Saturday, October 17, 2015

MA Divyaprabhandam exercise

"Oh Lord. I had wasted my life in going after the short time pleasures offered by the materialistic world, but now I have realised the knowledge of great mantra of "Om Namo Narayanaya", through the grace showered by the Lord for uplifting my soul"
The above is the translation of the words (Vadinen Vadi) I accidentally read at 2-45 am on October 18, 2015. It very nearly applied to me as well. So what was I doing so early in the morning?
Yesterday I had slept early and today got up at 2-45 am. It is true that you would not get sleep when there is some important work to be completed. I suddenly remembered that next weekend was the contact programme for the MA Divyaprabhandam course at Chennai and it was also the day on which I need to submit my first assignment.  Immediately, I set out to write the answer to the first question by referring the study material in English provided by the Sastra University. But behold, I could complete the answer to the first question in only 85 words, whereas the requirement was to complete in 300 words. So where do I go for the 215 more words?

 Then I remembered that the study material in Tamil language was much more detailed and all I need to do was translate the commentaries in English.  By the grace of Lord, I made a mistake of opening the Tirumoli-I PDF instead of Tiruvaimoli-I PDF (the only difference being the addition of three letters V, A, & I).

The words I was reading in the book captivated me to read the entire first page (be aware that the Tamil language used about 5,000 years ago is very difficult to understand for persons who have studied in languages other than Tamil). Only when I started to read the second page I realised that the book I needed to refer was not this (however, the crux of all the books are one and the same as Krishna says in Gita that the Supreme Lord can be realized through any number of ways). That is how I came to read the lines of Vadinen Vadi at 2-45 am in the morning.

Before I close this blog and return to my assignment, let me provide you with the very first question in the assignment and the answer I had written (in italics):
Paper-I - Part-A- Explain with reference to context

Question 1: Udan Misai Uyir Ena Karandu Engum Parandulan

Answer:
This extract is taken from Nammalvar's Tiruvaimozhi's first centum (mudal pathu), first Tiruvaimohi, 7th song.  The meaning of the words are:
Udan Misai = inside the human body
Uyir ena = the soul
Kantu engum parantulan = pervades and remains invisible in and out of all creation

The translation of the sentence is the key to the Visishtadvaita Philosophy which states that the Lord is apart from the non-sentient things and sentient being and enters them all as "Antaryamin" (internal controller) like unto the soul inside the body.


Today, October 18, 2015 also happens to be the day of Tula Sankramana. Every month (after 30 days), sun is said to move from one zodiac sign to another and Sankramana is the day of the sun arriving at a new zodiac sign. Tula is the Sanskrit word for the zodiac sign Libra. This day also happens to be starting day of a month in Tamil/South Indian calendars. There are four specific months very auspicious in a year- Mesha (Aries), Karkataka (Cancer), Tula (Libra), and Makara (Capricorn)- which are the starts for the four quarters of the year.
 Tula (Libra) is the only month which is considered to be most auspicious to take a head-bath in any river (especially River Cauvery). This is the day, it is believed that river Kaveri was born and on this day every year, pilgrims witness the flowing of river at the birth place of the river in Bhagamandala (Madikeri District, Karnataka). The other three remaining months are special in their own ways- Makara (Capricorin) is the day of Uttarayana Punya Kala (the day sun starts its summer solstice), Karkataka (Cancer) is the day of Dakshinayana (winter solstice) and Mesha (Aries) is the new year day (the day sun completes 365 days and starts his 1st day). I need to perform tarpanam (oblations) to my forefathers on each of these four occasions along with all the days in which there is a new moon (Amavasya) as well as eclipse days (the funny thing about eclipse days is that I need to take head-bath during the climax of the eclipse and perform the rituals while the eclipse exists. Also, after the eclipse ends, I need to confirm that eclipse has passed by looking at the sun/moon and then take another head-bath to purify myself. The most funniest thing is during solar eclipse I need to perform oblations during day time while on lunar eclipse day, I must get up in the night at whatever time the climax happens be it 11 pm or 1 am or 3 am).


Thursday, September 17, 2015

MA Divyaprabhandham Contact Classes in Chennai- September 12-13, 2015

What is the goal of a human being on earth? (to be told in shorter sentence- who am I?).

The answer depends upon the thinking capacity of each individual. Say, one of my colleague may say that he/she may want to become an established advocate and retire rich. Other colleagues may not differ greatly from this answer. If I were to ask the same question to any other student or employee, I am sure that the answer would be to retire rich and no more.

However, you have to ask the same question to a different set of individuals I met over last weekend (September 12-13, 2015), who would undoubtedly say that the goal of human being is to attain Moksham or enlightenment so that there is no rebirth on earth. Let me give a brief introduction to the group I am referring to:

Background:
My mom watches Podhigai TV (Tamil language channel of Government of India) at 7 am every Monday to Thursday. There was an advert which invited public to enrol into a post graduate degree course of Thanjavur based Sastra University's Oriental Studies Department by name Master of Arts in Divya Prabhandham. On her insistence ( and my own curiosity), I joined the course in August (last date to apply was August 31, 2015). Below is the provisional admission intimation letter I received from the University:

 After I received the letter, I also got an email from the University to attend the contact programmes to be conducted two days every month. Below is Dates:

Month of Contact Programme
Dates and Week
August-2015
8th-Sat
9th-Sun
September-2015
12th-Sat
13th-Sun
October-2015
24th-Sat
25th-Sun
November-2015
21st-Sat
22nd-Sun
December-2015
19th-Sat
20th-Sun

Immediately I booked tickets in train for the said dates. Below is the ticket for departure from Bangalore on September 11, 2015 at 11-30 pm to reach Chennai on the morning of September 12, 2015 at 5-30 am.

I had also booked a return ticket in Lalbagh Express which departed Chennai at 3-30 pm to reach K.R.Puram at 9 pm.

On Scheduled day of departure (September 11, 2015), I dropped my two wheeler at my sister's house and walked to the Railway Station. A good samaritan helped me letting me know that the RAC ticket was confirmed and my berth was Seat No. 8 (upper berth in coach S3).

September 12, 2015:
The train reached Chennai Central Junction at 5-30 am.  I caught a local bus to V-House and walked to Triplicane Temple and saw that people were getting ready to do amavasya tharpanam at the Yadugiri Yathiraja Mutt just opposite the temple tank.  I took permission from the mutt authorities to take bath, adorn myself in dhothi and apply sacred marks over my forehead.  Then I joined the first batch of performers and paid oblations to my forefathers. I also paid Rs.100/- to the Vadyar who conducted the tarpanam and Rs.20/- to the assistant who had permitted to make use of the Mutt's bathroom.

Done with the nithya naimittika karmas (duties imposed by Vedas), I met an old lady near the Ahobilam Ashram who directed me to the place where the contact programme was to be conducted on Big Street.

The address of the above building is shown below:
The Hindu Senior Secondary School,
87, Big Street,
Triplicane, Chennai 600005

I tried to search for nearby hotels and I was told to go near the Hindu High School.  Right opposite to the Hindu High School, I got a three bedded room as there was no single or double bedded rooms vacant.
 The daily rent of the room was Rs.400/-
 Soon I got ready to leave the room to visit the temple of Parthasarathy- which is one of the 108 most sacred temples of Srivaishnavas.

I went to the back entrance of the temple but a passerby told me that the gates are closed because of some bomb threat. So I went to the front gate.

The front of the temple was as always crowded with people. I did not go through the special entrance for vaidikas but went in the general queue and had a pretty good darshan:
I had also come to know that the vishwaroopa darshanam happens at 5-30 am every Friday and Saturday and at 6 am on other days. (The vishwaroopam on Perattashi month is said to happen at 4 am). I also had darshan of Narasimha Perumal:
 The name of the thayar at Triplicane is Vedavalli who has a separate temple (sannidhi) within the compound.
The day being a amavasya day, I had purchased the temple prasadams (two packets of Sweet Pongal and two packets of Puliuogare).  I took the same to my room and ate it.
Later I went to the campus where the contact program was being conducted and heard  the lectures of eminent philosophers:


Faculty
Subject
Time
Dr. M.A. Venkatakrishnan
Elective I & 2
10 am to 11.30 am
Dr. R. Rangarajan
Core I
11.30 to 1.00 pm
Dr. M.Varadarajan
Core II
2.00 to 3.30 p.m
Dr. Bhooma
Core III
3.30 to 5.00 pm

In the evening I went to the beach and purchased some fancy articles for my daughter to wear:
I also sent the photos of the articles I had purchased through WhatsApp:
Next day, I met a lot of students gathered for the classes. (Previous day was so hectic that I could not get introduced to even one person). This day being a Sunday, I had vacated my hotel room to arrive at the campus very early.  Some lively discussions with the co-students made me learn about a new Google Group and WhatzApp group for the students.  I became a member of both groups immediately.  I also chanced upon a meeting with one Raghavachari who said that he lives in Bangalore and had retired from Reserve Bank of India. I promised him that I would create a website for the students of the course to have updated materials. I also chanced upon to sit beside one Krishnan Veeraraghavan who was the administrator of the WhatsApp groups. He approved my request immediately. He introduced himself as being a father of a 6 year old daughter and he has been working in Tata Consultancy Services from past 10 years as a Senior Programmer. I also met an uncle of my wife by name Venkatesan Sampathkumaran (he is the brother-in-law of my father-in-law) below:

I also met one Mythili who sent me the assignment sheet which I forwarded to a few other persons including my relative Venkatesan. Venkatesan told me that 10 more of his relatives are attending the programme.

Then there were repeat lectures by Vidvan Rangachar and Vidvan M A Venkatakrishnan.

The crux of the lectures were that we as human beings should be devoted to the Supreme Almighty so that our relation iwth mother earth is terminated and not renewed. To clarify more, the entire divya prabhandhams (DP for short) are 4000 in numbers.  These DP are outpourings of 12 different poets who wanted to get united with the Supreme God Narayana. The individuals I met were fretting for having wastes most part of their lives without devoting attention to the Supreme Lord (except me and a few others who were in late thirties, most of the students are 60 plus). The collective intent of the assembled individuals was to learn the ways and means to achieve salvation which is explained in the DP.

One very moving lecture I had heard was from Professor Bhooma Venkatakrishnan, who had retired from the Madras University recently. Her topic was Madal. She went on to explain the nature of Madal. There are only two alwars who had expressed their intention to do Madal through the body of a woman. Imagine a man writing out his heart for God in the voice of a woman. These two alwars were called Parankushanayaki (Nammalwar) and Parakala Nayaki (Thirumangai Alwar) who being men wrote poems in the guise of how a woman feels. I remember having read in my BA Vaishnavism study material of Madras University that Chaithanya Mahaprabhu (of Iskcon fame) had told of six types of devotion towards Krishna (i.e., treating the Lord as a mother, as a wife, as a lover, as a child, etc.). I also remember from my MA Vaishnavism study material of Madras University of how alwars considered that only Lord Vishnu is the only male in the universe and all the other human beings were female. In view of these views, there is nothing wrong in considering Lord Narayana as the goal as well as the pathway to achieve the goal of humans. It is also known in Tamil/Sanskrit that Narayana is both the upeya (achievement) and upaya (way of achievement).

So to answer the question  of "Who am I?", we are souls with karma (prarabdha/sanchita) who have taken temporary residences in human form with an aim of negating both papa and punya karmas to make ourself eligible to become one with the supreme divinity.  If we earn more punya karma (good deeds), we are sent to heaven and will fall back to earth.  If we earn more papa karma (bad deeds), again we are sent to hell and will fall back to earth after suffering the punishments. To make both karmas (punya-papa) as zero, only the Supreme God will help us (so supreme God is the way/means of achieving zero karmas). Though there are multiple ways to achieve this (bhakti/jnana etc)., only the Prapatti (surrender) is considered to be the surest way to achieve the goal (of attaining Paramapada  -oneness with supreme almighty).

If the above answer is way over the head, then joining the MA in DP will clear the doubts.  Hence, I invite you to visit a website created by me for this purpose upon the request of my co-students. http://www.dpma.in

I have put up all the study materials (in English and Tamil languages) on the site http://www.dpma.in which I had received in soft copy from Sastra University.  I have also translated the internal assignment from Tamil to English.  I will also provide solutions to the assignment and question banks shortly.

To receive your queries, I have created an open Google Group (anybody can post their queries here without being a member).
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/madp2015