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From: Vasudha Narayanan (vasu_at_religion.ufl.edu)
Date: Mon Jan 13 1997 - 07:07:52 PST

Dear Members of the Prapatti group: We have all benefited in hearing recent
discussions on caste and have been privileged to hear detailed explanations
of the Raghuvira gadyam and Goda Stuti.  I thoroughly enjoyed today's
postings on Goda stuti. Sri Sadagopan's insightful comments were wonderful,
especially on the use of the Malini meter and the careful parelleling of the
29th verse in the Tiruppavai and the Goda stuti in the phrases "porramarai
adi" and "kamala charanam".  There is so much intrinsic beauty in these
verses and when it is pointed out, we are able to relish the literary and
spiritual nuances.  The sacredness of the city of Kumbakonam has also been
beautifully brought out in Sri Sampath Rengarajan's recent post.
I have also been following the caste discussions since this is something
that affects all of us.  In some dharma sastras (forgive me for repeating
something that every one knows) caste discussions are closely tied with
gender issues.  This is a separate subject by itself. 
 In caste issues, we try to reconcile the reality we live in and the words
of our tradition; for some there people is no tension.  We recognize that
there are two kinds of statements in the literature-- those that ascribe
caste to birth, and others which speak of caste in terms of our
gunas/nature/behavior etc.  Which of these statements is to be privileged
and which is more important has been debated endlessly.  I agree with the
many people who have voiced the opinion that birth alone cannot be the sole
criterion for any privileged status.  If there is any lesson that the
Guruparampara  prabhavam teaches us, it is that we cannot judge people by
birth alone.  There are many stories in the Bhagavad visayam that illustrate
how Udayavar flouted some of the caste-norms of his day; he considered
bhakti, not birth to be important.  There is also the story of how the name
"nallan chakravarthy" came about; it was principally through the
transgression of the caste norms of the day.
While caste was not the issue for dissemination of salvific knowledge, other
criteria seem to be used.  I would like the comments of other readers on
this issue. For instance, even though Udayavar went against the specific
instructions of Tirukkottiyur nambi and proclaimed the Ashtakshara to
others, the Guruparamparaprabhavam (aarayirappadi) says specifically that he
proclaimed it to all the Srivaishnavas ("anekam Srivaishnavarkallukku
apparama rahasyatttai arulicceytaar").  It was not to a *very general*
public.  I think the sacredness of some mantras were kept up; the secrecy of
the rahasyas was not because some people wanted to be exclusive, but to
prevent abuse of the materials.  With mass media, this is now being
questioned and we have had discussions on this subject before.
Once again, let me thank the contributors of this forum for all their time.
Wishing everyone a Happy Pongal, Vasudha