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Re: social service and SrIvaishNavam

From: K. Sadananda (
Date: Thu Jul 12 2001 - 05:40:35 PDT

First my pranaams to all.

I have been reading all the mails related to the topic.  I would like 
to share my views on this.  If my views drastically differs from many 
in the list my apologies.

First I want to separate the two issues here- social service and 
SrivaishNavam, since the connection is in the attitude of the server 
and not in the service.

A human being is said to have incurred three fundamental R^iNa-s or 
obligations.  (a) Deva R^ina, (b) pitR^i R^iNa and (c) Acharya R^iNa. 
This is universally applicable irrespective of whether one is a 
SrivaishhNavate or not.

Deva R^iNa is fulfilled by returning back (with interest) what have 
been given freely to each of us.  Krishna discusses this aspect 
beautifully in the Third chapter of Giita.  Deva means the one who 
gives.  Our scriptures have personified all the phenomenal forces in 
the form of deities.   A mother's womb is provided with all the 
nourishments when we were still growing up from unicellular to 
complex human being.  As soon as we came out of the womb in a 
helpless state, there is milk available that is conducive to our 
growth, air  to breath, water to drink, abundant fruits and 
vegetables in the nature - the nature always gives in abundance.  It 
is we with selfishness and greediness try to destroy this nature 
disturbing the ecology. Here deva includes the nation that gave us a 
birth and shelter - that includes where we have grown and where we 
are living- most of us the Bharat Maata, mother India, by providing 
the education and the supporting society for us to grow as healthy 
and intelligent human beings.   It is said that our country spends 
thousands of Rupees in one form the other in educating us.  Returning 
back to the society with interest is what Deva R^iNa is all about. 
It is an obligation and not really a service that we need to do. 
What I have is His gift and what I do with what I have is my gift 
back to Him.  What I can give my best, whether physically, 
financially, intellectually and/or morally is what I have to give 
back to the society.  Service is in the attitude with which I return 
what I borrowed or used from the society.   When I borrow money from 
the bank for mortgage and when I start paying back monthly, I am not 
really serving the bank - Paying back what I borrowed is not a 
service but a duty - It is not for name and fame but fulfilling an 
obligation. Hence it is called Dharma which involves karma. Since 
unlike the bank the society does not demand, when I fulfill my 
obligation, I should have proper attitude of a servant - Hence 
correct attitude what society really is puts a proper frame of mind 
in fulfilling my obligation to the society.  That is where 
SrivaishhNavam can help for a SrivaishhNavate.

PitR^i R^iNa is the obligation to the parents and the fore-fathers. 
If we look back, we can recognize how much of personal sacrifices 
they have made in order to bring us up as decent human beings. 
pitR^i  R^iNa is not just propagating the species- any animal will do 
that.  What is involved is to pass it on the culture and tradition 
that our fathers and fore-fathers have passed it on to generations to 
come.  Traditions and culture, one need to understand.  When we 
understand we adopt them to the changing society and times, without 
loosing sight of the spirit behind these.   If we do not understand 
them we blindly follow out of sentiments rather than from the spirit. 
That is the time when most of the rational youngsters revolt seeing 
things we do without understanding why we do what we do.  Some argue 
that even if we do not not understand we need to follow - like child 
does not need to know why some thing is good for the child, it is 
enough if he follows the instructions of his mother.  That is true as 
long as we remain as a child.  But when the rational intellect starts 
questioning, it becomes important to understand and then follow what 
is to be followed and reject what is to be rejected.

Hence the fulfilling these obligations involved correct understanding 
and adopting to the needs.  We as Hindus have been blessed with 
traditions and culture that our fore-fathers have passed it on to 
generations to come.  It becomes our obligation to study them, learn 
and understand and pass it on to the next generation.  If you go to 
India and observe, one can see how rapidly the young society is 
getting degraded by the disco music and with A to Z-TV.  What can one 
do to arrest this degradation - If we do not act, we fail in our 
obligation to our fore-fathers.

The last one is Acharya R^iNa.  This is not just physical service to 
the teacher nor just doing paada puuja or paaduka puuja.   These are 
symbolic and important to set a proper frame of mind, but not all in 
all.  What is involved is 1) to understand the teachings and put that 
into practice and 2) pass on the knowledge gained from the teacher to 
next, by setting ourselves as examples.  Our life itself should be a 
teaching to our children, because children learn from what we do than 
what we teach them to do.  If we teach them not to lie but when we 
ourselves lie then it is hypocrisy.  They also learn just that. 
Hence aacharya R^ina is not simple - one has to do aachaarya or 
practice what we have learned.  Here also it is not blindly following 
some rituals - it is leaning, understanding and adopting the essence 
of the teaching.  Otherwise we will be passing it on only time-rotten 
sentimental values than knowledge that is the essence of the 
teaching.  One should have sentiments but one should not be 
sentimental.  That will cloud the intellect.

Now coming back to service, if we do our three obligatory duties that 
itself is the service.  But to have the correct attitude of service, 
we need to have a proper frame of mind.  For that we need to bring 
Iswara into picture.  Then only karma or dharma becomes a yoga, 
yoking the mind to the higher.  This is where Srivaishnavam will 
help.  Vishnu means one who pervades everything.  In every action, 
three things are involved - kartaa, karma and kriya.  He pervades 
all.  If I have the correct understanding of the nature of the Lord, 
then I will have proper attitude in my obligatory duties. As a kartaa 
- I should have an understanding that whatever I am able to do is 
only because of His grace and His presence in me.  Since action 
involves my interaction with the world around where He pervades, I 
should recognize His presence all around. Every set up or scene of 
action involves, besides myself and the changing environment, and His 
changeless presence.  Hence I cannot get away from His presence even 
if I want to!  Every obligatory action becomes a prayer to Him 
provided I have that understanding that He pervades everything.  How 
can I be mean to anybody, jealous of any body, unkind to anybody or 
should I say any being - Yo mam pasyati sarvatra, sarvanca mayi 
pasyati, tasya ahma na praNasyaami sa cha me na praNasyati.  Who sees 
Me everywhere and who sees everything in Me, He will never be away 
from Me or I from Him.  If I have that understanding, then all my 
duties become a prayer to Him - In that case whatever I do, I will do 
my best since it is offered as kainkaryam at the feet of the Lord. 
That is where Srivaishnavam comes since He  is sarva vyaapakaH 
vishhNuH.  I am a father, mother, son, brother, sister, neighbor, 
employee, citizen etc- these are the changing roles that I play 
everyday and during my life time.  But He is also there in every role 
behind the scene. My relation ship with my daughter, son, wife, 
husband, brother and employee are temporal but in all these 
relationships there is a fundamental relationship that remains in all 
these relationships and that is my relationship to Him - I cannot but 
be a full-time devotee.  My devotee relationship is not temporal 
since He is there in every relationship.  Hence when I play the role 
of a husband - I am a husband plus a devotee - devotee plus husband 
becomes a devoted husband.  Devotee plus a son becomes a devoted son. 
A devoted brother, a devoted neighbor, a devoted employee and a 
devoted citizen.  Every role I play becomes devoted play that 
involves kainkaryam to the Lord as a devotee. That means I have to do 
my best in every action.  That is when all my obligatory duties 
become not just duties but service to the Lord.  Lord does not need 
our service, but it is my obligation to pay back my three R^iNa-s and 
my attitude in the action makes it as a service to the Lord.  It is 
the understanding and recognition that reflects in my attitude in 
performing my obligatory actions or duties.

I become a true vaishnavate when I recognize His presence and perform 
all my obligatory duties as service to Him.  That, as I understand, 
is the essence of charama slokam too.

Hari Om!

K. Sadananda
Code 6323
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington D.C. 20375
Voice (202)767-2117

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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