Professor G Balakrishnan Nair (1923-2011)


Professor G Balakrishnan Nair


Noted Vedanta Scholar, eminent Sanskrit academician, philosopher and author Professor G. Balakrishnan Nair was a guiding light to many. He was an erudite scholar and teacher par excellence. Simple living and high thinking was his philosophy of life. Having worked in various Government colleges in Kerala as an interpreter of the scriptures and as and authority on Vedanta, he has been a model for generations.



Balakrishnan Nair was born on 5 February 1923 at Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram. He is the son of Gowriamma and Govinda Pillai of Vazhayila Kurukannaal House, Peroorkada. Hailing from an economically backward family, Balakrishnan Nair had not done formal schooling. But he went for fee-free Sanskrit course. He did his higher education in Govt. Sanskrit College. He qualified as Mahopadhyaya in Sanskrit grammar. Later he joined the faculty at Mahatma Gandhi College, Thiruvananthapuram. He got married with Saraswathi Amma in 1946. She was his colleague at Sanskrit College.



Meanwhile he did hid post-graduations in Malayalam and Sanskrit from University of Kerala and Hindi from Banaras Hindu University. He became lecturer at University College in 1955. It was during this time he concentrated on literary writings. He penned 'Sahitya Padhathi', a criticism. He also scripted a play and presented it. He was a staunch communist in his earlier years. Though he contested as a communist candidate to Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, he failed. He then continued as an orator of the party. When the communist party was divided, he left the party.



He completed his research under the guidance of Dr. A.G. Krishna Warrier. Later he got transferred to Palakkad Victoria College. It was there he went deep into the Bhagavat Geeta, Brahmasutra Bashyam, the Upanishads, and started writing on spirituality. Balakrishnan Nair has been on the faculty of Government Sanskrit College Thiruvananthapuram and Women’s College Thiruvananthapuram. He retired from Government Service in 1978.



The guiding light to Balakrishnan Nair came in an unusual form - that of his son Aravindan. Balakrishnan Nair was already a scholar of repute who had done considerable research on literature, Indian philosophy and the scriptures, when the sudden passing away of seven-year-old Aravindan became a turning point in his life. Balakrishnana Nair remembers that turning point in his life. Four decades ago, his son, Aravindan, contracted tetanus. The seven-year-old was battling for life at a Government hospital. “I could not bear the sight of the once cherubic boy lying almost still. He chanted the Chandrasekhara Ashtakam and then the mantra, “Siva,Siva..”, for 50 minutes and calmly passed away.” The manner in which the little one calmly passed away with a prayer on his lips, pointed out to him, the true, imperishable nature of the self.



Nair describes the incident as a “great revelation”. “I saw the boy accepting death peacefully. Rather than looking up at his parents, who could only watch helplessly, he looked inward and sought his God, It was as if he was telling me, “Father, it is now time for you to find out your realself.” (That’s why he gave the house name and the name of Bhagavad Gita Bhashya as Shivaravindam). Balakrishnan Nair then decided to devote his life to the study of Vedanta and propagate its message for the benefit of the world. “I then decided that it was time to give up my material pursuits,” he continues. “My wife was also employed. And our salaries were enough to keep us going.” Later he devoted all his spare time for studying the scriptures. Well-versed in four languages — Sanskrit, Malayalam, Hindi and English — he read up every book on spirituality that he came across and interacted with all the masters that he could.



He has won Samskritaprathistaan award (1999), Geethapuraskaram in connection with Geethavarshacharana (1999), Sree Narayana Samskarika Samithi award (1985), Kerala Sahitya Academy award for the book titled Jeevan Mukti Vivekam (1979), Sree Narayana Samskarika Samithi award (1998), award from Sivagiri Mutt in connection with Siva Prathishta Varshikam and Prof. Guptan Nair Award (2011)(which is given to scholars who have made significant contribution to the cultural sector), the inaugural Vyasa Peetham Puraskaram of the School of Bhagavad Gita (2007) etc.



Professor G. Balakrishnan Nair had passed away at Kollam on Friday, 4th February 2011, night around 8.45 pm. His mortal remains were consigned to flames at the funeral in the Thycaud Santhikavadam crematorium (Thiruvananthapuram) on Saturday, 5th February 2011(on his 88th birthday) at 10.30 am.



Works of Prof. G Balakrishnan Nair

The list of Prof. Balakrishnan Nair's works is, quite literally, voluminous. He is one among the prominent scholars in Kerala who wrote commentaries on Prasthanatraya – 10 Upanishads, Brahmasutra and Bhagavad Gita. Vedanta Darsanam, a study of the major Upanishads, interpretations of Sankaracharya's works, discussions on the Malayalam works of Ezhuthachan and Poonthanam, Bhagavatha Hridayam, a philosophical reflection on the Sree Maha Bhagavatham, and Bhashya Pradeepam in which the Brahma sutras are transliterated into Malayalam, are some of his works and are among the best spiritual books in Malayalam.



Interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, "Sivaravindam Mahabhashyam”, has been one of the most popular in Malayalam. As many as 12,000 copies of the book, published by the State Institute of Languages, have reportedly been sold. The much-awaited English translation of the interpretation was recently brought out. For Nair’s Gita translation simplicity is its hallmark. Even as he relates the Gita to complex Vedantic truths, Nair does not forget that he is writing for the common man. “In my commentary, I have been given equal importance to all the doctrines,” Nair says. “In writing this, I have followed in the footsteps of Adi Sankara. Yet, Sivaravindam Bhashyam is not the direct translation of the Sankara Rhashyam, which is elegantly abstruse.” The eclectic nature of the Sivaravindam Bhashyam adds to its charm and depth. For instance, Nair refers to the Brahma Sutram when he speaks about Jnana Yoga, and to the Bhagavatha when he explains the Bhakthi Yoga. And the reader derives the pleasure of having gone through all these important texts. Are not the Bhakthi and the Jnana Yogas same? “They are. The Gita itself speaks about it. Bhakti has wider meanings. Any seeker of truth is a bhaktha.”



The Gita, Nair notes, is a science. “It is wrong to see it, or any spiritual text for that matter, as a religious discourse. All human beings and every discipline in this world are in a search for perfection or for the ultimate truth. The Gita, which is the essence of the Upanishads, unfolds this truth. Lord Krishna affirms that consciousness (shudha bodham) is all that exists. It has no spatio-temporal limitation. Everything else perishes. Modern science too proves it, while studying the relation between matter and energy.”



Balakrishnan Nair was a renowned scholar of Sree Narayana Guru’s philosophical works and his book Sree Narayana Gurudeva Krithikal Sampoorna Vyakhyanam – all the works of Sree Narayana Guru with Complete Interpretations – ten parts compiled in two volumes is a masterpiece of great beauty. Of his reading of the Vasihtasudha-Yoga Vasishtasaram, critic Sukumar Azhikode observes, “Since early this century, Malayalam has had translations and interpretations of this gem of Indian spirituality. Of the lot, Prof. G. Balakrishnan Nair’s is pleasantly different. It has a solemn tone simple language, and is full of erudite observations.”



His publishers say he never claims royalty for his works. He takes copies of his books worth his royalty and distributes them free to anyone interested in the subject.



Balakrishnan Nair says, “I haven't interpreted the scriptures for monetary gains. I am happy with the Government pension I get. My greatest achievement is the joy that I got while I pored over the scriptures, the light that led me when I was groping in the dark.”



For obtaining the books of Prof. G Balakrishnan Nair, contact The State Institute of Languages (Kerala Bhasha Institute), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. Website http://www.keralabhashainstitute.org


Book No.


Book Title and Description

(Reference - The State Institute of Languages Catalogue: Pages 49,50)

Price (Rs.)
1616 Vedanta Darsanam – Upanishad Swadyayam Vol 1 Commentary on Isa, Kena, Katha,Mundaka, Mandukya, Iythareya, Taithireeya, Prasna Upanishads and Gowdapadacharya’s Mandukya Karika

160/-
1695 Vedanta Darsanam – Upanishad Swadyayam Vol 2 Commentary on Chandogya Upanishad

150/-
1700 Vedanta Darsanam – Upanishad Swadyayam Vol 3 Commentary on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

215/-
1637 Bhashya Pradeepam - Brahmasutra Bashyanuvadam Commentary on Brahmasutra

210/-
2198 Srimad Bhagavad Gita - Sivaravindam Mahabashyam Commentary on Srimad Bhagavad Gita

270/-
1632 Praudanubhuti Prakarana Prakasika Commentary on Adishankara’s works like Praudanubhuti, Ekshloki, Dasashloki, Bhajagovindam, Aprokshanubhuti etc.

155/-
1645 Panchadasi, Jeevanmukthivivekam – Randu Vidyaranya Kritikal Commentary on two main vedantic works of Vidyaranya

140/-
1828 Bhagavatha Hridayam Discussion on heart of Bhagavatha Purana

150/-
2065 Sree Narayana Gurudeva Krithikal Sampoorna Vyakhyanam Vol 1 Works of Sree Narayana Guru with Complete Interpretations – ten parts compiled in two volumes

200/-
2066 Sree Narayana Gurudeva Krithikal Sampoorna Vyakhyanam Vol 2 Works of Sree Narayana Guru with Complete Interpretations – ten parts compiled in two volumes

200/-
2111 Harinama Keerthanam, Njanappana – Randu Malayala Mamarakal Commentary on Tunjathu Ezhuthachan’s Harinama keerthanam and Poonthanam’s Njanappana – Two major vedantic works in Malayalam

65/-
2125 Vasishtasudha – Yogavasishta Saaram Essence of Yogavasishta

170/-



Other Links

Download Audio and Ebook of Prof. G Balakrishnan Nair’s discourses on Arivu (work of Sree Narayana Guru) from http://en.sreyas.in/arivu-narayana-guru-prof-gbk-nair-mp3

Yogavashishtam from http://en.sreyas.in/yogavasishtam-discourses-mp3-prof-g-balakrishnan-nair

Atmopadesasathakam (work of Sree Narayana Guru) from http://www.gurudevan.info/forum/aathmopadesasathakam-prof-g-balakrishnan-nair-t449.html