Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa | 36-40

36. Program for Spiritual development

243. One should keep oneself under constant surveillance — considering oneself as the ground in which solipsism produces desire for sense-gratification which is the cause of ruin in every way.

One should avoid like a snake, worldly people (Samsāris) who are promoters of self-centeredness and sense-gratification.

One should treat Śrī Vaiṣṇavas who are concerned with renouncing these [sense-pleasures & self-centredness], as kinsmen.

One should treat the deity with all the awe and reverence due to a father.
The Ācārya should be relished like a starving person relishes food.
A disciple should be treated like the beloved.

Realising that conceit, wealth and sensuality, these three, are the causes of [respectively] disrespect toward the virtuous, attachment for bad company, and a passion for those who are indifferent —

one should take care to renounce them.

One must realise that the spiritual qualities [sama — control of the mind and dama — control of one's reactions] cannot occur spontaneously or be inculcated by others, but can only arise from Divine Grace which is mediated by the grace of the true Ācārya.

One should, by the Ācārya's grace continue making progress in overcoming the lower nature and developing the spiritual nature.

One should renounce the desire to enjoy sense-objects and cultivate the clear perception that the maintenance of the body is accomplished by using the remnants of things offered to the Lord.

One should welcome suffering and affliction, whether arising from karma or as a result of Grace.

One should repudiate the idea that this code of conduct is a means for attaining the Lord.

One should cultivate the desire for knowledge, the emulation of distinguished persons and intense love [for God].

One should offer prayers of benediction towards the Lord, and His Sacred Abodes and cultivate aversion for worldly objectives.

One should remain disciplined in matters of service, abiding with the well-disposed and avoiding the ill- disposed.

In this sūtra the mentor proposes a program for spiritual development thus stabilising the potentially hazardous path of destructive passivity inherent in the Teṅkalai theology.

1. Mindfulness — the Prapanna should constantly be watching the mind and the thoughts that arise. The desire for sense-gratification which arises from self-centeredness should be gradually eradicated.

2. Association — we are greatly influenced by our peers and therefore the company that we keep should be that which will benefit us and should be a support network for our spiritual practice.

3. The Deity should be treated with awe and reverence. The majority of people are incapable of rāga-bhakti — spontaneous and passionate love of God, therefore they should cultivate vaidhī-bhakti — an attitude of awe and reverence.

4. The spiritual preceptor should always be cherished and never taken for granted.

5. A disciple should be treated with all the affection and attention that one would shower upon the great love of one’s life.

6. Conceit, the pursuit of wealth as an end in itself, and sensuality should be avoided.

7. Await the opportunity by the preceptor’s grace and guidance to develop mental equanimity and self-control.

8. With the grace of the preceptor one should strive to overcome the 6 afflictive emotions and to develop the positive qualities of acceptance, loving kindness, friendliness, compassion etc.

9. The body should be maintained by offering everything first to the Lord and then taken as left-overs (prasāda).

10. Develop a more positive attitude towards suffering. There are two recommended ways of regarding suffering, which is endemic to the human condition —

• Suffering is inescapable because it is the fruition of previous karma and is in fact due and condign recompense for past offences. It is therefore good that one's liabilities are being liquidated and debts being repaid, thus bringing one closer to God each time.

• Suffering is due to the Grace of the Lord and is being administered in order to foster distaste (vairāgya) for continued embodiment, possessions, relationships and the world in general.

11. This spiritual development program should not be regarded as a means to win the favour of the Lord but should be performed as one’s duty alone.

12. Strive to increase your learning by every means possible.

13. Follow the lead of the distinguished and venerable spiritual aspirants.

14. Work on developing intense love of God.

15. Bless the Lord and His sacred temples rather than requesting Him to serve you and assist you in the fulfilment of your happiness projects.

16. Reflect upon the futility of material objectives.

17. Be mindful and disciplined in all those matters relating to one’s service to God.

18. Live and mix with people that are amicable to you and will benefit you.

19. Avoid the company of those that are inimical and will not promote your spiritual development.

37. Benediction of the Lord (maṅgalāśāsanam)

244. If it be argued that the benediction of the Lord (maṅgalāśāsanam) is contrary to [the jīva’s] quintessence, [it is answered that], in the rational state the relationship is that of protected and protector; but in the state of love this relationship is reversed.

The controversial topic of maṅgalāśāsanam which is a benediction for the welfare of the Lord is now taken up for discussion:

On the normative rational level the jīva is totally dependant upon the Lord for its protection, survival and edification. On this level a blessing by an inferior to a superior would be inappropriate,

but when rational thinking gives way to spontaneous love, such a blessing is quite appropriate as the roles are reversed in that the lover seeks the welfare of the beloved more than one's own.

245. From the point of view of the Lord's quintessence, [as supporter] it [the jīva] seeks His protection; but from the point of view of the Lord's tenderness it [the jīva] seeks to protect Him.

The quintessence of the Lord is omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience etc. thus the jīva naturally looks to Him for protection;

but in the love-relationship, the jīva sees the Lord’s exquisite beauty, gentleness and tenderness and naturally desires to protect these in support of a continuing relationship.

246. This fact is illustrated in the case of the emperor (Dasaratha), Janaka’s divine daughter (Sītā), Viśvāmitra, the Rishis who dwelt in the blessed Daṇḍaka forest, Tiruvaḍi (Hanuman), the Mahārāja (Sugrīva), the blessed cowherd Nanda, the blessed Vidura, Piḷḷai Uraṅgāvilli Dāsa and others.

All these individuals had occasion to protect the Lord, except Piḷḷai Uraṅgāvilli Dāsa (Dhanur- dāsa) who spent his time protecting Rāmānuja.

247. The blessed Lord Guha, suspecting the younger Lord (Lakṣmana), and Guha’s servants suspecting them both, they [all] protected the Lord (Rāma).

When Lord Rāma spent the night in the hamlet of Guha, Lakṣmana as usual, armed himself and stood guard over Rāma. Guha suspecting that Lakṣmana might try to assassinate Rāma during the night also armed himself to keep watch over Lakṣmana.

The subjects seeing their chieftain taking up arms along with Lakṣmaṇa and wandering about in the middle of the night suspected his intentions and they too armed themselves to watch over both of them!

248. By only once seeing the beauty of [Rāma’s] form, [Guha’s people] made a great effort [to protect Rāma].

249. The Āḻvārs are outstanding in this matter [of blessing the Lord].

250. [And], Periyāḻvār excels all the other Āḻvārs in this [matter].

Periyāḻvār is the author of the hymn Paḷḷāṇḍu which is the classical example of a benediction of the Lord:

“For many years, for everlasting years, for thousands of years;
may the beauty of Thy red feet be blessed!
O Lord Kṛṣṇa of emerald-hue,
with the shoulders that vanquished the wrestlers.”

251. For the others, [making benedictions to protect the Lord] was occasional; for him [Periyāḻvār] it was constant.

252. Indeed, the depths for the others was for him the shallows.

The other Āḻvārs were only attracted by the beauty of the Lord; but Periyāḻvār, was constantly apprehending danger to the Lord's person and thus constantly blessing Him.

253. For the others, the diving into ecstasy [of mystic union] compromised their dependency (śeṣa) relationship to both [the Lord and the tiru-kūṭam]; for him (Periyāḻvār) this [perception of transcendental beauty] is the cause of reinforcing [the śeṣa- relationship], augmenting thereby the quintessence.

The other Āḻvārs seem not to have been able to control themselves and gave themselves up to ecstasy and merged themselves completely with the Lord, thereby negating the dependency- relationship known as śeṣa-śeṣi bhāva.

Whereas Periyāḻvār, having a vision of the Lord's transcendental beauty instead of becoming absorbed in it, steadied himself and further deepened the relationship of dependency by his benediction for the protection of that rare, exquisite and fragile beauty.

254. This [benediction], indeed, was a preoccupation [for Periyāḻvār], which took the form of anxiety on account of reassuring factors, changing enemies into friends, feeling pangs over some dangers of former times, or saying — “This [benediction] is the fruit of attainment”, or when seeing the vigilant ones [the guardians of the Lord in Vaikuṇṭha] exhorting them: — “Don't sleep!”

The several facets of Periyāḻvār’s Maṅgalāśāsanam are: —

1. Even though the strong muscular arms of the Lord and his weapons — discus, sword and bow should have reassured Periyāḻvār of the Lord's capacity to defend himself, nevertheless he feared lest some misfortune befall even these factors.

2. He would enlist others who were seeking even mundane gains such as wealth to bless the Lord.

3. He would feel that distant encounters with adversaries such as Rāvaṇa and Hiraṇyakaśipu, were contemporary events about to take place and would feel acute anxiety for the Lord's well-being.

4. He intended to maintain his vigilance and protection of the Lord even in Vaikuṇṭha — exhorting all the attendants of the Lord to remain ever vigilant. (Periyāḻvār Tirumoḷi 5;2;9)

“May no rift ever come between Thee and Thy inseparable servants.
All hail to Śrī who, like an ornament adorns Thy chest.

May Thy radiant, sharp blazing discus in Thy right hand, which is capable of annihilating foes be blessed for everlasting years!

May Thy conch whose sound pierces through the clanging din of weapons in battle be blessed for everlasting years.” (Paḷlāṇḍu verse 2.)

255. Bhāṣyakāra (Rāmānuja) and he (Periyāḻvār), unlike other teachers who perceived only their own loneliness and that of others, have the unique distinction of feeling that the Lord is lonely. When imparting teaching they sought to remove His loneliness.

Rāmānuja and Periyāḻvār had compassion on the Lord who was strong for everyone else but with whom there was no one to sympathise. Their teaching was therefore service orientated, in order to surround the Lord with well-wishes and supporters.

Other Āḻvārs and Ācāryas saw themselves as lonely beings, considering their limited numbers compared to the millions of Samsārins.

They also considered the Samsārins as lonely beings in that they had strayed away from the Lord and would be subjected to repeated births and deaths.

256. The existence and sustenance of the other [Āḻvārs] were from seeing, enjoying and serving [the Lord]; his [Periyāḻvār’s] was from making the benediction.

257. He was [completely] preoccupied with thinking about the Sacred Places, disregarding food or sleep, and this should be an example to be followed by all of us.

258. Therefore the prayer of benediction [indeed] fully accords with [jīva's] essential nature.

The venerable teacher now begins to expatiate on some of the other aspects of the Prapanna's conduct mentioned in Aphorism 243.

38. The conduct of the Prapanna

259. The well-disposed ones (anukūlan) are those who are disgruntled [with Samsāra], and in whom wisdom, devotion and dispassion are prominent and whose actions confirm the existence [of these qualities].

The definition of an anukūlan or one who is a worthy spiritual friend (kalyāṇa-mitra) is given. He or she has realised the unsatisfactory and ephemeral nature of Samsāra and has the spontaneous arising of wisdom, devotion and dispassion (or even one of these qualities) and who actually manifests them in daily life.

260. Just as from a flooded field, water seeps into a neighbouring field, so from association with these persons by those who are lacking these [wisdom, devotion and dispassion], grief born of deficiency will vanish.

Again the importance of right association or sat-sangha is stressed. By befriending and associating with those who have wisdom, devotion and dispassion one will be influenced in a like manner.

261. These characteristics of self-nature will arise spontaneously when attainment is near, as the sands of the river-bed produce oozing before the approaching flood.

39. Wisdom, devotion & dispassion.

262. These signs [wisdom, devotion and dispassion] are indicative that this is certainly the last incarnation for the one [in whom they appear].

40. Those who should be avoided.

263. The ill-disposed (pratikūlas) are those who identify the Self with the body/mind complex, those who act according to their whims, those who show allegiance to others, (rather than the Lord), those who are attached to other means (upāya), and who are self- seeking.

The venerable teacher here enumerates five types of people who should be avoided: —

1. Those who confuse the body/mind complex as being the Self.

2. Those who know that the Self is different from the body, and yet still think that they are their own masters, declining to be of mindful service to anyone else.

3. Those who are inclined to serve but serve other sentient beings for their own personal gain rather than the Lord and His embodiment which is the world.

4. Those who are engaged in service to the Lord and His Creation but resort to various means in order to obtain liberation rather than simply relying on the Lord alone.

5. Those who render service to the Lord and the devotees but out of self-interest.

264. With such varying ideals and agendas, each [of the above categories] have their own particular preferences, means and objectives.

265. For those who identify the jīva with the body, their preference is for others who also foster the body, their means is money and their objective is worldly enjoyment.

For those [of the second category] who act through independence their preference is for [worshipping] those [deities] who give enjoyment in heaven, their means is the performance of rituals and their goal is attainment of heaven.

For those [of the 3rd category] whose allegiance is to others, they prefer [to worship] Brahma, Śiva and the like, their means is surrendering to them, and their goal is union with them.

For those [of the 4th category] devoted to other means, their preference is for [Nārāyaṇa] the Lord of all as Indweller of the gods, their means is [the practice of] Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga and Bhakti Yoga and their goal is the experience of the Lord.

For those [of the last category] who are self-seeking, their preference is for [Nārāyaṇa] described in — “He who thinks [of Him] in whatever form...........*”, their means are various and their ultimate objective is self-delight [rather than the pleasure of the Lord].

The self-seeking (sva-prayojana-para) are devotees who are oriented towards the Lord but their service always has a self-seeking element to it.

*The quotation is from Tiruvāymoḷi 3.6.9: —

“O people of this world, don’t be confused regarding the Primeval One the foremost of the Trinity, the Lord of the gods, He is the father capable of affording protection and also the mother; and much more besides, you see.

Be not confused that He is different from this one in Iconic form. Whatever form [of God] you contemplate upon, that form is assumed by the Great Lord, the hue of the expansive ocean”.

266. The first three [categories] mentioned above, are subjected to rectification, for the other two [categories] there is Grace.

267. The Karma of the [first] three is [only] destroyed by [running its full course of] experience; that of the fourth subject is destroyed by atonement and that of the fifth subject is destroyed by the Mediatrix Lakṣmī.

The subjects of the first three categories enumerated above alienate themselves from the Lord and their salvation occurs only after many many rebirths and untold Karmic suffering. The only way they can extricate themselves from the wheel of rebirth is to increase their merit and decrease their demerit.

For those of the fourth category who engage in means other than the Lord, their salvation lies in Divine Grace which treats the upāya as a kind of atonement and is disregarded in the general amnesty.

Those who serve the Lord for their own interest are forgiven for the sake of Mahā Lakṣmī, who as the Mediatrix was instrumental in introducing them to the spiritual path through the medium of the Ācārya, and in whose presence they played the courtier.

The venerable teacher now takes up some anticipated objections to the teaching and refutes them.

268. Choosing a means depends both upon the individual (puruṣa) and the Mediatrix (puruṣākāra) — at the time of accomplishment [of the goal] these two become redundant.

The Lord is the Siddhopāya — the perfect means. He does not brook any other means and this is known as nirapekṣa-upāyatva. The question arises as to why should He need the services of Mahā Lakṣmī as a Mediatrix?

The answer is that at the time of surrendering, the cetana (sentient) subject (puruṣa) courts the Lord, and Mahā Lakṣmī is instrumental in ushering the cetana into the Lord's presence with a recommendation.

After the act of śaraṇāgati and the acceptance by the Lord, He needs neither the assistance of the cetana nor of Mahā Lakṣmī. He Himself takes complete responsibility for the liberation of the cetana.

269. It may be asked: — “Is it proper to consider all those who are self-seeking as ill- disposed?”

One may also ask if the Ācārya is not being excessively puritanical by declaring that even the friendship and association of self-seeking devotees should be avoided.

270. [The answer is that] that which is referred to as self-seeking arises from the faulty reliance [on the aesthetic form of the Lord].

The self-seeking one is misguided because he simply reacts to the beautiful external form of the Lord in His Arcā-avatāra (Iconic manifestation).

He is wrapt up in the enjoyment of the Form, the personal ‘feel-good’ experience and possibly the auxiliary socio-economic factors, atmosphere, good food etc. and does not truly surrender completely to the Lord.

271. Therefore, there is no fault [in saying that the self-purposed one is ill-disposed].

Therefore it would be better not to associate with these people as it may lead to disturbance of one’s sādhana by engaging in disputation with them.