First Interview done on Swamiji:
Overview on Sri Ranganatha Temple and Swamiji:
Sri Ranganatha Temple is located in Pomona, New York. Five Full-Time priests and two Voluntary priests ( part-time ) work diligently to ensure that all religious services are offered to the Deities and to the complete satisfaction of the Devotees. The dedication shown by all the priests is the essence of the temple. One such priest, not only built the temple by accepting the path of surrender, but also became a Sannyasi to propagate the concept of Absolute Surrender to Lord Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna Desika Yati Jeeyar Swami renounced material life and is now living in simplicity, Swamiji has become more dedicated towards the temple and its patrons. I had the opportunity to speak to Swamiji himself and asked him a few questions regarding Hinduism and his outtake on its principles. Following a simple lifestyle, Swamiji continues to inspire many patrons and devotees who come to the temple daily. Leaving all of his luxuries, including his family, Sri Krishna Desika Yati Jeeyar Swami lives a simple but worthwhile life in order to help devotees attain salvation and seek a passageway towards Vaikuntam.
What motivated you to build this temple?
The direct source of motivation to build this Sri Ranganatha Temple was an order from Sri Maha-Lakshmi and Swamiji’s Acharya; the 44th jeer of Sri Ahobila Mutt in India. Swamiji’s acharya asked him to build a temple in America purely following the SriVaishnava scriptures. Swamiji says that, as a student, it is our duty to obey our teacher, and carry out His orders, with implicit faith.
What is the life of a sannyasi?
The life of a sannyasi is meant to be spent completely in meditating on the lord and helping other devotees to attain salvation. These are three things that a person must renounce and dissociate himself before accepting Sanyasam:
• the desire to earn money,
• the desire to live with the spouse,
• the desire to live with any and all family members like children.
A person must be completely free from material and worldly bonds in order to dedicate his life to serve the Lord and humanity. A Sannyasi must help any person with the process of following Saranagati ( absolute Surrender, also called Bhara-Nyasam or Prapatti ). A sannyasi should constantly serve the people by teaching them the ultimate goal of human life is to reach Sri-Vaikuntham by attaining Salvation ( liberation from the repeated cycle of Births and deaths ).
What motivated you to renounce all worldly materials and become a Sannyasi?
In all our lives, a particular time on a particular day will be there when we all have to leave the earth. Most people spend their lifetime acquiring things like cars, houses, money, jewelry etc.., but none of these things that we strive so hard to acquire in our lifetime, will come with us at the time of our death. The only person who can save us is Lord Sri Krishna. The main idea of renouncing all worldly materials is, the realization that you have to attach yourself with that only person who will come and stay with you even after death; Lord Sri Krishna.
Why is it that we should not eat onion or garlic?
Onion and garlic have their own Chemistry and will produce some specific type of desires in our mind to cling to material life only, called mode of Passion and mode of Ignorance ( Rajo-Guna and Tamo-Guna ) which are not conducive for spiritual progress, the mode of goodness ( Satva-Guna ). That chemistry will influence our thought process and so a spiritual aspirant must always avoid any food that is not helpful for spiritual progress.
What is the importance of the Bhagavad Gita?
The Bhagavad Gita is the essence of all the 108 Upanishads, directly given by Lord Sri Krishna to Arjuna. Lord Sri Krishna made all the 108 Upanishats a cow, Arjuna a Calf, the Lord Himself a Milkman and the essence of all the Upanishats milked is the BhagavadGita. The significance of the Bhagavad Gita is that it answers any and all questions a person may have, regarding any religious topic, with specific reference to Salvation.
What are our roles and responsibilities as a Hindu?
The word Hindu is to indicate a person who follows the Vedas, also called Sanatana Dharma. The word Hindu might have been coined by combining the language Hindi and the river Indus ( Sindhu ) in India. The religion we are following should be called Vedic dharma or sanatana dharma. There are three main rules that all Hindus must follow.
• The first rule is satyam vadha – meaning we have to always speak the truth.
• The second rule is dharmam chara – meaning we have to follow dharma, with the right code of conduct, extending to all aspects of our lives, like food habits, living habits, social habits and cultural habits.
• The third rule is ahimsa which means complete nonviolence.
By following these three rules, we fulfill our roles as Hindus.
What is Vaikuntam and how do we go there?
Vaikuntam is the place where the Supreme Lord Sriman-Narayana resides. There are two worlds; the material world and the spiritual world. The material world consists of 14 Lokas ( worlds ) and all these 14 worlds are subject to dissolution one day or the other. The spiritual world is the only place that is eternal and is never dissolved. There are two ways to reach the spiritual world. You can either follow the path of devotion ( BhaktiYoga ) or you can follow the path of complete surrender ( Saranagati-Yoga ). Some people believe that you can also attain the spiritual world by following the path of knowledge or by following the path of action ( jnana-yoga and karma-yoga ). The path of knowledge and the path of action are not the highways for salvation but only the service roads, that have to merge with the Highways – the path of devotion or the path of complete surrender. Salvation ( Liberation ) means getting out of the cycle of repeated births and deaths. Once you attain salvation, you will enter Sri-Vaikuntam and will never reenter the material world due to any kind of bondage. In the spiritual world, also known as Sri-Vaikuntam, liberated souls souls enjoy a state of Brahmanandam, or eternal happiness and there is NO more rebirth, or death or oldage or disease.
What is moksham?
Moksham means reaching Sri-Vaikuntha through liberation. Liberation is the same as getting out of the cycle of repeated births and deaths. Death is only for the body and not for the soul. The soul transmigrates from one body to another body. Depending on the actions we do, we have to go through the consequences, called reaction, karmaphalam. Until we attain salvation, the soul, after leaving this body, will go through hell, heaven and rebirth again, may be as an angel, or a Human being or as an animal or bird or as a plant or a tree.
Which is the right way to serve and surrender to god?
The right way to serve Lord Sri Krishna is with absolute humility, through the process of surrender to Him. We have to accept that the Lord is our master and the soul is always sub-serviant to Him. The individual soul will always be the servant of the Lord, here and hereafter. The best way to serve the Lord is with no expectations ( nishkaama-karma ). We should not ask the Lord for anything in return and serve Him, just like a mother who does everything to her children, without expecting anything in return.
What is your advice to the general public?
Follow Dharma, and Dharma alone will protect us, as the famous saying goes “ Dharmo rakshathi rakshithah “ – we follow Dharma and Dharma protects us. When we are ready to follow absolute surrender to the Lord, we are guaranteed salvation, at the end of this life itself. “As a sannyasi, my only job is to preach and offer sharanagati to any and all ”
How come there is no ticket system at the temple?
Money should not be a limiting factor or hindrance for anyone to serve the Lord. Devotee should not be deprived of their freedom to worship the Lord, just because they have no money to pay for that religious service. We always believe in the fact that one day, the Supreme Lord Himself will come, in the most unexpected form to test us, whether we can see the Lord in every devotee, irrespective of their financial ability. And, if the Lord is Happy with our services, there is nothing more to desire.
What are Vedas and Upanishads?
The Vedas and the Upanishads are the most ancient scriptures of the spiritual world. Veda means “to know”; to know who the Supreme Lord is and how to reach Him is taught in the Upanishats, called the Vedantha. The Vedas proclaimed that the Supreme Lord is Sriman-Narayana. There are two sections in the Vedas; the section that deals with the karma-kaanda and the other section that deals with the Salvation portion. This first section deals with what kind of pooja to do, to which god and the benefit that you will get. The jnanakaanda- the path of knowledge, the second section tells us to follow the path to salvation. The second section is called Vedanta or the Upanishads. The Upanishads describe the nature of Sri-Vaikuntam and the nature of Lord SrimanNarayana. There are a total of 108 Upanishads and 4 Vedas.