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nirvedam and Swami Desikan

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Tue Jan 28 1997 - 01:17:17 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

For those of us who, for one reason or the other, have not been blessed with
knowledge of the Sanskrit language and/or lack intimacy with a competent
'sadhAcharya' (personal mentor), an appreciation of Swami Desikan's
"rahasya-traya-sara" is next to impossible.

The greatness of Swami Desikan as a preceptor lay in his constant striving
to be everyman's mentor-philosopher. The difficult themes of philosophy he
essayed for professional dialecticians in such works like
"tathva-muktha-kalApa", he also took pains to summarise in less "unfriendly"
works like "sarvArtha-siddhi" mainly for the benefit of laymen. Similarly,
"yadavAbhyudaya", said to appeal mostly to the sophisticated literary
palates of Sanskrit scholars, is offered in essence by Swami Desikan to
ordinary people like us in the form of his 'gOpala-vimshati' -- a 21-verse
lyric written in rich, easy and languid style that anybody with a modicum of
poetic sense can easily savour.

Likewise, it is said, for the benefit of those who might have found his RTS
very daunting, Swami Desikan wrote a facile 'rahasya-grantha' called
"PARAMAPADA-SOPANAM" ("PPS", for those who prefer acronyms to Sanskrit!)

This treatise of Swami Desikan,"The Stairway to Transcendence", is considered 
("Mukkur-Swami II" explains) to be a crisp and imaginative summation of his
central philosphical theses elaborated in the RTS.

It speaks, in a nutshell, about all the stages of "life-experience" that a
true SriVaishnava passes through before experiencing emancipation. In Swami
Desikan's inimitable style, the various 'stages' in life are represented as
"little steps on a stairway" -- one leading to the other and each faithfully
following the next.

In this treatise which is a fine amalgam of the trade-crafts of both 'kavi'
(poet) and 'tarkikan' (philosopher), Swami Desikan, the
'kavi-tarkika-simham' (the leonine poet-philosopher), employed the poetic
image of a 'stairway' to represent a deep philosphical idea.

Swami Desikan stated that the progress of a SriVaishnava-soul through life
is a "process" -- gentle, gradual and organic -- of evolution from gross to
subtle states, from "lower" to "higher" reaches, of spiritual development.

In putting his thesis across that way, Swami Desikan --- (an extraordinary
human psychologist, too, far ahead of his times for having anticipated, even
as early as the 14th-century CE, many of the Post-Freudian concepts of human
behaviour today) --- held what may indeed be regarded as a very scientific
view of the SriVaishnava principle of personal development. 

"PPS" clearly implies that "human liberation" is not so much instantaneous
manna-from-heaven as it is a steady 'journey up a stairway'; a journey which
begins with the "first step" as surely as it ends with the "last"; and where
there are no mid-stream "short-cuts", "fast-tracks" or "cut-corners"--- just
as there are none on a stairway ! 

It is a "journey" which leads only one way : "upwards", and towards the
Lord's  Feet, the "paramapada", the summit of human experience !

Swami Desikan described the "Stairway to Transcendence" as comprising 9
"steps" or 'paryanka-s' which a spiritual aspirant must tread on his way up
the "flight" unto 'paramapada':

                            1) vivekam
                            2) nirvedam
                            3) virakti
                            4) bheeti
                            5) prasAda-hetu
                            6) utkramanam
                            7) archirAdri
                            8) divya-desa-prApti
                            9) prApti

"BhAgavatOttamA-s" will notice that Step #2 above is 'nirvedam' which is the
subject of our present discussions.  

In a very small, limited way, and to the best of my meagre abilities, I
would like to "muse" on this revered work of Swami Desikan in the next few

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikAya namaha