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Enclyopedia of Visistadvaitam (Sri Vaishnavam)

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SRIVAISHNAVISM - A CONCISE SUDY - PART I

INTRODUCTION

Srivaishnavism aims at God-realisation within the framework of our normal wordly activities. The term Vaishnavism denotes the system developed by Sri Ramanuja where Vishnu & his consort Godess Sri(Lakshmi) are accepted as Supreme Being. Godess Lakshmi is the mother of the entire creation, being the consort of Lord Vishnu. Being inseparable from Him(Nityanapetam Sriyam), she acts as the mediatrix(purushakara) between man & God . She is also reckoned to be an Acharya or teacher in this tradition. This system of Sri Ramanuja is also therefore known as Sri Sampradaya. It is for reasons such as these that the system of Sri Ramanuja is called Srivaishnavism. Sri Ramanuja is the systematiser of Srivaishnavism as it is followed today. Srivaishnavism is as old as Vedas. In the introductory verse of Sri Bhasya(the commentary on Brahma Sutras), Sri Ramanuja traces this philosophy to the Upanishads. It is believed that sage Vyasa, Bhodayana, Guhadeva & others have brought out this philosophy but their writings are not available except for the references by Sri Ramanuja. Srivaishnavism denotes the religious aspect whereas Visitadvaita refers to the philosophy followed by this school. In this school, the first teacher is the Lord Narayana himself & his student was his consort Godess Lakshmi who communicated the same to the commander-in-chief Visvaksena. From him it was handed over to a series of teachers headed by Sathakopa(Nammalwar). Then came the lineage of Acharyas led by Sri Nathamuni who was bestowed upon with knowledge by Sri Nammalwar. His grandson Yamunacharya(Alavandhar) was next to follow with his disciple Sri Ramnuja & series of Acharyas like Sri Kuresa, Sri Nadadur Alvan, Sri Kidambi Accan, Tirukkurugaippiran Pillan who were followed by a hierarchy of Acharyas as listed in the Guruparampara. The Sanskrit verse by Kurattalvan establishes link between the mortals and Sriman Narayana "Lakshminatha Samrambham nathayamunamadhyamam, asmadacharya-paryantham vande guruparamaparam" The Alwars or Saints were more emotional in nature than metaphysical. They were the great devotees of Lord Vishnu(Nityas or Lords attendants) who left behind the knowledge of the absolute by propagating Visistadvaita in their songs(which is the collection of 4000 hymns popularly known as Divya Prabhandham). To succeed the Alwars were the Acharyas who were orthodox Brahmanas well versed in Sanskrit & Tamil. Apart from preaching & establishing Visitadvaita they also laid down the rules for the proper observance of festivals, fasts, vows & customs. These acharayas date back to days of Alwars with Nathamuni(824-924 AD) being the first of them. The reference to the Guruparamparai would list the succeding Acharyas with due mention to Sri Ramanuja(1017 - 1137 AD) who is referred to as the Paramacharya. It is well known that Sri Ramanuja synthesised and explained the various truths contained in the Brahmasutras in accordance to the spirit of the Vedas, Upanishads, Agamas, Itihasas, Puranas and the Divys Prabhandas. For this reason he is deemed to be the foremost propounder of the Visistadvaitha school which is therefore called "Ramanuja Darshanam', even though the philosophy was expounded during the times of his ancesstors like Sri Nathamuni and Sri Alavandhar. Sri Ramanuja with a vision then appointed seventy four Simhasanadhipathis (Heads) to carry the message of Visistadvaita

SriVaishnavam philosophy - Visistadvaita

Any account of the history of Srivaishnavism should be deemed incomplete without a description of its philosophical tenets. It is now understood that this philosophy is much older than Sri Ramanuja, who only systematized it. This philosophy of Visitadvaitha is also referred to as "Ubahya Vedanta" since it accepts both the Sanskrit Prasthanatraya & Tamil Prabhandham. In SriVaishnavam, appearing as an ordinary God in the Rg Veda, the earliest of Vedas and as one of the several deities, Lord Vishnu attained pre-eminence and came to be recognised as the Supreme Being by the time if the Itihasas and the Puranas. This transformation of Lord Vishnu to be the Supreme can be traced in the following way : Rg Veda : In the Rg Veda, Agni(fire) is glorified first and Indra is designated as the King of Godsand praised in the maximum number of hymns. Vishnu, Rudra, Varuna, Vayu and others occupy next positions in the Vediv pantheon of deities. Lord Vishnu is described as a young and powerful God helping Indra in his many wars against the Asuras and evil forces. The following epithets testify to His importance : His highest abode is said to be fixed "like an eye in the sky" and always seen by the wise Nitya-Suries(Tad Visnoh paramam padam, sada pasyanti surayah) There is a spring of honey in his abode(Vishnoh pade parame madhva utsah) He measured the entire universe with three great strides(Idam Visnuh Vicakrame, tredha nidadhe padam, samudhamsya pamsure) Although not expressed in so many words, the above statements signify, according to scholars, the supremacy of Lord Vishnu; for the spring of Honey is nothing but divine nectar or Amritha, which indicates that Vishnu’s abode is the place of immortality and His place is fixed(dhruva). Yajur Veda : In the Krishan Yajurveda, Vishnu is described as the creator, protector and destroyer of everything in this universe. He is said to protect the sacrifices which came to occupy an important place in the ancient Bharata(India). In the Sukla Yajurveda, he is said to preside over the sacrifices. "Lord Vishnu has his abode in the orb of the Sun" says the Veda. Vishnu’s lifting of the earth as a Great Boar(Varaha Avataram) is referred to here : "Kolavaraha monrai Nilam Kotidai Konda Yandai". It is also stated that all other Gods like Agni, Vayu remain alert and discharge their duties due to the fear of Lord Vishnu "Bhisa asmad Vatah pavate bhisodeti Suryah bhisasmad Agnisca Indrasca Mrtyur-dhavati Pancama iti" The Purusa Sukta: Here there is a description of a cosmic purusa, who by performing a sacrifice, became the cosmos itself. His consorts are Godess Hri(Bhudevi) and Godess Sri(Sridevi). "Tat Purusasya Visvam ajaanamagre, Hrischa te lakshmischa patnayau" The Brahmanas: In the Aitareya Bhahmana, it is said that Agni is the lowest and Vishnu is highest among Gods :Agnir avamo devatanam Vishnuh Paramah. The Satapatha Brahmana refers to a Divinity called "Narayana" who perfromed a sacrifice for five days and nights and became great. The Taittiriya Aranyaka contains a reference to Lord Narasimha and Lord Vamana, the two important avataras of Lord Vishnu. The Upanishads: The Upanishads(the final portion of the Vedas) contains references such as "Only Narayana existed in the beginning of the creation, neither Brahma or Shiva existed then". The Ithihasas (Epics): The Ramayana : The first of the two epics, Ramayana contains many references to Sri Rama, the hero of the epic being none other than Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Being, who has his abode in Sri Vaikuntha. Lord Vishnu incarnated as Sri Rama, after heeding to the appeals of the celestials to destroy the demon King Ravana who was harassing the entire universe by his misdeeds and wild strength. Though born of human parents and thinking and behaving like a human being(atmanam manusam manye Ramam Dasarathatmajam "I consider myself a man, son of Dasaratha), Sri Rama(avatara of Vishnu) established the supremacy of Lord Vishnu by the following actions" In the duel between Vishnu and Siva, as narrated by Parasurama, the former made the latter motionless by a mere ‘humkara’(frowning). He sends Jatayu, the Vulture King to the supreme heaven and says "My friend, I permit you to go to the Upper regions("gaccha lokan anuttaman") He pierces seven huge Sala trees with a single arrow, and with his toe tosses the hillock-like skeletal remains of demon Dundubhi, and also fells Vali, the victor of Ravana himself with just one arrow. He grants Moksha to Sabari, the tribal women who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu who retained her life only for a glimpse of Him in his avatara as Sri Rama. The Mahabharata : The second epic, Mahabharata has several instances where the supremacy of Lord Vishnu in his avatara as Sri Krishna is established. Sri Krishna is born to Devaki, in His celestial form with four arms, Conch, Disc, et al and later on only, assumes the human form. The soul of Sisupala, whose head was severed by Sri Krishna, enters the person of Sri Krishna, in the presence of all assembled kings. Sri Krishna shows His cosmic form in the court of Dhritarasthra, when evil Duryodhana and his cohorts decide to bind Sri Krishna with a rope; the entire assembly with the exception of Bhimshma, Vidura and few others faint at this sight. Sri Krishna saves Draupadi from being dishonoured, by giving his "Akshaya Vastra" when she was being disrobed by Dushyasana. Sri Krishna shows His cosmic form to Arjuna in the battle field; expounds "Bhagavad Gita"(the essence of Upanishads) to him. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna declares himself as the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of the entire universe. In particular, in Chapter X & XI, Sri Krishna shows that the entire universe is but a fraction of His unbounded splendour and that everything amanates from Him and merges in His cosmic from. Sri Krishna declares unequivocally that He is the goal of all existance and advises Souls to surrender to Him(Chapter XVIII.66). This is the summum bonum of all teachings and is called "Charmasloka" in the Srivaishnava Sampradayam Sarva Dharmaan Parityajya Maam Ekam Sharanam Vraja, Aham tva Sarva Papebyo Moksha Isyaami maa Sucha" The Puranas: The Vishnu Purana: Sri Parasara, the author of the Vishnu purana establishes that Vishnu is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of this universe. This purana also states that all these activities are His play(Lila or Krida) and Vishnu is superior to the other Gods of the Trinity; Brahma and Shiva. The Bhagavata Purana: In Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Krishna is declared to be Purna-Avatara- "Krishnastu Bhagavan Swayam", while the earlier Avataras are treated as Vibhava Avataras. He is said to possess all the six supreme qualities of perfection, "Bhaga" such as Jnana(Supreme Knowledge), Sakti(Supreme Potency), Bala(Supreme Strength), Aisvarya(Supreme Lordship), Virya(Supreme Virility) and Tejas(Supreme Splendour). As a avatara of Lord Vishnu, Sri Krishna establishes the twin qualities of Paratva.(transcendental character or Supremacy) and Saulabhya(easy accessibility) to a remarkable degree. Much more than in Ramayana, Bhagavatam contains numerous episodes testifying to Sri Vishnu’s Supremacy. Viz. Divine adventurous stories of Dhruva, Prahlada, Gajendra, Krishna’s sport with Gopi’s at Brindavan, the slaying of demoness Putana, Sakatasura, poisonous serpent Kaliya, Demon-King Kamsa, Emperor Naraka and others.

SRI and Vaishnavam philosophy - the link of this school with Sri his consort Sri is regarded as the Mother of the Universe, also acts as a mediatrix(purushakara as referred in Sri Pillai Lokacharya’s Srivachanabhusanam) between man and God bringing man close to God and thirdly she is mentioned as the teacher(acharya) in the transmission of this tradition. This school of thought recently systematised by Sri Ramanuja Godess Sri occupies a important place. In the Vishnu Purana, the author Sri Parasara glorifies Lord Vishnu who is the Supreme being always associated with Sri or Lakshmi as mutually inseparable, Whatever form the Lord may take, Sri joins him is a suitable form. In the Ramayana, Laksmi becomes Sita; in days of Sri Krishna avatara(Dwapara Yuga), Sri becomes Rukmini as understood in the couplet below : "raghavatve abhavat sita, rukmini krishna janmani anyesu ca avataresu visnoresanapayini" According to tradition, Sri has several connotations:

Srnati (nikhilan dosan) She removes all sins.

Srinati (ca gunair jagat) She nourishes the world by her virtues.

Sriyate (ca akhilair nityam) She is resorted to by all beings forever.

Srayate (paramampadam) She stays in the Highest abode.

Srnoti She hears the petitions.

Sravayati She makes the Lord hear.

In the Purusha Sukta, Lakshmi(Sri) and Bhudevi(Hri) are described as two consorts of Lord Vishnu "Hrishcha te Lakshmischa Patnyau..." In the Sri Suktha, she is described as Godess of plenty, Charm and golden complexion, seated in the Lord’s Chest, hearing the cries od humanity, having a charitable disposition and keeping the Lord always in good humour to forgive the sins of men. In the Chatuhsloki, a hymn composed by Yamunacharya(Sri Alavandhar), describes Sri as Godess of plenty, prosperity, compassion and supreme authority, all other Gods & Godesses as subordinate to Her, She stays in the Vaikuntha (Nitya-Vibhuti) along with Her Lord Vishnu, She is so great that even She Herself or the Lord does not know Her greatness in full. Without Her grace, none can aspire for any welfare in any of the world. She as an Acharya can even grant liberation through Her grace. Many other Acharyas have sung hymns in praise of Lakshmi - Sriistava by Sri Kuresa, Sri Gunaratnakosa by Sri Parasara Bhattar and more. In the Saranagathi Gadya, Sri Ramanuja refers to Lakshmi as follows :

Akhila Jaganmaataram - Mother of the whole world

Asaranyasaranyam - Refuge of all the helpless

Nityanapayinim - Never separated from the Lord Asankheya-Kalyana

Gunaganam - Possessor of innumerable auspicious qualities

 

It is to Her that Sri Ramanuja makes Saranagathi(Surrender) first requesting Her to bless him in his effforts to perform Saranagathi at the feet of the Lord, thus confirming Her role as the Purusakara(Meidatrix). Sri Sita, who is none other than Godess Lakshmi, intercedes with Sri Rama and saves Kakasura (the deamon crow) from sure death even though the latter had grievously hurt her. Another instance is that when Hanuman wanted to kill the Raksasis who were tormenting and torturing Sri Sita in Ravana’s Asokavana, Sri Sita pleads to Hanuman and protects them from Hanuman’s wrath, She tells Hanuman that "a noble person must be kind even to the most abominable sinners, there is none in this world who does not err (na Kascin-naparadhyati)".

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SRIVAISHNAVISM - A CONSCISE STUDY - PART II

The Three realities

There are three realities or tattvas (tattvatraya), according to Visistadvaita philosophy. These are:

Cit (all living beings)

Acit (inanimate) or prakriti and

Isvara (the Supreme Lord)

CIT

Cit or sentient being or soul, is the name given to millions of Jivas. Each jiva or soul, is different from a body it inhabits, the sense organs, mind, vital airs(pranas); it is eternal , self-manifest, indestructible and is blissful by nature. Each soul of jiva acquires a body (a clothing as it were) made out of the evolutes of Prakriti given to it by the Ultimate Reality, God, in keeping with its past karma, inside each jiva dwells Isvara who supports the jiva.

Knowledge is a quality which characterises the jiva in all states of existence of the human body, wakefulness, dream-perception, deep-sleep and transcendental stage. Thus, it never loses its identity and is forever clothed in and inseparable from the knowledge which is in-born in it.

This knowledge is called "Dharma-Bhuta-Jnana" or "attributive consciousness", it is self-luminous.

But being in association with perishable and decaying Prakrti, the soul goes through the cycle of births and deaths; when it is in the womb or is born, its knowledge expands or contracts in proportion to its merits or demerits. At some point of time, with the grace of Supreme Lord, and by adopting Bhakthi Yoga or Saranagati, the soul will extricate itself from this transmigratory existence and attain Moksha.(Sri Vaikuntham), or the Supreme Abode. While attaining the state of liberation, its knowledge expands larger and becomes almost equal to the knowledge of the Supreme Reality.

Isvara or Paramatman who resides inside the jivas is unmoved by the jivas experiences or actions and is a silent spectator thereof.

There are three types of jivas :

Nityas - the ever - free souls

Muktas - the liberated jivas (from samsara)

Baddhas - the bound who live in

NITYAS

Nityas or Nityasuries, as they are also called, are eternal souls; these are ever-liberated souls like Ananta, Garuda, Visvaksena(Commander-in-Chief) etc. respectively, the great serpent, Adisesa which is the bed of Lord Vishnu, the divine eagle which is His Vehicle and the Commander-in-chief of divine forces and the foremost. In the Rahasyatrayasara, the Nityas manifest their essential nature without any beginning, and they are totally dependent on the Lord. Further there is no mutual difference between their respective states of continuous existence in time. The service they render to the Lord, though also different, forms a continuous stream. Nityas have no cycle of births and deaths. Except when the Lord assigns them some functions, for a specific purpose , in the mundane universe like when Ananta or Adisesa took avataras as Lakshmana along with Sri Rama and as Balarama along with Sri Krsna, Visvaksena and Garuda assumed the advent of Nammalvar and Perialwar respectively, they do not take birth in this mortal world.

Muktas

Muktas are those jivas who were initially involved in samsara, or the cycle of birth and death, and subsequently, by the grace of God, broke this chain of samsara by following Bhakthi-marga(loving devotion) or Saranagati (whole-hearted surrender) and have reached Sri Vaikuntham. The Muktas are those realized souls who have attained their essential nature in a manifest condition, and whose self-realisation will last eternally. The only difference between one Mukta and other is his having realised himself earlier or later. Muktas are engaged in a specific kind of service in a manner directed by the Lord for his delectation in the supreme abode (Paramapada) also blissful by nature and live in a state of supreme satisfaction.

Baddhas

The Baddhas are bound souls (human beings, animals, etc) who continue to be entangled in the cycle of transmigration and unable to realize themselves through the effect of their previous actions. The baddha-jivas can also become Muktas by the Grace of God and through the performance of Bhakthi yoga or through the act of Prapatti.

After liberation they join the ranks of Muktas and reside in Sri Vaikuntham serving the Lord in a capacity that the Lord himself orders/confers upon them. Such a service (kainkarya) to Lord Visnu and Goddess Lakshmi. His consort is the summum bonum of human existence, according to Sri Ramanuja's system.

ACIT

Acit or Prakrti primarily means primordial matter and consists 24 evolutes according to Sankya philosophy. This evolution is depicted in the following chart. The total evolutes, including the first three are 24 in number. The whole world of matter and the bodies for souls are evolved out of Prakrti under the Will of God.

 

ISVARA

 

The third reality is Isvara, the ultimate unchanging reality who creates the universe consisting of jiva (souls) and the evolutes of Prakrti (matter) and has them under His control. He creates this material world from acit or prakrti for the benefit of jivas (souls). On Isvara depend the existence of the other realities, for they constitute His body in myriad forms. Being impartial, He gives each jiva a body in accordance with its past karma. He does not interfere with the jivas going through with their Karma and getting involved in the cycle of samsara. But He bestows his grace on the jivas at an appropriate time when the jivas will yearn for salvation and take recourse to Bhakti marga or prapatti (total surrender)

He has an infinite number of virtues, among which sadgunya or bhaga is the main : Strength, Knowledge, Lordship, Valour, Energy and Splendour, Goodness, spontaneous love and similar qualities make him accessible to all.

This action-oriented world consisting of jivas and prakrti-(Souls and matter) is Isvara lilavibhuti, where He exhibits His above mentioned innumerable qualities for which He has no opportunity in His Nitya-Vibhuti or Sri Vaikuntham

Isvara is full of Suddhasattva and there is no admixture of rajas, not to speak of tamas at all, in His form.

At all times and in all circumstances, Isvara is associated with His consort Goddess Sri or Lakshmi( on His right chest) and hence He is referred to as ‘Sriyahpatih’. As He is the supporter of jiva and prakrti and also resides in them, He exists everywhere. He is also called Sriman Narayana or Lord Vishnu or Parabrahman or Paramatman.

At the time of cosmic dissolution (Paralaya) which occurs at the end of Kalpa or four yugas, Acit and Cit are withdrawn by Him in his form and exist in a subtle state, possessing none of the qualities which makes them objects of experience or cognising objects. From this subtle state, creation evolves by the will of Isvara; and subtle matter (acit) reemerges as gross matter or prakrti.

 

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Five forms of Eshawara - Lord Vishnu

According to Sri Vaishnava Agamas, Lord Vishnu has five forms(aspects or modes).They are Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Antaryami and Arcavatara.

In his treatise, the Srivachanabhusanam, Sri Pillai Lokacharya describes the five forms as follows: "Para form of the Lord is like the waters which surround the cosmos. Vyuhas are like the milky ocean. Vibhava forms are like flash floods. Antaryami is like the subsoil water. Archa form is like the water that oozes in small puddles on the banks of a river or the seashore."

These are elaborated below:-

PARA:

Para is the highest form of Vishnu found only in Sri Vaikuntha also called Nityavibhuti or Moksha, along with his consorts Sri, Bhumi and Nila and surrounded by Nityasuries, like Ananta, Garuda, Visvaksena and a host of Muktas(liberated souls). The Alvars have sung in great ecstasy about this beatific form of the Lord. The Para form is called Para Vasudeva or Sthula(gross)-Vasudeva with four arms, holding conch, disc, mace and lotus.

Further, Sri Nadadur Ammal (Sri Vatsya Varadacharya) describes the Lord in Nitya-vibhuti as folows in his Paratvadi pancakastuti. "In beautiful Vaikuntham as bright as thousand suns, resides Sri Paravasudeva, incarnation of pure knowledge, one without impurity, full of Suddha satva with six gunas or qualities-Jnana, Bala, Aisvarya, Virya, Sakti and Tejas; Lord of Nityasuries holding conch and disc, shining with beautiful apparel and ornaments, served by Sri Devi, Bhu Devi and Nila Devi, resting happily on Ananta (Adisesa), I pray to Him."

VYUHA

The Vyuhas are emanations from the above mentioned Para Vasudeva form, and are four in number, collectively called, Catur Vyuha Brahman. They are Vyuha Vasudeva(or simply Vasudeva), Sankarsana Pradyumna and Aniruddha. They are said to exercise different cosmic functions and principles, and control the activities of all living beings through jiva, manas and ahankara (soul, mind and ego) respectively. While the Vyuha Vasudeva form has all the six perfections (bhaga) jnana, bala, aisvarya, virya, sakti and tejas in full measure, the other three have two qualities each (Viz)

FORM PREDOMINANT QUALITIES PRESIDES OVER INCHARGE OF WHAT HE GIVES

Sankarsana Jnana & Bala (Wisdom & Strength) Jiva-Tattva (Life principle) Destruction Theoretical knowledge of the Agamas(mandates)

Pradyumna Aisvarya & Virya (Lordship & Virlity) Mano-Tattva (Mind principle) Preservation Practice of the Agamas

Aniruddha Sakti & Tejas (Power & Splendour) Ahankara (Ego) Creation Fruits of following the Agamas

Even in the Vibhavas, these four Vyuhas correspond to Sri Krsn(Vasudeva) Balarama (Sankarsana) Pradyumna and Aniruddha; they are: Sri Krsna, His brother, His son through Rukmini and His grandson (Pradyuman's son) respectively.

There is also another link between Vyuhas and Avataras. From the last of the Vyuhas Viz. Aniruddha, descend the Dasa Avataras.

Further the above four Vyuhas give rise to another series of sub-vyuhas, (vyuhantaras) which preside over the different kinds of a sadhaka (Spiritual aspirant) according to the Agama Satras:

Vasudeva - Kesava, Narayana, Madhava

Sankarsana - Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusudana

Pradyumna - Trivikrama, Vamana, Sridhara

Aniruddha - Hrsikesa, Padmanabha and Damodara.

The twelve Vyuhantara forms and the parts of the body they control are given below.

Kesava - Forehead

Narayana - Lower Abdomen(centre)

Madhava - Chest

Govinda - Front Neck (Centre)

Vishnu - Lower Abdomen (right)

Madhusudana - Righ arm

Trivikrama - Neck (right side)

Vamana - Lower Abdomen(left)

Sridhara - Left Arm

Hrisikesa - Neck (left Side)

Padmanabha - Back (Lower spinal)

Damodara - Back (upper spinal)

Vasudeva - Top of the Head

Since the human body is made out Prakrti(matter) which also forms the body of the Lord, these Vyuhantara forms reside in the parts of the body noted against each form. Further, these forms are supposed to represent the twelve signs in the universe, corresponding to the twelve zodiacs. After wearing the Sri Vaisnava marks(Dvadasa urdhva-pundram) on the spots indicated which externally display the vyuhantara forms, the Lord is saluted by chanting the appropriate name with Anjali Mudra (folded arms) near the corresponding part of the body (anjalih parama mudra ksipram devaprasadini)

VIBHAVA

Apart from the Vyuhas the Lord is said to assume various manifestations, from time to time, to protect the virtuous, punish the evil-doers(wicked) and re-establish Dharma. These manifestations are called Vibhavas, more popularly Avataras or descents into the world. The theory of Avatara finds a place in the Vedas eg. "ajayamano bahudha vijayate"(one who does not have birth at all., but appears or is born as several)"ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti"(the reality is one, but the wise call it by various names). The Bhagavad Gita is the classical source for the theory of Avatara where Lord Krishna Himself says :

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati Bharatha

Abhuythanam adharmasya tada atamanam srjamyaham.

Paritranaya Sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam

Dharma samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge"

The well known avataras are 10 in number:

Mathsya, Kurma, Varaha, Nrisimha, Vamana, (fish, tortise, boar, man-lion, dwarf), Parasurama, Sri Rama and Balarama , Sri Krishna and Kalki. (matsyah, kurma varahasca narasimhasca vamanah, ramo ramasca krsnah kalki janardanah).

Srimad Bhagavatam mentions numerous avataras which include also other principal avataras like Kapila, Rahujit, Dattatreya, Nara-Narayana, Hari, Purusottama, Hayagriva etc

ANTARYAMI

Antaryami or "Suksma Vasudeva" is the form in which the ultimate reality Lord Vishnu exists in a very subtle from, in the hearts of all living beings.

Invisible and full of bliss, the Antaryami form is said to have two hands with crystal-like complexion dressed in yellow robes. "Antaryami" literally means one who controls from inside. In the Narayana Anuvaka of Taittiriya Upanisad (2-25/25-5-6-7)

"antarbahisca tat sarvam vyapya narayanahsthitah

Anantamavyayam kavigm samudre antam visva sambhuvam

Padmakosapratikasam hrdayam capyathomukham

Atho Nishthya vitastyam tu nabhyamupari tisthati

Hrdayam tadvijaniyat vis visvasyayatanam mahat"

It is stated that Narayana resides in that infinitesimal small place below the heart of every being shaped like an inverted lotus bud and appears to His devotees in a manner and form cherished by them, and with particular characteristics or qualities as worshiped by them. Smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest , the Lord resides both inside and outside of every individual or thing in the universe.

Since the Antaryami form (aspect) of the Lord resides in the heart and yogis realise Him seated there, the form is also called "harda". As Antaryami, the Lord accepts manasika puja of the devotees, such as meditation, mental offering of sacred water, fruits, food etc. and mental salutations(Mangalsasanam). Such worship to the Antaryami form can be done by anyone at any place and at any time. Although residing in every being , the Antaryami has no relation or link with the actions or fruits thereof undertaken by these beings.

At the time of the death of a person, Antaryami helps the souls to come out of the body through murdhanya nadi (top of the head) and escorts the soul to the Lords Abode viz. SriVaikuntham.

ARCAVATARA

The fifth form of the Lord , Arcavatara or Image manifestation, is very easily accessible and visible to all. Since we cannot worship Para, Vyuha, Vibhava and Antaryami forms which can be only imagined or meditated upon and since they are beyond our reach, the Acaryas point out that Arcavatara alone suits us the most. In Arca form the Lord receives prayers from devotees and grants their prayers and blesses them; Saranagati or Prapatti or surrender is done to the Lord in the Arca form only. Though installed and made by human beings or sometimes existing from time immemorial(revealed by God Himself), the Image form of the Lord become divine, the moment it is installed or worshipped by the Acharyas, according to the rules laid down in the Agamas. It is full of perfection and is no longer a image of material nature.

According to our preceptors the Supreme Lord not only pervades the Icon but also makes it His Special Abode, transposing His true nature as the master of all, absolutely independent and above all wants.

There are 108 sacred Places(108 Divya Deshas) where Alvars have sung in praise of Arca forms and realised Godhead. The poetic description of the Lord can be seen in the DivyaPrabandam which is the 4000 divine collection of hymns. Each of the Alvar held a particular Arca form as very dear to them and have sung copious verses in praise of that form.

The Arca forms can be classified as follows :

Svyamvakta - Arca forms revealed by God himself and not made by man; Egs: Lord Srinivasa at Tirupati, Lord Badrinarayana at Badrinath , Lord Ranganatha at Srirangam, Lord Boovarahaa at SriMusnam, Lord Thotadrinatha at Vanamaamalai., Lord Srihari at Salagramam., Lord Devaraja at Naimisaranyam, Lord Narayana at Puskaram.. The Saligramam worshipped at homes also come under this category.

Daiva - In some places, the Devas or Celestials have installed Arcamurti of the Lord; Eg : Lord Krsna at Guruvayur installed by Guru the divine preceptor and Vayu, the wind god.

Arsa - These are Arca forms installed by sages. Eg : The Uppiliappan temple near Kumbakonam.

Manusa - These are idols installed by men and consecrated according to Agama Sastras.

Abhimana - Eg: Lord Thirunarayana at Melkote, Lord Jaganatha at Puri.

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Means of Liberation

Visistadvaita philosophy holds that Bhakthi-yoga and Prapatti or Saranagati (total surrender) form the twin methods of attaining salvation, and out of these two, Prapatti is easier and can be practised by all. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krisna has dealt with extensively on the three Yogas, Karma, Jnana and Bhakthi and also on Prapatti marga being available to those who seek to reach him. While Visistadavaita preceptors before Sri Ramanuja and the Alwars before Him, chose Bhakthi-yoga as the most efficacious method of getting release from the cycle of birth and also advocated Saranagati or total surrender to the Lord as another means. It was left to Sri Ramanuja to expatiate on Saranagati at great length as the surest and easiest method of getting moksha by even ordinary people. Preceptors who followed Him, like Sri Pllai Lokacharya systematised this approach further in many treaties and laid down rules thereunder. The following paragraphs deal with each of the four methods, the three yogas and Saranagati.

Karma-Yoga

Karma yoga is said to be an indirect means to liberation (Moksha) through the medium of karma (duty or action). Such action should be disinterested and done without attachment to a) the fruits thereof b) the doership and c) the action itself. These three injuctions, Sri Alavandar (Yamuna) explains in his Gitartha-sangraha as follows: "Action should be performed not as a means towards another end but as an end in itself; when action is done, one should think that" this is not done in my nature, it is promoted by gunas(senses) of my body, the doer of the act is really Bhagavan; the thought that "this act is mine" should be abandoned, for every action should be done as the worship of God by which He is pleased; hence the action that is conducive to His pleasure is really His action, not the doer's. This attitude of triple abandonment is successfully brought out in the sattvika-tyagam which every devotee utters at the beginning and end of each karma viz;

"Bhagvaneva svaniyamya svarupa-sthitti-pravrtti-

svasesataikarasena maya svakiyaisca upakaranaih

svaradhanaika-prayojanaya paramapurusah sarvasesi

sriyapattih svas esabhutamidam------

karma svasmai svapritaye svayameva karayati

(at the beginning of a ritual)

karitavan ( at the end of the ritual)

The abandonment of these three kinds of attachments is the basic foundation of karma-yoga. By doing karma in this fashion, assures Lord krsna in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter IV(21-23), the individual will realise the Atman without the intervention of Jnana yoga, he is not bound even though he does Karma-yoga only and not Jnana yoga; and his past karmas which are the causes of his present bondage vanish completely without trace.

There are three types of Karmas to be performed: a) Nitya-karma or obligatory duties must be performed without fail like the daily sandhyavandana; b) Naimittika-karma or duties to be performed on specific occasions like eclipses of sun and moon, Ceremonies, rites for departed souls, etc. c) Kamya-karma or duties which are performed for the sake of fulfilment of ones (lawful)desires or in search of fruits(actions done for house warming, for the birth of a child, etc). The first two duties or rites have to be performed without any desire for the fruits and hence have also to be performed regularly in accordance with the prescribed rules.

Again, Karma yoga has many segments [refer Bahgavad Gita, Chapter IV(25-30)] which are a) worship of images; b) performance of karmas with the thought that the doer, instrument and offering are all God's own; c) control of the senses; d) withdrawal of senses from the sense-objects; e) control of mind; f) making gifts, making offerings or worshiping images with properly acquired means; g) fasting in various ways;. h) pilgrimages to holy places and bathing in holy streams; i) recitation of the Vedas; j) studying the meaning of the Vedas; k) regualtion of breath. An individual may select anyone of these karmas and do it steadily without break, and he is sure to realise the atman (self).

By doing Karma-yoga in the manner described above, an individual automatically has recourse to Jnana yoga, attains control over his mind and realises that he is the atman and not the body. This in turn, leads to the penultimate step, Bhakti-yoga which is nothing but single pointed, loving devotion to God. It is accompanied by operations like placing flowers at his feet and prostrating before the Lord. In other words the three yogas are very much interspersed with one another:

"Karmayogas-tapas-tirtha-dana-yajnadi-sevanam!

Jnanayogo jitasvantaih paris uddhatmani sthitih!!

Bhakthiyogh-paraikanmtapriya dhyanadisu sthitih

Trayanamapi yoganam tribhiranyonyasari gamah!

Jnana yoga

Jnana-yoga is the constant and uninterrupted contemplation of the nature of one's real self, svarupa, as distinct from one's body, senses etc; through the practice of karma-yoga. The practitioner of Jnana-yoga realises that his real self, which is the jivatma, is really the body (sarira)of the Lord, because it is supported and controlled by Him and serves His purposes. The jnana yogi, or the one who practices Jnana-yoga, passes through four successive stages of realisation that (a) the atman of all human beings are similar (b) there is also a similarity between Isvara and atmas © the atmas also possess infinite knowledge like Isvara and (d) the world of action, joys and sorrows has nothing to do with Him. He becomes a sthithaprajna, one with a steadfast mind.

Once a person attains the true vision about his self in the manner indicated above, he is likely to tarry at this stage itself, the pleasure of which is greater than any he has known before. However, he must move on further and practice the Bhakti-yoga, which is the direct means for attaining (doing service to) the supreme Lord. Thus, Jnana-yoga is an intermediate step between Karma-yoga and Bhakthi-yoga. Sri Vedantha Desika describes Jnana-yoga as a transparent cloth which is tied around a gem, which is seen first, but which has to be removed before the gem itself can be seen.

Bhakthi Yoga

According to Visistadvaita system, Bhakthi-yoga the path of loving devotion is one sure means of liberation from the cycle fo birth and death, the other sure means being prapatti(whole-hearted surrender). Bhakthi-yoga is developed through the twin disciplines of Karma-yoga and Jnana-yoga. A person who wants to adopt Bhakthi-yoga to attain Moksha should first of all do his duties without any attachment to the fruits therof (Karma-yoga), develop real knowledge about the soul being different from the body (Jnana-yoga), and then immerse himself in unalloyed love and service to the Supreme Brahman. Bhakti-yoga is not mere emotionalism, says Sri Ramanuja. It involves training one's mind and intellect towards pure, continuous, unalloyed love of God. Non-stop or constant contemplation is the very essence of Bhakti. Sri Ramanuja compares it to the continuous flow of oil when poured from one vessel to another (tailadharavad aviccinna-smrti-santana- parampara) and says that the term "Vedanam", 'Upasanam, 'Dhyanam', 'Nididhyasanam', 'Dhruva anusmrtih", found in the Upanishads, along with the term 'Jnanam' are all synonymous with bhakti. Bhakti is derived from the root "Bhaj" meaning loving devotion. The following verse which speaks of nine methods of pure devotion is quite popular :

"Sravanam, Kirtanam Visnoh, Smaranam, Padasevanam,

Arcanam, Vandanam, Dasyam, Sakhyam, Atmanivedanam"

These are:

Hearing discourses on the Lord Visnu;

Singing of His glories;

Remembering Him at all times;

Serving His lotus feet (worshipping him in sacred places);

Doing pooja to Him according to sastraic injunctions.

Prostrating to Him;

Serving Him like a servant;

Becoming His friend;

Offering everything one has including the body and soul to Him.

Our Acharyas have pointed out that Bhakthi can be cultivated through seven steps, called sadhanasaptaka which are listed below:

Viveka: Discrimination about food: taking sattvic food such as fruits, ghee, sweets, etc; becomes pure and in turn recollection and remembrance of the Lord becomes steady.

"aharassuddhau sattvasuddhih

sattvasuddhau dhruva smrtih"

Vimoka: Cessation of all desires for material enjoyment.

Abhyasa: Constant practice of the above two and repeatedly thinking of God.

Kriya: Performing five great yajnas (Pancamaha yajnas)according to one's capacity -

Brahma Yajna - Study and teaching of scriptures.

Pitr Yajna - Offering oblations to departed souls.

Daiva Yajna - Performing homa (fire sacrifice) for the Gods.

Bhuta Yajna - Offering food to other beings, like animals.

Nara Yajna - Hospitality to the guests.

(Of these five yajnas, Brahma-yajna cannot be performed by women and sudras).

Kalyana : Cultivating auspicious qualities like truthfulness, non-injury to animals; straightforwardness, etc

Anavasada : Not losing ones heart even in the worst calamities and continuing contemplation on God with cheerfulness.

Anuddharsa : Notbecoming overjoyed even when there appear systems that God is becoming very much favourable.

It has been pointed out that although these seven steps are prescribed in the scriptures, they are not easy for an average person to follow. Further, women and sudras are precluded from doing Brahma-Yajna, one of the five panchamaha yajnas which go to make up the firth step 'Kriya'. Thus, it can be stated that Bhakthi-Yoga is difficult to practice in the manner the Acharyas expect us, but there is an easier and more effective way (viz) Saranagati or prapatti which is explained here after.

Saranagathi or Prapatti

There are two paths to liberation i,e., the path of loving devotion (Bhakthi-marga) and the path of wholehearted surrender(Saranagathi or Prapatti). The former is open to the first three castes only and also excludes women from practicing it. As explained earlier, it involves arduous training and practice and continuous, non-stop contemplation of the God-head. To inculcate bhakthi one has to ascend nine steps; and Bhakthi-yoga involves a sevenfold discipline, (sadhana-saptakam). In contradistinction to bhakthi, Saranagathi or wholehearted surrender is far easier and can be adopted by one and all, without any distinction in caste, creed or sex and at any time and at any place. Saranagathi is essential to attain liberation. Like bhakthi, saranagathi is only a kind of mental attitude towards God. If a person is convinced that he cannot please God by his own personal efforts and that nothing else but His grace can save him, he becomes a saranagata or prapanna. Saranagati need be done only once; not again and again or continuous like bhakhti.

There are five angas or prerequisites for Saranagati which will make it complete and efficacious. These are :

Anukulya-Sankalpa: Resolving to do only acts which are favorable to God(Please see(a) below)

Pratikulya-varjana: Avoidance of acts which are not to God’s liking

Mahavisvasa: Firm(Unshaken faith that God alone will save. (Please see (b)below)

Goptrtva-varanam: Requesting the Lord for Protection

Akincayam/Karpanyam: Expression of meekness/helplessness.

a.)This includes following the duties enjoined in Varnasrama Dharma, respect to Bhagavatas, strictly refraining from worshipping other Gods, and worship of Lord Sriman Narayana alone.

b.) This quality is most important and is the very heart of Saranagati. Without Mahavisvasa, other angas are useless. After doing Saranagati one should observe all rules and perform Prayascitta for infringements on ones duties.

There are three modes by which one can do Saranagati:

(A).Svanistha : Applicable to Alvars, Acharyas, Rishis who have full knowledge of the requirements.

(B).Uktinisstha : Applicable to others and is done through an Acharya to the Lord. The Acharya recites sentences, in the presence of the Arcamurti conveying full surrender which are repeated by the aspirants.

©.Acaryanistha : Applicable to those who cannot adopt either of the above methods. In this case, the individual surrenders to the Acharya himself and out of compassion, the Acharya prays to the Arcamurti to look after the protection of the individual.

As a result of Saranagati, if properly done, the Lord will relieve the prapanna or saranagata of all past karmas which have not begun to yield fruits, called sancita karmas as well as karmas done in the present life which will give fruits in the future life, called agami karmas. Only prarabdha karma i.e, karmas which are responsible for present life which have atarted yielding giving fruits in the present life will remain untouched. Even here, if the karmas were done out of ignorance, the individual will be pardoned. If done consciously, he will get some minor punishments. The saranagatha can escape even minor punishments if he performs prayascitta according to sastras. Thus a saranagata will divest himself of all the fruits of his past and present karmas and will be fit to reach God.

 

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SRIVAISHNAVISM - A CONSCISE STUDY - PART IV

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Means of Liberation

Visistadvaita philosophy holds that Bhakthi-yoga and Prapatti or Saranagati (total surrender) form the twin methods of attaining salvation, and out of these two, Prapatti is easier and can be practised by all. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krisna has dealt with extensively on the three Yogas, Karma, Jnana and Bhakthi and also on Prapatti marga being available to those who seek to reach him. While Visistadavaita preceptors before Sri Ramanuja and the Alwars before Him, chose Bhakthi-yoga as the most efficacious method of getting release from the cycle of birth and also advocated Saranagati or total surrender to the Lord as another means. It was left to Sri Ramanuja to expatiate on Saranagati at great length as the surest and easiest method of getting moksha by even ordinary people. Preceptors who followed Him, like Sri Pllai Lokacharya systematised this approach further in many treaties and laid down rules thereunder. The following paragraphs deal with each of the four methods, the three yogas and Saranagati.

Karma-Yoga

Karma yoga is said to be an indirect means to liberation (Moksha) through the medium of karma (duty or action). Such action should be disinterested and done without attachment to a) the fruits thereof b) the doership and c) the action itself. These three injuctions, Sri Alavandar (Yamuna) explains in his Gitartha-sangraha as follows: "Action should be performed not as a means towards another end but as an end in itself; when action is done, one should think that" this is not done in my nature, it is promoted by gunas(senses) of my body, the doer of the act is really Bhagavan; the thought that "this act is mine" should be abandoned, for every action should be done as the worship of God by which He is pleased; hence the action that is conducive to His pleasure is really His action, not the doer's. This attitude of triple abandonment is successfully brought out in the sattvika-tyagam which every devotee utters at the beginning and end of each karma viz;

"Bhagvaneva svaniyamya svarupa-sthitti-pravrtti-

svasesataikarasena maya svakiyaisca upakaranaih

svaradhanaika-prayojanaya paramapurusah sarvasesi

sriyapattih svas esabhutamidam------

karma svasmai svapritaye svayameva karayati

(at the beginning of a ritual)

karitavan ( at the end of the ritual)

The abandonment of these three kinds of attachments is the basic foundation of karma-yoga. By doing karma in this fashion, assures Lord krsna in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter IV(21-23), the individual will realise the Atman without the intervention of Jnana yoga, he is not bound even though he does Karma-yoga only and not Jnana yoga; and his past karmas which are the causes of his present bondage vanish completely without trace.

There are three types of Karmas to be performed: a) Nitya-karma or obligatory duties must be performed without fail like the daily sandhyavandana; b) Naimittika-karma or duties to be performed on specific occasions like eclipses of sun and moon, Ceremonies, rites for departed souls, etc. c) Kamya-karma or duties which are performed for the sake of fulfilment of ones (lawful)desires or in search of fruits(actions done for house warming, for the birth of a child, etc). The first two duties or rites have to be performed without any desire for the fruits and hence have also to be performed regularly in accordance with the prescribed rules.

Again, Karma yoga has many segments [refer Bahgavad Gita, Chapter IV(25-30)] which are a) worship of images; b) performance of karmas with the thought that the doer, instrument and offering are all God's own; c) control of the senses; d) withdrawal of senses from the sense-objects; e) control of mind; f) making gifts, making offerings or worshiping images with properly acquired means; g) fasting in various ways;. h) pilgrimages to holy places and bathing in holy streams; i) recitation of the Vedas; j) studying the meaning of the Vedas; k) regualtion of breath. An individual may select anyone of these karmas and do it steadily without break, and he is sure to realise the atman (self).

By doing Karma-yoga in the manner described above, an individual automatically has recourse to Jnana yoga, attains control over his mind and realises that he is the atman and not the body. This in turn, leads to the penultimate step, Bhakti-yoga which is nothing but single pointed, loving devotion to God. It is accompanied by operations like placing flowers at his feet and prostrating before the Lord. In other words the three yogas are very much interspersed with one another:

"Karmayogas-tapas-tirtha-dana-yajnadi-sevanam!

Jnanayogo jitasvantaih paris uddhatmani sthitih!!

Bhakthiyogh-paraikanmtapriya dhyanadisu sthitih

Trayanamapi yoganam tribhiranyonyasari gamah!

Jnana yoga

Jnana-yoga is the constant and uninterrupted contemplation of the nature of one's real self, svarupa, as distinct from one's body, senses etc; through the practice of karma-yoga. The practitioner of Jnana-yoga realises that his real self, which is the jivatma, is really the body (sarira)of the Lord, because it is supported and controlled by Him and serves His purposes. The jnana yogi, or the one who practices Jnana-yoga, passes through four successive stages of realisation that (a) the atman of all human beings are similar (b) there is also a similarity between Isvara and atmas © the atmas also possess infinite knowledge like Isvara and (d) the world of action, joys and sorrows has nothing to do with Him. He becomes a sthithaprajna, one with a steadfast mind.

Once a person attains the true vision about his self in the manner indicated above, he is likely to tarry at this stage itself, the pleasure of which is greater than any he has known before. However, he must move on further and practice the Bhakti-yoga, which is the direct means for attaining (doing service to) the supreme Lord. Thus, Jnana-yoga is an intermediate step between Karma-yoga and Bhakthi-yoga. Sri Vedantha Desika describes Jnana-yoga as a transparent cloth which is tied around a gem, which is seen first, but which has to be removed before the gem itself can be seen.

Bhakthi Yoga

According to Visistadvaita system, Bhakthi-yoga the path of loving devotion is one sure means of liberation from the cycle fo birth and death, the other sure means being prapatti(whole-hearted surrender). Bhakthi-yoga is developed through the twin disciplines of Karma-yoga and Jnana-yoga. A person who wants to adopt Bhakthi-yoga to attain Moksha should first of all do his duties without any attachment to the fruits therof (Karma-yoga), develop real knowledge about the soul being different from the body (Jnana-yoga), and then immerse himself in unalloyed love and service to the Supreme Brahman. Bhakti-yoga is not mere emotionalism, says Sri Ramanuja. It involves training one's mind and intellect towards pure, continuous, unalloyed love of God. Non-stop or constant contemplation is the very essence of Bhakti. Sri Ramanuja compares it to the continuous flow of oil when poured from one vessel to another (tailadharavad aviccinna-smrti-santana- parampara) and says that the term "Vedanam", 'Upasanam, 'Dhyanam', 'Nididhyasanam', 'Dhruva anusmrtih", found in the Upanishads, along with the term 'Jnanam' are all synonymous with bhakti. Bhakti is derived from the root "Bhaj" meaning loving devotion. The following verse which speaks of nine methods of pure devotion is quite popular :

"Sravanam, Kirtanam Visnoh, Smaranam, Padasevanam,

Arcanam, Vandanam, Dasyam, Sakhyam, Atmanivedanam"

These are:

Hearing discourses on the Lord Visnu;

Singing of His glories;

Remembering Him at all times;

Serving His lotus feet (worshipping him in sacred places);

Doing pooja to Him according to sastraic injunctions.

Prostrating to Him;

Serving Him like a servant;

Becoming His friend;

Offering everything one has including the body and soul to Him.

Our Acharyas have pointed out that Bhakthi can be cultivated through seven steps, called sadhanasaptaka which are listed below:

Viveka: Discrimination about food: taking sattvic food such as fruits, ghee, sweets, etc; becomes pure and in turn recollection and remembrance of the Lord becomes steady.

"aharassuddhau sattvasuddhih

sattvasuddhau dhruva smrtih"

Vimoka: Cessation of all desires for material enjoyment.

Abhyasa: Constant practice of the above two and repeatedly thinking of God.

Kriya: Performing five great yajnas (Pancamaha yajnas)according to one's capacity -

Brahma Yajna - Study and teaching of scriptures.

Pitr Yajna - Offering oblations to departed souls.

Daiva Yajna - Performing homa (fire sacrifice) for the Gods.

Bhuta Yajna - Offering food to other beings, like animals.

Nara Yajna - Hospitality to the guests.

(Of these five yajnas, Brahma-yajna cannot be performed by women and sudras).

Kalyana : Cultivating auspicious qualities like truthfulness, non-injury to animals; straightforwardness, etc

Anavasada : Not losing ones heart even in the worst calamities and continuing contemplation on God with cheerfulness.

Anuddharsa : Notbecoming overjoyed even when there appear systems that God is becoming very much favourable.

It has been pointed out that although these seven steps are prescribed in the scriptures, they are not easy for an average person to follow. Further, women and sudras are precluded from doing Brahma-Yajna, one of the five panchamaha yajnas which go to make up the firth step 'Kriya'. Thus, it can be stated that Bhakthi-Yoga is difficult to practice in the manner the Acharyas expect us, but there is an easier and more effective way (viz) Saranagati or prapatti which is explained here after.

Saranagathi or Prapatti

There are two paths to liberation i,e., the path of loving devotion (Bhakthi-marga) and the path of wholehearted surrender(Saranagathi or Prapatti). The former is open to the first three castes only and also excludes women from practicing it. As explained earlier, it involves arduous training and practice and continuous, non-stop contemplation of the God-head. To inculcate bhakthi one has to ascend nine steps; and Bhakthi-yoga involves a sevenfold discipline, (sadhana-saptakam). In contradistinction to bhakthi, Saranagathi or wholehearted surrender is far easier and can be adopted by one and all, without any distinction in caste, creed or sex and at any time and at any place. Saranagathi is essential to attain liberation. Like bhakthi, saranagathi is only a kind of mental attitude towards God. If a person is convinced that he cannot please God by his own personal efforts and that nothing else but His grace can save him, he becomes a saranagata or prapanna. Saranagati need be done only once; not again and again or continuous like bhakhti.

There are five angas or prerequisites for Saranagati which will make it complete and efficacious. These are :

Anukulya-Sankalpa: Resolving to do only acts which are favorable to God(Please see(a) below)

Pratikulya-varjana: Avoidance of acts which are not to God’s liking

Mahavisvasa: Firm(Unshaken faith that God alone will save. (Please see (b)below)

Goptrtva-varanam: Requesting the Lord for Protection

Akincayam/Karpanyam: Expression of meekness/helplessness.

a.)This includes following the duties enjoined in Varnasrama Dharma, respect to Bhagavatas, strictly refraining from worshipping other Gods, and worship of Lord Sriman Narayana alone.

b.) This quality is most important and is the very heart of Saranagati. Without Mahavisvasa, other angas are useless. After doing Saranagati one should observe all rules and perform Prayascitta for infringements on ones duties.

There are three modes by which one can do Saranagati:

(A).Svanistha : Applicable to Alvars, Acharyas, Rishis who have full knowledge of the requirements.

(B).Uktinisstha : Applicable to others and is done through an Acharya to the Lord. The Acharya recites sentences, in the presence of the Arcamurti conveying full surrender which are repeated by the aspirants.

©.Acaryanistha : Applicable to those who cannot adopt either of the above methods. In this case, the individual surrenders to the Acharya himself and out of compassion, the Acharya prays to the Arcamurti to look after the protection of the individual.

As a result of Saranagati, if properly done, the Lord will relieve the prapanna or saranagata of all past karmas which have not begun to yield fruits, called sancita karmas as well as karmas done in the present life which will give fruits in the future life, called agami karmas. Only prarabdha karma i.e, karmas which are responsible for present life which have atarted yielding giving fruits in the present life will remain untouched. Even here, if the karmas were done out of ignorance, the individual will be pardoned. If done consciously, he will get some minor punishments. The saranagatha can escape even minor punishments if he performs prayascitta according to sastras. Thus a saranagata will divest himself of all the fruits of his past and present karmas and will be fit to reach God.

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SRIVAISHNAVISM - A CONSCISE STUDY - PART V

 

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Daily routines of a Sri Vaishnava

After Pancha Samskara, one becomes a Sri Vaishnava in the various purifactory cermonies, the Acharya introduces an individual to a) Sudharsana and Panchajanya through embossing Chakra and Sanka, b) Twelve Upavyuha forms of the Lord through twelve Sri Vaishnava marks, C)Para form of the Lord through Ashtakshara, d) Vyuha form of the Lord through Dvayam, e)Vibhava form of the Lord through Charma sloka, f) Archa form of the Lord through Bahya Aradhana(external worship), g) Antaryami Avatara form through Manasika Aradhana (internal). The Pancha samskara takes place only once in the life time of an individual and hence the daily routine of a Sri Vaishnava should include steps for strengthening the initiative given by the Acharya. In our everyday life we see that acquaintances bloom into friendship and attachment through constant meetings and interactions. In the same way, the constant thinking of the Lord by the individual also helps to enhance the bondage. This constant thinking of the Lord by the individual is called 'Japam' or meditation. Hence, every Sri Vaishnava should reserve sometime everyday for meditation. Let us see the routines required under each of the ceremonies:

Dasa : Acharya gives the individual the name 'Dasa'. The individual should always feel that he is a subordinate of God. He should develop humility and kindness. He should develop a quality of head and heart that promotes 'Dasathwa' in all his activities including reciting of mantras. A prayer to Sri Ramanuja will help him in this regard.

Impression of Conch and Chakra: Conch and Chakra represent Panchajanya and Sudarsana. They alone can show the path to God. Hence, one should pray to them for dispelling ignorance and show the path to God.

There are twelve Upavyuha forms if the Lord starting from Sri kesava etc. The Upavyuha forms of the Lord is supposed to represent the twelve suns in the universe corresponding to the twelve Zodiacs of the universe. These forms of the Lord is for meditation of the devotees. Our body is formed of Prakriti which forms also the body of the Lord. Thus, our body is also linked to the body of the Lord. The upavyuha forms of the Lord reside in various parts of our body. The Sri Vaishnava marks we wear is only an external display of the Upavyuha forms of the Lord. We salute Him by reciting His name with Anjali mudra near the corresponding part of our body.

Rahasya Thraya Mantras: God should be meditated upon by reciting the three Mantras - namely Astakshara, Dvaya and Charma sloka. Before recitng the dyana sloka, one should do a)Ashtashara Pranayamam b) Sankalpa (expression of intention) c) Submission of the fruits to the Lord himself.

Ashtakshara Pranayamam - Close the left nostril with the little finger and ring finger and exhale from the right nostril(Rechaka), close the right nostril with thumb and take in air from the left nostril after releasing little finger and ring finger (Puraka). Close the left nostril also as before. In this way the air is held inside the body. While holding the air inside the body, recite mentally Astakshara 10 times or 18 times or 28 times according to one’s capacity to hold breath. After reciting, release air from right nostril. This is Ashtakshara Pranayamam and it helps to tune our system for meditation.

While meditating on the Lord through Rahashya thraya mantras, the mantras should be recited mentally (that is, the tounge, lips and teeth should not partake in chanting).

The Vedic approach has been that our planet (Earth) is a part of the universe and the systems of the universe have influence on the life in our planet. The actions and activities of human beings have been so oriented as to derive maximum benefits for the individual and also for the society through these influences. The human thought is a form of energy. It is considered to be of high frequency type. It also has properties of transmission, resonance, etc like high frequency waves. When we pluck a string in a violin or a tumbura, the sound is the result of the resonance in the air column in these instruments. The meditation pranayamam are very akin to this phenomena and hence considered very important in Vedic tenents.

Aradhana - (Bahya or External puja) - This is worshipping an Archa form of the Lord. The procedure followed is according to 'Nithya Grantha' of Sri Ramanuja. It commences with 'Suprabhaatham'(the waking up of the Lord). Then 'Mantrasana'(washing the hands and feet of the Lord), 'Snanasana'(bath and change of Dress), 'Alankarasana' (decorating the Lord with Sandal Paste, Doopam etc., and worshipping the feet of the Lord with flowers); 'Bhojyasana'( Serving of food, fruits and betal); again 'Mantrasana'(washing hands and feet and placing one’s request or shatumorai) and concludes with ‘Paryankasanam' (requesting the Lord to retire and rest). The above is briefly the procedure of 'Bahya' Aradhanam'.

The essence of worship is mainly to pour out one’s heart to the Lord. In the present day life some may feel handicap to do the worship as per the full standards. It is the sincerity and quality Lord wants rather than the quantity. In such circumstances an individual should consult a knowledgeable Sri Vaishnava or a pundit, who will help him abridge the process without the loss of Sprit. Thus he can do his service to the Lord even within the framework of his limitations. For worship of Lord there are three distinct models-one model being the way Yashoda worshiped the Lord (Motherly attachment), the second one being the way Vidura worshiped the Lord when the latter went to his house.(affection combined with respect and subordination), the third model being the path shown by Andal (devoted wife or Pathivratha) . The external worship is to be done generally in the morning. On special occasions like Janmastami, Sri Ramanavami, Narasimha jayanthi, the Bahya Aradhanam is to be performed at midnight, noon and at sunset respectively. Though the Bahya Aradhana is performed by the males of the three Varnas, ladies also have a role to play. By assisting the male members of the family in this activity, they also get the benefits of the Bahya aradhana. Likewise the fourth Varna can also get benefits of Bahya Aradhana by assisting those performing the Aradhana.

Manasika Aradhana or Meditation of the Lord - Suka, while narrating Bhagavatham to king Parikshit, mentions how great devotees used to worship the lord within their hearts.

These devotees meditate on the Lord with his four hands holding Conch, Chakra, Gadha and Lotus. They fix his figure firmly in their mind.

Having fixed His figure firmly, they worship Him with all the courtesis (as in Aradhana or Puja)including serving of food, mentally.

They conclude the worship with mangalasasanam(mangalarathi).

This procedure narrated by suka can be practiced by anyone irrespective of caste, place or sex. Also there are no time restrictions and hence this can be done at anytime when one finds some leisure. Meditation as above for a few moments will bring great happiness and mental tranquility.

Thus, the daily routines of a SriVaishnava should include a few moments of meditation covering the various ceremonies of Pancha Samskara as detailed above.

Nithya Karma(Sandyavandanam, etc.) and Naimithikka Karmas (bread earning for the family duties, Upanayanam and marriage of children, service to parents & elders and other family duties) are prescribed in the Vedas and they should not be neglected. God will not accept service from those who neglect the nitya and naimithikka karmas. Thus, Sri Vaishnavism promotes God-realisation within the frame work of worldly activities of individuals. (There is an impression amongst a few that Panchan samskara may interfere with their professional and other activities. This is not true. Even after Pancha Samskara, the individual will continue his activities as before, expect for including a few moments everyday on meditation discussed earlier. This may gradually bring a change for improvement in the quality of his life including his profession).

Within his ability, a Sri Vaishnava should help the birthday celebration of his Acharya and Acharya parampara, maintaining his Acharya’s ashram, maintenance of a temple of his choice, assistance to Sri Vaishnava Bhagavatas, etc.

Rahasya Thraya

The three Sri Vaishnava Mantras-Ashtakshara, Dvaya and Charama sloka are known as Rahasya thraya. A Mantra is a hymn or a prayer (with words and alphabets specially chosen) addressed to God or Deity. It is supposed to posses mystic and super natural powers.

Ashtakshara - (Mantra of eight letters) -This is known as MOOLA MANTRA. This consists of three words, namely Pranava’, ‘Namah’ and Narayanaya’. This Mantra explains the pleasure of a chetana being subordinate to Lord. Since this includes ‘Pranava’ it is Vedic in character and hence restrictions are there-that is, it can be practiced by Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya males only. If ‘Pranava’ is replaced by ‘Am’, it becomes a ‘tantrika’ mantra(with the same effect and benefit) and there is no restriction for reciting. Even ladies and sudras can recite it. The Pranava Comprises of three letters - ‘Aa’ ‘Uu’ and ‘Mm’. ‘Aa’ -denotes Vishnu. ‘Uu’ denotes Goddess Lakshmi and ‘Mm’ denotes the soul of Jivatma. Thus this conveys the meaning that ‘Jivatma’ is a subordinate(Sesha) of the divine couple - Lakshmi Narayana. This meaning remains the same even when ‘Pranava’ is replaced by ‘Am’ as Lakshmi and Narayana constitute a single entity. Similarly ’Namah’ denotes’ notmine’. This Mantra is full of intricate meanings and hence considered of a high order.

This mantra is chanted as a single sentence or two sentence or three sentence, connoting different meanings with different results;

When chanted as a single sentence it conveys

a.Means to achieve

b. Service of subordination

When chanted as two sentences, it conveys

a. Self-realization

b. Saranagathi

c. Moksha

When chanted as three sentences, it conveys

a. Self-realization and Moksha.

b. Realisation of desires and warding off troubles.

It is said that this Mantra is equivalent to reciting all Vedas. Chanting this with devotion and deep trust, the benefits are immence. The dyana sloka for this mantra is addressed to Sriman Narayana (Para form of God), who is also the presiding deity for this mantra.

Dvayam: “Sriman Narayana Charanau Sharanam Prapadye, Srimate Narayanaaya Namah” is the Dvaya mantram. As there are two sentences it is called Dvayam. This is a tantrika mantra. Hence all can recite it, without any restriction. This mantra helps to do sarangathi in Lakshmi Narayana. Sri Ramanuja’s Saranagathi Gadya ‘is an elaborate explanation of Dvayam. Though there are eight words , while reciting , it will be six words only. In consideration of its deep meaning and non restriction, this mantra is considered unique and is termed “Mantra ratna”-jewel amongst mantras . For reciting it, there are no restrictions of any kind viz. place ,time ,person, sex, etc.

Charama Sloka: ‘Sarva dharmaan parithyajya maam ekam saranam vraja , aham tva sarva papeybhyo mokshayishyami maa shuchah” is the Charama sloka. This is what Sri Krsna told Arjuna and hence called ‘Charama sloka’(meaning as a last resort). Sri Krsna himself has suggested that saranagathi is the easiest and best approach to Moksha. Charama sloka brings out the fruits of saranagathi.

Here Dharma refers to difficult process of Bhakti-yoga. Saranagathi does not give exemption to dharmas prescribed for any varna ,including duties to the society, same is the case with duties towards parents.

Path to Moksha

The soul after the present cycle of birth(Maya or illusion) comes out of the ‘Brahma Nadi’(as the remaining 100 Nadis are outlets for re-birth) with the help of Antaryami(form of Lord). This soul is then carried by 12 Ativahakas(Agni, presiding deities of day, Suklapaksha, Uttarayana , Samvatsana, Vayu, Sun, Moon, Vidyuta, Varuna, Indra and Prajapathi) in the Devayana or Archiradi path upto the entry of Viraja River. One of the Ativahaka named Vidyuta will accompany the soul till he reaches the Lord at SriVaikuntham. As the soul crosses the boundaries of nature(or Prakrti), will lose its subtle body also. As he crosses the Viraja River, assumes a celestial body resembling the Lord himself with four hands and pure sattva qualities. He is then received by Muktas and Nitysuries, praising his various services and introducing themselves. He will then be taken to the two Dvarapalakas, Indra and Prajapathi. There he will be honoured by Nityasuries and then taken inside the hall where the Lord Himself will receive him. At that time, this Mukta will be able to see the Para from of the Lord not seen by him before. Here he prostrates at the feet of the Lord and is granted happiness and comforts similar to His own.

State of liberation

The liberated soul has a direct vision of the Lord(Brahman) in Sri Vaikuntha and is absorbed in the eternal bliss of union with Him(Sayujya). To this soul the pluralistic world remains, but the pluralistic view is abolished. The distinction between him and Brahman still remains, and there is no loss of personality. He will continue for ever to enjoy this state of bliss by serving Brahman.

Srivaishnava Lakshana - Qualities of a Srivaishnavan

To study a philosophy & to digest it requires understanding, and thus wisdom. Having understood a vedantha like Visitadvaitha, it requires practicing the same. A human soul to practice or embrace this understanding has to undergo a ceremony called SamaShrayanam and get the Panchasamskara done, by which the individual approaches an Acharya and makes a request for the same. The Acharya after pujas and homam will perform the Panchasamskara. The Acharya also explains the practice for Sharanagathi.

This process is a means of purification and can be done to anyone irresepective caste, creed or sex. There are five purificatory ceremonies which one should undergo in this process to become a Srivaishnavan :

a). Getting embossed the impressions of conch(Sanka) and Wheel(Chakra) on the arms by an Acharya.

b). Wearing twelve SriVaishnava marks on the body reciting appropriate names of the Lord as taught by an Acharya

c). Adding 'Dasa' to his name in token of his subordination to Sri Ramanuja

d). Learning from the Acharya, the three mantras - Astakshara, Dvaya and Charma Sloka with their invocatory slokas and meaning.

e). Learning the Aradhana or the guidelines to worship of Lord.

Conclusion

Visistadvaitha is thus not a dry metaphysics, but a philosophy. In it, reason and faith have been nicely synthesized. It guarantees salvation to all finite beings as confirmed by Sri Ramanuja. This effort definitely deserves due salutations to the Alwars and Acharyas who have been responsible for this wisdom.

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PROPAGATORS OF VAISHNAVISM

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The divine fragrance of Vaishnavism emanating from the enchanting colourful garden, encircling the island temple of Srirangam, wafted across the whole Bharata Khanda by the indefatigable and unceasing efforts of Alwars, who were non other than Sriramanarayana's inseparable aspects like Sudarsan, Kaumodaki etc. The movement started by them first reached Aryavartha. Taking deep roots in several parts with multifarious ramification; it established the ineffable glory of Vaishnavism. And in some parts, it scored resounding victory over other religions, such as Jainism, Buddisim and Saivism. As it is originated in the Dakshinapatha, particularly in the Cauvery basin, study begins with the progenitors called popularly Alwars, who flourished in this region.

The word Alwar draws our attention, before venturing into the highly mystic and inexorably complicated system of this bhakti cult. Scores of authentic sources are available, and by diving deep into that Vaishnava maharnava, the savants have brought out gems of unparalleled brilliance. As our study, rather scope aims at the awareness of fundamentals of the founders, through a bird's eyeview of the entire systems, it confines naturally to the basic facts only. Alwar, literally means, one who knows the depth, and who by deep delving brings out the treasure hidden in their bowls of earth. In this context, it applies to the one, who churned the ocean of mystic devotion, all by himself and handed over a cup of ambrosia to the layman, and turned oblivious at the sight of the beneficiary reeling in glee under the intoxication of a single draught at it. They are selfless, self effaced, simple-minded, altruistic, sublime humanists, who nullified egotism, together with egoism, the moment they sought the lotus feet of Almighty-Providence Sri Mahavishnu. They are twelve in number. Their immaculate, imperious, ineffable service to religion can neither be measured nor clothed in any genre of literature. They are first and last God possessed minstrels, who traversed on foot the entire Dhakshinapatha specially, the land drenched by the sacred waters of Cauvery, Tamarapani, Vaigai, Palar, Pennar, Tungabhadra etc. And lighted up the atmajyothi in every unfortunate honest innocent God-seeker, and danced in the company of the enlightened, deeming it to be their life's ultimate object. Their missionary activities taking the shape of spirituality oriented congregational bhajans, devotion caused ritualistic worship, and soul-lifting songs rejuvenated the dying embers of daivachintana and filled the land with an aroma of godliness, culminating in the creation of Bhuloka Vaikunta. Finally they turned out the forerunners of Vaishnavism, who inspired the acharya traya - Nathamuni, Yamunacharya and Ramanuja to establish Visistadwaitha math at Srirangam.

According to some legendary source of the Dwadasalwars-twelve Alwars, the first three - Poigai, Poodhatal and Paey are said to have lived three millenniums before christ, but history places their birth between seventh and nineth centuries. This is controversial and certainly has not been established. As our purpose is limited to their missionary activities, it is better to bypass this knotty hurdle. Entering the field, we see these three involved in their self-chosen activity - lifting duhkartis from the ditch of misery and drive away the then prevalent un-Hindu religions. The three are surprisingly flower born and swacharyas-self taught teachers. They were contemporaries, but belong to different castes. Evidence cities their birth to the religion around of present Madras City. Their parentage, age, birth, death, area of operation and settlements are not definitely known. Research yielded some data, but it was refuted by experts in the field. So it is wise to confine ourselves to the commonly accepted version and sip the sap from the cups filled by their inimitable commitment to the furtherance of the cause of Vaishnava school. As our purview solely concerns with the impact of their ennobling act, it is satisfied with the furnishing of relevant facts.

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DRAVIDA VEDA - AN INTRODUCTION

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NALAYIRA DIVYA PRABANDHAM

No other country in the world has so much religious spirit as India. India takes pride of the fact that Sriman Narayana has assumed all Avataras and also India is tha land where all Rishis and Alwars showed the way of salvation for the people. For the welfare of the people of the world, Sarveswara created Alwars to propogate and perpetuate the way of liberation from Samsara. The twelve alwars who have song 4000 sublime hymns in praise of Sarveswara merged with God. They are called Divya Suries. Their outpouring thoughts changed their abundant devotion into devout hymns. The themes of the hymns are composed in lucid and beautiful Tamil language. These hymns include the praise of 108 Divyadesas (holy places) and are called Divya Prabhandam. It is also considered as Tamil Veda or Dravida Veda. Although these 4000 hymns generated a change in the religious fervour during its existence, but for some centuries it has lost its identity due to several other religious developments. It was possible only during the Ninth century A.D to create a way for the renaissance of these 4000 hymns. One may wonder how these important hymns lost their identity when these speak of Lord. But we may have to satisfy that there are certain things, which have their importance when Sriman Narayana thinks. In this it has its identity during the 9th century only. For this renaissance the credit goes to the great and first acharya Sriman Nathamunigal task of consolidating the hymns revived these 4000 hymns, laid foundation for Vaishnavism. But for Nathamuni, we would not have seen the light of these 4000 hymns as is known widely today.

History takes us back to the 9th centuryAD. When the first Paranthaka Chola was reigning, a great son of the soil was born to Iswara Bhatt in 823AD on Anusha star in the Tamil Month of Ani at Veeranarayanapuram(kattumannar koil) in Tamil nadu. He was named after Sri Ranganatha by his parents and later he was called Nathamuni. Nathamuni with his enthusiasm and zeal acquired knowledge in Vedas during his early years and along with parents he went on extensive pilgrimage to north India covering various places like Saligramam, Haridwar, Brindavan, Madhura, Puri, Tirupati and so on. After his return from north india, at the divine suggestion of Lord Mannanar of Kattumannar Koil, he was doing Kainkarya in the temple.

Once a team of Vaishavaites came to worship Lord Mannanar and they worshipped the Lord by reciting 11 hymns taken from Tiruvoymozhi of Nammalvar beginning "Aravamuthe!…….." (Tiruvoymozhi 5.8.1). This is one of the 11 hymns in Tiruvoymozhi and in these hymns Nammalvar highlighted that the complete self-surrender(Prapatti) to God is his realisation. On hearing these hymns sung with melodious voice by the team, Nathamuni with great devotion and rapture asked the team where from these hymns were taken, where the remaining hymns would be available and how to get the manuscripts of all the hymns or if there were any script available? The vaishnavites informed Nathamuni that they knew only these set of hymns and the other parts may be available on enquiry only in Tirukkudanthai (Kumbakonam) for which reference is made in these 11 hymns. Then Nathamuni gave Lord's prasadam and thirtham to the team and they left the place. Nathamuni's veneration for Nammalvar increased his thirst for the nectar of the hymns. He paid a visit to Tirukkudanthi (Kumbakonam). On enquiry some people suggested that he can enquire in the birth place of Nammalvar ie., Kurugur(Alwar Tirunagari) as there is a reference in the last song of 11 hymns.

Then Nathamuni took a pilgrimage to Alwar Tirunagari where he worshipped the deity Polindhu Nindra Piran and Kurugur Sadagopan(Nammalvar) on the bank of Tamiraparani river. On searching to know about the hymns, he fortunately met on the river banks a disciple of Sri Madhurakavi, Parankusa dasa. He enquired about the hymns of Nammalvar, Sri Parankusa dasa very enthusiastically told Nathamuni that his GURU Sri Madhura Kavi sung 11 hymns of Nammalvar ie., Kanninun Chiruththambu and if this was recited 12000 times, Nammalvar will reveal all Parbandams. (Sri Madhuakavi wrote 11 hymns in praise of Nammalvar only and that is called 'Kanninum Chiruththambu.' The complete gist of these hymns reflects the importance of Bhagavata Seshathva). Sri Parankusa Dasa further showed a sacred Tamarind tree where Nammalvar was born and asked Nathamuni to recite the hymns under that tree. On hearing this, Nathamuni very eagarly learnt those 11 hymns of Sri Maduarakavi from Sri Parankusa dasa, and as per his instruction, Nathamuni recited those 11 hymns 12000 times with great devotion under that sacred tamarind tree and at last Nammalvar who was very mush pleased with Nathamuni's capture of knowing the hymns revealed Nathamuni 4000 hymns of Alwars including Tiruvoymozhi; Rahasyatraya and its meanings. It is said that Nammalvar taught him these works on three consecutive nights.

Then by the grace of Lord Mannanar, Nathamuni sung all Prabandhams in musical meter and consolidated and codified them into four parts Mudalayiram, Periya Tirumozhi, Iyarpa and Tiruvoymozhi. Here a mention is necessary about the contents of these four parts.

FIRST PART MUDALAYIRAM

Name of Alwar Name of the Prabandham No of hymns

1. Periyalwar Tiruppallandu Periyalwar Tirumozhi 12 461

2.Andal Tiruppavai Natchiyar Tirumozhi 30 143

3.Kulasekara Alwar Perumal Tirumozhi 105

4.Tirumazhisai Alwar Tiruchchanda Viruttam 120

5.Tondaradippodi Alwar Tirumalai Tiruppalliezhuchi 45 10

6.Tiruppan Alwar Amalanadhipiran 10

7.Madhurakavi Alwar Kanninum Chiruththambu 11

SECOND PART

1.Tirumangai Alwar PeriyaTirumozhi Tirukkurunthandakam Tirunedunthandakam 1084 20 30

THIRD PART

1. Poygai Alwar Mudal Tiruvandadhi 100

2. Buthathalwar Irandam Tiruvandadhi 100

3. Peyalwar Mundram Tiruvandadhi 100

4. Tirumazhisai Alwar Nanmugan Tiruvandadhi 96

5. Nammalvar Tiruviruttam Tiruvasiriyam Periya Tiruvandadhi 100 7 87

6. Tirumangai Alwar Tiruvezhukutrirukkai Ciriya Tirumadal Periya Thirumadal 1 1 1

FOURTH PART

1. Nammalvar Tiruvoymozhi 1102

2. Tiruvarangaththamudanar Ramanuja Nootrandadhi * 108

* According to Yathiraja Vaibhavam, this was included in the Divya Prabhandham at the instance of Sri Ramanuja during his period.

Nathamuni gave an introductory song for Mudalyiram (Periyazhwar Tirumozhi) highlighting the greatness of that Alwar and his work; a song for Kanninun Chiruththambu of Madhurakavigal and also a song for Tiruvoymozhi of Nammalvar. In this way Sriman Nathamunigal codified them. Further for the betterment of the people and with the blessings of Lord Mannanar he taught all these hymns in musical way to his two nephews-Melaiagathalvar and Keezhaiagathalvar and ordered them to propogate and perpetuate these hymns at all holy places by visiting those places. The other two important disciples of Nathamuni are Uyyakkondar and Kurugaikaval Appan. He taught all Rahasyas and Prabandhams to these two disciples. Being a Yogarishi and knowing Astanga Asanas, he requested his two disciples to teach these works to his would be born grandson- Yamunacharya who enriched the Vaishnavism in later years. Sriman Nathamunigal wrote two important Sanskrit treatises-Nyaya Tattava and Yogarahasya. These two works very much influenced the later Acharyas like Ramanuja to propogate and establish the philosophy of Visishdavaita.

Sriman Nathamunigal's mission- collecting and systematising the Nalayira Divya Prabandham and laying the foundation for Vaishnavism very much attracted the later disciples of Nathnmunigal and other Acharyas like Yamunacharya, Ramanuja, Periyavacchan pillai, Nanjeeyar and Manavala Mahamunigal to make commentaries on the Prabandhams. Acharyas won the Alwar's inspirations modified by learning and scholarship and Acharyas were learned profounders who elaborated the philosophy contained in the hymns of Alwars. It is said in the Viashnavite world that Sriman Nathamunigal's service to Divya Prabandham may be compared to that of Vyasa to the Vedas.

This luminary is still reckoned with by all Srivaishnavites-nay all philosophers of the world and in all Vaishnavite temples.

As long as Sun and Moon exist, mountains exist, and rivers continue to flow, the greatness of Nalayira Divya Prabandham will continue to shine better with the discovery made by Sriman Nathamunigal.

It is our bounden duty to remember and to know the great life of Acharya Sriman Nathamunigal and his works and realise how far these Acharyas helped the humanity.

Alvar Tiruvadigale Sharanam

Emberumanar Tiruvadigale Sharanam

Jeeyar Tiruvadigale Sharanam

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DASAVATHARAM - AN INTRODUCTION

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PURANIC LORE OF VISHNU

Long long ago in this ancient land of ours, great and simple men lived in the forest spending their time in contemplation and devotion. They created various systems of science and philosophy, many of which are valued and accepted even today. Consider the concept of time. Today we think of time as a linear movement, with the birth of Christ as marking point. But time is in fact a cyclic process, repeating endlessly and infinitely. This may seem strange to us, but five hundred years ago many thought the earth was flat, and the roundness of the earth seemed equally strange! Anyway, in the ancient Indian system, time is conceived as a cycle in this cycles. Days and nights follow cyclically, seasons come and go cyclically, stars and planets move cyclically every sixty years, and many thousands of such cycles make a Yuga. There are four Yugas and these four Yugas come and go cyclically in kalpas, thousands of such kalpas follow in endless cycles into eternity. The first Yuga is Krita Yuga, the second Yuga is Treta Yuga, the third is Dvarpara Yuga and the fourth is Kaliyuga. We are now living in the first lag of Kaliyuga which began in 3102 BC.

The Lord is seated on his majestic throne in Vaikuntha. He lies reclining on a sergent bed Adi Sesha in the ocean of milk. He has descended into this world to protect the good and destroy evil as many as ten times as his avataras. His ten avataras are Matsya- the fish, Kurma-the tortoise, Varaha-the boar, Narasimha-the man-lion, Vamana-the dwarf, Parasurama-the axe wielder, Rama-the bow wielder, Balarama-the plough wielder, Krishna- the complete Avatara and Kalki who is yet to come.

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Sri Visnusahasranama - A Concise Study

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In this land of the eternal Vedas, Sages and Saints ; where recitation of stotras is an integral part of Hindu’s way of life, Sri Visnusahasranama is the most popular of all. It is recited by every Hindu, be it a Advaith, Dvaitin or Visistadvaitin. The great epic Mahabharata, is a virtual documentation of the discourses delivered by eminent sages to King Yudhisthira in exile on the several Dharmas - Raja Dharma, Moksa Dharma, Dana Dharma, etc. Sri Visnu Sahasranama Stotra, sung by the Sages of yore and taught by Bhismacarya to Yudhisthira for the good of the world at large is the praise of the Lord with his thousand names.

The Alwars to whom the Supreme Lord Narayana opened the flood-gates of Spiritual knowledge, shorn of discrepancies, deviations and ambiguitiesof sorts, were indeed above the Sages. They were full of compassion for teaming millions of humanity, wallowing in the sty of samsara. It is significant that the Alwars have made frequent references to the Lords’s thousand names in their hymns. Nammalwar, the chief of the Alwar Saints, literally implored the people around to chant just any one of the thousand names of the Lord, though not all(Tiruvaymoli X-2-3). These names bespeak the Lord’s auspicious traits(Yani namani gaunani vikhyatani…), each of which is of unlimited dimensions. Actually, the Lord has innumerable auspicious traits, and, therefro His names, spelling out of these traits should be innumerable. Who indeed can exhaust His infinite glory by compressing it within a mere thousand names ? ‘Devonama Sahasravan’ should not, therefore be taken literally to mean a mere thousand - the ‘Sahasram’ stands for ‘anantam’ - the endless(infinite).

Of the four yugas, Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali, the last one is having its sway. Dharma(righteousness), which has been declining down the ages, has entered a critical phase in the Kaliyuga, notorious for the crumbling down of moral values and rapid degeneration. Even so, present yuga enjoys certain concessions which might well be envied by the earlier yugas. Salvation attained in the earlier yugas through the arduous process of intense meditation, severe penance, special prayers, sacrifices and offerings is vouched in this yuga for the mere recital of Lord’s Holynames. Thus Sri Visnusahasranama Stotra serves not merely as the panacea for all ills & evils besetting this world, but also helps achieve the heaven. ‘Vaidya Sastra’ freely invokes Sahasranama japa for curing dire diseases , generally known to be incurable, ‘Mantra Sastra’ suggests Sahasranama japa for achieving the odds and ends of worldly life, ‘Karma Vibhagam’ prescribes the Sahasranama japa for all the ailments plaguing mankind and of-course Sri Visnusahasranama is a medicine for the fell disease of birth, death and re-birth, which is far more dreadful than the worst of bodily ailments.

Sri Visnusahasranama takes the shape as the essence of the expositions of all Sastras and their implications relating to charity and righteousness in the Anusasanika Parva, the core of Mahabharata. Thus the Sahasranama has great authority; its main objective is to reveal the essential reality through the highest truths. The Sahasranama appears as a dialogue between Bhisma, who is equally revered as Vedavyasa, and Yudhisthira, the Dharma-incarnate. Vedavyasa exhorted Yudhisthira by saying, “If you are desirous of knowing all the Dharmas, go to Bhisma, the grand old sire. He who knows all the doctrines and everything else, is capable of resolving all your doubts. He who has seen Indra and other demigods face to face, who is in constant communion with the Brahmarsis, nd who knows Dharma, its subtleties will enlighten you on Dharma”. Sri Krsna said to Yudhisthira “ My thoughts go to the great soul Bhisma, who is like the fire cooling down on the bed of arrows, meditating on me. He is highly intellectual, has a divine aura, is in possession of superior weapons and knows all the Vedas comprehensively. He knows the past, present and future. I would advise you to go to him as the path of Jnana becomes that much poorer in his absence”. Sri Krsna also told Bhisma “What you will presently impart the Pandavas will be established in this world like the Vedas. You are free of weariness and illusion”. Narada too said to Yudhisthira “ Clarify all the doubts in your mind immediately from Bhisma who knows the Dharmas required by the four castes. He has the capacity to acquire everything that can be obtained from the life-long Brahmacharya, Samadhi & Tapas”. Bhisma tells Krsna “Acyuta ! by your grace, I am free of greed, passions, pain and lethargy. I can see the past, present and future like a fruit in one’s palm. I can visualise all the Dharmas in the Vedas and Vendangas due to your grace. I am able to expound all the Dharmas with youthful energy(though old) by constantly meditating on you”.

This above lines described the greatness of Bhisma, who included in his teachings the ‘Sri Visnusahasrnama”, prefacing it as the highest Dharma and its chanting as the highest creed of faith. The thousand names of Lord were collated in the form of a stotra by Vyasa, an incarnation of Narayana Himself. It was the same Vyasa who organized the Vedas into divisions in order to facilitate the understanding for men whose power of comprehension has been reduced due to the advent of Kali. It was the same Vyasa who composed the Mahabharata, considered the fifth Veda. Hence the Visnusahsranama considered to the most beneficial to mankind.

In the sabhaparva of the Bharata and in the Gajendra episode in Visnu Dharma, the Lord is praised as the possessor of a thousand names. Again, in this very chapter of ‘Sahasranama’ of Anusasanika Parva’ both in the introduction and at the end where the fruits of the recitation are set out, the excellence of the ‘Thousand names’ has been brought out.

Right at the beginning, Bhisma stressed the efficacy of reciting the laudatory hymn spelling out the thousand names of the Lord, the God of gods and the Supreme person with no limitations (with reference to place, time etc.). The particular sloka under reference uses the word ‘Satatottitah’-ever-engaged. Continuous praise of the Lord and meditation are a perennial joy of the devotee. If Vasudeva is out from the mind of a devotee even for a moment, it is terrible loss as it would give rise to perverse and unholy thoughts to fill the vaccum. At the end of the hymn, the potency of the recitation is brought by Sri Krsna Himself who said “Arjuna!, one may be desirous of praising by reciting the thousand names. But, on my part, I feel praised by one sloka. There is no doubt about it.” In this context, refer to name 685 in the hymn ‘stavapriyah’-He, who relishes being praised. He is pleased with anything that is uttered in His praise irrespective of who ever lauds Him, how he or she does it, and what language is employed. “ Engane collilum imbam payakkume (Tiruvaymoli VII-9-11).

Ayurveda mentions the recitation of sahasarnama as aiding the cure of many diseases with such sayings as “Diabetes gets cured by recitation pf Purusa sukta as well as the thousand names of Bhagavan;” “Similarly, Bhagavan’s thousand names must be uttered (for cure of tuberculosis);” “(For relief from fever), one must recite the Vishnu Sahasranama after conducting the Homa as aforesaid.” Even later poets such as Bana Bhatta, while describing a maternity ward has mentioned “The incessant chanting of Narayana’s thousand names too.” Sri Visnu Sahasranama is accepted with reverence as a panacea even by children, the dumb, dull-witted, women and atheists for recitation, meditation, exposition and comments to get rid of poisions, ghosts, disease, hauntings, sorrow, ill-omens etc., for getting absolved of heinous sins and worldly and other-worldly attainments.

Even the Vedas are not as readily accepted as this Hymn. The Vedas are not open to all. Even then, they are divided into various sections, each to be recited by particular sets of people and at particular times (that is, by not all and at all times).

The various teachers of sastraik knowledge like Devarsis, Narada, Devasravas, Sumantu etc, who had secured visions of God through strenuous efforts have been delighted in this sacred Hymn. What is more Sri Krsna Himself, the great Teacher of the Gita, listened to this with rapturous delight in the company of others around Bhisma.

Thus, the Visnu Sahasranama has the unique distinction among stotras of Being

The essence of the Mahabharata,

Lauded by great Sages

Compiled by the great Vedavyasa

Accepted by Bhisma as most superior,

Beneficial to one and all, and

The expounder of the very same doctrines as of the Gita.

At this stage of dissertation, Parasara Bhattar brings in the introductory slokas in the Visnu Sahasranama chapter of Anusasanika Parva of the Mahabharata and with his superb intellect and incisive logic supported by authoritative quotes, establishes praise as the best means and Visnu as the best object of praise.

“The same benefit that is obtained in Krta yuga by mediation, in Tretayuga by sacrifice and by ritual worship in Dvapara Yuga, is got in Kaliyuga by the mere laudation of Kesava” - (Visnu Purana 6-2-17). At the same time, it is cautioned that, “The Lord is not easily attainable if one is not spiritually involved even if he offers the whole world to Krsna” (Visnu Dharma - 74)’. Even with this easy way to the Lord through laudation, it is one’s mental purity that is important even as embracing one’s daughter is not the same as his embracing his own wife. Fishes live in sacred rivers like Ganga, groups of birds make their permanent residence in sacred Temple premises. But, as they have no inclination towards the Lord, they are not entitled to the result that a devotee is entitled to. It was Bhisma’s opinion that laudation of the Lord was the most righteous method, because

The object of laudation chosen is the dearest to the devotee,

It can be performed easily,

It does not involve any expenditure or strain,

It is attractive as he can mentally conceive the Lord to appear, as it were, before him.

It is capable of giving the greatest reward, Moksa, which alone can eradicate the dreaded fear of Samsara ,

Every body is eligible to adopt this course without any distinction whatsoever,

It is universally beneficial,

It can be performed without any restriction of place, time and situation and,

It is completely free of any auxiliary equipment to perform.

The Upanisads and other texts, while describing generally about the nature of the transcendent, the core-truth, existence , propitiation and attainment of the God etc., have described it in general terms, such as ‘Sat’ ‘Asat,’ ‘Brahma’ and Aksara’, and in special terms such as Para (Supreme). But, whenever a contention has arisen whether that entity is Siva, Brahma, Hari etc., it has been clarified by such statements as Narayana is the Trancendent Brahman, Narayana is the ultimate entity” (Narayana Anuvaka), ‘That is the Supreme abode of Visnu’ (Kathopanishad), “Beyond whom there is none” (Svetasvatara); “There is nothing superior to Me” (Gita 7-7) etc., Thus wise men are able to know that Visnu is the Supreme Deity through

Statements as above

General trend of writings of ‘Creation.’

The powerful inner meanings of Purusa Sukta, Uttara Narayana, etc propounding the highest truths

The declarations of Upanisads like Subala, Maitreyaniya, Mahopanishad, Chandogya, Taittriya, Aittriya, Kathavalli, etc.

The convictions of great Sages like Parasara, Vyasa, Valmiki, etc., who have known the supreme goal through the propogation of Sattvika Puranas and Epics

The unique prowess of the Form, Weapons, Vehicle and the great Doings attributed to the Supreme

Lord’s unbridled wealth

The comparitive lowliness of everything else around

Among the important commentaries on this stotra are by Sankara, Parasara Bhattar and Satyasandha according to Advaitha, Visitadvaitha and the Dvaita respectively. All these scholars have taken pains to explain the derivatives of the names of Lord Vishnu; becomes so many gems all adored by the Lord as his ornaments. The great Parasara Bhattar has shown in his commentary ‘Bhagavadguna Darpana’ how these individual names in this stotra combine to describe the characteristics, qualities, forms activities of the Lord. A dispassionate study of his commentary reflects as to how Bhattar has excelled over the others., obviously because of his familiarity with the hymns of Alwars. His highlight of the special aspects of the Lord’s traits, such as His amazing simpliity (Asrta paratantrya). In this process, Visnusahasranama at once becomes an epitome of all that is said in Vedas, Epics, Puranas and Agama.

Right at the commencement of the delineation of the names, Bhattar has vowed as it were, that he would -

Scrupulously adhere to the Pancasiddhanta

Interpret the names according to grammar, etymology and sayings of Sages avouiding defects like tautology.

Doubts arise whether by Pancasiddhantha, Bhattar means -

The five-fold doctrine of Para, Vyuha, etc in Pancaratra or

The five authorities of Veda, Smriti, Itihasa-Puranas, Pancaratra and DivyaPrabandham

It is indeed appropriate here to highlight the importance of Sri Parsara Bhattar to this Sampradayam.

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Sri PARASARA BHATTAR - A Profile

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Parasara Bhattar had a unique privelage of a highly prodigious mind right from childhood, nurtured first hand by no less than the galaxy of the very consolidators of SriVaishnavism, namely Sri Ramanuja, Kurattalvan and Embar. The exact dates of his stay is uncertain, a fair guess by our ancestors seems to be that he was born in 1063AD and reached Parampadam in 1153 AD. Parasara Bhattar(so named by Sri Ramanuja himself to cherish the memory of the great sage who wrote Visnu Purana) and Vedavyasa Bhattar(named after the father of Kurattalvan) were the born twins to Kurattalvan and Andal. It is said that Andal herself was a great scholar and Kurattalvan consulted her on several occasions. Bhattar was precious even as a child. His snubbing a scholar by a simple question when he was just five year old is widely quoted. He used to ask his father questions, used to find Vedic classes boring with the repetition of the lessons which he already knew. Bhattar had two wives, Akkacci

and Manni from the family of Mahapurna. It appears that despite the catholicity of Ramanuja, Kurattalvan found it difficult to get alliances for his sons as he belonged to the ‘vadama’ subsect whereas the prevailing circle he associated at Srirangam was Brhaccaranam ! It was Ramanuja’s intervention that brought about this alliance. Bhattar had one son by name Uddanda Bhattar(Naduvil Tiruvidhi Pillai).

The stalwart seniors of Bhattar were all alive and active for the greater part of his youth and middle age. It can therefore be conjucted that during this period, he maintained a low profile. Bhattar wrote the commentary ‘Bhagavadguna Darpana’ on Sri Visnusahasranama at the behest of Acharya Ramanuja himself. His other equally famous works are ‘Srrangaraja Stava’, ‘Srigunaratnakosa’, ‘Astasloki’, ‘Tatvaratnakara’ and ‘Tatvatraya’. His favourite Divya Prabhandham composition was Thirumangai Alwar’s Tirunedundandakam on which he has written a beautiful commentary. The speciality of this works is that he has taken just the 21st stanza ‘Maivanna Narumkunji..’ for detailed study and in the course he has brought in other 29 stanzas more for delineation.

Ramanuja installed Bhattar onn his own pontificial throne even when he was alive. At his behest, Bhattar later went to Mysore state to win over the great Vedantin and aristocrat Madhava to his fold. This vedantin subsequently became Bhattar disciple at Srirangam by the name of famous Nanjiyar. It seems that Bhattar had to leave Srirangam again for sometime to live in Tirukkottiyur as a protest against a chieftain Veerasundara Brahmarayar when he encroached the house of Pillai Pillai Alvan for building the Trivikrama enclosure for the temple. He returned to Srirangam only after Brhmarayar’s demise.

Bhattar’s highly incisive and intellectual interpretations on the whole are spoken even today with due mention to Periyavachan Pillai’s works always mentioning the name of Bhattar.

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GADYATRAYAM

 

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Gadyatrayam - the three prose pieces of Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja complementing his three commentaries on the Vedantasutras of Vedavyasa, SriBhashyam, Vedantasaram and Vadantadeepam. In Srivaishnava parlance, Gadyatrayam ranks in importance with the other popular works like Lokatraya, Kalatraya, Karanatraya, Vedatraya, Agnitraya, Namatraya(Narayana, Visnu and Vasudeva), Ramatraya(Parasurama, Balarama and Sri Rama), Rahasyatraya(Mantraraja, Mantraratna and Charmasloka) and Tattvatraya(Cit, Acit and Isvara).

In these commentaries, Acharya emphasizes Bhakti as the surest means to salvation. Having established this in Sri Bhashyam, Sri Ramanuja through Gadyatraya reveals his inner-most thoughts-what he believed in as the most efficacious means to earn the grace of the Lord. Nammalvar, the super-prapanna, showed this path by his delivering himself to the Lord at Tirumala through a well know verse from Tiruvoymoli; (6-10-10: ‘akalakillen …..’). Alavandhar does the same through the stotraratna ‘nadharmanistosmi…. tvatpadamulamsaranamaham prapadye'. Following them, Sri Ramanuja delivered himself at the feet of the Lord Ranganatha and Sriranganacciyar at Srirangam on the Panguni Uttiram day, and pleaded eloquently for acceptance eternally in the Lord’s service despite his shortcomings. (even today on the brahamotsavam’s last day at Srirangam, close to midnight Lord Alagiyamanavala and Godess Ranganayaki are seated at the Kalyanamantapam and thousands of devotees recite Gadyatrayam). This is nothing but the demonstration of Dvayamantra, which together with Stotraratna and Puranaratna(Visnupurana) propound the essence of Srivaishnavism. The outcome of this nectar on this Panguni day is the ’Saranagathi Gadya’ which is in the form of dialogue between Sri Ramanuja and the divine couple. The shorter ‘Sriranga Gadya’ is an abridged version of it. The ultimate goal of eternal service in Sri Vaikuntha to the prapanna is contained in the last ‘Vaikuntha Gadya’.

There are available to us two Sanskrit commentaries on Gadyatrayam; one by Sudarshanasuri and other by Sri Vedanta Desika. There is also a manipravala(combination of Tamil & Sanskrit) commentary of Periya Vaccan Pillai which is more easier to follow and well known.

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Periya Vaccan Pillai - His life and Works

On his mangalasasanam at Tirukkannamangala to Lord Bhaktavatsala, Tirumangai Alvar (Kalikanri) paid his poetic offerings. Noting the unusual radiance on the face of the Lord, he exclaimed- “ Kanna - the bearer of the white conch! Should you be so inclined, you can learn the essence of the works of this poet - “ven cengamon erndiya kanna! Nin tanakkum kurippakil karkalam kaviyun porul tane” - Periya Tirumoli 7-10-10. This offer then could not be then accepted apparently because of the protocol of Arcavatara. At a later age, as if to take the advantage of this offer, Krsnasuri was born in the same asterism of Lord Krsna, namely Rohini in the tamil month of Avani , and his Acharya Nampillai (Tiru Kalikanridasar) in the same asterism of Tirumangaialvar, namely Krittika in the tamil month of Kartikai.

Periya Vaccan Pillai means ‘Venerated Great Teacher’. In Srivaishnava literature, ‘Periya’ refers to the great or big. (as given to Lord Ranganatha-Periyaperumal, Visnuchittar-Periyaalvar, Manavalamamuni-Periyajeer). Periya Vaccan Pillai was born as Krsnasuri to a Srivaishnava couple Yamunadesika and Nacciyaramma in the year 1167 A.D at Singanallur(now called Cenganur) near the DivyaDesham Tiruvelliyangudi in the Cholanadu. Moving to Srirangam, this Vyakyana chakravarthi and became a principle disciple of Nampillai, acquired all the Tamil and Vedic knowledge from him and propogated the same after his Acharya’s demise.

Pillai had no off-springs, so had adopted his sister’s son Nayanar Accan Pillai, who was also his disciple. His other disciple include Parakala Dasar(author of Parakala Nallan Rahasyam), Pinbalagiya Perumal Jeeyar(author of 6000 Guruparampara and Vartamalai) , Srirangacariyar(a disciple of Nampillai and paramacharya of Adivan Sathagopa Jeeyar who established the Ahobila Mutt), Vadikesari Alagiyamanval Jeeyar(author of Pannirayarappadi Vyakhyana on Tiruvoymozi). It is said that even Vadakkutiruveedhi Pillai, author of EEDU commentary on Tiruvoymozi had many a times clarified some doubts with him. Pillai lived for 95 years and reached Nampillai’s tiruvadi in the year 1262 A.D. Pillai’s had various titles conferred on him - Abhayapradaraja given by Lord Ranganatha himself, Vyakhyanachakravarti and Dravidaveda Sribhasyakara.

The essence of Srivaishnavism are incorporated in four types of literature namely a). Divyaprabhandham b). Epics: Ramayana & Mahabharata and Sattvika Puranas c).Rahasya Granthas d).Stotra literature. (Sri Ramanuja had learnt all these from Periyanambi, Tirumalai Andan, Srisaila Purnar, Tirukkotiyur Nambi and Tiruvaranga Perumal Araiyar). Here Periyavaccan Pillai occupies a pride of place in writing commentaries and independent works on all these. He is a Kirpamatraprassannacarya, for he did not wait for the individual to go to him but has bequeathed true knowledge to all of us.

Pillai was the only poorvacarya who wrote commentaries on all the 24 compositions of the Divya Prabhandham. Unfortunately, his commentary on the first 400 stanzas of Perialvar Tirumozi is lost. To make good this loss, Swami Manavala Mamuni has written a lucid commentary of Pillai’s divine outpourings through Upadesa Ratnamala-46-‘ariya arulicceyal porulai ariyarkatkippodu arulicceyalaittarindu’.

Acarya Pillai in his commentaries has selected significant passages from Ramayana, stray slokas from Mahabharata, Varahapurana, Visnupurana and Srirangastava and has compiled treatises on them with explanations. His works on Rahasyagranthas are his original works namely, Parandarahasyam (on Rahasya Traya), Manikyamalai (on relationship of Acarya and his disciples), Sakalapramanatatparyam(on Visistadvaitha philosophy), Rahasyatrayadipika(on arthapancaka), Rahasyatraya Vivarana (on the definition of the three Rahasyas), Nigamanappadi (on conclusions of Rahasyatrayas), Upakarasmrti (in praise of the Lord) and Kaliyanarulappadu (in praise of Tirumangai Alvar). On Stotra literature, he has commented on Stotraratna, Catusloki, 14 stanzas of Jitantastotram and Gadyatrayam of Sri Ramanuja. He is the first Acarya to have written manipravala commentaries on Sanskrit works.

Another important work of Acarya Pillai is his Pacurappadi Ramayanam, compiled in just few lines without omitting any important incidence(two pages) with phrases, sentences and words found in Divyaprabhandham.

Acarya Pillai will be remembered by all of us with gratitude, but for this Vyakhyana chakravarti, the mass of Srivaishnava literature would have been hidden from us.

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AACHARYA HRIDAYAM

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Aacharya Hridyam is a work of Ayagiya-manavala Perumaal Nayanar (thirteenth century A.D). the younger brother of Pillai-Lokacharya of Srirangam. These two were the two illustrious sons of Vadakkuthiruveethi-pillai of Mudumbai Vamsham (family). He is the 18th Aacharya in the guruparampara of Sreevaishnava Aacharyas as detailed below.

God is manifest in five different forms namely, Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Antaryami and Archa. He is the first preceptor (Aacharya initiating “Shree”(Periyapirattiyaar) the first disciple in the Guruparampara. This is a chain established for Gnyana-Santati who are to be remembered for Bhakthiroopa- prapannagnyana. Other disciples in the descending order include:-

3.Vishvaksena, 4.Paranakusha-muni (Nammalwar), 5.Madhurakavi-alwar, 6.Nathamuni, 7.Pundarikaaksha, 8.Raama-mishra, 9.Aalawandaar, 10. Periyanambi, 11.Ramanujacharya, 12.Koorathaalwan (Kooresha), 13. Bhattar, 14. Nanjeeyar,15.Nambillai, 16.Vadakkuthiruveethi-pillai, 17.pillai-lokacharya. 18.Ayagiyamanavala-Perumal-Nayanar 19. Thiruvoymozhi-pillai 20.Manavalamamuni

This work is a gist (summary) of Nammalwars works. It has four(Prakaranas)chapters with 234 sutras and commented in 20 topics as detialed below:

PRAKARANA No.of Sutras Topics

1 86 6

2 63 6

3 69 5

4 16 3

Total 234 20

NammAlwaar (Shatakopa-Suri) is considered as Prapanna-jana-Kootasha (Fulcrum of surrendering devotees). He is included in Aacharyaparampara as well as Guraparampara of Sri-Vaishnava-aacharyas. He was blessed by Vishvaksena, the commander in chief of the Nitya-viboothi and Leela-viboothi of the paratattva .(Sri Vaikuntanatha)

NammAlwaar” is consider as Angi (soul) and other Alwaars are considered as his angam(parts of the body). He has rendered the four vedas into Tamil for easy access to one and all. God is Veda-pratipaadya(Known by vedas). Alwaar declares that god’s grace (Bhagavat Krupa) leads one to Knowledge about Brahman which in trun leads one to final emancipation(Moksha).

His “Heart” is understood clearly by this Naayanar (author ) and he has explained the Paramaacharya Hridaya in twenty subjects of four prakarana containing two hundred and thirty four (234) aphorism (Sutras). The Specialty of the work is the words are selected from Alwaars Outpourings (Divya-prabhandam).

Manavala-maamuni known as Varavaramuni (1370 A.D to 1443 A.D ) has written a lucid commentary for each of the sutra of Aacharya Hridaya and summarized the entire work in the twenty topics as shown below:

1. God's Shastra-pradanna (bringing out Shruti and Smritis )is for the welfare of mankind (1 - 15)

2. God's light on Astakshara_thirumantra is for Tatwa Gnyana(16)

3. Difficulty in practicing Shastras and easiness in the study of Thiruvoymozhi (17-38)

4. Glimpses of Alwaars experince and greatness of Sahasrageeti (Thiruvoymozhi) (39-4)

5. Sprouting of Gnyana and Bhakthi in Alwaar by his spontaneous grace (74-93)

6. God's grace on Aalvar being without any expectation and reason (Nirhetuka) (94-117)

7. Alwaars outpourings during Gnyana-dasha,Bakthi-dasha,& other symbolisms (118-158)

8. Speacial attributes of God in different Divya-deshams (159-186)

9. Spontaneous outburst of his attriubutes Gunavishista-vastu (187-188)

10. Equivalence and superiority over Bhagvad-Geetha (189-194)

11. Coordination and coherence of different subjects of Alwaars (195-200)

12. This work is a summary of Rahasya-traya and arha-panchaka (200-212)

13. Universality of the attributes of God (213)

14. Equation of Alwaars Avatharam with that of God (214-217)

15. Superiority of Thiruvovmovi over other scriptures (218)

16. Summary of each centum of Thiruvoymozhi (219-228)

17. The reason for delayed emancipation of Alwaar (229)

18. Explanation of Parabhakthi, Paragnayna & Paramabhakthi of Alwaar (230-232)

19. Alwaars ecstary at the grant of paramabhakthi (233)

20. Gist of NamAlwaar’s Thiruvoymozhi (234)

 

Summary of each subject discussed at length in Aacharya Hridaya :-

 

God's Shastra pradana (bringing out Shruti and Smritis) is for the welfare of mankind (1-15):-

 

Lord (Bhagawan) created shastras for : 1) distinguishing between the useful and useless and 2) Tatwa gyana (knowledge about chit, achit and Eshwara)

All are not learned. Hence to educate and motivate common man (Agnya Chetana) and to distinguish between good and bad, essential and superfluous, God prescribed many scriprtures (Smriti, Shruti, Itihasa, Purana) out of pity and compassion (Nirhetuka Kripa).

God’s light on Astaakkshara-thirumantra for tatwa-Gnyana

(Knowledge of chit, achit and Eeshwara) (16):-

He also taught Thirumantra (“Omnamo Naryanaya”) to make others understand the Tatwatraya at quicker pace with easiness and simplicity. This was also done out of extreme concern and piety. Astakshara contains everything. It can be used to attain Moksha (emancipation) as it is the essence of all Vedas One may refer Mumukshuppadi of Pillailokaacharya to know more about the prabhaava (influence and effect) of Astaakshara-vidya.

Difficulty in practicing Shastras and easiness in the study of Thiruvoymovi (17-38):-

The knowledge obtained by the study of Shastras is acquired from Karmakaanda, the first part of Vedas prescribed in twelve chapers (Adhyaya) of jaimini Sutras. The next four chapters are called as Devata-kaanda which prescribes the different ways of propitiating Devatas for worship, sacrifice and attainment of their Saayujya (Loka) This is also an effort to further the bondage of life and is not for final emancipation. The last four chapters (called as Brahmakaanda) states the reality of the world (Brahamasathyam and Jagatsathyam). A study of these Baadaraayana Sutras requires a knowledge of Vedaangaas i.e Tarak, Vyakarana, Jyotisha, Nirukta, Shiksha. & Chandas which is time consuming and circuitous route for attainment of Godhead. As against this all can recite Thiruvoymozhi i.e Saamaveda Sara declared by Lord Krishna as himself in Bhagavad-geetha. Shraddha and devotion are the essential requirements for reciting of this 1102 Paashurams of NammAlwaar. It is a spontaneous outpouring of the Bhagavad Gunas. It is in ten centimes of 100 Paashurams each calle as ‘patthu’. This is called as Dravida Veda know as Aagastya which is also present from times immemorial (Anadi) . Alwaar is compared to a sage, a muni, a mantradrasta (a realized soul) and a poet. The other three works of NammAlwaar viz. Thriruviruttam, Thiruvaashiriyam and periya-thiruvandaadi are gist of Rigveda, Yajurveda and Atharvana veda respectively. Thriuvoymoyi the fourth prabandha is also equated to Chaandogya- upanishad.

Glimpses of Alwaars experience and greatness of Sahasrageeti (Thiruvoymozhi) (39-74):-

Alwaar went into trance for six months each time in three different places while singing Thiruvoymozhi. They are:

1) While narrating the Soulabhyaguna of Lord Krinshna getting himself punished by Yashoda

2) While narrating the birth and growth of Sri Krinshna he remembers his Adbutha Charita

3) While narrating Antaryaami Bhagavaans Vibuthva and Sarva Vyaaptatva (all pervasiveness).

All these happenings are attributes to His kataaksha (grace) which is conferred on Alwaar out of His will and not due to Alwaar’s prayer. These are a few instances brought out in the work to show a glimpse of the grandeur of Prapanna-jana- Kootastha (Namm Alwaar)

Sprouting of Gnyana and Bhakthi in Alwaar by God’s spontaneous grace (75-93): -

The eatable food, dirnking water and other digestives are all Lord Krishna (Kannan) to NammAlwaar. Because of his love towards Lord Krishna NammAlwaar is named as Krishna-trishna-tatva. Swadhyaaya (self study). Yoga (union of individual soul with universal soul),Upaaya (path) and Upeya (result), is Lord Krishna himself to NammAlwaar. This is iullustrated in his birth also. Alwaar was born on the 42nd day of the birth of the present Kaliyuga, a day prior to the Niryaaana (departure of Lord Krishna) from this world (Dwaraka). He repents for delaying his birth by one day which denied him a direct meet with Lord Krishna.

Namm Alwaar is narrated as three in one in his service to society as detailed below:-

1. He has played the role of Seeta, Bharata and Krishna.

2. He has done a yeoman service better that that of the Sun, Sri Ramachandra and Achuta .

3. He represents pramaana, prameya and pramaata (Shaastra, Bhagavan and Aacharya).

The entire Thiruvoymozhi is said to depict the qualities of Lord and each Paashuram represents one guna only. This is to reiterate that he is Heyaguna-rahita (bereft of all bad qualities) and kalyana-Gunaikatana (full of all good qualities). These two constitute the Ubhayalinga-vishistatva discussed at length in Sri Bhashya of Ramanuja (conmmentary on Vyasa’s Brahmasutra), Sheshatwa (obedience) is the inherent characteristics of the individual soul. A birth with Sheshatwa and parthanthria (implicit obedience) is an Utkrista-janma (Superlative birth). There is no equivalent to Alwaar either in this vibhooti (world) or in the Nithya- vibooti (other world). In proof of this

Alwaar declares 15 riddles to be answered by God himself.

God’s grace on Alwaar is without any expectation and reason (Nirhetuka) (94-117):-

Lord’s spontaneous grace and blessings alone fruitioned and bloomed in Alwaar, which is considered as unique. This lead to parabhakthi, paragyana and paramabhakthi in course of time as an out come of the unexpected bountiful grace of God. Saadhana-bhakthi, Saadhya-bhakthi, and Alwaar’s bhakthi are considered as preliminary, advanced and spontaneous bhakthi respectively.

Saadhana-bhakthi is obtained by following prescriptions as detailed in Bhagavad-Gita (Chapters 1-17). The advanced bhakthi of prapannas is obtained by saadbhyopaya-varana. This is fruitful only after dehaviyoga (after death). Alwaar’s bhakthi is sahaja-bhakthi is just like the fragrance in Tulasi (basil). Even this is induced by God, and has risen from Eeshwara- krishiphala (God’s plan to elicit the Sama Veda in Tamil through NammAlwaar). Alwaars sukritha (good deeds) was God him self. The author compares Alwaar to Shabari, Vidhura, Rishis-pathnies (wives of sages).

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ASTASLOKI OF Parasara Bhattar

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Sriparasarabattaryaha srirangesha purohitaha

Srivatsaanka suthaha Sreemaan Sreyase mestu bhuyase.

After Bhattar, Astasloki was referred by all Acaryas like Nambillai, Pillai Lokacarya, Vedanta Desika, Kanchi Vadikesari Alagiya Manavala Jeeyar and many others. The Vyakyana of this is today available to us only because of the Sanskrit work by Prativadi Bhayankaram Annan Swami. After this many other scripts are available in many languages.

Some of the works of Bhattar are : Bhagavadguna Darpana, Rangarajastava, Astasloki and Gunaratnakosha.

There are 3 secrets for a Mummukshu to understand, These are Tirumantram, Dvayam and Charmam as told by PillaiLokacarya in his Rahasya Grantha Mumukshupadi.

Astasloki of Bhattar has 8 slokas and conveys the meaning of the above 3 secrets.

Meaning of Tirumantram in first 4 Slokas “ Om Namo Narayanaaya

- 3 Words”

Meaning of Dvaya Mantram in next 2 Slokas “Sriman Narayana Charanow Sharanam Prapadye Srimathe Narayanaaya Namaha

- 6 Words”

Meaning of Krishna Charmasloka in next 2 slokas “Sarvadharmaan parityajya maam ekam saranam vraja, aham tva sarvapapebhyo mokshayishyami maa sucaha

- 12 words”

Sloka 1:

akaaraarto vishnuhu jagadudayarakshaapralayakrit

makaaraarto jeevaha tadupakaranam vaishnavamidam

ukaaronanyaarham niyamayathi sambhandhamanayoho

trayeesaarastryaatma pranava yimamartham samadishat

Letter ‘A’ denotes Visnu who causes the creation, protection and destruction of the world.

Letter ‘M’ denotes the soul who is the instrument of Visnu and belongs to Visnu alone.

Letter ‘U’ indicates the relationship of belonging to no one else, denotes the Sesha-Seshi

relationship of the the Lord(Super Soul) and Soul.

This 3 syllable Pranava is the essence of the 3 Vedas.

Sloka 2:

mantrabrahmani madhyamena namasa pumsaha svaroopam gathihi

gamyam shikshithameekshitena purataha paschaadapi staanataha

svaatantryam nijarakshanam samuchitaa vritthischa naanyochithaa

tasyaivethi harervivichya kathitam svasyaapi naarham tataha

The “namas” the middle word in the Moola Mantra teaches the soul’s true nature, way and goal. By looking at what goes before this word(Pranava) and what comes after(Narayanaya) we can arrive at three different parts-

* Om Namaha - Ananayarha Seshatvam(belongs to Narayana only and nobody else)

* Namo Namaha - Ananya Saranatvam (he only is to be surrendered like case of

Draupadi and Nammalvar))

* Narayanaya Namaha - Ananya Bhogyatvam(all that we do is for Him and not for us. As Alavandhar says” Kadahamaikantika Nityakinkaraha praharshaishyami sanatajeevitaha” and Nammalvar says “tanakkeyaahayannaikollumeede”.)

Thus indicating autonomy, self-protection and service being suitable to Hari only. The same has been conveyed by Sri Ramanuja in his Perundevi Stuthi “Akaratrayasampannam AravindanivasineemAsesha jagadhishitreem vande varadavallabham”.

Sloka 3:

akaarartaayaiva svamahamata mahyam na nivahaaha

naraanaam nityaanaamayanamithi naarayanapadam

yamaahaasmai kaalam sakalamapi sarvatra sakalaasu

avasthaasvaavihi syuhu mama sahajakainkaryavidhayaha

Here Bhatttar explains the mening of word “Narayana” and “Aya”.

I am the property of the one indicated in the letter ‘A’. The word ‘Narayana” means the abode of group of eternal ‘Naras’. The dative case-ending(Chaturthi Vibhakthi) says that my performances of spontaneous service for Him should take place at all times, in all places, and under all conditions.

Sloka 4:

dehaasakthaatmabuddhiryadhi bhavathi padam saadhu vidhyaathrutheeyam

svaatantryaandho yadhi syaat prathamamitharasheshatvadheeschedvitheeyam

aatmatraanonmukhaschennama yithi cha padam bhaandhavaabhaasalolaha

shabdham naarayanaakyam vishayachapaladheeschechathurthem prappannaha

After understanding the above 3 slokas, with a mind set to serve Hari and nobody else for no benefit, there could be many troubles one could face, for this Bhattar gives solutions for the mind to overcome the impediments in servitude to Lord.

If he thinks that soul is the body, the wise prapanna should learn the third syllable ‘M’.

If he is blind with autonomy, the first ‘A’.

If subservient to another the second ‘U’.

If trying to protect himself, the word ‘namaha’.

If hankering after those who only appear to be kinsmen, the word ‘Narayana’.

If his mind is involved in worldly matters, the dative case-ending(Chaturthi Vibhakthi on word

Narayana).

Sloka 5:

nethrutvam nityayogam samuchitagunajaatam tanukyaapanam cha

upaayam kartavyabhaagam tvatha mithunaparam praapyamevam prasiddham

saamitvam praartanaam cha prabhalatara virodhiprahaanam dashaithaan

manthaaram traayathe chethyadhigathanigamahashatdoyam dvikandaha

The Dvaya Mantram has six words and two parts and is the essence of Vedas, and meditating on this mantram would lead to salvation. It is known to have ten meanings :

leadership : nethrutvam

eternal union of Sri at all times and all places : nityayogam

suitable to surrender with a class of appropriate qualities : samuchitagunajaatam

reference to the Lord’s body : tanukyaapanam

the Upaya for attaining salvation : cha and upaayam

the part to be done by the soul to reach the Lord : kartavyabhaagam tu

and then that the Supreme is the goal : mithunaparam paapyamevam prasiddham

the Lord’s ownership of Ubhaya Vibuti : saamitvam

the prayer to Him : praartanaam cha

the destruction of the greatest obstacles : prabhalatara virodhi prahaanam

Sloka 6:

eeshaanaam jagathaamadheeshadayithaam nityaanapaayam sriyam

samshrityaasrayanochitaakhilagunasyaanghree harerashraye

ishtopaayathaya sriyaa cha sahithaayatmeshwaraayaarthaye

karthum daasyamasheshamaprathihatham nityam tvaham nirmamaha

Having approached Sri, the eternally inseparable consort of the Lord of the universe, I resort to the feet of Hari, endowed with a host of qualities suitable for taking refuge, as my chosen Upaya. Wanting nothing for myself, I request to do complete service forever without any obstacles to my Lord who is joined with Sri, the instructor to Brahma, Rudra and all others.

Sloka 7:

matpraapthyarthayaa mayokthamakilam santyajya dharmam punaha

maamekam madavaapthaye sharanamithyaarthovasaayam kuru

tvaamevam vyavasaayaukthamakhilagnaanadhipoornohyaham

matpraapthiprathibhandhakaihi virahitham kuryaam shucham maa kruthaaha

Having previously relinquished all the dharmas which I taught for obtaining me, then you who are pained be resolved that for reaching me, the refuge is me alone. For, i who am endowed with all knowledge, etc will cause you-who are so resolved-to be free of all obstacles to attaining me. Do not grieve.

Sloka 8:

nischitya tvadadheenathaam mayee sadhaa karmaadhyupaayaan hare

karthum tyakthumapi prapatthumanalam seedhaami dukkhakulaha

yetadgnaanamupeyusho mama punaha sarvaaparaadhakshayam

karthaaseethi drudosmi te tu charmam vaakyam smaran saaratheha

Convinced of my eternal dependence on you, O Hari, I am incompetent to do or even relinquish the Upayas such as Karma Yoga or to surrender to you. Thus I am afflicted with misery. Knowing this, please destroy all my prior sins. I am firmly remembering your last words that you will relieve me of all my sins, O Charioteer!

Acarya Thiruvadigale Sharanam

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WHO IS RAMANUJA?<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Sri Ramanuja is the renowned 11th Century philosopher, devotee, and humanitarian who serves as the paradigmatic leader and central figure in a vast lineage of scholars and mystics belonging to the spiritual path of Sri Vaishnavism, a monotheistic religious tradition of India that has been described by both Eastern and Western scholars alike as being the most complete in its understanding of the Vedas, the Eternal Truths. His contributions to this spiritual path were so vast, that Sri Vaishnavism itself has come to be known as Ramanuja Darshanam, Ramanuja’s Vision.<o:p></o:p>

Sri Ramanuja’s nine great philosophical and devotional works validated and united the his lucid understanding of ritual and philosophical ideals of the Vedas with the devotional outpourings of the Azhvars, the twelve mystical saints that form the basis of the Sri Vaishnava experience. Such a synthesis of scholarly understanding and heartfelt devotionalism lies at the center of Sri Ramanuja’s philosophy, which has come to be known as Visistadvaita, qualified monism.<o:p></o:p>

Visistadvaita suggests the idea of a Personal Supreme Being, known in Sanskrit as Sriman Narayana (the refuge for all souls), Who is at once the Great Lord and Master of the Universe, and also the Divinely Merciful and Loving Protector, Who is ever striving to redeem souls from the bondage resulting from ignorance and false ego. The unifying factor <o:p>between the Supreme Being and the individual souls is Divine Love,which is expressed by the Lord in His constant desire to protect and save, and is expressed by the devotee through adoration, surrender, and selfless service. The goal of human life in the Sri Vaishnava path is to awaken this Love for God in our hearts to a level that brings peace, strength, and higher purpose to this life, and eventually, salvation through a natural and heartfelt submission to the Lord's Boundless Grace.<o:p></o:p>

In addition to being a prodigious thinker and esteemed religious leader,

Sri Ramanuja was also revered for his magnanimity and humanitarianism. His instructions to his disciples were that the message

of the Sri Vaishnava path should be shared with all, irrespective of race,

caste, creed or gender. Such an open and inclusionary attitude allowed

the Sri Vaishnava message of love and service to God and His Creation

to break through the rigidities of caste and communal segregation and

reach every corner of India. Such a peaceful revitalization of Vedic

thought would directly and indirectly elevate the spiritual ideals of India

for centuries, influencing such great souls as Ramananda, Tulsidas,

Kamban, Pothana, Guru Nanak, Kabir Das, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,

Mirabai, Swaminarayan, and most recently, Mahatma Gandhi.

During his time on earth, Sri Ramanuja appointed 74 of his closest

disciples to serve as keepers and propogators of this proper

understanding of the Eternal Truths. These 74 disciples and their

continuous lineage of successors up to the present day have come to

form the Acharya Paramparai, the lineage of Spiritual Teachers. It is this

lineage that each and every person is given the opportunity to link to in

their formal initiation into the Sri Vaishnava faith.<o:p></o:p>

This link is likened to a beautiful necklace, which is depicted in the illustration on page 6. Sri Ramanuja serves as its main jewel, and the lineage of teachers that preceded him and follow him are precious gems that come to completion at the clasp, the Lord Sriman Narayana Himself. A Sri Vaishnava's daily spiritual practice includes meditation on this lineage. Along with one's own immediate Acharyas, the meditation proceeds through the necklace, which lists the Acharyas in reverse chronological order as follows:<o:p></o:p>

Sri Manavala Mamunigal<o:p></o:p>

Sri ThiruvaiymozhiPillai<o:p></o:p>

Sri PillaiLokacharya<o:p></o:p>

Sri VadakkuThiruvidhiPillai<o:p></o:p>

Sri Nampillai<o:p></o:p>

Sri NanJeeyar

<o:p> Sri ParasaraBhattar</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Embar</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Ramanuja</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Parankusa</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Yamunacharya</o:p>

<o:p> Sri RamaMisra</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Pundarikaksha</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Nathamuni</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Sattakopaya</o:p>

<o:p> Sri Vishvaksena</o:p>

<o:p> Sri (Maha Lakshmi, the Divine Mother)</o:p>

<o:p> Sridhara (SrimanNarayana)</o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

<o:p>The chain is garlanding the rahasyatrAyam, the three Great Secret Mantras, that every Sri Vaishnava mediatates upon daily to understand his/her true nature, the nature of God, and the relationship of Divine Love that binds us to Him Eternally.</o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

<o:p>The first of these mantras is known as the Moola mantram, which was revealed by Sriman Narayana Himself to His Disciple Nara in his Nara-

Narayana avathara. The second mantra is the dvayam, which the Lord revealed to Sri, the Divine Mother. The last of these mantras, and most well-known is the charama sloka, which was revealed to Arjuna by the Lord in His avathara as Sri Krishna in Sri Bhagavad Gita.</o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

<o:p>While they may continue to be known as "secrets", it is solely through

the Compassion of Sri Ramanuja that these mantras were made available

to anyone and everyone. Indeed, in a paradigmatic example of his

resolve, Sri Ramanuja proclaimed the greatness of one of these mantras

from the top of a temple tower immediately after his Acharya had

revealed it to him under the condition that he reveal it to no one else.

When confronted by the teacher for what was an act of blasphemy, Sri

Ramanuja replied that he would risk eternal condemnation if it meant

that just one soul could achieve the Lord's Highest Abode. It is at this

point that the Acharya, Thirukoshtiyur Nambi, in awe of his kindness,

would proclaim him to be EmperumAnAr, our Lord of Lords. And it is

for this Kindness, this Magnanimity to the point of self-sacrifice that can

only be on par with God's Own Love, that Sri Ramanuja forever remains

in our hearts and lives as not only the Greatest among our Spiritual

Teachers, but also as our savior.</o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

<o:p>Om Namo Narayanaya</o:p></o:p>

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FOLLOWERS OF RAMANUJA & LORD NARAYANA<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:" /><o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

One of the fundamental qualities of a follower of Ramanuja Sampradayam is, although one must be completely tolerant of other beliefs, on a personal level the devotee maintains exclusive monotheistic devotion to the Supreme Lord, Sriman Narayana, as one's sole Refuge and Protection. The reason for this is not just dogma or blind faith, but is the result of a logical understanding of the purpose of spirituality as it is taught in the Vedas and as it is revealed to us by our Acharyas.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

For every human being, faith is very essential towards leading a purposeful and productive life. That faith should be based on sound principles and should be derived from a proper understanding of the venerated practices and teachers of the past. Faith such be of such a nature that it frees one from worrying about the past, the present or the future, encouraging a person to focus instead on living a productive and good life, such that not only the individual but all those around that individual are benefited. To gain such an attitude that leads to the Good,

one must be safe in the knowledge that he/she is being guided and cared for by the Divine.<o:p></o:p>

To have such a faith, one must follow a path that is lucid and straightforward, free of contradictions and discrepancies.Consequently, it must be directed towards One Being, One Supreme Good, One Absolute Truth. That One Being should be all powerful such that we know that He can easily save us from what would otherwise be an unending web of accumulated sins that bind us to our false egos and our material desires. At the same time, that Being should be very compassionate, forgiving, and accessible, so that we can be rest assured that we can turn to Him in spite of our sinful nature. He must also be impartial to everyone such that He readily accepts anyone and everyone who turns to Him, irrespective of their caste, race, gender or station in life. He must also possess many charming and wondrous qualities such that we are easily drawn to Him. And, He must be one who loves us unconditionally, and who is willing to accept our unconditional love in return. Such a being would easily be accepted into our hearts and lives.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Given our human foibles, however, even if such a being were to stand

before us at this moment, telling us that He is the One that we are

seeking, our nature would be to doubt Him. So, In addition to all the

Divine Qualities, He must be one whose supremacy has been proven by

what others have taught, and is time-honored and proven. Over the

ages, great people should have consistently worshipped Him, and that<o:p></o:p>

worship should be consistent with the books/revelations that tell us of such a Person.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p> </o:p>

Our Acharyas teach us that the Vedas, which form the basis of any Indian spiritual system, emphatically declare that such a Lord is none other than Sriman Narayana, the Supreme Being Vishnu, the consort of the Goddess Sri, the refuge of all souls. Great saints and mystics have worshipped Him through the ages, and have passed on their legacy to others. Ramanuja adopted this legacy from them, and has shared this great treasure with all of us through his lineage of Teachers. It is for this reason, that followers of Ramanuja put their complete trust in Sriman Narayana as the Way and the Goal of Life.<o:p></o:p>

 

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This section will provide information about great saints and teachers. In this section we provide information about two great saints - (1) thondar-adi-p-podi-azhvaar, (2) thiru-mazhisai-azhvaar. Azhwars are mystic saints who are blessed with divine knowledge by the Lord, and whose outpourings known as the divya-prabhandam (divine verses) are venerated as the highest source of devotional/philosophical knowledge.

 

thond.jpg

 

thondar-adi-p-podi-azhvar :

Literally translated, the meaning of the Azhvar's name is the Azhvar who is "dust of the feet of the devotees of the Lord". This is a tamil name. The equivalent in sanskrit is "Bhaktangrirennu".His original name was Vipra-Narayana.Vipra-narayana was born near Sri Rangam, and was brought up by his parents to be a devotee of the Lord. After his childhood, he moved to Sri Rangam, and started performing service laced with deep devotion to the Lord of SriRangam - Lord Ranganatha. His primary means of service was collecting flowers and basil leaves, making garlands out of them and offering it for adoring the Lord everyday. While living such a devout life, a dancer with some deceit and considerable effort, attracted him and made him fall in love with her. After Vipranarayana fell in love with her, she moved to a village near Sri

Rangam. Vipranarayana, in his illusion and demented state, forgot all about the Lord, and went to her house. She refused to let him in, and he stayed outside the house day and night praying for her to let him in. Seeing his state, the Lord and Lakshmi decided to change him. They enacted a few incidents, and Vipranarayana realized his wandering away from the truth and his true state of serving the Lord. He came back

to srIrangam, and to atone for all his sins, he took the name of thoNdar-adi-p-podi, and started performing service to ALL devotees, irrespective of where they came from. The Lord blessed him with diving knowledge; he gave us two works - thiru-p-paLLi-ezhuchchi and thiru-mAlai.

Thiru-p-paLLi-ezhuchchi literally translates to “the waking up of the diving”. It is sung everyday in most temples when the early morning rituals start. Thiru-mAlai translates into “divine garland”. It is an emotional outpouring on the Lord of Sri Rangam, and contains many verses where the Azhvaar thanks the Lord who blessed him with grace inspite of his many shortcomings.

 

tirumazhisai.jpg

thiru-mazhisai-AzhvAr :

This AzhvAr’s name is derived from the holy place where he lived - it is

called thiru-mazhisai, and is currently a suburb of the city of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:City><st1:place>Chennai</st1:place></st1:City> in

<st1:country-region><st1:place>India</st1:place></st1:country-region>. His original name was Bhakti-sAra (the essence of devotion). This

AzhvAr practiced many different religions in his quest for the truth. He

got disillusioned with every one of them, and was fortunately, through

the divine will, taught by one of the earliest Azhvaars known as pEy-

AzhvAr. Bhakti-sAra found the truth in Vaishnavism, and became a great

devotee of Lord Sriman Narayana. His affection and concern for the

Lord, and his relationship with Him is legendary. The Lord of thiru-vehaa

(a place in current day kanchipuram), yathOkthakAri or sonna vaNNam

seydha perumAL (the Lord who did as instructed!) is said to have adhered

to this Azhvaar’s commands and have left the town for a day, and on the

Azhvaar’s commands, come back. Similarly, the Lord of thiru-k-kudandhai

(present day Kumbakonam, in Tamilnadu), Araavamudhan is said to have

listened to the Azhvaar’s pleas to stop getting up to welcome his

devotee, the Azhvaar who came there to worship Him. To this day, we

can see the Lord there in a posture that is between completely lying

down, and sitting. This AzhvAr gave us a composition called thiru-ch-

chanda-viruttam (chanda-viruttam is the name of a form of Tamil poetry;

thiru is added as it is holy poetry).

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Divine Places - SriRangam

 

Presiding Deity :

 

Sri Ranganatha (The Lord of SriRangam), also known as Periya Perumal (the foremost lord) - reclining on Adisesha (the foremost devotee or servant of the Lord, present in form of a serpent, coiled up serving as a bed to the Lord) in a posture known as bujanga Sayanam (reclining with the hand supporting the face), facing south. The procession deity is called Azhagiya manavalan (the handsome bridegroom), or namperumal (Our Lord).

 

Divine Consort :

 

Sri Ranga nachiyar (The queen/goddess of SriRangam), also known as Sri Ranga Nayaki Thayar (The consort of Sri Rangantha).

 

Temple Legend :

 

Eons ago, Lord Ranganatha (in the exact same form as He is present in SriRangam Today), was worshipped by Brahma in a place knows as Satyaloka (one of the seven worlds according to Vedic literature). During a period, known as trethayuga (one of the four ages per Vedic Tradition), He was Worshipped on earth by a king knows as Ishvaku, the son of Manu (the author of code of conduct known as Manu Smrithi). This deity passed on through the generations to Lord Rama, who presented it to Vibheeshana, the king of Lanka after the ramayana war. On the way to Lanka from Ayodhya, the Lord was attracted by srirangam and wanted to rest there permanently. He promised Vibheeshana that he will grace him and Lanka by facing south (SriLanka is directly south of SriRangam).

 

Salient Aspects of the temple :

 

Vimanam (the name of the tower above the presiding deity's sanctum):

sri ranga vimanam, also known as pranavakruthi vimanam.

 

theertham (the name of the holy tank whose water is used for various purposes in this temple): chandra theertham (the most prominent one, currently present).

 

This temple has a unique arrangement. It is believed to be designed by satya varma (the divine architect) himself. There are seven gopuras(towers), named after the seven worlds, present in each of seven prAkArAs (passages around the temple). There are several sanctums for various incarnations/forms of Lord VishNu in these seven prAkArAs. There are also numerous sanctums for great teachers and saints of the religion in these prAkArAs.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:" /><o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Diving Outpourings on the Lord:<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Srirangam is the only holy place that has been sung by 11 AzhvArs with a total of 247 verses. One of them, srI thoNdar-adi-p-podi AzhvAr sung exclusively about Lord ranganAthA. srI parAsara bhattar composed magnificent Sanskrit stOtrAs (praise verses) on the Lord, the key among which is known as srI rangarAja sthavam. Sri vEdAnta dEsika composed a

magnificent stOtra called srI pAduka sahasram (1000 verses on the Lord’s holy feet) here.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Great Teachers and Saints:<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Srirangam has been, and is the seat of the Sri VaishNava religion. Given that, all the great teachers and saints have lived in Srirangam, and have propagated the religion from there. The following is a partial list of important sanctums present -<o:p></o:p>

(i) All the AzhvArs (12)<o:p></o:p>

(ii) srIman nAthamuni<o:p></o:p>

(iii) srI yAmunAchArya (ALavandAr)<o:p></o:p>

(iv) srI rAmAnuja<o:p></o:p>

(v) srI kUrattAzhvAn<o:p></o:p>

(vi) srI parAsar bhattar<o:p></o:p>

(vii) srI nampiLLai<o:p></o:p>

(viii) srI piLLai lOkAchAriAr<o:p></o:p>

(ix) srI vEdAnta dEsika<o:p></o:p>

(x) srI maNavALa mAmunigaL<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Other important facts:

(i) Ramanuja established Srirangam as the seat of learning<o:p></o:p>

(following the footsteps of yAmunAchArya and srIman<o:p></o:p>

nAthamuni), established all the temple procedures and<o:p></o:p>

services and established families to render specific services<o:p></o:p>

to the Lord. He was followed by great teachers like srI<o:p></o:p>

parAsara bhattar, srI nampiLLai and srI piLLai<o:p></o:p>

lOkAchAriar. During the life of srI piLLAi lOkAchAriAr,<o:p></o:p>

srIrangam was invaded by the North Indian rulers, and the<o:p></o:p>

temple procedures were lost. Two generations later, svAmi maNavALa mAmuni reestablished the temple procedures,rejuvenated the rAmAnuja sampradAya, and made Srirangam the seat of learning again.<o:p></o:p>

(ii) A method of propagating the concepts of SriVaishNavism<o:p></o:p>

using song and dance, called araiyar sEvai, was established<o:p></o:p>

by srIman nAthmuni. Following in that tradition, there are<o:p></o:p>

several occasions a year when learned scholars belonging to<o:p></o:p>

the araiyar family enact verses from the divine outpourings<o:p></o:p>

of the AzhvArs.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

How to get there:<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Srirangam is located near Trichy (Thiru-chi-ra-palli) - about 10<o:p></o:p>

kilometers from there. There is a railway station at Srirangam, and most of the express trains stop there. It is about 300 kilometers from Chennai. It takes about 6 hours by road from Chennai.

 

PROCESSION DEITY OF LORD RANGANATHA

 

rangam.jpg<o:p></o:p>

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Q & A: NEED FOR SPIRITUALITY AND ACHARYAS <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:" /><o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 1: What is Spiritual Knowledge, and what is the need for it? Who is a bonafide Acharya (spiritual teacher)? (With so many available)<o:p></o:p>

Any developed, civilized society seeks to find out the purpose of life, Why am I here, Who am I, Who created this universe, these questions will lead us to seek out the Truth.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

There has to be a greater purpose than eating, sleeping and reproducing. This leads us to think further and more questions come, am I more than this flesh and blood, am I "jeevatma"? (Spiritual Being)<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

The very important question of "who am I and what is my purpose", makes us seek "True Knowledge" (Spiritual Knowledge).This spiritual knowledge is gained through the study of spiritual science.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

This deals with<o:p></o:p>

1. Chit - Jivathmas (Soul) :- has Knowledge<o:p></o:p>

2. Achit - Time, Matter etc.<o:p></o:p>

3. Ishwara - Paramathma (Supreme soul) :- God, Sriman Narayana<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

In order to gain a proper understanding of this knowledge such that it can be to our benefit, as well as of benefit to the world, we need to seek an Acharya who has this type of knowledge, and is willing to share it readily with those who sincerely desire to learn it.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 2: How do we know the Acharya is true? How do we find THE Acharya?<o:p></o:p>

God out of his Kripa (mercy), reveals the true knowledge to us, via a Acharya parampara (lineage of Spiritual Teachers).<o:p></o:p>

Lord, Sriman Narayana (a.k.a, Vishnu, Sri Hari) is the first Acharya. He revealed this true knowledge to: "Sri" (Maha Lakshmi, the Divine Mother). The Divine Mother revealed the true knowledge to Vishvaksena (Commander in Chief in Vaikhunta), who in turn taught it to Satakopa Muni (Nammazhwar). The lineage of teachers continued on through Nathamuni, Pundarikaksha, Ramamisra, Yamunucharya, Goshti Purna, to Sri Ramanuja, the foremost and most magnanimous of all of the Spiritual Teachers (Time on Earth: 1017 to 1137 AD).<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Due to his unparalleled wisdom and compassion, Sri Ramanuja is regarded to be the foremost example of what it means to be a Spiritual Teacher. Thus all other teachers after him, have had their teachings validated because of their connection to Sri Ramanuja.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Consequently, All Acharyas following in this lineage of Acharyas after his time are named with suffixes/prefixes of Ramanuja, they represent Ramanuja and his teachings as they are.<o:p></o:p>

All these Acharyas passed down the knowledge as it is, without any

adulteration to the original as given by Lord Narayana to MahaLakshmi.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

You may approach any of the Acharyas in this lineage.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 3: Is this Acharya Lineage based on Birth. Are there any caste restrictions on who can be in this lineage?<o:p></o:p>

No this lineage is not based on birth. We have Acharyas from all walks

of life and all castes. Swami Satagopan (Nammazhwar) the first Acharya

in Earth was born in 4<SUP>th</SUP> Caste. He is the most important acharya who

brought the teachings to all the Sri Vaishnavas. There is a lot of

misconceptions regarding Caste System, let us discuss that in another

session.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 4: Is the Spiritual knowledge we get today is same as was given by LORD?<o:p></o:p>

In Sri Vaishnavite Sampradaya, this knowledge is being handed down from Teacher to Student (who then takes over the role of teacher for the next generation)<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Such a lineage can be regarded to be like” a clean pipe”, with all the Acharyas being regarded as smaller clean pipes connecting through a main “junction box”, Bhagavad Sri Ramanuja.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Since the water coming in is pure, and all the pipes are clean and untainted by false ego or false knowledge, the water coming at the end of the pipe is exactly the same as it at was at its source (Sriman Naryana). Spiritual Knowledge revealed by the Lord, is given to us by our Acharya, as taught through the Lineage of Acharyas. This knowledge is thus flawless and true spiritual Knowledge.

<o:p></o:p>

 

 

<o:p></o:p>

So any one interested in learning the True knowledge will approach an<o:p></o:p>

Acharya of this lineage (RamanujaAcharyas, some call them as<o:p></o:p>

Sadacharyas) as they are all representing Acharya Ramanuja (and will pass the message AS IS to their devotees)<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 5: How to approach Acharya?<o:p></o:p>

Due to, Lord SrimanNarayana's grace and benevolence we get accepted by our Acharya, the Acharya accepts us (it is never the other way). One should be extremely grateful and fortunate to be accepted by a qualified RamanujaAcharya of this lineage.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 6: What do we need to get accepted by such an Acharya?<o:p></o:p>

Genuine Interest is all that you need to have. If you are a true devotee seeking the Truth and are willing to understand and follow it respectfully, Ramanujacharyas will never turn you down.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

It is our great fortune that Acharyas accept us and impart the True knowledge to us in appropriate doses based on our individual capacity. In Sastras, Acharya is Described as Equivalent to GOD, If needed we can explain reasons later.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

So all the true devotees treat their Acharya as GOD himself.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 7: Like GOD, is that not stroking some Ego? Is this needed?<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

True devotees treat their Acharya as GOD himself, But the True Acharya NEVER says "I am God" never behaves with EGO or Anger,<o:p></o:p>

Never entertains any caste, community, regional or language barriers.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Question 8: How to know the True Acharyas from Fake Sadhus?<o:p></o:p>

There are so many others claiming to be the Perfect Acharya and that they are GOD. If you see such people go ask them if they are the SUPREME GOD (The Creator of this universe). Nobody is greater than or equal to the SUPREME GOD.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

Ask such people if they can even create a grain of rice without the help of Lord, Sriman Narayana. Ask if anyone can create or bring life to an otherwise life-less object. No-one can create anything, only GOD can. Still we find fake ones claiming to be GOD etc.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

True Acharya NEVER says "I am God"

 

You can be assured that an Acharya representing Bhagavad Ramanuja<o:p></o:p>

and his message is passing on the message as revealed by LORD and is a Bonafide True Acharya, capable of delivering us to GOD.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

In some sense it depends on what you are seeking, if you are seeking true spiritual knowledge, GOD will allow you to come under the guidance of an Acharya of the Lineage Started by HIM, with the LORD as the First Acharya.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p>

HIS grace is always upon you; let us pray for all of us, to fall in love with HIM more and more and not to resist/block his Grace with our false ego.

qa.bmp

 

Gopuram at Srirangam. Lord Ranganatha (main deity), The three great teachers<o:p></o:p>

- NammAzhvAr, Ramanuja and MaNavALa mAmuni

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MUMUKSHUPPADI<o:p></o:p>

An Introduction<o:p></o:p>

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>

Sri Pillai Lokacharya, who is the son of Sri Vadakku Thiruveethi Pillai and the elder brother of Sri Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar, has written eighteen important rahasya granthas which are together known as the Ashtadasa Rahasyas. These contain such phenomenal works as Mumukshuppadi, Srivacana Bhushanam, etc., which are of great importance to Sri Vaishnavas.

 

<o:p></o:p>

Mumukshuppadi is an important work to Mumukshus - those who wish to attain Moksha (liberation), the lotus feet of Lord Sriman Narayana. It explains in three parts (prakaraNams) the sweet and immeasurable meanings of the three mantras together known as the Rahasyatraya. The Rahasyatraya are the Thirumantra, Dwaya mantra and Carama shloka. To every soul that seeks liberation from this samasaric and karmic (suffering due to ego and the complex effects of karma) existence, understanding of these three mantras is essential.<o:p></o:p>

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>

The three mantras contain in them the five great meanings known as Arthapanchakam. These five meanings are: 1. Knowledge of the Supreme, 2. Knowledge of the Jiva, 3. Knowledge of the means, 4. Knowledge of the goal, and 5. Knowledge of the obstacles to that goal. All three great mantras were revealed by none other than Sriman Narayana Himself. Thirumantra which is known as Mantra Rajam, was revealed in Badri and was advised to Nara by Narayana (both were forms of the Lord).

Dwayam which is known as Mantra Ratnam, was revealed to Sri Mahalakshmi by the Lord in Sri Vishnu Loka. Carama shloka was revealed to Arjuna by Lord Sri Krishna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. As all three mantras were given by Him, He stands as the first amongst acharyas. It is therefore that Sri Kuratthazhvan started his guru parampara thaniyan with "Lakshminatha" - Sriman Narayana.<o:p></o:p>

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>

Our acharyas have delighted in the great and deep meanings of these mantras for a long time. Prior to Sri Ramanuja, these rahasyas and their meanings were told only to a selective few by our acharyas. As foreseen by Sri Nathamuni, Sri Ramanuja was born in this world to break such rules and show the path of salvation to everyone. And so, Sri Ramanuja made these rahasyas available to everyone. Sri Pillai Lokacharya then

brought these meanings to us in written form through the work Mumukshuppadi. Swami Manavala Mamunigal, out of his greatcompassion to us, decided to make these meanings understandable even to us and wrote an extensive vyakhyanam for Mumukshuppadi.<o:p></o:p> <!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p>

It is therefore very important for all those who seek salvation to try to gain a greater understanding of these three mantras by learning the Mumukshuppadi. Even after gaining Mamunigal's vyakhyanam, the explicit and hidden meanings of this work are hard to grasp. It is therefore essential to seek learned acharyas and learn this work from them.

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