Sri T.V. Kapali Sastry (T.V.K.) is one of the great spiritual personalities of the twentieth century. He had expertise in Sanskrit, English, Telugu and Tamil. His current Collected Writings comprise 12 volumes, roughly half in English and Saskrit each, and one in Tamil and Telugu.
But a great writer will not necessarily be a great savant. There is a fundamental difference between eminence in other field such as science, technology and art, and attaining eminence in the spiritual field where the help of an advanced spiritual adept even from the young age is a must. Of course exceptions are there like Sri Ramana Maharshi who had no spiritual teacher. Ordinary academic training involving the getting of degrees such as M.A. or Ph.D. is not important. We have to understand that not all students studying under the same spiritual adept achieve the same competence. There are two other important factors, the divine grace and t inborn gifts, carried over perhaps from the earlier births.
India is a land full of great spiritual persons who are physically visible to only those who are serious spiritual aspirants. TVK himself had extraordinary adepts as his teachers and guides namely Sri Vasistha Ganapati Muni (VGM) Sri Ramana Maharshi, The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. We have also to add his father Visvesvara Sastry who initiated him into the great Tantrik practice Shri Vidya. We may recall that VGM was the discover of the greatness of Sri Ramana and who introduced TVK to Sri Ramana.
Since TVK knew his inner goal very well, he joined Si Aurobindo Ashram in 1929 even though he was an ardent student of Sri Ramana for several decades; Sri Ramana had great affection for TVK calling him 'Chinna Nayana' (Young leader).
TVK was born on Sep 3, 1886 in Mylapore in Chennai, belonging to the Sama Veda tradition. It is said that he learnt Sanskrit at an early age from his father, read the Ramayana twelve times in 12 years and acquired the grasp of the traditional disciplines like Vyakarana (Grammar), Tarka, Mantra Shastra, etc. It is said that every day he used to recite Shri Vidya Mantra 1008 times to the goddess at Tiruvottiyur. TVK states that even though he followed several courses of japa of various mantras for 12 years beginning with age eight, he did not feel he had made any progress. Se the note by TVK dated (4.2. 1951).
In 1908 or 1909 the famous svant Vasishtha Ganapati Muni (VGM) along with his disciples came to the temple at Tiruvottiyur and recited an extempore hymn to the goddess. TVK heard him. The next day VGM came at the same time. TVK recited the original hymn of VGM to the goddess. Thus started their relationship, by TVK becoming his disciple. He was instructed by VGM in many secrets including the greatness of the Vedic gods in 1908-1910. VGM suggested strongly to TVK to visit Sri Ramana. But TVK resisted, thinking Sri Ramana my ask him to take Sanyas. Finally he went to Sri Ramana Ashram and stayed there for almost 18 months. Sri Ramana was very fond of TVK and called him 'Chinna Nayana", Nayana being the name given to VGM, china meaning 'the younger'.
"Vasishtha Ganapati Muni (VGM) – Nayana as we called him – was of course my Guru. In fact, I looked upon him as my God. I looked to him for help and he always responded. But when it came to giving me the needed turn for delving into the depth of the spiritual, he directed me to the Maharshi. I hesitated because I feared of renunciation etc. But after repeated hints from Nayana for four years, I approached the Maharshi (1911-1912) and what a meeting it was! The very first day brought a remarkable change in my being and no amount of tapas or japa would have give me the indubitable knowledge of spiritual consciousness and correct appreciation of the truth of spiritual life that Maharshi gave me. I could not have come to Sri Aurobindo if I had not got the faith awakened in me in the spiritual life which I got from seeing Sri Maharshi." (Diary entry; (26.4.1949) CW3, p. 242).
There are several biographical sketches of TVK in the book, 'Versatile Genius' (pub in 1986); but none of them use the information in the Diary TVK available in the, 'Collected works of TVK' (Volume 3, p 19-82 and p. 238-247). The usual picture is, "TVK left Sri Ramana Ashrama and joined Sri Aurobindo (SA) Ashram", without mentioning the dates. TVK himself states that he was never regarded as a member of Sri Ramana Ashram, even though he stayed there for long periods in 1911-1912 doing sadhana under the guidance of Sri ramana.
Even after joining SA Ashram, he was in touch with Sri Ramana. With the permission of the Mother, he went to Sri Ramana to dedicate his (TVK) books on the teachings of Sri Ramana. Such a thing is almost unheard of in the spiritual history of India. Because of his great understanding, he could give authoritative answers to many questions such as 'what is the major difference between the paths of Sri Ramana, Sri Aurobindo etc.
"I seriously took to mantra japa when I was eight. By the time I was twenty, I had completed many courses of various mantras. When was no palpable result, I cried my heart out to the Divine. Sri Nayana then came on the scene and he gave me the eye. Next I met the Maharshi. The personal attraction was irresistible. But I found his teaching too direct, immediate, seemingly simple, having no steps in between the starting point and the goal, at any rate not practicable to people circumstanced like myself. It was only after I started reading the 'Arya' I found what I wanted. I was convinced that Sri Aurobindo would not have written those without experience. I saw Sri Aurobindo in 1917. Thereafter, a series of far reaching experiences in my inner life commenced and they took me to Sri Aurobindo once again in 1923. That trip decided my future."
"It was an ordeal to come away to pondicherry cutting through my loyalty to Sri Nayana and the attachment to Sri Maharshi. But I was completely firm within." 4.2.1951 (CW 3, p. 246)
TVK expressed his great gratitude to all his teachers in concrete ways.
Uma Sahasram made up of 1000 verses in Sanskrit authored by VGM is perhaps the greatest poetic composition of the last two centuries. Each verse brims with great delight and secrets. TVK wrote a detailed commentary on these 1000 verses.
He wrote detailed commentaries on the thoughts of Sri Ramana as detailed in his commentary on the works of VGM 'Sad-darshana' and 'Ramana Gita'.
TVK wrote a beautiful biography of VGM called 'Vaishtha Vaibhavam'. His gratitude to his teacher Sri Aurobindo is expressed in his great commentary on Rig Veda entitled. 'Siddhanjana' described in detail in a later chapter.
Beides he composed over a hundred verses glorifying Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. His verse translation of the pose work of Sri Aurobindo, titled 'The Mother', is very useful. It deals with the four great goddesses Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasarasvati.
His wife was Parvati and they had no children. She cooperated with TVK in his spiritual life, assisting him in the worship of the devi. They spent five months in Sisrsi in 1913-32, in the Tapas sessions directed by Sri Vaishtha Ganapati Muni, described in detail elsewhere. After TVK joined the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1929, Parvati continued to stay in Chennai.
It is said tat TVK father, Sri Visveswara died early so that mention of TVK having any brothers.
Smt. Lakshmi, the physical mother of TVK was close to the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is said that at the physical mother of TVK was close to the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is said that at the time of her death, her soul merged into Mother.
TVK introduced several sisters of M.P. Pandit to the worship of the Mother of Ashram. Sundari Bai and Savitri are mentioned. Book IV deals with his prominent disciples Sunder Pandit and M.P. Pandit.
All we know definitely is that TVK was a Sanskrit teacher in the Muthialpet High School. He resigned his job on 31 May 1929 prior to his joining the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. We do not know the date of his becoming the school teacher. It is said that material benefits were provided by his co-brother, the famous lawyer A.R. Doreswamy to TVK and to his wife Parvati after TVK joined the SA Ashram.
TVK is extolled as a versatile genius by some of his disciples. He apparently knew a variety of subjects like Ayurveda, Siddha medicine, Astrology. TVK had predicted much earlier that 1956 will be an important year for Sri Aurobindo. The famous Supramental Descent took place on Feb. 29, 1956, even though Sri Aurobindo had left the body in 1950. TVK exited in 1953 after a brief illness.
Sr Shankara, TVK, and Tantra
Sri TVK stated elsewhere he was a Tantrik and he recited the famous litanies regularly such as 'Latita Sahasranama' before coming to SA Ashram and performed the puja of Sri Vidya.
Sr Shankara Acharya (SSA), in his Commentary of Bhagavad and of the seven goddesses (sapta matrika) as tamasi. In his bhshya on Bhagavas Gita, (9.25), sri Shankara renders bhutejya as 'vinayaka – matrgana – chaturbhaginyadini'; similarly in BC (17.4) he states, 'bhutaganamshcha – sapta matrikadin anye yajante tamasa janah (Reference: 'Shankara and Adhyada Bhashya' by S.K. Ramachandra Rao, 2002, p.30.)
TVK and Brhadaranyaka U.
TVK always focussed on the double meanings of the key words of the Rig Veda but not those in Brh. Upanished. Hindu bashers and bull-kilers always quote a verse (6.4.18) from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. The verse involves three words mamsa-audanam, aukshena, vrshabhena. The common meaning can be guessed. But these words have completely different meaning for persons knowledgable in, "The Ayurveda Charaka Samhita." Uksha and rshashaka refer to specific herbs should be used to prepare the dish (audanam).
The info given here is due t the great savant Sri Swami Varasaranga Desika.
Some opinions of TVK
(i) TVK admires his teacher VGM in may ways but he makes a casual comment on the VGM works on the Vedas, in one of his essays. (Foreword, given in CW10, p. Viii). He says, "even though VGM talked on the Veda extensively especially on the Vedic deities, he did not even write a commentary on a single hymn or sukta of Rig Veda." Factually this not true, The commentary of VGM on some Rik Manrad are in pages 61-155 in volume 7 of the Collected Works of VGM. The total wirting of VGM on Veda is about 204 pages. As we know, VGM was always travelling. But his close disciple D.S. Vishvamitra and his son Mahadeva collected all his writings from all disciples of VGM, which are given here. VGM work on Veda is also interesting giving us many insights different from those of Sri Auriobindo or TVK.
(ii) In verse 32 of Mahamanustava, TVK looks down on persons getting mantras from books. If such a person has aspiration, the divine grace helps him/her appropriately. Many human teachers especially in Tamil Nadu pronounce mantras wrongly because of their ignorance of Nagari script.
(iii) TVK believed that a Veda mantra gives benefit only if done in the traditional way. As VGM stated, Veda does not say so. VGM stressed that we should treat only Veda as authority and not other Sanskrit books.