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Bhakthi and Prapatti contrasted

From: B. Narasimhan (
Date: Sat Apr 10 1999 - 15:02:06 PDT

Dear devotees

We observe an interesting discussion on Bhakthi
and Prapatti. So we like to post article no. 180
from the work "Divine Wisdom of Dravida Saints" by
Sri Alkondavilli Govindacharyar

The article aptly titled "Bhakthi and Prapatti

The best means to salvation is God himself. Even
this is two-fold. One is by Bhakthi or loving him
with all the energy of one's own will; the other
by Prapatti or loving him with all the force
derived from God Himself when the aspirant has
resigned his own will and dispensations of
Providence. In the former case, incessant training
and turning of the will to devotional meditation
on God - demanding much individual effort - and
which has to be performed strictly in accordance
with prescribed models, and modes demanding
qualification such as birth in holy families,
rigid preliminaries and careful watching against
the slightest omissions in observance etc are
required; whereas in the latter neither individual
effort nor conditions of birth are requisites
where a soul in whole-hearted devotion
unreservedly throws itself into the loving and
caring hand of God. The former(Bhakthi) is
attended with danger in as much as when lacking
any of the conditions imposed upon one, who would
thus rise to his own strength of will, he renders
himself liable not to be accepted by God, whereas
in the latter case(Prapatti), the aspirant so
unconditionally surrenders himself to God and so
confidently seeks shelter under His protecting
wings that even God, after giving him such
protection, cannot cast him away. In the former
case(Bhakthi), God does not bind Himself to save,
whereas in the latter case (Prapatti) He binds
Himself to save.  Conditions for the
former(Bhakti) are untiring devotion and unceasing
worship etc on the part of the creature-the use of
self will; whereas conditions for the latter
(Prapatti) are implicit trust and effacement of
self will and proneness to the complete operation
of God's will alone. The former (Bhakti) is a
slender stream of love proceeding from puny
efforts, a creature is capable of producing in his
heart; and this is necessarily subject to many
accidents; but the latter (Prapatti) is the mighty
flood of Grace pouring down from God the Creator,
nothing withstanding the rush of the torrent.
Bhakti requires pumping up with exertion. whereas
Prapatti brings down His Grace in all natural

Alanvandar according to Tirumalai Andan's
exposition - interpreted St. NamAzhwar's Hymn
"Vidumin" [Thiruvaimozhi - 1-2nd Dec] as teaching
the doctrine of Prapatti. Ramanuja their disciple,
followed this teaching until he wrote Sri Bhasya
or the commentaries on Badarayana's Bramha-Sutras;
after which he put the construction that the Hymn
taught Bhakthi or sustained exertion of man's will
directed to loving devotion on the Lord. Asked the
reason for changing the attitude , Ramanuja said
that the Doctrine of Grace was too holy to be
exposed to the profane gaze of all mankind without
the reference to their preparedness to receive the
same. that it could be effective only when
imparted to those who were in heart sufficiently
mature to be inclined to receive assimilate and
act upon the Doctrine; as otherwise it would be a
case of pearls thrown before the swine'. Hence he
saw reasons to carefully screen the doctrine from
the eyes of the undeserving. Therefore it was that
Ramanuja saw fit to construe the particular Hymn
of our Nammazhwar (alluded to above) as
revelational of Bhakthi, or as that means of
reaching God which lays on the soul incessant self
strife, or assiduous application of its own mental
energy to meditation. Ramanuja's object in the
interpreting the said Hymnal as not intending  the
Doctrine of Prapatti( or the entire surrender of
the soul of God; and faith and trust in Him, as
against the weakness and inadequacy of
self-effort) but as intending the Doctrine of
Bhakthi only was that without the change of heart
leading it to entirely sacrifice itself for God,
Prapatti would but land the soul in moral
turpitude and spiritual bewilderment. Either one
must sedulously strive to advance towards God in
Bhakthi or by the holocaust of this heart - than
which no greater price cab be demanded - and leave
full scope for the operation of God's free grace.
A misunderstanding of the nature of either of
these modes of reaching God must retard the soul
in its rapid prosecution of the end of its high
divine destiny. What Ramanuja hid from the profane
in this work, he divulged in his work named
Saranagati - Gadya.

********** end of article 180

This book contains 183 articles based on
Thiruvaimozhi of Saint Namazhwar in English.
"What is true Renuniciation ? " ;
"Sweet Agony of Separation from God";
"Our incapacity to enjoy the omnipresent God";
"Two arm and Four Arm controversy"
"Efficacy of God's Holy Name alone - Sovereign
Remedy for all ills";
"The dust of feet of God's Holy Saints even more
"Salvation sure through our Universal Mother"

are a few of the article titles to mention

 It will definitely serve as a treasure house of
information about SriVaishnavam. This book is
published by

Archish Publications
MS/RB/II/10/11 Railway Quarters
G. T. B. Nager
Mumbai - 400 037

Copies can also be had from

No - 112 Sannidhi St.
Thirunelvelli Dist.
Pin 627 108


Jaya Lakshmi Indological Book House
6, Appar Swami Koil Street( Upstairs)
(Opp. Sanskrit College )
Mylapore Chennai 600 004
Tel : Off : 4990539

Aravinda Lochanana Ramanuja dasan

Azhwar Emperumanar JIyer Thiruvadighalae charanam