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Re: sandhyAvandanam -- vaarttaamaalai 359

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Fri Aug 06 1999 - 15:51:17 PDT

Sri Sudarshan M. wrote:
> My position is that the unfailing performance of "gAyatri-sandyAvandanam" as 
> "nitya-naimittika-karmA" is a paramount obligation on us NO MATTER WHAT! 
> There is simply nothing in the Vedic religion which compromises on this.

One thing overlooked in this whole discussion is that 
'gAyatrI-sandhyAvandanam' is a nitya-karma/kainkaryam 
incumbent only upon a minute percentage of people,
whether considering all of humanity or just Vaishnavas.

Sure, gAyatrI-japa and sandhyAvandana are obligations,
but on whom, and what is the fruit of their performance? 
>From our discussion, the implication (perhaps unintended) 
is that without their performance no one will get anywhere,
condemned to a spiritually unsound mind and body.

This can hardly be the case universally. What of women and 
men who have not had gayatri-mantropadesa, and who constitute
the overwhelming bulk of the population? What is their plight?
Do they forever suffer from 'nitya-theettu'? Is any worship
they do pointless?

Since many of us are males who have had upanayana, we
tend to ignore this question and speak only from our
perspective.  We act as if the male, brahmin world
is the only world. Our pUrvAcharyas, however, had a much more 
catholic outlook.  From my reading, their view was that
SandhyAvandana, etc., are required karmas only for those 
who have had upanayana, and simply constitutes purification 
and worship of a different sort. The 'nitya-theettu' rule 
appears to apply only to them, at least in our sampradAya.

So what is sandhyAvandana's fruit, given that it is a 
"paramount obligation NO MATTER WHAT"? Does it yield
something that is barred to those who have not had upanayana?
Once again, in our sampradAya, the answer appears to be
"no".  SandhAyavandana is seen purely as Vedic kainkaryam done
for the pleasure of the Lord. As we say in our sankalpa, it is
"Sriman nArAyaNa prItyartham" and "bhagavat-kainkarya-rUpam".
All worthwhile fruits such as jnAna, bhakti, and moksha
stem purely the Lord's grace, which certainly does not
seek ritual propitiation through sandhyAvandana and
gAyatrI japa. Since kainkaryam can be done in many ways,
it can be concluded that sandhyAvandana, while a great
form of worship, does not confer any significant benefit that 
is unique to those who are allowed to perform it.

What then is the sAmAnya vaishnava dharma, then, truly
a daily "paramount obligation" for all? 

The answer to this question was outlined in a fashion by 
Sri Sadagopan in his recent series on Swami Desika's 
"sri vaishnava dinasari".

I wish to amplify this and highlight some Vaishnava lakshanas
by quoting from that wonderful textbook of Sri Vaishnava practice, 
Pinpazhagiya Perumaal Jiyar's "vaarttaamaalai".

>From vaarttaamaalai 359:

     The daily practice of a Sri Vaishnava:

     (1) To always meditate on one's guru parampara and
         the Dvaya mantra, which clearly reflects the
         meaning of the Tirumantra

     (2) To associate with Sri Vaishnavas who are rooted in the
     (3) To avoid associating with worldly people who are caught up
         in an egoistic sense of "I"

     (4) To stop associating directly with people of the 
         world who are not of pure mind

     (5) - (8) similar to above
     (9) To spend one's bodily existence favorably disposed to 
         service of Bhagavan and Bhagavatas

     (10) To be unaffected by praise or insult

     (11) To reflect on one's own imperfections

     (12) To not praise oneself

     (13) Giving up one's sense of independence, to think of one's
          utter dependence on Bhagavan to the extent of being dependent
          on Bhagavatas

     (14) To be thankful that whatever rewards come from reflecting on the
          above principles are due to the favor of Perumaal, who
          is the Way

     (15) If any of the above principles do not set root in the mind,
          to be distressed and ask for the Lord's grace

     (16) If one has achieved this level of realization, to not think 
          less of those who externally play the part but actually fail 
          to meet these standards, and to only think of their relationship
          to Bhagavan.

It seems that true, universal "theettu" (defiling uncleanliness) comes
from egoistic and presumptuous behavior, and the daily duty of a Vaishnava
is to at all costs destroy this impulse.

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan