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RAMBLINGS OF A RAMBLER ?

From: KESHAVA PRASAD (103020.541_at_compuserve.com)
Date: Sun Feb 25 1996 - 10:47:02 PST

OM NAMO NARAYANAYA !

SALUTATIONS TO ALL VISHNU BHAKTAS / PRAPANNAS:

		I have had the privilege and honor of enrolling myself as a dasa
among the Bhakti/Prapatti group of members recently. I have been receiving the
Bhakti digest regularly and have been reading everyone of them with great
interest. I have seen a variety of topics and styles of writing. letters and
articles vary greatly in length and breadth of knowledge exhibited and the
contents vary significantly in the amount of words, references, original texts,
etc., used. Believe me some of them are over my head ! 
		I note that Sri V. Sadagopan, Sri Sampath Rengarajan, Sri
Jagannath Bharadwaj, Sri Parthasarati Dileepan, Sri Vijay Srinivasan are some of
the prolific writers and frequent contributors to the forum. I appreciate the
wealth of information they have been able to dish out on the topics that have
been and are being discussed. 
		Being new to the forum and with minimum knowledge about the
Srivaishnava Sampradaya and heritage, I am at a loss to know where to begin to
learn. I am sure there are a few like me who are eager to learn but are being
dealt  too much at once to be able to handle. Also, there may be a few changes
that can be made to the forum which will make it more fulfilling to a wider
audience and encourage larger participation in the discussions so that we have
more views on the table. Therefore, May I make the following suggestions for Sri
Mani Varadarajan to consider for implementation:

		1)	Create topics or categories of discussion: Suggested
categories are:
						
a) Chronology and Life histories of Acharyas / Azhwaars
b) Works of our great Acharyas and commentaries, contemprary or otherwise.
c) Compositions of Azhwaars and their adoptation in practice of Srivaishnavism.
d) Sthalapuranas
e) Teachings of Scriptures such as Upanishads 
 f) Teachings of the Bhagavadgita 
g) Analyses of celebrated scriptural events such as Banishment Of Sita, etc.
h) Ritualistic practice of Srivaishnavism including daily rites such as
Sandhyavandana & Bhagavaradhana; Congregational performances such as
Homa, Yajna and Samprokshana; Traditional and / or customary kriyas such as
Upanayana and Sraaddha, and so on.
i)  Organizational matters, publications, societies, fund raisers, etc.

		2)	Allow and encourage contemporary analogies to historical
events and their significance in our daily lives.

		3)	Start a discussion on social reformations that were
seldom contemplated in our religion.

		4)	Start reaching out especially for the members of the
younger generation who can benefit most from this forum and who can help
perpetuate our Srivaishnava sampradaya.

		Such categorization will help I believe, in channeling our
thoughts and keep us focused at any time as long as a discussion stays in the
chosen category and will also provide continuity for others to join in the
discussion no matter where the discussion was left off or picked up again over a
period of time. One can not help but notice that the above categorization is not
in any way unique but has evolved from what has already been brought forth for
discussion in the Bhakti / Prapatti forum. It just brings a touch of order to
these discussions.

		To help launch the first step towards such an effort, I would
like to post the following chronology of SRIVAISHNAVISM as documented by Swami
Harshananda of Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama of Bangalore. This documentary falls into
the first category stated above and merits some consideration. It will also
serve as an introduction to Srivaishnava sampradaya to some of us who have not
the benefit of formal education in Srivaishnava religion or philosophy when we
grew up. We knew that we were born into Srivaishnava families but did not know
what it all meant in a sense that would appeal to the analytical minds of men
and women who are serious about what is preached and what is practised.

		SRIVAISHNAVISM THROUGH THE AGES

	Srivaishnavism, the religion, and Visistaadvaita, its philosophy, are of
hoary antiquity. In his introductory verse of "SRIBHASYA" (the commentary on the
"BRAHMA SUTRAS"), SRI RAMANUJA traces this philosophy to the "UPANISADS", which
was well guarded by the later Acharyas like VYASA, BODHAYANA, TANKA, DRAMIDA,
GUHADEVA, KAPARDIN, BHARUCHI and others. According to the traditional belief
that obtains among Srivaishnavas, the religion of Srivaishnavism was first
taught by the Lord NARAYANA  Himself to LAKSHMI, His divine Consort, who in
turn, communicated the same to VISVAKSENA. From him, it was handed over to a
series of teachers headed by SATHAKOPA.

THE AALVAARS (AAZHWAARS):
		
	Aalvaars were Srivaishnava saints of the Tamil country who lived between
the sixth and the ninth centuries A.D. The word "AALVAAR" literally means one
who is immersed in divine love. They are twelve in number: POYGAI, PUDAM, PEY,
TIRUMOLISAI, NAMMALVAR, KULASHEKHARA, PERIYALVAR, TONDARADIPPODI, TIRUMANGAI,
MADHURAKAVI AND AANDAL. Theirs was a religion of ecstatic love for God. Hence,
neither caste nor sex was any barrier to their attaining to that state. 

	Coming to the historical times, it was these Aalvaars who first
propagated the religion and the philosophy of Srivaishnavism through their
songs. These songs, called the "NALAAYIRA PRABANDHAM", combine in themselves
rare poetic beauty and high philosophical tenets, couched in a simple language.

	NAMMAALVAAR, the author of the famous "TIRUVAIMOLI", is by far the
greatest among them. He is called the KUTASTHA by the later Acharyas of
Srivaishnavism, because the fundamental doctrines of this faith as current
today, were taught by him.

THE AACHARYAS:

	The Aalvar movement was more emotional in nature than metaphysical. The
Aalvars were great devotees of the Lord Vishnu. They believed in the
impermanence of the worldly enjoyments and in the acquisition of liberation by
union with Him. They taught more by example than by precept, though they
propagated the philosophy of Visistaadvaita in their songs.

	Hence, it was left to the Aacharyas beginning with NATHAMUNI, who
succeeded the Aalvaars, to put the system on a firm footing, basing it both upon
the Sanskrit scriptures and the Tamil teachings of the Aalvaars. The Aacharyas
were very orthodox Brahmanas, versed equally in Sanskrit and Tamil, who passed
through the different stages of orthodox life and discharged their duties so as
to serve as an ideal for their followers. Apart from expounding the philosophy
of Visistaadvaita, they also laid down various rules for the proper observance
of festivals, fasts, vows and customs. They were thus the makers of modern
Srivaishnavism. It is not surprising, therefore, that they in turn have become
objects of worship like the Aalvaars whom they themselves apotheosized.

	The first of thge Aacharyas was RANGANATHA MUNI, popularly known as
NATHAMUNI (A.D. 824-924). He was at once an erudite scholar, ayogin, and a
devotee. It was he who first collected all the "PRABANDHAMAS", edited them with
proper introductory verses, popularized them by setting them to music, and made
them sung in temples. It was, again, he who gave these Prabandhams the status
equal to that of the VEDAS in temple festivals. The various reforms brought
about by Nathamauni necessitated the creation of the post of a universal
Aacharya whose authority was law in religious worship and whose advice was a
guide to temples and house-holders. It was but natural that when such a post was
established, the choice should fall on Nathamuni himself. Since this office was
combined with the management of the SRIRANGAM temple, it was easy for the
Aacharyas to revolutionize and recognize the Srivaishnava religion by
introducing the necessary reforms first in that temple, which is one of the most
important shrines of VISHNU and a stronghold of Srivaishnavism.

	Nathamuni was succeeded by PUNDARIKAKSA  and RAMAMISRA for two short
periods. Then came YAMUNACHARYA (A.D. 918-1038), who was the grandson of
Nathamuni himself. It was he who, endowed with great scholarship and insight,
first attempted to put the Vissistaadvaita philosophy on a firm foundation. He
wrote competent works in Sanskrit defending it, and established the orthodoxy of
PANCHARATRA SCHOOL, whose authority is accepted as equal to that of the SRUTIS
by the Visistaadvaitins. "SIDDHITRAYA"  and " AAGAMAPRAAMANYA" are his two
important works, in addition to the "GITARTHASANGRAHA". It was his cherished
desire to write a commentary on the "VEDANTA-SUTRAS" according to the
Visistaadvaita, just as SANKARA had done according to the Advaita philosophy.
But he died before he could attempt it, and the task fell on Sri RAMANUJA (A.D.
1017-1137) to achieve it, and achieve it he did ! 

	There is more where this came from. May be next time. 

	PAAPOHAM PAAPA KARMAHAM, PAAPATMA PAAPASAMBHAVA.
	TRAAHIMAAM KRIPAYA KRISHNA SHARANAGATA VATSALA !

	LAKSHMINATHA SAMARAMBHAM NATHA YAMUNAMADHYAMAM
	ASMADACHARYA PARYANTHAM VANDE GURUPARAMPARAM.

ADIYEN:	KESHAVA B.PRASAD.