virOdhi parihArangaL - 28

srImathE satakOpAya 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

Please see the previous article at

nammAzhwAr is glorified as krishNa thrushNA thathvam - embodiment of devotion towards emperumA

61. snEha virOdhi (ஸ்நேஹ விரோதி) - Obstacles in our attachment/friendship.

snEham means friendship, love, affection, attachment, etc. The matured state of snEha is bhakthi. Also, the snEham of inferior person towards a superior person is called bhakthi (Translator's note: For example, the affection of thiruvadi (hanumAn - jIvAthmA) affection towards perumAL (srI rAma - paramAthmA) is called bhakthi and affection of perumAL towards thiruvadi is called snEham). In this section, in each point, 2 aspects are discussed - first aspect is what is to be avoided and the next aspect is what is to be pursued. The essence here is, we see the first aspect happening most commonly, but the second aspect is seen rarely in this samsAram (material world). This is not appropriate for the nature of jIvAthmA. It is obvious that one should have less/no attachment in the first aspect and more attachment in the second aspect. These points are very easy to understand.

  • Having attachment to prAkrutha bandhus (materialistic relatives - relatives who are connected through our bodily birth) and not having attachment to Athma bandhus (ones who are related through bhagavAn, bhAgavathas and AchArya) are obstacles.
  • Having attachment with materialistic aspects and not having attachment with bhagavath vishayam are obstacles. One should develop attachment in bhagavath vishayam and give up attachment towards materialistic aspects. pEyAzhwAr explains this in mUnRAm thiruvanthAdhi 14th pAsuram "mARpAl manam suzhippa mangaiyar thOL kaivittu" (மாற்பால் மனம் சுழிப்ப மங்கையர் தோள் கைவிட்டு) - When we develop attachment towards srIman nArAyaNan, our attachment towards women (and other worldly pleasures) will automatically disappear.
  • Having attachment towards ones own bodily comforts and not having attachment towards the bodily comforts of the AchArya. In upadhEsa raththina mAlai pAsuram 66, mAmunigaL explains that "AchAryan sichchan Aruyiraip pENumavaan thEsArum sichchan avan sIrvadivai Asaiyudan nOkkumavan" (ஆசார்யன் சிச்சன் ஆருயிரைப் பேணுமவான் தேசாரும் சிச்சன் அவன் சீர்வடிவை ஆசையுடன் நோக்குமவன்) - AchArya means one who nurtures the sishya (AthmA and AthmA related aspects such gyAnam, bhakthi, etc) and sishya means one who nurtures the divine body of the AchArya. Translator's note: mAmunigaL brings out the essence of piLLai lOkAchAryar's srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram in his upadhEsa rathina mAlai pAsurams in a very simple and elegant manner. In srIvachana bhUshaNam, piLLai lOkAchAryar goes on to explain that AchArya and sishya changing roles is not appropriate. i.e., AchArya should only focus on sishya's Athma yAthrA (spiritual needs) and sishya should only focus on AchArya's dhEha yAthrA (bodily needs). And AchArya trying to take care of sishya's bodily needs and sishya trying to take care of AchArya's spiritual needs will only end up creating confusion - since it is unnatural for them to do so.
  • Having attachment to people who gives us materialistic comforts, etc., and not having attachment to AchArya who gives us the essence of thirumanthram are obstacles. materialistic comforts mean food, clothing, shelter, etc. thirumanthram means ashtAksharam and is glorified as periya thirumanthram due to it having all the essential knowledge within itself.
  • Having attachment in the place where one lives and not having attachment where ones AchArya lives are obstacles. One should have greater attachment towards the residence, town of AchArya more than ones own residence, town, etc. Translator's note: One can recollect mAmunigaL's upadhEsa raththina mAlai pAsuram 64 - "than Ariyanukkuth thAn adimai cheyvathu avan innAdu thannil irukkum nAL, annEr aRinthum athil AsaiyinRi AchAriyanaip pirinthiruppAr Ar? manamE pEsu" (தன் ஆரியனுக்குத் தான் அடிமை செய்வது அவன் இந்நாடு தன்னில் இருக்கும் நாள், அந்நேர் அறிந்தும் அதில் ஆசையின்றி ஆசாரியனைப் பிரிந்திருப்பார் ஆர்? மனமே பேசு) - One can serve his/her AchAryan fully when the AchAryan is in this material world (when such service will be of real help to him). Even after knowing this, who will live separately from his AchAryan? 
  • Having attachment in dhEha yAthrA (material life) and not having attachment in Athma yAthrA (spiritual life) are obstacles. Nurturing bodily needs is not appropriate for srIvaishNavas. The focus should be on spiritual aspects such as serving bhagavAn, bhAgavathas and AchArya.
  • Having attachment to children, wife, etc., who show animosity towards bhagavAn and bhAgavathas is an obstacle. With such children, wife, etc., one should only have as much relationship that is allowed in sAsthram (like providing basic food, shelter, clothing, etc) and one should not have any loving relationship with such children, wife, etc. Nothing wrong in having affectionate relationship with children, wife, etc., who are favourable towards bhagavath/bhAgavatha vishayam since they qualify to be bhAgavathas.
  • Not having attachment towards archAvathAra emperumAn and main temples/dhivya dhEsams such as kOyil (srIrangam), thirumalai (thirumalA - thiruppathi), etc., are obstacles. archAvathAram is glorified as "pinnAnAr vaNangum sOthi" (பின்னானார் வணங்கும் சோதி) - the radiant shining light for the ones who missed out on vibhava avathArams (like rAma, krishNa, etc) by thirumangai AzhwAr in thirunedunthANdagam. We should fully understand that archAvathAra emperumAn is our full refuge. Our AzhwArs and AchAryas had great attachment and devotion towards dhivya dhEsams and archAvathAra emperumAns who are present in such dhivya dhEsams. Even amongst such dhivya dhEsams, one should have greater attachment towards kOyil (srIrangam), thirumalai (thirumalA - thiruppathi), perumAL kOyil (kAnchIpuram) and thirunArAyaNapuram (mElkOte) due to the significant glories of such kshEthrams. Transalator's note: When certain dhivya dhEsams are glorified more than others like srIrangam for example, it does not mean that other dhivya dhEsams are lower. For example, srIrangam was the head quarters for our sampradhAyam and all AzhwArs and AchAryas were greatly attached to that dhivya dhEsam. It is due to such attachment of AzhwArs/AchAryas, srIrangam got greater prominence over other dhivya dEsams.
  • Having attachment towards others manthrams and not having attachment towards manthra rathnam are obstacles. manthra rathnam means dhvaya mahA manthram. We can consider this to be talking about rahasya thrayam (thirumanthram, dhvayam and charama slOkam). These are learnt from an AchArya. This rahasya thrayam clearly explain the nature of jIvAthmA and engage the jIvAthmA towards the path of salvation. Translator's note: In pUrva dhinacharyai, dhEvarAja guru (eRumbi appA) documents the divine activities of maNavALa mAmunigaL. In the 9th slOkam, he highlights as follows: manthra rathna anusandhAna santhatha spurithAdharam thadharththa thathva nidhyAna sannadhdha pulakOdhgamam (மந்த்ர ரத்ந அநுஸந்தாந ஸந்தத ஸ்புரிதாதரம் ததர்த்த தத்வ நித்யாந ஸந்நத்த புலகோத்கமம்) - mAmunigaL's lips are constantly reciting dhvaya mahA manthram (which is called the manthra rathanm - gem among manthrams). His body is manifesting divine reactions due to constant meditation of the meanings of dhvayam (which is nothing but thiruvAimozhi). nAyanAr identifies that thiruvAimozhi is nothing but full explanation of dhvaya mahA manthram. This is highlighted in AchArya hrudhayam chUrNikai 210. Thus, one should have full attachment towards manthra rathnam only. Nowadays, we see srIvaishNavas being influenced by other manthrams due to interactions with other sampradhAyams, etc. It is best to avoid such practices and simply follow the ideals of our pUrvAchAryas in such matters.
  • Having attachment towards the givers of other manthrams and not having attachment towards the giver of periya (big) thirumanthram. One who instructs periya thirumanthram (ashtAksharam) is called AchAryan. Here other manthrams could mean the manthrams which are used in upAsanA. Our AchAryas never recommended reciting/chanting manthrams for material benefits, engaging such manthrams in (counted/limited) chanting or in hOmams. So, one should have great attachment towards AchArya who instructed periya thirumanthram. Translator's note: In thiruvAimozhi, nammAzhwAr first identifies srIman nArAyaNa's name in 1.2.10 pAsuram "eN perukkannalaththu oN poruLIRila vaN pugazh nAraNan thiN kazhal sErE" (எண் பெருக்கந்நலத்து ஒண் பொருளீறில வண் புகழ் நாரணன் திண் கழல் சேரே) - You must surrender unto srIman nArAyaNan's lotus feet - srIman nArAyaNan is the antharyAmi for every thing, one who is filled with most auspicious qualities and is the one who never fails to protect his devotees. In the eedu mahA vyAkyAnam avathArikai (introduction), nampiLLai explains that this pAsuram focusses on thirumanthram (ashtAksharam) which is the handle for bhajanam (devotion) to approach bhagavAn. He also explains that while our pUrvAchAryas focus on the divine meanings of this manthram, be uplifted and instruct the same to their sishyas, but others use this manthram in japam, yAgam, hOmam, etc., and seek out to fulfill their desires. This establishes that we have no engagement in such japams, hOmams, etc., even if they were done using thirumanthram (or any manthram). Also, in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram 315th sUthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains that the one who instructed periya thirumanthram (which is part of rahasya thrayam) is the direct AchArya.

62. bhakthi virOdhi (பக்தி விரோதி) - Obstacles in our devotion.
bhakthi means affection towards a superior person/aspect. The devotion of an Asthika (believer of sAsthram) towards bhagavAn is called bhakthi. This is also explained as kAdhal (love in thamizh). In sAsthram, bhakthi is explained as an upAyam (means) to achieve mOksham - this is called sAdhana bhakthi. After understanding the true nature of bhagavAn, constantly meditating on him with love is called bhakthi yOgam which is explained as a mOksha sAdhanam (means to achieve mOksham). Only qualified persons can engage in bhakthi yOgam. (Translator's note: sAdhana bhakthi can be performed only by thri-varNikas (the three varNas - brAhmaNa, kshathriya and vaisya) since it has karma yOga and gyAna yOga as anga (parts/ancillary aspects) which can only be performed by them).

The bhakthi of AzhwArs (who are top-most devotees) is blessed by bhagavAn himself. nammAzhwAr says right at the beginning of thiruvAimozhi 1.1.1 "mayarvaRa mathinalam aruLinan" (மயர்வற மதிநலம் அருளினன் - bhagavAn blessed me with blemishless knowledge/devotion) - this is the result of bhagavAn's unconditional grace. emperumAnAr prayed to bhagavAn for the same kind of devotion in his srI bhAshyam mangaLa slOkam "bhavathu ma parasmin sEmushI bhakthi rUpA" (பவது ம பரஸ்மிந் சேமுஷீ பக்தி ரூபா). Since, emperumAn blesses such bhakthi to his devotees, such bhakthi becomes part of the prApyam (ultimate goal - kainkaryam). So this is called sAdhya bhakthi (bhakthi which is blessed by bhagavAn himself based on the prayers of the adhikAri/individual) and such sAdhya bhakthi is different from sAdhana bhakthi. Translator's note: In AchArya hrudhayam, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr beautifully establishes the different types of bhakthi and the nature of nammAzhwAr's (and other AzhwArs) bhakthi in chUrNikais 95 to 102 and subsequent ones. mAmunigaL blesses us with his expert commentary with the help of which we can understand these divine principles. There are 3 types of bhakthi which are identified - sAdhana bhakthi, sAdhya bhakthi and sahaja bhakthi.
  • sAdhana bhakthi is the bhakthi which is developed by ones own efforts and this is performed as upAyam (means) to achieve emperumAn - this is the bhakthi yOgam that is explained in sAsthram. 
  • sAdhya bhakthi is that pure devotion which is desired by great AchAryas such as ALavandhAr, emperumAnAr, etc. These AchAryas were already fully surrendered to bhagavAn and accepted bhagavAn alone as upAyam (means). Such sAdhya bhakthi is considered like hunger for food - only when one is hungry they can eat to their full satisfaction, similarly, only when there is pure devotion, the kainkaryam (service) they perform will give full satisfaction. So, this sAdhya bhakthi becomes part of their kainkaryam.
  • sahaja bhakthi is that pure devotion which was born along with the adhikAri. For example, nammAzhwAr was born with divine and pure devotion towards bhagavAn and such devotion was blessed by bhagavAn himself. sahaja means "that which was born along with oneself". This sahaja  bhakthi (which is voluntarily blessed by emperumAn due to his causeless grace) is totally different from sAdhana bhakthi (which is achieved by ones own effort) and sAdhya bhakthi (which is achieved by the mercy of bhagavAn based on ones prayers and is used as part of kainkaryam). This is why AzhwArs have a special place - they were directly blessed by bhagavAn himself to have such great bhakthi towards him out of his own causeless mercy.
With this introduction, let us go into the different aspects that are discussed in this section.

  • Considering bhakthi as sAdhanam (means) to achieve emperumAn is an obstacle. When we consider bhakthi as mOksha sAdhanam, there is self effort. But self-effort to achieve anything is directly contradictory to ones sEshathvam (servitorship) and pArathanthriyam (total dependence). Thus considering bhakthi as sAdhanam is an obstacle. Translator's note: It is established that "bhagavAn" is the only upAyam. Our charama slOkam also explains the same principle "mAm Ekam" (me only) in charama slOkam puts huge emphasise on accepting bhagavAn only as the upAyam. So, considering bhakthi as upAyam is defective. piLLai lOkAchAryar explains this principle in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram 115th sUthram in most comprehensive manner. He says "prApakAnthara parithyAgaththukku agyAna asakthikaLanRu, svarUpa virOdhamE pradhAna hEthu" (ப்ராபகாந்தர பரித்யாகத்துக்கு அஜ்ஞான அசக்திகளன்று, ஸ்வரூப விரோதமே ப்ரதாந ஹேது) - The main reason to give up other means such as karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams is because they are directly contradictory to the true nature of the soul (which is totally dependant on bhagavAn) and not lack of knowledge/ability. Some say that, those who are capable can do bhakthi yOgam but those who are incapable can surrender to bhagavAn. Such philosophies are completely rejected by our pUrvAchAryas. Whether capable or incapable, it is the nature of the jIvAthmA to surrender to bhagavAn to be protected and uplifted.
  • Not knowing that smaraNam (remembrance), sankIrthanam (congregational singing), etc., are all part of sAdhyam (result - kainkaryam) is an obstacle. In the beginning of bhakthi, there is adhvEsham (non rejection) from the part of jIvAthmA when emperumAn comes to help. When emperumAn says "thvammE" (you are mine), we should not say "ahammE" (I am mine). We need to consider that even such thoughts of not rejecting emperumAn is facilitated by emperumAn only.
  • Our bhakthi mixing with materialistic desires and not being situated in pure devotion are obstacles. One should not allow other materialistic desires to manifest in their heart. Similarly, one should constantly strive for pure devotion.
  • Considering prapathi and sAdhya bhakthi as the same is an obstacle. Translator's note: prapathi is the act of surrendering to bhagavAn and accepting bhagavAn as the upAyam. As seen before, sAdhya bhakthi is that which is prayed from emperumAn so our devotion becomes pure - both are different. prapathi is related to the svarUpam (that we are to be surrendered to bhagavAn naturally) and sAdhya bhakthi is related to how we perform our kainkaryam with great love.
  • Not knowing that, for a prapanna, if he prays for sAdhya bhakthi, his prapathi may become ineffective is an obstacle. This point is not very clear - I (Dr VV Ramanujam swamy) have heard from elders that when sAdhya bhakthi is performed it will naturally end in prapathi only.
  • Not knowing that, when prapannas pray for sAdhya bhakthi, such bhakthi will become part of their kainkaryam is an obstacle. As prapannas pray with great desire for such pure devotion, it is like hunger for food, that will facilitate the kainkaryam in a nicer way. Translator's note: In mumukshuppadi, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains in sUthram 271 that for a prapanna, their karmAs will become part of kainkaryam, gyAna will become part of the expansion of ones knowledge, bhakthi will become part of the taste/attachment towards kainkaryam, prapathi itself will become part of the true nature of the jIvAthmA.
  • Not knowing that the bhakthi of AzhwAs which was blessed by emperumAn himself (out of his causeless mercy) is that which sustains AzhwArs is an obstacle. Translator's note: Just like common people sustain themselves by food, water, etc., AzhwArs who are divinely blessed by bhagavAn sustain themselves by the devotion towards emperumAn. nammAzhwAr declared "uNNum sORu parugu nIr thinnum veRRilai ellAm kaNNan emperumAn" (உண்ணும் சோறு பருகும் நீர் தின்னும் வெற்றிலை எல்லாம் கண்ணன் எம்பெருமான்) - Rice (food), water, betel leaves, etc., are kaNNan emperumAn only in thiruvAimozhi 6.7.1.
  • Considering that bhagavAn becomes fulfilled and happy when we present all necessary materials to him without considering that it was his grace which gave us everything is an obstacle. Translator's note: In bhagavath gIthA 9.26, bhagavAn says "pathram pushpam palam thOyam yOmE bhakthyA prayachchathi thadhaham bhakthi upahrutham asnAmi prayathAthmana:" (பத்ரம் புஷ்பம் பலம் தோயம் யோமே பக்த்யா ப்ரயச்சதி ததஹம் பக்தி உபஹ்ருதம் அச்நாமி ப்ரயதாத்மந:) - A leaf, flower, fruit or water - when offered with devotion, I will accept it joyfully. So, it is to be understood that our bhakthi is the most important component - not the rich foods/materials that we present. bhagavAn already owns everything - nothing can be offered newly to him. It is only our bhakthi which he is looking for and that only will please him more than anything else.
  • Not knowing that the appearance of bhakthi towards bhagavAn in our hearts, the development of such bhakthi and  parama bhakthi (pure devotion - the stage at which one cannot sustain oneself in separation) are all the result of bhagavAn's mercy is an obstacle. emperumAnAr prayed for such parama bhakthi from srIranganAthan in gadhyam - "parabhakthi paragyAna paramabhakthi yuktham mAm kurushva" (பரபக்தி பரஜ்ஞாந பரமபக்தி யுக்தம் மாம் குருஷ்வ). Translator's note: In AchArya hrudhayam, azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr explains in chUrNikai 104 that bhagavAn is called  bhakthi uzhavan (bhakthi farmer) - just like a rice farmer farms the land, plants the seeds, waters the plants, adds fertilizers, remove weeds, harvest the plants and finally bring home the rice, bhagavAn also constantly reforms the jIvAthmA, plants the seeds of devotion, provides many opportunities for the jIvAthmA to engage in spiritual activities, helps removing the obstacles, once the devotion matures in the jIvAthmA finally blesses the jIvAthmA with mOksham and engages the jIvAthmA in eternal kainkaryam.
  • Not knowing that giving up all other upAyams will not cause any damage to ones true nature since that is done based on total faith on bhagavAn and accepting him as the upAyam is an obstacle. Since bhagavAn himself says in bhagavath gIthA "sarva dharmAn parithyajya" (give up all dharmas), there is nothing wrong in giving up karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams as upAyam since we anyway are following the orders of emperumAn in totally accepting him as the refuge.
  • Not knowing that performing mangaLAsAsanam (good wishes)  out of pure devotion is appropriate for the nature of the jIvAthmA is an obstacle. Saying "Let everything be auspicious to you" to bhagavAn may seemingly look like inappropriate (since he is already superior and all auspicious). But one who is fully devoted to emperumAn will look at emperumAn's beauty, tender nature, etc., and will start wonder if something inauspicious can happen to such emperumAn and that will lead to performing of mangaLAsAsanam. mAmunigaL says in upadhEsa rathina mAlai "pongum parivAlE villipuththUr pattarpirAn peRRAn periyAzhwAr ennum peyar" (பொங்கும் பரிவாலே வில்லிபுத்தூர் பட்டர்பிரான் பெற்றான் பெரியாழ்வார் என்னும் பெயர்) - Due to overwhelming/overflowing devotion of pattarpirAn towards bhagavAn he got the name periyAzhwAr (big AzhwAr). Though he himself established the supremacy of srIman nArAyaNan in the madhurai king's court, when he came out and saw emperumAn arriving in his garuda vAhanam to bless him, he started singing "pallANdu pallANdu .. un sEvadi sevvi thirukkAppu" (பல்லாண்டு பல்லாண்டு .. உன் சேவடி செவ்வி திருக்காப்பு - Long live, Long live .. Let your beautiful lotus feet be protected) out of great affection. This is not contradictory to ones nature - in fact this is perfectly fitting for the true nature of the jIvAthmA. This is explained in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram. It can be studied under an AchArya properly.

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

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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