Saturday, February 13, 2010

VAISHNAVISM -QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

VAISHNAVISM -QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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1.What is srivaishnavam? Who started this branch of Hindu religion?

SrI VaishNavam is the only philosophy and practice which is flawless, eternal, unshakable, universal truth. No one started this. It has no date of starting. It is eternal. It is complete in itself, unparalleled, unsurpassed and therefore it is not a branch of any religion. SrI VaishNavam is the philosophy and practice of the Veda, which is not authored by anyone.

2.What are the basic tenants of Srivaishnavam?

The outline of Visistadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is as follows:

"Asesha Chitachit Vastu Seshine Sesha Saayine |
Nirmalaananta Kalyaana Nidhaye Vishnave Namaha ||"

This sloka of Bhagavat Ramanuja (Vedaartha Sangraha) is the essence of our Visistadvaita Shree Vaishnava philosophy and practice. The Tatva-Hita-Purusharthas are beautifully conveyed by this verse.

"Chit" denotes the sentient soul - jeevaatman. The Jeevaatman is identified as finite (aNu), sentient (Jgnyaana), unchanging (Satya), blissful (Aananda) nature-reality (Swaroopa). He is thus knowledge-self and also has knowledge (Dharma Bhootha Jgnyaana) as his inseparable attribute. He is Swayam-prakasa meaning knows himself ie., his individuality as he is Jgnyaana swaroopa. He knows other things using his Dharma Bhoota Jgnyaana. Baddha (bound by karma in material world), Muktha (liberated from karma and hence from material world) and Nitya (eternally and ever free from karma) are the three types of Chit. The Chit is eternal and is imperishable.

"Achit" denotes the insentient matter. Its nature is to change from one form to another. It neither knows itself nor anything. Trigunya (matter having Satva, Rajas and Tamas), Satva Soonya (Time which is devoid of Satva) and Sudha Satva (matter having pure Satva without rajas and tamas) are the three types of Achit.

"Asesha" denotes that there are innumerable Jeevaatmans. It applies for both Chit and Achit. Upto this, it is clear that chit and achit are different entities. "Asesha Chitachit Vastu Seshine" means that the Brahman has all the chit and achit entities as his property. The term "Vastu" brings out the truth that these chit and achit entities are real and not falsehood/illusion. This makes it clear that the Brahman is different from all chit and achit entities and therefore the Brahman is "Purushotthaman" as "Seshe" denotes clearly that Brahman is the lord/owner of all chit and achit entities.

"Sesha Saayine" denotes that the Brahman reclines on the divine bed, which is the coil of Adi Sesha - divine serpent. This further implicitly denotes that the Brahman has divine form, divine abode, divine consort Shree, Bho and Nila and all the divine royal things signifying his unparalleled and unsurpassed supremacy.

Therefore the part of the verse "Asesha Chitachit Vastu Seshine Sesha Saayine” brings out the meaning that the Brahman has "Ubhaya Vibhuthi" as his property. "Ubhaya" means "Twin" and Vibhuthi means property. They are the Leela Vibhuthi (the material worlds (from Chaturmuka Brahmaa's Satya Loka to microorganisms), which are created sustained and destroyed by Brahman as his sport (leela) and exist for his Leela rasa) and the Nitya Vibhuthi, which is the transcendental divine world, called Shree Vaikunta Paramapadam. This part of the verse therefore implicitly brings out the Pradhaana Pratitantram (key point) of Visistadvaita, which is the sareera-aatma bhaava relation between the all chit - achit entities and Brahman. As the Brahman supports, controls and owns all chit and achit entities, he is the soul of all chit and achit entities. As all the chit and achit entities are supported, controlled and owned by Brahman and exist for the purpose of Brahman as inseparable attribute of Brahman, all the chit and achit entities are Brahman's body. The Brahman is Purushoththama: Shreeman Narayana: Vishnu: Vasudeva:

Nirmalaananta Kalyaana Nidhaye brings out the Ubhyalingam - the two identifications of Brahman. As follows: "Nirmala" brings out "Akila Heya Pratyaneekatvam" meaning "the Brahman is pure untouched by all the impurities of the universe though he is present inside and outside everything. He is "Aatma" soul of the universe called "Antaryaami" - meaning "He who controls everything". "Ananta Kalyaana Nidhaye” brings out "Ananta Kalyaana Gunaakaratvam" meaning "the Brahman is infinite with infinite divine/auspicious attributes like power, strength, lordship, firmness, knowledge, resplendence which are beyond the reach of our mind, sense organs and words. These attributes bring out his "Paratvam" "ultimate supremacy". His attributes/qualities like divine mercy brings out his "Sowlabhyam" "Easily available" nature.

"Vishnave" clearly points out that the Brahman is Lakshmi Pathi (Lord of Shree Lakshmi) who pervades everything everywhere. Vishnu (Shreeman Narayanan) is the Brahman. His omnipresence is conveyed by this name.

To summarise the Iswara Tatva concept, please note the following points:
The Brahman (God - Iswara) is Shreeman Naaraayanan who is

  • Lord of Goddess Lakshmi (Shree)
  • Unchanging, knowledge-self, infinite, blissful, and absolute pure nature
  • The material cause and instrumental cause of the universe (all sentient souls and insentient matter)
  • Having the material worlds (universe) and transcendental world as his body and He being the soul
  • Having divine transcendental body (in five modes - Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Anaryaami-(Haarda)-Roopa and Archa)
  • Untouched by all impurities of the universe
  • Having infinite divine attributes
  • Having as his sport, creation, sustenance, and destruction of all the material worlds.


Up to this Visistadvaita Tatvam (reality) was outlined.

"Namaha" is not in the meaning of just saluting Lord Vishnu. It conveys the "Hitam and Purushaartham" implicitly. Hitam is means to attain liberation. The term "namaha" conveys meaning up to Saranaagathi at the lotus feet of Shree Vishnu, which is total surrender. Similarly Bhakthi is also to be understood to have been conveyed here implicitly.

"Namaha" with the names of Vishnu used here also implicitly conveys the "Purushaartham" (goal, result) which is eternal service at the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and eternally experiencing the Lord in Shree Vaikunta Paramapadam.

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3.How does this branch differ from other Vaishnava religions like Madhva Vaishnavas and Gaudiya vaishnavas?

It is to be noted that Advaita, Dvaita etc., are personal opinions of individuals and they do not explain the entire Veda, Geeta and Brahma Sutras (Prastaana Trayam). Many of these are not only against the Veda but also against logic and rationality. Only Visistadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is the purport of Veda, Geeta and Brahma Sutras.

4.What is the meaning of the term “Visishtadvaita”?

Let us examine the meaning of the term “Visishtadvaita”. It is derived by two ways – “Visishtasya Advaitam – Visishtadvaitam” and “Visishtayoho Advaitam – Visishtadvaitam”.

“Visishtasya Advaitam” means – The Brahman qualified by all chit and achit entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam (body/mode/attribute) is without a second entity meaning unparalleled and unsurpassed. This brings out the ultimate supremacy of Shreeman Narayana Para Brahman who is Akila Heya Pratyaneeka: and Ananta Kalyaana Gunaakara:

“Visishtayoho Advaitam” means – The Brahman having the subtle (sukshma) chit and achit entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam (body/mode/attribute) before creation is the same Brahman having the expanded (stUla) chit and achit entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam (body/mode/attribute) after creation. This brings out the fact that Shreeman Narayana Para Brahman is the only material cause and efficient cause of the universe.

Shreeman Nigamaantha Maha Desika defines the same as “Asesha Chit-Achit Prakaaram Brahmaikameva Tatvam”. This is the most precise definition of our Siddhaantham.

5.Is it true that Bhagavad Ramanuja did not use this term in any of his works?

True. Our Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is the eternal matham of Veda and therefore it is called as “Parama-Vaidika-matham”. Not only its philosophy (sidhdantham) is parama-vaidikam but also its practice (anushtanam) is parama-vaidikam.

6.If so, who has coined this word and does it mean that our religion is only 1000 years old?

This term was used as it precisely conveys the essence of our philosophy as told above (visishtasya advaitam and visishtayoho advaitam) by many scholars. It is eternal and therefore, there is no age for this.

7.It is said that Vishishtadvaita is also an advaita. What is the difference between Vishishtadvaita and Advaita?

Advaita and Vishishtadvaita have no connection at all. Advaita is implicit atheism. Advaita is called as “Prachanna Bowdhdam”. Advaita is based only on a personal interpretation of Abheda-sruthi. In Advaita, Brahman is the only knowledge-self reality and is without any attributes. The three types of differences namely difference in individuality, difference in types and differences in its integral parts are not in Brahman. Nothing other than this Brahman is reality. Though the Brahman is eternally free and only knowledge self, it gets obstructed/covered by ignorance and without realizing itself as Brahman (as told above) becomes to realize itself wrongly as Jeevaatman and gets bound in the material universe which is not a reality. This is what the Veda through verses like “Tat Tvam Asi” conveys. Except the Brahman, everything is illusion-falsehood. The God and the sentient-living and insentient-matter which are controlled by God are only illusion and has no reality. There is nothing called bound Jeevaatman and liberated Jeevaatman as the Brahman and Jeevaatman are the same entity. Only one body is with Jeevaatman, which is Brahman covered/obstructed by ignorance. Other bodies are without Jeevaatman as they are just the illusion of the Brahman covered by ignorance. It is not possible to point out which body has that Jeevaatman. The experiences of Brahman during its illusion are also false. The preceptor who imparts this knowledge about Brahman is unreal. The disciple who listens to the preceptor is unreal. The Veda, which gives this knowledge about the Brahman, is also unreal. The Brahman by the knowledge of knowing that nothing other than itself (which is only knowledge-self reality without any attributes) is real gets its ignorance cleared and realizes itself as Brahman and this is liberation. Advaita thus declares everything is unreal except the only knowledge-self Brahman, which is without any attributes using the unreal Saastra, which is Veda!

Visishtadvaita’s key aspects were already told.

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8.How does Vishishtadvaita differs from Dvaita?

Dvaita is the philosophy, which is based on the bheda-srutis, which states that the sentient soul (Jeevaatman), the insentient matter, and the Brahman are different from one another. It stresses the difference between the entities categorically as follows:

Differences between Brahman and Jeevaatman
Differences between one Jeevaatman and another Jeevaatman
Differences between Jeevaatman and insentient-matter
Differences between one insentient and another insentient matter
Differences between Brahman and insentient matter etc

Dvaita holds that the Brahman who is Vishnu (Narayanan) is just the efficient cause (instrumental cause) in the creation of the universe. It stresses that only Bhakthi as told in Upanishads through 32 vidyaas is the means to attain liberation. It states that the goal is experiencing the bliss in Lord Vishnu’s transcendental divine world Paramapada Shree Vaikuntam. It also recognizes inequality in the status of liberated jivatmans also.

Visishtadvaita’s key aspects were already told.

9.Advaitans and even Dvaitans claim that Sriman Narayana is their first acharya. We also say that our pratama acharya is Sriman Narayana. Then where does this lineage branch out starting from Sriman Narayana?

For Advaita, the Acharya is also an illusion-unreality. Therefore, there is no point in considering its lineage in Advaita. As far as Dvaita, their lineage is said to begin so. The guru-parampara that is present in our Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnava Matham, has Sriman Narayana as its first Acharya. But one has to note that the “Sishyas” who then became Acharyas, has followed the first Acharya perfectly in all manners only in Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnava Guru-Parampara. Sriman Narayana as the first Acharya for all, has blessed us with Veda-Vedanta, Brahma-Sutra, Bhagavath Gita, Pancharatra Agama etc., and preached only the Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam clearly. But the other branches of philosophies had their own prejudices as their mathams, which deviates from what the first Acharya told.

10.What is the meaning of Samasrayanam or Pancha samaskaram?

Pancha-Samskaram (which is prescribed mandatory in the Saastra) means five purification rituals collectively referred. Only the Shree Vaishnava Aacharya can bless the Sishya with this ritual. They are

  • Taapam (bearing the shanka-chakra marks of heated shanka-chakra seal along with chanting of mantras)
  • PuNdram (wearing 12 Tiru-maN with Shree-ChUrNam along with chanting of mantras)
  • Naamam (identifying oneself by the Daasya-nama signifying the Bhagavath-Bhaagavata-Seshatvam)
  • Mantram (getting the upadesam of the three secret mantras called Srimath Rahasya-trayam from Aacharya as per the rules of Saastra) and
  • Ijyaa (getting the upadesam from Aacharya to do the Aaraadhana for Bhagavath-Vigraham or Bhagavath-Saligraama-Vigraham as per the Saastra)
11.Is this ritual started by Bhagavad Ramanuja?

The above mentioned ritual is prescribed in the Saastra as mandatory for all Vaidikas. Therefore, no one started this ritual.

12.What is the meaning of Divya prabandham?

Divya Prabandam is the collection of 24 sections of divine Tamil verses sung by divine Sages called Azhvars. The Divya Prabandam originated because of the transcendental divine experiences that the Azhwaaras had with Shreeman Narayana. It is the summary of Veda in Tamil.

13.What is the meaning of the word “Azhvars?

“Azhvars” means “Divine Sage who is immersed in the ocean of infinite divine qualities of Shreeman Narayana”.

14.Azhvars sang in praise of Sriman Narayana and Nayanmars sang in praise of Lord Shiva. Then why to elevate only Azhvar’s works to the level of Vedas and call them as Dravida Veda etc..

The Divya-Prabandam by virtue itself, is the Tamil-form (Dravida Veda) of the Veda. This is the reason why it is celebrated so and no one has “elevated” it to the level of Veda. This is the reason why some other work in Tamil cannot be equated with the Divya-Prabandam. Divya-Prabandam is unparalleled and unsurpassed. It is called “Chandamigu-Tamil-Marai” meaning “Tamil-Veda”. On the other hand, the other one is called as “Murai” just meaning “a method”. From this, not only the greatness of the Divya-Prabandam is understood easily but also the fact that the Divya-Prabandam is peerless. The “Tiru-Kural”, “Pari-Padal” etc., in Tamil is also stating only the unparalleled and unsurpassed supremacy of Shreeman Narayana: Azhwars sang The Divya Prabandam because of the wisdom granted to them by the one and only God Shreeman Narayana. A Vaidika can accept only the Divya Prabandam. The Divya Prabandam is flawless divine source of knowledge. This aspect is unique to Divya Prabandam. The innumerable commentaries written by scholars prove that Divya Prabandam is Veda’s essence in divine Tamil.

15.What is the meaning of para devatha?

“Para-Devatha” means Sriman Narayana: who is unparalleled and unsurpassed supreme self. The Veda has clearly established that the one and only God is Purushoththama: Sriman Narayana:

16.What is the meaning of anya devatha?

Anya devathas are demi-gods like Chaturmuka-Brahmaa, Rudra, Indra etc. They are all badhda-jivaatmas like us but having higher posts granted by the one and only God Sriman Narayana:

17.Why anya devatha worship is to be avoided?

It is totally to be avoided by all those who are aspiring for Moksham (liberation),because they can’t grant you the salvation. There are numerous texts in veda and upanishads that Sriaman Narayana is the only one who can grant moksham. Now the one who is capable of granting you the highest position ie a place in his abode can’t HE grant the mundane things to you if you ask for it.Then why to pray to other devathas why not ask Sriman Narayana ONLY.

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18.Even Upanishads speak of rituals related to anya devathas. Then why we should not do it?

The Upanishads never speak of rituals related to anya devathas because their aim is only to teach us about the swaroopa-roopa-guna-vibhuthi-iswaryam of Brahman Shreeman Narayana: who is Para-devatha. The Veda’s pUrva-Bhaaga speaks of various rituals related to various devathas. But he who studies the Vedanta (Upanishad) realizes that even those rituals are in fact means to worship only Shreeman Narayana: because the antaryAmi of all devatas is only Sriman Narayana: and the demi-gods are only agents in giving the results. Only Sriman Narayana: gives the result in all the rituals. But he who does the rituals as mere worship of anya-devatas without the knowledge of Sriman Narayana: and satvika-tyaga, never gets elevated to aspire for liberation. The anya-devata worshiper only experiences the evil-samsara. It is a sin of highest order to even think that Sriman Narayana: is equal to any anya-devata. Sriman Narayana: is unparalleled and unsurpassed supreme self. The Veda has clearly established that the one and only God is Purushoththama: Sriman Narayana:

19.What is the meaning of prapatti or Bharanyasam?

Prapatti is a sAdyOpAya – “means”. It is total surrendering at the lotus feet of Sriman Narayana:. It has five “angas” namely AanukUlya-sankalpam, praathikUlya-varjanam, Maha-visvaasam, gOptruvavaraNam and kaarpaNyam. It has to be done by the jivaatman who has realized aachinchanyatvam and ananya-gathithvam and wants the result without delay.

20.Is it true that only prapatti can lead us to salvation?

Not only praptti can lead us to salvation but also Bhakti which has karma and jgnyaana as its angas. Bhakti is also a sAdyOpaya. The SidhdOpAya is the lotus feet of Shreeman Narayana:

21.Why we should avoid eating garlic and onions when these vegetables are supposed to have medicinal properties?

Garlic, Onion etc., are not to be eaten because such things have the capacity to stimulate rajasa-taamasa attributes. A person who aspires for Saatvika nature must reject these things. But for medicine, if prescribed by doctor, then these things can be taken as per the doctor’s prescription only for the cure of the disease.

22.Why fasting on ekadasi is recommended? What is the meaning of upavasam?

Ekadasi fasting is prescribed in the Dharma-saastras and puraanas for purification of body and mind. “Upavasam” means “fasting”.

23.What are the daily duties of srivaishnavas?

Sri Vaishnavas must do the duties without fail as ordered by the Saastra according to their varna-aasrama. Sri Vaishnavas must do their karma with Satvika-tyaga as obeying the order of Shreeman Narayana and only for the pleasure of Shreeman Narayana. He must not do any kaamya, nishidha and abhichaara karmas. He has to do the nitya karmas and naimitika karmas without fail. The daily duties of Shree Vaishnavas are classified into five headings namely

1. Abigamanam
2. Upaadaanam
3. Ijyaa
4. Swaadyaayam
5. Yogam

24.I have no knowledge about vedas or prabandhams. But I have deep devotion towards PerumaL. Is this qualification enough to be a prapanna.

This qualification is more than enough to be a prapanna. But try to study the works of our Aacharyas and Azhwars as per capacity and qualification. Swami DESika in his SrImath Rahasya Traya Saram - SAstrIya niyamanAdhikAram has ordered the prapanna (he who has adopted prapathi properly at the lotus feet of divya dampathi) to do the following:

1. The prapanna has to study the SrI BhAshya and preach it. If he does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
2. He has to study the “aruLichcheyal” which is nAlAyira-divya-prabandam. If he does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
3. He has to do kainkaryam (services like supporting Bhagavath-ArAdhana, thadiyArAdhana etc) in divya-desams. If he does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
4. He has to contemplate on the secret meaning of the Dwaya-mantra. If this is also not possible for him, then
5. He must do service without any ego obeying a qualified SrI VaishNava who is mercifully accepting him.

On listening to the order of our Swami in this manner, one must realize the importance given by our AchAryas to the study of grantas like SrI BhAshya and Divya-Prabandams. These grantas cannot be studied just with the mere help of books and translations. We being prapannas, must approach a qualified SrI VaishNava AchArya and surrender to him and request him to kindly teach these grantas. The importance of learning these grantas in this traditional manner ensures that a person gets the precise comprehension regarding the tatva-hita-purushArthas told in SAstra, which is ascertained only in our Visishtadvaita SrI VaishaNava philosophy and practice.

When this is stressed, there was someone who questioned me – “What is the need for a person to study these difficult grantas?” I replied that “when you get some trouble regarding your health, are you not running behind all the doctors to get it cured? You do so just because you have got extreme dedication to save your body. Why not you think of having atleast a fraction of that dedication towards the jIvAthma-vastu, which is the property of Sriman Narayana:. To save yourself, you have to study our pUrvAchArya grantas and submit His property at His lotus feet. Our AachArAs are full of mercy that they have written the grantas in various levels thinking of various levels of readers. Not all their grantas are tough. Nothing is comparable to our pUrvAchArya grantas. Atleast listen to the easily comprehensible explanations given by “BhAgavatAs”. The person, who questioned me, considered my answer as a practical answer, which made him to think.

One must not give excuses (like “I do not know Sanskrit or Tamil”, “I have lowkika works which will get affected if I spare sometime for the study of these grantas”, “I will study after I get retirement”etc.,) to avoid the study of our pUrvAchArya grantas. Without proper understanding of our SrI SampradAya a person is likely to get agitated and confused with mathams like Advaita (implicit atheism), ChAruvAka (explicit atheism) etc, and starts practicing something irrelevant and irrational. Our Visishtadvaita SrI Vaishnava philosophy and practice is not “belief” or “superstition”. It is the only philosophy and practice which is flawless, eternal and clearly established using Sruthi and pramANa-based-logic. It is the only matham, which enlightens and leads a person straight to Parama-Padam-SrI Vaikuntam. That is why we are always directed to study the pUrvAcharya grantams under the guidance of SrI VaishNava AchAryas in traditional kAlakshEpam method.

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25.What is the goal of the human race?

There are four goals namely Dharma, artha, kaama and moksha.

  • Dharma is righteous path prescribed in the Saastra
  • Arhta is financial aspects and its equivalents.
  • Kaama is gratification of the sense organs
These three goals namely Dharma, artha, kaama are transitory and very limited and are mundane goals. The fourth goal is Moksha, which is permanent and unlimited. Moksha is liberation from all karmas and hence from the material world, reaching the transcendental divine world Shree Vaikuntam and doing eternal service to the lotus feet of Shreeman Narayana: and having infinite bliss.

26.Why should we aspire to reach God’s abode when he is present every where and he is keeping me happy here in the earth itself?

Once a king went to forest for hunting, along with his servants and his one-year-old son. He lost his son in the forest. He returned to his city with grief. Few forest-dwelling-tribal people found the prince in the forest crying helplessly. They took him to their settlement and brought him up for few years. The prince never knew who he is and thought that he is also a tribal. He never did which is suitable for his royal status but followed the entire tribal customs and practices. In fact, he had no scope to distinguish the greatness of the pleasures suitable for a prince and the daily routines of his tribal life. He took his tribal life as such. Also, he never has any knowledge about his father who is a king but always looking for his lost son.

Similar to this lost-prince, the jivaatmans are in the samsaara, bewildered by the prakruthi, which has satva-rajas-tamas attributes. They rarely realize that the “pleasures” that they get in samsaara like mundane comforts are not pleasures but agony in disguise. They never think about the Lord Shreeman Narayana: who is looking forward to uplift the suffering souls in the samsaara.

Coming back to our prince, one day, few Rishis by their wisdom, identified this prince who has assumed miserable life. They approached the Prince and explained to him the truth. They explained the pleasures of the royal state and the miseries in his present life. They also approached the king and informed about the prince. The king was overjoyed and considering the only relationship that he has with the prince, he accepted the prince. He did the samskaaras for the prince and then made him to get the equal enjoyment that he has.

Like this, the Aacharas out of mercy make the jivaatman to realize his swaroopa “Seshatvam”. They bless him with pancha-samskaara and Bhara-nyaasa. They make the Lord to accept the jivaatman. The Lord Shreeman Narayana mercifully accepts the jivaatman and grants equal bliss that he has.

Therefore, one has to be a mumukshu (aspiring for moksha). He has to necessarily adopt the saadyOpaya and then reach the Parama-pada Vaikunta and do eternal service to Lord Shreeman Narayana. This is what is perfectly suitable for the jivaatman’s swaroopa.

The Lord Shreeman Narayana is omnipresent. But we are not able to enjoy him because of our karma. We are bound in the material world and are suffering in it because of our karma. Enjoying the mundane comforts and being satisfied in it is not appropriate to our swaroopa. Therefore, we have to aspire to reach God’s abode and get our swaroopa realized appropriately.

27.What’s the meaning of Upanayanam?

Upanayanam is a samskaara prescribed in the saastra. The suitable eight year old boy (his age should be from eight to sixteen) has to be initiated in the study of Veda and hence Brahmacharyam. The suitable boy is blessed with the sacred thread “YagnyOpavitam” as per the rules of the scriptures and Gayatri-mantra-upadesam. He is directed by his father to uphold Brahmacharya-aasrama-dharma and study the Veda. As this ritual leads the suitable boy to the study of Veda, it is called upanayanam.

28.What’s role of women in our sampradayam? Why they are not allowed to recite Veda or even Vishnu sahasranamam?

Just like the man is entitled to uphold his dharma, the woman has to uphold her dharma. Both have to follow what the saastra has prescribed to each one of them specifically. The dharma-saastras, aaknika-grantas and smruthies categorically prescribe these dharmas. Women are equally entitled to get the knowledge about Brahman Shreeman Narayana but the way in which she has to get it is different from that of man. This should not be misunderstood as “restriction”. The recitation of Veda is not like telling the slokas. The Veda has to be learnt, comprehended and applied with its six accessories namely siksha, chandas, vyaakaranam, niruktham, jyothisham and kalpam. This is suitable only for man. Vishnu Sahasranamam is also a mantra, which has to be chanted only by men because it has to be chanted with nyaasa, pranavam etc. The woman can get the same knowledge through listening to itihaasaas, satvika puraanas, pUrvaacharya-stotras-grantas and divya-prabandams. She has to accompany the man in doing all the vaidika karmas like yaagas. The Parama-vaidika-matham considers both man and woman as its two eyes. She can adopt prapatti and get salvation just like the man.

29.Can women recite Divya prabandham? Why in temples they don’t sit and recite as ghosti?

Women can recite and sing Divya Prabandham. In temples, they can form a separate ghosti and sing divya prabandam before the Lord. But the men-ghosti is separate and generally it will comprise those who are regularly doing kainkaryam in the temple.

30.Who is an Acharya? What is the meaning of this term?

Acharya is he who enlightens us regarding Brahman Shreeman Narayana: and hence tatva-hita-purushaarthas and make us to adopt saadyopaaya. He should be well versed in the Veda, having undivided devotion on the lotus feet of Brahman Shreeman Narayana: and practicing the Parama-Vaidika-matham’s sidhdantams and anushtaanam. “Aacharya” means “he who practices the Saastra’s sidhdantams and anushtaanam” and then preaches it to his disciples.

31.Is it true that without the guidance of an Acharya we can’t realise the Lord?

Yes, it is fully true that without the guidance of an Acharya we can’t realize the Lord.

32.Balarama is as an avatara is Lord Vishnu. At the same time, it is also told that HE is incarnation of Adisesha. How both of these statements could be correct?

The Avataara of Shreeman Narayana (Vishnu) is called “Vibhava-roopam”. The Lord exhibits himself in five forms namely para, vyuha, vibhava, haarda and archa. Of which, the Vibhava-roopam is of various types as told in saastra. The avataaras like Krishna, Nrusimha are direct avataaras. There are certain avataaras called “SaktyAvesa-avataara” where, the Lord makes his power enter specially into a jivatman and does super-human works.

33.It is said that a true baktha won’t ask for anything from PerumaL. Is it not selfish to ask for salvation from HIM. If HE feels that we deserve to be with HIM at Lord’s abode, will HE not take us WITHOUT our asking or reminding for our salvation?

Yes. We have to be Paramaikaanthi-Shree Vaishnavas. But praying at the lotus feet of Shreeman Narayana for the eternal service to the same lotus feet is not selfish.

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34.Persons like Ramana maharishi, Ramakrishna paramahamsa,and Thiagaraja had the vision of Lord although their sampradayam and preachings are entirely different. How can we say that they did not get salvation at the end of their life, just because they don’t fit into our understanding of the tatvas?

Even an atheist sees the Lord Shreeman Narayana in His Archa Roopam. Seeing His Archa Roopam is same as seeing His para roopam. Does the atheist get moksham? He will not get moksham just because he saw God. He must have an understanding of the tatva-hita-purushaarthas as told in the Veda. At least, he must have understood that only Shreeman Narayana is the unparalleled and unsurpassed supreme self. He must then adopt the sadyopaya (bhatki or prapathi) as per the guidance of a Shree Vaishnava Aachaarya. Only then, he can get moksha. The list of names that you have given in your question is dominated by Advaitins. The Advaitins are prachana-bowdhdas. Please do not think that I am avoiding by not mentioning their names again. The tatva-hita-purusharthas can be known only from the Veda. As the Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is the only philosophy and practice, which is parama-vaidikam, he who does either bhakti or prapatti alone gets moksham. Others do not get moksham until they completely renounce their philosophy and practice and embrace Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam to adopt the sadyopaya.

35.It is said that Sri Vysa is also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Then why he wrote various rajasic and tamasic puraanams glorifying anya devatas.

The same Sri Vyasa has categorically stated that the tamasic and rajasic puranas are only for those who have tamasa-rajasa attribues and want to suffer in the samsara. For those who want to be satvika, curious to know the tatva-hita-purusharthas as told in Veda and aspiring for moksha, only the satvika puranas are to be accepted. All portions of the tamasa and rajasa puranas that contradict the Veda are to be simply rejected.

36.Can you recommended some books for beginners to understand the srivaishnava philosophy? Where they can be found?

While it is very difficult to understand the sampradayam by mere reading of books we are trying to provide a list of books for begineers to start with. We would recommend that the readers should approach a Srivaishnava acharya and learn from him in a traditional manner, which is known as kaalekshepam.

Recommended books:

A Dialogue on Hinduism by Sri V. N. Gopala Desikan

Acharya Vaibhavam - Vol. 1 and Acharya Vaibhavam (Anubandhan) -
Vol. 2 by Sri Krishnamachariar Swami

Srimad Bhagavat Gita: by Sri V. N. Gopala Desikan

Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Bhasyam by Sri V. N. Vedantha Desikan.

Azhvar Tiruvullam (2 Vols.) by Sri. V. N. Vedanta Desikan

Sri Vishnu Puranam (2 Vols.)by Srimad Azhagiya Singer (45th Jeer of Sri Ahobila Mutt)

Srimad Rahasyatrayasaram Vivaranam by HH the 45th Jeeyar of Sri Ahobila Matam.

Vaisnavism: Its Philosophy, Theology and Religious Discipline
by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, Motilal Banarsidass

Fundamentals of Visistadvaita Vedanta: A study based on Vedanta Desika's Tattva
Mukta Kalapa by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, Motilal Banarsidass

Advaita and Visistadvaita by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, South Asia Books.

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If you are living in Chennai, India then You may visit Nrusimha priya office at Sri Desika bhavanam to get most of the above books.

37.Where we can find more information in the Internet regarding srivaishnavam?

Please visit the favourite links page of this web site. I have listed most the sites,which contain information on srivaishnavam. You can also enroll your self to the various egroups and receive daily emails and start learning from the scholars. If you are interested please contact me by email and I will guide you through. The basic requirement isd is commitment and a sincere desire to learn and practice our glorious sampradayam.If you can spare 20 to 30 minutes of your time daily then you can atleast understand the basic principles and glories of our sampradayam in few months time. This is not an overstatement and I am the example.

38.Astrologers invariably recommend worship to Navagrahas. Has this been accepted in our sampradayam?

A Shree Vaishnava must not worship anyone other than Shreeman Narayana. A prapanna should not have any doubt regarding his future. When Shreeman Narayana is ready to give Moksham itself, then surely he will give all that is needed for the material life also. Let us not have any doubt regarding this because he told in Gita that “Yoga-kshemam vahamyaham”. Therefore, there is no question of consulting astrologers! For Prapanna, astrology (jyothisha saastra) must be used only for finding the appropriate time/date for doing the vaidika nitya-naimithika karmas.

39.In day to day life there are numerous problems and worries and although we all know that the sufferings are due to our own karmas, is it wrong to seek the help of Lord to help us out during this time of our suffering. When you approach an Astrologer for finding out what could be done to overcome the suffering, they advise to worship to one of the navagraha based on the planet position etc.. What should be done in such situations?

This question is already answered. The prapanna must have “maha viswaasam” only on Shreeman Narayana’s lotus feet. The Lord Shreeman Narayana said “Abhayam sarva-bhUthebhyo dadaami”, “sarva-paapebhyo mokshayishyaami”. Once we have surrendered to the lotus feet of Shreeman Narayana as per the directions of Shree Vaishnava Aacharaya, we should not have any fear or worry. All we have to do after prapathi is as follows:

1. The prapanna has to study the SrI BhAshya and preach it. If he does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
2. He has to study the “aruLichcheyal” which is nAlAyira-divya-prabandam. If he does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
3. He has to do kainkaryam (services like supporting Bhagavath-ArAdhana, thadiyArAdhana etc) in divya-desams. If he does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
4. He has to contemplate on the secret meaning of the Dwaya-mantra. If this is also not possible for him, then
5. He must do service without any ego obeying a qualified SrI VaishNava who is mercifully accepting him.

Above all, he/she must do his/her nitya-naimithika karmas (duties) as prescribed in the saastra as Bhagavataagnyayaa Shreeman Narayana-preetyartham with saatvika tyaaga without fail. Every second that is gone is making the time short to reach Shreeman Narayana’s lotus feet.



Could not find answer to your question in the above page. Don't lose heart. You can email me your question and although I am not a Srivaishnava scholar I can assure you to get answer from learned scholars/Acharyas and include your question in the FAQ page. Thanks for your interest. Our Special thanks to Sri.M.S.Hari for Providing answers to most of the questions presented here.

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