Prapanna Pārijāta | Servant’s Heritage


important treatise in
Śrī Vaiṣṇavism

Prapanna Pārijāta | Servant’s Heritage

By Śrīguru Varavatsya Varadāchārya

This book was written by Śrī Vatsya Varadaguru (more popularly known as Nadadoor Ammal) who was the preceptor of Vedanta Deśika’s preceptor, a Saint of 12th century.

Nadadoor Ammal was the foremost scholar in Śrī Vaishnava philosophy and was deeply devoted to Lord Varadarāja.  His utmost devotion towards Lord Varadarāja earned him epithet “Ammal”, when the Lord Himself addressed him as “Mother!” moved by his motherly affection.

The name Prapanna Pārijāta was given to the work by the author himself.

Prapanna is a Sanskrit word which means complete ‘surrender’, ‘dedication’. To make it easier for all kinds of people, Rāmānuja, the great Param-Āchārya of Śrī Vaishnava tradition, said that a person has to be just a 'prapanna', meaning completely surrendered to God.

Pārijāta in Sanskrit may confer meanings such as ‘descended from’, ‘begotten by’ or ‘fully developed’. The author himself later in text defines it thus:

“That is to say, the essential requisites of a virtuous character have been collected here from various sources.”

So I have taken here Pārijāta in the meaning of Spiritual Heritage or Treasury.

There is one more traditional meaning of the word “Pārijāta” – according to Vedic religious scriptures Pārijāta is a celestial wish-fulfilling tree capable of conferring all desired fruits on those who make wishes while in its shade.

The work consists of Ten Paddhatis or chapters. After 5 verses which constitute the invocatory portion the following topics are dealt with in the ten chapters that follow:—

1. Pramāṇa paddhati — On the authorities for Prapatti
2. Svarūpa paddhati — On the Nature of Prapatti
3. Adhikāra paddhati — On The Right of Practice.
4. Guru-upāsanā paddhati — On the serving of the guru.
5. Bhāgavat Paricharya Paddhati — On the Salvific activities of God.
6. Bhāgavat Parijana upasana paddhati — On The Worship of The Attendants of God
7. Bhagavad Upāsānā praddhati — On Serving The Virtuous
8. vihita-vyavasthana paddhati — The Determination of Prescribed Karma
9. Varjaniya paddhati — On the Works that ought to be Renounced
10. Phalodaya paddhati — On The Dawn of Fruition


The Pārijāta of the Seeker of Refuge

1. I salute the famous Varadarya who is the ornament of the family of the Vatsas who by giving the nectar of the commentary on Śrī Bhāshya revives even me.

2. I offer innumerable salutations to the feet of teachers who are like so many suns and by contact with whose pāda (feet or rays of light) the minds of people blossom like lotuses.

3. Salutation to the horse-headed God (Hayagrīva) who by gifts of imperishable acts has attained the quality of munificence and who is of great effulgence.

4. Salutations to that God who by constantly meditating on the eye of Lakshmi has (as it were) attained similitude with it and has thus attained the shape of a fish (Minavapuh) and who freed the bestower of the Vedas (Brahma) from danger.

5. Taking shelter under the dust (rajas) of the feet of saints which is potent enough to heal [the affliction of] passions (rajas) we shall endeavour to compose the work known as Prapanna Pārijāta.


On the authorities for Prapatti


By epitomising the teaching of the Vedanta1 and other works we shall here be dealing with these ten topics:

(1) the great authorities for Prapatti (taking refuge in God) - (2) its nature - (3) the persons entitled to practice it - (4) the duties of a Prapanna (a person who takes refuge) towards the guru (spiritual preceptor) - (5) towards God - (6) towards the eternals2 and - (7) towards the other devotees - (8) the determination of duties from among those prescribed in the Śāstras and - (9) those practices that are to be avoided and (10) the result thereof.


For my sole endeavour is to fix in the mind, by constant contemplation, the teaching received, and nothing else. Any faults found herein should be excused by good people, because of the complexity of the subject.

4. – 5.

Prapatti (seeking refuge in God) is first prescribed in the Veda of the Taittirīya3 and there, in the hymn (mantra)4 commencing with "Vasuranya", it is mentioned by the name of Nyāsa5 (i.e. delivering one's self up to God) together with its Modus Operandi.


There it is said that the Supreme Brahman, who is the object of meditation, who is the cause of all, who is all-pervading and is the Generator of all, is Himself worthy to be sought after — the Brahman whose glory is sung thus:—

"You are (now) the giver of light to the sun etc. as in the previous cycle; you are brilliant and beautiful like precious gems!”


“Making the jīvātman (Self) the oblation, one shall sacrifice It in the glorious fire of the Brahman, whose body one is, repeating the (mantra)’OM’ which is the essence of the Vedas.”


Thus the application of Prapatti is declared in the sacred texts to assume the form of Prāṇava (the sacred syllable OM); where it is represented as a sacrifice in the body of those that know it accordingly.


Of the various penances mentioned therein, Prapatti otherwise known as Nyāsa is stated as the highest. The Dvaya is considered in Kaṭha Valli to be the primary mantra of Prapatti6.


The Śvetāśvatara Upanishad is cited as a highly favourable authority [on this subject of Prapatti]. This Upanishad, in speaking about the course of practice also state as follows: —


“In order to obtain the knowledge of the Self, one who is desirous of Liberation should take refuge with Him who at the beginning created Brahma and taught him the Vedas.”

12 – 13.

“A prapanna (one who seeks refuge) is never forsaken even though he deserves to be killed.” Many scriptural passages like this are also authorities on the subject.

And in the Śrī Śāstra (the Pāñcharātra Agama7) the Bhagavan (Vishnu) taught
Brahma the Mantra called Dvaya beginning with the words 'Śrīman Nārāyaṇa’ in the same way it was explained by Lakshmi to Indra in the Lakshmi Tantra.


The Sanat-kumara Saṁhitā also mentions with respect that Prapatti yields the fruits of all desires and is independent of all other means [to achieve one’s goals].


Thus Prapatti is completely independent of any other means8. It yields (of itself) the fruits of all desires to all persons in all places and at all times.

16 – 17.

It severs one's bondage to Samsāra when it is uttered even once.

As the restraining capacity of the missile of Brahma even though it was irresistible was nullified at once, owing to the distrust of the Rākṣasa (in its power) to bind Hanuman, so Prapatti becomes ineffectual from the faithlessness9.


Therefore it will give freedom (mukti) to those that place their trust in it. Either in association with other means or by itself, Prapatti accomplishes the freedom of those that are desirous of salvation in the same way as Prāṇava.

19 – 20.

The Bhagavān (Vishnu) has clearly said to the attentive Viśvaksena as follows:

“It is difficult to follow other means [of self-liberation]; because there is always the danger of losing the qualifications which are required to practice [those means]:

consequently I shall now mention in this connection the one method [of liberation] which is common to everyone.”

21 – 22.

“On account of the negative influence of time, because of the unsteady nature of the mind, on account of the attachment of the senses to their objects, on account of indulgence in forbidden acts and on account of not doing what is ordained to be done, and due to the (adverse) nature of the times during which we live, —

O leader of hosts! It is impossible to conquer the drive for sensual pleasures.”


“Therefore, O great sage! Not everyone is qualified for Karma yoga10; because there are so many prescribed duties [in the Scriptures] and not everyone is qualified to perform them.”


“Very few people even have an interest in following the path of Jñāna Yoga11. In the absence of such [an interest] neither affection (priti) nor higher love (bhakti)12 for Me arises.”


“Therefore, as there is no qualification to practise Karma Yoga or any other Yoga, and as there is no other course of action for one to follow, one should take refuge in My feet as the only way.”


“Considering well the pitiful state that has befallen one, and considering also My [attractive] qualities, one who resorts to Me with the full awareness that I am the only means, is liberated forever.”

27 - 28.

Resolution to act in conformity [to His will] absence of opposition [to it] conviction that He will protect and solicitation for His protection; resignation of one's self [to Him — ātma-nikṣepa] and the feeling of helplessness —

these are the six aspects of Śaraṇāgati (taking refuge).


“By means of this [process of] Prapatti one should take refuge in Me, guided by the feeling that there is no other option, knowing Me to be Mādhava (the Lord of Lakshmi). Thus resting in Me one attains fulfilment of the goal.”


The Bhagavān (Vishnu) has thus declared in the Rāmāyaṇa and in the Mahābhārata: —

“To one who has sought protection with Me only once, and has implored Me saying; I am yours! I offer protection from the fear of all beings. This is my vow”.


“Forsaking all self-initiated means of liberation (Dharmas) come to Me alone for shelter; I shall liberate you from all your karmic reactions. Do not grieve” (Gītā 18:66)


Parāśara who came to know of the truth regarding the Deity through the boon of Vāsishṭha has also declared as follows in the Vishnu Pūraṇa:—


“One will continue to experience affliction and desire, delusion and misery until one takes refuge with You (Vishnu) the Destroyer of all sins!”


“O messengers of Yama! Keep far away from those sinless beings who say: —

‘O Lotus-eyed Vāsudeva! Vishnu (the Pervader of the universe)! Supporter of the earth! The unchangeable One! The bearer of the conch and the discus! Be our refuge!’”


While stating the duties of the four castes (varṇa) and of the four orders of life (āśrama), the sage Manu has also referred to the glory of Saṁnyāsa (self-surrender) under the heading:—

“The worship of Nārāyaṇa”.


“If you have no dispute with that Being who lives in your own heart, who is the Yama — the controller of the senses from within, who dwells in Vivasvān — the sun, who is the Raja — the Ruler, go not to the Ganges nor to Kurukṣettra.”

37 - 38.

“Dwelling in the heart” does not primarily pertain to Yama (the God of Death) the lord of the Southern direction, but to Him, the Ruler of all beings, who having entered into them, controls them all; who is hidden even in the Self (Ātman) and is death even unto the God of Death;

Hence “he abides in the heart”; and to have “no dispute with Him” who is the Supreme Ruler of all and lives in the disc of the Sun is to surrender one's self to His feet.


“Whoever conceives of the Self differently from what it really is, is a great sinner verily a thief who has stolen the Self (Ātman).”


"Therefore even the Tīrthas (holy places) etc. are purified by those who have taken refuge with the Lord who is the Ruler of all and abides in the hearts of all.


This idea has been expressed in diverse ways by Śaunaka13 and other great sages: —

"O King you may continue to visit Tīrthas (holy places) until your mind becomes devoted to Vishnu.”


"O mighty ruler! Devotees like you who have themselves become sacred, sanctify
the tīrthas through the Mace-bearer (Vishnu) residing within themselves."


This is enough scriptural testimony for Prapatti. Śauṇaka and Vyāsa have (respectively declared thus in the Vishnu-dharma and the Mahābhārata:—


“You have passed through a succession of many births. Considering well any one of them, resort to the taking of refuge!”


“O Bhārata! You who are afraid of falling, abandon every other project and devote all your heart to Nārāyaṇa.”

  • 1. Vedanta: Literally “the end of the Veda” — meaning an Upanishad which comes at the end of the Veda. Hence it is term applied to the Darśana (the philosophical view point) of the Upanishads.
    Vedanta as a system of philosophy is one of the six principal systems of Hindu philosophy based on the Upanishads as teaching the ultimate aim and scope of the Veda.
    This system is also called Uttara-Mīmāṁsā being regarded as a sequel to Jaimini's Pūrva-Mīmāṁsā though practically quite a distinct system.
    It represents the evolution of the Hindu philosophy and as such it now actually covers the whole of orthodox India and forms the basis of its several religious sects.
    It regards the whole world as synthetically derived from one eternal Principle — the Brahman or the Supreme Being which is both the efficient and the material cause of the phenomenal universe, the all pervading Essence and Spirit or the universe; and everything as ultimately being absorbed into Brahman the one absolute essence.
  • 2. According to the Viśiṣṭādvaita theology the Jīva is of three kinds: Nitya the eternal, Baddha the bound; and Mukta the liberated. Of these the eternals always attend on God, ministering unto Him and have no births except when they voluntarily incarnate with an Avatar for the purpose of serving Him.
  • 3. The followers of the Taittirīya branch of the Yajur-veda known as the Black Yajur-veda which takes its name after the sage Tittiri its first teacher, or after the francoline partridge, a bird connected with a popular Purāṇic story.
  • 4. Mantra: Originally the Saṁhitā portion of the Veda as distinguished from the Brāhmaṇa; hence a Vedic hymn or prayer addressed to any deity. It is of 3 kinds: (1) Rik — metrical and intoned loudly, (2) Yajus — prose and intoned in a low tone; and (3) Sāmam — metrical and sung. Later it came to be applied to any formula of prayer to a deity; and finally to an incantation or charm.
  • 5. Nyāsa: Literally 'pledge’. Here it is synonymous with Prapatti meaning 'pledging one's self to God’. It is recognised by the Upanishads as one of the thirty two Brahmā-vidyās (disciplines teaching the knowledge of Brahman)
  • 6. Dvaya: The sacred mantra of Prapatti. The word signifies ‘Twofold’ being a combination of two mantras, the Mūla-mantra and another. Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Chāraṇau Śaranam Prapadye, Śrīmate Nārāyaṇāya Namaḥ. ‘I take refuge in the feet of Lord Nārāyaṇa along with Lakṣmī devī, I salute the divine couple.
  • 7. Śrī Śāstra: The body of Tantric teaching known as Pāñcharātra Agama sacred to the Vaishnavas. The main portion of Śrī Rāmānuja’s philosophy is based on this. In this work the word Śāstra alone is used to indicate it. Bhāgavat Śāstra is another name for it.
  • 8. 'Means' are those religious projects which we engage in to bring about our own liberation and acquire spiritual merit, such as study, fasting, pilgrimages, purification, austerity, pujas, yajñas etc.
  • 9. Hanuman was immobilised with a weapon known as the Brahmāstra which was invisible, not trusting the power of the Brahmāstra the demons further bound Hanuman with jute ropes which immediately negated the invisible and invincible power of the Brahmāstra.
  • 10. Karma yoga: The performance of secular activities and religious rites with the practice of non-attachment and with the goal of eventually liberating oneself from Samsara. Some sects like the Vaikhānasas adopt it as the sole means and consider it to be perfect in itself.
  • 11. Jñāna yoga: Contemplation and meditation as the means of acquiring spiritual insight into the true nature of one's own atman, and thus effecting liberation.
  • 12. Love towards equals is priti; and love towards superiors is bhakti. Bhakti for God is transcendental love.
  • 13. The author of this work quotes chiefly from the following authorities: The Vedas; Smṛitiḥ especially Manu; Mahabharata of Vyāsa; Vishnu Purāṇa of Parāśara and Vishnu-dharma of Saunaka; Sri Bhagavata and occasionally Varaha Purāṇa and largely the Śāstras i.e. the Pāñcharātra Agama.