I am greatly indebted to Mr. K. Nilakantan of Messrs. B.G. Paul & Co., for having entrusted me with the task of editing and preparing manuscripts of the discourses of His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, which appeared in the columns of The Hindu, for publication of the same in book form.
Consequently, I am faced with the task of preparing a short introduction to this collection of Upadesas. But it is not possible to write an introduction in this case without striking a personal note and without making a public confession.
On September 23, 1957, I was “assigned”, to use a journalistic expression, to report the arrival of His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam at and his ceremonial entry into the city of Madras. As I had not the good fortune of receiving the darshan of His Holiness previously, I went to my “duty” in a professional attitude, little realizing the unique experience that awaited me. The first sight of His Holiness sent a thrill through my body and brought about an indescribable mental revolution. A glance from that shining benevolent eyes and a comforting gesture from that hand, which caused a wave of peace to engulf one, made me to surrender to him unreservedly.
I could have discharged the duty assigned to me that day to the satisfaction of my office, by covering the reception accorded to His Holiness at “Farm House”, by Mr. Kasturi Srinivasan and the members of his family and prominent citizens constituting the Reception Committee, and then winding up my report by mentioning that His Holiness and Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swami were taken in procession in decorated palanquins to the Sanskrit College, indicating the route taken by the procession. But I found myself unable to move away from that divine presence and without any conscious effort on my part, I followed the procession, noting down everything that happened en route. It was only after His Holiness retired late in the night at the Sanskrit College that I managed to drag my feet home.
From then on began my regular visits to the Mutt every day. For the first few days, I contented myself with watching the pooja from a distance and offering my obeisance to His Holiness physically, whenever possible, and mentally always. I had not the courage to push myself forward to be in his close quarters. The more I saw that frail body radiating spirituality, and those eyes filled with concern for the welfare of humanity, the more I realized my default in not having come under his benign charm earlier. For, though His Holiness had stayed at Madras for a considerable time 25 years ago, it never even once occurred to me then to see him. It is this feeling of having committed an apachara that pricked my conscience every time I saw him. This is the confession I have to make openly in order to lighten the burden of my heart.
But after His Holiness began his daily discourses, I was pushed to the front by my good friends Mr. K. Nilakantan and Prof. P. Sankaranarayanan. I took down notes for the first few days, without venturing to produce reports for The Hindu myself, due to the sincere feeling that I was ill-equipped for such a job. Therefore, The Hindu carried the reports kindly sent by Prof. Sankaranarayanan, trimmed by me to meet the space requirements of the paper. After a few days, I was emboldened to produce the reports myself. I, however, took care to have them revised either by Prof. Sankaranarayanan or by Swami Anandananda of the Kamakoti Mutt. My anxiety all along had been that I should not mis-report His Holiness in my ignorance. I subsequently learnt that some of the reports which I left with Swami Anandananda for revision were actually perused by His Holiness, touched up and approved. What a great honor and what a blessing! Subsequently also I sought the help of Prof. Sankaranaryanan for preparing the reports of discourses involving intricate philosophic ideas.
The reporting of the speeches of His Holiness for The Hindu was not an official assignment. It was an additional duty gladly and voluntarily undertaken by me. When typing out the reports I had a unique experience which I would like to share with the readers. Every day I used to sit at my typewriter offering my obeisance mentally to His Holiness. Ideas and expressions would pass through my mind as if somebody was dictating to me from behind. My reports used to take shape in that way and even today, I am conscious that I could not have produced those reports without the abundant grace of His Holiness. For the publication of the reports in the columns of The Hindu, I am thankful to the late Mr. Kasturi Srinivasan, who encouraged me to give those reports and also directed that they should not be “killed” for want of space, but should be published when space was available, no matter even if there was an interval between the date of the speech and its publication.
This is the personal note I have to strike before coming to the point. The speeches appearing in this volume are reproductions off the reports which appeared in The Hindu. What I have done is to change the indirect form of the newspaper report to the direct form, to alter a word here and a word there to bring out the meaning more clearly, and to add Sanskrit verses and Tamil sayings quoted by His Holiness. If any mistake has crept in, it should be attributed to my ignorance and if any speech is appreciated, it should be regarded as the outcome of the grace of His Holiness. For, at no time have I entertained the feeling that I have reported the speeches of His Holiness on account of my ability.
My hearty thanks are due to The Hindu for permitting me to reproduce the articles in book form.
Finally, I have to thank Mr. Nilakantan once again for undertaking to publish the speeches in book form.
V. Ramakrishna Aiyer
Retired Deputy Chief Reporter,