You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : April 1999

lakshmi-nrsimha karavalamba stotram

From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Sat Apr 03 1999 - 01:44:01 PST

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

Why should the venerable Sankara bhagavathpAdA, in his poignant 'stOtrA' 
to Sri.Lakshmi-nrsimhan, have been overcome by "virakti" for the world? 
Why should the author of  "vivEka-choodAmani" have been carried away by 
a mood and feeling known to afflict only 'a-vivEki-s'… the un-discerning 

We must understand that Sankara was speaking for us and not on his own 
behalf. He was voicing the "virakti" and the "un-wisdom" of common 
humanity. The Master, like many other "achAryA-s" of the Vedic school, 
composed his hymn of religious "virakti" so that spiritual commoners 
like us would be enabled to truly plumb and articulate the depths of our 
own feelings each time we cried out the line: 

"lakshmi-nrsimha mama dEhi karAvalambam !"

To understand the mood of gaunt 'virakti' in the LNKS we should first 
turn to ourselves and ask why we should be filled with a sense of 
weariness for the world? Why are we sometimes in the course of life 
overcome by such heavy feelings of world-rejection? 

If you climb up a great hill …. like the 'garuDAdri' of Ahobilam, for 
instance … surrounded by deep valleys of lush, rain-kissed forest… on a 
clear autumn morning when the sun begins to shine… through the cool 
breeze… and the birds are chirping, the bees are humming, wild flowers 
blooming all around you …. and you happen to have too beside you your 
wide-eyed, cherubic little son clasping your hands … 

Now what would you be moved to say to him in that moment?

Would you say, "Behold, my son, this vast vale of tears!"?

Or would you imagine you'd recite to the little fellow a verse from the 
LNKS which goes:

This life, this world, is a serpent's mouth
The fount of human bane
Venom and vile, ruin and dread 
Fangs of doom've devoured me.

No way! You wouldn't ever dream of describing the world in such bleak 
terms to your son, would you? No way at all!

>From the spot on the lonely hilltop you'd in all probability show your 
beloved son the grandeur and glory of the natural world! You'd point out 
to him the gentle green slopes disappearing into the thick woods and 
alongside clear forest-streams miles below your feet… you'd ask your son 
to listen to the chirping of the birds… and to watch the haze of 
morning-mist as it fade away before your eyes….

You'd be tempted, in fact, to share with your son a stray verse from 
Wordsworth or from the lilting rhymes of the first decad of the 
"dayA-satakam"…. depending, of course, on what kind of theist you are.

So how is it then, we must ask ourselves, how is it that we are often 
filled with revulsion ("virakti") for a world with which we are 
otherwise so deeply enamoured; a world whose joys and pleasures we 
sometimes feel can never sate us enough; a world from which we scarcely 
ever want to separate?

Sri.U.Ve. Mukkur Lakshminarasimha Chariar of Kakinada, India, whom I am 
fond of regarding from afar as my "mAnAseega-AchAryan" (I do not have 
the necessary "anushtAnAm" or "yOgyathae" to go any further than 
remaining his remote and "pseudo-disciple") used to brilliantly 
illustrate, through a telling anecdote, the deeply ambivalent, 
blow-hot-blow-cold, on/off nature of our feelings of "virakti" for the 

Mukkur Swamy recounted to us the tale of a wealthy old merchant 
breathing his last. The old man had lived a full life. He had sired a 
dozen children, amassed wealth and lived the life of a successful and 
respected gentleman in his community. He had had no wants, no desires 
unfulfilled. But towards the end of his days the merchant contracted 
some incurable disease. It racked his body and spirit to no end. 
Everyone around him pitied him. Soon the merchant was a pale ghost of 
his old self. His sickness made him rapidly lose zest in life. Even 
humdrum workaday living filled him with loathing  ("virakti") for the 
world. He raved and ranted beseeching the gods to release him from 
earthly plight.

At last the fatal day arrived. The merchant, now frail and comatose, was 
laid out on a death-bed to breathe his last. Everyone was relieved that 
the sick old soul would soon be put out of its misery. 

Now, one thoughtful and well-meaning relative, present at that time, was 
eager to solemnize the merchant's departure with artful intimations of 
divine absolution. He hoped the dying old man, filled as he was with 
utter disgust for the world and himself… "virakti…, he hoped the old one 
could be made to pass away at complete peace with himself if he were 
somehow enabled to take the holy name of "Narayana" on his lips in the 
terminal moments on earth.

Fortunately the last child of the old merchant was a lad of 10 years 
called Narayana. So the good relative took hold of the lad and leading 
him to the death-bed bade its occupant to open his eyes and look at the 
young visitor. The relative hoped the old merchant would do so, 
recognize the lad and perhaps be urged in the terrible moments of demise 
to utter the holy name of "Narayana". 

"Sire, O Sire!", yelled the relative into the dying man's immobile and 
breathless face, "Sire, open your eyes and look at who's come to visit 

After a few minutes of similar coaxing the dying merchant stirred and 
slowly opened his eyes. He seemed to recognize, through what were 
rapidly failing faculties, the dim outlines of the person standing 
beside him.

Greatly encouraged in his efforts, the relative persevered further. He 
now drew the son closer to the dying man and asked again, "Sire, do you 
see who is before you? Can you recognize him? Can you name him 

The dying man, gasping for rapidly collapsing breath, once again turned 
his eyes on the lad and shook his head feebly as if to say, "Yes, I know 
who this is!".

"Name him! Name him, Sire", pleaded the good relative with desperate 
urgency, sensing now that the end was very near. "Say it out aloud, this 
lad's name! For the sake of God, please ! What is his name? Cry his name 
out, Sire, please! And say it now!".

Then as everyone around watched with muted amazement, the old man 
suddenly opened his eyes wide, raised himself slowly on the bed and then 
turning to Narayana, his son, clasped him to his bosom. They heard the 
old man cry out loud and clear, "Of course, I know who this is.! This … 
this is the youngest one of my dozen sons"!

Iin the very next instant they saw him slump dead!

************  *************  ******************

The moral of the story:

The strongest "virakti"for the world the sick old merchant may have felt 
while alive… all the "virakti" simply vanished in the fleeting moments 
of dying… quickly and completely. Even in those terrifying moments of 
mortality it was the old man's sense of possessive kinship that 
prevailed over all other thoughts ---- including, possibly, the thought 
that the moment actually represented the last and final opportunity for 
him to bow out of this world with the holy name of "Narayana" on the 

But to go back again to our first question: why should we be filled with 
a sense of weariness for the world? Why are we sometimes in the course 
of life overcome by such heavy feelings of world-rejection? 

Clearly, it is because of fear. 

Our yearning for the "other world" does not arise from any innate 
weariness of this one…. on the contrary, we love this world with all our 
heart…. Our "virakti" arises principally out of our fear of this world.

It is Swami Desikan, the "kavi-simham", who accurately underscores the 
true nature of our world-weariness described above.

In an oft-quoted verse (#13) from the "abeethi-stavam" he writes:

na vaktum~api shakya~tE naraka-garba vAsAdikam
vapuscha bahu dhAtukam niPuNa chintanE tAdhrusham
trivishtapa mukham thathA divi padasya tE deevyataha
kimatra na bhayAs-padam bhavati ranga prithvi patE !

(My free translation ):

The 'wise ones' know
Thy Dwelling to be
Higher than paradise
The celestials' glee;

All abodes in the womb of this world 
They know too well 
Are the gateways of hell;

And all which lives in flesh and blood,
Tell me, O Ranga,
Has it anythin' but terror ever bred?

We will continue in later posts.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

Get Your Private, Free Email at