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Introduction

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani)
Date: Mon Mar 20 1995 - 12:15:01 PST

"Narayanan, Neera J" <NNARAYAN@NMU.EDU> writes:
> I noticed you didn't seem to disclose very much information
> about yourself, other than the fact that you are an
> Ivy Leaguer and working currently, unless of course that
> is all the information you choose to disclose.

I guess I never really sent out an introduction either, partly
because the initial members of the mailing list knew the interesting
parts of my background. But we have quintipled since the time the
list was started, so I suppose I should also send out a few words
about myself.

As most of you know, my name is Mani, but I wasn't born that way.
My given name is "Vachaspati", which my father tells me is found
twice in the Vishnu Sahasranaamam, and is also a name of Lord
Hayagriva, who is sort of a kuladaivam for us. I was born in 
England in 1971 and my family moved to New York shortly thereafter. 
To my immense benefit, my parents have always been very sincere
and devout devotees of the Lord, and we used to regulary recite
Desikar Stotrams and Alavandar's "kaantas te" when we were young.
My first exposure to our two epics were through Amar Chitra Kathas
and Rajaji's Ramayana and Mahabharata. Reading those at a very young 
age has been one of the biggest influences in my life.

Even though when I was young I adored Raama as my personal
hero, during my years in junior high and high school, I was
virtually an agnostic, caring little for anything spiritual
or religious.  In my last year of high school, however, I felt 
a need to know who I was and where I came from, culturally
speaking. I started with what I knew, that I was a Sri Vaishnava,
and went from there. I had heard of the Azhvaars, but I had
no idea that they were my spiritual forebears, or that AndaaL
was one of them. As I read more and more, I discovered how
wonderfully rich and complex Sri Vaishnavism was. I had read
some of Swami Chinmayananda's works, and others by people like
him, but they all seemed to me to be simplistic and tended to 
gloss over anything difficult or philosophically deep.

I entered UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and walked into
their library, and instantly became an addict. The resources
of the library are tremendous, and I was able to get my hands
on books that most people couldn't.  This is where I learnt
a lot about the tradition of the Azhvaars, about Sri Ramanuja
and his philosophy, and about the history of Sanskrit and
Tamil literature. Ever since, I've been interested in trying
to properly understand the poetry of Azhvaars and Achaaryas,
so I can experience just a little bit of the joy that the did
when they poured out their songs.

I have also benefitted greatly from conversations with several 
members of this list. Right now, I am particularly interested in 
understanding how to properly do dhyaanam / upaasanam 
("contemplative meditation", as they would call it in the West), 
especially as it relates to the bhakti of the Azhvaars and the
rishis of the Upanishads, and also the bhakti literature and 
temple culture that was fostered by the Azhvaars and Achaaryas.  
Most of all, given that my Sanskrit is mediocre and my Tamil 
poor, I'm looking for any way that I can better understand 
the experiences of Nammaazhvar, Tirumangai, AndaaL, et al.

Yours,
Mani

(408) 253-1351 (home)
(415) 390-5456 (work)

(P.S. As to more mundane things: I am now working at Silicon Graphics,
      Inc., in Northern California.)