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From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_best.com)
Date: Fri Mar 19 1999 - 10:54:18 PST
Sri Murali asks: > Q. Did prapanna-jana kooTastharAna nammALvAr actually receive > moksha-phalam? > At least one sreevaishNava AcArya - Sri NampiLLai (I believe, > correct me if I am wrong) - has called sathakOpan a nitya-samsAri. Yes, Swami Nampillai does call Nammalvar a nitya-samsAri. This occurs in the introduction (mahA-pravESam) of the Eedu vyaakhyaanam. His usage of the term 'nitya-samsAri' does NOT mean that Nammalvar is still sitting here in samsAra. Nampillai uses this word when considering the question of whether Nammalvar was someone different from humanity, a being sent merely to teach us something, or whether he was someone who actually went through the pains of samsAra as we all do. Nampillai, quoting Nammalvar himself, establishes that the Alvar was from time immemorial embroiled in samsAra just as we currently are, and that because of the Lord's unfettered, irresistible grace, he overcame it and was granted divine wisdom and devotion. Here, Nampillai cites the Alvar's own words "maaRi maaRip palapiRappum piRandhu..." (tvm 2.6.8 -- "Having been born countless times...") which describe his toils through samsAra. Alvar overcame this not through his own efforts, but through the Lord alone, who "mayarvu aRa madhi nalam aruLinan" (tvm 1.1.1 -- "[He is the One who] graced me with the knowledge of ripened bhakti which dispels all delusion.") In other words, 'nitya' should be taken as 'anAdi-kAla'. From this understanding, we are all 'nitya-samsAri-s'. Nampillai makes this point to show that the Lord's grace is available for everyone, not just for a select few beings. Nammalvar, a being in samsAra just like us [*], was the recipient of this grace, and so can we be. To answer your question, yes, Nammalvar does receive moksha. I will go and check the commentaries tonight to confirm this. > Q 2. Why is there a dichotomy between prapatti and bhakti as > two separate sAdhyOpAyas? > As far as I understand it, without a siddhOpAya (i.e., > sreemannArAyaNa) no upAya will work. Even for karma > and j~nAna to mature and for the aspirant to attain > Atma-sAkshAtkAra, the supreme being's help is required, > let alone the matter for attaining the supreme being Himself. > So, prapatti - which is the realization that none other > than the siddhOpAya can save us from this sAmsAric misery - > seems to be the ONLY upAya and sAdhana (because at some > stage in one's spiritual quest, an aspirant should and will > realize that the only sAdhya is prapatti). So, why not just > say that prapatti is the only sAdhyOpAya? Ramanuja's position on bhakti-yoga is actually quite different. While prapatti is of vital importance even in bhakti-yoga: eteshAm saMsAramocanam bhagavatprapattiM antareNa nopapadyate | Short of surrendering to the Lord, nothing else can save these individuals from samsAra. (para 90 in S.S. Raghavachar's edition) the practice of bhakti-yoga involves quite a bit of self-effort and self-reliance. In contrast, pure prapatti is not merely the realization that the siddopAya is the Lord; it is placing the *entire* burden on Him and relying on Him as the *sole* means. In bhakti-yoga, the process is quite different. For the actual attainment of moksha, God is the siddhopAya, but along the way, the aspirant must, through his devotional meditation, attain a level of God-perception that is as clear as vision itself. While God certainly helps in this process, the constant practice of bhakti-yoga is absolutely necessary. Consequently, a great degree of effort is required on the part of the aspirant. The surrender mentioned in Ramanuja's quote above precedes bhakti-yoga and is necessary to wipe off the countless loads of pApa and puNya (demerit and merit) that *obstruct the commencing of meditation.* This is prapatti: when an aspirant realizes that all his self-effort will be of no avail, and absolutely and urgently despairs for God, he or she gives everything up and places all of the burden on God Himself. There is no self-effort on the part of the aspirant here for moksha, because the aspirant has chosen God to be 100% of the means, all the way. Therefore, bhakti-yoga relies on self-effort, culminating in the beatific vision of God, upon which God leads this bhakta to Himself. The *vision* is what is the sAdhyopAya, not prapatti (see Ramanuja's Vedarthasangraha where he describes para-bhakti). Prapatti, on the other hand, relies purely on God from the time of surrender. In a minor sense, Ramanuja and Desika agree with what you are saying. Desika calls bhakti-yoga 'sa-dvAraka prapatti', self-surrender that begins the meditations of bhakti-yoga, and pure prapatti 'a-dvAraka prapatti', self-surrender that relies on nothing but God. [**] However, the distinction between the two paths needs to be maintained, as they are very different in nature. rAmAnuja dAsan Mani [*] Some acharyas have held the view that Nammalvar was a nitya-sUri, an eternally liberated angel of sorts sent down by the Lord to teach erring humanity the truth by example. This makes all of Nammalvar's poetic anguish an elaborate drama, enacted for our benefit. I frankly do not find this convincing. Acharyas today attribute this view to Vedanta Desika, but other than a vague sentence in an unrelated text, I cannot find support even in Desika's works for this position. This is just my personal opinion. [**] Some later acharyas (post 13th century) felt that bhakti-yoga, since it relies on self-effort, simply cannot be called a means for moksha. Murali's question tends toward this position. Why is self-effort invalid? Because it is a function of the ego asserting its independence, which goes against the very grain of the jIva's nature, they argued. Further, they said, the Lord alone is the means; what good can self-exertion do, when it is up to the Lord to achieve moksha for us? Therefore, complete self-surrender is the _only_ way, leaving everything up to the Lord. This argument becomes the characteristic "Thengalai" position in the 14th and 15th centuries. Sri Vedanta Desika convincingly (in my opinion) argues against this position. The devotional and meditational practices of bhakti-yoga are most definitely a means; after all, the Upanishads, Gita, and Brahma-sutras have waxed eloquently about them, and the shastras don't lie, do they? Furthermore, the self-effort involved in bhakti-yoga is enjoined by the Lord Himself as being consistent with our nature as slaves of the Lord. We are given the freedom to act by the Lord, and choosing to meditate (if capable) simply cannot be inconsistent with our nature. In the end, the Lord alone will achieve the moksha; but along the way, bhakti-yoga is a valid path, and is what secures the Lord's grace. Clearly, the feeling that bhakti-yoga is an invalid path is a later development. It is well known that Nathamuni's disciple Tirukkurugai Kaavalappan practiced bhakti-yoga with the approval of his acharya. Ramanuja teaches only bhakti-yoga in all his works save the Gadya-traya. Even Pillai Lokacharya accepts bhakti-yoga and speaks eloquently about it (see Artha-pancaka). However, the orthodox teaching from Ramanuja's time onwards has been that we are all incapable of the meditation involved in bhakti-yoga and must rely purely on the Lord for moksha. Effectively, the Thengalai position is correct (and is non-different from the "Vadagalai" position); none of us has the patience or ability to meditate a la bhakti-yoga; so we must rely wholly on the Lord.