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virOdhi parihArangaL - 34

srImathE satakOpAya nama:
srImathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srImadh varavaramunayE nama:
srI vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

emperumAnAr explains to vangi puratthu nambi the obstacles that are faced by srIvaishNavas in various aspects of day-to-day life. vangi puratthu nambi documents these instructions in a wonderful grantham with commentary named virOdhi parihArangaL (removal of obstacles). We are now viewing the English translation of this grantham with the help of the explanations given by srI u. vE. V V Ramanujam swamy. The whole series can be viewed at


68. jAthi virOdhi (ஜாதி விரோதி ) - Obstacles in ones jAthi/varNam (birth)

emperumAnAr serving thirukkachi nambi who was serving dhEva perumAL in thyAga maNdapam (kAnchIpuram)

jAthi nowadays has become more associated with brAhmaNa, kshathriya, vaisya and sUdhra (varNam). But we should understand this is not actually truth. Actually, jAthi relates to dhEva (godly), manushya (human), thiryak (animals - growing horizontally) and sthAvara (plants) birth/body. jAthi relates to the type of body (species) and is not for the AthmA (soul). thiryak means animals/birds - the sub-categories include ones that could fly, ones that walk, ones that crawl, ones that live in water, ones that live in land, ones that live in forest, ones that live in towns, etc. sthAvara includes trees, plants, shrubs, bushes, creepers, etc. Height (tall, short), Color (black, red), etc., does not distinguish different species. In bhagavath gIthA, kaNNan emperumAn explains that all 4 varNams are created by him and they are classified by ones qualities and actions. The topic discussed in this section is very confidential and intrinsic. We will try to present it as simple as possible. The aspects that are discussed in rahasya granthams like srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, etc., are only explained here.  We can recollect the words of mAmunigaL "Ar vachana bhUtaNaththin Azh poruLellAm aRivAr? Ar athu chol nEril anuttippAr?" (ஆர் வசன பூடணத்தின் ஆழ் பொருளெல்லாம் அறிவார்? ஆர் அது சொல் நேரில் அனுட்டிப்பார்? - Who can fully understand the meanings of srIvachana bhUshaNam? Who can follow such instructions fully?). With this in mind we can go into this section.

Translator's note: jAthi has different meanings. Generally it relates to different species - dhEva, manushya, thiryak, sthAvaram. But beyond this, jAthi is occasionally related to varNam also in some places (since it also relates to type of birth in a particular family). Overall, jAthi relates to body and birth. For example, dhvija means twice born (brAhmaNa, kshathriya, vaisya) - every one is said to be born as sUdhra and through the upanayana samskAra they become dhvija. After upanayanam, all dhvijas (brAhmaNa, kshathriya and vaisya) become eligible for brahma gyAnam through vEdha adhyayanam (study of vEdhas). It is not that one randomly chooses to become a brAhmaNa, kshathriya and vaisya. Generally, one is born in a particular family based on ones previous karmA (not randomly). So, if some one is born in a brAhmaNa family, they are given an opportunity to become a brAhmaNa. Once they become a brAhmaNa, they need to uphold their principles. One must study vEdhas properly from an AchArya and act according to the principles of vEdhas as learnt from the AchArya. This is how one can maintain their brAhmaNyam (quality of being a brAhmaNa). Similarly, each varNam members engage in their own activities to uphold varNAsrama dharmam which is said to be very dear to srIman nArAyaNa and is established for the proper functioning of the society and to help everyone progress spiritually. The main activities of different varNams are:
  • For a brAhmaNa, 6 main activities are identified. adhyayanam (study of vEdhas), adhyApanam (teaching vEdhas to others), yajanam (performing yagya for self), yAjanam (performing yagya for others), dhAnam (giving charity), parigraham (receiving charity). 
  • For kshathriyas, adhyayanam (study of vEdhas), yajanam (performing yagya for self) and dhAnam (giving charity) are only applicable - teaching vEdhas to others, performing yagya for others and accepting charity are not applicable. But in place of those, they have to handle weapons, protect the citizens and administer the nation.
  • For vaisyas too, adhyayanam (study of vEdhas), yajanam (performing yagya for self) and dhAnam (giving charity) are only applicable - teaching vEdhas to others, performing yagya for others and accepting charity are not applicable. But in place of those, they have to engage in farming, tending of cows, businesses, etc.
  • For sUdhras, they simply assist the other 3 classes of people in their activities.
The above principles are nicely explained by mAmunigaL in vyAkyAnam of azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr's AchArya hrudhayam 31st chUrNikai. 

In AchArya hrudhayam 33rd chUrNikai, nAyaNar beautifully compares this second birth (dhvija) with another second birth - which is one becoming a vaishNava through pancha samskAram. Just like the second birth of body facilitates one to be engaged in vaidhIka karmAs, pancha samskAram facilitates the second birth of AthmA to be engaged in proper servitude to srIman nArAyaNa (and his devotees). Though AthmA is eternal, through the learning thirumanthram (asthAksharam), the jIvAthmA truly understands his real nature as an eternal servant of srIman nArAyaNa. mAmunigaL beautifully explains in the commentary of this chUrNikai, where gAyathri manthram (mother of all manthrams) is facilitating one becoming a brAhmaNa and thirumanthram (mother of all gAyathri manthram) is facilitating one becoming a vaishNava. brAhmaNa is called karma nishta (one who is simply focussed on karmA) and vaishNava is called dhAsa bhUtha (one who is fully focussed on servitude). Subsequently, nAyanAr explains the many differences between the two categories - karma nishtas and dhAsa bhUthas.

Also in the 37th chUrNikai, nAyanAr explains that just like ones brAhmaNyam (being a brAhmaNa) is established by studying of vEdham, understanding its meanings and practicing the principles outlined in vEdham, ones vaishNavathvam (being  a vaishNava) is established by learning thiruvAimozhi (and other dhivya prabandhams) from an AchArya directly, understanding its meanings through instructions from an AchArya and practicing the principles in ones life.

In this section, the importance of being a vaishNava or a prapanna (one who is surrendered to srIman nArAyaNa) and the qualities that are important for vaishNavas are explained in depth. With this introduction, let us move on to the section.

  • Not having mahA visvAsam (100% faith) on bhagavAn's protection which is essential for all three types of prapannas namely agyar (the ignorant), gyAnAdhikar (one who is very learned) and bhakthi paravasar (one who is fully immersed in devotion) is an obstacle. prapanna means one who is surrendered to bhagavAn totally accepting only him as upAyam. All of these 3 types of prapannas explained here need to have mahA visvAsam (total faith) and this mahA visvAsam is called the jAthi dharmam (the unique/distinct quality that identifies the particular entity). mahA visvAsam means having full confidence in bhagavAn to whom we have surrendered that he will protect us and eventually uplift us. A little bit more on the three types of prapannas (Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains this 3 types of prapannas beautifully in sUthrams 41 onwards. We can simply understand and appreciate the most humble nature of our pUrvAchAryas like piLLai lOkAchAryar when he includes himself in the category of agyar (ignorant) in sUthram 43 - even though he is the most learned scholar. mAmunigaL beautifully explains that piLLai lOkAchAryar includes himself in that list out of naichyAnusandhAnam (humility and considering oneself as very lowly). mAmunigaL's vyAkyAnam for this sUthram is very crisp and easy to understand).
    • agyar means one who does not have crystal-clear knowledge about svarUpam (true nature), upAyam (means), upEyam (goal), etc. We ourselves are good examples for this category. These are the ones who have given up self-effort (karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams which are explained in sAsthram as processes to reach bhagavAn) due to lack of clear knowledge and ability. As explained before, we ourselves are good examples for this category.
    • gyAnAdhikar means one who is fully clear about these principles like svarUpam, upAyam, upEyam, etc and is able to explain the same to others. One who is full in gyAnam (knowledge) and anushtAnam (practice). Our pUrvAchAryas are good examples. They were greatly knowledgable and fully capable to pursue self-effort, but realising that engaging in self-effort is contrary to the subservient nature of jIvAthmA, they fully gave up any engagement in self-effort (pursuing karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams as upAyam) and were fully surrendered to bhagavAn.
    • bhakthi paravasar means one who starts melting out of pure devotion towards bhagavAn as soon as hearing/thinking about bhagavAn. AzhwArs are good examples for this category. Though AzhwArs were fully blessed by bhagavAn with clear knowledge, due to their overwhelming love and devotion towards bhagavAn, they were simply and naturally unable to engage in any self-effort. nammAzhwAr says in thiruvAimozhi 5.8.8 "kaLaivAy thunbam kaLaiyAthozhivAy kaLaikaN maRRilEn" (களைவாய் துன்பம் களையாதொழிவாய் களைகண் மற்றிலேன்) - Whether you remove my hurdles or not, I have no other refuge - you have to protect me. He also says, in thiruvAimozhi 5.8.3, he says "unnAlallAl yAvarAlum onRum kuRai vENdEn .. una thAL pidiththE selakkANE" (உன்னாலல்லால் யாவராலும் ஒன்றும் குறை வேண்டேன் .. உன தாள் பிடித்தே செலக்காணே) - I do not want anything from any one other than you ... I will always depend on your lotus feet.
  • Behaving contrary to manushya dharmam (basic principles of humanity) is an obstacle. The special ability for humans is kruthya akruthya vivEkam (wisdom to discriminate between what is to be done and what is not to be done). Accordingly, this human life/body should be properly used. sAsthram says idham kuru (do this, this will be beneficial) and idham mAkArshI: (do not do this, this will be detrimental). One needs to understand and try to follow it in ones life. Civilization and humanity means thinking that "everyone should live peacefully and happily" - such good-hearted nature is necessary for everyone. Much more is not needed. Behaving contrary to this is an obstacle. Translator's note: Before going into the wonderful srIvaishNava qualities, one should often think about basic humanity and behave in a dignified manner towards everyone. Civilized behaviour means living by principles and dignity (not living by desires and sense-gratification). Also, It is said that AhAra (eating), nidhra (sleeping), bhaya (protection/community living) and maiththuna (sex/family life) is common for all living being. For ants, cats, dogs, donkeys, humans and all living beings, these 4 principles exist in one form or other. The special ability for humans is to be able to seek out for salvation from this cycle of birth/death. That can be understood from sAsthram which is learnt from learned AchAryas. At the time of creation, bhagavAn mercifully gives body and senses to jIvAthmAs. He also reveals the sAsthram through brahmA, rishis and AzhwArs. Using the senses, humans can understand the principles and engage their body in kainkaryam. If this is done, there is surely spiritual progress for the jIvAthmA. If this is not done, then it is such as a waste of the wonderful opportunity that was given in the form of human body.
  • Self-effort in uplifting oneself is an obstacle. Starting here, prapanna dharmam (the ideal behaviour/guidelines of prapanna) is discussed. A prapanna should be fully surrendered to bhagavAn and should not engage in self-effort ever. This is contrary to the true-nature of jIvAthmA that is sEshathvam (total servitude)/pArathanthriyam (total dependence). Translator's note: Being totally dependent on bhagavAn means giving up self-efforts at all cost. It does not mean that one sits idle and not do anything. It means that one engages in kainkaryam but always thinks that as kainkaryam (result) instead of an activity to achieve something else.
  • To seek out for purification/contamination before performing prapaththi is an obstacle. prapaththi is a mental state (of accepting bhagavAn as the total refuge). It does not require a specific place, time, state (pure/impure), etc., and can be pursued as it is. When dhraupathi was in great danger of being humiliated she called out "hA krishNa! rakshamAm saraNAgathAm" (krishNa! protect this surrendered soul) lifting up her both hands with full faith - even though she was going through her menstrual period - and surely she was protected by kaNNan emperumAn. Similarly, when vibhIshNan came to surrender unto srI rAma, he did not take a bath even though he was right on the sea - he surrendered to srI rAma from the sky. When one is pure or impure, one can surrender unto bhagavAn in that same state. There is no need to change ones state before performing prapaththi. Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, prapaththi is discussed in detail. In sUthram 30, the same principle is explained beautifully. mAmunigaL beautifully clarifies an important point here. While it is understandable that one need not seek out to purify oneself before performing prapaththi, one may wonder why it is said that one should not seek out for impurity to oneself before performing prapaththi. mAmunigaL himself raises this question and explains that seeing dhraupathi and arjuna (in the previous sUthram, arjuna is explained to have heard the sacred principles of saraNAgathi amidst the ones who are very inferior/lowly - those who fought against dharmam/righteousness even after seeing krishNa himself helping arjuna), one may think that "I should probably become impure so that I become well qualified to perform prapaththi". But that is also not required and should not be done. Basically, mAmunigaL is explaining that one should not engage in nishidhdha (forbidden/prohibited) actions knowingly in any case. In the next sUthram, a beautiful quotation of nampiLLai is highlighted in this connection. When srI rAma himself performed prapaththi (surrender) to samudhra rAja (king of oceans) to get assistance to cross over to lankA, he bathes first. nampiLLai explains that it was natural for srI rAma to take bath to do anything - it was not done as part of his prapaththi. So, we can understand that prapaththi is an independent upAyam (means) which does not depend on any other pre-requisite in the individual who is performing that.
  • Giving up nithya karmAnushtAnams which are natural for ones who have servitude towards bhagavAn is an obstacle. It is common rule that nithya karmAs are to be observed.  They are to be observed as bhagavadh AgyA kainkaryam (that what is ordered by bhagavAn). We have no right to give up our daily routine karmAs (such as sandhyA vandhanam, etc). We have already discussed a lot on this topic. Meditate on that and be clear. In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, 82nd sUthram, it is said that "thirukkaNNamangai ANdAn sva vyApAraththai vittAn" (திருக்கண்ணமங்கை ஆண்டான் ஸ்வ வ்யாபாரத்தை விட்டான்) - thirukkaNNamangai ANdAn gave up all his personal activities. He was situated at the top of mahA visvAsam (total faith) and thus gave up all self-efforts. In upadhEsa raththina mAlai pAsuram 55, mAmunigaL explains that "ellArkkum aNdAthathanRO athu" (எல்லார்க்கும் அண்டாததன்றோ அது) - the principles explained in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram are fully followable only by a few. Translator's note: Please read thirukkaNNamangai ANdAn vaibhavam at mAmunigaL explains in the vyAkyAnam that ANdAn gives up activities related to self efforts and was fully engaged in kainkaryam. As far as nithya karmAnushtAnams are concerned, as long as there is no intervention in bhagavath kainkaryams, they must be performed on time without fail. But when we are engaged in bhagavath kainkaryam, nithya karmAnushtAnams can be delayed/skipped as necessary. This is explained by azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr in AchArya hrudhayam 31st chUrNikai "...aththANich chEvakaththil podhuvAnadhu nazhuvum" (...அத்தாணிச் சேவகத்தில் பொதுவானது நழுவும்) - when engaged in confidential service to bhagavAn/bhAgavathas, common rules gets skipped. mAmunigaL beautifully explains that our pUrvAchAryas performed all nithya karmAnushtAnams (whenever applicable) without fail out of great compassion towards people of this world who may go astray seeing vaidhIkas give up vaidhIka anushtAnams.
  • Living with persons who are not engaged in performing nithya karmAnushtAnams is an obstacle. Even srIvaishNava sannyAsis (unlike other orders of sannyAsam) should maintain sikA (tuft), yagyOpavIdham, etc., and perform nithya karmAnushtAnams. It is said that emperumAnAr gave arghyam (water offerings) as part of his sandhyAvandhanam standing up even when he was at the ripe age of 120 years. Translator's note: If this is the case for sannyAsis what to speak of others like gruhasthas, brahmachAris, etc - they must perform their respective karmAnushtAnams. When one lives around such persons who do not perform their karmAnushtAnms properly, one may also become influenced with such attitude. That is why it is recommended that such type of association is avoided.
  • Not knowing that being born again in thirumanthram is the best birth is an obstacle. Taking birth in thirumanthram means gyAna janmA (birth of knowledge) - acquiring divine wisdom on the true nature of oneself. thirumalai ananthAzhwAn says to nanjIyar "thirumanthraththilE piRanthu dhvayaththilE vaLarnthu dhvayaika nishtarAvIr" (திருமந்த்ரத்திலே பிறந்து த்வயத்திலே வளர்ந்து த்வயைக நிஷ்டராவீர்) - you should take birth in thirumanthram, grow in dhvaya mahA manthram and become totally faithful in dhvayam alone. Translator's note: When nanjIyar accepted sannyAsam and travels to srIrangam to be with his AchArya parAsara bhattar, he meets ananthAzhwAn on the way. At that time, ananthAzhwAn chides (chastises) nanjIyar for accepting sannyAsam and says he could have instead simply stayed as a gruhastha and continued to serve his AchArya with total faith in dhvaya mahA manthram. We have already seen nAyanAr's explanation of gyAna janma in 33rd chUrNikai of AchArya hrudhayam in this article's introduction section.
  • Not knowing that being born again in other manthrams will affect ones svarUpam adversely is an obstacle. In the previous point, initation by thirumanthram is explained - this includes dhvaya mahA manthram and charma slOkam as well since they are expansions/explanations for thirumanthram. Here other manthrams could be considered as manthrams relating to dhEvathAntharams. Translator's note: In mumukshuppadi, right at the beginning, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains the glories of thirumanthram over other manthrams. First he explains that greatness of te three top most manthrams - thirumanthram (ashtAkshari), vAsudhEva manthram (thiru dhvAdhasAkshari) and vishNu manthram (sadakshari). Even among those three, thirumanthram is considered to be greater since it explains the nature of artha panchakam - jIvAthmA (soul), paramAthmA (supreme lord), upAyam (means), palam (goal) and virOdhi (hurdles) in a pristine manner. Since thirumanthram (dhvayam and charama slOkam included) reveals artha panchakam  more clearly than any other manthram, it is the top most manthram and so, other manthrams are not to be pursued.
  • Not knowing that "kOyilil vAzhum vaishNavan" (கோயிலில் வாழும் வைஷ்ணவன் - one who serves/lives in srIrangam) is the most important identity for oneself is an obstacle. kOyil generally means srIrangam. This is as per the orders of namperumAL (srIranganAthan) to emperumAnAr (srI rAmAnuja) - "yAvachcharIrapAdham athraiva srIrangE sukamAsva" (யாவச்சரீரபாதம் அத்ரைவ ஸ்ரீரங்கே ஸுகமாஸ்வ) - Happily live in srIrangam for the rest of your time in this world. Since this would not be possible for everyone, it should be considered to be including all dhivya dhEsams. vaishNavan here means one who is faithful in dhvaya mahA manthram. faithful means having clear knowledge and practically following what is learnt. srIvaishNavas should conduct themselves so that they are identified as "parama sAthvikar" (purest), "parama prAmANikar" (most authoritative), etc. Please refer to the vyAkyAnam for thirumAlai 38th pAsuram - "... kAmbaRath thalai chiRaiththu un kadaith thalai irunthu vAzhum chOmbarai ugaththi ..." (... காம்பறத் தலை சிறைத்து உன் கடைத் தலை இருந்து வாழும் சோம்பரை உகத்தி ...). Translator's note: thirumAlai 38th pAsuram is glorified by periyavAchAn piLLai as "detailed explanation of dhvaya mahAmanthram". Mainly in this part of the pAsuram highlighted here, the importance of disengaging oneself from upAyAntharams (self-efforts) fully is emphasised. Giving up ones hair indicates giving up ahankAram (ego/pride) - since in ancient times, to punish/insult some one their hair is cut off. Similarly one should fully give up self-effort and totally depend on bhagavAn for protection. Such person is explained as "chOmbar" (lazy person). But one should also be a "vAzhum chOmbar" (lively/blissful lazy person) - one who fully realizes ones true nature, gives up self-efforts, fully engages in kainkaryam (service to bhagavAn/bhAgavathas) and be blissful due to that. Such persons are as dear as nithyasUris to srIman nArAyaNa as well.
  • Not knowing that any identify/name/fame that one gets due to their native place, clan/family they belong too, etc., are useless is an obstacle. In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, in sUthram 78 this point is explained - "grAmakulAdhigaLAl varum pEr anarththa hEthu" (க்ராமகுலாதிகளால் வரும் பேர் அநர்த்த ஹேது). grAmam means village/town. kulam means clan/family. Since such identity will lead to pride (for example: "I am born in such dhivya dhEsam" or "I am born in this great AchArya purusha family") and will eventually lead to vanquishing ones true nature of being a humble srIvaishNava. In the next sUthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar quotes a pramANam from srI pAncharAthram to support his statement. "EkAnthI vyapathEshtavyO naiva grAmakulAdhibi: vishNunA vyapathEshtavyas thasya sarvam sa Eva hi"(ஏகாந்தீ வ்யபதேஷ்டவ்யோ நைவ க்ராமகுலாதிபி: விஷ்ணுநா வ்யபதேஷ்டவ்யஸ் தஸ்ய ஸர்வம் ஸ ஏவ ஹி) - One who is fully surrendered to bhagavAn is not identified by his birth-place or family in which he was born. He is identified by his relationship (as a humble servant) with bhagavAn. For such devotee, bhagavAn himself is his birth-place, family, etc.
  • Not knowing that prapanna jana kUtasthar (the fountain head of surrendered persons) is parAngusa, etc., is an obstacle. kUtastha is usually used to denote the person who is considered as the first person (main ancestor) of a particular family tree. In AchArya hrudhayam chUrNikai 36, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr explains "viprarkku gOthra saraNa sUthra kUtasthar parAsara pArAsarya bhOdhAyanAdhigaL; prappanna jana kUtasthar parAngusa parakAla yathivarAdhigaL" (விப்ரர்க்கு கோத்ர சரண ஸூத்ர கூடஸ்தர் பராசர பாராசர்ய போதாயநாதிகள்; ப்ரப்பந்ந ஜந கூடஸ்த்தர் பராங்குஸ பரகால யதிவராதிகள்) - For brAhmaNas, the main ancestor (based on their gOthra (genetic), saraNa (part of vEdham they must study), sUthra (part of sAsthram that directs the karmAnushtAnams)) can be traced to rishis (sages) like parAsara, vyAsa, bhOdhAyana, etc; for srIvaishNavas who have taken to the path of saraNAgathi, parAngusa (nammAzhwAr), parakAla (thirumangai AzhwAr), yathivara (srI rAmAnuja) are the principle authorities from whom the ancestry is arrived at. While performing vadhIka karmAnushtAnams, one may have to perform praNAmam (obeisances), abhivAdhanam (introducing oneself by reciting ones ancestry in relation to the rishis, ones association with a particular vEdha sAkA (branch), ones association with particular sUthram, ones own name), etc. But for prapannas, they always need to identify oneself with AzhwArs and AchAryas, since they are the ones who revealed the true nature of jIvAthmA as the fully surrendered servant of bhagavAn and bhAgavathas.
  • Considering rishis who are still attached to family life and who eat leaves as ones ancestors even after becoming a srIvaishNava is an obstacle. Translator's note: In AchArya hrudhayam chUrNikais 58 to 62, the differences between rishis (sages) and nammAzhwAr are wonderfully highlighted. chUrNikai 58 - rishis are the ones who engage in dhyAnam, yOgam, etc., and elevate oneself to a highly intellectual state through their self efforts. But nammAzhwAr was divinely blessed by bhagavAn himself and due to full realization of bhagavAn's qualities, he became overwhelmed with love and devotion towards Him. chUrNikai 59 - rishis were greatly knowledgable, yet they were attached to materialistic desires (there were many examples were great sages were repeatedly caught in materialistic desires and eventually would come out of that state, only to get caught again). But nammAzhwAr was totally detached from any materialistic desire. chUrNikai 60 - rishis lived in forests and sustained themselves by eating raw-vegetables, fruits, leaves, water and even air at times due to their highly renunciate life style. But nammAzhwAr sustained himself by meditating on krishNa all the time - he himself says in thiruvAimozhi 6.7.1 "uNNum sORu parugum nIr thinnum veRRilai ellAm kaNNan" (உண்ணும் சோறு பருகும் நீர் தின்னும் வெற்றிலை எல்லாம் கண்ணன்) - my food, water, betel leaves are all krishNa. chUrNikai 61 - The sorrow that they go through in separation of their children (vyAsa had great sorrow when sukha, his son, left him alone and went away) is felt by nammAzhwAr in separation of bhagavAn. chUrNikai 62 - though rishis are greatly realised, at times they reveal their attachment towards palAtharam (goal other than kainkaryam), sAdhanAntharam (self-efforts - means other than bhagavAn) and dhEvathAntharam (allegiance to other dhEvathas). But AzhwAr was fully focussed on kainkaryam to bhagavAn as the goal, accepting bhagavAn as the only upAyam and accepting bhagavAn as the only worshippable deity. Because of these differences between rishis and AzhwArs, prapannas should always allege their ancestry to AzhwArs and AchAryas.
  • Not learning thiruvAimozhi thoroughly which makes one a real srIvaishNava and following the principles explained in it properly are obstacles. In AchArya hrudhayam, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr explains in chUrNikai 37 "adhyayana gyAna anushtAnangaLAlE brAhmaNyamAgiRAppOlE chandhangaLAyiramum aRiyak kaRRu vallArAnAl vaishNavathva sidhdhi" (அத்யயன ஞாந அநுஷ்டாநங்களாலே ப்ராஹ்மண்யமாகிறாப்போலே சந்தங்களாயிரமும் அறியக் கற்று வல்லாரானால் வைஷ்ணவத்வ ஸித்தி) - Just like a brAhmaNa's brAhmaNyam (true nature of being a brAhmaNa) is established by propely studying vEdham and following the principles, a vaishNava's vaishNavathvam (true nature of being a vaishNava) is established by properly studying thiruvAimozhi and following the principles explained in it. Here aRiya (அறிய) means learning thiruvAimozhi through an AchArya; kaRRu (கற்று) means learning bhagavath vishaya kAlakshEpam (vyAkyanams) from an AchArya; vallAr (வல்லார்) means one who is able to practically implement the principles learnt in ones own life. In thiruvAimozhi 5.5.11, nammAzhwAr says "aRiyak kaRRu vallAr vaittaNavar Azhkadal gyAlaththuLLE" (அறியக் கற்று வல்லார் வைட்டணவர் ஆழ்கடல் ஞாலத்துள்ளே) - one who has learnt thiruvAimozhi, its meanings and also practicing it is considered as a vaishNava in this world. 
  • Not knowing that ones varNam which could lead to pride and cause one to engage in bhAgavatha apachAram should be given up is an obstacle. Irrespective of ones varNam,  a vaishNava means one should engage in kainkaryam to bhagavAn and bhAgavathas. Being proud for being in born in an (so-called) elite varNam will absolutely lead to bhAgavatha apachAram and thus such attitude should be completely given up. When emperumAnAr visited thirumalai, periya thirumalai nambi (emperumAnAr's maternal uncle and AchArya) himself came out and welcomed him. When emperumAnAr asked why he did not send some one else, he answered "When I look around I could not find any one lower than me" - that was his humility. Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, this topic is discussed in detail in sUthrams 207 to 217. In sAsthram, generally brAhmaNa varNam is hailed as uthkrushtam (superior) due to the constant engagement in study of vEdham which is fully speaking about bhagavAn. But being born in brAhmaNa family and practising brAhmaNyam could by themselves lead to pride (which is contrary to vaishNava philosophy). So, piLLai lOkAchAryar establishes that "the birth which causes pride" is actually inferior. Also, being a brAhmaNa (kshathriya, vaisya too), one has the opportunity to engage in upAyantharams (other upAyams such as karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams which require one to be eligible to perform vEdha adhyayanam). Thus, in the end, he declares that "the birth which facilitates humility and avoids upAyAntharams completely is actually the superior birth". In AchArya hrudhayam, chUrNikai 85, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr explains this principle in great detail. This is a very complicated  aspect - mAmunigaL's vyAkyAnam should be properly heard as kAlakshEpam under a qualified AchArya to get absolute clarity on this aspect.
  • Not understanding that the varNam that facilitates one to engage in upAyAntharams (other means) and requires one to assume humility (instead of having natural humility) is inferior is an obstacle. In srIvachana bhUshaNam sUthram 215, piLLai lOkAchAryar says "naichyam janma sidhdham" (நைச்யம் ஜந்ம ஸித்தம்) - humility is a natural attribute. For the jIvAthmA, naturally he is an eternal servitor of bhagavAn. Whichever varNam one is in, one should naturally have that humility instead of assuming it. nammAzhwAr also says in thiruvAimozhi 1.2.3 "nIr numadhu enRivai vEr mudhal mAyththu..." (நீர் நுமது என்றிவை வேர் முதல் மாய்த்து...) - you should fully vanquish your ahankAram (pride) and mamakAram (proprietorship). Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNam sUthram 215, it is explained that for sUdhra varNam, naichyam (humility) which is required for true devotion/faith, is a natural quality for them and due to them being ineligible to study vEdham, they have absolutely no engagement in upAyAntharams - thus they are greatly qualified to become a vaishNava. But this is not the case for other varNams as explained previously. So, irrespective of ones varNam, one should fully give up pride and become a humble servant of bhagavAn and bhAgavathas.
  • Not knowing that the birth that completely dis-engages one from upAyAntharams and facilitates natural humility is superior is an obstacle. As explained previously, one should aspire for natural humility and complete surrender to bhagavAn - only such persons qualify to be a true vaishNava.
  • Not knowing that inferior persons defects can be vanquished by superior persons divine vision itself is an obstacle. When great vaishNavas glance at some one with compassion, all the defects are removed from such persons who are seen. When a srIvaishNava boy who went astray returned purified, his father asked "Were you seen/blessed by kUrathAzhwAn?" - such is the power of pure vaishNavas which can remove all blemishes and inauspiciousness.
  • Without having removed the defects like pride, etc., mingling with pure vaishNavas and causing them trouble is an obstacle.
  • Having doubts in srIvaishNavas who are hailed as touch stones (that which converts copper into gold) and their abilities to purify others are obstacles. Pure srIvaishNavas are called touch stones irrespective of their varNam. One should never doubt their purity and their ability to purify others. We can remember that emperumAnAr himself used to hold on to piLLai uRangA villi dhAsar (who is not a brAhmaNa) for support after taking bath. So, there is no doubt absolutely about their purity.
  • Not knowing that such great gyAnis are as good as ones own AchArya and greater than bhagavAn is an obstacle. Ones who are fully realized in bhagavath vishayam, irrespective of their varNam, family, etc -  they should be honored at par with ones AchArya. They are even greater than emperumAn. In periya thirumozhi 8.10.3, thirumangai AzhwAr says "nin thiruvettezhuththum kaRRu yAnuRRathu unnadiyArkku adimai" (நின் திருவெட்டெழுத்தும் கற்று யானுற்றது உன்னடியார்க்கு அடிமை) - After learning thirumanthram, I have understood that I am the servant of your servants. Generally, bhAgavathas are to be worshipped more than bhagavAn. Translator's note: nammAzhwAr, in thiruvAimozhi 8.10 "nedumARkadimai" (நெடுமாற்கடிமை) padhigam, establishes that bhAgavathas are his masters and in 3.7 "payilum chudaroLi" (பயிலும் சுடரொளி) padhigam, establishes that bhAgavathas are his object of kainkaryam (service). In 3.7.1 itself he says "payilum chudaroLi mUrththiyaip pangayak kaNNanai payila iniya nam pARkadal chErndha paramanai payilum thiruvudaiyAr yavarElum avar kaNdIr payilum piRappidai thORu emmai ALum paramarE" (பயிலும் சுடரொளி மூர்த்தியைப் பங்கயக் கண்ணனை பயில இனிய நம் பாற்கடல் சேர்ந்த பரமனை பயிலும் திருவுடையார் யவரேலும் அவர் கண்டீர் பயிலும் பிறப்பிடை தோறு எம்மை ஆளும் பரமரே)  - Whoever it is, if he worships the most radiant bhagavaAn who has lotus eyes and who is lying down in milk ocean, such person can fully command/control me birth after birth. In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, this principle of AchArya sAmyam and greater than bhagavAn is explained from sUthram 222. Here, he explains that since ones AchArya himself will guide the sishya to treat other srIvaishNavas as good as himself, all srIvaishNavas are to be treated at part with AchArya. Further, he explains that srIvaishNavas are greater than bhagavAn himself. mAmunigaL beautifully explains many aspects in his vyAkyAnam to establish this point. He says unlike bhagavAn who at times engages the jIvAthmA based on his karmA in this samsAram, srIvaishNavas out of compassion directs him towards mOksham only. Unlike bhagavAn who expects purushakAram (recommendation) of thAyAr while jIvAthmA surrenders, srIvaishNavas simply accept whoever approaches them. Unlike bhagavAn who stays in dhivya dhEsams in archA form where he has vowed not to interact with anyone generally, srIvaishNavas engage with others according to their nature and engages them in appropriate kainkaryams. Thus srIvaishNavas are glorified even more than bhagavAn.
  • Being a vaishNava and engaging with dhEvathAntharams (even by smell or touch) is an obstacle. dhEvathAnthara sambandham (relationship with other dhEvathais) is a major blot for vaishNavas. It will eventually destroy the vaishNavathvam (quality of being a vaishNava). So, it must be completely avoided. Translator's note: We have already seen many incidents in relation to this. Once during puRappAdu (procession) of namperumAL, it rains heavily and namperumAL is taken into a maNdapam which is part of thiruvAnaikkAval siva temple. But, emperumAnAr himself refuses to enter the maNdapam saying "perumAL being the owner of everything, he can enter anywhere. but we are servants of perumAL only, so we wont enter into dhEvathAntharam related places". piLLai uRangA villi dhAsar's nephews who were staunch srIvaishNavas once were tricked to offer obeisances to a jain temple which looked like vishNu temple. Once they realize their mistake they faint at once and only get their conscious back after applying the dust of the lotus feet of piLLai uRangA villi dhAsar on their forehead. parAsara bhattar once doubts that an avaishNava might have come in contact with him and feels great anxiety. Based on his mother's advice, he accepts srIpAdha thIrtham of an abrAhmaNa srIvaishNava and purify himselves. There are many such incidents where our pUrvAchAryas have completely avoided dhEvathAnthara sambandham.
  • Following practices of other births which ruins ones faith in our sampradhAyam is an obstacle. When one is born as a vaishNava (through pancha samskAram) one should give up attachment to practices of other sects. For example, one should not apply basmam (ashes), etc. Such following of other sects will impact ones own faith in vaishNava sampradhAyam. Translator's note: This can also be seen as highlighting the aspect of following svadharma (ones own dharma). For example, a vaishNava, if he is a brAhmaNa, he should follow his own rules and regulations instead of following the practices of kshathriya or vaisya. Whatever varNam one is in, one can be in that same varNam and still be a vaishNava and manifest his natural humility, devotion, servitude, etc., and be respected as well. One need not and should not attempt to change their varNam since such disrespect of sAsthram will lead to chaos only. Our pUrvAchAryas have also emphasised on giving importance to both vaishNavathvam and varNAsrama dharmam as necessary/applicable while conducting oneself. This has been already discussed in previous sections.

We will continue with the next section in the next article. 

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

pramEyam (goal) -
pramANam (scriptures) -
pramAthA (preceptors) -