Back of the Book
This work is significant in being the product of a single-minded pursuit and undivided devotion and in completing it with success the author has immortalized himself. The peculiar characteristic of this hole-hearted dedication is that it hasn’t got the least trace of any commercial intent, nor is the strenuous effort motivated by any personal gain.
In this esoteric work the author interprets to us the actual text of Sankara Bhashya on the world’s most ancient and lofty attestation of the science of the self, which combines the eternal rules that govern the phenomenal universe and the intangible cosmos, too rational to be rejected by infidels, too experiential to be ignored by scientists, too rebelliously truthful to be bound by priestly rituals. This book, which is the valuable product of a life-long study and research, can well claim the merit of offering unerring guidance to any sincere student of Indian philosophy.
When Nalanda University was ransacked, two surviving monks managed to salvage the most precious manuscripts from the pillaged library. While ferrying this priceless cargo, water started entering the boat. The two exchanged glances and the story goes that without a word the elder monk jumped into the river, sacrificing his life for knowledge. May I take the liberty to say that this 5th volume in the ‘Prasthanathraya’ series, conceived by an exegete nonpareil- the late Vidyabhooshanam, Vidyavachaspati V Panoli, like the earlier volumes would qualify for inclusion in such a category of invaluable works. Of unique significance is the the fact that it is for the first time in publishing history that exegeses of the major 10 Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita and Brahmasuthra Bhashyam, collectively known as ‘Prasthanathrayam’ is being brought out as a single volume.
Every generation had lived under the delusion that they were passing through the most turbulent period in history. With us the delusion has turned reality. We can claim the dubious distinction of being the first species on vasundhara, to have contrived to bring about its won doom and that of amazing biodiversity. This is in contrast to the five mass extinctions recorded in the last six hundred million years, precipitated by natural causes. As we labour under the shadow of imminent catastrophe, the mind more than ever seeks solace in ancient texts of wisdom.
Perhaps, more than even in the empirical sciences, the rigour and ligic of brutal enquiry is manifest in the Upanishads. For it is a craving after the truth that will set us free from delusions. Our land has been singularly blessed in numbers by such women and men obsessed with this search after the essence of existence. The last such sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi, spent a whole saintly lifetime exploring a single question: ‘naan yaar?’ (Who am I?) The realization that the cessation of our life would register as much in the panoply of creation as an infant’s burp in a raging thunderstorm, should lead us to be less egoistic and more caring.
Even otherwise, as we ponder the existential insignificance of our days, running like a vanishing shadow in the last rays of a setting sun, it is the life of the spirit that sustains us. A knowledge beyond the compass of science, which cannot conceive of anything greater than the lengthiest time lapse of 2*10:17 seconds (time taken by a ray of light to traverse the conjectured radius of our universe, known as cosmic chronon) or anything shorter than the atomic chronon of 10:-23 seconds, beyond which it is impossible to calculate a process with anything less. Thought it is assumed that there is a corresponding upper bound and lower bound mental chronon, the spiritual guidance of texts such as these shatter such professed limits of consciousness. The teachings of the Gita straddle the entire gamut of human experience captured between these two extremes. Similarly, the esoteric knowledge of the Brahmasuthra Bhashyam enables souls to navigate over the ocean of knowledge.
The house of Mathrubhumi has always been committed to serving the cause of the society that sustains us. Even while disseminating information, the core competency of our organization, we have always been alive to fostering the values of compassion and humanity, catholic values common to religions. In a society increasingly rent by the inequality predicament, thus it becomes more relevant to propagate words that will usher us into the light of compassion and understanding.
It is a great honour on behalf of the Mathrubhumi to offer this work to the reading public. Indeed it is a honour doubled, for one of the greatest consolations in my life has been my knowing intimately the late master Panoli, who himself sat at the feet of the revered teacher, Sahitya Kesari Pandit P. Gopalan Nair of kollengode. The work on this master book of knowledge was started by Vidyavachaspathi V. Panoli, who unfortunately passed away before the could finish this noble task. The greatest tribute paid to the revered Sri. Panoli is that of the former Judge of the Supreme Court, Sri. V.R. Krishna lyer, who in his foreword to the second volume of “Upanishads in Sankaras’ commentaries in his own words… Not many have the vision nor the passion, nor indeed the erudition needed for the great undertaking. Vachaspati, by his performance, is challengingly seeking to prove his competence.” It was left to Dr. M.R. Rajesh to complete the unfinished portion, whose contribution also I am pleased to acknowledge.
Author’s Preface to the Final Version
God’s ways are mysterious. When he himself is a mystery of mysteries, how can his ways be different?
The longest pilgrimage of life has come to its final stage. There were before me insuperable difficulties that seemed to scatter on dust what little I have done. But the eternal deity removed all of them in mysterious and miraculous ways.
I have only prayers to offer together with my soul’s devotion to that eternal deity who make my path smooth.
I must also offer prayers to my departed master, Sahityakesari Pandit P. Gopalan Nair (Kollengode) at whose feet I had laid my soul in devotion and whose living touch I feel on all my limbs even today, twenty six years after his leaving the mortal coils.
It was nothing but a blissful experience to go into the inmost recesses of the Upanishads with the commentaries of Sri Sankaracharya on them. The Acharya’s sententious style of writing, his tersely aphoristic expressions and his intrepid arguments- all this and all these make his writings a wonder for all time, not only in the sphere of Advaita Vedanta, but also in the vast field of the world’s literature, for such is the rare gift of the right word he possessed together with the acutest intellect.
This longest pilgrimage went on for a space of eight and a half years during which the scripts on the ten major Upanishads beginning with Isavasya and ending with Brihadaranytha, including the Karika of Sri Gaudapadacharya on the Mandukya Upanishad, could be brought into a complete shape. The work took another three and a half years for printing. Undivided attention had to be bestowed again on it continually during this period for making corrections and alterations. It goes without saying that a work which runs into 3400 pages in four volumes, and which necessitates the use of five different types in Sanskrit and English demands one’s constant watch. Thus this tittle work took in all twelve years for assuming its final shape.
Let me with all modesty point out that this work is not a mere translation of Sankara Bhashya, as could be seen from the facts given below. The Hindu’, Madras, while reviewing my earlier work, “Gita in Sankara’s own words”, made the following remarks:
“This is an interesting book which goes beyond what a pure