Thuppul Pillai: 9 – Sri Vedanta Desika Is a Great Personality

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Satyagalam Swami DesikanSrI:

SrImathE Nigamantha Mahadesikaya namah:

SrImAn venkatanAthAryaH kavitArkika kesarI |

vedAntAcArya-varyo me sannidhattAm sadA hRdi ||

Sri Vedanta Desika is a great personality. He was great in thought, word and deed. His accomplishments are so varied, so many-sided and so glamorous that even today, his very name is alluring and inspiring. Above all, he lived his life in God and so he lives eternally in greatness.

His writings cover all fields of knowledge and they are so prodigious and so prolific both in content and style. His variegated knowledge ? I art, science, religion, philosophy and even in handicrafts is so amazing that even the elite are compelled to admit that he is a rare combination of all the highest powers bestowed on man. Usually, God grants these merits, sporadically with restrictions and reservations. But, Sri Vedanta Desika was an exception and he had God’s grace in abundance and his life was so richly blessed and great in many ways and in many respects.

1.   Was there anyone great, who was free from egoism and attachments, who was free from pride and prejudice and who was free from the pursuit of power, pelf, name and fame?
Yes. There was one. It was Sri Vedanta Desika.

2.   Was there anyone great, who considered a clod of earth and a bar of gold as equal in value?
Yes. There was one. It was Sri Vedanta Desika.

3.   Was there anyone great, who considered friend and foe alike, anyone who treated fame and indignity alike?
Yes. There was one. It was Sri Vedanta Desika.

4.   Was there anyone great, who was pure and spotless in character, anyone who did not care to earn or to save or to own, anyone  who was above pain and pleasure?
Yes. There was one. It was Sri Vedanta Desika.

5.   Was there anyone great, who lived with one-pointed devotion to God, anyone who lived for enlightening and uplifting others, anyone who tried to bridge the gap between earth and heaven, by erecting a staircase with easy steps to climb and to reach the Kingdom of God?
Yes. There was one. It was Sri Vedanta Desika.

Such was his greatness and we will do well to follow his footsteps and study his teachings and sublimate our lives. He has set the standards for us all in “plain living and high thinking” for all times.

Sri Vedanta Desika’s genius covered all fields of human endeavors. He adorned and enriched whatever he touched and he touched only whatever was worthwhile and noble.

  • He could write with equal felicity either in prose or in poetry;
  • He can be concise and he can be dilatory;
  • He can write in simple style and also in ornate style;
  • He can use simple words and he can use compound words;
  • He can use both simple words and compound words together, in perfect unity and perfect style. (Vide Raghuveera Gadyam);
  • He was well versed in Sanskrit and equally well versed in Tamil and more brilliantly well versed in the combination of Tamil and Sanskrit (Manipravalam).
  • In debate, he was unconquerable. When there was even a slightest adverse criticism of Visishtadvaita philosophy and if there was any illogical view or misrepresentation of our scriptures, Sri Vedanta Desika became as powerful as a lion and his critics and rivals would be forced to save themselves, by retracing their steps, submitting meekly and unquestionably to the overwhelmingly balanced, truthful and logical arguments of Swami Desika’s master mind.
  •  As a poet, Sri Vedanta Desika was supreme beyond any comparison. His poetry pulsates with stately and majestic cadence and is filled with divine aroma. Hence, Sri Vedanta Desika’s poetry excels that of Kalidasa, the renowned poet of our country. It excels also that of immortal poets of other countries. In imaginative skill, artistic dexterity, and emotional vivacity and in poetic excellence in all its varieties, Sri Vedanta Desika’s poetry is unsurpassed. His poetry is the outcome of the dynamic call of Vedanta, to express his Bhakti, which is the crown of all Jnana. His uniqueness as a poet consists in the rare combination of “Kavita Samartya”, logical dexterity and spiritual enlightenment. In his poetry, the principle of the doctrines of Visishtadvaita is everywhere diffused.
  •  Sri Vedanta Desika never for a moment forgot the teachings of his great predecessor, Sri Ramanuja and followed his footsteps with dogged and unswerving determination on the great path laid and trodden by the great Paramacharya. When Sri Ramanuja’s teachings began to wane 130 years after his demise and when it was losing its grip on the minds of the people, Sri Vedanta Desika appeared on the scene to reinforce Sri Ramanuja’s teachings by advocacy and by writing proper commentaries and thereby enriched the great works of Vaishnavite literature in an abundant measure and in a remarkable manner.
  •   Every line of Sri Vedanta Desika’s poetry shines with a poetic beauty. But, his “Yadavabhyudayam” has a charm of its own. It is
    captivating from beginning to end and it is sublime in all its details. In the very beginning of this great work, he himself defines
    what a poem should be and no poet, except Sri Vedanta Desika, has set such high standards and such noble objectives.

(i)        It is necessary, he says, that in a poem, words must flow with ease;

(ii)     The style must be suitable to the meaning;

(iii)   It must be filled with nine “rasas” (sentiments) and 13 “Bhavas” to develop and strengthen the above sentiments;

(iv)    It must be suggestive;

(v)    It must have an exoteric and esoteric meaning;

(vi)    It must be resonant with “Dwani”;

(vii)   It must have figures of speech and it must have a properstructure;

(viii)   Above all this, it must be capable of delighting the whole mankind and its creator;

(ix)   To crown it all, Swami says hat to be a good poet, one must have the blessings of   Sarasvathi, and the Goddess of learning and
without her grace, and nobody can become or entitled to be called a poet. This Goddess has undoubtedly blessed Sri Vedanta
Desika and his poetry, therefore, transforms all human emotions into divine ecstasies and in consequence his poems shine as
masterpieces of poetic art.

(x)   Every Canto of “Yadavabhyudayam” is pregnant with poetic beauty and it is difficult to pick and choose. A honey-product is
honey in its entirety and in parts.

Satyagalam Swami Desikan-1

For brevity’s sake two illustrations are given below:

(1)  Here, Sri Vedanta Desika enjoys and expresses “Avatara Rahasyam” of the Almighty, in words weighty and sentiments lofty. In any drama on the stage, the different characters acting in it put on the make-up of their cast and act accordingly, completely forgetting their real selves. The success of an actor depends on how naturally and how attractively he conducts himself on the stage to secure and fix the entire attention of the audience and also making the audience to forget all other matters not connected with the show they are enjoying. “Oh! God! Like an actor, Thou have taken Matsya, Kurma Varaha, Nrisimha and human Avataras and you tried to play your part well consistent with your cast. Besides, you tried to hide your real self, which is Omnipotent. But, in your dramatic show of your Avatara, due to your “soulabhya”, the devout and the pure hearted who have taken their sole refuge in Thee saw and enjoyed your “Paratva” and also its bliss and magnanimity. Thus, you were able to hide your real personality and your divine shining qualities of your heavenly abode, the Sri Vaikuntam”. Can anything be more impressive than this delineation of “Avatara Rahasya”?

 (2)  Here Swami Desika portrays Devaki’s pregnancy. How vivid, how devoted this portrayal! It requires the depth of a great poet’s imagination. It requires a devoted soul. It requires a deep understanding of nature, beauty and truth. Then only it is possible to paint this picture, in words, which are full of beauty. Devaki has in her the elixir of life, which is “Krishna Rasayanam”. The prescription of this “Rasayana” is in the Vedas and properties are also well described in that pharmacopoeia. It is sure cure for all the ills and evils of life. This is not a new drug but an old patent drug well tried by Siddhas and it never failed in its cure. Devaki has taken this elixir. Without any effort on her part, this “Krishna Rasayanam” has made her Super-human and divine. Lord Krishna is the source of all “Ananda” He is a great “Rasika” Himself and He dispenses all “Rasas” to others. Association with Him will remove all the miseries of life and that will transform everything into divinity. Sri Vedanta Desika revels in such soul-stirring sentiments and paints a beautiful picture, in every line of this great poem, which is his masterpiece in thought, imagery, diction and spiritual experience.

No account of Visishtadvaita, religion or philosophy would be complete at any time, without reference to the great contribution made to it by our versatile genius, Sri Vedanta Desika. His services to enrich our great literature, and his great, glorious name will never be effaced from the annals of our spiritual lore.

May his works inspire us.

May his wisdom guide us.

May his blessings save us.

[This is based on an Article by Dr. V. Rama Iyengar, Bangalore in Sri Vedanta Desika 7th centenary Commemoration Volume)- translated by Sri Anbil Ramaswamy Swamy, USA]

kavi-tArkika-simhAya kalyANa-guNa-SAline |

Srimate venkateSAya vedAntagurave namaH ||

Writeup by : Sri Madhavakannan

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