Prapanna Pārijāta | Chapter 5



On the Salvific Activities of God


One who has, through the grace of the guru received the teaching on subservience to God (Śeṣatva1), and recognises the faults inherent in all happiness derived from sense-gratification2 , who has complete devotion to Vishnu, being indifferent to other deities, who desires only to obtain Vishnu - is called a Vaishnava (Vaiṣṇava)3.


The Ekāṅta is one who comes to the conclusion that bhakti is ineffective [for Liberation] as is the worship of other devatās. Sense-gratification is incapable of delivering happiness, and Krishna as the means to attain Krishna Himself.


The Parama-ekānta is who concludes that the various methods [to attain moksha] all the deities other than Krishna, sensual pleasures, Bhakti and even Prapatti to Krishna are all equal [in pertaining to the realm of conditioning] and who has the exclusive vision of the Lord as master.


Fully realising subservience to the Lord, his entire life is spent only in the service of His Holy Feet and spends his time thinking of how he can be of useful service.


Learning from the guru the meaning of the ‘root mantra’ [Om Namo Nārāyaṇāya], as being of the same import as the Dvaya and taking refuge in Hari alone one shall worship Him with that (mantra).

6 – 7.

One shall make offerings with this ‘root mantra’ daily three times according to one’s ability. This mantra is the essence of the teaching of the Vedanta and it enables one to cross the ocean of Samsāra. Of all the mantras this is the supreme mantra; it is the most secret of all secrets; it is the purest of the pure, it is eternal.


By those that are desirous of Liberation it should be recited constantly as it produces worldly enjoyment (Bhukti) and final Liberation (mukti). By the Vaishnavas it is worthy of constant recitations as fostering knowledge (jñāna) and devotion (bhakti).


It is the divine source of all the mantras and is capable of destroying all sins. With a focussed mind one should recite it diligently.

10 – 11.

Viṣvaksena, the commander of the hosts delivered an injunction to Gajanana (the elephant faced God) and other hosts, that the Vaishnavas should always make offerings and other acts of devotion with either this mantra or the Dvaya, preceded by salutation to his Guru.


Only after having put on the indications of a Vaishnava shall Hari be worshipped.

The sage Vyāsa declares that only those of all castes who have applied the symbols of a Vaishnava should make offerings, serve and adore Mādhava.


These indications are said to be of two kinds — external and internal: The signs of the conch and discus etc. are external, and the absence of selfish-desire and others4 is the internal.


From all the Upanishads the wearing of the insignia of the conch and discus is generally established. The Atharva Upanishad specifically describes the wearing of these insignia for the discerning ones.


The knowers of the Truth (brahmavit) know well that a Vipra shall bear on his right arm the [brand of the] discus and on his left that of the conch.

16 – 17.

If there be a doubt as to whether this practice [of branding] is Vedic5 we say that the same doubt can be applied to the entire corpus of mantras as well.

If great sages have accepted the mantras as being authoritative, then this practice too cannot be doubted. [If doubt still persists then the] Padma and Āgneyī Purāṇas with raised arms declare this practice to be authorized!

18 – 19.

By those that are advanced in Devotion (Bhakti) and Conviction (Śraddhā), the five weapons (of Vishnu) are to be worn separately in specific places upon the body:

on the forehead the mace (gadā) is to be worn; on the head the bow (Śārṅga) on the middle of the chest the sword (Nandaka) and on the two arms the conch and the discus.


The metallic brands of the weapons are to be heated in the fire and then applied to the body while reciting their specific mantras. Even the venerable Manu has affirmed this.6


The one who daily wears the vertical insignia7 (ūrdhva-puṇḍram) and the discus8 (chakra) will experience an increase of auspiciousness and a decrease in inauspiciousness.

22 – 23.

The time for applying the discus and other insignia are mentioned by Bhagavān in the Pāñcharātra Shastra:

Before sixteen years of age is the most favourable time, until the fiftieth year is middling and after that lowest. Such is the determination of the propitious time; all the months of the year except the [two] months of the rainy season are auspicious.


In the Pāñcharātra are prescribed in great detail the place [on the body9], the measurement10 and the material of Ūrdhva puṇḍram — according to this (prescription) it should be applied.


The Ūrdhva-puṇḍra should be painted with white clay produced on the top of a sacred mountain11 and other such holy places, especially by the Vaishnavas.12


“The one who wears a pure and white Ūrdhva-puṇḍra with nice interspaces creates for Me a pure temple [in which to dwell i.e. the mind].”


[Keeping the] heart unsullied by craving and the other afflictive emotions13, [maintaining] speech uncontaminated by falsehood etc.14 and [preserving] a body unimpaired by aggression and the rest15

are the three ways in which Krishna is worshipped.


The eight kinds of flowers that dear to Vishnu [and should perpetually be offered] are:

Non-injury [in word, deed or thought]; control of the senses; kindness to all beings; especially forgiveness; knowledge, self-discipline, meditation and truth.

30 – 32.

Thus with the body adorned with the external and internal insignia, having bathed in holy waters and offered libations of water to the Devas, the ancestors and the sages as ordained in the Śāstras  having diligently recited the Mūla-mantra one hundred and eight times, having prepared all the offerings of touch (samsparshikam16), of service (aupacarikam17) and activity (abhyavaharikam18) and having completed the decoration of the place of worship (Yāga Bhūmi19),

one should worship Vishnu according to the routine established by Rāmānuja20 .


Just as a servant having great love for the king tries to please him, in the same way should one try to please one’s own Lord - free from fear21, through circumambulation (pradakshina) and by prostrations (Namaskāra) and praise (stotra) approved of by the ekantis,


In due course of time [as one develops] the entire process of Bhakti-Yoga as taught by Varaha to Agastya along with all its accessories should be diligently practiced.

35 – 37.

“The eight kinds of Bhakti are:

(1) maternal affection for other devotees, (2) rejoicing in their worship, (3) worship by one's self, (4) avoidance of all ostentation in ceremonies,

(5) devotion to the listening to stories about My pastimes, (6) experiencing [emotional symptoms when hearing such stories] such as changes in the voice, tears and trembling, (7) thinking of Me daily and (8) [mindfulness of] never make a living from [devotional service to] Me.

If these eight forms of devotion exist even in a Mleccha22 (Barbarian) he should be regarded as the holiest of Brahmins; he is the greatest of the sages; he is a yati (a self-controlled renunciate) and a pandit. Gifts should be given to him and received from him; he should be venerated just as I am.”

38 – 39.

Śauṇaka has instructed that icons for the purpose of worship (Arcā-avatara) should be beautiful images of Vishnu with a joyful face and eyes which inspire love [in the beholder].

They should be constructed from metals such as gold, silver etc. One should project the Brahman into the icon and then become mentally absorbed in it.23


[To the icon] alone should one make offerings; to it one shall prostrate; it alone should be served and contemplated upon, abandoning all impurities (doṣa) one is absorbed in that which is the image of Brahman.


Doing whatever little one can, one should dwell in [the compound of] a temple of Vishnu. Always living in a Vishnu temple [compound] one shall serve the enshrined deity in the temple as best one can.


One should never even think of utilise anything belonging to Vishnu as a means for personal gain. Whether it be a great temple, a precious ornament or a pleasure [enjoyed by the deity].


An hour or even moment passed without thinking of Vāsudeva is a loss; a huge opening to disaster; a confusion and distortion [of mindfulness].


If even a single hour were to be wasted without meditation it should be a considered source of grief similar to being robbed by a thief.


Having exhaustively studied all the Śāstras and examined them again and again, we reach this one ultimate conclusion i.e. that Nārāyaṇa ought to be continually meditated upon.

  • 1. A Śeṣa is defined as something that is completely dependant upon and whose sole existence is for the benefit of another. A Śeṣi is defined as one who possesses Śeṣas and maintains and preserves them for His own purposes.
    According to Viśiṣṭādvaita philosophy the relationship between Īśvara and the Jīva (Śeṣa- Śeṣi -bhava) is like the relationship the King and the Kingdom, the King is not a king without a kingdom to rule, the kingdom on the other hand exists to nourish and maintain the king — it is a symbiotic and mutually dependant relationship which is eternal.
  • 2. According to Vedanta Deśikan, all forms of material pleasure and happiness and all material goals have 7 defects known as Sapta-doṣa these are:-
    1. alpa - their end results are trivial
    2. asthira - they are transient and impermanent,
    3. asukara - not easily obtained, they require much effort and are time consuming.
    4. asukhavasana - ultimately ending in grief and disappointments.
    5. dukhanvita - accompanied by disappointments and supported only by struggle.
    6. anucitam - incompatible with our essential being.
    7. abhimāna-mūla - they’re based upon a false sense of self and lead to further perpetuation of this delusive sense of identity.
  • 3. Vaishnavas are again divided into 2 categories as will now be explained.
  • 4. The 6 afflictive emotions are kāma = selfish desire, krodha = anger, moha = delusion, mada = hubris, lobha = parsimony, and matsarya = malicious envy.
  • 5. The Vaishnava practice of branding the insignia of the conch and discus on the arms of initiates is the subject of much controversy. It is definitely a Tantric practice but is claimed by Vaishnava acharyas to be advocated and endorsed by the Vedas as well; this is disputed by many Vedic scholars who denounce the practice.
  • 6. Where exactly this quotation is found is not known.
  • 7. The vertical insignia are the 2 white lines drawn on the forehead representative of the feet of Lord Vishnu with the central red central line which represents Lakshmi. Women wear a central red line with a tiny white line underneath.
  • 8. The discus would also include the other weapons as well.
  • 9. There are 12 places on the body on which the insignia are drawn, the forehead, front and 2 sides and nape of the neck, chest, 2 biceps, front and sides of the abdomen and lower back.
  • 10. The two vertical white lines should be the thickness of the forefinger at least.
  • 11. The sacred mountain is Melkote in Karnataka state where Rāmānuja spent his years of exile.
  • 12. Smārtas and Northern Vaishnavas use a yellowish clay called Gopī-chandan to draw their Ūrdhva-puṇḍras.
  • 13. See note 2
  • 14. The other contaminants of speech apart from lying are malicious gossip, verbal abuse, giving deceptive speeches.
  • 15. The sins of the body are causing injury directly or indirectly to other living beings, sexual misconduct, not rendering help to others in the time of need and serving evil people.
  • 16. Offerings consisting of oil bath, tooth-cleaning, bathing with powders, smearing with turmeric, offering of clothing, unguents, scent and garlands.
  • 17. Offerings consisting of mirror, fan, parasol, a vessel overflowing, incense, lamp,
  • 18. All manner of cooked food offerings.
  • 19. Yāga-Bhūmi: Literally means the place for the performance of the Vedic Yajñas also known as Yāgas. In the Tantric tradition the puja ceremony took the place of the Vedic fire-offerings.
  • 20. Rāmānuja composed a work called “Nitya Grantha” in which he gives the details of the daily liturgy or puja program.
  • 21. Upādhi means both fear and deceit. Serving the Lord should be done from overwhelming love for Him alone, in which there is absolutely no fear either from service imperfectly done, overdone or even neglected. If one takes Upādhi as ‘deceit’ then it would mean serving the Lord honestly with objects honestly obtained.
  • 22. Mleccha — from ‘mlecch’ to talk confusedly. A term of disrespect for Non-Aryans who do not conform to the Aryan codes of practice or speak Sanskrit. Nowadays used mostly for foreigners such as Europeans and Muslims.
  • 23. The process of icon worship is to first visualize the Lord seated within the lotus of one’s heart, one then projects that visualization onto the icon (avahanam) for the purpose of making offerings. After the puja is completed the deity is then reabsorbed into one’s heart (visarjanam).