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Musings on #39 of Desikan's RG

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Mon Dec 30 1996 - 23:39:35 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s",

When you examine the circumstances under which "transcending of
"sva-dharmA"" was accomplished in the 'araNyA-kAndam' by Jatayu, you would
be tempted to think that Lord Rama's effort in the same direction, which we
essayed in my last posting, pales by comparison and emerges only a close
second !!

What an "avatar" of the Lord only demonstrated, a mere bird actually practised !

What an "avatar" of the Lord simply hinted, a mere bird turned into a
splendid and monumental moment in epic-history !!

All of you are aware, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', that of all the animal
instincts that rule the jungle the INSTINCT FOR SURVIVAL is the strongest,
most primal and urgent. In the jungle the search for food and sustenance is
a constant and life-long mission for many species of animals. Not a day
passes when a creature of the forest does not think of food for itself and
its brood. Daybreak, dusk, winter, spring, through torrential rain or raging
forest-fire .... whatever be the physical circumstance .... an animal is
ever pre-occupied with the need for food. 

This is such a powerful instinct, indeed, that it virtually fuels all
activity in the jungle --- the tiger on the prowl, the wolf on the hunt, the
bear that goes stalking its prey and the alligator that waits silently in
water to ambush its victim .. ....

It is also the very same instinct, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', that drives the
vulture, the eagle, the buzzard or the great falcon to perenially keep
foraging the length and breadth of the forest for carrion !!  

By inherent nature, or by "sva-dharmA", if you like, certain species of
birds like the vulture, do not need to hunt or stalk for food. It is their
lot to wander high amidst the clouds over the jungle and keep looking out on
the ground for where a hunting "kill" has taken place and carrion is left
behind ---- meat of animal carcass left behind by large predatory animals,
like lion or tiger, after having ravished their "kills". When vultures
overhead spot such "dead-meat" from the sky they are seen then to swoop down
in a flock to the site of such "kills" on the ground. And once there, they
fiercely compete amongst their own kindred to get a fair share of the

This is how, we know, vultures feed. 

Some days they get their fair share of food. Most days vultures have to go
without a decent meal !

Which is why, perhaps, in the English language, we attribute "the lean and
hungry look of a vulture", to persons, we suspect, are "parasites"
perenially and habitually "feeding" on the remains of another's work or
effort !! 

Now, let us for a moment turn our attention to the dramatic situation in the
"Dandaka" woods when Ravana appeared there in disguise.

In this scene we must pause and imagine Ravana to be the "hunter", the
Dandaka-woods to be "hunting ground" and "Sita-pirAtti" as, indeed, the quarry. 

If the above is true then, for Jatayu, it may all have appeared as the
perfect setting where a predator is about to make a "kill" !!

If you continue to further follow closely the dramatic script in the
'araNya- kAndam', you will observe Ravana appearing before Princess Sita and
first persuading Her to "elope" with him. Sita dismisses him. Ravana then
gives up the pretence of disguise; threatens to molest her unless she
willingly goes with him immediately to Lanka. Sita, the poor helpless soul,
protests and resists Ravana's flagrant overtures. Ravana next gradually
loses patience and begins to rave and rant. Eventually he begins to bellow
out threats to Sita and warns her of physical violence. Sita, undaunted,
does not relent.

Now, 'dear bhAgavatOttamA-s', try and picture in your own minds what the
above scene would look like to a vulture, sitting atop some tree-branch
nearby !!

A hungry vulture, watching this scene from a distance, must have been
extremely gratified to witness this tussle between the "predator", Ravana,
and the "prey", "Sita-pirAtti" !! 

The scene would have seemed to a carrion-bird, like Jatayu, as the perfect
moment, or moments, just before a predator strikes down its helpless prey,
crushing it with a swipe of its horrendous paw and sinking its mighty fangs
into the helpless throat of the hunted !!

The vulture would then have gleefully looked forward to the actual moment
when the "kill" would take place. The hungry bird would then anticipate the
'predator' to ravish itself on the 'prey' and after fully satiating its
hunger, leave behind plenty of carrion on which the anticipating vulture,
eagerly hovering above the scene, could swoop down on and then leisurely
feast to its heart's content !!!

Please appreciate, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', that for Jatayu, the vulture,
this scene in the Dandaka-woods might well have meant the prospect of a
"full day's meal" --- something for which hungry vultures go to any effort
or extent, since it would mean satisfying one of their most powerful
"instincts" : the "instinct" ("sva-dharmA"), as we explained above, of
"hunger and survival". 

In fact, if you think about it deeply, given the dramatic context of the
"Ramayana", there might well have been a "kill" in the Dandaka woods at that
point of time in the "araNya-kAndam"!

Two tragic events might well have happened there, at that point of time,
when Jatayu was witnessing Ravana's molestation of 'Sita-pirAtti' :

A) Ravana may have become so incensed and frustrated with Sita's
intransigence     he may well have been provoked into drawing his sword and
either killing her    then and there or perhaps grievously wounding her ;
B) 'Sita-pirAtti', hopelessly struggling to resist Ravana's physical
violence,     and realizing that all hope of Rama coming to her rescue was
futile, may     have decided, then and there, to take her own life. She
might well have,in a     moment of utter desperation, snatched Ravana's
sword from him and plunged it     herself into her bosom.

I don't know if you agree with the above two hypothetical scenarios, dear
friends, but I personally believe they are both extremely credible given the
characterisation of both "Sita-pirAtti" and of Ravana in the entire Ramayana

But the important point to note is that in either of the above two
situations,(A) or (B), Jatayu, the vulture, would have been assured of the
"dead-meat" of "Sita-pirAtti" and could well have looked forward to
comfortably fulfilling its "sva-dharmA" of "foraging for food" !!

Indeed, at that moment, one would "naturally" have expected a vulture like
Jatayu to patiently wait for, or even actively aid Ravana to complete,
"Sita-pirAtti's" "kill" !! There would have been nothing morally
reprehensible in Jatayu's behaviour since it would only have been playing
true to the "sva-dharmA" of an ordinary vulture looking out to feed itself
somehow !!

But Jatayu, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', at that moment chose to "transcend" its
own "sva-dharmA" !! It chose to "give-up" its primal instincts of hunger and
of the will to survive !! It set aside its raw, gnawing biological needs !!
It looked at the danger in which "Sita-pirAtti" was at that moment and She
did not appear to the Great Bird as prospective "dead-meat" but as the
Divine Consort of the Lord of Creation !!

Jatayu thus immediately 'abandoned' its 'sva-dharmA' and chose to embrace a
higher order of "dharmA'. In other words, it "ceased to depend" (to use
Sri.Rajaji's phrase for the "charama-shlOka") on the wonted "natural" codes
("sva-dharmA") of conduct given to the whole species of animals called
"vultures" to abide by under normal circumstances of living !! 

Jatayu embraced, instead, a higher order of  hierarchic-"dharmA" --- called
the "sAdhAraNa-dharmA" of human beings !

That takes us next logically, as it were, to a discussion of
'sAdhAraNa-dharmA', dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s'.

But we shall continue only in my next posting.

I had intended to conclude this series of postings of mine well before the
end of 1996. I had looked forward to be able to quietly enjoy in the NEW
YEAR the postings of other "bhAgavatOttamA-s" like Sriman Sadagopan,
Sri.Mani Varadarajan, Sri.Rengarajan, Sri.Rangaswamy, Sri Sundar,
Sri.Bharadwaj, Sri.Mohan Sagar and others. Unfortunately, the substance of
Stanza #39 of the 'Raghuveera-gadyam' seems to me to be interminably
glorious and I am not able to conclude discussion of it in the time I had
allotted for it myself.

However, soon during the first week of January '97 I shall conclude this
series after discussing 'sAdhAraNa-dharmA' and "visEsha-dharmA'.

Wishing all of you on this last day of 1996 a very happy and prosperous 1997.

May the Lord of Ahobilam protect us all !!

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha