Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa | 31-35

31. Social blemishes are mitigated through Right Association.

218. The blemishes associated with an inferior birth are mitigated through association with distinguished persons.

Distinguished people are those enlightened Śrī-Vaiṣṇavas who are free from conceit, selfishness and deception and are steeped in love of God and compassion for all beings, and who strive for the welfare of the entire world (loka-saṅgraha).

219. Once one develops suitability for entering into a relationship [with God] then all blemishes associated with one's social circumstances should be eliminated.

220. Social blemishes and their mitigation are stated in the text — “The path of faultless good conduct......”

Tirumalai 42:

“O you who are well-versed in the Vedas, and follow the path of faultless good conduct, you should worship together with, and give and take on a par with people of low caste if they are His devotees. O Resident of walled-Śrīraṅgam, you have graced them to worship on equal footing!”

221. Association with these [prapannas] is like iron in relationship with refined gold.

An expert alchemist can turn iron into gold through the mere touch of highly refined gold: in the same way the contact with practicing vaiṣṇavas can bring about a transmutation of being and turn one into a dvīja.

32. Equality in the Sangha

222. It is essential that these [other prapannas] be regarded as equal and indeed superior.

223. That is to say — considering them as equal to the Ācārya and superior to worldly persons, to oneself and even to the Lord.

All those who belong to the tiru-kūṭam, regardless of caste, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc. and who have taken refuge in Kṛṣṇa should be considered as superior to all other worldly people, to oneself and even superior to the Lord Himself!

224. Equality with the Ācārya is [confirmed] by the Ācārya’s directive.

Rāmānuja himself and all the former Ācāryas have insisted that by having received the same sacred mantras all Vaiṣṇavas are equal and therefore all should be treated with the same veneration due to one’s own Ācārya.

225. It is an offence to think otherwise.

226. This is clearly verified by the Itihāsa and Purāṇas and in the verses beginning with: — 1. “Him whose brightness is ever sung........” 2. “Service to Him whose love is unbounded...........” 3. “Shed tears till blood streamed from the eyes.............” 4. “Hate-loving fiends equipped with swords...........” 5. “One who has reached a status rarely gained........ and in, the excellent verses following: — 6. “Most precious being..............”

The references are to Tiruvāymoḷi 3.7. 1—10 and 8.10. 1—10. Periya Tiru-moḷi 7.4, 1—10 and 2.6. 1—10; Perumāḷ Tirumoḷi 2:1—10 and Tirumalai 36—42.

In all of these verses of the Prabandham the emphasis is upon giving due respect to all members of the Vaiṣṇava family, and serving them irrespective of their caste and other incidental social constraints.

227. Viśvāmitra, a Kṣatriya, became a Brahma-Ṛṣi.

There are a number of examples of individuals who have achieved great spiritual heights and were honoured as such in spite of being born in castes other than the brāhmin.

228. Rāvaṇa called Vibhīṣaṇa a disgrace to his tribe the Lord [Rāma] graciously spoke [to him], regarding him as one of the Ikṣvāku [his own clan].

Rāma addresses Vibhīṣaṇa asking him to tell him about the military strength of “them” — the Rākṣasas thus making it clear that he did not consider Vibhīṣaṇa to be one of them.

229. The Lord [Rāma] graciously performed the brahma-medhā sacrament for Jatāyu.

The brahma-medhā sacrament is a Vedic funeral rite performed only for the highest and most respected Brahmins.

The Rāmāyaṇa tells us that the Lord Rāma lovingly cremated the corpse of Jatāyu the vulture who fought Rāvaṇa in an attempt to rescue Sītā during her abduction, with these honours.

230. Yudhiṣṭhira performed the brahma-medhā sacrament for Vidura, on account of the astral voice and his [Vidura’s] great wisdom.

Since the greatly learned Vidura was born a śūdra, Yudhiṣṭhira hesitated to perform brāhmin funeral rites for him, a voice from the sky exhorted him to do so.

231. Sages, waiting at the door of Dharma-vyādha, had their doubts about dharma resolved.

The story of Dharma Vyādha is found in the Mahābhārata:

Dharma-vyādha was a hunter/butcher and thus of low caste, but had attained perfect enlightenment through devoted service to his parents. Thus even great sages were seen to wait patiently at his door to have him clarify abstruse points of Dharma for them.

232. Kṛṣṇa, passing by the houses of Bhīṣma, Droṇa, and others, took food in the blessed house of Śrī Vidura.

When Kṛṣṇa came to Duryodhana’s kingdom as an envoy for the Pāṇḍavas, elaborate preparations were made for his reception, but ignoring all the other high-born kṣatriyas like Bhīṣma and Brahmins like Droṇa, he went to eat with the learned Śūdra Vidura.

233. The Lord [Rāma] graciously accepted food from the hand of Śrī Śabarī.

Śabarī, a-low-caste woman, would pick berries every day and taste them, setting aside the sweetest ones for Rāma in the event of his arrival. When he finally did arrive he ate them all with great relish.

33. Rejection of all differences.

234. Let us recall that which was spoken to Rāmānuja by Periya Nambi concerning Māraneri Nambi.

Māraneri Nambi was a low caste disciple of Ālavandār (Yāmunācāryā) and a man of great learning and devotion. On his deathbed, he asked Periya Nambi, a brāhmin, co-disciple of Yāmunācāryā to perform his funeral rites.

He reasoned that this vehicle of a body had been regarded with great affection by Yāmunācāryā and thus he felt that it should not be handled by his own people after he had left it.

Periya Nambi did as requested, but some onlookers complained to Rāmānuja.

Rāmānuja summoned Periya Nambi and requested an explanation as to why he had not followed the social convention and allowed Māraneri’s body to be cremated by his own people — further suggesting that by flaunting social convention he was setting a bad example and earning public obloquy.

Periya Nambi's rejoinder was based on the following points: —

1. There was no choice in the matter as he could not deputise someone else to do it for him, just as the daily rite of Sandhya-vandana cannot be done by proxy —

in other words he had been given the task by the dying Māraneri Nambi and therefore was under an obligation which could not be out-sourced to someone else.

2. He (Periya Nambi) was by no means superior to Rāma who performed the brahma- medhā sacrament for a vulture, nor was Māraneri-nambi in anyway inferior to Jatāyus.

3. Nammāḷvār’s glorification of the service of all devotees irrespective of caste (Tiruvāymoḷi 3:7 and 8;10) was not a mere poetic figure of speech but an injunction that should be realised in practice.

235. Also, there is — “Through manifestation................ “

“The God of gods, through various manifestations, assumes the forms of gods and humans.

His devotees are born in different bodies and castes and according to their conduct (karma).

They (the Lord and His devotees) take forms like all other sentient beings, but this is not a cause for contumely, on the contrary, both appear as sentient beings for the welfare of all beings (loka- saṅgraha) alone.

The so-called eminence of non-devotees due to learning, wealth and conduct is no better than the dressing up of a widow — to no avail.” (Source unknown)

236. It has been said that [a brāhmin] who has mastered the Vedas in their entirety, devoid of devotion to the Lord is like a saffron-loaded donkey.

A brāhmin scholar no matter how learned he may be in all the six branches of Vedic knowledge, if he does not have love of God he is like a donkey carrying a burden of saffron — able to appreciate the weight but not the fragrance or value.

237. Though a king, the Lord Kulaśekhara expressed a desire to be born as an animal and even an inanimate object.

Kulaśekhara Āḻvār in his poems expressed the ardent desire to be reborn as a bird or a tree in order to be near the Lord Śrīnivāsa in the temple at Tiruvēṅkaṭam.

238. Periyāḻvār, chief of Brahmins, and his blessed daughter [Aṇḍāḷ] transposed themselves as cowherds.

Because of their great love for Kṛṣṇa, Periyāḻvār and Āṇḍāḷ easily and naturally transposed themselves and identified completely with the lowly cowherders in their attitude towards devotional service.

239. When rags are removed all will take on the nature of the best of women.

When ‘rags’ in the form of the afflictive emotions of selfish-desire, anger, delusion, arrogance, greed, and envy are eradicated then the true nature of the jīva will shine through and one becomes like the gem of all women — Śrī Mahā Lakṣmī herself.

34. Similarities between jīvas & Lakṣmī.

240. There are six similarities between purified jīvas and that one [Lakṣmī] in quintessence.

These six are: —

(1) having allegiance to no other (than Nārāyaṇa) — ananyārha śeṣatvam
(2) taking refuge in no other — ananya-śaraṇatvam
(3) being enjoyed by no other — ananya-bhogyatvam
(4) tranquil in union (with the Lord)— śamśleṣattil āriyirukkai
(5) distressed in separation — viśleṣattil āriyirāmai
(6) being controlled solely by God — tadeka-nirvāhyatvam.

35. Egocentric impulse

241. Superiority here in this world derives from egocentric impulse; superiority here- after derives from being liberated from egocentric impulse.

Worldly success is based upon competition and the egocentric desire for achievement and recognition in the eyes of others. Most people live the lives that they think will bring them acceptance from others.

Viśvāmitra’s ego drove him into a personal struggle which led to the change of social status and universal recognition as a Brahma-Ṛṣi.

Kulaśekhara on the other hand rejected all such social-status & worldly achievements and would have been happy to have exchanged places with flora and fauna!

242. Brahma experienced failure; whereas a milk-maid achieved success.

Although Brahma arises from the lotus sprung from Viṣṇu’s navel, he is unable because of his ego to see the lotus-feet of the Lord; on the other hand, Cintayanti the simple Gopī unable to go out to meet Kṛṣṇa immediately abandons her body and attains him. (Vide aphorism 80).