Subashita Neevee


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Intellectual arrogance
Our scriptures have elaborately explained various rules of how to live on this earth. We do not have to worry about the erosion of values in public life. It is adequate if each one of us can reform oneself and abide by the edicts prescribed by our acharyas. One of the most common ones, is the quality of pride (darpa). Pride invaribly follows knowledge and leads to haughty, arrogant behaviour. It makes us feel that we are incomparable in our achievements. Swami Desika pens a verse to illustrate that truly great people remain humble despite their colossal achievements.

Astu thaavat Agastyasya Jahnor mahima-ninhavah
Kaa kathaa tasya baalasya Vishwa-graasepi atripyatah?

“Agastya put down the greatness of Jahnu. Let it be. What to speak of that child who, even after swallowing the entire universe, is still not satisfied (is still hungry)?”

This verse is from the acharya’s Subashita Neevee, a work in the rahasya tradition. These words can be understood only by scholars who have heard the substance elaborated by their acharyas. Let us understand the substance of the verse and the tales narrated therein.

Tales of superhuman skills
King Bhageeratha performed severe penance to bring the holy Ganga to earth. As he was leading the river to the destination, the Ganga flowed merrily and boisterously through the hermitage of sage Jahnu and flooded the place, while the sage was performing vedic sacrifice (yaaga). The enranged sage drank the enire river and continued nonchalantly with his work. Finally, Bhageeratha fell at his feet and begged him to release the subdued Ganga. The river thus came to be known as Bhageerathi and Jaahnavee due to her association with the king and the sage.

This is a story from Mahabharata. A demon (asura) named Ilvala and his associates cheated the gods (devatas) and hid themselves deep within the ocean. The devatas prayed to sage Agastya for help. The sage within his divine power drank the water in the ocean and the devatas were able to find the demons and destroy them. Sage Agastya’s feat is more astonishing than that of sage Jahnu. But this remarkable show put up by sage Agastya appears small compared to that of the Lord.

Sage Markandeya once had an enchanting vision of a tiny infant reclining on a small banyan leaf floating on the rising flood-waters of the great deluge. This glorious child carried the entire universe with all the worlds inside its stomach. Seemingly unsatisfied after swallowing the universe, the little child was sucking his own chubby, pink toe holding it with its lotus-like hands. This marvelous sport (leela) of the Lord Vatapathra Saayee is surely more astonishing than the powers of sage Agastya.

Need for humility
Swami Desika points out that the greatness of the Lord’s padukas is greater than that of the Lord. The Lord creates and protects the entire universe but the padukas effortlessly carry and support the Lord. Devotees of the Lord therefore carry the Lord’s padukas on their heads and sing their glory. We learn that each magnificent act is surpassed by yet another. Let us therefore remain humble.

Source: Sri NrisimhaPriya

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