Subba Row, T. (1856-1890)

A Brahman of the Vedanta philosophy, born on July 6, 1856, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, north of Madras, T. Subba Row’s native language was Telugu, and his family included prominent Indian government officials. His father died when he was six months old; consequently an uncle reared him. In 1876 he earned a B.A. degree at the top of his class from the Madras Presidency College and became a Registrar of the High Court in Baroda (Vadodara) in the western state of Gujarat. Then he returned to Madras, earned a legal degree, and became a highly successful lawyer.

Subba Row met Helena P. Blavatsky in 1882 and joined the Theosophical Society, although he had shown no interest in metaphysical matters earlier. Nevertheless, it appeared that he was a chela of Master Morya and became an expert in Advaita, the most prominent sub-school of Vedanta.  Subba Row recommended the purchase of the Adyar property that became the site of the headquarters of the Theosophical Society. He assisted Blavatsky when she was producing the first draft of The Secret Doctrine, but they eventually disagreed on certain matters, such as the classification of the human principles and publication of statements regarding the Masters. Subba Row, as an orthodox Brahmin, was critical of Blavatsky's disclosure of certain hitherto esoteric teachings, so in 1886 he left the Theosophical Society. Thereafter he fell gravely ill and despite healing treatment by Henry S. Olcott, eventually died on June 24, 1890. 

Although a member for only about four years, Subba Row had an important influence on both the Society and its teachings. He served as a councillor, legal advisor, and secretary of the Madras Branch. He postulated four principles in the cosmos, namely, Parabrahman, Logos, Mulaprakriti, and Daiviprakrti (Light of the Logos, the source of Fohat).

Subba Row left few published works, mainly because of the shortness of his life. He gave several lectures on the Gita, which were compiled and published as Notes on the Bhagavad Gita. A posthumously published collection is Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row. The 1883 Convention established the Subba Row Medal, to be awarded to writers of works of outstanding merit on Eastern and Western philosophy.

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