Srivaishnava Question and Answers – Learners Series Concluding Part

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Chapter 14: Conclusion

1. I now have a broad idea about the greatness of our philosophy and religion. I have a few doubts in regard to certain points which you mentioned.  Now , there are certain passages, in our accecpted authorities like the Vedas, Sastras, Puranas and Divya Prabandha, which appear to be mutually contradictory. So , which one should we take, as correct?

We should understand that really there is no difference between these various authorities. We have to properly interpret, and reconcile the apparently contradictory statements.

In some cases, to praise a particular thing, the scriptures may overpraise it. In all such instances a proper interpretation will have to be done to resolve the apparent inconsistencies.

2. We have two types of duties. The first type consists of compulsory duties like sandhya vandana; and the other type of desirable duties, such as going to temples or making garlands for the Lord. Which is more important?

Obviously, the compulsory duties are more important. Because,if these are not done,this results in sin(papa). But, if you do not do desirable activities, no sin accurs. Hence it is more important to do compulsory duties.

3. There are two types of duties: 1) One is, doing thing laid down by sastras. 2) The other is, not doing things, which are prohibited by sastras. Between the two, which is more important?

It is more important to avoid things, which have been prohibited by sastras; like drinking liquor or taking meat. Doing things, as prescribed by sastras, comes next. It is only a question of degree and importance.

4. What is the importance of acharya and bhagavatas in our system of philosophy?

The importance of acharya is even greater than that of God.

Bhagavatas or the disciples of God, have to be treated as even superior to the Lord. When such is the case, for bhagavatas or God’s disciples; in the case of acharya, this is even more so and does not require any emphasis.

The highest respect is to be given to the acharya; and the service to the acharya is even more important than service to God.

5. How should the acharya treat a disciple?

The acharya should test the disciple, as to whether he is really interested in our lofty principles. Then the acharya should teach him everything, without omission. Whatever he has been taught by his acharya, he should gladly teach his disciple, so that the disciple gets the full benefit.

6. Between the service to the archarya and service to the bhagavatas,which is more important?

1) Service to the acharya is the most important.

2) Next comes service to bhagavatas.

3) After that only comes service to the Lord.

7. It is generally accepted that serving somebody is not an act of happiness, and this has to be avoided. Then, how do we say that even in moksha, service is done to the Lord? How does this service to the Lord and Lakshmi, give pleasure to jivatma?

The statement that service to somebody produces unhappiness is only a general statement. There are exeptions.

When we do service to somebody, who is dear to us, it is not an act of unhappiness, but in reality it produces pleasure.

For example, a wife does service willingly to her husband, and derives a lot of pleasure in doing so.

similarly, service to the Lord is also an act of pleasure.

8. The Vedas, particularly Atharva Veda, have laid down acts, for achieving bad objectives like destruction of enemies. Why should the Vedas teach such bad things also?

Actually, these are not normally to be followed. but the Vedas, being kind to humanity, want that they should study the Vedas and do good acts.

As an incentive for the ordinary people to develop faith in the Vedas, they have prescribed methods for achieving destruction of enemies. So, the bad persons, by following these methods, achieve their objective of defeat of enemies.

Then they develop faith in the Vedas.They thenread the more important things, the jnana kanda. This wll help them to develop faith in the good things and finally to do bhakti or prapatti and attain salvation.

The Gita also says that Veda is like a tank or lake. In thebig tank or lake, we take only that much water, as is required for our bathing and drinking.

Similarly, the Vedas contain prayers or methods fordifferent purposes; for defeat of enemies, for getting wealth or cows in this world, for getting svarga after death, for attaining moksha, and so on.

We must only follow what will help us in our goal in life, just as we would take only as much water from the tank as is required.

9. Just as wwe do not adopt what is mentioned about destruction of enemies, in the Vedas, can we say that we should not adopt bhakti yoga also?

The two are entirely different.Bhakti yoga has been prescribed as a means for attaining moksha. Different vidyas, in the bhakti yoga, have also been described at length. These are for the ultimate objective of attaining moksha.

So, this cannot be compared with the procedure laid down in the Vedas regarding destruction of enemies; since Bhakti yoga is one of the means of attaining salvation.

10. It is said that bhakti yoga has to be performed throughout this life; and, perhaps, in the following lives also, until salvation is attained. But prapatti has to be done only once and is sure of giving salvation at the end of this life itself. Thus, prapatti seems to be much simpler, as compared to bhakti yoga.

Yes, in one way, what you say is correct. But you should have absolute faith in the efficacy of prapatti; and you have also to adopt the accessories, like decision to do what is pleasing to the Lord; to avoid, what is not pleasing to the Lord. So, the adoption of these accessories, particularly the absolute and full faith, is also very difficult. In any case, we go by the sastras and we accept the truth of what is mentioned in the sastras.

11. I have heard that everyday, we have to do five kinds of service to the Lord. What are they?

They are 1) Abhigamana 2) Upadana 3) Ijya 4) Svadhyaya 5) Yoga.

1) Abhigamana – First in the morning after bath and sandhyavandana, we pray to god that all services required to be done to Him during the day should be done without any hindrance.

2) Upadana – The next is to collect flowers, tulasi and other accessories for the aradhana of the Lord. Also, we read or learn the sacred works of the Alwars and Acharyas.

3) Ijya – The third is to perform aradhana to the Lord.

4) Svadhyaya – The fourth is to read in the afternoon the vedantic portions; and discuss with like-minded people, philosophy and deeper meanings of the texts.

5) Yoga – The fourth is to bed, meditating on the holy feet of the Lord; and thinking that we are keeping our head at the Lord’s feet.

12. I agree that doing the compulsory duties and karmas, like sandhyavandana, is necessary; because it is ordained in the sastras; and their non-performance will result in the displeasure to the Lord and invite punishment by the Lord. But, what is the need for doing recommended duites, like going to the temple, lighting up the lamps in the temple, presenting garlands to the Lord in the temple?

I agree that such duties are not compulsory, but are only recommended. so, if such duties are not performed, they will not result in any displeasure to the Lord or invite punishment by the Lord.

But, if such things are done, they result in the pleasure to the Lord. So, such recommended duties should also be performed for the pleasure of the Lord.

13. You have been telling me the basic priniciples of our philosophy and religion. What would you advise, regarding the books to be referred to, for further details?

There are four most important books, which we should study under an Acharya. These are:

1) Sri Ramanuja’s commentary on Brahma Sutra, called “Sri Bhashya”.

2) Sri Ramanuja’s commentary on Bhagavad Gita, called “Gita Bhashya”.

3) The commentary of Kurukesa(Pillan) on Tiruvaimozhi of Nammalwar.Because the whole Tiruvaimozhi is concerning the Lord and His auspicious qualities, this commentary is called “Bhagavad Vishayam” or “subject concerning the Lord”.

4) “Rashasya Traya Sara” or “The essence of the three secrets” of Sri Desika.

By learning the above four sacred works, the principles of our philosophy will be well understood. Also, the view points of other systems of philosophy, and how they are refuted by us, can also be learnt. It is our sacred duty to learn these works under the feet of an Acharya.

14. My holidays are coming to a close. Have you still got much left?

Knowledge is an ocean. However much you read, you find that you have to read and learn a lot more. I have so far told you the important principles of our Visishtadvaita philosophy and Sri Vaishnavite way of life, broadly called religion.

I will be very happy, if what I have told could induce a further desire in you, to learn more and more about our sacred religion and philosophy.

I want that our talks so far, should kindle in you an interest to learn more and more, and benefit by them.

I wish you all the best.

Source: A Dialog on Hinduism By Sri V.N. Gopala Desikan

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1 COMMENT

  1. Swamy: I have a Question.. I have read some where that Sri Rama and also some rishis like Agastya maharshi,etc used to consume meat. So did our shastra really say that Meat consumption is sin. Please clarify my doubt.

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