A Visit to Shankaracharya

by Avery Solomon

I went in India in August 1987 to visit His Holiness Jagadguru Shankaracharya Chanderasekarendra Saraswati (I will call him Swamiji), the Shankara of the Kanchipuram Mutt who was then about 93 years old. He was the same Shankara that PB writes about in A Search in Secret India, and was the person who encouraged PB to see Ramana. During the years 1981-1988, the students at Wisdom’s Goldenrod were in the process of arranging and publishing The Notebooks of Paul Brunton. When someone went to see the Shankara they took him the most recently published volume of the series. On one of the days in my visit, I was with Swamiji in the back part of the Mutt. For about 40 minutes he sat reading in the latest Notebook volume that I had brought him, using his big flashlight. When he was done, I mentioned to him that I had some questions and asked if he would please answer them. He paused and told me, “I couldn’t say it any better than PB has put it in these Notebooks.” I then said to him that I had some questions on Vedanta, could he answer those. Swamiji said, “Yes I can answer your questions, but no, I’m not going to answer your questions. You have to meditate on them—then they will be meaningful.”

While I was visiting the Mutt I was working on cutting and pasting of category 25 (part 1 of volume 16 which particularly describes the qualities of the sage). I would sit on the side as people filed by for blessings from His Holiness. As I read the paras, I watched him to see whether or not the para described something of Swamiji’s nature. If yes, they checked out OK. (If a para did not fit, I did not include it in the pasteup!)