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Re: Prappatti

From: Mani Varadarajan (
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

[*] 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.