(The following is the speech of His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, on the occasion of the release of Vaiseshika Rasaayana, written by Sri Uttamur T. Veeraraghavachariar, at the Sanskrit College, Mylapore.)
In the past, there was the custom of arangetral of the works of eminent authors in learned assemblies convoked for the purpose. That was an occasion for competent scholars to speak on the book released and about its author. The term Rangam denotes stage; the arangetral was done in temples, particularly in the temple at Chidambaram, which is known as Sabha, and in Srirangam, where the presiding deity is Ranganatha – Lord of Ranga. The purpose of an arangetral is to get the opinion of qualified judges on the work. True to the definition of a scholar – Vidvaan vipaschit doshajnah, विद्वान् विपश्चित् दोषज्ञ: - the assembly of scholars will point out faults, if any, in the work. From the point of view of the promotion of real scholarship, such healthy criticisms are more valuable than praise. Works which emerged from the fire of criticism in a learned assembly can stand the test of time, unlike those which received praise after a superficial perusal. It is only when faults are known and they are rectified that any work can become imperishable.
In modern days, when the number of scholars capable of spotting out mistakes in a work on the Sastras, not to speak of appreciating it, is dwindling in number, it is necessary to convene a sadas like the one convened today, whenever a book of this kind, intended to stimulate the thought of readers in the direction of eternal truths, is released. Speeches made at this sadas show that the speakers have taken the trouble of going through the book before speaking.
Though both Sri Anantakrishna Sastrigal and Sri Rama Sastrigal (Mahamahopadhyaya N.S. Anantakrishna Sastrigal and Sastraratnakara Polagam Rama Sastrigal) differed from Sri Veeraraghavachariar in regard to their philosophic affiliations, their respect and regard for Sri Veeraraghavachariar increased by contact. That is the proper way of developing friendly rivalry in scholarship. There are different Sidhaantas and each Sidhaanta should develop in the larger interest of the spiritual welfare of the community as a whole. Each can learn much from the other, and, in that way, the light of knowledge can be kept burning brightly. Nothing promotes knowledge so much as a debate on the differing points of view – spardhayaa vardhate vidyaa, (स्पर्धया वर्धते विध्या). But such exposition of opposite views should be in a spirit of healthy co-operation, with the object of discovering the truth, and should not breed a feeling of faction and fanaticism. I will suggest that, after having written a book on any Sastra, its author should go to a scholar upholding a different view, obtain his criticisms and include them in the publication. That way, a healthy co-operative enterprise in scholarship will grow.
I may also suggest that the opinion of a Visishtaadvaitin should be obtained for a work on Advaita and vice versa. Similarly, a scholar of a particular philosophic persuasion should study and write works pertaining to the other schools of philosophy also. By this process, all acerbities, attaching to the exposition of varying schools of thought, will vanish. Vachaspati Misra and Appayya Dikshitar have written monumental treatises on darsanas, other than their own, with a remarkable fidelity of presentation.
I am happy that this sadas has been convoked to honor a scholar of repute, who has to his credit works relating to darsanas besides his own. In handling other darsanas, Sri Veeraraghavachariar has displayed a remarkable spirit of catholicity. By his Vaiseshika Rasaayana, a commentary of Kaanaada’s Vaiseshika Sutras, he has done a great service to the world of scholarship, for, it has been very properly declared that Kaanaada’s Vaiseshika Sutras and Panini’s Vyaakkarana Sutras are helpful to the study of all Sastras – Kaanaadam Paanineeyam cha sarva saastropakaarakam, (काणादम् पणिनीयञ्च सर्वशास्त्रोपकारकम्). Such scholars deserve every encouragement.
Sri Rama Sastrigal had remarked that pandits are specimens of poverty incarnate. It is deplorable that our sastraic scholars do not have the financial resources to engage themselves in research work and to publish books of this kind. In foreign countries, there are endowments to promote research into even such tiny subjects as ants and bees. But in our land, scholars languish for lack of such assistance. The research into aatma vidya is more important from an ultimate point of view than the research into material subjects, and has to be generously provided for in our country.
August 10, 1958.