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Re: Biographies of Sri Ramanuja

From: Sridhar Srinivasan (
Date: Wed May 01 1996 - 18:33:48 PDT

I would like to unequivocally state that the following piece is not intended
to hurt anybody or question the knowledge (or lack of it) of any specific
individual.  If I perpetrate any Bhagavatha apacharam in the process of
presenting my thoughts, I beg your kind forgiveness and hope you will
understand that these thoughts do not stem from a paucity of regard for any
elderly or knowledgeable person, but from a love of our Siddhantham whose
glories can be retained and perpetuated only if we allow for open-minded
inquiry and an even-tempered exchange of ideas for universal benefit.  I
hope learned prapannas in this forum will agree with me when I say that
there is no place for ego in prapatti (and none whatsoever for fragile ones).

Before saying anything else, what I present here is a view point developed
over twenty years of association with our siddhantham (not vada-kalai or
then-kalai) and a few things learnt in association with people whom I
consider to be great thinkers in visishtadwaithic tradition.  These include
Sri Bhu-Varaahachar swamy of Bangalore (one has to listen to his upanyasams
to get a sense of true erudition synthesized with Bhakti in its most
pristine form), Sri VeLukkudi Varadaachaar (who attained paramapadam on Jan
17, 1991) and the current  Mudaliyandan Swamy (Sri Kumara Venkatachar
swamy).  I have also been keenly following discussions in this forum, hoping
that I can find association in NA akin to the joy experienced listening to
these great souls talk about the innate beauty inherent to the out-pourings
of our Azhwars and Acharyas and inimitable joy that is engendered in the
appreciation of SrimanNarayana's kalyana gunangal as presented by these
liberated souls.

However, the contents of the Bhakti digest in the recent past has been
replete with polemic and often times, there is open discouragement when
someone disagrees with the view points of someone CONSIDERED erudite and
knowledgeable.  However, proof of erudition, knowledge and so on lies rather
in the contents of one's thoughts rather than claims.  A case in point:

>> Sampath Rengarajan writes:
>> * A saints life is full of events every day and historians
>> * write or track only a few as they see it important in
>> * their context. A prophet's life is
>> * full of events every second (1/60 th of a minute).
>> * Sri Ramanujaas life ...
>> So now Ramanuja is a prophet? I wonder when Mutt
>> Infallibility will be declared and the Inquisition
>> started ... ;-)
>> Mani
>>-- End of excerpt from Mani Varadarajan
>Dear Mani,
>Your comments are good joke, though they are taken out of context and
>*very* reactionary as similar to such sevral past instances from you.
>The  exhibition of inconsistancy by young persons in this

While it is quite trivial to dismiss honest and well-represented inquiries
as reactionary or immature, it is equally plausible that the writer might lack
the wherewithal to adequately explain his or her posting.  Further, it is
on the person posting to the digest to communicate his/her thoughts in a
cogent and linguistically appropriate manner.  To be-little a question and
then to say that there are hidden meanings available to an evolved few to me
is a euphemistic way of saying 'I don't know but I am unwilling to accept it
here or I was wrong but I don't want to admit it'.

On another note, postings of Sri Ramaswamy on some of the Then-Kalai
Acharyas is incorrect in some cases or has some important omissions.
However, to highlight these in this forum, I am compelled to note, will
inevitably bring censure from some of the 'evolved elders' here.  Still, I
will proceed to state them with the belief that I will (and some of you
might) learn from this exchange:

Sri Ramaswamy in Acharyas-Section 3.6 to 3.12 writes about Sri Azhagiya
Manavala Perumal Nayanar thus:
> His younger brother, Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar wrote Acharya
Hridayam as per 
> the advice of Pillai Lokacharya

Acharya Hridayam is a devotional masterpiece composed spontaneously by Sri
Azhagiya Manavala perumal Nayanar during NumPerumal thiruveedhi purappadu at
Thiru Arangam. Acharya hridayam (literally Nammazhvaar's inner thoughts) is
considered by the cogniscenti to be nothing but an out-pouring of tremendous
divinity and is considered to be Apaurusheyam (See Sri P.B.
Annangaraacharyaar's edition of Acharya Hridayam, BNK Press, Madras, 1954
for an eloquent testimony to AcharyaHridayam and Sri Azhagiya Manavala
Perumal Nayanar).  Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar's other significant
works include AruLiccheyal Rahasyam, PaTTolai, Araayirappadi Vyakhyanam for
Thiruppavai, Vyakhyanam for Thiruppaanazwar's AmalNaadhiPiraan, Madhura kavi
Azhwaar's (whose thiruNakshtram happens to occur on 5/2/96) KaNNinuN
Siruthaambu etc.

>Sri ManavaLa maamunigal got his Sannyas from Aadhi Van Satakopa Jeeyar of
Ahobhila Mutt

Sri MaNavaaLa MaamunigaL obtained his Sannyasam from Num PerumaaL and was
named yatheendra PraNavar by RangaNaathar akin to the fact that Sri Ramanuja
got his Sannyaasam from ThepperumaaL and was named Yatheendra by the Lord
himself (Please see Yatheendra PravaNa Prabhaavam, Sudarsanam Printers,
Putthur, 1961).

Another omission that is glaring in this series (unless I missed it, in
which case, I do beg forgiveness) is the fact that Sri Ramanuja established
a lineage of 74 Acharya Simhaasanaadhipathigal to perpetuate our
Sampradayam.  These include lineages of Aalawandaar,  Thirukkottiyur Nambi,
ThiruMaalaiyaanDaan, Periya Thirumalai Nambi, Koorathazhwaan, MudaliyaanDaan
(Dasarathi), Naduvilaazhwaan, GomaDathaazhwaan, thirukkovilur Aazhwaan,
Thirumohur Aazhwaan, Pillai Pillai Aazhwaan, NaDaathur Aazhwaan, EngaL
Aazhwaan, on.  

I would like to commend and thank Sri Ramaswamy on his comprehensive effort
detailing the lives and glories of our Acharyas, specifically Sri Vedantha
desikan.  Sri Desikan also belongs to the lineage one of the 74 Acharya
lineages established by Sri Ramanuja.  While it is not possible to overstate
the significance or the genius of Sri Desikan's compositions and the
importance of his role in establishing Visishtaadwaitha siddhaantham, I wish
as much focus was also given in Sri Ramaswamy's laudable effort to other
Acharyas such as PiLLai Lokaachaarya (whose Sri Vachana BhushaNam alone is a
composition that boggles the mind in terms of its depth of thought and
philosophical significance) or Sri MaNavaaLa MaamunigaL.

A parting thought.  It is disquieting to see a trend here where even a
semblance of disagreement (NOT DISRESPECT) with a view point with one of the
elders is treated with a vehemence unbecoming of our tradition.  I have been
raised to believe that open inquiry and rational thought treated with
kindness from those who know is the basis for the development of faith.
Faith cannot be claimed to stem from paucity of insight.  If so, it becomes
blind belief.  I close with what KrishNa says of Sattwa in the Gita (can
there be a better PramaaNa?):

Anudwegakaram vaakyam sathyam priyahitham cha yath

Aazhwaar Emberumaanaar Jeeyar ThiruvadigaLe SharaNam