virOdhi parihArangaL - 10

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

Please see the previous article at

emperumAnAr brought out the essence of sAsthram  - kainkaryams to dhivya dhEsa emperumAns

 nithya karmAnushtAnam

41. anushtAna virOdhi (அநுஷ்டான விரோதி) - Obstacles in our daily routines 

Translator's note: Let us have a detailed analysis of this subject before entering in to the actual obstacles/hurdles. There is so much misconception in this topic on what to do and what not to do.
  • Our anushtAnam consists of many aspects. Here the focus is more on how we should conduct ourselves with respect to the core principles of our sampradhAyam. 
  • That is, understanding the difference between karmam and kainkaryam. While karmam is sAmAnya (varNAsrama - bodily) dhamam which is essential/mandatory to follow, kainkaryam is visEsha (svarUpa - for the soul) dharmam which is even more important than sAmAnya dharmam. 
  • karmam is of three types
    • nithya karmA - daily routines such as sandhyA vandhanam, etc
    • naimiththika karmA - periodic activities such as tharpaNam, etc
    • kAmya karmA - activities that are done for worldly/material benefits
  • kainkaryam is also of three types
    • bhagavath kainkaryam - service to bhagavAn (nithya and naimiththika karmams become part of bhagavath kainkaryam due to himself ordering everyone to engage in such karmams)
    • bhAgavatha kainkaryam - service to bhAgavathas
    • AchArya kainkaryam - service to ones own AchArya
  • This principle is most important for us to understand.  One can never give up varNAsrama dharmam. In mumukshuppadi sUthrams 270 and 271, this principle is explained wonderfully - in 270 avathArikai mAmunigaL says "there is certainly no svarUpa thyAgam of karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams" (which means it is only upAya budhdhi thyAgam - i.e., the karmA should be done but it should not be considered as upAyam/means to attain bhagavAn and it should be considered as kainkaryam) - we do not do anything as upAyam to please bhagavAn to get something in return. All nithya (daily - sandhyA vandhanam, etc) and naimiththika (tharpaNam, etc) karmams must be done as kainkaryam. This is highlighted in the next sUthram "karmam kainkaryaththilE pugum..." (கர்மம் கைங்கர்யத்திலே புகும் - karmam will fall under kainkaryam) - who else other piLLai lOkAchAryar and mAmunigaL can explain this better. 
  • But when does such sAmAnya kainkaryam become secondary? mAmunigaL explains this in the vyAkyAnam for azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr's AchArya hrudhayam for chUrNikai 31 - "aththANi chEvagaththil podhuvAnathu nazhuvum" (அத்தாணிச் சேவகத்தில் பொதுவானது நழுவும்). mAmunigaL explains in the vyAkyAnam that when we are engaged in bhagavath/bhAgavatha kainkaryam, sAmAnya kainkaryam takes back seat and can be delayed/skipped. 
  • Nowadays, it is common to see many srIvaishNavas not performing basic anushtAnams saying that "it is not necessary for srIvaishNavas". 
  • But our pUrvAchAryas clearly demonstrated that it is absolutely necessary for us to perform sAmAnya kainkaryams (karma anushtAnam) and they themselves performed these without fail - because they were strictly abiding by sAsthram. Only when there was a conflict with bhagavath kainkaryams, sAmAnya kainkaryams were given up temporarily. 
  • In 6000 padi guru paramparA prabhAvam, nampiLLai is once questioned why we perform nithya/naimiththika karmAs when we refuse to worship other dhEvathas. nampiLLai clearly explains that as nithya/naimiththika karmAs are part of vaidhIka anushtAnam (that which is part of vEdham), we perform them.
  • periyavAchAn piLLai explains in parantha rahasyam charama slOka prakaraNam (section) "nammAchAryargaL ivaRRai anushtippArum anushtiyAthArumAyp pOrugiRathu" (நம்மாசார்யர்கள் இவற்றை அனுஷ்டிப்பாரும் அனுஷ்டியாதாருமாய்ப் போருகிறது) - Some of our AchAryas have shown that varNAsrama duties have to be performed (when there is no conflict with kainkaryam) and othes have shown that varNAsrama duties can be skipped (when there is conflict with kainkaryam). We can understand this principle from the following examples: emperumAnAr performed sandhyA vandhanam and gave arghyam standing up (as mandated in sAsthram) even when he was 120 years old. bhattar continued to perform fanning kainkaryam to namperumAL skipping his sandhyAvandhanam. So, the principle of performing sAmAnya kainkaryam is based on whether we are engaged in confidential bhagavath/bhAgavatha kainkaryam or not (not whether I want to perform sAmAnya dharmam or not). 
  • This principle is further explained in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram by piLLai lOkAchAryar and beautifully explained by mAmunigaL in sUthrams 276 to 278. 
    • sUthram 276 - kainkaryam is of two categories.
    • sUthram 277 - performing desirable acts and avoiding undesirable acts are the two categories.
    • sUthram 278 - desirable and undesirable acts are based on varNAsrama dharmam and Athma svarUpam. For this small sUthram, mAmunigaL writes a long and comprehensive commentary analysing the various aspects. He explains the principle from a few different view points and then finally says "if giving up varNAsrama dharmam is what to be considered as necessary, that will directly contradict the desire of bhagavAn (and pirAtti). So that cannot be considered reasonable". So he says that it is better to consider that varNAsrama dharmam is performed out of mercy towards others (so that every one collectively will benefit by following varNAsrama dharmam and srIvaishNavas facilitate such improvement for everyone by their own proper conduct in varNAsrama dharmam).
  • Finally, while it is seen that our pUrvAchAryas fully abided by sAsthram and performed nithya (daily) and naimiththika (periodical) karmAs, they never engaged in kAmya karmAs - those karmAs which are done for material benefits. nithya and naimiththika karmAs are mandatory - non-performance of the same is condemned in sAsthram. But kAmya karmAs are the ones that are optional - the ones who are behind material opulence engage in such acts.
  • Thus it is better for us to follow in the foot steps of our pUrvAchAryas and apply the principles as shown by them.

Let us see the obstacles in this topic now.
  • Performing a routine which does not fall under AchArya kainkaryam, bhagavath kainkaryam and bhAgavatha kainkaryam. These 3 are natural for our svarUpam to be engaged in. Whatever performed outside the boundary of these 3 kainkaryams is an obstacle.
  • Among the previously mentioned 3 kainkaryams, one should not think that only bhagavath kainkaryam is natural and AchArya (and bhAgavatha) kainkaryam is additional. Just like bhagavath kainkaryam is nirupAdhikam (natural - not based on an explicit reason), Acharya kainkaryam is also natural. It is explained in praNavam that the jIvAthmA is naturally subservient to bhagavAn. As AchAryas/bhAgavathas are very dear to emperumAn, kainkaryam to them is also natural for jIvAthmAs. Translator's note: In periya thirumozhi 8.10.3, thirumangai AzhwAr announced the essence of thirumanthram (ashtAkshari) to emperumAn himself as "nin thiruvettezhuththum kaRRu nAn uRRathum unnadiyArkkadimai kaNNapuraththuRaiyammAnE" (நின் திருவெட்டெழுத்தும் கற்று நான் உற்றதும் உன்னடியார்க்கடிமை கண்ணபுரத்துறையம்மானே) - Dear lord of thirukkaNNapuram! After learning the essence of thirumanthram I understood that I am a servitor of your devotees. From this, it is easy to understand that the essential principle is to be a servitor of the AchArya and bhAgavathas even more so than bhagavAn.
  • Anrusamsyam - compassion. lOka sangraham - welfare of world (by following sAsthram). sAmAnya kainkaryams (basic varNAsrama dharmam) is performed by srIvaishNavas out of AnrusamsyArththam (great compassion towards general public) and not lOka sangrahArththam (to maintain principles of sAsthram for the welfare of the world). In gIthai 3.22 kaNNan emperumAn says that there is no prescribed duties for him, yet he engages in the actions that are bound by sAsthram during his various incarnations. Translator's note: In the previous slOkam 3.21, bhagavAn says that whatever performed by the great men in the society, common men follow such deeds. So, our pUrvAchAryas engaged in performing sAmAnya kainkaryams (varNAsrama dharmam) out of great compassion. The subtle difference between Anrusamsyam and lOka sangraham is in the purpose and the attitude. Doing it out of compassion (that it is bhagavAn's desire and orders that varNAsrama dharmam is essential in material world and the leaders should perform it so others will follow and progress spiritually) vs doing it for as being role models (the tinge of ahankAram that I am doing this perfectly so others to follow and flourish).
  • Any act which is not fitting truly for the jIvAthmA's nature but done out of compassion does not become part of kainkaryam. Considering them as part of kainkaryam is an obstacle. Translator's note: jIvAthmA's true nature is to be eternally serving bhagavAn/bhAgavathas - any thing done outside that just out of compassion (without specific reference in sAsthram) should not be considered by oneself as kainkaryam.
  • When emperumAn is present in front of us (as part of procession or in his sannidhi in an assembly), one should not give up that presence and perform sAmAnya dharmams (like sandhyA vandhanam, etc) highlighting ones compassion towards others. Only after emperumAn returns to his sannidhi, one should leave him and go back to their routines. Translator's note: It is explained in parama samhithai "yEna yEna dhAthA gachchathi thEna thEna saha gachchathi" (யேந யேந தாதா கச்சதி தேந தேந ஸஹ கச்சதி) - wherever the supreme lord goes, his devotees (mukthAthmAs in this case) follow. This can be understood from bhattar's life as cited before. When he was once fanning emperumAn and it was time for sandhyA vandhanam, one srIvaishNava reminds bhattar about that. bhattar replies "If I skip sandhyA vandhanam at the moment due to my engagement in serving emperumAn directly, chithra gupthan (yama dharma rAja's assistant) will not count this as a sin". It is said that, when emperumAn goes out on procession, every one must accompany him for his protection and to be in his company until he returns back to his sannidhi. So, as per our pUrvAchAryas, while engaged in kainkaryam, one can delay karmAnushtAnams.
  • When srIvaishNavas are engaged in discussing/enjoying bhagavAn's divine qualities, one cannot leave the gOshti in the middle saying that they have to perform sandhyA vandhanam, etc. Though they are performed out of compassion for the upliftment of others, they cannot be done at the cost of giving up bhagavath/bhAgavatha anubhavam.
  • For prapannas, bhagavAn is the only upAyam. So, even while performing many acts, one should not consider them as upAyam but all of them should be performed as kainkaryam. They must be done without any expectation in return and these aspects are natural for the jIvAthmA to be engaged in. These aspects include:
    • applying Urdhva puNdrams (thirumaN/srIchUrNam)
    • accepting thIrtham, prasAdham, etc
    • Washing the lotus feet of emperumAn (as part of thiruvArAdhanam)
    • Reciting dhivya prabhandha pAsurams
    • Lighting lamps (at the temple, at home perumAL sannidhi, etc)
    • Making garlands and offering them to emperumAn
    • Maintaining garden to grow flowers for bhagavath kainkaryam
    • performing services to srIvaishNavas
    • Learning and teaching dhivya prabhandham, rahasya granthams
  • Engaging in actions that were not performed by our pUrvAchAryas. ANdAL nAchiyAr says "cheyyAthana cheyyOm" (செய்யாதன செய்யோம்) in thiruppAvai 2nd pAsuram indicating this principle.
  • kainkaryam should not be performed with any specific purpose other than doing it naturally for the pleasure of emperumAn.
  • One should perform kainkaryam for the pleasure of bhagavAn instead of what is pleasing to oneself. nammAzhwAr declares in thiruvAimozhi 2.9.4 "thanakkEyAga enaik koLLum IdhE" (தனக்கேயாக எனைக் கொள்ளும் ஈதே) - Please engage me in your service fully for your pleasure (I dont want to anything which is not exclusively for bhagavAn's pleasure - there should be no tinge of self-desire while performing kainkaryam). iLaya perumAL (lakshmaNan) also requested srI rAma and sIthA pirAtti to order him to perform services that pleases them exclusively. ANdAL nAchiyAr also prays for the same thing in the end of thiruppAvai "maRRai nam kAmangaL mARRu" (மற்றை நம் காமங்கள் மாற்று).
Thus, we have seen the importance of performing all kainkaryams (including bhagavath AgyA kainkaryams, i.e., nithya/naimitthika karmAnushtAnams) with the sole focus on bhagavAn's pleasure in this section. We have also seen how one should not perform kainkaryam with the expectation of something in return - kainkaryam should be done solely for the pleasure of emperumAn as it is natural for srIvaishNavas to be engaged in kainkaryam.

We will continue with the next section in the next article.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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  1. This is a really amazing post swami. Adiyen has a question, if you would be so kind as to answer:

    Our Acharyas say that karma, jnAna and bhakti yOgAs need not be abandoned, but is done as kaimkaryam to bhagavAn. Is this then, the explanation for the "yOga rahasya" of nAthamunigal and the yOga anushtAnam of thirukkurugai kAvalappar? Both AcHAryAs were yOgIs, so this means they performed the yOgA sanctioned in sAstra and had a darshanam of perumAl, but that they did it as kaimkaryam and not as mOkshOpAyam. Am I correct in this understanding?



    1. very interesting observation swamy. nAthamunigaL was indeed a great yOgi - same probably goes for kurugaik kAvalappan who was in meditation/trance constantly. And in kurugai kAvalappan - ALavandhAr meeting, we can understand that kurugai kAvalappan was greatly enjoying bhagavath anubhavam through ashtAnga yOgam. The same is said to be the case in nAthamunigaL's life too - we can understand his greatness from the initial slOkams of ALavandhAr's sthOthra rathnam.

      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

  2. Dear Sarathy Swamy,

    Srimathe Ramanujaya Namah,

    Swamy, from Velukkudi Krishnan Swamy's upanyasam, adiyen understood (probably not fully understood due to adiyen's ignorance and sins) that for general upasana-marga-followers, they have to perform Karma or Gyana yoga to achieve atma-sakshadkaram and then move up the ladders to perform Bhakti yogam to get paramAtma sakshadkaram. Performing karma-yoga with trividha - tyagam etc sincerely and dedicatedly removes sins leading to realization of self and then the seed for Bhakti yoga is sown which is followed further.

    But for prapanaa, Bhagavan Himself stands as the Upayam for achieving parama-purushartham of nitya kainkaryam for His devotess at the end of this life itself. Sarangathi is not performed as an anga-prapatti, i.e an ancilliary for removing sins obstructing bhakti yogam but full prapathi for nitya kainkaryam as in Dwaya-mahamantram.

    So, for prapannas, even for performing Bhakti with full preethi and love and devotion as an end by itself for Bhagavan's pleasure, how does the sins obstructing the realization of self and Bhagavan removed, as it is said para-bhakti and para-gyanam is achieved during archiradi marga only for prapannas. So, for prapaanas, during last stay in samsaraam, it is not possible for us to attain that love, kadhal and aavai for Bhagavan. For a samanya beginner person like adiyen trying to develop love for Bhagavan (as an end itself, not means), how does the anandhi-kala sins get destroyed leading to suddha-seshatva gyanam??

    Sorry, if adiyen made some random queries out of ignorance.
    adiyen ramanuja dasan

  3. upEyam (goal) for prapanna is kainkaryam. That kainkaryam is a result of love and devotion towards emperumAn. That love and devotion is the result of bhagavath anubhavam (through sAdhu sangam, bhOdhayantha parasparam, etc). This is what is described as bhagavath anubhava janitha prIthi kAritha kainkaryam.
    So by emperumAn's grace we get sAdhu sangam (relationship with srIvaishNavas). Through that sAdhu sangam we learn more and more about emperumAn and become attached to him and develop the desire to serve him. this is the general process.
    the obstacles themselves are removed for a prapanna by the grace of emperumAn - pOya pizhaiyum pugutharuvAn ninRanavum thIyinil thUsAgum.
    adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

  4. Thank you very much Swamy for crisp reply.

    Adiyen ramanuja dasan

    1. adiyen- its all what is heard from elders based on pUrvAchArya granthams - credit goes to them. thanks for the keen observation and question.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

  5. sri:
    every time i go thru our poorvacharya's explanations thru devarir's articles, adiyen is able find and understand something new which didnt occur before. Am sure its becos of adiyens acharyan's kripai. Emperuman is full of compassion and kripai but our acharyan's kripai is boundless and infinite to be mentioned. Adiyen would also like to gain knowledge from the commentaries from Acharya Hrydayam. If it has been already published please let me know the link.
    srinivasa dasi

    1. AchArya hrudhayam commentary by mAmunigaL can be purchased from srivasishnavasri and their contact details are available at . Not sure about any english commentary though - will inform if adiyen finds out about that.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

  6. sri:
    thank you so much. Adiyen not all that wellversed with Manipravalagranthms ..cds /explanation/commentary/lectures in tamil or english would be fantastic.
    srinivasa dasi

    1. adiyen remembers seeing a simple thamizh translation by Sri purushOthama naidu (very good scholar in our sampradhayam) - you may be able to purchase them from srivaishnavasri.
      please enquire.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

    2. sri:
      Thanks a lot. Adiyen could contact them on landline and was informed to my surprise that they have Swamy Manavalamamuni's simple Tamil commentary of Acharya Hrudayam.
      srinivasa dasi