Srivaishnava lakshanam - 3

Acharya-Sishya relationship

srimathe ramanujaya nama:
srimad varavaramunaye nama:
sri vaanaachala mahamunaye nama:

In the previous article we saw how Pancha samskaaram begins ones journey as a srivaishnavan. We also saw the beginning of a unique relationship named "acharya-sishya" relationship. This is actually a small diversion from the original topic - but since this is such an important aspect in our sampradaayam, let us understand a little bit more about this relationship based on purvaachaarya sri sookthis.

Acharya literally means "one who has learnt saastras, applying it in his own life and teaching it to others". It is also said in the sastras that "Even a sanyaasi, if he does not accept vishnu parathvam, he must be considered to be a chandaalan only". So it is imperative that acharya must be a vaishnava - i.e. one who accepts Sriman Narayanan as the supreme god and is trying to please him every moment in his every action. Our purvaachaaryas have insisted that one who performs the thirumantra upadesam (along with dvayam and charama slOkam) during pancha samskaaram is the direct acharya.

Sishya means one who undergoes sikshai (correction/purification). It is generally translated as disciple in English - which means one who is to be disciplined. Here the sishya gets himself/herself shaped into a proper mould under the guidance of the acharya.

Our purvaachaaryas have discussed the qualities of achaya and sishya in a very detailed manner. To start with they have established based on the saastras that acharya-sishya relationship is exactly the same as father-son relationship. Just like the son is always totally subservient to the father, sishya must also be totally subservient to the acharya.

In bhagavad gItA, Krishnan says "tad viddhi pranipAthEna pari prasNena sEvaya, upadEkshanthi tE jnaanam jnaaninas tattva darshinah". This nicely summarises the qualities of acharya and sishya. In the first line, he says that "a sishya should submissively approach an acharya, do some service to him and ask him questions submissively (about athma/bhagavad vishayam)". In the second line "since the acharya has seen/understood the real tattvam (emperumaan), he will instruct the sishya in that jnaanam".

Some of the qualities that are expected out of an acharya are:
* Acharyas are generally equated to piraatti (sri mahalakshmi) - their main job is to do purushakaaram (recommendation as done by piraatti) to emperumaan.
* Just like piraatti, they should also accept that they are only subservient to emperumaan, they accept emperumaan as the only upaayam and their acts are for the enjoyment of emperumaan only.
* They should be full of krupai - to accept sishyas, develop their athma jnaanam and vairaagyam, and involve the sishyaas in bhagavad/bhaagavatha kainkaryam.
* Per maamunigal's divya srisookthi, acharya must only be focussed on sishya's athma rakshanam.
* Pillai lOkaachariaar says "An acharya should have proper knowledge about self, sishya and the result".
   * He should think that he is not the acharya but his acharya is the acharya.
   * He should think that his sishya is not his sishya but his acharya's sishya.
   * He should think the result is to create a well matured sishya who will constantly perform mangalaasaasanam to emperumaan - nothing else.
* Per vaarthaa maalai grantham and sistaachaaram (per elder's practices), Acharya should treat his sishya with great respect - since the sishya has come to him for total protection purely based on injunctions in saastra - without analysing the qualities/capabilities of the acharya.
* It is explained by our purvaachaaryas that even emperumaan being an acharaya - that is why he chose to be in the beginning of our OrAN vazhi guruparamparai. He also likes to have an acharya for himself - that is why he chose the most perfect acharya for himself - Sri Azhagiya Manavaala Maamunigal.

Some of the qualities that are expected out of a sishya are:
* Pillai lOkaachariar says, "A sishya's focus should completely be in emperumaaan, ready to serve anytime in anyway to the acharya, sorrow/fear looking at this material world, desire in bhagavad vishayam, free of jealosy when hearing about bhagavad/bhaagavatha glories".
* A sishya must think all his properties are really his acharya's properties. He should only take as much is required for him for dEha dhaaranam (to run the basic livelihood).
* A sishya should also think that his acharya is everything for him as explained by aalavandhaar in "maatha pithaa yuva..." slOkam.
* He should take care of his acharya's livelihood.
* Maamunigal also explains in upadEsa rathina maalai that "one should not stay away even for a moment from his acharya when he is in this world".
* A sishya should glorify his acharya in his presence and always have upakaara smrithi (gratefulness) for the knowledge that is given by his acharya to him.

It is also explained that it is inappropriate for the sishya to do athma rakshanam of acharya (i.e., sishya should never perform athma sikshai to acharya) and inappropriate for the acharya to do dEha rakshanam of sishya (i.e., sishya should not except that the acharya will take care of his day to day livelihood).

As explained by pillai lOkaachariar, it is very difficult to be a sishya (and also we dont really understand no matter how much we learn about being a sishya) - that is why emperumaan himself took the form of "Nara" rishi and became the sishya of "Narayana" rishi (who is an avathaaram of emperumaan as well) to learn thirumanthram.

With this background, we can also try to understand the different categorizations of acharyas.

* anuvritthi prasannaacharya and krupaa maatra prasannaacharya
anuvritthi prasannaacharya
In the days before Emperumaanaar, the acharyas were testing the prospective sishyas for their level of dedication before accepting them. It was customary for a prospective sishya to go to his acharya's residence, stay with him and serve him for a full year before being accepted. This type of acharyas are called anuvritthi prasannaachaaryas.
krupaa maatra prasannaacharya
But when Emperumaanaar saw the nature of kali, he determined that if acharya's are to be like this, only very few will be motivated towards giving up worldly attachments and many will not be able to satisfy the demands of the acharyas. So, out of his unbounded mercy, relaxed the rules and gave this most valuable knowledge to the ones who had the true desire to learn bhagavad vishayam. So the qualification was changed from deserving to desiring candidates. He also laid the guidelines for his sishyas to follow the same methodology and brought in several thousands of people into the fold of srivaishnavam out of his grace. Starting with Emperumaanaar, our acharyas are called krupaa maatra prasannaachaaryas.
Maamunigal, explains this concept wonderfully in his upadEsa raththina maalai paasuram "OrAN vazhiyaai upadEsitthaar munnOr, erAr ethiraasarar innaruLal paarulagil aasai udayOrkkellaam koorum enRu pEsi varambharuththaar pin"- "ஓராண் வழியாய் உபதேஸித்தார் முன்னோர், ஏரார் எதிராசர் இன்னருளல் பாருலகில் ஆசை உடையோர்க்கெல்லாம் கூறும் என்று பேசி வரம்பறுத்தார் பின்".

* uththaaraga acharya and upakaaraga acharya
In charama upaaya nirnayam -a work done by naayanaar aachaan pillai explains these two types of acharyas.
Uththaaraga acharya
He is the one who is capable of taking some one from samsaaram and placing him/her in paramapadham easily. It is explained that Sriman Narayanan, Nammaazhwaar and Emperumaanaar are the 3 uththaaraga acharyas.
  * Sriman Narayanan is the prathamaacharya (first acharya) and being sarvajnan, sarvasakthan, etc. - he can easily give mOksham to anyone. But since he is going to act based on saastram, he will either give mOksham or keep some one in the samsaaram - based on the individual's desire and karma.
  * Nammaazhwaar who was hand picked by emperumaan to give knowledge to samsaaris and correct them is also capable of giving mOksham to anyone. This is understood from his own words in thiruvaaimozhi - "ponnulagu aaLirO, bhuvani muzhuthu aaLiro" - "பொன்னுலகு ஆளிரோ, புவனி முழுது ஆளிரொ". He is asking the birds which he is sending thuuthu (as messenger) to emperumaan, that he can give both nithya vibhUthi and leela vibhUthi to them as sambhaavanai for their help. But after receiving this knowledge, as he is an aazhwaar - even though he did parOpadhEsam a little bit, he got so immersed in bhagavad anubhavam and out of his aarthi left the material world at a very young age.
  * Emperumaanaar was declared as udayavar - the controller of ubhaya vibhUthi - by SriRanganathan and ThiruvEnkatamudayaan. Not only, he was immersed in bhagavad anubhavam, he also lived in leela vibhUthi for a long period (120 years) and served emperumaan's mission fully. He established proper temple worship, created 1000s of sishyaas, created 74 simhaasanaadhipathis to carry forward his message, etc. So, naayanaar aachaan pillai concludes that Uththaaragathvam is complete in emperumaanaar.
upakaaraga acharyaHe is the one who is capable of leading us to an uththaaraga acharya. In our sampradaayam, all acharya paramparais coming under emperumaanaar upto our own acharya is classified under upaakaaraga acharya. Whenever we undergo pancha samskaaram, our acharya requests emperumaanaar through his guru paramparai to hand over that jivaathmaa to emperumaan as a person with the desire of leaving samsaaram and reaching paramapadham.

Both uththaaraga acharya and upakaaraga acharya are equally respectable - though Emperumaanaar has a special place in our sampradaayam. Even maamunigal in his upadhEsa raththina maalai starts with thiruvaimozhi pillai and ends with emperumaanaar.
* samaasrayana acharya and jnaana acharya
 * samaasrayana acharya is the one who is performing pancha samsakaaram to us.
 * jnaana acharya is the one from whom we hear grantha kaalakshEpams, etc which develops our athma jnaanam.
While we are always indebted to our samaasrayana acharya and should be totally surrendered to him, jnaana acharya should also be respected equally. For some, both samaasrayana and jnaana acharyas will be the same person. In fact, every srivaishnava must be respected as ones own acharya as per srivachana bhushanam.

To summarize, a sishya must depend on his/her acharya for totally. He/She also have the responsibility to taking care of livelihood of the acharya. One must constantly be in touch with the acharya (it is not that the acharya does samasrayanam and we go back to him after several years to invite him for our wedding as it happens nowadays) and also provide assistance in his needs.

There were many wonderful incidents in our pUrvaacharyaas lives between acharya and sishya. We will see some of them here:
* Manakkaal nambi used to do menial services at his acharya's (uyyakkondaar) residence.
* Manakkaal nambi took so much efforts to bring aalavandhaar into srivaishnavam.
* emperumaanaar treated kooraththaazhwaan with utmost respect even though he (emperumaaanaar) was the acharya.
* once, when emperumaanaar got upset with kooraththaazhwaan. at that time azhwaan said, "adiyen is emperumaanaar's property - he can do whatever he wants with me".
* embaar use to test his acharya's bed by lying down on it first. When asked if it is not a sin, he said he wont mind those, as long as his acharya's bed is made sure to be most comfortable for the acharya.
* emperumaanaar says to ananthaazhwaan that parasara bhattar is just like himself and should be treated the same.
* bhattar and nanjeeyar had excellent conversations. nanjeeyar gave up everything and became a sannyasi. He said once, "if my ashramam comes in as an interference for my service to bhattar (his acharya), I will break my thrithandam."
* nanjeeyar encouraged nampillai's view points even though they were some times different from his own for some paasurams.
* pinbalagiya perumal jeeyar said he wanted to stay in this leela vibhUthi just to observe/enjoy nampillai's (his acharya) thirumuthugu (back shoulders,etc) while coming back from cauvery after bathing.
* koorakulOththama dasar took so much efforts to bring thiruvaimozhi pillai into srivaishnavam.
* manavaala maamunigal took thiruvaaimozhi pillai's (his acharya) orders as his only goal in life. He learnt sribhashyam once and gave lectures on it but then he focussed during the whole time in arulicheyal and rahasya granthangal.
* SriRanganathan with sridhEvi and bhoodhEvi listened to eedu kaalakshEpam in front of his sannidhi for a whole year and at the end gave his own sEsha paryankam as his acharya sambhaavanai and a thanian to manavaala mamunigal which is chanted every where both at the beginning and end of any arulicheyal gOshti even today per his orders.
* Manavaala maamunigal gave his own seat, thiruvaazhi and thiruchangu (chakkaram/sangu) to ponnadikkaal jeeyar and asked him to do pancha samskaaram for appaachiaar anna.

There are many such incidents but just listed some to understand how acharyas and sishyas dealt with each other in their real lives.

With this in mind, we will move onto a very important topic. Pillai lOkaachariar in Mumukshupadi's dvaya prakaranam, 1st sutram, explains the attributes that a vaishnava adhikaari should develop in his life time. This sutram explains the qualities that we should aspire to have in a crystal clear way. Mamunigal has done an excellent vyaakyaanam for this sutram and we will see it in our next article.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

1 comment: