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From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Jan 29 1997 - 21:38:12 PST
srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha sri vedanta desika guravE namaha Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', When one completes the difficult journey up the first two "steps" of Swami Desikan's 'sOpAnam' viz. 'vivEkam' and 'nirvEdam', it is said that automatically one climbs onto (as if on an escalator !) the stairway's next step called 'virakthi'. While 'nirvedam' is described as 'revulsion' directed against the self, 'virakthi' is said to be 'revulsion' directed towards earthly materiality. In this phase, a Vaishnava develops intense distaste for all worldly encumbrances and allurements. Even if all the riches of the world are his for the 'asking' or 'taking', the aspirant despises and shuns them. Swami Desikan himself, as we all know from his famous 'vairAgya-panchakam', was the greatest example of this 'virakthi'. He rejected VidyAranya's invitation to serve as the poet-laureate of the Vijaynagar Empire -- a plum-post or sinecure which would have secured for Swami Desikan a comfortable livelihood for the rest of his career and post-retirement benefits too ! If Swami Desikan had indeed accepted that fantastic 'job-change' or 'career-break', it is doubtful if he would be remembered by posterity with as much marvel as he is today, isn't it ? "Mukkur-Swamy II" used to recount a humorous incident to illustrate this 'virakthi'. This incident, he reported, was narrated to him by that 'mahAn', the 44th Jeeyar, Srimad Azhagiyasingar, in great style. It is a very mischievous anecdote but it effectively drives home the point of 'virakthi' as described in the 'PPS'. In his 'pUrvAshramam' our Swami Rajagopalan,(the Azhagiyasingar of pre-'sanyasa' period), it seems was for sometime a resident of Mannargudi. As a resident there, he used to frequent the Rajagopalaswamy 'sannidhi'(shrine) there. It was 'gokulashtami' there one day when Swami was returning from his visit to the temple. Just as he was about to step out of the temple, Swami was accosted by an aged friend of his. This friend was known to Swami who personally had a lot of regard for him. This friend who had his 'mEl-vastram'(upper-cloth) tied into a bundle suddenly untied it on seeing our Swami. "Hello, Rajagopala," the elderly friend said, untying his little bundle,"Hello, Rajagopala, how are you ? Did you have a good 'darshan' of the Lord ?". "Yes, sir, and what about you? Did 'jayanthi' celebrations go off well in your house ?", enquired our Swami. "Oh, yes, very well,indeed, Rajagopal, and here, I have some 'jayanthi' prasAdams (sweets) from home for you ! Please accept these." So saying the old friend offered our Swami some 'jayanthi' sweets and delicacies like 'mysore-pAk' etc. Our Swami accepted them all with touching kindness. Next the old friend offered our Swami that very special savoury called in Tamil, "cheedai" -- this is a famous delicacy without which no "krishna-jayanthi" is consummated in our homes. It is made of "gram-paste", rolled into small balls the size of playing-marbles and deep-fried in oil to a magnificent golden hue. After it is well-done, "cheedai" serves as everyone's favourite light-snack because, being petite and ball-like in appearance, they look so cute and lovable; and also because they are good and hard to bite into. Believe me, dear friends, one gets a strange, pleasurable experience when one lobs a "cheedai"-ball into one's mouth and proceeds to sink teeth into it with gusto, producing through one's gnashing jaws peculiar grating sounds ("kaRRu-muRRu", in Tamil !) which itself is a sort of music to the ears !! All in all, eating "cheedai"-balls is a special gourmet experience which only "cheedai"-eaters can truly appreciate !! Anyway, to return to our tale of the 44th Azhagiyasingar, this old friend of his in the Mannargudi temple, seems to have offered our Swami a lot of 'cheedai' and asked him to enjoy it. Our Swami began munching and enjoyed it. In a moment seeing his old friend not partaking of his own delight, our Swami offered some 'cheedai' back again to the elder, saying, "Sir, why don't you enjoy some "cheedai" yourself alongwith me ?" To which the old friend remonstrated, "No, no, Rajagopala, don't force me. You know I am indeed extremely fond of 'cheedai'; I used to love them. But these days I shun them." "And pray tell me why, Sir ?", said our Swami the Azhagiyasingar of 'pUrvAshramam'. "Well, you could say, Rajagopala, I am practising a kind of "virakthi" or 'vairAgyam" ", replied the old friend. "Oh, I see, and what is the cause for such severe 'virakthi', Sir," queried our Swami politely. The old friend replied, "Rajagopla, you know, I would really love to munch "cheedai" to my hearts content but, as you can see, I have lost every single one of my molar-teeth !! I am unable therefore to enjoy this delicacy on 'krishna-jayanthi' days !!" Swami, our beloved 44th Azhagiyasingar, it seems, that day learnt a very important lesson on true "virakthi" !! And that same lesson, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', learnt by the great 44th-Jeeyar, Sri.Mukkur-Swami-II related to me in the following way: "When we practice 'virakthi' as Swami Desikan describes it in the 'paramapada-sOpAnam', and deny ourselves indulgence in or enjoyment of a thing ('vastu') of the world, we should ask ourselves first whether we truly self-abnegate because (A) we want to shun the 'vastu' out of genuine revulsion for it, or (B) whether because we do not have the means or capacity to indulge in its pleasurable enjoyment (a sort of "sour grapes" !!). "If we practice 'virakthi' in the former way (A),we can be said to be following Swami Desikan's personal example in the 'vairAgya-panchakam'; if we practice 'virakthi' in the latter way (B), then, we can be said to be following the example of the 44th-Azhagiyasingar's old friend of Mannnargudi -- who had renounced 'cheedai' only because, in his advanced years, he had lost the "dental instruments" ("danthOpAya-s" !!?) to enjoy it !!" "If you follow Swami Desikan's brand of 'virakthi' you will immediately proceed to the next higher step on the 'paramapada-sOpAnam'; if you follow the 'virakthi' of the old gentleman of Mannargudi, it will mean that you have not even crossed the first "pariankai" (step) of "vivEkam" (discrimination)!!" Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', for our present purposes, we will leave aside the harsh lessons of the 44th-Azhagiyasingar and Mukkur Swami II. (We have no choice!) We shall now venture to presume, instead, that we have embraced Swami Desikan's brand of "virakthi" and, therefore, proceed to see how it leads us onto the next higher step -- the fourth step called "bheethi". Next posting, tomorrow. srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha sudarshan.