The Udupi Iftar Controversy: Need for the right perspective

Sri gurubhyo namaha

In the Bhagavatha, there is an interesting story of the four sanatkumaras – sanaka, sanatana, sanandana and sanatkumara reaching vaikunta to have darshana of Lord Vishnu. At the external gates of vaikunta, they are stopped by the two doorkeepers of the gate, Jaya and Vijaya, and are prevented from entering inside. An argument ensues and the sanatkumaras curse Jaya Vijaya to take birth as evil beings. Hearing the commotion, Paramatma comes there and enquires on the development. The sanatkumaras, at that time, try to appease Vishnu feeling remorse for having cursed Jaya Vjaya. However, Vishnu endorses their act and approves of the ‘punishment’ meted out to his own dwarapalakas.

One may be confronted with a few questions upon hearing this incident. How could the four kumaras, who are embodiment of everything that is satvik, lose their temper? Is it not wrong to get angry? Why didn’t Vishnu punish them for cursing? We will get to the answers later here.

A couple of days ago, a huge controversy has erupted over the gesture of Sri Sri Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji of Udupi Pejavara Matha inviting some Muslims from Udupi for breaking their Ramzan fast at the Udupi temple. Within hours of the event taking place, photos were circulated in mainstream and social media. Social media warriors instantly starting condemning the incident, claiming it is anti-Hindutva, against dharma and so on. Soon, the negative comments turned into abuse and curses against the Swamiji. Some deployed the usual what-about weapon and asked if Hindus will be allowed to perform pujas in mosques. Many claimed Swamiji has let down the cause of Hindus.

It is not only necessary to obtain factual information about the particular incident, but it is important to understand the background under which the incident took place. And then, it is necessary to also educate ourselves more about Swamiji and his contributions, before passing judgement on the ‘betrayal’ done by him.

Iftar and Namaz:

On the 26th of June, 2017, Sri Sri Swamiji himself, through a facebook video message, has clarified many aspects of the incident that occurred. Right through his paryaya, a group of Muslims have steadfastly involved themselves in contributing positively to the matha. They have not only donated ‘hore kanike’ (offerings prior to commencement of paryaya) to the Swamiji but have also stood by him steadfast during the threats of commie and liberal groups in 2016 who threatened to storm the ancient temple and disrupt the rituals there. Their support, along with that of many others, successfully deterred the commie brigade from attempting anything outrageous.

Keeping their voluntary services to the matha in mind, Sri Sri Swamiji invited them over to have ‘phalahara’ on the occasion of their festival.

Let us get a few things on record now

  • The Udupi Krishna temple, every day, serves thousands of people with free food. The food is first offered as naivedya to Lord Krishna and is then served to all who approach the temple for food.
  • On a daily basis, many tens of Muslims, Christians and other non-Hindus visit the temple and have prasada served to Lord Krishna. These non-Hindus sometimes come in their individual capacity while other times they come in groups.
  • Udupi Krishna is known as ‘Annabrahma’, the Lord who bestows food. No one desiring food is denied the same here. All those who consume food here are completely aware of the fact that the same has been offered to the Lord residing in the idol in the garbha gudi before being served to them. Consuming the food thus served is acceptance of this fact.
  • No one is served food inside the area of the matha that constitutes the ‘sanctum sanctorum’. This includes the garbha gudi, the praakara around it, including temples of mukhyaprana, garuda and Sri Madhwacharya.
  • Adjacent to this area, there are halls, open sabhas, and other areas that are property of the Krishna Matha. The building in which the group of people breaking their Ramzan fast were served food is the Annabrahma Kendra where non Hindu devotees have food daily. This hall is outside the temple compound and is used for serving food to non-Hindus and school children (Krishna matha provides mid-day meals to all the schools in Udupi) who come to the temple to have food.
  • The food served to them consisted of fruits, juice and some delicacies that are typically prepared in the temple. There was no violation of any sort with regard to the food served.
  • Sri Sri Swamiji has clarified that the group conveyed to them, AFTER consuming the prasada, that they had to perform namaz immediately after food. As this is not a part of Hindu dharmic practices which are followed in the temple, he asked them to do it in the attic of the Annabrahma hall, far away from the temple premises.

In this entire episode, it becomes clear that there has been no desecration of the sanctum sanctorum or the matha premises. The dictum laid down by Sri Madhwacharya himself when he said ‘annasya kshuditam paatram’ – ‘All those who are hungry are qualified to be given food’ – meant there is no barrier to food being served to any human being. Not only on this occasion, but on a daily basis, this is the principle being followed in the temple.

Some people have questioned Sri Sri Swamiji on how those who eat beef were allowed to enter the temple complex. Sri Sri Swamiji has clarified that there is no restriction enforced on anyone to have darshan of Krishna from Kanakanna Kindi (the window on the outer wall of the temple) and food. He also further stressed that beef consumption as a whole must be stopped not only by Muslims but also by certain Hindus and it should be achieved by making them understand the importance of cows.

If anything, it should be left to those who had food on that occasion to ponder if their own beliefs allow them to accept food offered as naivedya to the idol of Lord Krishna.

Swamiji and Dharma

The outrage brigade have questioned the motive of Sri Sri Swamiji behind this incident. Many have also commented that he has damaged the ‘cause’ of Hindutva due to this. Others have questioned the need for such leaders and have wondered what really has the Swamiji contributed to ‘our cause’.

When such questions arise, it is necessary to look at them from two angles. The first one, that of the locus-standi of the questioners themselves and secondly, the contribution of the person being hauled up. On the former, it is unnecessary to spend too much time since the contribution of most of those outraging is close to zero, unless constant ranting on social media forums is considered as contribution to the cause of Dharma. On the second issue of the dharmic contributions of Sri Sri Swamiji, it is necessary to approach it in two ways – his individual sadhana – and his contribution to establishing and propagating dharma.

Individual Sadhana of Sri Sri Swamiji

There are a number of detailed articles available elsewhere which have chronicled the life and individual achievements of Sri Sri Swamiji. We will therefore only briefly cover the same here. Still, it should be revealing enough of the stature of the man.

Sri Sri Swamiji was ordained as a sanyasi in one of the lineages of Sri Madhwacharya at the age of 8. Within a year or two, due to the passing away of the senior Swamiji, he became the head of the Pejavara Matha, one of the 8 mathas of Udupi bestowed with the honor of worshipping Lord Krishna at Udupi. Since then, for nearly 80 years, Sri Sri Swamiji has led an exemplary life of a sanyasi without compromising on even one aspect of what the ‘ashrama’ demands.

Sri Sri Swamiji is the very epitome of sacrifice and simplicity. His only garments are a koupina and couple of saffron robes. His only ornaments are the tulasi and kamalakshi malas he wears to increase vaishnavata in his body. Every single day, he is up at 4:30AM. One of the first activities he performs is to undertake Shastra classes to his students. He is always accompanied by a few tens of students studying Veda, Vedanta and shastras under him. He personally conducts classes for them.

Post this, he involves himself in the worship of the dieties handed over to him in the lineage. During paryaya, he has the additional responsibility of performing the 14 pujas that are to be offered to Lord Krishna at Udupi. Yes, not 1 or 2 but 14 pujas are to be offered daily at Udupi! Just like now, when the ‘paryaya’ is in the hands of the Pejavara matha, Sri Sri Swamiji has worshipped Krishna on 4 earlier occasions, each for a period of 2 years.

When Swamiji is not in paryaya, he is on constant travel, as is demanded of a sanyasi (they aren’t supposed to stay in one place for more than a few days). Once his puja is complete, he engages in pravachana to assembled devotees. After that, many devotees seek personal audience with him to seek guidance on their personal issues, for which he is always ready.

In the evenings, again he engages in teaching his students, after performing the necessary pujas. Before retiring close to midnight, he spends some time in studying shastras. Thus, 20 out of 24 hours in a day, Sri Sri Swamiji is engaged in only dharmic activities.

Dharmic contributions of Swamiji

It will be great injustice to Swamiji if we attempt to capture his contributions to society in a short article. However, it has become necessary to do so, to educate the people who are outraging currently and questioning the role of Swamiji in propagation of Dharma.

When Swamiji was in his 20s, he established the Poorna Prajna Vidyapeeta in Bangalore. Till this day, this exemplary institute has created thousands of panditas in the fields of Veda, Vedanta, Jyotisha and other streams of Shastra. Thousands of purohitas who have graduated from the veda pathashalas established by Swamiji in Bangalore and other parts are now carrying forward the torch of Vedic knowledge throughout Bharat and abroad. It goes without saying that the contribution of this vidyapeeta, and indeed Swamiji, in propagation of Sanskrit language is immense.

The Poorna Prajna Samshodhana Mandira, established at the same campus, is a premier research institute established by Swamiji for higher education and research into Bharatiya philosophy in general and Dvaita philosophy in particular. Hundreds of scholars have come out of this institute. The same foundation has also published hundreds of books over the past several decades on Vedic subjects.

Sri Sri Swamiji was also one of the founder members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He is constantly involved in the activities of the Parishad, playing an advisory role.

Sri Sri Swamiji, for several decades now, has been demanding the construction of the Sri Rama Temple at Ayodhya. He has been at the forefront of the RJB agitation since the beginning.

The efforts of Sri Sri Swamiji in the protection of the desi cow cannot be highlighted enough. He has established multiple go-shalas in Karnataka, most notably at Neelavara near Udupi (through the junior Swamiji of Pejavara Matha) where thousands of cattle are taken care of. Many sick, non-milk-yielding and aged cattle are brought to these go-shalas and left at the gates by people who cannot afford to take care of them. Not one of them is turned away by Swamiji. He is thus directly responsible for saving many cows from ending up in slaughter houses. Over the decades, Sri Sri Swamiji has led innumerable protests, dharmas and upavasas demanding complete ban on cow slaughter and protection of go-mata.

In addition to such dharmic causes, Sri Sri Swamiji has also established numerous institutions for the benefit of all sections of society.

  • Schools in over 20 cities and towns of Bharat
  • A school for specially abled children near Udupi
  • Hospitals in Bangalore, Udupi and Madikeri
  • Chattras or monasteries in nearly 20 places all over Bharat, including holy places such as Badarinath, Tirupathi, Haridwara and Bhuvaneshwar. Arrangements for food and other dharmic activities such as tarpana, pinda pradana for pitrus, etc have been made in each and every one of these pilgrimage centers.
  • Construction of marriage halls in Bangalore, Udupi, Davangere and other places
  • In addition to the Vidyapeeta at Bangalore, gurukulas have been established at Pajaka, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.

Of late, an epidemic that has affected Hindu society is that of deserting aged parents. While on one side, Sri Sri Swamiji is making continuous efforts to educate people not to do this, he has also taken up the task of offering shelter to the aged and sick, who have been turned down by their own children. In Udupi, Chennai and in South Bangalore, he has started orphanages in which aged and orphaned Hindus can lead the remainder of their lives, while living in a dharmic environment. In addition to their residential and medical needs, these orphanages have temples and other facilities for engaging in dharmic work, which enables the old people to involve themselves in satsanga, pravachana and other activities.

Sri Sri Swamiji has been an activist in eradication of social evils such as untouchability and upliftment of downtrodden sections of Hindu society. Please see this article for more details on the numerous works undertaken by Swamiji to elevate the societal status of Dalits.

Conclusion

Earlier in the article, a question about why Lord Vishnu ignored the anger of the sanatkumaras was left unanswered. The reason is – as per Shastra laid down by paramatma Himself, Lord Hari considers as no-violation that which appears as transgressions to the eyes of the rest, PROVIDED the person is a true devotee! The kumaras were great bhaktas of Vishnu. In order to achieve the greater dharma of reaching HIM, they argued with the dwara palakas. However, Vishnu punished the dwara palakas themselves while blessing the kumaras. This is the intricacy of Dharma that one must strive to understand.

In both physical appearance and tapobala, Sri Sri Vishwesha Tirtha Swamiji is “Vamana”. Let us not become like “Shukracharya” and blindly oppose him. “Dharbha” caused Shukracharya to lose one of his eyes. The “darpa” of warriorhood will cause us to “lose sight” of the achievements of the great Swamiji, which history will record as being “Trivikrama” like.

Sri Gurvantargata Krishnarpanamastu.

About the Author

Hariprasad N
श्रीमध्वाचार्यस्य तत्ववादः | ऋक् शाखः | राजराजायते रिक्तो राघवेन्द्रं तमाश्रये | सत्यमेव जयते नानृतं | Twitter: @pranasutra