Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 10

No danger to temple rituals

According to the wishes of Periya PerumAL, Udayavar performed all the temple rituals in an extraordinary manner in which no one else could perform them. He did not allow even a tiny gap or mistake to occur in them. He corrected those who erred in their duties and brought them back to the right track. Some bad souls found an issue with this and went to the extent of wanting to do away with Udayavar. They planned to do this by mixing some poison in the food he was to intake. They befriended a family to whose house YatirAjar went to beg for alms from, everyday. They got the head of the house convinced to carry out this horrendous task. He instructed his wife to carry it out. The wife was very afraid to do something like this and requested her husband to give up the idea since she worried that worst woes would befall upon them on carrying out a sin of this magnitude. But the husband tortured her into carrying out his orders. The wife had no choice but to carry out her husband's orders.

The next day, when YatirAjar came begging to her house for alms, she gathered up the poisoned rice. When she came to serve it to him, she could not control herself. Tears welled up in her eyes, her hands trembled and she dropped the rice in a separate corner of his bowl, away from the food gathered from other houses. She then went back inside after paying respects to him. (It is not customary to fall at the feet of sanyAsIs when they come for bikshai; if someone were to accidentally do so, then the sanyAsI has to throw away all the food collected thus far and fast for the rest of the day). YatirAjar found this behavior to be strange. He wondered why she would do something like this which she had never done before. NOt feeling good about it, he simply took all the food collected for the day and mixed it into the waters of the KAvEri. He dusted his clothes and washed them before sitting under a tree in a pensive mood. While shaking off the clothes, some morsels of poisoned rice had fallen on the ground and a crow who ventured by ate it and died. YatirAjar observed this and kept a strict fast for the next few days.

The love of AachAryAs

Periya Nambi and TirukkOttiyUr Nambi were together when they heard the news of RAmAnujar's assassination attempt. They were distraught and wanted to see him right away and planned a trip to SrI Rangam. On hearing the news of both his AachAryans coming to visit him, RAmAnujar was overjoyed and stepped out to visit them en route before they could make it to his place. While walking alongside the KAvEri river, he caught a glimpse of both of them. He started prostrating and getting up many times on the scorching sands of the river bank all the while walking towards them. There was quite a long distance to be covered and RAmAnujar was suffering from exhaustion. Instead of telling him that he could stop prostrating and be relieved, the AachAryAs let him continue on with the physically grueling ritual. AachAn who was with RAmAnujar at this juncture, could not bear it. Tears welled up in his eyes. "What kind of cruel teacher-stedent test is this? Is it the intent to test him until his death?", he sobbed out as he scooped up RAmAnujar from the scorching sands. Then TirukkOttiyUr Nambi replied, "AachAn, we were doing this o test to see who was truly loyal towards EmperumAnAr. You have proved your loyalty and that you are completely capable of taking care of him. From this day on, it is your duty to see to his physical benefits. I appoint you to cook for him daily and serve him alms". And accordingly, from that day on, KidAmbi AachAn became responsible for cooking and serving RAmAnujar.

AruLALa PerumAL EmperumAnAr

There was an Advaita SanyAsi by the name of YagnamUrti. He was a genius and a well learned scholar. He defeated quite a lot of scholars in debates in KAsi and adopted hundreds of disciples and taught all of them the advaitA philosophy. HE heard about YatirAjar having thousands of disciples in SrI Rangam to whom he was imparting the knowledge of VisishtAdvaitam. He did not want to be surpassed by anyone and decided that he had to take him on in a debate. He grabbed all his literature and proceeded to SrI Rangam. In a few months time, he reached there. He approached RAmAnujar and challenged him to a debate. RAmAnujar gladly accepted and asked him what he would do if he were to lose.

"If I were to lose, I will bear your footwear and also your name. I will renounce advaitam and come and join with you as a disciple after embracing VisishtAdvaitam. What will you do if you lose?", he asked. RAmAnujar said that he woud denounce all his literature were that to happen - he would not read or write books pertaining to the VisishtAdvaita philosophy were he to lose. Both of them agreed to each other's terms and decided to carry on a debate that would span over 18 days. And they went on for the first 16 days. Each one surpassed the other in succeeding arguments and no one had the upper hand, yet. Towards the end of the 17th day, YagnamUrti seemed to have the upper hand. He raised a question that RAmAnujar was supposed to answer. There was only one day left. YatirAjar stood stunned. YagnamUrti saw that and regarded success to be his. He suggested that they come back the following day and continue their arguments.

YatirAjar went back to his matam. He finished up his daily rituals and beseeched his favorite Lord, PEraruLALan who had always helped him in need. With tears flowing from his eyes, he asked the Lord, "This philosophy had been thriving since the beginning of time up until the period of AaLavandAr. What Am I to do if you decide to play a divine game and want this to be defeated in my time? All these days I have been arguing that everything about you is very real. Now you want to establish all that as an illusion by bringing an Advaitan proponent to argue so? What kind of game is this?" So saying he staid in a very pensive mood before the Lord.

That night, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He said, "Why should you lose heart this way? YagnamUrti is very intelligent, and I have made him your disciple from this point on. Refer to the work of your Guru AaLavandAr, called 'Akanda MAyAvAda Kandanam" and get the points to help you win the argument from that." So saying he disappeared. RAmAnujar woke up the next morning with Hari NAmA on his lips, as usual.He recollected the dream he had the previous night. He picked up the relevant points from AaLavandAr's SrI Sukti. He finished his morning rituals, convinced of his victory. He went to PeraruLALan's sannidi and sought his blessings before leaving.

When YagnamUrti saw the spring in RAmAnujar's step, he was taken aback.
(To be continued ...)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 9

Learning from TirumalaiAndAn

According to AachAryan's wishes, YatirAjar went to TirumalaiyAndAn and prayed to him and asked to be taught the meaning of the TiruvAi mozhis. AandAn happily obliged and did the same. The KAlakshEbams took place every day. When he came to the Second centime, third tiru, 3rd pAsuram called "AriyA KAlaththukkuLLE", he explained it thus: You gave the knowledge of relation to knowledge-less muscles and then destroyed the knowledge of birth by relating it to the body." YatirAjar observed that the previous 2 pAsurams were in praise of the Lord, as were the ones following this one. He argued that this explanation of the 3rd pAsuram did not satisfy on those lines. He said that it had to be interpreted in the same tone as the pAsurams before and after it - in a praising manner to the Lord and interpreted it thus: "Even though the knowledge of birth was destroyed by relating it to the body, you then showed me your true love and embraced me - just as how you tricked King MahAbali initially, but then showed him your ViswarUpam and embraced him." On hearing this interpretation, AandAn was overjoyed with this interpretation and conveyed the same to TirukkOttiyUr Nambi and Periya Nambi. They concurred that they had heard the same explanation from AalavandAr too. They were truly convinced that RAmAnujar had the complete blessings of AalavandAr. They all went and blessed him and AandAn completed his knowledge transfer of the meaning of the TiruvAimozhi.

The birth of PiLLAn

Kidambi AachAn (also known as PraNatArtigar) went to Tirumalai to see his aunt - the wife of Periya Tirumalai Nambi. He stayed there awhile. AT that time, a baby boy was born to Periya Tirumalai Nambi and he was named "PiLLai".

In Pilava year, month of Aippasi, in PUrAda star a second son was born to him and he was named "PiLLAn". He was a very different kid - he would not cry or laugh like other kids normally did. He paid concrete attention to Nambi when he would explain the meaning of the pAsurams in the prabandam. This astonished NambigaL. He thought that just like BhUmi PirAtti's son RAmAnujar, this child also had some special gifts. The other elders felt this way too. At the opportune time, they performed AksharAbhyAsam for the child. The child was a fast learner and grasped the meanings of the prabandam pretty well. Kidambi AachAn was thrilled to see this child develop in such an intellectual manner.

Once, a few VaishnavAs from SrI Rangam, went to TirumalA to get a darshan of the Lord. They also went by and inquired on NambigaL after that. While talking to him, they conveyed all the good work that RAmAnujar was doing and Nambi was thrilled that AaLavandAr's blessing were upon him fully. He asked them to narrate all the greatness of RAmAnujar and was very happy to see PiLLAn listening intently and talking about it in all his games with his friends.

AFter a few years, PiLLAn's upanayanam was performed and shortly thereafter he was married also. Kidambi AachAn was waiting to pay a visit to EmperumAnAr and get his blessings - he sought the permission of Nambi and planned a trip to SrI Rangam. He asked him to take PiLLAn along and to convince RAmAnujar to pay a visit to Tirupati. Accordingly, AachAn left with PiLLAn - they first ought the blessings of PEraruLALan and PerundEvi TAyAr. Then AachAn visited his mother who lived there and priceded to Periya KOvil.

Once at SrI Rangam, he first sought the blessings of Periya PerumAL and then went to EmperumAnAr's matam and fell at his feet and refused to get up. Udayavar made him get up and enquired about the happenings in TirumalA.  AachAn introduced him to PiLLAn and Udayavar was very happy to meet him. He blessed him and started teaching all the important texts to AachAn.

Monday, March 14, 2011

VishitAdvaitam Basics - Conclusion

Let us look at JIvAtma swarUpA and ParamAtma swarUpA as per VishishtAdvaitam:

"Satyam nyAnam anatam brahma"

Brahmam - ParamAtmA is always eternal, never changing, full of knowledge, omni present, omni potent, pervasive, pevadive. PiLLai LOkAchAr a famous exponent of VishishtAdvaitam wrote the AashAdasa rahasya grantam. Sri vachana bushanam is the best out of it. Nava vida sammandham is one text which iterates the 9 diff types of relationship that I enjoy with ParamAtmA:

No individual has all 9 relationships to us - we would have come across each in  different people but never all in the same person.

PitAcha rakshakaha sEshi bhartA  gnyEyO ramA pathihi
swamyAdharO mamAtmacha bhoktAchadya manUditaha

Pita-putra BhAva: Parent-child relationship.
Rakshya-rakshaka BhAva: Just because one is a father, it doesn't mean he is also a protector. But ParamAtmA is also a protector and I am the protected. Protector-protected relationship.

PiLLa LOkAchar says: Eesvaranai ozhindavargal rakshagar allure enbadai prapanna paritrAnathilE sonnom.

It means: Except NArAyanA none else can protect you; we commonly believe that a father protects us till we turn 18, then a husband, then maybe a son. He negates all these beliefs. If f anther protects did HiraNyakashipu protect PrahlAdA? If a brother is a protector, did RAvaNA protect VibhIshanA? As a mother, KaikEyi did not protect BharatA. None of these relationships seem to protect. When these people were abandoned by their supposed protectors, SrIman NArAyanA stepped in to protect them. Only the wealth of BhagavAn will protect you.

Sesha-sEshi BhAva - this is important as per RAmAnujar. BhagavAn is sEshi (master) and I am His absolute servant. UnakkE nAm At cheiyvOm. Only objective of JIvAtmA is to serve ParamAtmA. SitA was ordered by Rama to stay in the kingdom. Sita said that cording to manna smrti a man has to perform veridic rites only with his wife, so she insisted on accompanying him to the forest. Same rule was also applicable to UrmilA, LakshmaNA's wife. Then why did she not accompany her husband to the forest? There are 2 types of rules: SAmAnya dharma and VisEsha dharmA.Whenever there is no conflict between a special rule and a common rule, you can follow the common rule; but when there is a dispute, the special rule applies. In LakshmaNA's case, the sAmAnyam was to perform rituals with wife. The VisEsham was to take care of Rama. If UrmiLA came along to the forest, serve to RAmA will be disrupted. LakshmaNA's priority was service to his brother. This RAma-LakshmaNa master-servant relationship is sEsha-sEshi.

Bharta-Bharya BhAva: Narayana is my husband and I am his wife. Irrespective of their sex, All JIvAtmAs are females and only ParamAtmA is PurushOttamA. The only supreme male. We are all married to ParamAtmA. During wedding, in the kannikA dhAnam, the varA is addressed as being Vishnu roopaya thathAmi. He represents Vishnu. All girls are only married to Vishnu. Mangala sutrAm in this case is tiru mantram: Om Namo Narayanaya. It is tied to the neck of the JIvAtmA by the ParamAtmA. JIvAtmA belongs only to ParamAtmA and nobody else. This JIvAtmA is not available for anyone else. Intimacy is thus confirmed. Vaishnavas are often criticized for this reason - we will only worship SrIman NArAyaNA and no one else. We are called narrow minded in our perspective. Will any wife ask why her husband alone is her husband? When a wife says that she has solely one husband, she is a Pati VrtA. When we as Vaishnavaites say that we won't look at anyone other than NArAyaNA, why are we called narrow minded? We need to be praised, not criticized and certainly not asked to consider other Gods as ParamAtmA. This is the husband-wife relationship.

GNyatru - GNYEa BhAva: The JIvAtmA is the knower with knowledge. The ParamAtmA is the known, the realized, the recognized. The guiding light is the shastra. Source of knowledge is shastra. Ramaa patithi  is the sheaf pati BhagavAn realized by me. The knower-known relationship.

Swas-swami BhAva. Owner vs owned relationship. This is not applicable to other 5 relationships. I am His belonging/property. He can use me to any way possible. After sattumorai, prasdam is distributed. It is called KandaruLa pannudal. Somehow it is shared perfectly as per the discretion of the archakar distributing it. Similarly, God can use me as a viniyOga prasAdam however he deems fit.

Swami - Aadhaaraha BhAva: ParamAtmA is the one bearing me and I am the one being borne. if he leaves me, I will fall below. The relationship of the holder vs. the held. The entire universe is borne by ParamAtmA as evident form the Gita verse: vishtabhyaaham idham krthsnam ekaamSena sThitho jagath. KrsnA says "Without missing one small object on this universe, I bear it all. Arjuna, I don't even move an inch to bear it. I don't change/ I am not influenced/ I am unaffected". We are connected to Him like beads are connected by a string. Krishna gives another example of this: "SootrE manigaNa via maya tatam via sarvam". The beads (JIvAtmAs) are connected to to a sutrA string (Brahmam). Many beads are connected to one string, just as many JIvAtmAs are connected to one ParamAtmA. You cannot see the string, but only the beads. Jagat is visible, AtmA is known, but the Bhrammam is invisible. The beads are heavier than the string. We would think the beads are holding the string. But when the string is pulled out, that is when we know the truth.

SharIrAtma BhAva: He is my atma, I am his sharIra. The body-soul relationship.

BhOktAcha manOsita BhAva: He is the enjoyer and I am the enjoyed. He plays with me, toys with me and amuses Himself. Enjoyer vs. enjoyed relationship.

These 9 relationships are inevitable to understand the concept of V.

UpAya swarUpA talks about ways available to reach Him. Saranagati is the preferred method. Other means are too difficult to practice. Bhakti yoga is hard to attain. On Panguni Utram, RAmAnujar performed saranAgati to RanganAta and RanganAyaki since only on this day, they both come together from the North and South Gate and have tirumanjanam. He surrendered to RanganAchiyar first and she led him to RanganAtA. We should all follow saraNAgati too.

VirOdhi SwarUpa: This is a familiar concept. The obstacles that stand in the way of attainment of MOkshA.. KAma krOda lObha mho mada mAtsarya ahankAra and mamakAra. The way to overcome this is to be in the company of bhagavata uttamas always. Jadabharatar and AazhvArs prescribe this. In their company, all our dirt is cleansed. BhAgavata samAgama, Bhakta sangama and Satsanga is the way to remove all our enemies.

Lastly, it is the PrApya SwarUpA: What do you do when you reach the abode of SrIman NArAyaNA? Kainkaryam, what else? PeriyAzhvar in this last song said " PallAndennu pavithirana paramEttiyai sArngamennum villAndaan thannai villiputtur vishnu chittan virumbiya sol". He meant "I would go there and choose the same service and continue it there". The service was singing pallaandu. Whatever you do here, you can do it there. Serivce is same-  whether I am in the company of ParamAtmA or not is the question. Service is hindered here, but there is nothing to stop us there. All obstacles are removed. The moment we have his darshan, all knots tied to us are removed and we beome very clear as the purest water/fire.

Swami says that this needs to be repeated to be retained. He advices us to read PUrvAchAryA commentaries since they are blessed by BhagavAn to guide us.

Friday, March 11, 2011

VishitAdvaitam Basics - Part 2

What do you gain by understanding this relationship? When you address someone as "xyz"; is that "xyz" a qualification for the name or for the soul? It may sound like an insane question, but it is actually very valid. Once the soul leaves a body, the body becomes lifeless. There is no name for the body and it is simply referred to as a corpse. The body has no knowledge of a name attached to it; it is the AtmA that recognizes the name. But the AtmA does not have the capacity to physically turn and respond. That is the nature of the body - to perform the physical act of turning once the AtmA perform the act of recognizing. Thus, the thinking part is the paramAtmA and the executing part is the JIvAtmA. We usually don't have a different name for a body or a soul. Whatever name we call the soul also stands for the body. Because of this intimate relationship, the 2 can be considered as 1. Similarly, when the shAstrA says in AbhEda shruti to see everything as Bhrahmmam; it says so because everything is the body of the Bhrahmmam. Though there is only 1 bhrammam to be realized; it automatically flows down to all its parts. A beautiful quote that is an example of tis is when BrahmA says to RAmA after he defeats the war "Jagat sarvam sharIram tE": The whole world is your body.

VishishtAdvaitam can be interpreted as Vishishta yOgi Advaitam: As a connection to advaitam. Advaitam says that I am one and the same as Bhahmmam. Does that mean I am inseparable? For example, you see man everyday going for a walk with a walking stick. He is never seen without it. For you, the walking stick is a part of his identity and it is inseparable. But in reality, it is a removable component. But when you talk out a white dhoti, the white is an attribute of the dhoti and very different from the cloth itself. But they are in inseparable - in this case, one doesn't exist without another. RAmAnujA illustrates this as "Dandi purushah kundali purushaha. ShuklahA patAhA". JIvatmA and chit is related to ParamAtmA and it cannot be separated. This is the basis of sharIrAtma BhAvA.

This is a simple concept and very tangible. Advaitam on the other hand is difficult to achieve since it claims that everything is an illusion and we should not believe everything we see. An example of this is the following story told about an AAchAryA of advaitam. He finished up his kAlakshEpam in a village and was heading back home with his disciples after preaching that everything is an illusion. They had to cross a forest en route and while doing so, a wild tiger appeared. All the disciples ran helper skelter as did the Guru. When they reconvened, the disciples asked the Guru, "Oh Guru, do you not understand the principle of Advaitam or not practice it? If the tiger was an illusion, why did you get scared and run away?" To this the Guru replied, "I have understood Advaitam, it is you all who have failed to. Just as the tiger was an illusion, so was my running away. In reality, there was no tiger and there was no running away on my part"! Lighter vein apart, this concept is very abstract and questionable.

RAmAnujA on the other hand says that everything is not an illusion, but very true. He gives the following example: You wake up in middle of the night and chance to glance at your dark backyard. You see a pillar there, but mistake it for a thief because it is dark and your eyesight is poor. Is it a pillar or a thief? Is it illusionary or real? There is a trace of truth in that there is indeed something there; it is not an illusion - it is a pillar, mistaken for a thief. In some form or structure, there is a similarity between the two - the pillar is dark, tall and sturdy as a thief could very well be. We need to respect this similarity even when in doubt. After all, you didn't mistake the pillar for something like a telephone or television. You envisioned it to be something close to what it really could be. And in this sense, it is not a case of being illusionary, but just that of a mistaken identity. He also gives an example of a rope mistaken for a snake to really drive the point home.

There are 5 parts in any philosophy - the Artha PanchakA:
1. SwarupA of JIvAtmA
2. SwarUpA of ParamAtmA
3. SwarUpA of UpAyA
4. SwarUpA of PrApyA
5. SwarUpA of VirOdhi

They talk about the nature of the soul who attains, where he attains it to, through what means, for what purpose and the obstacles in doing so.

The Traveller is the JIvAtmA, the destination is the ParamAtmA, the vehicle could be bhakti yoga, nyana yoga, saranagathi, etc; the obstacles in the path of salvation are sarIram, samsAram, ahankAram, etc, enjoyment and final destination could be service to ParamAtmA.

What is all this as per VishishtAdvaitam? The set of these 5 will be totally diff as per Advaitam or Dvaitam. JIvAtmA reaching ParamAtmA wont change, but who the ParamAtmA changes. When I say Shiva is ParamAtmA, it is Shaivism. When I say Kumara is ParamAtmA, it is Kaumaram, Sun as ParamAtmA is Sauram. GAnesha as ParamAtmA is Gaanaapthyam. Shakthi as ParamAtmA is Saaktham. Vishnu as ParamAtmA is Vaishnavam. Thus these are the 6 religions/faiths. When ParamAtmA changes, faith changes. When the 5 basics change, philosophy changes. The philosophy just terms it as para bhrammam, doesn't mention who he is.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

VishitAdvaitam Basics

While writing about RAmAnujA in AachArya Vaibhavam, I could not but stop to think to fill the gaps regarding topics I did not understand:

I always knew that as ShrI Vaishnavaite, we follow the principle of VishishtAdvaitA, but have never tried to find out what it really means until now. Compiling a gist of what I have heard about it, thanks in part to the discourses of Velukkudi SwAmi. As he rightly says, the concept is very simple and easy to understand when it is being explained; but also equally easy to forget when you walk out of the room. So I think putting it down in written form thus will enable me to refer to it whenever I seem to forget what it entails.

3 AachAryas have written commentaries on VEda VyAsA's Brahmma SUtram. RAmanujA's is called ShrI BhAshyam. ShankarAchAryA founded the advaitA philosophy, RAmAnujA VishishtAdvaitA and MAdhvA propounded the DvaitA philosophy.

First and foremost: We have to differentiate between philosophy and faith. When we talk about someone's faith, we say that (s)he is a Vaishnavaite, a Shaivaite and so forth. When we talk about philosophies, we talk about VishishtAdvaitam, Advaitam and Dvaitam among others. So faith is also the God who I believe and hence, religion.

Today, the concept of of philosophy vs. religion has gotten distorted a bit. We think that ShankarAchAryA being an advaitin is not a Vaishnavaite. In fact all the above 3 AachAryAs as 100% evident from their work, claim Vishnu to be their Lord. Since one who accepts Lord Vishnu as the supreme is a VaishnavA, MadhvA and Adi ShankarAcharyA are definitely in that category.

All 3 Gurus differ when it comes to the ways and means available to reach this supreme being (para bhrahmam). Again, all 3 philosophies agree to the basic concept that the JIvAtmA reaches the ParamAtmA and that the ParamAtmA is NArAyaNA. There is no difference between the schools of thought on this concept. Where is the difference then? Some of them lie in: What is the way available for salvation? Where do I reach? What do I do after reaching there?

All 3 philosophies are based on the VEdAs only. The VEdAs (Rig, SAma, Yajur and AtharvaNa) are age old. They are defined as anAdhi and apourushEya. AnAdhi means it does not have a beginning, it was not born on any particular day. It is eternal. ApourushEya means that it is not propounded by any human and is the word/ruling of the BhagavAn himself. No hand of any human is laid on the ShAstrAs. All philosophies culminate from this ShAstrA and all 3 philosophers based their arguments on the VEdAs and the Upanishads.

VEdAs are regarded as the PUrva BhAga and the Upanishads as the Uttara BhAga. The PUrva BhAgA talks about the karmA or rituals to be performed. But the rituals awe not an end in themselves - they need to take us somewhere; and this is dealt with in Uttara BhAgA.

When people started interpreting the Upanishads, they started doing so in a way they saw fit to them. NammAzhvAr in his TiruvAimozhi says:

Avaravar thamathamadhu aRivu aRi vagai vagai
Avaravar iRaiyavar ena adi adaivargaL
Avaravar iRaiyavar kuRaivu ilar iRaiyavar
Avaravar vidhivazhi adaiya ninRanarE

which means: 
Every individual is intelligent and has a different way of interpreting things. Each one's will will reach his own (perception of) God. Each one's God is full in every way. Each one will reach a destiny as per fate.

The more the scholars learnt, the more they started quarreling amongst themselves. They started interpreting the sacred texts in their own way. Hence we have many interpretations, but 3 of them are the most recognized.

Given that the basis for all these interpretations were the VEdAs and the Upanishads, how could we have 3 explanations stemming from one source? Shouldn't it all culminate in 1 philosophy? There is an answer to this basic question: The shAstrAs encompass 3 categories of text: BhEda shruti, AbhEda shruti and Ghataka shruti. BhEdA advocates absolute dualism. Everyone is different; ParamAtmA is different from JIvAtmA and very separable. There is no connectivity between the two. All the textual parts in the VEdAs advocating said dualism is BhEda shruti. If the VEdAs had stopped here, we would only have had Dvaitam. But the VEdAs also had AbhEda shruti: Absolute non-dualism which states that the ParamAtmA and JIvAtmA are the same. Even between JIvAtmAs, there is no distinction: an animal JIvAtmA is same as a human JIvAtmA. Anyone who looks at JIvAtmAs differently will never get mOksham but will only be going round and round in circles in samsArA. From these parts, stems Advaitam. Why would the VEdAs contradict themselves this way by stating something in one shruti and the opposite in another? They do not. Incorrect interpretations will cause us to think that way or devise philosophies based only on one particular shruti. The right shruti to be considered is the Ghataka shruti which reconciles both BhEdA and AbhEdA. It lays a bridge between the two and explains why what is said in both lights are true and why we cant just choose one over another. It is on this Ghataka shruti that RAmAnujA based his VishishtAvaitA philosophy. Thus, the VEdAs are not fools to ask us to practice a different view at different times. It is just our foolishness in interpretation that leads us to believe so. The difference between the 2 shrutis is clearly ironed out in Ghataka shruti. SankarA focused on AbhEdA, MadhvA on BhEdA and RAmAnujA on Ghataka. This is how 3 philosophies took birth from the same text.

Thus, the same VEdAs gave birth to 3 principles. Each principle was dictated by which shruti it was taken from. RAmAnujA alone focussed on all 3 truths and especially on Ghataka Shruti to formulate VishishtAdvaitam. He recognized that GhatakA was especially important as a bridge. BhEdA or AbhEdA alone won't flourish without it. VishishtAdvaitam is an offshoot of all these GhatakA truths in the VEdAs.

Here is an illustration of the 3 shrutis:

Absolute non-dualism - Section 14 of Chapter 3 of the Upanishads: "Sarvam khalvidam BhahmmA tajjalAn". Whatever you see in the universe is bhrahmmam. Do not look at differences.

BhEdA: Section 12 of Chapter 1 "BhOktA BhOgyam PrEritAramchya matvA". BhOktA is the JIvAtmA that enjoys something. BhOgyam is the knowledge-less thing that is enjoyed. In fact there is a third force that directs the BhOktA to enjoy the BhOgyam at a specific place and time and this is the IsvarA, without which the BhOktA cannot enjoy the BhOgyam.

Both the above principles are different - how are they reconciled in the VEdAs? "Tattvatraya". Vaishnava sanyAsIs have 3 sticks tied to a knot; represent chit, chit and IsvarA. Other sanyasIs have only 1 stick in their staff. Achit is that which is enjoyed and doesn't have any inherent knowledge. The JIvAtmA is the chit. It possesses knowledge and enjoys the chit. IsvarA is the director. AbhEdamE siddhAntam s Advaitam (one atom, none second to it) but "Yam AtmAnavEda Yasya AtmA sarIram" is VishishtAdvaita. It is the most important verse in the upanishads. The JIvAtmA is the body of the ParamAtmA; but it never recognizes it as its' master. Everything is the body of the ParamAtmA, which is the soul. The body does not recognize the ParamAtmA as its' soul.

Hence we have a case of 3 real entities with 2 distinct identities (chit, chit and IsvarA are the entities; the identities are body and soul). We need to connect 2 to 1. Chit and Acit need to be connected to IsvarA? How? As SarIrA and AtmA. This sarIrAtma BhAvA, the body-soul relationship is the crux of VishishtAdvaitA.

To be continued ...

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Taking a break from AachArya Vaibhavam to compile some definitions for VishitAdvaitam. Lots of information out there, so please bear with me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 8

EmbAr returns

One day, the Vaishnavaite who was sent to deliver news to Tirumalai Nambi about correcting EmbAr and bringing him back to the right path com back to RAmAnujar. On seeing the happiness in his face, Udayavar sensed that he had succeeded in his task. He asked him to narrate the sequence of events in detail.

"I conveyed your orders to Tirumalai Nambi. He indicated that he himself had been thinking about this for a long time and was very happy to receive your orders to do so. He took me and a bunch of his disciples to KAlahasti. He crossed ULangai konNarnda NAyanAr's path and made AaLavandAr's shlokam fall on his ears: "SvAbhAvikAnavatikAtisayEchitrutvam". Something in NAyanAr's mind stirred when he heard those words and he became disturbed. On another occasion, Nambigal went and sat under the tree from which NAyanAr used to pluck flowers everyday and started teaching the meaning of TiruvAimozhi to his disciples. NAyanar forgot his task of gathering the flowers and stood there mesmerized. Nambigal explained the meaning of 3 pAsurams. The fourth one contained the following lines: "EmperumAnukkallAmal PUvum PUsanaiyum TagumE". On hearing those words, NAyanAr threw the basket and the flowers and said that it was not right. He fell at Nambigal's feet and asked for forgiveness and asked for his blessings and protection. He sobbed loudly and lamented his wasted time all these past years. Nambi consoled NAyanAr. The local Saivaites on hearing this news surrounded Nambigal, and fought with him while questioning if this behavior was okay. Nambigal redirected them to NAyanAr, who promptly disowned them and did not want to have anything to do with them. He gave them back the key and the ring that had been given to him. Nambigal took him to Tirupati and performed some cleansing rituals on him and did pancha samskAram too. He then started teaching him all the prabandams starting with "tirup pallANdu" and that is where they are at today".

RAmAnujar went straight to Periya Nambi's hose from there and conveyed his respects to him. He had one request of him - "Please teach me all the valuable things that you know and believe in. Let me not feel robbed at never having met AaLavandAr". Nambi taught him some of the things for a few days and bade him to go learn TirumantrArtham and Sarama slOkArtham from TirukkOttiyUr Nambi.

Becoming EmperumAnAr

According to the orders of Periya Nambi, RAmAnujar approached TirukkOttiyUr Nambi after finding out where he resided. He prayed in the direction of his residence. Then he went and met him and offered his respects to him and conveyed Periya Nambi's wishes. He wanted the world to know the greatness of the two works. But all Nambigal told him was to go and come back another time when he would teach him everything. Thus RAmAnujar came back to SrI Rangam and tried to learn from Nambigal 17 times.

Once Nambigal himself came to SrI Rangam and some elderly Vaishanavaites who resided there asked him why he was being so hard on Udayavar. Nambigal did not give them a response but went back to TirukkOttiyUr. He sent word through a Vaishnavaite to go bring RAmAnujar to him. Udayavar was thrilled on hearing this news.

He summoned KUraththAzhvar, NadAthUrAzhvAn and MudaliyAndan and went to TirukkOttiyUr. He had the three of them wait some distance away from Nambi's house and approached Nambi alone. Nambigal agreed to impart the knowledge to him with the warning that it was not meant to be shared with anyone else. Udayavar agreed and absorbed all that Nambigal had to say. the net morning, at TerkAzhvAn TiruvOlakkam, he taught the same to the three disciples who accompanied him. Nambigal was enraged on hearing this and summoned YatirAjar right away. He was very upset and angry and asked RAmAnujar if he knew what the penalty was, for disobeying the teacher's direct order.

Udayavar replied that he knew he was going to hell for disobeying the teacher's order. Nambigal was stunned and asked him "Even after knowing the consequence, why would you do something like this?" RAmAnujar replied that even though it meant that he was going to hell, he wanted that the secrets not be lost and be preserved in the willing minds of more than just one. Nambigal was moved by this explanation. He blessed him that no woe would befall him. EmperumAn is known for his compassion and on those lines, he gave RAmAnujar a new name: EmperumAnAr. He also revealed that the sampradAyam that was thus far known as Parama vaidIga SiddhAntam would henceforth be termed as "RAmAnuja darshanam or EmperumAnAr darshanam".

Listening to words of wisdom

EmperumAnAr got the blessings of TirukkOttiyUr Nambi and proceeded to Tiruvarangam. He reported to Perya Nambigal there and narrated all the happenings at TirukkOttiyUr to him. He asked that the TiruvAimozhi be imparted to him. Periya Nambi was very happy and directed him to Tiruvaranga PerumAL Arayar for this purpose. Uatirajar, accordingly went to Arayar. He confided the purpose of his visit to him. He steed on for about 6 months doing kainkaryams for him.

One day, he applied a soothing turmeric paste for Arayar as a pre-bath time ritual and Arayar was very comforted by it. He said that on account of making him so much relaxed and at ease, he would indeed impart the TiruvAimozhi along with other words of wisdom to him.

The words of wisdom thus imparted were: "AachAryaha sa Harihi SAkshAt SararUpI Na Samsayaha". And he also narrated the story of how PItakavAdaip PirAnAr came as the primary Guru. He confirmed that the sleeping Lord comes on earth as a live being in the form o AAchAryAs. One has to learn wise things from the AachAryan, like mantrAs and their meanings and the sarama SloKam that Lord Krishna expounded at the end of the Bhagavat GItA. He said that the way to goodness in this world and the other is obtained by AAchAryan's anugraham and being loyal to him is the sign of such goodness in a man. As an example for these words of wisdom, he cited Madurakavi's "KaNNinuN SiruththAmbu" and its meaning and explained that VaikuNtA was destined for those who believed the words of Madurakavi as lovingly said to Ten KurugUrNambi. He then went on to teach him the TiruvAimozhi. YatirAjar was boundlessly ecstatic on receiving all this information. He sought Arayar's blessings and went and reported back to Periya Nambi. According to his wishes, he went to learn the meaning for the TiruvAimozhi from TirumAlai AandAn.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chapter 6 - EmperumAnAr Part 7

YAdavaprakAsar as disciple

YAdavaprakAsar's mother was very devout and prayed religiously to the Lord. She heard about RAmAnujar's merits every single day and one day wished fervently that YAdavaprakAsar reacquaint himself with RAmAnujar and become his disciple. As she was thinking this, she heard voices that seemed to confirm that it was a ferry good thing. She immediately summoned her son and told him about what she felt and what had happened just then. She requested that he go and join RAmAnujar and embrace the sigai, tridandam and yagnyopavItam.  YAdavaprakAsar was very much opposed to the idea as he ran all the previous disputes between them in his mind. However, he also started recounting the greatness and miracles of RAmAnujar. It did not take him very long to get convinced that he should indeed join him as his disciple. But as was the custom of AachAryAs following Advaita, he did not have a kudumi or yagnyopavItam. So in order for RAmAnujar to accept him, he would have to go around the whole earth once. But he was riddled with old age and felt that it would not be possible for him to undertake a journey of such magnitude. That night, PEraruLALan appeared in his dream and conveyed that going around RAmAnujar once was equivalent to going around the entire world.

Accordingly, the next morning YAdavaprakAsar went to Tirukkachchi Nambi and narrated his  desire and the Lord's solution to attain it. Nambi went to Arul Varadan's sannidi to confirm that going around RAmAnujar once would suffice and PEraruLALan came back with the same notion. YAdavaprakAsar hastened to RAmAnujar and conveyed his wishes to him. RAmAnujar was pleasantly surprised and did the needful for him. He named him "GOvinda JIyar" and gave him the tiridantam, yagnyOpavItam and the saffron clothing of an ascetic. He asked a favor of the newly appointed GOvinda JIyar - and that was to write a narrative for Yuti darmam. According to his wishes, he wrote "Yatidharmasamuchchayam" and offered it to the feet of YatirAjan. RAmAnujar blessed him in every way.

In KAnchI, YatirAjan taught MImAmsA and the SAshtrAs to the disciple who embraced him; namely KUraththAzhvAn and MudaliyAndAn among others. All the Vaishnavaites in SrI Rangam were very happy on hearing this. Under the supervision of Periya Nambi, it was decided that RAmAnujar should be brought to the periya kOil to carry out his immense services to mankind. TiruvarangaperumAL Arayar was chosen for this purpose.

Arayar agreed to carry out this task and left for PerumAL kOil. He reached KAnchI in a few days. He had the good fortune of getting the darshan of "VENdubavar VENdiyadai VIzhaindaraulum" Arul Varadan in the midst of the PuNyakOti vimAnam at kachchivAiththAn mandapam.Here he started reciting AalavandAr's sostraratna ShrI Sukti. In a melodious voice, he sang AazhvAr's compositions like "En NenjamE YAn". The Lord was moved by his bhakti and appeared before him and asked him what he wished. Arayar indicated that he'd very much like for RAmAnujar to come and stay in ShrI Rangam and bless his disciples from there. PEraruLALan agreed and ordered RAmAnujar to do the same.

Thus, by the will of God, YatirAjar decided to go to Tiruvarangam. He appointed KUraththAzhvAr and MudaliyANdAn t take care of the daly rituals for the Lord. As soon as they came to the temple, he left directly for ShrI Rangam without even going back to his matam one last time. Tirukkachchi Nambigal saw them off.

Becoming Udayavar

RAmAnujay settled in Tiruvarangam, thus. He finished anushtAnams in Vada Tiru KAvEri and wanted to do mangaLAsAsanam for Periya PerumAL. HEaring of this intent, the Vaishanavaites who were around rejoiced and brought Periya Nambigal there. RAmAnujar received all the blessings of the Lord, including TIrtam and SadAri. From there he went to the temple and sought blessings from SrI Ranga NAchchiyAr, Azhagiyasingar and finally went to Azhagiya MaNavALan sannidi. Near the TirumaNa pillars, he narrated AmalanAdipirAn's pAsurams and was very happy in holy bliss.

PerumAl appeared before him that very instant and gave him the gift of "Upaya VibhUti Aishvaryam" (The wealth of knowledge in this world and the one beyond) and commanded him to take control of the temple activities from then on. HE gave him the special title of "Nam Udayavar". Udayavar went to Periya Nambi and thanked him after acknowledging that it was by his grace that he received all these chpoicest blessings. "PeriyAk KAtpattakAl PerAda paean PeralAmandro"? He owed his gift of LilA VibhUti and Nitya VibhUti to Nambigal. The daily proceedings in the temple went on very smoothly from that day on. He appointed AgaLanganAttAzhvar as his disciple at the temple for carrying out these daily duties.