With Acharya krupa, Sree Ramanuja Vidyalaya (SRV) completed its first year of official functioning on the 26th of January 2019 and it was celebrated with a stotrapatha ghoshti by kids and their parents.
Adiyen gave a welcome speech and then the ghoshti happened with a parayanam of nine stotras including Desika mangalam.
The link to photos and videos of the function is as below:
Adiyen presented the below paper on aruttha panchakam, a Tamil prabandham of Swami Desikan at Madurantakam Patashala on the 4th of December 2018 during the 750th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Desikan. The paper below is in English but I presented it in Tamil with quotations from Nalayira Divya Prabandham and Desika Stotras and prabandham for better appreciation by the audience. The below sloka on Lord Rama of Madurantakam was composed and read by me during the presentation.
श्रीमन्तं तं धनुष्मन्तं रामानुजसमाश्रितम् ।
गतिमन्तं सतां मध्ये वन्दे सकरुणाकरम् ।।
(I salute him (Lord Rama) who is who is presiding (here at Madurantakam) along with Sri (Sita), Sri Ramanuja (one meaning Lakshmana, and other being Sri Ramanuja who underwent Samashrayana ceremony here), & Lord Karunakaran & who moves about in the hearts of his devotees.
Sri Vedanta Desika, a non-pareil multifaceted acharya of the Srivaishnava tradition is an author of more than a hundred literary compositions in different genres of literature in Sanskrit, Tamil and Manipravala, a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil. His Tamil compositions do not match his Sanskrit compositions in terms of quantity but definitely do in terms of quality. His extraordinary ability to summarise abstruse Vedanta tattvas in chaste and poetic Tamil is one of his unique qualities. His Tamil compositions are hailed as Desika Prabandham.
Aruttha panchakam is one such composition in Tamil consisting of eleven verses which summarise the concept of arthapanchaka – a set of five doctrines or topics that a mumukshu, a seeker of liberation, must know according to Sri Vaishnava tradition. This composition is in kocchaga-kalippa meter and is dedicated to Lord Varadaraja, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and who is the presiding deity of Perumal koil, Kanchipuram. Vishnu, along with Sri, His eternal consort, is Brahman or Paramatma and Lord Varadaraja is identified as Paramatma in this work. The subject matter of this work is elaborated in the 4th adhikara of his own another work, Srimad Rahasyatraya Sara, celebrated as his magnum opus.
Generally, whenever a man ardently desires to attain an object in life, he must thoroughly know about the object of desire, the ways and means to attain it, the potential obstacles in attaining and the consequences of attaining it. He may also try to know his own Self in relation to the object, so as to know if the desire is worth pursuing. These aspects are thoroughly discussed from the point of view of moksa, the ultimate desire of man, in aruttha panchakam.
Attaining Brahman, or constantly experiencing Brahman to be precise, is moksa according to Vedanta, and hence knowledge of Brahman is the first artha. The knowledge of one’s own Self, the attainer, is the second artha. The knowledge of the means to attain Brahman is the third artha. The understanding about the obstacles that have not led to attainment of moksa is the fourth artha and awareness about the nature of moksa itself is the fifth artha. These five together (panchakanm) are called as artha panchakam in Sanskrit and aruttha panchakam in Tamil.
All important aspects of the first artha, namely Brahman, its svarupa or essential nature, rupa or form, guna or attributes, vibhuti or wealth and ayudha or weapons are all discussed in the first two verses. Brahman possesses satyatva (ever unchanging in its nature), jnanatva (of the form of knowledge), ananta (being infinite in its nature), anandatva (blissful in nature) and amalatva (being pristine in its nature) as its svarupa. It has an auspicious transcendental rupa that matches the brilliance of its svarupa. Besides svarupa and rupa, Brahman possesses infinite number of auspicious gunas like jnana, bala, tejas etc. Its eternal abode, Srivaikuntha, and the manifested universe in which the jivatmas keep experiencing the results of their karma in a seemingly unending cycle of births and deaths, Prakrti, are his vibhutis – they are called nityavibhuti and lilavibhuti respectively. Further to the above, Brahman possesses several divine ayudhas among which five are quite popular and they usually adorn the vigraha of His beautiful archa forms in temples. Brahman, i.e Vishnu and Sri together, rules all sentient and non-sentient beings. It pervades all beings and resides in them as antaryami, and by whose will, the svarupa, existence and functioning of all the sentient and non-sentient beings depend upon. Brahman grants moksa to those who resort to It and propitiate It.
The third and the fourth verses delineate the svarupa of the Jivatma. That the Jivatma is different from his gross body, senses, mind, prana and intellect, and is of the form of jnana, with jnana as a guna, and is ever subservient to Paramatma, who resides as his antaryami, is the summary of the 3rd verse. In the 4th verse the experiences of a Jivatma in the lilavibhuti are highlighted. With a body granted by the will of Paramatma in accordance with his karma, the Jivatma, until the dawn of right jnana, is born repeatedly (acquires new bodies after the loss of previous ones) to experience the results of his karma and thus subjects himself to the travails of samsara. In this, he is led by Paramatma, who resides in him as antaryami. This becomes a lilarasa to Lord Varadaraja and his eternal consort.
The obstacles to the attainment of moksa are discussed in the 5th and 6th verses. The Jivatma, oblivious of his – liege and Lord – relation with the Paramatma, chooses, out of ignorance, to be subservient to another Jivatma, who is also just like him. Being unaware of the fact that his essential nature is completely different from that of his body, he identifies himself with his body and relishes the transient and insignificant pleasures arising out of it. Until he seeks the guidance of an acharya he slips further in to the nadir of samsara, despite the omnipresence of the ever-compassionate Lord. Karma is said to be the reason for this and thus it becomes the main obstacle in transgressing the ocean of samsara. The origin of karma cannot be ascertained as it follows the bija-ankura maxim – the inability in finding out which came first – the seed or sprout. The Jivatma, because of karma, takes up four types of bodies in the course of his experiencing the results of karma – of gods, men, animals and plants due to lack of knowledge to overcome karma. Eventually the Paramatma bails out those who resort to Him.
The 7th and 8th verses deal with bhaktiyoga and prapatti respectively that are the two means recommended by sastras to overcome samsara. Bhaktiyoga is defined on the lines of ashtanga yoga of Yoga sastra, Paramatma being the object of meditation. It consists of the following eight limbs – yama or controlling the external senses, niyama or controlling the internal senses, asana or getting accustomed to a comfortable body position to pursue further aspects of yoga, pranayama or mastering the flow of prana, pratyahara or withdrawing the senses from outward objects, dharana or focussing on the divine form of the Lord and his auspicious attributes, Dhyana or constant contemplation of the same and samadhi or the immediate experience of a glimpse of the vision of the Lord. Not all Jivatmas can embark upon the path of bhaktiyoga due to strict norms of eligibility, and to those who cannot prapatti is recommended as an alternate means, which is equally efficacious. Prapatti, which is usually done through an acharya, is first performed at the lotus feet of Sri or Lakshmi, who is ever accompanying the Lord and who is ever compassionate without a reason. This is called as purushakara prapatti. With her grace on his side the Jivatma then approaches the Lord and performs prapatti adhering to the five limbs of prapatti. The Lord, pleased with the performance of either bhaktiyoga or prapatti grants moksa to the Jivatmas as and when it is desired by them or at the destruction of prarabda karama to be precise. It is at the end of the that life in which prapatti was performed in the case of prapannas.
The 9th and 10th verses describe the journey of the Jivatma to the eternal abode of the Lord and the nature of moksa. The Jivatma, who has earned the grace of Lord and having got rid of all his karma, leaves his confines of his body through the sushumna nadi, a subtle channel that leads to the path of moksa. In this final journey he is accompanied and guided by divine agents of the Lord and is taken through the worlds that appear in the way. He then reaches the nityavibhuti or Srivaikuntha only to shine in his pristine natural form and, along with eternal and other liberated Jivatmas, revels in performing all kinds of kainkarya or services, which were hitherto lost by him, to the Supreme Lord and his divine consort, who independently rules over his two vibhutis forever.
Through the 11th verse, which is the concluding verse, Sri Vedanta Desika submits that he has composed the work with the grace of those Vedic scholars who were blessed devotees of Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram, who was indeed propitiated by Brahma himself, and in stating the doctrines therein he has only followed the footsteps of his preceptors. He has placed this work at the lotus feet of Lord Varadaraja who is ever united with his divine consort, Sri. To those who recite the decad, this work will bestow all good, and to the learned scholars who read, it will give a sense of joy.
Here ends a brief outline of the Tamil prabandham by name Arutthapanchakam composed by Sri Nigamantha Mahadesikan.
The 750th birth year Thirunakshatram of Swami Desikan was celebrated by Sree Ramanuja Vidyalaya on the 21st of September 2018 with a stotrapatha ghoshti by its students and their parents – Madhavan Setlur, Srivallabhan, Abhinav, Amrit Narayan, Varshini, Aparajit Narayan, Deekshita, Madhavan L, Madhavan NS, Harshita, Hiranmayee, Padmasani, Pooja, Hrishikesh, Badri Narayan, Smt Lakshmi, Sri Hari, Smt Ramya, Smt Anusha, Smt Sudha and Sri Lakshmi Nrsimhan.
The following stotras were recited by the students – Vegasetustotram, Ashtabhujashtakam, Kamasikashtakam, Paramarthastuti, Nyasadashakam, Godastuti, Sudarshanashtakam and Desika mangalam.
The link to the photos and videos of the event is available here:
As I was offered a seat in a revolving chair one Wednesday early morning, I was reminded of my age-old working days in an IT company even as I was gazing at the mirror in front of me. The chair would have been high enough for a project manager to oversee his team leaders and team members working. But now I was alone and was about to be worked upon. ‘Hhhmmm’, began Chakrapani, the veteran old man, trying to find his voice after gulping down a cup of coffee. ‘Kaapi saapidareengala aiya?’ he showed his hospitality as he would do every time I went to him. I politely refused his offer thinking if there was really enough left in the flask in his hand.
‘Mithuna raasi kaarargale’, beamed the astrologer in the television set who appears daily with a serene and smiling face raising the hopes of a million viewers perhaps, but with the same set of messages, yet carefully managing not to repeat the same on the following day. He also recommends a place of worship and a specific God to offer a puja for each astrological sign thereby raising the commercial prospects of the respective temples and their priests as well. ‘Tlick tlick’ went on the scissors in Chakrapani’s hand targeting the two month old beard that had spread wildly on my countenance. ‘Simha raasi kaarargale’, continued the astrologer after a commercial break filled with advertisements on undergarments during spiritual prime hours. Dropping his scissors suddenly and raising the TV volume with the remote, Chakrapani went in to a samadhi in with his eyes and ears wide open. When the astrologer harped on to wish the kanni raasikkaarargal, the TV’s volume was reduced a bit and Chakrapani’s went high. ‘Jayalalitha voda nakshatram thaan ennodathum – magam nakshatram simha rasi.
He then began his lessons on astrology to his only obedient student for the hour, who without much choice had to stay calm without any movement. The potential risk in being otherwise was too much. Chakrapani was one of the few hair dressers of the previous generation who partially met the requirements of vaidika customers, either in form only, or in function as well. Being in the form-er group, I was one of his regular clients. ‘Josyam theriyuma?’. I wondered how the daily repeated morning doses of astrology in various channels can make anybody an expert. All that one needs is patient and attentive hearing. I said am not too much interested. ‘Enna raasi?’. ‘Kumba raasi’, I replied. ‘Poorattadhiya?’ he guessed my star with a masterly skill. ‘Romba nalla raasi. ithellaam pothu palan, kodiyila orutharukku thaan balikkum. avanga avanga jathakam eduthukittu poi kekkanum’. ‘nadakkarathu thaan nadakkum. Jnayitrukkizhamai varavendiya nee innaikku thaan vanthirukka. Innaikku thaan varanumnu vithichirukku. Yaaralayum maaththamudiyaathu’. He revealed his ideology of fatalism in life.
Finding a date for kshavaram is an arduous task for functional vaidikas. Even if one is a vaidika by form only, as I am, one has to be carefully away from the sight of other vaidikas as there is a chance of being confronted with expressions like ‘innaikku ashtami aache!’ etc when it is done on prohibited days. Sunday was a prathamai tithi and so I decided to go on Wednesday instead. But I had already informed Chakrapani that I would come on Sunday without verifying the tithi. Chakrapani had a good memory and he promptly quoted that as a testimony for his principle on fatalism in life. The Vedantin in me was rushing to talk about the individual will and a possibility to change one’s fate or karma with efforts but then he had a knife in his hand and I had a fear for my life in my mind.
‘Saami’ went on Chakrapani, ‘avanga avanga uzhaichu saapidanum. thaanam vaanga koodathu. namma uzhaichu aduthavangalukku kodukkanum. ithu thaan en kolgai vaazhkaila’. He recounted with pride how he had refused earlier two or three plates of food that was offered to him by autorickshaw drivers on the day or aruvathumoovar festival that just got over. Aruvathumoovar festival draws a huge crowd every year and leaves the roads badly crowded with half eaten food plates and crushed plastic cups with so many people eating to their capacity whatever is offered in the way. The auto drivers religiously collect money from their customers and feed the passers by with a sense of self-less (sponsored by others) social service. ‘Ethukku naan athai vaangi saapidanum. vendamnu sollitten. Naan uzhaichu paisa koduthu thaan saapiduven’. He then went on to criticize those people who subsisted on such offerings.
‘unga aalungale sai baba koil munnadi kothudathelaam vaangi saapidaraangale. nyayama? pillai kutti illayo illa ennnanu theriyala. irunthaalum ethukku antha maathiri seyyanum?’. This question slapped me on the face as I have always kept worrying about the growing number of old parents being left behind by their sons and daughters who proudly work for other countries and have settled down with colorful cards as their identities. Not all parents are fortunate enough to be capable of living on their own without stress though being supported financially. And there are others who earn and live in this country yet neglect their aged parents.
What is the community doing for this segment of people? The sight of an old Srivaishnavite, with bright urdhvapundram and clad in panchakacham, knocking the closed windows of cars and begging at the signals of C.P.Ramaswamy road on a daily basis brings restlessness in my mind. But then I distract myself with the thought about my helplessness to this bigger social evil that is staring at all of us! Well the problem could be on either sides – neglected kids go on to neglect their aged parents. What are we doing as a society to take care of the neglected elderly? Does every old person have the capability and vairagya like that of Chakrapani?
An astika is someone who believes in the existence of God and a nastika is one who does not. This is the common man’s understanding about the terms astika and nastika. If this basis were to be applied to the दर्शन- darshanas (systems of philosophy) some of the astika darshanas like Sankhya would not qualify as astika darshana as they do not conceive of a principle called Isvara or God. They are able to account for the existence of the manifested world comprising of Sentient and non Sentient beings with merely two principles – प्रकृति and पुरुष (Prakrti and Purusha). So from the view point of philosophy the mere acceptance of existence of a permanent atma and non refutation of the Vedas can said to be basis for the classification of astika and nastika darshanas. This article, which was presented in a seminar at Madurantakam Patashala sometime in 2014, briefly discusses how each astika school (Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta) defines the Isvara tattva.
In the year 2005, I presented a research paper on Lord Vamana in a 2 day National Seminar on “LORD VAAMANA in Art, Literature, & Religion” held at Mysore during 23-24 March 2015. The paper was titled “Lord Vamana in the Bhagavata Purana”. This paper brings out the meaning of the word Vamana – it does not mean a dwarf – and also details how the Bhagavata Purana glorifies the avatara as such. The link to the paper is as below:
Additional information: Dharmabhutajnana is an unique proposition of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy. Besides being a jnana-svarupa, a jivatma posseses jnana as a quality through which it becomes aware of everything other than itself. This jnana is called as dharmabhutajnana.
It was an afternoon sometime during the beginning of December 2012 I got a call from Sri Dr.S.Padmanabhan, the present Srikaryam of Sri Ahobila mutt and the HOD, Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras, ‘Sreeram! Can you come to the department?’. When the call came I was at home, sitting on a bench, contemplating on my decision to have quit an engagement a day before, which was my only source of financial support, due to some difference of opinion. The support was all the more important as I had earlier quit a 10-year old (or young!?) career in Banking and IT industry in the year 2009, and with utmost temerity (personally to me it was divine grace), plunged in to the study of MA Sanskrit (full time) from the Department of Sanskrit, University of Madras, subsisting on meagre personal savings, supported by parents and spouse. I had completed M.Phil in October 2012, guided by Sri Dr.S.Padmanabhan. My temerity to quit TCS in 2009, (I had a daughter who was studying LKG then) had already raised the eye brows of near and dear and it was promptly termed madness, the effect of Saturn and what not! And now this happened and I was sulking.
‘Sreeram! This is Sri D.P.Kannan, Secretary of the Patashala at Madurantakam. The Patashala needs a teacher for English. They are not able to find a full-time teacher. Can you help them as a part time teacher with your knowledge in the language?’ asked my Acharya, Sri Dr.S.Padmanabhan. SriDr.D.P.Kannan, to whom I had been introduced earlier and who knew my background added,’The post has been lying vacant for quite some time. Yesterday as I was performing evening Sandhya, I was thinking about a suitable candidate and all of a sudden, your face flashed. So I just came to the department to seek Swami’s (Sri Dr.Padmanabhan’s) approval. Are you interested? It is a part time engagement and you will have all the flexibility’. My joy knew no bounds as my sulking was heard by Krishna, the Paramatma. He was answering through Sri Dr.Kannan.
The day Sri Dr.Kannan took me to the Patashala and introduced me to the Principal Dr.Varadagopalakrishnan, I was feeling quite at home and wondering at the turnout of events in my life. The Principal was too happy at my joining and was ecstatic in introducing me to other teachers of the Patashala. From then on it became a routine to take the 6-hour journey (3 hours one-way) to the Patashala for at least two days a week from Chennai. It was a refreshing experience to interact with the young minds, brilliant by nature, but were intimidated by the foreign language. Their own family background and the special emphasis of the Patashala system on traditional education added to their woes with English. I had a huge challenge before me! Though I began to teach them the fundamentals of the language besides their syllabus, I soon understood that it was not an easy task to continue with the basics as my own time was limited and I had a mandate on hand – to complete the syllabus in time!
During the long bus trips to the Patashala, I would think about the grace of Paramatma that was behind the turn of events in my life, who had quit a lucrative job that came along with a lot of chances to get assignments in different foreign countries on long term bases. Before I quit, I lived in the Netherlands for nearly two years working for an assignment with ABN AMRO Bank through TCS. What a transformation this caterpillar had undergone to become a butterfly that was free from the bounds of corporate cocoon. I had changed completely both inwardly and outwardly!
I learned from my extended family that my Grandfather’s maternal uncle, Sri.U.Ve. Putcheri Duraisamy Iyengar was the Veda vadhyar in the early 20th century at Madurantakam. Also, another ancestor of mine has served as a Tamil Pandit at a school in Madurantakam. But for these two tangential connections I had no other connection to boast of whatsoever. Perhaps their grace also played a role in my association with the Patashala, which was not even a dream in life until then. Parallelly I had registered for the Ph.D (Sanskrit) and managed to complete it in 2017.
At the Patashala I had the fortune to learn the basics of the traditional sastras from its brilliant teachers. I would go early sometimes to sit along with the students and listen to their classes. Sometimes the teachers would teach me in private also, to which I am grateful to them. I am especially indebted to Sri Sudarshan, Tarka vadhyar, who taught (has been teaching) me the basics of Tarka. I used to spend a lot of time with him asking many questions and engaging him in discussions. I would sit in the classes of Sri Dr.Lakshmi Narasimhan (famously known as Sri Needamangalam) sometimes and enjoy his teachings of Nyaya.
It is a pity that I am not able to continue with the assignment any longer. I had quit it in November 2017. With the birth of our son in December 2016, life has brought in additional responsibilities that demand my physical presence in Chennai. My own teaching activities in Chennai have increased which is also a reason for the inability to continue with the assignment. I am looking forward to visit the Patashala at least once a month and give motivational lectures to the students.
To conclude this almost an autobiographical note, I would like to exhort my most esteemed Srivaishnava community to ponder the following request. We should all come together, keeping aside our trivial internal differences, to revive this excellent Patashala model of our traditional education. For the sampradaya to flourish further, it is not merely enough if we build new shrines and consecrate newer idols of Perumal and Acharyas. We should focus on reviving the traditional methods of learning. There was a time when we did not have enough means to make our ends meet and so a generation or two or three even had to deviate from tradition and take up western education and occupation. Today the financial status of the society as a whole is quite conducive to let our children do the experiment of taking up studies in sastras and perhaps combine it with advance study in Science to make it more appealing to the modern times. Time and tide are now definitely in our favour.
There should be a blend of both traditional and modern approaches and we should lend our support by not only contributing money but also participating physically. At least some of us who have earned enough money in life should be able to get released from the confinements of corporate world and look at options of keeping this system afloat by engaging in a serious manner. It is already under severe threat as there are not many students who enrol in the Patashalas and every year the number of students is decreasing. It is facing a bleak future. Unless we do something to revive it and look at it as an excellent way of alternative education system and engage, we are at a risk of losing something very valuable.