Musings on the VibhishaNa SaraNaagathi
As a Paramaachaarya, Swami Desikan dwelled extensivey on the doctrines of Prapatthi in many of his sacred works. What Sri Rama said at the sea side to VibhishaNaa rivetted his attention. He elaborated on the SaraNAgathi concepts in his work known as Abhaya Pradhaana Saaram, where he followed the traditionof Sri Ramaanujaa, Thirumalai Nambhi, who studied intensively and taught the rahasyaarthaas of SaraNAgathi embedded in the different KhAndAs of VAlmiki RamaayaNam.
It is generally conceded by our AchaaryAs that Srimadh RAmAyaNam is THE SaraNAgathi Saastram. Swami Desikan played a key role in reminding us of this truth. Adi Kavi VAlmiki saw what happened during Raamaavatharam through his Dharma, Veeryam and Divya Chakshus (Power of penance and divine insight) and described the exquisite incidents associated with SaraNAgathi in every KhAndham of his Adhi Kaavyam. That is why Srimadh RAmAyaNam is described as “PuNyam Vedaisccha Sammitham” (One that enhances one’s PuNyam and is equivalent to the Vedaas in its sacredness). It is no wonder that VAlmiki’s work is considered as Veda UpabruhmaNam (A work that elaborates on the principles covered by the VedAs).
The Para Tattva NirNayam (the establishment of the unparalleled superiority) of Sri Rama is made in Srimadh RAmAyaNam through the Abhaya PrAdhAnam given by Him on many occasionsas saluted by Sage Vaalmiki. He establishes Ramaa as Sarva VilakshaNa Para Brahmam (One with glories that are distinctly superior to other Gods) and praises Ramaa as “Aksharam Brahma Satyam”. This satya Vrathi and SaraNAgatha rakshaNa deekshitha is hailed as a Veera of an extraordinary caliber. The distinct and distinguishing principle of Sri Raamaa is the practise of hte Abhaya PradhAna vara dhaanam principle for those, who approached him even once for protection independent of their Avasthaa (state of mind or mood).That is His Vratham as we heard from Swami Desikan through the previous three Gadhyam salutations.
Sri Raamaa’s SaraNyathvam is abundantly covered in the Yuddha KhAndham. All other Gods are described as “Vibhuthi Ekadesam”(one speck of HIS ruling power), where as Sri Raamaa is considered the total embodiment of the power principle that offers SaraNAgathi unfailingly.Brahmaa praises the victorious Raamaa in the battle field of Lankhaaas “araNyam SaraNam cha tvaam aahu ; Divyaa Maharshaya: “(Great sages like Sanaka consider therefore YOU as the means and the fruit of their endeavours through performance of their SaraNAgathis). They recognize that they are “Tadhadheena Padha laabhans” (Those who Acheived their superior positions as a result of His Dayaa). He is the SaraNyan (Rakshakan, RakshaNa vrathi). That is His VaseekaraNaSaamarthyam (winning ways to attract us to Him). That SaraNaagathi is parama hitam (the superior and eminently satisfying means and fruit).
Tondaradipodi describes the parama hitam aspect of SaraNAgathi done in a trice (KshaNa Karthavyam) by PrapannAs this way in one ofthe Paasurams of ThirumAlai: “kadaitthalai irundhu vaazhum Sombaraiuhatthi pOlum” (O Ranganaatha! You take great interest even in those lazy ones living around your ramparts at Srirangam. They were lazy in that they did not make the effort to practise difficult Bhakthi and Jnaana Yogams. They too the easy route appropriate to their limited strength and performed Prapatthi at Your lotus feet. You accepted those Prapannaas and treated them as though they were superior to all the others). Swami Desikan points this out and salutes the Lord as “Priya-Hita Kaari” (the one, who treats us with affection and benovolence through the practise of his SaraNAgatha rakshaNavratham). We, who are ananya SaraNaas(with no other recourse for protection) become the object of His Abhimaana gocharam (the object of his special affection).
Sita Piraati is the SaraNya Sahadharma ChaariNi of the sarva loka saraNyan. In this role She counsels the evil-minded RavaNA in Sundara Khaandham this way:
vidhitha: sa hi Dharmajna: saraNaagatha vatsala: |
thena maitree bhavathu teh yadhi jeevithumicchasi ||
prasAdhayasva tvam chainam saraNAgatha Vatsalam |
maam chaasmai prayathO bhoothvA niryaathayithumarhasi ||
(O RavaNA! If you want to live in this world, befriend Ramaa,who is well versed in the doctrines of SaraNAgathi dharmam. He discards the offenses made earlier by those, who seek his protection and perform SaraNAgathi unto Him. With a pure mind, beseech His friendship and unite me with Him and make Him happy and as a result continue to live on this earth).
Piratti’s Vaatsalya Paravasam (indebtedness to those who seek HersaraNAgathi as the consort of the Lord) has been identified by Parasara Bhattar as being superior ot that of the Lord Himself.Bhattar describes that attribute of Her in one of the slokams of GuNa Ratna Kosam this way:
maatharmythili raakshaseestvayi tadhaivaardhraaparAdhAstvayA
rakshanthyApavanAthmajAth laghutaraa Ramasya Goshtee kruthA |
kaakam tam cha VibhishaNam saraNamithyukti kshamou rakshatha:
saa na: saandhra mahaagasa: sukhayathu kshaanthistavaakasmikee ||
(Meaning): O Mother Ranganaayaki! Sahadharma chaariNI of KaakusthaRangesa! You saved (protected) the Rakshasis of Ashoka Vanam from the wrath of Hanumaan, even when they were committing offenses to You. Through this act of Yours, You made the SaraNAgathi(Abhaya PradhAnam) offered by Your lord somewhat inferior to Your own gesture. Your Lord offered SaraNAgathi to the offending crow and the supplicnt VibhishaNA only AFTER they performed their saraNAgathi. You out of Your infinite mercy and affection for the sinners (offenders/ApachAris) protected the rakshasis of asokha Vanam even as they were threatening You. Therefore Your power of SaraNAgatha rakshaNam is superior to that of Your consort. May Your natural, causeless — nirhethukam, Avyaaja KaruNaa — compassion protect us!)
The whole seven Khaandhaas of Srimadh RaamayaNam is full of incidents illustrating the SaraNAgathi Taatparyam (the inner meanings of SaraNAgathi). Swami Desikan’s Abhaya PradhAna Saaram salutes the SaraNAgathi episodes in Baala Khaandham (Devaas offering their SaraNAgathi and seeking the Sesha Saayee’s protecton to save them from the cruelty of RaavaNA), in Ayodhyaa Khaandham (LakshmaNA’s prapatthi to Sri Rama and Sita together and seeking their protection to serve them in the forest. Here SaraNAgathi according to the spirit of Dvaya manthram is performed by the anujaa of Ramaaa The first portion of Dvaya manthram deals with Prapatthi and the second portion deals with the fruits of such prapatthi).
In Ayodhyaa Khandham, we encounter once again SaraNAgathi bythe other brother Bharathaa and his obtainment of the fruit of his prapatthi throught he acquisition of Sri Rama Paadhukaas or Sri Satakopam.
In Aranya Khaandham, the SaraNAgathi of the sages afflicted by Kara, DhooshaNaa are accepted by Sri Ramaa and he protects them form the terror of the ogres. Kaakasura SaraNAgathi alsotakes place in this Khaandham.
In Kishkindhaa Khaandham, we enjoy learning about Sugreeva SaraNAgathi and Sri Raamaa’s protection of Sugreevaa from Vaali.
In Sundara Khaandham, we come across the Abhaya PradhAnam of Sarva Loka SaraNyai to the ogresses that supervised Her incarceration in asokha Vanam.
Yudha Khaandham houses the famous VibhishaNa saraNAgathi. In Uttara Khaandham, Sri Ramaa answers the Rakshasaa Maalyavaan and reveals the rahasyaartham of his SaraNAgatha vratham once again.
It is with all these in mind, Swami Desikan saluted Srimadh RaamayaNam as SaraNAgathi Vedam. He also identified his work (Abahya PradhAna Saaram) as the Upanishad that elaborates on the rahasyaarthams of the Illustrious SaraNAgathi Vedam, Srimadh RaamayaNam.
kujantham Rama Ramethi madhuram madhuraaksharam |
aaruhya kavithaa saakaam vandE Valmiki kokilam ||
Sri VaishNava Daasan,
Oppiliappan Koil VaradAchAri Sadagopan
To be continued…