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rangaswamy_m_at_hotmail.com
Date: Fri Oct 10 1997 - 20:09:31 PDT

Sarvatantra Svatantraya SimhAya Kavivaadinaam 
Vedantacharya Varyaya Venkateshaya Mangalam.

Dear Friends,

I am sharing a brief summary on the life and works of Swami Vedanta 
Desikan for the occassion of his Tirunakshatram. Swami Desikan 
was born at Tuppul under the asterism of TiruvoNam in the month of 
Puratasi (Sept 15-Oct 15) in 1268 AD to Ananta Suri and Totaramba. 
Swami Desikan, who incarnated as the Ghanta Nada Swaroopi of the Lord of 
Seven Hills, shares the janma Nakshatram of Lord Srinivasa. The holy 
collects (Prabhandam) were founded by Sri Nathamuni, propounded by Sri 
Yamunamuni, expounded by Sri Ramanujacharya and systematized into a 
science by Swami Vedanta Desikan. The dynamic range of Swami Desikan's 
works bears testimony to his genius which helped establish on firm 
ground the philosophy of Bhagavad Ramanuja. Swami Desikan's 
contributions to our Sampradayam are best summarized by the following 
quote of Sri Appayya Dikshitar (a noted critic): "But for the 
impregnable fortress of logic erected by Vedanta Desikan, the lush green 
pastures of Vishistadvaita would have been devoured by Adavitins like 
grass by hungry cows." 

Swami Desikan received his education and training under his 
maternal uncle, Sri Kidambi AppuLLar, who was a noted Shishya of 
Sri Nadatur Ammal. By the age of twenty, Swami Desikan had mastered 
the Sri Bhashya, and other pertinent Vaishnava Granthas and religious 
texts. Since then he regularly gave discourses on Bhagavad Ramanuja 
Siddhantam and by the age of 41 he had performed Kalakshepam of the Sri 
Bhashya 32 times.  

Swami Desikan is a unique phenomenon in that he was a philosopher par 
excellence, an extraordinary poet, a supreme devotee of Lor Narayana, a 
voracious writer, the foremost practitioner of what he preached and 
above all a person of rare humility and extreme contentment. He has 
authored over a hundred works in Sanskrit, Tamil, Manipravala (a 
mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil) and Prakrit comprising poems, hymns, 
dramas, treatises and commentaries. His works truly represent an 
ocean and diving anywhere in this ocean not only cleanses an individual 
but also enables them to come up with rare treasures. Each 
work of our Paramacharyan invariably produces a gem of a thought, a 
capsule of wisdom or a brilliant ray of insight, which greatly 
enriches one's life. In the Krithi Etiruga Nannu, Bhadrachala 
Ramdas asks Lord Rama "O Lord! I do not know which way you are 
going to come to my succour to rescue me from the stormy waters of 
Samsara". Swami Desikan arrived as the ray of hope and the bacon of 
light to keep us afloat in the stormy waters through his incomparable 
works. 

The Stotras of Swami Desikan contain the quintessence of the teachings 
of the Vedas and the divine mysticism of the Azhwars. They also contain 
extremely powerful Mantrams to mitigate any form of suffering. 
Swami Desikan lived for considerable amounts of time in Kanchipuram, 
Tiruvaheendram and Srirangam. He was bestowed with the titles of 
Kavitarkika Simha and Sarvatantra Swatantarar by Lord Ranganatha and 
Ranganayaki Thayar. The title of Vedantacharya was later on conferred 
upon him by Lord Ranganatha. Prior posts in this forum by Sri 
Sadagopan, Sri Anbil Ramaswamy, Sri Sampath Rengarajan and myslef 
have presented in considerable detail the special relationship between 
Garuda Bhagavan, Hayagriva Bhagavan and Swami Desikan as well as 
their blessings on Swami Desikan. As a result, Swami Desikan composed 
many devotional lyrics and philosophical treatises. He engaged in 
debates with several scholars from other faiths and successfully 
conquered them by the forceful power of argument and single minded 
devotion (Mahavishvasam) to Lord Narayana. 

Swami Desikan travelled extensively in South India. In the Hamsa 
Sandesham, he demonstrates his mastery over geography by describing 
the path to be taken by a swan to convey Lord Rama's message of 
grief to Sita. In it Swami Desikan discusses in great detail the 
area around the shores of the Cauvery river and identifies the future 
home of Lord Rama's Kula Dhanam (the idol of Ranganatha was a cherished 
family possession of the Ikshvaku race). During the  
invasion by Malik Kafur, Swami Desikan left Srirangam for Satyamangalam 
and saved the Srirangam Temple idol and Sri Sudarshana Bhattar's 
Srutaprakashika (a commentary on the Sri Bhashya of Ramanujacharya). For 
this service alone, the entire Sri Vaishnava community is indebted to 
him. Swami Desikan returned to Srirangam after the invaders were driven 
out and restored the Temple of Lord Ranganatha to its pristine glory.  A 
list of his works under various 
categories is provided below.

(1) Drama-1
(2) Poetical Works -6
(3) Philosophical Texts-14
(4) Commentaries-10
(5) Esoteric Works-2
(6) Manuals of Practice-3
(7) Devotional Sanskrit Poems-28 
(8) Small Treatises-28
(9) Poems in Tamil-24

One of the most important contributions of our Paramacharyan is 
the establishment of the importance of Prabandham and 
instituting the practice of Prabandham chanting in Sri Vaishnava 
Temples. 

Kavitarkika Simhaya Kalyana GunashalinE
Srimathe Venkateshaya Vedanta GuravE Namaha

Everything correctly stated is entirely due to the grace of my Acharyan. 
All errors and shortcomings are mine alone. 

Namo Narayana,

Muralidhar Rangaswamy


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