Let Us Lead The Life The ‘Sri Vaishnava Way’
It indeed is our great fortune that we are what we are. A little bit of elaboration would make it less cryptic. That we are part of an elite sect – devotees of Sriman Narayana or simply Bhagavathas – is a matter of immense joy and pride for us.
Given the background of the mind-blowing expanse of the Universe, the remote earth within and the countless living things it comprises, to represent the human race (with the sixth sense to boot) in itself is a boon of sorts. And to be part of our Sri Sampradaya and the very select band of Bhagavathas which provides the unique opportunity (through Saranaagathi) to escape the travails and miseries that accompany the vicious cycle of births and deaths, is a real honour. The Bhagavathas are, as Nammazhwar concludes his Thiruvoymozhi, “பிறந்தார் உயர்ந்தே”.
Avvaiyaar, the grand old lady of the Tamil tradition exclaimed thus:
|அரிது அரிது மானிடராய்ப் பிறத்தல் அரிது|
|அதனினும் அரிது கூன் குருடு செவிடு பேடு|
|நீங்கிப் பிறத்தல் அரிது|
|ஞானமும் கல்வியும் நயத்தல் அரிது|
|ஞானமும் கல்வியும் நயத்த காலையும்|
|தானமும் தவமும் செய்வது அரிது|
|தானமும் தவமும் செய்வராயின்|
|வானவர் நாடு வழி திறந்திடுமே !|
“It is extremely rare and precious to be born as human beings; even more so to be born without any physical challenges; much more rare to be equipped with wisdom and education; all the more rare to have the heart to donate to others or do penance. For those who achieve this, the celestial entrance will surely open up.”
This reference has been taken only to underline the favourable providence that has smiled on us and it is for us to make it count our Sampradaya way.
Preceptors of our Sampradaya have unequivocally established – quoting from the Vedas and other divine scriptures – that there is absolutely no need for all that is given above to attain salvation. It is very simple and straight. Unconditional surrender unto Sriman Narayana, driven by unswerving devotion to Him, is the sole requirement for deliverance and to guarantee oneself a place in His abode – Sri Vaikuntam.
The exalted status and the privileges that go with it were discussed in the 12th episode. To recall from the previous Note, privileges and benefits entail duties and responsibilities. Therefore, it is now time to deal with the norms that need to be followed by us to fully qualify for the tag ‘Bhagavatha’.
We should strive to conduct ourselves at all times (as far as possible) as befits a Sri Vaishnava. To identify with our Sampradaya through our deeds is of paramount importance. There is a noticeable reluctance in some of us in this regard. If one may say so, we may take a leaf out of the followers of other faiths in that they never feel slighted in displaying their allegiance; far from it, they seldom lose an opportunity to do so.
Coming back to our people, the needless ‘sense of embarrassment’ in, for instance, wearing the Thiruman in places of work/education must be put aside. The ‘feel of pride’ in being a Sri Vaishnava must, in fact, replace it. We should hold our head high for being Bhagavathas (Saathvika Ahankaaram in matters relating to our Sampradaya is perfectly permissible and even our Poorvacharyas have indulged in it in good measure).
We shall look into some specifics (minimum requirements) that need to be followed:
- Samasrayanam or Pancha Samskaaram is imperative because only when it is performed by an Acharya, one becomes a Sri Vaishnava.
- Similarly, Saranagathi or Prapaththi has to be done at the earliest. This means total surrender to the Lord and returning the Athma, which actually is His property, to Him. This enables the Jeevaathma to reserve a place for itself in Sri Vaikuntam, at the end of this life.
- We should wear the Thiruman at all times and at all places. In fact, Thiruman ideally refers to ‘Dwaadasa Pundram’, that is, 12 Thirumans. For a starter, at least the one on the forehead has to be worn permanently.
- Swaroopam (appearance) is a very important aspect of our Sampradaya. Suffice it to say that the tuft is an essential and indispensable element according to the Saasthras. However, under the circumstances, its insistence looks out of place. A sorry state, but true nevertheless. At least one must ensure that all deeds related to the Sampradaya are performed with Pancha Kachcham and Madisaar Saree respectively by men and women.
- Thrikaala Sandhya Vandanam (three times a day – one each in the morning and evening and Maadhyaahnikam in the afternoon) is a must. Maadhyaahnikam, for practical convenience, may be done immediately after the morning Sandhya Vandanam, but should never be skipped.
- Nithya Thiruvaaraadhanam, the daily Pooja to the Saalagraama Murthys, has to be performed in each household. Where an elaborate version is not practicable, at least a simpler one needs to be performed, as far as possible. On important days such as the Lord's Avathara days, festivals, ceremonies, Azhwar, Acharyas’ Thirunakshathram etc., Thiruvaaraadhanam has to be performed without fail. Besides, doing the Thiruvaaradhanam on holidays will suit the convenience while increasing the frequency.
- Thiruvaaraadhanam has to be performed only after proper initiation by an Acharya/scholar. In its absence, or until such time one learns it, at least the food must be offered to the Lord before we eat. This should effectively rule out outside food.
- Pariseshanam is a pre-requisite for eating. It has to be done in the manner prescribed both in the mornings and evenings.
- The daily routines (Nithya Karmas like Sandhya Vandhanam) and the specially ordained ones in the Saasthraas (Naimiththika Karmaas like those done on ceremonial occasions) have to be strictly adhered to.
- Bhagavath, Bhagavatha, Acharya Kainkaryams (service to the Lord, His devotees and Gurus) are to be performed to one’s best ability, through the mind, words and body. As Azhwar put it, “ஒழிவில் காலமெல்லாம் உடனாய் மன்னி வழுவிலா அடிமை செய்யவேண்டும் நாம்”.
- To the maximum extent possible, time should be spent on divine matters. Visiting temples and worshipping, learning Azhwar/Acharyas’ works, listening to discourses, reading divine works, writing about His greatness, etc.
- These points may generally appear men-centric, but some are common for both the genders and have to be followed as applicable. Providing involved and understanding assistance to the husband in his Kainkaryams is the foremost of the woman’s duties.
- Those who feel that they are not up to the mark as Bhagavathas in the given context may do well to upgrade themselves by approaching qualified persons/scholars. Also, doubts if any, may be clarified with them.
- Finally, one should always keep in mind that unswerving loyalty only to Sriman Narayana and no disrespect to fellow-Bhagavathas are to be strictly adhered to. There is no allowance for any relaxation or deviation in this.
Meet you in the next Note.
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