His name was Chakravarti Ananthachar. As his name indicates, he was born in a Vaishnava family which followed the tradition of Vishistadvaita (qualified nondualism) taught by Sri Ramanujacharya. Although Mr. Ananantachar was profound scholar in Sankrit grammar and logic and an authority on Ramanajacharya’s philosophy, he was also a great admirer of Sankara and his Advaita philosophy. He lectures on Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta always drew large crowds and earned him a good standing in the spiritual circles of Bangalore. That is how several of my friends got to know of him. Once upon a time, my friend Krishnamurthy was very close to him and was attending his lectures almost every day.
One day in June 1998, our friend Venkata Chalapati spoke about UG to Anantachar describing UG as a “Jivanmukta”. Anantachar was impressed and expressed his interest in meeting UG. But UG dissuaded Venkat Chalapati: “Why do you want to bring him? You say that he is a scholar and professional speaker. Such people have an investment in the tradition they believe in. How can he listen to me?” But Venkat Chalapati’s eagerness prevailed.
At last, on Sunday June 21 1998, Anantachar walked into Major’s Farm house to meet UG. He was accompanied by Venkat Chalapati and Krishnamurthy.
UG respectfully offered a seat next to him on the sofa. Some of us on the floor and some on the available chairs. I wrote down the points of discussion between UG and Anantachar. Here is the text of the conversation that took place on that bright sunny afternoon.
Anantachar introduced himself as a theoretical Vedanta exponent, and a mere speaker and scholar on matters of Vedanta. He started his conversation with UG saying, “Those who are in the highest spiritual state are said to be in possession of several powers.”
UG made no comment.
Anantachar: Don’t you think that through meditation one can achieve great heights in spiritual life?
UG: Meditation should not be given any importance at all. That’s my feeling.
Anantachar: Then what shall we do?
UG: Nothing; do nothing.
Anantachar: [Smiling] In that case everyone becomes a yogi.
UG: I am not a yogi.
Anantachar: Anyway sir, you are a widely travelled person. Don’t you think it is possible to bring out a universal philosophy to end all conflicts?
UG: Universal philosophy as such doesn’t exist except as an idea. That goal has created the actual problem.
Anantachar: Do you mean to say that a universal life doesn’t exist? All the masters of all religions talked of the oneness of life.
UG: You are an expression of that life. The mosquito that is sucking your blood is another expression of that life. The garden slug out there is another expression. The problem is we want to understand life. We try to understand life. We try to understand. That attempt is bound to create conflict.
Anantachar: Advaita Vedanta talks about that life as anivachaniya, indefinable.
UG: In that case, why should they talk about it? [Now UG’s tone got sharper.] If there is anything as the “beyond”, it can never be captured, contained or given expression to. How can they describe it as bliss, beatitude and all that nonsense? If they know that it is anivarchaniya, they should have stopped right there.
Anantachar: As philosophers they wanted to postulate…
UG: What good is that to you sir? Philosophers as I know are lovers of wisdom. That’s what they are. Philosophy only helps to sharpen the intellect.
Anantachar: Sir, how to determine whether a man is wise or not?
UG: You have no way of knowing.
Anantachar: Sankara describes the characteristics of an enlightened man. Even in the Gita it is said…
UG: They are all empty words and empty phrases, sir! They mean nothing. What’s the use of all those words? You haven’t helped you. You are still asking the same question.
Everybody laughs. Anantachar is visibly shaken. He asks for a cup of water and empties two cups, one after the other.]
Anantachar: We have to use words to communicate with each other.
UG: I say and maintain that no communication is possible and none is necessary.
Anantachar: But we have no other way to wisdom.
UG: Why are we not ready to accept that “wisdom” is a real block?
Anantachar looks the people around helplessly. He turns to Venkata Chalapti and says “I can’t understand what he is saying.” He then turns to UG.
Anantachar: You have gone a little above my head. I am not able to follow you. I have worked for several years academically…
UG: But I am an illiterate…
Anantachar: No. No. I can’t agree. You are an enlightened person. Only a few are gifted to be enlightened. An enlightened person is above everything. In my opinion, when a man forgets all his surrounding in the contemplation of the undivided Self, that state, according to Sankara, is the “Brahmi State”. My practice of meditation is very poor. I haven’t done any sadhana. But I want to. I am only a Jnanamaargi.
UG: I am not a scholar like you. But I studied Advaita philosophy. Prof. Mahadevan was our teacher of Advaita philosophy.
Anantachar: Sir, how can we understand the world?
UG: There is no need to understand the world.
Anantachar: Otherwise, how can we be in contact with the world?
UG: Do you think you are really in contact withy anything? Do you think you are looking at that man? Do you think you have ever looked at your wife even once? If you once looked at your wife, that would be the end of the whole relationship. You look at everything through the knowledge you have. It’s the knowledge about the things around that creates the world for you. You can not experience anything that you do not know. In that sense I say and maintain that there is no such thing as new experience at all. How can you have contact with the world?
Anantachar: As long as we breathe and live in this world we keep the contact.
UG: No, on no level can you contact anything.
[Ananatachar was disturbed with the rise in UG’s voice. He became fidgety in his seat next to UG. He asked for more water and Mohan gives him some.]
Mohan: [to Anantachar] Do you accept what he is saying, sir?
UG: How can he say anything? He is not in a position to say.
Anantachar started quoting the Mandukya Upanishad. “There is Para wisdom and there is Apara wisdom. When once you renounce Vritti Gnana, then Swarupa Jnana dawns on you. Ultimately, upasantoyam atma, as the instructions in the Mandukya indicate.”
At this point, UG suddenly flared up. He burst out saying that Mandukya Upanishad does not even have as much worth as toilet paper. He called Sankara a bastard for writing commentaries on Upanishads. He started his tirade on Gowdapada for writing the karika to Mandukya and called him also a bastard.
This was too much for Anantachar. He started trembling with anger. He could no longer sit in a composed manner. Mohan was trying to calm him down handing him more cups of water. “Drink more water sir, and sit comfortably,” Mohan told him.
Anantachar: [In an agitated voice, looking at the people around]. “This is too much, sir. He uses such uncivilised terminology. How can he call Sankar a bastard? How can an enlightened person use such foul language?”
Then UG again flared up.
UG: Yes, I shall maintain Sankara was a bastard! Mandukya is shit! It is his shit that is coming out of your mouth. What do you have to say? That is my question. Don’t repeat Sankara, Gowdapada and all that nonsense. You are just repeating. A tape recorder does a better job than you. What you say, does it operate in your life? You can teach fools from the platform and make a living. I have no objection. But it has not touched you. How can anybody describe that state a love and bliss? Love divides and separates. There is already division. How can there be love?
Anantachar stood up. He couldn’t take it anymore. He said, “I came here hoping to see an enlightened person. I never expected I would be meeting such a negative person instead.”
UG countered immediately saying, “You came to the wrong man. You can go now.”
Anantachar folded his hands as a mark of respect and walked out of the room.
The above excerpts are sourced from the book:
Stopped in our tracks: UG-anecdotes, comments and reflections (Second series). From the Notebooks of K. Chandrasekhar; translated by J.S.R.L. Narayana Moorty. Bangalore: Firsthand Publications, .