SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
In Bhagavad Gītā, Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa says
“paritrāṇāya sādhūnāṃ vināśāya ca duśkṛtām |
dharmasaṃsthāpanārthāya saṃbhavāmi yuge yuge ||”
For protecting the good, for destroying the wicked and for establishing dharma, I incarnate in every age.
It can be questioned as to why the Lord needs to incarnate for accomplishing these ends? He is omnipotent. His never fails. Merely, by His will, He should be able to accomplish whatever He desires. Why does He need to be born in the midst of the people of this world? What is the purpose of vibhavāvatāra-s for an all powerful God?
The commentary of Sri Adi Sankara does not address this question at all. The commentary of Sri Madhva explains that the Lord does not really need to incarnate to accomplish His will. However, as the world exists for the purpose of His sport as suggested by the Brahma Sutra aphorism – “lokavattu līlākaivalyam”, He incarnates for the purpose of sport. This explanation of Sri Madhva does not seem to do justice to the original verse of the Gītā. While Kṛṣṇa clearly says that He incarnates for protecting the good etc, this explanation seems to reject it altogether and offers an alternate reason – for mere sport. It is ironical that the very verse of the Gītā can be quoted to deny that the purpose of avatāra is mere sport. Also, the cited Brahma Sūtra aphorism deals with the purpose of the world, while the current verse deals with the purpose of avatāra. So, the Brahma Sūtra aphorism cannot be used to override the purpose of avatāra.
In the Antaradhikaraṇa of Brahma Sūtras, while explaining “antastaddharmopadeśāt” (1-1-21), Swāmi Rāmānuja quotes this Gītā verse. Swāmi then writes,
“sādhavo hi upāsakāḥ; tatparitrāṇamevoddeśyam;
ānuṣaṅgikastu duṣkṛtāṃ vināśaḥ; saṅkalpamātreṇāpi tadupapatteḥ”
The main purpose of avatāra is to protect the upāsaka or devoted worshipper. The destruction of the wicked is secondary because it can happen even without incarnating, by His mere will.
This explanation of Swāmi suggests that if the Lord were to merely destroy the wicked, He might do it by His Will. But it is by the need to protect His devotees that He personally incarnates. sādhuparitrāṇa is the reason for avatāra.
The explanation of Swāmi raises the obvious question if sādhu paritrāṇa cannot be established by the same will as duṣkṛtavināśana. Those who have no knowledge of Thiruvāimozhi cannot answer this question regardless of how long they choose to stare at the lines of Swāmi submerged in thought. The job of the teacher who merely interprets the word meanings of Śrībhāṣya is easy. He does not have to delve into these details. If a student suddenly turns up with this question, he might only get the following answer, “Svāmi himself has declared so. Who are you to question his mighty word?” And with this admonition, the Śrībhāṣya kālakṣepam would be considered successful and complete.
The answer to this question can only be known by those who have studied the Thiruvāimozhi and been subject to the grace of Āzhwār, Emperumānār and Jīyar. It is through their grace that Śrī Kāñcī Swāmi considers himself to have realized this truth and it is through his grace that we come to experience this great secret. Let us pay our gratitude to them by saying “āzhwār emperumānār jīyar tiruvaḍigaḷē śaraṇaṃ” and “śrīkāñcī svāmī tiruvaḍigaḷē śaṛaṇam” before we proceed further.
Thiruvāymozhi 3-1-9 runs thus,
“mazhuṇgāda vainudiya cakkara nalvalattaiyāy
thozhuṅkādal kaḷiraḷippān, puḷḷūrndu thonḍṛinaiyē
mazhuṅgāda jñānamē paḍaiyāga malarulagil
thozhumbāyārkku aḷiththāl un cuḍarccōdi maṛaiyādē”
The “mazhuṅgāda jñānam” in the third quarter of the hymn is His unfailing saṅkalpa jñāna – the divine will of the Lord. Azhwar explains why it is essential for the Lord to incarnate for sādhu paritrāṇam. thozhumbāyārkku aḷiththāl un cuḍarccōdi maṛaiyādē – “If You do not come in person or incarnate to save Your devotees, Your resplendent glory would fade. Your glory would shine forth only if You descend amidst Your devotees to rescue them.”
It would be a blemish unto the Lord were He to remain on His couch and rescue the souls by mere will. It is fitting His auspicious qualities and glory that He lovingly descend to His devotees and protect them. This is the reason why sādhu paritrāṇam would not work by mere will. Were it to happen by mere will, it would cause Him blemish. But, He is blemishless. So, He will always incarnate for sādhu paritrāṇam. yuge yuge sādhupaitrāṇāya saṃbhavāmi. This is certain.
Still, a question can be raised. All this reasoning is very pleasing but can it be shown by pramāṇam that this is how the Lord protects? Our Azhwar is the crest jewel of prāmāṇikas and he would hardly utter a word without authority.
The first half of the same hymn provides the pramāṇam –
“ thozhuṅkādal kaḷiraḷippān, puḷḷūrndu thonḍṛinaiyē”.
In order to save Śrī Gajendrāzhvān, the Lord came rushing on Garuḍa all the way from His abode in Nitya vibhūti. To kill the crocodile would have been easy from His abode itself. But, it does not suit His glory to rescue His devotee Śrī Gajendrāzhvān thus. Hence, He descends (avatarati) to rescue.
(We will discuss the details of Gajendra moksha further in the next episode)
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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