As I wrote in part l of this Travelog, I never expected that I would be talking on three occasions in front of an audience and in three different locations. Before departing to India I had asked Sowmya (a 29 years old MD and accomplished Advitist) what could I talk about if the occasion arose, assuming that there would be at least one presentation I should be making. Sowmya told me that the topic could be the article I wrote (published serially in Advaita Vision in 2017) in defense of SSSS (‘Swamiji’ henceforth) which took me so long to write – 16 pp long vs. the 40 pp of the article by Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian.
What I did then was to shorten my article to 8 pp (one half of its original length) while retaining the essential, with the idea of distributing copies of it at a future meeting as a take-out. With that in mind I prepared, as a brief preamble, two short quotations, one from a hymn by Shankaracharya and the other from a hymn to Vishnu. The reason for this is that I would not be able to spout a fragment of Sanskrit at the very beginning of the talk. This was to be followed by a chart (also as a hand-out) listing some fundamental concepts in Advaita which I would talk about at the meeting. I don’t know what prompted me to choose such a dry subject – to just talk about concepts! – but I thought it might be useful as a hand-out or home-study item. Besides, no way I would read – or even comment on – the shortened article mentioned above.
But, before proceeding with the above plan, I may say something about a previous meeting (the day before) which was held at a home for retired people and called ‘school of Vedanta’ [the group, not the facility] where weekly lessons on Advaita interspersed with Sanskrit readings were carried out. A worthy swamy was leading the class and doing the readings, everyone intoning and repeating the Sanskrit parts on cue.
Three of us were sitting on a raised platform at one the side of the large room and my wife and I were introduced to the 20 or so Advaita students sitting below. I knew I would have to say something shortly and, during the proceedings, came up with a recollection of something I had experienced when introduced to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s method of meditation (TM). Then talked of my first encounter with Swamiji through his profuse writings (‘The Method of the Vedanta’ being the first one I read… only the first 150 pp, for reasons that can be obviated, age being one of them). I must say all went well (my viral pharyngitis-cum-URI had not started yet – that damned ventilator!).
Next: Swami-s Subraya Sharma and Ramachandra Iyer, who took care of Swamiji in the last 16 and 1 year of his life respectively