Amalanādhipirān has been written by Thiruppānāḻvār, who had been born into a lineage of people called Pāṇars. Pāṇars usually lived as musicians. They were outside outside the Varna („caste“) system, but probably received some respect as by their musical abilities.
Unfortunately, there are severe misunderstandings when it comes to Varna. Our revered godbrother Venkatesh Rāmānuja Dāsan has cleared all misconceptions on Varna in this article.
The image of caste / Varna is often dominated by the impression that people from lower Varnas are supressed and exploited. While this is partially true, the second aspect of the Varna system is not seen at all: Somebody might be born as a child of Brahmins, but only training in recitation of Vedas and the compliance with the rules and regulations prescribed for Brahmins make him an actual Brahmin. If we meet an guy in some bar in Delhi with a glas of Whiskey, he is no Brahmin, no matter what his parents were. This is because the consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited for Brahmins. If his parents were Brahmins, he is only the relative of Brahmins. He is not qualified to do any ritual activity that is associated with being Brahmin. This is because there is a symmetry: The higher the status in the Varna system, the more rules and regulations a person has to follow. Ignoring these lets him fall to the status as a Śūdrā, i.e. a member of the lowest caste, not authorized to recite Vedas.
So if that person we meet looks down on people because of their Varna, we might righly call him a hypocrite. He can only consider the hierarchy implied by the Varna system with respect to other people if he himself follows the rules of this system! Higher status always means more rules and a higher standard of conduct.
Our Āchāryas have always pointed out that being born in a low Varna or even outside the Varna system (like Westeners) is a great blessing. While those born into high Varna have to follow numerous rites and duties, casteless people are free, we have no specific religious dutied assigned to them and still get the same liberation as somebody born as Brahmin. They can freely use their time to praise and enjoy the Lord – as done by Thiruppānāḻvār.
In this wonderful movie about the life of Rāmānuja, the most important scene from the life of the Āḻvār is shown from minute 7:30:
One day, the Āḻvār was immersed in singing songs to Viṣṇu, as he was so often. Standing there and singing, he blocked the way of a Brahmin called Lokasārangamunivar, who had fetched water for the daily rites in the Śrīraṅgam temple. As by the strict purity rules the Brahmin was adhering to, he felt unable to move close to the Āḻvār. So he threw a stone and injured the Āḻvār at his head. Awakening from his extasy, the Āḻvār apologized and moved out of the way. But (some say in a dream, others say in actuality) Lokasārangamunivar started to loose eyesight and found the doors of the temple Sannidhi locked, because he had hurt an elevated devotee of the Lord. Only after ignoring the purity rules, hugging the Āḻvār and begging his pardon, he regained eyesight.
It is told that Lokasārangamunivar had a dream of Lord Raṅganātha, the main deity of the Śrīraṅgam temple, who asked him to carry the Āḻvār to him, i.e. Raṅganātha. To understand this, it is important to note that before Rāmānuja, people outside the four Varnas were not allowed to enter temples, as their mere presence would damage the purity of the temple. So while living close to Śrīraṅgam and being a highly elevated devotee of Raṅganātha, the Āḻvār had never entered the temple. It is told that the Āḻvār composed Amalanādhipirān upon seeing Raṅganātha for the first time.
The verses convey that Thiruppānāḻvār had a good knowledge of the relevant texts and pastimes of the lord even though his formal status was rather low. There is an interesting dichotomy: The Āḻvār starts with praises of incarnations or pasttimes of the Lord, but his focus always moves back to the form of Raṅganātha. This interplay between a somewhat formal and an intimate mood has been has been taught and expanded upon extensively by our Āchāryas, beginning with Manavāḷa Māmunigaḷ.
A simple English translation and some glimpses on the esoteric meanings are available at koyil.org.
The name of our tradition (Śrī Vaiṣṇavam) already indicates that we worhship divine mother Lakṣmī, whose short name is Śrī. Other Vaiṣṇava lineages also worship a motherly mediator between Bhagavan and Āthmās (for example, Rādha in the Hare Krishna lineage), but it seems fair to say that the theology of the goddess is most highly refined in our lineage.
This fact has not escaped the attention of academic researchers. We find in Oberhammer  an examination of the oldest surviving fragments of teachings about Lakṣmī in our tradition. In this examination, Yāmunāchārya’s Chatuḥślōkī is highlighted as the oldest complete text on the worship of Lakṣmī in our lineage. Oberhammer notes his surprise that it already conveys a full theology of the goddess. In Dhavamoney  we find a theological analysis of Chatuḥślōkī. And there is of course also some commentary work on this work within our own tradition, for example by Periyavāccan Piḷḷai.
In the line of our teachers, Yāmunāchārya (Tamil name Āḷvandhār) is the 4th Āchārya after the start of the “new” teaching tradition with Nāthamuni. Nāthamuni probably lived around the middle of the 9th century C.E.. Yāmunāchārya (early 10th century) saw Rāmānuja from a distance, but died on the very day Rāmānuja came to him to become his disciple.
Yāmunāchārya left us other important Stotrams (hymns) beside Chatuḥślōkī and some smaller scientific works. Rāmānuja’s work focuses on scientific texts, i.e. texts on Vedanta topics in the classical form of Indian spiritual science treatises: thesis – criticism of thesis – answer to criticism – conclusion. It is said that Rāmānuja thus followed the wish of Yāmunāchārya, who wanted to write such works but could not do so because of his poor health and advanced age. Academic researchers pointed out an extremely close link between the thinking of these two great Āchāryas. They find that Rāmānuja precisely continued the lines set out by Yāmunāchārya – almost like one Āchārya in two bodies!
So let us immerse ourselves in a text that is about 1000 years old. A text which makes the glory of our divine mother Śrī shine so wonderfully that no comparable text has been written in this long time. We give a synthesis of the translation on our mother site koyil.org  with the academic translations from , p.120 and . We attempt to make the translation as literal as possible while preserving much of the beauty of the koyil.org translation.
Honoratory verse (Thaniyan)
Written by Rāmānuja, this verse leads many works of Rāmānuja.
yat padāmbhōruhadhyāna vidhvasthāśēṣa kalmaṣaḥ vastutāmupayā thō’haṃ yāmunēyaṃ namāmi tam
I worship Yāmunāchārya, through whose mercy all my defects have been removed and I awoke from false identification. I recognized my true nature as Sat, as eternal Āthmā, by meditating on the lotus feet of Yāmunāchārya.
Your consort is puruṣottamaḥ, the supreme being, (and, as for him) your bed and seat is the lord of serpents (Adiśeṣa), Your vehicle is the Lord of the birds, the guardian of the Vedas (Garuḍa), your veil is Māyā, which blinds the world. Brahmā, Īśa (Śiva) and their companions are your servants like the other gods, Śrī is your name, oh sublime one, but how can words praise your splendour?
The divine mother Śrī thus shares the decisive insignia of the supreme being, which we commonly call Nārāyaṇa (Nāra* = human being, *ayaṇa = refuge).
yasyāste mahimānamātman iva tvadvallabho’pi prabhuḥ nālam mātumiyattayā niravadhiṃ nityānukūlam svathaḥ | tām tvām dāsa iti prapanna iti cha stoṣyāmyahaṃ nirbhayaḥ lokaikeśvari lokanāthadayithe dānte dayām te vidan ||
Your greatness exceeds even that which can be measured by your beloved (Nārāyaṇa), just like his own greatness. You are always most compassionate towards us and so I praise you without fear! I am your servant, you are my refuge; I know that your love is only for the One (Nārāyaṇa), mother of the world, beloved of the ruler of the world, so I speak, for I know your grace.
While the universal ruler Nārāyana mostly takes on the role of the father, who rewards and judges according to merits and misdemeanors, the divine mother Śrī takes on the role of the mother, who sees only the good in beings and pleads for forbearance. So while we should treat Nārāyana with utter respect and be fearful to be punished for our shortcomings, fear is inappropriate towards mother Śrī.
Through a trace of the nectar of your compassionate gaze, the three worlds are preserved. Without it, they were in destruction, through your gaze they now blossom again and without limits. Without your grace, so dear to the lotus-eyed (Nārāyaṇa), no happiness can be found, neither in the material enjoyment of Saṃsāra, nor in the meditation on the unmanifest (the experience of the blissful aspects of Āthmā, as practiced in many Yoga paths and Buddhism) nor in the path of Vaiṣṇavas (the aspiration of eternal service to Śrīman Nārāyaṇa).
The form of Hari (Nārāyaṇa) is the highest Brahman, infinite, peaceful and immensely unfolded, also the embodied Brahman, his lovable, wonderful figure (i.e. the avatars he takes for his divine activities) and all the other forms of himself that He takes at will, all of these are deeply interwoven with your own glory.
 Mariasusai Dhavamoney: Yāmuna’s Catusślokī: an analysis and interpretation. Indologica Taurinensia VOLUME III-IV (1975-1976), Proceedings of the „Second World Sanskrit Conference“ (Torino, 9-15 June 1975)
Adiyen Mādhava Rāmānuja Dāsan Edition of the koyil.org translation for a non-indian audience, integration of academic translations Adiyen Sarathy Rāmānuja Dāsan Adiyen Vangīpuram Satakōpa Rāmānuja Dāsan Translation of the tamil translation into English
Whenever there is a chance, Mādhava is explaining essentials of Sanātana Dharma to his fellow Germans. Often, people respond by asking a variant of one of the following two questions:
As a Hindu, do you really believe that if something bad happens to a person, it is because he was evil in his previous life? Are you really so mean to think that it is his own fault?
As a Hindu, do you really believe that my pet was born as an animal because it has done bad things in its previous life?
Sometimes, people even quote documentaries from India or Nepal, where disabled people were insulted and thrown after with stones because their fellow citizens thought that they were bad persons in their previous life.
Mādhava then usually explains what he learned from Upanyasakars (religions speakers) and Āchāryas: That the idea of a simple mechanical link, of the kind: „killed father, will be blind with one leg in next life“ is false. It is true that all beings ultimately experience the fruits of their own actions, but the manifestation of these fruits is not straight forward. This is confirmed by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad Gīta 4:17, where he ends the verse with
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ Intricate is the the way of Karma.
Our Āchāryas emphasize that our innermost essence, our Jīva, has no beginning and no end. It is moving from one body to the next, producing complex interactions between lifes along the way. But what are authoritative statements which back this? And how to put all of this into a crisp explanation? Some references can be found in Bhagavad Gīta 2:12 and 2:13, where Kṛṣṇa briefly explains the way of the Jīva. In Bhagavad Gīta 4:19 and following verses, Kṛṣṇa explains how to get rid of Karma. What we do not find in the Gīta is a concise description of the workings of Karma.
Such a description is available in the Bṛihad-Āraṇyaka Upanishad. The fourth Brāmana of the fourth Adhyāya (verse 4.4.1 to 4.4.6 in modern technical counting) contain a concise description of the process of death, the nature of the self (Jīva) and of the workings of karma. The author learned about this section of the Upanishad in a recent answer on Quora by Rami Sivan, a very knowledgable but also somewhat controversal Śrī Vaiṣṇava with Western roots.
This part of the Upanishad is remarkably clear and easy to read. Here is the translation from „The Thirteen Principal Upanishads“ by Ernest Hume (1921), available at archive.org, refined with aspects of Rami Sivan’s translation from Quora, of Swami Krishnanadas Translation and the original Sanskrit text.
When this embodied self (Jīva) comes to weakness and to confusedness of mind, as it were, then the prāṇās gather around him. He takes the prāṇā and descends into the heart. When the person in the eye (consciousness, main attribute of the Jīva) turns away from the sun, then one becomes non-knowing of forms.
„He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; „he does not see.“ „He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; „he does not smell.“ „He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; „he does not taste.“ „He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; „he does not speak.“ „He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; „he does not hear.“ „He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; “ he does not think.“ „He is becoming one with the centre,“ they say ; “ he does not touch.“ „He is becoming one with the centre“, they say ; “ he does not know.“
Now as a caterpillar, when it has come to the end of a blade of grass, in taking the next step draws itself together towards it, just so this Jīva in taking the next step strikes down this body, dispels its ignorance and draws itself together.
As a goldsmith, taking a piece of gold, reduces it to another newer and more beautiful form, just so this Jīva, striking down this body and dispelling its ignorance, makes for itself another newer and more beautiful form like that either of the fathers, or of the Gandharvas, or of the Devas, or of Prajapati, or of Brahma, or of other beings.
Verily, this Jīva is Brahman, made of knowledge, of mind, of breath, of seeing, of hearing, of earth, of water, of wind, of space, of energy and of non- energy, of desire and of non- desire, of anger and of non-anger, of virtuousness and of non- virtuousness. It is made of everything. This is what is meant by the saying „made of this, made of that.“
On this point there is this verse :
Attached to the sense objects, longing for sense objects, the Jīva sheds the body, but it carries with it result of its actions. Attached, the Jīva leaves this body, and goes together with its actions. Those actions find their completion through experience. Then it happens again, it comes to the world for more actions.
This is the fate of one who desires.
The first verses give us a description of the death process from a Vedic perspective. As life-energy, which is called prāṇā, is moved from the limbs to the center of the body, the heart chakra, the dying person begins to feel cold. We can see from the look of someone’s eyes whether he is still alive or if he is already dead and his travel has begun. The second verse emphasizes this by enumerating the different senses which stop working as they are drawn inwards with the prāṇā. People who were accompanying a dying person report that touch, the holding of a hand, is the last thing the dying person was able to do.
The third verse gives us a straight-forward comparison: the body is like a blade of gras and the Jīva is like a worm who stays on that blade of gras for a while and then moves to the next. In order to do so, it has to contract:
In the same way, the Jīva contracts those layers that follow it and then goes to the next body. However, we must not forget that these movements are ultimately not due to the inherent power of the Jīva. They are enabled by Brahman, the totality, God. In Bhagavad Gīta 9:6, Kṛṣṇa points out that he is the ultimate support of each and every aspect of reality. So while the Jīva does indeed contract and move, this is not an independed action, it is framed and enabled by Brahman.
In the fourth verse, it is emphasized that the new body will be better than the dying one. The Jīva can gain a fresh human body, after staying for a while in the realm of the forefathers (Pitru Loka), it can gain the body of a Deva or a body of any other being.
The fifth verse contains remarkable enumeration. In contrast to a large number of comparable enumerations in Vedic texts, the enumeration here is incomplete. For example, amongst the senses, taste and touch are missing. Among the elements, fire is missing. The author is not in the position to explain why this is the case – but we note that the senses of taste and touch produce the strongest desire, and the energy within the element of fire is the most obvious. Anger and desire are the very roots of our downfall and the door to our way up, as pointed out in Bhagavad Gīta 2:62ff.
The enumeration emphasizes that Jīva is Brahman, is the totality, it is all senses, all elements and the whole spectrum of possible moods. Statements like this and seemingly contradictory statements from other Upanishads have led to endless debates between Vedic philosophers. We outlined in our article on Śrī Vaiṣṇava philosophy that our tradition’s philosophy, Vishishtadvaita, perfectly resolves these apparent contradictions. Vishishtadvaita teaches us that Jīva is Brahman in the sense we call a person „Joe“ while in actuality, neither the fingers nor the hair nor the legs are Joe, Joe is the conscious being that inhabits the body of Joe. In the same way, Rāmānuja points out, is Brahman is the innermost essence of the Jīva, the Āthmā of the Jīva. Hence it is legitimate to call Jīva Brahman.
The 6th verse gives us the reason why we return at all to this world. Having stated before that the Jīva is Brahman, one could ask why Jīvas return to this world at all, why it moves from body to body like a worm between blades of gras. Isn’t its essence Brahman, the totality, the ultimate, God? Why is it so miserable then?
The verse points out that the problem is attachment. The Jīva has been attached to sense objects and acted due to that. Thus action is like an addiction, the Jīva can’t let go of its attachment to sense objects and, by extension, the actions initiated by this. The sanskrit word Karma simply means action, work, in a very practical sense.
This shows that Karma is by no means a trivial mechanism for punishment. It is the continuation of a basic approach to existence, which is shared by all beings: they act to enjoy. Be it a plant that grows in the direction of the sun, be it a deer that looks for the most tasty weeds, be it a human looking the „good life“ of barbeque, beer and Netflix binge watching or be it a Deva seeking heavenly maidens and worship by lower beings. Some actions might have good repercussions, others bad ones. The criterion is whethe other beings experience suffering or delight due to the action. Both will return to the Jīva in due time. In Patanjali’s yoga sutras , we read:
Sutra 3:23 The Karmic effects of ones actions are immediate or delayed. (…)
So, a proper answer to the above questions would be:
Karma is not a punishing menchanism, it is a side effect of actions and often produced unknowingly. Its effects can be delayed. A person does indeed experience bad things due to his or her past actions, but these might have been done long ago. Likewise, a person that does not experience bad things right now should not assume that it does not have suffient bad karma – this karma is just not manifesting itsself now.
Eine deutsche Erläuterung befindet sich weiter unten!
ENG: In the previous version of this article, we stated that there is no established standard for transliterating some „typical“ Tamil letters – i.e. letters that have no equivalent in Sanskrit. One of our readers, Keshavachari Ramanuja Dasan, pointed out that this is not entirely correct. There is ISO 15919, which standarizes the transliteration of all common Indian scripts.
We decided to apply this standard on our site, even though our mother site koyil.org does not use it. This is because we find it less confusing for newcomers than the „vernacular“ transliteration used by many native speakers. They use for example „zh“, to represent the letter ழ, which sounds like „l“ but with a good pinch of „r“ mixed in. The „l“ in „Tamil“ is for example actually ழ – so natives often write „Tamizh“ which is obviously rather confusing for people without contact to Tamil speakers.
Below we give a reference table with Tamil letters, the way they are transliterated into the Roman alphabet at koyil.org and at koyil.de / according to ISO 151919.
DEU: In der ersten Version dieses Artikels haben wir festgestellt, dass es keinen etablierten Standard zur Transliteration von einigen typisch tamilischen Buchstaben gibt – also für Buchstaben, die es im Sanskrit nicht gibt. Einer unserer Leser, Keshavachari Ramanuja Dasan, hat darauf hingewiesen, dass das so nicht ganz korrekt ist. Es gibt die Norm ISO 151919, die die Transliteration aller in Indien gebräuchlicher Alphabete festlegt.
Wir haben uns entschieden, diese Transliteration zu verwenden, obwohl unsere Mutterseite koyil.org das nicht tut. Wir machen es, da die Transliteration, die viele Muttersprachler verwenden, für Einsteiger ausgesprochen verwirrend ist. So wird beispielsweise „zh“ verwendet, um ழ zu transliterieren. ழ klingt wie „l“, aber mit Anklängen von „r“. Das „l“ in „Tamil“ ist beispielsweise eigentlich ein ழ, viele Muttersprachler schreiben daher „Tamizh“, was für uns natürlich recht verwirrend ist.
Unten befindet sich eine Referenztabelle mit der koyil.org und der koyil.de / ISO 151919 Transliteration für Konsonanten.
A problem so many Western converts to Sanātana Dharma (Hinduism) have is that outsiders like parents, relatives and colleagues – and in fact they themselves in dark hours of doubt – view their faith as very exotic for a person from the West.
On the surface, this is understandable. The whole expression of Sanātana Dharma as we find it today is deeply infused by the situation in India – by the plants, the weather, the geography – in every conceivable way. Here are two obvious examples:
In the Bhagavad Gītā, Kṛṣna describes his glories with many comparisons. He says that amongst the months, he is Mārgaḻi (Tamiḻ) Māgaśīra (Sanskrit). This is mid-December to mid-January. For a person living in India, this makes perfect sense. This time has moderate temperatures and many celebrations – it’s the the most auspicious time of the year! A person from Northern Europe or Russia will not see this time as very attractive. It’s very dark, with 5-7 hours of daylight, nothing grows and the sky is usually grey and cloudy.
Viṣṇu and his Avatars are blue as a rain cloud because rain has a very positive, graceful conotation in dry areas like India. Again, for a North European, this is not very intuitive – about half of the year is cold and wet for him anyway, no need for rain clouds!
So, for a person growing up outside of India, fully embracing Sanātana Dharma requires to a certain degree a reframing of the concepts he finds in Sanātana Dharma as lived in India – as he needs to make it fit to his environment.
In this respect, many seekers miss something very very helpful: They are not aware that Sanātana Dharma has already been in the West!
To see this, consider that Northern Germany, the area where the author lives, was christianized with threats and persuation around 1100 – 1200 years ago. The oldest settlements here are from the Neolithic period, so for some 10k years, the people living here were „pagans“. It is documented that Christianity initially failed to attract people. They went to church to avoid punishment but still worshiped their old gods in private. To make sure people don’t fully go back to their old pagan ways, many elements of the pagan religion were taken over into Christianity, while at the same time many traces of the „before“ were thoroughly erased.
Why is this important? Because that pagan religion was at least a cousin of Sanātana Dharma as we find it preserved in India today!
The elements imported into Christianity were rightly identified as pagan by the Lutherans. So, we don’t find them in the many branches of Lutheran Christianity, but we still find them in Catholicism – the „old“ variant of the Christian faith. So a simple equation would be
Catholicism – Lutheran Christianity = many elements we still find in Sanātana Dharma.
A few months ago, the author went for a walk in an old Catholic village in the middle of Germany. Below are some impressions from wayside shrines that reminded him on this old heritage hidden in the Catholic faith.
More Detailed Comparisons
If we look at the minute details of Catholic practises, the link to practises in Sanātana Dharma is becoming ever more obvious:
In Catholicism, there is the old (and often dying) custom of processions. Usually, all four directions are covered during the year. As visible below, the sacramental bread is carried under a canopy during the procession. Note that in Catholic Christianity, the sacremental bread is considered to be the actual flesh of Christ, not just a symbol as in Lutheran theology. So, the priest is carrying Christ during the procession, accordings to Catholics!
We find a very similar practise in India. There, the movable deity from a temple, a proper form of Bhagavan, is carried under a canopy around the temple.
In India, horns are blown at the procession. In Europe, processions are usually accompanied by brass bands. Both in India and in many Catholic areas, there is the custom to create rich decorations with flowers, drawings and flags where the procession passes by.
Each Catholic church has a pot of „holy water“ close to the entrance. People entering the church are requested to make the gesture of a cross with that water for purification. During some services, the priest is additionally sprinkeling „holy water“ on the assembly for purification.
The sprinkling of water for purification is also well known in Sanātana Dharma. There, it is used to purify the utensils used during worship and to bath deities. This water is collected and consumed for purification.
Use of incents
Both in Catholic services and in many rituals in Sanātana Dharma, incense is used.
It is well known that Christian churches have bells to call believers to the service. At the climax of a Catholic service – the „change“, where the sacred bread becomes the flesh of Christ – small bells are rung within the church as well as the main bells in the church tower
At the most important points of deity worship (Puja) in Sanātana Dharma, a bell is rung, too. When food is presented to the deities, some temples ring large, mounted bells.
The standard layout of a North European Catholic church is that the main entrance is in the West and the sanctum is the in East. While Indian temples do not generally share this orientation, churches and temples share another feature: The tower of a North European Catholic church is over the main entrance (churches in Italy and Spain sometimes have different layouts). Similarly, the Gopuram of an Indian temple is the highest temple tower and is the main entrance of the temple.
The author’s grandmother was a devout Catholic. When she lost something, she prayed to St. Anthony in order to find it. When old farmers were seeking good weather for harvest, they prayed to St. John and Paul, saints who were said to be in charge of the weather. Old bridges in Chatholic regions are often accompanied by a figurine of St. Nepumuk, who is reponsible for briges. And there are many more saints who were prayed to for specific topics.
Sounds familiar, right? Indeed, Catholic saints are the functional equivalent to Devas in Sanātana Dharma! In case of St. Nepumuk, even the name reminds on the name of the Godess of fertiliy and rivers he replaced: Nerpus – but maybe that’s just a coincidence.
The mother goddess
We Śrī Vaiṣṇavas worship divine mother Mahalakṣmī, who is inseparable from Nārāyaṇa (hence we always say Śrīman Nārāyaṇa, where Śrīman stands for Mahalakṣmī) and is the mediatrix between him and all conscious entities (Jīvāthmās, approx Souls).
We already mentioned that Catholics have a great reverence for saints. Amongst them Mary, the mother of Christ, is revered and loved the most by many Catholics. There are many dedicated shrines and churches for Mary. Here is one such shrine / altar from south Germany:
Not only to us but also to many Lutherans, this worship of Mary seems to be a twisted variant of the worship of the mother goddess. Further proof is found when we look at Mary’s role in Catholicsism. Here is the Latin version of the second verse of „Ave Maria“, the most important prayer to Mary. Note that Latin is the reference language in Catholicism.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
The interesting part is the second part: ora pro nobis peccatoribus. „Ora“ (verb orare) means speak or pray, „pro“ means for, „nobis peccatoribus“ means us sinners.
So Mary is asked to speak, to pray to God for the Catholic! Even though this is of course never stated as theological doctrice (Catholicism is monotheistic, right?), the word „ora“ invites the believer to take his trust into the mother goddess as mediatrix and project it into Mary.
We have seen that Catholicism has numerous customs we also find in Sanātana Dharma. As mentioned, the reason for this is rather gruesome: Because people did not take up Christianity, which was forcefully imposed on them, many elements from their old religion were imported into Christianity and yielded what is now known as Catholicism.
The similarities we outlined proof that the „pagan“ religions practised in Europe were indeed relatives of Sanātana Dharma, and in our view the proof has much more force than any information on the pre-Christian era that comes to us via Roman historians.
So, when we from the West take up Sanātana Dharma as preserved on the Indian subcontinent, we should never forget that we are reconnecting with our ancient roots by doing so. While Indian culture is part of a continuum that stretches back many millenia, our roots in the ancient past of our continent were forcefully cut-off by the Christianization 1100-1200 years ago. While the insight of our Druids, Shamans and Wisemen is lost forever, the infinite grace of Śrīman Nārāyaṇa has preserved a highly refined and developed form of what they likely knew as Sanātana Dharma in Bharat, in India.
Thus, while there are indeed many things in Sanātana Dharma as we find it today that are specifically „Indian“, this must not distract us from the fact that below the surface of difference lies the unity of a universal religion practised from Spain to Japan and from Norway to Africa – the enternal natural way, Sanātana Dharma.
So, for a person from, say, Germany, a look at the fragments that come to him from the pre-Christian era is worthwile. Sometimes, he may find something that helps to bridge the gap between the local situation and statements in the texts of Sanātana Dharma.
Example: We noted above that Kṛṣṇa compares himself with the Indian month from mid-December to mid-January. In the pre-Christian era, this time was probably a festval for the godess Holda, who reminds us on our divine mother Mahalakṣmī and – coincidence or not – whose celebration is paralleled by the celebrations of Āṇdāl, avatar of Bhūdevi, which is in turn an avatar Mahalakṣmī, in India. In Europe, people barely went outside at that time because of the Wild Hunt. As the outside world did not fully belong to them during this time, people were staying inside to pray and contemplate.
So, for a pre-Christian European, Kṛṣṇa’s comparison to mid-December to mid-January would actually make a lot of sense! This time is cold and unfriendly on the outside, but very happy and contemplative within the house. Maybe modern day’s Christmas has recycled a bit of this mood.
Our tradition has a great history and is very diverse and de-centralized. This has induced quite a few people to falsely claim to represent (or even be an Āchārya in) our tradition. Being the diverse and de-centralized tradition we are, there is no central decision body nor a list of Āchāryas which could be used to check such claims.
However, it is fairly easy to spot fake Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchāryas, so auxiliary means are usually not needed. This is because the lineage of our Āchāryas has set a crystal clear standard on how a Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchāryas behaves. As the behaviour of an Āchārya is very intricate and complex, we shall restrict outselves on rather obvious and simple points, which are easy to understand but should still suffice to spot 90%+ of all fake Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchāryas.
In order to avoid being sued for copyright breaches (which is very easy under German law and the site is run by a German for profit limited liability company under German law) we shall not use quotations or screeshots from that respective website. Sorry.
Following, we give a list of reasons why the claim that he is a Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya is utterly false. Note that each single point suffices to induce severe doubts that the respective person is a Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya.
Name & Titles
His name lacks any reference to a lineage: Śrī Vaiṣṇavas receive a spiritual name. This name is usually related to the birth name and is extended by Rāmānuja Dāsan, which means servant of Rāmānuja. If a Śrī Vaiṣṇava is installed as suceeding Āchārya, he uses a different name that usually relates to the lineage of Āchāryas he represents. For example, if the Āchārya hails from the lineage of Āchāryas that goes back to Embar, the cousin of Rāmānuja who followed him as the leader of our tradition, he is called „Embar Jeeyar Swami“.
His names‘ ending (–ananda) is extremely uncommon for a Śrī Vaiṣṇava. In fact, names like this are commonly used in the lineage of Śankarāchārya, i.e. in the Advaita tradition. This tradition has been our main opponent in debates for the last 1000+ years, as their philosophical views differ considerably from the views of our tradition.
The title Paramahamsa (literally: „transcendent swan“) is not used by Vaiṣṇavas to address themselves. Paramahamsa is a honary title used for Sanyasis (renouncers). Other people may address such a person as Paramahamsa, but the humbleness of a Vaiṣṇava makes him abstain from addressing himself as such. The usage of Paramahamsa in the url of the website presenting him to the general pubic is thus inappropriate for a Vaiṣṇava.
There is no reference on who (which Āchārya) performed his initiation into our tradition.The Āchārya is extremely important for Śrī Vaiṣṇavas. His thaniyan (honorary verse) is recited every day, his picture is placed prominently in our homes and we feel grateful for him connecting us the the chain of grace started by Rāmānuja. So if we are initiated, we always state who performed the initiation, as this is central for us.
Reference to teachers far outside the lineage
Being committed to our lineage and having the rich body of literature and many pasttimes from Āḻvārs and Āchāryas, Śrī Vaiṣṇavas and Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchāryas in particular do reference solely Vedic scriptures and the rich heritage of our tradition. Vishwananda cites Mahavatar Babaji as his guru. Mahavatar Babaji is a mythical figure cited by dozens of (often self-proclaimed) gurus and is usually seen as an avatar of Lord Śiva.
While we respect Lord Śiva as a great devotee of Śriman Nārāyana, our tradition strictly abstains from worshipping Śiva or in fact even associating with his devotees.
Śrī Vaiṣṇavas follow the prescripions of the scriptures as closely as possible. While common devotees may compromise in some respects, particularly if they live abroad, an Āchārya is also teaching by example and is thus extremly strict in every way. This means in terms of outward appearance:
He wears Śikhā, i.e. his head is shaved except for a tuft of hair at the back of the head.
Having the title Swami, i.e being an ascetic renouncer, he does not wear any gold ornaments, pearls etc .
He does not wear sewn clothes. Instead, he wears a Dhoti and (in cold environments) a smaller piece of cloth to cover the upper body.
He wears Urdhva Pundra (also known as Thilak), and he wears it in the same way his Āchārya has prescibed it, i.e. there is no variation.
None of the above points applies to Vishwananda.
Charging disciples money for teaching
On the below webpage, a 7 part course by Vishwananda on the Śrimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) is offered for 225$ in total or 35$ pers session.
While it is suitable and common for disciples to give Dakshina to the Āchārya, this is always a voluntary contribution by the disciple and is not a pre-condition for listening to discourses. All of our Āchāryas have taught the highest wisdom free of charge. They may restrict discourses to close disciples in case of very confidential teachings, but such restrictions are never about money.
Missing references to teaching of previous Āchāryas
All of our Āchāryas make extensive refereces to the lifes and teachings of Āḻvārs and previous Āchāryas. We listened to a few random excerpts from Vishwanandas Youtube videos and found no such reference. For example, on the discourse on deity and statue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy9FqK6Fc9M), should have some references to pasttimes from the Āḻvārs, where many beautiful incidences in the relation to temple deities happend. But there are none.
A follower of Vishwananda commented this article, citing that the website
as reference explaining Vishwanandas lineage (see comment section). However, as of 2019-10-16, the website (besides not confirming that he is a Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya) actually confirms a major point we see as proof that he is no Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya:
Mahavatar Babaji is called on a linked website as Satguru, meaning „true guru“. No Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya would state a guru so far out of our lineage as his true guru.
The website states that a person named Sri Vedavyasa Rangaraj Bhattar intiated Vishwananda into our Sampradāya. We might first analyse the name:
Vedavyasa is a honorary title, as it refers to Vyasa, the complier of the Vedas.
Rangaraj seems to be a name.
Bhattar is the traditional name-postfix of a temple priest, particularly in South India. So the person is either a temple priest or from a familiy of temple priests.
The last point makes us skeptitical. While our Sampradāya had some famous Āchāryas who had the name Bhattar (like Parāsara Bhattar), it has become increasingly uncommon since the Middle-Ages that an Āchārya is also temple priest – simply because being temple priest is a full-time job, with very limited time left to teach, as an Āchārya does.
Using Google’s options to find older websites, we struggle to find tangible traces of this person in the web from before 2017 (after that, websites linked to Vishwananda start to give the name). This does not necessarily mean much but it is still strange.
The best evidence is from the website of an ISKCON priest, where a person of the name Rangaraj Bhattar is stated as teacher: https://www.salagram.net/jtcdbio.htm. However, it seems unlikely that this person is a Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya, as the Śrī Vaiṣṇava and Gaudiya lineages are spiritual relatives but rarely mix.
We also find evidence of a Śrī Vaiṣṇava temple priest by the name of Rangarajan Bhattar, who serves at the Eri-Katha Ramar Temple. This temple is very special as Rāmānuja was initiated there. But we find no indication that this gentlemen is also an Āchārya.
In a Facebook discussion around Western Śrī Vaiṣṇavas who visited Śrīraṅgam (and turned out to be followers of Vishwananda instead of „normal“ Śrī Vaiṣṇavas), a devotee from India commented
Vishwananda was initiated into Srivaishnavam by grandfather of present Sri Veda vyaasa bhatt swamy who is 37th descendant of Sri Kuresh , a close disciple of Sri Ramanuja.
Devotees from koyil.org are aware that there is a Veda Vyaasa Bhatt Swamy in the line of Kuresha or Kūratāḻvān, as he is known in the Tamil land. He is an Āchārya living in Śrīraṅgam as a householder. Devotees are currently checking the claim with this family.
Summing up, the quoted website does not state that Vishwananda is a Śrī Vaiṣṇava Āchārya. Evidence that he has indeed been initiated at some point has recently be uncovered, but is still to be checked.
Do most Hindus, unlike followers of ISKCON, believe Vishnu is the supreme source, not Krishna?
An ISKCON devotee expressed the view that this is indeed true. Then Rami Sivan, a sometimes controversial Śrī Vaiṣṇava with Western roots, gave a detailed refutation of this view:
A good question which is often asked. Only ISKCON considers Krishna as the source of incarnations.
Most Vaisnavas and other Hindus don’t make any quantitative theological differences between Vishnu and His avataras.
The Vedas are the Supreme Authority – Krishna is not mentioned by name in any of the Veda Samhitas but in the Chandogya Upanishad he is mentioned once. Vishnu on the other hand is mentioned several times in the Veda Samhitas.
Now a parsing of Sanskrit terms is the key to understanding theology. There are three names which are considered as truly indicative of the Supreme Being — and they are considered as supreme because all three are indicative of All-pervasiveness – i.e. omnipresence of the Divine.
nārāyana — which means the ground of all Being – the source of all manifestation of both the material universe and the individual selves.
viṣṇu — which means that which pervades everything from within.
vāsudeva — that which pervades everything from without.
I will now give you a sample of testimonies from the various Scriptures. There are hundreds of such testimonies.
Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Reality designated as Brahman. Nārāyaṇa is the Highest. Nārāyaṇa is the Supreme Light (described in the Upaniṣads). Nārāyaṇa is the Highest. (Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad Anuvāka 13 Verse 4.)
Vishnu the resident in the hearts of all, was born of the divinely beautiful Devaki, like the full moon rising on the eastern horizon. (Suka) (SBh 10:3:8)
Then finally from the GOSWAMIS
“The omniscient great God of Vaikunta (viz. Sriman Narayaṇa) at once manifested Himself before me as Sri Krishna, the eternal son of Nanda and forthwith Sri Lakshmi Devi became Radhika followed by Bhudevi as Candravalli.”
Stated by Srila Sanatana Goswami in Sri Brhat Bhagavatamṛtam Part 2 Chap 4 (Vaikuṇtha nama) published by Gaudiya Maṭha
I hope this clarifies for you the orthodox position.
Is Vedanta immune to criticism from Atheism/Empiricism because its position is radically subjective?
This question was based on listening to Aron Ra’s intelligent and very systematic refutations of American Evangelist Christian’s „proofs“ for the existence of God. Pondering how we followers of Vedanta would converse with a stout empiricist like Aron Ra, Mādhava came to the conjecture that the subjectivism inherent in Vedanta is the key difference to the Abrahamist’s position. Vedanta starts from the subjective observation, the occurrences in the field (Kshetra) to use the parlance of the Bhagavad Gīta.
Answer by Kratu Nandan (abbreviated)
It is true that Vedanta presupposes a Knower or Witness (subject) which alone is the common element in the ever-changing phenomena of the universe. It is therefore very easy to label Vedanta as ‘radically subjective’. However, it is not as simple as that.
On the contrary, Shankaracharya, in his Brahmasutrabhashya, has uncompromisingly stated that Brahmajnana (Knowledge of the final, underlying Reality of all phenomena) depends solely on the object (vastutantra) and not on the subject (purushatantra or kartrutantra). Evidently, this is out and out objectivity. Therefore Vedanta is not a weak system of philosophy that gleefully hides under the protective canopy of the ‘subjective’.
Vedanta remains objective, and yet remains immune to criticism from empiricism on account of its questioning, challenging and disproving of the conventional definitions and limits of the subject (vishayi) and object (vishaya). Instead, it is shown that the sense organs (indriya) themselves are objects of perception , as opposed to the empiricist’s idea of them being the subject.
What is more, Vedanta does not consider anything that appears and disappears to be real. Something real must always exist and should remain unaffected by time. Thus, the appearing and disappearing ego, along with its ‘subservient operatives’, are held to be an unreal. The true Knower is the one who perceives the presence and absence of ego, and is always unaffected by it.
Further on, Vedanta observes that what goes under the name of empirical knowledge of the objective world is defective and incomplete, as it is ‘mediate’ (paroksha). What is meant is that such knowledge is obtained, moulded, fashioned and shaped through the ‘medium’ of indriya, manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara, which themselves are unreal. Even taking for granted that they are real, the knowledge obtained through them is relative. We might find a peanut to be a tiny object, while an ant will find it huge. We may see a colourful world while an animal without colour perception will see it differently. Which of us can claim our own knowledge alone to be real?
It is therefore that according to Vedanta, the true knowledge of the objective world lies in getting rid of such media and knowing it directly. The term employed for such a knowledge is – ‘immediate’ (aparoksha). Such a direct perception is called aparokshanubhuti,and the one with such a knowledge is called aparokshajnani.
When through vichara (enquiry) the unreal ego is discarded, the trinity of known, knower and knowledge vanishes – and the Reality without any such distinctions shines as I – but without the ego. The Knower is non-different from Knowledge.
It is a grand Unity that cannot even be described as One, due to the lack of anything else besides It. It is perfect Silence.
There are at least two logical validations or paradoxes possible in this direction. One is that if the whole physical universe is one interdependent, interwoven system, why is our consciousness limited to our body alone? The other, as Swami Vivekananda points out, is that “motion is possible in comparison with something which is a little less in motion or entirely motionless”. If the universe is taken as a unit whole, it has to be motionless or unchangeable, for there is nothing else besides it with respect to which it changes. Yet, we see movement every moment..
Indeed, the ‘true validation’ of this lies in the Experience of this Unity for the individual concerned, and is verily subjective. The proof of such an experience for the onlookers lie in the conduct of such people. They do not escape any responsibility that life may bring. They completely take it up and execute it to perfection. Their compassion is unbound and universal. They do not transgress anything that is held ethical. The feeble feelings of empathy, love, compassion and responsibility that we, the ordinary people, feel are only pointers in that direction.
The reproducibility of such an experience is seen when such people instill similar feelings in the individuals they come in contact with, which is also subjective. Moreover, the deep sleep (that comes closest to aparokshanubhuti) in which the subject-object duality is suspended, though subjective, is a universal experience. The articulation of the deep sleep experience is universally corroborated, reproduced and validated in the words, ‘I did not know anything then’.
Finally, for that matter, the reproducibility of any empirical validation is also subjective, as the validation will have to be experienced by a validator, and is relative to him.
To conclude, Vedanta is not escaping the objectivity criterion. In an uncompromising, undying effort to grasp the objective, it discards what is wrongly held to be the subject, and finally declares the distinction of ‘objective & subjective’ and ‘God and the individual’ to be limited, relative and false.
I hope I made some sense in writing all this!
Ooh, I think we are getting confused by the words objective and subjective. If we take object in the Advaita sense as “the perceived”, yes, agree, then there is no issue.
There are two buts:
if we put on the hat of an empiricist, objective means perceivable for all, reproducible. He would not accept your conclusion as it can not be proven by the “objective (his sense of the word)” means of science. He might say that if everything beyond the perceiver is unreal, Advaita is pure religion as it does not allow for falsification.
Even tough many take Vedanta = Advaita, that’s not the case. In fact the lineage in which I received Deeksha, the Śrī Vaishnava Sampradāya, has very strong objections on Advaita which I share. As there are parts of the Upanishads which speak of difference between Jīvāthmā and Brahman and a real world, we cannot presuppose that everything beyond the perceiver is ultimately unreal / the same category of object (in the Advaita sense).
So, I think it’s not that easy. We cannot use the Advaita presupposition since this position is rejected both by empiricists and some Vedanta schools, so we can’t argue us as followers of Sanatana Dharma out from the criticism of empiricists this way…
🙂 Thanks for your comments. As an academic student of physics, I understand it well enough. The solution lies in questioning the empiricists’ criteria.
Vedanta does not deny the empiricists’ meaning that what is “objective” must be perceivable for all. It simply extends it by saying that anything that is objective should be “perceivable for all (all cognitive entities including animals) at all times”. Therefore, it should be perceivable to oneself at all times too. In other words, it should be time-space-independent. The only thing, Vedanta says, that is time-space-independent is the “perceiver”. The only constant in the ever changing phenomena is the witness of it. And no one can deny that he as a perceiver exists. Or does the empiricist say that his existence as a perceiver should be perceived by all to be true? Is not the perception of one’s own existence independent of other’s validation?
If this criterion of time-space-independence be included, would falsification of the empiricists’ “means of science” based on it be allowed? If yes, then the empiricists’ “objective” will become a time-space-dependent religion. If not allowed, how can we take something to be objective if it isn’t perceived by all at all times? How can we agree upon something that we don’t even perceive or perceive only at certain times and places?
Does the empiricist deny his own mind as an object of perception? Is it not “known” by him? Is his mind an object for any of thr five senses? If “perceivable for all” be the criterion, then his mind doesn’t exist, as it is not at all perceivable through senses for anyone, let alone all.
Does the empiricists’ “all” include the other cognitive entities including animals?
Do not the “all (other people who are equal validators)” form a part of his own experience? Do they exist outside his own experience? Does he or anyone at anytime have anything but their own experiences to rely on? Does anyone at anytime cognise anything but his/her own experience? Is the empiricist’s experience “perceivable for all”? If not, are those experiences objective by his own definition? If he admits they aren’t objective, how and why does he rely on them? Is not the criterion, “perceivable by all”, one’s own experience?
Who will validate the “perceivable for all” criterion? Collectively by every single cognitive entity at the present moment? Or is it that “all” a hypothetical?
Why does the empiricist limit his “perceivable by all” to the senses alone?
Coming to interpretations of Vedanta as being many faced, yes. As a south Indian, I am more aware of it.But if you question the followers of each of those groups, they will say their’s alone is true. So, in the individual’s perception, there is only one Vedanta.
I must say, with all due immense respects to all the great acharyas of all the sampradayas, none of them can even come close to addressing the empiricists ideas, but Advaita.
Finally, thanks for this question. It’s very desirable to engage in such thought processes.
1) I doubt that your fellow physicists or numerous non Advaita Acharyas would agree. From an empiricist‘s point of view, predictability and measureability suffices for objective existence. Requiring the permanence you outline already imposes the Advaita result of non-existence of reality.
5) & 6) This is presuposing Advaita Siddhānta. Empirically, we can easily demonstrate that you are not me and perceive differently.
9) : ) I would object to that, but that‘s kinda obvious, isn’t it?
In the early summer of 2018, there was a very interesting conversation in one of the koyil.org WhatsApp groups on the question how to apply the principle of non-actorship, the philosophical core of Prapatti, in daily life.
Venkatesh In our sampradaya, as explained in the Simple Guide, one must give up all notions of independence (swatantrya), even the slightest and consider oneself to be totally dependent (pārathanthrya) on Emperuman*/Emperumanar**/Acharyan*** for all impulses/energies.
* Emperuman = God (emphasis on mercy)
** Emperumanar = more mercyful than God, a name for Rāmānuja
*** Āchārya – teacher / guru, who exhibits perfected behavior. Adding an „n“ at the end of words ending in „a“ is common in Tamil, Tamil speakers habitually do this in English, too.
Is this something that only relates to the spiritual side of life? If not, how is the practise in everyday life?
Venkatesh Applies to so-called everyday life also, Swamin. All prescribed work ultimately is meant for Moksha. Even for Karma-yoga all action is to be ascribed either to the Guṇās (characteristics of Emperumān’s material energy, Prakṛiti) or to Emperumān Himself in the Bhagavad Gīta:
The method of practising Karma-Yoga by ascribing all agency to the guṇas, —because ātmā has been shown to be a distinct essence— has now been described.
The ascription or attribution of agency to the guṇas is thus:—
Reflect, that ātmā from its essential nature, cannot be actor, but action comes to it from its conjunction with matter. (It is actorship not natural but derived or borrowed). Hence in association with matter (prāpta)3, there is actorship; in the absence of such association (aprāpta)4, there is no actorship.
It is next shown how works may be viewed by attributing authorship thereof —an attribution hitherto considered with reference to the guṇas5, —to Bhagavān, the Supreme Spirit, the all-Soul, —a consideration justified by the fact that all ātmās constitute His body, and are related to Him in the relation of the guided and the Guide. http://githa.koyil.org/index.php/3-29/
As a necessary inference, therefore, from the consideration that ātmā constitutes My body, and derives all energies (or powers) from Me, do you surrender all acts to Me, the Supreme Spirit, imagining that they are all done by Myself. In other words, let all acts be done as acts of Worship paid to Me.
Also, be nirāśih, desireless, i.e., remaining without any expectancy of fruit for work done.
Nirmamaḥ=to be free from the idea of ‘my-ness’ or owning an act for oneself.
Your (mental) fever thus cured (vigata-jvaraḥ), do fighting and all the round of duties (that the sacred Edicts make binding on you).
Your reflections ought to run thus:— ‘My Soul (Ātmā) is the Supreme Spirit, and therefore, He, my Ātmā, is the Author (or Actor). The Lord of all, the Master of all, it is He, Who causes acts being done —acts of worship to Him— by me, who am His body, and therefore His instrument. And therefore no notion of ‘my-ness’ or ownership of acts done, I can entertain.’
Thus shall your fever leave you, —the fever or mental trouble evinced by your thoughts: ‘how am I going to escape from the enormous mass of sins committed in the immemorial past etc.?’
You may thus cheerfully enter on the duties prescribed for you, —Karma-Yoga—, reflecting that by them, you do but worship the Supreme Spirit; and He so worshipped delivers you from bondage. http://githa.koyil.org/index.php/3-30/
My edict or truth is that to all ātmā-essence I am the Prop. It is to Me as My body, standing to Me in the relation of disposable property (śesha-bhūtam) ; and it derives all its impulses from Me (explained in verse 30, ante). http://githa.koyil.org/index.php/3-32
Of course, for Prapannās (surrendered jīvās), prescribed duties (constituting Karma Yoga) have to be performed, no longer as Means to Moksha, but solely as service to Emperumān so non-Prapannās don’t leave Karmās also, looking at Prapannas. Per Mumukshuppadi:
The daily and special acts and rituals that he performs, appropriate to his varNa and Ashrama, are done not with the thought that they are the means. Instead, they are done due to kindness toward others, and therefore lead to His pleasure. Thus, they are part of the service done to Him.
However, to adiyen, application is still unclear when we take it to the very practical: your boss gives you a project and a number of people to help you with it. Now, to complete the project, one has to think and act. Or so it seems?
Philosophically, it is clear that everything is only originating in Emperumān, but it seems inevitable to act “by oneself”, taking agency in such a task. Or can we avoid it?
Adiyēn rāmānuja dāsan
+91############ Adiyen’s few cents..
In office, I am working on a role given by my boss. I am different from that role. If that role was not given, I as an individual, have no interest and no means of performing those actions. So I realize whatever work I did in the office was on my boss’s behalf and the results of it, don’t belong to me either. Having this realization, I do my work without letting my personal feelings(hatred or vested interest) about the work or my peers or the competition. They don’t come in my way of doing my duty. With that freedom of thought, I perform the actions as to how my CEO would want me to do..
That’s how adiyen see it Swamy
Mādhava Nice view swamy, thank you!
What is difficult for adiyen is that in adiyens job, there is so much room for own decisions. The board gives the final ok, everything else is done by me. So while adiyen understands the logic of your point and tries to think that way, adiyen is always back to I-ness very quickly when at work… dhanyosmi 🙏
+91############ Adiyen also is only trying to stay in that ideal mental state Swami. Every day is an attempt in that direction. I guess every one will have to find a customized solution for their situation to get to this detached mental state at work. For example, I started thinking of myself as a ‚contract worker‘ in my own company. That helped me avoid many politics related distractions & hurt feelings and focus only on work and save my mind, time for bhaghavath kainkaryam
Here are adiyen’s few little thoughts on this topic to maintain a right balance of mind. Sincere apologies if something doesn’t add up or make sense.🙏🙏
Whether one is travelling the spiritual path or performing the day-to-day tasks in mundane life, ideally he / she must keep in mind that he/she is functioning only out of acharyan’s and emperuman’s kindness and blessings.
one might be performing something big / something small (in worldly terms), performing big tasks / small tasks -performing managerial job/ assistant’s job – it doesn’t matter, everything is carried out only by emperuman’s kindness and grace.
If we are of any use anywhere, if we are able to carry out even a little useful work, it is only because of emperuman’s meticulous arrangement – we are able to function only due to the facilities & faculties endowed by emperuman.
For example: adiyen does not know how im able to breathe without any conscious effort from self, how my lungs take oxygen and push out carbon dioxide, how blood is circulating through each part of the body, how the nervous system carry signals from one part of the body to another, how the heart is pumping etc. I do not know, but it happens automatically – Im not consciously taking any effort to perform the hundreds of tasks inside my body.
We don’t have any control over our own activities. All we can do is take care of our body from outside, which is very trivial when compared to what’s happening naturally inside our bodies. Such is our condition, yet we are living and using this God given gift to do our little tasks in life
We cannot make any claims on our own body’s functioning nor we can claim anything in regards to our mental capabilities, skills. intelligence etc. because we were able to acquire these qualities due to the exposure, experience, opportunities and material facilities provided to us.
When such is the case of our own bodies and our own selves, it goes without explanation about all the other external factors resources & arrangements God has created and operating for us, using which we perform our duties – be it in whatever stream and in whatever capacity
Reality is we don’t have much to make personal claims for any good work that we are able to perform. It turns out that humility is not a choice, rather it is a natural state of mind when such simple realities are realised / understood clearly.
We are only utilising what has been provided by God, within our limited understanding, knowledge & capacity and we attempt to do our duty as good as possible. Again this is dependent upon God’s will. And we can only pray for his blessings to get the right results and it is not fully in our hands.
When we realise the depth and breadth of God’s hand from behind – and our own limitations – there is nothing for us to fill up our ego. There is simply no scope for ego at any level and any measure.
It will be hard to find a reason to be able to think that I’m doing so and so big work; I’m so and so; i have such achievements; I have acquired this position etc..
In reality, we are simply using our little will, extremely limited will; wishing and willing to do little acts with all the facilities and arrangements blessed by God.
I’m in a position to take decisions and act only because God has been very kind to me and placed me in this position – I should not consider that I fully deserve everything that I possess – but it must be understood that God has blessed me with what I have, only out of His love and kindness. There are many people who can do what I’m doing. There are many who can perform a lot better than me, yet God has some reason to put me in the path that I’m in – Hence one must be thankful and make the best use of it, use it rightly and not misuse it and be thankful for what he Has given and perform our duties.
When we realise God’s immense love towards us and the unimaginable amount of blessing He showers upon us -we understand how responsibly we should be walking the right path in life. And not misuse the boons He has blessed us with love. We have a very high responsibility not to displease Him. we must exercise our little will to sincerely walk the path as shown by our acharyas. This is the only way to make our acharyas and emperuman happy.
Kindly apologise for all mistakes in adiyen’s words. And happy to receive comments for correction.
Adiyen ramanuja dasan🙏🙏🙏
Venkatesh Dear Swamins,
A few more things to consider for practical application.
adiyen suspects part of the issue might be mistaking / confusing the „utsāha“ (zeal, enthusiasm) which we are asked to show for an act in BG 18.26 below, with „I-ness“.
[Note: „utsāha“ (zeal) should be a state of consciousness that’s an attribute of the jīva, according to the YMD (Yatheendra Matha Deepika) reference mentioned in adiyen’s previous post.]
‘He is called Sātvika-Actor who is attachment-free, boasts not of ‘I-ness,’ full of courage and zeal, unmoved by success or failure.’
Attachment-free = Exempt from attachment for fruit.
An-aham-vādi = who boasts not of self (=I-ness), as the agent, or who is devoid of the pride or love of self being agent (of an act).
Dhṛiti = Courage or fortitude, or the being able to bear up against all unavoidable sufferings incidental to the prosecution of a work undertaken.
Utsāha = Zeal, enthusiasm for effort, or the being enlivened with an active spirit for work.
And to be unmoved whether success or failure follow an action such as that of a war, or other acts such as earning money and other necessaries for prosecuting such a war. To be such an Actor is called Sātvika. http://githa.koyil.org/index.php/18-26/
In the above, Emperumān is asking for the „absence“ of boast/pride/love of the self being the doer and the „prevalence“ of zeal / enthusiasm / courage, which (the latter) is different from an aham-vādi according to the above.
In other words, rather than continually focusing on the fact that we aren’t the doer, we are asked to focus on zeal/enthusiasm/courage for the act that is being performed as an instrument (BG 11.33). Of course, if/whenever we find ourselves in the consciousness of an „aham-vādi“ we could extinguish it with 18.15 and other verses mentioned in the 2 previous posts.
Also, in practice, many jīvās‘ (including adiyen’s) „will“ is subpar/vitiated in various ways because of continued focus on prakriti/matter/māya, but by Acharyan’s kripa we can hope to immerse ourselves more and more in Bhagavath/Bhāgavatha kainkaryam and reach the perfect stage of being an instrument vide Topic 13 in Aṣta-daśa Bhedas:
Since when we subsume our will to Emperumān/Emperumānār/Achāryan’s Will, it’s Achāryan’s Will that causes kainkaryam to happen, with us just being instruments (achithvath pārathantriyam), one practical way to look at it is that ALL positives that come via us are because of Achāryan’s kripa, with only the negatives „owned“ by us (the negatives subjecting us to punyam/papam/consequences).
Also practicing Naichyanusandhanam as shown by our Pūrvāchāryas (vide Yathirāja Vimśati). Lacking in any kind of self-esteem, considering oneself to be a total imbecile, etc.
adiyen would be grateful for corrections. All faults in the above and only the faults belong to adiyen.