SrIvaikuNta gadhyam – pravESam

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Let us now look at SrI periyavAchchAn piLLai‘s pravESam (introduction) for SrIvaikuNta gadhyam.

bhAshyakArar (another name of SrI rAmAnuja which means the author of SrI bhAshyam which is a detailed commentary for vEdha vyAsa’s brahma sUthram) feels that the meanings that sprang from his heart should not remain as the shadow of a palm tree (the shadow of a palm tree would give shelter only to the palm trunk and not to anyone else) but should be useful to humanity-at-large like the shadow of a kalpakatharu (a type of tree whose shadow covers a wide area and fulfills the wishes of those who pray under it). Hence, he acts as a pravarthakar (one who engages in doing something) to show the path as well as the fruit of attaining the path in SrIvaikuNta gadhyam. In SaraNAgathi gadhyam he prays to bhagavAn in general (not to any particular form of bhagavAn) about his wishes. In SrIranga gadhyam, he prays to SrIrangam periya perumAL who is the epitome of saulabhyam (easy to approach and attain) about his wishes. In SrIvaikuNta gadhyam, he discourses about SrIvaikuNtanAthan (lord of SrIvaikuNtam) to others.

periyavAchchAn piLLai digresses a bit at this stage to explain why SrI rAmAnuja emphasised on bhakthi mArgam (path of devotion) to attain bhagavAn in his SrIbhAshyam whereas he emphasises on SaraNagathi (surrendering) in gadhya thrayam. When bhagavadh rAmAnuja wrote SrIbhAshyam, there were many branches of sanAthana dharmam (traditional customs), each with its own followers. There was a sect which said that there is nothing called as vEdha (the four vEdhas, rig, yajur, sAma and atharvaNa) and not practicing any dharmam is the path to attain liberation (this sect is called as chAruvAka matham, a belief of smart talking). There was another sect which said that dhEvathAntharOpAsanam (worshipping other demi-Gods such as indhra, chandra, brahmA, Siva et al) is the path to attain liberation. Yet another sect preached that doing karma (following all the activities mentioned in vEdha), forgetting about God and demi-Gods, would liberate us (this sect was called as mImAmsaka matham). Another said that gyAna (knowledge) is the path to liberation. Another said that the combination of karma and gyAna is the path. All these people twisted the teachings of vEdha to suit their own ends. They were called as vEdha bhAhyA (not accepting vEdha) and vEdha kudhushti (twisting meanings of vEdha). SrI rAmAnuja had to counter these sects and he said that whatever they were saying was not correct and that bhakthi, aided by karma and gyAna (devotion supported by deed and knowledge) was the path to attain mOksham (liberation). He cited reasons and various pramANams (proofs) to support his arguments. SaraNAgathi has always been  cited in vEdha to attain mOksham. Yet SrI rAmAnuja cited bhakthi yOgam as the path. Why did he do this and not cite SaraNAgathi itself? We should consider the time (period) when all these were happening.  That was the age when people believed that they had to do something on their own to attain mOksham. If he had to say that there was no need to do anything and all that one had to do was to surrender to bhagavAn, no one would have taken his words since this did not involve doing something which was physical in nature. Hence he had to point out to one of the two paths mentioned in vEdha (bhakthi and prapaththi or SaraNAgathi). Once they were convinced that bhakthi would set them free, they started understanding it better. And, they also found that it was not easy to practice as it had several conditions (karma and gyAna should be attained in full prior to practicing bhakthi; all hurdles in the path of bhakthi had to be removed). Also, it would take many, many births before one could start practicing bhakthi. And at the last moment, one had to think of bhagavAn.  All these posed great difficulties. It was then that he told them that there was another path available and mentioned about prapaththi (or SaraNAgathi) in SaraNAgathi gadhyam. This is called as charama upAyam (ultimate path) and is suited for practicing bhakthi, not as a means for attaining mOksham but for enjoying various qualities of bhagavAn) and for attaining bhagavAn’s exalted feet and carrying out kainkaryam to him. He mentioned in SrIranga gadhyam that prapaththi is the prerequisite for carrying out bhakthi; but at the same time prapaththi does not expect anything else for yielding fruit, it is our svarUpam (aligns with our nature) and it is easy to perform. Now that clarity has been obtained on the path to be taken for getting liberated he mentions about the place that one would reach on getting liberated; the lord, bhagavAn, of the place (SrIvaikuNtanAthan), experiencing that bhagavAn; and carrying out kainkaryam, born out of that experience. He does all these so that those who hear this would get interested in carrying out all these and in the end he also blesses them. He mentions very briefly about the path (prapaththi) but mentions more expansively about the place (SrIvaikuNtam).

There are 6 chUrNais in SrivaikuNta gadhyam. In the 1st chUrNai, he describes the svarUpam (basic nature), rUpam (form) and vibhUthi (wealth) of bhagavAn as well as chEthnan‘s (sentient entity) faults; for such a chEthanan, prapaththi is the only path to reach bhagavAn who is the repository of all auspicious qualities such as souSeelya (simplicity personified) etc. In the 2nd chUrNai, he affirms that while reciting dhvayam once is sufficient to reach bhagavAn, the chEthanan will recite it everyday to ward off worries and to pass time purposefully. In the 3rd chUrNai, he mentions about the path that the chEthanan will take on getting liberated (archirAdhi mArgam or the path of radiance) including crossing the prakruthi boundary (materialistic realm); the greatness of nithya vibhUthi (SrIvaikuNtam) that he enters; its qualities; the decorations in that place; the resplendence with which bhagavAn gives dharSan (audience) there with his consorts (SrIdhEvi, bhUdhEvi and neeLAdhEvi); the elegance of bhagavAn with all exalted bodily features which are experienced by his consorts; the beauty of various decorative jewels that adorn bhagavAn, fitting to a nicety; the weaponry that protect all these; the nithyaSuris and mukthAthmAs who experience all these, taking various forms, and carrying out kainkaryam born out of love from that experience; the exalted seating of bhagavAn who is being served by these nithyAthmAs and mukthAthmAs without any break; the thought of chEthanan on seeing all these, wondering when he would get an opportunity to serve bhagavAn like this, and on attaining SrIvaikuNtam, praying to bhagavAn for granting him kainkaryam and offering himself to bhagavAn. In the 4th chUrNai, he mentions that bhagavAn grants chEthanan his wish and chEthanan starts carrying out kainkaryam. In the 5th chUrNai, he mentions about the chEthanan constantly having dharshan (vision) of bhagavAn, without batting an eyelid, to compensate for what he had lost all these years that he had missed. The 6th chUrNai describes how bhagavAn welcomes him, inquires him and blesses him by placing his exalted feet on the head of chEthanan who exults as a servitor in SrIvaikuNtam.

Let us next see the first chUrNai.

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Translation by krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan.

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