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Re: 3-Alwars by Sri Bhuvarahacharya

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Tue Nov 11 1997 - 10:40:20 PST

Sri Anbil Ramaswamy writes:
> I do not know how he says that the Alwars were just suffering humans like any
> of us  but but maybe were endowed with superior vision. 
> Swami Desika clearly says that the Alwars were HIS own incarnations (Abhinava
> Dasaavataaram Panni - Vide Rahasya Traya Saram)  

One needs to dig deeper and more broadly into our pUrvAcArya's
works to see how they viewed the Alvars.  Almost all of our 
primary acharyas, i.e., Desikan, MaamunigaL, Vadakku Thiruveedhi
Pillai, etc., believed that Alvars were human beings who were
inspired by a "pravesam" or gracious entrance of the Lord into
their hearts.  This brings out the true greatness of the Lord:
despite his absolute superiority, he condescends and graces us 
in so many ways -- the Alvars are the best examples of this 

We can see this in the first paasuram of thiruvaaymozhi itself:

	mayarvaRa madhinNalam aruLinan 

	Cutting aside my ignorance from time immemorial, 
	He graced me with divine loving knowledge of Him.
	(bhakti-rUpa-panna-jnAna = madhinalam)

This is Nammalvar's statement. Thirumangai even more graphically
details how he was wilting away, chasing after sensual pleasures,
until the Lord graced him and gave him upadESam of His divine
name ("vaadinEn vaadi varundinEn ... naadinEn naadi naan kaNdu
koNdEn naaraayaNaa ennum naamam.") We can also read the aruLicceyals
of ThiruppaaN, Thondaradippodi, Kulasekharan and find their 
testimonials to this effect.

Regarding Desikan himself: his statement from Guruparampara Saaram
that the Alvars were a new daSa avatAra (10 incarnations) of the
Lord needs to be properly understood in context.  Desikan is saying
nothing different from Sri Bhuvarahachariar Swamy.  The Alvars
were graced by the entrace of the Lord into their hearts, cutting
asunder their ignorance and showing Him to them as He truly is.
Out of this rapturous experience, they sang their paasurams.
(Recall "thirukkandEn pon mEni kandEn" etc., of the mudhal 
AlvargaL.  The entrace of the Lord into the heart is also considered
an avatAra, but not in the same sense as Krishna or Rama, which
are literally the Lord Himself. 

To confirm this, we only need look at Desikan's rahasya anubhavam
of ThiruppaaN's "amalan aadhi piraan", entitled "muni vaahana bhogam".
In the introduction itself, Desikan toes a fine line, describing
how ThiruppaaN spent eons wallowing in samsAra, just like other
creatures, following "kshudra purushArthas" (lower aims of life)
among other things, until he was graced by the Lord. Desikan is
unambiguous here.

The most overt statement however, is from Vadakku Thiruveedhi
Pillai, the author of eedu vyaakhyaanam (36000) on Nammalvar's
thiruvaaymozhi.  He goes to the extent of calling Nammalvar a
"nitya samsAri", one who has been forever wallowing in samsAra
until the Lord lifted him up to Him.  In the "ozhi vil kaalam
ellam" set of 10 paasurams, dedicated to ThiruvEngadam Udaiyaan
(Tirupati Srinivasar), Nammalvar self-abasingly says, "neecanEn
niRai onRum ilEn" ("I am extremely low, with nothing good in
me"). Commentators such as Periya Vaaccaan Pillai and VT Pillai
write (a bit exaggeratingly) that the Lord looked all over 
creation to find the lowest, meanest individual to bless, and
found Nammalvar.  A more explicit statement about how we must
relate to Nammalvar cannot be written.

What is the point of all this? There is no doubt that the Alvars
are extremely special individuals -- but their greatness is enhanced
by the fact that they were living breathing creatures, like us,
with histories in samsAram as troubled if not more troubled than
us.  But because of the grace of the Lord, all their ignorance
and karma were destroyed in one fell swoop, and they were inspired
by His presence to give us the Divya Prabandham.  One can say that
all of this is a result of His grace alone, to elevate us to Him.

In any case, Sri Bhuvarahachariar is an esteemed authority
on Divya Prabandham and the traditional commentaries thereon.
Very, very few scholars today can match his erudition.