You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : February 1997

3rd follow-up on Swami Desikan's "PPS"

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Sat Feb 15 1997 - 06:24:21 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

Two questions -- closely related -- were raised and described briefly in my
last post("2nd follow-up") as follows:
 (A) How does an act of "prappati" suddenly transform strong feelings of
"virakthi" (self-denial rooted in revulsion) for the "material" world into
one of benign "resignation" --- an attitude Bharatha is said to have shown
towards Ayodhya and his ministry after the 'padUkA-pattAbhishEkam" ?

 (B) Even after performing 'prappati' in the 'prasadana-parva', how does one
still reconcile the fact that one has to continue accepting, to some
inevitable degree, the same "indulgences" and "excesses" of quotidian
existence in a "material" world that was once the object of the "prapanna's"
"virakthi" and the source of his "bheethi" ? 

Sri.Parashara Bhattar, a great 'achAryA' of the 11th-century and son of the
celebrated "kurEsan", the dearest disciple of "sri.bhAshyakAr-ar", has some
answers for tricky questions of the above sort. 

Sri.Bhattar was reputed for coming up with answers to difficult questions in
a simple but effective style known as "nirvAham" (ingenious explanation of a
practical nature). ("bhattar-nirvAham" they are called in SriVaishnava

"Sri.Mukkur Swami II" once narrated that Parashara Bhattar offered one such
"nirvAham" to the second question, (B) above, as follows :

Bhattar was one afternoon engaged in 'kalapshEpam' (discourse) with his band
of disciples at one of the many "mandapam-s" (a sort of amphitheatre) in the
SriRangam 'veedhi-s'(outer courtyards of the Temple).

He was holding forth on the subject of the grossness of the "sarira" (the
body), its impermananent nature, its similarity to the phenomenal world and
how both deserved nothing better than utmost "virakthi"; Bhattar, it seems,
then went on to exhort his 'sishyA-s'(disciples) to forsake the tending of
('vairAgya') their bodies, its pleasures, its upkeep and indulgences; he
pointed out to them how pre-occupation with the gross material body is the
biggest hurdle to attaining awareness of the subtle nature of one's soul;
and so on forth...

It is said that Bhattar was exceptionally eloquent during that evenings's
discourse which extended to a couple of hours during which time he kept his
disciples spell-bound. Some of them were so enthralled and moved by the
central theme of the 'kAlapshepam' they began to shed copious tears of
remorse for being unable to personally observe in their own lives the
"virakthi" and "vairAgya" their guru, Sri.Parashsara-r, stirringly described.  

Sri.Bhattar eventually wound up his lessons for that evening and dismissed
his disciples many of whom came up to him before departing and bowing before
him remarked, "Sir, thank you for your 'upadEsam'(exhortation). We have
resolved that from this very moment we shall observe 'vairAgyam' and
'virakthi'in our personal lives with renewed vigour. We shall spurn this
body of ours just as we shall reject the "material" world. With your
'anugraham' we shall progress in our spiritual pursuits." 

Sri.Parashara-r blessed them all and wished them god-speed in their
new-found endeavours.

The morning after marked the dawning of a very auspicious day. There was an
'Utsavam' (a processional festival) at the SriRangam temple accompanied by
the usual religious fan-fare in and outside the temple precincts; crowds
milled under large "pandal-s" (make-shift canopies); there were festoons and
banners strung everywhere; there were "gOshti-s" (teams) singing the
"veda-s" and the 'prabhandA-s'; there were pipers and drummers; and there
were throngs of devotees on the streets of SriRangam eagerly awaiting the
procession of the Lord Ranga to emerge out of his sanctum-sanctorum and
grace them all with His Beatific Vision.

Now, the disciples of Sri.Parashara Bhattar also assembled at a street
corner to have "darshan" of Lord Ranga's procession. Some of them were still
in a state of spiritual daze -- a hangover from the previous night's
discourse on "virakthi" and "vairAgyam" handed down to them by their guru,
Sri.Parasharar. That they had yet to recover from the grim lessons of the
previous evening was obvious from their slovenly demeanour. In their deep
and all-pervasive mood of 'virakthi', they looked singularly dishevelled.
They had unkempt stubbles on their chins, their garments were ungroomed,
their "kUdUmI-s" (tufts of hair) were untied; their eyes were red-rimmed
from lack of proper sleep and some of them had even begun to look severely
starved as a result of the fasts they had commenced  ardourously in the
spirit of true "virakthi" and "vairAgyam" preached by their guru,
Sri.Parashara Bhattar !!

As they stood there at a street-corner waiting for the Lord Ranga's
procession to arrive, very soon they chanced upon their guru, Sri.Bhattar,
at a distance. He too was awaiting eagerly the arrival of the Lord's procession.

The sight of their preceptor simply astounded the disciples !

Sri.Parasharar, they saw, was dressed in the finest silk ("pattu") raiments,
his "mEl-vastram" (upper-cloth) was of even finer fabric and embroidered
intricately with the holy designs of SriVaishnava emblems; he had smeared
his body all over with sweet-smelling sandal-wood paste; his body and
forehead shone with a dozen mighty 'urdvapUndra' marks; his 'kUdUmi' he had
ornamented with exotic and fragrant flowers !!

His disciples saw that Sri.Parashara-r had even adorned special ear-studs
("kadukan") made of glittering diamonds and, perhaps, for that very reason
he  seemed to be turning his head vigorously, this way and that, just to
draw the attention of everyone around to their razzle-dazzle !!  

When they saw their guru bedecked in all that finery, Sri.Bhattar's
'sishyA-s' could not help the uncharitable thoughts that arose immediately
in their minds.

"Ah ! there, indeed, is a guru whose sermons roar and whose deeds squeak.
("upadEsamO periyadhu; anUshtAnamO siriyadhu")!", they said to themselves.

"Yonder is the man who exhorted us all last evening to "virakthi" and
"vairAgyam". He taught us to all spurn the material body and to cease its
indulgence. And yet the very same man now stands there swathed in his finest
silks, "dressed to kill" (to use a modern phrase), his body bathed with
perfumes and his hands bedecked with dazzling-gold rings on every little

"What a sanctimonious humbug, this Parashara Bhattar is !!", thought the
disciples as they watched their guru from a distance. "He teaches us one
thing and himself practices the very opposite!"

After a while Lord Ranga's great procession arrived and journeyed through
the assemblies on the streets of SriRangam. Everyone, Parashara Bhattar as
well as his disciples, had 'darshan' and then slowly dispersed to go their ways.

One disciple, however, who could not cease being intrigued by
Sri.Parasharar's appearance, decided to confront his guru with the latter's
apparent hypocrisy and to demand an explanation for it. He therefore walked
up to the guru and folding his hands queried :

"Honourable Sir, I have heard that the true mark of a guru is his
credibility. In the light of the grand sermon you gave us all last evening
on the virtue of "virakthi" and "vairAgyam", how do you explain, Sir, your
own gaudy demeanour 
at this moment !! Do you know, Sir, you are dressed like a street-shop
mannequin ("marapAchi-bOmmai")!! And do you know, Sir, that great souls who
perorate on "vairAgyam" and who lecture others to loath the body look
awkward in the sort of fine outfit that you, Sir, are presently turned out
in !!"

Sri.Parashara looked at the disciple, smiled and said nothing.

The disciple was only enraged further by Sri.Bhattar's nonchalance and exploded:

"What do you take us all for, Sir!! Fools ?!! You dare pontificate to us
what you so blatantly mock in your own behaviour !! And you expect us, Sir,
to take you as our guru ?!! Why do you call yourself a preceptor ? You are
nothing but a humbug and all that you teach us, Sir, is nothing but absolute
bunkum !!".

Sri.Parashara Bhattar listened patiently to this outburst and at last
deigned to reply to his disciple.

"kuzhandAi (My Pet)!, Let me explain to you the nature of true 'virakthi'!
It's time now for me to practically demonstrate what was delivered to you in
a sermon last evening. Come with me !".

So saying Sri.Bhattar proceeded, with his disciple following, to deliver a
practical lesson on "virakthi". 

That lesson of Sri.Bhattar, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s", will also throw some
light on the question (B) above that we ask ourselves.

(Like his disciple in SriRangam did many centuries ago) Let us all follow
Sri.Parashara Bhattar .... into the next post of mine.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha