Shankaracharya on Ramana Maharshi

Vidyasankar vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 8 04:06:51 CDT 2002

>> I was reading
>> where Andrew Cohen says:
>Sorry, that should be Craig Hamilton. The interview was by Andrew Cohen.
>> "Even one of the living Shankaracharyas -- the head of one of the four
>> monastic institutions allegedly established by Advaita's founder,
>> Shankara -- also denies the validity of Ramana's attainment, apparently
>> for the simple reason that someone who wasn't formally trained in
>> couldn't possibly be fully enlightened!"
>> Does anyone know which Shankaracharya denies this about RM?

The short answer is, "There is no such Sankaracharya today."

When Ramana was alive, almost all the traditional Advaita leaders
commended his attainment, including the Acharyas of Puri, Sringeri and
Kanchi, and there are records to prove it. The seniormost Sankaracharya
then, Swami Sivabhinava Narasimha Bharati of Sringeri, even told some
people that Ramana did not need to formally wear the sannyasin's ocher
robes, and to formally take the sannyasin initiation. That was a big issue
for traditional people in south Indian society. This has been reported
both in the Ramanashramam's magazine, The Mountain Path, and in Sringeri's
magazine, Tattvaloka. The very first issue of The Mountain Path carries a
benedictory message officially conveyed from Sringeri. As far as I know,
none of the living Sankaracharyas today would directly contradict what was
said by a recent guru in their own lineage.

So, my long answer is, "The magazine, 'What is Enlightenment?' is making
it up, or deliberately misrepresenting someone from a traditional Advaita

My reasons are as follows. Andrew Cohen, the editor of the magazine, is
one of those New Age gurus, who has a deep complex about Advaita Vedanta
in particular, and about all non-duality traditions in general, for
reasons to do with his own personal history. It boils down to this - none
of the Hindu and Buddhist teachers in and around Rishikesh will take him
seriously, although he has built his own ashram there and conducts
retreats and workshops for his followers.

It is quite clear to me that he understands very little about Advaita,
either in its traditional form, or in its many new modern forms. He
believes himself to be a great soul, and is very ready to pass judgements
over religious teachers of different traditions from all over the world,
without realizing how much of his own ego he reveals in that process. On
top of it, he coats on a veneer of textual knowledge, which is easily
revealed to be superficial to anyone who bothers to read the texts of any
of the traditions he chooses to criticize. He has gathered around himself
a few acolytes, who bring out a glossy, nicely published magazine. That's
about it.

The strangest thing is, WIE once carried a major article on a gentleman
called Ajja, whose attainment as an Advaitin was "highlighed to them by
Bannanje Govindachar". For those who are wondering what is so strange
about this, here is a tip - Bannanje Govindachar is a staunch Madhva
scholar, who is steeped in the Dvaita tradition, and who denies the very
possibility of the existence of nirguNa brahman, the fundamental basis of
Advaita. Now, it may be that this Ajja is a great person, but WIE's
introduction to him, with references to Govindachar, revealed a lot about
their basic ignorance of the various traditions, their writing methodology
and biases.

After having seen quite a few issues of WIE, I can only say this much - if
you are looking for enlightenment, not necessarily in the Advaita
tradition, the magazine "What is Enlightenment?" should be your last
choice for reading material. But if you are looking to read it critically,
then by all means, do so. Sorry to sound so harsh and dismissive, but I
have heard similar opinions about this magazine from many different
people, and with Buddhist and Jain affiliations, so I know I'm not alone
in coming to this conclusion.


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