sAra thrayam - bhakthi sAra, thathva sAra and upadhEsa sAra

srimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

thirumazhisai AzhwAr - thirumazhisai

thirumazhisai AzhwAr is popularly known as bhakthi sArar. AzhwAr was honoured with this title/name by none other than rudhran after understanding AzhwAr's full potential. As narrated in guru paramparA prabhAvam, when rudhran was travelling along with his wife pArvathi on his rishabam on the sky, he notices AzhwAr dressed in some ragged clothes and stitching something. rudhran glorifies AzhwAr to pArvathi as a great vishNu bhakthar and she wants them to go and give him some benediction. They go down and ask him what he wants. AzhwAr rejects their offer and tells them they cannot offer what he wants (that is mOksham). An argument rages and that leads to rudhran opening his third eye and starts sending agni (fire). AzhwAr opens his third eye (in his toe) and rudhran is unable to bear the heat from that agni. Finally srIman nArAyaNan intervenes and rescues rudhran. rudhran, at that time, admiring AzhwAr's unflinching faith on srIman nArAyaNan, honours him with the title "bhakthi sAra" (an embodiment of ultimate vishNu bhakthi).

thathvams (true principle/entity) according to our sampradhAyam are three. They are chith, achith and Ishvaran.
  • chith thathvam - sentient beings - all entities that have gyAnam (valid knowledge). Here the true svarUpam of chith thathvam is that they have the knowledge that they are fully dependent on srIman nArAyaNan.
  • achith thathvam - insentient - all entities that lack gyAnam. This is divided in 24 entities - namely - mUla prakrithi, ahankAram, mahAn, manas, karmEndhriyam (5 organs of action), gyAnEndhriyams (5 organs of knowledge acquisition), pancha bhUthams (5 gross elements) and panch thanmAthrams (5 subtle elements).
  • Ishvara thathvam - the supreme sentient being - srIman nArAyaNan who is the master of all sentient beings. He is known as bhagavAn - one who is complete in six qualities - gyAna (knowledge), bala (strength), ishvarya (wealth), vIrya (valour), shakthi (power), thEjas (radiance). These six qualities further expand in to innumerable divine qualities. He has beautiful forms (See parathvAdhi panchakam explanation at, divine pastimes. He is the master of the two worlds - nithya vibhUthi (paramapadham - spiritual/eternal - permanent) and leelA vibhUthi (samsAram - material - temporary). 
    • In paramapadham, He has many dhivya mahishis (consorts) headed by srI mahAlakshmi, bhUmAdhEvi, neeLA dhEvi. He has many divine servitors headed by ananthan (Adhi sEshan), garudan, vishwaksEnar, etc.
    • In samsAram, He is served by innumerable brahmAs (one per aNdam - planetary system), rudhras, indhras, etc., who are mortal beings and are incharge of ensuring the proper functioning of samsAram.

Of these 3 thathvams, our AzhwArs/pUrvAchAryas have established that Ishvara thathvam is the focal point. Both chith and achith exist for the pleasure of srIman nArAyaNan. So, Ishvara thathvam is called as thathva sAram. Also, when one understands Ishvara thathvam properly, other thathvams are easily understood as well, Ishvara thathvam (bhagavath vishayam) is called thathva sAram.

upadhEsa means instruction. sAsthram is the one which instructs us the do's and dont's. It is said that "sAsanAth ithi  sAsthram" - sAsthram means that which commands. The essence of sAsthram is thirumanthram - ashtAkshari. This is explained by azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr in his AchArya hrudhayam beautifully in chUrNikai 16 through the words "vEdha sAra upaNishadh, sAra thara aNuvAga, sAra thama gAyathriyil  mudhalOdhugiRa poruL mudivAna churukku" (வேத ஸார உபநிஷத், ஸார தர அநுவாக, ஸார தம காயத்ரியில்  முதலோதுகிற பொருள் முடிவான சுருக்கு) which is beautifully explained by maNavALa mAmunigaL as follows:
  • essence of vEdhas is upanishadhs which focus on brahma vidhyai (true knoweledge of about para brahmam)
  • essence of upanishadhs is nArAyaNa anuvAkam (nArAyaNa sUktham) which establishes clearly that parabrahmam, param jyOthi, etc., points to srIman nArAyaNan.
  • essence of nArAyaNa anuvAkam is vishNu gAyathri which identifies the 3 important names of emperumAn which represents his sarva vyApakathvam (omni presence).
  • essence of the vishNu gAyathri is the first name - nArAyaNa which clearly explains the chith, achith and Ishvara thathvams. It is also declared that this nArAyaNa nAmam/manthram is the essence of the whole vEdham.
nArAyaNa manthram (thirumanthram) clearly instructs us the essence of whole sAsthram. piLLai lOkAchAryar in his mumukshuppadi, summarizes the whole meaning of thirumanthram in the final sUthram (115) of thirumanthra prakaraNam. Let us see that now.

Aga, 'thirumaNthiraththAl emperumAnukkE uriyEnAna NAn enakku uriyan anRikkE ozhiya vEnNum; sarvasEshiyAna NArAyanNanukkE ellA adimaigaLum cheyyap peRuvEnAga  vEnNum' enRathAyiRRu.

ஆக, 'திருமந்திரத்தால் எம்பெருமானுக்கே உரியேனான நான் எனக்கு உரியன் அன்றிக்கே ஒழிய வேணும்; ஸர்வஸேஷியான நாராயணனுக்கே எல்லா அடிமைகளும் செய்யப் பெறுவேனாக  வேணும்' என்றதாயிற்று.

Thus, From thirumanthram, it is established that I (this jIvAthmA) who is owned by srIman nArAyaNan should exist purely for him (without any self interest/motivation); I should serve srIman nArAyaNan (who is the master of everyone/everything) in all possible ways.

Looking at mAmunigaL's beautiful commentary, we can relate that this simple sUthram explains the essence of the whole of thirumanthram (that was previously explained in 114 sUthrams by piLLai lOkAchAryar).

Now that we understand the 3 principles - bhakthi sArar, thAthva sAram and upadhEsa sAram, let us understand the link between these 3 now.

While mudhalAzhwArs focussed on establishing the supremacy of srIman nArAyaNan based on many pramANams from sAsthram, thirumazhisai AzhwAr focusses on establishing the exclusive supremacy of srIman nArAyaNan and instructs us the most important aspect of not being attached to any other dhEvathais (brahmA, rudhra, indhra, etc).

Right in his first pAsuram of nAnmugan thiruvanthAdhi, AzhwAr establishes that nArAyaNan creates brahmA and brahmA creates rudhran. Thus, he says that he is revealing the essence of sAsthram and asks us to contemplate on it and act accordingly.

praNavam is the essence of thirumanthram. praNavam is explained in nama: and nArAyaNAya shabdhams. praNavam says:
  • srIman nArAyaNan denoted by "a"
  • is sEshi (master) denoted by "Aya" (which is hidden in the word)
  • of all jIvAthmAs denoted by "m"
The most important letter in praNavam is the one in the middle, that is "u" (ukAaram) which indicates the EXCLUSIVE nature of the subservience of jIvAthmAs towards srIman nArAyaNan.

piLLai lOkAchAryar explains this beautifully in mumukshupadi - thirumanthra (1st) prakaraNam. While explaining this, he quotes bhakthi sArar's (thirumazhisai AzhwAr) divine srIsUkthi to establish this principle in sUthram 64.

"maRaNthum puRaNthozhA mANthar" engaiyAlE ("மறந்தும் புறந்தொழா மாந்தர்" என்கையாலே)
mAmunigaL beautifully explains that the main quality of srIvaishNavas is that they can even forget the names of their master at times, but will not go to any other dhEvathas even at that time.

These words are AzhwAr's nAnmukan thiruvanthAdhi 68th pAsuram:

thiRambEnmin kanNdIr thiruvadi than NAmam
maRaNthum puRaNthozhA mANthar
iRainYchiyum chAthuvarAyp pOthumingaL enRAn
Namanum than thUthuvaraik kUvich chevikku

திறம்பேன்மின் கண்டீர் திருவடி தன் நாமம்
மறந்தும் புறந்தொழா மாந்தர்
இறைஞ்சியும் சாதுவராய்ப் போதுமின்கள் என்றான்
நமனும் தன் தூதுவரைக் கூவிச் செவிக்கு

yama dharma rAjan calls his dhUthas (messengers) and informs to them secretly that "Dont forget my orders - when you see srIvaishNavas who will not worship anyone other than srIman nArAyaNan (and ones who are fixed on devotion to srIman nArAyaNan), worship them (since I am not the master for them)".

periyavAchAn piLLai beautifully explains the deep meanings of this pAsuram. 
  • This pAsuram is identified as direct translation of srI vishNu purANa slOkam "svapurusham abhivIkshya..." which also shows the conversation between yama and his servants.
  • We can even forget our master (srIman nArAyaNan) but cannot go to another dhEvathai. Avoiding dhEvathAnthara bhajanam (worshipping other dhEvathais) is shown as the most important aspect of being a prapanna (one who is surrendered to srIman nArAyaNan) - if we worship other dhEvathais we will no longer be prapannas.
  • The above principle is explained using a beautiful/crisp example. A wife need not have full attachment towards her husband - it can develop slowly. But if she starts looking out for some other person - that will create a permanent damage in the relationship. The same way, even if we are not fully attached to emperumAn that is fine, but if we start going to other dhEvathais (this includes all dhEvathais, self styled gurus who dont follow our sampradhAyam, etc) - that itself will be a good reason by emperumAn (vishwapathi - husband of everyone) to discard/reject us.
  • yama instructs his servants to give up their judgemental attitude and take up a serving/devotional attitude towards such srIvaishNavas since they are most worshippable.
Of the nine sambandhams between paramAthmA and jIvAthmA, pathi - pathni relationship is one of the main relationships. Since a chaste wife (pathni) has nothing to do with other purushas, jIvAthmA has nothing to do with any one other than purushOththaman who is vishwapathi (husband of all jIvAthmAs).

Once during a procession of srIranganAthan (srIrangam), rAmAnujar is leading the srIvaishnavas in the front. At that time, it starts raining suddenly, and for protection, srIranganAthan is carried into a nearby shiva temple. But rAmAnujar waits outside in soaking rain and does not enter the shiva temple - ofcourse other srIvaishnavas wait as well since rAmAnujar did not enter. When the priests of shiva temple invite rAmAnujar inside, he says he will not enter into other dhEvathais temples. The priests say "Oh! your lord himself entered, why dont you enter as well". rAmAnujar politely replies "My lord is the lord of universe and the owner of everything - so he can enter anywhere. But we are like his chaste wife. We will not enter any other place than my lord's own residence". Such should be our nishtai that even at dire situations we should not think about going to dhEvathAnthrams.

nama: padham in thirumanthram is an expansion/explanation of this ukAram (u) of praNavam. While explaining nama: padham, piLLai lOkAchAryar brings out the essence of thirumanthram using thirumangai AzhwAr's srIsUkthi.

sUthram 89:
"uRRathum un adiyArkkadimai" engiRapadiyE ithilE bhAgavatha sEshathvamum aNusaNdhEyam ("உற்றதும் உன் அடியார்க்கடிமை" என்கிறபடியே இதிலே பாகவத ஸேஷத்வமும் அநுஸந்தேயம்). 

Since thirumangai AzhwAr says after learning thirumanthram, I understand that I am the servant of your (srIman nArAyaNan's) servants, nama: padham reflects bhAgavatha sEshathvam (being the servants of bhAgavathas).

mAmunigaL highlights that once we have our ahankAram (dhEhAthma abhimAnam - thinking we are the body) and mamakAram (sva svAthanthriyam - thinking we are indpendent and we own everything) are removed, we will eventually be situated in the ultimate level of bhagavath sEshathvam (servitude towards bhagavAn) which is bhAgavatha sEshathvam (servitude towards bhAgavathas).

Just like when a wife serves husband's parents, brothers, sisters, etc who are dear to the husband, the husband will be happier than her serving him (same can apply in husband serving wife's parents, etc), bhagavAn will be happier if we serve his dear bhakthas.

Thus, in this article, we have seen the
  • upadhEsa sAram - essence of all upadhEsams - which is to avoid dhEvathAnthara bhajanam and to serve bhAgavathas
  • on the matters of thathva sAram - bhagavath vishayam
  • through bhakthi sArar's (thirumazhisai AzhwAr) and AchAryas words.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

Sources: vyAkyAnams, 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam

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  1. Swamin,
    Thanks a lot for devareer's posts. Its a treat for Adiyen and other bhagavadhas. We get to know more about the Sambradayam. Wish that devareer's service continues.