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The Last Words-2

From: sadagopan iyengar (
Date: Fri Dec 07 2001 - 19:18:50 PST

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:
         The Last Words-2

       It is indeed remarkable how the last words of
Sri Ramanuja have survived the passage of a thousand
years, despite not being part of any of his recorded,
well-known works. And there is a rare unanimity (but
for minor variations) among the various post-Ramanuja
schools of thought, in recounting his final words of
wisdom.  Sri Desikan quotes them profusely in Srimad
Rahasyatrayasaram (Shastreeya Niyamanadhikaram). These
pearls of wisdom also find a place in the “VArtAmAlai”
(a compendium of Poorvacharya sreesooktis, forming
part of the oral tradition of instruction by Acharyas)
compiled by Sri Pinbazhagia PerumAl Jeeyar, a
distinguished disciple of Sri Nampillai. All this goes
to show the intense doctrinal significance that later
Acharyas attached to Sri Ramanuja’s parting words.
 These famous dicta cover mainly the conduct of a
prapanna, from the time he performs saranagati, till
he leaves for Paramapadam, and were meant to be of
solace to grieving disciples.  Just as the Gita,
though addressed to Arjuna, was meant for the whole
world, similarly the Ramanuja VANi was also addressed
to the Sri Vaishnavite posterity, though the immediate
audience was comprised of his illustrious disciples
like Sri Tirukkurugai PirAn PiLLan, Sri Bhattar, Sri
KidAmbi AcchAn,Sri Nadadur Azhwan, Sri MudaliAndAn,
Sri EmbAr, and other SimhAsanAdhipatis.
Said the Bhashyakara, “oruvan prapannan AnAl avanudaya
..Atma yAtrai Bhagavat adheenai AgayAlE adil avanakku
anavayam illai: uNdu endru irundAn Agil Atma
samarpaNam poyyAm itthanai”. 
 Once a person performs Saranagati, he is a “ krita
kritya” or “seida vELviyan”- one who has performed his
duty. His attitude should be one of “nirbharO
nirbhayOsmi”. There is nothing more for him to do for
saving his soul. The Gitacharya says clearly, “mA
sucha:”-not to worry.
 If, despite this divine assurance, one continues to
worry about one’s Atma KshEmam, it is indicative of
one’s lack of confidence in the divine dictum, which
in turn indicates the absence of
“MahAvisvAsam”(Abiding Faith), an indispensable
element of Saranagati. If there is no Mahavisvasam,
there is no Saranagati. Hence a person who continues
to be concerned for the well being of his soul, even
after prapatti, is not worth the name “prapanna”, for
his upAyA is incomplete, for want of Mahavisvasam.
Similarly, if a prapanna were to worry about his
physical well being , it would be equally foolish of
him, because this again is a function of one’s karma,
for, as you sow, so you reap.   
..  If he does worry about his physical welfare, it
indicates his lack of faith in the divine dispensation
based on Karma, and will make him an atheist.
 Thus, one who has performed Saranagati should have
absolutely no concern about his body or his soul, as
both have been taken care of by Emperuman. “dEha
yAtrai karmAdheenai AgaiyAlE adukku karaya vENdA-
karaindAn Agil nAsthikanAm itthanai.   AgayAl ubhaya
yAtrayum koNdu ivanakku kAryam illai”, declared the
But if a prapanna has no care in the world, does it
mean that he can indulge in any activity, good or bad,
with impunity? No, ruled out Sri Ramanuja. Even if he
had nothing further to do to ensure his welfare, he
should employ his faculties in the service of the Lord
and his devotees. (“AnAl manO vAk kayangaL Agira
trividha karaNangaLayum koNdu vEnditru seydu tiriya
amayumO? ennil, adhu ivanakku swaroopam andru. UpAya
amsatthil anvayam illAvittAlum, prApyamAna
kainkaryatthilE ivatrai anvayippikkum atthanai”).
 The disciples were listening intently, unwilling to
miss even a word. Many of them had a question- it is
all very well to say that one should spend one’s life
doing “kainakaryam” or service. What exactly was the
sort of service expected, for, prapannas were of
differing caliber, education and aptitude. What could
be ideal for one could not be prescribed for another.
The master, as if he could read their minds,
continued, “athil ivanakku ingirunda nAL paNNalAm
kainkaryam anju uNdu”. 
Catering to the varied capabilities of various types
of prapannAs, Sri Ramanuja laid down five different
types of kainkaryam, each suited to one class of
 The first was mastering and propagating the master’s
magnum opus, the “Sri Bhashyam”. (“BhAshyatthai
vAsitthu pravartthippitthal”). This was prescribed not
with the selfish motive of perpetuating the author’s
(Sri Ramanuja) glory, but with a view to ensuring for
posterity the correct interpretation of the Brahma
Sutras of Sage Vyasa, thereby removing all
misconceptions about the nature of the Brahman, the
individual soul, the path to liberation, etc.
 However, mastering the Sri Bhashya requires a
knowledge of several shastras like nyAyA, meemAmsa,
vyAkaraNA, etc., which are pretty much beyond people
without an in- depth acquaintance with Sanskrit.
“Never you worry” said the Saint and prescribed an
easier and sweeter kainkarya-
“  Bhashyatthai vAsitthu pravartthikka yOgyatai illai
Agil, aruLiccheyalai kEttu pravartthippitthal”, or
learning and spreading the Divya Prabandas.  The word
“kEttu” is significant here, as it indicates that the
Prabandas, like the Vedas, have to be learnt by rote
with purport at the feet of an Acharya, and not
through a mere perusal of books. Swami Desikan too
says, “seyya Tamizh mAlaigaL nAm teLiya Odi”. 
What if one does not have the mental faculties to do
even this? 
In his infinite mercy, Sri Ramanuja said that one
could perform kainkaryams like cooking the Lord’s
food, preparing garlands for Him, arranging for lamps
to illuminate the sanctum sanctorum, etc., at various
divya dEsams. 
(“ adukku yOgyatai illai Agil,  ugandaruLina divya
dEsangaLukku amudupadi, sAtthupadi, tiruviLakku
tirumAlaigaLai uNdAkkudal”.

What if one’s health doesn’t permit one to undertake
even the simple tasks outlines above?  Sri Ramanuja’s
prescription for such a person was to meditate on the
beautiful purport of the Dvaya mantra. (“adukku
yOgyatai illai Agil, dvayatthinudaya arttha
anusandhAnam paNNudal”). For this, one need not strain
oneself or one’s faculties, for all that is called for
is the extremely enjoyable contemplation of the
meaningful couplet.
  Sri Ramanuja paused here, as if the long monologue
had tired him. Having listened to him prescribing one
easy kainkaryam after the other, one disciple, who was
not adept at even the last-mentioned alternative,
thought “I am doomed, for I am incapable of any of the
kainkaryas the Acharya has specified, easy though they
might be for the others.” But he thought too soon, for
the Yatiraja continued, “adukkum yOgyatai illai Agil
ennudayavan endru abhimAnippAn oru VaishNavanudaya
abhimAnatthilE odhungi vartthitthal seyyalAm”.
  In his infinite mercy and all-encompassing love, Sri
Ramanuja scoured the depths of the shastras to find a
kainkaryam suitable for a person like adiyen who has
absolutely no capability, learning or aptitude – to
seek refuge at the feet of a Sri Vaishanava, (or
Acharya) who would take the hapless soul under his
wing and look after the inept prapanna as his own. In
other words, Acharya kainkarya was the fifth
alternative advanced by Sri Ramanuja.
                 Sri Bhashyakara made it clear,
however, that the aforesaid kainkaryas were not
mutually exclusive- depending upon one’s abilities,
one could perform two or more of them together.  A Sri
Bhashya adhikAri (one
 well versed in the Bhashya) is not precluded from
partaking of the nectar of aruLiccheyal, and vice

Paraphrasing Sri Ramanuja, Sri Desikan says that while
performing any of these kainkaryams, one has to stay
within the parameters prescribed by the shastras, and
anything beyond or in contravention of the shastras
can’t be classified as kainkaryam.  This is borne out
by the Gita slOka, which lays down that anybody
contravening the edicts of the Vedas and smritis is a
betrayer of the Lord, and ceases to be a Sri
Vaishnava. –“Shruti: Smriti: mamaiva AgyA
                       YastAm ullanghya varttatE
                        AgyAchhEdi mama drOhi
                        Mama bhaktOpi na Vaishnava : «

 Hence in performing service to the Lord, a prapanna
should never lose sight of scriptural dicta, till his
last breath. (ivan sareeratthOdu irunda kAlam shAstra
vasyanAi adimai seyya vENdum endru tiruvuLLam”).
To be continued… Srimate Sri LakshmiNrsimha divya
paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra
MahaDesikaya Nama: 

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