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The Three Gems

From: sadagopan iyengar (sadagopaniyengar_at_yahoo.com)
Date: Tue Dec 18 2001 - 03:00:41 PST

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:

                                  The Three Gems
                                 _____________

Diamonds are forever: however, Ratnams are for
eternity, and their glitter and glow cast a spell on
even the most prosaic of individuals.  As far as our
Sampradaya is concerned, we have Ratnams galore strewn
around, wherever we turn. In this piece, adiyen would
like to focus connoisseurs’ attention on a few of
them.
Where else do we start but with the Adi KAvyA? This
Itihasam itself is a Ratnam, but the pArAyaNa slOkAs
talk about another, much more precious stone, which
forms the centerpiece of the beautiful garland that is
Srimad Ramayana. It is none other than Sri Maruti, who
is extolled as a Ratnam par excellence.
 “GOshpadI kritvArAsim masakI krita Rakshasam
   Ramayana mahA mAlA Ratnam vandE anilAtmajam”
 And why should Sri Hanuman be equated to a Ratnam?
 Perhaps because he performed feats that were
considered impossible. One such is his crossing the
long, broad, tumultuous and treacherous ocean that lay
across his path to Lanka, in the quest for Sri Janaki.

 And he exhibits more of his bravery in the service of
Sri Rama, whenever and wherever the occasion demands,
especially in the annihilation of the Rakshasas who
meet their end at his hands, like so many mosquitoes.
For him, it is almost a sport. Azhwars also speak of
him as “thiral viLangu Maruti”.  No wonder then that
he is termed a Ratnam, adorning the garland that is
Ramayana.
Morover, Sri Maruti is showered with high praise by
none other than Sri Janaki-
“slAghaneeya: anilasya tvam putra: parama dhArmika:
  balam shouryam shrutam sattvam vikaramo:dAkshyam
uttamam
 tEja:kshamA dhritir dhairyam vineetatvam na samsaya:
 EtE cha anyE cha bahava: guNA: tvayyEva shObhanA:”
  
Hearing from Hanuman the glad tidings about Sri Rama’s
victory over Ravana, Sri Mythily tells Siriya
Tiruvadi,
 “ You are the illustrious son of Vayu Bhagavan, and
an adherent of dharma of the highest order. You are
adorned by a galaxy of good qualities- unmatched
strength, manliness, proficiency in shastras, inborn
greatness, the capability to vanquish even the most
powerful of enemies, strict adherence to
righteousness, superhuman prowess, unlimited patience,
perseverance, courage, with absolute control over the
five senses. You are the repository of these and other
numerous such auspicious guNAs.” 
   
  More than anything else, Sri Anjaneya is hailed as a
Ratnam due to his Kainkarya Ruchi, or penchant for
service to Sri Rama. Even while introducing himself to
Ravana, he proudly proclaims, “dAsOham KOsalEndrasya”
(I am a humble servant of Sri Rama). Who indeed can
excel this Kainkarya Ratnam?

We turn next to the “PurANa Ratnam”. Of the eighteen
puranas, depending on the content, coverage, and
credibility, some are classified as “Satvika Puranas”,
some others as “RAjasa Puranas”, and yet others as
“TAmasa Puranas”.  Mumukshus subscribe only to the
Satvika Puranas. And among the Satvika Puranas, the
best is the Sri Vishnu Purana. Hence it is no wonder
that every Acharya, irrespective of the Sampradaya he
belongs to, has quoted widely from the Vishnu Purana-
Sri Ramanuja and Sri Sankara almost confine their
quotes to this purana, in their respective
commentaries on the Brahma sutras and the Bhagavat
Gita.  And Sri Alavandar hails this as the “Purana
ratnam” –
 “TatthEvEna yat chit achit Easvara tat svabhAva
   BhOga apavarga tad upAya gatee: udAra:
   Sandarsayan niramimeeta purana Ratnam
   Tasmai namO munivarAya ParAsarAya”
 Sri Yamuna muni adduces reasons for considering this
as a gem among puranas. The lakshaNA of a good purana
is the ability to clarify the Tattvatrayam- the nature
of the sentient soul, the non-sentient matter, and of
the Lord. Sri Vishnu purana details not only the
Tattvatrayam, but also the nature of swargam and
Paramapadam, and the means the Jeeva has to adopt to
attain them. With regard to the Easwara Tatvam, this
purana stipulates that Divinity consists of a Duo- The
Lord and PirAtti. (“DampatI daivatam na:” as Swami
Desikan puts it). Further, this purana has the
distinction of clarifying the greatness of the Divine
Consort. It states conclusively that She is not just
an ornamental appendage to the Lord, but is equally
powerful, and more merciful (“Bhagavan Narayana
abimata anuroopa svaroopa roopa guna vibhava ishvarya
seelAdi anavadhika asankyEya kalyANa guNa
gaNAm”-Gadyam). It lays down further that just as the
Lord is a “Vibhu”(is present everywhere), so is TAyAr-

 “yata sarvagatO Vishnu: tataivEyam dvijOttama”. The
purana also focuses on the inseparability of Sri from
Emperuman-« nityA Eva EshA jaganmAtA VishNO : Sri
anapAyini” – (or, as  Sri Nammazhwar puts it,
:”agalakillEn irayaum endru alarmEl mangai urai
mArbA”.). With all these weighty qualifications, it is
little surprise that Sri Vishnu puranam has earned
from our Acharyas the sobriquet, “Purana Ratnam”.

The next and perhaps the most important Ratnam that
comes to adiyen’s mind is the “Acharya Ratnam”. While
all Acharyas, past and present, do qualify for this
title, yet there are some who deserve special mention,
for their exceptional contribution to the Sampradaya.
The value of a tribute varies, depending on the source
from which it emanates. By this standard, Swami
Desikan’s accolade to Sri Ramanuja is indeed a fitting
one, from one Acharya Ratnam to another. The 15th
sloka in Sri Yatiraja Saptati is a gem indeed-
 
“amunA tapana atisAyi bhoomnA 
  YatirAjEna nibaddha nAyaka Shree:
  MahatI gurupankti hArayashti:
 VibhudhAnAm hridayangamA vibhAti”

If the magnificent Guruparampara of ours is a garland
of gems, then Sri Ramanuja is the glittering
centrepiece or pendant, which adds resplendence to the
entire “hAra”. There have been several Acharyas prior
to Sri Bhashyakara-Sri Nathamuni, Sri Yamunamuni, Sri
Perianambi, Sri GhoshtiPurna, and any number of
others. And there have been illustrious Acharyas after
Sri Ramanuja- Sri Azhwan, Sri Pillan, Sri Bhattar, Sri
Kidambi AcchAn, Sri Embar, Sri Mudaliandan- and their
respective sishyaparamparAs. Swami Desikan says the
fame of all these Acharyas has increased manifold due
to their association with Sri Ramanuja, either as his
Acharyas or disciples. Acharyas prior to the
Bhashyakara have his tirumudi sambandham, while the
ones subsequent to him treasure his tiruvadi
sambandham.  Whatever be the doctrinal differences
among Sri Vaishnavites, they are all unanimous in
accepting Sri Ramanuja as the Acharya Ratnam.
    
Those were the principal Ratnatrayam.
 Swami Desikan is so enamoured of Ratnams that he has
devoted a full two chapters to them, in that
MahAkAvyam, Sri Paduka Sahasram- the Ratna SAmAnya
Paddhati and the Bahuratna Paddhati. Though the former
has 50 slokas, all of them priceless gems, here is one
for a sample-
“SamAdhi bhAjAm tanutE tvadeeyA
 RangEsa pAdAvani Ratna pankti:
 StthAnam prayAtum tamasa:param tat
 Pradeepa krityam prabhayA mahatyA”
 
Sri Ranganatha’s footwear is lined with several
sparkling Ratnas. The brilliance generated by these
gems illuminates the way to Sri Vaikuntam. This
samsArA is a den of darkness (“iruL taru mAgyAlam”-Sri
Nammazhwar), and if we are to transcend it and cross
over to the brightness of the world of the immortals,
only the Ratnas in the Lord’s padukAs can show us the
way.     Here is another sample from the Bahuratna
paddhati-
 “tApatraya prasamanAya samAsritAnAm 
   sandarsita aruNa sitAsita Ratna pankti:
   pushNAsi Ranga nripatE:maNi pAdukE tvam
   prAya: sarOja kumuda utpala kAnanAni”
 
Sri Azhagia Manavalan’s Padukas are beset with gems of
three colours- red, blue and white. The sparkle from
these three types of Ratnas creates an impression as
though it is a forest of three-coloured flowers,
specifically created to relieve devotees of the three
types of problems that they encounter
-tApatrayam-(AdhyAtmikam, Adi bhoutikam, Adi
daivikam).
One can see the sparkle of countless Ratnas in the
ocean that is our  Sampradaya (the ocean is called
“RatnAkara” or the repository of priceless gems). To
mention a few, there is the “YAdavAnAm sirO Ratnam”
that the Sri Krishnashtakam speaks of, the
“RaghukulAnvaya Ratnadeepam” of Srimad Ramayana, the
“Saptati Ratna MAlika”, a garland of seventy gems
composed by Sri PrativAdi Bhayankaram aNNan in praise
of Swami Desikan, the beautiful “UpadEsa Ratna MAlai”
of Sri Manavala Mamunigal etc.etc.
 These and other such Ratnas with which the firmament
of our tradition is studded, beam down a brilliant but
pleasant light, illuminating our paths in this world
and others.
 “ikshvAku vamsArNava jAta Ratnam
  SeetAnganA youvana bhAgya Ratnam
  Vaikunta Ratnam mama BhAgya Ratnam
  Sri Rama Ratnam sirasA namAmi”

Srimate Sri LakshmiNrsimha divya paduka sevaka
SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya
Nama: ------------dasan, sadagopan.
                                                      
                                                      
                               



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