Celebrating the Azhwars and the Divya Desams of Lord Sriman Narayana!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sri Ramanuja

We can talk of this great Sri Vaishnavite Acharya only in terms of superlatives of the highest order.

Not many people are aware of the fact that, in the 4000 Divya Prabandham, not all verses are in praise of Lord Sriman Narayana. 11 pasurams are in praise of Sri Nammazhwar (composed by his disciple -Sri Madhura Kavi Azhwar). Another 108 pasurams are in praise of Sri Ramanuja. These 108 are called the "Ramanuja Nootrandhaadhi", composed by Sri Thiruvarangathu Amudhanaar. Such is the greatness of Sri Ramanuja.

Sri Ramanuja was a revolutionary - a gentle one at that. Not to be confused with extremists. He firmly established the philosophy of Sri Sampradaya, gently overwhelming other systems with his penetrating intellect, complete devotion to the Divya Dampati and Sri Vaishnavite Acharyas before him, and infinite Daya for mankind at large. Whoever opposed him was not beaten into submission, rather they were melted down by his sweetness and Saatvika nature. His spiritual power was unmatched in its greatness.

There are a lot of things remarkable and unique about this Acharya, who was at once venerable and lovable. His works are only in Sanskrit, though he was completely proficient in Tamil (perhaps, he did not want his work to be restricted by geographical boundaries). His works are all in prose form - but it is not boring, verbose prose. His prose is sweet and moving. The Saranagathi Gadya is one of the most eloquent praises of Lord Sriman Narayana ever composed.

Through his work - The Sri Bashya, he established the correctness and truth of the doctrine of Vishistadvaita, in the process systematically refuting other doctrines like Advaita. In fact his analysis is so comprehensive that, even Advaitins acknowledge that the most scientific analysis of Advaita is found in the Sri Bashya.

Adiyen Sri Ramanuja Dasan

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Singapore is a beautiful place.

The Perumal Temple in Little India is wonderful - with Sri Srinivasa Perumal
as Moolavar and separate Sannidhis for Sri Mahalakshmi and Sri Andal.

There are also individual sannidhis for Sri Sudarsana Azhwar and Sri Hanuman,
with smaller sannidhis for Sri Nammazhwar, Sri Periazhwar and Sri Thirumangai Azhwar (with Kumudhavalli Nachiyar).

The serenity and peace in this temple is to be seen to be believed. It can get crowded at times, but never uncomfortably crowded.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sowkya Rasaayanam

This is a phrase from one of Sri Vedantha Desika's works.

Rasaayanam, which many people think to mean a chemical, actually means "means to attain". So Sowkya Rasaayanam literally translates to "means to attain sowkyam".

Sowkyam is one of those numerous words that simply cannot be translated into English or, for that matter any other language. It is a word that describes a state of mind. A state in which, one is content, happy, and at peace with himself and with the world outside.

According to Sri Vedantha Desika - the Sri Vaishnavite saint of peerless intellect, the surest means to attain sowkyam is meditation on the Divya Dampati. Money, things, people, and all the external trappings of prosperity cannot bring about certain happiness. It is only mediation on the Divya Dampati (and consequently Their grace) that can ensure sustainable and true happiness.

Great and benevolent Acharyas like the Azhwars, Sri Ramanuja and Sri Desika have provided us with the means to sowkyam. Sri Tondaradippodi Azhwars declares "Narakame swargam aakkum naamangal udaiya nambi". (The Lord with blessed Names that are capable of transforming hell into heaven)

Consequently, this means that, should we fall into a hellish situation, the surest way to redeem and extricate ourself is to meditate on the Hallowed Names of Lord Sriman Narayana. The Names that are greater than the Lord Himself.

When we meditate on the Divya Dampati with faith, their unfailing Grace attends on us and dissolves our troubles, relieves us of our suffering. The Divya Dampati, the Supreme Protectors, rush to our succour, and ensure our sowkyam. Our sins, sorrows, guilt, negative thoughts etc. are washed away in a flood of Grace and Daya.

Sri Vedantha Desikar Thiruvadigale Saranam

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Livermore Abhimaana Sthalam

In our SriVaishnavite tradition, Divya Desams are those temples of Lord Sriman Narayana that have been sung about by one or more of the twelve Azhwars.

There are 108 Divya Desams in total, with 106 of them being in this earth (105 in India and 1 in Nepal).

The remaining two are Sri Vaikuntam and Sri Paramapadam, which cannot be seen in human birth.

There are several hallowed shrines dedicated to the Divya Dampathi, which have not been sung by the Azhwars. An obvious reason could have been that these temples were established after the times of the Azhwars. A famous example is the Rajagopala Swamy temple in Mannargudi (more about that in another article).

Such temples which have not been glorified by the Azhwars are called Abhimaana Sthalams.

Livermore, in California, USA is the site of a famous Shiva-Vishnu temple. There are beautiful sannidhis for perumal (Sri Maha Vishnu), SriDevi Nachiyar, Andal, Lord Rama, Anjaneya and Radha Krishna. I am taking the liberty of calling Livermore an Abhimaana sthalam.

It was my good fortune to spend a few months in Livermore. I used to visit this temple most days of the week. There are few visitors between 6-7 PM on weekday evenings and the atmosphere is very serene. I have even been able to chant the Vishnu Sahasranama sitting in the sanctum of the Lord almost alone. Also, I have been blessed to have darshan of Garuda Seva, Perumal-Thayar Thirumanjanam and Sri Sudarsana Homam at this sacred place.

The temple closes for the night at around 8 PM. At this time, there is a special puja for Perumal, with a beautiful bed on a swing suspended inside the Perumal sannidhi. An uthsavar of the Perumal is literally tucked into this cosy bed. The lights are dimmed down, and a rendition of Annamacharya's gentle lullaby to the Lord (Jo Achyutananda) by MS Subbulakshmi is played in the background. The atmosphere is so tranquil.