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 http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/p/virodhi-pariharangal.html.
38. Avasyaka virOdhi (ஆவச்யக விரோதி) - Obstacles for principles that are to be essentially remembered and avoided
One should essentially remember these obstacles and avoid them. When our saliva touches any thing that becomes contaminated. The human body is said to have nine outlets (Our body is called nava dhvAra pattaNam - city of nine gates - 2 eyes, 2 ears, mouth, 2 nostrils, urinary organ and anus). When our hands come in contact with any of those parts, the hands become contaminated and they need to be purified. One can wash the hands with water and purify the same. When the hands touch the feet one should wash them before touching anything else.
Translator's note: This topic and the next couple of topics relate to asuddhi (contamination). In the modern culture, there is total disregard for contamination. Generally, eating/drinking with the hand touching the mouth/lips (sipping, licking with tongue, etc) is called contamination. There are also many other aspects of contamination such as
- touching the main container of food with the contaminated (eating) hand
- eating/drinking with left hand
- eating/drinking with spoon, straw, etc., also lead to contamination.
- not purifying the place after eating. One should purify the place with cow dung.
- after eating one must wash hands, feet and rinse their mouth properly.
- vizhuppu (contaminated clothes)
- once a dhoti or saree is worn while sleeping or touching the bed on which one sleeps in the night, it becomes contaminated. It should be put to wash and not be touched after bathing.
- During birth/death of paternal relatives, one acquires Asoucham and thus can not participate in any kainkaryam (including ones own home perumAL's thiruvArAdhanam). Yet, one cannot give up sandhyA vandhanam even during Asoucham.
- Visiting barber (for hair cutting, etc), hospitals, etc., contaminates such visitors. One should take bath after coming home (or return home after bathing in a water body such as river, lake, etc., near by if available).
- After passing stool one becomes unclean and should bath to purify oneself.
- Women during their menstruation cycle, should stay/rest separately and not mix with others at home.
- Coming in physical contact or close proximity with others who are contaminated is also an aspect of contamination and one needs to purify oneself in such cases.
- Contaminating (by spitting, etc) in the vicinity of the residences of srIvaishNavas and AchAryas. Translator's note: Spitting in the streets has become very common now. One must be very careful and avoid such act since it is a great mistake.
- Contaminating the streets which are visited by emperumAn (during processions) and srIvaishNavas.
- Contaminating the gardens where nithya sUris assume the form of flowers to serve emperumAn. Translator's note: kulasEkarAzhwAr highlights in perumAL thirumozhi "UnERu selvam" (ஊனேறு செல்வம்) 4th padhigam "emperumAn ponmalaimEl EthEnum AvEnE" (எம்பெருமான் பொன்மலைமேல் ஏதேனும் ஆவேனே) - Let me become anything on the divine hills of thiruvEnkatam. parAsara bhattar highlights in srIrangarAja sthavam that the nithya sUris (eternal associates of emperumAn in paramapadham) descend to dhivya dhEsams in to the gardens and streets and assume the form of trees and flowers for the pleasure of emperumAn.
- Contaminating the place where AchAryan is present.
- After being contaminated, going behind the AchAryan to serve him or to assist him by giving him water, etc.
- After being contaminated, one should avoid
- touching emperumAn's archA vigraham
- touching bhAgavathas
- not moving away from bhAgavathas
- entering into the residences and gardens of srIvaishNavas
39. sarIra sudhdhi virOdhi (சரீர சுத்தி விரோதி) - Obstacles in purifying ones own body
sarIra sudhdhi means maintaining purity in ones own body. It can be applicable for preserving the purity of others too. Whatever action causes impurity are obstacles and should be avoided.
- Knowingly causing impurity for water bodies such as rivers, lakes, etc., which are used in fetching water for bhagavAn's kainkaryam. One should be very careful and not affect the purity of such waters.
- Using the water which is collected and preserved for AchAryas and srIvaishNavas. One should not try to usurp such water for personal use.
- Remaining water after used by srIvaishNavas is called "sEsham" and is considered to be very pure. One should not use such remnants to wash their hands, feet, etc. Translator's note: Remnants of srIvaishNavas are to be preserved carefully and consumed as srI pAdha thIrtham (charaNamrutham).
- One should not use the srI pAdha thIrtham of AchAryas and srIvaishNavas to wash his/her feet.
- The place where AchAryan washes their hands is to be considered as sacred. A sishya should not wash their hands or feet at the same place.
- One should not rinse and spit the water in a manner that the contaminated water spills on srIvaishNavas.
- Being seen or touched by bhAgavathas in itself will purify oneself. Looking at other options to purify ones body even after being seen or touched by srIvaishNava is an obstacle.
40. snAna virOdhi (ஸ்நாந விரோதி ) - Obstacles in bathing
snAnam means bathing in river, lake, etc., where one fully submerges in water and removes the dirt from the body. It is also identified in thamizh as nIrAttam or thIrththamAduthal. snAnam finds an important place in the daily routine of a brAhmaNa (and others too). Our elders have identified that avagAhana snAnam (submerging fully in water in river, lake, etc.) is the one that gives real purity. In our current times, there is very limited opportunity for such bathing - we are limited to bathing in bathrooms by pouring water on oneself using a mug.
- One should not bathe simply to clean ones body. One should bathe according to the rules of sAsthram.
- Being a prapanna, specifically bathing on special occassions looking for puNyam (piety) is an obstacle. Special occassions here mean sangamaNam, ayanam (dhakhsiNAyaNa puNya kAlam, uththarAyaNa puNya kAlam), grahaNam (eclipse), etc. Being a prapanna, one has already submitted all their responsibilities to protect oneself under the lotus feet of emperumAn. So, there is no question of bathing in these occassions looking for pious karmA - it is completely against jIvAthmA's true nature.
- After following certain actions which are contrary to the principles of prapannan out of great compassion and to protect the dharsanam (sampradhAyam), one should feel bad that it is due to being bound in the body, one has to undergo such deeds. Not fearing for such actions is an obstacle. This does not seem to relate to bathing directly.
- Bathing in the river ghats where water is fetched for emperumAn's kainkaryam is an obstacle. Translator's note: nammAzhwAr in his thiruviruththam 1st pAsuram says we have a dirty body (azhukkudambu - அழுக்குடம்பு). thirumangai AzhwAr also uses the same word to describe our body in thirukkuRunthANdagam. So, one should not go and wash their body from the same place where the water is fetched for emperumAn's kainkaryam. That place must be kept as pure as possible.
- Bathing in the same ghats where samsAris (materially minded people) bathe is an obstacle. We should not bathe in a place such that the water touched by samsAris touches us too. In this relation, there is an incident identified by azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr in AchArya hrudhayam 32rd chUrNikai "sAdhana sAdhyangaLil muthalum mudivum varNadharmigaL dhAsavruththigaLenRu thuRaivERividuviththathu" (ஸாதந ஸாத்யங்களில் முதலும் முடிவும் வர்ணதர்மிகள் தாஸவ்ருத்திகளென்று துறைவேறிவிடுவித்தது) - One who understands the difference between karmam (which is the first stage of upAyam/means) and kainkaryam (which is the final stage of upEyam/goal) will say "you are simple followers of varNa dharmam and we are followers of bhagavath dhAsathvam (being servitor of emperumAn) - so we cannot mingle with you in the same ghats" and leave. mAmunigaL highlights a beautiful incident that happened in thiruvhindrapuram. There was a srIvaishNava (sannyAsi/jIyar or greatly learned scholar) named "villipuththUr pagavar" who was performing his anushtAnams in a separate ghat while a local brAhmaNa was performing his anushtAnam in another ghat. The brAhmaNa requested him to come to the ghat which are used by brAmhaNas and villipuththUr pagavar replies quoting a pramANam which says "We are the servitors and devotees of srIman nArAyaNa and you are followers of varNa dharmam - so there is no question of us mixing with each other" and leaves the place.
- While bathing in rivers, we should not bathe in a ghat where the water flows from another ghat which is used by samsAris. Translator's note: This means we are bathing in the remnants of the water used by samsAris which is not favourable.
- We should not bathe in a ghat which flows subsequently in to another ghat which is used by srIvaishNavas for bathing. We should bathe in the ghats which are after the ghats where srIvaishNavas bathe. In this relation we can see an incident from the life of mAmunigaL. periya jIyar (maNavALa mAmunigaL) used to go to cauvery river for bathing. A srIvaishNava named "thirumanjanam appA" who was serving srI ranganAthan regularly bathed after mAmunigaL bathes and thus was divinely blessed by gyAnam, vairAgyam, etc., by that simple of act of bathing after mAmunigaL and lead to accepting mAmunigaL as his AchAryan.
- Bathing with remembrance of other manthrams. Generally during bathing certain manthrams are recited (praNavam, etc). We should be careful to avoid avaishNava manthrams.
- It is also commonly seen that "imammE gangE yamunE sarasvathI" slOkam is recited before bathing. prapannas should not do that. As srI ranganAthan is glorified as "thriuvarangap perunagaruL theNNIrp ponnith thiraikkaiyAl adivarudap paLLi koLLum karumaNi" (திருவரங்கப் பெருநகருள் தெண்ணீர்ப் பொன்னித் திரைக்கையால் அடிவருடப் பள்ளி கொள்ளும் கருமணி) - "The black gem who rests (on the Adhi sEshan) in srIrangam touched gently by the waves of the pure cauvery river" in perumAL thirumozhi 1st pAsuram, one should recite "gangaiyil punithamAya kAviri" (கங்கையில் புனிதமாய காவிரி) - "cauvery which is more holy than gangA". It is also fitting for the true nature of the jIvAthmA to remember virajA river during bathing which flows at the border of paramapadham (since that is the river to be crossed before mOksham).
- It is not proper to bathe after returning back from attending festivals of emperumAn, AzhwArs and AchAryas even after being touched by sEvArththis (the ones who visit to have the dharshan during the festivals). By the divine presence of emperumAn, AzhwArs and AchAryas, any inauspiciousness/contamination in the crowd will be dispelled.
- When srIvaishNavas (sannyAsis and other great srIvaishNavas) leave their bodies - the bodies are considered to be "vimala charama vigraham" (விமல சரம விக்ரஹம்) - pure final body. Such final thirumEni (body) is considered to be at par with emperumAn's archA vigrahams. So, claiming Asoucham/theettu (contamination) for such body is totally ignorant and should be avoided. After completing the final rites, one does take bathe - but it should be considered similar to avabrutha snAnam (holy dip - bathing done as part of uthsavam completion such as thIrtha vAri).
- When touched by avaishNavas/abhAgavathas (samsAris - materially minded persons) one should bathe and purify oneself. Not doing so is an obstacle.
- On AchAryan thiruvadhyayanam day (thIrtham - annual remembrance festival on the day of ascending to paramapadham), sishya should bathe properly, perform bhagavathArAdhanam and bhAgavatha ArAdhanam adequately. Translator's note: When the AchArya's thirunakshathram, thIrtham are celebrated at the mutt/thirumALigai, sishyas should participate both physically and monetarily. It is the primary duty of the sishya to conduct the thirunakshathram and thIrtham of the AchArya.
- After bathing one should not dry themselves by shaking their head, etc., such that water from our body sprinkles on the srIvaishNavas who are near by.
- srIvaishNavas are said to be vEdhakap pon (touchstone) - when touched by them we become purified. Considering their touch contaminates us and bathing for that is an obstacle. Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar says in sUthram 221 "vEdhakap pon pOlE ivargaLOttai sambandham" (வேதகப் பொன் போலே இவர்களோட்டை ஸம்பந்தம்) - Having the relationship with srIvaishNavas is like coming in contact with touchstone - when a touchstone touches iron piece, the iron piece becomes gold. Similarly, when touched by srIvaishNavas we become purified.
- Bathing after performing thimanjanam to emperumAn is an obstacle. Translator's note: While performing thirumanjanam, milk, curd, honey, etc may spill on us. That is a great fortune. One should never consider that one has become dirty by those and attempt to clean themselves.
- One should not bathe after bathing srIvaishNavas.
- It is not proper to bathe after sending off srIvaishNavas after their visit at our home.
- Bathing just to clean ones body (for healthy lifestyle, etc) is an obstacle. One should consider the spiritual aspects in bathing and perform the same.
We will continue with the next section in the next article.
adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan
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