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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 5th chUrNai: Part 1

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avathArikai (Introduction)

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

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

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

Word by Word meaning:

akhilahEya – all that is faulty

prathyanIka – exactly opposite of

kalyANaikathAna – having only auspicious qualities

svEthara – other than self

samastha – all

vasthu – things (entities)

vilakshaNa – superior

anantha – without an end

gyAna – knowledge

Anandhaika – full of happiness

svarUpa – basic nature

svAbimatha – appropriate

anurUpa – likeable physical form

EkarUpa – one physical form

achinthya – can not be thought of

dhivya – divine

adhbhutha – wondrous

nithya – permanent

niravadhya – without fault

nirathiSaya – without comparison

oujjwalya – very bright

soundarya – beauty in parts

saugandhya – sweet smell

saukumArya – soft

lAvaNya – beauty as a whole

yauvana – youthful

Adhi – starting with

anantha – without end

guNa – quality

nidhi – treasure

dhivyarUpa – divine form

svAbhAvika – natural

anavadhika – without boundary; many

athiSaya – wondrous

gyAna – knowledge

bala – strength

aiSvarya – ability to control or direct

vIrya – not tiring

Sakthi – energy

thEjas – radiance

sauSeelya – not concerned about difference in levels (when compared with others); treating them as equals

vAthsalya – with a mother’s affection (just as a cow shows towards its calf)

mArdhava – soft in heart

Arjava – honest

sauhArdha – good-hearted

sAmya – equal

kAruNya – mercy

mAdhurya – kind

gAmbhIrya – deep

audhArya – generous in nature

chAthurya – clever

sthairya – firm

dhairya – courage

Saurya – defeating enemies

parAkrama – not tiring

sathyakAma – having likeable qualities

sathyasankalpa – ability to create at will

kruthithva – doing

kruthagyAtha – thankful

asankhyEya – countless

kalyANa – auspicious

guNa – qualities

gaNaugha – collection of

mahArNava – huge ocean

svOchitha – appropriate to self

vividha – of many types

vichithra – many kinds within a particular type

ananthAScharya – wondrous without an end

nithya – always

niravadhya – without fault

nirathiSaya sugandha – emitting wondrous sweet smell

nirathiSaya sukhasparSa – wondrously soft on emperumAn’s body

nirathiSaya oujjwalya – emitting wondrous radiance

kirIta – circumferential ornament on head

makuta – worn over kirItam like a crown

chUda – worn over forehead

avathamsa – worn over ears

makara – like a fish

kuNdala – ear rings

graivEyaka – neck band

hAra – chain

kEyUra – worn over shoulder

kataka – like a bangle on forearm

Srivathsa – mole like

kausthubha – central gem stone

mukthAdhAma – ornaments made of pearl

udharabandhana – worn between waist and stomach

pIthAmbara – yellow cloth

kAnchIguNa – waist cord

nUpura – anklet

Adhi – many like these

aparimitha – countless

dhivyabhUshaNa – divine ornaments

svaAnurUpa – suited to self

achinthya – beyond thought

Sakthi – powerful

Sankha – conch

gadhA – mace

aSi – sword

SArnga – bow

Adhi – many weapons like these

aSankhyEya – countless

nithya – permanent

niravadhya – faultless

nirathiSaya – wondrous

kalyANa – auspicious

dhivyAyudha – divine weapons

svAbhimatha – to his liking

nithya niravadhya – permanent, without any fault

anurUpa – of similar physical beauty

svarUpa – basic characteristic

rUpa – physical form

guNa – quality

vibhava – wealth

aiSvarya – control or direct others

Seela – superior person mixing with an inferior person without discrimination

Adhi – many such qualities

anavadhika – never reducing

adhiSaya – wondrous

asankhyEya – countless

kalyANa – auspicious

guNa gaNa – hordes of qualities

SrI – mahAlakshmi – pirAtti

vallabhA – dear to; loving

Evam bhUtha – of similar qualities

bhUmI neeLA nAyaka – Lord (husband) of bhUdhEvi and neelAdhEvi

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

Explanatory Note 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

anantha guNa nidhi – Treasure of such countless good qualities.

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

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

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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

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

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sriranganachiar-3SrIranganAchchiyAr (periya pirAttiyAr) – SrIrangam

ramanuja-srirangamSri rAmAnuja – SrIrangam

2nd chUrNai:

avathArikai (Introduction)

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

Let us now look at the 2nd chUrNai:

chUrNai

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

Word-by-Word meaning

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

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

charaNa – holy feet

aravindha – lotus

yugala – two

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

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

parabhakthi – growing desire to be with God

paragyAna – ability to have dharSan (vision) of God

paramabhakthi – to reach God

krutha – that which was done

paripUrNa – fully

anavaratha – continuously (without any hurdle)

nithya – permanently

viSadhathama – experiencing through paramabhakthi

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

anavadhika – without reducing (also, without any limit)

athiSaya – wondrous

priya – lovingly

bhagavadh – of bhagavan

anubhava – experience

janitha – born

anavadhika – without reducing

athiSaya – wondrous

prIthi – deep love

kAritha – to be effected

aSEsha – without leaving anything

avasthOchitha – relevant to all states

aSEsha – without leaving anything

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

nithya kainkarya prApthi – to get to carry out permanent kainkaryam

apEkshaya – expect; desire

pAramArthikI – truly

bhagavach charaNaravindha – lotus like feet of bhagavan

SaraNAgathi – surrender

yathAvasthithA – in whatever state it is in

aviratha – without break or gap

asthu mE – happen to me

Explanatory note (Detailed vyAkhyAnam)

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

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

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

yugala  – enjoyment borne out of the pair of lotus feet

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

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

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

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

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

krutha – resulting from parabhakthi, paragyAna, paramabhakthi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kainkarya prApthi apEkshayA – desire for carrying out such kainkaryam

pAramArthikI – being completely and totally involved in kainkaryam

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

charaNa aravindha – highlights the means for SaraNAgathi

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

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

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

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

3rd chUrNai:

chUrNai

asthu thE II

Explanatory note (Detailed vyAkhyAnam)

Let it happen to you!

4th chUrNai:

chUrNai

thayaiva sarvam sampathsyathE II

Explanatory note (Detailed vyAkhyAnam)

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

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

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – 1st chUrNai

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<<< thaniyan

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emperumanar

avathArikai (introduction)

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

chUrNai

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

Word-by-Word meaning

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

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

abhimatha – being liked by SrIman nArAyaNa

anurUpa – having same physical beauty as SrIman nArAyaNa

svarUpa – natural characteristics (will be explained later)

rUpa – physical beautiful form

guNa – many good qualities

vibhava – possessing wealth unimaginable

aiSvarya – ability to direct or control other beings

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

Adhi – etc., (many more such qualities)

anavadhika – never reducing

athiSaya – wondrous

asankhyEya – countless

kalyANa guNa gaNAm – possessing hordes of very good qualities

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

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

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

dhEvIm – possessing luminous power

nithyAnapAyinIm – never leaving SrIman nArAyaNa

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

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

akhila jagan mAtharam – being the mother of all worldly beings

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

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

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

Explanatory Note (detailed vyAkhyAnam)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aSankhyEya – countless qualities

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

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

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

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

dhEvIm – full of radiance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall now proceed to the second chUrNai.

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – pravESam (Introduction)

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Highlights from periyavAchchAn piLLai‘s vyAkhyAnam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam – thaniyan

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 ramanujar-periyavachanpillaisrI rAmAnuja – periyavAchchAn piLLai

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

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

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

thaniyan for saraNAgathi gadhyam

vandhE vEdhAntha karpUra chAmIkara karandakam
rAmAnujAryamAryANAm chUdAmaNimaharnisham

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

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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SaraNAgathi gadhyam

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

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

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

namperumal-nachiyar-serthi  srIranga nAchchiyAr and srIranganAthan – srIrangam

ramanuja-srirangam SrI rAmAnuja – SrIrangam

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

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

periyavachan-pillaiperiyavAchchAn piLLai

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

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

Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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