Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - guru paramparai

SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
Srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
Sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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In the previous article we discussed the unique relationship between AchArya and Sishya.

Some may ask - "Why do we need an AchArya between us and emperumAn? Have there not been cases where emperumAn directly acknowledging and accepting individuals like gajEndhrAzhwAn, guhap perumAL, Sabhari, akrUra, thrivakrA (hunch-back lady in krishNAvathAram), mAlA kAran (flower vendor), etc?".

For this our pUrvAchAryas explain that, while emperumAn is svathanthran (fully-independent) and is pouring his mercy on jIvAthmAs, he is also bound to give results by an individual's karma. This is where an AchArya comes into the picture. emperumAn (out of his constant sukrutham (good thoughts) for everyone) is tirelessly creating opportunities for jIvAthmAs to ultimately reach a sadhAchArya (true preceptor) who will impart the real knowledge and prepare the jIvAthmA to reach him. AchArya being a recommendation authority like SrI mahAlakshmi (who is purushakAra bhUthai) ensures to emperumAn that the jIvAthmA is ready to give up worldly attachments and is purely depending on emperumAn's mercy to reach him.

It is said that while emperumAn will grant samsAram or mOksham according to one's own karma, AchArya will always ensure that the surrendered jIvAthmAs gets mOksham. It is also explained that going directly to emperumAn is like trying to reach out to his hands to hold on and going through an AchArya is like reaching out to his lotus feet to hold on (since AchAryas are his thiruvadi nilai - representing his lotus feet). emperumAn directly acknowledging jIvAthmAs are rare and him accepting jIvAthmAs through an AchArya is the most common/appropriate process as explained by our pUrvAchAryas.

Since we are discussing about AchAryas, it is very appropriate to understand our own AchArya paramparai. This will help us fully appreciate how we got this knowledge down to us from bhagavAn. Most of us will probably already know this, but still sharing this, since without this AchArya paramparai - we would also be like so many other samsAris in this world today.

SrIvaishNavam (also known as sanAthana dharmam) is an eternal sampradhAyam and many great personalities have propagated it throughout the history. Towards the end of dhvApara yugam, AzhwArs started appearing in southern part of bhAratha varsham at the banks of various rivers. The last AzhwAr appeared in the early part of kali yugam. In SrI bhAgavatham, vyAsa rishi foretells that exalted bhakthas of SrIman nArAyaNan will appear in the banks of various rivers and will enrich every one with the divine knowledge about emperumAn. AzhwArs are 10 in number - poigai AzhwAr, bhUthaththAzhwAr, pEyAzhwAr, thirumazhisai AzhwAr, nammAzhwAr, kulaSEkarAzhwAr, periyAzhwAr, thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr, thiruppAnAzhwAr and thirumangai AzhwAr. madhurakavi AzhwAr and ANdAL are AchArya nishtars (fully dependant on AchArya) and are counted among AzhwArs too (making the count 12). Also, ANdAL is an avathAram of bhUmi pirAtti. AzhwArs (except ANdAL) are all jIvAthmAs hand picked by bhagavAn from samsAram. emperumAn gave the AzhwArs the most perfect knowledge about thathva thrayam (chith, achith, ISwara) through his own sankalpam (will) and through them he re-established the bhakthi/prapaththi mArgam when it was lost in time. He also made them realize past, present and future events fully and clearly. Azhwars composed 4000 dhivya prabandham (popularly known as aruLichcheyal) which were direct outpourings of their bhagavath anubhavam (experience with bhagavAn). The essence of aruLichcheyal is in the divine verses of thiruvAimozhi which was rendered by nammAzhwAr.

After the time of AzhwArs, AchAryas started appearing. Several AchAryas such as nAthamunigaL, uyyakkoNdAr, maNakkAl nambi, ALavandhAr, periya nambi, periya thirumalai nambi, thirukkOshtiyUr nambi, thirumAlai ANdAn, AzhwAr thiruvarangap perumAL araiyar, emperumAnAr, embAr, kUraththAzhwAn, mudhaliyANdAn, aruLALap perumAL emperumAnAr, ananthAzhwAn, thirukkurugai pirAn pillan, engaLAzhwAn, nadAthur ammAL, bhattar, nanjIyar, nampiLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, piLLai lOkAchAryar, azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr, kUrakulOththama dhAsar, thiruvAimozhp piLLai, vedhAnthAcharyar and maNavALa mAmunigaL appeared and propagated our sampradhAyam. This AchArya paramparai continues through the 74 simhAsanAdhipathis (authorised preceptors established by emperumAnAr) and jIyar mutts (established by emperumAnAr and maNavALa mAmunigaL) until today. These AchAryas wrote several commentaries on aruLichcheyal, explaining the meanings of the pAsurams in great detail. These commentaries are the greatest wealth they have left behind to us - for us to read them and immerse in the bhagavath anubhavam. The AchAryas, by the mercy of the AzhwArs were able to clearly understand the exact message in the pAsurams and explain them from different angles.

In upadhESa raththina mAlai, mAmunigaL explains that we are able to understand aruLichcheyal (dhivya prabandham) as it is only because of the existence of these commentaries (vyAkyAnams). If there were no commentaries, our aruLichcheyal would have also become like other thamizh literature (which are only learnt by a few elite group of people). Since our pUrvAchAryas understood the message, they made aruLichcheyal as part of nithyAnusandhanam (daily practice) at both homes and temples. To see it practically, we can visit thiruvallikENi dhivya dhEsam - during siRiya thirumadal gOshti on Fridays, we can see even 5 year olds and 6 year olds chanting out louder than the older  SrIvaishNavas. Also, every one of us know thiruppAvai - everywhere, at least during mArgazhi month we can see even 3 year olds and 4 year olds singing the glorious pAsurams of ANdAL nAchchiyAr.

Thus we can understand the importance of our guru paramparai and cherish that every day.

To know more about our pUrvAchAryas in multiple languages, please visit .

AzhwArgaL vAzhi, aruLichcheyal vAzhi, thAzhvAthumil kuravar thAm vAzhi (Long live AzhwArs, Long Live dhivya prabandham, Long live those great preceptors who in-turn practiced and preached this divine work of dhivya prabandham) - upadhESa raththina mAlai 3.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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