Part-1 can be read from: http://anudinam.org/2012/05/04/nine-steps-to-supreme-abode/
4. Bheeti: This fourth step implies fear. If we have climbed this step, the rest becomes easy. This is the last of the difficult steps. Let us find out what we have to fear. Now, we have been born as human beings with superior intellect. But we have passed through innumerable births as insects, reptiles and animals such as donkey, dog, bear, lion and monkey and have gone through many difficulties. Due to some good deed or action in our earlier births, we are born as humans. This might well be the last but one noble birth among all creations. Therefore, the thought that we will be reborn in this world in any form should only instil fear in us, because any future birth is a corollary of sins and misdeeds. Man has been continuously committing one transgression after another, while his account of good deeds more or less is empty. So, it is quite probable that we will be born only as lesser creatures like animals or insects in keeping with the balance of bad deeds. Even if we are born again as humans, we will be gripped by hunger, famine, old age and other Untold miseries.When a wise thus, he will start to fear further births and will have climbed the fourth step towards liberation
5. Prasaadahetu fifth step is called ‘prasaadahetu’. Due to the countless number of misdeeds committed in our previous births, we have incurred the wrath of the Lord Who is both the Father and Mother to all. The only way by which we can make Him forget this anger and shower His Grace on us is by surrendering ourselves to Him. Without atoning thus, we will not be able to proceed further. This fifth step of surrender has been dealt with in detail in Svami Desika’s Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, with the support of several authoritative texts. Let us briefly learn about this step. We do not have the capacity to perform the arduous bhakti-yoga like the sages.
Therefore, in accordance with Lord Krishna’s declaration in the Bhagavad Gita, where He assures us of liberation when we take refuge at His Feet, we should perform surrender to Him and make a vow that, hereafter, we will do only those acts that will please Him and desist from committing any transgression. While doing so,we should make a fervent prayer to Him asking for His pardon with the plea that, even though we have been the worst of sinners, we have now grasped His Feet and so we believe that He will forgive even the gravest offences committed by us. We are now truly repentant and surrendering to Him.
We have now understood that the soul and this body belong to Him and that He is our only refuge. We now realise our inability to perform any other means to attain Him (such as bhakti-yoga). When we pray to Him seeking not to be reborn in the world, we state our realisation that our goal is to serve Him and Him only and enjoy such unending service to Him. Further, it has to be understood that the act of surrender itself is through His will only. He is the means to liberation and the object of our prayers. By offering the act itself and its fruits to Him and by the chanting of the dvaya mantra, we would have climbed the fifth step. This is the central and most important step in the whole process and requires the guidance of an acharya or gum. The person who has so surrendered has become a prapanna.
6. Utkramana: This is the sixth step and it refers to the departure of the soul of the prapanna from his body at the end of his life. Though this is a natural occurrence and is common to all souls, there is a difference between the departure of the soul of a prapanna and those of others. During a person’s last moments, when the soul is ready to depart, all the sense organs are first withdrawn into the mind, which then merges with the vital air. The subtle forms of the five elements,which constitute the body and the prana, along with the soul, are taken in hand by the Indwelling Form (the Antaryami) of the supreme Being. Upto this point, the process is the same for all souls i.e. those who have not surrendered and those who have. In the case of the former, the supreme Being casts away the souls in the various other passages which lead to further births in the world. In the case of the prapannas, the Lord propels the soul through the 101st passage (sushumna naadi) into another direction, which process ensures that the soul is not reborn. This experience is itself a very pleasant one for the soul. A person would have ascended the sixth step when this takes place.
7. Archidi: This is the seventh step. The archirdi maarga is the path that a redeemed soul takes on its way to salvation. Throughout this journey, the soul is guided by the Lord Himself, passing through the various realms of His celestial servants such as the gods of Agni, of Light, the gods of the directions, the Moon god, Varuna, Vidyut Purusha, Indra, Brahma, etc. These divine servants of the Lord treat the soul with great regard and pleasure and entertain him royally. The celestial being Vidyut Purusha, also known as ‘Amaanava’, takes him through the cosmic path with a view to entrust him to the supreme Being in the Para Form in Srivaikuntha. These guiding celestials are called ‘Aativaahikas’. This step is the seventh of the nine steps outlined by Svami Desika.
8. Suddasattva-aadesa-praapti: In this eighth step, the soul reaches the outside of the primordial realm called prakriti mandala, which is outside the material universe. The Viraja river separates this material universe from the transcendental plane, Srivaikuntha,where Sriman Narayana rests in all His glory Srivaikuntha or Paramapada or nityavibhuti, as it is variously called, is made up of purest positive matter (suddhasattvasvarupa). The journey through this phase is called ‘padaadhirohana’, with Vidyut Purusha escorting the soul beyond the cosmic path and across the Viraja river. Here, in the river, the soul sheds its subtle form and, by sheer will alone, crosses the river. (It should be noted here that in Srivaikuntha, all actions are achieved by mere will alone
The soul then assumes an auspicious, radiant form. Then, the divine beauties in the Srivaikuntha bedeck him in befitting ornaments. Amidst the playing of several musical instruments, he is taken past thousands of forts and towers. Enroute, he is entertained by other souls who are already there in the service of the Lord. To the accompaniments of joyful and welcoming songs and music, he beholds the sight of the supreme Being and is ushered into His presence. The soul has now climbed the eighth and penultimate step, in the flight of nine steps, to everlasting happiness.
9. Praapti: This is the ninth and the last of the steps indicated by Svami Desika, where a realised soul makes his last ascent.The Aativaahika known as Amaanava, now entrusts the soul to the supreme Lord. The Lord, seated on Adisesha His serpent-bed, along with His three Consorts, Sridevi, Bhudevi and Neeladevi, welcomes the liberated soul, embraces him with great joy and bestows upon him a glowing form and the same capacity as His to perceive and enjoy everything. By His sheer benevolence, He now enables the jivatma to enjoy all the privileges that He has access to. The soul is now in a state of supreme bliss. This is the state and the essence of being in ‘Praapti’, the ninth step.
when a Person has gained this knowledge, he would have achieved the purpose of life. He will make earnest attempts to reach his rightful and eternal abode at the earliest.
Thus, Svami Desika has constructed this edifice of nine steps, in order to assist all the drifting souls and guide them properly. Blessed are the wise who have known this, acquired more knowledge and have attained liberation. A person who is unable to pass through these steps should at least strive to know about the fifth step, i.e., surrender (saranagathi). This is the central step around which all the others are constructed. He should then follow it with total conviction, and meditate on the other steps through which so many great scholars and sages have climbed before him, and which is accessible to people of all sects. All the souls in this universe are rightfully entitled to be in the service of the Lord, Sriman Narayana. Let us not be misguided by the so-called charms and wealth of this material world. With the help of scholars and able teachers, let us learn about these nine steps and attain the fruits of eternal bliss by ensuring that this is our last birth on earth and by reaching the supreme Abode.
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