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Swami Desika's Rahasya Granthas

(to Swamy Desika's works)


For the one who desires Moksha (Mumukshu), the very desire can arise only through a proper Guru and the attainment of this proper Guru itself is possible only if one or more of the following conditions are satisfied:

(i) God's love

(ii) Good deeds done even by chance

(iii) The gracious glance of God even at the time of birth (Jayamana Kadaksha) or in Tamil (Karuvile Thiru)

(iv) Absence of hatred towards fellow beings (another way of saying love towards fellow beings)

(v) Willingness to learn the truths

(vi) Association with the virtuous.

Our Vedas have time and again reiterated that essentially the individual souls are divine and have an inherent right to attain Moksha. But, due to the dirt of Karma Vasanas they had accumulated over several lives, they are oblivious of this divinity and stray into the cycle of births and deaths in a vicious circle of Karma and Punarjanma. Thus, they become confirmed 'Nitya Samsaris' without any hope of redemption. It is only a rare occurance that due to the factors stated above that an individual soul stumbles on a Guru who initiates him into the eternal truths and restores him to his rightful place in Moksha through Bhakti or Prapatti.

To illustrate the importance and the role of the Guru, and the deep debt of gratitude the emancipated soul owes to the Guru, Swami Desika gives an illustration thus:

The young crown prince of a king goes with his father on a hunting expedition to a forest where he gets lost. He is brought up by some huntsmen. He imbibes the qualities, customs, manners and habits of the tribes forgetting that he is actually the prince. After some time, he is spotted by a few courtiers of the king who reveal to him his identity and bring him back to the king. The king is mightily happy in getting back his dear son whom he had believed as lost forever. Thanks to the royal servants, the prince regained his regalia. In the same manner, the Jeevatma that had lost its identity is restored to its pristine glory through the chance encounter with the Gurus who are the true servitors of God.

(Determination of what is best)

It is these Gurus who instruct a Mumukshu what should be learnt and what should be ignored as not useful for attaining the goal of Moksha. Having fixed our objective as the attainment of Moksha, We should carefully avoid those that are either opposed to or are not conducive to the said goal. Indeed, there are innumerable things in this world to know, life is short and hinderences are many. Therefore, A WISE PERSON DESIRING MOKSHA SHOULD PREFER ONLY WHAT IS ALWAYS AND UNCONDITIONALLY MOST VALUABLE, without frittering away time and energy on lesser or even harmful objectives. The things to be scrupulously avoided are:

(i) the philosophies of those opposed to the Vedas ( like Charvakas, Buddhists, Jains etc.,) and the philosophies of heretics (like those who accept the Vedas but misinterpret its contents).These are worthless (Asaara).

(ii) the philosophies contained in Karma khanda of the Vedas because they are only of very little value (Alpasaara).

(iii) That part which deals with the attainment of Svarga (Heavens) after death though may appear valuable to some- does not lead to Moksha ( Saara)

(iv) that part which deals with the realization of one's own self (Kaivalya) and the means to attain thereof, though a little more valuable than (iii) above is really not conducive to the attainment of Moksha (Saaratara)

(v) What is most valuable is that which deals with the supreme Brahman, the attainment of this Brahman and the means thereof (Saaratama).

(The most important and distinctive doctrine)

A basic understanding of the Sarira bhava ( body aspect) of the Jeevatma in relation to the Sariri bhava (soul aspect) of the Paramatma is the springboard for our take off on the way to attain Moksha. We have dealt with this in greater detail in our Chapter "Who is God?" ( being posted in a separate serial )

We have discussed therein how Chetanas or sentient beingsconstitute the body of Iswara and are supported, controlled and directed by Isvara who is their soul. It naturally follows that they exist for the pleasure of Isvara. The Seshatva(Subordination) of the souls is only another way of saying that they have Dasatva (Service) or right and duty to serve Isvara,who is their master.

(The five things that should be known to the seeker of Salvation)

The Acharyas instruct us on the following five important things that should be known to every seeker of salvation -called Artha Panchaka:-

(i) Paramatma Svarupa: the characteristics of the Supreme soul

(ii) Jeevatma Svarupa: the characteristics of the individual soul

(iii) Upaya Svarupa: the means for the Jeevatma to reach the Paramatma (ie) Moksha through Bhakti or Prapatti (Note that rajayoga, karmayoga and gnanayoga are not the direct means to attain moksha.)

(iv) Phala Svarupa: the ultimate purpose of existence of the Jeevatmas is to serve (Dasatva) at the feet of Paramatma on attaining Moksha and

(v) Virodhi Svarupa: the nature of impediments on the path of the ultimate goal

The items (i) to (iv) have already been dealt with in our Chapter Who is God? mentioned above.We mention here the various forms of the impediments . The impediments arise from sins committed by the individual souls by transgressing the codes of conduct prescribed in the Sastras thus incurring the displeasure of the Lord. This in turn impedes the progress of the Jeeva towards Moksha. The sins are born out of Avidya (Ignorance),and Karmavasana (the latent impressions of the past and the present deeds)-the effects of which can be got rid of only by atoning and surrendering to the Lord (Vide the details in the chapter mentioned above and also in the chapter on Karma and Punarjanma, which will also be posted separately)

As for the impediments, they manifest in different ways:-

(i) Associating the Jeeva with Prakriti, thus blunting intellect

(ii) Making the Jeeva identify itself with the body and sense organs

(iii) The Jeeva being born as an animal or bird etc., which have no access to Sastras

(iv) Even if born as a human, the intellect of the Jeeva being maliciously influenced by atheism.

(v) Even if a Jeeva is a theist, becoming too much addicted to worldly pleasures

(vi) Committing sins deliberately to secure temporary and trivial mundane benefits

(vii) Continuing to commit sins more and more- one sin leading to another in an endless chain

(viii) Performing rites and rituals for securing trivial mundane benefits and from petty deities (devatantara) who are no better than the Jeeva himself.

To use Swami Desika's anology, they are LIKE COWS TETHERED TOGETHER IN THE SAME BARN, and imagining such trivial benefits as the 'be all and end all 'of life and becoming immersed In the worship of such petty divinities

(ix) Imperfect meditation and wrongful worship leading to further involvement in Samsara, and

(x) Other such hinderences to the progress towards liberation - IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF A PERSON JUMPING OVER A WELL FALLS WITHIN EITHER RIM OF THE WELL says Swami Desika.

(The three reals)

The three 'reals' of Chetana (Sentient), Achetana ( Non-sentient) and Isvara (All-sentient),their Svarupa ( form) and Svabhava (nature) have already been dealt with extensively in Chapter Who is God? mentioned above.

(Truth as to who is the Paramatma - the Supreme deity)

We have seen that the ultimate aim and object of all Chetanas is the attainment of Moksha (i,e) integrating with Paramatma.It is,therefore,necessary to know who this Paramatma is. JUST AS A PERSON DESIRING TO REACH A SPECIFIC DESTINATION SHOULD KNOW WHERE EXACTLY IT IS LOCATED AND THE PRECISE AND SHORTEST ROUTE LEADING THERETO, THE PERSON DESIRING MOKSHA SHOULD KNOW WHO CAN GRANT THIS MOKSHA AND THE EASIEST MEANS TO SECURE THE SAME. WE NEED NOT KNOW ANYTHING ELSE THAT DOES NOT RELATE TO THIS SPECIFIC OBJECTIVE. The Paramatma referred to is none other than SRIMAN NARAYANA ( as explained in our Chapter '" O! My God !")

(When one becomes desirous of Moksha)

Through the Sastras, the individual soul discerns the differentiation as between its self and the body on the one hand and as between its individual soul (Jeevatma ) and the Universal soul (Paramatma) on the other. He also comes to know that his deeds (Karma) are responsible for his repeated reincarnations (Punarjanmas). He therefore refrains from bad deeds (Papa) and resorts to spiritually meritorious deeds (Punya) as prescribed in the Sastras. He also becomes aware of the Supreme Lord Sri Narayana and that surrender (Prapatti) to him as the only means to reach Narayana and enjoy everlasting bliss. He thus becomes a mumukshu.

To put it differently, the desire for securing Moksha would arise in an individual only when the following categories of feelings of 'I' and 'Mine' are got over.(Aham kara and Mama kara):

(i) the feeling generated by the soul's attachment to the body

(ii) the feeling of possessiveness over the body and bodily experiences

(iii) the feeling of being subordinate to another deity or being equally subordinate to Bhagavan and the other deities.

(iv) the mistaken impression that individual soul is its own protector and lord.

(v) the mistaken belief of the self acting on its own, for its own benefit and enjoying the fruits thereof.

(Classification of persons qualified for Moksha)

There are two kinds of persons qualified for Moksha viz., Bhaktas and Prapannas.We have discussed about Bhakti in the Chapter on Bhakti yoga. What remains is Prapatti.This Prapatti can be performed even by one who is not aware of the rules to be followed and the steps to be taken in performing Prapatti.(Surrender). This surrender can be done by simply surrendering to the Lord with absolute faith in him

( i ) By repeating the Mantra AS ADVISED BY THE GURU. THIS IS CALLED "UKTI NISHTA"-(performance done as told.)

( ii ) one may request his Acharya who acceding to his request performs Prapatti and prays to the Lord on behalf of the Sishya without the Sishya repeating the Mantra himself. THIS IS CALLED 'ACHARYA NISHTA.'

( iii ) In very rare cases, highly evolved souls can resort to Selfsurrender. THIS IS CALLED 'SWA NISHTA' and those who do this are called 'Swayam acharyas'

( iv ) Others who can do neither 'Swa nishta' nor find an appropriate Acharya for doing 'Ukti nishta' or 'Acharya nishta' as above ( e.g those who have migrated to foreign countries like the USA but who are nevertheless desirous of doing Prapatti) can find out another devotee of Bhagavan and perform Prapatti in WHAT IS KNOWN AS 'BHAGAVATA NISHTA'

Unless one resorts to Bhakti or Prapatti, it is impossible to attain Moksha. Between them, Prapatti can be adopted by all irrespective of caste, creed, sex, place or time and done without any elaborate rituals. Prapatti can destroy all Sanchita Karma. Bhakti and Prapatti are inculcated also by Bhagavata Abhimana (devotion towards the devotees of the Lord) and Divyadesa vasa (residing in places sacred to the Lord).

(Classification of the means for attaining Moksha)

It is well known -

(i) that Rajayoga or Hatayoga can at best serve as means to discipline the body and mind and cannot lead to Moksha.

(ii) that Karma yoga has to be of the Nishkamya variety and that while we cannot give up Nitya and Naimittika karmas under any circumstances Karma yoga by itself cannot lead to Moksha but at best serve to lead to Gnana yoga and then possibly to Bhakti yoga

(iii) that Gnana yoga cannot by itself lead to Moksha because mere 'knowledge' will be 'useless tinsel' unless it blossoms into ' action in .devotion.'(e.g) - Merely 'knowing' that a disease can be cured by appropriate medicine cannot cure the disease unless the specific medicine is actually consumed; - Merely 'knowing' that hunger will subside by taking food cannot solve the problem of hunger unless one actually eats food; - Merely "knowing" the way to reach a particular destination cannot help in taking one there unless one actually moves towards the destination.

(iv) that Bhakti yoga while being counted as one of the direct means to Moksha is difficult to practice as explained in the opening paragraph of this series..

ARJUNA was therefore confused and frustrated and asked SRI KRISHNA as to what he should do in these intriguing circumstances. As an answer to this question, Sri Krishna advised Arjuna to totally surrender to himself and that as God incarnate he would himself stand in the place of these yogas. Having left all dharma (i.e) these upayas, if he thus surrenders, the Lord would certainly wipe off all his sins, and protect him. Having pledged his promise, Sri Krishna advised him not to entertain any grief any more. WHAT WAS ADVISED TO ARJUNA IS APPLICABLE TO ALL OF US AND GOD WOULD CERTAINLY EXTEND THE SAME PROTECTION TO US IF WE UNCONDITIONALLY SURRENDER OURSELVES TO HIM.

Thus, over and above the four upayas listed above Bhagavan has provided in his Charamasloka, a fifth course , that of Prapatti - THE ONLY EASY BUT SURE MEANS TO ATTAIN MOKSHA.

The essential differences between Bhakti and Prapatti may be summarised as follows :

Point of difference is indicated by Roman Numerals Bhakti a.k.a. Upasana is indicated by letter (B) Prapatti a.k.a. Saranagathi is indicated by the letter (P)

I.BIRTH (B):One should be born within the first three Castes because Upasana can be commenced only in the Sarira secured at birth though it can be continued in any other Sarira in subsequent births. (P): Irrespective of Castes, the only qualifications are i) One should feel incapable of following Bhaktiyoga ii) Desire ONLY Moksha iii) Desire it ONLY from Bhagavan knowing that ONLY He can grant it

II.KNOWLEDGE OF SASTRAS. (B): One should know the Sastras properly (P) : Lack of knowledge of Sastras is not a disqualification

III. FOLLOWING THE DISCIPLINES (B): One should follow the disciplines prescribed in the Sastras scrupilously and without fail (P): Following the disciplines is RECOMMENDED as an ADJUNCT and not as the main condition of Prapatti

IV.DELAY IN SECURING MOKSHA (B) : One who does not mind delay in securing Moksha can adopt Bhakti (P) : One who is anxious in securing Moksha without delay should adopt only Prapatti

V. VARNASHRAMA DHARMA (B) : The observance of Varna and Ashrama Dharmas is sin-quanon and forms a necessary condition and includes several strenuous Nitya and Naimittika duties. (P) : The observance of Dharmas while cannot be dispensed with, is NOT considered to be PART OF PRAPATTI. It is done to please the Lord with angas detailed in Adhikara 11 below.

VI. ANTHIMA SMRITI (B): The remembrance of the Lord at the time of death is necessary. This can dawn ONLY in the LAST SARIRA when all the karmas get obliterated. (P) : This is not necessary. Once surrendered, the Lord remembers and so grants Moksha at the end of the CURRENT life itself or earlier as prayed for at the time of Prapatti.( Vide Varaha Charama sloka also)

VII. REMOVAL OF KARMA (B) : Bhakti yoga can not remove Prarabda Karma. (P) : Prapatti will remove both Sanchita Karma and even Prarabda Karma till the performance of Prapatti. If one desires Moksha HERE and NOW and prays for it AT THE TIME OF PRAPATTI, the Lord would grant it right away. This is called AARTHA PRAPATTI.

Any delay is only because the Prapanna had not prayed for an immediate release, being prepared to go through the unexpired portion of Prarabda Karma till the end of the CURRENT life. This is called TRIPTA PRAPATTI. In this case, the sins committed without knowledge are ignored and those committed knowingly get expatiated by atonement (Nirveda and Prayaschitta) or by suffering minor punishments in the CURRENT life itself.

VIII : DURATION AND INTENSITY OF SAADHANA (B) : Has to be practised incessantly for long periods; Is beset with numerous impediments; Is a difficult process for attaining Moksha because it involves the strict observance of one or more of the 32 Vidyas attached to Bhakti yoga. (P) : Prapatti guarantees Moksha INSTANTLY; Requires to be done ONLY ONCE; No impediments or hard conditions to be fulfilled; Can be resorted to even by one who does not have any clear knowledge provided one has the mind and inclination to adopt the means.

Mr.A.K.RAMANUJAM, observes- "Prapatti (unlike Bhakti) works for everyone, whatever be his state, status. caste or previous history. Not merit but demerit may qualify the soul for the grace. Not learning or high caste but their opposite may endear one to God...for Prapatti , there are no conditions of place, time, manner, fitness.The only condition is that the Lord and ONLY the Lord be the object. Draupadi, the heroine of Mahabharata, performed Prapatti when she was menstruating and unclean. Arjuna received the Lord's counsel and grace on the battlefield, surrounded by vile and unclean people"

When this Supreme Lord is so Supreme and the individual soul is so worthless on account of sins, how would God stoop down to the level of the soul and lift him up?

Sri Ramanuja answers that God can and will do this in exercise of his immense accessability, grace and compassion (Saulabhya ) in preference to his Paratva ( omnipotent power) And, JOHN.B.CARMAN quotes Sri Ramanuja asking and answering- "How can a lame man climb on an elephant, if you tell him to do so? Likewise, how can an insignificant soul in this imperfect world approach the Lord of all? The answer is surely that an elephant can accommodate itself lying down so that the lame man can mount"- All that is needed is the absolute confidence (Mahaviswasa) on the part of the lame man that the elephant would allow him to mount on by lowering itself down to his level.

Another question arises as to how Prapatti could destroy all the Sanchita karmas as also the Prarabda Karmas? These Karmas can be likened to a huge load of cotton bales stacked in a warehouse. And, if the entire stock has to be used up by taking out for purposes of spinning little by little, it would take an inordinately long time. But, by applying a single burning match STICK, the entire STOCK could be gutted. Likewise, the sparkling matchstick that the Acharya lights up at the time of Prapatti can and indeed does destroy all the accumulated sins.

Sri ANDAL puts it picturesquely: "The entire stock of accumulated sins and those that had started to yield results would be incinerated like dirt scorched by fire" "Poya Pizhaiyum Pugu Tharuvaan Ninranavum Theeyinaal Thoosagum"

"It is said that the enormous debit entries appearing on the balance sheet of the individual's Karma account can be more than offset by one mighty stroke of credit entry of simple faith in the saving grace of God. And, Prapatti which represents this credit transaction demands no effort; not even an act of will. Rather, the abandonment of the will, the abandonment of all effort. It merely requires Absolute surrender to his will"

(Fitness for Prapatti)

The following qualifications are required for both Bhakti and Prapatti viz.,

  • The desire to attain Moksha
  • Seeking the truth from the Sastras
  • Desire and capacity to perform the duties as prescribed in the Sastras The following further qualifications are special to those desiring to adopt Prapatti viz.,
  • Inability to adopt any other means (aakinchanyam)
  • Absence of interest in resorting to any other means being aware of the delay involved in attaining Moksha through them (Ananya Gathi tvam)
  • Unconditional and Absolute surrender to Sri Narayana with an unwavering and unflinching faith in him as the only Savior (Ananya saranatvam)