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Re: On worship - (Salagramam)

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Wed Jul 29 1998 - 12:11:00 PDT

Vijay Srinivasan wrote:
> Our experience shows that any system that tolerates mistakes and
> imperfections, ultimately degenerates into nothing.  I think sincerity of
> purpose and striving for excellence go together.  An earnest aspirant will
> do his best not to compromise.  For example - if we take the Vedas - but
> for the emphasis on right svaras and varnas it would not have been possible
> for a tradition that depended on oral transmission to preserve them intact
> for thousands of years.

Aspiring for excellence is itself a sign of spiritual 
sincerity.  Of this there is no doubt.  But, with due
respect, this is not the question.  We will always fall 
short of the ideal, no matter how pure our mind may be. We 
will almost always miss one Vedic svara during pArAyaNa, or 
miss some aspect of the upacAra during worship.  If done with 
the sincerest of hearts and the purest of minds, will this 
incur pApa? If done in the spirit of "kRshNArpaNam", are we 
to suffer the same consequences as those who are doing this 
for material benefit? I think not.

I recall being told a story of a poor, blind bhAgavata who 
had his sAlagrAma in the same bag he kept his other fruits.
Thinking the sAlagrAma was a grape one day, he plopped it
into his mouth. Realizing at once his mistake, he took it
out, washed it, and put it back into his bag.  Done in all
sincerity, this was not a sin at all.

The philosophy of Ramanuja strives to point out that the
Lord stands in the way whenever our inability causes us
to fail, provided we have the right state of mind.  This
is why nAma-sankIrtana yields the same benefit as a Vedic
sacrifice, why prapatti yields the same fruit as bhakti-yoga,
and why we say at the end of any Vedic recitation:

	yad akshara-pada-bhRshTam mAtrA-hinam tu yad bhavet |
	tat sarvam kshamyatAm deva nArAyaNa namo'stu te ||

	If there was any mistake in the pronounciation of
	any syllable, sentence, or measure, forgive them all,
	O Lord Narayana! None of this is for me, but only
	for You.

This of course requires the participant to have the utmost
sincerity -- but that's all. The striving for excellence in
worship comes as part of the sincerity.

[...]

> On the question of worshipping for material benefits etc., I think it is
> perhaps easy for people like us (who have been blessed with considerable
> felicity) to say that it must be eschewed.   While we all agree that
> paramaikantikatvam is the ultimate ideal, it is for too  distant a goal for
> most people.  The fact that only a minority of Sri Vaishnavas do not resort
> to Anya Devata worship (in some form or other) is a clear indication that
> people are not willing to ignore 'Ihaloka sukam' i.e. the needs of this
> world.

This is true. However, if we start accepting that paramaikAntikatva
is too far a goal to ever be achieved, then no one would ever aspire
for it. This is not the message of our acharyas or the shastra.
It is partially because Sri Vaishnavas have not prominently pointed
out how selfless action dedicated to God is the highest dharma,
that societal religion continues to decay.  It is because other
religious sections loudly proclaim that worshipping for material
benefits is the primary (and implicitly best) reason to go to a
temple/pUja that our tradition itself find its adherents falling.

Mani