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Re: A CHALLENGE

From: Ramesh Sarangapani (sarangap_at_me.udel.edu)
Date: Thu Sep 04 1997 - 11:43:46 PDT

Dear Sri Prasad

It was wonderful meeting you and getting to know you in
person during the SDDS meet. The challenge you have thrown
to all of us is most important and timely (give that
we had a panel discussion on similar topics during the SDDS
meet). Not many learned member in this forum have taken up
this challenge yet, and i hope it is not presumptuous on my
part to do so. However, i would like to share with you a
short story, a true story, which i hope will answer atleast
part of the question raised by your nephew.

I had my Upanayanam when i was 12 and was regularly doing
Sandhayavandanam (SV) et al. till my 12th grade (when i was with
my parent). After i got into IIT and moved to a hostel, i
slowly started to default on this. Thinking back, i
feel this was because i did not understand the mantras in
SV. I thought it was a pointless ritual that was out of
context in this "scientific" age. Maybe the other reason
was that i was learning to be more "rational" and "logical"
in my outlook. I was taught to believe only that which
i could see and quantify. Anything that exists out
of this realm, was fictitious and thus inconsequential.

So i felt that GOD was just an concoction of the mind to
satisfy some of the inherent fears we all have.
Just as your nephew has stated, GOD to me
was just a defeatist escape route to some of the
fundamental questions such as "What is this Universe?",
"Why are we here?", "What will happen to us after we die?".
And i could not bring myself to believe that a PERSON I
DID NOT KNOW FOR SURE WAS THERE, was actually the
primal cause (as all our scripture have stated).

When i used to go home for vacation, i would bring up these topic
during dinner time. However hard my father tried to explain to
me, he just could not convince me that GOD existed. If it were
just his failed attempt to prove to me the "theoretical" existence 
of GOD, maybe my father would not have been that worried. But slowly
things started to change and I started to indulge in things
that my father did not approve.

So with a heavy heart he brought this to the attention of
H.H. 45th Jeer of the Ahobila Muth (BTW, this was during the
Jeer's poorvashrama days and my father was his student, doing
Rahasya-Traya-Sara kalakshepum under him). Immediately
Azhagiyasinger asked my father to bring me to the next kalakshepam
and said he would talk about what as Sri Vaishnavas we are
supposed to do, what we should not do and why we should do
a few things and not others. When my father asked me to
come, i bluntly refused. When this news went back to Azhagiya-
singer, all that he said was," Don't worry Sarangapani, I
will PRAY TO SRI MALOLAN to show your son the right path."

It was the earnest wish of this mahan that
brought a total change in my life. Because just a few month
after this incident, i went to Ahobilam (by shear providence
i should say). I had never planed on this trip, but at the
last minute my father's friend fell ill and could not make the
trip. Since my father did not want to waste the ticket, he asked
me to fill in. Although i actually had other plans (like a
trip to Otty with my batch mates), this got canceled and
i made the trip to Ahobilam instead.

In Ahobilam it was the "Sathi" festival, when H.H. Azhagiya-singer
takes the Utsava Murthy of Sri Malolan to the Mula-Vigraham and
does Aradhanam to the both of them. Here my father asked me to get
my Samashrayanam and i agreed (for the first time i did what my
father wanted me to do!!). After this i came to this country and
started learning more on our Sampradayam (i still don't know 
what made me go in this direction). Around 2 years back,
thanks to Sri Dileepan, i was introduced to the bakthi list. Since
then i have learned quite a bit about our Sampradayam and have
made some wonderful friends. Infact i recently also had my
Prapatthi from H.H. 45th Jeer of the Ahobila Mutt. To me the
question you nephew has raised is no more a stumbling block.
Perumal and Thayar that we see in the temple are not just a
piece of rock any more. They are an " Archa Avathara" in the true 
sense of the word, waiting to be associated with and enjoyed 
by all of us.

I apologize for going at a tangent, but the point i am trying to 
make is the following. No amount of "mental speculation" can
make one believe that Perumal exists. This knowledge can come
only though "Perumal's kataksham" and the only sure way to get this
is by your "Acharya's Kataksham". So Sri Prasad, if you are
serious about answering the doubts that your nephew has, you
should make a trip to India and get these clarified from you
Acharya directly. And you should do a Divya-Desa yatra in India.
This is my humble opinion.

SRIMATHE SRIVANSATAKOPA SRI VEDANTADESIKA YATEENDRA MAHADESIKAYA NAMAH.
   SRIMATHE SRI LAKSHMINRSIMHA-DIVYAPADUKA-SEVAKA SRIVANSATAKOPA
            SRI NARAYANA YATEENDRA MAHADESIKAYA NAMAH.

dasan
ramesh