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Mani/Mantra/and the Garuda-legend

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Mon Mar 24 1997 - 01:22:55 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s",

Over the past few weeks we have witnessed some absorbing debates in the
"list" on certain issues. 

As a mute spectator to the verbal duels I kept saying to myself that the
thrust and parry involved in such intellectual jousts does indeed bring out
the best amongst "adversaries". It was a pleasure to read all the views of
Sriman-s Mani, Dileepan, Sagar, Rangaswamy and, of course, the venerable

The process of debate itself may have generated some unwanted "heat" but it
also produced sorely needed enlightenment for the benefit of onlookers like

When there is churning for "amritham" (elixir of eternity) can one avoid the
by-product of "visham" (toxin) ? 

The good thing about a verbal "brawl" is that it gives everyone a fair idea
of two or more sides to any issue -- something that would be otherwise
impossible to acquire if one approached issues with little else than the
equipment of one's own mind or views. Furthermore, debate helps one avoid
getting self-opinionated, prejudiced and ...... perhaps, self-righteous too ??  

In matters of Faith, debate seldom arrives at certainty. But it almost
always takes us closer to an appreciation of the unattainability of TRUTH
through Reason or Logic !! Most often we come away from a debating session
with the vague feeling that there is something TRUER than the truth and
which is beyond the grasp of man's Reason !!

Now, when Sri.Mani asks (in the context of the "Garuda" debate) why myth,
lore, legend, apocrypha, fairy-tale and melodrama are so much part and
parcel of our religious literature (be it Swami Desikan's or any other
"achAryA's") he is, no doubt, asking a very, very reasonable question. 

Unfortunately, an answer to such a reasonable question, related as it is to
pure Faith, cannot be given solely in terms of arguments based on reason or
logic. (This is a problem that is very often encountered in Indian
philosophy whenever an Article of Faith is sought to be substantiated by
"pramAnaM" (bases of validity) --- be it of "pratyaksham" (direct
perception), "anUmAnam" (inference), "anUbhavam" (experience) or "pratibhA"

When "sruti"/"smriti" texts state that contant repetition of a "mantrA"
unfailingly produces certain phenomenal effects there is strictly no way of
confirming or gainsaying it by subjecting such a statement to the test of
some "pramANam" or the other. One can perform laboratory-experiments to
clearly demonstrate that beyond a certain frequency-barrier sound waves
shatter crytal glass or even the tymphannum within the human ear-organ. But
it is never easy, in a similar vein, to establish that chanting of the
"garuda-mantra" will always scare away a serpent !

This is so because in the case of 'sruti/smriti/mantrA-s' there is (what I
personally like to call) a "principle of reflexivity" operating and which
plainly renders the "laboratory approach" ineffective.

What this "reflexivity" is I will try and explain, dear friends, in the next
few postings in the simple way I have heard my "manaseega-guru"
Sri.U.Ve.Mukkur Swami explain and which I think we can all easily understand.

It may well provide some trace of an answer to Sri.Mani's valid questions.
srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha