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Matthew Dasti

Sri Ramanuja on Karmayoga

Sri Ramanuja is one of the great teachers of karmayoga, the discipline which unites action and contemplation. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, Ramanuja argues that karmayoga is essential for all yogins, and is especially important in preparing oneself for higher practices of bhakti. I have translated the following commentary, which provides insight into a central feature of karmayoga, seeing oneself as an instrument of God. Elsewhere, Ramanuja describes that the self has agency (kartritva) which is under God’s will. But here, he stresses seeing God as the agent or doer of all actions. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship

Sri Pillai Lokacarya (1217-1323) was a great teacher in the Sri Sampradaya who authored several works important to his Vaishnava bhakti lineage including the eighteen rahasya granthas known together as Ashtadasa Rahasya and Gadyatraya Vyakhyanam. In his Srivachana Bhushan (308-310), Pillai Lokacharya, points out three reprehensible delusions which must be avoided by the guru at all costs. Sobering words for one who would accept the role or title of guru and useful also for one who seeks a genuine guru. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

The World as the Body of God

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Sri Ramanuja
, the great theistic Vedantin, provides a model of the relationship between the world and God which sees the world as God’s body. I thought we could explore that notion here.

In Bhagavad-gita 10.20 Krishna says

I am the self, Arjuna, dwelling in all beings.

In his commentary on this text Ramanuja suggests that a self relates to a body in three ways. First, it supports a body. The self is suporter (adhara), while the body is supported (adheya). Second, it controls a body. The self is controller (niyatri) while the body is controlled (niyamya). Finally, a self is the purpose-giving end which is served by a body. Here, the self is the principal (sheshin) and the body, the accessory (shesha). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Photos of Srirangam

Srirangam Gopuram

Resting on an island in the Kaveri River in Tamil Nadu, South India, is the city of Sri Rangam and the famous Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Lord Vishnu is worshiped there in a reclining form along with His consort, the Goddess Laxmi. The temple complex, occupying 156 acres, was conceived as a cosmic mandala with seven concentric walled enclosures. Each enclosure is entered though magnificent, intricately decorated gates (gopurams).

I recently discovered an online travel log [rammesh.kaaninilam.com] with photos of Srirangam. What is unique about this site is the way the photos are layed out corresponding with the actual layout of the temple complex. There are over 100 high resolution photos. The site also includes great photos of the Brihadisvara Temple in Tanjore. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

The Yoga Chikitsa of Krishna’s Names

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The Sri Sampradaya is one of four ancient Vaishnava lineages teaching bhakti-yoga. The name “Sri” refers to the Goddess Laxmi who is heralded as the founder of the lineage. The most prominent teachers of the Sri Sampradaya include Natha Muni, Yamuna Acharya and Ramanuja Acharya (all lived in the 9th and 10th centuries). Ramanuja, in particular, established the systematic philosophy of Vaishnavism. But all three were preceded by the ecstatic mystic poets called the Alvars (those immersed in God). The Alvars were twelve saints from South India who have left behind a great legacy of devotional poetry in praise of Lord Vishnu/Krishna. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Mukunda-Mala-Stotra

Dravida dasa chants *

*

Dravida dasa is a Vaishnava monk, editor, musician, poet, and walking encyclopedia of devotional Sanskrit verse. He possesses a deep love for the Sanskrit language, and his mind and voice are always engaged in bhakti song and poetry. Here he immerses himself in the elaborate prosody of the Mukunda-mala-stotra of Kulasekhara Alvar. This podcast is forty-five minutes long with Sanskrit verses and English translation. I highly recommend setting some time aside, putting in the earphones and listening to the entire stotra with concentration for a very cathartic meditation. The translation is by Sriman Kushakrata dasa. Below, I’ve also included an excerpt from the introduction to the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust’s edition entitled Mukunda-mala-stotra, The prayers of King Kulasekhara. For more recordings from Dravida dasa click here.

Kaustubha das

Mukunda-mala-stotra
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Mukunda-mala-stotra

Introduction

Of the many hundreds of poetic Sanskrit stotras-songs of glorification offered to the Supreme Lord, His devotees, and the holy places of His pastimes-King Kulasekhara’s Mukunda-mala-stotra is one of the most perennially famous. Some say that its author conceived it as a garland (mala) of verses offered for Lord Krishna’s pleasure. It has long been dear to Vaishnavas of all schools, and our own spiritual master, Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, frequently enjoyed citing certain favorite stanzas from it. King Kulasekhara was part of the Sri-sampradaya, the Vaishnava school founded by Lord Vishnu’s divine consort, Sri. This school’s most prominent representative, Ramanuja Acarya (eleventh century), built on the work of his predecessors Natha Muni and Yamuna Acarya and established the systematic philosophy of Sri Vaishnavism. But these acaryas came in an already old tradition, that of the ecstatic mystic poets called Alvars. The twelve Alvars appeared at various times in South India, in the area roughly corresponding to present-day Tamil Nadu. According to the tradition of the Sri Vaishnavas, the earliest Alvars lived more than five thousand years ago, at the start of the present age, Kali-yuga, while the most recent lived in the first millennium A.D. The Alvars’ Tamil poetry was collected in the Tiruvaymoli, revered by Sri Vaishnavas as their own vernacular Veda. On the strength of the Tiruvaymoli’s devotional authority, the Sri Vaishnavas claim to follow Ubhaya-vedanta, the dual Vedanta philosophy founded on both Sanskrit and Tamil scripture. Some Alvars were atypical renunciants: the third, Andal, was a woman, and three were involved in governing. Among these was the tenth Alvar, Kulasekhara Perumal, who was a ruling king in the Cera dynasty of Malainadu, in what is now Kerala. Modern scholars say he may have lived during the ninth century A.D. A traditional history of King Kulasekhara states that once, as he slept in his palace quarters, he had a brilliant and distinct vision of Lord Krishna. Upon awaking he fell into a devotional trance and failed to notice dawn breaking. The royal musicians and ministers came as usual to his door to wake him, but after waiting some time without hearing him respond, they reluctantly took the liberty of entering his room. The king came out of his trance and described his vision to them, and from that day on he no longer took much interest in ruling. He delegated most of his responsibilities to his ministers and dedicated himself to rendering devotional service to the Lord. After some years he abdicated the throne and went to Sri Rangam, where he remained in the association of the Krishna Deity of Ranganatha and His many exalted devotees. At Sri Rangam Kulasekhara is said to have composed his two great works: the Mukunda-mala-stotra, in Sanskrit; and 105 Tamil hymns, which were later incorporated into the Tiruvaymoli under the title Perumal-tirumoli. As the other Alvars do in their mystic expressions, in his Perumal-tirumoli King Kulasekhara emulates the roles of some of Lord Ramacandra’s and Lord Krishna’s intimate devotees: King Dasaratha; two of the Lord’s mothers, Kausalya and Devaki; and some of the young cowherd women of Vrindavana. But Maharaja Kulasekhara expresses no pride in realizing such confidential devotional moods. On the contrary, with deep humility he repeatedly begs simply to be allowed to take his next births as a bird, fish, or flower in the place where Lord Krishna enacts His pastimes, and in this way to enjoy the association of His devotees. The Mukunda-mala-stotra, although composed in elegant Sanskrit, is a simple expression of King Kulasekhara’s devotion to Krishna and his eagerness to share his good fortune with everyone else. Being thus a very public work, it does not delve into intimate personal revelations or abstruse philosophical conundrums. Like most other works of the stotra genre, it aims less at presenting a plot than at vividly and honestly expressing the true feelings of a lover of God. With this much we the readers should be completely satisfied, because it is a rare opportunity for us when a devotee of King Kulasekhara’s stature opens his heart so freely-and in a way just appropriate for us, with all our imperfections, to appreciate.

Text from Mukunda-mala-stotra, The prayers of King Kulasekhara, courtesy of The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc. Used with permission.

Matthew Dasti

More Thoughts on Ritual

Ramanuja TwotoneI want to continue the conversation about ritual with Michael and Kaustubha (link 1, link 2). The basic idea which is being discussed seems to be that in bhakti, the purpose of religious ritual is fully realized. Without the spirit of devotion and, as Michael stressed, the proper mindfulness about the purpose of ritual, it seems to degenerate into a kind of mere cultural language; a way people who identify with this or that meta-narrative tend to act in certain circumstances. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

From Kulashekhara’s Mukunda-Mala-Stotra

Kulashekhara

Michael Bühler-Rose’s recent post, explaining ritual as a means to heighten spiritual mindfulness, reminded me of the following verse. In his Mukunda-Mala-Stotra (A Garland of Verses in Praise of Vishnu/Krishna) Kulashekhara Alvar derides observances and practices of sadhana performed in forgetfulness of Lord Narayan. Kulashekhara was the tenth of twelve Alvars, South India’s mystic poets whose writings served as inspiration for the acharyas of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Gopurams in Sepia

Some captions were adapted from the following sources.

Introduction to Indian Architecture, text by Bindia Thapar, Periplus

India, John Howley, Spiritual Guides

India, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides

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