virOdhi parihArangaL - 29

srImathE satakOpAya 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

63. dhAsya virOdhi (தாஸ்ய விரோதி ) - Obstacles in our servitude

 emperumAnAr and vaduga nambi - ideal examples for dhAsya bhAvam. emperumAnAr being Adhi sEsha avathAram is servitude personified. vaduga nambi manifested ultimate servitude towards emperumAnAr.

dhAsyam means to be fully controlled - i.e., to engage in service to the master. Here, it is explained that every one is a servant of the supreme lord srIman nArAyaNan who is the master of every one. "dhAsa bhUthA: svathassarvE hi Athmana: paramAthmana:" (தாஸ பூதா: ஸ்வதஸ்ஸர்வே ஹி ஆத்ம: பரமாத்மந:) is an important pramANam (authentic quote from sAsthram) - this means All jIvAthmAs are naturally servants of paramAthmA who is sarvaswAmy (master of every one) - here "hi" means it is prasidhdham (well known and obvious fact). Our servitude towards emperumAn is causeless (natural - not based on any reason other than him being the supreme master of everyone) and based on the eternal relationship between jIvAthmA and paramAthmA. Our servitude towards others in this world are aupAdhikam (based on a specific cause, i.e., our karmA leads to a particular birth/relationship and we serve others due to that relationship). Our servitude towards bhagavAn is of two types "svarUpa paryuktha dhAsyam" and "guNa krutha dhAsyam". "svarUpa prayuktha dhAsyam" means jIvAthmA's servitude towards bhagavAn due to the eternal relationship between jIvAthmA and paramAthmA, i.e., just because bhagavAn is master and jIvAthmA is servant eternally, jIvAthmA serves bhagavAn. guNa krutha dhAsyam means jIvAthmA's servitude towards bhagavAn due to the very many auspicious qualities (naturally, when there is some one with great compassion, beauty, knowledge, wealth, strength,etc., one would like to serve such person). We have both types of dhAsyam within ourselves. Since bhagavAn is our eternal master, we serve him and since he has many auspicious qualities we serve him. Yet, svarUpa prayuktha dhAsyam is more prominent and important since that is natural for the jIvAthmA. Translator's note: This principle of dhAsyam (svarUpa prayuktham and guNa krutham) is explained in detail by our pUrvAchAryas. nampiLLai explains this in great detail in eedu mahA vyAkyAnam for thiruvAimozhi 5.3.5 pAsuram. In this pAsuram, parAnkusa nAyaki's friend tells that "kaNNan emperumAn is very bad, cruel, etc." to take her mind away from emperumAn for a moment seeing her suffering in separation from emperumAn. But  after hearing this, parAnkusa nAyaki (nammAzhwAr in feminine mood) tells her friend even if he is like that she will still only love him because that is her nature. In the vyAkyAnam, nampiLLai explains the principle of svarUpa prayuktha dhAsyam in detail. He quotes from srI rAmAyaNam, where when sIthA pirAtti meets anusUyA (athri maharishi's dharma pathni), sIthA pirAtti explains even if perumAL (srI rAma) is not such a great personality, she would still love him the same way - since that is natural for her to do so. thirumangai AzhwAr's pAsuram 11.8.7 is also beautifully quoted here "vEmbin puzhu vEmbanRi uNNAthu"  - a worm which is born in a neem fruit, will not go and seek out for sugarcane - though neem is bitter and sugarcane is sweet, the worm will eat only neem fruit due to the relationship between the neem and the worm. This same principle is further explained by piLLai lOkAchAryar in srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram sUthrams 108 to 114. mAmunigaL's vyAkyAnam for these sUthrams is so wonderful and brings out the essence of our pUrvAchArya vyAkyAnams/references. With this introduction, let us move on to the section.

  • Considering oneself as independent and being prideful about it is an obstacle. This is a major obstacle. One should understand that he/she is fully dependent on bhagavAn. Translator's note: piLLai lOkAchAryar explains this principle beautifully in mumukshuppadi sUthrams 83 and 84 while explaining "nama:" in thirumanthram. He says "nama:" (na mama - not for me) indicates that one is not for oneself but to exist for bhagavAn. He also identifies that when one considers oneself a servitor of other dhEvathas, bhagavAn can easily show his supremacy, auspicious qualities, etc., and attract the jIvAthmA towards him. But when considers to be totally independent, he even loses the basic qualification to realise his sEshathvam (servitude). mAmunigaL beautifully highlights the "thvammE" (you are mine) and "ahammE" (I am mine) sequence. When bhagavAn says "you are mine" and if the jIvAthmA says "I am mine", bhagavAn becomes perplexed at that situation wondering how to uplift such jIvAthmA.
  • Becoming worthless by being a servitor of any one other than srIman nArAyaNan (and bhAgavathas) is an obstacle. Here specifically the focus on dhEvathAnthara bhajanam - srIvaishNavas should not engage in serving other dhEvathas ever. Translator's note: Ones true worth is based on their servitude to bhagavAn and bhAgavathas. ANdAL explains in nAchiyAr thirumozhi 1.5 "vAnidai vAzhum avvAnavarkku maRaiyavar vELviyil vaguththa avi kAnidaith thirivathOr nari pugunthu kadappathum mOppathum seyvathoppa UnidaiyAzhi sanguththamaRkenRu unniththezhuntha en thadamulaigaL mAnidavaRkenRu pEchchup padil vAzhakillEn kaNdAy manmathanE" (வானிடை வாழும் அவ்வானவர்க்கு மறையவர் வேள்வியில் வகுத்த அவி கானிடைத் திரிவதோர் நரி புகுந்து கடப்பதும் மோப்பதும் செய்வதொப்ப ஊனிடையாழி சங்குத்தமற்கென்று உன்னித்தெழுந்த என் தடமுலைகள் மானிடவற்கென்று பேச்சுப் படில் வாழகில்லேன் கண்டாய் மன்மதனே) - When brAhmaNas perform yAgam, they prepare havis (offerings) to dhEvas and keep them - if such havis is touched by a wild fox it will become worthless. Similarly, my well developed breasts (bhakthi) is available specifically for srIman nArAyaNan - if there is any talks arise that my bhakthi is for any one else, at once I will give up my life. Similar point is explained by piLLai lOkAchAryar in mumukshuppadi sUthram 62 "dhEvargaLukku sEshamAna purOtAsaththai nAykku idumApOlE, Iswara sEshamAna Athma vasthuvai samsArigaLukku sEshamAkkugai" (தேவர்களுக்கு சேஷமான புரோடாசத்தை நாய்க்கு இடுமாபோலே, ஈச்வர சேஷமான ஆத்ம வஸ்துவை ஸம்ஸாரிகளுக்கு சேஷமாக்குகை) - mAmunigaL beautifully explains that just like the havis which is prepared for worshippable dhEvas is given to a dog (which should neither be seen nor be touched generally), jIvAthmA (which is naturally owned by bhagavAn) is engaged in service of samsAris (dhEvathAntharams, etc. - anyone bound in this samsAram without realizing their true nature and being engaged in worldly pleasures is a samsAri). Thus, our pUrvAchAryas have severely warned us from being engaged in activities related to dhEvathAntharam since that will impact our own svarUpam in a negative way.
  • Considering oneself to be a servitor of dhEvathAntharams due to ones varNam is an obstacle. All jIvAthmAs are servitors of srIman nArAyaNan only. There is no distinction between different varNams.  Translator's note: This is an interesting aspect. In vArthA mAlai 450th entry, emperumAnAr's explanations to mudhaliyAndAn regarding srIvaishNavas with yagyOpavItham and srIvaishNavas without yagyOpavItham. He explains 10 differences between the two categories of srIvaishNavas. Mainly the differences focus around srIvaishNavas with yagyOpavItham having to engage in study of vEdham and performing of nithya/naimiththika karmAs which involve dhEvathAnthara sambandham (indhran, varuNa, vAyu, sUrya, etc) and sAththAdha (ones who dont wear yagyOpavItham) srIvaishNavas have no engagement in vEdham and they can fully focus on dhivya prabandhams and their vyAkyAnams and also how they can fully focus on bhagavath, bhAgavatha kainkaryam exclusively. When we look at this, we might start thinking that we are engaged in dhEvathAnthara bhajanam (worship) while performing nithya/naimiththika karmA. But for this confusion, nampiLLai gives a beautiful explanation. One person comes to nampiLLai and asks “you are worshipping dhEvathAntharams (like indhran, varuNa, vAyu, sUrya, etc) in your nithya karmAs but why not in their temples?”. nampiLLai gives an instant and brilliant reply that “Why do you worship agni in yagyam and stay away from agni frrom a burial ground? The same way, since sAsthram says nithya karmAs must be performed as bhagavadh ArAdhanam with the understanding that emperumAn is antharyAmi for all the dhEvathAs, we do it. The same sAsthram says we should not worship anyone but emperumAn so we dont go to other temples. Also, when these dhEvathAs are installed in a temple, they tend to develop rajO guNam and start thinking they themselves are supreme, and since we (srIvaishNavas) are in sathva guNam we dont worship dhEvathAs who have rajO guNam”. So, even when srIvaishNavas (with yagyOpavItham) are engaged in nithya/naimiththika karmAs they should not consider that they are serving dhEvathAntharams - for srIvaishNavas all such engagement becomes part of bhagavath AgyA kainkaryam (those kainkaryams which are ordained by bhagavAn himself).
  • Considering oneself to be a servitor to ones parents simply due to the progeny is an obstacle. Our birth in a particular family for the particular parents is based on our karmA and our servitorship towards them is limited based on sAsthram (that one has to serve the parents as necessary). But bhagavAn is the mother and father of every one. So, ones servitorship towards bhagavAn takes more precedence. Translator's note: If the parents are srIvaishNavas, then obviously one needs to treat them properly like how he/she would have to treate srIvaishNavas as explained before.
  • Considering oneself to be a servitor to ones husband simply due to the relationship through marriage is an obstacle. Similar to previous point. Translator's note:  srIman nArAyaNan is the parama purushan. One of the important relationships between bhagavAn and jIvAthmA is bharthru - bhAryA (husband - protector and wife - protected) relationship. Even though a woman may be married to a man due to their karmA, the real husband of every jIvAthmA is bhagavAn only. Though a woman should still engage in fulfilling the basic duties towards her husband as outlined in dharma sAsthram - the underlying understanding about the eternal relationship with bhagavAn should always be remembered. As explained before, if the husband is a srIvaishNava, he must be treated with great respect and reverence. nampiLLai who is a great AchArya had two wives. He once asks a question to his wives separately. First he asks his first wife "What do you think about me?". The first wife responds "I think of you similar to namperumAL himself and as my AchArya". He becomes very pleased and engages her in preparing food for his thiruvArAdhanam and himself. He then asks his second wife the same question and she says "I think of you as my husband". He asks her to assist his first wife in cooking. When the first wife is unable to cook during her menstrual periods, he allows his second wife to cook but he gets his dear sishyas who are great srIvaishNavas to touch the prasAdham first and then he eats that. Thus we can understand that true srIvaishNavas should be revered greatly by their wives.
  • Becoming a servitor of a materialistic person to acquire material benefits is an obstacle. One should aim for eternal goal of performing kainkaryam instead of focussing on getting temporary and insignifcant benefits. Translator's note: Once a king comes to bhattar after hearing his glories and tells bhattar to come and visit him for some financial help. bhattar says even if namperumAL’s abhaya hastham (hand in protection posture) turns the other way, he will not go to anyone for help. Such was the nishtai of our pUrvAchAryas. Even at dire situations they would fully depend on emperumAn only and never go after materialistic persons for any thing.
  • Becoming attached to insignificant worldly pleasures and losing ones dignity is an obstacle. Translator's note: srIvaishNavas are generally glorified as rAjakumAras (princes) - the divine and rich children of the most glorious srIman nArAyaNan. One should not lower oneself from such position and serve worldly persons or matters and lose their dignity.
  • Not knowing that oneself is a servitor of srIman nArAyaNan who is eternally related to all jIvAthmAs, the eternal protector of all jIvAthmAs and the eternal master of all jIvAthmAs is an obstacle. As said in piLLai lOkAchAryar's nava vidha sambandham, emperumAn is the only person who is fully related to jIvAthmAs in many ways. The jIvAthmA's total servitorship is the main theme of the thirumanthram which is the essence of all of vEdham/vEdhAntham. Translator's note: srIman nArAyaNan is called sarvaswAmy (master of all), lOka bharthA (the husband/protector of every one), jagannAthan (master of the universe), etc. Thus we must realize that we are so blessed to be the servant of such great bhagavAn and act accordingly.
  • Not making oneself available at the full disposal of bhagavAn who is the master is an obstacle. The ultimate state of ones servitude is called pArathanthriyam - letting bhagavAn fully control oneself (jIvAthmA). Translator's note: In srI rAmAyaNam, we can see bharathAzhwAn kept himself fully at the disposal of perumAL (srI rAma). Whatever was the desire of srI rAma, bharathAzhwAn obliged and fulfilled such desires. All jIvAthmAs should be like that only to truly establish their nature.
  • Not knowing that being at full disposal of bhagavAn means being the servitor of bhAgavathas is an obstacle. thath sEshathvam (servitude towards bhagavAn) leads to thadhIya sEshathvam (servitude towards bhAgavathas). Especially, one should fully serve ones own AchAryan - this is most important and very apt to the nature of the jIvAthmA. Translator's note: jIvAthmA's natural state is bhagavath dhAsyathvam (to be a servitor of bhagavAn) and to be fully at the disposal of emperumAn. Even more important - svarUpa yAthAthmyam (essence of true nature) - bhAgavatha dhAsyathvam (to be a servitor of bhAgavathas). In periya thirumozhi 8.10.3, thirumangai AzhwAr announced the essence of thirumanthram (ashtAkshari) to emperumAn himself as "nin thiruvettezhuththum kaRRu nAn uRRathum unnadiyArkkadimai kaNNapuraththuRaiyammAnE" (நின் திருவெட்டெழுத்தும் கற்று நான் உற்றதும் உன்னடியார்க்கடிமை கண்ணபுரத்துறையம்மானே - Dear lord of thirukkaNNapuram! After learning the essence of thirumanthram, I understood that I am a servitor of your devotees). thirumazhisai AzhwAr highlights in nAnmugan thiruvanthAdhi 18th pAsuram "EththiyiruppArai vellumE maRRavaraich chAththiyiruppAr thavam" (ஏத்தியிருப்பாரை வெல்லுமே மற்றவரைச் சாத்தியிருப்பார் தவம் - the devotion towards devotees is greater than devotion to bhagavAn himself). Eththiyiruppavar - bhagavath sEsha bhUthar - one who is surrendered to bhagavAn. The state of those who are surrendered to such devotees is much greater. In srI rAmAyaNam, lakshmaNan and bharathan were fully surrendered to srI rAma. shathrugnAzhwAn had bharathan as everything for him. It is said in srI rAmAyaNam that "chathrugnO nithyachathrugna:" (சத்ருக்நோ நித்யசத்ருக்ந: - one who has conquered the eternal obstacle). Our pUrvAchAryas have explained that "shathrugnAzhwAn conquered/ignored srI rAma's beauty and auspicious qualities and was fully serving bharathan". In thiruvAimozhi 8.10.3, nammAzhwAr says "avanadiyAr siRumAmanisarAy ennaiyANdAr" (அவனடியார் சிறுமாமனிசராய் என்னையாண்டார்). siRumAmanisar - ones who are fully surrendered to emperumAn, who are small in size but great in knowledge and practice. nammAzhwAr declares such devotees are his masters. When such devotees exist how can one ignore them and serve the lotus feet of emperumAn? Thus, for the true nature of jIvAthmA, bhAgavatha kainkaryam is more apt than bhagavath kainkaryam. 
  • Not knowing that the likes and dislikes of the master should be ones likes and dislikes. In this case we should always follow the practice of elders to determine what is apt for a srIvaishNava to do. Translator's note: In srIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya sAsthram, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains the aspects of kainkaryam. In sUthram 275, he says bhagavath kainkaryam should be learnt through sAsthram and AchArya kainkaryam should be learnt through sAsthram and the AchArya himself. He then explains in sUthram 276 that there are two aspects in kainkaryam. In sUthram 277, he says that doing what is favourable (to bhagavAn/AchArya's liking) and avoiding what is unfavourable (to bhagavAn/AchArya's disliking). In sUthram 278, he explains that the favourable/unfavourable aspects will be based on varNAsrama dharmam and Athma svarUpam. mAmunigaL gives a detailed commentary for this 278th sUthram. He gives 3 different explanations for this sUthram but finally himself says 1st explanation is the most apt one. The essence of the first explanation is:
    • favourable per varNasramam is to engage in as much (nithya/naimiththika) karmA that is necessary to facilitate sishyas (disciples), puthras (children), etc., to follow vaidhIka dharmam and out of compassion towards others - focus is to look out for upliftment of others (compassionate motive). 
    • unfavourable per varNasramam is to engage in nithya/naimiththika karmAs out of fear thinking that not doing them will lead to sins - focus is to save oneself from sins (selfish motive).
    • favourable per Athma svarUpam  is to allow full control to emperumAn towards us.
    • unfavourable per Athma svarUpam is to not let emperumAn engage in activties which may some times affect our nature of servitude (i.e., he is the master and we are his servants). For example, a father (who is superior) may lift up his own child, keep the child's feet on his chest and head, etc., out of great love and play with him. At that time, the child should not withdraw its feet saying "Father, you are superior to me, I cannot let my feet touch your head", instead he should joyfully let the father enjoy him to his fullest pleasure.
  • Not letting bhagavAn have full pleasure fearing for ones own servitude is an obstacle. It is the duty of the servant to bring joy for the master. Even if it is at the cost of losing ones own position/stature, one should be ready to serve the master and bring joy in him. Translator's note: In mumukshuppadi, sUthram 177, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains that, for the sEshabUtha (servant), bringing glories/joy to sEshi (master) is both svarUpam (true nature) and prApyam (goal). So, jIvAthmA must constantly strive for that.
  • Hesitating when bhagavAn destroys jIvAthmA's sEshathvam (servitude) is an obstacle. When emperumAn lowers himself and starts serving the jIvAthmA out of great love, the jIvAthmA should allow emperumAn to serve - not doing so is detrimental. Translator's note: In mumukshuppadi sUthram 92, piLLai lOkAchAryar explains the same principle. mAmunigaL, brings out a beautiful example in his commentary. emperumAn who is the supreme enjoyer entered the heart of nammAzhwAr in the guise of uplifting AzhwAr. But of great love towards AzhwAr, emperumAn becomes subservient to AzhwAr and starts serving AzhwAr. At that time, AzhwAr did not say "I am a simple jIvAthmA, why is emperumAn trying to serve me. I am going to stop him from doing that since I know the essence of sAsthram that the jIvAthmA is the servant and emperumAn is the master". Instead, AzhwAr allowed emperumAn to do as he desired, knowing well that, it is what emperumAn wants and that is the most important aspect.
  • Not engaging in service and associating with hurdles are obstacles. Translator's note:  It is said in sAsthram that "akinchithkarasya sEshathva anupapaththi:" (அகிஞ்சித்கரஸ்ய சேஷத்வ அநுபபத்தி:) - it is the nature of the jIvAthmA to serve bhagavAn, if such service is not manifested, then such jIvAthmA loses its identity itself. Also, one must carefully avoid the hurdles - just like one will avoid any hurdle/difficulty to body (if some one gives poison, we will immediately avoid it saying it will kill our body), similarly one should avoid what is detrimental to the AthmA as well.
  • Considering our servitude towards AchArya as temporary/conditional is an obstacle. AchArya is also considered as an avathAram of bhagavAn - so even the relationship between AchArya - sishya is to be considered as eternal only. Translator's note: AchAryas are considered as the lotus feet of emperumAn. In srIvachana bhUshaNam, sUthram 427, this principle is explained by piLLai lOkAchAryar nicely. Approaching emperumAn directly means "holding his hands and asking for help" and approaching emperumAn through AchArya means "holding his lotus feet and asking for help" - obviously the latter is more appropriate. In this sense also, relationship with AchArya can be considered as eternal.
  • Not understanding that we not an eternal servant of bhagavAn who is the eternal master is an obstacle. The swAmy-dhAsya bhAvam (master-servant mood) between emperumAn and jIvAthmAs is permanent. This is not bound by time, place and situation.
  • Serving dhEvathAntharams and pithrus (fore fathers/ancestors) are obstacles. Since we are eternal servants of emperumAn, serving dhEvathAnthrams, pithru dhEvathas, etc., are rejected here. This need not be taken as rejecting the pithru tharpaNam, etc (naimiththika karmAs) which are ordained in sAsthram - since we have already seen that we are bound to do the AgyA kainkaryams.
We will continue with the next section in the next article.  

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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