Monday, April 23, 2012

VISHISHTAADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF RAMANUJA


VISHISHTAADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF RAMANUJA
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, 2012)

 
[Ramanuja (1017 t0 1137) was the great Vaishnava saint and Philosopher. He is believed to be the incarnation of Lakshmana (brother of Rama) and so was called Ramanuja. He upheld Bhakti (devotion) and Sarnaagati (surrender to God) as the paths to realization of Brahman or Liberation.There is no distinction between high and low, between the so called touchables and untouchablesin the quest of divine grace.

 
He talked at length on God (Easwara), soul (Chit) and matter (Achit). God alone is independent; the other two are dependent on God (Paramaatman or Easwara) alone, according to him. His philosophy is known as Vishishta-advaita. He wrote commentaries on Brahmasootra, the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgeetaa. They are together called Prasthaanatrayee which proclaim Bhakti as the chief means of realizing God.

 
He upheld humans are born equal and that caste or social status has no role in determining one's relationship with God. His Guru was Kanchi Poorna, who was not a Brahmin. One of his most trust-worthy disciples Dhanurdaasa was from a lower caste. He defined Vaishnava as one who has abundant love of God and he is worthy of respect. He believed in personal God. In Vishitaadvaita philosophy Brahman is addressed as Sriman Narayana.]

 

 
The true meaning of Vedas is revealed in the Upanishads, given in a language that is not easily understood without the help of proper guru or proper dictionary. It has been difficult to understand even with Ashtadhyaayi of Panini without the help of Nirukt. The earlier Vedic grammars by twelve sages have all been lost. Vedantic philosophy has helped us to synthesize metaphysical moral and religious practices to lead a meaningful and purposeful life. Vishishtaadvaita has contributed a lot in that direction bringing together philosophic values and religious practices as laid out in Aagama saastras.

 
"Yato va imaani bhootaani jaayante ena jaatani jeevanti yat praayanti abhisamvisanti tat vijignaasasva tat Brahmeti"

 
From whom the 'chit' and 'achit' elements spring and from whom these elements exist, in whom these dissolve, know that is Brahman—Sruti. Upanishads lay down the principles for the welfare of the whole world, mostly around three fundamental notions:

 

 
  1. A seeker must acquire true knowledge of the individual Self and the Supreme.
  2. He must devote himself to meditation, worship and adoration of the Supreme.
  3. This knowledge with discipline leads him to the realization of the Supreme.

     
    To put it briefly, the first affirms tattva or the nature of the Reality. The second declares the hita or the means. The third states purushartha or the means. The chief difficulty in understanding the meaning of the Upanishads arises in determining the relation of Brahman to the individual Self on the one hand and the non-sentient World on the other.

     
    Ramanuja recognizes three lines of thoughts in the Upanishads concerning the relation between 'Brahman', the 'Self' and the 'World'.

     
1. Passages which declare difference of nature between the World, the Self and the Brahman. Here the World is the non-sentient matter (achit), which is the object of experience; the Self is the experiencing conscious object (chit) and Brahman, the absolute ruling principle.

 

2. Passages which teach that Brahman is the inner-self of all entities which constitute his body. For instance:
"He who dwells on earth and within the earth, whom the earth does not know, whose body the earth is and who rules the earth within is Thy Self, the ruler within, the immortal (Brihadaaranyaaka iii, vii, 3-23).

 

3. Passages which proclaim the unity of Brahman with the World, in its casual as well as effective aspect. The famous, "that thou art" (tat tvam aci)--(Chandogya vi, 2-3.)

 

The first group of texts distinguishes Brahman from the World and the individual Selves. In a way, it emphasizes the transcendent character of Brahman. Bhartruprapancha who was anterior to Sankaraachaarya held the Self and the Universe are identical and different from Brahman, the triad constituting a unity in variety. The ocean consists of water, foam, waves etc. The world which is a part and parcel of Brahman is necessarily real.

 

The second group of texts declares Brahman to be inner-self of all entities. Neither the individual Self nor the world can exist by itself. They are inseparably connected with Brahman as his body and thus are controlled by Him. These texts teach duality in as far as distinction is made between body and Self the substantive element predominates over and controls the body, its attribute.

 
The last group of texts, aim at proclaiming the non-dual character of Brahman who alone constitutes the ultimate Reality. The Self and the World though distinct from each other and real, have a different value. They only exist as a mode or attribute of Brahman. They are comprehended in the Reality of Brahman. They exist because Brahman Exists.

 
In spite of the greatness of the design, Sutras offer innumerable difficulties. Except a few, Sutras in general do not indicate the theme of discussion or the particular line of thought adopted. They definitely require an interpretative tradition to convey their import. Hence, authoritative comments utilizing such a tradition were supplied from time to time. Sri Sankaraachaarya refers to Vrittikara in the context and Sri Ramanuja refers to extensive Vritti by Bodhayana. Sankara's earlier elucidation of the philosophy of Sutras which held the ground till the tenth century was found to be unacceptable to considerable section of philosophers. They seem to have felt that Brahmasutra, while affirming Brahman, does not negate the Reality of the World, nor identify the individual Self with the Absolute so wholly, and the way to blessedness is knowledge that springs from Karmayoga and matures to Upaasana or devotional meditation. There was a strong current of the mysticism of love or Bhakti, standardized by Puraanas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Aagamas and the experience of high ranking God-intoxicated saints. People wanted a personal God and a kind and loving form of God. Such a form of Lord was believed to be represented by Mahaa Vishnu who evinced sympathy for one's sufferings and whose greatness is well known in the welfare of all things by his frequent descents on earth not only in the form of human beings but also animals.

 
Jagadguru Shankaraachaarya enunciated the philosophy of Advaita (absolute monoecism). It means the presence of only kind of single absolute Divine Power. Although God is one and only one, He has a number of amazing divine powers and virtues and also He has a lifeless external power, Maaya which appears in the form of this universe.

 

The period in which Shankaraachaarya was born was a time when Vedic preaching was in abundance in this country. The followers of Nyaaya and Saankhya path were more involved in intellectual debate than practicing meditation and renunciation. The Jain and Buddhist monks were fully involved in criticizing Vedas instead of practicing their own religion or philosophy. To quieting such anti-Vedic and emerging atheistic tendencies (non Godly propagations) Shankaraachaarya picked only one aspect of the divinity where
  1. The infinitesimal soul of a being is substantially synonymous with the absolute Divinity.
  2. All the attractions of the world of Maaya totally disappear without a trace after God realization.

 
So on the basis he formulated his theory of Advaita and wrote his (Bhaashya) (commentary) on the Brahmasutra, Geeta and some of the Upanishads. But he still carefully kept the primacy of Bhakti in his writings. In his very first verse of Vivek Choodamani he surrenders and prostrates to Govinda (Lord Krishna) who is the Supreme Bliss and also the Supreme Divine Master – "Govindam Paramaanandam Satgurum
Pranatosmyaham". Shankaraachaarya after his powerful campaigning all over India and re-establishing Sanatana Dharma felt the inadequacy of his Advaita philosophy and at the end of his propagation he wrote his last book Prabhoda Sudhakara (PS) in which he gave the true view of his philosophy and teachings. He accepted that Maaya is a power of God (PS105) and said God has two eternal forms – personal and impersonal (PS169). The path of impersonal God is very different (PS170). Without the selfless Bhakti, the heart of a devotee cannot be fully purified (PS167). The supreme form of God is all beautiful and all kind, who out of his graciousness has appeared in Yadu Dynasty (PS200). He also in his Bhakti Maarga rendered many stotras (hymns)–Dasha Shlokee, Saundarya Lahari and lots of prayers and homages to the personal forms of God. Later materialistic (Mayaavaadi idealogy of Niraakaara Vaada) formless aspect of God or Advaita Vaada was sold like hot cakes in the world and became popular among such self centered and self esteeming people who wanted to console themselves with the imaginary idea of soul and Brahman oneness without sacrificing their physical attachments and comforts. For hundreds of years such wrong concepts and writings about the Upanishadic phrases and statements have been misguiding many simple hearted and naïve seekers of truth and caught in the net of such confusion. The Upanishads sometimes tell "NaraAyano bhavati", "Brahmaiva
bhavati" which literally means that the one who receives liberation becomes Naarayana or the one who receives liberation becomes Brahman. That is true, but the Upanishads further say "Na tat samah" which means that no one could be absolutely equal to God (Shvetashvatar Upanishad 6/8).

 

Sri Ramanuja, the great disciple of Yamunacharya (Alavandar) accomplished the great task of elucidating sutras in a theistic style, assisting the metaphysical eminence of Brahman without the supplementary thesis of world-denial (world is all Maaya) and the denial of the individuality of the finite selves and promulgating knowledge of Brahman as arising from Karma Yoga and maturing in Bhakti. Thus was the crystallization of the philosophy of Vishishtadvaita under the guidance of Ramanuja who had all the time, resources, guidance as well the opportunity to study deeply the then established teachings of Sankara and Brahmasutra.

 

In interpreting the different passages of the Sutras, Ramanuja aims to interpret them in a manner that they neither contradict each other nor lay stress on any single view point so as to not to divest their primary significance. It takes the total view.

 

Vishistadvaita means the Advaita or oneness with "Vishishta" or attributes. It is therefore called "Qualified Non –Dualism". According to it God only exists, all else we see is God's attributes or manifestation.

 

Upanishads in fact tell that souls are initially divine by nature but they are eternally under the influence of bondage of Maaya; so they are constantly suffering with disappointment of their unfulfilled ambitions and physical imperfections. This bondage could be terminated if a soul cancels its world attachment and surrenders to God:
  1. Understanding the divine truth from a God realized saint (Tad Vignyaanaartham sa
    gurumeva-abhi gachchet samit-paanihi srotriyam brahma-nishtham)
    (MU-- 1/2/12)
  2. Renouncing all the attachments of the world and doing selfless devotion to the Supreme personality of God (upaasate purusham ye hyakaamaah) (MU 3/2/1)
  3. Entering divine abode of your beloved God with His grace (Yamevaisha vrinute
    tena labhyaha ) (KA 1/2/23) (Paraatparam Purusham upaiti divyam) (MU 3/2/8) is the total procedure of realization of God.

 

Sri Ramanuja's system is the doctrine of the organic relationship of the soul-body (Shaareera – Shareera – Bhava) and his doctrine furnishes the key by which he solves the contradiction, reasoning and perception of Sruthi. The philosophy of Ramanuja is a synthesis of metaphysical moral and religious principle and takes the root in the thought that "Brahman is the ground of existence as well as the goal of existence". God according to Ramanuja is thus a personality whose infinite content cannot be exhausted by the forms of finite experience but pours out his unlimited love in his personal relations with the finite Self. To Ramanuja the absolute is the personal God (Paramaatma). The chief aspiration of Jeeva is the realization of the Paramaatma as the Self. So, spiritual service is the highest form of devotion.

 

Ramanuja held that the divine soul (Paramaatma) and the human soul (Jeevaatma) are one, not absolute but are closely connected. In his teaching there is the assertion of the existence of the triad principles namely
  1. The supreme being (Ishwara)
  2. The soul (Chit)
  3. The non soul (Achit)

 

Naaraayana is the Supreme Being. Individual spirits are souls and the visible world is non-soul. All these have an external existence distinct from each other. The term Brahma signifies the Supreme Person (Purushottama) who transcends all imperfections and abounds in infinite classes of unsurpassed excellence.

 

Ramanujua therefore opposes the concept of Nirguna Brahman (devoid of all qualities) and the supplementary postulate of Maaya which regards the external world as only phenomenally real.

 

Apart from the consideration of Brahman as the soul of all, the mediation of Brahman as the Jeeva or Jeeva as Brahman cannot be true. Uniqueness and self consciousness are fundamental in nature. The Jeeva is neither separate from Supreme nor wholly identical with the Supreme. It is an Amsha or part in the sense forming an adjectival nature. Sri Ramanuja upholds all the three streams of thought of the Upanishads namely unity, plurality and both.

 

We uphold the unity because Brahman alone exists with all other entities as his modes. We hold both unity and plurality, as the one Brahman himself has all the physical and spiritual entities as his modes and this exists qualified by plurality. We uphold the plurality as the three entities-- the individual selves, the world and the Supreme Lord – or mutually distinct in their substantive nature and attributes and there is no mutual transposition of their characteristics. Ramanuja's notion of unity is best illustrated by the example of "Purple Robe". "Robe" is a substance while "Purple" is an attribute. In the illustration of the Purple Robe the basic substance is one and the same, though the "Purpleness" and "Robeness" are different from it as well as from each other. This essential relation is not found in the case of a man wearing a wristwatch. In the former the relation is inseparable and in the latter separable and external. The individual selves and the world constitute the body of the Brahman who is their inner-self. Brahman is the integral principle without whom neither the Self nor the World can exist. Hence all names finally denote Him.

 

Ramanuja explains "Tat Tvam Aci" "that thou art" as follows. The term "thou" which usually stands for "Self" here stands for "Brahman", "that" who is the indweller of the "Self" and of whom the Self is a mode as a constituent of a body. The term "thou" does not mean physical body or individual Self since Brahman has interpenetrated all matter and Self. "Thou" signifies Brahman in the ultimate analysis. The term "that" signifies also Brahman alone as the ground of the universe and soul of all individual selves. The individual selves and the world which are distinct and real are attributes and are comprehended in Brahman. Brahman as the inner-self of the Jeeva and Brahman as the ground of the universe are one. The central principle is that whatever exists as an attribute of a substance "that" being inseparable from the substance is one with the substance.

 
The summum bonum (Splendor
of the sum
total)
is the vision of the Supreme Person known as Brahman or Sriman Naaraayana, the Supreme. In all its mundane state, Jeeva (Self) is inflicted with all evils of nature of sufferings brought about by ignorance and evil doing. Hence a spirit of renunciation is called for. When it looks into inward soul, the Paramaatman, it sees in Him infinite perfection in spite of His imminence. Seeking Him is the final road to its perfection. He is the final goal and also the contents and by the strength of theirs that had gained full realization of Vedic truth. This has to be done, since the import of the entire Vedas with all its branches cannot be fathomed by one who has studied a small part only and since without knowing that purport arrive at the servitude.

 
Lastly, Upanishads attempt to demonstrate the supreme value of the full knowledge of Brahman. Ignorance of Brahman is the very essence of human bondage and to know Brahman even through a media is a source of joy. Impelled by this joy, the seeker pursues further the knowledge by way of direct apprehension through the comprehensive discipline of Bhakti. In the end, this effort is crowded through the grace of God with joyous triumph and full attainment.

 
The three implications of Moksha (salvation) are that it is a release from all the binding Karma of the past; it is the release of the soul into the abundance of its nature and the fulfillment of this nature in the blissful experience of Brahman, its own inmost soul. This unique joy of existence is the external destiny of the Jeeva.

 
While concluding Sri Bhashya Ramanuja describes the feelings of a true devotee and says: "My beloved God, I have left all formalities of Varnaasrama Dharma, social and family commitments do not interest me, and all kinds of alluring entertainments of the world have become the sore for my eyes. My heart, my mind and soul are yearning for you and have taken refuge of your lotus feet. Please accept and give me your vision."

 
To sum up, his philosophy is called Vishishtaadvaita (Qualified Monism), which means that God is only One but soul and Maayaa are the two eternal affiliates of Absolute and Supreme God. Maayaa is lifeless power having the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajaas and Tamas. Souls are infinitesimal and unlimited. God is the soul of all souls. Soul (Chit) is eternally under the veil of Maayaa called Karma. Sareera (body) is destroyed only with the grace of God and not by any amount of yogic practice, austerity, yaagas (sacrifices) or any other spiritual practice. Soul is an eternal servant of God. Soul becomes happy and blissful only when it meets its Divine beloved God in His divine personal form. There is no other way.

 
Ramanuja was of the strong view that the purport of the Vedas and Vedanta is the attainment of liberation through Dhyaana (meditation), Upaasana (worship) and Bhakti (devotion). Ramanuja advised his organization of disciples to release and propagate the three great secret Mantras;
  1. Om Namoh Naaraayanaaya
  2. Sriman Naaraayana charanam saranam prapadye
  3. Sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam saranam vraja | Aham tvaam sarva paapebhyo mochayishyaami maa suchah
[I invoke the Supreme Naaraayana to take refuge at His feet leaving all other forms of Dharma (duties) and He will save me from all sins.]

 

 
Anantah prathamam roopam Lakshmanstu tatah param |
Balabhadras-triteeyastu kalau Ramanujah smritah ||

 
Adisesha incarnated as Lakshmana in Tretaayuga, as Balarama in Dvaparayuga and as Ramanuja in Kaliyuga.

 
APPENDIX
 (Courtesy: Swamin Madhavakannan V. of  Sri RangaSri)

Ramanuja was totally and completely devoted to the Lord. Anyone who reads even one incident of his life history or one para of his works, will immediately understand the acharya's deep abiding love of God and his awareness of His kalyANa guNas and divine form/ all-pervasive presence.
Ramanuja’s catholicity and large heart is so amazingly true. Ramanuja never misses an opportunity to extol the auspicious attributes of the Lord (anantha kalyANa guNaarNavam) even after reciting attribute after attribute, our acharya declares that these are only the beginning of the infinite glories of the Lord! There are nine works of our dearest AchAryA. (nava rathnangaL)


1. Vedartha Sangraha - The essence of Veda
2. Sri Bhasyam - Elaborate commentary on Brahma Sutras
3. Vedantha Deepam - Commentary on Brahma Sutra in a condensed form

4. Vedantha Saaram - Commentary on Brahma Sutra in a very condensed form
5. GitA Bhasyam - Commentary on Bhagavad GitA 
6. Sri Saranagati Gadya - Deals with surrendering to Lord Sriman Narayanan for moksha.
7. Sriranga Gadyam - Deals with the divine mercy of Sri Ranganathan.
8. Sri Vaikunta Gadyam - Deals with Sri Vaikuntam [paramapadham]
9. Nitya Grantha - Deals with daily/special practices prescribed for Sri Vaishnavam

The Visistadvaita Srivaishnava philosophy and practice are clearly established in these nine extraordinary works. The discourses in the form of kalakshepam given by Bhagavath Ramanuja on Veda before Thiruvenkatamudaiyaan are compiled as Vedhaartha Sangraham. This is the first work of Emperumaanar.

 


This discourse is given to the Vedanta Class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, TN USA., by N. R. Srinivasan. Considerable help has been drawn from the following publications in preparing this discourse:

 
  1. Swami Ramkrishnananda, Life of Ramanuja, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore Madras.
  2. Chakravarti Anantachar, Ramnuja, Amar Chitra Katha, Mumbai, India.
  3. Chandradhar Sharma, A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarasidas Publishers, Delhi, India.
  4. N.S Ananta Rangacharya, Visistadvaitic Epistemology, Bangalore, India.
     5.  Padmanabhan R., Bhagavan Ramanuja, Little Flower Company, Chennai, India.



Ramanujacaharya is reported to have made seventy two statements for the sake of Bhagawathas (Vaishnava devotees)

The seventy two statements

1. Service to one’s own preceptor (Acharya) and any other devotee (Bhagavata) should be on the same par.  Serve any devotee of the Lord (Bhagavata) as you would serve your own spiritual preceptor.

2. One should have faith and reverence for the precepts of the earlier teachers (Acharyas).

3. One should not be a slave to his senses and indulge in pleasures all the time.

4. Time should not be ill spent in reading what leads to mere worldly knowledge, devoid of the Wisdom about the Supreme.

5. Always be contemplating upon the study of the Lord, His Manifestation (Bhagavad-Visaya) and His plan for the individual-souls. 

6. Having approached a preceptor, as a result of the past virtues, one should not revert to mundane affairs.

7. In the matter of sensuous pleasures, be cautious and austere. 

8. Running after perfumes, flowers and similar decorative peeves is not good.

9. Practice repeatedly chanting   the name of a devotee as you do the name of Lord.

10. To attain proximity of Lord, follow the sayings of Bhagavatas and be earnest in observing their dictates and directions

11. Without service to Visnu and Vaisnavas, one can never attain liberation. He shall decay.

12. Practice of the precepts is not a means to an end.

13. Practice of the precepts is in itself the goal.

14. While addressing Vaisnavas or naming them elsewhere do not use singular person.  Always be reverential and humble to them.

15. When a Sri Vaisnava is in sight, approach him with folded hands in all reverence.

16. In the presence of Lord, Devotees or Preceptors (Bhagavad-Bhagavat-Acharyas) even the sitting posture should be decent.

17. While sleeping, take care that the feet do not extent towards, residences of devotees or preceptors.
18. As soon as waking up in the morning, the Pedigree of one’s preceptors (Guruparampara) should be chanted.

19. While approaching the Lord in the temple or the Vaisnavas in assembly, a surrendered person (Prapanna) should chant ‘Dwaya Mantra’ and simultaneously prostrate to them.

20. When a learned person is chanting the virtues of Lord, pay due respect to him, and do not get away in the middle of the discourse.

21. When a Srivaisnava’s approaching is noticed, go forward to meet and receive him in all reverence. Similarly when he is moving out, accompany him to a reasonable distance and take leave of him.

22. Follow the precepts of the Teachers and adhere to your righteous conduct but do not run after people who are worldly and non-believers.

23. As one goes by the way of the temple and other structures of the Lord’s presence, reverential prostration before them is essential.

24. One should not be awfully wonder-struck when the material palatial buildings are seen.

25. One should not feel inclined to hear and enjoy about the mundane affairs.

26. When the divine qualities are being surprised and sung; hear with all attention and enjoy the bliss. Do not comment upon them adversely. 

27. Do not dishonor even the shade of Srivaishnavas.

28. Do not caste your shade on Srivaishnavas.

29. Having touched or contacted the non-surrendered person do not again touch or contact the surrendered devotees (Prapannas).

30. Do not neglect or look down the Srivaisnavas even when they are not rich in worldy possessions.

31. When a Vaisnava greets you with salutations, immediately respond and reciprocate. Non-response or neglect is unbecoming and vicious.

32. Even as certain dark spots of the Srivaishnavas such as their low percentage, neglect of duties, slavery to vices etc., come to notice, do not mention them to others. Only transmit or propagate the bright part of their being and behavior. 

33. The sacred water (Tirtha) of Lord, Preceptor etc. should not be taken in the presence of non-believers.

34. Do not accept the Sri-Pada-Tirtha of those who do not have the Wisdom of the three secrets and three principles. 

35. The Sri Pada Tirtha of the preceptors and devotees who are wise and practitioners of scriptural sayings should be taken every day. 

36. Do not consider yourself equal to any other devotee (Bhagavata).

37. By sheer accident, if the non-believers’ contact comes up, purify your body by a good bath and receive afresh the Sri Pada Tirtha of the Preceptor.

38. The physical and subtle bodies of the devotees who are endowed with Jnana-Bhakti and Vairagya should be honored irrespective of the class/caste in which they are born.

39. The idols/images of Gods in the residences of the non-believers should not be worshipped.

40. Similarly, the Tirtha in the houses of non-believers should not be accepted.

41. In the temples of Lord Vishnu and his other forms, even as non-believers are in view, the Tirtha and prasada can be accepted.

42. In the temples of Lord Visnu and his other Avataras when Tirtha and prasada are offered, they should not be rejected on a plea of one’s being on fast etc. 

43. Under no circumstances whatsoever, the tirtha and prasada offered at the sacred places should be rejected.

44. One should not raise and praise himself and his virtues in the presence of other Vaishnavas.

45. One should be conscious of one’s own insignificance all the time.

46. None should be insulted or injured, in the presence of Srivaishnavas.

47. The virtues of preceptors and devotees should be chanted in adoration for a time before any other work is taken up.

48. A part of the day should be spent in praising/contemplating upon one’s preceptor’s virtues.

49. A part of the day should be spent in reciting with understanding, contemplating the works of Nammazhwar and other Azhwars (earlier preceptors of the philosophical system).

50. Association of those who identify themselves with their body and mind is to be shunned.

51. Even as they are Srivaishnavas, if they are slaves to their bodies and psycho passions, their association should be shunned.

52. Do not associate with those who always talk ill of devotees and who habitually work against preceptors should be avoided in total.

53. To compensate the sin/vice of association with non-believers, have a nice conversation with Srivaishnavas.

54. Contact, either by sight or by talk, with those who talk ill of devotees who know the right means to the goal.

55. Always be in touch with those devotees who will be chanting the Dwaya Mantra.

56. Leaving aside the followers of the other paths, always be in association of devotees who know the right means to the goal.

57. Always be in the association of those who know the three secrets and other three principles.
 
58. Do not mix up with people who are after material possessions and desires but be always with devotees of the right kind.

59. Even as Srivaishnavas have insulted, one should not attempt to rebuff or retort

60. Srivaishnavas who are keen on attaining the supreme bliss, should aspire for the welfare of all devotees.

61. A surrendered being (Prapanna) should not resort to those actions which are against the Divine will and Plan as they seem to bestow upon him certain comforts.

62. Food that is not offered to Lord should not be consumed. Even the flowers, fruits, scents and similar things should not be accepted if they are not first consecrated in the service of the Lord.

63. Money and valuables should not be received from those who are disinclined towards Divinity even as they are offered unasked for.

64. One who has surrendered (Prapanna) should not consume food seen or contaminated by others. 

65. The offering has to be pure, fresh and unsullied.

66. What is offered to Lord and then distributed for human consumption must be treated as sacred material. It should not be consumed in lust and lavish.

67. All the prescribed ceremonies/deeds must be performed with utmost dedication and feeling or surrender.

68. Ill-will towards the Preceptors/devotees who are scholars in the three truths (principles) and are constantly contemplating upon tem is very harmful to one-self and results in self-annihilation. Revering such scholars and doing things pleasurable to them is a sure means of liberation.
69. The whole pursuit of life is to adore the devotees. Insult done to devotees will lead to self-humiliation.

70. To consider an idol/image (Arcavigraha) of the Lord to be a stone-image, to liken Acharya (preceptor) to a mere human as anybody and everybody, to schedule and classify Sri Vaisnavas, to treat as simple water or food the sanctified Teertha and Prasada, to estimate the Over-Lord as one of the many Gods.. such wrong and misleading notions reduce the state of an aspirant and will also retard his spiritual progress.

71. Worship of Bhagavata more than the worship of the Lord is Ideal. An insult to a devotee (Bhagavata) is more a heinous crime than an insult to Lord Himself.

72. The sanctified Tirtha and Prasada of a Bhagavata are more sacred to the Lords Tirtha and Prasada. .
 

Ten further statements
The disciples who received these 72 statements in the course of the sermon, unasked for by them, appealed to their preceptor, again the tradition says. Why all these were being repeated now. There upon Ramanuja had indicated to them that he was to lay aside his physical body in the coming three days. The panic and agony among the devotees reached its peak upon hearing this.

But the most compassionate preceptor and the well-wisher of all beings, Ramanuja profusely consoled them and gave again 10 statements for their adherence all through the life.  These 10 aphorisms are:

1. A person who has surrendered himself to the Lord (Prapanna) should consider whatever that happens to him is ordained by the Lord. He should not lament even as it involves lot of suffering and misery. If he laments his conduct will be inconsistent to the comet of surrender he made earlier to the Lord. The surrender once made should be total and irrevocable. It should not be even for a moment treated as ‘illusory’ and set aside or treated in a casual way.

2. The network of happenings in a human life is a result of his  own actions, emotions and thoughts which are totally his own making in the past and the present. So he should not lament for that. Any lament or misgiving makes him a non-believer in the Law/Principle. He should face life with undaunted courage.

3. The actions/deeds should not be performed as though they are merely means to end.

4. All actions should be performed as though they are consecrations to the Lord.

5. The great devotees should be served sincerely and under the guidance Sri Bhashya is to be studied and understood. These higher ideals are to be propagated in the world for the benefit of humanity.

6. If this cannot be done- at least the teachings of the Azhwars should be read and propagated among public.

7. If this cannot be done- attend that the physical cleanliness of the temples is maintained well and offerings of flowers decorations etc. be made to the Lord.

8. If even this cannot be done- a cottage built at Tirunarayanapuram (Melkote) (a place now in karanataka) and residence made there. If even this cannot be done- recite the ‘Dwaya Mantra’ with full connotation and stay where you are.


10. As a last resort, if this is considered beyond one’s scope- Preceptors (Bhagavatas) who are impeded in Wisdom (Jnana), Devotions (Bhkati) and Dispassion (Vairagya) may be contacted and served in all humility, casting away all sense of egotism.
 --Courtesy. Madhavakannan Swamin of SriRangaSri





Nation’s Tribvute  to Ramanuja: --Largest sitting Statue  in the  world

I have pleasure in conveying  the following exciting news sent to me. I was in the past pleading for the celebration of Philosophers' night coinciding with Akshaya Triteeya.  I have adequately covered  discourses on great philophers Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and Basaveswara.   Please visit the blog as I frequently update them when I come across fresh information. 









Azhwars: The Mystic Vaishnavite Saints of the South India
Posted by Aarthi Kannan | Feb 17, 2016 |  IndiaDivine.Org

Azhwars (or Alvar) are the Vaishnavite saints who had composed a collection of 4000 hymns, called Nalayira Divya Prabhandham (4000 divine verses) in praise of Lord Vishnu and His many avatars.
These verses are called “Dravida Veda” ­ that is Vedas in the Tamil language! The word Azhwar, in Tamil, means “one who is immersed”. Since the azhwars were immersed in their devotion and love for the Lord, they were called so.The azhwars are twelve in number:­ 11 men and 1 woman, and they belonged to various castes, by birth. The only common thread amongst them all was their unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu.
The traditional view of the beginning of the timeline for the azhwars has been from the end of Dvapara yuga. The first three azhwars are said to have been born at the end of Dvapara yuga, just after Krishna departed from this earth.
1. Poigai Azhwar:
Considered as the first of the 12 azhwars, poigai azhwar was found in a pond (Poigai in Tamil) in the Yadhothakaari temple in Kanchipuram (near Chennai), hence he is called Poigai Azhwar. He is believed to have been born as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s conch,­ Panchajanya. He composed 100 songs in praise of the Lord.
2. Bhoothath Azhwar:
Bhoothathazhwar was found in a liquorice flower (Athimathuram in Tamil) in a pond at the Kadalmallai temple (at present Mahabalipuram near Chennai). Bhootham means one who is possessed. Since this azhwar was so possessed by his devotion to the Lord, he was called Bhoothathazhwar. He is believed to have been born as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s mace ­ Kaumodakee. He composed 100 songs in praise of the Lord.
3. Peyazhwar Azhwar:
Peyazhwar was born in Mylai (at present Mylapore in Chennai). He was found in a lily (Alli) flower in the pond of Sri AdiKesava Perumal temple. Like bhoothathazhwar, the name “Peyazhwar” also signifies one who was possessed by Lord’s devotion. Peyazhwar also composed 100 hymns in praise of the Lord.
4. Thirumazhisai Azhwar:
Thirumazhisai Azhwar was born to a saint named Bharghava Muni. He is considered to be an incarnation of Lord’s discus ­ Sudharshana Chakra. Since at birth, Thirumazhisai azhwar’s body was incomplete without any of the limbs, the parents left the baby at a nearby ditch. The Lord and His Consort appeared before the baby and blessed him with a complete body. He was then adopted by another person.
The adoptive mother then gave birth to another boy, named KaniKannan, who became an ardent disciple of Thirumazhisai Azhwar. Once the king ordered KaniKannan to leave the country as he refused to sing the praise of the King, citing his vow that he,­ just like his guru, will only sing the praise of the Lord. When KaniKannan readied to leave the country, Thirumazhisai Azhwar also left the country along with him. On their way out, they went to the Yadhothakari temple and told the Lord also to come along with them. The Lord rolled his mat (Adhisesha) and left along as well.
The King then repented for his mistake and requested them all to come back in his country. All three of them then returned to their original abode. Thirumazhisai Azhwar learnt Buddhism and Jainism as well. He became an ardent devote of Lord Shiva. Once he saw an old man who was planting a tree upside down. Upon inquiry, the old man said this is not more foolish than Thirumazhisai azhwar’s devotion to Shiva in search of Moksha as only Narayana can grant Moksha.
Azhwar then got this verified by Lord Shiva himself that the only Lord Narayana can grant Moksha. The person who changed azhwar’s mind to become a vaishnavite was none other than Peyazhwar. Thirumazhisai azhwar has sung 216 hymns in praise of the Lord.
5. Thirumangai Azhwar:
Thirumangai Azhwar was born in ThirukKuraiyaloor village, to a Chola chieftan, as an incarnation of Lord’s divine bow ­ the Saaranga. Thirumangai azhwar was named Neelan and was brought up as a brave prince, who eventually became the king of “Thirumangai” country. When he sought the hands of Kumuda Valli for marriage, she put forth two conditions:
1. 1008 devotees of Vishnu will have to be fed by them everyday.
2. Their feet would be washed with water and that water will be sprinkled on Neelan and herself.
The king agreed to both the conditions and happily married Kumuda. Feeding 1008 people on a daily basis took its toll on Neelan’s finances, hence he became poor and couldn’t pay the taxes to the Chola king. To continue the service of feeding the devotees, Neelan took to mugging and theft. Once he tried to take away the jewels of a newly married couple, he faced a physical challenge in removing the groom’s ring from his finger.
While trying to remove the ring, Neelan asked the groom if he had some magical power to hold the ring back. The groom (who was actually Lord Narayana) told him the meaning of “Ashtakshara Mantra” ­ the supreme 8 letter mantra of Om Namo Narayanaya. On hearing this and on touching the Lord’s feet for removing the ring, Neelan’s mind gets corrected and he starts praising the Lord and His Consort ­ Lakshmi. The Lord then told him to go to all temples and sing in praise of the Lord.
6. Thondaradipodi Azhwar:
Thondaradipodi was born in a village named “Thiru mandaggudi” near Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, as an incarnation of Vishnu’s garland Vanamaala. He was born to a brahmin parents who named him “Vipra Narayanar”. He used to be so engrossed in his love for the Lord that he never paid any worldly attention to women.
Once two sisters who were dancers at the King’s court were passing through Vipra Narayanar’s garden,  while the latter did not even notice these beautiful ladies near him. The younger sister then vowed to gain his attention and his love. She faked her identity as a desolate woman and gained his confidence and trust. Eventually Vipra Narayana will fall in love with this dancer. She began to love him sincerely as well.
However, her mom was money minded and asked Vipra Narayana to gift her expensive ornaments/silverware in return for her daughter’s hand. Vipra Narayana returned to his hermitage with disappointment. The Lord decided to play a divine game here. He disguised Himself as a disciple of Vipra Narayana and went to the dancer’s mom with a huge silver vessel, claiming to have been sent by Vipra Narayana himself.
The next morning, the temple archakas found the temple’s silver vessel missing and traced it to the dancer’s mom who then pointed at Vipra Narayana as her source of the vessel. Before the King could punish them, the Lord appeared in the King’s dreams and explained the situation. The King then sent back Vipra Narayana with utmost respect.
Vipra Narayana spent the rest of his life as an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Vipra Narayana considered himself as lowly than the dust particle of a Vishnu’s devotee, hence the name Thondaradi podi azhwar. Thondar = devotee, adi = feet/sand on the feet, podi = small/lowly.
7. Thiruppaan Azhwar:
Thiruppaan azhwar was born in the Paanar (musician) caste in a village called Uraiyoor near Sri Rangam, as an incarnation of Srivatsa ­ the mole on Lord Vishnu’s chest.
Due to the erstwhile restrictions on people of certain castes, the Paanar people were not allowed to touch the Cauvery water or to visit the Sri Rangam shrine. So Thiruppaan azhwar used to stand across the other bank of the Cauvery River and sing praises on Sri Ranganatha. Once Sri Ranganatha came in the dreams of a devout Brahmin Loka Saaranga Maha Muni, who used to bring Cauvery water for Lord’s Holy bath  and asked him to carry Thiruppaan azhwar on his shoulders the next day.
Despite huge protest by Thiruppaan azhwar, Saaranga Muni forced him to get on to his shoulders and carried him to the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple. The world got to know the intent of the Lord (that caste doesn’t matter when it comes to devotion and attaining Lord’s affection).
8. Periyazhwar:
Periyazhwar was born in SriVilliputthur in Tamilnadu, as an incarnation of Garuda,­ Lord Vishnu’s vehicle. He was raised with great stories from Krishna Avatara and other avataras.
Once the King of Madurai had a doubt regarding his next life ­ “if he wanted to have a good next life, what should he be doing about it?”
He announced huge prize money for someone who could give him a satisfactory answer. Lord Vishnu came in Periyazhwar’s dreams and asked him to go to the King the next day. Periyazhwar went to the King and explained how surrendering one’s ego, wealth and anger and show dedicated devotion to the Lord will fetch salvation. The King was overjoyed on hearing this response and gave the prize money to Periyazhwar and also named him “Pattarpiraan”.
Periyazhwar dedicated the money to Lord Narayana and continued his garland service to the Lord.
9. Sri Andal:
Andal was the adoptive daughter of Periyazhwar. Lord Vishnu’s consort Bhoo devi incarnated as Andal.
She was found near a Tulsi plant while Periyazhwar was tending to his garden. Her childhood was filled with stories of Krishna’s mischief, childly play and also divine powers. Periyazhwar used to make a garland for the Lord every day. Andal used to wear it on herself, check in the mirror as if talking to Krishna and then send it with Periyazhwar ­ all this was happening without Periyazhwar’s notice.
Once Periyazhwar came to know of this act of his child, he begged the Lord to forgive both of them and that he would bring a fresh garland then and there. The Lord however refused to wear the garland not worn by Andal! Such was the Lord’s affection towards this child! By the time Andal grew up, she had determined to get married to the Lord only. She sung verses by dreaming up her marriage with the Lord. She did a “Paavai” ritual during the month of Margashirsha­ getting up very early in the morning, gathering all her friends (pretending to be gopikas!), go to the river and pray to the Lord.
Each day she sung hymns to wake her friends up and in praise of the Lord. The collection of those 30 hymns are known world over as Thiruppaavai. At the end of the paavai ritual, Lord Ranganatha came in the dreams of Periyazhwar and asked him to bring Andal to his temple the next morning. Andal went with Periyazhwar to the temple and the Lord accepted her as His own wife!
10. Nammazhwar:
Nammazhwar was born as incarnation of Vishwaksena (Vishnu’s commander), in the Vellala tribe of Thirunelveli.
As a child, Nammazhwar never ate or spoke or even opened his eyes. His distraught parents left him near a temple. He crawled by himself and sat under a tamarind tree, where he would sit and meditate for 16 years. He was finally made to speak and made to lecture on dharma sashtras by MadhuraKavi azhwar, who became his disciple. Nammazhwar was named so, by Lord Ranganatha himself who called him “Namm Azhwar” ­ meaning “my devotee”!
After the life of Nammazhwar, for 100s of years, Sri Vaishnavism went into a decline, eclipsed by Buddhism, Jainism etc. It was Nammazhwar who handed over the 4000 hymns of Divya Prabhandham to NadhaMuni whose disciples/lineage until Sri Ramanuja would later spread the divine hymns to the world.
11. Madhurakavi Azhwar:
Madhura kavi azhwar was born as incarnation of Garuda, Vishnu’s vehicle, in a village called Thirukkolur. Madhurakavi azhwar is different from the remaining azhwars that while other azhwars held on to Lord Vishnu as their only way to salvation and praised Him in their songs, Madhurakavi azhwar always held on to his Guru Nammazhwar as his only way to salvation and praised him in the songs!
Madhurakavi azhwar was once visiting Ayodhya temple and he suddenly saw a bright light across the sky. He kept following that light until he found the source of the light under the Tamarind tree (the place where Nammazhwar was seated), as mentioned above. He would then ask Nammazhwar questions on philosophies and devotion, and eventually become the disciple of Nammazhwar himself.
12. Kulasekara Azhwar:
Kulasekara azhwar was born as incarnation of Kaustubha,­ Lord Vishnu’s chest jewel. Kulasekara azhwar was born to the Chera King and was brought up with warrior training as in any other prince of the time. However, he was also a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Once he heard the story of Sri Rama from an old saint and asked his warriors to get ready for a war with Raavana! Once the saint told him that the war is over and Sri Rama won the war single­handedly, Kulasekara azhwar asked his warriors to get back to their places. The ministers were not happy with this behaviour of their king who would easily be carried away by Vishnu devotees. Hence they devised a plan and stole Lord Vishnu’s jewels and put the blame of the devotees.
Kulasekara azhwar, unable to believe their story, asked for a pot of snakes to be brought. He announced to his ministers that he would be putting his hand in to the pot. If the jewels were indeed stolen by devotees, let the snakes bite him. If not, he will escape without getting hurt. Kulasekara azhwar put his hand into the pot and came out unhurt. His ministers then accepted the truth and begged forgiveness from the King and from the devotees as well. Kulasekara azhwar remained a faithful devotee to the Lord for his lifetime

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