LET US PASS ON MEMORIES AND RICHES WITH WISDOM TO OUR CHILDREN
(DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, NASHVILLE, TN, USA, DECEMBER 2013)
Tennessean, December 10, 2013 says 1 in 5 in USA reaches affluence. Approximately 20 percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives wielding outsize influence on America’s economy. This is quite accelerated compared to many nations particularly India which is also fast catching up with USA in spirit if not in percentile. This little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation’s income inequality. Among Hindu Americans they may even be 80% though insignificant in the total community. They are not the traditional rich I am talking about. In India where poverty is a record high, today’s new rich are notable for their sense of economic frugality. They reach the top 2 percent only to fall below it, in many cases. This is more true with Hindu Americans having lived witrh ameerican job opportunities. These groups are less likely to support public programs, such as food stamps, or early public education, to help the disadvantaged, Temple donation, poor feeding etc. This is one of the reasons for growing inequality which has become a challenge of our times. This we often refer as affluent society or Neo-rich.
I often think why particularly business community and the Neo-rich or affluent rush to worship with money for Dhanalakshmi Pooja and Kubera Pooja as a part of Deepaavali Celebrations. Motivation behind this worship is to seek favor from these Deities presiding over Wealth and Prosperity and to carry back the blessed money with the sole, purpose of multiplication, not knowing the true meaning of wealth and prosperity. In the traditionally rich which will be explained later, it is usually the third generation that rushes to the temple for quick multiplication of money by easy means or stroke of luck hoping to please god with money. They gamble a lot.
The universal proverb "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" is believed to exist in all cultures and written languages, both modern and ancient.
As first generation humans start without material wealth and possibly without education. The greatest opportunity for those in this generation is to work hard to educate and build wealth. This was true to me as I started life and is true with many other Hindu migrants too. This process started for me with full pressure in India itself.
Along this struggle we do not change our values of lifestyle. Like all parents we want better life for our children so that the second generation is well educated and has a choice about careers. This is the main reason why I migrated though I could have completed the process in India itself to educate my children but not with certainty as per their skills and choice. Born just before Independence my life took the same path as the country in my struggles as I was about to enter college in 1947, the year of India’s Independence. I had no choice but became a victim of chance. I did well struggling hard in life but could have done better. The second generation will become lawyers, engineers and doctors mostly and they will be enjoying cultural activities too. So are my two children, One is a doctor and other engineer.
The off-springs see the sacrifices their parents made, and they know their parents want them have a brighter, better and easier life. So they adjust their lifestyle accordingly the family fortune plateaus in the second generation.
Then third generation, raised with all spoils of wealth, does not witness the amount of work and sacrifice it took to build the wealth. They squander all the wealth. So, the fourth generation that follows goes to work in shirt sleeves again.
This proverb is true to all cultures because it is essentially based on universal human nature. The rich get richer they say. It is true, for it is easier to make money if you start with money. But people with money tend to acquire expensive hobbies and life-styles to the utter neglect of spiritual elevation. This can be a huge drag on their financial resources and human values.
First generation is motivated by need and a desire for a better life. This is very true in the case of migrants. The third generation that is born into a family that is enjoying a wonderful life-style has less motivation to create wealth or spiritually progress; they desire to spoil the child, a disservice to younger generation.
To successfully preserve wealth, a family must form a social closeness amongst its members reflecting its shared values and each successive generation must reaffirm and readopt that social impact. The lesson of the shirtsleeves proverb is that all generation needs to be connected to the family, family values and spiritual values. Parents want their children to have a better, easier life, so they adjust their lifestyle accordingly. The family fortune plateaus in the second generation. The third generation is raised with all the spoils of wealth. However, they don't see the amount of work and sacrifice it took to create wealth, so the third generation consumes the family fortune, pushing the fourth generation back to work in shirtsleeves again.
The sayings “shirtsleeves to shirt sleeves” teach us that all generations need to be connected to the family and its values. Families need to come together on a regular basis and be reminded of who they are, where they come from, how they are unique and how those benefits can benefit them and future generations of the family. It is therefore necessary to tell your children of your cultural background and family stories as to how its wealth was created; what was the motive force that created the wealth by its generation; the mental peace to enjoy it; and, how they benefited the society culturally and economically while making progress? Better it would be to leave your autobiography or family history behind. It is possible today to unlock your DNA to reveal your genetic heritage even if you do not know about your past. Using your DNA Geno 2.0 provides a remarkably comprehensive picture of your genetic ancestry going back to hundreds and even thousands of years. More than half a million people have participated in the Geographic Project since its launch in 2005, giving scientists an unprecedented look at the evolving story of human story. Please visit www.shopng.org/geographic for complete terms and conditions.
I was attracted to a letter to the editor of Tennessean titled as “Shirt sleeve to Shirt Sleeves” on Father's Day year before last. I also remembered then one of our rich and affluent philanthropists and his book Gym 3 presentation in which he touches on the background of his family history. The letter in Tennessean read: "My parents are approaching their 80's, and I'd like to recommend to seniors that a cherished gift to their children and grandchildren would be a journal or family history book written by them describing their childhood memories and early married years. So many funny stories and historical markers of an earlier time--before computers and fax machines --will be lost if they are not shared..... ...The family history can be passed from one generation to the next, and I cannot think of a more special gift"--reads the letter. Spontaneous response by a reader says: "That is a splendid idea. However I would urge children and grand-children to not to wait for the family history, but to wait to interview their parents and grandparents now, with a pencil in hand. Better yet, if possible, use a video recorder". My own grandchildren were motivated and have struggled hard to build a family tree of both their parents with elder's help.
We Hindu Americans are drawn from various traditions and cultures from different regions of India. We also mostly carry our family names with traditional sect identification (Gupta, Biswas, Bhat, Agarval, Iyengar, Iyer, Rao, Chaudhury etc), which will all be lost more so with inter-racial and inter-caste marriages if not properly explained to children and recorded. We do not know how much history even our family name and Gotra carries in Hindu tradition! Long time back I too started thinking on similar lines. My son does not carry my family name or the sect name and is grown mostly with the American culture and so also his wife. Unfortunately circumstances and official dictations in North India and USA has forced him to carry my christened name as his surname and consequently his wife also carries and the grandchildren too my name as surname which is rather unusual, wiping out the family history behind and my migration to USA.
It is interesting to learn how our family lost all references to our cultural identity in the names we carry in USA while most Hindus keep their family identity in their names even as US citizens. It all started earlier in India for me after Independence. I was named Srinivasan after the Lord Venkateswara who is also known as Srinivasa. It is customary to name the children mostly after a God in Hindu Tradition, which practice is slowly eroding. As per the South Indian Practice I had to carry my first initial N indicative of the family (Nadipuram or Kadambi). My second Initial was R standing for my father (Rajagopalachar). So I registered my name as N. R. Srinivasan when I went to school. When I needed passport from Indian Government I had to expand my two initials. Then the authorities started complaining my name is too long. I had to explain every time that my last name is my first name. When I was given a US Passport my fate was permanently sealed and my actual name became my surname and my family name became my actual name with which usually I am addressed as in American practice. At the time of birth my wife registered my son’s name as Srinivasan Ravi, Srinivasan (pre-name) being the father’s name in Karnataka. North India would not accept a name without surname and the name was changed to Ravi Srinivasan making my name as surname. My name thus became a surname in USA too for him and also for his wife and children too. Thus we lost all our family background in our names. Our names usually carried a surname which is indicative of our sub-sect like Patel. I belonged to Iyengar (which could bealso indicated by adding chari to the name for example Rajagoplachari) tradition and during pre-independent British days our sect proudly carried that surname indicative of highly educated and cultured class in the Hindu Society. This sub-sect became an object of hate and persecution out of jealousy in our class ridden society in India after independence and so I felt safer to hide the same in the hate-ridden society and I did not carry my surname. Indication of surname put even the poor and meritorious in my sub-caste at a disadvantage position politically, socially and for job opportunities; particularly in the South we were also victimized while in the North discriminated as Madrasi. Government still forced us to declare our sub-sect and discriminated us for job offers and higher education in colleges where seats were few and demand very high. But socially we could hide our identity. Hence my name remains without any clue as to our tradition. The surname Iyengar would have revealed all our religious traditions and following, while Gotra and family prename our lineage if I had used it as surname as some do. For example my son-in-law is Ram Kaushik where Kaushik is his Gotra. Gotra is not caste-based but lineage. This shows once India did not have caste-system and caste was Varna based professional pursuit. You can thus see how Hindu names carry so much history and signs of religious tradition with them.
I had a very challenging and interesting career wandering through very many States in India and living in Germany for 3 years before settling down in USA. I had no briefing from my parents as to our background or culture. I left my parents at the age of eight and grew up with different guardians. My life ran parallel with the country passing through poverty, epidemics, famine, World War II, Independence struggle, communal disturbances, class hatred, corruption, exploitation, denial of opportunities, machinations etc. I therefore struggled hard to write seriously my memoirs collecting as much information as I could which has now grown to more than 300 pages. I hope to leave the same electronically written for the benefit of my children and grandchildren before taking leave of them. I have no intention of publishing it for general consumption as I am neither rich nor famous which opportunity I lost somewhere in the middle in my struggles. In my memoirs I have included my general family background and tradition of the family about which they are neither aware of their glorious past nor about my past life. We are the direct descendants of the famous philosopher Ramanuja as our pre-name indicates. I am sure each one of you would have such memoirs to leave behind which your children and grandchildren would cherish one day and also remember your close association with them and with other close family members. I give below an illustrative example of my own name in an appendix extracted from my auto-biography.
No amount of prayer to increase wealth will help if the life style does not change particularly in the third generation. In whatever generation we are, let us go to the Lord to worship with one leaf, one fruit, one flower or even little water as Geeta says with a devoted mind and leave the choice to him for he knows what is best for us and what we deserve. Let us turn part of our earnings for acts of charity. He does not pay attention to the money you brought back after pooja or the gold jewelry but watches on your charitable act to adjust your balance sheet of Karma-phala. You all know the story of Kuchela, a bosom friend of Lord Krishna. When he met his bosom friend Lord Krishna he refrained from asking him any favor which his wife had insisted upon. When he returned back empty handed with no expectation happily remembering his close friendship with the Lord, he was astonished to find himself amidst immense wealth in a golden palace. He was wiser unlike his wife. Do not carry the coins after worship home as seed coins with the hope to make your coffer rich but put it in the donation box with additional contributions to swell the donation box, to help the needy and your heart to ennoble for He knows how to reward you for your acts and how to enrich your coffers! He knows then more you become rich more you will donate too; in the process you continue to grow in riches (both spiritually and materially) as you see from the life of our Philanthropists!
Om viswani deva savitar duritaani paraasuva |yad bhadramm tanama aasuva || [Oh Resplendent Savitar, the cause of this universe, do destroy our sins; grant us that which is ultimately good. We do not know what is good for us]. Remember the three Ds of Vedanta—Dama (forbearance), Daya (Compassion) and Daana (charity) as described in my earlier discourse.
THE HISTORY MY HOROSCOPE- NAME WOULD HAVE CARRIED IF I HAD RETAINED THE SAME!
Who are Iyengars?
Iyengar is a Tamil word. It is derived from the word “Eindu Angangal” or five attributes. Iyengars are followers of Sri Ramanuja. They are followers of either Vadkalai or Thenkalai Sampradayams (Traditions). Vadakalai Sampradayam people wear Urdhvapundra in U form and are followers of Ramanuja and Vedanta Desika. Tenkalai Iyengars wear Urdhvapundra in Y form and are followers of Ramanuja and Manvala Maamunigal. Vadakalai Iyengars are identified with Northern culture. They attach primary importance to Vedas and secondary importance to Naalaayira Divya Prabhandam of Azhwars called Tamil Vedam. Thenkalai Iyengars are identified with Southern culture. They attach primary importance to Tamilvedas and secondary importance to Sanskrit Vedas. The word Iyengar according to some is derived from “Ayya” a corrupted form of “Arya”. In Tamil the addition of ending syllable “gar” indicates respect like Ammangaar, Annangaar, Atthangar etc. Please note that Andhras add “garu” to any name to show respect.
The five duties with which Iyengars (probably derived from Aingaran or aindu karan=five limbs) are identified are based on the Srivaishnava Dinachari—Abhigamanam, Upaadaanam, Ijyam, Svaadhyaayanam and Yogam. Abhigamanam means going near or to approach. This is the approaching Lord for permission to start the day with the right frame of mind. Upaadaanam means acquisition or obtaining. This means the collection or acquisition of Tulasi (basel), flowers and other items needed for Bhagavat Aaraadhanam (pooja ritual) chanting the name of the Lord (also Purushasooktam) or Srisuktis of Aaazhwars. Ijyam means worship. Ijyam is Aaraadhanam for the Supreme Being as per scriptural sanctions prescribed in Paancharaathra or Vaikhaanasa Aaagamas. Svaadhyaayanam means study and preaching of Vedas and Upanishads. Yoga means prayer and meditation on the Lord during our wakeful as well as sleep time as well.
Iyengars also undergo Samaasaranam ceremony, branding of their arms with discus and conch, follow their Nityakarmas and undergo Prapatti and Saranaagati ceremonies based on their Sampradayas to practice austerity in life, serve the society and spread the message of the Lord.
PaAncharaartra Sastras say: “Taapah pundrah tathaa naama mantroe yaagascha panchamah”
Tapah = to bear the marks of Vishnu, conch and disc on the shoulders ceremoniously branded by the heated silver metal implements; Pundrah=bear the vertical mark of Vishnu’s feet and Lakshmis symbol vermilion on the face (Oordhvapundra); Naama= Keep the name of the lord adding the word Dasa at the end meaning subservient to the Lord indicated; Mantrah=Get inducted to a mantra for meditation by the Guru; Yaaga= this is Satveeka Tyaaga or complete surrender at the feet of the Lord called Saranaagati. These five attributes entitles one to be called Ayyangar meaning one who has these five traits.
Why do we have our family name as Nadipuram?
With the passage of time and in the process of migration a group of Vedic Brahmins settled down around Conjeevaram in Tamilnadu in a place called Yathotakkari. The Sthala Purana (history of the temple) alludes to a group of Brahmins who served Varadaraja Swamy at the temple by carrying ambu (ambu means water in ancient Tamil language) in Ghatams (pitchers) from Vegavati River to the temple regularly. These groups earned the title Ghataambi (Ghatam+ambi) i.e. water suppliers. Ghataambi written in Tamil language can also be pronounced as Kadaambi. Both Ghataambi and Kadaambi are written the same way in Tamil language similar to Gaandhi and Kaanti. Their family name Kadaambi is also spelt as Cadambi in Karnataka, Kidambi in Tamil Nadu and Kilambis in Andhra Pradesh. The Kadambis (Kidambis) started interacting with Srivaishnavism around 11th century CE onwards. The great philosopher Ramanuja’s (1017 CE to 1137 CE) disciples included Kidaambi Aachaan who was one of his foremost disciples and also his personal cook. Historic records reveal that Ramanuja placed his feet on him during his last moments. The ever migrant Kadaambis migrated to Karnataka also and settled down on the banks of the River Kaveri in a villge called Nadipuram donated by the Maharaja of Mysore with tax-free agricultural lands. Some of the Kadaambis settled here and changed their family name to Nadipuram in recognition of the royal patronage but still continued to use their original title Kadaambi in all the rituals like marriage and horoscopes. Others continued with their original title and some of our distant cousins still use this title. Even amongst siblings you can find the use of these two titles thus individualizing from one another. My father and forefathers switched over to the title of Nadipuram but stuck to the title of Kadaambi in horoscopes, rituals and marriage invitations. Sometimes they used both the titles together. My official records carried the title of Nadipuram only with the suffix “char” added to the proper name indicative of Iyengar sub caste. I however deleted the suffix “char” in my S.S.L.C. official certificate, keeping my name as Nadipuram R Srinivasan. The ending of the name in the last letter “n” indicates that I am of Tamil origin. R stands for my father’s proper name “Rajagopalachar”.
What does Atreya Gotra signify?
In Brahminic tradition Gotra, the lineage carries more weight which is passed on from father to son at the time of Namakaranam (christening ceremony). In Sanskrit Gotra means family, race or lineage that is patriarchal. The Brahmin sub-castes are grouped under various Gotras. The sage (Rishi) Atri (around 1800 BCE) to whom some branches of Rigveda are assigned, was the originator of Aatreya Gotra, as the Gothra Pravartaka (promoter). Down the line were the other two famous sages Aarchnaanasa and Syaavaasva whose names led by Atri are pronounced while offering salutation (Saashtaanga Pranaamam), with eight parts of the body touching the floor, to elders, by way of Pravara (lineage) in Abhivaadanam (salutation). All Kadaambis are of Aatreya Gotra. Gotra is needed in Sankalpas (religious resolution to conduct the ritual), in preparing the horoscope, negotiating arranged Hindu marriages etc.