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From: Krishna Kalale (krishna_at_nynexst.com)
Date: Thu Apr 06 1995 - 13:04:13 PDT
This is with reference to two recent mails sent from sam rengi: I have not replied with blind faith in avatars. This is the visistadvaitic view. Note that the so called karma like events such as killing of vali and end of krishnavatara by hunter's arrow etc. cannot be taken as binding karmas. It is verily possible that Lord Krishna would have given a hunter chance to end his avatar and even that hunter could be the very same vali reborn. The idea to keep in mind is that the avatar's birth or end was not caused by karmic bondage. it was caused by only Narayana's will. similarly the prayers from other deiites to narayana and the prayers of avatars to other dieties are also will and not indicative of relative greatness. In fact, Lord Siva as Ahirbudhnya explains this concept very well in Ahirbudhnya samhita. read details of ramanuja bhasya on bhagawadgita chapter 4-1 to 4-13 which explains avatara rahasyam. for details. the validity of testimonies have to be considered in different levels of views. On a global level different scriptures such as vedas, bible, quran etc. are testimonies to the people who follow them. A christian by faith may not believe in the word of quran or vedas. truth is a different issue. truth found in any scripture has to be accepted. truth regarding supra sensory issues like soul and god is not easily verifiable, hence people take up different faiths depending on birth and personal belief. no body in general (except thirumaizai alwar : according to our belief) has the time to evaluate validity of different religions and evaluate the relative merits and demerits of religions before following one of them. incidentally, thirumaizai alwar is supposed to have lived for about 4700 years and lived as a buddhist, jainist, saivaite, yogi etc. before he finally attained moksha at "aravamudhan's" sannidhi in kumbakonam. Among vedantic faiths, vedas are assumed to be valid because of the common acceptance of its "apaurseyatva" or "not created by any human or even God!!" God is creator of all but not responsible for the content of vedas!! if he is the author of vedas then vedas fail to be a testimony since it results in mutual dependence between vedas and God! coming to naalayiram, they were all "purusha krita" authored by human beings this makes them not acceptable as valid testimony - even though naalayiram may explain the truths better than the vedas!! IT is even true that naalayiram explains vivid details of the experience of God not found in the available portions of vedas. but when other vedantic faiths are involved in any argument, naalayiram cannot be brought in as testimony. Since if we say our alwars said so. they can say their nayanmaars said differently!! there is no common ground for acceptance. similarly, puranas are created by authors. Even bramha sutras are authored and bhagawadgita is authored. So the highest status for testimony is given to vedas. But since all of the vedas and vedangas are not completely available to us today, bhagawadgita which is supposed to be directly the spoken word of God, is taken as equal authority as suggested by vyasa. Vyasa who is said to be an avatar of narayana authored the mahabharata of which bhagawadgita is a part. As far as puranas are considered, Vyasa in mahabharatha separates 18 puranas into 3 categories of 6 each. These 3 categories are satvic, tamasic, and rajasic puranas. Vyasa's view is that satvic puranas are to be referred to while clarifying views on philosophy. This view was adopted by Sri Ramanuja and explained in vedartha samgraha. Incidentally, Advaitins, Dvaitins agree to this view completely!!! do not ever mistake my respect to naalayiram and the words of alwars. But still They cannot be used in any inter scholastic debates but can be used as highest authority when arguing among srivaishnavas!! not in a cross cultural vedantic discussion. Regarding a long list of examples you have given regarding siva, hanuman, durga, vamana, aiyyappa, murugan, ganesha etc. Please understand carefully that many of the stories here contradict each other and hence cannot be used for determination of tatva or philosophical essence. In fact Pillai lokacharya clearly says ramayana, mahabharatha and itihasa puranas have to be resorted to while determining tatvam since vedas are too dry and in many places apparently contradictory. But even Pillai lokacharya agrees with the higher validity of 6 satvic puranas as explained by ramanuja. In deciding for example the "aadi moolam" or jagat karana vastu - or the origin of everything, many puranic stories do not give a unilateral view. Such matters have to be settled only with the help of karana vakyas in the vedas - such as "Eko ha vai narayana aseeeth na bramha na isanaha neme vidhytho etc. which states nothing existed in the beginning except narayana, not bramha nor siva nor the stars or moon existed. These origin issues etc. have to be cleared up only using vedic testimony. this is the general agreement of advaita, visistadvaita, dvaita and others. I do agree that Narayana had a purpose in participating in activities with other dieties and it is his own will. I do not want to under play those issues either. In fact, if you listen to krishnapremi maharaj's cassettes on srimad bhagavatam, he says bhagavatam is more clearer in presenting what is needed for these poor living souls who are deluded by life, he further clarifies that bhagavatham is like a fruit and the roots are the vedas. and obviously fruits are tastier than the roots but verily depend on the roots for its existence! I hope this answers most questions. coming to dileepan's questions :  If we hold that the supreme Lord is bound by karma then how can we explain His ability to absolve us from our sins and grant us mOksham? Further, if He himslef is bound by karma, how would He get out of the cycle of birth-death-rebirth? the answer is supreme lord is not bound by karmas further dileepan's states: /p.s. It is my understanding that dhivya prabandham is completely /consistent with the vEdhaas. Therefore it is just academic /to discuss whether dhraavida vEdhaas have less authority. But, //the point is, I think, when one engages in debates with people /of other persuations only vEdhaas will be acceptable as authoritative /to them, not prabhandams. you are right. internally we can hold naalayiram equal to or greater than vedas not when talking to cross cultural vedantins - or even sakthas or saivas.