Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - apachArams to avoid

SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
Srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
Sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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chANdili - garuda incident (When garudAzhwAr thinks about chANdili residing in a secluded place instead of a holy place, his wings burn down at once)

In this article we will understand the different types of apachArams (offences or misdeeds) that SrIvaishNavas should avoid.

For SrIvaishNavas, SAsthram is the foundation - we depend on SAsthram for every action we do. SAsthram means that which instructs us on what to do (vidhi) and what not to do (nishEdham). Primarily SAsthram instructs us to perform our nithya karmas (daily activities) and namiththika karmas (periodic/specific activities) and restrain from theft, attachment towards others' properties, violence, etc. Our pUrvAchAryas took the essence from the SAsthram and consolidated them for us.

In SrIvachana bhUshaNa dhivya SAsthram, in sUthrams 300 to 307, piLLai lOKAchAryar explains that a SrIvaishNava must be asakthan (incapable to do) in the following 4 matters:

  • akruthya karaNam - not indulging in what is rejected in SAsthram
  • bhagavath apachAram - apachArams in emperumAn's vishayam
  • bhAgavatha apachAram - apachArams in bhAgavatha vishyam (devotees)
  • asahya apachAram - apachArams in bhagavath/bhAgavatha vishayam which happen without any reason
Let us see one by one in detail:

akruthya karaNam
SAsthram 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 SAsthram. 
  • para sthOtram - our speech ability is provided by emperumAn to praise him and his adiyArs (devotees). It should never be used to praise avaishNavas.
  • para dhAra parigraham - we should never think about others' wives with any wrong intentions.
  • para dhravya apahAram - we should never take someone else's property directly or indirectly unless the owner gives it to us willingly.
  • asathya kathanam - speaking what is opposite to reality/truth and what is not helping any living being.
  • apakshya pakshaNam - eating food stuffs which has 3 types of dhOsham (defects) viz jAthi (by nature), ASraya (due to ownership/association) or nimiththa (specific reasons) - see AhAra niyamam ( for detailed discussion on this topic.
  • many other such restrictions given by manu smruthi, etc.
It is important for a SrIvaishNava to first follow the sAmAnya SAsthra vidhi and avoid the nishEdha vishayams.

bhagavath apachAram

piLLai lOKAchAryar continues to explain the next nishEdha vishayam - bhagavath apachAram. He explains this in great detail and mAmunigaL gives wonderful commentary for these. The following are listed as bhagavath apachAram:
  • To consider emperumAn at the same level as dhEvathAntharams (other dhEvathAs) - for a SrIvaishNava it is paramount to understand that emperumAn is sarvESvaran, one who is the lord of every one (including brahmA, Siva, indhra, varuNa, agni, etc) and he is the antharyAmi (one being inside everyone to control their acts). There is no one equal to him or higher than him. With that understanding, we should fully abstain from indulging in any relationship with dhEvathAntharams.
  • To consider avathArams such as SrI rAma, krishNa, etc as normal or (even super) humans. One should understand that emperumAn appears in this samsAram (material realm) with all his qualities as in paramapadham (spiritual realm). As part of his leelA, he enters into garbham (womb) of a woman, being born on a particular day, goes through difficulties like vanavAsam (dwelling in forest), etc - but he is not bound by karma at all - instead all of these happen out of his ichchA (desire) to help jIvAthmAs who are suffering in samsAram. So, just because of these difficulties he takes up on himself, we should never think that he is also like other humans.
  • To disrespect the varNaSrama limits - One should strictly follow varNa and ASrama rules and regulations. Because emperumAn says "Sruthi smruthir mama Eva AgyA … AgyA chEdhi mama dhrOhi, madh bhakthOpi na vaishNava:" - He says that Sruthi and smruthi are his orders and those who do not follow them are his dhrOhis (traitors) and even if he is a bhaktha he will not be considered a vaishNava. In this particular case, mAmunigaL explains, fourth varNa SrIvaishNavas using vaidhIka manthrams during thiruvArAdhanam, sanyAsis eating beetle nuts are some of the acts which are not allowed by SAsthram.
  • To value the archA vigraham (deity) based on the raw materials which are used to making it - we should understand that emperumAn out of pure love for his bhakthas, takes up the form which they desire. If we say that this is a golden vigraham and hence it is great or this is a stone vigraham or just a picture and hence it is not good, it is bhagavath apachAram. This is explained in SAsthram as questioning the purity of one's own mother. 
  • To consider the jIvAthmA as independent - our svAthanthriya budhdhi (independent will ignoring bhagavAn's will) is the main cause for all kinds of sins and this is explained as the biggest theft in SAsthram. We should understand that jIvAthmA is only subservient to emperumAn and act according to that.
  • To steal bhagvath dhravyam (things that belong to emperumAn). This includes stealing emperumAn's properties like his bhOgam (food), thiruvAbharanam (ornaments), vasthram (clothes), etc. Also stealing immovable properties like his land, etc., can be included here which are quite common these days.
  • To help those who do the above acts of stealing.
  • To accept those stolen properties from those who steal or help others to steal emperumAn's properties. Even accepting with the thought of "well, we did not wan’t those, but they are giving it, so why not accept it" is not favourable to emperumAn.
  • many other such behaviours that are condemned in SAsthram.

bhAgavatha apachAram

Primarily, it is explained that just considering another SrIvaishNava equal to oneself is a bhAgavatha apachAram - we should always consider ourselves lower than other SrIvaishNavas. In this section, piLLai lOKAchAryar very briefly explains that "bhAgavatha apachAram is that enmity which is developed in us against SrIvaishNavas, out of desire towards wealth and lust". But detailed explanation of bhAgavatha apachAram is discussed in SrIvachana bhUshaNam sUthrams 190 to 207. Let us see the essence of those sUthrams.

First we need to have some context on bhAgavatha apachAram:
  • Those who have SrIvaishNava vEsham (dress, Urdhva puNdram, etc) but engage in bhAgavatha apachAram are like clothes which are folded nicely but burnt internally. When a strong wind blows, the cloth will fly into pieces.
  • We also have to understand that emperumAn's avathArams like varAha, naraismha, rAma, krishna, etc and his acts in those avathArams are mainly due to him unable to bear such apachArams done by hiraNya, rAvana, etc., towards his own bhakthas. It is because of anguish in seeing the suffering of his bhakthas, he takes up these avathArams in samsAram. We can easily understand this from his own words on his avathAra rahasyam in the fourth chapter of bhagavath gIthA in the slOkams – “yadhA yadhA...”, “parithrANAya sAdhuaNam…”, “bhahUni mE vyathIthAni…”, “ajOpi sann…” and “janma karma cha mE dhivyam…”. In their githA bhAshyam and thAthparya chandrikai, emperumAnAr and vedhAnthAchAryar have explained these slOkams in great detail.
There are also several types of bhAgavatha apachAram - 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 cruelest one. This is considered to be even worse than valuing the archA vigraham (deity) of emperumAn based on the raw material it is made of (it is already explained that this is similar to questioning the purity of one’s own mother).

The fact that we disrespect another SrIvaishNava based on any of the above is in itself sufficient to cause bhAgavatha apachAram. Our pUrvAchAryas 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. It is best for the Sishya to respect their AchArya and let emperumAn guide the AchArya in his spiritual pursuit.

The results of bhAgavatha apachAram are also explained in detail here.
  • thrisangu's example is explained here - He insisted to his AchArya (vaSishta maharishi) 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 chandALa (dog-eater). The same yagyOpavItham which establishes his brahma gyAnam, became the belt which chandALas wear. Likewise if SrIvaishNavas commit apachArams, being in a such high position (being a SrIvaishNava) any pApams/mistakes that they do will have the most severe punishment according to SAsthram - 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.
  • thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr said "thamargaLil thalaivarAya chAthi aNthanNargaLElum" ("தமர்களில் தலைவராய சாதி அந்தணர்களேலும்") - even if a person is born in brAhmaNa family, had brahmOpadhEsam (instructing of gAyathri japam) and fully qualified himself in vEdham, if he commits an apachAram to a SrIvaishNava (who just understands the sambandham between emperumAn and himself but may not have any other gyAnam and anushtAnam), this brAhmana will become like a chandALa immediately. We should not think that even after doing so many apachArams to SrIvaishNavas we do not see anyone change their forms - the change need not be physical.
  • Even when garudan thought about chANdili (who is emperumAn's bhakthai) that, why she is living in a secluded place instead of a dhivya dhEsam, he immediately lost his wings.
  • When piLLaippiLLai AzhwAn continuously commits bhAgavatha apachAram, kUraththAzhwan corrects him in many ways highlighting the importance of avoiding such apachArams.

Finally, we should understand a very important point. As we understand/believe that, "we get mOksham purely by our relationship to our AchArya irrespective of our gyAnam and anushtAnam", the same way "we will fall down to the bottom of samsAram purely by our apachAram to a SrIvaishNava irrespective of our gyAnam and anushtAnam".

asahya apachAram

asahya means without any reason. These are the apachArams we commit towards emperumAn, AchArya or SrIvaishNavas without any specific reason.

  • In bhagavath vishyam - hiraNyakaSipu just did not want to hear about emperumAn - even though emperumAn did not do anything particularly against him. 
  • In AchArya vishayam - not following his instructions, explaining the knowledge he taught to unqualified persons in expectation of wealth, fame, etc
  • In bhAgavatha vishayam - having jealosy towards other SrIvaishNavas, etc.
It is explained that each of these apachArams (in order) are more cruel than the one before. That is, bhagavath apachAram is crueler than akruthya karaNam (indulging in prohibited activities), bhAgavatha apachAram is crueler than bhagavath apachAram and asahya apachAram is crueler than bhAgavatha apachAram.

Our pUrvAchAryas were very respectful to SAsthram and were very fearful of commiting any apachAram. Every AchArya in our guruparamparai (as we can see from their history), towards the end of their life in this samsAram, will gather all their Sishyas and other SrIvaishNavas and ask for their forgiveness even though they did not commit any apachAram at all. Such was their humility.

For us also, it is important to understand this clearly, and try to apply in our lives. gyAnam (knowledge) exemplifies when it leads to anushtAnam (practice) - if that does not happen that gyAnam can simply be the called agyAnam (ignorance).

We should also understand clearly that this does not mean that SrIvaishNavas did not share their knowledge in SAsthram to other SrIvaishNavas fearing that it will cause bhAgavatha apachAram. If that were the case, we would not have so many granthams by our pUrvAchAryas and even contemporary AchAryas in our sampradhAyam explaining how we should live. The goal of these granthams is to educate us to develop these good qualities by reading them.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - dhivya prabandham and dhivya dhESams

SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
Srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
Sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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SrIman nArAyaNan with SrI dhEvi (SrI mahAlakshmi), bhUdhEvi, nILA dhEvi and nithyasUris in paramapadham

In the previous article, we understood the glories of our guru paramaparai. Now, let us understand the importance of dhivya prabandhams and dhivya dhESams.

SrIman nArAyaNan is the supreme God who is filled with unlimited and wonderful auspicious qualities. Out of his divine and unconditional grace,  he blessed selected jIvAthmAs to become AzhwArs (great saints who preached pure and exclusive devotion towards SrIman nArAyaNan). Though He was the supremely independent master of the nithyasUris (eternally free souls) and mukthAthmAs (liberated souls), he wanted to rid himself of the one agony he had.

That agony is him suffering for the suffering of the bound souls in the material world. Him being the supreme father of every one, he was unable to bear the suffering of his children who are caught in the cycle of birth and death in the material world. One may question, if the supreme God will have any agony/sorrow - him being sathya kAma (one who can fulfill all his desires) and sathya sankalpa (one who can accomplish anything). Our AchAryas have explained that him feeling the pain for the suffering souls is also his auspicious quality. Just like an all-capable father who is happily living with his one child will still worry for his other child who is staying away from him on his own and struggling, bhagavAn, though being all-capable, he is feeling the pain looking at the plight of the jIvAthmAs in samsAram (material world) who are suffering since time-immemorial due to being covered by ignorance and lacking of true knowledge.

To facilitate the upliftment of such suffering jIvAthmAs, he gives body and senses for the jIvAthmAs during srushti (creation), reveals the sAsthram (scriptures), himself descends in to the material world as various incarnations like SrI rAma, krishNa, etc. Even after all of these, the jIvAthmAs are not really willing to learn the true knowledge and accept his supremacy. Just like a hunter will catch a deer using another trained deer, He decides to uplift jIvAthmAs through other jIvAthmAs who are already in the material world. So he chooses a select few of them, blesses them with divine knowledge and makes them AzhwArs. AzhwAr means one who is immersed in bhagavath vishayam (spiritual matters).  These AzhwArs appeared in various holy places in  the southern part of bhAratha dhEsam as foretold by vEdha vyAsa in SrI bhAgavatham. We have already seen about the AzhwArs in previous articles.


AzhwArs compiled many pAsurams (verses) in glorification of SrIman nArAyaNan. These pAsurams total up to 4000 verses approximately and are thus called 4000 dhivya prabandham. dhivya means divine and prabandham means literature (that which captures bhagavAn himself). The various kshEthrams (holy places) which host bhagavAn in his archA (deity) form that are glorified by AzhwArs became to be known as dhivya dhESams. dhivya dhESams are said to be 108 in total. 106 of those, exist in the various regions of bhAratha dhESam (including Nepal). kshIrAbdhi (milk ocean) is situated within the material realm yet too far for usto reach. parama padham is the spiritual realm which is reached after liberation. SrIrangam is considered as the primary dhivya dhESam and thirumalA, kAnchIpuram, thiruvallikkENi, AzhwAr thirunagari etc., are some important dhivya dhESams. bhagavAn is said to have five manifestations - supreme lord in paramapadham, vyUha form in kshIrAbdhi, antharyAmi (as the in-dwelling super soul), vibhava (incarnations such as SrI rAma, krishNa etc) and finally archA (deity) form. Among these forms, the deity form is considered as the most magnanimous form of bhagavAn which is approachable by every one at all times. Our pUrvAchArys held the dhivya dhESams as their life and dedicated their life in serving bhagavAn and bhAgavathas in such dhivya dhESams. For more information, please visit .

dhivya prabandham brought out the essence of vEdham/vEdhAntham in simple and chaste thamizh. The whole purpose of these dhivya prabandhams is to uplift the jIvAthmAs by transmitting true knowledge. Several hundreds of years after the time of AzhwArs, many AchAryas starting with nAthamunigaL, centered with SrI rAmAnuja and ending with mAmunigaL appeared and preached the divine message of AzhwArs. While less intelligent people considered AzhwArs pAsurams as simple thamizh songs, the most intelligent AchAryas established that these pAsurams bring out the ultimate philosophy of SrIman nArAyaNan being the means (to be uplifted from this material world) and the goal (to be situated in ones true nature of eternal service to SrIman nArAyaNan in paramapadham - spiritual world). Our pUrvAchAryas fully relished the dhivya prabandhams and centered their life around learning them, teaching them and living by those pAsurams.

nammAzhwAr with madhurakavi AzhwAr and nAthamunigaL in either side

There was a dark period in the history where the dhivya prabandhams were lost in time after the time of AzhwArs. Eventually, it was nAthamunigaL who took lots of hardships to locate AzhwAr thirunagari which is the birth place of nammAzhwAr and he learnt all the 4000 dhivya prabandham with their meanings by the divine grace of nammAzhwAr. nAthamunigaL classified the 4000 dhivya prabandhams into 4 parts as we see today, taught them to his sishyas and brought out the importance of these dhivya prabandhams. He added kaNNinuN chiRu thAmbu into 4000 dhivya prabandhams in honour of madhurakavi AzhwAr who showed unflinching devotion towards nammAzhwAr.


SrI rAmAnuja (emperumAnAr) who is considered as an incarnation of Adhi sEsha and who appeared a century later received the same through the guru paramparA by studying the same under various AchAryas per the desire of yAmunAchArya. He then spread the glories of AzhwArs and their works to all sections of the society and greatly facilitated the  propagation of this SrIvaishNava sampradhAyam. It is because of his great contribution, this sampradhAyam was declared to be known as SrI rAmAnuja dharsanam by SrI ranganAtha himself. Also, rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi which was sung in glorification of SrI rAmAnuja by thiruvarangaththu amudhanAr was added into 4000 dhivya prabandham by the AchAryas due to his greatness. This rAmAnusa nURRanthAdhi is glorified as "prapanna gAyathri" - that which is to be recited compulsorily by all prapannas (ones who are surrendered) every day, just like how gAyathri manthram is to be recited by brAhmaNas everyday.

 nampiLLai kAlakshEpa (lecture) gOshti (assembly)

nampiLLai is an important AchArya (coming in the parampArA after emperumAnAr, embAr, bhattar and nanjIyar) who should be mentioned at this juncture. He was living in SrIrangam and was the leader of SrIvaishNava sampradhAyam during his times. It was during his period in SrIrangam, the meanings of 4000 dhivya prabandham were given great importance. He was engaged in giving lectures everyday close to the sanctum sanctorium of periya perumAL - SrI ranganAtha. It is explained that even periya perumAL would stand up and try to peek through the window to hear his lectures. nampiLLai's sishyas also greatly contributed to propagate the meanings of these dhivya prabandhams. periyavAchchAn piLLai who is a sishya of nampiLLai and also known as vyAkyAna chakkaravarthy (emperor among commentators) wrote commentaries for all dhivya prabandhams and his contribution is greatly hailed by our AchAryas. vadakku thiruvIdhi piLLai, who is another sishya of nampiLLai, documented the lectures given by nampiLLai on thiruvAimozhi and this document became to be known as eedu 36000 padi (the most cherished vyAkyAnam of thiruvAimozhi).

piLLai lOkAchAryar kAlakshEpa gOshti

After nampiLLai's time, piLLai lOkAchAryar leads the sath sampradhAyam and documents all the most confidential matters of dhivya prabandham in his rahasya granthams. These confidential matters were explained by various AchAryas at various times in various granthams. piLLai lOkAchAryar consolidated those and documented them in his 18 primary works. But towards the end of his life, tragedy struck SrIrangam in the form of mughal invaders who  destroyed everything there. piLLai lOkAchAryar arranged for the safe journey of namperumAL (SrI ranganAtha - uthsavar) and escaped from the invaders from there along with namperumAL. Shortly in to the journey, he ascended to paramapadham due to the difficult journey through forests at such advanced age.  Then came a lengthy period of suffering for the whole of SrIvaishNava community. After few decades, when peace prevailed and invaders were driven out, namperumAL eventually returned to SrIrangam.

mAmunigaL kAlakshEpa gOshti - "SrI SailESa dhayApAthram" thaniyan submission

Finally, maNavALa mAmunigaL who is considered as an incarnation of SrI rAmAnuja himself, appeared in AzhwAr thirunagari. He became a sishya of thiruvAimozhi piLLai and learns all the esoteric meanings of vEdham, vEdhAntham and dhivya prabandhams from his own father and thiruvAimozhi piLLai. Under the orders of thiruvAimozhi piLLai (his AchArya), he reached SrIrangam and spent the rest of his life in rejuvenating the sath sampradhAyam to its past glories. He personally searched for all the lost literature, studied them, recorded them in palm leaves with great difficulty and preserved them for future generations to come. Fittingly, in appreciating his great qualities and efforts, SrI ranganAtha himself listens to thiruvAimozhi kAlakshEpam from mAmunigaL for a whole year and at the end of the lecture series, he himself appears as a small boy and accepts mAmunigaL as his AchArya and submits him the most glorious "SrISailESa dhayApAthram..." thaniyan. Subsequently, many AchAryas who came in various lineages taught and lived by these dhivya prabandhams.

Thus, AzhwArs' dhivya prabandhams  which were focussed on the upliftment of jIvAthmAs which is to fulfill the desire of bhagavAn have been preserved by our pUrvAchAryas through the history. It is emphasised greatly that all SrIvaishNavas should learn the dhivya prabandhams, understand the meanings properly and live by them.

It would be very useful to understand the validity and glories of AzhwArs and their dhivya prabhandhams. Please read the following articles which go through them in detail:
Please visit our dhivya prabandham portal at for translations of various prabadhams in multiple languages.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - guru paramparai

SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
Srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
Sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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In the previous article we discussed the unique relationship between AchArya and Sishya.

Some may ask - "Why do we need an AchArya between us and emperumAn? Have there not been cases where emperumAn directly acknowledging and accepting individuals like gajEndhrAzhwAn, guhap perumAL, Sabhari, akrUra, thrivakrA (hunch-back lady in krishNAvathAram), mAlA kAran (flower vendor), etc?".

For this our pUrvAchAryas explain that, while emperumAn is svathanthran (fully-independent) and is pouring his mercy on jIvAthmAs, he is also bound to give results by an individual's karma. This is where an AchArya comes into the picture. emperumAn (out of his constant sukrutham (good thoughts) for everyone) is tirelessly creating opportunities for jIvAthmAs to ultimately reach a sadhAchArya (true preceptor) who will impart the real knowledge and prepare the jIvAthmA to reach him. AchArya being a recommendation authority like SrI mahAlakshmi (who is purushakAra bhUthai) ensures to emperumAn that the jIvAthmA is ready to give up worldly attachments and is purely depending on emperumAn's mercy to reach him.

It is said that while emperumAn will grant samsAram or mOksham according to one's own karma, AchArya will always ensure that the surrendered jIvAthmAs gets mOksham. It is also explained that going directly to emperumAn is like trying to reach out to his hands to hold on and going through an AchArya is like reaching out to his lotus feet to hold on (since AchAryas are his thiruvadi nilai - representing his lotus feet). emperumAn directly acknowledging jIvAthmAs are rare and him accepting jIvAthmAs through an AchArya is the most common/appropriate process as explained by our pUrvAchAryas.

Since we are discussing about AchAryas, it is very appropriate to understand our own AchArya paramparai. This will help us fully appreciate how we got this knowledge down to us from bhagavAn. Most of us will probably already know this, but still sharing this, since without this AchArya paramparai - we would also be like so many other samsAris in this world today.

SrIvaishNavam (also known as sanAthana dharmam) is an eternal sampradhAyam and many great personalities have propagated it throughout the history. Towards the end of dhvApara yugam, AzhwArs started appearing in southern part of bhAratha varsham at the banks of various rivers. The last AzhwAr appeared in the early part of kali yugam. In SrI bhAgavatham, vyAsa rishi foretells that exalted bhakthas of SrIman nArAyaNan will appear in the banks of various rivers and will enrich every one with the divine knowledge about emperumAn. AzhwArs are 10 in number - poigai AzhwAr, bhUthaththAzhwAr, pEyAzhwAr, thirumazhisai AzhwAr, nammAzhwAr, kulaSEkarAzhwAr, periyAzhwAr, thoNdaradippodi AzhwAr, thiruppAnAzhwAr and thirumangai AzhwAr. madhurakavi AzhwAr and ANdAL are AchArya nishtars (fully dependant on AchArya) and are counted among AzhwArs too (making the count 12). Also, ANdAL is an avathAram of bhUmi pirAtti. AzhwArs (except ANdAL) are all jIvAthmAs hand picked by bhagavAn from samsAram. emperumAn gave the AzhwArs the most perfect knowledge about thathva thrayam (chith, achith, ISwara) through his own sankalpam (will) and through them he re-established the bhakthi/prapaththi mArgam when it was lost in time. He also made them realize past, present and future events fully and clearly. Azhwars composed 4000 dhivya prabandham (popularly known as aruLichcheyal) which were direct outpourings of their bhagavath anubhavam (experience with bhagavAn). The essence of aruLichcheyal is in the divine verses of thiruvAimozhi which was rendered by nammAzhwAr.

After the time of AzhwArs, AchAryas started appearing. Several AchAryas such as nAthamunigaL, uyyakkoNdAr, maNakkAl nambi, ALavandhAr, periya nambi, periya thirumalai nambi, thirukkOshtiyUr nambi, thirumAlai ANdAn, AzhwAr thiruvarangap perumAL araiyar, emperumAnAr, embAr, kUraththAzhwAn, mudhaliyANdAn, aruLALap perumAL emperumAnAr, ananthAzhwAn, thirukkurugai pirAn pillan, engaLAzhwAn, nadAthur ammAL, bhattar, nanjIyar, nampiLLai, vadakkuth thiruvIdhip piLLai, periyavAchchAn piLLai, piLLai lOkAchAryar, azhagiya maNavALap perumAL nAyanAr, kUrakulOththama dhAsar, thiruvAimozhp piLLai, vedhAnthAcharyar and maNavALa mAmunigaL appeared and propagated our sampradhAyam. This AchArya paramparai continues through the 74 simhAsanAdhipathis (authorised preceptors established by emperumAnAr) and jIyar mutts (established by emperumAnAr and maNavALa mAmunigaL) until today. These AchAryas wrote several commentaries on aruLichcheyal, explaining the meanings of the pAsurams in great detail. These commentaries are the greatest wealth they have left behind to us - for us to read them and immerse in the bhagavath anubhavam. The AchAryas, by the mercy of the AzhwArs were able to clearly understand the exact message in the pAsurams and explain them from different angles.

In upadhESa raththina mAlai, mAmunigaL explains that we are able to understand aruLichcheyal (dhivya prabandham) as it is only because of the existence of these commentaries (vyAkyAnams). If there were no commentaries, our aruLichcheyal would have also become like other thamizh literature (which are only learnt by a few elite group of people). Since our pUrvAchAryas understood the message, they made aruLichcheyal as part of nithyAnusandhanam (daily practice) at both homes and temples. To see it practically, we can visit thiruvallikENi dhivya dhEsam - during siRiya thirumadal gOshti on Fridays, we can see even 5 year olds and 6 year olds chanting out louder than the older  SrIvaishNavas. Also, every one of us know thiruppAvai - everywhere, at least during mArgazhi month we can see even 3 year olds and 4 year olds singing the glorious pAsurams of ANdAL nAchchiyAr.

Thus we can understand the importance of our guru paramparai and cherish that every day.

To know more about our pUrvAchAryas in multiple languages, please visit .

AzhwArgaL vAzhi, aruLichcheyal vAzhi, thAzhvAthumil kuravar thAm vAzhi (Long live AzhwArs, Long Live dhivya prabandham, Long live those great preceptors who in-turn practiced and preached this divine work of dhivya prabandham) - upadhESa raththina mAlai 3.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - AchArya-Sishya Relationship

SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
Srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
Sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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In the previous article we saw how pancha samskAram begins ones journey as a SrIvaishNava. We also saw the beginning of a unique relationship named "AchArya-Sishya" relationship. Since this is such an important aspect in our sampradhAyam, let us understand a little bit more about this relationship based on purvAchArya sri sUkthis.

AchArya literally means "one who has learnt SAsthram, applying it in his own life and teaching it to others". It is also said in the SAsthram that "even a sanyAsi, if he does not accept vishNu parathvam (supremacy of Lord vishNu), he must be considered to be a chandALan only". So it is imperative that AchArya must be a vaishNava - i.e. one who accepts Sriman nArAyaNan as the supreme god and is trying to please him every moment in his every action. Our purvAchAryas have insisted that one who performs the thirumanthra upadhESam (along with dhvayam and charama slOkam) during pancha samskAram is the direct AchArya.
Sishya means one who undergoes SikshA (correction/purification). It is generally translated as disciple in English - which means one who is to be disciplined. Here the Sishya gets himself/herself shaped into a proper mould under the guidance of the AchArya.

udaiyavarAzhwAn (ideal AchArya – Sishya), kUram

Our purvAchAryas have discussed the qualities of AchArya and Sishya in a very detailed manner. To start with they have established based on the SAsthram that AchArya-Sishya relationship is exactly the same as father-son relationship. Just like the son is always totally subservient to the father, Sishya must also be totally subservient to the AchArya.

In bhagavath gIthA, kaNNan emperumAn says "thadh vidhdhi praNipAthEna pari praSNEna sEvayA, upadhEkshanthi thE gyAnam gyAninas thathva dharSina:". This nicely summarises the qualities of AchArya and Sishya. In the first line, he says that "you should submissively approach an AchArya, render service to him with humility and ask him questions submissively". In the second line he says"the AchArya will teach you that gyAnam as he has understood the real thathvam (that is bhagavAn)".

Some of the qualities that are expected out of an AchArya are:
  • AchAryas are generally equated to pirAtti (SrI mahAlakshmi) - their main job is to do purushakAram (recommendation as done by pirAtti) to emperumAn.
  • Just like pirAtti, they should also accept that they are only subservient to emperumAn, they accept emperumAn as the only upAyam and their acts are for the enjoyment of emperumAn only.
  • They should be full of krupai (compassion) - to accept Sishyas, develop their Athma gyAnam (knowledge about self) and vairAgyam (detachment), and involve the Sishyas in bhagavath/bhAgavatha kainkaryam.
  • Per mAmunigaL's dhivya SrIsUkthi, AchArya must only be focussed on Sishya's Athma rakshanam (uplifting the soul).
  • piLLai lOkAcharyAr says "An AchArya should have proper knowledge about self, Sishya and the result".
    • He should think that he is not the AchArya but his AchArya is the AchArya.
    • He should think that his Sishya is not his Sishya but his AchArya's Sishya.
    • He should think the result is to create a well matured Sishya who will constantly perform mangaLASAsanam to emperumAn - nothing else.
  • As explained in vArthA mAlai grantham and SishtAchAram (as in elder's practices), AchArya should treat his Sishya with great respect - since the Sishya has come to AchArya (without analysing the AchArya’s qualities/capabilities) for total protection purely based on injunctions in SAsthram.
  • It is explained by our purvAchAryas that even emperumAn likes to be an AchArya. That is why he chose to be the first AchArya in our OrAN vazhi guru paramparai (disciplic succession). He also likes to have an AchArya for himself - that is why he chose the most perfect AchArya for himself - azhagiya maNavALa mAmunigaL.

Some of the qualities that are expected out of a Sishya are:
  • piLLai lOKAchAryar says
    • Sishya should free himself from everything (i.e., aiSwaryam and AthmAnubhavam) other than emperumAn and AchArya
    • Sishya should be ready to serve his AchArya at anytime in all the ways
    • Sishya should feel mental agony by looking at this material world
    • Sishya should have desire in bhagavath vishayam and AchArya kainkaryam
    • Sishya should be free of jealousy when learning about bhagavath/bhAgavatha glories
  • A Sishya must think all his wealth belongs to his AchArya. He should only take as much is required for him for dhEha dhAraNam (to run the basic livelihood).
  • A Sishya should also think that his AchArya is everything for him as explained by ALavandhAr in "mAthA pithA yuvathaya: ..." slOkam.
  • He should take care of his AchArya's livelihood.
  • mAmunigaL also explains in upadhESa raththina mAlai that "one should not stay away from his AchArya even for a moment when he is in this world".
  • A Sishya should glorify his AchArya in his presence and always have upakAra smrithi (gratitude) for the knowledge that is given by his AchArya to him.
It is also explained that it is inappropriate for the Sishya to do Athma rakshaNam of his AchArya (i.e., Sishya should never perform svarUpa sikshai (corrections) to AchArya) and inappropriate for the AchArya to do dhEha rakshaNam of Sishya (i.e., Sishya should not expect that the AchArya will take care of his livelihood).

As explained by piLLai lOKAchAryar, it is very difficult to be a Sishya (and also we do not really understand to be a proper Sishya no matter how much we learn about it). That is why emperumAn himself took the form of "nara" rishi and became the Sishya of "nArAyaNa" rishi (who is an avathAram of emperumAn as well) to learn thirumanthram and demonstrate how one should be a proper disciple.
With this background, we can also try to understand the different categorizations of AchAryas.

anuvruththi prasannAchArya and krupA mAthra prasannAchArya

anuvruththi prasannAchArya

During the days before emperumAnAr , the AchAryas were testing the prospective Sishyas for their level of dedication before accepting them. It was customary for a prospective Sishya to go to his AchArya's residence, stay with him and serve him for a full year before being accepted.

krupA mAthra prasannAchArya 

But when emperumAnAr saw the nature of kali yugam, he realized that if AchAryas are like this, only a very few will be motivated towards giving up worldly attachments and many will not be able to satisfy the demands of the AchAryas. So, out of his unbounded mercy, emperumAnAr relaxed the rules and gave this most valuable knowledge to those who had the true desire to learn bhagavath vishayam. So the qualification was changed from “deserving” to “desiring” candidates. He also laid the guidelines for his Sishyas to follow the same methodology and brought in several thousands of people into the fold of SrIvaishNavam out of his grace. Starting with emperumAnAr, our AchAryas are called krupA mAthra prasannAchAryas.
mAmunigaL, explains this concept wonderfully in his upadhESa raththina mAlai pAsuram "OrAN vazhiyAi upadhEsitthAr munnOr, ErAr ethirAsarar innaruLAl pArulagil Asai udayOrkkellAm AriyargAL kURum enRu pEsi varambharuththAr pin”.

uththAraka AchArya and upakAraka AchArya

In charama upAya nirNayam - a work done by nAyanArAchchAn piLLai, he explains these two types of AchAryas. This grantham establishes the glories of emperumAnAr very clearly.

uththAraka AchArya

uththAraka AchArya is the one who is capable of taking some one from samsAram and placing him/her in paramapadham easily. It is explained that Sriman nArAyaNan, nammAzhwAr and emperumAnAr are the only 3 uththAraka AchAryas (Of course, maNavALa mAmunigaL who is yathi punaravathAram is also established as an uththAraka AchArya by erumbi appA in his varavaramuni Sathakam).
  • SrIman nArAyaNan is the prathamAchArya (first AchArya) and being sarvagyan (omniscient), sarva sakthan (omnipotent) and so on, he can easily give mOksham to anyone.

periya perumAL - SrIrangam

  • nammAzhwAr who was hand-picked by emperumAn to give knowledge to samsAris and correct them is also capable of giving mOksham to anyone. This is understood from his own words in thiruvAimozhi - "ponnulagu ALirO, bhuvani muzhuthu ALIro" . He is asking the birds which he is sending dhUthu (as messenger) to emperumAn, that he can give both nithya vibhUthi and leelA vibhUthi to them as sambhAvanai (allowance) for their recommendation.

  • emperumAnAr was declared as udaiyavar - the controller of ubhaya vibhUthi - by SrI ranganAthan and thiruvEnkatamudaiyAn (SrInivAsa – thirumalA). Not only he was immersed in bhagavath anubhavam, he also lived in leelA vibhUthi for a long period (120 years) and served emperumAn's mission fully. He established proper temple worship, initiated 1000s of Sishyas, established 74 simhAsanAdhipathis to carry forward the divine message.

emperumAn acts purely according to SAsthram, he either gives mOksham or keeps the jIvAthmAs in the samsAram, based on the their desire and karma. So, nAyanArAchchAn piLLai concludes that uththArakathvam is complete in emperumAnAr.

nammAzhwAr, after receiving this knowledge, as he is an AzhwAr - even though he did parOpadhEsam (instructing others) a little bit, he got so immersed in bhagavath anubhavam and out of his Arthi left the material world at a very young age.

emperumAnAr with his parama krupA (great compassion) gave this benediction to anyone who desires and delivers them to emperumAn.

Thus, nAyanArAchchAn piLLai concludes that emperumAnAr has the uththArakathva pUrthi (completeness).

upakAraka AchArya

He is the one who is capable of leading us to an uththAraka AchArya. In our sampradAyam, all AchArya paramparais coming under emperumAnAr up to our own AchArya are classified under upakAraka AchArya. Whenever we undergo pancha samskAram, our AchArya requests emperumAnAr through his guru paramparai to hand over that jIvAthmA to emperumAn as a person with the desire of leaving samsAram and reaching paramapadham.

Both uththAraka AchArya and upakAraka AchArya are equally respectable - though emperumAnAr has a special place in our sampradAyam. mAmunigaL in his upadhESa raththina mAlai starts with thiruvAimozhip piLLai and ends with emperumAnAr to show us the proper approach.

samASrayana AchArya and gyAna AchArya
  • samASrayana AchArya is the one who is performing pancha samsakAram to us.
  • gyAna AchArya is the one from whom we hear grantha kAlakshEpams, etc which develops our Athma gyAnam.
While we are always indebted to our samASrayana AchArya and should be totally surrendered to him, gyAna AchArya should also be respected equally. For some, both samASrayana and gyAna AchAryas will be the same person. In fact, every SrIvaishNava must be respected as one’s own AchArya as per SrIvachana bhUshaNam.

To summarize, a Sishya must depend on his/her AchArya totally. He/She also has the responsibility to take care of the livelihood of the AchArya. One must constantly be in touch with the AchArya and also assist in his needs.

There were many wonderful incidents in our pUrvAcharyas’ lives between AchArya and Sishya. We will see some of them here:
  • maNakkAl nambi used to do menial services at his AchArya's (uyyakkoNdAr) residence.
  • maNakkAl nambi took so much effort to bring ALavandhAr into SrIvaishNavam.
  • emperumAnAr treated kUraththAzhwAn with utmost respect even though he (emperumAnAr) was the AchArya.
  • Once when emperumAnAr got upset with kUraththAzhwAn, AzhwAn said, "adiyEn is emperumAnAr's property - he can do whatever he wants".
  • embAr used to examine his AchArya's bed by lying down on it first. When asked if it is not a sin, he said he will not mind to commit such sin, as long as his AchArya's bed is ensured to be most comfortable.
  • emperumAnAr says to ananthAzhwAn that parAsara bhattar is just like himself and should be treated the same.
  • bhattar and nanjIyar had excellent conversations. nanjIyar gave up everything and became a sannyAsi. He said once, "if my Asramam comes in as an interference for my service to bhattar (his AchArya), I will break my thridhaNdam."
  • nanjIyar encouraged nampiLLai's view points even though they were sometimes different from his own for some pAsurams.
  • pinbazhagiya perumAL jIyar said he wanted to stay in this leelA vibhUthi just to observe/enjoy nampiLLai's (his AchArya) thirumuthugu (upper-back) while coming back from cauvery after bathing.
  • kUrakulOththama dhAsar took so much effort to bring thiruvAimozhip piLLai into SrIvaishNavam.
  • maNavALa mAmunigaL took thiruvAimozhip piLLai's (his AchArya) orders as his only goal in life. He learnt SrI bhAshyam once and gave lectures on it but then he focussed during the whole time in aruLichcheyal and rahasya granthams.
  • SrI ranganAthan with SrIdhEvi and bhUdhEvi listened to eedu kAlakshEpam from maNavALa mAmunigaL in front of his sannidhi for a whole year and gave his own SEsha paryankam  as his AchArya sambhAvanai and a thaniyan to his AchAryan which is chanted everywhere both at the beginning and at the end of any aruLichcheyal (dhivya prabandham) gOshti even today as per his order.
  • maNavALa mAmunigaL gave his own seat, thiruvAzhi (chakram/disc) and thiruchangu (sangu/conch) to ponnadikkAl jIyar and asked him to do pancha samskAram for appAchiyAraNNA.
There are many such incidents but just listed some to understand how AchAryas and Sishyas interacted with each other in their lives.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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Simple Guide to SrivaishNavam - pancha samskAram

SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:
SrimathE rAmAnujAya nama:
Srimadh varavaramunayE nama:
Sri vAnAchala mahAmunayE nama:

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periya nambi performing pancha samskAram to SrI rAmAnuja

How do we become a SrIvaishNava?

According to our purvAchAryas, there is a mechanism through which one becomes a SrIvaishNava. This process is called "pancha samskAram" (initiation in to the sampradhAyam).

samskAra means the process of cleansing or purifying. It is the process which transforms one from an unqualified state to a qualified state. It is by this process one first becomes a SrIvaishNava. Just like taking birth in a brAhmaNa family makes it easy for someone to become a brAhmaNa by going through the brahma yagya process, taking birth in a SrIvaishNava family makes it easy for someone to become a SrIvaishNava through the pancha samskAram process. The beauty here compared to the brAhmaNa family example is, one need not be born in a SrIvaishNava family to become a SrIvaishNava - because SrIvaishNavam is associated to the soul while brAhmaNyam is just associated with the body. There is no distinction done based on caste, creed, nationality, sex, financial situation, family situation, etc - whoever desires to be put on the path of salvation can be included in this fold. Also, after becoming a SrIvaishNava, it is very important to completely avoid any association with dhEvathAntharams (demi-gods like brahmA, Siva, dhurgA, subramaNya, indhra, varuNa, etc., who are controlled by emperumAn) and those who are associated to such dhEvathAntharams.

pancha samskAram

pancha samskAram or samASrayaNam is the process that is explained in SAsthram to prepare an individual to become a SrIvaishNava. The following SlOka explains the different aspects of pancha samskAram - "thApa: puNdra: thathA nAma: manthrO yAgaScha panchama:". The five activities which happen during the pancha samskAram are:
  • thApa (heat) - Sanka chakra lAnchanam - heated impression of Sanka and chakra on our shoulders. This identifies that we are property of emperumAn - just like a vessel is marked with the symbols of the owner, we are marked with the symbols of emperumAn.
  • puNdra (symbol) - dwAdhAsa urdhva puNdra dhAranam - wearing of Urdhva puNdram (thirumaN and SrIchUrNam) in twelve parts of the body.
  • nAma (name) - dhAsya namam - a new name given by the AchArya (rAmAnuja dhAsan, madhurakavi dhAsan, SrIvaishNava dhAsan).
  • manthra – manthra upadhESam - learning the secret manthra from the AchArya; manthram means that which relieves the chanter from grief - thirumanthram, dhvayam and charama SlOkam which release us from samsAram.
  • yAga - dhEva pUjA - learning the thiruvArAdhanam process to worship emperumAn daily at home.

Akinchanyam (considering oneself to be completely incapable/unworthy) and  ananya gathithvam (having no-other go) are two important prerequisites before Surrendering to emperumAn. Only in such state, one can fully surrender to emperumAn and let emperumAn uplift oneself.

Goals of pancha samskAram
  • As SAsthram says, thathva gyAnAn mOksha lAbha: - by gaining knowledge about the brahmam, one gets mOksha. By getting valuable knowledge from an AchArya in artha panchakam (brahmam - God, jIvAthmA - soul, upAyam - means to attain God, upEyam - the result, virOdhi - hurdles which are blocking the result) which is part of the manthra upadhESam, we become eligible to secure the ultimate goal - performing kainkaryam in nithya vibhUthi (spiritual realm) to Sriya:pathi. Also real knowledge is to accept oneself to be totally dependant on bhagavAn.
  • While in the current life, performing kainkaryam to our AchArya and SrIvaishNavas (by doing in many possible ways) and archAvathAra emperumAn - through thiruvArAdhanam at home and dhivya dhESa kainkaryam.
  • It is also important to share this great message with others to help them to benefit spiritually. SrI rAmAnuja, as part of his main instructions, first instruct us to learn SrI bhAshyam, thiruvAimozhi and teach them to others.
Here, the AchArya administers the divine union of jIvAthmA and paramAthmA. Though we are called prapannas at times, in real sense, SrI rAmAnuja and all our predecessors have shown that we are Acharya nishtas, i.e., one who depend fully on AchArya for everything. This pancha samskAram is also considered as the real birth for the jIvAthmA, since it is at this point, the jIvAthmA realizes its true nature and surrenders to emperumAn. It is because of this divine connection which is like the bondage between a husband (paramAthmA) and wife (jIvathmA), there is constant emphasis of avoidance of other dhEvathAs.

So, as explained here, this philosophy of SrIvaishNavam is to leave this samsAram (material realm) to go to parama padham (spiritual realm) to perform uninterrupted kainkayam to Sriya:pathi (Sriman nArAyaNan).

Who can perform pancha samskAram?

SrIvaishNavam, although an eternal philosophy, was rejuvenated by AzhwArs and AchAryas. Sri rAmAnuja studied the SAsthram and re-established the norms which were lost over time based on the instructions from his preceptors - nAthamunigaL, ALavandhAr, etc. He established 74 simhAsanAdhipathis (AchAryas/spiritual preceptors) and authorized them to perform pancha samskAram to the individuals who understand this goal of life (leaving samsAram to go to paramapadham). Anyone who comes in those lineages can perform pancha samskAram. He (as well as maNavALa mAmunigaL) established certain Mutts (Monasteries) and jIyar swAmis (sanyAsis) whose lineages are also authorized to perform pancha samskAram to individuals aspiring to become a SrIvaishNava.

What should we do on the day of our pancha samskAram or samASrayaNam?
  • Wake up early on the morning.
  • Meditate upon SrIman nArAyaNan, AzhwArs and AchAryas. This the day of our real birth – birth of knowledge.
  • Perform nithya karmAnushtAnams (snAnam, Urdhva puNdra dhAraNam, sandhyA vandhanam, etc).
  • Reach AchAryan’s mutt/thirumALigai on time. Carry some fruits, vasthrams (clothes for perumAL/AchAryan), sambhAvanai (monetary) etc., whatever possible.
  • Undergo samASrayaNam.
  • Accept SrIpAdha thIrtham of AchAryan.
  • Listen to AchAryan’s instructions attentively.
  • Accept prasAdham at the mutt/thirumALigai.
  • Spend the day at the mutt/thirumALigai and learn about the sampradhAyam as much as possible directly from AchArya.
  • Avoid rushing to office etc., immediately after samASrayaNam – reserve it to be a quiet and tranquil day filled with gratitude for the guru paramaparai. Let this day be the beginning of many more such transcendental days.

Is pancha samskAram the beginning or the end?

It is common misunderstanding that, this samASrayaNam is a simple ritual and is the end. But that is completely wrong. This is the beginning of our journey in SrIvaishNavam. The ultimate goal is set (to be engaged in eternal service to SrI mahAlakshmi and SrIman nArAyaNan) and the process is given by our purvAcharyas - accepting bhagavAn as the means through the AchArya and be willing to joyfully follow the principles outlined by the AchArya. It is most fitting for the true nature of every jIvAthmA to accept this principle, apply it practically in their day-to-day lives and be uplifted.

In mumukshuppadi, sUthram 116, piLLai lOkachArya highlights the conduct of a SrIvaishNava (one who has undergone pancha samskAram).
  1. Giving up all attachments towards worldly matters completely.
  2. Holding on to SrIman nArAyaNan as the only refuge.
  3. Having full faith in the accomplishment of the real goal (eternal kainkaryam).
  4. Having constant craving to accomplish that real goal as soon as possible.
  5. While in this world, spending one's time in dhivya dhESams being engaged in enjoying emperumAn's qualities and serving him.
  6. Understanding the greatness of such devotees of bhagavAn who are having the aforementioned qualities and being joyful seeing them.
  7. Having the mind fixed on thirumanthram and dhvaya mahA manthram.
  8. Having great loving devotion towards one's own AchArya.
  9. Being grateful towards AchArya and emperumAn.
  10. Associating with sAthvika SrIvaishNavas (gentle devotees) who have true knowledge, detachment and peace.
For more detailed explanation of these points, please visit .

At this point, we should also be grateful towards bhagavath rAmAnuja who institutionalized this pancha samskAram in a grand manner and propagated the same through many of his disciples (74 simhAsanAdhipathis). All of that was done by him due to his overwhelming compassion towards all jIvAthmAs who are covered with ignorance in this material world and are shunning from their natural duty of performing mangaLASAsanam (praying for the well-being) to emperumAn. We will see more about this aspect in subsequent articles.

adiyen sarathy ramanuja dasan

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