This is a stimulating book with a serious theme, yet written in lucid style to appeal to general readers as well. Section I deals with the purpose of God’s incarnations with special reference to Sri Rama and Sri Krishna besides others. Section II contains several episodes of saints (Alvars) who served as guides to humanity. Section III is devoted to the need for man’s response to the call of the Divine and the paths available to him. While the discourse is chiefly with reference to the Srivaishnava tradition, there are frequent references to other traditions as well s the expansive ideas of Sri Aurobindo.
S.T.V. Raghavan is retired officer of ICAS closely involved with the activities of Delhi Kendra of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
This book is centred on the theme that God reaches out to man in many ways, and, likewise, there are many paths open to man to reach towards God. Man has an obligation to make this effort in order to realize true potential.
The author discourses on this idea in twelve essays (Chapters) drawing upon doctrines and legends connected with the Srivaishnava tradition of Tamil region, and the inspiration to humanity provided by the two great Avatars of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna in which the Lord Spent a full span of life on this earth, bestowing His grace and compassion on all those who sought Him with true devotion. The narrative has been broadened by the author to include references to other religious traditions and the expansive ideas of Sri Aurobindo. The arrangement of the chapters is logical and style of narration is persuasive and elegant.
We offer our compliments to the author Shri Raghavan of our Delhi Kendra on his diligent effort in writing on profound theme. We feel confident that the book would readily appeal to serious as well as general readers.
This book is collection and elaboration of articles contributed by me from time to time to the Bhavan’s Journal published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. As there is a common thread running between them, I have collated them under a title appropriate to the theme, with suitable annotations for connectivity.
The central message is that God reaches out to man in numerous ways, and it is man’s duty to respond in order to justify his birth as human being and realize his destiny to achieve reunion with God. The Lord Himself has shown the way for man’s duty to respond in order to justify his birth as a human being and realize his destiny to achieve reunion with God. The Lord Himself has shown the way for man’s response through His clarion call in the Bhagavad Gita:
“Leaving aside all dharmas, take refuge in Me alone:
I shall relelase you from all sins, do not grieve.”
I dedicate this book respectfully to my father Sri Chakravarti Achargya, whose life was an inspiring example of intense faith in God (mahavisvasa) and self-surrender (atmanikshepa)
I am thankful to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for publishing this book under Bhavan’s Book University Series.
I am grateful to Shri Justice S. Ranganathan for writing the Foreword and for his kind words of appreciation and encouragement.
I am very glad that Shri S.T.V. Raghavan asked me to write a foreword to his : “DESCENT OF DIVINITY AND ASCENT OF MAN” which is being published under the Bhavan’s Book University Series as it has given me an opportunity to peruse a very absorbing book which will help the student world (for whom the Series is primarily intended) to aquaint themselves with a vital area of our ancient traditions, learning and beliefs. The book is a collection and elaboration of several articles contributed by the author to the Bhavan’s Journal on Hindu philosophy (particularly Vaishnavite theology which the author has studied deeply. The topics dealt with have been rearranged topic wise into one cohesive whole and present abstruse philosophy in a simple, readable and interesting style.
The book has been divided in to three sections. The first, as one might guess from the title: Divinity’s Advent on Earth, deals with the incarnations of the Lord on this Earth “for the protection of the righteous and the destruction of wicked”, as declared in the Gita, with special reference to the Rama and Krishna avatars which have had a tremendous influence of the Hindu psyche. But Vaishnavism cherishes even more highly two other forms of the Lord’s advent. One is the worship of icons and images of deities in temples installed after religious rites and consecration. To our spiritual leaders, these are not just images and statues: they are the very manifestations of divinity and the alvars and acharyas have declared the happiness and rapture derived from such a worship to the for superior even to the bliss that one can expect to attain in Heaven. In this context, the special significance of the temple at Kanchipuram has been touched upon by the author. A chapter has also been added by the author in this section on the role of the Divine Mother ( Sri) in Vaishnavite theology. The other form of descent of Divinity on earth is the appearance amidst us of great men and nobles souls, imbued with divne personality, sent here to guide lesser beings to better and saner life. The Vaishnavite alwars fall in this categoryand interesting anecdotes of the lives of some of them are narrated in the second section of the book. The thir section of the book, “Duty and Destiny of Man” deals with the paths to human liberation. Here the author presents the basic tenets of the Advaitic and Visishtavaitic schools of Sri Sanskara and Sri Ramanuja as the twin paths to salvation. He also refers to the part played by great saints and eminent personalities likeVallabha, Chaitanya, Ramana Maharishi, Tyagaraja and Subramania Bharathi who have blazed trails on these paths.
The last two chapters reveal that, among the various choices available, the author’s preference is to the Prapatti Marga of Sri Vedanta Desika, the contours of which are outlined lucidly. The author is also greatly influenced by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo couched in no-orthodox and non-religious phraseology and phraseology and refers to his prophecy that, in the process of human evolution towards divinity generated by our hoary past,” there will appear Gnostic or super-mental beings who will surpass the limitations imposed by matter on mind and raise themselves by an integral yoga of action, devotion and knowledge to higher levels of consciousness such as intuition and over mind and establish contact with the Super mind.” This, I think, can be treated as the summation in what may be described as secular terms’, of the message of this volume.
As rightly concluded by the author, many paths for ascent of Man to Divinity have been delineated and also trod upon by our ancients and intellectuals. What is needed is for individual human beings to take time from their material pursuits and try to embark on one or other of these journeys, either with the help of a master or, if sufficiently self-confident, on one’s own steam. Study of this kind of literature is bound to kindle desire to make a beginning. In my view, there is ample need and scope for a more elaborate treatise from the author on each of these very topics and I hope hi will be able to find the time undertake such a task.
God descends into the human world from age to age in order t contain the upsurge of the forces of evil, and restore the regime of Dharma. While that is the immediate purpose, the ultimate objective of incarnation lies deeper. The mystery and mission of avatar hood is explored in Ch.1 of Section-1: Descent of Divinity
Among the avatars of Vishnu, those of Rama and Krishna are in a class by themselves. In that incarnation the Lord spent a full life-span on the earth forging many human relationships as son, brother, husband, father, friend and so on The inspiration to mankind provided in those avatars is in focus in Chapters 2 & 3.
The idea of divinity as Universal Mother is special doctrine of Hinduism. Mother goddess has been variously conceived as Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali and Maheswari. Chapter 4 highlights the attributes of Lakshmi and the special status accorded to Her in Srivaishnavism
.Besides God’s own incarnations which are occasional, there are more frequent arrivals amidst mankind of great spiritual personalities who act in furtherance of god’s work.
In the Vaishnava tradition, the twelve Alvars belong to this category. Vignettes from the lives of some of these great saints are presented in Section II Chapters 6,7, and 8.
Section III is devoted to the imperative need for man’s response to the call of the Divine and the paths to be followed by him. Of the two leading schools of Vedant, Advaita expounded by Sankara emphasizes Jnana Marga while theistic Vedanta synthesized by Ramanuja lays stress on Bhakti and Prapatti Marga. The broad contours of these schools of philosophy and their similarities in essential respects are brought out in chapter 9.the path of devotion is highlighted in chapter 10 and the path of self surrender is explained in some details in chapter 11.
The last Chapter in this section id devoted to the ideas of Sro Aitpnbindo, the Mahayogi of our times, He has stated the Vedantic doctrines in a modern idiom and speaks of Involution and Evolution, i.e., the downward movement of the Super mind and the upward journey of the human mind, laddering to Divine life on this very earth.
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