thiruvAimozhi – 1.1.9 – uLan enil uLan

srImathE satakOpAya nama:
srImathE rAmAnujAya nama:
srImath varavaramunayE nama:

Full series >> First Centum >> First decad

Previous pAsuram

leela-vibhuthione universe in leelA vibhUthi in manifested state – as drawn by srIperumbUthUr 1st embAr jIyar swamy based on vishNu purANam and pUrvAchAraya granthams

Introduction for this pAsuram

Highlights from thirukkurukaippirAn piLLAn‘s introduction

After rejecting kudhrushtis who accept vEdham but misinterpret them, this pAsuram rejects sUnyavAdhi (philosophers of voidness) who says “there is no pramANam (scriptures), there is no pramEyam (goal/bhagavAn); everything is sUnyam (void). Thus there is no vEdham, no bhagavAn (who is the object of vEdham) and no existence of this realm (which is his wealth)”.

Highlights from nanjIyar‘s introduction

Similar to piLLAn‘s introduction.

Highlights from vAdhi kEsari azhagiya maNavALa jIyar‘s introduction

Subsequently, nammAzhwAr refutes mAdhyamika baudhdha philosophers (a type of sUnyavAdhi – voidness philoshopher) who is considered as the primary amongst vEdha bhAhyas (the ones who reject vEdham).

Highlights from periyavAchchAn piLLai‘s introduction

Previously, nammAzhwAr refuted those who partially took some aspects of pramANam (scriptures) and pramEyam (goal) and thus misunderstood bhagavAn‘s svarUpam and his attributes/qualities. In this pAsuram, AzhwAr refutes sUnyavAdhi who rejects both pramANam and pramEyam. Even before the sUnyavAdhi starts giving any reason for his argument, AzhwAr himself declares the truth about bhagavAn who is with vibhUthi (great wealth of (spiritual realm and) material realm).

Highlights from nampiLLai‘s introduction as documented by vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai

In this pAsuram, nammAzhwAr refutes sarva sUnyavAdhi (one who says everything is void in all aspects). He refutes as done by srI bhAshyakArar (emperumAnAr) in srI bhAsyhyam. Since bhAshyakArar is after the times of AzhwAr, we can conclude that bhAshyakArar writes his refutal in srI bhAshyam based on AzhwAr‘s explanations.

Previously kudhrushtis argued that brahmA, rudhran, etc., are supreme based on some pramANams. But AzhwAr establishes that srIman nArAyaNan is the supreme lord, the entire material realm is for his service just like body is for the AthmA and these are revealed in vEdham.

When we say “something does not exist”, we first need to define that something and then only reject the existence of that thing. The fact that “something” is defined first, it cannot be made void. Simply saying something does not exist (without defining the entity) will not explain complete voidness. sarva sUnyavAdham (complete voidness) can never be established (If there is a proper word that will always indicate some entity. It can never point to non-existing entity. For example if we say “there is no rabbit” – that means rabbit generally exists but it does not exist here at this place. Even if we create composite words like “rabbit-horn” (which is contradictory since there is no horn for rabbit) and say that does not exist, it will only prove that there is no connection between rabbit and horn – but both rabbit and horn exist separately.Thus, sarva sUnyavAdham can never be established).

AzhwAr tells the sUnyavAdhi that you can neither prove voidness by accepting bhagavAn‘s existence nor by rejecting bhagavAn‘s existence. In either case, your desire (of establishing voidness) will not be fulfilled. I will take your word of “bhagavAn does not exist” and prove that bhagavAn exists. Generally, we explain the meaning of a word that indicates the presence or absence of an entity (i.e., when we say something exists, that means that entity exists in a particular place, time and form. Similarly when we say an entity does not exist, that means that entity does not exist in particular place, time and form). If we do not agree to this common platform of debate, you do not have the qualification to participate in the debate.


uLan enil uLan avan uruvam ivvuruvugaL
uLan alan enil avan aruvam ivvaruvugaL
uLan ena ilan ena ivai guNam udaimaiyil
uLan iru thagailmaiyodu ozhivilan paranthE

Word-by-Word meanings (based on vAdhi kEsari azhagiya maNavALa jIyar‘s 12000 padi)

uLan enil – if said to be existing as per own philosophy (vaidhika philosophy)
uLan alan enil – if said to be non-existing as per other philosophy (avaidhika philosophy)
uLan – Should be considered as existing since there should be an entity (substratum) for sath bhAvam (existence) or asath bhAvam (non-existence) while making a statement; thus,
uLan ena ilan ena ivai – that which is said as existing or non-existing
guNamudaimaiyil – having as attribute
ivvuruvugaL ivvaruvugaL – those aspects with form or without form in this material realm
avanuruvam avanaruval – having them as prakAram (attribute) that shows or hides
iru thagaimaiyodu – having two different aspects
uLan – being
paranthu – pervading everywhere
ozhivilan – present without ever ceasing to exist

Simple transalation (based on vAdhi kEsari azhagiya maNavALa jIyar‘s 12000 padi)

bhagavAn is the substratum for both existence (as per AzhwAr‘s vaidhika philosophy) or non-existence (as per avaidhika philosophies) – so, bhagavAn must be understood/accepted as existing  while making a statement about him. He is the one who is pervaded everywhere without ever ceasing to exist and has both with-form and form-less manifestations of this material realm as his two types of aspects which shows and hides him respectively.

vyAkyAnams (commentaries)

Highlights from thirukkurukaippirAn piLLAn‘s vyAkyAnam

AzhwAr tells a sUnyavAdhi “You cannot prove bhagavAn‘s non-existence through his presence or absence. In general, bhAvam (presence) or abhAvam (absence) of an entity/attribute is based on the place, time and form. When we say bhagavAn is present, that means he is present with-in gross forms that are visible  and when say bhagavAn is absent, that means he is present with-in subtle forms that are invisible. Even for other entities (chith and achith), the same rule applies – they either are present in gross or subtle forms. Thus being with form (gross) or without form (subtle) are just his attributes. Thus in either case he exists”. Thus sUnyavAdhi is refuted.

Highlights from nanjIyar‘s vyAkyAnam

Similar to nampiLLai‘s vyAkyAnam. nanjIyar highlights this pAsuram is explained according to kUraththAzhwAn‘s explanation.

Highlights from periyavAchchAn piLLai‘s vyAkyAnam

Similar to nampiLLai‘s vyAkyAnam.

Highlights from nampiLLai‘s vyAkyAnam as documented by vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai

  • avanuruvam ivvuruvugaLbhagavAn exists with the universe which he controls as explained in bruhadhAraNyaka upanishath “yasya AthmA sarIram yaya pruthivI sarIram” (all jIvAthmAs are his body, earth is his body) and has this universe as his sarIram (body) and sEsham (subordinate) – this is the sthUlarUpam (gross form). When it is said as uLAn alan (he does not exist) he exists in the unmanifested (sUkshma – subtle) form.
  • avanaruvam ivvarugaL – This is explained as the meaning of the word “nAsthi” (non-existence) which really explains a different state of existence. “gatOsthi” (pot exists) indicates an object with an opening at the top with a rounded structure. “gatO nAthi” indicates a different state – when it is not here means it is there else where; when it is not present now means it is present at some other time; it cannot be said that pot does not exist in any form at all times.
  • uLan ena ilan ena ivai guNam udaimaiyil – Having the existence (in gross form) and non-existence (existence in subtle form) as qualities indicate that both of them are his attributes.
  • uLan iru thagaimaiyodu – He has both types of behaviour of being in existence and being not in existence that are indicated by the words “uLan” and “ilan“.
  • ozhivilan paranthE – I (AzhwAr) established his existence through the word “uLan“. You (sUnyavAdhi) established his existence through the word “ilan“. So, both of us have established the truth. AzhwAr also says “Just like his existence is established, can we not understand that he exists with this wealth of nithya vibhUthi (spiritual realm) and leelA vibhUthi (material realm)?”.

Note: kAnchI P.B aNNangarAchAryar swamy says in the end of his detailed explanation for this pAsuram in his dhivyArththa dhIpikai commentary – “It cannot be explained in any more detail – this should be heard in detail under learned scholars” – what to speak about this English translation? The translation here is to develop the taste in hearing word-by-word kAlakshEpam of these wonderful granthams which are the only way to get reasonable understanding of these pAsurams.

In the next article we will the next pAsuram.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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