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maNi's question
Date: Fri Oct 05 2001 - 02:01:33 PDT

dear bhAgavathAs,

The following is a write-up written by srI. embAr 
rangAchAriar svAmi. This is with respect to a question
that was raised by maNi a few weeks back regarding the

necessity of an AchAryan for attaining salvation. - 
The question, stated in simplest terms, basically 
was "Is an AchArya a *necessary* condition for perumAL

to shower His grace on a soul?"

For the benefit of people on this list, here is a
biography on srI. rangAchAri svAmi. Dr. rangAchAri, 
(also known as bAbu mAmA to many people on this list) 
hails from the thirunAngUr area. He learnt the 
sampradAyam in his early years in thirunAngUr from 
some of the greatest teachers of the rAmAnuja 
sampradAya in this century, hailing from the 
thirunAngUr PrativAdi bayankaram families, as well as 
scholars from the thiruvAli thirungari divyadEsams. He

moved to thiruvalli-k-kENi for his lowkeeka life, and 
in his lowkeeka life is an internationally renowned 
scholar  in mathematics. He retired as the head of the

department of mathematics (ramAnujan institute?) of 
the University of Madras, and is one of the key forces

behind the Indian Mathematical assocaition. 

bAbu mAmA is a very learned scholar in the nAlAyira 
divya prabhandham, rahasya granthAs, pUrvAchArya 
stOtrAs, prasthAna trayi as well as the commentaries 
of our pUrvAchAryAs - His uniqueness lies in his 
ability to separate the ritualistic portions of the 
sampradAyam from the concepts/spirit of the 
sampradAyam and relate the concepts to the present day

world. A few of us are very fortunate to be learning 
the divya prabhandham from him. It is indeed a great 
joy to learn from someone that is so learned, and one
that has a unique clarity of thought, and more 
importantly, one who does not deviate from our
AchAryAs' teachings, but makes it easy for us to 

bAbu mAmA also represents the embAr AchArya purusha 
lineage and has numerous shishyAs to who, and whose 
families, he performs samAsrayaNam. Given that he is 
an AchArya, he has unique insights into the role of an

AchAryan, especially in the present days' context.

Needless to say, any mistakes in the following are 
mine, and mine only. I have attempted to paraphrase a 
few of bAbu mAmA's words, but for the most part have 
stuck to his original script.

AzhvAr emperumAnAr jIyar thiruvadigaLE saraNam,
adiyEn madhurakavi dAsan,


Your query about SaraNAgathi needs to be answered step
by step.

part 1:

First, SaraNAgathi, equivalently termed as prapatti, 
needs to be properly interpreted. The oft quoted 
thiruvAymozhi pAsuram 6.10.10, akalakillEn, ends 
with "adi-k-keezh amarndhu pugundhEnE". Clearly the 
words "amarndhu" and "pugundhu" are NOT physical acts 
of the AzvAr. They can only be mental attitudes. This 
is made clear in the onbadadinAyira-p-padi,
nAlAyira-p-padi and eedu vyAkhyAnams. aaraayira-p-padi

is very brief, but it indicates that SaraNAgathi 
removes the obstacles for reaching the Lord and yields

kainkaryam all time, and in all forms. Again, this 
means that only the Lord, through His consort, who is 
krpA personified, removes the virOdhis {vEri maaRaadha

poo mEl irup-p-AL vinai theer-k-kumE - thiruvAymozhi},

and sanctions sarvakAla nitya kainkarya (again, 
perhaps possible only in the Lord's abode) Himself.

To put it briefly, aaraayira-p-padi too is of the 
opinion that the Lord is the upAya. It is interesting 
to note the interpretation of the words "amarndhu" 
and "pugundhu" in the other commentaries. They are all

in consonance with the eedu vyAkhyAnam, and we shall 
look into the same.

For "amarndhu", eedu says "avanukku oru sahakAri 
vENdudhal, than thalaiyilE upaayaBhAvam kidaththal 
seyyiliRE, nadu oru vyavaDhAna viLambaNgaLukku hEthu 
uLLadhu" - "vyavadhAna viLambam" means "delay in 
putting". - i.e. there is a cause for delay in the 
process if one looks for  a sahakAri (facilitator) for

the upAya, or if one puts the process of "performing" 
the upAya on oneself.

onbadhinAyira-p-padi - "en thalai-k-kum 
thiruvadiGaLukkum naduvu viLa-k-kuvAy theriyAdhapadi 
seRindhu pugundhEne". If prapatti were a physical 
process, it is deemed then as a sahakAri (facilitator)

and the person adhering to this process has a upAya in

hand, and that goes against the the above
interpretation of the words "amarndhu" and "pugundhu" 
as written above.

vEdAnta dEsika, in his dramidOpanishad sangathi, 
mentions this briefly through the phrase "svam 
akincanatvam". eedu explicitly states "pugundhEnE" 
signifies "avanE upAyam enkira adhyAvasAya gnyAnam" 
and also states *"oru pOkkuvaraththu uNdAyanRu"*. 

The equivalent phrase for the above concept in 
sanskrit is "sva pravrtti nivrtti", and the anecdotes 
of vibheeshaNa, gajEndra and draupadi are usually 
cited in  support of this interpretation.

The above interpretation of prapatti is in agreement 
with logical analysis. If prapatti is a physical 
process, it is then a ritual either (i) to attain the 
goal of the spirit of prapatti, or (ii) to please the 
Lord through the physical process so that some other 
goal can be "received" from Him.

If prapatti were to afford the spirit, this spirit 
being a mental attitude, it does NOT need any physical

process, since it might happen such that the physical 
process alone is executed without any impact on the 

If the physical act were done to please the Lord, then
His quality of having no wants (avAptha samastha 
kAmathvam, more aptly kuRai oNRum illAdhavan") gets 
affected. nammAzhvAr, for example, uses the 
word "pazhudhil thol pugazh", and also says "thozudhu 
mAmalar neer sudar thoopam koNdu ezhudum enRum idhu 
migai" {thiruvAymozhi 9.3.9}.

Thus, there can be no doubt that prapatti is a mindset
and NOT a physical process. This mindset requires
only a *conviction* that the Lord gives salvation
at the time found by Him to be appropriate for the
soul, and adhere to the vaazhvinai of (i) remembering
His qualities and (ii) doing service to our fellow
beings who are advEshis (i.e. those who are not
"naNNAdhE iruppAr", as per thirumangaiAzvhAr) in
the sense that they are NOT AVERSE to thinking about
Him, or going around His temple etc..

part 2:

In fact, the answer to your query is implicit in the
above. But, let us go into the definition of
"AchArya" that is crucial to the query. The best
definition is present in srI. viLAnchOlai-p-piLLai's
sapthakAthai -

"amponarangaR-k-kum aavi-k-kum antharanga sambandham
kA-t-tith thadai kA-t-ti, umpandhivam ennum
vaazhvu-k-kuch sErndha neRi kA-t-tum avan anRO

i.e. the one that shows the relationship between
the the parama purusha and the soul, the obstacles,
and the means of attaining Him is the AchAryan.

This is based on the thaniyan for thiruvAymozhi
blessed by srI. parAsara bhattar svAmi  -

"mikka iRai nilaiyum meyyAm uyir nilayum,
thakka neRiyum, thadai aagith thokkiyalum
oozhvinaiyum, vaazhvinaiyum oodhum kurukaiyar kOn
yaazhin isai vEdhaththu iyal"

mikka iRai nilai - kuRai onRum illAdha gOvindan, 
besides other qualities implicit in this phrase, like 
svAmitvam, sousIlyam etc; meyyAm uyir nilai -0 sEsatva

of ths soul to the extent of being "kadaith thalai 
irundhu vaazhum sOmbar" as thoNdar-adi-p-podi azhvAr 
says in  thirumAlai; thakka neRi - upAya, i.e. the
Himself; thadai aagith thokkiyalum oozhvinai -
virOdhi, ahamkAra, mamakAra; vaazhvinai - implicit
faith (mahAvisvAsa) that the Lord will never fail
to give us salvation, praising Him and His qualities,
and performing service to His devotees.

The common human being may not have exposure to the
above concepts, and it may require another human
being who is convinced of those concepts 
{aruL perRuvAr adiyAr - thiruvAymozhi 10.6.1} to
expose him to these concepts. If the person that
is looking for exposure is convinced of these ideas, 
and decides to act according to them, then the latter
becomes the former's AchArya. The former shows
his abhimAnam (great respect, evaluation,  - NOT
some ritual like sambhAvana etc,. but a real concern
that such a great man should NOT be made to look
after his mundane requirements by himself,
bus should be spared time to expose the concepts
to others, and influence them too in their own

Phrases like "AchArya abhimAnamE thAraka," need to
be interpreted in this manner. In this context,
the epithet about ahamkAra mamakAra by srI. piLLai
lOkAchArya is relevant.

It may be noted that the AchAryAs following the
AzvAr's "andhiyaal aam payan angen?" -
{mudhal thiruvandhAdi }
did  NOT advocate the ritualistic or mantric aspect
of any idea. For example, srI. parAsara bhattar
interpreted the astAkshara, dvaya and carma
slOka as giving out the concepts/ideas for 
salvation than as pure mantrAs. Similarly, he
commented on srI vishNu sahasranAmam as giving
out the qualities of the Lord.

Any ritual brings in excuses/reasons like lapses
in performance etc., if the desired objective
is not realized. And this goes against the
main thesis - that is the Lord is kuRai onRum
illAdha gOvindhan, and if He expects something
in return giving something, then it is a kuRai.

The concepts mentioned above may occur to a person
without the intervention/help of a third person,
entirely by the grace of the Lord. This should
have been the case for srIman nAdhamuni, for whom
the "ArAvamudhE" decade of thiruvAymozhi
would have given these ideas. periyAzhvAr
explicitly states in periyAzhvAr thirumozhi -
"peethaka aadai-p-pirAnAr pirama guruvaagi vandhu 
ennaip payiRRi paNi seydhu koNdAn - periyAzhvAr
thirumozhi.  Thus, there could be cases of
a living being among ourselves NOT having a
*contemporary* human being as the AchArya.

The present system, in the thennAcharya 
sampradAya, as well as the vadakalai sampradAya,
tends to make the AchArya a ritualistic head for
most people, and rarely gives scope for a 
detailed dialogue between the sishya
and the AchArya, so that the former is convinced
of the upadEsa of the latter. The relationship
is quite formal in most cases.

If one has understood the arthapanchaka through
the Lord's grace, by studying the nAlAyira divya
prabhandham, vEdAs, upanishads etc., and adheres
to these concepts, then there is no need for
a human AchArya for him.

part 3:

>From the two parts above, it should be clear that,
technically, a human AchAryA is NEITHER necessary 
NOR sufficient for salvation. It is God's grace 
that creates in a person the mAhAvisvAsa that God's 
immense concern for the soul (even those of the 
thiryaks - anRu sarAsarangaLai vaikunthaththu 
Eththi, perumAL thirumozhi yy) will surely end their 
cycle of births.

The necessity for an AchArya is for those who
have no exposure to the concepts of arthapanchaka
through the Lords' grace {and that is everyone
of us!}. The conviction in the arthapanchaka
is then created by the AchArya in his shisya,
that too only through the Lord's grace. 

Thus, it is the Lord who gives us salvation.
nammAzhvAr aptly describes that in
"veRidhE aruL seyvar seyvArgatku ugandhu" -
avan aruL seyya ninaippavargaLukku,
ugandhu, veRidhE aruL seyvaan.


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