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Frequently Asked Questions on Srivaishnavam

Source: http://www.srivaishnavam.com/faq.html

1.What is srivaishnavam? Who started this branch of Hindu religion?

2.What are the basic tenants of Srivaishnavam?

3.How does this branch differ from other Vaishnava religions like Madhva
Vaishnavas and Gaudiya vaishnavas?

4.What is the meaning of the term “Visishtadvaita”?

5.Is it true that Bhagavad Ramanuja did not use this term in any of his works?

6.If so, who has coined this word and does it mean that our religion is only 1000
years old?

7.It is said that Vishishtadvaita is also an advaita. What is the difference between
Vishishtadvaita and Advaita?

8.How does Vishishtadvaita differs from Dvaita?

9.Advaitans and even Dvaitans claim that Sriman Narayana is their first acharya.
We also say that our pratama acharya is Sriman Narayana. Then where does
this lineage branch out starting from Sriman Narayana?

10.What is the meaning of Samasrayanam or Pancha samaskaram?

11.Is this ritual started by Bhagavad Ramanuja?

12.What is the meaning of Divya prabandham?

13.What is the meaning of the word “Azhvars?

14.Azhvars sang in praise of Sriman Narayana and Nayanmars sang in praise of
Lord Shiva. Then why to elevate only Azhvar’s works to the level of Vedas and
call them as Dravida Veda etc..

15.What is the meaning of para devatha?

16.What is the meaning of anya devatha?

17.Why anya devatha worship is to be avoided?
18.Even Upanishads speak of rituals related to anya devathas. Then why we
should not do it?

19.What is the meaning of prapatti or Bharanyasam?

20.Is it true that only prapatti can lead us to salvation?

21.Why we should avoid eating garlic and onions when these vegetables are
supposed to have medicinal properties?

22.Why fasting on ekadasi is recommended? What is the meaning of upavasam?

23.What are the daily duties of srivaishnavas?

24.I have no knowledge about vedas or prabandhams. But I have deep devotion
towards PerumaL. Is this qualification enough to be a prapanna.

25.What is the goal of the human race?

26.Why should we aspire to reach God’s abode when he is present every where
and he is keeping me happy here in the earth itself?

27.What’s the meaning of Upanayanam?

28.What’s role of women in our sampradayam? Why they are not allowed to
recite Veda or even Vishnu sahasranamam?

29.Can women recite Divya prabandham? Why in temples they don’t sit and
recite as ghosti?

30.Who is an Acharya? What is the meaning of this term?

31.Is it true that without the guidance of an Acharya we can’t realise the Lord?

32.Balarama is as an avatara is Lord Vishnu. At the same time, it is also told that
HE is incarnation of Adisesha. How both of these statements could be correct?

33.It is said that a true baktha won’t ask for anything from PerumaL. Is it not
selfish to ask for salvation from HIM. If HE feels that we deserve to be with HIM
at Lord’s abode, will HE not take us WITHOUT our asking or reminding for our
salvation?

34.Persons like Ramana maharishi, Ramakrishna paramahamsa,and Thiagaraja
had the vision of Lord although their sampradayam and preachings are entirely
different. How can we say that they did not get salvation at the end of their life,
just because they don’t fit into our understanding of the tatvas?
35.It is said that Sri Vysa is also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Then why he
wrote various rajasic and tamasic puraanams glorifying anya devatas.

36.Can you recommended some books for beginners to understand the
srivaishnava philosophy? Where they can be found?

37.Where we can find more information in the Internet regarding srivaishnavam?

38.Astrologers invariably recommend worship to Navagrahas. Has this been
accepted in our sampradayam?

39.In day to day life there are numerous problems and worries and although we
all know that the sufferings are due to our own karmas, is it wrong to seek the
help of Lord to help us out during this time of our suffering. When you approach
an Astrologer for finding out what could be done to overcome the suffering, they
advise to worship to one of the navagraha based on the planet position etc..
What should be done in such situations?

40.What is the viewpoint of the scriptures about the transmigration of the soul
after death. According to the scriptures, will the soul leave the body immediately
after death or will the soul be in the vicinity of the body after death till 10th /13th
day?

Answers to the above questions

1.What is srivaishnavam? Who started this branch of Hindu religion?

SrI VaishNavam is the only philosophy and practice which is flawless, eternal,
unshakable, universal truth. No one started this. It has no date of starting. It is
eternal. It is complete in itself, unparalleled, unsurpassed and therefore it is not a
branch of any religion. SrI VaishNavam is the philosophy and practice of the
Veda, which is not authored by anyone.

2.What are the basic tenants of Srivaishnavam?

The outline of Visistadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is as follows:

"Asesha Chitachit Vastu Seshine Sesha Saayine |
Nirmalaananta Kalyaana Nidhaye Vishnave Namaha ||"

This sloka of Bhagavat Ramanuja (Vedaartha Sangraha) is the essence of our
Visistadvaita Shree Vaishnava philosophy and practice. The Tatva-Hita-
Purusharthas are beautifully conveyed by this verse.
"Chit" denotes the sentient soul - jeevaatman. The Jeevaatman is identified as
finite (aNu), sentient (Jgnyaana), unchanging (Satya), blissful (Aananda) nature-
reality (Swaroopa). He is thus knowledge-self and also has knowledge (Dharma
Bhootha Jgnyaana) as his inseparable attribute. He is Swayam-prakasa meaning
knows himself ie., his individuality as he is Jgnyaana swaroopa. He knows other
things using his Dharma Bhoota Jgnyaana. Baddha (bound by karma in material
world), Muktha (liberated from karma and hence from material world) and Nitya
(eternally and ever free from karma) are the three types of Chit. The Chit is
eternal and is imperishable.

"Achit" denotes the insentient matter. Its nature is to change from one form to
another. It neither knows itself nor anything. Trigunya (matter having Satva,
Rajas and Tamas), Satva Soonya (Time which is devoid of Satva) and Sudha
Satva (matter having pure Satva without rajas and tamas) are the three types of
Achit.

"Asesha" denotes that there are innumerable Jeevaatmans. It applies for both
Chit and Achit. Upto this, it is clear that chit and achit are different entities.
"Asesha Chitachit Vastu Seshine" means that the Brahman has all the chit and
achit entities as his property. The term "Vastu" brings out the truth that these chit
and achit entities are real and not falsehood/illusion. This makes it clear that the
Brahman is different from all chit and achit entities and therefore the Brahman is
"Purushotthaman" as "Seshe" denotes clearly that Brahman is the lord/owner of
all chit and achit entities.

"Sesha Saayine" denotes that the Brahman reclines on the divine bed, which is
the coil of Adi Sesha - divine serpent. This further implicitly denotes that the
Brahman has divine form, divine abode, divine consort Shree, Bho and Nila and
all the divine royal things signifying his unparalleled and unsurpassed
supremacy.

Therefore the part of the verse "Asesha Chitachit Vastu Seshine Sesha Saayine”
brings out the meaning that the Brahman has "Ubhaya Vibhuthi" as his property.
"Ubhaya" means "Twin" and Vibhuthi means property. They are the Leela
Vibhuthi (the material worlds (from Chaturmuka Brahmaa's Satya Loka to
microorganisms), which are created sustained and destroyed by Brahman as his
sport (leela) and exist for his Leela rasa) and the Nitya Vibhuthi, which is the
transcendental divine world, called Shree Vaikunta Paramapadam. This part of
the verse therefore implicitly brings out the Pradhaana Pratitantram (key point) of
Visistadvaita, which is the sareera-aatma bhaava relation between the all chit -
achit entities and Brahman. As the Brahman supports, controls and owns all chit
and achit entities, he is the soul of all chit and achit entities. As all the chit and
achit entities are supported, controlled and owned by Brahman and exist for the
purpose of Brahman as inseparable attribute of Brahman, all the chit and achit
entities are Brahman's body. The Brahman is Purushoththama: Shreeman
Narayana: Vishnu: Vasudeva:
Nirmalaananta Kalyaana Nidhaye brings out the Ubhyalingam - the two
identifications of Brahman. As follows: "Nirmala" brings out "Akila Heya
Pratyaneekatvam" meaning "the Brahman is pure untouched by all the impurities
of the universe though he is present inside and outside everything. He is
"Aatma" soul of the universe called "Antaryaami" - meaning "He who controls
everything". "Ananta Kalyaana Nidhaye” brings out "Ananta Kalyaana
Gunaakaratvam" meaning "the Brahman is infinite with infinite divine/auspicious
attributes like power, strength, lordship, firmness, knowledge, resplendence
which are beyond the reach of our mind, sense organs and words. These
attributes bring out his "Paratvam" "ultimate supremacy". His attributes/qualities
like divine mercy brings out his "Sowlabhyam" "Easily available" nature.

"Vishnave" clearly points out that the Brahman is Lakshmi Pathi (Lord of Shree
Lakshmi) who pervades everything everywhere. Vishnu (Shreeman Narayanan)
is the Brahman. His omnipresence is conveyed by this name.

To summarise the Iswara Tatva concept, please note the following points:
The Brahman (God - Iswara) is Shreeman Naaraayanan who is

• Lord of Goddess Lakshmi (Shree)
• Unchanging, knowledge-self, infinite, blissful, and absolute pure nature
• The material cause and instrumental cause of the universe (all sentient
souls and insentient matter)
• Having the material worlds (universe) and transcendental world as his
body and He being the soul
• Having divine transcendental body (in five modes - Para, Vyuha,
Vibhava, Anaryaami-(Haarda)-Roopa and Archa)
• Untouched by all impurities of the universe
• Having infinite divine attributes
• Having as his sport, creation, sustenance, and destruction of all the
material worlds.

Up to this Visistadvaita Tatvam (reality) was outlined.

"Namaha" is not in the meaning of just saluting Lord Vishnu. It conveys the
"Hitam and Purushaartham" implicitly. Hitam is means to attain liberation. The
term "namaha" conveys meaning up to Saranaagathi at the lotus feet of Shree
Vishnu, which is total surrender. Similarly Bhakthi is also to be understood to
have been conveyed here implicitly.

"Namaha" with the names of Vishnu used here also implicitly conveys the
"Purushaartham" (goal, result) which is eternal service at the lotus feet of Lord
Vishnu and eternally experiencing the Lord in Shree Vaikunta Paramapadam.

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3.How does this branch differ from other Vaishnava religions like Madhva
Vaishnavas and Gaudiya vaishnavas?

It is to be noted that Advaita, Dvaita etc., are personal opinions of individuals and
they do not explain the entire Veda, Geeta and Brahma Sutras (Prastaana
Trayam). Many of these are not only against the Veda but also against logic and
rationality. Only Visistadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is the purport of Veda, Geeta
and Brahma Sutras.

4.What is the meaning of the term “Visishtadvaita”?

Let us examine the meaning of the term “Visishtadvaita”. It is derived by two
ways – “Visishtasya Advaitam – Visishtadvaitam” and “Visishtayoho Advaitam –
Visishtadvaitam”.

“Visishtasya Advaitam” means – The Brahman qualified by all chit and achit
entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam (body/mode/attribute) is
without a second entity meaning unparalleled and unsurpassed. This brings out
the ultimate supremacy of Shreeman Narayana Para Brahman who is Akila Heya
Pratyaneeka: and Ananta Kalyaana Gunaakara:

“Visishtayoho Advaitam” means – The Brahman having the subtle (sukshma) chit
and achit entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam
(body/mode/attribute) before creation is the same Brahman having the expanded
(stUla) chit and achit entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam
(body/mode/attribute) after creation. This brings out the fact that Shreeman
Narayana Para Brahman is the only material cause and efficient cause of the
universe.

Shreeman Nigamaantha Maha Desika defines the same as “Asesha Chit-Achit
Prakaaram Brahmaikameva Tatvam”. This is the most precise definition of our
Siddhaantham.

5.Is it true that Bhagavad Ramanuja did not use this term in any of his
works?

True. Our Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam is the eternal matham of Veda and
therefore it is called as “Parama-Vaidika-matham”. Not only its philosophy
(sidhdantham) is parama-vaidikam but also its practice (anushtanam) is parama-
vaidikam.

6.If so, who has coined this word and does it mean that our religion is only
1000 years old?
This term was used as it precisely conveys the essence of our philosophy as told
above (visishtasya advaitam and visishtayoho advaitam) by many scholars. It is
eternal and therefore, there is no age for this.

7.It is said that Vishishtadvaita is also an advaita. What is the difference
between Vishishtadvaita and Advaita?

Advaita and Vishishtadvaita have no connection at all. Advaita is implicit atheism.
Advaita is called as “Prachanna Bowdhdam”. Advaita is based only on a personal
interpretation of Abheda-sruthi. In Advaita, Brahman is the only knowledge-self
reality and is without any attributes. The three types of differences namely
difference in individuality, difference in types and differences in its integral parts
are not in Brahman. Nothing other than this Brahman is reality. Though the
Brahman is eternally free and only knowledge self, it gets obstructed/covered by
ignorance and without realizing itself as Brahman (as told above) becomes to
realize itself wrongly as Jeevaatman and gets bound in the material universe
which is not a reality. This is what the Veda through verses like “Tat Tvam Asi”
conveys. Except the Brahman, everything is illusion-falsehood. The God and the
sentient-living and insentient-matter which are controlled by God are only illusion
and has no reality. There is nothing called bound Jeevaatman and liberated
Jeevaatman as the Brahman and Jeevaatman are the same entity. Only one
body is with Jeevaatman, which is Brahman covered/obstructed by ignorance.
Other bodies are without Jeevaatman as they are just the illusion of the Brahman
covered by ignorance. It is not possible to point out which body has that
Jeevaatman. The experiences of Brahman during its illusion are also false. The
preceptor who imparts this knowledge about Brahman is unreal. The disciple who
listens to the preceptor is unreal. The Veda, which gives this knowledge about
the Brahman, is also unreal. The Brahman by the knowledge of knowing that
nothing other than itself (which is only knowledge-self reality without any
attributes) is real gets its ignorance cleared and realizes itself as Brahman and
this is liberation. Advaita thus declares everything is unreal except the only
knowledge-self Brahman, which is without any attributes using the unreal
Saastra, which is Veda!

Visishtadvaita’s key aspects were already told.

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8.How does Vishishtadvaita differs from Dvaita?

Dvaita is the philosophy, which is based on the bheda-srutis, which states that
the sentient soul (Jeevaatman), the insentient matter, and the Brahman are
different from one another. It stresses the difference between the entities
categorically as follows:
Differences between Brahman and Jeevaatman
Differences between one Jeevaatman and another Jeevaatman
Differences between Jeevaatman and insentient-matter
Differences between one insentient and another insentient matter
Differences between Brahman and insentient matter etc

Dvaita holds that the Brahman who is Vishnu (Narayanan) is just the efficient
cause (instrumental cause) in the creation of the universe. It stresses that only
Bhakthi as told in Upanishads through 32 vidyaas is the means to attain
liberation. It states that the goal is experiencing the bliss in Lord Vishnu’s
transcendental divine world Paramapada Shree Vaikuntam. It also recognizes
inequality in the status of liberated jivatmans also.

Visishtadvaita’s key aspects were already told.

9.Advaitans and even Dvaitans claim that Sriman Narayana is their first
acharya. We also say that our pratama acharya is Sriman Narayana. Then
where does this lineage branch out starting from Sriman Narayana?

For Advaita, the Acharya is also an illusion-unreality. Therefore, there is no point
in considering its lineage in Advaita. As far as Dvaita, their lineage is said to
begin so. The guru-parampara that is present in our Visishtadvaita Shree
Vaishnava Matham, has Sriman Narayana as its first Acharya. But one has to
note that the “Sishyas” who then became Acharyas, has followed the first
Acharya perfectly in all manners only in Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnava Guru-
Parampara. Sriman Narayana as the first Acharya for all, has blessed us with
Veda-Vedanta, Brahma-Sutra, Bhagavath Gita, Pancharatra Agama etc., and
preached only the Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam clearly. But the other
branches of philosophies had their own prejudices as their mathams, which
deviates from what the first Acharya told.

10.What is the meaning of Samasrayanam or Pancha samaskaram?

Pancha-Samskaram (which is prescribed mandatory in the Saastra) means five
purification rituals collectively referred. Only the Shree Vaishnava Aacharya can
bless the Sishya with this ritual. They are

• Taapam (bearing the shanka-chakra marks of heated shanka-chakra seal
along with chanting of mantras)
• PuNdram (wearing 12 Tiru-maN with Shree-ChUrNam along with chanting
of mantras)
• Naamam (identifying oneself by the Daasya-nama signifying the
Bhagavath-Bhaagavata-Seshatvam)
• Mantram (getting the upadesam of the three secret mantras called
Srimath Rahasya-trayam from Aacharya as per the rules of Saastra) and
• Ijyaa (getting the upadesam from Aacharya to do the Aaraadhana for
Bhagavath-Vigraham or Bhagavath-Saligraama-Vigraham as per the
Saastra)

11.Is this ritual started by Bhagavad Ramanuja?

The above mentioned ritual is prescribed in the Saastra as mandatory for all
Vaidikas. Therefore, no one started this ritual.

12.What is the meaning of Divya prabandham?

Divya Prabandam is the collection of 24 sections of divine Tamil verses sung by
divine Sages called Azhvars. The Divya Prabandam originated because of the
transcendental divine experiences that the Azhwaaras had with Shreeman
Narayana. It is the summary of Veda in Tamil.

13.What is the meaning of the word “Azhvars?

“Azhvars” means “Divine Sage who is immersed in the ocean of infinite divine
qualities of Shreeman Narayana”.

14.Azhvars sang in praise of Sriman Narayana and Nayanmars sang in
praise of Lord Shiva. Then why to elevate only Azhvar’s works to the level
of Vedas and call them as Dravida Veda etc..

The Divya-Prabandam by virtue itself, is the Tamil-form (Dravida Veda) of the
Veda. This is the reason why it is celebrated so and no one has “elevated” it to
the level of Veda. This is the reason why some other work in Tamil cannot be
equated with the Divya-Prabandam. Divya-Prabandam is unparalleled and
unsurpassed. It is called “Chandamigu-Tamil-Marai” meaning “Tamil-Veda”. On
the other hand, the other one is called as “Murai” just meaning “a method”. From
this, not only the greatness of the Divya-Prabandam is understood easily but also
the fact that the Divya-Prabandam is peerless. The “Tiru-Kural”, “Pari-Padal” etc.,
in Tamil is also stating only the unparalleled and unsurpassed supremacy of
Shreeman Narayana: Azhwars sang The Divya Prabandam because of the
wisdom granted to them by the one and only God Shreeman Narayana. A
Vaidika can accept only the Divya Prabandam. The Divya Prabandam is flawless
divine source of knowledge. This aspect is unique to Divya Prabandam. The
innumerable commentaries written by scholars prove that Divya Prabandam is
Veda’s essence in divine Tamil.

15.What is the meaning of para devatha?

“Para-Devatha” means Sriman Narayana: who is unparalleled and unsurpassed
supreme self. The Veda has clearly established that the one and only God is
Purushoththama: Sriman Narayana:
16.What is the meaning of anya devatha?

Anya devathas are demi-gods like Chaturmuka-Brahmaa, Rudra, Indra etc. They
are all badhda-jivaatmas like us but having higher posts granted by the one and
only God Sriman Narayana:

17.Why anya devatha worship is to be avoided?

It is totally to be avoided by all those who are aspiring for Moksham
(liberation),because they can’t grant you the salvation. There are numerous texts
in veda and upanishads that Sriaman Narayana is the only one who can grant
moksham. Now the one who is capable of granting you the highest position ie a
place in his abode can’t HE grant the mundane things to you if you ask for
it.Then why to pray to other devathas why not ask Sriman Narayana ONLY.

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18.Even Upanishads speak of rituals related to anya devathas. Then why
we should not do it?

The Upanishads never speak of rituals related to anya devathas because their
aim is only to teach us about the swaroopa-roopa-guna-vibhuthi-iswaryam of
Brahman Shreeman Narayana: who is Para-devatha. The Veda’s pUrva-Bhaaga
speaks of various rituals related to various devathas. But he who studies the
Vedanta (Upanishad) realizes that even those rituals are in fact means to
worship only Shreeman Narayana: because the antaryAmi of all devatas is only
Sriman Narayana: and the demi-gods are only agents in giving the results. Only
Sriman Narayana: gives the result in all the rituals. But he who does the rituals as
mere worship of anya-devatas without the knowledge of Sriman Narayana: and
satvika-tyaga, never gets elevated to aspire for liberation. The anya-devata
worshiper only experiences the evil-samsara. It is a sin of highest order to even
think that Sriman Narayana: is equal to any anya-devata. Sriman Narayana: is
unparalleled and unsurpassed supreme self. The Veda has clearly established
that the one and only God is Purushoththama: Sriman Narayana:

19.What is the meaning of prapatti or Bharanyasam?

Prapatti is a sAdyOpAya – “means”. It is total surrendering at the lotus feet of
Sriman Narayana:. It has five “angas” namely AanukUlya-sankalpam,
praathikUlya-varjanam, Maha-visvaasam, gOptruvavaraNam and kaarpaNyam. It
has to be done by the jivaatman who has realized aachinchanyatvam and
ananya-gathithvam and wants the result without delay.

20.Is it true that only prapatti can lead us to salvation?
Not only praptti can lead us to salvation but also Bhakti which has karma and
jgnyaana as its angas. Bhakti is also a sAdyOpaya. The SidhdOpAya is the lotus
feet of Shreeman Narayana:

21.Why we should avoid eating garlic and onions when these vegetables
are supposed to have medicinal properties?

Garlic, Onion etc., are not to be eaten because such things have the capacity to
stimulate rajasa-taamasa attributes. A person who aspires for Saatvika nature
must reject these things. But for medicine, if prescribed by doctor, then these
things can be taken as per the doctor’s prescription only for the cure of the
disease.

22.Why fasting on ekadasi is recommended? What is the meaning of
upavasam?

Ekadasi fasting is prescribed in the Dharma-saastras and puraanas for
purification of body and mind. “Upavasam” means “fasting”.

23.What are the daily duties of srivaishnavas?

Sri Vaishnavas must do the duties without fail as ordered by the Saastra
according to their varna-aasrama. Sri Vaishnavas must do their karma with
Satvika-tyaga as obeying the order of Shreeman Narayana and only for the
pleasure of Shreeman Narayana. He must not do any kaamya, nishidha and
abhichaara karmas. He has to do the nitya karmas and naimitika karmas without
fail. The daily duties of Shree Vaishnavas are classified into five headings
namely

1. Abigamanam
2. Upaadaanam
3. Ijyaa
4. Swaadyaayam
5. Yogam

24.I have no knowledge about vedas or prabandhams. But I have deep
devotion towards PerumaL. Is this qualification enough to be a prapanna.

This qualification is more than enough to be a prapanna. But try to study the
works of our Aacharyas and Azhwars as per capacity and qualification. Swami
DESika in his SrImath Rahasya Traya Saram - SAstrIya niyamanAdhikAram has
ordered the prapanna (he who has adopted prapathi properly at the lotus feet of
divya dampathi) to do the following:

1. The prapanna has to study the SrI BhAshya and preach it. If he does not have
qualification or ability to do this, then
2. He has to study the “aruLichcheyal” which is nAlAyira-divya-prabandam. If he
does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
3. He has to do kainkaryam (services like supporting Bhagavath-ArAdhana,
thadiyArAdhana etc) in divya-desams. If he does not have qualification or ability
to do this, then
4. He has to contemplate on the secret meaning of the Dwaya-mantra. If this is
also not possible for him, then
5. He must do service without any ego obeying a qualified SrI VaishNava who is
mercifully accepting him.

On listening to the order of our Swami in this manner, one must realize the
importance given by our AchAryas to the study of grantas like SrI BhAshya and
Divya-Prabandams. These grantas cannot be studied just with the mere help of
books and translations. We being prapannas, must approach a qualified SrI
VaishNava AchArya and surrender to him and request him to kindly teach these
grantas. The importance of learning these grantas in this traditional manner
ensures that a person gets the precise comprehension regarding the tatva-hita-
purushArthas told in SAstra, which is ascertained only in our Visishtadvaita SrI
VaishaNava philosophy and practice.

When this is stressed, there was someone who questioned me – “What is the
need for a person to study these difficult grantas?” I replied that “when you get
some trouble regarding your health, are you not running behind all the doctors to
get it cured? You do so just because you have got extreme dedication to save
your body. Why not you think of having atleast a fraction of that dedication
towards the jIvAthma-vastu, which is the property of Sriman Narayana:. To save
yourself, you have to study our pUrvAchArya grantas and submit His property at
His lotus feet. Our AachArAs are full of mercy that they have written the grantas
in various levels thinking of various levels of readers. Not all their grantas are
tough. Nothing is comparable to our pUrvAchArya grantas. Atleast listen to the
easily comprehensible explanations given by “BhAgavatAs”. The person, who
questioned me, considered my answer as a practical answer, which made him to
think.

One must not give excuses (like “I do not know Sanskrit or Tamil”, “I have
lowkika works which will get affected if I spare sometime for the study of these
grantas”, “I will study after I get retirement”etc.,) to avoid the study of our
pUrvAchArya grantas. Without proper understanding of our SrI SampradAya a
person is likely to get agitated and confused with mathams like Advaita (implicit
atheism), ChAruvAka (explicit atheism) etc, and starts practicing something
irrelevant and irrational. Our Visishtadvaita SrI Vaishnava philosophy and
practice is not “belief” or “superstition”. It is the only philosophy and practice
which is flawless, eternal and clearly established using Sruthi and pramANa-
based-logic. It is the only matham, which enlightens and leads a person straight
to Parama-Padam-SrI Vaikuntam. That is why we are always directed to study
the pUrvAcharya grantams under the guidance of SrI VaishNava AchAryas in
traditional kAlakshEpam method.

Top

25.What is the goal of the human race?

There are four goals namely Dharma, artha, kaama and moksha.

• Dharma is righteous path prescribed in the Saastra
• Arhta is financial aspects and its equivalents.
• Kaama is gratification of the sense organs

These three goals namely Dharma, artha, kaama are transitory and very limited
and are mundane goals. The fourth goal is Moksha, which is permanent and
unlimited. Moksha is liberation from all karmas and hence from the material
world, reaching the transcendental divine world Shree Vaikuntam and doing
eternal service to the lotus feet of Shreeman Narayana: and having infinite bliss.

26.Why should we aspire to reach God’s abode when he is present every
where and he is keeping me happy here in the earth itself?

Once a king went to forest for hunting, along with his servants and his one-year-
old son. He lost his son in the forest. He returned to his city with grief. Few forest-
dwelling-tribal people found the prince in the forest crying helplessly. They took
him to their settlement and brought him up for few years. The prince never knew
who he is and thought that he is also a tribal. He never did which is suitable for
his royal status but followed the entire tribal customs and practices. In fact, he
had no scope to distinguish the greatness of the pleasures suitable for a prince
and the daily routines of his tribal life. He took his tribal life as such. Also, he
never has any knowledge about his father who is a king but always looking for
his lost son.

Similar to this lost-prince, the jivaatmans are in the samsaara, bewildered by the
prakruthi, which has satva-rajas-tamas attributes. They rarely realize that the
“pleasures” that they get in samsaara like mundane comforts are not pleasures
but agony in disguise. They never think about the Lord Shreeman Narayana: who
is looking forward to uplift the suffering souls in the samsaara.

Coming back to our prince, one day, few Rishis by their wisdom, identified this
prince who has assumed miserable life. They approached the Prince and
explained to him the truth. They explained the pleasures of the royal state and
the miseries in his present life. They also approached the king and informed
about the prince. The king was overjoyed and considering the only relationship
that he has with the prince, he accepted the prince. He did the samskaaras for
the prince and then made him to get the equal enjoyment that he has.
Like this, the Aacharas out of mercy make the jivaatman to realize his swaroopa
“Seshatvam”. They bless him with pancha-samskaara and Bhara-nyaasa. They
make the Lord to accept the jivaatman. The Lord Shreeman Narayana mercifully
accepts the jivaatman and grants equal bliss that he has.

Therefore, one has to be a mumukshu (aspiring for moksha). He has to
necessarily adopt the saadyOpaya and then reach the Parama-pada Vaikunta
and do eternal service to Lord Shreeman Narayana. This is what is perfectly
suitable for the jivaatman’s swaroopa.

The Lord Shreeman Narayana is omnipresent. But we are not able to enjoy him
because of our karma. We are bound in the material world and are suffering in it
because of our karma. Enjoying the mundane comforts and being satisfied in it is
not appropriate to our swaroopa. Therefore, we have to aspire to reach God’s
abode and get our swaroopa realized appropriately.

27.What’s the meaning of Upanayanam?

Upanayanam is a samskaara prescribed in the saastra. The suitable eight year
old boy (his age should be from eight to sixteen) has to be initiated in the study of
Veda and hence Brahmacharyam. The suitable boy is blessed with the sacred
thread “YagnyOpavitam” as per the rules of the scriptures and Gayatri-mantra-
upadesam. He is directed by his father to uphold Brahmacharya-aasrama-
dharma and study the Veda. As this ritual leads the suitable boy to the study of
Veda, it is called upanayanam.

28.What’s role of women in our sampradayam? Why they are not allowed to
recite Veda or even Vishnu sahasranamam?

Just like the man is entitled to uphold his dharma, the woman has to uphold her
dharma. Both have to follow what the saastra has prescribed to each one of them
specifically. The dharma-saastras, aaknika-grantas and smruthies categorically
prescribe these dharmas. Women are equally entitled to get the knowledge about
Brahman Shreeman Narayana but the way in which she has to get it is different
from that of man. This should not be misunderstood as “restriction”. The
recitation of Veda is not like telling the slokas. The Veda has to be learnt,
comprehended and applied with its six accessories namely siksha, chandas,
vyaakaranam, niruktham, jyothisham and kalpam. This is suitable only for man.
Vishnu Sahasranamam is also a mantra, which has to be chanted only by men
because it has to be chanted with nyaasa, pranavam etc. The woman can get the
same knowledge through listening to itihaasaas, satvika puraanas,
pUrvaacharya-stotras-grantas and divya-prabandams. She has to accompany
the man in doing all the vaidika karmas like yaagas. The Parama-vaidika-
matham considers both man and woman as its two eyes. She can adopt prapatti
and get salvation just like the man.
29.Can women recite Divya prabandham? Why in temples they don’t sit and
recite as ghosti?

Women can recite and sing Divya Prabandham. In temples, they can form a
separate ghosti and sing divya prabandam before the Lord. But the men-ghosti is
separate and generally it will comprise those who are regularly doing kainkaryam
in the temple.

30.Who is an Acharya? What is the meaning of this term?

Acharya is he who enlightens us regarding Brahman Shreeman Narayana: and
hence tatva-hita-purushaarthas and make us to adopt saadyopaaya. He should
be well versed in the Veda, having undivided devotion on the lotus feet of
Brahman Shreeman Narayana: and practicing the Parama-Vaidika-matham’s
sidhdantams and anushtaanam. “Aacharya” means “he who practices the
Saastra’s sidhdantams and anushtaanam” and then preaches it to his disciples.

31.Is it true that without the guidance of an Acharya we can’t realise the
Lord?

Yes, it is fully true that without the guidance of an Acharya we can’t realize the
Lord.

32.Balarama is as an avatara is Lord Vishnu. At the same time, it is also
told that HE is incarnation of Adisesha. How both of these statements
could be correct?

The Avataara of Shreeman Narayana (Vishnu) is called “Vibhava-roopam”. The
Lord exhibits himself in five forms namely para, vyuha, vibhava, haarda and
archa. Of which, the Vibhava-roopam is of various types as told in saastra. The
avataaras like Krishna, Nrusimha are direct avataaras. There are certain
avataaras called “SaktyAvesa-avataara” where, the Lord makes his power enter
specially into a jivatman and does super-human works.

33.It is said that a true baktha won’t ask for anything from PerumaL. Is it
not selfish to ask for salvation from HIM. If HE feels that we deserve to be
with HIM at Lord’s abode, will HE not take us WITHOUT our asking or
reminding for our salvation?

Yes. We have to be Paramaikaanthi-Shree Vaishnavas. But praying at the lotus
feet of Shreeman Narayana for the eternal service to the same lotus feet is not
selfish.

Top
34.Persons like Ramana maharishi, Ramakrishna paramahamsa,and
Thiagaraja had the vision of Lord although their sampradayam and
preachings are entirely different. How can we say that they did not get
salvation at the end of their life, just because they don’t fit into our
understanding of the tatvas?

Even an atheist sees the Lord Shreeman Narayana in His Archa Roopam.
Seeing His Archa Roopam is same as seeing His para roopam. Does the atheist
get moksham? He will not get moksham just because he saw God. He must have
an understanding of the tatva-hita-purushaarthas as told in the Veda. At least, he
must have understood that only Shreeman Narayana is the unparalleled and
unsurpassed supreme self. He must then adopt the sadyopaya (bhatki or
prapathi) as per the guidance of a Shree Vaishnava Aachaarya. Only then, he
can get moksha. The list of names that you have given in your question is
dominated by Advaitins. The Advaitins are prachana-bowdhdas. Please do not
think that I am avoiding by not mentioning their names again. The tatva-hita-
purusharthas can be known only from the Veda. As the Visishtadvaita Shree
Vaishnavam is the only philosophy and practice, which is parama-vaidikam, he
who does either bhakti or prapatti alone gets moksham. Others do not get
moksham until they completely renounce their philosophy and practice and
embrace Visishtadvaita Shree Vaishnavam to adopt the sadyopaya.

35.It is said that Sri Vysa is also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Then why
he wrote various rajasic and tamasic puraanams glorifying anya devatas.

The same Sri Vyasa has categorically stated that the tamasic and rajasic
puranas are only for those who have tamasa-rajasa attribues and want to suffer
in the samsara. For those who want to be satvika, curious to know the tatva-hita-
purusharthas as told in Veda and aspiring for moksha, only the satvika puranas
are to be accepted. All portions of the tamasa and rajasa puranas that contradict
the Veda are to be simply rejected.

36.Can you recommended some books for beginners to understand the
srivaishnava philosophy? Where they can be found?

While it is very difficult to understand the sampradayam by mere reading of
books we are trying to provide a list of books for begineers to start with. We
would recommend that the readers should approach a Srivaishnava acharya and
learn from him in a traditional manner, which is known as kaalekshepam.

Recommended books:

A Dialogue on Hinduism by Sri V. N. Gopala Desikan

Acharya Vaibhavam - Vol. 1 and Acharya Vaibhavam (Anubandhan) -
Vol. 2 by Sri Krishnamachariar Swami
Srimad Bhagavat Gita: by Sri V. N. Gopala Desikan

Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Bhasyam by Sri V. N. Vedantha Desikan.

Azhvar Tiruvullam (2 Vols.) by Sri. V. N. Vedanta Desikan

Sri Vishnu Puranam (2 Vols.)by Srimad Azhagiya Singer (45th Jeer of Sri Ahobila
Mutt)

Srimad Rahasyatrayasaram Vivaranam by HH the 45th Jeeyar of Sri Ahobila
Matam.

Vaisnavism: Its Philosophy, Theology and Religious Discipline
by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, Motilal Banarsidass

Fundamentals of Visistadvaita Vedanta: A study based on Vedanta Desika's
Tattva
Mukta Kalapa by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, Motilal Banarsidass

Advaita and Visistadvaita by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, South Asia Books.

Try Ahobila mutt site and Sri.Mani's site on Srivaishnavam to buy some of the
books online. If you are living in Chennai, India then You may visit Nrusimha
priya office at Sri Desika bhavanam to get most of the above books.

37.Where we can find more information in the Internet regarding
srivaishnavam?

Please visit the favourite links page of this web site. I have listed most the
sites,which contain information on srivaishnavam. You can also enroll your self to
the various egroups and receive daily emails and start learning from the scholars.
If you are interested please contact me by email and I will guide you through. The
basic requirement isd is commitment and a sincere desire to learn and practice
our glorious sampradayam.If you can spare 20 to 30 minutes of your time daily
then you can atleast understand the basic principles and glories of our
sampradayam in few months time. This is not an overstatement and I am the
example.

38.Astrologers invariably recommend worship to Navagrahas. Has this
been accepted in our sampradayam?
A Shree Vaishnava must not worship anyone other than Shreeman Narayana. A
prapanna should not have any doubt regarding his future. When Shreeman
Narayana is ready to give Moksham itself, then surely he will give all that is
needed for the material life also. Let us not have any doubt regarding this
because he told in Gita that “Yoga-kshemam vahamyaham”. Therefore, there is
no question of consulting astrologers! For Prapanna, astrology (jyothisha
saastra) must be used only for finding the appropriate time/date for doing the
vaidika nitya-naimithika karmas.

39.In day to day life there are numerous problems and worries and
although we all know that the sufferings are due to our own karmas, is it
wrong to seek the help of Lord to help us out during this time of our
suffering. When you approach an Astrologer for finding out what could be
done to overcome the suffering, they advise to worship to one of the
navagraha based on the planet position etc.. What should be done in such
situations?

This question is already answered. The prapanna must have “maha viswaasam”
only on Shreeman Narayana’s lotus feet. The Lord Shreeman Narayana said
“Abhayam sarva-bhUthebhyo dadaami”, “sarva-paapebhyo mokshayishyaami”.
Once we have surrendered to the lotus feet of Shreeman Narayana as per the
directions of Shree Vaishnava Aacharaya, we should not have any fear or worry.
All we have to do after prapathi is as follows:

1. The prapanna has to study the SrI BhAshya and preach it. If he does not have
qualification or ability to do this, then
2. He has to study the “aruLichcheyal” which is nAlAyira-divya-prabandam. If he
does not have qualification or ability to do this, then
3. He has to do kainkaryam (services like supporting Bhagavath-ArAdhana,
thadiyArAdhana etc) in divya-desams. If he does not have qualification or ability
to do this, then
4. He has to contemplate on the secret meaning of the Dwaya-mantra. If this is
also not possible for him, then
5. He must do service without any ego obeying a qualified SrI VaishNava
who is mercifully accepting him.

Above all, he/she must do his/her nitya-naimithika karmas (duties) as prescribed
in the saastra as Bhagavataagnyayaa Shreeman Narayana-preetyartham with
saatvika tyaaga without fail. Every second that is gone is making the time short to
reach Shreeman Narayana’s lotus feet.

40.What is the viewpoint of the scriptures about the transmigration of the
soul after death. According to the scriptures, will the soul leave the body
immediately after death or will the soul be in the vicinity of the body after
death till 10th /13th day?
40. 1) if the soul has not attained moksha, it is in some other body but every soul
will attain a position called pretha sthana after death. if the rituals are performed,
like depositing dollars in one country and getting rupees in other country, the
central post office Lord Srihari will take care of appeasing that dead person's soul
in any place it is. this is the shastraic answer.

2) if the soul got delivered and is in moksha, it can take any number of forms.
eakadha bhavati .... shatada bhavati.. this means it can take 100 forms. just to
receive ritual offerings it can come even though it will not since it is happy with
god.

however, the person has to do the ritual to get rid of his karmas or offer thanks
to the dead relative. or else this person will have pratyavaya dosha or ill effects of
not doing his karma. ritual is nothing but loans to be repaid since that relative
helped get the body. similarly all devatas like yama etc. are thanked to have
given various parts of the body of the deceased.

Krishna
"krishna kashyap" <kkalale1@san.rr.com>

In addition to Krishna Kalale's informative reply, I would like to add that for the
person of wisdom (the 'jnAni' in the Gita's parlance) the ascent to liberation
begins as soon as life is lost in the conventional sense. The jiva is led along the
path of light to Vaikuntha from its erstwhile residence in the heart of the body by
the Supreme Self who also resides in the heart and who graces the jiva in this
final stage (hArda-anugRhItaH -- Brahma Sutra 4.2.x). The journey out of the
body and into the state of Vaikuntha takes thirteen days. On the thirteenth day it
is held that the jnAni attains communion with the Supreme Self (Brahma-
sayujya).

Yet, as Krishna has pointed out, the attainment of Brahma-sayujya is not
dependent on the performance of the funeral rites by the deceased's survivors.
The former is purely between the jiva and the Supreme Self whereas the latter is
a duty of the embodied survivors.

Mani
"Mani Varadarajan <mani@alum.calberkeley.org>"
<mani@alum.calberkeley.org>