By : Dr. G. R. Vijayakumar
Sri Subrahmanya Iyer was a contemporary of Sri Narasimha Swamiji and Sri Radhakrishna Swamiji. He spent the last three years of his life at Surveyor Street in Basavanagudi in Bengaluru as a neighbor of Kannada poet, Prof. A.R. Krishna Sastry and as a friend of in the company of former Diwan M.N. Krishna Rao, famed Social Activist P. Kodanda Rao and Justice Nittur Srinivasa Rao. Sri Narasimha Swamiji named V. Subrahmanya Iyer, a guru to the monks and Maharajas. The Maharaja of Mysuru, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar brought him to Karnataka and as a scholar, he was sought by many from India and abroad.
Subrahmanya Iyer was born in Salem in Tamil Nadu in 1869. After initial education at Madras Christian College, he studied Mathematics and Physics at the Bangalore Central College. He then started teaching at the University of Agra. While travelling in North India, the Maharaja of Mysuru was impressed by Subrahmanya Iyer’s scholarly wisdom. The Maharaja invited him to Mysuru. Though reluctant to leave Agra, Subramanya Iyer came down to Mysuru eventually and held different teaching posts, before becoming the Registrar of Mysore University in 1919.
In 1900 or so, he was drawn by the magnetic spell of the then Shankaracharya of Sringeri, Satchidananda Siva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati Swamiji and later his successor, Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swamiji. The renowned Jagadguru initiated him into Advaita philosophy.
After retirement from the University of Mysore in 1926, he was appointed ‘Raja Guru’ of the Maharaja, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyer and held this post for the next 20 years, even after the philosopher king’s death in 1940. The Maharaja even took Subrahmanya Iyer along with him on his trip to England in 1936. Subrahmanya Iyer who knew Sri Narasimha Swamiji right from his Salem days again met him in Mysuru during Sai-Prachar work.
Besides Subrahmanya Iyer, the then Sringeri Jagadguru had also initiated Y. Subba Rao, who went on to become Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati and established his own Ashram in Holenarasipur. He is widely known for his spiritual wisdom. Subrahmanya Iyer, being his senior, guided Subba Rao and taught him the doctrines of Vedanta. Another notable personality was Paul Brunton, who had come to Mysuru on the invitation of the Maharaja. Paul Brunton was an admirer of Sri Narasimha Swamiji at Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai.
Paul Brunton and Subrahmanya Iyer formed a strong Shishya-Guru relationship. For Paul Brunton, Subrahmanya Iyer became the Guru after Ramana Maharshi. Encouraged by the Maharaja, a circle of Vedantic studies was formed in Mysuru in the 1930s, which gave birth to Ramakrishna Ashram. Subrahmanya Iyer taught Vedantic scriptures to the monks of Ramakrishna Mission from a scientific perspective. It was here that Paul Brunton came in touch with Swami Siddheswarananda, one among many monks benefitted from the scholarship of Subrahmanya Iyer. Swami Siddheswarananda subsequently became the first president of Mysuru Ramakrishna Ashram and also helped in the Sai-prachar work of Sri Narasimha Swamiji at Mysuru eventually.
Subrahmanya Iyer, Paul Brunton and Swami Siddheswarananda embarked on a tour abroad and attended the Ninth International Congress of Philosophy, organized by the University of Paris at Sorbonne in 1937.
In 1938, the Indian Government invited Swiss Psychiatrist Dr. C. J. Jung to the 25th anniversary of the University of Kolkata. On this occasion, Dr.C. J. Jung, who had come to know about Subrahmanya Iyer through Paul Brunton, met him and had in-depth discussions. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, who later became the President of India, was also a student of Subrahmanya Iyer.
On 25th December 1949, Subrahmanya Iyer passed away, at the ripe age of 81. In a tribute to him, Sri Narasimha Swamiji wrote in ‘Sai Sudha’: “I still hold that Subrahmanya Iyer had only one more incarnation to take, that he was a genius for intellectual understanding of the most esoteric truths. He had been initiated into the traditional esoteric doctrine of Shankara, which is not written in the books, but only taught in private.”
Subrahmanya Iyer is spiritually alive in his scholarly works on Advaita philosophy. Paul Brunton Foundation has published all his works.