[Advaita-l] ***UNCHECKED*** A review of the Book -A Primer of Spirituality - By Prof. V. Krishnamurthy

Kuntimaddi Sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 2 08:54:21 EDT 2021

A primer ofSpirituality

By Prof. V.Krishnamurthy

The contents of the book address 108 fundamental to advancedquestions on Sanatana Dharma, otherwise known as Hinduism. The author,Prof. V. Krishnamurthy, affectionately called Prof. VK, is a former professorof mathematics and a retired deputy director of the BITS Pilani. He is ason-disciple of great Shree R. Vishnatha Sastrigal, who has written many bookson Vedanta, which Prof VK. himself transcribed. While studying the book, I amreminded of the famous father-son, teacher-disciple, Uddalaka, and Swetaketu,except that, unlike Swetaketu, Prof. VK is humble about his backgroundknowledge. 

The book has four parts: part A covers the generalquestions, part B covers more specific questions on the religion andscriptures, part C covers more profound questions on Mind and Vedanta, and partD covers the essence of Advaita. One can study the text anywhere, and it willcaptivate the student; however, it would help beginners start from part A toacquire some needed background. 

The introductory sentence in part D summarizes the dilemmaof the student of Vedanta. “The scriptures are innumerable; the things to beknown are many; the time at our disposal is short; the obstacles are too many.It is, therefore, important to grasp the essence and essence only”.  However, to grasp that essence, a strongfaith in the scriptures and the teacher are necessary. As Prof VK echoesthroughout the text, Krishna’s teaching, “shraddhaavam labhate jnaanam”,only those who have full faith can gain the knowledge. 

Generally, when I study any Vedantic text, I have the habitof underlining the crucial statements for my own reflection. This bookcaptivated me from the beginning to the end that I ended up underlying manystatements in the book. It also became a slow reading since many of thestatements put me into contemplation and reflection on the truth indicated. Ina sense, the book formed a tool for my own nidhidhyaasana. If I start notingmany of the statements that captivated my mind, it will end up as another book.I am going to highlight some of the statements I liked. My advice to a sincereseeker is to study the book and use it to understand the essence of AdvaitaVedanta. 

“The dharma of a thing is by definition, the prime nature bywhich it is identified as the the thing and by lass of which it wouldcease to be the thing.” Hinduism is called sanatana dharma – thatwhich is eternal dharma. Prof. VK proves in these answers by analyzing thethree states of consciousness, waking, dream, and deep sleep states that whatis eternal is the Self that I am – that by the presence of which I am what I amand without it I am not – That Prof VK says the essence of Sanatana Dharma.  

“Hinduism does not say .. that the worldly life is notimportant…. It advocates the primary pursuits in life by ‘dharma, artha, kaama,and moksha”. Prof VK emphasizes in his answers that artha and kaama are boundedby dharma first and with the ultimate goal of life is moksha. He says, “dharmiclife includes doing what needs to be done to help others and avoid hurtingothers”. He justifies the analysis with Krishana’s statement – yagnarthamkarma, anyatra lokoyam karma bandhanaH’ – how it would result in bondageotherwise. Quoting Vyaasa, Prof. VK says, “merit (punya) is what helpsothers, and demerit (paapa) is what hurts others.” It is fascinating toread the details of his analysis at every step. It is mathematically precise,follows the scriptural teachings, provides many quotes from renewed saints, andat the same time provides practical guidance by answering all possiblequestions that may arise during the execution. In summary, Prof. VK says, ‘Thetouchstone of dharma is, therefore, the attitude with which oneacts….Even if there is an iota of selfishness in what one is doing or saying,then there is the contamination of adharma in it.”

There are innumerable statements throughout the book thatProf. VK makes that are worth contemplating. I can provide only a few here thatforced me to think deeper, without repeating the whole book. 

“When Hinduism says that all names and forms are those ofGod it means it. It is the catholicity of the culture and tradition of Hinduismthat welcomes other religions as so many varied paths to God and consequentlydoes not find anything contradictory or harmful in the coexistence of severalFaiths’. He justifies this with Krishna’s statement,’ ‘ye yatam maamprapadyante tan thathiava bhajamyaham’. 

He provides an exhaustive analysis of the meaning of the word‘Rama’ as extolled by Lord Shiva to his consort Parvati in saying thatthe word Rama is equivalent to chanting the thousand names of the Lord Vishnu.The processor says, “The syllable ‘ra” comes from the eight-letteredmantra of Narayana, and the syllable ma comes from mantra, ‘ namashivaaya’…If you remove ra from Narayana and ma from namashivaaya –without them, the two mantras become a curse”. 

Responding to a question, Prof. VK says: “When the Lord says‘My devotee Perishes not’ (in 9-31), what is meant is that we will not go downthe spiritual ladder anymore”. Hence a seeker should forebear suffering due to praarabdakarma -  tan titishasva bhaarata-says Krishna. “God did not create evil and did not have to create evil. Thereis no Satan-Concept in Sanatana Dharma. It is all man’s doing. When aman goes after his desires endlessly, he spoils himself, and that is where evilarises.” .. “It is the Desire (Selfish) that is the root cause of it all”.Quoting Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, he says, “ If God had desired to create a worldof automata, there would have been no evil.” 

In response to the question, “What is your understanding ofGod?”, Prof. VK goes into a very educational discussion. In the end, hesummarizes with the statement, “Transcendence, Immanence and Perfection – TIP –this is the tip of the iceberg that is my understanding of God!”. Prof VKprovides a very informative discussion on the Aditya hridayam, whichsage Agastya taught Rama before His fight with Ravana. 

In response to the question, “Who is the doer-experiencer?”Prof VK quotes his father-teacher, ‘the doer-experiencer is the one who thinkshe is the doer-experiencer. In reality, naaham kartaa naaham bhoktaa’ isthe battle-cry of Advaita.” -Reminds me of Krishna’s statement that all actionsare done by prakRiti only. It is like a villager who sits on the traincarrying his heavy luggage on his head with the hope that it will relieve thetrain from carrying all that luggage. 

Life involves action, and one must act, says Krishna, andnot doing when action is required is also a choice of action.  As Prof VK says, if action is done with thenotion that I am the doer, it will cause bondage. Hence, he says, “Everyaction, whether religious or not, does create bondage when you do it withattachment and longing for the result of the action. But if you do it the karmayoga way (yagnaartham B.G. 3-9), there is no bondage.”… “ The onlyobject which will never get separated from us is God. If only we can make Himthe object of our Love! Then there will be no end to the happiness we cangain…..We can see the entire world as Himself!” Defining bhakti for anAdvaitin, Prof VK says, “ Love of God maturing into the insight of seeingthe entire world as Himself is Advaita Bhakti”. Professor says if God is omnipresentthen, He is there in the idol too’.  

“God, the Real Absolute, is not only transcendent – in thesense that He (or It) is beyond all finite conceptions – but He is alsoimmanent in everything, animate and inanimate. This immanent aspect is aspecialty of Hindu Vedanta. Whatever we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch – everythingis the Almighty – from Mahanaroyanopanishad”. That is the vision of arealized soul. 

While discussing the nature of consciousness, Prof. VK says,“ … It is never an object in relation to a subject. It is that which underliesboth subject and object and can manifest itself without any aid. This is theUltimate Reality which sages experience in the state of nirvikalpaka-samadhi”.

About equanimity – Prof. VK says it is important for leadersbecause, “..it is the quality of poise, perspective, peace of mind, andpatience that come with it. … It is the peace so sought by everyone,…Thefour ‘p’s lead to the fifth ‘p’ i.e., permanent peace”.

About habits, “Habits can be changed only by creating newhabits. These new habits have to come from the above spiritual disciples.” 

In response to the question, “How does this Vedanta help alayman?” Prof. VK answers, “….Man should behave in a divine way becausehis essential nature is divine. The animal instincts that he usually exhibitsare the ones acquired by him through his thoughts and deeds in his severallives. But if he is himself, he can conquer these lower tendencies in him andbring out his natural divine instinct in him, which will prompt him to love tobe happy and to revel in that Inner Glory of the inherent Divinity in Him.Therefore, say Upanishads: Don’t seek happiness from outside.” 

About the Lord, “He is not an absentee landlord; He isworking with us all the time. This is the fundamental guidelines of theUpanishads for practical living”. 

I can go on, but it is better for the seeker to study thebook and contemplate on the teachings provided in a lucid style. 

Hari Om!





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