From a Russian Indologist
Interview of Dr. S.I. Tulaev with His Holiness
Dr. S.I. Tulaev, Russian Indologist of distinction, was visibly moved when he met His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya Svamigal of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha on 24-2-1965 near Sunkuvar Chatram about forty miles from Madras.
His Holiness at the first instance made kind enquiries about Dr. Tulaev's studies.
Dr. Tulaev: Sir, I am very much thankful to Your Holiness for having kindly given me the audience. I will not take much of Your Holiness time. I shall ask you only two questions. Sir could you kindly oblige me? The first is this: A man has no belief in religion He does not adopt any rituals, never goes to the temple or church, does not need any dogmas. But he always thinks good and does good throughout his life. Could you kindly tell me, Sir, whether such a man has any salvation at the end of his life?
His Holiness closed his eyes and was in meditation for a few seconds. The whole surrounding was absolutely calm, divinely calm. After the divinely pause, His Holiness replies `Yes'.
At this answer, Dr. Tulaev was overwhelmed with joy, a joy that he never experienced in life and for which his heart was longing all these years. He looked as if he has attained the unattainable. He whispered, `I thank you Sir, I thank you Sir, I thank you. I am satisfied'
His Holiness : (enlarging His answer) Do not think that I am giving you this answer after seeing the modern standards of life. No. This is said in our ancient scripture themselves. There are many aspirants. The Agnostics, those who enquire into the concept of God and by using their own brain, come to the conclusion that there is no God. Secondly there are the Buddhists, especially the Sunyavadins, who believe in non-existence. Thirdly the Jains, who believe in suffering by putting their body to various austerities, vratas. Fourthly, Saivaites, Aishnavites and others who believe in a personal God and spend their life in devotion; and lastly; the Advaitins who believe that the entire world, the cosmic reality is the apparent manifestation of one and the same ultimate Reality. All these aspirants get near the truth. the difference between them lies in their proximity to God. Step by step these five aspirants are neared the Reality. If one enquired into the nature of God by using his own mind, whatever be the conclusion arrived at, even if it is a total rejection of Godhood, such an aspirant is far higher than the idler who never worries about the search after truth. This no my saying but is said in our scriptures.
Dr. Tulaev who was very much satisfied with this answer, asked the second question.
Dr. Tulaev: Sir, I am able to understand Visishtadvaita to a certain extent. In Advaita I am puzzled by the word `Maya'. `Maya', you say, is nothing. it does not exist. They why call it Maya?
His Holiness: Visishta-advaitins are also a particular type of Advaitins. They are qualified monists. They consider Maya as the body of God or Brahman. We (Advaitins) believe that Maya is the apparent manifestation of the Reality. I shall give you an example. One makes toys in the form of vegetables out of sugar and gives them appropriate colours. A child who sees them thinks that they re real vegetables. This knowledge is not a real knowledge. When the child grows old, he realises that they are all sugar and the forms are only apparent.
In this a knowledge that was not read did exist and on getting the real knowledge, the previous one disappears. In the same way, a rope is mistaken for a snake in dim light. It creates all the effects in spite of being unreal, but when the real knowledge is gained, the earlier one vanishes. Similar to this is Maya. The supreme Brahman is real. The universe with its varied forms is nothing but Brahaman. Yet we see the reality in its manifold forms. The thing that presents this varied manifestation is Maya. When the real knowledge is attained his manifold manifestation disappears as in the case of Brahmajnanis. You can neither say that maya exists nor that it does not exist. You may equate it with zero. Zero has neither value is it devoid of value. If you write simple `O' it has no value. If you add any other numeral before, it gains value. Maya is something like that.
Dr. Tulaev was struck with he answer. He was seen repeating - "like zero", now I understand", like zero".
The Acharya was seen smiling at this.
Dr. Tulaev: I am completely satisfied, Sir. Now I understand Advaita. I am very much thankful to you, Sir,
Dr. Tulaev was hesitating to ask further. He asked His Holiness permission to taking a photograph of His Holiness. His Holiness smilingly granted the request. Since His Holiness was standing in the shade. Dr. Tulaev was still hesitant, because of insufficient light. In a fraction of a second, the great Acharya realising the predicament of this new devotee, moved to sunlight, whereupon he quickly took a snap. His Holiness blessed the Russian with an apple.
On his way back Dr. Tulaev remarked: "Here is the true Indian sage who is living a simple life in the midst of such tiny villages, with people in such villages carrying the highest philosophy. It is only such sages that bless you with the answers you seek in a few seconds. I consider this a fortunate day in my life. I am happy that I have been able to meet him."