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Re: the worship of Garudan

From: Mohan Sagar (msagar_at_worldnet.att.net)
Date: Tue Mar 11 1997 - 22:10:58 PST

Mani writes:

>I do not quite understand why we as Sri Vaishnavas would
>resort to worshipping Garuda (or even the Lord for that
>matter) for the sake of obtaining something.  These are
>kaamyaartha, are they not, lower desires nowhere near
>the pursuit of jnaana, bhakti, and consequently moksha?
>
>For example, it is often stated that recitation of the  
>Sudarshana Mantra can be used as means to ward off disease,
>that the Garuda Mantra wards off poisons and snakes, etc.
>Appeals to the fantastic mythology of Garuda and the 
>popular tales concerning his obtaining of amRita are often
>told in this context.  Aside from the fact that this 
>tale has nothing to do with Bhagavan Garuda's wisdom or
>devotion, these ``recite the mantra and get results''
>stories smack of a very unenlightened and selfish form 
>of religion, one that is not respected very much by
>Krishna himself (recall the classification of adhikaaris
>in the Gita).

In response Mr. Rangaswamy writes:

>It is not for the sake of obtaining anything that one worships Garuda,
>any other Nitya Suri or Lord Narayana. When one becomes a Prapanna, they give
>up all thoughts of their Yogakshemam, because they have the firm faith 
>(Maha Vishvasam) that the all pervading Lord Narayana will take care of their 
>spiritual as well as materialistic needs (Sarva Rakshakatvam). Take for 
>instance the case of Dhruva. His worship of Lord Narayana granted him not 
>only material benefit (of becoming an emperor) but also gave him the most 
>exalted status of the pole-star. I never suggested in my post that one must 
>worship Garuda for Kaamyartha. 

>Since my posts seem to be objectionable to Sri Mani, this is my 
>last post on the subject.....Therefore, I request Sri Mani to remove me
from the list.

I must, once again, express my concern at the argumentative nature of such
discussions. I do not think that Mani expressed any objection of any kind,
but merely raised a very valid question that has been the subject of much
conversation among all SriVaishnavas that lies at the heart of defining
SriVaishnava beliefs and prapatti.  Personally, I tend to lean towards
Mani's view, and would like to think that I am striving to practice it. But,
my objective of being in this forum is not to preach my own limited
understanding, but to learn from others.  So, I would like to take a more
objective approach on this issue.

In response to Mani's question, I think the answer can be found in one of
Mr. Rangaswamy's statements:

>When one becomes a Prapanna, they give
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>up all thoughts of their Yogakshemam, because they have the firm faith 
>(Maha Vishvasam) that the all pervading Lord Narayana will take care of their 
>spiritual as well as materialistic needs (Sarva Rakshakatvam).

It may boil down to a question of semantics, but how can we be sure that all
SriVaishnavas are prapannas? As suggested by Mr. Sudarshan in his series on
Paramapada Sopanam, spiritual progress is a long slow psychological
experience leading to and culminating in prapatti. Adding to this, Sri
Tridandi Jeear is of the view that Prapatti is such a rare state of being,
that those who are fortunate enough to realize it are never aware of when it
happens or how it happens, or if in fact if it happened. Based on this, I
would contend that while the goal of our realizing Him as the Upaya and
Upeya is the highest state, it is something that most of us are only
striving towards, and are a long way from achieving.  Consequently, in our
developing stages, even most devout SriVaishnavas will tend towards other
upayas as a means of securing some material or spiritual good. 

I think that the Swami Desikan was aware and sensitive to this, and
consequently, developed stotras, mantras and rituals in a under the pretext
of securing some material good for the purposes of ultimately teaching
kainkarya to the Lord. This learning process would be conforming to
Manavalamamunigal's discussion on the steps towards prapatti as was
presented in a previous posting:

1.  An agnostic/atheist first becomes aware of some small aspect of Sastra,
such as a mantra or a pooja, that can be utilized to procure some material
benefit.

2.  By securing such a material benefit, the once atheist now becomes a
believer in Sastra, as both a means for obtaining material benefits as well
as a means of enjoying Swarga at the end of his/her present life.

3.  The disciplined life associated with adhering to Sastra leads the now
aspirant to recognize the difference between the temporal material world and
the immortal self, leading he/she to pursue self-realization.

4.  Self-realization leads to the recognition of the Sriman Narayana as the
Antarayami, causing the aspirant to strive towards Him through Bhakti Yoga.

5.  The path of Bhakti Yoga leads the aspirant to recognize his/her
inability to reach the Lord through self effort, which results in the
realization that the Lord Himself is both the Way and the Goal.  The
aspirant then ceases his/her self-motivated activities through Prapatti and
realizes his/her true nature as a Sesa of the Lord.

I sincerely seek forgiveness if any of the above has offended anyone.

Daasanu Daasan,

Mohan