Essence of the Three Secrets | Vedanta Deśika



Vedanta Deśika
Śrī Vaiṣṇavism
One of most important Teachers,
especially in Vaḍakalai
or Northern tradition
of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism
Many written works,
both Philosophic
and Religious Stotras
Works Online:
1. Śrīmad Rāhasyatraya Sāram
Essence of the Three Secrets
2. Śrī Hayagrīva Stotra
3. Śrī Stuti
About Him:
1. Śrī Vedanta Deśika | 1268-1369

This collection is dedicated to the fundamental, most important life’s work of Vedanta Deśikan (1268–1370) about the fundamental doctrines, teachings and philosophy of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism.

The present classical work is known as Śrīmad Rāhasyatraya Sāram, which could be translated as The Essence of the Holy Three Secrets – referring to the 3 fundamental Secrets-Mantras of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism –

1. Tirumantra /Oṁ Namo Nārāyaṇāya/ - the fundamental Mantra for devotional practice in Śrī Vaiṣṇavism;

2. Dvaya Mantra – - the Mantra for taking Refuge or Śaraṇāgati in Lord Śrīman Nārāyaṇa and His Divine consort Mother Lakshmi.

/ Śrīman Nārāyaṇa Chāraṇau Śaranam Prapadye
Śrīmate Nārāyaṇāya Namaḥ

3. and so called Charama Śloka Mantra – for Surrendering oneself and all his life to the Supreme Godhead – according to the verse of Bhāgavad Gītā, book 18, verse 66:

sarvadharmānparityajya māmekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja |
ahaṃ tvāṃ sarvapāpebhyo mokṣyayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ ||

Giving up all duties, take refuge in Me alone.
I will liberate you from all sins, do not grieve.

The work contains not only the explanations of mantras themselves – but it is a whole compendium of Śrī Vaiṣṇava philosophy as contained in those Three Secrets, written by the greatest Guru, Devotee and philosopher of 13th century – Vedanta Deśikan.....

However – the present work is not the original work  Śrīmad Rāhasyatraya Sāram itself – but here you can read a shorter work containing summary close to the original text in simple and clear language of each of the original 32 chapters of work,

and hence, the name of the present work is Rāhasyatraya Sāra Sāram or Essence of the Essence of Three Secrets prepared by Swachandam Aravamuda dasan. Please find below his own Introductory Note....

The Authors Introductory Note

Śrīman Nigamantha Maha Deśikan composed many sacred Śāstric works, in order to propagate and stress the philosophies of Śrī Bhagwan Rāmānuja, he also wrote Poems, Dramas and Stotras.

His compositions include many poems in Tamil based on the holy poems of Śrī Āḻvārs.

Not fully satisfied with these remarkable works alone, Śrīman Deśikan finally presented to us, for the sake of our upliftment, the exemplary work, ‘Rāhasyatraya Sāram’ in Maṇipravāḷa style (mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil) elucidating Śrīman Bhāgavat Rāmānuja’s philosophies.

As this work is in Tamil and Sanskrit and contains poems in Tamil, and as the language is not easy to follow for our present generation, one has to approach a learned Āchārya, who is well-versed in Sanskrit and to attend classes regularly over a period of time.

In these days, many are in employment for their livelihood and so they do not have leisure time to undergo regular lessons under an able Āchārya.

I have written this book believing that Śrī Deśikan’s inner desire gets fulfilled somewhat.

I have not reproduced the original Sanskrit ślokas and Tamil poems. I have tried to write in simple Tamil strictly following the original text. I believe that this aspect will be clear lo all those who give the book a patient reading.

Swachandam Aravamuda dasan

Śrīmad Rāhasyatraya Sāra Sāram

Part 1: The Authors Introductory Note | On the Greatness of the Succession of Āchāryas | Introduction

Part 2 The Main Doctrine | The Five Articles

Part 3: The Three Principles

Part 4: The Truth regarding the Supreme Deity | Aspiration for Moksha

Part 5: Classification of Qualified Persons | On Several Means | The Supreme Lord is the Way and the Goal.

Part 6: Fitness for Prapatti | On Accessories | Performing Prapatti with the Accessories

Part 7: The Man who has done Prapatti | The Signs of Niṣṭhā | Conduct After Prapatti

Part 8: Ultimate Object of Life | On Śāstric Injunctions

Part 9Atonement for Offences | Residence Suitable for an Aspirant | Departing from the Physical | The Prescribed Path | The Bliss of Brahman

Part 10: The Way That Exists | The Way to be Adopted | The Limitations | Prapatti is Potent

Part 11: The Tirumantra

Part 12: The Dvaya Mantra

Part 13: The Charama Śloka

Part 14: The Āchārya’s Role | The Disciple’s Duties | Conclusion

On the Greatness of the Succession of Āchāryas

The Vedas happen to be our Witness. To understand the inner significances of the Vedas, we must have a clear view of the divine verses uttered by the 10 Āḻvārs:

Poigai Āḻvār, Bhutattāḷvar, Peyāḻvār, Nammāḷvār, Periyāḻvār, Kulaśekhara Āḻvār, Tiruppānāḷvar, Thondaradipodi Āḻvār, Thirumaḻisai Āḻvār and Thirumangai Āḻvār, as well as the hymns of Godā.

Hence, those who follow the religious path must study the works of the Āḻvārs.

Besides, by singing of Nammāḷvār as the visible divine, Madhurakavi Āḻvār has shown us the path which gives prime importance to the Āchāryas grace.

It is not easy for anyone to gain the right path without the grace of the teacher.

Though Kshatrabandhu had performed terrible deeds, he gained release by the grace of his teacher. Puṇḍarīka who had done good deeds also gained release from bondage only through his teacher.

Hence, each one of us can gain release only by drawing close to a teacher. The śāstras say that those who wish to gain release must pray to the succession of Āchāryas that originates from Śrī Nārāyaṇa.

For all of us, the Āchārya is Nārāyaṇa accompanied by Lakshmi:

He first taught the Vedas to Brahma. When Brahma lost it at some point of time, he retrieved the same and presented it again to him. Through Brahma he spread the Vedas all over the world.

Through Brahma's sons like Sanatkumāra, he showed the path of virtue to the people of the earth. Śrīman Nārāyaṇa also saw to the continuance of the Vedic pathways through Nārada, Parāśara, Śūka, Śaunaka and other sages.

As Vyāsa, he gave the Mahābhārata and the Brahma Sutras.

Taking Incarnations like the Swan, the Fish, Hayagrīva and Gītācharya, he propounded universal Truths and what is conducive to the increase of goodness.

He gave a living image to his ideas through great scholars like Bhīshma. He also gave the holy śāstra of Pāñcharātra. He incarnated again as the 10 Āḻvārs like Nammāḷvār and Tirumaṅgai Āḻvār.

Like the cloud that takes the salt water of the sea and returns it as pure water that sustains all lives, he revealed the significances of the Vedas through the Divya Prabandham in Tamil that could be comprehended by everyone.

Also, he incarnated as several Āchāryas and wrote works to put an end to the critics of his message. Such Āchāryas are Nāthamuni, Ālavandār, Śrī Rāmānuja also known as Śrī Bhāṣyakāra and Śrī Nigamantha Mahadeśikan. These Āchāryas are incarnations of the Lord.

Hence Śrī Nārāyaṇa is the first Āchārya, He is followed by Lakshmi, Nammāḷvār, Nāthamuni, Uyyakondar, ManakkaI Nambi, Ālavandār, Peria Nambi and Emperumāṉar.

Śrī Rāmānuja is referred to severally as Emperumāṉar, Udaiyavar, Ilaiyāḻvār, Yatirāja and Śrī Bhāṣyakāra.

Emperumāṉar received the pañcha saṁskāra from Peria Nambi and received initiation from him regarding mantras like Tirumantra, He learnt the inner significances of the mantras from Thirukoṭṭiyur Nambi.

Tirumalai Aṇḍān taught him the Tiruvāymoḷi. From Ālavandār Āḻvār he learnt more about Tiruvāymoḷi, the Stotras and the ancient tradition. He studied the Rāmāyaṇa with Tirumalai Nambi.

After him the succession of Āchāryas has been a continuous stream:

Śrī Nigamantha Deśikan was born in this paramparā, wrote several great works, strengthened Śrī Rāmānuja’s teaching and has performed priceless service to those who follow the Śrī Rāmānuja Darśana. Thanks to this Āchārya, this Sampradāya has gained an impregnable position today.

One must render open praise about one’s guru. The Vedas and Purāṇas stand witness to the fact that he who has devotion to his Guru gains all his desires. Disciple’s knowledge gains or wanes according to the amount of devotion he has towards his teacher.

The śāstras say that by praising one’s teacher, one gains increase in wealth and life. In the same way, one ought to praise the teachers of one's teacher.

Even as we recite the mantras and their significances, we must hail the succession of Āchāryas aloud as well as silently. In fact, praising the Āchāryas in the silence of the mind is considered as expiation for having conversed with people who should have been shunned.

Thus, closeness to Āchāryas is vital for gaining Release and other good on earth.


For the Supreme who is the Lord of Lakshmi, the individual soul is as dear as the Kaustubha gem that shines on his chest. The śāstras speak of this individual soul as Śrī Nārāyaṇa’s son, disciple and servitor.

To him Śrī Nārāyaṇa is Śeṣi or Lord. This Supreme is the Chief of the Immortals; he has the highest good; dear is He to us and Lakshmi. He is the Lord of earthlings as well as the dwellers in the Heaven.

Along with Lakshmi this Lord resides in the city of Impregnable Ayodhyā which is in the pure spaces of Śrī Vaikuṇṭha. Here in the Jewelled Hall, the Prince of Heaven rests on the bed of Ādiśeṣa stretched on a beautiful cot, surrounded by the immortals.

The individual soul is also qualified like the immortals with auspicious qualities to enjoy the causeless glories like them. He is also qualified to serve the Lord daily like them.

But he has descended into the wilderness of Prakriti (Matter), has careered dizzily through several births, suffered and lost his splendorous heritage and lies encrusted with dirt. Hence he remains ignorant of the truths enumerated by the śāstras.

There is a parable that reveals to us the truth about this individual soul:

Consider a king who has gone out to the forest along with his queens and prince and is engaged in hunting. The prince who has not yet learnt to lisp words gets lost.

A hunter finds the boy and brings him up in his settlement. The prince considers himself to be the hunter‘s son, follows the speech and customs of the tribe and grows up to be one among them.

Away from the luxuries he is entitled to by birth, he finds the lowly ways of his present condition to be quite pleasing. He is in a state when he is far away from those who know the truth about his birth. If he continues to be a hunter all his life, he would have to- suffer lower births in his next life. It would be impossible for him to gain a better state.

Like the prince, the individual soul does not understand the difference between himself and his body; considers the body to be himself and is living in a low state.

Some good men note the signs of royalty in the prince and rescue him with love:

They drive away from his mind the thoughts that he belongs to a different caste. They decorate him with the royal trappings and explain to him how he is actually a prince.

Thus they create distaste in him for the life he had led till now. After they explain to him how he belongs to a noble state and should gain all that is good in life, he comes to the right path.

In the same manner some noble people explain to the individual soul through his father and others that the body is different from the soul:

They teach him of the goal to be pursued that is proper to his condition, and also the right way to attain the goal. They speak to him of the activities that are right and the activities that he should avoid.

Looking upon this individual soul that has been awakened by good people, some Āchāryas sent by the compassionate Lord come to him with love.

Sincere servants now make the prince realise his origin, speak to him of what is conducive to his good, and create a desire in him to join the King.

In the same manner, the Āchārya clearly enunciate the relationship that exists between this Individual soul and Nārāyaṇa who is the Lord of this earth, Śrī Vaikuṇṭha and Lakshmi. They strive for the individual soul to follow the proper path, find the good name garnered by him as dear to them and teach him.

They give many instances as testimony to remove his doubts and speak to him of the real nature of God and the individual soul.

Thus do they make him realise the relationship between the two, the promised Ānanda, the path of Release, of what he should do and also of what he should avoid and other important factors concerning himself. Thus is he brought to the correct path.

These are matters that the Individual souls who desire for Release ought to know. All these have been enumerated In the Upanishads.

The essence of these teachings are to be found in the Three Secrets (rāhasya) known as the Tirumantra, the Dvaya and the Charama Śloka. Śrī Deśika explains these concepts in very clear terms in Śrīmad Rāhasyatraya Sāra.

Determining What Is Best

Of these three mysteries, the Tirumantra is said to contain all the rest. Hence, if we understand its significance, we can understand the meaning of everything.

The Charama Śloka posits a way and assures us that by accepting this, one can gain the result of all other paths as well.

The Dvaya Mantra has the power of gaining release for one who recites just once.

Hence, aspirants desirous of gaining release must attend to the Secrets in earnest.

The goal of Release and the way to attain the same cannot be seen by the physical eye. Therefore one ought to learn about them by studying the scriptures.

Since there are number of scriptures that have to be learnt, and human life-span is brief, and any number of obstacles can come up to hinder one’s work, we must seek out the essence of the scriptures.

As the scriptures of other darśanas are of no use to us, we can ignore them.

Except for the Upanishads, the earlier part of the Veda deals with rites desiring worldly goods like the sacrifice, and so even that is not needed.

Though goals like the heavens detailed in the Veda are certainly better than life on earth, these must be eschewed as they come as a mix of joy and sorrow.

The portions In the Veda which speak of the realisation of one’s soul and the means to attain the same are certainly better than what is spoken of earlier.

But they are lesser than the portion of the Veda which speaks of the Supreme and the way to attain Him, and so they are also to be eschewed.

Hence, only those portions of the Veda that speak of the Supreme and the way of attaining Him need to be taken for prime study:

These Three Secrets that bring out their significance are verily the essence of scriptures. The three items state in summary the unique nature of this doctrine. The Individual soul aspiring for Release must learn their significance.