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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 5th chUrNai: part 4

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Let us now look at the 8 qualities and several other auspicious qualities which bhagavadh SrI rAmAnuja mentions prior to surrendering to perumAL.

sathyakAma! sathyasankalpa! parabrahmabhUtha! purushOththama! mahAvibhUthE! SrIman! nArAyaNa! SrIvaikuNtanAtha! apArakAruNya sauSeelya vAthsalya oudhArya aiSvarya soundharya mahOdhadhE! anAlOchitha viSEsha aSEshalOka SaraNya! praNathArthihara! ASritha vAthsalyaika jaladhE! anavaratha vidhitha nikhila bhUtha jAtha yAthAthmya! aSEsha charAcharabhUtha nikhila niyamana niratha! aSEsha chidhachidhvasthu SEshibhUtha! nikhila jagadhAdhAra! akhila jagath swAmin! asmath swAmin! sathyakAma! sathyasankalpa! SrIman! nArAyaNa! aSaraNyaSaraNya! ananya SaraNa: thvath pAdhAravindha yugalam SaraNam aham prapadhyEII

The first 4 of the 8 qualities described below are part of bhagavAn’s ability to create the worlds. The next four are part of the path to surrender – that only he can grant us mOksham (SrIvaikuNtam). Again, the terms sathyakAma, sathyasankalpa and parabrahmabhUtha (which are part of the 8 qualities described below) are linked to leelA vibhUthi (materialistic realm or this world that we live in) part of the chUrNai. purushOththama and nArAyaNa are linked to his gUNas (his qualities). mahAvibhUthE and SrI vaikuNtanAtha are linked to nithya vibUthi (spiritual realm or SrIvaikuNtam). SrIman is linked to the chUrNai relating to his consorts. We have already seen the meanings of these 8 words.

sathyakAma – the word kAma has several meanings. It refers to the person who desires something; it also refers to the object of desire. And, it also refers to desire itself. Earlier, SrI rAmAnuja had mentioned this word kAma to refer to the nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam). Here he uses it in the context of referring to bhagavAn who owns prakruthi, purusha and kAla and plays with these (as we had seen a few paragraphs back) to fulfil his desire, i.e. there it referred to the objects of desire and here it refers to desire itself. sathya refers to his permanent nature. The objects of creation, AthmAs, the objects of their enjoyments, the equipment through which they enjoy these, the time which determines what and when they will enjoy – all these are playful things for him. We may ask, why something which binds us to this samsAram (materialistic world), which makes it difficult for us to get liberated from, and which hides bhagavAn, should be an object of enjoyment for him. Let us see what will happen if he does not create at all – we will be sticking to his thirumEni (his physical  body) along with achith (insentient) for eons, without ever having a hope of reaching his abode, SrIvaikuNtam. Only because he keeps creating the worlds that a vaSishta or a suka or a vAmadhEva or such sages are able to reach SrIvaikuNtam. We can also then hope to, one day, discard this physical body and be blessed by him to reach his SrIvaikuNtam and carry out kainkaryam to his thiruvadi (exalted feet). An agriculturist, despite facing repeated losses due to some reason or the other when he sows seeds, does not stop sowing or cultivating his land. He still keeps doing it in the hope that some crop or the other will bring him benefit, just as he had got a few times. bhagavAn‘s act in repeatedly creating/protecting/destroying the worlds is similar.

sathyasankalpa – his ability to  create the objects of enjoyment for his ASrithars (those who surrender to him)  to fulfil their desires through his sankalpa (thought or will). The term sathya here refers to his ability never to fail or disappoint his ASrithars. There will be no hurdles in his path to do this. When brahmA (first creation of bhagavAn) created sanaka, sanathkumAra et al, and asked them to help him in creating the world, they refused. brahmA’s creation thus became wasted. Similarly when he lost out vEdhas to aSurars (demons) he fell at the feet of bhagavAn for retrieving the vEdhas. But bhagavAn’s creation doesn’t go waste.

Let us look at the 8 qualities now.

sathyakAma – this term refers to bhagavAn being the owner of all the permanent entities which are the implements or aids for the creation of the world in which jIvAthmAs will take many different physical forms before attaining bhagavAn.

sathyasankalpa – being firm in his will that it will not go waste. Once he decides that a particular jIvAthmA should reach SrIvaikuNtam, no hurdle can impede him in taking his decision to fruition. jIvAthmA has a role to play in this, in that he should have the desire to go to SrIvaikuNtam.

parabrahmabhUtha – he is unimaginably huge. How huge is he? The entire universe, with all its thousands of galaxies forms the body of bhagavAn (also called as brahmam; the term brahmam is not to be confused with brahmA. While brahmA is the creator on bhagavAn‘s direction, brahmam is bhagavAn himself).  That is how huge he is. At the time of pralayam (deluge), the entire chith (sentients) and achith (insentients)  take refuge in him. At the time of creation he takes a sankalpam (will) saying “let me take multitudinous forms” and starts dividing himself into many different objects that we have seen earlier (prakruthi, purushan, kAlam etc). All these objects still form part of his thirumENi (physical body). That would give an idea about how huge he is.

purushOththama – purushAnAm uththama: i.e. highest among purushas (sentients). There are three types of purushapurusha:, uthpurusha:, uththara purusha:, and then there is bhagavAn who is uththama purusha:. purusha: are badhdhAthmAs, those who are still bound to this samsAram (materialistic world). uthpurusha: are mukthAthmAs, those who have been released from the samsAram and have reached SrIvaikuNtam. uththara purusha are nithyAthmAs, those who were never born in samsAram and have always been in SrIvaikuNtam (AdhiSEshan, vishvakSEnar, garudan et al). uththama purusha or purushOththama is bhagavAn, the highest among all the purushas. Even though he resides within the three types of  chith (the three types are bhadhdha, muktha and nithya jIvAthmAs) and three types of achith entities (sudhdha sathvam or pure goodness, miSra thathvam or mixture of sathvam, rajas and thamas which are the goodness, desire/passion and ignorance respectively and kAla thatvam which is time), their impurities will not affect him. He removes the impurities of his ASrithars (those who surrender to him). Moreover, he pervades us all, he bears us all and he owns us all. He grants us all that we (the three types of purusha) desire. He is purushOththama.

mahAvibhUthE – Owner of vibhUthis (worlds). Earlier itself, his vibhUthis have been clarified. Why then repeat it now? Earlier we had seen who all constitute the vibhUthis. Now he emphasises that he will grant his wealth (we have seen this quality under oudhAryam, earlier). If an Asrithar wants him, bhagavAn grants everything to him, even himself to him. He also stays with the ASrithars throughout, in SrIvaikuNtam, giving kainkarya anubhavam (exalted experience of serving bhagavAn).

SrIman – kainkaryam is done to both bhagavAn and pirAtti. Once the jIvAthmA reaches SrivaikuNtam and becomes a mukthAthmA, he enjoys doing service to both bhagavAn and pirAtti.

nArAyaNa – possessing countless auspicious qualities (already seen) without any fault and granting these qualities to the ASrithars for them to enjoy and carry out kainkaryam. Thus, kainkaryam is carried out to the dhivya dhampathis (divine couple, bhagavAn and pirAtti).

SrIvaikuNtanAtha – lord of SrIvaikuNtam, the place fit for carrying out kainkaryam.

Of the above 8 qualities, the first 4 qualities (sathyakAma, sathyasankalpa, parabrahmabhUtha, purushOththama) extol his abilities for creation (of the universe) and the next 4 (mahAvibhUthE, SrIman, nArAyaNa, SrIvaikuNtanAtha) emphasise that he is the entity that we should approach, and enjoy by carrying out kainkaryam. Thus he is the creator and he is the object of enjoyment. SrI rAmAnuja now mentions 24 further qualities of bhagavAn before surrendering to him. Why another 24 qualities when he has already mentioned so many? We can surrender only to someone who possesses great qualities. If the entity to whom we surrender is devoid of qualities, how can we surrender? It is customary to mention all the qualities before surrendering. Even in dhvaya mahAmanthram (one of rahasya thrayam, the three secret manthrams, that our preceptors taught us down the generations), we say that we surrender to SrIman nArAyaNan, in which the term nArAyaNan means one who has great qualities. Thus it is not out of place to keep mentioning the qualities of bhagavAn repeatedly.

In the next few qualities (apAra kAruNya souSeelya, vAthsalya, oudhArya, aiSvarya soudharya mahOdhadhE), the term “apAra” (great, unlimited) is considered to be added to each of the 6 qualities that follow it.

apAra kAruNyakAruNya means being merciful – not being able to tolerate others’ sorrow. It becomes apAra kAruNya (great or unlimited) when bhagavAn extends this to persons like rAvaNa (the demon king of SrI lankA who abducted sIthA pirAtti and separated SrI rAma and sIthA pirAtti) – this incident is mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNam when vibhIshaNa crosses the ocean to surrender to SrI rAma. sugrIva, the monkey king and friend of rAma’s, says that rAma should not accept vibhIshaNa as he is a demon and brother of rAvaNa. SrI rAma convinces him by saying that he would accept should rAvaNa himself come for surrendering. Here periyavAchchAn piLLai, the preceptor who wrote vyAkhyAnam (explanation) for gadhyathrayam, mentions that SrI rAmAnuja felt that bhagavAn showered his mercy on him (rAmAnuja) such that even a lowly person like himself was able to compose a work such as gadhyathrayam (this is absolutely untrue, but our preceptors, without exception, considered themselves to be lowly, a quality called as naichyAnusandhAnam, which means imagining oneself to be of lowly nature even though it is not true).

sauSeelya – showing magnanimity when a superior person befriends an inferior. During rAmAvathAram, he became friends with guha, sugrIva and vibhIshaNa. It becomes apAra souseelya when bhagavAn, taking mathsyAvathAram or kUrmAvathAram or varAhAvathAram, befriended fish, tortoises, boars respectively treating himself as one of them.

vAthsalya – the quality of bhagavAn which treats faults in ASrithars as good qualities. apAra vAthsalya here refers to the quality by which he treats even enemies with vAthsalyam. As example, In the case of rAvaNa, bhagavAn killed him in war so that he will not commit further sins – just as a mother will remove hastily a rod that  her toddler takes so that the child will not hurt his/her eyes with the rod.

oudhAryabhagavAn grants the wishes of his ASrithars (those who surrender to him) as per his svarUpa (nature or basic characteristic). apAra oudhArya is when he laments that he has not given anything to his ASrithars even after giving them everything. He did this when he took krishNavathAram and lamented that he did not give anything to dhraupadhi after she surrendered to him when being disrobed in dhritharAshtra’s court. He had sided with her husbands (pancha pANdavas) and got back their kingdom. But still he lamented that he did not help her when she cried out to him.

aiSvarya – having wealth which would enable him to give to ASrithars whatever they want. apAra aiSvarya is giving so much to his ASrithars that they will have enough wealth to give it away to people who ask of them.

soundharyam – being beautiful. apAra soundharyam is possessing such beauty that even an enemy such as sUrpaNakA (rAvaNa’s sister) gets attracted to him (as in rAmAvathAram). When SrI rAma went to various forests to visit rishis (as part of spending 14 years in exile) the rishis felt attracted to his features. That is his beauty. He steals the eyes and thoughts of persons who see him by his sheer beauty.

mahOdhadhE – great ocean. He has these qualities which are bigger than the biggest ocean.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 5th chUrNai: Part 3

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SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama:
SrImath varavaramunayE nama:

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We have seen bhagavAn (SrIman nArAyaNan)’s svarUpa (basic characteristics), rUpa guNa (qualities of physical form), ornaments, weapons and consorts so far. Now we shall see about his followers in SrIvaikuNtam (his abode) and leelA vibhUthi (our world) in this part.

Let us now look at that part of the the chUrNai that deals with his followers in these two vibhUthis (the two realms)

svachchandhAnuvarthi svarUpasthithi pravruththi bhEdha aSEsha SEshathaikarathirUpa nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya gnAnakriyaiSvaryAdhyanantha kalyANa guNagaNa SEsha SEshASana garuda pramukha nAnAvidhAnantha parijana parichArikA paricharitha charaNayugala! paramayOgi vAngmanasA parichchEdhya svarUpa svabhAva svAbhimatha vividha vichithrAnantha bhOgya bhOgOpakaraNa bhOgasthAna  samrudhdha ananthAScharya anantha mahAvibhava anantha parimANa nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya vaikuNtanAtha! swasankalpa anuvidhAyi svarUpasthithi pravruththi svaSeshathaika svabhAva prakruthi purusha kAlAthmaka vividha vichithrAnantha bhOgya bhOkthruvarga bhOgOpakaraNa bhOgasthAnarUpa nikhila jagadhudhaya vibhava laya leela!

Explanatory Note:

svachchandhAnuvarthiSrI rAmAnuja now talks about the people in SrI vaikuNtam whose reason for existence there is to carry out kainkaryam (service) to bhagavAn and pirAtti. The nithyasUris (those who reside permanently in SrIvaikuNtam and have never been born like us in our world, the leelA vibhUthi) carry out kainkaryam just by looking at bhagavAn’s face, knowing what he desires, unlike bhadhdhAthmAs like us who need to be told by him as to what he wants us to do.

svarUpa sthithi pravruththi bhEdhabhagavAn decides on the persons through whom he wants the kainkaryam to be carried on. These persons’ svarUpa, sthithi and pravrithi are spoken of here. svarUpa is a person’s nature or basic character, sthithi is his sustenance (that which sustains him) and pravruthi is his activity. bhEdha refers to differentiating among these.

For nithyasUris, their svarUpam is to carry out kainkaryam (service) the way bhagavAn wants them to. Their sthithi is to live only if they do the kainkaryam (carrying our kainkaryam is what sustains them) and pravruthi is engaging actively in that kainkaryam. They carryout these kainkaryams just by looking at the facial expressions of bhagavAn, out of gratitude for his love and because that is the dharmam (right thing to do) in that place. They do not need to be told to do these things, unlike us.

aSEsha SEshathaikarathirUpa – being the embodiment of carrying out all the kainkaryams without leaving anything, with deep affection and love. When bhagavAn wants a service to be carried out, the nithyasUris get fully involved with total dedication in that kainkaryam, making them appear that they are the epitome of the dedication with which the kainkaryam is to be done.

Next SrI rAmAnuja lists out the people who carry out the kainkaryams and their qualities.

nithya – unlike mukthAthmAs (who have gone from samSaram or materialistic world  to SrIvaikuNtam), the nithyasUris have always been granted  qualities like gyAnam permanently by bhagavAn.

niravadhya – without fault. The kainkaryam is done for the pleasure of bhagavAn and not for the pleasure of nithyasUri.

nirathiSaya gyAna – The knowledge of the servitor (nithyasUri in this case) that he is carrying out this kainkaryam; that he is a follower and bhagavAn is the leader; that he is the property and bhagavAn is the owner; this knowledge is fully blossomed out and expansive in the servitor.

kriyA – showing in action that he is indeed the servitor, serving bhagavAn. The first step in this is the knowledge that the person is a servitor. The second is the prayer to bhagavAn for kainkaryam, The third is carrying out (kriyA) the kainkaryam. Only in  the third stage it gets fulfilled.

aiSvarya – direct other nithyasUris and the mukthAthmAs towards kainkaryam. While all the mukthAthmAs in SrIvaikuNtam know clearly what is to be done, they would still expect to be ordered to do this or that kainkaryam. Only then their svarUpam gets vindicated, they feel.

Adhi – many other qualities not mentioned above  are indicated by this word.

anantha – there is no count to the kainkaryams that they can do.

guNagaNa – hordes of qualities

SEsha – thiuvananthAzhwAn. The serpent bed of bhagavAn.

SEshASana – vishvakSEnar. The commander-in-chief of bhagavAn‘s army.

garuda – Bird. bhagavAn‘s vehicle.

pramukha – starting from these nithyasUris

nAnAvidha – different types of nithyasUris, based on their main work. Included in this term are persons who are guardians of SrIvaikuNtam, both for the outer periphery and inner periphery, guardians of army and so on.

anantha parijana – there are innumerable servitors in SrI vaikuNtam like SEsha, SEshASana, garuda, just like there are innumerable qualities.

parichArikA paricharitha charaNayugala – Possessor of the two resplendent feet (charaNayugala) unto which such nithyasUris, along with their consorts, carry out unending service.

Next SrI rAmAnuja describes SrI vaikuNtam, the abode of bhagavAn.

paramayOgi – Great sages (like sanaka, sanandhana et al)

vAngmanasa – to their speech and mind.

aparichEdhya – can not be reached.

svarUpa svabhAva –  great sages may say that SrIvaikuNtam is composed of five upanishaths, (divine/pure/spiritual matter) or is full of sudhdhasathvam (pure goodness). But they can not clearly define its svarUpam (basic character) or its svabhAvam (nature). It is permanent but will change based on the sankalpam (will) of bhagavAn. It is made of 5 upanishaths and can not be considered as being made of a unique material. Because it is not made of unique material it can be taken as permanent.

svAbhimatha – liked by bhagavAn and very close to his heart

vividha vichithra – of different types

anantha – without an end

bhOgya bhOgOpakaraNa bhOgasthAna samdrudhdhabhOgyam refers to the things which are enjoyed (such as divine songs or divine food or divine fragrance from flowers). bhOgOpakaraNam refers to the article or equipment through which something is enjoyed (for example faultless voice or ladle or garland in the examples quoted above). bhOgasthAnam refers to the place where the item is enjoyed. It could be a a maNdapam (court-hall) or dining hall or garden. SrIvaikuNtam is full of such things.

anantha AScharya – having countless such wonderful things. They will appear new, but would be there for a long time.

anantha mahAvibhava – having countless wealth (here wealth would also be the rivers, ponds, lakes, gardens etc in SrIvaikuNtam)

anantha parimANa – of such dimensions that one can not imagine or visualise.

nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya vaikuNtanAthabhagavAn, who is the lord of such a place (SrIvaikuNtam) which is permanent, faultless and wondrous.

SrI rAmAnuja next goes on to describe bhagavAn‘s wealth in leelA vibhUthi (samsAram or materialistic world) and then surrenders unto bhagavAn who is the sole owner of both vibhUthis (SrI vaikuNtam and leelA vibhUthi).

svasankalpa – the leelA vibhUthi acts as per his sankalpa (will). Contrast this with SrIvaikuNtam for which SrI rAmAnuja used the term svachchandhAnuvarthi (acting as per his thoughts), and we know how vastly different the two realms, nithya and leelA vibhUthi and the people within these two realms are. In other words, we in leelA vibhUthi will act only as per his order and not as per his desire. His nithya vibhUthi exists for his happiness and leelA vibhUthi for his play or pastime. This is why he keeps creating and destroying leelA vibhUthi (protecting too, in between) while nithya vibhUthi always exists, as its name nithya (permanent) refers to.

anuvidhAyi – following his sankalpam (will).

svarUpa sthithi pravruththi – We have already seen that svarUpa is basic nature or characteristic; sthithi is  that from which it draws its sustenance and pravruththi is its activity.

SrI rAmAnuja now explains these three features for prakruthi, purusha and kAla thathvam (true states). prakruthi is primordial insentient state (achith thathvam). purusha refers to all jIvAthmAs and kAlam refers to time.  We must see the svarUpam, sthithi and pravruthi for each of these three states.

prakruthi is composed of sathva (goodness), rajas (passion or desire) and thamas (ignorance). It is unlimited in its dimensions, is wondrous (it will keep changing constantly – it will exist one day and disappear the next day, it will show something as true one time and as false another time).

prakruthi’s svarUpam is being insentient (achith), made up of sathva, rajas and thamas (see above for meanings of these terms).

prakruthi’s sthithi is being the tool for jIvAthmAs’ enjoyment in materialistic realm or his liberation from materialistic realm (samsAram) to reach spiritual realm (mOksham or SrIvaikuNtam). In other words, prakruthi provides jIvAthmA with space with which he can enjoy through the five sensory perceptions all that he wants to and keep on taking birth and death repeatedly or use the space for contemplating on bhagavAn all the time,surrender to him and attain spiritual realm.

prakrithi’s pravruththi is to provide places such as dhivya dhEsams or holy rivers or such like for jIvAthmAs to worship or have holy bath or meditate on bhagavAn. It also provides all the implements for jIvAthmAs to carry out their activities.

jIvAthmA’s svarUpam is to be different from achith (insentient). achith keeps changing while jIvAthmA doesn’t. achith has no gyAnam (knowledge) while jIvAthmA has. However, jIvAthmA is constantly associated with achith.

jIvAthmA’s sthithi is food and water. jIvAthmA needs a physical body for its existence and body needs food and water. If there is no body, the jIvAthmA can not sustain itself.

jIvAthmA’s pravruththi is to engage in activities which will result in pApa (result of sinful activities) or puNya (result of good activities).

kAlam’s svarUpam is being achith (insentient); without gyAna. It is also called as saththva sUnyam (devoid of saththva)

kAlam’s sthithi is being the driver for chith and achith to change themselves. It will indicate when jIvAthmA will leave the body or when a flower will fall from the plant and dry up.

kAlam’s pravruththi is manifesting itself as second, minute, muhUrththam, day, paksham, mAsam, ayanam, varusham, etc (different measures of time)

svaSEshathaika svabhAva – to be under the control of bhagavAn and be a servitor to him only and to no one else.

prakruthi purusha kAlAthmaka – as seen above, being in the states of prakruthi, jIvAthmA and kAlam, each with its own svarUpam, sthithi and parvruththi.

vividha – of different types

vichithra – wondrous

anantha – without an end

bhOgya – fit to be  enjoyed

bhOkthruvarga – different types of materials available for enjoyment

bhOgOpakaraNa – different implements with which these are employed

bhOgasthAna – space or place where a material is enjoyed

rUpa – leelA vibhUthi has a form composed of all the various things mentioned above

nikhila jagadh udhaya vibhava laya leela – be the creator, protector and destroyer of all the worlds, without leaving anything; doing these as a pastime or play thing.

With this SrI rAmAnuja has completed explaining the meaning of nArAyaNa term. To recap, he surrenders to pirAtti in the first chUrNai. In the next chUrNai, he prays for nithya kainkaryam (everlasting kainkaryam) along with parabhakthi, paragyAna and parama bhakthi (to be in an exalted state when with bhagavAn and to be in highly depressed state when separated from him, to see him in person and to be alive only when with him respectively). Through the 3rd and 4th chUrNais, pirAtti grants all his wishes. In the 5th chUrNai, he finds out who is that person to whom he should surrender. Just as vEdha says that one should meditate on the person who is the sole reason for the creation, protection and destruction of this world, he also looks at who possesses all the great qualities and comes to the conclusion that it is nArAyaNan only, as all beings referred to by the term the nArA: take shelter in him (ayana). He then goes on to explain who all form the nArA: groups and what are the svarUpam, rUpam and guNam of bhagavAn. In this we saw the qualities of bhagavAn, his thirumEni (physical form), his guNAs (divine qualities), his ornaments and his weapons. Then, SrI rAmAnuja speaks about his consorts who are constantly enjoying the qualities and physical form of bhagavAn in all his splendour. He then lists who are all in SrIvaikuNtam (the nithyasUris), what are the features in SrIvaikuNtam, what are the features of the world that he creates/protects/destroys (what we have seen in this part so far). What now remains is the act of surrendering. To facilitate the act of surrendering, he describes various qualities starting from “apAra kAruNya”. In between, he lists 8 qualities. Why should he state these qualities when he knows by now the supreme qualities and nature of the entity that he should surrender himself to? The reason for this is that these qualities supplement the qualities that he is going to state for being necessary to carry out the act of surrendering (starting with “apAra kAruNya“). Also, he has described several qualities of bhagavAn earlier (such as gAmbhIrya, oudArya, mArdhava etc). These qualities are further explained by the 8 qualities that he is now going to describe, starting with sathyakAma, sathya sankalpa etc. Also, in order to get full faith and deep belief in the being to whom we are going to surrender, we should be sure that he possesses all the qualities which would be enablers. These 8 qualities do that job, says SrI rAmAnuja.

From the time that bhagavAn creates the leelA vibhUthi (materialistic world) to the time that the jIvAthma reaches his exalted feet to carry out kainkaryam (service) he controls everything that happens in between through the eight qualities. Let us see what these eight qualities are and how SrI rAmAnuja performed the SaraNAgathi (surrendering) in the next part of chUrNai 5.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 5th chUrNai: Part 2

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We shall now look at his svarUpa guNas (qualities of his svarUpam. Just as the qualities of his rUpam (physical body) are like decorative jewels for his rUpam, the qualities of his svarUpam are also like jewels for his svarUpam.


svAbhAvika – natural; just as the nature of water is being cold to touch, for bhagavAn these qualities (mentioned later) are natural.

anavadhikAthiSaya – qualities are without boundary, and are wondrous. Initially SrI rAmAnuja talks about the six basic qualities of bhagavAn, starting with gyAna bala ….

gyAna – ability to see past, present and future events at the same time, as if they are happening in front of the eyes.

bala – ability to sustain all beings (after deluge) through his sankalpam (mere thought)

aiSvarya – control and direct all beings

vIrya – Even when he sustains all beings during pralayam (deluge) or when he creates the entire universe at the start of new series of yugas, he does not even raise his eyebrows nor a drop of sweat falls off his thirumEni (body). There is no change in his demeanour.

Sakthi – Enabling jIvAthmAs to carry out their tasks as per their karma (past deeds) is his Sakthi (energy). Ability to bind things which cannot be bound together is also termed as his Sakthi.  He is also the raw material for creation of universe and this is also termed as his Sakthi.

thEjas – He has the ability to conquer anyone. This quality is known as thEjas.

For the sake of his ASrithars (those who surrender to him) he displays many qualities. A few of these are listed by SrI rAmAnuja here.

sauSeelya – not seeing the difference between superior and inferior persons is sauSeelyam. In the case of bhagavAn, he does not even think about his superiority. The ease with which he became friends with a hunter tribal head, guha, or monkey tribal head, sugrIva, or a rAkshasa, vibhIshaNa (not only friends, but going beyond, by calling them as his brothers), or treating cowherds as his close friends, are all examples of his sauSeelyam.

vAthsalya – the affection that a cow shows towards its calf that it gave birth to on that day, by licking clean all the dirt on the calf’s body with its tongue. In the case of bhagavAn, he treats the fault in his ASrithar (one who surrenders) as a good quality.

mArdhava – very soft, in his heart. Softness in the body is saukumArya that we had seen earlier. Here it is softness in the heart. He is unable to bear the separation from his ASrithar due to this quality.

Arjava – when he is together with his ASrithar, his mind, word and act become one and he gives up himself to his ASrithar. Another term to describe this quality is honesty.

sauhArthdha – good at heart. Thinking good for everyone.

sAmya – Being equal to everyone irrespective of the jIvAthmA‘s  birth or qualities. He treated guha and sabari equally, without any distinction.

kAruNya – If someone is in distress, going out to help him, without expecting any benefit for self, is kAruNya.

mAdhurya – Even if someone were to take a knife out to kill bhagavAn, the  person drops the knife because of the affection in his eyes.

gAmbhIrya – very deep; if he wants to do something good to his ASrithars, they will not know what he will do and how much. He does not consider the greatness of his ability to gift and the lowliness of the person who takes from him.

oudhArya – Gifting quality, being very generous. Even without his ASrithars asking for it, he gives it. And he does not count how much he has given. There is a subtle difference between this quality and the previous quality, gAmbhirya. oudhArya is the quality that makes him give while gAmbhIrya is the quality by which the person  who receives it will not know what he will give and how much he will give.

chAthurya – being so clever that even his pirAtti [consort] will not know about the fault in the ASrithar. He removes the doubts in the minds of the ASrithars whether he would protect them and protects them. For example, when sugrIva had doubts about SrI rAma‘s ability in taking on vAli, he asked him to prove his valour to his satisfaction, and Rama did that.

sthairya – once he decides that he will protect his ASrithars, even if millions of enemies come to fight with him, he will not sway from his proclamation. He stands firmly by his decision.

dhairya – The courage in his heart to stand by the previous quality.

Saurya – ability to destroy the enemies of his ASrithars.

parAkrama – Not becoming tired even in the face of tackling millions of enemies.

sathyakAma – possessing those qualities that ASrithars desire to see in him. These are his auspicious qualities and immeasurable wealth.

sathyasankalpa – Ability to create anything that will not go waste through his sankalpam  (will).  These two qualities are part of the protective qualities that he possesses (when he creates, protects and destroys).

kruthithva – If his ASrithar gets what he desires, bhagavAn feels that he himself has attained it. He is  that happy.

kruthagyathA – Once the ASrithar surrenders to him, he forgets all the sins committed by the ASrithar and thinks of only the act of surrendering. Even after he gives everything to the ASrithar, he remembers the good acts of the ASrithar and thinks of what more he can give. And if by chance bhagavAn commits an error towards his ASrithar, he keeps thinking of this all the time (such as when he refused bharathans request to return to kingdom from forest in rAmAvathAram).

Adhi – Many more such qualities are there in him, apart from what has been mentioned already.

asankhyEya – Countless such qualities.

kalyANa – Whatever he has, they are all only auspicious.

guNa gaNougha – These qualities are present in large quantities and in large groups. Anger in us would be taken as a bad quality. But in his case if he gets angry with his ASrithar, even that is  considered as a good quality as it is meant to correct the ASrithar.

mahArNava – These qualities are like a great ocean. Even if we were to be granted the four faces of brahmA, we can not complete listing all the auspicious qualities that he has.

Next SrI rAmAnuja talks about his ornaments and his weapons.

svOchitha – suited to him. For someone having all the qualities listed above (bhagavAn),  SrI rAmAnuja now lists the ornaments. Just as gyAna, bala, aiSwarya etc add beauty to his svarUpam, he lists the qualities of the ornaments that add beauty to his thirumEni (form).

vividha – These ornaments are of different types. Made of pearls or coral or other gems.

vichithra – of different kinds starting with kirItam (crown)  and ending with nUpuram (anklet)

anantha AScharya – making us wonder endlessly. While he is wearing many different ornaments made of different gems, we are not able to grasp fully, the beauty of any of them. They are all so wonderful. If we look at his diamond chain, our eyes will not be able to leave that and go to his ear rings. Even if we look at the ear rings, we would not be able to fully grasp the beauty of either chain or ear rings.

nithya niravadhya – These jewels are without the fault of either growing or diminishing. They will be constantly glowing. Also, being sentient in nature (unlike the jewels that we wear), these ornaments are not there for themselves but for the sake of bhagavAn.

nirathiSaya sugandha – His ornaments will also be sweet smelling. We may wonder as to how ornaments will emit smell. Since bhagavAn‘s thirumENi (body) itself is sweet smelling, the ornaments will also get the sweet smell. Decorating him with flowers further is not for emitting sweet smell but for the sake of adding to the overall beauty.

nirathiSaya sukasparSa – These ornaments will not cause any irritation to bhagavAn but would be very soft on his thirumEni. There will be no need to remove them even when he goes to sleep.

nirathiSaya oujjwalya – His thirumEni itself emits radiance. These ornaments will even suppress his thirumEni’s radiance, such is their brilliance.

Until now SrI rAmAnuja was describing the qualities of the ornaments. Now he lists these ornaments, starting with kirIta on his head and ending with nUpur on his ankle.

kirItakirItam is the ornament worn around his head, just above the forehead.

makutamakutam is the crown that is placed over the kirItam.

chUdachUdam is the ornament worn from the central portion of his hair, hanging onto the forehead.

avathamsa – ornament worn over the ear, covering the entire ear.

makara kuNdala – ear studs in the shape of fish.

graivEyaka – circular ornament worn around the neck.

hAra – chain adorning the chest.

kEyUra – ornament worn on the shoulder.

kataka – bangles worn on the forearm.

SrIvathsa – this is not strictly an ornament, but a bunch of hair, on a mole. It also acts as the seat for pirAtti when she sits on his chest. Unlike other ornaments which can be removed, SrIvathsam is a part of his thirumEni and is inseparable from him.

kausthuba – a central chain on the chest, with five gemstones, worn on the chest. This is representative of all jIvAthmAs.

mukthAdhAma – Chains made of pearl, with single or three or five strings.

udhara bhandhana – ornament worn on the part between waist and stomach. During the time of pralayam (deluge) he provides his stomach as the abode for entire universe for safekeeping. This ornament is like an award for such a great action. It is also taken as a gift for his stealing butter and curd from neighbours. Thus the same ornament serves to highlight his being the swAmy (one who owns everything) and his being a saulabhyan (person who is easy to approach and being simple).

pIthAmbara – yellow coloured dress, worn to highlight his being the sarvEsvaran (the lord of all sentient and insentient beings), looking as if his waist has blossomed.

kAnchIguNa – Thread worn over pIthAmbaram to keept it in place, on his waist.

nUpur – anklet. Adorns the thiruvadi (bhagavAn‘s divine feet) which serves as the abode sought after by his ASrithars (those who seek refuge under him).

Adhi – Many more such ornaments, similar to the above. SrI rAmAnuja is unable to list all the ornaments that bhagavAn adorns and so says, “Adhi”.

aparimitha – Not countable. There is no count for the number of ornaments that he wears.

dhivya bhUshaNa – divine ornaments. There is a congruence between various part of his divine body and the ornaments that he wears over these parts.

Next SrI rAmAnuja describes his divine weapons.

svAnurUpa – suited to his rUpam (physical appearance). His weapons will look like ornaments to his followers while they will look like killing weapons to his enemies.

achinthya Sakthi – the Sakthi (power) of his weapons is beyond our imagination.

Sanka chakra gadhA SArnga – these stand for all five of his major weapons. Sanka is his conch, chakra is the discus, gadhA is his mace and SArnga is his bow. These will also represent his sword, called as asi.

Adhi – Many more weapons like this.

asankhyEya – countless. Just as his ornaments are countless, so are his weapons. SrI vEdhAnthAchAryar compiled a slOkA about 16 of his weapons.

nithya – permanent, without growing or diminishing characteristics.

niravadhya – without any fault. What fault can be there in weapons? These divine weapons, unlike the common weapons that we know of, will appear on bhagavAn‘s thirumEni as soon as he thinks of them. When they go to kill an enemy, they do not think that they have killed the enemy, but being a part of bhagavAn, they had carried out their role. nithya niravadhya also means that with passage of time, without getting blunt, they get sharper and sharper each time  that they are used to kill enemies.

nirathiSaya kalyANa – due to association with bhagavAn, they become auspicious  in nature. They are also wondrous because even before bhagavAn lets them go, they complete their task of killing enemies. Mere thought from bhagavAn (sankalpam) is enough to activate them.

dhivyAyudha – They are not composed of the five elements that we know of, but are aprAkrutham (not composed of  cosmic matter) in nature.

Next he describes his consorts. piLLai lOkAchAryAr says that someone is needed to enjoy the beauty of bhagavAn with all the good qualities that he possesses as well as ornaments and weapons that he wears. It is his consorts who constantly enjoy these, he says. SrI rAmAnuja has already spoken about the qualities of pirAtti in the 1st chUrNai itself. Why then should he repeat the same qualities here too? The purpose of SrI rAmAnuja saying these was not merely to instruct others but saying aloud what he is enjoying in bhagavAn’s and pirAtti‘s svarUpam (basic characteristics) and rUpam (physical form). Since these words are a manifestation of the deep love that he has for bhagavAn and pirAtti, we can not call this as repeating the same things all over. Moreover, earlier (in the 1st chUrNai, he had described these qualities of pirAtti as a prelude to carrying out his SaraNAgathi (surrendering) to her whereas now he is seeing how perfect they look when seen together. We shall briefly see the meanings of these words which we have already seen in the 1st chUrNai:

svAbhimatha – being liked by bhagavAn

nithya niravadhya – without any fault, at any point of time (always without any fault)

anurUpa – having similar physical features like bhagavAn

svarUpa – having similar characteristics like bhagavAn

guNa – having many good qualities

vibhava – possessing unimaginable wealth

aiSvarya – ability to control and direct chith and achith (the sentient and insentient entities)

Seela – treating persons of inferior nature as equals

Adhi – many such qualities

anavadhika athiSaya – never diminishing, and wondrous

asankhyEya – countless

kalyANa – auspicious

guNagaNa – having hordes of such qualities.

We shall now see in detail the meanings of a few words in this chUrNai which were not mentioned earlier.

SrIvallabha – Loving towards SrI dhEvi (mahAlakshmi). Madly in love with pirAtti. Husband of pirAtti who has such superior qualities, as listed above. Just as a person who has starved for long would look longingly at food, bhagavAn also looks at pirAtti with such love.

Evam bhUtha – possessing similar superior qualities as listed earlier.

bhUmi neeLA nAyaka – bhUmi pirAtti and neeLA pirAtti; though they are mentioned separately, they are treated on a par with mahAlakshmi in terms of their svarUpam and rUpam. Here, bhagavAn is mentioned as nAyaka whereas in the case of pirAtti, he is mentioned as vallabha. The difference is that a nAyaka (or lord) is one who expects his rights to be observed and goes by rules and regulations while a vallabha (loving person) is one who does things out of love and affection. It is said that bhUmi dhEvi and neeLA dhEvi had agreed to be servitors to bhagavAn and pirAtti and are contented doing service to them.

Next SrI rAmAnuja goes on to look at the nithyasUris in SrIvaikuNtam. nithyasUris are those who were always present in SrIvaikuNtam and were never born in leelA vibhUthi (earth). Adhi SEshan, vishvaksEnar, garudan are all part of the group of nithyasUris. We shall see this in the next part of 5th chUrNai (part III).

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 5th chUrNai: Part 1

Published by:

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

Full Series

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avathArikai (Introduction)

In the 5th chUrNai, SrI rAmAnuja establishes the supreme being to whom one should surrender. He emphatically says that nArAyaNa is that supreme being . We have already seen that nArAyaNa is composed of two terms, nArA: (collection of various types of sentients and insentients) and ayana  (dwelling place). He keeps the explanation for nArA: for the later phrases, and now explains about the svarUpam (basic nature) of paramAthmA (supreme being).

Since the chUrNai is very lengthy, we shall see it in several parts – first part would be till he describes svarUpam of bhagavAn. First let us go through the chUrNai in full:

akhilahEya prathyanIka kalyANaikathAna svEthara samastha vasthu vilakshaNa anantha gyAnAnandhaika svarUpa! svAbhimathAnurUpa EkarUpa achinthya dhivyAdhbhutha nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya oujjwalya saundharya saugandhya saukumArya lAvaNya yauvanAdhyanantha guNanidhi dhivyarUpa! svAbhAvikAnavadhikAthiSaya gyAnabalaiSvarya vIryaSakthithAEja: sauSeelya vAthsalya mArdhdhavArjava sauhArthdha sAmya kAruNya mAdhurya gAmbhIrya oudhArya chAthurya sthairya dhairya Saurya parAkrama sathyakAma sathyasankalpa kruthithva kruthagyAthyasankhyEya kalyANagunAgaNaugha mahArNava! svOchitha vividha vichithrAnandhAScharya nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya sugandha nirathiSayasukhasparSa nirathiSaya oujjwalya kirIta makuta chUdAvathamsa makarakuNdala graivEyaka hAra kEyUra kataka SrIvathsa kausthubha mukthAdhAma udharabandhana pIthAmbara kAnchIguNa nUpurAdhyaparimitha dhivya bhUshaNa! svAnurUpAchinthya Sakthi Sankha chakra gadhA (asi) sArngaAdhyasankhyEya nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya kalyANa dhivyAyudha! svAbhimatha nithya niravadhyAnurUpa svarUpa rUpa guNa vibhavaiSvarya SeelAdhyanavadhikAthiSaya asankhyEya kalyANaguNagaNa SrIvallabha! EvambhUtha bhUmi neeLAnAyaka! svachchandhAnuvarthi svarUpasthithi pravruthi bhEdha aSEsha SEshathaikarathirUpa nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya gyAnakriyaiSvaryAdhyanantha kalyANa guNagaNa Sesha SEshASana garuda pramukha nAnAvidhAnantha parijana parichArikA paricharitha charaNayugala! paramayOgi vAngmanasA parichchEdhya svarUpa svabhAva svAbhimatha vividha vichthrAnantha bhOgya bhOgOpakaraNa bhOgasthAna  samrudhdha ananthAScharya anantha mahAvibhava anantha parimANa nithya niravadhya nirathiSaya vaikuNtanAtha! svasankalpa anuvidhAyi svarUpasthithi pravruthi svaSeshathaika svabhAva prakruthi purusha kAlAthmaka vividha vichthrAnantha bhOgya bhOkthruvarga bhOgOpakaraNa bhOgasthAnarUpa nikhila jagadhudhaya vibhava laya leela! sathyakAma! sathyasankalpa! parabrahmabhUtha! purushOththama! mahAvibhUthE! SrIman! nArAyaNa! SrIvaikuNtanAtha! apArakAruNya sauSeelya vAthsalya oudhArya aiSvarya soundarya mahOdhadhE! anAlOchitha viSEsha aSEshalOka SaraNya! praNathArthihara! ASritha vAthsalyaika jaladhE! anavaratha vidhitha nikhila bhUtha jAtha yAthAthmya! aSEsha charAcharabhUtha nikhila niyamana niratha! aSEsha chidhachidhvasthu SEshibhUtha! nikhila jagadhAdhAra! akhila jagath swAmin! asmath swAmin! sathyakAma! sathyasankalpa! sakalEthara vilakshaNa! arthikalpaka! Apathsaka! SrIman! nArAyaNa! aSaraNyaSaraNya! ananya SaraNa: thvath pAdhAravindha yugalam SaraNam aham prapadhyE I

Word by Word meaning:

akhilahEya – all that is faulty
prathyanIka – exactly opposite of
kalyANaikathAna – having only auspicious qualities
svEthara – other than self
samastha – all
vasthu – things (entities)
vilakshaNa – superior
anantha – without an end
gyAna – knowledge
Anandhaika – full of happiness
svarUpa – basic nature
svAbimatha – appropriate
anurUpa – likeable physical form
EkarUpa – one physical form
achinthya – can not be thought of
dhivya – divine
adhbhutha – wondrous
nithya – permanent
niravadhya – without fault
nirathiSaya – without comparison
oujjwalya – very bright
soundarya – beauty in parts
saugandhya – sweet smell
saukumArya – soft
lAvaNya – beauty as a whole
yauvana – youthful
Adhi – starting with
anantha – without end
guNa – quality
nidhi – treasure
dhivyarUpa – divine form
svAbhAvika – natural
anavadhika – without boundary; many
athiSaya – wondrous
gyAna – knowledge
bala – strength
aiSvarya – ability to control or direct
vIrya – not tiring
Sakthi – energy
thEjas – radiance
sauSeelya – not concerned about difference in levels (when compared with others); treating them as equals
vAthsalya – with a mother’s affection (just as a cow shows towards its calf)
mArdhava – soft in heart
Arjava – honest
sauhArdha – good-hearted
sAmya – equal
kAruNya – mercy
mAdhurya – kind
gAmbhIrya – deep
audhArya – generous in nature
chAthurya – clever
sthairya – firm
dhairya – courage
Saurya – defeating enemies
parAkrama – not tiring
sathyakAma – having likeable qualities
sathyasankalpa – ability to create at will
kruthithva – doing
kruthagyAtha – thankful
asankhyEya – countless
kalyANa – auspicious
guNa – qualities
gaNaugha – collection of
mahArNava – huge ocean
svOchitha – appropriate to self
vividha – of many types
vichithra – many kinds within a particular type
ananthAScharya – wondrous without an end
nithya – always
niravadhya – without fault
nirathiSaya sugandha – emitting wondrous sweet smell
nirathiSaya sukhasparSa – wondrously soft on emperumAn’s body
nirathiSaya oujjwalya – emitting wondrous radiance
kirIta – circumferential ornament on head
makuta – worn over kirItam like a crown
chUda – worn over forehead
avathamsa – worn over ears
makara – like a fish
kuNdala – ear rings
graivEyaka – neck band
hAra – chain
kEyUra – worn over shoulder
kataka – like a bangle on forearm
Srivathsa – mole like
kausthubha – central gem stone
mukthAdhAma – ornaments made of pearl
udharabandhana – worn between waist and stomach
pIthAmbara – yellow cloth
kAnchIguNa – waist cord
nUpura – anklet
Adhi – many like these
aparimitha – countless
dhivyabhUshaNa – divine ornaments
svaAnurUpa – suited to self
achinthya – beyond thought
Sakthi – powerful
Sankha – conch
gadhA – mace
aSi – sword
SArnga – bow
Adhi – many weapons like these
aSankhyEya – countless
nithya – permanent
niravadhya – faultless
nirathiSaya – wondrous
kalyANa – auspicious
dhivyAyudha – divine weapons
svAbhimatha – to his liking
nithya niravadhya – permanent, without any fault
anurUpa – of similar physical beauty
svarUpa – basic characteristic
rUpa – physical form
guNa – quality
vibhava – wealth
aiSvarya – control or direct others
Seela – superior person mixing with an inferior person without discrimination
Adhi – many such qualities
anavadhika – never reducing
adhiSaya – wondrous
asankhyEya – countless
kalyANa – auspicious
guNa gaNa – hordes of qualities
SrI – mahAlakshmi – pirAtti
vallabhA – dear to; loving
Evam bhUtha – of similar qualities
bhUmI neeLA nAyaka – Lord (husband) of bhUdhEvi and neelAdhEvi
svachchandhAnuvarthi –
svarUpa – basic character
sthithi –
pravruththi – activity
bhEdha – difference
aSEsha SEshathaikarathirUpa –
do all the kainkaryams without leaving anything, with deep affection and love
nithya niravadhya – permanent, without any fault
nirathiSaya gyAna – fully blossomed knowledge
kriyA – action
aiSvarya – ability to control or direct
Adhi – many other qualities
anantha – countless
guNagaNa – hordes of qualities
SEsha – thiuvananthAzhwAn
SEshASana – vishvakSEnar
garuda – Bird. bhagavAn‘s vehicle
pramukha – starting from these nithyasUris
nAnAvidha – different types of nithyasUris
anantha parijana – innumerable servitors
parichArikA – nithyasUris
paricharitha –
unending service
charaNayugala – two resplendent feet
paramayOgi – Great sages
vAngmanasa – to their speech and mind.
aparichEdhya – can not be reached
svarUpa – basic character
– nature
svAbhimatha – liked by bhagavAn and very close to his heart
vividha vichithra – of different types
anantha – without an end
bhOgyam – things which are enjoyed
bhOgOpakaraNam – article or equipment through which something is enjoyed
bhOgasthAnam – the place where the item is enjoyed
samdrudhdha – full of things
anantha AScharya – countless wonderful things
anantha mahAvibhava – countless wealth
anantha parimANa – of such dimensions that one can not imagine or visualise
vaikuNtanAtha – bhagavAn, who is the lord of such a place (SrIvaikuNtam)
svasankalpa – as per his sankalpa (will)
anuvidhAyi – following his sankalpam (will)
svarUpa – basic character
sthithi –
pravruththi – activity
svaSEshathaika svabhAva – to be under the control of bhagavAn and be a servitor to him only and to no one else
prakruthi purusha kAlAthmaka – as seen above, being in the states of prakruthi, jIvAthmA and kAlam, each with its own svarUpamsthithi and parvruththi.
vividha – of different types
vichithra – wondrous
anantha – without an end
bhOgya – fit to be  enjoyed
bhOkthruvarga – different types of materials available for enjoyment
bhOgOpakaraNa – different implements with which these are employed
bhOgasthAna – space or place where a material is enjoyed
rUpa – form
nikhila – without leaving anything
jagadh –
all worlds
udhaya –
vibhava –
laya –
– pastime or play thing
sathyakAma – desires truth
sathyasankalpa – ability to create at will
parabrahmabhUtha – unimaginably huge
purushOththama – highest among purushas
mahAvibhUthE – Owner of vibhUthis (worlds).
SrIman – consort of SrI (pirAtti, mahAlakshmi)
nArAyaNa – bhagavAn
SrIvaikuNtanAtha – lord of SrIvaikuNtam
apAra kAruNya – limitless mercy
sauSeelya – not concerned about difference in levels (when compared with others); treating them as equals
vAthsalya – with a mother’s affection (just as a cow shows towards its calf)
oudhArya – grants wishes
aiSvarya – wealth
soundharyam – beautiful
mahOdhadhE – great ocean
analOchitha – does not see
viSEsha –
special qualification
aSEsha – without leaving anything
lOka –
whole universe
– protector
praNathArthihara – Remove craving of ASrithars
ASritha – bhagavAn’s servitors
vAthsalyaika – motherly love
– ocean
anavaratha – incessant (without any stop)
– all
bhUtha – entity or specimen
jAtha – type or class
vidhitha – various
yAthAthmya – real or basic nature
aSEsha – without leaving anything
charAcharabhUtha – all movable and immovable entities
nikhila – all
niyamana – ability to direct or control
niratha – being engaged in.
chith – sentients
achith – insentients
SEshi – master
nikhila jagadhAdhAra – he bears the all universes
akhila jagath swAmin – He owns the entire universe
asmath swAmin – my owner
sathyakAma – one with no unfulfilled desire
sathyasankalpa – ability to keep together things which are incongruent.
sakalEthara vilakhaNa – superior to all the other entities.
arthi kalpaka – granting what his ASrithars want, especially himself
Apath sakha – being a friend in times of danger
Sriman – consort of SrI dhEvi
nArAyaNa – bhagavAn
aSaraNya SaraNya – Giving refuge to those who do not have any other entity to protect them
ananyaSaraNOham – I am without any other place of refuge
thvath  – your
pAdham – foot
aravindham – lotus like
yugalam – pair
Saranam – proffer or prostrate
prapadhyE – mentally behold or catch onto

Since the chUrNai is very long, we shall look at the word by word meaning for the remaining portion of the chUrNai in the next parts.

Explanatory Note 

akhilahEya – shortcoming or fault. For all other types of beings, there is some fault or the other. In the case of achith (insentient) the fault is that it keeps changing (transforming) constantly. For badhdhAthmA (people still bound in samsAram or materialistic realm), the fault is that once it takes a physical form (the body) it experiences sorrow and happiness constantly based on its pApa (bad deeds) and puNya (good deeds) in previous births. For mukthAthmAs (those who have reached SrIvaikuNtam after getting liberated from samsAram) the fault is that till they became mukthAthmA, they were also in samsAram experiencing sorrow and happiness constantly. For nithyAthmAs (eternal residents of paramapadham such as ananthan, vishvaksEnar, garudan and others) the fault is that they did not get the good characteristics that they possess on their own, but due to the causeless mercy of bhagavAn; i.e. they are not svathanthrars (ability to stand on their own).  Only for paramAthmA (bhagavAn) there is no shortcoming or fault.

prathyanIka – exact opposite of; i.e. bhagavAn is the exact opposite of all that is faulty. In other words, he is free from any shortcoming or fault.

kalyANaikathAna – the only dwelling place for all auspicious qualities. bhagavAn is  not only devoid of all that is faulty or bad, but is also the epitome of all that is good.

svEthara samastha vasthu vilakshaNa – compared to all other beings (sentient and insentient) he is superior . This can be taken as a corollary for being with all auspicious qualities and without any faulty quality.

anantha – one without an end. We are all limited by place, time and physical being; i.e. we can exist in only one place, we can exist for only a specific period of time, say 100 years or 120 years but not for ever and we can exist in only one body (physical being). But bhagavAn is not limited by these. He can be at all places at the same time, exist for ever and exist in more than one body. Since we all dwell in him, he is present everywhere and in all bodies. Even when there is a deluge (pralayam) he alone exists. Thus, he is called as ananthan.

gyAna Anandhaika svarUpabhagavAn doesn’t need another source of light to show him up. This of course is true of AthmAs too. This is called as svayamprakASathvam. bhagavAn is full of gyAna (knowledge) which results in Anandham (happiness). Thus gyAnam and Anandham are his svarUpam (characteristics).  Thus far, SrI rAmAnuja has been extolling about the svarUpam of bhagavAn. Now he goes on to his rUpam (thirumENi or physical being).  Unlike our physical bodies which are made of five elements (cosmos, air, fire, water and earth),  bhagavAn’s thirumEni is made of shakthis and five upanishads.

svAbhimatha – appropriate to his qualities. His rUpam is brighter than the qualities of his svarUpam mentioned earlier and is dear to him. Hence, before mentioning about the qualities of his rUpam, he describes the vigraham (bhagavAn‘s thirumEni, his physical form or body).  As mentioned in vishnU purAnam (one of the 18 purANas) by parAsara maharishi, this is the thirumEni which he takes based on his desire. He likes this form of his very much. In order to correct the jIvAthmAs, if every other method of his fails, finally he displays his thirumEni and brings them to his path.

anurUpa – his physical body very vividly complements his svarUpam (which we have seen already). In our case, our AthmA is also full of knowledge (gyAna) and happiness (Anandha). But our physical body hides these characteristics of AthmA while in the case of bhagavAn, his physical form adds glory to his characteristics.

EkarUpa – only one rUpam (physical form). We also have only one body in our lives. Then what is this EkarUpam of bhagavAn? Our body undergoes 6 different transformations through its life – it forms, it is born, it changes, it grows, it weakens and one day it goes. This is called as shat vidha bhAvam (6 different types of forms). In the case of bhagavAn, there are no such transformations. He has one body and that is it.

achinthya – beyond our ability to hold him in our minds. We would have been seeing his thirumEni for an hour inside the temple, but once we reach home and try to recollect what dress he was wearing, or what coloured flower decorated him or what different types of jewels he wore, we would not be able to recall all of them correctly.

dhivya – Even if we make lot of efforts, we can not find an equivalent to him. He is called as aprAkrutham (extraordinary). Our physical form is called as prAkrutham (natural) which is composed of 5 different elements while his is not composed of these elements.

adhbhutha – keeps changing constantly. Only a few words back we saw that he is EkarUpan (immutable) and doesn’t change at all. How is it that we are now saying that he keeps changing? Here what is meant as adhbhutha is that even though we have been seeing the same vigraha (idol) of bhagavAn in the temple every day, we do not tire of seeing him, because he appears different each day. His jewels change places; the way he dresses changes; his garlands are different. Thus he is not the same as what he was the previous day or previous week. Every moment he appears different and in each of these forms, he appears wondrous.

nithya niravadhyaavadhya means fault. niravadhya means not having any fault. nithya niravadhya means not having any fault at any point of time. i.e. permanently without any fault. He does not consider that his body is for himself. It is there only for the sake of his bhakthas (persons devoted to him). This is another meaning of niravadhya.

nirathiSaya oujjwalyaoujjwalya means complete brightness. His brightness is such that even the brightest of objects in the universe would appear dark when compared to the brightness of his physical form. Up to now, SrI rAmAnuja has been describing his physical form. Now he starts describing the qualities of his physical form.

soundharya – beauty of individual parts of the body. When the body as a whole looks beautiful from a distance, it may appear when it comes nearer that some parts are not that beautiful and they may be little bit more beautiful to attain perfection. In bhagavAn‘s case, the individual parts of the body appear perfectly beautiful.

saugandhya – very sweet smell. Also the ability to give good smell to other things.

saukumArya – very soft. His body is so soft that if his nAchimArs (consorts) even look at him, that part of the body will turn red; it is that soft.

lAvaNya – overall beauty of the form. Compare this with soundharya, earlier in the series of qualities above. While soundarya reveals the beauty of each part, lAvaNya gives the beauty of the entire form. Our eyes may not be able to look at each part of his body and appreciate its beauty in its lifetime; hence he also has the quality of lAvaNya, by which the eye can absorb the entire beauty of his form.

yauvana – Refers to his youthful state. He always remains in this state despite passing of years. He does not age at all.

Adhi – Starting from these qualities (stated above), there are many more such qualities.

anantha guNa nidhi – Treasure of such countless good qualities.

dhivya rUpa – His form which is in srIvaikuNtam, is present in leelA vibhUthi (our world, the materialistic realm) in a non-containable way.

Up to now we have seen his svarUpam and rUpam and qualities of his rUpam. Next we shall move on to his svarUpa guNas, his consorts, nithya sUris, srIvaikuNtam, leelA vibhUthi etc which form the nArA: part of his name nArAyaNa, in the second part of the 5th chUrNai.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 2nd , 3rd and 4th chUrNais

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sriranganachiar-3SrIranganAchchiyAr (periya pirAttiyAr) – SrIrangam

ramanuja-srirangamSri rAmAnuja – SrIrangam

2nd chUrNai:

avathArikai (Introduction)

In the first chUrNai, SrI rAmAnuja elaborated about pirAtti’s ability to grant SaraNAgathi , his own inability to go to anyone else; he then performs SaraNAgathi to her lotus feet. She  asks him as to what he desires. He responds saying that he wants involvement in kainkaryam (carrying out service to dhivya dhampathi) and to have complete belief in SaraNAgathi (our pUrvAchAryas call this as mahaviSvAsam). When a person performs SaraNAgathi to the lotus feet of perumAL, it also ensures that he gets to carry out kainkaryam. Even then, it is expected of a person who performs SaraNAgathi to the lotus feet of perumAL to have strong desire for kainkaryam and also possess strong belief in SaraNAgathi. Is it that SrI rAmAnuja did not have these two qualities (desire for kainkaryam and belief in SaraNAgathi) earlier? Compared to what the result is (after performing SaraNAgathi), i.e. getting to reach mOksham and performing kainkaryam, we have to think that we do not have anything in us to reach that goal. And this is true too. Moreover, our pUrvAchAryas always thought that they did not have anything good in them, out of naichyAnusandhAnam (thinking very lowly of oneself) in order to reach SrIvaikuNtam.

Let us now look at the 2nd chUrNai:


pAramArthika bhagavachcharaNAravindha yugala aikAnthikAthyanthika parabhakthi paragyAna paramabhakthikrutha paripUrNAnavaratha nithya viSadhathama ananyaprayOjana anavadhikAthiSaya priya bhagavadhanubhavajanitha anavadhikAthiSaya prIthikAritha aSEshavasthOchitha aSEsha SEshathaikarithirUpa nithya kainkarya prApthapEkshayA, pAramArthikI bhagavachcharaNAravindha SaraNAgathi: yathAvasthithA avirathAsthu mE II

Word-by-Word meaning

pAramArthika – fully true; that which gives meaning to the parama purushArtham (highest degree of benefit).

bhagavan – one who possesses 6 essential qualities (already seen in chUrNai 1)

charaNa – holy feet

aravindha – lotus

yugala – two

aikAnthika – nothing beyond this (Ekam – one; antham – end); bhakthi (devotion )only in thiruvadi (exalted feet)  and nothing beyond this.

Athyanthika – that which does not have an end (antham – end; athyantham – without end)

parabhakthi – growing desire to be with God

paragyAna – ability to have dharSan (vision) of God

paramabhakthi – to reach God

krutha – that which was done

paripUrNa – fully

anavaratha – continuously (without any hurdle)

nithya – permanently

viSadhathama – experiencing through paramabhakthi

ananya prayOjana – having only God as the end result and nothing else

anavadhika – without reducing (also, without any limit)

athiSaya – wondrous

priya – lovingly

bhagavadh – of bhagavan

anubhava – experience

janitha – born

anavadhika – without reducing

athiSaya – wondrous

prIthi – deep love

kAritha – to be effected

aSEsha – without leaving anything

avasthOchitha – relevant to all states

aSEsha – without leaving anything

SEshathaikarathirUpa –  epitome of loving kainkaryam as his sEshan (servitor)

nithya kainkarya prApthi – to get to carry out permanent kainkaryam

apEkshaya – expect; desire

pAramArthikI – truly

bhagavach charaNaravindha – lotus like feet of bhagavan

SaraNAgathi – surrender

yathAvasthithA – in whatever state it is in

aviratha – without break or gap

asthu mE – happen to me

Explanatory note (Detailed vyAkhyAnam)

pAramArthika – artham means both prayOjanam (end result) and truth. If it is used as an adjective for parabhakthi (paramArthika parabhakthi), pAramArhtika refers to  bhakthi’s causelessness (nirhEthukathvam). In other words, if the bhakthi comes from bhagavan‘s blessings, it is sidhdha bhakthi, a bhakthi which comes readily to us without any effort from our part.  If on the other hand we take efforts to get bhakthi, it is sAdhana bhakthi, a bhakthi which comes out of our efforts.

If pAramArthika is taken as an adjective for charaNAravindham (lotus feet) (pAramArthika charaNAravindham), it refers to prayOjana thiruvadi i.e. attaining and enjoying the lotus feet for carrying out kainkaryam to lotus feet.

bhagavach charaNa aravindha – the term bhagavAn is added here to highlight the superiority of his lotus feet. This indicates the sweetness that happens to the lotus feet due to the qualities of bhagavAn.  Since his qualities are enjoyable, these lead to paramabhakthi which makes the enjoyment even more desirable. charaNa aravindha – the lotus feet are indicative of the entire physical being of bhagavAn and are hence enjoyable.

yugala  – enjoyment borne out of the pair of lotus feet

aikAnthika – there is only one end; there is no second; i.e.  not looking at anything beyond this.

Athyanthika – focused on bhagavAn alone; not having bhakthi elsewhere and on bhagavAn too.

parabhakthi – the prEmam (love) with bhagavAn is such that there is joy when being with him and sorrow when not being with him.

paragyAna – parabhakthi stage blooms into seeing bhagavAn. Thus it is called dharSana sAkshAthkAram – i.e. having true vision of bhagavAn.

paramabhakthi – the end stage of parabhakthi wherein it is impossible to be away from bhagavAn. Life ceases when separation happens. SrI rAmAnuja initially asked for gyAna, then bhakthi; with these two, bhagavAn takes him to the stage reached by bhakthi yOgi so that he attains paramabhakthi without having to go through the efforts put in by a bhakthi yOgi. Beyond this, SrI rAmAnuja desires other stages as explained below.

krutha – resulting from parabhakthi, paragyAna, paramabhakthi

paripUrNa – here it refers to the ability to experience bhagavAn‘s svarUpa, rUpa, guNa, vibhava  – all at the same time, completely, without any hurdle. With our limited sensory organs, it is not possible even to think of enjoying these qualities of bhagavAn which are unlimited in nature. Only after attaining parabhakthi, paragyAna and paramabhakthi, can we enjoy these.

anavaratha – experiencing and enjoying bhagavAn‘s qualities continuously, without any break.

nithya – permanently; until such time that AthmA exists (since AthmA always exists, the experience also will be always existing).

viSadha thama – the third stage of anubhavam or experience. First stage is viSadha which is attained through parabhakthi. The 2nd stage, viSadha thara is attained through paragyAna and the final, through paramabhakthi.

ananya prayOjana – experiencing and enjoying bhagavAn‘s qualities without expecting anything in return. Not even the prIthi (love) born out of experience or kainkaryam resulting from prIthi. Experience bhagavAn only for the sake of experience and nothing else.

anavadhika athiSaya priya – love towards bhagavAn that is never reducing despite experiencing continuously, in a  wonderful manner

bhagavadhanubhava – the experience that AthmA gets after it leaves behind the last physical form (in which it carried out SaraNAgathi) and reaches paramapadham (SrIvaikuNtam) through archirAdhigathi (the path that takes the AthmA through 12 different worlds before crossing vrajA river and getting into SrIvaikuNtam). The bhagavadhanubhavam that one gets on leelA vibhUthi (samsAram – material realm) is limited while at nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam – spiritual realm) it is unlimited.

janitha anavadhika athiSaya prIthi kAritha – the bhagavadhanubhavam gives birth to prIthi which is deep love that is always overflowing and is wonderful.

aSEsha avasthOchitha – without leaving anything,  in all states, doing what he [emperumAn] desires

aSEsha SEshathaikarathirUpa – just as ananthAzhwAn (Adhi SEshan) carries out kainkaryam in multifarious ways, carrying out all kainkaryams in itself becomes the shape of AthmA‘s love

nithya – the kainkaryam done is not just once or twice but for ever; permanently. The AthmA once it reaches SrIvaikuNtam, does not ever get back to earth for another birth. Hence it is kainkaryam that is there for ever.

kainkarya prApthi apEkshayA – desire for carrying out such kainkaryam

pAramArthikI – being completely and totally involved in kainkaryam

bhagavath – as one who possesses the 6 qualities (already seen) he does not expect anything in order to reach his lotus feet

charaNa aravindha – highlights the means for SaraNAgathi

SaraNAgathi – holding on to him in the way that he should be held

yathAvasthithA – as it is; i.e. leaving aside whatever should not be held (desire for worldly things) and holding on to what should be held (bhagavan’s lotus feet). Since this is rahasyam,(secret) he does not reveal here how to carry out SaraNAgathi.

avirathAsthu mE – this should happen to me without any break or hurdle; i.e. having reached his lotus feet, and getting the opportunity to carry out kainkaryam, it should be there for me for ever without any break.

Let us now move on to the 3rd and 4th chUrNai, which are very short. Both have been spoken by pirAtti, as a response to SrI rAmAnuja‘s first two chUrNais.

3rd chUrNai:


asthu thE II

Explanatory note (Detailed vyAkhyAnam)

Let it happen to you!

4th chUrNai:


thayaiva sarvam sampathsyathE II

Explanatory note (Detailed vyAkhyAnam)

Whatever you have prayed for, starting from parabhakthi to carrying out kainkaryam, with all the intervening stages such as paramagyAna, paramabhakthi etc, let it all happen to you!

With this , we have completed the first part of SaraNAgathi gadhyam, in which SrI rAmAnuja first approaches pirAtti as a prelude to carrying out SaraNAgathi to bhagavAn so that she will perform her role of purushakAra bhUthai (one who recommends). Next he moves on to bhagavAn for performing SaraNAgathi. We shall see that from the 5th chUrNai.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 1st chUrNai

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avathArikai (introduction)

This chUrNai is considered to be the explanation for dhvayam. While SrIman nArAyaNa is supposed to grant all boons (sakala phalapradhO hi vishNu – vishNu dharmam), why surrender first to pirAtti (SrI mahAlakshmi)? Just as a son who has left home for several years, when he returns, he goes first to his mother and seeks her acceptance before meeting his father, SrI rAmAnuja feels that he should first get pirAtti to hear him out. Moreover, isn’t she “suhrudham sarvabhUthAnAm” (bhagavath gIthA – one who thinks well for all beings)? In both her eyes, she has “chandran” (i.e. she has only affection) while emperumAn has anger in one eye (“sUryan”) and affection (“chandran”) in the other. When SrI rAmAnuja approaches nArAyaNa, what if nArAyaNa looks at him with anger, considering his past deeds? He thus feels it is safer to surrender to her first. With her blessings, he even gets the courage to ask SrIman nArAyaNa to forgive him, later on.


Om bhagavannArAyanAbhimathAnurUpa svarUparUpaguNavibhavaiSvarya SeelAdhyanavadhikAthiSaya asankhyEya kalyANa  guNagaNAm, padhmavanAlayam, bhaghavathIm, Sriyam dhEvIm, nithyAnapAyinIm, niravadhyAm, dhEvadhEvadhivyamahishIm, akhila jaganmAtharam asmanmAtharam aSaraNya SaraNyAm ananya SaraNa: SaraNamaham prapadhyE

Word-by-Word meaning

bhagavan – one who possesses six essential qualities (gyAna bala aiSvarya vIrya Sakthi thEjas, which will be explained further in detail)

nArAyaNa – the residing place for all beings, both sentient and insentient

abhimatha – being liked by SrIman nArAyaNa

anurUpa – having same physical beauty as SrIman nArAyaNa

svarUpa – natural characteristics (will be explained later)

rUpa – physical beautiful form

guNa – many good qualities

vibhava – possessing wealth unimaginable

aiSvarya – ability to direct or control other beings

Seela – quality that makes one not to look at the defects of followers

Adhi – etc., (many more such qualities)

anavadhika – never reducing

athiSaya – wondrous

asankhyEya – countless

kalyANa guNa gaNAm – possessing hordes of very good qualities

padhma vanAlayAm – having a forest of lotus as seat, to sit on

bhagavathIm – possessing the 6 qualities mentioned for bhagavAn (gyAna bala aiSvarya vIrya Sakthi thEjas)

Sriyam – being “SrI” (mahAlakshmi, explained later)

dhEvIm – possessing luminous power

nithyAnapAyinIm – never leaving SrIman nArAyaNa

niravadhyAm – without any fault; possessing these qualities not for enhancing herself, but for the well being of followers

dhEvadhEva dhivya mahishIm – being the royal queen of the king of all dhEvas

akhila jagan mAtharam – being the mother of all worldly beings

asman mAtharam – being my mother too (as a special quality)

aSaraNya SaraNa: – one who has nowhere else to go to and thus surrenders

SaraNam aham prapadhyE – such a person, adiyEn (servant such as I), surrenders unto you

Explanatory Note (detailed vyAkhyAnam)

bhagavan nArAyana – The term bhagavAn refers to all the desired qualities to be possessed, without any defect. Of the innumerable qualities, 6 important qualities are highlighted – gyAna, bala aiSvarya vIrya Sakthi thEjas (knowledge, strength, control, energy or vigour, power and radiance respectively). SrIman nArAyaNan  performs three major roles – destroyer, creator and protector. For each of these three roles, two qualities are most important. For his role as destroyer, he needs to have gyAna and bala. gyAna (knowledge) is required to ensure that when AthmAs leave their physical bodies in which they were residing during their stay on earth, they carry with them all the karma and sUkshma bhUthams (the five sensory perceptions), and to ensure that there is no mix-up between the deeds and the AthmAs. bala (strength) is needed to take in the entire universe during praLayam (total destruction, at the end of brahmA’s day time).

For his role of creator, he needs aiSvarya (control) and vIrya (energy) -aiSvarya here does not only denote wealth, but mainly the ability to appoint, direct and lead the AthmA in its journey. vIrya is the ability of emperumAn not to get enervated after creating the universe. He does not even sweat after such a humongous task. That is vIrya.

For his role as protector, he needs Sakthi and thEjas – Sakthi (power) to protect the devotees from their enemies and thEjas (radiance) to ensure that enemies can not come anywhere near him to harm him when protecting his devotees.

nArAyaNa – refers to his role to provide residing place for all sentient and insentient beings. While the term bhagavAn may be used to refer to some others also as a matter of respect (for example vyAsa bhagavAn, nArada bhagavAn et al), the term nArAyaNan refers only to him, both as a conventional usage of the term and as the meaning of the term from the composition of words. nArA: refers to the collection of groups of all living beings (many species of animals, many species of plants, many species of human beings, etc) and ayana means resting place. When the two words combine, as per pANiNi’s grammar, the combination is spelt as nArAyaNan which refers to SrIman nArAyaNan only. Thus the words bhagavan nArAyaNan refer to the Lord with all the great qualities and the possessor of the two vibhUthis (nithya vibhUthi, or SrIvaikuNtam [spiritual realm] and leelA vibhUthi or samsAram [material realm]).

One may ask, why should SrI rAmAnuja talk about nArAyaNan when he is about to surrender to pirAtti? Just as a source of water is required for cultivating land and a bund (embankment) is required for a lake, it is necessary to give the basis for pirAtti’s many great qualities and her great wealth. Just as we say SrIman while referring to nArAyaNan, we also say vishNu pathni (wife of vishNu) while referring to SrI mahAlakshmi. To understand the greatness of pirAtti, we need to know the greatness of perumAL.

abhimatha anurUpa – pirAtti is liked by him always and her beauty is appropriate to his. In our normal lives, we would see couples who are both good looking or who are both having good qualities. Only in the case of dhivya dhampathi can we see both the qualities in both of them, i.e. abhimatham and anurUpam. What is liked by either of them in the other and what is appropriate in each to the other are explained by the subsequent terms.

svarUpa rUpa guNa vibhava aiSvarya SeelAdhi – that is, her svarUpam is liked by him and his svarUpam is liked by her. Similar is the case with every quality or characteristic. When rAvaNa showed the severed head of SrI rAma to sIthA and indhrajith similarly showed the severed head of sIthA to SrI rAma, they were stunned initially but knew that it was false. This was because of the svarUpam that was liked by each in the other. In the case of rUpam too, each is  appropriate to the other. Their physical beauty complements each other.

guNa here refers to the characteristics of the physical form – qualities such as saundharyam (beautiful in specific aspects of the thirumEni (body)), lAvaNyam (beautiful in overall aspects of the thirumEni/form) etc. pirAtti uses these qualities to make SrIman nArAyaNan to look at us with kindness and to forgive our transgressions, and thus these qualities are dear to him.

vibhava means wealth. If she is the word, he is the meaning. The two are inseparable. All that is masculine  has his stamp and all that is feminine has hers. Her possessions are very dear to him and are not like the wealth that he possesses (garland, sandal paste, parrot etc).

aiSvarya – ability to direct or lead or control others. She controls the three types of chEthanas (sentients) such as badhdhAthma (still bonded to samsAram, like us), mukthAthmA (those who have got liberated from here and reached SrIvaikuNtam) and nithyAthmA (those who are always in SrIvaikuNtam and never take birth here like us) through their karma (in the case of badhdhAthmA), svarUpAnurUpam (being sEshabhUthan and pArathanthriyan, in the case of mukthAthmA and nithyAthma) and she also controls SrIman nArAyaNan through her love and affection by reminding him about his role as a protector and that he has to grant mOksham to the bhadhdhAthmA when he surrenders. perumAL feels happy when she undertakes this role as it is said that for an uththama purusha (highest level of AthmA) he is expected to listen to his pathni (consort). What has been said about aiSvarya is applicable to other qualities such as gyAna bala vIrya, Sakthi and thEjas.

Seela – a quality that does not look at the shortcomings or defects in followers; person at a higher level moving with people of lower ranks, treating them as equals; she is equal to him in her practices and rituals. perumAL in his avathAram as SrI rAma, made common cause with persons such as guha (boatman), sugrIva (a monkey king) and vibhIshaNa (a rAkshasa). Similarly pirAtti as sIthA was very friendly towards the rAkshasis who were troubling her no end to make her yield to rAvaNa’s wishes. She also spoke to rAvaNa asking him to make friendship with SrI rAmA if he wants to be alive. She did not hesitate to advise him even though he was much inferior to her. This quality is very much liked by perumAL as this is a role that he too plays often (of being a protector).

Adhi – this means starting from the above-mentioned qualities, there are many more such qualities that pirAtti has. It may be possible to speak about perumAL’s qualities, but it is impossible to speak about her qualities, says the vyAkyAthA, periyavAchchAn piLLai.

anavadhikAthiSaya – each of the above mentioned qualities is unlimited in terms of expanse and is also wondrous.

aSankhyEya – countless qualities

kalyANa guna ganAm – these qualities are also auspicious in nature. These qualities, found in perumAL also, complement each other. One may even find a fault in perumAL‘s qualities – that he is totally independent (swAthanthriyam) but none can find any fault in pirAtti’s qualities. His svAthanthriyam would make him angry when he sees us committing mistakes but she converts the mistakes also into good deeds. And, the qualities are in abundant quantities.

padhmavanAlayAm –  this refers to auspicious qualities. She gives sweet fragrance to perumAL himself, who is referred to as “sarva gandha:” (epitome of all fragrances). This also refers to her being sweet to perumAL and as being a source of enjoyment.

bhagavathIm – she too possesses the 6 qualities mentioned for bhagavan earlier in this explanatory note. She is someone who even bhagavAn would be glad to perform pUjA (worship). Taken together, the two terms padhmavanAlayAm bhagavathIm would mean that if devotees approach bhagavAn through her, she would ensure that bhagavAn would not mind the shortcomings in the devotees and would grant them their desires (mainly mOksham) through her sweetness.

Sriyam – while everything else in the world takes shelter under her, she takes shelter under him. She controls everything and she is controlled by him. However the two are inseparable, just like a gem and its powerful rays or flower and its fragrance. Sriyam is derived from SrI: which means that she is the leader of everything else and in turn is led by him; she hears our plights and in turn makes him listen; she cuts off all our past misdemeanours and enables us to reach him.

dhEvIm – full of radiance.

nithyAnapAyinIm – always dwells with him, and is inseparable from him just as it says in vishNu purANam “vishNor SrIranapAyinIm”.

niravadhyAm – without any defect; in other words, if all the qualities mentioned so far have been with her for her own sake, that would be considered as a defect or shortcoming. But if these qualities are there for bringing succour to her followers, then they are said to be defect-free.

dhEvadhEva dhivya mahishIm – being the queen for the Lord of all the dhEvathAs; i.e. being pirAtti (consort) to perumAL.

akhilajaganmAtharam – being the mother to all the beings (all the three types of AthmAs). She lives for the well-being of everyone.

asman mAtharamSrI rAmAnuja considers himself as one of the beings, but a little bit special and hence makes a separate mention of pirAtti being his mother too.

aSaraNya SaraNyAm – being the last resort for those who have nowhere else to go. She overlooks all our shortcomings if we display a little bit of good quality. On occasions, even if we do not have an iota of good quality, she still overlooks all our shortcomings. emperumAn is normally the last resort for those who have nowhere else to go. In the case of persons for  whom even perumAn is not approachable, she functions as the last resort.

ananyaSaraNa: aham – Is there anyone for  whom there is nowhere else to go? asks pirAtti. SrI rAmAnuja says that “aham” (I am) is that person.

SaraNam prapadhyE – such a person who has nowhere else to go and who has approached you, now surrenders  to your lotus feet as a means, claims SrI rAmAnuja in this last phrase of the first chUrNai.

We shall now proceed to the second chUrNai.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – pravESam (Introduction)

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Highlights from periyavAchchAn piLLai‘s vyAkhyAnam

srI rAmAnuja had expounded on bhakthi yOgam (path of bhakthi or devotion) in his treatise srI bhAshyam, to attain mOksham (liberation from materialistic realm) . This was meant to counter the hypothesis put forward by kudrishtis (those who give wrong interpretation of the vEdhas) who had said that only gyAna yOgam (path of knowledge) would lead to mOksham. srI rAmAnuja was concerned that his followers would also think that bhakthi yOgam only would liberate them from this samsAram (materialistic realm) and would follow that to attain mOksham.

In SaraNAgathi gadhyam, he emphasises on saraNAgathi (surrendering to srIman nArAyaNan) as a path to attain mOksham. One may ask, if saraNAgathi is the path to mOksham, why then did he not expound this in his srI bhAshyam to counter the kudhrishtis? The reason for this is that just as a brAhmaNa can not teach vEdha to a chathurtha varNika (4th class of people), one can not let out the sacred, rahasya (secretive) meanings of SaraNAgathi to everyone openly.

In what way is SaraNAgathi superior to bhakthi yOgam as a means for attaining mOksham?

  • bhakthi is limited to thraivarNikas (persons belonging to the first three varNas, viz., brAhmaNa, kshathriya and vaisya and even in these three classes, the males only) whereas SaraNAgathi can be carried out by anyone without any distinction.
  • bhakthi is a difficult method to follow while SaraNAgathi is very simple.
  • bhakthi gives results after the person who follows it exhausts all his prArabdha karmas (karmas, or deeds, are of two types, sanchita and prArabdha; sanchita karma is the sum total of all the karmas that the jIvAthmA (soul) had earned while being born repeatedly. prArabdha is that which God takes out as a portion from the full bundle of sanchita and lets the jIvAthmA to complete in a set of births in its term in the samsAram following the pApa / sin and puNya / virtue karmas with which it was sent to this earth). SaraNAgathi yields results in the same birth in which the AthmA had performed SaraNAgathi.
  • While following the path of bhakthi, one has to be very careful in not transgressing what is told in vEdhas. However that is not the case with SaraNAgathi as it is very simple to perform. One has to take lot of efforts to carry out bhakthi while in the case of SaraNAgathi, it is readily available for practicing.
  • bhakthi is not synchronous with the svarUpam (characteristics or basic nature) of AthmA while SaraNAgathi is. In other words, the svarUpam of AthmA is to be subservient (sEshabhUthan) to SrIman nArAyANan as well as to be dependent (pArathanthriyan) on him and these are fulfilled while following SaraNAgathi whereas bhakthi is attained through the self-efforts of AthmA which is not the svarUpam of AthmA.
  • And, bhakthi is not a match for the result which is attained while SaraNAgathi is.

SaraNAgathi is also mentioned in vEdhAntha. In yAgyikIya upanishad, twelve different characteristics are mentioned for a jIvAthmA and the highest place among the twelve is given to SaraNAgathi. It has been followed by pUrvAchAryas also and is dear to the heart of SrIman nArAyaNan. Thus, being acceptable to vEdhAntha, being aligned to the swarUpam of jIvAthma, having been followed by AzhwArs and pUrvAchAryas and being close to the heart of SrIman nArAyaNan, made srI rAmAnuja to expound it so that his followers would also be benefited by it.

He chose the panguni uthram day for performing SaraNAgathi when namperumAL and ranganAchchiyAr were seated next to each other. All the hurdles of samsAram were constantly going through in his mind and in order to get rid of these, he surrendered to the divya dhampathi. He had performed SaraNAgathi earlier when he took samAsrayaNam under his AchAryA periya nambi. While SaraNAgathi is to be performed only once, why did srI rAmAnuja perform it a second time? It was because of the fear that the samsAram was creating as well as the strong urge to be with God soon. Even AzhwArs performed SaraNAgathi repeatedly (nammAzhwAr did it 5 times and thirumangai AzhwAr, 10 times). Same is the case with AchAryas too. Hence in order to get rid of samsAram and to reach SrIvaikuNtam to perform kainkaryams (service) to the dhivya dhampathi he carried out SaraNAgathi.

We shall now move on to the 1st chUrNai of this treatise.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – thaniyan

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 ramanujar-periyavachanpillaisrI rAmAnuja – periyavAchchAn piLLai

periyavAchchAn piLLai’s thaniyan (we are including this to show our gratitude towards him for his commentary)

srImath krishNa samAhvAya namO yAmuna sUnavE
yath katAkshaika lakshyANam sulabha: srIdharas sadhA

Meaning: I worship periyavAchchAn piLLai who is the son of yAmunar and whose katAksham (graceful glance) will make emperumAn sriman nArAyanan‘s grace fall on us very easily.

thaniyan for saraNAgathi gadhyam

vandhE vEdhAntha karpUra chAmIkara karandakam
rAmAnujAryamAryANAm chUdAmaNimaharnisham

Meaning: I worship day and night, srI rAmAnuja, who is considered as the crown-jewel among all AchAryas, and who is like the golden chest that protects the camphor-like fragrance of vEdhAntha, retaining its sweet fragrance.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam

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SrI:  SrImathE satakOpAya nama:  SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama:  SrImath varavaramunayE nama:


bhagavath SrI rAmAnuja wrote 9 masterpieces – SrI bhAshyam, vEdhAntha sAram, vEdhAntha dhIpam, vEdhArtha sangraham, gIthA bhAshyam, nithya grantham, SaraNAgathi gadhyam, SrIranga gadhyam and SrIvaikuNta gadhyam.

The first three are related to brahma sUthram, the fourth deals with selected verses from vEdhAntham, the fifth is a vyAkyAnam on bhagavadh gIthA and the sixth deals with the daily rituals (specifically thiruvArAdhanam) to be carried out by srIvaishNavas.

The last three are the lifeline of our sidhdhAntham – They are a very lucid explanation to the swarUpam of SaraNAgathi and how to observe it. gadhyam means prosaic and thrayam means three. Since there are three gadhyams in this series, collectively they are called us gadhyathrayam. Our pUrvAchAryas gave lot of prominence to the three gadhyams. It is for this reason that even those who do not have the ability to grasp the meanings of the other granthams, should learn about these three gadhyams from their AchAryas. In this fast world, sometimes it may be difficult for the AchAryas to teach the meanings fully to their disciples. Hence an attempt is being made to explain the features of the three gadhyams through this series of articles.

namperumal-nachiyar-serthi  srIranga nAchchiyAr and srIranganAthan – srIrangam

ramanuja-srirangam SrI rAmAnuja – SrIrangam

SrI rAmAnuja chose the panguni uthram day, which is the thirunakshathram for periya pirAttiyAr at srI rangam, to surrender himself to the dhivya dhampathi and thus showed the way for his  disciples to follow. It is on this day that both SrIranganAthan and SrIranga nAchchiyAr share one simhAsanam (throne) and bless the thronging devotees. It is the only day when the dhivya dhampathi sit next to each other, in the whole year. With SrIranga nAchchiyAr by his side, SrIranganAthan sheds his tough stance and softens up to the devotees. Hence SrI rAmAnuja chose this day.

Initially he surrenders to periya pirAttiyAr, then to namperumAL. This is expounded in SaraNAgathi gadhyam. Then he recites srIranga gadhyam, which is specially devoted to namperumAL at srI rangam. In the third gadhyam (SrIvaikuNta gadhyam) he describes the features of SrIvaikuNtam so that the prapannan (the person who performs the act of prapaththi or SaraNAgathi) would know the importance of the place where he would go to, on attaining mOksham (liberation from samsAram or materialistic realm).

periyavachan-pillaiperiyavAchchAn piLLai

The meanings that are being attempted here are based on the vyAkhyAnam of paramakAruNikar, srI periyavAchchAn piLLai. There are 23 chUrNais in SaraNAgathi gadhyam (a chUrNai can be taken roughly as a paragraph). We shall give the meanings of words in each chUrNai and then give an overall summary of what SrI rAmANuja has conveyed in it, through periyavAchchAn piLLai’s vyAkyAnam. We are also thankful to vELukkudi SrI u vE krishNan swamy’s kAlakshEpam series which is of great help in understanding the wonderful vyAkhyAnam of periyavAchchAn piLLai.

We will start seeing the English translation for this wonderful grantham.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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