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From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_shasta.stanford.edu)
Date: Tue Jul 19 1994 - 16:41:57 PDT
To my untutored eye, Vedanta Desika seems to be near the peak of his poetic form in his ``Varadaraaja PancaaSat''. His humility and utter awe in the presence of the Lord by themselves make for fascinating reading. Following the tradition of Yamunacharya, Ramanuja, Koorattazhvaan, etc., however, Desikar also incorporates the essence of Vedanta in these verses, all the while making subtle references to both the Sanskrit and Tamil Vedas. I'll present a few select verses over the next few days. I am following nearly verbatim the explanation of D. Ramaswamy Iyengar as published in a small book by the Visishtadwaita Pracharini Sabha. Sloka 2: yasya anubhaavam adhigantum aSaknuvanto muhyanti abhanguradhiyo munisaarvabhaumaa.h | tasyaiva te stutiShu saahasam aSnuvaana.h kShantavaya eSha bhavataa kariSailanaatha || Lord of Karisaila! Even the monarchs among sages possessing unobstructed knowledge, feel perplexed and bewildered, being unable to comprehend Your glory. This (person) who has the rashness to indulge in the praise of such a one as You should be pardoned by You. This and the following four slokas are couched in an apologetic tone. It is known as 'avaiyadakkam' in Tamil, and 'naicyaanusandhaanam' in Sanskrit. The poet feels aghast at the boldness with which he begins to sing about the Lord, about whom even the Vedas have said, ``He is beyond speech or thought.'' Some of the words employed in this sloka are calculated to remind us about the first sloka of Srimad Bhagavatam. There, it was 'muhyanti yat sUraya.h.' Here it is 'muhyanti abhangura- dhiyo munisaarvabhaumaa.h'. The suris are the denizens of Sri Vaikuntha, who are free from all trace of Avidya. They were referred to in the Bhagavata sloka as being unable to comprehend the Ultimate Godhead. Here, the glory of the 'arca' form of the Lord is said to be beyond the ken of even the sages and saints who top the rank of those who contemplate upon God. These words have been interpreted as referring to the Azhvars, who were the special recipients of divine grace and who thereby attained a high degree of 'madinalam' or 'bhaktirUpApanna-jnAna.' It is interesting to note that the Azhvars themselves felt that they were thoroughly unfit to sing about His glory. mAya! ninnai naayinEn vaNangi vaazhththum eedelaam neeyum nin kuRippinil poRuththu nalgu This is Tirumazhisai Azhvar's way of apologizing for having praised the Lord who is beyond all praise. Saint Yamunacharya (Alavandar) has also sung in the same strain. Following the Azhvars and Acharyas, Desika in this sloka at the very outset apologizes for beginning to praise Lord Varadaraja. We may also refer to similar sayings of the other Azhvars: (1) uraikkavallEnallEn (Nammazhvar) (2) vaakkuththuymaiyilaamaiyinaalE maadhavaa! unnai vaaykkoLLamaattEn (Periyazhvar) (3) azhukkudampeccil vaayaal thooymaiyil thondanEn naan collinEn thollai naamam paaviyEn pizhaiththavaaRu enRu ancinERku (Tirumangai) `Saahasa' means rashness. Desika says here, ``Fools rush in where angles fear to tread. Pray, pardon this intrepidity on my part.'' The 1st sloka invoked the Lord's grace. This sloka invokes His forbearance.