The Message of Vivekachudamani (An Exposition of Vivekachudamani in the light of Modern Thought and Modern Needs)

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Item Code: IHJ046
Author: Swami Ranganathananda
Publisher: ADVAITA ASHRAM KOLKATA
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9788175053083
Pages: 624
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 inch X 5.8 inch
Weight 780 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

Sri Shankaracharya’s spiritual classic, Vivekachudamani, has been one of the most favoured works among the spiritual aspirants treading the path as delineated in Vedanta. The commentaries of Sri Shankaracharya, though astounding in their spiritual depth and vastness, are to a great extent abstruse for the lay aspirant. But in his Vivekachudamani Shankara has presented the essentials of Vedanta in a language at once simple as well as poetic. Over and above this Swami Ranganathananda’s commentary on it sets it in the modern backdrop with his distinctive emphasis on human welfare. It is an illuminating as well as inspiring piece of work for spiritual aspirants all over the world.

Publisher’s Note

It gives us great joy to introduce readers to our new book, The Message of Vivekacudamani. This is a commentary on some of the verses of Vivekacudamani by Swami Ranganathanandaji, the late thirteenth President of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. We have already published many works of Shankaracharya, especially the English translations of his immortal commentaries on the prasthanatraya. This new commentary on Vivekacudamani, one of Shankaracharya’s masterpieces, now joins the list of our scriptural publications. It has been excerpted from talks delivered on the subject by Swami Ranganathananda during the 1980s, when he was the President of the Ramakrishna Math, Hyderabad.

As in other works, the Swami juxtaposes the science of Self-realization with the physical sciences and draws illuminating parallels. He shows that both types of science are essentially concerned with mankind’s quest for Ultimate Reality. Another notable feature of the Swami’s presentation is his passion for the welfare of all humanity. He dies not limit spirituality to the personal liberation of the individual, but extends its application to the whole of human life for the betterment of human society.

Shankaracharya’s Vivekacudamani itself does not need any introduction. It has always occupied the highest position among books dealing with the science of Self-realization and has been the vade mecum for spiritual aspirants throughout the last millennium. Even from a purely literary standpoint, its charm has always been irresistible and captivating. Added to all this, Swami Ranganathananda’s commentary on this profound work in the light of modern thought and modern needs is both fascinating and inspiring.

The verses are given in Devanagari, followed by their transliteration into English, then the English translation, and finally the commentary. Throughout the book, most of the transliterated Sanskrit words in the commentary have been put in brackets. Readers who prefer to do so can safely skip over them without the least fear of losing any information. Some of the transliterated Sanskrit texts have been put in footnotes so that readers unfamiliar with Sanskrit will be able to relish them also.

The tape-recorded talks were devotedly transcribed by Mrs. Anjana Gangopadhyay. Brahmachari Alok of Advaita Ashrama critically proofread the manuscript and also transliterated the Sanskrit verses into English. Swami Shuddhidananda of Advaita Ashrama carefully edited the manuscript and shaped it into the present book. He also prepared the index. We extend our heartfelt thanks for their devoted labour of love, without which the book would have been unable to see the light of day.

Lastly, we express our deepest gratitude to Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam formerly President of India, who has kindly written the Foreword. The has greatly enhanced this invaluable work.

In placing this book before our readers, we fervently hope that spiritual aspirants throughout the world will be enriched and illumined by the ideas they find within.

Editor’s Note

Revered Swami Ranganathanandaji left his mortal coil in April 2005. It was after this that his personal attendant, Swami Asimatmananda, mooted the idea of publishing the Swami’s talks on Vivekacudamani in book form. Accordingly the talks were transcribed. But as far as editing the transcribed text was concerned, we faced a problem. Heretofore, before the Swami’s passing away, while editing his works we could personally go to him and get his confirmation. But with regard to this book, a posthumous production, we had to tackle the text ourselves. This, in comparison, was a handicap. Yet the very thought of crystallizing the brilliant ideas of the Swami in the form of a book always delighted our imagination, which urged us to proceed ahead.

Out of 580 verses of Vivekacudamani, the Swami has commented only on 309 verses. Today we can only surmise as to why he chose to skip such a large number of verses. We certainly do not believe he considered the skipped verses to be unimportant, which is amply testified by his general remarks about the book in his “Introduction to “Vivekacudamani”. No true exponent of Vedanta, tutored in the hoary spiritual tradition, would ever take such a stance as far as the verses of Vivekacudamani are concerned, so much less with Swami Ranganathanandaji, who was reputed to be the greatest expounder of Vedanta in the last century. One of the geniuses of Shankaracharya has been his economy of words in conveying the most profound ideas. Added to this, in Vivekacudamani he has exuberantly displayed his poetic sense. Each verse stands on its own for its mellifluent poetry as well as ideological acumen, placing the nuggets of spiritual ideas before us. As such, it is absurd to say that some of its verses were thought to be unimportant and, hence, were skipped by the Swami.

One of the plausible reasons could be the Swami’s method of dealing with scriptural works, especially while expounding scriptures to the lay devotees. His methodology has been consistently seen to be to focus on the central idea and leave the details, not because the details are insignificant but because of the pertinence of the need to drive the central idea deeper into the listeners’ minds; and the central idea which he repeatedly stresses is the “DIVINITY OF THE SOUL” and its expression in our everyday life in the form of selfless service. For the Swami, every verse that he has commented seems to have been like a platform from where he voices forth this central theme with his unmistakable emphasis on the welfare of humankind and, especially, the development of India. Humanis based on Vedanta and Swami Vivekananda’s ideas has been the forte of the Swami’s life and work. Such an approach is to be seen also in his earlier works.

Thus the Swami’s choice of verses seems to be deliberate and strategic, which will be evident to the careful reader. In and through the chosen 309 verses he has placed before us a clean picture of spiritual life-its basics, different steps, as well as the culminating experience and related ideas, all with a strong reference to the betterment of human society.

As is the characteristic of most of the class talks, there were some portions not directly relevant to the book and, therefore, these have been eliminated. On the other hand, there was a need to fill in the usual gaps in narration, which we have done, to a large extent, with help of the Swami’s own words taken from his earlier works like Eternal Values for a Changing Society, The Message of the Upanishads, The Message of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, and the Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita. To some extent we have been forced to add new sentences to assure the continuity of narration within as well as between the verses. We have also relocated some portions at their suitable places for the smooth flow of the discussion and also for giving an integral feel to the book. Ideas are found to be repeated, which is not a fault of style. In the exposition of the spiritual knowledge, repetition, instead of being construed to be a defect, is welcomed as a necessity. The book begins with “Shankaracharya, A Brief Survey of His Life and Work”. Originally titled “Shankara and the Character of His Greatness”, this piece has been reproduced from the August 1947 number of the Prabuddha Bharata. It is a talk given by the Swami when he was in Karachi. We have mildly modified it to suit the context of the present book.

As far as the verses and their translation are concerned, we have followed, in general, Swami Madhavanandaji’s version, which is one of the publications of Advaita Ashrama. But there are some verses in which we have stuck to the translation given by Swami Ranganathanandaji in some of his works mentioned above. This we have done with the presumption that the Swami would have liked those verses to be translated in that particular way. In order to verify the correctness of certain Sanskrit terms and ideas, we have consulted Viveka-cudamani of Sri Shankaracharya translated by Swami Turiya-nanda (published by Ramakrishna Math, Chennai), and also Sri Shankara’s Vivekacudamani, as English translation of the Sanskrit commentary of Sri Chandreshekhara Bharati of Sringeri (published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan). We have been much helped by these works, especially the latter.

As the Swami has not commented on all the verses, the arbitrarily selected verses have been clubbed under suitable subject headings, which, we hope, will help the readers understand the verses in perspective and be benefited. The commented verses have been thus classified into three broad sections: 1) The Basics of Spiritual Life, which contains the first 47 verses, 2) Steps to Self-realization, which contains verses from verse 48 to 211, and 3) The True Nature of the Self and the Related Topics, which is comprised of the randomly selected verses from verse 212 onwards. Such a scheme has been the outcome of the exigency of handling a selected number of verses from the whole.

Lastly, we submit that the book’s shortcomings, if any, are solely due to our incapacity to handle the Swami’s ideas on the subject. The Swami was an ardent votary of knowledge-a great lover of books. We deeply regret that he is not in his physical frame to see his book and bless it with his beaming countenance conveying “AMEN”.

A brief index has been included. At the end of the book we have also given the numbers of verses dealt with in this book.

Foreword

I am very happy to write a foreword for the book The Message of Vivekacudamani, which is a spiritual classic by a great sage of our nation. When I read the book, Swami Ranganathananda’s famous worlds: “Are you growing spiritually? Can you love others? Can you feel oneness with others? Have you peace within yourself? And do you radiate it around you?” came to my mind. “That is called spiritual growth, which is stimulated by meditation inwardly and by work done in a spirit of service outwardly.” This is the message which Swamiji has brought out profoundly in this book for the benefit of mankind.

In the chapter on “Basics of Spiritual Life”, Swamiji highlights the importance of birth in a human body. Man alone can attain Self-realization. He substantiates this point with the help of illuminating references to the discoveries in science, especially neurology and biology. Evolution at the human stage is essentially psychosocial and not physical. He stresses the point that at the human stage, man needs to take the onus of his further evolution into his own hands and grow from being a narrow, sense-bound entity to a universal being with boundless sympathy, love, and spirit of service. It is indeed very relevant dynamics of present-day life.

In the chapter on “Basics of Spiritual Life”, Swamiji highlights the importance of birth in a human body. Man alone can attain Self-realization. He substantiates this point with the help of illuminating references to the discoveries in science, especially neurology and biology. Evolution at the human stage is essentially psychosocial and not physical. He stresses the point that at the human stage, man needs to take the onus of his further evolution into his own hands and grow from being a narrow, sense-bound entity to a universal being with boundless sympathy, love, and spirit of service. It is indeed very relevant dynamics of present-day life.

In the chapter on “Steps to Self-realization”, Swamiji spiritually brings out the difference between the body and the soul (atman), one which is constantly changing and the other which is constantly witnessing the change. Also in the same chapter, Swamiji brings out the rigour of training and knowledge needed by the individual desiring to evolve and pursue the spiritual goal, just like the students aspiring to join the great Nalanda University, which flourished between the second and the twelfth century AD, needed a high degree of intellectual competency even to get enrolled in that university. Another important aspect which the author brings out [inn the beginning of the book] is the mastermind of Shankara who set to produce unity in the field of religion, culture and philosophy through His various writings, including Vivekacudamani, leaving the political aspect of it to be worked out by future generations. The greatness of Shankara’s vision was that he was looking for unity in diversity and not uniformity.

The uniqueness of a human being is that he/she has an organic capacity to explore both the outer and inner worlds. Exploration in these two directions has their respective results, says Swamiji. The former makes for material development and the latter bestows on us the spiritual freedom. He presents the scientific methodology of exploring the inner world just as we explore the outer world with the help of physical sciences. The purpose of Vivekacudamani is thus to kindle Self-knowledge which is essential for the growth of spirituality in an individual and to evolve enlightened human beings. Today men and women enshrouded in their respective narrow circles of community, religion, language and culture needs to be released from these constraints to become “world citizens”. Vivekacudamani, with Swamiji’s sparkling commentary, is a science of human enlightenment which cuts across the different religions, communities, cultures and civilization. It deals with man-making-making of universal men and women.

When I try to understand Einstein’s Unified Field Theory relating to four dimensional continuum and Swami Ranganathananda’s commentary to verse 239 of Vivekacudamani which says that the truth, Brahman, is that in which there is no differentiation of knower, knowledge and known, which is infinite, transcendent and the essence of the knowledge absolute, I feel time has come for researchers in India and abroad to find a solution to Unified Field Theory linking Einstein’s four dimensional continuum and Shankara’s description of Brahman. The result may lead to the knowledge about how the universe was born.

In the modern times, particularly in the present day, when we are witnessing constant unrest in the human society, it is essential to understand that there is Almighty God, manifested in the Self. If the humanity understands this unity in diversity, it can see a prosperous, happy, peaceful and bright future.
My reverence to Swami Ranganathananda for providing a beacon light to the searching enlightened readers.

Back of the Book

When I read this book, I was reminded of Swami Ranganathananda’s famous words: “Are you growing spiritually? Can you love others? Can you feel oneness with others? Have you peace within yourself? And do you radiate it around you? That is called spiritual growth, which is stimulated by meditation inwardly and by work done in a spirit of service outwardly.” This is the message which Swamiji has brought out profoundly in this book for the benefit of mankind.

In the chapter on “Basics of Spiritual Life”, Swamiji highlights the importance of birth in a human body. Man alone can attain Self-realization. He substantiates this point with the help of illuminating references to the discoveries in science, especially neurology and biology. Evolution at the human stage is essentially psycho-social and not physical. He stresses the point that at the human stage man needs to take the onus of further evolution into his own hands and grow from being a narrow, sense-bound entity to a universal being with boundless sympathy, love, and spirit of service.

The purpose of Vivekachudamani is thus to kindle Self-knowledge which is essential for the growth of spirituality in an individual and to evolve enlightened human beings. Today men and women enshrouded in their respective narrow circles of community, religion, language and culture need to be release from these constraints to become “world citizens”. Vivekachudamani, with Swamiji’s sparkling commentary, is a science of human enlightenment, which cuts across the different religions, communities, cultures and civilization. It deals with man-making, i.e. making of universal men and women.

**Contents and Sample Pages**





















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