srImathE rAmAnujAya 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.
Please see the previous article at http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/2014/02/virodhi-pariharangal-15.html.
- Performing thiruvArAdhanam in fear of scriptural ordainment/injunctions and not doing it out of loving devotion towards emperumAn is an obstacle. thiruvArAdhanam should be performed with the firm faith that, this is the proper kainkaryam for us. Translator's note: bhagavAn descends to the homes of his devotees out of great compassion and love. All we need to do is to simply reciprocate such love towards him. By performing thiruvArAdhanam, we interact with him exclusively and directly. For that interaction to be proper, one must truly understand the jivAthmA (oneself) as the true servant of bhagavAn (who has unlimited auspicious qualities). Once that understanding is there, that will automatically lead us to worship him properly as guided by our pUrvAchAryas.
- One should not be lethargic (lazy) while performing thiruvArAdhanam. There should be great joy and enthusiasm while performing thiruvArAdhanam. Translator's note: It is explained that thiruvArAdhanam should be performed with both fear (that we are dealing with the supreme lord and not commit any offense during the thiruvArAdhanam) and loving devotion (that such supreme lord has descended to accept our worship - so we must treat him splendidly with great devotion). With such attitude, there is no room for lethargy/laziness for even a single moment.
- Appointing some one else to perform thiruvArAdhanam is not proper. One must take care of their personal emperumAns at home themseleves. We can remember famous saying "ALittu andhi thozhavO" (ஆளிட்டு அந்தி தொழவோ? - can we appoint some one to perform our sandhyA vandhanam? No - whoever it is, one has to perform their own nithAnushtAna karmAs.) and "mahishI svEthathaththukk ALiduvAruNdO?" (மஹிஷீ ஸ்வேததத்துக்கு ஆளிடுவாருண்டோ? - Is there any king who appoints an assistant to wipe off his wife's (the queen's) sweat? No - he will personally do it out of love).
- thiruvArAdhanam must be done at the appropriate time - not when it is convenient for us. Translator's note: As shown in varavaramuni pUrva/uththara dhinacharyA of thiruvArAdhanam must be done 3 times - a brief one early in the morning, an elaborate one right at noon time and a brief one in the evening. Generally, the main thiruvArAdhanam is done right at the middle of the day. vaidhIkas are called as pancha kAla parAyaNas - one who divides the day into five sections and perform some act during each of the section. The five sections are - abhigamanam (waking up - morning bodily purifications), upAdhAnam (collecting raw materials), ijjA (dhEva pUjA - performing thiruvArAdhanam with the collected materials), svAdhyAyam - learning of vEdham, vEdhAntham, dhivya prabhandham, etc., and finally yOgam - meditating and resting the mind/body on emperumAn's thoughts. From this we can understand that the most elaborate and main thiruvArAdhanam is done right at the middle of the day. Similarly, pithru kAryam (shrArdhdham, etc) should be done after 2pm - that is the apt timing for pithrus.
- Doing thiruvArAdhanam for fame and to have others glorifying us is an obstacle. It should be done as a kainkaryam for emperumAn.
- Performing thiruvArAdhanam for a price is an obstacle. It should not be done as a paid-job instead it should be done as svayam prayOjanam (doing it for the full pleasure of emperumAn alone).
- thiruvArAdhanam should not be done as other kAmya karmAs (where one performs a particular karmA in expectation of specific result). It should be done as kainkaryam without any expectation. Translator's note: For example, to attain svarga lOkam (heavenly abode of indhran), one performs jyOthishtOma. thiruvArAdhanam is not to gain such material benefits - instead it is to fulfill ones own svarUpam of being the eternal servant of bhagavAn.
- thiruvArAdhanam should be done with the understanding that our body (and senses) is given by bhagavAn to serve him and be uplifted. Not doing so is an obstacle. Translator's note: As said in "vichithrA dhEha sampaththir IsvarAya nivEdhithum, pUrvamEva kruthA brahman hasthapAdhAdhi samyuthA" (விசித்ரா தேஹ ஸம்பத்திர் ஈச்வராய நிவேதிதும், பூர்வமேவ க்ருதா ப்ரஹ்மந் ஹஸ்தபாதாதி ஸம்யுதா), when the jIvAthmA is in a subtle state (during layam) just like matter (intelligence fully subdued) without any senses/body and not being able to engage in worldly enjoyment or efforts towards emancipation, the most merciful sarvEsvaran, blesses the jIvAthmA with senses/body to begin the process of approaching bhagavAn's lotus feet. The jIvAthmA, instead of using the senses/body to approach bhagavAn to be uplifted, as said by nammAzhwAr in thiruvAimozhi 3.2.1 "annAL nI thantha Akkaiyin vazhi uzhalvEn", goes by the bodily/sensual pleasures, just like a person who was given a raft to cross the river goes with the flow of the water and falls into ocean, the same senses/body that were given to the jIvAthmA to be uplifted from this samsAram were used to engage in samsAram more and more. thiruvarangathu amudhanAr also explains the same principle in rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi pAsuram 67 "mAyavan thannai vaNanga vaiththa karaNam ivai" (மாயவன் தன்னை வணங்க வைத்த கரணம் இவை) - bhagavAn has given this body to jivAthmAs to worship him. Thus one should understand the real purpose of this birth and perform accordingly.
- One should worship emperumAn with the understanding that it is the natural activity that fits the true nature of the jivAthmA who is an eternal servant of emperumAn. It should not be done superficially.
- bhagavAn is called avAptha samastha kAman (one who has all his desires fulfilled already). He does not expect anything from any one and is thus called nirapEkshan (desireless). We perform thiruvArAdhanam to fulfill our responsibility and be properly situated in our svarUpam (true nature). We should not think that he is depending on us. Translator's note: bhagavAn is sarva svathanthran (completely independent). jivAthmAs are fully dependent on him. In the battle field of kurukshEthra, bhagavAn himself made available as a charioteer (servant) for arjuna. piLLai lOkAchAryar explains this principle in mumukshuppadi charama slOka prakaraNam sUthram 247 beautifully. "kIzhil pArathanthriyamum intha svAthanthryaththinudaiya ellai nilamiRE" (கீழில் பாரதந்த்ரியமும் இந்த ஸ்வாதந்த்ர்யத்தினுடைய எல்லை நிலமிறே). The brilliance of our pUrvAchAryas can be understood from this beautiful explanation. Here, in this section, piLLai lOkAchAryar is discussing "aham" - where bhagavAn is showing his supremacy (I). piLLai lOkAchAryar connects this with "mAm" in the first line of charama slOkam where kaNNan emperumAn shows himself who is the charioteer (lowly servant) and asks arjunan to depend on him fully. piLLai lOkAchAryar explains that bhagavAn taking up such lowly position in front of his devotees is the manifestation of his ultimate supremacy. Similarly, bhagavAn taking up the form of archA vigraham and descending into his devotees homes and manifesting total dependency on his devotees is the manifestation of his ultimate independence and also ultimate saulabhyam (easy accessibility).
- One should understand that bhagavAn owns everything as he is the controller of everything and he is having thiruvArAdhanam using his own materials. We should not think that we are doing thiruvArAdhanam to emperumAn with our own materials. If we are offering some fruits or food, we should think that "he is accepting his own material, nothing belongs to us" and serve him. Translator's note: In sAsthram it is said that "svathvam Athmani sanjAtham svAmithvam brahmaNi sthitham" (ஸ்வத்வம் ஆத்மநி ஸஞ்ஜாதம் ஸ்வாமித்வம் ப்ரஹ்மணி ஸ்திதம்) - jIvAthmA's nature is to be a property of bhagavAn and bhagavAn 's nature is to be the proprietor. Same thing applies for achith (matter) too - everything is owned by bhagavAn. Once this knowledge is understood properly by the jivAthmA, he will long for eternal service to emperumAn.
- One should perform thiruvArAdhanam to purify oneself and not think that he is purifying emperumAn (by doing thirumanjanam - bathing), etc. bhagavAn is always pure and is known as andhaNan, kundhan, amalan, etc. We are filled with defects and impurities. By worshiping emperumAn, we become purified (as the mind engages in thinking about emperumAn). Still, one should purify ones own body before performing thiruvArAdhanam by bathing, wearing dhautha vasthram (clean clothes which are properly washed and dried), performing nithya karmAnushtAnam and following the routines of a prapanna - one should not think that since engaging in worship will purify them, they do not need other routine purificatory steps. Translator's note: Both the body and mind must be purified. Bodily purification happens by snAnam (bathing), etc and mind gets purified by constantly meditating on emperumAn and his auspicious qualities. As emperumAn is pure, when jivAthmAs engage in mediating/worshiping him, jivAthmAs become purified as well.
- Not understanding that bhagavAn only expects bhAva sudhdhi (clean heart) while performing thiruvArAdhanam to him.
- Thinking that bhagavAn will judge us based on what we offer is an obstacle. bhagavAn does not judge some one by what is offered to him - whether it is expensive or inpexpensive, rich or poor, etc. One should worship and serve him with love and whatever one can afford to offer him. If one can offer rich foodstuff like high quality ghee, etc., one should do that without any hesitation. But if one can only offer some basic food stuff, he/she can offer that. bhagavAn is not bothered about what is being offered - but the mood in which they are offered. In sAsthram it is said that "yadhanna: purushO bhavathi thadhannasthasya dhEvathA" (யதந்ந: புருஷோ பவதி ததநஸ்தஸ்ய தேவதா) - whatever one eats (can eat), that food should be prepared, offered to him first and then accept that as his prasAdham. Translator's note: This pramANam is very important. One can offer emperumAn the food stuff that is appropriate to be consumed by the one who is offering. emperumAn can consume anything and every thing. But each individual can consume only certain food stuff based on ones own varNam and Asramam. For example, while gruhastha may consume betel leaves/nuts (after offering to emperumAn), brahmachAri cannot consume them (even if it was prasAdham). So, one must carefully analyse the particular item and see if it can be offered to emperumAn before consuming oneself.
- Considering thiruvArAdhanam as a very difficult activity and not considering it to be a very pleasing activity. One should understand that thiruvArAdhanam is a very pleasing and fulfilling activity and thus should be done very joyfully.
- Seeing the ultimate saulabhyam (simplicity - easy accessibility) of emperumAn one should not be indifferent (careless) while performing thiruvArAdhanam to him. Translator's note: bhagavAn accepting the archA vigraham at our homes is the ultimate act of saulabhyam - he is accessible right at our own homes. But seeing such glorious aspect of his simplicity, one should not feel that he is not worthy of worshiping and ignore him - that is completely disrespectful.
- Not considering archAvathAra emperumAn at home as supreme and not feeling his absolute presence are obstacles. One must have firm faith that archAvathAra emperumAn is the same as paramapadhnAthan (the supreme emperumAn seen srIvaikuNtam - paramapadham). In mudhal thiruvanthAdhi, poigai AzhwAr says in pAsuram 44 "thamarugaNthathu evvuruvam avvuruvam thAnE thamarugaNthathu eppEr maRRappEr (தமருகந்தது எவ்வுருவம் அவ்வுருவம் தானே தமருகந்தது எப்பேர் மற்றப்பேர்) - emperumAn takes the form that pleases his bhakthas. He keeps the names which are liked by his bhakthas. nammAzhwAr in thiruvAimozhi 3.6.9 says "nenjinAl ninaippAnyavan avanAgum nILkadal vaNNanE" (நெஞ்சினால் நினைப்பான்யவன் அவனாகும் நீள்கடல் வண்ணனே) - The supreme emperumAn is none other than the one who have assumed/taken the form that is desired by his devotees.
- One must consider oneself as the hands (sub-servient) to his AchAryan and perform thiruvArAdhanam on his AchAryan's behalf. One should start performing thiruvArAdhanam after getting permission from AchAryan. As part of samAsrayaNam (pancha samskAram), AchAryan teaches how to perform thiruvArAdhanam and blesses the sishya with the required qualification to perform thiruvArAdhanam. In our daily thiruvArAdhanam, we remember this sankalpam "srI bhagavadhAgyayA bhagavath kainkaryarUpam AchArya hasthEna bhagavathArAdhanam karishyE" (ஸ்ரீ பகவதாஞ்ஜயா பகவத் கைங்கர்யரூபம் ஆசார்ய ஹஸ்தேந பகவதாராதநம் கரிஷ்யே) - Let me perform this thiruvArAdhanam (which is performed as kainkaryam to bhagavAn based on his divine orders) being the hands of my AchAryan. Thus, one should consider oneself as the servant of his AchAryan and perform thiruvArAdhanam.
- One should not perform thiruvArAdhanam in front of samsAris (materially minded people, also the ones who have gained knowledge but does not practice the principles) - doing so is an obstacle. Similarly, when srIvaishNavas (who have knowledge and practice the principles properly) are present, one should not put a screen across the room to cover their vision of our thiruvArAdhanam - instead thiruvArAdhanam should be done in front of them.
- thiruvArAdhanam must not be done as a mere routine/ritual. One should understand the process as done by elders as stated in thiruppAvai "mElaiyAr seyvanagaL" (மேலையார் செய்வனகள்) - what is done by elders. Translator's note: sistAchAram (principles practiced by our pUrvAchAryas) are most important for us. They have fully understood the essence of sAsthram and have practiced what is most important. Thus, it is easier for us to progress spiritually if we simply followed our AzhwArs and AchAryas.
- Following are identified as obstacles during thiruvArAdhanam:
- performing thiruvArAdhanam with other manthrams. manthram generally means thirumanthram (ashtAksharam). In thirunedunthANdagam pAsuram 4, it is said that "manthiraththai manthiraththAl maRavAthu enRum vAzhuthiyEl vAzhalAm" (மந்திரத்தை மந்திரத்தால் மறவாது என்றும் வாழுதியேல் வாழலாம்) - bhagavAn can be constantly remembered using thirumanthram and thus lead a glorious life. This thirumanthram is called "manthra rAjan" (king of manthrams). dhvaya mahA manthram is the expansion of thirumanthram and is called manthra rathnam (crown jewel of manthrams). In thiruvArAdhanam, dhvaya mahA manthram is recited at many instances. Due to its arththa pUrththi (complete nature - full in all meanings) and sishta parigraham (acceptance and practice by our pUrvAchAryas) nArAyaNa manthram is the top-most and incomparable manthram.
- Reciting manthram (dhayvam) without first reciting guru paramaparA manthram during thiruvArAdhanam. piLLai lOkAchAryar explains in mumukshuppadi sUthram 4th sUthram - manthraththilum manthraththukku uLLidAna vasthuvilum manthra pradhanAna AchAryan pakkalilum prEmam ganakka uNdAnAl kAryakaramAvathu (மந்த்ரத்திலும் மந்த்ரத்துக்கு உள்ளீடான வஸ்துவிலும் மந்த்ர ப்ரதனான ஆசார்யன் பக்கலிலும் ப்ரேமம் கனக்க உண்டானால் கார்யகரமாவது). mAmunigaL beautifully explains that the sishya should have great faith in the manthram (which is explained), bhagavAn (who is the object of the manthram) and AchAryan (who has full control over the manthram) and should develop great attachment towards all the three. Translator's note: We have already seen this principle in detail. guru paramparA manthram (asmath gurubhyO nama: ... srIdharAya nama:) should always be recited before reciting dhvaya mahA manthram. We should always show our gratitude towards our AchArya paramparai starting with our own AchAryan upto srIman nArAyaNan (who is the first AchAryan to every one) before reaching out to emperumAn.
- One should also remember the pAsurams of AzhwArs and sthOthrams/words of AchAryas which explain dhvaya mahA manthram in detail during thiruvArAdhanam. Not doing so is an obstacle. Translator's note: In AchArya hrudhayam, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr says "dhvayArththam dhIrgga charaNAgathi enRathu sArasangrahaththilE" (த்வயார்த்தம் தீர்க்க சரணாகதி என்றது ஸாரஸங்க்ரஹத்திலே) - piLLai lOkAchAryar established that thiruvAimozhi (also known as dhIrga saraNAgathi) is nothing but the detailed explanation of dhvaya mahA manthram. So, by remembering the pAsurams of AzhwArs and AchAryas, we are constantly remembering dhvaya mahA manthram and its meanings. Also, in pUrva dhinacharyA, eRumbi appA says that mAmunigaL's lips are always reciting dhvaya mahA manthram and his heart is always remembering its meanings. So, we can understand the mood of our pUrvAchAryas in this aspect clearly.
- One should remember/recite the pAsurams/sthOthrams relevant to arghya/pAdhya/Achamanams (water to rinse emperumAn's hands, lotus feet and mouth), snapanam (thirumanjanam/bathing), dhUpam (incense/fragrances), dhIpam (lamp), thiruvAlavattam (fanning), offering sandalwood paste, offering flowers, offering bhOgam (food), etc as done by our pUrvAchAryas. These can be seen in "jIyar padi thiruvArAdhana kramam" which was blessed by mAmunigaL to us. Translator's note: At each step, there are relevant pAsurams. For example, for snAnam, we recite periyAzhwAr thirumozhi padhigam "veNNey aLaintha kuNungum", for dhUpam - we recite thiruvAimozhi pAsuram "parivathil Isanaip pAdi", etc.
- One should recite the manthrams, pAsurams, etc., that were recited by greatly knowledgable persons (our pUrvAchAryas). One should not recite based on ones own understanding.
- Performing thiruvArAdhanam with lapse in full concentration. One should have full focus on emperumAn and perform thiruvArAdhanam with care and love.
- One should consider that AzhwArs and AchAryas are greater than emperumAn and perform thiruvArAdhanam to them also in same or greater grandeur. Not doing so is an obstacle. They are glorified as "viNNuLArilum sIriyar" (greater than the ones in paramapadham). Also, to hesitate to wash their lotus feet at par with washing emperumAn's lotus feet is an obstacle. Worshiping bhAgavathas (emperumAn's devotees) is explained as greater than worshiping bhagavAn in sAsthram They should be treated at par or more. Translator's note: In this connection, one can remember the state of vaduga nambi. vaduga nambi was greatly devoted to emperumAnAr and will not even turn towards emperumAn. Once while travelling with emperumAnAr, along with emperumAnAr’s thiruvArAdhana perumALs, vaduga nambi also carried his thiruvArAdhana deity (sandals of emperumAnAr) in the same package. emperumAnAr was shocked to notice that and he enquired vaduga nambi why he was doing that. vaduga nambi spontaneously replied “In what way my perumAL is lower than your perumAL?”. This is why mAmunigaL prayed in Arthi prabhandham to emperumAnAr that "Let me be situated with the full-hearted focus of vaduga nambi towards your good-self".
- The bhOgam prepared for offering to emperumAn should be offered from a close distance to emperumAn's thiruppavaLam (divine mouth/lips). It should not be kept low or at a distant place while offering. Translator's note: As explained before, one should understand that emperumAn is physically present and treat him with care and love, not just carelessly in a ritualistic manner.
- AchAryas should be treated in a greater manner than emperumAn and one should not hesitate to offer bhOgam, etc., to AchAryas like it is done for emperumAn.
- One should understand the difference between the emperumAn who is present in the homes of samsAris (materially minded persons) and srIvaishNavas. It can easily be understood that emperumAns who are present in dhivya dhEsams (that are sung by AzhwArs) and also emperumAns who are present in great srIvaishNavas are much more glorious and celebrated. Translator's note: emperumAn descends specifically to give dharshan to srIvaishNavas, enjoy their presence and accept their service. In bhagavath gIthA 4.8, emperumAn says "parithrANAya sAdhUnAm, vinAsAya cha dhushkruthAm, dharma samsthApanArththAya sambavAmi yugE yugE" (பரித்ராணாய ஸாதூநாம், விநாசாய ச துஷ்க்ருதாம், தர்ம ஸம்ஸ்தாபநார்த்தாய ஸம்பவாமி யுகே யுகே) - I appear again and again to protect my devotees, destroy their enemies and establish the proper religion. In the gIthA bhAshyam, emperumAnAr explains that though there are 3 reasons, the main reason is to please and protect his devotees. emperumAnAr explains this purely based on AzhwArs' pAsurams such as nammAzhwAr saying in thiruvAimozhi 3.1.9, where AzhwAr says "If emperumAn does not personally arrive to protect gajEndhrAzhwAn, his fame/glories (that he pleases his devotees by being physically present when they need him) would have certainly been lost".
- Worshiping certain devotees of emperumAn who are not worshiped by our pUrvAchAryas is an obstacle. As mentioned in thiruppAvai, "mElaiyAr seyvanagaL" (மேலையார் செய்வனகள்) - what is done by our elders is to be done. "cheyyAthana cheyyOm" (செய்யாதன செய்யோம்) - what is not done by our elders is not to be done. Translator's note: This is a very important point. emperumAn has many many devotees. But our pUrvAchAryas specifically highlighted that we as prapannas are suppose to follow the devotees of emperumAn who have no tinge of ahankAram (ego - self-effort) and always positioned in sathva guNam (mode of goodness). Very good example, which comes up often is, rudhran. Generally, rudhran is glorified as jyEshta bhAgavatha (great/prime devtoee). In srI bhAgavatham, it is said that "vaishNavAnAm yathA sambu:" - among the vaishNavas,sambu (rudhran) is the greates. Yet, our pUrvAchAryas shunned him completely, due to him having thamO guNam (mode of ignorance) most often. He also fights with emperumAn at times (even after knowing emperumAn's supremacy). This is the same for many dhEvathAntharams, who become ignorant and fight with emperumAn. Even in the case of some devotees who are situated in saththva guNam, they may have tinge of ahankAram (self-effort) in considering that they achieve emperumAn through their own bhakthi (instead of depending on emperumAn's grace fully). In such cases too, it is better not to worship such devotees.
- Wanting to worship emperumAn as the one who is seen in the center of Adhithya maNdalam (which is very normal manifestation of being antharyAmi - indwelling soul of everything) while he is present in archA vigraha form which is most magnanimous manifestation of emperumAn in front of us at our own homes. Translator's note: Worshiping archAvathAra emperumAn is more glorious than any other form of worship - since he fully allows himself at the disposal of his devotees.
- Not understanding that bhahir yAgam (public/external worship) is better than anthar yAgam (private/internal worship) is an obstacle. yAgam is derived from the root "yaja dhEva pUjA" - worshiping bhagavAn. Doing it privately within closed screens is inferior to doing it in public with the participation of others. Translator's note: This aspect encourages participation of every one in thiruvArAdhanam. Women, children, etc., can all do kainkaryams that fits their nature. For example, women may cook for emperumAns at home, prepare garlands, keep the place clean, etc. Children may be encouraged to recite sthOthrams, pAsurams, etc. Another interpretation of anthar (internal) and bhahir (external) can be - it is better to worship emperumAn externally in archAvathAram than worshiping him internally in ones own heart - because emperumAn specifically descends in archAvathAram to be worshipped in a grand manner. So, one cannot ignore emperumAn who descended to ones place and say that they are meditating on the emperumAn inside their heart.
- If one receives an archA vigraham (deity) from ones AchAryan, that person should worship that deity as it is. One should not seek out to perform an official prathishtA before starting to worship such deity. Translator's note: Whenever one gets an archA vigraham made by a sculptor, one needs to engage a qualified person (adhikAri, like a priest) to perform praNa prathishtA (inviting emperumAn into that deity). It is also said that, a newly made deity for worship at home may be placed in some yagyam at the temple (pavithrOthsavam, etc) to invite the presence of emperumAn in to that vigraham. But for archA vigrahams presented by ones AchAryan (who is a learned srIvaishNava who firmly follows the sath sampradhAyam principles) need not be put through such rituals and can be worshipped right away. Also, this principle (of requiring prANa prathishtA) only applies for man-made archA vigrahams. For sALagrAma emperumAn, there is no such necessity, since he is svayambu (self-manifested) and can thus be worshiped right away.
- Starting here, the focus shifts to AchArya/bhAgavatha ArAdhanam. One should firmly understand that worshiping emperumAn's devotees is greater than worshiping himself and should do that with great joy. Translator's note: It is explained in padhma purANam - rudhran telling his wife pArvathi that "ArAdhanAnam sarvEsAm vishNOr ArAdhanam param, thasmAth paratharam dhEvI thAdhIyAnAm ArAdhanam" (ஆராதநாநாம் ஸர்வேசாம் விஷ்ணோர் ஆராதநம் பரம், தஸ்மாத் பரதரம் தேவீ ததீயாநாம் ஆராதநம்) Amongst all kinds of worship, worshiping vishNu is the best. Even better than that is worshiping vishNu's devotees". Our pUrvAchAryas established this principle in many ways practically. Thus, it is important for us to also show great care towards bhAgavathas.
- One should firmly believe that worshiping ones own true AchArya is the special means for ones own upliftment. Translator's note: AchAryan is explained as "emperumAn who can interact with us" in compared to archAvathAra emperumAn who does not personally interact with us (except in rare cases such as dhEva perumAL directly interacting with thirukkachi nambi, etc). Thus, worshiping him and serving him is more suitable for the nature of the sishya.
- In the case of emperumAn, it is explained that his thiruvadigaL (lotus feet) are dearer than his thirumEni. nammAzhwAr highlights this in thiruvAimozhi 6.10.4 "pUvAr kazhalgaL aruvinaiyEn porunthumARu puNarAyE" (பூவார் கழல்கள் அருவினையேன் பொருந்துமாறு புணராயே) - Let me firmly fixed on your lotus feet which will remove all my sins and in thiruvAimozhi 6.10.11 "adikkIzh amarnthu pugunthEnE" (அடிக்கீழ் அமர்ந்து புகுந்தேனே) - I am resting under your lotus feet. Similarly, in case of AchAryan also, one must have greater attachment in serving the lotus feet of the AchAryan. Translator's note: piLLai lOkAchAryar explains this beautifully in mumukshuppadi sUthram 147 while explaining dhvaya prakaraNam charaNau (thiruvadi/lotus feet) sabdham - sEshipakkal sEshabhUthan izhiyum thuRai; prajai mulaiyilE vAy vaikkumA pOlE (சேஷிபக்கல் சேஷபூதன் இழியும் துறை; ப்ரஜை முலையிலே வாய் வைக்குமா போலே) - Just like an infant will naturally look out for the breast of his/her mother (since that is the source of sustainance/nourishment), jivAthmA will naturally look out for the lotus feet of bhagavAn.
- For charamAdhikAris (persons who are situated in the ultimate principle of AchArya bhakthi), even greater than AchAryan thiruvadi (lotus feet) is AchAryan's pAdhukAs (sandals). This must be firmly placed in ones heart after repeated contemplation and realisation. Not doing so is an obstacle. Just like emperumAn's pAdhukA srI satagOpam (satAri) is most dear to us, AchAryan's pAdhukA is also most dear to us. As seen before, we can recollect the greatness of vaduga nambi. nambi was firmly situated in the principle of "dhEvumaRRaRiyEn" (தேவுமற்றறியேன்) - I dont know any other dhEvathA than emperumAnAr). He was fully focussed on doing confidential and menial services to emperumAnAr. Once while travelling along with emperumAnAr in a yAthrA, he packs his thiruvArAdhanam - emperumAnAr's sandals, along with emperumAnAr's thiruvArAdhanam - emperumAn deities. When emperumAnAr finds out about this, he becomes upset and scolds nambi. nambi, without any fear, confidently says, "In what way my perumAL is lower than your perumAL?". emperumAnAr becomes greatly amazed at nambi's faith and says "I give up debating with you. You cannot be won." to nambi. It is very difficult to develop such strong faith. Translator's note: We can also recollect kongil pirAtti, who was personally instructed by emperumAnAr in spiritual matters. She was worshiping emperumAnAr's pAdhukA in her thiruvArAdhanam. This pair of sandals was given by emperumAnAr himself to her on her request. In this context, let us see the names of the pAdhukA of different personalities. Usually, the pAdhukA will be named after the dearest sishya of the particular personality. For bhagavAn, it is called srI satagOpam (representing nammAzhwAr). For nammAzhwAr, it is called madhurakavigaL (in AzhwAr thirunagari, it is called as srI rAmAnujam). For emperumAnAr, it is called mudhaliyANdAn. For AzhwAn and embAr, it is called bhattar. For maNavALa mAmunigaL, it is called ponnadiyAm sengamalam (representing ponnadikkAl jIyar) and so on.
- One must engage in worshiping bhagavAn and bhAgavathas - this will please AchAryan very much. Not doing so is a great mistake. Also, there should be no distinguishing between bhagavathArAdhanam (worshiping bhagavAn) and bhAgavatha ArAdhanam (worshiping bhAgavathas) - one must treat them both equally well.
- When we observe a tired srIvaishNava, we should immediately wash his lotus feet and offer him some prasAdham to eat. Not doing so is an obstacle.
- It is said that "dharsanAth gruhyathE mayA" (தர்சநாத் க்ருஹ்யதே மயா - offerings are eaten by me through my vision) - this is known as "kaNdaruLap paNNugai" (கண்டருளப் பண்ணுகை - offering bhOgam to emperumAn). But there is also "amudhu seyyap paNNugai" (அமுது செய்யப் பண்ணுகை - literally emperumAn eating the offering) - which is most complete. Though, these two are different, we should think that emperumAn is literally eating even though he is accepting through his eyes and giving us his remnants. Translator's note: Since the discussion has moved on to bhAgavatha ArAdhanam, we can understand this as follows. While, offering bhOgam to emperumAn, he accepts that through his vision. We should then offer that prasAdham to bhAgavathas who will literally eat the prasAdham. Then only, we should accept that prasAdham (remnants of bhagavAn and bhAgavathas) which is greater than the direct prasAdham of emperumAn which was just eaten through his eyes. bhAgavatha sEsham (remnants of bhAgavathas) is greatly glorified as the most purifying thing. In srI bhAgavatham, nAradha muni highlights that he became purified in the previous birth by simply accepting the prasAdham of learned rishis who were great bhAgavathas. thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr declares in thirumAlai pAsuram 41 that "pOnagam seytha sEdam tharuvarEl punithamanRE" (போனகம் செய்த சேடம் தருவரேல் புனிதமன்றே) - if only the bhAgavthas mercifully give out their remnants, it is most purifying at once.
- AchAryan and bhAgavathas (who are equal to AchAryan) should be treated at par with emperumAn and be served in the same grand manner without any distinction. It is said that "AchAryas sa haris sAkshAth chararUpI na samsaya:" (ஆசார்யஸ் ஸ ஹரிஸ் ஸாக்ஷாத் சரரூபீ ந ஸம்சய:) - AchArya is bhagavAn hari himself, in the form of AchArya, he is moving around while archAvathAra emperumAn is immovable.
- There sAmAnya sAsthram and sistAchAram (vishEsha dharmam). There is a famous quote "dharmagya samayam pramANam vEdhAs cha" (தர்மஜ்ஞ ஸமயம் ப்ரமாணம் வேதாச் ச) - Learned scholars' intelligence/direction is the authority and vEdham too. Here the intelligence of scholars (srIvaishNavas) is given more importance, even more than vEdham. So, while performing thiruvArAdhanam, we should follow in the steps of our pUrvAchAryas who were great scholars instead of following common principles (which may be looking for material benefits, etc).
- Out of laziness, one should not yawn, etc., while worshiping emperumAn, AchAryan and bhAgavathas.
This has been a very lengthy subject with many important points that are very truly applicable in our most important day-to-day activity, i.e., thiruvArAdhanam. One must carefully read this, understand the principles clearly and attempt to practice the principles in the daily life.
We will continue with the next section in the next article.