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On explaining the Rahasya mantras
Date: Sat Jun 27 1998 - 19:57:01 PDT

Here is my two cents worth of contribution on the recent discussions on the
Rahasya Mntras
Anbil Ramaswamy
"Mananaath Thraayate Iti Mantrah"- Mantra is that which protects by being
remembered and recited. But, a Mantra to be effective has to satisfy the
following 3 conditions:
1.  A Mantra uttered with an understanding and meditating on its meaning is
more efficacious than when repeated mechanically by rote.
2.  More importantly, as Sayanaachaarya cautions-‘
"Not only should anyone repeating a Mantra know the Sage (Rishi) to whom it
was revealed, the name of the God (Devata) to whom it was addressed, its
germ(Bija), its potency (Sakti), its color(Varna), its locality (Sthaana), its
accent (Chandas), its  dedication (Nyasa) and the correct Interpretation
(Viniyoga). Anyone not knowing these and attempting to repeat a Mantra is
called a "Mantra Kantaka"- a thorn whose ignorance and carelessness assuredly
cancel or obstruct the efficacy of the recital".
3.  But, the most important is that the effect and efficacy of a Mantra
depends entirely on its due transmission by a Qualified Acharya to a deserving
disciple. The Sastras caution clearly that such a transmission should not be
resorted to indiscriminately by anybody to anybody. That is why, they are
called "Rahasyas".
This "Upadesa" of the Acharya will cover 1 and 2 above. This is specially so
in the case of the three great Rahasyas (Rahsya Traya) of Ashtaksharam, Dvayam
and Charamaslokam.

The Upadesam of Dvayam which our Acharyas perform at the time of Prapatti is
required to be done "Ashatkarna" i.e the Upadesam should not be audible to
anyone other than the Acharya and the disciple.. Only four ears can hear it;
not six ears. This means that  Prapatti cannot be administered in a group
gathering of disciples, like mass Upanayanam or mass weddings we hear these

The question arises whether in view of these restrictions, the Rahasya Traya
Mantras can be discussed in a public forum like the Internet media. True.
Strictly speaking they should not be discussed in public where deserving and
undeserving people could get access to it.

This does not refer to the Brahmin - Non - Brahmin syndrome. Judging by the
strict standards enjoined in the Sastras, we have long forfeited our
pretensions to be Brahmins.

We have given up our duties like grooming Agni and performing Agnihotram at
home, doing Vaiswadevam, wearing Panchkatcham, sporting a tuft  wearing
Dwadasa Oordva Pundram and (at least in a few cases, doing Sandhyavandanam and
other Nitya and Naimittika Karmas) and many others and thus indulged in
"Kritya Akaranam" (Not doing what ought to be done). 

We indulge also in several practices strictly prohibited like sporting a
mustache, having a hair style and sideburns, taking over the occupations
prescribed for other Varnas and even coming over to foreign lands by crossing
the oceans- thus committing "Akritya Karanam".

We have thus incurred "Bhagavan Nigraham"(the displeasure of the Lord). We
also try to exonerate ourselves under the pretext that these lapses are due to
the great Time-divide and Space-divide and Economic compulsions.

It is a good sign that we are now awakening to our plight and are trying to
salvage our conduct first by familiarizing ourselves with our Siddhantam. It
is a fact that though we have the desire to learn, some of us are not able to
approach an Acharya for the purpose. In this situation, the best course would
be to learn 1 and 2 from erudite Bhagavatas who have done Kalakshepams at the
feet of Acharyas and obtained Upadesams from them.

Since our ignorance of "Pramaanam" is abysmal, we have to go by what is known
as "Sishtaachaaram" or "Satsampradaayam" which our Acharyas follow.
"Pramanams" ordain the Dos and Dont’s through scriptures, but doubts may still
arise as to what is right in any given circumstance. The wordings of the
scriptures are sometimes in the form of Aphorisms which might lend themselves
to varied interpretations. And, here enters what we call "Anushtanam" or
"Sishtaachaaram"(traditional code of conduct practiced by our great teachers)
trained in such discipline. These conventions are sometimes considered even
more valid than these aphorisms because more than the written law, the
traditions established make us "learn the scriptures the easy way" for
regulating our conduct in our day to day activities.

Let us start from the time of Alwars. 
The Alwars (most of them Non-Brahmins by birth or upbringing) poured out their
devotion through what is known as "Divya Prabandam" also called "Dravida
Vedam". These outpourings are non-pareil in every sense, be it sentiment,
style or syntax. They take even a casual reader on a guided tour into the
esoteric exegesis of the Mantras without offending the provisions of
exclusions and preclusions enjoined in the study of Vedas in original. It is
clear from this that there is no embargo on propagating the meanings of Vedic

In fact, only when one has an inkling of what they are talking about, one
would develop a taste for the original and seek the Upadesa of an Acharya.
Otherwise, it will be a closed book forever denying the benefits they are
designed to confer. This closed door attitude has been the main reason for the
decline of our Siddhantam even in India.

There is a mistaken impression popularized by repetition ad nausea even by
great scholars that Bhagavad Ramanuja gave out the Mantras standing on top of
the Gopuram to the hearing of all. I have heard in Kalakshepam by our Acharyas
that this is not correct. What he actually gave out was-  that he had found
out the way to attain Moksha through  a holy Mantra called Astakshara and
invited those interested to follow him and get initiated through his own
Acharya. Also, he did not advise all and sundry. By the time of this episode,
he had already gathered a huge following of disciples who thronged the main
entrance of the temple. He was thus addressing his own trusted disciples. In
the absence of a public address system, he climbed on top of the Gopuram to
deliver the message.When some tale-bearer carried the gossip that Ramanuja
was giving out the Mantra, the irate Guru demanded an explanation. Ramanuja
replied that he had not given out the Mantra but advised them on the way to
acquiring Mantropadesa that would save them. He seems to have added that even
if he had given out the Mantra, he would not mind falling into  perdition
while so many others would be saved. He indeed knew the dictum
Gurum Prakaasayet Dheemaan Mantram Yatnena Gopayeth /
Apraakasa Prakaasaabhyaam Ksheeyate Sampad Aayushi //

Acharyas like Swami Desika have written their granthas seeking to explain the
esoteric of the Veda Mantras in Tamil, Prakritam and Manipravalam (besides in
Sanskrit) so that even lay folk like us could understand. 

It seems, therefore, that there is nothing wrong in explaining in English what
Swami Desikan and other Acharyas have written in a language we can understand.
Thus, it is clear that while Mantropadesam should not be done in public, there
is nothing wrong in kindling interest in others who will in due course be
induced to seek an Acharya for the Upadesam.

Coming to our own times, I had the Bhagyam of attending the Kalakshepams of
Azhagiyasinghar (in his Poorvaasramam) and other Yathivaras and Acharyas
before coming to USA. During the Azhagiyasinghar’s Kalakshepams on Rahasya
Traya Saram, some Advaitins, Saivites and Non- Brahmins used to attend. Yet,
the Swami would proceed with the discourses. The bottomline is though they may
not be "staunch Srivaishnavas" as claimed by some of us, they attended because
of an intense desire to learn and approached in the spirit advised by Lord
Krishna in Bhagavad Gita viz’
Tad Viddhi Prathipaadhena Pariprasnena Sevayaa /
Upadeshyanti Te Gnaaninah Tattva Darsinah //

And, Tatparya Chandrika comments with reference to Sloka 18/69 of Bhagavad
Gita   that devotion is the ONLY qualification for listening to the exposition
of the highest mysteries.

The readership of Nrisimhapriya journal of Ahobila Mutt is of the order of
50,000 copies. I was amazed the hear from Sri SVS Raghavan that there were
quite a number of Muslim subscribers. If this were so, why would our Acharyas
explain in detail the meanings of Mantras in that journal?. This shows that
once the intention and attitude are correct, there is no harm in explaining
the truths to any one who desires to learn.

During the first 5 or 6 years of my stay on coming to USA, I went through
hundreds of books and articles by Non-Hindu thinkers from different regions
and different religions on what they had to say about our Siddhantam. Some of
these have drawn personal inspiration and meaning from our Siddhantam as much
from their native heritage. 

Most of them have never gone through the rigors of discipline and training in
the "Patasala" tradition nor had they attended any expositions in the
confidential "Kalakshepa" tradition. 

Yet their involvement was so palpably real, sincerity so stunningly stubborn,
dedication indisputably total and their grasp so incredibly gripping that they
reveal perfect mastery over the nuances of the inherent meanings (Svaapadesa)
lying buried in the innermost niches of our scriptures. 

In fact, they tell us more about our religion than many of our own scholars
back in India. It is amazing to note how they dwell upon  with clarity the
esoteric meanings of our Mantras which our scholars have been locking up as
‘Rahasyas’ leading to the conclusion that the so called ' Rahasyas' are no
more so.

In these days when, thanks to technological metamorphosis, the world has
shrunk to a new low, when everything comes in cold print, when anyone has
access to anything at anytime (including the Internet and Home Pages of all
the Matams and Ashramams), it would be vainglorious on our part to ban
dissemination of knowledge of Rahasyas under the pretext of their being
Rahasyas. This will be like locking the stable after the horses had been

Since Prapatti is common to all without any discrimination as to age, sex,
caste, level of education, standard of education etc, it would indeed be a
service  if more and people are made to understand the efficacy of Prapatti by
means of "getting to know". This would open up a yearning to go deeper, go to
an Acharya to secure Upadesam.

We should not abdicate our responsibility in this regard . Nor should this be
taken as conferring a ‘free for all’ license  for anybody with just some book-
knowledge to dabble with any esoteric topic according to their own whims,
fancies and perceptions and thus distort and misinterpret their intent.

A certain amount of self-imposed discipline is needed. Only knowledgeable
persons who have undergone Kalakshepams in the traditional manner at the feet
of Acharyas and who will be scared to say anything contrary to the Siddhantam
(Sastra Viruddham) should venture to educate others. Only then the requisite
yearning can be generated in the readers to induce them, in due course, to
seek the Upadesam of an Acharya. 

Of the three Rahasyas -
i) 	Ashtaksharam : is allowed to be recited as a ‘Tantrik’ for all including
Stris and Sudras. Whether uttered with Pranavam or without it, it is said to
carry the same effect. What is prohibited is administering Upadesam with
Pranavam to those considered ineligible for this. In any event, nobody in this
forum is seeking to administer any Upadesam to anybody. Therefore, there seems
to be no bar to explaining the meanings treating it as a  Tantrik recital.

ii.)  Dvayam: can be uttered by anyone(since it does not contain Pranavam).
So, there seems to be no harm in explaining the meanings of Dvayam to those
who desire to learn.

iii.)  Charamaslokam: is taken out from Bhagavad Gita which itself is a part
of Mahabharata, an Itihasa. Sastras which prohibit the study of Vedas in
certain circumstances by certain people, recommends to all, the study of
Puranas and Itihasas to understand clearly what is contained in the Vedas.
Thus, there can be no bar to explaining the meanings of Charamasloka.

Therefore, I believe that, there can be no objection to our explaining our
Siddhantam as revealed in the  Granthas of our Swami Desikan which seek to
dispel doubts arising out of a study of the three great Mantras mentioned

Anbil Ramaswamy