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English fortnightly, devoted to life, literature and culture.

Vol: 35  No: 01


15 August 1988

The Only Way to Promote Secularism

S. Ramakrishnan

An Interview with Kanchi Paramacharya
S. Ramakrishnan

The place was the Shankaracharya Temple in Satara in the rugged hinterland of Maharashtra, in the proximity of the Samadhi of Samarth Ramdas, the spiritual preceptor of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
The participants in this holy Satsang with the Paramacharya, Poojyapada Jagadguru Sri Chandra-sekharendra Saraswati of Kanchi Kamakothi Peetha included the venerable Dada Dharmadhikari (one of the closest associates of Mahatma Gandhi, Acharya Vinoba Bhave and Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan), Shri C. Subramaniam (former Union Minister and presently Vice-President of the Bhavan), Shri V. S. Page (veteran freedom fighter and former Chairman of Maharashtra Legislative Council) and presently blessed were we to have been in communion with the Paramacharya for nearly two and a half hours, from 7.45 a.m. to 10.15 a.m.
With the sweet resonance of Vedic hymns chanted by dozens of learned pandits blending with the pealing of temple bells, the atmosphere was serene and soul-elevating. We virtually seemed to have stepped into another world. We found His Holiness doing his Sadhana in the corner of a room, just behind the main temple. The place, like the lone occupant of the room, had an austere look. There were no furniture, no gaddi, no dari, no mat, not even any sizeable number of books which are normally associated with the living place of a scholarly saint.
What struck me most was a quietly burning oil lamp and the singular absence of electric lights. As the room was only dimly lit when we entered it, two kerosene lanterns were hurriedly brought. It was in such a solemn atmosphere of old-world simplicity and charm and quiet and dignified beauty that we had the long audience with His Holiness. We all prostrated before the sage.
We then reverentially offered at the feet of His Holiness, a Kashmir shawl, some fresh and dry fruits, a set of Bhavan’s latest publications including “Adi Sankara: His Life and Times” (the English rendering by Dr. T.M.P. Mahadevan of His Holiness’ discourses on the subject), the Bhavan’s Culture Course Readers for children and a collection of Tamil devotional kirtans by Periaswamy Thooran, including a composition on Adi Sankaracharya and two on the Kanchi Paramacharya.

With a benign smile and gentle wave of his hand, His Holiness signified his acceptance of our humble offering and thumbed through some of the books.
I reproduce below some of the important points of the interview, which was initiated by Shri C. Subramaniam.
C. Subramaniam: The national scene is distressing. Communalism, casteism, regionalism and other divisive forces are again on the prowl...indiscipline and lethargy are also rampant. They appear to be poised to threaten the very existence of India. Pray, give guidance to root out these evils. Kindly suggest ways and means to restore national unity and health.

His Holiness: Are you referring to the recent riots at Moradabad, Srinagar and other places?

Dada Darmadhikari: Yes, besides the loss of several innocent lives and destruction of public property, this time the quarrel is not merely intercommunal but it seems to be a determined challenge to the executive arm of the State itself - in Moradabad to the police and in Srinagar to the military.

H..: In which party are you now?

C.S.: I have given up party politics, I no more belong to any party. I have, however, not given up public life. I am now striving to do some public service as a nonparty man.

H.H: I am glad you are no more attached to any political party. You are going through a process of purification for wider service. Who are the other well-known figures, who are non-attached to political parties like you?

C.S.: Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Acharya Kripalani, Shri Achyut Patwardhan, Dr. R. R. Diwakar, Dr. Chintaman Deshmukh are some of the seniors among them. Dada Dharmadhikari and Shri V. S. Page who are with us here, also belong to this category.

H.H.: Communalism, regionalism, corruption and all-round indiscipline are indeed grave dangers to our national unity. But communalism is the worst among them.

Bhavan's Journal

15 August 1988

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