As asserted by Poigai AzhwAr (mudhal ThiruvandhAdhi - 33), it is of no use to count the chant of the mantras in the sandhyAvandanam without thinking in the mind of the qualities of the Supreme Being - for instance His kindness in giving a city to dwell for the four-faced Brahma in His lotus navel and granting him the Vedas for being propagated. The spirit of the AzhwAr's statement indicates the important messages of the Vedas viz. yamEva Esha vrNutE tEna labhya: - He can be reached by only that soul which He chooses; sa u SrEyAn bhavati jAyamAna: - He gets more renowned by His birth (avatAram) etc. should reach the world and convince the souls that He is making His own efforts (without any expectations from them) for their uplift.
The Lord willed that the AzhwArs should bring out the messages of what others would consider as mantras and do chanting (japa) or offerings in fire (hOma). Even the word nArAyaNa is interpreted by the AzhwArs. For instance, "nArAyaNan ennai ALi, narahatthucchErAmal kAkkum thirumAl" (nAnmuhan thiruvandhAdhi verse 14) interprets the word as possessor of the soul(s) and as remover of the obstacles in reaching Him. "nAraNan muzhu Ezhulahukkum nAthan.. kAraNam kiriSai karumam ivai" (thiruvAimozhi 2.7.2) interprets the word as 'narANAm ayanam' - the controller, supporter and conductor of the material and spiritual world.
The AzhwArs mention about the Thirumanthram (ashtAksharI - referred to as mantrarAjam by some), dwayam (referred to as mantraratnam by some) and the charama SlOka indicating their interpretations. These three being hailed as rahasya trayam - the three precious messages, it can be said, without fear of contradiction, that the AzhwArs were the first to interpret them as mantras conveying the precious messages 1. SrI ParASara Bhattar 2 seems to be the first AchArya to put the AzhwArs' impressive and down-to-earth interpretations of these mantras in simple Sanskrit verses for the benefit of Sanskrit-knowing people, having noticed that such an attempt was not available in sources in that language. These verses constitute the ashtaSlOkI which are explained in the following pages in English.
SrI ParASara bhattArya: SrIrangESa purOhita:
May Sri ParASara bhattar, son of SrIvatsAnka or KooratthAzhwAn, for whom the prime concern is the well-being of Lord RanganAtha, be for my great wealth ((of the knowledge that the Lord is my means and goal).
In the ashtaSlOkI, Sri Bhattar gives us the significance of the three important mantras of Sri VaishNavism, viz. The Thiru-Mantram or ashtAksharI, the Dwaya-mantram and the Charama SlOka. This work consists of eight verses.
In the first four SlOkas, Sri Bhattar elaborates the meaning of the Thiru-Mantram or ashtAksharI, the mantra consisting of eight letters "aum namO nArAyaNAya" comprising the three words aum, nama: and nArAyaNa.
In the fifth and sixth SlOkas, Sri Bhattar teaches the meaning of the dvaya-mantra, the mantra consisting of two parts viz. "SrImannArAyaNa CharaNau SaraNam PrapadyE" and "SrImatE nArAyaNAya nama:"
In the seventh and eighth SlOkas, Sri Bhattar dwells on the message given by Lord Krishna in the Charama SlOka, the 66th verse in the 18th chapter of SrImad Bhagavad-Gita.
SLOKA - 1
akArArthO vishNu: jagadudaya rakshA praLaya krt
The word "aum", considered to be the essence of the three Vedas and consisting of the three letters "a", "u" and "ma", visualizes the following concept:
Letter "a" stands for Lord Vishnu as the creator, protector and destroyer of the universe. Letter "ma" stands for the soul as a belonging of Lord Vishnu and as His instrument. Letter "u" establishes a relationship between the soul and the Lord that the soul belongs only to the Lord.Purport:
In this SlOka, Sri Bhattar tells us what the word "aum" signifies.
akArArthO VishNu: jagadudaya rakshA pralaya krt-
The letter "a" stands for the Lord Vishnu, the in-dweller of all, as the creator, protector and destroyer of the universe, as the Lord Himself says "askharANAm akArOsmi" in gItA (10.33), which means He is the letter "a" among all letters. The letter 'a' symbolizes the Lord for it is considered to be the origin of all letters as the Vedas say "akArO vai sarvA vAk" which means the letter "a" itself is all speech. Protection here means ishta-prApti and anishta-nivrtti. This means making things desirable for the jeeva available (so that he can realize the Lord) and removing those which are not required (obstructions in attaining the Lord).
makArArthO jIva: tadupakaraNam vaishNavamidam -
The letter "ma" stands for the soul, as the belonging of Lord Vishnu and as a tool in His hands at His disposal for His activities (lIlAs). Here, by using words "tat" and "idam" which belong to neuter gender, Sri Bhattar indicates that the soul is like a non-sentient object in the hands of the Lord and hence is completely dependent on Him.
ukArOnanyArham niyamayati sambandhamanayO:-
The letter "u" establishes a relationship between the soul and the Lord that the soul is meant as a tool only for the Lord and belongs to Him exclusively.
trayI sAra: tryAtmA praNava imamartham samadiSat-
The word "aum", consisting of three letters "a", "u" and "ma", considered as the essence of the three Vedas, visualizes the above concept.
Scriptures say "aumityEkAksharam" which means "aum" consists of only one letter. This is in its "samhitAkAram" or undivided form. In its "asamhitAkAram" or divided form, "aum" consists of the three letters "a", "u" and "ma".
Mantra brahmaNi madhyamEna namasA pumsa: swarUpam gati:
The middle word "nama:" in the great mantra "aum nama: nArAyaNAya" teaches the jeeva his nature, when read along with the first word "aum". When read in its own place, it teaches the means of liberation for the soul. When read along with the last word "nArAyaNAya", it teaches the destination of the soul. It is well-thought and conveyed through this word that independence, protection of the jeeva and engaging in the service of the Lord are suitable only for the Lord Hari and not for the soul. Therefore the jeeva does not belong to himself.Purport:
In this verse, Sri Bhattar teaches the meaning of the word "nama:", the middle word in the ashtAksharI mahAmantra.
Mantra brahmaNi madhyamEna namasA pumsa: swarUpam gati: gamyam
The word nama: stands for "na mama" or not mine. This conveys us what the nature of the soul is, the means of liberation for the soul and its destination.
When read along with the first word of the mantra "aum", nama: indicates the nature of soul. Here nama: means I (the soul) am not mine. From the meaning of the word "aum" we understand that I (the soul) am a belonging of the Lord. Thus the word nama:, conveys the subservience or SEshatva of the soul to the Lord.
The word nama: when read in its own position (sthAnata:), indicates that the soul has no means of its own for its liberation. Here, since I (the soul) am not mine but a belonging of somebody else (the Lord), I cannot make my own efforts to reach my Lord. It is for Him to take me.
The word nama: when read along with the word nArAyaNa which follows it (paSchAdapi), conveys that the ultimate destination of the soul is Lord nArAyaNa on His own. Here nama: means that the destination is not mine (the soul's), and the Lord is my destination not because of my thinking but on His own status as nArAyaNa. The meaning of the word nArAyaNa is explained in the next verse. Here, it is worth noting Sri nammazhwAr's statement in ThiruvAimozhi (10.9.9) - "vaikundham puhuvadhu maNNavar vidhiyE", which means the habitants of the earth are destined to go to paramapada by God's sankalpa which is "vidhi" or destiny.
svAtantryam nijarakshaNam cha samuchitA vrttiScha nAnyOchitA tasyaivEti harE:
From the above explanation, it is to be understood that the word nama: conveys that independence, protection of self and service to the Lord, are known to be fit only for Lord Hari and nobody else. This means the soul is completely dependent on Him and He alone protects the soul and He alone engages the soul in His service natural to the soul. This is thought well and conveyed through the word nama:. Therefore, the jeeva does not belong to himself but only to Sri Hari.
Following Bhattar, later AchAryas call the ashtAksharI - mantrabrahma, as Periya Thirumantram.
akArArthAyaiva svamatha mahyam na nivahA:
I am meant for Lord Vishnu alone denoted by the letter "a" and not for me. The word nArAyaNa stands for the Lord as the supporter and conductor of the jeevas in material and spiritual worlds (lIlA vibhUti and nitya vibhUti). May service to Him, natural to me and ordained on me, happen at all times, all places and in all states.Purport:
akArArthAyaiva svamatha mahayam na nivahA: narANAm nityAnAm ayanamiti nArAyaNa padam-
In the third word of the Thiru-mantra "nArAyaNAya", the word nArAyaNa stands for the Lord Whose business is to support and conduct the activities of all the jeevas in the material and spiritual worlds. The suffix "Aya" means I (the soul) am only for the Lord nArAyaNa, previously indicated by the letter "a" in the word "aum" and hence I am not for myself. This is indicated by Sri nammAzhwAr in ThiruvAimozhi 2.9.4 as he says "tanakkEyAha eneikkoLLum IdhE".
asmai kAlam sakalamapi sarvatra sakalAsu avasthAsvAvissyu: mama sahaja kainkarya vidhaya:-
The suffix "Aya" also involves a prayer to the Lord wishing the service to Him natural to me (the soul) and ordained on me, to happen at all times, all places and in all states. Here natural service means the service which does not involve the ego that I am doing it and it is mine. In "ozhivil kAlamellAm" verse of ThiruvAimozhi (3.3.1), Sri nammAzhwAr wishes the same service (vazhuvilA adimai). Sri Thirumangai AzhwAr interprets this as a wish for being serviceable to His devotees or bhAgavata SEshatva as he says "Thiruvettezhuttrum katru utralum unnadiyArkadimai" in Periya Thirumozhi (8.10.3). Service to His devotees e.g. Sri RAmAnuja's dAsas is also wished in "nallAr paravum" verse of irAmAnuSa nUtrandhAdhi (verse 80).
dEhAsaktAtmabuddhi: yadi bhavati padam sAdhu vidyAt trtIyam
A person who considers the Lord to be his means and goal has to know well the following things:
In this verse, Sri Bhattar explains the message conveyed by Thiru-mantra and how it protects jeevas from various material entanglements and guides them in the proper path by pointing out attitudes going against the message.
A prapanna, or the person blessed with the knowledge that the supreme Lord is the means and goal for him has to know the following things well:
dEhasaktAtmabuddhi: yadi bhavati padam sAdhu vidyAt dvitIyam-
If one considers his body and soul to be one and hence whatever good happens to the body is good for the soul, the letter "ma" in the word "aum" comes to his rescue as it says that the soul is not his, but only of Lord Vishnu. So it is for the Lord to do any good to the soul.
svAtantryAndhO yadi syAt prathamam-
If one is blind with the thought that he is independent from the Lord, he has to look at the letter "a" in aumkAra and learn that he is not independent since it is the Lord who creates, protects and destroys the universe.
itara SEshatvadhISchEt dvitIyam-
If one thinks of subservience to entities other than SrImannArayaNa, letter "u" tells him that he is exclusively meant for Lord Vishnu. This is indicated by Sri Thirumanagai AzhwAr in Periya Thriumozhi (8.10.3) as he says "matrum Or thaivam uLadhennu iruppArOdu utrilEn..".
Atma trANOnmukhaSchEt nama iti cha padam-
If one is towards protecting himself from the material bondage, he has to look at the word nama: which tells him that he has no means of his own for his liberation and hence has to depend on the Lord for the same.
bAndhavAbhAsa lOla: Sabdam nArAyaNAkhyam-
If one has got a lot of attachment with people related to him in this world, the word nArAyaNa which stands for the supporter and conductor of all jeevas tells him that it is the Lord who is the Atmabandhu or true relative of the soul. This is indicated in the verse "koNda peNdir" of nammAzhwAr in ThiruvAimozhi (9.1.1).
vishaya chapala dhISchEt chaturthIm-
If somebody has a lust for material enjoyments, the suffix "Aya" destroys such lust as it conveys to him that he is meant for Lord nArAyaNa only. This is indicated by Sri Thirumangai AzhwAr as he says "kUdinEn kUdi ilayavardhammOdu.. nArAyaNa ennum nAmam" in Periya Thirumozhi (1.1.1)
SLOKA - 5
nEtrtvam nitya yOgam samuchita guNa jAtam tanukhyApanam cha
The dwaya mantra, consisting of two parts and six words, which is there in Vedas, protects the person who thinks of the following ten points contained in it:
In this verse, Sri Bhattar tells us what the dwaya mantra, which consists of two parts and six words, and which is there in Vedas, signifies.
The first part of the mantra is "SrImannArAyaNa charaNau SaraNam prapadyE" and the second part is "SrImatE nArAyaNaya nama:".
The six words are:SrImannArAyaNacharaNau
The first word SrImannArAyaNacharaNau is made up of the words SrImat, nArAyaNa and charaNau.
The dwaya-mantra conveys us the following 10 points:1. nEtrtvam:
The word SrI stands for Goddess lakshmI, the personification of His compassion and concern for the jeevas, as the one who leads us to the Lord. This is because She is approached by the jeeva for his liberation (SrIyatE iti SrI:) and She in turn represents the case of the jeeva to the Lord. Note that this description is apt when 'SrI' is just the Lord's krpA.2. nityayOgam:
The suffix "mat" to the word SrI means Goddess lakshmI is always in union with the Lord as the Lord is always merciful. This is indicated by Sri nammAzhwAr in the verse "ahalahillEn..." in ThiruvAimozhi (6.10.10).3. samuchita guNa jAtam:
From the word nArAyaNa the qualities of the Lord said to be well-suited to Him are conveyed. This is because He has to have certain qualities to be nArAyanNa i.e., He has to have qualities like vAtsalya, sauSIlya etc. for supporting the jeevas and qualities like gnAna, bala etc. for controlling them.4. tanukhyApanam:
From the word charaNau the dwaya-mantra shows us the most important part of His divine form i.e. His feet. Conceptually, feet are important as one cannot move if we catch hold of one's feet (kAl katti kai viduvitthukkoNda - ThiruvAimozhi nUtrandhAdhi verse 97).5.upAyam:
By the word SaraNam, the mantra conveys to us that His feet are the means for us to reach Him.6. kartavyabhAgam:
From the word prapadyE, we learn it our nature to accept His feet as our means of liberation.7. mithuna param prApyam:
From the word SrImatE, in the second part "SrImatE nArAyaNAya nama:", it is conveyed that our ultimate destination is the divine couple lakshmI and nArAyaNa, i.e., nArAyaNa with krpA, for otherwise He cannot accept us who are undeserving. To this, Vedas say "SraddhayA dEvO dEvatvamaSnutE" - which means His Lordship is meaningful only due to His concern (SraddhA) for the jeevas. Here SraddhA stands for Goddess SrI.8. svAmitvam:
The word nArAyaNa forming part of "nArAyaNAya" stands for the Lordship of God Vishnu over the universe, as He is its supporter and conductor.9. prArthanAm:
The suffix Aya in the word nArAyaNAya involves a prayer to the Lord from our part, wishing a service without any defect to Him, as conveyed in Thiru-mantra. This is indicated by Sri nammAzhwAr as he says "vazhuvilA adimai SeyyavENdum" in his "ozhivil kAlamellAm" verse in ThiruvAimozhi (3.3.1). In the second part, the word SrImatE is used as the Lord has to be merciful i.e., with lakshmI for fulfilling our wish of service to Him.10. prabalataravirOdhi prahANam:
The word nama: which means "not mine" destroys our ego, particularly the thought that I am the enjoyer of the service and the service I am doing to Him is an object of enjoyment for me. Such thought is considered to be the most powerful enemy (prabalatara virOdhi) to our nature.
Whoever understands and thinks of the above ten points conveyed by dwaya, which is a mantra i.e., which protects the person who thinks over, understands and practises it (without any action!), is protected.
These ten points are covered by nammAzhwAr's verse(thiruvAimozhi (6.10.10):
ahalahillEn iraiyumenru alarmElmangai urai mArbA
nampillai in his Idu indicates this by the statement: ippAttudhammai dwayattu padhangalOdokka yojithu thalaikkattak kadavadhu- one should interpret this verse by matching with the words of dwayam. An incident relating to the elucidation of dwayam by Sri Bhattar is also mentioned aptly in Idu in this context signalling the influence of the AzhwAr on Sri Bhattar.
ISAnAm jagatAm adhISa dayitAm nityAnapAyAm Sriyam
I take shelter in SrI, the beloved consort of the great Lord of the universe, Who is always in union with Him. Then I take shelter in the lotus feet of Lord Hari, Who has all suitable qualities to offer shelter, with the thought that they are my desired means of salvation. Then I urge my Lord Who is always with SrI, to enable me to do service to Him incessantly, uninterruptedly and eternally, without any ego and possessiveness.Purport:
In this verse Sri Bhattar explains the message of dwaya mantra in the form of a statement by jeeva, as follows:
ISAnAm jagatAm adhISa dayitAm nityAnapAyAm Sriyam samSritya -
I take shelter in Goddess SrI, the beloved consort of the great master of the universe, Who is always with Him without any separation. Here Sri Bhattar uses the word ISAnAm which means She is the empress or the ruler of the world. However, by using the word jagatAm adhISa dayitAm he clarifies that She is the beloved spouse of the great master of the universe. Since dayitA means one who is qualified for dayA or concern and since Sri Bhattar says that She is the dayitA of Lord nArAyaNa, it is established that She belongs to the class of jeevas as She is subservient to Him.
Also Godess SrI is always blemishless (nityAnapAyA) as She never leaves Him. "ahalahillEn iraiyumenru..." says Sri nammAZhwAr in ThiruvAimozhi (6.10.10). The Lord is kind as She is always with Him.
ASrayaNOchitAkhila guNasyAnghrI harErASrayE ishtOpAyatayA -
Having taken shelter in goddess lakshmI, I take shelter in the lotus feet of Lord Hari, Who has all suitable qualities for offering shelter to everyone, with the thought that His lotus feet are the desirable means for me to attain Him. Here the word ishta or desired is used for the means since it involves no effort and hence is very easy. The word Hari used here is important as it means the one (the Lord) who destroys all our sins or obstacles to reach Him.
SriyA cha sahitAyAtmESvarAyArthayE kartum dAsyam aSEsham apratihatam nityam tvaham nirmama:-
I urge my master nArAyaNa, who is always with Goddess lakshmI, to engage me in incessant, uninterrupted and eternal service to Him, without any trace of ego.
SLOKA - 7
matprAptyarthatayA mayOktamakhilam santyajya dharamam puna:
The Lord says:
Renounce all the paths told by Me to attain Me. Take Me alone in turn as the means for attaining Me, and be effortless with great interest in the thought that I am your means. To you with such an effort, I, being complete and perfect in all qualities like gnAna, will remove all obstacles in My getting you. Do not grieve.Purport:
In this SlOka SrI Bhattar explains the message of charama SlOka (Bhagavad-Gita 18.66), by framing it in the Lord's own words.
The Lord says:
matprAptyarthatayA mayOktamakhilam santyajya dharamam puna: mAmEkam madavAptayE SaraNamityArtOvasAyam kuru-
Renounce all the paths like karma, gnAna, bhakti, previously told by Me to attain Me. Take Me alone in turn as the means for attaining Me and be effortless with deep interest in the very thought that I am the only means for you to attain Me. This explains the message conveyed by Lord in the statement "sarva dharmAn parityajya mAmEkam SaraNam vraja".
tvAmEvam vyavasAya yuktamakhilagnAnAdi pUrNOhyaham matprApti pratibandhakai: virahitam kuryAm Sucham mA krthA:-
To you with such an effort on your side (not making any), I, complete in all qualities like gnAna etc. will make remove all obstacles in My getting you. Do not worry. This explains the Lord's statement "aham tvA sarva pApEbhyO mOkshayishyAmi mA Sucha:"
Here Sri Bhattar specifically mentions the quality of Lord, gnAna or knowledge, to indicate that the Lord is capable of knowing any effort on our side, if at all we are making one. Also, by saying that He is complete in all qualities Sri Bhattar conveys that the Lord will liberate the soul on His own without any effort on the part of the latter, due to His qualities like vAtsalya, sauSeelya etc.
From this, we understand that the God does not expect any effort from the jeeva and does not want him to grieve for his inability to reach Him (by jeeva's effort).
niSchitya tvadadhInatAm mayi sadA karmAdyupAyAn harE!
Oh Hari, the charioteer of arjuna ! Being convinced that I am always under Your control, I am not able to make any effort in the form of karma etc. to reach you, or to submit myself to You. I am worried that I am not even able to leave all my effort as suggested by You and have lost confidence. However, since I am blessed with the knowledge of Your charama SlOka, I am firm that you will make all my faults completely absent.Purport:
In this SlOka, Sri Bhattar assures us that the Lord is ready to remove all our defects and take us to Him. This verse is in the form of a statement by the jeeva.
niSchitya tvadadhInatAm mayi sadA karmAdyupAyAn harE kartum tyaktumapi prapattumanalam sIdAmi du:khAkula:-
By remembering the words of You, the charioteer of arjuna, I understand that I am completely under Your control. Hence I am not able to make any effort in the form of Karma, Bhakti, gnAna etc. on my own to reach You or to submit myself to You taking You as my means to reach You. At the same time, I am worried and have lost confidence, as I am not even able to leave such efforts.
Etat gnAnamupEyushO mama puna: sarvAparAdha kshayam kartAsIti druDOsmi tE tu charamam vAkyam smaran sArathE:-
However, since I am blessed with the knowledge of Your charama SlOka which says "aham tvA sarva pApEbhyO mOkshayishyAmi mA Sucha:", I remain firm that You will make all my faults completely absent, including the offence involving the ego that I have renounced all my efforts, and take me to You.
Other schools of philosophy (e.g. advaita, dvaita) do not consider the SlOka "sarva dharmAn.. mA Sucha:" as an important statement of the Lord in Bhagavad-Gita. The AzhwArs point out its importance in the following verses for instance:
The AchAryas later to rAmAnuja, starting from Sri ParASara bhattar, called this SlOka charama SlOka or the final message and interpreted it according to nammAzhavAr 5 to mean the message that the Lord is upAyam and upEyam 6, 7 interpreting "AlanriyAvarO' in the thiruvAimozhi verse (7.5.10) as equivalent to 'SaraNam vraja' of the SlOka indicating it as a state of mind and no action.
AzhwAr thiruvadihaLE SaraNam
( Notes prepared by T.Thiruvengadavan, V.S.M.Vishnu and Smt. Chandra Sampathkumar based on the teachings of Sriman Embar Rangacharya Swami. )
SrImatE rAmAnujAya nama: