Category Archives: Dramidopanishat

Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 28

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Santamigu Tamizh Maṛaiyōn, Vēdāntaguru

(Concluding episode of Dramiḍopaniṣat Prabhāva Sarvasvam)

Svami Desikan makes it clear that the study of Aruliccheyal is fundamental to the understanding of Sanskrit Vedas. Aruliccheyal is not merely an option, only for those who do not study the Vedas. Those who wish to study the Vedas cannot grasp its meaning without studying Aruliccheyal.

It is undeniable that Swami Desikan is one of the best scholars of the Sanskrit language, to which his own works stand as monuments of testimony.  However, he did not think that his allegiance to an illustrious system of Vedanta metaphysicians and his own prodigious knowledge of Sanskrit gifted him a bypass to studying Aruliccheyal.

He makes this clear at the outset of Adhikara Sangraham:

“ceyya tamizhmālaikaḷ nām teḷiya ōdittheḷiyāda maṛainilaṇgaḷ teḷiginḍṛōmē!”

In this hymn, Swami Desikan not only calls Sanskrit Veda as “teḷiyāda maṛainilaṇgaḷ” or ‘scriptures with unclear sections’. In contrast, Aruliccheyal has to be learned clearly (tamizhmālaikaḷ teḷiya ōdi). This is not merely a recommendation for others but Swami Desikan’s own discipline (nām teḷiya ōdi).

He emphasizes this opinion in the fourth verse of Dramidopanishat Tatparya Ratnavali:

“yat tat kṛtyaṃ śṛtīnāṃ munigaṇavihitais-setihāsaiḥ purāṅaiḥ tatrāsau satvasīmnaḥ śaṭhamathanamunes-saṃhitā sārvabhaumī”  

The explanation of the Vedas make easy is made by Itihasas and Puranas which are the works of sages. These are generally recognized (within the texts themselves) to be affected in some sections by rajas and tamas. In contrast, the works of Swami Nammazhvar are at the limits of satva like their poet (satvasīmnaḥ) and are perfect (sārvabhaumī) in explaining the Vedas. Therefore, this Satakopa Samhita is the best.

While explaining the fourth hymn of Stotra Ratnam of Swami Alavandar, “mātā pitā”, Swami Desikan writes the following words:

“atha parāśara-prabandhādapi vedānta-rahasya-vaiśadyātiśayahetubhūtaiḥ sadyaḥ paramātmani cittarañjakatamaiḥ sarvopajīvyaiḥ madhurakaviprabhṛti sampradāya-paramparayā nāthamuner-apy-upakartāraṃ kālaviprakarṣe~pi paramapuruṣasaṇkalpāt kadācit prāturbhūya sākṣadapi sarvopaniṣatsāropadeṣṭaraṃ parāṇkuśamuniṃ “mātāpitābhrātetyādy-upaniṣat-prasiddha-bhagavat-svabhāva-dṛṣṭyā praṇamati – māteti |”

Here, Swami Desikan makes it clear that the secrets of Vedanta are explained clearly by Swami Nammazhwar, even better than the works of sages like Sage Parasara. Also, the hymns of Swami Nammazhwar are useful to all, and extremely enjoyable to devotees of the Lord. So, Swami Nammazhwar is the best teacher of Upanishads. So, Azhwar is worshipped as all – as mother, father, etc. – as equally as the Lord Himself.

In Yatiraja Saptati, Swami Desikan says in a hymn:

yasya sārasvataṃ sroto vakulāmodavāsitaṃ śṛtināṃ viśrayāmāsaṃ śaṭhāriṃ tam-upāsmahe”.

The Vedas gave up, becoming only spent and wasted, in explaining the concepts. This despair of the Vedas has been removed only by Swami Nammazhwar, the saint garlanded with Vakula flowers, through his works.

In Paduka Sahasram, Swami Desikan makes several references to Azhwar and Aruliccheyal. Only a few will be considered to illustrate the point. In the 29th hymn, Swami Desikan says that Tamizh which originated from Agastya Muni attained superiority even to Sanskrit Vedas through the Aruliccheyal of Azhwar.  In the 22nd hymn, Swami Desikan makes it clear that there is no other way to become subject to the grace of the Lord than studying the works of Azhwar or bearing the station of Lord’s feet which goes by the name SriSatakopam.

In Amrtasvadini prabhandam, Swami Desikan says that Swami Nammazhwar is the highest preceptor who saves devotees and leads them to liberation (28th hymn).

Lastly, Swami Desikan calls himself a Dravida Vedanta Vidvan. He calls himself, “santamigu tamizh maṛaiyōn tūppul tōnḍṛum vēdāntaguru”. Even his praise says, “sentamizh-t-tūppul tiruvēṇkaḍavan vāzhiyē”.

Thus it is established that our acharyas considered Azhwars and Aruliccheyal in the highest light. Only a drop of the ocean of faith held by our Acharyas in Azhwars has been highlighted in this series of twenty eight episodes. The entire impact cannot be understood by a few quotations but only by carefully studying all the works. It is hoped that this series would have supplied the motivation to study the works of Azhwars ornate richly by the commentaries of Swami Thirukkurugai Piran Pillan, Swami Nanjeeyar, Swami Nampillai, Swami Periyavacchan Pillai, Swami Vadakku Thiruveethi Pillai, Swami Vadikesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar, Swami Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar, Swami Vedanta Desika and Swami Manavala Mamunigal. It is also hoped that one develops love and devotion to Azhwars and their works, and to the commentaries of Acharyas. We are incalculably indebted to Sri U Ve Kanchi Mahavidvan Prativadi Bhayankaram Annangaracharyar Swami for producing this work of pure genius to show us how even the Sanskrit works and Vedic interpretations of our Acharyas are fully guided by Azhwars.

Glory To Azhvars! Glory To Aruliccheyal!

Glory to Acharyas, whose words are always pure!

Glory to their literature, which is the light of the world!

And, Glory To the Vedas, too!

Through the fog of pleasure, and through the darkness of pain, may the light of Aruliccheyal always shine brightly in our minds. Swami Ramanuja! Grant us this one wish.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 27

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

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Bhattar And Azhvars

Swami Parasara Bhattar is a legendary genius in the tradition of Srivaishnavism. His understanding of the tradition is unparallelled and his mastery of the subject is comparable only to Swami Ramanuja himself. This is the reason for Swami Ramanuja’s decision to have Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam commented by Swami Parasara Bhattar. The commentary on Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam by Bhattar is called Srimad Bhagavad-Guna-Darpanam. This commentary is entirely based on the words of Azhwars. Given the volume of that work, it would be beyond the scope of this work to show all the parallels between that work and the works of Azhwars.

Parasara Bhattar

Therefore, we will only look at a few illustrations from Sri Rangarajastavam. Bhattar praises Azhwar in the beginning verses of SriRangarajastavam as,

“ṛṣiṃ juṣāmahe kṛṣṇa-tṛṣnātattvamivoditam |

sahasraśakhāṃ yodrākṣīt drāmiḍīṃ brahma-saṃhitām ||” (6)

Bhattar identifies Azhwar as a sage (ṛṣi). Azhwar is also identified as the very embodiment of love to Lord Krishna. It is as if Krishna Bhakti and Azhwar are non-different. Bhattar also says that the import of the innumerable branches of Vedas were revealed by Azhwar in Tamizh language.

In the 13th hymn, Bhattar says, 

amataṃ mataṃ matamathāmataṃ stutaṃ parininditaṃ bhavati ninditaṃ stutam iti raṅgarājamudajūghuṣat-trayī |

The first part of the hymn closely follows the Upanishad “yasyāmataṃ tasya mataṃ … “. He who thinks that the Brahman is known, to him the Brahman is not known. He who regards the Brahman as yet unknown knows the Brahman. In the next part, the hymn says “stutaṃ parininditaṃ bhavati ninditaṃ stutam” – praising the Brahman becomes censure; even censuring becomes praise. This part is not mentioned anywhere in the Upanishads. Instead, it comes from Azhwar’s words. Azhwar says in Periya Thiruvandadi,

“pugazvōm pazhippōm, pugazōm paziyōm, igazvōm madippōm madiyōm igazōm”.

The interesting part is that Bhattar regards that both parts are from “trayī”. This indicates that Bhattar regards both the Upanishads and the Divya Prabandhams as Vedic scripture. This opinion is made explicit in the 16th hymn: “svaṃ saṃskṛta-drāviḍa-veda-sūktaiḥ” indicating that there are the verses of Vedas appear in two languages – Sanskrit and Tamizh.

In the 21st hymn “dugdhābdhir-janako jananyahamiyaṃ”, he follows Thondaradippodi Azhwar’s “teḷivilāk-kalaṅgal nīrcūz tiruvaraṅgam” in experiencing the River Kaveri as a turbulent stream.

The constructions of Thirumangai Azhwar in the form of halls, towers and passages are worshipped in the 36th hymn as  

“jitabāhyajinādimaṇipratimā api vaidikayanniva raṅgapure|

maṇimaṇḍapavapagaṇān vidadhe parakālakaviḥ praṇamemahi tān ||”

Since these halls and walls and towers are full of marks of Urdhvapundra and the signs of discus and conch, he says “vaidikayanniva”. It appears as if the material used to construct these structures has been made Vedic by these marks.

The Azhwars who are resident on the eastern shore of Chandra Pushkarini are celebrated in the 41st hymn:

“pūrveṇa tāṃ tadvadudāranimna-prasanna-śītāśayamagnanāthāḥ |

parāṇkuśadyāḥ prathame pumāṃso niṣedivāṃso daśa māṃ dayeran || “

While describing the tree on the shore of Chandra Pushkarini, Bhattar says,

“punnāgatallajam-ajasra-sahasra-gītisekottha-divya-nija-saurabhamāmanāmaḥ”. (49)

The tree is said to exude the fragrance of Thiruvaymozhi since many Srivaishnavas used to repeat and discover the meanings of Thiruvaymozhi at the shade of this tree. In this beautiful description, Bhattar also manages to convey that the daily routine of Srivaishnava Acharyas involves reciting and discussing the meanings of the words of Azhwars.

Kulasekarazhwar describes the experience in front of Lord Sri Ranganatha in the following manner:

“kaḍiyaraṇgatthu aravaṇaiyil paḷḷikoḷḷum māyōnai maṇatthūṇē paṭṛininḍṛu envāyāravenḍṛu kolō vāztthunāḷē”.  

The nectarine floods emanating from the beautiful and divine eyes of Lord Sri Ranganatha toss the devotee about making it impossible for one to stand firmly in one place before the Lord. In order that one might have sustained experience, one must embrace the pillars called “maṇatthūṇ” to support oneself. This explanation for Azhvar’s words is provided by Bhattar in the 59th hymn.

“śeṣaśayalocanāmṛtanadīrayākulitalolamānānām |

ālambamivāmodastambhadvayam-antaraṅgamabhiyāmaḥ ||”

Note that he directly translates “maṇatthūṇ” as “āmodastambha”.

In the 78th hymn,

“vaṭadala-devakījaṭhara-vedaśiraḥ kamalāstana-śaṭhakopavāgvapuṣi raṅgagṛhe śayitam”

he says that the Lord of Srirangam deems the words of Nammazhwar as a manifestation of His resting place.

In the 91st hymn,

“kirīṭacūḍaratnarājirādhirājyajalpikā |

mukhendukāntirunmukhaṃ taraṇgiteva raṅgiṇaḥ ||”,

Bhattar trans-creates the experience of Azhwar in “muḍicchōdiyāy unadhu mugacchōdhi malarndhadhuvō!”.

The 116th hymn, “trayo devās-tulyāḥ” is a direct translation of Azhwar’s

“mudalān-tiruvuruvam mūnḍrenbar, onḍrē mudalāgum mūnḍrukkum enbar”


We will make ourselves clowns trying to show the correlation between the words of Azhwars and Bhattar any further. Bhattar’s words blossom with the fragrance of Azhwar’s words that one might find the influence of Azhwars everywhere in his works. Those who experience his words with the help of informed commentaries are indeed fortunate.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 26

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

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Azhwar and Azhwan

The third hymn of Atimanushastavam also brings out Azhwan’s devotion to Azhwar.

“śrīmat-parāṅkuśa-munīndra-manovilāsāt tajjānurāgarasamajjanaṃ añjasā~pya |

adyāpyanāratatadutthita-rāgayogaṃ śriraṅgarājacaraṇāmbujam unnayāmaḥ ||”

The key portion of this hymn is “śriraṅgarājacaraṇāmbujam unnayāmaḥ” and is directed to the lotus feet of Lord Sriranganatha. An ordinary poet would write numerous reasons for the redness of the Lord’s lotus feet. They may attribute redness to the tenderness of the feet or that the feet, being tender, had attained redness due to the strain of walking or other activities.

Azhvar’s complete surrender to the Lotus feet of the Lord

Not Azhwan, who is the crest jewel among poets and Srivaishnavas. He attributes the redness of the lotus feet to a very interesting reason. The Lotus feet of the Lord have resided in the heart of Swami Nammazhwar, who is the Highest Saint. Drenched in the love (bhakti) in Azhwar’s heart, the lotus feet had attained the color of love – redness – and they remain so even now.

Azhwan’s devotion to Azhwar seems to be ten times that of Azhwar’s devotion to the Lord.

The second half of Atimanushastavam, which describes the incarnation as Lord Krishna, is entirely based on Azhwar’s divine words.

The twelfth hymn of Sundarabahustavam is:

“vakuladharasarasvatīviṣakta-svararasabhāva-yutāsu kinnarīṣu |

dravati dṛṣadapi prasaktagānāsviha vanaśailataṭīṣu sundarasya ||”

Here, Azhwan says that Kinnara women-folk come to worship Sundarabahu at Thirumalirunsolai. They sing the hymns of Swami Nammazhwar with their skilled voices and in a manner that fits the meaning of the hymns. The melodious ring of these songs melts even the stones in Thirumalirunsolai Thirumalai.  Everything melts in the song and flows as the stream Nupura Ganga (Silambaru).

Azhwan remembers “maraṇgaḷum iraṇgum vagai maṅivaṅṅā enḍru kūvumāl”.  The songs of divine love that arose from Azhwar are capable of melting even stone. What to say of ordinary humans! They are capable of redeeming all kinds of people.

Azhwan also indicates that the songs of Azhwar are sung not only by humans but by people of all worlds when they worship the Lord. In this manner, Azhwan celebrates the greatness of Azhwar’s words in his own inimitable style.

In Varadarajastavam (59), Azhvan lists the names of places where the lotus feet of the Lord rest blissfully. In this list, he includes “yaśca mūrdhā śaṭhāreḥ”. The head of Swami Nammazhwar is mentioned as a blissful resting place of the Lord.

Almost the entire stavams are based on Azhwar’s works. Yet, for the sake of illustration, a few examples are given below for readers to compare for themselves. Those who wish to understand the meanings may refer to the beautiful commentaries graced by Sri U.Ve. Kanchi Swami, which show the similarity between the words of Azhwan and those of Azhwars in every hymn.

Name of Azhvan’s book Azhvan’s words Azhvars’ words Comparison
Srivaikuntastavam (7) ūrdhvapuṃsāṃ mūrdhani cakāsti Azhvar
(i) thirumāliruñcolai malaiyē thiruppāṛkaḍalē enthalaiyē!(ii) ennucchiyuḷānē
Azhvar says that the Lord stands on His head as He stands in other divyadesams. Azhvan says that the Lord stands on the heads of great souls (like Azhvar)
Srivaikuntastavam (10) premārdra-vihvalitagiraḥ puraṣāḥ purāṇāḥ tvāṃ tuṣṭuvuḥ madhuripo! madhurairvacobhiḥ Azhvar

(i) uḷḷelām-urugi kural thazhuththu ozhindhēn

(ii) vēvārāvētkai nōy mellāviyuḷḷularththa

(iii) ārāvamudhē! aḍiyenuḍalam ninpālanbāyē nīrāyalaindhu karaiya vurukkuginḍra neḍumālē

Azhvar speaks of the tenderness rendered to his voice and heart due to the loving experience of the Lord.

Azhvan speaks of the same nature in the great masters (like Azhvar) of the past, whose words are softened with love.

Srivaikuntastavam (10) premārdra-vihvalitagiraḥ puraṣāḥ purāṇāḥ tvāṃ tuṣṭuvuḥ madhuripo! madhurairvacobhiḥ Azhvar

(i) kēṭṭu ārārvānavarkaḷ cevikkiniya ceṅchollē

(ii) thoṇdarkku amudhuṇṇa conmālaikaḷ connēn

Azhvar speaks of how his words are sweet and delectable to all including the Lord, Nitya Suris and devotees.

Azhvan says that the words of saints (like Azhvar) are sweet.

Sundarabahustavam (4) udadhigamandarādri-manthana-labdha-payomadhura-rasendirāhvasudha-sundaradoḥ parigham Andal
mandaram nāṭṭi yanḍru madurakkozhuñchāṛu koṇḍa sundaraththoḷuḍaiyān
Direct translation (the hymns talk about the churning of Kshirabdhi)
Sundarabahustavam (5) śaśadharariṅkhaṇāḍhyaśikham Azhvar

madhitavazhkuḍumi māliruṅcholai

Direct translation
Sundarabahustavam (5) bhidurita-saptaloka-suviśṛṅkhala-śaṅkha-ravam Azhvar

adhirkural caṅgaththu azhagar tham kōyil

Direct translation
Sundarabahustavam (8) sundaradōrdivyājñā … (entire hymn) Periyazhvar

karuvāraṇam thanpiḍi … thaṇ thirumāliruṅcholaiyē

Direct translation
Sundarabahustavam (16, 17) prārūḍha-śriyam / ārūḍha-śrīḥ Andal

ēṛu thiruvuḍaiyān

Direct translation
Sundarabahustavam (40) entire hymn Azhvar

koḷkiṇḍra kōḷiruḷai cukirndhiṭṭa … māyan kuzhal

Direct translation
Sundarabahustavam (49) entire hymn Andal

kaḷivaṇdeṇgum kalandhāṛpōl … miḷiraninḍru viḷaiyāḍa

Thirumangai Azhvar

maivaṇṇa naṛuṅkuñji kuzhalpinthāzha magaram cēr kuzhaiyirupāḍilaṅgiyāḍa

Azhvan’s hymn is a combination of experiences from both Andal and Thirumangai Azhvar
Sundarabahustavam (55) entire hymn Andal

ceṅkamala nāṇmalarmēl thēnukarumannampōl … caṅkaraiyā

Direct translation
Sundarabahustavam (62 & 63) entire hymns Azhvar

thaṇḍāmarai cumakkum pādapperumānai

Azhvan experiences the importance of the word ‘cumakkum’ in Azhvar’s hymn.
Sundarabahustavam (92) entire hymn Thirumangai Azhvar


Direct translation. Azhvan also matches Thirumangai Azhvar in meter.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 25

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

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Parankusa Payodhi

Several episodes were devoted to experience the deep influence of the words of Azhwar in the works of Swami Ramanuja. It was also seen how highly Swami Ramanuja regarded Swami Nammazhwar. Starting with this episode, we will experience in brief the influence of Azhwar on other acharyas whose compositions are predominantly in Sanskrit.

12 Azhwars

Swami Koorathazhwan

Swami Koorathazhwan (Azhwan in short), the disciple of Swami Ramanuja and a genius par-excellence, composed the famously known “Five-Praises” or Panchastavam. The first book of praise is called Srivaikuntastavam. Swami Azhwan commences the praise with the famous “yo nityam” hymn dedicated to Swami Ramanuja. He, then, dedicates two praises to Swami Nammazhvar. After all, even Swami Ramanuja would be gladdened only if his spiritual guide Swami Nammazhwar is well saluted! It is also easy to gain the grace of the Lord who is the subject of the praises after praising His beloved Swami Nammazhwar.

The two hymns will be explained in turn.

traividya-vṛddhajana-mūrdhavibhūṣaṇaṃ yat saṃpacca sātvikajanasya yadeva nityam |

yadvā śaraṇyaṃ aśaraṇya-janasya puṇyaṃ tat saṃśrayema vakulābharaṇaṅghrīyugmam ||

Swami Nammazhwar

Azhwar’s lotus feet are “traividya-vṛddhajana-mūrdhavibhūṣaṇaṃ”. They are the ornaments adorned on the heads of those who are well-versed in the Vedas. They are also “sātvikajanasya nityam saṃpat” – the permanent wealth of pure satvika people. It must be recalled that Swami Alavandar regarded the lotus feet of Swami Nammazhwar as his all in the “mātā pitā” hymn.

Azhwar’s lotus feet are also the refuge for those without other resorts – aśaraṇya-janasya śaraṇyaṃ. Generally, people see the resort of wealth or seek the company of powerful individuals. However, the enlightened beings renounce all these wicked resorts and do not surrender their minds, speech and action to ordinary individuals. They offer them in the service of the divine. Since, Azhwar is the leader of this community of renunciants and devotees, these enlightened saints take refuge in the words of Azhwar and surrender to his lotus feet.

Azhwar’s lotus feet are also capable of uplifting people from the suffering of this world. There is no need for one to undertake severe austerities or bathe in holy rivers. It is sufficient to surrender to the lotus feet of Swami Nammazhwar. These lotus feet are capable of purifying everyone instantly. Hence, they are “puṇyaṃ”. Therefore, we seek the lotus feet of Azhwar, who is decorated with the garland of vakula flowers.

In the next hymn, Swami Azhwan says,

bhakti-prabhāva-bhavad-adbhuta-bhāva-bandha-saṃdhukṣita-praṇaya-sāra-rasaugha-pūrnaḥ |

vedārtharatnanidhir-acyutadivyadhāma jiyāt parāṅkuśapayodhir-asīmabhūmā ||

In this hymn, Azhwar is likened to an ocean. He is parāṅkuśapayodhiḥ or the Parankusa ocean.

The reason is fourfold.

    1. The ocean is fed by various water streams. The Parankusa ocean is also fed by various streams. It is bhakti-prabhāva-bhavad-adbhuta-bhāva-bandha-saṃdhukṣita-praṇaya-sāra-rasaugha-pūrnaḥ. Due to Bhakti or devotional love, wondrous sentiments are created which arouse the grand waters of divine romance and nourish the ocean with the streams of the nine rasas.
    2. The ocean is the home of pearls and other riches. Likewise, the Parankusa ocean also houses special riches. It is vedārtharatnanidhiḥ – the ocean which houses the jewel-like meanings of the Vedas.
    3. The ocean is also the resting place of the Lord. He sleeps on it in Kshirabdhi. He builds bridges across it as Rama. He sleeps on the ocean of deluge on a small leaf. In this way, the ocean becomes an abode of the Lord – acyutadivyadhāma.  Swami Poigai Azhwar sings, “ālinilaith thuyinḍra āzhiyān, kōlakkarumēni ceṅkaṇmāl kaṇ paḍaiyuḷ enḍrunthirumeni nī thīnḍapperṭṛu”. Likewise, the Parankusa ocean is also an abode of the Lord. The Lord abandons His glorious resorts and rests in Swami Nammazhwar. Azhwar himself remarks, “kallum kanaikadalum vaikundhavānāḍum pullenḍrozhindhanakol ēpāvam! vella neḍiyān niṛaṅkariyān uḷpukundhu nīṅgān aḍiyēnadhu uḷḷaththagam”.  [Oh! The Supreme Lord of dark hue has probably considered lowly the lofty stations of Thiruvenkadam, Kshirabdhi and Vaikuntam. (Because) He has taken permanent residence in my heart.]“koṇḍal vaṇṇan cuḍar muḍiyan nāṅgu thōḷan kunicārṅgan oṇsaṅgathai vālāzhiyānoruvan aḍiyenuḷḷane” [ The Lord, dark like cloud, of four hands, and bearing five divine weapons resides inside Me.]This point is well emphasized in “ivaiyumavaiyumuvaiyum” Thiruvaymozhi.
    4. The ocean is immense, making it difficult to find its shore. Therefore, it is called asīmabhūmā. The enormity of the Parankusa ocean lies in its greatness – both in character and in its auspicious attributes.  In Kanninun Siruththambu, Swami Madhurakavi Azhwar celebrates the matchless grace of Swami Nammazhwar in the “aruḷkoṇḍāḍum aḍiyavar” hymn in a way similar to how the Vedas sing the matchless bliss of the Brahman. In this manner, Azhwan sings the glory of Parankusa Payonidhi.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 24

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Proving the core thesis from Aruliccheyal

The Upanishads are composed of different statements which seem to carry different meanings. There are certain statements which seem to convey that there is no difference between the Paramatma (Supreme Soul) and Jivatma (Individual Soul).  There are other statements which convey that there is real difference between Paramatma and Jivatma.

Clearly, no philosopher of Vedanta would venture to claim that the notion of Jivatma itself is incorrect. After all, if the philosopher was asked, “Who enjoys the pleasure and pain in this world?”, the answer cannot be Paramatma. At least a stand-in Jivatma would have to be admitted. Also, even the Vedanti, who advocates the identity of Jivatma and Paramatma, agrees that the Jivatma, which endures pleasure and pain in this world, is not exactly identical to Paramatma.  The identity of Jivatma with Paramatma in these systems is only indirect and not exact.  The Jivatma is identified with Paramatma only in that it is understood that the Jivatma is a manifestation of the Paramatma through mechanisms like ‘reflection’ upon the mind, etc. .

Therefore, the terminology of Jivatma and Paramatma is recognized in every school of Vedanta. Every school of Vedanta grapples with a single problem: how to reconcile the mutually conflicting statements of the Vedanta that advocate both identity and difference?

The approach of Vedantic metaphysicians has been very different in solving this problem. The Advaita approach is to consider that the Vedantic statements that speak of difference are secondary in importance to those that teach identity. The Advaitins hold that difference is valid only as long as one is bound to ignorance and once it is removed by knowledge, there is no more difference. They quote heavily from the passages of the Upanishads where identity is taught, while brushing aside those that teach difference as belonging to a lower level of truth.

The metaphysicians of difference have adopted the opposite approach. They do not consider that the passages of the Upanishads that the Advaitin cites for identity speak of identity at all. They consider that the Jivatma and Paramatma are both spiritual entities unlike the inanimate world. They seek to teach that the Jivatma belongs to the spiritual league of the Paramatma instead of the physical league of the inanimate world. They cite extensively the passages of the Upanishads that teach difference and hold that there is real difference between the Jivatma and Paramatma. They argue that there is no basis for the claim of the Advaitin that difference is a state of ignorance

While the above advocates disagree on identity and difference, they interpret the passages in such a way that they offer direct meanings to the passages that support their vision but indirect or secondary meanings to passages that disagree with their vision.  They consider only those passages that support their view as the final version of truth. It is not clear how one arbitrates between these mutually different approaches.

Bhedabhedavadins admit both identity and difference. The extent to which they admit identity or difference depends on the particular school of Bhedabheda.  However, scholars reckon that the Bhedabhedavadins add nothing new to the problem of Vedanta than merely restating it. They do not explain how this notion of identity and difference can be sustained or what its significance is.  When they do explain, their vision of identity and difference also does not appear to be supported by the Upanishads.

Visistadvaita Vedantins have a special position with regards to the Upanishads. They do not regard either the statements that teach identity or those that teach difference as primary or secondary. They treat both sets of statements with equal importance. Then how does one resolve the apparent conflict? Visistadvaita Vedantins show that the solution to the problem does not have to be offered by external reasoning. The solution is also offered by the Upanishads themselves. This is the only argument of the Visistadvaitin. There is no need for a great genius to invent a framework in which the passages of Upanishads stand resolved. The Upanishads themselves provide that framework. As long as one recognizes this framework taught by the Upanishads, all contradictions are immediately resolved.

Visistadvaitins point out that there are not two, but three sets of passages in the Upanishads:

  1.    Bheda Srti – the scripture that teaches difference between Jivatma and Paramatma.
  2.    Abheda Srti – the scripture that teaches identity between Jivatma and Paramatma.
  3.    Ghataka Srti – the scripture that resolved the apparent conflict between the above scriptural passages.

Since the first and second sets have already been explained, let us look at the third set of passages.

The key passages, which belong to the third set, come from the Antaryami Brahmana of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the oldest recognized Upanishads, and the Subalopanishad. These Upanishad passages teach that the relationship between the Jivatma and the Paramatma is similar to that of the body and the soul. The Jivatma is a spiritual body of the Paramatma. Paramatma has for His body both the inanimate entities and the Jivatmas. This relationship conveys that the Paramatma is the Antaryami and Antaratma of all including the Jivatmas. This relationship is eternal and is the very character of Paramatma and Jivatma. They do not exist otherwise. Therefore, Jivatma and Paramatma always exist as one entity but are different in their essential nature, one being body and other being soul.  The definitions of body and soul are supplied by Swami Ramanuja to avoid over-simplified extrapolations, but these are beyond the scope of the current article.

Visistadvaitins hold that Advaita, Dvaita and Visistadvaita are all simultaneously and eternally true. The Paramatma and Jivatma are always one in entity, and all references to the Jivatma always end with the Paramatma. The very nature, existence and activity of Jivatma are forever based in the Paramatma.  Paramatma without Jivatma or Jivatma without Paramatma does not exist. It is only in this light that identity is true. In the essential character, Jivatma and Paramatma are different. The Paramatma never suffers from samsara and is beyond it. Paramatma is full of auspicious attributes, untouched by blemish, the creator, protector and destroyer of all, the support and pervader of all, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. The Jivatma is bound by samsara, suffers the storms of pleasure and pain, is bound to Karma and cannot self-rescue oneself from this trouble. The Jivatma is utterly dependant on the Paramatma to whom the former is subservient and devoted by nature.  Loss of realization of this true nature leads to suffering. In this light, the Paramatma and Jivatma are very different. The simultaneous sustainability of difference and identity is possible in different lights because of the sarira-sariri (body-soul) relationship between Jivatma and Paramatma, which is advocated by the Ghataka Srti passages in the Upanishads. In this manner, the challenge of Bhedabheda posed by the Upanishads is resolved without confusion in Visistadvaita. Visistadvaita is not a novel perspective of the Upanishads; it is the honest approach to respect all sections of Upanishads and use its own passages to resolve the apparent conflict. This is fully consistent with the opinions of sages like Sri Veda Vyasa, Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guha Deva, etc. and is in tune with the opinions of the Ithihasas and Puranas. Thus, Visistadvaita preserves the glorious Vedantic tradition of this land in beautiful harmony. Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Prapatti find significant value and application in the Visistadvaita framework. Visistadvaitins do not consider that those who practice one teaching of Vedanta are in ignorance and those that follow another are enlightened. They reconcile all the texts of the Vedanta using its own traditional methods.

How is it that Visistadvaitins recognized the Ghataka Srti which the others missed?

The answer is that Visistadvaitins were guided by the words of Azhwars. The first two decads of Azhwar’s Thiruvaymozhi provides the essence of the Brahma Sutras, and thus the Upanishads.

In this section, Azhvar explains the import of the Ghataka Srti by the passage,

‘uḍalmisai uyirena karandheṅgum parandhuḷan’ (1-1-7)

that clearly brings out the sarira-sariri relationship. It is this passage that provides the clear direction to Visistadvaitins in studying the Upanishads. It is not an exaggeration to say that the preceptors of Visistadvaita like Swami Ramanuja saw the truth of the Upanishads shine with splendor when seen in the light of the hymns of Azhwars.

It is not only here, but also in resolving another key challenge of the Upanishads that Visistadvaitins take cue from Azhwars.

Some passages in the Upanishads say that the Brahman is Nirguna or devoid of attributes; other passages attribute auspicious and wonderful attributes to the Brahman, which is Saguna. Different commentators have offered various solutions to this problem. These will not be explained here, but it suffices to say that these have no basis in the Upanishads, but depend on additional reasoning. The Visistadvaitin solution is to see that Nirguna and Saguna are two sides of the same Brahman. The Brahman is free from the modes (gunas) of nature and from blemish; in this sense, it is Nirguna. The Brahman is full of infinitely auspicious and uncountable auspicious attributes; in this sense it is Saguna.

This solution is offered by Azhwar right at the beginning of Thiruvaymozhi –

‘uyarvara uyarnalam uḍaiyavan evanvan’

The Supreme Personality is the repository of lofty and uncountable auspicious attributes.

In fact, this is the very definition of the word ‘Brahman’. The word comes from the root ‘brh’ which denotes greatness. The greatness of the Brahman is known by its innumerable auspicious attributes declared in the scriptures

Swami Ramanuja explains “Brahman” in the same way following the words of Azhwar:

Uyarvu ara – anavadhikātiśaya

Uyar – asaṅkhyeya

Nalam uḍaiyavan – kalyāṇaguṇagaṇa

Yavanavan – puruṣottamaḥ

They are indeed fortunate who can seen the tune of Azhwars echoing through the words of Swami Ramanuja.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 23

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Learning deeply in Swami Ramanuja’s works

It is clear that in order to understand the works of Swami Ramanuja, one has to learn his letters at a very deep level. A superficial reading has been found to be insufficient in revealing the real import of his words. This difference is significant when we compare the situation with the works of Swami Alavandar, Swami Azhvan, Swami Bhattar and Swami Desikan.  This difference is a matter of style and intent.

A student of Swami Ramanuja might choose to completely ignore the depth of meaning set in his words and seek contentment in the superficial flavour of the words.  Then the student would lose sight of the overall picture conveyed by Swami’s words. One has to pay careful attention and understand the deep context of Azhwar’s words set in the background of Swami’s statements to get the complete picture.

In this episode, we look at an instance of Swami’s writings, not in the context of understanding the voice of Azhvar echoing through those words, but with the view of understanding the need for learning deeply. This shows that Swami leaves a lot to be understood not only in reference to the Azhwars but also in reference to other topics.

Consider the hymn in praise of Swami Alavandar at the opening of Gita Bhashyam:

yatpadāmboruha-dhyānavidhvastāśeṣa-kalmaṣaḥ |

vastutām-upayāto~haṃ yamuneyaṃ namāmi tam ||

It is well known that Swami is pañcācārya-padāśrita, one who has five preceptors. The cause for this is that Swami did not obtain the opportunity to learn directly under the lotus feet of Swami Alavandar. Therefore, he had to resort to the arrangement made by Swami Yamunacharya to learn the principles of Sri Vaishnavism from his five disciples. Though the education of Swami Ramanuja was similar to Lord Krishna learning under Sandipani Rishi, the mode of education took place indirectly through the five disciples of Swami Yamanucharya since Swami Yamunucharya had cast aside his earthly form before Swami Ramanuja, Swami Ramanuja could reach Sri Rangam with the interest of becoming his disciple.

Therefore, it is strange that Swami Ramanuja sings the praise of Swami Alavandar at the outset of Gita Bhashyam but does not pay similar respects to the five acharyas from whom he learned the tenets of Visistadvaita Srivaishnava tradition. Likewise one might question why Swami Ramanuja has not paid his respects to the entire Guru Parampara but has limited himself to sing the praise of one acharya. In the works of Swami Azhvan, Swami Bhattar and Swami Desikan, we find explicit references to the Guru Parampara and to previous acharyas in clear detail.

The answer to these questions is that though Swami Ramanuja has not explicitly mentioned the intermediate acharyas and the Guru Parampara, a reference to them is verily present in the hymn.

  1. The word yatpadāmboruha” is made up of fourteen particles. “y”, “a”, “t”, “p”, “a”, “d”, “ā”, “m”, “b”, “o”, “r”, “u”, “h” and “a”.  The word means foot. It also means part. Since the word itself is composed of fourteen parts, it can be construed as seven pairs of feet. The seven pairs of feet meditated upon by Swami Ramanuja belong to his immediate five precetors, Swami Yamunacharya and Swami Nammazhwar (since in mātā pitā hymn, Swami Yamunacharya bears the lotus feet of Swami Nammazhvar).  In this way, acharyas from Swami Nammazhvar to the five preceptors are worshipped by Swami Ramanuja.
  2. The same import can be gained in another fashion. If in the previous case, the import was understood from the direct meaning of the word and its constitution, in this case, the import can be realized by carefully understanding the word. The word ‘yatpadāmboruhe’ is resolved as ṣaṣtī-tatpuruṣa-samāsa  as ‘yasya padāmboruhe’.   The literal meaning is “whose lotus feet”.  This can be interpreted in three ways:
    1. The lotus feet of Swami Alavandar are his own lotus feet worshipped through his form.
    2. The lotus feet of Swami Alavandar are the lotus feet worshipped by him, namely the lotus feet of the Lord, Swami Nammazhvar and Swami Nathamunigal.
    3. The lotus feet of Swami Alavandar are his disciples. It is customary to refer to disciples of a preceptor has his feet. Therefore, in this case, it refers to the five disciples of Swami Alavandar.
  3. Also interesting to note is the fact that the word chosen by Swami Ramanuja starts with the letter “p” in padāmboruha. This provides the indication that among the five disciples of Swami Alavandar, the one whose name starts with a “p” is the foremost. From the accounts on Swami Ramanuja, we gather that it was Swami Periya Nambi who performed the five samsakaras to Swami Ramanuja and graced him the Dvaya Mantra and its import. He occupies a primary position among the five disciples. He is saluted in the Guru Parampara as Sri Parankusa Dasa – another name that starts with the letter “p”. If the hymn is understood to refer to all acharyas starting with Swami Nammazhvar, again the letter “p” is convenient because the name Parankusa is originally the epithet of Swami Nammazhvar.

In this manner, Swami Ramanuja offers his obeisance to the entire Guru Parampara up to his five acharyas. That is why, Thiruvarangaththu Amudhanar, a contemporary and disciple of Swami Azhvan, celebrates Swami Ramanuja in reference to his association with the knowledge systems of Azhwars and other preceding Acharyas.

This is a mark of true genius. A normal person would ordinarily convey a simple meaning which is allowed by his intellect. However, an unparallelled genius that Swami Ramanuja is, provides meaning hidden at several levels to constantly delight his devotees who unravel these secrets as they immerse themselves in the experience and reflection of his mighty words. The words of the master have grown old but their impact on the devotees stays forever new and enlivening.

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 22

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Azhvar shines through Sribhashya

The maṅgaḷaśloka of Sribhashya is not only a psalm unto Lord Srinivasa in the spirit of the hymns of Azhwars but also unto Swami Nammazhvar himself.

The same hymn read differently devotes itself to Swami Nammazhvar instead of the Lord. We will see how in this episode.


akhila-bhuvana-janma-sthema-bhangādiḥ is the Lord. He is the cause of the creation, sustenance and destruction of all universe. tena saha līlā yasya – he, who engages in sport which this Lord, is Azhwar. Therefore, akhila-bhuvana-janma-sthema-bhangādi-līlaḥ is an epithet of Azhwar. Azhwar engages in sport with the primary cause of all universe.

A sport with the Supreme is highlighted by Azhwar himself in the hymns

“ennuḍaiya pandhuṅkazhalum thanthu pogunambī”


“viḷaiyāḍapodhuminennap pōndhamai”.

The choice of words also lends another interpretation:

bhuvana-janma-sthema-bhangādi-līlaḥ akhilam yasya.  


is the Supreme cause of the universe – the Lord. To whom such a Lord is all, is Azhwar.  He says it himself

“uṇnuñchoru parugunīr thinnum veṭṛilaiyum ellām kaṇṇan”.

For us, there are things for survival, things for growth and things for pleasure. To Azhwar, all of this is only Krishna.


Surely, the savior of all is the Lord. However, from the perspective of the devotee, it is not the Lord in His entirety that is desired. As to an infant, the mother is loved, but it is her breasts that are most desirable as they provide the milk for his/her sustenance, to a devotee, it is the lotus feet of the Lord that are most desirable – being the locus of surrender and service.

It is the station of lotus feet of the Lord that is called Satari or Satakopa in temples – named after Azhwar himself. Therefore, Azhwar is non-different from the lotus feet of the Lord.  Since devotees surrender to the lotus feet seeking protection, the epithet qualifies Azhwar.


śṛti-śiras is Vedanta. śṛti-śirasi-vidīptaḥ is one who is well enlightened in the purport of the Vedanta. Azhwar is always conscious of the Lord who is the purport of the Vedanta. Hence, this epithet qualifies him well.

The Veda itself speaks of Azhwar as “tadviprāso vipanyavo jāgṛvāṃsas-samindhate”. The word vipra suits Azhwar in the sense of “na śūdrā bhagavadbhaktā viprā bhāgavatāsmṛtāḥ”  A devotee of the Lord is not a deluded and sorrowful being (sudra); he is wise (vipra) since he realizes himself as a mode of Bhagavan. Going by “paṇa stutau”, vipanyavaḥ refers to the quality of Azhwar singing praises to the Lord. In the league of those capable of singing the auspicious attributes of the Lord, Azhwar stands alone without a second – “thēviṛchiṛandha thirumāṛkuth-thakka theiyvak-kavigṅan”.  jāgṛvāṃsaḥ refers to the quality of being ever awake. Azhwar is ever conscious of the Lord, seeing nothing but the Lord, experiencing nothing but the Lord. He never sleeps into the slumber of ignorance in whose darkness other souls forever seek goodness without success. To Azhwar, the various charms of the damsel of delusion turn incapable of producing delusion since the Supreme Lord shines forth through every aspect of the universe as the lone substance, being, support and truth.  Being intoxicated in the pleasures of the world is slumber; the enduring wake born out of enchantment with the divine is awareness.

“kaṇṇārakkaṇḍu kazhivadhōr kādhaluṭṛarkkum uṇḍō kaṇkaḷ thuñjudhalē!”

The connection between the Vedic verse and the hymn of Sribhashya lies in the word “samindhate”. This “shining well” is captured in vidīptaḥ. The prefix (upasarga) ‘vi’ in the Sribhashya verse performs the job of the prefix ‘sam’ in the Vedic verse.


The word “brahman” comes from the root “bṛh” meaning greatness in all respects. The greatness of Azhwar lies in the fact that even the Supreme Brahman lies in his grasp. Therefore, he exceeds the Lord Himself and becomes the worthy recipient of the title Brahman.  In his Periya Thiruvandhadhi, Azhwar remarks “yān periyan, nī periyai enpadanai yār aṛivār”. Here, Brahman is synonymous to periyan.


One might say, ‘So far this is good, but now you certainly cannot say that Azhwar is Srinivasa. Śriyaḥpatitvam is an exclusive qualifier of the Lord applicable to no other. Your exercise must now cease.”

Śriyaḥpatitvam is indeed His exclusive qualifier but there is no need for worry.  Not only is Azhwar Srinivasa, but there have been several such Srinivasa-s recognized in our tradition.

Who are they?

lakṣmaṇo lakṣmī-saṃpannaḥ – Lakshmana is endowed with Lakshmi.

sa tu nāgavaraḥ śrīmān – Gajendra, the best of elephants, is endowed with Sri antarikṣagataḥ śrīmān – Vibhishana, endowed with Sri, took the aerial route

In each case, the word “Lakshmi” or “Sri” has a different meaning. In the case of Lakshmana, it denotes his wealth that takes the form of serving the Lord. In the case of Gajendra, it shows his wealth of purity that impelled him to call the Lord only to offer a lotus, even while in pain. In the case of Vibhishana, it shows his wealth of knowledge that led him to surrender to the Lord with the greatest faith. These are the real and enduring forms of wealth (nīṅgādha selvam) recognized in Srivaishnavism

In the case of Azhwar, commentators find similarity of Azhwar not only with almost every known śrīmān, but with the Divine Goddess Sri Herself!

Azhwar is Srinivasa either because he possesses every one of the enduring spiritual treasures that were possessed by the aforementioned devotees, or because he possesses the qualities of Sri Herself.

Vedhavalli Thayar and Parankusa Nayaki


This discussion firmly establishes that by clever use of language, Swami Ramanuja experiences Azhwar in the garb of experiencing the Lord. That is why Amudhanar, seeing  learing through the hymn, sets “māran-aḍi-paṇindhu uyndhavan” as the foremost of Swami Ramanuja’s epithets.The influence of Azhwar continues through Sribhashya to its very end. Literally, to its very end.

To the end of the Brahma Sutras is the aphorism: “anāvṛttiś-śabdāt | anāvṛttiś-śabdāt |”

The import of anāvṛttiḥ is that the soul does not return to the ephemeral universe after liberation.

The reason for non-return is śabdāt – since the scripture has said so. The scripture says “na ca punarāvartate| na ca punarāvartate|” The liberated does not return, does not return.

This is might be convincing to a person of dry dogmatism but not to Swami Ramanuja who is not only an enlightened Vedanti, not only an emotionally refined theologian but also a rational philosopher.  Unlike other commentators, he sees an important question – why is the scripture binding upon the Supreme? Whatever be the notions of Brahman and Jiva, in various philosophies of Vedanta, the big question is to answer why liberation is enduring. To an Advaitin, the problem takes the shape of explaining how the Brahman, which is already tainted by avidya, remains immune to it after liberation. If the Brahman were already immune to non-knowledge, it would have never become “the many”. There is no way to gain fresh immunity, there being nothing else than the Brahman in the absolute domain. If the “non-return” is the make of language of the relational domain, then it diminishes both the Brahma Sutra and the Vedanta. The Brahma Sutra thought it fit that this be the concluding aphorism indicating that the doubt of the soul’s return to the ephemeral world is valid, but the doubt is removed by the proclamation of the scripture. The author of the aphorism hardly seems to be in the domain of the Advaitin’s unqualified absolute which disallows the doubt itself.  To the Dvaitin too, who conceives a completely independent Brahman, the question is pertinent since a completely independent Brahman cannot be bound by a line in the Veda, and He might be fully capable of returning the soul and free to do so.

To a Visistadvaitin, the question is neither disallowed nor difficult to answer because the soul is always a mode of a Brahman whether the soul realizes it or not. There is so much identity in the soul to entertain the question of “returning”, as entertained by the author of Brahma Sutras, but not so separate an identity as to struggle with the “non-return” in the wake of a super-independent Brahman. Since the soul is always a mode of the Brahman, to return is to regard again the universe in the darkness of ignorance, to be deceived by the three qualities of Prakrti. Non-return is to remain away from this deception forever.

Still, in Visistadvaita, the Brahman is the only independent entity and His independence is still capable of binding the soul. Lord Krishna calls it “My Maya” to show that the play of Prakrti is under His will. What prevents the Lord from binding the enlightened soul again with His Maya?

In answering this question, Swami Ramanuja does not conclude by merely appealing to scripture but goes beyond. He performs a meta-analysis of why the scripture should say so, and in his own characteristic style, synthesizes metaphysics, theology and practical sense. The Vedanta, the Legends and the mystic experience speak to the student in one voice.

The bind between the Brahman and the soul is not only one of mode and substance perceived in the light of metaphysics but also that of the beloved and lover in light of real experience. The innateness of the Lord in the soul is not perceived only theoretically in the passive web of connections but in the active engagement of two conscious entities. It is a divine embrace of the super conscious being and the individual conscient soul. It is an embrace of love. The Lord is not a passive support of existence indifferent to the soul. He is an incurable lover, who seeks the soul by appearing in numerous forms, never giving up.  As He proclaims in the Gita, the enlightened soul is dearest to Him. He speaks of how difficult it is for Him to find an enlightened soul. These are not words of a passive and indifferent person. They are the words of love. He says “sa ca mama priyaḥ” – “He is My love”, not without intent.

Above all, Swami Ramanuja finds inspiration in the hymns of Azhvar. Nowhere is this game of love played better than in the experience of Azhwar.

Taking in the weight of Azhwar’s experience, Swami Ramanuja writes,

“na ca paramapuruṣaḥ satyasaṅkalpaḥ atyarthapriyaṃ jñāninaṃ labdhvā kadācid-āvartayiṣyati”.

The Supreme Lord, whose will is unfailing, will never return an enlightened soul, having obtained him/her after great delay, as he/she is very lovable to Him. It is like asking Krishna to return butter!

Azhwar speaks of the Lord’s love to gain and experience the soul “ennil munnam pāriththuth thānennai muṭṛap paruginān” – Taking the first step in the engagement of love, He experienced me to the fullest. The meaning of the hymn cannot be explained but only experienced in the parlance of love. Such an incorrigible lover would never return His beloved.

Swami Ramanuja also finishes Sri Bhashya in a flourish. He cites the hymn of Gita “vāsudevassarvam-iti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ” invoking the lament of love spoken by Lord Krishna who seeks the elusive enlightened soul. No sooner had the Lord left through the northern door than Swami Nammazhvar entered through the southern entrance to say “uṇnuñchoru parugunīr thinnum veṭṛilaiyum ellām kaṇṇan” – Krishna is my all. The words of love that were shed from the lotus lips of Krishna took form of Azhwar. Keeping this in mind, Swami Ramanuja closes his commentary with these words of Krishna.

How indispensable is the awareness of Azhvar and his hymns to the appreciation of Sribhashya!

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 21

SrI: SrImathE SatakOpAya nama: SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama: SrImadh varavaramunayE nama:

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Continuing from the last episode, we look at other sections of the maṅgalaśloka of Sribhashya being inspired by the words of Azhwars.


What is the literal meaning of this compound word?

vinata – submitted

vividha – different

bhūta – beings/souls

vrāta – groups

rakṣaikadīkṣa – who has their protection as His sole vow

It is an epithet for the Lord and translates as the One who has the protection of different classes of souls as His sole vow.

However, this is not the meaning intended by Swami Ramanuja. Both Swami Srutaprakasika Bhattar and Swami Vedanta Desika favour a different meaning for this word.

To understand the different meaning, let us investigate meanings of words in Sanskrit. The word “vrāta” is synonymous to “samūha” and “pariṣat”. It stands for group or community or class. Consider the word “brāhmaṇa-samūha”. Clearly the word refers to an aggregate or assembly of Brahmanas. The compound word is resolved by “ṣaṣṭhī-tatpuruṣa-samāsa”. Consider another word “rāja-pariṣat”. Though “samūha” and “pariṣat” are synonymous, the meaning of this compound word is radically different. It does not denote an assembly of kings. It denotes the royal court presided by the king and attended by ministers and subjects. Though this word is also resolved by “ṣaṣṭhī-tatpuruṣa-samāsa”, the spirit of the meaning favoured by the word is different from that favoured by “brāhmaṇa-samūha”.

This analysis shows that words such as the above need not denote only assembly or groups of similar things but also entities connected with something – such as minister & subjects connected with a king.

From this analysis, vrāta does not denote group of devotees, but devotees and those connected to them (sambandhis). The prefix “vividha” or different makes this clear. Those connected to devotees may be of different nature, stature and kind. Regardless of these differences, the Lord protects them honouring their connection with His devotees.

This meaning is supported by the pramāna:

paśur-manuṣyaḥ pakṣī vā ye ca vaiṣṇavasaṃśrayāḥ |

tenaiva te prayāsyanti tadviṣṇoḥ paramaṃ padam ||

An animal, a human or a bird, that has taken refuge in a Vaishnava, attains the Supreme Abode of Vishnu due to that very connection.

The hymn is interesting because it places the word “human” between animal and bird, instead of placing it either at the beginning or the end. This is to show that the individual qualifications of the human are not important. Only the sambandham is important. Also, when the Lord rescues such a soul, He rescues them not seeing them as “this is human and his knowledge is such”, “this is an animal and its merits are such”, etc. Instead He rescues them purely on account of the sambandha itself. This is shown by the use of the word “eva” showing that nothing else is considered.

This meaning is important because it showcases a beautiful trait of the Lord which is His rescuing love extending beyond His immediate devotees to even those who have sambandham with His devotees.

When this meaning is not taken, the words vividha and vrāta do not offer any useful meaning. Either one should have been sufficient to indicate plurality. Therefore our acharyas do not favour the superficially apparent meaning and seek the true intention of Swami Ramanuja.

This meaning is intended by Swami Ramanuja because it is favoured by Azhwars.

“piḍiththār piḍiththār vīṭrirundhu periyavānuḷ nilāvuvarē”

(Thiruvaymozhi 6-10-11) and

“emar kīzmēlezupiṛappum viḍiyā vennaragaththu enḍrum sērdhal māṛinarē”

(Thiruvaymozhi 2-6-7) are places where Azhvars have conveyed the same meaning.


In all of the Brahma Sutras, nowhere is the Lakshmi sambandham of the Lord mentioned. Yet, in his opening verse which would be seen as the author’s summary of Brahma Sutra’s message, Swami Ramanuja reckons the Lord as Srinivasa. This is due to the injunction of Azhwars that the Highest Lord must be identified as the Lord of Sri and that those without Sri must not be resorted to.  

“thiruvillāth thevaraith thēṛēlmin thēvu”

is a popular maxim from the cannon of Azhwars.

bhaktirūpā śemuṣī bhavatu

This is a very strange request for the uninitiated. It is understandable for one to say “May I be enlightened in the matters of Srinivasa” or “May I be devoted to Srinivasa”. However, Swami Ramanuja uses a complicated “May my awareness of Srinivasa take the form of devotion”.

In one stroke, Swami Ramanuja follows the method of Azhwars and also puts forth a crucial concept about Visistadvaita.

In the spiritual world around us, there are two divided camps. One group of schools are said to follow Jnana Marga or the way of knowledge, and another group of schools are said to follow Bhakti Marga or the way of devotion. Historically, the tensions between these two ways are well documented. The Visistadvaita Vedanta of Swami Ramanuja is often incorrectly classified Bhakti Marga. There are problems with such classification because Bhakti Marga has come to mean “devotion as opposed to dryness and fallibility of knowledge” whereas Jnana Marga has come to mean “knowledge based on reason as opposed to the sentimentalism and emotions of devotion”. Even the moderate schools view either Jnana Marga as a stepping stone to Bhakti Marga or vice versa to assert the superiority of one’s Marga.

The Visistadvaita system does not view Jnana Marga and Bhakti Marga as opposing cults – not even as stepping stones to one another – but the exact same thing. Jnana in the matters of spirituality is essentially of the form of Bhakti and does not exist in any other way. Likewise, Bhakti is made of Jnana itself and nothing else. Therefore, Jnana is neither “dry” and “theoretical” clothed in mysterious language nor is Bhakti a mere outcome of sentiment and emotion. The knowledge of the Supreme Brahman who is the Lord of Sri, who is repose of all auspicious attributes and devoid of all blemish, who is the Master of all sentient and non-sentient elements that are His modal expressions and inseparable to Him in an organic whole, by whose will the universe is formed, sustained and destroyed, for whose sake it exists in its entirely including all sentient and non-sentient forms, who is the sovereign Lord, whose essence is full of bliss and awareness, whose nature is auspicious, whose divine form is resplendent and beautiful, charming to the eye and trapping the mind, whose actions enthrall and enlighten at once, who is the means to Himself and is the Supreme end, this knowledge leads immediately to spontaneous love or devotion and incessant remembrance. This knowledge when truly realized can exist in no other form than that of devotional love towards the Brahman. Therefore in Swami Ramanuja’s system Jnana and Bhakti are not orthogonal, not different, not exclusive, not incomplete, but two sides of the same thing.

It is more from the adherents of Jnana Marga that we hear the greater voices of condescension that Jnana is for the intelligent and Bhakti is for the crude. (This might be because love softens the heart while the illusion of knowledge creates pride.) We can safely assert that such words serve only to boost their own specialty and have no basis in scriptures.

These words of Swami Ramanuja directly translate the word of Azhwar – mathinalam.  “mati” is synonymous with “śemuṣī” according to Amarakosa. Nalam is Bhakti. Azhwar says that the Lord graced him knowledge which took the shape of Bhakti or Bhakti which is made of knowledge of the Lord. In this manner, Swami Ramanuja closely follow the example set by Azhwar.  While Swami Ramanuja is the torch bearer of enlightenment to the world, it is no doubt that Azhwar is the torch bearer of enlightenment to the master himself.



adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Sribhashya Mangalasloka Anubhavam – Part 1

Svami Ramanuja commences Sribhashyam with the wonderful mangalasloka:



śṛti-śirasi-vidīpte brahmaṇi śrīnivāse

bhavatu mama parasmin śemuṣī bhaktirūpā

The hymn delivered by the great preceptor Swami Ramanuja is an evergreen elixir for all devotees.  The hymn cultivates devotion in the hearts of devotees – the very hymn being a petition to the Lord to nurture enlightenment that takes the form of devotion.  The hymn is inspired by the works of Azhwars and also praises Azhwars.

In this article, we shall investigate the first of the two claims.

Clearly, the words


that speak of the Lord performing as sport the actions of creation, sustenance and destruction of all worlds are inspired by the second of Brahma Sutras –

janmādyasya yataḥ

which in turn is inspired by the words of Upanishad

yato vā imāni bhūtāni jāyante

In these words, the word sthema implies protection and sustenance of the worlds. This includes the Lord’s rakṣaṇam which is His tendency to save the world.  Given that rakṣaṇam is mentioned already, Swami speaks of the same character once again in


the primary resolve of Lord Srinivasa is to protect all His devotees.

Why does the Lord’s rakṣaṇam find repetitive mention given that it was already mentioned in the first quarter of the hymn through sthema?

Our Acharyas always author their words on the basis of scriptural evidence pramāṇam. When we seek such evidence that serves as the background of the words of Swami Ramanuja, we can discover none in all the scriptures – except in the words of Azhwars. The words of Azhwars serve as the pramāṇam for the words of Swami Ramanuja.

Azhwar experiences the auspicious attributes of the Lord in Thiruvaymozhi (1-3-2)


hymn.  Azhwar refers to His limitless and pristine auspicious attributes through

oḷivarumuzunalam mudalila kēḍila”.

Then again, he experiences the mokṣapradatvam or His unique and constant potency to grant liberation through

“vīdānthelitharu nilaimai adhu ozivilan”.

To the question if the liberating potency is not part of the aforementioned auspicious attributes, our preceptors reply that though it is indeed part of His auspcious attributes, it is very special and pertinent to the souls. Therefore, it is experienced separately again.

Azhwar also enjoys mokṣapradatvam separately in the aṇaivadharavaṇaimēl Thiruvaymozhi in the second decad. Swami Desikan also confirms in Dramidopanishat Tatparya Ratnavali that mokṣapradatvam is the prime focus of this Thiruvaymozhi. Therefore, we conclude that mokṣapradatvam is an auspicious attribute of the Lord worthy of experience separately on its own. From this observation, we understand that


does not talk about rakṣaṇam in general but about rakṣaṇam that takes the form of mokṣapradatvam in particular.

Since preceptors before Swami Vadikesari Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar did not practise the custom of citing the works of Azhwars in their Sanskrit works, we do not find the hymns of Azhwar cited directly by SrtaPrakasika Bhattar to explain these words in Sribhashyam. Instead, Bhattar quotes Svami Alavandar’s


which in turn depends on Azhwar’s hymns for its basis.

[ To be continued ]

adiyen ranganatha ramanuja dasan

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Dramidopanishat Prabhava Sarvasvam 19

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Aruliccheyal in Worship


While several points can be made with citations from the works of Azhwars and Acharyas to present the case of their deep devotion to Aruliccheyal, nothing would be more appealing to the scholar and the layman alike as the ongoing practice of chanting the hymns of Azhwars in temples, and the practice of leading the Lord’s procession with chant of hymns.

அருளிச்செயல்களில் ஆழ்வார்களுக்கும் ஆசார்யர்களுக்கும் உள்ள ஈடுபாட்டைக் காட்ட எத்தனையோ சொல்லலாமாயினும். பண்டிதரோடு பாமரரோடு வாசியற சந்நிதிகளில் அவற்றை சேவித்தபடி எம்பெருமான் புறப்பாட்டுக்கு முன்கோஷ்டியாகப் போகும் சுவையை நன்கு அறிந்தேயிருப்பர்

It is a sight to behold when those versed in Aruliccheyal stream out in front of the Lord sanctifying the ambience with sounds of devotion.

The custom has been installed and revived periodically by our Acharyas out of the understanding that the hymns of Azhwars are dearest to the Lord.  No occasion of His passes without the chanting of hymns. Owing to this exalted nature of this custom, upholding Aruliccheyal Kainkaryam forms one of the key indulgences of Srivaishnavas.

The position of Azhwars and Aruliccheyal, and their suitability to temple worship has been progressively cultivated by our Acharyas. Swami Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar establishes these principles in Acharya Hrdayam. Accounts of Swami Vedanta Desika also suggest that the acharya defended the practice of chanting hymns in temples and processions. The number of explanations offered by our acharyas to the hymns of Azhwars reveals their deep reflection of the hymns and their import. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the system of Srivaishnavism-Visistadvaita is merely the fragrance of Aruliccheyal emanating from the Acharyas who breathed and lived its message.

Thiruvarangaththu Amudhanar

Even for an acharya like Swami Ramanuja, whose works are primarily in Sanskrit and oriented towards the exposition of Sanskrit Vedanta, we discover connection to Aruliccheyal through his explanations and anecdotes from his life mentioned in Divya Prabandha Vyakhyanams and Guru Parampara Prabhavams. Thiruvarangaththu Amudhanar, a contemporary and disciple of Swami Ramanuja (and Svami Koorathazhvan), finds that the first thing to praise about his master is his scholarship and experience of the hymns of Azhwars and the relationship he bears to these divine saints.

It is therefore beyond question that Srivaishnavas, who live in accordance with the teaching of Acharyas, must recite the hymns of Aruliccheyal while performing service to the Lord. Beyond the chants, an appreciation of their import reforms their lives and leads them to live in accordance with svarupa (true form of the soul).

ஆகவே, ஆசார்யர்களின் நியமனப்படி வாழும் ஸ்ரீவைஷ்ணவர்கள் பகவத் கைங்கர்யமாக

However, every field has its nay sayers. Everywhere, we find a group of men spreading half-truths and conspiracy theories. When the tenets of a system are put forward, some would claim that these tenets do not have the support of the scripture. In truth, the person making this statement would himself be ignorant of the nuances of scriptural analysis. But, as long as he pulls forth a charm in his disposition, the less learned and simple minded people would be confused. Some of them might even take faith in his claims.

One variety of individuals would claim that the Lord in His image form as Archavatara has no scriptural basis without analyzing the Vedas and Agamas carefully. They would assume that the ability to chant a section of the Vedas is sufficient qualification to comment on every Vedic practice. This is not the method followed of any of the Acharyas of our tradition. Writing things off without careful consideration of why Acharyas chose to act or speak in specific ways is recipe to disaster.

There is reason to this digression.

Aruliccheyal is not spared of its nay-sayers despite the monumental evidence that establishes the divine inclination of our Acharyas. The nay-sayers would claim that despite the ongoing custom of reciting Aruliccheyal in temples and despite the historic evidence in the form of records, there is no direct commandment of Swami Ramanuja in any of his nine works instructing his disciples to chant Aruliccheyal.

This is a blind accusation. None of the nine works of Swami Ramanuja direct address his disciples. (Such instructions have been noted by his disciples and their notes are available to this date.) The only work where we might expect to find some instruction is the Nithya Grantham – which is supposed to be the last work of Svami Ramanuja. In this work, Swami Ramanuja explains the procedure of worship.

So, if Swami Ramanuja was really inclined towards Aruliccheyal, he must have included the recitation of Aruliccheyal in the worship-procedure, should he not?

and indeed he does.

Aruliccheyal is known by the name “sevikkiniya señchol”. Swami Nammazhvar says in Thiruvaymozhi (10.6.11),

“ketpārār vānavargaḷ sevikkiniya señcholle”.

The meaning is that Aruliccheyal is sweet to the ears of listeners. It is no doubt sweet to the ears of Srivaishnavas. It is sweet to the ear of the Lord too.

Swami Ramanuja, whose thoughts are fully drenched by Thiruvaymozhi, uses the same epithet in Nithya Grantham. He calls Aruliccheyal as

“śṛtisukhaiḥ stotraiḥ abhiṣtūya”.

Aruliccheyal is a form of praise. So, it is “stotra”. It is not some random stotra, it is śṛtisukha stotra – the praise that is pleasing to the ear – sevikkiniya señchol.

Swami Ramanuja does not call Aruliccheyal as “Azhvar’s hymns”.  He calls them by the name given by Azhwar himself – śṛtisukha stotra or sevikkiniya señchol – revealing both his own mastery of the hymns as well as his advocacy of them.

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