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Musings on #39 of Desikan's RG

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Wed Dec 25 1996 - 23:28:46 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

While on the subject of 'Jatayu' and the dignity of dying, we touched on
certain 'loukika' or contemporary incidents like Mother Teresa and the
marine-biologist of Futaisi Island near Abu Dhabi.

A few weeks ago Sri.Mani Varadarajan sent me a message where he kindly
enlightened me of an incident in Sri.RamanujA's times which also is
illustrative of the theme of "Dignity in Death". I reproduce below relevant
parts from his mail to me (I have not taken his permission but I hope he
won't mind) :
Dear Sudarshan,

You may know that the Jatayu story plays a 
significant part in our Emberumaanaar's life.
The story goes that Periya Nambi performed the
brahma-medha ritual on the passing of mAranEra nambi,
an untouchable disciple of Alavandar. The young
Ramanuja was quite surprised at this, as he found
this to be against the dictates of the smritis.
He asked Periya Nambi the reason for his behavior,
and the acharya replied, ``Rama performed the
brahma-medha for Jatayu. I am in no way better
than Rama, and Maranera NambigaL is in no way
inferior to Jatayu.'' 

Words such has these must have had a significant
impact on Ramanuja, as we can see from other
revoluationary aspects of his ministry.

Dear 'bhagavatOttamA-s', reading the above incident I cannot help but
realize how universal and timeless in appeal to the human heart is the
"Jatayu-incident" that it affected the lives of people like Periya Nambi and
Swami Desikan of the 14th-century as deeply as it continues to affect those
of the 20-th century like Mother Teresa or the marine-biologist (who, by the
way, is a Muslim!) !! 

It only shows that the 'values' of Sri Vaishnavism know no geographical,
time or cultural barriers.

Today I feel Mother Teresa deserves my reverence not because she is Mother
Teresa. Or because she is an example of true Christian charity. She deserves
my reverence because she too, in her own way, has all her long life followed
a code of "dharmA" that is essentially as Sri Vaishnavite as Peria Nambi's
... a "dharmA" which Lord Rama himself demonstrated as one of the noblest in
the 'Jatayu' incident ... a "dharmA" which the Muslim marine-biologist of
Futaisi Island too observed .... a "dharmA" which grants "dignity of death"
... a "dharmA" that is so movingly brought out in Verse#39 by Swami Desikan
in the "Raghu-veera Gadyam".

As you are all aware, there is a world-wide concern these days of the
diminishing forest-lands in all countries due to mass-deforestation.
"Environmentalists" say it is leading to "ozone-layer" depletion and the
onset of natural calamities like "global-warming". They say this will
ultimately affect human habitats too in a very cataclysmic way.

Now there is a lesson we must all learn from such 'environmentalists' who,
if you think deeply about it, are indeed and really, echoing a message which
Lord Rama Himself sent out many 'yugA-s' ago in the "Jatayu-episode" :

"....make sure you have sufficient forest-lands in this world; you need them
because they are rightful places where the animal kingdom can go and "die in
dignity". If you do not give animals that "basic dignity" you will be
committing "a-dharmA". And when you commit 'a-dharmA' you shall certainly
reap your own terrible tragedy as consequence... so beware... !!"

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', I have now completed talking about the theme of
"death and dignity of dying" in Swami Desikan's Verse#39 of the 'gadyam'.

I shall in the next few postings before the year-end try and quickly treat,
too, the theme of "dharmA" as embedded in the same stanza. 

I promise you I will not impose on you all anymore of my 'loukika'
"ramblings" (which may have irked some of you) when I talk of 'dharmA'. I
shall strictly re-produce only what I have heard my most revered and beloved
'manaseega-guru' Sri.U.Ve.Mukkur Lakshminarasimhachariar say with regard to
this most wonderful subject from the "Raghuveera-gadyam" which haunts me
again and again like not many of even Swami Desikan's own other 'stotra-s'
have done :

                vikrama yashOlAbha-vikrIthajIvitha-gridhr-rAja
dEhadidhakshA-lakshita bhakthajana dhAkshinya !

After 'dharmA', I shall conclude this series on my musings on the
"araNya-kAndam" of the Raghuveera-gadyam.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha