Essence of the Three Secrets | 10

The Way That Exists

The Jīvātmā had suffered through births on this earth for aeons. By the Lord's grace gained for no reason it is freed from the bondage of birth.

Learning the Truth by studying authentic śāstras, the Jīvātmā becomes desirous of gaining Moksha. Performing the upāya (the means), he gets saved.

Recognising his present state, he learns to do his work in accordance with the śāstras and avoids committing mistakes. After the body falls away, he reaches Parama-pāda through the pathway of Archis and the rest. All this has been explained above.

Of these, one must have a clear idea of siddhopaya and sadhyopaya and their greatness.

The reason for the Prapanna’s lack of clear knowledge is due to the punishment meted out to him by the Lord for his earlier sins.

The Jīvātmā has 3 important ways to effect a change in the Lord's attitude:

The first is the Jivātmā’s prayer to the Mother: "Grant me true surrender at the feet of the Lord". The Mother replies: "May it be so. May this surrender gain you all that you want.”

Second is the grace of a good Āchārya.

Third is the gaining of a good sampradāya.

Śrī Vishnu Purāṇa and other scriptures speak of several legends of good Āchāryas. One must read them and absorb them.

It is very difficult to gain a good sampradāya for walking on the right path, gain an Āchārya who is not Interested in fame, profit or ritualism, and through him get at the great thoughts disseminated from the first Āchārya who is Nārāyaṇa Himself, learn the śāstras and understand their important precepts.

Hence it is better to approach an Āchārya and learn about the important concepts of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism.

If there are sincere followers who yet do not have the ability to read the scriptures, for them the Āchārya’s initiation alone is important. Sometimes śāstras can confuse people. Hence it is good to gain knowledge through Āchārya.

When there are aspirants who can learn the śāstras well, they should gain much clarity so that they can defeat people who indulge in illogical and vain argumentation, and give clarifications to those who feel disturbed by such arguments.

A person knows the dharmas well when he learns of the Vedas and śāstras in clear terms In the light of śāstras that are not inimical to the Vedas.

People who do not arrive at clear perception will lose the true concepts through illogical reasoning. In the process they might be led to think differently of the Lord and His ways. This would be a great loss.

It is, for instance, quite wrong to say Śrīman Nārāyaṇa is not the Supreme or speak of another deity as superior to Him. Or insinuate that all glories do not belong to the Lord, or that the jivātmā is not subservient to Him. These are also mistaken opinions.

Even if one of these wrong opinions stick to the prapannas he would be like one who has recovered his lost property only to lose it again.

Hence it is imperative that one does not join forces with people interested in mere argumentation. Otherwise his intelligence will be clouded and he will be lost. So it is good to learn of śāstric truths with crystalline clarity.

Nowadays one finds people with a confused approach towards Siddhopaya. Vedanta Deśika has answered their doubts in detail in this section. Without going into them all, I shall touch upon a few.

Some say there is no need to observe Prapatti by referring to the qualities of the Lord and about the relationship between the Lord and the Jīva:

Vedanta Deśika replies to them in firm accents and says that Prapatti Is necessary and Prapatti alone assures Moksha.

As many śāstras say the Lord is the guardian along with the Mothers some object to the point that "the two together" alone give guardianship. Vedanta Deśika clears their doubt:

Śrīmad Rāmāyaṇa, the hymns of the Āḻvārs the prayers of the Āchāryas and what Śrī Rāmānuja has underlined in Vedanta Saṅgraha are witnesses

that the divine pair of the Lord and the Mother are to be attained together through the instrument of Prapatti, service in Moksha which is the fruits thereof and for those who desire moksha.

Be it creation or for giving Moksha, the Lord always acts in unison with the Mother. All the pramāṇas say that the sentient beings are all the Śeṣa of the divine pair.

Having given answers for all such objections, Vedanta Deśika proves that the Mother has a status in all respects equal to that of the Lord. He says that for everyone, in all things, the Divine Couple remain the goal.

Nanjeeyar also averred: Where the Lord is mentioned, the Mother is understood." He then spoke of what he had heard from his Āchārya about Śrī Rāmānuja’s view on the matter.

A doubt may arise that if Lakshmi is never separated from the Lord, is it right to have temples for her and for the true devotee to worship there.

However, though the Mother is sanctified in a separate temple for devotees to pray for gaining desires, since she is there as the consort of the Lord, praying to her one fulfils one's desires.

Where Śrī Devi is to the right of the Lord, it is “bhoga-Arcā”.
The Mother on the Lord’s chest is "laya-Arcā".

Just as the Mother is worshipped in these forms, it is perfectly right to worship the Mother in separate temples for fulfilling one’s desires (Kāmya-Arcā) as we worship Arcā forms like Santana Gopāla.

Hence the Lord and the Mother together form the Siddhopaya.

The Way to be Adopted

Earlier Vedanta Deśika gave clarifications to doubts and confusions regarding the Lord as Siddhopaya (the Way).

As a result the Lord was recognised as the all-knowing, all-capable, immensely compassionate, the Lord of all, ever together with Lakshmi, the definite Way to guard all those who surrender to him.

In spite of knowing this, if the Jīva has flouted the Lord’s śāstras for long, the Jīva has to perform Prapatti as laid down by the Lord Himself. He must know about it in clear terms. Else, he has no other instrument for gaining the grace of the Lord, for the Lord is the Way.

Firstly, it may be questioned that since Prapatti is mentioned in the Veda, whether only that caste which has the right to learn the Vedas can have recourse to Prapatti. The objection is that any and everybody cannot perform Prapatti.

The answer can be had from the Śvetāśvatara śruti of the Vedas, Śrī Rāmāyaṇa, Śāśvata Saṁhitā and Sanatkumāra Saṁhitā which say that everyone has the right to perform Prapatti.

The path of devotion is allowed for the first three castes.

But just as the Vedic injunctions are common to everyone (like the need to speak truth), Prapatti is the right of people belonging to all castes. In fact we learn from śāstras that even crows perform prapatti.

Śrī Krishna Himself has given an assurance in Śrī Bhagavad Gita that whosoever surrenders to Him will gain Moksha, irrespective of his caste. If someone is innocent and has no other refuge, he is worthy of Prapatti.

Prapatti is also known as Śaraṇāgati and Pāra-Nyāsa. This has been referred to earlier in this work. In Prapatti, Pāra-Nyāsa is important.

Pāra-Nyāsa is the moment when the Jīvātmā surrenders to the Lord and leaves to Him the responsibility of guardianship. The Jīvātmā hands over itself to the Lord through the mantra of Śaraṇāgati. This is the most important part of surrender.

The other five like Viśvasa are the limbs of Prapatti. However, the form is found to be complete only with the limbs:

As mentioned earlier,

1. the firm decision to live in accordance with the Lord's wishes,
2. the rejection of what is inimical to the Lord, an immense faith
3. that the Lord will surely guard the aspirant,
4. praying to Him for such guardianship, and
5. a feeling of one’s own helplessness;

these are the five limbs of Prapatti. If any of these is lacking, the surrender is not complete.

Sometimes Śaraṇāgati is performed with a particular desire in mind and the desire may not be fulfilled. This might make them doubt about the efficacy of Śaraṇāgati performed for attaining Mokṣa. This is not right.

If Śaraṇāgati is done for a particular gain, there is a definite result. If it is not gained, it only means one of the limbs did not function.

The prapatti for moksha performed with the five limbs is definitely fruitful. If a doubt arises, it only means the surrender is not complete, as a total faith is the major limb for prapatti.

Both Bhakti and Prapatti grant Moksha. Followers of both should keep to the respective tradition of varṇāśrama dharma. The names of the gods used in their rituals, refer to the Lord who is an Antaryāmī. And so their worship is also done for the Lord.

Vedanta Deśika has given several questions and answers in this section.

The Limitations

So far Vedanta Deśika gave clear answers to doubts and confusions that rise regarding Siddhopaya and Sadhyopaya. In this section Vedanta Deśika seeks to put this path on the right track, unswayed by over- enthusiasm or ignorance.

It is said of a person who follows Prapatti that seven generations before and after him will attain Moksha by his act. Without prejudice to this high praise, this person's greatness has to be understood.

Firstly, there is a confusion regarding caste:

Generally speaking, Purāṇas like the Bharata speak of how persons belonging to lowly castes raised themselves in the hierarchy by their devotion to the Lord.

In the same way, there are references to upper castes falling low because they have no devotion. One must know the inner significance of this condition:

It does not mean all the devotees of the Lord belong to the same caste. If so, it will run counter to the śāstras which have laid down different types of conduct for Brahmins and others.

The difference between a Brahmin and those belonging to other castes remain so among devotees. The elders have said they are equal in the sense that all of them have a right to attain Moksha.

What the Āḻvār says of the Name as 'giving caste' is that those who are associated with the Lord do not give thought to it and it is sinful of them even to think of others as ‘low'.

But it is not right to marry one's daughters to them. That action belongs to caste. Honour and fame belong to one's character.

'Kulam' is different from caste. Caste comes through birth. Kulam comes from character. Kulam changes according to one's character. But caste does not change.

This is found to be so in the Purāṇas with reference to Vidura and others.

It is understood that one should look after devotees with respect and humility, to whichever caste they may belong and avoid even upper caste persons if they have no devotion.

Those who have performed Prapatti should follow the guidelines for their respective castes. Recognising this to be the Lord's command, one should avoid transgressing it.

Prapatti is Potent

Vedanta Deśika speaks of the devotee's greatness  following his earlier observations on the subject. We can understand them in a nutshell.

When a devotee has problems or sorrow, he must accept it as the Lord's compassion. Though the Lord saved Kākasura when he surrendered, yet he blinded one eye of the Crow for its good.

One must, not only avoid performing evil to the Lord but also avoid evil action towards His devotees:

Some may be true devotees. Some may just go about in a devotee's garb.

Whoever be the devotee, sincere or insincere, no harm or impoliteness of any kind should be done towards them till one knows the truth about them.

The Lord will not condone a disservice done to a devotee.
Hence one must avoid behaving impolitely even towards false devotees.

Though residence in a holy place is preferable, if the enemies of Lord are there, one must not live there. The best place of residence is where devotees live.