Why propagate?

Nirhetuka kripa (Free/irresistible grace) is a most important principle in Srivaishnavam. It’s the Lord’s/Acharya’s nirhetuka kripa alone that results in the acceptance of a living entity that has taken refuge, not any effort on the part of the living entity to earn/buy/barter Lord’s acceptance of the living entity.

This however doesn’t mean no propagation is necessary. The key is realizing that all action, including that of propagation, jivas taking refuge (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 special grace from the Lord descends on a jiva (living entity) is explained in Srivachana Bhushanam (Word-Jewel) [pdf page 78].

Also, “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.

The above explains prapatti/saranagati to the Lord directly. However the quintessence of Srivaishnavam is 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, “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].

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; not possessing, enjoying or even serving God.

There is a 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. Vadakku Thiruveedhi Plllai, 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.

Thus clearly understanding that Savior’s grace doesn’t wait on accumulation of agnata/yadruschika sukritas, 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, in accordance with “sarva bhuta hite ratah” as mentioned in Bhagavad-gita 5.25 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”]

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.