Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
The body is divided into five modes or Kosams, each successive one subtler than the preceding one. According to the Taittireeyopanishad, these five are respectively
1. Annamaya Kosam
2. Praanamaya Kosam
3. Manomaya Kosam
4. Vigyaanamaya Kosam and
5. Anandamaya Kosam
If this is what the Aanandavalli has to say, the Bhriguvalli depicts Varuna telling his son Bhrigu Maharshi to meditate on the aforesaid five as verily the Parabrahmam– first on Food, then on the Life Breath, then on the Mind, then the Intellect and finally on Bliss, pointing out perhaps that the lower stages of
realization have to be gone through before one acquires the knowledge of the Ultimate.
The Five Fundamentals
Another quintet, without the knowledge of which liberation is impossible, is the Five Fundamentals. These are five concepts, upon knowing which one knows everything worth knowing. All Scripture, whether it is the sacred Shruti, the Itihaasas or the Puranas, is about these five fundamentals. What then are these?
1. The nature and attributes of the Lord: When we seek to attain something, it is imperative for us to know everything about the object of our desire. Similarly, wisdom about the innumerable auspicious attributes of the Lord and His glorious form that set Him apart from the innumerable other deities and demigods, is to be acquired.
2. Know Thyself: The true nature of the self or the Jeevatma, its eternal bond of service with the Paramaatma and the inalienable relationship of Master and servant that binds it inseparably to the Paramaatma, are to be known, if at all we aspire for the ultimate of pleasures.
3. The Strategy: The Jeevatma, in its quest for Moksham, should learn about, analyse and adopt a strategy ideally suited for achieving the desired goal. Bhakti or ceaseless devotion spread over numerous births and Prapatti or absolute surrender to the Lord, are the two possible ways of attaining liberation. Bhakti, being long-drawn and requiring stringent sense control, etc., is definitely beyond the capabilities of weak mortals like us. Saranagati or Prapatti, involving abject and unconditional surrender to Emperuman, is obviously the sole strategy for people like us without any measure of spiritual strength.
4. The Fabulous Fruit: We should know the indescribable and boundless pleasure which each Jeevatma is destined for, if it attains liberation. This is the bliss which emerges from selfless service to the Lord and His Divine Consort, in the company of like-minded liberated souls having no desire for anything but eternal servitude to the Almighty.
5. The Hurdles: Life is but a hurdles-race. If we take a single step towards liberation, any number of factors intervenes and hinder further progress. The main stumbling block in the Pilgrim?s Progress is the accumulated baggage of good and bad deeds which the Jeevatma gathers during its interminable sojourn in Samsaaram, which necessitate more and more births to work them off.
These five concepts form the cornerstones of spiritual wisdom, without which it would be impossible for anyone to even think of, leave alone attain, liberation. Here is a beautiful slokam enumerating the Five Fundamentals:
Praapyasya Brahmano roopam, Praaptuscha pratyak Aatmana:
Praaptyupaayam phalam chaiva Praapti virodhi: tathaiva cha
Vadanti sakalaa Vedaa: setihaasa Puraanakaa:
Here is a much more intelligible translation of the aforesaid sloka, telling us that Sri Nammazhwar?s verses provide us blemishless wisdom about these five concepts:
Mikka Irai nilayum, meyyaam uyir nilayum
Takka neriyum tadayaagi tokkiyalum oozh vinayum vaazh vinayaum
Odum Kurukayar Kon yaazhinisai Vedaatiyal
மிக்க இறை நிலையும் மெய்யாம் உயிர் நிலையும்
தக்க நெறியும் தடையாகித் தொக்கியலும்
ஊழ்வினையும் வாழ்வினையும் ஓதும் குருகையர்கோன்
The Five Enemies
We saw how knowledge of the Hurdles (as part of the Five Fundamentals) is essential for everyone. The Vaartthaamaala catalogues these hurdles as follows:
1. Shareeram: Our frail body, which is dominated by the five karmendriyas and five gnaanendriyas, is the most powerful hurdle, preventing us from following the dictates of the Lord — Bhagavat anuvarttanattukku pratibhandhakam shareeram.
2. Family and Friends: Often, it is family ties and attachment which prevent us from treading the path of renunciation preached by Acharyas?the more the attachment to the family, the less the inclination to toe the line of Acharyas Aachaarya anuvartthanattukku pratibandhakam putra mitraadigal
3. Bad Company: Friendship with people of atheistic, cynical and indifferent mentalities will sap our own faith and make us less enthusiastic for the enlightening and purifying company of Bhaagavatas Sri Vaishnavargal anuvarttanattukku pratibandhakam itara sahavaasam.
4. Wealth: The staunch faith that surrender to the Lord is the sole strategy, gets diluted once we engage in —— the unending pursuit of wealth Upaaya adhyavasaayattukku pratibandhakam arttha praavanyam. This is why the Lord says that whomever He wishes to bless, first He deprives the devotee of his wealth–Yasya anugraham icchaami tasya vittam haraamyaham”
5. Material Pleasures: Preoccupation with material pursuits and mundane pleasures would lead us into methods for achievement of the same, diverting us from the path of Prapatti and the supreme goal of attaining the Lord. The ultimate bliss of bhagavat anubhavam gets shadowed by the glaring floodlights of material pleasures.
Five Components of Saranagati
We saw that Saranagati at the lotus feet of the Lord is the only strategy for people like us, capable of redeeming us from the mundane morass in which we wallow. This Saranagati or absolute surrender to the Lord, again has five components:
1. Aanukoolya Sankalpam: One who wishes to surrender must first resolve to toe the line of the Lord, as laid down in scripture. ‘Irrespective of my long record of crime, I shall henceforth obey Your dictates implicitly’, says the Jeevatma to the Lord.
2. Praatikoolya Varjanam: Though this is a natural corollary of the first item, still it is reiterated to ensure that there is no misunderstanding about the nature of the contract with the Almighty. The second resolution of the Jeevatma is that it would never transgress divine dictates, as laid down in the Shruti and the Smritis.
3. Goptrutva Varanam: The conscious choice of the Lord Sriman Narayana as one’s sole saviour and a plaintive cry to Him to rush to our rescue, are the next item on the surrenderer’s agenda.
4. Rakshisyati it Visvaasa: Surrendering to anyone would be fruitful only if we have an absolute faith that the person to whom we are surrendering is capable of and would be inclined to save us. Maha Visvaasam or the Great Faith as it is known, is the cornerstone of all Prapatti, without which sincere surrender would be impossible.
5.Kaarpanyam: We should be acutely aware of our helplessness in all matters, spiritual and mundane and critically conscious of our total incapacity to save ourselves. Our moral, material and spiritual poverty should always agitate our mind. Aakinchanyam or helplessness and its realization by the Jeevatma impart it the requisite submissiveness essential for surrender. Sri Tondaradippodi Azhwar’s Tirumaalai paasurams beginning with “oorilen kaani illai”, “Manattilor tooymai Illai” “Tavattulaar tammil allen”, “Kulitthu moondru analai ombum” etc. are pointers in this regard.
The Five Doubts
We thus see that the glorious strategy of Prapatti has five components. However, people are often plagued by doubts regarding the efficacy of Saranagati as a tool to liberation. These doubts are again of five types, as enumerated by Swami Desikan in Sri Nyaasa Tilakam.
1. Jeevaatmas accumulate immeasurable sin during each of their births, with the burden assuming crippling proportions with each successive body that they inhabit. And each of these sins is so serious, that its deleterious effects are likely to continue over several births. In such a case, how can it be said that a simple strategy like Prapatti washes away all our sins?
This doubt arises because of ignorance of the nature of Sri Mahalakshmi. The Universal Mother is so merciful that She intercedes with the Lord on behalf the surrendered soul and makes a strong recommendation to the Lord for ridding the soul of all sin, however grave and however numerous. Such maternal intervention ensures that all sins are pardoned, irrespective of number and gravity.
2. The Lord is portrayed as an impartial arbiter, doling out reward and punishment in perfect proportion to the meritorious and sinful deeds of the Jeevas. In such a case, how can He bestow on the sinning Jeevatma the ultimate fruit of Moksham, which is beyond the reach of even distinguished deities like Brahma and Shiva?
No doubt the Lord is indeed a judge and jury, affording pleasure and pain to the Jeevas according to their deeds. However, there is an eternal and inalienable bond between Him and the individual souls, as that between father and son. Just as even the prodigal son is entitled to the father’s property and the father does give him his share once the son reforms and returns to the family fold, so too, the Lord has no hesitation in rewarding the Jeeva with Liberation, once the latter realizes its follies and surrenders at the lotus feet of the Universal Father.
3. The Lord has nothing to gain from anyone?s offering. He is the avaapta samasta kaama: or one who has no needs to be satisfied. Such being the case, would He afford the Jeeva the ultimate of all rewards, viz., Moksham, in return for a sinecure of a strategy like Prapatti, the effort for which is totally disproportionate to the object sought to be achieved?
Though the Lord has nothing to gain from our Prapatti, His natural and boundless mercy for errant souls makes Him bestow the greatest of favours in return for the smallest of gestures, just as a King is pleased by the submission of a mere lime fruit.
4. While demigods are easy to please and shower their devotees with minor boons at the drop of a hat, the Lord is known as one who tests His devotees for quite long, before bestowing major bonuses. This being so, would He grant liberation to the Jeeva who performs Prapatti, as and when the latter desires the same?
While it is true that minor benefits flow rather late from our Lord, as far as Bharanyaasam is concerned, it melts down Emperuman’s naturally merciful heart, resulting in the expeditious grant of Moksham.
5. Those who perform Prapatti are of different types – some are Vidvaans while others are ignoramuses, some are rich while some do not have a penny to call their own, some are paragons of virtue while others have done no good in their lives. How can the Lord bestow the same significant benefit of Moksham on all these surrendered souls, irrespective of the differences among them? Surely, righteous men and wise persons are entitled to better treatment than the wicked and ignorant.
Irrespective of on whom He bestows the fruit of liberation, the Lord considers Himself to be the real beneficiary, since He has brought one more Jeevaatma into His fold, who had been eluding Him so long. Thus the Lord’s major concern is “Chetana Laabham”. As such, Prapatti is a great equalizer, bringing the same blissful reward to every one of its adherents, irrespective of differences among them.
The Five Avoidables
For a Prapanna, who has surrendered Himself heart and soul to the Lord, five categories of people are to be avoided like the plague. Here, the Vaartthaamaala draws a comparison between a Pativrata and Prapanna, prescribing common matters to be avoided by both:
1. Just as a Pativrata would have nothing to do with a prostitute and would avoid even the latter’s shadow, a Prapanna should avoid resorting to demigods, who would harm his dedication and devotion to Sriman Narayana as the sole refuge and saviour.
2. As a chaste woman would look askance at those who patronize prostitutes, so too, a Prapanna should avoid the company of those who do not owe allegiance to Sriman Narayana as the Supreme Lord and Master.
3. Those who have abandoned their husbands and consorted with others would be avoided by a chaste woman at all costs. So too, Vaishnavas who embrace the practices of other faiths, are to be shunned by a Prapanna.
4. Pretenders, who profess to be Pativratas but do not act accordingly, would have no attraction for a genuine Pativrata. Similarly, a Prapanna would like to avoid those who sport all the external symbols of a Sri Vaishnava, but lack the devotion and dedication that go with the name.
5. Unmarried girls are no company for chaste women, who prefer to consort with other females of their own persuasion and conviction. Similarly, Prapannas find no pleasure in the company of immature Samsaaris.
Srimate Sri LakshmiNrisimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya nama:
To be continued…
Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore