thiruviruththam – pAsuram 1 – poy ninRa

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avathArikai (Introduction)

emperumAn shows to AzhwAr the greatness of his svarUpam (basic nature), rUpam (divine form), guNam (auspicious qualities) as well as his wealth of nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam) and leelA vibhUthi (materialistic realm). AzhwAr realises the knowledge, activities and the way the nithyAthmAs (permanent dwellers of nithya vibhUthi) and mukthAthmAs (those who have reached nithya vibhUthi after being liberated from leelA vibhUthi) live there. He also thinks about his situation in samsAram which is the exact opposite of those who dwell in nithya vibhUthi and appeals to emperumAn to sever his connection with prakruthi (samsAram) which is a hurdle for his enjoying emperumAn.

AzhwAr has been granted knowledge and devotion by emperumAn without any cause. When such is the situation, why should he, like ordinary people, appeal to emperumAn to sever his hurdles, just as it is said in bhagavath gIthA SlOkam 7-29 “jarA maraNa mOkshAya mamASrithya yadhanthiyE” (those who wish to rid themselves of old age and death should attain me)? Just as a beloved would remove all the dirt from her person before uniting with her beloved and just as a prince, who is to be coronated, gets rid of his diseases, AzhwAr too wishes severance from samsAram as a prelude to enjoying emperumAn. Is this desire arising out of his love towards emperumAn or out of fear for samsAram? It is for both reasons, says the commentator, just like maharAjar (sugrIva) had love towards perumAL (SrI rAma) and fear towards vAli.

Why is the AzhwAr projecting emperumAn’s followers in the forefront in many pAsurams in this prabandham? When a creeper plant starts growing, it needs the support of poles before it can be taken on to a pandhal (broad network of sticks). Followers of emperumAn serve a similar purpose. Just as it is said in (a) thiruviruththam 1 “imaiyOr thalaivA” (Oh the lord of nithyasUris), (b) thiruvAimozhi 3-7-10 “adiyAr adiyAr tham adiyAr” ((we are the servitors of) the followers of the followers of emperumAn’s followers), (3) thiruvAimozhi 2-3-10 “adiyArgal kuzhAngaLai udan kUduvadhu enRukolO” (when will I unite with the groups of emperumAn’s followers?) (d) thiruvAimozhi 10-9-11 “andhamil pErinbaththu adiyarOdu irundhamai” (being united with nithyasUris who are present in the great hall of SrIvaikuNtam which has unending happiness), they serve the role of AchAryan (teacher who guides) when attaining emperumAn’s divine feet. They are also required to console when there is Udal (love-quarrel) with emperumAn. Since both in the first pAsuram “inninRa nIrmai” (the nature of sorrow arising out of repeated births) and in the final pAsuram “azundhAr piRappAm” (will not get drowned in the reason for being born in samsAram), the meaning is similar, it could be taken that the entire prabandham is centred around AzhwAr requesting emperumAn to rid him [AzhwAr] of his hurdles which prevent him from enjoying emperumAn.

poy ninRa gyAnamum pollA ozhukkum azhukkudambum
inninRa nIrmai iniyAm uRAmai  uyir aLippAn
enninRa yOniyumAyp piRandhAy imaiyOr thalaiva
meynninRu kEttaruLAy adiyEn seyyum viNNappamE

Word-by-Word Meanings

uyir – all the created entities
aLippAn – to protect
enninRa – many different types
yOniyumAy – births
piRandhAy – Oh one who incarnated!
imaiyOr – for nithyasUris (permanent dwellers of SrIvaikuNtam)
thalaivA – Oh one who is the Lord!
poynninRa – not being truthful
(considering body as the soul)
gyAnamum – knowledge
pollA ozhukkum – bad conduct
azhukku – deficient
udambum – body
(being like this)
inninRa – of this nature
nIrmai – quality
ini – from now onwards
yAm – we
uRAmai – such that we do not attain
adiyEn – I, who am your servitor
seyyum – make
mey – reality
viNNappam – appeal
ninRu – remaining firm
kEttaruLAy – please listen to, mercifully

Simple Translation

Oh one who incarnated in many births in order to protect all the creatures! Oh the lord of nithyasUris (permanent dwellers of SrIvaikuNtam)! We should be without these births which are the cause for our sorrow and which are with knowledge which is the opposite of truth (we should be without faulty knowledge), with wrongful deeds, physical forms which are full of impurity etc. You should stand firmly and hear my appeal to you from me, your servitor, for the sake of this.


poy ninRa gyAnamum – this term refers to the knowledge which considers that which is not self as the self, viz. considers body which is not the soul, as the soul. This is called as anyathA gyAnam (inaccurate or erroneous knowledge); it is erroneous knowledge because it is about prakruthi (primordial matter which is the raw material for all creations) and prAkrutham (those which are derived from prakruthi); instead of knowledge about true meanings, it is knowledge about untruths.  SrI vishNu purANam 6-5-87 says “thathgyAnam agyAnamanthOnyadhuktham” (that by which we know emperumAn is knowledge; all the rest are only false knowledge). How can we say that whatever is seen by the eyes in prakruthi is false knowledge? It is not the way that baudhdha follower says as false or mAyAvAdhi (one who is a follower of adhvaitham) says as thuchcham (non-existing). The opinion is that whatever is seen in prakruthi is not like AthmA (soul). Just as it is said in SrI vishNu purANam 2-13-100 “yaththu kAlAntharENApi nAnyasamgyAmupaithivai pariNAmAdhi sambhUthAn thadhvasthu nrupadhachchakim” (that for which this world which keeps changing is present and that which does not change at all, though in the grip of time) AthmA does not change unlike the other objects. This remains the same all the time. Since the other objects keep changing constantly, AzhwAr refers to them as false knowledge. ninRa refers to the fact that these objects have been existing in this samsAram from time immemorial. gyAnamum – the state where one who sees prakruthi, which is insentient, as something great, leading to the state where self becomes equally insentient. The erroneous knowledge which results from such a state, including mistaking body for AthmA.

pollA ozhukkumbhagavath kainkaryam (carrying out service to emperumAn) will result from having truthful knowledge. When knowledge is erroneous, activities also become erroneous, and would result in not carrying out service to emperumAn. The basic nature of AthmA is to carry out service to emperumAn, just as lakshmaNa had told SrI rAma in SrI rAmAyaNam ayOdhyA kANdam 31-25 “aham sarvam kariyshyAmi” (I will carry out all services to you) and 31-22 “kurushva mAm anucharaNam” (you should order me to carry out service to you). Instead of being like this, one thinks “I am doing” and indulges in all activities other than carrying out service to emperumAn.

azhukkudambum – the insentient prakruthi which is the cause for the above two mentioned characteristics. We can also consider this term to refer to the physical form which is misconstrued as AthmA (ahankAram or ego) and those which are considered as one’s own, even though they are not (mamakAram or possessiveness). Even mahAbhAratham could not state clearly the difference between prakruthi and purusha (body and AthmA) just as one cannot clearly separate hay from jackfruit with which it is stuck. However, AzhwAr, since he has been showered with faultless knowledge and devotion by emperumAn, differentiates between prakruthi and purusha through these three terms:

  1. poy ninRa gyAnam – by terming prakruthi as false, the correctness of AthmA has been established.
  2. pollA ozhukku – due to the connection with physical form, one thinks “I am doing”; however, carrying out service to emperumAn is always the basic nature of AthmA.
  3. azhukkudambu – if there is no connection between AthmA and the physical form (which is the effect of prakruthi), AthmA is full of true knowledge.

inninRa nIrmai – the nature which has got destabilised like this. ammangi ammAL would say that AzhwAr is explaining his position as well that of the people of the world through these words just like a person, who has been hurt badly, would display his blood stained clothes. swAmy ALavandhAr would say – just like the sages of dhaNdakAraNyam who had been hurt by demons would show their scars to SrI rAma, as mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNa AraNya kANdam SlOkam 6-16 “Ehi paSya SarIrANi” (look at our forms), AzhwAr is showing his AthmA which has been tortured by samsAram. poy ninRa gyAnam . . . . – just like a person who has injuries on his physical form would display them, AzhwAr says “look at this injury; look at this hurt”, displaying the injuries inflicted on his AthmA.

inninRa nIrmai – this is remaining in a situation when one does not listen to AchArya’s instructions and neither does he listen to the instructions of SAsthras (sacred texts) which are authentic.

ini – The time when one thought “I am capable of taking care of myself; why should I depend on emperumAn?” has gone. The situation now is “I do not want anything other than what has been given by you”

yAm – AzhwAr is making the appeal on behalf of all the people since he is able to feel the worthless situation of others and hence is stating this in plural.

uRAmai – incongruent; not affected. Just as it is said in pUrvamImAmsai “SAsthra palam prayOkthari” (only the person who is going to get benefitted should take efforts to attain it), emperumAn asks of AzhwAr “Since I am considering attaining you as my benefit, I have created several paths such as karmayOgam, gyAnayOgam, bhakthiyOgam etc (the paths of carrying out deeds, gaining knowledge and devotion respectively); why don’t you attain me choosing one of those paths?” AzhwAr responds saying “Please state the purpose of your taking various incarnations” periya thiruvandhAdhi pAsuram 56 says “oruvARu oruvan pugAvARu uRumARum Ayavar thAm” (in order to ensure that no sentient entity enters some path [which may not lead to liberation from samsAram] emperumAn incarnated as the cowherd boy, krishNa). If emperumAn takes such care of us, why should anyone follow any other path?

uyir – did you come here for the sake of pirAttimArs (consorts), thiruvadi (garudan), ananthan (AdhiSEshan) et al?

aLippAn – did anyone request you to come and incarnate as a human being? Was it not out of your mercy that your incarnations took place? emperumAn himself says in bhagavath gIthA 4-5 “bahUni” (many incarnations), confirming that he had taken up many incarnations.

enninRa yOniyumAy – just as it is said in SrI rAmAyaNam yudhdha kANdam “AthmAnam mAnusham manyE” (I consider myself as a mere man), emperumAn takes incarnations as per his wish.

piRandhAy – emperumAn also takes a birth similar to other human beings, unlike his other incarnations such as narasimha when he appeared suddenly from a pillar or when he came to help the elephant gajEndhran when the elephant called out to him. SrI rAmAyaNam bAla kANdam SlOkam says ”thathaScha dhvAdhaSEmAsE”(he remained in his mother kauSalyA dhEvi’s womb for twelve months instead of the normal ten months that we all remain for). periyAzhwAr thirumozhi 3-2-8 also reflects the same meaning “panniru thingaL” (twelve months in mother’s womb).

imaiyOr thalaivA –  Just as it is said in thiruviruththam pAsuram 21 “sUttu nan mAlaigaL” (holding nice garlands ready for adorning emperumAn with …), isn’t emperumAn one who is having nithyasUris in paramapadham as those who are “Dear to me”? Did he incarnate here since he was not satisfied with nithyasUris alone and wanted to invite those who have shortcomings in their knowledge here? When he became the controller for us too, he became one without any shortcoming.

sarvESwaran told AzhwAr “If nithyasUris make an appeal to me like this, I would consider that to be a statement of fact. But how can I take your words, when you have been in samsAram from time immemorial, to be true? For how long will these words remain truthful? If I go to people thinking that they are truly calling out to me, they may ask for benefits other than me”. To which AzhwAr responds saying . . . .

mey – it is not that way. Our appeal is indeed truthful. Just as sthOthra rathnam SlOkam 57 says “vigyApanam idham sathyam” (this is a truthful appeal), our appeal too, to you, is truthful.

ninRu – AzhwAr started his appeal with the first pAsuram in thiruviruththam and ended with thiruvAimozhi 10.7.10 “mangavottu un mAmAyai” (rid us of this bondage in samsAram).

kEttaryLAy – to listen to this is apt for emperumAn. It is only till such time that AzhwAr makes the appeal that AzhwAr has any shortcoming. Once he has enunciated it, if emperumAn does not initiate any action on it, the resulting lowliness is his and not AzhwAr’s.

emperumAn is puzzled that someone, who is in samsAram, is making an appeal without expecting any worldly benefit, which is much against the normal behaviour of a samsAri. His words are totally contrary to those of a samsAri. He wonders as to who it is, who is making such an appeal . . . .

adiyEn – AzhwAr says that he is emperumAn’s servitor. Had he said, “I”, it would have been at loggerheads with the words spoken thus far. Hence he says “Servitor”

seyyum viNNappam – Had he said “I” in the previous verse, he would have said “Words spoken” here. However, since he said “Servitor” he hays “Appeal made”.

vyAkyAthA (commentator for this pAsuram) periyavAchchAn piLLai shows further that this pAsuram explains artha panchakam (five meanings) – svasvarUpam (nature of self, the jIvAthmA), parasvarUpam (nature of paramAthmA, emperumAn), upAya svarUpam (nature of means, the path which leads us to our goal), upEya svarUpam (nature of goal) and virOdhi svarUpam (nature of hurdle). The words poyninRa gyAnam and inninRa nIrmai explain the nature of hurdles. The words enninRa yOniyumAyp piRandhAy reveal the nature of means. The words imaiyOr thalaivA explain the nature of goal. The word adiyEn explains the nature of self. The words seyym viNNappam reveal that kainkaryam (to emperumAn) is the benefit that one gets on attaining the goal.

We will take up the second pAsuram in the next article.

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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