Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa | 11-15


11. Selfless service.

83. When Rama set out for the forest to fulfil the conditions of his exile, the Younger Lord (Lakṣmana), being unable to bear separation chose to accompany him and to serve him in every possible way applying himself selflessly without thought for his own needs.

With none to compete with him for service, Lakshmana developed an insatiable appetite for service, like a person who cooks his own food with none to share it, eating all the food prepared — all the remnants as well as all the food currently prepared so as not to waste any, thus inflating his capacity to eat.

After returning to the capital Ayodhyā [after the period of exile had expired] he was incapable of sharing his food/service with others — Bhārata and Śatrughna each rendered a particular service but Lakshmana being insatiable took up the holy white umbrella in one blessed hand and the holy white fly-whisk in the other.

84. Periya-vuḍaiyār and Piḷḷai Tiru-Naraiyur Araiyar disregarded their bodies; the body of Cintayanti perished of itself.

Periya-vuḍaiyār (the great vulture king, Jatāyu) was a friend of Rāma's. Sītā called out to him as she was being transported in Rāvaṇa’s vehicle. Jatāyu counselled Rāvaṇa to return Sītā, however Rāvaṇa refused. Thereupon the aging Jatāyu decided to fight Rāvaṇa to the death in an attempt to rescue Sītā — knowing full well that he could not win. Jatāyu was mortally wounded in the ensuing combat.

Piḷḷai Tiru-Naraiyur Araiyar was attending the worship of Veda-Nārāyaṇa in Tiru-Nārāyaṇa-puram. Some heretics set fire to the thatched roof of the temple, all the devotees fled the scene but Piḷḷai and his family clung to the icon trying to dislodge it from its pedestal so that they could save it. They all died in the conflagration.

When Śrī Kṛṣṇa played on his flute all the Gopis that could, would go to him, an unnamed Gopī, unable to do so simply expired upon hearing Kṛṣṇa’s flute and thus was known as Cintayanti (the one who contemplates).

85. As to the Means (upāya), self-consciousness and self-effort must be renounced; as to the Goal (upeya), love, that is not directed to self-gratification and impatience [in the state of separation] are necessary.

Sītā renounced her power of self-protection, Draupadī, her self-consciousness, Tiru-kanna-mangai Aṇḍān, his self-effort. Jatāyu demonstrates selfless love. Piḷḷai Tiru-Naraiyur Araiyar, the lack of concern to nourish himself and Cintayanti reveals impatience.

12. Scriptural injunctions & spontaneous devotion.

86. If something is enjoined upon one [by Scripture], it can be disregarded; if something results from love [of the Lord], it is impossible to disregard.

87. Renunciation [of the body] as a means should be condemned, Renunciation [of the body] as the goal, should be condoned.

Giving up one's body in the service of the Divine is said to be a means for attaining liberation according to various Scriptures such as the Vāyu and Vāmana Purāṇas, the Mahābhārata etc.

It can therefore be argued that it was improper for the Araiyar as a Prapanna to have recourse to a means such as self-immolation.

The rejoinder is that the Araiyar did not give up his body as some means to attain the Lord — it was a spontaneous and irresistible act to rescue the Lord born of intense love for the Lord

88. If one who is attached to unworthy objects strives wholeheartedly to obtain them, what is to be said of one who is devoted to worthy objects

89. In the practice [of renouncing the body] or the non-practice [of renouncing the body], there is no connection with upāya.

The point being discussed is whether a particular act is performed as an end in itself (Puruṣārtha) or as a Means (Upāya):

If the former, then there is no objection even if it coincides with acts prescribed by the Scriptures as upāya, such as pilgrimages, vows, fasts, recitation of mantras etc.

It is then categorised as Upeya-anuṣṭhāna (an act done as an end in itself), and not as Upāya- anuṣṭhāna (an act done as a means to attain a goal).

90. Reactions prompted by love of the Lord cannot be criticised as contravening the principles of ananya-upāyatva (eschewing all other means than the Lord Himself), ananya-upeyatva (existing for the purpose of the Lord alone) and ananya-daivatva (not submitting to any other deity than Śrīman Nārāyaṇa.)

All these three types of apparent transgressions are noticed in the hymns of the Āḻvārs who are nevertheless the exemplars of Prapatti:

The principle of ananya-upāyatva was violated by Aṇḍāḷ when she performed various votary rituals as means to obtain the Lord as her lover. Nammāḷvār also complained bitterly to the public about the unresponsiveness of the Lord in order to get Him to relent.

Ananya-upeyatve was flaunted when Tirumaṅgai Āḻvār engaged in the worship of the Deity of Tiruppullani as a measure of self-delight. Nammāḷvār expresses a desire to personal enjoy the cool fragrance of the tulasi garland worn by the Lord.

Ananya-daivatvam was compromised when Aṇḍāḷ invoked the God of Love — Kāma and worshipped him along with his younger brother Sāman. The Gopīs of Vṛndāvana also invoked and worshipped Goddess Kātyāyani (Dūrgā) in order to obtain Kṛṣṇa.

These apparent transgressions were committed in the exuberance of God-intoxication and therefore cannot be subjected to the same criteria for judging common transgressions.

91. Acts performed in [apparent] blissful ignorance arising from the maturation of wisdom should be cherished.

The Āḻvārs were all endowed with the supreme divine knowledge by the Lord Himself. This knowledge ripened into wisdom and a profound love for God.

In their exuberance of such ecstasy they became mentally disturbed and said and did things which would normally be considered as transgressions. But the omniscient Lord would not take umbrage at these expressions of ecstatic love for Himself.

92. The acts [in question] which result as the consequence of upāya and are within the domain of upeya cannot be an obstacle to upāya.

93. The superiority of [taking the Lord as] Means consists in the Means being identical to the Goal, and being impatient with delay, one engages with the Means on account of deep attachment to the Goal [the Lord Himself].

Herein lies the principle merit in seeking refuge in the Lord as the Siddhopāya. The harmonious blending within God of both the means and the end is like the drinking of milk which is both a medicine and food.

94. This deep attachment [to Kṛṣṇa] is the most important source of all the positive qualities which are natural to the jīva.

When God-love is developed, all the dormant spiritual qualities begin to manifest and with the intensification of loving devotion these qualities shine forth displacing self-centredness and the craving for sense-gratification.

95. “Centring your thoughts on the Lord............(1)”. “Whoever is impassioned with the Supreme ātman........(2).”, “Seeing, bearing, touching, smelling...........(3).”.

1) Tiru Antāḍi 3. 14:

“Centring your thoughts on the Lord, eschewing all contact with women, directing the mind toward the sacred text after humbling (yourself) at the Feet touched by the heads of the gods — those of the Lord of the hills, who is the Lord of the four Vedas, it is indeed easy.”

2) Source unknown:

“Whoever is impassioned with the Supreme ātman and detached from things other than the Supreme ātman”.

3) Tiruvāymoḷi 4. 9. 10:

“I avoid desiring gratification through the five sense-organs which wander about seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting and I avoid the pleasure of that rare knowledge, difficult to measure (the negligible bliss of Self-isolated liberation = kaivalya) seeing You standing in the delightful company of Your consort who has charming bangles, I have now obtained Your sacred feet.”

13. Equanimity (sama) & self-restraint (dama) the jīva qualities.

96. Among the qualities of the Self, equanimity and self-restraint are the most important.

The revered teacher could here by “qualities of the self” be referring to the ṣaṭ-sampat of traditional Vedānta teaching:

• Sama — tranquillity or control of mind by withdrawing thought processes from worldly affairs.

• Dama — self-restraint or control of conduct, restraining the senses from externally directed action

• Uparati — tolerance and renunciation of all sectarian religious observances with the object of acquiring wisdom.

• Titikṣā — endurance, bearing heat and cold, fame and blame and all other pairs of opposites.

• Śraddhā — faith founded on logic and the conviction that the practice will lead to the goal.

• Samādhāna — balanced mental equipoise and attentiveness to the practice; freedom from torpor, laziness, and carelessness.

97. When these two qualities are present, one meets the Ācārya. From meeting the Ācārya, one receives the holy mantra. From receiving the holy mantra, one is able to attain the Lord; from the attainment of the Lord, the Land of Perfection comes within one's reach as stated in “.......... are assured of the other Great City, Vaikuṇṭha,”

The holy mantra is the Aṣṭākṣarī (eight-syllabled) “Om Namo Nārāyaṇāya”.

The quotation is from Tiruvāymoḷi 4.10.11. —

“Those capable of reciting these ten songs of the thousand sung with deep devotion by Caṭakōpaṉ of Kurukūr, wearing upon his breast the fragrant narcissus garland blessed by the Lord wielding the discus, to render Him great service, by turning unto Him the wayward samsārins, are assured of the Great City of Vaikuṇṭha”.

98. Through the means is obtained the goal; from the holy mantra the means is obtained; the holy mantra is obtained from the Ācārya who one meets by the development of [the two aforementioned] spiritual qualities.

99. This [the development of Sama and Dama], indeed, is necessary for those who [also] seek material prosperity (aiśvarya), the ritual worshippers (upāsakas) and those who have taken refuge (prapannas).

The dual qualities of tranquillity (sama) and restraint (dama) are necessary for all those who are seeking to progress in materialism as well as to the ritualists who are doing spiritual practice for gaining special powers or spiritual achievement and they are also required by the Prapannas.

While lamenting over the corpse of Rāvaṇa, Mandodarī recalled how Rāvaṇa had conquered all the three realms through his rigorous practice of self-restraint.

So if great solipsists like Rāvaṇa could achieve so much through self-restraint how much more would one motivated by altruism achieve.

100. That which is enjoined for the three, is of particular importance for the Prapanna.

The Prapanna more than the other two types of practitioners needs to develop equanimity and restraint.

14. Abstention from sense-enjoyment

101. For these others it is appropriate to abstain from that which is prohibited [by Scripture]; the peculiarity of the Prapanna, lies in abstaining from even that which is prescribed.

Even though sex, meat-eating and the pursuit of pleasure for example are sanctioned by the Scriptures, the Prapanna refrains from them, because they could lead to excessive attachment to sense gratification and a distraction from the love of God and His enjoyment (ananya-bhogyatva).

Maṇavāḷa-māmuni wonders how many people have actually imbibed the teachings of the Śrīvacana Bhūṣaṇa and how many of those would actually have put them into practice.

102. This [abstention from sense-enjoyment] for some, arise from the beauty [of the Lord] for some it arises from Grace and for some it arises from established practice [following the practical example of the early Ācāryas].

Sanctioned sex falls into two categories — sensual and functional:

The former is simply indulged in for pleasure while the second category is for the purpose of raising offspring as is the duty of a householder. Even this later function is to be eschewed by the Prapanna, assuming that he is not already addicted to the former.

The abstention from these two forms of permitted sex arises either through an attachment to the beauty and graciousness of the Lord, through Divine Grace — or through the resolute emulation of the chaste lives of the previous Ācāryas and Āḻvārs.

103. As to the mode of this arising it is as follows; beauty produces unawareness; Grace produces aversion; established practice produces fear.

Those Prapannas who are captivated by the beauty of the Lord become indifferent to all other aesthetic attractions.

Those who are the recipients of the Divine Grace become disgusted with everything other than the Lord; and those who attempt to condition themselves by following established practice become anxious that there may be a fall from their practice.

104. This is said with reference to the respective attachments of these [three types].

15. Aversion from sense gratification

105. When aversion [from sense gratification] arises, awareness of faults is to be expected.

When distaste and aversion for sense objects arises then one sees all the defects in them that were not previously perceived due to intense personal involvement with them.

106. [But] that [critical awareness] is not the chief incentive [for aversion].

107. The main cause [of aversion] is incompatibility [with the quintessence of the jīva].

The most important element in transformation from sensuality to spirituality is the realisation of one's quintessence which includes ananya-bhogyatva, that is existing for the sole delight of the lord to the exclusion of all else.

108. It is not by the perception of [His] qualities that one becomes involved with the Lord it is due to the quintessence [of the jīva].

109. If you don’t take it this way, then striving to obtain the Lord even when [the Lord] is considered to be imperfect and striving for sense gratification when one is aware of the defects are both incongruous.

If we were attracted to Kṛṣṇa solely by His aesthetic qualities, or to the world solely by its potential for sense-gratification, then the fact that we are attracted toward them in spite of their apparent defects would be unexplainable.

The Āḻvārs repeatedly lament in their hymns that the Lord is harsh and unresponsive to their outpourings of love and devotion.

Our own experience shows us that people are attached to their spouses, lovers, friends, and families in spite of repeated deception, rejection, misery and disillusion.

Our inherent attraction toward the Lord is due to our quintessence, ie. it is natural rather than being occasioned by the attributes of the Lord,

110. There are these passages — “My stubborn mind clings to Him alone.........” “I, your servant, will long for nothing but [your] lotus-red feet!...................”

The first quotation is from the Tiruvāymoḷi 5.3.5—

“Agile and alert or cruelly indifferent could be the Lord. Great beyond comprehension, He measured the worlds with His stride, His bewitching form has entrapped me and yet my stubborn mind clings to Him alone”.

The Āḻvār, speaking to a friend, laments the fact that although the Lord is sometimes cruel and always difficult to comprehend, his heart has been stolen by that Lord.

The second quotation is from Periya Tirumoḷi 11.8.7 —

“The worm in the Margosa tree will not eat anything other than the Neem fruit (even though it’s bitter). Likewise, I, Your servant, will long for nothing but (Your) lotus-red feet. O Divine Light, sleeping on the five-mouthed couch [of Ananta Śeṣa], release from bondage this weary, young moon”.