virOdhi parihArangaL - 40

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

72. thathva virOdhi (தத்வ  விரோதி ) - Obstacles in understanding of the truth/reality - Part 1

Most of these subjects require deep knowledge which is acquired through systematic study of sAsthram. To have full and in-depth understanding, it is best to learn these principles with the guidance of scholars.
  • Not knowing that there is no other thathvam other than thathva thrayam (bhOkthru - enjoyer - soul, bhOgya - enjoyed - matter and niyanthru - controller - bhagavAn) is an obstacle. sruthi says "bhOkthA, bhOgyam, prErithAram cha mathvA" (போக்தா, போக்யம், ப்ரேரிதாரம் ச மத்வா). bhOgyam - that which is enjoyed. bhOkthA - one who enjoys. prErithA - one who has bhOgyam and bhOkthA as his property and one who controls those two. Thus, these are the 3 truths. The fundamental principle of emperumAnAr (srI rAmAnuja) dharsanam is to accept thathva thrayam (the three truths) as the only doctrine. The body is achith - matter - enjoyed. The one who resides inside the body and one who experiences the pleasures and pain is called chith - jIvAthmA - soul. The one who has both achith and chith as his body and controls them is sarvEsvaran (srIman nArAyaNan). One must have firm faith that there is nothing beyond these 3 real entities.  One who have clarity and firm faith in this doctrine will never accept the doctrines of other schools of philosophy. Nor, he will be bewildered hearing others' philosophies. Subsequently, the philosophies of different mathams (schools) are explained and it is also explained that getting confused with such philosophies is by itself an obstacle for our spiritual progress. Translator's note: emperumAnAr have explained the essence of vEdhAntham in srI bhAshyam (commentary for brahma sUthram) and his other granthams such as vEdhArtha sangraham, vEdhAntha dhIpam, etc. nammAzhwAr's dhivya prabhandhams (thiruviruththam, thiruvAsiriyam, periya thiruvanthAdhi and thiruvAimozhi) are greatly glorified as the essence of vEdham. Among these, thiruvAimozhi is the most celebrated prabhandham. There are 5 vyAkyAnams for thiruvAimozhi namely 6000 padi written by thirukkurugaippirAn piLLAn, 9000 padi written by nanjIyar, 24000 padi written by periyavAchAn piLLai, eedu 36000 padi documented by vadakku thiruvIdhi piLLai as heard in lectures from nampiLLai, 12000 padi written by vAdhi kEsari azhagiya maNavALa jIyar. Among these, eedu 36000 padi stands out as the most elaborate and comprehensive commentary. For nampiLLai's eedu vyAkyAnam, there are two arumpadhams (further detailed explanations) namely appu arumpadham and jIyar arumpadham. nampiLLai gives 3 introductions for this eedu vyAkyAnam bringing out various wonderful principles in each introduction. In the first introduction named "mudhal sriya:pathi" (first sriya:pathi), he first explains that nammAzhwAr was blessed by bhagavAn himself with divine knowledge about the truth. Before explaining our sidhdhAntham, he first highlights the different philosophies and their limitations. He starts with explaining how different philosophies understand the thathvams (realities/truths). He discusses 17 such philosophies and discard them all as contradictory to vEdham. He finally establishes that vEdhAntham explains thathva thrayam (3 entities) only. piLLai lOkAchAryar has explained these 3 entities (chith, achith, Iswara) in a detailed manner in a rahasya grantham (confidential literature) named "thathva thrayam". This grantham is called as "kutti bhAshyam" (chOtA/small srI bhAshyam) as it brings out the essential aspects of sidhdhAntham that are explained by srI rAmAnuja in srI bhAshyam (which is a commentary for vEdhAntha sUthram). mAmunigaL has written a magnificient vyAkyAnam (commentary) for this grantham in which he brings out the most complicated subjects of vEdhAntham in the most eloquent manner. Over the course of this topic, we will be discussing various aspects from nampiLLai's first sriya:pathi and piLLai lOkAchAryar's thathva thrayam with mAmunigaL's vyAkyAnam.
  • Being bewildered that there are 6 thathvams (starting with dhravyam) as explained by vaisEshika is an obstacle. We have already seen that our sidhdhAntham is based on thathva thrayam (3 thathvams). sAnkya, vaisEshika, pAsupatha, chArvAka, baudhdha, jaina are various schools of philosophies. One should not hear such philosophies and be bewildered that "can they be real?". One who has understood emperumAnAr (srI rAmAnuja) dharsanam will not falter on seeing any of these philosophies. All these philosophies need to be discarded. Our emperumAnAr is glorified as "aRusamayach chediyathanai adiyaRuththAn vAzhiyE, adarnthuvarum kudhruttigaLai aRaththuRanthAn vAzhiyE" (அறுசமயச் செடியதனை அடியறுத்தான் வாழியே, அடர்ந்துவரும் குத்ருட்டிகளை அறத்துறந்தான் வாழியே) - Long live srI rAmAnuja who is the one who destroyed the plant of shaN matham (6 philosophies - that are outside and contradictory to vEdham), Long live srI rAmAnuja, the one who eliminated the weeds - kudhrushti mathams (the philosophies that accept and misinterpret vEdham). His thirunakshathra (birth) day is glorified as "sankara bhAskara yAdhava bhAtta prabhAkarar thangaL matham chAyvuRa vAdhiyar mAyguvarenRu chathumaRai vAzhnthidu nAL" (சங்கர பாஸ்கர யாதவ பாட்ட ப்ரபாகரர் தங்கள் மதம் சாய்வுற வாதியர் மாய்குவரென்று சதுமறை வாழ்ந்திடு நாள்) - The day on which 4 vEdhams flourished happily seeing the matham (school of philosophy) of sankara, bhAskara, yAdhava prakAsa, bhAtta, prabhAkara, etc., were flattened and the debaters were defeated. We need not explain these philosophies in detail which are already eliminated.
  • Being bewildered that there are 16 thathvams (starting with pramANam) as explained by naiyAyika (nyAya school) is an obstacle.
  • Being bewildered that there are 25 thathvams (starting with mUla prakruthi) as explained by sAnkhya is an obstacle.
  • Being bewildered that there 26 thathvams as explained by pathanjali is an obstacle. 
  • Being bewildered that there are 36 thathvams as explained by pAsupathan is an obstacle. Translator's note: pAsupatha is based on pAsupatha Agama which is focussed on rudhran.
  • Being bewildered that there are 4 bhUthams starting with pruthvi (earth) are the thathvams as explained by chArvAkan is an obstacle. Translator's note: chArvAka is the one who simply accepts 4 elements (earth, water, fire and air) as reality. Basically, there is nothing beyond perception. chAru vAk means beautiful/flowery words. He tries to convince that just live this life as happily as possible since this is the only reality. He is also known lOkAyatha - gross materialist and one with atheistic philosophy.
  • Being bewildered that truth is based on pancha skandha (five different groups), etc., as explained by baudhdha is an obstacle. Translator's note: 4 different types of baudhdha philosophies are explained in general. vaibhAshika, sauthrAnthika, yOgAchara and mAdhyamika are the 4 schools in budhdhist philosophy. Fundamentally, it is based on sUnyavAdham (complete voidness) - i.e., everything is nothing. 
  • Being bewildered that truth is based on dharma, adharma, etc., as explained by jaina is an obstacle. Translator's note: jaina philsophy focusses on ahimsA, renunciation, etc., without regard for vEdham and its principles.
  • Being bewildered that jIvAthmA alone is the only thathvam as explained by mAyAvAdhis. Translator's note: mAyAvAdhis explain the presence of a singular AthmA (which is considered as brahmam) without any name, form, attributes, etc., and that AthmA is covered by ignorance which leads the AthmA to consider the illusory world as real. Once the ignorance is gone, the AthmA regains its true nature and that is liberation.
  • Being bewildered with the philosophy of bhAtta and prabhAkara and considering that there is no separate existence of Iswara beyond jIvAthmAs is an obstacle. Translator's note: kumArila bhatta and prabhAkara were two staunch adhvaitha vEdhAntha philosophers. 
Starting now, many confusions regarding the achith thathvam (matter - insentient) are clarified and the misinterpretations are explained.  We will first explain the principles of achith thathvam as established clearly by piLLai lOkAchAryar in his thathva thrayam grantham. Once we understand this, the obstacles will disappear themselves. No need for individual explanation.

achith thathvam is of 3 categories. sudhdha sathvam (pure goodness), misra sathvam (mixed goodness) and sathva sUnyam (devoid of any goodness). Translator's note: All insentient objects (matter) is bound to have one or more of the 3 qualities namely sathvam (goodness), rajas (passion) and thamas (ignorance). Here, the objects themselves are called sudhdha sathvam, because they only have pure sathvam as their quality. The quality itself is different from the objects, but the object itself is named by its quality here. So, when we say sudhdha sathvam - it means the object that is filled with pure goodness.
  • sudhdha sathvam is seen only in paramapadham. Translator's note: All matter in paramapadham are of sudhdha sathvam category. piLLai lOkAchAryar explains that sudhdha sathvam is devoid of any rajas and thamas and is totally pure. He explains that, this divine matter transforms itself into various maNdapams, gOpurams, vimAnams, prasAdhams, etc., in paramapadham and brings about unlimited bliss to bhagavAn, nithyas (eternally free souls) and mukthas (liberated souls). bhagavAn's divine archA forms that are seen in this material world also falls under sudhdha sathvam category only. 
  • misra sathvam  is the mixture of sathvam, rajas and thamas and is seen in this samsAram (material world). Though achith (matter) is eternal, it undergoes constant changes. Hence, it is called as temporary. Though chith (jIvAthmA - soul) is filled with knowledge, when bound in a material body, the gyAnam (knowledge) and Anandham (bliss) that are intrinsic for the jIvAthmA - gets covered by achith (matter). This achith can also stimulate viparItha gyAnam (misunderstandings of reality). We will see this in great detail shortly.
  • sathva sUnyam is kAlam (time). Translator's note: piLLai lOkAchAryar explains in thathva thrayam that kAlam is rejected by certain philosophers. But since we can understand the existence of kAlam through direct perception and sAsthram as well, there is no question of rejecting it. kAlam is explained as the factor that facilitates constant transformation of achith. It is explained as an instrument for bhagavAn's pastime. kAlam exists both in paramapadham (spiritual world) and samsAram (material world) - while it is fully submissive in paramapadham (exist fully for the pleasure of bhagavAn), it has the specific role to constantly control the activities of material world.
More on misra sathvam now:
  • mUla prakruthi (primordial matter) is the situation where all 3 qualities - sathvam, rajas and thamas are in absolute balance. This is a subtle state and is an entity which is body for bhagavAn. During srushti (creation), when that balance of qualities is changed, the subtle matter becomes gross matter with variegated forms and names. During srushti, prakruthi (matter) is the upAdhAna kAraNam (material cause). By the divine sankalpam (intention/desire) of bhagavAn, the subtle state becomes gross. Such change of state leads to the manifestation of 24 thathvams (entities).  nammAzhwAr explains this in thiruvAimozhi 10.7.10 "pongaimpulanum poRiyainthum karumEndhriyam aimbhUtham ingivvuyirEy pirakiruthi mAnAngAra manangaLE" (பொங்கைம்புலனும் பொறியைந்தும் கருமேந்திரியம் ஐம்பூதம் இங்கிவ்வுயிரேய் பிரகிருதி மானாங்கார மனங்களே). Translator's note: As mentioned in sruthi, bhagavAn declares "bahu syAm" (பஹு ஸ்யாம்) -let me be many. With that vow, immediately he transforms the subtle primordial matter into many variegated gross forms. These 24 thathvams (entitities) of matter are explained as.
    • pongaimpulan - that which raises our desire - pancha thanmAthrAs - 5 objects of senses - shabdha (sound), sparsa (touch), rUpa (form), rasa (taste), gandha (smell)
    • poRiyainthum - that which traps us in that desire - pancha gyAnEndhriyas - 5 sense organs of knowledge - srOthra (ears), thvak (skin), chakshur (eyes), jihvA (tongue), grAhNa (nose) 
    • karumEndhiriyam - that which helps us engage in such desire - pancha karmEndhriyas - 5 sense organs of actions - vAk (mouth), pANi (hands), pAdha (legs), pAyu (excretory organs), upastha (organs for procreation) 
    • aimbUtham - the abode of the five thanmAthrAs - pancha bhUthas - 5 great elements - AkAsa (ether), vAyu(air), agni (fire), Apa/jala (water), prthvi (earth)
    • manas - mind
    • ahankAram - ego
    • mahAn - manifested state of matter 
    • mUla prakruthi - unmanifested state of matter
  • sabdham (sound), rUpam (form), rasam (taste), gandham (smell), sparsam (touch) are the 5 different experiences. The gyAnEndhriyas which get attracted to these experiences are also 5 namely srOthra (ears), thvak (skin), chakshur (eyes), jihvA (tongue), grAhNa (nose). The karmEndhriyas which execute the desires further are also 5 namely vAk (mouth), pANi (hands), pAdha (legs), pAyu (excretory organs), upastha (organs for procreation). Any form is made with the 5 elements -
    AkAsa (ether), vAyu(air), agni (fire), Apa/jala (water), prthvi (earth). So far we have seen 20 elements. mahAn is the principle that facilitates efforts of
    jIvAthmA. ahankAram is the one that facilitates pride/regard for oneself. manas is the one that facilitates desires. Finally, with mUla prakruthi (primordial matter there are 24 achith elements. 25th thathvam is jIvAthmA and 26th thathvam is Iswara.
  • When matter's qualities are equally distributed in sathvam, rajas and thamas, that state is called mUla prakruthi. When that balance gets disturbed, the effects will be visibly seen. When such equilibrium is lost, first mahAn appears. This is also called as mahath thathvam. We can relate to this similar to a seed being soaked in water sprouting. This mahath thathvam will be in 3 states - sAthvikam, rAjasam and thAmasam. From these 3 states of mahAn, 3 types of ahankArams namely vaikArikam, thaijasam, bhUthAdhi. ahankAram is the principle that subsides reality and brings about misunderstandings. For example, considering body and soul as the same is one such misunderstanding. Translator's note: piLLai lOkAchAryar explains these in thathva thrayam. mAmunigaL quoets various pramANams in his vyAkyAnam to establish the nature of the different aspects of matter. Generally, mUla prakruthi is explained as pradhAnam (chief/main state of matter), avyaktham (unmanifested state). When mUla prakruthi is transformed to mahath thathvam (mahAn) - matter becomes manifested with name, form, etc. Starting with mahAn, prakruthi goes on to expand into 23 thathavams altogether.
  • From vaikArikam (sAthvika ahankAram), both karmEndhriyams (5 sense organs of action) and gyAnEndhriyams (5 sense organs of knowledge) are created and they exist in a subtle manner. manas (mind) also is a product of vaikArikam. From bhUthAdhi (thAmasa ahankAram), pancha bhUthams (five elements) are created. thaijasam (rAjasa ahankAram) assists vaikArikam and bhUthAdhi in their transformation.
  • From bhUthAdhi, pancha thanmAthrAs (five objects of senses) which are the subtle aspect of pancha bhUthams (five gross elements) are created and their sequence is explained here. From bhUthAdhi, first sabdha thanmAthram (sound) appears. This is the subtle state of AkAsa (ether). From sabhda thanmAthram, Akasa and sparsa thanmAthram (touch) appear. From sparsa thanmAthram, vAyu and rUpa thanmAthram (vision) appear. From rUpa thanmAthram, thEjas (agni - fire) and rasa thanmAthram (taste) appear. From rasa thanmAthram, gandha thanmAthram (smell) and appu (water) appears. From gandha thanmAthram, pruthvi (earth) appears. Translator's note: In thaithriya upanishadh, this is explained as "AkAsAth vAyu:, vAyOr agni:, agniyair Apa:, abhya: pruthvi ..." (ஆகாசாத் வாயு:, வாயோர் அக்நி:, அக்ந்யைர் ஆப:, அப்ய: ப்ருத்வி) - From ether comes air, from air comes fire, from fire comes water, from water comes earth and so on. This process is generally explained as panchIkaraNam (mixture of 5 elements).
  • Thus, as part of srushti, bhagavAn first creates the various universes using these 24 elements directly and once these universes are there, subsequent creation of the various species, etc., through brahmA indirectly. Translator's note: srushti is classified as adhvAraka srushti - direct creation by bhagavAn and sadhvAraka srushti - indirect creation by bhagavAn through brahmA, rishis, etc. Up and until the universes are created, it is all done by bhagavAn directly. Once the universes are there, he first creates one brahmA for each universe and guides him in subsequent creation with in the universe. brahmA, saptha rishis, manu, etc., are all engaged in procreation that leads to the variegated species and forms that are seen in the universe. It is explained that there are innumerable such universes and each universe is headed by a brahmA. Thus, we can understand that the material world itself is so huge that is beyond our imagination. And paramapadham is generally explained as thripAdh vibhUthi (3 parts - 3 times larger than samsAram). Also, the srushti we see is also a cyclical one. There is srushti (creation), sthithi (sustenance) and samhAram (annihilation). This cycle has been going on since time immemorial - there is no beginning for this cycle - nor there is an end.
With this introduction we can continue with the remaining obstacles highlighted in this section.
  • Being bewildered that AvaraNa abhAvam (boundary-less state) is AkAsam (ether) and considering it to be eternal, indivisible and all-pervading is an obstacle. AkAsam is one among the pancha bhUthams (five elements) which is created as part of srushti. Thus it cannot be considered eternal, indivisible, etc.
  • Being  bewildered that dhik (direction) is a separate material is an obstacle. Directions like East, West, etc., are not separate material. For some one in chennai, srIrangam is in the south. But for some one in AzhwAr thirunagari, srIrangam is in the north. So, it is relative. Translator's note: mAmunigaL highlights in thathva thrayam 127th sUthram vyAkyAnam that vaisEshikas, etc., explain dhik (direction) as a separate element like pruthvi (earth). More can be learnt from learned scholars on these matters.
  • Being bewildered that kAlam (time) does not exist is an obstacle. kAlam is represented as nimisha, maNi, muhUrtham, etc. It is based on the change of time, all changes occur in this world. "kAlO hi dhurathikrama:" (காலோ ஹி துரதிக்ரம: - The effect of time is inevitable) is a well-known phrase. Translator's note: mAmunigaL highlights in thathva thrayam 125th sUthram vyAkyAnam that baudhdha, etc., does not accept the existence of kAlam. In the next sUthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights that since kAlam can be understood from both perception and sAsthram, such principle negating the existence of kAlam cannot be accepted. mAmunigaL quotes beautiful examples and establishes the same principle in the vyAkyAnam for that sUthram.
  • Being bewildered that vAyu cannot be perceived is an obstacle. Though vAyu (air) is not seen, its presence can be felt by the touch sensation, it cannot be explained as aprathyaksham (imperceptible).

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

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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