virOdhi parihArangaL - 5

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

24. svasvarUpa virOdhi (ஸ்வஸ்வரூப விரோதி) - Obstacles in understanding the true nature of jIvAthmA

bhAgavatha sEshathvam - intrinsic nature of jIvAthmA

svasvarUpam means jIvAthmA's true nature. jIvAthmA is understood to be made of of gyAnam and also has gyAnam (knowledge), sEshathvam (servitorship) and pArathanthriyam (being fully controllable). gyAnam means knowledge. One who has knowledge should understand everything as it is. Let us see the obstacles in this topic.

  • Of any object, there is gyAnam (true knowledge), gyAna anudhayam (lack of any knowledge or knowledge-less state), anyathA gyAnam (misunderstanding the attribute of the object - considering a conch as yellow in color) and viparItha gyAnam (misunderstanding the object itself - considering a pillar to be a man). Of these gyAna anudhayam, anyathA gyAnam and viparItha gyAnam are obstacles. Translator's note: We will understand this with the following simple examples.
    • gyAna anudhayam - not knowing that AthmA is a sentient (knowledgable) entity and thus different from body (which is insentient) is the state of total lack of knowledge.
    • anyathA gyAnam - misunderstanding that the AthmA is subservient to dhEvathAs other than srIman nArAyaNan is the state of misunderstanding the sEshathvam of the AthmA.
    • viparItha gyAnam - misunderstanding the jIvAthmA to be independent is the state of misunderstanding the nature of jIvAthmA himself.
  • When emperumAn is enjoying the jIvAthmA, if he vanquishes the sEshathvam of the jIvAthmA, i.e., if he places the jIvAthmA at a higher position and himself accepts a lower position and attempts to serve the jIvAthmA, the jIvAthmA should not backtrack claiming that he should always be subservient reflecting on sEshathvam. Such backtracking is an obstacle and it will be a hindrance for bhagavAn's enjoyment. sEshathvam means being subservient or secondary to bhagavAn and being ready to serve him. For example, it is normally seen (in our traditional lifestyle) that a woman serves her husband in many ways. But if the husband out of great love and affection serves the wife, the wife should not pull back and say "No! No! you cannot serve me. I have to serve you!" - that is a hindrance towards the husband who would derive great joy by serving his wife. Between paramAthmA and jIvAthmA there is barthru (husband) - bhAryA (wife) relationship. In this sense, jIvAthmA (being the wife) is suppose to serve bhagavAn. But if bhagavAn wants to derive pleasure by serving the jIvAthmA, the jIvAthmA should facilitate that having bhagavAn's pleasure in mind. This same principle is explained by piLLai lOkAchAryar in mumukshuppadi sUthram 92 with the same words as in the vyAkyAnam here.
  • sEshan (servitor) means one who increases the glories of the sEshi (master). pArathanthriyam means being at full disposal of the master just like achith (Translator's note: if one places his watch on the table or tie it in his hand, the watch will not question the owner - jIvAthmA should be like that towards emperumAn) generally. But as cited in previous point, when emperumAn wants to enjoy the jIvAthmA, the jIvAthmA cannot stay like a stone without any reaction. The jIvAthmA should respond appropriately to increase the pleasure of bhagavAn. Not doing that is an obstacle. (Translator's note: When kusElan went to see kaNNan emperumAn, emperumAn massages kusElan's feet and serves him well to which kusElan agrees since that is pleasing to emperumAn. Similarly, when emperumAn wants to serve nammAzhwAr, he takes AzhwAr's right foot and starts massaging that with great joy. AzhwAr is initially perplexed at emperumAn's act but then he realizes thats what emperumAn wants. So, after a while, AzhwAr withdraws his right foot and presents his left foot to emperumAn. emperumAn becomes greatly delighted and his joy is doubled). So, not responding to emperumAn's subservient actions citing ones own pArathanthriyam is an obstacle.
  • Considering bhAgavatha sEshathvam as secondary (and bhagavath sEshathvam is primary) is an obstacle. We are naturally subservient to bhagavAn. This should further progress into manifesting servitorship towards bhAgavathas. bhagavAn himself relishes more when one serves his devotees more than him. So, there is no reason to consider bhAgavatha sEshathvam as any less important. Doing that is an obstacle.
  • Same thing applies in AchArya's case as well. Translator's note: One should be totally surrendered to ones own AchArya and serve him in all cases. piLLai lOkAchAryar highlights the importance of being fully surrendered to ones own AchArya in srIvachana bhUshaNam elaborately. mAmunigaL brings out the essence of this principle in upadhEsa rathina mAlai.

25. parasvarUpa virOdhi (பரஸ்வரூப விரோதி) - Obstacles in understanding the true nature of paramAthmA
One carried by garudAzhwAr (who is hailed as vEdhAthmA) is the supreme lord

parasvarUpam means true nature of paramAthmA. bhagavAn is supreme, omniscient, omnipotent, the master of all universes, one who has no blemishes and one who is filled with all auspicious qualities. Let us see the obstacles in this topic.
  • Becoming attached to matter and material pleasures is an obstacle. This prakruthi (matter) is like a screen which hides the true nature of bhagavAn. prakruthi is made of three guNas (qualities) - sathvam (goodness), rajas (passion) and thamas (ignorance). Becoming subservient to bodily pleasures will keep us away from bhagavAn. When sathva guNam raises in a person, this body will be used effectively to understand the true nature of bhagavAn. But when rajO/thamO guNam raises, the same body will lead us away from understanding bhagavAn. Thus, becoming subservient to bodily enjoyment is an obstacle.
  • Considering materially minded persons as supreme is an obstacle. Even dhEvathAs like brahmA, rudhran, etc are caught in the vicious cycle of birth and death. thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr says in thirumAlai 10 "nAttinAn dheyvangaLAga ath dheyvanAyagan thAnE" (நாட்டினான் தெய்வங்களாக அத் தெய்வநாயகன் தானே), all dhEvathAs are given specific tasks and they cannot be considered as supreme.
  • Not considering that "these dhEvathAs are also controlled by emperumAn". Every one is ultimately at the total disposal of bhagavAn. So considering otherwise is an obstacle.
  • Doubting his supremacy on observing his saulabhyam (simplicity) is an obstacle. vAthsalyam (motherly forbearance), saulabhyam (simplicity/easy accessability), sausIlyam (magnanimity), etc., are most desirous qualities in bhagavAn. These are to be greatly cherished. But if one considers "since bhagavAn is easily accessible, he should also be like me (human) only", that is an obstacle. Translator's note: gIthAchAryan says in gIthai (9.11) "avajAnanthi mAm mUdha..." - foolish men consider me human (during my avathArams) and they do not understand my supremacy.
  • Havnig agyAnam and anyathA gyAnam in bhagavath vishayam is also an obstacle. Translator's note: One must properly understand bhagavAn's parathvam (supremacy) and saulabhyam (simplicity). Not having such proper understanding will lead to bhagavath apachArams.

26. svAnubhava virOdhi (ஸ்வாநுபவ விரோதி) - Obstacles in experiencing oneself

svAnubhavam mean experiencing/enjoying ones own AthmA in a pure state. Though this is lower than experiencing/enjoying bhagavAn, AthmAnubhavam is considered as something enjoyable. AthmA being bound inside a material body itself is a hurdle for AthmAnubhavam. The obstacles in this head are:
  • pleasures/recollections from dhEha vAsanA (bodily impressions) is an obstacle. Our impressions from previous joyful bodily experiences through the sense organs will remain even subsequent to the actual experience. This vAsanA (impression) is dangerous and this will lead to ruchi (taste). Translator's note: vAsanA is sub-conscious impressions and ruchi is intentional desires.
  • pleasures/recollections from the ones who are related to the body - wife, children, wealth, etc., are an obstacle and will limit AthmAnubhavam.
  • ruchi (taste) derived from vAsanA (impressions) is also an obstacle. It is commonly said that "A cat which tasted the milk will return to steal the same". Translator's note: Once our body enjoys the pleasures and comforts, it is difficult to give up the same and have control over the senses. That is why the great sages guided us towards renunciation instead of sense gratification. Any amount of gratification of desires will not fulfill such desires and would rather only increase the desires further. 

27. parAnubhava virOdhi (பராநுபவ விரோதி) - Obstacles in experiencing paramAthmA
archAvathAram - thirukkuRungudi nambi - most enchanting

parAnubhavam means understanding truly and experiencing/enjoying the supreme lord's svarUpa (nature), rUpa (forms), guNa (auspicious qualities), vibhUthi (wealth). bhagavAn has five prakArams (forms) - para (in paramapadham), vyUha (vAsudhEva, sankarshaNa, pradhyumna and anirudha, kshIrAbdhi nAthan), vibhavam (many incarnations like srI rAma, krishNa, etc), antharyAmi (all pervading supersoul) and archai (deity forms). Among these, in current scenario, archAvathAram can only be experienced/enjoyed by our senses as mentioned by thirumangai AzhwAr in thirunedunthANdagam 10 as "pinnAnAr vaNangum chOthi" (பின்னானார் வணங்கும் சோதி) - worshippable by the future (after vibhavAvathArams ending with kaNNan emperumAn) generations. Now, the others can only be understood through mAnasa sAkshAthkAram (through the mind). anubhavam (experience/joy) leads to attachment/love towards bhagavAn. That love kindles loving kainkaryam (service) to him. All of these are part of anubhavam - anything which hinders such anubhavam is an obstacle. Let us see the obstacles in this topic.
  • Self-centered activities are obstacles. 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). Instead of using the body and senses towards upliftment, using that for self-centered activities will be an obstacle for bhagavath anubhavam.
  • Feeling jealous on hearing the auspicious qualities of emperumAn is an obstacle. Due to ones own time immemorial sins, one may feel jealous on hearing the glories of bhagavAn like sisupAlan, dhuryOdhanan, etc. That is an obstacle. 
  • Feeling comforted by hearing about others (samsAris, ones who are demoniac, etc) is an obstacle.
  • Being overwhelmed by his supremacy and leaving him is an obstacle. thirumangai AzhwAr says in thirunedunthANdagam 21 "avarai nAm dhEvarenRanjinOmE" (அவரை நாம் தேவரென்றஞ்சினோமே) - I was scared thinking that he is the supreme. While in AzhwAr's case it was divine interaction between him and emperumAn - it is beyond questioning, but it is generally recommended that feeling overwhelmed about his supremacy and moving away from him is an obstacle.

28. samslEsha virOdhi (ஸம்ச்லேஷ விரோதி) - Obstacles for jIvAthmA's communion with paramAthmA

samslEsham means having anubhavam with emperumAn. This could be mAnasa anubhavam (in the mind) or prathyaksha anubhavam (face-to-face). Somehow enjoying with emperumAn together is called samslEsha. This is very similar to parAnubhavam discussed in 27th point. Let us see the obstacles in the topic.

  • Being overwhelmed by his supremacy and giving up his association is an obstacle. Already discussed in the last item in 27th point.
  • Being satisfied with bhagavAn's qualities and avoiding his association considering AthmA's insignificance is an obstacle. This is explained as considering that such insignificant AthmA associating with bhagavAn will minimize bhagavAn's qualities and such feelings will be a hurdle for ones association with bhagavAn. This state is referred to as "vaLavEzhulagu thalaiyeduththal" () - being overwhelmed by emotions in vaLavEzhulagu (thiruvAimozhi 1.5 padhigam). nammAzhwAr says in thiruvAimozhi 1.5.7 "adiyEn chiRiya gyAnaththan, aRithalArkkum ariyAnai - kaNNanai - adiyEn kANbAn alaRRuvan, ithanil mikkOr ayarvuNdE" (அடியேன் சிறிய ஞானத்தன், அறிதலார்க்கும் அரியானை - கண்ணனை - அடியேன் காண்பான் அலற்றுவன், இதனில் மிக்கோர் அயர்வுண்டே) - I am very ignorant and he is most difficult to see even for great sages and incarnated as kaNNan - I am crying out to see him - what is more foolish than this act? Such interactions of AzhwArs with emperumAn should be understood as great loving exchanges between them. But for us, we should not avoid association of emperumAn considering our defects.
  • Approaching bhagavAn without the purushakAram (recommendation) of srImahAlakshmi thAyAr is an obstacle. bhagavAn is supremely independent and uncontrollable by any one. If we approach him directly, as nammAzhwAr says in thiruvAimozhi 1.4.7 "en pizhaiyE ninainthu aruLAtha thirumAl" (என் பிழையே நினைந்து அருளாத திருமால்  - simply considering my defects, srIman nArAyaNan did not bless me), bhagavAn may push us down in to samsAram again per our karmA. But if we go with the recommendation of thAyAr, our desire will be easily fulfilled. purushakAram means recommendation. Her being the mother of everyone, ensures that bhagavAn forgives our mistakes (just like a father will forgive the mistake of the child based on mothers's recommendation). This purushakAram is the nature of pirAtti and ignoring such purushakAram is an obstacle. Translator's note: In this world, AchAryas represent thAyar and they facilitate us in easily approaching him.
  • Considering that bhagavAn is too difficult to attain and avoiding his association is an obstacle. Translator's note: While bhagavAn may be difficult to achieve for the ones who believe in their self-efforts, he is very easy to achieve for the ones who fully surrender unto him through an AchArya.

29. vislEsha virOdhi (விச்லேஷ விரோதி) - Obstacles for jIvAthmA's separation from paramAthmA

vislEsha means separation from something dear. From the vyAkyAnam it can be guessed that vislEsham itself is an obstacle.

 parAngusa nAyaki (nammAzhwAr) - srIrangam
  • Not having enough devotion or staying normal during separation are obstacles. "bhakthi pAravasyam" (being fully drenched with devotion for bhagavAn) can be understood "paraguNAvishta:" (பரகுணாவிஷ்ட: - being possessed by bhagavAn's qualities), nammAzhwAr's periya thiruvanthAdhi 34 "kAlAzhum nenjazhiyum" (காலாழும் நெஞ்சழியும் - legs cannot stand on their own, heart melts completely) and nammAzhwAr's thiruvAimozhi 7.2.1 "kangulum pagalum kaNthuyilaRiyAL kaNNa nIr kaigaLAliRaikkum - enganE dharikkEn unnai vittu" (கங்குலும் பகலும் கண்துயிலறியாள் கண்ண நீர் கைகளாலிறைக்கும் - எங்கனே தரிக்கேன் உன்னை விட்டு - parAngusa nAyaki's mother saying about her daughter "My daughter does not sleep during day and night and is constantly crying and thinking how she is going to sustain herself without srIranganAthan"). This state of suffering due to separation is called pArvasyam. Staying normal without such suffering in separation from bhagavAn is an obstacle.
  • gIthAchAryan says in gIthai 10.9 "machchiththA madh gatha prANA bOdhayantha: parasparam kathayanthas cha mAm nithyam thushyanthi cha ramanthi cha" (மச்சித்தா மத் கத ப்ராணா போதயந்த: பரஸ்பரம் கதயந்தச் ச மாம் நித்யம் துஷ்யந்தி ச ரமந்தி ச ) - My devotees constantly remember me, they hold me as their life breath and discuss my activities amongst each other. By such discussions of my divine activities constantly, they (both the speakers and the listeners) derive great satisfaction and pleasure. This act of sharing and discussing bhagavAn's activities and glories and thus being satisfied and joyful is generally called "bOdhayantha: parasparam". This is most desirous. The ones who participate in such discussions are called "uchAth thuNai" (உசாத் துணை - dependable companion). They will reduce the sorrows of separation in one's heart. By not engaging with such dependable companions in discussing bhagavath vishayam during separation will lead to more sorrows and is an obstacle thus. nammAzhwAr says in thiruvAimozhi 5.4.9 "chenjudarth thAmaraikkaN chelvanum vArAnAl - nenjidar thIrppAr iniyAr? ninRu uruguginREnE" (செஞ்சுடர்த் தாமரைக்கண் செல்வனும் வாரானால் - நெஞ்சிடர் தீர்ப்பார் இனியார்? நின்று உருகுகின்றேனே) - When the beautiful red lotus eyed srImAn does not arrive I am completely melting away by the sorrow of separation. Who will remove the sorrows from my heart now?

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

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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