Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa | 16-20

16. Servitude

111. Servitude occasioned by [the realisation of one's] quintessence is better than servitude arising from [perception of divine] beauty.

Service to the Lord by virtue of the realisation of one's quintessence, not conditioned by extraneous considerations or inducements, is of greater value than service which is motivated by divine aesthetics.

112. Let us recall the words which the Goddess Sītā spoke to Anasūyā.

Congratulating Sītā on her devotion to her husband Anasūyā, the wife of the sage Ātri, exhorted that the husband should be venerated like God Himself, be he in town or forest, ill or well.

Sītā with downcast eyes bashfully replied —

“My love for Rāma is spontaneous and yet, people are likely to construe that I love him because of his excellence, both physical and mental.

It is indeed difficult for me to prove that my fidelity has no strings attached to it and that it stands without external provocation or inducements, as Rāma can’t be separated from his excellences.

My fidelity to Rāma will remain constant even if he were the reverse of what he is.”

17. The spiritual quest

113. If it be asked — “Is engaging in a spiritual quest appropriate?”

We answer that such questing springs from over-whelming love; that [love] arises from the [quintessential] relationship [of the jīva to the Lord] that [relationship], indeed, is unconditional; it (questing) is appropriate to the very existence [of the jīva].

114. The [realised] cetana would be unable to exist without the experience of irresistible [divine] love — all efforts to maintain this existence are inevitable and appropriate therefore, engaging in a spiritual quest is appropriate.

Once one realises one’s essential nature one is compelled to seek immersion in divine bliss of love and service to God, therefore all efforts directed at the fulfilment of this goal are appropriate.

18. Renouncing other means

115. The primary reason for renouncing other means [to liberation — Jñāna, Karma and Bhakti Yogas] is not ignorance or lack of capability, but the fact that they negate the quintessence [of the jīva].

116. The other means are intended for the ignorant.

The ‘ignorant’ being those who have not yet realised the quintessence of the jīva as being totally dependent upon the Lord.

117. [Other means] are a threat to the wise.

118. They are a threat because they negate the quintessence.

119. It is said: — “Are you deflecting [me] from you by showing a means ?”

The reference is to Nammāḷvār’s Periya Tiruvantāḍi, 6:

“Do you deflect (me) from you by showing a means? Do you show me the bluish black form of yours O Kṛṣṇa, what are you thinking of doing with us who don’t know the days ahead? Please tell me what we should do to be liberated”

120. The arising of anxiety [from the pursuit of other means] is indicated by the saying: —

“In myself there is a great fear.............” The arising of grief is shown by the pronouncement — “......................... Do not grieve. “

When one attempts to follow the various conditions given for succeeding in the other Upāyas, one frequently experiences great anxiety because of the fear of being unable or inadequate to achieve the goal. And likewise one who does fail experiences intense grief and disillusionment, and possibly self-loathing.

In the Jitanta Stotra. I. 9 it declares: —

”In myself there is a great fear, in all times and in all places,
O Acyuta, even in (my) body and movements.”

Likewise, Kṛṣṇa, after having taught all the other upāyas Bhakti Yoga, Jñāna Yoga and Karma yoga, concludes with the final teaching that He Himself is in fact the only means:

sarva dharmam parityajya māmekam śaraṇam vraja
aham tvā sarva pāpebhyo mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śuca

“Having abandoned all Dharmas, take me alone as your refuge;
I will release you from all transgressions, do not grieve!” (18, 66).

121. If it is taken otherwise, then the injunction for those [accepting means other than the Lord] to atone would be inappropriate.

The Pañcarātra Agamas prescribe ritual expiation for those Prapannas who have inadvertently adopted upāyas (upāyantara) other than relying upon the Lord Himself.

The existence of this injunction supports the fact that adopting other upāyas negates one's quintessence.

Lakṣmī Tantra says —

apāya samplave sadhyaḥ prāyaścittam samācaret |
prāyaścitteriyam satra yat punaḥ śaraṇam vrajet ||

The prescribed atonement is to remind oneself of the Prapatti already performed and the implications thereof in a mood of repentance, and to resolve not to repeat a similar transgression. One need not repeat Prapatti, if one does it loses all its meaning and sanctity.

122. There is this statement from Tiruk-kurukaip-pirān Piḷḷān: — Other upāya-s are mingled with egoism (ahaṁkāra) like holy water in a gold pot mixed with a drop of toddy.”

It is said that Tiruk-kurukaip-piran Piḷḷān, one of Rāmānuja’s disciples emphatically disparages the adoption of means other than the Lord as being egoistic self-effort.

123. As a cowry shell is to a gem, as a lime is to a kingdom, the [means] can never be equal to the result.

In remote islands cowries are treasured for making ornaments and the gems are regarded as worthless. They are happy to trade the gems for cowries brought by foreign traders. Are the gems simply the equivalent of the cowries shells for which they are exchanged or not?

A simple subject who has offered the traditional gift to kings — a lime — to a munificent Emperor may receive a tract of land as a reward, but the lime cannot be equated in value to the land received.

124. As, indeed, there is destitution [on the part of the cetana], there is nothing to give to Him.

The cowry shells and the lime mentioned in the above example were actually the possessions of those who gave them, but the cetana on the other hand has nothing to call its own, since everything it has belongs to the Lord anyway.

125. Offering back [to the Lord] that which is His, and giving it in the proper manner, does not constitute a means, but by giving in the improper manner, theft is exposed.

When making a love-offering to the Lord it should be made abundantly clear that the object being given is already the Lord's.

The act of giving is like the child who gives a gift bought by the mother to its father. Such a gift is not a gift in the true sense and therefore cannot be construed to be a means of attaining the favour of the Lord.

Whereas if the offering is made ostensibly with the feeling that it rightfully belongs to the giver then it is like stealing the gem off the chest of Lord Raṅganātha at night and offering it back to him in public the next day.

126. If [a wife] capitalises on conjugal enjoyment like a professional, both of them are at fault.

A person who asks payment from the Lord for giving the Lord what is due to Him by virtue of the quintessence of the Jīvātmā-paramātma relationship, is like a wife treating her marriage like a profession — a means for maintaining an accustomed style of living, requesting payment, like a prostitute, for sexual favours bestowed upon her husband.

19. Scriptures and their prescriptive injunctions.

127. It may be asked: — “Why do the Vedas enjoin means?”

It would be entirely appropriate at this stage of the teaching to question the propriety of the Vedic texts that prescribe various means to attain Mokṣa.

128. The injunction is tantamount to mixing the Lord [with the upāya] like those who mix medicine with something desirable, serving it to those who don’t like medicine.

A mother out of tender solicitude for her child will mix bitter medicine with something sweet in order to get the child to take the medicine which will effect the cure.

The Scriptures with the tender solicitude of a thousand mothers hold out various inducements to get people to follow the spiritual path and to escape from the malady of Samsāra.

129. The prescription of this [upāya] is intended to prevent injury to others.

The methods offered by the Scripture are all intended to gradually discourage people from indulging in self-centred gratification and doing harm to the environment and other sentient beings through their pursuit of profit, greed and self-gratification.

130. This is like the killing enjoined in the earlier part [of Scripture, and prohibited in the later part]: — both prescription and prohibition are congruent.

The Scriptures cater to the needs of all classes of people with a view to their ultimate liberation:

There are four types of persons; those characterised by a predominant of Tamas (Delusion), Rajas (Passion), Sattva (Virtuous), or Parama-sattva (Highly Virtuous).

The Scripture enjoins the sacrificing of animals in certain Soma sacrifices and the performance of the Syena Yaga for annihilation of enemies for those dominated by Tamas and Rajas.

For those who are established in Sattva these sacrifices are forbidden.

131. The prescription of that [violence as a means] was intended to produce faith in the Scriptures; the prescription of this [non-violence or no means] was in order to promote reliance on [one's] quintessence.

After realising the efficacy of these violent means and developing complete faith in the Scriptures, the practitioners would hopefully be attracted at some stage to the higher teachings.

These very same Scriptures prescribed non-aggression to any sentient being for those dominated by Sattva and Parama-sattva in order to promote the unfolding of the quintessence of the jīva, which is openness, harmlessness & compassion to other sentient beings and reliance upon the Lord for one's protection.

Now one may also ask if various meditative techniques or Upāsanās prescribed by the Vedāntic texts for attaining Mokṣa do not have an intrinsic value of their own.

132. The effect of that [violence] is only superficial: this [resorting to means] affects the very core [of one's quintessence].

Engaging in occult practices for gaining material advantages is the work of ignorant and deluded people who are completely identified with their bodies and possessions and hence their effect is only skin-deep — superficial with limited results.

The Upāsanās on the other hand are indulged in by aspirants who know full well the difference between the body and the Jīva and yet engage in self-effort which negates the quintessence of the jīva and hence is more harmful.

133. This [following the Upāsanās prescribed by Scripture], indeed is difficult as it must be accomplished through ritual.

The practice of the Upāsanās requires preparation through structured ritual and is encumbered by many rules and regulations and is therefore very difficult, physically arduous and not pleasurable. Failure also is accompanied by the mental symptoms of dejection, resentment, frustration anxiety etc.

20. The glory of Taking Refuge.

134. Going for refuge is free of all these deficiencies.

The only perceivable blemish is in regarding taking refuge as a means like the others.

135. [Prapatti] arises from the realisation of one's quintessence and conforms to it. It is [thus] easy, since it is accomplished by letting go alone, as in the hymn — “There is no need to be perplexed...............”.

Tiruvāymoḷi 9. 1, 7:

“Let me tell you in brief, O people of this sprawling world! There is no means for you liberation except to learn and abide in contemplation of the flawless traits of Kṛṣṇa, our Lord, who in North Mathura was born; ‘tis indeed meritorious and would suffice, no need there is of practices tiresome and tedious”.

Granting that no effort is required on the part of the Prapanna does it not behove him, it may be asked, to at least make some token offering to please the Lord?

136. As the subject is the Perfect One, it is not possible to bring a tribute worthy of [His] greatness.

There is no offering or act of contrition which could do justice to the majesty and grandeur of the Lord.

137. The Lord is delighted by the slightest gesture of returning [to Him].

The mere fact that the cetana which has been immersed in Samsāra for so many aeons has at last turned towards Him causes the Lord immeasurable delight.

138. The [Lord's] perfection lies in seizing [the jīva] not in withdrawal [from the jīva].

Because the Lord is perfect and fulfilled in all respects, there is no question of Him desiring anything from the jīva. Simply the change of attitude in the errant jīva, is quite enough to cause Him to greedily pounce upon the jīva and Liberate it from Samsāra, grasping the long sought opportunity.

139. “A leaf, a flower..........”, “other than [a Pot] full [of water] .........”, “incense and flowers suffice............”

Bhagavad Gītā 9:26 —

“Whoever offers to Me, with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit, water, I accept with joy this (offering) made with devotion by one who is pure-minded.”

Hearing that Kṛṣṇa was about to pay a visit, Dhritarāṣṭra desiring to curry favour with him proposed to offer him gold, land etc. Sanjaya however disabused the old king by declaring —

“Janārdana desires nothing other than a pot full of water, the washing of (His) feet and an inquiry about (His) welfare.”

Mahābhārata, Udyoga Parva, 86:16—

Tiruvāymoḷi 1:6:1:

“O people who have the resolve to realise (your self-nature) in full measure by praising the Lord who is free from all miseries, if you want to avoid separation (from Him), sprinkling good water and offering incense and flowers will suffice.”

As God hates hypocrisy and values only the sincerity of the devotee, one could offer any flower or leaf and even burn garbage and offer the smoke as incense.

140. Like showing grass [to a cow], having called [it], and when it comes, giving it the [same] grass there is no difference between the end and the means.

The disparity of the Means and the End was pointed out as one of the cardinal flaws of taking up other means (upāyāntaras).

In the case of Surrender there is no such disparity between the Means and the End as they are coincidental, like beckoning a cow with the mere show of a hand holding a few blades of grass and then feeding it the same when it comes close.

141. Therefore, [Surrender], itself, is enjoyable.

The Lord who was instrumental in weaning the cetana away from material nature by revealing His auspicious qualities and immaculate beauty, also becomes the object of enjoyment in the final state of Liberation. The process of Surrendering is therefore enjoyable throughout.

142. When this [cetana] decides to return to Him [the Lord], Surrender is not a means.

Self-surrender or submission to the Lord's protection does not constitute a method of winning the Lord:

It only means that the subject has ceased to struggle and fight and has submitted to the redemptive Grace instead of hampering it by self-effort at liberation. The jīvātman is the Lord's emanation (mode or prakāra) and He will certainly reclaim it.

If the subject resorts to Prapatti thinking that obtaining the lord is his own personal gain (svagata-svikāra) then it is a misconceived sense of personal importance and all the merit of Prapatti will be lost.