srImathE rAmAnujAya 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 http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/p/virodhi-pariharangal.html.
Please see the previous article at http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/2014/05/virodhi-pariharangal-22.html.
55. bhOjya virOdhi (போஜ்ய விரோதி) - Obstacles in food/eating
bhOjyam means that which is consumed. In this section, the places where we can consume food and cannot consume food are discussed in detail. Translator's note: When it comes to accepting food or eating, there are so many restrictions. Previously, many vaidhikas (followers of vEdham) used to follow "parAnna niyamam" - i.e., not accepting from any one else (only self cooking) and ofcourse accepting prasAdham from sannidhis (temples, mutts). Nowadays, there is tangential change - most people do not know cooking and depend on outside food (that too not prasAdham) only. Generally, sAthvika food items can be offered to emperumAn and consumed by srIvaishNavas. The food we eat must be well analysed before consuming - it must be cooked by srIvaishNavas, bhagavath prasAdham and fit to be consumed for the individual at that particular time. For example, wonderful meal may be cooked by srIvaishNava and offered to emperumAn too - but on an EkAdhasi such elaborate food items cannot be consumed. When it comes to food items, 3 types of limitations arise in consuming them - jAthi dhushtam (food items that are unfit to be considered by nature - onion, garlic, etc), Asraya dhushtam (sAthvika food items that have come in contact with avaishNavas) and nimiththa dhushtam (food items that are spoilt, etc). In any of these cases, such food items cannot be considered by us. Also, in bhagavath gIthA 17.8 to 17.10, kaNNan emperumAn explains in detail, what types of food to be avoided such as the food that is kept for more than a few hours, the food that has lost its natural flavour, the food which has become stale, etc. It is best to learn from elders on the various matters related to food and consume only what is appropriate for each individual. Please view detailed discussion on AhAra niyamam at http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/2012/07/srivaishnava-aahaara-niyamam_28.html and a Q & A (Question and Answer) related to that at http://ponnadi.blogspot.in/2012/08/srivaishnava-ahara-niyamam-q-a.html.
- Eating food at the homes of samsAris (materially focussed persons) is an obstacle. We have already discussed who are samsAris - those who are devoid of Athma gyAnam (knowledge about the soul) and bhagavath gyAnam (knowledge about god).
- Eating food at relatives home purely based on bodily relationship is an obstacle. Even amongst srIvaishNavas, one should have atleast some srIvaishNava lakshaNam, conduct (activity, AchAram-following basic rules/regulations) should be there.
- Eating bhagavath prasAdham which was specially prepared by people who are looking for cheap favours/benefits from emperumAn is an obstacle. Some people make a vow to offer special food when their material desires (such as passing exams, getting married, etc) are fulfilled. Once their desires are fulfilled, they may request special bhOgam to be prepared and offered to emperumAn. Even being bhagavath prasAdham, since the intent was for fulfilling their cheap desires, such prasAdham should be avoided.
- Eating bhagavath prasAdham without fully understanding the glories of the dhivya dhEsam where it is coming and the particular prasAdham itself from is an obstacle. dhivya dhEsams are greatly glorified due to AzhwArs' singing them. Such glories should be understood well.
- Eating food at persons who are only devoted to bhagavAn is an obstacle. Such people would not know the glories of AchAryas, bhAgavathas, etc., and thus food should not be consumed at their homes.
- Eating food that are self-cooked at srIvaishNava homes - this point is not clear. It may be understood that when food is cooked simply to satisfy oneself without offering it first to emperumAn is spoken about here. bhagavAn himself says in bhagavath gIthA 3.13 "thEthvakam bhunjathE pApA yE pachanthy Athma kAraNAth" - such persons who prepare food for self-satisfaction simply eats handful of sins.
- Eating food at homes where the host is so focussed on how much was spent for the day's thadhIyArAdhanam is an obstacle.
- Eating food that was given to increase ones own fame, glories, etc., is an obstacle. Translator's note: Some people give out food just to show that they are great in charity, etc. Better to avoid such places.
- Eating food at wedding functions/festivals is an obstacle. Translator's note: Unless it is done as proper thadhIyArAdhanam at a mutt/thirumALigai with proper thiruvArAdhanam, etc., eating at wedding functions is to be strictly avoided. Especially, nowadays, there is so much dilution in the principles of preparing food, avaishNava persons that are invariably involved in preparing food, etc., indicate that it is best to avoid eating in such places.
- Eating food at death ceremonies is an obstacle. Similar to previous point.
- Buying food for money and eating that is an obstacle. Food that is sold in hotels and temples too should be avoided. Translator's note: If some one is performing thadhIyArAdhanam, after accepting prasAdham, one may contribute some monetary donations to help the person conducting thadhIyArAdhanam. But simply buying food that is meant for sale is totally unhealthy for the AthmA since the person selling it is purely interested in making money and by consuming such food we will also be affected with such attitude.
- Eating food remnants (food that is contaminated by others by contact with their mouth) is an obstacle. Translator's note: Here it is to be understood that remnants of common persons should be avoided. In bhagavath gIthA, bhagavAn explains this principle too. He says one should not eat uchchishtam (remnants). In the commentary, emperumAnAr explains that here remnants of AchArya, etc., are fit to be consumed. vEdhAnthAchAryar further explains in his commentary, that it the remnants of father, elder brother, husband (for wife), etc., are fit to be consumed. As seen in thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr pAsuram thirumAlai 41 (discussed in previous article), we can understand that qualified srIvaishNavas' remnants are also fit to be consumed.
- Eating food that is given with favours in return is an obstacle. piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights in srIvachana bhUshaNam sUthrams 286 and 287 that one can fulfill their true nature of being servant of god when one performs kainkaryam like srI vidhura , srI mAlAkAra (flower/garland vendor) and kUni (thrivakrA/hunched back lady). Translator's note: mAmunigaL's explanation for these sUthrams is most beautiful. He generally explains that whenever some one does kainkaryam they will expect something in return. In all these cases, they performed kainkaryam without any expectation. srI vidhura offered banana-peels to kaNNan emperumAn with great love which was accepted by emperumAn with greater love. srI mAlAkAra offered flowers to kaNNan emperumAn immediately when asked without any hesitation - those flowers earn the livelihood for him, yet he did not hesitate to give them to emperumAn. kUni who gave pure sandalwood paste to kaNNan emperumAn. mAmunigaL also highlights that these three personalities and these incidents are greatly glorified by scholars of great wisdom - so these are the examples to follow for us.
- Eating food that was dedicated for certain purposes is an obstacle. It is seen that in some vaidhIka karmAs, certain food is dedicated for certain dhEvathas through certain manthrams. Example is srArdha nimantharaNam. Consuming such food is an obstacle.
- Eating food that was given by some one who is too proud that he is the giver is an obstacle. Translator's note: previously discussed.
Before proceeding further with the next set of points, let me (srI u.vE. VV rAmAnujam swamy) explain whatever I have observed from elders in relation to AhAra niyamam (food restrictions), whatever I have heard from elders and whatever I have learnt from reading various literature on this topic. In the current times, there are very few who know these principles and the ones who follow such principles are even fewer. Food items (and raw materials) are classified based on its qualities in to sAthvikam (goodness), rAjasam (passion) and thAmasam (ignorance). And, rAjasa and thAmasa food items are forbidden from being consumed by srIvaishNavas. Detailed discussions are in bhagavath gIthA 17th chapter (highlighted at the top). Nowadays, people only care for external hygiene and cleanliness. There is total lack of knowledge about the internal hygiene and cleanliness of the food items. Raw materials should be grown by good-hearted persons who are known to us - they must have been farmed and given by people with good intentions. The ones who cook should have both basic AchAram and anushtAnam -
following rule of conduct and on top of that they should also have svarUpa gyAnam (that they are jIvAthmA who is a servant of bhagavAn). They should also be familiar with srIvaishNava sampradhAya granthams. Let me explain an incident from yathIndhra pravaNa prabhAvam written by piLLai lOkam jIyar. nampiLLai who is a great AchArya had two wives. He once asks a question to his wives separately. First he asks his first wife "What do you think about me?". The first wife responds "I think of you similar to namperumAL himself and as my AchArya". He becomes very pleased and engages her in preparing food for his thiruvArAdhanam and himself. He then asks his second wife the same question and she says "I think of you as my husband". He asks her to assist his first wife in cooking. When the first wife is unable to cook during her menstrual periods, he allows his second wife to cook but he gets his dear sishyas who are great srIvaishNavas to touch the prasAdham first and then he eats that. Thus he shows by practice that one should develop the real attitude in srIvaishNavam so that one becomes fit to serve bhagavAn and bhAgavathAs in cooking kainkaryam. (Translator's note: This nampiLLai incident is re-written in English to match the actual incident since VV Ramanujam swamy had given only a brief note about the incident). During emperumAnAr's times, in his mutt, every one of his sishyas were very great and capable of being an AchArya. Many common laymen, materialistic people, bodily oriented/focussed persons were removed from their services. This is not based on their birth. This is purely based on their mental maturity in bhagavath vishayam. The food we eat should be bhagavath prasAdham. In any situation, we should not eat anything that is not bhagavath prasAdham. We can see that both bhOjana virOdhi (54) and bhOjya virOdhi (55) are focussed on pure heart and sAthvika attitude.
- Eating food that is touched by unqualified persons (avaishNavas mainly) is an obstacle.
- Eating food that is kept in the vessels that are owned/used by unqualified persons is an obstacle.
- Eating food that was cooked by persons (even srIvaishNavas) who are remembering/contemplating on matters other than bhagavath vishayam while cooking. Matters other than bhagavath vishayam include dhEvathAnthara bhajanam, gossips, etc.
- Eating food that was not cooked by persons who are remembering/contemplating on dhivya prabhandham, etc. Translator's note: These two points are related only. Traditionally, when cooking, srIvaishNavas (men and women) would start reciting thiruppallANdu, thiruppAvai, etc., and also recollect the divine leelAs of emperumAn during such time. By discussing/relating to such matters, food that is prepared will naturally become very delicious for the pleasure of emperumAn. We can recollect an incident that happened in thirumalA during the times of mAmunigaL. prathivAdhi bhayankaram aNNA was serving thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn (srInivAsan) by bring water for thirumanjanam, etc. He use to bring water and add fragrance/flavours (cardomom, etc) to the water and offer the same to the archakas of emperumAn. One day, a srIvaishNava from srIrangam visits thirumalA and he starts discussing with aNNA about mAmunigaL's glories and his life in srIrangam amidst many great srIvaishNavas who are all disciples of mAmunigaL. In the process, aNNA forgets to add fragrances in the water that was fetched and offers the water as it is to the archakas. After some time, aNNA realizes that he forgot to add fragrances. He rushes back to archakas and informs them about his miss. archakas, who already started using the water in kainkaryam, replies to aNNA that the water was more fragrant than any other day. Hearing this aNNA becomes greatly amazed and confirms to himself that it was because of his divine discussions with the visiting srIvaishNava from srIrangam about mAmunigaL, the water automatically acquired fragrance. Subsequently, he goes to srIrangam and becomes a dear disciple of mAmunigaL.
- Eating food that was cooked for self satisfaction instead of feeding bhagavAn and bhAgavathas is an obstacle. Already discussed this in previous section.
- Eating food that was kept in vessels which dont carry bhagavAn's Urdhva puNdram symbol is an obstacle. The vessels that are used in cooking, serving, etc., should be embossed with thirumaN (thilak - the symbol of bhagavAn).
- Eating food that was not offered to emperumAn first is an obstacle. This has been already explained in detail.
- Eating food that was offered by materialistic people and food that was offered in public view are obstacles. Whenever food is offered to emperumAn, the place should be covered with screens or the door should be closed. Translator's note: Food should always be kept covered (both before and after offering). They should only be uncovered/opened at the time of serving prasAdham.
- Eating food that was only offered to bhagavAn and not offered to nithyasUris like Adhi sEshan, viswaksEnar, etc., and AzhwArs and AchAryas is an obstacle. When we offer bhOgam to emperumAn, we do it in the following manner. First we say "sarva mangaLa vigrahAya samastha parivArAya srImathE nArAyaNAya nama:" (Let srIman nArAyaNa who have arrived here with his many beautiful forms and associates accept my kainkaryam). "adiyEn mEvi amarginRa amudhE! amudhu seytharuLa vENdum" (அடியேன் மேவி அமர்கின்ற அமுதே! அமுது செய்தருள வேண்டும் - I am offering this food with great devotion! kindly accept it). Thus we offer it to emperumAn first. Then, we offer it to srI dhEvi, bhUmi dhEvi and nILA dhEvi, etc (other nAchiyArs) by saying "srI bhUmi nILAdhibhyO nama:" . Then we offer it to pAnchajanyAzhwAr (conch), sudharsanAzhwAr (disc), ananthan, garudan, viswaksEnar, etc. Then we offer it to AzhwArs and AchAryas saying "parAngusa parakAla yathirvarAdhibhyO nama:" (Let nammAzhwAr, thirumangai AzhwAr, emperumAnAr and other AchAryas accept the prasAdham of emperumAn). Finally, we offer it to our own AchArya saying "asmath gurubhyO nama:". Thus we offer the bhOgam to emperumAn, thAyArs, nithyasUris, AzhwArs and AchAryas before ourselves consuming the same.
- Eating food that are deficient by birth/nature is an obstacle. Translator's note: onion, garlic, radish, drum stick, etc., are identified as vegetables which are by nature unfit to be consumed. We should consciously try to avoid such items.
- Eating food that came into contact with insects, hairs, bacteria/fungus, worms, etc., is an obstacle.
- Eating food sitting amongst abhAgavathas (avaishNavas) is an obstacle. Translator's note: When we eat, we should always look around who else is present, if we can eat in front of the persons who are present, etc.
- Eating food with discussions on useless matters is an obstacle. Before eating, we should do parisEshanam (offering the food to antharyAmi emperumAn first) and recite thanians, slOkams, etc. Just eating with gossips and material discussions are to be totally avoided.
- Eating food without constant remembrance of dhvaya mahA manthram is an obstacle.
- Eating food with an attitude to enjoy the same is an obstacle. We should not focus on the material enjoyment (taste, delicacy, etc). Instead we should focus on the purity of prasAdham. Even if elders were to relish the taste they would say "emperumAn has really enjoyed this prasAdham and given his remnants to us" instead of independently glorifying the taste alone.
- bhagavath prasAdham should be greatly revered and not doing so is an obstacle.
- prasAdham should be eaten as the completion part of bhagathArAdhAnam (deity worship) - not doing so is an obstacle. Translator's note: As part of our thiruvArAdhanam, we offer bhOgam to emperumAn, AzhwArs and AchAryas. Now that bhOgam has become prasAdham. We have to accept that prasAdham and complete the thiruvArAdhanam process. thiruvArAdhanam is called yAgam and thadhIyArAdhanam/eating is called anuyAgam. We should develop such attitude that our eating the prasAdham is also part of kainkaryam to emperumAn (so that we can have energy to do more kainkaryam to emperumAn) and not for personal enjoyment. This principle is explained in detail in prapanna dhinacharyA section (sUthram 243) of srIvachana bhUshaNam. piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights that we should accept prasAdham for dhEha dhAraNam (sustaining our body) and to complete the thiruvArAdhanam process.
- Eating food without offering the same to bhAgavathas (AchAryas, srIvaishNavas) is an obstacle.
- Eating food without offering the same to one own sadhAchAryan (true AchAryan) is an obstacle.
- Eating food with just offering it to the different prANa vAyus (vital airs) is an obstacle. As part of our parisEshaNam we offer the food through different airs prANa, apAna, vyAna, udhAna, and samAna. Just saying those manthrams and that offering is not sufficient. As discussed before, we should be reciting AchAryan thaniyans, etc.
- Eating food that was not purified/sanctified by great srIvaishNavas is an obstacle. Through the vision and touch of srIvaishNavas, prasAdham becomes purified.
- Hesitating to participate in thadhIyArAdhanam even after seeing the participation of great srIvaishNavas who can purify the group. In the vyAkyAnam for eRumbi appA's varavaramuni dhinacharyA, thirumazhisai aNNAvappangAr highlights that mAmunigaL is one such divine personality whose presence will bring in all auspiciousness in a srIvaishNava thadhIyArAdhana gOshti (group of srIvaishNavas eating together). This is why varavaramuni dhinacharyA is recited before consuming prasAdham.
- Eating limited/constrained amount/type of food at ones own home.
- Eating limited/constrained amount/type of food at srIvaishNavas' (who are as good as ones own AchArya) thirumALigai. Translator's note: thaithriya upanishadh says "annam bahu kurvIyAth" (prepare large amounts of food and share it). We too can prepare food (that are allowed) in large quantities, distribute them to srIvaishNavas and eat them as much as necessary so that kainkaryams can happen without difficulty.