Thursday, April 17, 2008

Introduction to Swamy Vedanta Desikan

Who is Vedatha Desika?[Sri Seva Swamy writes:]

Vedanthi among Vedanthins;
Vidwan among Vidwans;
Poet among poets;
Acharya among Acharyas
Devotee among devotees;
Rasika among Rasikas
Literary genius among writers
avathAra purusha among them;
A great among greats (who enjoyed every letter and spirit ofAlwar's 4000)
Saviour among savioursMost detached among detached (Parama vairAghi and virakthar)
Equal to Rishis;
Equal to even Alwars- in terms of their anubhavams (and the only Acharya tohave had naayika bhAvam identical to Alwars]
Utthamar (most virtuous)
Sulabhar (easily accessible by one and all- even today in his archA avathar)
SaantharA MAHAAN..

Vedanta deshika! Vibho ! Vinayopapanna! GhanTavathaara! KaruNaakara! Shanthisindho! SrivEnkaTesha! Guruvarya! KaveeshasimhE tyavam paTamstharathi Samsruthivaariraashim!

( One who chants the holy names of Srimad Vedanta Desika such as “VedAnta Desika, VibhO, vinayOpapanna, GantAvathAra, KarunAkara, ShAnti sindho, Sri VEnkatesa, Guruvarya and KavIsha simha", crosses the ocean of samsara easily).
Much more....This post doesnt even describe one croreth of his greatness...
Brief History:
Close to the famous Mukthi Kshetram (a place of liberation) of Kanchi, is a place known as Thoopul. It was the year 1268 AD (Hindu calendar: Kali 4370, Sukla Year). In the Tamil month of Purattasi (Thula Masa), on Sukla Paksha Dasami Thi-thi (tenth day of the growing phase of the lunar cycle (it happened to be a Wednesday)) and shravana (Thiruvonam) Nakshatram, a great Star and exponent of Sri Visishtaadwaitam was born to the blessed dampathis (couple) , Ananthasuri and Thotharaammal.
It is said he was the amsam of the Lord’s “Thirumani” (bell). His parents named him as Venkatanathan. Kidambi Appular, Venkatanathan’s Maternal Uncle, took him to the “Kalakshepam” (religious lecture) of Guru Nadathur Ammal, one day. On seeing Vekatanathan’s “divya thejas” (brilliance), Nadathur Ammal stopped the Kalakshepam and asked the boy to come on stage. Recognizing an “Avathara Purusha” (divine incarnation) in the boy and overcome with emotion, he hugged the boy to show his affection.
Thereafter while trying to resume the Kalakshepam and not remembering where he had paused previously, he asked his “Shishyas” (disciples) where he had left the lectures. Much to the astonishment of the assembled audience, young Venkatanathan recalled the exact point where the Kalakshepam was stopped. Astounded by the boy’s memory power, Nadathur Ammal wanted to take the boy under his tutelage but factoring in his old age decided otherwise and blessed him to become the leading philosopher to preach and spread the glory of Sri Vaishnava Siddhanta in future.
After his parents performed the routine brahminical rites of passage viz., his “Chowlam” (religious hair cut), “Upanayanam” (the sacred thread ceremony) etc., Kidambi Appular took him under his care and coached him in the fine arts of “Kavyam” (poetry), “Natakam” (drama), “Shastra” etc. Venkatanathan was then married to a “Kanya” a girl of noble lineage, Thirumangaiyyar.Venkatanathan once traveled to ThiruvahIndhrapuram and did “mangalasasnam” to Lord Deivanayagan and his consort.
He then went to Lord Nrusimha’s sannidhi in Oushadagiri, sat under a “Ashwattha” tree and started reciting the Garuda Mantram ( for which he had received the “Upadesham” from his Maternal Uncle Appular). This pleased “VynaTheyan” (Sri Garuda) who gave darshan (divine vision) to Venkatanathan and presented the great soul with the “Vigraham”(idol) of Lord Hayavadhana (God of knowledge). Vynatheyar also gave the upadesham of Lord Hyavadhana’s moola mantram. Our Swami recited the Hayagreeva Mantra which led to Lord Hayavadhana granting him a Darshan and blessing him with his “divya amudham” because of which, Swami Desikan was able to compose Hayagreeva Sthotra, Garuda-dhandakam, Devanayaga-panchasath, Achyutha-sadakam, and many more literary gems in future.Venkatanathan was a multi faceted personality: a polyglot, who was well versed in Samskritham, Prakritham (a mixture of Sanskrit and tamil), Tamil etc.; a strong debater, who, with his “Vakjalam” (strong oratorical skills), held aloft the banner of Lord Ramanuja Siddhantam; a great poet who earned the title of “Kavitarkikasimham”(A lion among poets) going by the contributions made by him to the Hindu religion and Sri Vaishnava Community in particular.
He is only next to Sri Ramanuja when it comes to contributing to our Sampradayam.. It is he who laid the firm foundation to Vasishtaadwaita philosophy which was articulated by RamanujaThe Saint of Thoopul (Acharya Desikan) during his visit to Srirangam won over his opponents in a debate and compiled the entire debate into a collection named “Sathadushini”.
He was conferred the title of “Vedanta Desikan” by none other than our Namperuman, the presiding deity of Srirangam, Sri Ranganatha. Our divine mother Ranganayaki Thayar, also wanting to show her appreciation, conferred a title “Sarva Tantra Swatantrar” for his honest and frank opinion. With fame came enemies too.
His opponents who were jealous of his “pandithyam” (expertise), plotted to insult Swami. So they sent a Brahmachari (a celibate Brahmin) to ask the swami (who led an austere existence) for monetary assistance for his marriage. Sri Desikan, a “thrikala Gnyani” (a person capable of seeing the past, present and future) knew full well the intention of his rivals and took the boy to Sri Perundevi Thayar’s sannidhi and composed a Sthothra named “Sristhuthi”. This appeased our Goddess of wealth, Sri Mahalakshmi, who instantly showered a rain of Gold coins.
Yet another time, acting on the advice of one of our seer’s many opponents, a snake charmer let loose venomous snakes on Swami. Swami drew 7 lines around himself which the snakes could not cross. On seeing this, the snake charmer sent a Maha Sarpam named “Sangabalan” who crossed the lines and rushed towards our Swami. Acharyar then recited Garudadhandakam, when Lord VynaTheyan appeared and took away the snake, Sangabalan.
The Snake charmer then fell at Swami’s feet and begged for forgiveness. Our Swami then recited Garuda-panchasath, which prompted Lord Periya ThiruvAdi to return the Snake Sangabalan. While in ThiruvahIndhrapuram, a mason confronted Desikar to build a well, if he wanted to live up to the title of “Sarva Tantra Swatantrar”. To the astonishment of all, Acharyar built a beautiful well and the mason was dumbfounded. This well can be seen even today at the Thirumaligai of Swami Desikan in ThiruvahIndhrapuram
In another instance, a jealous vidhwan (erudite scholar) challenged our swami to compose 1000 verses describing Lord Ranganatha’s “ThiruAdi”(paduka-feet) in the course of a single night. Swami accepted this challenge and composed the magnum opus “Paduka sahasram” before day break. Swami Desikan lived a full and fruitful life for 102 years. When he felt the time had come for him to return to the Supreme abode of Sriman Narayana, he went to Namperuman in Srirangam and took his permission to become a Nithyasuri (eternally liberated soul ).
His disciples and his son were sad as they came to know of their beloved Acharyan’s imminent departure. Swami Desikan consoled them and instructed them to continue their divine works and follow Lord Ramanuja’s Path to salvation. In the year 1369, he rested his head on the lap of his son Kumara Varadhachariar and left his mortal coil while listening to the chanting of Thiruvaymozhi and Upanishads.

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