'When were we separate We are always together.' When the great saint Ramana Maharshi says this about Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal, one gets an idea of the latter's greatness. One of the great Hindu religious leaders of the last century, the swami's pure life and depth of scholarship was his greatest message to humankind. The 68th pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, Kanchipuram, the swami lived a century dedicated to the preservation and propagation of Hindu ideals and practices. The present book is a painstaking labour of love displaying a selection of the swami's discourses in Tamil, which have been translated into English, edited, and topically arranged. The editor deserves special commendation for this marvellous work which has been culled from a transcript of more than 6,500 pages.
The basic precepts and practices of Hinduism are outlined in the book. Beginning with the concept of religion in general, the swami takes us through the principles of the Vedas. He explains the system of varnashrama, caste, and its place in modern society. He also explains the basics of nyaya, logic, and elaborates on the importance of the Puranas. Rituals form an integral part of Hinduism, but many modern Hindus are sceptical about their relevance. The swami explains the rationale behind these rituals and classifies them according to the different ashramas, stages of life. Karma as a means to attain peaceful meditation is insightfully described. The swami beautifully relates common ideas of goodness to the concept of dharma. Besides, he dilates on the role of the state in upholding religion. Many miscellaneous utterances of the swami have been given at the end of the book, enhancing the presentation. Elaborate notes, a glossary, and an index make for a comfortable reading.
An Indian edition of the original American book, this volume has an elegant layout design. It is also a pictorial biography, as different phases of the swami's life have been captured in high quality photographs. There is a scholarly introduction by Arvind Sharma of McGill University. This book is a treasure for students of Hinduism and admirers of the swami.