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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 13th chUrNai

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Nammazhwar-krishnanammAzhwAr (the foremost amongst gyAnis) and krishNa

avathArikai (Introduction): 

In the previous chUrNais, bhagavadh rAmAnuja had spoken about namaSSabdhArtham (meaning of the word nama: as it occurs in dhvaya mahAmanthram). The meaning of the word nama:  is getting rid of enemies/obstacles. SrI rAmAnuja had prayed to bhagavAn in the previous three chUrNais for getting rid of his enemies – karma (past deeds), agyAna (ignorance) and dhEhasambhandham (connection with physical body, in other words with prakruthi). Is it not enough if enemies are got rid of? asks periyavAchchAn piLLai and he further adds that what SrI rAmAnuja is desirous of is parama purushArtham (the highest benefit that one can ask of bhagavAn), which is kainkaryam (doing service to bhagavAn). A prerequisite for kainkaryam is to have parabhakthi, paragyAna and paramabhakthi (we have seen in detail about these states of bhakthi in the 2nd chUrNai itself) and for parabhakthi, the prerequisite is bhakthirUpaApannagyAnam (knowledge that would have the form of bhakthi; in simple terms, it means love for bhagavAn). SrI rAmAnuja prays for this gyAnam from bhagavAn in the 13th chUrNai, quoting what bhagavAn himself said in bhagavadh gIthA, when he took the avathAram (incarnation) of SrI krishNa. In the 7th chapter, 17th to 19th SlOkas (verses) , SrI krishNa quotes on the supreme features and qualities of his bhakthas. SrI rAmAnuja repeats these three SlOkas here and requests bhagavAn to make him one such bhaktha and to grant him gyAnam. Let us look at the chUrNai now:

thEshAm gyAnI nithyayuktha: Ekabhakthir viSishyathE I
priyO hi gyAninOthyartham aham sa cha mama priya: II

udharAs sarva EvaithE gyAnI thvAthmaiva mE matham I
Asthithas sa hi yukthAthmA mAmEvAnuththamAm gathim II

bahUnAm janmanAm anthE gyAnavAn mAm prapadhyathE I
vAsudhEvas sarvamithi sa mahAthmA sudhurlabha: II
 – ithi SlOka thrayOdhitha gyAninam mAm kurushva II

Explanatory Note: 

There are 4 types of bhakthas, says SrI krishNa in the 7th chapter of bhagavadh gIthai – those who want all the riches that  they once had, but had lost subsequently; those who want to become wealthy, for the  first time; those who want only kaivalya mOksham (an inferior mOksham wherein the jIvAthmA enjoys itself, without extolling the virtues of bhagavAn and doing kainkaryam to him) and those who want bhagavAn himself so that they could carry out kainkaryam to him eternally. SrI krishNa calls the fourth among the above as gyAni, the knowledgeable since he (the bhaktha) knows what is his swarUpam (basic nature) and what he should do. Let us now look at the meanings of these verses.

thEshAm gyAni – thEshAm – among them (among the 4 types of bhakthas, as mentioned above); gyAni – the knowledgeable. As previously mentioned, krishNa calls his bhaktha as gyAni as he knows where he stands and what he should do.

viSishyathE – said to be the best among. The gyAni stands out among the four types of bhakthas.

nithya yuktha: Ekabhakthi: – This is what makes the gyAni special or best among the four. nithya – always; yuktha: – joined; the gyAni desires to be with bhagavAn himself permanently unlike the other types of bhakthas who leave bhagavAn once they get whatever they had asked for.

Ekabhakthi: – single point of devotion. The gyAni does not ask for anything else from bhagavAn unlike others who need various things. The other three types of bhakthas are desirous of prayOjanAntharam (other benefits) while bhagavAn himself is the prayOjanam (benefit) for gyAni. Hence he has only one bhakthi (devotion) which is towards bhagavAn himself while the other 3 types of bhakthas have devotion towards what they desire (purushArtham) and bhagavAn through whom they have to get the objects of their desire.

priyO hi gyAninOthyartham ahampriya: – beloved; hi – surely; gyAni – bhaktha; athyartham – supreme; aham – I. bhagavAn says that gyAnis (the knowledgeable bhakthas) treat bhagavAn as a supremely beloved person. It is  not possible to describe the love that gyAnis have towards bhagavAn. It is so exalted.

sa cha mama priya:sa – he; cha – also; mama – to me; priya: – beloved. bhagavAn says that such a gyAni is also dear to him. But bhagavAn makes a difference here between the love of gyAni  towards him and his love towards gyAni.  He says that if the gyAni’s love is like an ocean, his own love towards the gyAni is like a little pond. Why does bhagavAn belittle his love and magnify his bhaktha’s love?  The bhaktha lives in samsAram (materalistic realm) and is constantly troubled by his karma (past deeds), janma (repeated births), avidhyA (ignorance) etc. There are any number of hurdles or enemies for his bhaktha to show his love, while there is no such hurdle for bhagavAn to show his love. bhagavAn is vipu (huge) while the bhaktha is aNu (atom). It is like a 6 footer taking a step to cover 2 feet and a worm crawling for a whole day to cover the same 2 feet. The end distance covered is the same 2 feet, but there is a huge difference in the effort put in by the 6-footer and the worm. Moreover the bhaktha keeps wailing continuously imploring bhagavAn to take him away from samsAram, making it difficult for even the omnipotent bhagavAN to sit in SrIvaikuNtam. bhagavAn says that his bhaktha’s love is so heavy that he is not able to sit in SrIvaikuNtam.

udhArAs sarva EvaithEudhAra: – (most) generous; sarva – all; EthE – these; Eva – only; krishNa says that all these people (all 4 types of bhakthas as mentioned above) only are most generous. This may sound strange when in reality we ask bhagavAn for various needs and he gives these to us and thus we are the seekers and he is the most generous. Why is SrI krishNa reversing the roles? He says that unless the bhakthas ask him for favours, how can he give them (here the hidden meaning is “what if they ask some other dhEvathA”)? Thus to get a name for himself (as the giver) he needs people to beseech him and he calls them as most generous.

gyAnithugyAni – knowledgeable (here the reference is to his bhaktha); thu – but. 4 different types of bhakthas may ask him for favours, but among them the gyAni is….

AthmaivaAthmA – sentient being; Eva – only. SrI krishNa says that only the gyAni is his AthmA; bhagavAn lives inside the gyANi and the gyAni bears him from outside. In other words, the gyAni is the reason for the existence of bhagavAn. This sounds strange and completely reverse of what we all know of. But, bhagavAn says that this is …..

mE mathammE – my; matham – opinion. bhagavAn says that let anyone think whatever he wants on hearing this. But he is firm in his mind that he lives because of such gyAnis.

Asthithas sahi yukthAthmA mAmEvAnuththamAm gathim

anuththamAm gathim mAmEvaanuththamAm – nothing higher than; gathim – refuge; mAm – me; Eva – only.  Continuing from the previous part of the Sloka (verse), SrI krishNa says that for such a gyAni, there is no refuge higher than himself (bhagavAn).

Asthithas sahi yukthAthmAAsthitha: – dwells on; sa – he; hi – surely; yukthAthmA – intent upon. SrI krishNa says that such a gyAni keeps dwelling on himself constantly to reach him as there is no refuge higher than himself to such a gyAni.

bahunAm janmanAmanthEbahunAm – many; janmanAm – births; anthE – end. An AthmA has taken many many births and at the end of one such birth…

gyAnavAn – has knowledge; such a person gains knowledge of only bhagavAn and nothing else.

mAm – me;

vAsudhEvas sarvamithi –  vAsudhEva: – only vAsudhEvan (son of vasudEva in krishNavathAram); sarvam – everything; ithi – so. The gyAni knows that bhagavAn is everything, taking the place of whatever he had given up (mother, father, teacher, relatives, wealth etc which we had seen in chUrNai 6). As nammAzhvAr says, bhagavAn is water, food and betel leaves to him (that which sustains, nurtures and offers pleasure).

prapadhyathE – take refuge. The gyAni gives up everything and comes to bhagavAn and holds on to him as the only refuge.

sa mahAthmAsa – he; mahAthmA –  eminent. bhagavAn describes such a gyAni who considers bhagavAn as everything as a mahAthmA. When bhagavAn is the mahAthmA (the big AthmA) and we, the jIvAthmAs are small (we are in subtle form, less than the size of an atom) why is bhagavAn calling a jIvAthmA (gyAni) as mahAthmA? The reason is similar to what we had seen under the verse “sa cha mama priya:” under the second slOkam among the three slOkams above. bhagavAn is in an absolutely pure form, with no fault capable of getting anywhere near him whereas the jIvAthmA is living in samsAram, surrounded by all faults. Despite this, the jIvAthmA is knowledgeable enough to give up everything in samsAram and take refuge under bhagavAn, taking him as everything that he has given up. Hence krishNa calls such a gyANi as mahAthmA.

su dhurlabha:su – very; dhurlabha: – difficult to obtain or find. krishNa says that it is very difficult to see such a person not only in samsAram, but also in paramapadham (SrIvaikuNtam). The samsAram is capable of shaking up even a great AchAryan (teacher) and trap him in its fold. Even in such a realm, the gyAni is able to stand firm and look at bhagavAn alone and nothing else. Hence it is difficult to see such a person anywhere, contends SrI krishNa.

ithi – like this.

SlOkathrayOdhitha gyAninam mAm kurushvaSlOkam – verse; thrayam – three; udhitha – told; gyAnina: – knowledgeable-like; mAm – me; kurushva – make. bhagavadh rAmAnuja prays to bhagavAn to make him also a gyAni as he had mentioned in the three SlOkas in bhagavadh gIthA. In the first slOka, SrI krishNa said that gyAni is dear to him. In the second, he said that he bears him and in the third, he said that it is very difficult to find such a gyAni who has the qualities mentioned in the first two slOkas.

Let us now look at the 14th chUrNai.

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Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 12th chUrNai

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avathArikai: (Introduction)

In the earlier two chUrNais, SrI rAmAnuja had mentioned about his karma (past deeds) and agyAna (ignorance), the basis for karma. In this, the 12th, chUrNai, he mentions about the basis of his agyAna, which is his dhEhasambhandham (connection with physical body) and requests bhagavAn to enable him to cross prakruthi (primordial matter) which is responsible for dhEham (body). While he had requested bhagavAn earlier (in the last two chUrNais) to forgive him of his misdeeds and to destroy the deeds, here he asks bhagavAn to help him cross over prakruthi. Why did he not ask for destroying his dhEhasambhandham here? periyavAchchAn piLLai, the vyAkhyAthA (commentator), mentions that the misdeeds were like thoughts in bhagavAn’s mind and he could remove or destroy such thoughts at his pleasure. But samsAram (materialistic realm) or prakruthi is permanent and can not be destroyed. Hence he requests bhagavAn to help him cross it. It is not his intention to destroy the Lord’s leelA vibhUthi (realm for his play and pastime). Could he not ask for getting separated or liberated from it? periyavAchchAn piLLai says that one can ask for being separated or liberated from samsAram if one knows that the AthmA and body are two separate entities. If one doesn’t know that the two are different (because of dhEmAthmAbhimAnam, mistaking body for AthmA) how could he ask for being separated or liberated from it? It is like water mixing so well with milk that it would be impossible to separate one from the other. In bhagavadh gIthA, krishNa says that this prakruthi is like an illusion and it is difficult to cross it without his assistance. Hence SrI rAmAnuja requests bhagavAn to enable him to cross it over.


madhIya anAdhi karmaprahAvapravruththAm bhagavath svarUpa
thirOdhAnakarIm viparItha gyAna jananIm svavishayAyAScha
bhOgyabudhdhEr jananIm dhEhEndhriyathvEna bhOgyathvEna
sUkshma rUpENa chAvasthithAm dhaivIm guNamayIm
mAyAm dhAsabhUtham “SaraNAgathOsmi thavAsmi dhAsa:” ithi
vakthAram mAm thAraya II

vyAkhyAnam: (Explanatory Note)

anAdhi karma pravAha pravruththAmanAdhi – without end; karma pravAha – deeds flowing; pravruththAm – engaged in; the karma that one has, has been earned for a very long time.

madhIya – mine; these karmas have not come because of someone else’s creation or as a prasAdh (gift) from bhagavAn, but have been accumulated by me over many, many births in this samsAram.

What does this do?

bhagavath svarUpa thirOdhAnakarImbhagavath – of bhagavAn; svarUpa – basic nature; thirOdhAnakarIm – hides like a screen. The karmas that we have earned are so powerful because of our ignorance that these can hide the basic nature of bhagavAn himself. He is

  • SrI’s (lakshmi pirAtti’s) husband
  • highest among all purushas (all sentients)
  • has all the auspicious guNas (qualities)
  • lord of nithyasUris (those who are constantly in nithyavibhUthi, SrIvaikuNtam)
  • owner of both nithyavibhUthi and leelAvibhUthi (world created by him for his sport and pastime)

Instead of thinking of bhagavAn like this, this body of ours, resulting from karmas, makes us think that

  • bhagavAn is without any guNas and is gyAnamayan only (full of only knowledge) (view held by kudhrishtis or those who misinterpret vEdhas’ contention);
  • there are only chith (sentient) and achith (insentient) and there is no ISvaran (bhagavAn) (sAnkhya sect’s contention)
  • there is only one entity which is covered by a haze of ignorance and once that haze is removed, that entity becomes bhagavAn and is the only true entity, all the rest being false or illusory (mAyAvAdhis’ contention) etc.

The basis for such ignorance is of course dhEhasambhandham (connection with the body for eons).

viparItha gyAna jananImviparItha – false or opposite; gyAna – knowledge; jananIm – birth. What is false about our knowledge? Thinking that this body of ours is AthmA (dhEhAbhimAnam). Thus the body hides not only bhagavAn but our own svarUpam (true nature). In other words, each person is a King in his own land and he need not bother about bhagavAn or accept him as his lord and master.

sva vishyAyAScha bhOgyabhudhdhEr jananImsva – self; vishyAyAScha – relating to all matters; bhOgyabhudhdhEr jananIm – creation of knowledge for enjoying all matters purely for pleasure. The body starts enjoying through the five senses constantly, keeping both bhagavAn and AthmA hidden.

dhEha indhriyathvEna bhOgyathvEna sUkshma rUpENa chAvasthithAmdhEha idhriyathvEna – of body and five senses; bhOgyathvEna – enjoying for pleasure; sUkshma – subtle; rUpENa – form; cha – and; avasthithAm – state of being. The body,in its subtle form, given by primordial matter (prakruthi), with the help of five senses, enjoys all that is there in the world for its own pleasure. This is the handiwork of prakruthi in 4 different ways as mentioned above.

dhaivIm – for the playful act of bhagavAnprakruthi is there for the sport and pastime of bhagavAn and it causes much damage to our svarUpam due to our karma and agyAna.

guNamayImprakruthi is composed of three guNas (qualities) – sAthvik, rAjasic and thAmasic, the good, the emotional and the ignorant, respectively. Anything which is in prakruthi is composed of these three guNas. Our body will have any one of these three qualities at its peak at different points of time. Our moods change constantly, exhibiting a character that is determined by one of these three guNas.

mAyAm – mUla prakruthi (primordial matter); this body of ours exhibits wondrous quality. What is wondrous about it? It hides bhagavAn himself and AthmA. The body, which is composed of five elements (cosmos, wind, fire, water and earth), taken from priomordial matter, is controlled by these elements to such an extent that the body behaves in all the fashions mentioned above (forgetting the nature of both AthmA and bhagavAn and enjoying everything for its own pleasures)

mAm thArayamAm – me; thAraya – cross over. Caught in such a vicious world, rAmAnuja pleads with bhagavAn to rescue him and to help him in crossing over this samsAram. bhagavAn asks rAmAnuja as to what he has done for him to help him. rAmAnuja says that in all these births, he has done lot of wrongdoings, has been a dhEhAthmAbhimAni (one who has mistaken body for AthmA), has gone after the five senses to enjoy pleasures of life etc, but now has realised that he is fully a servitor to bhagavAn.

dhAsabhUthamdhAsa – servant. bhUtham – existing. rAmAnuja says to bhagavAn, “I exist as your servant”.  bhagavAn further says that this is an ordinary feature. “Is there any other deed that you have done for me to help you”?

SaraNAgathOsmi thavAsmi dhAsa ithi vakthAramSaraNagatham – surrender; asmi – I am. thava – yours; asmi – I am. dhAsa – servant. vakthAram – by mouth; thAraya – rescue or cross over; adiyEn has surrendered unto you; I am yours; I am your servant, says rAmAnuja. I now know that you are the path to attain mOksha or liberation, you are the fruit of my surrendering, and you are my master.

vakthAram mAm – I have said so, not from my heart, but from my lips.

thAraya – Please consider this act of my mine and help me cross this prakruthi, says bhagavath SrI rAmAnuja.

We shall now move onto the 13th chUrNai

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 11th chUrNai

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SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama
SrImath varavaramunayE nama:

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bhagavanOmniscient and Omnipotent SrIman nArAyaNan

avathArikai (introduction):

In the previous chUrNai, SrI rAmAnuja had asked for forgiveness for his wrong deeds related to karma. Here he asks for forgiveness for his wrong activities born out of avidhyA or agyAna (ignorance). But did he not already list out all these faults in the previous chUrNai, asks periyavAchchAn piLLai, the  preceptor who wrote an elaborate vyAkhyAnam (explanatory note) for gadhya thrayamperiyavAchchAn piLLai explains that while in the previous chUrNai, SrI rAmAnuja had mentioned about his misdeeds based on what SAsthram (religious treatise) had said (doing what the SAsthra had forbidden us to do and not doing what it had ordained us to do), in this chUrNai, SrI rAmAnuja lists out those wrong deeds which he did based on ignorance of vEdhAntham (the part of vEdhas or scripture dealing with knowledge about God). Hence it can not be considered as a repetition of earlier misdeeds.

Let us look at the chUrNai.

anAdhikAla pravruththam viparIthagyAnam Athma vishayam
kruthsna jagath vishyancha viparItha vruththancha aSEsha vishayam
adhyApi varththamAnam varththishyamANam cha sarvam kshamasva II

anAdhikAla pravruththa – doing for a very long time, without any known beginning. Here the time reference is to several hundreds of thousands of janmas (births).

viparItha gyAnam – contrary or inverse or wrong knowledge. This inverse knowledge is not something natural to jIvAthmA. But, since it has been there for a very long time, it may appear to be a part of jIvAthmA. However, since one day it (the inverse knowledge) disappears (on attaining mOksham), we can say that it is not natural to jIvAthmA. Inverse knowledge is mistaking one entity for another. For example, mistaking a rope for snake is such knowledge.

Athma vihshayam – ignorance related to AthmA. In other words, mistaking body for AthmA (what we frequently refer to as dhEhAthmAbhimAnam). The body is destructible while AthmA is indestructible.

kruthsna jagath vishayanchakruthsna – entire; jagath – world; vishayam – matter or issue; cha – and; i.e. inverse knowledge relating to the entire world. Just as we think of ourselves as our physical forms (as human beings), thinking similarly of other forms of life such as dhEva, manushya, thiryak, sthAvaram (celestial being, human being, animal, plant forms respectively) as their physical forms and not as the inner AthmA inside. This is viparItha Athma gyAnam among kruthsna jagath vishayam (matter relating to the entire world)

viparItha vruththanchaviparItha – wrong; vruththam – activity or practice. Here it refers to reacting to someone else’s action instead of taking it as one’s  own karma palam (result of previous deeds). All AthmAs are dependent (parathanthran) on bhagavAn. If another person does harm to me, that action is result of bhagavAn executing an action through that person on account of my karma palam. Instead of thinking this way, if I harm the other person in return, then it is viparItha vruththam. In Athma vishayam this means thinking of oneself as being svathanthran (independent) instead of being parathanthran (dependent) on bhagavAn. Thus if one has true knowledge, if another person harms a person, the harmed person should not get angry and retort.

aSEsha vishayamaSEsha – without leaving anything; vishayam – matter. Having desire in materialistic needs such as gold, land etc, which are related to vishayAntharam (matter other than bhagavAn). We do need to look after basic needs, but we need to stop at that instead of accumulating more and more of these aiSvaryams (materialistic entities for dhEham’s pleasure). The desire for all  unwanted material comforts was there not only in the past, but

adhyApi varththamAnamadhyApi – even today; varthamANam – present time. These desires continue to be there today, and

varththishyamANanchavarthishyamANam – future. The desire for worldly pleasures will be there in future too.

sarvam kshamasvasarvam – all; kshamasva – excuse. SrI rAmAnuja says that since he is an agyAni (ignorant person) he doesn’t know what are all the mistakes that he has committed. He implores bhagavAn that since he is sarvagyan (omniscient, all knowing) he would know all his mistakes and should pardon him.

This completes 11th chUrNai.

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Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 10th chUrNai

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SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama
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Ramanuja panguni uttiram serthi

avathArikai (introduction):

In the first chUrNai, bhagavadh SrI rAmAnuja surrenders to pirAtti, requesting her to grant him the desire in the path (of attaining mOksham through surrendering to bhagavAn) as well as deep faith that bhagavAn would grant him mOksham. Subsequently pirAtti grants him his wishes. Then he approaches bhagavAn, the Lord of both nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam) and leelA vibhUthi (samsAram or materialistic world). He recounts the unmatched qualities of bhagavAn and with pirAtti playing the role of purushakArabhUthai (recommending person) he performs SaraNAgathi (act of surrendering) to bhagavAn. Then he lists all that he has given up at the time of SaraNAgathi, emphasising that bhagavAn himself would be all these entities to him. He also tenders apology for carrying out SaraNAgathi after going the wrong way in all the previous births and thus far in this birth. He also quotes the words of preceptors when they carried out SaraNAgathi as these are always dear to bhagavAn. When bhagavAn is willing to grant mOksham after carrying out SaraNAgathi once, why did SrI rAmAnuja do it multiple times? He did that because of the strong craving (Arththi) that he had for reaching SrIvaikuNtam and also because he wasn’t sure whether bhagavAn would be gladdened more by hearing the verses of preceptors when they carried out SaraNAgathi or hearing his own words. With this, SrI rAmAnuja completes the equivalent of first part of dhvaya mahAmanthram (the part dealing with the actual surrendering of jIvAthmA to bhagavAn). Now he has to start the second part which deals with carrying out kainkaryam (rendering service) to bhagavAn and pirAtti together. But before stating that desire (of carrying out kainkaryam), we should first get rid of the undesirables that we have in plenty with us. SrI rAmAnuja states these now in chUrNai 10 to 12. This is equivalent to the meaning of nama: in dhvaya mahAmanthram. These undesirables are present in us on account of karma (deeds, both good and bad, from previous births), agyAnam (ignorance) and dhEha sambhandham (connection with bodily entities during repeated births in samsAram). Starting with dhEhAthmAbhimAnam (mistaking the body for AthmA, and acting accordingly), ending with svabhOgthruthva budhdhi (thinking that doing service to bhagavAn and pirAtti is to please oneself and not to please bhagavAn), and including all the faults in between, SrI rAmAnuja lists these undesirables in chUrNai 10 and requests bhagavAn to rid him of all these faults.  periyavAchchAn piLLai raises a query here: AzhwArs gave prominence to agyAna (ignorance) as main fault which led to karma (both good and bad deeds) and repeated births in samsAram whereas rAmAnuja gave prominence to karma, leading to agyAna and repeated births. Why did AzhwArs give prominence to agyAna and SrI rAmAnuja to karma? periyavAchchAn piLLai reasons out that for AzhwArs, lack of knowledge was the main reason for their troubles based on their own experience, until bhagavAn removed their agyAnam and gave them true knowledge. In the case of AchAryas, including SrI rAmAnuja, being born in families where the elders had good gyAnam (knowledge) and anushtAnam (practices), there was no dearth of knowledge and they found that karma was the one which led to agyAnam and to repeated births. Moreover, adhvaithis (those who believe in only one entity unlike vishthAdhvaithis who believe in three, viz. chith, achith and ISwaran) maintained that true knowledge would lead to mOksham and SrI rAmAnuja wanted to have clear distinction from adhvaithis‘ argument and hence put forth karma as the primary fault in jIvAthmA.

Let us first look at the chUrNai:

manOvAKkAyai: anAdhikAla pravruththa – anantha akruthya
karaNa – kruthyAkaraNa – bhagavadhapachAra – bhAgavathApachAra –
asahyApachAra rUpa – nAnAvidhAnanthApachArAn Arabdha
kAryAn – anArabdhakAryAn kruthAn kriyamANAn
karishyamANAmScha sarvAn aSEshatha: kshamasva II

manOvAkkAyai:manas – mind; vAk – speech; kAyam – body. One of these three faculties    is required for carrying out any activity (karma). These are used for either reaching bhagavAn or for losing bhagavAn. Lord krishNa in bhagavadh gIthA says that mind is one’s friend as well as an enemy. What is mentioned for mind is true for the other two, too.

anAdhikAla pravruththaanAdhi – without beginning (time immemorial); kAla – time; pravruththa – start doing. These offences have been done from time immemorial.

anantha – without an end; these offences are countless. bhagavAn asks SrI rAmAnuja as to what these offences are. He responds with the next few verses.

akruthyakaraNaakruthya – not to be done; karaNa – doing. I have committed offence by doing what has been forbidden by SAsthras (religious treatises)

kruthyAkaraNakruthya – to be done; akaraNa – not doing; I have also committed offence by not doing what SAsthras have ordained to do.

bhagavadhapachArabhagavadh – bhagavAn; apachAra – offence or misdeed; offending bhagavAn.

bhAgavathapachArabhAgavatha – follower of bhagavAn; apachAra – offence or misdeed. Offending bhagavAn‘s followers

asahyApachAra rUpa – asahya – without any reason; apachAra – offence or misdeed. rUpa – form. Committing an offence without any reason. The deeper meanings for all these three apachAras are given at the end.

nAnAvidha – of different types,

ananthApachArAn – unlimited offences. It is not the sum total of the offences that is mentioned here, but each of the types listed above is unlimited in quantity.

ArabdhakAryAnArabdha – that which has started; kAryAn – deeds of karma. The reference is to the portion of karma taken from “sanchitha karma” (the big bundle of karma that has been earned by jIvAthmA during all its previous births). The jIvAthmA is sent with this small portion of karma to this world at the beginning of each birth, to be spent during its lifetime.

anArabdhakAryAnanArabdha – that which has not started; kAryAn – deeds of karma. The remaining portion of karma which is yet to be exhausted.

kruthAn kriyamANAn karishyamANAmSchakruthAn – what has been done in the past; kriyamANAn – what is being done now; karishyamANAn – what will be done in future; cha – and. All these refer to the deeds in this birth, taking place in all three times – viz past, present and future.

sarvAn – everything. What has been listed above is only a portion of the offences committed. Please include all the rest too, in this, says SrI rAmAnuja.

aSEshatha: kshamasvaaSEshatha: – without leaving anything; kshamasva – forgive. SrI rAmAnuja seeks pardon from bhagavAn for all the transgressions that he has committed as mentioned above.

SAsthra says that the extent of punishment to a person who has the capability to perform, but still does not perform the deeds that it has specified, is double of a person who is not capable. It expects capable persons to lead by example and hence levies stringent punishment if its order is violated.

What  is bhagavadhapachAram? – in various temples, the properties of the temples such as lands, buildings, jewels etc have been donated by rulers and rich people over many centuries. If a person takes the produce from the temple’s land or bhagavAn‘s jewels for his own use or if he gives these to someone else  (known or unknown to him) or if he borrows/begs from a person who has committed the offence listed above, it is called as bhagavadhapachAram. Also, talking ill of bhagavAn when he has taken many incarnations by saying that he was also a human being like ourselves; or estimating the value of bhagavAn‘s archA thirumEni  (the vigraha or idol of bhagavAn) or by enquiring about the material from which the idol has been made;  or by equating bhagavAn with dhEvathAntharams (other dhEvathAs such as brahmA, rudran, indran et al) or considering bhagavAn’s wealth as one’s own, are all bhagavadhapachAram. An example of a person who committed bhagavadhapachAram is SiSupAlan who kept talking ill of Lord krishNa.

What is bhAgavathApachAram? – arguing with SrI vaishNavas (followers of SrIman nArAyaNa); or thinking lowly of the birth and practices of other SrI vaishNavas; talking low or making fun of people who are handicapped either physically or mentally. An example of a person who committed bhAgavathapachAram is rAvaNan who committed offence on SrI SItA.

What is asahyApachAram? – unable to control jealousy when bhagavAn‘s or bhAgavatha’s good qualities are highlighted and banging one’s head or cutting one’s tongue, unable to bear such virtues; or hating a person because he is a SrI vaishNava. An example of such a person is hiraNyakashyap who could not bear his son prahlAdh reciting SrIman nArAyaNa’s names and asked his guards to put his own son in fire.

This completes chUrNai 10. We shall now look at chUrNai 11.

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Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 7th chUrNai

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avathArikai (introduction)

Would not whatever we had given up, as mentioned in the previous chUrNai, be a great loss to us, asks periyavAchchAn piLLai. He responds that they are not, as bhagavAn himself is all these things to us.


thvamEva mAthA cha pithA thvamEva
thavmEva bhandhuScha gurus thavamEva
thvamEva vidhyA dhraviNam thvamEva
thvamEva sarvam mama dhEva dhEva

Explanatory Note:

thvamEva mAthA cha pithA thvamEvathvam – you; Eva -only; mAthA – mother and pithA – father. cha – and. Unlike a father who starts wishing and doing good for the child after the child is born, the mother starts protecting and loving the child right from the time that the child is conceived in her womb. Hence precedence is given to the mother. bhagavAn is also the father as it is the father who is equally responsible for the formation of the child. In our sampradhAyam (traditional beliefs), the entire creation is carried out by bhagavAn and not by pirAtti, and hence bhagavAn acts both as mother and father.

thvamEva bandhuScha – you are like relatives. Relatives are those who ensure that the person does not go the wrong way in life, control him and guide him in the correct path. bhagavAn is also the antharAthmA (pervading within the AthmA). Thus he guides the person always and acts similar to the relatives.

gurusthvamEva – you are like AchArya (teacher). The sound “gu” in guru means ‘darkness’ and the sound “ru” means ‘negates’. Thus a guru negates darkness – in other words he enlightens. bhagavAn removes ignorance in this samsAram (materialistic world) and grants mOksham (liberation) and hence he is the guru.  In our sampradhAyam, he is the first and primary AchAryan, as mentioned in our guruparamparai (lineage of AchAryas). He provides all the implements and aids for us to get interested in reaching him – he gave vEdhas (fountainhead of knowledge, divided into rig, yajur, sAma and atharva), SAsthra (religious treatise), purANa (ancient literature such as vishNu purANam, gAruda purAnam etc), ithihAsa (epics such as SrI rAmAyaNam and mahAbhAratham), created AzhwArs and AchAryas to explain what he had told or done in vEdha, SAsthrapurANa and ithihAsa, showed his exalted thirumEni (physical form as seen in archA mUrthi, as evidenced in various dhivyadhEsams) –  he does all these things so that we move away from the worldly pleasures in this samsAram and take the initial steps towards him . As seen earlier, he does not create desire in us for us to reach him, but develops the desire once we show the initial spark. He is indeed a great teacher, guru.

thvamEva vidhyA – you are the knowledge preached to us. How can he be “knowledge”? He provides the vEdhas which provide knowledge. Since various parts of vEdhas and vEdhAnthas (upanidhaths, the end part of vEdhas) are under his control and he is the entity explained or propounded in these, he is indeed the knowledge.

dhraviNam thvamEva – you are the wealth. Here wealth does not indicate only monetary wealth but all the entities which are enjoyed – for example, garland, sandal paste, food stuff, property etc. Not only the perceptible entities, but even the imperceptible entities such as parabhakthi, paragyAnam etc (which we had seen in chUrNai 5) are called as wealth. His exalted feet are the path for us to reach him and these are considered wealth.

thvamEva sarvam – whatever has been left unsaid is also you.

mama dhEva dhEva – Having given up everything to hold on to you, you are my lord and master. You are the lord of nithyasUris and mukthAthmAs in SrIvaikuNtam and you are my lord too.

Let us now move on to chUrNai 8.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 6th chUrNai

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avathArikai (introduction)

periyavAchchAn piLLai does a recap of the 5 chUrNais here.

When one goes to bhagavAn for carrying out the process of surrendering, one needs to have strong desire for him as well as complete faith in him that he will grant us what we are praying for. In order to have these qualities, SrI rAmAnuja first prayed to pirAtti in the 2nd chUrNai and was granted the same by her in the 3rd and 4th chUrNais. Then he determined that only SrIman nArAyaNan is capable of granting him mOksham since he alone possesses all the qualities that are required of an entity to do this. He extolled all the auspicious qualities of bhagavAn and listed his various properties in both the worlds (the nithya vibUthi or permanent/spiritual realm and the leelA vibhUthi, the samsAram or materialistic realm). Having confirmed that he is the only one who can grant mOksham and  that he is the means or path for getting that boon, with pirAtti as purushakAra bhUthai (one who recommends) he surrendered to bhagavAn. We have seen this in the 5th chUrNai. Now we shall see the 6th chUrNai.


SrI rAmAnuja hesitates a bit here, as he feels that people in coming years would believe that he was the first one to perform SaraNAgathi. People may think that it is not necessary to check with SAsthram (religious treatise) on what it says about SaraNAgathi and that it is not required to see if preceptors before him had done SaraNAgathi. Hence he  quotes from purANas (works of time immemorial) and pUrvAchAryas (preceptors) on SaraNAgathi. Two such SlOkas (verses) from purANas form chUrNai 6.

At the time of surrendering, one should give up everything (that one has been holding on to in samsAram) and hold on only to bhagavAn‘s divine feet. In bhagavadh gIthai, krishNa says in his charama slOkam (verse 66 in chapter 18) to surrender to him after giving up all the dharmas (righteous paths). In the earlier five chUrNais, Sri rAmAnuja had not mentioned anything about what he had given up. Will his earlier act of surrendering without mentioning what he had given up, not go waste? No, it wouldn’t. In dhvaya mahAmanthram also, there is mention of what is to be held on to (bhagavAn‘s divine feet) and no mention of what is to be given up. Our pUrvAchAryas (preceptors) also did not insist on this when a person came to perform SaraNAgathi. They were happy that he came at all to perform it. bhagavAn sees whether the jIvAthmA is scared of samsAram and has the strong desire to come to him. bhagavAn does not create the desire in the jIvAthmA but helps in the furtherance of that desire.

Considering all the above, SrI rAmAnuja now explains what all should be given up at the time of surrendering. It is not that he is surrendering a second time, He has already carried it out. It is only to re-emphasise the fact that our  pUrvAchAryas  mentioned this and also to tell us that bhagavAn is gladdened by hearing it from us.

First let us look at the chUrNai.

pitharam mAtharam dhArAn puthrAn bhandhUn SakhIn gurUn
rathnAni dhanadhAnyAni kshEthrAni cha gruhANi cha I
sarvadharmAmScha santhyajya sarvakAmAmScha sAkhsharAn
lOkavikrAntha charaNau SaraNam thEvrajam vibhO II

Detailed Explanation

In the first line he mentions giving up those entities which are all chith (those with thinking ability) and in the second, those which are  achith (those without thinking ability). In our sampradhAyam (traditional beliefs and practices), we consider bhagavAn as the upAyam (path to take us to him). Any other path such as karma yOgam (disposition through doing things mentioned in SAsthram or religious treatise) or gyAna yOgam (disposition through knowledge on bhagavAn) or bhakthi yOgam (disposition through devotion to bhagavAn) is considered as upAyAnthram (path other than bhagavAn). All the entities referred to by Sri rAmAnuja in the first two lines of this chUrNai are those which are aids in upAyAnthram. Also, these entities are prayOjanAntharam (those which are enjoyed other than bhagavAN who should be real prayOjanam). Thus the entities in the first two lines are both upAyAntharams and prayOjanAntharams. Hence SrI rAmAnuja says that he is giving up all these which are inimical to our svarUpam (basic nature) in reaching bhagavAn through SaraNAgathi.

pitharam mAtharam – Father and Mother. It would appear odd that SrI rAmAnuja mentions one’s father and mother as the first persons who are to be given up when SAsthram says “mAthru dhEvO bhava:” (mother is like God) and “pithru dhEvO bhava:” (father is like God). Father and mother being like God is indicated as upAsana angam (aid to bhakthi) to a bhakthi yOgi {one who desires to reach mOksham through bhakthi (devotion)} whereas for one who surrenders tobhagavAn through SaraNAgathi path, parents are like aids to upAyam (path to attain bhagavAn). We should give up father and mother as upAsana angam only and  not when they help in reaching bhagavAn through SaraNAgathi.

dhArAn – wife. How can one give up one’s wife, with whom one has walked seven steps around the agni (dhEvatha for fire) at the time of marriage? Wife is said to be sahadharmachAriNi (one who comes together when treading the path of dharma). If one is doing dharma as a means of attaining mOksham, then such dharma should be given up. If one’s wife helps in doing such a dharma (which is taken as a path to attain mOksham) then she should be given up. But if she helps in doing dharma as kainkaryam (service to bhagavAn), then she should not be given up, is the subtle meaning here.

puthrAn – son. It is said in SAsthram that once a son is born, the father  is saved from going to a naraka (hell) called puthu. When a person is trying to attain mOksham through bhakthi, he needs to beget a son as otherwise he would go to hell. Such a son is considered as upAsanAngam, aid in bhakthi yOgam. Since the context here is to reach bhagavAn through SaraNAgathi, such a son is not needed and hence is to be given up.

bandhUn – relatives. Relatives constantly invoke bhakthi yOgam for reaching mOksham and hence are upAsanAngam. Like before, they are not required and can be given up, if one is trying to reach bhagavAn through SaraNAgathi. In some cases, the relatives would be very well off, either financially or socially (in society). One would be tempted to boast of being their relative, thus falling into the trap of prayOjanAntharam (source of enjoyment other than bhagavAn as we have seen earlier). Here too, they are fit to be given up.

sakheen – friends. Friends would also encourage a person to go the bhakthi yOgam way and hence are to be given up. Moreover, a person would be close to his friends and treat them as confidantes and thus the friends would be prayOjanAntharars and are fit to be given up.

gurUn – AchAryas or guides. SrI rAmAnuja had five gurus and he was greatly attached to them all. How will he recommend giving up one’s guru? If a guru shows the path of bhakthi for attaining mOksham, he is fit to be given up, as we have seen earlier in other cases. guru should not help in performing yagna (rituals) for worldly materials. Such a guru should be given up.

rathnAni dhana dhAnyAni kshEthrAni cha – rubies (reference is to all types of gems here), wealth, food stuff, land etc. These help in performing yagna. Also they are fit for enjoyment otherwise for worldly pleasures. Hence being upAyAntharam and prayOjanAntharam, they are to be given up.

gruhAni cha – house. This is also similar to the materials listed above. Also it gives a false sense of protection for all the materials listed and hence acts as aid to upAyAntharam. Since it is also one of those giving worldly pleasures, this should be avoided and given up.

sarvadharmAmScha – all righteous paths mentioned in SAsthrams. Here the reference is to other upAyams (paths) such as karma, gyAna, bhakthi yOgams. The word sarva here refers to parts of dharma such as sandhyAvandhanam (prayer offered three times a day to the dhEvathA, sandhyA), tharppaNam (ritual offered to forefathers on selected days in a month or year) etc.

sarva kAmAmScha – all desires. Starting from desire for children, wealth etc, leading to svarga aiSvarya (heaven) ending with brahma aiSvarya (position of brahmA, the dhEvathA for creation). All these desires are to be given up.

sAksharAn – The word kshara means that which wanes. akshara means that which does not wane, here the reference is to AthmA and sAksharAn means enjoying one’s own AthmA, which in our sampradAyam is referred to as kaivalya mOksham (attaining mOksham, not for enjoying bhagavAn‘s divine qualities but for enjoying the lowly qualities of AthmA itself).

santhyajya – giving up with a feeling of being ashamed for having desire for such lowly things when compared to the divine feet of bhagavAn. This word santhyajya is to be taken together with each of the chith and achith entities listed above.

lOkavikrAntha charaNau – The two exalted feet of bhagavAn who measured all the worlds with his foot when he took the avathAram (incarnation) of vAmana (or dwarf) and transformed himself as thrivikrama (one who strode all the three worlds in three steps). He placed his exalted feet on the heads of those who did not have any particular liking for him and even on those who opposed him. That he came down to earth taking vAmana avathAram shows that he is swAmy (owner); that he came on his own shows his quality of sauSeelyam (magnanimity); that he touched our heads with his feet shows his quality of vAthsalyam (considering even the faults of devotees as good qualities); that he came right in front of our eyes and blessed us with his feet shows his quality of saulabhyam (easy to approach). All these are qualities found only in bhagavAn. SrI rAmAnuja invokes that bhagavAn here.

SaraNam – refers to bhagavAn‘s exalted feet as upAyam (path to mOksham)

thE – you. Refers to swAmy (lord or owner) who owns all the worlds. pirAtti (mahAlakshmi) being always inseparable from bhagavAN, is also invoked here to carry out her role of being purushakArabhUthai (recommending nature).

avrajam – holding on to. Here it refers to holding on to bhagavAn‘s exalted feet.

vibhO – refers to his all pervading nature, which contains all the essential qualities of gyAna bala aiSvarya etc which we have seen earlier (6 important qualities).

Thus SrI rAmAnuja very vividly captures in this chUrNai, all the entities which are to be given up and the entity that is to be held on to.

Let us now move on to chUrNai 7.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 5th chUrNai: part 5

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namperumal-thiruvadilotus feet of SrI ranganAtha

Let us now look at the last part of this chUrNai.

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 prapadhyE II athra dhvayam II

analOchitha viSEsha aSEsha lOka SaraNya bhagavAn is the entity in the whole universe to surrender to, for all people, irrespective of any special qualifications. He does not see whether the person is from a good family by birth or is rich or is highly knowledgeable in vEdha and SAsthra. In rAmAvathAram, SrI rAma tells sugrIva when sugrIva asks rAma not to accept vibhIshNa, when he comes to surrender, that he will accept a person even if he has any fault in him. In SrI rAma charama SlOkam he says that it is his vow to give protection to everyone who surrenders to him .

praNathArthiharapraNatha means those who surrender to him. Arthi is their strong urge or craving to be with him. hara is to remove. Thus, bhagavAn removes the craving of his Asrithars and takes in those who surrender to him.

ASritha vAthsalyaika jaladhEvAthsalyam, as we have already seen, is treating the faults in ASrithars as good qualities just as a cow treats the dirt on the body of its new born calf by licking it off completely and making the calf look clean. jaladhi is ocean. The vAthsalyam that he has in his ASrithars is like an ocean.

anavarathavidhitha nikhila bhUthajAtha yAthAthmya –  nikhila is all. bhUtha means entity or specimen. jAtha is type or class. anavaratha means incessant (without any stop); vidhitha means various. yAthAthmya is real or basic nature .  He is one who knows the ultimate truth in all entities. There is no need for us to say that “I am not a good person; I have all faults” to go to him since he already knows about us.

aSEsha charAcharabhUtha nikhila niyamana nirathaaSEsha is without leaving anything; charAcharabhUtha is all movable and immovable entities; nikhila is all; niyamana is the ability to direct or control; niratha is being engaged in. He has the ability to control all entities at all times. He can not give up on an entity saying that it is uncontrollable. SrI rAmAnuja conveys here that both samsAram (the materialistic world) and he himself are under bhagavAn‘s control. Can he not cut off the chain that is binding SrI rAmAnuja to samsAram?

aSEsha chidhachidhvasthu SEshibhUthachith and achith are sentients and insentients respectively. SEshi is master. He is the lord and master of all entities in the world. What SrI rAmAnuja conveys here is that since you own me, should you not do what is required to be done for me to reach you?

nikhila jagadhAdhAra – he bears the entire universe. He bears those who commit faults too. You are the basis for my existence and you have to protect me, says SrI rAmAnuja.

akhila jagath swAmin – He owns the entire universe. He removes our faults and creates the desire in us in reaching him through the act of surrender.

asmath swAmin – It is not enough if bhagavAn is owner of the universe. I have to accept this fact and tell him that he is my owner too. You are also my owner, says SrI rAmAnuja, specifically, to emphasise that it was bhagavAn who brought him around and made him to surrender.

sathyakAma – this is the third time that this word and the word following this (sathya sankalpa) are mentioned. But on each occasion, the word takes a different meaning and context. In the first occasion when SrI rAmAnuja mentioned this word while describing the qualities of bhagavAn, it was meant as one possessing good qualities liked by his ASrithars (those who surrender to him). In the second instance, it was meant to indicate his desire to play with AthmAs in nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam) and leelA vibhUthi (materialistic world). Here (3rd instance) it conveys the meaning that he is one with no unfulfilled desire. He is fully satiated with all desires fulfilled. He is pleased with whatever we offer him when we perform our daily prayers and rituals (thiruvArAdhanam). There is nothing that he does not have that I have to offer and satisfy him.

sathyasankalpa – in the first instance that this word was used in conjunction with describing his qualities, it meant his ability to create rare things which would not go waste. In the 2nd instance it meant that once he decides to grant mOksha (SrIvaikuNtam) to someone, he takes it to completion without any hurdle. Here it conveys the ability to keep together things which are incongruent. He takes a jIvAthmA to SrIvaikuNtam and makes the jIvAthmA to mix freely with the nithyasUris and they welcome the jIvAthmA happily.

sakalEthara vilakhaNa – superior to all the other entities. He is superior in terms of his svarUpa (basic nature) and qualities. These qualities and nature are meant for the enjoyment of others (his ASrithars) and not for himself. He is rakshakan (protector) to everyone. That quality is fulfilled when his qualities are enjoyed by all. Even if one person is not protected bhagavAn takes it seriously. Thus SrI rAmAnuja says that since he is not able to enjoy bhagavAn‘s qualities (being in samsAram) bhagavAn would not feel fulfilled.

arthi kalpaka – granting what his ASrithars want, especially himself. He went begging as vAmana to mahAbali chakravarthi to get back the three worlds that he had entrusted with indhra. When he goes to the extent of begging to satisfy his followers, will he not grant the desire of those who beg him to grant mOksham?

Apath sakha – being a friend in times of danger, i.e being supportive. Even when parents and relatives closed doors when protection was sought, bhagavAn did not do this (story of kAkAsura).

Sriman – consort of SrI dhEvi. Here the context that SrI rAmAnuja highlights is that even if bhagavAn can get angry with us due to our shortcomings, pirAtti (SrI dhEvi) acts as purushakAra bhuthai (one who recommends our cause) and makes him grant our wish. Hence SrIman.

nArAyaNa – before SrI dhEvi became purushakAra bhUthai, when he created the universe was he not our protector? SrI rAmAnuja reminds him of that role.

aSaraNya SaraNya – Giving refuge to those who do not have any other entity to protect them. Is there anyone like that? SrI rAmAnuja says

ananyaSaraNOham – I am without any other place of refuge.

thvath pAdhAravindha yuglam SaraNam prapadhyE – thvath  – your; pAdham – foot; aravindham – lotus like (foot is equated to lotus to highlight that it is sweet and can be enjoyed by carrying out service) ; yugalam – pair; Saranam – proffer or prostrate; prapadhyE – mentally behold or catch onto. SrI rAmAnuja says here that he proffers himself to the two lotus-like exalted feet of bhagavAn and recites the dhvaya mahAmanthram (the reader is requested to contact  his AchAryan for learning about dhvaya mahAmanthram).

SaraNAgathi is not merely a physical act or a prayer to be recited. It is more of a mental action by which the person who performs SaraNAgathi commits mentally that he accepts bhagavAn as his protector and asks bhagavAn to take him under his wings and give him the most enjoyable role of being a servitor to bhagavAn and pirAtti for ever.

athra dhvayam indicates we should recite “dhvaya mahA manthram” at this time (as customary, this manthram is also recited subtly so only the reciter can hear it).

This completes the 5th chUrNai. We shall now move onto chUrNai 6.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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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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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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