Happy Ugadi to all! This year Durmikhinama Samvathsaram started on a Friday – meaning the Ruling House for this year is Sukracharya. Lakshmi Devi belongs to this great lineage. Because Sukracharya is ruling, we will also have Lakshmi Devi with us always through out this entire year. Some people wonder, why is Friday auspicious and special to Lakshmi Devi? Why not any other days of the week? It’s because she belongs to the house of the great Sukracharya. Similarly, the minister is Buddha. Both of the important positions are occupied by good planets. A king is said to be efficient when he can administer the country and deal with it’s problems in an appropriate manner. This year the King and minister are Sukra and Buddha, both of whom rule wisely.
Despite this year’s grim name, because of the positions that these two planets hold, the year will be good. The panchangam is filled with contradictions – there will be droughts; but the earth will yield good crops – There will be floods, but there won’t be much rainfalletc. – When we listen to these kinds of predictions, it seems quite odd. The panchangam explains the nature of each planet and its effect on the upcoming year based on the position it has. One may decrease rainfall. One causes increase in rates. Depending on their arrangement, and their dominance over other planets, the outlook for the year is explained.
Most of the planets are in a good position. Just as a governor takes extra care of his own hometown and its infrastructure, most of the planets will take care of their own. However, some planets may hold a bad position this year. However, despite their influence, if the ruler is appropriate and qualified, then he can deal with any issue that comes up. Because Sukra and Buddha are in a good place, they will cooperate and help us encounter our problems. The king this year is a predecessor of Lakshmi Devi’s house. Our acharyas say this about Lakshmi Devi, “She will do everything, and still feel inadequate about not doing enough for her devotees. She will always grant everything we ask for.” “aiswaryam, akshara gathim , paramapadam va, tasmai anajali bharim dwithiya …. na kinchid uchitham krutham — “O Divine Mother! You will always feel embarrased that you have not done enough for your devotees. You give wealth to those who wish for it. You even grant the eternal seva of God to those who want it! And yet, you still feel inadequate. Anyone can approach you, from the illiterate to the well educated, with folded hands. You are ready to grant their every wish. This is your nature. This extraordinary nature is particular to those in the lineage of Lakshmi Devi.
When the main authority of that lineage, Sukracharya, is in charge of running this year, we do not need to worry. Each year was named by our great rishis: Prabahva, Vibhava, etc. up to a count of 60, after which the names repeat once more. The names of some years seem positive, but the events that occur during that year are disastrous and vice versa. Some millions of cycles of occured so far. Noticing the pattern of events that occur every year, the rishis have given certain years their names. This year is called ‘Durmukhi’. Though the name is quite frightening, suggesting that we may have to face bad or unfortunate events we have an qualified person to deal with it. We will inevitably face some troubles and hurdles, as is a part of life. Just as we carry an umbrella on a rainy day, we have to take same precautions. No matter how much it rains, we don’t want to get wet. So, we carry an umbrella to not get disturbed in our plans. What is our umbrella? Acharya Anugraham.
May 10th marks the beginning of Ramanujacharya’s 1000th year birth anniversay. We must spend the year learning about and spreading the message of Ramanujacharya, and his legacy. Any service we can do is our umbrella. Service does not only mean donation or volunteering. Learning about the great lineage of acharyas both before and after Ramanujacharya is our responsibility. Their efforts and sacrifices in preserving our culture is the reason that we are all able to pray to God today. Acharya is one who belongs to Mother’s side. While God looks to what is good for us, ‘hitham’, Mother looks at us with love ‘priyam’ . Our line of acharyas begins from Lakshmi devi herself. Of the lineage of our acharyas, acharya parampara, Ramanuja is the most important.
Any service we can offer is the best umbrella, which can save us, protect us, and lead us. If we are able to live as bhakthas in our society today, it is because of their effort and the sacrifices they had to make during their time just so our sampradaya could reach us.
Nampillai was one such great such acharya: people used to throng his pravachanams and be captivated by his evening lectures. The devotees used to get irritated even when God was coming outside on a procession because of the the disturbance and distraction it caused. People used to marvel, “Nampillai goshti o namperumal ghosti o?!” Which is more vibrant, Nampillai’s ghosti, or Namperuma’s ghosti? Sri Ramanujacharya had two main disciples: Kurathalvan and Mudaliandan (Dasaradhi). Thozhappar belonged to this famous Kandadai lineage, and was a descendant of Dasaradhi. He used to live at the time of Nampillai and heard about his famous pravachanams. At once, he grew furious. It is the nature of some to feel jealous and try to drag down one who is succeeding. Thozappar suffered from this feeling.
One day during the middle of Nampillai’s pravachanam, he attacked Nampillai, tore his sacred thread and beat him to pulp. Satisfied, he went home, where he was thoroughly scolded by his pious wife, who said, ” Can you do such a thing to someone who is only propogating the greatness of God? Go and apologize to him at once!” Meanwhile, poor Nampillai, instead of retaliating or going home, went to Thozhappar’s house, sat by the front door, and started crying. Thozhappar found him outside his door as he was walking outside to apologize and asked him what he was doing.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, Nampillai stood up slowly, and replied, “To my knowledge I know that I have not harmed anyone. I know that I have not made anyone suffer physically or mentally. I have never done anything wrong. But I know you would never attack me with out a reason! I must have committed some crime without knowing what it was. You are right to punish me. Please, tell me, what is my mistake? What have I done wrong? Please tell me so I can rectify it. Please help me. I want to once again be appropriate for Bhagavatha seva. ”
The chastened Thozhappar then said, “You are not the one who made a mistake at all! With the arrogance that I was born in a great lineage, it was me who committed such a huge crime. You are the one to correct me and forgive my mistake!” Saying so, he concluded, “Yenna ulagaryano yennuraikkal.” You are our Lokacharya! That is the only appropriate position for you! He praised nampillai and called him Lokacharya. It was this Nampillai’s grandson, Pillai Lokacharya, who authored the great scripture “Ashtadasa rahasyalu”.
Such qualities were prominent and are ever present in all who belong to Ramanujacharya’s lineage. All of them tried to spread the message of God. All of them tried to preserve our culture. They tried so hard to protect the temples. They tried so hard to protect the scriptures, the pillars of our Sampradaya. Two noted incidences can be mentioned here. When Pillai Lokacharya was 102 years old, there was a huge purging of all the temples in Tamil Nadu region. They ruthlessly killed all devotees, burned scirptures, and mercilessly tried to destroy our way of life. In fact, they had a rule: 12,000-20,000 people must be killed every day. At such a time, there are two acharyas who require special mention. Pillai lokacharya, 102 years old.
Vedanta desikulu 80 years old. Pillai Lokacharya – when Sri Rangam was under threat, the murthy of Ranganatha, Namperumal, needed to be protected from being destroyed. Pillai Lokacharya, at such an old age, carried Him , covered him with a cloth, and traveled to Madurai under cover of the night. His only thought, “What would happen to us if Namperumal is destroyed by these villains? Even if the temple is destroyed its okay. But no harm must come to to Namperumal!” It is difficult to imagine that at such an old age and a weak body, Pillai Lokacharya carried the heavy vigraham of Namperumal. Yet, he did so in the dead of the night for our sake. He went to Madurai where there’s a small hill called Yanamalai just by the airport. We can even see it today. It is very steep and very difficult to climb. Pillai Lokacharya hid in caves on that hill during the daytime, and changed caves during the night time. WIthout the invaders knowing, he would discretely move around the hill to protect Namperumal and escape their scrutiny. One day, he fell off the hill and fell a distance of almost 200 feet with Namperumal on top of him so nothing would happen to the vigraham! He died on the spot.
Namperumal was then taken to other temples and eventually went to Tirumala where he spent almost 70 years in the Rangamandapam, before returning to Sri Rangam. At this time, the libraries and scriptures were also targetted. All scriptures were destroyed, burned, torn. Vedantha Desikulu saved a beautiful commentary Of Sri Ramanujacharya’s Sri Bhashyam named Sruthaprakasika by Sudarsana Suri. Determined, he lay beneath a pile of corpses, with the scripture tucked safely under him to preserve its sanctity, and stayed under the heap for seven days. He did not sleep. He did not eat. He did not drink. He didn’t even move for the entire time until it was safe to come out. Our acharyas fought to preserve our knowledge and sacrificed a lot for posterity; To improve us. We have to protect the knowledge too. We have to protect the divine temples which these scriptures expound. Only then society can improve and save itself. Otherwise society will have no morals.
Eating, sleeping, all animals do. What makes us different? Now it’s our turn. WHen our acharyas gave us so much, who else will safe guard our sampradayam and pass it on to our own posterity? This Sahasrabdi project is not only for us. Our Ramanujacharya performed something that is incomparable. This must be remembered not only by us, but by everyone after us too. The knowledge must not stop here. In performing this, we will also be cleaned. When we perform some duty, not only the task will be completed, but even we will be fixed during the process. That is why HH Ahobila Jeeyar Swami is performing Sundara Kanda parayanam for 68 days from May. Of the entire Ramayanam, Sudarakanda is the one volume that explains the greatness of Mother. Performing this parayanam during this year is very special and we are very fortunate to do so.
Though this year is ‘durmukhi’ we will pray to God to make us all into ‘sumukhi’, so that we can perform our sampradayam and our duties to the best of our abilities. It is God’s grace that we are able to be here, at the most auspicious location of Divya Saketham. Jai Srimannarayana