In Praise of SSS

Of great men and their opponents.

Only great men (magn+animus), above all others, can be the butt of bitter attacks – be it personal or to their output or works – as was the case with Hujwiri, 6th Buddhist Patriarch, Jesus of Nazareth and, in other realms, Shakespeare in England, Cervantes and Lope de Vega in Spain – and so many others. Such was also the case with, to me the best Advaitist writer of the 20th Cent., Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati. The attacks or resistance to accept their views is often motivated by envy. As it has been well-documented, there was initial resistance to accept or agree with the notion of mulavidya in the early work of Swamiji (SSS from now on) as he unfolded it.

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Book Review: Heart of Sri Shankara

Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji
(5 January 1880 – 5 August 1975) was the founder of the Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya in Holenarasipura, Hassan district, Karnataka, India. Born as Sri Yellambalase Subbarao, he worked as a school teacher in the Indian state of Karnataka. He gave many lectures and wrote many articles on the Vedanta in English, Kannada and Sanskrit.

Satchidanandendra Saraswati was a philosopher who dedicated all his life for the Vedanta sAdhana and attained brahma-j~nAna. He was known as a jIvanmukta sage. He was the best example of a Sanskrit saying, “One should spend one’s life until sleep and until death only in Vedantic contemplation”. (Wikipedia)

Heart of Shri Shankara Swami Satchidanandendra, translated by A. J. Alston. A detailed consideration of what Shri Shankara said about the nature of ignorance, and other views. A translation of a work by Shri Swami Satchidanandendra first published in 1929 under the title Refutation of Root Ignorance or The Heart of Shri Shankara. It considers the philosophical view that there is a ‘root-ignorance’ that ‘creates’ the phenomenal world and which in some sense really exists. The Swami sets out to show that this view arose among Advaitins after Shri Shankara and is contrary to his true teaching.

978-0-85424-050-0 £12.00 from Shanti Sadan in the UK, http://www.shantisadan.org/bookstore/heartshankara.php (Still £12 over 10 years after this review was written!) or available as a PDF download from http://www.adhyatmaprakasha.org/Volumes/PDF/english/042/index.pdf.

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SSSS and Ignorance

One of the sticky points in the controversies that surrounded Satchidanandendra was whether there is a root ignorance: Mullavidya even in self-realized persons (normally, Advaitins or followers of Shankaracharya). When Satchidanandendra (SSSS) and his former mentor, Krishnaswamy Iyer went to consult Virupakaksha Shastry (an authority on the tradition of AV) with that end in mind, the latter pretended to make them believe or accept that a remnant of Prarabdha Karma or Avidya always remains, even in jñani-s[1]. After that encounter, SSSS and K. Iyer concluded after further reflection that ‘the Vyakdhyakaras (post-shankarites) were themselves the originators of that misconception’.

Subsequently, SSSS intensified his study of the Bhashyas for five years, during which time “he used to discuss and argue with reputed scholars with the intention of compiling a Sanskrit book called ‘Mullavidya Nirasa’ … which was finally published in 1929… there were hundreds of objections from every quarter… the battle of wits and attrition continued for the rest of his long life”.

An example of the above: a recent critic (Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian) has written: “No doubt SSS’s textual analysis skills are excellent, but the problem I see with SSS’s writings is his obsession with terminology, rather than philosophy”[2]. The main criticism by the author, in respect of the interpretation of avidya by SSS, is that this is not due to a double superimposition of the self and the non-self, as the latter maintains, but only to a superimposition of a subject, non-self, on the self: “

The fundamental error is a superimposition of an observer on the real… and by a reverse process the inner self, which is the witness of everything, is superimposed on the inner-organ.

[1] Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati  Swamiji – By D.B. Gangolli,  1997

[2] Review of ‘A New Approach to Understanding Advaita as Taught by Sankara Bhagavadpada’ – by A. Martin –‘Advaita Vision’, 2014.
https://www.advaita-vision.org/review-of-article-titled-a-new-approach-to-understanding-advaita-as-taught-by-shankara-bhagavadpada/

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? IV

 

70. Lot has been said so far; false allegations and baseless surmises were brought to light; statements factually incorrect were exposed; citations substantiating certain statements were shown to be out of context and in some cases self-defeating; statements attributed to Swamiji, but not found in the originals were discovered; incomplete and incorrect understanding of not only Śan@kara and Swamiji but also the views of traditionalists were enumerated; quotations made partially and out context were pointed out; issues raised, even though extraneous to the admitted scope were reviewed; withholding of complete facts and resort to partial reporting were singled out; how finding fault in Swamiji amounts to finding fault in Śan@kara was shown; translations not faithful to the original were pointed out; self-contradictory statements were laid bare; most important of all, how not a single ground of Swamiji against the tenability of Mūlāvidyā is controverted, was shown; however, what is yet to be shown is the final outcome of the question – fidelity to Śan@kara, admitted to be the main focus of M’s paper. In this regard attention of readers is drawn to the following statements of M. Continue reading

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? ll

Claim against Swamiji (SSS)
 Big fuss on whether avidya =mAyA
·           Swamiji does not like tarka or reasoning
·           Swamiji does not admit of avidyA in deep sleep
·           Swamiji does not endorse prakarana works, as he says they are not written by Shankara
·           Swamiji claims no role for bhakti in the advaita tradition
·           Swamiji does not accept that an enlightened soul may still suffer the consequences of past deeds
·           Swamiji advocates learning from books only, and being self taught without a teacher
·           Swamiji overuses the phrase adhyAropa-apavAda giving the impression it his discovery
·           Swamiji is not of the tradition
·           Swamiji claims he is right and everyone else is wrong

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Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? – I

INTRODUCTION

As S.K. Ramachandra Rao relates in his Introduction to Sw. Satchidanandendra’s book ‘Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta’ ( a translation of ‘Shankara-Vedanta-Prakriye’ in Kannada language), the Swami decided to find out for himself what the real tradition of Shankara and the latter’s contributions to it had been, since he had suspected for some time that the former had been misrepresented by later advaitins. This desire took form in the way of a monograph he wrote in Sanscrit in 1929 with the title of ‘Mulavidya -nirasa. ‘He applied himself diligently to repeated study of Shankara’s works (Bhashyas on the three Prasthanas) for several years to convince himself that the sub-commentaries (of Vacaspaty Misra and Padmapada) had not done justice to the great master… It was in the year 1920, a year after his wife passed away, that he felt called upon to take this as a mission in his life’. Continue reading