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Re: Biographies of Sri Ramanuja

From: Badrinarayanan Seshadri (
Date: Tue Apr 30 1996 - 14:58:18 PDT

I have tried answering a few follow-up postings generated
by my little note this morning.

I do not mean to disrespect the learned Vaishnavas in
this forum.

Sri Jaganath wrote:

* With respect to Badri's comments on what will happen to mere jivatmas
* if all Acharyas claimed to be Nitya Suris, I wish to submit the
* following:

I did not say that the AcharyAs themselves claimed that
they are nityasUris. It is their followers who claim so.

* Swami Desikar states in the RTS that every jivatma is meant to be a
* prince like the Kaustubha gem, and that he (it should be a better
* word) has forgotten this relationship due to evil desires and
* passions.

I do not dispute this at all. My suggestion was that,
even the AzhvArs as well as swami DEsikar himself are
jeevAtma, only they could realize the TRUTH unlike us.
The claims that they were not mere jeevAtmAs but rather
nityasUris or the BhagavAn Himself are the ones I am
objecting to.


* One need not bemoan what will become of us if all acharyas are
* claimed as amsas of Narayana.  When we surrender we too will become
* amsas of Sriman Narayana and will enjoy bliss serving Him.

No, no. I was not bemoaning what would become of us if
all AchAryAs are claimed as amsAs of Sriman NArAyanA.
That was rather a rhetorical question. If all the
liberated souls are portrayed as an amsA of Sriman
NArAyanA or His attendents even before their attaining
the liberation, it would imply that only such people can
attain liberation. That is what I was objecting to.


Sri Dileepan wrote:


* >If that may be the case, why would other jeevanmuktAs like the
* >succeding AchAryAs wrote and claimed that the AzhvArs & AchAryAs
* >before them were in fact nityasUris?
* >
*     Were AchAryaas jeevanmukthaas?
*     Are AzhArs and AchAryAs considered NithyasUris?

Yes. The work 'NityasUri vaibhavam(??)' apparently talks
about many AchAryAs as NityaSuris. In any case, all
AzhvArs are considered NityasUris as per the Sri
Vaishnava belief, and is so explicated in the
guruparampara prabhAvam.


* >It has to be noted that beliefs of this kind stay only within a
* >sampradAya. Naturally so! Because, the pramANA for all this does
* >not come from texts that are commonly accepted by all the
* >sampradAyAs, and hence only of spurious or limited value.
*    In my understanding no one has ever forced an universal
*    acceptance of any of these beliefs.  I find nothing wrong
*    in celebrating the memory of ones own achaaryaas by
*    equating them to certain amsaas of the Lord.

This is precisely the problem. If I consider my AchAryA
as _equal_ to Sriman NArAyanA, I believe that I am
committing a mistake. If I consider that both are to be
respected, and in that sense group them together as ones
worthy of respect, that is perfectly fine. We have great
examples of madhurakavi himself, and then thiru
arangaththu amudhanAr. madhurakavi says "thEvu maRRu
aRiyEn". We can quibble much about this point. However do
you honestly believe that madhurakavi was denying the
existence of Sriman NArAyanA, and claiming that sadagOpan
is the parabrahman ? I do not think so. He will be a
'blasphemer' if he really meant so! You say that you do
not find anything wrong at all "in celebrating the memory
of ones own achaaryaas by equating them to certain amsaas
of the Lord." So you do agree that it was a mere figment
of imagination on the devotees part and that there is
indeed no support for such ?


Sri Kaushik wrote:

* Badri writes:
* *** I respectfully submit that age of the poster be not considered in
* *** evaluating the merits of a posting. I only have to mention
* *** Bhattar and Nanjeeyar, in this connection.
* I agree, but age should temper the tone and character of the way
* one responds. A child can be censured readily, an elder, in my
* opinion, should not. This is *not* and has *never* been the Vedantic
* tradition. If my understanding of the biographies are correct,
* Ramanuja cried at Yadava Prakasa's misinterpretations, and *only* when
* asked, did he make his objections known.  He did not laugh at him or
* slight him before his disciples. 

I humbly note your point. I am not advocating that elders
be laughed at. But at the same time, I am requesting that
age be not brought up in dismissing a posting. As for
myself, I respect every one in this forum irrespective of
their own beliefs which may or may not agree with me.

* *** VedAntA does not ask us to believe something merely because it
* *** has been brought to us by the "claimed messengers" of IsvarA. 
* On what basis are we to accept the Pancaratra texts? Especially the
* portions pertaining to the rituals, constructions of temples etc.
* I see no "logical" basis than merely accepting "blindly" that these
* scriptures were directly given to us by "messengers" of IsvarA.

Yes. I do realise that the Sri Vaishnava belief system is
founded upon the prastAnathrayI materials, pancaratra
AgamAs and AzhvAr prabandham. So do we follow several
other smrti texts including RAmAyanA and MahAbArathA. My
point was that the works by Sri RAmAnujA are valuble in
themselves and not in the least because he "happened" to
be an avatArA of AdisEshA.


* *** I find it disturbing that several hagiographies, and in
* *** particular the sectarian portions of the guruparampara
* *** prabhAvam(s) trying to upstage one another by projecting one
* *** person as an amsA of Parabrahman or one of His attendents, in a
* *** bid to legitimise one set of views over the other.
* You may call it sectarian, but I think it is a very common feature of
* Indian thought and culture (if I am not mistaken, there is significant
* "historical" evidence to believe that Kamakshi, now an avatara of
* Parvati, was once "merely" a Queen).  It is merely the Indian way of
* bringing the abstract to the concrete. 

But that do not validate the claims, do they ?

* Furthermore, it seems  very much the *Vedantic* tradition to lift ones
* Guru to the loftiest heights of esteem. It is peppered throughout the
* Puranas, and even in the Upanishads (viz. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru
* Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava..). It is only undestandable that a
* pupil views his Acharya as God incarnate and seeks to find God in all
* his behaviour. 

I fully agree with lifting one's Guru to the loftiest
heights of esteem. After all, without the help of Guru,
no one can cross the ocean of samsArA. A person like
Arjuna was fortunate enough to have Sri KrishnA Himself
as Guru. But calling one's Guru as an avatArA of Sriman
NArAyanA (or His attendents) without any valid scriptural
quote is not right.


Sri Sampath Rengarajan wrote:

* > I pay my respects to Sriman NArAyanA, and his divine consort Sri.
* > I pay my respects to SadagOpA, Naathamuni, YamunA, and Ramanuja.
* > I pay my respects to all the vaishnavAs in this mailing list.
* >
* >
* Premises:
* ARe you suggesting that you wrote these lines simply becasue you
* are paying respect to all the persons listed in the 3 lines due to their
* *age* (or they appeared on this earth prior to you)
* or respect them becuase you believe what they say with faith ?
* if you say it is mere respect out of age then you are not even
* accepting that Sriman Naaryaana and his divine consort Sri are the GOD.
* In that case please donot read the follwoing.

I do hope you read my posting and understand the intent.
I was very clear when I wrote the above statements! I
clearly mentioned who Sriman NArAyanA was with the help
of the quote from paripAdal. (I can furnish the English
translation if anyone needs it.) I very clearly
delineated and placed the people above in the order of
their merit. I do not think any one in the (n+1)th line
is in any way equal to those in the (n)th line:-)


* > It is perfectly possible that all the AzhvAr and AchAryA were
* > mere jeevAtmA like us who through the grace of IsvarA and
* > brahmagyAnA attained their mukti.
* It is a very *attractive* logical argument and avoids the truth told by
* lineage of achaaryaaLS.

I apologise if I portrayed myself as a brazen
'iconoclast'. I didn't mean to.

A few of us who are more fortunate find an AchAryA, have
full faith in him and follow whatever he says. A few less
fortunate ones like me can accept only those things that
are only meaningful to our limited knowledge. So, I may
ask some questions from time to time that may seem to
affect the sensibilities of a few people (such as you). I
seek your forgivenness. I also request you (and others)
to be patient with my idiotic enquiries, and if possible
lead my kindly to see the light.

If you so desire, I will stop making further comments
that could be of controversial nature, in this forum and
look elsewhere for the answers.

* Swami Desikan HIMself had delivered *directly* in one slOkam and
* hinted in few others on *part* of
* his avathaara rahasyam. I am not authorised to say those
* but however if you wish you may ask any of the achaaryaaLS
* in his gurupaarampariyam, *after* you pay your *respects*
* (once you resolve and observe this terminology *respect*)
* in line with the *protocols* of such mutt and ask them for this
* slOkam.

I once again state that I was not being disrespectful of
Swami Desikar or any other illustrious AchAryA. However,
I have only a little point to make here. If Sriman
NarAyanA Himself authored a work, it can not have a flaw
(for example: GItA). Normal human beings can produce a
work which can (and usually will) have a flaw. That is
why the works of various bhAshyakArAs are hotly contested
by others even though their respective followers venerate
them as equal to God.

If Swami Desikar indeed was an avatArA of Sriman
NarAyanA, piLLai LOkAchAryA's (and hence the later day
maNavALa mAmuni's) works should be rejected outright
since Desikar refutes the views held by the former
AchAryA. If maNavALa mAmuni was an avatArA of AdisEshA
and hence Sri RAmAnujA himself, then Desikar's work
should be rejected as mAmuni upholds and elaborates upon
piLLai LOkAchAryA's work! See? we get caught up in
resolving these issues! 

That each of these are various amsAs of Sriman NArAyanA
can also be easily refuted since various amsAs of Him can
not disagree with each other. Hence my suggestion that
they were all mere jeevAtmAs, and susceptible to flaw
like every human being. I do not think this view is in
any way belittling them. Unlike the rest of the humanity,
they elevated themselves and attained mukti. (Well, this
can not be proved! so I modify my statement to say that
they are all venerable and worthy of emulating.)


* > If that may be the case, why would other jeevanmuktAs like the
* > succeding AchAryAs wrote and claimed that the AzhvArs & AchAryAs
* > before them were in fact nityasUris?
* >
* > It has to be noted that beliefs of this kind stay only within a
* > sampradAya. Naturally so! Because, the pramANA for all this does
* > not come from texts that are commonly accepted by all the
* > sampradAyAs,
* Lack of faithful knowledge and the extraordinary confidence on one's own
* knowledge as complete makes one beleive that they know
* all the texts. For example the slOkam on swami desikan's avathaara
* rahasyam delivered by Swami HIMself is not known to you yet. For many reasons
* some of the holy slOkams are not available to us in the form of
* a book store literature. However these are known to our achaaryaaLS
* and are conveyed in their paarampariyam to their successors and as well
* *faithful* bakthaaLS.

[and so on...]

Once again I apologise. As an epilogue to my little note,
I quoted a few lines from paripAdal, which expresses my
sentiments succintly! I do realise that I do not have the
knowledge many of you possess. I have not learnt anything
from any AchAryA. I am not privy to any special mantrA
that reveals to me the nature of the self etc.

However, I am not willing to become a "blind" follower
even if that is the only way to attain knowledge. I will
try to be as humble as possible but will continue to
question the beliefs and accept them only if I find a
satisfactory answer.


Badri Seshadri 
Graduate Student
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Cornell University