From the time a bound soul wishes to end the cycle of births and deaths until it attains liberation, Svami Desika has listed nine steps that it takes in its onward path.
viveka nirveda virakti bheetayah
prasaadahetu utkramana archiraadyah,
praaptih iti atra tu bharvanaam kramah.
There is one action that every one should take in order to really reap the benefit of a human birth. It is to introspect on the purpose of life in a peaceful atmosphere.Surely,all of us would have, at some time or the other, indulged in some form of introspection or reflection, upon some aspect of our life. But it would have been on our needs and desires, our aspirations on how to get out of current problems. After several such efforts, we still remain dissatisfied and generally unhappy. Or we may get peace or happiness, which lasts only for a short while, may be for a few days or weeks. This is because all the material objects such as
wealth, fame, power, the sensory pleasures that we seek and, in fact, the material comforts that we enjoy, are not permanent. The happiness we get out of acquisitions is as short-lived as a bubble on water and fleeting like the flash of lightning. Moreover, such possessions bring with them the burden of fear, stress and untold agony, especially when we lose them. Such is our attachment towards these material goods. This cycle goes on and on. Surely this is not the purpose of our lives. There is something more to being born in the world, other than being caught in this vicious cycle. So we realise that, in order to get out of this rut, we must ensure that we are not reborn in this world. Then the wisdom would dawn upon us to make this life of ours the last of our lives in this world. This then should become the objective of all human beings in the world. Sri Tondaradippodi Azhvar has said, “Thus I do not want birth (Tirumaahi3). Many Azhvars have echoed similar sentiments. It is also clear from the scriptures that the supreme Lord has given the soul a human body only to contemplate and redeem itself from the cycle of births and deaths.
Now, there is a sure way to do away with any further births. Svami Desika,the lion among poets and philosophers, has outlined the steps in his Paramapada-sopanam,which would enable us to avoid future births.
By following the guidance of Sri Desika, we can get out of the miseries of worldly lives and attain eternal bliss. There is no end to the bliss of being united with the supreme Lord at Srivaikuntha and enjoying the company of the ever-free and liberated souls there. All of us rightfully belong to the supreme Abode; that is our permanent residence. All the worlds below that, including Brahma’s sphere, are like rented houses. Just as living in a rented place is beset by problems while living in our own home brings comfort and happiness, so too will residing at Srivaikuntha give us everlasting bliss. Srivaikuntha, the Lord’s Abode, also known as Paramapada, is outside of the universe and is situated above all other worlds. Being at Paramapada, we will perceive and experience the supreme Lord directly. In order to reach this place, Svami Desika has built just nine easy steps for us to climb up. Let us briefly study the steps he has outlined in this work and try to follow them so that we achieve the goal of not being born again in the world.
The nine steps are: (i) discrimination (viveka), (ii) despair (nirveda), (iii) detachment (virakti), (iv) dread (bheeti], (v) purification (prasadahetu), (vi) ascent (utkramana), (vii) the bright path (archiradi), (viii) reaching the divine world (suddhasattva-praapti) i.e. crossing the material universe and finally (ix) attaining His lotus Feet (Praapti). By climbing the nine steps, we will reach Srivaikuntha and never return to this world. It is not enough to merely know the names of the nine steps; one should know the meaning and significance of each of them. So let us learn about them in brief.
I. Viveka: The first step is called ‘viveka’. In order for a person to attain salvation, he should have the ability to think and reason or to discriminate between the real and the false. He should understand the real meaning of the term ‘I’ which is used to denote oneself. He should realise that ‘I’ refers to the soul inside the body. It is eternal and atomic in nature; it is full of knowledge and awareness and belongs to God. It has taken several births and is born as a human being. This is the first part of our awareness.
The second truth to be realised is that the Supreme and the omnipresent Lord is Father and Mother of the whole universe. He is also an Embodiment of mercy. Along with Goddess Lakshmi, He bestows upon us the fruits of our actions viz. pleasures and punishments for our good or bad deeds. Dwelling in the divine Srivaikuntha, along with Goddesses Sridevi, Bhudevi and Niladevi, He dispenses joy to all the souls there. Thirdly, in order to attain liberation at the end of this birth itself,we should seek a preceptor and follow his teachings, just as our forefathers did. This is our third logical conclusion. One who has realised these three truths would have climbed the first step.
2. Nirveda: This is the second step towards liberation. The term ‘nirveda’ means regret bordering on despair. We have realised that all of us belong to Sriman Narayana and are His children. He is ever ready to grant liberation and bestow upon us the same bliss enjoyed by Him. This being so, we have, until now, frittered several thousands of years by taking innumerable births in this world. Alas, in our folly and ignorance, we have not done even a single good deed which might merit us a place next to Him; we have not cared to associate ourselves with noble scholars and good elders. Not only have we committed so many sins, but we have also failed to perform the proper rituals prescribed in the scriptures.
Due to the many transgressions committed by us, we have undergone so much suffering; by our devious and petty behaviour, we have wasted so many lives and indulged in atheistic arguments at times. Disrespectful of scriptures,we have behaved willfully at times. We are now overwhelmed with repentance and start thinking, ‘Had I only learnt to worship the Lord earlier itself, I would have redeemed myself sooner and not lost so much precious time! So now at least, will this soul reach Him? At whose Feet shall I seek refuge to attain liberation? Which great learned scholar would be kind enough to help me seek redemption?’ When a person is remorseful and despairs of himself in such a vein, he would have climbed this second step.
3. Virakti:This is the third step. The term ‘virakti’ means detachment i.e., detachment from all petty and worldly pleasures and seeking the highest !goal of being united with God. By recollecting about all the travails of Brahma and all the other celestials and the sufferings undergone by the mighty rulers of all the worlds, we will get rid of the desire to live here. The fear and tension that Power and position bring with them, the disappointments we feel when our wants are not fulfilled only go to show that these pleasures are fleeting-When we See how even powerful and affluent men are unable to enjoy their own wealth, when even in loving frequent squabbles appear and disease and sickness stalk the earth, any sane thinking man will lose all his desire for pleasures. He
conclude that these are but transitory. When he has destroyed his mundane and material desires, he would have climbed the third step
To be continued in next part….
This article is extracted from Nrushimapriya, Written by – Shalini Narayanan, Based on an article by His Holiness Srimad Mukkur Azhagiyasingar, the 44th Pontiff of Sri Ahobila Math