Essence of the Three Secrets | 8

Ultimate Object of Life

The earlier chapter said that service should be rendered to the devotees in the same way as one serves the Lord. The reasons are as follows.

Śāstras say this jivātmā is Śeṣa and the Lord is the Śeṣi. Śrī Rāmānuja has explained the meaning of this statement in his Vedānta Saṅgraha:

One who considers the good of others as his own primal good is a Śeṣa. He who receives that good is the Śeṣi. Only when an individual performs a service that is good to the Lord can he be a Śeṣa.

The quality of this good depends upon the means:

Now, the means for the jīva to hold on to the Lord is to become the body of the Lord. But the body is not exclusively that of the jīvātman. It is common to matter (acit) as well. Hence, the jivātmā’s individual offering comes through his intelligence.

If the actions of the jīvātman do not conform to the śāstras, the Lord gives punishment for the wrongs done. In this way, the Jīva becomes the cause of the Lord's play.

If the actions conform to the śāstras, the Lord is happy. His generosity comes into play and He praises the devotee.

In the same way the immortals (Nitya) and Realised Souls (Muktas) perform service as desired by the Lord and are thus useful to Him.

The śāstras are the commandments of the Lord. Hence the aspirant should learn of the Lord's desires through them and become useful in divine works. By going against śāstras the Lord does gain some play, but the aspirant receives evil.

As a realised soul, one can learn about the Lord's desires directly. As a devotee upon earth, he learns of them through śāstras, by his acts pleases the Lord and for himself gains Ānanda.

It is true that when a Jīvātmā performs an action with devotion, he stands to gain. But this also has to come through the pleasure of the Lord.

Several verses in the Purāṇas assure us that service to the devotees is the best action one can do. Like the joy given to a king by pleasing his prince, the service rendered to devotees pleases the Lord.

We learn from the Purāṇas that the Jīvātmā should give importance to such service. Besides, whatever pleases the devotee, also gives Ānanda to the indwelling Lord. This too is the worship of the Lord.

As the aspirant has been advised to serve devotees, and is himself a devotee, would they not stand in Śeṣa-Śeṣi relationship? Would this not be a paradox?

There is nothing self- contradictory as it is like the cases of mutual help in everyday life:

When one devotee serves another, the former becomes Śeṣa to the latter. If the devotee who had accepted the service happens to serve the other at another time, he becomes a Śeṣa.

Therefore there is nothing wrong in devotee’s serving one another. In fact, such mutual service is very good. Hence the śāstras have not said anything against it.

It is best for devotees to be Śeṣa and Śeṣi amongst themselves in consonance with the Lord's wishes. Such service to devotees gives joy to the Lord.

Just as Lakṣmaṇa fell in love with the good qualities of Rāma and preferred to be his servant and not merely a younger brother, a devotee should love the good qualities of another devotee and serve him.

Since such service was not only due to the Lord's commandment but the devotee's own desire, it would please the Lord endlessly.

The state of a devotee attaining Śeṣi-hood is due to the Lord's free nature.

It is for His pleasure that the devotee is a Śeṣa and a Śeṣi at different times. This state is also due to the Lord's grace and for his Ānanda.

Those who have understood this truth about their goal (puruṣārtha) will not act discourteously towards the Lord or His devotees. They will not curse them.

They will not doubt. They will not seek any god except Nārāyaṇa. They will do nothing for their independence or consider doing anything for such freedom. They would know that such action (or even thought) is wrong.

They would consider the kindness of devotees as the greatest benefaction for themselves. They would like only such benefits for their service.

On Śāstric Injunctions

Holding on to this relationship of being as Śeṣa to the Lord, the aspirant should ever serve the Lord and His devotees.

He should know that his service is in consonance with the Śāstras or not:

To the aspirant who has been placed on earth which is inert, śāstras alone foster his intelligence. So he should follow the śāstras. Where the śāstras say something that is in tune with his desire, he may follow the same. Such is the indication given.

When Śrī Rāmānuja was about to leave the world for Vaikuṇṭha, he realised that his disciples were full of sorrow. He commanded them not to give up their lives. Their sorrow increased further and they wished to know what their future line of action should be.

Śrī Rāmānuja said as follows:

After performing Prapatti, the responsibility of that aspirant's future rests with the Lord.

The aspirant need not worry about it. If he does anything with a sense of feeling responsible for himself, the Prapatti would become fruitless. It will become a falsity.

Since his life on earth is a result of the deeds he has done earlier, it is meaningless to be sad about it. If he goes on feeling sorry, he is sure to become a sceptic.

Hence there is nothing to do for his life here or the state hereafter. But he cannot do what he likes as that would go against his real nature.

Even if the work he performs does not have anything to do with his surrender, the work should have a connection with his service to the Divine.

As long as he lives on earth, the aspirant has 5 types of service to perform. They are:

To study Śrī Bhāshya, teach it to others and propagate it. If not capable of doing it, listen to the Divya Prabandha hymns of the Āḻvārs and propagate them.

If not possessed of that ability, he should cook food in Divya Deśas and offer it to the Lord. Also perform other types of service like offering sandal paste and flower garlands and lighting lamps.

If not in a position to undertake such service, he should meditate upon the Dvaya Mantra. If not able to do that, remain In contact with a Śrī Vaiṣṇava and give him his affection.

There are 3 types of people with whom the aspirant has to have contact: anukula (friend), pratikula (enemy) and one who is neither:

Of these Śrī Vaiṣṇavas are the friends, the enemies of God are enemies, and those who belong to neither party are samsārins (worldly people).

When meeting Friends one should think of them as sandal paste, flowers, moonlight, cool breeze and the rest and behave in that manner with great joy.

One should keep away from enemies as one would from snakes and fire.

The rest should just be ignored. In case the enemy or samsārin appears friendly, one can try to convey the lasting truth to them.

But even if they are enemies, one must have compassion towards them. If one does not behave properly in this, manner, it would mean he is harbouring a desire for money or lust.

If one shows indifference to Śrī Vaiṣṇavas for the sake of gaining wealth or gratification, the Lord will become angry as a king whose prince has been insulted in his court.

In the same way, suppose he befriends an enemy for gaining wealth or physical gratification, he would become the target of the Lord's disgust as a king would feel when he finds his queen begging from a lesser person,

If he gains the friendship of samsārins for gaining wealth or happiness, the Lord will not accept him rejecting him as an idiot who cannot differentiate between stones and precious gems.

Such was the teaching of Śrī Rāmānuja. This teaching is in accordance with śāstras.

The śāstras have a general rule that one must shun wealth and happiness that go against dharma. Hence the Lord feels that the aspirant should not go against this śāstric dictum.

Some important texts have announced that the Lord is not pleased with one who does not favour a friend and one must eschew support to an enemy.

It is said that one loses the affection of the Lord by joining forces with the enemy. One must also be indifferent towards the rest who are worldly people.

Such was Śrī Rāmānuja’s desire that one must watch one's step in one's progression in accordance with the śāstras, and not simply follow one's personal whims and fancies. He has said that "acting according to one’s whim is not the aspirant’s true nature".

Ālavandār also has said that one must not go against the śāstras.

The Lord has stated:  "The Vedas and Śāstras are my commands, and whoever disobeys them are my enemies. Even if he has devotion to me, he is not Śrī Vaiṣṇava."

Hence the aspirant should perform service in accordance with the śāstra:

When a person dear to the king destroys a stream made by him, he is punished severely by the king. In the same way, if an aspirant disobeys śāstras, he gets estranged from the Lord.

Should the aspirant happen to commit such mistakes, he should perform surrender again as atonement. If he does not do so, he will reap sorrows as a punishment.

Indeed, if the aspirant is sāttvic he would himself feel bad for having worked against the Lord’s wishes. So he must pray to the Lord to chase away the sorrows. Till the Lord’s anger is exhausted, the aspirant will feel very unhappy.

Suppose such unhappiness does not shade his mind, one must need wonder whether his Prapatti had succeeded. It is also doubtful if he is desirous of Moksha.

But if he follows the śāstras, the Prapatti will remove the obstacles towards Moksha by pleasing the Lord. The anger of the Lord resulting from the flouting of the śāstras is nullified and becomes the means to gain the Lord's pleasure.

Two types of service are mentioned in the śāstras. One is Anjna (command), and other is Anujna (accepted). Anjna is for doing service to remain free from the Lord's punishment,

Anujna is for getting the result for which he undertakes the service. But Anujna should be performed strictly In accordance with the śāstras. Going against śāstras is criminal.

Activities like Sandhya Vandanam are Anjna. Performing service in temples, the repetition of the Lord's Name etc., are Anujna. If Anjna is not performed, it is wrong. If Anujna is performed there will be results. If Anujna is not done, it is no sin.