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Musings on #39 of Desikan's RG

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Sat Dec 28 1996 - 23:46:06 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

Analysing further the "hierarchy of dharmA" in the "Jatayu-episode", so
magnificently captured in Swami Desikan's 'Raghuveera-gadyam', we have to
pause briefly and take note of that famous, most sacred and many-splendoured
"charama-shlOka" of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavath-Gita (XVIII-66) :

        sarvadharmAnparithyadjya mAmEkam sharaNam vraja I
        aham tvA sarvapApEbhyo mOksha-yIshyAmi mA shucha-ha II

The above verse is translated by that doyen of the Indian Independence
Movement Sri."Rajaji" in his commentary on the "Gita" (which I think he
wrote while in a British colonial prison) as follows and which I think is
about as accurate an English translation as I have ever read anywhere :

  "Do Not depend on articles of faith or rules of observation, but surrender
yourself completely to Me; grieve not, I will certainly liberate you from
every failing."

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', the common explanation to the phrase "sarva-
dharmAnparithyadjha", I have heard often, is that it enjoins us to "abandon"
all "dharmA-s" and cling to the Lord as the sole Refuge.

I am not a Sanskrit scholar nor am I very well-versed in 'sat-vishayam'. I
am therefore unfit to comment on the esotericism of the "charama-shlOka".
But I still opine that the above phrase, explained as encouraging
"abandoning dharmA", while correct in essence, is not however right in
English translation. The word "abandon" in English is generally negative in
connotation and is wholly unsuited to this "charama-shlOka". It may give
rise to many wrong notions in the minds of readers or spiritual aspirants.

The better translation, after Sri.Rajaji's own, if you like, is to use the
expression "transcend" instead of "abandon".

Sri.Rajaji employed the circumlocutory "do not depend" but I choose to use
the direct and forthright term "transcend". Both mean the same although the
emphasis differs in degree.

Now if you look at it closely, one can cease "to depend" only when one has
learnt to "transcend", isn't it ?

A toddler lets go off its mother's steadying hands only when it has learnt
to walk on its own. We "trancend" school or University when we have learnt
all that it has to teach us, and then we cease to "depend" on it anymore.
Our own children "transcend" their "dependency" and become full adults when
they leave us, and the protection of their parents' home, to fend for
themselves in the great world outside.

Thus, we cannot "cease to depend", dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', unless we learn
"to transcend".

And then, how can we "trancend" unless we know what it is that must be
"transcended" ?

So how can we "transcend", "cease depending on" (or even "abandon"!)
"dharmA" unless we know and appreciate what it really is, in all its
wonderful dimensions and ramification, in the very depths of our being ? 

I personally believe that the Lord, through the 'charama-shlOka' in the
Gita, urges us to properly learn and appreciate 'dharmA' to first
"transcend" it in order to ultimately be able to cease "depending" on it.

When such "dependence" ceases,  then "clinging" to the Lord will follow by
itself. We will then be in such an exalted state of spiritual progress that
nothing else but the Lord's Grace alone will suffice us as the one and only
Supreme END. In such a state, and dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', only in such a
state of exalted being, will all distinction between "upAya" and "upEya"
disappear from our minds and we reach Him.

If we truly appreciate the above fine shades of meaning of the word "dharmA"
as used in the Lord's "charama-shlOka", then dear friends, we can
immediately progress to applying all the concepts of "dharmA", we have
discussed so far, to the actions of Lord Rama and Jatayu in that great
episode so crisply and brilliantly captured by Swami Desikan in Stanza #39
of the 'gadyam'.

We shall do so in my next posting.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha

sudarshan