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Editor's Note - 29 (October 1, 2010)

An Awe-striking Amalgam Of All The Virtues Of An Acharya

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

In the previous few Notes, five to be precise, I have had a rewarding experience of sharing with you ‘The Esteem of Bhagavathas In Azhwars’ Outlook’. It is just a coincidence that the mini-series concluded with the previous Note, paving the way for me to reflect, for another time, on the greatness of our illustrious Acharya Swami Desika.

It is given, to quote from an earlier Note, that 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.

The occasion and opportunity are too glaring to be missed. This year’s Avathara month of the scholar-preceptor is a rare one, consisting of two Sravanams. We, at Sri Vedantha Desikar Devasthanam, celebrated the first one in a grand manner and are awaiting with bated breath the arrival of the 10-day Vaarshika Uthsavam of our Acharya, starting on October 7. The Thirunakshathram Day falls on 16th.

As part of the celebrations, we have dedicated both the monthly quizzes (Trail Our Glorious Sampradaya and its Junior version) for October to Swami Desika, in order to provide the participants an opportunity to refresh their familiarity with the master’s great hymns and Prabandhams and enrich their experience.

Swami Desika himself enumerates some 14 virtues as ideal for a true preceptor. These can be broadly classified under four heads – knowledge (Jnanam), adherence to orthodoxy (Anushtaanam), austerity (Vairagyam) and nobility (Athma Gunam) – which are considered as the most important traits of a model Sri Vaishnava Acharya. That Swami Desika was an epitome of all these and beyond has been well documented in his illustrious history.

Kumara Varadacharya, Swami’s disciple-son wondered whether the Acharya was an incarnation of the Lord Himself or of the Lord’s Divine Bell. Whichever it is, without the divine intervention, such an awesome combination of virtues in their fullest degree could not have been possible.

We shall briefly take a look at these virtues of his:

The sheer number and range of his works are too good to be that composed by an ordinary human. Some 128 books in about 10 literary varieties and three languages, is an awe-inspiring corroborative factor pointing to the hand of divinity. Naturally, this has enabled his works easily stand the most searching of scrutinies.

Lord Hayagriva, the God of Knowledge, was his favourite deity whom he worshipped in his daily pooja. And he was initiated into the Hayagriva-manthra by Garuda, one who has the Vedas as his soul (Vedaathma).

Swami Desika uses a beautiful metaphor to describe Sri Ramanuja, saying the latter was an elephant which destroyed bunches of bananas (arguments of opponents). One would think the same could be applied to Swami Desika himself as he took on all-comers by the scuff of their neck and conquered them effortlessly, thus enabling Ramanuja Darsana to thrive.

‘Kavi Tharkika Simham’ – a lion amongst poets and debaters – is, of course, a fitting title for the Acharya. ‘Sarva Thanthra Swathanthra’ is one title he would have cherished the most, for the simple reason that it was awarded to him by Periya Piraatti Herself. He mastered a whole variety of arts and crafts – poesy, logic, magic, masonry, etc., besides philosophy of course, and it is no wonder that Goddess Ranganayaki was impressed!

Swami Desika didn’t merely live the life of a preacher. He practised what has been laid down in the Saasthras and what he himself said/wrote. We learn from his life sketch that he was a stickler for Saasthras. He, in fact, followed the ‘Uncha Vruththi’ way of life and the following episode exemplifies his austerity in no uncertain manner.

One day, after Swami Desika returned home from the usual Uncha Vruththi, his wife sifted the rice for cooking. She saw a few shiny pieces therein and brought it to his notice. Someone had apparently mixed gold coins in the rice and given it to him. But our Acharya, an epitome of austerity that he was, was quick to throw them away and dismiss them out of sight.

Another incident stands as a testimony to his austerity and nobility. There was a poor bachelor Brahmana who was in need of money for his marriage. He approached Swami Desika and explained to him his plight and sought his help. But what could our Acharya do, as he himself was in dire straits, financially. But he wanted to help the groom-would-be, but how? Sri Desika's own condition of penury did not come in the way of his fulfilling the young man's desire. For, he had the great and indestructible wealth of unmatched poetic skills and unflinching devotion.

He set on composing Sri Sthuthi, addressing Periya Piraatti. Animated verses started pouring in like the rain and so were golden coins all over the place, like a magic. The bachelor could neither believe his eyes nor thank the Acharya enough as he was overwhelmed by ecstasy and astonishment. Swami Desika asked him to take them all and sent him off, wishing him well.

If he had wished he could have helped himself to material richness anytime during his life. That he spurned utilising a natural gift of his for his own benefit speaks volumes of his greatness.

The rejection by Swami Desika of the invitation from his boy-hood friend Vidyaranaya who was a court-scholar in the Vijayanagara kingdom is another great example of self-denial.

The Acharya was living in utter penury and the friend promised a high position in the court. But Sri Desika would have nothing to with that and the hymn Vairagya Panchakam was born.

It is our great fortune that we have such a colossus as our preceptor and it is our bounden duty to do justice to our lineage by learning as many works of the Acharya and adhering to the Saasthras as for as possible. This will surely invoke his blessings on us.

Let us all celebrate his Thiru Avathara Day with great fervour.

வாதாசனவரர் இவரென வருமா பாடியம் வகைபெறு நாள்
வகுளாபரணப் பெருமாள் தமிழின் வாசியறிந்திடு நாள்
பேதாபேதம் பிரமம் எனாவகை பிரமம் தெளிவித்திடு நாள்
பேச்சொன்றுக்குச் சததூஷணியைப் பேசிய தேசிக நாள்
தீதாகிய பல மாயக்களைகளை சிக்கென வென்றிடு நாள்
திக்கெட்டும் புகழ் சீபாடியத்தைத் தெளிய உரைத்திடு நாள்
ஓதாதோதும் வேதாந்தாரியன் உதயம் செய்திடு நாள்
உத்தமமான புரட்டாசித் திருவோணம் எனும் நாளே!

Weekly Paasuram Quest - New time-frame

In order to keep better track of the participants’ performances, streamline the prize-eligibility criterion and make the contest more challenging, a change has been made in the rules. This will take effect from October 1, 2010.

Accordingly, a time-frame has been fixed and it will be a quarterly (three months) within which the participants should complete 10 cumulative correct entries (within the 13 or very rarely 14 weeks that would be available) to be eligible for prize.

This quarter will start with the October 3 edition and end with December 26. Prizes for this quarter will be given away in January 2011.

We hope the new format proves to be even more interesting and look forward to continued overwhelming participation.

Prizes for Junior Quiz also

We are pleased to announce a new prize scheme for the Junior Quiz. Accordingly, those children who participate in all the 12 editions of a calendar year will be eligible for the prize, irrespective of the scores he/she obtained in the quizzes.

This is a reward for consistent participation and will take immediate effect. That is, those young participants who have sent in a valid entry for all the quizzes from January to December 2010 will be rewarded in January 2011.

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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