|You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : September 1997|
From: usdeiva (usdeiva_at_ix.netcom.com)
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". ================================-o0o-=================================== [A CLARIFICATION] 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 dAivatam-dAivatAnAm". 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 temple]; (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 'gaNESa'. aDiyEn rAmAnuja-dAsan, T.S. Sundara Rajan.