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The Jagadguru, described by Sri Daya Mata, President of the Fellowship, as "a man of God " and "a truly universal man" conveyed the message of Vedanta as revealed in the traditional scriptures of India, presenting their substance as timeless in relevance, universal in appeal and vastly comprehensive in range and sweep. The picture of India’s heritage as one of "unity in diversity" is shown to accord well with its primary accent on spirituality as distinct from creeds and practices, which are secondary. The superiority of this approach is also evident in the way in which ancient India was able to reconcile science with religion and metaphysics. "Vedic metaphysics" summarising the fundamentals of Advaita, seeks to bridge the misconceived gulf between the secular and spiritual. It combines authenticity of thought with simplicity of language.
First time in the history of India, in 1958, a Sankaracarya visited west. The author, His Holiness Jagadguru Sankaracarya Sri Bharati Krsna Tirtha of Puri, went to America at the invitation of the Self Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, to spread the message of Vedanta. This book is a compilation of some of his discourses delivered there.
These discourses by a saint-yogi and master of ancient Indian scriptures, also well-versed in modern sciences, give the essentials of Vedanta. They combine authenticity of thought with simplicity of language. Being couched in the contemporary idiom they will be found to be particularly suited to the modern mind. Though addressed to American audiences, the discourses carry a message of eternal truth and of universal application. The steps of spiritual inquiry and the paths of God-realisation outlined in them will be of immense practical use to the readers in their quest for the supreme.
His Holiness Jagadguru Sankaracarya Sri Bharati Krsna Tirtha was the pontifical head of the Govardhana Pitha, Puri, one of the four monasteries founded by the great Sankara in the hoary past. After a brilliant academic career which involved stud of Sanskrit, Mathematics, Philosophy, History, English Literature and science subjects, he studied Vedanta from the renowned Jagadguru Sankaracarya, Sri Sivabhinava-Nrsimha-Bharati at Sringeri, and practised vigorous yogasadhana in the nearby forests where he also discovered the hidden meaning of the Ganita-sutras of the Atharva Veda. He adopted sannyasa in 1919.
His Holiness was an orator, a religious preacher, a scholar, a philosopher-yogi and a saint. He was an authority on Hindu scriptures. He also studied scriptures of other religions with the humility of a devotee, and preached the essential unity of all religions.
In 1953, His Holiness founded the World Reconstruction Association – a secular organization with the object of reconstructing the society on moral lines. He attained Mahasamadhi in 1960.
Knowledge of identity of the essence of man and the essence of universe, the nature and attributes of this Supreme Entity and the way to It’s realisation constitutes by far the greatest discovery of mankind. The Vedas epitomize the highest expression of the body of knowledge that grew out of the vision and experience of this spiritual truth. Great souls from time to time have recaptured that supreme state of bliss, treading on the various paths indicated by the ancient sages and have reflected in turn the light of their experience for the benefit of mankind.
In the nature of things, however, this light is obfuscated in more or less measure in various times and climes due to the prevailing ignorance and impurities of the social psyche, though the vast span of the cosmic evolution appears to assist ultimately in its increasing manifestation. There is, however, no dispeller of darkness other than light and for all ills that beset mankind the spiritual values contain the best cure.
The advance of science and technology in recent times brought about a revolution in man’s life and thought. For a spell it appeared as though it would bathe the mankind in elysian bliss and plenty. But, the dream did not come true. No doubt, the scientific and industrial revolution did multiply the material powers and possessions of the society as a whole but it also released in its wake too many cross—currents of cravings, strife, exploitation, misery and confounding and erosion of values. As a result, the humanity is divided today between a few people suffering from the ennui of affluence and the remaining vast majority suffering the pangs of destitution. The cycle of life has become too swift and complex. Man is whirled around by inner cravings and outer compulsions scarcely aware of any sense of identity, belonging or purpose in life.
Democracy and socialism, humanism and communitarianism, self-actualization and synergy are all correctives to the state of chaos, conflict and distress, attempted by the modern mind in the various domains of life. Being based on concepts like freedom, dignity and development of man, love and harmony, in the ultimate analysis, they are only faint echoes of the eternal spiritual quest. The spiritual values hold, thus, the key to all means and measures calculated to achieve true and lasting peace, progress, prosperity and happiness for the individual as well as society.
On the consummation of spiritual sadhana ‘all else will be added unto you’ is inspiring enough. But, what is more, even the smallest sincere endeavour in this direction has the strange alchemy- of bringing forth instantaneously immense benefic mutations in the relationships of man with himself, man with the world around, and man with the Divinity. The techniques of spiritual unfolding propounded by the Vedanta — the crest of the Vedic knowledge-bring about an integration and efflorescence of the human personality most conducive to releasing puissant forces of creativity, synthesis, peace, harmony and bliss.
Vedic metaphysics is, therefore, a treasure of eternal relevance — all the more useful to the contemporary society. And who could unravel its mysteries to the modern mind better than Jagadguru Shankaracharya Shri Bharati Krishna Tirtha delivering lectures in America? The Jagadguru commanded the rare combination of ancient spiritual wisdom and latest scientific thought. Not only had he mastered the entire Vedic lore, he was an M.A. in eight modern subjects and spoke Huently about a dozen languages (including several foreign ones). Neither was he content with mere intellectual cogitations. He had under- gone a profound and rigorous sadhana culminating in direct spiritual realisation.
The lectures reproduced in this book contain the mellowed fruits of the Jagadguru’s ripe wisdom delivered almost at the close of his earthly sojourn and they were addressed to groups that can be easily taken as representative of the most advanced modern society. Expounding though the loftiest secrets, they are couched in a language as simple and lucid as to be easily comprehensible to even the totally uninitiated.
Here is, therefore, the spiritual elixir in its pristine purity and yet with the freshest aroma. Those who chance upon it are fortunate; those who receive it with faith and reverence will be blessed, and those who drink it deep will be freed.
It has been said that man cannot fully understand the principles of truth expressed in the scriptures until he sees them manifested in the life of an enlightened teacher. Such a teacher was His Holiness, Sri Jagadguru Sankaracarya of Puri.
His Holiness, the late Jagadguru ("World Teacher") Sri Sankaracarya Bharati Krsna Tirtha was the ecclesiastical head of the Govardhana Monastery in Puri and was the apostolic successor of the first Sankaracarya (ninth century; India’s greatest Philosopher).
His Holiness was founder—president of the World Reconstruction Association (Vishwa Punarnirmana Sangha), Nagpur, whose aim is the furtherance of world peace and universal brotherhood, an ideal dear to the heart of my own Guru, Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda. When His Holiness, the Jagadguru arrived at our International Headquarters in Los Angeles, California in 1958, it was with a special sense of awe and respect that I greeted him. For he was 82 years of age, and he was a living example of the highest principles taught in the scriptures of India.
It was the first time in the history of the thousand-year old monastic Sankaracarya Order that one of its leaders had visited the West. His Holiness was a saintly personage of vast learning, and a gifted speaker. He was also an outstanding mathematician.
As a sage, His Holiness felt profoundly that a great spiritual awakening is vital and urgent in order to preserve world peace. By "spiritual awakening", the Sankaracarya meant the Self-realization of every human being, each according to his chosen path or religion.
Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India) was chosen by His Holiness as his official sponsor in the United States. An itinerary was drawn up, and His Holiness delivered addresses at many universities, several of which bestowed on him honorary doctorate degrees. He travelled from coast to coast to speak at centers of learning in America, among them the University of California, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, Washington and Lee University, Rutgers University, and the United States Naval Academy. The Jagadguru also spoke on radio and television programs, and before numerous religious, cultural, and educational groups: He had received 150 invitations to speak, and in the relatively brief span of his visit, this frail-bodied, yet spiritually vital soul, fulfilled more than fifty engagements. Millions heard his talks on radio and television. Always his speech centered on Truth; on the Goal of life, and the furtherance of world peace and universal brotherhood.
The Jagadguru’s activities were widely reported by the press. Newsweek wrote in April 1958: "Last week, His Holiness had just arrived in New York on the second leg of his three—month lecture tour of the U.S., which began in February. He started in Los Angeles at the headquarters of his sponsor, Self—Realization Fellowship, a society that professes a combination of Eastern and Western thought. Moving East, the Jagadguru has so far made 36 public appearances. Perhaps the most spectacular occurred at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, where he engaged in debate on religion and peace with the distinguished historian, Arnold Toynbee . . . the non- violent Hindu insisted that peace with honor was something worth fighting for.
"As he sat erect in his wing chair, the Holy Man spoke about tenets of the Sankaracarya Order (his vows forbid him to talk about himself): ‘We believe in the oneness and solidarity of the whole universe.’ What about the conflict of religious ideas? ‘The principles and ideas of all religions are the same, Historical accidents have produced differences in attitudes and superficial beliefs; that is all."
It was with a sad heart that I bade farewell to His Holiness. However, it was not long before I found myself in his presence again, this time in India. It was in May of 1959 in Calcutta. During this period he came to our Yogoda Math and Yogoda Ashram in Dakshineswar and in Baranagar. We had many interesting discussions, but what was most enjoyable was just sitting quietly in his presence.
From His Holiness emanated the peace of a man of God. He exemplified the virtues written about in the great scriptures of East and West. He was truly a universal man. Yet, he was humble; the words of Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda better describe what I felt about the Jagadguru: "Humbleness is a fertile valley of consciousness where the rain of God’s wisdom falls fruitfully. Humbleness is a manifestation of an understanding heart and sets an example of greatness for others to follow."
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