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From: Bharadwaj, Jaganath (jbb0_at_nreca.org)
Date: Fri Jan 02 1998 - 10:21:33 PST
The spiritual tradition lays great emphasis on the necessity of a preceptor for gaining spiritual knowledge. The preceptor (Guru, Acharya) is the mediating link between the soul in bondage and the Supreme Being. Even though self-effort in the form of adherence to the scriptural injunctions is necessary for a person on the spiritual path, the actual progress to the final stages of spiritual evolution is possible only when the spiritual aspirant comes under the benign grace of the Acharya. In the Srivaishnava tradition it is through the Acharya that one performs Prapatti (Self-surrender) to God, who thus takes upon himself the responsibility of the Prapanna's progress from then on. The Prapanna on his part should look upon the Acharya as the veritable manifestation of God Himself. The initiation into the esoterics of the spiritual tradition through the performance of Self-surrender is the eternal bond which brings the Acharya and the Prapanna together. In his discourse on the Tiruppavai the Jeeyar Swami of Parakala Math said, Andal in this hymn had stressed the importance of approaching the Acharya for his intercession. She describes the details of the Nonbu she had undertaken by addressing her friends to wake up in that morning hour to proceed together to the house of Nandagopa. The objective to be attained is service to Lord Krishna. Andal draws attention to the importance of following the proper method in spiritual life as one would even in secular activities. She first addresses the sentry in Nanda's house to open the doors to enable them to go inside. This formal address underlines the importance of seeking an Acharya for approaching the Lord. It is relevant here to recall the incident of the four sages Sanaka, Sanatkumara and others visiting Lord Narayana in His eternal abode and the Dwarapalakas, Jaya and Vijaya, refusing them permission to enter. They were cursed by the sages to be born in the world and the Lord later mitigated the curse to three births. Here, even though the sages sought their permission to enter the Lord's abode they were denied permission for which they were punished. So also an Acharya is one who must assure protection to help an aspirant spiritually when he surrenders to him. Like the Dwarapalakas who had attained that status due to their spiritual merit the sentry in Nanda's household had earned the special status of guarding the Lord inside and his duty entailed allowing only those who have earned the spiritual merit to enter the Lord's abode. Esoterically Andal refers here to the Acharya who by dint of his proximity to the Lord can intercede on behalf of others.