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From: usdeiva (
Date: Tue Sep 09 1997 - 21:27:53 PDT

Shri Mani Varadarajan wrote:

>Sri Vaishnavas generally do not do pUja to 
>lesser divinities such as Ganesha.... 
>As part of our "paramaikaantika dharma" 
>(extreme focus of mind), we worship only God, 
>and God's intimate associates. 

Reacting to this, Shri Raja Krishnaswamy remarks:

>I take pride in calling myself an iyengar belonging 
>to the vadagalai sampradhAyam and my kula dheivam is 
>shrI BhUmi dEvi samEdha shrI uppili appan of 
>thiru viNNagar near KumbakONam.  I however can not 
>call other divinities as a "lesser God".



There is no religion [living or defunct] but proposes a hierarchy of
divinities.   SrIvaishNavam simply happens to lodge in the core
monotheistic religion of the 'vEda', despite that the early western
Indologists assumed that the vEda represented a pantheistic-
polytheistic religion;  this was because the vEda spoke of a
multiplicity of divinities personifying 'nature elements'.    The vEda
indeed does identify the Supreme by the name of SrIman-nArAyaNa/vishNu,
acknowledging nevertheless other [and, 'lesser' divinities] divinities.

Several of the 'upanishad' have very un-ambiguous affirmations: ~~
following quotes from memory ~~

"agnir-dEvAnam avamah, vishNuh parah"
   [agni is the least of the divinities; 
    vishNu the Supreme];
"vishNu-mukhA vai dEvAh" 
   [the divinities look to vishNu];
"harim harantam-anuyanti dEvAh,
 viSvasyESAnam vr*shabham matInAm"
   [the divinities follow hari,
    the One that draws forth;
    He regulates the universe;
    He is the (strident) master of (our) thoughts];
"nArAyaNah param brahma, tatvam nArAyaNah parah"
   [nArAyaNa the 'para-brahma';
    nArayaNa the Truth Transcendant];
"sarvE vEdAh yat-padam Amananti...
 tat-tE padam sangrahENa bravImi, Om ityEtat...
 yastu vijnAnavAn bhavati sa-manaskas-sadA-Suchih,
 sa-tu tat-padam-ApnOti yasmAd bhUyO na jAyatE,
 vijnAna-sArathir-yastu manah-pragrahavAn narah,
 sO/dhvanah pAram-ApnOti tad-vishNOh paramam padam"
   [I shall briefly speak to you of the post
    which is hymned by the entirety of the vEda;
    it is Om... He who becomes the Knower, in his
    mind and in his purity, verily does he reach
    that post from where he does not return again;
    the man who is piloted by Knowing and reins in
    his mind, he gets across the limbo region;
    there unto the Supreme Abode, which is of vishNu.]


The 'sahasra-nAma-mahA-mantram' occurred in answer to yudhishThira's
clear queries: "kim Ekam dAivatam lOkE ? kim vA api Ekam parAyaNam ?"
["Which is the One God of the scripture?"  ~~ 'lOkah' is 'scripture', as
is 'the world';  here I remember kAnchi SrI prativAdi-bhayankaram
aNNangarAchArya svAmi who gave the etymology.  "And, which verily the
unique shelter?"]

SrI-bhIshmAchArya responds with equal directness:
"vishNum sarva-lOka-mahESvaram...dAivatam-dAivatAnAm"
["vishNu the Supreme Lord of the entirety of worlds/
scriptures,  God among divinities"].  I always point out with pride to
my friends that this attribute "dAivatam-dAivatAnAm" has been dedicated
to 'periya-perumAL' in SrIrangam by svAmi-dESika in the first SlOkam of
'bhagavad-dhyAna-sOpAnam' ~~ "antar-jyOtih...dIna/nAtha-vyasana-Samanam 

The skanda-purANam proposes a four-tier hierarchy of divinities:-

"ArOgyam bhAskarAt iCChEt, dhanam iCChEt hutASanAt,
 ISAnAt jnAnam anviCChEt, mOksham iCChEt janArdanAt."

[Seek health from the sun, wealth from agni,
 realisation from ISAna, and deliverance from janArdana.]

The elephant-faced deity of the Saiva pantheon is singularly missing in
the works of even the great poet, kAlidAsa, who is identified as Saiva;
not to mention the Tamil sangham classics which are the best bet there
be for textual integrity, and which contain several hymns to vedic
rudra, subsequently transmogrified into Siva.   The skanda purANam (more
than the innovative upa-purANam of gANapatyam) contains the basic
genesis and profile of the deity 'piLLaiyAr' (itself a later-day Tamil
lingo-ism) fusing into vighnESvara, who is to be propitiated in order
that he withholds troubles and impediments.   The primitive concept of
God incorporates inter alia a fear-centric role.  nArAyaNa as the One
God is essentially described as the One who cares per se for his
reatures ["rakshAika-dikshE", as in the invocation to SrIbhAshyam],
eliminates fear ['bhaya-nASanah'], bestows Grace ['su-prasAdah'], and
runs obstacles down.   This is why the padma-purANa SlOkam ==

"SuklAmbara-dharam vishNum SaSi-varNam chatur-bhujam
 prasanna-vadanam dhyAyEt sarva-vighnOpa-SAntayE",

is recited at the commencement of any auspicious rite, vaidika-kriya, as
invoking vishNu as 'vighna-hartA', to quell the impediments.  It is
curious that Sri SEnkAlipuram ananta-rAma dIkshitar, as well as the
Ramakrishna Mission, have carried this SlOkam in their publications, but
constantly translating 'vishNu' into Tamil as piLLaiyAr'. 

This strategy of disinformation extended to appropriating for later-day
icons the role-names ["nAmAni gauNAni...mahAtmanah, r*shibhih
parigItAni"] of the One God drawn from ancient texts ['gaNAnAm tvA
gaNapatim', 'vishvak-sEnO', 'SastA' etc], and hurriedly putting together
a kitsch-n-pastiche mythology to 'enhance' such icons. 

It is a sad irony that the SrIvaishNava community had neglected to know
about the 'prasthAna-traya bhAshyam' of SrI Sankara-bhagavat-pAdAh;  SrI
Sankara is indeed a beacon-light of vaishNava religion.  The AchArya
propounded 'advaitam' and remained a profound vaishNava;  for that
matter, krshNa-miSra the author of the allegory play
prabOdha-chandrOdayam', and mahApurush SrI SankaradEva of Assam, were
also vaishNava and advaiti at the same time.  Some of our outstanding
literary figures who were professed Saiva, such as kAlidAsa, or
bANa-bhaTTa (author of 'kAdambarI'), or leelASuka have paid natural high
tributes in ample measure to the theme of vishNu 'paratvam'.   SrI
leelASuka says ~~ 

"SaivA vayam na khalu tad vichAraNIyam
 panchAksharI japa-parAh nitarAm tathA/pi
 chEtO madIyam atasI-kusumAva-bhAsam
 smErAnanam smarati gOpavadhU-kiSOram."

    [We are Saiva, and no question about it;  we constantly recite
the      five-syllabled 'mantra' ~~ namah SivAya.   This despite, my
heart       dwells on the blue lotus, that is the dear visage of the
infant of      the gOpa lady ~~ yaSOdA.]
To identify the philosophy of 'advaitam' with Saiva sect is entirely
unwarranted;  this would yield the corollary that 'vaishNava' should
include 'smArta' who, however, have their own practices and mode of
worship, but with a basic fidelity to the vEda, same as the vaishNava.  

No SrIvaishNava should denigrate other beliefs, other practices, others'
gods;  even in instances when a caprice generates a cult, a cult grows
into a religion with its own 'prophet' and protocol;  such closed
systems are aplenty in India, and in the US.  It is each individual,
ultimately, to his own god and diversions.  However, when issues of fact 
are raised about a particular scripture, then one cannot plead such
personal opinion, but has to produce the evidences.  

Even if a motivated synthesising of religion is granted simply as
something that goes on, the SrIvaishNava need not be on the defensive,
but can be expected to:-

     (A) expose blatant inroads into vaishNava institutions 
[like tiru-vem-pAvai conferences in vishNu temples, or use of 
'kAli' mask last year over the visage of alamElu-mangai tAyAr 
in tiruc-chAnUr;  on a visit to vaDuvUr near tanjAvUr in
Jan'97, I noticed huge chalk-sketches of 'aiyappA' and 
'piLLaiyAr' drawn on the flag-stone 'parikrama' of SrIrAma 
     (B) challenge the distortion of historic facts, and
the deliberate corruption of religious and other relevant 
texts [the kAmakOTi SankarAchArya-svami of recent memory, had 
once taken it upon himself to announce to his wide following 
that an expression in the 'tiruppAvai' verse 'vAiyattu' was 
denigrative of the aphoristic classic 'tirukkuraL';  
it said 'tIkkuraLai', the 'vile kuraL' ~~ so went the 
commentary of the learned preceptor! It was kAnchi SrI p.b. 
aNNangarAchArya svAmi who pointed out that 'tIkkuraLai' 
was in nominal case, prathama-vibhakti/vERRumai, and meant 
'foul language', as a thing to abjure during austerities;
this was NOT the objective case, dvitIya-vibhakti, of the 
word 'kuraL', and hence would in no way denote or denigrate
the classic of that name, as made out by the kAmakOTi-svami.  
"bibhEtyalpa-SrutAd-vEdO mAmayam pratarishyati", the vEda 
winces that the man of little learning would subvert it!]
"apriyasya tu pathyasya vaktA SrOtA cha durlabhah".

I appreciate that SrI Mani Varadarajan had made a simple statement which
needed to be made in respect of the important field of 'vaidika'
religion;  I would request that he stays with the spelling scheme [which
I had originally picked up from himself] for non-English names like

aDiyEn rAmAnuja-dAsan, T.S. Sundara Rajan.