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EPILOGUE-garUda/mantra etc.

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Mon Apr 14 1997 - 08:28:30 PDT

Dear friends,

I suddenly remembered I'd concluded this series of musings of mine without
covering the Bruno Bettelheim side of it which I had touced upon in the
earliest posts.

This Bruno Betelheim factor, I think, came up because in the discussions on
"garUDa-mantrA" a question arose as to why myth, lore, legend, apocrypha,
fairy-tale and melodrama are so much part and parcel of our religious
literature (be it Swami Desikan's or any other "achAryA's") !

This question too came up because someone on the list ( I think, it was
Sri.Mani) wondered why the "garUDa" theme is portrayed by Swami Desikan in
his "stotrA-s" so picturesquely and in such mythical/epic images !

We must hence take up this one last aspect of the discussion and after that
I promise you all I will DEFINITELY get off the list and spare you all
anymore distress (I am getting tired of myself now the way I'm monopolising
the band-width !)
When you read the "Raghu-veera Gadyam" of Swami Desikan you will come across
in Stanza #13 a very strange sentiment being expressed by the poet :

"kUshikasutha-kaThitha-viditha-nava-vivaDhakaTha !"

Here, in this stanza Swami Desikan hails Lord Rama as the one "who listened
and learnt many tales from the Sage ViswamitrA !!"

Now this particular stanza always used to intrigue me ! I used to ask myself
why the poet takes the trouble to make a specific reference to Lord Rama's
keen "listening skills" and "love for (bed-time) stories" in a poem that was
composed primarily to extol the valorous qualities of the Prince of Ayodhya !

I continue to this day to be intigued by the above stanza ! Because, the
same question can also be posed in a different sort of way in the context of
our discussions on "garUDa-mantrA" where we might ask, "The "garUda-mantrA"
is alright, but what are all those fanciful stories and legends of "garUDA"
surrounding it ? Are these stories all essential to our understanding and
practice of the "mantrA" itself ?" 

I furnish to myself, however, "dear bhAgavatOttamA-s", a sort of partial
explanation for the question by drawing some conclusions from Dr.Bruno
Bettelheim's book on child-psychology, "The Uses of Enchantment" ! It might
interest you; it might not. But please give me a patient hearing.

In that book, Dr.Bettelheim's thesis is that in a child's little world
nothing of the adult one makes sense --- not its great history, its
traditions, its great values, its mechanisms and machinations ! The child's
feelings towards the outside adult world is one of perennial and unspoken
bewilderment, anxiety, confusion and raw fear ! So the child has to cope and
come to terms with the world ! Parents and teachers help in this process !
But parents and teachers cannot all fathom the deepest needs of the child
since those needs are mostly unexpressed and unrecognized by the child even !

The only way such dark, deep and secret fears and longings in the child's
minds get recognized is, according to Dr.Bettelheim, through "listening to
fairy tales" --- those great stories of Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White
etc. These stories serve to help the child to subconsciously identify and
recognize, through associative symbols and images in the story, the many
baffling realities of the adult world into which the child is fearfully
growing up.

Thus the "forest" into which Snow White gets lost becomes a symbol for the
child of its own little predicament and inadequacies; the "evil witch"
becomes a rich symbol of the things around the world that strike the child
as "bad" or "undesirable" and "worthy of avoiding" or "worthy of destroying"
! The big, bad giant that Jack kills after climbing the magic beanstalk in
the skies becomes the tale through which the child is enabled to form
conviction that in life  "Good", though seemingly "small and weak", can
still triumph over "Evil" that may seem "gigantic"..... and so on and so
forth ....

The point that Dr.Bettelheim makes, and he makes it very fascinatingly, is
that "tales of fantasy and magic and lore", while they may seem "childishly
enchanting", nevertheless, serve as powerful tools of subliminal persuasion
of the child's fragile psyche. It is the process through which the child's
future personality and behaviour is enabled and given a firm identity. It is
by listening to fanciful "tales and fables" that a child "discovers" the
world around him, its truths and warts; the principal way through which it
"reconciles" the many contradictions of life and people around it; and the
most effective way through which the child learns to "cope" with the people
and the reality around it !

In other words, "enchanting" fairy-tales do for children exactly what
religious tales --- "pUranA-s" and "ithihAsa-s" --- do for adults ! The
former is a balm for children's minds that cures it of the pain of fear,
doubt and confusion associated with the UNKNOWN ! The same it is for adults
who listen to stories of religious myth and lore ! They act as powerful
subliminal forces of enlightenment leading the way to "truthful
understanding" of life's many puzzles and infirmities that beset man at
every stage in his existence. 

Mukkur Swamy II used to say,"The Mahabharatha, no doubt, is a fountainhead
of great truths, great enlightenment for man. It has the crowning jewel of
truth, the 'Bhagavath-gita'; it has the 'Vishnu-sahasranAmam'; it has
'vidura-neethi'; it has the "yaksha-prasna". All these are great and
powerful tools for man to use to earn his liberation ! But imagine a
Mahabharatha with just these 4 chapters ! Imagine the epic without the
thousands of other tales of power, greed, intrigue, betrayal, heroism,lust,
war and peace --- all those that fill up the bulk of its magnificent pages !
What would the Mahabharatha be then ? It would be nothing ! People wouldn't
touch it! We suck sweet-juice from cane and after that we throw away the
remains of the cane as useless cud ! But can we ever hope to enjoy the
experience of sucking cane-juice without the useless cane that ends up as
cud we spit out ?"

Therefore, it makes sense to infer from all the above, dear
"bhAgavatOttamA-s", that when Swami Desikan in the "Raghuveera-gadyam" hails
Lord Rama as one who "listened to tales retold by his "guru" ViswAmitra", he
does it with a very good purpose. We must infer then from the
"kavi-tarkika-simham's" pointed reference here that the seeds of valourous
qualities of Lord Rama were,indeed, sown by Viswamitra who recounted great
many tales to the Prince of AyodhyA !

The great vEdic personage, the author of the "gayatri-mantrA" itself, must
surely therefore have imparted to Lord Rama, his disciple, the many
ENIGMATIC "mantrA-s" of "vedic srUti" known to him through the safe and easy
medium of little tales the "raghu-veera gadam" speaks of in Stanza #13!

And precisely those "mantrA-s" of Sage ViswamItrA seem also to have
"operated" in Lord Rama's later phases in life when he earned fame as the
MOST VALOROUS ONE hailed later in Stanza 90 as the personification of
"sanAtana-dharmA" itself! 

In Lord Rama's story, too, then we see the theme of "acharyA-tiruvadi-
sambhandham", being the greatest of "artha-s" that one can attain in life,
being confirmed ! 

The "Raghuveera-gadyam", therefore, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", itself is a
subtle confirmation of all that we discussed in the last 12 posts on the
"mantrA", the "garUDa" legend as per the "panchAshat" verses, the
"acharya-tirUvadi- sambhandham" attained by the little boy in Sri.Mukkur
Swamy's story and lastly ..... also of Dr.Bruno Bettelheim's little theory
on the Uses of Enchanting Tales in the life of man !
The day after tomorrow is SRI RAMA NAVAMI.

So isn't it appropriate that I end this series of musings of mine with
references to how "mantrA" imparted by a "guru" through "little tales" to
Lord Rama Himself, eventually led the LORD to Glory in his "avatara" on
earth !! 

What greater proof do we need, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", for the power that a
"mantra", given us by a loving "guru", can wield in our lives ...... even if
it be nothing more than a mere nonsense-phrase such as "ingEnth-angE !
angEnthu-ingE!" !!!


srimathe lakshmi-nrsuma parabrahmaNE namaha
srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha