SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The Ocean and the Auspicious Attributes
It is very common to observe in the works of acharyas that the Lord is referred as the repository of numerous auspicious attributes or in other words, He is an “ocean of auspicious attributes” (thirukkalyāṇaguṇasāgaran).
Swami Ramanuja also refers to the Lord in the same way in several places highlighting his innumerable auspicious attributes whose value has no limit. Such words can be found in almost all the works of Swami.
The words “ananta-guṇa-sāgaraṃ” or “aparimitodāra-guṇa-sāgaraṃ” are found in Sri Bhashyam. For example consider the starting of the second adhyāya of Sri Bhashyam –
“prathame adhyāye pratyakṣādi-pramāṇa-gocarāt acetanāt, tatsaṃsṛṣṭād-viyuktāc-ca cetanāt, arthāntarabhūtaṃ nirasta-nikhila-avidyādi apuruṣārthagandham anantajñānānandaikatānam aparimitodāra-guṇa-sāgaraṃ nikhila-jagad-ekakāraṇaṃ sarvāntarātmabhūtaṃ paraṃ brahma vedāntavedyam ityuktam”.
The meaning is “It is said in the first chapter of the Vedanta Sutras that the Para Brahman, who is distinct from the non-sentient entities which are the object of perception, from the soul bound to material existence and from the soul liberated from material existence, who is removed from the tinge of ignorance and other blemishes, who is the repose of infinite knowledge and bliss, who has an ocean of noble attributes, who is the only cause of the entire universe and who is the inner soul of all, is known through the Vedanta.
It must be noted that in this sentence the word ‘parabrahma’ is in the nominative case or prathamā vibhakti and not in the accusative case or dvitīya vibhakti. Keeping this in mind, one should interpret the words in this passage. The word “aparimita-udāra-guṇa-sāgaraṃ” cannot be resolved in terms of Tatpuruṣa compound. The reason is, if it is resolved as “guṇānāṃ sāgaraḥ” (Ocean of attributes), the word “sāgara” being masculine (puṃliṅga pada), the word should have appeared as aparimita-udāra-guṇa-sāgaraḥ. Instead, the word has been used as aparimita-udāra-guṇa-sāgaram in neuter gender (napuṃsaka-liṅga). Therefore, it has to be resolved as a Bahuvrīhi compound – “aparimitaḥ udāraguṇasāgaraḥ yasya tat” or as “anantaḥ guṇasāgaraḥ yasya tat” (One who has attributes which are an infinite ocean). Srutha Prakasikacharyar has also explained resolving the word as a Bahuvrīhi.
The difference in meaning between the two compounds is: In the Tatpuruṣa case, the Lord is the ocean; He is not the ocean of water but an ocean of auspicious attributes. In the Bahuvrīhi case, the attributes themselves are the ocean which belong to the Lord. The second interpretation is correct for this passage.
In many places, we can find the Lord being described as the ocean of auspicious attributes. But, we can count very few places where His attributes themselves are likened to an ocean. In the works of acharyas, this latter comparison can only be found in Swami Ramanuja’s writings. If any other acharya is found comparing the auspicious attributes of the Lord to an ocean, we can be sure that the acharya belongs to Srivaishnava tradition.
Swami Ramanuja did not pick this comparison by chance. He is well read in the works of the Azhwars. It is only after considering the words of Azhwars that Swami makes this comparison. In Periya Thiruvandadi, Swami Nammazhvar says “migun tirumāl sīrkkaḍalai yuḷ podinda sindanaiyēn” (69). In this hymn, the auspicious attributes of the Lord are compared to an ocean. Agastya consumed the salty ocean whereas Swami Nammazhvar consumed the nectarine ocean of auspicious attributes that belong to the Lord. As a cloud drinks the water from the sea, Azhwars (and acharyas) drink from the ocean of auspicious attributes of the Lord. It is to convey this sense that Swami particularly makes use of the Bahuvrīhi compound instead of the Tatpuruṣa compound.
In this context, it is worth mentioning another similar interpretation. In Stotra Ratnam, Swami Alavandar starts off by praising Swami Nathamuni as ‘agādha-bhagavad-bhakti-sindhu’ or the deep ocean of bhakti. Here, the question arises if Swami Nathamunigal is an ocean of bhakti (Tatpuruṣa) or if he possesses an ocean of bhakti (Bahuvrīhi). The master commentator Swami Periyavacchan Pillai interprets this as a Bahuvrīhi compound following the words of Azhwars which he explicitly cites –‘kādal kaḍalin migapperidu’ (Swami Nammazhvar in Thiruvoymozhi 7-3-6) and ‘āsaiyennum kaḍal’ (Swami Thirumangai Azhwar in Periya Thirumozhi 4-9-3), where bhakti is compared to an ocean. This interpretation is also supported by Swami Vedanta Desika in his commentary where he first offers the Tatpuruṣa based meaning and then explains the Bahuvrīhi case as ‘bhaktiṃ vā sindhutvena rūpayitvā bahuvrīhi’ (figuratively referring to bhakti as an ocean using bahuvrīhi samāsa).
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
archived in https://srivaishnavagranthams.wordpress.com/
pramEyam (goal) – http://koyil.org
pramANam (scriptures) – http://granthams.koyil.org
pramAthA (preceptors) – https://guruparamparai.wordpress.com
SrIvaishNava Education/Kids Portal – http://pillai.koyil.org