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Swami Desika Master of Analogy - 1 (August 15, 2008)

100 Gems from Srimath Rahasyathraya Saaram
S. Padmalatha, Chennai.

Analogical Gems 1 to 5

1. How the clouds absorb water from the sea and spill out rainwater to be useful to everyone (Guruparampara Saaram):

"மேகங்கள் ஸமுத்ர நீரை வாங்கி ஸர்வோபஜீவ்யமான தண்ணீராக உமிழுமாப்போலே"

This is an analogy for the Azhwars. The Vedas and other Sasthras are likened to the sea which is apt in two ways: 1) It is a huge body of water and too deep to explore The Sasthras are innumerable and difficult to master; 2) Only those who are qualified can jump into the sea and get coral, fish etc. the Sasthras are restricted to the first three Varnas and only they can obtain the Purushaarthas (what is desired by them, viz. wealth, fame, Moksha etc.).

The clouds absorb the salty sea water; change it into sweet rainwater and the downpour is enjoyed by all irrespective of who they are. Similarly, the Azhwars absorbed the inner meaning of the Sasthras, couched them in easy verses of Tamil and sang their heart out so that the Ultimate Truth could be understood by everyone irrespective of the caste or creed.

The change from salt water to rainwater is denoted by the change of language. In those days, the use of Sanskrit was restricted to the upper echelons of the society. Just as rainwater can be stored and used for all purposes, the Divya Prabandhams of Azhwars can be learnt and recited repeatedly to get all our desires fulfilled.

2. How a parrot brought up in the hunter's abode talks (Upodhghaatha Adhikaaram):

"வேடுவச்சேரியில் கிளி போலே"

Swami Desika narrates the story of the Lost Prince who had got separated from his father (the King) during a hunting trip and equates him with the Jeevathma who subsisted in this world without knowing his entitlement to the perpetual vision of Sriman Narayana in Sri Vaikuntam. Here, Swami likens the prince to a parrot brought up in the hunter's abode. A pet parrot just repeats the words it has learnt in its current habitat, be they welcoming ones or violent ones.

Thus, a parrot brought up in the hermitage of sages, welcomes everyone, while the parrot in a hunter's dwelling utters threatening words, even if they are siblings. Just like a parrot which merely repeats the words without grasping their meaning, the prince assumed the food habits, apparel and behaviour of the hunters who brought him up in the jungles, as he did not know that he was of higher birth.

3. How the cow, out of affection, floods its new-born calf (Upodhghaatha Adhikaaram):

"அன்று ஈன்ற கன்றுக்கு இரங்கிச் சுரக்கும் தேநுவைப் போலே"

This is again an analogy for preceptors. The preceptors do not expect anything in return for themselves from their disciples. They are gratified if the Mumukshu (one who desires Moksha) realises his unique relationship with the Lord and adopts the means to obtain Him, viz Bhakthi Yoga or Saranaagathi. Just as the milk gushes out from the cow for a new-born calf, verses pour from the Acharyas' hearts through to the lips which enunciate the true nature of the three Thathtvas or realities.

Here, the interesting point to note is the affection the cow has towards its just-born calf. The cow displays enormous love and affection towards the calf by licking its body all over, nursing it and supporting it. This cannot be equated to any other love at any other time or place. Similarly, the preceptors' love for their disciples is so unsullied and pure, without expectation of anything in return, that they readily spill forth their knowledge in the form of verses for the benefit of mankind.

4. How the misplaced liking shown by the crown prince towards the chamber-maids while languishing in prison, affects his prospects (Arthapanchaka Adhikaaram):

"அபிஷேகத்திற்கு நாளிட்ட ராஜகுமாரனுக்குச் சிறையிலே எடுத்து
கைநீட்டின சேட்டிமார் பக்கலிலே கண்ணோட்டம் உன்டாமாப் போலே"

Swami Desika gives a big list of material and not-so-material things which can make us stray from the path of realisation and prevent us from attaining Moksha. For instance, if a prince who is the king-in-waiting has to spend some days in prison due to some misdemeanour, he should still keep up his position and behave accordingly. Instead if he eyes the chamber-maids therein, who are conscious of their place, it would reflect badly upon him. Further, his behaviour would mar his prospects of succeeding the King.

Similarly, we are also waiting to be crowned in the kingdom of Moksha and our place is reserved once we have adopted the necessary means. While we languish in this world, due to our past misdeeds (Karma) we should be mindful of the exalted position awaiting us and should not let ourselves be ensnared by the five senses and their pleasures. It would be a pity to lose sight of our goal by indulging ourselves in material pleasures which are fleeting by nature.

5. How there is no difference between persons who slipped in the first step and the 30th step (Arthapanchaka Adhikaaram):

"முப்பத்திரண்டு அடியான துரவு தத்துவார் முன்னடியிலே விழுந்ததோடு
முப்பதாம் அடியிலே விழுந்ததோடு வாசியில்லாதாப் போலே"

This is a very interesting concept put forth by Sri Swami. Supposing a person wants to jump across a well of 32 feet, it doesn't make any difference whether he slips up at the 1st step itself or the 30th. Either way, he would not get across the well and would fall into it. Now, this Samsara is a big well which has to be crossed to reach the Nithya Vibhuthi or the permanent abode of Sriman Narayana.

As the saying goes, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. We could have won over our desires for wealth or fame but still there could be a pitfall waiting and all our previous efforts could come to nought. Then, we would be in the same boat as all those who have no knowledge of the three Thathvas or those who have not adopted an Upaya (means to attain Moksha) or those who have opted for wrong means etc.

There exists the real danger of losing our way till the final ascent and even then, of reaching a different destination. So, it is imperative upon us to be careful every step of the way, not to succumb to any temptations and let ourselves off-guard. We have to be constantly striving to act in such a way not to invoke the displeasure of the Lord.

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Next in series: Gems 6 to 10, on September 15, 2008.

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