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Other gods.
Date: Mon Aug 28 2000 - 13:45:02 PDT

>Being born as Vaishnavas is it a sin worshipping 
>other Gods ,...
> Is there any harm in worshipping  them...<

This was the query, to begin with.   A recurring one 
at that.  Good that someone raises the question at all.

A doctrinal reply or clarification invoking a thousand 
scriptures won't do at all. Two kinds of response could 
be appropriate:  an analogy from the commonplace world, 
and a picture of what kind of prevarications and 
manipulations obtain to-day in the name of faith and 
religious practices.

The characteristic of vaishNava AkAram:

The seeker and the sought are best visualised, as in the
relationship of a woman and  her beloved husband, 
the nAyikA and her nAyaka.      The Lord is the 'purushOttama' (the only male principle of creation)
and all the refugee souls ('prapanna') his avid brides.   
This is the charming and dominant imagery of not only our 'darSanam' but of other mono-theistic religions as well. 

The periya-tiru-mozhi (8:9:3) text 
aDiyEn, oruvarkku uriyEnO?"
is the testament of chastity, 
the mystic's pAti-vratyam.

One has the choice of chastity or otherness.

Religious Equality and Sameness ?

There is a false propaganda of equality or sameness
as between religions.  Equality should obtain only in
the harmless and peaceful observance of different 

To cite an illustration.   There is the raucous,
cruel and disturbing 'festival' of slaughter (on public
land) of hundreds of goats before the totem  called 
kuzhumAyamman in uRaiyUr, followed by orgistic
guzzling of blood spouting off the decapitated,
twitching and brutalised animals. 

The other scenario is in Srirangam which joyfully
participates in the time-honoured and soul-ennobling procession of namperumAL.

These two cannot be, and ought not to be, held as
equal kinds of religious observance.

Also, God conceived as the single primordial principle could be accepted as the same as between different religions.   Nevertheless, God identified by the vEda as Sriman-nArAyaNa cannot be invoked in false propaganda to legitimise all kinds of totems devised in diabolical or frivolous  imaginations.

The cooked offering (prasAdam) made in SrivaishNava 
worship can be called pudding of rice in milk, though 
there is a range of dishes of this genre ~~ ksheerAnnam,
tiru-k-kannal-amutu (=pAyasam), Sarkkarai-p-pongal,
akkAra-atiSil, aravaNai etc.

When someone born or raised in SrivaishNava heritage
wishes to adore other totems also, it would be the same
as a helping of refuse to 'go with'  the  'prasAdam'.   
One has the choice.

Other gods be:
I congratulate Sri Mani Varadarajan on his intervention 
on this issue of  'devatA/ntara upAsanam'.     I would 
highlight just two of the points he has made.

<The way Advaita has evolved,  for example, they worship 
<Siva, Vishnu, Ganapati, Parvati, etc.  equally.... 
<That is the way their acharyas have taught them....   
<Our only quarrel with them should be if they challenge us.>

It is not as though Advaita theology has anything to do 
with this kind of later-day poly/heno-theism going by the name of 'panchAyatanam'.   

'gods' on sale:
In India which is to-day characterised by a plethora of 
pseudo-'religious' publication marked by stifling illiteracy and deplorable language skills,  and the endemic middle-class affliction of publicity-hunger, 
any cult or practice passes if you can create for it a sanctimonious Sanskrit name or pseudo-Tamil aggressive appellation, so long as you keep riveted to the sanctified purpose of profiteering on the insecurities and greed of feeble minds.  

So, the 'panchAyatanam'  keeps getting elastic (simply call it 'shaD-Ayatanam', 'sapt-Ayatanam' and so on as your god-creatures proliferate,  if only you can find someone to write out the Sanskrit ordinals) to include newer and lewder cult-icons like 'ayapa', 'kubEra',  'pratyankira' (someone explain?).    

Manufacture manual

There are some studied steps whereby you can fabricate and  'sell' a god or two in seasonal cycles.   One can almost write a manual for this. Just anchor the aberration with a 'shrine' 
(painted in lurid colours ~~ this disease, alas, has struck the age-old 'gopuram' of even our divya-dESam-s) built anywhere on the roadside and public land,  preferably traffic 'junctions' / 'crossings' ~~ 
as  you notice erupting everywhere in Srirangam, 
evidently planned and funded from undeclarable sources.   

Make sure to work out a morbid and mysterious 
'sthala-purANam' (spot-miracle-episode), the sillier the better.   
["kathA-SatAih, tadAnu-sAri-jalpAih api, pratAritam idam jagat"
 ~~ the hundreds of  fibs and the prattle based on them 
together make for subverting  the world ! ~~ 
is how svAmi-dESikan expresses his contempt for this kind of stuff.]     
Draw up a protocol of cult rites and practices, and lay thick with prohibitions and votive offerings.   

If you run out of ideas, simply appropriate for your god-creature (they come much faster than barbie-doll issues) a word or name from the genuine scriptures, as 'gaNAnAm patayE' was purloined from the vEda and applied to the neo-Saiva deity, gaja-mukha ('piLLaiyAr'), which earned no mention in any work of the great poet Kalidasa who was an avowed Siva-bhakta, or in any of the Tamil sangham classics.   The simple fact is that this is a much later-day device, and the relevant (interpolated) account found in the skanda-purANam could be classified for Adults only. 

Last year, on the day of this worship, a huge  plaster-of-paris pillaiyAr painted lurid was installed right outside of the periya-nambi tirumALikai in Srirangam.   There is a virulent and vicious movement 
to shout 'Hindu' to legitimise a host of malefics, and to promote piLLaiyAr as 'the' universal icon or emblem of the religion.   The public-sector art/handicrafts
emporiums stack only piLLaiyAr images floor to ceiling.
Marketing manual
The days of 'vijaya-daSamee' (which marked Sri Rama's
victory over rAvaNa) and 'deepAvali' (signalling the 
celebration of Sri Rama's return to Sri ayOdhyA ~~
also, by the Padma Puranam account,  of Naraka's salvation in being slain by Sri Krshna) have come to be applied to sixpenny horrors centering on such god-creatures.   

You can even commission a 'su-prabhAtam' 
(there is the pathetic 'krshNa-kumAri' su-prabhAtam 
for karu-mAri amman) from the stuffy brahmin professional group of Chennai-Mylapore ~~ never mind that they cannot tell  a Family Planning folder in Hindi from  'upanishad-bhAshyam'.  Someone may eventually contend that karumAri suprabhAtam was the original and genuine text and the Sri-vEnkaTESa-suprabhAtam the imitation.  

The Tamil cinema song-writers would readily spew out a 
shrieking tune on the 'god'/'goddess' of your creation, and pepper the song with epithets that the requisitioned god-creature is The God Supreme of the vEda. The textile 
wholesaler can advise you what colour of cloth to prescribe for the cultists;   the saffron cloth (which is sacred to the uttamASramam of 'san-nyAsam') has been sullied by aiyap-ism which has stained blue cloth also, though I-ape cult is enduring in its disgusting outfit of black drapery (despite that the SAstra prohibits black, even in mourning - "krshNa-vastram sadA tyajEt"). The brown-shirted and black-liveried European organisations of the 1940's were not the last instance of human-herding into demoniac cults.  
The extravagant and lurid cult of the crimson cloth is 
doing well, thank you, and the runaway sales of green 
lengths was promoted by the one who is called 'seer' 
in the unvarying and somewhat passe hype of  our 
English-language press.   An  'amman' has recently opted for lengths of lemon yellow and willingly 'endorses' the sales.

The scam of spurious 'scriptures'

The second point I'd make on Mani's excellent posting is 
on the observation 

< Our only quarrel with them should be if they challenge us.>   

Well, as I see it, the SrivaishNava has to be alert not so much to the 'advaita' reading of Godhead 
(~~ 'advaitam' is a philosophical concept and may be
accepted or refuted philosophically) 
as to the craven manufacture of 'gods' of meretricious 
mould, and the more subversive and brazen manufacture of 
(evidently spurious) religious texts.   We have been unedifyingly tolerant of the visible history of interpolations in the vEda 
("sa brahmA sa Siva: ~~ sa Hari:" in nArAyaNa-sooktam, 
for those who know !), 
Sri-rAmAyaNam, mahAbhAratam, the purANa corpus, the kamba-rAmAyaNam, villi-puttoor-bhAratam, etc.   

Historical events could be discreetly omitted or rewritten in due course, the issues of fact and law and precedence confused, the noble and legitimate origin of a practice suppressed, and a completely spurious religious/historical work sustained by repeated and raucous quoting in religious observances, manipulated seminars and simply over the street amplifiers.   In recent memory, a well-known public intellectual institution  in Tanjavur had brought out the work 'Aindram', the ostensibly ancient grammatical work 
which was cited in genuine Tamil classics but was said 
to have been lost.   A  person with appropriate paper
testimonials in Tamil studies, and well-placed with politically correct circles, claimed to have been the sole person to have seen the only manuscript of this work (never once mentioned or listed before), simply memorised it at a glance (~~ this was stated when there was a demand to produce the ms) and reproduced it for the press.   

The Vatican in Rome used to maintain an 
Index Expurgatorius (not sure of the Latin spelling) 
as a master list of all books banned in orthodoxy.    
The prevailing unchallenged eruption of neo-religious 
publications in India seems to call for an 
Index of Interpolations and Counterfeit Works.

Well, this be the present corruptive scenario.
The issue of diverse worship will repeatedly come up 
to challenge the monotheism and urbanity of SrivaishNava 
religion.    Each person make his choice.

There could be no objection to anyone creating a god
newly and in his own image, and developing his kind of
religious practices and institutions.   What is improper
and obnoxious is to claim antiquity, or scriptural identity,or authenticity for obviously later-day writings palmed off in the name of venerated savants of old.

Sri Mani Varadarajan has attempted to be soothing 
on such insecurities, and I can do no better. 
<If you choose to worship anything other than 
our  Blissful Beloved Narayana, you must ask yourself why you are doing so. If you really do not care for attaining the highest good in the most direct manner, 
go ahead...>

Mani, you are so quotable !

aDiyEn rAmAnuja-dAsan,
tirumanjanam Sundara Rajan.

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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