It is only rarely that one comes across a book which could help change the attitudes of men on matters of religion, beliefs and spiritualism... attitudes born out of ignorance or superstition. Here is a book which could provide answers to many nagging questions that trouble the individual as well as the society. The thoughts expressed by the great Guru are sure to prove a beacon light with an eternal glow that will guide the sea of humanity for ages.
Dialogues with the Guru is a two-voiced meditation on the attainment of deliverance in accordance with the purest Vedatic orthodoxy. In virtue of his ancestry as well as of his training in the Sastras, the author, R. Krishnaswami Aiyar, has made a faithful and judicious interpretation of the teachings of Sri Sãkara’s school. His aim is that the authentic truth shall not be forgotten in that territory where the Guru of Gurus gave it form.
In the past, as in the present, gurus to comment on the venerated texts have assuredly never been wanting. But here it is a question of showing how the highest truth can serve us in practical life, and how the concrete and multiple difficulties of the modem man, private and professional alike, are to be overcome by a wisdom which is not only classical but indeed immutable.
True in the absolute, Vedãnta is no less so at the temporal level. Resolving abstract problems, it must correspondingly solve all the points of conscience that line the path of a man or woman from birth-till death. Eternity is contemporary with all ages. And orthodoxy is presented here in terms of an integral ‘externalism’—an adequate presentation of the immutable truth as the condition of salvation, of deliverance, for all beings.
This manual, which places the purest traditional knowledge within the grasp of the most modem Hindu, should also be a matter of keen interest to India’s Western friends, for it is dissemination of this kind alone that can prevent its civilization, with its so rich a past and so rich future, from floundering in a chaotic humanism. May Santana Dharma guarantee the ever livingness of the Indian soul!
his Holiness Sri Jagadguru Sri Chandraekhara Bhãrati Swaminah, whose conversations provided the inspiration as well us the material for this book, was born of very noble but poor parents at Sringuru, on Sunday, October 16,1892, and was in due course given the name of Narasimha Sãstri. In his twelfths year, he coined under the benign influence of His Holiness Sri Sacchidãnanda Sivãbhinava Narasimha Bhãrati Swãminah, the then reigning Acharya of the Sringeri Matha, who immediately had him admitted into the Matha Pãthasala. The great clearness of thought and expression which marked out the boy, no less than his exemplary character and simplicity, so impressed His Holiness that he was selected before lone for a special course inTarka and, later on, sent to the Bangalore Sankara Matha to study Mimamsa. His I loliness nominated him as his successor, and when he shuffled off his mortal coil in March, 1912, young Narasimha Sãstri was duly given sannyãsa and installed on the Pitha under the name ChandraekharaBharati.
The new Acharya rigidly followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and in the course of about three years, under the able guidance of Mahamahopadhyaya Vidyãnidhi Virupãksha Sãstri, completed his studies in Vedanta also. His intense devotion to his Guru and the steady application and perseverance which characterized his efforts led him soon to a level of erudition and self-realization which evoked the admiration and reverence of all. II is love was catholic and universal. High and low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, Hindu and non-Hindu, skeptic and believer, all found in him a sincere friend and guide.
Many have been the incalculable benefits, spiritual and worldly, derived by those who had the good fortune of coming into contact with him. This is not the place to recount the numerous incidents in which he playfully showed his mantras, yogic and super-normal powers. Suffice it to say that he was the teacher par ex (’alliance. His words were few, but very significant. Often a single word or even a slight gesture of his was potent enough to dispel a long-standing doubt. His method of leading to the highest truths from the simplest facts was unique and can be seen illustrated in this hook. He did not believe in mass propaganda in religious matters, hut only in individual effort as a means of raising the tone of society.
At the insistence of his disciples, he toured extensively in South India, from 1923 to 1927, and after his return to Sringeri, he began gradually to retire from the secular affairs of the Matha and to engage himself almost entirely in contemplation. In 1931, he initiated Sri Abhinava Vidyã Thirtha Swàminah, the present Achärya, and withdrew into himself, except on rare occasions when disciples were fortunate enough to see him emerge from his seclusion.
He stayed for some months at Bangalore and Kãladi, in 1939- 40. After his return to Sringeri, his moods of abnormality increased in frequency and duration. He declined to come out even at the time-of the Sahasrachandi Homa, in 1953, when thousands from all over India were anxiously hoping to have his daran. Only the fortunate few who had a glimpse of him, albeit from a distance, during such periods, can have an idea of the spiritual, nay even physical, effulgence which enveloped him at those times and raised him above all mundane life. Not long after this great Homa, however, he came out, resumed his normal life and for months together gave daran and blessings quite as he used to do of old. It may be mentioned that President Rajendra Prasad was among those who profited by them, only a few days before the morning of Sunday, September 26, 1954, when, realizing that the momentum of karma which gave him this body had exhausted itself, this great Mahãtma discarded it in the river Tunga and became one with the Absolute.
Such, in brief outline, was the outward life of the sage whose conversations I have tried to record in this book. The record is not verbatim, but I can vouch for the accuracy of its contents, for I happened to be myself the interpreter in the conversation recorded in Chapter I, and as regards the others, I was an interested listener whenever I was not the actual participant. But since it was not possible to obtain His Holiness’ assent to their publication, the responsibility for it is entirely mine. It may be mentioned that while dealing with a particular topic, I have often taken the liberty of clubbing together the ideas expressed by His Holiness on that subject to different persons and on different occasions.
The conversations recorded here took place between the years 1925 and 1927, nearly 30 years ago. Since then we have had the advent of political freedom for India and the flood of social legislations that had followed in its wake. It may therefore seem to the present-day reader that some of the ideas in this book, especially Chapter VI on Marriage Reform, are out of date. But, it will be well to bear in mind that Dharma is never out of date, though it may be out of fashion. It is veritably an evil day when religion and society are at the mercy of politicians who are out to imitate the West at all costs and to make the true Hindu a stranger in his own land.
‘[here is ample material in this book from which a practical guide to conduct can be made out, if only we care to be guided aright. And, it is our devout hope and assurance that the memory, the blessings, the example and the words of His Holiness will serve to direct the steps of earnest aspirants in their march towards the realization of the goal of life.
This book was originally published several years ago, under the title From the Master Lips and my esteemed friend Mr. David MacIver felt that the contents deserved a finer get-up and a much wider publicity than it had so far received. Messrs. Chetana Ltd., of which he is a director, have kindly undertaken this publication, and I record my grateful thanks to them for the excellent way in which they have carried out the work. I am deeply indebted also to Professor Paul Masson-Outsel of the Sorbonne, Paris, for his kind and appreciative introduction.
When, on behalf of the Managing Committee of Shankara Vidya Kendra, New Delhi, the Honorary Secretary sought the guidance of Sri Sannidhãnam, Sri Bhãrathi Thirtha Mahãswãminah, of Sringeri to initiate an activity aimed at bolstering the Hindu Dharma and revitalising the believers to practice the Dharma unswervingly and spread its messages in all its splendour throughout the world, He suggested that the Kendra take up the noble task of reproducing and widely distributing a book published first in 1957 based on discussions that took place in British India.
The Kendra published the first reprint in 1988. The contents of the original have not been changed at all. The format has been slightly altered in that the questions are given in italics and the Guru’s answers or comments in Roman typestyle. Of course minor proof-reading corrections have also been incorporated. Shankara Vidya Kendra would like to place on record their gratitude to the painstaking compiler, Sri R. Krishnaswami Aiyar, and to the original publishers, M/s Chetana Limited, Bombay. The response to the publication has been overwhelming and the Kendra is pleased to bring out this second reprint.
Readers might be pleasantly surprised to find in these book discussions that are of topical interest even today! We are sanguine that the readers will gain an insight into the incisive logic of the great Guru on various subjects and will try to emulate His example in all their day-to-day life so that the Hindu Dharma may continue to flourish for the greater benefit of mankind.
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