Kamaleswara Bhattacharya’s death

(the author of the following post is Gianni Pellegrini)

he akhilavidyāmūrte! śubhās te pathānaḥ santu…

It was 2002, a very humid August, perhaps near 12.00 o’clock.

I was attending my class of Nyāyabodhinī, in the glorious Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika department sitting in the old (1791) Mukhyabhavana of the Sampurnanada Sanskrita University (Varanasi). In the middle of the lesson entered a tiny aged figure, with very bright eyes and shining face.

Then, a bit fatigued, he sat down and started speaking a fluent and elegant Sanskrit.

He explained to have attended for several years, in that very room where we were sitting, the classes of the illustrious paṇḍita Badrinath Shukla.

After a short discussion on few issues related to Siddhāntalaksaṇī Jagadīśī, with our Naiyāyika ācārya, I asked in a spontaneous way to that honourable man, who awakened in me a natural feeling of respect and sympathy: “ke ’trabhavantaḥ!” He replied “kamaleśvaro bhaṭṭācāryanāmadheyo ’ham”.

Immediately, I remembered that few years before, during my BA, I had read some articles on Nyāya signed with that very name. So I replied “asmākam deśeṣu bhavatāṃ nāma atīva prasiddham! praṇāmāmy aham!”.

This was my first meeting with Professor Kamaleswar Bhattacharya and that first feeling never changed, but, conversely, in the following years grew stronger and stronger.

I could never forget his worm and patient way of conversing with students, as well as his severe critic and condemn to aśāstrīya works.

After that first encounter I met Professor Bhattacharya several times in Paris, interrogating him on many śāstric issues, sometimes calling him by phone, or writing long mails asking for some śāstrīyasamādhānas on intricate issues.

Very soon I realised that Professor Bhattacharya was a real living monument of knowledge on several branches of śāstras. I became aware that I have had the privilege to meet a real padavākyapramāṇapravīṇasarvatantrasvatantra!

The affection he demonstrated to me, and I feel with all those who had the fortune to deal with him, is something that I shall forever keep in my heart.

In front of such a human as well scholarly loss it is not easy to say something sensible. I just remember we had scheduled an appointment for the next summer in Paris.

Unfortunately I shall not be again privileged to meet him anymore!

Let me close this note in a way, I hope, he may have appreciated –

saṃyogaś ca viyogaś ca vartate na ca te na me/

nāhaṃ na tvaṃ jagan nedaṃ sarvam atmaiva kevalam//

[A short note by me: Although I have not had the priviledge of studying with him like Gianni, I also could not help admiring Kamaleswara Bhattacharya’s scholarship, especially in the fields of Nāvya Nyāya and Vedānta, his vivid curiosity, his openness to new people, his ability to challenge French with his Nāvya Nyāya translations (he overtly told me once that he tried it exactly because he knew it would have been difficult and he wanted to see whether it would have at all been possible) …and his intense eyes. If you have memories of him that you want to share, please leave a comment below EF]

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One thought on “Kamaleswara Bhattacharya’s death

  1. I am greatly shocked to learn of the passing away of Sri Kamaleswar Bhattacharya.

    What now follows is a personal memoir of Prof. Bhattacharya than an obituary proper.

    Some years ago, when my interest in Navya-nyāya had been very amateurish and I did not even know Sanskrit well enough at that time and my English-medium academic background complicated the problem of reading the abstruse Navya-nyāya texts even more, it was only out of a deep sense of frustration that I wrote to Prof. Bhattacharya requesting him to help me with studying Nyāya, aside from stating the serious language problem that put up a stern resistance. I also mentioned that I had been able to read only the first page of one of his English articles on the linguistic issues of Navya-nyāya as I had no access to e-version of academic journals at that time. I did not expect in the least that a profound paṇḍita (I prefer to use this term to the English word, ‘scholar’) like him would reply to a virtually unknown and incompetent person like me within 24 hours, fully sympathizing with me and delineating the way to approach Navya-nyāya texts. All this filled me with an even greater awe because even after knowing that I had no formal training either in Sanskrit or philosophy he was so generous to me. Not only that, he sought my postal address and put into the post for me three of his articles on Navya-nyāya (among them was the one of which I made a mention to him in my first email), signed and with an inscription for me! Needless to say, I immensely benefitted by following his suggestions and guideline for approaching Navya-nyāya.

    During the course of our correspondence he once asked me if my revered Gurudeva and Vedānta teacher, Dr. Śrīmat Swāmī Prajñānānanda Saraswatī [who, Prof. Bhattacharya came to know from me, studied many difficult Vedānta texts like Advaitasiddhi with the Gauḍabrahmānandī commentary, etc. with the illustrous Paṇḍitarāja Śāstraratnākara S. Subrahmanya Śāstrī of Varanasi] would teach him (he was 82 or 83 at that time and at the height of scholarly fame!) the Advaitasiddhi (AS), when he would come to Calcutta on vacation. Though due to some time constraint the reading session did not take place, still Prof. Bhattacharya expressed his gratitude to my Gurudeva for agreeing to teach him the AS. Later he told me that he was examining a big thesis on the AS at that time and that necessitated his reading the AS with a sound traditional Vedānta scholar like my Gurudeva. This only reminds me of the famous Sanskrit saying: vidyā vinayāya bhavati – knowledge bestows humbleness on the learner.

    Although I used to communicate with him generally in English, yet in reply to my Bengali New Year and Dūrgā Pūjā praṇāmas offered to him via emails written in Bengali, he used to send his blessings to me in Bengali. Also I would like to mention that it was he, who “strongly encouraged” (these were his very words!) me to learn French, when I sought his advice about learning the language with a view to doing research on comparative philosophy.

    A year ago, when I translated portions of the Kant’s Preface to the First Edition of the Critique of Pure Reason into Sanskrit with the generous help of my esteemed fried, Dr. Elisa Freschi, and posted it in two installments on Elisa’s blog, and sent the link to Prof. Bhattacharya seeking his opinion, I was overwhelmed to get his reply within a few days, which, apart from praising the translation, was full of encouragement. I consider this as a great blessing bestowed upon me by one of the greatest sarvatantrasvatantra dārśanika-s of recent times.

    His body has fallen, but he will live forever as a great source of inspiration in the hearts of serious learners of the Sanskrit language and philosophies embedded in it.

    My heartfelt praṇāmas to his departed soul. May his soul rest in peace!

    ajo nityaḥ śāśvato’yaṃ purāṇo na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre

    Om Śāntiḥ Śāntiḥ Śāntiḥ !!!