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RE: Panel Discussion

From: Mohan Sagar (
Date: Thu Aug 21 1997 - 22:34:26 PDT

Dear Sri Sudarshan,

I have a great deal of regard for you, your level of knowledge, and your
unique witty writing style.  But, as I am somewhat responsible for the
panel's proposed topic of discussion, I am forced to express the following:

All that I had stated in my original posting was that I had been asked to
chair a panel discussion on our youth, and had asked for some suggestions
for specific topics that should be addressed.  I do not think that I
mentioned anything about shortcuts, quick fixes, or alternate lifestyles.
But, since we somehow have come to this conclusion, here are some points in

>Most young people outside India who are desirous of learning about
>SriVaishnavism begin with the premise that it is all about a branch of
>philosophy called "VisishtAdvaitam" (did you know that not once has
>SriRamanuja used this phrase in any of his works!).

This statement was true once, but is no longer.  About a dozen or so years
ago, I began my search for SriVaishnavism by examining the esoteric
discussions on visishtAdvaita.  But, I did so only because books on this
subject were the only ones written on SriVaishnavism at the time.  Things
have changed greatly since then.  Now thanks to such notables as Dr.
Narayanan, Patricia Mumme, Robert Lester, and our own Sri Anbil Ramaswamy,
along with a number of erudite writers in India, the youth of today have
access to a number of works on SV culture, tradition, and religious practice.

>The second premise is
>that the philosophy, and its attendent theology, by itself will provide for
>us simple and easy-to-digest answers for all the problems we face, or are
>likely to face, in the world and in our day-to-lives. 

I strongly disagree with this.  From my observations and interactions with
them, I have come to the conclusion that if Indian youth have inherited
anything of their parents, it is their sense of pragmatism and adaptability.
What else could explain their phenomenal success in their education and
careers.  I do not think that any of them would be looking for quick fix,
cookbook answers to the problems of life, for indeed, they are smart enought
to know that there aren't any.

>Ramanuja's SriVaishnavism was not meant for "lOka-dharmA" but for
>"bhAgavata-dharmA" -- the "dharma" of those who have ceased to search for
>such things in life as "life-style", "1000 ways to win friends", "how to be
>a productive manager or great husband" etc. Ramanuja's Vaishnavism was meant
>for those who have learnt to look beyond the "practicality" of life and have
>instead begun the long search for the "Life they have all lost in living" !

Sri Murali's posting clearly illustrates otherwise.

Several years ago, I read a very interesting book called "Vedantic
Approaches to God." The author of this work, a comparitive religionist whose
name I cannot recall at the moment, objectively analyzed the three main
philosophies of India, dvaita, visishtAdvaita, and advaita.  He came to the
conclusion that among the three, the visishtAdvaita vedAnta of Ramanuja was
the most logical, since it easily and seamlessly was able to intertwine
complex vedAnta (bhagavatha dharma?) with popularistic devotional belief
(loka dharma?).

To add to this, and taking an example from Sri Murali, if Ramanuja was
merely searching for this rare group of high level philosophers, then why
did he risk his own credibility and integrity to stand on top of a temple
tower revealing what up until then, was one of our tradition's most sacred
mantras?  All of the biographies I have read on him projected him to be a
kind and magnanimous man.  I doubt that he would have been so exclusionary
in his teachings.

>we must learn to fall back upon the "vyAkhyAnam-s" or
>commentaries of our great "purvAchAryA-s", litterateurs and poets in the
>SriVaishnava tradition --- beginning from the Alwars through poets like
>Swami Desikan, commentators like PeriAchAn pillai, to present day
>"upanyAsa-chakravartis" like Sri.Mukkur Lakshminarasimhachariar !

Wholeheartedly agreed.  But, as our youth have neither the linguistic
fluency or even access to such in this country, we must seek the guidance of
the qualified individuals of this forum, including yourself, who have the
talent and skill for presenting these commentaries in a manner that can be

This posting is becoming quite long winded, and I apologize to all of you,
especially Mr. Sudarshan for making such bold statements.  Mr. Sudarshan, if
you would like to continue with these discussions, I would suggest that we
do so outside this forum.

I hope that the strong views expressed in these postings do not discourage
anyone in their effort to bring the riches of our heritage to our youth.  I
would like to re-express my invitation to all who are attending the
conference to encourage the youth of their community to attend and
participate in what I hope will be a productive panel discussion.