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Re: Food For Thought

From: Ramesh Sarangapani (
Date: Sun Nov 29 1998 - 12:51:57 PST

Dear Friends -

Most of the time a remain a bystander with out opening my
mouth, but Sri Viji's post has impelled me respond. Being
thanksgiving and all that, I hope you wouldn't mind some
more "food for thought" :-)

On Fri, 27 Nov 1998 vraghuna@CALFED.COM wrote:

> Dear Bhaktas,

> Sometime back, there was a discussion about how to get children inculcated 
> in our philosophy. I have a suggestion. It's not by lecturing them at a 
> young age on the "foodstuffs that increase Rajo or Tamoh Gunaas etc". I had 
> an uncle who'd rant and rave about this, and at age eight I never understood 
> what the bad guNas were and what they'd make of me if i acquired them (of 
> course since i only ate at a srivaishnava home like most children that age, 
> i never quite understood the need for such seemingly unnecessary and dire 
> warnings). Also, while supposedly following "ahara" rules, my uncle didn't 
> seem too sAtvik to me.  I strongly suspected that the means to increase the 
> bad guNas were not hidden in onions but in people.

Shastras are one thing and how one communicates this
to others is something different. Just because a person
"lays down a law" forcefully does not make the law/rule
a bad one. All our achraryas have taught us shastras by
personal example. This is exactly what elders in each
family should do while communicating these "niyamanas" to
youngsters (teach them by personal example and give them
ample time to learn). At the same time we should be as
strict in following these rules ourselves and should
not take it upon overselves to make judgement calls when
it comes to shastras. Althought it is easier said than
done, where there is a will there is a way!

> My grandmother had a book called "Bhakta Vijayam" in which in one story, 
> some wonderfully strict Brahmanas stay for a day at a woman's house on their 
> way between theertha sthalams. The woman doesn't seem to follow our many 
> rules, and the bhaktas are most offended. Extremely disturbed, they are yet 
> unable to leave that night itself as the nearest place is too far and they 
> plan to get away early in the morning. The next morning, they hear the puja 
> bell, and knowing that the woman has not even gone for a bath, they are now 
> enraged. They peep thru the window of the puja room, and are awestruck. For 
> what do they see... there is the woman, lovingly feeding someone, and 
> bending more, they see that it is the "thavazhum Krishnar" in the altar who 
> gets out of his "thottil" to eat from her hand. Bathing would take 10 
> minutes and one can get fit for prayer, it is cleansing the mind and heart 
> (and thought and speech) that take a lifetime and more...

This is a nice story...but misleading. It gives the impression
that cleanliness of the mind is more important that that of the
body. While this may seem true, cleanliness of mind is not a quality
that one can easily acquire. The way I have been taught by elders
in my family is that all the rules and regulations that are layed out
in our shastras enable one to acquire this state of "clean
mind" as time progresses. Seen in this perspective, forsaking
coffee or garlic are only a few limited steps in a more
comprehensive set of "niyamanam". But all of them have to
be followed. If a person selectively filters just a few
"niyamanam" into his/her life style and leaves the rest, it
is likely that this person may take longer to reach this
state of "clean mind" as compared to a person who follows
all the rules.

Another important point: once we understand that shastras
are Perumals "tiru-ullam" and that we need to follow shastras
for His sake, then most of these "attitude problems" will

adiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan
Ramesh Sarangapani