You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : January 1998

Article from the Hindu

From: Bharadwaj, Jaganath (
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.