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"sandhyAvandanam" and "visEsha-bhagavath-kainkaryam"

From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Sat Jul 31 1999 - 05:52:22 PDT

Dear members,

I have been following with very keen interest your discussions on 
"visEsha-bhagavath-kainkaryam Vs. nitya-kainkaryam" like "sandhyAvandanam".

Just a few observations of mine as I have learnt it from my elders:

On such occasions when the two come into conflict with each other it is 
advisable to perform "bhagavath-kainkaryam" first before proceeding to 
perform "nitya-kainkaryam" with the necessary "prAyaschitta".

The duty to perform "visEsha-kainkaryam" takes precedence over "nitya-karma" 
only in the order of sequence and not in the order of importance.  It is not 
an "either/or" situation here. It is a "before/after" situation and the 
"sAstrA" relating to "sAmanya/visEsha dharma" very clearly enunciates this 
principle. The 'sAstrA' does not place premium on one at the cost of 
discounting the other.

Mani wrote that "sandhyAvandanam" performed without the mental attitude of 
offering it as "kainkaryam" to the Lord becomes nothing but "useless 

I can appreciate the true spirit behind Mani's statement but I must caution 
other members on the list against taking it literally, loosely or laterally.

"sandhyAvandanam" is no doubt a "ritual"… a daily obligatory sacrament. But 
its paramount importance in the Vedic religion cannot be over-emphasized 
because it contains the "gAyatri-mahA-mantra" ---- the mother of all vedic 
practices, precept and thought.

Neither the "mantrA" nor the ritual itself can ever be trivialized since the 
Lord Himself in the Bhagavath Gita (CH.X.35) declared  "…gAyatree 
chhandasAm-aham!"… "Amongst the Vedic hymns I am, verily, the "gAyatri" 
metre itself!".

The Vedas say that the Supreme One manifests Himself in many ways… as 
"para", "vyUha", "vibhava", "antaryAmin" and "archA". The same Veda also 
says in another place that the Supreme One manifests Himself also as 
"yagnyam"…: " "yagnyam" is Vishnu and Vishnu, verily, is "yagnyam"" the Veda 
clearly declares.

So it is clear that the Almighty chooses to manifest in the world in the 
form of "yagnyam" or "ritual" also.

Now, if we accept the Vedic "pramANa" above, then "yagnya-kAryam" like 
"nitya-karmA-s" too should be accepted by us as being the very presence of 
the Almighty.  There is no doubt then that the very act of  
"sandhyAvandanam", in itself, constitutes the Lord's Living Presence…. In 
other words the deed itself is Vishnu, according to the Vedas.

That being the case, the question of performing "sandhyAvandanam" without 
the so-called "proper attunement of one's mind towards the Almighty"… that 
question simply does not arise at all.

"gAyatri" is "chandasAm-mAtA"… she is our dear Mother. How can one not be 
possessed of the "proper attitude" to one's own mother? Isn't a mother-child 
relationship a matter of natural truth? Even if one expects nothing from 
one's mother, can one be indifferent to her presence or her needs? Even if 
one renders great service to society and to one's brethren, can that suffice 
if one neglects one's mother on the pretext that "kainkaryam" to society is 
greater than "kainkaryam" to one's mother?

Even if one does not perform "sandhyAvandanam" perfectly, even if we do not 
have the right mental state of obeisance to the Lord while undertaking the 
ritual, it is still obligatory for us to perform the "nitya-karma". The 
"sandhyAvandanam" ritual does not become "useless ritual" simply because its 
performer goes through it mechanically. Whether done mechanically or in full 
earnestness, as long as it done with a modicum of reverence, the ritual is 
well done and 'ipso facto' becomes 'bhagavath-kainkaryam".

Even if one is in the habit of paying one's due respect to one's mother in a 
mechanical and indifferent manner, is it not better than not paying any 
attention to her at all? Of course it is! The mother's heart of unqualified 
kindness will understand everything and she will still rest content and 
satisfied that her son at least shows her token, if not, real affection.

The Vedic "achAryA-s" have again and again repeated it… and it will bear 
repetition a million times…: without performing "sandhyAvandanam" there is 
no use performing even "vAjapEya-maha-yagnyam" or going off on a grand tour 
of the 108 "divya-dEsam-s". Doing so would be like earning the reputation of 
being a grand philanthropist in the eyes of the world and keeping one's 
mother at home starving and ill-dressed!

So in these discussions of "sandhyAvandanam" and "bhagavath-kainkaryam" 
please do not be carried away by the devotional lines of a "pAsuram" 
divorced from the real context in which it was sung. Yes, the lines of the 
AzhwArs are, of course, beautiful and very evocative. But they are the 
outpourings of liberated mystic souls. We are not AzhwArs….  We must learn 
to first temper devotion with duty before we venture to transcend duty in 
favour of devotion.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

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