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Date: Sat Nov 21 1998 - 14:19:55 PST
Dear Bhagavatas, Sri Mani had asked for the meanings of some of the terms in Verse 2 of Tiruppavai.. There are several meanings for each of the words employed by our revered Alwars and Acharyas in their works. And, Tiruppavai is hailed as the seed of all Vedas-"Vedam Anaithukkum Vithu Aagum". Naturally, several layers of meanings have been expounded and several deeper meanings are being discovered answering to the description of what are known as Bahir Artha (Outer meaning), Bahya Artha (Surface Meaning), Prathama Artha (Main Meaning), Adhyaatma Artha (Soulful meaning), Swaapadesa Artha (Underlying meaning), Sookshma Artha (Subtle meaning), Para Artha (Highest or greatest meaning), Apara Artha (Matchless Artha), and many more. To explain a single word or expression, our Acharyas used to take hours and hours on end, stretching to 3 or 4 Kalakshepam classes. Such is the infinite variety, richness, vastness, depth and kaleodoscopic scope of interpretations. Any attempt to offer a simple and straight meaning of any particular expression cannot adequately convey the purport of the Thiru Ullam of the Alwars and Acharyas and especially so in the case of Sri Andal's Tiruppavai. In the absence of long years of deep and devoted study of the multi- dimensional import of the various expressions at the feet of qualified Acharyas, any attempt at a translation or naive but short talk in a foreign language can at best be truncated, dull and insipid and will fall far short of even a modicum of the spirit of the originals. Of course, for those who have not had this opportunity, anything dished out would be welcome because literally 'anything is fish that comes to the net'. Even though, I had such a bhagyam of listening to various Acharyas' Kalakshepams, my absorption is zero and my memory power subzero, due perhaps to my age. For these reasons, I cannot claim to offer any better presentation than what others have been contributing. There is not a single Poorva Acharya who has not enriched the verses of Tiruppavai with their valuable commentaries. The space constraints in such a short write up would not permit any leeway to explain in extenso all these commentaries. Within these parameters, however, I shall attempt to address the issue at hand. I do not claim to present all the categories of meanings nor the views of all Acharyas. Bahya Artha or the Surface meaning: refers to "the act of giving alms". Vide "Avvaiyar's Aathichoodi Verse "Aiyam Ittu Unn" which means -' one should eat only after offering food to the needy who approach for food' "Aiyam" is said to mean gifting to great Mahans who make no efforts for their livelihood but are content to live on whatever they get as a Prasadam of Bhagavan Vide "Somber" used in connection with Prapannas (Kritakrityas) who have nothing else to do; "Pitcahi" indicates the "Bikshai" offered to Brahmacharis and Sannyasis who are supposed to live by procuring rice and grains by way of 'alms' only. "Aanthanaiyum" would mean ' to the extent of one's capacity'. In Tamil, it is "Eyanravarai". "Kai Kaatti" implies that when one is not able to offer any gifts, they themselves being so poor. In this context, it may mean that they can point to someone who would be in a position to provide the seekers what they want. Swapadesa Artha: (Underlying meaning) According to our Acharyas the entire Verse is said to denote all the five angas of Prapatti thus:- 1. Anukulya Sankalpa as evidenced from the words "Aadi", "Paadi", Neeraadi" etc 2. Pratikulya Varjanam as indicated by the expressions "Seyyaathana Seyyom" and "Thhekkurlai Senrodhoam" etc. 3. Mahaviswasam as brought by the word "Uganthu"which means the great faith that the Lord will never forsake Saranaagathaas. 4. Aakinchanyam as gleaned from the word AIYAM which in Tamil is equated with "Kai Mudhal Illaamai" The 'doubt' or 'suspense' which are the ordinary meanings of Aiyam are said here to refer to the state of mind in which one feels one's incapacity or helplessness, which goes by another expression viz. Kaarpanyam and 5. Goptrutva Varanam as revealed by the word "Pichai" where the Prapanna is said to be begging. Begging what? Begging to be saved from Samsaram- a formal request. Sookshma Artha : (Subtle Meaning) "Aiyam" and "Pichai" are taken as Paryaya Padas (equivalents) and said to mean just the gifting to the deserving. The word Aiyam is said to refer to the testing of the supplicant to see if he/she deserves the gift. "Pichai" refers to the actual gifting after the suitability of the recipient is determined. What is gifted? It is nothing but "Krishna Anubhavam" In this context, it is said to refer to an Acharya who is expected to test the would be Sishya before imparting this Anubhavam. This is indicated by "Aiyam" Who deserves? The one who approaches the Acharya in the spirit advised by Lord Krishna when he said "Tad Viddhi Pratipaadena Pari Prasnebna Sevayaa" (BG.4.34) and in which Arjuna sought instruction by pleading "Sishyas Thae Aham Saadhi Maam Tvaam Prapannam"(BG2.6). Once satisfied, the Acharya is expected to impart "Atma Gnaanam" to the best of his knowledge and ability without any reservation which is what the word "Aanthanaiyum" indicates. If the Acharya feels he has not been able to convey as effectively as he desired, he may direct the Sishya to another Acharya who will be better able to explain- and this is indicated by the term "Kai Kaatti" Para Artha (Deeper meaning): "Aiyam" is said to refer to "Bhagavad Vaibhavam" and "Pichai" to "Bhaagavata Vaibhavam" A Prapanna is expected to remember constantly his Seshatvam to Bhagavan and Bhaagavatas. 43rd Jeeyar's Nirvaham:: He calls those who consciously realize and practice these Seshatvams as "Dharmishtas" 44th Jeeyar's Nirvaham in his "Subodhini": "Aiyam" Gifts bestowable on the highly deserving folk; dedicating to the great whatever one can WITHOUT EXPECTING ANY RETURN "Pichai" Gifts bestowable on ordinary folk We should offer food without saying no because hunger is the same for all irrespective of caste or other distinctions "Aanthanaiyum" To the heart's content of all kinds of folks mentioned above. "Kai Kaatti" Even pointing to a source of resource is deemed equal to gifting directly. This aspect of Kaikaatti can arise in different circumstances: - When one has the intent to give but does not have the means, one can point to another; - When one has both the intent and the means, yet does not feel having given adequately, one can point to another who will be able to complement - When one in either case recommends to another that a gift to the deserving supplicant will ultimately please the Lord and thus induce another to contribute. - When one has the means but not the intent, one can point to another - When such a one directs the supplicant to another only with the intent of making that 'another' to 'spend and in the process get impoverished' to that extent. This "Kai Kaatti" is illustrated by a story. When someone asked Dharmaputra some water to slake his thirst, Dharmaputra did not have water ready on hand. So, he pointed his index finger towards a nearby body of water. The supplicant proceeded to the source and quenched his thirst. When Dharmaputra was 'walked through' the Narakas, he felt intense thirst and asked for some water. Yama, the Lord of death who was his tourist guide, asked him to suck his index finger. And, mysteriously, Dharmaputra sensed water flowing from his finger into the throat and got satiated. The moral of the story is that when one is not able to help, even pointing to a source of help is a 'punyam' that can save a person in times of need..That is also "Dharmam" which can perform the act of 'Thalai Kaakkum" Srimad Andavan Swami's Nirvaham: While gifting the Prapanna should not have the Ahamkaram implicit in the thought that 'he is the giver' but should have the 'bhavam' or attitude that it is the Lord who gives and that he is only an instrument in the act; Give to whom? "To Adiyars" says Andavan Sri Prathivadi Bhayankaram Annangarachariar Swami's Nirvaham: "Aiyamaavadhu Bhagavad Sannidhiyil Bhaagavata Vaibhavamum, Bhaagavata Sannidhiiyil Bhagavad Vaibhavamum Yathaa Sakti Solla Vendiyathu" meaning that one should remember and relate the glory of the Bhaagavatas while in the precincts of Bhagavan and the glory of Bhagavaan in the midst of Bhaagavatas. While explaining "Aiyam", he asks what is in 'doubt'? And, answers saying that one should entertain doubt constantly that in spite of offering gifts to the best of one's capacity and to those worthy of gifting that what he had given is so meager and inadequate- another dimension of 'Aakinchanyam'! Injimettu Azhagiya Singhar's story of how when a miser pointed to another got a benefit himself is too long to be included here. So also, several other Nirvahams of Poorva Acharyas I am leaving them out for now. Dasoham Anbil Ramaswamy.