Srivaishnava lakshanam - 8

Understanding the greatness of Srivaishnavas (part 1)

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

In the previous article (, we discussed the different types of apachaarams that should be completely avoided by srivaishnavas. In that, our pUrvaachaaryas have emphasised the cruelty of discrimination amongst srivaishnavas based on their birth. One word of caution though - while we should not discriminate srivaishnavas based on birth, we should also ensure that varanaasrama dharmam is respected. It is like walking on a thin rope. An example would help understand this principle. In a big organization, there is a General Manager and a Mechanic. Both are humans and must be equally respected per the rule book. But, when the mechanic goes and sits in the General Manager's chair in the GM's office, that will never be accepted by the same management which allows equality among employees. Similar concept is described as bhagavad apachaaram - varnaasrama vibhareethamaana upachaarangal - a srivaishnava must respect varnaasrama dharmam and is very well bound by that.

The core principle of our pUrvaachaarayas on this topic is established clearly based on saastram by Pillai lOkaachaariar and Azhagiya manavaala perumaaL naayanaar in their granthams srivachana bhUshaNam and Achaarya hrudhayam respectively. They simply documented the thoughts of Azhwaars and their pUrvaachaaryas (not that they created a new sampradhaayam).  They consolidated and extracted the essence of the teachings of azhwaars and their pUrvaachaaryas and documented them clearly.

It is a common (mis)understanding that, of the four varnas (braahmaNa, kshathriya, vaisya, shUdra) - braahmaNa is high birth and shUdra is low birth. But our pUrvaachaaryas clearly have other ideas. Let us see them in detail:

Our purvaachaaryas clearly establishes that vaidhIha (one who accepts vEdhas as pramaaNam) means one who accepts Vishnu parathvam (sidhaantha may be different - adhvaitham, dvaitham, vishishtaadvaitham, etc). But if that saastram which establishes vishnu parathvam and nourishes that in the person who follows the saastram is learnt and chanted without understanding this fundamental principle, then that saastram is not used properly by that learner. Such persons who learn saastram but dont accept vishnu parathvam are equated to a) donkeys carrying expensive saffron (as they dont understand the real value) b) decorations on a dead body (since there is no aathmaa there is no use) c) decorations on a widow (talking about this will probably get adiyen into trouble in today's environment).

For a srivaishnava, his bodily birth does not count even a negligible quantity to get the ultimate benediction of mOksham. It is the Emperumaanaar sambandham that gets us the mOksham. Pillai lOkaachaariar establishes two terms "uthkrushtamaaga bramiththa janmam" (what is misunderstood to be high birth) and "apakrushtamaaga bramiththa janmam" (what is misunderstood to be low birth). He explains that braahmaana/kshathriya/vaishya janmam (which is considered to be high births) are actually dangerous since those births give qualification to indulge in upaayaantharam like karma, jnaana, bhakthi yogamgal. The second pitfall is, these (misunderstood) high births also gives us ahankaaram which does not allow us to practice naichiya anusandhaanam. But these two defects are not seen in the (misunderstood) low birth. So, it is concluded that - the birth which completely eliminates these two defects (upaayaanthara sambnadham, ahankaaram) is considered the best.
Even for the ones who are born in the (misunderstood) high births, their defects (upaayaanthara sambandham and ahankaaram) get removed by having sambandham to qualified adhikaaris only. This is established by periya perumaaL making lOkasaaranga muni carry thiruppaanazhwaar on his shoulders.

Also this greatness of srivaishnavas who purify us is explained by azhwaars in:
* payilum chudaroLi (thiruvaaimozhi 3.7)
* nedumaarkku adimai (thiruvaaimozhi 8.10)
* naNNaatha vaLavuNar (thirumozhi 2.6)
* kaNsOra venguruthi (thirumozhi 7.4)
* thEttarum thiral thEn (perumaal thirumozhi 2)
* thirumaalai (39 to 43)

Many historical evidences are given by Pillai lOkaachaariar to establish the importance of not considering one's birth and just looking at their bhakthi towards emperumaan.
* raavaNa considered vibhIshana to be a kula dhrOhi but perumaaL considered him as part of the ikshvaaku vamsam (since he considered vibhIshana as his brother).
* perumaal did charama kainkaryangal for periya udayaar (jatAyu).
* dharmaputran (yudhistran) did charama kainkaryangal for sri vidhurar.
* many rishis use to regularly visit and wait for dharmavyaathan (who was a butcher) to clarify his doubts in saastram
* Krishnan went to Sri vidhurar's (qualified by his bhakthi) house instead of bhIshma (qualified by age/knowledge), dhrOna (qualified by birth/knowledge) and dhuryOdhana (qualified by power)
* perumaal ate fruits from sabhari's (who was born in hunter's family) hands but was a acharya nishtai.
* periya nambi did charama kainkaryangal for maaranEri nambi who was a great srivaishnava and a disciple of aaLavandhaar. When questioned by emperumaanaar (who questioned his acharya to make sure that the message is conveyed directly by his acharya), he shows many pramaaNams (like the ones quoted above) and establishes that his acts were indeed correct.

Also in many cases, azhwaars/acharyas also liked to take the births/forms which were liked by emperumaan:
* Vyasa and Suka wanted to be the dust of vrindhaavan which were touched by the feet of krishnan and gOpis.
* kulasEkara azhwar who was a king wanted to become some thing (a fish, bird, flower, the road, the door steps in the sanctum, etc) on the thirumalai.
* periyaazhwar and andal wanted to take birth in cowherd families of vrindhaavan.
* aalavandhar says he prefers to be born as a worm in a srivaishnava's home instead of being born as brahmaa.

In Achaarya hrudhayam, Azhagiya manavaala perumaal naayanaar also explains the same concept in an excellent chUrnikai - we will see that in the next article. It is one of the most important chUrnikais in achaarya hrudhayam and helps us understand what is high birth according to our pUrvaachaaryas.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

Note: These articles are archived in and can be viewed at adiyen's blogsite:

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