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Some thoughts on Thirumantram

Date: Wed Oct 09 1996 - 20:27:14 PDT

I would like to begin by complimenting all of the members involved in 
this discussion of Thirumantram on their thought provoking postings.  
I am very much the novice when compared to these individuals. However 
I would like to make some personal observations which I hope will 
lend to the conversation.

While there is a marked difference between the two schools on the 
level, albeit need, for qualifications for reciting, or reading, the 
Thirumantra, one point should be noted.  The Thirumantra, along with 
such other coveted mantras as the Gayatri, is readily available and 
is being recited by people of all backgrounds and values.  As  long 
standing members of Denver's Asian Indian religious community, I and 
my family are invited to a number of religious activities, including 
many of which that cannot be considered SriVaishnava in any sense.  
At one such gathering, after the chanting of Vishnu Sahasranamam, a 
learned Smarta scholar led the entire gathering, irrespective of 
their background, in a chant of Thirumantra 108 times.

It seems quite ironic, then, that while the Thirumantra is both known 
and recited in non-SriVaishnava forums, its recitation is looked upon 
with so much controversy within its natural context, namely, a 
SriVaishnava discussion group.

While I can understand the orthodox view that the mantra should not 
be imparted to non-adhikaris, in my interpretation of this, it is not 
the mantra, but its very sacred meaning which should be of critical 
concern.  A non-adhikari, in this context, would be a skeptic who 
would seek to challenge or criticize the mantras essential meaning.  
Among those who have - as Mr. Sridhar has said - the ruchi to learn 
it and its meaning respectfully, as seems to be the case with the 
people in this group from the postings I have seen so far, no other 
qualification should be required.  And, as both Mr. Sridhar and 
Varadhan state, how can we determine who these true adhikaris are?  
>From our Acharyas' teachings, we can see that the very nature of this 
mantra itself would draw people to it, and indeed, would facilitate 
interest in the Lord even in the skeptics.

Mr. Sudharshan states:

------------------------begin quote
1)"Mantras" are acoustic symbols of a higher spiritual reality. 
2)Dhyana of these mantras facilitate the spiritual aspirant's 
realization of
the reality it symbolises.
3) Mantras being essentially acoustic in nature, they have to be 
learnt from
an 'achaarya' adept in its practice and not from all and sundry.
4) Mantras being acoustic in essence have to learnt by "word of 
mouth", so
to say, at the feet of an 'achaarya'and not through the medium of 
written word or through other modern accessories and appliances like
cassettes, CDs etc.
5) The reason for the above restrictions are that "mantras" being 
in essence have inviolable phonetic features (lakshaNangal) like
'sruti','swaram', 'mAtr'; to these one may add, using the idiom of 
Carnatic music, the feature called "manOdharma" or the mental 
"fitness" of
he who articulates the 'mantra'.Lack of such "fitness" can also be 
fatal to
the spiritual aspirant's progress as surely as jogging can be to 
someone who
is unaware he has a heart condition.
6) Improper articulation/enunciation of the "mantra" will mutilate 
essential form and far from facilitating the spiritual aspirant's 
towards the reality he aims for, it will positively impair his 
-----------------------end quote

I would point out, though. that while the mantra's acoustic and 
symbolic role is of importance, the essence of Thirumantra lies in 
its profound meaning, which leads us to the recognition of the Lord 
as both Upeya and Upaya.

As is stated in Sutram 25 of Mumuksupatti:
------------------------begin Mumme's translation 
Manavalamamunigal:  Even though the power of the Mantra itself - 
which brings results as a sadhana in its own right or as an aid to 
other sadhanas - is well established, the Poorvacharyas held more 
firmly to the One who is referred to in the mantra than to it. The 
reason for this is because they reverenced the Lord Himself as the 
Upaya and the Upeya.  Thus they were not like those who are devoted 
to other goals, who take this mantra as a sadhana, or like those 
devoted to other means, who take this mantra as an aid.
-----------------------end quote

Please pardon me for any offenses I have made due to my ignorance.

Daasanu Daasan,