virOdhi parihArangaL - 37

srImathE satakOpAya 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

71. sidhdhAntha virOdhi (ஸித்தாந்த விரோதி ) - Obstacles in understanding of the doctrine  - part 1

sidhdhAntham means established doctrine. In a particular subject matter, rejecting faulty understandings and establishing the proper understanding is called sidhdhAntham. Whatever doctrine that is presented by us, that must be in line with vEdham, proofs that are shown in sAsthrams and the explanations given by the learned scholars for the same. The proofs that are shown from sAsthram to establish our doctrine are called pramANams. vEdham is accepted as eternal and blemishless pramANam by all Asthikas (learned scholars who accept vEdham as the ultimate authority). vyAsa bhagavAn's divine words are "vEdhAth sAsthram param nAsthi na dhaivam kEsavAth param" (வேதாத் சாஸ்த்ரம் பரம் நாஸ்தி ந தைவம் கேசவாத் பரம் - There is no scripture higher than vEdham and there is no God higher than kEsava). param means supremacy which indicates "none/nothing equal or higher". As explained in the first thaniyan (invocatory verse) of nammAzhwAr's thiruvAimozhi "dhrAvida vEdha sAgaram" (த்ராவிட வேத ஸாகரம் - the ocean of dhrAvida vEdham - thiruvAimozhi), dhivya prabhandhams compiled by AzhwArs are also considered at par with vEdham. The main principle established by this doctrine is "nArAyaNa param bramha thathvam nArAyaNa: para: ... yachcha kinchith jagath yasmin dhrusyathE srUyathEpicha, anthar bahis cha thath sarvam vyApya nArAyaNas sthitha:" (நாராயண பரம் ப்ரம்ஹ தத்வம் நாராயண: பர: ... யச்ச கிஞ்சித் ஜகத் யஸ்மிந் த்ருச்யதே ச்ரூயதேபிச, அந்தர் பஹிஸ் ச தத் ஸர்வம் வ்யாப்ய நாராயணஸ் ஸ்தித: - nArAyaNa is the supreme brahmam, he is the supreme principle ... whatever is seen/heard of in this universe, he is manifesting both inside and outside of everything). This means he exists as the in-dwelling soul inside each object. He also holds them all by being the abode (outside) of everything. With this, let us enter this section now. Translator's note: Our sidhdhAntham is named as visishtAdhvaitha sidhdhAntham - purely a vaidhIka sidhdhAntham (doctrine based on vEdham, vEdhAntham, etc). This sidhdhAntham is eternal and ever-existing. Sages like parAsara, vyAsa, bhOdhAyana, tanka, dhramida, etc., first propagated the full meanings of this. Subsequently, AzhwArs appeared and propagated dhrAvida vEdham which also reflects the essence of vaidhIka principles. srI rAmAnuja wrote detailed commentaries for brahma sUthram and bhagavadh gIthA. He also explained the main principles of upanishadhs in his other works. srutha prakAsikAchArya was one of the main AchAryas who explained srI rAmAnuja's works in detail. AzhwArs pAsurams were explained in detail through many commentaries. nampiLLai was one of the main AchAryas who brought out some of the most intricate meanings of the divine pAsurams of AzhwArs. His disciples periyavAchAn piLLai and vadakku thiruvIdhi piLLai fully assisted him in his efforts to bring out the divine meanings of nammAzhwAr's thiruvAimozhi. piLLai lOkAchAryar and azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr beautifully brought out the essence of thiruvAimozhi and documented them in many wonderful rahasya granthams (confidential literature). maNavALa mAmunigaL wrote wonderful commentaries for these rahasya granthams and also delivered wonderful discourses linking dhivya prabhandham, vEdhAntham and rahasya granthams. Thus, this sidhdhAntham was nurtured by many great scholars over several generations in history. The main principle in this sidhdhAntham is, there are 3 entities - chith (innumerable jIvAthmAs), achith (unlimited matter) and Iswara (the supreme lord). Here, Iswara (the single independent supreme lord) and chith (sentients)/achith (insentients) - have two important relationships. First is sarIra/sarIri bhAvam - i.e., bhagavAn is the in-dwelling soul (sarIri - that which has sarIram/body) of all chith and achith and they (chith and achith) in turn are bodies for bhagavAn. Second is visEshaNa/visEshya bhAvam - i.e., bhagavAn is the one (visEshya - object) who has chith and achith as his attributes (visEshaNa). So, put together, bhagavAn with chith/achith is said to be a distinctive entity which has no second entity similar to him. Also, srIman nArAyaNa is established as the supreme lord through various pramANams from sAsthram. In this section, there are many in-depth principles are revealed. Lot of these need prior knowledge of some of the basic principles of vEdham, vEdhAntham, etc. This is a very lengthy section too. Let us now go into the section and learn more on this subject.

  • Accepting pramANams that are contrary to vaidhIka sidhdhAntham (doctrines of vEdham/vEdhAntham) is an obstacle. Principles that are explained in a contrary manner to the established doctrine of vEdham, whoever may explain it, such contrary principles should not be accepted. Translator's note: There is an important point to understand in this aspect. One must understand that that there is sAsthram and sAsthra thAthparyam (essence). Learned scholars like our pUrvAchAryas would eloquently explain the principles with pristine understanding on both sAsthram and sAsthra thAthparyam. For example, varNAsrama dharmam (division of the society based on class and order) is greatly emphasised in sAsthram. But there is also bhagavath kainkaryam (confidential service to bhagavAn) and bhAgavatha dharmam (dealings with bhAgavathas) which are explained in sAsthram. Here our pUrvAchAryas have understood the essence of sAsthram and explained both varNAsrama dharmam and bhagavath kainkaryam/bhAgavatha dharmam with fine balance. They have highlighted the importance of both and yet established that bhagavath/bhAgavatha kainkaryam takes higher precedence over plain varNAsrama dharmam (without proper understanding of the purpose of the same). This is a very good example to understand the brilliance of our pUrvAchAryas clearly establishing the  doctrine.
  • Not understanding that whatever explained in vEdham is self-evident even if it is contrary to prathyaksham, etc., is an obstacle. pramANa generally means proof. Our pUrvAchAryas have explained 3 pramANams - prathyaksham (direct perception through senses - vision, touch, sound, smell and taste), anumAnam (inference based on prior knowledge - for example, when we see smoke we understand that there is fire - this is based on previously seeing fire and smoke together), sabdham (vEdham along with its ancillary literature which explain the principles of vEdham in detail). Among these, vEdham is explained to be svatha: pramANam (ஸ்வத: ப்ரமாணம்) - self-evident (proof in itself) - without any question, the principles are accepted as it is. It is explained as "unquestionable authority". Just like accepting the existence of God, Asthika means one who fully accepts the authority of vEdham. Translator's note: vEdham/sAsthram is mainly for jIvAthmAs. Amongst the three entities explained before, bhagavAn is already sarvgaya (omnicient - one who knows everything) and so does not need vEdham. achith (matter) lacks knowledge and so vEdham is of not any use to matter. But for jIvAthmAs, vEdham is the guidelines to conduct their life and to progress spiritually upwards, ultimately to salvation (eternal kainkaryam to bhagavAn). vEdham/sAsthram is explained to be having 1000 times more care/attention on jIvAthmAs than a mother would have on her child. Whatever is explained in vEdham is purely for the well-being of the jIvAthmAs to help them progress spiritually. So, even if there are certain things which may seem contrary to our direct perception, we must accept vEdham and fully abide by that. For example, sAsthram says one is to fully focus on bhagavAn on EkAdhasi (11th day from full moon and no moon days) and avoid food, materialistic pursuits, etc., on such days. One may wonder why should sAsthram trouble me by restricting me from eating (by perception, fasting is difficult for many to follow) - but here, if we understand that sAsthram is helping us to evolve us to a higher spiritual platform, we will fully accept the principle explained in sAsthram and attempt to follow the same.
  • Not having full faith in smruthi, ithihAsams, purANams, etc., which elaborately explain the meanings of vEdham and vEdhAntham is an obstacle. vEdha upa bruhmaNam - these are the ancillary literature that help us understand the principles of vEdham. These include smruthi, ithihAsams, purANams, etc. smruthi is the collection of literature that were written keeping the principles of vEdham in mind. ithihAsams - epics - historical documents - srI rAmAyaNam and mahAbhAratham. purANams include srI vishNu purANam, etc. One should have strong conviction that all of these are strong pramANams (proofs). bhagavAn himself says "sruthis smruthir mamaivAgyA, AgyAchchEthI mama dhrOhi, madh bhakthOpi na vaishNava:" (ஸ்ருதிஸ் ஸ்ம்ருதிர் மமைவாஜ்ஞா, ஆஜ்ஞாச்சேதீ மம த்ரோஹி, மத் பக்தோபி ந வைஷ்ணவ: - sruthi and smruthi are my orders, one who defies them are traitors. Even if he is my devotee, he would not be considered  as a vaishNava). sruthi (vEdham), smruthi, ithihAsams, purANams, etc are all collectively called as sAsthram. kaNNan emperumAn also declares in bhagavadh gIthA 16.24 "thasmAth sAsthram pramANam thE" (தஸ்மாத் சாஸ்த்ரம் ப்ரமாணம் தே - therefore sAsthram is to be fully understood/accepted as pramANam). Translator's note: piLLai lOkAchAryar begins srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram as "vEdhArththam aRudhiyiduvadhu smruthi ithihAsa purANangaLAlE" (வேதார்த்தம் அறுதியிடுவது ஸ்ம்ருதி இதிஹாஸ புராணங்களாலே - the meaning of vEdham is explained firmly by smruthi, ithihAsams and purANams). mAmunigaL gives a classic explanation to start with. He says pramAthA (AchArya - preceptors) needs to establish the pramEyam (goal) through pramANam (proof - scriptures). He goes on to beautifully establish how vEdham is the ultimate pramANam. So, one first needs to know what is the ultimate pramANam and try to understand that through the ancillary literature by hearing from proper preceptors. Subsequently, mAmunigaL explains further the many different ancillary literature that are listed here and explain how they are valuable to help us understand the meanings of vEdham properly. This must be properly studied and understood and will give us a great understanding of this fundamental principle. 
  • Not knowing that among the various ancillary literature, those portions that speak about sAthvika (goodness) aspects that are absorbed/accepted by sAthvikas (people in the mode of goodness/righteousness) are the main pramANams (proofs/evidences) is an obstacle. Amongst the upabrumhmaNam (ancillary literature), especially purANams, those aspects that are in sAthvika mode are prime pramANams. There are sections with rAjasa (passion) and thAmasa (ignorance) aspects. Those are to be ignored. Translator's note: In mathsya purANam, it is stated that "yasmin kalpEthu yath prOktham purANam brahmaNA purA, thasya thasyathu mAhAthmiyam thath svarUpENa varNyathE" (யஸ்மின் கல்பேது யத் ப்ரோக்தம் புராணம் ப்ரஹ்மணா புரா, தஸ்ய தஸ்யது மாஹாத்மியம் தத் ஸ்வரூபேண வர்ண்யதே) - purANams were revealed by brahmA, in glorification of dhEvathAs who are of sAthvika (goodness), rAjasa (passion) or thAmasa (ignorance) nature, whenever (whichever time period) whichever quality (sathva/goodness, rajas/passion, thamas/ignorance) is predominant in brahmA. This slOkam is highlighted by mAmunigaL in the vyAkyAnam of 3rd sUthram of piLLai lOkAchArya's srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram. From this we can understand that purANams need to be understood in context of the particular section and our pUrvAchAryas (who are pure sAthvikas) gave more importance to the sAthvika portions of the purANams. sAthvika portions of purANams speak fully about srIman nArAyaNa and his glories. This is the prime focus of vaishNavas.
  • Not knowing that sAthvika aspects relating to rAjasa/thAmasa personalities are anupadhEyam (not acceptable) for sAthvikas is an obstacle. In the purANams that are focussed on brahmA, siva, lingam, etc.,  who are rAjasa/thAmasa personalities, the sAthvika portions are to be accepted. Here in the source text it is said as anupAdhEyam (not acceptable) - but it is likely a typo and should be upAdhEyam (acceptable). In thiruvAimozhi 6.10.8 nammAzhwAr glorifies sAthvika quality of siva as in "nuNNuNarvin nIlAr kaNdaththammAnum" (நுண்ணுணர்வின் நீலார் கண்டத்தம்மானும் - siva who is most knowledgable and who helped the entire universe by swallowing the poison and thus having bluish neck). Here AzhwAr glorifies siva since he came to worship thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn when his sathva guNam (quality) was predominant. Also, the famous pramANa slOkam "vaikuNtEthu parE lokE ... AsthE vishNurachinthyAthmA" is seen in linga purANam - this slOkam is recited during thiruvArAdhanam during manthra pushpam everyday by srIvaishNavas.
  • Not having full conviction in aruLi cheyal (dhivya prabhandham) that it is blemishless as it is without any division of sAthvika, rAjasa, thAmasa, etc., since it is fully sAthvika and was fully accepted by the most saintly pUrvAchAryas is an obstacle. dhivya prabhandhams of AzhwArs who were divinely blessed by srIman nArAyaNa with pure knowledge and devotion towards him are the purest. Since these were accepted and pursued by the most saintly pUrvAchAryas, there is no scope for finding any fault in them. Strong conviction in this principle is very necessary for srIvaishNavas. 
  • Not being fully confident that the divine words of pUrvAchAryas are the most authentic for sAthvika persons is an obstacle. Just like AzhwArs were blessed by srIman nArAyaNa, pUrvAchAryas were blessed by AzhwArs. Their instructions are to be accepted fully and glorified. Translator's note: In dharma sAsthram, it is said that "dharmagya samayam pramANam vEdhAs cha" - The thoughts/views of great personalities are authority, vEdham is an authority too. Here dharmagya means to "One who knows dharmam" - for us sidhdha dharmam (established righteous principle) is bhagavAn and thus dharmagya refers to AzhwArs and AchAryas who were fully aware about bhagavAn's nature, names, forms, qualities, etc. So, we need to have total faith in the words of our pUrvAchAryas. maNavALa mAmunigaL explains this aspect in upadhEsa raththina mAlai 36 "theruLuRRa AzhwArgaL chIrmai aRivArAr, aruLich cheyalai aRivArAr, aruL peRRa nAdhamuni mudhalAna nam dhEsikarai allAl pEdhai manamE! uNdO pEchu" (தெருளுற்ற ஆழ்வார்கள் சீர்மை அறிவாரார், அருளிச் செயலை அறிவாரார், அருள் பெற்ற நாதமுனி முதலான நம் தேசிகரை அல்லால் பேதை மனமே! உண்டோ பேசு) - Who knows the true glories of the fully knowledgable AzhwArs? Who knows the divine meanings of dhivya prabandhams? Oh dear heart! Tll me if there is any one like our pUrvAchAryas starting with nAthamunigaL who were divinely blessed by AzhwAr(s)? There are so many incidents of our pUrvAchAryas that are recorded in many granthams. We need to constantly study, hear, contemplate on those and attempt to follow them with sincere devotion for the well-being of ourselves.
  • Not having full faith in srI pAncharAthram which was spoken by srIman nArAyaNa himself directly is an obstacle. One should not have even an iota of doubt on the authenticity of srI pAncharAthra samhithAs which was directly revealed by srIman nArAyaNa and is famously known as "bhagavath sAsthram". It should be treated as good as vEdham itself. parmAchArya ALavandhAr blessed us with a divine grantham named "Agama prAmAnyam" (Agama - srI pAncharAthra Agamam) which establishes the authenticity of srI pAncharAthra Agamam in detail. 
  • Not having full faith in the fact that all pramANams are focussed on bhagavAn's svarUpam (true nature), names, forms, qualities, wealth, etc., is an obstacle. In bhagavadh gIthA 15.15, kaNNan emperumAn declares "vEdhais cha sarvair ahamEva vEdhya:" (வேதைஸ் ச ஸர்வைர் அஹமேவ வேத்ய:) - the whole of vEdham (sAsthram) is revealing about me only. The objective of the whole vEdham is to glorify bhagavAn only. periyAzhwAr says in periyAzhwAr thirumozhi 2.9.6 "vEdhapporuLE en vEnkatavA" (வேதப்பொருளே என் வேங்கடவா - Oh vEnkatava who is the object/meaning of vEdham). Here bhagavAn includes his true nature, forms, qualities, wealth, etc. Translator's note: For the gIthA slOkam 15.15, emperumAnAr explains in his bhAshyam (commentary) that just like when manu smrithi 12.9 says "sarIrajai: karma dhOshai: yAthi stAvarathAm nara:, vAchikai: pakshi mrugathAm mAnasair anthyajAthithAm" (சரீரஜை: கர்ம தோஷை: யாதி ஸ்தாவரதாம் நர:, வாசிகை: பக்ஷி ம்ருகதாம் மாநஸைர் அந்த்யஜாதிதாம்) - When a man hurts others physically through his hands, he becomes a tree; when he hurts others through words, he becomes birds/animals and when he hurts others through mind, he becomes a man of very low birth. Here though the different types of body (human, plant, animal, tree, etc) is explained, ultimately it is talking about the jIvAthmA's current action and resulting next birth. Similarly, whenever vEdham talks about any dhEvathA like agni, vAyu, etc., ultimately it is only talking about srIman nArAyaNa who is the in-dwelling soul of all entities. For the periyAzhwAr thirumozhi pAsura vyAkyAnam, mAmunigaL quotes this same gIthA slOkam and as hinted in the pAsuram itself, he beautifully explains "that object of vEdham is visibly present as thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn in front of me". 
  • Not having the understanding that all words ultimately mean (point to) paramAthmA who is always together with achith and chith is an obstacle. brahmA hails srI rAma in srI rAmAyaNam as "bhavAn nArAyaNO dhEva: jagath sarvam sarIram thE" (பவாந் நாராயணோ தேவ: ஜகத் ஸர்வம் சரீரம் தே) - You are nArAyaNa, the supreme God. All of this universe is your body. Whatever that is seen, heard about, etc., they are all body of para brahmam srIman nArAyaNa. He is manifested in jIvAthmAs directly and is manifested in matter through jIvAthmA. Any thing which has name and form, such thing is pervaded by bhagavAn from within. Translator's note: In vEdhArtha sangraham, srI rAmAnuja explains that one who is learned in vEdhAntham will see bhagavAn in everything. For example, when such person sees a goat, they will see the jIvAthmA inside the goat and the paramAthmA inside the jIvAthmA. But one who is not learned in vEdhAntham, they will simply see the goat, since he/she is not familiar with the concept of thathva thrayam - chith, achith and Iswara.
  • Not knowing that bhagavAn is the in-dwelling soul of everyone/everything is an obstacle. Similar to previous point. Translator's note: In nArAyaNa sUktham its explained that "anthar bhahis cha thath sarvam vyApya nArAyaNa sthitha:" (அந்தர் பஹிஸ் ச தத் ஸர்வம் வ்யாப்ய நாராயணஸ் ஸ்தித:) - everything is pervaded inside and outside by srIman nArAyaNa. Same principle is explained by nammAzhwAr in thiruvAimozhi 1.1.10 "parandha thaN paravaiyuL nIr thoRum parandhuLan parandha aNdam idhena nila visumbu ozhivaRa karandha sil idam thoRum idam thigazh poruL thoRum karandhengum parandhuLan ivai uNda karanE" (பரந்த தண் பரவையுள் நீர் தொறும் பரந்துளன் பரந்த அண்டம் இதென நில விசும்பு ஒழிவற கரந்த சில் இடம் தொறும் இடம் திகழ் பொருள் தொறும் கரந்தெங்கும் பரந்துளன் இவை உண்ட கரனே) - bhagavAn exists in small drops of cool water of the ocean as comfortably as living in a huge universe all by himself. Similarly, he lives in this earthly planet, higher planets, etc., and even in the minutest of places and the jIvAthmAs that are present in such places. He is present there even though such jIvAthmAs may not realize his presence. Such all pervading lord consumes them all during samhAram (devolution) as well and protects them by keeping them inside him. 

We will continue with the next part of this section in the next article. 

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan 

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