Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa | 41-45

41. Positive qualities to be developed.

272. It is obvious that it is difficult to renounce everything that proceeds from the object of enjoyment.

It can be seen from some of the Hymns of the Āḻvārs that they could also have been classified as self-seekers, having given themselves over totally to the enjoyment of the rapture of ecstatic union with the Lord, sometimes going so far as to publicly impeach the Lord for his lack of response.

But their apparent impropriety was due to advanced God-realisation and enlightenment, not due to immaturity and ignorance. So therefore we should not judge them from a mundane human point of view.

It is natural for sentient beings to seek pleasure and aesthetics and therefore they cannot be condemned if they do so.

273. “Conversation between the deaf and the dumb........(1).”, How can it desire anything else...........(2).”

1. Nacciyār Tirumoḷi 12:1 Aṇḍāḷ speaking to her friends: —

“To me who has developed an infatuation with Kṛṣṇa that cannot be understood by you; whose desires are quite different from mine— your prattle is like conversation between the deaf and the dumb.

Please take me to a place near Mathura [the place of Kṛṣṇa], who reached the arena even before the wrestlers arrived there and who was raised in the house of a different mother after leaving His birth- mother.”

2. Stotra-ratna 37:

“How can my mind, which is firmly set upon Your nectar-shedding lotus-feet, ever desire anything else. It is well known that when there is a lotus full of pollen, the bee does not even look at the [thorny, pollenless] ikṣuraka flower.”

274. When these [positive characteristic] increase by the grace of the true Ācārya, the enlightened one dwells in the presence of the Ācārya and in the presence of the Lord;

he speaks of the Ācārya's greatness and his own inferiority; his prayers are the recitation of the spiritual lineage (guru-paramparā) and the Dvaya (mantra);

he imbibes the teaching and emulates the conduct of the former Ācāryas and avoids association with non Vaiṣṇavas and their attachments; he renders service to the Ācārya and to the Lord.

In this passage the venerable teacher picks up from 259-261, the positive characteristics being eulogised are wisdom, devotion and dispassion. He elaborates upon the ideal conduct of the enlightened one. The Prapanna is further enjoined to: —

1. Reside only with the Ācārya or near temples.

2. He should only ever praise the greatness of the Ācārya, and express his own inferiority.

3. He should constantly be mindful of the succession of spiritual masters, pay them reverence and constantly repeat the Dvaya mantra —

Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Chāraṇau Śaranam prapadye; Śrīmate Nārāyaṇāya namaḥ.

4. He should spend his free time studying and memorising the teachings of the previous Ācāryas, and practice applying them in his daily life.

5. He should shun the company of non-Vaiṣṇavas and all the favours extended by them.

6. He should dedicate himself to the support and service of his Ācārya and to serving the Lord residing in the temple.

42. Service (Kainkaryam)

275. The service to the Lord, referred to above, is to be learned from the Scriptures; service of the Ācārya is to be learned from the Scriptures as well as from instruction.

The Lord in His Arcā-form does not make clear His requirements, therefore one should learn the proper method of service by studying the appropriate Scriptures such as the Pañcarātra Āgama and Purāṇas.

The method of serving the teacher is learned from the Dharma śāstras as well as simply by following the instructions of the teacher.

276. There are two kinds of service.

277. Namely, doing what is pleasing and avoiding what is displeasing.

278. That which pleases and that which displeases depends upon varṇa and āśrama and the jīva's quintessence.

The first of the two stages of śaraṇāgati are acting in harmony with the Divine Will (ānukūlasya saṅkalpaḥ) and avoiding disharmony (pratikūlasya varjanam).

According to the Dharma-śāstra there is no absolute standard of what pleases and displeases the Lord —

these factors are all dependant upon one's profession as Brahmin (intelligentsia), kṣatriya (administrator), Vaiṣya (entrepreneur) or śūdra (worker); and status as bachelor, householder, retiree or monk.

What a worker does to please the Lord is not always the same as what a priest should do and visa-versa. Likewise the acceptable conduct of a bachelor differs from that of a householder or a monk.

The duties and prohibitions appropriate to each should be learnt from the Dharma-śāstras. But this code of conduct should be followed simply as service and never be regarded as leading to some merit.

And ultimately all personal conduct and service should accord with the inherent quintessential nature of the Self and its relationship to the Lord and to others.

279. One who shirks from acts of merit (puṇya) would certainly not perform acts of demerit (pāpa).

One who hesitates to perform acts of merit as enumerated in the Dharma-śāstras because they smack of upāyāntara — being a means to an end, and thus in fact jeopardise Mokṣa, would certainly not perform any acts prohibited by the Scriptures.

In fact the Veda (Muṇḍaka-Upaniṣad) declares that in order to reach the highest Goal both merit and demerit must be transcended.

280. The [Prapanna] regards merit as demerit. The [Lord] regards demerit as merit; but the [Lord] will get none [demerit] because the [Prapanna] does not occasion any.

The true Prapanna eschews the accumulation of merit as being an obstacle on the spiritual path whereas the Lord out of His boundless affection actually regards demerit favourably — as a reason to bestow ever more love and compassion upon the Prapanna!

This is a rather tricky doctrine that can lead to serious heresies, so the wise Ācārya tempers it by declaring that this remains a theoretical proposition only because no true Prapanna, following strictly the prescribed code of conduct would ever give the Lord the opportunity to relish his demerit as he would certainly not accumulate any!

281. Service, indeed, should be motivated by fear [of loss of dependence on the Lord] if it does not spring from loving devotion.

The best form of service is that which arises from pure sincere loving devotion, but if this is not spontaneously present then it would better be prompted by fear of the obscuration of one's quintessential attribute of eternal Śeṣatva — dependence.

282. If this [service] does not eventuate, qualification for Prapatti together with the means [the Lord] and the end [the pleasure of the Lord] will be lost.

If unfortunately, service is not performed from either of these two reasons then one loses the very fundamental qualification for Prapatti which is the realisation of one's inherent and intimate relationship to the Lord, as well as the Grace of the Lord and the result of service which is the delectation of the Lord.

283. Service [to the Lord] should be [regarded] as a fruit, not as the means to fruit.

Service is indispensable to the Spiritual Path but it should be self-less. The opportunity to serve should always be regarded as a blessing in itself, and never be used in order to elicit some favour from the Lord.

284. That is to say, instead of reaching out to take from Him. One should rather give to Him.

Instead of using the Lord to further our own agendas we should always be thinking of ways in which we can return the blessings that we have received from Him. Supplicatory prayer for our own self-fulfilment should be avoided by all means.

285. Not [even] accepting [gratitude] by giving, one should reward the acceptance [of oneself by the Lord].

Āṇḍāḷ’s Nacchiyār Tirumoḷi 9:7 is highly instructive in this regard, instead of regarding service as a matter of exchange —

she submits to the Lord of Tirumāliruñcōlai that if he would only deign to accept her offerings she would go on multiplying them a thousand-fold!

286. If one gives something, one's quintessence expands in luminosity, as with Vidura, Mālākāra and the hunch-backed woman.

adrohaḥ sarvabhūteṣu karmaṇā manasā girā |
 anugrahaśca dānaṁ ca stāṁ dharma sanātanaḥ ||

The Eternal Duty (Sanātana Dharma) towards all creatures is the absence of malevolence towards them in thought, deed or word, and to practice compassion and charity towards them. MB Vana Parva 297;35

287. These gave: — food without searching the pocket (i.e. without asking payment), flowers without bad smell and sandal-paste without lime.

1. Vidura fed Kṛṣṇa out of sincere and deep love without the thought of gaining anything. Unlike the Kaurāvas who sought to invite him to dinner in order to curry favour and gain some influence.

2. Mālākāra offered flower garlands to Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma free from the obnoxious whiff of any self-interest.

3. Kubjā the hunch-back maid of Kamsa was accosted by Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma while carry a vessel full of fragrant sandal paste meant for Kamsa. She being entranced by their beauty gave it all to them, indifferent to the wrath or punishment she may have incurred from her master.

43. Stages of Spiritual Unfolding

288. As in the state of service, so also in stages prior [to that] the quintessence of the self should be allowed to shine forth.

289. There are four prior stages:

290. These are: —

1) the stage of knowledge,
2) the stage of choice,
3) the stage of attainment and
4) the stage of experiencing the goal.

1. The stage of knowledge occurs when one receives spiritual teaching from a qualified preceptor.

2. the stage of choice occurs when one decides to take the Lord as one's sole refuge and to perform śaraṇāgati.

3. the stage of attainment is that of surrendering at the Lord's lotus feet and opening up to His spontaneous Grace.

4. the stage of experiencing occurs when one reaches the goal of proximity and eternal service to the Lord in Paramapada.

291. In the stage of knowledge, one is mindful of ignorance; in the stage of choice one is mindful of imperfection; in the stage of attainment one is mindful of eager expectancy; in the stage of experiencing the goal one is mindful of insatiable longing.

In the first stage, in order to learn anything from the teacher one must first acknowledge one's ignorance and should strive as hard as possible to gain as much knowledge as one can about Tattva (Truth), Hita (the Way) and Puruṣārtha (Goal).

In the second stage, Going for Refuge becomes possible only when one acknowledges one's utter inability to bring about one's own liberation through any means whatsoever.

One is mindful that one is completely destitute of any merit or ability to overcome the burden of Karma accumulated over thousands of birth.

In the third stage one does not remain passive, but should be anxious to engage completely in the practice of Dharma. In the fourth stage one is mindful only of abhiniveśa — complete absorption in the divine or insatiable longing for unification with the Lord.

292. Ignorance is dispelled by the Ācārya’s wisdom; imperfection is resolved by the perfection of the Lord; restlessness is stilled by the Lord's Grace; insatiable longing is extinguished by the experience [of the Divine].

293. Transgression gives rise to ignorance; the perfection of knowledge gives rise to [awareness of] imperfection; non-attainment gives rise to eager expectancy; the rapturous beauty (of the Lord) gives rise to insatiable longing.

Nescience (Spiritual ignorance) is caused by negative Karma that has been accumulated over thousands of births. In spite of the lack of merit the dawning of wisdom occurs by some good fortune through meeting the Ācārya.

Wisdom reveals how totally incapable one is of achieving Liberation through one's own petty efforts and micro-advancements.

This realisation gives rise to eager expectation to surrender to and serve the Lord, and the beatific vision of the rapturous beauty of Kṛṣṇa gives rise to insatiable longing to be united with Him.

294. The eager expectancy and the insatiable longing mentioned here are discussed [in extenso] in the Arccirādi-gati (another treatise by Piḷḷai Lokācārya).

44. The four attributes of the Prapanna.

295. Like these four stages the Prapanna has four attributes.

296. Namely; knowledge and ignorance, capacity and incapacity.

297. This indeed is true also of the Lord.

298. His knowledge is of the merit of the jīva, His ignorance is of the demerit of the jīva; His capacity is to protect the jīva and incapacity is the inability to abandon it.

Kṛṣṇa completely disregards all the imperfections, demerit and transgressions of the individual and focuses only on their positive characteristics however small they may be. He will never abandon the cetana and can do nothing but protect it.

299. The cetana’s knowledge is of the merit of the Ācārya; and his ignorance is of the Ācārya's defects; its capacity lies in the service of the Ācārya and its incapacity is in doing what is forbidden.

The cetana too should disregard the Ācārya’s defects and only focus on his good qualities, he should serve the Ācārya and strenuously avoid all acts which are against Dharma.

45. The four categories of forbidden acts.

300. There are four categories of forbidden acts.

301. 1. Doing proscribed acts;
2. Offending the Lord and
3. Committing offence to the Lord's wards (devotees), and
4. the intolerable offence.

302. Proscribed acts are those that cause pain to other sentient beings, sycophancy, adultery with the wives of others, appropriating what belongs to others, telling untruths, eating forbidden items and the like.

303. Affront to the Lord is as follows:

considering that Perumāḷ is simply another god,
thinking that the Avatāras Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are simply ordinary men;
practising rituals which are unsuitable to one's social status (varṇa and āśrama);
speculating about the material of which icons are made;
considering the Self to be separate from the Godhead;
and taking property dedicated to the Lord.

304. Stealing the Lord's property oneself, aiding others to steal it, receiving these stolen articles from others, whether solicited or unsolicited, are acts which cause great displeasure to the Lord.

305. Affront to the Lord's own is showing hostility toward Śrī Vaiṣṇavas occasioned by egotism, selfish desires and sensuality.

306. The intolerable offence is; unprovoked malice towards the Lord, devotees, the Ācārya and his disciples.

307. These in comparison excel each other in reprehensibility, and alienate one from both the means and the end.

Offence against those who have surrendered to the Lord is more serious than offending the Lord Himself:

The Ācārya, his disciples and the Lord's wards have dedicated their lives to the welfare of all sentient beings and are dedicated to selfless service therefore any offence against them is pernicious beyond compare. The venerable teacher now embarks upon a discussion about the disciple-teacher relationship.