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Sri Agnihotram swamy and Srivaishnavism- by sri Dileepan

From: Krishna Kalale (
Date: Thu Dec 31 1998 - 12:11:10 PST

Sri Parthasarati Dileepan has suggested to me to post this on Bhakti net.
The following article was written by Sri Parthasarati Dileepan in reference
to the srimukham  by Sri Agnihotram Swamy for the Dallas NAMA conferenence.


Krishna Kalale

From: Parthasarati Dileepan )
Subject: Sri Agnihothram Swami on Sri Vaishnavam

Srimate Sri Lakshminrisimha Parabrhmane Nama:
Srimate Ramanujaya Nama:
Srimate Nigamantha Mahadesikaya Nama:
Srimate Athivan Satakopa Yathindra Mahadesikaya Nama:
Srimate Srivan Satakopa Sri Vedantadesika Yathindra 
                    Mahadesikaya Nama:
Srimate Sri Lakshminrisimha Dhivya Padhukasevaka
Srivan Satakopa Sri Narayana Yathindra Mahadesikaya Nama:

The recent Nama conference on Sri Vaishnava
Philosophy was filled with most enjoyable spiritual
experiences.  The opportunity to associate with
Bhagavathas, witness divine thirumanjanam to
Lord Sri Rama, recite Azhvaar SrI SukthIs, Panca
Sukthas, recite Sri Vishnu Sahasranama, and many
more such activities is the reason we ask for
mOksham at the end of this life time as against
immediately after Prapatti.  In this respect Smt.
Vimala and Sri Rajaji's kainkaryam is praise worthy
and fit for emulation by all of us.

At the beginning of the conference several Sri
Mukhams from Acharyas and eminent scholars
were read out.  In all there were 10 Sri Mukhams,
the most received for a conference held in U.S. so
far.  Sri Rajaji's initiative and Sri K.G. Krishnan's
tireless  efforts to get these Sri Mukhams need to
be recognized and appreciated.   Sri Srinivasan
must also be recognized for his part in getting Sri
Srirangam Andavan swami's Sri Mukham containing an 
exquisite venpaa in Tamil.  For the benefit of those
with Tamil knowledge this venpaa is reproduced below:

   "nameththaa luyyumaa RenRingE eNNungaal
    naamaththaa luyyalaa menRanar - kaamaththaal
    yaamaththum naatkaalum naaraNan pErpaadi
    EmaththE inbuRumiv vaiyam."

Sri Andavan Swami's word play with "nama" is most 

Besides the ten collected by Sri Rajaji, there was one
Sri Mukham that was presented by Sri S. Kirshnaswamy 
of Dallas.  This one was different from others in the
sense that its message seemed to be incongruent to the
teachings of our Acharyas and Azhvaars.  This was the 
Sri Mukham from Sri U. Ve. Agnihothram Ramanuja 
Thathachariar Swamigal (Sri ART Swami). 

>From the past posts made in this forum and others
it is clear that Sri ART Swami is a vEdic scholar
with few equals.  However, adiyEn is quite
unsettled with Sri ART Swami's views presented in
the Sri Mukham.  Almost every other sentence in
the Sri Mukham raised one question or another. 
Only a few are highlighted below.  The entire text
of the Sri Mukham is given at the end for your
information.  AdiyEn has requested Sri S. Krishaswamy
of Dallas to get clarifications for these
questions directly from Sri ART Swami.

1.  The Sri Mukham repeatedly uses the phrase
"South Indian Vaishnavism".  Is Sri ART Swami
referring to "Sri Vaishnavism" by this phrase?  If so,
is there any valid reason for choosing this phrase
not in vogue in our Sampradayam?

2.  Phrases such as "primitive religious thinking",
"evolved", and  "new religion", seem to negate
some of the fundamental beliefs of Sri Vaishnavam,
namely, Vedas are eternal and completely true,
Visihtadvaitam is the only religion that
satisfactorily explains both the bhEda and abhEda
sruthIs of the vEdas, and Sri Vaishnavam is not
founded by Sri Ramanuja, but is the true _old_
religion enshrined in the vEdas.

3. Sri ART Swami says:
      "Vaishnavism of South India is the 
       latest child of Vedic religion. "

>From our Sampradaya texts, and even some that are 
outside our Sampradayam, one can see that
Vaishnavasim (sic) existed in South India long
before many of the other religions.  The existence
of Vaishnavam is seen in Silapathikaram and
Manimekalai dated around 2nd century C.E. 
Paripadal dated around the 2nd century B.C.E. is 
full of exquisite references to various forms and
avatharas of Sriman Narayana.  Even a cursory
reading of these passages by someone with nominal
Tamil and Vedic knowledge is enough to convince
the antiquity of Vaishnavam in Tamil Nadu.  For a
small taste consider the following from Paripadal
#3 by kaduvan iLaveyinanAr:

  "thIyinuL theRal nI
   poovinuL naaRRa nI
   kallinuL maNiyu nI
   sollinuL vaaymai nI
   aRaththinuL anbu nI
   maRaththinuL mainthu nI
   vEthaththu maRai nI
   boothaththu madhalu nI
   vencudar oLiyu nI
   thingaLuL aLiyu nI
   anaiththu nI 
   anaiththinut poruLu nI"

(Note: The above is easy to understand even with
limited Tamil knowledge.  The last line
"anaiththinut poruLum nI" is an important concept
unique to Sri Vaishnavam.  More about it below.)

Even Tholkappiyam, the earliest known Tamil text,
is said to contain references to MayOn, the favorite
name by which Sriman Narayana is referred to by
Tamil bards.   In all, the most compelling of all 
these is the reference to the unique principle of 
Sri Vaishnavam, namely the concept of body/soul
relationship elaborated in detail by Sri Ramanuja,
seen in Paripadal #2 by kIranthaiyAr.  Please
consider the following:

  "keduvil kELviyuL naduvaaguthalum
   innilaith theriporuL thErin innilai"

"thErin" = if you understand the deep meaning of
"kedu il kELvi" = blemish less vEdhas
"naduvaaguthalum" = entering the core of
"theri poruL innilai" = sentient entities
"innilai" = is your true nature

Please note that this same concept was already
presented above in Paridpadal #3 with
"anaiththinut poruLu nI", i.e. you are the 
in-dweller of all entities.

Thus, it is extremely clear that Sri Vaishnavam is
the first and only legitimate child of the Vedas (sic)
in South India.  Why would Sri ART Swami consider
it to be "the latest child of Vedic religion " is 
quite puzzling. 

4. Sri ART Swamy says:
     "...  Their development is a most wonderful
      and good one.   They captured a  common 
      religious thought, giving place to six 
      varieties of God.  Worshipping God in the
      form of Muruga, Siva, Ganapathy, Vishnu, 
      Devi and Surya is most advanced religious 
      progress not found in any other work.  All
      are independent, but equally valued, getting
      equal place in the line of God.  This
      wonderful progress of religion was an 
      independent one.  It was not influenced 
      by religious thinking of other people.  
      In Alwar songs, we find the wonderful 
      reference of six fold religion (Aarusamayam)
      giving freedom to people in thinking of 
      religious peace."

Some in Tamil Nadu, and other places, do claim
equality of status for the six gods and their
respective religion, i.e. "arusamayam".  However
this notion has been squarely rejected by our
Azhvaars and Acharyas.  There is no place for such
equality among Sri Vaishnavas.  To start with, one
of the Thaniyan for Thirumangai Azhvaar says the
following about the Azhvaar's paasurams.

"para samaya panjukku analin poRi"

   (spark of fire for the cotton that the 
    other religions are)

Swami Sri Desikan, who was not only an unparalleled 
Vedic scholar during his own time and ever since, 
but also an unmatched Tamil scholar to this day, 
rejects all religions that propound theories that do
not accept the unique supremacy of Sriman Narayana. 

Some Azhvaars do talk about "aru samayam" in the
context of Sriman Narayana being the one who
bestows the demi-gods of the other religions such
as Siva, Muruga, Ganapathi, Devi, et al., with their
respective powers.   But, there is no Azhvar verse
that says that all of these demi-gods are equal to
Sriman Narayana.  Any doubt in this regard will be
cleared if one reads and understands Nammaazhvaar's
Thiruvaaymozhi 4.10. where he expresses astonishment
at those who chose other dEvathas when there is 
AthippirAn standing eagerly to bestow all that one 
desires including mOksha that only He can give.

In addition to the above, please permit me to quote
some passages from Iramaanusa nooRRanthaathi. 
Please note that these verses were composed during
the life time of Sri Ramanuja, and the great
Acharyas himself blessed them personally.

Verse # 46: koorum samayangaLellaam kulaiya
            (destroying all other religions)

Verse # 49: poymai arusamayam pOnathu
            (the six-fold false religions vanished)

Verse # 54: naattiya nIsa samayangaL mANdana
            (the established base religions died)

Verse # 63: arusamaya sediyaith thodarum maruL
                        soRinthOr sithainthOda
            (those who are deluded with the six-fold
                         religion were routed)

It is clear from these that Sri Vaishnava Acharayas
and Azhvaar do not give equal value to "aru
samayam".  It is true that we do not force our
religion upon others.   As Nammaazhvaar says in
Thiruvaaymozhi 1.1.5,

       "avar avar thamathamadhu"

each by his own choice.  We do recognize that 
individuals make choices based on their individual 
karma.  We also recognize that:

   "vaikundhampuguvathu maNNavar vidhiyE"

                 -- Thiruvaay mozhi 10.9.9

That is, at one time or another each soul will 
make the right choice and enter Vaikuntam.  The 
one and only choice for this, i.e. mOksham - the 
true  "religious peace" (sic), is Saranagathi
to ONLY Sriman Narayana's lotus feet.  This is 
clearly stated by Azhvaars and Acharyas.  As Sri 
Vaishnavas, then, there is only one choice.  That
choice is Sriman Naryana's lotus feet.  In other
words, the culmination of worship of other 
deities, if such worship is free of hostility 
towards Sriman Narayana, is Sri Vaishnavam and 
total surrender to our Lord.  Thus, Sri 
Vaishnavam's stand on "aRu samayam" is not 
equality among them.

5. Sri ART Swami says:
      "Nammalwar also talks of this spirit, 
       adopting vedic and puraanic thoughts.   
       In his last song, he says that by loving
       the three moorthis, he got moksha. "

All Sri Vaishnavas will be saddened to read the
above from someone who is respected as a Ubhaya
Vedanthathin.  First and foremost, it is well known
even among upstarts such as adiyEn that
Nammaazvaar performed Saranagathi to the lotus
feet of Lord of ThiruvEngadavan in the "agalakillEn
iRaiyum" verse, Thiruvaaymozhi 6.10.10.  Further,
the Azhvaar never says that he got mOksham by
loving the three moorthIs any where in all his
1,296 verses.

What he says in Thiruvaaymozhi 10.10.1 with,

   "muniyE, naanmuganE, mukkaNNappaa"

is that Sriman Narayana is the in-dweller of all
sentient entities including these demi-gods.  This 
is abundantly clear from the very second line of 
this verse where the Azhvaar says,

  "thaamaraik kaN karumaaNikkamE, en kaLvA".

Who else but Sriman Narayana is the lotus eyed 
one?  Thus, the Azhvaar sees Sriman Narayana as 
the ensouler of all the others.  It is indeed 
astounding that a Sri Vaishnava scholar would 
quote this verse to equate demi-gods with the 
one and only supreme Lord, Sriman Narayana!!!

6. Sri ART Swamy says:
     "... The Saranagathi principle, which the 
      South Indian aachaaryas explain uniquely 
      well, comprises service to whole humanity
      to become God in this birth itself."

".. to become God..."???  Is this not Advaitham?
It is indeed incredulous that Sri ART Swami wrote 

In addition, no Azhvaar says anywhere that service
must be to _whole_ humanity.  Wherever service is
emphasized, it is service to only Vaishnavas. 
Azhvaars use phrases such as:

  "thiru nAraNan thoNdar",
  "enthaipirAn thanakku adiyAr",
  "chakkaraththaNNal maNivaNNaRku AL", etc.

Thus service is only to Sri Vaishnavas, not to whole
humanity.  Further, Sri Ramanuja himself directed us
from his deathbed to:

(i) recoil away from those who are opposed to
Sriman Narayana,

(ii) treat those who are indifferent to the Lord
with contempt, and,

(iii) shower our best respect to those who hold 
Sriman Narayana as the only supreme.

    -- (from ArAyirappadi Guruparampara prabhavam)

Thus, Saranagathi to Lord Sriman Narayana does 
not comprise indiscriminate service to the whole

7.  Sri ART Swami says:
       "Saranagathi  principle comes as the 
        culmination of maturing in bhakthi marga."

What adiyEn has heard from kalakshEbams is that
Saranagathi for mOksham is an independent upaya. 
It is not a culmination of "bhakti marga" aka 
Bhakti Yoga.   It is true that Saranagathi is 
an anga in Bhakti yoga.  Likewise, pure bhakti
is an element of Saranagathi.  However, mixing
these two concepts will lead only to unnecessary

Those who are qualified and capable of Bhakti Yoga
in every way are required to seek mOksham only
thorough Bhakthi Yoga.  They may perform
saranagathi for the successful completion of Bhakti
Yoga, but the Saranagathi is not for the sake of
mOksham.   On the other hand, those who lack one
or more qualifications for Bhakti Yoga, i.e. those
who are Akinchinyas and Ananyagathithvas,
perform Saranagathi for mOksham at the lotus feet
of Sriman Narayana with the attendant angas.  
Included in the Akinchinyathvam is the inability 
to perform Bhakti Yoga.  In other words, one must
first forsake Bhakti Yoga as a means for mOksha,
and only then does he become eligible for Prapatti,
i.e. Saranagathi, as the upaya for mOksham.  Thus
Saranagati, as an upaya for mOksham, is not a
culmination of Bhakti Marga (Yoga).

AdiyEn shall stop with this.  Please note that no
disrespect is intended towards Sri ART Swami. 
AdiyEn is eager to hear Sri ART Swami's
clarifications regarding the points raised above.

srimad azhagiya singar thiruvadigaLE saraNam

-- adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan

Srimukham from Sri U. Ve. Agnihothram Ramanuja 
Thathachariar Swamigal

I am very glad to note that Vaishnavas of South
India , living in North America, are assembling in a
conference to meet each other to do their kainkarya. 
For Vaishnavas, discharging their duties is their
kainkarya.   By sending this message, I also enjoy
my kainkarya.  

Sree Vaishnavas are spreading throughout America
and are constructing number of temples.   This
shows that South Indian Sree Vaishnavas, after
going to the States, follow their Vaishnavism with
great eagerness.  

Vaishnavism of South India is the latest child of
Vedic religion.   Here we find the essence of all the
vedas, puraanas, all the religious, philosophical and
mystical thinking.   It includes Tamil traditional
religious principles, Alwar songs and thoughts on
aagamaas, both paancharaathra and vaigaanasa.  
Out of the many Vaishnavism schools in India, the
specialty of the South Indian Vaishnavism is the
inclusion of Tamil tradition and aagamaas, both
paancharaathra and vaigaanasa, which give
importance to the idol worship in houses and
temples.   Aagamaas hail from Kashmir and claim
distinction in creating a new class of Bhagavathaas,
in the unity of caste system, giving importance to
the "Vaasudeva Mantra" and importance to the idol
worship in Sanscrit tradition.  

Vedas, which contain thousands of mantras and
brahmanas, establish the  common aspects of all
religions, and talk about God, the soul and the
relation between both.   It is very comprehensive
and evolved from the stage of primitive religious
thinking.   The rituals are unique, very elaborate
and followed by only a few.   Likewise, puraarnaas,
with great ambition, also develop thoughts about
God and soul in a big way.   The Vaigaanasa and
Paancharaathra aagamas, on the other hand,
developed from the Vedic path and created a new
religion giving new thoughts about God, soul and
their relationship.  

The Tamil people helped in the development of
South Indian Vaishnavism.   Progressing out of the
primitive stage, they developed a new and
advanced religious system.   It is interesting to note
that the Tamil people independently and steadily
developed their civilization with their own
language.   This is a unique contribution by 
Tamilians to the history of religion and culture.  
Their religious and cultural thoughts have been
wonderfully recorded in "Sangam" literature and in
post "Sangam" literature.   Their development is a
most wonderful and good one.   They captured a 
common religious thought, giving place to six
varieties of God.   Worshipping God in the form of
Muruga, Siva, Ganapathy, Vishnu, Devi and Surya
is most advanced religious progress not found in
any other work.   All are independent, but equally
valued, getting equal place in the line of God.   This
wonderful progress of religion was an independent
one.   It was not influenced by religious thinking of
other people.   In Alwar songs, we find the
wonderful reference of six fold religion (Aar-
usamayam) giving freedom to people in thinking of
religious peace.   Nammalwar also talks of this
spirit, adopting vedic and puraanic thoughts.  In
his last song, he says that by loving the three
moorthis, he got moksha.  

Alwars' idea of God worship involved simple
rituals and worshipping with flowers.  Tamilians
built wonderful civilizations based on highest
morals.   When the vedic people came  to South
India,  Tamiliains did not hesitate to welcome and
honor them.   In the world history of religions,
vedic religion has only one allied religion, that of
Tamil people.   In religious rituals and morals,
South Indian Vaishnavism is a most wonderful
religion, product of three traditions combined
(vedic, aagamic and  Tamiliain).  Only the study of
all three traditions can reveal the glory of Tamil
Nadu Vaishnavism.   The ultimate message of
South Indian Vaishnavism is a very wonderful one -
love God and love your co-beings.   To distill out
these ideas, the Achaaryas of both sects wrote
Rahasya scriptures.   Here we find thoughts from
thousands of quotations of Sanskrit books and
Tamil scriptures.   In South Indian Vaishnavism, the
love for God takes shape of some rituals because
rituals are nothing other than the translation of
religious thoughts in to actions.   Likewise, loving
fellow human beings also takes shape in action as
doing service to humanity.  

The Saranagathi principle, which the South Indian
aachaaryas explain uniquely well, comprises
service to whole humanity to become God in this
birth itself.   Saranagathi  principle comes as the
culmination of maturing in bhakthi marga.   One
aachaarya says that doing service to humanity as a
whole is the effect of saranagathi.   Another
aachaarya says that it is part of saranagathi.  
Anyhow, aahaaryas are unanimous in underscoring
the importance of saranagathi principle.  By this we
may understand that service to whole humanity is a
kainkarya.   Everywhere, the divine outlook wants
to serve people.   This is necessary and essential.  
So, whole life is taken as a kainkarya to God. In
this way, professionalism, materialism and 
commercialism of religion were taken out.  

Vedic passages which are in thousands of smrithies
text, and puranic passages which are also in
thousands of texts and aagama texts which are
explained by aachaaryas in Rahasya Grandhas -
ultimately these find the wonderful Swami Bhava
of Narayana, Dasa Bhava of Jeeva and kainkarya
bhava for all jeevaathmaas in all actions.  

In this birth itself, here, the worldly life creates
aanandaa amidst its miseries.   So, in modem times,
Vaishnavaa must understand the quintessence of
Vaishnavism and its importance to the world.   I say
that, in short, South Indian Vaishnavism is an
ethical religion and has universal importance.  

Sri Narayana bless you all.  Acharya also bless 
you all.  

Agnihothram Ramanuja Thathachariar December 1998