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Pittsburgh Baktha sammElanam - An abstract of proceedings

From: Sampath Rengarajan (
Date: Fri May 29 1998 - 08:56:23 PDT

Dear BAgawathALS,

Welcome to the bAgawthALs who are back from the conference.  It is
a  tradition   that  adiyEn   write  about  the  abstract  of  the
conferences   adiyEn  attended  and  took  some  role  in  it.  As
requested by Sri VS and other  friends,  adiyen has  attempted  to
present the abstract of the speeches once again from the bottom of
my memory.

This  conference is much more than many others.  I need to write a
few lines on this.  First of all  "Bravo,  Sriman  Sadagopan.  You
did it 'again'."  Yeah "AGAIN".  Some bakthALS  who are seeing Sri
VS only now, want to honor him with a title for his performance in
this conference.  It is a very good thought to do so.  He has done
it before and now and  remains as  sArdhulams  and  thilakams  for
ever.  Sri Sadagopan is doing such a wonderful kaimkaryam for many
years now.  "He was and is and will always be a thilakam".

Coming back to the conference, I will write on the portions of the
conference  that was not covered by Sri  V.Sadagopan  in his write
up.  It is a norm to  write  abstract  as per the  order  that was
followed.  It is in this context that I have to write the abstract
of the  speeches  in the  order  that  they were  delivered,  ie.,
begining with the abstract  from my speech.  The speeches  started
with  adiyEn  delivering  what  was  seemed  tough  to cover in 45
minutes on 5 AzwArs aruLich cheyals.

In brief, I first  delivered on puRa iruL i.e.  external  darkness
and aga iruL i.e., internal darkness and prathyaksham i.e.  direct
appearance of the divine  dampathis as the outer most  meanings of
the three AzhwArs  muthal moonRu thiru  anthAthis.  Then I went on
to explain para bhakthi  nilai, para nyAna nilai and param bhakthi
nilai  as  the  inner  message  of  their  300  pAsurams.  I  then
delivered  some  aspects  on the most  important  concepts  of our
siddantham  charama  slokam and  thirumanthiram  and dwayam as the
inner most anubavam of these 300 verses.

I attempted to present a different  concept in the  vyAkyAnams  of
these  300 as to  how  one's  mukthi  nilai  led  the  others  and
emphasized the company of bAgawathALs  such as the  sathsangams of
Pittsburgh  and the others in the past.  I dealt one  pasuram  for
each of these 3 AzhwArs and  attempted  to explain all these three
layers in them.  I will write about it in detail  later.  On thiru
mazhisai   AzhwAr  I  delivered  on  parathatthva   nirnayam  i.e.
validation of supremacy of Sriman  nArayana as the message of this
AzhwAr and dealt his neermai in a pasuram.  I finally concluded as
to why all these four  stages are of less  value in the  spiritual
ladder and urged  everyone  to choose the 'ellai  nilai' or "final
state"  declared  in thirup pAn  AzhwAr's  pasuram  to choose  the
bAgawatha  kaimkaryam as their purushaarttham and serve sri VS and
Venkat  in  building  the Sri  Ranganatha  temple.  I  finished  7
minutes earlier than the allotted time.  (*)

Sri  Madhavan   dealt  at  great   length   about  Sri   Vaishnava
gurupArampariyam  in  the  beginning  in  a  very  clear  way  and
explained  the  hierarchy.  He then went on to talk on the essence
of  naMMazhwar's  arulich cheyal on Lord Venkatan.  He finished 15
minutes  earlier  than the  allotted 45 minutes  time and the lost
time was regained.

Sri Ragavan  talked  about  ANDAL's  arulich  cheyals.  He took an
elaborate  attempt  to bring  out the 6 angas of  sarangathi  from
ANDAL' s pasurams and most of them from nAcchiyAr  thirumozhi.  He
also  provided  his  insightful  study as to how ANDAL  loved Lord
Venkatan as a lover and  worshipped  Lord  Arangan as a pirAn from
naachiyar  thirumozhi  pasuramns.  He also  attempted  to  connect
thiruppavai and naachiyaar  thirumozhi and provided insights as to
how they are so  enjoyable  to have an  anubavam.

"Sri Swami Desika darsana nidarsaka Simham", Sri Anbil Swami dealt
on  the  basics  first  as to who  is a  vaishnavan  and  who is a
srivaishnavan.  He  then  went  onto   explain   the   details  on
saranagathi as observed in  Srivaishnavam.  The extent of pramAnam
he  presented  amazed me.  There were so many  quotes  from vedas,
upanishads AzhwAr pasurams, sri sukthis and slokams as well.  This
is a high pitched speech delivered in a very voiceful and forceful
style.  I am reminded of our  kalaskshEbams  in India.  One cannot
go without  the words of nirvEdam  ringing in their ears after his
speech.  Meaningful  explanations  were presented in his speech on
nirvEdam as a part of saranagathi.

Now comes the power house  speech of Sri Krishna  Kalale.  Oh man,
did guys in Washington  write his speech ?  (you all may know that
Washington is known as the speech capital of the world).  Kidding!
He  delivered  such an eloquent  and dynamic  speech that I cannot
forget.  It was  also  hitech  ,  ,i.e.  he  used  his  laptop  to
present.  May be it was an  artillery  firing  across the  border.
No, No, it was  heavy  shelling  and  pounding  on the  opponent's
lines.  He went onto tell us as to how Bagwath  Sri  Ramanuja  saw
Sri Sankara's advaitham and opened it out loose and easy for us to
understand in perspective as to why we  Srivaishnavas  must reject
it.  It was like a pandora  box as he digged  into  each and every
aspect and denying  them  contradicting  them and one aspect after
the  other  fell in dismay at the  hands of Sri  Kalale'e  skilled
discourse.  He  went  on to  prove  that  the  sareera  aspect  of
advaitham  preached by others holds water as per the  vyaakyaanams
of Sri  Ramanuja.  These are not my words  but Sri  Ramanuja's  as
interpreted by Sri kalale's.  So please  forgive me if anyone feel
offended  by these .  He  delivered  these in an  unique  style in
which the  sanskrit  original  slokams  were  delivered  first and
English translations spelled out as a follow up.  NarAyana, adiyEn
and Sri VS were worried if this heavy subject is too heavy for the
timing of the day i.e.  the last event of the first day.  But many
people stayed put and didn't leave as this high voltage speech was
delivered.  He had to wind up the critical  view of advaitham  and
deal the last 10  minutes on what Sri  Ramanuja  told us about Sri
Vishishtaadvaidam  as the  hall  had  to be  vacated  for  evening
cultural  events at 5:30pm.  I very much  wanted to hear this part
more than the  previous  one and  pleaded  to him to cover this in
great detail next time.  He did accept to do so.

In the  evening  we  participated  in  Sri  Vishnu  Sahasra  nAmam
pArAyanam at Sri Bindhu  mAdhavn's house and the dinner was served
there as well.  There was a mini  session on Srimad  Rahasya  trya
saaram rendered by Sri Anbil Swami.  He did cover 22 adikaarams in
as short as 1 hour and 15 mintes.  Besides,  there  were  questions
and  answers  and Sri Anbil was also kind  enough  to part us with
some of the confidential  discussions he had with his AchAryAn and
cleared some fundamental doubts even for Sri VS and few of us.  It
was an useful time spent as well.

Once  again I will  cover  day 2's  speeches  mainly.  Sri  Vijaya
Ragavan  delivered a powerful speech on daya sathakam.  I am in no
doubt that this was  indeed the best  speech of its kind.  One may
ask  how  much  one  can  talk  on a  slokam  ?  Believe  me,  the
quotations and references made by Sriman  Vijayragavn  were simply
unmatchable  and people were  chanting  some of these verses as he
was going through them in an "appealing  speech".  Hats off to Sri
VJRagavan.  It is indeed a wonderful  speech with so much research
and efforts  that were dealt in.  He referred  to many  aspects of
saranagathi as well in his speech.  The speech was within the time
slot and as well wide in  content.  I am  extremely  happy to have
heard  this  speech  which  marks  as  one  of the  jewel  of  the

Sri   Varadhan   first  talked  about  the  AchArya   vaibavam  of
thirumangai's  life and went on to deliver the fundamentals of the
six prabahndams of thirumanagi briefly.  He then was swift to move
into the 60 and odd pasurams of thirmangai  AzhwAr.  The important
thing to note is that when the other 3 of us dealt few pasurams or
only the essence of the respective  AzhwAr's  arulich  cheyals, he
went  through  each and every  pasuram  with some  quick  meaning.
While   doing  so  he   touched   on  two   important   aspect  of
thirumjangai's pasuram i.e.  naicchi anusanthaanam and saranagathi
as well.  His speech was very fast in  delivery  and was having so
much of details to cover on all the 60 and odd pasurams  delivered
by this AzhwAr on Sri Venkatan.

Sri Krishnan of Buffalo spoke nicely on periaszwar's  vaibavam and
delivered  a related  speech on the  AzhwAr 's  aruLich  cheyal on
thiruvenkata  mudaiyaan.  The important thing to note here is that
he and his wife who performed a musical  rendition are  physicians
in buffalo  and took  enormous  effort to prepare  and  attend the
conference   despite  their   pressing   service  needs  of  their
profession.  Sri Krishnan is also from thirup pathi and is closely
associated with the festivities in thirumalai.  His love for thiru
venkata  mudaiyaan is second to none. (***).

Sri Murali  delivered  a strong  speech on Sri  Kulasekara  AzhwAr
pasurams.  He first  briefly  went over the  history of AzhwAr and
then  delivered on the essence of each of the  patthus.  Initially
his speech  seemed  cautious but later on it was very casual as he
delivered in a very friendly  manner that was very  interesting as
well.  He  discussed  the 4m  patthu  wherein  the  references  to
thiruvenkata   mudaiyaan   is  dealt.  His   insights   and  cross
references were thoroughly enjoyable.  Sri Murali is a great thiru
venkata  bhakthaL  himself  and  his  insights  also  covered  his
favourite  references  to Sri Chakram and Sri  Narasimhan  and Sri
Haygreevan  and pranavA karam.  His mother was visiting from India
and indeed it was a proud moment for a mother to see her son shine
so well in the podium alongwith the other learned speakers.

Sri MG Prasad gave a brilliant lecture of  purandaradaasa  krithis
on Lord thiru  venkatan.  There were  singers who sang some of the
songs as well.  He also talked both about Kanaka DaasA in addition
to Purandara  DaasA.  HIs AchArya Bhakthi , His clear and coherent
way of  presenting  is  always a  pleasure  to  experience.  Prof.
Prasad has always  delivered  his speech in a pace that anyone can
follow  very  easily.  There is no speech that can be compared  to
his delivery and clarity.

Sri Venkat  Kannumaala  spoke on  mahAviswasam  and charged us all
with a vibrant  speech.  His speech had some humorous  comparisons
from practical walk of life (ie comparing  swargam to a star hotel
etc) and very very  serious  thoughts as well.  He drew  extensive
references from Srimad  bAgwatham from Sri VyAsar both in sanskrit
and the telugu  versions.  His appeal for us to keep our  visvasam
on Lord was very passionate and touching and memorable.

Later Sri Krishna VJRagavan read out the well prepared material on
Swami Annamaccharya's life story and connected to the krithis sung
By Smt Myhili Sri  Krishnan.  He is the son of Sri Vijaya  Ragavan
and is very young and it is important to note that he is following
the foot steps of his father  very very  closely.  That marked the
end of all the speeches.

Sri Narendra Reddy who is the education  committee chairman of the
temple was so helpful  and I am  surprised  to see a person of his
sAthvikam.  Despite  hectic  conference  schedule he  performed  a
srArdham  during  the lunch  break  and  attended  all the  events
without fail.  AdiyEn thank him for all his patient  listening and
gestures in going over some micro details of the  arrangements  in
these 2 days.

There  were  other  attendants  who were also to be noted  are Sri
Jagan and Sri Ramesh of Sri Ahobila  muth were helping Sri Ahobila
muth and Sri Ranaganatha temple raise funds.  They did a wonderful
bagwath kaimkaryam.  Sri Murali kidambi and his brother Sri Kesava
prasad Sri Srirram and Smt ManjulA  were helpful in general to the
speakers nad other  attendants as well.  Smt Manjula's  zeal to do
bAgwatha kaimkaryam is very much appreciated.  Sri Kidambi Sriram,
Sri Saranatha  battar, Sri Lakshmanan of pp andavan  ashramam, Sri
Bindhu  Madhavan  and his brother  Sri Bindhu  Srinivasan,  Sri MR
Srinivasan,  were also  attending and we enjoyed  their company as
well.  A professor  from NY with his 15 HINDU  religious  students
was taking notes on the first day afternoon  speeches.  There were
host of  westerners  among a packed hall  attending  my friend and
honorable  Sri Madurai  Sundar's  delightful  concert.  There were
close to 80 chairs  approximately  in the  conference  hall  which
covers  approximately  100 square  foot.  All the chairs were full
most of the  time.  And there  were  atleast  100 to 120  passing,
standing  people anytime.  The attendance was peak during noon and
immediately after noon on day 1 and day 2 raising to around 350 to

We would like to thank the  President of the Temple , SrI Damodhar
Prabhu and Srimathi  SudhA Vatsan , another  Board Member and many
others who were helping us in running this event succesfully.  The
President  Dr  Sarpeskar  and a host of  other  committee  members
mentioned  to me that this  conference  is many times  superior in
content to all the previous  conferences held earlier.  The credit
also goes to all  speakers who  delivered  such  contents  and the
chairman  Sri  Sadagopan  who led and made it  possible.  The most
important  thing to note is that unlike the other  conferences  of
the past this conference was arranged using remote control (****).
i.e.  Sri Sadagopan  was not in Pittsburgh  and nor adiyEn and the
participants  were there to arrange  anything.The  efforts  Sri VS
took to care about every thing is definitely Himalayan considering
the "remote  control" effect of this  conference.  Everyone simply
flocked in, the day before and some came in only on the second day
to just deliver their speech.  But due to bagawAn's thiru aruL and
the efforts of Dr Reddy and other helpers in pittsburgh temple and
constant  follow up  through  emails  from Sri VS, all these  were
carried out in a wonderful  manner as similar to Buffalo,  NewYork
and Denver conferences of last two years.

Some of us who are also the board  members of Sri Ahobila muth USA
board, and  members of SDDS met in the temple  quarters  under the
leadership  of Sri Jagan Vice  President of Ahobila  muth, USA and
Sri Anbil SDDS President, and held  deliberations as to how we can
plan the next  conference at Pomona NY during Sept 5, 6,and 7.  As
pointed out by Sri KKalale it is becoming  increasingly  efficient
and each  conference is excelling the previous one in  succession.
The speakers  and  attendants  may only see a slot of 30, 45 or 60
minute  speeches or drama or music  performances.  But it takes so
much lead planning and efforts in advance for the chairman and his
committee  and the  silent  kaimkarya  parALs  to sweat so much to
bring out the  fruits so nicely.  We would like to also  thank the
wives Mrs kalale, Mrs Jagan, Mrs  Rengarajan,  Mrs Kidambi Sriram,
Mrs Ragavan of chicago, Mrs Kannan  swamy, Mrs Kesava  prasad, Mrs
Murlai Rangaswamy, Mrs Sriram Kidambi, Mrs Bindhu Madhavan and Mrs
Bindhu  Srinivasan, Mrs Venkat  Kannumalla,  Mrs  Lakshmanan,  Mrs
Saranatha battar, Mrs MR Srinivasan, and Mrs Nadthur madhavan, and
all the children of the above mentioned  patthinis.  These are the
silent heros who also made this conference a successful one simply
by their  patience  and help they  rendered to their  partners and
parents in working for and  helping in  whatever  way they can for
the  conference.  Why we write  these is to remind you all that it
is also your  co-operation  and  participation  that  makes  these
sathsangams   successful.  We  look   forward   to  the  same  for
organizing  the Sept  conference in Pomona with your  co-operation
and participation in full.

After the  conference,  my family, Sri Anbil, Sri  Varadhan  and I
left for cleveland.  On the way, adiyEn narrowly escaped colliding
with a herd of deer in the twilight due to bagwaN's  grace.  I was
driving at high speed and spotted two deers first 100 meters  away
and I  slowed  down to 50's but  then  something  made me look for
somemore and there was one more rushing just 30 meters ahead and I
pounded on my brakes to avoid  collision  and then cooled down and
thanked Lord and reached home for a tiring Monday.

Sampath Rengarajan

note:  (*) I was going  back and  forth  working  on some  *minor*
details  and loose ends as  instructed  by Sri VS, with the temple
committee from then on.  I was also kept busy by my son Chi Sravan
who was keen on doing a story  for Lord  Narasimha.  (He did so in
the  evening).  However, my mind was focused on the talks and I am
attempting  to  re-present  the  gist  of  it to  the  best  of my
knowledge and recollection.  I seek forgiveness from speakers if I
missed any important aspects of their speeches.

(**) Being a pasuram  lover, I loved this speech and its  insights
very  well.  At one stage he said he has been  studying  these for
the last 1 and a half month as a preparation for this  conference.
I am also  aware  of some of the  speakers  for whom  tamil is not
their mother  tounge but were chosen to speak on pasurams did also
take that much time and extra care to prepare.  The  readers  must
know that  there is so much  effort  that has gone in to make this
speech so enjoyable and such speeches in all also make  the  whole
conference successful.  All the speakers did a wonderful job.

(***) He was also the  co-sponsor  for the first  ever  conference
that was  conducted  two years ago in Buffalo.  Someone  said that
the conference  culture is growing among  srivaishnavas  after the
pioneering  efforts made by this gentlemen and Sri VJ Ragavan with
SDDS in  1996.  i.e.  in  tamil if I must  say,  "AnRu  Buffalovil
ERRiya viLakku inRu engum OLi vittu  eRikiRathu" .  i.e.  the lamp
that was lit in 1996 at Buffalo and  continued  at Newyork in Sept
1997 and in Denver the same year, is now carried  over and burning
in many other places.  Thanks to these gentlemen and bAgawathAs of
Buffalo.  adiyEn  and few of us can never  forget  the  successful
Buffalo  conference.  It was  bAgyam  to serve Sri  VJRagavan  and
Buffalo vAsis and SDDS in 1996 Dec conference  and was a bAgyam to
serve Sri Venkat and NY vaasis and SDDS during 1997 Sep conference
and it is now a  bAgyam  to  serve  Sri  Sadagopan  and a host  of
participants during this conference at Pittsburgh in 1998.

(****)  adiyEn and Sri  VJRagavan  had the  bAgyam of  serving  to
arrange some very minor  details  through email in addition to the
enormous attempts made by Sri VS.  I alone stand as a testimony to
all the 100s of emails Sri VS made in arranging, as he copied them
to me alone on these  things  and  requested  adiyEn  to assist in
running the  conference  in whatever way I can.  There were always
moments  of   frustrations  in  both adiyEn's and Sri VS's mind in
meeting  the  required  arrangements during these exchanges. ie It
is not between myself and Sri VS but between we two together   and
the others on the receiving side of the mails.

But eventually  everything resolved very well  and in  time. It is
as  similar  to  conducting  a  wedding
ceremony.  And as  said  by Sri AR,  Sri VS did  deserve  all  the
credits for this  splendid work and  leadership.  This is the best
way we can serve our elders and like many  others, I also chose to
do my assigned tasks with  enuthusiasm and went some extra mileage
and had  pleasure  in doing so.  That is all.  As claimed by me in
NY confernce  adiyEn firmly  believes that only by doing  bAgwatha
kaimkaryam the annyAnam is cleared for us and our children who are
growing up in this confused atmosphere.