"I did it all!"
The beaming business magnate, flush with the success of the latest takeover, was being interviewed by the journalist. The questions were framed carefully, so as to bring out the financial acumen of the industrialist. Attributing his string of successes to painstaking planning, strategic execution and unerring instinct for the ideal opportunity, the tycoon left nobody in any doubt as to who was solely responsible for the impressive accomplishments. It was his achievement, his intelligence, his acumen all the way.
What goes up must come down, and like all commercial enterprise, this magnate's fortunes were also subject to business cycles. Depression led to a string of failures and the mogul was all but wiped out financially. This time, when the same journalist sought reasons for the downfall, the magnate threw up his hands and said, "What can I say! It is God's will." Not bad decisions, nor bad planning nor even faulty forecasts on his part, but "God's will" was responsible for the failure.
Such reaction is typical of people. When they are successful, they attribute it to their own prowess, and when faced with failure, conveniently blame it upon God. And the uncomplaining Lord accepts it all, smiling to Himself at people's duplicity and deceit.
Some are fond of saying, whether they mean it or not, "It is all in His hands: I am but an instrument". This is intended to convey the SEsha-SEshi bhavam, or the relationship of Master and Slave subsisting between the Lord and ourselves. Whenever a feather is added to our cap by way of some new achievement, we tend to take sole credit for the same, attributing it to our own hard work, genius, etc.
However, faced with a debacle, we tend to attribute it to "Bhagavat Sankalpam", and shrug it off philosophically, saying, " It was His will that things should turn out as they did. After all, what is in our hands?"
Great people, however, have always kept in mind that it is the Inner Dweller who, in His infinite wisdom, bestows on us success or failure, in tune with our own good and bad deeds. Hence they did not seize upon any achievement to promote themselves, but used it to emphasize that it was the Lord's own accomplishment, using them as mere vehicles. Realisation of this was manifest in their every thought, word and deed.
We thus see Swami Desikan unreservedly submitting all credit for his magnum opus, Srimad Rahasyatrayasaram, at the feet of Lord Hayagriva-
"VeLlai Parimukhar dEsikarAi adiyOm uLLatthu ezhudiadu Olayil ittanam"
Having authored such a monumental work that would serve as a guide to mankind for centuries, and as the first and only comprehensive Manual of Liberation, Swami Desikan is humble enough to say that he is merely putting to paper what Lord Hayagriva imparted to him.
The Acharya's humility is on display again, when he says that he is but a parrot, repeating blithely whatever he had imbibed from his own preceptor-" KidAmbi AppuLLAr adiyEnai kiLiyai pazhukkumA pole pazhakki vaikka". Being a great Acharya in his own right does not blind Swami Desikan, and he prefers to surrender all the hard-won laurels at the feet of his own Acharya.
Daya Satakam is a beautiful stotra, in which a hundred-plus slokAs, in versatile metering, have been composed with one single attribute of the Lord, namely Divine Mercy, as the subject. Its beauty and sublimity are beyond compare. Anybody would be justifiably proud to have composed such a work. But not Swami Desikan.
He compares himself to a VeeNA, which produces exquisite music when played by the Master Artiste, but cannot, by itself, produce even a single note. The symphony that is Daya Satakam was produced by the Lord Himself, using Swami Desikan as an instrument, submits the Acharya-
"VedAnta Desika padE vinivEsya bAlam
DEvO DayA Satakam Etat avAdayan mAm
VaihArikENa vidhinA samayE griheetam
VeenA visEsham iva Venkata saila nAta:"
Swami Desikan further says that the honorific "VEdAntAchArya" (conferred by the Lord Himself) does not sit comfortably on his young and immature shoulders-"VEdanta Desika padE vinivEsya bAlam".
In Sri Varadaraja PanchAsat, a tribute to HastigirIsa, Swami Desikan declares himself to be as helpless, ignorant and ineffective as a firefly, attracted to the adventure of singing the Lord's praises, unmindful of its own incompetence-
"Kim vyAharAmi Varada! StutayE katam vA?
Khadyotavat pralaghu sankuchita: prakAsa:"
If this is what a "GnAna vairAgya bhooshaNam" has to say about himself, how then should we describe ourselves?
If we analyse the motives for people claiming credit for achievements (real and imaginary), we find them hankering after name, fame and the material gains they bring. Swami Desikan, however, remained immune to such enticements, and shunned celebrity-status as he would a poisonous snake-
"ya: khyAti lAbha poojAsu vimukha:" attests the PillaiandAdi.
Such is the humility and self-effacing nature of one of the greatest Acharyas of all time, a poet par excellence, a logician beyond compare, a philosopher whose likes the world has never seen or is likely to see. It would indeed do us a power of good to take a leaf, nay, a word, out of his book on humility.