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Sri Raga pancharathnam : Part 3 --AchAryA's celebration of BhagavahtAs

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Tue Jan 27 1998 - 04:31:25 PST

Dear NadhOpAsakAs and Rama BhakthAs :

In this posting , I will cover the AcharyA's salutations  
of the  BhagavathAs as MahAnubhAvAs 
worthy of a degree of respect even greater than 
that is accorded to the Lord. I will focus mostly 
on Swami Sri Desikan 's upadEsams in support 
of Bhagavatha Nishtai as one of the four modes of
SaraNAgathi .

Our AchAryA's prayer to the Lord of Srirangam

Swami Sri Desikan has dwelled on the unique glory
of the BhagavathAs , the special grandeur of their 
assembly and the BhagavathA's unwavering devotion 
to Bhagavadh Kaimkaryam  in many of his sthOthrams
and prabhandhams . Towards the very end of Sri Abheethi
Sthavam , Swami Sri Desikan confesses to the Lord of 
Srirangam that there is only one thing that he needs during 
the rest of his life . He appeals to Sri RanganathA to grant
him that sole boon :

nirastharipusambhavE kvachana RangamukhyE vibhO I
PARASPARA HITHAISHINAAM parisarEshu maam varthaya II

( Meaning ) : Oh Sri RanganAthA ! param iha Kshamam prArthayE !
There is only one boon that You can give me ! I bessech You to 
grant me this most important boon . That is this : Please bless me 
to spend my remaining years in divya desams like Srirangam 
enjoying the company of BhagabvathAs of Yours , who care a 
great deal about each other's KshEmam . Please bless me
with their sathsangam. They are deeply immersed in Bhakthi
Yogam and Kaimkarya SaamrAjyam . Please bless me to be
near them until my last moments . 

I wonder whether the command of Sri RanganAthA to 
his paramAchAryA , Sri RaamAnujA , went through the mind
of Swami Desikan during the occasion of beseeching 
the above boon . Sri RanganathA responded to the appeal
for SaraNAgathi by Sri RaamAnujA On a Panguni Uttaram 
day , accepted the SaraNAgathi prayer enshrined in the illustrious
SaraNAgathi Gadhyam and directed Sri RamAnujA to be 
next to Him right there at Srirangam until his last breath 
( athraiva SukhamAsva ) amidst all the other BhagavathAs 
performing kaimkaryam to Him and His consort . 

Sadhguru ThyagarAjA's celebration of Hari DaasAs 

Saint ThyagarAjA echoed Swami Sri Desikan's prayer in his
Suddha BangaLA Raaga Krithi , " Toli nE jEsina pUjA palamu " .
Here he said : " HaridAsa rahitha puramuna vEsithrijUpakunduka
ThyagarAjArchitha " . Our Sadhguru reminds Sri RaamA here about 
the importance of the association with HaridAsAs for obtaining the
bhAgyam of Moksham . Our Sadhguru pointed out the spiritual 
poverty of places devoid of HaridAsAs and complains to the Lord 
about condemning him to live in Hari Daasa Rahitha Purams ( Places
devoid of Hari DaasAs ) . This way , Our sadhguru , who was later 
going to dedicate a whole pancharathnam to celebrate the glories
of BhagavathAs reminded us not to settle in places not having 
BhagavathAs . 

Other tributes by Swami Sri Desikan to the BhagavathAs 

Swami Sri Desikan celebrated elsewhere the greatness 
of BhagavathAs , who have performed Prapatthi and chosen
Daasa Maargam to devote their entire life to Bhagavadh 
Kaimkaryam and concluded that the rest of us can never ever 
attain  even one hundredth of a millionth part of the BhagavathAs' 
glories through our other " achievements "  in the worldly stage  :

nAtha tvadheeya charanou saraNam gathAnAm I
naiva ayutha ayutha kalA api aparai: avApyA : II 

Here Swami Sri Desikan subtly unites the SaraNAgathi
dharmam and Bhagavatha Dharmam . He compares the ideal
Bhagavahta PrapannAs with those of the populace , which
stays away from them and points out the the glory of 
the BhagavathAs  is crores of times greater than 
the non-BhagavathAs .  

Bhagavatha Paaratantryam of the Lord 

The Lord is beholden to His BhagavathAs and BhakthAs .
Therefore , He has a special benevolent relationship to them .
Because of this unique closeness of the BhagavathAs to
the Lord , those who get close to the BhagavathAs also 
become eligible to the Lord's grace . Swami Sri Desikan 
explains the derivative blessings that one attains from 
the worship of BhagavathAs this way :

bhakthEshu thE VaraguNArNava pAratantryam I
dAsyam bhajanthi vipaNi vyavahAra yOgyam II 

( anvaya Kramam) : VaraguNArNava ! BhakthEshu thE 
pAra tantryAth vyapaNi vyavahAra yOgyam daasyam 
bhajanthi .

Here , Swami states that the BhagavAthAs take refuge 
at the Lord's lotus feet , since they comprehend well
the the greatness of His auspicious attributes . 

The genearl populace can indirectly secure the blessings
of the Lord by associating with and performing SaraNAgathi
to the BhagavathAs as a result of their clear understanding 
of the sway that the BhagavathAs  have over the Lord . Swami suggests
that if we with poor kaimkarya Sri could become objects
of the Lord's karuNA KatAkshams , if we revere the BhagavathAs ,
who are dear to Him . BhagavathAs are DaasAs to the Lord and 
if we tie ourselves to the BhagavathAs , we become part of that 
chain of blessing and attain mokshAnugraham from the Lord . 

Swami states here that the people "sell " themselves to 
the BhagavathAs (i-e) , they become objects of worth to 
the BhagavathAs through their devotion just as ordinary 
people sell their jewelery to the gold smith to increase 
their wealth . Swami extends here BhagavAn"s Bhaktha 
Paara tantryam ( YathOktha Kaarithvam ) to include those ,
who become dear to His BhagavathAs . As a result ,the Lord 
blesses those , who take as refuge the sacred feet of His
BhagavathAs to cross the fearsome ocean of SamsAram 
and reach His supreme abode , Sri Vaikuntam : 

dhee samskruhtAn vidhadhthAmiha karma bhEdhAn 
 suddham jithE manasi chinthayathAm svamEkam I
tvath karma saktha manasAmapi chAparEshAm 
  sUthE palAnyabhimathAni BHavAn prasanna: II

Swami Sri Desikan acknowledges here that the Lord 
grants all the boons not only to the BhagavathAs, 
who delight in performing Kaimkaryam to Him , but also
to those , who take refuge at  the feet of the BhagavathAs .

Those PaamarAs , who develop that reverential relationship to
the Lord's BahgavathAs get elevated to new heights of
spirituality and become qualified through their association
with BhagavathAs for the Lord's special blessings . 
Thus , those who practise BhagavathAsrayaNam 
( Bhagavatha Nishtai ) also join the rank of MahAnubhAvAs . 

BhagavathA's greatness celebrated in Sri Desika Prabhandham
In his Tamil and MaNipravALam prabhandhams , Swami Sri Desikan
has time and again saluted the greatnes of Thondars of the Lord 
and the need for us to revere them . I will quote  few such passages :

thUmaRai soodum thuzhAi mudiyARkkilai otthana 
Avan paadham paNinthavark keNNuthaRkkE 
          --- Amritha Ranjani : 6th verse 

( Meaning ) : Poets compare the greatness of the Lord to
a waveless ocean of Nectar , the Cloud that took in the entire
Ocean, priceless Indra neela mountain , the day where the Sun
and the Moon shine together and similar other asambhAvitha 
comparisons . But , there  are no comparisons that we can 
think of to describe the greatness of the BhagavathAs , whose
every moment is dedicated to the Kaimkaryam for the Lord . 
Swami hints therefore that the glories of the BhagavahtAs are
greater than even than that of the Lord Himself . 

--avan nal adiyArkku aadharamikka adimai isainthu 
azhiyA maRai nool niruttha nilai kulayAvahai ninRanam 
        ----- AdhikAra Sangraham : Verse 23

( Meaning ) : We engage in kaimkaryam to the great ones ,
who are dear to the Lord and thus follow the sAsthrAs and lead 
our lives in harmony  .Here , Swami Desikan points out that
Bhagavatha Kaimkaryam is the boundary of PurushArthams .

In the 26th verse of AdhikAra Sangraham , Swami points out that
the kshEthram , where BhagavathAs reside has the integrated 
holiness of himAlyAs , Gangai river , divya desams and 
parama Padham . The sthAna visEshAdhikAram of 
the places of residences of BhagavathAs is celebrated here 
and recommended as places of preferred residence for us .

IN Rahasya SikhAmaNi , Swami Desikan desribes the 
different Kaimkaryams of BhagaavthAs that endear them 
to Him as SammArjana ( Cleaning the temple prAkarams with
the broom ) , UpalEpana ( applying water over the cleaned ground  ) ,
chUrNa chithra ( drawing kolams ) , Maalaa karaNa ( weaving
flower garlands ) , dheepArOpaNa ( Offering dheepams to the Lord ) ,
havirnivEdhana ( Offering naivEdhyam/TaLigai SamarPaNam ) ,
nandana -vana-karaNa ( constructing flower gardens for use by
the Lord ) , VimAna nirmANa ( Construction of garbha grahams 
for the Lord ) , PradhakshiNa ( Circumambulation of the Lord's
temple) , PraNAma ( Salutations /Prostrations ) , kathA sravaNa
( hearing of the Lord's stories ) , sthuthi ( eulogy ) , Sankeerthana
( singing of the Lord's glories ) , GuNa Kathana ( recitation of 
the thousand names of the Lord ) , Geetha nruttha ( singing and dancing
in joy ) , dhAraNa ( dhyAnam and retention of the Lord in their minds ) ,
DhyAnAdhi visEsha Dharmams . 

Those parama BhagavathAs engaged in such visEsha dharmams 
are the true Sri VaishNavas leading a sarVothkrushta visEsha
prAchuryavAns :

sarvEshAmEva dharmANAm uttamO VaishNavO vidhi: 

The Lord states thus  in AnusAsana Parvam of Maha Bharatham
that He protects such BhagavathAs like His own body . AsrayaNam
of such dear ones gives us paramAm gathi . This is the greatness
that the Sri Raaga Pancha rathnam celebrates .

Sri SadhguravE Nama:
Sri Ramachandra ParabrahmaNE Nama:
Oppiliappan Koil Varadachari Sadagopan