post-Sankara teachers in advaita - prakAshAnanda

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Fri Jul 4 22:51:28 CDT 1997

> I had asked for "The Ochre Robe" and "The light at the center" by ILL. I was
> quite shocked by the level of ignorance Aghehananda displays in his book. Not
> only does he talk condescendingly about Indians, India etc, but totally
> misinterprets some common Indian customs.

Agehananda was certainly a sharp person, and he seems to have met some of
the most apologist English-educated Indians of his times. The early 1930's
and 1940's had many people who were ashamed of their past, their religion
and their customs, and Agehananda's objective seems to have been to shock
them in a reverse fashion. Yes, he does talk in a very condescending
manner, but sometimes there is some lesson to be learned from the most
unexpected sources. Also, his knowledge was from books he managed to read
when he was still a youngster in Austria, and social reality in India can
be very different from that conveyed by a representation in a book.

> His justification of drugs and
> free-sex using the "mysticism" is quite amusing. Best joke in the book: To
> one asking why he took sanyAsa he says that it will make people respect him
> not take him lightly. ?!!!! The situation is best summarized by the thamiz
> proverb "kAsikku pOnAlum karmam viDAthu". Talk about losing one's ego after
> sanyAsa! His speculations about H.H chandrashekhara bhAratI mahAsvAmigaL are
> idiotic, to say the least. Another joke: Indians use spices in their cooking
> get rid of the germs and Americans who use Indian spices in cooking are
> Poor me, all this time I thought it was for the flavor and that it is the
> heating which gets rid of germs. Move over, Louis Pasteur. The only thing
> prevented me from tearing both books to fine pieces and flushing it down the
> drain was the fact I had got it from the library.

He does have very amusing views on spices, asafoetida, onions etc. But it
is true that at least the red chillies help in preservation of food. The
real problem that comes across in Agehananda's writing is that he never
seems to have been able to get rid of a dehAtma-buddhi.

As for his views on H.H. Chandrasekhara Bharati Swamigal, sadly enough, he
was going by what he heard from many south Indian brahmanas. Of course,
he could never meet the Acharya personally, which must have caused some
resentment. But many supposedly well-meaning followers, some of them right
within the matha administration, themselves speculated whether the Acharya
had gone mad. The vivekacUDAmaNi clearly describes some of the
characteristics of a jIvanmukta, and Swamigal fit these to a tee. Although
these followers must have read about the jIvanmukta-lakshaNas in this and
various other texts, they simply didn't understand him, and might have
passed on some of their speculations to Agehananda. The then junior
Acharya, H.H. Abhinava Vidyatirtha Swami had to put down such rumors with
a firm hand.

> >sannyAsins who are originally from the advaita tradition, but hold
> >completely different philosophies. AnandatIrtha (aka madhva) is one of the
> The problem with Aghehananda of course is that people might think his views
> agreeable to the sha.nkara maTha-s, especially since he obtained "sanyAsa"
> one of them.

Well, his guru was originally from one of the mathas, but he himself seems
to have had no further connection with any of them, except for a
conversation with H.H. Bharati Krishna Tirtha of Puri in the 1960's. He
seems to have convinced Sri Viswananda Bharati that his vairAgya was firm,
but whether that was brought about by WW II or not, in later years there
isn't much vairAgya in evidence.


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