Why propagate?

Isn’t Lord’s Freegrace enough?

Nirhetuka kripa (Freegrace) is a most important principle in Srivaishnavam (the highest Vedic wisdom in practice). It’s the Lord’s/Acharya’s nirhetuka kripa alone that results in the spiritual progression of a jīva (living entity) culminating in the acceptance of the living entity that has taken refuge by the Acharya/Lord, not any effort on the part of the living entity to earn/buy/barter Lord’s grace.

This however doesn’t mean no propagation is necessary. The key is realizing that all action, including that of propagation (Satvikais sambashanam), jivas taking refuge (Prapatti/saranagati/loving-surrender), and acceptance of the jiva by the Lord are all a result of Lord’s nirhetuka kripa only.

From The Divine Wisdom of the Dravida Saints [pdf page 84]:

God-the Guru in the heart
In the lecture-assembly of Embār, the subject of who is the first Spiritual Preceptor for the soul came to be discussed.
“The Guru imparts to us the Scriptures,” some said. Others opined: “The first is that godly man who helps to take us to the spiritual Preceptor for acceptance”.
“Not so,” said Embār, “the First Preceptor is that Universal Lord who is seated in our hearts, and who unseen, gives us the impulse not to resist, but to yield to the proposals for good services offered by the visible Preceptors or Helpers.”
[Bhag: Vish :Bk. II. p. 720-1. “Ottār” II-3-2]

As to when such spontaneous grace from the Lord descends on a jiva (living entity) is explained in Srivachana Bhushanam (Word-Jewel) aphorisms 366-406 [pdf pages 75 thru 83]. In short, we need to realize that we are solely responsible for our continued stay in samsāra (birth/death cycle), by our refusal to adhere to the Śāstrās (scripture) and progress spiritually and that any spiritual advancement needs to be credited solely to His Freegrace, by which we get a body, the Śāstrās to abide by to spiritually progress and the constant inducements He provides by descending in avatārās (incarnations) and also by making Himself available in this world in His image/Deity (archa) incarnations in temples showering His Freegrace on all without discrimination, which some Jivās take refuge under while other Jīvas try to shield themselves from by their “umbrella” of ahankāra (I-ness, mistaking body for soul) and mamakāra (my-ness, all belongs to me). God further accelerates our spiritual advancement by gifting us credit for Yādruschika/Ajñāta Sukriti (unexpected/adventitious merit) resulting in vicarious redemption.[2]

The following Pāñcharātra verse specifies the various stages in which Lord’s Freegrace works for Prapannas:

ईश्वरस्य च सौहार्दं यदृच्छासुकृतं तथा। विष्णोः कटाक्षम् अद्वेषम् आभिमुख्यञ्च सात्विकैः।। सम्भाषणं षडेतानि हि आचार्यप्राप्तिहेतवः ।।

īshvarasya cha sauhārdaṃ yadṛuchchhāsukṛutaṃ tathā। viṣhṇoh kaṭākṣham adveṣham ābhimukhyancha sātvikaih।। sambhāṣhaṇaṃ ṣhaḍetāni hi āchāryaprāptihetavah ।।

Prapatti/Saranagati (loving surrender to God) simply means, realizing/accepting oneself to be His (God’s) exclusive belonging, subject to His exclusive protection, and thus ceasing from all self-effort for self-protection. In other words, mentally (i.e., at the level of consciousness) holding the Lord Himself as the Means to reach the Lord, as contrasted with Karma, Jñāna and Bhakti Yogas which are Means that require effort on the part of the jīvas. One could refuse to accept this realization  due to their ahankāra and thus not benefit, but those that don’t reject the realization will duly accept that the realization was offered to them by God out of His freegrace. But could Prapatti/Saranagati (loving surrender to God) be considered to be the Means? No. For example, if a wellwisher advises a particular Means to follow for a particular End and that advice is accepted, the acceptance of the advice does NOT constitute a Means replacing the Means advised. Similarly, Surrender (accepting Lord as the protector/Means) doesn’t constitute the Means itself displacing the Lord.[2] Then why is Surrender (consent to Lord’s protection) required at all? Per Mumukshuppadi, such consent is needed so the jīva can understand a. that from that moment onwards, she is under the Lord’s protection and b. why others that haven’t chosen to Surrender (i.e, consent to Lord’s protection) would continue in samsāra (birth/death cycle), the latter addressing the question of why the whole material universe isn’t liberated en-masse by the Lord, if no effort is needed on the part of the jīvās. So, the consent for Lord’s protection (which flows from the aforementioned realization of one being His property and thus induced by the Lord Himself) is for these 2 reasons,  NOT to replace the Lord as the Means nor to instigate His protection which is solely out of His Freegrace.

Thus, “Our free-will inclining to God’s grace is itself an act of His grace” is instructive:

A disciple of Nanjiyar proposed the following question:-

“Holy Sire If God is our only Way (or Means) for salvation, then there is nothing for us to do. Why should you then inculcate something yet as necessary on our part, even such as the act of surrender to God, an act plainly indicative of something done by us to God from out of our own free-will?”

At this question, Nanjiyar closed his ears as if he heard some thing blasphemous and exclaimed: “Alas! that I should have disclosed to you this Sacred Truth of resignation to God (Prapatti), handed down as a most Holy Legacy from our Saint Nāthamunigal downward to my own immediate Spiritual Preceptor – a Truth uniformly revealed by one Saint after another in unbroken succession.” So saying he smote his forehead angered and chagrined, and forthwith retired into his private chamber. His heart was moved with both sorrow and pity at the obduracy of men’s hearts in not receiving and understanding the spirit of such truths.

[Bhag: Vish: Bk. VI. p. 3055 Āvāv-ennāthu vi-1o-4]

Hence it is clear that, all “action”, both in instruction from the Acharya (Guru) and the disciple taking refuge (saranagati/loving-surrender) at Acharya’s lotus feet, as also the acceptance of the jiva is solely due to the nirhetuka kripa (free/irresistible grace) of the Lord/Acharya, with no “effort” on the part of the jiva having instigated/purchased the Lord’s grace.

Savior’s Grace

The above explains prapatti/saranagati to the Lord directly. However the quintessence of Srivaishnavam is Acharyabhimaname Udhdharakam (Savior’s grace is the only Savior), constituting Acharyabhimana (Savior’s grace) and Acharyanishta (self, oblated to loving-service of Savior).

From “Saints’ power of salvation exceeds even that of God” [pdf page 84]:

God’s saints take upon themselves the burden of saving men whom even God gives up as hopelessly irretrievable. St. Nammazhvar ventured on such vocation. A question rose here as to whether God’s Saints possess such virtue. To this the story of Uparicharavasu is cited: By a Rishi‘s curse this saint was consigned to the nether regions, the Pātāḷa, and there he continued his Vaishnava practices of devotion as inculcated in the Pāncharātra Scriptures. The demons of Pātāḷa, seeing him belonging to the faction of the celestials (Devas) harassed him with their weapons. But as he was a devotee of Vishnu, he proved invulnerable to them. The demons sought their chaplain Śukra, and asked him to suggest to them a way how to wound the devotee. Śukra said :— “Begin by abstracting his love for Vishṇu“. The demons then put on the disguises of Brāhmaṇās and insinuated to him that Vishṇu who had neglected him so far, even down to his confinement in the nether regions, could certainly not be worthy of his worship and so on. But all these attempts to rob his love for Vishṇu proved futile, but on the other hand they excited great compassion in his heart for the demons, at sight of the profundity of their sinfulness which suggested to them even to go to the extent of trying to deprive even saints of their love for God reigning in their hearts, and thereon supplicated Vishṇu to exhibit his mercy even unto these men. The saint’s prayer had immediate effect. The demons turned friends, and were anon taken to Vishṇu‘s abode of bliss. Thus the power of salvation vested in God, manifests itself with redoubled vigour in the members of His Holy Church.

[Bhag: Vish: Bk. IV, p. 2008. ‘Onrum’ iv-10-1].

FOOTNOTE:

All the Saviours of the world have done this service to God. The  virtue in their work consisted in its purity of purpose, holiness of intent, and absence of self-glorification. The powers of salvation delegated to Holy Saints are stated to be even more efficacious than if God Himself had directly exercised  them. Bhāgavatā [Srimad Bhagavatam] says for example  [X-84-11]:- “Not all the copious waters of the Sacred Rivers, not all the idols made of mud and stone, but saints alone purify by mere sight”. Volumes have been written on the high vocation God’s apostles on earth are appointed to fulfill. The wonderful book called the Word-Jewel [Srivachana Bhushanam] of Lokāchārya, translated by Yogi Pārthasārathi Iyengar, Division 6, on “Teacher’s Saving Power” may be read, Also Kaṇṇinun-siruttāmbu, by St. Madhura-kavi.

Also, “The magnetic influence of God’s saving power of love, radiating through His saints.” [pdf page 87]:

The stream of the love of god to His saints is said to be so copious as to overflow the banks of their own individual limits and extend to all those who are devoted to the saints. Knowing this fact, the saints felt quickened to go forth unbidden and do evangelical service. They went among the worldlings with intent to form some connection or other with them so that cause may thereby be created for God to save them. [This is the great secret of vicarious redemption, and also the mystery of the Incarnations. It is like one magnet transmuting by mere touch several iron filaments into its own virtue.] It is related of Sage Pillai Lokacharya that when he heard that his beloved Deity permitted Himself to be robbed near village Āyakkudi, he also permitted himself to be robbed of his all. The Deity was delighted at this signal proof of his attachment, and promised salvation to all who were connected with him. Lokāchārya’s benevolence so expanded with charity at the gift so obtained, that in order to secure salvation [for them], he touched the ants and cast his gazes on the trees and so on; this act conforming with the text:-

“Though trees and rocks they be,

A touch of hand, look from eyes

Suffice to save would be;

What wonder! saved are ‘men with ties ‘.”

[Bhag: Vish: Bk. II. P. 929. “Aṇaivadu” II-8-1]

Also, “Love of God unto death” [pdf page 124]:

It is now shown that if saintly men be not admitted as immediate Saviours, they are at least efficient functionaries for performing mediatorial offices between souls and God. In other words, they do possess the power of vicarious pleading with God, and procure for souls their redemption. There lived a saint by name Tiruk-kaṇṇa-maṅgaiy-ānḍān remarkable for his ardent love of God, and who worshipped at the Adorable Shrine of Lord Pattarāvi (=The life of lovers). He was so far risen in holiness as to put entire trust and confidence in God, so much so that he entirely abandoned his soul unto His keeping, and ceased from every activity which may savour of trust in self, and of distrust in God. He laid himself down at the door of the Sanctuary of the Lord prepared to die for Him, and thus exemplify his whole-hearted love and trust in Him!

His disciple ran to him and weeping, prayed to him thus:- “God-Sire after your departure, what hope is there for me ?”. The master consoled him thus:- “Son remain by my side, that is enough for you”. The disciple carried out this command to the very letter and expiring even before the master, mounted to the abode of the Blessed. Three days after, the Master winged his flight to the regions of glory. [The disciple’s incident also illustrating that the mere act of acceptance of disciple by his godly master secures passport to Heaven [Moksha/Vaikuntha]]

[Bhag: Vish: Vol. IV. p. 1844, “Vedam” iv-6-8].

Also, “Saints – Gods on earth” [pdf page 167]:

Saints are gods on earth. They intercede for us with God. Nanjiyar used to say: “Whenever I saw a saint, a devotee of Vishṇu, and I fell at his feet with my head touching them, I felt as if I ate my fill; as if my hunger vanished.”

[Bhag: Vish: Bk. VI. p. 2597 “Kādal” vi-1-2].

Also, “The Greatness of God’s own Saints” [pdf page 220]:

To be liege to God’s privileged apostles or saints on earth is declared to be of greater virtue and value than allegiance to God Himself direct.[1] In the days of Bhattārya, one of his disciples who had travelled to the Hoysala country (or Maisūr) returned to Srirangam. Bhattārya said to him: “Son, we have heard that you have, during your travel, done great service to God’s apostles, or God’s own men. You do therefore deserve to be taught St. Nammazhvar’s Chapter in Tiruvaymozhi, which particularly treats of this topic, viz., of the greatness of God’s own saints. [2]

[Bhag Vish. Bk. VIII p. 3870. “Nedumāl viii-10-1].

NOTES:

  1. Vide Bhagavad Gita with Ramanuja’s commentary thereon by Author: VII-18. “The jnāni is to be known as My very soul.” Commentary: “As for the jnāni, I deem him as My own self, i.e., My very life depends on him. If it be asked how, the reason is that in the same manner that he cannot live without Me, I cannot live without him.”
  2. It is considered by the Viśishtādvitis [Srivaishnavas] that service to God direct is subject to vicissitudes, and liable to forfeiture by His unopposable will whereas service to God’s own saints is safe against such danger. In the contemplation of God’s beauty, the blessed are likely to be engulphed so as to become incapable of service, whereas no such danger is confronted in the service to the Godly. When accepted by the Godly for service, this acceptance is beyond countermanding by God’s will, and beyond defeat by His captivating beauty, beyond transport produced by His enjoyment, by which the soul becomes transfixed and incapacitated for service. Service to the Godly has therefore been declared to be the Highest Fruit in salvation; it is the highest ambition one must strive for; not as high is all the worldly riches and prosperity; not the restoration to one’s own glory and pristine purity of soul [i.e., Kaivalya (so-called) moksha]; not possessing, enjoying or even serving God [i.e., Bhagavad-anubhava = moksha-proper].

Also, “God marks out the saviours of the world” [pdf page 206]:

God knows whom to depute as Saviours. He puts His Characteristic mark on them, and inspires them accordingly. Āḷavandār [Śrī Yāmunāchārya] was sojourning once during his travels at the Holy Shrine Vishṇu Kānchi (Little Conjeevaram) and had taken his seat to the East of the Holy Ant-Hill, on the steps leading to Kariya-mānikk-āzhvār when Ramanuja happened to pass that way. Alavandar, seeing him, remarked: “There is the Chief Personage.” Alavandar had no acquaintance with Ramanuja, nor did the latter know him and yet Alavandar by insight marked Ramanuja out as the Person, -the anointed and appointed of God to become the Great Religious Reformer of the century.

[Bhag: Vish: Bk. VII. p. 3499 Amudalvan” VII-9-3].

The above identification of Sri Ramanujacharya as the Savior by Sri Āḷavandār [Śrī Yāmunāchārya] was in accordance with Sri Nammalvar’s foretelling of the appearance of Sri Ramanuja as the Bhavishyat (Future) Acharya.

Nammalvar foretells Ramanuja’s appearance

Saint Nammazhwar not only foretold about the appearance of Sri Ramanujacharya in the Tiruvaymoli verse (5-2-1) “poliga poliga poliga” [pdf page 462] as the Bhavishyath (future) Acharya to destroy the the age of Kali, but also presented Sri Ramanujacharya’s murthy [image/diety] as the future savior to appear, to Sri Madhurakavi Alvār, 5000 years ago. This murthy [image/diety] is still being worshipped to the present day in Alvar Thirunagari, the appearance place of Saint Nammalvar.

[Photo credit: http://srikrishnarpanam.blogspot.com/2015/01/RamanujarThirumeniRamanujaChaturVedhiMangalam.html ]

Subsequently, about 1000 years ago, Sri Nammalvar granted another Vigraha (image/diety) of Sri Ramanujacharya to Sri Nathamunigal. An excerpt:

When NammAzhwAr, out of his kAruNyam [mercy], was teaching thiruvAimozhi to nAthamunigaL (nAthamunigaL had recited kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu 12000 times at once and pleased NammAzhwAr who then taught him aruLicheyal [Divya Prabandha, also known as Dravida Veda] and all the meanings along with ashtAnga yOgam), during 5.2.1 –  “poliga poliga” (பொலிக பொலிக) meaning glories! glories!, since AzhwAr was thrikAlagya (one who knows past, present and future) based on emperumAn’s mercy, he reveals the divine avathAram of udayavar to nAthamunigaL and says“kaliyum kedum kanNdu konNmin” (கலியும் கெடும் கண்டு கொண்மின்) meaning kali will be destroyed. AzhwAr further says “A great personality is going to appear in this prapanna kulam. The whole world is going to be uplifted by him” to nAthamunigaL. Hearing this nAthamunigaL becomes ecstatic. Wanting to know more, he adds music to “payananRAgilum” (பயனன்றாகிலும்) pAsuram from kaNNinuN chiruthAmbu (10) and sings the same in front of AzhwAr, pleasing him very much and asks him “Since you are sarvagyar you will know everything. Please demonstrate the physical beauty of that great personality”. In the night, AzhwAr appears in nAthamunigaL’s dream with kAshAyam, thridhaNdam, dvAdhasa Urdhva puNdrams, beautiful long hands, very beautiful glowing thirumEni, etc. He has beautiful face which indicates the flowing mercy, a beautiful smile and red eyes (showing vAthsalyam – motherly forbearance) and tells nAthamunigaL that this is how udayavar will look like and all members of this prapanna kulam will benefit by their connection to udayavar. Suddenly nAthamunigaL wakes up from his sleep  and immediately prostrates in front of AzhwAr and tells him that AzhwAr’s presentation as udayavar is more attractive than AzhwAr’s svayam (original) thirumEni (form). AzhwAr replies to him saying “that is no surprise, as the whole world is going to be attracted towards udayavar”.

nAthamunigaL subsequently asks AzhwAr how to constantly worship this bhavishyadhAchAryan (future AchAryan) form? AzhwAr appears in the dream of a sculptor as bhavishyadhAchAryan and orders him to make a vigraham (uthsava mUrthy) sitting under the divine tamarind tree. The sculptor arrives there the next morning and without break spends time at constructing this thirumEni (as seen in the dream). Once the vigraham is built, AzhwAr installs divine powers in that vigraham, invites nAthamunigaL and presents him that vigraham. He tells nAthamunigaL, “just like iLaya perumAL (lakshmaNan) is considered as the right hand of perumAL (srI rAman), think about this bhavishyadhAchAryan as my part (lotus feet)”. He also says “Since I am the origin for this bhavishyadhAchAryan, he will also be my lotus feet, he will fulfill all my desires. In your family, we are going to see one person who will meet this bhavishyadhAchAryan directly. This person will appear in the same month as when srI rAman’s pattAbhishEkam was due (chithirai) and like gIthai (which contains 18 adhyAyams) revealed  emperumAn’s upAyathvam, this person will appear on the 18th nakshathram (thiruvAdhirai) from my own (visAkam). You worship this vigraham like you worship myself” and gives him a farewell to kAttu mannAr kOil. periyavAchAn piLLai often mentions that “At that time nAthamunigaL compiles and recites the following slOkam out of upakAra smruthi towards AzhwAr.”

yassvAbhAva kAlE karunNAkarassaN bhavishyadhAchchAryaparasvarUpam
saNdharchayAmAsa mahAnubhAvam tham kArisUNum charanNam prapadhyE

யஸ்ஸ்வாபாவ காலே கருணாகரஸ்ஸந் பவிஷ்யதாச்சார்யபரஸ்வரூபம்
ஸந்தர்சயாமாஸ மஹானுபாவம் தம் காரிஸூநும் சரணம் ப்ரபத்யே

I surrender unto nammAzhwAr  who is the son of kAri and who showed me the divine form of bhavishyadhAchAryan in my dream, of his unlimited grace.

[From: Charamopaya Nirnayam translation by Sri Komāndūr Iḷayavilli Sārathy Thothathri Swamin of Koyil.org. ]

Propagation

Kainkarya

Thus, clearly understanding that Savior’s grace doesn’t wait on accumulation of ajñāta(unexpected/unknown/hidden)/yādṛcchika(accidental/unexpected/coincidental) sukritas (merit), etc., but actually has the power of redeeming all those that would take refuge at the Saviour’s lotus feet without those preliminaries, it behooves all of us that have taken refuge, to carry the great message all over the world with all the zeal we can, solely as kainkarya (loving service, without ahamkara) by our Acharyan’s nirhetuka kripa.

The first 2 of the 6 final instructions from Bhagavad Ramanuja are about propagation:

There are six ways by which you can usefully spend your days:

1. Read Sri Bhashya and teach it to others.
2. If that is above your level, read Tiruvaimozhi and make others read it.
3. If that is beyond your ken, build a hut in any holy land, and live there.
4. If that is impracticable, do services in a Temple.
5. If that is inconvenient, dwell ever on the profound truths contained in
the Holy Dvaya-Mantra.
6. If that also is difficult, take shelter or service under a holy man.

The first item above is clearly meant to propagate Tattva-traya understanding, which in the present day and age, when most people aren’t tied to erstwhile Mutts, can be done using lighter works as well, such as Gitabhashya (Sri Bhagavad Gita).

Why not Prapatti/Saranagati?

Prapatti (surrender to God) isn’t applicable to the vast majority of people these days for the reason of atapaskāya cited by Sri Krishna in Sri Bhagavad Gita verse 18.67. Also, according to Srivachana Bhushanam [PDF page 40], Prapatti is for the Parama Satvic.

Acharyābhimāna (Savior’s grace) is the only way!

Pūrvācharyas (Acharyas of yore) have asserted that Achāryābhimāna is the only way. From Srivachana Bhushanam (Word-jewel) [pdf page 88]:

Aph : 441-447 :…
Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai, the illustrious father of Sri Pillai Lokacharya and an ardent disciple of the famous Nambillai, used to cite very often the Great Master’s utterance that there is absolutely no salvation for the Subject, lost, for long, in selfness and selfishness which destroy love to God, except the Acharya’s condescending love. This is the key-note or the central idea of the entire treatise and the five aphorisms elucidating this theme (443-447) shine forth like the key-stone, the cynosure of this precious jewel. The Great Master, Nambillai is quoted, in this context, to impart the requisite traditional sanctity to this meaning.

Due to Prapatti being generally discussed frequently in Srivaishnavam, many these days might be under the impression that Srivaishnavas perform “Prapatti to God through Acharya”. While many do, because otherwise Prapatti itself isn’t efficacious without Acharya-abhimana accompanying it, it is not Achāryābhimāna proper as explained above. Rather this is using Acharyabhimana as an adjunct (anga) to Prapatti, and is in a sense degraded, per the below from Artha Panchaka[1]:

The resort to a Mediator [Achārya] is both an independent Means and an auxiliary Means to the other Means aforesaid [Bhakti Yoga and Prapatti], just as God Himself, the Eternal, is both directly the Goal, and indirectly the Goal as the Spirit indwelling in all the lesser [divinities] of the Pantheon.[1]

Also, in the concluding verse 20 of Yatiraja Vimsati, Sri Manavala Mamunigal prays as below:

It behoves Thee (You), oh Yatiraja, the ocean of compassion
To grant all my prayers in the current submission,
Seeing that I am ignorant and haven’t a little bit
Of spiritual attainment and thou (you) art (are), therefore, my sole Support.

In this concluding sloka, the poet requests Sri Ramanuja to grant all those prayers comprised in the several preceding slokas, commencing from the third sloka. Even if the Master did not open his mouth and say, in so many words, that the prayers have
been granted, it would sufice if he took it to heart that the humble supplicant should be redeemed on the ground that he has none of the spiritual attainments and is, therefore, devoid of any support other than the Master, the sole Refuge. Again, there is no question of compulsion on the part of the poet, as the Master is, by nature, extremely generous, a veritable sea of compassion, and it was this great trait of the Master that induced the petitioner to make the submission contained in these slokas, in the sure and certain hope of favourable response. Speaking about the Grace galore of Sri Ramanuja, it is worth recalling the grouping made in aphorism 204 of “Acharya Hridayam” by Sri Alagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar which says:—

“This sense of belonging, non-endurance of the spiritual degeneration of others and boundless compassion for straying humanity are the unique traits of the Divine Mother (Sita), the illustrious Son (Prahlada), the dutiful Scion (Vibhishana), Saint Nammazhvar and his staunch follower, Sri Ramanuja”.

The main purpose of Sri Ramanuja’s re-incarnation as Srimad Vara Vara Muni (this hymographer) was to intensify the devotion to the great Preceptors, which had earlier abated considerably, with the possible risk of gradual extinction, and to put it back on its high pedestal. Devotion to the great galaxy of the ancient Preceptors, of whom Sri Ramanuja is the crest Jewel, is thus the key note of this as well as all other works of Srimad Vara Vara Muni c.f. ‘Arti Prabandham’ and ‘Upadesa Ratnamalai’.

“Blessed be the holy feet of
Manavala Mahamuni, the
Yateendra Pravanar !”

S. Satyamurthi.

Why not Prapatti first and then Acharyābhimāna?

Even when someone is eligible for Prapatti, switching from Prapatti to Acharyābhimāna is not easy, as pointed out in Srivachana Bhushanam (Word-jewel) Aphorisms 412-424 [pdf page 85].

Isn’t Acharyābhimāna (Savior’s grace) confidential?

In the past, most spiritual seekers were somewhat knowledgeable in some variety of Vedanta (primarily advaita and other misinterpretations, advocating mere Jñana as the means). Emperumānār (Sri Ramanujacharya) tried to bring them up to the platform of Bhakti from Karma and Jñāna yogas and would eventually bring those that have surrendered at His lotus feet, up to Prapatti, as exemplified in His Śaranāgati Gadya, once they met the conditions in Sri Bhagavad Gita verse 18.67 and had the requisite change of heart.

Please see Topic 180 Bhakti and Prapatti contrasted in The Divine Wisdom of Dravida Saints for the discretion shown by Bhagavad Ramanuja.

Acharyābhimāna was then disclosed to Prapannas as a confidential matter to drive home the esoteric nature of Acharyābhimāna. This need not keep us in the current day and age, from disclosing this most exciting feature of our Sathsampradayam, freely. We practically see that Gaudiya Vaishnavas are thriving by openly, centrally and enthusiastically propagating their philosophy of Sri Chaitanya being a combination of Radha and Krishna, which according to them, was supposed to be confidential information.

Our role

Pūrvāchāryās have also mentioned about the role for Ramanuja Sambandhis (those that have taken refuge at the lotus feet of a Srivaishnava Acharya) to play solely as kainkaryam (service to the Acharya) in propagating Acharya’s saviorship.

From Srivachana Bhushanam (Word-jewel) [pdf page 88]:

Aph : 441-447 : Having elucidated the imperative necessity of keeping, in tact, the link with the Acharya, which alone can keep alive the ‘Subject’s contact with the Lord, the necessity for the intervening stage of contact with the Bhagavatas (Lord’s devotees) ‘Satvikais sambashanam’ like unto the farmer in the heart of a village, is examined. The Bhagavatas serve as the prop, the light-pole around which the young creeper twists itself and grows upwards. When the Subject is conscious enough to seek initiation by the Acharya, the devotees play quite a prominent part in giving him proper guidance and training and putting him on to the Acharya.
It is significant that Sri Pillai Lokacharya mentions the above, about Bhagavatas serving as the prop, in the section pertaining to Charama-parva (Final means, i.e., Acharya-abhimana or Savior’s grace) where it is asserted that Āchāryābhimāna is the only means!

There are also a couple of other considerations that could be motivators for some of us.

Compassion

Compassion is integral to the Srivaishnava identity. Bhagavad Ramanuja mentions in Bhagavad-gita 5.25:

Sarva-bhūta-hite ratāḥ=Those who ever wish for all other creatures, the happiness or good they would have for themselves.

And also detailed in:

“The Chief Characteristic of Godly Men” [pdf page 57]:

Nanjiyar often expressed :— “Any one can test himself whether he be real Vaishnava or no. If, when seeing others’ adverses or adversity his pity be excited, and he do [exclaim] “oh”, he may know himself as a true Vaishnava; but if his breast be steeled against others’ tribulation and further vitiated by emotions of vile pleasure surging up at its sight, he may know himself as not belonging to such holy band. To be Vaishnava is to belong to God, and vice versa. To belong to God is to be like God Himself, i.e., conform to the ideals which He has preached and practiced; one of these ideals being to be “The Friend of all Creatures.”

[Bhag: Vish., Bk. I., pp. 188-189. “Vīdumin”]

There are so many activities proceeding from compassion for the physical bodies of living entities. But knowing that we aren’t these physical bodies but jivas, shouldn’t we also focus on rescuing the Jivas from this samsāra (birth/death cycle)? Solely focusing on physical well-being is similar to saving a sinking man’s suit, not caring for the man himself.

Inherent propensity to enjoy nectar along with others

Also, it’s in our svarūpam (nature) to serve Emperumān (Lord) along with as many other Bhāgavatās as possible, as shown by Saint Andāḷ:

like it says in ‘Eka: svAthu na bhunjItha’, they wake up others because they are not of the nature of enjoying such a nectar alone by themselves;

So, it behooves us to propagate so we get to perform kainkaryam along with more Bhāgavatās.

Opportunity to watch grace in action

While we can see Achāryan kripa in our own transformation (however slow it might be because of ourselves), it nevertheless would be of immense satisfaction to see Emperumān ultimately benefit by the addition of more jīvās to His fold thru Achārya-abhimāna.

Mangalasasana

Some might feel that they lack compassion for themselves, what to speak of compassion for others. Even this being so, we are supposed to be the Lord’s Mangalāśasanaparārs (wellwishers).

Per Srivachana Bhushana [PDF page 63]:

The several facets of Periazhvar’s ‘Mangalasasana‘ are:—

(1) Whereas the Lord’s unique prowess, His sinewy shoulders and the weapons (Conch and Discus); borne on His hands, all the time, ought to inspire enough confidence in the Azhvar and banish his fears about the Lord’s safety, he would still entertain fears about something which might endanger these also;

(2) He would enlist even those hankering after lesser gains like Riches, on his side, to bless God;

(3) He would feel as though the Lord’s encounter with the formidable Hiranya and Ravana, in the dim past, were but contemporary events and start worrying himself about the Lord’s grim struggle ahead, with the demons, and pray for the Lord’s victory;

(4) He would declare his intention to persevere in his unique technique of ‘Mangalasasana’ even in Heaven, treating it as his final goal, the end-product; as a matter of fact, he would caution, right from here, even those Eternal Heroes (Nitya soories), the Lord‘s constant Attendants in that haloed land, who never bat their eyelids and are thus known as ‘animishas’, ensuring unremitting vigilance over the Lord, to tighten up their Vigil still further and never relax. (Periazhwar Thirumozhi V2.9)

Periazhvar, among the Azhwars, and Emberumanar (Sri Ramanuja), among the Acharyas, have the unique distinction of feeling that the Lord is lonely and needs lots of people to surround and serve Him and consequently, their precepts to the Samsaris are ‘service-oriented’, that is, directed towards the administration of the necessary correctives to the worldlings wallowing in the Sty of Worldly life, and enlisting them all in the service of the Lord.

There’s  currently an urgent need for propagation, because in the vacuum that currently exists, so many Christian and other evangelical organizations are propagating their saviors. As a modern saying goes: “If you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road”.

This is especially an issue in Divyadesams where this has a direct impact on the welfare of the Lord enshrined in those Divyadesams and being His Mangalāśasanaparārs (wellwishers) we can’t afford to keep quite and not propagate our most glorious spiritual tradition even though we might  lack compassion for ourselves or others.

Order

Over and above all these considerations, we must be aware that Saint Nammalvar asserted that with the advent of Sri Ramanuja, the degrading age of Kali will be destroyed (“kaliyum kedum kanNdu konNmin” (கலியும் கெடும் கண்டு கொண்மின்)), in Tiruvaymoli verse (5-2-1) “poliga poliga poliga” [pdf page 462]. It thus behooves all Ramanuja Sambandhis to then execute the task by bringing Sri Ramanujacharya’s lotus feet to all regardless of caste, color, etc.

And execute it with the same zeal and determination shown by Sri Thirumangai Alvār (Kaliyan) in developing Srirangam and propagating Srivaishnavam.

And we have the order from Sri Kaliyan Swami.

Srimath Paramahamsa Ithyadi Sri Kaliyan Vanamamalai Ramanuja Jeeyar Swamivaru, the 30th peetadhipati (head) of the venerable Vanamamalai Mutt (a preeminent seat of Srivaishnavam) has ordered that Acharyabhimana (Savior’s grace) and Acharyanishta (self, oblated to service of Savior) which are the quintessence of Srivaishnavam, be widely propagated across the length and breadth of this planet.

We will take the opportunity of the sahasrabdi (millennium) celebrations in this year 2017, celebrating the 1000 years since Sri Ramanujacharya’s appearance, to propagate Sri Ramanujacharya’s uttārakathvam/uddhārakathvam (saviourship) far and wide.

References

  1. The Artha-Panchaka of Sri Pillai Lokacarya (July 1910).
  2. Srivachana Bhushanam of Sri Pillai Lokacharya and Yathiraja Vimsati of Sri Manavala Mamunigal  English translation by Sri S. Satyamurthi Ayyangar Swami, Gwalior (1972).
  3. Mumukshuppadi (Manual for Seekers of Salvation) by Sri S. Satyamurthi Ayyangar Swami, Gwalior. This book is missing a couple of pages. A web version of Mumukshuppadi is also available to access the missing content.

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