Thursday, May 31, 2007


Today’s [28th May, 2007] lecture also is courtesy Smt and Sri Vedantham.

Thirumangai Alwar has mentioned this Kshetram in his Periya Thirumadal compilation. He mentions a number of kshetrams in a single hymn- Thiruvegadam [Thirumala], Thirukkoyilur, Kanchi, Ooragam, Peragam, Thiruvellarai and Vekkha. Both Periyalwar and Thirumangai Alwar have composed songs in praise of Sri Pundareekaksha Perumal of this Kshetram. Very near the temple in a forest surrounding is an ancient mandapam. Once this was the cave where Sage Markandeya lived and meditated. The Lord here appeared before Markandeya and King Sibi. We can research into His eyes. They are black, broad, bright, red lines running and long, which captivated Thiruppanalwar. The eyes are long and broad and resemble the just blossomed lotus flower. They look at the devotees and are ever ready to shower His grace and mercy. Upanishads claim He is the Purushothama [God] Who has the Lotus like Eyes. This is what is described by Swami Ramanuja. Brim full water in a lake and in the middle is a lotus with very long and stout stem. The lotus has thousand petals and, in the center, golden hued pollens and it is blossomed by the rays of the Sun. The Lord’s eyes resemble such a lotus. The same Lord as Sri Krishna is preaching Gita. In the 42nd sloka, He mentioned that some Vedic Pundits claim in flowery language that swarga is the ultimate goal for the atman. In the 43rd sloka He explains how all these karmas will lead one to earthly wealth only. In the 44th sloka, He says that such people, who pursue karmas for worldly wealth, will never realize the real nature of atman. If one understands atman is different from body, one will not give that importance to the body. But these worldly wealth are all related to body only. Therefore, these karmas will enable only recurring births and remain in the birth cycle. So, atman chinthana or contemplating on atman is necessary to break away from this cycle. This step will lead to reaching Brahman or God. These people are not going to get the wisdom, if they are absorbed in karmas leading to swarga. Which wisdom? The wisdom or gyana that atman and body are different, that the atman is eternal and indestructible, that the atman nature is everlasting happiness and that the atman is servant of the Lord. Thiruppanalwar describes in his Amalanadhipiran in the 3rd hymn, mandhi pai vada venkata.. We see a tree here. Lots of birds perch and eat the fruits. After the fruits are exhausted, they migrate to another tree. When we go to Thirumala we notice monkeys. They jump from one tree to another. The monkeys mentioned by Alwar in the hymn are people like us, our Acharyas emphatically mention. Because we possess same qualities. Just as monkeys jump off from one tree after exhausting the fruits, we also seek various boons from the Lord Venkatesa. The Lord also thinking that next time that person might pray for Moksham, grants the smaller desires. But that person comes with more earthly desires next time. A villager visited a city. His friends cautioned him that in the city you should purchase anything only after bargaining. They told that he should bargain for 50% of the seller’s price. He came to the city and wanted to purchase an article and the seller demanded Rs.100. villager remembered the advice of his friends and bargained for Rs.50. The seller felt it was too low and said he would agree for Rs.70. Immediately, the villager asked for Rs.35. Puzzled the seller said he may as well give it free. Quick came the bargain from the villager; whether he would give two such articles! In a similar way we never get satisfied with what we have and our demands are ever growing. Like the monkeys hopping tree after tree. The fire in yagna is called anala. It will consume anything without a limit. Our mind also is in a way like that, never satisfied with what was given. We never say enough for the accumulation of wealth. We should earn to give the needy and poor. But we accumulate for our children without a limit. Our mind is trained to calculate how much more we should earn and how to amass wealth. We surely know what is enough for us, but we are greedy and want to amass more and more. If only we could devote our attention to the welfare of atman instead of body, we would have achieved great results. We are comforting the body in shade while allowing the atman to suffer in the hot sun. That is we are keeping the body in wealth and comforts. It should be the other way. But we never do that and our mind is engaged in these worldly wealth and happiness all the time losing even our sleep. Sri Krishna therefore tells Arjuna that by thinking of these earthly pleasures and planning how to attain, such minds have no scope for thinking what is good for the soul. Naturally, they can never do karma yoga and consequently, Moksham is denied to them. That means they will be in the birth-death cycle and earn papa and punya. To expend these more and more births will be needed. So only by doing one’s duty with detachment and determination, one can come away from the cycle of births. This is the substance of 44th sloka.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


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The Pundarikaksha Perumal temple in Thiruvellarai / The utsavar idols of Sri Senthamarai Kannan and Senkamalavalli Thayar.

[I was away from my home for five days and so I was not fortunate to listen to Sri Velukkudi Swami’s lectures on 25th, 28th and 29th. Fortunately for me Sri and Smt Vedantham readily agreed to record the lectures and I am greatly indebted to them for this great help. With the help of the recordings, my efforts continue]

Today [25th May, 2007] we are at a well in the Thiruvellarai temple where Sri Mahalakshmi Thayar meditated here to have the Divine Vision of the Lord. He also appeared as Sri Pundareekaksha. This place is called in Sanskrit Swetha Giri. Thayar has prominence here. For the sake of Sri Rukmini, Sri Krishna blesses all, just as for the sake of Sri Sita, Sri Rama blesses us all. It is customary that for the sake of Thayar, the Lord blesses. Now we shall see the substance of 43rd and 44th slokas.

In the 43rd sloka He says that people do various karma for lowly objectives. The mind would have been set on various ordinary desires. The term atman here means mind. Kama means desires. So, kamatmana means our frequently changing desires. If there was only one want, it could be fulfilled. But the desires are ever increasing and continuing. In this list of desires the final is swarga or heaven. That is these persons [so called Vedic scholars] claim swarga as the ultimate and final in happiness. By repeatedly doing these types of karma, they will only yield rebirth as the consequential benefits. Sri Krishna indicates the cycle of rebirths after attaining heaven. If one wants to get away from these cycles, then one has to do karma yoga without any desire excepting Moksham. Here we will explain this cycle to some extent. We are in this world now. We do various karmas and earn papa [sin] and punya [virtues]. Papa leads us to hell or naraka and punya takes us to swarga. In both naraka and swarga our atman will get new bodies and we will undergo sufferings and pleasures respectively. After the punya is exhausted, we will be pushed out of the heaven. This is an authoritative statement [in the Vedas]. The person enjoying pleasures in heaven does not enjoy fully as the fear of being pushed away [after the punya is over] will be lingering in his mind. It is like in a case where a person usually gets only ordinary buttermilk and rice for meals. One day he is told that he would get sarkarai pongal [a delicious sugar candy and rice preparation] for next ten days. When he is enjoying that delicacy, he will always be remembering that this enjoyment is not permanent and after the ten-day period is over, he would get the ordinary buttermilk and rice only. This thought will not allow him to enjoy the eating of delicacy fully. He may feel it was better to continue with the ordinary food itself and there was no need for this temporary spell of pleasure. This fear of being pushed out is not there in Moksham, and this is what Sri Krishna tells Arjuna. This is what Nammalwar in Thiruvaimozhi says. Instead of enjoying in heaven in constant fear of being pushed away one day, it is far better to avoid heaven. At least, if there was nothing superior to heaven also one could aspire for that happiness. Sri Krishna says that He would show Arjuna better place for pleasure and so why set the mind in such cheap targets. This cycle of births resemble yagna or homam. Just as ghee or havis is offered n the sacred fire in a yagna, this atman also is offered at many places. The birth of a child is described as Panchagni Vidya Prakaranam in Upanishads. An atman after his tenure in swarga is over is thrown out of swarga and the atman dwells in the clouds. One day, in the decision of God, the clouds make rain. The atman mingling in the rainy water reaches earth and feeds a crop, say rice. The atman gets into a grain of rice and after harvest, the rice is cooked in a house for meal.

This food is eaten by someone and later, enters the womb of a woman and takes birth as a child, who could be male or female. Thus the atman resided in space, cloud, rainwater, grains and womb and then takes the body of a child and is born. The born child grows, performs karmas and earns papa and punya and accordingly reaches hell or heaven and after the papa/punya is expended, again pushed out to start the next cycle. We have to therefore learn that we will have to do our karma without attachment to these smaller benefits, which will take us only to heaven, only to be born again after sometime. We will have to breakaway from this cycle. So, we should not be misguided by these so-called Vedic scholars. Are we born to do these karma or are we doing these karma to be born again. Which is the first? It is as difficult as to say whether the seed or the plant was first. A doubt may arise here. When we earn both papa and punya, which will be first to start yielding? Then the question will come up, whether we first did good thing or bad in the past birth? This will lead to a doubt as what was the first karma in the very first birth? We should remember that there is nothing like first birth, as atman is eternal and there was not a time when it was non-existent. So the births also are in multitudes and the swarga pala karma recommended by some Vedic pundits will result in the continuation of this cycle of births and karmas. Only a resolve to cling to the feet of the Lord will divert our fickle mind from such attractions. Swami Vedantha Desika in his Hayagreeva Sthothram says that when his head is covered by the pollen of the Lord’s Lotus feet, why should he fall at any mortal’s feet for favors and remedies? A steadfast surrender unto Him will take care of all requirements in this world for a comfortable life, besides yielding Moksham and cutting off this cycle of rebirths.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Periyalwar has praised Thiruvellarai Perumal. In the compilation Periyalwar Thirumozhi, the ten pasurams under Kappidal [a sort of decoration] are all in praise of the Lord of Thiruvellarai. All the gods like Indra, Soorya and Chandra, are all waiting with fragrant flowers to decorate and please the Lord. Why Sri Pundareekaksha Perumal made this kshetram as His abode? That is an interesting story. Earlier to Sri Rama, in His [Ikshvaku] dynasty was there a king Sibi. Once Sibi came down south with his troops and camped near Thiruvellarai. A white Boar was running here and there before the troops and they could not capture it. Surprised, they went and reported to the King, who also started searching for the Boar. Finally, it was sighted on the top of a hillock and from there it disappeared into a bush. The King went near the bush and saw the great sage, Markandeya, who had come there earlier in search of a vision of the Lord. Hearing the King’s narration of the Boar, the sage asked Sibi to bathe [Thirumanjanam] the bush where the Boar had disappeared. When the King performed as was told, the Lord, as Sri Pundareekakshan, appeared and graced all. The sage asked Sibi to request the Lord to permanently remain in that place to grace all devotees. He also told the King to inhabit 3700 Sri Vaishnavas in this place and build a grand temple for he Lord. Sibi obeyed the request and relocated 3700 persons from North, in this place. He established 3700 residences for them. During this resettlement, one person expired and this saddened the King. At that time the Lord taking the form of a Sri Vaishnava, appeared before Sibi and stated that the 3700 persons included Him. From that time the Lord is gracing all devotees from this temple. We are at the main entrance of the temple. We can see from here the Dwajasthamba [Flag staff] and the Vimalahrutha Vimanam [Dome]. Vimala means blemish less and the sins of those who look at that and worship are also removed. At the entrance, also is the Bali Peetam [stone table for offerings]. It is customary for many devotees, for the fulfillment of their requests, to perform Thirumanjanam [bathing] and decorate it with Sandal paste and flowers. Just by the side is the Ganga Pushkarini [temple pond]. Around the temple there are many such Pushkarinis like Padma Pushkarini, Manikarnika, etc., and many devotees get their sins washed away. From here only today’s lecture is given.

To understand the full sense of the 42nd sloka we will have to consider together the first two words of 43rd sloka [kamatmanah svarga-para] and the last two lines of the 44th sloka [vyavasayatmika buddhih samadhau na vidhiyate]. Vyavasayatmika buddhih is resolute [unwavering] wisdom of the atma swaroopam or the true nature of atman. ‘This will never occur’ is the meaning of samadhau na vidhiyate. We try to perform karma thinking that we have the knowledge about the atman. When this will not happen? When we perform all sorts of karmas with lowly objectives like reaching swarga or heaven for happiness, by listening to all those who proclaim heaven as the ultimate goal for us, and get involved in those activities. In such minds there is no possibility of gyana or knowledge about the nature of atman – that it is different from body, it is indestructible, it is subservient to Paramatma. Without this gyana they can never be successful in karma yoga. This is the substance of the three slokas. In the 42nd sloka, Sri Krishna is censuring someone. Vipascitah means full knowledge or wise man. Avipascitah means person with poor or scanty knowledge. Who are these? Those who learnt Vedas well, but with meager knowledge. Arjuna is puzzled. How can Vedic scholars be called as persons with scanty knowledge? Sri Krishna answers this doubt. In the Vedas there are many actions detailed to be performed. Puthrakameshti yagna for begetting children. Kareeri Ishti yagna for rains. Vayavvaya yagna for abundant wealth. Senai yagna for elimination of enemies. Jyosis soma yagna for reaching heaven. Some persons are interested in arguing that the purpose of Veda and the karmas mentioned therein are only for reaching heaven and enjoying heavenly pleasures. Nothing else is required or to be done. These are all persons of small intellect. They have learnt the Vedas for just learning and have not realized the true content of Vedas. They indulge in unnecessary arguments. They use flowery language. That is there are some trees which blossom and later these flowers become fruits. But there are some other trees, which give out only flowers, which may be attractive, but yield no fruits. Likewise, these people argue that Vedas are for obtaining trivial swarga. We see so many types of plants. Some emerge from earth with fragrance, like Tulasi, which we use for the decoration of the Lord in the temples. We also grow plants only for decoration and they have no utility other than appearance. These cannot be compared to Tulasi or Lotus plants. So, those who believe such flowery languages of Vedic scholars, who proclaim swarga is the ultimate objective, and perform karmas, never understand the true nature of atman. Without this gyana, the actions by him will never fetch supreme result, Moksham. Vedas describe all these karmas but we are to concentrate our mind in learning Paramatma and the way to reach Vaikuntam. There are two portions in all the Vedas- Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana. One is called the poorva bhaga or earlier part. The other is called the uthara bhaga or later part. The first one mentions all the types of karmas, like what yagnas or poojas can be performed. Whereas Upanishads or Vedanta is in the later part. These will never mention the karmas to be performed but only about Brahman or Paramatma. These silly minded people have learnt only the poorva bhaga and advocate only swarga. These people employ flowery words of no substance and never guide anyone for reaching the Feet of the Lord. Therefore Arjuna should never get distracted to performing these actions for reaching swarga.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


We are at the sannidhi of Uyyakkondar and Engalazhvan, in Thiruvellarai. These two are great Acharyas in the Sri Vaishnava Guru Parampara [lineage of Acharyas]. Though Sriman Narayana is the first Acharya, when we reckon those who were born as mortal human beings, Nammalwar is considered as the first Acharya and is regarded as the Kulapathi [community head]. Then comes in the lineage, Swami Nathamuni, who was born several centuries after Nammalwar. Uyyakkondar was the disciple of Nathamuni. Uyyakkondar’s disciple was Manakkal Nambi, whose disciple was Alawandar. His sishya was Periya Nambi and his sishya was Swami Ramanuja. Uyyakkondar was born here. Engalazhvan was one of the important disciples of Ramanuja. His real name was Vishnuchitha, and had made a commentary on Sri Vishnu Purana, and because his style of writing was like another disciple of Ramanuja, Koorathazhvan, he was affectionately called as Engal [our] Azhvan. Swami Nadathur Ammal was a sishya of Engalazhvan. At the feet of Engalazhvan, we can observe Nadathur Ammal idol. The actual name of Nadathur Ammal was Varadacharya, and he lived in Kanchipuram. While offering warm milk to the Lord of Kanchi, Sri DevadhiRajan, he used to ensure that the milk was not too hot to burn His lips, like a mother [amma in Tamil] would do and so he was called Ammal by the Lord Himself! Since Engalazhvan was Acharya of Ammal, he was also known as Ammalacharya. Even today this Kshetram is maintained by the members of Ammalacharya hereditary. In their administration, many Archakas [temple priests] are magnificently performing the rituals as per the Panchrathra Agama [codified temple rituals]. All these three Acharyas are gracing the devotees from this sannidhi and it is appropriate that we will see what the Acharya [Sri Krishna] tells His sishya [Arjuna]. We will see, as mentioned earlier all the three slokas [42,43 and 44] together:

yam imam puspitam vacam
pravadanty avipascitah
veda-vada-ratah partha
nanyad astiti vadinah
kamatmanah svarga-para
bhogaisvarya-gatim prati

vyavasayatmika buddhih
samadhau na vidhiyate

“Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various trivial activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this. In the minds of those who are too attached to sense enjoyment and material opulence, and who are bewildered by such things, the resolute determination for devotional service to the Supreme Lord does not take place."

Through all these slokas, Sri Krishna is instructing that all actions should be performed with Moksham as the only purpose. Our aim should not be for the lower benefits of comforts in this world are other heavenly pleasures. Why does Sri Krishna say so? Firstly these earthly/heavenly delights are trivial. They are transient in nature. The wealth accumulated is not permanent. What was comfortable yesterday may be irritating today. Thirdly, we are His servants and so we should accept only what He ordains. Our service also should only be for His pleasure. By aspiring for lowly results, our attribute as His dependent is maligned. Jeevatma is the servant or slave of Paramatma. Jeevatma is dependent on Paramatma. So, it is necessary to listen to What Sri Krishna orders and do the same. Every action of us should please the Lord. By independently choosing a goal and doing karma to attain that, will displease Him. Thus these pleasures are trivial and momentary, and realizing we are in His possession, we should never do any karma with results anything other than Moksham. Though, this may be accepted, it is not easy to drag away our actions from performing for petty results. Even Alwars lament that the mind is pulled towards smaller pleasures. So one cannot avoid this struggle and only continuous efforts will make us to realize this. Never at anytime think that this is impossible. As long we keep faith in Him, our efforts in karmas for lowly benefits will fade and we will perform all our actions only for Moksham. An action could be done for smaller results or for lofty purpose and the attained results will be as intended. We see Nuclear power harnessed for constructive or destructive purposes. Nuclear science helps a lot in medicine and utilities. But if used to explode, all are scared of it. Thus there are two sides of the coin. Therefore, the intention makes all the difference. Similarly our karmas or actions could be intended for lowly benefits and the same will be reaped. But with an intention to achieve Moksham, the same karmas will yield not only Moksham but the worldly happiness also. This temple has many pillars made of stone. The idol of God in the temple also is made of stone. And, there are stones on the street. But the way the stones are used varies. By proper rituals and daily prayers a stone is regarded as God and He is present in that form and blesses all. A stone in the street remains useless. So, our intentions change the utility. We adore pictures of God in our pooja rooms and worship with reverence. Similar pictures are on the wrappers of many pooja materials we purchase, like camphor, but we throw away these wrappers along with the pictures of God. Same picture is worshipped at one place and thrown away at another place. If we perform actions with lowly intentions, then we will obtain only them and we cannot avoid the recurring cycle of rebirths. Therefore, with a determination to set goal as Moksham only, Arjuna is advised to perform his duty. Apart from doing this way just because Sri Krishna has told, Arjuna should have realized the temporary nature of the worldly desires. We are able to distinguish, in our daily life, what is good for us and what is bad. The confusion emerges because we think atman and body are same. Since body gets destroyed, our aim should be to do good for the atman. Atman, like Paramatma, is in eternal bliss, but being a captive in the body, is unable to attain its natural everlasting happiness. Therefore, if this thought is always in our mind, we can understand Karma Yoga properly. The true basic nature of atman is necessary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


We are now in one of the Divya [Sacred] Kshetrams of Chola Region, Thiruvellarai. Both Periyalwar and Thirumangai Alwar have composed hymns on this Kshetram. Perialwar has sung Pallandu [Long Live] on this Kshetram. The Lord here is named Sri Pundareekakshan. Thayar is called Sri Sengamalavalli Thayar and Sri Pankayaselvi. The Vimanam [Dome] is Vimalahruthi Vimanam. Great Acharyas Uyyakkondar and Engalazhvan were born here. In the Garba Gruha [Sanctum Sanctorum], Soorya and Chandra are serving the Lord with Chamaram [a fur material to make light breeze]. On each side Garuda and Adisesha are standing with folded hands to serve the Lord. Below are seated Sri Bhoo Devi and Maharishi Markandeya. Surrounded by all these, the Lord is facing the East with Prayoga Chakra [ready to deliver Dicus] in one Hand. In this place the Thayar has more importance than the Lord. In processions, the Lord follows Thayar. In names like Srinivasan or Thirumal, Sri, that is Thayar, is in the forefront. The Lord has three Principal Consorts – Sri, Bhoo and Neela Devi. There are three Kshetrams giving prominence to each of them. In Thirvellarai, Sri Devi is prominent. In Sri Villiputhur also known as Sri Nachiyar ThiruMaligai, Bhoo Devi is prominent. In Thirunaraiyur, also known as Nachiyar Koil, Neela Devi is prominent. We will see the next sloka in Gita from the Thayar sannidhi in Thiruvellarai. Sri Thayar, as Pankaya Selvi, prayed here and the Lord appeared as Sri Senthamarai Kannan – Sri Krishna- before her. Senthamarai Kannan is the Tamil equivalent of Pundareekakshan. The Vedas declare that He is the Paramatma or Almighty God, Who has Pundareekaksham or [Red] Lotus eyes. We will now see the 42nd sloka. The 42nd, 43rd and 44th slokas are all together convey the same meaning. So we will have to see all of them together. We learn Yoga. What is it? It is an exercise to concentrate our mind on a single target. This is what Patanjali declares in his Yoga shastra. We have to control all our external sense organs and concentrate the mind in one particular direction. Sri Krishna says that this single target has to be only Moksham. Our desires can be classified into three broad areas. To lead a comfortable life with good education, job, marriage and pastime. This is the first category and almost everyone has this type of desire. It is said ‘loko binna ruchi’- that is each person has different desires and hobbies like reading or playing or postage stamp collection, etc. These desires are in multitude. Whether these desires will take one to Moksham is a question. So Sri Krishna says that if Arjuna performs these types of karma, they will not bring him to Him. Mostly these desires arise because of ignorance that soul and body are different. But knowledge that the two are different makes one to think what will happen to the atman and are there anything one could do to make atman comfortable and happy after leaving the present body. So, the second plane of heavenly comforts is realized. These pleasures are superior to the earthly ones. But, when one realizes that even the life in heavens is limited and one has to terminate and return according to the punya and papa, the next area is pondered. Is there a possibility of eternal happiness and never to return to worldly life with its pitfalls? That should be a place where there is no iota of sorrow and nothing else is superior to it in happiness. This is the aspiration for Moksham. Thus earthly pleasures, heavenly pleasures and the endless pleasures in Moksham are before us. Sri Krishna classifies these into two; one earthly/ heavenly pleasures and the other is the Moksham. He tells Arjuna that the various karmas performed for attaining the earthly/heavenly pleasures, will lead one to nowhere. But a single-minded karma with Moksham as target, will progress in a single direction and there will be no need to do the karmas for the earthly/ heavenly benefits. That will be karma yoga. Here we may think like this. All may not be interested in Moksham. Besides, if Sri Krishna declares that by doing karma yoga one will soon get Moksham, many will withdraw from practicing karma yoga or even listening to these lectures. People will discourage younger ones from listening to Gita lecture as they may think that Moksham will be attained immediately, and they may not be able to do the expected domestic duties. So, it is emphasized that mere knowing Gita will not immediately fetch Moksham and only after the prescribed life is over one will attain Moksham.

Sri Krishna encourages Karma yoga with Moksham as the goal. Then what happens to our domestic compulsions and duties? So one may doubt whether this sermon is practical. Actually, by practicing Karma Yoga as preached by Sri Krishna one will get all the comforts in this world as a bye-product. But karmas done with aim for earthly/ heavenly comforts will never get Moksham. Sri Krishna clearly says that all karmas with Moksham as objective will, by the Grace of Sri Krishna, satisfy all the necessities in this earth, besides guaranteeing Moksham. One need not aspire for these worldly desires and Sri Krishna will take care of all those. It is like one pounds paddy to get rice. In the process, one sweats profusely. Seeing this the neighbor asks whether one was pounding to sweat. Sweating was only a bye-product and aim was not for sweating. Similarly, we should perform our karmas with Moksham as the only objective and nothing else. Paramatma will on His own take care of our comforts in this earth also. This declaration is necessary for anyone to aspire to do karma yoga. We will not waste our energy in going to astrologers, resort to numerology or perform homam [sacred fire] to reap petty benefits. We are not here to encourage or discourage these. But actions with Moksham as target will get all the benefits we wanted by doing these petty actions. It is like in the exam if we are prepared for very high score, getting good marks will be easier. But if we are prepared for smaller score, we may not achieve good results. If we request someone for Rs.100 and if he agrees, it will look silly to change our request and ask whether he would lend Rs.50. God is ready to give us the Ultimate- Moksham. The trivial benefits will automatically follow suit. So Sri Krishna declares:

yam imam puspitam vacam
pravadanty avipascitah
veda-vada-ratah partha
nanyad astiti vadinah

"Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various trivial activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth”

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Approach happiness and sorrow equally, is the first step in Karma yoga. Sri Krishna also eulogized the greatness of Karma yoga. Even a small amount of practice of Karma yoga will yield proportionate results. If the Karma yoga was stopped, the accrued benefits will not go waste. Arjuna should practice Karma yoga as it was advised by Sri Krishna and it will definitely yield results. Some examiners will value the answer papers and allot proportionate marks to the method and to the correct steps written, even if the final result was wrong. Likewise, there are benefits for the extent up to which Karma yoga was practiced. Abandoning Karma yoga incomplete does not cause any bad effects. Even the small results achieved by practicing Karma yoga, will save from the dangers of rebirth and associated perils. Now we will see the 41st sloka:

vyavasayatmika buddhir
ekeha kuru-nandana
bahu-sakha hy anantas ca
buddhayo ’vyavasayinam

"Those who are on this path[ with Moksham as objective] are resolute in purpose, and their aim is one. O beloved child of the Kurus, the intelligence of those who are irresolute [performing kamya karmas]is many-branched."

Sri Krishna categorizes the actions or karma we do into two. One with the goal of achieving Moksham or eternal release. The second is those performed with lower objectives. Our approach should be for the first one only. But if we have the trivial results as objectives, these will be many and changing frequently, and will never make one to profit. Thus Sri Krishna describes the superiority of karmas with Moksham as objective to other kamya karmas. Does this mean one has to start karma yoga with Moksham as objective as soon as one is born? Do not we require all the comforts in life on this earth? Sri Krishna advises Arjuna not to waste his efforts for trivial gains but for the lofty Moksham. Let us examine what He said with some practical examples. When a child starts education, it learns one by one alphabets and counting. Thus the child starts from a very small, almost a point, in the learning process. Then this learning process builds up as the child progresses from say 1st standard to the 2nd standard. It enlarges further in the 3rd standard and so on. When the child reaches the school final or 12th standard or +2, as it is called, the learning has broadened to a great magnitude. Thus the learning, which started almost from a point in the 1st standard, has diverged into a very broad measure in the school final. The child had learnt all types of subjects up till now. But the moment the child, now a lad, enters college study, there is a perceptible change in the learning. Instead of learning all subjects the learning is concentrated to a particular field of choice. In the graduate and postgraduate, this process is further narrowed and deeper studies are made. Then finally in the research, only a single aspect is taken up and the learning and study narrows to almost a point. If we imagine this pictorially, the education process starts from a point, diverges as time progresses, then after a stage, it starts converging and finally reaches a point. Recollecting an earlier lecture, it was told that Sri Namperumal arrives from Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar temple, Urayur, to Sri Ranganayaki Thayar sannidhi, Srirangam, when the Mattayadi festival takes place, on the 6th day of Panguni Uthram festival. Next day the Lord, reluctantly, takes leave of Sri Ranganayaki Thayar, and getting in to the Goratham chariot goes in procession in the streets. We will see the construction of the chariot. It starts from a narrow base and enlarges to a broad middle and then again starts narrowing and reaches to a point on the top. This symbolically represents the sloka in study. We first start learning about the atman, in a very small way. We slowly enlarge our knowledge about atman- atman requires a body; every life has distinct desires; various karmas are performed to get the desired results; and to perform these kamya karmas one learns so many things and does so many professions. In the process many births are taken by the soul and thus the entire process is diverging. Therefore, as we saw in the education system or in the construction of a chariot, now the objective of the atman has to concentrate and seek a single supreme objective. Earlier the atman wanted to learn worldly knowledge, wanted to enjoy married life, the wanted to enjoy the company of children, then wanted to have sound health, then wanted to earn good name among relatives and friends, etc. Now, it has to converge and pursue only those karmas which will lead to Moksham. At this time if one seeks lower objectives, there will be diversion as well as waste of time and efforts. Sri Krishna thus tells Arjuna that the karma done for Moksham will always be same type. Whereas the kamya karmas for lower benefits are plenty and we can never complete all of them. So there is the necessity for choosing only a single objective. Soul is the servant of God. Atman has total knowledge. Atman’s nature is happiness. So atman cannot waste pursuits after trivial results. If one remembers these and performs the actions or karma with a steadfast mind, then that knowledge will be one or same. Whereas since the kamya karmas are not performed with the right knowledge of atman, they will all be diversified and will not lead to a finite result. Convergence only can lead to a single objective. So Arjuna is advised to take up only those karmas, which will get him Moksham. A clear and proper understanding of the atman alone will enable to perform karma yoga.

Friday, May 18, 2007


We are at the Kamala Pushkarini of Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar temple, Urayur. Pushkarini means, a bath in that pond will cleanse all our sins and give us everlasting happiness. Pilgrims travel for holy bath in Ganges, Srirangam, etc,. If it was for a mere cleaning of the body, it could have as well be done in our house in tap water. Then why, this pond? This is associated with the Lord. It is in existence for many centuries. Many great people have bathed in this Pushkarini to wash away their sins. Shastras [Holy code books] prescribe the benefits one gains by taking bath in this pond. So, instead of taking bath anywhere, we take bath in this pond and attain happiness. A bath anywhere will clean our body, but a bath here will not only clean the body but also obtain Moksham for us. Why one cannot get moksham by bathing in tap water? Because no shastras or puranas or our elders have prescribed that. There must be a vidhi or guideline in the shastras. That is if we act according to the instructions of Vedas or shastras, we will get the benefits stipulated. We all do not lie or steal or harm other lives. Why? Because in the Vedas these are stipulated. Speak only the truth; perform righteously; regard mother, father, teacher and guests as God. All these are prescribed in the Vedas and so we follow those instructions. If we act as per the instructions of Vedas, we get the smaller benefits, as well as the supreme advantages. So, we now understand that any action can be done anywhere as per the instructions[of shastras] or otherwise. In the latter case we can never reap the best benefits. This is evident from the bath in this Pushkarini itself. A bath in any other place will only remove the physical dirt on the body while a bath in this pond will, with the blessings of Sri Kamalavalli Thayar, fetch Moksham also. So, our shastras mention. What is Karma yoga? It is eating, sleeping, working, etc. Nothing extra is required to be done. But these activities are to be done as prescribed in shastras. This is very important. If we do our activities according to the dos and don’ts of shastras, it is karmayoga. If we do karma yoga we are sure to attain Moksham. Shastras are instructions given by God. He has told that He liberates the one who faithfully follows His instructions. Once we have that belief that we are acting according to the stipulations of the Lord, He also will erase all our sins and make us to reach our natural state of happiness,Moksham. In these instructions one is asked to eat, sleep and work. Nowhere the shastras ask us not to do anything else. The person instructed [by shastras] could be a bachelor or married or sanyasin or a beast or bird. Whoever be, if the prescribed action is performed with a firm belief that this will yield Moksham, that result will be achieved. A bath in this pond with a belief that it will only remove my body dirt, then this action will not get Moksham. But same action with a firm belief that I will get Moksham, by bathing in this pond, will get Moksham. So a steadfast belief is to be there along with the vidhi. If we list the points to be noted for Karmayoga, it will be:

  • Performing the duties stipulated by Vedas or by God.
  • When doing that activity objective should not be for trivial or lower benefits but for supreme advantages.
  • A firm belief that Karmayoga will yield Moksham.

With these, every activity, be it mere eating or sleeping or getting married or getting children, will all be Karma yoga. That is, the same routines performed earlier are to be done, with the feeling that these are prescribed by Sri Krishna and with an objective being on a higher plane. Gita does not teach what cannot be practiced in real life. These karmas or actions to be performed are classified in three categories:

  • Nithya- to be practiced daily
  • Naimithika- to be performed due to certain reasons or in certain occasions
  • Kamya- to be performed to achieve certain goals like begetting children, success in exam, etc.

All these karmas or actions are stipulated. These have to be done uninterruptedly. Performing annual ceremonies [shraddham] for deceased forefathers [pithru], celebrating festivals, etc. are all Karma yoga. Why Sri Krishna is encouraging Arjuna to fight? Because it is stipulated for him. He is asked to do what he learnt. So, Karma yoga can be performed by anybody. Sri Krishna lauds the greatness of Karma yoga, thus:

nehabhikrama-naso ’sti
pratyavayo na vidyate
sv-alpam apy asya dharmasya
trayate mahato bhayat

"In this endeavor [karma yoga] there is no loss or lessening for a little advancement on this path and can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear."

Just as we make a child to study by praising all the benefits on getting educated, Sri Krishna is inducing Arjuna on the advantages of Karma yoga. Sri Krishna says that after starting Karma yoga, if one stops, the benefits to that extent will be there always and when again continued, these benefits already accrued will be carried over. It is stipulated in shastras that one should not abandon karma halfway. If abandoned, harmful effects will seize the performer. Arjuna is scared on this point. Sri Krishna corrects him that stipulation was for performing activities for reaping smaller or lower results. Since, He is asking Arjuna to do the Karma yoga for Moksham, this fear is unfounded. So, with such a supreme objective when Karma yoga is performed, even a small fraction of it will protect from a very large fear, like rebirth.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Three alternatives are suggested. Karmayoga, Gyanayoga and Bhakthiyoga. Instead of practicing each separately, it is better to have one as the pradhanam [main] and the other two as angam [branches or ancillaries]. Just like in our degree courses we have one subject, say Chemistry, as main and study say, mathematics and physics, as ancillaries. Similarly, if one decides to seek Moksham through Karmayoga, then one has to have Gyanayoga and Bhakthiyoga as ancillaries. But there is a difference. In the education system, pass in the main can be done without studying the ancillaries. Whereas, in seeking Moksham, if Bhakthiyoga has to be practiced, then one has to practice Karmayoga and Gyanayoga. Without these two, a person cannot practice Bhakthiyoga. Let us see what Upanishads say on this. Atman has to have drashtavya:, srothavya:, manthavya: and nidhithyasithavya:. To realize Paramatma, atman has to listen about Him. Then, contemplate on what was listened to. Then meditate without interruption , but with concentration. Such continuous meditation is called Bhakthi and this results in merging with the Paramatma. This will make the atman to feel happy in union with and sorrow in separation from God. Thereafter, the soul departs this body and this world and reaches Moksham and remains with Him in eternal happiness. It is a stairway to Moksham. All born cannot immediately go for Moksham. In this world lots of good things are to be done and this life has to be happily spent. But the objective should be to reach Moksham after this life without the perils of another birth. When will this thought come? First, one should realize that this body is perishable and atman is indestructible. If one thinks atman and body are same, when body perishes, atman also will perish and then there would be no need for Moksham or worry about rebirth. So, this basic knowledge that atman and body are different is essential. Not merely accepting that they are separate, it should be firmly believed that atman is eternal and body is destroyable. Further, it should be realized that in this life happiness and sorrow are mixed. The natural feeling of the atman is always happy. But when inside a body in this earth, mixed feelings are unavoidable. So, the objective should be to get the everlasting happiness, its natural quality. This pursuit is necessary. We normally describe any person dying as that person attained nature. This word attains implies that after death, the soul goes elsewhere. The body seen reaches dust. So when someone attains nature, it means the soul reaches nature and body reaches mud. Also, attained nature means earlier it was in artificial state. Therefore, departing from the body, the atman attains nature and when in the body it was in an artificial state. Thus objective should be that atman should attain its natural state, that is Moksham. This realization about atman and body is the first step in the stairway. This step alone cannot take to the top. The next step is to realize that this atman is servant of God. Paramatma is the ruler and atman is ruled. Therefore, atman has to cling to the Feet of the Lord. Instead of saying that Karmayaoga, Gyanayoga and Bhakthyoga are various paths to reach Moksham, Bhakthyoga is the main. Visiting temples, chanting His names and helping His devotees, will all constitute Bhakthiyoga. For this as main one needs Karma [action] and Gyana [knowledge]. These are needed in any activity. When we drive a car, knowledge of which is brake or accelerator is necessary. But mere this knowledge cannot drive the car, and so the action to press the correct pedal will make the car to move or stop. Both are necessary. For Bhakthi in Him, action and knowledge are essential. Thus to attain Moksham, bhakthi is needed. For bhakthi, karma and gyana are ancillaries. This requires the basic knowledge about atman. This is what Sri Krishna also preaches. He stressed the eternal nature of soul from the 12th sloka of 2nd Chapter till 30th sloka. From the 39th sloka He preaches Karmayoga till 51st sloka and then Gyanayoga is preached. From Chapter 7th to 9th Chapter, He will describe Bhakthiyoga. Thereafter, details of how to attain Moksham. All these emerge from the basic knowledge about atman. With this knowledge we perform our activities or karma. Then Gyana and Bhakthi. This will result in reaching the Lord’s Feet. So, in the stairway, the last step is Bhakthi, preceded by Gyana and Karma. This is what Sri Krishna says in the 39th sloka:

esa te ’bhihita sankhye
buddhir yoge tv imam shrinu
buddhya yukto yaya partha
karma-bandham prahasyasi

"Thus far I have described atman to you through analytical study. Now listen as I explain it in terms of working without trivial results. O son of Pritha, when you act with such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of karma."

Sri Krishna was telling sankhyam from 12th to 30th sloka. Earlier we have mentioned Sankhya means buddhi or intellect. So, sAnkhyam means the entity, which can be perceived only buddhi or intellect. That is atman. Why Sri Krishna does all these? After all Arjuna said he would not fight. Sri Krishna found that this stubbornness was because of Arjuna mistaking soul for the body. He had not understood that soul could never be destroyed, and so killing of persons will not destroy their souls. Arjuna also mentioned that he was not after trivial results like victory or kingdom. So, Sri Krishna told him that he should not fight fro the smaller objectives. But for Moksham. For this, Karmayoga becomes necessary. Fighting in the battle is Karmayoga for Arjuna. So, if he fights with the knowledge of Karmayoga, then the sins will never bind him in this world. He will reach Moksham. Thus Sri Krishna introduces the Karmayoga concept. If we also understand these basic concepts then the following lectures will be easier to follow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


ull¯asapallavitap¯alitasaptalok¯ınirv ahakorakitanemakat.¯aks. al¯ıl¯am sr¯ıra ˙ngaharmyatalama ˙ngalad¯ıparekh¯am.

¯ sr¯ıra ˙ngar¯ajamahis ım. sriyam¯a´sray¯amah

This is a sloka from Acharya Parasara Bhatta’s Gunaratnakosam. Sri Ranganayaki Thayar is gracing the devotees as the Pattamahishi-the Queen seated with the King on the same Throne- of Sri Ranganatha. Similarly, Sri Kamalavalli Thayar graces as Pattamahishi in Urayur. Mahishi means the queen empowered to seat along with the king on the same throne. This incident happens once a year. On the Aslesha star constellation [in Tamil Ayilyam] in the Tamil month of Panguni that is on the 6th day of the Panguni Uthram celebrations Sri Namperumal visits Urayur. In the hall called Friday Mantapam, Sri Namperumal and Sri Kamalavalli Thayar grace the devotees together. Then on the eighth day of the celebrations He comes on Horse vahanam [vehicle] in the streets. On ninth day in the Uthra star constellation, Sri Namperumal with a desire to grace the devotees together with Sri Ranganayaki Nachiyar comes to the Thayar Sannidhi. But Thayar with a pretended resentment that the Lord had been to Urayur and been with Sri Kamalavalli Thayar shuts the door and prevents the Lord from entering Her Sannidhi. This is called Mattayadi or Pranayakalaha Uthsavam. Repeatedly He tries to enter and every time the doors are closed for Him and He remains tired. When He pleads for opening the doors, She demands where He had been and He replies He went to Urayur to bless the devotees. With this type of wordy duel going on, Nammalwar arrives in the scene and mediates between the Two and settles the ‘dispute’. From about 1P.M. that day both the Thayar and Sri Namperumal appear ‘together’ [seththi in Tamil]. Thus the seththi will be on Aslesha at Urayur with Sri Kamalavalli Thayar and on Uthram at Srirangam with Sri Ranganayaki Thayar, in the same Tamil month Panguni [March-April]. This gracing the devotees together in Srirangam will be there till midnight. Some 1000 years back on a similar day, Swami Ramanuja made his surrender and recited his famous Gadya Thrayam. Then the Divine couple will have Thirumanjanam [Holy Bath] eighteen times. Then in the early hours of next day, Sri Namperumal will reluctantly, take leave of Sri Thayar, and will ascend into the Goratham [a type of chariot], which will be dragged in the streets by the devotees. With such unforgettable scenery of the Divine couple, we will see the 38th sloka, which also talks of some couples:

sukha-duhkhe same kritva
labhalabhau jayajayau
tato yuddhaya yujyasva
naivam papam avapsyasi

"Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat—and by so doing you shall never incur sin."

Sri Krishna says no sin will recur to Arjuna. Why? Because Arjuna is to fight for the purpose of a fight [yuddhaya yujyasva]. That is without considering any other outcome, only for the sake of a fight, Arjuna should fight. So an action without a desire for any result will never bring any sin for killing Bheeshma or Drona. Considering equally happiness and sorrow, Arjuna should fight. When the enemy is killed, it is happiness. When enemies hit, it pains. Both can never be equal. What is implied is that one should not jump and dance with joy at enemies’ loss and not feeling worn-out when one is hurt. It is about the state of mind, which has to be steady in both happiness and sorrow. Similarly, gain and loss have to be viewed equally. Also, victory and defeat have to be treated with the same temperament. This sloka thus becomes the foundation for the practice of karma yoga, which is to start from the 39th sloka. Sri Krishna stresses the need for the tranquility of mind for any karmayogin. Arjuna was not willing to fight for the sake of kingdom or royal pleasures. Sri Krishna says He is also not asking Arjuna to fight for those trivial reasons but for attaining Moksha or the Eternal Freedom. Will fighting lead anyone to get Moksha? Yes, being a Kshatriya, Arjuna’s duty was to fight in battles started for noble causes. So, anyone who performs the duty, assigned to him, uninterruptedly, will attain Moksham. Though there are different paths leading to Moksham, for Arjuna fight for dharma is the way. Any action with a set objective will yield that alone. We can perform pooja for health or for success in exams or procurement of job or for Moksham. Similarly, the war also could be fought for various reasons. But Sri Krishna is asking Arjuna to set Moksham as his objective and fight. Any action performed with Moksham as objective is karma yoga. Such a person perceives happiness and sorrow, profit and loss and victory and defeat, equally. He does not perform any action for petty needs but for a very superior objective. A fight for parking car in front of one’s house and the fights our freedom fighters had, to liberate the country, cannot be equated, as the objectives are on different planes. So, Arjuna should fight for the sake of fight with the objective that this action will lead him to Moksham. Arjuna smiles with disbelief as how Sri Krishna is preaching this. But Sri Krishna says that He is asking Arjuna to practice what He practiced in His earlier Avathar as Sri Rama. Sri Rama is to be crowned as King. Before that He entered the palace of His stepmother Kaikeyi, majestically. But in the palace, He was denied the Kingdom and was asked to go on exile to forests. With the same Majesty He walks out of the palace. In fact, Tamil poet Kamba describes that when Sri Rama entered the palace, His face was a lotus bud only. But after He was denied the Kingdom, His face glowed like a fresh-blossomed lotus.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


With prayers to Thiruppann Alwar, who was born in Urayur we start today’s lecture. In the Alwars’ hierarchy, this Alwar was the 9th Alwar. He was born in the Pann community [community known for singing] and so he imposed restriction on him that he would never set his feet in the Srirangam temple. So, he would sing in praise on Sri Ranganatha, from outside the temple on the banks of the river, in a melodious voice. Once, a Brahmin, Loka Saranga Muni, who was engaged in the sacred work of serving the Lord in the sanctum sanctorum, came to the river to fetch water. There this Alwar was singing. Muni wanted the Alwar to move away so that he could get into the river and take water. But the Alwar was so much involved in the singing that he did not notice Muni and so he kept on singing. Not understanding Alwar’s bhakthi, Muni made gestures and threatened the Alwar and asked him to move away. The Alwar, now coming back to his senses, recognized he was an impediment and quickly moved away. Muni after taking water in the pot reached the temple, but could not open the doors. Frightened at this, the Muni pleaded to the Lord as to what was the blunder he had committed which had caused the Lord to be angry and not letting the doors open. Muni understood that he had insulted the Alwar and was directed by the Lord to bring the Alwar to the sanctum sanctorum. Muni rushed back to the river and falling at the feet of the Alwar requested him to come into the temple. But the Alwar politely refused to enter the temple. Finally, Muni carried the Alwar on his shoulders and brought him near the Lord. Seeing the magnificent halls and towers in the temple the Alwar finally had a feast of view of the Lord at very close quarters. Enamored by the beauty of the Lord, his experience flowed as beautiful hymns, describing the beauty of the Lord from the Feet to the Head. This compilation is called Amalanadhipiran and has ten hymns. These form part of the first thousand songs in the Naalayira Divya Prabhandam [compilation of the sacred four thousand hymns]. Every organ of the Lord is described in boundless beauty. He ends the poem with the words that after seeing the Lord as Sri Krishna, his eyes would see nothing else. This historical picture of Loka Saranga Muni carrying the Alwar on his shoulders can be viewed here. From this Alwar’s sannidhi we will see the 37th sloka.

hato va prapsyasi svargam
jitva va bhoksyase mahim
tasmad uttistha kaunteya
yuddhaya krta-niscayah

"O son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore get up and fight with determination."

Sri Krishna says either way this fight will benefit Arjuna. If Arjuna loses the battle and is killed, he is certain to get the heavens and enjoy in the other world. In case he wins and gets back the kingdom, then he will enjoy the regal perquisites. and be happy in this world. So by fighting this war enjoyment is guaranteed. On the contrary, by abandoning fight he could go to forests for living, as told by Arjuna earlier. For discarding his people and not fighting for dharma, he will be engulfed in papa or sins. Living in the forests and begging for food is a disgraceful life. If Arjuna starves to avoid begging, he would die soon and after death, he is certain to reach hell or naraka. Thus suffering is assured here as well as in the other world. Sri Krishna enquires whether Arjuna was doubtful about victory if he chose to fight. Arjuna says that he has absolute confidence in his capability and the prowess of his Gandipa. So, then why this hesitation, Sri Krishna asks. By winning, he is sure to establish righteous rule and keep his subjects happy. This also would entitle him heaven or swarga after death. Therefore, Arjuna should get up and get ready to fight. Sri Krishna addresses him as Son of Kunti, His aunt. Kunti, being born as a Kshatriya, has given birth to only noble warriors. Kshatriya mothers, it is said, give birth to dead sons, meaning sons who will not be afraid of facing death in battles. So, by fighting he will add fame to his mother. Our country, in the past, was invaded by the great Alexander and king Purushothama or Porus opposed this invasion but was defeated. When the king Porus in captivity was brought before, Alexander appreciated the bravery of the king. But here both the personalities were good-natured. In the case of Arjuna, it was not so. Similarly, in the Tamil literature, we have seen poetess Avvaiyar was able to halt the fight between two Tamil kings, because both were prepared to heed sensible advice. Even in the case of emperor Asoka, he embraced non-violence after vanquishing his enemy. So, all these point to Arjuna getting ready and fight the war. The word tasmat – therefore- means that Arjuna should not mistake dharma yuddha as adharma and fight. Uthishta means get up with firm feet on the ground. This newfound compassion for his relatives was not seen earlier. The Pandavas were undergoing the agyatha vasam or living incognito for a year in the kingdom of Virata. At that time Karna, Duchasana and others stole away the cattle. War broke between the Kauravas and the Virata king. At that time, Arjuna in the disguise of an eunuch, launched mohini asthram [which will faint the opponents]. Arjuna grabbed all the garments of the fainted opponents and gave them to the Prince of Virata and advised him to tell his father, the King, that he defeated the Kauravas. We may wonder how the same Arjuna did not hesitate to fight then. At that incident, there was no necessity to kill Bheeshma or Drona. It was a war to recover the cattle stolen away; it was not a decisive war as it is now. Arjuna, thus, now hesitates and so Sri Krishna is encouraging him to fight. Tomorrow we will see the 38th sloka, which is the start of the eagerly awaited, karma yoga. Karma yoga has to be followed by every one of us in our daily life, so it is an important topic. .

Monday, May 14, 2007


We are at the Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar Temple at Urayur. Sri Ranganatha arrives here in the Tamil month of Panguni and on the 6th day of the festival graces the devotees along with Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar. Sri Mahalakshmi, from Sri Vaikuntam, incarnated as Sri Kamalavalli, the daughter of Nanada Chola king. The name Kamala is a very distinguished . The three syllables ‘ka’, ‘ma’ and ‘la’ make the name Kamala. ‘Ka’ indicates the Almighty and ‘ma’ indicates us, the jeevatma. ‘La’ indicates the give and take process. So, on one side the God, Paramatma is there and on the other side all the souls, atman are here. Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar acts as a bridge between these two entities. Ignorance and limited wisdom we have and Sri Thayar gives s the knowledge and takes us to the Lord. Thus the significance of the syllable ‘la’ is represented by Sri Thayar. We are now just in front of this temple. She is the ruling deity here and Sri Namperumal visits as Sri Azhagiya Manavalan. We will see the 36th sloka now. These three slokas –35th, 36th and 37th- tell us where one should not show compassion. When Sri Krishna tells that others are going to talk ill of his valor, Arjuna asks how and why anybody should think badly of his valor:

avacya-vadams ca bahun
vadisyanti tavahitah
nindantas tava samarthyam
tato duhkhataram nu kim

"Your enemies will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. What could be more painful for you?"

There cannot be more distressing than these bad persons talking ill of Arjuna. They would describe him as spineless and a coward. Abuses, which cannot be listened to will be hurled at him. Those abuses also will be plenty. These words are going to be spoken by people, who always think ill of him. One can tolerate abuses from one’s parents or teachers or friends with good intentions. But in the case of those who are waiting for us to fall, we have to be very cautious. We can rely on people who are outspoken, but with people who are scheming, we have to be extremely careful. Arjuna should have by this time understood how Duryodana and others are dishonest and scheming. Bheeshma and Drona will not talk ill of Arjuna but these bad people are going to talk without hesitation. Arjuna can never tolerate anyone making any adverse remarks on his bow, Gandipa. Once he tried to kill his own elder brother Yudhishtra for a criticsm of his weapon. These wicked persons are going to denigrate Arjuna’s weapon. Will he tolerate that? They are going to belittle his competence. Those remarks will be awful and will frustrate the listener. If Duryodana or Karna abuses Arjuna and the listener is Bheeshma or Drona, such frustration is understandable. But the abuses will be so severe that if Duryodana ridicules Arjuna’s valor, Karna would close his ears and will be unable to bear the abuses or vice versa. There cannot be more distressing to Arjuna. This may make him angry and fight to stop this bad propaganda. This will make further adverse comments from all saying that Arjuna fought not a dharma battle, but just because he was abused. Arjuna is wondering how Sri Krishna can advise him not to run away from the war. Sri Krishna also ran away from war. Sri Krishna was born in Gokulam and after ten years, He lived in Mathura for some years. But King Jarasanda invaded Mathura several times. Seventeen times he invaded and Sri Krishna defeated him every time. Sri Krishna requested His brother Sri Balarama, to go to west seashore and reclaim land from the sea and establish a new city of Dwaraka. Sri Balarama did not agree. When next time Jarasanda invaded Mathura, Sri Krishna ran away from Mathura. Arjuna remembered this incident. But there are two main differences in the two incidents. Firstly, rules, which we follow, cannot be applied on the Lord. Secondly, Sri Krishna had vanquished Jarasanda several times and He was merely acting as though He was running away from Jarasanda out of fear. Here, for Arjuna this is the first time to fight with these people. So, how can he run away and compare this with Sri Krishna’s action? There are two neighboring countries, one powerful and the other weak. The weak country harasses the powerful one. Normally the powerful country ignores. But persistent such troubles would make one day the powerful country to pull-up and warn its neighbor. Our country has this culture and never it has initiated war against its neighbors. But once war is declared it has fought valiantly. This is what Gita or Upanishads preaches.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Sriranga mangala nidhim karuna nivasam

Sri Venkatadri shikaralaya kalamegam

Sri Hasthisaila sikarojwala parijatham

Srisannamami sirasa Yadhusaila deepam

In the Sri Vaishnava sampradayam, certain temples are regarded as important. Among them are Srirangam, Thirumala, Kanchipurama and Thirunarayanapuram. Srirangam is also named Bhuloka Vaikuntam. Here Sri Ranganatha, Sri Namperumal, Sri Azhagiya Manavalan is gracing. Manavalan in Tamil means son in law. So here He is Handsome Son in law. He has married Sri Ranga Nachiyar in Srirangam, Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar in Urayur and Sri Serakulavalli Nachiyar, daughter of Sri Kulasekara Alwar. Every year on three specific days Sri Namperumal along with these three consorts [each on one day] graces the devotees. This festival is called seththi utsavam. Sri Kamalavalli appeared in Urayur, from where we are going to see today’s 35th sloka. Urayur is also called Nichulapuri. Here Sri Kamalavalli appeared and married Sri Namperumal. This place also is the birthplace of Thiruppann Alwar. Long ago this was the capital of Chola kingdom. Sri Kamalavalli was the daughter of Nanda Chola, a descendant of King Dharma Varma. Even today on the sixth day festival in the Tamil month Panguni [March-April], Sri Namperumal arrives from Srirangam and graces the devotees along with Sri Kamalavalli Nachiyar. This is a spectacular sight and from that Mantapam [hall] we will see the 35th sloka. The following three slokas are, asthana sneham as described by the Acharya Alavandar, where Arjuna is showing compassion at the wrong place. In these three slokas Sri Krishna reveals the defects and bad effects occurring by showing compassion to wicked Duryodana and others. Now, 34th sloka:

bhayad ranad uparatam
mamsyante tvam maha-rathah
yesham ca tvam bahu-mato
bhutva yasyasi laghavam

"The great generals who have highly esteemed your name and fame will think that you have left the battlefield out of fear only, and thus they will consider you irrelevant."

Arjuna is surprised that he will lose his reputation if he showed compassion. Thirukkural says [in inna seidarai..] that we are to return good deeds only to our enemies who have done bad things for us. Despite, Duryodana’s bad designs, therefore, should not Arjuna return love and compassion? By doing so will not Arjuna’s reputation spread further? We have seen that a person who sacrifices his comforts for the sake of betterment of his country or village or society, is held in high esteem. By lowering their lives, many of our forefathers got independence, and they have achieved fame. Sri Krishna replies that Arjuna may abandon the war on compassionate grounds, but these great warriors –maharathas- like Duryodana, Karna and others will think that Arjuna has withdrawn from the war out of fear. One should show love to deserving persons. Arjuna’s enemies are waiting for a chance when he would slip and falter. Though Duryodana and others have been scheming to grab the kingdom, none ever found fault with Arjuna’s valor and courage. They always regarded his bravery in high esteem. But now if he did not fight, not merely they will grab the kingdom but will also start a smear campaign and malign Arjuna’s reputation. They will conclude that it will be easy and simple – laghavam- to defeat Arjuna. They will decide that Arjuna came to the battlefield but on seeing the enemies and the large army, became nervous and ran away as a coward. Ramanuja gives an eloquent explanation. An enemy may not attach importance for one running away. But if that one happens to be a valiant enemy, then gossip will start and abuses will be heaped on that one. This compassion and love, Arjuna could have exhibited before the war began. That would have been appreciated. There is a subtle difference between compassion and cowardice. A person who bears all insults with patience is termed incompetent. Such ill reputes from great warriors like Duryodana will be accepted by the public also. Even if Bheeshma and Drona may appreciate Arjuna’s intentions, it is of no consequence. His real enemies are Duryodana and others, and they will malign Arjuna’s fame all over and bring disgrace to him. Arjuna can neither disregard this bad publicity, because he is no ordinary person and his people expect him to protect them. He should never be a cause for adharma. We should thus understand to differentiate between mercy and patience on one hand and incompetence and cowardice on the other.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Today’s lecture is from the Sri Kattazhagiya Singar sannidhi on the east of the main temple in Srirangam. The Sri Nrusimha Avatar is special, as it depicted an impossible combination of man and lion. But the Lord brought this impossible in real life to save Sri Prahalada, the child bhaktha or devotee. The main deity Sri LakshmiNarasimha is gracing the devotees in this temple. The idol is a large one here and has four arms, ears pointing to sky, wide open mouth bubbling with rolling laughter, eyebrows reaching head and mouth wide open like a cave. In the upper two arms He is carrying conch and discus. Carrying flower, the right lower arm is blessing the devotees and the left lower arm is hugging Sri Lakshmi, Who is seated on His left lap. She is also blessing the devotees. Why Sri Narasimha is in Srirangam? Wild elephants used to come to this place and causing trouble to the devotees. This is indicated in the Puranas. So, to protect the temple and the devotees, Sri LakshmiNrusimha appeared here. These details of this ancient temple are found in Puranas. Yet another specialty is there about this temple. Swami Pillai Lokacharya, one among the great Sri Vaishnava Acharyas, and who had composed in Tamil eighteen commentaries on Thirumanthram, Dvayam and Charamaslokam, stayed here and propagated the main principles of Sharanagathi or Ultimate Surrender at the feet of the Lord. From such a famous place we will see the 34th sloka. If a person dies, the body is cremated and reduced to handful of ash. He might have been a great person and loved by all. Yet, the body is never preserved. Even in Srimad Ramayana, the body of king Dasaratha was preserved in oil tub, as it took time for Bharatha to arrive at Ayodhya and none else was available to cremate. But, we remember the person who lived all these days. We praise the deceased person’s noble qualities. If his body was only his life, then as we dispose off the body, his life also should have been reduced to dust. Whereas, we kindly remember for many years the person and his good deeds. Even today we fondly remember the father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. We remember the Pasurams of Alwars, ithihasa, purana, Gita and many more. The originators of all these are not there today, yet their fame or kirti is always remembered. So, if a person has acquired good name, he should be afraid to lose it and make all efforts to preserve that name. No mean action should be initiated which would erase the good name. But, Arjuna is suffering from a confused thinking. His brave and steadfast qualities have earned him fame all over. None should do any thing that may spoil this reputation. Nammalwar, in the guise of sweetheart [Nayaki bhavam] dispatches a bird as a messenger to the Lord. She [Nammalwar] tells the bird that the bird should convey to the Lord that having deserted her [Nammalwar], the Lord should renounce His name Narayana. Narayana means sarvarakshaka or protector of all. If, she [Nammalwar] is pining for the Lord and He does not come to protect her, how can that name suit Him? Hearing this complaint, the Lord immediately arrives and graces Nammalwar. [Thiruvaimozhi 1.4]. So everyone makes all out effort to retain reputation. But Arjuna seems to be in a trauma. Though Arjuna might have abandoned the war on compassion grounds, the layman and smaller people would gossip that Arjuna out of fear ran away from the war. If great people like Bheeshma and Drona hurl such insults at him, they could be tolerated. But obscure persons, who do not know even to carry a bow, will blame Arjuna’s valor. Hell may be better than such a disgrace. This is the essence of 34th sloka:

akirtim capi bhutani
kathayisyanti te ’vyayam
sambhavitasya cakirtir
maranad atiricyate

"Creatures will always speak of your infamy, and for a respectable person, dishonor is worse than death."

Arjuna counters this with another argument. Let anybody talk about him anyway they like. In the same Mahabharatha, at another place it is told that one should strive and somehow live. Then only, there will be opportunities to do good in the future . So, Arjuna is in a quandary. Whether to somehow live or fight to retain reputation, even if in the process, he dies. Sri Krishna replies that saving one’s life is no doubt the priority. But that is for the ordinary people. Whereas, for a person of great repute, with the famous Gandipa bow and as the well known cousin of Sri Krishna, notoriety by running away from fight is not befitting. Death is preferred to such akirti or ill fame. Thus Sri Krishna advises the necessity of valor and wisdom. Sri Krishna is preaching viveka or wisdom and here, we have Sri Nrusimha inducing bravery.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


In Upadesa Rathnamalai, Swami Manavala Mamuni praises Sri Andal as She appeared on this earth only for the benefit of the devotees. Sri Andal has a sannidhi in the west of Srirangam temple. This is popularly known as veli andal [outer Andal] sannidhi [as against ull andal or inner Andal sannidhi]. This temple is associated with Sri Andal’s marriage with Lord Sri Ranganatha. Periyalwar brought up Andal and She was absorbed in Sri Krishna’s child plays. She imagined being His Wife only and saw Sri Krishna in Lord Ranganatha. She desired to offer Herself to the Lord. This was reflected in Her thirty poems of Thiruppavai and 143 poems of Nachiyar Thirumozhi. Recognizing Her love, the Lord sent His palanquin and a message to Her father to bring Her from Srivilliputhur to Srirangam. Perialwar happily carried out the order of the Lord and brought Sri Andal to Srirangam. At that time they stayed in this place only. They bathed in the [south] Kaveri behind this temple and with bridal makeup She went to the Sanctum Sanctorum and grasping the Holy feet of the Lord She disappeared and went in unison with the Lord. We are at this temple for today’s lecture and a visitor can see the portrait of this incident. Sri Andal is seated and gracing the devotees from this temple with a grand crown, the right hand in ahvahana [beckoning] posture, left hand in blessing [the devotees] posture, right leg folded and left leg stretched. Yearly twice Sri Namperumal arrives at this temple and exchanges garlands. One, on the 18th day of Tamil month Adi [Padhinettam Perukku] and the other on the 6th day of Panguni Uthram festival, when Sri Namperumal comes from Uraiyur. The great Acharya Annan Swamigal mutt manages this temple. Since Sri Krishna is delighted at hearing the name of Sri Andal, it is our fortune to listen to Gita from this spot.

In the last two slokas Sri Krishna advised Arjuna that he should not slip from his kshatriya dharma, which paves the way for the eternal bliss at Sri Vaikuntam. In the coming two slokas, He describes what consequences will accrue if he fails to uphold the Kshatriya duty. By listing the difficulties and sorrows he would encounter if he slipped from his expected duty, Sri Krishna is encouraging him to fight. In any act we have to state the benefits by doing that and the ill effects by not doing. By judging both one has to conclude to perform an action. Now sloka 33:

atha cet tvam imam dharmyam
sangramam na karishyasi
tatah sva-dharmam kirtim ca
hitva papam avapsyasi

"If, however, you do not perform your duty of fighting for dharma, then you will certainly incur sins for neglecting your duties and lose your reputation as a fighter."

Sri Krishna uses the words dharmyam sangraman, which means fight performed righteously. This war is for establishing dharma, it is to be performed legally and the outcome also is for dharma, a high objective. Since Arjuna, desirous of preservation of dharma, this is a holy and upright war. The word sangramam is used instead of yudhdham. Yudhdham means it could start even next day or after. But sangramam means that is already started and when both sides are aligned and ready to fight. Peace efforts could have been initiated before start of a fight but not after it had started. Such efforts before the fight began would be appreciated; but after it had started any such efforts would be branded as act of cowardice. So Sri Krishna cautions that if Arjuna decided to withdraw from the war, he will be defamed and then he would also be slipping from his expected dharma, resulting in sins or papa to accumulate. So by abandoning the fight he will fail in his swadharmam, that is his duty as Kshatriya to fight, and lose kirti or fame. Even if he does not care for the fame, sins or papa will accrue for slipping from swadharma. Sri Krishna lists the two, swadharma and kirti, as necessities for life in this world and in the nether world. Without a reputation it is of no use in this world. Thiruvalluvar in his Thirukkural says [in thonrir pugazhodu] that if one is born he should be famous, otherwise, is better to be unborn. For a hero like Arjuna defame is a great loss. Arjuna felt that even if he loses fame here, he would lead an austere life by living in forests and reach heaven after death. Sri Krishna with a smile repudiated that also as Arjuna after abandoning his swadharma and leaving in a lurch his brothers and the subjects, will never reach heavens. Thus defame will destroy dhrushta palam or perceivable results. Abandoning swadharma will destroy adhrushta palam or unperceivable results [in nether worlds]. Apart from these, papa will accrue which will destine him to meaner births. So by not fighting, Arjuna will lose pleasures in this and nether worlds and with accumulated papa will be born in disgraceful births. Therefore, this is a lesson for all of us not to abandon our swadharma. We can visualize two destinations: one, happiness in this life and the other is happiness after death in this world. For reaching Moksha after death to have eternal happiness we have a choise between performing Bhakthi yoga and sharanagathi [surrender]. For doing bhakthi yoga one should do the karma yoga that is follow swadharma. So in Arjuna’s case if he abandoned his swadharma, he cannot do karma yoga and so cannot follow bhakthi yoga and consequently, no eternal happiness. To get happiness in this life one has to do punya. Punya will accrue only if one follows dharma. That means one has to perform his duties or swadharma. So, Arjuna may not get the pleasures in this world also. Arguing that he can correct in the future also will not hold good as the sins or papa will engulf and no scope for doing punya in the future. Abide by swadharma is what is advocated.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Today the lecture is from the south Uthra street. [Yesterday due to problem in the cable-distributing place I cold not listen to the lecture and so I am unable to reproduce what was lectured. But it appears the lecture was about sloka 31 which is reproduced here with the meaning as given in the text, for the sake of continuity.

sva-dharmam api caveksya
na vikampitum arhasi
dharmyad dhi yuddhac chreyo ’nyat
kshatriyasya na vidyate

"Considering your specific duty as a kshatriya, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation."]

Arjuna was born as a kshatriya and their duty was to protect dharma by proper rule of the country and so it was his duty to fight and establish dharma, so advised Sri Krishna. We have to see now the 32nd sloka. We should not think that Sri Krishna is simply inducing Arjuna to fight and so repeatedly, Sri Krishna tells the nobility of Arjuna’s duty. We are at the Sri Kandhadai Ramanuja Muni mutt. He was a kshatriya and we will be amazed at the antecedents of this person. He was the elder brother of the king in the Chaluva dynasty in the 15th century. When he was in Ayodhya meditating on Sri Rama, gold coins with Sri Rama’s image showered on him. He thought this might have been done by Sri Anjaneya and so he went to Badrikashram in search of Sri Hanuman. Sri Ranganatha had gifted a thaniyan [introductory sloka on an Acharya] on Swami Sri Manavala Mamuni. It is the well known “srIsailesha dayaapaatram dIbhaktyAdi gunArnavam |
YatIndrapravanam vande ramyajAmAtram munim
||” He heard one half of this thaniyan and he decided to have a darshan of Swami Manavala Mamuni and so he started his journey down south. When he reached Thiruppathy, Swami Manavala Mamuni passed away in Srirangam and so he was deprived of meeting Swami Manavala Mamuni. But he still came to Srirangam and associated with Sri Annan Swami who was a disciple of Swami Manavala Mamuni. From that time he was known as Kandhadai Ramanuja Muni. He was assigned an important duty in the temple affairs. He was staying in the same place where a disciple of Sri Ramanuja, Pillai Urangavalli Dasan, lived. Even today this mutt has a sanyasin jeer. Pillai Urangavalli Dasar functioned as a bodyguard for Lord Sri Ranaganatha. He used to wear an apron and carry a sword in his waist and walk in the front of any procession of the Lord. That noble work is carried out by the mutt jeer now also. He also is authorized to put the final seal on the lock when daily the temple doors are closed. He involved himself in the service of God after completing his duties as a kshatriya. Because duty also is service to God. This is what Sri Krishna is trying to make Arjuna understand. Now the 32nd sloka:

yadrcchaya copapannam
svarga-dvaram apavrtam
sukhinah kshatriyah partha
labhante yuddham idrsam

"O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them unhindered the doors of the heavenly planets."

One need not go after war. But only the fortunate kings get spontaneous opportunities to fight a war to establish righteousness or dharma. This war is such a one and has already started. This He says is unhindered path for heaven. Here, swarga is not the one among Bhu. Buva and Suva. Arjuna does not need the 3rd of these but, surrendering at the feet of Sri Krishna, he wants the Vaikunta and that is indicated by the word swarga. The path to that swarga has many obstructions and rebirths. This war will remove all those obstacles and yield Moksha. This war has come as unsought and spontaneously. So, because this duty will yield Moksha, he should fight. Before we engage ourselves in any work we will have to see these points:

· Is this legally allowed?

· After starting the work, will there be need for any unlawful activities?

· Is the objective a virtuous one or evil?

· Is there precedence by elders?

These four points are required to be examined before we embark on any activity. In the present context, the fighting of this war has to answer all these questions. Fighting is legally permitted. But it has to be a righteous war. Sri Andal indicates this in Her 11th pasuram of Thiruppavai- katrukkaravai kanangal…It is one of the poems to wake up friends. This friend is the daughter of a great hero. What type of hero? Sri Andal says ‘setrar thiral azhiya senru seru cheyyum kutromonrillada”. She does not say fighting is bad. But during the fight one should be blemishless. That is he will not wait for the enemy to come to his place and, just as encountering a lion in his den, he will go to enemy’s camp and fight. During fight never will he run away. He will not fight when the enemy is unarmed or resting. If one goes against these three qualities, then he is not fighting rightly. So fighting as such is not a sin, but unrighteous wars are wrong. Here we can note the marked difference in the wars in various times. We have Kritha yug, Thretha yug and Dwapara yug. In Kritha yug the Lord took five Avatars or incarnations- Matsya, Koorma, Varaha, Sri Nrusimha and Vamana. In none of these He lead any army to fight anyone. All were mere duels with individuals or none was killed. In the next yug, Thretha yug, Sri Rama went with a battalion to Lanka to fight with Ravana. This war lasted seven days and there was not a single incident of illegal methods to fight. Now in Dwapara yug, Sri Krishna says it is a righteous war and asks Arjuna to fight. But in this war only a single unarmed person, Abimanyu, was killed by a multiple enemies. Bheeshma was killed using Shikandi as a cover. Drona was killed by Dhrishtadyumna, when Drona was unarmed. Karna was killed when his Armour was taken away and when his chariot wheels got trapped in the mud. Are all these righteous methods? So, dharma changes as times change but still the yuga dharma was followed. Even if the opponent wages an illegal war, Arjuna has to fight a righteous war. Any activity, for a very noble objective, is also considered noble. If one jumps from a tall tower to get into the Guinness book of World records, it is applauded. But if the same person from the same tower wants to jump to commit suicide, he is arrested and found guilty. Thus same action is treated differently, as objectives are different. A person observing fast on ekadashi or for the freedom of his country is appreciated. Same person if he fasts to commit suicide, he will be arrested. So, no action as such is condemned, but examined for what objective it was performed. In Thirukkural in the poem poimayum.., it is said that even a lie for a noble cause is treated as truth. Therefore, only fortunate kings with punya will get this type of opportunities to fight and Arjuna should fight.