K. Narayanaswami Aiyer

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K. Narayanaswami Aiyer (also spelled as "Narayanswami," "Narayanaswamy," and "Iyer") (b. 1854 - d. 1918) was an author and translator of Sanskrit works, a lecturer who traveled widely all over India, and an active member of the Indian Section of the Theosophical Society.

Biographical information

K. Narayanaswami Aiyer, son of Krishnaswami Aiyer, was born at Kazhukanimattam Village, Tanjavur District, South India, in the year 1854. He was the second of four brothers, three of whom occupied fairly comfortable positions in life. One of them was the late K. Veeraswami Aiyer, a prominent Vakil of Tiruvarur in the early twenties of this century, and another, an engineer of the Public Works Department of the Government.

Educated at his village school at Kazhukanimattam and, later, at the Kumbakonam Town High School and at the Kumbakonam Government Arts College, he was a first grade pleader at Kumbakonam and made a reasonably prosperous living there. He had a son and two daughters.[1]

He died in December 1918. Some sources place his death in 1923.

Theosophical work

K. Narayanaswami Aiyer abandoned his legal profession to give his life to the Theosophical work during the presidentship of Col. H. S. Olcott. In 1891, he translated "Vasudeva Manam, an Adwaita Compendium," while being the Secretary of the Kumbaconam Branch.[2] Later in life he would translate other Sanskrit works and author a number of books. His scholarship and deep knowledge of his own and western religions earned for him a great measure of contemporary veneration.

In the late 1890s he became a "Lodge inspector" and a powerful Theosophical lecturer in India, reviving dormant Lodges and forming new ones. His rare persuasiveness and lucidity of expression, as well as his personal life as a real Saṃnyasin, carried profound conviction everywhere.

His work at this time was described by Bertram Keightley as follows:

On a par with Miss Edger's work, in its energy and devotion, stands that of our old and tried Brother Mr. K. Narayanswami Aiyer, on whose definitive addition to our staff of men devoting their whole lives to the work, we had to congratulate ourselves last year, and well indeed has he fulfilled the hopes then expressed.

In October 1897 he visited the Branch at Chingleput, in March 1898 that of Sholingur, and in July 1898 that of Tiruvalur, and revived them all three, for they had been practically quite dormant for several years.

He has also formed new Branches at Conjeeveram, Namakal, Tirupattur,Vaniyambadi, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Purasawalkam, Tiruppattur, Triplicane Tiruvallur, Poonamalle, Wallajahnagar, Tirupati, Patukota, Vedaranyam and Tiraturaipundi, fifteen in all; besides visiting and lecturing at Mylapur, Saidapet and Adyar, as well as accompanying Dr. Richardson to Chingleput and Conjeeveram and Miss Edger throughout her South Indian tour. He has thus formed fifteen new Branches, revived three quite dormant ones, in addition to the other work mentioned, and I am sure that we all agree that this is a splendid record of work for anyone roan, and should serve as a lesson to us all in showing how much the energy and real devotion of one man even can accomplish for our movement.[3]

In 1903 he was one of the organizers of Tamil Districts of the T.S. Federation, while acting as Provincial Secretary for South India. In 1907-08 he was joint General Secretary (President) of the Indian Section. To him is largely due the successful organization of the T.S. in Southern India.[4]

He died in December 1918 at Pudukkottai, on one of his lecture tours.[5]

Writings

K. Narayanaswami was an assiduous writer. His articles regularly appeared in The Theosophist, then published from London. He authored books and translated into English several works from Sanskrit.

Original works

  • Yoga: Lower and Higher.
  • The Thirty-two Vidyā-s.
  • The Purāṇas in the Light of Modern Science.
  • The permanent history of Bharata Varsha.
  • The Hindu God Universal.

Translations

  • Thirty Minor Upaniṣad-s.
  • Laghu-yoga-vāsiṣṭha. Revised edition, 1971. This work was originally serialized in Brahma-vidya, or The Adyar Library Bulletin, and is now collected in book form as Adyar Library General Series 3. A reviewer described it as "a revised edition of the well known translation of the Advaita classic, which for long has been out of print. The Laghu-Yoga-Vasistha is an abridgement of a fuller work, called variously Yoga-Vasistha, Jnana- Vasistha, and Ashrama Ramayana, attributed to the sage Valmiki. The present volume has been abridged to 6000 stanzas, reducing it to one-sixth of the original... The special merit of the book is its methodical exposition. It first enunciates the doctrine in all its bearings and then elucidates it with beautiful stories. The practical guidance it gives is very useful in the inculcation of virtues... The volume is an excellent introduction to the study of an important aspect of Advaita Vedanta."[6]
  • Laghu Upaniṣadaḥ: Minor Upanishads
  • Vāsuḍevamana, the meditations of Vasudeva: a compendium of Aḍvaiṭa philosophy

Notes

  1. Brief Biographical Note at Dailytheosophy.Net
  2. Anon, "Indian Section," Lucifer VII:48 (August 15, 1891), 510.
  3. Bertram Keightley, "Report of the Indian Section," The Theosophist, General Report XX:12 (September, 1899), 19.
  4. International Theosophical Year Book (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1937), 227.
  5. Brief Biographical Note at Dailytheosophy.Net
  6. P. Nagaraja Rao, "Book Reviews: LAGHU-YOGA-VASISTHA" The American Theosophist 60.1 (January, 1972), 23.