Sri Devi Kamakshi Sri Sri Sri Adi Sankara Sri Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi MahaSwamiji Sri Sri Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Swamiji Sri Sri Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamiji presents several different aspects of The official web site for Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram, India.
   Home    |   Announcements    |   Tour Programme    |   Audio & Video    |   Image Gallery    |   Acknowledgements    |   Sitemap   
     About the Peetham    |   Origin of the Peetham    |   About this web site    |   Contact Us    |   Search   
  Use this link for a Printer Friendly version of this page   Use this link  to share this page on Facebook    Use this link  to share this page on Twitter    Use this link  to share this page on Pinterest    Use this link  to share this page on Google Plus    
!New: Sri Adi Sankara
Branches, Temples and Patasaalas
Hindu Dharma
Acharya's Call
Voice of Sankara
Personal Experiences
Sri Adi Sankara
Namo Namah
Naamavali / Pushpaanjali
News & Upcoming Events

Pujyashri Acharyas to bless programmes in Chennai tomorrow - 22 April 2017 (Saturday)

HH Pujyashri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamigal will bless the Akhanda Tirupugazh programme by Tirupugazh Anbargal at Hemamalini Kalyana Mandapam at 4 pm .

HH Pujyashri Jayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamigal and HH Pujyashri Shankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Shankaracharya Swamigal will bless the Sangeeta Mummoortigal Tiruvizha at Vani Mahal, TNagar, at 6 pm.

information itemLaunched - - to facilitate online contributions for sevas
information item Shrimatam camp at Chennai Thoraipakkam - 24 April onwards
information item Anugraha Bashanam at Chennai - 19 April - Audio Added
information item Ratha Parayana Poorthi- 19 April 2017
information item Veda Parayanam held at Swamimalai - 4 Mar - 1 Apr 2017
information item  Shankara Jayanti Mahotsavam at Shrinagar, Jammu & Kashmir - 23 April - 30 April 2017
information item Sri Shankara Jayanti at Tiruvannamalai Sankara Matam - 24 - 30 April 2017
information item Sri Kamakshi Ambal on Swarna Simha Vahanam- 30 March 2017
information item Pujyashri Acharyas return to Kanchipuram - 23 March 2017
information item  श्री काँची कामकोटि पीठम - हिन्दी में समाचार
information item



Evening with A Sage

Arthur Isenberg

The person who sat opposite me was sixty five years old, slim, a bit on the smallish side. The top of his head was almost entirely bald or shaven, the lower portion of his face was outlined by a white beard. He had white moustache and white eyebrows. His body was clothed in the saffron-coloured mantle of the Sannyasin.

Not that any of this mattered. What did matter was his face, and more particularly, his eyes, which looked at me with a mixture, or rather a fine blending, of intelligence, kindliness and compassion, while at the same time somehow reflecting a most gentle sense of humour.

I had the definite sensation of being in the presence of man thoroughly at peace with himself, a sage. The impression grew to conviction during the course of the three and a half hour conversation that night on 20th April 1959.

The sage is His Holiness, Jagadguru Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Sri Pada, the present Sankaracharya or spiritual head of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham Conjeevaram, South India.

The physical setting may have played a part in shaping my impression. There is the magic on the South Indian night in early summer; the light of the full moon silhouetting a variety of palm trees; the silent flight of bats and flying foxes; occasional, gentle cool breeze; now and then a sounds of little screech of owls; or the distant barking of a dog or a jackal.

The Acharya (Preceptor) and I sit cross-legged in a little grove of a garden in Numbal, a small village some half of dozen miles from Madras.

Almost form the start I impressed by the most remarkable habit which the Acharya practices. Not only does he never interrupt a question (which would be remarkable enough!) but he invariably pauses about a minute or more before answering. His reply, when it comes, clearly shows that it was preceded by reflection. It is invariably concise and to the point.

Many of the questions discussed by the Acharya and myself were purely personal interest, but there were other of a more scope.

I asked the Acharya what, in his opinion, would be the most significant aid which a foreign government or institution, sincerely interested in helping India, could provide for the country. As usual, he thought for about a minute before replying, substantially as follows:

"The answer to your question depends, of course, on whom you address it to. If you were to ask the Indian Government, they would probably say that help was most urgently needed in the field of agriculture or education. But since you are asking me, I must give you my answer.

"As I see it, the most significant help which a foreign government or institution could render to India would be in the cultural field. To help us deepen our understanding and appreciation of our own cultural heritage in all its forms-literature, dance, arts, philosophy-to help us carry on research in these fields and do bring the knowledge of these matters to our people-that would be rendering truly significant help."

The views expressed by the Acharya on the subject of the proper role of Indian women were conservative in the extreme. When I do not share his views. I respect the reasons which prompt him to hold them.

I had prepared only one question deliberately in anticipation of the interview. His reply to that question showed that the Acharya was by no means without a very fine sense of humour.

My question: "It has been said that the real beginning of wisdom consisting of knowing the right question to ask. Suppose then that I were wise, what question should I ask you?"

He had begun to smile even as I was asking my question; nevertheless, he listened carefully to Dr. Raghavan's translation and even asked him to repeat it. There ensued the customary one-minute pause for reflection. Then came his answer: "If you were wise, you would not ask any question.' It was my turn to smile, appreciatively. Then I said: "True enough. But suppose that I were just a novice, at the beginning stage of the quest of wisdom. That question ought I to ask you then?"

"In that case you might ask me what you ought to do."

"All right. Your Holiness, please consider yourself asked."

His answer, when it came, was, perhaps, a bit anticlimactic. He told me to continue along the line I was already following.

I warned him that, for better or worse, such was my nature and bent that I could only follow an intellectual path, that the world of faith was pretty much a closed book to me. He declared that the path of reason was ultimately not only the best but indeed that only one, that all other ways-faith, devotion or whatever-were of value only as preliminaries, preparation, interim stages, meaning nothing unless superseded by understanding.

"But," I queried," isn't there such a thing as pride or arrogance of the intellect?"

"Yes," he replied, "but what makes you ask that question is not your intellect which is its own observer, critic, watchman."

"How," I asked, "can one know whether one is making progress, stagnating or retrogressing in the quest of wisdom?"

He replied: "If each year, the number of things or events, which can arouse you your anger or lust grows smaller, you are making progress; if it remains the same, you are stagnating; if it increases, you spiritual development is retrogressive."

I enquired whether there was any consolation or joy, any true happiness to be found. He answered that there was consolation and joy in the quest itself. In reply to a further question, he amended his answer by stating that ultimate, non-derivative existence was in itself blissful.

Our conversation covered many other topics. His Holiness evinced particular interest in certain implications of theoretical physics which, to put it negatively and rather cautiously, do not clash with the thorough monism of Advaita Vedanta. (He has repeatedly written and spoken about the relation of modern science and Advaita).

It is my cherished hope to be able to avail myself of the kind invitation to meet the Sankaracharya again. Meanwhile, there remains the vivid memory of my privileged meeting on that peaceful evening with one of the most truly remarkable persons of our troubled age: the gentle sage of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham.


© Copyright Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
No part of this web site may be reproduced without explicit permission from the Peetham. Some material put up on this web site are protected by individual copyright(s) of the concerned organisation(s)