Sri Vaishnavas come West: Chinna Jeeyar Swami’s visit

Vaishnava sannyasis from the deep south come to the far north: Chinna Jeeyar Swami visits England

Recently, on a south India train journey from Tirupati to Chennai, a middle-aged man sat down opposite me. His distinctive tilak markings made it obvious which philosophical school he belonged to: the Tenkalai sect of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya. It wasn’t long before we started a conversation, mainly consisting of me asking questions about one of my favourite subjects of interest: authority and transmission in Vaishnava history, and he answering from the Sri Vaishnava point of view. As we talked, he revealed that he was associated with a sannyasi known as the Chinna Jeeyar Swami. My travelling companion was surprised when I mentioned that the same sannyasi was scheduled to visit the Bhaktivedanta Manor just after I returned to England.

Chinna Jeeyar Swami is becoming well known for his travelling and teaching. He took to the sannyasa order at the tender age of 23 and is continuing the mission of his guru to preach the siddhanta, or philosophical conclusions, of Sri Vaishnavism. Of course, many are doing that in India, but he has taken the unconventional step to travel beyond India.

For us in the Hare Krishna movement the fact that a sannyasi came out of India to preach and start a world movement is the stuff of legend. Srila Prabhupada did it, and thereby set the pattern for all future members of the senior renunciate order in the line of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. So we might naturally assume that all sannyasis would also be world travellers. Yet the centuries-old rules for the sannyasa order forbid the crossing of bodies of water, and the majority of orthodox sannyasis still follow this rule. For this reason, many traditionalists in India consider that the spiritual purity of the two or three Vaishnava sannyasis from the Madhva or Ramanuja lineages that have visited America or Europe has been compromised.

But these teachers have responded to the stark facts of modern life: that many young people from Vaishnava families have left India for education or careers in the West yet have not completely abandoned their culture. Who will help them to learn and practise more if not the travelling preachers of Vaishnava siddhanta? Everyone needs help and guidance in order to fully reap the benefits of spiritual life; book knowledge alone is insufficient. But even such book knowledge as this generation has is sometimes inaccessible to them because they cannot read the Tamil or Telugu language, even though they may speak it with their parents. So there are moves within the orthodox Sri Vaishnava community to render the classical texts in the English language for the next generation. With that comes the challenges of making the traditional Vaishnava lifestyle practicable in western cultural settings.

There’s less problem keeping to Vaishnava practises in your own home, before breakfast, especially with a supportive family. You may need advice, ongoing guidance, and a certain amount of willpower but nobody will prevent you from your own religious choices. Outside the home, at university, in the workplace, within your diverse social circle, at the restaurant or at parties – all these situations present a range of extraneous influences and often perplexing choices. Sri Vaishnava teachers now have to concern themselves with helping this generation in situations that never arose in India in more classical times. In this respect the orthodox Vaishnava teachers who now come west have a lot in common with Vaishnava teachers in ISKCON.

Chinna Jeeyar Swami arrived at Bhaktivedanta Manor on a very cold, blustery, wet afternoon. He walked bare-shouldered with two disciples chanting verses behind him. I received him with a small Vedic ceremony involving a kumbha (coconut-pot) and lamp, and invited him to take up his seat in the Manor theatre. The word had got around and the theatre filled up quickly. He spoke on Krishna and the blessings of the great Vaishnavas. Afterwards the Swami said that he would like to return to the Manor on a future date, when he next comes to England. We all wish him well in his western preaching.



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4 responses to “Sri Vaishnavas come West: Chinna Jeeyar Swami’s visit

  1. Sita

    Pranams ,Another aspect of travel that has undergone a sea change is that we now travel by air routes ,unlike the ancient times when these rules were formulated , when they had to depend on Sails,favourable wind and ocean currents to travel.Then travel by sea took months,but now,only a few hours.Earlier on a ship they did not have facility for ablutions,hygienic/shudda/madi food,but now one can fast also for the duration of the flight,if one felt so inclined.I think that we have to accommodate these new realities when observing our traditions.
    Namaste,Hari Om.

  2. Prakash Ramanujadasa

    Jai Srimannarayana Priya Swamy,

    Thank you very much for providing the information. There are many records and proofs stating that in the past people used to travel on sea for days or months to do business and trade.

    According to vedic tradition bathing in sea is considered only on certain days and excepted places like Jagnathpuri. Other than those days even touching sea water is not allowed. People following vedic tradition do ‘Sandhya Vandanam’ sun god ablutions thrice a day. For which sea water cant be used for the above said reasons. So people who were observing the above said practices were not travelling on sea but others were doing.
    Vedic rules were not formulated based upon time or facilites. They are there always and can be practiced all the time.

  3. Sri Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji is our Guruji
    When we lived in London he came to visit us in 1997 – 2000. We could arrange meetings in Bharathiya vidyabhavan in London and are fortunate to be his disciples taking HIS activities when we moved to Newjersey, under the guidance of Sri Swamiji, we started a school called Prajna with 4 children teaching children about the vedic culture , criptures and ithihasas, slokams. within the 10 years period, with the blessings of Swamiji, we could establish a Asramam for Vaishnavas, which is called Jeeyar Asramam. and also having same Prajna classes with 150 Students learning vedic culture with 6 centers in NJ.
    We are proudly announce that Swamiji is taking Big event Called Sreeyagam at the Jeeyar Asramam, 222 Dey Rd, Cranbury, NJ. 08321. performiong the 27 Nakshathra homas with 27 + homa kundas with 108 Priests, at the Asrmam. All are welcome to visit this one of a kind event, and take the blessings of Sri Swamiji, an only Sri Vaishnava sanyasi who is travelling all over the world and spreading Vaishnavism. Sri Swamiji is a very kind and passionate Guruji, who is inspiring and initiating thousands of devotees across the world. His messages are “worship your own and respect all” , are inspirational to many.
    It is really blessing to see and talk to Sri Swamaiji even once. Because of Swamiji’s travelling to all these places , thousands are benefiting and gaining the spriritual experiences.
    Om Asmad Gurubhynamah
    Jai Srimannaryana


    it is too good

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