You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : May 1996

Tete - a - Tete on Bhakti Digests2.49 to 2.57

VVijay1068_at_aol.com
Date: Fri May 03 1996 - 14:20:31 PDT

Tete - a - Tete on Digests # 2.49 to 2.57

Dear Bhagavatas,

I have been observing a studied silence over the recent discussions on
'Protocol vs Content' etc. I feel that a stage has been reached when I am
compelled to have a tete-a-tete with you on the subject.

As it covers a number of points raised over ten Digests, it has become a
little longer than I expected. I crave your patience in reading through the
entire posting. Thank you.

I have already made clear in my earlier postings that I do not consider
myself to be a repository of all knowledge. And, perhaps, no one claim to be
so. In fact, I have characterized myself as a 'Vayo Vriddha' (old man) and
feel humble before the 'Gnana Vriddhas' (matured in wisdom, if not in age) in
the group.

Most of my source materials have been left behind, partly in India and partly
with my son at New York. I write from out of my memory and with the help of
scraps of paper of notes I happen to have brought with me. Naturally, there
may be some errors and omissions. Even otherwise, I am not infallible nor am
I claiming to be an Acharya. In fact, I am trying to improve my knowledge in
a kind of joint study with you. That is why, I request you to bring to my
notice personally any corrections needed.

The author, no doubt, is primarily responsible for accuracy. But, an Author-
Editor interface in a prepublication review would minimize obvious
inaccuracies. I am saying this out of my experience as Editor and Publisher
for over 30 years. For whatever reasons, this wholesome practice has been
waived in this net. This has resulted in certain inaccuracies creeping in (
including mine) and provided a big handle for critics to bash the authors,
provoking them to give rebuttals. In the crossfire, the net has been
converted into a 'chatter box' as someone remarked.

The criticisms raised are of two kinds:
(i ) Genuine doubts and well meant corrections and
(ii) Deliberate attempt to discredit the authors on frivolous grounds and
superficial and cursory reading in which words are either torn out of context
or words are put in the mouth of the authors (which they never expressed or
meant) in a show of one-up-manship'

Whether a criticism falls in one or the other category, I for one, would give
the utmost consideration it deserves. I do not rush into rash repartee so
impulsively indulged in by the ' Young and the Restless'. I honestly make an
attempt to check and verify them with such of the source materials as I have.
If not readily available, I address my Acharyas in India (with whom I am in
constant contact). Only on obtaining clarifications, I venture to answer the
points. This naturally takes time. 

But most of the criticisms I have received fall in the 2nd category.
I am not so hurt by the unparliamentary expletives so generously hurled at me
in PUBLIC NET as by my having to expose the hollowness of their criticims
also in a PUBLIC REJOINDER. ( vide my rebuttals  relating to my ' O! God!'
series,on Bimba example and Snafu reference etc)

What pains me most is that there is no appreciation of the finer sentiments
expressed, the style, syntax, and the choice language employed and the
efforts of the authors they have so laboriously put in,  to which the critics
turn a blind eye and become mute. But, they gleefully go about subjecting a
stray word  here or an inexact expression there to a  microscopic scrutiny
and  vociferously come out in public to discredit and maybe, persecute the
authors. 

In the process, the spirit of the presentation is totally lost and frustrates
the enthusiasm of the authors. I believe that no author in this net is
interested in deliberately misleading. A slip here or an omission there
should not be allowed to detract from the thrust of the main theme. Unless
there is such a  gross  misrepresentation or a significant omission as to
vitiate the very ethos of the main theme, it would, in my opinion, be
judicious to ignore them.

Though fault finding is the meanest, stupidest thing, as a member of the
Audit services, I was paid precisely for finding fault in the work of others.
But, even so, I was considered by the Executive heads as  ' an ambassodor of
goodwill from audit' because my objections were of a constructive variety and
not the kind proverbially ascribed to a husband's sister ( and a widowed one
at that and possibly also one spurned by her husband!- called a Vaazhaavetti
in Tamil).

To have a little humour as Mr Crawford suggests, I am reminded in this
connection of two stories. I offer them without comments, the inferene being
obvious. 

A lady student wrote a love letter pouring all her feelings to her English
Professor. After subjecting it to spellcheck, grammatics and what not, the
professor returned the script with numerous corrections with the remark '
shuld improve' !

Another case was when the wife of a Company executive suddenly stormed into
his office unexpectedly only to find him fondling his ' personal assistant'
in a compromising posture. When the startled lady exclaimed in consternation
" I am surprised', the Gentleman (?) corrected her saying "No! No! I am the
one who is SURPRISED.
You are ASTONISHED ! "

I now proceed to give replies to some of the points raised :-

B.D. # 2.49 :  

(i) Mr MANI'S comments : Regarding Ramanuja being a ' 'Vadama' by birth. This
is just a statement of fact based on the authority of Pazhanadai Vilakkam.
which many Srivaishnavas themselves are not aware of. I have nowhere stated
that a ' Vadama' cannot be a  ' Vishnu Bhakta'. The name of his father being
Kesavacharya or his aunts being named Sridevi and Bhudevi do not disprove his
birth as a " Vadama' nor his being a Vadama disqualify Ramanuja  from being
the greatest spiritual leader of Srivaishnavite philosophy aptly called '
Ramanuja Darsanam'. In fact, the ' Smartas' ( if Smarta he was, as Mani
holds) can have their 'collar up' claiming that it was one of their clan who
is the Supreme Acharya of Srivaishnavas; And, Srivaishnavas can claim how
catholic they are in recognizing the accomplishments of one outside their
lineage abd acknowledging him as their Acharya!. AN ATTEMPT TO WIDEN THE GAP?

(ii ) Regarding Yadava Prakasa being a 'Saivite Sannyasi'.This is not an
oversight. The fact is vouched in Pazhanadai Vilakkam and in other
authoritative sources also. It was just a passing reference and does not
purport to prove or disprove anything more than a mere statement of fact. It
was nowhere suggested by me that the disputes between him and Ramanuja were
on issues other than philosophical  and interpretational aspects of Vedanta.
In fact, I have deliberately omitted reference to the disputes like
'Kapyaasam' etc because Ramanuja's  Acharya bhakti was so intense that he
himself would not have relished an unsavoury reference to such episodes (
though true). This is specially so when he himself had ' forgiven and
forgotten' the tussles when he accepted his former Guru as his own Sishya.In
this view, it would be 'unvaishnavite' for us to go on repeating the episodes
time and again. See also my reply at item (v)  to BD2.54 below. AGAIN,
ANOTHER ATTEMPT AT WIDENING THE GAP?

BD # 2.54  On Universal Prayer

(i) Mr DILEEPAN has rightly observed that ' if by chance we find ourselves in
an awkward situation, one reasonable course is to simply  close our eyes and
repeat the Moolamanthram in our heart' Swami Desikan advises  in his RTS that
in such situations, the very remembrance of our Acharyaa would be the proper
corrective.

(ii) Mr RANGASWAMY has succintly summarized in his conclusion: ' After
becoming a Srivaishnava, if one engages in the worship of any other God, the
individual is condemned. As a Srivaishnava one must not and should not adapt,
change or modify the rules of worship to Lord Narayana established by our
Acharyas and Poorva acharyas".
I have already explained this as ' Paativratya' to the  Parama Purusha'

(iii) Mr.JAGANATH has also quoted appropriately our Jeeyar who compared 'the
worship of other deities to doing charitable work in society while neglecting
the service of elderly parents in the house' ( vide also ' Eenrol Irukka
Manai Neeraatti' etc of Tiruvasiriyam).

(iv) Mr SAMPATH observes that ' Saranagati is most suitable ONLY for Non
materialistic pursuits (i.e) Moksham and hence the only giver of such is the
Lord Sriman Narayana'. As I have pointed out in my O! God! series, Lord
Narayana who alone grants Moksha ALSO GRANTS all other material needs to the
Bhaktas as a bonus
( Anushangika). One need not not go elsewhere for securing them.

(v) Regarding Yadava Prakasa: Mr SAMPATH has referred to Yadavaprakasa being
a
' Udumbu' in his previous birth. Even in his birth as a human, there is proof
to show that he did not live up to the norms of a Sannyasi that he was. The
story alludes to Ramanuja giving an oil bath to his Guru. At that time,
 Ramanuja was crying and tears rolled from his cheek and fell on the lap of
the Guru. Only when the Guru asked why he was crying, did he come out with
his explanation that proved the misinterpretation of his Guru. He did not
'challenge' the Guru at any time before even though the Guru was grossly
wrong.This has also been referred by Mr.KAUSHIK in BD2.56. Sannyasis are
prohibited from taking oil bath and the incident proved that even in his
present birth, Yadava Prakasa  was not observing the prohibitions laid down
in the Sastras. I have deliberately omitted this episode also for the reasons
explained in my reply at (ii) of Mr. Mani's comments in BD2.49.

BD # 2.55 : 

(i)  Mr MANI'S Comments on Vidyaaranya  not being a 'court official'. The
mixing up of the names of the two Madhavacharyas, the Chief Minister of
Vijayanagara kingdom and the Poorvasrama name of Vidyaaranya is not mine;
But, if true, it is to be attributed to my source. And, this mixing up, if at
all,does not in any way detract from the main point of Swami Desika's '
Vairaghyam'. ANOTHER INSTANCE OF MAKING MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING?

(ii ) Regarding 'Sankalpa Suryodaya'. I have checked my manuscripts. I have
correctly referred to Krishna Misra's work as  ' Prabodha Chandrodayam' but
incorrectly named it differently in my posting. This indeed was a slip. I
regret also my being unaware of the time divide between Krishna Misra and
Swami Desika. THANK YOU Mr. MANI, FOR THE CORRECTIONS.

(iii) Regarding 'Adhyayanotsava' : From the time of Jabali and Charvaka
through the times of Madhurakavi to Nathamuni, Ramanuja to Desika and even
after, there has been no dearth of stupid critics who in their ' half baked
knowledge and full baked ego' and arrogance put spokes in the wheel
constantly. One such episode relates to the stoppage of the Adhyayanotsava by
fanatic opponents on various grounds such as Tiruvoimozhi being the work of a
Non- brahmin, its being in Tamil (a Dravidian language)  and its extolling '
Kaama' etc. etc. The Utsava had almost totally been abandoned and forgotten.
It was Swami Desika who revived it after a long gap. Therefore, there is
nothing wrong in saying that virtually Desika 'instituted' the Utsava.
Perhaps, ' Re-instituted' would have been better. This does not belittle
Ramanuja as the 'originator' or extol Desika's role over the head of
Ramanuja. It is the indulgence in polemics that makes it appear so. ANOTHER
INSTANCE OF HAIRSPLITTING BETWEEN TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE?

(iv) Regarding Hamsa Sandesa : As one who had the opportunity to read both
the works, I personally feel that Desika's work is infinitely superior. May
be, my commitment to our Acharya has colored my view!

(v) Regarding RTS being part of Grantha Chatushtaya :
Generally, the GC includes  only to RTS of Swami Desika. It is possible that
some Tennacharyas might have preferred to substitute other works  in its
place. I have attended the Kalakshepams of  P. B Annangara cahriar Swami,
Karappankadu Venkatachariar Swami, Velukkudi Varadachariar Swami and others
belonging to Tennacharya Sampradaya. I have also attended Kalakshepams of
Setlur Narasimhacharya, our Jeeyar Swami, Purisai Krishnamachariar,
Srivatsangachariar and others belonging toVadakalai Sampradayam.

One thing I have noticed is that all of them, irrespective of their leanings,
had mutual respect for both the branches and would draw parallels while
explaining the tenets. I have never heard any of them suggesting substitution
of RTS with any other Rahasya Grantas. 

I wonder what statistics Mr Mani has to support his averment that 
' half of the Srivaishnava Sampradaya studies the Rahasya works of Pillai
Lokachrya with Manavala Mamunigal's commentaries in place of RTS'. 
ANOTHER ATTEMPT AT DIVIDE AND___?

(vi) Regarding the use of the word ' Ramanuja' in the Thanian 'Ramanuja Daya
Patram' : Mr Mani explains that it refers to Desika's Guru ' Atreya Ramanuja'
and NOT to Bashyakarar. The name being common does not preclude its reference
to both.
ANOTHER ATTEMPT AT VAIN POLEMIC?

(vii) Regarding Vanamamali Jeeyar and Sri Emperumaanaar Jeeyar of Alwar
Tirunagari : Mr Mani has observed that ' these two follow Thengalai
Sampradaya and do not regard Swami Desika in their Acharya Parampara'. In
fact, even within the Vadakali Paramparas mentioned, one Parampara does not
include the Poorvacharyas of the others. For the sake of convenience, the
subsections under Section 3 Acharyas have been numbered as 3.1, 3.2 etc.
#3.13 refers to Swami Desika and # 3.14 refers to the '' Present day
Pontiffs" and lists the various Gurupapamparas within Srivaishnavism and
 constitutes a separate section. Nowhere have I stated that these are part of
Vadakalai parampara or that Desika is part of Tenkalai parampara.  ANOTHER
INSTANCE OF  SUPERFICIAL AND CURSORY READING OR DELIBERATE READING BETWEEN
LINES?

BD # 2.56 :

(i) Mr. BADRI has taken exception to the use of the word ' Pontiff ' to refer
to the heads of our Mutts. I agree. But, if we are to address the youngsters
 not exposed to our Sampradaya and very much exposed to peer influence in an
essentially Non-Hindu environment, We have to speak the language they can
understand, use expressions they can readily relate to. Hence, I think words
like ' Pontiff ' and ' Prophet' are not out of place in this background
ANOTHER CASE OF HOLIER THAN THOU ATTITUDE?

(ii) Mr DILEEPAN has rightly pointed out how the authors have pressure on
their time and have to make do with what little time they could snatch from
their busy schedule. And, ' a erm here or there that is not precise or not to
the standard of scholors is to be expected  Would not a heartless and
mindless criticism of such instances amount to a motivated effort IN 'MAKING
A MOUNTAIN OF A MOLE HILL"?.

The youngsters of today would become Senior Citizens sooner than they
imagine. I wish that (given my limitations of even creature comforts becoming
a luxury), they are able to retain at least 50% of the energy and enthusiasm,
at my age. I do not ask for sympathy but is it too much to expect basic
courtesy and consideration?

(iii) On Book Knowledge Vs Acharya Upadesa: Postings of Sampath, Jaganath
Badri and others  are quite valid and relevant. Nothing, I repeat, -  Nothing
can equal learning at the feet of an Acharya. Swami Desika says in his RTS '
Teliyaada Marai Nilangal Teliginrome'. By Acharya's grace in the Kalakshepam
tradition, the disciple comes to know clearly on his own accord, areas of
Vedanta that were not clear to him earlier. I can vouch for this from my
personal experience. I wish that the youngsters in the group get a chance to
learn at the feet of an Acharya and experience for themselves the
'revelations' that dawn on them- which no amount of book knowledge can
reveal. 

What qualifies in such Inter-personal encounters is explained by Lord Krishna
in Baghavad Gita:

Tad Viddhi Pratipaadena Pariprasnena Sevayaa / 
Upadekshyanti Tey Gnaanam Gnaaninaha Tattva Darsinaha /

" Learn the knowledge by  'prostrating', by' suggestive enquiry'  (
Pariprasna, not mere Prasna) and more importantly 'Sevaya'- in a mood of
service and supplication. The wise who seek the truth will teach you true
knowledge".  Our youngsters don't have to do all this. Enough, if they are at
least not discourteous and blatantly offending. 

OTHERWISE, EVEN THE FEW SCHOLORLY SENIORS IN
THE GROUP WHO WOULD BE WILLING TO SHARE THEIR
KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE WOULD BE SCARED
AWAY AND COMPELLED TO QUIT THE NET, LEAVING IT
TO BE A REAL ' CHATTER BOX'. 

I would request Mr Mani to set guidelines in this regard and set an example
by himself observing them in the first place.This is because it may be
'politically correct' for the ' lawmaker to be a law breaker' but it is not
so in our forum  which, I believe, would like to uphold the highest standards
of rectitude, respect and mutual understanding among the members of the net.

BD # 2.57 On Protocol Vs Content :

(i) I am grateful to Mr. VIJAY TRIPLICANE for calling me ' knowledgeable and
highly learned Bhakta'. I wish that I  could live up to his expectations. I
do agree that where objections are valid, they should be welcomed and I would
wholly support them. I only object to unfair and motivated criticism ON A
PERCEIVED NOTION OF ONE BEING MORE CORRECT THAN THE AUTHORS AND ON THAT
GROUND DENIGRATE THEM.   
(ii ) In Mr. BADRI'S posting, he refers to Mr DILEEPAN'S statement regarding
Madurakavi's "Thevu Matrariyen' being blasphemous. Our Sastras are never
tired of saying that one's Bhakti to one's Acharya should not be less than
Bhakti towards Bhagavaan himself. For the Sishya, his Acharys is verily God
and Bhagavaan will not feel jealous about his being sidelined in preference
to the Acharya. This is because the Acharya himself is a Bhaagavata and none
will be happier than Bhagavaan  to see his Bhaagavata being adored.
AN INGENIOUS ATTEMPT TO CREATE A RIFT BETWEEN BHAGAVAAN AND BHAGAVATA?!

(ii) On asking for personal mail : Mr RAYMOND CRAWFORD  remarks that it is '
nonsenscical to ask for personal mail'. There is nothing 'nonsensical' about
it,  if the following suggestions are followed :

I suggest that in the absence of 'editing' by the net, a viable alternative
would be for the critics to address their apprehensions in personal mails to
the authors. The authors should, in turn, verify the validity and issue
necessary corrigendum duly acknowledging the member suggesting the
correction, perhaps with a ' thank you' note.

In such a situation, the critics and the authors would be encouraged to adopt
a more temperate language in mutual communications and the needless
bitterness could be eliminated from the public net. If the critic does not
get a reply at all within a reasonable time, or is not satisfied with the
reply, he / she has always the liberty to go public. Any frivolous arguments
and misunderstandings can be resolved at a personal level and the net need
not be cluttered with such stuff. I hope this is not an unreasonable
proposal. It has nothing to do with age or other considerations and would
pave the way for an amicable arrangement.

'The subject matter need not drop from sight' and Mr Crawford need not ' feel
left hanging waiting for more information because it has gone into personal
mails'. If he is really a serious seeker, he could always approach the author
directly and get clarifications much before they get published in the net.
This he will do, unless he is interested in watching some fireworks at the
expense of genuine Srivaishnavas.

For my part, Let me assure you that I will not allow anything to go in
default and will take the earliest opportunity to clear any genuine doubts to
the best of my knowledge and ability. Though I may not be able to answer your
questions pat as in a quiz program, I shall answer those I can readily
answer. For others, I shall consult source materials or get clarifications
from our Acharyas and provide authentic answers ASAP. But, this will
naturally take some time and you will have to bear with me.

In fact, I am receiving numerous personal mails and phone calls both from
within and outside this net and I have been offering explanations and
clarifications as expeditiously as possible. 

Here is one of the numerous responses I got for my ' Reply to some queries'.

" Woderful posting. Very authoritative and conclusive with no Ifs and Buts.
That is how Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika wrote their works. I enjoy this very
much. Please accept my Pranams and forgive my offences"

Here is one from Mr MANI himself : - " Thank you for posting the wonderful
story of the Mudhal Aazhwars and enlightening the net in this regard. You are
right. The sweet Paasurams of our Aazhwars are simply incomparable"

Thanks for your patience.

Dasoham 

Anbil Ramaswamy