Max Muller’s Sanskrit Knowledge – Abhedananda’s Comment (Post No.5364)


Date: 26 August 2018


Time uploaded in London – 6-58 AM (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5364


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Swami Abhedananda was the founder President of The Ramakrishna Vedanta Society
Born October 2 , 1886
Samadhi (Died) 8 September 1939

Swami Abhedananda gives some interesting information while answering three questions sent by Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, great philosopher and ex-President of India. It was published in 1936 in the book titled ‘Contemporary Indian Philosophy’.

The three questions are
What is your religion?
How are you led to it?
What is its bearing on social life?
I was born in Calcutta October 2,1866 . My father, late Rasiklal Chandra, was a student of philosophy and teacher of English in the Oriental Seminary in Calcutta. I was educated in a Sanskrit school, then in a Bengali vernacular school and afterwards in the Oriental Seminary, from which I successfully passed the entrance examination at the age of eighteen.

From my childhood I wanted to know the cause of everything and used to ask questions about the ‘Why and How’ of all events. When for the first time I read in Wilson’s History of India, that Shankaracharya was a great philosopher, I had a thrilling sensation, and I wanted to become a philosopher and to study his philosophy. At that time, I was a student in the drawing class of the seminary and was learning to paint from nature. Suddenly a thought came to my mind that I didn’t want to be a painter but I would be a philosopher, and so I gave up the study of the art of drawing and painting.


I found a copy of the Bhagavad Gita in my father’s private library and began to study it. When my father saw me reading that book, he took it away from me, saying that’ the Bhagavad Gita was not for boys; it would make you insane’. But his remarks could not stop me from reading it.

In my youth I was fond of listening to discourses on Hindu philosophy and used to hear lectures on various religionsas well. I studied Patanjali’s Yoga system. Then I studied ‘Siva Samhita’, a treatise on the practical methods of Rajayoga. But I was told not to practise any of the methods without being instructed by a competent Guru. My class mate asked me to go to Sri Ramakrishna.
One Sunday morning I reached the temple garden at Dakshineswar where I met the great yogi Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and I asked him whether he could teach me practical methods of Yoga Philosophy. He replied ‘Yes’, and after reading of my past life, he said, ‘you were a great yogi in your past incarnation. Come my boy! I will teach you how to practise Yoga’. Then he initiated me and then gave me instructions in concentration and meditation. He touched my chest and aroused my ‘Kundalini’, the ‘Serpent Powe’r and I went into Samadhi, the state of super consciousness.

In him I found the embodiment of the Absolute truth of the highest philosophy, as well as of the Universal Religion. I became his humble disciple.


Image of Max Muller
I travelled bare footed from place to place, depending entirely on alms cooked and uncooked, whatever chance would bring to me. I endured all sorts of privation and hardship, practised austerities of all kinds, walked up to the sources of Yamuna and Ganga. I stayed for three months in the caves of the Himalayas at the altitude of 14000 feet above the sea level, spending most of my time in contemplation of the Absolute. I realised that the phenomenal world was like a dream. Thus wandering for ten years all over India visiting sacred places, I met great sages and saints like Trailinga Swami, Swami Bhaskarananda at Benares, Pavahari Baba At Gazipur, many Vaishnava saints at Brindavan and great Vedanta philosophers at Rishikesh where I studied monistic Vedanta Philosophy under the great scholar Dhanaraj Giri.

In 1896, Swami Vivekananda , who after his successful lectures in USA came to London . He invited me to assist him and I went to London in1896 . Swami Vivekananda entrusted me with the charge of conducting classes on Vedanta and Rajayoga.


Swami Vivekananda took me to meet Professor Max Muller and Professor Paul Daussen of Kiel University who had translated sixty Upanishads into German. I had conversations with them in Sanskrit. But Professor Max muller could neither speak in Sanskrit nor understand Sanskrit words when spoken, because, as he said, his ears and tongue were not trained in the sounds of Sanskrit utterances. So, I exchanged my views with him in English. He was deeply interested in the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and said, Ramakrishna was an original thinker, for he was never brought up within the precincts of any university and therefore his teachings were new and original. This remark created a deep impression upon my mind. Later on, he published the ‘Life and Sayings of Ramakrishna’.

In 1897 I went to New York at the request of Swami Vivekananda. There in six months I delivered ninety public lectures before large audiences on Vedanta philosophy.

In 1898 , Professor William James held a discussion with me in his house on the problem of the ‘Unity of the Ultimate Reality’. This discussion lasted nearly for four hours. In which Professors Royce, Lanman, Shaler and Dr James from Cambridge took my side and supported my arguments in favour of ‘unity’.

I travelled all through the USA Canada and Mexico and delivered lectures. In 1921 I sailed to Hawai, Japan, China, Singapore Malaya and Philippines before returning to Calcutta. In 1922, I went to Tibet from Kashmir crossing the Himalayas on foot to study Lamaism. My destination was Demis Monastery near Leh in Ladakh. In 1923 after returning from Tibet I established  Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Calcutta. In 1924 ,I opened a branch in Darjeeling.


This short sketch of my life will give the reader some idea of the different influences which have moulded my convictions.”

Published in 1936