Visishta-advaita-vada

Followed by Sri Sampradaya : One of the 4 authenticated sampradayas

Introduction

The primary point to understand in vaishnava philosophy is that Vedas are the true and complete sources of un-contaminated knowledge, as they are coming from the Supreme Lord directly( apaurusheya). The philosophical parts of vedas are famously known as Upanishas and are the basis of knowing ultimate purpose of one’s existance. Sri Badarayana (vyasa deva) has compiled a set of rules called Brahma Sutras or Vedanta Sutras. They are the final conclusion of vedas. Apart from these, Srimad Bhagavad gita is the conversation of Supreme Brahman, Sri Krishna, and living entity Arjuna. These three sources upanishads, Vedanta sutras and Srimad Bhagavad gita collectively called as Prasthana trayee. Any speculation or imagination is not accepted as the conclusive siddhanta, but only the philosophy that is in complete consensus with prasthana trayee.

There are many interpretations given to vedanta sutras before and after Sri Ramanuja Acharya, but yet his philosophy of Sri Visishtadvaitha stands in the front to be accepted as the authoritative purport of vedas, as it flawless and is in complete consent with all the injunctions of vedas. Sri Ramanuja has firmly established Sri Visishta-advaitha as the siddhanta of vedas in his Sri Bhashya, commentary on Vedanta Sutras. Sri Ramanuja has established that Devotion unto the Supreme Lord is the only means to realise Brahman in full, as against advaitins who see it as one of the means. Devotion unto the Supreme Lord, Sriman Narayana, is not a sentimental belief, but rather the conclusion of vedas as proved by Sri Ramanuja. Ramanuja gives authoritative answer from scriptures to those who believe bhakti-yoga is less-intelligent compared to gnana yoga, infact he proves that bhakti-yogis have perfected gnana yoga already and are only true practioners of the conclusions of vedanta. Seekers of logic and truth are welcome to read his Sri bhashya and other works in scriptures section.

However, it is important to note that Sri Visishta-advaitha is not newly invented by Sri Ramanuja Acharya but it is coming eternally from Sriman Narayana Himself in an unbroken disciplic succession.

He clearly states in Vedartha Sangraha that he follows only the siddhanta held by Sages from distant past. Some important rishis whose writings were utilized/quoted by Bhagavad Ramanuja are :

a. Sage Bodhayana : In tattvateeka, Swami Desikan identifies him to be same as Sage Upavarsha. He wrote an extensive vrutti ie. gloss on Brahma Sutras.

b. Sage Tanka (alias Brahmanandin, vakyakara) : Wrote “vakyas” – very short notes on Chandogya Upanishad.

c. Sage Dramida : Followed Sage Tanka’s vakyas and commented upon Chandogya Upanishad, called as “dramidabhashya”.

d. Sages Guhadeva, Kapardin and Bharuchi.

The complete philosophy of Sri Visishtadvaitha is sung as songs by the alwar saints of this great Vaishnava sampradaya lineage. The divine songs of alwars are famously called Divya Prabhandam or Tamil Veda (as they are sung in tamil language). It is very important to understand that philosophy should not be accepted if the source of philosophy is not coming from the Supreme Lord Himself, in an unbroken chain of acharyas.
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The Lord of Kaancheepuram Shree Varadaraja Swamy cleared the doubts of Shree Ramaanuja through Tiru Kachi Nambi who was at his service and with whom the Lord used to talk.
The Lord told six statements in a precise manner to explain our  Visistaadvaita Shree Vaishnava matam (philosophy and practice).
These statements with brief explanation are as follows:

Ahameva Param Tatvam

Darsanam Bhedam Eva Cha

Upayeshu Prapatisyaat

Antima Smruthi Varjanam

Dehaavasaane Muktisyaat

Poornaachaaryam Samaasraya

Ahameva Param Tatvam

The first statement means Shreman Narayana is the supreme self, who is unparalleled and unsurpassed .

Darsanam Bhedam Eva Cha

The second statement means The philosophical system is based on the natural difference between insentient, sentient and the supreme Lord – The Lord has all the insentient and sentient entities as his body, and He is the soul of everything .

Upayeshu Prapatisyaat

The third statement means The way (means) to get salvation is surrendering to the feet of the Lord(Bhakti);

Antima Smruthi Varjanam

The fourth statement means,There is no need to adopt contemplation on the Lord during our final breath (Bhakti  with astanga yoga . No need to misunderstand as it will be cleared later)

Dehaavasaane Muktisyaat

The fifth statement means, After the soul departs from the material body, it gets salvation in case he/she has adopted the means of surrender. (The soul on getting salvation crosses all material worlds and reaches the transcendental world Paramapadam Shree Vaikuntam and eternally serves the Lord with ultimate & infinite bliss)

Poornaachaaryam Samaasraya
The sixth statement means, one should approach a fully qualified acharya (here, for Shree Raamaanuja, it is Periya Nambi) and get enlightened.

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Sri visishta-advaita

Many people mis-interpret that Sri Visishta-advaitha is some thing that we get if we add some attributes to advaita. It is important to note that, Sri Visishta-advaitha has a completely different perspective on the whole vocabulary of vedic literature. Sri Visishta-advaitha can be roughly translated into English as “qualified non-difference”. The philosophy declares that Brahman is one Absolute truth without second yet it can have varieties within Brahman.

This Para Brahman is Supreme Lord Sriman Narayana (not some energy or light but the Supreme Person) Himself and within Him there are two distinct realities namely achit(insentient) and chit (eternal and sentient). In total, there are three distinct realities Narayana (Brahman or Ishvara or Paramatma), jIvAtma (chit) and matter (achit).

The nature of jivatma is similar to that of Paramatma, namely sat-chid-ananda swaroopa, and always dependant on Paramatma. Matter is temperory, as it transforms from one state to another, but exists eternally hence real. Both chit and achit are completely dependant on ParamAtma for their existance, and the foundation of Paramatma (antaryAmin) within chit and achit is like that of a thread within the garland of pearls which keeps the garland in-tact. Both jIvatman and matter are never independant of Paramatma and are meant for the pleasure of Ishvara. More precisely the relation between chit and achit with Paramatma is explained as sharira and shariri, which means body and embodied. Sriman NArayaNa is the sariri and, all chit & achit are His sarira. This eternal sarira sariri bhAvA is composed of the following three things:

Adheyatva (i.e. being supported by a sariri): Existence of the sarira(body) is due to the sariri i.e. sariri supports the sarira. In other words, jIvatman and matter are completely dependant on Sriman Narayana for existance.

niyamyatva (i.e. being controlled by a sariri): Not only that sarira derives its existence from a sariri, it is also being controlled by the sariri. So, sarira acts as per the will/desires of sariri.

seshatva(i.e. existing for the pleasure of sariri): Not only that sarira is supported & controlled by sariri, it exists only for the pleasure of sariri, i.e. sariri is sarira’s Master.

It is important to note that Sriman Narayana is not confined within the sarira namely chit and achit, but He is beyond them. One may rise a question that jIvatman has consciousness where as matter is unconscious and the siddhanta places both of them at the position of sarira. when we take a sarira of a dead person, it still has some substance, the sarira of a dead man is not vanishing, and the matter of the body is held by the paramatma within the body. Hence it is to be understood that both chit and achit are held by paramatma within them alike, they depend on the Lord alike for their very existance.

Sri Visishta-advaitha philosophy identifies that maya or illusion or avidya is not imagining something that is non-existant but rather mis-identification. The maya is the product of karma (action) that is not performed for the satisfaction of Isvara. Sri Visisha-advaitha denies people who do not perform their prescribed activities and recommends to perform actions with the results sacrificed for the satisfaction of the Lord. Liberation of jivatman does not mean to lose the  identification of self or merging into God, but rather to serve the Divya dampathi (Sri Lakshmi Narayana) eternally in Sri  Vaikuntha. One who is liberated is free from cycle of repeated birth and death.

Sri Visishta-advaitha philosophy conclusively refutes advaitha(absolute non-duality) . There is no overlap of jiva and paramatma at any stage (jiva is always subordinate to paramatma) . It is also notable that Sri Visishta-advaitha does not identify any differences between jiva-jiva and matter-matter unlike in dwaitha school.  Both chit and achit are attributes of Brahman.

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Brahman

Brahman is sariri (has His own distinguished transcendental form beyond any imperfection), Sarvaguna, possessing infinite number of attributes. He possesses infinite number of kalyana gunas (auspicious) qualities like jnana (knowledge), bala (strength), veerya (courageousness), soundarya (beauty), shakti (power), tejas (brilliance), satyakama (desire of good), satyasamkalpa, kaarunya (merciful compassion) and so on. He is Nirguna (qualitiless) in a sense that He is the antithesis of all imperfections and negative material qualities, like anger, pain, hunger, death, evil, cowardice, sickness and so on. Brahman is eternal, pervades all, is the cause of the entire creation (of souls and matter), Lord of all creation, the only Independent Entity and the Support of the other two entities (souls and the world).

Jiva is subservient to Brahman and possesses various relationships to Brahman such as: sarira/sariri (body/indweller), Prakara/Prakari (attribute or mode/substance), sesha/seshi (Owned/owner), amsa/amsi (part/whole) (an example here is that of the light and the sun, the light is part of the sun and is different from it), adharadeya-sambandha (supporter-supported), Niyamya/Niyanta (controlled/controller) and Rasksya/Raksaka (redeemed/redeemer). These are the prominent relationships that both the Jiva and matter (jagat) inherently possess with Brahman. There are other relationships that the Jiva exclusively possesses with Brahman. Brahman can be experienced as the father, son, mother, sister, wife, husband, friend, lover and lord by jiva.

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Achit

Before the time of each creation and during pralaya (dissolution), the universe exists in a subtle and unevolved state – without name and form – within Brahman. When creation occurs, the universe evolves itself and issues out with name and form, this is what is called creation. Ramanujacharya adds that Brahman is the ruling or underlying principle behind it. The universe emanates from Brahman and remains within Brahman as a distinct entity, which also possess Brahman as the antaryamin, or in-dwelling soul. Brahman creates the world just as a spider creates it’s webs out of itself. Even as the web is a different entity from the spider, so is the world a different entity from Brahman. The creation of the universe is but a sport or leela of the Lord. It is a spontaneous, joyous, creative activity by Brahman, which gives the Jiva a purpose in life, which again is to understand its true identity and its dependent elationship with Brahman.

Matter does not always just mean gross substance that you can touch and feel, but rather it refers to the insentient beings, sometimes matter can be subtle too (example: mind). The Visishta-advaita theory says that the insentient universe is not created, but exists at all times, in either some name or form or without name and form; but regardless, it exists and is not created, for it is an eternal “part” or mode for Brahman. It just changes from one stage to other, hence it is also real(sat).

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swaroopa(constitution) of jiva:

The Jiva too is not created; rather Brahman brings it into manifestation from its subtle state or “sleeping” state. Creation here refers to drawing something out. The individual soul is different from Brahman because Brahman is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of Universe; He is the abode of infinite kalyana gunas and is beyond the shadow of imperfections. Brahman is in all the individual souls as the inner Self of these souls, just as the Jiva is the self to the body.

The Jiva is a conscious entity, who is aware of its own existence and the existence of others. Consciousness is the essence and quality of the individual soul. Consciousness as a quality can contract or expand, and is in a state of constant flux. It is dynamic, not static. Both memory and recognition prove its existence. Moreover, the absence of consciousness does not mean the absence of the self, i.e., in sleep it is said that consciousness ceases to persist and the self persists. Ramanuja asserts that “the very fact that one is able to remember what has happened before he went to sleep is also proof that the self persisted through sleep although consciousness had come to an end.”

The individual soul is also a knowing subject. Jnana (knowledge) is an attribute of the Jiva. The Jiva possesses dharmabhuta jnana or attributive consciousness. This means that the Jiva is the subject and a self-luminous substance, it is of the nature of substance-attribute. In other words, the Jiva possesses a distinct “I” that exists at all times, even upon union with Brahman. The Jiva is also an agent. What that means is that the Jiva has the ability to make choices and do things of its own will. According to Ramanuja, from this stems the Jiva’s moral and social responsibility. The Jiva is liable for the fruits of its actions. The Jiva is sentient, a subject of consciousness and experience, a self-luminous substance, an agent and enjoyer(to some degree). But the defining characteristic of the Jiva is that it is ontologically dependent on Brahman. The Jiva is not totally free, nor is it totally bound. Rather, it possesses what can be best put as self-determination. In other words, the Jiva undertakes actions that are approved or disapproved by the Supreme Being residing inside it, and accordingly the law of karma takes jurisdiction. When I talk about approval or disapproval of the Supreme, it must be understood in the sense of obeying or disobeying the scriptures and the law of karma.

Ramanuja makes an analogy of two master’s owning a property, if one master wishes to transfer that property to a third party he can’t do it without the approval of the partner. The approval is given, but the act itself is performed by the selling partner, so the fruit belongs to him too. This Ramanuja refers to as anumati dana, or lending approval. In this way the responsibility falls on the individual soul, and not upon Brahman, who only gave His lending approval to the Jiva, informing the Jiva that he is responsible for his own action and that the lord only gives His approval to actions – whatever the action is.

There is a quote by Pillai Lokacharya regarding this concept: “Even the All-loving Father, the Great Isvara, does not force His presence on the soul, not yet ripe to receive Him. With infinite patience He waits and watches the struggle of the soul in Samsara (the realm of birth and death), since the struggle is necessary for the full unfolding of the faculties of the Jiva.” The individual soul is intrinsically free from evil or imperfections, different from the body and is characterized by knowledge and bliss. In its present state, however, it suffers from the illusion of suffering and ignorance.

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There exist three types of Jivas:

1) the Nityas, or the eternally free Jivas who were never in Samsara

2) the Muktas, or the Jivas that were once in Samsara but are free

3) Baddhas (bound), or the Jivas still in Samsara. All readers of this present work are necessarily Baddhas.
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Purusha-artha or the purpose one’s existance:

In human life, according to the Vedas, there are four goals, namely, Artha (wealth), Kama (pleasure), Dharma (righteousness) and Moksha (absolute subjective freedom). The first three goals are not ends in themselves according to Sri Visista-advaita philosophy. Artha, Kama and Dharma must be pursued with the ideal of Moksha as the goal. These three pursuits are means to identify the real Parama-Purushartha (supreme end): Moksha. Moksha itself is the goal. Moreover Artha, Kama and Dharma must be pursued in moderation and within moral and ethical means.

Moksha, according to Ramanujacharya, is attaining to the likeness or similar nature of Brahman. Moksha is not the destruction of the “I” in the atman, but it is the destruction of the false sense of “I”, the ahamkara (false ego or pride), confusion of oneness with the body, karma and so on. The true “I” of the individuality of the atman persists even through Moksha because it is a different entity than Brahman, who is the inner soul of the atman. The individual Jiva attains to the nature of Brahman and attains His qualities, such as complete freedom from imperfections/evil/sin and so on, which in actuality is its true nature, which was concealed by the power and effects of Karma. Upon Moksha, the Jiva attains autonomy and freedom, but is still dependent on the Lord and meant to serve the Lord eternally, who has granted the Jiva its true nature. In other words, just because the Supreme Being is the source of all the qualities and nature of the individual atman, for that reason is the individual liberated soul dependent on the Supreme. The individual atman possesses all the qualities of the Lord except for the ability to create, govern and destroy the Universe. We do not have the ability to grant Moksha either, and we are still atomic in size when compared to the Lord, who is all pervading.

The bliss of the Lord becomes the bliss of the Jiva. The Jiva no longer has any independent desires, for it has Brahman, the all-desire and the all-bliss. Ramanuja ends his Shri-bhashya on this topic. From Tattva, or Truth, one goes to Hita, or the Path, and that leads to Purushartha, or Moksha. Concluding Thoughts
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Summary

To summarize, there is One unified reality that is qualified by real plurality within it.

That is to say jiva and matter as part of Brahman. Brahman is the abode of infinite auspicious qualities, like bliss, love, compassion, power, strength, energy, grace, mercy and so on. Brahman is also the antithesis of everything opposed to purity and imperfection, such as age, hunger, anger, pain, hate, weakness and so on. The Jiva is a real entity that has existed forever and will continue to exist forever as an individual soul, which possesses consciousness, bliss and knowledge as essential qualities and as its intrinsic nature. Its swaroopa is to serve the Isvara. It is atomic in dimension and has all the qualities of Brahman upon liberation (Moksha), except for the power to create, sustain and destroy. It cannot grant Moksha, and remains always atomic in nature. The Jiva possesses within it the Antaryamin Brahman who sits within the soul and is a witness to all its actions.

The Universe is a real entity that exists always. It may not exist always in the same name or form, but it always exists nonetheless. During the period in which creation has not taken place, the universe of matter exists in a subtle state within Brahman. When creation occurs, the universe of matter is brought forth and assumes name and form. The universe comes out of, and remains in, Brahman. The act of creation, sustenance and destruction of the Universe is a divine leela, or sport, of the Lord. It is the ultimate expression of Brahman’s love for His “parts”, or modes.

Bhakti or Prapatti are the only sadhya upayas(probable means for liberation), as they themselves cannot yield us liberation, but real sadhya upaya (sure means of liberation) is the Lotus feet of the Lord(Mercy of the Lord). Liberation means coming back to original swaroopa of jIva. Even in the state of Moksha, the Jiva performs loving service and devotional contemplation upon the Lord, though not for the want of any desires, but out of pure love to the Lord.

In terms of theology, Ramanujacharya puts forth the view that both the Supreme Goddess Lakshmi and Supreme God Narayana together constitute Brahman – the Absolute. They are both inseparable, co-eternal, co-absolute and are always substantially united. Thus, in reference to these dual aspects of Brahman, the Supreme is refered to in the eternal Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya as Sriman Narayana.

Sri Lakshmi and Narayana possess spiritual bodies composed of shuddha-sattva, or pure goodness. This is the basic theology of Sri Vaishnavism, both shruti (The Vedas, Upanishads, etc.) and smriti (Puranas, Itihasas, etc.) are used to support this view.

The Lord is simply waiting for us to take the first step towards Him, and when we take that first step, He immediately rushes forth, taking infinite number of steps, to be with His devotee as the expression of His love. In the mystic sayings of the Alvars (the great saints of the Sri Vaishnava tradition), it has been said that although the Lord is the Supreme Sovereign, He becomes a servant to His devotees out of His infinite love for them.For a devotee of the lord neither Moksha nor mundane life is ever desired or needed — loving service to the Lord is all that there is. To the devotee this service is all the Moksha, or freedom, that is needed.
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Bhakti and Prapatti margas:

Sriman Narayana out of His great compassion towards the baddha jivatmas propagates vedas and allied sastras, which are the only way through which they can possibly know about Him & the ways to reach Him. The ultimate and final essence of sastras is that Sriman Narayaaa is the sariri and, all chit & achit are His sarira. This eternal sarira sariri bhava is composed of the following three things:

Adheyatva (i.e. being supported by a sariri): Existence of the sarira(body) is due to the sariri i.e. sariri supports the sarira. In other words, if sariri ceases to exist, sarira also ceases to exist.

Niyamyatva (i.e. being controlled by a sariri): Not only that sarira derives its existence from a sariri, it is also being controlled by the sariri. So, sarira acts as per the will/desires of sariri.

seshatva(i.e. existing for the pleasure of sariri): Not only that sarira is supported & controlled by sariri, it exists only for the pleasure of sariri, i.e. sariri is sarira’s Master.

It is to be noted that the “sariri” needn’t be physically present inside a “sarira”. This is not a condition to be met out for the sarira-sariri bhava to hold good.

Thus Sriman Narayaaa supports and controls all jivatmas, and all the jivatmas exist purely for His enjoyment. Thus, the very essential nature (svaroopam) of a jivatma is to perform kainkaryam to Sriman Narayana for His pleasure and performance of any other activity doesn’t conform to its nature. This implies that, baddha jivatmas are like fish out of water, suffering in the material world by not living according to their actual nature.

Only in Sri Vaikuntham can a jivatma perfectly act according to its nature (svaroopam) without any interruption. Realizing this great truth by the mercy of a sadacharya, a baddha jivatma becomes highly desirous of obtaining moksham and thereby reach Sri Vaikuntham, the spiritual world beyond this material world, and perform uninterrupted bhagavad anubhavam and kainkaryam to the Divya Dampati, with great bliss. This is just like the ardent desire of a fish which is out of water (not according to its nature), to get into the water (in accordance with its nature). Such highly glorifiable baddha jivatmas are called as mumukshus, whose only goal is the attainment of moksham. The mumukshu thus needs to know about the means(upaya) to fulfil his desire.

sastras declare that Bhakti and prapatti are the only two means (sadhya upayas) by which the baddha jivatmas can attain moksham, while the Divya Dampati are the Siddha upayam. Narayana Himself, in Ahirbudhnya samhita categorically declares:

bhakti and prapatti are the only means

“bhaktyA paramayA vA-pi prapattyA vA mahAmathe
prApyoham na anyathA prApyO mama kainkarya lipsubhihi”

Sriman narayana here clarifies that bhakti and prapatti are the only means & by no other means will He grant moksham. So, all other processes like Bhagavad kalyana guna Sravanam, nama sankeertanam, living at a Divya desam, bathing in pushkarinis & sacred rivers etc should culminate in either “bhakti” or “prapatti” for one to obtain moksham. So, it is not that a highly devoted person would be deprived of moksham by Sriman Narayana. Such a devotee would be guided by Sriman Narayana to end up with either “bhakti” or “prapatti” and thus its just a matter of time may be within that life time or in the next few births, that he/she would obtain moksham.

In many Vedic literatures & in works of Sri Vaishnava Acharyas, the term “Bhakti” is usually associated with the term “Bhakti Yoga”, which might be meditation through ashtanga yoga on the kalyana gunas, divyamangaaa vigraha etc of Sriman Narayana with unsurpassed love. “Bhakti” referred here is the continuous stream of knowledge which is of the nature of uninterrupted memory and which is unbroken like the flow of a stream of oil. This description is not be taken lightly. The intensity of the uninterrupted nature of contemplation on Sriman Narayana is the central focus of ashtanga yoga .

There are 32 Brahma vidyas (i.e. upasanas) that are prescribed in the upanishads. A devotee performing bhakti yoga will adopt a particular Brahma Vidya as the means (sadhyaupaya) for attaining moksham. Due to lack of a proper word, the term “Bhakti” is also sometimes used to imply “devotion” to Sriman Narayana, which needn’t be the “matured state of jnana” (i.e. “Bhakti” proper) expressed through ashtanga yoga.

The seven general pre-requisites for Bhakti Yoga are:

Viveka (discrimination): Purification of body through proper intake of sattvik food etc.

Vimoka (freedom): abjuration of all desires other than to meditate on Sriman Narayana.

Abhyasa (practise): Practise worshiping the Lord with full enthusiasm (again & again). This involves strict adherence to scriptures etc.

kriya (work): proper adherence to the Varnashrama dharma mainly dealing with the pancha maha yajnas (this makes only the dvijas to be fit for starting “Bhakti yoga”).

kalyana (auspiciousness): practise of virtues like truthfulness, integrity, compassion, benevolence, ahimsa etc.

anavasada: being without any despair due to dissappointment, completely forgetting all past sorrows.

anuddharaa: absence of exaltation i.e. being in a state which is the optimal midway between excessive joy & the absence of it.

The severe practise of karma & jnana yoga can only bringforth the stage for performing bhakti yoga. Jnana yoga is the “self-realization” (“self” stands for jivatma), whereas “bhakti yoga” is “God-realization”. So, “ashtanga yoga” is performed for God-realization i.e. for obtaining moksham.

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Gyani is a person who performs Bhakti Yoga (God realization) & not gyana yoga. The person performing Gyana Yoga (self-realization) is known as kevala . Gyana Yoga is the constant meditation of the self i.e. jivatma. It results in Atma sakshatkaram i.e. self-realization. It is however important to note that a kevala is fully aware of his swaroopa of being subservient to Sriman Narayana. But a kevala is neverthless firmly attracted by the bliss derived in the meditation of his own self (with the understanding as servant of Narayana) & is unable to come over it & proceed further to meditate on Paramatma Sriman Narayana. A kevala’s position is very much understandable since many a people in this world cannot overcome even watching TV, cinemas, sports etc which only have dry hapiness (fully material; not spiritual). The bliss derived from the contemplation of the “self” (jIvatma) would certainly be attracting a kevala like a magnet. He attains “Kaivalya” wherein he attains the state in which he simply meditates on his own self (fully self-realized state). From there he can continue further to perform bhakti yoga and attain moksham.

After perfecting karma & jnana yogas one will start performing “bhakti yoga” (since karma yoga by itself is integrated with jnana yoga, bhakti yoga can be started after its perfection also).

The perfection of bhakti yoga is through ashtanga yoga which has 8 parts:

yama: self control & practise of virtues like ahimsa, non-covetousness, non acceptance of gifts etc.

niyama: practise of purity in thought, word & deed.

Asana: adoption of proper posture & seat.

pranayama: Control & regulation of breath alongwith the reflection on the meaning of the mantra like ashtaksharam.

pratyahara: Withdrawl of mind & other senses from their out going tendencies.

dharana: fixing of the mind towards Sriman Narayana. Depending upon the type of upasana (out of 32 Brahma vidyas prescribed in upanishads) one chooses, the contemplation on Narayana will vary.

dhyana: Continuous meditation on the divya mangala vigraha, kalyana gunas etc of Narayana to the exclusion of all other objects. One must be almost sinless to attain this stage of having deep and profound love towards Sriman Narayana which is the driving force for dhyana.

Samadhi: Final stage of concentration when the yogi attains the super-conscious state of divine life & becomes united with Sriman Narayana. There is “unity” & not “identity”. When the dhyana ceases, this communion (i.e. unity) with narayana also ceases. In other words, eternal communion is not possible as long as the javatma has connection with prakruti. The culmination of samadhi is the attainment of liberation (moksha) & eternal union at Sri Vaikuntham.

Devotion in the form of nama sankeertanam, Bhagavad Aradhanam, Listening to the avatara leelas of Sriman Narayana  etc aids one to have steady rememberance of Sriman Narayana. They by themselves doesn’t constitute “bhakti yoga”. Rather they are some ways of expressing one’s devotion & develop the “love” for Narayana, thereby aiding the process of ashtanga yoga. (Process for Sri Vaishnavas)

During bhakti yoga, the yogi will at first encounter the stage called “Para bhakti” wherein his mind, thought & all sense organs are completly focussed on Sriman Narayana. He does only worship of Narayana & meditation on Him & these are the only things that sustain him. After severe practise of the ashtanga yogic process, the yogi passes onto the next stage called “parajnana” wherein the thirst for the direct vision of Sriman Narayana becomes highly intense.

Sriman Narayana being pleased with his devotion gives the mental vision of His divya mangala vigraha. This results into much more intense love & the yogi is mad after communion with Narayana. He cannot bear the separation even for a second & is literally pleading with Sriman Narayana constantly for the arrival of the eternal union with Him. At right time, he attains the God-realization & enjoys the divine company of nitya sooris & muktas at Sri Vaikuntham in serving Sriman Narayana uninterruptedly.

Obviously this process is out of question in this age of kali. Likes of vashistar, vyasar, sukar, jada bharadar, bheeshmar, nathamunigal are the capable persons for performing such contemplation with deep & unsurpassed love towards Sriman Narayana.

 

Thus, prapatti is the only way out.

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Prapatti(saranagati) -the most sublime path of attaining Sriman Narayana’s mercy:

In Sri vaishnavas, there are two great lineages namely vadakalai and tenkalai.

For Tenkalai Sampradaya samasrayanam or pancha samskaram itself is prapatti ceremony.

Where as Vadakalai Sampradaya advocates one more ceremony for the complete Saranagati (surrender).

The following is the description of Sri Ahobilam mutt (a vadakalai mutt) process of prapatti at the lotus feet of SrI lakshmi Narasimha.

Prapatti (i.e. Saranagathi alias ahara nyasam) or nyasa vidya is enshrined in upanishads and can infact be performed by anyone irrespective of age, sex, caste etc. Its modus operandi is explained in a detailed manner in Ahirbudhnya samhita, Lakshmi tantra & other pramanams. Ithihasa puranas also have lot of references to prapatti. Ofcourse, Alwars advocate Prapatti. Similarly, Sriman Narayana advocates prapatti especially in His varaha avataram, Rama avataram and Krishna avataram through the respective charama slokams. Not satisfied, He in His most merciful archavataram also advocates prapatti through His varada hastham, as in Thiruvinnagaram (Than oppAr illappan alias oppiliappan) and Thirumalai (Srinivasan).

The greatness of Sri Vaishnava sampradayam is that, Sriman Narayana in His archa avataram as Perarulalan (kanchi varadan) also advocated prapatti by His divine answers to Bhagavad Ramanuja through Thiruk kachi NambigaL. Sriman Narayana did not want to merely be a preacher of prapatti. His mercy is so unbounded that He as Malolan of Ahobilam initiated a paramabhagavatha(Sri Adivan Shatakopa Yateendra Mahadesikan, the first jeeyar of Sri Ahobila Mutt ) into sannyasa ashrama and ordered him to propagate the most glorious prapattimarga in each and every village and He himself accompanied the Acharya to all the villages, inorder to accept the prapatti of baddha jivatmas.

Swami Desikan explains that Prapatti is neither a mere faith in the saving grace of Sriman Narayana nor a mere prayer to Him for protection/moksha. Prapatti doesn’t mean merely a surrendered life in this world, centred around serving Sriman Narayana. Prapatti encompasses all of this & is much much more. Though “Saranagathi” is in general used for denoting “surrender”, what all things that needs to be fulfilled in that surrender which is performed only once for obtaining moksham, is very important.

The greatest burden (Bharam) for a baddha jivatma is “bhakti yoga” because Sriman Narayana would only grant moksham to a perfectionist of bhakti yoga. Though the jivatma wishes to meditate continuously on Narayana, it is not able to do so primarily because of its karma. Also, not all are eligible for Bhakti yoga. Only dvijas can start performing it. Moreover, one cannot be sure of the number of future births that is needed to be taken while adopting bhakti yoga, since the prarabdha karma (that which has started to yield its effect) is not destroyed.

Neverthless, a mumukshu (one desirous of moksham), who has the burden of bhakti yoga seeks moksham. So, during prapatti, Sriman Narayana Himself is pleaded to be present in the “place”(sthana) of bhakti yoga and give the fruit of Bhakti Yoga i.e. Sriman Narayana is pleaded to attain the level of “pleasing” He will obtain if one approached Him through “Bhakti yoga”, which will make Him grant moksham to the mumukshu. Thats why, Prapatti is also known as Bharanyasam.

The main qualifications for a mumukshu to adopt prapatti are:

Akinchanyam: Destituteness which may result either due to one’s lack of mental and physical strength to adopt bhakti yoga or lack of requisite knowledge from sastras or prohibition by sastras regarding the adoption of Bhakti yogA or inability to put up with any delay in attaining moksha.

Ananyagatitvam: Seeking the Supreme Lord Sriman Narayana as the sole refuge with complete aversion to all fruits other than moksha. This implies that one shouldn’t resort even in his/her dream to a demigod like Brahma, Shiva etc.

Prapatti  has the following five angas (accessories).

Anukoolyasya Sankalpam: Determination to perform whatever is pleasing to Sriman Narayana. Since sastras are His divine commands, one should be firm in one’s mind to perform what they are being ordered to do so (like Sandhyavandanam, Bhagavad aradhanam etc), which will thus be pleasing to the Divya Dampati.

Pratikoolyasya Varjanam: Avoidance of acts that are displeasing to Sriman Narayana. So, one one should abstain from acts that are prohibited in sastras. For example, one shouldn’t either eat egg, meat, onion, garlic etc or drink alcohol, tea, coffee etc; one shouldn’t eat rice during ekadasi etc.

Karpanyam: Feeling of utter helplessness. One should cry in front of Sriman Narayana for his inability to perform Bhakti yoga and should be fully aware of the fact that he/she cannot attain moksham by their own efforts. Utter dependence on the mercy of the Divya Dampati is needed.

Maha Visvasam: Intense faith that Sriman Narayana will certainly grant moksham for the prapatti performed, eventhough one has committed countless sins. This complete faith on the saving grace of the Lord i.e. on the efficacy of prapatti is very difficult to obtain because of various reasons. But inorder to obtain maha visvasam, one needs to have absolute faith in sastras and the words of Sriman Narayana and Acharyas, which unanimously glorify prapatti as a supreme upaya. Extensive knowledge in various fields of sastras wouldn’t neccessarily yield this supreme unshakable faith. Only by the mercy of a sadacharya can one obtain maha visvasam, the most important anga of prapatti.

It is also very important to understand that lack of maha visvasam doesn’t mean that one is either doubtful about the authority of vedas or skeptical about the supremacy of Narayana or skeptical about the existence of Sri Vaikuntham etc. If one doesn’t even recognize Sriman Narayana as the supreme unparalleled Lord, then his/her prapatti won’t be accepted by the Lord in first hand. The maha visvasam here is regarding the faith in the efficacy of prapatti which can be strengthened by contemplating upon the efficacy of purushakaratvam (recommendation) of piratti, eternal sesha-seshi bhava existing between jivatma & paramatma, Soulabhyam & Sowseelyam of Sriman Narayana, He being the Sarva Saranyan and Saranagata Vatsalan etc.

Goptrtva Varanam: Begging Sriman Narayana for offering protection. This is the prayer to the Lord for granting moksha, wherein one pleads with Him, the sole refuge, to be present in the place (sthAna) of bhakti yoga and grant its fruit of moksham to an akinchana like himself/herself.

Performance of prapatti is done with sathvika tyagam, similar to how one performs sathvika tyagam before and after a kainkaryam. The three components of the sathvika tyagam are:

               Kartrutva tyaga: One should shed the doership attitude and realize that Sriman Narayana is the actual doer, since it is the ocean of His daya that is responsible for one to perform the act of prapatti.

              Mamata tyaga: One should give up the thought of “mine” while performing prapatti. It is also done for the pleasure of Sriman Narayana.

              Phala tyaga : One should give up the thought that the fruit of performing prapatti belongs to him/her and realize that the fruit of Prapatti also belongs to Sriman Narayana.

One is completely wrong if he/she thinks that they by themselves performed prapatti (i.e. doership ego is still there). One cannot say “I performed prapatti to perumAl”, since this defies kartrutva tyagam. Actually, it is by the mercy of the Divya Dampati that one is made to perform prapatti. So, one with proper understanding of prapatti will say either “Divya Dampati by their mercy has made adiyen to perform Saranagathi and granted moksham” OR “Acharya out of his great compassion made an akinchanan like adiyen obtain moksham” etc. This is the essence of kartrutva tyagam.

The performance of prapatti is for the pleasure of Divya Dampati. The fruit of prapatti is the eternal kainkaryam to the Divya Dampati, which is done for their pleasure. So, if Sriman Narayana tells a mumukshu ‘x’ that He would grant moksham simply because ‘x’ wanted it, then also ‘x’ shouldn’t accept it. ‘x’ accepts the moksham only if Sriman Narayana awards it out of His own pleasure and not simply because ‘x’ wanted moksham. Though a mumukshu sincerely wishes to be in accordance with his (jivatma’s) svaroopam by performing the kainkaryam eternally to the Divya Dampati at Sri Vaikuntham, its upto the Divya Dampati to grant it out of their own pleasure and a mumukshu while performing prapatti should not have ego in this aspect also. This is the essence of mamata tyagam and phala tyagam. Ofcourse, Sriman Narayana’s vratam (vow) is to grant moksham to those who perform prapatti unto Him and the Divya Dampati will be very happy to grant moksham to such a mumukshu.

The most important thing to understand while performing prapatti is that, “Prapatti” (Sadhyaupayam) as an act by itself is not the reason for one’s moksham. Rather, it is the mercy of Sriman Narayana (Siddha upayam) which is responsible for one’s moksham. Prapatti is a sadhya upaya which needs to be done by a baddha jivatma. This becomes a vyaja for Sriman Narayana, the Siddha upaya, to grant moksham. In front of siddha upaya, ssdhya upaya is “nothing” & can’t even be compared. Neverthless, sadhya upaya needs to be performed since thats the way Sriman Narayana has ordered (in Sruti & Smruti) to have a vyaja (excuse) for Him and thereby grant moksham by being impartial. Similarly, Bhakti Yoga is also a Sadhyaupayam. Ofcourse, the performance of sadhyaupayam is also due to Sriman Narayana’s mercy. Since the mumukshu has proper karma due to various pious deeds and (most importantly) divine blessings of bhagavatha(s) and Sadacharya(s), Sriman Narayana out of His mercy makes him/her perform the sadhya upayam prapatti and grants moksham using it as a vyaja.

So, if someone asks the reason for ones moksham, without any hesitation, it is the siddha upayam Sriman Narayana. The Divya Dampati is both the upaya (means) & the upeya (end). Swami Desikan beautifully portrays the state of a prapanna while performing prapatti in the best & unparalleled heart melting pasuram:

“With no refuge other than Your grace,
abandoning my ageless erroneous ways,
committing to the way that will please you,
resolving that your lotus feet are the only means,
I surrender unto your lotus feet with the hope that you will
save me from the darkness that has stood by me,
and deliver me the life of eternal service unto You,
with your beautiful grace, release me from the burden for salvation,
accept me as your ward, the consort of Sri.”

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The actual performance (angi) of prapatti is composed of the following three acts:

Atma samarpanam (svaroopa samarpanam): From time immemorial, a baddha jivatma is of the thinking that it is independent on its own. This is the greatest theft since all jivatmas being chetanas and made up of jnanam, are actually the most precious properties of Sriman Narayana. Svaroopa samarpanam refers to the recognition of this fact and the anusandhanam that one belongs only to Sriman Narayana (not to any demigod) and is not an independent being. It also extends to the recognition and anusandhAnam that all chetanas and achetanas like wife/husband, children, house etc that are associated with one also belong only to Sriman Narayana.

Bhara Samarpanam: Recognition and anusandhanam that the burden of one’s (and all chetanas & achetanas associated with him/her) protection belongs only to Sriman Narayana, the sarva rakshakan & not to oneself. This surrendering of burden of protection is unique for prapatti. One performing Bhakti Yogam will perform only Svaroopa and phala samarpanam & not Bhara Samarpanam.

Phala Samarpanam: Recognition and anusandhAnam that the fruit of one’s (and all chetanas & achetanas associated with him/her) protection also belongs only to Sriman Narayana, the sarva phali. The highly sacred Dvaya Mantram which is eulogized as Mantraratnam is the prapatti mantra and the actaul act of prapatti is performed using this. Thus, prapatti is actually an act which is performed with all its entirety in a moment. This is much like the action of an archer, who after performing preliminary acts like taking the arrow, fitting it to the bow, perceiving and aiming the object etc discharges the arrow for hitting the target, in a fraction of a second (jivatma is the arrow which hits its target viz. Sriman Narayana). Infact Upanishads describes this act very well. Such an act of Prapatti is celebrated as the marriage between a jivatma and paramatma Sriman Narayana, due to which the jivatma would lead its life totally dedicated in serving Sriman Narayana like a pati vrata.

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There are various types of prapatti that is performed for obtaining moksham viz. Svanishta, Ukti nishta, Acharya nishta and Bhagavatha nishta.

Svanishta Prapatti” is the culmination of the fully blossomed Bhagavad Prema. For performing Svanishta prapatti (i.e. on one’s own, without the aid of the acharya, though the prapatti sastra as such would be learnt from an acharya) one needs to have very high qualification – likes of Bhagavad Ramanuja & Swami Desikan. The most important ingredient for Svanishta prapatti is the IN & OUT knowledge of the meanings of the three rahasya mantras apart from other scriptural knowledge which exactly aids in completing all the requirements for a fruitful prapatti in a proper order/way. Even if one of the requirements gets unfulfilled, Prapatti is not complete & moksham won’t be granted by Sriman Narayana .

Thats why, Ukti nishta & Acharya nishta is followed even by acharyas for their prapatti. Infact, the exact modus operandi of prapatti won’t be revealed to a sishya & a sishya can possibly know it only during his prapatti & that too if it is in Ukti nishta. In Acharya nishta, that also is not possible.

Acharya passes on the upadesam to his select disciple whom he likes to continue performing “prapatti” for others. In ukti nishta, since the sishya repeats whatever the Acharya says and Sriman Narayana knows its meaning, he/she fulfills all the neccessary requirements of prapatti. In Acharya nishta, ofcourse all the neccessary requirements are taken care by Acharya himself, while performing the prapatti for his disciple.

The fourth type of prapatti is the Bhagavatha Nishta wherein a learned Sri Vaishnava (bhagavatha) performs prapatti on one’s behalf.

Rarely does one develop very intense desire to reach Sri Vaikuntham immedietly to join nityasooris and muktas to have uninterrepted bhagavad anubhavam and perform kainkaryam to the Divya Dampati. In such a case, one can perform “Artha prapatti”, for which Sriman Narayana mercifully grants moksha without any delay as per the request. But, almost everyone performs “Dripta Prapatti”, for which Sriman Narayana grants moksha at the end of one’s lifetime as per the request. The basic reason for even parama bhagavathas to perform “Dripta Prapatti” is purely due to their boundless compassion to rescue all the jivatmas suffering in this world by imparting them the infallible knowledge vouchsafed in the sastras and thereby make everyone realize their svaroopam of being subservient to the Divya Dampati and aid them in performing prapatti. Ofcourse, it is due to the sankalpam of Sriman Narayana that these parama bhagavathas exist in this world for the benifit of everyone. They also perform everything as a kainkaryam to the Divya Dampati with sathvika tyagam.

Prapatti thus assures moksham for sure, if the requirements were met out in its entirety. If even after undergoing prapatti, one doesn’t have full faith in Narayana & resorts to something like demigod worship & this was the case till he/she died, then it is be understood that Narayana hasn’t accepted his/her prapatti at all, since the basic qualification of having ananyagatitvam was not met out by him/her during the time of prapatti. Also, even after prapatti, if a person somehow due to prarabdha karma resorts to demigod worship and the like, but somehow restores back anytime before his/her death and follows Sri Vaishnavam with reverence to Sriman Narayana and AcharyA, and develops maha visvasam, it is to be understood that the Lord has accepted his/her prapatti.

A prapanna should certainly have devotion in the sense of reciting Vedas, Divya Prabandhams, Stotras, performing Nama Sankeertanams, etc, which are to be carried out as a kainkaryam (service) with sathvika thyagam. Never should a prapanna perform some act as a means of attaining moksham, since he/she has already been assured of it through the prapatti and more importantly such an act exhibits his/her lack of maha visvasam and would thereby even negate the previous prapatti.

While performing Prapatti, a mumukshu requests for Para Bhakti, Para Jnanam and Parama Bhakti from Sriman Narayana and thus it is granted for him/her. Depending upon the mumukshu’s karma, the time at which they will blossom will differ. For instance, NammAzhwar performed Prapatti unto Sriman Narayana and did not perform Bhakti yoga. But, Azhwar went through all these three stages while being in this material world itself.

Similarly, some prapannas may go through these stages and they will be highly immersed in bhagavad anubhavam. But, they are not carrying out these things as an upayam (i.e. means) to attain moksham. Rather they perform it since it is their svaroopam (nature). This is of course done with sathvika tyagam and is known as “sadhya bhakti”. For many, these three stages blossoms only after reaching Sri Vaikuntham.

It is however very important to understand that “prapatti” is not some mechanical process that fulfills some conditions. It is the fully blossomed stage of complete understanding of the tattva, hitam & purushartam. Sastras are very merciful in enlisting various things that one would perform in that state of surrender thereby giving rise to its modus operandi. Ofcourse, for mumukshus performing through ukti & acharya nishta, such thorough knowledge of sastras & rahasya mantras is not neccessary. Acharya takes care of all the requirements for pleasing Sriman Narayana. This is also taken as a vyaja for granting moksham by Sriman Narayana.

The adoration of Acharya is even more important than the adoration of Sriman Narayana for a baddha jivatma. There is no possiblity for a baddha jivatma who doesn’t have the capacity to perform bhakti yoga (complete akinchana), to ascend to Sri Vaikuntham other than to fully depend on the mercy of his acharya who knows the way of performing Prapatti for him. Thus, even one who has transgressed sastras for time immemorial can obtain moksham by the mercy of a sadacharya. To repay one’s Acharya for either blessing one with the true & divine knowledge or  initiating him/her into rahasya mantras (pancha samskaram) or performing prapatti for him/her, is an impossibility. To be in accordance with one’s svaroopam (nature), one has to perform acharya, bhagavatha & Perumal kainkaryam(service) in that order of decreasing priority & these things doesn’t mean that one is repaying something to the debt one owes to his/her acharya.

To understand Prapatti properly, one needs to perform kalakshebam under the lotus feet of a sadacharya & only by his blessings through the exposition of the grantham far supreme viz. Srimad Rahasya Traya Saram, the magnum opus of the Vishnu ghanta avatara Swami Desikan, can one appreciate its glories. It is an unparalleled grantha containing the ocean of insatiable nectar delineating all the things a mumukshu needs to know (tattva, hita & purushartha), presented in such a commanding authority through pramanas & logic, which once heard would vanish all the sufferings and turmoils undergone by a jivatma and make it have the unshakable faith on the saving grace of the most merciful Lord Sriman Narayana , thereby perform prapatti & attain prapatti nishta with the impeccable jnanam obtained from this grantha completely controlling all of its actions, thereby engaging completely in Acharya, Bhagavatha and Bhagavad kainkaryam for the pleasure of Divya Dampati, with no more burdens to be worried about.

 

Om Namo Narayana
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Source: http://sriranganatha.tripod.com/id5.html

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