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From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Tue Oct 15 1996 - 23:29:35 PDT
SrimathE SriLakshmiNrsumha ParabrahmanE Namaha Sri Vedanta Desika GuravE Namaha Sriman Mani Varadaraja has in his latest posting pointed out, by way of commenting on my last posting on the subject, our beloved "achaarya", Nammalwar's "pasuram" where he has sung about how the Lord Himself does not protest if a devotee were to mis-pronounce his name ! I am deeply grateful to our revered Sriman Mani Varadaraja to have taken the time to read and critically scrutinize my humble efforts at essaying some thoughts on the doctrine of 'rahasya mantras' and 'prapatti'. Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that the "paasuram" referred to is perhaps really to be taken to apply more to 'nAmOtchAraNam" which we know is distinct from 'mantrOtchAraNam", the principal focus of my postings. I would believe that all "achaaryaas" of all persuasions are unanimous in emphasizing that a 'bhaktha' can get away with impunity even if he were to inadvertantly mutilate or mis-articulate "bhagavan-nama" but there seems to be no such leeway given to what 'sastra' lays down as "rahasya mantras".It is indeed the lofty ('Uyarntha') quality of 'bhagavan-nama' that it is the perfect substitute -- in terms of yield for the lay aspirant -- for esoteric 'mantras'. This is the point which our 'achaaryaas' make when they urge us to whole-heartedly embrace their devotional non-esoteric works if we are not 'adhikaris' for 'mantrOtchAraNa' "karmas".I do not want to belabour this point any more than I have already done in my postings. Since Sri Mani has brought up the subject of "nAmOtchAraNa", I would like to share with "bhAgavatOttamas" in this group a very humorous but nonethelss poignantly convincing incident that I once heard U.Ve.Mukkur LakshmiNarasimhachariar (whom I consider as my "mAnaseega guru") many years ago recount during a discourse to drive home the points on the very same subject of "mantra and adhikara" which I have only feebly attempted in my postings. Mukkur Swami, (he really should be called "Mukkur Swami II" because we are all familiar with the name only as being used to address the 'mahAn' 44th Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt), he related, once visited Tirumala kshetram. Before the "suprabatha darsanam" Swami wanted to have his ritual bath in the temple "pushkaraNi" near the "Varaha swami sannidhi". He climbed down the "pushkaraNi" steps and suddenly heard someone nearby shout,"gOhindA", "gOhindA".It was some poor pilgrim who had just finished his own bath and who was readying himself eagerly for "suprapatha darsanam". Mukkur Swami was a little uneasy about the Lord's name being mis-pronounced and that too so un-inhibitedly by a common pilgrim. Nevertheless, Swami related, he ignored it and proceeded with his own ablutions. After Swami finished he sat on the 'pushkarini' steps and prepared to don "tirumaN-kAppu". Again the pilgrim nearby began to yell hoarse, "gOhindA, gOhindA, g-O-O-OhindA".Swami recounted that this was taking place at around 2AM, there were not many people around the temple tank and in the silence of the night there the cry of "gOhindA,gOhindA" at once seemed to reverberate through all the Seven Hills ! The Swami said that this time around he couldn't tolerate the rustic pilgrim anymore continuing to mis-pronounce the most lovely 'tirUnAmam' of 'tiruvEngadamUdiyAn' and decided to do something about it. He intended to go up to the pilgrim and gently correct him in the correct pronunciation of the Lord's name and if necessary to briefly enlighten the poor unlearned soul of the beauteous significance of "govinda-nama shabdham". Mukkur Swami then related how he was stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the pilgrim presently break into a wonderful, most touching dialogue with 'tirUvengamUdaiyAn' himself.The Swami recounted : "As I rose wanting to make my way to the pilgrim to gently chide him for abuse of the Lord's name, I suddenly saw him turn on his feet on the pushkarani steps and face the glorious 'vimanam' of the Lord's temple across its walls and over the 'garbha-griha". And then in the stillness of the night I heard the poor pilgrim converse loudly with the Lord in the boorish Telugu accent of deep Guntur heartland: "Oh gOhindA, my saviour, O gOhinda, I thank you very much, my gOhindA. Last year at this same time, dear gOhindA, I was at this very spot, o gOhindA and talking to you. Remember, O gohindA, I prayed to you that my crops be good, my cows be good, my family's health be good, my son pass his matriculation and my daughter be married. You never fail me O gOhinda ! I only have to ask you for a thing o gOhindA, and when have you ever refused oh gOhindA ! So here I stand again in this spot Oh gOhindA, and pray to you Oh gOhinda in the sure hope that next year too, oh gOhinda, I shall stand here in this very spot,oh gOhinda, looking into the sky at your 'vimana', oh gOhinda and call you gOhinda! gOhinda! g-O-O-OhindA !" Mukkur swami continued, "At this point I had got up from my seat on the pushkarini steps to go to him but when I eavesdropped on this most wonderful dialogue between the poor pilgrim and the Lord of the Seven Hills I sat down again without a murmur. It struck me with the force of 'sastra-ic' truth then that I had no business to chide and advise the pilgrim on the correct "utchAraNam" of 'bhagavan-namA'. Here he was saying loudly, the poor blessed pilgrim, that he had been at the same spot the previous year and had similarly addressed the Lord in seeking favours and was now reporting back to the Lord, in thanksgiving, that everthing was fine with him and his family thanks to the Lord ! "I thought", Swami continued," and trembled at the gravity of what I had been about to do in wanting to correct the boorish 'bhaktha'.I might have persuaded him to switch over to "gOvindA" instead of 'gOhinda' but in the process I might have deprived the Lord of the Seven Hills next year around, when the pilgrim returned, of listening to and savouring the sound of the unusual 'nama' of "gOhinda" which obviously seemed to have given Him so much "swArasyam" (the kind we too enjoy when toddlers in our homes lisp out names of family-members)in the past year.In the process not only would I have incurred the displeasure of the Lord but would also have unnecessarily upset a most touching relationship built up over the years by a simple-minded rustic 'bhAgavata' with the Lord he so casually and presumptuously called "gOhinda, gOhinda." " It struck me," Swami continued," that obviously the Lord wasn't the least concerned about how the pilgrim pronounced his glorious name of "GOVINDA" for, if he had so been, the pilgrim would not have had all his wishes, of the years gone by, fulfilled by Him. So what business was it of mine to go up to the pilgrim and correct him when the Lord himself apparently happily accepted the unusual "tirunAmA' of "gOhindA, gOhindA" ! " Listening to Sri Mukkur swami relate this amusing anecdote many in the "bhAgavata" audience went into splits of laughter. Many of us however couldn't help fight back a tear or two because it immediately brought to one's mind the "paasuram" of Sri Nammalwar that Sriman.Mani Varadarajan refers to in his latest posting ! I hold that although liberties such as those taken by the poor pilgrim on the Tirumala pushkarani steps are allowed in respect of "bhagavan-namAs", as our achaaryaas point out,we take similar attitude with "sastra-ic rahasya mantras" only at the peril of committing "sastra-virOdham" which is "bhagavath apachAram"? SrimathE Srivan Satagopa Sri Narayana YathIndra MahadesikAya namaha. sudarshan.