Internationally acclaimed research scholar in Vedanta
philosophy, B. N. K. Sharma, passed away in Mumbai recently
after a brief illness. Born on June 9, 1909, B. N.
Krishnamurthy Sharma hailed from a family of Sanskrit
scholars. He was proficient in Sanskrit (Devanagari as well
as Nandi Nagari) and Ardha Maagadhi. His grandfather, Kochhi
Rangappachaarya, was the court Sanskrit pandit at the Cochin
Even as a student at the University of Madras, under Sri
Kuppuswami Shastri, Sharma was trained by Swami Sathyadhyana
Tirtha of of the Uttaraadi Math, in the art and technique of
Sharma, who began his career at the Annamalai University
(Chidambaram) as a Sanskrit lecturer, rose to become the
Principal of Raja's College, Tiruvaiyaru, and later served
in various capacities for the cause of Sanskrit education
and philosophical research at Hoshiarpur, Udipi, Kumta and
Dharwar. He was Head of the Department of Sanskrit, D. G.
Ruparel College, Mumbai, (1953-74) where he retired from
Sharma has authored more than 25 classical works apart from
over 150 research papers on Vedanta philosophy in general
and Dwaita in particular. His works are acclaimed as
trendsetters in the neo-Vedanta Research. His greatest
contribution is his three-volume publication of the
commentaries on the Brahma Sutras by the three acharyas —
Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhwa. Sharma was the recipient of
many awards and honours from the Government of India and
also from abroad including the Central Sahitya Akademi
MODERN SCHOLARS OF DVAITA VEDANTA
Dr. B.N.K. Sharma By
Madhva Vedantabhusana Dr. D.N. Shanbhag, Dharwad
If a jury is asked to decide the Dvaita Scholars of 20th Century,
there will emerge the unanimous verdict that he is
Dr. B.N.K. Sharma.
If a panel of experts is appointed to discover the Research Scholars
who worked with a zeal of ‘one life. One mission’ to vindicate the
great Madhvacarya and his doctrines, there will come out only one
name and that is,
Dr. B.N.K. Sharma.
If contemporary writers on Indian Philosophy were asked to highlight
a writer of convincing, authentic and well documented works in
English on Dvaita Vedanta, again the light will concentrate on only
Dr. B.N.K. Sharma. Whom would a truthseeker in this world, approach
to know even the subtlest details of Dvaita Vedanta? The reply will
He embodies in himself the Encyclopaedia of Dvaita Vedanta.
The moot question arises : “Who is this Dr.
Let those worthies who have known him personally and through his
voluminous works speak out their estimate of the person.
H.H. Sri Vishvesha Tirtha Swamiji of Sri Pejawar Matha, Udupi
has blessed Dr. Sharma addressing him directly: “Till now no one has
done so much service to Dvaita Vedanta through the English language,
as you have done. During the last half a century. Your name will
live for ever in the history of Dvaita Siddhanta. May Sri Hari and
Vayu enable you to render still greater service and work in the
Sri R.R. Diwakar, former Governor of Bihar and Chairman, Gandhi
Peace Foundation, New Delhi congratulated Dr. Sharma:
“I congratulate you on the comparative and comprehensive study of
the Dvaita Vedanta. You have paid back, with compound interest, the
debt you owed to the great Jagadguru Srimad Anandatirtha
Bhagavatpadacharya and at the same time freed yourself from the debt
of the Risis by your monumental works. Very few have the good
fortune to achieve so much in their lives.’
: Prof. Jose Pereira, Dept. of Philosophy, Fortham University,
Bronx, NY (USA) and Prof. L. Stafford Betty, Dept.of Religion and
Philosophy, California State College, Backerfield have admitted that
they realized the truth of Madhva’s thought and that they received
encouragement from Dr. Sharma to propagate it.
Prof. Karl H. Potter,
Chief Editor, Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Washington, is
quite candid: “Dr. Sharma has provided what only a master teacher
can provide. We philosophers are much in Dr. Sharma’s debt, for he
has managed almost alone to explain the intricate analysis of Madhva
and his successors so that we can appreciate their profundity.”
The Academic Career of Dr. B.N.K. Sharma
Now we can consider, in brief, Dr. B.N.K. Sharma’s biography. He was
born on 9th June 1909 and began his literary career at the early age
of 22; he began to write research articles on topics related to
Madhva’s Dvaita Vedanta in 1931 itself. He hails from a scholarly
family of traditional stalwarts who were honoured as Royal Pundits
at the court of former Cochin State. The foundations of Dr. Sharma’s
traditional scholarship in Sanskrit Literature and Sastras were
firmly laid by his maternal grandfather Kocci Madhvarayacarya and
later by renowned Pandit of Kumbhakonam (Tamil Nadu) like Sri M.
Rama Rao. At Kumbhakonam itself, he completed his High School and
College studies upto Intermediate Examination in Arts securing a I
Class. Later he joined Presidency College Madras (now Chennai) for
his Honours course in Sanskrit (1928-31), which he passed in High II
class with NyayaVaisesika and Comparative Philology (IndoEuropean)
as special subjects.
Then started his teaching and research career. He served at the
Annamalai University as Lecturer in Sanskrit from 1931-42. Then for
six years he was the Principal of the prestigious Sanskrit College
of Tiruvaiyaru. From 1948 to 1953. Dr Sharma served in various
capacities as Research scholar at Visvvesvaranand Vedic research
Institute in Punjab; Principal, Sanskrit College Udupi; Principal,
Kanara College (now A.V. Baliga College of Arts and Science) Kumta;
Honorary Prof. of Sanskrit, J.E. Board’s College (now J.S.S.
College) Dharwad. Finally in 1953, he migrated to Mumbai to join as
Professor and Head of the Dept. of Sanskrit and Ardhamagadhi at the
Ruparel College, where he served upto his retirement in 1969.
(During this long career he secured the Ph.D. degree (Sanskrit) of
the Madras University (1948) and the D.Litt. degree (Philosophy) of
the Bombay University (1968).
The onwards Dr. Sharma had ample time to devote all his energy
towards contributing substantial works on Dvaita Vedanta. One such
work is “The Brahmasutras and Their Principal Commentaries (A
Critical Exposition).” It was the outcome of the UGC Research
Project undertaken by him. This monumental work brought universal
acclaim to Dr. Sharma. The high worth of this work, published in
three volumes, can be known from a portion of ‘Editorial Preface’ of
Dr. H.H. Dave, Hon. Director, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, who are
its publishers Dr. Dave contends:
“We are happy to bring out the third volume of Dr. B.N.K. Sharma’s
vigorous and animated study of the Brahma sutras and their Principal
Commentaries of the three famous schools of Vedanta with the full
complement of their respective commentarial literature, in depth. It
places before the world of scholars here and abroad, the most
detailed and penetrating study of the subject has been carried out
since George Thibaut’s first analysis and comparison of topics and
their interpretation in the Bhasyas of Sankara and Ramanuja in 1890,
followed three decades by the Indian Scholar Dr. V.S. Ghate,
widening the area of inquiry to include the outlines of the Bhasyas
of Nimbalkar, Madhva and Vallabha.
“After a gap of more than half a century, Dr. B.N.K. Sharma, who is
an eminent Professor of Sanskrit brought up in the best traditions
of ancient and modern scholarship is the most renowned contemporary
scholar and writer of the Madhva Sampradaya, has entered the field
and has enlivened the study of the Sutras and their commentaries
with this magnum opus.
“There is no doubt that Dr. Sharma’s work ushers in a new genre of
creative and critical literatures in lively English on the
fascinating yet the most difficult subject of the Brahma sutras and
their famous commentaries by the renowned Acaryas and their eminent
followers. His works has gone beyond all the earlier ones on the
subject in any modern Indian or foreign language including English,
in its scope, range and depth and attention to significant details.
It is bound to remain a standard work of study and reference and an
indispensable guide and aid to higher studies in Vedanta for several
years to come.
I congratulate Dr. Sharma on his brilliant achievement.
Really, the estimate of Dr. Sharma’s all works has been here laid
bare by Dr. Dave.
The world of scholars and truth-seekers has noted that the
research-based literary activity of Dr. Sharma, spread through a
long period of more than sixty years, is concentrated on vindicating
tenets of Madhva’s Dvaita Vedanta. Why is it so? What prompted him
to devote all his time and energies towards this one goal? The
motivation sprouted in 1928 itself when he was a student at the
Presidency College Madras. As a sincere and keen student, he was a
student at the Presidency College Madras. As a sincere and keen
student, he was attracted towards the works of reputed Western
scholars like Keith, Macdonell and Schrader, and of Indian stalwarts
like Radhakrishnan. He admired their profound scholarship and
captivating style. But he was dismayed to see that works on Indian
Philosophy by both Western and Indian scholars had done scant
justice to Madhva’s Dvaita School of Vedanta while dealing with
different schools of Vedanta, a prominent branch of Indian
Philosophy. These several authors were not a particular in
projecting a true picture of the Dvaita Vedanta. They were not ready
to accept Madhva as a standard Philosopher. They just dismissed his
doctrines as sectarian belonging to the religious history of India
than to the philosophical one. This attitude of those writers was
sufficient to instigate and motivate Dr. Sharma to devote all his
studies to highlight Madhva’s real philosophical worth. It became
his life-mission. To-day at this very age of 95, he enjoys the
satisfaction of having completed his life-mission in all aspects, in
spite of various odds and obstacles. Indeed, very few lucky to enjoy
such contentment in their old age!
Dr. Sharma has been honoured not only by the revered Heads of
several Maths, but also by the Central Sahitya Academy Award (1963),
the award of the President of India for Eminent Sanskrit Scholars in
1992, the Govt of Maharashtra Award in 1993, and the Vidyamanya
Prasasti of One Lakh Rupees of the Ananda Tirtha Pratisthana by Sri
Visvesatirtha Swamiji of Pejawar Math, Udupi, in 1996. On 13.11.1999
he was honoured with the title of “Mahamahopadhyaya” by the
Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapitha, Tirupati. Besides, Dr. Sharma was
awarded the Vyasa Pitha Prasasti (Kurnool) in 2000, the Vyasa Madhva
Seva Pasasti (Bangalore) on 16.06.2002, Paryaya Krsna Matha
Prasastri (Udupi) on 14.09.2003. M/s Motilal Banarasidass Centenary
Award (Chennal) on 16.09.2003, the Maharashtra State Kannadigas’
Literary Conference Award (Mumbai) on 02.05.2004, and the latest is,
the Sri Raghavendra Anugraha Prasasti of Rs. One Lakh at Mantralaya
In the course of his long academic career, he encouraged a large
number of students who later occupied distinguished academic
positions and made distinct contribution to the advancement of
knowledge. Among these
Prof. C.S. Venkateswaran
joined the Annamalai University as a lecturer and rose to the
position of Prof. Head of the Department. It was a time when the
Sanskrit Studies were put on the back seat at the university and did
not receive any encouragement. However it was his patience and
perseverance that sustained the Sanskrit Department. It was closed
after his retirement.
Prof. K.T. Pandurangi was his student at Annamalai University
between 1940 to 1942. At that time he was studying Purva-Mimamsa.
Dr. Sharma inspired him to study and undertake research in Dvaita
Vedanta. It is well known that Prof. Pandurangi devoted the whole
life for Research and Publication in Dvaita Vedanta and Purvamimamsa.
He received encouragement and guidance from Dr. Sharma all along
his academic career. He paid Guru Dakshina by way of securing
“Rashtrapati Prashasti” for him when he was the member of the Expert
Committee to recommend distinguished scholars. He also paid Guru
Dakshina to him by way of recommending his valuable work “Philosophy
of Madhvacarya” for the degree of D.Litt. He paid this guru-dakshina
with great humility.
The present writer Dr. D.N. Shanbhag who was a student of Prof. K.T.
Pandurangi and Dr. B.N.K. Sharma at M.A and Ph.D respectively was
inspired by Dr. Sharma to undertake research in Dvaita Vedanta. The
entire credit of research and publication made by him goes to Dr.
Important Scholarly and Well documented Works on Dvaita Vedanta
Contributed by Dr. B.N.K. Sharma.
1.History of Dvaita School of Vedanta & its Literature
2.Philosophy of Sri Madhvacarya
3.Brahma sutras & their Principal Commentaries (A Critical
Exposition) (3 volumes)
4.Madhva’s Aupinisdam Darsanam
5.Brhadaranyaka Upanisad-as expounded by Madhva.
6.Madhva’s Bhagavad Gita Bhasya
7.Madhva’s Teachings in his own words
8.Lectures on Vedanta.
9.Lectures on Dvaita Philosophy
10.Advaitasiddhi Vs Nyayamrta
11.Mahatatparya of Mahavakyas
12.Nyayasudha of Jayatirtha (3 Vols.)
13.My Four Latest Research Papers (2001)
14.My Further Ten Research Papers (2002)
15.My Final Five Research Papers (2003)
16.My Concluding Research Papers (2004)