Thirumangai Alwar has made a poem on the Dasavathara [Ten Avatarss]. Today we are at the famous Dasavathara sannidhi temple on the North side of the Srirangam temple. The lecture is from the Thirumangai Alwar, the last of the Alwars, sannidhi. Thirumangai Alwar stayed here and did all the great works like construction of the mandapam [hall], prakaram [corridor], etc. This Alwar sought some boons from Sri Ranganatha. One of them was that He should grace in all the ten avatars here. Accordingly, the Lord is in this temple in Matsya [Fish], Koorma [Turtle], Varaha [Boar], Nrusimha [Lion-Man], Vamana [Dwarf], ParashuRama, SriRama, Bala Rama, Sri Krishna and Kalki forms, depicting the Dasavathara. The Alwar’s personal vigraha [icon] Sri Lakshmi Narayana Moorthy is also gracing the devotees from this temple. We mentioned that from this place the Alwar carried out a number of sacred constructions in the Sri Ranganatha temple. The Dasavathara Sannidhi temple is maintained and administered capably by the head of Sri Ahobila Mutt, Srimad Azhagiyasingar Jeer Swami. The 44th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt had an opportunity, like Thirumangai Alwar, to construct the southern Raja Gopuram [Main Tower] from this place. This was a magnificent work and it will not be out of proportion to say this Jeer continued the works of the Alwar. The present Jeer, 45th in sequence, also has carried out a number of sacred works in Ahobilam [in Andhra Pradesh] and Patashala [educational institution] in Selaiyur [near Chennai]. Recently the 81st birthday celebrations of the present Jeer was held here. All these happened because of the significance and sanctity of this place [Srirangam]. Sri Vedantha Desika has composed hymns on the Dasavatara. While each Avatar required thousands of hymns to describe the splendor of each Avatar, Desika described each Avatar in a single sloka. Not content with that he further compressed the glory of all the ten avatars in a single sloka. Just behind this temple is the Thirumangai Alwar Padithurai where, as requested by the Alwar, moksham is granted to those whose last rites are performed here. In such a sacred place, Dasavatara Sannidhi, we will see the 30th sloka:
dehi nityam avadhyo ’yam
dehe sarvasya bharata
tasmat sarvani bhutani
na tvam socitum arhasi
"O descendant of Bharata, atman dwelling in the body can never be slain. Even when all bodies of all creatures destroy. Therefore you are not eligible to grieve ."
‘Na tvam socitum arhasi’ this means , therefore you are not entitled to grieve. This phrase will repeat at many places. As a reply to why for this, is each sloka. This sloka may hint that all the bodies have a single soul. It is not so. Every creature has an atman. So the full meaning is whichever body is destroyed, the soul dwelling in that body is not destroyed. This sloka is the consequence of a doubt in Arjuna. It is conceded that body or deham perishes. But the doubt is about atman. We see many things and persons in this world. Nothing is identical with another. Even our bodies change regularly. The intellect or knowledge varies from person to person. There is difference in the experience of joy or sorrow from person to person. Thus there is diversity in all we see. So, is it possible that some atmans are eternal and some others are perishables? In this world no two are identical, experiences are not the same, so how souls alone can all have the same identity? What if this doubt is not cleared? If this were true, it is possible that the atman of Bheeshma and Drona could be destroyable and so by killing them, Arjuna will be guilty of annihilating atman. To remove this doubt only Sri Krishna tells that the atman or dehi in every body or deham is eternal. We are witnessing changes on the body but the soul remains the same. To understand this we should examine closely our daily habits and experiences. We see variety of persons. Some are fair, some black, some tall, some short, some females, some males, some animals, etc. but all these differences do not change our habits. One may be a millionaire and another a poor. But both see with their eyes only and hear with their ears. There is no difference in these functions. Educated or illiterate, one has to eat with his mouth only. So, God has not permitted any difference in certain basic functions. We eat varieties of food and vegetables. They remain so till what we eat reaches the throat. After this the body assimilates them as protein, vitamin or carbohydrates. This is scientific fact. We do not eat as such fat or proteins. So, all differences are in the external appearance only, such as brinjal [butter fruit] or lady’s finger [okra]. The body, however, takes only the essence. So, only those, which appear different, are all destroyed and atman, which is identical in every creature, is eternal. So Arjuna need not to worry that he may be destroying a destroyable atman. Also another thing Sri Krishna draws the attention of Arjuna is that he need not to worry that he may be killing Bheeshma, but he cannot kill any creature. By this we may hesitate whether we should be sympathetic to our relatives and help them. That is not the message here. In fact mere merry making in a happy occasion or shed tears along with the grieved ones is not real help. If we distinguish atman from body, then we can be of real help to not merely our relatives but to everyone suffering. Relatives are body related. Only a perspective that all atmans are same can make us render help to all. That is why in any calamity, there are some persons who concentrate on the things to do and do not go emotional. Such duty minded persons are of real help.