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Re: CLARIFY ME PLEASE

mohan_r_sagar_at_yahoo.com
Date: Thu Nov 29 2001 - 08:59:04 PST

Respected Devotee,

I apologize in advance for this long posting.  But, in response to 
your questions:

Our AchAryas teach us that the names contained in Sri Vishnu 
SahasranAmam are
proper nouns, Sanskrit words with a precise and clear meaning that 
reveal to us
His countless good qualities, his anantakalyAna gunas.  Our AchAryas 
teach how the Lord, out of His Compassionate and All Encompassing 
Desire to Save us, uses each guna like a rope to ensnare us with His 
charm us and lead us back to Himself.    Consequently, each name 
should be seen as an object of blissful contemplation on the nature 
of the Divine.

The question arises though as to how some of these names became 
applied to
other deities. Just as we select names for our children from Sri 
Vishnu
SahasranAmam, e.g., Rama, Krishna, Srinivasa, etc., for the purposes 
of
extolling the Lord and ensuring that our children are protected by 
Him,
simillary the plethora of souls who occupy the various exalted 
positions of
dEvathas in the Universe have names in recognition of and in 
gratitude to He
is the very source of their power and strength. So, while there is a 
being
named Siva who assumes a particular place in this Universe in order 
to perform
certain services to the Lord, he only bears a name of the Lord, and
cannot and should not be equated with Him.  Nor should the name Siva, 
which
has a proper and precise Sanskrit meaning that applies to Srimana 
Narayana
alone, be seen as saying that our Lord Sriman Narayana is the same 
Siva who
sits in meditation in the Himalayas, wears animal skins, and carries 
the
Ganga on his head.

The Supremacy of Sriman Narayana and the proper understanding of His 
Names
were once understood and accepted by all followers of Vedic 
Culture,.  Indeed,
our AchAryas tell us that even staunch advaitins such as Sri Adi 
Shankara
were worshippers of Vishnu.  However, over the years, with increased
secularization, and decreased interest in Vedic study, a new form of 
neo-Vedic theology has come into vogue, in which all the gods, and 
indeed many gurus and mystics, are put on par with Sriman Narayana, 
being seen as different interpretations or different aspects of the 
same being.  This theology, which has been dubbed as Neo-advaitam or
American Hinduism by western scholars, has become especially popular 
here in
the US, as it allows people of many different faiths, Saivas, 
Vaishnavas,
Smarthas, Jains, etc.,  to gather together and interact in bhajans 
and temple
worship.  While it certainly is well-intended, it is a far cry from 
the
teachings of SriVaishnavam, which identify the Divine as having a 
unique name, Sriman Narayana, and clearly specified forms as para, 
vyuha, vibhava, antariyAmin and archa avAtharas.

This then leads us to your other question.  What to do at the at these
undoubtedly well-intended and  spiritually inspiring gatherings where 
the many deities are worshipped and adored through pooja and 
bhajana?  As prapannas, there is no other refuge, no other means to 
our achieving the Divine, other than placing ourselves and all that 
we care about under the protection of His Lotus Feet.  As a result, 
we feel no need to worship any other deity, and indeed, to do so 
would question our faith in our surrender and would show disrespect 
to our AchAryas who have blessed us with the sacraments of 
surrender.  Consequently, orthodox practitioners of our faith prefer 
to avoid these more generic gatherings out of respect towards our 
teachers.  And, in India, where many of our scholars reside, most 
people would recognize their dedication towards Sriman Narayana and 
out of respect for this, would not trouble them to feel obligated to 
attend these gatherings.

But, for the rest of us, particularly those of us living in big 
cities in India or here in the USA, the need to participate in these 
group gatherings is necessary to maintain our connection with our 
community and of course, to provide us with a forum to develop our 
own sense of faith.  It should be noted that recitation of the Lord's 
Holy Names is extolled by our AchAryas as a form of service to the 
Lord in and of itself.  Our AchAryas teach us that such a recitation 
is easy as it pleasing to the senses, and can be performed by anyone 
at anytime.  Consequently, in my unqualified opinion, to be able to 
recite His Names at a bhajana gathering, along with other devotees 
(irrespective of their beliefs) is just as efficacious as if we were 
chanting them before our own perumAl at home or at the temple.  So, I 
personally feel that our dedication to our siddhAntam would not  be 
jeopardized if we were to attend these bhajans, as long as in our 
mood and attitude we maintain the teachings of our AchAryas.

In such a mood, the names of the Lord can be chanted freely and 
openly, with the view of the Lord in our home or temple in our mind 
and heart.  When bhajans or poojas are performed to other deities, we 
should either sit quietly and observe, chanting dvAyam mentally, or 
we should chant along, recognizing that what we are doing is merely a 
form of bhAgavatha kainkaryam, offering our respects to a fellow 
devotee of the Lord.  When asked to lead a bhajan, we should sing 
only of His Greatness, and the Greatness of our AchAryas or AzhvArs. 
At the conclusion of the bhajans, we must maintain respect for our 
Ramanuja Darshanam by not taking the hArathi lamp to ourselves and 
not placing kumkumam or vibhuti prasadam on our foreheads, as this 
place is reserved only for His thiruvadi.

In terms of service, service to those who seek to serve the Divine is 
the goal of all bhAgavathas.  While SriVaishnava devotees are ideally 
the ones we should seek to serve, this may not always be possible in 
the USA or in larger cities in India.  So, we should recognize the 
followers of these other paths as devotees in their own right, and 
seek to serve them in a way that would be helpful to them, while at 
the same time, not infringing upon our obligations to our siddhAntam.

I hope this helps.

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
Mohan





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