Many Jaya Jaya Shankara to Smt. Sunitha Madhavan for sharing the exclusive interview by Shri A.S.Raman from Illustrated Weekly on Aug 18 1963. The answers from Sri Periyava is to the point, razor sharp with utmost clarify. I will post each question and answer a day and publish the full set along with source article on the final day. Rama Rama
Many Jaya Jaya Sankara to our sathsang volunteer Smt. Savita Narayan for typing this up as it is not clear to read from the print as well it is a pretty lengthy interview. Rama Rama
Sri Sankaracharya Speaks – An Exclusive Interview – By Sri A.S.Raman August 18, 1963 -Illustrated Weekly – Part 1
“This is my fifth attempt at having a peaceful, uninterrupted meeting with Your Holiness.” He makes no comment. He just smiles his usual smile.
“I had the good fortune to spend nearly forty-five minutes with Your Holiness during a specially arranged audience last week.” No comment again.
“On that occasion, Your Holiness had very graciously suggested that I might see you again ‘any day, any time’.” His Holiness says nothing but keeps smiling reassuringly.
“I have been coming to the camp since then. But till this afternoon I had no luck.” Still no comment.
“I have a few questions to ask. Have I Your Holiness’s permission?”
“Of course.” He speaks at last and the language he uses, as on the earlier occasion, is chaste Telugu. “I have not forgotten you. I am always available to those who have genuine doubts. An honest enquiry interests me.”
“Thank you, Sir. First question. What are Your Holiness’s views on the religious basis for life in modern India? Are we Indians not basically more materialistic than the Europeans and the Americans despite our preoccupation with rites and rituals?”. He shows no visible interest in my question. His indifference puzzles me. Is the question not properly framed? Does it sound irreverent? He stares at me intriguingly but with transparent concern.
“How many questions have I to answer in all?” he asks rather naively.
“I am afraid the questionnaire I have prepared is on the heavy side. It may make unwarranted demands on Your Holiness’s time and patience.”
“Doesn’t matter. Go ahead. Read out all the questions first. Then you will have my replies which will be actually in the form of composite statement- covering all your queries.”
I do as I am told. After reading out the questionnaire, I wait impatiently for his reactions. But, once again, he keeps teasingly mum. His eyes are closed and he wears an expression of ennui. He however continues to caress his crisp beard absent-mindedly. There is a sudden flash on his face. His lips widen and a few words are uttered gently. I cannot hear them. I request him to repeat them. Adjusting his falling ochre robe and straightening himself up, he says: “How many days did it take you to prepare this questionnaire? It is very elaborate. Let me attempt to answer it.”
He speaks for about four hours with the consistent precision and percipience of a tapasvin and at the end of his talk I discover that all my queries have been answered completely and convincingly. Having sorted out my questions and his observations, I present them in the following coherent form.
To my first question on the religious basis for life in modern India, Sri Sankaracharya’s answer is:
“Religion can never cease to be a force in our country. Superficially, we may be materialistic. But we are religious to the core. Even our politicians need religion for their secular purposes. You remember how cleverly Gandhiji employed religion for capturing the hearts of the masses? In the name of the religion, you can make our simple folks to do anything. I hope you have not forgotten the cause for which millions of Hindus laid down their lives immediately after Partition. They preferred death to humiliation. The communal riots that broke out as a result of the partition of our country had much greater significance than the religious persecution in Medieval Europe. In Europe, one talks about individual martyrs. In India, whenever the challenge to religion came, it is the common people who defended the faith, not intellectuals or reformers who want another proof of the religious favour of the Hindus. Try a surprise visit to any of our places of the pilgrimage on any day. Take some of your foreign friends also with you. You will see a perpetual carnival. A similar spectacle awaits you on the banks of our sacred rivers throughout the year. You know how the prospect of a mere bath can move millions in this country. The Kumbha Mela can continue to take place only in India. Religion has great mass appeal in our land even today in spite of our increasing interest in materialistic activities. It lies dormant in every one of us.”