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Date: Mon Apr 01 1996 - 09:01:05 PST

Srimathe Ramanuja Maha Desikaya Namaha

Dear Bhagavatottamas, 

April 2, 1996 is Panguni Uttaram Day. Sri Sadagopan provided an excellent 
summary of the significance of this day in his post. The following is a 
brief description of the Sharanagati of Sri Ramanujacharya in the Sri 
Ranganatha Gadyam.

Sri Ranganatha Gadyam is one of the works of Sri Ramanujacharya, delivered
on Panguni Uttaram day. This is the only day on which Ranganayaki Thayar is
in Utsavam in the royal court with Sri Ranganathar. This is 
the reason for Yati Rajan's Gadya Trayam rendition on this day. 
The Gadyam form of praising the Lord is unique to Sri Vaishnava tradition. 
The Gadyam style is a "prose poem", in that adjectives and epithets are 
interspersed in a long series of chains to achieve a 
mesmerizing effect on both the person who chants it as well as the person
who listens to it. The Sri Ranganatha Gadyam is an expression of an 
intensely personal and emotional Sharanagati of the acharya. 
Sharanagati is fundamental to Sri Vaishnavism. The Sri Ranganatha 
Gadyam and Sharanagati Gadyam are unparalleled in this regard.

Sri Ramanujacharya returned to Sri Rangam after being in "exile" at 
Tirunarayana Puram (Melkote in Karnataka). Upon his return to Srirangam, 
he went to the Temple of Ranganatha on Panguni Uttaram day. The majestic 
sight of the Lord and his consort in Utsavam at the royal court overwhelmed 
the Acharya resulting in this outpouring of devotion. The Sri Ranganatha 
Gadyam contains a beautiful portrayal of the Bhakti, Dasyam and Sharanagati 
margams of Sri Vaishnava tradition. The Gadyam is divided into three parts. 
The first part deals with the glorification of the Lord by dwelling on his
innumerable auspicious attributes "Kalyana Gunams". In the second part, 
the Acharya confesses all of his shortcomings and declares that he is 
bereft of all the noble qualities (SamastAtma Guna Viheenaha). The first
two parts are a prelude to the formal surrender which is contained in the
last part of the Gadyam. 

Sri. Sadagopan very kindly allowed me to borrow his 35+ page essay 
(in Tamil) on the works of Sri Ramanujacharya. Sri Sadagopan's excellent 
essay has been a major source of inspiration for me to write this 
commentary. Therefore, I would like to thank Sri Sadagopan for his kind 
gesture and encouragement during the course of my write up. 
I recommend Sri Sadagopan's essay as a must read for anyone interested
in the works of Yati Rajan. Sri Sriram Ramanujam had referred to the book 
by Sri V.V. Ramanujam on the Ranga Gadyam. The original sanskrit commentary 
on this Gadyam is by Periya Vacchan Pillai. Therefore, these references can be 
probed for further detail by the interested reader. A superb rendition of 
this Gadyam by Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi can be found in vol 4 of the Balaji 
Pancharatna Mala (which was a 5 volume LP released by the Tirumala 
Tirupati Devastanam in 1979-81)


svAdheenatrividhachEtanAchEtana-swarUpasthithi pravrittibhEdam
svAbhAvikAnavadhikAtisya jnAnabalaiswarya
veeryasaktitEjassausIlya vAtsalya-mArdava-Arjava-sauharda-
sAmya kAruNya-mAdhurya-gAmbhIryaudArya-chaturya-
sthairyadhairya shaurya-parAkrama-satyakama-
satyasankalpa-krtitva krtajnatAdyasamkhyEya kalyANaguNA
gaNaughamahArNavam,parabrahma bhUtam,purushOttamam,
srIrangasAyinam, asmatswaminam,prabuddha
tadEkAnubhavaha tadekapriyaha paripUrnam bhagavantham
visadatamAnubhavEna nirantaramanubhUya,
tadanubhavajanita anavadhikAtisaya pritikArita
asEsAvasthOchita-asEsasEshataika ratirUpa-nityakinkarO bhavAmi

This is the first part of the Gadyam where the Acharya desires to be 
of devoted service forever to the Lord. The Lord is described as one who is
faultless, and complete in all respects. The word Chit in sanskrit means
sky (which has no begining or end). It is also used to describe the body or
life with form, while Achit refers to the formless one. Thus Chetana 
refers to the sentinet one while Achetana describes the  
insentinent one. The Lord is described as one who holds sway over the 
existence and activities of the three varieties (Baddha, Mukta and Nitya) 
of sentinent, and insentinent ones. The Lord is untouched by the five 
varieties of miseries and the resultant virtuous and sinful actions. 
The deeper implication here is that the Lord is above the laws of Karma. 
Therefore, he is indifferent to opposites (Sukham, Dukham, Good, Bad, Truth, 
Untruth etc) and  is not influenced in any way by the evils of Kama, Krodha 
Lobha, Moha, Mada and Matsarya.

The Acharya pays glowing tribute to the Lord by enumerating his 
innumerable Kalyana Gunams (auspicious attributes). Specifically, the Lord is 
praised as the ocean of Bala (the ability to support the whole
universe, he who is at the root of all existence), Aiswarya (extreme wealth or 
prosperity of a noble kind), Virya (bravery), Shakti (strength), Tejas
(unmatched radiance) Sousheelya (extremely pure character), Vatsalya 
(pure unmitigated, untainted love), Maardava, Aarjava, Souharda (kind 
hearted one), Samya (equanimous one), Karunya (ocean of mercy), 
Madhurya (extremely sweet),
Gambhirya (extremely majestic) Audarya, Chaturya (intelligent), 
Sthairya (fixed or permanent), Dhairya (extremely courageous) , 
Shourya Parakrama (extremely valourous one), Satya Kama, Satya Sankalpa
(he who is the lover of truth) Krutitva, Krutajnatardya Asankeya 
Kalyana Gunaganambramaharnavam (repository of all of the innumerable
auspicious attributes). The Acharya says that these attributes 
naturally find their home in the Lord. The Acharya then refers to the Lord as
Para Brahma Bhutam, Purushottamam (foremost among men), the one who is 
reclining on the serpent bed in Srirangam (Sri Ranga SAyinam) and who is 
his (the Acharya's) master (Asmat Swaminam) who is complete in all respects.

The Acharya continues by saying that he is always subject to the command of 
his master
(Lord Ranganatha) and has tasted the sweetness of being in service of the 
Lord forever. The Lord is the subject and object of the Acharya's 
knowledge and devotion. The Acharya then adds that  having experienced the 
Lord constantly, he yearns to be of great, commendable service to the Lord
at all times and under all circumstances (Nitya Kinkaro Bhavami).

Having paid glowing 
tribute to the Lord and recognizing His glory, Yatiraja attributes his 
knowledge to the Lord and desires eternal service to the Lord. The Dasya 
aspect of worship to the Lord is brought out very powerfully and 
emotionally in this passage. 

svAtma nitya niyAmya nityadAsyaikarasAtma
svabhAvAnusandhAna pUrvaka bhagavadanavadhikAtisaya
svAmyAdi akhilaguNa gaNAnubhAvajanita anavdhikAtisaya
pritiKarita asEsasEsataikaratirUpa nityakainkaryaprApyupAya
bhuta bhakti tadupAya samyagjnAna tadupAya
samIchInakriyA tadanuguNAs AtvikatAstikyAdi samastAtmaguNA
vihInaha duruttarAnanta tadviparyaya jnAnakriyAnuguNa
anAdipApavAsanA mahArNavAntarnimagnaha tilatailavat(e)
dAruvahnivat(e) durvivEchatriguNa kshaNaksharaNasvabhAva
achEtanaprakrtivyAptirUpa duratyaya bhagavamAyAtirOhita
svaprakAsaha AnAdyAsavidyanchitAnantaAsakya visramsana
karmapAsa pragrathitaha anAgatAnantakAlasamIkshayapi
adrashtasantArOpAyaha nikhilajantu jAtasaraNya! sriman!
nArAyaNa! tavacharaNAravaindayugaLam saraNamaham prapadyE||

In this part of the Gadyam the Acharya's only desire is "I seek your 
lotus feet as my refuge". In portraying himself ("I"), the Acharya 
accepts all of his shortcomings (or bad qualities that he has on 
account of being subject to the laws of Karma). 
Various epithets qualifying "I" are enumerated.
The Lord is then addressed by exclamatory adjectives before
the formal surrender. 

The Acharya says that his nature is built to be ever commanded by the Lord.
Therefore, he is forever thinking of it, meditating always on his (the Lord's)
great Lordship, and all the Lord's auspicious qualities in a devoted manner. 
The Acharya intensely desires to use this devotion as a means to "sevai" 
for the Lord by being of service to the Lord in all forms under all conditions 
. The Acharya adds that when he is possessed of ripe knowledge it would lead
to devoted service engaged in action in the form of service to the Lord. 

The Acharya now recounts all of his shortcomings by describing himself as 
lacking in personal qualities like virtue (satva), and firm faith and 
states that he is possessed of qualities and conduct directly opposite to 
the previously stated Kalyana Gunams of the Lord and the virtues enumerated 
above and consequently is immersed in an ageless ocean of sin. Yati Rajan 
states that he is incapable of breaking free from this ocean
(crossing the ocean of sin) with naturally endowed knowledge and lustre 
since they are covered by his inevitable association with prakriti. 
Prakriti by nature is subject to change 
and is a mixture of the tri-gunas (satva, rajas and tamas). Therefore, the 
Acharya claims that his inevitable association with the trigunas is inseparable
like oil in the til seed (Tila Tailavath) or fire in firewood (Daru Vanhivath). 
Yatirajan thus concludes that he is inextricably bound by the rope of Karma 
in the form of virtue and sin collected over ages out of ignorance. The 
Acharya declares that he is incapable of finding the means to overcome this 
bondage of samsara no matter how long or how hard he tries. Therefore, he is 
convinced that his only refuge lies in the Lotus feet of the Lord as the means 
of emancipation. The Lord is addressed as O Narayana!, ever associated with 
Sri!, the refuge of all created beings! thus the Acharya seeks the Lord's 

The above confession of shortcomings on account of association with Karma is 
a common feature of the works of Sri Ramanujacharya, Sri Tirukacchi Nambi 
in the Devaraja Ashtakam (which was very eloquently summarized by Sri 
Sadagopan) and Swami Desikan (where he describes himself as the emperor of 
all evil attributes). Such thoughts arose when these great Acharyas had a 
vision of the Lord and were evaluating themselves critically against the 
background of the auspicious attributes (Kalyana Gunams) of the Lord. 

However, my own interpretation is that these great souls did not need any
confession at all. Since they had already realized the Lord, they were above
the Tri-gunas. However, in their compassion for the rest of humanity, they 
chose to take upon themselves all the shortcomings of mankind (on account of
the laws of Karma) and plead with the Lord to help mankind overcome the 
bondage of Karma.

EvanavasthitasyApi arthitvamAtrENa paramakAruNikO
  bhagavAn svAnubhavaprItyOpaItaikAtyantika
  nityakainkaryaikaratirUpa nityadAsyam dAsyatIti vishvAsa
  pUrvakam bhagavantam nityakinkaratAm prArthayE

Here, the Acharya says that although he is in this state, full of various 
defects, he begs the Lord to accept him in eternal service with the firm 
faith that the all merciful Lord will grant him the favor of steadfastness 
(single-minded devotion) in everlasting service to HIM 
(the Lord) heeding to this sincere request as a result of the devotion 
arising from experiencing the Lord.

The formal surrender, motivated by the above stanza, begins now. The 
Acharya in sheer ecstasy expresses his thoughts in a very loving
and touching manner.

tavAnubhUtisambhUta prItikAritadAstAm|
dEhi mE kripayA nAtha! najAnE gtimanyathA||

 My Lord! you should be pleased, out of your
unbounded mercy, to grant the service to You
resulting from the joy of experiencing you.
najAnE gatim anyathA -Apart from begging you,
I do not know of any other means.

Begging for the Lord's mercy is significant here. The background leading to
the composition of the Gadyam can help us in appreciating the Acharya's 
pleas to the Lord. When Yati Rajan concluded his rendition of the Sharanagati 
Gadyam, the Lord of 
Srirangam broke his Archa Samadhi and addressed the Acharya thus: "Remain
here (in Srirangam beside me) until thy body falls to the earth 
(till your death)". Therefore, when the Acharya was rendering the Sri 
Ranganatha Gadyam, his thoughts were focussed on the joyous experience of the 
Lord. The Acharya longs for more of the same (joy of experiencing the Lord). 
Disturbed at the prospect of being possessed by the laws of Karma 
(which would prevent him from attaining his wish) again (after
experiencing the Lord), the Acharya resolves that the only way out for him is
to constantly be by the side of the Lord.  This can be accomplished by 
being of uniterrupted, service to the Lord. Only the Lord has
the power of conferring this benefit. Therefore, the Acharya
begs the Lord for this favor.

   bhavEyam pundarIkAksa! tvamEvaivam kurUsva mAm||

Here the Acharya requests the Lord:
O lotus eyed one! I should be eager to render all
forms of service under all conditions. You should 
grant me this state of mind. 

 EvambhUta tatvayAthAtmAvabOdha tadicchArahitasyApi
   uchyamAnArthaparamArthanishtam mE manastvamEvAdyaiva

 The Acharya's humility is reflected in this passage where 
  he says:
   "Even if I do not have the wish sincerely for the
   knowledge or that I am not fit for your grace
   to reach the goal, Please make the words I gave
   expression to as an excuse to fill in the defeciencies
   and render me fit". This is the most moving and touching part of 
  the Gadyam. 

 apArakarUNAmbudhE! anAlOchitavisEsAsEsalOka saraNya!
   praNathArtihara! AsritavAtsalyaikamahOdadhE!
   anavarataviditanikhilabhUtajAtayAthAtmA! satyakAma!
   satyasankalpa! Apatsakha! kAkuthsa! sriman! nArAyaNa!
   purushottama! sriranganAtha! mamanAtha! namOstutE!||
   || iti srirangagadyam samAptam ||

apArakaruNAmbhudhE - Oh! Limitless ocean of mercy!!,
   Here, the Acharya addresses Him as the ultimate
   succor of all irrespective of differences, one 
   who unhesitatingly grants refuge when His subjects
   are in distress, You who destroys the distress of those
   who seek you! Great ocean of love to his devotees, 
   You who know the truth about all your creations at all
   times! You with wishes always fulfilled ! You who can
   do all that You will! Friend in my distress! 
   By comparing Him to Rama (KAkutsa) the Acharya wants  
   to convey that the Lord is like Lord Rama (the one who would grieve
   at the grief of all men not only devotees of his) Ever 
   associated with Sri! Greatest of persons! Lord of 
   Srirangam! My Lord! I prostrate before you. 

In the concluding part, anAlOchitavisEsAsEsalOka saraNya and 
AsritavAtsalyaikamahOdadhE must be examined further. The Lord
is described by the Acharya as the refuge of the universe and that the Lord
does not hesitate even for a moment while granting Sharanagati to one who 
surrenders to Him. The Lord makes no distinctions in granting Sharanagati. 
By describing the Lord as AsritavAtsalyaikamahOdadhE, the Acharya wants
to convey the message that the Lord is the ocean of love to those who 
surrender to Him. The use of Vatsalya is significant since the Lord's love 
is pure, unmitigated and untainted like the love of a cow for its calf.

Sri Ranganayaki Sametha Sri Ranganatha Swami Parabrahmane Namaha,

Muralidhar Rangaswamy