Author Topic: T.M.P. Mahadevan - John Girmes - Mountain Path, October-Dec. 2007.  (Read 2950 times)

Subramanian.R

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Sri Ramana was a Sage without the least touch of worldliness, a Saint of matchless purity, a witness to the eternal truth
of Vedanta. It is not often that a spiritual genius of the magnitude of Sri Ramana visits the earth.  But when such an event
occurs, the entire humanity gets benefited and a new era of hope open before it.

                              -  (Dr. T.M.P. Mahadevan, Sri Ramana Maharshi and His Philosophy of Existence.)

T.M.P. Mahadevan (1911-1983) was one of India's preeminent 20th century philosophers.  In academia the names
Mahadevan and Advaita were synonymous.  Author of 55 books, almost all of which were on Advaita and two of which were on
Sri Ramana Maharshi.  Mahadevan was both by training and temperament an Advaitin through and through.  Mahadevan viewed
Advaita as the summum bonum of life and the paradigm through which he viewed all culture and philosophy.  He loved Advaita,
he lived Advaita, and he left behind a legacy of Advaita scholarship.  Mahadevan wrote: Advaita, to the exposition of which I have
dedicated by entire life , is not a school of philosophy, nor can it be limited to what we nowadays call 'philosophy'.  Advaita is
the symbolic name for the principle of non duality...both Ramana Maharshi and Chandrasekhara Sarasvati of Kanchi are
contemporary witnesses to the experience of non dual truth, of unity which goes by the name of Advaita.  To the understanding
and expositin of this experience which is the culmination of all inquiry and research, I have offered all my attention, be it
academic, human or spiritual. It is that which sustains me.'  (Dr.T.M.P. Mahadevan, A Philosopher looks back.).                   

Dear Readers.  This cannot be stressed enough and it behooves us to deeply contemplate Mahadevan's assertion that Advaita
is not essentially a school of philosophy; an 'ism' (even though there is a philosophy known as Advaita and Mahadevan himself
was known as a preeminent Advaita philosopher!  In his maturity, Mahadevan was adamant in oft repeating that Advaita is
a symbolic name for the principle of non duality, the state of a fully enlightened being.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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continues.....

This reminds me of an incident that happened when I first joined the Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy.
I was a young first year M.A. student.  By chance I happened to be in the Institute's office, when group of philosophy students
from the Madras Vivekananda College came to invite Mahadevan to be the Chief Guest and speaker at one of their upcoming
functions.  Mahadevan politely declined saying, 'I have talked of Advaita all my life.  Enough of talking. Now it is time for me
to stop talking about Advaita and immerse myself completely in seeking that non dual experience.'

One would not be incorrect in stating that the word Advaita may be approached from three perspectives.  1) It denotes a radical
non dual philosophy system which is presented for scholars as a coherent, consistent, conceptual theory; 2) it present 'words to
live by' for spiritual aspirants who are interested in a direct, personal experience of non duality; and first and foremost, 3) It is
a symbolic word for the 'thunderous silence', the unspeakable  non dual Reality.

From his earliest childhood, Mahadevan was always spiritually oriented.  His mother died when he was five years old and,
coinciding with her death, his father left and set up a family elsewhere.  The young Mahadevan was raised by his aunt (mothe's
elder sister)  This aunt used to listen to discourses on spiritual themes and visit Temples and holy personages.  She would take
the young Mahadevan along with her.  She introduced the young boy to famous Advaitins like the mystic Sri Karpatra Sivaprakasa
Swami, the sannyasin-scholar Virasekhara Subbaiah Swamigal, and to Swami Rajeswarananda, a staunch devotee of Sri
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who was to play a major role in the Advaitic formation of Mahadevan.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Swami Rajeswarananda who shaped Mahadevan's life as his spiritual and academic mentor, played a significant role in
introducing Mahadevan to three spiritual giants,  In 1929, at the age of eighteen, Swami Rajeswarananda took Mahadevan
to Tiruvannamalai for the first time to meet Sri Ramana Maharshi.  As Mahadevan was to say, 'To meet a Sage and be
acquainted with him is not an ordinary occurrence.  It must be the result of a good stock of merit.  I consider myself extremely
fortunate, therefore, to have a had the privilege of meeting the Master and basking in his glorious presence for three days.
To sit before him was itself a deep spiritual education, to look at him was to have one's mind stilled, to fall within the sphere
of his beatific vision was to be inwardly elevated.'  (T.M.P. Mahadevan, A Philosopher Looks Back.).

Over the years, Swami Rajeswarananda was to take Mahadevan many times to meet Sri Ramana but as it was not Mahadevan's
way to talk of his personal direct encounters with the sages he met, we sadly don't have the good fortune of knowing what
they spoke about or of what experiences took place.

Looking back over his life, Mahadevan noted, 'The Sage (Ramana) did not found any school of thought or cult.  He taught the
ageless truth of Vedanta.  This is a universal and non sectarian teaching.  To even call it Advaita (non duality) is really a
concession because of the inherent limitations that language bears with it. (ibid. p 37).  Advaita does not profess to formulate
conceptually what Reality is for, being non dual, words cannot adequately do that.  Therefore, it is not really a school among
schools of philosophy.  It seeks to transcend all view points and concepts.  This is why Advaita places an emphasis on 'not this',
'not this', (neti neti), which is given, not so much to say that appearances are not applicable to the Absolute, as to indicate
the impossibility of attributing any conceptualization to It.  The Self is beyond description, beyond what is finite mind can fathom.
The Self is called "a-dvaita" to point to the fact that there is nothing with which it may be compared to.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Mahadevan found it both interesting and wonderful that Sri Ramana Maharshi both attained the non dual experience of
Advaita and expressed its traditional wisdom without having studied and analyzed and meditated thereon.  Sri Ramana only
came to know of the concepts and doctrines of Advaita, its illustrations and arguments later.  Mahadevan said, 'An understanding
of the doctrinal side of Advaita is not an end in itself.  Sri Ramana spoke about the doctrines only when doubts expressed by
scholarly devotees had to be cleared, or questions had to be answered.  He Himself came to know these doctrines only when
long after He had the experience of non duality.  (Ramana Maharshi, the Sage of Arunachala)

Swami Rajeswarananda was instrumental in securing the young Mahadevan a place in the Ramakrishna Mission Student's Home
and through that contact, Mahadevan came in contact with with many Ramakrishna monks.  It was through Swami Rajeswarananada's
efforts, that Mahadevan was to meet eventually to be initiated by Sri Mahapurushaji Maharaj  ( Swami Sivananda), a direct
disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.  Mahadevan wrote:  'Even though I was too young, I could sense the atmosphere of the holiness.
Sri Mahapurushaji Maharaj was the very picture of saintliness, his serene and calm countenance reflected the pure and plenary
spirituality of the Great Master,  Sri Ramakrishna.  His gracious look was full of tenderness, in his presence, one felt elevated
automatically to lofty plane of existence. It was an intimate and intensely felt experience whose grandeur I can recall in but
with very inadequate words......I had the good fortune of receiving initiation from Mahapurushaji.  This was received in the Ramakrishna
Shrine at the Math itself.  Every detail connected with this solemn ceremony was attended to by the Sankara Maharaj, but for
whose unbounded affection, I would not have had this unique privilege.  The experience is still vivid in my memory.  The venerable
and gracious direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, seated in the shrine in a mood of exaltation imparting the mantra to me, who was
just a stripling, and making me repeat it after him."  (A Philosopher Looks Back)                         

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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continues......

In 1932, Mahadevan saw the Sage of Kanchi, Sri Chandrasekhendra  Sarasvati Swamigal for the first time when the Sage
came to Madras during his vijaya-yatra.  It was not until 1953, that Mahadevan had an occasion to meet the Sage personally
and over his life time, Mahadevan was to meet the Acharya quite often both alone as well as with devotees, dignitaries,
scholars, students, and spiritual seekers that he would take with him for darsan of the Sage.

Mahadevan studied philosophy under the guidance of P.N. Srinivasachari at Pachaiyappa's College (B.A. Honors First Class)
and under the guidance of S.S. Suryanarayana Sastri at the University of Madras (for his Ph.D).  His doctoral thesis was a
ground breaking attempt to present a systematic way the philosophy of Advaita as expounded by Vidyaranya with sprecial
reference to the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha.  Academically, Mahadevan served as a Lecturer in Logic, in Maharajah's Colelge,
Pudukkottai (1935-37); as Head of the Department of Philosophy, Pachaiyappa's College (1937-43); as Head of the Department
of Philosophy, University of Madras, (1943-76); and as a visiting professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, (1948-49).

In 1946, under Mahadevan's leadership, the Philosophy Department at University of Madras, was upgraded into a Centre for
Advanced Study in Philosophy. 


contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     
             

Subramanian.R

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continues.....

Mahadevan was an Advatiin's Advaitin, scholastically.  However, probably due to his long association with the sages,
there was little difference in his home life and his academic life.  He was meticulous in both.  He led a life of discipline
with a spiritual orientation.  His conversation was always brief.  He never gossiped.  Soft, gentle and careful and effective
were his ways.  He cherished Vedantic value system.  He always made a distinction between the higher and lower values
and shaped his life towards Self Realization.

He remained a life long bachelor and led a life of renunciation both inwardly and outwardly, though he never put on the ochre
robes.  He cultivated the virtues and treated others with dignity and respect.  He was systematic  in his academic work
whether it involved, teaching, research, organization or publishing.

As a scholar, Mahadevan had an unflinching commitment  to Advaita.  He made no secret of this commitment. Advaita was
the paradigm through which he viewed everything.  Among Mahadevan's numerous published works, special mention
should be made of his GAUDAPADA:  A STUDY IN EARLY ADVAITA.  It is a classic work on Gaudpada.  Also, something dear
to my own heart was Mahadevan's inspiration and directive to the Radhakrishnan Institute for Advanced Study in Philosophy
to concentrate on Suresvara and his legacy vis a vis the Advaita tradition.  Over the years this legacy has been carried out.

continued.

Arunachala Siva.               

Subramanian.R

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continues....

On a personal note, as a young student at the University of Madras, I was always thrilled when hearing Mahadevan speak
for, no matter what the theme, he would deal with it from an Advaita point of view.  He always spoke softly, very softly,
and always to the point, He was always dignified in his behavior, dress and manners.  I was also continually amazed by
his ability to quote verses from memory to support his statements.  Not only did he have at his finger tips, verses from
the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutra, and other Sanskrit and Tamizh religious and philosophical works,
but also verses from Western philosophers, poets, historians and so on. 

A student had to be inside the class room before the Professor arrived and or you dare not, could not, enter and upon
his arrival, we stood in respect.  Even if the bell rang, no one moved until the Professor left the class room and as he did,
again we all stood.  Alas, those bygone days and professors seems to have almost totally disappeared.

What is the use of dilating on this subject?  The individual is no other than Absolute; this whole extended universe is Brahman
Itself; the scripture persistently urges only Brahman, one without a second.  It is an indubitable fact that people of enlightened
minds who know their identity with Brahman and have given up their connection with the objective world, live palpably unified
as with Brahman as eternal Knowledge and Bliss.  (Viveka Chudamani Verse 394.).

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.