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bandhus & jantus - CONCLUSION

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Sun Jul 05 1998 - 00:14:34 PDT

srimathe lakshmi-nrsimha parabrahmane namaha
sri vedanta gurave namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s",

This is the last piece on "bandhus & jantus" before I sign off…
(Do I hear you all heave a big sigh of relief!)
 
Believe me, it's difficult to understand how it all started off pretty
harmlessly over six weeks ago on "Nrismha-jayanti" when a good member
amongst you raised a pointed question about a "morally neuter" God
seemingly implied in the phrase "bandhumakhilasya-janto-ho" in Desikan's
"kAmAsikAshtakam"! 

The power of poetry to captivate and send one hurtling into intensely
personal (and perhaps quirky) reveries is great indeed!

If we are to believe in whatever we discussed in the half-a-dozen posts of
the last 8 weeks on this subject of "bandhus & jantus" we may be forgiven
for entertaining lurking thoughts such as the following:

 --- "What kind of heartless religion is this Vedanta! How harsh seems this
SriVaishnava doctrine of "kArpannyam"!

 --- "How inhuman and unnatural it is to suggest that the "jantus" of the
world must forsake their respective "bandhus" in order to arrive at an
intuitive awareness of "akinchinyam" --- the feeling that one is
essentially a "cosmic orphan"! 

 --- How odd and repugnant to suggest (as we saw Yagnyavalkya do in the
"brhadAranyaka-upanishad") that out of the forsaking of earthly "bandhus"
arises verily the realization of the Lord Almighty as the One and Only True
"bandhu" of all Creation --- or as Swami Desikan hails Him, the
"bandhumakhilasya-janto-ho"! 

How very grim and morbid all this seems!

On the contrary, if you look up any standard anthology of hymns of
SriVaishnava "AchAryA-s", you will be surprised how intensely they  exult
about a certain sense of inward joy brought on by the realization that the
Lord indeed is the only True 'bandhu' of All creation! Not a trace of grim
morbidity is there in their poetic outpourings.

Just take a few well-known and oft-quoted samples:

(a) Swami Desikan in his "Sri-Stuthi":

"mAthA devi! tvamasi bhagavAn vasudeva-ha pithA may
  jAtha-ha sOham janani yuvayOr-eka-lakshyam dayAya-hA"
(Thou art my Mother and the Lord my pater in truth…."

(b) Sri AlavandAr in his "stotra-ratna":
 
"pitA tvam mAtA-tvam, dayita-tanayas-tvam priya suhrd tvam eva,
 tvam mitram, gururasi gatiscAsi jagatAm,
 tvadIyas tvad bhrtyas tava parijanha tvad-gatiraham
 prapannas chaivam satyaham api tavai-Asmi hi bharaha."
(Lord, thou art my sole "bandhu" of every description -- father, mother,
son, friend, preceptor, refuge, support…! 

(c) Sri.Ramanuja in his "saranAgathi-gadyam":

 "tvamEva mAtA pitA tvameva tvameva bandhuscha gurustvamEva,
  tvamEva vidya dravinam tvamEva tvameva sarvam mama deva deva"

(Thou art my mother, father, kinsman, teacher, wisdom and wealth ---
  thou art everything in this world to me, My Lord!)

(d) GAndhAri to Lord Krishna in the "mahabharatA":

    "tvam eva mAtA ca pitA tvam eva
     tvam eva bandusca sakA tvam eva"
(Thou art my mother, my father, my "bandhu" and companion!"

(e) Tondar-adi-podi AzhwAr in his "tirumAlai":
     
    "telivilAk kalangal nIrsUzh tiruvarangatUl-OngUm,
     oliyUlAr-tAmE-yenrE thanthaiyUm thAyUm-AvAr…." (Verse#37)
(Yonder amidst the gurgling swifts of the Kaveri, in the blessed city of
Tiruvarangam, rests my Lord who is my true father and mother….)

The poetic tone in all the above lines is one of sheer, unmistakable
spiritual exhilaration --- the sort that would fill an "orphan" who has at
last found his parents!

The "AchAryA-s" found (as YagnyavalkyA too did in the
"brhadAranyaka-upanishad" in our last post) boundless joy in realizing
their individual "akinchinyam"; in the clean and irrevocable severance of
ties with earthly "bandham"; and in the realization that "parabhrahmham"
the Supreme One, in the form of Lord Ranganatha or Krishna, alone was the
true "bandhu" of all Creation ---- "bandhumakhilasya-janto-ho".

All said and done above, niggling questions nevertheless do nag our minds
whenever we search honestly within ourselves, isn't it?

Like these for instance:

*** How should we recognize it when we ourselves become "akinchanan-s" --
cosmic orphans --- in the same sense and with the same intensity with which
the great Srivaishnava Masters felt so in their hearts?  How is the sense
of "kArpannyam" in us different from that of a Gajendra, Draupadi or a
Vibeeshana or of the ancient Masters whose poetry we quote above?

When we begin to ask ourselves such questions, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", we
leave the shores of common rationality and begin our personal adventure
into the deep and uncharted waters of pure philosophical speculation. There
are no straight and easy answers to such questions except those which
individual faith, nurtured by unique life-experiences, might bring home to
us in the privacy of sacred space within our hearts ("hrdaya-AkAsa").

This much however is exceedingly clear: Every "jantu" at large in this
world naturally and instinctively tends towards "bandhu-hood" (herd,
kinship and familial affiliation). To every "jantu" "kArpannyam" or "cosmic
orphan-hood" is indeed a deeply disturbing concept. It somehow seems to
undermine Man's fundamental sense of his own biological identity and
security. It is simply alien to his nature and entirely disruptive of his
psychic integrity. And yet "kArpannyam" is indeed the truest state of every
Man, "every "jantu" that exists!
  
Which is why the "AchAryA-s" take pains to repeatedly explain to us, the
spirit of "kArpannyam" --- that awesome sense of one's "cosmic desolation"
which the doctrine of "prapatti" postulates --- is basically an attitude of
the soul which an individual ("jantu") must learn to painfully cultivate
during its passage through life. Such an attitude does not drop from heaven
nor gush out from any wellspring. It is a lifelong pursuit along the
arduous, straight and narrow path of "sAdhanA" or "tapas". 

There is no other path…… no other way! 

A few posts ago you will recall we referred to Stanza# 78 from the
"Vishnu-SahasranAmam" viz. ""loka-bandhur-lOka-nAthO mAdhavO
bhakthavatsala-ha!" We playfully juggled the order of "nAmA-s" therein and
came up with our own coinage as follows:

    (A) "madhava: loka-bandhur loka-natha:" !

    (B) "madhava: loka-bandhur bhaktavatsala:" !

We then took the license of re-translating the above into the proper names
of "mArga-bandhu" and "deena-bandhu" respectively. We saw that they mean:
 
 (A) "He who leads us into the right path"
 (B) "He who is the saviour of the meek"  

The upshot of the aforesaid is that the Lord is "lOka-bandhu" because (A)
He "leads us in our pathways through life" and also because (B) He is ever
so solicitous about the "meek" ones who perennially keep falling behind
along the way.

Now, in the pursuit of "kArpannyam", which we said is a path of "sAdhAna"
or "tapa", the Lord is said to be our "mArga-bandhu" ie. He who leads us,
safely and surely, along the "path".

Furthermore, in so far as we remain deeply unsure and troubled about the
state of our progress towards that exalted "akinchinatvam" of a Gajendra,
Draupadi or Tondar-adi-podi we remain true "deenan-s" (spiritually meek and
un-evolved "laggards"). To us therefore the Lord  becomes "deena-bandhu"
too!

The "AchArya-s" draw our attention here, incidentally, to another Stanza in
the Vishnu-sahasranAmam (#43) where the Lord's role as "marga-bandhu" and
"deena-bandhu" is underscored by extolling Him as:

"mArga-ha" : The Pathway to Liberation
"neya-ha"  : The journey (or direction) down the pathway
"naya-ha"  : The illumination along the pathway

In other words, the Lord is described as 

 --- "The One who is the Journey's Path",
 --- "The One who is the Act of Journeying" and 
 --- "The One who is the Purpose for which the great Journey of life   
     is undertaken"!

The Lord thus is said to ever remain with us, leading us ALL, ALL the Way……
like a true "bandhu"!

The great SriVaishnava Masters explain how the Lord is our "true bandhu" in
yet another interesting and poignant way.

In the deep recesses of our minds we may sometimes be troubled by the
prospect of failure in our effort to tread the path of "tapa" which the
life-long pursuit of "akinchinyam" (cosmic orphan-hood) is. We may
oftentimes during the course of journeying through this "vale of tears"
begin to wonder if we will ever reach to the state of "kArpannyam" of a
Gajendra, Draupadi or Vibeeshana. What happens then to all the efforts
expended by us in a lifetime which do not bear fruit? Which do not in the
end make us truly aware of our essential "akinchinyam", our cosmic
orphan-hood? Which do not result in the great sense of "bandhu-hood" with
the Lord, that Great Self within?

Will all that effort be futile?

No, never! say the "AchAryA-s".

The "akhilasya-bandhu", the Lord, the "mArga-bandhu" of All Creation, does
not forsake us -- like Gajendra's herd did in those moments of final
reckoning when the poor animal teetered between life and death-– the Lord
does NOT forsake us in this lifetime nor in any other one which ensues for
us in accordance with the "kArmi-c" code we construct or author for
ourselves.

As Sri.AndAl's sang in her "tiruppAvai" ("yetraikkum yezh-yezh piravikkum
undanOddu utrOmmE AvOm" etc.), the Lord steadfastly holds our hand every
moment and leads us like a true "bandhu" right along the "kArmi-c" pathway
we choose for ourselves. Then step by step, we are lead right unto the
point when the realization of our "akinchinyam", our "atma-svarupam", of
our true Self dawns on us. Like Sage Yagnyavalkya, we too then are enabled
to see nothing but "paraBrahmham" …… pure Love, pure joy and pure affection
everywhere………!

Such indeed is the depth of the commitment of solicitude the
"akhilasya-bandhu", Lord Nrsumhan, extends to all "jantu-s"!

In the 6th Chapter of the Bhagavath-Gita there is a string of stirring
Verses (40 to 44) to support the above view of the "AchAryA-s". Lord
Krishna Himself proclaims in veiled terms to Arjuna that He is indeed the
true "bandhu" of all. He expounds patiently and clearly to Arjuna how the
cloddish "jantu-s" of this world are gradually led by Him up the "kArmic"
path of "tapa" or "sAdhana" and ultimately to an exalted state of blissful
devotion to the Supreme One.

I will quote the Verses here verbatim and leave the task of reflecting on
them at length and at leisure to your good selves. I am sure after 8 weeks
on this subject you will have no trouble in appreciating the utterances of
the Lord in the context of everything we have been discussing about
"bandhus" and "jantus" on the "bhakti-list". I should also think it's
probably the best way for me to finish off this series of posts of mine and
leave you now to your own quiet contemplation on the matter.

(Ch.6.41): "prApya punya-krthAm lOkAnu-shithwa shAshvathee-hi samA-ha I
            shuchInAm srimathAm gayhay yogaBrashtO-aBhijAyatE   II
(He (meaning any "jantu") whose effort (of Yoga or "tapa" or "sAdhanA") is
aborted in this lifetime is born again in the house of the pure and
prosperous.)

(Ch.6.42): aThava yoginAmEva kulE Bhavati DhimatAm I
           EthaDhi durlaBhataram lOkE janma yadIdrsham II
(Or he is born in a family of wise Yogins though such birth is indeed rare
on earth)

(Ch.6.43): tatra tam buddhi samyOgam labhatE powrva dhaihikam I
           yathathE cha tathO Bhuya-ha samsiDdhow kurunandana II
(There, O Arjuna, he regains the previous disposition of mind and from
there he strives for more success in 'yOga' or ('tapa' or 'sAdhanA'))
 
(Ch.6.44): purvAbyAsEna tEnaiva hiyathE hyavashO-api sa-ha I
           jijnyA-surapi yOgasya shabda-brahmAti-varta thE II
(By the power of his earlier efforts, he is carried forward relentlessly,
and even against his own will, until he reaches a state where he transcends
"sabda-brahmhan" ( "prakriti" or Matter with all its concomitant
limitations of Time and Space) and attains Beatitude.) 
               
            ***********************************
May Lord Lakshmi-nrsimhan, the "kAmasikhA-kesari", the "akhilasya-bandhu"
Bless us All!

srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yatindra mahadesikaya namaha
sudarshan

P.S. I see some good members like Sri.Chandrasekar and others have some
comments and queries on some of my views. I appreciate their points and
will respond briefly and shortly after a little while.
AdiyEn,
sudarshan