You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : April 1997

Musings on garUda/mantrA etc.-8B

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Tue Apr 08 1997 - 06:55:30 PDT

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s",

The vEdic tradition is "sruti" --- oral tradition; and we know its a body of
"revelations of Truth". The truth of the vEdAs, it is said, is conveyed
exactly as HEARD .... repeat, as HEARD (not as SEEN or THOUGHT of)... by
many "rshi-s" in moments of inspiration .

There are, of course, in the vEdic records, passages where "rshi-s" exclaim
having SEEN Truth! ("rshir darshanAt"). "AchAryA-s" and scholars, however,
have explained that those exclamations testify really to the "sound of
truth" ("mantra-sabda") having been "SEEN" ! Which is why, as we all know,
the LOGOS itself is symbolised in the vEdic tradition by an acoustic-icon :
the "praNavam".

If you reflect deeply, the world of "non-vEdic" experience in which most of
us lead our secular lives, is a world that is bent upon realizing truth in
"VISUAL" ways. It suffers from a "visual" bias that sharply contrasts with
the "acoustic" modes of "perception" preferred by the vEdAs.

We must pause here, please, to explain the above statement a little.

In our daily lives, if you have noticed, we all, implicitly and constantly,
pay homage to the "scientific tradition" --- the tradition that insists upon
.... and always heavily relies on "VISUAL" evidence of truth ("pratyaksham")
rather than the "aural" ("sabda') or non-visual manifestation of truth.

This bias for "visual-validity", as sine-qua-non for apprehending truth, is
easily sensed in innumerable little ways of the world around us. For example :

** We say, "Show me proof!" ; we almost never say "Let me hear the proof!"

** When we want a subtle idea or principle explained to us, we impatiently
demand, don't we, "Demonstrate it to me; don't tell me !"      

** We have been taught in school, "Seeing is believing"; I have never heard
any    teacher tell a student,"Hearing can be believing too !"

** To be deaf is not always held to be so cruel or tragic a human handicap
as      being blind !

** In the systems of jurisprudence of the civilised world anywhere, "Justice
is    Blind" ! LAWS of EVIDENCE have firmly evolved only upon systems of
visual       rather than auditory testimony; even today while a video-tape
may be admitted    as evidence in courts of law, their Lordships will
hesitate to grant the same    degree of credulity to evidence on an
audio-tape; somehow what is on "audio"    is never regarded as "hard
evidence" as much as that which is on "video"!       Again, while "visual"
evidence will be treated in Courts as incontrovertible
"eye-witness-account", "oral" evidence will be dismissed as "hearsay" !
Furthermore, while oath-taking in a Court of Law is done by a solemn "vocal"
process of swearing by the Bible, Koran or GitA, ironically, the popular
judicial dictum followed everywhere is : "Justice must not only be done, but
be SEEN to be "done"; it is never, NEVER said of justice, is it ever, that
it    must be HEARD to have been done!" although, in the course of it being
meted    out, we know the holy names of God or the "Holy Book" are called
upon and       heard out aloud ! The phrase "justice must be HEARD to be
done" would somehow    strike us all as odd and perverted, wouldn't it ?!

** In the modern world of technology, too, where "voice-or-speech
recognition"     is the marvel behind such appliances like
"voice-mail-service", "personal ID    recorders" and "hi-tech security
systems", you still find "visual" back-up      mechanisms such as "CC TVs",
MICR "swipe-cards" and even good ol'human guards    standing-by just to
ensure that in the odd event of such "voice-recognition"    systems
"failing", there is always a "visual-check" system to provide

Examples such as the above are galore in our world !

They will all go to confirm that the species HOMO SAPIENS somehow has been
deeply ingrained by nature --- or "programmed" if you like --- to always
suspect everything thing else other than "visual" modes ("pratyaksham") of
validating the truths of the experiential world.

To the human intellect, that which is SEEN is infinitely more credible than
that which is capable of being only HEARD --- although the eye as
sense-organ is known to be no less imperfect than the ear ! 

SIGHT simply exerts an influence infinitely more powerful than SOUND on the
human mind ...... period.
(Nobody, so far as far as I am aware, has adequately explained why, except
perhaps, by way of vaguely examining theories stating pretty much the
obvious : that external stimuli impact more powerfully, more lastingly on
the human brain through "visual" rather than "auditory" media !)

(Imagine a world where humans did not have this inexplicable preference for
SIGHT over SOUND ... imagine ! what then would be the sad plight of the
great industries of the world today -- TV, motion-picture, advertising,
information- technology etc.-- which all thrive on exploiting, one way or
the other, this peculiar quirk or flaw in the "design of human beings and of
their minds" !)

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", it is this deep-rooted prejudice or "conditioning"
of human nature, it is the belief that somehow "SIGHT" is a better indicator
of Truth than "SOUND", it is this natural bent of the human mind which,
according to our great seers of India, is the biggest obstacle to "vEdic
experience of truth" which, in absolute contrast to our long-accustomed
"optic-centred" perception of the world, is fundamentally "acoustic" in nature!!

The whole purpose of the vEdic religion, indeed, is to help Man overcome his
crippling "visual-centredness" and to understand that there is another whole
NEW World of PERCEPTION based on "srUti/shabda" or "oral/auditory" inference.

The vEdic tradition states that the Reality human "perception" seeks to
realize.... that Reality we saw described by Swami Desikan in his
"gOpala-vimshati" ..... such Reality "reveals" Itself more clearly through
"sabdA-pramANAm" (SOUND) than through "SIGHT" ("pratyaksha-pramANam")!

The eternal message of the Vedas, as gathered from what the great "rshi-s"
have recorded for us, urges human experience to, indeed, break-free off the
limitations that "visual-orientatedness" imposes on our efforts to search
for truth.


The deep-seated "visual-conditioning" in man, explained above, is what I
have chosen to describe, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", as his natural "REFLEX" !

In other words, this "visual-centredness" is so "REFLEXIVE" in him that Man
cannot simply help it !

It is "second nature" to him ! It is a "knee-jerk" response of his intellect
("buddhi") ! One that has been firmly "programmed" into him; and which makes
him accept as truth only that which is demonstrable; and reject or suspect
all that he can only "HEAR". 

The Vedas, on the other hand, categorically tell us that Reality or Truth
can be apprehended only through the "praNava-sabdA" ("primordial Sound") !

Hence, from all that has been stated above, we can only conclude, dear
"bhAgavatOttamA-s", that "vEdic" experience of Truth becomes possible for us
only IF, and only AFTER, we have overcome our "reflexive" (and excessive,
too!) reliance on "pratakshyam" and, indeed, have switched to "aural" modes
of PERCEPTION/COGNITION prescribed in the vEdAs.


The "switch" the vEdA-s enjoin us to make --- from a world of total
"visuality" to a world of total "aurality" --- is not, however, an easy
thing to do, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s"! 

It involves more than just a change of "mind-set" ! It involves a complete
departure from the so-called "normal (visual) ways" through which we have
come to apprehend, understand and accept ourselves and the world ....from
times immemorial since the origin of species ! 

It goes against the very grain of our scientific temper too !!

How on earth is it possible for us --- we who are children of the
"scientific" revolution --- to suddenly shift to "aural perception of truth"
without taking absolute leave of our senses ??!!! 


The answer, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", according to the vEdA-s, lies in the
power of "mantrA" !!!

YES, according to our "purvAcharyA-s", the answer lies in the power of sound
of the vEdic "mantrA" !!

In the "vEdic" system, it is believed "rshir darshanAt" i.e. the rshi-s
"perceived" truth !! But the "rshi-s'" inspiration was not rooted in "visual

Their "perception", on the other hand, was the inspirational "sabdA" of
Truth captured in a "mantrA" discovered and instantly uttered in rare
moments of revelation ! 

The "rshi-s", thus, "perceived" sights within sound ... and sounds within
sight to say !!

And it is those very same "mantrA-s", handed down by "rshi-s" to us across
the ages, which are believed to help us break-free from the shackles of
"sight-orientated", "reflexive" modes of PERCEPTION and switch to the
"oral/aural" modes of true Cognition ...which the "rshi-s" themselves

"mantrA-s", in the vEdic world, are thus regarded as the "acoustic keys"
that unlock, nay, pry open for us, the AURAL DOORS OF PERCEPTION which
otherwise shut out Reality from our eyes !


If we can all understand so much about "reflexivity" as explained above,
dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", then I believe I can easily proceed to further
examine, jointly with you all, the "garUda-hymns" of Swami Desikan ....and
thereafter, of course, the Mukkur Swamy II story on "mantrA" !

If you have any questions/comments please do not hesitate to raise them
along the way.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikAya namaha