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

virakti/paramapada-sOpAnam

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Jan 29 1997 - 21:38:12 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

When one completes the difficult journey up the first two "steps" of Swami
Desikan's 'sOpAnam' viz. 'vivEkam' and 'nirvEdam', it is said that
automatically one climbs onto (as if on an escalator !) the stairway's next
step called 'virakthi'.

While 'nirvedam' is described as 'revulsion' directed against the self,
'virakthi' is said to be 'revulsion' directed towards earthly materiality.

In this phase, a Vaishnava develops intense distaste for all worldly
encumbrances and allurements. Even if all the riches of the world are his
for the 'asking' or 'taking', the aspirant despises and shuns them.

Swami Desikan himself, as we all know from his famous 'vairAgya-panchakam',
was the greatest example of this 'virakthi'.

He rejected VidyAranya's invitation to serve as the poet-laureate of the
Vijaynagar Empire -- a plum-post or sinecure which would have secured for
Swami Desikan a comfortable livelihood for the rest of his career and
post-retirement benefits too ! If Swami Desikan had indeed accepted that
fantastic 'job-change' or 'career-break', it is doubtful if he would be
remembered by posterity with as much marvel as he is today, isn't it ?

"Mukkur-Swamy II" used to recount a humorous incident to illustrate this
'virakthi'. This incident, he reported, was narrated to him by that 'mahAn',
the 44th Jeeyar, Srimad Azhagiyasingar, in great style. It is a very
mischievous anecdote but it effectively drives home the point of 'virakthi'
as described in the 'PPS'.

In his 'pUrvAshramam' our Swami Rajagopalan,(the Azhagiyasingar of
pre-'sanyasa' period), it seems was for sometime a resident of Mannargudi.
As a resident there, he used to frequent the Rajagopalaswamy
'sannidhi'(shrine) there. 

It was 'gokulashtami' there one day when Swami was returning from his visit
to the temple. Just as he was about to step out of the temple, Swami was
accosted by an aged friend of his. This friend was known to Swami who
personally had a lot of regard for him.

This friend who had his 'mEl-vastram'(upper-cloth) tied into a bundle
suddenly untied it on seeing our Swami.

"Hello, Rajagopala," the elderly friend said, untying his little
bundle,"Hello, Rajagopala, how are you ? Did you have a good 'darshan' of
the Lord ?".

"Yes, sir, and what about you? Did 'jayanthi' celebrations go off well in
your house ?", enquired our Swami.

"Oh, yes, very well,indeed, Rajagopal, and here, I have some 'jayanthi'
prasAdams (sweets) from home for you ! Please accept these."

So saying the old friend offered our Swami some 'jayanthi' sweets and
delicacies like 'mysore-pAk' etc. Our Swami accepted them all with touching
kindness.

Next the old friend offered our Swami that very special savoury called in
Tamil, "cheedai" -- this is a famous delicacy without which no
"krishna-jayanthi" is consummated in our homes. It is made of "gram-paste",
rolled into small balls the size of playing-marbles and deep-fried in oil to
a magnificent golden hue. After it is well-done, "cheedai" serves as
everyone's favourite light-snack because, being petite and ball-like in
appearance, they look so cute and lovable; and also because they are good
and hard to bite into. Believe me, dear friends, one gets a strange,
pleasurable experience when one lobs a "cheedai"-ball into one's mouth and
proceeds to sink teeth into it with gusto, producing through one's gnashing
jaws peculiar grating sounds ("kaRRu-muRRu", in Tamil !) which itself is a
sort of music to the ears !! 

All in all, eating "cheedai"-balls is a special gourmet experience which
only "cheedai"-eaters can truly appreciate !!

Anyway, to return to our tale of the 44th Azhagiyasingar, this old friend of
his in the Mannargudi temple, seems to have offered our Swami a lot of
'cheedai' and asked him to enjoy it.

Our Swami began munching and enjoyed it.

In a moment seeing his old friend not partaking of his own delight, our
Swami offered some 'cheedai' back again to the elder, saying, "Sir, why
don't you enjoy some "cheedai" yourself alongwith me ?"

To which the old friend remonstrated, "No, no, Rajagopala, don't force me.
You know I am indeed extremely fond of 'cheedai'; I used to love them. But
these days I shun them."

"And pray tell me why, Sir ?", said our Swami the Azhagiyasingar of
'pUrvAshramam'.

"Well, you could say, Rajagopala, I am practising a kind of "virakthi" or
'vairAgyam" ", replied the old friend.

"Oh, I see, and what is the cause for such severe 'virakthi', Sir," queried
our Swami politely.

The old friend replied, "Rajagopla, you know, I would really love to munch
"cheedai" to my hearts content but, as you can see, I have lost every single
one of my molar-teeth !! I am unable therefore to enjoy this delicacy on
'krishna-jayanthi' days !!"

Swami, our beloved 44th Azhagiyasingar, it seems, that day learnt a very
important lesson on true "virakthi" !!

And that same lesson, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', learnt by the great
44th-Jeeyar, Sri.Mukkur-Swami-II related to me in the following way:

"When we practice 'virakthi' as Swami Desikan describes it in the
'paramapada-sOpAnam', and deny ourselves indulgence in or enjoyment of a
thing ('vastu') of the world, we should ask ourselves first whether we truly
self-abnegate because (A) we want to shun the 'vastu' out of genuine
revulsion for it, or (B) whether because we do not have the means or
capacity to indulge in its pleasurable enjoyment (a sort of "sour grapes" !!). 

"If we practice 'virakthi' in the former way (A),we can be said to be
following Swami Desikan's personal example in the 'vairAgya-panchakam'; if
we practice 'virakthi' in the latter way (B), then, we can be said to be
following the example of the 44th-Azhagiyasingar's old friend of Mannnargudi
-- who had renounced 'cheedai' only because, in his advanced years, he had
lost the "dental instruments" ("danthOpAya-s" !!?) to enjoy it !!"

"If you follow Swami Desikan's brand of 'virakthi' you will immediately
proceed to the next higher step on the 'paramapada-sOpAnam'; if you follow
the 'virakthi' of the old gentleman of Mannargudi, it will mean that you
have not even crossed the first "pariankai" (step) of "vivEkam"
(discrimination)!!"

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', for our present purposes, we will leave aside the
harsh lessons of the 44th-Azhagiyasingar and Mukkur Swami II. (We have no
choice!)

We shall now venture to presume, instead, that we have embraced Swami
Desikan's brand of "virakthi" and, therefore, proceed to see how it leads us
onto the next higher step -- the fourth step called "bheethi".

Next posting, tomorrow.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha

sudarshan.