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On Sri Sudrsan's queries on 'Near Death experiences' of Swami Desika etc

From: Nutech (Nutech_at_ix.netcom.com)
Date: Tue Aug 26 1997 - 21:06:26 PDT

Dear Bhagavatas,

Given below are the queries from Sri Sudarsan  which were referred to
Sri K.P Rangaswamy (IA&AS) , an authority on Srivaishnava Siddhanta. 
The queries and the replies are  presented without any comments to
enable the Bhagavatas to draw their own inferences.

Dasoham
Anbil Ramaswamy
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Mr. Sudarsan’s query :

1. " Reading your notes on the RTS, especially on the ones relating to "
Departure of the soul after death", I am tempted to speculate Swami
Desikan may himself have had some " near death exxperience" or "outside
body experience". I say this because going through his biography (which
has remained unscientifically researched and recorded, in my opinion, to
the eternal embarassment of Vadakalai Ayyangars!). I think Swami Desikan
was himself very near death when he fled from the Muslim mauraders when
they attacked Srirangam. It is said that he fled with Srutaprakasika
along with a band of friends towards the Karnataka border. But, history
notes that after this band  crossed the outskirts of Srirangam, it was
attacked by a muslim contingent. Swami Desikan’s group  was slaughtered
mercilessly and he himself barely escaped certain  death. Is it
therefore possible to speculate that much of what Swami Desikan has
written of death and after death experiences in the RTS could have
somehow been deeply influenced by his own near brush with death and
mayhem? Are there any independent sources in Srivaishnava history,
literature or oral archives to support such a theory? Is it credible?
Or, is it considered unacceptable from the view-point of  orthodoxy?"

This query was answered by Sri K.P.Rangaswamy, thus:

" ... Your NRI correspondent has, I am afraid, missed the real point of
Sri Desika’s Abheeti Stavam which was composed at the time of Muslim
invasion. Sri Desika had presented the various aspects of Saranagathi in
different bits and in different contexts in Daya Satakam, Abheeti
Stavam, and even in Devanayaka and Varadaraja Panchasats. These were all
only ‘bits’ of the doctrine which was later formally presented in the
RTS.Sri Desika's poem was not because of any fear or anticipation of
death as your friend has mentioned. The real point is that with the
invasion, followed the slaughter of great souls and desecration. Sri
Desika was charged with the duty of taking the Srutaprakasika texts
along with the Utsavamurthis to safe havens till they were finally taken
to Tirupathi where they remained for the duration.

The fear (bheeti) in Sri Desika’s mind was NOT  that of death and
therefore all the conjectures your friend has built up is totally out of
context.

The ‘bheeti’ in this case was due to the " Dhyaana Vichheda" or the
interruption in devotion and worship of the Lord.  To a great soul, this
is worse than death; So, the ‘abhayam’ sought was for the cessationof
that Vichheda. So, Sri Desika’s prayer in Abheeti Stavam was for " Imam
Abhaya Siddhaye" for all devotees- "Pathatha Ranga Bartruh Stutim"
followed by the Lord’s own words :
"Bhayam Tyajatha Bhadram Iti Avadhat Sa Kesavah /
Swayam Gana Ghrunaa Guha Ganena Gopaayatee//"

It is an interesting co incidence that less than a month ago when I had
gone to Tirupati, my brother’s son in law who is also a NRI ahd also
formed a similar misunderstanding of the Abheeti Stavam based on modern
science of psychology and psychoanalysis on aspects of fear. I had
explained the whole doctrine to him and also arranged to give him a copy
of thr translation of Abheeti Stavam.

You could therefore advise your friend that the RTS was composed later
on while all the aspects of the Siddhanta on Saranagathi and Prapatti
that were  already presented in other compositions and the doctrine had
been restated in the RTS in different Adhikaras. 

One should not just pick up a bit from here or there and build up a
system on conjecture !. The whole doctrine of Prapatti is NOT for
allaying of ‘bhaeeti’ in Samsara but for the TOTAL SEVERENCE of the
Samsara connection. Naturally, therefore, instead of bits here and
there, the doctrine was presented in an exhaustive and comprehensive
manner in the RTS.

Sri Sudarsan's query No. 2 and 3:

2.  "Is there a great degree of similarity between our Prapatti as
described in the RTS and the Christian "Scramental absolution" or
"extreme unction" ?
3. The Tenkaalai  position on "Prapatti’ vis-a-vis that of Vadakali
appears to me so much like the Pre-Reformation Christian doctrine of
"indulgences" as compared to the Luteren emphasis on the doctrine of
"justification’. Are there, in your, opinion, any real parallels between
the movements in Christianity and our own Srivaishnavism? I am intrigued
by what seems to me as a great historical coincidence !. To think that
Luther was just a mere 100-125 years behind Swami Desikan !!"

Reply: 

"I have no idea at all of what your friend describes as the Protestant
and Catholic sects have to say on the matter of Lord’s grace. The
doctine of "Rebirth’ again and again is unique in our religion. and
therefore, the Upaayas are indicated for its termination. Therefore, the
doctrine of "indulgence" which your friend has referred to is NOT
something connected with our doctrine. As far as I can gather, it is a
simple case of ‘temporal punishment’ due to sins after they had been
remitted by repentence. It is a sort of absolution from the censures and
public denouncments of the Church. It could  even be in the form of
fines and is intended to diminish or destrioy in respect of sins, the
chances of punishment in purgatory !.

On the other hand, our idea of Prapatti is to END THE SAMSARA CHAIN
ITSELF `by grant of Moksha which is final release even more elevated
than "Svarga" which is not eternal.

Similarly, in what your friend has mentioned as "justification’, I can
only make out the idea of its being justified, in respect of God’s
requirements. 

Milton had the words :  "In such righteousness to them by faith imputed,
they may find justification towards God and peace of conscince". 

So, the idea of finding any parallel in Christian theology is fruitless.
The basic idea in our Hindu dogma of  Samsara chain which can be
terminated only by the Lord’ mercy AFTER the Jiva has erformed the act
in the prescribed manner. There is therefore no basis for any imaginary
idea about ‘ near Death’ and so on

Please explain to him that the presentation in the RTS is NOT about ‘
After death experiences’ in the Western sense but the Siddhanta laid
down in the texts about the "passage" of the soul 
(i) either downwards through what is called the dark path (Dhoomadhi
Marga) while 
(ii) passage through  vein in the forehead upwards (called  the
Archiradi Marga to Vaikunta) towards the Lord’s kingdom.

In any case, there was no question of  "fear of death". You can also
tell him that according to the doctrine, the soul which passed by the
upper path is totally safe from Yama and his servants while the loer one
is for those who are in dangerof  being "caught" and taken to Naraka for
punishment !.

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