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vivEkam/paramapada-sOpAnam

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Jan 29 1997 - 04:13:46 PST

srimathe lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

Swami Desikan describes in 'PPS' the following 9 'parianka-s' or steps for a
spiritual aspirant :
                            1) vivEkam
                            2) nirvEdam
                            3) virakti
                            4) bheeti
                            5) prasAda-hetu
                            6) Utkramanam
                            7) archirAdri
                            8) divya-desa-prApti
                            9) prApti

It is interesting to note that out of the 9 steps above, a SriVaishnava is
expected to take the trouble to scale only the first 5.

Steps #6 to #9 are easily traversed by an aspirant with the aid and Grace of
Sriman Narayana.

While effort is required of us to climb onto Step #5, none is required
thereafter. The Lord Himself assumes the burden and responsibility of
chaperoning us from Step #6 through Step #9.

While Steps #1 to #5 are trodden with the physical body of the aspirant, the
journey through Steps #6 to #9 is believed to be undertaken by the
non-physical body i.e. the 'soul'.

While sometimes one can attempt to "hop-step & jump" over ordinary stairways
in order to accelerate one's way up, it is not possible to do so on Swami
Desikan's 'Stairway to Transcendence'. Here one has to scale the height in
proper "krama" (methodically) and there are no short-cuts. You cannot arrive
at a step without first having landed on the immediately preceding one.

Swami Desikan terms the first step on the "Stairway to Transcendence" as
"vivEkam" i.e. power of discrimination. It is said that of all the 9 steps,
this one is the steepest and most difficult to climb. (Those of you who have
trekked the 7 'tirUmalai' hills know that the first one,'garUdAdri' -- right
upto the 'kALi-gOpUram' -- is the most painful to climb !) 

Swami Desikan points out that of all the tragic errors humans are prone to,
it is the error of "poor discrimination" ("a-gnyAnam" compounded by
"a-vivEkam") that they commit repeatedly. It is perhaps some fundamental
flaw in the mind of man that he is, for most part in life, unable to
differentiate between or judge:

             a) the nature of truth ("satyam") and of error ("anartham")
             b) the nature of good ("sat") and evil ("a-sat")
             c) what promotes his spiritual progress and what retards it
             d) what is the 'summum-bonum' of human existence on earth and
what                 only seems so;

Rare is the soul born with innate power of discrimination --'vivEkam'. A
Prahlada or Druva are rarities of Creation. For the large mass of general
humanity true discrimination is never achieved in life. Even those who
attain it to some extent are, however, unable to retain it as constant
companion unto the end of their lives.

It is this lack of "wise discrimination" that is the source of endless
tragedies and infirmities ("vikAram") in the life of man. 

True 'vivEkam' dawns on a man when (A) he properly realizes the nature of
'chEtana', 'achEtana' and 'Iswara'; and of "atma-svarupa-gnana", his soul,
as distinct from his 'sarIra', body; (B) he truly comprehends the
evanescence of the body and the permanence of the soul; (C) he discovers
that his own soul is not his ("na-mama"); (D) he discovers that the soul is
the property of another Great One Who is "Beyond the Yonder even"
('athyatIshTa-dashAngulam...etc.'); (E) and the purpose of existence on
earth is to pursue and realize such a Great One and restore this soul to
Him, its Rightful Owner ('Atma-nivEdanam'/'Atma- samarpaNam').

When Swami Desikan explains all the above concepts it seems all so facile
and self-evident !

However, if we deeply reflect on the subject we will be unable to deny to
ourselves that our day-to-day lives are, indeed, in many ways hopelessly far
removed from Swami's concept of "vivEkam". On the other hand, our lives
would be perfect examples of the very antithesis of the 'AchAryA's'
definition of 'vivEkam'.

If we all did become 'vivEki-s' as described in the 'PPS", then the first
"small step" Swami Desikan speaks of could be said to be a "giant leap for
mankind" !

Once a man has attained 'vivEkam', he is ready to step onto the next plane
on the 'stairway' viz. "nirvEdam", which was the start-point for this
discussion after Sriman.Sadagopan posted that wonderful sketch of it. 

We will discuss 'nirvEdam' in my next posting.

srimate srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikAya namaha

sudarshan.