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"sandhyavandanam" and Sri.Sridhar Srinivasan

From: sudarshan madabushi (sudarshanm_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Wed Aug 04 1999 - 05:13:33 PDT

Dear Sri.Sridhar Srinivasan,

Like Mani Varadarajan you too are way off the mark. So I am simply going to 
repeat to you what I told Mani yesterday by way of clarification i.e.:

"My position is stark and simple. I repeat it here for the sake of clarity:

(1) Between performing 'sandhyAvandanam' imperfectly (for whatever
reasons…good, bad and indifference) and not performing it at all… the former 
is better than the latter. For less than perfect performance (resulting from 
either inadvertence or incompetence) there is "prayaschitta". There is none, 
however, for non-performance.

(2) Our duty to perform "visEsha-bhagavath-kainkaryam" supersedes the duty 
of "nitya-karma" only in the order of sequence and not in the order of 
importance."

I don't think I can make myself any clearer. So I don't see the need to say 
anything more on this matter.

*********        ***********         ************

Below I give my responses to a few of the statements made by you in your 
note:

(1) You wrote: "In fact, the charama slOkam allows you the luxury of 
relinquishing all dharmas and attendant karmas and pursue Him as the 
ultimate dharma."

Sri.Sridhar, have you carefully watched an expert pole-vaulter? Have you 
watched him pick up the long pole, holding it firmly and steadily, begin 
running with it,gather speed and momentum with it… and then approach the 
vault at full steam…? Have you noticed how the graceful athlete then digs 
the pole into the pit and vaults himself off the ground? Holding the pole 
tight, the vaulter hoists his body high into space and then propels himself 
towards the high beam. Have you noticed how during all this time he never 
lets go off the pole?

At the final moment when he knows he has reached the apex of his parabolic 
trajectory and at the exact moment when he knows he must sail over the beam… 
it is at that precise moment, have you noticed, and only at that climactic 
moment… that the athlete lets go off his pole, and soaring over the high 
beam, he completes the vault and lands safely across on the other side.

Use the analogy.

The athlete is the "spiritual seeker". The "pole" is Vedic "dharma"/ 
"karma". The athlete's track-way is one's lifetime. The high-beam is the 
"goal".

If you are a true "spiritual-athlete" you won't let go off the "pole" of 
"dharmA/nitya-karma" until you have attained, like the professional 
pole-vaulter, a certain "critical mass, force and speed" along the journey 
of your spiritual quest. You hold on steadfastly to your "dharmA" right 
until the moment you are in sight of your "goal" and are reasonably sure you 
will sail over it successfully.

You let go off the "pole" ("sarva-dharmAm parithyaja…" of the B-G 
"charama-shlOka") only when you are ready for it… not a moment too soon… not 
a moment too late…

Next time when you talk of the "charama-shlOka", you should give the 
pole-vault analogy a serious thought. Who knows, you will never again 
misunderstand its true meaning.

*********     *********       ***********

(2) You wrote: "Is it all one needs, a modicum of reverence, to obtain
equivalence with the ultimate reward?"

No, I did not say that "a modicum of reverence"  "is all" that is needed.

But I do say that it is the minimum necessary to perform "sandhyAvandanam".

Let me tell you a story.

A great "maha-rishi" was journeying through the forest. He came across a 
devout brahmin sitting beside a pot of water and a mound of ritual-fire 
("agni-kundam"). This brahmin looked very despondent. The maharishi asked 
him the cause of his trouble. The brahmin said,  "Sire, my problem is that I 
have to perform rites for my forbears ("pitr-kAryam") and I need the 
presence of at least 3 good brahmins to grace the ritual. I cannot find 
one."

The maharishi was puzzled. "Why so? Do you mean to say you can't find 
suitable brahmins for this purpose here in this forest? I am sure there must 
be many of them here who can help you!".

The brahmin replied, "There are many, of course, Sire, but not one of them 
in my opinion is suitable or really competent. None of them possesses truly 
the quality of "sAttvA-guNA" that I feel is required if I were to call upon 
them to serve me in these rites. My fear is that if I bring in incompetent 
brahmins to perform rites, the rite itself may be rendered useless."

The maharishi on hearing this became very silent and pensive.

After a while the brahmin got up and put out the ritual fire. He then picked 
up the pot of water (meant for the ritual) and was about to decant it when 
the "maharishi" asked him, "What are you doing?".

The brahmin replied, "Sir, the time is up. I don't think I'm going to find 
anybody worthy to aid me in my "vedic-kAryam". So I may as well wind up this 
show as it is pointless to conduct this rite. It is going to be futile. I 
have put out the sacrificial fire and now I am going to pour the 
ritual-water down the drain. Then I will go home and call it all a day."

So saying the brahmin turned the pot down in a bid to decant the water….

The maharishi bellowed, "Stop!".

The brahmin froze.

The water in the up-turned pot too defied gravity and froze, as it were! It 
did not pour down! It hung in the air… suspended!

The maharishi then spoke sternly to the brahmin: "What on earth do you think 
you are doing? Is this right? How dare you do a thing like this? If you need 
to perform your "pitr-karmA" do you expect "muktA-s" and "siddhA-s" 
(liberated souls) to always be on call to help you with the rites? How 
unrealistic of you to expect that? Why do you think you need the presence of 
such high-souls to grace your "karmA-kArya"? What rubbish! Get on with your 
"kArya"! Find anyone… anyone, I repeat… any ordinary soul who at least knows 
how to recite the "gAyatri-mantra"… and with the help of one such ordinary 
soul, proceed to perform your ordained "karmA"! There is no need for 
"maha-purushA-s" to aid you in your "karmA"! Anyone who has performed 
"sandhyavandanam" after due 'achamanam' (purificatory sip) is good enough 
for your purpose! Put the pot back where it was! Light the fire again! And 
begin your "kArya" again, brahmin!".

The brahmin trembled and did what he was told with further ado.

The maharishi came to be thus called  "aapastamba"! As the name itself 
suggests, he was the mighty one who, through the power of his vedic 'tejas' 
(power), arrested water from flowing out of an up-turned pot!

Even today, as you may already know, all of us swear by that maharishi and 
by what he said to the brahmin … which is, indeed, hallowed instruction to 
all posterity to punctiliously perform ordained 'vedic-karmA' (like 
"sandhyAvandanam" and "pitr-kAryam") unmindful of all flaws, external and 
internal to us!

Which is why, even today, when we introduce ourselves by uttering the 
"abhivandanam" ("abhivaadayE… etc.) and before revealing our 'gOtra" and 
name, we first say, don't we, that we are steadfast followers of 
"aapastamba-sutrA"?

Tell me now, Sri.Sridhar, how can we as the followers of "aapastamba-r" say 
that a foremost "nitya-karmA" such as "sandyAvandanam" is "useless ritual" 
or "flawed ritual", even granting that it is performed with anything less 
than lofty mental equipoise (the perfect state of "dhyAna" you speak of)? Do 
we not all sound a bit like that misled brahmin who encountered the ire of 
maharishi "aapastambar"?

*********    ************    ************

(3) You asked me: "Is this another step in the path of the modernistic 
interpretation of "acharyas" (along the lines of may be Sri ART who was 
referenced on bhakti recently) to usher sharaNAgathi and sacred vEdic, 
essentially mental processes, practices into the new millenium?"

Have you read anything that Sri.Agnihotram Ramanuja Tatachariar has written, 
Sri.Sridhar? Have you met him and discussed matters? Do you know really what 
is it that the learned gentleman is espousing?

Well, I don't. So I won't let Sri.ART or his ideas be dragged into this 
discussion.

So can we please leave it here?

********       **********      *************

Finally, Mani Varadarajan (and perhaps you too!) demands "pramANam" for my 
stated position in this discussion.
Tell me, please, why do I have to furnish "pramANam" to show that I am my 
mother's child?
And the "gAyatri" of the "sandhyavandanam"… is she not my Vedic Mother?

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
Sudarshan


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