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The Rivalry for Jyotir Math  
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Vaj.
2005-08-02 17:09:50 UTC
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The Rivalry for Jyotir Math                   

by Dana Sawyer (2001)
 
         High in the  Garhwal Himalayas, near the border with Tibet,
lies the sacred Hindu temple of Badrinath, one of the most important
pilgrimage destinations in the Uttarkand, the “northern portion.”  Each
year, tens of thousands of pilgrims journey from the plains to worship
Lord Badri, a form of Visnu in the shadow of the snow capped peaks.
Tradition says that this temple was re-established (after having been
desecrated by Buddhists) by Sankara himself, who retrieved the sacred
murti  of Badri from the Alakananda river just below the temple.
 Hagiographical accounts of Sankara’s life also tell us that he then
established one of his four primaryvidyapiths  near there, and called
it the Jyotir (“Radiant”)  Math, installing one of his favorite
disciples, Totaka, on its gaddi.  Today, the Jyotir Mathvidyapith  is
located at Joshi, a small village 40 kms. south of Badrinath and the
take-off point for tourist treks into the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.
         The history of the math  is murky, having more to do with
legend than fact, in part due to the circumstance that the math  was
closed, by all accounts, for more than a century and a half, and only
reinstated in the middle of this century.  Traditional accounts, kept
by the present claimants for the abbottship, tell us that the last
Sankaracarya before the lapse was Swami Ramakrsna Asrama, who presided
there until 1833. (*footnote: Vidyasankar Sundaresan, at the Jyot-Shank
 web site, gives the Dasnami name as “Tirtha” and says he has this from
“official accounts,” but all accounts I’ve seen, e.g.,
Jyotispith-Parampara, Ek Anusilan , p.3,  from Swami Svarupananda’s
press in Banaras, 1996, give it as “Asrama”) For various reasons, the
math became vacant.   Some say there was no properly qualified person
to follow Swami Ramakrisna; others say that the Gurkha invasion from
Nepal caused the lapse.  Whatever the facts might be, it is only in the
late 1930s that the story becomes clear.  At that time, a Dandi swami
 from Banaras named Gyanananda Saraswati established a trust for the
Jyotir Math, overseen by his organization, the Bharat Dharma
Mahamandal,  and began a search for a Dandi qualified to head the post,
not wanting the position himself.
         After a reconaissance mission to locate the site of the
original math, which had become obscured over time, Gyanananda became
satisfied that he had found the ruins of it on a hillside above Joshi,
and on Aprl 11, 1941 the particluar spot was secured by deed and
endowment.  In the meantime, Gyanananda, the Mahamandal, and members of
the Kashi Vidvat Parisad had decided to ask Swami Hariharananda
Saraswati (popularly known as Karpatri Swamiji), a popular and powerful
Dandi (*footnote: in fact, the most influential Dandi in India at the
time, e.g., see Tripathi,  pp.64 and 224), to accept the post.
 Karpatri, however, had, the year before, begun an organization called
Dharma Sangh to fight for Hindu principles and so, being busy with
other matters, he declined.  However, before declining he offered his
help in selecting a suitable candidate and recommended his own guru,
Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (later to become famous in the West as the
guru of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, once guru to the Beatles and Mia
Farrow).  Given the influence of Karpatri, and the quickly acknowledged
suitability of the candidate, Brahmananda was duly installed as
Sankaracarya of Jyotir Math that same year.
 
After Brahmananda
 
         Brahmananda, well respected by all, presided over the math
 until his death on May 20, 1953.  Immediately after his death a
succession dispute arose.  Unfortunately, before his death, he had not
made clear who should follow him on the gaddi.  Some of his followers
came forward with a will, saying  that Brahmananda had made it just
before his death.  This will, published on June 8, 1953, stated that
Brahmananda had actually nominated four persons as qualified for the
position, and named them in order of preference, as: (1) Swami
Santananda Saraswati, (2) Dwarka Pasad Sastri (who would first have to
take diksa  as an ascetic to become qualified), (3) Swami
Visnudevananda Saraswati, and (4) Swami Paramatmananda Saraswati.  In
line with this will, the first respondent, who was installed on June
12, 1953 as head of the math, came into possession of the math
properties and applied for a certificate of succession in the district
court at Allahabad.  This was eventually granted on Dec. 12, 1956 -
that is, three years later. But this did not settle the dispute.  Three
allegations continued to be aimed by various parties at the acarya and
his supporters:
(1) Questions regarding the authenicity of the will arose, for
instance, why hadn’t Brahmananda published the will while he was still
alive?  Why hadn’t he made clear then who he wanted to follow him?
 Some believed the will to be a forgery, and sited that Mehesh
Brahmacari, a ascetic from the Shudra caste, acting, as members of the
kyastha subcaste often do, as a secretary, had the opportunity to
create such a document, and as a supporter of Santananda might be
willing.  They also argued that even if the will was authentic, it had
probably been tampered with, claiming that someone must have reversed
the order of the four persons as Swami Paramananda was clearly the best
choice.
(2) Another allegation held that even if the will was real that
Brahmananda had not been is a “sound disposing state of mind”
(*footnote: court case, p.793) when the will was executed and cited
their personal experience with him during those last days as testimony.
 This allegation had even spread to rumors that Brahmananda had been
poisoned.
(3) The third allegation was pedagogical, specifically, that
Santananda did not have the requisite learning in Sanskrit and the
Vedas required to assume the gaddi.  Forwarders of this allegation
cited that when Sankara founded these specific maths  he created a
constitution for them, presented in two brief texts, the Mathamnaya
 and the Mahanusasan. (the authenticity of these texts is academically
disputed but tradition has upheld them).  In those texts, Sankara
specifies that to be the acarya  of avidyapith, a claimant must (a)
have control of his senses and desires, (b) must have a good knowledge
of Sanskrit and the Vedas (including the vedangas, etc.), and (3) must
be well versed in all aspects of the varnasrama-dharma.  But, to the
contrary, Santananda, his opponents maintained, though a good and moral
person, did not have the requisite learning, having been a book binder
in his pre-ascetic life and Brahmananda’s cook during his time with the
guru.
         The two sides squared off immediately after the death of
Brahmananda, and the detractors to Santananda’s ascension were not
without clout.   Among those opposed were the members of the Bharat
Dharma Mahamandal, who had originally created the trust, including
Swami Gyanananda.  Also in this camp was the influential Swami
Karpatri; increased force was lent to his disapproval in that he also,
like Santananda, was a direct  disciple of Swami Brahmananda.  Bharat
Dharma Mahamandal, claiming they had, at the time of the establishing
of the Jyotir Math trust, reserved the right to decide who ascended the
gaddi  if succession ever became again muddled, and allegedly producing
a document that  proved this (*footnote: I have never seen it or found
a copy), pronounced at Karpatri’s recommendation (as he himself did not
want the job, though he was asked), one Swami Krsnabodh Asrama as the
new acarya  and installed him on June 25th, 1953, just less than two
weeks after the installation of Santananda.
 
 
 
History of the Jyotir Math dispute, including history of its litigation
 
         Because litigation was not immediately begun, the early
circumstances of the dispute are clouded in opinion but what is certain
is that there was soon after the death of Brahmananda two maths  in the
village of Joshi claiming to be the proper pith of the Sankaracarya.
This was, and still is, a cumbersome situation since it confused
pilgrims stopping by on their way to Badrinath and seeking the
blessings of the acarya.  Moreover, it created an obscured parampara
(lineage) for the pith’s future (*footnote: in many ways reminicent of
the position medival Catholics found themselves in during the period of
the rival  Avignon papacy).  The situation was futher complicated when
the acaryas  went out on tour, a custom considered essential for the
abbott of avidyapith.   Then (and still) Hindu laity could find
themselves in the unenviable position of being asked to donate money to
the support of the regional pith  after, they thought, they had already
done so.  In this way, a succession dispute quickly became a
jurisdiction dispute, for as one Indian author explained about a
similar Sankaracarya conflict : “Two lions cannot live in the same
forest without meeting.” (A. Saraswati, p.118)
         By the late fifties a court case was being framed by those
contending against Santananda and in the early sixties they obtained
permission of the Advocate general in Allahabad to file a suit under
s.92 of the Civil Procedure Code (instituted by the British in 1908)
against him.  This case, first heard in District court at Seoni, was
brought forward in the name of Swami Paramatmananda, the fourth person
named in the disputed will, along with three pandits, two of which,
Mahdev Sastra and Nagesh Upadyaya, were of the Bharat Dharma
Mahamandal.  Paramatmananda, by all accounts had no real interest in
becoming the acarya, and would have abdicated immediately to Krsnabodh
Asrama had the case gone in his favor, but the hope was that having
appeared on the original will, itself already recognized as a legal
document when the certificate of succession had been granted, some
credibility would be gained.  In the suit against Santananda he was
named as “Ramji Tripathi,” his name before becoming an ascetic, an
implicit defamation of his position.
         After much deliberation, the court dismissed the case, siding
for neither person, and so leaving Santananda, by default, with the
succession certificate that had been issued in 1956.  The court
maintained that under s. 92 of the Civil Procedure Code dealing with
public trusts, a suit must be brought forward only to protect the
public interest.  In contrast to this, the court felt that the
plaintiffs were suing only to defend the personal interests, rights and
position, of Krisnabodh Asrama, through Swami Paramatmananda, and so
they threw the case out of court, standing on several precedent cases
(court case, p.794).  
         The case was appealed to the High court at Allahabad in 1962
(Civil Appeal No. 385), and received the same judgement, that is “the
High Court found that there was no evidence to substantiate the
allegations of breach of trust against the first respondent.  No
reasons were given in the plaint for asking the directions of the court
for the administration of the trust. “ (court case, p.791)  Though it
is interesting to note that the court itself acknowledged that
Santananda lacked the knowledge “in Sanskrit and the Vedas which was a
necessary qualification for holding the headship of the Math.”  (p.793,
pt. E of the court case)  But, perceiving this as outside the scope of
the suit, and of the jurisdiction of the secular court, it was of no
consequence.
         With no recourse for litigation on the grounds of
incompetence to preside for religious reasons, the plaintiffs continued
their civil suit and appealed the case to the Supreme Court of India at
Delhi.   The case was filed as “Civil Appeal No. 1589” of 1973 and
decided on August 21, 1974. The position of the court was again that
 “there was an allegation that the direction of the Court was necessary
for the administration of the trust.  But no reasons were given in the
plaint why the plaintiffs were seeking the direction of the Court.
There were no clear allegations of maladministration...” and so “We
think that the High Court was right in dismissing the suit on the
ground that it did not fall within S. 92...  We therefore dismiss the
appeal.” (court case, p.796).
         But dismissing the case did not end the dispute, for nothing
had been decided and no worldly power was restraining either man from
functioning as the acarya.  By the early eighties the situation was
further complicated by the fact that with the passage of so much time,
both men had left their gaddi s and there were now two lines of
succession.  Krsnabodh Asrama died in 1973, but before his death had
made clear that he wished Swami Swarupananda Saraswati to replace him
as acarya.  Swarupananda, he believed, would be particularly suited to
claim the true parampara  as he was, like Santananda (and unlike
himself), a direct diksa  disciple of Brahamananda and yet also his own
vidya  disciple with the requisite learning.   In the rival camp,
Santananda abdicated his position to Swami Visnudevananda, also a diksa
 disciple of Brahmananda,  who became acarya  of that lineage on Feb.
28, 1980.
         Immediately after Santananda’s abdication, the Krsnabodh
Asrama camp, now led by Swarupananda, launched a new court case.   In
this new tactic, Swarupananda initiated Dwarka Prasad Shastri, the
second named person in Brahmananda’s disputed will, into samnyas,
making him Dandi Swami Dwarikeshananda Saraswati.  The idea here was
that they would plead that he, as the second named person in the
disputed will should proceed to the gaddi  after Santananda ahead of
the third named person who had been Visnudevananda.  So even though
they believed the will had been a forgery, they would use it against
the rival camp, and then the new swami  would simply abdicate to
Swarupananda, whom he endorsed.  However, the new swami  died before
the case was ever tried. (*footnote: Prakash Mishra, the attorney
framing this case, related this information in interview, 1/9/98)
         In 1989 a new turn developed when Visnudevananda also died.
 A new case was launched by the Swarupananda group (case # 513, filed
at Allahabad)  this time aimed at Swami Vasudevananda, the inheritor of
Santananda’s math  and his diksa  disciple, who possesses a will of
Visnudevananda’s giving the acaryaship to him.  The Swarupananda camp
claims Vasudevananda is a personae non grata, exempt from the contest
by virture of the fact that he is not a diksa disciple of Brahmananda
and supported mainly by the money of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a devotee
of the Santananda camp “who wishes to be legitimated by a Sankaracarya
but can get no real Sankaracarya to sit with him,”  according to
Prakash Mishra, a lawyer supporting the suit.  Whereas, according to
Vasudevananda, his position is perfectly legitimate in that he is in
direct parampara  from Brahmananda as per the traditional maurusi
 rules of succession.
 
Where things stand today
 
         On Feb. 22, 1999, Mrdulesh Kumar Singh, the Second Additional
Judge at Allahabad issued a formal restraining order against Swami
Vasudevananda.   In the order, he explans that having reviewed the case
(for nine years!) the court believes Swarupananda to have the better
claim to the gaddi,  for historical reasons and in that he has the
support of the Sankaracaryas of the other amnaya  piths (at Dwaraka,
Sringeri and Puri).  Furthermore, the order relates, Vasudevananda’s
installation is also suspect.  This being the situation, Vasudevananda
is disallowed from using the title Sankaracarya, traveling as the
Sankaracarya, or collecting funds as the Sankaracarya until such time
as the case might be formally decided in his favor.  Clearly, the
Swarupananda camp sees this as a major vindication of their original
position and have reprinted the order in a short monograph entitled
Jyotispith Vivad - Ek Aitihasika Nyayalyiya Nirnaya (“Jyotir Pith
Dispute - A Historical Court Decision”).
         The Vasudevananda group claims that this is a case of power
politics, and there are those who believe them.  Swami Narendrananda
Saraswati, one of the Dandis claiming authority over the Sumeru Math at
Banaras mentioned earlier, related in an interview (Mar. 1999) that the
decision was made because Swarupananda has become very powerful with
various political organizations, including the Congress Party and the
BJP, and financially influental.   As regards the support of the other
Sankaracaryas, he dismisses it,  saying, “Originally, they were against
him, but now he is powerful and they hope he can help them in some
way.”  However, facts do not completely bear out this claim, and it is
a historical fact that Krnsabodh Asrama was on better terms with the
acaryas  than was Santananda, and was present when the previous acarya
 of Puri ascended the gaddi, and that Swarupananda has been meeting
regularly with the acaryas  for more than twenty years.  Even the
present acarya  of the disputed Kanchi vidyapith, Swami Jayendra
Saraswati, names Swarupananda as the proper claimant. (*footnote: my
field notes)  Vasudevananda seems to be the lame duck these days, a
position not helped by the fact that Santananda has now also died, in
1997, and can give no support to him on that side of the lineage
dispute.  Maharishi Mahesh Yogi continues to support Vasudevananda,
but, after all, as a sudra  with a reputation, right or wrong, for
catering to his own needs, seems to be doing more harm than good to
Vasudevananda’s claim in traditional circles.
         So the dispute goes on, and is further complicated by the
fact that today, and since 1994, there is a third person claiming to be
the proper acarya of Jyotir Math, Swami  Madhav Asrama, a diksha
 disciple of Krsnabodh Asrama, who has gained some measure of support
(according to several Dandis in Banaras) from a group of Banarsi
pandits.   His claim to the gaddi  is based on the position that when
Svarupananda accepted the Dwaraka acaryaship in 1982, he made himself
automatically exempt as a candidate for the Jyotir Math title.  
Martin
2005-08-03 17:15:16 UTC
Permalink
Thanks, Vaj. I hadn't seen this before.

M
John Manning
2005-08-03 19:17:52 UTC
Permalink
Seems that with Guru Dev, there was no
question at all. It appears that none of
those remaining carry the same juice.
Post by Vaj.
The Rivalry for Jyotir Math
by Dana Sawyer (2001)
High in the Garhwal Himalayas, near the border with Tibet,
lies the sacred Hindu temple of Badrinath, one of the most important
pilgrimage destinations in the Uttarkand, the “northern portion.” Each
year, tens of thousands of pilgrims journey from the plains to worship
Lord Badri, a form of Visnu in the shadow of the snow capped peaks.
Tradition says that this temple was re-established (after having been
desecrated by Buddhists) by Sankara himself, who retrieved the sacred
murti of Badri from the Alakananda river just below the temple.
Hagiographical accounts of Sankara’s life also tell us that he then
established one of his four primaryvidyapiths near there, and called it
the Jyotir (“Radiant”) Math, installing one of his favorite disciples,
Totaka, on its gaddi. Today, the Jyotir Mathvidyapith is located at
Joshi, a small village 40 kms. south of Badrinath and the take-off point
for tourist treks into the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.
The history of the math is murky, having more to do with
legend than fact, in part due to the circumstance that the math was
closed, by all accounts, for more than a century and a half, and only
reinstated in the middle of this century. Traditional accounts, kept by
the present claimants for the abbottship, tell us that the last
Sankaracarya before the lapse was Swami Ramakrsna Asrama, who presided
there until 1833. (*footnote: Vidyasankar Sundaresan, at the Jyot-Shank
web site, gives the Dasnami name as “Tirtha” and says he has this from
“official accounts,” but all accounts I’ve seen, e.g.,
Jyotispith-Parampara, Ek Anusilan , p.3, from Swami Svarupananda’s
press in Banaras, 1996, give it as “Asrama”) For various reasons, the
math became vacant. Some say there was no properly qualified person to
follow Swami Ramakrisna; others say that the Gurkha invasion from Nepal
caused the lapse. Whatever the facts might be, it is only in the late
1930s that the story becomes clear. At that time, a Dandi swami from
Banaras named Gyanananda Saraswati established a trust for the Jyotir
Math, overseen by his organization, the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, and
began a search for a Dandi qualified to head the post, not wanting the
position himself.
After a reconaissance mission to locate the site of the
original math, which had become obscured over time, Gyanananda became
satisfied that he had found the ruins of it on a hillside above Joshi,
and on Aprl 11, 1941 the particluar spot was secured by deed and
endowment. In the meantime, Gyanananda, the Mahamandal, and members of
the Kashi Vidvat Parisad had decided to ask Swami Hariharananda
Saraswati (popularly known as Karpatri Swamiji), a popular and powerful
Dandi (*footnote: in fact, the most influential Dandi in India at the
time, e.g., see Tripathi, pp.64 and 224), to accept the post.
Karpatri, however, had, the year before, begun an organization called
Dharma Sangh to fight for Hindu principles and so, being busy with other
matters, he declined. However, before declining he offered his help in
selecting a suitable candidate and recommended his own guru, Swami
Brahmananda Saraswati (later to become famous in the West as the guru of
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, once guru to the Beatles and Mia Farrow). Given
the influence of Karpatri, and the quickly acknowledged suitability of
the candidate, Brahmananda was duly installed as Sankaracarya of Jyotir
Math that same year.
After Brahmananda
Brahmananda, well respected by all, presided over the math
until his death on May 20, 1953. Immediately after his death a
succession dispute arose. Unfortunately, before his death, he had not
made clear who should follow him on the gaddi. Some of his followers
came forward with a will, saying that Brahmananda had made it just
before his death. This will, published on June 8, 1953, stated that
Brahmananda had actually nominated four persons as qualified for the
position, and named them in order of preference, as: (1) Swami
Santananda Saraswati, (2) Dwarka Pasad Sastri (who would first have to
take diksa as an ascetic to become qualified), (3) Swami Visnudevananda
Saraswati, and (4) Swami Paramatmananda Saraswati. In line with this
will, the first respondent, who was installed on June 12, 1953 as head
of the math, came into possession of the math properties and applied for
a certificate of succession in the district court at Allahabad. This
was eventually granted on Dec. 12, 1956 - that is, three years later.
But this did not settle the dispute. Three allegations continued to be
(1) Questions regarding the authenicity of the will arose, for instance,
why hadn’t Brahmananda published the will while he was still alive? Why
hadn’t he made clear then who he wanted to follow him? Some believed
the will to be a forgery, and sited that Mehesh Brahmacari, a ascetic
from the Shudra caste, acting, as members of the kyastha subcaste often
do, as a secretary, had the opportunity to create such a document, and
as a supporter of Santananda might be willing. They also argued that
even if the will was authentic, it had probably been tampered with,
claiming that someone must have reversed the order of the four persons
as Swami Paramananda was clearly the best choice.
(2) Another allegation held that even if the will was real that
Brahmananda had not been is a “sound disposing state of mind”
(*footnote: court case, p.793) when the will was executed and cited
their personal experience with him during those last days as testimony.
This allegation had even spread to rumors that Brahmananda had been
poisoned.
(3) The third allegation was pedagogical, specifically, that Santananda
did not have the requisite learning in Sanskrit and the Vedas required
to assume the gaddi. Forwarders of this allegation cited that when
Sankara founded these specific maths he created a constitution for
them, presented in two brief texts, the Mathamnaya and the Mahanusasan.
(the authenticity of these texts is academically disputed but tradition
has upheld them). In those texts, Sankara specifies that to be the
acarya of avidyapith, a claimant must (a) have control of his senses
and desires, (b) must have a good knowledge of Sanskrit and the Vedas
(including the vedangas, etc.), and (3) must be well versed in all
aspects of the varnasrama-dharma. But, to the contrary, Santananda, his
opponents maintained, though a good and moral person, did not have the
requisite learning, having been a book binder in his pre-ascetic life
and Brahmananda’s cook during his time with the guru.
The two sides squared off immediately after the death of
Brahmananda, and the detractors to Santananda’s ascension were not
without clout. Among those opposed were the members of the Bharat
Dharma Mahamandal, who had originally created the trust, including Swami
Gyanananda. Also in this camp was the influential Swami Karpatri;
increased force was lent to his disapproval in that he also, like
Santananda, was a direct disciple of Swami Brahmananda. Bharat Dharma
Mahamandal, claiming they had, at the time of the establishing of the
Jyotir Math trust, reserved the right to decide who ascended the gaddi
if succession ever became again muddled, and allegedly producing a
document that proved this (*footnote: I have never seen it or found a
copy), pronounced at Karpatri’s recommendation (as he himself did not
want the job, though he was asked), one Swami Krsnabodh Asrama as the
new acarya and installed him on June 25th, 1953, just less than two
weeks after the installation of Santananda.
History of the Jyotir Math dispute, including history of its litigation
Because litigation was not immediately begun, the early
circumstances of the dispute are clouded in opinion but what is certain
is that there was soon after the death of Brahmananda two maths in the
village of Joshi claiming to be the proper pith of the Sankaracarya.
This was, and still is, a cumbersome situation since it confused
pilgrims stopping by on their way to Badrinath and seeking the blessings
of the acarya. Moreover, it created an obscured parampara (lineage) for
the pith’s future (*footnote: in many ways reminicent of the position
medival Catholics found themselves in during the period of the rival
Avignon papacy). The situation was futher complicated when the acaryas
went out on tour, a custom considered essential for the abbott of
avidyapith. Then (and still) Hindu laity could find themselves in the
unenviable position of being asked to donate money to the support of the
regional pith after, they thought, they had already done so. In this
way, a succession dispute quickly became a jurisdiction dispute, for as
one Indian author explained about a similar Sankaracarya conflict : “Two
lions cannot live in the same forest without meeting.” (A. Saraswati,
p.118)
By the late fifties a court case was being framed by those
contending against Santananda and in the early sixties they obtained
permission of the Advocate general in Allahabad to file a suit under
s.92 of the Civil Procedure Code (instituted by the British in 1908)
against him. This case, first heard in District court at Seoni, was
brought forward in the name of Swami Paramatmananda, the fourth person
named in the disputed will, along with three pandits, two of which,
Mahdev Sastra and Nagesh Upadyaya, were of the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal.
Paramatmananda, by all accounts had no real interest in becoming the
acarya, and would have abdicated immediately to Krsnabodh Asrama had the
case gone in his favor, but the hope was that having appeared on the
original will, itself already recognized as a legal document when the
certificate of succession had been granted, some credibility would be
gained. In the suit against Santananda he was named as “Ramji
Tripathi,” his name before becoming an ascetic, an implicit defamation
of his position.
After much deliberation, the court dismissed the case, siding
for neither person, and so leaving Santananda, by default, with the
succession certificate that had been issued in 1956. The court
maintained that under s. 92 of the Civil Procedure Code dealing with
public trusts, a suit must be brought forward only to protect the public
interest. In contrast to this, the court felt that the plaintiffs were
suing only to defend the personal interests, rights and position, of
Krisnabodh Asrama, through Swami Paramatmananda, and so they threw the
case out of court, standing on several precedent cases (court case,
p.794).
The case was appealed to the High court at Allahabad in 1962
(Civil Appeal No. 385), and received the same judgement, that is “the
High Court found that there was no evidence to substantiate the
allegations of breach of trust against the first respondent. No reasons
were given in the plaint for asking the directions of the court for the
administration of the trust. “ (court case, p.791) Though it is
interesting to note that the court itself acknowledged that Santananda
lacked the knowledge “in Sanskrit and the Vedas which was a necessary
qualification for holding the headship of the Math.” (p.793, pt. E of
the court case) But, perceiving this as outside the scope of the suit,
and of the jurisdiction of the secular court, it was of no consequence.
With no recourse for litigation on the grounds of incompetence
to preside for religious reasons, the plaintiffs continued their civil
suit and appealed the case to the Supreme Court of India at Delhi. The
case was filed as “Civil Appeal No. 1589” of 1973 and decided on August
21, 1974. The position of the court was again that “there was an
allegation that the direction of the Court was necessary for the
administration of the trust. But no reasons were given in the plaint
why the plaintiffs were seeking the direction of the Court. There were
no clear allegations of maladministration...” and so “We think that the
High Court was right in dismissing the suit on the ground that it did
not fall within S. 92... We therefore dismiss the appeal.” (court case,
p.796).
But dismissing the case did not end the dispute, for nothing
had been decided and no worldly power was restraining either man from
functioning as the acarya. By the early eighties the situation was
further complicated by the fact that with the passage of so much time,
both men had left their gaddi s and there were now two lines of
succession. Krsnabodh Asrama died in 1973, but before his death had
made clear that he wished Swami Swarupananda Saraswati to replace him as
acarya. Swarupananda, he believed, would be particularly suited to
claim the true parampara as he was, like Santananda (and unlike
himself), a direct diksa disciple of Brahamananda and yet also his own
vidya disciple with the requisite learning. In the rival camp,
Santananda abdicated his position to Swami Visnudevananda, also a diksa
disciple of Brahmananda, who became acarya of that lineage on Feb.
28, 1980.
Immediately after Santananda’s abdication, the Krsnabodh Asrama
camp, now led by Swarupananda, launched a new court case. In this new
tactic, Swarupananda initiated Dwarka Prasad Shastri, the second named
person in Brahmananda’s disputed will, into samnyas, making him Dandi
Swami Dwarikeshananda Saraswati. The idea here was that they would
plead that he, as the second named person in the disputed will should
proceed to the gaddi after Santananda ahead of the third named person
who had been Visnudevananda. So even though they believed the will had
been a forgery, they would use it against the rival camp, and then the
new swami would simply abdicate to Swarupananda, whom he endorsed.
However, the new swami died before the case was ever tried.
(*footnote: Prakash Mishra, the attorney framing this case, related this
information in interview, 1/9/98)
In 1989 a new turn developed when Visnudevananda also died. A
new case was launched by the Swarupananda group (case # 513, filed at
Allahabad) this time aimed at Swami Vasudevananda, the inheritor of
Santananda’s math and his diksa disciple, who possesses a will of
Visnudevananda’s giving the acaryaship to him. The Swarupananda camp
claims Vasudevananda is a personae non grata, exempt from the contest by
virture of the fact that he is not a diksa disciple of Brahmananda and
supported mainly by the money of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a devotee of the
Santananda camp “who wishes to be legitimated by a Sankaracarya but can
get no real Sankaracarya to sit with him,” according to Prakash Mishra,
a lawyer supporting the suit. Whereas, according to Vasudevananda, his
position is perfectly legitimate in that he is in direct parampara from
Brahmananda as per the traditional maurusi rules of succession.
Where things stand today
On Feb. 22, 1999, Mrdulesh Kumar Singh, the Second Additional
Judge at Allahabad issued a formal restraining order against Swami
Vasudevananda. In the order, he explans that having reviewed the case
(for nine years!) the court believes Swarupananda to have the better
claim to the gaddi, for historical reasons and in that he has the
support of the Sankaracaryas of the other amnaya piths (at Dwaraka,
Sringeri and Puri). Furthermore, the order relates, Vasudevananda’s
installation is also suspect. This being the situation, Vasudevananda
is disallowed from using the title Sankaracarya, traveling as the
Sankaracarya, or collecting funds as the Sankaracarya until such time as
the case might be formally decided in his favor. Clearly, the
Swarupananda camp sees this as a major vindication of their original
position and have reprinted the order in a short monograph entitled
Jyotispith Vivad - Ek Aitihasika Nyayalyiya Nirnaya (“Jyotir Pith
Dispute - A Historical Court Decision”).
The Vasudevananda group claims that this is a case of power
politics, and there are those who believe them. Swami Narendrananda
Saraswati, one of the Dandis claiming authority over the Sumeru Math at
Banaras mentioned earlier, related in an interview (Mar. 1999) that the
decision was made because Swarupananda has become very powerful with
various political organizations, including the Congress Party and the
BJP, and financially influental. As regards the support of the other
Sankaracaryas, he dismisses it, saying, “Originally, they were against
him, but now he is powerful and they hope he can help them in some way.”
However, facts do not completely bear out this claim, and it is a
historical fact that Krnsabodh Asrama was on better terms with the
acaryas than was Santananda, and was present when the previous acarya
of Puri ascended the gaddi, and that Swarupananda has been meeting
regularly with the acaryas for more than twenty years. Even the
present acarya of the disputed Kanchi vidyapith, Swami Jayendra
Saraswati, names Swarupananda as the proper claimant. (*footnote: my
field notes) Vasudevananda seems to be the lame duck these days, a
position not helped by the fact that Santananda has now also died, in
1997, and can give no support to him on that side of the lineage
dispute. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi continues to support Vasudevananda, but,
after all, as a sudra with a reputation, right or wrong, for catering
to his own needs, seems to be doing more harm than good to
Vasudevananda’s claim in traditional circles.
So the dispute goes on, and is further complicated by the fact
that today, and since 1994, there is a third person claiming to be the
proper acarya of Jyotir Math, Swami Madhav Asrama, a diksha disciple
of Krsnabodh Asrama, who has gained some measure of support (according
to several Dandis in Banaras) from a group of Banarsi pandits. His
claim to the gaddi is based on the position that when Svarupananda
accepted the Dwaraka acaryaship in 1982, he made himself automatically
exempt as a candidate for the Jyotir Math title.
p***@yahoo.co.uk
2005-08-04 10:09:12 UTC
Permalink
It is said that Adi Shankara had a massive effect on reviving the
spirit of Indian thinking. He set up the maths to continue that work.
Guru Dev took the job of representing the teachings and spirit of
Shankara very seriously.
Nowadays the Shankaracharyas have the potential to really influence the
general polulace in a good way. Shankara pointed out the fundamental
inportance of the five elements. In India today the air is polluted by
the burning of plastic bags, rubber tyres and uncontrolled emmisions
from motor vehicles. The people are more likely to listen to a
Shankaracharya than respond to a government campaign. It is lamentable
that interminable disputes about succession preoccupy peoples
perceptions of the successors of Jyotir Math.
Josha
2005-08-04 14:47:40 UTC
Permalink
Does anybody know if Maharishi-Ju commented on this?
J
Josha
2005-08-04 14:52:44 UTC
Permalink
Does anybody know if Maharishi-Ji commented on this?
p***@yahoo.co.uk
2005-08-04 16:13:00 UTC
Permalink
On the pressing topics of plastic bags, burning tyres, dodgey exhausts
or on the appropriateness of who sits on which chair where?
Josha
2005-08-05 11:37:58 UTC
Permalink
:-)
On the topic of present and future of Jyotir Math.

Dan
2005-08-05 01:13:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Vaj.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi continues to support Vasudevananda,
but, after all, as a sudra...
Since when is MMY a sudra?

Dan
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