Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Right Vision -Krishnammal Jagannathan

Right Vision is fundamental to right living and I have been blessed with the company of many, ordinary persons such as my mother, a peasant woman - who really wasn't ordinary - to extraordinary luminaries such as Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave. From them and from the spiritual classics in Tamil, I began to develop a vision of compassion toward all beings, equanimity and benevolence.
After completing my primary school in the nearby village of Pattiveeranpatti, I traveled with my brother Muniyandi to the nearby city of Madurai in the year 1936 to live in a hostel to pursue my secondary education. It was there, through the hostel warden that I came across the teachings of Swami Ramalinga Vallazhar, the late 19th Century Tamil poet and a saint, whose appeal for simple living, high thinking, the inherent-divinity of all religions and unity of all paths, and compassion for all beings in the world touched my inner-being. The divine light lit by him continues to guide and expand my vision till this day.
The ancient spiritual classic of Tamilnadu, Thiruvasagam, explained the interconnectivity and evolution of man, much before Mendel and modern science, as below:
(Krishnammal sings this prayer-song in Tamil) 
Pullahi, (became a grass)
Poodahi, Puzhuvai, Maramahi (to become, worm and other vegetations)
Paravai, Panbahi, (became birds and reptiles)Palviruhamaahi, (took the form of umpteen other animals and beings)
Vallasurarahi, (to become a powerful-man)
Manitharai, Thevarai, Peyai, Kanangalai (to evolve as a human-the spiritual being, and higher manifestations)
Itthavara sangamuthul piranthileithen Yemperuman! (I am born into this confluence of creation, by the grace of you Oh Lord!)
While the above prayer highlights the oneness of humanity with the rest of the beings on this planet Earth, Swami Ramalinga expresses the height of compassion in the following words:
"Vadiya Payirai kandapothellam vadinene" (I suffer whenever I see the wilting plant).
My mother Nagammal had equally influenced me in developing compassion for my fellow beings, particularly the down-trodden and oppressed, herself being a 'Dalit (untouchable) woman', the ostracized social class in India. While we were hosting a meal for visiting dignitaries and honorable guests at our home, she would sneak through the back-door with food to give to someone hungry and needy in the neighborhood or in the street. This is the spirit of compassion that rushed me to Kilavenmani, the village where the hut in which 44 Dalit women and children sought shelter was torched on Christmas night 1968 by a landlord and his henchmen, in retaliation against the demand for higher wages. We have never rested since then, and have faced so many trials, struggles, and challenges over the past 40 years.

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