virOdhi parihArangaL - 12

srImathE satagOpAya 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

emperumAn, AzhwArs and AchAryas - object of our thoughts and meditation

43. smaraNa virOdhi (ஸ்மரண விரோதி) - Obstacles in thoughts/meditation/contemplation

smaraNa means meditation or contemplation on some thing. In this section, aspects such as what is to be meditated upon and what is not to be meditated upon are identified.
  • As mentioned in srIvishNu purANam "anyE thu purushavyAgra chEthasA yEpi apAsrayA: asudhdhAsthE samasthAs thu dhEvAthyA: karmayOnaya:" (அந்யே து புருஷவ்யாக்ர சேதஸா யேபி அபாச்ரயா: அசுத்தாஸ்தே ஸமஸ்தாஸ் து தேவாத்யா: கர்மயோநய:) - one should not meditate on the aspects of dhEvathAntharams such as rudhra, skandha, durgA, etc and fully focus their minds on the most auspicious form of srIman nArAyaNan. To focus on dhEvathAnthrams is a great obstacle. It is also difficult to focus on something which does not have form and name. So, it is obvious that one should fully focus on the divine names and archAvathAra (deity) forms of emperumAn which are most auspicious and easy to meditate upon.
  • Not meditating on ones own true AchAryan's divine form is an obstacle. Translator's note: thirukkOshtiyUr nambi once visits srIrangam during an uthsavam and stays there for the whole time. emperumAnAr serves nambi throughout the uthsavam. While nambi was leaving, emperumAnAr asks him "Please give me a few good instructions that I can take refuge on". nambi closes his eyes for some time and says "We were undergoing training (on spiritual matters) under ALavandhAr. At that time, when he bathes in the river and takes a dip facing down, his upper back will resemble a beautiful shining copper pot. I always take refuge in that divine vision. You also consider the same as your refuge" - this incident is very popular. The same incident is explained in 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam also. This incident indicates that the sishya's focus should be on meditating on the AchArya's divine form. It is said that, nambi used to stay on the upper level of the main gOpuram in thirukkOshtiyUr temple meditating on ALavandhAr and always reciting the manthram "yamunaithuraivar" (yAmunAchAryar). This incident is identified in anthimOpAya nishtai.
  • Not meditating on the divine sangam (group) of bhAgavathas is an obstacle. Translator's note: nammAzhwAr glorifies bhAgavathas in many pAsurams in thiruvAimozhi specifically payilum chudaroLi (2.7) and nedumARkadimai (8.10) padhigams. kulasEkarAzhwAr declares his great affection and devotion towards bhAgavathas in thEttarum thiRal (2) padhigam in perumAL thirumozhi. Other AzhwArs and AchAryas too have shown that we should always remembering and meditating on the divine aspects of the bhAgavathas.
  • Meditating on the various aspects of materially minded people is an obstacle. Translator's note: thirumangai AzhwAr says in periya thirumozhi 2.6.1 "naNNAdha vAL avuNar" pAsuram that "Even for a fraction of a moment, I will not think about the ones who do not meditate upon sthalasayanap perumaL who resides in the cool thirukkadalmallai dhivya dhEsam". samsAris (materially minded people) are only focussed on getting food, clothes, comfortable place to live, etc and are devoid of any interest in spiritual aspects.
  • Not meditating on the dhivya kshEthrams which are dear to bhagavAn and bhAgavathas is an obstacle. Also, meditating on other kshEthrams which are not associated with emperumAn, AzhwArs and AchAryas is an obstacle. Translator's note: It is said that emperumAn descends as archAvathAram (deity form) out of great compassion to uplift everyone. He descends to many temples, mutts, thirumALigais (homes), etc., with great desire and enthusiasm to help jIvAthmAs. Amongst these kshEthrams, the ones that were sung by AzhwArs became to be known as dhivya dhEsams. Ones that were dear to AchAryas became to be known as abhimAna sthalams. There are many other kshEthrams which are dear to srIvaishNavas in generaly. Our focus and meditation should be on such kshEthrams which have the connection of bhagavAn, AzhwArs and AchAryas.
  • Not meditating on aspects that are dear to bhAgavathas and meditating on aspects that are dear to samsAris (mundane persons) are obstacles. Translator's note: The focus of AzhwArs and AchAryas is to engage in bhagavath vishayam always in many ways. The focus of mundane people is to focus on acquiring wealth, engaging in mundane pleasures such as entertainment, sports, mundane music, etc. Being a prapanna, one should constantly aspire to walk in the footsteps of our AzhwArs and AchAryas instead of walking the path of mundane persons.
  • Not meditating on the auspicious qualities of bhagavAn and bhAgavathas and meditating on the mundane/material glories of avaishNavas are obstacles. Translator's note: For example, when we see a srIvaishNava who is very detached and focussed on emperumAn and his devotees, we should also contemplate on such qualities so we also develop the same attitude. When we see material greatness like high position, huge wealth in others (or even in srIvaishNavas) - we should not be inspired by such material aspirations as that will lead us to more binding within this samsAram.
  • It is a great obstacle to analyse the raw-material from which the dhivya mangaLa vigraham of archAvathAra emperumAn is made off. For example, thinking that golden vigraham is greater and wooden vigraham is lesser - is a great mistake. Translator's note: It is said in sAsthram that analysing the raw-material of archA vigraham is like analysing the chastity/purity of ones own mother.
  • Similarly, it is a great obstacle to qualify a srIvaishNava (who is matured in gyAnam and bhakthi) based on his birth, wealth, anushtAnam, etc., is an obstacle. In thirumAlai, thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr explains the glories of bhAgavathas towards the end (after mEmporuL pAsuram). One should constantly remember these pAsurams and deal with bhAgavathas with great devotion and respect. Translator's note: Judging a srIvaishNava based on birth is compared to judging archAvathAra emperumAn based on the raw-materials of which the emperumAn's archA vigraham is made (which is already explained in previous point) - so it is considered as a great sin to do so.
  • Similarly, considering ones own AchAryan (who is truly an incarnation of emperumAn himself) as a mere human is an obstacle. Per pramANa vAkyam, "AchAryas sa haris sAkshAth - chararUpI nasamsayA:" (ஆசார்யஸ் ஸ ஹரிஸ் ஸாக்ஷாத் - சரரூபீ நஸம்சயா:) - AchArya is hari himself and who is movable (unlike archAvathAra emperumAn who is immovable). One should never consider that AchArya is a normal human being like oneself.
  • One should have great gratitude towards ones own AchAryan. Not having that is an obstacle. Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights that it is through AchAryan one gets bhagavAn and through bhagavAn one gets AchAryan. So, the AchAryan is doing us the greatest favour of relieving us from the clutches of samsAram by establishing our proper connection with emperumAn. So, one must always remember that and be faithful towards the AchAryan forever.
  • Considering bhAgavathas (who are to be considered as equal as ones own AchAryan) at par with oneself is a great obstacle. Translator's note: All srIvaishNavas are to be generally considered at par with ones own AchAryan. In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, while explaining bhagavath, bhAgavatha, asahyApachArams, piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights that considering another srIvaishNava at par with oneself is in itself a great bhAgavatha apachAram. One should always consider other bhAgavathas higher to oneself and bhagavAn and give them utmost respect and importance.
  • AzhwArs pAsurams are known as dhivya prabhandhams (divine songs). They are popularly known as "aruLicheyal". They are compiled in thamizh language. Some say that samskritham is dhEva bhAsA (godly language) and thamizh is lowly. But thirumangai AzhwAr says "chenniRaththa thamizhOsai vadachollAgi" (செந்நிறத்த தமிழோசை வடசொல்லாகி) - meaning "the beautiful thamizh sounds became samskritham". As identified by nAyanAr in AchArya hrudhayam "Agasthyamum anAdhi" (ஆகஸ்த்யமும் அநாதி) - thamizh which was revealed by agasthya rishi is also eternal (ever-existing). Though it was revealed by a rishi, it is also ancient and cannot be considered as lower to samskritham. Translator's note: azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr in his master-piece AchArya hrudhaya explains in detail about the glories of nammAzhwAr and his dhivya prabhandhams. In this work, he establishes that irrespective of AzhwAr's birth, due to him being directly blessed by emperumAn himself, his greatness is unlimited. Similarly, he establishes that irrespective of the dhivya prabhandhams being in thamizh, their greatness is unlimited. He beautifully explains that if we were to purely accept a literature based on it being written in samskritham (dhEva bhAshA), then we have to accept buadhdha sAsthram. If we were to reject based on the Author's birth, then we have to reject mahAbhAratham (written by vyAsa rishi) and bhagavath gIthA (spoken by krishNa) since both the authors are abrAhmaNas. Thus, he beautifully establishes that the glories of a prabhandham is not based on the language it is written or the author's birth, but it is the content of the prabhandham - i.e., as long as it is glorifying srIman nArAyaNan with unflinching devotion (without any attention towards other dhEvathas), it is acceptable.
  • Forgetting the importance of focussing in Athma yAthrai (activities of the soul) and focussing on dhEha yAthrai (activities of the body) are obstacles. Athma yAthrai means looking out for the welfare of jIvAthmA and behaving accordingly. dhEha yAthrai means looking out for the welfare of the body and behaving accordingly. One should not focus on very comfortable living of the body at the cost of the well-being of the soul.
  • Thinking about nature and attributes of activities that are not focussed on bhagavath anubhavam is an obstacle. jIvAthmA's nature is to be subservient to bhagavAn and to act according to the desires of bhagavAn only - anything contrary to that is not fitting for the nature of the jIvAthmA.
  • Forgetting that our nature is to fully be dependent on emperumAn as the upAyam (means) is an obstacle. emperumAn is called sidhdha sAdhanam - meaning "the upAyam which is ready to bear fruit always". We cannot forget that aspect ever.
  • Engaging in thoughts that make us indulge in sAdhya sAdhanams (upAyAntharams such as karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams). sAdhya sAdhanam means "the upAyam that needs to be accomplished by ones own effort".
  • Just focussing on bhagavath kainkaryam and forgetting bhAgavatha kainkaryam is an obstacle.
  • Thinking about the favourable acts done for bhagavAn and bhAgavathas (with pride) and not fearing after thinking about the many unfavourable acts towards bhagavAn and bhAgavathas.
  • One must specifically be very thankful to the AchAryan for the great favour done by him. Not doing so is an obstacle.
  • Thinking that anthima smruthi (thinking about bhagavAn in the last moments before leaving the body) is necessary is an obstacle. Ones who are engaged in karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams will reach paramapadham after many many births. For such persons, thinking about emperumAn in the last moments is absolutely necessary. But for prapannas, anthima smruthi is not required. As bhagavAn says in varAha charama slOkam "aham smarAmi math bhaktham" (அஹம் ஸ்மராமி மத் பக்தம்) - I will thinking about my devotee during his last moments and uplift him, it is bhagavAn's responsibility to benedict the prapanna with mOksham and bring him to paramapadham. Translator's note: As we can observe in the lives of many of our pUrvAchAryas, while leaving their thirumEni (body), they always meditate on their AchArya (instead of emperumAn). Thus, it can be concluded that, even if we are able to meditate with a stable mind at our last moments, we should meditate on our AchAryan instead of meditating on emperumAn - as we (srIvaishNavas) are considered to be AchArya abhimAna nishtars (ones who are firmly situated on the mercy of AchAryan).

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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