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:

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

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:

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.

I have put up all the study materials (in English and Tamil languages) on the site 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).!forum/madp2015