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Musings on Jatayu & Category B

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Wed Dec 11 1996 - 22:56:12 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear bhAgavatOttamAs,

We now commence examining the questions related to 'Category B' equipped
with the "Rt.Hon'ble Sastry Approach" explained in my last posting.

We have with us, as well, the following 'shloka' #39 from the 'Raghuveera
Gadyam' which serves as an excellent stage-setting or backdrop against which
a proper perspective on the Jatayu episode emerges :

"vikrama yashOlAbha-vikrIthajIvitha-grdhra-rAja-dEhadidhakshA-lakshita
bhakthajanadAkshiNya !"

A simple paraphrasing of the above verse into English will run,
I think (Sanskrit scholars may correct me, if needed), as follows :

"(O Rama), the Great Bird (Jatayu) won accolade for the whole tribe of the
Valorous Ones of this world; and paid the price for it with its life in the
bargain ! When you performed the last rites for that great warrior of a
bird, O Rama, how clearly you revealed, indeed, which acts of devotees are
those that merit and elicit your deep abiding affection for them !".

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamAs', to truly understand the dramatic context and message
of the 'Jatayu' incident in the 'Ramayana' or the 'Raghuveera-gadya' we need
to begin by first reflecting briefly on the uneasy relationship between Man
and the Animal world.  

We all know the relationship of man to his environment is not an easy one.
And with the animal world it is even less symbiotic. Man since time
immemorial has sought to subjugate and exploit the animal world. He enslaved
the horse, the mule and the ox; he domesticated the dog, the cat, the cow
and the bird for his own private and selfish purposes.

In modern times we witness Man seeking to make (rapaciously sometimes) the
animal world sub-serve his commercial needs. Thence come the mass-scale
"industries" of poultry, bovine, equestrian and aqua-farming in today's
world of global commerce. These "industries" are both a blessing and curse
for mankind; "blessing" because Man seems to regard them as scientific ways
to alleviate the problem of finding ever more food for the ever-growing
population of the specie 'homo sapiens' on this planet; "curse" because
these industries have had untold effects on the delicate ecology of our
planet.They have brought in their wake large-scale human miseries and
tragedies like the "mad-cow beef disease" from Britain that is presently
raging in Europe or like the dangerous depletion of deep-sea life in our
oceans or in the outbreak of unnamed diseases caused by the use of modern
"animal-feed", "synthetic-protein" and bio-hi-technology. 

Even as you are reading this posting of mine, dear 'bhAgavatOttamAs', far
away in the lush tropical forests of Indo-China, men are mercilessly hunting
down animals as part of what is, as we all know, an ongoing international
trade in fur, tusks, hides and other anatomical organs generating millions
of dollars.

It is this sort of brutal relationship created by man which, perhaps, is the
reason why every known animal specie of the world, having lived to survive
the long Darwinian march of evolution to this day and time, wholeheartedly
shuns the society of Man.

A bit like the great "rshis" of our ancestry, animals depend instead on the
company of the quiet, wild and deep forests for nourishment, sustenance and
well-being away from the harsh habitats of ordinary men.

Now it is in the context of this deep and natural relationship, so
fundamentally distrustful between Man and Animal --- it is in this real-life
context that we must proceed to further examine the ethereal and touching
bond that we know developed between Rama and Jatayu in the "aranyAkAndam".

We shall atempt to do it in my next posting.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha