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Re: demigod worship

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Fri Aug 25 2000 - 16:39:38 PDT

Sri Murali wrote:
> Before launching tirades and deploring the writings of 
> respected Sri Vaishnavas (like Sri Madhavakkannan Swamin), ...

> ... Therefore, adiyen requests new members to 
> refrain from launching tirades against respected Bhagavatas of this 
> list.

Sri Madhavakkannan's comments echo the expressions of many
of the acharyas of our sampradAya.  When taking refuge
in the Lord, Narayana is reckoned as the groom, the jIva 
the bride, the acharya the priest, and the sacred dvaya-mantra 
the mAngalya-sUtra.  Saranagati is the wedding.  So pursuing
any lesser deity or goal is akin to unfaithfulness.

However, our acharyas were very careful to write and speak
like this in the context of 'upadEsa', or explanations of
the deepest mysteries of the Sri Vaishnava tradition. Such
upadESa was carefully given to disciples only after the 
acharya inspected their mental makeup, and in preparation for
and enhancing the idea of Saranagati.  It was not taught
out in the open, where the ideas were liable to be misunderstood.
Nor was it taught to someone who has not himself or herself
sought the acharya.

This is what has happened here. Our group is a large one,
with many people of various backgrounds mental makeups.
I feel that we must be extremely careful in disseminating ideas 
which were earlier only taught as 'rahasya'.  Not everyone may 
appreciate, nay, even understand, the deeper idea behind these 
teachings. The idea of comparing the worship of lesser gods 
with adultery naturally strikes many as offensive, at first glance. 
This is because they have not been given the proper context. In fact,
I would go so far as to say that the people to whom this strikes
as offensive aren't even the proper *audience* for such comparisons.
Our acharyas intended this to be told to people who have done
samasrayanam and prapatti, and not for the ordinary lay soul
who lacks context.

At the same time, we have to be very careful to not compromise on our
core principles. The key in mediating between these two values is, 
I think, to be very judicious in *how* we write.  The idea that one's 
relationship to the Paramatma is like a sacred marriage is fundamental 
to our sampradaaya. But, as expressed above, it needs to expressed 
with careful attention to every word used, and with appreciation of 
how ordinary bhagavatas may receive it.

In this vein, I totally understand Smt. Shuba's reaction, and
I don't think we should ask her and others to withold it.  We are,
after all, a forum for exchanging opinions, and I don't think
she insulted Sri Madhavakkannan or launched any tirade. No one
should be above having people react honestly to what they write.
I think our group is better served if people are able to express
heartfelt emotions such as this out in the open, so we may all
learn from the interchange. In fact, I would say Smt. Shuba's
openness is a breath of fresh air compared to the stale formalism
that often plagues our group.


And now a note on an entirely different issue. Lately, I have
seen more and more people send messages containing ideas that
are based purely on writings from teachers outside our sampradAya.
Most of the time, these people quote verbatim from a translation
by Sri Prabhupada or another Hare Krishna author.  It is also
apparent that many of these people have not studied any of the
ideas of Sri Ramanuja. Their only exposure is through the
works of these outside teachers.

I urge strong caution before assuming that these ideas, particularly
Hare Krishna ideas, are compatible with the Visishtadvaita 
Sri Vaishnava sampradAya.  Often, the entire approach of these
teachers differs markedly from ours. Many times, the translation
of the scriptures is out-and-out wrong, or is taken in a totally
different manner by Sri Ramanuja. 

Please do not write with these assumptions when posting to
the bhakti-list.  Please also do not quote from a Hare Krishna
or other translation unless you can verify that it is accurate.
This way, we all can maintain our focus on Sri Ramanuja's teachings
and make progress without distractions.

Thanks for your patience.
Mani





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