virOdhi parihArangaL - 43

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

73. pumsthva virOdhi (பும்ஸ்த்வ விரோதி ) - Obstacles in masculinity 

perumaL (srI rAma - mariyAdhA purushOththama - ideal supreme man) with sIthA pirAtti and iLaya perumAL - srIperumbUthUr

pumsthvam means masculinity/manliness - being a man. In dhivya prabandham vyAkyAnams (commentaries), based on ones bodily situation, males are called as "mOvAyezhunthAr" (மோவாயெழுந்தார்) - Ones who have raised chin or lower-jaw indicating bearded area and females are called as "mulaiyezhunthAr" (முலையெழுந்தார்) - Ones who have raised breasts. These are only external/bodily attributes which are an outcome of ones past karmA. As explained in bhagavadh gIthA as "uththama: purusha:" (உத்தம: புருஷ: - The real/best man) is emperumAn who is the supreme male. As explained in the pramANam "sthrI prAyam itharam jagath" (ஸ்த்ரீ ப்ராயம் இதரம் ஜகத்) - all others in the universe(s) are of female category only whatever body (male/female) they may have acquired. Important aspects of femininity includes being totally dependent, submissiveness, shyness, etc. jIvAthmA is also internally identified as totally dependent on paramAthmA. Let us move on to the commentary now. Translator's note: bhagavAn is highlighted as the meaning of "a" in praNavam. parAsara bhattar starts the first slOkam of his wonderful ashta slOki (a composition of eight brilliant and beautiful slOkams which comprehensively reveal the meanings of rahasya thrayam - thirumanthram, dhvayam and charama slOkam) as "akArArthO vishNu:" (அகாரார்த்தோ விஷ்ணு:) resonating "akAram" as bhagavAn. One of the main explanations of akAram is rakshakathvam. rakshakathvam means removing the unwanted aspects and providing the desired aspects. Only srIman nArAyaNan is the ultimate independent person and every one else is fully dependent on him. We can recollect an interesting incident from the lives of our pUrvAchAryas. periyavAchAn piLLai highlights this incident in the vyAkyAnam for thirunedunthANdagam 3rd pAsuram. parAsara bhattar was explaining the incident of churning of milk-ocean. He explains that when srI mahAlakshmi came out of the milk-ocean, she directly goes to srIman nArAyaNan, climbs his chest (which is her permanent abode) and accepts him as his husband. At this time, nanjIyar asks bhattar "there were so many dhEvas - being a woman, should she not have felt shy to reach out to a man in public like that?". bhattar cleverly replies "While engaging with husband, should the wife feels shy seeing her girl-friends who carry decorative items, gifts, etc.?".  This means, all the jIvAthmAs (dhEvas and asuras) who were present there were of feminine nature, even though they have male bodies. Thus, this aspect of supreme independence is associated with manliness and the contrary is associated with femininity.
  • Considering oneself (who is in the category of females) as male instead of understanding that supreme bhagavAn who is garuda vAhanan (one who rides on garudAzhwAr) and purushOththaman (the best among males) is an obstacle. purushOththaman is the only person who is qualified to be highlighted as male. All other jIvAthmAs are in the category of female. Just considering oneself based on male body is ignorance. It is also a default. Translator's note: garuda vAhanathvam is indicated as an important quality of supreme brahman. garuda is called vEdhAthmA - one who is the soul of vEdham. bhagavAn riding on garudAzhwAr and garudAzhwAr pointing his fingers towards bhagavAn is a clear indication of supremacy of srIman nArAyaNan. Also, srIman nArAyaNan is called as purushOththama - the best among men. So, manliness is only associated with srIman nArAyaNan.
  • Considering dhEvathAs like brahma, rudhra, etc., as males due to them having male bodies is an obstacle. As explained before, this principle applies for dhEvathAs too. When compared with purushOththama - all other dhEvathAs are only his female counter parts though they may have male bodies. Considering otherwise is ignorance.
  • Not knowing that the feminine nature we have is the natural quality which is being counterpart for his natural masculine nature is an obstacle. Our true nature is to be fully dependent on him and fulfill his total independence.
  • Not knowing that the male body we have is something which we acquired due to our karmA and temporary is an obstacle. This external appearance of manly body is acquired based on ones past karmA. We should know that we will get different bodies one after other, based on our karmA. Translator's note: In bhagavath gIthA, krishNa explains this principle of changing bodies in great detail in 2nd chapter. He explains just like a old cloth is thrown when it is unusable and a new cloth is acquired, when one body becomes unfit for the jIvAthmA, that body is given up and a new body is acquired. He also explains giving another example - just like an AthmA is going through a toddler's body, child's body, adult's body and old-aged body, when the karmA is completed for that particular body, that body is given up and a new body is acquired. Thus we can easily understand that we acquire bodies life after life and each of these bodies are temporary of nature.
  • Not knowing that the male and female bodies which were acquired since anAdhi kAlam (time-immemorial) are impermanent is an obstacle. We have been in samsAram (material world) eternally and have been acquiring different bodies based on the results of our karmA. So, none of that is permanent. This is self-evident.
  • Not knowing that being totally dependent on bhagavAn is the eternal nature of jIvAthmA is an obstacle. bhagavath pArathanthriyam (being fully dependent on bhagavAn) is the eternal and underlying nature of jIvAthmA. pArathanthriyam means being fully controllable by the owner (bhagavAn in this case). Translator's note: We have previously seen the pramANam "svathvam Athmani sanjAtham svAmithvam brahmaNi sthitham" (ஸ்வத்வம் ஆத்மநி ஸஞ்ஜாதம் ஸ்வாமித்வம் ப்ரஹ்மணி ஸ்திதம்) - jIvAthmA's nature is to be a property of bhagavAn and bhagavAn's nature is to be the proprietor. From this we can understand that the nature of jIvAthmA is to be dependent on bhagavAn.
  • Having tinge of independence and considering oneself as male simply because of the bodily situation even after acquiring knowledge about our total dependence on bhagavAn is an obstacle. Once we acquire the true knowledge of pArathanthriyam (total dependence), there is no question of considering oneself as male and having the tinge of independence which is natural for males. Translator's note:  The fundamental issue goes back to dhEhAthma abhimAnam (considering the soul and body as the same). Even after hearing so many kAlakshEpams and understanding the principles, we still consider confuse AthmA with the dhEham (body). There is no other way than repeatedly meditating on this importantant/fundamental difference between body and soul and constantly trying to apply this in our day to day life.
  • Being a female oneself by nature fully dependent on bhagavAn, seeking out for other females (for bodily pleasure) is an obstacle. After understanding oneself as a female (jIvAthmA) who is dependent on bhagavAn (the singular and supreme male), seeking out for another female for oneself happens only due to ignorance (that one associates oneself with the body instead of soul). It is not appropriate. We need to remember srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, sUthram 101 "vihitha vishaya nivruththi thannERRam" in this context. Translator's note: In sUthrams 99, 100 and 101, piLLai lOkAchAryar discusses the aspect of detachment from sensual pleasures and controlling ones senses fully. Previously, he stated that this detachment from worldly pleasures is the fundamental qualification for spiritual progress. mAmunigaL explains the sUthrams in the most beautiful manner with eloquent reference to pramANams. In 99th sUthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains that this detachment is required for the persons seeking material wealth, etc., persons who are engaged in bhakthi yOgam and finally for prapannas (persons who are fully surrendered to bhagavAn). mAmunigaL explains that even for persons seeking great material wealth/control, during the process of achieving it, they need to fully control their senses. For upAsakas (bhakthi yOga nishtas) and prapannas obviously they should have full control of their senses and have total detachment from worldly pleasures. In the 100th sUthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar says, among the 3 categories, for prapannas, such control of senses is most important. mAmunigaL beautifully and crisply highlights that piLLai lOkAchAryar included the other 2 categories only to highlight the importance of such detachment for prapannas. In the 101st sUthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar says, for the ones seeking material wealth and for the upAsakas, one should have detachment in what is forbidden in sAsthram. But for prapannas, one should have detachment to what is even allowed in sAsthram since it is svarUpa virOdham (contradictory to the nature of jIvAthmA). Sensual pleasures with in the boundary of marriage is allowed in sAsthram, though there are many conditions exist on when and how physical relationship can happen. Here, for prapannas, piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights that one should even show detachment towards ones own wife. mAmunigaL wonderfully explains this point in great detail in his vyAkyAnam. It is best to hear this under the guidance of an AchArya. This point relates to ones clear understanding of oneself being a female who is naturally subservient to bhagavAn and thus not seek out the subservience of another female even in the pretext of marriage.
  • Not having the understanding that every one is a female when seen in context of bhagavAn is an obstacle. One should know that when looked at from the paramapurusha's perspective, all jIvAthmA's are feminine by nature.
  • Not being sub-servient along with ones own wife who was accepted for the purpose of serving bhagavAn and bhAgavathas is an obstacle. gruhasthAsramam - living with a wife. As stated in srI rAmAyaNam "sahapathnyA visAlAkshyA nArAyaNamupAkamath" (ஸஹபத்ந்யா விசாலாக்ஷ்யா நாராயணமுபாகமத்), srI rAma himself married sIthA and served periya perumAL (srI ranganAthan). This is the gruahasthAsrama dharmam. Even though there is husband-wife relationship, infront of bhagavAn, both man and woman are of feminine nature and both are subserivient to him only. Translator's note: Among the 4 Asramams (brahmacharyam, gruhasthAsramam, vAnaprastham and sannyAsam), gruhasthAsramam is the Asramam that is fully focussed on serving others. As a brahmachAri, one is focussed on learning and have no scope for earning. A vAnaprastha is a forest-dweller and focusses on meditation. A sannyAsi is focussed on preaching and cannot hold any wealth. Only gruhastha can manage wealth for the purpose of serving and taking care of brahmachAris and sannyAsis. Also, any yAthrIkas (travelling pilgrims) depend on gruhasthas living locally to support them during their pilgrimage. Thus gruhasthAsramam is fully focussed on bhagavAn (in ones own thiruvArAdhanam and at the temple) and bhAgavathas (brahmachAris, sannyAsis and yAthrIkas). So, instead of focussing on sensual pleasures with ones own wife, one should seriously focus on serving emperumAn and srIvaishNavas.
  • Considering oneself as a male servant is an obstacle. It is already explained that one should not consider oneself as a male. Translator's note: One should always consider oneself as a female servant of bhagavAn and bhAgavathas.
  • After acquiring this knowledge, instead of lying along with the wife (like another woman), trying to engage with her physically being forgetful of ones true nature is an obstacle. Just like the wife submits herself to her husband, we should submit ourselves to bhagavAn. Even when we have male body, we should not have any tinge of independent thoughts. Translator's note: Here the emphasis is on understanding ones true nature. One should come to the stage where even when lying down with ones own wife, one feels like a woman lying down with another woman where there is no question of sexual engagement. That is, one has absolutely no sensual feelings towards ones wife and one is totally detached from such thoughts even during close proximity. Specifically the topic mentions about bramam (confusion on ones true nature) and rAgam (attachment for sensual pleasures) - even when either one exists, the man and woman will start engaging in physical relationship.
  • AzhwArs were born in male bodies, yet, they assumed feminine mood and longed for the divine forms of bhagavAn. Even after learning such pAsurams and understanding their meanings, due to confusions from previous experiences, etc., having attachments towards bodily aspects which are to be given up and longing for such bodily pleasures are obstacles. AzhwArs, specifically nammAzhwAr and thirumangai AzhwAr have sung many pAsurams in nAyaki bhAvam (the mood of a woman longing for her man) towards emperumAn's divine forms. They have greatly poured out their suffering in separation from bhagavAn in their pAsurams. Even after hearing the internal and external meanings of such pAsurams, one should not go back to thinking that "I am a Man" and so on and crave for sensual pleasures which are to be given up. Please see thirumangai AzhwAr's thirumohi 1.1.2 "AviyE amudhE ena ninainthurugi avaravar paNaimulai thuNaiyA pAviyEnuNarAthu eththanai pagalum pazhuthu pOyozhinthana nALgaL" (ஆவியே அமுதே என நினைந்துருகி அவரவர் பணைமுலை துணையா பாவியேனுணராது எத்தனை பகலும் பழுது போயொழிந்தன நாள்கள்) - I am a sinner who without knowing, wasted so many of my days simply thinking about the women with well developed breasts and calling them out as "my life! my nectar!". He subsequently highlights that by the grace of srIman nArAyaNan he was relieved of such miseries.
  • Being given up by the AchArya for being Asthika-nAsthika is an obstacle. Generally, Asthika-nAsthika is identified with ones who accept the existence of God but does not have firm faith and does not follow any principles. For further understanding, please see upadhEsa raththina mAlai 68th pAsuram "nAththigarum nanneRichErAththigarum AththiganAththigarumAmivarai Orththu nenjE! munnavarum pinnavarum mUrkkarena vittu naduchchonnavarai nALum thodar" (நாத்திகரும் நன்னெறிசேராத்திகரும் ஆத்திகனாத்திகருமாமிவரை ஓர்த்து நெஞ்சே! முன்னவரும் பின்னவரும் மூர்க்கரென விட்டு நடுச்சொன்னவரை நாளும் தொடர்). Translator's note: Asthika means one who accepts vEdha sAsthram as pramANam (authentic proof/source). sAsthram is the pramANam through which we can understand bhagavAn who is the pramEyam. Here vEdha sAsthram includes upanishadhs, smruthi, ithihAsams, purANams, pAncharAthram, etc. dhivya prabandham, pUrvAchArya sthOthrams and vyAkyAnams are also greatly revered by our AchAryas due to them revealing the essence of sAsthram. nAsthika is the opposite of Asthika. It means one who does not accept vEdha sAsthram as pramANam. There is the 3rd category which is Asthika-nAsthika. Asthika-nAsthika means one who accepts vEdha sAsthram as pramANam but disregards the same while applying in ones own life. In this pAsura vyAkyAnam, piLLai lOkam jIyar explains these in detail quoting mAmunigaL's own words. The most important aspect in this pAsuram is - this pAsuram ultimately focusses on being fully surrendered to AchArya. The highest aspect of Asthika, nAsthika and Asthika-nAsthika needs to be understood from this context - i.e., being fully faithful and surrendered to AchArya, not having any faith in AchArya and having faith but not following AchArya respectively. If ones own AchArya gives up on his sishya due to the sishya being an Asthika-nAsthika, there is no other hope for such sishya. gyAnam (knowledge) and anushtAnam (practice) are two important aspects. mAmunigaL himself highlights these 2 as the important qualities of an AchArya in this same upadhEsa raththina mAlai prabandham. It also applies to all srIvaishNavas.
  • Being condemned by learned scholars/elders due to not distinguishing between sAram (essence) and asAram (extraneous) aspects is an obstacle. Translator's note: The purpose of approaching an AchArya is to acquire vivEka gyAnam (ability to discriminate between the essence and extraneous). Swan is usually glorified for its ability to separate milk and water. Our pUrvAchAryas are glorified as swans for being able to highlight the essence and discard the extraneous aspects even with in sAsthram. Following in the foot steps of our pUrvAchAryas, and learning from elders, one should develop the ability to distinguish between the essence and extraneous aspects. What is essence should be retained and the extraneous aspects should be disregarded. Not doing that and being too attached to extraneous aspects will lead to condemnation by learned scholars. For example, even after learning under scholars, if one holds on to bodily pleasures, etc., and has no focus on spirtiual progress, such persons will be condemned by the great teachers.

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

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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  1. Sarathy Swamy 'As explained in bhagavadh gIthA as "uththama: purusha:" (உத்தம: புருஷ: - The real/best man) is emperumAn who is the supreme male.' this is not clear. Purusha means jiva with a shareera(body) right? so anything with a shareera can be called purusha, even the women can be called purusha. Purusha uttama covers everything , if we are saying supreme male, then the q comes who is supreme female, there cannot be 2 supremes as the supreme is Narayana tattvam himself, Purusha refers to anyone with a shareera...Is this somewhat wrongly translated or missed out?

    1. 15th chapter of bhagavath gIthA explains purushOththama vidhyai. Here 3 different purushas are explained. purusha, uth purusha and uththama: purusha. As you point out, purusha generally means jIvAthmA. But in this chapter, because krishNa explains these 3 terms, they are explained in detailed by srI rAmAnuja and subsequent AchAryas. prakrithi is matter. purusha is explained as the kshara purusha (one who is bound in samsAram). uth purusha - akshara purusha is mukthAthmA (one who is liberated - includes nithyasUris also in this context). uththama: purusha is the one who controls all of these - i.e., matter, bound souls and liberated souls - that is bhagavAn who is called purushOththama in sruthi/smruthi. Since bhagavAn is the only supreme controller, he is the supreme male. And since everyone is else controlled by bhagavAn, they are all called female. Among the controlled srI mahAlakshmi is the top-most - so she can be considered as supreme female.
      Hope this helps.
      adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan