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Self abasement by Nammaazhvaar

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (
Date: Wed Dec 03 1997 - 11:54:33 PST

Naichyananusandham by Nammaazhvaar
Naichyanusandhanam is present in many Nammaazhvaar
paasurams.   Like Thiru Mazhisai Azhvaar and
Thondaradippodi, Nammaazhvaar also uses the term
"naayEn" (the dog that I am).   Other terms of self
abasement he uses include "siRiya NYaanaththan" (of
limited wisdom), "siRu thagaiyEn" (of limited
accomplishments), "EzhaiyEn" (destitute), etc.  But
the Azhvaar's favorite term seems to be "paaviyEn"
(the sinner that I am).  A common theme is that he
blames himself as "paaviyEn" for not being able to
physically witness the Lord.   But an interesting
twist may be found in Thiruvaaymozhi 4.7.3.  In
this paasuram, the Azhvaar seems to trick the Lord
into showing Himself up.  The Azhvaar pleads with
the Lord, "Why are you not showing yourself to me? 
Have I committed so many evil deeds?  Why don't you
come in front of me and tell me that I am a sinner
and that is why you can't show your physical
presence to me"!  (Nice try!!)

eevilaadha theevinaigaL eththanai seydhanankol?
thaavi vaiyam konda endhaay! dhaamOdharaa!' enRenRu
koovik koovi nencurugik kaNpani sOra ninRaal,
'paavi nee' yenRonRu sollaay paaviyEn kaaNavandhE

           -- Thiruvaaymozhi 4.7.3:

("O! Damodhara, my Lord who conquered 
this earth with your divine feet!  I 
am  crying out loud with tears in my 
eyes and my heart melting away.  
Perhaps I am guilty of endless evil
deeds.  Why don't you appear in front of
me, a known sinner, and tell me, 'You are
a sinner (and that is why I can't appear
before you)'.")

kruthya akaraNam, akruthya karaNam
Here, Nammaazhvaar gives a definiton of a sinner. 
There are two conditions.  One is to not do
what the Lord has enjoined (kruthya akaraNam). 
The second is to do what is forbidden (akruthya
karaNam).  (What is enjoined and what is forbidden 
are to be known from Saasthraas as intrepreted by
one's qualified Acharaya.)  In Thiruvaaymozhi 3.2.6, 
Nammaazhvaar declares that he fulfils these two 

kiRpan killEn enRilan muna naaLaal,
aRpa saarangaL avai suvaithu aganRu ozinthEn,
paRpal aayiram uyirseytha paramaa, nin
naRpon sOthi thaaL naNuguvathu eNYNYaanRE?

           -- Thiruvaaymozhi 3.2.6

(kiRpan = will do, killEn = will not do)

(From beginningless time I abstained from
doing what is to be done; further, I did
what is forbidden.  Thus removed from your
grace, I hankered after worthless
pleasures and wasted away.  O! the Creator
of all the thousands of lives, when will I
get close to your brilliant and golden
divine feet.)

neesanEn, niRai onRum ilEn
Of all the self-abasing phrases the most desperate
one is found in Thiruvaaymozhi 3.3.4.  The emotion
this phrase generates is indescribable.  One can
even say that this single phrase renders the title
of this prabhandham, Thiruvaaymozhi (Divine
truths), inaccurate.  But then, what the Azhvaar is
doing is dramatically illustrate (i) the contrast
between "samsaram" and "mOksham" and (ii) the natural
"vatsalyam"  of our Lord towards us.  He says,
"What is so great about ThiruvEngadavan being the
 Lord of the Nithyasoories?  After all, they 
(nithyasoories) are free of any sin and full of 
merit.  Who wouldn't want to Lord over them?  Now, 
look at me, I am the very antithesis, full of sin 
and free of any merit.  Yet, the Lord loves me.  
Don't you agree, this why He is truly great?"

Isan vaanavarku enpan enRaal,athu
thEsamO thiruvEngadath thaanukku?,
neesanEn niRai onRum ilEn en kaN
paasam vaittha parancudar sOthikkE.

           -- Thiruvaaymozhi 3.3.3

(He is the Lord of all nithyasoories.  But
that is not impressive for the Lord of
ThiruvEngadam.  (What is really remarkable
is that) He, the heavenly brilliant light,
has placed His affection in me, a lowlife,
devoid of any merit.)

-- adiyEn

P. Dileepan
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