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Editor's Note - 16 (September 1, 2009)

Hail To The Great Acharya – One Of His Kind

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

As we prepare to celebrate Swami Desika’s Vaarshika Mahothsavam (742nd Thirunakshathram) the mind gets boggled marvelling at his greatness and overwhelmed by the mercy he has shown on us.

Knowledge (Jnanam), adherence to orthodoxy (Anushtaanam), austerity (Vairagyam) and nobility (Athma Gunam) are considered as the most important traits of a model Sri Vaishnava preceptor. That Swami Desika was an epitome of all these and beyond has been well documented in his illustrious history.

To comprehend his greatness in full is a Herculean task, at least for me, given the acutely limited knowledge at my disposal. And trying to compress all of it in a Note of this nature is even more daunting. But, that wouldn’t deter me from making an attempt, for I have been longing for it for long.

Learned men aver that it is impossible not to get awe-struck by the remarkable appeal his works make for, his mastery over the nuances of the language (whether Sanskrit or Tamil) and the sheer volume and range of his works. It is not often that quality and quantity go together but in our Acharya’s case it would seem that they had compromised and forged an awesome combination.

An academician of North Indian origin observed with profundity: “Vedantha Desika ennobles his poetry by philosophy and embellishes his philosophy by poetry”. That he was a follower of a different faith puts the accolade in proper perspective. Such is the wield of the great master’s spell, it can floor anyone.

The amazing array of his works numbering well over a hundred – ranging through hymns (28), poetics (4), drama (1), philosophics (14), commentaries (8), procedurals (2) esoterics (32) and Tamil Prabandhams (24) – bears testimony to his unparalleled prolificacy. It is something, perhaps, no one has ever done from across philosophies.

But for divinity this would not have been possible. Composing of Padhuka Sahasram (1008 slokas) and its circumstances are a case in point. To have scripted such a class act in three hours is unbelievable otherwise. Consider some of the pointers in his life:

They all corroborate to show that it is a reality, not a mere belief, that Sri Desika is an incarnation of Lord Venkatesa Himself. To top it all, there is a compelling and clinching evidence that brings to the fore Kaliyan’s clairvoyance.

பொன்னை மாமணியை அணியார்ந்ததோர்
மின்னை வேங்கடத்து உச்சியில் கண்டு போய்
என்னை ஆளுடை ஈசனை எம்பிரான்
தன்னை யாம் சென்று காண்டும் தண்காவிலே.
(Periya Thirumozhi 10-1-2)

“My gold, gem, stunning lightning, my lord and my master – we had worshipped Him at the peak of Thiruvenkatam. We shall go and have His Darsan in Thiru-Thanka too (Thooppul)”.

It may be seen that the Azhwar directly descends to Thiru-Thanka from Thiruvenkatam, strongly suggesting or even foretelling the Avathara of Swami Desika. For three reasons, putting the fact (Thiruvenkatam followed by Thiru-Thanka) down to mere coincidence would defy logic.

Firstly, Kaliyan has performed Mangalaasanam to 86 Divyadesams and the follow-up to Thiruvenkatam could have been any of the other 84 instead of Thiru-Thanka. Secondly, Thiru-Thanka has been sung only by Kaliyan and that too in only two paasurams, rendering the probability of a 'chance co-occurrence' of the two Divyadesams far too negligible. Finally and very interestingly, future tense (காண்டும் - shall go and see) has been used for Thiru-Thanka, signalling the birth of Sri Desika.

Thiruvenkatamudaiyan promptly fulfilled Kaliyan’s wishes by His incarnation as Venkatanatha in Thooppul in the year 1268. Is it not our Acharya hailed as “கலியன் உரை குடி கொண்ட கருத்துடையோன்”?

Pillai Lokacharya paid one of the most telling tributes to Swami Desika with his Thaniyan, saying that if people get to know even a single work of the great master, that will be enough to grant prosperity in their lives:

சீரொன்று தூப்புல் திருவேங்கடமுடையான்
பாரொன்றச் சொன்ன பழமொழியுள் - ஓரொன்று
தானே அமையாதோ தாரணியில் வாழ்வார்க்கு
வானேறப் போமளவும் வாழ்வு.

If our Sampradaya were to be likened to a gem-studded pendant, Sri Ramajuna is Nayaka Mani – the central or anchoring piece and Swami Desika is a shiny and precious stone of breathtaking hues. The legacy of our tradition is a lofty one and we should strive to follow in the footsteps of our great Acharyas and fulfil our obligations earnestly.

Meanwhile, let us all celebrate the Acharya’s Uthsavam not only with devotion and dedication, but also with pomp and fanfare. However hard we try, it would still be inadequate as it is impossible to pay back for the compassion he has poured on us by removing our ignorance and showing us the Saranaagathi way through his great works.

To quote from his own verse:

. . . போற்றியுகப்பதும் புந்தியில்கொள்வதும் பொங்குபுகழ்
சாற்றிவளர்ப்பதும் சற்றல்லவோ முன்னம்பெற்றதற்கே.
(Adhikara Sangraham - 38)

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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