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Why do I need an acarya? VERY LONG

From: Parthasarati Dileepan (MFPD_at_UTCVM.UTC.EDU)
Date: Wed Oct 25 1995 - 08:32:19 PDT

Here is an article about the need for approaching an
acarya.  This appeared in the current issue of Sri
Nrisimhapriya, October 95.  The Bhakthi/Prapatti
exchanges prompts me to post this rather long article.  I
hope it is not too much of a burden on the resources.

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-- Dileepan

Acarya Samasrayam Resorting the Preceptor
By Dr.  S. Padmanabhan, Devanarvilagam

T = Teacher Sudarsan
P = Pupil Subandhu

T:          WELCOME

P:          Many salutations to you Sir!

T:          Where are you residing now?

P:          I dwell now in the Northern part of the country.

T:          I learnt that you are holding a high position.  I am
            indeed very happy.  Do you have an opportunity to
            study our traditional texts?  Do you find time for that?

P:          Whenever I find some time, I read those texts.

T:          Is there any learned person there in your place to
            instruct you traditionally?

P:          There is no such person in my place.  Yet, I have leant
            Sanskrit during my school days and I have a good
            knowledge of it.  I have good acquaintance with logic
            (Tarka,) grammar (Vyakarana.)  Hence I could read
            and comprehend any text.

T:          What are the texts you read during your leisure time?

P:          I read the Ramanujabhashya, Rahasyatrayasara,
            Ramanuja's commentary [meaning] on the Gita, and
            the meaning of Tiruvaymozhi whenever I, find time.

T:          Alas!

P:          Sir, why this  interjection of pity?

T:          The difficulty is that you are unable to name the texts
            properly and yet you claim that you have learnt the
            meaning of those texts clearly.

P:          I told the names of the text which are known as the
            Granthacatustaya (the four sacred texts.)  Did I not?

T:          Those who have studied tradition at all will not say
            like this.

P:          Then how do they name them?

T:          They would denote them as Srimad Bhashyam, Srimad
            Rahasyatrayasaram, Srimad  Gitabhashyam, and Sri

P:          What a notion! If they are not denoted like this, does it
            mean that the meaning of those texts wouldn't become

T:          Yes, indeed. The true import will not become clear.
            One has to resort to a preceptor and comprehend the
            true import.

P:          So, it means, for this purpose, I must go in search of a
            person. Whenever I am free, the teacher must find
            time (to teach me). Being  aware of my commitment
            he must be present well in advance.  In case, he could
            not come on a specific day, my precious time would be
            wasted.  Suppose I say that there is no time on the
            specified day, he should not think otherwise.
            Moreover, I do not know, what he would demand to
            teach all these.  Knowing my position and my income,
            he may expect much. He must understand that I read
            only to spend my time.  In order to avoid all these
            inconveniences and difficulties I read all these texts
            myself whenever I am free.  Hence I don't require
            anybody's help.

T:          All these statements of yours are silly and nonsensical.
            It is because of the arrogant and egoistic nature caused
            by your status.  If you further harbor such thoughts
            you will be ruined.  You will not attain liberation.

P:          Why have you become so furious?  If I have said
            anything (provocative) kindly excuse me.  Hope I have
            not insulted you!

T:          Sure, you have not insulted me.  Yet, you speak
            without any discrimination.  Let me explain.

P:          Sir, I shall listen to your advice attentively.

T:          Subandu!  In order that a man may adopt the righteous
            path and attain liberation the association of an acarya
            (preceptor) is essential.  Therefore, you will have to
            choose acarya.

P:          Sir, in order that a person may adopt the righteous
            path, is it not enough to read good books?  Is it
            necessary that one should approach an acarya for this

T:          I agree with you.  But one should know as to what are
            the books to be read and what are the ones to be
            discarded. In the beginning of the Mahasiddhanta
            section of the Jinjnasadhikarana of the Srimad
            Bhashya, Yatiraja (Sri Ramanuja) states that the
            learned should pay no attention to the statements of
            persons, who are not given to the true import of the
            Vedas.  While commenting on the word Anadaraniya
            in the context under reference, Sri Srutaprakasikacarya
            says that even to understand the siddhanta view (that
            is, the final view of one's own system) one should not
            clearly explain and study the prefatory texts.  Hence
            we should know, in the first place, as to what are the
            essential and important texts that should be read.  All
            the things we have known are not good.  We might
            have acquired the knowledge of a good thing and, it
            may not yield undesirable results.  Yet, it does not
            mean that we have had a desirable result.

P:          Sir, what are the things that should be known?

T:          Tattvam (reality), Hitam (means) and Purushartham
            (the goal) are the three essentials that should be

P:          Sir, what is Tattva, what is Hita and what is

T:          It cannot be revealed in the course of a mere
            conversation.  You will have to approach an ideal
            acarya, (preceptor sadacarya) who has come in the
            linage of satsampradaya (right tradition) with due
            respect and then learn it.

P:          Swamin!  I am unable to understand what you have
            said.  What is satsampradaya?  Who is a sadacarya?

T:          The sampradaya (tradition) beginning from Bhagavan
            and culminating in the acarya whom you are resorting
            to, and which has been instructed accordingly through
            specific persons is known as satsampradaya.  A
            sadacarya (ideal preceptor) is one who has a firm faith
            in such a satsampradaya, who hails from a virtuous
            family, without doing sinful acts, who has controlled
            his sense organs, who has realized the Supreme Being,
            who is devoid of jealousy, pomp and show, and who is
            affectionate towards his disciples as he is attached to
            his relatives.

P:          Swamin!  It really confuses me further.  If I want to
            invite a person and listen the lectures from him, you
            say that he must be a sadacarya who has come in the
            satsampradaya whom I should really search for?

T:          Subandu!  You cannot attain an acarya so easily.  It
            requires six prerequisites for the attainment.  If these
            are fulfilled, then a sadacarya may be obtained.

P:          Six prerequisites!  Sir, what are they?

T:          Yes, let me explain.  They are: 1. Lord's Mercy, 2.
            Merit acquired accidentally, 3. Grace of Lord Visnu
            4. Being without aversion towards Lord Visnu,
            5. Listening to the anectodes of Lord Visnu, and
            6. the conversation with noble souls.  These are
            conditions for a person to attain a sadacarya.

P:          I am happy.  Among these six, I believe that I  have
            the first five.  I am able to obtain the sixth one namely
            conversation with noble persons, to-day only, by your
            association.  Hereafter, I think, I have become
            fortunate to attain an acarya.  Holy one You alone
            should arrange (fix) me an acarya and request him to
            visit my residence daily.  I shall pay him accordingly.

T:          The acarya will not come in search of you.  It is only
            you, who should go in search of the acarya.  When you
            go to a temple or to meet  acarya you should not go
            with an empty hand.  You should present him with
            fruits, coconuts or any desirable objects according to
            your capacity and request him with folded hands, "Sir,
            I have become your disciple.  You will have to protect
            me and bless me.  I have surrendered unto you".  The
            great Arjuna  surrendered unto Lord Krsna only thus.
            Hence, it is you who should go to the place of the

P:          How much would the acarya demand to teach the

T:          Please don't say that he must teach the texts.  You
            should say instruct or initiate [upadesa], or delivering
            [sadikka] Kalaksepa.  The acarya will test you in
            various ways. Just for the sake of name and fame or
            for any material benefits he will not instruct you.
            Furthermore becoming elated on the ground that a
            disciple has come to him, if he instructs any traditional
            secrets, without really testing, the acarya incurs the sin
            of the disciple.  For instance, Brahma instructed Indra,
            without really testing him, and unaware of what would
            be the dire consequences.  As a result he forgot the
            Brahma-vidya instruction he had received.  Later, the
            Lord, taught that Brahmavidya, through Narada out of
            compassion.  Therefore, only after testing he would
            initiate you.  The duty of an acarya, according to the
            sacred scriptures, is to instruct the disciples with
            compassion.  Therefore, I am sure, he will not demand
            any money from you.

P:          You said that he would test me.  Does it mean that he
            would test me in sastras?

T:          No, definitely not.  He will test you as to whether he
            could instruct you the true import of Vedanta and
            whether you are really desirous and have the capacity
            to know and comprehend it.  So he might ask you to
            come day after day.  In case, the disciple is very
            young, he would ask him to do small house-hold
            chores.  These are the probable tests.

P:          What should I do?

T:          In order that the instructions of the acarya may become
            very clear, one has to rend service to the preceptor.  Or
            we may give him substantial money.  All these, would
            be know from the conversation of Janasruti and sage

P:          Even after such a long conversation, I have some
            doubts.  Kindly, Sir, clarify those doubts too.  After
            attaining an acarya with such difficulties, he is going
            to instruct only what is there in the book.  Is it not?  I
            have with me the Srimad Rahasyatrayas of Swami Sri
            Vedanta Desika and also the commentaries thereon,
            that are published so far.  Also I possess a lucid
            English translation of the text.  While myself can
            understand from these books, should I approach an
            acraya essentially for this?

T:          You should note that in the Srimad Rahasya
            Trayasara, which you have referred to now, it is stated
            that one should resort to an acarya.  Sastras which are
            terse and difficult to understand would only confuse
            one's intellect.  Hence. if you approach an acraya he
            would instruct that truth which is not required to be
            elaborated and that truth which requires an explanation
            without contracting it.  On the contrary, if one comes.
            to know the meaning accidentally, or secretly or under
            some pretext or by studying on one's own, it would
            become futile.  Also it should be noticed that it would
            yield undesirable results.  Hence it is very essential
            that one should receive the instruction and initiation
            from the acraya only.  In the books it could be noticed
            that mantras like Astaksara, Dvaya and Caramasloka
            are printed.  Their greatness too has been explained
            elaborately.  With the help of these books, we should
            memorize these mantras and meditate on them.  They
            not only would yield the desired results but also would
            yield counter results.  The astaksara mantra has certain
            accent (or note) for its pronunciation.  It has certain
            gestures to be followed.  All these should be initiated
            into, only through an acarya.  If they are spelt with
            discordant note (accent) it would end in undesirable
            results.  Once, a demon by name Tyasta performed a
            sacrifice by which he wanted to create an enemy who
            could kill Indra, the King of gods.  But while
            performing the sacrifice, he spelt the mantra on a
            discordant note which meant that he got an enemy
            who could be killed by Indra, and accordingly that
            enemy was slain by Indra.  Hence persons of
            discriminating mind should not think that they have
            understood the meaning of a particular text or mantra
            by merely reading it.  This being the difficulty of the
            text, how is it possible to know the inner or secret
            meanings which are known only through tradition?  In
            the Sampradaya Parisuddhi section, Swami Desikan
            has clearly stated that determining the meaning of a
            passage or text which has been handed down
            traditionally, with the help of sastras is impossible.
            Even if it is understood easily with the help of sastras
            that is, without receiving it from the acarya it is
            useless.  Further, listen carefully.

            Sri Alavandar even in his boyhood languished one
            Akkilazhvan in a debate with the help of Sastric
            knowledge.  And he (Sri Alavandar) proclaimed that
            there is no scholar equal to him.  Yet, a person of his
            calibre resorted to an acarya in Manakkal Nambi and
            got initiated into the true meanings of the tradition.

            Yatiraja (Sri Ramanuja), after criticizing and rejecting
            the several interpretations and meanings of
            Yadavaprakasa, (when he was a student under him) on
            the command of Lord Varadaraja resorted to
            Periyanambi and did Kalaksepa.

            Our acarya Sarvabhauma Sri Vedantadesika, had the
            genius, even at the very young age of five, to point out
            the context in the Sribhasya that was left off and
            forgotten in the traditional discourse of Sri Nadadur
            Ammal.  Yet, did not he resort to an acarya in his
            uncle to learn the sastras?  Did he not state this
            gleefully in his books?

            If you further have any doubts in this matter, even the
            God who created you cannot satisfy and answer you.

P:          Kindly pardon me.  I have clearly understood that only
            by resorting to an acarya I can have the right
            knowledge and get liberated.  Why one should resort
            to an acarya?  Is it not enough if we sing the name and
            glory of the Lord, in this Kaliyuga?

T:          Whether one is a sinner or a virtuous person it is only
            through the association with an acarya one can attain
            liberation.  Ksatrabandhu, a noted sinner attained
            liberation only through the association with an acraya.
            His sins were not counter productive.  Pundarika too,
            the virtuous soul, attained liberation only through the
            association with acarya.  His virtues and merits did not
            help him in this.  Therefore, without the association
            with  an acarya  there will be no liberation.

            Some books of admitted validity state that liberation
            (moksa) could be obtained by singing the name and
            glory of the Lord.  Some declare it is attained by either
            bhakti or prapatti.   In the Bhagavad Gita the Lord
            says that to attain liberation, it is enough if one
            meditates upon the secret as to why the Lord has
            incarnated in the mortal world.  Another one holds the
            view that there will be no liberation for who has no
            sons (progeny).  All these statements should be
            explained satisfactorily, without contradicting each
            other.  Please, express your view on this.

P:          (In all humility) Sir, what do I know? You yourself,
            please, clarify.

T:          Singing the name and glory etc. would lead to moksa
            only through Prapatti [self - surrender].  Don't
            misunderstand all these concepts by mere reading of
            books.  You act and do as intended and instructed by
            our acaryasarvabhauma Sri Vedanta Desika.  It is only
            by prapannas [those who have performed saranagati]
            that liberation could be achieved.  For others Lord
            Mukunda will not grant liberation thus it is stated very
            clearly by Srimad Desikan in the Srimad
            Rahasayatrayasaram.  Therefore, try to know clearly
            all these and other such truths by approaching an

P:          Svamin! you, who has advised and instructed me so
            patiently is my acarya.  Please accept me as your
            disciple and save me.  Many salutations to you! [He
            falls at his feet].

T:          Rise- up! 0 Subandhu!  You too resort to our
            Vedantacarya.  I shall lead you.

[Rise takes Subandu with him.  Then happens the
resorting to the acarya.]