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Introduction

From: Badrinarayanan Seshadri (badri_at_sofia.mae.cornell.edu)
Date: Mon Sep 26 1994 - 16:44:40 PDT

Thanks mani for all the introductions. I had earlier known
of this group thanks to Dileepan (who had at least once
mailed me what he was sending to this list).  I had
previously thought that this group was kind of "elite"
visitadvaitins and I, an ignorant person, had no place in
it.  Mani persuaded me and added my name to the mailing
list and asked that I introduce myself to the group. I
still could not make myself write an introduction. I was
not even sure what to write! After seeing all these
introductions, I have gathered enough courage to write
something. Pardon me, if this happens to be too long.

My name is Badrinarayanan - the name was conceived perhaps
a full 10 years before my self, well before even my parents
got married. My grandparents, in their old age, on a
pilgrimage to badrinath, got into a rather horrible
accident and prayed to the lord of badrinath that they
would name their grandson if only they would escape the
accident. And they did survive with His grace and hence the
name (I was born in the year 1970).

My parents (and their parents and their parents... which
reminds me of the beautiful lines of periyaazhvaar

endhai thandhai thandhai thandhai 
         tham mooththappan Ezh padikkaal thodangi

my father, his father, his father, his father,
	his grandfather - thus starting from 7 generations before)

are devout vaishnavites - not through `reason' but having
been born in such a family. None of them probably knows
what Ramanujar's philosophy is and I have a feeling that
they care not for such a thing. They have completely
surrendered - like the true sishyas of Sri Ramanuja - to
the acharya who in turn will negotiate with "innamudhath
thirumakaL" and through her with "emperuman", to secure a
place in vaikuntha!

Living amidst such vaishnavas in a small town called
Nagapattinam, I had learnt to go to temples - mainly to eat
the tasty prasadam. But such visits also made me slowly
absorb the wonderful poems of aazhvaars known as divyap
prabandham. Until my high school, I was an obedient child,
learning whatever my mother asked me to learn, be it the
tongue twisting beauty from swami Desikar, sudarsanashtakam,
or the mellifluous poems of the aazhvaars.

Then I joined IIT Madras to do my Bachelor's in Mechanical
Engineering. Away from the family, the days I spent in IIT
made me think that the religion that I was supposed to
follow was just not right! I was not getting the right
answers to the questions I posed from anyone in the family.
I was pretty much becoming an agnost in the absense of a
right guiding force.

After my bachelors, I came to Cornell University in the
fall of 1991 where I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. I hope
to finish my Ph.D by May 1995. Ironically, it was at
Cornell University libraries that I found the right kind of
materials to read. I am now enjoying the vedanta philosophy
propounded by the various upanishads and sri ramanuja's
views on them. I should honestly admit that I have not even
understood a fraction of what I have read and I have not
even read a fraction of what is there in the library - and
who knows the magnitude of what our sages wrote that is not
in any of these libraries!!

I am in a learning phase and I do not even know whether I
would in the end subscribe to the visitadvaitic philosophy.
I have, after reading sections of sri bhashya's explanation
of Brahma sutras, completely come to respect Sri Ramanuja
as one of the greatest thinkers. That is all I can say at
this stage. I have somehow a lot of misgivings about the
concept of "total surrender" and all the associated
philosophies of Ramanuja as I feel that is quite
contradictory to his aim of learning the brahman - in fact
I am so vague that I can not even pose the right question.
I hope, I will get some kind of clarification in due course
of time - as I get older and older and more mature and with
the help of some of you in this group.

Outside of all these philosophies, I am immensely attracted
to the beautiful aazhvaar paasuram. I would go so far as to
say that my love and respect for thamizh went up by a few
degrees after I started appreciating the divyap prabandham.
I would very much like to know in what way sri ramanuja was
influenced by the aazhvaars.

Thank you.

--badri

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S.Badrinarayanan 
Graduate Student
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Cornell University
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