SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
In the previous post, we had observed that the interpretation provided by Swāmi Emperumānār is based on the following hymn of Āzhwār:
“mazuṅgāda vainudiya cakkara nalvalattaiyāy
thozuṅkādal kaḷiraḷippān puḷḷūrndu thōṇḍṛinaiyē
mazuṅgāda jñanamē paḍaiyāga malarulagil
thozumbāyārkku aḷiththāl un cuḍarccōdi maṛaiyādē”
Āzhwār cites the incident of Gajendra Moksham to show that the Lord arrives by Himself to perform sādhu paritrāṇam. Gajendra Moksham is well known to all of us. It is widely celebrated in Purāṇas. In several Divyadesams, this vaibhavam is celebrated in a grand manner.
The summary of the incident is that an elephant, who was a devotee of Vishnu, descended into a pond to gather lotuses for worshipping the Lord. A crocodile that was lying in wait seized the elephant. The elephant tried to liberate itself. After realizing the fruitlessness of its efforts, the elephant called the foremost causal being (ādimūlam) for aid. The Lord rushed from Thirunāḍu, mounted on Garuḍāzhvār. On reaching the pond, He launched His Sudarśana discus to destroy the crocodile. He nursed the wounds of the elephant and accepted the lotuses gathered by the elephant.
Scholars must analyse if the Lord’s descent to the pond was truly necessary. He could have accomplished the result easily by other means. Let us consider some of the ways by which He could have destroyed the crocodile, and rescued the elephant.
Swami Koorathāzhvān observed in Śrīvaikuṇṭhastavam that the Lord is capable of creating, protecting and destroying the worlds by means of His mere saṅkalpam. “viśvaṃ dhiyaiva viracayya nicāyya bhūyaḥ saṃjahruṣaḥ“. Then, it must be possible for Him to rescue Gajendrāzhwān by mere will. Had He performed the saṅkalpam – “gajendraḥ paritrāto bhavatu” (May Gajendra be saved), it would have worked and any further rescue operation would have been rendered unnecessary.
There is another way by which Gajendra could have been saved. As Āzhwār says, “karudhumiḍam porudhu kai ninḍṛa cakkaratthan“, an order to Sudarśana would have been sufficient. Sudarśana would have been able to destroy the crocodile easily and save the elephant. Periyāzhwār notes, “kīzhulagil asurargaḷaik kizhaṅgirundhu kiḷarāmē āzhiviḍuththu avaruḍaiya karuvazhiththazhippān“. The Lord had directed Sudarśana to the depths of pātāḷaloka where he destroyed hosts of demons to their very roots. In fact, even in this case, the Lord arrived at the pond and launched Sudarśana at the crocodile anyway. He could have done this while remaining in Paramapadam.
The two cases presented above can be related by observing that Sudarśana is verily the embodiment of the protective will of the Lord.
“vāṇī paurāṇikī yaṃ kathayati mahitaṃ prekṣaṇaṃ kaiṭabhārēḥ”
The voice of Puranas declares Sudarśana as the great protective will of emperumān says Sudarśana Śatakam.
The above discussion seems to suggest that Gajendra rakṣaṇam and Makara saṃhāram could have happened without the Lord directly presenting Himself.
Āzhwār himself raises both these alternatives.
“mazuṅgāda vainudiya cakkara nalvalattaiyāy”
indicates that the Lord could have commanded Sudarśana while remaining in Paramapadam itself.
“mazuṅgāda jñanamē paḍaiyāga malarulagil”
indicates that the Lord’s unfailing will is sufficient for rescuing Gajendrāzhwān. Despite these alternatives being feasible, He presents Himself. The reason behind the Lord’s personal appearance is brought out in the line
“thozuṅkādal kaḷiṛaḷippān puḷḷūrndu thōṇḍṛinaiyē“
by Āzhwār himself, thanks to the mayarvara mathinalam graced by the Lord.
It is not merely to save an elephant from a crocodile that the Lord descended. Gajendrāzhwān makes this observation himself,
“nāhaṃ kalevarasyāsya trāṇārthaṃ madhusūdana!
karastha kamalānyeva pādayor-arpituṃ tava“.
Madhusudana! I did not call You to protect this body of mine. I called You to offer these lotuses, that I hold in my trunk, at Your feet. It is by knowing this intention of Gajendrāzhwān clearly that the Lord decided not to rescue him while remaining in His abode itself, but chose to arrive in person.
The use of the word “thozuṅkādal” before kaḷiṛu reflects the devotional intent of Gajendra. It is people with “thozuṅkādal” who are referred as sādhus in the Gītā. Sādhu paritrāṇam is not merely destroying enemies and rescuing devotees. It extends beyond that. The Lord engages with His devotees, accepting their offerings and relishing their companionship. His love towards His devotees and the love of His devotees towards Him compel Him to make a personal appearance. As sādhus are those who are exalted devotees, it is hardly their interest to have their bodies rescued. Having realized their true nature and engaging in His service, they are sustained only through His experience. It is this “soulful” sustenance that is key in sādhu paritrāṇam which is arranged only by personal appearance.
That is why He says
“sadhūnāṃ paritrāṇāya yuge yuge saṃbhavāmi”.
To explain sādhu paritrāṇam in this manner is not possible without the knowledge of the words of Āzhwārs. That is why, this meaning makes its way into only the bhāṣyam of Swāmi Rāmānuja. Those who rummage through only the words of the Vedas would have great difficulty in understanding and appreciating this meaning. To know the esoteric essence of the scriptures, an understanding of Āzhwār Aruḷiccheyal is indispensable. It is through Āzhwār Aruḷiccheyal that this Avatāra rahasyam is well understood.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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