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RE: Srivaishnavism in isolation
Date: Thu Dec 09 1999 - 17:29:19 PST

Sri Kalale has given us a very good method for holding on to our
SriVaishnavam in a non-SriVaishnava world.  I would like to add to his
discussion from a slightly different angle, how being SriVaishnava could be
used for the benefit of the non-SriVaishnava world.  

Forgive me for making such broad generalizations.  But, based on what I have
observed, the reason why so few of our non-SriVaishnava Indian counterparts
seem to have such little interest in religion is because of the very shape
that Hinduism itself has  taken lately.  The popular notions Hinduism today
is probaby a far cry from what our AchAryans or even the rishis themselves
conceptualized.   The religions that form the world's oldest spiritual
tradition now have been diluted down to two basic levels: 

1.  A set of cultural practices and rituals that seek to appease a pantheon
of gods for  material/spiritual benefits.

2. a set of quasi-vEdic, quasi-advaitic self-realization principles that are
founded more on the personal beliefs of some self-proclaimed guru or
god-man, rather than on time-honored traditions and philosophies.  

This two-fold pull on the fabric of Hinduism, has, in my opinion, created a
certain sense of disillusionment and skepticism in the mind and heart of the
everyday, educated, city dwelling Indian, at least among the ones that I
generally associate with here in the US.    Please note that this is not so
much due to the fact that people do not want to have some sort of religious
belief;  it is only that they really do not have any idea what they should
be believing in.   Such an attitude can only be unhealthy over time on an
individual and a society.  I feel that what is sorely lacking in Hindu
culture today is  an awareness of the fundamental elements of religion: a
direct, practical connection to the Divine, and a humane and ethical
approach to life and community.  

Fortunately, all of us within this forum are blessed to be connected to a
lineage of true teachers who have taken great pains to succinctly present
and validate each and every element of the vEdas, and who have revealed to
us sthe wisdom, practicality, and spiritual benefits of adhering to their
lofty principles.    It is because of their compassion that each and every
one of us in this forum feel such a connection to Perumal and his devotees,
and the resulting need to be in their presence uninterruptedly.    But, such
a treasure can only be truly enjoyed if it is shared.

I am of the opinion that being in a state of isolation away from a closed
circuit of SriVaishnavas can be advantageous to some extent, because it
gives us the opportunity to share these ideals with those who may not have
been able to know of SriVaishnavam otherwise.  By this, I do not mean that
we should engage in some sort of zealous mass conversion campaign to bring
in converts; merely, that we should, in the spirit of service, be willing to
share the riches of our traditions with anyone who shows an interest.

In sharing these ideals with others,  I would suggest that we seek to
promote what would naturally touch everyone's heart, simple fundamental
truths similar in nature to what I described as lacking above:

1.  There is only One Supreme Being, Sriman Narayana.  All else is
subservient to Him.
2.  Sriman Narayana looks at each and every one of us with His Compassionate
Glances, irrespective of our caste, gender or station in life.  
3.  Spiritual life need not be an overly intellectual or ritualistically
constraining experience.  Indeed, it is best expressed in simple homespun
faith, and a mood of loving service to Him and His devotees.  Once we
experience this simple heartfelt mood, all else becomes natural.

dAsAnu dAsan,