DEIVATHIN KURAL # 31 (Vol # 6) Dated 30 July 2012
DEIVATHIN KURAL # 31 (Vol # 6) Dated 30 July 2012
(These e-mails are translations of talks given by PeriyavaaL of Kanchi Kaamakoti Peetam, over a period of some 60 years while he was the pontiff in the earlier part of the last century. These have been published by Vanadi Padippagam, Chennai, in seven volumes of a thousand pages each as Deivathin Kural. Today we are going aHead from page No 213 of Volume 6 of the Tamil original. The readers may note that herein ‘man/he’ includes ‘woman/she’ too mostly. These e-mails are all available at http://Advaitham.blogspot.com updated constantly)
“Desika” – The Greatness of this Term
52. Because of the special value of this word ‘Desika’, Thotaka AachaaryaaL was subtly prompted by our AachaaryaaL to compose and sing the ‘Ashtakam’, that we as followers and devotees of Aadi Sankara are singing his praise by chanting the ‘Thotaka Ashtakam’ till date saying “Sankara Desika me charaNam” – ‘संकर देसिक मे चरणं’ – ‘சங்கர தேசிக மே சரணம்’! (This has reference to the story of how Ananda Giri, one of the disciples of our AachaaryaaL, who was thought to be a dull idiot good only for some menial work, spontaneously effervesced with an outpouring of an Ashtakam in praise of our AachaaryaaL in the Thotaka meter that he came to be known as Thotaka AachaaryaaL with much respect since then. For details about Thotaka AachaaryaaL please refer to Deivathin Kural # 167 (Vol # 5) Dated 01 Apr 2012. Each stanza of the Ashtakam finishes with the above quoted ‘संकर देसिक मे चरणं’. It is the tradition amongst the followers of our AachaaryaaL to chant this sloka and do a Saashtaanga Namaskaara at the end of each stanza, as part of the daily prayers!)
53. In Kandar Anubhuti also this phrase ‘சங்கர தேசிகனே’ (‘Sankara Desikane’) has been used by the poet devotee AruNagiri Naathar. It has reference to the Guru of Sankara Siva of Kailasa, when Siva’s son Kumara Swami became ‘Swami Nathan’ – ‘சுவாமி நாதன்’ and gave him Upadesa of the meaning of PraNava Mantram. But the poet seems to have taken special pleasure in calling him Sankara Desikan, since we note that the Kandar Anubhuti is Aatma Anubhuti only. In it, there are a number of descriptions of the state of Adwaitam such as, ‘tannam tani ninradu taan ariya’ – ‘தன்னம் தனி நின்றது தான் அறிய’, meaning ‘to know oneself to stand in total aloneness’; ‘ennai izhanda nalam’ – ‘என்னை இழந்த நலம்’, meaning ‘the benefit of losing myself’; ‘summaa iru sollara’ – ‘சும்மா இரு சொல்லற’, meaning ‘keep quiet sans speech’; ‘ennai vizhungi verum taanaai’ – ‘என்னை விழுங்கி வெறும் தானாய்’, meaning ‘having swallowed me, as only the self’; to indicate that AruNagiri was in total bliss of Adwaita Anubhuti and would have had our AachaaryaaL in mind, may be!
54. Amongst Vaishnavas they have names such as ‘Desikan’ and ‘Desikaachaarya’. In Desikaachaarya, there are two words Desikan and Aachaarya, both meaning the same thing as a Guru! They do so in remembrance of one of their important Aachaaryas, Vedaanta Desikar. Vaishnavas also prefer the name ‘Vedaantam’, though that word at least amongst the English speaking public has come to mean a synonym for Adwaitam! The direct meaning of that word ‘Vedaantam’ is only ‘the end portions of Vedas’ that is, Upanishads. The proponents of Adwaitam, Dwaitam and Visishtaadwaitam have all shown and demonstrated as to how their point of view is not only based on the Vedas, but the main intended message of Vedaantam! While Sankara and Madhva wrote their Bhashyam about the Upanishads; Ramanujacharyar through his Brhma Sutra Bhashyam, Vedaanta Saaram and Vedaanta Deepam, has extensively quoted the Upanishads in support of his arguments.
55. For the Visishtadwaita Siddhaantam, the ‘Antaryaami BrahmaNam’ of Bruhad AaraNyaka Upanishad is like a spinal cord. Though Ramanuja did not write Bhashyam for the Upanishads, one other Rangaramanuja has done so eliciting as to how their main purport is only Visishtadwaitam. Let that be so. But what I came to say was that, the word Vedaantam, which is almost a synonym for the Upanishads has become famous all over the world to mean exclusively Adwaitam! Still, Adwaitins do not name their children as ‘Vedaantam’ while it is being done extensively among Visishtadwaitins. Amongst them, one sage named by his parents as Venkata Natha, came to be known by a special name as ‘Vedaanta Desikar’.
56. Like Vedaantam, Bhashyam is another name preferred by Vaishnavas for naming their children. Nobody else that is, none of the other castes or sub-castes people prefer this name Bhashyam, whereas Vaishnavas do. For example, Bhashyam Aiyangaar, Bhashyam Reddy, Bhashyam Naidu – are all Vaishnava names. We as Smarthas and many other learned and knowledgeable persons all over the world, highly venerate our AachaaryaaL’s Bhashyams of Bhagawat Gita, Brhma Sutra and the 10 important Upanishads. Vaishnavas, who are very devoted to their AachaaryaaL Ramanuja, very respectfully call his Brhma Sutra Bhashyam as Sri Bhashyam and call him the Bhasyakaarar as a title and in their tradition use that word Bhashyam as the name of individuals also.
57. Amongst the three names such as Guru, AachaaryaaL and Desikan, Smartha Brahmins and non-brahmin Saiva-s have this name Guruswami or Gurumurthy mostly in remembering Swami Nathan / Murugan. In none of the traditions do we find the habit of naming children as ‘Aachaarya’. However amongst Vaishnava Brahmins there is the habit of using this name as a family / caste name, such as Raja Gopala Aachaarya. Amongst non-brahmins, the black/silver/gold smiths and carpenters have this tradition of calling themselves as ‘Aachaari’ and so do we call them by that name. They wear the ‘PooNool’ also. Madhva Brahmins have ‘Aachaar’ added to their names, like the famous name of Mysore Vasudevachaar. One funny thing is that here in Tamil Nadu, the Madhva Brahmins are all known as Raos, whereas in Karnataka State where Madhvacharya lived, the Madhva Brahmins instead of calling themselves as Raos, call themselves as Aachaar only. There, other than them all other castes may have a surname of Rao!
58. There was one Mysore Sadasiva Rao, who was a प्र्सिष्य (that is the disciple of one of the disciples) of Thyagaraja Iyer, the famous musician of Thiruvaroor. He has written a Keertanam on Chandra Mouliswara, to whom we do daily Pooja in this Matam in SankaraabharaNam Raaga, in which he has mentioned the name of the Swami in the Matam at that time as, ‘Sriman Maha Devendra Saraswathy’. Though his surname is a Rao, he is not a Madhva but Smartha Brahmin. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, including non-brahmins, there are many castes that have this surname as Rao. But, in Tamil Nadu, Rao means that he is Madhva Brahmin. So, as I have been telling you, though there is no individual name as ‘Aachaarya’, it is prevalent as a caste name or surname for many amongst Sri Vaishnava and Madhva Brahmins and as iron / gold / silver Smiths and Carpenters.
59. Amongst non-brahmin Saiva-s, there is a sect called ‘Desikar’ who are priests. Of course, in Vaishnavas people do have individual names as Desikan. Amongst them the sub-sect of Vada-kalai tradition, the most important master is referred as Vedaanta Desikan / Swami Desikan or just simply Desikan. Instead of adding ‘r’ and saying Siva-r with respect, don’t we say Siva? Similarly they simply call him Desikan instead of Desikar, out of extreme love and respect. Ramanuja is quite a common name among Vaishnavas. But among Madhvas, they do not use the name of their main proponent ‘Madhva’ or his changed name after taking up Sannyaasa as Aananda Teerta, for naming their children.
60. Among our Smartha Brahmins, Sankara is a very popular name and common. Whether this naming is thinking of Kaladi Sankara, that is our AachaaryaaL or Kailasa Sankara, the Siva Perumaan, we cannot say. Many of Siva Perumaan’s names are quite popular for naming children, such as, Sankara, Shankar, Viswanatha, Vaidyanathan, Parama Sivan and many others. Ramanuja though is applicable for all of the brothers of Sri Rama such as, Bharatha, Laxmana and Shatrugna; it is thought to be that of Lakshmana mainly as the one who was always like a body guard for Sri Rama. However, the Vaishnavas name their children Ramanuja, more as a respectful tribute for their AachaaryaaL. I do not know as to what extent is the name Sankara used for naming children as a respectful tribute for their AachaaryaaL! That too nowadays, the names have become more stylish and modern as Shankar and Shekar. Anyhow I have to presume that since my coming to Madras in 1957, the popularity of these names of our AachaaryaaL is on the up-swing! (Point to note here is that PeriyavaaL’s Sannyaasa Naama is Chandra Sekhara Saraswathy.)
61. This Desika title is used in Saiva Matalaya (சைவ மடாலயங்கள்) also. The Aadeena Kartaas or Heads of the Matams are referred as ‘Desika Paramaachaarya Swamigal’. As in our Adwaita Sampradaaya we say ‘Paramahamsa Parivrajakachaarya’ for the Head of the Matam, they call their Mataadipathy ‘Desika Paramaachaarya’. In fact this name Paramachaarya can be used for anyone in the position of a Guru as the Head of the Matam. It can also be used for the Guru of our direct Guru. Even here, the tradition in our Matam is to say ‘Parama Guru’ for one’s Guru’s Guru. The Parama Guru’s Guru is Parameshti Guru and his Guru is Paraapara Guru. Sometimes out of the existing two or three in line out of the Gurus the senior most could be referred as ‘Paramachaarya’, to some extent it sounds contrary to tradition. However that has been the practice in Saiva Matalaya-s in Tamil Nadu, though not exactly applicable to Smartha Matams. There is a protocol of saying ‘His Excellency’, ‘His Highness’ and ‘Honorable Justice’ at various levels, isn’t it? Similarly, I thought that it is necessary to correctly follow the tradition in this respect. As long as the Head of the Matam is above all this, matured enough as a Gnaani, it is alright to call him whatever. But otherwise, it may lead to some unnecessary head weight! (Knowing our AachaaryaaL’s mind on this, the devotees and people working in the Matam, refer to them only as PeriyavaaL, Maha PeriyavaaL and or Maha SwamigaL.) I just wished to point out that the Heads of such institutions are referred as ‘Parmaachaarya’, to which this word ‘Desika’ is also being added.
(To be continued.)
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