He was born on 15th April 1869, Salem, Tamil Nadu as V. Subramaniya Iyer, the first child to Shri Venkataramana Iyer and Shrimati Rukmini Ammal. He had his early education in Bangalore and later studied in Madras Christian College with special focus on Math and Physics.
He was employed as the registrar of the University of Mysore (1919-1927)
He assumed discipleship under Swami Sachidananda Sivabhinava Bharathi (Head of the then Shringeri Shankar Mutt). Under his Holiness’ tutelage, he blossomed into an expert in Vedanta, especially Mandukya Upanishad (along with Shri Gaudapada Karika and Shri Shankara’s commentary). He compared all new thoughts – scientific, religious, mystical, philosophical, with Advaita Vedanta and arrived at a profound personal assessment of Vedanta, in light of the modern and ancient world.
In 1920 he was called upon to be the reader of the then Maharaja of Mysore, his Excellency Shri Krishnaraja Wadiyar, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. He accompanied the “Philosopher” Maharaja to England/Europe in 1936 and met with several leading thinkers of the time. During his presidential address in the World Philosophical Congress – Indian Section, held in Paris 1937, he remarked that “It is India’s meaning of truth and her method of approach through the three states (waking, dream, and deep-sleep) still unknown to the rest of the world, that could be thought worthy of the world’s consideration”. Along these lines he has made several lectures which brought the significance of Shri Gaudapada and Shri Shankara’s unrelenting philosophical reasoning, to the attention of the World.
A most significant event during his life time was starting the famous Mysore study circle along with the Swamis of the Shri Ramakrishna Mission. He was a great admirer of Shri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, as is evident from several of his quotes. The Maharaja also encouraged the idea that the Swamis of Shri Ramakrishna Math (who would spread the message of Vedanta throughout the world) should benefit by a study of Vedanta, in light of western science, as expounded by Shri Iyer. Several monks of the Shri Ramakrishna Order like Swami Siddheswaranandaji, Swami Nikhilanandaji & Swami Ranganathanandaji were among Shri Iyer’s study circle. In a letter received by Shri V.S. Iyer from Swami Siddheswaranandaji, the Swamiji quotes “If today I am privileged to present Vedanta to the University of France I owe entirely all the knowledge to you”(Reference: “Tattva Vichara or An Inquiry into Truth” page 201 first edition, see footnote 1). Paul Brunton, a famous author (and western admirer of the Advaita tradition and masters, was also positively influenced by Shri Iyer’s lectures and discussions (See footnotes 2 & 3).
1: Title An inquiry into truth, or, Tattva vicāra: a collection of speeches and writings / by V. Subramaniya Iyer; edited by T.M.P. Mahadevan; Pub Info: Salem, K. Subrahmanian, 
3: “His scholarship was excellent, after all, though in his writing he deliberately forsook the academic style. He had the benefit of in-depth practice, study, and dialogue with many great teachers—including Ramana Maharishi, V.S. Iyer, Atmananda, M. Hiriyanna and T.M.P. Mahadevan among the Hindus and Ananda Metteya among the Buddhists.” – http://www.paulbrunton.org/articles/reflections.php )