his is unforgettable.
It is extremely uncommon to find people who can say something like this with confidence. His constant dedication and perseverance were the causes for him to write a large number of books with varied content and with strict adherence to the śāstras; these works are the kinds that the scholarly world always needed.
Respect for the Dharma-pīṭha
Due to the peaks of the scholarship that Sharma had scaled, many mahāsvāmīs, including Pūjya Śrī Bhāratītīrtha Mahāsvāmī, the current pīṭhādhipati of Dakṣiṇāmnāya Śṛṅgeri Śāradā-pīṭha were greatly honoured.
The kind of regard Pūjya Śrī Bhāratītīrtha Mahāsvāmī had for Sharma and the worshipful respect that he had for the Mahāsvāmī were both extraordinary. When Sharma was over the age of eighty, the mahāsvāmī requested him to translate the Mādhavīya Śrīmat Śaṅkara-digvijaya into Kannada. The Śaṅkara-digvijaya is not an easy work to decipher – it runs to about sixteen sargas (cantos). Śāstric thoughts are embedded in the work here and there and many segments are extremely complex. Sharma’s age was not conducive to take up such a tremendous task. He had health issues as well.
Sharma humbly made his state known to the mahāsvāmī through a letter. The mahāsvāmī wrote back – “It is only because the translation of the said work is a difficult thing to do, we sought your involvement. We will make arrangements for scribes who can help you write. This translation should be taken up by you and nobody else.”
Yet another instance is worth recalling. Sharma had penned a kāvya called Śrī-śaṅkara-caritāmṛtam, which is based on the life of Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda. Pūjya Śrī Bhāratītīrtha Mahāsvāmī wished to hear the work from the poet’s own mouth. Was there any greater fortune than that? Sharma headed to Sringeri. The recitation and listening sessions went on for several days. During the entire process, Sharma was housed in the first storey of the mahāsvāmī’s sānnidhya (residence). After a couple of days of his residence there, on the third day, the poet was escorted to a large room that was in the ground floor. The mahāsvāmī was already seated there. He smiled at Sharma and said, “I have made this arrangement to avoid having you climb stairs at this age. From today, your reading of the poem will continue at this place.” Sharma was overcome by tears. Mahāsvāmī’s empathy choked his voice. He did a dīrgha-daṇḍa-namaskāra to the mahāsvāmī and started the recitation.
Words of Experiential Wisdom
Sharma provided novel insights even in his casual conversations. Once, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh asked him out of curiosity, “What works of alaṅkāra-śāstra have you studied in detailed?” Without getting even a bit agitated at the audacity of the question, he replied, “I have gone through several major śāstras. Many works of śāstras are not worthy of a detailed study, isn’t it so?”
These kinds of utterances that came about from time to time were full of his experimental wisdom and maturity. He often said, “Wisdom has its own bounds and is limited by time too. On the other hand, there is no limit for stupidity – it is infinite.” This, in a deep sense, reflects the bitter reality of the world.
His words, like the above, are memorable.
He often said the following lines –
“We should pass away in our sleep; we should go to bed at night and the next morning be no more!”
“We cannot utter ‘Rāma’ with the ease with which we exclaim ‘ayyo’!”
“I don’t say that I don’t want a long life. But I would like to have a long life provided good health comes along with it!”
After he crossed eighty, he often said, “With Śaṅkara-bhāṣya on my head, Aṣṭādhyāyī in my hands, Vālmīki-rāmāyaṇa on my chest – I wish to pass away in this state!”
“I should pass away the day I forget vyākaraṇa.”
In fact, something exactly like this happened. A few days before his life came to an end, he had become forgetful. He departed on 25th January 2014.
The scholarly contribution that Sharma has left behind him is of great magnitude. However, what surpasses even his contributions is his adherence to values, concern for the well-being of the society, magnanimity, positive attitude, and peaceful nature. He lived as a testimony for the kind of refinement of character that a thorough study of śāstras can result in. It is rare to find a person like him, in whom a cultured internal landscape stands out in all its brilliance along with deep scholarship. Whenever I think of Ranganatha Sharma, I always bring to my mind the manner in which the ārṣa-prajñā might have existed – ‘tadidamiti buddhiṃ draḍhayati.’
The current article is an English adaptation of the Kannada original which has appeared in the Dīptaśṛṅgagalu, authored by Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy. Thanks to Sri Hari Ravikumar for his edits. Thanks to Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and Shashi Kiran BN for providing translations for the verses quoted. Full form of the article is a part of 'A Tapestry of Pen Portraits' published by Prekshaa Pratishtana in December 2020.
 A monthly magazine in Kannada; an organ of the Rashtrotthana Parishat
 Reverentially falling at another’s feet with the entire body stretched out on the ground.
 The thoughts of the best of the seers of Indian culture.
 This phrase is from the play Uttararāmacarita of the great Sanskrit poet bhavabhūti. Here, the poet tells that rivers change their course, forests fall and rise, but only mountains remain unshaken and thus give an identity to the landscape. Ranganatha Sharma is akin to the mountains – he defined the landscape of Indian Culture