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daya and its synonyms

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Wed Nov 06 1996 - 09:54:50 PST

srimathE sri lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear BhAgavatOttamas,

In my last posting on Verse 50 of the Daya Satakam, we took a hard critical
look at the phrase "jada" Swami Desikan employed in the line "manyE matha
jada iva sutE vatsala madriSe tvam". We saw that the term "jada", used in
the context in which Swami Desikan does in Verse 50, could well be aptly
interpreted as an esoteric reference (svapadEsam) to the cardinal concepts
of "sariri/sariri" and "na mama" that is expounded in the Sri
Vishishta-advaita school of monism.

The idea of "jada" -- insentient matter -- being regarded as the beneficiary
of the Lord's "daya", I had said, though not popular in "purana", has
nevertheless been described in the Srimad Bhagavatam in the sections
relating to Lord Krishna's "leela-s".(as I have heard it from Sri Mukkur
Swami II).

But before getting to that episode in the Bhagavatham in my next posting, I
had promised "bhAgavatottamas" in my last posting that I would narrate to
them a humorous anecdote (as I have heard it from my 'manaseega
guru",Sri.Mukkur Swamy II) to caution us all against using the term "jada"
pejoratively in daily life to refer to persons who we think are of low
intelligence and lacking in spiritual awareness. Here it is :

The anecdote dates back to the times of Sri.Parashara Bhattar who lived in
Sri Rangam.Sri.Parasharar, it seems, used to live in a house that adjoined a
part of the great wall that ran around the Lord Ranganatha temple.

Sri.Parasharar's house had a vast frontyard where he used to assemble his
disciples in the morning hours to tutor them in veda-abhyasa/ prabhandham/
dharma-sastra/ upanishads etc.This used to be a daily routine.

In the course of the daily classes, a great vedic vidwan used to pass by
Sri.Parasharar's frontyard on his way to the temple. He was a vedic exponent
of good repute in SriRangam and was known for his erudition in smritis,
srutis, sastra, tarka, nyasa etc.

Now when the vedic vidwan passed by SriParasharar's frontyard, Sri
Parasharar was known to have barely acknowledged the vidwan. He used to just
wave him on cordially but albeit perfunctorily. This used to surprise the
pupils who felt that Sri.Parasharar was giving short shrift to someone who,
by virtue of vedic learning, deserved much better treatment from their great
teacher, Sri.Parasharar.

Their surprise used to turn greater when, in a short while after the
vidwan's departure, another gentlemen used to turn up at the frontyard whom
Sri.Parasharar used to hail with extraordinary deference. This gentleman too
used to pass by Sri.Parasharar"s house everyday carrying a huge pot(pIpA) of
water for the temple "madapalli" (kitchen). This particular gentleman was
known in SriRangam to be slightly unsound of mind and sometimes given to
quirky behaviour although he was known to be an extremely faithful, cheerful
and willing "kainkarya-sevakan" (the Lord's valet) at the Sri Rangam temple
"madapalli". This gentleman was generally regarded as the "madapalli jadam"
or the "the temple-kitchen idiot".

Now when this "idiot" passed by Sri.Parasharar's front-yard daily
Sri.Parasharar was reported to have momentarily interrupted his tutorials,
get up in great deference and respectfully wish him "good-morning" in true
"vaishnava pari-bhasha" ( e.g. "swami ! adiyEn dasan, dEyvell tirumEni
paanga !" etc.). The "jada" used to perfunctorily reciprocate if he happened
to be in the right sort of mood or frame of mind, and if not, was known to
have sometimes just ignored Sri.Parasharar and pass on without as much as a
nod in acknowledgment.

This used to intrigue the pupils very much until one day one of them
gathered the courage to confront Sri.Parasharar and ask for an explanation
for his strange behaviour towards both the great vedic scholar as well as
towards the "madapalli jadam".

Sri.Parasharar was reported to have told his pupils, "ah, my dear pupils, I
am glad at last you've asked the question.So you wan't to know why I don't
accord the vedic vidwan the same deference I extend to the idiot, eh ? Wait
and see tomorrow."

The following day when the vedic vidwan as usual passed by, Sri.Parasharar
hailed him and requested him to just step in for a moment."Sir, my students
and I would be honoured to be in your presence this morning for a few
moments. Would you care to step in, Sir,", said Sri Parasharar. The vidwan
readily acceded.

Sri.Parasharar made the vidwan seat himself comfortably on the front-yard
seats ("tinnai"), offered him some refreshments (I wonder if they had coffee
in those days!) and then began asking the vidwan about the progress he was
making in his pursuit of vedic studies. To which the vidwan began recounting
at great length the various texts, treatises, essays, commentaries and
exegeses he had mastered in the field of dharma-sastra and various
siddhantas. Sri.Parasharar listened very patiently and nodded his head and
raised his eyebrows from time to time expressing his great admiration for
the titanic efforts the vedic vidwan related he was expending in his pursuit
of vedic truth.

Finally after a good part of an hour Sri.Parasharar asked the vidwan a question:

"Swami, I am truly impressed by your erudition. Tell me now, then, have you
mastered this little thing they call Para-tattvam? (the Supreme Principle)."

Confronted with this question squarely, the vidwan's face fell a little and
after a few moments of hesitation he confessed,"Oh, that, Sir, is what I am
now trying to grapple with. I'm hopeful of mastering it shortly if I put in
a little more effort."

Sri.Parasharar said, "Oh, I see. Very well, keep it up, Sir. And here's
wishing you all the best in your endeavours. Bye-bye and have a good day,
Sir.". The vedic vidwan then took leave of Sri.Parasharar and his assembly
of students.

In a little while the "madapalli" idiot came by carrying his outsized pot of
water on his shoulders. This day he looked to be in an extremely amiable
mood fortunately and Sri.Parasharar, as usual after wishing him
good-morning, requested him to step inside the house and spend a few moments
with him and his students. He grasped him by the shoulders and warmly bade
him in and made him sit beside him and offered him refreshments.

The "jada" was now dumb-struck and nervously fidgeted not knowing what on
earth he was doing in this august company of great vedic students.

After a while Sri.Parasharar told him,"Sir, you may wondering why I have
invited you over for a chat this morning. I am sorry to be bothering you in
the midst of your busy work-schedule this morning. But I was wondering, Sir,
if you could help me and my students here out in a matter of great
philosophical significance. I need your clarification. Perhaps you would
kindly oblige?".

On hearing this the "jada" virtually shook with fear and said,"Oh, great
Parashara, you and your assemblage are great vedic students.Why do you
choose me to clarify a matter of philosophic doubt. Either you are all
crazy, crazier than they say I am, or you all want to have a recess of fun
this morning at my expense by mocking a dumb soul like me!!!".

Sri.Parasharar smiled at the man's disarming simplicity and then told the
idiot,"No, sir, far from it, we are truly serious. We think you might be
able to solve a question that is greatly agitating us."

"Very well, then Sir,", said the "jada", "what is it?".

"Sir,", Sri.Parasharar continued," these student have been pestering me with
a question for many days now. However, I have been unable to come up with a
proper answer for it eludes my intellect and learning. I am utterly at a loss."

"And pray what is that question, Sir,", asked the village idiot.

"These students want to know what is "para-tattva" (the Supreme Principle).
And I just can't seem to be able to explain it to them", said Sri.Parasharar.

For a moment the 'jada' sat immobile as if stunned out of his wits. Then he
asked Sri.Parasharar incredulously," What ! Do I hear you right, Sir! You
say you don't know 'para-tattva'? Are you sure?".

"Yes Sir, so it is", said Sri.Parasharar.

On hearing this the "jada" suddenly got up, clenched his teeth and his face
contorted in livid anger. He put his hands on his hips and yelled in
Sri.Parasharar's face like a man outraged. The students all feared that the
'jada' had been attacked by his occasional bouts of dementia.

The jada shouted,"Hey, you rotten Parashara, now I realise what a great hoax
and fraud you are. You've been taking us all for a ride all these years
passing off as a man of great learning and wisdom. I feel sorry for all
these children you have assembled here to impart your empty lessons. I feel
sorry for their parents who have sent them to be your wards believing you
will impart the truth to them. Alas, oh my God, Oh Ranganatha, look at this
guy, he is the pits, he says he has been teaching sastra and veda to these
little souls and we find out he does not even know 'para-tattva' !!!".

The students were aghast at all this.

The jada continued,"You humbug Parashara, you want to know what para-tattva
is. Here, I'll tell you. I have always known it. If you had asked me earlier
I would have taught it to you many years ago. Here is 'para-tattva' for you."

So saying the 'madapalli-jada' in a show of great anger heaved his great pot
of water over his head and with all his might flung it like a missile across
the front-yard and sent it sailing through the street. With a great "thump"
the pot crashed into the temple wall of Lord Ranganatha.

"Look, you rotten Parashara", said the 'jada', "look sharply. I'll show you
where para=tattva is. It's over there. You see where the pot crashed on the
wall. Now, that's where 'para-tattva' is. It is lying right behind the wall
in the sanctum-sanctorum. It's been lying there for all times, this
para-tattva you want to ask me about, it's been there for all times and will
be for all times.It's name is Ranganatha.And if you didn't know it all these
years,well now you know, and you better understand it well.So that you don't
fool these little children here anymore."

So saying the "jada" (Swami Desikan's creature of the Daya Satakam) walked
away from Sri.Parashara in a fit of outrage.

Sri.Parashara smiled and turned to his disciples and said, "Now, dear
children, you tell me whom should I show due deference? To the one who after
many years of study and 'veda-abhyasam' says he is still to understand
"para-tattvam' or to the one who in a trice has shown that he not only
understands what 'para-tattvam' is but also has actually shown me where the
'para-tattvam' resides!! To whom should I bow my head in deep obeisance now,
you tell me?".

The disciples all understood the great lesson of Sri.Parashara Bhattar.

Do you all understand too, dear "bhAgavatOttamas" ?

srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha



srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha