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Re: a small clarification

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Mon Nov 22 1999 - 13:06:19 PST

Sri T.V. Venkat wrote:
> As Mani has aptly pointed out, EmberumAn is "Nirankusa Swathanthran".
> He is not tied up by any sAdhyOpAyam that we do to grant us mOksham.
> As is the case if He has to grant mOksham only for those who does
> either Bhakti or Prapatti, then the very title that He is "Nirankusa
> Swathanthran" fails. 


> Like wise, just because we have done Bhakti or Prapatti,
> EmberumAn will not grant mOksham. We do these things only to
> season ourselves and to indicate our EmberumAn that we are
> ready to receive His grace.

Dear Venkat and Others,

Thanks for your informative note.  What you write above is
the Thengalai acharyas' concept of bhakti-yoga and prapatti. 
The acharyas in this school argue that prapatti (self-surrender) 
should not be thought of as a means (upAya), even in a secondary sense, 
but only as an "adhikAri-viseshaNa", an attribute of the true aspirant.
They do this to emphasize their point that God's grace is not
caused, not even by bhakti-yoga and prapatti, but is purely dependent
on His will. This school of thought insists that Emberumaan alone
should be thought of as the upAya, and that nothing the jIva does
causes him to get moksha -- all that is needed is knowledge the
relationship between the jIva and Emberumaan and non-rejection 
of His grace.

The Vadagalai acharyas follow Vedanta Desika in offering a subtly 
different idea.  Basing his arguments on scriptural texts and logic, 
Desika forcefully argues that bhakti-yoga and prapatti are both sAdhya-upAyas,
i.e., that which must be done by a jIva. God stands ready, ever-waiting
for the bhakti-yogi to visualize Him or the prapanna to offer his
burdens to Him.  Upon seeing a jIva do one of these, He completely
overlooks the past transgressions of the jIva, is immensely pleased 
at the jIva's change of course, and uses this opportunity to shower 
His beatifying grace upon the jIva and grant him moksha.  This is 
why bhakti-yoga and prapatti are called "vyAja" or pretexts for
God's grace. This is exactly what He needs to act as the siddhopAya,
the ever-existent means. Based on these ideas, Desika argues that 
the shastra teaches us that a para-bhakta or prapanna is certainly 
destined for moksha.

The difference between these two views is very subtle.  The Thengalai
acharyas are trying at all costs to safeguard the psychological
primacy of God in their idea of prapatti.  The Vadagalai acharyas 
are trying to preserve the meaningfulness of shastraic injunctions
and guidance on the road to liberation.

Now, my usage of the term "nirankusa svaatantryam" (unfettered 
independence) with reference to Emberumaan is not as you indicate 
above. I am not claiming that prapatti is not an upAya. Rather,
I am saying that we cannot envision what Emberumaan will *consider*
as prapatti in an aspirant, especially one who shows all signs of
sincerity but who fails because of lack of knowledge, lack of 
adequate time or place, etc.  In this respect, I am arguing that
Emberumaan may possibly use even "unconventional" prapattis as
vyAjas or pretexts for showering His grace. We just cannot limit
Him in this aspect.

For those of us who have association with a sad-AchArya, of course,
there should be no doubt about ourselves, as we are following the tried 
and true path.

adiyen ramanuja dasan