Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Acharya & The American


Among the path-finders to the Eternal who have led humanity from the fleeting phenomenon of the ephemeral world to the spiritual felicity of the Life Eternal, The Sage of Kanchi stands a shining example. Cast in the image of Adi Shankara, the immortal sage is divine and yet human. His saving grace is universal in its appeal. Innumerable seekers, not only from this country, but also from all parts of the world, had sought and received his blessings. One such foreigner who held His Holiness in the highest esteem and respect was A.B.Franklin who was the U.S.Consul General in Madras in the early nineteen sixties.

Dr. Albert Franklin saw the Acharya for the first time in Madurai in 1963 during the Kumbhabhishekham of the Meenakshi Temple. In these striking words he records what he saw and the deep impression it made on his mind:
“A stir in the central portion of the temple yard before the glided Vimanam, under which the Goddess Meenakshi is henceforth to stay, attracted our attention. The V.I.P.s in that area parted respectfully to let an old man with a beard and long stick come through. He approached the ladder leading to the top of the Vimanam. It was the Shankaracharya. The old man approached with halting steps, his head turning from side to side as if he wanted not to miss any detail of his surroundings. Who is he? He has a name, he has a dwelling place, he has an age, but in fact, he is every man and he is as old as man’s ponderings. He is the man of faith who has given away all that he had and follows only his faith. He is the symbol of that renunciation which is at the heart of all religions, and which Christ himself demanded when asked by the rich young man “What must I do to be saved?” So, here, at this time, in the temple, he is more than the most highly placed of the V.I.P.guests. With vigor surprising in so old a man, he seizes the railing of the ladder in a long fingered, bony hand and rapidly climbs seven or eight rungs to a point from which he can reach the top of the Vimanam with his stick. He remains a central figure throughout the ceremony”

The same statesman-scholar paid the following tribute to His Holiness on 28th February 1967, while presiding over a meeting held in Madras as a part of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Acharya’s ascension to the Peetha:
“We are living in a unique time in the world’s history, when things are happening on so many different levels that, if we are caught up in any one of those levels, we are likely to be completely mistaken about the whole. One of these levels [the one that most interests me] the West, my West, is arriving laboriously, after centuries of search by our most brilliant minds, at philosophical knowledge which was both implicit and explicit in India thousands of years ago. The greatest miracle of the human spirit is the sum of knowledge found in the body of lore which we collectively term the Vedanta. His Holiness, sixty years ago, abandoned the multitude of the other levels of human existence, contest, and involvement, to devote himself to this Truth.
If we meet him today to honour him because of the sixty years of ascension to the title of His Holiness, I believe that this is immaterial to him. I believe that he is as far beyond the titles and honours of this world as we, on our side, are in need of honouring him, as a way of symbolizing our awareness of the Reality he represents for us.
It is hard for me to find a tribute in words which expresses my feeling of admiration and gratitude towards His Holiness. Those of us, who deal in words as commodity or as a tool of trade, learn to mistrust them. Especially do we mistrust words as a means to describe a living, changing force, or personality, and like your remote ancestors we learn to mistrust words as a means of describing ultimate things. Perhaps the most appropriate thing I can say on this occasion is a very simple thing. I come from a very God-fearing portion of Christian America, that is to say, New England. Our earliest great philosophers, in that blessed corner of the earth, were among the very first Westerners to appreciate the fact that the Vedanta, far from being an outward creed, is a vast and joyous experience that lies ahead of us. Not only do I come from that part of the earth which bred Emerson and Thoreau, whose sprits are with us here this evening, but I am one of a long line-- long as our lines in America go-- of ministers and teachers. When this line started, back in the seventeenth century, ministers and teachers were usually the same individuals. It gives me pleasure to be able to say , in these circumstances, that, though some of my ancestors were in their day the subject of controversy because of their beliefs, just as Emerson was in his day, yet not one of them would question the appropriateness of my being here this evening. For them as for me, the spirit whom we are celebrating represents the highest aspiration of mankind”

B. M. N. Murthy

ARTICLE NO. 371--The Sage of Kanchi and The U.S.Consul General inMadras.
Created: Friday, May 18, 2007


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home