In July 2015 in Nice, Sri T.K. Sribhashyam kindly agreed to answer a series of questions from Stephen Brandon based on his reading of the series of books on Indian philosophy and practice written by Sribhashyam and his sister Alamelu. These questions and Sribhashyam’s illuminating answers will be published during the next few months.
I offer my sincere gratitude to Sribhashyam and his family for their kindness and patience in receiving my visit and answering all my questions.
I pray that our efforts in bringing out this interview will benefit all the readers.
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Q1. With your sister, Srimathi Alamelu Sheshadri, you have written three books; Moksa-Marga: An Itinerary in Indian Philosophy; Bhakti: Quintessence of Indian Philosophy and From Devotion to Total Surrender: Saranagati Yoga. The books give a comprehensive coverage of Indian Philosophy and practice. Did you plan to write all three volumes from the outset?
A publisher approached me and arranged to meet with me and said to me, “Sribhashyam I want you to write a book on Bhakti. Both for Indians and for the West.” In the beginning I did not want to do it; at that time I had no idea of sitting and writing books, it is not my way of teaching. Then I thought maybe he is right, so then I started writing.
By the time I finished, the publisher had passed away and his son did not think that the books would fit with their current program. Fortunately, DK Printworld agreed to publish the works in three volumes.
It took a long time to write. My sister helped me from India as she had access to old Sanskrit books.
My Father gave me some advice on what not to write and to keep to some honest principles. He said if you want to write you can, he did not say you should.
Whenever I met my Father he used to give me some indirect indications on what to write and reminding me that he took me to all the religious centers so that I have a broader view of devotion; not limited to my monastery.
The idea at the beginning was just to make people know how all the Indian philosophers whatever the period have one thing in their mind which is devotion.
There are three volumes because the material was too much to print as one. If I had published as one book I would have given Bhakti as the title. Now I had to find three titles that go together. If you don’t aspire for Mokṣa (Liberation) you will not cultivate Bhakti (Devotion), if you don’t have Bhakti you will not have Śaraṇāgati (Surrender). First we introduce what is Mokṣa Mārga, and then the Bhakti and finally the Śaraṇāgati Yoga, the Way to Self-surrender, which is the final aim for us. To be absorbed in God or to take refuge in God is the final approach in devotion. This is one of the reasons why we chose three titles. I mean for an Indian who reads the three books he will realise by the titles that the second one comes after the first one, but here in the West, we might not know this order in the devotional path.
You see, when you read the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, or any other works on Hinduism you always end up with Śaraṇāgati. What I want in my life today is to be under the refuge, protection of God which we call Śaraṇāgati, that is not just offering everything to God but to be under his protection. This is normally the aim that Hindus search for. At the end of whatever prayers they offer there is always this appeal: please take me under Your refuge. This is what we call Śaraṇāgati, just like in Bhagavad Gita, when Krishna says to Arjuna forget all the Dharma, all the rituals, take refuge, come and take refuge under me. This is what we call Śaraṇāgati.
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The three books by Sribhashyam and Alamelu are dedicated to the revered memory of their Parents,
Mucchukunte Sri T. Krishnamacharya and Srimati Namagiriammal.
The books are available in paperback or hardcover from amazon