thirumAlai – 3 – vEdha nUl pirAyam

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avathArikai (introduction)

After hearing from AzhwAr in the previous pAsuram that he does not want paramapadham (SrIvaikuNtam), emperumAn tells him “since you do not want paramapadham, stay in samsAram, which is rubbing shoulders with kOyil [in our sampradhAyam, kOyil refers to SrIrangam] and keep enjoying my names”. AzhwAr tells him “ having gone deep into this aspect, I can tell you that this samsAram has so many faults that there is no time to recite your divine names. Hence I do not want this samsAram”. When emperumAn asks him as to what the shortfalls are in samsAram which prevent him from reciting his names, AzhwAr explains him these faults in this pAsuram. Due to such faults, AzhwAr says that reciting emperumAn’s divine names generates a sweetness in him. This makes him hate the samsAram despite being habituated with samsAram due to innumerable births. Let us look at the pAsuram:

வேத நூல் பிராயம் நூறு மனிசர்தாம் புகுவரேலும்
பாதியும் உறங்கிப்போகும் நின்றதில் பதினையாண்டு
பேதை பாலகன் அதாகும் பிணி பசி மூப்புத் துன்பம்
ஆதலால் பிறவி வேண்டேன் அரங்கமா நகருளானே.

vEdhanUl pirAyam nURu manisarthAm puguvarElum
pAdhiyum uRangippOgum ninRa ippathinaiyANdu
pEdhai pAlagan adhAgum piNi pasi mUpputh thunbam
AdhalAl piRavi vENdEn arangaMa nagaruLAnE


Word-by-word Meaning

aranga mA nagar uLAne – Oh, one who is dwelling in the town of thiruvarangam
manisarthAm – samsAris (those who live in this materialistic realm)
vEdha nUl – as per vEdha SAsthram (as laid out in the holy scriptures)
nURu pirAyam puguvarElum – though they may live for hundred years
pAdhiyum – half of that, i.e. 50 years
uRangippOgum – will be spent  sleeping
ninRa ippadhinaiyANdu – the balance 50 years
pEdhai – in the ignorant state of infancy
pAlagan – in childhood state
adhu Agum – (later) going after worldly pleasures in the state of youth
piNi – being trapped by diseases [in each of the states mentioned above]
pasi –time spent in satisfying  the hunger that is created by the five senses
mUppu – being in old age
thunbam – time spent in various other sorrowful ways
AdhalAl  – since the entire life is being spent in such activities,
piRavi – (such lowly) birth
vENdEn – I will never desire

vyAkhyAnam (Explanatory Notes)

vEdha nUl pirAyam nURu – As manu smrithi says “vEdha SAsthrA virOdhi nA”  – one who delves into vEdhas (which have been approved by rishis), smrithis which discuss dharma (righteousness) and delves into these using logic,  without being inimical to vEdha SAsthras, understands dharma; others do not.  AzhwAr has replaced the word SAsthras with “nUl” and has called it as “vEdha nUl”. Another meaning for vEdha nUl is it is a combination of vEdhas and texts. Texts are SrIsUkthis (great works) composed by learned persons  such as rishis, AzhwArs and AchAryas, who had full knowledge of vEdhas.

pirAyam nURu – vEdhas say “sathAyurvai purusha:” – the life of jIvAthmAs is 100 years. This is the boundary as determined by vEdhas. This is the upper limit and does not mean that every jIvAthmA will live upto the age of 100 years.

manisar – this limit of 100 years is as measured by yardstick applied to badhdhAthmAs (human beings bound in leelA vibhUthi or materialistic realm) and not by dhEva mAnam or brahma mAnam (yardstick applied to celestial persons or brahmA). Instead of 12,000 years for dhEvas or kalpam (thousands of lakhs of years) for brahmA, it is 100 years for “manisar” (bhadhdhAthmAs).

thAm – The bhadhdhaAthmA can die any day from the day that he enters the womb, but still believes that he has a long life and makes many plans in his life for holding onto several things. Taking pity on such bhadhdhAthmAs, AzhwAr says “manisar thAm” [such people], both with a sense of wonder and sorrow.

puguvarElum – if at all they live this life [for 100 years]. [This is because, as mentioned earlier, there is no definitive period that has been granted to bhadhdhAthmAs ,unlike dhEvas or brahmA]. The bhadhdhAthmA may die (i) in the womb itself, (ii) at the time of coming out of the womb, (iii) just after being born, (iv) within a few days of being born, (v) in infancy, (vi) in youth when the person goes about with arrogance, (vii) in middle or old age. Hence it is difficult to specify the longevity for bhadhdhAthmAs. This is quoted from vishNu purAnam (garbhE vileeyathE bhUyO jAyamAnOsthamEthi cha…..). People, not knowing the uncertainty of their life-span, get excited with sunrise and sunset – at sunrise they feel happy that they are going to earn by working during the day and at sunset they feel happy that they can spend their time with their families, using the money earned during the day. The same meaning was mentioned in SrI rAmAyaNa (nandhanthyudhitha AdhithyE  nandhanthyasthamithE ravow…… – they feel happy when sun rises and they feel happy when the sun sets, but they do not understand that a day has passed [when they haven’t thought of bhagavAn] in their lives). Thus, despite so many uncertainties, if they still live for 100 years by some means or the other…..

pAdhiyum uRangippOgum – half the life is wasted in sleep. This is similar to half a farmer’s produce getting wasted through various means [eaten by insects, rodents, swept away by breeze etc]. AzhwAr feels saddened that half the time, which should have been spent in reciting the divine names of emperumAn, has been wasted in such sleep. lakshmaNa had kept himself awake to carry out kainkaryam to perumAL (SrI rAma) and sIthA. We should have been like that, says AzhwAr. “sathatham kIrththayantha….” (SrI bhagavath gIthA 9.14) – they keep reciting my names always, says krishNa about his devotees.

For the next phrase, there are two versions: one is ninRadhil padhinaiyANdu and the other is ninRa ippadhinaiyANdu. Let us consider both.

ninRadhil padhinaiuANdu – of the remaining part of life, fifteen years are spent as infant and child (when the jIvAthmA is ignorant and is totally dependent on others) and another fifteen years are spent as youth, indulging in worldly pleasures [as youth, the jIvAthmA is expected to know about emperumAn but chooses not to know].

ninRa ippadhinaiyANdu –  here it says that the remaining part of life is ten times 5 years, viz. 50 years. Instead of saying “appadhinaiyANdu” (with some amount of superiority), AzhwAr refers it to as “ippadhinaiyANdu” as he considers it being lowly, as all the planning of the jIvAthmA does not appeal to him.

pEdhai – infant days. This is a stage when the jIvAthmA is not even qualified to recite the divine names of emperumAn. For its needs, good and bad, it is dependent on its mother. This stage could include a part of childhood also.

pAlagan adhAgum pAlagan is childhood stage when it engages in playful acts for which one cannot even get angry with the child. It is not the age when one would get angry with the child for not reciting emperumAn’s divine names.

adhAgum – it is the stage after childhood, when he becomes a youth and starts indulging in worldly pleasures. Now, he accrues knowledge but wastes it totally. It would appear that he was better off as an ignorant child, dependent on his mother, than this stage of youth when his knowledge is wasted on pleasurable ways.

piNi pasi – disease and hunger. Due to his indulgence in wrongful activities, before his youthfulness ends, he is attacked by diseases. He tries to cure these by suitable medication. By then, he gets hungry – the hunger here is of his five senses, each of which demands its needs for satisfying.  Just as nammAzhwAr said in thiruvAimozhi 7.1.10 “aivar thisai thisai valiththeRRuginRanar” (the five senses pull me in different directions) and as thirumangai AzhwAr said in periya thirumozhi 7.7.7 “aivar aRuththuth thinRida anji ninnadaindhEn” (i surrendered to you, in fear, as the five senses are prying and eating me), these five senses keep demanding appeasement. As the disease gets cured, the demands of the five sense increase. In olden days, when a person is in the throes of death, he would gift a golden idol of yama (the dhEvathA for righteousness) so that he can escape death. The person who receives it would know fully well that he would come under yama’s grip, but he still takes it so that he can make money out of it and satisfy his senses. Thus, people would do anything (including hurting others to extract money, working fervently to earn money) to satisfy their senses. But this ultimately leads to illness.

mUppu – old age.  By now, old age settles in. This old age is a terrible thing for all. Even when he is not fit to enjoy the worldly pleasures, he still gets tempted. As thirumangai AzhwAr said in periya thirumozhi 1.3.5, “paNdu kAmarAnavARum” (he was a pleasure-seeker in younger days), he wants to keep talking about his deeds in satisfying the senses in younger days, and satisfy himself in his old age. Around this time, death approaches him like a bolt from the blue (thunbam that we are going to see next, is referred to as death).

thunbam – grief (death). Thus, as he keeps suffering in his old age, death sneaks in on him suddenly. This is most grievous. He loses connection with his friends, relatives, cows (wealth), properties etc. As said in vishNu purANam “bAlye krIdanasakthA:  youwanE vishyAnmukhA: I agyA nayanthyaSakthAScha vArdhakam samupasthitham II” (he indulges in playful acts in childhood, in worldly pleasures as youth, and as he goes about his life without proper knowledge and getting to be an invalid, he is seized by grief and death). Thus, AzhwAr says

AdhalAl piRavi vENdEn – hence I do not want birth. Just as a farmer, who goes to buy a piece of land for cultivation, tells the existing owner of the land that “this much of area is too deep; this much of area is too high; this has lot of sand; there is a stream going in between” and tries to reduce the price of the land drastically, AzhwAr tells emperumAn “of the 100 years that you have given me, I spend 50 in sleep, balance 50 in infancy, childhood, youthful state, disease, hunger, old age etc; hence how can I recite your divine names? Hence I do not want birth”. emperumAn tells AzhwAr, “you said in the first pAsuram that you do not want SrIvaikuNtam and in the second pAsuram, you do not want samsAram. I have only two vibhUthis (properties- nithya vibhUthi or SrIvaikuNtam and leelA vibhUthi or samsAram). Where do I keep you?” AzhwAr responds

aranga mA nagar uLAnE – outside the two vibhUthis, is it so difficult to find a place for me in the third vibhUthi , kOyil? (in our sampradhAyam, kOyil refers to SrIrangam). emperumAn asks AzhwAr, “would not the issues that you had mentioned earlier with infancy, childhood, youthful state etc not trouble you in SrIrangam?” AzhwAr says “even in infancy, for annaprAsanam (first time that solid food is given to the infant), elders will take the infant to kOyil; as child, he will join with other children and follow the procession of selvar (processional idol of emperumAn); as youth, he will go to the temple looking for his lady-love; thus, the child is always connected with the beauty of emperumAn without any break. This will purify the person and remove his attachment to worldly pleasures”. How about old age? He cannot walk to the temple for having dharSan of emperumAn. When this happens, emperumAn (uthsavar) comes out of the temple and gives dharSan to the old person and keeps the connection strong. Even in dreams, it will be emperumAn’s form which will be seen. As mentioned in gAruda purANam about SrIrangam “pavithram paramam puNyam dhESOyam sarva kAMa dhuk” – this dhivyadhESam (holy place) is sacred, will lead the dwellers to a high status [giving them SrIvaikuNtam] and will grant all their noble wishes.

Hence this dhivyadhESam (SrIrangam) possesses all the special features that the AzhwAr desires is the summary for the third pAsuram.

We shall next move on to the 4th pAsuram “moyththa valvinaiyuL”.

adiyEn krishNa ramanuja dasan

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