“I am extremely pleased to have joined you on this occasion to release Vivekadeepini, a concise book of aphorisms that contains glimpses of India’s wisdom in most lucid language.
I am happy to release this book and hope that it will enable a wider audience to appreciate the classic work, ‘Prashnottara Ratnamalika’ written by one of India’s greatest spiritual and literary geniuses, Sri Adi Sankaracharya.
I compliment Vedanta Bharati and Shri S.S. Naganand ji for taking up this endeavour to spread the wisdom of Sri Adi Sankaracharya in English, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Odia, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi and Gujarati languages. I am glad to know that select verses of Vivekadeepini are being taught to the students of some 10,000 schools in Karnataka. I am sure that your admirable project of translating Vivekadeepini into different Indian languages will spread the universal message of Indian wisdom among many more schools in different States across the country and to a much larger audience.
Sisters and brothers,
We, in India, have been fortunate that, over the years, spiritual leaders like Adi Shankara and Swami Vivekananda have shaped our country’s ethical foundations.
Dear sisters and brothers,
Drawn from the 67 verses of Prashnottara Ratnamalika written by Adi Shankaracharya, the Vivekadeepini is a compilation of select 36 verses which are in the question-answer format.
These pieces of wisdom have universal relevance irrespective of religion or community.
They represent the ethical and moral perspectives underpinning the Indian world view.
Sisters and brothers,
The book is called “Prashnottara Ratnamalika”, a garland of gem-like questions and answers. It touches upon a number of key themes and gives short answers to important questions. For example, to the question, “who is Pandita or a learned person”? the answer is “Viveki”, “one who has wisdom”. To the question as to what constitutes purity, the answer is “Yasya Maanasam shudham” (whose mind is pure). The verses define human quest for happiness, fulfilment and knowledge that empowers and ennobles.
To the student’s question of “Kim Satyam” (What is truth?)” the teacher replies “Bhootahitam” or the “welfare of all beings”. The accent is on good behaviour. A Sadhu is defined as a person with ‘good conduct’.
This short book Vivekadeepini is a summary of the Prashnottara Ratnamalika. It is heartening that the books has been translated into ten Indian languages. We need more of these kind of efforts to spread the knowledge of ancient India.
We have a vast treasure in our country. It is a treasure whose positive impact has been felt around the globe. It is a treasure that constantly inspires us to be at the global level the voice of peace, of ethical conduct and sustainable development.
It is the path of dharma, the path that sustains us and makes us follow a path that is good not only for ourselves but for the whole humanity and the entire planet.
We must rediscover this ancient knowledge which, sometimes, tends to become unseen and unheard and therefore not fully understood.
If we don’t know about this treasure, we lose a vital link with the past. We lose the ability to enrich our present.
We need to build that link to that noble thought process, adapt it to our contemporary life context.
Adi Shankara’s works are among the finest literary works in world literature apart from their extraordinary depth in terms of spiritual insights. They enlighten us and enthral us. They and other noble thoughts of Indian seers strengthen the ethical pillars of our society. But this can happen only through awareness, study and what is most important, internalization and behaviour change.
The verses in this book contain universal truths. They are the starting points for reflection.
For example, Verse 16 the question is “Who is your friend? The reply is “One who does not allow you to commit sin is your best friend.”
“What is decoration?” The reply says, “Character is true decoration”.
Verse 18 tell us about four auspicious deeds one must perform as often as possible - Charity with kind words, Knowledge without pride, Valour with forbearance, Wealth with Charity.
You will agree that these pieces of wisdom are truly universal. It is the intellectual legacy every India should not only be proud of but live those values in everyday life.
What we need is a cultural renaissance, a large scale awareness and knowledge sharing movement that brings the best in the Indian thought to the common man.
Our schools and colleges should take the lead along with non-governmental organisations like Vedanta Bharati to spread the universal message of tolerance, inclusion, harmony, peace, well-being, righteous conduct, excellence and empathy that recurs in the Indian spiritual tradition with resounding clarity.
We must create a society that actually demonstrates the core Indian philosophy and values of “share and care”.
I am happy that Vedanta Bharati has taken up this onerous responsibility to connect our citizens with our intellectual tradition. I would suggest that Vedanta Bharati should continue this gnana yagna and contribute to building a new India on the ethical foundations laid by long lineage of sages and thinkers in the last two thousand years.
I once again congratulate Shri S.S. Naganand ji for writing such lucid commentary. I wish him and Vedanta Bharati every success in bringing out many more useful publications in the future.