SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
In this article, we will analyze the parts of Swami Emperumanar’s commentary for kapyāsa śṛti and try to understand the manner in which the ideas are borrowed from the hymns of Azhwars.
gaṃbhīrāmbassamudbhūta-puṇḍarīka – The lotus is called jalaja or ambuja or niraja. These names come from the fact that the lotus is born from water. There is no other means by which a lotus is born. It cannot grow on land. Therefore, these names qualify it well. ambassamudbhūta means born out of water.
In Srivachanabhushanam, Swami Pillai Lokacharyar says
“thāmaraiyai alartthakkaḍava ādityan thānē nīrai piritthāl attai ulartthumā pōlē”
As the sun would scorch the same lotus which he is expected to blossom if the lotus is separated from water. This shows how indispensable water is to a lotus.
The Lord’s lotus eyes are compared to the lotus which is born from water. This comparison invoking the aquatic birth credentials of the lotus is well detailed in the hymns of Azhwars. In Sirya Thirumadal, Swami Thirumangai Mannan says
“nīrār kamalam pol seṅgaṇmāl enḍroruvan”
the red eyes of the Lord are similar to the beautiful water lotus. Also in Thiruviruththam, Azhwar says “azhalalar thāmaraikkaṇṇan” conveying the same meaning. In the commentary, Swami Nampillai explains the hymn quoting kapyāsa verse explicitly. Vadikesari Jeeyar’s svāpadesam also follows the same meaning.
The first particle – gambhīra – acts as an adjective denoting vastness and comes from Azhwar’s words in Thiruvoymozhi –
“thaṇperunīr thaḍan thāmarai malarndhāl okkuṅkaṇ peruṅkaṇṇan”
The lotus has blossomed in a large cool pond; the eyes of the Lord are similar to this lotus.
samṛṣṭa nāla puṇḍarīka – As much as the lotus is dependent on water for its sustenance, the water comes to use only if the flower is endowed with a healthy stem. The mention of the stem in reference to the lotus also comes from the hymns of Azhwars. In Thiruviruththam, Azhwar says, “empirān thaḍaṅkaṇkaḷ menkāl kamalatthaḍam pol polindana” – the beautiful eyes of the Lord shine like lotuses with elegant stems.
ravikara vikasita – A lotus in water supported by a stem is blossomed by the rays of the sun. This fresh blossomed stage is the best form of the lotus to be worthy of some comparison with the exceedingly beautiful eyes of the Lord. The hands of the sun are its rays. This description comes from the hymns of Azhwar in Thiruvoymozhi – “señchuḍartthāmarai”. Once again, Swami Nampillai explains this hymn citing the kapyāsa verse. Though the connection with the eyes of the Lord is not made, Kulasekhara Perumal makes the connection between the lotus and the sun in Perumal Thirumozhi as “seṅkamalam antharam ser veṇkadhirorkallāl alarāvāl”.
puṇḍarīkadalāmalāyatekṣaṇaḥ – The original verse says puṇdarīkamevamakṣiṇī, which can be easily translated as eyes like lotuses or lotus eyed or puṇḍarīkekṣaṇaḥ. However, Swami Ramanuja has added three words – dala, amala and āyata between puṇḍarīka and īkṣaṇaḥ. This is due to the influence of the hymns of Azhwars.
Azhwars made references like “thāmaraitthaḍaṅkaṇṇan” and “kamalatthaḍam peruṅkaṇṇan”. “thaḍa” in thamizh is the same as “dala” in sanskrit. The “la” of sanskrit appears as “ḍa” in thamizh. Sanskrit scholars would say “laḍayōḥ abedhaḥ” (there is no difference between la and ḍa). This principle is understood by thamizh scholars as “ezhuththup-pōli”. In the commentary of Purvacharyas, the word “thaḍam” is interpreted as “large”, “pond” or “petal”. In this case, the meaning of petal is suitable.
Azhwar’s “kamalakkaṇṇan … amalaṅgaḷāgavizhikkum” – the graceful glance of the Lord removes all blemishes. This quality in the glance of the Lord is brought out by the use of the word “amala”. Keats said that a thing of beauty is a joy forever, and that its loveliness only increases. The veracity of this claim is suspect. After a while, however beautiful an object might be, people attain boredom and disinterest. When one struggles with the other travails of life, the conception of beauty hardly comes to mind. The only exception to this is the beauty of the Lord. It heightens the interest, the more one experiences it. Its loveliness truly increases as devotion grows. His beautiful eyes glance the devotees with love and mercy. It is not merely a sight to behold, it is not merely the mark of purity, it is the reflection of His merciful heart which is ever enthused in rescuing the souls. The beautiful eyes, unlike other objects of beauty, remove all our blemishes and elevate us to the highest goodness.
It must be very easy for Srivaishnavas to know where the word “āyata” is coming from. Thiruppāṇāzhwār’s
“kariyavāgip puḍaiparanthu miḷirndhu sevvari yōḍi nīṇḍavapperiyavāya kaṅkaḷ”
immediately comes to mind. The Lord has large beautiful eyes.
Trying to find references from books outside the works of Azhwars to explain the words of Swami Emperumanar would only end in disappointment. Except Sri Ramayana, which contains words like ‘rāmaḥ kamalapatrākṣaḥ’, ‘puṇḍarīka visālākṣau’, etc., it is difficult to find any other support for explaining the choice of Swami’s words. One can explain them completely only with Aruḷiccheyal.
Though the original Sanskrit verse does not offer much scope for conveying any philosophical or devotional idea, Swami Ramanuja, who is well versed in Aruliccheyal, draws from various hymns of Azhwars which he regards to be a clarification of the purport of Sanskrit Vedanta. The explanation of Swami Ramanuja based on Aruliccheyal allows one to transcend mere theory and engage in the experience of the beautiful eyes of the Lord that brim with love and grace.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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