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/2014/06/virodhi-pariharangal-24.html.
57. prasAdha virOdhi (ப்ரஸாத விரோதி) - Obstacles in prasAdham (sanctified food)
prasAdham means the food-stuff that was offered to bhagavAn first. The food that is cooked in the thirumadappaLLi (kitchen), raw milk, fruits, sugar (raw), etc., once offered to bhagavAn, it is called prasAdham. Offering to bhagavAn is explained as "kaNdaruLap paNNuthal" (கண்டருளப் பண்ணுதல்) in thamizh - which means that which was presented to emperumAn so he can mercifully glance them with his divine vision to purify the same. prasAdha svIkAram means accepting and eating prasAdham. Translator's note: It is of paramount importance for srIvaishNavas to only accept prasAdham for eating. Eating food that is not offered to bhagavAn first is simply like eating handful of sin - this is explained by kaNNan emperumAn in bhagavath gIthA 3.13. thiruvArAdhanam is explained as yAgam and consuming the prasAdham that was offered in thiruvArAdhanam is called anuyAgam. Both aspects are very important for srIvaishNavas. Our pUrvAchAryas have greatly respected/honoured prasAdham. When bhagavath prasAdham was sent kUrathAzhwAn's residence, emperumAn sends it with great pomp and celebration. The basket/vessel containing is usually carried on the head showing great respect and reverence. It is accompanied with chathram (umbrella), chAmaram (fan/wisk), music band, etc. In another incident, when bhattar was given prasAdham, he accepts that with great joy and says "yAm peRu sanmAnam" (யாம் பெறு ஸந்மானம் - this is the honor we received). Thus, prasAdham needs to be respected and honoured properly. Nowadays, it is seen that many people (even srIvaishNavas) deal with prasAdham in a careless manner. Some receive the prasAdham and just pass it on to others with very little interest for the same. Some receive the prasAdham and leave it in the temple itself and so on. Such attitude should be avoided. In this section, many subtle points about prasAdham are nicely explained.
- Accepting and eating emperumAn's prasAdham from temples of materialistic villages/cities is an obstacle. Translator's note: Even prasAdham, when offered and cooked by materialistic people, it is to be given up. When materialistic people cook and offer, they do it with materialistic thoughts and that has its influence on the ones who consume such prasAdham. It is better to avoid such prasAdham. Note: It is to be understood that we are not materialistic to start with - if we ourselves are materialistic and engaging in materialistic activities, there is no point rejecting emperumAn's prasAdham saying that it is cooked by materialistic people.
- Hesitating to consume the prasAdham that was given in dhivya dhEsam temples (abhimAna sthalams, AzhwArs/AchAryas avathAra sthalams also included) is an obstacle. It should be consumed as soon as distributed. Translator's note: It is explained that whenever prasAdham is received, it must be consumed at once. "prasAdha prApthi mAthrENa bhOkthavya" is quoted in vyAkyAnam too. We can also remember emperumAnAr accepting prasAdham given by children who were playing in srIrangam and enacting thiruvArAdhanam, etc., as part of their child's play.
- Accepting dhivya dhEsa emperumAn prasAdham after analysing it is an obstacle. It must be consumed as it is without enquiring how it was prepared, who prepared it, etc.
- Rejecting prasAdham due to upavAsam, etc., is an obstacle. Though EkAdhasi, etc., fasting are ordained in sAsthram, when prasAdham is given in dhivya dhEsam temples, it must be honored properly by atleast accepting a little bit. Rejecting bhagavath prasAdham means insulting it. Translator's note: Fasting is done on certain days/times such as EkAdhasi, pithru tharpaNam, grahaNam, etc., as ordained in sAsthram - such fasting is not optional, it is compulsory. At times, if we happen to receive bhagavath prasAdham during such fasting times, it is recommended that we accept a little bit to honor such prasAdham.
- Desiring to purify oneself by performing Achamanam, etc., after consuming prasAdham is an obstacle. Translator's note: Generally after eating anything we wash our hands and legs, perform Achamanam (sipping water 3 times with remembering achyutha, anantha and gOvindha names of emperumAn), etc. But when consuming prasAdham at temples, etc., as long as we dont lick or touch our mouth with the hand, we dont need to perform any purificatory act. Actually, after consuming prasAdham, the small remainder that may be stuck in our hands is applied on the head (just like applying oil).
- Considering pure bhAgavatha prasAdham as contaminated food is an obstacle. As explained in thirumAlai 41st pAsuram by thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr, "pOnakam cheytha chEdam tharuvarEl punithamanRE" (போனகம் செய்த சேடம் தருவரேல் புனிதமன்றே) - if the bhAgavathas give their food remnants it is most purifying at once. Generally, we dont accept food that is leftover by others saying that it is contaminated. We cannot have such thoughts in bhAgavatha prasAdham.
- Considering AchArya prasAdham as something ordinary is an obstacle. It should be accepted with great reverence.
- Hesitating to consume AchArya prasAdham in public is an obstacle.
- Considering that the prasAdham has become contaminated due to coming into contact with AchArya's mouth is an obstacle.
- Not staying hungry for the whole day to consume ones AchArya's praAdham is an obstacle. One should consume AchArya's prasAdham every day with great eagerness. In this connection, we can relate to paravasthu pattarpirAn jIyar who was famously known as "mOr munnAr aiyar" (one who consumes curd rice first in mAmunigaL's prasAdha kalam - plantain leaf after mAmunigaL completes his meal with curd rice). He was also known as "chirOpAsitha sath vruththar" - one who had good conduct for a long period of time. Here, sath vruththi (good conduct) is to always consume food in mAmunigaL's prasAdha kalam - plantain leaf after mAmunigaL completes his prasAdham every day. That too, since mAmunigaL completes his meal with curd rice, he will start with curd rice that his AchArya's rasam (taste) continues in the food and then he would eat sARRamuthu (rasam) rice and negizhkariyamuthu (kuzhambu) rice. This pattar pirAn jIyar blessed us with srIvachanabhUshaNa mImAmsA bhAshyam (a very detailed samskritham commentary for piLLai lOkAchAryar's srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram).
- When there is no indication of bhOgam being physically consumed by emperumAn, having less joy in consuming such prasAdham is an obstacle. Translator's note: archAvathAra emperumAn consumes bhOgam generally through his eyes (by his divine vision) instead of mouth and converts such bhOgam to prasAdham. So, there may not be a physical mark on the prasAdham indicating that he physically consumed it. But that does not mean that we should not have bhOgyathva prathipaththi (feeling of joy towards consuming bhagavath prasAdham).
- When AchArya mercifully blesses us with prasAdham it must be consumed immediately. Not doing so is an obstacle. In the lives of our pUrvAchArayas, we see incidents where the AchArya himself voluntarily blesses his sishya with prasAdham like in the case of thiruvAimozhi piLLai giving his sEsha prasAdham (remnants) to maNavALa mAmunigaL and bhattar giving his prasAdham to nanjIyar.
- Eating prasAdham along with ones AchAryan is an obstacle. One should wait for AchArya to first complete eating and then only one should start eating.
- One should fully and joyfully witness ones AchArya eating. Not doing so is an obstacle.
- Grabbing perumAL prasAdham from the container oneself is an obstacle. One should always have it distributed by others.
- Taking prasAdham without getting permission from the concerned authorities is an obstacle.
- Contaminating the bhOgam that is to be offered or prasAdham that is offered is an obstacle.
- Eating prasAdham alone without considering sabrahmachAris (class-mates who are learning from the same AchArya) is an obstacle. One should share the prasAdham with other class-mates and eat together.
- prasAdha kalam (vessel or plantain leaf on which prasAdham was kept) cannot be left behind so that it is touched by samsAris (materialistic people), nAsthikas (atheists - one who does not accept vEdham as authority), dogs, etc. Doing so is an obstacle.
- Not knowing sistAchAram (practice of learned elders - pUrvAchAryas) while consuming bhagavath/bhAgavatha prasAdham is an obstacle. prasAdham must be consumed with great reverence as held by our pUrvAchAryas and not knowing/following such principles are obstacles.
- Dropping prasAdham on the floor, stepping on it, etc., without reverence towards prasAdham are obstacles.
We will continue with the next section in the next article.