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Purana Ratna

Veeravalli (sapthagiri magazine of TTD)

avikaaraaya shuddhaaya nityaaya paramaatmane;
sadaika roopa roopaaya vish Nave sarvajish Nave.

Introduction: The most ancient vedic religion of this blessed land, Bharat rests primarily on the bedrock of vedas. This boundless vedic literature is equipped with auxiliary tools (functioning like the limbs of our body or to borrow a modem phrase, functioning like sophisticated softwares) to facilitate rudimentary grasp of the complex vedic (shruti) texts. It is also amply supported by a vast system of supplementary literature (vedopabrahmaNam) known as smrtis-viz. the itihasas and puranas- which will enable or enhance an indepth comprehension of shruti texts.

The above mentioned auxiliaries are briefly put in a karika as under: -

Chandah paadau shabda shaastram ca vaktram
Kalpah paaNee jyautisham cakshushhee ca,.
Shikshah ghraaNam shrotram uktam niruktam
Vedasya angaani aahuretaani shhat (6) ca.

["The six organs of the vedas are: chandas (the pair of feet), grammar (the mouth), kalpa (the pair of hands), astrology (the pair of eyes), shiksha (the nose), niruktam (the pair of ears)"]

The sacred Sanskrit lore abounds in such personifications. Take for instance, the Dhyana sloka of Vishnu Sahasranama. The infinite nature of Lord Vishnu is described in similar terms: " bhoohpaadau yasya naabhih "tribhuvana vapushham vishNumeesham namaami".

To give another example, the veda purusha -"Aditya varNam tamasastu paare"- is also conceptualized as a person in Purusha-Sukta. The Bhagavad Gita uses almost the same words -"Aditya varNam tamasah parastaat"-(BG.8.9) in depicting the Lord Almighty .Among the vedas, the Purusha Sukta is held in the highest esteem as it forms an integral part of each of the four vedas and it is also referred to in smrtis, itihasas, puranas and Agamas. It is so named because it extols the pre-eminence of Paramaatma -Sriman Narayana.

The following sloka (from Padma Purana) enables us to focus our attention on the subject we have chosen for study.

Vedeshhupaurushham sooktam
puraNeshu ca vaishNavam;
Bharate Bhagavad geeta
dharma shaastreshu maanavam.

(Among the hymns of the vedas, the Purusha Sukta is the highest; among the puranas Vishnu Purana is the best; among the sections of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita is the crest jewel; and among the law books the Manu dharma shastra is the greatest).

Gitopanishad enshrines the essentials of all the upanishads and it flowed from the Lotus Lips of the Lord Himself (svayam padmanabhasya mukha padmaad vinih srutaa). Manu smrti is par excellence in view of the verse from Gita itself (vide BG 4.1) and also according to a statement voiced by Maharishi Manu, the author himself- "pra shaasitaaram sarveshhaam aNeeyaamsam aNeeyasaam" ("He, the Lord, is the Supreme Law Giver for all. He is subtler among the subtlest" vide Manusmrti XII, 122).

Now to broach the subject proper, why is it that Vishnu Purana is considered as the best among the puranas? In order to answer this question, a brief appraisal of the puranas is essential per se. The puranas are 18 in number (not to speak of an equal number of upa-puranas as well) and they are said to contain an aggregate of 4 lakh verses or 1.6 million lines or 40 million words! A mnemonic cast in the mould of a Sanskrit verse facilitates easy remembrance of the 18 puranas.

Ma-dvayam bha-dvayam caiva
bra-trayam va-catushtayam,.
a-naa-pa-lim-ga-koo-skaa-ni puraNaani pracakshate

Decoding the verse, two puranas beginning with ma viz. Markandeya and Matsya etc. We shall name them in the same order as in the mnemonic and indicate the number of verses in each purana within brackets.

Markandeya (9000 verses or 9 K), Matsya (20 K), Bhavishyat (13.5 K), Bhagavata (18K), Brahma (10 K), Brahma vivarta(18 K), Brahmaanda (12.2 K), Vishnu (7 K), Vaayu (24 K), Varaha (10 K), Vaamana (10 K), Agni (16 K), Naradiya (25 K), Padma (50 K), Linga (11 K), Garuda (15 K), Koorma (17 K) and Skanda (81.1 K).

(Note: In the connected literature on puranas, when Vayu.P is specified, Shiva.P will be found omitted and vice versa. For instance, in the text of Vishnu Purana, the Shiva purana is enlisted with the obvious omission of Vayu -vide amsha 3-adhyaya 6-s1oka 21or to put it concisely, VP 3.6.21.) Broadly, the 18 puranas fall under 4 types -Sattvika, Rajasa, Tamasa and mixed - sankeerNaah saatvikashcaiva raajasaah taamasaas tathaa-vide Matsya. P.

In the bygone vast expanse of time, the epochs (kalpas) of Brahma (the Creator), are chequered with the dominant ambience prevailing in that particular aeon. During the tamasa kalpas for example, the greatness of Agni or Shiva is dominated. (agne shivasya maahatmyam taamaseshhu prakeertyate- vide Matsya P. ) In the Rajasa kalpas, the greatness of Brahma is described as high. During sattvika kalpas, the greatness of Sri Hari is extolled in no uncertain terms as being very high and only in those kalpas, people could acquire perfection in the system of yoga and attain siddhi. Certain acid tests have been prescribed by our Acharyas (vide Srutaprakaashika of Sri Sudarshana Suri.) to determine the nature of the purana, whether it is sattvic or otherwise.

Only sattvika puranas are authoritative in view of the guidelines provided by Gitacharya. Sattvaguna - oriented knowledge alone develops adhyaatmic or spiritual awareness. (Atma yaathaatmyajnaanam-vide BG 14.17). Such an awareness will enable one to attain liberation (oordhvam gacchanti sattvaslaa- vide BG 14.18). Study of rajasic puranas, on the other hand, will cause non- apprehension (vipareetajnaanajananeem) which would mistake the right for the wrong and what ought to be done for what ought not to be done. (ayathaavat prajaanaati buddhi satapaartha raajasee-vide BG 18.31).

The worst of all is the tamasic intellect which would conceive contrary comprehension- dharma as adharma, real as uneal, regard the Supreme Reality as an inferior entity and vice versa. (sarvaarthaan vipareetaamsca buddhih saa paartha taamasee-vide BG 18.32). Those of tamasic nature fall precipitously down to the lower rungs in the heirarchy of living beings i.e. fall from manushyajanma to krmi keetaadi janma etc. (adho gacchanti taamasaah-vide BG 14.18). In this context, it merits to mention the views of Manu (XII,96) who states thus: "The smrtis that are at variance with vedas are perverse since they are founded in tamas".

Besides, all the sattvic puranas without exception describe the greatness of Lord Sri Vishnu - "saattvikeshhu ca sarveshhu vishNor maahaatmyam ishyate". And, in particular, Vishnu Purana towers head and shoulders above all other puranas in this respect. A sample from it (VP 6.4.30) is given below:

2. paramaatma ca sarveshhaam adhaarah parameshvarah;
vishNu naamaa sa vedeshhu vedaanteshhu ca geeyate.

"Paramatma is the substratum of everything and is the Supreme Godhead, Paramesvara. His glory is sung in the name of Lord Vishnu, as in the vedas and upanishads". In Gita it is sung in first person thus: "I am the origin and dissolution of the whole universe" -vide BG 7.6. The main topic Vishnu dealt with under 10 headings (Art I to Art X). The Gita Press, Gorakpur edition of VP ( costing only Rs.50) and Bhagavad Gita in bold Devanagari script should be kept ready at hand for a correct reading of spelling and pronounciation and for comparison. Only verses from VP (quoted here verbatim in full) are numbered from 1 to 32.

Art I. Vishnu Purana, the Purana Ratna.

A purana is defined thus: "puraapi navam puraaNam" -though ancient yet appears refreshingly new. A purana should have five characteristic topics, says the lexicon of Amarakosa. They should deal with I. Primary creation or cosmogony. 2. The dissolution of the worlds or pralaya 3. Geneology of devatas and patriarchs. 4. Reigns of Manus or periods called Manvantaras. 5.History of the dynasties of Solar and Lunar races tracing their descendants to modern and futuristic times. VP conforms more closely to this definition of a pancha lakshana purana than any other purana. It is not merely a purana, but can even be considered as a Maha kavya according to Sudarshana Suri, (a kavya has 6 distinguishing features, taatparya lingas, such as upakrama, upasamhara etc. ) .VP is hailed as Purana Ratna in view of the following specialities associated with it.

The author is a great celebrity. "paraan aashrNaati iti paraasharah" - one who tortures the disputants in an argument with arrows of unassailable logic is known as Parashara.

The author is of vedic fame. "sa ho vaaca vyaasah paaraasharyah" - Tait.Aran.I.9

The author is a great Muni. "paraasharam munivaram" (VPI.I.5). Even as a child in the mother's womb, he was heard chanting vedic hymns (karuvile thiru udaiyavar)

He belongs to a renowned class of noble lineage "vyaasam---paraasharaatmakam vande-- "

In recognition for his exemplary behaviour (kshamaa saaraa hi saadavah) he was blessed with divine vision.

He of prodigious intellect, is known to be one among the few who had given total instructions (krtsnopadesham) to a student viz. Maitreya. Other such exemplary student-teacher combinations are: Janaka- Yajnavalkya, Taalpa-Chaunaka, the student pair Vaishampayana/Jaimini- Sage Veda Vyasa and Madhurakavi-Nammalwar.

Swami Desika justifies it by pointing out the similarities between VP and a priceless diamond couched in a verse thus.

"atraasam maanadam ratnam sthiram

bhogyam prakaashakam

mahaargham mangalam maanyam

suraksham sugraham nrNaam "

From the stand points of faultlessness, respectability, stability, delightful experience, luminosity, value addition, auspiciousness, praiseworthiness, protectability , conciseness - in all these ten criteria for assessment, VP enjoys as much a comparable esteem or status as that of a priceless diamond. Being a veritable treasure VP was named Purana Ratna by Sri Alavandar (refer Art VIII).

Art II. Scanning the contents of VP:

Vishnu Purana is in 6 parts or Amsas. A few selected verses from each amsa is presented in this section.

Amsa I. Sri Maitreya demonstrates the manner in which a disciple should approach an Acharya of great standing viz. a Tattva Darshi of the stature of Sri Parasara Maharishi. The opening verse in VP is a lesson on reverential obeisance.

3. paraasharam munivaram krta paurvaahNika-kriyam;

maitreyah paripapraccha praNipatya- abhivaadya ca.

The words -"pranipatya, abhivaadya, pari-papraccha" are of a piece with Gitacharya's definition of a praiseworthy disciple viz. "praNipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa" (vide BG 4.34). The set of questions posed by Sri Maitreya are about the ultimate Truth. Acharya Parashara, after offering his prayers, recalls reverentially the answers to those questions thanks to the blessings and instructions he had received concurrently from his grandfather Vasishta and Pulastya Maharishi respectively. (VP 1.1.26):-

4. PuraaNa- samhitaa -kartaa bhavaan; vatsa bhavish-hyati;
devataa paaramaarthyam ca yathaavad -vetsyate bhavaan.

The ultimate truth and reality is the glory of Lord Sri Vishnu and His Ubhaya Vibhuti. This is what Paradevataa Paaramaarthyam is all about. Bhagavan Krishna describes it at length in Vibhuti Vistaara Yoga, BG.lO. Valmiki maharishi's treatment of this subject will be found dealt with under the heading "Paratattva upabrmhaNa- adhikaara" by Swami Desika in Abhaya Pradhaana Saarah (chapter 2). Again, in view of the paramount importance of this immaculate principle, Swami Desika has devoted one full chapter (Ch.6) viz. "paradevataa- paaramaar- thyaadhikarah" in his magnum opus Srimad Rahasyatraya Saarah.

The evolution of Bhagavan' s vibhuti is described by Parashara Maharishi under the following headings in Amsha 1 thus:- Varaha Avatar (ch.4); the role of Brahma as a Creator ( ch.5) the four classifications i.e. chaaturvarnyam (ch.6); creation of 9 prajapatis- Bhrgu, Pulastya, Vasishta, Marichi, etc.(ch.7); Creation of Rudra (ch.8); Avatar of Mahalakshmi (ch.9 and also refer to Art VIII); descendants of Bhrgu, Marichi etc. (ch.lO); Dhruva charitra (ch.ll& 12); king Vena and how the name pritvi came to earth (ch..13); growth of Prathu vamsha (ch.14); story of Kandu and Daksha's vamsha (ch.15); Narasimha-avataara (ch.16 to 20); Kashyapa's descendants and the creation of Marutganaa ( ch.21 ); a holistic view of Bhagavan Vishnu's vibhuti (ch.22).

A few representations from this Amsa 1 are highlighted below.

a) The young lad Dhruva expresses his incapability to praise the Lord Vishnu, who appears before him: "katham aham deva! stotum shaknomi baalakah ? " In response, the Lord rubs the lad's lips with the tip of the conch (shanka praantena govindastam pasparsha -VP 1.12.49. Here the conch is the vedas and the tip is vedanta). Lo and behold! The boy goes into raptures and waxes lyrical hymns! One such verse charged with lofty thoughts is given below.(VP .1.12.55)

5.brhattvaad brmahaNatvaacca yad roopam brahma samjitam;
tasmai namaste sarvaatman-yogi cintya avikaariNe!

What a wonder that a lad of five gives the definition of Parabrahman in the above verse! This definition forms the pith and marrow of Ramanuja Siddhaanta.

b) The longest questionaire from Maitreya is: regarding Sri Nrsimha Avatara and the whole of chapter 16 is devoted for this. Sri Parashara' s response also is very lengthy- the largest in this Amsa. A few verses sampled from this section will be highly educative.

i) Bhakta Prahlada stands foremost in the rank of true and profound bhaktas. (Prahlaadash-ca-asmi daityaanaam- vide BG 10.30). He remained staunch in his steadfast devotion to Bhagavan. (eka bhaktih -vide BG 7.17) in spite of the torments and tortures given to him by his ego-centric and cruel father. He remained unaffected thanks to his thoughts firmly fixed on Sri Krishna (satvaasakta- matih krishNe- VP 1.17.39).

ii) Sri Prahlada Azhwan's advice to generate bhakti -VP 1.19.41 :-

6. "tat-karma yan-na bhandaaya

saa vidhyaa yaa vimuktaye;

aayaa saayaa param karma

vidyaa-anyaa shilpa naipu Nam"

"Those acts alone which help one to avoid bondage are the rightful/righteous acts and that learning alone which leads one to release is real knowledge or vidya. All other acts end up only in fatigue and all other learning is a mere exhibition of skill in arts".

iii) A brief discussion on the word 'maayaa'. A plethora of instances from the Sanskrit lore have been pointed out to show that the word maayaa (the opium of the Maayaavaadins who define it as "yaa maa saa maayaa" -that which is not is maayaa) never means 'illusion' in any context. Sri Ramanuja cites the following example from VP in support of this, while commenting on the verse "mama maayaa duratyayaa" (vide BG 7.14). The meaning of the relevant VP verse (VP 1.19.19 & 20) is as follows:-

The thousand wonderful weapons (maayaa sahasram) created by Sambara to torture Prahlada were foiled one after another by the flaming Sudarsana of Lord Vishnu. In Ramanuja Darshana, the world is Brahma-maya and not bhrama-maya and maayaa has its primary meaning only in Maayin since the ubhaya vibhuti lies in the hands of Loka Maheshwara. Only Krishna bhakti can free us from sins (BG 10. 3) and transport us from this transcient, joyless world of taapatraya (vide BG 9.33) to the land of Absolute Bliss, Paramapadam i.e. a transformation from being a nitya samsaari to a nityasuri.

c). The importance of contemplating on Brahman, the Supreme Cosmic Reality is stressed in Bhagavata.P (X.I.27) in the lines -"satyavratam satyaparam ---satyasya satyam-sharaNam prapannaah". In VP, Parashara Maharishi conjures up that vision in fine poetry (VP 1.22.67-90). And Tuppul Vallal has captured the formless form in fine Tamil -purudan mani varamaaka -(vide RTS 5). For our purpose let us quote VP 1.22.68.

7. "Atmaanam asya jagato nirlepam-aguNa-amalam;

bibharti kaustubha-maNi-svaroopam bhagavaan-harih."

In the Beatific Form of the Lord, the jivatma is represented by the diamond Kaustubha, moola prakrti as Srivatsa, manas as Chakraayuda etc. The idea of the Jiva residing in the heart of reality as redeemer furnishes the raison d' etre for universal salvation.

Amsa 2 The break-up of this section is as under:-

On geography- ch.2 to 4, description of the underworld (paatala loka) ch.5, different shades of hell- ch.6, the seven celestial (upper) worlds- ch. 7, astrology- ch.8 to 11, astronomy (the nava grahas) -ch.12, biography of Jadabharata- ch.13, the famous socratic dialogue between Jadabharata and the king, Sowveeraraja- ch.15 & 16.

Attention is drawn to a few aspects in this amsa.

a) We can never compromise on the Kashmir border issue with Pakistan in view of the eternal geographical boundary of peninsular Bharat eulogised in the verse -VP 2.3.1.

8. uttaram yat samudrasya himaadresh caiva dakshiNam;

varshham tad bhaaratam naama bhaaratee yatra santatih.

b) As many as 30 different types of hell viz. Raurava, Sookara, Rodha, Taala etc. are described succinctly in 30 verses -VP 2.6.1 to 30. The hell 'asipatra vanam', for example, lies in store for the person who destroys forests. Those who don't honour their vows and fall from grace of righteous conduct will fall into the hell 'sandamsha' and so on. Human beings are basically ignorant fools steeped in darkness (ajnaana tamasaa -aacchanno moodaanthahkaraNo narah). The rationale for their suffering is graphically portrayed by Sri Parashara in VP .6.5. As regards atonement for all types of sins, refer VP.2.6.39.given below:

9. praayash-cittaan-yasheshhaaNi

tapah karmaatmakaani vai;

yaani teshhaam-asheshhaaNaam

krishNaanu-smaraNam param

Atonement is got by observing austerity measures (tapas) and rites(karma). Of all of them constant remembrance of Sri Krishna is the highest.

c) The phala-shruti given at the end of Amsa 2 is as under- VP.2.16.25.

10. iti bharata-narendra saara vrttam

kathayati yash-ca shruNoti bhaktiyuktah;

sa vimala-matireti na aatmamoham

bhavati ca samsaraNeshhu muktiyogyah.

Those who hear or discuss Sri Bharatha' s teachings will develop clarity of thought, will never succumb to infatuation and will become fit to get release from bondage. In view of this phala-shruti, paramount importance is given to inculcate Sri Bharatha' s message on spirituality .The whole discussion is critically examined in Sri Bhashya and a few are discussed in Art IV and V of this article.

Amsa 3 Begins with a description of manvantaras and the same is continued in Ch.2. Description of a host ofVeda Vyasa(s) starting from the Creator Svayambu down to the 28th Veda Vyasa viz. Krishna Dvaipaayana are listed in Ch.3. One chapter each is devoted to a description of Rig Veda, Shukla Yajur Veda and Sama Veda. The 6th Ch also contains the classification of 14 vidyaa sthanas. Chapter 7 is on Yamagita.

The lion's share of this Amsa is reserved for the delineation of code of conduct rules i.e. VarNa-Ashrama-Dharma (ch.8 to 16). In ch.17 and 18 spread over 150 verses, Sri Parashara describes the mindset of nagnas/pashandis i.e. atheists/agnostics. The concluding note (VP;..3.18.105) is a stern warning not to associate with these non-believers in any way -not even in talking terms.

Two gems from this Amsa are given below:-

i) No other way pleases Lord Vishnu as by doing one's duty according to the dictates of varNa-Ashrama-dharma.(VP .3.8.9.)

11. varNaashrama-aacaaravataa

purushheNa parahpumaan;

vishNur-aaraadhyate panthaa

naanyas tat-toshha-kaarakah .

ii) Yamagita is widely discussed in Sri Bhashya (vide the aphorism, smaranti ca' viz.Brahma-Sutra 3.1.14) The special proviso coming straight from Yama ' s mouth (VP 3.7.14) merits mentioning.

12. sva purushham abhiveekshya paasha hastam

vadati yamah kila tasya karNamoole;

parihara madhusoodana prapannan.

prabhuraham anya nrNaam avaishNavaanaam.

Noose in hand, when the servants of Yama are ready to go for the kill, their Lord Yama whispers a note of caution on their ears thus: " Avoid those who are prapannas of Madhusudhana. I am the Lord only of non- vaishnavites!"

Amsa 4. Gupta's age is used to be described as a golden age in our history text books. But according to the traditional view, it is during the reign of solar/lunar dynasties that the people of Bharat enjoyed maximum prosperity. As per VP, to that golden age the solar dynasty of princes offers 93 descents, while the lunar offers 45. Several poets have waxed lyrical about them -Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, Raghuvamsha kavya of Kalidasa and Paduka Sahasram of Desika, to mention only a few. Sri Rama Paduka' s ascension to the throne of Ayodhya is the most significant event adding lustre and glory to the illustrious race of Manu. (vide Abhisheka Paddhati of Paduka Sahasram)

Amsa 5. Bhagavata P. opens up with a dialogue known as Vyasa-Narada-samvaada, wherein Sage Narada addresses a depressed Vyasa Maharishi with words of entreaties thus: "In spite of knowing all that is worth knowing and having composed the grand epic Mahabharata, thou art still looking sad and morose. Do thou knowst why? It is because thou have not described the immaculate glory of the Supreme" ("na tathaa vaasudevasya mahima hi anuvarNitah '). Agreeably to this advice, Sage Vyasa composed the Bhagavata P. and taught it to his son- "shukam adhyaapayaamaasa nivrtti niratam munih". No wonder Parashara Maharishi, Vyasa's father had devoted the largest Amsa in VP to the description of Sri Krishna Avatara- the Paripoorna Avatara. And according to Lord Krishna's own upadesha, "he who knows (the secrets of) His Janma and Karma will not remain in samsaara (punar janma naiti- maam eti) and attain Him after leaving the mortal coil." (vide BG 4.9). Parashara Maharishi ends up Amsa 5 with a phalashruti in an identical vein (VP .5.38.94).

13. yash cai tac-caritam tasya

krishhNasya shrNuyaat sadaa;

sarva paapa vinir mukto vishhNu lokam sa gacchati.

Amsa 6. This is the smallest part containing only 8 chapters. The shape of things to come in Kaliyuga is predicted here. Though Parashara strikes a pessimistic note in Ch.l , his son Vyasa is all optimism. Small effort will yield great results, says he: "alpako dharmo dadaati sumahat phalam". The age of Kali belongs to shudras and women: "shoodras saadhuh kalis saadhuh " (vide VP .6.2.6.) .Further, after a holy dip in the cool waters of pure Ganga, he says: "who else could be more fortunate than women!": "yoshhitas saadhu dhanyaas-taas-taabhyo dhanyataro asti kah?" Sage Vyasa's son Shukabrahmam is even more forthright in his predictions of the then immediate future.(vide Bhagavatam XI.5.38,39): " On the banks of sacred rivers such as Tamraparani, Kaveri etc. will be born great souls (i.e. Alwars) of unsurpassed devotion to Sriman Narayana".

The science of yoga is taught in Ch.6 and 7. Let us conclude this section by giving the phalashruti. (VP. 6.8.57).

14. yasmin nyasta matir na yaati

narakam svargopi yac-cintane

vighno yatra niveshita-aatma manaso

braahmopi lokah alpakah;

Muktim cetasi yah sthitah amaladhiyaam

pumsaam dadaatyavyayah

Kim citram yadagham prayaati vilayam

tatra-achyute keertite.

"A person whose mind is fixed on Him does not go to hell. To him even the Svarga is but an obstacle and the Satya loka is a trifle. The Lord grants immortality to such souls. Should anyone doubt that praising the Lord destroys sin?" This verse rings in resonance with the one given by Gitacharya who has stated that all the fruits prescribed for the study of vedas, performance of yagnas etc. pale into insignificance before the fruit that accrues to the one who studies the 7th and 8th chapters of Gita (tat sarvam trNavat manyate -vide Gita Bhashya BG.8.28). Note the Dhyana sloka on Bhagavan Ramanuja underscores this lofty ideal: "yo nityam---trNaaya mene ---Ramanujasya caraNau sharaNam prapadye"

Art III. VP in Vedartha Sangraha

Vedartha Sangraha (VS) is considered to be the maiden work of Sri Ramanujacharya. It expounds the doctrine of Visishtadvaita. Many of the slokas quoted from VP in VS will also be found in Sri Bhashya, but the treatment between them is different. The former is more tutorial ( said to have been delivered as a lecture before the presence of Lord Srinivasa at Tirupati) while the latter is polemical or argumentative, but together they complement each other.

Among the founding fathers of this great tradition (avicchinna sampradaya-vide para 47 ofVS) one of them is traced to Maharishi Parashara. VP itself bears testimony to its long lineage (from Lord Brahma to Rubu, from Rubu to Priyavrata and so on delineated in 8 verses VP 6.8.43 to 50).

15. pulasya vara-daanena mamaapyetat smrtim gatam;

mayaapi tubhyam maitreya! yathaavat kathitam tvidam.

Three examples ofVP in VS is given below:-

i) Para 49 of VS:- The word 'Bhagavan ' according to Parashara is applicable only to the Supreme One of Infinite Glory, who is the cause of all causes.(VP 6.5.72):-

16. shuddhe mahaa vibhoot yaakhye

pare brahmaNi shabdyate;

maitreya! Bhagavac-chabdah sarva kaaraNa kaaraNe.

For all others, the prefix 'Bhagavan' is used only as a mark of respect. For instance, the son of Kanva Rishi is addressed as Bhagavan Kandu.(VP 1.15.52) who is admired even by Sri Rama as ((kandunaa paramah- rishhiNaa 11 (vide Ram.yudh.18.26).

ii) para 127 of VS:- The great preceptor Yamunacharya has said in Siddhitraya that Bhagavan is attainable through the means of Bhaktimarga. He has enunciated this with the support of shruti and smrti texts. Take for instance, Isavasyopanishad wherein the words vidya and avidya are defined in the 11th rik or verse. The two words are not merely the opposite of each other, but have a much deeper vedantic meaning. By avidya, it is meant that one should fulfill one's commitment in life, exhausts the vasanas thereby cross over the sea of samsara and by (brahma) vidya one attains Brahma Praapti. The same thought is conveyed in VP 6.6.12.

17. iyaaja sopi subahoon yajnaan

jnaana vyapaashrayah

brahma-vidyaam- adhishhtaaya

tarttum mrtyum-avidyayaa.

(vidya is a term for meditation that has developed into bhakti). This is the highest attainment according to Gita-paraam siddhi (BG.8.15 & 14.1,2).

iii) para 208 ofVS:- The word, Paramapadam' is a sacred jargon in Ramanuja Darshana having 3 meanings.

a. The highest Abode of Lord Vishnu is Paramapadam- "tad vishNoh paramam padam "

b. The nature of the individual soul (pratyak-Atma) freed from prakrti is also denoted by 'Paramapadam'-VP 1.22.41.

c. In VP the very nature of Bhagavan is designated as 'Paramapadam':-"samasta heya rahitam vishNvaakhyam paramam padam' - VP.l.22.53.

The Lord Sriman Narayana is the Supreme ground of all and the Supreme goal to be attained i.e. He is the summum genus and summum bonum and hence He is hailed as 'Paramapadam' while the two other constituting factors are also referred as 'Paramapadam '- a coalescence par excellence!

Art IV. VP in Gita Bhashya

The longest discussion in Gita Bhashya is reserved for the verse B.G.13.2. The whole of this discussion is also incorporated verbatim in Sri Bhashya, at the conclusion of the 7 major objections against advaita.

The advaitins ride roughshod over the meaning of the word 'kshetrajna'. They misinterpret it to mean identity between the individual self and brahman. To understand at a rudimentary level, consider the following analogy. If X and Y reside in a house (say), then X is as much an inhabitant of the house as Y is. In the realm of metaphysics, the place of inhabitancy, kshetra is the karmic body and the inseparable pair of inhabitants are the antaryami brahman and the jivatma. For this very reason, each of the pair is designated as kshetrajna (vide BG 13.1,2). The mantra 'dva suparna' (vide Svetaashvataropanishad - 4th ch.6th verse) spotlights this distinction between jivatma and the antaryamin. Gitacharya Himself reiterates this point at several places, such as BG.18.61, 15.15,10.20 and so on. Above all, Gitacharya makes a pointed reference to VP in support of His view point (BG.13.4) and taking up the cue, Sri Ramanuja quotes the relevant passages from VP viz "VP 2.13.69 to 71; VP 2.13.89; VP1.13.102,103. For instance, VP 2.13.70 explains acetana tatva and 71 defines Atma.

18. karmavashyaa guNaashcaite

sattvaadhyaah prthveepathe!

Avidyaa sancitam karma

tatca-asheshheshhu jantushhu.

"0 King! All the qualities such as satva etc. are under the influence of karma. Avidya (ignorance), sanchitam (sins) and karma are the raison d ' etre of all living beings." The next verse defines the characteristics of Atma: " Atma is pure, imperishable, tranquil, free from defects, pre-eminent over prakrti, immutable and is alike in all living beings.(VP .2.13.71 )

19.Atmaa shuddhah aksharah

shaantah nirguNah prakrteh parah;

pravrddha pacayau naasya ekasya

akhila -jantushhu.

As regards Ishwaratatva, the popular verse from Vishnu Sahasranama is quoted to clinch the issue.

IndriyaaNi mano buddhih sattvam tejo balam dhrtih;

Vaasudevaatmakaan yahuh kshetram kshetrajnam eva ca.

"Sense organs, manas, buddhi, sattvaguna, tejas, balam, firmness, the body (kshetram) and the soul (kshetrajna) -all these have Lord Vasudeva as their inner controller or Atma". The body- soul relationship (shareera-Atma bhaava) between the Lord and the universe is explicitly stated in this verse. It may be noted that the word Atma is derived from the etymology "Apnoti iti Atma" (control in immanence and hence Atma). Just as the self pervades the body, the Lord vivifies the universe as the life of all lives -like the electric current flowing from the grid illumines a whole city .

Art V VP in Sri Bhashya (SB)

Quoting "testifying/supportive texts" (shodhaka vaakyas) from shrutis and smrtis, the advaitins claim that pure intelligence alone sans attributes is real. (nirvisheshha jnaana maatrameva paramaarthah) and all else is unreal (anyad -apaaramaarthikam) .This view is challenged and disproved and hence rejected by Sri Ramanuja. While analysing those shodhaka vaakyas, he points to the inner harmony among them essentially forming the building blocks of a massive, coherent, monolithic structure known as shaareerakam or pan-organismal monism. SB is resplendent with thoughts deep and serene like the Milky Ocean embedded with gems (taatparya ratnaih) rare and some still unseen. His teachings, in an allegorical sense are said to constitute the mirror of/for Lord Srinivasa.(vide Yatiraja Saptati 33).

Let us highlight a few of those gems (refer to smrti,purana ghatta of SB).

a. In Gita and VP, the glorious Supreme being, the Brahman possessing infinite, auspicious attributes is only described and there is no whisper of a mention of nirvisheshha Brahman. The Parabrahmam is praised as the Supreme Self (Paramatma) or Maha Vishnu in all the vedas. (vide BG 15.17 and VP 6.4.39,40). He is Vaasudeva (sarvatraasau samastam ca vasati - VP 1.2.10 to 14). He is Paramatma, Iswara, and Purushottama (BG.15.17,18). He is Maheswara (BG.10.3). He is Bhagavan. He is the Lord of thousand names.

Let us analyse how the six great quintessential attributes of Lord Almighty are encoded in the word Bhagavan -vide VP .6.5.79:

20.jnaana shakti balaishwarya-

veerya tejaams-yasheshhatah;

bhagavac chabda vaacyaani vina

heyair guNaadibhih.

The first syllable 'Bha' in Bhagavan has two meanings namely that He is the cause of all causes (sarva kaaraNa kaaraNe) and He is the supporter (bhartaa) of everything in the universe. The second letter 'ga' denotes three things viz. Leader (netaa), Destroyer (gamayitaa) and Creator (srashThaa). But the word 'bhaga' is a product and not a sum of 'bha' and 'ga' and hence denotes 6 attributes viz. knowledge, power, strength, sovereignty, , energy and radiance -all in absolute terms. The' va ' means all those abide in Him. (vasati tatra bhootaani). All the abstract attributes are concretised in Bhagavan, who is the repository of all auspiciousness and devoid of any evil attributes. (vinaa heyair- guNaadibhih). It should also be noted that 'nirguna ' does not mean ' attributeless ' as advaitins contend, but means 'faultless'. (doshha-raahityam).

b. VP does not recommend meditation on the un- embodied form of the Lord. The instructions for yoga (vimukti-prado yogah) are given by the king Kesidvaja to the king Khaandikya comprising 75 verses i.e. from VP .6.7.27 to 101. After describing the preliminary four stages of yoga, (viz. yama, niyama, praanaayaama and pratyahara) he mentions the paramount importance of shubhaashraya, meaning the object of meditation(VP .6.7.45):

21. PraaNaayaamenapavane pratyaahareNa ca indriye;

vasheekrte tatah kuryaat sthitam cetah shubhaashraye.

All the other demi -gods (anye tu- VP .6.7.77) are born of karma and hence impure and unfit for meditation. Only Lord Sri Vishnu alone should be meditated upon, because He destroys all sins just like the fire that burns dry grass.(VP .6.7.74). Only the gross form of the Lord should be worshipped and not the un- embodied form. (VP .6.7.55):

22. na tat yogayujaa shakyam nrpa! cintayitam yatah;

tatah sthoolam hare roopam cintayed-visva-gocaram.

Auspicious form of Lord Sri Vishnu is then described starting from the description of the charming face (prasanna vadanam) then proceeding up to abhayahastam ca mudrikaa -ratna -bhooshhitam (VP .6.7.80 to 85).

c. A few points concerning Atma, the soul.

i. The in-dwelling Atma is neither God nor man, neither a beast nor a tree. Various manifestations in bodies are due to the respective individuals' karma.(VP.2.13.98):

23. pumaan -na devo na naro na pashur -na paadapah;

shareeraakrti bhedaas tu bhoopaite karmayonayah.

Moreover, the in-dwelling Atma in all the creatures is identical (samam) in form.i.e. the svaroopa is the same. Gita says the same thing. There is no difference between the Atma in a dog and in the dog eater .(BG .5.18) This point is further clarified in the next sloka (ibid) -"nirdoshham hi samam brahma". The word 'brahma' used in this context refers to Atma, (as also in BG.6.27). The meaning is that when Atma is disconnected from prakrti, it should all look alike in form (prakrti viyukta svaroopaaNaam jnaanaika-aakaarataya saamyaat- Gita Bhashya for BG 6.29 and 6.33)

ii. The basic difference between Atma and prakrti is clearly brought out in VP.2.12.36 to 47 and Sri Ramanuja has given word for word meaning for all those verses. Put briefly. Atma, the chetana vastu is immutable. (BG.2.17 to 39). For this reason, it is referred to as asti (VP.2.12.41), satyam (VP .2.12.45), anaashhee (VP.2.14.24) and also avinaashinam .(BG.2.21) Quite the opposite is prakrti. Sri Ramanuja avers that only the word 'asatya' is employed for prakrti in VP and not by any of the advaitin's jargon, anirvacaneeya. The acitvastu is referred to as 'naasti '/asatya and not as 'tuccha' or 'mitya'. Moreover, it is described as subject to destruction and not illusion as maayaavadins contend. Then he explains the purpose of creation of Leelavibhooti. Ishvara has created this prakrti (BG 13.19) for the sake of karma bound kshetrajna (Sri kshobhaNaaya namah - of Sri Vishnu Sahasranama 374 and also VP .1.2.29 given under).


24.prakrtim purushhas-caiva

pravishhya- aatmecchaya harih;

kshobhayaamaasa bhagavan

sarga kaale vyaya-avyayau.

A realized soul should aim to work out his/her destiny and cut the Gordian knot of bondage or samsara. (jagat yaathaatmya -jnaana -prayojanam mokshopaaya- yatanam) .Sri Krishna Bhagavan says that by unadulterated worship of Him (bhaktiravyabhicaariNee which literally means 'unlike the attitude of a prostitute'. In other words it means ananya bhaktih-BG 13.10) one transcends prakrti and attain self-realisation (vide BG.14.26).

iii. In the light of all the above discussions, let us define shareeram as given by Sri Ramanuja. Shareeram is a substance which a sentient soul can completely support and control for its own purpose and which stands to the soul in a subordinate relation. (yasya cetanasya yad-dravyam sarvaatmanaa svaarthe niyantum dhaarayitam ca shakyam tat sheshhataika svaroopam ca tat tasya shareeram -vide SB 2.1.3).

That the universe is His shareeram is indicated by synonyms such as 'kaayah' -yadambu vaishNavak-kaayah (VP.2.12.37); as 'tanuh'- tat sarvam vai hares-tanuh -(VP.1.12.38); as 'vapuh' -taani sarvaaNi tad vapuh -(VP.l.12.86); as 'shareeram' -jagat sarvam shareeram te (Ram. Yudh.120.26).

Art VI. VP in Gadya-traya

To develop spirituality (adhyaatma jnaana nityatvam tatva jnaanaartha darshanam - vide BG.13.11) Sri Bhashyakara has prescribed the study of his Gadya-traya which incorporates the teachings from the sacred lore. A few selected passages which have a bearing on VP are given below.

i. Saranagati Gadya opens with an invocation addressed to Bhagavan Narayana and later defines Almighty as having the powers jnaana, bala etc. all extracted from VP. (For details refer to the Tamil commentary in manipravala style by Sri Periyavacchan pillai or to the Sanskrit commentary by Sri Vedanta Desika)

ii. The chumika 17 of the above gadya refers to 3 types of afflictions of the body and mind (taapatraya) and Parashara explains them scientifically in 8 verses beginning with VP .6.5.1 as given below.

25. Adhyaatmikaadi maitreya

jnaatvaa taapa trayam budhah;

utpanna- jnaana vairaagyah

praapnot-yaatyantikam layam.

iii. In Sri Ranga gadya, the portion dealing with jivatma viz. "tila tailavat daaru vahnivat" is based on VP. 2.7.28 given as under:-

26. daaruN yagnir yathaa tailam tile tatvat pumaanapi;

pradhaane- avasthito vyaapee cetana-Atmaatma vedanah.

iv. The 3 fundamental realities (tatva-traya) are succinctly expressed in Sri Vaikunta gadya as: "svaadheena tri vida cetana-acetana ---" and lucidly explained in terms of the verses from VP. (vide tattva traya cintanaadhikaara of RTS 5)

Art VII. VP in Sri Bhagavad Guna Darpana

Sri Bhagavad Guna Darpana (a commentary on Vishnu Sahasranama authored by Sri Parashara Bhattar) is replete with profuse quotations from VP. (more than lOO slokas). We shall furnish just 3 examples.

i. Vaasudeva namah -334 The Supreme Being is known as Vaasudeva because he abides in all things and all things abide in Him.(VP 1.2.12)

27. sarvatraasau samastam ca vasatyatreti vai yatah;

tatah sa vaasudeveti vidhvadbhih paripaThyate.

ii. The 12 consecutive names beginning with Vaasudeva (from 334 to 345) are about Adhyaatma Vaasudeva. The 339th naama, for example, is 'taaraNaaya namah ' which means that He, the Lord, enables one to cross over the sea of samsara. This aspect is enshrined in the 2nd dhyana sloka ofVP. itself. (VP.l.2.2):

28. namo hiraNya garbhaaya haraye shankaraaya ca;

vaasudevasya taarasya sargasthityantakaariNe! "

(compare this verse with BG 12.7).

iii. Almost the entire eighth centum of sahasranama is devoted to the stuti of Krishna Avatara. (ksheeraarNava niketanah) and obviously the fifth amsa of VP will be found quoted vis-a-vis names on Krishna. While on the subjects, Swami Desika's Yaadavabhyudayam can also be enjoyed by supplementing generously with verses from VP.

Art VIII. VP in Sri Sukta

VP (Amsha l-ch.8 & 9) accords prime importance to the avatar of Goddess Lakshmi, the daughter of Milky Ocean- vide VP.l.9.100;

29. tatah sphurat- kaantimatee vikaasi

kamale sthithaa;

shreer devee payasah-tasmaad-

udhbhootaa dhrta pankajaa.

The Maharishi(s) who witnessed this great event, started praising Her with vedic hymns from Sri Sukta. (101 ibid). For, Sri Sukta presents the Glory of Shree even as Purusha Sukta depicts the Glory of Narayana. All our previous Acharyas have sung in honour of Lakshmi.

In view of its paramount importance, the mantle of writing a commentary on Sri Sukta fell on the shoulders of Sri Ranganatha Muni, who is also known as Nanjiyar, the disciple of Sri Parashara Bhattar. This Sri Sukta Bhashya is replete with quotations from VP.

The following verse of benediction addressed to Mahalakshmi is oft-quoted.

30. taavadaartih tathaa vaanchaa taavan

mohah-tathaa -asukham;

yaavan na yaati sharaNam tvaam-

asheshha -agha -naashanam.

The meaning of the above verse is as follows:-

The hankering for material wealth, the distress due to loss of wealth, lack of interest towards self-realization and lack of well being -all these afflictions persist only so long as Prapatti has not been performed. Once it is done, all sins get destroyed and a new life emerges.

Art IX. Stotra Ratna on Purana Ratna

According to Stotra Ratna (verse 4) of Alavandar, VP is a treatise on Tattva-traya. Vedanta Desika in his gloss (in Sanskrit) has highlighted all those specific verses dealing with the respective tattvas. Verses dealing with Jiva tattva, for example, are VP.2.l3.98, VP.2.l3.71 etc. It is also pointed out that just as in Gita, VP makes a clear distinction between Kaivalya and the higher (paramam sthaanam) Moksha in two consecutive verses. The one line verse dealing with the former is VP .1.6.38.

31. yoginaam -amrtam sthaanam sva -Atma -santoshha -kaariNaam.

Art X. Purana Ratna in Rahasya Ratna

Among the 17 minor rahasyas (monographs) of Vedanta Desika, the pair viz. Rahasya Ratnavali/Hrdayam is the longest. As its very name suggests, this work is a gem -necklace consisting of a compendium of' gems' selected from the sacred Sanskrit and Tamil texts. Rahasya Ratnavali contains the quintessence ofTattva-traya expressed in very simple Tamil just in 30 simple sentences. ( 10 each for acit, cit, and Eshvara tattvas) while Ratnavali Hrdayam elaborates on those 30 points. Among the quotations galore, good many are from VP.

Conclusion:- Sri Parashara Maharishi concludes his grand work by making a fervent appeal to the Lord of the Universe, Bhagavan Hari to confer the consummation devoutly wished by all those who aspire freedom from birth and old age -vide (VP 6.8.64)

32. iti vividamajasya yasya roopam

prakrti -paraatmamayam sanaatanasya;

pradishatu bhagavaan, asheshha pumsaam

harih -apajanma jaraadikaam (sa siddhim) samrddhim.

athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"