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paramapada-sOpAnam

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Sun Feb 02 1997 - 05:33:05 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

We have climbed uphill, thanks to the Grace of our 'AchAryan', Sri
NigamAntha Maha Desikan, 5 great steps or 'pariankai-s' on his
'paramapada-sOpAnam' viZ. 'vivEkam', 'nirvEdam', 'virakthi', 'bheethi' and
'prAsada-hetu'.

Swami Desikan tells us, next, that the rest of the journey to 'paramapada'
is relatively effortless for us. 

The struggle that a true SriVaishnava puts up on the painful trek from
'vivEkam' to 'prasAdana-parva', it appears, is witnessed by the Lord Himself
with great pride and gratification --- the sort of pride that is seen to
puff up a mother or father when they gather in their arms an athelete-son or
-daughter emerging victorious, but utterly exhausted and gasping for dear
breath, before finally collapsing into their loving and waiting arms right
at the "finish-line" of, say, a gruelling marathon-race !

For the 'prapanna' at the 'prasadana-parva' stage, the Lord is said to exert
very great effort Himself to ensure that the onward journey is completed as
comfortably as possible. Through this latter part of the journey, at many
"junctions" and "cross-roads", the Lord's intermediaries and agencies strive
to ease the path of the 'prapanna's' progress.

Principal amongst such 'intermediaries' is 'dayA-devi' -- the Principle of
Extreme Compassion -- known to operate at the Lord's bidding in the
SriVaishnava faith.

This 'dayA-devi' is described by Swami Desikan, in his great hymn "dayA-
satakam', as a Consort of the Lord and whose heart brims over with the rich
milk of human kindness made sweeter by the nectar of divine forgivance for
'prapanna-s'. This quality of unsolicited and unconditional 'kindness'
possessed by 'dayA-devi' is said to be, to use a phrase of the English poet
Keats, "twice-blest" -- "it blesseth Him that gives and him that takes" !

This 'dayA-devi' meets the 'prapanna' through his journey through the
'prasada-hetu' phase and virtually ushers him safely across and beyond the
landscapes leading unto 'paramapada'. There are many cross-roads, by-ways,
ridges and ravines on the way but 'dayA-devi' holds the 'prapanna' by the
hand and gently, surely leads him into the direction of the Lord in
'paramapada'.

This act of an 'usherette', performed by 'dayA-devi', is said to make even
the "celestial beings in the heavens", why, the Veda-s too, to sit up and
ask themselves, in unceasing wonder, why this "Great Lady of Compassion"
should remain ever so solicitous of the needs and interests of this great
"parade of sinful pilgrims called 'prapanna-s'", as it unmindfully passes
them all by, in a wonderful procession with Her in the lead, on the way to
'paramapada' !!!

In Verse #70 of Swami Desikan's 'dayA-satakam', the poet makes special and
delightful mention of this fact :

            khilam chEthOvrithE: kimida-mithi vismEra-bhUvanam
               kripE simhakshmA-bhrtkrtha-mUkhachamathkAra-karaNam  I
            bharanyAsa-chhan-prabala-vrijina-prAbhrta-brthAm
               prathiprastAnam thE sruthinagara-sringhAtaka-jUshaha II

If ever there is a thing called a 'pocket-book encylopaedia of SriVaishnavic
Thought', dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s, it is the 'dayA-satakam' indeed !!

Now, in the 'paramapada-sOpAnam', the first 4 steps from 'vivEkam' to
'bheethi' are termed by Swami Desikan as "adhikAra-parva" or the "section"
where the various process by which a "jivAtmA" acquires requisite
"adhikAra-s", 'qualifications' or 'eligibility', prior to 'prapanna"-hood
are described.

The stage in life described as "prasAda-hetu", next, is termed by Swami
Desikan as "UpAya-parva" or the "section" dealing with the "strenuous means"
that an aspirant, after performing 'prappathi', employs to further his
journey as it nears its final destination.

The last 4 steps of the 'sOpAnam" viz. "ut-kramaNam",
"archi-rAdri","divya-dEsa- prApti" and "prApti" are all put together by
Swami Desikan in one section called "phala-parvA" or the "section" dealing
with the 'aftermath' of 'prapatthi'.

This last section, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', deals with the 4 stages or
"steps" that a 'soul' treads on its onward journey to 'paramapada' after it
has shed its mortal coils in the physical world.

This section of the 'paramapada-sOpAnam', dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', is the
real 'rahasya' part of this great 'grantha' of our 'achAryan'. Therefore it
involves several matters of faith, 'sri.rAmAnuja-siddhAntha' and the
esotericism of ancient 'smriti-s'. These are matters really not meant to be
discussed in an open forum like this net-list. These matters are meant for
the ears and minds of only true members of the faith who would normally be
duly initiated into their significance by a 'guru' or 'AchAryA'.

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', I have to confess I myself have not been the
beneficiary of such 'AchAryA-anugraham' and I am least qualified to venture
into a discussion or essaying of this part of the 'PPS".

I cannot and will not violate a hallowed oral tradition that has been handed
down the ages by our seers to us.

Therefore, I must humbly submit to you all that the "journey up" the last 4
steps on Swami Desikan's 'paramapada-sOpAnam' is a journey that each of you
must learn about on your own, in the only way suggested by your respective
'AchAryA-s' and under his sole guidance and oversee.

To do it any other way, believe me, dear friends, is fraught with needless
risks better avoided.

I am sure our revered elder-members like Sriman. Anbil, Sadagopan and others
will understand this reticence on my part and wholly endorse it too. 

Lest other younger members take this as my leaving them all stranded in the
middle of a "journey", like some sly "tour-guides" or "operators" are known
to do in some of India's tourist-spots, let me just give you all a brief
account of what the last 4 "steps" are as I have heard my 'manaseega-guru',
Sri.Mukkur Swamy, briefly explain.

The 'utkramana parva' deals with the departure of the soul from the body
through the 'sUshUmna-nAdi'.

The 'archirAdri-parva', it is said, deals with the passage of the soul
through the various heavenly worlds accompanied by the Lord's 'angels'.

The 'divya-desa-prApti parva' deals with the departure from 'brahmAnda' and
the crossing of the Viraja river.

The 'prApti-parva' deals with the end of the journey in 'paramapada' and the
coronation of the soul on the very lap of the Lord and in His tight Embrace.

The above 'parianka-s', dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', are not to be taken
literally. It is said they are more than merely symbolic.

They are not matters that can be apprehended by plain human faculties. 

It requires an 'AchAryA' to make one truly "realize" such matters.

That is all that can be said about them for the moment. 

The English philosopher Wittgenstein once remarked, "Whereof one cannot
speak, thereof one shall remain silent".

                  *******************************************

To some of my younger friends on this "list" who may be a little
disappointed that our "flight" up Desikan's "Stairway to Transcendence" has
ended so suddenly, I now say, "Do not worry, I shall not cheat you all out
of a good and proper ending (or should I say, "smooth-landing" in this
case!) to this series of mine by drawing my discussion on Swami Desikan's
'paramapada-sOpAnam' to such an abrupt and anti-climactic close !" 

I propose to give you all a small Desikan 'take-away-souvenir' to remember
the great 'AchAryA' by ! In some distant future, you can tell your relatives
and friends that "you visited Swami Desikan's great 'stairway' upto the 5th
'paryankai'-- the 'prasAdana-parva' !!

This souvenir will be better than any cheap 'instamatic' photograph or
'cam-cord snippet', I promise you !!

It's the done thing in the USA, isn't it, to take away some
'tourist-souvenir' to show the folks back home who, otherwise, wouldn't
believe you if you told them, "I WAS THERE !" ?!!

Wait until my next and concluding post.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikAya namaha 

sudarshan