“India’s ancient seekers were not striving to reach God but their approach was to fathom the underlining reality of existence, that which was permanent among the ever evolving nature. Their quest was an analysis of existence and not necessarily for God, in fact out of the six systems of Hindu philosophy five are technically Atheist, they are not talking about god the search is for the underlining truth that underpins our life. That search in most parts of the world was inclined to attribute a divinity that was comprehensible in categories, but here the supreme underlining reality is Brahma, that which is attribute less, any attempt to circumscribe it by definition by word by thought would diminish it so it is this Supreme reality which forms the notion ofAdvaith” said Pavan K Varma where the author of the book ‘Adi Shankaracharya- Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker’. He was in conversation with Dr Karan Singh, at a discussion held recently at Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage(INTACH) in New Delhi.
Varma highlighted some of the stupendous achievements of the sage “Adi Shankar had a fascinating life, he lived not more than 32 years yet within that short span of time he circumvented entire India established the Maths, wrote commentaries on theUpanishads, the Brahmasutras and the and Bhagavad Gita. Yet he should be viewed as a product of a thousand years of evolution of Hinduism.”
Varma shed light on the scientific aspects of the Upanishads “Brahm according to the Upanishads is Amartya– immeasurable; it talks of the Koti Koti Brahmand having an underlining unity in form of Brahm. Today cosmology tells us that we in this solar system are a part of a Galaxy called milky way which itself is One fifty thousand light years across, light travels at a speed of 3000 km per second cosmology tells us that there are at least 125 billion galaxies in this universe each with at least two hundred billion stars twice the size of the sun it doesn’t stop here cosmology is saying that this already large Universe continues to expand every second at the speed of light.”
Varma shed light on one of the Adi Shankara’s methods of mediation “Adi Shankar has stressed time and again that what matters is ‘Chidananda Rupam Shivoham Shivoham’ in the moments of deepest meditation the Mind becomes a Sakshi that is an observer and the difference and divisibility of the universe collapses and you experience bliss and awareness, profundity of thought that.”
Verma a former beurucrat thought it a misconception that Shankara was against Sagun Bhakti “For someone who followed theAdvait Marg he wrote some of the most beautiful devotional hymns to Shiva, Goddess Annapurna to Vishnu, Ganesh almost everyday deaty. He was of the view that one can follow any Marg but pursue it with a sense of surrender, surrender negates the ego and once the ego is negated the chances your atman once again realizing its true self becomes possible.”
Dr Karan Singh classified the Upanishads as the most important texts of Hinduism and stressed that these should be studied for their scientific content “Ramayan and Mahabharat are at a lower level the real texts of Hinduism are the Upanishad even theBhagavad Gita is a derivative text. Upanishads are the great insights of the Rishis, in the moods of enhanced consciousness they were able to conceive and perceive thoughts ideas and concepts which even today science is pondering over. Rightly mentioned in these is the concept of ‘Anant koti Brahmand’ which has passed through eons of time whereas in other religions there are heated debates on whether God created this world four thousand years ago each day of Brahma is many Millions years, night of Brahma is the same. I feel that the latest scientific discoveries are making the Upanishads more relevant.”
Dr Singh described how Hinduism has been able to reinvent itself time and again “There is no doubt that a major part of Shankara’s work was to refute Buddhism which at that stage had become very widespread and had also lost its Pristine purity, it had become corrupt and there were millions of bhikshus who were a burden on society that is where Renaissance of Hinduism can be seen. Hinduism has gone through various renaissances when it became too ritualistic the response was the Upanishads, when the message of the Upanishads were not reaching the common people Buddhism and Jainism came into being South Indian Acharyas led by Adi Shankar who laid another Renaissance he rebutted many. After Muslim invasions the response was the Bhakti tradition. When the British came there was another challenge response was Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Debendranath Thakur etc.”
Dr Singh rebutted the notion that Shankara was out to destroy Buddhism “I don’t see Shankara as someone who was a Shiv Avtar to destroy Buddhism, there is nothing in his writings which can be cited to support this charge, in fact he was accused of being a script of Buddhist by many.”