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Editor's Note - 52 (September 1, 2012)

Aahaara Niyamam A Summary Of 'Takes' And 'Leaves' by Swami Desika

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

It is well-known that Swami Desika lived as an embodiment of knowledge, austerity and orthodoxy (ஜ்ஞாநம், வைராக்யம், அநுஷ்டாநம்). He was a Sarva-thanthra Swathanthra, meaning, a Master of All Arts. His works number over 120 in three languages, besides Mani Pravaalam (mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil).

An incarnation of the Lord, he has fittingly shown profuse mercy on his followers like us and given us these scriptures to enable us to understand the Visishtaadhvaitha philosophy properly and live a life of a true Vaishnava. However, due to ever-increasing level of limitations we are unable, in varying degrees, to fulfil the vision with which many of his works were written.

The Acharya's Aahaara Niyamam, which we shall take up in this Note, is a classic case. This Tamil Prabandham is an Anushtaana Grantham and not an Anusandhaana Grantham (a work the contents of which are meant to be followed and not the one for recitation). Swami Desika has enumerated a number of DO's and DON'T's as regards eatables and food habits in general. Some of them may seem to be impracticable, only because the lifestyles of most of us have deviated quite far (in varying degrees, again) from what has been prescribed in the scriptures.

The Saasthras have primarily taken into account the nature of things which of the three qualities (Sathva, Rajas and Thamas) they will impart in people in determining their suitability or otherwise for eating. Aahaara Niyamam truly reflects the prescriptions of the scriptures.

Notwithstanding our capability or otherwise in observing what has been stated in the work, we must at least know what are right and what are not. Important points found in this Prabandham are listed below under relevant headings.

One cannot miss the fact that even in a work of this nature, Swami Desika does not forget to remember the Lord. In four such instances, he recalls Varadaraja (Paasuram No. 5 & 21), Venkatesa (8) and Ranganatha (10).

Here we go...

Not fit to be eaten

It may be noted that in Paasuram Nos. 4 and 5 various vegetables and spinach that are forbidden have been listed. The author also deals with certain kinds of milk that are not to be drunk (Paasuram No. 17), water that is not to be used (Paasuram No. 18) and things to be avoided when taking betal leaf (Paasuram No. 19).

Apart from these, Swami Desika says that, all that is forbidden by austere and orthodox elders have to be avoided.

Circumstances and manner in which one should not eat

Fit to be eaten

Miscellaneous points

In the end, the illustrious author says that differences in sects, stages of life, gender, place, etc., could warrant minor adjustments in observance of rules and that these could be learned from elderly scholars.

As the illustrious Acharya's annual Thirunakshathram (falling on 26th September) approaches, let us strive to adhere to his preachings as much as possible.

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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