Gādya Traya | 3 Poems of Śrī Rāmānuja
Character of Gādya Traya
Śrī Rāmānuja has blessed us with nine Śrī Sūktas and Gādya Traya, the Triple Prose, which belongs the category of his latter day compositions:
It is believed that his earlier works, i.e., Śrī Bhāṣya, Gītā Bhāṣya, Vedānta Sāra and Vedānta Saṅgraha and others served as preparation for the blossoming of his concept of Śaraṇāgati resulting in the triple prose-poem,
1. Śaraṇāgati Gādya,
2. Śrīraṅga Gādya and
3. Śrī Vaikuṇṭha Gādya.
Śaraṇāgati Gādya is an extremely rare kind of work as it embodies the dialog between Jīvātmā and Paramātman, or the soul and the Over-soul; as someone put it:
"the fervour of the human soul throbbing with deep love and surrender to its Master has rarely found such an expression;"
and "there is a sense of certainty and an atmosphere of serenity".
Śaraṇāgati Gādya is therefore considered Śrī Rāmānuja’s swan song. This Gādya, scholars believe, lends itself to three divisions, each representing a rāhasya (secret),
i.e., Dvaya mantra, Mūla mantra and Charama śloka form Gītā.
Śaraṇāgati Gādyam also highlights the Śrī Vaiṣṇava faith,
i.e., the principle of mediation or intercession by Śrī Mahā Lakshmi, who pleads with Her Lord to forgive the errors of the contrite soul (Jīvātmā).
Śrī Rāmānuja Himself, after decades of service to Lord Śrī Raṅganātha, performs Śaraṇāgati at the sacred feet of the Lord at Śrīraṅgam in Śrīraṅga Gādya:
Once having done Śaraṇāgati what does one achieve, or how he approaches the Lord or the scene where he ends up for eternity are all answered by Śrī Rāmānuja in his Śrī Vaikuṇṭha Gādya.
In short, the theme of the Gādya traya is Śaraṇāgati in all its aspects. Unlike the Bhakti yoga, it is a simple, viable route accessible to everyone, weak or strong, learned or unlettered, noble or fallen.
The process is complete end in itself culminating in Kaiṁkaryam (service) to the Lord at the Parama-pāda (supreme abode) and enjoyment of the opulence of divine service.
Key Common Concepts in Gādya Trayas
1. The Lord's Mercy:
With a view to show the right path to the multitude of erring Chetanās (sentient beings), the Lord, Śrīman Nārāyaṇa, overpowered by His quality of mercy
has planned "coming to this world"(Avatāra), at various times through the medium of Āchāryas such as Nāthamuni, Yāmunamuni and Śrī Rāmānuja.
Through them He accomplishes realization of erring devotees.
2. Pūrva-Āchārya’s concern:
Gādya Traya is an excellent example of the concern felt by the Pūrva-Āchāryas of the calibre of Śrī Rāmānuja for the common lot,
who are caught in the quagmire of Samsāric life and are not able to extricate themselves being incapable of following rigorous practises of various yogas like Bhakti yoga.
Gādya traya shows the way for attaining the lotus feet of the Lord at Vaikuṇṭha and the route is available to all without distinction of caste or sex.
This triple prose (which indeed are prose-poems) are often compared to Stotra-ratna of Swāmi Ālavandār (who also had similar concerns for the common lot), which is also an expression of "the nature and value" of Prapatti.
3. Beatific Vision:
We owe it to that important day of the Hindu calendar, i.e., the Thiru-nakṣatra festival of Śrī Mahā Lakshmi:
Every year on that day, the divya Dampathis, (i.e.)., Śrī Raṅganātha’s Śrī Mahā Lakshmi's divya Maṅgala idols are placed together for all devotees to pray and receive their blessings.
On one such occasion, Śrī Rāmānuja was found to have been lost in trance in front of the divya Dampathis:
When he opened his eyes, what came out of his holy mouth were the details of his beatific vision of the Lord and His consort, Lord's response to Śrī Rāmānuja’s concern,
a vision of the scene at Vaikuṇṭha, a comforting assurance and a confirmation of the path, accessible to everyone, which enables crossing the cycle of birth and death
– in short, the Gādya Traya, a rare product of divine interaction with our Āchārya!
4. The routes and the resort:
Śrīman Nārāyaṇa is the resort for the resortless with innumerable auspicious qualities and is totally free from evil, hatred etc.
He is of the nature of knowledge and bliss (sat-chit-ānanda) and is a treasure chest of effulgence, beauty, fragrance, softness, grace and everlasting youth. He lives in Vaikuṇṭha, our final destination.
The holy land, described in Vaikuṇṭha Gādya, is a vast paradise, which even Brahma or others have not been able to fathom. The Master of that land is Śrīman Nārāyaṇa, who is "inscrutable" even to the highest of Yogins.
In order to achieve liberation from the endless cycle and to get over the sins from beginningless time, the routes as described in Bhagavad Gītā are Karma Yoga, Bhakti yoga an Jñāna Yoga; in fact a combination of more than one yoga:
The Lord Himself has talked about the difficulties to practise these yogas, and the much simpler Prapatti yoga is the only practical route to attain the lotus feet of the Lord.
5. Scriptures advocate Śaraṇāgati:
Rig Veda talks about Prapatti, which means that the doctrine of Śaraṇāgati is as old as the oldest Veda.
Taittirīya Upanishad calls it as "Nyāsa" and "prescribes the manner in which it should be performed" --and declares it to be the best route for Moksha.
Other Upanishads like Śvetāśvatara, Chāṇḍogya also talk about Prapatti.
Rāmāyaṇa is considered a Śaraṇāgati Veda - Śrī Rāma’s "Abhaya Pradhāna" to Vibhīṣaṇa is a very significant episode in Rāmāyaṇa, which is extolled as a shrine of Self-surrender.
Gītā (7-14, 16-61/62), Śrī Viṣṇu Purāṇa (1.9.73), Pāñcharātra Agama, Lakṣmī-tantra and Āḻvārs' Śrī sūktas advocate Śaraṇāgati as the most efficacious means to gain the Parama Puruṣārtha of Moksha.
6. Post-Liberation (Moksha):
The liberation consists in Jīvātmā acquiring the flavour and fragrance of Brahman (the Vedāntic term for the Lord); it gains Brahma rūpa, Brahma rāsa and Brahma gaṅdha:
It is freed from the fetters of Prakṛti, limitations of space and time.
It lives in nitya vibhūti, the abode of Brahman, which has no history, no seasons but can all at once "bear leaves, blossoms and fruits" (ref: Shanti Parva of Mahābhārata). Thus the jīva attains "its infinite consciousness and regains eternal values.." It is indeed a state of Self-transcendence.
Pañcha Rātra calls Śrī Vaikuṇṭha as "Jñānanda loka" - that is, the world of Parama-pādaṁ is a shining example of the spiritual world; bliss personified, aprākṛta, Ānanda loka;
it is the realm of Śuddha Sattva, a kind of matter which is immutable and is made up of unalloyed sattva dravya. The five elements (Pañcha bhūtas), which comprises in the prakṛti world will not touch us there.
7. Rāhasya Traya:
Gādya Traya embodies the concepts of the three sacred mantras, known as rāhasya traya, which reflect the Viśiṣṭādvaita concepts of Tattva, Hita and Puruṣārtha:
They are mūla mantra, Dvaya mantra and Gītā Charama śloka.
It is generally stated that Śaraṇāgati Gādya is a commentary on the Dvaya Mantra.
8. Commentaries on the Three Gādyas:
All the Śrī Sūktas of Āchārya Rāmānuja have attracted great scholars to write commentaries known as Bhāṣyas. Śaraṇāgati Gādya has commentaries by such stalwarts as Sudarśana Sūri, Periya Acchān Piḷḷai and Vedānta Deśika.
The Rāhasya Rakṣa of Swāmi Śrī Deśikan includes Gādya Traya Bhāṣya besides stotra Ratna and Chatuśśloka Bhāṣya.