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SrI deSika stotram - 4. abhIti stavam.

From: Krishnamachari, N (Krish) (nkrish_at_lucent.com)
Date: Mon Mar 02 1998 - 12:09:21 PST

			SrI deSika stotra-s - 4. AbhIti stavam.

	BhIti is fear.  AbhIti is fearlessness.  stavam means praise.  abhIti
stavam is the stotram that has been composed by Sri deSika in praise of
Lord RanganAtha's guNa of  removing the fear in the hearts of His
devotees.

	There are three main aspects of this stotra that I will emphasize
below:

1.  The plea to Lord ranganAtha by svAmi deSikan to protect the
SrIvaishNava-s from the muslim invasion of Srirangam and other
SrIvaishNava kshetra-s during svAmi deSikan's lifetime.
2.  The expression of several aspects of SaraNAgati by svAmi deSikan in
this stotram.
3.  Other interesting aspects of the stotram.

Disruption of worship to Lord ranganAtha in SrIrangam:

	The main reason that svAmi deSikan composed this stotram was because he
was dismayed at the disruption to the orderly kainkaryam that had been
done by him and his disciples to the Lord at SrIrangam because of the
muslim invasion to plunder the temple properties, ornaments, idols, etc.
  On receipt of the news that the muslim army was approaching,  the
utsavamUrti was hastily taken to a hill near tirupati by a few
SrIvaishNavaite devotees and hidden there, while SrI deSika left
SrIrangam and stayed in a small village in Mysore State for several
years and observed his daily rites at the foot of an aSvattha tree near
a rivulet.  It is during his stay here that he composed the abhItistavam
praying to Lord ranganAtha to drive away the muslim infidels from
SrIrangam and become reinstalled there so that the shrine will regain
its ancient glory and SrIvaishNava-s can live in peace there.
  
	The immensity of the feeling of sadness in SrI deSika's heart is
striking when one goes through this stotram.  It is not the fear for
himself that motivates him to pray to the Lord, but it is the harm that
has been done to the activities of the Lord's temple, and the disruption
that has occurred in the daily worship to the Lord that drives SrI
deSika's heart to sadness.  It is evident that a true devotee cannot
bear to see any harm to His tiru-mEni.

	Without directly referring to the muslim invasion or to the harm facing
the SrIranga divya kshetram, Sri deSika sings the glory of the Lord in
eliminating the fears of all kinds, including the samsAra bhayam, in the
first 19 Sloka-s of this stotram.   Until Slokam 19 of the stotra, SrI
deSika does not refer to the muslim invasion on Srirangam or the harm
and disruption caused in the worship of the Lord except for a brief
reference in Slokam 9.  In  Slokam 9, he praises the Lord's guNa-s which
will offer protection to those who "desire the elimination of the
enemies who come in the way of performing worship to the Lord" -
dvishat-pramathana arthinAm kAtarI-haraNa jAgarUkAh kara-grahaNa
dIkshitAh prabho".  But starting in Slokam 20 and in every Sloka up to
27, the AcArya explicitly expresses to the Lord his mind's concern.   He
refers to the fear that has been caused to the SrIvaishNava-s in
SrIrangam who desire nothing else other than His sevA,  prays for the
elimination of those who caused this situation  (Srita vipaksham
unmUlaya - eliminate the enemies of the devotees right down to their
roots - so they will never rise again), and prays to Lord ranganAtha to
enable His devotees to once again resume the worship of  His svayambhU
svarUpam  and derive in SrIrangam itself the delight that the
nityasUri-s derive in SrIvaikunTham.  In Slokam 21 his anxiety grows and
he pleads  to the Lord to use His divine Ayudha-s to re-establish His
natural rule in places like SrIrangam.  In the next Slokam, svAmi
deSikan's anxiety reaches the height of expression, and he prays to the
Lord to use brute force if necessary, and use all his five Ayudha-s and
eliminate the fear to the devotees that is growing from the buddhists,
the materialists, the muslims, the other foreigners, etc., who are like
the army accompanying the kali-purusha.  In Slokam 23 he prays that the
cakra of the Lord should take over and re-establish dharma in His own
abode of SrIranga-kshetram.  In Slokam 24, he asks the Lord, SrIdevi and
BhUdevi to protect the SrIranga vimAnam that has been worshipped by the
likes of Manu, and that is now being threatened by the enemies who are
worse than the asura-s.   Then he seeks the Lord's blessing to ananta,
garuda, vishvaksena, kumuda, the gate-keepers of the temple, the
authorities in charge of the maintenance of SrI rangam etc., so that
they can protect the divya-kshetram from the enemies.  In Slokam 26and
27 he continues his appeals to the Lord once more to control the enemies
who are destroying the peaceful worship of Him at Srirangam and other
kshetra-s soon (ma~nkshu).

	A discussion of abhIti stavam will be incomplete if we do not mention
the fact that within svAmi deSikan's lifetime, (after a gap of about 40
years when the deity was kept away from SrIrangam), Lord ranganAtha
heeded his prayers, and the muslim invaders were driven out by a Hindu
chieftain by name goppaNArya, and the Lord was re-established in
SrIrangam,  the daily worship resumed, and svAmi deSikan returned to
SrIrangam and got his wish fulfilled.   So great was svAmi deSikan's
feeling of gratitude at this event that he composed two Slokams in
praise of goppaNArya, which are even now displayed in the walls outside
the Sanctum Sanctorum.   This is very significant given that our
AcArya-s do not sing the praise of man even at the cost of hardship and
suffering to them.  In one Slokam, SrI deSikan refers to goppaNARya as
the "mirror of fame" - yaSodarpaNo goppaNARyah.  In the second Slokam,
he refers goppaNARya's re-establishment of the Lord and his worship to
the Lord as comparable to the ArAdhanA done by brahma in the kr*ta-yuga
(sarojodbhava iva).   This shows the greatness of the kainkaryam of
goppaNArya to the SrIvaishNava cause.

SaraNAgati tattva-s:

An important aspect of this stotra is that we see different aspects of
SaraNAgati expressed in the Sloka-s by svAmi deSikan.  This is only
natural since the total removal of fearlessness from the ocean of
samsAra results for one who completely surrenders to the Lord, and the
tile of the stotram itself is "A Hymn for Fearlessness".
	
1.  goptr*tva varaNam - The deliberate choice of mahAvishNu as the sole
protector:  The stotram starts with a statement that Lord ranganAtha
along with mahAlakshmi is the sole protector who is above all the other
gods such as rudra, indra, brahma etc.  Slokam 4 again reiterates the
concept that rudra, indira, yama, and all other gods perform their
assigned functions under His direction. 

2. kArpaNya or absolute humility bordering on lowliness and honest
awareness of one's own ignorance and  powerlessness - In Slokam 3 SrI
deSika says to the Lord that his mind, body, actions and words are being
torn and kicked around by the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas
and he can't think any more of what is good and what is bad - guNa
grathita kAya vA~ngmanasa vr*tti vaicitryatah, atarkika hita ahita krama
viSesham).  He considers himself of small or limited intellect (mita
buddhinA), bahuLa moha bhAjA mayA (one who is abundant in aj~nAna), and
says he is praying to Him all the same, whether it is right or not.  In
Slokam 14 again he talks about his being completely helpless - "if You
don't take pity on me, who else can help me; also, who else can deserve
your help more than me?"- ka itthamanukampitA tvadanukampanIyaSca kah?

3.  mahA-viSvAsa - irrepressible and great faith that His compassion is
always readily available, and that He will not fail us:    In Slokam 10
he points out that the Lord's dayA takes over to protect the devotees at
the time of need irrespective of their repeated refusal to follow His
path.

4. Atma-nikshepaNa - placing oneself completely and directly in God's
care - In Slokam 17, svAmi deSikan says that he is full of pApam -
vr*jinottarah, and it is His responsibility to protect him well as Lord
ranganAtha has been designated as SrI deSika's nAtha or Lord - mayA
niyata nAthavAn.   

Other interesting aspects of the stotram:

An interesting observation made by SrI D. Ramaswamy Iyengar in his
commentary on this stotram is the reference to Lord ranganAtha as
"kimapi" mahah - an "indefinable" effulgence, in the first Sloka.  The
reason He is an indefinable effulgence is because this great effulgence
is comforting unlike the lesser effulgences of the Sun, fire etc., which
will burn and hurt or kill.  The same word "kimapi" is used by SrI
deSika in the first Sloka of bhagavad-dhyAna sopAnam also, where again
he describes the Lord as "jyoti" - antarjyotih kimapi...".

Slokam 7 is interesting  in that it is a "daSa-nAma stotram" on
mahA-vishNu.   In the first two lines of this Slokam, SrI deSika has
composed a "daSa-nAma arcana" for the Lord -

"ramA-dayita ra~nga-bhU-ramaNa kr*shNa vishNo hare
 tri-vikrama janArdana tri-yuga nAtha nArAyaNa      |

"Lord of ramA or Lakshmi! One who happily dwells in SrIrangam! Kr*shNa!
One who pervades everything! One who removes all sins! One who measured
worlds in three steps! One who removes us from birth cycle! One who is
full of the six qualities! One who is the SeshI or Lord of all!
nArAyaNa!"

In the last two lines of this Sloka, SrI deSika gives the "phala Sruti"
for chanting the first two lines of this Sloka!
  
"itIva SubhadAni yah paThati nAmadheyAni te
na tasya yamavaSyatA naraka-pAta-bhItih kutah    ||

"The mere chanting of these names of the Lord is sufficient to remove
the fear of yama, leave alone the issue of going to narakam".  
	
The last Slokam is the phala-Sruti where SrI deSika points out that
praying to Lord ranganAtha  by chanting this Sloka will remove any and
all fears to the devotee.   Slokam 5 of this stotram is also a very
appealing "phala Sruti" Slokam in this context.  Here SrI deSika points
to the efficacy of meditating on bhagavAn's nAma or guNa in any way or
form.  "bhavantam iha yah panAyati namasyati smarati vakti paryeti vA,
gunam kamapi vetti vA, kadAcana kutaScana kvacana tasya na syAt bhayam -
There is no fear at any time, from anywhere, at any place, for one who
praises You, worships You, meditates on You, says your name, does
pradakshiNa to You, or just gets the knowledge of  even one of Your
guNa-s".

-dAsan kr*shNamAcAryan