Open letter to JK Bharavi regarding Jagadguru Adi Shankara by Sastry
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16 March 2013

Dear Bharavi garu,

I have seen the trailer and some stills of your upcoming film “Jagadguru Adi Shankara”. I have a question for you – have you watched the 1983 Sanskrit film “Adi Shankaracharya (aka The Philosopher)” directed by GV Iyer as part of your research for your film? Sadly, very few people know that such a film even exists. But if you have indeed watched it, what is your take on that film? Do you notice any contrast between your portrayal of Shankara and the Shankara of GV Iyer? I am very keen to know your opinion on that film. In my words - Iyer tried to pull Shankara down to a more humane level whereas you have tried to push him toward the realm of the Gods. But it has to be noted that the humane portrayal by GV Iyer looks more divine than your infuriated “God incarnate” portrayal.

Your trailer is all about the magic tricks attributed to Shankara like diverting the flow of the Poorna river – which is nothing but meddling with the rhythm of nature! Moreover, there is no historic evidence to the magic tricks of Shankara even though he walked this earth just a thousand years ago - all the evidence that is provided is the “Shankara Vijayalu” which is nothing but a book purported by the people who followed him. Please answer me, sir, why do we get so carried away by the bells and whistles and miss the essence, the underlying philosophy in the process?

We have one eminent spiritual speaker, a Guru, in our state (let’s call him Mr. X) who talks with great enthusiasm and aggression about Lord Shiva and Shankara. He can say beating his chest “MAA Sankarabhagavatpadulu” as easily as he can say “MAA Godavari”, or “MAA Kakinada!” According to him, Shankara is great because he is none other than an Incarnation of Shiva himself, because he compelled Goddess Lakshmi to rain gold coins, because he descended into the living room of Mandana Misra without permission right through the roof, because he used the body of a dead king through his Yoga vidya to copulate with his queens for three days and three nights to learn about sex (how mean! don’t tell me that is permitted in the Shastras), because he sucked the flooding Narmada river into his Kamandala, because he diverted the Poorna river for a petty comfort of his mother, and also relocated a temple which got submerged in the process (what about all the creatures that must have been suffocated/submerged and died, too – don’t tell me he gave Moksha to them all!), and because Shiva himself came down in the form of a chandala to remind him of his Advaita theory!

Aah, this last thing! Mr. X says that the Advaita theory propagated by Shankara was so popular in that day that even a chandala understood it – yet, in the same breath, he says that it was Shiva himself who came down in the form of the chandala. Well, please clarify – is he a chandala, or Shiva? I am confused! Such is our pitiful state that we cannot even accept that Shankara bowed before a chandala. Yet, it was Shankara who touched the feet of the chandala and delcared that be it a chandala, he who made him realize the truth is his greatest teacher! Naaah! How can Shankara touch the feet of a chandala? That must be Lord Shiva himself!

For me, Shankara is great not because of the bells and whistles that have been attributed to him. The question of whether or not he is an Avatara is irrelevant to me. For me he is great because he did not have any qualms in touching the feet of a chandala, and he is great because he proclaimed..
Na me mrutyu shanka na me jati bhedah, pita naiva me naiva mata na janma
na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyah, chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham!

(I am not fear, not death, not caste discrimination, I am not father, not mother, not birth,
Not relatives, not friend, neither guru nor discipline, the embodiment of blissful consciousness, I am Shiva! I am Shiva!)

Mr. X would jump on hearing this and yell, “You see, Shankara himself claimed that he is none other than Shiva (shivoham)!” I am sorry, Shankara, your race has come down to this!

Shankara showed us what a human can achieve. By attributing to him divinity and bells and whistles and calling him an Avatara we are telling ourselves that we are helpless here and that God will descend some day to fix everything and we need do nothing till then. This is the race that produced such unique human beings like a Shankara, a Ramakrishna, a Ramana, an Aurobindo, and a Vivekananda! I have recently read an article in a spiritual magazine which went to great lengths to “prove” that Vivekananda was none other than an incarnation of Lord Shiva! Have we forgotten what he preached all his life? Is what is left of him nothing but the ink marks on the books published by the Ramakrishna Math? By the way, that magazine was published by the RK Math itself. Where are we heading, sir?

You may ask me to wait for the complete film, but the trailer was enough for me. It reminded me that we are a dead race going through the process of a painful decay. The threat facing Sanatana Dharma is not from without, sir, but from within. It is our own aggression, our own obsession with bells and whistles, our own ego that doesn’t let us even accept that one of our gurus bowed before a chandala. Is this the same race that proclaimed “baaladapi subhashitam”, I wonder! With your popular star cast (Nagarjuna for the chandala, Srihari for Shiva, etc.), and cutting-edge CG work, your film may well become a box-office hit, but I would rather watch the film of GV Iyer one more time and weep mutely to myself for the pitiful state of this race. By the way, your Shankara, with all that over make-up looks like a devil in some scenes, let alone being divine. Please watch GV Iyer’s film and tell me if you find a trace of aggression on the face of Sarvadaman Bannerjee in the whole film. For me, that is the true depiction of Shankara, not your angry, frustrated brat!

Good luck to you, Sir!
4primes at gmail dot com


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