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Ramanujacharya's Nitya and Related Matters

From: Vijay Srinivasan (Vijay_Srinivasan_at_praxair.com)
Date: Wed Feb 28 1996 - 09:12:04 PST

Dear Prapatti Group Members:

I wish to dwell on a subject that I think had a far reaching effect on the 
lives of Sri Vaishnavas since the very advent of our Siddhanta.  The brilliance 
of our poorvacharyas did not just stop with philosophising reality. Our 
acharyas strove to percolate a philosophical outlook into daily-living so that 
life itself might become divine.   Nitya covers the daily routine according to 
our beloved Yatirajar.  In the present work-a-day world, eventhough many of us 
may feel that it is difficult to follow the daily routines prescribed in Nitya, 
a knowledge of Nitya which is the ideal for a Sri Vaishnava, may well remind us 
of our duties and if the Lord wills, we may in the course of time develop an 
inclination for such a living and thus take some steps to prepare for it.

It is recorded that Ramanujacharya even on his final days of his sojourn on 
this earth offered the argyam in the standing posture.  As you all know, in the 
system of our acharya, Karma, Jnana, and Bhakti go hand-in-hand.  At no point 
one discards karma but performs it only as a service to the Lord.  Spiritual 
progress is made through the triadic process of karma, jnana and bhakti set 
forth in the Vedanta and this process is finally crowned with prapatti and the 
spiritual aspirant (after completing his/her veda prayam) without any delay 
finds his home in the absolute.

Nitya is a grantha that elaborates and provides guidelines as to how a 
SriVaishnava should conduct his/her day-to-day activities. Vedanta Desika while 
explaining the Nityagrantha aspect in his work called Paancharaatra Raksha says 
"... All this must be done with zeal and interest.  It must be done with full 
pleasure.  A person of this stature will be afraid of none. Realising that his 
life is only by His Grace, he must deploy all his sense organs only to His 
service.  This attitude must be from waking up from the bed to late in the 
night as one goes to sleep." 

The day according to Nitya (taken from Pancharatra)  is divided into five major 
segments.  These are abhigamana, upaadhaana, ijya, svaadhyaaya and yoga.  It 
begins with the rising up from sleep and it encompasses all the 24 hrs. of a 
day and therefore the activiities of a particular day are linked to the 
activities of the previous and subsequent days like the "links" in a chain.  
The objective is to conduct our lives in such a way that the chain is linked in 
an unbroken fashion.

As soon as we wake up, the period called "Abhigamanam" commences.  The meaning 
of abhigamanam is (in tamil:Yedhir Nokky Chelludhal) to go in anticipation, 
i.e. in anticipation to meet the Lord.  Seated in the bed itself, abhigamanm 
starts with a prayer (Mella ezhundhu Hari endra peraravam) and a sankalpam. 
After offering an apology to Bhoo-Devi and meditating on Lord Tri-Vikrama one 
steps out of the bed with his/her left foot on the floor.  One then prepares 
for the morning ablutions.  Activities like Dhantha Dhavanam, Snanam, Vastra 
Dharanam, Urdhva-Pundra Dharanam, Mantra Snanam, Manasika Snanam, Sandhya Vandh
anam, Ashtakshara Japam, Adhara Shaktyadhi Tarpanam, Deva-Rishi-Kanda 
Rishi-Pitru Tarpanam, Brahma Yagnam, Aaupasanam, and Abhigamana kala bhaghavat 
aradhanam are done. There is a proper vidhi for each of these activities.  In 
my next posting I hope to cover the most important aspects of performing the 
above activities and continue on describing other parts of the daily routines.


Vijayaraghavan Srinivasan