virOdhi parihArangaL - 35

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


emperumAnAr who is glorified as the crown-jewel of AchAryas

69. Aptha virOdhi (ஆப்த விரோதி ) - Obstacles in understanding of trustworthy principles.

Aptha means trustworthy person/aspect or well-wisher. One who seeks out for the well-being of others without looking for favours for oneself is generally called Aptha - best amongst friends. nammAzhwAr hails thirumOgUr perumAL as thirumOgUr Aththan in thiruvAimozhi 10.1.6. Aththan is the thamizh equivalent word for Apthan. Translator's note: In this section, there is discussion about those aspects which are for the well-being of the prapanna - this includes understanding ones nature properly, understanding the importance of bhagavAn, bhAgavathas and AchArya, etc. 

  • Ignoring ones who are attached to bhagavAn and bhAgavathas is an obstacle. Any one who is attached to bhagavAn and bhAgavathas - we should consider them as our well-wishers and treat them nicely. Translator's notes: krishNa himself explains in gIthA 7.19 "bahunAm janmanAm anthE gyAnavAn mAm prapadhyathE | vAsudhEva sarvam ithi sa mahAthmA su dhurlaba: ||" (பஹுநாம் ஜந்மநாம் அந்தே ஜ்ஞாநவாந் மாம் ப்ரபத்யதே | வாஸுதேவ ஸர்வம் இதி ஸ மஹாத்மா ஸு துர்லப: ||) - After several births, one who acquires real knowledge surrenders to me. Such person who understood vAsudhEva as every thing (means, goal, etc) is a great person and is rare to find. Similarly, bhagavAn himself explains the eight special qualities of a vaishNava. Among those, the first quality of a vaishNava is "madh bhaktha jana vAthsalya" - Having attachment towards his devotees. That too, the term "vAthsalya" is used by emperumAn here. vAthsalya means motherly affection/forbearance - just like a mother will love her child irrespective of the defects in the child, a vaishNava should care for other vaishNavas without looking at their faults/defects. Thus from these 2 pramANams, we can understand the importance of treating vaishNavs who are attached to bhagavAn and bhAgavathas nicely. It is also understood that ignoring vaishNavas is equally bad as it shows disrespect towards them.
  • Pampering/Showing attachment to ones who are not attached to bhagavAn/bhAgavathas is an obstacle. This is related to the previous point. We should not show attachment towards ones who are materialistic in their outlook and actions. Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains the dhinacharyA of a srIvaishNava. Among several things he identifies "ahankAra arththa kAmangaL mUnRum anukUlar pakkalilE anAdharaththaiyum, prathikUlar pakkalilE prAvaNyaththaiyum, upEkshikkumavargaL pakkalilE apEkshaiyum piRappikkum" (அஹங்கார அர்த்த காமங்கள் மூன்றும் அநுகூலர் பக்கலிலே அநாதரத்தையும், ப்ரதிகூலர் பக்கலிலே ப்ராவண்யத்தையும், உபேக்ஷிக்குமவர்கள் பக்கலிலே அபேக்ஷையும் பிறப்பிக்கும்). mAmunigaL gives beautiful a explanation for this section. Three important points are discussed here. Let us see them one by one. 1. srIvaishNavs are anukUlars (favourable ones) - they are our masters. When we see them, we should have great reverence towards them and stand up immediately with great respect. But, ahankAram (considering oneself as independent) will lead to ignoring them. Since ahankAram (pride) will lead one to consider oneself as great and stop him/her from respecting others. 2. Materialistic persons are prathikUlars (unfavourable ones). arththam means material wealth. When we start desiring for wealth, we will be ready to go and praise anyone to acquire such wealth. Thus this desire for material wealth, fame, etc., will lead to respecting and showing attachment towards unfavourable persons. 3. Lusty women (opposite sex generally) are upEkshikkumavar (one who dont care for our desires). apEkshai means desire. When lust rises in oneself, even though the woman does not care for him or even insult him in public, one will be shameless to go behind her giving up all his dignity to get her. Thus, one should be aware of these 3 pitfalls and avoid them carefully.
  • Having svakIya svIkAra nishtai (faith in self-effort) is an obstacle. When we pursue something, pursuing it with the thought that "This is mine, I am pursuing it with my own effort" is to be avoided. Since everything is owned by bhagavAn, one should consider everything is bhagavath prasAdham (bhagavAn's mercy), AchArya prasAdham (AchArya's mercy). Translator's note: In prapaththi (surrender), two types are explained - svagatha svIkAram and paragatha svIkAram. svagatha svIkAram is the surrender that is done with emphasis on self effort. paragatha svIkAram is the surrender that is done with bhagavAn's krupA (mercy). Of these two, our pUrvAchAryas have emphasised on accepting the path of paragatha svIkAram which is simply acknowledging that bhagavAn is the ultimate protector and he is uplifting us with his krupA. It is fitting for the jIvAthmA to surrender to bhagavAn since that is the natural position of jIvAthmA to be surrendered to bhagavAn.
  • Indulging in svaprayOjana pravruththi (efforts that are done to satisfy the desires of self) is an obstacle. One should not focus on self-satisfcation and one should always seek out for others upliftment and well-being. Translator's note: As said in "vichithrA dhEha sampaththir IsvarAya nivEdhithum, pUrvamEva kruthA brahman hasthapAdhAdhi samyuthA" (விசித்ரா தேஹ ஸம்பத்திர் ஈச்வராய நிவேதிதும், பூர்வமேவ க்ருதா ப்ரஹ்மந் ஹஸ்தபாதாதி ஸம்யுதா), when the jIvAthmA is in a subtle state (during layam) just like matter (intelligence fully subdued) without any senses/body and not being able to engage in worldly enjoyment or efforts towards emancipation, the most merciful sarvEsvaran, blesses the jIvAthmA with senses/body to begin the process of approaching bhagavAn's lotus feet. The jIvAthmA, instead of using the senses/body to approach bhagavAn to be uplifted, as said by nammAzhwAr in thiruvAimozhi 3.2.1 "annAL nI thantha Akkaiyin vazhi uzhalvEn", goes by the bodily/sensual pleasures, just like a person who was given a raft to cross the river goes with the flow of the water and falls into ocean, the same senses/body that were given to the jIvAthmA to be uplifted from this samsAram were used to engage in samsAram more and more. thiruvarangathu amudhanAr also explains the same principle in rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi pAsuram 67 "mAyavan thannai vaNanga vaiththa karaNam ivai" (மாயவன் தன்னை வணங்க வைத்த கரணம் இவை) - bhagavAn has given this body to jivAthmAs to worship him. Serving other bhAgavathas is also an important aspect for oneself. Thus one should understand the real purpose of this birth and perform accordingly.
  • Just having sEshathva (servitude) gyAnam and not having pArathanthriya (total dependence) gyAnam is an obstacle. Athma's nature is in two stages: sEshathvam -  Being ready to satisfy the desires of the master; pArathanthriyam - satisfying the desires of the master. Actually fulfilling the true desire of the lord is to be understood as more important than merely waiting to serve the master. Here we can recollect bharathAzhwAn who took up the task of ruling the ayOdhyA kingdom in the absence of srI rAma for 14 years, even though he wanted to accompany srI rAma at first.
  • Being an enjoyer and not being the enjoyed is an obstacle. bhOgyam - enjoyed, bhOkthA - one who enjoys. srIvaishNavas should consider themselves to be the object of enjoyment for bhagavAn. It is very essential to understand that the whole existence of oneself is for the satisfaction/joy of bhagavAn. Such understanding is very important to have. Considering oneself to be the enjoyer is contradictory to the fact of oneself being the object of satisfaction for bhagavAn. Translator's note: azhagiya maNavALa perumAL nAyanAr explains in AchArya hrudhayam chUrNikai 21 "sEshathva bhOkthruthvangaL pOlanRE pArathanthriya bhOgyathaigaL" (சேஷத்வ போக்த்ருத்வங்கள் போலன்றே பாரதந்த்ரிய போக்யதைகள்) - pArathanthriyam (total dependence) and bhOgyathaigaL (being the enjoyed) is higher than sEshathvam (servitude) and bhOkthruthvangaL (being enjoyer). mAmunigaL here beautifully identifies that sEshathvam is like gold brick (valuable yet can only be used after changing the shape/form) and pArathanthriyam is like gold ornament (is in use as it its). This is a very deep principle and should be understood from an AchArya through kAlakshEpam method.
  • Considering the joy deriving out of being the enjoyed as ones own is an obstacle. nammAzhwAr declares in thiruvAimozhi 2.9.4. "thanakkEyAga enaikkoLLumIthE chiRappu" (தனக்கேயாக எனைக்கொள்ளுமீதே சிறப்பு) - bhagavAn having me for his full pleasure only is the best. Our sEshathvam (servitude) and pArathanthriyam (total dependence) must exist solely for the happiness seen in bhagavAn's face. Translator's note:  kulasEkara AzhwAr explains this in perumAL thirumozhi 4.9 "padiyAyk kidanthu un pavaLavAy kANbEnE" (படியாய்க் கிடந்து உன் பவளவாய் காண்பேனே) - I will be a foot step at the entrance of your sannidhi (like achith which has no intellect) and reciprocate the pleasure (as chith which has intellect) when I see the joyful smile in your lips. (Translator's note: This is the highest principle of our sath sampradhAyam called "achithvath pArathanthriyam" - being like achith at the full disposal of bhagavAn yet reciprocating pleasure like jIvAthmA when bhagavAn reveals his joy). This principle (of eradicating self-centered pleasure) is explained in "nama:" in the second part of dhvaya mahA manthram. ALavndhAr explains the same principle in his sthOthra rathnam 46 "kadhA ... praharshayishyAmi" (கதா ... ப்ரஹர்ஷயிஷ்யாமி) - longing to bring pleasure for emperumAn. When jIvAthmA reciprocates bhagavAn's pleasure, bhagavAn becomes fully pleased. His pleasure is the sole objective of our kainkaryam. Considering any other way is an obstacle.
  • Not knowing that since the true nature of jIvAthmA is to exist for the pleasure of bhagavAn, the underlying qualities are also focussed on the pleasure of bhagavAn only is an obstacle. jIvAthmA's real disposition is to exist for bhagavAn's pleasure - being a property of bhagavAn. The underlying essence is to be a true servant of bhagavAn. For such persons who have realized that, naturally, such servitude will be manifested through performing kainkaryam, showing total dependence, etc. As shown in thiruvAimozhi 2.9.4. "thanakkEyAga enaikkoLLumIthE chiRappu" (தனக்கேயாக எனைக்கொள்ளுமீதே சிறப்பு), one should constantly serve for the pleasure of bhagavAn. Translator's note: As said in "akinchithkarasya sEshathva anupapaththi:" (அகிஞ்சித்கரஸ்ய சேஷத்வ அநுபபத்தி:) - ones true nature of servitude can only be sustained by engaging in (atleast) small kainkaryams (devotional service). 
  • Not considering the AchArya who reveals the principles that are not known to us as bhagavAn himself is an obstacle. As said in thiruvAimozhi 2.3.2 "aRiyAdhana aRiviththu aththA!" (அறியாதன அறிவித்து  அத்தா!) - the eternally related one who revealed unknown experiences in bhagavath vishayam, bhagavAn is the prathamAchArya (first AchAryan). Our AchArya is to be considered as the human form of bhagavAn. Not having full faith on such AchArya and not considering him as bhagavAn himself are obstacles. Translator's note: Please read - this article explains in detail, how AchArya is considered as bhagavAn himself.
  • Not having total faith on charama parvam (AchArya) being the ultimate means and goal is an obstacle. piLLai lOkAchAryar explains in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, sUthram 447 "AchArya abhimAnamE uththArakam" (ஆசார்ய அபிமானமே உத்தாரகம்) - Being in the shelter/mercy of AchArya is the ultimate means for our salvation. Here, it is to be understood that one should be in a position where AchArya considers sishya as "He is my dear sishya". In sUthram 446, piLLai lOkAchAryar says "AchAryanaiyum thAn paRRum paRRu ahankAra garbhamOpAdhi kAlan koNdu mOdhiramidumApOlE" (ஆசார்யனையும் தான் பற்றும் பற்று அஹங்கார கர்பமோபாதி காலன் கொண்டு மோதிரமிடுமாபோலே) - Even while pursuing AchArya, if it is svagatha svIkAram (sishya pursuing the AchArya through self effort) is contrary to the nature of jIvAthmA, since such pursuing is happening out of pride/independent nature. It must be the AchArya who mercifully blesses the sishya (the sishya should constantly think like that only). If it is done with pride from the sishya, it is like making a beautiful golden ring and accepting it from the kAla (yamadharma - controller of death).

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

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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