Thursday, May 15, 2008

Google Sightseeing of Baithaks

Have you ever wished to visit a Baithak of Vallabhacharya but couldn't do so because of other engagements? Well, look no further as you can visit them right now. That's right, you can take the virtual tour through the Google Sightseeing on Wikimapia or Google Earth on your computer. Here are the latitude and longitude information of some of the Vallabhacharya's Baithaks :

No. Place Latitude Longitude Link
1 Adel 25°24'6.78"N 81°53'13.80"E Wikimapia
2 Hajipur 25°40'52.37"N 85°12'18.47"E Wikimapia
3 Chitrakut 25°10'20.52"N 80°51'0.90"E Wikimapia
4 Ayodhya 26°48'18.98"N 82°12'27.38"E Wikimapia
5 Naimisharanya * 27°20'36.55"N 80°29'7.63"E Wikimapia
6 Charanat * 25° 8'17.23"N 82°53'23.19"E Wikimapia
7 Kashi Hanuman Ghat 25°17'52.04"N 83° 0'25.00"E Wikimapia
8 Kashi Panchganga Ghat 25°18'55.34"N 83°01'6.30"E Wikimapia
9 Pushkar * 26°29'17.90"N 74°33'27.01"E Wikimapia
10 Badrinath 30°44'41.01"N 79°29'29.79"E Wikimapia
11Vyas Gufa 30°46'26.23"N 79°29'38.28"E Wikimapia
12 Kedarnath * 30°44'0.74"N 79° 4'3.86"E Wikimapia
13 Haridwar 29°57'6.90"N 78°10'0.23"E Wikimapia
14 Kurukshetra 29°59'3.54"N 76°50'8.85"E Wikimapia
15Sukar Kshetra 27°52'57.42"N 78°44'26.90"E Wikimapia
16Champaranya 21° 1'54.58"N 81°55'30.73"E Wikimapia
17Ujjain 23°12'41.74"N 75°46'57.52"E Wikimapia
18Gangasagar 21°39'41.71"N 88° 4'48.22"E Wikimapia

* The baithaks with an asterisk are approximations to their exact location as the satellite images have poor resolution. If you know the co-ordinates of other baithaks  and would like to share them with others, please write them down in the comments. 

Btw, Wikimapia is a very good place to plan your journey to any destination as you get the idea of the geographical features of the place, the surrounding area, other places of importance, the distances from the bus/rail stations etc. This can help you to decide how much time it would take, what auto fares to expect, what kind of facilities you might get etc. Thanks to the modern science and technology and many netizens who enthusiastically mark the places of interests on Wikimapia, you don't feel having landed in an unknown territory once you have taken a bird's eye view of your destination.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hajipur Baithak

Today I am taking you to a tour of one of the most beautiful, enlightening, historically important and still one of the least visited places of Vallabhacharya's 84 Baithaks (seats of Shreemad Bhagavat recital). It is called Harihar Kshetra or presently Hajipur near Patna in Bihar and is easily approachable by any transport means. The Baithak provides a reasonably good facility for vaishnavs to stay and offer their seva. One of the most delightful feature that I noticed was that, so far as I know, this is the only Baithak other than possibly the Brahmsambandh Baithak at Gokul where you have to take 'Aparas' (a bath and a state of cleanliness) by drawing water from the well with a rope and a bucket! How nice! In fact, that used to be the 'elite standard' in the past centuries. But I am perfectly comfortable with the 'Aparas' on a tap water or the shower in your bathroom, because it is the state of cleanliness - both physical and mental - which is more important than the means to achieve it. One of the main complaints I have about all the Baithakjis in general is that after taking the bath in the river, pond, tap water, shower or pot-from-well, you have to wear the 'Aparas Vastra' (clean clothes) in an area which is almost always dirty and thus you accumulate some of that dirt on your clothes before entering the seva. Anyway, the overall spiritual experience mostly outscores such shortcomings. There are some very devoted Vaishnvas in Patna who provide support to specific needs of any vaishnav visiting Hajipur Baithak. There is also the Janakpur Baithak which is kind of enshrined in a nearby place recently. So mark your calendar, next time you wanna take an excursion apart from the usual/typical places, visit Hajipur.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mulchandra Telivala, The Unparalleled Scholar of Pushtimarg

If someone were to ask me to pick up one Vaishnav form the entire history of Pushtimarg, it would be Mulchandra Telivala and not Damodardas Harsaniji! Now that would definitely raise eyebrows of many vaishnavs, as such a comparison is uncalled for and would require a separate blog post to justify it. But here we focus on the erudite scholar of Shuddhadwait Pushtimarg who dedicated his life to bring forth the the gone-into-oblivion literature of the sampraday.

Mulchandra Tulasidas Telivala was born on 23rd Sept 1887 in Broach in a humble vaishnav family. He was thin-built but a very bright student and went on to do B.A. and LL.B. He then joined the Bombay High Court as a law-practitioner while learning and presenting his scholar-ship in Pushtimargiya meetings. When Maganlal Shastri transferred to Pune, he filled the void by reading Anubhashya and Nibandh to Mumbai vaishnavs. He also wrote a marvelous essay on how far Shankaracharya represents the views of Brahmsutra's author and won the Zala Vedant Prize.

In 1916, he first published the Sevafal of Vallabhacharya with 12 commentaries which was unprecedented. He had a very wonderful genious for research, creativity, imagination, memory and deep all-round knowledge of the Pushtimarg history. He could easily and precisely determine the authorship attribution of old, worn out manuscripts as well as if there was any addition, deletion or substitution later on and by whom. He also settled the ambiguity about the Birth year of Vallabhacharya by his research and ingenuity. The most important research that we benefit today from him is the collection, analysis and publication in 1926 of Brahmsutra-Anubhashya-Prakash-Rashmi, a four-layer commentary-on-commentary elucidation. His comments on the finest nuances missing or mistyped are visible in the footnotes on this publication. His strength of character is also visible in throwing new light on Vitthalnathji's life which was never published earlier. He even opened a research institute with the help of Chief Goswamis of Pushtimarg

All this while he lived a very moderate and pain-stricken personal life shows his steadfastness and devotion in the teachings of this path. For this, he was respected by not only vaishnavs and Goswamis but also by international scholars. He set an example of what it should mean to be a Pushtimargiya vaishnav before his departure at a young age on 26th June 1927. He truly is an unparalleled scholar of Pushtimarg after Vallabhacharya and Purushottamji. We will always remember you Shree Telivala!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Purushottamji, the pillar of Shuddhadwait Pushtimarg

PurushottmajiIn the history of Pushtimarg, if you want to pick up the next most scholastic personality to Vallabhacharya, it has to be Shree Purushottamji (1668-1726*). He was born in Gokul as a seventh generation descendant of Vallabhacharya and moved to Surat at the age of 13 along with his uncle Shree Vrajrajaji.  There is an anecdote associated with how he achieved his scholarship early on, but without going into that detail, we focus on what contributions he made to Shuddhadwait Pushtimarg. 

First we definitely give credit to Vitthalnathji, the second son of Vallabhacharya for completing the missing portions of Anu-Bhashya. But after that for almost a century there was no significant study of the Brahmsutra in Pushtimarg till Purushottamji decided to unearth the treasure trove and foundational principles of Shuddhadwait Brahmvaad. He assembled a group of scholars from different traditions to study the Bhashya in a comparative manner. This is manifested in his commentary called "Prakash" where he refers to the views of contemporary branches of Vedic sciences namely those promoted by the professors Shankar, Ramanuj, Bhaskar, Madhva, Vigyan Bhikshu and Shaiv. He was the first to perform such critical and comparative analysis among all the scholars of all the traditions of Vedic knowledge at the time. Therefore he was respected not only within the Pushtimarg but across all the major sampradays.

It is said that when he used to travel to places, a cart-load of books would accompany him! He is truly a pillar of the Shuddhadwait as without his herculean endeavor, we might have almost forgotten the most enlightening interpretation of the Vedic wisdom given by Vallabhacharya. Thank you so much Shree Purushottamji! 

Monday, May 05, 2008

Three Scientific Personalities of Pushtimarg

As you know this blog is about the connection between Pushtimarg and the modern science - two quite orthogonal looking fields of human endeavor. Well, what I am going to write today is about the individuals across the last five centuries who shared an interest in both these fields and exhibited it in their works.

Based on my limited understanding of the vast literature and historical evidences of pushtimarg (many of which are treasured in their respective Piths (seats of powers) and unfortunately aren't made available to even curious vaishnavs much less to the public ! ), if someone were to ask me to pick up 3 personalities that I cherish most in the 500 years history of this path, they would be Vallabhacharya (1479-1531), Purushottamji (1668-1726) and Mulchandra Telivala (1887-1927). Quite coincidentally, they are spaced around 2 centuries apart.

I have already written about Vallabhacharya in the previous posts, so in the future posts, I will give more insights about the other two . Stay tuned !

Friday, May 02, 2008

530th appearance day of Vallabh, the Professor

The medieval time is full of great figures who appeared on this planet and sowed the seeds of our knowledge and well-being that we cherish today. There were some great people across the Europe doing great work in Mathematics, Astronomy, Mechanics, Arts, Philosophy etc. Some of my favourites are Cardon, Ferrari (who were the first to solve the qubic and quartic equations), Magellan (who discovered the Large and Small Magellanic clouds), Vasco de Gama, Columbus, Gallelio, Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangello and so on...

On the Indian side, the action was mostly on religio-spiritual front. Notable among them are Narasimh Meta, Mirabai, Krishna Chaitanya, Guru Nanak, Namdev, Keshav Kashmiri and so on... But the one that I am going to talk about today is a very distinct personality who was a scholar of all the major branches of knowledge at that time, decided to focus on the most important of those that pertained to understanding the summum bonum of all i.e. Brahm, ventured out at the early age to consolidate his understanding of the philosophy and the societal order, participated in debates and discussions, proposed his views while respecting others'. His name is Vallabh, simply means "the Dear one."

It was at one of such royal debates in Krishnadev Rai's kingdom in Vijaynagar in South India that after a 29 day discussions, the neutral judges proclaimed his views the most accurate and authentic ones and suggested thenceforth be known as Shuddhadwait Brahmvaad (The pure non-dualism of Brahm). At the same venue, the King consecrated upon him the title of Acharya - the Professor. He went on to refine his philosophy further and composed the commentary called Anubhashya on Brahmsutras of Vedvyas - the original composer of Vedas.

Just like any entrepreneur whose first focus is to establish his business and then turn a good samaritan for social services, Vallabh-acharya also did the same except that he didn't wait till the age of 50 or so, but right around 25. He started wondering what is the use of this philosophical knowledge if a layman is not going to benefit from it. This contemplation led him to develop a path of Bhakti called Pushtimarg, the path of divine grace, which was a very simple procedural application of his philosophy that anyone could do. And believe me, that simple path was really great and blissfull. Of course, today we see much more elaborate arrangements in Pushtimarg which is due to the influence of his descendants till date. So on the occasion of his appearance day on May 2, 2008, let us commit to the values and principles that the original Professor preached for the larger goodwill of mankind.