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"For Example"

From: sadagopan iyengar (
Date: Sat Oct 27 2001 - 01:54:26 PDT

Srimate SrivanSatakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra
Mahadesikaya Nama:

                                 " For Example"

    "An example is an argument in miniature"- adiyen
doesn't know who said this, but whoever did, never
said a truer word. Concepts, which call for pages of
elaboration, could be lucidly explained through an
example.  Great poets and philosophers alike have
employed the example or "upamAnam", for illustrating
and embellishing their prose/poetry. Kalidasa was
renowned for his apt similes, so much so that the very
word "simile" brings the Mahakavi to our mind ("upamA
kAlidAsasya"). However, Kalidasa is not alone in the
usage of impressive examples- before him, Adikavi
Valmiki has employed similes throughout Srimad
Ramayana to telling effect. And, after Kalidasa, our
own Sri Vedanta Desikan has been a prolific user of
examples, especially in his Kavya works like Sri
Paduka Sahasram , Sri Yadavabhyudayam, Sri Hamsa
Sandesam, etc.

             Though we do come across the widespread
use of similes in the Divya Prabandams too, it is rare
to find   a concentration of these in a single group
of poems. An exception to this is the fifth "patthu"
of Perumal Tirumozhi, where as many as eight different
similes have been used in the space of ten pasurams,
all in praise of the Lord at TiruvittuvakkOdu. And the
examples employed are unique, in that each highlights
a different aspect of the relationship between the
Jeevatma and the Paramatma. However, the common thread
that runs through all the ten verses is "ananya
gatitvam". This is defined by Swami Desikan as
"sharaNyAntara vaimukhyam", or rejection of anyone but
Sriman Narayana as one's saviour. Sri Nammazhwar puts
this succinctly when he says, "KaLaivAi tunbam
kaLayAdu ozhivAi, kaLaikaN matrilEn".  As Sri Satakopa
Muni is the "angi" and the other Azhwars "angAs", it
is but natural for Kulasekhara Perumal to elaborate
the aforesaid line in ten beautiful pasurams. Here
they are-

     The first pasuram enunciates clearly the theme of
  the "patthu" by saying "un sharaN allAl sharaN
illai". And to what might this lack of interest in
other saviours be compared? A very moving simile
          "arisinattAl eendra tAi agatridinum, avaL
tan aruL ninaindE azhum kuzhavi aduvE pOndru
   The mother is really an epitome of patience. .
However even she tires of the child and its pranks at
times and pushes it away in mock anger. When this
happens, the child, though it realises that mother is
annoyed and unheeding, still keeps crying for her
attention, for it knows not anyone else who is as kind
and caring. Similarly, even if Emperuman doesn't heed
our prayers, we have no refuge other than Him.  By
describing himself as a child and the Lord as the
mother, Azhwar indicates the relationship of Creator
and creation, and Protector and protected, subsisting
between the Jeevatma and the Paramatma. In this
pasuram, Emperuman has perhaps usurped the role of His
Consort, who is usually called "JaganmAtA" and
"samasta janani".  This pasuram and its import so
moved Sri Alavandar, that he has reproduced it almost
verbatim in his Stotra Ratnam- "rushA nirastOpi
sishu:stanandaya:na jAtu mAtu:charaNou jihasati".

    The second pasuram begins with another winner-
  "KaNdAr igazhvanavE kAdalan tAn seididinum
   KondAnai allAl ariyA kulamagaL  pOl
  ViNtOi madil pudai soozh vittuvakkOttammA
  Nee kondAlAy Agilum un kurai kazhalE  kooruvanE"

A chaste wife, even if her husband is guilty of the
gravest of crimes attracting social stigma, doesn't
forsake him for another man. Similarly, even if You,
the Lord and master, have scant regard for me, I know
not a refuge other than your lotus feet, says Azhwar.
By placing Him in the position of a husband and
himself in that of a wife, Azhwar indicates here that
the relationship between the individual soul and the
Lord is similar- He is the Lord and Master, and we,
his slaves (this may not conform to the present day
man and wife relationships, but has to be understood
in the proper context). We belong to him in every
sense. His company brings us pleasure, and being away
from Him results in grief.
  In the next verse, the comparison is with an errant
king, who has abdicated his responsibiliy of caring
for his subjects' welfare, and the poor citizens, who
still look to him for good governance and providence-
  "tAn nOkkAdu ettuyaram seididinum tAr vEndan
   kOl nOkki vAzhum kudi pOndru irundEnE"
.. The Rakshya-Rakshaka bhAvam subsisting between
ourselves and  the Lord is highlighted in this
pasuram. He is the Protector and we, the protected.
 Emperuman has often been described as a physician. He
is the Great Healer ("Bhishak", "Vaidya:"as Sri Vishnu
Sahasranamam calls Him), who has the medicine for the
great malaise represented by this sAmsAric life. Every
doctor, for his patient's well being, has to perform
surgery whenever called for, which is invariably
painful for the patient. The patient, however, doesn't
abuse the doctor for subjecting him to the unkind
knife: instead, he is grateful to be cured of the
Seralar kOn tells the Lord at VittuvakkOdu ,"Even if
You were to subject me to ceaseless suffering I would
still  untiringly look to You for deliverance". That
the Lord always has at heart   the good of the
individual soul, and the need for the Jeevatma to have
absolute faith in Him even in the midst of the
severest of travails, are brought out by this pasuram.

The next pasuram displays another beautifulsimile-
that of a bird, which goes to sleep in the evening,
perched on the mast of a ship, which gets under way
during the night, and covers a few hundred knots
before daybreak. The bird, waking up, searches for
familiar landmarks, and flies out in various
directions, only to find that land has disappeared,
and everywhere there is only water. Not finding a
single treetop to perch on, it returns to the ship, to
bide its time till the ship reaches shore again.
"Engu pOi karai kANAdu eri kadal vAi meendEyum
 vangatthin koombErum mApparavai pOndrEne"
Doesn't this bird's conduct ring a bell? We are
reminded here of Sri Valmiki's beautiful description
of the delinquent crow, who, after having committed an
apachArA to Janaka nandini, flies desperately all
round the world, trying to escape the pursuing
RamabANam. Whosever's   doors it knocks at for refuge,
turns it away, as they are powerless to protect a
person who is the target of Sri Rama's anger. Thus,
the crow falls at Sri Rama's feet in an act of
SaraNagati, and is duly saved by the Saranagata
"treen lOkAn samparikramya tamEva saranam gata:
 vadhArhamapi Kakutsta: kripayaA paryapAlayat."

We have seen the lotus blooming as soon as the Sun's
rays caress it lovingly. Is it only the heat from
sunlight that causes the flower to open its petals?
Not at all, for if, instead of the sun's heat, we were
to place near the lotus a stove disseminating similar
heat, we would observe that the flower remains shut,
and if the heat is intensified, it just wilts. There
is thus a special, irreplaceable relationship between
the sun and the lotus: similarly, we devotees would
not be moved by anything except the countless
auspicious attributes of the Lord. Here is the
Azhvar's sreesookti-
 "SenthazhalE vandu azhalai seidinum senkamalam
  antaram sEr venkadirOrku allAl alarAvAl
 ventuyar veettAvidinum vittuvakkOttammA! Un
andamil seerkku allAl agam kuzhaya mAttEnE"

Even at times of severe drought, when there is nary  a
hint of rain, the green shoots of paddy always look up
to the sky in the hope of sighting the dark
rain-bearing clouds.  Similarly, even if Emperuman
pays scant attention to our problems, He is always in
our thoughts, and we look to Him for solace.
"Etthanayum vAn maranda kAlatthum painkoozhkaL
 maitthu ezhunda mAmukilE pArrthu irukkum matru avai
meitthuyar veettAvidinum vittuvakkOttammA! en
chittam miga unpAlE vaippan adiyEnE".
 Here, by placing himself in the place of crops and
denoting Emperuman as a cumulus, Azhwar indicates that
the Lord is the source of sustenance for all

All rivers, however far they may flow and in whichever
direction, have the sea as their ultimate
destination.("AkAsAt patitam tOyam yathA gacchati
sAgaram"). Azhvar's mind, irrespective of the
innumerable distractions of this sAmSAric world, is
firmly fixed on the Lord's kalyANa guNAs.
"tokkilangi ArellAm parandOdi todu kadslE
 puukandri puram nirka mAttAda matravai pOl
mikkilangu mugil nirattAi vittuvakkOttammA un
pukkilangu seer allAl pukkilan kAN puNNiyanE"

The nAyaka-nAyaki bhavam subsisting between Emperuman
and ourselves is brought out by this pasuram, as the
Ocean is generally called the husband of rivers
(Samudra: saritAm pati:).

The series of similes ends with the following pasuram-
"ninnayE vEndi neeL selvam vENdAdAn
 tannayE ,tAn vENdum selvam pOl, mAyatthAl
minnayE sEr tigiri vittuvakkOttammA
                                           ninnayE tAn
vENdi nirpan adiyEnE"
           When one is attracted to Emperuman, worldly
pleasures lose their attraction for him: riches are
but dust for him ("paramAtmani yO rakta: virakta:
aparamAtmani") however, these riches come to him on
their own, due to his unflinching devotion to the
Lord. Similarly, says Azhvar, even if You are
indifferent to me, I shall continue to look to you for
Kulasekhara Perumal's penchant for the mot juste and
the apt simile are on full display in the patthu
described above. Unfortunately, adiyen is afraid of
having lost the flavour of the original, in adiyen's
translation.  Adiyen would like to present a few more
instances of such fine examples in the next
  Srimate Sri LakshmiNrsimha divya paduka sevaka
SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya


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