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Re: Some reflections on the debates on Mantras

From: Sadagopan (
Date: Fri Jun 26 1998 - 13:12:57 PDT

Dear BhakthAs :
Thanks for Sri Krishnaswamy's note requesting restraint 
and Sri Balaram Sriram's note reminding one of  realities .
Under Sri Bhagavadh RaamAnuja SiddhAntham ,
every one is indeed an AdhikAri to seek SaraNAgathi 
at the Lotus feet of Sriman NaarAyaNA .Although it
is possible to pile up PramANam on PramANam for 
both sides of the argument to steer it towards 
the direction one wants , I think it is more an
intellectual exercise compared to seeking a qualified
AchAryA and seek the needed guidance from him or her 
to get us beyond these discussions .Bhagaavadh/
Bhagavatha kaimkaryam and AchArya Vandanam 
are the most central purposes of our lives here . 

At the outset , let me categorically state that 
the rahasya manthrAs have to be understood and 
cherished with the reverence that they deserve  
instead of in a casual manner .I have no disagreement
there .  

I have had the good fortune of participating in this 
forum for three years now and have learned a lot 
from the devout bhakthAs about Sri VaishNavism.
I CONTINUE TO LEARN .Please permit me to share 
some thoughts on the current controversy .

There have been previous instances of controversy and 
exhibition of zeal , while discussing some of the topics
dear to us , but this time , it is a little more strident.
May be because the subject matter under discussion is 
a profound one & dear to many  . This controversy as to 
who is the proper adhikAri is nothing new . It appears to me
however that this particular discussion smacks of
elitism and holier-than-thou attitudes .There are 
indeed pramaaNams that one can pile up 
for one side or other of the argument 
across a historic time scale . I do not think 
it is necessary for enhancing one's Bhakthi
for Sriman NaarAyaNA and to prepare one for 
performing SaraNAgathi at the sacred feet 
of the Lord thru an appropriate AchAryA .
There has been controversies in the past 
about the appropriateness of according 
a respectful position for AzhwArs , who
did not belong to " the elite class " . 

Swami Desikan himself has tackled it for our benefit 
and has  established the sacredness of AzhwArs 
like NammAzhwAr and ThiruPPANAzhwAr , who
were not from " the higher Castes " . The issues 
whether they performed Bhakthi Yogam or 
Only practised Saranagathi could be debated 
based on one's sampradhAyam and accepted .
Even if we get to the bottom
of that thru scholarly debate , it does not
really matter to us since their lives are way 
beyond any comparison with ours . Swami Desikan  
was rewarded in this context for his important service 
to establish the sacredness of the parama BhakthAs , when there
was a noisy protestation about the appropriateness
of the Paasurams of NammAzhwAr being recited during 
the procession of Lord VardarAjA at Kanchipuram .

The Lord Himself rewarded Swami Desikan for upholding the 
thesis that the Prabhandhams of AzhwArs have an equal status 
with the other Vedams . As a result , The divya Prabhandha ghOshtis 
continue their celebration of Sriman NaarAyaNA even today , 
thanks to the illustrious services of Swami Desikan .
BTW , we must remember that  there are more 
commentaries by our PurvAchAryAs on 
NammAzhwAr's Thiruvaimozhi than on anyother 
Prabhandhams . The great Brahmin Scholar Mathurakavi,
who was many years older than the non-Brahmin NammAzhwAr
took refuge at latter's feet and declared that he recognizes  
no God other than his AchArya , ThirukkuruhUr SatakOpan . 

Swami Desikan defeated his opponents at Kanchi 
and Srirangam , who questioned the sacredness of
AzhwArs based on their birth status using his 
extraordinary skills in tarkam and defeated them .
With the same logical rigor that he used in his granthams 
like SarvArtha Siddhi and Tattva Muktha Kalapam ,
he settled this matter . With the skills in Tarkam 
that earned him the title of " KavithArkika Simham " ,
he showed the following logical errors in the arguments of 
his opponets , who contested the qualifications of AzhwArs 
and later composed his own devotional tribute to 
ThiruppANAzhwAr ( Muni Vaahana BhOgam ) . The 8 among 
the many logical errors that he pointed out in his 
opponent's arguments were :

1.AathmAsrayaa or assuming the consequence 
   (example : He Mounted on his own shoulder )
2. anyOnyAsrayaa  or mutual reliance fallacy 
   (the case of a point that is being proven 
    by another and if latter is supported by 
    the former ) 
3. chakrakaashrayaa : Circular reasoning 
4. anavasthaa : Case of Infinite regression in
   one's attempt to prove a point .
5. pramaa-haana : argument that neglects evidence 
   and thus becomes a fallacy ( Tarka DhOsham )
6. Kalpanaa Gouravam : respect for imagination 
   as opposed to respect for facts 
7. UpajIvya VirOdham : " Incorrect inference opposing 
   the source of its own antecedent "
8. apa-siddhAnthA or Invalid thesis 

" VirOdha ParihAram " was achieved thru 
his power of logic .    

We must remember that disagreement is not disrespect .
We must also remember the difference between FORM (style)
and SUBSTANCE .Vigilantism has to be avoided at all costs .
Personal faith is one thing  and excoriating 
others for nonconformity to one's point of view 
-right or wrong - is another thing .While our AchAryAs
do not yield one inch on their adherence to the
SampradhAyams/ShAsthrams  handed to them , they are most merciful 
in attending to the diverse spiritual needs and help
every one , who cross their blessed paths to advance
the disciples spiritually .Some times , they are angry 
and disappointed at our laxity , but out of their 
most merciful nature , they pull us up by lending
their hand and bless us  .In the ultimate analysis , 
this is what counts in my opinion .We are like particles 
displaying  Brownian motion and the AachAryAs ,
who are parama DayALUs steady us and speed us towards 
the main path leading to Moksham .  

I know for sure that the discussions on this Bhakthi list
has shaped and changed many bhakthA's lives and
enhanced their appreciation for the wealth that 
has been bequeathed to us . We must also remember that 
no one has all the answers and it is perfectly alright 
to ask questions or express opinions without being 
put down in public .Constructive criticism is
very welcome and some times , the dialog has 
to be private .

Finally  , Let us not try to take on the mantle of AchAryAs 
and get befuddled from inconclusive debates on
a limited medium such as electronic journal .There is a lot
that we can learn on the great works of AchAryAs ,
anushtAnams , AzhwAr's bhakthi-laden poetry 
thru the medium of Internet that unites us 
across all sorts of boundaries . 

I conclude this posting with the following 
appeal from Sriman Krishnaswamy :
>The late Rajaji once defined Culture as Restraint.  It is in this sense
>that I appeal for restraint in discussing matters relating to the
>conduct of others.  The fact that our discussions are held over a global
>network is relevant in this limited context of the need to exercise
>restraint .