Relishing the Venkatesha Vaibhavam Series
Celebrating the arrival of Sri Aishwarya Srinivasa Perumal in Houston, Sri Ramanujamji, disciple of Sri Swamiji, took us on a journey to His divine abode by reminiscing the greatness of Lord Srinivasa and Venkatachalam, based on the divine work – ‘Divyadesa Vaibhavam’ by Paranur Mahatma Sri Sri Krishnapremi Maharaj.
A Prayer to Perumal in the Presence of Thayar
The twelve great Sri Vaishnava saints, the Azhwars sang the essence of our hallowed shastras in their rasa-laden priceless verses called the Divyaprabandam. This month in our ‘Venkatesha Vaibhavam Series’, we shall delve into one such nectarine verse of Nammazhwar which fully embodies the spirit of complete surrender. Nammazhwar is unique among the twelve Azhwars because he also belongs to the lineage of acharyas. His wonderful songs called ‘Thiruvaimozhi’ are the essence of upanishads. Azhwar very beautifully concludes his 6th centuplet (a set of 100 songs) singing,
agalagillEn iRaiyum enRu alarmEl mangai uRai mArbA!
nigaril pugazhAy! ulagam mUnRuDaiyAy! ennai ALvAnE!
nigaril amarar munik kaNangaL virumbum thiruvEngaDaththAnE!
pugal onRillA aDiyEn! unaDi kIzh amarndhu pugundhEnE!
This pasuram completely encompasses the sharaNAgati shAstra (philosophy of surrender) and is the very epitome of a dear devotee’s intimate bond with Perumal (Bhagavan) and hence very significant.
One among the six qualities for the term ‘bhaga’ in the word Bhagavan refers to the ‘glory’ of Bhagavan. In this verse Azhwar praises Bhagavan as the One who has all the three worlds in His possession (ulagam mUnRuDaiyAy), One who is celebrated in all the three worlds, One who takes care of all the three worlds from the very smallest to the biggest creature and One who is worshiped and attracted by all the gods and sages who came flocking from Sri Vaikunta to behold Srinivasa Perumal in Tirumala (nigaril amararmunikkaNangaL virumbum thiruvEngaDaththAnE).
In this verse Azhwar declares that Bhagavan is His Lord who rules him (ennai ALvAnE) and he in turn is His eternal servant (aDiyEn). Azhwar tearfully expresses his helplessness stating he has nowhere to go and submits his ‘ananya sharaNAgati’at Perumal’s lotus feet by seeking the support of the divine mother as ‘Purushakaram’ (recommendation). He takes the recommendation of ‘Piratti’ (divine mother), who remains inseparable from Bhagavan (nityAnapAyinI) to gain Bhagavan’s grace and compassion.
The relation that Azhwars have with Srinivasa Perumal in Tirumala is indeed very unique. In other divyadesams they take liberty, they fondle, pamper and play with Perumal in their own sweet way but when they are in the divine presence of Srinivasa Perumal in Tirumala, unanimously all the Azhwars, with their eyes glistening with tears, firmly hold on to the feet of Perumal in complete surrender – He being their one and only sole refuge!
Sri Ramanujamji (in this Venkatesha Vaibhavam lecture), conveys this poetically,
Elsewhere with Perumal they prattled
But here, they, with their hearts rattled
Seeing this inseparable mother
And the father ever together
Quitting the battling
with samsara – the deluge
‘Thou art the sole refuge’
Surrendering unto Srinivasa Perumal is very unique and special as the Divine Mother finds her abode in His vast expansive gentle chest which truly is the opportune moment for surrender. In fact it is the very presence of the Divine Mother that makes the surrender complete and Srimad Ramayana being a sharaNAgati shAstra beautifully reinforces this in several contexts.
As one dives deep into this ocean of Srimad Ramayana one cannot miss but witness Mother Sita Devi’s infinite compassion on even the worst sinner. She was equally graceful to both Ravana and Jayanta (son of Indra) who had gravely sinned against her. Ravana tortured Sita Mata but could not touch her. Jayanta (Kakasura) had hurt Sita Devi when she was with Ramachandra Prabhu in Chitrakoota. However Jayanta was spared but Ravana was not. Mahatmas enlighten the reason behind this by saying Jayanta took refuge at the feet of Bhagavan in the presence of mother Sita Devi while Ravana, bereft of Sita Mata’s compassion, perished.
In another instance in Ayodhya Kanda, Sri Ramachandra Prabhu, while being deeply concerned about Mother Kausalya’s welfare, tries to persuade Sri Lakshmana Swami to return to Ayodhya. Lakshmana Swami who could not bear to think of being separated from Bhagavan laments,
na cha sItA tvayA hInA na cha aham api rAghavA |
muhUrtam api jIvAvO jalAn matsyAvivO uddhrutou ||
“A fish out of water cannot survive even for a second, likewise neither Sita Devi nor I, can survive if separated from you.”
He surrenders at the lotus feet of Bhagavan seeking Him to consider his plight but also secretly from the corner of his eyes pleads mercy from Sita Devi, relying on Her grace to intervene and convince Bhagavan. This supplication, Sri Lakshmana Swami also does in the presence of Mother Sita Devi.
Therefore, the divine mother’s presence is the refuge for all. It is Her presence that all devotees behold very first because she decorates Bhagavan’s dark, wide glorious chest as a bright golden streak of lightning there (hiraNyavaraNAm hariNIm) by even clouding Bhagavan in her glittering yellow hue.
In Gopapuri Kshetram (Thirukkovilur), the foremost among the Azhwars came to have the darshan of Trivikrama Perumal. The three Azhwars who visited this kshetram were waiting for the dawn to behold Perumal’s divine form. However Perumal was very excited and could not wait and so rushed to see the Azhwars Himself. As Perumal entered, Azhwars were first blessed to witness the golden glow of Sri Pushpavalli Thayar. Overjoyed seeing this overpowering effulgence of divine mother, Peyazhwar sings, “thirukkaNDEn ponmEni kaNDEn thighazhu arukkan aNiniramum kaNDEn”.
In the Rudra Geetham in the 4th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Shuka relishes a similar comparison in Sri Rudra’s wonderful description of Bhagavan Sri Hari’s glorious form. He says,
Sri Rudra says that the Lord’s shoulders are just like that of a lion and these shoulders are adorned with beautiful garlands, glittering necklaces and the precious Kaustubha pearl. And on the dark chest of the Lord, Shri, Goddesses Mahalakshmi firmly resides as a lustrous golden streak like how a small rake of gold gets permanently etched to the rubbing stone (which is dark in color) when rubbed against its surface several times for testing.
It is always the mother who exudes tenderness and compassion. Here, the Divine Mother is ever-present and readily awaits to embrace and shower her children with love and compassion and hence the Azhwars are blessed with Her sight immediately.
This pasuram of Nammazhwar is also the embodiment of the very important dvayam mantra (periyatirumandiram) in Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. Sanskrit grammar employs a pratyaya (suffix) called ‘madup pratyaya’. The term ‘shrImAn’ in the dvayam mantra uses this pratyaya which means an ‘ever-lasting bond’ (nithyasammandham) and hence represents His permanent togetherness with Shri (mangai) the Divine Mother. The etymology and significance behind the term ‘shrIman’ very beautifully corresponds to the meaning of ‘agalagillEn iRaiyum’ (remains inseparable from Perumal) from this verse.
The word ‘amarndhu’ in this pasuram also carries a deep significance. Sri Vaishnavas deem their service to the divine couple in the temple as their supreme fortune and blessing. Mahatmas wish and yearn to serve Perumal in Tirumala to their heart’s content and they don’t desire for anything beyond this. Service to Archavatara Perumal is itself the total cessation of transmigration. Swami Vedanta Desikar, a great Acharyapurusha considers being in the presence of Sri Varadaraja Perumal as verily being in Sri Vaikuntam! Here, Azhwar uses the term ‘amarndhu’ in this verse because he too wishes to be seated right there in Tirumala and serve Srinivasa Perumal always. Sri Swamiji too emotes the same spirit of surrender in a lovely Madhurageetham in Mukhari raga, with a yearning heart truly wishing to reside in the abode of Tirumala just for a second! He sings,
kShaNa mAtra vAsam dEhi
shrI vEnkaTEsha thava mandirE
The beauty in this Madhurageetham lies in the second verse where Sri Swamiji too seeks Bhagavan’s grace through the Purushakaram of Thayar, the Divine Mother.
pashya mAm kripayA svAmin
He requests Mother Padmavathy’s presence for him to be blessed with Bhagavan’s compassionate glance and grace.
Sri Swamiji, further in this kirtan, also refers to Srimad Ramayana, the sharaNAgati shAstra, to implore his surrender stating that his predicament is similar to that of Sita Devi who too was helpless in Ashokavana.
pAlaya pAlaya dInAmabalAm
pUraya muraLIdhara kAmam
Sri Swamiji finally concludes beseeching Bhagavan to fulfill this longing of his!
This month, let us relish this soulful prayer of surrender of Nammazhwar along with the lovely Sri Madhurageetham. May this shravaNam (reading/listening) along with the kirtanam fill our hearts with the smaranam of Srinivasa Perumal.
Based on Sri Ramanujamji’s Venkatesha Vaibhavam Series of Discourses
To listen and enjoy the complete episode 9 of Venkatesha Vaibhavam series, please click here –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRDR3mGmsfQ&list=PLf2GTja1Pr3P0Yr_AsYTOi9KnzUBlI1sE&index=8
For the complete playlist on YouTube –
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