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From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Fri Oct 04 1996 - 11:06:32 PDT
Dear bhaktas, I would like to record here the immense joy I experienced while reading a very short excerpt of Swami Vedanta Desika's ``munivAhanabhogam'', his maNipravALa commentary on the ``amalanaadhipiraan'' of thiruppaaN aazhvaar. I happened to receive yesterday my first copy of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies (subscription information to follow), in which Professor Steven Hopkins, a Desika scholar at Swarthmore University, Pennsylvania, has written a thoroughly engrossing paper on Desika's unique and mesmerizing contribution to Vaishnava poetry. Here is the relevant section that so moved me: Along with writing Sanskrit and Tamil poems modelled after the Alvars, Desika also composed at least one maNipravALa prose commentary on an aazhvaar poem (it is claimed he wrote many more, but only one survives). Desika wrote a separate maNIpravALa commentary on thiruppaaN aazhvaar's poem that is itself studded with original Tamil and Sanskrit poems that leap out of the body of his commentary, part of a complex polyphonic texture of gloss, prose paraphrase, and original poems. In his commentary he calls thiruppaaN's poems a spontaneous ``outpouring of ecstatic enjoyment'' (anubhava parivAham Aha), the ``thick juice of experience'' (anubhava ghana rasa), but not before he has begun the commentary with his own Tamil poem about the poem he intends to gloss and ``enjoy.'' But Desika's metatext is not merely a serviceable finger pointing to the other poet; its exuberant imagery points a finger at itself: After we see him joined to our hearts as our creator, standing in his temple, mingling with his loving slave, our protector and husband, in the ten stanzas sung by the Lord of bards that bestow the fruits of the Vedas in Tamil song--- we take a hint from the cowgirls who did their kuravai dance that day long ago for the Lord who became their cowherd and king: we leave behind the loneliness of sinners, uniting with him like the hen with her cock! As I read this, enjoying Desika's enjoyment of thiruppaaN, who in turn was enjoying Ranganatha, who in turn was enjoying Himself, I realized that this was perhaps only slightly different from Nammalvar's statement in thiruvaaymozhi that about being the servant of the Lord's servant, seven times removed from PerumaaL: adiyaarntha vaiyamuN daalilai yanna sanceyyum, padiyaathu milkuza vippadi yenthaipi raan_dhanakku, adiyaar adiyaar thamadi yaar_a di yaardhamak kadiyaar adiyaar tham,adi yaaradi yOngaLE. 3.7.10 As I thought about this chain of love and admiration this morning, I felt a supreme sense of satisfaction and pride in my relationship to such great saint-poets. namo nArAyaNAya, Mani P.S. I suggest people subscribe to The Journal of Vaishnava Studies. It is a scholarly publication, i.e., not always devotional in intent, but always interesting. It is published four times a year, in December, March, June and September. Send a check payable to "FOLK Books" with a short note asking to subscribe to the Journal of Vaishnava Studies. The address is FOLK Books P.O. Box 400716 Brooklyn, New York 11240-0716 USA Subscription rates for one year are US$35.00. P.P.S. If anyone has Desika's munivAhanabhogam, I would love to get a copy.