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Re: Vedic deities and anya dEvata archana

From: Mohan R Sagar (msagar_at_uswest.net)
Date: Sun Jun 06 1999 - 17:24:50 PDT

S.A.Shivashankar wrote:
> 
> 
> As this "ether" of nArAyaNa pervades all Universe, it appears to me that
> there can, in effect, be no anya dEvata archana, as all of it really flows
> towards nArAyaNA. I have therefore often wondered why there needs to be
> strong (or even fierce) disavowal of other deities. Many of these deities
> such as Agni, vAyu, VaruNa, SUrya etc. are representations of awesome
> natural forces which were seen as manifestations of God (nArAyaNa).
> 
> I am no scholar of the sAstra's or of the doctrines of advaita and
> VishishtAdvaita. I do believe deeply in the notion and path of bhakti
> and prapatti. It has, somehow, never mattered to me whether that bhakti is
> directed towards this deity or that. When, on occasion, I am fortunate
> enough, I experience the same intense feeling of tearful joy and surrender
> whether I am praying to (or listening to the musical and hymnal worship
> of) Shiva, Vishnu, Saraswati, Krishna, or ShaNmuga, or Jesus.
> 
> I most definitely do not intend to offend the sensibilities of
> SrivaishNava's by saying what I have said above. I would appreciate
> comments from the scholars on the list.
> 
> 

Dear Sri Shivashankar,

Just to allow you the opportunity to compare the
works of the scholars in this forum with myself, a
novice who is aspiring to be a SriVaishnava one
day:

>From my understanding, what you have said and felt
is true. Sriman Narayana being the antaryAmi of
every soul in this Universe is really the only One
being worshipped, and it is He who out His
Compassion empowers the other Deities to bestow
Blessings upon their devotees.  And, one who truly
knows this can certainly feel His Presence in
Jesus, Durga, and Murugan - as well as the trees,
the rocks, the birds, the ocean, and even one's
fellow human beings.  However, how can we say that
any one of us really have the ability to have this
vision, what to speak of holding it at all times? 
Arjuna knew Sri Krishna as his nearest and dearest
Friend, and yet he too, needed the Lord's own
Grace to see His Universal form.  And, ironically,
even when Arjuna realized this vision, he could
not bear it for very long, and he pleaded with the
Lord to remove the special sight that he had been
granted and to show Himself again as Sri Krishna.

And, really, even if we were able to know and bear
the vision of this "ethereal" form, it would be
only one tiny aspect of His Wondrous Nature.  And,
how would we be able to interact with this
"ether," to feel the experiences that the AzhwArs
sang about in their pAsurams?

It is for this reason that our AchAryans have
recommended that we focus our attention on the
most kindest and most accessible form of the Lord,
His archAvatharan.  The Lord in this form is
tangible, He has a specific kind of look, smile,
and demeanor that draws every one to Him.  He
stands quietly, like a doll, so that we can touch
Him, dress Him, treat Him the way we would treat
our King, and love Him the way we would our own
Child. And, from what I have learned, it is this
Form, and not any other, that can touch our heart
and inspire us to surrender to Him.

You can see examples from the other postings of
how this archAvathAran has touched the lives of
the erudite bhAgavathas in this forum.  Just look
at how Sri Rengarajan writes of ArA amudhan of his
home town of Thirukudanthai.  Sri Rengarajan's
eloquent words make the Lord in the Temple is so
real, so alive, that we feel that we are reading
about a relation, a good friend, or a town hero.  

It is this mood of direct connection to the Lord
that I feel is the heart of SriVaishnavam.  And
once this joyous feeling is known, even if it is
only for a few hours, one really does not find the
need for anything else.  So, although we know on
subtle levels that the antaryAmi of the anya
dEvathas is the Lord only, after being able to
serve Him so directly, nothing else moves us in
the same way.

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan

Mohan