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Saying the names of the Lord

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_be.com)
Date: Fri Jan 23 1998 - 13:25:02 PST

Sri Vishnucitta, the father of our dear
saint Andal, is known as "periya" or 
"the great" alvar not just because he 
raised and nurtured such an extraordinary 
daughter, but because of the unique devotional 
attitude of his poems.

His greatness lies in the fact that upon
having a vision of the Lord Sriman Narayana,
caring nothing for himself, he sang a song
of pure benediction, or in our language,
"mangaLASAsanam".  This song of 12 verses,
which sought only to ensure the absolute
purity, perfection, and blessedness of 
the Lord in this imperfect world, is known as 
the "thiru pallaandu", and is among the 
most popular sections of the Divya Prabandham.
Temples and households resound with the
rhythmic sounds of the recitation of these
verses every morning, and no worship in our
tradition is complete without reciting at 
least part of it.

In the fifth verse, Perialvar asks the people
of the world to join him in singing the
mangaLASAsanam:

   thoNdak kulaththil uLLeer! vandhu adi thozhudhu 
       aayira naamam solli
   paNdaik kulaththaith thavirndhu 
       pallaaNdu pallaayiraththaaNdenminE


   O people!
   Join our clan of servants, and come
   Having worshipped His feet and
   Having said His thousand names
   And leaving your old clan
   Sing 
      "For many years, many thousands of years
       [may You be Blessed]"!


Periyalvar, addressing all the people of the
world, without exception, asks us to join him
in singing the praise of our Emberumaan, our
Beloved Absolute God.

He tells us that what joining the company of
the servants of the Lord entails:

  a) "paNdaik kulaththai thavirndhu"

     Abandon your old clan -- the old feeling of 
     seeking selfish gain in the world, the feeling
     of identity with one's personal circumstances 
     of birth more than identification with the 
     servants of the Lord, irrespective of birth
   
  b) "vandhu adi thozhudhu"

     Come at once and worship His sacred feet!
     Not just worship, but adore them as our only
     wealth, and do not delay this.  Realize that
     our true relationship (svarUpa) is purely in
     relationship to His feet, not to any 
     identification with our earthly body.

  c) "aayira naamam solli"

     Don't just stop with worshipping His feet,
     but say His names -- the 1000 (aayira) names 
     of the Vishnu sahasranaamam.  Direct your
     mind, speech, and body toward Him, and only
     Him.

  d) "pallaaNdu pallaayiraththaaNdu enminE"

     Care for Him -- sing "pallaaNdu", not for
     yourself, but for Him, because that is your
     essential nature, to be an expression of
     His desire, with no selfish aspirations 
     whatsoever.

The greatness of the alvars is so striking in
Periyalvar.  The words are so clear, so unambiguous.
There is no doubt as to what he is asking us to do.
Yet he says it with a sweetness that is indicative
of his concern for our welfare, and through that 
his concern for the Lord's welfare.

Let us try our best to follow his words.

adiyEn Mani