SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
The Lotus eyed Lord
(i) Pundarikaksha is the Para Brahman
The Chandogya Upanishad identifies the Para Brahman as the Lotus-Eyed or Puṇdarīkākṣa. This is conveyed by the verse, ‘tasya yathā kapyāsaṃ puṇḍarīkamevamakṣiṇī’. Swami Alavandar uses this as one of the ways to convey the identity of Para Brahman in Stotra Ratnam – ‘kaḥ puṇdarīka-nayanaḥ’. Therefore, it is known that the lotus-eyed Lord Vasudeva is the Para Brahman conveyed by the scriptures.
(II) Controversies over interpretations
The Chandogya Upanishad verse has been the source of controversies owing to the difficulty in interpretation. Yadava Prakasa took the easy way out and interpreted it trivially. He opined that the eyes of the Brahman are like hind part of a monkey. It is needless to say that far from bringing out the greatness of the Brahman, this interpretation makes a complete mockery of the Brahman. Traditional Srivaishnava accounts hold that Swami Ramanuja was deeply pained to hear such an absurd explanation.
Sri Sankara has tried to work around this difficulty by making the comparison indirect. He holds that the hind part of the monkey does not directly qualify the eyes of the Brahman. Instead, it is an adjective to the lotus (puṇḍarīkam) which in turn qualifies the eyes of the Brahman. While Sri Sankara has succeeded in showing that the Brahman is Pundarikaksha or the Lotus-eyed Lord, and avoids the absurdity of comparing an aspect of the highest Brahman with the inferior hind parts of a monkey, the commentary is still not satisfactory as it does not explain why the hind parts of the monkey must be spoken of at all by the scripture when the mention of the lotus is sufficient. Using kapyāsam as an adjective to the lotus is not by any means tasteful either.
(III) Swami Ramanuja’s explanation
The controversy surrounding this verse is well dispelled by Swami Ramanuja who shows that the word kapyāsaṃ qualifies the lotus in a meaningful way. Thus the intent of the Vedanta is to directly refer to the Brahman as Lotus-eyed. Contrary to the absurdity of “hind parts of the monkey”, the Upanishad adores the beauty of the lotus eyes of the Lord. Through the interpretation of Swami Ramanuja, the Vedanta is protected from distasteful interpretations which lead to the use of absurd comparisons.
Three meanings are offered by Swami Ramanuja.
(i) kaṃ pibati iti kapiḥ = ādityaḥ, tena asyate kṣipyate vikāsyate iti kapyāsam ||Kapi denotes that which drinks water. The Sun evaporates water and is called kapi. Kapyasam is that which is blossomed by the Sun. As an adjective to puṇḍarīkam, it denotes a lotus freshly blossomed by the Sun.
(ii) kaṃ pibati iti kapiḥ = nālaṃ, tasmin āste iti kapyāsam ||Kapi denotes that which drinks water. The stem of the lotus takes water and is called kapi. Kapyasam is that which sits on the stem which takes water. So, kapyāsaṃ puṇḍarīkaṃ refers to the lotus that is borne by a stalk in water.
(iii) kaṃ jalaṃ | āsa upaveśane iti jalepi āste iti kapyāsam ||Kam is water. That which rests on water is called kapyasam. In this case, kapyāsaṃ puṇdarīkaṃ refers to the beautiful lotus that rests/grows from suitable waters.
From Sruta Prakasika, we come to know that six meanings were provided by Dramidacharya in his commentary. Of these, the first three meanings involve the monkey and are considered as purvapaksham due to their absurdity. The other three meanings which rightly show the Brahman to be directly referred as the Lotus-eyed Pundarikaksha are the correct interpretations. These meanings are well explained by Swami Ramanuja and they ensure that the verse is interpreted in a coherent and pleasing manner.
The comprehensive meaning of the verse is provided by Swami Ramanuja in Vedartha Sangraham in the following manner:
This elaborate explanation is hardly obvious from the word kapyāsam. How did Swami Ramanuja arrive at this explanation?
The explanation can only be understood by those who have experience in the Aruliccheyal of Azhwars. Once the relevant words of Azhwars are known, it will become clear how the words in the above explanation were constructed.
The explanation of Swami Ramanuja will be derived from the words of the Azhwars in the upcoming part of this series.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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