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Editor's Note - 58 (March 1, 2013)

Could An Eye Be Considered Dearer Than The Other?

Dear Fellow-Bhagavathas,

The timeless Vedas and the delectable Divya Prabandham are the two eyes of our Sampradaya. Just as the eyes do, the Sanskrit and Tamil Vedas complement each other and not compete in the realisation of the Supreme God which is Sriman Narayana. When one of them is not discriminated against, the vision is clear and at its optimum.

Together they lend our philosophy a rock-solid stature as shown by Swami Desika in his numerous works. In fact, he would draw from Sruthi (the Vedas), Smruthi (Saasthras), Ithihaasas, Puraanas, Divya Prabandham, Poorvacharya Sthothras, etc. in order to prove a point.

We have seen in Note No. 31 that the Vedas are the root-cause and the Azhwars’ out-pourings are their revelation. There exists a disquieting tendency in certain quarters to detract from the merits of either. Not that it is anything new, for, the problem persists for a millennium —perhaps, right from the time Divya Prabandham was retrieved and brought back into vogue by Nathamunigal.

Divya Prabandham was not given the recognition it deserved. The prime argument was that the Azhwars originated from different sects — most of them from the lower rungs of the Varna hierarchy — and hence lacked sanctity.

Even Swami Desika had to face the situation in his times. When he was in Kancheepuram, detractors of Divya Prabandham ensured discontinuance of its recitation at Lord Varadaraja’s temple. Our Acharya had to intervene and restore the tradition. He established that Divya Prabandham is as sacred as the Vedas as Azhwars were manifestations at the behest of the Lord Himself. Fittingly, he salutes the scholars of both disciplines in his Prabandham Meiviratha Maanmiyam, saying தொண்டை மண்டல வேதியர் வாழவே, தூய தென்மறை வல்லவர் வாழவே!

However, the problem keeps rearing its head from time to time. There is no reason for anyone to look beyond Swami Desika’s conviction on the issue. Born as an incarnation of Lord Venkatesa of Thirumala, he was regarded as ‘Master of all arts’ (Sarva-thanthra Swathanthra) and ‘Preceptor of both forms of the Vedas and Philosophy’ (Ubhaya Vedantha Acharya). What he has not said in his great works are not worth knowing at all.

The Vedas are akin to the Supreme Lord in the sense that they are ‘not man-made’ (அபௌருஷேயம்) and ‘has no beginning’ (அநாதி). They are the source of all righteousness (வேத: அகில: தர்ம மூலம்).

According to Thaiththiriya Aaranyakam, all gods permanently reside in Vedic scholars (யாவதீர்வை தேவதாஸ்தா: ஸர்வா வேதவிதி ப்ராஹ்மணே வஸந்தி).

The Vedas are not only expansive but also hard to fathom for most people owing to their cryptic nature. So it needed a considered move on the part of the Lord to delegate the work of simplifying and presenting them for the common devotee. The result was Divya Prabandham.

If the Vedas can be compared to sugarcane, their Tamil equivalent can be likened to its juice. Admittedly, the substance devoid of the straw will be sweet; but crucially, there can be no juice without sugarcane. Drawing from the analogy, the Vedas and Divya Prabandham are equally important. Another way to put it is they are like the original and the certified true copy.

If the Sanskrit Veda bring to the fore the Brahmanical values (ப்ராஹ்மணீயம்), the Dravida Veda provides unmatched divine experience (பகவத் அநுபவம்). Thus, they complement each other in effect and experience, if not in content.

Can anyone say which of his eyes is dearer to him? Therefore, if we are to espouse the cause of our Sampradaya, we must make a conscious effort to put an end to the practice of treading the path of conflict and working at cross-purposes. A unified endeavour is the need of the hour and it will show our Sampradaya in all its glow.

Let us nurture both our eyes with equal diligence and enhance our vision!

Meet you in the next Note.

எங்கள் தூப்புல் பிள்ளை பாதம் என் சென்னியதே!

Natteri P. Srihari (a) Lakshmi Narasimhacharyar

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