virOdhi parihArangaL - 4


srImathE satagOpAya nama:
srImathE rAmAnujAya nama:

srImadh varavaramunayE nama:
srI vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

emperumAnAr explains to vangi puratthu nambi the obstacles that are faced by srIvaishNavas in various aspects of day-to-day life. vangi puratthu nambi documents these instructions in a wonderful grantham with commentary named virOdhi parihArangaL (removal of obstacles). We are now viewing the English translation of this grantham with the help of the explanations given by srI U. vE. V V Ramanujam swamy. The whole series can be viewed at
Please see the previous article at

20. mukyapramANa virOdhi (முக்யப்ரமாண விரோதி) - Obstacles in understanding the primary evidence

pramA means valid knowledge. pramANam means that which provides valid knowledge about a particular subject. 

Three types of pramANams are generally accepted by vaidhikas.
  • prathyaksham (perception) - that which observable by our sense organs like eyes, nose, ears, etc. Though this is generally assumed to be revealing the truth as it is, there are limitations in this. For example, if some one has a disease in his eyes what is visible to him may not be truthful and trustworthy. Another example is, when there is limited light, it is easy for one to confuse a pillar with a man and a rope with a snake. Mirage is also a false vision (looks like water is present but in reality it is not).

  • anumAnam (inference) - stipulating based on prior perception is called inference. Where there is smoke, there is fire - this is a classic example for anumAnam. But this is also fraught with limitations. Both prathyaksham and anumAnam are not considered as primary evidences.

  • sabdham (authentic scriptures) - vEdham is considered as the most authentic and trustworthy evidence for valid knowledge. All Asthikas (one who accepts vEdham as pramANam) accept that vEdham is apaurushEyam (not created by any man or woman), nithyam (eternally existing), nirdhOsham (blemishless).

Let us now see the obstacles in understanding about mukya pramANams.
  • vEdhAntham bestows blemishless knowledge. vEdhAntham means the end or top-most portion of vEdham - mainly upanishadhs. Not considering such vEdhAntham as the ultimate authority is an obstacle.
  • Considering vEdhAntham to be at equal level as prathyaksham and anumAnam is an obstacle. Obviously vEdhAntham is a greater authority than other pramANams. Translator's note: Please recollect the famous pramANam from mahAbhAratham "sathyam sathyam punas sathyam vEdhAth sAsthram param nAsthi na dhaivam kEsavAth param".
  • kaNNan emperumAn orders in the end of bhagavath gIthA "mA sucha:" (do not worry). charama slOkam in gIthA is the essence of all upanishadhs. bhagavAn assumed the position of gIthAchAryan and instructed gIthai seated on the divine chariot saying "give up all upAyams and fully surrender unto me. I will relieve you from all sins (obstacles). This is guaranteed. Do not worry; Do not doubt; Do not lament". This is what is called "mA sucha:". ANdAL nAchiyAr highlighted this as "meymai peru vArththai" (மெய்மைப் பெருவார்த்தை) in nAchiyAr thirumozhi 11.10 pAsuram. One must have full faith in these words. Not having such faith is an obstacle.


  • AzhwArs are divinely blessed by bhagavAn's causeless mercy with blemishless knowledge. As they are an outcome of pure knowledge, they are absolute truth. They are as good as vEdham to be considered as primary means of knowledge. Not considering as such (i.e., considering AzhwArs' pAsurams to be lower) is an obstacle.
  • From nammAzhwAr upto mAmunigaL - AchAryas who are found in the guru paramparai are called pUrvAchAryas. Knowledge has been transmitted from an AchArya to sishya and so on in this paramparai. All the AchAryas and their dear sishyas are completely blessed by AzhwAr himself. Their instructions are also considered as primary means of knowledge. One must have strong faith in this. Lack of faith in such principle is an obstacle. Translator's note: ALavandhAr highlights in sthOthra rathnam 20 "thvadhIya gambIra manOnusAriNa:" - vEdham follows the divine heart of bhagavAn's bhakthas. Commonly known pramANam "dhamagya samayam pramANam vEdhAs cha" also insists the same - the actions of the one who knows dharmam are main pramANam and vEdham is also a pramANam - this also gives more weightage for AzhwArs and pUrvAchAryas who were well established in the eternal dharmam.

21. yAvadhAthmabhAvi virOdhi (யாவதாத்மபாவி விரோதி) - Obstacles for the AthmA as long as it exists (forever)

yAvadhAthma bhAvi means as long as the AthmA exists. AthmA is nithyam (eternal) - always exists. But virOdhi is not - it will be removed when true knowledge fully expands for the AthmA. So, this can be considered as those which exist(ed) for a long time.

True nature of jIvAthmA is to be an eternal servant of bhagavAn and bhAagvathAs
  • ALavandhAr quotes "dhEhEndhriya mana: prANa dhIpyO anya:" (தேஹேந்த்ரிய மந: ப்ராண தீப்யோ அந்ய:) indicating that AthmA is different from body, senses, mind, intellect, etc. It is commonly observed that people consider soul and body to be the same and function according to that. But this is not true - its only a confusion. The body is subject to birth, growth, shrinkage (with old-age), disease and death. But AthmA is nirvikAra (changeless). So it is an obstacle to confuse the soul with body, etc. Translator's note: In thathva thrayam, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains that AthmA is different from dhEham (body), indhriyam (senses), manam (mind), prANa (vital air), bhudhdhi (intellect), etc., in an elaborate manner.
  • To consider AthmA as independent is wrong. AthmA is owned by sarvEsvaran and is always controlled by him. Servitorship towards bhagavAn is the true identity of jIvAthmA. To consider AthmA as ones own (independent) is a theft (stealing the property of bhagavAn). This is a big obstacle.
  • Iswaran is complete in all manner. He is sarvagyan (omniscient), sarvasakthan (omnipotent), avAptha samastha kAman (all desires fulfilled) and apahatha pApmA (not affected with any defects). To consider such Iswaran as apUrNan (incomplete) is an obstacle.
  • To consider brahmA, rudhran, etc as controllers - srIman nArAyaNan is the natural controller of all dhEvathas including brahmA, rudhran, etc. That is why Adhi sankara bhagavath pAdhar highlighted in his sahasranAma bhAshyam "IsanasIla: nArayaNa Eva" (nArAyaNan is the only controller). upanishadhs also declare "nArAyana: parabhrama". Thus considering any one other than srIman nArAyaNan as Iswaran is an obstacle.
  • To consider any one other than emperumAn as rakshakan (protector) - emperumAn is the protector for every one. This is the purport of praNavam which is the essence of all of vEdham. As rudhran, brahmA, etc., are jIvAthmAs, they are not controllers like emperumAn. It is an obstacle to consider them like that. Translator's note: piLLai lOkAchAryar has written a grantham named "prapanna parithrANam" which clearly establishes that only srIman nArAyaNan is the true protector. He himself quotes this in mumukshuppadi sUthram 39 "'Iswaranai ozhinthavargaL rakshakarallar' ennumidam prapanna parithrANaththilE chonnOm" ('ஈச்வரனை ஒழிந்தவர்கள் ரக்ஷகரல்லர்' என்னுமிடம் ப்ரபன்ன பரித்ராணத்திலே சொன்னோம்).
  • bhAgavatha apachAram, AchArya apachAram and apachArams to the AchArya bhakthas (ones who are surrendered to the AchArya) are big obstacles. bhagavAn never forgives the ones who commit bhAgavatha apachAram. emperumAn says to bhUmi pirAtti "kshipAmi, nakshamAmi vasundharE" (க்ஷிபாமி, நக்ஷமாமி வஸுந்தரே) - "bhU"dhEvi! I will push them down and will never forgive them". This is understood from many incidents identified in purANams. emperumAn will forgive the ones who commit bhagavath apachAram (apachAram towards emperumAn). But he certainly punishes the one who commits bhAgavatha apachAram and AchArya apachAram. thiruvarangaththamudhanAr prays to emperumAnAr in rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi 107 "irAmAnusa! un thoNdarkatkE anbuRRirukkum padi ennaiyAkki angAtpaduththE" (இராமானுச! உன் தொண்டர்கட்கே அன்புற்றிருக்கும் படி என்னையாக்கி அங்காட்படுத்தே) - srI rAmAnuja! Please reform me so that I am always attached to your servitors. This is what we should also desire for.

22. nithya virOdhi (நித்ய விரோதி) - continual obstacles (related to ones senses which are always with oneself)

Senses stay with the AthmA throughout. There are 10 sense organs:
  • pancha gyAnEndhriyas - 5 sense organs of knowledge -srOthra (ears), thvak (skin), chakshur (eyes), jihvA (tongue), grAhNa (nose) 
  • pancha karmEndhriyas - 5 sense organs of actions - vAk (mouth), pANi (hands), pAdha (legs), pAyu (excretory organs), upastha (organs for procreation)

bhagavAn blesses the jIvAthmAs with the senses so they can be used in serving him and glorifying him. They are quite strong and powerful. In thiruvAimozhi 7.1.6 nammAzhwAr says "viNNuLAr perumARku adimai cheyvAraiyum cheRum aimpulanivai" (விண்ணுளார் பெருமாற்கு அடிமை செய்வாரையும் செறும் ஐம்புலனிவை) - these senses are so powerful that they will even shake up the nishtai (firm state of mind) of nithyasUris (eternal associates of bhagavAn). Let us see the obstacles in this topic.
  • As nammAzhwAr says in thiruvAimozhi 3.2.1 "annAL nI thantha Akkaiyin vazhi uzhalvEn" (அந்நாள் நீ தந்த ஆக்கையின் வழி உழல்வேன்) - I am being tormented by this body and senses which are given by you (to facilitate the path of upliftment). So, it is important to understand that the senses and sense enjoyment are major obstacles.
  • Being subservient to senses and fulfilling all such sensual desires is an obstacle.
  • Some think/claim that "I am too knowledgable. I have full control over my senses". This is a major obstacle. Many great sages like viswAmithrar, etc., lost their glories due to being overwhelmed by sensual pleasures. Translator's note: We can also recollect how AzhwArs and AchAryas themselves have revealed their own fear in many of their pAsurams and sthOthrams about the cruel nature of falling prey to sensual pleasures. Such is the power of sensual pleasures and one has to be very watchful about the pitfalls.
  • Focussing our senses purely bhagavath saundharyam (beauty of bhagavAn) and ignoring bhAgavatha kainkaryam due to that is an obstacle. While sensual pleasures are one type of pitfall, the other type of pitfall is being fully drenched in bhagavAn's beauty as identified by nammAzhwAr in periya thiruvanthAdhi 34 "kAlAzhum, nenjazhiyum, kaNsuzhalum" (காலாழும், நெஞ்சழியும், கண்சுழலும்) - By seeing the divine beauty of emperumAn, one immediately falters unable to stand on their own, heart melts and starts fainting due to extreme anubhavam. Such state leads to loss of bhagavath kainkaryam and bhAgavatha kainkaryam (obviously if one is not even conscious they cannot serve anymore). In srI rAmAyaNam ayOdhyA kANdam 1.1 it is said that "sathrugnO nithya sathrugna:" (சத்ருக்நோ நித்ய சத்ருக்ந:) - sathrugnan who has conquered the eternal enemy. periyavAchAn piLLai explains this as "sathrugnan conquered (and ignored) the beauty of srI rAma and served bharathAzhwAn constantly". Thus anything which comes in the way of bhAgavatha kainkaryam is considered as an obstacle.

23. anithya virOdhi (அநித்ய விரோதி) - temporary obstacles (related to bodily comforts and discomforts)

anithyam means temporary - bodily joy and sorrow. This revolves around considering the body as the self and feeling joy/sorrow per bodily comforts/discomforts. Let us see the obstacles in this topic.
  • Considering the pleasures derived from sandalwood paste (fragrances), flowers, etc., as real pleasures is an obstacle.
  • Considering the sorrows derived from being attacked by weapons or by poison, etc., as real sorrows is an obstacle.
  • Feeling happy while receiving material benefits and feeling sad while not receiving such benefits are also considered obstacles. 
Thus one should not be disturbed by bodily comforts and discomforts and always be equipoised. Translator's note: In second chapter of bhagavath gIthA, kaNNan emperumAn explains in detail about the distinction between the soul and the body and how one should constantly be aware of that distinction and treat bodily comforts/discomforts in an equipoised manner.

We will continue with the next section in the next article.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

archived in

pramEyam (goal) -
pramANam (scriptures) -
pramAthA (preceptors) -

1 comment: