Tiruppāvai of Āṇḍāḷ | verses 16-17

ATTAINMENT OF THE GOAL — Part C

(Pāśurams 16 to 30)

Now, we reach the third division of this Prabandham. The next seven verses from 16 to 22, deal with the Gopīs arousing the intimate associates of Kṛṣṇa, like Nandagopa, Yaśodā, Baladeva, and Nappinnai and then Kṛṣṇa Himself.

In the two verses 16 & 17 Śrī Āṇḍāḷ reaffirms the vow she and the Gopīs have taken. (Stanza 2) Śrī Āṇḍāḷ surrenders herself completely to the five 'Puruṣākāra-puthargal', (those who render help by interceding with God for us), and they are, in this case five persons,

(1) the gate-keeper of the outer court (koil-kāppān),
(2) the gate-keeper of the inner court (vāsal-kāppān)
(3) Nandagopa,
(4) Yaśodā
(5) Baladeva.

Śrī Rāmānuja also took refuge with five ācāryas or gurus. The term guru indicates "a dispeller of the darkness of ignorance". The term ācārya refers to one who understands and practices the injunctions of the Scriptures; and teaches them to others through example.

Rāmānuja received Samāśrayanam (initiation) from Periya Nambigaḷ, studied Rāmāyana under Tirumalai Nambi, learnt the Bhāgavat Viśaya (theology) under Tirumalai āṇḍān, learnt the Rahasyārtha (secret meaning of the mantras) under Tirukkoṭṭiyūr Nambi, and studied the Tiruvāymoḷi under Tiruvaraṅgap-perumāḷ Araiyār.

The ācārya is mediator, the manifest representation of God on earth, firm in faith and full of wisdom. He knows our temptations, our imperfections, and our frailties, by personal contact.

The ācāryas do not care for our virtue or sin, if we surrender ourselves completely to them, they will by their precious and unceasing efforts procure salvation for us, more easily and with greater certainty and less risk, than would otherwise be possible.

Thus it is clear, that one attains the Lord through the help of the ācārya and obtaining a good (Sat) ācārya is due to the grace of the Lord.

According to Vaiṣṇava Tradition Puruṣakāra or intercession and grace of the ācārya are the two essentials for the attainment of Salvation.

The gate-keepers are now in the position of ācāryas, and their permission and intercession is needed for the Gopīs to attain the precious jewel — Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

Stanza 16

O Guard of the mansion of Nanda our leader,
 O Keeper of the gate, with its flags and buntings flying aloft;
Unbolt the latch of the gem-set doors
 Yesterday the charming Mysterious One of sapphire hue
Promised us, the cow-maids that He would give us the drum.
 We have come pure in body and mind, to awaken Him with song.
Pray do not hinder us, O Compassionate Guard,
 Open the giant twin gates and grant us access.

Commentary

In this stanza, the Gopīs approach Nandagopa's mansion and request the gate-keepers of the outer and inner courts to grant them entry.

The opening of the door symbolises the opening of the hearts and the minds to receive God. The latch is the feeling of independence from God. It is removed when we realise our total dependence upon Him.

When one enters the temples to worship the Lord, it is essential that one take the permission of the kṣetrādhipati and gate-keepers or Dvārapālakas.

The ill-directed attempts to reach the Lord independently, without the guidance, the help and the recommendation of His servants will prove futile and even dangerous.

O Guard of the mansion of Nanda — The gate-keepers are addressed as guardians of 'Nandagopa's mansion' and not 'Kṛṣṇa's mansion' because, they wanted to please Lord Kṛṣṇa who had suffered much by being independent of others (svatantram) in Paramapada, and who desiring to experience dependence upon others (paratantriyam) was born as the son of Nandagopa in this mundane world.

our leader — This epithet can be applied not only to Nandagopa but also to the gate-keeper, because, it is only through the mercy of the gate-keeper, that we can enter the presence of the Lord. So in this way, the attribute can be applied to both Nandagopa and the gatekeepers for both act as puruṣākāra (mediators) to approach Kṛṣṇa.

O Keeper of the gate — The Gopīs were much impressed with the good fortune of the gatekeepers in guarding the mansion of Nandagopa.

In the exuberance of joy, they are addressed by their function rather than by name. Moreover, it is always respectful to address one by referring to one's occupation especially in doing service to the Lord.

with its flags and buntings flying aloft — serves to mark out Nandagopa's mansion to the various people, who are in need so that they may approach him for charity.

Generous patrons who installed water-sheds in charity used to raise banners above them, so those that were thirsty might know even from a distance the situation and position of the water-sheds.

The flags and buntings are also said to represent the jewel of all mantras Oṁ Namo Nārāyaṇāya.

yesterday — Not like to-day when we have to prostrate at your feet for obtaining admittance. Also another meaning— Just as we have to prostrate before you to-day, yesterday we had to prostrate before Him to obtain a promise to give us the 'parai'.

the charming Mysterious One of sapphire hue — Connotes his accessibility (saulabhya) and the term maṇivaṇṇan (of sapphire hue) His unsurpassable beauty.

If His beauty was enough to make even males fall madly in love with Him, what can be said about these poor girls whose very existence was dependent upon His grace.

Kṛṣṇa as the Mysterious One is said to be blue in colour. The deep blue of the sky and the sea which are in fact devoid of colour, appears due to the unfathomable depth. Because of His inscrutable nature Kṛṣṇa is described as being blue in colour.

Promised us, the cow-maids — We, naive folk of the Gokulam — This is a beautiful expression. We are not girls of the type of Śūrpaṇakhā or Pūtana.

After the Pūtana incident it was not easy to persuade the guardians of the Lord's mansion to believe in the good faith of even women, but the Gopīs humbly told them of the previous arrangement with the Lord, who had agreed to give them the drum 'parai'. They succeeded in convincing them of their innocence, purity of heart and purpose and were admitted.

Pray do not hinder us, O Compassionate Guard, — You seem to think something against our wishes — you are the first to be approached by us this morning; so do not start by refusing our request.

In Tamil addressing the watchman as "mother" is an appeal to his compassion — many of the ācāryas are also entitled ’Amma’ or more respectfully ’Ammāḷ’.

Open the giant twin gates and grant us access — In Gokula, even the inanimate doors are devoted to Kṛṣṇa and are madly in love with him.

There may be some devotees who might have desired to be born as doors to His Temple and as such there is no possibility of a nearer approach to the Lord.

So O gate-keeper! Please open the doors and let us in.

Esoteric Purport

O Swāmī! you are most blessed by your ācārya, himself, the embodiment of servitude! And the mediator of your relationship with the Lord.

(then addressing another)

O Swāmī! you learned the esoteric meanings of the Tirumantra from your ācārya and you are now assisting us in the pursuit of liberation by transmitting those teachings to us!

You must dispel our identification with the body (ātma-svarūpānubhavam) and reliance upon ourselves (sva-svatantriyam).

We claim membership in a lineage of great and learned scholars who have fully realised that the Lord is both the means (upāya) and the goal (upeya).

Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa has expressed explicitly in the Gītā that He would satisfy the desires of one who takes refuge in Him.

So, we have no other desire except to awaken Him; as you are our chief intercessor, we request you please not to refuse our request. Now help us to render service to Lord Kṛṣṇa at this proper time.

According to Guru Paramparā this stanza and the next one are referring to Viṣvaksena who is the Chief Commander of the Lord's entourage.

Stanza 17

Arise O Lord Nanda Gopa, who are so renown
 for generosity with cloth, water and food to the needy.
Kindly wake up! O Yaśodā, the foremost of womankind,
 the beacon light of our community of cow-herders.
O Lord of the gods Who measured the three worlds,
 and pierced the sky, sleep no more! Arise!
O Baladeva opulent with red-gold anklets,
 You together with your younger brother, sleep no more! Arise!

Commentary

Periya Acchān Piḷḷai comments that in the first quarter- portion of the bed-chamber, Nandagopa is sleeping, in the second quarter Yaśodā, in the third Kṛṣṇa and in the fourth Baladeva. Nandagopa is sleeping in the front- portion because, the girls may steal Kṛṣṇa away from him.

A query was once raised whether girls can in fact steal males? and Periya Acchān Piḷḷai drew attention to the story of Aniruddha:

If such were to be the fate of Aniruddha, the grandson of Kṛṣṇa who was considered to be exquisitely beautiful, what about the beauty and fate of Kṛṣṇa Himself who was the paternal grandfather of such a paragon of beauty.

renown for generosity with cloth, water and food to the  needy — from this line it is evident that out of the thirty- two kinds of righteous actions (Dharma) taught, the most important are — gifts of clothes, water and food.

Food and clothing are the two essential requisites for every human being and Nandagopa is charitable in both these necessities of life.

Further, the expression 'aram ceyyum' (giving charity) implies that he gives, not with an idea to gain recognition, but charity for charity's sake.

Commentators liken Nandagopa to the preceptor. His gifts of clothing represent the entire universe the Supreme Self and the Supreme Abode itself. Water represents the faith that is needed to attain him. Food is knowledge and experience of God.

O Yaśodā, the foremost of womankindYaśodā! (lit. ’the tendril of womankind’) —

They addressed Yaśodā in this way because, if there is any disease in a plant, it is the tendril that withers at first, thus symbolising the impending danger to the plant;

similarly, if any impending danger were to threaten the womenfolk of Gokula, then Yaśodā's face will be the first to fade.

O Lord of the gods Who measured the three worlds, and pierced the sky, —

Here they refer to Vāmana Avatāra during which, the Lord laid his lotus feet on the heads of all without any discrimination whatsoever, even when no one of them had requested Him to do so.

Now the Gopīs intimate that they prostrate before Him and request that He take them into servitude and yet Kṛṣṇa is not moved.

O Baladeva opulent with red-gold anklets — They addressed Balarāma as "celva!" (O wealthy one) because wealth for Baladeva is to render service to Kṛṣṇa;

just as the wealth of service achieved by Lakṣmana by being born after Rāma is now achieved by Baladeva by being born before Kṛṣṇa.

You together with your younger brother, sleep no more — Balarāma or Anantaśeṣa is a plenary expansion of the Lord Himself and is His eternal servant.

Baladeva (Balarāma) belongs to and exists solely for the pleasure of the Lord. In Vaikuṇṭha he serves as the couch of Nārāyana. It is usual for people to sleep on beds, but it is surprising to see the bed itself sleeping!

Esoteric Purport

“O ācārya! You can prepare us for receiving the grace of the Lord, by removing our ego (ahaṁkāra) and thereby perfect us in devotional service (kaiṅkarya), please come and join us!

O Tirumantra! You are the best among the mantras revealed by the Lord, for the upliftment of those in the ocean of transmigration. You must reveal your inner meanings to us so that we may attain enlightenment!

O Puruṣottama! who expanded and measured the world with two strides, thereby destroying the atheists and blessing the devotees! Please come forth to dispel our ignorance!

O Baladeva! Who has the fortune to be the intimate servant of Lord Kṛṣṇa, if you both were to arise and show grace us, we would attain success.”

Note: — 'ambaram' stands for the Divine grace to be received by a Cetana; 'tannīr' stands for the removal of Egotism which stands as a hindrance to achieve that Divine Grace. 'sōru' stands for service — ’kaiṅkarya'.

These three, i.e., Receipt of Divine Grace, removal of Egotism, and the achievement of Kaiṅkarya — will be obtained only through the help of an ācārya or Guru.

So an aspirant should approach such an ācārya, receive the Tirumantra, and taking other devotees as his guides should strive for Self/God-realisation.

The scholars opine that this stanza preaches a significant doctrine of Vaiṣṇava philosophy, i.e., that one should approach and realise God, as stated in the "Dvaya" mantra, through the puruṣākāra or mediation of the Universal Mother:

The Gopīs tried to wake Śrī Kṛṣṇa from sleep, but there was no response from Him. This was because, they did not follow the proper path of seeking Him through His spouse and our gracious and merciful Mother, who had incarnated as Nappinnai.

The principle of mediation — that in resorting to the Lord, for our deliverance and liberation, we should approach Him through the mediation of the Universal Mother, who is inseparably situated on His right bosom and forms part and parcel of Himself is the most characteristic feature of the Vaiṣṇava Dharma— and the highest teaching of its saints and sages.

It is dealt with in the Holy mantra known as “Dvaya", which has been so sedulously guarded and handed down by the Vaiṣṇava ācāryas from generation to generation, as the most secret, the most efficacious and the most meaningful of all mantras.

We have seen that the Lord is both the means and the end of salvation. But the Universal Mother is never separated from Him — Mercy cannot be separated from Justice:

She showers compassion on us and intercedes with the Lord for our salvation with all Her irresistible beauty and charm.

She knows the independence of the Lord and the failings of her deluded children and she therefore interposes Herself, between the two, and would not leave Him even for a single moment, lest per chance, He might call us to account in Her absence!

She accompanies the Lord in all His incarnations: She was Sītā in His incarnation as Rāma, and Rukmiṇī when he came as Kṛṣṇa.

In Her incarnation as Sītā, she has demonstrated Her compassion and empathy on our behalf. She implored Hanumān to refrain from wreaking vengeance on the Rākṣasīs for all the wrongs they had inflicted on Her:

She said " Sinful or virtuous, even to the death-deserving, mercy should be shown by the noble. There is nobody who does not commit any wrong.''

That her presence and mediation makes all the difference, may be seen from the way in which Kākasura and Rāvaṇa were dealt with by Lord Rāma:

The former was the more guilty and yet he was saved by her mercy, whereas the latter who was really less guilty was made to suffer the extreme punishment of death in her absence.