SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:
In the text portion starting “Akhilaheya” in Śaraṇāgati Gadyam, Swami Ramanuja calls the Lord by different names. All these names are used in the vocative case.
The Lord is called ‘mahāvibhūte! śrīmannārāyaṇa! śrīvaikuṇṭhanātha!’ and then His auspicious attributes are celebrated. The words that follow are “apāra-kāruṇya-sauśīlya-vātsalyaudāryaiśvarya-saundarya-mahodadhe!” The Lord is a deep and vast ocean. He is an ocean of auspicious attributes (kalyāṇa-guṇa). The attributes are boundless and can be experienced without end (apāra). Chief of those attributes that sustain the souls of the universe are His compassion, easy accessibility, mastery and beauty. Also mentioned in this list is the kalyāṇa-guṇa of vātsalya.
What is vātsalya?
It is the tendency of the Lord to enjoy even the shortcomings of the souls without seeking to punish them. Some scholars think that He is only indifferent to these shortcomings. However, that is not a debate for this article. The quality can be recognized in the experience of motherly love. A mother loves her child unconditionally, even delighting at the mistakes of her baby. A cow licks clean even the dirt of its new born calf. This beautiful quality is vātsalya. In the Lord’s case, it is boundless and more special.
Returning to Śaraṇāgati Gadyam, Swami Ramanuja follows this name with another name “āśrita-vātsalyaika-jaladhe!” The Lord is an ocean full of the quality vātsalya alone with which He meets His devotees.
What was the necessity for Swami Ramanuja to repetitively experience the quality of “vātsalya”? The question is hardly necessary because the quality is wonderful and captivates the heart of devotees. It is no wonder that a master like Swami Ramanuja, who occupies the loftiest levels of devotional love, is moved by this quality and repeats it severally in the course of his divine experience.
However, beyond this obvious reason, it is also possible to point out a basis for this experience from the hymns of Azhwars.
Swami Nammazhvar praises the Lord of Thiruvenkadam as “agalagillēn-iṛaiyumenḍṛu alarmelmaṅgai uṛai mārbā!” The Lord’s chest is occupied forever, without parting even for a moment, by His consort and Goddess Periya Pirāṭṭi. She evokes traits in Him by which His devotees are favoured. Of all the qualities that are aroused in Him by Her, the quality of vātsalya is dominant. It is no surprise for She Herself is the radiance of qualities like vātsalya – vātsalyādi-guṇojjvalā.
Swami Nammazhvar picks the quality of vātsalya as worthy of praise during his surrender. He says “nigaril pugazhāy!” In another situation, the word “pugazh” would be interpreted as auspicious attribute or as greatness. However, in the hymn where His eternal association with His consort finds emphasis, our acharyas are unanimous in interpreting it as vātsalya. The Lord has vātsalya, which is without an equal.
It is keeping in mind that the quality of vātsalya has no equal that Swami Ramanuja singles it out after mentioning it along with other qualities. Our preceptors are not known to repeat unnecessarily. When they do, they do for very good reasons. Swami calls Him as “apāra-kāruṇya-sauśīlya-vātsalyaudāryaiśvarya-saundarya-mahodadhe!” first in order to enlighten us about the several wondrous virtues of the Lord. However, to show that vātsalya is like no other quality, though listed amidst others, and that it has no equal, he uses the name that singles out vātsalya – “āśrita-vātsalyaika-jaladhe!”
Vātsalya is certainly one among His numerous auspicious qualities. But, it is peerless and is in a class of its own.
adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan
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