The story is told of a dowager who attended a talk and came out muttering, ‘Mesopotamia, Mesopotamia.’ She was in ecstasy. When a friend questioned her what Mesopotamia was, she blithely answered, ‘I do not have the ghost of an idea, but the word Mesopotamia sounds so soothing.’ Advaita is Mesopotamia to many of us. We hail it as the acme of philosophic thinking, we call it revolutionary, we term it sublime. But, if pressed, we have to admit that we have only a very hazy notion about its profound implications, not only as theory but also as a practical guide in the odyssey of life.
Sri Sankaracharya’s Bhashyas and Prakaranas are, no doubt, masterly expositions of this grand perspective of Reality, but his language is so mellifluous and alluring that we are lulled into a complacence that we have understood where we have not. The beauty veils the truth. It is in this predicament that Laghu Vasudevamananam comes to our rescue. It takes us by the hand and leads us step by easy step to the very summit. As the name implies, Laghu Vasudevamananam is the condensation of a larger treatise Vasudevamananam attributed to one Vasudeva Yati who is said to have lived some three centuries back on the banks of the Narmada. But nothing definite is known about this sage. Nor is the text of his treatise now available. Fortunately, another great soul, out of compassion for us, has taken the trouble to epitomize the work, himself remaining anonymous. Greatness is often enshrined in anonymity in Indian tradition. Do our masterpieces of painting and sculpture carry the master’s signature? Laghu Vasudevamananam is indeed a vade mecum of Advaitic metaphysics. The analysis is thorough, neat, precise. The cause of all human misery is traced, stage by stage, to Ajnana or ignorance. And it is underlined that no word or deed can exorcise Ajnana which vanishes in toto only when supreme knowledge dawns. The desiderata for the seeker of knowledge are then specified and the technique of investigation is described. The distinction between self and non-self, the nature of superimposition, the nexus between Jivatman and Paramatman, the three states of consciousness, the five sheaths, the three bodies, are all explained clearly. How the Mahavakyas like Tat Tvam Asi are to be interpreted and how Brahman is to be realized as Sat-chit-ananda are next elucidated. The logic is razor-sharp and no loose ends are left anywhere. So when the author concludes with the challenging declaration, ‘There is nothing more to be said or heard’, we gladly nod assent. A melancholy interest attaches to this English translation of Laghu Vasudevamananam in that it was the last scholarly work of Revered Swami Tapasyanandaji Maharaj, who has enriched our religio-philosophic literature with so many admirable translations and critical notes during his long dedicated life of nearly nine decades.