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Musings on Vega-setu stotra

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Nov 27 1996 - 01:34:55 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear bhAgavatOttamas,

In my last posting we narrated the episode in the Srimad Bhagavatham where
Krishna remarks to his foster-mother, Yasodha : "It is only when I am bound,
amma, that you can ever hope to be free". She mulled over it. Then we said
that what Yasodha fully grasped from Krishna's words (which her neighbour
didn't fathom) could be said to be an excellent illustration of the
esotericism of "gathAgathAni" in Verse #6 of the Vega-setu stotra.

Which leaves us with some stark questions : What did Yasodha understand ?
And how is it an illustration of "gathAgathAni" as we understand it in the
context of the 'vega-setu stotra' ?

What Yasodha understood perfectly from Krishna's words was that there is a
strange and mysterious principle of INVERSION that determines relations
between godhead and man.

"gathAgathAni", as phrased by Swami Desikan in his "vega-setu stotra", also
is a delectable illustration of the principle of "INVERSION" that governs
the equation between  two different states of consciousness viz., that of
"mortality" and of "divinity".

Hence Yasodha could be said to be one of the earliest but rather elusive
"vyAkhyAna-kartA-s" of the "gathAgathAni" effect !!

Let me explain all this.

If you look closely, both in the phrase "gathAgathAni" in the "vega-setu
stotra" and in Yasodha's understanding of Krishna's remarks in the
Bhagavatham story, you will notice there is a common underlying element of
an "inverse relationship" working somewhere within the two. 

Please recollect now the standard explanation to Verse #6 of the "stotra"
which states that as a devotee dwells ever more deeply and faithfully on the
Lord's "shuttling" (in the Tirumazhisai Alwar episode) he begins to
progressively sense a gradual decline in his own frenzied and 'karmic'
restlessness and can eventually experience complete cessation of his own
"shuttling between "death" and "re-birth"". Now look closely, please, and
you will observe the "inversion" occuring here in the "divine" element as it
is said to begin shuttling just as soon as the "mortal" element ceases its
shuttle; conversely, observe the "divine element" not performing
"gathAgathAni" so long as the "mortal element" remains caught up in eternal
"pUnaRapi-janam-pUnaRapi-maRaNam" !

Next,in the case of Yasodha in the Bhagavatham story the "principle of
inversion" is made self-evident by Lord Krishna himself when he subtly but
categorically tells his mother, "It is only when I am bound, amma, that you
can ever hope to be free." Although this was said in the dramatic context of
the Bhagavatham story, Krishna's pregnant remarks were not lost on Yasodha
as can be seen from how, in the episode, she alone grasps the import of it
all but leaves her neighbour behind utterly nonplussed. It is clear that
Yasodha fully comprehended the "element of inversion" that Krishna, the
divine child, was insinuating when He nonchalantly uttered the words,"I have
to be bound and all tied-up, amma, if you must become free" and then merrily
ran away to do more mischief !

Yasodha understood then clearly that a devotee must first learn to "bind"
the Lord to his heart by means of ropes ("siru-thAmbinAl kattU") woven out
of the strands of true 'bhakti' before he can lay claim to "release" from
his own mortal "coils".

"Acharyas" and great scholars point out that this very same "Principle of
Inversion", governing the interaction between "divinity and humanity", is
exemplified further elsewhere too in the Bhagavatham. Here are some instances :

-- when a devotee constantly dwells on the event of infant-Krishna being
"incarcerated" in the prison of Kamsa, then he is gradually himself "freed"
from human bondage ( i.e. "freedom" being the inverse of "incarceration")

-- when a devotee steadily contemplates on the various incidents in Gokulam
recounting Krishna "stealing" butter, then the devotee renders himself, or
his soul, fit to be "stolen" by the Lord ( i.e. here the object "stolen" is
deemed the inverse of the agency that "steals")

-- when a devotee constantly meditates on the various incidents in Gokulam
where Yasodha got "annoyed" with young Krishna for His incessant pranks,
then verily he paves the way for the Lord to treat the devotee's own
"pranks" in this earthly life (i.e. "pApa-pUnya karma-s") with a great deal
of "indulgence" (i.e. "indulgence" being the inverse of "annoyance")

-- when a devotee constantly remembers the fact that Krishna "served"
sometime his foster-father, Nandagopan, as a common shepherd or cow-boy,
then the devotee begins to sense within himself a "mastery" over his unruly
sense-organs that lead him astray in life ("servitude" being the inverse of
"mastery")

-- the more a devotee contemplates on the several incidents in Gokulam where
the child Krishna "hid" Himself, in the houses of "gopikas" and other
neighbours, to escape from his mother, the more clearly He "reveals" Himself
to the devotee within his inward mind (i.e. "hide" is the inverse of
"reveal").       

Thus, through Verse #6 of the "vega-setu stotram" of Swami Desikan, a very
subtle lesson can be learnt by all of us, and that is : in the relationship
between "mortality" and "eternity", between "sarira-sariri", between
"jivAtmA-paramAtmA" there is a very ethereal bond of relationship that is
characterised by a "Principle of Inversion". A true devotee of the Lord is
one who, our great 'Acharyas' say, has realized this principle not at just
the dry intellectual plane but at the heart of his very being.

Dear "bhAgavatOttamas", I know many of you have had excellent formal
education. Many of you are top-notch professionals in your own fields of
secular endeavour. Some of you in the US are the best talent from India
having gone from the IITs, the IIMs, colleges of engineering and computer
sciences back home. Now to you this "Principle of Inversion" I have been
talking about may sound a bit far-fetched and like a lot of "wooly" stuff.
You may look at this principle with a great deal of scepticism, as I myself
once used to do a long while ago. It might indeed strain your reasonable
faculties to have to believe that there is a "Principle of Inversion" that
mysteriously operates one's relationship with a personal God and which must
be mastered before one can begin to really appreciate the tenets and nuance
of Sri Vaishnavism.

To those of you who cannot help such thoughts I shall endeavour to offer an
honest explanation by way of "food for thought" in my next posting after
which I would like to conclude this series of "Musings on the Vega-setu stotra".

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha

sudarshan. 
srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha