This book is a talc centred on the theme of the philosophic ideals and teachings of Vedanta With a first person narrative style, it begins with the narrator s decision to spend the third of the four asramas, the vanaprastha stage of life, in Madurai, the abode of Goddess Meenakshi which has inspired devout scholars and poets for centuries The tale is an account of the narrator’s study of the philosophy of non-dualism or Advaita, as propounded by masters such as Sri Sarikara and Ramana Maharshi, under the guidance of his guru Sankara Shastri It reveals the nature of the Vedanta philosophy and its significance m understanding the meaning of life and the strange nature of human condition, in attaining peace and bliss in one’s own being and m contributing to harmony and integration in the country It discusses aspects of creation of the universe and of life, the world and nature around us and the sufferings and pleasures as experienced by humans from a Vedantic perspective.
The story is an interesting account that is not only profoundly , philosophical but also touches the emotions of the heart Readers will be fascinated by this interesting and profound story that conveys the deeply founded truths of Vedanta in a simple manner.
Ramaswami Subramony was born m Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala state, m 1976 His first book Frying Pan and Other Stories was published in 2009 by Frog Books, Mumbai, under the nom de plume Raja He presently works as Assistant Professor m English at Madura College, ‘Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
HINDUISM, or more accurately, Sanatana Dharma, has been the religion of the land called as Bharat. It has been called by the Chinese as “Yindu” and India by Europeans for centurie, When Akhand Bharat, which included today’s Iran [thence came Kaikeyi], Afghanistan [the land of Gandhari and Shakuni] and Pakistan on the west, and Burma and Sri Lanka on the east and south, was 100 percent of Hindu religionists, India was a humane, civilised nation of great economic and scientific achievements.
Fire-worshipping Persians escaping Islamic invasion and brutality came to Gujarat and were treated as honoured fellow citizens. Persecuted Jews came to Mumbai and Kochi and only in India they were welcomed and without any persecution allowed to freely practise their non-proselytising religion in synagogues built for them. So too were Islamic Arabs and European Christians welcomed in Kerala.
This was India before the sequential foreign invasions by uncivilised hordes [such as of Mohammed Ghauri] and dregs of society [such as Robert Clive]. The 1000 years of foreign rule (800 by the Muslims and 200 by the British) has left us all with bitter memories which should now be constructively converted into a resolve to never again allow this to happen.
The Islamic invasion of India resulted in large-scale destruction and vandalisation of Hindu temples, and brutality and imposition of Jaziya (religious tax) on non-Muslim subjects. Alberuni, who accompanied Mohammed Ghazni, has recorded the destruction of Hindu temples by his Islamic invaders. Babar destroyed Ramjanmabhumi temple while Aurangazeb destroyed Mathura and the Viswanath temple in Kashi by issuing a firman.
But the fact remains, that everywhere else, such as Iran, Iraq and Egypt, Islamic invasion led to complete conversion of the local population to Islam within a few decades. Same is true of Europe after Christian invasion. But even after 1000 years of brutal rule of Muslim [800 years] and Christian invaders [1200 years], undivided India, in 1947, had remained a 75 per cent Hindu majority country. This is because Hindu revolt never ceased fill freedom came in 1947. The Vijayanagara kings fought the Muslim Badshahs and ruled over vast areas of India for 300 years to usher in a Hindu renaissance. Chhatrapati Shivaji challenged and stemmed the Islamic tide of the Mughals so much so that had the British not come, the Mahrattas would have liberated India from Islamic rule in early nineteenth century and restored Hindu Rashtra.
After Independence in 1947, in the name of a distorted secularism, the Left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru and his chosen Marxist historians gave legitimacy to the British version of our history which covertly gave vent to their anti-Hindu feelings in Government textbooks. Hence, time has arrived to re-write these history books purged of the biased version of British Imperialists and coloured by Marxists.
Paramahamsa by Shri R. Subramony is one such research about the unique glory of our Hindu tradition. Bharatha Varsha has witnessed a succession of sages who have preserved the continuity of the eternal message of Sanatana Dharma. It is interesting to learn from the book that Shri Subramony has focused on such sages and scholars who migrated from the Vijayanagara Empire in the wake of the Islamic conquest, to the villages near the Thamirabarani River and contributed to Vedantic studies. A major focus of the book is on Sankara and his unifying vision of Bharatha Varsha. The contributions of the Kashmiri Pandits have also been dealt with. Kashmir was created by Rishi Kashyapa and is an inseparable part of our Hindu identity, and the plight of Kashmiri Hindus must concern all of us from Kanyakumari and Nicobar to Karakoram and Kashgar.
I hope therefore Paramahamsa will serve to awaken the Hindu in order to face the challenges of our time and help us emerge as a Brihad Virat Hindu society in which we will welcome all Muslims and Christians who proudly acknowledge that their ancestors too were Hindus and hence share a common culture and history. That is my concept of Hindustan. I therefore wish the author and the book the best.
PARAMAHAMSA — A Vedantic Tale explores the relevance of Acharya Sankara and Acharya Abhinavagupta to our times. The philosophy of Abhinavagupta and the uniqueness of Kashmiri Shaivism are extensively dealt with through the discourse of the imaginary character Paramahamsa Shivahari, whose guru was an expert in Tan traloka. This book also throws light on the teachings of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and several aspects of Vedanta. The contributions of Sanskrit pandits like Neelakanta Dikshitar, Appaya Dikshitar and Sadasiva Brahmendra who fled from Vijayanagara in the wake of Islamic invasion to the villages near Thamirabarani River in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu are described. It is to be recalled here that Krishna Deva Raya was the king of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire exactly 500 years ago in 1509. It was a great pleasure for me to travel to villages on the banks of the Thamirabarani River like Pallamadai, Kodaganallur and Melacheval where a few pandits still reside. This book can also be regarded as a tribute to the Thamirabarani River along whose banks great scholars resided for centuries. The imaginary narrator of the novel comes to Madurai in the last decade of the twentieth century to study the works of Acharya Sankara and Ramana Maharshi. He is recovering from the shock of the death of both his wife and daughter. He also studies the life of his ancestor, Subbiah who travelled with Paramahamsa Shivahari (both fictitious characters) to different places in the 1860s. Through the conversations of Sankara Shastri, at the beginning of the book, to the narrator and later in the work.
Shivahari to Subbiah certain misconceptions regarding the philosophy of Acharya Sankara, especially the false charge that he preached mayavada, are cleared. The underlying principle of the novel is the relevance of Advaita Vedanta — non-duality — to our times. Acharya Sankara’s philosophy is also explained and its eternal validity is stated. Advaita Vedanta contains the answer to duhkha or suffering. Paramahamsa is essentially a metaphysical novel and follows the Sanskritic tradition — Mahabharata and Ramayana for instance — in which focus is more on values and not on the colour of the shirt of a character and ornate descriptions. The contributions of saints such as Tirumular, Vallalar and Kumaraguruparar are described. There are descriptions of mandapams (small constructions for pilgrims to take rest), chatrams (choultries), chaturveda mangalams (villages given as grant for Vedic studies) and the Vedic culture of the 1860s which was on the decline when the colonial power introduced English education in the cities. The reader can get from the book information about the Upanishads and their significance.
A major part of the book deals with Kashmir. Kashmir was a major centre of learning before it fell to the Islamic sword in the fourteenth century. There was an intellectual and cultural renaissance in Takshashila (modern Taxila in Pakistan) which spread to Kashmir. India has always been religiously and culturally one. Some scholars from the south visited Kashmir 1000 years ago in search of knowledge. The glory of the past of Madurai and the Meenakshi Temple are also described in the book. Through the travels of Paramahamsa Shivahari and Subbiah we are taken on a journey to the cultural and philosophical heritage of south India. There are conversations between the imaginary twentieth-century descendant of Subbiah and his intellectual opponents. They inform us about how we have neglected the study of our cultural and spiritual heritage after Independence and also how colonialism has uprooted us from our roots. The significance of the Hindu way of thinking in sharp contrast to the West is also highlighted. The book also contains information on Sri Vidya upasana and kundalini yoga.
Paramahamsa seeks to focus on the relevance of Upanishadic India in our times. It will also be useful to spiritual seekers, who want to know about Advaita, Acharya Sankara and Acharya Abhinavagupta, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and the saints of the Advaitic tradition like Sadashiva Brahmendra. The novel is a window to ancient Indian wisdom; to the perennial philosophy and its eternal relevance. André Malraux said to Jawaharlal Nehru, “Let the great Sankaracharya guide India.” This is also the central message of the book.
I am grateful to Dr Subramanya Swamy, President of the Janata Party and former Union Law Minister, for providing the foreword. May God Almighty grant him a long life to serve Sanatana Dharma! I am grateful to Dr Kapil Kapoor (from INU) for allowing me to quote excerpts from his keynote address delivered on 18 February 2001 at the National Seminar on Decolonising English Education, Department of English, North Gujarat University, Patan (Gujarat, India). I wish to thank Shri V.5. Ramanan, President, for granting me permission to quote from the books about Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi published by Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, especially from Moments Remembered: Reminiscences of Bhagavan Ramana by V. Ganesan. I would like to thank the staff of the library of Adi Sankara Nilayam, Veliyanad, Ernakulam district in Kerala run by Chinmaya International Foundation. Thanks are also due to the staff of Chinmaya Mission library in Madurai. The library of Ramakrishna Mutt in Madurai contains a good collection of books on Vedanta and I would like to thank the Head of the Sri Ramakrishna Mutt, Madurai, Swami Kamalathmananda for allowing me to use them. Swamiji has taken personal initiative in buying more books for the library. I thank Smt Hema, librarian of Madura College, Madurai, for her valuable suggestions for the book. She is widely read in philosophy and literature.
The Victora Edward Hall Library in Madurai also possesses a rare collection which was useful to me. I thank my colleague Dr R. Raja who is responsible for my interest in Shaiva Siddhanta. Visiting frequently one of the rarest of rare pandits Vidyaratnam Ramasubramania Dikshitar of Suttamali village gave me an idea of how scholars lived in the olden days. I will always be grateful to him for his hospitality and encouragement. The Yajnavalkya Mutt of Melacheval village contains rare manuscripts and palm leaves of the Vijayanagara period. I thank Shri Ganapati Iyer, who is taking care of the Mutt, for allowing me access to them. I also thank Dr Subbulakshmi Sundaram for reading the manuscript and pointing out errors. I would also like to thank Shri Susheel K. Mittal who runs D.K. Printworld for accepting my book for publication. Most publishers these days will not agree to publish a serious book like this.
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