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/2014/05/virodhi-pariharangal-21.html.
54. bhOjana virOdhi (போஜந விரோதி) - Obstacles in thadhIyArAdhanam (feeding)
Generally, bhOjanam means giving food which is explained as "bhAgavatha thadhIyArAdhanam". In this section, the attitude of the srIvaishNavas who give prasAdham (host) and accept prasAdham (guest) and the important aspects in relation to that are explained. Here, the mistakes that commonly happen in many places are highlighted. The intent is to have such mistakes rectified after seeing/understanding them. Translator's note: The main problem which is seen nowadays is - in many places bhAgavatha thadhIyArAdhanam happens without proper thiruvArAdhanam and offering of the bhOgam to emperumAn. When bhOgam is not offered to emperumAn first, it does not become prasAdham. Though there may be certain challenges in properly maintaining emperumAn in such places, there should be some arrangements made to ensure that the bhOgam is first offered to emperumAn and then only distributed in thadhIyArAdhanam.
- When a srIvaishNava gives prasAddham (remnants of food offered to bhagavAn) with love, checking the quality, quantity, taste, etc., is an obstacle. One should only see the love with which the prasAdham is given and simply accept and eat that. Translator's note: bhagavAn himself says in bhagavath gIthA that he accepts anything (a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water) that is given to him for the love of the giver and not for the quality of the thing that was offered to him. So, we too, should only see the love with which the prasAdham is given.
- Not treating bhAgavtha prasAdham with great respect/honour is an obstacle.
- When the host commits some mistakes, wondering that "this person does not even know how to give prasAdham" is an obstacle. We should not find faults in the genuine person who gives prasAdham.
- From this point on, the mistakes committed by the host are highlighted (so such mistakes can be avoided). Preparing separate dishes/items for self and the others is an obstacle. The guests should be treated in the same manner or better manner than oneself.
- Giving prasAdham with pride (that I am giving prasAdham) is an obstacle. Translator's note: Once when emperumAnAr was travelling to thirumalA, he reached thirukkOvalUr. On the way to thirumalai, from there he decided to go to one the residence of one of his wealthy disciples named eNNAyirththu echchAn. Hearing this, echchAn made grand arrangements to welcome emperumAnAr to his residence. emperumAnAr reached a point on his route from where the road split into two. emperumAnAr asked a passer-by about the two routes. That person says, one road leads to echchAn's residence which is often visited by people with rAjasa guNam (passionate quality) and the other road leads to paruththikkollai ammaiyAr who is often visited by people with sAthvika guNam (goodness quality). emperumAnAr at once changes his plan and visits paruththiukkolli ammaiyAr (a sAthvika lady disciple). This charithram is explained in rAmAnujArya dhivya charithai written by piLLai lOkam jIyar. From this we can understand one should avoid pride while honoring others.
- Not thinking that the guest is the owner and he/she is simply acknowledging/accepting his own property is an obstacle. Translator's note: thaithriya upanishadh declares "athithi dhEvo bhava" - the guests (srIvaishNavas) should be treated like God. bhagavAn is the owner of everything - whatever we offer to him, those are also owned by him only. When srIvaishNavas visit us, we should treat them like that also. We should consider that everything we have belongs to the visiting srIvaishNava and we are just giving something out of his own and he is kindly accepting it.
- It is an obstacle to judge the guest based on the amount/types of prasAdham he/she is eating. Translator's note: For example, if a person is eating a little bit more than normal, one should not think inferior about that person.
- When there are any mistakes, limitations in the thadhIyArAdhanam, the guest should not consider "He is not treating me properly" - that is an obstacle.
- Feeling angry that we are not treated properly and walking away leaving the prasAdham without fully consuming it is an obstacle.
- The host eating inside in a separate place and giving prasAdham to the guest in the hall (common place in the residence) is an obstacle. Again, guest should be treated honorably.
- Host eating first and then serving the guest is an obstacle. Host should treat the guest to his satisfaction first and then only eat himself.
- When the host and guest are eating together, the host should wait for the guest to finish eating prasAdham and then only rise. Translator's note: Usually, in thadhIyArAdhanam, at the beginning, certain slOkams (AchAryan thaniyans, dhEvarAja ashtakam, pUrva/uththara dhinacharyA, vAnamAmalai jIyar prapaththi/mangaLAsAsanam, etc - depending on the mutt, thirumALigai, etc) will be recited and then perumAL thIrtham will be given to every one for parisEshaNam (a simple act of offering the prasAdham to antharyAmi emperumAn before starting to eat). All srIvaishNavas should do this together (wait for others to receive perumAL thIrtham). Similarly, after completing, perumAL thIrtham is given and everyone accepts that and finishes their meal. Then everyone should leave the place together to wash their hands/legs. This is the general process. Independently rising up in the middle and leaving is not proper etiquette during thadhIyArAdhanam.
- Guest feeling upset that the host ate inside and he was given prasAdham outside is an obstacle. Translator's note: Related to previously discussed item - explained from the guest's point of view. It should be taken lightly and the guest should not be offended.
- Guest hesitating to eat considering that the host ate before him is an obstacle.
- Guest considering that the host walked away without waiting for him to complete eating is an obstacle.
- The host should generously invite the guest with kind words. Not doing so is an obstacle. As mentioned before, here the guests should also be srIvaishNavas.
- Host inviting avaishNavas with kind words when it is not necessary to do so is an obstacle.
- Guest becoming angry/upset thinking that the host did not welcome him enough with kind words is an obstacle.
- Guest becoming proud thinking that the host welcomed generously with kind words is an obstacle.
- Guest not showing humility and saying "you do not need to welcome me with many kind words" is an obstacle.
- The host accepting thIrtham (at the end as explained before) before the guest accepting thIrtham is an obstacle. Basically, the host should wait under the guest finishes eating.
- Host eating first and giving the remainder to the guest is an obstacle. It is customary for the host to first feed the guest satisfactorily and then eat. Thus, eating first and giving the remainder to others is not proper etiquette.
- Guest starting to eat independently is an obstacle. Usually, in srIvaishNava thadhIyArAdhanam, some slOkams, AchAryan thanian, etc are recited first. Then perumAL thIrtham will be distributed using which parisEshanam will be done. Then only, we should start eating.
- If a guest arrives to eat after one set of srIvaishNavas complete eating, the guest should not hesitate thinking that the food is now remnants (remainder) of others. Doing so is an obstacle.
- Exchanging prasAdham with srIvaishNavas without understanding their true nishtA (faith) is an obstacle. Either the prasAdham could be sEsham (remainder) of srIvaishNavas who are situated in AchArya nishtA or may be its served by srIvaishNavas who are situated in AchArya nishtA. When one has AchArya abhimAnam (being dear to AchArya), he/she will develop great devotion towards such prasAdham. Even after having such nishtA, ignoring such prasAdham is a great sin. I (Dr V V Ramanujam swamy) will share a personal experience in this regard. 20 years ago (from the time this original thamizh explanations were written), I was serving in mudhaliyANdAn swamy thirumALigai as srI kAryam (agent to look after kainkaryams). At that time, a mahA samprOkshaNam was conducted at singapperumAL kOyil. There was grand thadhIyArAdhanam arranged at the thirumALigai. My good friend (an AchArya purusha from srIperumbUthUr) had come there. I requested him to come and accept prasAdham at the thirumALigai. He refused saying "I dont accept prasAdham from kandhAdaiyAr thirumALigais (residences of mudhaliyANdAn descendants)". Translator's note: In pramEya rathnam, an incident relating to kUrathAzhwAn and his wife ANdAL ammAL is explained. After a long journey, AzhwAn and ANdAL are returning home. They are quite exhausted from the journey and feel very hungry. They arrive at the house of a srIvaishNava who offers them place to stay and prasAdham. AzhwAn performs his anushtAnams and then accepts prasAdham there. ANdAL refuses to accept prasAdham and tells AzhwAn "You accepted seeing his srIvaishNava name and form. But we do not know his nishtA. So, I will wait until we reach home". Hearing this AzhwAn is filled with admiration (unlike materialistic men) and tells ANdAL "How I do not have such nishtA like you? Please pray to emperumAn that I too become like you". That was ANdAL ammAL's nishtA and AzhwAn's humility - in deed something to cherish for us.
- After knowing AchArya nishtA of the srIvaishNavas, not having prasAdham is an obstacle. Continuation of previous point.
- Sharing prasAdham with contaminated hands is an obstacle. Translator's note: Our hands become contaminated when it touches mouth, nostrills, etc., and any part of our lower body (behind waist line). One should immediately wash the hands with water before touching anything else.
- Directly grabbing the prasAdham from the vessel instead of humbly requesting that to be distributed is an obstacle. Translator's note: One should never directly eat out of the container which is used for distribution of prasAdham to others. Nowadays, many of us have completely become ignorant of these basic principles due to too much influence from other cultures where licking hands in public, eating out of main vessels, not caring for contamination, etc., are rampant.
- As said in thirumAlai 41 "pOnagam seytha sEdam tharuvarEl punithamanRE" (போனகம் செய்த சேடம் தருவரேல் புனிதமன்றே), it should be known that food remnants of srIvaishNavas are most pure (itself) and purifying (to the ones who consume it). Not having faith in that is an obstacle. This is thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr's divine words. sEsham (remnants) can be of two types - pANda sEsham (remnants in the vessel that is used for distribution) and pAthra sEsham (remnants in the plantain leaf on which prasAdham was consumed by srIvaishNavas). Elders firmly explain that, in this context, AzhwAr is talking about pAthra sEsham - remnants of prasAdham that is left in the plantain leaf by srIvaishNavas. It can be understood easily that to develop faith in the glories of such prasAdham is very difficult to achieve (since most people will look down on eating from others' leftover prasAdham generally). Translator's note: In this context, we can recollect "mOr munnAr aiyar" (மோர் முன்னார் ஐயர் - the one who eats curd rice first so that the taste of the last dish mAmunigaL ate does not change) - dear disciple of mAmunigaL who regularly ate out of the plantain leaf on which mAmunigaL first ate. He did this for about 30 years as highlighted in pUrvAchArya granthams. He eventually becomes a sannyAsi and was named paravasthu pattarpirAn jIyar.
- When srIvaishNavs take the vessel having prasAdham, just simply watching that is an obstacle. Translator's note: One should offer to help in serving.
- Not grabbing the vessel containing prasAdham voluntarily to serve other srIvaishNavas is an obstacle.
- When performing thadhIyArAdhanam, the host along with his wife should serve directly instead of asking their servants or samsAris (materially motivated persons) to serve the guests. Doing so is an obstacle.
- After eating, the guest should insist on picking up the plantain leaf considering that it is a srIvaishNava thirumALigai which should be greatly respected. Not doing so is an obstacle.
- Even if the host does not allow, the guest should forcefully accept the responsibility of remove the plantain leaf. Not doing so is an obstacle.
- While removing the leaf, care should be taken so that food pieces are not spilling everywhere in the thirumALigai.
- Rushing ahead and washing hands before other srIvaishNavs is an obstacle. One should patiently wait for ones turn and then wash their hands, legs, etc.
- Hesitating to wash hands, legs, etc., after others considering its the water remnants of others is an obstacle. One should consider it as a fortune to wait for such opportunity.
- Sanctifying the place where srIvaishNavas took prasAdham is an obstacle. While the place need to be physically cleaned so that next batch of srIvaishNavas can have prasAdham comfortably, it does not amount to purification. It is commonly observed in mutts, thirumALigais that after one batch of srIvaishNavas eat, the place is cleaned with cow dung fully.
- Cleaning the place with ashes is an obstacle.
- Not being careful and stepping over places where srIvaishNavas consumed prasAdham is an obstacle.
- Having betel leaves, nuts and lime paste without offering it to other srIvaishNavas is an obstacle. Translator's note: It is a common practice to offer betel leaves, nuts and lime paste after thadhIyArAdhanam. This and next point discuss the aspects in relation to that.
- Applying ones own remnant lime paste on betel leaves that are given to other srIvaishNavas is an obstacle.
- Guest finding fault in the residence of the srIvaishNava who arranged thadhIyArAdhanam is an obstacle.
- Guest hurting the feelings of the host who arranged thadhIyArAdhanam is an obstacle.
We will continue with the next section in the next article.