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An Article of Faith

From: sadagopan iyengar (
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 19:34:29 PST

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedantadesika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:

                       An Article of Faith

Faith is what makes the world go around. If we really
think of it, all of us pin our faith on something or
the other, every living day. The hungry newborn child
believes that it would be fed, when it raises its tiny
voice. We believe, when we go to bed every night, that
the Sun would indeed rise the next morning. When we
board a train or drive a car, we believe earnestly
that we would arrive safely at the destination. Some
of these hopes are belied at times, but that doesn’t
shake our faith in the dawn of a morrow or of other
things that we often take for granted.

The faith we have talked about so far concerns matters
mundane. Shastras talk about a different sort of
faith, which they lay down as a prerequisite for an
aspirant to liberation-
“MahA VisvAsam”. The term “mahA” indicates that the
belief called for here is of a very high order, and of
an intensity hitherto unknown to us. What is this
MahAviswAsam, how does one attain this and what role
does it play in ensuring one’s place in Sri Vaikuntam?

Everybody knows that the easiest road to liberation,
which our Acharyas, in their infinite mercy, have
shown us, is Prapatti or Absolute Surrender to the
Lord. And we know too that Prapatti encompasses five
elements, namely MahAvisvAsam, Anukoolyasya Sankalpam
(the resolve to follow the Lord’s dicta),
PrAtikoolyasya Varjanam (the resolve to eschew
behaviour contrary to His wishes), KArpaNyam (the
realisation of one’s utter helplessness and total
dependence on the Almighty), GOptrutva VaraNam (the
soul’s plaintive cry to the Lord for succour). Armed
with these infallible weapons, one floors the Lord
with the ultimate missile of Saranagati, which makes
Him rush to our rescue, as He did in the case of Sri
Gajendrazhwan, Sri Droupati and innumerable others.
Of the five components of Prapatti mentioned above,
the most difficult to attain is perhaps MahA VisvAsam.
This is the abiding faith that once we perform
Saranagati, the Lord would indeed save us
(Rakshishyati iti VisvAsa:). This faith forms the
sheet anchor of BharanyAsam, without which Surrender
is just not possible or complete. If we do not believe
somebody is capable of saving us, would we at all
apply to him for protection? And it is this faith, in
all its intensity, that is as difficult to acquire, as
it is to sustain.
A story is in order here. A farmer was about to fell a
tree standing plumb in the middle of his field. At the
first stroke of his axe, a poltergeist that had made
the tree its abode beseeched the farmer not to cut
down the tree and render it homeless. In turn, it
promised to get him everyday a quintal of sesame
(eLLu). And to live up to its promise, the ghost had
to work throughout the day and for part of the night,
searching out fields (spread far and wide) planted
with sesame, harvesting the same and carting it to the
farmer’s abode. By the time the ghost finished its
daily quota of supply, it was bone-weary and
half-dead. This arrangement worked fine till the
farmer’s death. Thereafter, the farmer’s son insisted
on cutting down the tree, as it hindered cultivation.
When the ghost prayed to new cultivator to spare his
home, he agreed on the condition that the spirit get
him daily a quintal of sesame OIL, instead of the
quintal of sesame demanded by his father. The ghost
was dismayed at the thought of how much sesame he had
to arrange for, to obtain a quintal of sesame oil, and
thought ruefully of how simple the earlier contract
(though by itself difficult of performance) was,
vis-à-vis the new one.

Bhakti yoga, as a means to liberation, was thought
difficult due to the demand it placed on the aspirant,
for continuous and uninterrupted concentration on the
Almighty, and in comparison, Prapatti appeared to be a
much simpler affair: however, acquiring an
unquestioning and abiding faith in the Lord as the
Saviour, is so difficult as to be almost impossible
but for the most evolved souls.
  It is in this context that Sri Embar remarked, “kala
eLLu kattu pOi kala eNNai Ayitru”, meaning that
performing Prapatti (with its emphasis on
MahAvisvAsam) was a much taller order than performing
Bhakti Yoga. The comparison here is of Bhakti with a
quintal of sesame and Prapatti with a quintal of
sesame oil. Thus, in Sri Embar’s opinion, true
Prapatti is more difficult of performance than Bhakti.
   Why is this MahAvisvAsam hard to attain? The
following are cited as some of the reasons:
 Would Emperuman grant us Mukti in view of our baggage
of sins accumulated over countless births, rendering
us incapable of and ineligible to perform karma,
gnAna, bhakti yOgAs as a means to rid ourselves of the
shackles of karma? To those weighed down by this
thought, abiding faith in the Lord as Saviour is hard
to attain.

The exalted nature of the goal sought to be attained,
viz., eternal bliss in Sri Vaikuntam in the uplifting
company of the Lord and His entourage, makes us baulk
at the very thought of Paramapadam, especially in view
of our current state of sinfulness and helplessness.

The very simplicity and facility of Prapatti as a
means to salvation, vis-à-vis the supremacy of the
goal to be attained, viz., Liberation, makes us
dubious whether such an easy and brief upAyA as
Saranagati could indeed take us to Sri Vaikutnam,
which is reported to be beyond the reach of even
accomplished souls like Brahma and Rudra.( “PeN ulAm
sadaiyinAnum Piramanum unnai kANbAn eNNilA oozhi 
oozhi tavam seidAr veLgi nirpa”-Sri Tondaradippodi
 ”pinnitta sadayAnum Piramanum Indiranum tunnittu
pugalariya Vaikunta neeL vAsal”-Sri Kulasekhara
 It is but natural that the nature of the means to be
adopted to reach a particular goal gets more and more
difficult, depending upon the stature of the target.
Compared to Bhakti yoga, which prescribes
hard-to-practice yama, niyama, dhAraNa, pratyAhArA,
etc., and uninterrupted meditation on the Lord and His
swaroopa and gunAs, Prapatti appears ridiculously easy
and hence generates a doubt as to its efficacy. We
feel, would a man in the terminal stage of cancer be
offered a simple home remedy (“kai vaidyam”) as a

One who adopts Bhakti Yoga in all its elaborateness
may have to wait for ages, through several births, to
reach the Lord. Prapatti, which can be performed in a
second, promises the same fruit of Liberation at the
will of the aspirant- if he desires to leave for the
Lord’s abode immediately after performing Saranagati,
so can he. If, on the other hand, he prefers to wait
till the end of this birth, then immediately as he
sheds his mortal coils, Emperuman takes him to Sri
Vaikuntam and eternal bliss. This generates a doubt in
the minds of the uninitiated- while an elaborate upAyA
takes ages to act, how can an unbelievably easy means
take one to a distant goal at one’s will? 
Swami Desikan offers comprehensive clarifications to
our doubts on the efficacy of Prapatti and about the
Lord’s inclinations, in the Parikara VibhAgAdhikArA of
Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, as he feels such doubts are
the biggest stumbling block in the way of our
acquiring MahA VisvAsam.

------------to be continued-----------
Srimate Sri LakshmiNrsimha divya paduka sevaka
SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya

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