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Articles for SharaNagati Journal prepared by Oppiliappan Sannidhi U.Ve. Dr.V.N.VedAntha Desikan : Part I

From: Sadagopan (sgopan_at_computer.net)
Date: Sun Oct 08 2000 - 06:17:18 PDT

SrimathE RaamAnujAya Nama:

Dear BhakthAs:

As the editor of SarNAgathi Journal,
adiyEn had requested Vangipuram NavanItham
VedAntha Desikan Swamy of Oppiliappan 
Sannidhi to bless us with few articles for 
the SaraNAgathi Journal .

He has been gracious enough to send me
two excellent articles , which would be
of wider interest beyond the readership of
SaraNAgathy Journal .Hence I am releasing 
these articles to You on this birth day of
Swamy Desikan instead of sitting on
them because of the long queue that we
are experiencing now for the articles
awaiting release in the SaraNAgathi Journal.

Dr.VedAntha Desikan(VNV) is one of the most distinguished
Sri VaishNavite Scholars ,who has the command of 
English , Tamil and Sanskrit. He is doing yeoman
service to Sri VaishNavite Community by bringing
the AchArya Sri Sookthis and Dhivya Prabhandham
within the reach of one and all .

He contributes a series of articles to
Nrusimha priyA . The most recent series 
is on Sri GuNa Rathna KOsam , the matchless
tribute ofParAsara Bhattar to Sri RanganAyaki
ThAyAr. 

adiyEn is glad to share these articles
of Dr. V.N.Vedantha Desikan with you all,
Daasan , Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri SatakOpan  


The first Article by Dr.V.N.VedAntha Desikan 
*********************************************
Sri:

A SPIRITUAL OVERVIEW - I

These are times when myriads of metaphysical theses 
are propagated though without a real basis.  
They are often innovations of minds that have fertile 
imagination that weaves some fictitious castles in 
the air.  They should be spurned by any religious-minded 
person.

The Visishtadvaita system is built on solid 
authority, namely, the most ancient literature, 
the Vedas.  The vedas are countless.  They along with 
the Smritis, holy Puranas etc. constitute 
the rock-bottom of this system.  

The genius of Ramanuja, that of Vedanta Desika 
and that of many similarly >great minds have built 
a sold edifice.  That is what we call the Sri 
Vaishnava system.

This religious system has as its 'Aadharasruti', 
so to say, the Sesha-Seshi relationship between 
individual souls and the supreme soul.  Readers ought 
to imbibe it first and foremost.  They must recognise, 
without any disdain or illwill, however, that 
the so-called identity - propounded by Advaita - 
is totally incongruent with the Vedas, is misconceived 
on a wrong reading of certain lines, and irrational.  
Brahman, the Supreme Soul and the individual 
soul cannot be identical, by any stretch of 
imagination.  Why? For that matter, any one to speak 
of an identity concept is itself a tacit acceptance 
of two different things!  To contend that all else 
except Brahman is false is an unrealistic postulate.  
To contend that deliverance from the world's 
ills is secured by mere realisation of the oneness of  
souls sounds very attractive - engaging enough 
to fashionable aristocrats not given to any 
serious thought or action or religious duty.  
"Moksha by mere Jnana' is very >attractive; yes; 
even to minds which cannot claim any intellectual virtue.  
Could there be a greater intellect than Sri Desika !

Take real life.  Do no disregard it.  Sensients 
and insentients constitute two principles;  
they are the body to the Supreme Brahman.  This Tattva - 
traya should be first accepted.  None of them can be 
negated at will. The atheist negates God;  
the so-called spiritualist in Advaitis negates 
individual souls and the world of matter and 
insentients.  The realist that >the Visishtadvaitin 
is concedes all three realities.

The individual souls and insensients - Chit and Achit 
as they are called -stand as body to the soul that god is.  
God pervades all.  He is Vishnu.  My >body subserves 
my soul.  I do things to please my soul.  When I taste  
a delicacy and enjoy it, when I hear (and revel thereby) 
good music, the actual satisfaction is for my soul.  
Take it one step further.  We should do >all things only 
to please the Supreme Soul, Lord Vishnu, who is the soul of 
our souls.

Thus from Sareera - Sareeri relation ie. Body-soul 
relation, we reach a conclusion regarding 
Sesha - Seshi relation between individual souls 
and the Supreme.

A word about the Supreme soul; He is Sriman-Narayana.  
He may have thousands of names; his gunas, all auspicious,
noble and pleasing, are countless. But He is the ONLY GOD.  
Identity of souls is wrong; identity even in respect of 
Godhood is wrong.  Narayana is the inner soul, controller, 
prime mover to other souls, like Brahma, Indra, Siva etc. 
Hence according a godhood to these personalities 
and saying that all are gods, that all gods are equal 
and so on is wrong premises.  There ought to be 
no mistaking in this regard.

This proposition is not born of hatred, bigotry, 
fanaticism or narrow-mindedness.  Polytheism is for 
immature minds.  The Vaishnavitas has 
no disregard, contempt or hatred for Brahma, 
Siva etc.  He has no contempt for other men too.  
Why, he cannot but revere other forms of life, 
even a plant or a shrub.  His love, his reverence 
is universal in this sense.  But recognising as 
his Master, as His God, as his Seshi, he will accord 
a unique position only to Lord Sriman Narayana.

Sesha means remnant a consciousness that one 
is unimportant;  one is merely a servant, a subservient, 
existing to do all kinds of loving service.  From 
seshatva we go to dasatva and kainkarya.  This word 
Sesha is so much vital to our religion and is 
a unique term too.  It will be very interesting to 
ponder over it.

We cannot serve many masters.  If we do, 
we will have no single-minded devotion.  
What is to be our way of life !  Then we look to 
a role model of service that Adisesha is.  
Look at the name; Sesha.  He symbolises the 
Sesha-spirit uniquely.  He serves God in all ways 
at all times.  He serves the Lord as an umbrella, 
throne, paduka, couch, pillow, lamp and all else.  
Whatever need arises at whichever moment,Adisesha 
becomes the necessary material.He has no individual 
liking.  His praise is contained in a verse of 
Poigaiazhvar, the first of the FIRST AZHVARS 
(Mudalazhvars):

	"Senrl Kudaiyam"" .........53

Very interestingly this verse has been included 
as the sample from Tamil Vedas in the daily 
aradhana ritual.  This is contained in a verse of 
lavandar also, ie. 'Nivasasayyasana'.  Appropriately 
his name is 'Sesha' because no one ever summarizes 
in his personality, the totality of the 'sesha spirit' 
as Adisesha does.

Two more points are relevant here; Vaishnavism 
breathes service as its soul. Ramanuja was commenting, 
in Srirangam, on Thiruvoymozhi.  When the decade 
'Ozhivil Kalamellam' came, his explanation took 
a new turn:  "Azhvar cherished, as his greatest goal, 
service at Thirumalai with flowers, etc. Whoever will 
go there?  Is there one in this audience?"  he asked 
with a passion.

One listener offered.  His name is Anathazhvan.  
He finally settled on the Hill for rendering 
flower - service.  In those times a thousand years ago, 
living on the Hill ought to have been a challenging 
task.  Only a bold and vigorous person could have 
dared to take it up.  Hence, he came to be known 
as 'Anantaanpillai' (a real male youth !).

Ramanuja ordained that people should not ascend 
the Hill except for service. The Hill is holy as it is 
Adhisesha's body, according to Puranas.  If it 
is said that Azhvars did not go up the Hill, 
Ramanuja hesitated; he finally walked on his knees.  
Desika too first refused and had to be persuaded. 
All had the greatest devotion to the Lord Srinivasa; 
nevertheless no true Srivaishnava will ever think of 
a trip up the Hill as anything but a holy pilgrimage. 
To interpret that Ramanuja's invocation in Sri Bhashya 
refers to Lord Srinivasa of Seshadri would not be 
inappropriate, even if the traditional commentaries 
do not appear to emphasise it.  He wrote his first 
work, 'Vedarthasangraha' before this Lord.  
In his exposition of philosophy while commenting on 
Brahma-sutras, the nature and characteristics of Jiva 
(the individual soul) had to be mentioned.  
To consciousness or jnana, he added Seshatva too.  
There is an interesting episode cited in Thiruvoimozhi 
commentary that this subtle concept Ramanuja imbibed 
from Thirukkottiyur Nambi to whom Azhvan had to go many 
a time to get it!  Nammazhvar's 'Adiyanullan 
udalullan' (VIII 8.2) is taken to emphasise that 
the individual ought to feel, behave and order 
his life as a Sesha, servant of the Lord.

To crown all these facts mentioned, we may remember 
that Ramanuja is believed to be the incarnation of 
Adisesha, the first and foremost of Nityasooris.

There is a particularly phase in Thiruvoymozhi III 6.8 
'Dayaratharkku Mahan tannai'.  It means ' the son to 
Dasaratha'.  Azhvar does not speak of Rama here 
as the son of Dasaratha but as the son to Dasaratha!  
It implies the dative case, not the genitive.  It is 
reminiscent of the mantras like Namo Narayanaya.  
What is the great significance?  Rama stood as 
a role model for Vaishnavite seshatva.  He behaved as if 
he existed only for pleasing his father!

Dasaratha		:	Don the Crown !
Son Rama		:	Yes, Sir;
Dasaratha		:	Go to the forest
Son Rama		:	Yes, I am going

He did not rejoice on the first command, 
nor grieve on the latter.  Rama's avatara 
was only to show to us how to behave, nay, even to 
enjoin on us to be true Seshabhoota souls.

Not only this;  there are two brother characters.  
Lakshmana and Bharata.Lakshmana - incidentally 
an incarnation of Adisesha, so to say!, as 
the later Rama-anuja or Lakshmana-yogi, 
as he is called implies.  Seshatva implies Dasatva; 
that is kainkarya.  To perform this kainkarya to Rama 
and Sita, Lakshmana insisted on following to 
the forest the Divine couple!
  
Ramayana teaches us also to perform kainkarya to 
the Divine couple.  To the Desika-Sampradaya, 
the Prapatti aims at surrendering to the couple and 
later at serving the same couple.  That is why 
we prefer to devote the Epic as Srimad-Ramayana. 
We should ever cherish the goal of service to 
the Divine Lord, Sriman-Narayana - that is Lord Narayana 
with Mahalakshmi.

But our individual life in society should bear 
the stamp of Bharata, in his Paratantra sprit  
He did not stubbornly and intransigently follow 
Rama to the forest.  He was swayed by Rama's will 
rather than by his own desire to serve Rama.  
In him, the Paratantra spirit is palpable.  
Bharata was truly service, as a dunt unconscious, 
being!, to serve the Lord but without any own wish 
or aspirations.  To be an obedient liege, to obey 
and not to question why, is the sum and substance of 
Bharata's character.

May we be all servants of God like Lakshmana, 
ever serving Him; may we also be, at the same time 
truly servile, serving Him, as Bharata did, totally in 
self-abnegation, to efface the own self and its loves 
and longings; in short, we must combine in ourselves 
both Lakshmana and Bharata.

To be totally subordinate to the Sankalpa of 
the Lord - Bhagavat ->sankalpaadheenetva - is the true 
hallmark of a Srivaishnavite.  We should 
reduce ourselves to the level of an insentient 
matter.  Even when you are happy with what you have 
done as His service behave as though you were 
fragrant flowers, sandalpaste, or some other 
article of enjoyment.  They furnish great joy to 
the sensient being, but they themselves do not have
a scope for pleasure.  You should also be like them; 
you are not to seek any personal satisfaction; 
you serve God for His pleasure.  Complete 
self-effacement is the motto!

Daasan , Oppiliappan Sannidhi V.N.Vedanta Desikan 




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