(as appeared in Tapovan Prasad magazine in September 2010 issue)
Bharat has been the motherland of many great souls whose contributions have helped the whole of mankind. One among them was Swami Bharati Krishna Tirthaji who recreated a system of Mathematics that is popularly known today, as ‘Vedic Mathematics’.
Born to highly learned and pious parents in 1884 at Tirunelveli in Madras Presidency, Venkatraman was an exceptionally brilliant boy. He always stood first in his class for all the subjects. At the age of sixteen, he was awarded the title ‘Saraswati’ for his proficiency in Sanskrit. He was deeply influenced by his Sanskrit Guru Sri Vedam Venkatrai Shastri whom he remembered with deepest love, reverence and gratitude. When he was twenty, he passed M.A. of American College of Sciences, New York (from Bombay Centre) in seven different subjects (His subjects included Sanskrit, Philosophy, English, Mathematics, History and Science) simultaneously securing the highest honours in all. He was proficient in fourteen languages.
Prof. Venkatraman served as Principal of National College, Rajmahendri for a short period until his thirst for spiritual knowledge pulled him to Swami Satchidananda Sivabhinava Nrisimha Bharati at Sringeri. After eight years of extensive study of the scriptures, Prof. Venkatraman was initiated into the Holy order of Sanyasa as Swami Bharati Krishna Tirthaji. After few years, Jagadguru Shankaracharya Sri Madhusudan Tirtha’s (of Govardhan Math) health took a severe turn and Swami Bharati Krishna Tirthaji had to take up his position at Puri Govardhan Peeth.
During his life, Swamiji travelled throughout India. He was a spiritual dynamo. Vedic Mathematics was one of his epoch-making contributions to the world. During his Vedic studies at Sringeri (1911-1918), as a result of his intense tapas in the forests of Sringeri, Swamiji unraveled the hidden meanings of certain Sutras (aphorisms or word formulae).
Vedic Mathematics is based on Sixteen sutras and Thirteen upasutras; which Swamiji says, he ‘re-discovered’ from the Vedas. One may not find these sutras as it is in the Vedas, but the essence or the root is from the Vedas. Such was the greatness of Swamiji. He could have easily claimed the ownership of the New System of Mathematics, and nobody could have doubted it. But, like any other great saint of India; he gave the credit to the Vedas.
Swamiji had written sixteen volumes on Vedic Mathematics (one volume on each sutra). But before it could be printed, it was irretrievably lost. Everyone grieved over the great loss except Swamiji, for he said he could rewrite them all recollecting from his memory. In one and a half month’s time, he wrote one introductory volume. However, the toll that had taken on his failing health, on account of his rigorous work for almost four decades (and losing eye-sight due to cataract), did not allow him write more. And in February 1960, the Mahatma left his mortal frame.
Swamiji’s introductory Volume of Vedic Mathematics itself covers Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Squares, Square Roots, Cubes, Cube Roots, Factorisation, Simple & Quadratic Equations, H.C.F, L.C.M., Decimals, Fractions, Analytical Conics, and much more. The remaining fifteen volumes had higher levels of Mathematics based on the same sixteen Sutras and thirteen upa-Sutras. Never in the past has anyone made such a discovery by encapsulating such a vast subject like Mathematics in just a few Word Formulae.
When one hears the word ‘Sutras’ in a language like Sanskrit, one need not think that he should have knowledge in Sanskrit to understand the subject. It is so lucid that children of any caliber can learn it with ease. Unlike the Mathematics that is taught in school which has only ‘one way’ to do a particular calculation, Vedic Mathematics teaches different ways to solve the same problem. Perhaps, this was Swamiji’s way to connect Mathematics to God – Different ways to attain the same ‘Truth’!
Using Vedic Mathematics, even a ten year old can calculate 999 x 991 or 20111 ÷ 975 in less than five seconds, and that too in a method of his own choice. This may look like an exaggeration but it is the Truth. More than ‘Techniques’ this subject facilitates ‘Thinking’, which today’s educational system in India unfortunately does not allow. Another sad thing is that such a great text has not been introduced in Indian Universities. But it has been accepted as a part of syllabus in some schools of England. Today, there are many books available on Vedic Mathematics (based on the introductory volume of Vedic Mathematics), many of them written by Western Mathematicians.
Many school students are afraid of Mathematics and they have no option but to learn it. Using Vedic Mathematics we can enjoy the subject and experiment & discover different methods. Imagine how much time we could save doing calculations if we learn Vedic Mathematics!