thiruchchandha viruththam – avathArikai

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avathArikai (Introduction)

The manner in which thirumazhisai AzhwAr, also known as thirumazhisaip pirAn, was born and grew, is similar to krishNAvathAram. Just as it has been said in thiruppAvai 25 “oruththi maganAyp piRandhu Oriravil oruththi maganAy oLiththu vaLara” (being born to one lady [dhEvakip pirAtti] as her son and hiding himself, growing as the son of another lady [yaSOdhAp pirAtti]), kaNNan [krishNa] was born in the clan of yadhu and grew up in the clan of herd-people. AzhwAr too was born in the clan of bhArgava rishi as his son and just as he himself had mercifully stated in the 90th pAsuram of this prabandham “kulangaLAya IriraNdil onRilum piRandhilEn” (I was not born in any of the four varNams (brAhmaNa, kshathriya, vaiSya and SUdhra)), he grew up in the lowly clan of those who were engaged in making craft with bamboo sticks. If kaNNan, after being born in the clan of yadhu, had continued to grow there itself, just like in SrI rAmAvathAram, he thought that he would have had to move with only eminent people. Hence, he grew up in the clan of herd-people so that the herd-boys, herd-girls and cows would think that “He is one amongst us”. In the same way, this AzhwAr too, due to the merciful divine mind of emperumAn, grew up in the clan of lowly people so that he would move with them.

emperumAn bestowed on this AzhwAr, without expecting anything in return, knowledge and devotion, after removing ignorance, just as he had mercifully bestowed on nammAzhwAr, as mentioned in thiruvAimozhi 1-1-1 “mayarvaRa madhinalam aruLinan” (emperumAn mercifully granted knowledge and devotion, without any trace of ignorance). emperumAn manifested the following directly to AzhwAr [in this prabandham, unless qualified with a prefix, the term AzhwAr, without exception, would refer to thirumazhisai AzhwAr]: (a) his dhivyAthma svarUpam (the basic nature of his divine soul), (b) the auspicious qualities such as knowledge, power etc which are contained in his svarUpam, (c) the divine physical form which manifests these qualities, (d) the divine ornaments starting with crown and ending with the anklets, which decorate that divine form (d) his divine weapons such as Sankham (conch), chakram (disc) etc which also appear like divine ornaments to those who enjoy him, (e) those who enjoy these eminent decorative features, such as SrI, bhUmi and neeLA (his consorts) so that such decorations are not wasted like a full moon in the forest land, (f) nithyasUris such as ananthan (AdhiSEshan), garudan, vishvaksEnar et al, for whom the union of emperumAn and pirAttis is their sustenance, nourishment and enjoyment, (g) the mukthAthmAs (those who were liberated from samsAram (the materialistic realm) and who attained SrI vaikuNtam) and (h) paramapadham (SrI vaikuNtam) which nurtures this experience. emperumAn also manifested to AzhwAr that he created prakruthi (the three qualities of sathva (noble), rajas (passion) and thamas (ignorance)) and purushas (jIvAthmAs, the souls) together in leelA vibhUthi (materialistic realm), protecting them and destroying them at appropriate times, as an outlet for his playful pastime. Since emperumAn showed to AzhwAr that he is the lord of both nithya vibhUthi (spiritual realm) and leelA vibhUthi, manifesting all his greatness, AzhwAr considered experiencing that emperumAn alone, as his enjoyment. Just as it has been said in chAndhOgya upanishath 8-12-3 “nOpajanam smarannidham SarIram” (the mukthAthmA [who has been liberated from samsAram] does not even think of his [just left behind] physical form which is lying near his dear ones), AzhwAr too did not think of the faults in samsAram since emperumAn united with him to enjoy him. He lived for a long time in this world itself, just like mArkaNdEya maharishi et al, meditating on the reason for samsAris (those who live in samsAram) to lose out on enjoying bhagavath vishayam (matters relating to emperumAn) which is appropriate for their svarUpam (basic nature) and which is easy to attain.

While AzhwAr was fully immersed in sathva guNam (purely noble qualities), and was engaged with emperumAn all the time, most of the samsAris, on the other hand, were immersed in rAjasa (passion, anger etc) and thAmasa (ignorance, laziness etc) guNams. Hence, they have anyathA gyAnam (mistaking the svabhAvam, viz. mistaking the basic characteristics of the AthmA) and viparItha gyAnam (mistaking the svarUpam, viz. mistaking the basic nature of the AthmA) [basic characteristics of the AthmA are that the AthmA is parathanthran, viz. fully dependent on emperumAn and SEshan, viz. fully serving only emperumAn. It becomes anyathA gyAnam when AthmA believes that he is svathanthran, viz. totally independent and has to serve himself and not emperumAn. Basic nature of the AthmA is one of having knowledge; this becomes viparItha gyAnam when AthmA thinks that body is AthmA and everything should be done to ensure that the body is happy]. As a result of these two qualities of ignorance (anyathA gyAnam and viparItha gyAnam), the samsAris suffer since they do not engage with emperumAn but think that other celestial entities, which are praised in vEdhams, are the supreme entity. Examples of vEdha vAkyams (contexts in vEdhams) which make the samsAris to have such anyathA and viparItha gyAnam are:

  • SvEthAsvathara upanishad 6-18

yO brahmANam vidhadhAthi pUrvam yO vai vEdhAmScha prahiNOthi thasmai l
tham ha dhEvam Athmabudhdhi prasAdham mumukshurvai SaraNam aham prapadhyE ll
(I, desiring to attain mOksham (SrI vaikuNtam), surrender to that supreme entity, who initially created brahmA and who instructed him all the vEdhams)

  • mahAbhAratham sabhA parvam 14-8

yugakOti sahasrANi vishNum ArAdhya padhmabhU: l
punas thrailOkya dhAthruthvam prApthavAnithi SuSruma: ll
(We hear that chathurmukhan [brahmA], who was born in a lotus, prayed to vishNu for thousands of crores of yugams (a very long period) and attained the status of being the head of all the three worlds, once again)

  • mahAbhAratham SAnthi parvam 357-31

thathO hrudhEshu vEdhEshu brahmANam kaSmalO’viSath l
thathO vachanamISAnam prAhavEdhair vinAkrutha: ll
brahmA:- vEdhA mE paramam chakshur vEdhA mE paramam dhanam ll
(Later, the vEdhams were stolen. brahmA was overcome with ignorance. After that, brahmA, looking towards sarvESvaran (lord of all) spoke thus: – only vEdhams are my superior eyes; only vEdhams are my superior wealth)

  • mahAbhAratham rAjadharmam

    mahAdhEvas sarvamEdhE mahAthmA hUthvAthmAnam dhEvadhEvO babhUva l
    sarvAn lOkAn vyApya vishtabhya kIrthyA virAjathE dhyuthimAn kruththivAsA: ll
    (Sivan, the great soul, offered himself in the sarvamEdha yAgam (a type of sacrificial ritual) and became dhEva dhEva (head of celestial entities). Shining with the skin of an elephant, he pervaded all the worlds (through his knowledge), being radiant, spreading his fame).

brahmA, Sivan et al, were to be classified as samsAri jIvas (souls who keep taking birth in samsAram) by those who believe in authentic texts, since they were identified in ithihAsams (epics) and purANams (narratives which are ancient but appear current) as jIva, engaged in the activity of creation, carrying out penance in order to attain a status, losing vEdhams, plucking out the head of father and roaming around with the skull due to the sin committed etc. However, samsAris mistake them to be the supreme entity due to a few vEdha vAkyams which praise them, a few sentences where emperumAn is said to be their indwelling soul and with the help of thAmasa purANams (purANams where lowly celestial entities are praised and where these celestial entities are affirmed to be the cause of the worlds). Examples are:

  • Eka Eva rudhrO na dhvIthiyAya thasthau
    (Only Siva was present; there was no second entity)
  • hiraNyagarbhas samavarthathAgrE
    (At the beginning, only hiraNya garbha (brahmA) was present)

AzhwAr, unable to tolerate the samsAris’ sorrowful state, took pity on them saying “Alas”. He rejected philosophies which were opposed to vEdhams and philosophies which misinterpreted vEdhams, through faultless contexts from Sruthi (vEdhams), smruthi, ithihAsa and purANa vAkyams (which came to explain the Sruthis), and through proper logic, in his first prabandham of nAnmugan thiruvandhAdhi and his last, this, prabandham, thiruchchandha viruththam. Despite his upadhESam (instructions) to samsAris about emperumAn’s supremacy, he found that they were not listening to him. He thought “Unlike them, I have realised through his mercy that it is only SrIman nArAyaNan, who is the causative factor for the entire universe, who is in paramapadham and who is the lord of all, who is fit to be attained. When we take refuge under him, we must realise that his para and vyUha locations (SrIvaikuNtam and kshIrAbdhi or milky ocean) are too far for us to reach and hence are not attainable for us; his vibhavAvathArams (incarnations such as vAmana, SrI rAma et al) happened too far back in time such as in krutha, thrEthA, dhvApara yugams and hence are not attainable for us; thus, even for those who were not fortunate enough to attain him because of distance and time factors, he has come down in archAvathAra (idol) forms where he is under the control of archakars (priests), tolerating all the faults of those who take refuge under him and fulfilling all their desires”. Meditating on emperumAn’s archAvathAra qualities of simplicity etc, not having anything in him as the qualification for attaining emperumAn, looking at surrendering to emperumAn as the distinguishing feature in him to consider emperumAn as the means to attain him, being firm that it is emperumAn’s compassion alone which is the means and which does not expect anything from him, AzhwAr took refuge under emperumAn. emperumAn showered his mercy on AzhwAr and manifested himself to AzhwAr. Thus, AzhwAr attained emperumAn. AzhwAr says this as the benefit which he attained, at the end of the prabandham and brings it to an end.

This brings us to the end of avathArikai. We will take up the first pAsuram of this prabandham next.

adiyEn krishNa rAmAnuja dhAsan

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