virOdhi parihArangaL - 17

srImathE satagOpAya 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

48. vandhana virOdhi (வந்தந விரோதி) - Obstacles in offering obeisances.

vandhanam means offering sAshtAnga namaskAram - full obeisances (prostration) with eight limbs (2 feet, 2 knees, stomach, 2 shoulders, 2 hands and forehead) touching the earth in this context. It is ordained in sAsthram that "vaishNavO vaishNavam dhrushtvA dhaNdavath praNamEth puvi" (வைஷ்ணவோ வைஷ்ணவம் த்ருஷ்ட்வா தண்டவத் ப்ரணமேத் புவி) - when a vaishNava sees another vaishNava, he should immediately fall on the earth like a stick and offer obeisances. Offering full obeisances is also called as dhaNdam samarppiththal (தண்டம் ஸமர்ப்பித்தல்), dhaNdaniduthal (தண்டனிடுதல்) in thamizh - here dhaNdam refers to a stick and the obeisances should be like a stick falling on earth (without any second thought and deviation). In this section, many aspects on offering obeisances in the presence of bhagavAn, bhAgavathas and AchAryan are explained firmly. Here one principle should be understood properly. Our purvAchAryas always offered obeisances once - sakruth (one) praNAmam (obeisance) only. One sect of vaishNavas offer repeated obeisances - I am (VV Ramanujam swamy) not entering into debates on that principle here. But dhaNdaniduthal (தண்டனிடுதல்) - means falling flat like a stick. A stick falling down will not rise up and fall again - we can remember like that.  Translator's note:  Generally, obeisances are offered to show ones respect/reverences towards the other person. Usually we offer our obeisances to emperumAn, thAyArs, nithyasUris (ananthan, garudan, vishwaksEna, etc), AzhwArs, AchAryas and bhAgavathas. One should avoid offering obeisances to materially minded people who have bodily relationship with us or otherwise (just because they are elderly), ones who have dhEvathAnthara sambandham, sAmAnya AchAryas (teachers who teach arts, science, etc) without any inclination towards bhagavAn, etc. These points are discussed in detail in this section. Another important point - in srIvaishNavam, age is not a determining factor while offering obeisances. In many incidents in the lives of our pUrvAchAryas where older srIvaishNava offers obeisances to younger srIvaishNava. thirumangai AzhwAr says in thirumozhi 8.2.9 "kaNapuram kaithozhum piLLaiyaip piLLai enReNNap peRuvaRE" (கணபுரம் கைதொழும் பிள்ளையைப் பிள்ளை என்றெண்ணப் பெறுவறே) - One who worships thirukkaNNapuram, even he/she is a small (or ones own) child, one cannot think them like a child - he/she should be thought as a srIvaishNava. He also says in thirunedunthANdagam pAsuram 14 "vaLarththathanAl payan peRREn varugavenRu madakkiLiyaik kaikUppi vaNanginALE" (வளர்த்ததனால் பயன் பெற்றேன் வருகவென்று மடக்கிளியைக் கைகூப்பி வணங்கினாளே) - even though the parrot was raised by parakAla nAyaki (thirumangai AzhwAr in feminine mood), when she heard that parrot beautifully recite the names of emperumAn, she feels greatly joyful and performs anjali with joined palms to her own parrot. AzhwAn's dharma pathni (wife) ANdAL used to take srIpAdha thIrtham of her own son - parAsara bhattar who was a great scholar and the leader of our sath sampradhAyam at srIrangam. So, young and old, offering mutual obeisances to srIvaishNavas is a necessary aspect.

Ideal example - emperumAnAr offering praNAmams to thirukkOshtiyUr nambi

  • Checking the ground before offering obeisances is an obstacle. Even if the ground is wet, muddy, etc., one should offer obeisances without caring for the body/clothes.
  • Not offering full obeisances is an obstacle. One should not just lean down and touch the ground with the hands. One should ensure that all eight limbs touch the ground while falling flat. This is what is already explained as falling like a stick.
  • Offering obeisances without full focus/concentration is an obstacle. One should be fully focussed on emperumAn/bhAgavathas/AchAryan while offering obeisances.
  • Offering obeisances without remembering and reciting dhvaya mahA manthram. While offering obeisances to emperumAn one should recite dhvayam. It is also commonly observed in elders that they recite ALavandhAr's sthOthra rathna slOkam 22 "na dharma nishtOsmi..." (ந தர்ம நிஷ்டோஸ்மி..) - I have no karma yOgam, gyAna yOgam, bhakthi yOgam, etc; I have nothing to offer in my hands and I have no where else to go; I am surrendering unto your lotus feet. In this connection, we should understand one important aspect. After offering obeisances, we need not perform abhivAdhanam (that which reveals our gOthram, sUthram, name, etc) as abhivAdhanam can be restricted to vaidhIka karmAnushtAnams. In other interactions with srIvaishNavas, we should simply identify ourselves as "adiyEn rAmAnuja dhAsan" (அடியேன் ராமானுஜ தாஸன்), "adiyEn srIvaishNava dhAsan" (அடியேன் ஸ்ரீவைஷ்ணவ தாஸன்) - as recited by prathivAdhi bhayankaram aNNA sishyas, "adiyEn madhurakavi dhAsan" (அடியேன் மதுரகவி தாஸன்) - as recited by ananthAzhwAn sishyas, etc. This is to be clearly understood by srIvaishNavas. Translator's note: abhivAdhanam (identifying oneself in relation to gOthram, sUthram, vEdham, etc) relate to the body. When we are focussed on the AthmA (self) and when we meet Athma-bandhus (srIvaishNavas - who are related to us by being servitors of emperumAn), we should identify ourselves with reference to the AthmA. In AchArya hrudhayam, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr most beautifully explains this principle in chUrNikai 36 - "viprarkku gOthra charaNa sUthra kUtasththar parAsara pArAsarya bhOdhAyanAdhigaL; prapanna jana kUthasththar parAngusa parakAla yathivarAdhigaL" (விப்ரர்க்கு கோத்ர சரண ஸூத்ர கூடஸ்த்தர் பராசர பாராசர்ய போதாயநாதிகள்; ப்ரபந்ந ஜந கூதஸ்த்தர் பராங்குச பரகால யதிவராதிகள்) - For the brAhmaNas (who are simply thinking on the bodily platform), gOthram (lineage), charaNa (part of vEdham), sUthram (portion of vEdham which focusses on karmAnushtAnam) are the rishis (sages) such as parAsara, vyAsa, bhOdhAyana respectively. For prapannas (ones who have fully realised that they are servitors of empreumAn and thus surrendered to him), their identification is in relation to AzhwArs such as nammAzhwAr (parAngusa), thirumangai AzhwAr (parakAla), etc and AchAryas such as emperumAnAr, etc. Here, mAmunigaL highlights a very important point in the vyAkyAnam - prapannas identify themselves in relation to AzhwArs and AchAryas, since AzhwArs and AchAryas laid out the principles that are to be followed by prapannas, through their upadhEsams (instructions) and  anushtAnam (practical examples) clearly.
  • Merely offering obeisances since it is ordained in sAsthram and not doing it with love and devotion. 
  • Hesitating to offer obeisances to bhAgavathas like offering obeisances to emperumAn. Translator's note: Accepting bhagavAn's supremacy, one may easily offer obeisances to emperumAn with love too. But bhAgavathas also should be treated similarly and offered the same love and respect. bhagavAn himself highlights that his devotees must be treated with great respect and affection while explaining eight qualities expected out of his devotees. To qualify to be a devotee, one must first respect and care for devotees of bhagavAn.
  • When offering obeisances to AchAryan, it should be done in such a way that ones head is closely attached to the lotus feet of AchAryan. Not doing so is an obstacle. Translator's note: Though it is said like this, one should be careful about touching AchAryan - especially sannyAsis who have strict rules and regulations of not having physical contact with any one. So, one should follow the proper etiquette and avoid physically touching AchAryan in such cases.
  • One should not be satisfied with just offering obeisances once. Here it does not refer to asakruth praNAmam (repeated obeisances) - it is more to do with being instructed by AchAryan for subsequent praNAmam or any other specific reason or returning back after leaving emperumAn/AchAryan sannidhi. At these times, one should not think that "I have offered once at first and that should be sufficient for the day".
  • One should stay put on the ground while offering obeisances until the AchAryan says "Enough! please get up now". We can recollect an incident here: emperumAnAr was reforming the srIrangam temple administration when he entered srIrangam. At that time, some people did not like emperumAnAr's efforts and arranged to poison emperumAnAr's bikshA (as a sannyAsi, he would go around begging for alms - so they decided to poison that food). emperumAnAr becomes aware of the attempt to poison him and so he becomes fasting for a day or two. Hearing this, thirukkOshtiyUr nambi (one of emperumAnAr's AchAryas) rushes to srIrangam. emperumAnAr wanting to welcome his AchArya, goes to the banks of cauvery river in the middle of the day in scorching heat. After seeing nambi, emperumAnAr falls flat and offers obeisances to him. Since nambi does not instruct him to get up, he stays put on the hot ground. Seeing this, kidAmbi AchAn (one of emperumAnAr's dear sishyas), rushes to lift emperumAnAr up saying to nambi "What kind of etiquette between sishya and AchArya is this? Why are you letting some one like emperumAnAr suffer in this hot ground? Would any one let a tender flower scorched by fire/heat?". nambi becomes pleased with kidAmbi AchAn's attachment towards emperumAnAr and says "I am seeking out for a person like you only who have great attachment for emperumAnAr. From now onwards, let him have his bikshA (prasAdham) from you alone and need not go around for alms". From this, we can see emperumAnAr himself demonstrating the proper etiquette of offering obeisances.
  • Just offering obeisances and not touching AchAryan's lotus feet with the head. Similar to previously discussed aspect.
  • When we go to worship emperumAn, if we see AchAryan being present there, we should offer our obeisances to AchAryan first and then to emperumAn. If physically not possible we atleast need to mentally offer our obeisances to AchAryan before offering obeisances to emperumAn. Translator's note: We always go to emperumAn through our AchAryan. So, if he is present, one must first offer obeisances to AchAryan and then go to emperumAn. We have seen this in thirvArAdhanam also, we first worship our AchAryan, seek his permission and perform thiruvArAdhanam on his behalf. mAmunnigaL explains in his "jIyar padi thiruvArAdhana kramam" that we offer thiruvArAdhanam to emperumAnAr, AzhwArs, nithyasUris and finally to emperumAn in sequence.
  • Hesitating to offer obeisances to bhAgavathas in the sannidhi of bhagavAn is an obstacle. Though, this is not seen in practice nowadays. Usually, inside the temple, offering obeisances to any one other than emperumAn, thAyArs, AzhwArs and AchAryas is not observed these days.
  • Waiting for other srIvaishNava to offer obeisances first and then reciprocating that with our obeisances is an obstacle. srI rAma is glorified as "mrudhu pUrvancha bhAshathE" (ம்ருது பூர்வஞ்ச பாஷதே - pUrvA bhAshi) - one who enquires first with kind words when meeting others. Similarly, we should also offer obeisances before the other srIvaishNava offers us obeisances.
  • When a srIvaishNava offers obeisances, thinking that "He is worshipping ME" and reciprocating that is an obstacle. In this connection an incident is identified in thiruppAvai vyAkyAnam of azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr for 1st pAsuram. Once when emperumAnAr was walking along with his sishyas, periya nambi (mahA pUrNa - who is emperumAnAr's AchAryan) comes across and offers obeisances to emperumAnAr. Every one is shocked at that sight. Though, emperumAnAr knew the inner-heart of periya nambi, to clarify the confused minds of the others who were around, he asked nambi why he offered obeisances to his own sishya. nambi says that he offered obeisances considering that ALavandhAr was present there (seeing emperumAnAr himself as a representative of ALavandhAr - who is the AchArya of periya nambi). Thus emperumAnAr manifests pArathanthriyam (total dependence) on his AchAryan by properly understanding his heart and thinking that the obeisances does not belong himself. Translator's note: One should not think that the obeisances offered are for oneself but it is for bhagavAn who is antharyAmi (in-dwelling super-soul) and the bhAgavatha sambandham one has with ones own AchAryan and AzhwArs and AchAryas. That is the proper way of accepting obeisances and reciprocating it to others.
  • If srIvaishNavas want to offer obeisances due to their affection towards us, one should not disregard that and step aside. Translator's note: Similar to previous point. One should know how to honour srIvaishNavas and their genuine desires. If their desire was to offer obeisances to us which will put us in a higher position than them, we should graciously accept that position with great humility. 
  • One should perform full obeisances after completing thiruvArAdhanam. Not doing so is an obstacle. Translator's note: At the end of the thiruvArAdhanam, we recite "upachArapadhEsEna..." slOkam and offer full obeisances and ask for forgiveness for any mistakes committed during the thiruvArAdhanam. This aspect is highlighted here.
  • After completing iyal gOshti sEvAkAlam (reciting pAsurams together during puRappAdu/procession), srIvaishNavas offer obeisances to each other. Leaving without offering obeisances is an offense. Though here, there is specific mention of "iyal sARRu" (இயல் சாற்று) which is a specific collection of glorificatory verses, this can be taken as any iyal gOshti (chanting of pAsurams during processions). Translator's note: This is still seen in practice everywhere. After puRappAdu completion, assembled srIvaishNavas usually offer obeisances and then thiruvandhik kAppu (hArathi for protection from evil-eyes) is done.
  • While entering srIvaishNava gOshti during the beginning and leaving the gOshti at the end, one must offer obeisances and seek permission to leave. Not doing so is an obstacle.
  • If one lives near the AchAryan, one should visit AchAryan everyday, offer obeisances and accept srIpAdha thIrtham (charaNAmrutham). But, if one is not staying close to the AchAryan, one must offer obeisances towards the direction of AchAryan's residence everyday.
  • purOdAsa means remnants of yagyam (bhagavAn) - this should not be offered to dogs, etc. Similarly, once surrendered to emperumAn, one should not offer obeisances to his/her bodily-relatives (who are not srIvaishNavas) purely based on their elderly nature.
  • One should not offer obeisances just because some one is born in so-called higher birth (brAhmaNa, etc). Translator's note: In AchArya hrudhayam, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr beautifully and elaborately explains the differences between srIvaishNavas and mere varNa conscious brAhmaNas. brAhmaNyam is purely meant to approach bhagavAn - if a brAhmaNa does not understand that but is claiming to well-versed in vEdham, vEdhAntham, etc., it is simply waste of valuable knowledge.
  • When a srIvaishNava visits us, a suitably comfortable seat should be offered and then obeisances should be offered. Not doing so is an obstacle. Translator's note: When guests visit, we should offer water to wash their hands, feet and to rinse their mouth. We should make them feel comfortable after what could have been a difficult journey in visiting us.
  • Offering obeisances in the vicinity of dhEvathAntharam temples and in presence of pAshaNdis (avaishNava, mainly avaidhika - one who does not accept vEdham as pramANam/authority). This principle of not honouring avaishNavas has been previously explained in detail.
  • When entering thiruppathis (thiruppathi generally means dhivya dhEsam, it can also mean temple), one should offer obeisances at the entrance before entering. Not doing so is an obstacle.
  • Hesitating to offer obeisances to AchArya and the ones who are as good as AchAryan (srIvaishNavas) in public is an obstacle. Wherever we see them, we must offer obeisances immediately.
  • Offering full obeisances to one who is not well versed in adhyAthma vidhyai (most confidential knowledge on bhagavAn) even though he/she may be well versed in other (worldly) matters is an obstacle. As explained in "thath karma yanna bhandhAya sA vidhyA yA vimukthayE, AyAsAyAparam karma vidhyAnyA silpanaipuNam" (தத் கர்ம யந்ந பந்தாய ஸா வித்யா யா விமுக்தயே, ஆயாஸாயாபரம் கர்ம வித்யாந்யா சில்பநைபுணம் - that action which relieves one from bondage, that knowledge which relieves one from bondage is true knowledge; other action will just make one tired and other knowledge is just for craft work), teachers who teach wordly knowledge are not real object of our obeisances. Our pUrvAchAryas compare such knowledge to having knowledge about stitching chappals (as any other manual craft work) and such persons who recite vEdham without understanding the real purport as donkeys that carry saffron (without understanding the true value of saffron).
  • Offering obeisances to the ones who are not the teachers of manthra rathnam (dhvaya mahA manthram and its meanings) but teachers of other manthrams.  Here though dhvayam alone is highlighted, this could easily mean thirumanthram, dhvayam and charama slOkam as all these 3 are related. Here other manthrams generally mean avaishNava manthrams and such manthrams that are given to relieve one from snake-bite, etc.
  • One should not surrender (and offer obeisances) to materially minded people when faced with dire (difficult) situations. Translator's note: One must have full faith in bhagavAn that he will take care off oneself at all times. When that faith is there, there is no need to look out for other help.
  • One should not feel lazy and skip offering obeisances to emperumAn. Same thing applies to AchAryan and bhAgavathas.
  • In emperumAn's sannidhi/presence, offering obeisances to abhAgavathas and not offering obeisances to bhAgavathas are obstacles. We have discussed these points previously - offering obeisances to avaishNavas is always to be avoided.
We will continue with the next section in the next article.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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