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vibeeshana-sharanagathi

From: sudarshan (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Thu Oct 15 1998 - 12:04:02 PDT

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s,

On this thread of discussions in the past week a member recently wrote:

"....It is not necessary that pirAtti should do 
purushakAram in the direct sense. 

"considering the one to one 
presence of pirAtti at the place of saraNAgati, eventhough She was 
not present in person, She is always present in the ThirumArbu of 
PerumAL, be it RAman or VAmanan. So when VibhIshaNA did his 
saraNAgati, pirAtti was still doing purushakAram from within the 
heart of Rama....."
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This strikes me as the correct position to take any which way you analyse
the dramatic situation in the Ramayana. 

Please permit me to supplement the learned member's statement with a few
observations of my own.

(1) There is a big difference betwen being strictly doctrinal and being
narrowly doctrinaire about "purushAkAra".

(2) Yes, "purushAkAra", the agency of divine intercession, is an essential
condition of liberation for a "baddha-jIva". "Essential" must not be taken
to mean "corporeal". The divine mediatrix, "pirAtti", was not present at
the time when "gajendra" was granted emancipation. To the best of my
knowledge, nothing specifically has been said too about "thAyyAr's"
presence at the scene of "ajAmilan's" or "kshatra-bandhu's" liberation
either. And yet all three "jIvAtmA's" did perform "saranAgathi" in more
ways than one and, in fact, each in a very special and unique sort of way
to earn "mOksha",
isn't it?

(3) One can possess full "appreciation" of the truth of "prapatti" all
one's life at an intellectual plane and yet fail to actually "live" it. The
great
"AchArya's" say that nothing but the Grace of the Divine Mother -- the
mediatrix, the
all-compassionate interceder on behalf of the earth-bound soul --  nothing
but the "katAksham" of "pirAtti" enables the progress of "prapatti" and its
consummation in "mOkshAnandam". Swami Desikan composed 59 magnificent
verses in the "saranagati-deepikA" in which the various philosophical
building-blocks of "saranagati-tattvam" have been sweetly and succintly
essayed. The mind of
the "prapannan", his anxieties, his aspirations, his agony and his ecstasy
are all movingly portrayed. The various "angA-s" of "prapatti" too are
described in
majestic poetry by the "kavi-simham". But at the fag end of the poem, in
what I personally hold to be the climactic Verse #57, it is not the glories
of "prapatti" or its "angA-s" or its "tattv-ic" eminence that the "AchArya"
sings aloud! Instead it is the "grace of the Mother of the Universe" that
is beseeched !

               "tatvA-va-bOdha-shamitha-pratikUla-vrittim
                  kainkarya-labdha-karaNa-traya-sAma-rass-yam I
                krutvA tvadanya-vimukham krupaya svayam mAm
                  sfAtim dhr-shO-ho prati-laBhasva jagaj-jananyA-ha II

("Through a lifetime that shall be mine 
Of devotion and service to none and nothing but Thee, My Lord 
Grant me the hallowed sense of Thy Presence, Thy Truth 
In thought, word and deed of mine!
Thereafter, I beseech Thee, grant me nothing more than this:
The Mother of mine,
The Mother of all the worlds
Shalt deign turn and set eyes on me!") 

(My translation above is of the principal idea of the verse and not its
exact words).

We see in the above verse the "AchAryAn" subtly driving home the point
that "tattva-bOdha" (ie. knowledge of truth or lofty doctrine) or
"shamitha-pratikUla-vrittim" (ie. worldly renunciation) or
"kainkarya-labdha" (ie. avowed leigehood to divinity) or
"karaNa-traya-sAma-rass-yam" (the state of being where the senses are
totally absorbed in the divine immanence of this world) ---- all these by
themselves are essential but not sufficient conditions that enable the
beatific
consummation of "prapatti". The real culmination of "saranagathi" is
realised ("prati-laBhasva") only when there is "jagaj-jananyA-ha
dhr-shO-ho..." ---
when "peria-pirAtti" deigns to cast her merciful eyes on us i.e.
"purushAkAra". 

Now, the expression "sfAtim dhr-shO-ho prati-laBhasva jagajjanyA-ha" is
what I say is a magnificent "stroke of poetic shorthand" for it
incorporates
within a handful of syllables the whole grand concept of "purushAkAra" or
divine intercession.

The poet here uses the phrase "sfAtim dhr-shO-ho" i.e. the "eyes that bloom
with Grace as flowers do cast fragrance". We should not let the real import
of this metaphoric masterpiece of "kavi-simham" be lost on us. Swami
Desikan, the "leonine-poet", does not employ empty "pada-s" bereft of
purpose or discernment. Let's therefore look at it closely.

We cherish flowers as much, if not more, for their fragrance as for their
beauty, don't we ? A flower with beauty but no fragrance whatsoever we
generally consider as an incomplete and slightly inferior piece of nature's
art. "Gulmohar" or the "flame of the forest" against the backdrop of an
azure sky on a bright, clear morning in spring, if you have noticed, is
simply breathtaking to look at. But the flower has no great fragrance. You
thus merely admire its beauty for a while from a distance and then walk
away. The jasmine or "malli" is the most ordinary ("plain Jane") looking of
flowers. It is small and very inconsequential looking. But its fragrance
makes your mind go tipsy with typically Wordsworthian sentiment, so much so
that long after the sight of beautiful "gulmohars" have faded from the
visual frames of your "inward eye" the smell of "jasmines" still continues
to linger in your heart, filling it with  some strange and private "bliss
of solitude". 

The rose, on the other hand, is the Queen amongst flowers, for she
possesses in full and splendid measure both Beauty and Fragrance. She is
truly Nature's pride and crowning glory! There is not only ravishing Beauty
in her presence.... she leaves behind her haunting Fragrance too when she
is absent.... either way she reigns supreme... she rules our hearts ...
absolutely!! 

"sfAtim dhr-shO-ho prati-laBhasva jagajjanyA-ha" in the Verse above thus
conveys to us the meaning that "pirAtti" casting her merciful glance is
like the flower that "reigns supreme" no less through the "Beauty of Her
Presence" as through the "Fragrance of Her Absence".      

"purushAkara" --- or the divine agency of compassionate intercession --- is
thus, in the doctrine of "prapatti", invoked both in the corporeal
"presence" as well as in the "fragrant" absence of "pirAtti".

In the most famous and oft-quoted Verse #14 of Swami Desikan's "sri-stuti"
the same metaphor (if you take the trouble of looking the "stOtra" up in
your anthology) is most tellingly employed :

            "Artha-trANa-vrati-bhira-mrtAsAra-neelaAmbuvAhai-hi
               ambhojAnA-mushasi mishatA-mantarangai-rapAngai-hi  I
             yasyAm yasyAm dishi viharatE dEvi dhristis-dvadi-yA
               tasyAm tasyAm aham ahamikAm tanvatE sampadOghA-ha II

(A weak translation : "Everywhere Thy glances fall, dearest Mother of mine
--- glances that remind me of a thousand flowers blooming in the morning
hour --- everywhere do Grace and Goodness each scramble to be the first to
sprout!")

Now to return to the Ramayana and our interesting discussion on
Vibeeshana's "saranAgathi".

His "saranAgathi" was certainly aided by the "purushAkAra" provided by
"sitA-pirAtti", the "jagaj-jananyA-devi". She remained imprisoned in Lanka
and while in the state of confinement Her "sfAtim dhr-shO-ho" certainly
fell on all Lanka, including Vibeeshana,the good one who had performed
already the "five "angA-s" of "prapatti", especially the firm "resolve" of
"anukulasya-sankalpam" to seek refuge in the Lord. And thus, "yasyAm
yasyAm" in Lanka she cast her eyes ("dEvi dhristis-dvadi-yA"), "tasyAm
tasyAm" she truly performed her role of "purushAkAra" !!

"pirAtti's" invisible "fragrance" thus obtained for Vibeeshana the "sampad"
of "saranagati", "Lord Rama", which ordinarily, or rather doctrinally
perhaps, her physical "presence" might have otherwise vouchsafed.

(4) There is another way of looking at this situation.

Another member in the course of discussions mentioned SitA's "Abharanam"
--- jewellery --- being the real cause of "purushAkAra" for Sugriva who
handed them over to Lord Rama.

You can extend this logic to Vibeeshana too by a little stretch of
imagination in the "loukika" mode.

"purushAkAra" is, as we said, essentially an agency of intercession. It is
performed by 'pirAtti". Now in modern legal practice it sometimes becomes
necessary for an agent to appoint a "sub-agent" to perform some of his
duties. Under the terms of such appointment all the duties that the
sub-agent performs are deemed to have been performed by the agent and shall
be legally binding on the latter. 

In the Ramayana, in the Sundara kandam, Sita makes the
"choodamani-prasadam" to Anjaneya. She gives him her crest-jewel to take
back with him to Rama as a sort of voucher evidencing his visit to Lanka
and his interview with her in Asokavanam.

In the way the story is narrated Anjaneya returns to Kishkinda and hands
over Sita's "chooda-mani" to Lord Rama. THe Prince of Ayodhya is overjoyed.

I would tend to believe that Lord Rama was overjoyed for more than one
reason.

THe joy of knowing that Sita was alive and eagerly awaiting to be rescued
from Lanka must surely have been cause for his great joy.

But the greater joy that the Lord must have surely experienced was in
secretly discovering that the "choodamani" represented the instrument of
proxy through which Sita had silently and most effectively delegated her
power of performing "purushAkAra" for Vibeeshana through Anjaneya (the
sub-agent, in this case!).

Anjaneya's role as a sub-agent of "purushAkAra" is again amply demonstrated
at the time when the rest of Sugriva's advisors recommend to Rama that
Vibeeshana's plea for refuge be flatly rejected, Anjaneya alone, knowing
fully well Rama's own mind on the matter, strikes a dissenting note and
advocates accepting Vibeeshana's entry into their ranks, much to the
approbation of the Lord of Ayodhya.

Lord Rama must have been overjoyed to receive the "choodamani" for one
other reason.

With the receipt of the instrument of "purushAkAra" through Anjaneya, Lord
Rama knew that the principal purpose of his "avatAra" on earth was nearing
completion. 

Let me explain.

Contrary to popular belief, the climactic moment of the Ramayana is really
not the slaying of Ravana. The great moment is really granting of refuge to
Vibeeshana who was the last one, amongst a stream of others before him in
preceding "kAnda-s", to perform "saranagathi" one after another in the
grand story of the Ramayana known to be a towering "itihAsic" encyclopaedia
of "saranagati-sAstra" !

In the "gita" the Lord says : "paritrAnaya sAdhunAm, vinAshAyA-cha
dushkrutAm ....."

"I descend to earth in "avatAra" periodically to provide refuge and succour
to the good; incidentally I also destroy evil .....".

The inclusion of the term "cha" between "vinAshAyA" and "dushkrutAm"
clearly indicates to us, according to the "AchAryA-s", that the principal
purpose of the Lord's "avatAra" is not destruction of evil. The principal
purpose is the deliverance of the good unto Himself.

Thus in the Ramayana too, as far as Lord Raghava-simha was concerned, the
destruction of Ravana was just an incidental chore to be accomplished
alongwith the far more important task of granting deliverance to the
beloved Vibeeshana who performed "saranagati" to him in the closing moments
of the penultimate "kanda" of the epic.

On receiving Sita's "choodamani" Rama was heartened to note that the last
possible obstacle to accepting Vibeeshana's "saranagati" had been removed.
The crest-jewel indeed represented the "purushAkAra" of "pirAtti" without
which Vibeeshana's saranagathi would have been defective!

Thus,  we see how the divine mother's "purushAkara" not only enabled
Vibeeshana's "saranAgathi"; it also enabled the fulfilment of the Lord's
"avatArA" ..... ""paritrAnaya sAdhunAm, vinAshAyA-cha dushkrutAm ....."!!! 
 
                               
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I would like to close this post of mine with a prayer to Perundevi-thAyAr
of Kanchi:

"kalyAnAnAm avikala-nidhihi kApi kArunya seemA
nityAmOda nigama vachasAm mouli mandAra mAlA !
sampad divyA madhu-vija-yinaha sanni dhattAm sadA may
saishA devi sakala bhuvana prArtanA kAmadhEnu-hu !!

(Verse 24 of Swami Desikan's "sri-stuti")


adiyEn,
sudarshan