Srivaishnava lakshanam - 7

Apachaarams to avoid

srimathe ramanujaya nama:
srimad varavaramunaye nama:
sri vaanaachala mahamunaye nama:

In the previous articles we have seen the internal qualities that a srivaishnava should aspire to develop. We also saw in the end, how important it is to aspire for the association of such srivaishnavas. In this article we will understand the different types of apachaarams (offenses) that srivaishnavas should avoid.

For srivaishnavas, saastram is the foundation - we depend on saastram for every action we do. Saastram means that which instructs us on what to do (vidhi) and what not to do (nishEdham). Primarily saastram instructs us to perform our nithya/namithika karmas and restrain from theft, attachment towards other's properties, violence, etc. Our pUrvaachaaryas take the essence from the saastram and consolidated them.

In srivachana bhushana divya saastram, in sUtrams 300 to 307, pillai lOkaachaariar explains that a srivaishnava must be asakthan (incapable to do) in the following 4 matters:
* akruthya karaNam - not indulging in what is rejected in saastram
* bhagavadh apachaaram - apachaarams in emperumaan's vishayam
* bhaagavatha apachaaram - apachaarams in bhaagavatha vishyam
* asahya apachaaram - apachaarams in bhagavad/bhaagavatha vishayam that happens without any reason

Let us see one by one in detail:

  • akruthya karaNam
saastram in general asks us to refrain from the following items:
* para himsai - giving trouble to any living being. even hurting a plant or small ant unnecessarily is not accepted in saastram. 
* para stOtram - our speech ability is provided by emperumaan to praise him and his adiyaars. It should never be used to praise avaishnavas.
* para dhaara parigraham - we should never think about another woman (or man) who is not married to us with any wrong intentions.
* para dhravya apahaaram - we should never take some one else's property directly or indirectly unless the owner gives it to us willingly.
* asathya gathanam - speaking what is opposite to reality/truth and what is not helping any living being.
* apakshya pakshanam - eating food stuffs which has jaathi, aasraya or nimitha dOsham - see aahaara niyamam ( for detailed discussion on this topic.
and many other such restrictions given by manu smriti, etc.
It is important for a srivaishnava to first follow the saamaanya saastra vidhi and avoid the nishEdha vishayangal.
  • bhagavad apachaaram
pillai lOkaachaariar continues to explain the next nishEdha vishayam - bhagavad apachaaram. he explains this in great detail and maamunigal gives wonderful commentary for these. The following are listed as bhagavad apachaaram:
* To consider emperumaan at the same level as dhevathaanatharangal - for a srivaishnava it is paramount to understand that emperumaan is sarvEshvaran, one who is the lord of every one (including brahma, shiva, indra, varuna, agni, etc) and he is antharyaami (one being inside everyone to control their acts). There is no one equal to him or higher to him. With that understanding, we should fully abstain from indulging in any relationship with dhEvathaantharangal.
* To consider avathaarams such as rama, krishna, etc as normal or (even super) humans - one should understand that emperumaan appears in this samsaaram with all his qualities as in paramapadham. As part of his leelai, he enters in to garbham of a woman, being born on a particular day, goes through difficulties like vana vaasam, etc - but he is not bound by karma at all - instead all of these happen out of his iccha (desire) to help jIvaathmaas who are suffering in samsaaram. So, just because of these difficulties he goes through, we should never think that he is also like other humans.
* To disrespect the varnaashrama limits - One should strictly follow varna and aashrama rules and regulations. Because emperumaan says "sruthi smriti mama Eva aajnjaa, aajnaa chEthi mama dhrOhi ... mad bhaktOpi na vaishnava:" - sruthi and smrithi are his orders and who does not follow them are his drOhis and even he is a bhaktha he will not be considered a vaishnava. In this particular case, mamunigal explains, fourth varna srivaishnavas using vaidhIha manthrangaL during thiruvaaraadhanam, sanyaasis eating beetle nuts are some of the acts which are not allowed by saastram.
* To value the archaa vigraham (deity) based on the raw materials that are used to make it - We should understand that emperumaan out of the pure love for his bhakthaas, takes up the form which they desire. If we say that because this is a gold vigraham it is great and this is a stone vigraham or just a picture it is not so good - that is explained in saastram as questioning the purity of his own mother.
* To consider the jIvaathmaa as independent - our svaathanthriya budhi is the main cause for all kinds of sins and this is explained as the biggest theft in saastram. We should understand that jIvaathmaa is only subservient to emperumaan and act according to that.
* To steal bhagvad dhravam (things that belong to emperumaan). This includes stealing emperumaan's properties like his bhOgam, thiruvaabharanam, vastram, etc. also stealing immovable properties like his land, etc can be included here which are quite common these days.
* To help the ones who do the above acts of stealing.
* To accept those stolen properties from the ones who steal or help others to steal emperumaan's properties. Even accepting with the thought of "well, we did not want those, but they are giving it, so why not accept it" is not favourable to emperumaan.
* and many other such behaviours that are condemned in saastram.

  • bhaagavatha apachaaram
Primarily, It is explained that just considering another srivaishnava equal to us itself is a bhaagavatha apachaaram - we should always consider ourselves lower than other srivaishnavas. In this section, pillai lOkaachaariar very briefly explains that "bhaagavatha apachaaram is that enemity which is developed in us against srivaihnavas, out of desire towards wealth and lust". But detailed explanation of bhaagavatha apachaaram is discussed in sUtrams 190 to 207. Let us see the essence of those sUtrams.

First we need to have some context on bhaagavatha apachaaram
* ones who have srivaishnava vEsham (dress, Urdhva pundram, etc) but engage in bhaagavatha apachaaram are like clothes which are folded nicely but burnt internally. When a strong wind blows, they will fly into pieces.
* We also have to understand that emperumaan's avathaaram's like varaha, naraismha, rama, krishna, etc and his acts in those avathaarams are mainly due to the apachaarams done by hiranya, raavana, etc to emperumaan's bhakthas. It is because of his anguish in seeing the suffering of his bhakthaas, he takes up this avathaarams in samsaaram. We can easily understand this from his own words on his avathaara rahasyam in the fourth chapter of bhagavad gItA - yadhaa yadhaa, parithraanaaya saadhuanam, bhaauni mE vyathIthaani, ajo api sann and janma karma ca mE divyam slOkams. Emperumaanaar and Vedhaanthaachaariar has explained these slOkams in great detail in their gitA bhaashayam and thaathpariya chandrikai respectively.

* There are also several types of bhaagavatha apachaaram - discriminating/disrespecting a srivaishnava based on his/her birth, knowledge, acts, food, relatives, place of living, etc.
* Out of these, discriminating/disrespecting based on a srivaishnava's birth is the most cruel one. This is considered to be even worse than valuing the archa vigraham of emperumaan based on the raw material it is made of (it is already explained that this is similar to questioning the purity of ones own mother).

The fact that we disrespect another srivaishnava based on any of the above is in itself sufficient to cause bhaagavatha apachaaram. This way, our pUrvaachaaryas have maintained such strict standards while dealing with other srivaishnavas. They were cautious all the time, for example, even an acharya will treat his sishya with utmost respect - that is the level of dignity they were maintaining. What we see today to some extent is total degradation - even the sishya is not giving respect to his/her own acharya and saying things like "well, he is not so knowledgable.", "but he is also after money, how can I respect him", etc.

The results of bhaagavatha apachaaram are also explained in detail here.

* Thrisangu's example is explained here - He insisted to his acharya (vasishta rishi) and subsequently vasishta's sons to make him go to svargam with the existing body. Since they refused to do that he got angry and seeing that vasishta's sons cursed him to become a chandaala. The same yajnOpavItham which establishes his brahma jnaanam, became the belt which chandaaLas wear. Likewise if srivaishnavas commit apachaarams, being in a such high position (being a srivaishnava) any paapams/mistakes that they do will have the most severe punishment according to saastram - since they are expected to be very pure. Just like if the Prime Minister of the country is involved in some corruption - every one thinks so low of him, but if a common man is involved in corruption no one will care about that.
* Thondaradi podi aazhwaar said "thamargaLil thalaivaraaya chaathi aNthanNargaLElum" ("தமர்களில் தலைவராய சாதி அந்தணர்களேலும்") - even if a person is born in braahmana family, had brahmOpadhEsam and fully qualified himself in vedhas, if he commits an apachaaram to a srivaishnava (who just understands the sambandham between emperumaan and himself but may not have any other jnaanam and anushtaanam), this braahmana will become like a chandaala immediately. We should not think that even after doing so many apachaarams to srivaishnavas we dont see anyone change their forms - the change need not be physical.
* Even when Garudan thought about chaandili (who is emperumaan's bhakthai) that, why she is living in a secluded place instead of divyadhEsam, he immediately lost his wings.
* When Pillai pillai azhwaan continuously does bhaagavatha apachaaram, koorathaazhwan corrects him in many ways highliting the importance of avoiding such apachaarams.
* Finally a very important point should be understood. As we understand/believe that, "we get mOksham purely by our relationship to our acharya without any regard for our jnaanam and anushtaanam", the same way "we will fall down to the bottom of samsaaram purely by our apachaaram to a srivaishnava without any regard for our jnaanam and anushtaanam".

  • asahya apachaaram
asahya means without any reason. These are the apachaarams we commit towards emperumaan, acharya or srivaishnavas without any specific reason.
* In bhagavad vishyam - hiranyakasipu just did not want to hear about emperumaan - even though emperumaan did not do anything particular to him. 
* In acharya vishayam - not following his instructions, explaining the knowledge he taught to unqualified persons in expectation of wealth, fame, etc
* In bhaagavatha vishayam - having jealosy towards other srivaishnavas, etc.

It is explained that each of these apachaarams (in order) are more cruel than the one before. That is, bhagavad apachaaram is more cruel than akruthya karanam, bhaagavatha apachaaram is more cruel than bhagavad apachaaram and asahya apachaaram is more cruel than bhaagavatha apachaaram.

Our pUrvaachaarayas were very respectful to saastram and very fearful to commiting any apachaaram. Every acharya in our guruparamparai (as we can see from their history), towards the end of their life in this samsaaram, will gather all their sishyaas and other srivaishnavas and ask for their forgiveness even though they did not commit any apachaaram at all. Such was their humility.

For us also, it is important to understand this clearly, and try to apply in our lives. Jnaanam exemplifies when it leads to anushtaanam - if that does not happen that jnaanam can simply be the same as ajnaanam.

Though we should understand clearly - this does not mean that srivaishnavas did not share their knowledge in saastram to other srivaishnavas fearing that it will cause bhaagavatha apachaaram. If that was the case, we would not have so many granthams by our pUrvaachaaryas and even contemporary acharyas in our sampradhaayam explaining how we should live. The goal of these granthams is to educate us so we develop these good qualities by reading them.

In the next article adiyen would like to discuss another important aspect - what is uthkrushta janmam (high birth) and apakrushta janmam (low birth) according to our pUrvaachaaryas.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

Note: These articles are archived in and can be viewed at adiyen's blogsite:


  1. Swami great article. Adiyen was not able to understand this "Even when Garudan thought about chaandili (who is emperumaan's bhakthai) that, why she is living in a secluded place instead of divyadhEsam, he immediately lost his wings." Why is it an Apacharam? Probably if you could explain a little it would be really helpful.

  2. thanks swamy.

    basically, one should not judge another srIvaishNava based on their birth, wealth, knowledge, place of stay, etc. Since garudAzhwAr judged her based on the place where she stays, that was considered as an apachAram.

    adiyen ramanuja dasan

    1. Thanks for the clarification Swamy.

      Adiyen Ramanuja Dasan