thiruppAvai - artha panchakam

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

thiruppAvai is the essence of ubhaya vEdhAntham. When one understands the esoteric meanings of thiruppAvai properly, all the hurdles in their journey towards emperumAn is easily removed.

 ANdaL - rangamannAr, srIvilliputhUr

It is explained by piLLai lOkAchAryar in mumukshuppadi that a mumukshu (one who desires to be freed from bondage in samsAram and want to eternally serve emperumAn in paramapadham) must have proper understanding of "artha panchakam" (meaning of 5 aspects). "artha panchakam" includes:
  • paramAthma svarUpam (nature of supreme god),
  • jIvAthma svarUpam (nature of individual soul),
  • upAya svarUpam (nature of the means by which the individual soul can reach supreme god),
  • upEya svarUpam (the activity/goal of the individual soul after reaching supreme god) and
  • virOdhi svarUpam (the hurdles which stop the individual soul from achieving the ultimate goal).
In the first pAsuram of thiruppAvai itself, ANdAL briefly shows us artha panchakam. Here, she declares "NArAyanNanE NamakkE paRai tharuvAn" (நாராயணனே நமக்கே பறை தருவான்) where we can understand that:
  • nArAyaNan is explaining the paramAthma svarUpam - Here nArAyaNa shabdham has two meanings:
    • His parathvam (supremacy) - that emperumAn is the AdhAram (resting place or foundation) and all jIvAthmAs are AdhEyam (that which rests on that foundation).
    • His saulabhyam (easy accessibility - being present everywhere) - that emperumAn is the antharyAmi (inner soul) of all the jIvAthmAs.
  • namakku is explaining the jIvAthma svarUpam - all jIvAthmAs depend on emperumAn. With the EvakAram (namakkE) ANdAL establishes the nature of the person who is ready to surrender to emperumAn, i.e., one who declares his Akinchanyam (that he has nothing to offer), ananya gathithvam (no other refuge) and is fully surrendered to emperumAn.
  • nArAyaNanE tharuvAn is explaining the upAya svarUpam - nArAyaNanE tharuvAn means "Only nArAyaNan will give the ultimate benediction to jIvAthmAs".
  • paRai is explaining the upEya svarUpam - paRai means kainkaryam to emperumAn without any tinge of expectations for ourselves.
  • virOdhi svarUpam is implicitly explained as our sva svAthanthriyam (independence) that stops emperumAn from helping us.
This is further explained by many pUrvAchAryas in their detailed vyAkyAnams.

thiruppAvai vyAkyAna karthAs (commentators)

periyavAchAn piLLai - 3000 padi

 Ay jananyAchAryar - 2000 padi, 4000 padi
ponnadikkAl jIyar - svApadhEsam

paramAthma svarUpam is further explained in:
  • "pARkadaluL paiya thuinRa paraman" (பாற்கடலுள் பையத் துயின்ற பரமன்) - the supreme emperumAn who is lying on the milk ocean
  • "OnGgi ulagaLaNtha uththaman" (ஓங்கி உலகளந்த உத்தமன்) - the most elevated person who measured the 3 worlds
  • "paRpaNAbhan" (பற்பநாபன்) - one who has a lotus flower in his naval from which brahmA appears
  • "thUya peruNIr yamunaiththuRaivan" (தூய பெருநீர் யமுனைத்துறைவன்) - One who lives on the banks of the pure yamunA river.
  • "gOvindhan" - One who takes care off the cows, one who gives happiness to the cows, one who gives happiness to mother earth
jIvAthma svarUpam is further explained in the 6th to 15th pAsurams. Here it is established that jIvAthmAs should always be looking for the association of SrIvaishNavas and always approach emperumAn through them. Further in 16th and 17th pAsurams, it is explained that jIvAthmAs should glorify nithyasUris who are very dear to emperumAn. In 18th to 20th pAsurams, it is established that jIvAthmAs should go to emperumAn with the purushakAram of pirAtti (nappinnai nAchiyAr who is the incarnation of nILA dhEvi and is the most dear wife of krishNan in vrindhAvan).

virOdhi svarUpam is further explained in the 2nd pAsuram mainly as neyyuNNOm, pAluNNOm meaning we wont accept anything other than emperumAn as enjoyable objects while we are in pursuit of bhagavAn. ANdAL also says "cheyyAthana cheyyOm" (செய்யாதன செய்யோம்) meaning we should not do/perform whatever that is not done/performed by our pUrvAchAryas.

Beyond these, upAya svarUpam and upEya svarUpam are most important for us to understand. ANdAL explains these most important principles in the 28th and 29th pAsurams of thiruppAvai by talking in the bhAvam of gOpis/gOpas. periyavAchAn piLLai and nAyanAr have written beautiful vyAkyAnams (commentaries) for these pAsurams. nAyanAr's vyAkyAnam is in great detail with lots of classic explanations. Let us see the essence of these pAsurams:

upAya svarUpam - kaRavaigaL pinchenRu (கறவைகள் பின்சென்று) - 28th pAsuram
ANdAL establishes emperumAn is the sidhdha sAdhanam (established upAyam which need not be achieved by our individual efforts) in this pAsuram.
  • She first declares that she does not have any anvayam (involvement) in karma yOgam, gyAna yOgam and bhakthi yOgam.
  • We have no karma yOgam since none of the requirements for karma yOgam is fulfilled by us as in:
    • One should follow great scholars, here we are going behind cows instead of going behind great scholars.
    • One should go to dhivyadhEsams, here we are going to the forest. If one thinks that even going to forests to perform thapasya can be considered as part of karma yOgam, here we are going to the forest to feed the cows. Even if feeding the cows can be considered as part of their varNa dharmam, we are only feeding the cows which gives milk (kaRavai) and ignoring the other ones.
    • Even eating has many restrictions, and we follow no such restrictions, we eat while walking, we eat with either hands and we eat without even bathing.
  • We have no gyAna yOgam since we are part of "aRivonRum illAtha Aykkulam" (அறிவொன்றும் இல்லாத ஆய்க்குலம்) meaning we have no real intelligence.
  • As bhakthi is gyAna visEsham (an evolved state of gyAnam), since we dont even have gyAnam, there is no question of performing bhakthi yOgam.
  • But we do have one puNyam (good fortune - virtue) - that we are feeding and nourishing bhagavAn who is the ultimate dharmam (krishNam dharmam sanAthanam - kaNNan emperumAn is the eternal religious principle). And this is not achieved by our own efforts - you have yourself voluntarily chosen to come and live amongst us. So, neither we have the external enemies (karma/gyAna/bhakthi yOgams) nor we have the internal enemy (svagatha svIkAram - we ourselves approaching emperumAn and considering our effort as upAyam).
  • Just like we have no intelligence, you also have no defects whatsoever. You are full of auspicious qualities. That too your auspicious qualities are fully manifested when you are in the form of gOvindhan amongst the gOpas. When you are amongst the nithyasUris, only your supremacy is fully manifested but when you are amongst the cow herd boys and girls, your saulabhyam (easy accessibility) is fully manifested.
  • Not only you are full in auspicious qualities and you are the sidhdha sAdhanam (established upAyam which need not be achieved by an individual's effort), you also have the relationship with every jIvAthmA. You are the in-dwelling paramAthmA in every jIvAthmA and without your presence, no entity can sustain themselves. thirumanthram which is revealed by you yourself identifies the nine different relationships between the paramAthmA and jIvAthmA viz pithA-puthra (father-son), rakshaka-rakshya (protector-protected), sEshi-sEsha (master-servant), bharthru-bhAryA (husband-wife), jnEya-jnAtha (known-knower), svAmi-svam (owner-owned), AdhAra-AdhEya (sustainer-sustained), AthmA-sarIra (Super soul-individual soul) and bhOkthA-bhOgya (enjoyer-enjoyed). Thus you have the responsibility to protect us who are surrendered to you.
  • Out of ignorance and love, we have sometimes called you nArAyaNA. You are here establish your simplicity as gOvindhan, but forgetting that we called you nArAyaNA. So please forgive us for that (nAyanAr explains that ANdAL is showing that we should always seek pardon for our mistakes while surrendering to emperumAn ).
  • Because you are the ultimate upAyam and since we have Akinchanyam (nothing in our hands) and ananya gathithvam (no other refuge) and since we have vilakkAmai (not stopping emperumAn from protecting us), please give us the ultimate kainkaryam.
Thus, ANdAL establishes emperumAn's nirapEksha upAyathvam (protecting us without any expectation) in this pAsuram. It is still to be understood that Akinchanyam, ananya gathithvam and vilakkAmai are identified here as requirements for emperumAn to protect us - they are not part of upAyam but they are simply adhikAri visEshaNam (qualities of a mumukshu). These qualities differentiate the jIvAthmAs who want to surrender to emperumAn from the jIvAthmAs who dont want to surrender to emperumAn.
upEya svarUpam - chiRRam chiRukAlE (சிற்றம் சிறுகாலே) - 29th pAsuram
ANdAL establishes that kainkaryam to emperumAn which exclusively pleases him is the ultimate goal in this pAsuram.
  • We have come early in the morning to surrender unto you. Early morning is compared by nAyanAr to early days of being mumukshu - this state is when we have been cleared of the ignorance but not fully developed attachment towards emperumAn since morning is explained as fully awake and knowledgable state.
  • While you should have come to protect us (because you are the owner and we are the owned), we have ourselves come here. Just like when the dhandakAraNya rishis came to see srI rAman, he became very sad that, he made them come and explain their problems in front of him, instead of himself going to them and enquire about them first. svagatha svIkAram is thus explained as some thing that will bring sadness in emperumAn's heart since that is not natural.
  • Not only we have come, but we have also now offered our praNAmams (obeisances/worship) to you. While dhEvathAntharams (other dhEvathais) expect their worshippers to keep on worshipping them, emperumAn being svArAdhyan (easily worshippable) does not even expect his bhakthas to offer their obeisances towards him - he is most happy to just see them come towards him. Such is emperumAn's greatness - he is just like a father who becomes happy as soon as he sees his sons without expecting anything else from them.
  • We glorified your golden lotus feet which is dear to all vaidhikas. We are not glorifying you and your lotus feet to get anything else - our purpose is to glorify them and that itself is the process and the goal.
  • Now you listen to us, we are going to explain what is paRai (the goal). It is not enough that you have descended to vrindhAvan, you now have to fulfill our desires. You have now voluntarily and willingly born in this clan of cow herd boys and girls. You have to engage us in confidential and appropriate kainkaryam to you. This is ordained for you - because you have now reformed us and developed utmost attachment towards you in us, you have to engage us in kainkaryam as well.
  • When emperumAn says "I will just give you the result of the vratham (nOnbu)", they explain further that the vratham is just a reason to engage with him fully and we have not come to accept any other result than kainkaryam.
  • She says wherever he is in - paramapadham or samsAram, she wants to be with emperumAn. Just like iLaiya perumAL (lakshmaNan) went to forest with perumAL (srI rAman) and never separated from him at any cost, ANdAL also says that she always want to be with kaNNan emperumAn. She says that because he is the owner and she is the owned and the relationship is eternal, she always wants that sambandham (relationship) to visibly manifest.
  • She finally establishes the ultimate goal that she wants to only serve emperumAn and only for his pleasure. She says she wants to serve like lakshmaNan who served him always instead of bharathAzhwAn who lived apart from him for some time. By saying "maRRai Nam kAmanGgaL mARRu" (மற்றை நம் காமங்கள் மாற்று) meaning remove all other desires from us, she declares that neither she want to have any pleasure on her own nor she wants emperumAn to think that she has any pleasure on her own. This same concept is explained by nAmmAzhwAr in thiruvAimozhi emmA vIdu (2.9) padhigam, "thanakkEyAga enaikkoLLumIdhE" (தனக்கேயாக எனைக்கொள்ளுமீதே) meaning emperumAn should engage him in his service exclusively for emperumAn's pleasure.
Thus ANdAL establishes the ultimate goal in this pAsuram. Also, "maRRai Nam kAmanGgaL mARRu" (மற்றை நம் காமங்கள் மாற்று) is explaining virOdhi svarUpam - which is engaging in kainkaryam for our own pleasure instead of emperumAn's pleasure.

Thus, we can understand the artha panchakam through the divine words of ANdAL nAchiyAr's thiruppAvai and the classic explanations given by many AchAryas who have done excellent vyAkyAnams for this dhivya prabhandham.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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  1. swami
    very simple and elegant........esp after listening to dr m a v swami in koil, this is too good to read.
    svaaraadhyan....excellent point indeed.

  2. Really excellent post swami. Mno opportunity read the works of Periyavachan pillai and Nayanar, but to read the summary here is excellent.

    -Adiyen Ramanuja Dasan

  3. maha bagyam

    adiyen ramanuja dasan

  4. Maha bhagyam to read this on this auspicious day!! Thank you for sharing this with the Sri Ramanuja Yahoo group.

    - Adiyen Ramanuja Dasan