Dr. Pannala Radhakrishna Sarma Garu – A Homage
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of Time.
Pannala Master Garu is one such noble soul who left behind an indelible mark on the lives of many individuals, be they his adoring students or his competent colleagues or spiritual soul mates, who are members and inmates of spiritual institutions (Ashrams) with whom he was closely associated.
Master garu was one of the founder members and the first Principal of Matrusri Oriental College, Jillellamudi. The institution was his most dear Baby whom he cherished, nourished and brought to such great prominence and reputation both at the state level and national level. His untiring and ceaseless efforts were richly rewarded by the innumerable students who made name and fame for themselves and brought laurels to their Alma mater. The proud and happy moments in Master garu’s life were when his students became rank holders at the university level in their postgraduate studies, received doctoral degrees, became his own colleagues and retired from the same institution as Asst. Professors and Principals. Now Matrusri Oriental College is gearing up to celebrate its glorious Golden Jubilee in the year 2021 in the month of August.
Master Garu’s career as a principal of the college began in Jillellamudi and culminated in Jillellamudi. After his retirement he was not physically present on the premises. But it is no exaggeration to say that the dawn in Jillellamudi begins with master garu’s Ambika Suprabhatam and ends with Sandhya Vandanam at dusk with Ambika Stava Kadambam, filling the rest of the day with Ambika Sahasranama Stotram. Master garu’s presence permeated the entire day not only in the past but will continue in the years to come till such time that Jillellamudi is on the map of India. “Aachandraarkam tu te sthaanam bhuvi tishthatu susthiram”.
Master garu absorbed the philosophy of Amma and tried to put it into practice during his lifetime. His prayer to her was “whatever be the trials and tribulations in my life, let my faith in you be unshaken.”
After his retirement when he moved away from Jillellamudi, he was drawn to other spiritual masters like Swami Ramadas (papa) of Anandashram, Kerala, Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Calcutta. He tried to co-relate Amma’s philosophy with the philosophy of Ramana Maharshi, Papa Ramadas, Adi Shankaracharya, Valmiki (especially Yoga Vasistha) and Vyasa Bhagavan (Srimad Bhagavatam) and found that all the Mahatmas speak the same Truth but in different languages, in aphoristic style. “Ekam Sat viprah bahudha vadanti.”
Master garu was an erudite scholar, proficient in three languages – Sanskrit, Telugu and English. He was a voracious reader, pouring over not only literary texts but innumerable volumes on spirituality. His favorite epics were Valmiki Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatam of Sri Vedavyasa. His devotion to Rama made him take up the character of Rama for his doctoral dissertation entitled Sri Rama Sheelanu Sheelanam, written in Sanskrit – a very rare occurrence as most of the dissertations are written either in the vernacular languages or in English. Under the Bhagavata Project organized by the TTD he edited three volumes of Srimad Bhagavata and wrote commentary in Sanskrit entitled Sudhee Sudha. This project added a new dimension to his life. Reading Bhagavata was no more a part of his daily swadhyaya, but it was for contemplation and meditation. Perhaps one can say that it was his life breath. Each reading of the text with Sridhara Swami’s commentary (vyakhya) opened new vistas in his Odyssey on the path of devotion.
It gave him new insights and revelations. It is said of Goethe, the German poet that whenever he read Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Shakuntalam he danced in ecstasy. The same can be said of Master garu – about his elation whenever he found another deeper layer of spiritual import, in the same verses (slokas) which he must have read umpteen times. Study of the Bhagavata was his penance (tapas). I am happy and proud to say that he used to share some of these moments of exaltation with me. He would ring up and say “Amma I read these slokas today. What a wonderful experience (entho anandam gaa undamma; neeku kuda samskrutam vaste entha bagundedi? chadivi vinipinchevaadini.)” It is most unfortunate that I do not know Sanskrit, a great disappointment to Master garu. One could “hear” the joy of drinking Bhagavathamrutham in his voice.
His last work published in 2017 by Ramana Kendra, Hyderabad, Bhagavatam Bhagavat Tatvam is the quintessence of Ramana’s teaching, Sridhara Swami’s Bhagavatha Vyakhya and Adi Shankaracharya’s Brahmasutra Bhashya. He would reiterate “there is no difference in what Ramana said and what Bhagavata revealed”. (Ramanulu Cheppinadaaniki Bhagavatam lo cheppinadaaniki emi teda ledamma.)
Master garu’s command over the Sanskrit language and his erudition enabled him to translate almost twenty books of Ramana Ashram Publications into Telugu from Sanskrit for the benefit of the Telugu people, so that they could get first acquainted and then understand the significance of the teachings and the Philosophy of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Here I would like to mention a few books – Arunachala Panch Ratnamala Vaartikamulu Sa Vyakhya original in Sanskrit by Lakshmana Sarma, Sadvidya by Kapali Sastry to which Master garu gave prati padaartha vivarana, Kaivalya Navaneetham Originally written in Tamil by Tandava Raya Swami translated in to English by Munagala Venkataramayya. Master garu found only the message of ADVAITA in every book of Maharshi he studied.
Two of the monumental works of Master garu are translation of Uma Sahasram written in Sanskrit by Kaavyakantha Ganapathi Muni addressed as Nayana by Ramana Maharshi and Yogavasista Ramayanam by Valmiki rendered in to English as The Supreme Yoga by Swami Venkatesananda, one of the foremost disciples of H.H. Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.
The impact of the reading of the Supreme Yoga was so great that he felt his spiritual hunger satiated. But he became restless and anxious. He felt that such a wonderful work has to be made available to the spiritual seekers who know only Telugu. He was keen that all those sincere sadhaks should derive benefit by studying this treatise on Advaita which clearly shows the path to Moksha to be realized in this very life.
Swami Venkateshananda selected 732 Slokas out of 32,000 slokas for daily reading in the year, gave transliteration in English and wrote the commentary of these slokas in English. The Yeoman service which swamiji rendered for the western world, Master garu did for the Telugu people. His translation has an additional feature viz., he gave word to word meaning, Summary of the sloka and then the translation of the commentary from the original. This was indeed a stupendous task, though strenuous.
In his Telugu translation of Umasahasram Master garu gave prati padartham tatparyam (word to word meaning) and the commentary (vyakhya) and some additional insights to all the thousand verses.
Among the Anandashram Publications Master garu rendered into Telugu Swami Ramadas’s books are – At the Feet of God – (Bhagavat Charana Sannidhi), God Experience (Eeshwar Anubhuthi), Ramdas Speaks Vol 4 and 5 Ramadas Divya Sambhashana, Swami Sachidananda’s books Mundane to Spiritual Ihamunundi Paramunaku, Dive deep and Soar high – (Antaramukhudavai Mukthi Pondumu) etc.,
Master garu’s devotion and dedication enabled him to bring out the exact spirit and the message of all the original texts that he translated. All the translations are simple and lucid.
Now Master garu as a human being – He was a very simple and pure person. He had no airs about him. In spite of his profound scholarship and great erudition he never flaunted his knowledge. On the contrary he was very humble, egoless, and self-effacing. As his sadhana became more and more deep he got totally immersed in Bhagavata tatva. He did not want his name as a translator to be mentioned but remained Bhagavat padarenu.
With the advancing age the bodily ailments troubled him no end. But he endured them patiently – a living example of the word “titeeksha” mentioned in Adishankaracharya’s Aparok sahanubhuti; He worked out his prarabdha cheerfully, finally taking the name of his beloved Rama.
May the noble life of Master garu be an example for all of us in leading a meaningful and spiritual life. I am sure he is waiting to guide us all.
Om Tat Sat.