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"prapadyE" 4

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Mar 12 1997 - 03:27:35 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahamNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

In three sonorous hymns in praise of the Lord's Consorts, SriDevi, BhuDevi
and Goda "pirAtti-s", Swami Desikan has again given the "pride of place" to
the word "prapadyE" in the opening verses itself.

Here again the word has enormous significance which we will examine later.
But first let us look at the Sanskrit verses itself.

SRISTUTHI
---------
"mAnAthItha-prathItha-vibhavAm mangalam mangalAnAm
 vakshafpITIm madhuvijayIno bhUshayanthIm svakAnthyA  I
pratyakshAnu-sravika-mahima-prArthinInAm prajAnAm
 srEyOmUrthim sriyama-sharaNastvAm sharaNyAm prapadyE" II

(My free paraphrase):"I take refuge in the care of my Goddess Mother --- She
who is immeasurably Great, supremely Auspicious, whose lustre adorns the
heart of Madhu(Vishnu); She is the one who is sought by all who seek Wealth
and Welfare, both here and the hereafter." 

Please note that, here too, the word "prapadyE" appears at the end of the verse.

The tone and mood of this verse is one of supreme CONFIDENCE and TRUST.
Reading this verse one gets the feeling that Swami Desikan is more keen to
explain the reasons for his "choice in taking refuge" rather than to draw
attention to the mere "act of taking refuge".

The sounds and sentiments of this verse are so much like a full-throated
peaen to the excellences of the place of refuge itself --- "vakshafpITIm
madhuvijayIno bhUshayanthIm svakAnthyA" !!

In another words, Swami Desikan seems to be saying, "This place I have taken
sanctuary in is so full of excellences! It is at the Heart of the Lord ! It
is so lustrous; it is what everyone seeks ! Could I have ever made a better
choice! No ! Of that I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN !"

In life, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", we encounter many mishaps and
untowardnesses. But the most painful encounters are those that cause us
bitter disappointments arising out of our own wrong JUDGMENT AND CHOICES.

Sometimes we commit ourselves to a certain person or a course of action; or
we place our trust in someone or some institution. We choose to believe in
them. But then, soon, we find out our original judgment is all wrong. Our
trust is misplaced. And deep disillusion sinks in.

In matters of faith and religion, too, sometimes such disillusionment sets
in and then the world around us seems to fall apart. Our "gods" who once
"swept us all off our feet", we realize, in the end seem to be possessed of
"feet of clay"!!

On those dark moments in life, when our faith tottered, we look back and
begin to wonder how we could have been so misled. And we wonder how the
excellences of what we first fully trusted and believed so much in,
eventually, turned out to be mere chimera ; and, often as it were, so
hideous, evil and futile as well.

It is then we rue our judgments and give in to deep regret....

The saddest predicament of mankind, therefore is this, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s" :

It is never, never, never easy for us to truly TRUST and BELIEVE anything or
anyone, isn't it !!

TO TRUST ABSOLUTELY is ABSOLUTELY THE MOST DIFFICULT THING to do in the
human world!!

Given the harsh reality of Man's fundamental incapacity to TRUST, the
opening verse of the SriStuthi of Swami Desikan seems to be vociferously
affirming the exact opposite !

He exlaims "prapadyE !" and exults that he has, at last, found something, a
place of Refuge, in which he is able to believe and trust ABSOLUTELY !! It
is a spiritual sanctuary of such supreme excellences ("maNgaLAnAm cha
maNgaLam" vide VishnuSahasranAmam) !! And he seems to be saying, "I believe
and trust in this Refuge because, behold ! Look at it ! It is so full of
auspiciousness !! What better expedient than this !!".

BHUSTUTHI
---------
"sankalpa kalpa lathikAmavadhIm kshamAyAha
  svachhA-varAha-mahishIm sulabhAnukampAm  I
 visvasya matharam-akinchana-kAmadhEnum
  vishvambharAma-sharaNaha sharaNam prapadyE" II

(My free paraphrase): "Mother of this Universe, the Consort of the Lord !
She that is a wish-fulfilling Kalpaka-tree; She whose forbearance knows no
bounds; who yields like a true mother to every want of the needy; who
herself has known what it means and feels to be saved by the Lord (in his
'avatara' as the Great Boar!); She who is moved to great pity in a trice
..... in Her, My Dearest Mother, do I take refuge .... I who have naught
else to rely for support or succour !!"

This is an extremely moving verse, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s"; I have seen it
move some 'bhaktA-s" to tears ! It never fails to deeply affect me, too !

Here too, as you will notice, Swami Desikan employs the word "prapadyE" at
the very end. Here too, it seems, the "kavi-simham's" focus is not so much
on the "act" of refuge ("prapadyE") as on other matters.

The real focus of this verse is revealed in the last line "vishvambharAma-
sharaNaha sharaNam prapadyE".

The poetic emphasis in this verse is a veiled "CONFESSION of a personal
STATE of UTTER DESTITUTION" suggesting, as it were, that there is no other
alternative or substitute to "Refuge" !!

Let's revert, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", to our earlier example of our friend
caught in the thunderstorm and who seeks shelter under a tree-branch :

When the rain lashes, the wind howls, the dust whirls and the night is dark;
when you are wet to the bones; when you cannot see beyond the nose in the
darkness enveloping you; and when there is not a soul within miles around to
call out for help ! What choice is there but to huddle shivering under a
tree-branch ?

Similarly, when a deep awareness is born in one that this life, this
existence is naught but treachery, futility, vanity and evanescence, what
else is there for such a soul to do but to turn to the Lord ?

It is precisely such black, abject moods of DESTITUTION that Swami Desikan
seems to be evoking by the use of "prapadyE !" in this beautiful first verse
from the "Bhu-stuthi". 

GODA-STUTHI
-----------
"srivishnu-chittha-kula-nandana kalpavallIm
   srirangarAja-harichandana yoga-drishyAm  I
 sAkshAth kshamAm karuNaya kamalAmivAnyAm
   gOdam~ananya sharaNaha sharaNam prapadyE" II

(My free paraphrase): "There is a beauteous Kalpa-creeper called Goda in the
garden of Vishnu-chitta and it climbs its way around the sandal-tree of
Rangaraja ! This creeper is Mother Earth, Herself ... the Spirit of
Compassion itself ! In Her do I take refuge, for where else can I seek it !"

Notice, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", that in this verse, too, the verse
"prapadyE" appears last. Here, too, the last phrase viz."sharaNaha sharaNam
prapadyE" reads familiarly like the verse in "bhUstUthi" above.

But the focus of this verse is not so much on the "expression of
destitution", as it is, we saw, in the "bhUstUthi" verse; instead, it is on
an "EXPRESSION of UTTER DEPENDENCE" by the refuge-seeker.

Here, Swami Desikan specifically uses the emphasis of "godAm~ananya" as if
to say, "I seek refuge in Goda, the Consort of Rangaraja, because She is the
only one on whom I can and will depend for my refuge." This is a very
tautological way of expressing a feeling but it is pregnant with high
philosophical significance which will become clear below :

It is important, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", to know the subtle difference
between the "prapdyE" of this verse and that of the preceding "bhu-stuthi".

In the "prapadyE" of the Bhu-stuthi verse, it is "DESTITUTION" that is under
focus. Now, one can be destitute and yet continue to wallow in a vicious
circle of ever more destitution.

Many unfortunate souls in the world, we see everywhere, are helpless in
their conditions of poverty, ignorance and degradation. But few overcome and
transcend such destitution because they, the poor souls, have no clue how to
do it! They do not know to WHOM, to WHAT, WHERE and HOW to turn to for
succour and dependence !!

Now, "prapadyE !" of the "gOda-stuthi", focusses on the idea of "DEPENDENCE"
and not destitution. Because the destitute who utters "prapadyE!", in the
sense in which it is used in this opening "goda-stuthi" verse, is really not
"helpless":

....He ALREADY KNOWS Whom, How, Where and When to appeal for support,
succour and dependence !!

                  ****************************************

We have now, dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", examined briefly how and with what
different and subtle shades of meaning Swami Desikan, the
"kavi-simha-kesari", uses the word "prapadyE" in five different "stotrA-s"
of his.
                 
                  ******************************************

The question you would all ask now is : "SO WHAT ?"

We shall try furnish an answer to that question in the next post.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha

sudarshan