His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi
Dr. A.B. Franklin
Former American Consul-General
My two interviews with His Holiness have received more attention from the Press than they in fact deserve in relation to the many interviews and conversations, His Holiness is continually holding. They continued little of substance in any event. It is not necessary for spirit as translucent as that of Sri Sankaracharya to engage in lengthy intellectual disquisitions in order to convey the essence of the great and simple Truth which he has to convey. I treasure those few moments I have had with His Holiness, and, though I am a man of words, a man who is likely to convert any experience into its literary expression, I do not intend to make to my conversations with His Holiness anything more than what they were, a moment's glimpse of a Truth being truth, a Reality being reality.
We are living unique times in the world's history, when things are happening on so many different levels that, we are likely to be completely mistaken almost the whole. On one of these levels, (the one which most interests me) the West, my West, is arriving, laboriously, after centuries of search by our most brilliant minds, at philosophical knowledge which was both implicit and explicit in India thousands of years ago. The greatest miracle of the human spirit is the sum of knowledge found in the body of lore which we collectively term the Vedanta. His Holiness, more than half a century ago, abandoned the multitude of other levels of human existence, contest, involvement, to devote himself to Truth.
It is hard for me to find a tribute in words which expresses my feeling of admiration and gratitude towards His Holiness. Those of us who deal in words as a commodity or as a tool of trade, learn to mistrust them. Especially do we mistrust words as a means to describe a living, changing force, the personality, and like you remove ancestors we learn to mistrust words as a means of describing ultimate things. Perhaps the most appropriate thing I come from a very God-fearing portion of Christian America, that is to say, New England. Our earliest great philosophers, in that blessed corner of the earth, were among the very first westerners to appreciate the fact that the Vedanta, far from being an outworn creed, was a vast and joyous experience that lay ahead of us. Not only do I come that corner of the earth which bred Emerson and Thoreau, whose spirits are with us here this evening, but I am one of the long line, log as our lines in America go, of ministers and teachers. When this line started, back in the seventeenth century, ministers and teachers were usually one and the same individual. It gives me pleasure to be able to say, in these circumstances, that though some of my ancestors were in their day the subject of controversy because of their beliefs, just as Emerson was n his day, yet not one of them would question the appropriateness of my being here this evening. For them as for me, the spirit whom we are celebrating, presents the highest aspirations of mankind.
In an article on the Meenakshi temple, I have associated His Holiness with the concept of renunciation. I said at that time, renunciation is at the heart of all world's great religious philosophies. It is at this epicenter of philosophy and the spirit that Sri Sankaracharya dwells. It is to share this experience with him as best we can that we have gathered to celebrate this occasion.
The Paramacharya is one of the greatest Saints of our times. To be with him is always a great spiritual experience.