Prapanna Pārijāta | Chapter 2



On the Nature of Prapatti


Prapatti is defined as the mental attitude consisting of a determination which results in prayer of supplication by a person who has a desire to attain a goal but no means thereto.


The prayer which, with sincere conviction regards that (God) alone as the only means for the attainment of a desire incapable of being attained by any other means, is the Prapatti known as Śaraṇāgati  (seeking refuge with God)


Śaraṇāgati is synonymous with Prapatti. Therefore with sincere Bhakti (love and devotion) adopt this Prapatti also known as Śaraṇāgati.


Bhagavān Vishnu kindly instructed Viṣvaksena in the type of Refuge known as Arta Prapatti (the surrender of the miserable); and it has 5 accessories (aṅgas).


“I am a repository of negative acts, utterly incapable and helpless. O Lord! Please be my recourse!” —

this is the attitude of supplication which is directed towards the Lord.


The prapanna, who, reflecting deeply upon the lot that has befallen him and the [attractive] qualities of Hari, and being fully conscious that God is the only means, seeks refuge with Him, is released from the bonds of Samsāra1.

7 - 8.

In the above sentences, the Prapatti of five aṅgas (limbs) is mentioned. There are also other synonyms for this Prapatti such as:

Nikṣepa (self-resignation to the care of God), Nyāsa, Saṁnyāsa (renunciation), Tyāga (relinquishment) and Śaraṇāgati (taking refuge). (Lakshmi Tantra 17-75)


According to the Lakshmi Tantra, by the two limbs i.e. the resolution to act in conformity to His will and the relinquishing of opposition to it, are (in a way) predicated the nature of the [other three] limbs; moreover to these limbs the same fruit as that of their principal [act of Prapatti] is attributed and their various natures [are also pointed out].


Conformity to the will of God is grounded in the conviction that the divine presence resides within all beings, therefore loving kindness to all beings is said to be this 'Conformity.'

11 - 12.

By this knowledge of the universal pervasiveness of Him who is sought after in Prapatti and the resolution to relinquish all ‘nonconformity to His will’ — refraining from injury and hurt to all beings [is meant].

13 - 14.

Considering that the several means attaining of moksha (i.e. Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jñāna Yoga) are not guaranteed to succeed and there are also many pitfalls owing to the lack of perfection in practice, and deficiency of time, place and circumstances and the absence of qualification to engage in some of the practices, relinquishing arrogance and dejection is what is known as karpanya.


Stating that the other methods of achieving liberation are extremely difficult to practice is a suggestion that they should be abandoned and Prapatti should be resorted to instead by one who is incapable and unqualified.

16 - 17.

Because of His easy accessibility and unwavering compassion, because of the connection of the Lord (Īśa) and His dependent (īśatavya) [a relationship] which is not new [but has been existing] even from the beginning; the firm belief that He will indeed protect us who are conformable to him is what is known as Vishvasa (trust) destructive of all negative karma.


After [thus] skilfully ascertaining the capability of the provider of refuge to protect one and with the [firm] belief that God will protect, one should resort to Him as the way and the goal.


Even though He is merciful, capable and the Lord of all beings, yet unsolicited He will not protect, therefore one should apply oneself to supplication.


To say; “Lord please protect me!” is what is known as choosing one's protector.
Therefore it is important is actually invite the saving Grace.


But Prapatti is the means to receive the Grace of God by one who desires it.

Ātma- Nikṣepa (self-resignation to the care of God) is the relinquishing of any rights one may have to the rewards of one’s actions, which results in the surrender to Keśava (God).


One should avoid self-exertion in both - the method (Upāya) and the result (phala), both of which belong to the Lord (Swamyayatta)2; [and it is] also [plain] that Nikṣepa has accessories.


In Arta-Prapatti (the surrender of the desperate) all the afore mentioned aspects of Prapatti are combined at once. But in Dripta-prapatti (the surrender of the confident) they manifest themselves in succession.

24 – 25.

The division of Prapannas into Arta and Dripta is mentioned in Śrīmad Rāmāyaṇa: —

“Even an enemy who takes refuge with another, whether an Arta or a Dripta ought to be protected by a well-cultured person by even giving up his own life.”


One who is averse to the idea of taking another body is called a Dripta (confident). One who grieves even while in this body which is the result of past Karmas is called an Arta (the miserable).3


Prapatti also is therefore mentioned as divided into Arta and Dripta. However there ought to be the firm conviction that the way for the attainment of God is He Himself.


That which is known as Sādhya-bhakti (love as the end) is also a form of Prapatti. The stories of the Bhagavata conveying this message are as follows:


A Prapanna (the one who seeks refuge) is like the Chātakā bird, prapattavya (one who gives refuge) is like the pigeon. These functions of the protected and the protector are indicated by the characteristics of these birds their analogies.4

30 – 32.

Prapatti is also explained elsewhere in general treatises:

All those aspirants who seek to attain Liberation [from suffering and samsara] and those who desire to attain the Supreme Abode of Bliss from whence there is no return,

they may strive through any of the other means such a Jñana-yoga (path of knowledge), Karma-yoga (path of disinterested engagement) or by Bhakti-yoga (path of devotion)

but the only sure path to success and to the attainment of the Supreme Being (Puruṣottama) is through Nyāsa — surrender.


Prapatti is the means to attain the goals of worldly life as well as the supreme goal of the Vedas which are so difficult to accomplish by other methods.

(The synonyms for Prapatti used in this chapter are Śaraṇāgati, Nikṣepa, Nyāsa, Tyāga and Sannyāsa.)

  • 1. Samsāra is derived from Samsri - to flow continuously; course of circuit of worldly life. Hence transmigration or cycle of births and deaths.
  • 2. Prapatti is a surrendering of oneself into the protective embrace of the Lord – much like a drowning person who surrenders himself to the lifesaver who then does the work of bringing him to the beach. Struggle is necessary while trying to stay above water but the struggle becomes a threat to life if continued after the lifesaver has taken hold of one.
  • 3. A Dripta’s present contentment arises not out of any physical happiness which he disregards, but out of realising the working of God’s will in everything;
    so a Dripta is not dissatisfied with this body, because it is given by God and he is fully prepared to fulfil his temporal duties, but longs for the union with God after death.
    An Arta's misery is not out of any physical suffering which is nothing to him. But he feels miserable even at a moment's separation from God; and consequently grieves at this body which keeps him away from the Divine Union.
  • 4. The Chātakā bird in Indian poetry is supposed to live solely on raindrops —
    at the end of summer the Chātakā bird waits patiently and desperately for the monsoon to quench its unbearable thirst —in the same way the prapanna desperately waits for Moksha.
    And God is like the pigeon of the story in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam:
    In a storm, a luckless and forlorn hunter took shelter under the tree in which the pigeon was living. After kindling a fire to warm the hunter he dropped himself into the fire in order to appease the hunter’s hunger.