Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:04 am

The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet
directed by Ritu Sarin and Tenzin Soman
White Crane Productions

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Thu Apr 22, 2021 8:40 am

Chapter 1. The Young Lamas Home School, Excerpt from Tibetan Tapestry
by Sarita [Cherry] Armstrong



The move to a bigger property at Dalhousie also allowed for some modest expansion of the school, requiring more volunteers and a gearing up of the administration. Cherry Armstrong, an eighteen-year-old whose mother was active in the Buddhist Society in London, arrived towards the end of the school's first summer in the hills.

Her role was a loosely defined mix of administrative and secretarial, particularly helping with the correspondence generated by the Tibetan Friendship Group and Freda's scheme for pen friends for young Tibetan refugees.

The western friend would include a small monetary gift, usually in the form of money orders ... In return the Tibetan pen friend would send a little photograph or a prayer written in Tibetan ... My job initially was to keep this scheme working and it was often a life-saver for individuals with no financial aid. It was a system that needed no overheads -- once the connection was established the money went directly to the person for whom it was intended and usually continued for years.

Freda was good at delegating, and at multitasking. Every morning she 'held court' with a pile of papers (the morning post) on her lap. Tibetan matters were handed over to Trungpa Tulku who acted as her interpreter and scribe (as well as doing his own religious and language studies). Indian matters were handed to the Indian administrator of the school, Attar Singh; English letters were handed to me, while Freda herself would be simultaneously writing her own more important letters. During this time there would be frequent Tibetan or Indian visitors asking for help or for Freda to use her influence on their behalf and everyone was attended to with care and foresight. Sitting beside her whilst all this was going on I could see that her method of coping was to give her undivided attention to the specific matter in hand; a kind of purposeful concentration to the exclusion of all other matters. When one matter was dealt with, the next had her exclusive attention .... She had an immense capacity for work.19

Cherry learnt to type, often with an old typewriter balanced on her lap or on her bed. It was rudimentary but it worked. Alongside the daily grind, Freda was also adept at maintaining connections with those of influence. When a couple of months after the move to Dalhousie Anita Morris headed home to England, she carried a package for Christmas Humphreys, the judge and doyen of the Buddhist Society in London, and for the renowned violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Among those who came to visit was the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who turned up 'with an equally scruffy-looking mate, looking like a couple of beggars' -- as Cherry recalls. 'Freda invited him to our communal supper. I can't say I was impressed.'20

Cherry Armstrong's unpublished account of the year she spent at the Young Lamas' Home School has the freshness and excitement of a youthful odyssey but one laced with a shrewd eye for how the operation held together as well as affection for the lamas and her fellow volunteers. She described Freda as a 'grey-haired English lady in a dark red sari, looking very much like a lama herself, who greeted her on arrival with a bear-hug and a resounding kiss. 'She talked of England with some nostalgia in spite of the fact that she had completely adopted the Indian way of life, the Buddhist religion, and the oriental way of conducting affairs.' The main room at Kailash, large and shabby, 'could have been the sitting room of an old English farmhouse if it were not for the red-robed figures padding silently over the worn carpet.' She had a room with views over the mountains, heated by a stove, 'a squat black metal cylinder standing with its three legs in a pan of water to prevent the floorboards burning', with a lid into which wood and fir cones were fed.21

In the evening the lamas were doing a special puja, or religious chanting ceremony, to which we were all invited. The lamas were already assembled in the shrine room as we seated ourselves cross-legged at the back of the room. As they began chanting the sound which filled the room was completely alien to my ears and at first seemed quite cacophonous. Yet there was a fascination about it and I soon learnt to notice the rhythms and variations in tone. Half way through the ceremony the chanting faded away. Tin mugs were distributed and a monk brought Tibetan tea in a kettle with a yellow marigold stuck into the spout. I had been warned about Tibetan tea made with butter and salt as well as milk, but no one had warned me that unless I hid my mug somewhere out of reach it would be refilled again and again in spite of desperately shaking my head, nor that my pleadings of 'No more, thank you,' would be taken as mere politeness so long as my mug stood unguarded within easy reach of the spout of the kettle.

Cherry was also drawn into the teaching at the school -- one of perhaps half-a-dozen young westerners of different nationalities, only a few of whom had a serious interest in Buddhism. She found the atmosphere at the school to be relaxed and convivial. 'It was a place of laughter and joking.'

The yearly rhythm of the school adapted to changing circumstances. The Home School operated in Dalhousie from April to November. During those summer months, as Cherry recalls, the tulkus could learn English, French or German as well as Hindi, general knowledge and simple mathematics, while still keeping mainly to the rules of monastic discipline. One of the aims of the school was to avoid a social rift between the bulk of the Tibetan refugees who were getting educated in Indian schools and the young lamas, the elite of Tibetan society, whose religious vocation required them to be educated separately. The plan was that each winter the pupils would return to their gurus and concentrate on their religious studies.

In the first winter in Dalhousie, that plan was disrupted by a month-long border war between India and China, which ended with the victorious Chinese declaring a ceasefire on 20th November 1962. China crossed into what India held to be its territory both on the western part of the border, in Aksai Chin a remote area of eastern Ladakh, and in the east in what was then known in India as the North East Frontier Agency where many Tibetans had initially sought refuge. The school wasn't in any immediate peril but there was a real sense of alarm. 'Every evening we sat silently attentive round the tiny transistor radio as it crackled and spluttered out the latest reports of fighting and death,' Armstrong wrote. 'Every evening the news became worse. For this reason many of the tulkus' gurus who were living in the frontier area very near to the fighting had begged Freda not to send the tulkus back to them as was customary for the winter months. Freda had of course agreed and in a manner typical of her ways she decided to turn this into something positive for everyone.'22 She decided to move the entire school for the winter months to a Buddhist centre in Delhi, the Ladakh Buddhist Vihar, in one of the older and more central districts of the city close to the Yamuna river.

And she arranged two coaches to transport both young lamas and volunteers. On the way, the entire school visited the Dalai Lama at Dharamsala -- where Freda, Cherry and the lamas had their photo taken with the most revered figure within the Tibetan diaspora -- and meandered through Punjab on the way to the Indian capital. From there, several of the group went by train on a pilgrimage to the Buddhist sites in north India -- as Freda sometimes remarked, the Tibetan refugees were helping to bring Buddhism back to its original home, to the land where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

The impact of the border fighting followed the school to Delhi. Hundreds of Tibetans displaced by the fighting, and so uprooted for a second time, appeared at the gates of the Buddhist centre. Cherry Armstrong looked on from her balcony as a yellow-robed senior lama strode over to the entrance: 'the gates were flung open and the people poured through, eager but unhurried'.

Many filled the unoccupied dormitories, others crowded into tiny rooms and some made homes under the stairs, while others claimed a little patch of veranda for their belongings. Those at the back of the crowd for whom there was no room sat down with their loads on the river bank. During the next few days more and yet more arrived until they totalled over a thousand. Huge marquees usually reserved for festivals were erected to house them. Even more camped in the open around Delhi -- on islands in the middle of roundabouts, in parks, and on the roadside verge.

Their tattered clothes hung on them, thick and heavy in the Delhi heat, yet their grimy faces were cheerful. Lama Lobsang organised those inside the vihara into groups of a dozen or so, and it was not long before food aid and parcels of clothes arrived. I would never have believed that human beings in such desperate straits could have distributed these windfalls with such calm orderliness. I never saw any ill-feeling or someone trying to take more than their share ... The women and girls were shy about wearing short cotton frocks and indeed all their quiet dignity was lost in the new attire. They had lost everything to do with their homeland and now they had to change even the way they looked.23

For Freda, it must have reminded her of Misamari: the destitution, the shortage of medicine, and the desperately ill -- there were many suffering from TB among the new arrivals -- who sought her out for help in getting treatment.

Alongside this new emergency, Freda continued to pursue another hugely ambitious project. 'My two lama "sons" are coming to England in March ... wonderful young lamas,' Freda told Olive Chandler -- an indication of the strong emotional as well as spiritual bonds forged with these tulkus.24 Along with John [E. Stapleton] Driver, a scholar of Tibet who had spent several years in Kalimpong, she managed to secure a Spalding scholarship to allow Trungpa to study at Oxford University. Akong was to accompany him.

They were, in Cherry Armstrong's words, Freda's 'golden boys'. She recognised in Trungpa, in particular, an exceptional spiritual presence and an ability to communicate and to inspire those with whom he came into contact. Both had formal roles at the school -- Trungpa as codirector (he described himself as the school's spiritual advisor) while Akong made sure that the place ran with tolerable efficiency. Anita Morris, who taught English both at Green Park and at Dalhousie, had mixed opinions of the two. 'Akong was very much taking care of the younger ones -- a lot of them were a lot younger. So if they had any pains or any problems, they would go to Akong,' she recalls. 'He'd be going down maybe to a doctor at Dalhousie if necessary or just for ordinary shopping and taking care of things. Whereas Trungpa just did his own thing, his bits of painting and that sort of stuff.'25 A Tibetan lama who knew both well at Dalhousie comments that Trungpa always wanted attention and prominence, while Akong was solid and reliable. Trungpa was already developing a reputation as something of a wild child. Although it was a well-kept secret, he apparently fathered a child with a Tibetan nun who came to Dalhousie to visit him. They took a mattress up on the roof of the school -- said Trungpa's English wife in her memoirs -- and spent the night there. That was not at all typical of the school, but not entirely untypical ofTrungpa.26 He was an enormously important figure in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in North America and Europe and one of the first to teach westerners in English, but he had lifelong issues about sexual promiscuity and the use of drink and drugs.

At Ladakh Buddhist Vihar, Cherry remembers Trungpa and Akong sitting in their room studying maps of the London Underground and out-of-date bus timetables in preparation for their journey. They travelled by boat. On the day they were due to dock outside London, the pupils at the Home School -- by now back in Dalhousie -- held a prayer ceremony on an open patch of woodland on the hillside adjoining Kailash. 'They lit a fire of juniper branches and the smoke rose in a blue spire into the branches of the trees and on up into the cloudless sky. We sat on brightly patterned Tibetan rugs spread over the stony ant-infested ground and the lamas began their chanting. It was a happy, picnic-like affair around the scented bonfire, with kettles of hot buttery Tibetan tea.'27 At Tilbury, Cherry's parents were on hand to welcome the two Tibetans -- as were Anita Morris and other well-wishers -- and to provide them with an initial berth at the family home in High Wycombe. Once installed at Oxford, Trungpa and Akong were joined by an old friend and another alumnus of the Home School, Chime Rinpoche. They shared a small flat in St Margaret's Road, on the same street as Freda's old college, and Akong took work as a hospital orderly to help support the household. All three became powerful beacons of Tibetan Buddhism in the west.

Alongside this noticeable success, Freda faced some acute disappointments. She made enemies as well as friends, and sometimes these rivalries became vicious. Lois Lang-Sims commented, without saying what prompted the observation, that Freda's enemies 'were not only numerous but of an almost incredible malevolence'.28 That intense animosity seems to have been behind the most wounding public assault on Freda and her integrity. The stiletto was wielded by D.F. [Dosabhai Framji] Karaka, an Oxford contemporary of the Bedis. He was a writer and journalist of some distinction, though by the early 1960s he was the editor of a not-so-distinguished Bombay-based tabloidstyle weekly, the Current. This was awash with brash, sensationalist stories, reflecting Karaka's fiercely polemical style, his crusading anticommunism and his impatience with Nehru, India's prime minister, for his supposed lack of zeal in standing up for the national interest. The weekly paper bore the slogan 'God Save the Motherland' on its front page.

In September 1963, Freda's photograph graced the front-page of the Current, accompanying a story which also took up much of the following page. It was a hatchet job. Under his own byline, Karaka asserted that 'an Englishwoman, married to an Indian, is attempting to express a great deal of anxiety to help the Buddhist cause as a screen for her Communist activities'. He insisted that 'Mrs Freda Bedi ... will always, in my opinion, be a Communist first, irrespective of her outwardly embraced Buddhism.' This was an absurd accusation. Freda's days as a communist sympathiser had come to a close almost twenty years earlier. Her husband had abandoned communism a decade previously. But the accusation of being a concealed communist was deeply wounding especially when the Tibetan refugees regarded communist China as their arch enemy -- the occupiers of their homeland and destroyers of their culture, faith and tradition -- and when India had recently been at war with China.

'Freda has dabbled with Communism ever since my student days in Oxford,' Karaka reported. 'She was, in fact, at Oxford at the same time as myself. Later, she married Bedi, a well known Indian Communist. They both came out to India and plunged themselves into the Communist movement.'29The article resorted to innuendo, suggesting that 'the alleged indoctrination of Sheikh Abdulla [sic] was largely to be traced to his very close association with Freda Bedi'. It suggested that some former associates of the Bedis in Kashmir had 'mysteriously disappeared'. Freda was alleged to have been caught up in controversy about Buddhist property and funds before turning, 'with the active encouragement of Shri J. Nehru, the Prime Minister', to the running of the Young Lamas' Home School. The article suggested that Freda was getting money from the Indian government, and using government headed paper to appeal for funds from supporters in America and elsewhere. Karaka suggested that the Tibetan Friendship Group was a 'Communist stunt' and he alleged that 'noted Communists, with the usual "blessings" of Mr. Nehru, are using the excuse of helping Tibetan refugees and Buddhist monks for furthering the cause of Communism in strategic border areas.'

Aside from the venomous smears, the only evidence of inappropriate conduct that the article pointed to was her use of official notepaper to appeal for funds for her school and other Tibetan relief operations. It cited a letter of complaint, sent by an unnamed Buddhist organisation which clearly was antagonistic to Freda, stating that she had been using the headed paper of the Central Social Welfare Board which bore the Government of India's logo. A civil servant's response was also quoted: 'Mrs Bedi is not authorised to use Government of India stationery for correspondence in connection with the affairs of the "Young Lama's Home" or the "Tibetan Friendship Group". This has now been pointed out to Mrs. Bedi.'

Even if Freda has been using government headed paper to help raise money -- which those who worked with her say is perfectly possible -- it was hardly a major misdemeanour. But detractors were able to use this blemish to damage her reputation. She was, it seems, distraught at this vicious personal attack and took advice about whether to take legal action. She was advised, probably wisely, to do nothing, as any riposte would simply give further life to accusations so insubstantial that they would quickly fade away. 'The accusation was that Freda was a communist in nun's clothing -- not that Freda was a nun at that time,' recalls Cherry Armstrong. 'I remember her being particularly distressed and "beyond belief' when she believed she had identified the culprit. Freda was totally dumbfounded about it.'

Freda was convinced that another western convert to Buddhism, Sangharakshita (earlier Dennis Lingwood), was either behind the slur or was abetting it.30 They had much in common -- including a deep antipathy to each other. Lingwood encountered Theosophy and Buddhism as a teenager in England and was ordained before he was twenty by the Burmese monk U Titthila, who later helped Freda towards Buddhism. During the war, he served in the armed forces in South and South-east Asia and from 1950 spent about fourteen years based in Kalimpong in north-east India, where he was influenced by several leading Tibetan Buddhist teachers. In the small world of Indian Buddhism, the two English converts rubbed shoulders. More than sixty years later, Sangharakshita -- who established a Buddhist community in England -- recalls coming across Freda, then new to Buddhism, living at the Ashoka Vihar Buddhist centre outside Delhi. 'She was tall, thin, and intense and wore Indian dress. She had a very pale complexion, with light fair hair and very pale blue eyes. In other words, she looked very English! I also noticed, especially later on, that she was very much the Memsaheb ... During the time that I knew Freda she knew hardly anything about Buddhism, having never studied it seriously .... She had however developed what I called her "patter" about the Dalai Lama, compassion, and the poor dear little Tulkus. So far as I could see, Freda had no spiritual awareness or Enlightenment. She may, of course, have developed these later.'31 His view of the Young Lamas' Home School is also somewhat jaundiced -- 'some of [the tulkus] developed rather expensive tastes, such as for Rolex watches.'

Sangharakshita's recollection is that he and Freda 'got on quite well, even though I did not take her "Buddhism" very seriously' as they were both English and (in his view) of working-class origin. He was not impressed by her husband: 'he struck me as a bit of a humbug ... I was told (not by Freda) that he was then living with one of his cousins.' In his memoirs, he recycled one of the allegations that featured in Current, that an 'Englishwoman married to a well-known Indian communist' was trying to 'wrest' control of Ashoka Vihar outside Delhi from the Cambodian monk who had founded it.32 Decades later, he continues to recount this and other of the items on the Current charge sheet, describing Freda as 'a rather ruthless operator' while in Kashmir. He recalls the furore over the Current article, but says that he had no reason to believe that Freda was using the Lamas' School for a political purpose. Freda never tackled him over her suspicions, but he does not deny a tangential involvement. 'It is possible,' he concedes, 'that certain reservations about the Young Lamas' Home School eventually reached the ears of Current.'

The incident was a reflection of the intense rivalries within the Tibetan movement and its supporters. 'Strong personalities do seem to draw opposition by their very nature,' Cherry Armstrong comments, 'and there is a lot of personal politics amongst the Tibetan groups -- not all light and loveliness as one might like to think.'33

--14: The Young Lamas' Home School, Excerpt from The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead



"Did you have a good journey?" asked the Tibetan lama in deep red robes and rubber beach shoes.

"Yes" -- I hesitated as I wondered whether the night-long train ride across the Indian plains in the packed third-class carriage was 'good'. Interesting and exciting, but not good. "Quite good," I conceded.

The lama chuckled; he knew what I meant. We were sitting in a large, shabby room which might have been in an old English farmhouse if it were not for the red-robed figures padding over the worn carpet. The room was dim except for a brilliant shaft of sunlight that streamed through the window, showing up every speck of dust in the air. If I could have squinted through the inward-slanting sunbeam, I would have seen a range of the Himalayas topped with snow, dazzling against the deep blue sky.

Opposite me sat the grey-haired English lady who had greeted me on the hill path with a bear-hug and a resounding kiss. She spoke of England with some nostalgia, although she had adopted the Indian way of life, the Buddhist religion, and the oriental manner of conducting affairs. While we talked, I attempted to eat some rice and lentils placed before me by a thin, sadly smiling Indian cook.

Even in this outlandish place high in the mountains there were several Europeans and Americans who hurried to the room, eager to meet the newcomer from some civilised place on the other side of the world. First there was an elderly French lady called Suzanne, then Johnny, with his straggly beard and lank hair, who had travelled to India from America, taking several years over it as he considered all sensible travellers should. Jonathan had made his way overland from England, rebelling against his public school upbringing, although it remained an obvious part of his nature. Another Englishman, Frank, small and dark-haired sat quietly in the background, watching with bright attentive eyes. Maretta, also from America, seated herself cross-legged in an armchair, grinning at me like a Cheshire cat, her green eyes looking extra large behind black-rimmed glasses.

When I had done my best with the rice and lentils, they led me to another house where the volunteer helpers lived. My upstairs room was sizeable with wide windows overlooking beautiful snowy mountain peaks, now turning to gold in the setting sun. In the centre of the room stood the bed -- a wooden frame with tapes woven across it. I had been told to bring my sleeping bag. There was a cupboard, a chair and a table with a vase of wildflowers that Maretta had placed there. Next to the bed stood a medieval-looking stove -- a squat black metal cylinder standing with its three legs in a pan of water to prevent the floorboards burning. In the top was an aperture with a lid, into which wood and fir-cones could be thrown. The chimney rose to the height of my head then careered drunkenly across the room and out of the wall. Jonathan took the lid off the stove, cupped his hands, and blew vigorously into it. I was feeling cold and shivery in the unaccustomed surroundings, so he produced an aspirin "to stop old ladies from dying and being reborn." As he went out of the door he remarked, "We've been told to treat you like a sister," and gave me a wink.

I lay down in my sleeping bag with my duffle coat over the top and reflected on how quickly everything had happened! I had left school without the exam results to get me into a university, and after weeks of drearily looking through newspapers trying to find a job, a friend of my mother remarked, "I could arrange for you to work in India with the Tibetan refugees. You could go tomorrow if you liked. You wouldn't get much pay and conditions are not great, I hear, but it would be interesting work. I know an English lady who has a school for Tibetan lamas at Dalhousie in the foothills of the Himalayas. She always needs teachers and secretaries."

A few letters were exchanged, and my job confirmed. Then the news came that China had made aggressive incursions over the Indian border near to the school, and it looked as though it could break into full scale war. The Chinese had already built roads up to the frontier unnoticed by the Indians in this wild, unpopulated area! My parents fretted, but Freda Bedi who ran the school, asked if I could come immediately before they transferred to Delhi for the winter months.

The plane was three hours late in reaching Delhi but a Scottish volunteer from the school called Duncan, was still waiting for me.
Three hours is not a long time to wait in India. We sped into New Delhi on the airport bus, passing the ubiquitous cows, the women carrying pots and bundles on their heads, the turbaned Sikhs. I had tried to imagine what India would be like, and with a superficial glance from the bus it did not seem extraordinary. I suppose I had expected the lean cows wandering across the road, the erratic driving with horns blowing, the poverty, the dust and dirt. But -- men riding bicycles in their pyjamas? There was a man with a briefcase and rolled umbrella defecating by the side of the road! Another was being given a shave on the dusty pavement: I giggled at him as I stared out of the window. The attendant caught my eye, and nudging his friend, laughed back at me. Then the bus moved on.

Early in the morning the overnight train from Delhi reached its terminus at Pathankot. I had started the journey with half a buttock lodged on a few inches of wooden seat and the worrying prospect of spending the night like that. The head of the soldier next to me kept falling onto my shoulder as he nodded off. Was it on purpose? I couldn't be sure, but was too polite to do more than edge away, whilst giving him a surreptitious poke with my elbow. The train was full of soldiers going to the north Indian front to fight the Chinese. They looked hopelessly inadequate. Halfway through the night an officer came onto the train, ordered all the soldiers to climb onto the roof racks so I could lie out on the bench seat, which I did regardless of feeling like a slaughtered lamb on an altar.

At Pathankot Duncan emerged from the other end of the carriage where he had spent the night on the floor in his sleeping bag. "This will be a treat. I've been looking forward to this," he said, as he steered me toward the First Class Station Restaurant where we ate a slap-up English breakfast with bacon and eggs, toast and marmalade, washed down with a proper pot of tea. Soon it was time for the bus to leave for Dalhousie, so with our luggage on its roof we started the journey over the last part of the plains and up into the mountains. Owing to the narrowness of the road, they allowed traffic to travel into the mountains only between certain hours, so before beginning the climb we stopped for an hour in a tiny village. I was feeling exhausted after the journey so stayed in the bus and stared out of the window. Duncan was asleep on a vacated bench at the back.

While the sun beat down, a sweet-seller, enormously fat, sat amongst his pyramids of sweets while the flies crawled over them. Did he ever sell any, I wondered? The sweetseller's head slumped onto his broad chest and he slumbered. A gaunt old woman with a ring in her nose was silting on a rope bed. She waved a hand and shouted raucously to a man on the other side of the roadway. Curry was mulling in a cauldron over a charcoal fire nearby. A cow nuzzled at the ground where someone had dropped a bit of flour. The bus conductor, a young Sikh in khaki uniform, the end of his turban hanging rakishly over one shoulder, was laughing with some passengers. The driver turned away from the group to urinate into the ditch.

At last a bus arrived from the opposite direction and the drivers chatted over a cup of tea together. Finally, we set off at a terrific pace towards the mountains. Each hairpin bend took us higher and revealed a more magnificent view. The driver delighted in driving at the edge of the road, and for me it was thrilling to look down over the precipice to the valley hundreds of feet below. Great landslips had left the red earth bare like a sore gash in the mountainside; boulders clung to the slope and a rush of stones showed where a river would pour down in a torrent during the rainy seasons. As the route became steeper and twistier, the air turned colder until I was huddled in my duffle coat, though Duncan remained unperturbed in his short-sleeved cotton shirt.

When we got out of the bus at Dalhousie, I could scarcely walk a few yards with my bags without gasping for oxygen like a fish out of water. We were 8000 feet above sea level but I felt rather foolish when I thought of mountaineers who make expeditions to places twice this height. After we had been walking for what seemed to be miles up a road that would have put me on my hands and knees if it had been any steeper; we turned off along a little track which threaded its way between enormous fir trees. At last Duncan pointed out my destination -- a large rambling old house built on an outcrop of rock on the hillside. This house was named Kailash, reminding all who lived there of the sacred Himalayan mountain. Just then, I saw coming towards us through the wood three maroon-robed Tibetan lamas and a grey-haired English lady dressed in a dark red sari, looking very much like a lama herself. This was Freda Bedi, who organised the school and who had greeted me so warmly.

The first evening I arrived, the lamas were doing a special puja; a religious chanting ceremony with drums and bells, to which we were all invited. The lamas were already assembled in the shrine room as we seated ourselves cross-legged at the back. As they began chanting, the sound which filled the room was completely alien to my ears and at first seemed quite cacophonous. Yet there was a fascination about it and I soon learnt to notice the rhythms and variations in tone. Halfway through the ceremony the chanting faded away. Tin mugs were distributed, and a monk brought tea in a kettle with a yellow marigold stuck into the spout. I had been warned about Tibetan tea made with butter and salt as well as milk, but no one had advised me that unless I hid my mug somewhere out of reach, it would be refilled again and again despite shaking my head, nor that my pleadings of "No more, thank you," would be taken as mere politeness, so long as my mug stood unguarded within reach of the spout of the kettle.

All the students at the lamas' School had the title of tulku. [1] [Tulku is the title given to a recognised reincarnated teacher. Lama means 'teacher' so all tulkus are lamas. Rinpoche, meaning 'Precious One', is used amongst western Buddhists for tulkus and lamas, but at the time of writing (1964) it was used primarily as a form of address rather than as part of a name. Any lack of this term in my writing should not be taken as lack of respect.] These were special children whom their countrymen believed had reached, through a series of innumerable rebirths (as they consider all beings to be reborn many times) a state of enlightenment, when they could be free from the round of birth, decay and death that all beings undergo. But of their own free will, they have decided to be reborn in order to help other beings along the spiritual path. Such beings are known as bodhisattvas. When a tulku dies, those who knew him well in his previous life, seek out his reincarnation and take him back to the monastery where he is brought up to this special role in life.

Tibetan society centred on the monastic system. Lamas and tulkus were regarded by the lay people as their spiritual teachers and often as their secular leaders too, the spiritual and worldly being far less clearly defined than in other cultures. The monasteries relied on the communities for their food and livelihood; the people by their own nature relied on the lamas for their spiritual needs and happiness. Amongst the Tibetan people one sees tremendous love and admiration for the Dalai Lama and tulkus and for the entire community of monks. It is this centralising force that unites the refugees and gives them an underlying purpose in life.

In India the younger generation of Tibetan children were receiving a western form of education in schools set up by the Indian government, but the tulkus were unable to attend and keep up their intensive religious studies at the same time. Freda realised that unless the tulkus of school age (some as young as eight or ten years old) received some modern learning, they would become an antiquated group within the current Tibetan society.

So she established the Young Lamas Home School to give a series of courses lasting from April to November, to teach them English and Hindi, French or German, plus some general knowledge and simple mathematics, whilst still keeping to the rules of monastic discipline. Thus they could adapt to the new requirements of Tibetan society, and some of them could be of great value in universities in the west. They would spend each winter with their guru (their mentor) to catch up with their demanding spiritual studies and meditation.

Most of the volunteer teachers had an understanding of the people they were teaching and of their requirements, which Freda considered more important than standard western qualifications.

Duncan's English Lesson

I was brought up in a Quaker household, though a very liberal one, and my mother's interests ranged over the years through Spiritualism and Theosophy to Buddhism. My upbringing left me with an underlying scepticism towards any priesthood. Yet here I was, thrust into the midst of it. But unlike Christian priests who claim to be intermediaries between their congregation and their God, the tulkus made no claims of their own talents or special standing, and seemed shy of appearing different from other people.

They had all been through incredible hardship on their escape from Tibet and witnessed terrible actions. Now they needed to adjust to an environment most of them never even knew existed! Yet, they maintained the gentle humility of one who accepts equally their own strengths and weaknesses. They retained a natural understanding and compassion towards others.

When told the story of Jesus Christ and shown a crucifix, they considered it desperately sad that the man had such a disastrous kharma [2] [Kharma is a basic Buddhist belief that everything that happens to you in this life is the result of past thoughts and actions, often carried over from previous lives. Whatever you do (or even think) in this life creates the kharma of the future. Tibetans not only believe in a personal kharma, but also in the collective kharma of a country, and indeed of a world.] They could not grasp why anyone would worship a man dying in such torment. Equally, the tulkus must have questioned the bad kharma they experienced in this life, when they were purported to be enlightened beings, whose kharma should have been all light and loveliness! But they all seemed to be taking it on the chin!

Coming from England, what struck me most was their cheerfulness and kindness despite all the hardships and anguish they had experienced. Because of their inherent belief in kharma, they had not developed the inevitable chip on the shoulder or bitterness that someone of a different culture would have. They were as full of fun as any young people, playing practical jokes on each other, laughing uproariously, or occasionally even giggling in the middle of a recital of the scriptures. Their sense of fun might have seemed childish (well, most of them were still children) if it were not coloured by their sensitivity.

The first lama I got to know was Lhaka Tulku, whose soft features displayed an inner beauty of spirit. One day, looking rather shy, he took us volunteers to the shack in the woods where he would live through the winter with sixteen other monks. Instead of Tibetan tea he had tactfully prepared English tea, very sweet and milky, which we drank in the garden sitting amongst giant orange marigolds, like so many golden suns against the deep blue sky. As we sat sipping the tea out of scalding glasses held in handkerchiefs, there was not a sound to be heard. The Tibetan enchantment had begun.

"Now please may I take you to the Gyume College?" asked Lhaka Tulku. ''They are having a special initiation ceremony. Mummy is already there." All the tulkus at the school called Freda 'Mummy'. She wanted me to do the same, but I found it hard as I had my own 'Mummy' at home. She also wanted me to take meditation with Trungpa Tulku, [3] [Chogyam Trungpa Tulku's style of 'crazy wisdom' became popular in America where he established the Shambala Buddhist Centres and published several books. A flamboyant lifestyle contributed to an early death in 1987, but his Buddhist centres live on. The importance of his initial 'jump start' to the American people, filling a spiritual vacuum in a way they could accept, should not be underestimated.] who spoke such good English, but I declined. I already felt like a sponge absorbing everything; to meditate as well would have been more than I could cope with. It seemed ungrateful to turn down such a wonderful opportunity, as she told me there were a number of Westerners that the tulkus refused to teach because they perceived their psyches to be such that it could do them more harm than good. Anyway, if I were to have practised meditation, I would have preferred a different teacher.

We followed the sound of deep-toned chanting, down a steep path towards a large white tent. A camp of tents housed the remaining few of the thousands who had once belonged to the Gyume and Gyuto [4] [The monks and lamas of this unique Tibetan tradition now have their own place at Dharamsala, thanks to the Dalai Lama's use of money from his Nobel Peace Prize. https:/] Tantric Colleges of Lhasa, with practices and traditions going back thousands of years and properly understood by only a few. We were greatly honoured to attend the ceremony and only permitted because of our close association with the tulkus.

The monks had made a special mandala of finely powdered coloured stones and chippings. Its intricate geometric design was a symbolic representation to help the intuitive mind appreciate the whole state of being in which we live, the manifold, the condition of our existence; then showing the way back, or indeed the way on, to a state of reintegration with 'the Absolute'. They had been creating it as part of an initiation to a higher stage of meditation for some monks, accompanied by several days of chanting. Afterwards, they would destroy the exquisite mandala, which had taken many weeks to construct, to instil in them the realisation of the insubstantiality of human existence.

We went into a large tent attached to a house, the only place big enough to hold the whole gathering, and breathed in the incense-laden air. I watched for a while with conjectural interest, regarding with some misgiving this 'high church ritual' and unaware at the time of the true significance of the ceremony. Then, it was as if the intense atmosphere created by the ceremonial chanting, the booming of the trumpets, bonging of drums, tinkling of hand drums combining intricate hand movements with the sacred dorje, penetrated my aura of scepticism. A feeling of peaceful yet exultant joy swept through me. No longer an isolated being viewing a strange scene, I was bubbling over with joyful compassion that reached out to everyone and everything. It felt as though each person was giving off an electric current mingling in the surrounding air.

Later we were shown into a dark rather dingy room of the house, where the monks presented us with the traditional white Tibetan scarves of greeting. We sat quietly and grinned at each other over the obligatory tea and biscuits, unable to speak a word of each other's language, but radiating happiness without the least awkwardness. What a privilege it was just to sit with these people who spread about them such an infectious happiness. I later learnt of the idea of dharshan where one can receive a blessing simply by being in someone's presence. That was how I felt.

Outside again in the brilliant sunshine, as we walked back up the hill the others were chattering excitedly. But their words did not take shape in my mind. I was not a separate person who listened or heard or even thought. I was only a moving part of the incredibly blue sky, the trees and plants with their bright green leaves, and the sparkling white road. Had they put some soma in the tea? [5] [Soma is a hallucinatory plant mentioned in the ancient Vedic texts.]

A prayer to Brāhmanaspati for protection from wicked men
1 The godless man whoever plots against us, Brāhmanaspati,
Thou shalt give up as prey to me the worshipper who pour the juice.
2 If, Soma, any spiteful man hath aimed at us whose thoughts are kind,
Smite with thy bolt upon his face: he, crushed to pieces, vanisheth.
3 Soma, whoever troubleth us, be he a stranger or a kin,
Deprive him of the strength he hath: slay him thyself like mighty Dyaus!

-- The Hymns of the Atharvaveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 10:28 am

Chapter 2. The Journey to Delhi, Excerpt from Tibetan Tapestry
by Sarita [Cherry] Armstrong



Chapter 2. The Journey to Delhi

For a long time we had been hearing of the encroachment of the Chinese troops into northern India, one line of attack in the east, another in the west dangerously near Dalhousie. Every evening we sat silently attentive around the transistor radio as it crackled and spluttered out the latest reports of fighting and death. Every evening the news became worse. For this reason many of the tulkus' gurus (spiritual teachers) who were living in the frontier areas very near to the fighting, had asked Freda not to send the tulkus back to them as was customary for the winter months. Freda agreed and in a manner typical of her, turned the situation into something positive for everyone. The entire school would move to Delhi for the season. Moreover, the journey to get there would become a 'visual educational tour' of the Punjab for the tulkus.

The school hired a bus to take the 25 tulkus accompanied by the men volunteers, and a minibus for Freda, the women volunteers and the Indian staff. Refugee rations -- sacks of rice, lentils and potatoes -- would be prepared for evening meals each night by Suju-of-the-sad-smile, Freda's Indian cook. A dormitory and one or two small rooms could be hired very cheaply at any of the local rest houses along the way.

On the day we were to leave, a burly man in a leather jacket, crash helmet and sunglasses, the rest of his face covered with a bushy black beard, arrived on the doorstep. At that moment Johnny appeared and yelled, "George! I never thought you'd make it!" But he had made it, riding his motorbike across Europe, Turkey and the Persian Desert. Now here he was sitting down to breakfast with us. He ate as though he had not seen food this side of Istanbul.

"I'm so glad I got here in time," he said between mouthfuls. "I see you're all planning to leave. The coaches were at the bottom of the hill as I came up. This tour sounds marvellous. Freda won't mind if I tag along, will she? Of course I'll pay my way. Say, is there any more of that porridge?"

So that is how our two buses came to have a motor-bike escort. Despite initial appearances, George was gentle as a lamb and had a heart of gold. All the tulkus loved him, the little ones especially coming to take his hand when we were walking anywhere, and a ride on the motorbike became the ultimate thrill for them. He enlivened our company too, with unending tales of his adventures and jokes about his mishaps along the way.

Everything, including bedrolls, sacks of rice and cooking pots, was piled onto the roof of the buses. Swarms of Tibetans from the refugee camps added to the crowds that came to bid farewell to the tulkus and to receive their final blessing. At last we started the long winding journey down through the mountains with George and Johnny on the motorbike looking like a police escort, sometimes behind, sometimes in front, often out of sight if we passed through a village, for they could never resist the temptation of stopping for tea and fried pakoras. [6] [Little chunks of spicy vegetable fried in batter; a standard Indian street food.]

I felt glad that we were going downhill, for the engine of our bus coughed and spluttered at the slightest acceleration.

"It is because of the high altitude, Memsahib," the driver explained to Freda. "Soon she will be quite better. Immediately we are on the plains she will be going very well." The other bus was not doing so well either and it was not long before it pulled to the side of the road and stopped. A row of shaved heads popped out of the windows and arms waved excitedly. The driver, a white-haired Sikh in the usual khaki costume of a bus driver, came over to us smiling apologetically. He hardly needed to explain, for the flat tyre at the back was obvious.

Luckily he had a spare wheel and it was a good opportunity for us to get out and have a look around while the wheel was changed. The air was much warmer already, although we were still in the hills. Everything was quiet, save a cricket chirping continually in the dry shrubs. Waves of terraces were cultivated on the hillside and a little way below us an Indian was driving two sheep and a goat along a narrow path. The goat stopped whenever possible to take a swift bite at any thorny branch as it passed.

"Mummy! Mummy, we are going now!" called little Tulku Pema Tenzing, the youngest at the school, who was hardly more than ten years old. As the bus moved off we noticed that Trungpa Tulku's seat was empty and presumed he must have decided to travel in the other bus. When we reached the barrier at the end of the one-way section of the road, where I had had to wait in the bus on the way up a few days before, Freda hurried round to the other vehicle.

"Is Trungpa Tulku with you? Is he there?" she called, but he was nowhere to be found. In fact, no-one remembered seeing him after we had stopped to change the wheel.

"I'll go back and see if I can find him," said George. He turned his bike around and roared back up the hill while we went to the Rest House to get a cool drink.
The Rest House was a relic from the British Raj days, kept by an elderly Sikh who spoke perfect English. He remembered with nostalgia the Dalhousie that had been a popular hill station for the British. Oh yes, they had done a good trade then, but now very few people came to Dalhousie and certainly no British people. He regretted to inform us that as so few people came this way now, the cost of the fizzy orange we were drinking had gone up considerably.

After sitting around for about an hour we at last caught the sound of the motorbike's engine and round the corner speeded George with Trungpa Tulku riding pillion. He was grinning gleefully over George's shoulder, his long red robes billowing behind him. Between delighted giggles he told us how he had gone to sit in the shade of a tree and when he came back, there was no sign of anyone.

"Oh dear!" I exclaimed. "You must have been worried."

''No,'' he replied grinning, "I knew someone would come back, so I waited. And I could have a great opportunity to ride on the motorbike!" I suspected that the prospect of a bike ride had been the main reason for his disappearance.

We took the road to Dharamsala and after a short time stopped again for lunch. It looked as though someone had sent a message on ahead of us, for all the villagers were out in the street cooking spicy titbits for us to eat. Curry and rice was handed round on banana leaves, hot pakoras on pieces of paper that seemed to have been torn from a child's old exercise book, and thick, creamy buffalo yogurt in the little disposable earthenware bowls in which it had been set. Wonderful!

We passed through the beautiful Kangra Valley in the foothills of the mountains where the countryside sloped gently, the land looked fertile and the people happy. Newly cut grass was lying in the fields and large deciduous trees gave shade, making a pleasant change from the pines of the high hills and the brown treeless plains. Women with shiny brass pots on their heads waved and smiled as we passed. Freda told us she was planning to buy a small place here where she could spend her final days in retreat.

Early evening, and with much hooting and shouting the buses negotiated the crowded bazaar of Dharamsala. There was always a large encampment of Tibetans here, for the Dalai Lama lived in a bungalow on the top of the hill and the stream of pilgrims was unceasing. Swashbuckling Tibetan men in knee-high leather boots, broad-brimmed hats and thick, though often worn and torn traditional knee-length coats stood in groups gossiping. Old men with their prayer-wheels of silver and polished wood wandered up and down, absorbed in their introspections. For them prayer was not a supplication to God for this or that to happen, for wealth or health, but a state of intense yearning for purity or completeness. The Buddha is no Almighty God who fulfils mankind's wishes (at His whim) but an example of what each being can become. Gautama Buddha himself said, "Buddhas do but point the way."

Many of the Tibetans here would be camping out under the stars and under the frost, for we were still a good 6000 feet above sea level and it was the month of November. Others would huddle together in makeshift tents. We heard that the only hotel was full, so returned to the lower bazaar and (rather incongruously for the tulkus) found rooms at the Soldiers' Rest House.


"Prepare to meet thy God!" Jonathan said sternly as we climbed the steep track that led to the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A visit to the Dalai Lama was of exceptional importance to the tulkus. Freda also wanted to have the permission and blessing of His Holiness to take the elite of the Tibetan incarnate lamas on this rather unusual trip around the Punjab. Undoubtedly she felt a great responsibility for them. All morning the tulkus had been rather quiet, but otherwise they did not seem disturbed at the prospect of meeting the incarnation of the Lord Chenrisi, the God of Compassion and Mercy, their spiritual and temporal Lord. But Jonathan's teasing was lost on me for I believed neither in a heavenly god nor one incarnated in a human body.

From left, behind H.H. the Dalai Lama: George, Duncan, Tulkus, Freda, Attar Singh, me, Jonathan, Tulkus. 1962.

After a meticulous examination of passports and identity certificates by Indian guards, and the frisking of the tulkus to see if any were a Chinese in disguise, intending to assassinate the Dalai Lama with a knife concealed in his voluminous robes, we passed the armed guards and entered the grounds of the modest bungalow where the Dalai Lama lived. Later we understood there had been an attack on the Dalai Lama by a Chinese man dressed as a lama, and we were the first people allowed into his presence since then. Our visit was only by special concession because we were all either Europeans or tulkus, several of whom the Dalai Lama knew personally, also Freda was an ex-Indian Government official.

I felt nervous as I clutched my white muslin Tibetan scarf of greeting that I would present to the Dalai Lama. Thank goodness I would not have to do three prostrations, as all the tulkus automatically performed. He stood at the door to welcome us and my turn to present my scarf came almost before I realised it. I placed it across his hands; he seemed shorter than I and looked up at me smiling, his eyes twinkling behind his glasses. I bowed slightly, and he placed the scarf hack around my neck as a blessing. Then we all sat down on the thickly carpeted floor. The high throne on which the Dalai Lama usually sat had been covered with a yellow cloth, for today he would sit with us on a cushion on the floor, as an equal with the other tulkus, who sat with bowed heads hardly daring to raise their eyes.

The Dalai Lama asked about the school: who was the best in each class? The tulkus showed him their exercise books and presented an album of photographs taken at Kailash. If he spoke to any tulku individually they would blush and stammer a shy reply. Yet the Dalai Lama was as charming as anyone could be, and perhaps felt rather sad that everyone was so in awe of him. After a long talk to the tulkus, he asked if any of us volunteers would like to ask him questions. Most of these were of a political nature, and he thought carefully before answering each one. He spoke through an interpreter although he appeared to understand English quite well and often corrected the interpreter if he felt he had failed to convey the exact meaning.

His sincerity and openness shone in his countenance. It seemed as if his emotions were written on his face as they passed through his mind: love, sorrow, laughter and query followed fleetingly like sunshine and cloud across a meadow. He talked to us Westerners of the necessity for each person to practise religion rather than simply to study it. He spoke of the Tibetans left behind in Tibet, of the famines there and the dreadful hardships his people were undergoing, while overwhelming sadness filled his face. He also considered the good that could grow out of their present unfortunate situation. He realised that many nations would now access the Tibetan knowledge which had been totally closed off in the past. He saw the trauma of their exodus from Tibet to be a kharmic result of this closure to outsiders, and he looked to the benefits that would develop from the expansion of the culture.

We visited the two tutors of the Dalai Lama, and the school for Tibetan children run by the elder sister of the Dalai Lama, Mrs. Tsering Dolma, a motherly woman with a child in each arm and a dozen of them clinging to her skirts. The conditions at that time were terribly hard and almost all the children must have been suffering from worms and dysentery. Thirty-seven would die during that winter. We were not shown into the dormitories where the little ones were sleeping seven sideways on a single bed, but we did see the tray of lumpy rice, welcome food rations from the Indian Government, being distributed with incredible orderliness by the hungry children themselves. Later they gave us a brave and moving demonstration of Tibetan dancing in their national dress.

We left as dusk was falling and took a small path down the hillside to another set of bungalows where the older children lived. They had eaten their supper and were standing on the veranda singing with all their might the songs of Tibet. I have never heard children singing so lustily, filling the whole valley with their voices. It seemed so sad and so moving: these little children bravely facing the world, standing up straight, sticking out their chests and letting the entire world know how they loved their homeland and their precious "Kundun" (a familiar name of the Dalai Lama used only by Tibetans).


Next day we moved on again in the two buses followed by George and Johnny on the motorbike. We crossed stony dry river beds, forded a small river, passing through many little Indian villages with boys selling bananas, trinkets, or wreaths of flowers for the local Hindu temple. Cyclists were hooted out of the way amidst a clamour of boys running beside the bus. The smell of the villages and the oppressive airlessness of the plains when we stopped soon became no longer worthy of comment. It was a strange part of the country between the foothills and plains: a stony, uninviting country. Large antimalaria slogans were whitewashed on any suitable piece of rock-face in large English letters that few Indians of the region would have been able to understand.

In one dry and dusty village a beautiful Indian lady and her husband greeted us in the street and invited us to lunch with them. As we stepped through the door in the high wall that surrounded their house and courtyard, it was as though we stepped backwards in time. The seclusion from the outside world was complete, for the high wall shut us away from the bazaar and the sound of raised voices outside. It enclosed a lush garden with the sound of tinkling water from a fountain making one more aware of the dryness beyond the wall. It reminded me of the story of how Prince Siddhartha, later to become the Buddha, grew up in sheer luxury, shielded from any unpleasant sight. Gardeners even picked the fading flowers before he would see the dead petals. Then one day he went outside in disguise and discovered how life really was. He found disease, people begging, a funeral procession, and naturally, this was a turning point in his life. He left his luxurious home and family and meditated until he understood the reality of life and formed the doctrine we know as Buddhism.

But for now we could enjoy the secluded serenity behind the walls that separated us from the actual world outside. They placed cane chairs under shady trees. A servant in uniform brought glasses of fresh lime juice on a silver tray and handed round plates with a choice of spicy titbits. These were friends of Freda from many years before who had heard she would pass through their village. We would discover as time went on that there were many such people glad of the opportunity to repay Freda for some previous gift, or to show appreciation for what she was doing for the Tibetans.

Continuing on our way, we arrived at a large open green space with vast ruins beyond. This was a fort built by Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC and must have been the furthest outpost of his empire. They had built it on a peninsular surrounded on three sides by a sweeping curve of the wide river Beas, which flowed hundreds of feet below at the bottom of the steep valley. When his soldiers baulked at proceeding further east, they turned back along river Indus. Not long after, Alexander died of a fever but many of his soldiers settled in these outlandish parts and brought some of their culture, including their music and their love of sculpture. Hundreds of years later they were the first to sculpture images of the Buddha, and very beautiful they were too, for they amalgamated their Grecian love of beauty of the body with an eastern fluidity of form.

We spent our nights on the journey at a variety of cheap lodgings. Usually it was a village Rest House formed around a courtyard whose central feature was a fountain for washing, though rarely did any water come out of it. There would be a stone fireplace where sadly-smiling Suju and his Tibetan helper would kindle a fire and cook our cauldron of refugee ration rice, lentils and vegetables.

Maretta's initial task on arrival each evening was to set up a little shrine with her figure of the Buddha. Until I became accustomed to this routine, I watched in amazement. Maretta and I were very different in outlook, which was unfortunate as we were living closely together for some time. Our differences were discernible in our perspective on Buddhism. Maretta knew the name of every deity and each motif and brought to it a Christian-style of faith. I was interested in the fundamental spirit of the religion, and in the Buddhist attitude to life.

One village was renowned for a holy flame that had been burning since time immemoriaL After dinner, Maretta and I slipped away to explore. We walked through a small bazaar where gaudy pictures and toys, beads, bangles and beachshoes jostled each other on market stalls. The shops in Indian bazaars stay open until the shopkeeper falls asleep behind his counter. No six o'clock closing here! A young boy saw a cow nuzzling an open tin of biscuits· at his father's stall and ran shouting to frighten it away. A tune from one of the latest Bollywood films blasted out, making a suitable soundtrack to the sights. The air was filled with that unique smell of all Indian villages, a mixture of biri8 [Biris are Indian cigarettes, each made of a single tobacco leaf rolled up and tied with cotton. They need continual puffing to keep them going, while the tar and nicotine drip visibly from the end.] smoke, curry and cow pats.

Groups of men with hand-woven shawls draped over their shoulders were gathered around little charcoal braziers to warm themselves, now that the blazing sun had set and left a chill in the air. The soft light from the glowing coals emphasised the ridges and folds of their wraps and silhouetted the angular, animated faces of the gossiping men.

We climbed on up a steep cobbled street, hurrying in the dark places between the lights of the shops, until the road forked. As we hesitated, a barefoot man in a traditional dhoti and long shawl appeared out of the shadows.

"You want to see very fine temple of Hindu god?" He asked in broken English.

"Oh yes," we replied in unison, "Which way is it?"

"Come," was the terse reply.

We followed his bare cracked heels as they climbed the steps ahead of us, until we arrived at a large whitewashed archway, the entrance to the temple. Monkeys inhabited the place, squawking and chasing each other over the roofs. They stopped and glared at us, their eyes glinting in the light. They appeared like evil spirits and not to be ignored!

As custom required, we slipped off our shoes at the door and bathed our feet in a pool of water. As we padded across the cold slippery marble of the sanctuary, we glimpsed exquisite inlays and carvings on the walls. We entered the inner shrine and paid our respects to the god Shiva. His image regarded us with painted eyes that implied, "Do not come with scepticism in your hearts or you will encounter strange powers here of which you know not!"

Our guide pointed to a fissure in the floor where a blue flame spurted directly out of the rock. He explained that the fire had been burning since time immemorial. Watching for our reaction, the man slowly lowered his hand to the flame and held it there. He bent close as he murmured, "Look, it is cold flame, eternal flame, it does not burn you. Please try." Cautiously at first we dashed our fingers through and then kept them in for longer. It was cool, as he had said. We were suitably amazed. He bowed reverently before the miraculous flame, backed away a few paces, then turned swiftly and beckoned us to follow. He had done his duty and led us to the entrance, dodging between the screaming monkeys that stretched out grasping hands as we passed. We found our shoes with some difficulty and mustered enough coins to satisfy our guide.

It was hard to find our way back in the dark. Strange figures lurked in doorways. "We shall be safe," said Maretta, as she pulled her little Buddha image from beneath her blouse, "Buddha will show the way." I wished I had brought my torch, though I knew the road was downhill until we came to the Rest House.

In the morning the whole school made its official visit to the temple. In broad daylight there seemed scant mystery about the blue flame. George had a physical explanation for it, and Frank a geological one. The tulkus, naturally unafraid, couldn't wait in their eagerness to plunge their hands into it.

Some of India's modern achievements, such as the great hydro-electric dam at Bakra Namgyal, were also on the itinerary. We sat on the steps overlooking the enormous construction site and ate a picnic lunch of chappatis doled out of a bucket and boiled potatoes mixed with chillies from another bucket, washed down with fizzy orangeade. For the tulkus it must have been quite an experience to see such a vast engineering project and the gigantic pieces of machinery cranking away. Some of them were quite dismayed and perhaps associated it with their first experience of mechanisation: the building projects that the Chinese had undertaken in Tibet during their occupation.

Since time immemorial the Tibetans - like many so called 'primitive' cultures - had never plundered the sacred earth for gold and minerals, and so this wealth lay untouched for those with fewer scruples. The Chinese were well aware of the mineral wealth lying beneath the soil of Tibet and it was said to be one of the prime reasons for their invasion of the Tibetan plateau.

Chandigarh, the new capital of the Punjab designed by the notable French architect Le Corbusier was another overnight stop. I don't know what the tulkus thought about it, but to me it seemed drab: 1950s-style concrete box houses where their way of life in an urban environment. It just didn't work.

Soon we were on the Great Trunk Road heading straight for Delhi, with the horns blowing continually to warn the buffalo carts and cyclists of our approach. Just at the point where the new bypass travelled alongside the broad River Jumna, stood a most unusual oriental building. It formed the shape of an E, the centre part being a temple with a double pagoda-style roof. The rest of the building comprised compact rooms and dormitories, the ground floor surrounded by a veranda, the upper storey by a balcony. The gateway made a circle that framed the temple building. This was the Ladakh Buddha Vihara9 [Now on Tripadvisor!], built by monks from Ladakh, combining a temple with living accommodation. We gasped with surprise and anticipation when the buses drove straight up to the building and stopped at the gate. So this beautiful place was to be our home for the rest of the winter!

Map of Cherry's North Indian Journeys
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 10:29 am

Hara Prasad Shastri [Hara Prasad Bhattacharya]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/27/21

The manuscript of Ramacarita was discovered by MM. Pandit Haraprasad Sastri in 1897. It contained not only the complete text, but also a commentary of the first Canto and 85 verses of the second. The portion of the manuscript containing the commentary of the remaining verses was missing.

MM. Sastri printed the text and the commentary from this single manuscript in the Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. Ill, No. 1. The scope of his work may be described in his own words: “The commentary, as may be expected, gives fuller account of the reign of Rampala (sic) than the text. The other portion of the text is difficult to explain, and I have not attempted to make a commentary of my own. But I have tried, in my introduction, to glean all the historical information possible by the help of the commentary and the inscriptions of the Pala dynasty, and other sources of information available to me In the introduction I have attempted to write a connected history of the Palas of Bengal from their election as kings in about 770 A.D. to the end of Madanpala’s (sic) reign” (pp. 1-2).

Ever since its publication the Ramacarita has been regarded as the most important literary document concerning the history of the Pala rule in Bengal. It has formed a subject of critical discussion by notable scholars, and many of its passages have been interpreted in different ways. Scholars have, however, experienced great difficulty in dealing with the text on account of the absence of any translation either of the commented or of the uncommented portion. The difficulty was rendered all the greater by certain readings and interpretations of MM. Sastri which proved to be erroneous on a closer examination of the manuscript. A new and critical edition of the text, with a running commentary and an English translation of the whole of it, was, therefore, a great desideratum....

The technique of composition is equally unique. Each verse of the poem has two meanings, one applicable to the story of the Ramayana, and the other to the history of the Pala kings...

The necessity of keeping to this double meaning obliged the author to use obscure words and unfamiliar expressions, and in particular to present personal and proper names in abbreviated and occasionally very twisted forms. Although the poem, as a literary composition, showed, therefore, technical skill of a high order, it was not likely to be fully intelligible to one not well acquainted with the history of the times. Fortunately this difficulty was realised before it was too late, and some one wrote a commentary for the elucidation of the subject-matter of the poem and thereby earned the gratitude of the posterity. This person, whose name is yet unknown, probably lived shortly after the author, and in any case must have flourished not long after, at a time when the events of the reign of Ramapala were still fresh in the minds of the people. This commentator appears to have quoted a lexicon in support of the two meanings of the word nana in verse 33 of Chapter II, which occurs in the lexicography (Vaijayanti) of Yadavaprakasa who is generally regarded to have flourished towards the end of the twelfth century A.D. MM. Sastri’s view that the commentary was probably written by the author himself while unnatural in itself, is positively disproved by the reference to different readings of the text in the commentary of verse 22 of Chapter I, for no author would possibly vouch for two different readings of his own text. Moreover, the commentator has often explained a word in more ways than one...

So far as the commented portion is concerned, we may be tolerably certain that the text has been handed down to us in its original form. The same thing cannot be said of the remaining part. As a matter of fact MM. Sastri observed that “the scribe seems to have omitted many verses after” verse 5 of Canto IV (p. 51, fn. I).1 [These figures within brackets, after reference to MM. Sastri’s view, refer to the pages of his edition of Ramacarita.] Fortunately the text itself supplies us a means of checking the extent of the loss, though this was overlooked by MM. Sastri. At the end of the text we have the words “Arya— 220” clearly written, but this has been omitted in the text printed by MM. Sastri. These words were certainly intended to convey that the text consisted of 220 verses, all in arya metre. The Ms. contains only 215 verses in arya, and so only five verses have been left out, probably due to the carelessness of the scribe.

The author of the poem, Sandhyakaranandi, has given a short account of himself in the concluding portion of the text called Kaviprasasti. He was an inhabitant of the village called Brihadvatu2 [MM. Sastri evidently took this word as an adjective and not a proper name...

The concluding verse of Canto IV shows that the poem was actually composed, at least finished, during the reign of Madanapala, the son of Ramapala and third in succession from him.1 [MM. Sastri calls Madanapala the fourth king from Ramapala. This is misleading, for only two kings — Kumarapala and Gopala — intervened between the two.]

Sandhyakaranandi was a Karana (Kayastha) by caste.2 [MM. Sastri calls Sandhyakaranandi a Brahmana, but in verse 3 of the Kaviprasasti, Prajapatinandi, the father of Sandhyakara, is described as the ‘foremost among the Karanas.’ The Karanas generally denote a Kayastha. According to MM. Sastri the family derived its cognomen from the residential village called Nanda, and is “still well-known.” He, however, cites no evidence.]...

But whatever view we might take of the attitude of the author towards Mahipala, there is absolutely no justification for the following statement made by MM. Sastri:

“Mahipala by his impolitic acts incurred the displeasure of his subjects ..... The Kaivartas were smarting under oppression of the king. Bhima, the son of Rudoka, taking advantage of the popular discontent, led his Kaivarta subjects to rebellion.” (p. 13)

There is not a word in RC to show that Mahipala incurred the displeasure of his subjects by his impolitic acts or that there was a general popular discontent against him. It is an amazing invention to say that “the Kaivartas were smarting under oppression of the king," for the RC does not contain a single word which can even remotely lead to such a belief. It is a travesty of facts to hold that Bhima led his Kaivarta subjects (?) to rebellion. The rebellion was led by a number of feudal vassals and there is no evidence to show that they belonged solely, or even primarily, to the Kaivarta caste. There is again nothing to show that Bhima had anything to do with the rebellion, far less that he led it. Such an assumption seems to be absurd in view of the fact that he was the third king in succession after Divya who occupied the throne of Varendra after the rebellion. There is again nothing in RC to show that during the reign of Mahipala the Kaivartas formed a distinct political entity under Divya or Bhima, so that they might be regarded as the subjects of the latter.

This tissue of misstatements, unsupported by anything in the text of RC, is responsible for a general belief that Mahipala was an oppressive king, and has even led sober historians to misjudge his character and misconstrue the events of his reign. A popular myth has been sedulously built up to the effect that there was a general rising of people which cost Mahipala his life and throne, that it was merely a popular reaction against the oppression and wickedness of the king, and that, far from being rebellious in character, it was an assertion of the people’s right to dethrone a bad and unpopular king and elect a popular chief in his place. In other words, in fighting and killing Mahipala the people of Varendra were inspired by the noblest motive of saving the country from his tyranny and anarchy. Some even proceeded so far as to say that this act was followed by a general election of Divya as the king of Varendra, and a great historian has compared the whole episode with that which led to the election of Gopala, the founder of the Pala dynasty, to the throne of Bengal.1 [ A movement has been set on foot by a section of the Kaivarta or Mahisya community in Bengal to perpetuate the memory of Divya, on the basis of the view-points noted above. They refuse to regard him as a rebel and hold him up as a great hero called to the throne by the people of Varendra to save it from the oppressions of Mahipala. An annual ceremony — Divya-smriti-utsava -- is organized by them and the speeches, made on these occasions by eminent historians like Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Rai Bahadur Rama Prasad Chanda, and Dr. Upendranath Ghoshal [1886-1969; President of The Asiatic Society of Bengal 1963-1964; Author of: Studies in Indian history and culture (1957); A History of Hindu Political Theories: From the Earliest Times to the End of the First Quarter of the Seventeenth Century A.D. (1927); A History of Indian Public Life (1966); Ancient Indian culture in Afghanistan (1928); Contributions to the history of the Hindu revenue system (1929); The agrarian syste in ancient India (1930)] who presided over the function seek to support the popular views. On the other hand attempts have been made to show that these popular views are not supported by the statements in Ramacarita (cf. Bharatavarsa, 1342, pp. 18 ff.).]

This is not the proper place or occasion to criticise these views at length, or to refer to many other important conclusions which have been drawn from MM. Sastri’s sketch of the life and character of Mahipala. But in view of the deep-rooted prejudices and errors which are still current in spite of the exposition of the unwarranted character of MM. Sastri’s interpretation, it is necessary to draw attention to what is really stated in RC about the great rebellion and the part played by Divya. The author of RC did not regard the rising in any other light than a dire calamity which enveloped the kingdom in darkness (I. 22). He describes it as anika dharma-viplava or the unholy or unfortunate civil revolution (1. 24), bhavasya apadam or the calamity of the world, and damaram which the commentator explains as upaplava or disturbance (I. 27). Further, the latter describes it as merely a rebellion of feudal vassals (ananta-samanta-cakra), and not a word is said about its popular character. There is even no indication that the rebels belonged to Varendra or that the encounter between Mahipala and the rebels took place within that province. Such revolts were not uncommon in different parts of the Pala kingdom in those days. Similar revolts placed in power the Kamboja chiefs in Varendra and Radha, and the family of Sudraka in Gaya district. 1 [For a detailed discussion of this point and a view of Divya’s rebellion in its true perspective cf. Dr. R C. Majumdar’s article ‘The Revolt of Divvoka against Mahipala II and other revolts in Bengal’ in Dacca University Studies Vol. I, No. 2, pp. 125 ff.]

There is not a word in RC to the effect that Divya2 [The name is written variously in RC as Divya (1. 38), Divvoka (1. 38-39 commentary), and Divoka (I. 31 commentary).] was the leader of a popular rebellion, far less that he was elected as king by the people. As a matter of fact his name is not associated in any way even with the fight between Mahipala and his rebellious chiefs (milit-ananta-samanta-cakra) referred to in Verse I. 31. The RC only tells us that “Ramapala’s beautiful fatherland (Varendri) was occupied by his enemy named Divya, an (officer) sharing royal fortune, who rose to a high position, (but) who took to fraudulent practice as a vow” (I. 38). The account given in RC is not incompatible with the view that Mahipala met with a disastrous defeat in an encounter with some rebellious vassals in or outside Varendra, and Divya took advantage of it to seize the throne for himself. That the author of RC did not entertain any favourable view of the character and policy of Divya is clear from the two adjectives applied to him, viz., dasyu and upadhivrati. The commentator says ‘dasyuna satruna tadbhavapannatvat.’ It is obvious that the commentator means that the term dasyu refers to the enemy (Divya) as he had assumed the character of a dasyu (enemy). As to the other expression upadhivrati, the commentator first explains vrata as ‘something which is undertaken as an imperative duty,’ and then adds ‘chadmani vrati.’ In other words, Divya performed an act on the plea that it was an imperative duty, but this was a merely false pretension. In any case the two words in the text ‘dasyu’ and ‘upadhi’ cannot be taken by any stretch of imagination to imply any good or noble trait in his character...

MM. Sastri wrote (p. 13) that Bhima ‘built a Damara, a suburban city close to the capital of the Pala empire’. The only foundation for this misstatement is the expression wrongly read by him as damaram-upapuram etc’ in the commentary to v. I. 27. The expression, as correctly read, viz ‘damaram-upaplavam,’ shows that there is no reference to any city, far less to any capital city founded by Bhima, as Mr. R. D. Banerji imagined.1 [Op. cit., p. 291.]...

It has been noted above that Ramapala and his elder brother Surapala were both in prison when Mahipala was defeated by the rebellious chiefs. What became of them after this catastrophe is not expressly stated. MM. Sastri’s statement that “they were rescued by their friends” (p. 18), presumably even before the revolution, is not borne out by RC. It is clear, however, that somehow or other they managed to escape and leave Varendra. Although there is no subsequent reference to Surapala in RC it is clear from v. 14 of the Manhali copper-plate of Madanapala that Surapala ascended the throne after the death of Mahipala II. Of the events of his reign we know nothing. But the silence of RC about Surapala’s later history certainly does not justify, in any way, the assumption made by Mr. R. D. Banerji that he was murdered by Ramapala. 1 [Op. cit, p. 280.]...

The author of Sabdapradipa, whose father served Ramapala, was himself the court-physician of a king Bhimapala, ruler of Padi. MM. Sastri identifies him with the Kaivarta king Bhima (RC Introd. p. 15). This does not seem probable. It is more likely that Bhimapala either belonged to the family of Pala rulers in S. Bengal whose existence has been revealed by the Sundarban copper-plate grant, dated 1196 A.D. (I. H. Q., Vol. X, p. 321) or is to be identified with Bhimayasas, king of Pithi, one of the chiefs who helped Ramapala. In that case Padi may be regarded as a mistake for Pithi.]...

[MM. Sastri identifies Bala-Balabhi with Bagdi (p. 14), but there is no evidence in support of it.]...

Soma of Paduvanva not identified.2 [Paduvanva may be the origin of the name Pabna as MM. Sastri suggests (p. 14), but there is no evidence in support of it, except the similarity of the two names.]...

MM. Sastri seems to have misunderstood the passage describing the conclusion of the war. Thus he writes: “Hari at last found himself powerless, was captured, and led to the place of execution. Bhima, too, seems to have been put to the sword” (p. 14). Far from being executed, Hari was ‘established in a position of great influence’ by Ramapala after the battle was over (III. 32). Evidence of further cordial relations between Ramapala and Hari is furnished by verses III. 39-40 which tell us that Ramapala and Hari met together and shone for a long time in each other’s close embrace in the palace” at Ramavati. Probably the same cordiality existed also between Hari and Madanapala (IV. 37, 40).

The subsequent treatment to Hari justifies the inference made above, that Hari was won over by Ramapala or his son Vittapala by offer of money, and this defection finally shattered the resistance offered by Bhima’s partisans.

The scattered references to Hari leave no doubt that he became a distinguished person of great importance and was held in great love and esteem by the Pala kings.

After the final collapse of the forces of Bhima, Ramapala took possession of his immense riches, and “occupied after a long time the dearest land of Varendri” (III. I). He restored peace and order in Varendra (III. 27) and founded a new city there called Ramavati. The poet gives a glowing account of Varendra, which was also his own fatherland, in twenty-seven verses (III. 2-28), and refers to Ramavati in the next twelve verses (III. 29-40). MM. Sastri took all these verses to refer to Ramavati and hence remarked that Ramapala founded a city named Ramavati at the confluence of the Ganges and the Ivaratoya. As a matter of fact it was Varendra and not Ramavati which is referred to by the author as situated between these two rivers. MM. Sastri’s interpretation has misled many scholars to look for the city of Ramavati at the confluence of the Ganges and the Karatoya for which there is no warrant in the text itself. Ramavati is most likely to be identified with Ramauti, mentioned in Ain-i-Akbari as a fiscal unit (circle) in the Sarkar of Lakhnauti...

In addition to what is stated in v. 24 other political persons and events are referred to in course of the description of Varendra, by way of veiled allusions; but it is now impossible to understand their full import in the absence of a contemporary commentary. Thus mention is made of several potentates in verses 2-4 viz., Srihetvisvara, Candesvara, Ksemesvara, and Skanda, but we do not know who they were and in what connection they are referred to. MM. Sastri's contention that the advice of the first three of these kings was followed by Ramapala in selecting the site of the city of Ramavati is a pure guess, and obviously incorrect, as the verses in question have nothing to do with that city....

Kamarupa was conquered by an allied king to whom Ramapala showed great honour (II. 47). MM. Sastri’s view that Mayana was the name of this conqueror (p. 15) is due to his error in reading the compound word “mahimanam = apa na=nrpo” as “mahimana-mayana- nrpa.” It is impossible to ascertain the names of, or say anything definite about, the various kings referred to in the above verses...

The verse referring to the reign of Gopala (IV. 12), for example, seems to contain some dark hints about his premature and unnatural death, but we are unable to solve the mystery. Very great prominence is, again, given to an allied king Candra, who is described in five verses (IV. 16-20) and was one of the most reliable friends of the king. This king Candra is probably to be identified with the son of Suvarpadeva and grandson of Mahana, ruler of Anga.1 [Cf. I. H. Q„ Vol. V, pp. 35 ff. The view originally propounded by MM. II. P. Sastri (p. 16), and subsequently followed by Mr. R. D. Banerji and others, that this king Candra was the Gahadavala ruler of Kanauj is untenable, as according to the scheme of chronology, now generally adopted, Madanapala ascended the throne after the latter’s death....

A pitched battle on the Kalindi river is alluded to in v. IV. 27. 1 [It is difficult to accept the conclusion drawn by MM. H. P. Sastri from this verse that the Bengal army fought a battle against the enemies of Kanauj on the banks of the Yamuna”. (p. 16).]

-- The Ramacaritam of Sandhyakaranandin


Hara Prasad Shastri (Bengali: হরপ্রসাদ শাস্ত্রী) (6 December 1853 – 17 November 1931), also known as Hara Prasad Bhattacharya, was an Indian academic, Sanskrit scholar, archivist and historian of Bengali literature. He is most known for discovering the Charyapada, the earliest known examples of Bengali literature.

The Charyapada is a collection of mystical poems, songs of realization in the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism from the tantric tradition in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.

It was written between the 8th and 12th centuries in an Abahatta that was the ancestor of the Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Odia, Magahi, Maithili, and many other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, and it is said to be the oldest collection of verses written in those languages. Charyapadas written in the script resembles the most closest form of Assamese language used today. A palm-leaf manuscript of the Charyapada was rediscovered in the early 20th century by Haraprasad Shastri at the Nepal Royal Court Library. The Charyapada was also preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

As songs of realization, the Charyapada were intended to be sung. These songs of realisation were spontaneously composed verses that expressed a practitioner's experience of the enlightened state.

Shastri studied at the village school initially and then at Sanskrit College and Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata)...

Shastri passed entrance (school-leaving) examination in 1871, First Arts, the undergraduate degree, in 1873, received a BA in 1876 and Honours in Sanskrit in 1877. Later, he was conferred the title of Shastri when he received a MA degree...He then joined Hare School as a teacher in 1878....

Hara Prasad Shastri held numerous positions. He became a professor at the Sanskrit College in 1883. At the same time, he worked as an Assistant Translator with the Bengal government. Between 1886 and 1894, besides teaching at the Sanskrit College, he was the Librarian of the Bengal Library. In 1895 he headed the Sanskrit department at Presidency College.

During the winter 1898-99 he assisted Dr. Cecil Bendall during research in Nepal, collecting informations from the private Durbar Library of the Rana Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, and the total registration of manuscripts was later published as A Catalogue of Palm-Leaf and selected Paper Manuscripts belonging to the Durbar Library, Nepal (Calcutta 1905) with historical introduction by Cecil Bendall (including description of Gopal Raj Vamshavali).

In 1894–1895 he was in Nepal and Northern India collecting oriental manuscripts for British Museum. During the winter 1898–1899 he returned to Nepal and together with pandit Hara Prasad Shastri and his assistant pandit Binodavihari Bhattacharya from the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, the team registered and collected information from palm-leaf manuscripts in the Durbar Library belonging to Rana Prime Minister Bir Shumsher J. B. Rana, and here he found the famous historical document Gopal Raj Vamshavali, describing Nepal's history from around 1000 to 1600.

-- Cecil Bendall, by Wikipedia

The Gopal Raj Vamshavali (IAST: Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī, Devanagari: गोपालराजवंशावली) is a 14th-century hand-written manuscript of Nepal which is primarily a genealogical record of Nepalese monarchs.

One of the most important and popular chronicles in Nepalese history is by this name. This vamshavali was previously called Bendall Vaṃśāvalī, as Prof. Cecil Bendall found the manuscript "in the cold weather of 1898–99 in Kathmandu's Durbar Library" or the Bir Library...

The original copy of Gopal Raj Vamshavali is now stored at National Archives, Kathmandu in an "unsatisfactory" state, in contrast to an "excellent" condition, when Prof. Cecil Bendall found it at the turn of the 19th century.

-- Gopal Raj Vamshavali, by Wikipedia

He became Principal of Sanskrit College in 1900, leaving in 1908 to join the government's Bureau of Information.

Also, from 1921–1924, he was Professor and Head of the Department of Bengali and Sanskrit at Dhaka University.

Shastri held different positions within the Asiatic Society, and was its President for two years. He was also President of Vangiya Sahitya Parishad for twelve years ...

Bangiya Sahitya Parishad is a literary society in Maniktala of Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Established during the time of the British Raj, its goal is to promote Bengali literature, both by translating works in other languages to Bengali and promoting the production of original Bengali literature...

1894 saw the first officers, with Romesh Chunder Dutt as the first president...

Romesh Chunder Dutt CIE (Bengali: রমেশচন্দ্র দত্ত; 13 August 1848 – 30 November 1909) was an Indian civil servant, economic historian, writer and translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

-- Romesh Chunder Dutt, by Wikipedia

and was an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society in London...

He was first introduced to research by Rajendralal Mitra, a noted Indologist, and translated the Buddhist Puranas which Mitra included in the book The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal. Shastri was also Mitra's assistant at the Asiatic Society, and became Director of Operations in Search of Sanskrit Manuscripts after Mitra's death.

Shastri was instrumental in preparing the Catalogue of the Asiatic Society's approximately ten thousand manuscripts with the assistance of a few others...

Shastri gradually became interested in collecting old Bengali manuscripts and ended up visiting Nepal several times, where, in 1907, he discovered the Charyageeti or Charyapada manuscripts. His painstaking research on the manuscript led to the establishment of Charyapada as the earliest known evidence of Bengali language. Shastri wrote about this finding in a 1916 paper titled "হাজার বছরের পুরোনো বাংলা ভাষায় রচিত বৌদ্ধ গান ও দোঁহা” (Hajar bochhorer purono Bangla bhasay rochito Bouddho gan o doha) meaning "Buddhist songs and verses written in Bengali a thousand years ago"...

He also discovered an old palm-leaf manuscript of Skanda Purana in a Kathmandu library in Nepal, written in Gupta script.

The Skanda Purana (IAST: Skanda Purāṇa) is the largest Mahāpurāṇa, a genre of eighteen Hindu religious texts. The text contains over 81,000 verses, and is of Kaumara literature... The text has been an important historical record and influence on the Hindu traditions related to the war-god Skanda.

The earliest text titled Skanda Purana likely existed by the 8th century CE, but the Skanda Purana that has survived into the modern era exists in many versions. It is considered as a living text, which has been widely edited, over many centuries, creating numerous variants....

This Mahāpurāṇa, like others, is attributed to the sage Vyasa.

-- Skanda Purana, by Wikipedia

-- Hara Prasad Shastri, by Wikipedia

For Gujarati writer, see Hariprasad Shastri.

Hara Prasad Shastri
Born: 6 December 1853, Khulna, Bengal Presidency
Died: 17 November 1931 (aged 77)
Occupation: Academic, orientalist

Hara Prasad Shastri (Bengali: হরপ্রসাদ শাস্ত্রী) (6 December 1853 – 17 November 1931), also known as Hara Prasad Bhattacharya, was an Indian academic, Sanskrit scholar, archivist and historian of Bengali literature. He is most known for discovering the Charyapada, the earliest known examples of Bengali literature.[1]

The Charyapada is a collection of mystical poems, songs of realization in the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism from the tantric tradition in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Odisha.

It was written between the 8th and 12th centuries in an Abahatta that was the ancestor of the Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Odia, Magahi, Maithili, and many other Eastern Indo-Aryan languages, and it is said to be the oldest collection of verses written in those languages. Charyapadas written in the script resembles the most closest form of Assamese language used today. A palm-leaf manuscript of the Charyapada was rediscovered in the early 20th century by Haraprasad Shastri at the Nepal Royal Court Library. The Charyapada was also preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

As songs of realization, the Charyapada were intended to be sung. These songs of realisation were spontaneously composed verses that expressed a practitioner's experience of the enlightened state...

The rediscovery of the Charyapada is credited to Haraprasad Shastri, a 19th-century Sanskrit scholar and historian of Bengali literature who, during his third visit to Nepal in 1907, chanced upon 50 verses at the Royal library of the Nepalese kings. Written on trimmed palm leaves of 12.8×0.9 inches in a language often referred to as sāndhyabhāṣa or twilight language, a semantic predecessor of modern Bengali, the collection came to be called Charyapada and also Charyagiti by some. At that time, Shastri was a librarian of the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, and was engaged in a self-assigned mission to trace and track ancient Bengali manuscripts. His first and second trips to Nepal in 1897 and 1898 met with some success, as he was able to collect a number of folkloric tales written in Pali and Sanskrit. However, after he rediscovered the treasure manuscripts in 1907, he published this collections in a single volume in 1916. According to some historians, there may very likely have been at least 51 original verses which were lost due to absence of proper preservation.[10] Based on the original Tibetan translation, the book was originally called Charyagitikosh and had 100 verses. The scrolls discovered by Shastri contained selected verses.

The original palm-leaf manuscript of the Charyapada, or Caryācaryāviniścaya, spanning 47 padas (verses) along with a Sanskrit commentary, was edited by Shastri and published from Bangiya Sahitya Parishad as a part of his Hajar Bacharer Purano Bangala Bhasay Bauddhagan O Doha (Buddhist Songs and Couplets) in 1916 under the name of Charyacharyavinishchayah. This manuscript is presently preserved at the National Archives of Nepal. Prabodhchandra Bagchi later published a manuscript of a Tibetan translation containing 50 verses.

The Tibetan translation provided additional information, including that the Sanskrit commentary in the manuscript, known as Charyagiti-koshavrtti, was written by Munidatta. It also mentions that the original text was translated by Shilachari and its commentary by Munidatta was translated by Chandrakirti or Kirtichandra.

-- Charyapada, by Wikipedia

Early life

Hara Prasad Shastri was born in Kumira village in Khulna, Bengal (now in Bangladesh)[1] to a family that hailed from Naihati in North 24 Parganas of the present day West Bengal. The family name was Bhattacharya, a common Bengali surname.

Shastri studied at the village school initially and then at Sanskrit College and Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). While in Calcutta, he stayed with the noted Bengali scholar and social reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was a friend of Shastri's older brother Nandakumar Nyayachunchu.[1][2]

Shastri passed entrance (school-leaving) examination in 1871, First Arts, the undergraduate degree, in 1873, received a BA in 1876 and Honours in Sanskrit in 1877. Later, he was conferred the title of Shastri when he received a MA degree. The Shastri title was conferred on those who secured a first class (highest grade) and he was the only student in his batch (class) to do so. He then joined Hare School as a teacher in 1878.[1][2]

Professional career

Hara Prasad Shastri held numerous positions. He became a professor at the Sanskrit College in 1883. At the same time, he worked as an Assistant Translator with the Bengal government. Between 1886 and 1894, besides teaching at the Sanskrit College, he was the Librarian of the Bengal Library. In 1895 he headed the Sanskrit department at Presidency College.[1][2]

During the winter 1898-99 he assisted Dr. Cecil Bendall during research in Nepal, collecting informations from the private Durbar Library of the Rana Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, and the total registration of manuscripts was later published as A Catalogue of Palm-Leaf and selected Paper Manuscripts belonging to the Durbar Library, Nepal (Calcutta 1905) with historical introduction by Cecil Bendall (including description of Gopal Raj Vamshavali).[3]

Cecil Bendall (1 July 1856 – 14 March 1906) was an English scholar, a professor of Sanskrit at University College London and later at the University of Cambridge.

Bendall was educated at the City of London School and at the University of Cambridge, achieving first-class honours in the Classical Tripos in 1879 and the Indian Languages Tripos in 1881. He was elected to a fellowship at Gonville and Caius College.

From 1882 to 1893 he worked at the British Museum in the department of Oriental Manuscripts (now part of the British Library).

In 1894–1895 he was in Nepal and Northern India collecting oriental manuscripts for British Museum.
During the winter 1898–1899 he returned to Nepal and together with pandit Hara Prasad Shastri and his assistant pandit Binodavihari Bhattacharya from the Asiatic Society in Calcutta, the team registered and collected information from palm-leaf manuscripts in the Durbar Library belonging to Rana Prime Minister Bir Shumsher J. B. Rana, and here he found the famous historical document Gopal Raj Vamshavali, describing Nepal's history from around 1000 to 1600.

He was Professor of Sanskrit at University College London from 1895 to 1902, and at Cambridge from 1903 until his death.

He was a contributor to the Dictionary of National Biography.

He died in Liverpool in 1906 and is buried at the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground in Cambridge.

-- Cecil Bendall, by Wikipedia

The Gopal Raj Vamshavali (IAST: Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī, Devanagari: गोपालराजवंशावली) is a 14th-century hand-written manuscript of Nepal which is primarily a genealogical record of Nepalese monarchs.

One of the most important and popular chronicles in Nepalese history is by this name.
This vamshavali was previously called Bendall Vaṃśāvalī, as Prof. Cecil Bendall found the manuscript "in the cold weather of 1898–99 in Kathmandu's Durbar Library" or the Bir Library. This was later, and popularly, called the Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī by scholars as Baburam Achayra and Yogi Naraharinath to name a few, as a hand-written catalog list of the library termed the manuscript Gopālavaṃśādi prācīna rājavaṃśāvalī (गोपालवंशादि प्राचीन राजवंशावली), meaning ancient royal vamshavali starting with Gopala dynasty. Pant, however, questions if this could be called a vamshavali proper, as the chronicler never mentions it thus.

The original copy of Gopal Raj Vamshavali is now stored at National Archives, Kathmandu in an "unsatisfactory" state, in contrast to an "excellent" condition, when Prof. Cecil Bendall found it at the turn of the 19th century.


With the advent of Kali Yuga in the primordial kingdom of Yudhisthira, Śrī Bhṛṅgāreśvara Bhaṭṭāraka emerged. There, ṛṣi (saint) Gautama came and established Gautameśvara and other deities.

Gopālas (cow-herds) came to the valley and in the Gopāla-vaṃśa, eight kings ruled for 505 years 3 months.

Thereafter, Mahiṣapāla (buffalo-herd) kings ruled up to 3 generations for 161 years 2 months. The Kiratas conquered the valley and ruled up to 32 generations for 1958 years 2 months.

Thereafter the Solar Line ruled Vimalanagarī (Vaisali?) and Nepal by defeating the Kirata kings.
To name some important contributions, Śrī Supuṣpadeva enforced the varṇa system and constructed temple of Śrī Paśupati Bhaṭṭāraka. He built a town dedicated to the Lord, enforced all laws and ruled with justice. Similarly, Śrī Bhāskaradeva observed penance at Paśupati, by merit of which he conquered Kāñcinagara Maṇḍala up to southern sea. Likewise, King Śrī Haridattavarmā constructed Lord Viṣṇu Bhaṭṭāraka temple in all four śikhara-pradeśa (hillocks). Śrī Viśvadeva consecrated a caitya Bhaṭṭāraka in Sinaguṃ vihāra (Svayambhū) and set up stone water-conduit. He also installed a big trident at northern side of Śrī Paśupati. Śrī Mānadeva unknowingly killed his father and observed penance at Guṃ vihāra and consecrated a caitya and Śrī Māneśvarīdevī temple. He regulated land measurements and rent, and started the tradition of celebrating Holi. Śrī Gaṇadeva offered treasury to Śrī Paśupati Bhaṭṭāraka to cause rainfall and propitiated Mahānāga after three years of drought. Gopālas vanquished the Solar Line and ruled for three generations.

Again, the Licchavis ruled. Śrī Aṃśuvarmā founded Rājavihāra, and started system of grammar and other branches of learning. They were from a different scion. Thereafter, the Solar dynasty ruled over Nepal again. Śrī Narendradeva initiated the festival of Śrī Lokeśvara of Bungamati and Śrī Bālārjunadeva offered his crown to Buṅga Lokeśvara Bhaṭṭāraka. Śrī Mānadeva constructed market-place; Śrī Guṇakāma deva constructed rest house and performed koti-homa (crore homas); Śrī Lakṣmīkāma deva sponsored ceremonies to bring peace in the nation (200 NS). In the same line, Śrī Bhāskaradeva sold paternal crown and destroyed the image of Śrī Māneśvarī Bhaṭṭāraka, for which he suffered a great deal. In the same line, Śrī Śivadeva completed the (re-)construction of temple of Śrī Paśupati Bhaṭṭāraka and temple of the Eastern mountain (Changu), four-storeyed royal palace with five courtyards, canals at Balkhu river, water-conduits, wells and tanks. He brought silver and gold coins in use.

With Śrī Arimalladeva's reign, a great famine and epidemic spread. A great earthquake in NS 375 (1255 AD) brought a "lot of suffering" to propitiate which annual lakṣahoma and fortnightly pakṣaśrāddha were performed. The Khaśas under Jayatāri (Jitārimalla) entered the valley for the first time from west in NS 408 (1288 AD) and were massacred in large number; next they set the villages on fire. The Tirhutiyās entered the valley in NS 411 (1291 AD). Sultān Shams Ud-dīn raided the kingdom and reduced the whole Nepal valley in ashes, including breaking of the Śrī Paśupatināṭh icon to three pieces.

Śrī Jayasthitirājamalla, brought by Śrī Devaladevī, became King upon marriage with Rājalladevī. By the grace of Svayambhū, he made several reforms. Next is described the installment of four Nārāyaṇas in all four directions.

Following this, there is a detailed description of the events from 177 NS (1057 AD), which Malla (1985) [5] categorizes as Vaṃśāvalī2 from folio 31. With full details of astrological dates (pañcāṅgas), this part describes the stories of birth, deaths and marriages of different kings.

In addition, it also covers events of political conflicts, religious contributions, construction works and disaster relief.

-- Gopal Raj Vamshavali, by Wikipedia

He became Principal of Sanskrit College in 1900, leaving in 1908[4] to join the government's Bureau of Information.

Also, from 1921–1924, he was Professor and Head of the Department of Bengali and Sanskrit at Dhaka University.[1][2]

Shastri held different positions within the Asiatic Society, and was its President for two years. He was also President of Vangiya Sahitya Parishad for twelve years ...


Bangiya Sahitya Parishad is a literary society in Maniktala of Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Established during the time of the British Raj, its goal is to promote Bengali literature, both by translating works in other languages to Bengali and promoting the production of original Bengali literature.

The organisation was founded by L. Leotard and Kshetrapal Chakraborty in 1893. Then it was known as The Bengal Academy of Literature. On 29 April 1894, the name of the society itself was changed to Bangiya Sahitya Parishad. 1894 saw the first officers, with Romesh Chunder Dutt as the first president...

Romesh Chunder Dutt CIE (Bengali: রমেশচন্দ্র দত্ত; 13 August 1848 – 30 November 1909) was an Indian civil servant, economic historian, writer and translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata, a great national leader before Gandhian era and contemporary of Dadabhai Naoroji and Justice Ranade.

-- Romesh Chunder Dutt, by Wikipedia

and Rabindranath Tagore and Navinchandra Sen as vice presidents.

-- Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, by Wikipedia

and was an honorary member of the Royal Asiatic Society in London.[1][2]


Shastri's first research article was "Bharat mahila", published in the periodical Bangadarshan when he was a student.

Cover page of Bangadarshan

Bangadarshan was a Bengali literary magazine, founded by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1872,

Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyay

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee or Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, CBE CIE (27 June 1838[1]–8 April 1894) was an Indian novelist, poet and journalist. He was the composer of Vande Mataram, originally in Sanskrit, personifying India as a mother goddess and inspiring activists during the Indian Independence Movement.

Vande Mataram (IAST: Vande Mātaram, also pronounced Bande Mataram; transl. Mother, I bow to thee) is a poem written in Sanskrit by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1870s, which he included in his 1882 Bengali novel Anandamath. The poem was first sung by Rabindranath Tagore in the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. The first two verses of the song were adopted as the National Song of India in October 1937 by the Congress Working Committee prior to the end of colonial rule in August 1947.

An ode to the Motherland, it was written in Bengali script in the novel Anandmath. The title 'Vande Mataram' means "I bow to thee, Mother" or "I bow to thee, Mother". The "mother goddess" in later verses of the song has been interpreted as the motherland of the people –– Banga Mata (Mother Bengal) and Bharat Mata (Mother India), though the text does not mention this explicitly.

It played a vital role in the Indian independence movement, first sung in a political context by Rabindranath Tagore at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. It became a popular marching song for political activism and Indian freedom movement in 1905. Spiritual Indian nationalist and philosopher Sri Aurobindo referred it as "National Anthem of Bengal". The song and the novel containing it was banned by the colonial government, but workers and the general public defied the ban (with many being imprisoned repeatedly for singing it in public); with the ban being overturned by the Indian government after the country gained independence from colonial rule in 1947.

-- Vande Mataram, by Wikipedia

Chattopadhyay wrote fourteen novels and many serious, serio-comic, satirical, scientific and critical treatises in Bengali. He is known as Sahitya Samrat (Emperor of Literature) in Bengali.

-- Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, by Wikipedia

and resuscitated in 1901 under the editorship of Rabindranath Tagore. The magazine had a defining influence on the emergence of a Bengali identity and the genesis of nationalism in Bengal.

Many of Bankim's novels were serialized in this magazine, which also carried work by writers such as the Sanskrit scholar Haraprasad Shastri, the literary critic Akshay Chandra Sarkar, and other intellectuals. It carried many articles on the Puranas, the Vedas and the Vedanta, reflecting a reaction within Bengali intellectual community (the bhadralok culture) to "negotiate with the set of ideas coming in the name of modernity by incorporating and appropriating the masses."[2]

Bankim articulated his objectives in creating the magazine as one of: "...making it the medium of communication and sympathy between the educated and the uneducated classes... the English language for good or evil has become our vernacular; and this tends daily to widen the gulf between the higher and lower ranks of Bengali society. Thus I think that we ought to disanglicise ourselves so as to speak to the masses in the language which they may understand."[3] Haraprasad Shastri also echoed this spirit: "What is the purpose of Bangadarshan? Knowledge has to be filtered down.".[4]

But the magazine was far more than a mere dispenser of intellectual knowledge. It was the intoxicating mix of stories that readers waited with bated breath, particularly for the next serialization of a novel by Bankim. Besides the readership among Bengali intelligentsia, the magazine was also widely read among the Bengali-literate women.

The first novel to be serialized here was the stunning Vishabriksha ("poison tree") on 1873. It was followed by Indira in the same year and Yugalanguriya in 1874. Indeed, nearly all of Bankim's subsequent novels were published in this magazine.

In 1876, after Radharani and Chandrashekhar had come out, the magazine faced a hiatus. After a short period though, Bankim's brother Sanjibchandra Chattopadhyay resuscitated the magazine, and Bankim remained a major contributor. His novels Rajani, Krishnakanter will and the Rajput novel Rajasimha were featured between 1877 and 1881. Particularly notable is the publication of Anandamath (1882), the story of a revolt by a group of ascetic warriors; though the battle is against the Muslim forces, the British power lurks in the background. This novel also contains the song Bande Mataram.

The impact of the magazine in 19th-century Bengal can be gauged from Rabindranath Tagore's recollections of reading it as a boy - he was only eleven when Bangadarshan was launched. "It was bad enough to have to wait till the next monthly number was out, but to be kept waiting further till my elders had done with it was simply intolerable."[3] Prof Santanu Banerjee observed: "There is hardly any magazine apart from Bangadarshan in the world to claim the glory of publishing two National Song of two separate country".[5]

In the late 1880s, the magazine was eventually no longer in publication.

-- Bangadarshan, by Wikipedia

Later, Shastri became a regular contributor to the periodical, which was then edited by the noted Bengali author Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, authoring around thirty articles on different topics, as well as novel reviews. He was first introduced to research by Rajendralal Mitra, a noted Indologist, and translated the Buddhist Puranas which Mitra included in the book The Sanskrit Buddhist Literature of Nepal. Shastri was also Mitra's assistant at the Asiatic Society, and became Director of Operations in Search of Sanskrit Manuscripts after Mitra's death.[1][5]

Shastri was instrumental in preparing the Catalogue of the Asiatic Society's approximately ten thousand manuscripts with the assistance of a few others.[1] The long introduction to the Catalogue contains invaluable information on the history of Sanskrit literature.

Shastri gradually became interested in collecting old Bengali manuscripts and ended up visiting Nepal several times, where, in 1907, he discovered the Charyageeti or Charyapada manuscripts.[1] His painstaking research on the manuscript led to the establishment of Charyapada as the earliest known evidence of Bengali language.[1] Shastri wrote about this finding in a 1916 paper titled "হাজার বছরের পুরোনো বাংলা ভাষায় রচিত বৌদ্ধ গান ও দোঁহা” (Hajar bochhorer purono Bangla bhasay rochito Bouddho gan o doha) meaning "Buddhist songs and verses written in Bengali a thousand years ago".[2][6]

Shastri was the collector and publisher of many other old works, author of many research articles, a noted historiographer, and recipient of a number of awards and titles.[1]

Some of his notable works were: Balmikir jai, Meghdoot byakshya, Beneyer Meye (The Merchant's Daughter, a novel), Kancanmala (novel), Sachitra Ramayan, Prachin Banglar Gourab, and Bouddha dharma.[2]

His English works include: Magadhan Literature, Sanskrit Culture in Modern India, and Discovery of Living Buddhism in Bengal.[2]

He also discovered an old palm-leaf manuscript of Skanda Purana in a Kathmandu library in Nepal, written in Gupta script.

The Skanda Purana (IAST: Skanda Purāṇa) is the largest Mahāpurāṇa, a genre of eighteen Hindu religious texts. The text contains over 81,000 verses, and is of Kaumara literature, titled after Skanda, a son of Shiva and Parvati, who is also known as Murugan. While the text is named after Skanda, he does not feature either more or less prominently in this text than in other Shiva-related Puranas. The text has been an important historical record and influence on the Hindu traditions related to the war-god Skanda.

The earliest text titled Skanda Purana likely existed by the 8th century CE, but the Skanda Purana that has survived into the modern era exists in many versions. It is considered as a living text, which has been widely edited, over many centuries, creating numerous variants. The common elements in the variant editions encyclopedically cover cosmogony, mythology, genealogy, dharma, festivals, gemology, temples, geography, discussion of virtues and evil, of theology and of the nature and qualities of Shiva as the Absolute and the source of true knowledge.

The editions of Skandapurana text also provide an encyclopedic travel handbook with meticulous Tirtha Mahatmya (pilgrimage tourist guides), containing geographical locations of pilgrimage centers in India, Nepal and Tibet, with related legends, parables, hymns and stories.

This Mahāpurāṇa, like others, is attributed to the sage Vyasa.

-- Skanda Purana, by Wikipedia


1. Chowdhury, Satyajit (2012). "Shastri, Haraprasad". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
2. edited by Subodhchandra Sengupta. (1998). Subodh Chandra Sengupta and Anjali Bose (eds.) (ed.). Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan. Vol. I (4th ed.). Sahitya Samsad. pp. 612–613. ISBN 81-85626-65-0. (in Bengali)
3. Durbar Library (Nepal); Shastri, Hara Prasad; Bendall, Cecil; Bengal (India) (1905). A catalogue of palm-leaf & selected paper mss. belonging to the Durbar library, Nepal. Calcutta: Printed at the Baptist mission Press. pp. Historical Introduction, p. 1. OCLC 894231596.
4. Official website of Sanskrit College Archived 27 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Principals of Sanskrit College
5. Bhatacharyya, Ritwik. "Time-citations: Haraprasad Shastri and the 'Glorious Times'". Cerebration. Retrieved 12 April 2008.
6. S. D. (1987). "Charyapada (Bengali)". Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature. Vol. 1. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 646–. ISBN 81-260-1803-8.

External links

• H P Shastri at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
• Sanskrit College new website. Viewed in August 2020.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 10:50 am

Inside Tibet
by Office of Strategic Services

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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 11:32 pm

Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB), Excerpt from Social Welfare Administration in India
by Dr. Shradha Chandra



Burma was Freda Bedi's gateway to Buddhism -- her assignment there changed her life utterly. She found a teacher, a faith, a form of meditation, and had a moment of awakening which marked a personal turning point. When she returned to India she not only regarded herself as a Buddhist but had decided that her life had a new purpose. Her encounter with Buddhism was more by chance than design. She had for some years been a spiritual seeker -- persisting with her regular meditation sessions and taking up yoga as well. But of the world's four major faiths, Buddhism was the one to which she had been least exposed. She had reviewed a children's storybook based on the Jataka -- an early Buddhist work about the birth tales of the Buddha -- and read from it to Ranga. It stayed with her. Several years later, she wrote about the Buddha's various incarnations, weaving this into her reflections on war, famine and death. She had read Buddhist texts along with other spiritual classics which she found so rewarding. But her visit to Burma was, in so many ways, a revelation. It was her first time immersed in a Buddhist culture and she felt instinctively 'that was my home. Then I knew that in some former life, I think in many former lives, I'd been in the Buddhist way. That's what I feel,' she told a California radio station, while adding 'of course it may be wrong.'

It was money more than spiritual considerations that attracted Freda to Burma. Towards the close of the Bedis' time in Kashmir, she accepted a six months' United Nations posting to Burma, which had won its independence from Britain a year after India. She could probably sense that her husband wouldn't continue for much longer at Sheikh Abdullah's side, and the family needed an income. Her family also needed a home, and before taking up the post Freda had to ensure that her children were cared for. Freda had travelled a great deal but usually with one or other of her children in tow. This was the first time that she had made a long trip leaving all her family behind. Ranga was eighteen and at college in Delhi; Kabir and Guli were much younger, seven and three. She decided against leaving them in the care of her husband, and arranged for them to stay in Delhi with a Czechoslovak friend, Jana Obersal.

Freda's new role with the United Nations was to help in the planning of Burma's social services: 'A job after my own heart,' she told Olive Chandler, 'but it's hard not to be with the family. However, in their interest, I can't throw opportunities away + this opens new fields for us all.' She was restless by nature and relished the opportunity of working somewhere new. 'Burma is like India enough to be homely,' she wrote, 'unlike enough to be beguiling.' Without family responsibilities, she had more time to devote to her own interests, and above all to meditate. She met a Buddhist teacher in Rangoon, U Titthila, who had spent the war years in London where he had on occasions abandoned his monk's robes to serve as an air raid warden and, during the Blitz when London came under sustained German air attack, as a stretcher bearer. Freda found him 'very saintly'; she asked him to teach her Vipassana (insight) meditation techniques. 'And it was then ... I got my first flash of understanding -- can't call it more than that. But it changed my whole life. I felt that, really, this meditation had shown me what I was trying to find ... and I got great, great happiness-a feeling that I had found the path.'

While Vipassana meditation dates back many centuries, the Vipassana movement -- which developed particularly in Burma in the mid-twentieth century -- was an adaptation of earlier teaching. It was innovative and linked broadly to rising anti-colonial sentiment. The meditation technique was intended mainly for lay people and offered quick results (some see it as shaping the more recent mindfulness movement) but because of its intensity, it could on occasions overwhelm new practitioners. For Freda, it brought an early moment of illumination -- one which was life-changing but also destabilising.

For two months, she had a weekly session with U Titthila. 'And I remember him saying when the eight weeks was coming to an end: if you get a realisation or a flash of realisation, it may not be sitting in your room in meditation, in pose in front of a picture of the Buddha or something, it will probably be somewhere where you don't expect it.' That's exactly what happened. 'I was actually walking with the [UN] commission through the streets of Akyab in the north of Burma -- [it was] as though some gates in my mind had just opened and suddenly I was seeing the flow of things, meaning, connections. And when I went back to Delhi, well, I told my husband I'd been searching all my life, it's the Buddhist monks who have been able to show me something I could not find and I'm a Buddhist from now on. Then I began to learn Buddhism after that.' Her family's recollection is that this 'flash' of spiritual awakening was accompanied by a breakdown. According to Ranga, his mother fainted and was taken to hospital. Bedi managed to get emergency travel documents, headed out to Burma and brought his wife home. When she came back, she didn't recognise B.P.L. or anybody. She didn't recognise her children. She would sit on her cot doing nothing -- completely blank. You couldn't make eye contact with her,' Ranga recalls. 'There was no speech, no recognition -- though she could eat and bathe. That lasted for about two months when she gradually started reacting to things. All she recalled was that when walking down the street ... she saw a huge flash of light in the sky and she lost consciousness.'

This was a moment of epiphany -- an incident which redefined her life and purpose. From then on, she regarded herself as a Buddhist. And this was much more than simply a religious allegiance. It quickly became the most important aspect of her life. On her return to Delhi, she set up an organisation that she called the Friends of Buddhism. She took a personal vow of brahmacharya, a commitment to virtuous living which implies a decision to become celibate. Her engagement with the faith radically refashioned her links with her family and set her on the course which defined the last quarter-of-a- century of her life. The household faced several concurrent crises. Freda's collapse not only raised concerns about her health; it also brought an end to any prospect of a longer-term UN role in Burma or indeed anywhere else. Bedi's hasty exit from Kashmir had closed the door on the only regular, decently paid job he ever secured, and plunged him into the much more uncertain arena of small-scale publishing and writing and translating on commission. 'That was a very traumatic move,' Kabir recalls, 'suddenly overnight we arrived in Delhi.' Their reduced circumstances were reflected in the family's accommodation in the Indian capital. From the relative grandeur of a house close to Dal Lake, they took a flat -- a 'grotty' apartment, in Kabir's words -- in the crowded Karol Bagh area of central Delhi. It was quite a comedown.

Once she was fully recovered, Freda again had to take on the responsibility of being the family's primary earner. She got a helping hand from a well-placed friend. Among her papers is a handwritten note from 'Indu', Indira Gandhi, on the headed paper of the Prime Minister's House: 'Durgabai Deshmukh wants to see you at 11 a.m. tomorrow ... in her office in the Planning Commission, Rashtrapati Bhawan. I shall send the car at 10.30.' Deshmukh was an influential figure in the Congress Party and had been a member of India's Constituent Assembly. She had just been appointed as the initial chairperson of the Planning Commission, which in Nehruvian India with its faith in the state to engineer social and economic progress was an important post. She was adamant on the need to champion the interests and promote the welfare of women, children and the disabled. Her meeting with Freda clearly went well. The following month, in January 1954, Freda began working for the government's Central Social Welfare Board establishing and editing a monthly journal, Social Welfare. Although she was not a natural civil servant, she embraced the social agenda and the opportunity to travel across India and throw a spotlight on women's concerns and on projects which successfully addressed them. She remained in the job for eight years.

Freda's government employment wasn't particularly well paid, but it allowed the family a measure of financial security. They moved from Karol Bagh and by the close of 1954 were living in the more comfortable locality of Nizamuddin East: 'a nice house (for Delhi) in the shadow of a Mogul wall, near the beautiful Humayun's Tomb,' she told her old friend Olive Chandler. It was only a temporary respite. For a while the family lived under canvas at a Buddhist centre at Mehrauli just outside Delhi but eventually Freda was allocated government accommodation in the middleclass district of Moti Bagh. She described it as 'one of those nicely tailored modern flats complete with fans and shower-baths. To be frank, it doesn't suit us at all even though it has got its points in terms of comfort. We are a nice sprawly joint family, equipped on the male side with booming Punjabi voices, and hardly fit into a flat at all.' Money was tight. Freda travelled to work by bus or -- for a while -- on a scooter. She was responsible not only for earning but also for managing the household's finances. She was provident, as you might expect of someone brought up in a non-conformist, north of England household.
Bedi was the opposite -- earning infrequently, and splashing out when he did. He was a writer for hire, Kabir says, but his earnings were irregular. 'Papa's style was whenever he got money he would then splurge, buy baskets of mangos for everybody in the family and take us on big treats. That was his way of showing his caring.'...

Although her faith loomed increasingly large in her life, she had a demanding job too. At the Central Social Welfare Board, Freda had a free hand in devising the new monthly publication. Social Welfare launched in April 1954 with Freda named as executive editor and promising to be 'the beginning of a new experience in coordinating social welfare in India.' It was conspicuously well produced and made effective use of black-and-white photos and on occasions bore striking modernist-style covers. The journal's purpose was to support the Board's endeavour to develop 'services for women, children, the delinquent and handicapped and the family as a unit'. Freda occasionally wrote under her own by-line, reporting on projects and initiatives she had visited in different parts of India. Both Binder and his wife Manorma were roped in as occasional contributors. She was able to reprise some of the themes she had introduced in Contemporary India twenty years earlier -- prevailing on Devendra Satyarthi to write on Indian cradle songs, traditional dance, and women's life as reflected in folk song. But the hallmark of the magazine was the focus which it placed on women's issues, including many which rarely appeared in the mainstream press.

In the first year of publication, Social Welfare's agenda was cautious. Once established, it became more adventurous, tackling such themes as deserted wives, family planning, unmarried mothers, trafficking of women and children, and prostitution. It also prompted discussion of the widening career opportunities for women, and published exercises for expectant mothers. Freda enjoyed the opportunity to see something of village life in different parts of India. She described herself as 'somebody who loves the village old and new, and finds happiness there'. Her conviction that the village was the essence of India, and village women the backbone of the nation, remained undimmed. The monthly had the advantage over commercial magazines that it was not vulnerable to dips in circulation or revenue, and the frustration that as a government publication its impact was limited. It was the job that Freda stuck to longer than any other. She saw herself as a social worker as much as an editor and journalist and welcomed the prospect of contributing to independent India's social development.

Some of the missions on behalf of the Social Welfare Board took her to corners of the country which were rarely seen by outsiders. In 1958 she accompanied Indira Gandhi to north-east India, visiting areas which are now in the Indian states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. 'Indu' remained a close friend, and perhaps a confidante
-- her marriage had also hit problems. Freda's children remember going to eat at Auntie Indu's and attending the birthday parties of Indira's sons, Rajiv and Sanjay. 'Sometimes we would go privately and play with their remarkable collection of trains,' Kabir says. 'They had a wonderful room in the prime minister's house that had these trains around tracks, gifts of foreign dignitaries .... As we got older, we'd go out on the president's estate and ride horses and see movies there or go to the swimming pool or go on car rides together. So it was that kind of fairly close relationship with the Gandhi family.'

Freda's government role allowed plenty of opportunity for the networking at which she excelled. Among her new friends was Tara All Baig, a prominent social worker from a privileged background who became the president of the Indian Council of Child Welfare. Baig first met her at a United Nations Youth Conference at Simla, and was struck by both her appearance and personality...

Freda's involvement with Buddhism introduced her to several rich and influential Punjabi women who shared her interest. Goodie Oberoi had married into the family that ran one of India's leading chains of luxury hotels. The Maharani of Patiala was part of a Sikh royal family which retained its political influence after the dissolution of the princely states. In 1957, Freda travelled to Britain at the maharani's request -- her first visit for a decade -- to accompany her two daughters to their new boarding school. She took the opportunity to visit her mother and brother in Derby and see old friends. Freda saw no inconsistency in championing the interests of poor village women and accepting the patronage of the moneyed elite...

Towards the close of 1956, Delhi hosted a major international Buddhist gathering that was Freda's introduction to the Tibetan schools of Buddhism, which are in the Mahayana tradition as distinct from the Theravada school which is predominant in Burma. This Buddha Jayanti was to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha's life. The Indian government wanted Tibet's Buddhist leaders to attend, particularly the Dalai Lama, who was that rare combination of temporal ruler and spiritual leader of his people. The Chinese authorities initially said no but at the last minute relented. Jawaharlal Nehru was at Delhi airport to welcome the twenty-one year old Dalai Lama on his first visit to India; the young Tibetan leader had at this stage not made up his mind whether he would return to his Chinese-occupied homeland or lead a Tibetan independence movement in exile. Freda played a role in welcoming the Tibetan delegation to the Indian capital. 'The radiance and good humour of the Dalai Lama was something we shall never forget,' she told Olive Chandler. 'I also got a chance of shepherding the official tour of the International delegates to India's Buddhist shrines and made many new friends.' A snatch of newsreel footage shows Freda Bedi at the side of the Dalai Lama at Ashoka Vihar, the Buddhist centre outside Delhi where the Bedi family had camped out a few years earlier. Both Kabir and Guli were also there, the latter peering out nervously between a heavily garlanded Dalai Lama and her sari-clad mother. Freda also received the Dalai Lama's blessing.

In the following year, when she made a brief visit to Britain, Freda made a point of visiting the main Buddhist centres in London and meeting Christmas Humphreys, a judge who was the most prominent of the tiny band of converts to Buddhism in Britain. She was becoming well-known and well-connected as a practitioner of Buddhism. What prompted her to become not simply a devotee but an activist once more was the Dalai Lama's second visit to India -- in circumstances hugely different from his first. Nehru had dissuaded the Dalai Lama from staying in India after the Buddha Jayanti celebrations. Early in 1959, Tibet rose up against Chinese rule, an insurrection which provoked a steely response. The Dalai Lama and his retinue, fearing for their lives and for Tibet's Buddhist traditions and learning, fled across the Himalayas, crossing into India at the end of March and reaching the town of Tezpur in Assam on 18th April 1959. Tens of thousands of Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama, undergoing immense hardships as they traversed across the mountains and sought to evade the Chinese army. Freda felt impelled to get involved.

'Technically, I was Welfare Adviser to the Ministry,' Freda wrote of her time at the Tibetan refugee camps in north-east India; 'actually I was Mother to a camp full of soldiers, lamas, peasants and families.' It was a role she found fulfilling. Freda was able to use the skills and contacts she had developed as a social worker and civil servant and at the same time to be nourished by the spirituality evident among those who congregated in the camps. The needs of the refugees were profound.
For many, the journeys had been harrowing -- avoiding Chinese troops, travelling on foot across the world's most daunting mountain range and sometimes reduced to eating yak leather to stave off starvation. Many failed to complete the journey. And while the Indian camps offered sanctuary, they were insanitary, overcrowded and badly organised. For hundreds of those who arrived tattered, malnourished and vulnerable to disease, the camps were places to die.

In October 1959, six months after the camps were set up, Jawaharlal Nehru, India's prime minister, asked Freda to visit them and report back -- though it may be more accurate to say that Freda badgered her old friend into giving her this role. Among Delhi's Buddhists, who had welcomed the Dalai Lama so reverently three years earlier, the plight of those who had followed in his footsteps over the mountains would have been of pressing concern. For Freda, it offered her a cause in which to immerse herself as well as an opportunity to deepen her spiritual engagement.

As soon as she reached the camps, Freda realised the urgent and profound humanitarian crisis that was engulfing the thousands of Tibetans who had made it into India. Within a matter of weeks, she had persuaded the government to keep her in the camps for six months as welfare adviser for Tibetan refugees. She took on this role as a secondment to the Ministry of External Affairs -- the refugees and their camps were on Indian soil, but given the intense diplomatic sensitivities of offering refuge to such large numbers of Tibetans, the foreign ministry led on the response to the influx. 'I stayed 6 months in a bamboo hut rehabilitating + looking after refugees,' Freda wrote to her old friend Olive Chandler at the close of the assignment. 'It is an experience too deep to translate into an Air Letter. The Tibetans are honest, brave + wonderful people; the 5000 Lamas we have inherited contain some of the most remarkable spiritually advanced monks + teachers it has been my privilege to meet.' She became entirely absorbed in the lives and welfare of the refugees, and of the Buddhist practice of the monks, nuns and lamas among them. 'I am going back to the [Social Welfare] Board tomorrow,' she told Olive, 'but my heart is in this work.'

Freda's home when working with the refugees was at Misamari camp in Assam, where a former military base -- the American Air Force had been stationed there during the Second World War -- was hastily expanded by the construction of rows of large bamboo huts. Misamari was near the town of Tezpur which the Dalai Lama had reached in mid-April 1959 at the end of his flight across the mountains. By mid-May, the Indian authorities had built shelters at Misamari sufficient for 5,000 refugees -- and it was already clear that would not be sufficient.
It was a remote corner of the country -- though not too far as the crow flies from Borhat, still further up the Brahmaputra but on the southern bank, where Ranga and Umi and their young family were living on a tea estate...

The camp may have been safe, but for many Tibetans it was not hospitable. This was alien terrain -- much lower in altitude, stiflingly hot and humid, with a different culture and cuisine. 'Tibetan people don't know [the] language [or] how to make Indian food,' recalled Ayang Rinpoche later one of the most respected Buddhist spiritual teachers in India. He was about sixteen when he arrived at Misamari shortly after the camp opened. 'That place [was] very hot, and underground water [was] very uncomfortable. By this way, Tibetans [were] much suffering and many people died. My mother also died at that place, Misamari.' Another widely revered Buddhist spiritual figure, Ringu Tulku, also reached Misamari in 1959 after a long and arduous journey, 'sometimes fighting, sometimes running, sometimes hiding', from Kham in eastern Tibet. He was about seven years old, and recalls the long bamboo sheds at the camp, each providing shelter to scores of people. 'And very, very hot, so we couldn't usually sleep at night. So we sang and danced all night -- and then we had a little bit of shower. And then we didn't know how to cook dal; we didn't know how to cook all these vegetables.' He too has vivid recollections of the large numbers who died at Misamari from fever and disease.

Lama Yeshe came across Freda Bedi in his first few weeks at the camp. 'Before that I [had] never seen any white woman in my whole life. But she is a very caring, motherly human being.' Ayang Rinpoche also met Freda for the first time at Misamari; he remembers her as 'an English lady with Indian dress, very active, she work[ed] a lot'. Indeed, she kept herself furiously busy -- arranging, organising, improving the health facilities and the water and food supply and ensuring that there was sufficient baby food and vitamins for the newborn and nursing mothers. This became her life. When she decided to dedicate herself to an issue or a cause, it consumed her. The plight of the women among the refugees was a particular concern as they were so central to the Tibetan family groups and tended to avoid attention even when they desperately needed it. Both Kabir and Gulhima spent several weeks of their school holidays with their mother at Misamari -- not quite what they would have expected to be doing once liberated from their boarding schools in the north Indian hills. 'It was an amazing experience,' Kabir says. 'I remember her telling me that when these refugees arrived from Tibet ... the men would be absolutely shattered, probably fit to be carried. And the women would always be standing. And within days of their arrival, there would be women who would collapse and the men would stand. So it's the women who held them together in that long trek across the Himalayas.'...

Her most immediate task was to remedy the shortcomings in the running of these hastily set-up camps. She used the privileged access she had to India's decision makers. She went straight to the top -- to Nehru. And he listened. In early December, Nehru sent a note to India's foreign secretary, the country's most senior career diplomat, asking for a response to concerns that Freda had brought to the prime minister's notice. He endorsed one of Freda's suggestions, 'the absolute necessity of social workers being attached to the camps'.

The normal official machinery (Nehru wrote) is not adequate for this purpose, however good it might be. The lack of even such ordinary things as soap and the inadequacy of clothing etc. should not occur if a person can get out of official routines. But more than the lack of things is the social approach.

What concerned Nehru even more was Freda's complaint of endemic corruption. 'She says that "I am convinced that there is very bad corruption among the lower clerical staff in Missamari [sic]". Heavy bribery is referred to. She suggested in her note on corruption that an immediate secret investigation should take place in this matter.' Nehru ordered action to investigate, and if necessary to remove, corrupt officials. 'It is not enough for the local police to be asked to do it,' he instructed. It's not clear what remedial measures were taken but the interest in the running of the Tibetan camps shown by the prime minister and by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, will have helped to redress the most acute of the problems facing the refugees there.

Freda sought to raise awareness of and money for the Tibetan refugees in other ways. At the end of January 1960, just ahead of the Tibetan New Year, she wrote from Misamari to the Times of India, seeking donations from readers to allow the thousands of refugees on Indian soil to celebrate this religious festival.
'The vast majority of the Tibetan refugees are in Government refugee camps and are living on refugee rations,' she wrote. With very few exceptions they are penniless. If they light sacred lamps (deepa), they will do it by sacrificing their ghee rations for some days together. They need money for ceremonial tea and food, for incense and for community utensils ... The Tibetans are separated from country and often from family. Let us give them a feeling of welcome and belonging. Friendliness is as important as rations.' This was very much part of her approach to refugee welfare and reflected her own personality. For Freda, compassion and concern was as essential in aiding the refugees as food and medicine. The Tibetans needed to be reassured that the bonds of shared humanity embraced them too after the ordeal so many had suffered.

'Misamari was a bamboo village, made up of hefty bamboo huts, over a hundred of them, capable of housing eighty or ninety people,' Freda wrote in her only published account of her time in the Tibetan camps. This was titled 'With the Tibetan Refugees', which was as much a declaration of personal allegiance as a description of her role. She recounted that there had been as many as 12,000 refugees in the camp in mid-1959, but it was always intended to be a transit centre and many moved on after a few weeks. 'By the time I reached Misamari, with its fluttering prayer flags and its Camp Hospital of eighty beds, there were about four thousand still to be rehabilitated before the Camp could be closed.' She was writing for the government magazine she also edited, and this was not the place to raise complaints of corruption and maladministration. But she expressed sensitivity to Tibetan customs and needs...

Freda wrote about the efforts made to educate the young Tibetans and provide vocational training. She made only glancing reference to the deployment of many thousands of Tibetans in road building gangs at a paltry daily rate, and none at all to the most unjust aspect of this close-to forced labour, the separation of large numbers of Tibetan children from their parents...

While based at Misamari, Freda also visited the other principal Tibetan camp, at Buxa just across the state border in West Bengal. This was both more substantial than Misamari and more forbidding. It was initially a fort built of bamboo and wood, but had been rebuilt in stone by the British and used as a detention camp -- and as it was so remote, it housed some of what were seen as the more menacing political detainees. When the buildings were made available to the Tibetans, they were in poor repair. All the same, these were allocated for Tibetan Buddhist monks and spiritual teachers. Freda referred to it rather grandly as a monastic college. And unlike Misamari, which was open for little more than a year, Buxa was intended as a long-term camp. It's estimated that at one time as many as 1,500 Tibetans lived there. Conditions were so poor that many monks contracted tuberculosis but it remained in operation for a decade.

Towards the close of her six months in the camps, Freda Bedi again sought out Nehru, and this time was more insistent about the measures the Indian government needed to take to meet its responsibilities towards the refugees. She wrote to the prime minister to pass on the representations of 'the representatives of the Venerable Lamas and monks of the famous monasteries ... living in Misamari', though the vigour with which she expressed herself -- this was not the temperately worded letter that India's prime minister would be more accustomed to receive -- underlines her own anger at what she saw as the harsh treatment of the Tibetan clerics in particular. Her main concern was the enrolling of Tibetan refugees on road building projects.

Roadwork is heaving, exhausting, and nomadic, it is utterly unsuited to monks who have lived for long years in settled monastic communities. They can't 'take it', any more than could our lecturers, or officials, or Ashramites, or university faculties and students. Let us face that fact, and make more determined efforts to rehabilitate them in their own groups on land.

She insisted that those who did not offer to do roadwork were not lazy, and that almost all those in the camps were 'eager and willing to work on land in a settled Community'. And she sought lenience for some of those involved in roadwork who were penalised as 'deserters' when they were forced to leave their duties because rain washed away the roads or had made shelter and food supplies precarious. 'I feel it is not worthy of Gov[ernmen]t to be vindictive when the refugees have already suffered as much in Tibet,' she told Nehru. 'We should be big hearted.'

She warned Nehru that the Indian government's responsibility for Tibetan monks wasn't limited to the 700 or so in Dalhousie in the north Indian hills and the 1,500 which at this date -- March 1960 -- were at Buxa. There were a further 1,200 monks in Misamari and new arrivals expected for some months more, and another 1,500 refugees outside the government camps living in and around the Indian border towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling and 'in a pitiable condition'. Freda was speaking from personal observation. Her letter concluded with an appeal and a warning, again couched in language that only a personal friend could use to address a prime minister:

Panditji, I am specially asking your help as I do not want a residue of over one thousand unhappy lamas and monks to be left on our hands when Misamari closed. Nor do I want to hear totally unfair statements that 'they won't work'. I am sure you will help to clarify matters in Delhi.

Nehru asked his foreign secretary to investigate, who replied with a robust defence of the use of refugees in road-building projects. They were not acting under compulsion, he insisted, and this was a temporary measure while more permanent arrangements were made for accommodation and rehabilitation. And he suggested that some at least of the refugees were work shy, expressing just the sort of view that Freda had insisted was so unjust and uncaring. 'Mrs Bedi complains that we have been hard on the Lamas,' the foreign secretary wrote in a note to Nehru. 'There are various grades of Lamas, from the highly spiritual ones -- the incarnate Lamas -- to those who merely serve as attendents [sic]. Our information now is that having found life relatively easy ... many ordinary people who would otherwise have to earn their living by work, are taking to beads and putting forward claims as Lamas. I feel that some pressure should be brought to bear on this kind of people to do some useful work.'

In her letter to the prime minister, Freda had mused that if Nehru could see the Buxa and Misamari camps, 'I feel you would instinctively realise the major unsolved policy problems here on the spot.' In a testament to her personal sway with India's leader, the following month Nehru did indeed visit Misamari. He spent two hours at the camp, looking round the hospital and seeing Tibetan girls who were being trained in handloom weaving. He addressed a crowd which consisted of almost all the 2,800 Tibetans then at Misamari, assuring them that he would act on an appeal he had received from the Dalai Lama to extend arrangements for educating both the young and adults. There was no greater spur to official attention to the Tibetans' welfare than the prime minister's personal oversight of the issue. And if any had doubted just how much influence Freda held with the prime minister, persuading him to travel across the country to one of its most difficult-to-reach corners demonstrated just how influential and effective she was.

Freda did not let the matter drop. On her return to Delhi in June, she called on the prime minister and in a remarkable demonstration of her moral authority and personal influence, cajoled Nehru to write to one of his top civil servants that same evening to express his disquiet about what he had heard concerning recent ministry instructions.

One is the order that all the new refugees, without any screening, should be sent on somewhere for road-making, etc. This seems to me unwise and impracticable. These refugees differ greatly, and to treat them as if they were all alike, is not at all wise. There are, I suppose, senior Lamas, junior Lamas, people totally unused to any physical work etc. ...

Sending people for road-making when they are entirely opposed to it, will probably create dis-affection in the road-making groups which have now settled down more-or-less. I was also told that the mortality rate increases.

It reads almost as if Freda was dictating the prime minister's note. She also prompted Nehru to question a reduction in rations for those in the camps, and to urge the provision of wheat, a much more familiar part of the Tibetan diet, rather than rice. Freda Bedi was, Nehru warned, going to call on the ministry the following day -- and civil servants were urged to take immediate action on these and any other pressing issues she raised. 'I do not want the fairly good record we have set up in our treatment of these refugees,' the prime minister asserted, 'to be spoiled now by attempts at economy or lack of care.'

Nehru's more persistent concern was the impact of providing refuge to the Dalai Lama and so many of his followers on relations with India's powerful eastern neighbour. A steady deterioration in relations eventually led to a short border war in 1962 which -- to Nehru's shock and distress -- China won. In the immediate aftermath of that military setback, Nehru came to address troops at Misamari camp, which had reverted to serving as a military base. Nevertheless, India persisted with its open-door policy for Tibetans, and somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 refugees followed the Dalai Lama into India. The Dalai Lama and his immediate entourage were settled in the hill town of Dharamsala in north India, which became the headquarters of Tibet's government-in-exile...

Freda found her time in the Assam camps both physically and emotionally draining. On her return to Delhi she was admitted to hospital suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion. It was sufficiently serious for Kabir and Gulhima to be brought down from their boarding school in the hills. The doctors said their presence might lift her spirits. 'She responded well to our being there,' Gull says. 'Initially when we went in to see her she did not respond. But the next day she was sitting up and spoke.' Once recovered, she was determined to have a continuing role promoting the welfare of Tibetan refugees even though she was returning to her government job editing Social Welfare. Reading between the lines of Nehru's missives, Freda seems to have lobbied him on this point. 'If possible, I should like to take advantage of her work in future,' Nehru noted. 'She knows these refugees and they have got to know her. Could we arrange with the Central Social Welfare Board to give her to us for two or three weeks at a time after suitable intervals?'

When Freda confided to her friend Olive Chandler that her heart was in working with the Tibetans, she was saying what was becoming increasingly evident to her colleagues in the Social Welfare Board. 'Freda went to these camps and her heart bled,' according to her friend and colleague Tara All Baig. 'She neglected her work with the Board more and more, travelling to the centres especially in Bengal and Dehra Dun where distress was greatest.' Her boss, the formidable Durgabai Deshmukh, got fed up with Freda's preoccupation with the Tibetan issue to the exclusion of other aspects of her work. She was determined to sack Freda, and only Baig's personal intervention saved her job. 'I was lashed by Durgabai's best legal arguments against retaining her. But Freda had children and needed her job. I weathered the storm and was rewarded with Freda's reinstatement.' She survived in her government post for another couple of years, by which time the pull of working more fully and directly with the lamas among the Tibetan refugees had become compelling...

While on her initial mission at the Tibetan camps in 1959-60, Freda also visited Sikkim where a number of Tibetan monks and refugees had settled. It seems to have been then that she first met the head of the Kagyu lineage, one of the four principal schools within Tibetan Buddhism.
The 16th Karmapa Lama had escaped from Tibet through Bhutan in the wake of the Dalai Lama's departure and had moved into his order's long established but near derelict monastery at Rumtek in Sikkim. Apa Pant, a senior Indian official, told Freda that she really couldn't come to Sikkim without calling on the Karmapa. Pant was an Oxford contemporary of the Bedis. He was from a princely family and had an inquiring mind about faith and religion; he went on to be one of India's most senior diplomats. At this stage of his career, Pant was India's political officer covering Sikkim and Bhutan, two small largely Buddhist kingdoms which lay on the hugely sensitive border with China, and also in charge of the four Indian missions in Tibet. Freda was keen to act on her friend's suggestion:

[Apa Pant] sent me on horseback -- there was no road at that point up to the monastery. And I remember the journey through the forest and it was most beautiful. As we neared the monastery, His Holiness sent people and a picnic basket full of Tibetan tea and cakes and things to refresh us. It's about twenty miles, the path up to the monastery. And when I went to see him, there he was with a great smile on the top floor of a small country monastery surrounded by birds, he just loves birds. ... There he was with his birds, sitting in his room, not on a great throne but on a carpet with a cushion on it. And just at that time, the Burmese changeover took place and the gates of Burma were shut. And I was feeling a great sense of loss that I can't see my Burmese gurus and so I asked the question that was in my mind that I was saving up to ask my guru when I met him. I asked it of His Holiness. And he gave me just the perfect answer...

At the Misamari camp, Freda got to know two tulkus, reincarnations of venerated spiritual leaders, to whom she became particularly attached: Trungpa Rinpoche had led across the Himalayas the large contingent of Tibetans of which Lama Yeshe was part; Akong Rinpoche was his spiritual colleague and close friend, and Lama Yeshe's brother. Both were part of the Kagyu order. Trungpa, Akong and the small band of refugees who managed to complete their journey reached Misamari at the end of January 1960. Freda was the first Westerner that Trungpa had got to know. They had no common language but they established a firm bond. Freda recognised in Trungpa an exceptional spiritual presence and authority and a willingness to adapt to his new circumstances. Trungpa saw in Freda a woman of integrity and influence who could help him make that journey. 'She extended herself to me as a sort of destined mother and saviour,' he said. Within a short time, Freda was helping Trungpa to learn basic English, the first Tibetan she taught, and he was acting as Freda's informal assistant at the camp, a role which helped to spare him from the prospect of being enlisted in a road building gang. Trungpa and his colleagues were transferred to Buxa camp. Not long after, Trungpa managed to get out of Buxa -- the inmates were not free to come and go as they pleased -- to visit the 16th Karmapa Lama at Rumtek. The Karmapa invited Trungpa to stay and join him in rebuilding both the monastery and establishing the Kagyu tradition in new territory; Trungpa declined and moved on, an unorthodox and almost rebellious act in the deeply hierarchical and deferential culture of Tibetan Buddhism.

Shortly after Freda returned to Delhi and her job editing Social Welfare, Trungpa and Akong turned up at the door of her flat. Trungpa had travelled on from Rumtek to Kalimpong, and sent a message back to Akong in Buxa camp suggesting that they head to Delhi. Trungpa and Akong spoke no Hindi and had nothing to guide them to Freda's home beyond an address written on a slip of paper. They turned up, it seems, unannounced, confident that Mummy-La, the name by which Freda was known to the younger lamas and tulkus, would not turn them away. She didn't.
'This winter finds us in our modern flat in New Delhi to which we have had to attach an overflow summer hut,' Freda told Olive Chandler. 'Two young Lamas (age 20) Tulku Major and Tulku Minor share our home this winter, and spend the time getting adjusted to modern life and learning English. It is a joy to have them with us. We are sure they will get ahead quicker with conversation as soon as the children take them in hand.'

Two young men joining the household put quite a strain on the already cramped government accommodation, and the temporary shelter on the veranda which housed Akong and Trungpa would have been pretty miserable during the monsoon rains and through the chilly, if brief, Delhi winter. They stayed at the Moti Bagh flat for the best part of a year. Kabir Bedi recalls an initial feeling of 'great resentment' at this intrusion on the family home. Some of the induction they received into the 'modern world' was not quite what Freda had in mind. Ranga remembers his father giving the two Tibetans both money and men's shorts, so they could buy treats from the market wearing something less conspicuous than their robes. Trungpa and Akong also acted as a beacon for others -- Akong's younger brother, then known as Jamdrak, moved to Delhi to join them. 'Freda's humble home .. .' her friend Tara Ali Baig recalled, 'was soon full to overflowing with young incarnate Lamas. Whatever simple Indian food there was, was shared ... Regardless of their present plight, these cheerfully robed young people warmed to the affection Freda lavished on them.'...

Nehru had taken a diplomatic risk by hosting the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of those who followed in his wake. But there was a limit to the amount of official support and funding that could be expected for the refugees' welfare, with the most urgent and unmet need being the upkeep and education of the young lamas.

Freda was entirely comfortable soliciting money and support from the rich and well connected. She had also established links with Buddhist and similar groups in London and elsewhere. Within weeks of returning to Delhi from the camps, she sought to turn her extensive network to the Tibetans' advantage. In mid-August 1960, she wrote a long letter to Muriel Lewis, a California-based Theosophist with whom she had corresponded for several years. Muriel ran the Mothers' Research Group principally for American and Western Theosophists, a network which had an interest both in eastern religions and in parenting issues.

I should like to feel that the 'Mothers' Group' was in touch with all I do (Freda wrote). Do you think it would be possible for some of your members to 'Adopt' in a small way -- write to, send parcels to -- these junior lamas? Friendships, even by post, could mean a great deal. We could work out a little scheme, if you are interested. The language barrier is there, but we can overcome it, with the help of friends.

Freda's family had, she recounted, already taken a young lama under their wing.

Last year my son [Kabir] 'adopted' one small lama of 12, sent him a parcel of woollen (yellow)clothes, sweets and picture books, soap and cotton cloth. This time when I went to Buxa, Jayong gave me such an excited and dazzling smile. He was brimming over with joy at seeing me again! It is very quiet away from your own country and relations for a small lama with a LOT TO LEARN. It was of course most touching to see the 'Mother-Love' in the faces of the tutor-lamas and servant lamas who look after the young ones. They are very tender with them.

Freda's letter was included in Muriel's research group newsletter and subsequently reprinted by the Buddhist Society in London. This was the founding act of the Tibetan Friendship Group, which quickly established a presence in eight western countries and was the conduit by which modest private funds were raised for the refugees. It outlasted Freda and while the group's purpose was not political, it helped give prominence to the Tibet issue as well as the well-being of the Tibetan diaspora.

At the close of the year, Freda sought to enlist her personal friends in this enterprise. 'Do you think you would like to "adopt" a young Tibetan in a small way ... ' she appealed. Which would you choose -- and of what age? The English learning groups include not only junior lamas, young monks and young soldiers (almost all without families) but schoolboys and schoolgirls, some with no father, some with both parents far away on the roads, almost all very keen to make friends and contacts.' Misamari was by now closed and its former inmates dispersed. Some Tibetans eventually settled in Karnataka in south India, others congregated close to Dharamsala in what was then the Punjab hills and small Tibetan communities took root in many of India's cities. This dispersal added to the urgency of ensuring that the young lamas were not simply herded with the rest of the refugees, but identified and offered spiritual guidance and -- the point which Freda emphasised -- a wider education to ensure that their Buddhist practice could be nurtured outside Tibet in a manner which would allow the wider world access to the spiritual richness that the lamas both represented and bestowed.

-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

[Dr. Shradha Chandra, PhD, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Administration, University of Lucknow, India. Author of many scholarly publications and research articles in the field of Public Administration with specialization in Social Welfare Administration. Dr. Chandra has been consistently engaged in teaching at Post-graduation level, supervising PhD's and working on various research projects of National importance.]

The Central Social Welfare Board was established in 1953 by a Resolution of Govt. of India to carry out welfare activities for promoting voluntarism, providing technical and financial assistance to the voluntary organisations for the general welfare of family, women and children. This was the first effort on the part of the Govt. of India to set up an organization, which would work on the principle of voluntarism as a non-governmental organization. The objective of setting up Central Social Welfare Board was to work as a link between the government and the people.

Dr. Durgabai Deshmukh was the founder Chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board. Earlier she was in charge of "Social Services" in the Planning Commission and she was instrumental in planning the welfare programmes for the First Five Year Plan. Under the guidance of Dr. Durgabai Deshmukh, various welfare schemes were introduced by the Central Social Welfare Board.

The Central Social Welfare Board obtained its legal status in 1969. It was registered under section 25 of the Indian Companies Act, 1956

The State Social Welfare Boards were set up in 1954 in all States and Union Territories. The objective for setting up of the State Social Welfare Boards was to coordinate welfare and developmental activities undertaken by the various Departments of the State Govts. to promote voluntary social welfare agencies for the extension of welfare services across the country, specifically in uncovered areas. The major schemes being implemented by the Central Social Welfare Board were providing comprehensive services in an integrated manner to the community.

Many projects and schemes have been implemented by the Central Social Welfare Board like Grant in Aid, Welfare Extension Projects, Mahila Mandals, Socio Economic Programme, Dairy Scheme, Condensed Course of Education Programme for adolescent girls and women, Vocational Training Programme, Awareness Generation Programme, National Creche Scheme, Short Stay Home Programme, Integrated Scheme for Women's Empowerment for North Eastern States, Innovative Projects and Family Counselling Centre Programme.

The scheme of Family Counselling Centre was introduced by the CSWB in 1983. The scheme provides counselling, referral and rehabilitative services to women and children who are the victims of atrocities, family maladjustments and social ostracism and crisis intervention and trauma counselling in case of natural/ manmade disasters. Working on the concept of people’s participation, FCCs work in close collaboration with the Local Administration, Police, Courts, Free Legal Aid Cells, Medical and Psychiatric Institutions, Vocational Training Centres and Short Stay Homes.

Over six decades of its incredible journey in the field of welfare, development and empowerment of women and children, CSWB has made remarkable contribution for the weaker and marginalized sections of the society. To meet the changing social pattern, CSWB is introspecting itself and exploring new possibilities so that appropriate plan of action can be formulated. Optimal utilisation of ICT facilities will be taken so that effective and transparent services are made available to the stakeholders.

Organogram of Central Social Welfare Board

Composition of CSWB

General Body of the Central Social Welfare Board

As per Memorandum and Articles of Association, there is provision of General Body and Executive Committee for conducting the business of Central Social Welfare Board. The General Body is headed by the Chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board, it consists of all Chairpersons of the State Social Welfare Boards, five(5) professionals, one each from Law, Medicine, Nutrition, Social Work, Education and Social Development, three (3) eminent social workers, representatives of Govt. of India from Ministry of Women & Child Development, Rural Development, Health & Family Welfare, Finance, NITI Aayog etc. and two (2) members from Lok Sabha and one (1) from Rajya Sabha and Executive Director of Central Social Welfare Board.

Executive Committee of Central Social Welfare Board

The Executive Committee is headed by the Chairperson of the Central Social Welfare Board. Chairpersons of five (5) State Social Welfare Boards including one (1) from the Union Territory, State Board, one representative each from Ministry of Women & Child Development, Rural Development, Finance, Health & Family Welfare, Education and two (2) Professionals from the General Body.

Issue of notification

Notification for the constitution of the Central Social Welfare Board is issued by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Govt. of India.

Functions and Activities  

The Central Social Welfare Board is the key organisation in the field of social welfare in India. Created in 1953 it comprises of a full-time chairperson and members representing state and union territories. Its general body consists of 51 members headed by the chairperson. She is appointed by the government in consultation with the ministry of social welfare from amongst prominent women social workers.

The general body consists of representatives nominated by state governments, social scientists, representatives from the ministries of finance, rural reconstruction, health education and social welfare and one member from Planning Commission. In addition three members of Parliament, social workers, social scientists and social welfare administrators are also included in the general body.

The administration of the affairs of the CSWB is vested in an executive committee nominated by the government from amongst the members of the CSWB. The executive committee comprises of 15 members including the executive director. The Board is administratively organised in a number of divisions and sections.

The chairman is aided by a secretary who is of the rank of the deputy secretary or director in the Government of India. The CSWB has three joint directors, one financial advisor-cum-chief accounts officer, chief administrative officer and a public relations officer. The board assists in the improvement and development of social welfare activities.

Its statutory functions are:

(i) To survey the need and requirements of social welfare organisations.

(ii) To promote the setting up of social welfare institutions in remote areas.

(iii) To promote programmes of training and organize pilot projects in social work.

(iv) To subsidies hostels for working women and the blind.

(v) To give grants-in-aid to voluntary institutions and NGOs providing welfare service to vulnerable sections of society.

(vi) To coordinate assistance extended to welfare agencies by Union and state governments.

The board coordinates between the programmes of the CSWB and other departments and also, between voluntary organisations and the governments. It is funded by the Government of India and the funds for the programmes as well as non-plan expenditure of the board are a part of the budget of the department of social welfare. There has been a significant increase in the total expenditure in the programmes of the board during last few decades.


The nine divisions, two sections and one unit which constitute the organisation. The names of the division are self-explanatory. For instance, project division looks after projects while grants-in-aids division processes and administers the distribution of grants the accounts of which are submitted to the finance and accounts division. Coordination and administration of state boards are handled by sections and Hindi unit is for assistance to all the divisions and their units in the field.

The state social welfare boards have a similar and parallel structure but the regional and state variations exist in northern and southern states. The state social welfare boards have been established purely as advisory boards to advise the CSWB on the institutions requiring assistance and their eligibility to get such assistance, while the grants were sanctioned directly to the organisations by the CSWBs.

Organisation of Central Social Welfare Board

These boards are also responsible to supervise, guide and advise the voluntary organisations in the welfare programmes in their respective areas. The CSWB has a wide network of its activities ranging from anganbaris to family welfare camps.

Some of these welfare activities of the target groups are:

(i) Running of rehabilitation centres and cooperative societies for destitute, widows, orphans and deserted women and children.

(ii) Educating and training women to acquire vocational skills to become employable.

(iii) Organising family welfare camps to promote small family norm through opinion leads.

(iv) Providing hostels for working women of low income groups with adequate security.

(v) Operating urban welfare centres in towns for recreational activities and learning programmes for women and children.

(vi) Supplying nutritional supplementary diet and tonics to malnourished mothers and children below 5 years through balwadis and day care centres.

The CSWB consolidates the work done by voluntary agencies. It funds specific projects and strengthens welfare services for children, women and handicapped. The victims of drug abuse, infirm and retarded children and vulnerable groups of minorities are offered extra protection by the programmes of the ministry which directly as well as indirectly contribute to empowerment of the deprived.
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 11:52 pm

Servants of the People Society
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/23/21

'The Huts' was the Bedis' address for ten years or so until Partition and the upheaval that accompanied it forced them from Lahore. This was not the sort of place of which Freda's mother would have approved -- 'I think my living in huts would have upset her if she had seen it' -- but it was the home where the family was most content. Life in the huts was both happy and beautiful, as Freda remembered it, with a canopy of trees and, beyond, the mustard fields which were a hallmark of the Punjab countryside. 'Under those trees we designed and got built reed huts with plastered mud floors ... and we didn't have to pay rent because we built it in what was known as the green belt. We cultivated vegetables and had a rose garden and sat out under the trees on the string cots of the Punjab. We had the living complex where a dining room and bedroom combined in one big hut; we had a guest hut; and we had a hut for my mother-in-law and Binder.'3 [ 'Berlin to Punjab 1934-39' audio recording made by Freda Bedi c1976, BFA] Over time, there was a retinue of domestic staff -- a gardener, a cook and a secretary: 'In India,' Freda explained to a friend in England, 'there are always too many servants, because they are so cheap + inefficient!'4 [Freda Bedi to Olive Chandler, 1 and 31 March 1940, BFA]

Without electricity, reading, writing and marking papers in the huts was restricted to daylight hours. Reading 'almost stopped in the house at dusk, which could be pretty early in the winter, later in the summer,' Freda said. 'And I used to read in the early morning hours as we got up with the birds, and that again was say 5 a.m. on summer mornings.' There was no room, however, for the Bedis' large collection of books and periodicals which they had assembled with such care and in the spring of 1938, their 'nice personal Library of about a thousand books' was given to the Servants of the People Society, a nationalist-minded social welfare organisation.5 [Tribune, 25 March 1938]

-- Chapter 5: The Huts Beyond Model Town, Excerpt from The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

Servants of the People Society (SOPS) (Lok Sevak Mandal) is a non-profit social service organization founded by Lala Lajpat Rai, a prominent leader in the Indian Independence movement, in 1921 in Lahore. The society is devoted to "enlist and train national missionaries for the service of the motherland".

In 1880, Lajpat Rai joined Government College at Lahore to study Law, where he came in contact with patriots and future freedom fighters, such as Lala Hans Raj and Pandit Guru Dutt. While studying at Lahore he was influenced by the Hindu reformist movement of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, became a member of existing Arya Samaj Lahore (founded 1877) and founder editor of Lahore-based Arya Gazette.[7] [His journal Arya Gazette concentrated mainly on subjects related to the Arya Samaj.]

When studying law, he became a firm believer in the idea that Hinduism, above nationality, was the pivotal point upon which an Indian lifestyle must be based. He believed, Hinduism, led to practices of peace to humanity, and the idea that when nationalist ideas were added to this peaceful belief system, a secular nation could be formed...

Since childhood, he also had a desire to serve his country and therefore took a pledge to free it from foreign rule, in the same year he also founded the Hisar district branch of the Indian National Congress and reformist Arya Samaj with Babu Churamani (lawyer), three Tayal brothers (Chandu Lal Tayal, Hari Lal Tayal and Balmokand Tayal), Dr. Ramji Lal Hooda, Dr. Dhani Ram, Arya Samaj Pandit Murari Lal,[9] Seth Chhaju Ram Jat (founder of Jat School, Hisar) and Dev Raj Sandhir...

In 1914, he quit law practice to dedicate himself to the freedom of India and went to Britain in 1914 and then to the United States in 1917. In October 1917, he founded the Indian Home Rule League of America in New York. He stayed in the United States from 1917 to 1920...

Graduates of the National College, which he founded inside the Bradlaugh Hall at Lahore as an alternative to British institutions, included Bhagat Singh.[10] He was elected President of the Indian National Congress in the Calcutta Special Session of 1920...

While in America he had founded the Indian Home Rule League in New York and a monthly journal Young India and Hindustan Information Services Association. He had petitioned the Foreign affairs committee of Senate of American Parliament giving a vivid picture of maladministration of British Raj in India, the aspirations of the people of India for freedom amongst many other points strongly seeking the moral support of the international community for the attainment of independence of India. The 32-page petition which was prepared overnight was discussed in the U.S. Senate during October 1917.[13] The book also argues for the notion of "color-caste," suggesting sociological similarities between race in the US and caste in India.

-- Lala Lajpat Rai, by Wikipedia

It was shifted to India, following the partition of India in 1947, and functioned from the residence of Lala Achint Ram, a founder member and Lok Sabha, M.P. at 2-Telegraph Lane, New Delhi. In 1960, after the construction of the new building its shifted to Lajpat Bhawan, Lajpat Nagar, in Delhi. Today, it has branches in many parts of India.[1]


With an aim to create missionary social worker freedom fighter, Lala Lajpat Rai, founded the organisation in November 1921. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, and Lalaji who had donated his bungalow in Lahore to the organisation and his library of over 5000 books, remained its founding President till his death in 1928. Its subsequent Presidents were Purushottam Das Tandon, Balwantrai Mehta, and Lal Bahadur Shastri.[2]

"The Society was initially started with the [Bal Gangadhar] Tilak School of Politics in 1921, to train those who would work in the political field. The state of the country during 1921 engendered a war atmosphere in which normal priorities had to be waived. The initiates pledged to serve the Society and were bound only by their word and sense of honor and of duty."

Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj ("self-rule") and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote in Marathi: "Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!". He formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders including Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Muhammad Ali Jinnah...

He stated: "Religion and practical life are not different. The real spirit is to make the country your family instead of working only for your own. The step beyond is to serve humanity and the next step is to serve God."..

Tilak was considered a radical Nationalist but a Social conservative...

During late 1896, a bubonic plague spread from Bombay to Pune, and by January 1897, it reached epidemic proportions. British troops were brought in to deal with the emergency and harsh measures were employed including forced entry into private houses, the examination of occupants, evacuation to hospitals and segregation camps, removing and destroying personal possessions, and preventing patients from entering or leaving the city. By the end of May, the epidemic was under control. They were widely regarded as acts of tyranny and oppression. Tilak took up this issue by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari (Kesari was written in Marathi, and "Maratha" was written in English), quoting the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to say that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. Following this, on 22 June 1897, Commissioner Rand and another British officer, Lt. Ayerst were shot and killed by the Chapekar brothers and their other associates. According to Barbara and Thomas R. Metcalf, Tilak "almost surely concealed the identities of the perpetrators". Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. When he emerged from prison in present-day Mumbai, he was revered as a martyr and a national hero...

On 30 April 1908, two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafarpur, to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford of Calcutta fame, but erroneously killed two women traveling in it. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was hanged. Tilak, in his paper Kesari, defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or self-rule. The Government swiftly charged him with sedition. At the conclusion of the trial, a special jury convicted him by 7:2 majority...

In passing sentence, the judge indulged in some scathing strictures against Tilak's conduct. He threw off the judicial restraint which, to some extent, was observable in his charge to the jury. He condemned the articles as "seething with sedition", as preaching violence, speaking of murders with approval. "You hail the advent of the bomb in India as if something had come to India for its good. I say, such journalism is a curse to the country". Tilak was sent to Mandalay from 1908 to 1914...While in the prison he wrote the Gita Rahasya...

According to him, the real message behind the Bhagavad Gita is Nishkam Karmayoga (selfless action), rather than Karma Sanyasa (renouncing of actions), which had become the popular message of Gita after Adi Shankara... He finds the message of the subservience of all yogas to Karmayoga or the yoga of action rather than the yoga of sole knowledge (jnanayoga) or of devotion (bhaktiyoga)...

Tilak tried to convince Mohandas Gandhi to leave the idea of Total non-violence ("Total Ahimsa") and try to get self-rule ("Swarajya") by all means...

Tilak helped found the All India Home Rule League [Indian Home Rule Movement] in 1916–18, with G. S. Khaparde and Annie Besant... Tilak was impressed by the Russian Revolution, and expressed his admiration for Vladimir Lenin...

Tilak sought to unite the Indian population for mass political action throughout his life. For this to happen, he believed there needed to be a comprehensive justification for anti-British pro-Hindu activism. For this end, he sought justification in the supposed original principles of the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita. He named this call to activism karma-yoga or the yoga of action.[37] In his interpretation, the Bhagavad Gita reveals this principle in the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna when Krishna exhorts Arjuna to fight his enemies (which in this case included many members of his family) because it is his duty. In Tilaks opinion, the Bhagavad Gita provided a strong justification of activism. However, this conflicted with the mainstream exegesis of the text at the time which was predominated by renunciate views and the idea of acts purely for God. This was represented by the two mainstream views at the time by Ramanuja and Adi Shankara. To find support for this philosophy, Tilak wrote his own interpretations of the relevant passages of the Gita and backed his views using Jnanadeva's commentary on the Gita, Ramanuja's critical commentary and his own translation of the Gita.[38] His main battle was against the renunciate views of the time which conflicted with worldly activism. To fight this, he went to extents to reinterpret words such as karma, dharma, yoga as well as the concept of renunciation itself. Because he found his rationalization on Hindu religious symbols and lines...

Tilak was strongly opposed to liberal trends emerging in Pune such as women's rights and social reforms against untouchability...Tilak was also opposed to intercaste marriage, particularly the match where an upper caste woman married a lower caste man...Tilak officially opposed the age of consent bill which raised the age of marriage from ten to twelve for girls, however he was willing to sign a circular that increased age of marriage for girls to sixteen and twenty for boys...he arranged his daughter's marriage at the age of fifteen. He also advocated widow marriages...

Child bride Rukhmabai was married at the age of eleven but refused to go and live with her husband. The husband sued for restitution of conjugal rights, initially lost but appealed the decision. On 4 March 1887, Justice Farran, using interpretations of Hindu laws, ordered Rukhmabai to "go live with her husband or face six months of imprisonment". Tilak approved of this decision of the court and said that the court was following Hindu Dharmaśāstras...

In 1890, when an eleven-year-old Phulamani Bai died while having sexual intercourse with her much older husband, the Parsi social reformer Behramji Malabari supported the Age of Consent Act, 1891 to raise the age of a girl's eligibility for marriage. Tilak opposed the Bill and said that the Parsis as well as the English had no jurisdiction over the (Hindu) religious matters. He blamed the girl for having "defective female organs" and questioned how the husband could be "persecuted diabolically for doing a harmless act". He called the girl one of those "dangerous freaks of nature".[41] Tilak did not have a progressive view when it came to gender relations. He did not believe that Hindu women should get a modern education. Rather, he had a more conservative view, believing that women were meant to be homemakers who had to subordinate themselves to the needs of their husbands and children.[9] Tilak refused to sign a petition for the abolition of untouchability in 1918...

Tilak and Swami Vivekananda had great mutual respect and esteem for each was agreed between Vivekananda and Tilak that Tilak would work towards nationalism in the "political" arena, while Vivekananda would work for nationalism in the "religious" arena...

In 1894, Tilak transformed the household worshipping of Ganesha into a grand public event (Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav). The celebrations consisted of several days of processions, music, and food...

The events like the Ganapati festival and Shiv Jayanti were used by Tilak to build a national spirit beyond the circle of the educated elite in opposition to colonial rule. But it also exacerbated Hindu-Muslim differences. The festival organizers would urge Hindus to protect cows and boycott the Muharram celebrations organized by Shi'a Muslims, in which Hindus had formerly often participated. Thus, although the celebrations were meant to be a way to oppose colonial rule, they also contributed to religious tensions...

In 1903, Tilak wrote the book "The Arctic Home in the Vedas". In it, he argued that the Vedas could only have been composed in the Arctics, and the Aryan bards brought them south after the onset of the last ice age. He proposed a new way to determine the exact time of the Vedas.

-- Bal Gangadhar Tilak [Keshav Gangadhar Tilak], by Wikipedia

The organization's programs today include providing a forum for farmers to sell their produce in cities, providing artisans from rural areas with a place to sell their services and products in cities. The non-profit is also involved in education and family health campaigns.

Lal Bahadur Shastri, second prime minister of India, was a lifelong member of the society[3]


1. "Head Office". Servants of the People Society. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
2. Grover, Verinder (1993). Political Thinkers of Modern India: Lala Lajpat Rai. Deep & Deep Publications. pp. 547–. ISBN 978-81-7100-426-3.
3. Shastri's biography by

External links

• Official website
• Official Site for the Society
• Tribune India newspaper's write up about the society
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Re: Freda Bedi Cont'd (#3)

Postby admin » Sat Apr 24, 2021 1:04 am

Part 1 of 3

Adi Shankara
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 4/23/21

A biography of Sri Sankara on modern lines is an impossible for want of exact data from contemporary writings. We have therefore to depend on the type of Sanskrit works called Sankaravijayas, the traditional lives of the Acharya, to know whatever is now possible to gather about this saintly philosopher…As these Vijayas have a mythological bias, they have their obvious defect in respect of chronology and recording of facts and events…

We are presenting this translation not because we consider it a proper biography in the modern sense, but because there is nothing better to offer on the life and achievements of Sri Sankara. Sri Sankaracharya is undoubtedly the most widely known of India’s saintly philosophers, both within the country and outside, and there is a constant enquiry for an account of his life.

The trouble does not actually lie with these scholars or the accounts they have given of Sankara’s life. It lies in the fact that there is absolute dearth of reliable materials to produce a biography of the modern type on Sankara, and the scholarly writer, if he is to produce a book of some respectable size, has no other alternative but to fill it with discussions of the various versions of the dates and of the incidents of Sankara’s life that have come down to us through that series of literature known as Sankaravijayas, which vary very widely from one another in regard to most of these details….

In a situation like this, a modern writer on Sankara’s life can consider himself to have discharged his duty well if he produces a volume of respectable size filled with condemnation of the old Sankara-vijayas — which, by the way, have given him the few facts he has got to write upon—for their ‘fancifulness, unreliability, absence of chronological sense’ and a host of other obvious shortcomings, and indulge in learned discussions about the date and the evidence in favour of or against the disputed facts, and finally fill up the gap still left with expositions of Sankara’s philosophy. In contrast to these are the traditional biographical writings on Sankara called Sankara-vijayas. All of them without an exception mix the natural with the supernatural; bring into the picture the deliberations held by super-human beings in the heavens; bring gods and dead sages into the affairs of men; report miraculous feats and occurrences; and come into conflict with one another in regard to many biographical details…

The trouble comes only when mythological accounts are taken as meticulously factual and men begin to be dogmatic about the versions presented in them. In the mythological literary technique, facts are often inflated with the emotional overtones and with the artistic expressiveness that their impact has elicited from human consciousness, and we have therefore to seek their message in the total effect they produce and not through a cocksure attitude towards the happenings in space and time…

this is only one of the following ten Sankara-vijayas listed on p. 32 of T.S. Narayana Sastri’s The Age of Sankara…Of these, the first two, the Brihat-Sankara-vijaya and Prachma-Sankara-vijaya are supposed to be the products of the contemporaries of Sankara, their authors being the Acharya’s disciples. Nothing can be said of this claim, as the texts are not available anywhere at present.' Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri, the author of The Age of Sankara, claims to have come across what he calls a ‘mutilated copy’ of the second section, called Sankaracharya-satpatha, of Chitsukha’s work mentioned above. There is, however, no means to assess the authenticity of the claim on behalf of this mutilated copy, as it is not available anywhere…

there are only five of them available in printed form, and even most of them can be got only with considerable difficulty….

We are taking up for translation the last of these, namely, Madhava-Vidyaranya’s work, with the full awareness of its limitations, which may be listed as follows: It is not a biography but a biographical and philosophical poem, as the author himself calls it. There are many obviously mythological elements in it, like reports of conferences held in heavens, appearance of Devas and dead sages among men, traffic between men and gods, thundering miracles, and chronological absurdities which Prof. S. S. Suryanarayana condemns as ‘indiscriminate bringing together of writers of very different centuries among those whom Sankara met and defeated.’ But these unhistorical features it shares with all other available Sankara-vijayas, including that of Anantanandagiri….Ever since it was first printed in Ganapat Krishnaji Press in Bombay in the year 1863, it has continued to be a popular work on Sankara and it is still the only work on the basis of which ordinary people have managed to get some idea of the great Acharya, in spite of the severe uncharitable criticism1 [The motives behind the criticism of Madhviya-sankara-vijaya and the scurrilous nature of the criticism will be evident from the following extract from page 158 of The Age of Sankara by T. S. Narayana Sastri (1916): “We know from very reliable sources that this Madhaviya-Sankara-vijaya was compiled by a well-known Sanskrit scholar who passed away from this world just about eight years ago, under the pseudonym of ‘Madhava’— a 'synonym' for ‘Narayana’—specially to extol the greatness of the Sringeri Math, whose authority had been seriously questioned by the Kumbhakonam Math, the Acharyas of the latter Math claiming exclusive privilege of being entitled to the title of the 'Jagadgurus' for the whole of India as being the direct successors of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada's own Math established by him at Kanchi, the greatness of which had been unnecessarily extolled by Rajachudamani Dikshita, Vallisahaya Kavi and Venkatarama Sarman in their respective works, Sankarabhyudaya, Achraya-dig-vijaya and Sankara-bhagavatpadacharitra. About fifty years ago, in the very city of Madras, as many may still remember, a fierce controversy raged between the adherents of the Kumbhakonam Math on the one hand, and those of the Sringeri Math headed by Bangalore Siddhanti Subrahmanya Sastri and two brothers —Kumbhakonam Srinivasa Sastri and Kumbhakonam Narayana Sastri—sons of Ramaswami Sastri, a protege of the Sringeri Math, on the other. We have very strong reasons to believe that this Sankara-dig-vijaya ascribed to Madhava, the Sankara-vijaya-vilasa ascribed to Chidvilasa, and the Sankara-vijaya-sara ascribed to Sadananda, had all been brought into existence by one or other of these three scholars, about this period, in answer to the Sankara-vijayas ascribed to Rajachudamani Dikshita and Vallisahaya Kavi.” Not satisfied with the above indictment, Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri gives the following bazaar gossip as proof of his contention on page 247 of his book, “The reader is also referred to an article in Telugu with the caption Sankara-vijaya-karthavevaru by Veturi Prabhakara Sastri of Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras, published in the Literary Supplement of the Andhra Patrika of Durmathi Margasira (1921-22) where an interesting note about the author of the above mentioned ‘Sankara Vijaya’ (Sanakara-dig-vijaya of Madhava) is given. Here is an English rendering of a portion of that article: ‘I happened to meet at Bapatla, Brahmasri Vemuri Narasimha Sastri, during my recent tour in the Guntur District, in quest of manuscripts. I mentioned casually to him my doubts regarding the authorship of Madhaviya-sankara-vijaya. He revealed to me some startling facts. When he was at Madras some fifteen years ago, he had the acquaintance of the late Bhattasri Narayana Sastri who wrote the Sankara Vijaya published in the name of Madhava i.e., Vidyaranya, and that four others helped him in this production. The importance of the Sringeri Mutt is very much in evidence in this Sankara Vijaya (not correct). Taking a copy of the Vyasachala Grantha, available at Sringeri Mutt, Bhattasri Narayana Sastri made alterations here and there and produced the Sankara-vijaya in question. That he was an expert in such concoctions, is widely known among learned men.”…

The criticism of it is uncharitable because it is mainly born of prejudice, and it has extended beyond finding fault with the text, to the question of its authorship itself. The critics somehow want to disprove that this work is, as traditionally accepted, a writing of the great Madhava-Vidyaranya, the author of the Panchadasi, and a great name in the field of Indian philosophical and theological literature….Besides the support of tradition, the colophon at the end of every chapter of the book mentions its author’s name as Madhava, that being the pre-monastic name of Vidyaranya….

The identity of Madhava, the author of Sankara-dig-vijaya, with this Madhava-Vidyaranya is further established by the first verse of the text, wherein he pays obeisance to his teacher Vidyatirtha…The identity is further established by the poet Madhava’s reference to his life in the royal court in the following touching introductory verses of his work: “By indulging in insincere praise of the goodness and magnanimity of kings, which are really non-existent like the son of a barren woman or the horns of a hare, my poesy has become extremely impure. Now I shall render it pure and fragrant by applying to it the cool and fragrant sandal paste fallen from the body of the danseuse [a female ballet dancer] of the Acharya’s holy fame and greatness, as she performs her dance on the great stage of the world.”

Besides, the text is a masterpiece of literature and philosophy, which none but a great mind could have produced. But there are detractors of this great text who try to minimise its obvious literary worth by imputing plagiarism and literary piracy to its author. They claim that they have been able to show several verses that have entered into it from certain other Sankara-vijayas like Prachina-Sankara-vijaya and Vyasachala’s Sankara-vijaya. Though Prachina-Sankara-vijaya is nowhere available, T. S. Narayana Sastri claims to have in his possession some mutilated sections of it; but such unverifiable and exclusive claims on behalf of mutilated texts cannot be entertained by a critical and impartial student of these texts, since considerations other than the scholarly have entered into these criticisms, and manuscripts, too, have been heavily tampered with by Sanskrit Pandits. It can as well be that the other Vijayas have taken these from the work of Madhava. Next, even if such verses are there, and they are demonstrably present in regard to Vyasachala’s work, the author can never be accused of plagiarism, because he acknowledges at the outset itself, that his work is a collection of all the traditions about Sankaracharya and that in it all the important things contained in an extensive literature can be seen in a nutshell as an elephant’s face in a mirror…

Besides, it is forgotten by these critics that it is a literary technique of Vidyaranya, as seen from his other works also, to quote extensively from recognised authorities without specially mentioning their names, and that this feature of the present work goes only to establish the identity of its authorship with Vidyaranya….

There is also the view that the author need not necessarily be Madhava-Vidyaranya but Madhavacharya, the son of the former’s brother Sayana and the author of Sarvadarsana-Samgraha, a masterly philosophical text. To make this hypothesis even plausible, it has to be established that this Madhava was the disciple of Vidyatirtha, which the author of Sankara-dig-vijaya claims to be in the very first verse of the text…

Most of Vidyaranya’s other works are on high philosophical and theological themes, and if he has used methods and styles in such works differing from that of a historical poem like Sankara-dig-vijaya, it is only what one should expect of a great thinker and writer. That the author of this work has poetic effect very much in view can be inferred from his description of himself as Nava-Kalidasa (a modern Kalidasa) and his work as Navakalidasa-santana (offspring of the modern Kalidasa)…

Chronology and historicity did not receive much attention from even the greatest of Indian writers in those days.

Regarding the biographical details contained in different Sankara-vijayas, there are wide variations, as already pointed out. There is no way now of settling these differences…

Every date in ancient Indian history, except that of the invasion of Alexander (326 B.C.), is controversial, and Sankara’s date is no exception. Max Muller and other orientalists have somehow fixed it as 788 to 820 A.D., and Das Gupta and Radhakrishnan, the well-known writers on the history of Indian Philosophy, have accepted and repeated it in their books. To do so is not in itself wrong, but to do it in such a way as to make the layman believe it to be conclusive is, to say the least, an injustice to him. It is held by the critics of this date that the Sankara of 788-820 A.D. is not the Adi-Sankara (the original Sankara), but Abhinava Sankara (modern Sankara), another famous Sannyasin of later times (788-839), who was born at Chidambaram and was the head of the Sankara Math at Kanchipuram between 801 and 839. He was reputed for his holiness and learning and is said to have gone on tours of controversy (Dig-vijaya) like the original Sankara.

It is found that not only modern scholars, but even the authors of several Sankara-vijayas have superimposed these two personalities mutually and mixed up several details of their lives. The author of the concept of adhyasa himself seems to have become a victim of it! The cause of much of this confusion has been the custom of all the incumbents of the headship of Sankara Maths being called Sankaracharyas. To distinguish the real Sankara, he is therefore referred to as ‘Adi-Sankara' an expression that is quite meaningless. For, Sankaracharya was the name of an individual and not a title, and if the heads of the Maths of that illustrious personage were known only by their individual names like the heads of religious institutions founded by other teachers, probably much of this confusion could have been avoided….

Ullur S. Parameswara Iyer has pointed out in his great work that the sole support for the modern scholars’ view on Sankara’s date as 788 A.D. is the following incomplete verses of unknown authorship: "Nidhi nagebha vahnyabde vibhave sankarodayah; Kalyabde candranetranka vahnyabde pravisad guham; Vaisakhe purnimayam tu sankarah sivatamagat." Here the words of the first verse are the code words for the year 3889 of the Kali era, which is equivalent to 788 A.D. (It is derived as follows: nidhi: 9; naga: 8; ibha: 8; vahni: 3. Since the numbers are to be taken in the reverse order, it gives 3889 of the Kali era as the date of Sankara’s birth, its conversion into Christian era being 788 A.D. Kali era began 3102 years before the Christian era….

Traditional Indian dates are suspect because of the multiplicity of eras, of which about forty-seven have been enumerated by T. S. Narayana Sastri in his book, The Age of Sankara. So unless the era is specifically mentioned, it is difficult to fix a date in any understandable way. Two of these eras are famous—the Kali era, which started in 3102 B.C., and Yudhishthira Saka era which started 37 years after, i.e., in 3065 B.C. The calculation according to the latter era is, however, complicated further by the fact that, according to the Jains and the Buddhists, the latter era started 468 years after the Kali era, that is, in 2634 B.C.

Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri, in his book, The Age of Sankara, argues the case for the traditional date, on the basis of the list of succession kept in Kamakoti Math and Sringeri Math, and what he has been able to gather from ‘mutilated copies’ of Brihat-Sankara-vijaya, Prachtna-Sankara-vijaya and Vyasachallya-Sankara-vijaya. Until authentic copies of these works are available, the information they are supposed to give is not acceptable…

44 B.C., the supposed date of the birth of Sankara according to Sringeri Math, might have been the result of the confusion of eras and calculations based on them. 2625 of the Kali era, the date of his death, must have been taken as referring to Buddhist-Jain era and then converted into Kali era by adding 468 to it, thus arriving at 3093 of Kali era (9 or 10 B.C.) as the date of Sankara’s death….

as stated in T. S. Narayana Sastri’s work, in the Kamakoti list Sankara occupied that Gaddi for three years (from 480 B.C. to 477 B.C.) and was followed by Sureswara for 70 years (477 B.C. to 407 B.C.), the Sringeri list maintains that Sankara occupied that Gaddi for six years (from 18 B.C. to 12 B.C.), and was followed by Sureswara for 785 years (from 12 B.C. to 773 A.D.)… The record of the Sringeri Math says that Sankara was born in the 14th year of the reign of Vikramaditya. Compilers wrongly referred this to the era of Vikramaditya of Ujjain, which was originally called Malava Samvat and later in the eighth century A.D. called the Vikrama Samvat. This took Sankara to the first century B.C. and necessitated the assignment of around 800 years to Sureswaracharya to agree with the later dates. Mr L. Rice points out that the reference is not to the Vikramaditya of Ujjain but to the Chalukya king Vikramaditya who ruled in Badami near Sringeri. Historians opine that Chalukya Vikramaditya ascended the throne during the period 655 to 670 A.D….

Such unbelievable inconsistencies have made modern historians totally reject the evidence provided by the chronological lists of the Maths. So Sri Ullur Parameswara Iyer, himself a pious Brahmana, maintains in his History of Kerala Sahitya (Vol. 1 p. 111) that it is easy to prove that most of these Math lists have been formulated so late as the 16th century A.D.

But a still greater difficulty posed for such an early date as 509 to 476 B.C. for Sankara is the proximity of this to the generally accepted date of the Buddha (567-487 B.C.). Sankara has criticised Buddhism in its developed form with its four branches of philosophy. A few centuries at least should certainly be allowed to elapse for accommodating this undeniable fact. Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri is, however, remarkably ingenious, and his reply to this objection is that the Buddha’s date was certainly much earlier. Vaguely quoting Prof. Wheeler, Weber and Chinese records, he contends that the Buddha must have flourished at any time between the 20th and the 14th century B.C. He challenges the fixing of the date of Buddha on the basis of the dates of Kanishka or of Megasthenes.3a [Kanishka’s date is variously stated as 1st century B.C., 1st century A.D., 2nd century A.D. and 3rd century A.D. The relevancy of his date to the Buddha’s date is that Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese traveller, states that the Buddha lived four hundred years before Kanishka. Some historians try to fix the date of the Buddha on the basis of this information as 5th century B.C. This view is not currently accepted, and the Buddha’s date is settled on other grounds as 567-487 B.C. It is fixed so on the basis of Asoka’s coronation in 269 B.C., four years after his accession. According to the Ceylon Chronicles, 218 years separate this event of Asoka’s coronation from the date of the Buddha’s demise. Thus we get 487 as the date of the Buddha’s demise, and as he is supposed to have lived 80 years, the date of his birth is 567. According to R. Sathianatha Ayyar, the date of 487 B.C. is supported by “the dotted record” of Canton (China); The traditional date according to the Buddhist canonical literature, however, is 623-543 B.C. Megasthenes comes into the picture, because he was the Greek Ambassador of Selukos Nickator at the court of Chandra Gupta Maurya (325 B.C.), who is described by him as Shandracotus. Now Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri, with a view to push back the Buddha’s date, challenges this identification, and opines that this reference could as well be to Chandra Gupta or even to Samudra Gupta of the Gupta dynasty (300-600 A.D.), in which case the Mauryan age (325 to 188 B.C.) will have to be pushed further back into the 7th to 5th century B.C. and the Buddha (567-487 B.C.) too, into the 9th century B.C. at least. But Sri Sastri forgets that these contentions cannot stand, as the date of Megasthenes and of Chandra Gupta Maurya have necessarily to be related to the firm and unquestionable date of Alexander’s invasion of India (326 B.C.) Megasthenes was the ambassador at the Pataliputra court sent by Selukos Nickator (305 B.C.), the Satrap who succeeded to the Indian region of Alexander’s empire, which he had to give up to Chandra Gupta by a treaty. T. S. Narayana Sastri’s attempt to shift the Gupta period of India history, to the time of Alexander’s invasion (326 B.C.) by equating Shandracotus with Samudra Gupta of the Gupta period, is a mere chronological guess-work without any supporting evidence, as against several historical synchronisms which compel the acceptance of the currently recognised chronology. For example, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fahien was in India in the Gupta age, from 399-414 A.D., and his description of India can tally only with that period and not with the Mauryan period. Besides, the Hun invasion of India was in the reign of Skanda Gupta, about 458 A.D., and this event cannot be put on any ground into the B.C.’s when Mauryans flourished, even with an out-stretched poetical imagination. So we have got to maintain that the Shandracotus who visited Alexander’s camp (326 B.C.) and who later received about 326 B.C. Megasthenes as the ambassador of Selukos Nickator, the successor to Alexander’s Indian province, can be none other than Chandra Gupta of the Mauryan dynasty (325 B.C. to 188 B.C.) Further, historical synchronisms, the sheet-anchor of the chronology of Indian history give strong support to the accepted date of Asoka (273-232 B.C.), the greatest of the Mauryan Emperors. His Rock Edict XIII mentions, as stated by Sathianatha Ayyar, the following contemporary personalities: Antiochus Teos of Syria (261-246 B.C.); Ptolemy Philadelphos of Egypt (285-247 B.C.); Antigonos Gonates of Macedonia (278-239 B.C.); Magas of Cyrene (285-258 B.C.), and Alexander of Epirus (272-258 B.C.). They are referred to as alive at the time of that Rock Edict. In the face of such historical synchronisms all attempts to push back the time of the Buddha by several centuries in order to substantiate the theory of 509 B.C. being Sankara’s date, is only chronological jugglery. So the Buddha’s date has to remain more or less as it is fixed today (568-487 B.C.). Sankara came definitely long after the Buddha.] The reference to Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador, who refers to the ruler to whom he was accredited as Shandracotus, need not necessarily be to Chandragupta Maurya but to the king of the Gupta dynasty (300-600 A.D.) with the same name, or even to Samudra Gupta. If this line of argument is accepted, the present dates of Indian history will have to be worked back to about three to four hundred years, which will land us in very great difficulties, as shown in the foot note….

there is another opinion that assigns Sankara to the 1st century B.C. This view is held by Sri N. Ramesam in his book Sri Sankaracharya (1971). His argument is as follows: Sankara is accepted in all Sankara-vijayas as a contemporary of Kumarila. Kumarila must have lived after Kalidasa, the poet, because Kumarila quotes Kalidasa’s famous line; Satam hi sandeha padesu vastusu pramanam antahkaranasya vrittayah. Now Kalidasa’s date has not been firmly fixed (first half of the 5th century A.D. according to some), but it is contended that it cannot be earlier than 150 B.C., as Agni Mitra, one of the heroes in a famous drama of Kalidasa, is ascribed to that date. So also, it cannot be later than the Mandasor Inscription of 450 A.D. So on the basis that Sankara and Kumarila were contemporaries and that Kumarila came after Kalidasa, we have to search for Sankara’s date between 150 B.C. and 450 A.D. Now to narrow down the gap still further, the list of spiritual preceptors that preceded Sankara is taken into consideration. Patanjali, Gaudapada, Govindapada and Sankara— form the accepted line of discipleship. Patanjali, Sri Ramesam contends, lived in the 2nd century B.C., a conclusion which, if accepted finally (?), gives much credence to his theory. Now, not less than a hundred years can be easily taken as the distance in time between Sankara and Patanjali in this line of succession, and thus we derive the time of Sankara as the 1st century B.C., which has the merit of being in agreement with the Kumarila-Sankara contemporaneity and the Kumarila-Kalidasa relationship. The 1st century hypothesis has also got the advantage of tallying with the Sringeri Math’s teacher-disciple list, according to which, as already stated, 12 B.C. is the date of Sankara’s demise. Sri Ramesam finds further confirmation for his theory in the existence of a temple on a Sankaracharya Hill in Kashmir attributed to Jaluka, a son of Asoka who became the ruler of Kashmir after Asoka’s demise, according to Rajaiarangini. Asoka passed away In 180 B.C. and it is very credible that Jaluka could have been in Kashmir when Sankara visited that region, provided Sankara’s life is fixed in the 1st century B.C. Further, Cunningham and General Cole are stated to assign the temple architecturally to the times of Jaluka…

Sri Ramesam also refutes the modern scholars’ view of Sankara’s date being 788-820 A.D. on the ground that this has arisen due to confusion between Adi-Sankara and Abhinava-Sankara (788-840 A.D.)… its credibility depends largely on the theory of 200 B.C. being the time of Patanjali and the acceptance of the Kumarila-Kalidasa relationship. If these are questioned, the whole theory falls. This is the case with most dates in Indian history, where the rule is to fix the date of one person or event on the basis of the date of another person or event, which itself is open to question….

Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier, Professor of Sanskrit (Rtd) in the Kerala University, in his learned Introduction to his translation of Sankara’s Brahma-sutra-bhashya into Malayalam… states that the Buddhist author Kamalasila has pointed out that Sankara has quoted in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (B. S. II. 2-28) the following passage from the Alambanapariksha by Dingnaga, the celebrated Buddhist savant: 'Yadantarjneyarupam tat bahiryadavabhasate’. Dingnaga’s date, which Dr. Warrier links with those of Vasubandhu (450 A.D.) and Bhartrhari, is fixed by him as about 450 A.D. But that is not all. The following verse of Dingnaga’s commentator Dharmakirti is quoted by Sankara in his work Upadesa-sahasri: Abhinnopi hi buddhydtma viparyasitadarsanaih grahyagrahaka-samvitti bhedavaniva laksyate (ch. 18, v. 142). This reference is from Dharmakirti’s Pramana-virtischhaya. Dr. Warrier points out that Dharmakirti is described as a ‘great Buddhist logician’ by the Chinese pilgrim-traveller, It-sing, who was in India in 690 A.D. The implication is that Dharmakirti must have lived in the first half of the 7th century or earlier, and that Sankara came after him. It means that Sankara’s date cannot be pushed back beyond the 5th century A.D., or even beyond the 7th century A.D., if the Upadesasahasri is accepted as a genuine work of Sankara. As in the case of most dates in Indian history, the credibility of the view, too, depends on the acceptance of the dates of Dingnaga and Dharmakirti as 5th century and 7th century respectively, and that Upadesasahasri is really a work of Sankara, as traditionally accepted. Fixing dates on the basis of other dates, which are themselves open to question, can yield only possibilities and not certainties.

Probable dates suggested by other scholars are also the 6th century and the 7th century A.D. Sankara refers in his writings to a king named Pumavarman who, according to Hsuan Tsang, ruled in 590 A.D. It is, therefore, contended that Sankara must have lived about that time or after. Next Telang points out how Sankara speaks of Pataliputra in his Sutra-bhashya (IV. ii. 5) and that this will warrant Sankara having lived about a century before 750 A.D., by which time Pataliputra had been eroded by the river and was non-existent. Such references to names of persons, cities, rivers, etc. in philosophical writings can also be explained as stock examples, as we use Aristotle or Achilles in logic, and need not necessarily have any historical significance. Dr. T. R. Chintamani maintains that Kumarila lived towards the latter half of the 7th century A.D. (itself a Controversial point) and Sankara, being a contemporary of his, must have lived about that time (655-684 A.D.). It is also pointed out by him that Vidyananda, the teacher of Jainasena, who was also the author of Jaina-harivamsa (783 A.D.), quotes a verse4 ["Atmapi sadidam brahma mohat parosyadu sitam; Brahmapi sa tathaivatma sadvitiyatayesate."] from the Brihadaranyaka-vartika of Sureswara, disciple of Sankara. This is impossible to conceive without granting that Sankara and Sureswara lived, about a hundred years earlier to Jainasena who lived about the second half of the 8th century A.D.

Thus vastly varied are the views about Sankara’s date, ranging from 509 B.C. to 788 A.D., i.e., more than a millennium and a half…

Under the circumstances, all these complicated discussions of Sankara’s date culminate only in a learned ignorance. We have to admit that we have no certain knowledge, and it is, therefore, wise not to be dogmatic but keep an open mind….

It is pointed out in the monograph of P. Rama Sastry on The Maths Founded by Sankara that this four-Math theory has been propounded first in Chidvilasa’s Sankara-vijaya which, along with some other Sankara-vijayas, is, according to T. S. Narayana Sastri, a recent production and of little authority. It finds no support in the other Vijayas of its kind and perhaps not even in the more ancient Sankara-vijayas. Of course this view cannot be verified now, as the most ancient of these Sankara-vijayas are not available now….

Nothing more precise than this can be said about the question as to which are the Maths originally founded by Sankaracharya, or even whether he founded any Math at all. Different sectaries having varying traditions can stick to them with justification, provided they do not become too cocksure and dogmatic and deny a similar right to others who differ from them…

it is interesting to read the following statement issued by Sri T. N. Ramachandran, Rtd. Joint Director-General of Archaeology of India…“At Kedamath, on the way to Badrinath, there is a monument associated with the great Adi-Sankaracharya which His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya of Dwaraka Pith visited some time ago and expressed a desire to renovate (the memorial). His Holiness issued instructions to scholars of all parts of our country to ascertain the place of the Samadhi of the great Adi- Sankaracharya. On this Sri Sampurnanand, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and myself bestowed some thought.

“After having arrived at some conclusion on the point by mutual correspondence, we are of the opinion, that Kedamath cannot be said to be the Samadhisthan (the final resting place) of the great Acharya….

‘‘The Memorial at Kedamath should at any rate be kept intact, and it is the duty of all who profess any interest in the hoary Religion and Philosophy of our land to join hands in the sacred endeavour of renovating the Adi-Sankara Memorial at Kedarnath, as chalked out by Sri Sampurnanand, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, in his letter addressed to me…‘Dear Sri Ramachandra, Recently I had occasion to discuss the matter with the Sankaracharya of Dwaraka Pith also. In the first place the word ‘Samadhi’ is a misnomer in this connection. There is nothing to prove that Sri Sankaracharya died at this spot. All that tradition says is that he came to Kedarnath and, in modern phraseology, disappeared thereafter. So, what is "called Samadhi' is really not a Samadhi but a Memorial. I myself do not treat it as Samadhi and such proposals as I am considering are based on this information. What I propose is that instead of the wretched structure that passes as a Samadhi, a new Memorial should be built in memory of the great Acharya. It should not occupy the place of the present construction which is in danger of being overwhelmed by an avalanche any day. It should be built at a safer place somewhere near the temple. I am getting a design prepared by our State Architect. The Sankaracharya of Dwaraka Pith has given me his support in the matter’....”

This theory of Sankara having attained Siddhi (final end) at Kanchi is supported, according to T. S. Narayana Sastri in his book, The Age of Sankara, by the following texts: Brihat Sankara- vijaya, Vyasachala’s Sankara-vijaya and Anantanandagiri’s Sankara-vijaya, besides the Punyasloka Manjari, Jagat-guru-ratnamala and Jagat-guru-katha samgraha. On this it has to be remarked that from among the above-mentioned Sankara-vijayas one has only Anantanandagiri’s and Vyasachala’s works available for reference and corroboration. Sri T. S. Narayana Sastri, however, claims to possess some extracts of mutilated sections of the first of the texts mentioned, which is considered by some as the most ancient and authoritative text. But no one can be sure of, much less accept, the claims of these mutilated manuscripts….

The attainment of Siddhi at Kanchi is further corroborated by Sivarahasya, a voluminous text of the Siva cult dealing with all the devotees of Siva, which is also quoted in the Madras University edition of Anantanandagiri. It has, however, to be remarked that, as pointed out by T. S. Narayana Sastri (pp. 287 of his work The Age of Sankara), there are conflicting readings on this point in different manuscripts of the text of Sivarahasya. In one it is: misran tato lokam avapa saivam. In another it is: misran sa kancyam. In still another it is: Kancyam Sive! tava pure sa ca siddhim apa. Evidently texts have been manipulated by interested Pandits, creating a very confusing and suspicious situation….

In the edition of it, recently published by the University of Madras under the editorship of Dr. Veezhinathan, the birth of Sankara is thus described…

But the first ever published edition of this work gives an entirely different version….

Now, in Dr. Veezhinathan’s edition, the above text is given as a footnote….he refers to ten manuscripts (A.Mss.) as supporting his version. Probably many of these manuscripts of both groups may be copies only, and from the numbers, their authenticity cannot be ascertained. Besides, several of them are not complete also…The Editors of the 1868 edition, Navadweep Goswami and Jayanarayana Tarkapanchanana, have stated in their Preface that ‘their edition had been prepared in the light of three texts they could get—one in Nagari letters which was procured with great difficulty; another in Telugu characters procured with equal difficulty; and still another in Bengali alphabets made on the basis of the above texts’. There is no reason why this text should not be given at least an equal place of importance as the one edited by Dr. Veezhinathan. According to the text of the Calcutta edition, Anantanandagiri is giving the history, not of ‘Adi-Sankara who was born at Kaladi’, but of a Sankaracharya ‘who was born immaculately to Visishta of Chidambaram’, who continued to live at Chidambaram itself, took Sannyasa there, and who went on Dig-vijaya tours that are entirely different from the routes that Adi-Sankara is supposed to have taken in several of the other Vijayas. This Sankara is very largely concerned with reforming the various cults that prevailed, in the country and very little with philosophy. The controversy with Mandana, which is one of the most glorious episodes in Adi-Sankara’s life, finds a casual mention in the form of a synopsis. In this, as also in entering into Amaruka’s body and in the writing of the Bhashyas, the two Sankaracharyas are mixed up….There is every possibility that this Chidambaram Sankaracharya is the Abhinava-Sankara whom even modern scholars have mistakenly identified with Adi-Sankara and given 788 A.D. as his time. Besides, Anantanandagiri, the author, calls the hero of his work his Parama-guru (his teacher's teacher). This makes the matter all the more confusing. For, no one has recorded that Adi-Sankara or his disciples had a disciple called Anantanandagiri. Anandagiri (quite different from Anantanandagiri) was Sankara’s disciple, and the Prachina-Sankara-vijaya attributed to him (a book quite different from Anantanandagiri’s) is not available anywhere now….no final view is possible with the existing information. The best that can be said is that it is one of the traditions….

We have shown above the confusion prevailing about the place of Sankara’s demise. The same extends to most events of his life, especially about the places where they happened and about the routes he took in his travels….

the custom of all the Heads of Sankara Maths being called as Sankara-charyas, as if it were a title, and not an individual’s name, was the main cause of much of this confusion of biographical and literary details connected with Sankara. This confusion has got worse confounded by the interference with manuscript copies in the past by the adherents of particular Sankara Maths in order to enhance the prestige and supremacy of the particular institution that patronised them. As a result, we have today only a lot of traditions about Sankaracharya, and he is a foolhardy man, indeed, who dares to swear by any of these traditions as truly historical and the others as fabricated…

Rightly does Dr. Radhakrishna offer the tribute of the Indian mind to the personality of the great Acharya in the following most beautiful and effective words in his book on Indian Philosophy: “The life of Sankara makes a strong impression of contraries. He is a philosopher and a poet, a savant and a saint, a mystic and a religious reformer. Such diverse gifts did he possess that different images present themselves, if we try to recall his personality. One sees him in youth, on fire with intellectual ambition, a stiff and intrepid debator; another regards him as a shrewd political genius (rather a patriot) attempting to impress on the people a sense of unity; for a third, he is a calm philosopher engaged in the single effort to expose the contradictions of life and thought with an unmatched incisiveness; for a fourth, he is the mystic who declares that we are all greater than we know. There have been few minds more universal than his.”

-- Sankara-Dig-vijaya: The Traditional Life of Sri Sankaracharya, by Madhava-Vidyaranya, Translated by Swami Tapasyananda


There are at least fourteen different known biographies of Adi Shankara's life.


Shankara ... states that for proper understanding one must "accept only meanings that are compatible with all characteristics" and "exclude meanings that are incompatible with any".

-- Adi Shankara, by Wikipedia

Adi Shankara
Painting of Adi Shankara, exponent of Advaita Vedanta with his disciples by Raja Ravi Varma
Born: Shankara, c. 700 CE (disputed)[1], Kalady, Kongu Chera dynasty (present-day Kochi, India)
Died: c. 750 CE (disputed)[1], Kedarnath, Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty (present-day Uttarakhand, India)
Religion: Hinduism
Known for: Expounded Advaita Vedanta
Founder of: Dashanami Sampradaya
Philosophy: Advaita Vedanta
Religious career
Guru: Govinda Bhagavatpada
Honors: Jagadguru
Kanchi Kamakoti Pithadhipati
Preceded by: Created
Succeeded by: Suresvaracharya

Adi Shankaracharya (Sanskrit: आदि शङ्कराचार्यः [aːdɪ ɕɐⁿkɐɽɑːcɑːrjə])[note 1] was an Indian philosopher and theologian[2] who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.[3][4][note 2] Although he is credited by some with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism,[6][7][8] his influence on Hindu intellectual thought has been questioned; until Vācaspati Miśra (tenth century CE), his works may have been overshadowed by his older contemporary, Maṇḍana Miśra.[9][10][11] The historical fame and cultural influence of Shankara may have grown centuries later after his death, particularly during the era of Muslim invasions and consequent devastation of India.[12][13][14]

His works in Sanskrit discuss the unity of the Ātman and Nirguna Brahman "brahman without attributes".[15] He wrote copious commentaries on the Vedic canon (Brahma Sutras, Principal Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita) in support of his thesis.[16] His works elaborate on ideas found in the Upanishads. Shankara's publications criticised the ritually-oriented Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism.[17] He also explained the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Ātman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".[18][19][20]

Gobineau blamed the final degeneration of the Indian Aryan on Buddhism, which turned the white race away from its correct path by religiously sanctioning racial mixing. The destructive influence of Buddhism's "rationalism" was long-lasting, dating from the fifth to the fourteenth centuries. By the time Buddhism had taken its toll, foreign elements (the Moslems, Turks, Mongols, Tartars, Afghans, Arabs, Portuguese, English, and French) stepped in to finish the job. Brahmin Aryanism had degenerated completely. The great men had disappeared. Absurd superstition had taken over. Theological idiocies originating in black segments of society wiped out antique philosophy. One could no longer distinguish the Aryan from low-caste Negro and yellow types. Confronted with the superior force of white nations coming from Western Europe, this degenerated race did not stand a chance (Gobineau 1983: 551). Gobineau presented India's racial situation as a tremendous object lesson. Its devotion to religious, social, and political ideals, even after being beaten by pillage, massacre, and misery, elicited his praise. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that its total racial debasement was inevitable and should serve as a warning to all nations (Gobineau 1983: 557)...

In response to the question of what one should revive, Ranade followed the inspiration of a long tradition of indiginous reformers. In particular, he emulated the work of the universally respected Maratha saints. He recognized in their efforts an attempt to modify caste exclusion, endow the shudra with spiritual power, and raise the status of women. Since Ranade viewed the Aryan past as a time of enjoyment in which woman played a necessary part, women's rights became for him emblematic of the good old times. As a consequence, Ranade's reform became intimately bound up with the status of women in Hindu society. Activities of reform included female education, widow remarriage, caste intermarriage, and infant marriage.

Ranade saw the rise of female rights in Aryan India and their subsequent fall as a history much like the rise and fall of institutions among the Roman Aryans. In early Vedic times, women were devoid of rights. Their lot gradually improved as Vedic texts show: there grew a chivalrous regard for women and concern for their freedom and comforts. Aryan women ultimately were allowed to choose their marriage partners. The Vedas speak of women poets, philosophers, and rishis (Ranade 1902: 97). Vedic texts such as the Grhya Sutras recognized female liberty. According to Ranade, the Aryan society articulated in the Vedas celebrated monogamy, intercaste marriage, and non-infant marriages.

This idyllic Aryan past, however, gave way to a philosophy that devalued earthly existence, with women appearing as just one of the many snares of maya. As a consequence, the status of women diminished. Aryan society in general lost its vigor.
Non-Aryan barbarians who had earlier been driven to the hills reemerged. They easily overran the weakened and demoralized Aryans. The victors' morality, decidedly of a lower type, asserted itself. The non-Aryan conquerors circumscribed female liberty and lowered the dignity of women in social and family arrangements (Ranade 1902: 29). The subsequent rise of other non-Aryan tribes to power and Buddhism's "horror of female society" further eroded Aryan cultural values (Ranade 1902: 32) on-Aryan races from central Asia such as the barbarian Scythians and Mongolians then invaded. They too conquered India and drastically altered what remained of its Aryan institutions and usages. All these "lower civilizations" further curtailed women's rights. Islam, however, dealt the final blow: The Moslems had an especially low ideal of family life and respect for the female sex. Women now became a symbol of corruption and vice.

Chamberlain, whose interest in India was whetted by the study of Sanskrit and contact with Schopenhauer's thought, recognized the important philosophical and religious influence of the Vedas and the Upanishads on world civilization. In and of itself, India provided an important model of a civilized society. As a point of comparison, Vedic mythology supplied German philology with evidence that the ancient Teutons (the Aryans) possessed holy books that were finer and nobler than the Old Testament (Chamberlain 1968: 1.32, see also It was merely a question of recognizing the divine understanding of the Aryans and acknowledging Germany's racial and spiritual affinity with them. Chamberlain felt that recognition of this parenty should be achieved without resorting to the "pseudo-Buddhistical sport of half-educated idlers" (Chamberlain 1968: l.liv)...

This racialist argument foregrounds the larger political concern of validating caste distinctions. Rather than evolving toward a civilized mode of existence, non-Aryans are presented as "schemers" trying to live as did the Aryans, coopting their lifestyle by entering schools and colleges, wearing the sacred thread, performing ceremonies, and enjoying equal rights in religion and politics (Vivekananda 3:520). Too many different uncivilized and uncultured races tried to flock to the Aryan fold with their superstitions and hideous forms of worship. While appearing civilized, they clearly were not. These barbarians wreaked havoc by introducing "mysterious rites and ceremonies" to the old faith. They destroyed Aryan vigor and chaste habits. They defiled India with their superstitions (Vivekananda 3:263). Their rank imitation of the Aryan lifestyle initiated a process of decay. The central Aryan core, forced to succumb to the allurements of sensual forms of worship prevalent among these various low races, lost its integrity. In the past, when contact with "outcastes" had threatened to "destroy Aryan civilization," the Aryans had struck out in a natural reaction of self-preservation, as when they destroyed Buddhism (Vivekananda 6:164). But, the successful seduction of the Aryans by sensualists resulted in blind allegiance to usages "repugnant to the spirit of the Sastras" and ultimately destroyed the Aryan race (Vivekananda 6:182). Aryavarta became a deep and vast whirlpool of the most vicious, most horrible, and most abominable customs. It lost all internal strength and became the weakest of the weak (Vivekananda 4:445)....

Buddha was for Chamberlain the antithesis to Christ. He represented the senile decay of a culture which had reached the limits of its possibilities, where everything was directed to thought, where a religious symbolism had gone amok, and where philosophy resulted in the deep silence of the primeval forest (Chamberlain 1968: 1.184-85)...

Rosenberg also blamed Buddhism's passivity and call to alleviate suffering for the deteriorization of Aryan values...

Ambedkar maintained that the objects of brahmin wrath were actually Buddhists who did not revere or employ them as priests (Ambedkar 1990: 7.315). The brahmins retaliated with such tremendous slander that these Buddhists eventually became regarded as Untouchable. The roots of untouchability are, therefore, to be found in brahmins' hatred and contempt for Buddhism as an assault upon their hegemony (Ambedkar 1990: 7.317). Brahmins hated the Buddhists because they made them look bad. Compared with Buddhist moderation, the brahmins' love of beef concealed in the elaborate pomp of the sacrifice (Ambedkar 1990: 7.334) undermined public esteem. Their constant slaughter of animals produced revulsion for Brahmanism (Ambedkar 1990: 7.346). Realizing how low their stock had fallen, the brahmins sought to recover the ground they had lost to Buddhism. They became vegetarian and made the cow sacred. Since the Buddhists remained meat eaters, they were consequently viewed as sacrilegious (7.350). The brahmins were thus able to marginalize Buddhists and gain ascendancy over them. Ultimately, the brahmins destroyed the Buddhists. They then conspired and succeeded in subjugating their descendants.

-- Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate his philosophy through discourses and debates with other thinkers. He established the importance of monastic life as sanctioned in the Upanishads and Brahma Sutra, in a time when the Mīmāṃsā school established strict ritualism and ridiculed monasticism. He is reputed to have founded four mathas ("monasteries"), which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of Advaita Vedanta of which he is known as the greatest revivalist.[21] Adi Shankara is believed to be the organiser of the Dashanami monastic order and unified the Shanmata tradition of worship.



There are at least fourteen different known biographies of Adi Shankara's life.[22] Many of these are called the Śankara Vijaya, while some are called Guruvijaya, Sankarabhyudaya and Shankaracaryacarita. Of these, the Brhat-Sankara-Vijaya by Citsukha [Citsukha lived in the early part of the thirteenth century.] is the oldest hagiography but only available in excerpts, while Sankaradigvijaya by Vidyaranya and Sankaravijaya by Anandagiri are the most cited.[22][23] Other significant biographies are the Mādhavīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of Mādhava, c. 14th century), the Cidvilāsīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of Cidvilāsa, c. between the 15th and 17th centuries), and the Keraļīya Śaṅkara Vijayaṃ (of the Kerala region, extant from c. the 17th century).[24][25] These, as well as other biographical works on Shankara, were written many centuries to a thousand years after Shankara's death,[26] in Sanskrit and non-Sanskrit languages, and the biographies are filled with legends and fiction, often mutually contradictory.[22][27]
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Scholars note that one of the most cited Shankara hagiographies, Anandagiri's, includes stories and legends about historically different people, but all bearing the same name of Sri Shankaracarya or also referred to as Shankara but likely meaning more ancient scholars with names such as Vidya-sankara, Sankara-misra and Sankara-nanda.[23] Some biographies are probably forgeries by those who sought to create a historical basis for their rituals or theories.[23][26]

Adi Shankara died in the thirty third year of his life,[28] and reliable information on his actual life is scanty.[23]

Jesus was approximately 33 years old when he was crucified.

-- The Bible, by


The Sringeri records state that Shankara was born in the 14th year of the reign of "Vikramaditya", but it is unclear as to which king this name refers.[29] Though some researchers identify the name with Chandragupta II (4th century CE), modern scholarship accepts the Vikramaditya as being from the Chalukya dynasty of Badami, most likely Vikramaditya II (733–746 CE),[29]

Several different dates have been proposed for Shankara:[28]

509–477 BCE: This dating, is based on records of the heads of the Shankara's cardinal institutions Maṭhas at Dvaraka Pitha, the Govardhana matha and Badri and the Kanchi Peetham. According to their records, these monasteries were founded in Kali 2593 (509 BCE) by a person named Adi Shankara.[30] The successive heads of the Kanchi and all other major Hindu Advaita tradition monasteries have been called Shankaracharya leading to some confusion, discrepancies and scholarly disputes. The chronology stated in Kanchi matha texts recognizes five major Shankaras: Adi, Kripa, Ujjvala, Muka and Abhinava. According to the Kanchi matha tradition, it is "Abhinava Shankara" that western scholarship recognizes as the Advaita scholar Shankara, while the monastery continues to recognize its 509 BCE chronology.[30][31] The exact dates of birth of Adi Shankaracharya believed by four monasteries are Dwaraka at 491 B.C., Jyotirmath at 485 B.C., Puri at 484 B.C. and Sringeri at 483 B.C.[32] Also, as per astronomical details given in books Shankara Satpatha, Shankara Vijaya, Brihat Shakara Vijaya and Prachina Shankara Vijaya, it is believed that Shankaracharya was born in 509 B.C.[citation needed] The Kashmiri king named Gopaditya built temples of Jyeteshwara and Shankaracharya, thus implying that the Shankaracharya must have visited Kashmir before his birth.[32]
44–12 BCE: the commentator Anandagiri believed he was born at Chidambaram in 44 BCE and died in 12 BCE.[5]
6th century CE: Telang placed him in this century. Sir R.G. Bhandarkar believed he was born in 680 CE.[5]
c. 700 – c. 750 CE: Late 20th-century and early 21st-century scholarship tends to place Shankara's life of 32 years in the first half of the 8th century.[33][34] According to the Indologist and Asian Religions scholar John Koller, there is considerable controversy regarding the dates of Shankara – widely regarded as one of India's greatest thinkers, and "the best recent scholarship argues that he was born in 700 and died in 750 CE".[1]
788–820 CE: This was proposed by early 20th scholars and was customarily accepted by scholars such as Max Müller, Macdonnel, Pathok, Deussen and Radhakrishna.[5][35][36] The date 788–820 is also among those considered acceptable by Swami Tapasyananda, though he raises a number of questions.[37] Though the 788–820 CE dates are widespread in 20th-century publications, recent scholarship has questioned the 788–820 CE dates.[33]
805–897 CE: Venkiteswara not only places Shankara later than most, but also had the opinion that it would not have been possible for him to have achieved all the works apportioned to him, and has him live ninety two years.[5]

The popularly-accepted dating places Shankara to be a scholar from the first half of the 8th century CE.[4][22]


Shankara was born in the southern Indian state of Kerala, according to the oldest biographies, in a village named Kaladi[38][22] sometimes spelled as Kalati or Karati.[39][40] He was born to Nambudiri Brahmin parents.[41][42] His parents were an aged, childless, couple who led a devout life of service to the poor. They named their child Shankara, meaning "giver of prosperity".[43] His father died while Shankara was very young.[22] Shankara's upanayanam, the initiation into student-life, had to be delayed due to the death of his father, and was then performed by his mother.[44]

Shankara's hagiography describe him as someone who was attracted to the life of Sannyasa (hermit) from early childhood. His mother disapproved. A story, found in all hagiographies, describe Shankara at age eight going to a river with his mother, Sivataraka, to bathe, and where he is caught by a crocodile.[45] Shankara called out to his mother to give him permission to become a Sannyasin or else the crocodile will kill him. The mother agrees, Shankara is freed and leaves his home for education. He reaches a Saivite sanctuary along a river in a north-central state of India, and becomes the disciple of a teacher named Govinda Bhagavatpada.[45][46] The stories in various hagiographies diverge in details about the first meeting between Shankara and his Guru, where they met, as well as what happened later.[45] Several texts suggest Shankara schooling with Govindapada happened along the river Narmada in Omkareshwar, a few place it along river Ganges in Kashi (Varanasi) as well as Badari (Badrinath in the Himalayas).[46]

The biographies vary in their description of where he went, who he met and debated and many other details of his life. Most mention Shankara studying the Vedas, Upanishads and Brahmasutra with Govindapada, and Shankara authoring several key works in his youth, while he was studying with his teacher.[47] It is with his teacher Govinda, that Shankara studied Gaudapadiya Karika, as Govinda was himself taught by Gaudapada.[22] Most also mention a meeting with scholars of the Mimamsa school of Hinduism namely Kumarila and Prabhakara, as well as Mandana and various Buddhists, in Shastrarth (an Indian tradition of public philosophical debates attended by large number of people, sometimes with royalty).[46] Thereafter, the biographies about Shankara vary significantly. Different and widely inconsistent accounts of his life include diverse journeys, pilgrimages, public debates, installation of yantras and lingas, as well as the founding of monastic centers in north, east, west and south India.[23][46]

Philosophical tour and disciples

While the details and chronology vary, most biographies mention that Shankara traveled widely within India, Gujarat to Bengal, and participating in public philosophical debates with different orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, as well as heterodox traditions such as Buddhists, Jains, Arhatas, Saugatas, and Carvakas.[48] During his tours, he is credited with starting several Matha (monasteries), however this is uncertain.[48] Ten monastic orders in different parts of India are generally attributed to Shankara's travel-inspired Sannyasin schools, each with Advaita notions, of which four have continued in his tradition: Bharati (Sringeri), Sarasvati (Kanchi), Tirtha and Asramin (Dvaraka).[49] Other monasteries that record Shankara's visit include Giri, Puri, Vana, Aranya, Parvata and Sagara –- all names traceable to Ashrama system in Hinduism and Vedic literature.[49]

Shankara had a number of disciple scholars during his travels, including Padmapadacharya (also called Sanandana, associated with the text Atma-bodha), Sureśvara, Totakacharya, Hastamalakacharya, Citsukha, Prthividhara, Cidvilasayati, Bodhendra, Brahmendra, Sadananda and others, who authored their own literature on Shankara and Advaita Vedanta.[48][50]


Adi Sankara is believed to have died aged 32, at Kedarnath in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, a Hindu pilgrimage site in the Himalayas.[49][51] Texts say that he was last seen by his disciples behind the Kedarnath temple, walking in the Himalayas until he was not traced. Some texts locate his death in alternate locations such as Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) and somewhere in the state of Kerala.[46]


Further information: Adi Shankara bibliography

Adi Shankara's works are the foundation of Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, and his doctrine, states Sengaku Mayeda, "has been the source from which the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived".[51] Over 300 texts are attributed to his name, including commentaries (Bhāṣya), original philosophical expositions (Prakaraṇa grantha) and poetry (Stotra).[51][52] However most of these are not authentic works of Shankara and are likely to be by his admirers or scholars whose name was also Shankaracharya.[53][54] Piantelli has published a complete list of works attributed to Adi Sankara, along with issues of authenticity for most.[55]

Authentic works

Shankara is most known for his systematic reviews and commentaries (Bhasyas) on ancient Indian texts. Shankara's masterpiece of commentary is the Brahmasutrabhasya (literally, commentary on Brahma Sutra), a fundamental text of the Vedanta school of Hinduism.[51]

His commentaries on ten Mukhya (principal) Upanishads are also considered authentic by scholars,[51][53] and these are: Bhasya on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad, the Aitareya Upanishad, the Taittiriya Upanishad, the Kena Upanishad,[56] the Isha Upanishad, the Katha Upanishad, the Mundaka Upanishad, the Prashna Upanishad, and the Mandukya Upanishad.[57][58] Of these, the commentary on Mandukya, is actually a commentary on Madukya-Karikas by Gaudapada.[58]

Other authentic works of Shankara include commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita (part of his Prasthana Trayi Bhasya).[59] His Vivarana (tertiary notes) on the commentary by Vedavyasa on Yogasutras as well as those on Apastamba Dharma-sũtras (Adhyatama-patala-bhasya) are accepted by scholars as authentic works of Shankara.[57][60] Among the Stotra (poetic works), the Daksinamurti Stotra, the Bhajagovinda Stotra, the Sivanandalahari, the Carpata-panjarika, the Visnu-satpadi, the Harimide, the Dasa-shloki, and the Krishna-staka are likely to be authentic.[57][61]

Shankara also authored Upadesasahasri, his most important original philosophical work.[60][62] Of other original Prakaranas (प्रकरण, monographs, treatise), seventy six works are attributed to Shankara. Modern era Indian scholars such as Belvalkar as well as Upadhyaya accept five and thirty nine works respectively as authentic.[63]

Shankara's stotras considered authentic include those dedicated to Krishna (Vaishnavism) and one to Shiva (Shaivism) – often considered two different sects within Hinduism. Scholars suggest that these stotra are not sectarian, but essentially Advaitic and reach for a unified universal view of Vedanta.[61]

Shankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras is the oldest surviving. However, in that commentary, he mentions older commentaries like those of Dravida, Bhartrprapancha and others which are either lost or yet to be found.[64]

Works of doubtful authenticity or not authentic

Commentaries on Nrisimha-Purvatatapaniya and Shveshvatara Upanishads are attributed to Shankara, but their authenticity is highly doubtful.[53][58][65] Similarly, commentaries on several early and later Upanishads attributed to Shankara are rejected by scholars[66] to be his works, and are likely works of later scholars; these include: Kaushitaki Upanishad, Maitri Upanishad, Kaivalya Upanishad, Paramahamsa Upanishad, Sakatayana Upanishad, Mandala Brahmana Upanishad, Maha Narayana Upanishad, Gopalatapaniya Upanishad. However, in Brahmasutra-Bhasya, Shankara cites some of these Upanishads as he develops his arguments, but the historical notes left by his companions and disciples, along with major differences in style and the content of the commentaries on later Upanishad have led scholars to conclude that the commentaries on later Upanishads were not Shankara's work.[58]

The authenticity of Shankara being the author of Vivekacūḍāmaṇi[67] has been questioned,[68][69] though it is "so closely interwoven into the spiritual heritage of Shankara that any analysis of his perspective which fails to consider [this work] would be incomplete."[69][note 3] According to Grimes, "modern scholars tend to reject its authenticity as a work by Shankara," while "traditionalists tend to accept it."[70] Nevertheless, does Grimes argue that "there is still a likelihood that Śaṅkara is the author of the Vivekacūḍāmaṇi," [70] noting that "it differs in certain respects from his other works in that it addresses itself to a different audience and has a different emphasis and purpose."[71]

The Aparokshanubhuti and Atma bodha are also attributed to Shankara, as his original philosophical treatises, but this is doubtful. Paul Hacker has also expressed some reservations that the compendium Sarva-darsana-siddhanta Sangraha was completely authored by Shankara, because of difference in style and thematic inconsistencies in parts.[66] Similarly, Gayatri-bhasya is doubtful to be Shankara's work.[58] Other commentaries that are highly unlikely to be Shankara's work include those on Uttaragita, Siva-gita, Brahma-gita, Lalita-shasranama, Suta-samhita and Sandhya-bhasya. The commentary on the Tantric work Lalita-trisati-bhasya attributed to Shankara is also unauthentic.[58]

Shankara is widely credited with commentaries on other scriptural works, such as the Vishnu sahasranāma and the Sānatsujātiya,[72] but both these are considered apocryphal by scholars who have expressed doubts.[58] Hastamalakiya-bhasya is also widely believed in India to be Shankara's work and it is included in Samata-edition of Shankara's works, but some scholars consider it to be the work of Shankara's student.[58]


Using ideas in ancient Indian texts, Shankara systematized the foundation for Advaita Vedanta in 8th century CE, one of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism founded many centuries earlier by Badarayana.[62] His thematic focus extended beyond metaphysics and soteriology, and he laid a strong emphasis on Pramanas, that is epistemology or "means to gain knowledge, reasoning methods that empower one to gain reliable knowledge". Anantanand Rambachan, for example, summarizes the widely held view on one aspect of Shankara's epistemology before critiquing it as follows,

According to these [widely represented contemporary] studies, Shankara only accorded a provisional validity to the knowledge gained by inquiry into the words of the Śruti (Vedas) and did not see the latter as the unique source (pramana) of Brahmajnana. The affirmations of the Śruti, it is argued, need to be verified and confirmed by the knowledge gained through direct experience (anubhava) and the authority of the Śruti, therefore, is only secondary.

— Anantanand Rambachan[59]

Sengaku Mayeda concurs, adding Shankara maintained the need for objectivity in the process of gaining knowledge (vastutantra), and considered subjective opinions (purushatantra) and injunctions in Śruti (codanatantra) as secondary. Mayeda cites Shankara's explicit statements emphasizing epistemology (pramana-janya) in section 1.18.133 of Upadesasahasri[73] and section 1.1.4 of Brahmasutra-bhasya.[74][75] According to Michael Comans (aka Vasudevacharya), Shankara considered perception and inference as a primary most reliable epistemic means [Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, and various related issues.], and where these means to knowledge help one gain "what is beneficial and to avoid what is harmful", there is no need for or wisdom in referring to the scriptures.[76] In certain matters related to metaphysics and ethics, says Shankara, the testimony and wisdom in scriptures such as the Vedas and the Upanishads become important.[77]

Shankara cautioned against cherrypicking a phrase or verse out of context from Vedic literature, and remarks in the opening chapter of his Brahmasutra-Bhasya that the Anvaya (theme or purport) of any treatise can only be correctly understood if one attends to the Samanvayat Tatparya Linga, that is six characteristics of the text under consideration: (1) the common in Upakrama (introductory statement) and Upasamhara (conclusions); (2) Abhyasa (message repeated); (3) Apurvata (unique proposition or novelty); (4) Phala (fruit or result derived); (5) Arthavada (explained meaning, praised point) and (6) Yukti (verifiable reasoning).[78][79] While this methodology has roots in the theoretical works of Nyaya school of Hinduism, Shankara consolidated and applied it with his unique exegetical method called Anvaya-Vyatireka, which states that for proper understanding one must "accept only meanings that are compatible with all characteristics" and "exclude meanings that are incompatible with any".[80][81]

Hacker and Phillips note that this insight into rules of reasoning and hierarchical emphasis on epistemic steps is "doubtlessly the suggestion" of Shankara in Brahma-sutra, an insight that flowers in the works of his companion and disciple Padmapada.[82] Merrell-Wolff states that Shankara accepts Vedas and Upanishads as a source of knowledge as he develops his philosophical theses, yet he never rests his case on the ancient texts, rather proves each thesis, point by point using pramanas (epistemology), reason and experience.[83][84]

Shankara, in his text Upadesasahasri, discourages ritual worship such as oblations to Deva (God), because that assumes the Self within is different from the Brahman.[85] The "doctrine of difference" is wrong, asserts Shankara, because, "he who knows the Brahman is one and he is another, does not know Brahman".[86][87] However, Shankara also asserts that Self-knowledge is realized when one's mind is purified by an ethical life that observes Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-injury, non-violence to others in body, mind and thoughts) and Niyamas. Rituals and rites such as yajna (a fire ritual), asserts Shankara, can help draw and prepare the mind for the journey to Self-knowledge.[88] He emphasizes the need for ethics such as Akrodha and Yamas during Brahmacharya, stating the lack of ethics as causes that prevent students from attaining knowledge.[88][89]

Shankara has been described as influenced by Shaivism and Shaktism. However, his works and philosophy suggest greater overlap with Vaishnavism, influence of Yoga school of Hinduism, but most distinctly his Advaitin convictions with a monistic view of spirituality.[22][62][90]

Philosophy and practice

Atma Shatkam (The song of the Self):

I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.[note 4]

Without hate, without infatuation, without craving, without greed;
Neither arrogance, nor conceit, never jealous I am;

Neither dharma, nor artha, neither kama, nor moksha am I;
I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

Without sins, without merits, without elation, without sorrow;
Neither mantra, nor rituals, neither pilgrimage, nor Vedas;
Neither the experiencer, nor experienced, nor the experience am I,
I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

Without fear, without death, without discrimination, without caste;
Neither father, nor mother, never born I am;
Neither kith, nor kin, neither teacher, nor student am I;

I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

Without form, without figure, without resemblance am I;
Vitality of all senses, in everything I am;
Neither attached, nor released am I;
I am Consciousness, I am Bliss, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.
—Adi Shankara, Nirvana Shatakam, Hymns 3–6[92]

HYMN XII: A prayer for vengeance on a malicious rival worshipper

1 The spacious Firmament, and Earth and Heaven, the Field's
Queen, and the wonderful Wide-Strider,
Yea, the broad middle air which Vāta guardeth, may these now
burn with heat while I am burning.
2 Listen to this, ye Gods who merit worship. Hymns here are sung
for me by Bharadvāja.
Bound in the noose may he be doomed to trouble whoever mars
this that our mind hath purposed.
3 Hear this my call, O Indra, Soma-drinker, as with a burning
heart I oft invoke thee.
I smite, as 'twere a tree felled with a hatchet, the man who
marreth this my plan and purpose.
4 Together with thrice-eighty Sāma-singers, Angirases, and Vasus,
and Ādityas,
May the felicity of the Fathers guard us. I seize that man with
fire that Gods have kindled.
5 O Heaven and Earth, regard me with your favour, and, all ye
Gods, stand on my side and help me.
Angirases, Fathers worthy of the Soma! woe fall on him who,
caused the hateful outrage!
6 Whoever either scorns us, O ye Maruts, or blames devotion
which we now are paying.
Let his own wicked deeds be fires to burn him. May Heaven
consume the man who hates devotion.
7 Thy sevenfold vital breath, thine eight marrows I rend away
with prayer.
With Agni as thine envoy, go, prepared, to Yama's dwelling
8 In Jātavedas kindled flame I set the place assigned to thee.
Let fire consume thy body, and thy voice go to the general

-- The Hymns of the Atharvaveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith

Knowledge of Brahman

Shankara systematised the works of preceding philosophers.[93] His system marks a turn from realism to idealism.[94][95] His Advaita ("non-dualism") interpretation of the sruti postulates the identity of the Self (Ātman) and the Whole (Brahman[note 5]). According to Shankara, the one unchanging entity (Brahman) alone is real, while changing entities do not have absolute existence. The key source texts for this interpretation, as for all schools of Vedānta, are the Prasthanatrayi–the canonical texts consisting of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras.


Advaita Vedanta is based on śāstra ("scriptures"), yukti ("reason") and anubhava ("experiential knowledge"), and aided by karmas ("spiritual practices").[96] Starting from childhood, when learning has to start, the philosophy has to be a way of life. Shankara's primary objective was to understand and explain how moksha [release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma.] is achievable in this life, what it is means to be liberated, free and a Jivanmukta.[62] His philosophical thesis was that jivanmukti is self-realization, the awareness of Oneness of Self and the Universal Spirit called Brahman.[62]

HYMN XVI: A Rishi's morning prayer
1 Agni at dawn, and Indra we invoke at dawn, and Varuna and
Mitra, and the Asvins twain:
Bhaga at dawn, Pūshan and Brāhmanaspati, Soma at dawn, and
Rudra we invoke at dawn.
2 We all strong Bhaga, conqueror in the morning, the son of
Aditi, the great Disposer,
Whom each who deems himself poor, strong and mighty, a king,
addresses thus, Grant thou my portion!
3 Bhaga, our guide, Bhaga whose gifts are faithful, favour this
hymn and give us wealth, O Bhaga.
Bhaga, augment our store of kine and horses. Bhaga, may we be
rich in men and heroes.
4 So may felicity be ours at present, and when the Sun advances,
and at noontide;
And may we still, O Bounteous One, at sunset be happy in the
Gods' protecting favour.
5 May Bhaga verily be bliss-bestower, and through him, Gods!
may happiness attend us.
As such with all my might I call and call thee: as such be thou
our leader here, O Bhaga.
6 To this our sacrifice may the Dawns incline them, and come to
the pure place like Dadhikrāvan.
As strong steeds draw a chariot may they bring me hitherward
Bhaga who discovers treasure.
7 May the kind Mornings dawn on us for ever with, wealth of
kine, of horses, and of heroes.
Streaming with all abundance, pouring fatness,
Do ye preserve us evermore with blessings!

-- The Hymns of the Atharvaveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith

Shankara considered the purity and steadiness of mind achieved in Yoga as an aid to gaining moksha knowledge, but such yogic state of mind cannot in itself give rise to such knowledge.[97] To Shankara, that knowledge of Brahman springs only from inquiry into the teachings of the Upanishads.[98] The method of yoga, encouraged in Shankara's teachings notes Comans, includes withdrawal of mind from sense objects as in Patanjali's system, but it is not complete thought suppression, instead it is a "meditative exercise of withdrawal from the particular and identification with the universal, leading to contemplation of oneself as the most universal, namely, Consciousness".[99] Describing Shankara's style of yogic practice, Comans writes:

the type of yoga which Sankara presents here is a method of merging, as it were, the particular (visesa) into the general (samanya). For example, diverse sounds are merged in the sense of hearing, which has greater generality insofar as the sense of hearing is the locus of all sounds. The sense of hearing is merged into the mind, whose nature consists of thinking about things, and the mind is in turn merged into the intellect, which Sankara then says is made into 'mere cognition' (vijnanamatra); that is, all particular cognitions resolve into their universal, which is cognition as such, thought without any particular object. And that in turn is merged into its universal, mere Consciousness (prajnafnaghana), upon which everything previously referred to ultimately depends.[99]

Shankara rejected those yoga system variations that suggest complete thought suppression leads to liberation [?!], as well the view that the Shrutis teach liberation as something apart from the knowledge of the oneness of the Self. Knowledge alone and insights relating to true nature of things, taught Shankara, is what liberates. He placed great emphasis on the study of the Upanisads, emphasizing them as necessary and sufficient means to gain Self-liberating knowledge. Sankara also emphasized the need for and the role of Guru (Acharya, teacher) for such knowledge.[99]

Shankara's Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism

Shankara's Vedanta shows similarities with Mahayana Buddhism; opponents have even accused Shankara of being a "crypto-Buddhist," a qualification which is rejected by the Advaita Vedanta tradition, given the differences between these two schools. According to Shankara, a major difference between Advaita and Mahayana Buddhism are their views on Atman and Brahman.[100] According to both Loy and Jayatilleke, more differences can be discerned.[101][102]



According to Shankara, Hinduism believes in the existence of Atman, while Buddhism denies this.[103] Shankara, citing Katha Upanishad, asserted[19] that the Hindu Upanishad starts with stating its objective as

... this is the investigation whether after the death of man the soul exists; some assert the soul exists; the soul does not exist, assert others." At the end, states Shankara, the same Upanishad concludes with the words, "it exists."[104]

Buddhists and Lokāyatas, wrote Shankara, assert that soul does not exist.[18][note 6]

There are also differences in the understanding of what "liberation" means. Nirvana, a term more often used in Buddhism, is the liberating realization and acceptance that there is no Self (anatman). Moksha, a term more common in Hinduism, is liberating realization and acceptance of Self and Universal Soul, the consciousness of one's Oneness with all existence and understanding the whole universe as the Self.[101][105]

Logic versus revelation

Stcherbatsky in 1927 criticized Shankara for demanding the use of logic from Madhyamika Buddhists, while himself resorting to revelation as a source of knowledge.[106][note 7] Sircar in 1933 offered a different perspective and stated, "Sankara recognizes the value of the law of contrariety and self-alienation from the standpoint of idealistic logic; and it has consequently been possible for him to integrate appearance with reality."[107]

Recent scholarship states that Shankara's arguments on revelation are about apta vacana (Sanskrit: आप्तवचन, sayings of the wise, relying on word, testimony of past or present reliable experts).[108][109] It is part of his and Advaita Vedanta's epistemological foundation.[108] Advaita Vedanta school considers such testimony epistemically valid asserting that a human being needs to know numerous facts, and with the limited time and energy available, he can learn only a fraction of those facts and truths directly.[110] Shankara considered the teachings in the Vedas and Upanishads as apta vacana and a valid source of knowledge.[108] He suggests the importance of teacher-disciple relationship on combining logic and revelation to attain moksha in his text Upadeshasahasri.[111] Anantanand Rambachan and others state Shankara methodology did not rely exclusively on Vedic statements, but included a range of logical methods, reasoning methodology and pramanas.[112][113]


Despite Shankara's criticism of certain schools of Mahayana Buddhism, Shankara's philosophy shows strong similarities with the Mahayana Buddhist philosophy which he attacks.[106] According to S.N. Dasgupta,

Shankara and his followers borrowed much of their dialectic form of criticism from the Buddhists. His Brahman was very much like the sunya of Nagarjuna [...] The debts of Shankara to the self-luminosity of the Vijnanavada Buddhism can hardly be overestimated. There seems to be much truth in the accusations against Shankara by Vijnana Bhiksu and others that he was a hidden Buddhist himself. I am led to think that Shankara's philosophy is largely a compound of Vijnanavada and Sunyavada Buddhism with the Upanisad notion of the permanence of self superadded.[114]

According to Mudgal, Shankara's Advaita and the Buddhist Madhyamaka view of ultimate reality are compatible because they are both transcendental, indescribable, non-dual and only arrived at through a via negativa (neti neti). Mudgal concludes therefore that

... the difference between Sunyavada (Mahayana) philosophy of Buddhism and Advaita philosophy of Hinduism may be a matter of emphasis, not of kind.[115]
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Historical and cultural impact

See also: History of Hinduism

Historical context

Further information: History of India and History of Hinduism

Shankara lived in the time of the great "Late classical Hinduism",[116] which lasted from 650 till 1100 CE.[116] This era was one of political instability that followed the Gupta dynasty and King Harsha of the 7th century CE.[117] It was a time of social and cultural change as the ideas of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and various traditions within Hinduism were competing for members.[118][119][120] Buddhism in particular had emerged as a powerful influence in India's spiritual traditions in the first 700 years of the 1st millennium CE.[117][121] Shankara, and his contemporaries, made a significant contribution in understanding Buddhism and the ancient Vedic traditions, then transforming the extant ideas, particularly reforming the Vedanta tradition of Hinduism, making it India's most important tradition for more than a thousand years.[117]

Influence on Hinduism

Shankara has an unparallelled status in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta. He travelled all over India to help restore the study of the Vedas.[122] His teachings and tradition form the basis of Smartism and have influenced Sant Mat lineages.[123]

He introduced the Pañcāyatana form of worship, the simultaneous worship of five deities – Ganesha, Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. Shankara explained that all deities were but different forms of the one Brahman, the invisible Supreme Being.[124]

Benedict Ashley credits Adi Shankara for unifying two seemingly disparate philosophical doctrines in Hinduism, namely Atman and Brahman.[125] Isaeva states Shankara's influence included reforming Hinduism, founding monasteries, edifying disciples, disputing opponents and engaging in philosophic activity that, in the eyes of Indian tradition, help revive "the orthodox idea of the unity of all beings" and Vedanta thought.[126]

Prior to Shankara, views similar to his already existed, but did not occupy a dominant position within the Vedanta.[127] Hajime Nakamura states that the early Vedanta scholars were from the upper classes of society, well-educated in traditional culture. They formed a social elite, "sharply distinguished from the general practitioners and theologians of Hinduism."[128] Their teachings were "transmitted among a small number of selected intellectuals".[128] Works of the early Vedanta schools do not contain references to Vishnu or Shiva.[129] It was only after Shankara that "the theologians of the various sects of Hinduism utilized Vedanta philosophy to a greater or lesser degree to form the basis of their doctrines,"[130] for example the Nath-tradition,[131] whereby "its theoretical influence upon the whole of Indian society became final and definitive."[128]

Critical assessment

Some scholars doubt Shankara's early influence in India.[12] The Buddhist scholar Richard E. King states,

Although it is common to find Western scholars and Hindus arguing that Sankaracarya was the most influential and important figure in the history of Hindu intellectual thought, this does not seem to be justified by the historical evidence.[10]

According to King and Roodurmun, until the 10th century Shankara was overshadowed by his older contemporary Mandana-Misra, the latter considered to be the major representative of Advaita.[10][14] Other scholars state that the historical records for this period are unclear, and little reliable information is known about the various contemporaries and disciples of Shankara.[132] For example, Advaita tradition holds that Mandana-Misra is the same person as Suresvara, a name he adopted after he became a disciple of Shankara after a public debate which Shankara won.[133][134]

Some scholars state that Maṇḍana-Miśra and Sureśvara must have been two different scholars, because their scholarship is quite different.[135][133] Other scholars, on the other hand, state that Mandana-Miśra and Shankara do share views, because both emphasize that Brahman-Atman cannot be directly perceived, rather it is discovered and defined through elimination of division (duality) of any kind.[136][132] The Self-realization (Soul-knowledge), suggest both Mandana Misra and Shankara, can be described cataphatically (positive liberation, freedom through knowledge, jivanmukti moksha) as well as apophatically (removal of ignorance, negation of duality, negation of division between people or souls or spirit-matter).[136] While both share core premises, states Isaeva, they differ in several ways, with Mandana Misra holding Vedic knowledge as an absolute and end in itself, while Shankara holds Vedic knowledge and all religious rites as subsidiary and means to the human longing for "liberation, freedom and moksha".[136]

Several scholars suggest that the historical fame and cultural influence of Shankara grew centuries later, particularly during the era of Muslim invasions and consequent devastation of India.[12][13] Many of Shankara's biographies were created and published in and after 14th century, such as the widely cited Vidyaranya's Śankara-vijaya. Vidyaranya, also known as Madhava, who was the 12th Jagadguru of the Śringeri Śarada Pītham from 1380 to 1386,[137] inspired the re-creation of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire of South India in response to the devastation caused by the Islamic Delhi Sultanate.[13][138] He and his brothers, suggest Paul Hacker and other scholars,[12][13] wrote about Śankara as well as extensive Advaitic commentaries on Vedas and Dharma. Vidyaranya was a minister in Vijayanagara Empire and enjoyed royal support,[138] and his sponsorship and methodical efforts helped establish Shankara as a rallying symbol of values, and helped spread historical and cultural influence of Shankara's Vedanta philosophies. Vidyaranya also helped establish monasteries (mathas) to expand the cultural influence of Shankara.[12] It may be these circumstances, suggest scholars,[139] that grew and credited Shankara for various Hindu festive traditions such as the Kumbh Mela – one of the world's largest periodic religious pilgrimages.[140]


See also: Dashanami Sampradaya

Shankara is regarded as the founder of the Daśanāmi Sampradāya of Hindu monasticism and Ṣaṇmata of Smarta tradition. He unified the theistic sects into a common framework of Shanmata system.[141] Advaita Vedanta is, at least in the west, primarily known as a philosophical system. But it is also a tradition of renunciation. Philosophy and renunciation are closely related:[web 1]

Most of the notable authors in the advaita tradition were members of the sannyasa tradition, and both sides of the tradition share the same values, attitudes and metaphysics.[web 1]

Shankara, himself considered to be an incarnation of Shiva,[web 1] established the Dashanami Sampradaya, organizing a section of the Ekadandi monks under an umbrella grouping of ten names.[web 1] Several other Hindu monastic and Ekadandi traditions remained outside the organisation of the Dasanāmis.[142][143]

Adi Sankara organised the Hindu monks of these ten sects or names under four Maṭhas (Sanskrit: मठ) (monasteries), with the headquarters at Dvārakā in the West, Jagannatha Puri in the East, Sringeri in the South and Badrikashrama in the North.[web 1] Each math was headed by one of his four main disciples, who each continues the Vedanta Sampradaya.

Yet, according to Pandey, these Mathas were not established by Shankara himself, but were originally ashrams established by Vibhāņdaka and his son Ŗșyaśŗnga.[144] Shankara inherited the ashrams at Dvārakā and Sringeri, and shifted the ashram at Śŗngaverapura to Badarikāśrama, and the ashram at Angadeśa to Jagannātha Purī.[145]

The advaita sampradaya is not a Shaiva sect,[web 1][146] despite the historical links with Shaivism:

Advaitins are non-sectarian, and they advocate worship of Shiva and Vishnu equally with that of the other deities of Hinduism, like Sakti, Ganapati and others.[web 1]

Nevertheless, contemporary Sankaracaryas have more influence among Shaiva communities than among Vaisnava communities.[web 1] The greatest influence of the gurus of the advaita tradition has been among followers of the Smartha Tradition, who integrate the domestic Vedic ritual with devotional aspects of Hinduism.[web 1]

The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Shankara, and their details.[web 2]

Shishya (lineage) / Direction / Maṭha [College] / Location / Mahāvākya ["The Great Sayings" of the Upanishads] / Veda / Sampradaya [Tradition]

Padmapāda / East / Puri Govardhanmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ / Puri, Puri District, Odisha / Prajñānam brahma (Consciousness is Brahman) / Rig Veda / Bhogavala
[Note: 0 Reference to "Prajna"; 1 Reference to "Consciousness" in Rig Veda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith: "The Swift Ones favour him who purifieth this: with consciousness they stand upon the height of heaven."]

Sureśvara / South / Sringeri Śārada Pīṭhaṃ / Sringeri, Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka / Aham brahmāsmi (I am Brahman) / Yajur Veda / Bhūrivala
[Note: 0 Reference to "I am Brahman" in The Texts of the White Yajurveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith
4 References to "I am": (1) I am in heaven above; (2) I am what Gods in secret hold the highest; (3) I am the Household priest; (4) I am the triple light, the region's meter.]

[Note: 0 Reference to "I am Brahman" in The Veda of the Black Yajus, translated by Arthur Berriedale Keith
7 References to "I am": (1) As wife with my husband I am united; (2) What time thou didst declare, 'I am Cipivista'?; (3) Favour those in the region where I am; (4) Whose domestic priest I am; (5) 'I am he who smites in the stronghold; (6) 'I am he who brings from the stronghold'; (7) 'I am the friend of all'.]

Hastāmalakācārya / West / Dvāraka Śārada Pīṭhaṃ / Dwarka, Devbhumi Dwarka, Gujrat / Tattvamasi (That thou art) / Sama Veda / Kitavala
[Note: 0 References to "Tatt" or "That thou art" in Hymns of the Samaveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith]

Toṭakācārya / North / Badari Jyotirmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ / Jyotirmath, Chamoli, Uttarakhand / Ayamātmā brahma (This Atman is Brahman) / Atharva Veda / Nandavala
[Note: 0 References to "Ayamatma" or "Atman" in The Hymns of the Artharvaveda, translated by Ralph T.H. Griffith]

Smarta Tradition

Main article: Smarta Tradition

Traditionally, Shankara is regarded as the greatest teacher[147][148] and reformer of the Smarta.[149][148]

According to Alf Hiltebeitel, Shankara established the nondualist interpretation of the Upanishads as the touchstone of a revived smarta tradition:

Practically, Shankara fostered a rapprochement between Advaita and smarta orthodoxy, which by his time had not only continued to defend the varnasramadharma theory as defining the path of karman, but had developed the practice of pancayatanapuja ("five-shrine worship") as a solution to varied and conflicting devotional practices. Thus one could worship any one of five deities (Vishnu, Siva, Durga, Surya, Ganesa) as one's istadevata ("deity of choice").[150]


• Shankaracharya (1927), Indian silent film about Shankara by Kali Prasad Ghosh.[151]
• Jagadguru Shrimad Shankaracharya (1928), Indian silent film by Parshwanath Yeshwant Altekar.[151]
• Jagadguru Shankaracharya (1955), Indian Hindi film by Sheikh Fattelal.[151]
• In 1977 Jagadguru Aadisankaran, a Malayalam film directed by P. Bhaskaran was released in which Murali Mohan plays the role of Adult Aadi Sankaran and Master Raghu plays childhood.
• In 1983 a film directed by G.V. Iyer named Adi Shankaracharya was premiered, the first film ever made entirely in Sanskrit language in which all of Adi Shankaracharya's works were compiled.[152] The movie received the Indian National Film Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Audiography.[153][154]
• On 15 August 2013, Jagadguru Adi Shankara was released in an Indian Telugu-language biographical film written and directed by J. K. Bharavi and was later dubbed in Kannada with the same title, by Upendra giving narration for the Kannada dubbed version

See also

• Hinduism portal
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• Adi Shri Gauḍapādāchārya
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• Shri Govinda Bhagavatpadacharya
• Vairagya
• Vivekachudamani
• Soundarya Lahari
• Shivananda Lahari
• Self-consciousness (Vedanta)
• Govardhan Peetham (East), Puri, Odisha
• Dwarka Kalika Pitha (West), Dwarka, Gujarat
• Jyotirmath Peetham (North), Jyotirmath, Badrikashram, Uttarakhand
• Shri Sringeri Sharada Peetham (South), Sringeri, Karnataka
• Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu


1. He is also known as Adi Shankaracharya, Shankara Bhagavatpada, sometimes spelled as Sankaracharya, (Ādi) Śaṅkarācārya, Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda and Śaṅkara Bhagavatpādācārya.
2. Modern scholarship places Shankara in the earlier part of the 8th century CE (c. 700–750).[4]Earlier generations of scholars proposed 788–820 CE.[4] Other proposals are 686–718 CE,[citation needed] 44 BCE,[5] or as early as 509–477 BCE.
3. See also, Authorship of Vivekachudamani and, Sri Sankara's Vivekachudamani, pp. 3–4, The Question of Authorship of Vivekachudamani
4. Swami Vivekananda translates Shivoham, Shivoham as "I am he, I am he".[91]
5. Brahman is not to be confused with the personalised godhead Brahma.
6. Shankara (?): "(...) Lokayatikas and Bauddhas who assert that the soul does not exist. There are four sects among the followers of Buddha: 1. Madhyamicas who maintain all is void; 2. Yogacharas, who assert except sensation and intelligence all else is void; 3. Sautranticas, who affirm actual existence of external objects no less than of internal sensations; 4. Vaibhashikas, who agree with later (Sautranticas) except that they contend for immediate apprehension of exterior objects through images or forms represented to the intellect."[18]
7. Shcherbatsky: "Shankara accuses them of disregarding all logic and refuses to enter in a controversy with them. The position of Shankara is interesting because, at heart, he is in full agreement with the Madhyamikas, at least in the main lines, since both maintain the reality of the One-without-a-second, and the mirage of the manifold. But Shankara, as an ardent hater of Buddhism, would never confess that. He therefore treats the Madhyamika with great contempt [...] on the charge that the Madhyamika denies the possibility of cognizing the Absolute by logical methods (pramana). Vachaspati Mishra in the Bhamati rightly interprets this point as referring to the opinion of the Madhyamikas that logic is incapable to solve the question about what existence or non-existence really are. This opinion Shankara himself, as is well known, shares. He does not accept the authority of logic as a means of cognizing the Absolute, but he deems it a privilege of the Vedantin to fare without logic, since he has Revelation to fall back upon. From all his opponents, he requires strict logical methods."[106]


1. Koller, John M. (2013). Chad V. Meister & Paul Copan (ed.). The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-415-78294-4.
2. "Shankara | Indian philosopher". Encyclopedia Britannica.
3. Sharma 1962, p. vi.
4. Comans 2000, p. 163.
5. Y. Keshava Menon, The Mind of Adi Shankaracharya 1976 pp. 108
6. Johannes de Kruijf and Ajaya Sahoo (2014), Indian Transnationalism Online: New Perspectives on Diaspora, ISBN 978-1-4724-1913-2, p. 105, Quote: "In other words, according to Adi Shankara's argument, the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta stood over and above all other forms of Hinduism and encapsulated them. This then united Hinduism; (...) Another of Adi Shankara's important undertakings which contributed to the unification of Hinduism was his founding of a number of monastic centers."
7. Shankara, Student's Encyclopedia Britannia – India (2000), Volume 4, Encyclopaedia Britannica Publishing, ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5, p. 379, Quote: "Shankaracharya, philosopher and theologian, most renowned exponent of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy, from whose doctrines the main currents of modern Indian thought are derived.";
David Crystal (2004), The Penguin Encyclopedia, Penguin Books, p. 1353, Quote: "[Shankara] is the most famous exponent of Advaita Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy and the source of the main currents of modern Hindu thought."
8. Christophe Jaffrelot (1998), The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0-231-10335-0, p. 2, Quote: "The main current of Hinduism – if not the only one – which became formalized in a way that approximates to an ecclesiastical structure was that of Shankara".
9. Roodurmum, Pulasth Soobah (2002). Bhāmatī and Vivaraṇa Schools of Advaita Vedānta: A Critical Approach. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 29. ISBN 978-81-208-1890-3.
10. King 2001, p. 128.
11. Tola, Fernando (1989). "ON THE DATE OF MAṆḌANA MIŚRA AND ŚAṄKARA AND THEIR DOCTRINAL RELATION". Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 70 (1/4): 37–46. ISSN 0378-1143.
12. Paul Hacker, Philology and Confrontation: Paul Hacker on Traditional and Modern Vedanta (Editor: Wilhelm Halbfass), State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2582-4, pp. 29–30
13. R. Blake Michael (1992), The Origins of Vīraśaiva Sects, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0776-1, pp. 60–62 with notes 6, 7 and 8
14. Roodurmun 2002, p. 33–34.
15. Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Sringeri Sharada Peetham, India
16. Pattanaik, Devdutt. "How Adi Shankaracharya united a fragmented land with philosophy, poetry and pilgrimage".
17. Shyama Kumar Chattopadhyaya (2000) The Philosophy of Sankar's Advaita Vedanta, Sarup & Sons, New Delhi ISBN 81-7625-222-0, 978-81-7625-222-5
18. Edward Roer (Translator), to Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad. Shankara's Introduction at Google Books
19. Edward Roer (Translator), Shankara's Introduction, p. 3, at Google Books to Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad at p. 3, OCLC 19373677
20. KN Jayatilleke (2010), Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, ISBN 978-81-208-0619-1, p. 246–249, from note 385 onwards;
Steven Collins (1994), Religion and Practical Reason (Editors: Frank Reynolds, David Tracy), State Univ of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2217-5, p. 64; Quote: "Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of Ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence.";
Edward Roer (Translator), Shankara's Introduction at Google Books]
Katie Javanaud (2013), Is The Buddhist 'No-Self' Doctrine Compatible With Pursuing Nirvana?, Philosophy Now;
John C. Plott et al. (2000), Global History of Philosophy: The Axial Age, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0158-5, p. 63, Quote: "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism".
21. The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Yoga, Deepak Chopra, John Wiley & Sons, 2006, ISBN 81-265-0696-2, 978-81-265-0696-5
22. Mayeda 2006, pp. 3–5.
23. Isaeva 1993, pp. 69–82.
24. Vidyasankar, S. "The Sankaravijaya literature". Retrieved 23 August 2006.
25. Tapasyananda, Swami (2002). Sankara-Dig-Vijaya. viii.
26. Pande 2011, p. 35.
27. The hagiographies of Shankara mirror the pattern of synthesizing facts, fiction and legends as with other ancient and medieval era Indian scholars. Some biographic poems depict Shankara as a reincarnation of deity Shiva, much like other Indian scholars are revered as reincarnation of other deities; for example, Mandana-misra is depicted as an embodiment of deity Brahma, Citsukha of deity Varuna, Anandagiri of Agni, among others. See Isaeva (1993, pp. 69–72).
28. Isaeva 1993, pp. 83–87.
29. K.A. Nilakantha Sastry, A History of South India, 4th ed., Oxford University Press, Madras, 1976.
30. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin. p. 376. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
31. T.S. Narayana Sastry (1916, republished 1971), The Age of Sankara
32. "Dating Adi Shankara". Retrieved 20 August 2020.
33. Adi Shankara, Encyclopedia Britannica (2015)
34. N.V. Isaeva (1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. State University of New York Press. pp. 84–87 with footnotes. ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7.
35. The dating of 788–820 is accepted in Keay, p. 194.
36. Madhava-Vidyaranya. Sankara Digvijaya – The traditional life of Sri Sankaracharya, Sri Ramakrishna Math. ISBN 81-7823-342-8. Source: [1] (accessed: 14 Sep 2016), p. 20
37. Tapasyananda, Swami (2002). Shankara-Dig-Vijaya. pp. xv–xxiv.
38. Students' Britannica India. Popular Prakashan. 2000. pp. 379–. ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5.
39. Narasingha Prosad Sil (1997). Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment. Susquehanna University Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-945636-97-7.
40. this may be the present day Kalady in central Kerala.The house he was born is still maintained as Melpazhur Mana
41. Joël André-Michel Dubois (2014). The Hidden Lives of Brahman: Sankara's Vedanta Through His Upanisad Commentaries, in Light of Contemporary Practice. SUNY Press.
42. Roshen Dalal (2010). The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths. Penguin Books India.
43. Adago, John (2018). East Meets West. UK: Program Publishing; 2 edition. ISBN 978-0692124215.
44. Menon, Y. Keshava (1976). The Mind of Adi Shankara. Jaico. p. 109. ISBN 978-8172242145.
45. Isaeva 1993, pp. 74–75.
46. Pande 2011, pp. 31–32, also 6–7, 67–68.
47. Isaeva 1993, pp. 76–77.
48. Pande 2011, pp. 5–36.
49. Isaeva 1993, pp. 82–91.
50. Isaeva 1993, pp. 71–82, 93–94.
51. Mayeda 2006, pp. 6–7.
52. Isaeva 1993, pp. 2–3.
53. Paul Hacker, Philology and Confrontation: Paul Hacker on Traditional and Modern Vedanta (Editor: Wilhelm Halbfass), State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2582-4, pp. 30–31
54. W Halbfass (1983), Studies in Kumarila and Sankara, Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik, Monographic 9, Reinbeck
55. M Piantelly, Sankara e la Renascita del Brahmanesimo, Indian Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Apr. 1977), pp. 429–435
56. Kena Upanishad has two commentaries that are attributed to Shankara – Kenopnishad Vakyabhasya and Kenopnishad Padabhasya; scholars contest whether both are authentic, several suggesting that the Vakyabhasya is unlikely to be authentic; see Pande (2011, p. 107).
57. Isaeva 1993, pp. 93–97.
58. Pande 2011, pp. 105–113.
59. A Rambachan (1991), Accomplishing the Accomplished: Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Sankara, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-1358-1, pp. xii–xiii
60. Wilhelm Halbfass (1990), Tradition and Reflection: Explorations in Indian Thought, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-0362-4, pp. 205–208
61. Pande 2011, pp. 351–352.
62. John Koller (2007), in Chad Meister and Paul Copan (Editors): The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-134-18001-1, pp. 98–106
63. Pande 2011, pp. 113–115.
64. Mishra, Godavarisha. "A Journey through Vedantic History – Advaita in the Pre-Sankara, Sankara and Post-Sankara Periods" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 June 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2006.
65. Vidyasankar, S. "Sankaracarya". Archived from the original on 16 June 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2006.
66. Paul Hacker, Sankaracarya and Sankarabhagavatpada: Preliminary Remarks Concerning the Authorship Problem', in Philology and Confrontation: Paul Hacker on Traditional and Modern Vedanta (Editor: Wilhelm Halbfass), State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2582-4, pp. 41–56
67. Adi Shankaracharya, Vivekacūḍāmaṇi S Madhavananda (Translator), Advaita Ashrama (1921)
68. Grimes 2004.
69. Shah-Kazemi 2006, p. 4.
70. Grimes 2004, p. 23.
71. Grimes 2004, p. 13.
72. Johannes Buitenen (1978). The Mahābhārata (vol. 3). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-84665-1
73. Note: some manuscripts list this verse as 2.18.133, while Mayeda lists it as 1.18.133, because of interchanged chapter numbering; see Upadesa Sahasri: A Thousand Teachings, S Jagadananda (Translator, 1949), ISBN 978-81-7120-059-7, Verse 2.8.133, p. 258;
Karl H Potter (2014), The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 3, Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-61486-1, p. 249
74. Mayeda 2006, pp. 46–47.
75. Brahmasutra-bhasya 1.1.4, S Vireswarananda (Translator), p. 35
76. Comans 2000, p. 168.
77. Comans 2000, pp. 167–169.
78. George Thibaut (Translator), Brahma Sutras: With Commentary of Shankara, Reprinted as ISBN 978-1-60506-634-9, pp. 31–33 verse 1.1.4
79. Mayeda 2006, pp. 46–53.
80. Mayeda & Tanizawa (1991), Studies on Indian Philosophy in Japan, 1963–1987, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 529–535
81. Michael Comans (1996), Śankara and the Prasankhyanavada, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 49–71
82. Stephen Phillips (2000) in Roy W. Perrett (Editor), Epistemology: Indian Philosophy, Volume 1, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-8153-3609-9, pp. 224–228 with notes 8, 13 and 63
83. Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1995), Transformations in Consciousness: The Metaphysics and Epistemology, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-2675-3, pp. 242–260
84. Will Durant (1976), Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0-671-54800-1, Chapter XIX, Section VI
85. Shankara, himself, had renounced all religious ritual acts; see Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Vol. III, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0310-7, p. 16;
For an example of Shankara's reasoning "why rites and ritual actions should be given up", see Karl Potter on p. 220;
Elsewhere, Shankara's Bhasya on various Upanishads repeat "give up rituals and rites", see for example Shankara's Bhasya on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad pp. 348–350, 754–757
86. Sanskrit:Upadesha sahasri
English Translation: S Jagadananda (Translator, 1949), Upadeshasahasri, Vedanta Press, ISBN 978-81-7120-059-7, pp. 16–17; OCLC 218363449
87. Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Vol. III, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0310-7, pp. 219–221
88. Mayeda 2006, pp. 92–93.
89. Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Vol. III, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0310-7, pp. 218–219
90. Isaeva 1993, pp. 3, 29–30.
91. Swami Vivekananda (2015). The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Manonmani Publishers (Reprint). p. 1786.
 Original Sanskrit: Nirvanashtakam Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation (2012);
 English Translation 1: K Parappaḷḷi and CNN Nair (2002), Saankarasaagaram, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 978-81-7276-268-1, pp. 58–59;
 English Translation 2: Igor Kononenko (2010), Teachers of Wisdom, ISBN 978-1-4349-9898-9, p. 148;
 English Translation 3: Nirvana Shatakam Isha Foundation (2011); Includes translation, transliteration and audio.
93. Nakamura 2004, p. 680.
94. Sharma 2000, p. 64.
95. Scheepers 2000, p. 123.
96. "Study the Vedas daily. Perform diligently the duties ("karmas") ordained by them", Sadhana Panchakam of Shankara
97. Anantanand Rambachan, The limits of scripture: Vivekananda's reinterpretation of the Vedas.University of Hawaii Press, 1994, pp. 124–125: [2].
98. Isaeva 1993, pp. 57–58. Quote: "Shankara directly identifies this awakened atman with Brahman and the higher knowledge. And Brahman, reminds the Advaitist, is known only from the Upanishadic sayings".
99. Michael Comans (1993), The question of the importance of Samādhi in modern and classical Advaita Vedānta, Philosophy East & West. Vol. 43, Issue 1, pp. 19–38
100. Isaeva 1993, pp. 60, 145–154.
101. David Loy (1982), Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?, International Philosophical Quarterly, 23(1), pp. 65–74
102. KN Jayatilleke (2010), Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, ISBN 978-81-208-0619-1, pp. 246–249, from note 385 onwards
103. Gerald McDermott and Harold A. Netland (2014), A Trinitarian Theology of Religions: An Evangelical Proposal, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-975182-2, p. 131
104. Sankara Charya, The Twelve Principal Upanishads at Google Books, RJ Tatya, Bombay Theosophical Publication
105. Thomas McFaul (2006), The Future of Peace and Justice in the Global Village: The Role of the World Religions in the Twenty-first Century, Praeger, ISBN 978-0-275-99313-9, p. 39
106. Fyodor Shcherbatsky (1927). The Conception of Buddhist Nirvana. pp. 44–45.
107. Mahendranath Sircar (1933), Reality in Indian Thought, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp. 249–271
108. Arvind Sharma (2008), The Philosophy of Religion and Advaita Vedanta, Penn State Press, ISBN 978-0-271-02832-3, pp. 70–71
109. Aptavacana Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Cologne University, Germany
110. M. Hiriyanna (2000), The Essentials of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-1330-4, pp. 42–44
111. Isaeva 1993, pp. 219–223 with footnote 34.
112. Isaeva 1993, pp. 210–221.
113. Anantanand Rambachan (1991), Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Sankara, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-1358-1, Chapters 2–4
114. S.N. Dasgupta (1997). History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1. p. 494.
115. Mudgal, S.G. (1975), Advaita of Shankara: A Reappraisal, New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, p. 4
116. Michaels 2004, p. 41–43.
117. John Koller (2012), Shankara in Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (Editors: Chad Meister, Paul Copan), Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-78294-4, pp. 99–108
118. Doniger, Wendy. (March 2014). On Hinduism. Oxford. ISBN 9780199360079. OCLC 858660095.
119. TMP Mahadevan (1968), Shankaracharya, National Book Trust, pp. 283–285, OCLC 254278306
120. Frank Whaling (1979), Śankara and Buddhism, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 1–42
121. Karl Potter (1998), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Advaita Vedānta up to Śaṃkara and his pupils, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0310-7, p. 1–21, 103–119
122. Per Durst-Andersen and Elsebeth F. Lange (2010), Mentality and Thought: North, South, East and West, CBS Press, ISBN 978-87-630-0231-8, p. 68
123. Ron Geaves (March 2002). From Totapuri to Maharaji: Reflections on a Lineage (Parampara). 27th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, Oxford.
124. Klaus Klostermaier (2007), A Survey of Hinduism, Third Edition, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-7082-4, p. 40
125. Benedict Ashley, O.P. (2006). The Way toward Wisdom. p. 395. ISBN 978-0-268-02028-6. OCLC 609421317.
126. N.V. Isaeva (1992). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. State University of New York Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7. OCLC 24953669.
127. Nakamura 2004, p. 690.
128. Nakamura 2004, p. 693.
129. Nakamura 2004, p. 692.
130. Nakamura 2004, p. 691.
131. Feuerstein 1978.
132. Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Advaita Vedānta up to Śaṃkara and his pupils, Vol 3, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-81-208-0310-7, pp. 346–347, 420–423, Quote: "There is little firm historical information about Suresvara; tradition holds Suresvara is same as Mandana Misra".
133. Roodurmun 2002, p. 31.
134. Isaeva 1993, pp. 79–80. Quote: "More plausible though was an Advaita conversion of another well known Mimamsaka – Madanamisra; ... Vedantic tradition identifies Mandana Misra as Suresvara".
135. Sharma 1997, p. 290–291.
136. Isaeva 1993, pp. 63–65.
137. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mādhava Āchārya". Encyclopædia Britannica.
138. Cynthia Talbot (2001), Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-513661-6, pp. 185–187, 199–201
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142. Karigoudar Ishwaran, Ascetic Culture
143. Wendy Sinclair-Brull, Female Ascetics
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145. Pandey 2000, p. 5.
146. Nakamura 2004, p. 782–783.
147. Doniger 1999, p. 1017.
148. Popular Prakashan 2000, p. 52.
149. Rosen 2006, p. 166.
150. Hiltebeitel 2002, p. 29.
151. Ashish Rajadhyaksha; Paul Willemen (10 July 2014). Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-135-94325-7.
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Printed sources

• Comans, Michael (2000). "The Method of Early Advaita Vedānta: A Study of Gauḍapāda, Śaṅkara, Sureśvara, and Padmapāda". Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
• Cousins, L.S. (2010). Buddhism. In: "The Penguin Handbook of the World's Living Religions". Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-195504-9.
• Doniger, Wendy (1999). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. p. 1017. ISBN 978-0-87779-044-0. smarta sect.
• Fort, Andrew O. (1998). Jivanmukti in Transformation: Embodied Liberation in Advaita and Neo-Vedanta. SUNY Press.
• Fuller, C.J. (2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12048-5.
• Greaves, Ron (March 2002). From Totapuri to Maharaji: Reflections on a Lineage (Parampara). 27th Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, Oxford.
• Grimes, John (2004), "Introduction", The Vivekacudamani of Sankaracarya Bhagavatpada: An Introduction and Translation, ISBN 978-0-7546-3395-2
• Hiltebeitel, Alf (2002), Hinduism. In: Joseph Kitagawa, "The Religious Traditions of Asia: Religion, History, and Culture", Routledge, ISBN 978-1-136-87597-7
• Isaeva, Natalia (1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press (SUNY). ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7. Some editions spell the author Isayeva.
• Keay, John (2000). India: A History. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3797-5.
• Keshava Menon, Y (1976). The Mind of Adi Shankaracharya. India: Jaico. ISBN 978-81-7224-214-5.
• King, Richard (2001). Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East". Taylor & Francis e-Library.
• Larson, Gerald James (2009). Hinduism. In: "World Religions in America: An Introduction". Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-1-61164-047-2.
• Mayeda, Sengaku (2006). A thousand teachings : the Upadeśasāhasrī of Śaṅkara. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-2771-4.
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• Morris, Brian (2006). Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press.
• Mudgal, S.G. (1975). Advaita of Shankara: A Reappraisal. New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass.
• Nakamura, Hajime (2004). "A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two". Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited (Reprint of orig: 1950, Shoki No Vedanta Tetsugaku, Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo).
• Narayana Sastry, T.S (1916). The Age of Sankara.
• Nath, Vijay (March–April 2001). "From 'Brahmanism' to 'Hinduism': Negotiating the Myth of the Great Tradition". Social Scientist. 29 (3/4): 19–50. doi:10.2307/3518337. JSTOR 3518337.
• Pande, G.C. (2011). Life and Thought of Śaṅkarācārya. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-1104-1.
• Pandey, S.L. (2000). "Pre-Sankara Advaita. In: Chattopadhyana (gen.ed.), "History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. Volume II Part 2: Advaita Vedanta"". Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations.
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• Rosen, Steven (2006), Essential Hinduism, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-275-99006-0
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1. "Sankara Acarya Biography – Monastic Tradition". Archived from the original on 8 May 2012.
2. "Adi Shankara's four Amnaya Peethams". Archived from the original on 26 June 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2006.

Further reading

• Ingalls, Daniel H.H. (1954). "Śaṁkara's Arguments against the Buddhists". Philosophy East and West. 3 (4): 291–306. doi:10.2307/1397287. JSTOR 1397287. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011.
• Mishra, Parameshwar Nath (2003), "Era of Adi Shankaracharya 507 B.C.–475 B.C.", Howrah Samskriti Rakshak Parishad, West Bengal.
• Mishra, Parameshwar Nath, "Amit Kalrekha", 3 vols. (in Hindi), Howrah Samskriti Rakshak Parishad, West Bengal.
• Succession of Shankaracharyas (a chronology) (from Gaudapada onwards)
• Reigle, David (2001). "The Original Sankaracarya" (PDF). Fohat. 5 (3): 57–60, 70–71.
• Frank Whaling (1979), Śankara and Buddhism, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 1–42
• "Sri Shankaracharya in Cambodia..?" by S. Srikanta Sastri
• Navone, J.J. (1956). "Sankara and the Vedic Tradition". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 17 (2): 248–255. doi:10.2307/2104222. JSTOR 2104222.
• Biderman, Shlomo (1978). "Śankara and the Buddhists". Journal of Indian Philosophy. 6 (4). doi:10.1007/BF00218430. S2CID 170754201.
• Rukmani, T.S. (2003). "Dr. Richard de Smet and Sankara's Advaita". Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies. 16. doi:10.7825/2164-6279.1295.
• A Questioning Approach: Learning from Sankara's Pedagogic Techniques, Jacqueline Hirst, Contemporary Education Dialogue, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 137–169

External links

• Media from Wikimedia Commons
• Quotations from Wikiquote
• Texts from Wikisource
• Data from Wikidata
• Works by Adi Shankara at Project Gutenberg
• Adi Shankara at Curlie
• Works by or about Adi Shankara at Internet Archive
• Majors works of Adi Sankara Volumes 1–20, (Sanskrit and English Translations)
• A Note on the date of Sankara (Adi Sankaracharya) by S. Srikanta Sastri
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